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Mailbag: Getting coordinated, doubts & complaints

2/6/2015

Happy Friday After Signing Day.

Hope you feel signed, sealed and delivered and certain your position coach isn't headed out of town.

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To the notes!

Matt from Sunnyvale, California, writes: I'm sure most questions this week will be recruiting-focused, but how about some of the recent DC hires by Wazzu, Utah and Colorado? I must say the Wazzu and Utah hires may fly under the radar as more of an unknown. But the Buffs actually investing in a "name" coach for DC was a nice surprise. There's always more to a name, but a big-time hire can only help excite the fan base. What do you expect Jim Leavitt to bring to the Buffs?

Ted Miller: Colorado, without question, made the most inspired hire, tapping Jim Leavitt to run its defense.

Leavitt had a successful head-coaching tenure building South Florida from the ground up, so he's experienced first-hand taking a program from Point A to Point Win. Yes, things ended badly, but that smirch is probably why Mike MacIntyre was able to land an A-list coach.

Leavitt was Bill Snyder's defensive coordinator at Kansas State from 1990-95, so there's even more significant experience taking a program from Point A to Point Win. And Snyder, a Hall of Famer, is a heck of a guy to learn from. Leavitt's four years with the San Francisco 49ers working for Jim Harbaugh also seems like valuable experience.

This appears to be a huge upgrade from Kent Baer, who was encouraged to break camp in Boulder and head to UNLV. I got a $1 that says the Buffs will be substantially better on defense next fall. Maybe not certifiably good, but better.

As for Utah's and Washington State's, they went in much different directions, from Colorado and from each other.

Washington State coach Mike Leach tapped Alex Grinch to coordinate his defense. Leach went young and promising, as Grinch is 34, and he's never coordinated a defense before. But his work with the secondary at Missouri was impressive. He takes over a defense that was bad last year and has a lot of questions heading into 2015.

We shall see.

As for Utah, it went, well, old and known. Coach Kyle Whittingham promoted 67-year-old Dennis Erickson to assistant head coach and handed over co-offensive coordinator duties to Aaron Roderick and Jim Harding, who were already on staff. Roderick was the Utes co-offensive coordinator in 2010, weathered a demotion and now has a second chance.

As for the defense, Whittingham lured John Pease, 71, out of retirement -- for a second time! -- to run the Utes defense.

Those are all good, proven coaches, but there is little question this is a stop-gap solution after things got a little fractious with coaching attrition and behind-the-scenes politics at Utah this winter. Got another $1 that says the Utes coaching lineup is different in 2016, though this is a great opportunity for Roderick and Harding to distinguish themselves and stop the eight-year flip-flopping on offense.

What's interesting about Utah -- as opposed to Colorado and Washington State -- is it appears talented enough to make a run in the South Division next fall. There's good talent returning on both sides of the ball, though competing for the division title almost certainly will require clarity at QB.


Peter from Tempe writes: We've been seeing some hype around Mike Bercovici and, by all accounts, he has the starting position locked down for next year. I wouldn't say I'm questioning the decision, but as a skeptic on most matters, how optimistic can the Sun Devils be with Bercovici behind center? He definitely played well as a starter this season, but that was three games. Is that enough to be confident? Where do you place him in your way-too-early QB rankings?

Ted Miller: I'd rate Arizona State and Mike Bercovici fifth in my Way-Too-Early QB rankings, behind USC, Cal, Stanford and Arizona, though he'd fall into the "Experienced but Questions Remain" bunch that includes Colorado's Sefo Liufau, Utah's Travis Wilson, Washington's Cyler Miles and Washington State's Luke Falk.

Bercovici has an A-list arm that will open up the Sun Devils down-field passing options, which in some ways compensates for his lackluster running ability. As a fifth-year senior who started key games last year, he brings plenty of experience and knowledge to the offense.

Is he perfect? No. He sometimes thinks his arm can overcome a well-positioned DB. It can't. He's going to need to learn some patience. Good thing his offensive coordinator/QBs coach Mike Norvell is among the best in the business.

Let's just say this: Sun Devils fans should worry more about their young defense maturing than what's coming back behind center, and neither of those issues should keep you up at night.


Kevin from San Jose writes: I'm sorry, I'm not getting enough USC, UCLA, Oregon and ASU blog articles. Thanks for rarely posting anything on the team that I am interested in gives me another reason to phase this site out. Yes, I'm being sarcastic. Go Dawgs!

Ted Miller: So the issue is we are writing too much about the Pac-12 frontrunners heading into 2015 who also landed the Pac-12's best recruiting classes on national signing day?

Assuming you are grousing about Washington -- the "Go Dawgs!" being a small clue -- what major news item did you want to read about? Coach Chris Petersen calling signing day "anticlimactic"? Or the Seattle Times calling signing day "drama free."

The reason you saw a lot of signing day coverage of USC, UCLA and Arizona State is all three scored major commitments on ... wait for it... signing day. USC might have signed the nation's best class, which is sort of a big deal around these parts.

Oregon? It didn't have any huge signing day news, but the Ducks keep getting themselves ranked in the nation's top 5 and playing for national titles and all that stuff that tends to attract some news coverage, even when nothing of note happens.

Funny thing: UCLA and Arizona State fans used to send in notes like this. Wonder why they don't any more?

We grade each Pac-12 recruiting class here. Washington got a "B":

Chris Petersen's first full class at Washington came together nicely, led by ESPN 300 quarterback Jake Browning and running back Austin Joyner. Offensive line was a key position in 2015 and the Huskies added a pair of four-star tackles in Trey Adams and Henry Roberts. At receiver, Isaiah Renfro and Andre Baccellia are future targets. On defense, linebacker was also a must-fill position, and three-stars D.J. Beavers and Ben Burr-Kirven, along with Kyler Manu, were key grabs.

Sounds pretty positive.

But if Washington fans want their team to get as much coverage nationally as the Pac-12's leading teams, the Huskies need to do something they once did on an annual basis: Be a Pac-12 leader.