Pac-12: Alex Carter

We're continuing our preseason position reviews. Please, hold your applause until we are finished.

Here's how we do this. We provide three evaluative categories: "Great shape," "Good shape" and "We'll see."

Hint: You'd prefer your team to be in "Great shape."

"We'll see" doesn't mean you're going to stink at said position. It means just what it says -- we'll see, because there's no way at present to know.

You can review last year’s rankings here.

Up next: Cornerbacks. Considering the talent pool of quarterbacks in the Pac-12, each team’s secondary is going to be tested more and more this season. Teams are really (read: really, really, really) going to want to be good here in 2014.

GREAT SHAPE

Oregon: All-American Ifo Ekpre-Olomu is back, and considering how much opponents want to throw (though, who knows how much they will actually throw at him), he’s looking at what could be a really, really impressive final season. Through the spring, fellow senior Dior Mathis emerged as the other starter, though Troy Hill could make this an intriguing position battle to watch. Backing up these guys will be Chris Seisay, junior college transfer Dominique Harrison and Stephen Amoako. Elite talent and excellent depth make this one of the best position groups for the Ducks.

Stanford: The Cardinal have a new defensive backs coach in Duane Akina. In his 13 years with Texas he developed two Thorpe Award winners and 14 all-conference defensive backs, and he inherits a stocked pantry at Stanford. Alex Carter -- who sat out this spring -- and Wayne Lyons are both very, very good players who will anchor the secondary. Ronnie Harris will play the outside when Lyons shifts over to cover the slot.

UCLA: Last year at this time, UCLA’s cornerbacks were in the “we’ll see” category. Well, we saw. We liked. The Bruins return Fabian Moreau, Ishmael Adams and Anthony Jefferson -- they combined for 201 tackles, six interceptions and 11 pass breakups in 2013. With an offseason to gel as a unit, mature and condition, expect those numbers to grow. If need be, Randall Goforth could play some cornerback, and early enrollee Adarius Pickett and 2014 signee Jaleel Wadood (younger brother of Arizona State cornerback Rashad Wadood) could also contribute.

GOOD SHAPE

Oregon State: Steven Nelson has one of the cornerback spots locked down. He recorded 62 tackles, six interceptions and eight pass breakups last season. Opposite him, Larry Scott and Dashon Hunt are vying for the starting spot. Scott has more game experience but spent half of the spring on the sideline nursing a hamstring injury, giving Hunt more and more reps as the spring season went on. And considering these guys go up against quarterback Sean Mannion every day in practice, their learning curves are going to be expedited.

Washington: In Marcus Peters (55 tackles, five interceptions, 14 PBR in 2013) the Huskies have a very, very good cornerback on their hands. Opposing quarterbacks probably aren’t going to throw at him a ton, which brings the second starter into question. The starter opposite Peters will be the one put in bigger situations (at least until he proves himself as a lockdown cornerback. If he doesn’t, the passes will keep coming). Redshirt freshman Jermaine Kelly and former Alabama transfer Travell Dixon had the first shot at the job in spring ball, and the Huskies will get four freshman cornerbacks in the fall to add to that group. It is a young group, but expect Peters -- who we think could be one of the best defensive backs in the Pac-12 this season -- to pull along whoever plays the opposite spot.

Colorado: Senior Greg Henderson is the most experienced defensive player returning to the Buffs this season, and his history of steadily improving through his Colorado career is a good sign that this season will be his best. On the other side, Colorado is still going through a position battle with junior college transfer Ahkello Witherspoon (who had an interception three pass breakups in the spring game) and Kenneth Crawley (who played in 11 of 12 games last season for the Buffs). Chidobe Awuzie also returns, making cornerback one of Colorado's deepest positions.

WE’LL SEE

USC: A coaching change and a lot of questions about players made this a hard decision between Good Shape and We'll See. With the pure talent the Trojans have, it will be surprising if this is not a productive group, but that potential doesn’t necessarily mean anything. Kevon Seymour has one starting spot. He ended last season on a high note and played well in the spring, but has had a very up-and-down career. Can he sustain this recent production? We’ll see. Opposite Seymour, there is a battle brewing between Josh Shaw, Chris Hawkins and possibly Adoree' Jackson. This might be the group with the most upside and the most downside (basically, the most unknowns) of any cornerback corps in the conference.

Arizona: Earlier this spring, head coach Rich Rodriguez said he wasn’t as excited about his secondary’s depth as he wanted to be. Considering the Wildcats play with a five defensive back system, that is not great. But, they have Jonathan McKnight to anchor one side. He started all 13 games for the Wildcats last season and led the team with eight pass breakups. The other side is still a question mark as the team tries to replace Shaquille Richardson.

Utah: Expect to see a lot of nickel from the Utes as they prepare for life-after-Trevor-Reilly. Eric Rowe -- the team’s third-leading tackler in 2013 -- is back and has secured one of the starting spots. He is the fastest defensive back on the team (4.39 seconds in the 40-yard dash) but the other starter remains a question. Utah likes sophomore Reginald Porter (10 tackles in 2013) and senior Davion Orphey (eight starts, 33 tackles in 2013) but they could see competition from incoming players like Travonne Hobbs and Casey Hughes.

Arizona State: ASU lost both cornerback starters in Osahon Irabor and Robert Nelson following the 2013 season. Nelson accounted for 57 tackles, six interceptions and six pass breakups, and Irabor tallied 54 tackles, three interceptions and five pass breakups. Their backups -- Lloyd Carrington and Rashad Wadood -- finished the spring atop the depth chart. Those two combined for just 32 tackles in 2013. There is always the argument that these two will step right into their mentors’ shoes as they have had time to learn, but the verdict is still out on how effective these two will be.

Washington State: The Cougars have taken major steps forward under head coach Mike Leach. At some point the cornerbacks need to follow suit (especially considering what they face in practice every single day). The Washington State secondary is in a major rebuilding period after losing cornerbacks Nolan Washington and Damante Horton. The only player with any kind of experience is Daquawn Brown, but beyond him it could be a lot of youth in the secondary.

