Pac-12: Andy Mattingly

Washington State spring wrap

May, 7, 2010
5/07/10
6:00
AM ET
Washington State

2009 overall record: 1-11

2009 conference record: 0-9 (10th)

Returning starters

Offense: 8, Defense: 6, punter/kicker: 2

Top returners: QB Jeff Tuel, WR Jared Karstetter, DE Travis Long, LB Alex Hoffman-Ellis, P Reid Forrest

Key losses: C Kenny Alfred, RB Dwight Tardy, FS Xavier Hicks, LB Andy Mattingly

2009 statistical leaders (*returning starter)

Rushing: Tardy (417)

Passing: Tuel* (789)

Receiving: Karstetter* (540)

Tackles: Alex Hoffman-Ellis* (84)

Sacks: Travis Long*, Toby Turpin, Casey Hamlett*, Anthony Laurenzi* (2)

Interceptions: Xavier Hicks (3)

Spring Answers

1. Solid at QB: Both sophomore Tuel and junior Marshall Lobbestael played well this spring. Both are more skilled, more mature and better versed in the offense than when they were prematurely forced into action the previous two seasons. Tuel is the heavy frontrunner to start, but it's always nice to have two quarterbacks with starting experience.

2. Offensive line improvement: A big area of concern the past two seasons, the Cougars added a pair of JC recruits midyear and the additions greatly enhanced the competition and depth up front. Also, the addition of offensive line coach Steve Morton and his 35 years of experience, which includes five Morris Trophy winners, already has made a big impact. The line lost one starter from last season (center Kenny Alfred) but the return of four starters, along with the JC additions and return of Andrew Roxas, who missed 2009 due to illness, could make this one of the most improved units in the conference.

3. There's some depth: Everyone around the program insists this is by far the best spring for coach Paul Wulff since he took over a beleaguered program two years ago. Part of that success is legitimate competition for starting spots and playing time. Players who redshirted the past two seasons, in particular, made an impact during the 15 practices

Fall questions

1. Confidence? The Cougars have won just three games over the past two seasons -- just one Pac-10 game. Many of their defeats have been blowouts. While the talent looks better heading into 2010, the Cougars have to believe they can compete -- and win -- in the Pac-10. That belief will drive players to work out hard during the summer. That belief will keep games close into the fourth quarter. That belief might even help them steal a few games. But that belief has to be real, which means it will have to block out all the talk about another dreary 10th-place finish.

2. Will the D-line step up? Sophomore end Travis Long should take the next step. JC transfer Brandon Rankin lived up to his considerable hype at tackle. Senior end Kevin Kooyman is back from injury and had a good spring. That's the good news. The bad news is three of the top four or five tackles are either gone -- or close to going -- before their time. Toby Turpin was kicked out of school over an undisclosed academic incident, while tackles Bernard Wolfgramm and Josh Luapo are struggling to remain academically eligible (coaches are more hopeful about Wolfgramm getting back on track). That means youngsters such as Justin Clayton, Dan Spitz, Jordan Pu’u Robinson and Anthony Laurenzi will need to be ready -- and be better than they were in 2009.

3. Receiver depth? The Cougars went through spring with just four scholarship receivers (Jeffrey Solomon, Jared Karstetter, Gino Simone and Daniel Blackledge). The incoming recruiting class features five receivers. JC recruit Isiah Barton is probably the most ready, but at least a couple of freshmen will need to earn spots in the rotation.

A questionable Barkley leads Pac-10 injury watch

September, 16, 2009
9/16/09
11:03
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller


There are some high-profile injuries in the conference right now. Here's an update.
  • Arizona TE Rob Gronkowski (back): He's trying to practice this week in order to play at Iowa but the guess here is the best-case scenario is Gronkowski seeing only a handful of snaps. Coach Mike Stoops might opt to rest him hoping he'll be ready when the Pac-10 games start on Sept. 26. And, if Gronk plays, keep in mind he missed almost all of preseason camp. As good as he is, there should be some rust.
  • Arizona State DT Lawrence Guy (biceps): It appears Guy will play against Louisiana-Monroe. Dennis Erickson told the Arizona Republic on Tuesday: "I don't think he's 100 percent, but he's pretty close."
  • Oregon FS T.J. Ward (ankle) & LB Spencer Paysinger (elbow): While Oregon coach Chip Kelly calls all his injured players "day-to-day" -- thereby forcing all haggard sportswriters to reply, "Aren't we all, coach?" -- Ward seems far closer to doubtful than questionable for the Utah visit. Paysinger practiced Tuesday, so he sounds probable.
  • Oregon State WR Darrell Catchings (wrist): Catchings was catching Tuesday, so let's upgrade his status to questionable. If he's ready to go that should elevate the Beavers passing game with a tough Cincinnati squad coming to Corvallis. Some other injury info here.
  • Stanford DT Matt Masifilo: Masifilo suffered a knee injury at Wake Forest and will be out six weeks. The good news is backup Sione Fua has experience.
  • UCLA RB Christian Ramirez (ankle), DE Reginald Stokes (knee), OL Nick Ekbatani (knee) & WR Gavin Ketchum (hamstring): Though it's unlikely any of these four will be available for Saturday's game with Kansas State, all four are at least doing light running, meaning they could be ready after the bye week for the Pac-10 opener vs. Stanford on Oct. 3.
  • USC QB Matt Barkley (shoulder) & FS Taylor Mays (knee): Barkley didn't throw during Tuesday's practice, so it's becoming increasingly possible that sophomore Aaron Corp will start at Washington. That might make things interesting if Corp is lights out. Mays is a senior and a two-time All-American who came off the bench in his first game as a true freshman and has started every game since. He's from Seattle. Odds are that Mays will play, even if he sits out all week.
  • Washington DT De'Shon Matthews (knee) & DE Darrion Jones (knee): Both are decidedly questionable and closer to doubtful. The reason that this is big is because USC has a dominating offensive line -- one that is surely unhappy with how it performed at Ohio State. The Huskies aren't deep on the D-line in any event.
  • Washington State LB Andy Mattingly (concussion, thigh): The Cougars are banged up -- it was too complicated to list here. With another run-and-shoot offense -- SMU -- coming to town, the defense can't afford to be missing many starters, such as Mattingly, who is questionable.