Cal: The Bears have new defensive backs coach Greg Burns, who helped USC win national titles in 2003 and 2004 (in those two seasons the Trojans gave up just 239 passing yards per game) so there is certainly not a lack of talent and experience on the coaching end. But on the field, it’s a different matter. Cameron Walker -- who had to play safety last season because of injuries -- will return to cornerback and start alongside Stefan McClure. Both have experience at safety, which should help the defense be more dynamic, but again, that alone doesn’t necessarily propel the group into good or great shape this season.

Other position reviews:
As much talk as there has been (including here at the Pac-12 blog) about how good the offenses in the conference will be this season, Thursday's release of the watch lists for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, given to the nation's best defensive player, and Outland Trophy, given to the nation's best interior lineman, shows the Pac-12 measures up well against other conferences in defensive talent, too.

The Pac-12 led all conferences with 18 players on the Nagurski list, edging out the SEC (16), Big 12 (13), ACC (12) and Big Ten (10). For the Outland Trophy, which includes a mix of defensive and offensive players, the Pac-12 ranked second with 11 players behind the SEC (19).

Stanford's Henry Anderson, USC's Leonard Williams and Washington's Danny Shelton are on both.

Here are the Pac-12 players that were included:

Nagurski (defensive player)
Outland Trophy
Other watch lists
It will come as no surprise that Mel Kiper Jr. sees two of the five best senior QBs and three of the six best underclass QBs coming from the Pac-12 Insider.

But who would have thought that three of the 11 best defensive tackles Insider would come from the Pac-12, while none came from the D-line rich SEC?

USC's Leonard Williams, a junior, is a likely top-10 pick next spring, and he also is a candidate for top pick overall. But Kiper also really likes Williams' buddy at UCLA, Ellis McCarthy.
Really emerged in 2013 as his first-team reps arrived. McCarthy was a big-time recruit, but he had to learn about leverage and keeping blockers occupied, not just looking to shed them immediately and make plays in the backfield. He has a powerful, 6-4, 330-pound frame and could emerge as a likely first-rounder.

The third Pac-12 DT is Washington senior Danny Shelton.

Kiper also likes Pac-12 cornerbacks Insider. He rates Oregon's Ifo Ekpre-Olomu as the No. 1 senior, USC's Josh Shaw as No. 2 and Oregon State's Steven Nelson as No. 3.

Among the underclass CBs, Kiper ranks Washington's Marcus Peters No. 2 and Stanford's Alex Carter as "5A."

On the defensive downside, Kiper doesn't including any Pac-12 defensive ends on his list Insider, which bodes well for those QBs.

On offense, Kiper likes Pac-12 receivers Insider but not running backs. He rates Stanford's Ty Montgomery the No. 2 senior receiver and Arizona State's Jaelen Strong and USC's Nelson Agholor as the Nos. 2 and 3 underclassmen, but Oregon's Byron Marshall -- at 5B -- is the only conference running back to make the list.

Where Stanford needs to get better

January, 2, 2014
Jan 2
5:30
PM ET
"If only" is a silly game to play while watching a college football game, but it's impossible to avoid. It's the foundation of excuse-making, but perhaps it's sometimes useful for projecting a team forward, imagining what it needs to do to get better.

Take Stanford in the Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO, a tough 24-20 loss to Michigan State. You could play the, "If only Stanford hadn't dropped two easy interceptions" and find yourself simply cogitating over straightforward execution. Yeah, "if only" plays that happened had instead happened another way.

A more valuable "if only" is this: If only Stanford had a dangerous pass-catching tight end, as it had during its previous three BCS bowl games.

Sure, pining for personnel that isn't there is equally silly, but it does point to a major reason the Cardinal offense was inconsistent this year.

If Stanford had a reliable tight end, it would have given quarterback Kevin Hogan a place to dump the ball when his receivers were blanketed by A-list cover corners, which was the case against Michigan State. It would have given the Cardinal an option in the intermediate passing game, a guy who could have exploited the Spartans' questionable safeties, who were joining the fight at the line of scrimmage in an effort to outnumber the Cardinal's power running game.

Moreover, it would have made the Cardinal's "jumbo" formation more diverse in terms of potential threats. Instead of using a bunch of backup offensive linemen, Stanford could have included a guy who could give it a dangerous pass option out of that formation.

Every coach in the offseason asks himself what his team needs to do to get better the next season. Know that coach David Shaw is thinking a lot about his tight end position, which it doesn't appear has yet been addressed in recruiting.

Defensive coordinator Derek Mason resisted a couple of "if only" questions after the game, but he clearly saw some things he believes need to improve. While his defense did a good job both stopping the run and rushing the passer, Spartans quarterback Connor Cook, who was outstanding at buying himself time while facing a furious pass rush, consistently found open receivers against the Cardinal secondary.

In what is probably a bit of a surprise, the Michigan State receivers outplayed the Stanford cornerbacks. More than a few folks on the Michigan State side of things said Stanford's reluctance to use press coverage made life easier for receivers who were more athletic than physical. Stanford corners Alex Carter and Wayne Lyons are both talented players who will be back next year, and Mason expects them to take a significant step forward.

"They need to be the two most feared corners in the conference a year from now," Mason said.

Stanford has plenty of talent coming back, but it also has huge holes to fill. There figures to be at least one early NFL defection -- likely All-American offensive guard David Yankey -- to join a strong crew of seniors, led by Shayne Skov and Trent Murphy. As Hogan noted after the game, it is "the greatest class in Stanford history."

If Stanford is going to win a third consecutive Pac-12 title in 2014, it will need to do some "if only" based on the 2013 season. The Rose Bowl made clear getting better at tight end and cornerback are two places to consider.

Pac-12 names all-conference team

December, 2, 2013
12/02/13
3:50
PM ET
The Pac-12 has announced its first- and second-team all-conference squads and postseason awards for 2013.

[+] EnlargeKa'Deem Carey
Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY SportsPac-12 Offensive Player of the Year Ka'Deem Carey was the only unanimous first-team pick.
Arizona running back Ka'Deem Carey has been named the league's offensive player of the year. Arizona State defensive lineman Will Sutton joins an elite fraternity, earning his second straight Pat Tillman Defensive Player of the Year award. Washington's Steve Emtman is the only other player to win the league's defensive player of the year award in back to back years (1990-1991).

UCLA's Myles Jack earned freshman of the year for both offense and defense with his 70 tackles as a linebacker and seven touchdowns as a running back. This is the first time since the awards were introduced in 2008 that the same player has won both sides.

Arizona State coach Todd Graham is the league's coach of the year for guiding the Sun Devils to a conference record of 8-1 and winning the South Division. The Sun Devils host Stanford this weekend in the Pac-12 championship game.

The team is selected by the Pac-12 head coaches.

Offensive player of the year: Ka'Deem Carey, RB, Arizona
Pat Tillman Defensive Player of the Year: Will Sutton, DE Arizona State
Freshman Offense and Defensive Player of the Year: Myles Jack, RB/LB, UCLA
Coach of the Year: Todd Graham, Arizona State

First team offense

QB Marcus Mariota, So., Oregon (2)
RB Ka'Deem Carey, Jr., Arizona (2)
RB Bishop Sankey, Jr., Washington
WR Brandin Cooks, Jr., Oregon State
WR Paul Richardson, Jr., Colorado
TE Chris Coyle, Grad., Arizona State
OL Evan Finkenberg, Grad., Arizona State
OL Hroniss Grasu, Jr., Oregon (2)
OL Marcus Martin, Jr., USC
OL Xavier Su'a-Filo, Jr., UCLA (2)
OL David Yankey, Sr, Stanford (2)

First team defense

DL Ben Gardner, Sr., Stanford
DL Trevor Reilly, Sr., Utah
DL Will Sutton, Sr., Arizona State
DL Leonard Williams, So., USC
LB Anthony Barr, Sr., UCLA (2)
LB Trent Murphy, Sr., Stanford (2)
LB Shayne Skov, Sr., Stanford
DB Deone Bucannon, Sr., Washington State
DB Alden Darby, Sr., Arizona State
DB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Jr., Oregon
DB Robert Nelson, Sr., Arizona State
DB Ed Reynolds, Sr., Stanford (2)

First team specialists

PK Zane Gonzalez, Fr., Arizona State
P Tom Hackett, So. Utah
RS Ty Montgomery, Jr., Stanford
ST Soma Vainuku, So. USC

Second team offense

QB Taylor Kelly, Jr., Arizona State
RB Tyler Gaffney, Sr., Stanford
RB Marion Grice, Sr. Arizona State
WR Ty Montgomery, Jr., Stanford
WR Jaelen Strong, So., Arizona State
TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Jr., Washington
OL Jamil Douglas, Jr., Arizona State
OL Cameron Fleming, Sr., Stanford
OL Andrus Peat, So., Stanford
OL Isaac Seumalo, So., Oregon State
OL Khalil Wilkes, Sr. Stanford

Second team defense

DL Scott Crichton, Jr., Oregon State
DL Taylor Hart, Sr., Oregon
DL Devon Kennard, Sr., USC
DL Hau'oli Kikaha, Jr., Washington
DL Tenny Palepoi, Sr., Utah
LB Carl Bradford, Jr., Arizona State
LB Myles Jack, Fr., UCLA
LB Hayes Pullard, Jr., USC
LB Chris Young, Sr., Arizona State
DB Dion Bailey, Jr., USC
DB Osahon Irabor, Grad., Arizona State
DB Marcus Peters, So., Washington
DB Rashaad Reynolds, Sr., Oregon State

Second team specialists

PK Vincenzo D'Amato, Sr., California
P Travis Coons, Sr., Washington
RS Nelson Agholor, So., USC
ST Erick Dargan, Jr., Oregon
ST Joe Hemschoot, Sr., Stanford
ST Ryan Hofmeister, Jr., UCLA

RS: Return Specialist
ST: special teams player (not a kicker or returner)
(2): Two-time first-team selection

Honorable mention

Arizona: LB Marquis Flowers, Sr.; DL Tevin Hood, Sr.; WR Nate Phillips, Fr.; DB Jared Tevis, Jr.; LB Scooby Wright, Fr.

Arizona State: DL Davon Coleman, Grad.; Gannon Conway, Sr.; ST D.J. Foster, So.; ST De'Marieya Nelson, Jr.

California: DL Deandre Coleman, Sr.; QB Jared Goff, Fr.; WR Bryce Treggs, So.

Colorado: RB Mike Adkins, Fr.; LB Addison Gillam, Fr.; PK Will Oliver, Jr.

Oregon: WR/RS Bralon Addison, So.; WR Josh Huff, Sr.; OL Tyler Johnstone, So.; DL Wade Keliikipi, Sr.; LB Derrick Malone, Jr.; RB Byron Marshall, So.; DL Tony Washington, Jr.

Oregon State: OL Grant Enger, Sr.; TE Connor Hamlett, JR.; QB Sean Mannion, Jr.; DB Ryan Murphy, Jr.; DB Steven Nelson, Jr.; ST Terron Ward, Jr.

Stanford: DL Henry Anderson, Sr.; DB Alex Carter, So.; OL Kevin Danser, Sr.; DL Josh Mauro, Sr.; P Ben Rhyne, Sr.; DB Jordan Richards, Jr.; LB A.J. Tarpley, Sr.

UCLA: OL Jake Brendel, So.; ST Jayon Brown, Fr.; P Sean Covington, Fr.; TE Thomas Duarte, Fr.; WR Shaq Evans, Sr.; WR Devin Fuller, So.; DB Randall Goforth, So.; QB Brett Hundley, So.; DB Anthony Jefferson, Jr.; LB Eric Kendricks, Jr.; DL Cassius Marsh, Sr.; DL Ellis McCarthy, So.; DB Fabian Moreau, So.; OL Alex Redmond, Fr.; DL Eddie Vanderdoes, Fr.; LB Jordan Zumwalt, Sr.