Ranking the Pac-10 linebackers

September, 1, 2009
9/01/09
6:30
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller


Just about every Pac-10 team feels good about its linebackers.

Not an easy position to rank.
  1. UCLA: Senior Reggie Carter was second-team All-Pac-10, up-and-coming sophomore Akeem Ayers and senior Kyle Bosworth man the two outside positions, while sophomore backup Steve Sloan started nine games last year.
  2. Oregon State: Keaton Kristick was second-team All-Pac-10, and the two-headed monster on the weakside -- Dwight Roberson and Keith Pankey -- is back. Sophomore David Pa'aluhi -- a mixed martial arts fighter -- is promising in the middle.
  3. USC: Yes, USC gets the benefit of the doubt, despite three new starters. By season's end don't be surprised if Chris Galippo, Michael Morgan and Malcolm Smith look like the conference's best unit.
  4. Oregon: Spencer Paysinger and Casey Matthews return, and Eddie Pleasant steps in for Jerome Boyd on the outside. There's good depth and good speed here.
  5. Arizona State: The Sun Devils have a lot of experience as well as young talent, but the starting crew of Travis Goethel, Gerald Munns and Mike Nixon doesn't possess top-end speed. And sophomore Shelly Lyons is hurt and the NCAA Clearinghouse hasn't yet cleared spectacular true freshman Vontaze Burfict.
  6. California: On the outside, Mike Mohamed and Eddie Young have plenty of experience. Inside, Mychal Kendricks and D.J. Holt are promising but green. The depth is solid.
  7. Arizona: The Wildcats are fast with Sterling Lewis, Xavier Kelly and Vuna Tuihalamaka, and Lewis and Kelly have starting experience. There's a pretty fair drop-off to the second unit.
  8. Stanford: Clinton Snyder will lead a solid crew that includes Will Powers and Chike Amajoyi. The uncertain status of Alex Debniak (knee) hurts.
  9. Washington: The Huskies have a solid triumvirate. E.J. Savannah returns after missing all of 2008 due to a suspension. He'll play outside opposite Mason Foster with Donald Butler in the middle. Depth is an issue.
  10. Washington State: Andy Mattingly's return on the strongside from defensive end should help. Jason Stripling is a senior on the weakside, but isn't terribly experienced -- he missed almost all of 2008 with a shoulder injury. JC transfer Alex Hoffman-Ellis will man the middle. He redshirted last year. It would help if undersized but quick Louis Bland was 100 percent because he would add much-needed speed.

Mattingly believes Cougs will surprise

August, 26, 2009
8/26/09
10:44
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Washington State linebacker Andy Mattingly is done with the frying pan and has regained his fire.

He's back at linebacker after an ill-fated move to defensive end, and he's eager to put a bad year -- on and off the field -- behind him.

"Last year was tough on me," he said. "It was tough on everybody."

Mattingly got into trouble in January of 2008 when, taking up for a friend, he wielded a frying pan in a fight. The incident was was among many off-field issues that ruined Paul Wulff's honeymoon as head coach, but the use of a frying pan was a colorful detail that, understandably, resonated on the Internet.

When the football season came, it didn't bring much relief. Mattingly found himself uncomfortable putting his hand on the ground and contending with offensive tackles who outweighed him by 50 or more pounds. After recording eight sacks and forcing four fumbles at linebacker as a sophomore, Mattingly was muted, recording only one sack.

He wasn't the only Cougar struggling on defense. Washington State ranked last in the nation in run defense (248 yards per game) and second-to-last in scoring defense (44 ppg).

"Last year, some guys didn't buy into what the coaches were saying," Mattingly said. "This year is completely different."

A big difference for Mattingly is moving back to linebacker, where the 6-foot-4, 255-pound senior can read-and-react and make plays.

So how did it go when co-defensive coordinator Chris Ball informed him he was moving back to linebacker?

"It was like opening up a Christmas present when you are five years old before you were supposed to," he said. "It was a great feeling."

Mattingly is one major component of what should be an improved defense -- if it can stay healthy.

"We're looking really good defensively," he said. "It's night and day between now and the defense last fall -- how we look and in the attitude right now. We know what the coaches want. This year we're taking coaching a lot better."

Mattingly said a strong off-season in the weight room should help the Cougars across the board. He notes that guys who didn't play last year, such as defensive tackle Bernard Wolfgramm, whose persistent back problem has been less persistent, 321-pound tackle Josh Luapo and freshman end Travis Long, not to mention a bigger, stronger Kevin Kooyman at the other end, should make the defensive line far saltier than the crew that got pushed around last year.

A better D-line should make life better for Mattingly and a young linebacking corps.

"I know we won't give up the points we did last year," he said. "The amount of yards rushing -- that's not going to happen."

Of course, Mattingly is aware that many aren't buying it. The defense is replacing six starters, including mainstay middle linebacker Greg Trent and both corners.