USC: P Kris Albarado, So.; RB Javorius Allen, So.; WR Nelson Agholor, So.; DB Su'a Cravens, Fr.; OL Kevin Graf, Sr.; TE Xavier Grimble, Jr.; QB Cody Kessler, So.; WR Marqise Lee, Jr.; DB Josh Shaw, Jr.; DL J.R. Tavai, Jr.; OL Max Turek, So.; DL George Uko, Jr.

Utah: WR Dres Anderson, Jr.; OL Vyncent Jones, Sr.; DB Keith McGill, Sr.; PK Andy Phillips, Fr.; LB Jason Whittingham, So.

Washington: OL Dexter Charles, So.; PK Travis Coons, Sr.; OL Mike Criste, Jr.; OL Micah Hatchie, Jr.; DB Sean Parker, Sr.; QB Keith Price, Sr.; DL Danny Shelton, Jr.; LB Shaq Thompson, So.

Washington State: OL Elliott Bosch, Sr.; WR River Cracraft, Fr.; PK Andrew Furney, Sr.; DB Damante Horton, Sr.;

Some notes on the teams:

By School: Arizona State and Stanford placed the most players on the first team with six selections each.

By Class: Of the 27 first-team selections, two are graduate students, 11 are seniors, nine are juniors, four are sophomores and one freshman.

Unanimous: Only one player was named on the first-team ballot of all 12 head coaches -- RB Ka'Deem Carey of Arizona.

Two-time Selections: Ten players are repeat first-team selections from last year.

All-Academic: Two first team All-Pac-12 performers also were named to the Pac-12 All Academic second team -- RB Bishop Sankey of Washington and DB Ed Reynolds of Stanford, while Washington defensive lineman Hau'oli Kikaha was named to the All-Pac-12 second team and Pac-12 All-Academic first team. Arizona State QB Taylor Kelly earned second-team honors on both the Pac-12 All-Conference and All-Academic teams.
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No. 5 Stanford hosts No. 15 Washington on Saturday. History scholars are not welcome.

Two years ago, Stanford ran all over Washington -- setting a school record with 446 rushing yards in a 65-21 win. That game was, for all intents and purposes, the beginning of Washington’s 2011 defensive downfall that crested with an Alamo Bowl embarrassment against Baylor.

[+] EnlargeStanford's Stepfan Taylor
Otto Greule Jr/Getty ImagesStanford and Washington don't expect much carryover from last season's game, a defensive struggle won by the Huskies, when the teams meet Saturday.
Last year, in a rapid change of fortunes, it was Washington’s defense that rose to the occasion and held Stanford’s offense to 170 total yards, zero offensive touchdowns and just 65 rushing yards in a 17-13 win. The Cardinal were coming off of a then-shocking 21-14 win over No. 2 USC. That game might have been, for all intents and purposes, the beginning of the end of the Lane Kiffin era. But that's another story for another day.

So what does the recent history between these two teams mean? Squat. Diddly-squat, to be exact. This is a very different Washington defense than the one that rolled over two year ago. Just as Stanford’s offense is completely different than the one that struggled to move the ball last year in Seattle.

“We’re definitely a new football team,” Washington coach Steve Sarkisian said. “From two years ago we’ve made some pretty significant changes on the defensive side of the football from the staff standpoint. And I think offensively we’ve made some significant changes in scheme and style of play that has changed us dramatically over a two-year period.”

Indeed, Washington’s defense under Justin Wilcox has improved dramatically over the last season and a half. Through four games this season the Huskies are allowing fewer than 11 points per game. Offensively, the new up-tempo scheme is producing almost 600 yards per game, and the Huskies average nearly 40 points per contest.

Though the feeling of last season's loss still lingers for some Stanford players, it won’t be a factor in Saturday’s matchup.

“Disappointment,” said Stanford defensive back Alex Carter in talking about last season's meeting. “I know we felt like we had really given up an opportunity for our team to make a statement. For us, I think we just realize that last year was last year. It happened. This year we’re a different team with a different mentality. We’re just focused on this game.”

As for finding little tricks and intricacies from last season's game? Stanford coach David Shaw said don’t count on it.

“I never take the previous year’s game too seriously,” he said. “We look at them from a schematic and personnel standpoint. They have a lot of film from this year. We go back and watch a lot of schematic things, but what actually happens in games, there’s never a carry over. Last year when we played them, we didn’t think we were going to go in there and rush for 300 yards cause we knew they were a more sound, physical, athletic defense. We knew it was going to be tough sledding, just like it was, and just like we believe this year is going to be tough sledding also.”

So far, things have gone according to plan for both teams. The Huskies (4-0 overall, 1-0 Pac-12) have successfully negotiated a nonconference slate that included a win over Boise State and road win against Illinois. And despite the weather last week, they handled Arizona 31-13.

Stanford (4-0, 2-0) has looked explosive offensively, averaging more than 41 points per game. Quarterback Kevin Hogan ranks fifth nationally in QBR and the offense -- while still run-based -- has become more wide receiver-centric in the passing attack.

“They’ve changed some,” Sarkisian said. "Two years ago Andrew Luck was the quarterback and they were doing their thing with Andrew. They've worked themselves into Kevin Hogan and they have a lot of variety. Defensively it’s a lot of the same faces, just more mature. They pose a great deal of challenges for us.”
Cornerback, at least from a preseason perspective, is not a strong position across the conference in 2013.

Three of the four corners on the 2012 All-Pac-12 first- and second-teams -- Oregon State's Jordan Poyer, Washington's Desmond Trufant and USC's Nickell Robey -- are now in the NFL. Only Arizona, Colorado, Oregon and Washington State welcome back both starting corners, and of those, only the Ducks ranked in the top eight in the conference in pass efficiency defense last year.

So how do things stack up?

GREAT SHAPE

[+] EnlargeStanford celebrates
AP Photo/Marcio Jose SanchezWayne Lyons, along with experienced safeties, gives Stanford one of the conference's top secondaries.
Oregon: The Ducks have the nation's best corner tandem in All-American Ifo Ekpre-Olomu and Terrance Mitchell. In fact, their backups, Dior Mathis and Troy Hill, probably would rate as one of the better tandems in the conference if they were starting. The Ducks welcome back the entire two-deep from their 2012 secondary, as well as safety Avery Patterson, an All-Conference talent who was hurt last year. This is probably the best secondary in the nation.

Stanford: While the Cardinal's star power is at safety, they are also strong at corner with Alex Carter, Wayne Lyons, Barry Browning and Usua Amanam giving them an experienced, athletic foursome.

GOOD SHAPE

Arizona: If Jonathan McKnight and Shaquelle Richardson are healthy -- and get supported by any sort of pass rush -- they have the potential to be an elite cover tandem. Derrick Rainey is also in the mix.

Oregon State: Rashaad Reynolds is now the lead dog with Poyer gone. There’s and interesting competition on the other side between veteran Sean Martin and juco transfer Steven Nelson, who had a strong spring showing. It helps that things are good at safety -- and that the Beavers gave up just 14 TD passes last year.

Arizona State: Osahon Irabor, a four-year starter, is back and senior Robert Nelson has experience, including a notable interception in the win over Arizona. Rashad Wadood, who redshirted last year due to injuries, is a third option who had a strong spring. The Sun Devils ranked first in the Pac-12 in pass efficiency defense in 2012.

Washington: Like Oregon State's Reynolds, Marcus Peters now moves out of a big shadow -- Trufant -- and gets an opportunity to show what he can do. While Greg Ducre and Tre Watson, backups last year, are back, watch out for junior college transfer Travell Dixon, a former Alabama signee.

Washington State: The Cougars welcome back three corners with significant experience: Damante Horton, Anthony Carpenter and Nolan Washington. On the downside, the pass defense struggled last year, ranking 11th in pass efficiency defense, yielding a 65.5 percent completion rate.

WE'LL SEE

USC: Josh Shaw has moved back to safety, so this position is in flux for the Trojans. Senior Torin Harris has nine career starts but his play has been uneven, while Anthony Brown has two. Kevon Seymour, Devian Shelton and freshman Chris Hawkins are in the mix.

California: While the Bears lost both starters -- Steve Williams and Marc Anthony were a strong tandem -- Kameron Jackson has plenty of experience and Stefan McClure has plenty of pure talent. Depth is a question.

UCLA: The Bruins are replacing their entire secondary, and that might not be a bad thing considering they gave up 27 TD passes in 2012. Anthony Jefferson and Ishmael Adams are the leaders to start, with Fabian Moreau also in the mix. It will be interesting to see if true freshmen Priest Willis and Johnny Johnson make a move. It hurt to lose sophomore Marcus Rios to a serious sinus infection.

Utah: The Utes lost their top three corners from a fair-to-middling 2012 pass defense, one that grabbed just eight interceptions. Keith McGill is a likely starter, while redshirt freshman Justin Thomas and JC transfer Davion Orphey are competing on the other side. Lots of inexperience here.

Colorado: The Buffaloes welcome back essentially their entire 2012 depth chart at corner, including intriguing young talents Kenneth Crawley, Greg Henderson and Yuri Wright. But the Buffs ranked last in the nation in pass efficiency defense in 2012 -- just three interceptions -- which must be accounted for here.

You can see previous previews here:

Quarterback

Running back

Receiver

Tight end

Offensive line

Kicker

Linebacker

Defensive line

Pac-12 2012 awards announced

November, 26, 2012
11/26/12
5:50
PM ET
The Pac-12 conference has announced its 2012 individual honors and all-conference first and second teams as voted on by the coaches.

Offensive Player of the Year: Marqise Lee, WR, USC.
Pat Tillman Defensive Player of the Year: Will Sutton, DE, Arizona State.
Freshman Offensive Player of the Year: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon.
Freshman Defensive Player of the Year: Leonard Williams, DE, USC.
Coach of the Year: David Shaw, Stanford.

FIRST-TEAM OFFENSE

QB Marcus Mariota, Fr., Oregon
RB Kenjon Barner, Sr., Oregon
RB Ka’Deem Carey, So., Arizona
WR Marqise Lee, So., USC
WR Markus Wheaton, Sr., Oregon State
TE Zach Ertz, Sr., Stanford
OL Hroniss Grasu, So., Oregon
OL Khaled Holmes, Sr., USC
OL Brian Schwenke, Sr., California
OL Xavier Su’a-Filo, So., UCLA
OL David Yankey, Jr., Stanford

SECOND-TEAM OFFENSE

QB Matt Scott, Sr., Arizona
RB Johnathan Franklin, Sr., UCLA
RB Stepfan Taylor, Sr., Stanford
WR Austin Hill, So., Arizona
WR Robert Woods, Jr., USC
TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, So., Washington
OL Jeff Baca, Sr., UCLA
OL David Bakhtiari, Jr., Colorado
OL Sam Brenner, Sr., Utah
OL Kevin Danser, Sr., Stanford
OL Sam Schwartzstein, Sr., Stanford

FIRST-TEAM DEFENSE

DL Scott Crichton, So., Oregon State
DL Dion Jordan, Sr., Oregon
DL Star Lotulelei, Sr., Utah (2)
DL Will Sutton, Jr., Arizona State
LB Anthony Barr, Jr., UCLA
LB Trent Murphy, Sr., Stanford
LB Chase Thomas, Sr., Stanford (2)
DB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, So., Oregon
DB Jordan Poyer, Sr., Oregon State
DB Ed Reynolds, Jr., Stanford
DB Desmond Trufant, Sr., Washington

SECOND-TEAM DEFENSE

DL Henry Anderson, Jr., Stanford
DL Morgan Breslin, Jr., USC
DL Ben Gardner, Sr., Stanford
DL Datone Jones, Sr., UCLA
LB Kiko Alonso, Sr., Oregon
LB Michael Clay, Sr., Oregon
LB Brandon Magee, Sr., Arizona State
DB Deone Bucannon, Jr., Washington State
DB Alden Darby, Jr., Arizona State
DB T.J. McDonald, Sr., USC
DB Nickell Robey, Jr., USC