A questionable defense is a big reason why the Cougars are the consensus pick to finish last in the Pac-10.

Repeatedly reading and hearing about low expectations is the sort of thing that could beat a team down. Or inspire it.

Ultimately, preseason predictions should have zero affect on how the 2009 season goes for the Cougars.

"It's there. It's on paper. Once you read it, you're going to think about it a second or two," Mattingly said. "Personally, I don't get pissed off about it at all. We don't deserve to be up there. But very year we're picked last and we haven't finished last."

Best case-worst case: Washington State

August, 3, 2009
8/03/09
5:41
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

First in a series looking at potential dream and nightmare scenarios for all Pac-10 teams, starting at the bottom and working up from my vote in the Pac-10 media poll.

Up first: Washington State

Best case

It wasn't long ago that losing by 10 points at home to Stanford would have been a terrible outcome for Washington State, but a 30-20 opening defeat to the fast-rising, experienced Cardinal provided grounds for Cougars optimism as the 2009 season began.

For one, Stanford beat the Cougars 58-0 a year ago.

Second, the game was in doubt until the fourth quarter, when a surprisingly stout WSU defense finally let Stanford tailback Toby Gerhart find some cracks.

That optimism was further validated when the Cougars improved to 2-1 with victories over Hawaii and SMU. Andy Mattingly and Louis Bland led a rejuvenated pass rush, and four interceptions, two from safety Xavier Hicks, stymied a pair of pass-happy offenses.

Decisive losses at USC and Oregon reminded the Cougars that there was still a gap between them and the top of the conference, but an upset of Arizona State evened the record at 3-3. Quarterback Marshall Lobbestael shocked a tough Sun Devils defense with a pair of touchdown passes, while running backs James Montgomery and Dwight Tardy combined for 195 yards rushing, 50 more than Georgia had in its surprisingly tight win over ASU a few weeks before.

The Cougars couldn't keep up with Jahvid Best in Berkeley, but the Paul Wulff Era took a decisive uptick with a nationally televised upset of No. 15 Notre Dame in San Antonio. Cougars fans painted the Riverwalk crimson while pointing out they'd won the game and the party.

A late touchdown left the Cougars frustrated at Arizona, and bowl hopes were doused by consecutive home defeats to UCLA and Oregon State.

The Cougars then traveled across the state to Seattle, with the 5-6 Huskies knowing a single win would transform their program from 0-12 in '08 to bowl eligible a season later.

But a 45-yard field goal from Nico Grasu in the waning moments gave the Cougars their fifth Apple Cup victory in six seasons.

"We are not satisfied with 5-7 by any stretch," Wulff said. "But we can build on this."

Worst case

It wasn't just the score. Opening with a 38-3 home loss to Stanford was significantly closer -- at least mathematically -- than the 58-0 blanking Washington State suffered on the Farm a year before.

No, it was 254 yards rushing from Toby Gerhart, a total that eclipsed the Cougars entire offensive output. A year after owning the nation's worst run defense, it appeared that little had improved and that the Cougars weren't physically ready for Pac-10 play.

Or WAC or Conference USA play either after Hawaii and SMU ran the Cougars ragged. The specter of a winless season begins to hover over the program, and athletic director Jim Sterk is forced to give coach Paul Wulff a dreaded "vote of confidence."

It becomes clear as the losses pile up that things are going to have to get worse in Pullman before they begin to get better. A handful of injuries make things even harder for a young team that is thin at just about every position.

The Cougars play better in November, almost upsetting UCLA at home and playing a competitive game for a half with Oregon State.

But they are winless heading into the Apple Cup to face a Husky program that is hungry for revenge and that also is showing signs of life under first-year coach Steve Sarkisian, particularly on the recruiting trail.

So a 42-17 loss is particularly galling. Not only does it leave the Cougars winless, but it also sends the Huskies to their first bowl game since 2002 and inspires Jake Heaps to switch his commitment from BYU to Washington.

A look back at 2006 recruiting classes

July, 20, 2009
7/20/09
8:01
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

The 2006 recruiting class members are either seniors or redshirt juniors this fall, so they should be the backbones of most Pac-10 team's starting lineups.

Therefore, it seems like a reasonable moment to look back and review some recruiting hits and misses.

In the big picture, USC ranked No. 2 in the nation, according to ESPN.com's Scouts Inc., behind No. 1 Florida (sorta makes sense, eh?). UCLA, at No. 19, was the only other Pac-10 team in the Scouts Inc., top-25.

Scout.com ranked USC No. 1 in the nation, Arizona 19th, UCLA 20th and California 23rd. The rest of the Pac-10 went, in order, Arizona State (32nd in nation), Washington (35th), Stanford (38), Oregon State (41), Washington State (45) and Oregon (52).

Oregon last? Hmm.

Anyway... here's an overview

Arizona

Class: 24

ESPNU top 150 players: 2

How many are expected to start in 2009: Nine (CB Devin Ross, DT Earl Mitchell, FS Cam Nelson, WR Terrell Turner, DE Brooks Reed, DE Ricky Elmore, WR Delashaun Dean, OG Conan Amituanai, C Colin Baxter)

Misses: QB Tyler Lyon, RB Derke Robinson

Verdict: This is an underrated class -- even guys who aren't listed as starters are projected to contribute in 2009. It's also notable that the few who didn't pan out -- or were problems, such as DE Louis Holmes -- were the big names.

Arizona State

Class: 24

ESPNU top 150 players: 0

How many are expected to start in 2009: Seven (SS Ryan McFoy, RB Dimitri Nance, OG Jon Hargis, WR Kyle Williams, DT Saia Falahola, QB Danny Sullivan, LB Travis Goethel OR LB Gerald Munns)

Misses: DE Jermaine Williams, RB Rodney Glass

Verdict: A solid class when you consider that nine of the 24 signees were JC players who have already moved on -- a group that included RB Ryan Torain and S Troy Nolan, who were the class's most elite performers.

California

Class: 20

ESPNU top 150 players: 2

How many are expected to start in 2009: Six (CB Darian Hagan, DT Derrick Hill, QB Kevin Riley, C Chris Guarnero, DE Tyson Alualu, LB Mike Mohamed)

Misses: RB James Montgomery, RB Tracy Slocum, DT Justin Prueitt

Verdict: Ratings, smatings. Montgomery, Slocum and Prueitt were highly rated, Alualu and Mohamed barely registered. Overall, a solid class.

Oregon

Class: 20

ESPNU top 150 players: 0

How many are expected to start in 2009: Five (C Jordan Holmes, LT Bo Thran, RT C.E. Kaiser, DT Brandon Bair, LB Spenser Paysinger)

Misses: The class included three quarterbacks: Cody Kempt, Justin Roper and Nate Costa. Kempt and Roper have transferred, Costa has been riddled by injuries.

Verdict: Decidedly mixed. One thing is for sure: This class bolstered the Ducks offensive line. Also interesting, Bair and Paysinger transitioned to their current positions from tight end and receiver, respectively.

(Read full post)

Washington State spring wrap-up

May, 8, 2009
5/08/09
9:00
AM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Washington State Cougars
2008 overall record: 2-11

2008 conference record: 1-8

Returning starters

Offense 8, defense 5, kicker/punter 2

Top returners

C Kenny Alfred, RB Dwight Tardy, FS Xavier Hicks, LB Louis Bland, LB Andy Mattingly, P Reid Forrest, K Nico Grasu

Key losses

OT Vaughn Lesuma, TE Devin Frischknecht, WR Brandon Gibson, LB Greg Trent, CB Romeo Pellum, DT A'i Ahmu

2008 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Dwight Tardy* (481)
Passing: Marshall Lobbestael* (571)
Receiving: Brandon Gibson (673)
Tackles: Greg Trent (88)
Sacks: Toby Turpin* (3)
Interceptions: Romeo Pellum, Xavier Hicks* (2)

2009 Schedule
Sept. 5 Stanford
Sept. 12 Hawaii (in Seattle)
Sept. 19 Southern Methodist
Sept. 26 at USC
Oct. 3 at Oregon
Oct. 10 Arizona State
Oct. 24 at California
Oct. 31 vs. Notre Dame
(in San Antonio, Texas)
Nov. 7 at Arizona
Nov. 14 UCLA
Nov. 21 Oregon State
Nov. 28 at Washington

Spring answers

1. Culture change: Big injury issues within many position groups limited a lot of definitive depth chart moves, so what the Cougars' coaches talked most about at the end of spring was establishing a better team culture, which includes practice tempo, trust among players and staff and off-field responsibilities, both in the classroom and weight room.

2. Tardy and Montgomery running: The Cougars feel good about their depth at running back, with senior Dwight Tardy and California transfer James Montgomery leading the way. If the offensive line can stay healthy -- depth is a big issue -- the running game has a chance to improve dramatically.

3. New faces' chance to shine: The injuries allowed youngsters and newcomers to make statements, and a handful did, including redshirt freshman defensive ends Dan Spitz and Cory Mackay, redshirt freshman tight end Skylar Stormo and junior transfer receivers Johnny Forzani and Jeffrey Solomon.

Fall questions

1. Get healthy: The spring injury list was a who's who of likely starters, and some of the issues will be worrisome. For example, Bernard Wolfgramm was practically penciled in as a starting defensive tackle, but he had back surgery this winter and back problems are tricky. The Cougars suffered epidemic injuries last year; they need to avoid that if 2009 is going to be any better.

2. Is Lobbestael the man? While senior Kevin Lopina showed significant improvement passing this spring, the general feeling is sophomore Marshall Lobbestael will be the quarterback when Stanford comes to town on Sept. 5. But, again, Lobbestael is coming back from a knee injury and didn't get to do any full-go action this spring. He still needs to win the job on the field.

3. Not to be defensive, but ... Washington State lost six starters from a defense that gave up 43.8 points and 443 yards in 2008, and the departed include mainstays such as linebacker Greg Trent, end Matt Mullennix and tackle A'i Ahmu. The Cougars are set at safety with Xavier Hicks and Chima Nwachukwu, and they feel good about linebackers Andy Mattingly and Louis Bland, but there are a lot of questions here that need to be resolved during preseason practices.

Pac-10 lunch links: Cougars lose a linebacker

April, 2, 2009
4/02/09
1:34
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

If you're going to San Francisco. Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair. But that won't fly in Oakland.

WSU spring notes: Pellum suspended indefinitely

March, 25, 2009
3/25/09
6:16
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Starting cornerback Romeo Pellum was fourth on the Washington State's spring depth chart, which was released today, but there's a reason for that.

He's been suspended indefinitely for violating undisclosed team rules, coach Paul Wulff said during a teleconference Wednesday.

Pellum ranked third on the team with 65 tackles last year. He also recorded two interceptions.

Other notes as the Cougars start spring drills Thursday.