FIRST-TEAM SPECIALISTS

PK Vince D'Amato, Jr., California
P Jeff Locke, Sr., UCLA
RS Reggie Dunn, Sr., Utah
ST Jordan Jenkins, Sr., Oregon State

SECOND-TEAM SPECIALISTS

PK Andrew Furney, Jr., Washington State
P Josh Hubner, Sr., Arizona State
RS Marqise Lee, So., USC
ST David Allen, Sr., UCLA

ALL-PAC-12 HONORABLE MENTION
NOTES
  • By School: OREGON and STANFORD placed the most players on the first team with five selections each, followed by OREGON STATE with four.
  • By Class: Of the 26 first-team selections, 14 are seniors, five are juniors, six are sophomores and one freshman.
  • Unanimous: Only one player was named on the first-team ballot of all 12 head coaches--WR Marqise Lee of USC.
  • Two-time selections: Two players are repeat first-team selections from last year--DT Star Lotulelei of Utah, LB Chase Thomas of Stanford.
  • All-Academic: Two players were named to the first team on both the All-Pac-12 Team and the Pac-12 All-Academic Football Team--P Jeff Locke of UCLA, OL Khaled Holmes, USC. In addition, OL Kevin Danser of Stanford, DL Ben Gardner of Stanford and Michael Clay of Oregon were named second-team All-Academic and second-team All-Pac-12.
Tags:

Datone Jones, USC Trojans, Washington State Cougars, Oregon State Beavers, Washington Huskies, UCLA Bruins, Alex Debniak, Johnathan Franklin, Jeff Locke, Arizona State Sun Devils, Joseph Fauria, Matt Barkley, California Bears, Kenjon Barner, Usua Amanam, Markus Wheaton, Keelan Johnson, Stanford Cardinal, Jordan Poyer, Damien Thigpen, Will Sutton, Stepfan Taylor, Colorado Buffaloes, Wes Horton, Dion Jordan, Matt Scott, Arizona Wildcats, Brandon Magee, Oregon Ducks, Xavier Su\'a-Filo, Travis Long, Justin Glenn, Desmond Trufant, Vince D'Amato, Daniel Simmons, Chase Thomas, Deveron Carr, Shayne Skov, Evan Finkenberg, Isaac Remington, Dan Buckner, Sean Parker, Cassius Marsh, Robert Woods, Xavier Grimble, George Uko, Nickell Robey, Hayes Pullard, Keenan Allen, Taylor Kelly, Chris McCain, Hroniss Grasu, Eric Kendricks, Xavier Cooper, T.J. McDonald, Jake Fischer, Anthony Barr, Taylor Hart, Kiko Alonso, Osahon Irabor, Brian Schwenke, Steve Williams, Terrance Mitchell, Drew Schaefer, Michael Clay, Ryan Hewitt, Jordan Jenkins, Levine Toilolo, Chris Coyle, DeAnthony Thomas, Andrew Abbott, Kyle Quinn, Brett Hundley, Jake Fisher, Terrence Stephens, Terrence Brown, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Kasen Williams, Jordan Richards, Shaq Evans, Deone Bucannon, Tony Burnett, David Shaw, Bishop Sankey, Danny Shelton, Marqise Lee, Kevin Danser, Rashad Ross, Sam Schwartzstein, David Yankey, Drew Terrell, John White IV, Dion Bailey, Austin Hill, Star Lotulelei, Brian Blechen, Jake Murphy, Alex Carter, Alden Darby, Joe Kruger, Reggie Dunn, Trevor Romaine, Colt Lyerla, Isaac Seumalo, Tevita Stevens, Andrew Furney, Andre Heidari, Sean Sellwood, Josh Hubner, Kyle Negrete, Henry Anderson, Scott Crichton, Rashaad Reynolds, Ka'Deem Carey, Shaq Thompson, D.J. Foster, Brendan Bigelow, Ben Gardner, Trevor Reilly, Darragh O'Neill, Andrew Hudson, Ty Montgomery, Cameron Fleming, Trent Murphy, Sam Brenner, Kevin Hogan, David Bakhtiari, Marcus Mariota, Yuri Wright, Kenneth Crawley, Leonard Williams, Grant Enger, Brandin Cooks, Jared Tevis, Travis Feeney, Avery Sebastian, John Martinez, Ed Reynolds, Daniel Munyer, Elliott Bosch, Morgan Breslin, Darryl Monroe, Marion Grice, Carl Bradford, Nate Fakahafua, Silas Redd, Jeremiah Poutasi, Jake Brendel, Christian Powell, Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Brett Bartolone, Teondray Caldwell, Andrew Seumalo, Daniel Zychlinski, David Allen, Jaxon Hood, Alex Lewis, Marques Moseley, Will Perciak, Wade Keliikippi, Cyrus Coen

It's 4th-and-15 and you're looking at a full-court press.
Stanford's secondary is going to be young next season. Not exactly breaking news, but that's the reality when four seniors, three of them starters, graduate. But the players returning also have some experience and quality playing time, which should help compensate for their youth.

In other words, there no excuses.

"I think [defensive coordinator Derek] Mason might have been a little more tolerant with us last year, a little more patient," said safety Jordan Richards. "Not anymore. We've all been here and have a full season under our belts. This is on us -- and coach Mason is making sure we know that."

[+] EnlargeJordan Richards
Jason O. Watson/US PresswireJordan Richards is one of many young Cardinal defensive backs that will have to replace three senior starters.
The back four -- two cornerbacks and two safeties -- have to be getting tired of hearing how good the front seven is going to be. They are so experienced. This guy is back and that guy is back. It gets old. And if the front seven is considered Stanford's defensive strength, by virtue of elimination, the back four can't be.

That perception is something the group is looking to alter. But first they'll need to settle some competition. Gone are safeties Delano Howell and Michael Thomas. Gone are cornerbacks Johnson Bademosi and Corey Gatewood.