  • A number of players will be out or limited due to injury. Center Kenny Alfred will not participate as he recovers from hip surgery. Also limited: QB Marshall Lobbestael (knee), RB Chris Ivory (hamstring), RB Chantz Staden (knee), DL Jessy Sanchez (shoulder), LB Myron Beck (back), LB Hallston Higgins (shoulder), OL Micah Hamman (shoulder), OL Brian Danaher (shoulder) and OL Tyson Pencer (shoulder).
  • Wulff said receiver Daniel Blackledge, running back Marcus Richmond, offensive lineman B.J. Guerra, safety Xavier Hicks and linebacker Andy Mattingly had good off-seasons in the weight room.
  • The Cougs appear much bigger based on their newly listed weights. Wulff said that was due to an improved training table and workout program. "We've done it the right way," he said.
  • On the move of Mattingly back to linebacker from DE: "I think he's going to be a little bit more in his comfort zone than at end."
  • As for his feelings going into spring practices, he said, "We have much higher expectations... We truly feel we are all on the same page now."

Spring football Q&A: Washington State coach Paul Wulff

March, 18, 2009
3/18/09
10:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Not everything went smoothly during Paul Wulff's first year as Washington State's head coach, starting with a 2-11 finish.

Moreover, he's going to miss the first three days of the Cougars' fall practices because of NCAA sanctions he incurred for violations that happened while he was head coach at Eastern Washington.

AP Photo/Ted S. Warren
Paul Wulff was 2-11 in his first season at Washington State.

But the Cougars also posted a comeback victory in the Apple Cup, dumping Washington into the basement of the Pac-10, and outdid the Huskies during recruiting.

So there is some positive momentum as he looks toward his second season.

It seemed like a good time to check in with Wulff as he and his staff prepare for spring practices, which start March 26.

First, what's the latest on quarterback Marshall Lobbestael, who's coming back from a knee injury [and a suspension for a February arrest for an underage alcohol offense]?

Paul Wulff: I think he's going to be do everything but the team segments. A lot of individual work and he'll be able to some 7-on-7 drills.

So he's been reinstated from suspension?

PW: Yes. He had a lot of things to do, but yeah.

Let's put a cap on the 2008 season: First, what went right?

PW: After we played USC [on Oct. 18] we had a bye week, and I think our team changed a lot from a personality standpoint. We grew a lot. I know we didn't play well next against Stanford for a number of reasons, but really after that our team just played better football. We grew a lot. We played much more competitively against Arizona State and then Washington and Hawaii. We just played better. We tried not to compare ourselves against anyone else, we just compared ourselves to ourselves. And we improved as a football team down the stretch.

And what was the root of the struggles?

PW: It was a combination of things. It really wasn't one thing. I think as coaches, we demanded and changed so much of what these players were asked to do, from what they were accustomed to doing, on and off the field. I think there was a natural -- not an intentional resistance -- but just a little bit of what you would say is a culture shock to the system. I think that was part of the issue, in addition to trying to replace some key parts. We lost a four-year starter at quarterback [Alex Brink], we lost a couple of receivers and a tight end who had opportunities in the NFL. It was tough to replace all that experience. And then the injuries on the offensive side of the ball -- the quarterback situation. On defense it was similar, losing both safeties, some defensive tackles, we just couldn't overcome that. Our offense then put even more pressure on our defense. I know before our offense at Washington State has always been very successful. A lot of times that goes hand-in-hand with your relieving your defense, and we weren't able to do that last year.

(Read full post)

The hit men: Who's loaded at linebacker?

March, 11, 2009
3/11/09
6:12
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

And finally there were linebackers. Or a lack thereof.

All three first-team All-Pac-10 linebackers are gone. USC and California both lost three starting linebackers from elite units.

The only team that welcomes back an intact crew is Washington, which is a mixed blessing when a defense is among the worst in the nation the previous season.

That said: No one is completely rebuilding.

Each linebacker unit, other than USC, has at least one starter back, and the Trojans crew has seen significant playing time and is probably as talented as any in the Pac-10.

Great shape

  • UCLA: This is a position of strength for UCLA, with a lot of experience and athletic ability, led by middle linebacker and leading tackler Reggie Carter, who was second-team All-Pac-10 a year ago. Akeem Ayers and Kyle Bosworth man the two outside positions, while Steve Sloan started nine games last year.
  • Oregon State: Keaton Kristick, second-team All-Pac-10, leads another solid corps of Beavers linebackers from the strongside. Middle linebacker Bryant Cornell is gone, but he only ranked fifth on the team in tackles. Dwight Roberson and Keith Pankey are back on the weakside, while David Pa'aluhi is slated to replace Cornell.

Good shape 

  • USC: Sure, all three starters are gone, but we just can't pull the trigger and downgrade the Trojans. The general feeling that Chris Galippo inside with Malcolm Smith and Michael Morgan on the flanks will be as physically talented as any crew in the conference. Each saw significant action last year and recorded double-digit tackles, with Morgan leading the way with 24, including five for a loss.
  • Arizona State: Lost second-leading tackler Morris Wooten but the Sun Devils get everyone else back, including Gerald Munns, who left the team early last season due to personal issues. Moreover, young players such as Shelly Lyons and Brandon Magee will push for playing time.
  • Arizona: Lost leading tackler and leader Ronnie Palmer in the middle, but Sterling Lewis (five starts) and Xavier Kelly (eight starts) are back and Vuna Tuihalamaka, who is slated to replace Palmer, saw a lot of action in 2008.
  • Stanford: Pat Maynor is gone, but Clinton Snyder leads an experienced crew that includes Chike Amajoyi, Will Powers and Nick Macaluso.
  • California: Lost three of its four starting linebackers, but both Eddie Young and Mike Mohamed started games last year, with Mohamed ranking third on the team in tackles.
  • Oregon: Jerome Boyd is gone but second-leading tackler Spencer Paysinger and Casey Matthews are back. Eddie Pleasant likely steps in for Boyd.
  • Washington: Because the Huskies defense was so bad last year, it's hard to rank them in good shape just because all three starters are back. But the addition of 2007 leading tackler E.J. Savannah, who was suspended by former coach Tyrone Willingham, makes this an area of least concern on a team with many concerns.