Terrence Brown and Barry Browning are back at cornerback, along with the highly-touted Wayne Lyons who is returning from a foot injury. Usua Amanam should also be in the mix and don't be surprised if Alex Carter makes an immediate impact when he arrives in the summer. Also returning are Richards and Devon Carrington at the safety spot along with Ed Reynolds, who is also returning from injury. Kyle Olugbode has also seen reps this spring.

Richards was one of the true freshman called into action when Howell went down for several games with a hand injury. He started three games for Stanford last year -- the most brutal stretch of the season that included at USC, at Oregon State and home to Oregon. Tough detail.

"It was, at times, a blur," Richards said. "And other times, I felt like I was in control and the game slowed."

The telling part of that quote is the "at times" portion. Richards notched eight tackles in his first start against USC. Then a couple of games later he watched Oregon run all over the Cardinal. Sometimes good, sometimes bad. In his second year, he's striving for more consistency. And having had the chance to learn behind Thomas and Howell, he thinks he's found it.

"I learned how to see the game from those guys," Richards said. "As a freshman, you come in with tunnel vision. You need to learn to see how things move around. Now it's a transition. You've been here for a year, you learn to read formational cues and the game slows down a lot more. You know what the offensive tendencies are. That's the biggest difference. You're not a deer in the headlights anymore. You just go out and play and try not to over think it."

Brown has the most experience at cornerback, followed by Browning who started three games last season. According to Richards, Brown and Reynolds have taken on the leadership roles vacated by the departed seniors.

"As a group, it's been TB and Ed," Richards said. "Those guys have been around. But we all know what's at stake, and we're all trying to be leaders and be on our game as a group because we know that we are going to be young and people are going to try to come after us."

Like in Week 3, when the Cardinal host USC -- a pass happy offense with the Heisman front-runner at quarterback, the top wide receiving duo in the country and possibly the No. 1-ranked team in the nation. So this group is going to have to find a way to come together quickly.

"That's what the spring is all about," Richards said. "We're working hard to be a cohesive group. Coach Mason is pushing us and I think we're going to come together."
It was 33 days ago today that Stanford head coach David Shaw said it would be "safe to assume" that recruiting a quarterback for the 2013 class would be a priority.

Over the weekend, assumption turned to fact.

The Cardinal picked up a commitment Saturday Insider from Ryan Burns of Ashburn, Va. -- a 6-foot-5, 220-pound pro-style prototype who looks the part with pads on, and without.

Commitments this early -- especially from top-flight players like Burns, who is on the ESPNU 150 watch list for 2013 -- come with a double-edged sword. On one hand, you feel pretty good about locking up a player who is projected to be one of the best in the country at his position. But that also means you have to work to keep him. No doubt, other programs will be swooping in over the next 11 months to try to lure him away.

At the same time, he could turn out to be one of Stanford's strongest cheerleaders, which was the case with outside linebacker Noor Davis, who committed to Stanford last May and worked tirelessly to bring in more talent to bolster the 2012 class.

"I think every program in the nation always has one or two guys who commit early and is determined to help build the class," Shaw said in a signing-day Q&A.

It sounds like Burns is pretty solid with his commitment though, telling Mike Farrell of Rivals.com that neither Andrew Luck's departure, nor the outstanding offensive line class the Cardinal picked up in 2012, had an impact on his decision.
I would have picked Stanford regardless of how the previous [quarterback] did, but I had a really good time meeting him last summer.

Burns on the offensive line class:
It is a big bonus, but I would have picked them regardless.

The news comes as the current Cardinal squad is in the thick of a quarterback competition to replace Luck. Stanford started the first of two spring sessions last week with an emphasis on base offense and defense. Shaw said he doesn't expect to have a quarterback named until close to the start of the season, but hopes he'll have at least a pecking order in mind by the time Stanford wraps up spring drills.

Brett Nottingham, Luck's understudy last season, and Josh Nunes took the majority of snaps in an 11-on-11 drill, according to Tom Fitzgerald of the San Francisco Chronicle, and Nottingham said his game "wasn't that sharp. Lots of things to clean up, but it's still relatively early in spring ball."

Shaw described Nottingham and Nunes as "not great, but solid."

The two are competing with Robbie Picazo, Kevin Hogan and Evan Crower to replace Luck, who graduated with most of Stanford's passing records and is all but inked in as the No. 1 pick in the upcoming NFL draft.

Burns is the second Cardinal commit to the 2013 class -- and also the second from Virginia. Linebacker Doug Randolph (Woodberry Forest), also on the ESPNU 150 watch list, committed to Stanford in June of 2011. Last year's Stanford media guide lists offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton as the primary recruiter in Virginia. The Cardinal appear to have a pretty good grasp of the region, having just signed defensive back Alex Carter (Ashburn, Va.) in the 2012 class. Carter, who Shaw called a "lock-down corner" was 111th on the 2012 ESPNU 150 list.
Stanford head coach David Shaw has a lot to smile about after hauling in a top-15 recruiting class on Wednesday. With six ESPNU 150 players -- including three of the top offensive linemen in the country and athletic playmakers on both sides of the ball -- Shaw said his team fills much-needed holes and adds depth at other spots.

Here's part two of a Q&A with the second-year head coach.

Q: Alex Carter was recruited as a cornerback. Is that set in stone, or could we see him at safety or as a wide receiver?

A: Alex Carter is fast, quick and strong. He is a corner for us. He could physically play five positions. He could play running back or safety or receiver or corner. He could even play a gun-run quarterback which a lot of guys are doing these days. But for us, he's a lockdown corner. He's excited about getting that opportunity to play against some of the best receivers in the nation in our conference and we know he'll be up to the challenge.

Q: You said back in December that recruiting a quarterback wasn't a priority in 2012. Is it safe to assume it will be a priority in 2013?

A: I think that's pretty safe to assume. We've got a good cast of quarterbacks here. Some of them are four-star guys who threw for a lot of yards in their high school career but haven't gotten a lot of opportunity. The opportunity is here now, this spring and this fall. We'll see what happens through the rest of this year's recruiting process. If we don't get a top-flight quarterback in this class, we're already in the process of communicating with, we believe, about four of the top five quarterbacks next year.