We'll see

  • Washington State: It might seem like we're picking on the Cougars by leaving them alone down here but here's the situation. WSU lost its best defensive player and leading tackler, middle linebacker Greg Trent, from the nation's worst rushing defense (248 yards per game). Undersized weakside linebacker Louis Bland, who had nine tackles for a loss in 2008, is back, and word is Andy Mattingly might move back to linebacker from end. If that happens, the position upgrades substantially.

Sack men: Where things stand at defensive end

March, 10, 2009
3/10/09
3:39
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

The Pac-10 spring position reviews conclude with the defensive ends, the guys who get after the quarterback. Or are supposed to.

Even with four of the top five conference leaders in sacks gone, this is a fairly solid position across the board. The only team that raises a rebuilding red flag is Oregon State, which lost twin sackmasters Victor Butler and Slade Norris.

Of course, Washington and Washington State both produced only 16 sacks in 2008, tied for worst in the conference and among the fewest in the nation.

Great shape

  • California: Cal welcomes back underrated end Tyson Alualu, second-team All-Pac-10 in 2008, and rising star Cameron Jordan, a junior. They combined for 22 tackles for loss last year in the Bears' 3-4 defense. There's also solid, young depth behind them in sophomore Trevor Guyton and junior Keith Browner.
  • Arizona: Juniors Brooks Reed and Ricky Elmore combined for 15 sacks last year and both backups, D'Aundre Reed -- who started four games and had 2.5 sacks in 2008 -- and Apaiata Tuihalamaka are back.

Good shape

  • Arizona State: Dexter Davis had 11 sacks and 15 tackles for loss last season. James Brooks, Jamaar Jarrett, Jamarr Robinson and 25-year-old newcomer Dean DeLeone will battle it out to replace Luis Vasquez and provide depth.
  • Stanford: Tom Keiser had six sacks last year and earned freshman All-American honors while Erik Lorig has started 20 career games. Tom McAndrew provides experienced depth.
  • UCLA: Senior Korey Bosworth had 7.5 sacks and 11 tackles for loss in 2008, while junior Reginald Stokes started five of the final seven games last year. He will be challenged by sophomore Datone Jones.
  • Oregon: Sackmaster Nick Reed is gone, but that at least means Will Tukuafu might finally get some credit. He had 7.5 sacks and 17.5 tackles for loss last year. Competition will be hot to replace Reed, with juniors Brandon Bair, Zac Clark and Kenny Rowe in the running.
  • USC: Sure, both Kyle Moore and Clay Matthews are gone, but how many teams in the nation do you think would trade defensive ends with the Trojans? Everson Griffen, who had 4.5 sacks last year, is a true talent as a pass rusher, but he needs to be more consistent. Sophomore Malik Jackson and freshmen Wes Horton and Nick Perry each have huge upside.
  • Washington: The Huskies sneak in here mostly because of second-team All-Pac-10 end Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, a high-motor senior who had eight of the team's 16 sacks in 2008. Senior Darrion Jones returns at the other end and youngsters like Kalani Aldrich and Everrette Thompson showed flashes of promise.

We'll see

  • Oregon State: The Beavers also had to replace both starting defensive ends last season, but this year the backups don't arrive with 19.5 sacks split between them like Victor Butler and Slade Norris did. Sophomore Kevin Frahm and senior Ben Terry split two sacks between themselves in 2008.
  • Washington State: Matt Mullennix is gone, but Kevin Kooyman is back as is Andy Mattingly, but he might end up as an outside linebacker. But, really, the Cougars only had 16 sacks last year (in 13 games). Youngsters and newcomers will need to step up.

Overrated-Underrated in 2006

February, 2, 2009
2/02/09
7:24
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Wanted to go back and look at the 2006 recruiting classes and see which players were overrated and which were underrated.

Why 2006?

Two reasons: 1. It allows enough time for the player to break through while still being on the roster heading into 2009; 2. It's as far back as the ESPNU Scouts Inc., ratings go back.

Also, sometimes "overrated" doesn't translate to "actually pretty mediocre to bad." It can mean that the touted player didn't qualify academically or transferred.

This is about recruiting, so the "overrated" is about how a player bolstered recruiting rankings but then didn't contribute to the team.

And, of course, overrated today doesn't mean overrated tomorrow.

This is in the order of finish in the 2006 conference recruiting rankings (note how things have changed for Stanford this season).

The number in parentheses is the player's rating on a scale of 100 to 40.

1. USC
Over
S Antwine Perez (91):
He was rated the nation's No. 3 safety right behind Taylor Mays. Transfered to Maryland, where he started two games and had 24 tackles after sitting out a year.

Under
FB Stanley Havili (71):
One of Pete Carroll's favorite players, he's been a key contributor on offense.

2. UCLA
Over
C Andy Keane (79):
Rated the nation's No. 1 center, he's bounced between offensive and defensive lines and hasn't contributed.

Under
OG Darius Savage (69):
Sure, he's still figuring some things out, but he started seven games last year and he's got good upside.

3. California
Over
RB James Montgomery (77):
He likely would have been No. 2 behind Jahvid Best last year but he opted to transfer to Washington State, where he likely will start this fall.

Under
DL Tyson Alualu & LB Mike Mohamed (both 40):
Neither was a hot recruit but both started last year and received All-Pac-10 recognition -- Alualu as second-team.

4. Arizona
Over
RB Derke Robinson (78):
Had academic issues, left the program.

Under
C Colin Baxter (40):
He's made 23 starts at guard and center.

5. Washington
Over
S/RB Leilyon Myers (77)
: Failed to qualify academically, headed to junior college.

Under
WR D'Andre Goodwin (40):
Huskies leading receiver in 2008, catching 60 passes for 692 yards.

6. Arizona State
Over
DE Jermaine Williams (80):
Nation's No. 14 DE failed to qualify academically.

Under
WR Kyle Williams: (70):
Tied for team lead with four touchdown receptions. His 17 yards per punt return led the conference.

7. Oregon State
Over
TE Joe Halahuni (77):
No. 3 on depth chart in 2008 and caught only one pass -- though it went for a touchdown.

Under
TE Howard Croom (40):
Starting tight end, he caught six passes for 37 yards.

8. Oregon
Over
QB Cody Kempt (77):
Completed 6 of 26 passes with two interceptions before transferring to Montana State.

OL C.E. Kaiser (40): Started 10 games last year and will be one of the leaders on the line in 2009.

9. Washington State
Over
WR Anthony Houston (78):
Didn't catch a pass last year after being suspended from the team.

Under
LB Andy Mattingly (40):
Didn't have a great 2008 season for a variety of reasons but he was the Cougars second-leading tackler in 2007, leading the team in tackles for a loss and sacks.

10. Stanford
Over
QB Alex Loukas (74):
Saw only spot playing time last year -- used mostly as a runner -- and he appears to be the odd man out in the quarterback competition between returning starter Tavita Pritchard and touted redshirt freshman Andrew Luck.

Under
S Austin Yancy (40):
A hamstring injury killed his 2008 season, but he started 12 games in 2007.

Best Case-Worst Case: California

August, 8, 2008
8/08/08
8:16
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Fourth in a series looking at potential dream and nightmare scenarios for all Pac-10 teams, starting from the top of our preseason Power Rankings and working down.

Up next: California

Best Case

There were murmurs of discontent from a suddenly demanding California fan base when California coach Jeff Tedford named Nate Longshore his starting quarterback over Kevin Riley, but there were only boisterous cheers when Longshore led the Bears to a 41-10 victory over Michigan State at Memorial Stadium.

Even the Tree Sitters saluted the mistake-free day from Longshore, who completed 17 of 25 passes for 265 yards and three touchdowns. "Longshore was, like, wow, really great -- standing like a fearless oak in the pocket and, you know, throwing that ball and stuff," said a Tree Sitter who asked to be called Smelly Muffin. "Are you going to eat your fat?"

It wasn't just Longshore, though. The speedy backfield tandem of Jahvid Best and Shane Vereen combined for 238 total yards, with both lining up as slot receivers and at tailback.

The new 3-4 defense also proved salty, with the Bears linebackers dominating the action.

Any residual bad taste from 2007 collapse was left behind when the Bears improved to 4-0, winning on the road at Washington State and Maryland and drubbing Colorado State at home. That set up a home showdown with 16th ranked Arizona State, which had fallen just short of an upset of top-ranked Georgia two weeks before.

This time the defense saves the day, relentlessly blitzing quarterback Rudy Carpenter and confusing the Sun Devils inexperienced offensive line, forcing three turnovers while recording four sacks. Though he wasn't as sharp as he was in the opener, Longshore didn't try to force throws when given a short field, and Best busted away for TD runs of 33 and 19 yards in the hard-fought 24-20 win.

Following a bye, the Bears play flat at Arizona but escape 33-30 when Jordan Kay connects on a 45-yard field goal with less than a minute left.

After an easy win over UCLA, the Bears square off with No. 10 Oregon, which is coming off a nailbiting victory over Arizona State.

Cal jumps to a 13-10 lead, but right before halftime, Longshore sprains his ankle on a sack by Ducks end Nick Reed. Kevin Riley comes off the bench.

In the third quarter, the Ducks offense asserts itself. Riley plays well, showcasing the mobility that Longshore lacks, but a late drive falls short when a Jerome Boyd sack forces a fumble at the Oregon 27 with 1:30 left. The Ducks kill the clock and win 28-24.

There's no time for mourning, though, with a trip to USC ahead. The talk all week is whether Longshore will play, and whether that's a good thing, recalling his struggles when he's played hurt in the past.

Riley takes the field in the Coliseum but little goes his way. The Trojans roll 44-10 and stay unbeaten in the conference.

Tedford announces Monday that Longshore will start at Oregon State, and the senior turns in one of the best performances of his career, shredding the Beavers with four TD passes in a 35-20 victory.

Then Longshore earns his way permanently back into Bears fans' hearts, trashing Stanford in the Big Game, a win that prevents the Cardinal from becoming bowl-eligible. A 50-27 win over Washington concludes the season, and the Bears accept a Holiday Bowl invitation opposite No. 12 Texas Tech.

In weeks leading up to the game, Tedford relentlessly plays highlights of Cal's embarrassing 2004 Holiday Bowl loss to an inferior Texas Tech team when the Bears were unhappy about losing a deserved BCS bowl invitation.

It works. The Bears grab five interceptions from Red Raiders quarterback Graham Harrell and waltz to a 42-27 victory.