Q: There were some players who were forced to switch their commitment because they weren't admitted academically. How difficult is it for you as a coach to make that phone call and tell a kid with an outstanding GPA that he doesn't meet the standards of Stanford University?

A: That's the hardest thing about this process for us, is that every single offer that we make and everything that we tell all of these guys is that the offer is contingent on their admission to Stanford. There are guys where we have a strong feeling he'll get admitted, and he doesn't make it. That's part of here. The one thing I rest on, personally as an alum, during the process, our admissions people have been pretty much on. They have done a great job as evidenced by our graduation rate. They seem to pick the right people to go to school here. Sometimes it does hurt. It's not just football. It's in every single sport. But it's our job to bring the highest number of qualified candidates we can find and our admissions people will pick the ones they believe are ready for school here and those are the guys that we play with.

Q: Only two players from California. Does that matter? (Writer's note: Interview with Shaw was conducted about 30 minutes prior to Aziz Shittu of Atwater, Calif. announcing his commitment, giving Stanford three players from California).

A: Not at all. We just can't be bound to a region, even if it is close to home. We've had some years with four guys, others where it's two or three. We have to look at the United States and say 'that's our region.' Wherever we can find guys, that's where we have to go. It wasn't just a down year for us regionally out West, but it was an up year where it's usually a tough spot. Across the nation, there were a lot of guys that were great football players with high academic accomplishments and those are the guys that we go after.

Q: Conner Crane looks like Coby Fleener's little brother. Any chance you put 60 pounds on him and turn him into a tight end?

A: (Laughing) He's got more of a thin frame than Coby did. Coby had a lot of room to gain the weight and put the meat on. Conner is a little thinner so I don't anticipate him making the switch to tight end. I know he's a tall, fast receiver that plays against the highest level of competition in Texas and averages over 17, 18-yards a catch for his career. I can't wait to get him in a Stanford uniform.

Q: Going to put you on the spot. Who do you think of this class can make an immediate impact next season?

A: There are going to be multiple guys. It's hard to say. We have some open spots on the offensive line. We have guys here that can compete and we're bringing in guys that are going to compete. We've got some receivers coming in that have some unique abilities. I think Conner, Dontonio Jordan, Kodi Whitfield, Michael Rector. I think those four guys as a class are probably the most underrated group of receivers in the nation. Conner Crane has the speed and downfield ability. Michael Rector is at 6-1, 6-2 and can run every route in the book and change direction. Dontonio Jordan is outstanding in the punt return game and in the slot. Kodi Whitfield is a big, physical receiver. A lot of people came in late and tried to get him to switch because they saw what he could do.

Were Pac-12 recruiting needs met?

February, 2, 2012
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Every team had needs going into 2012 national signing day. Last week, Ted Miller looked at the needs of each team in the North Division and South Division. Here’s a look at whether those needs were met.

Arizona: Either Javelle Allen or Josh Kern -- both Texans -- could be the long-term answer at quarterback. Noticeably missing is the lack of an impact linebacker. But there is some good depth to the offensive line.

Arizona State: Nice pickup with running back D.J. Foster. Richard Smith and Josiah Blandin boost the wide receiving corps. Nine JC signees? We’ll see.

Cal: QB Zach Kline (No. 2 QB) is the jewel of the class, and receiver Darius Powe could be an immediate impact player. Cal wins the award for bipolar recruiting season, but this is still a solid class.

Colorado: If Yuri Wright can keep his thumbs in check, he’s a huge addition. He and Kenny Crawley boost a secondary sorely in need of playmakers.

Oregon: Arik Armstead headlines a diverse class that, as expected, is heavy on speed and addresses depth across the board. Next to duct tape, few things are quick fixes than a juco kicker.

Oregon State: No. 1 offensive guard Isaac Seumalo and tackle Garrett Weinreich fill immediate needs on the line. A lot of unproven commits on a defense that still needs help.

Stanford: Business should be booming in the Stanford cafeteria with seven new offensive linemen. And they get to grow with and block for Barry Sanders. Noor Davis and Alex Carter are elite defensive playmakers.

UCLA: Four ESPNU 150 players, headlined by athlete Devin Fuller. Who said Jim Mora wasn't cut out for college? Keeping Ellis McCarthy in Southern California -- and out of red and gold -- is big time.

USC: Don't cry for this tiny class. It features seven ESPNU 150 players and adds speed on defense with Jabari Ruffin, size on the offensive line with Max Turek and Jordan Simmons and athleticism with wide receiver Nelson Agholor. Another great haul for Troy.

Utah: A quarterback of the future is needed, and Travis Wilson (No. 39 QB) and Chase Hansen (No. 43 QB) should have a heck of a competition in the coming years. Lots of help and depth added to the offensive line.

Washington: A shaky recruiting season was saved at the last minute by the commitment of Shaq Thompson and the ability to hold quarterback Cyler Miles. Brandon Beaver helps a secondary that was one of the worst in the conference.

Washington State: Running back Robert Lewis and receiver Alex Jackson could prove to be money in the Mike Leach offensive overhaul. A few juco transfers should be stopgaps until depth develops and Leach's plan comes together.

Oregon, Stanford land commitments

April, 4, 2011
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Oregon and Stanford, the top two teams in the Pac-12 heading into 2011, are also asserting themselves in recruiting. Both landed commitments from touted players.

Stanford has received a pledge from ESPNU 150 watch list athlete Alex Carter (Ashburn, Va./Briar Woods), ESPN's Greg Biggins reports. Carter, 6-foot-1, 190 pounds, could play either receiver on defensive back.

"Some of Stanford's on-field success can be attributed to its ability to recruit nationally and the pickup of Carter is an example. The Virginia native will be one of the top prospects in his state this year and will likely emerge into an upper-tier national prospect at the athlete position for 2012," ESPN's Billy Tucker said.

Meanwhile, the Ducks got word from defensive back Oshay Dunmore of Newport High School (Newport, Ore.). Dunmore, 6-1, 195, already had offers from Oregon State, Washington and Duke.

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