The Nobel Prize winners on the Berkeley campus vote to have Tedford's "Genius" status restored.

Worst case 

Kevin Riley earns the opening-day nod over Nate Longshore, and he's greeted by frenzied cheers as he leads the Bears to a workmanlike 27-17 victory over Michigan State. Riley's mobility proves a plus as he scrambles for 45 yards and throws a touchdown pass after eluding pressure.

Riley starts fast the following weekend at Washington State, at least until Cougars end Kevin Kooyman blindsides him, causing a fumble that Andy Mattingly returns for a game-turning touchdown.

Riley suffers a concussion on the play, and Longshore comes in off the bench. He struggles at first but appears to be leading a late rally. Then, on first-and-10 at the Cougars 12 with 1:05 left, his lob on a fade route comes up short, and the Devin Giles interception completes the 28-24 upset.

Most of the following week, Riley appears likely to regain his starting spot at Maryland, but Tedford opts to go with a healthy Longshore. Healthy? Longshore sprains his ankle in the first quarter. Riley comes off the bench, but a sack just before halftime leaves him groggy.

Enter freshman Brock Mansion, who proceeds to hand the ball to Jahvid Best and Shane Vereen 25 times in the second half, and the Bears escape with a 24-17 victory.

Mansion has little trouble doing the same in a blowout win over Colorado State, but the results are different against 16th-ranked Arizona State. The Sun Devils stack the box, forcing Mansion to throw, and that results in three interceptions. Meanwhile, Rudy Carpenter repeatedly beats the Bears' blitzes, connecting with Mike Jones for three TDs and the Sun Devils roll 38-17.

Riley returns for the visit to Arizona, and the Bears prevail in a 45-41 barnburner, with Riley scrambling for the game-winner with 34 seconds left. After dispatching UCLA, Oregon comes to town.

It doesn't go well for the Bears. Riley is erratic and the defense can't stop the Ducks. Longshore enters late in the third quarter and leads a 75-yard TD drive, but he then re-injures his ankle on a sack from Will Tukuafu.

Oregon wins 44-27. The following week at USC falls apart quickly. Riley's again knocked out of the game, and a late TD pass from Mansion only prevents a Trojans shutout in a 33-7 decision.

Things go from bad to worse in a torrential downpour at Oregon State. The Bears 3-4 defense suddenly springs a leak and yields 139 yards rushing to Ryan McCants.

After losing three in a row, Cal needs to win one of its final two games to avoid Tedford's first losing season.

It doesn't come in the Big Game, as Stanford wins its second consecutive Axe with a 20-17 victory that frustrates even the Tree Sitters. "I always knew they should have started Longshore," a man who asks to be called Penguin Underpants says.

Needing a victory over Washington to secure a sixth win and bowl-eligibility, Tedford decides his best chance is Best and Vereen. And the speedy backs come through, rushing for a combined 265 yards against the woeful Huskies defense.

A 28-27 victory over Navy in the Poinsettia Bowl gives the Bears a two-game winning streak to end the season.

On Jan. 5, Tedford is hired to coach the San Francisco 49ers. John Mackovic is hired to replace him on Jan 13.

The Counting Crows release an album on Jan. 29 called "Mr. Jones, I can't freaking believe we hired John Mackovic."

On Feb. 4, Stanford's recruiting class is ranked 8th in the nation.  The Bears, 43rd. 

Ranking the Pac-10 defensive ends

July, 23, 2008
7/23/08
6:01
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

 
 Icon SMI
 Oregon's Nick Reed is the best defensive end in the Pac-10.

There's a lot more depth in the Pac-10 at defensive end than at tackle, which makes sense in a pass-centric conference.

Six of the top 10 sackmen are back and a couple of these guys are legitimate All-American candidates. In fact, you could argue each of the top-five has the potential for national honors.

The depth here means some good players got left out. Don't be surprised if California's Rulon Davis ends up with All-Conference honors. But he's got to stay healthy to prove he's the player reports from spring practice suggest he is. And Oregon junior Will Tukuafu is no slouch opposite Nick Reed.

Some might protest ranking unproven USC sophomore Everson Griffen so highly. Get back to us in December.

  1. Nick Reed, Sr., Oregon: Not the most physically talented guy but please, how do you argue with 12 sacks and 22.5 tackles for a loss? You don't.
  2. Dexter Davis, Jr., Arizona State: Numbers should be elite if he improves on 10.5 sacks and three forced fumbles recorded as a sophomore.
  3. Victor Butler, Sr., Oregon State: Had to be the nation's best backup DE last year -- see 10.5 sacks.
  4. Everson Griffen, So., USC: He's a dynamic talent who looked unblockable at times late last season and this spring.
  5. Pannel Egboh, Sr., Stanford: Just ask the scouts -- he's projected as a first-day NFL draft pick. Recorded 13.5 tackles for a loss in 2007.
  6. Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, Jr., Washington: A high-motor guy, he had 8.5 sacks and 15 tackles for a loss in 2007.
  7. Andy Mattingly, Jr., Washington State: He only moved to DE from LB in the spring, but his 8 sacks and four forced fumbles land him on the list.
  8. Luis Vasquez, Jr., Arizona State: Forms a strong duo with Davis. Recorded 43 tackles and 11.5 tackles for a loss last year.
  9. Slade Norris, Sr., Oregon State: An undersized pass-rush specialists who had nine sacks as a back-up in 2007.
  10. Kyle Moore, Sr., USC: His numbers in 2007 didn't blow anyone away but starting at DE for the Trojans counts for something -- like on NFL draft boards.

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