Pac-12: Bob Gregory

Hawaii Bowl preview

December, 24, 2013

Oregon State will take on Boise State on Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET (ESPN) in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl.

Here's a quick preview:

Who to watch: Both teams have quarterback questions, though of a very different nature. Oregon State QB Sean Mannion put up big numbers this year for the one-dimensional Beavers, but he threw 11 of his 14 interceptions over the final four games. Will the time off get him back up to speed? Or will he again struggle with accuracy and decision making? Boise State has junior Grant Hedrick behind center, the backup to suspended starter Joe Southwick. The good news for the Broncos is Hedrick has been the starter since Southwick hurt his foot on Oct. 19 against Nevada. He went 4-2 and mostly played well.

What to watch: Oregon State is terrible against the run. It ranked 11th in the Pac-12 and 91st in the nation in run defense, yielding 193.2 yards per game. But that's not the worst of it. Opposing runners averaged 5.2 yards per carry, which ranked 107th in the nation and last in the conference. Boise State running back Jay Ajayi is outstanding. He rushed for 1,328 yards and 17 TDs, averaging 5.9 per carry this year. Meanwhile, the Broncos struggle against the pass, with opposing quarterbacks completing 64 percent of their throws for 248.4 yards per game. The Beavers with Mannion and WR Brandin Cooks should be able to take advantage.

Why to watch: It will be interesting to see how both teams react, because the more motivated and focused team likely wins. Oregon State is riding a dispiriting five-game losing streak, due in large part to a back-loaded schedule. Is it enough motivation knowing a victory gives the Beavers a winning record and a loss means a losing one for the third time in four seasons? For the Broncos, they are playing their first game since coach Chris Petersen, who built Boise State into a national power, shocked some when he bolted for Washington. They will be led by interim coach Bob Gregory before Bryan Harsin takes over. The Broncos should be motivated to show the nation the program will continue to thrive against AQ foes, even without Peterson.

Predictions: Kevin: Oregon State 38, Boise State 35. Ted: Boise State 38, Oregon State 35.

Bowl primer: Sheraton Hawaii

December, 12, 2013
We continue our look at each of the Pac-12’s opponents during the bowl season.

Sheraton Hawaii Bowl
Honolulu, Dec. 24, 5 p.m. PT, ESPN
Oregon State (6-6) vs. Boise State (8-4)

Boise State Broncos

Coach: Bob Gregory (interim)
Record: 8-4, 6-2 Mountain West
Combined opponent’s record: 71-75 (.486)
Common opponents: Both teams lost to Washington and split their games against San Diego State. The Huskies beat Boise State 38-6 in the season opener and then thumped Oregon State 69-27 in late November. Boise State lost to San Diego State in overtime late in November while the Beavers pulled a miracle finish against the Aztecs back in September for a 34-30 win.
Leading passer: Joe Southwick, 151-of-208 (72.6 percent) for 1,654 yards with 12 touchdowns and five interceptions.
Leading rusher: Jay Ajayi, 226 carries for 1,328 with 17 touchdowns
Leading receiver: Matt Miller, 77 receptions for 934 yards with 11 touchdowns
Leading tackler: Ben Weaver, 86 tackles

What to know: We’re not sure who is going to be quarterbacking this team yet. Joe Southwick has returned from an ankle injury, though Grant Hedrick picked up the slack in his absence. Gregory said there are still a lot of details to be worked out. They have identical touchdown-to-interception ratios (12-5), but Southwick has the slightly higher completion percentage. Though Hedrick’s is a solid 68.2.

But the offense goes through Ajayi, an explosive redshirt sophomore, who averaged 5.9 yards per tote.

Eight wins is a disappointing season for the Broncos. After years of BCS busting and top 10 finishes, the Broncos regressed a bit. And then Chris Petersen left for Washington, which led to Wednesday's hiring of Arkansas State’s Bryan Harsin.

All four of Boise State’s losses came on the road this year (at Washington, Fresno State, BYU and San Diego State), so perhaps a trip to a different time zone won’t be great for the Broncos. Worth noting, however, that their strongest win of the year was probably at Utah State against an Aggie team that went to the conference championship game.

Key matchup: Oregon State’s front seven is surely going to be tested by the Boise State running game, but you have to think the Broncos’ secondary is equally challenged by the Sean Mannion-to-Brandin Cooks connection. Outside of maybe Fresno State’s Davante Adams (122 catches, 1,645 yards, 23 touchdowns), the Broncos probably haven’t seen a receiver like Cooks (120, 1,670, 15). A lot of it will come down to Mannion’s decision making. After throwing just three interceptions in his first eight games, he has 11 in his last four.

Did your team mute explosive offenses?

February, 23, 2011
Coaches love talking about explosion plays. You want to get a lot of them and give up very few.

On Tuesday, we looked at offensive explosion plays -- plays of 20 or more yards -- which you can see here. Tomorrow, we'll look at explosion plays in terms of rushing offense and rushing defense. On Friday, we'll look at explosion plays in terms of passing numbers.

So here's how the Pac-12 stacked up in 2010 (again, thanks to ESPN Stats & Information). The number to the left in national rank. The number to the right is the total number of explosion plays in 2010.

7. California... 34
13. Arizona State... 38
21. Arizona... 41
28. Stanford... 43
49. Oregon... 49
52. Colorado... 50
60. Utah... 52
63. Oregon State... 53
63. Washington... 53
84. UCLA... 59
95. Washington State...62
99. USC... 63

It's interesting that the defensive numbers are better than the offensive: average rank of 53 on defense versus 65 on offense. Isn't the Pac-12 supposed to be flashy on O and soft on D? The SEC's average rank on defense was 54, even with two top-10 teams (No. 2 Florida & No. 9 LSU).

Of course, Utah and Colorado weren't in the Pac-10 last year (average rank of Pac-10 was 52).

Wow. USC. That's terrible.

Some other thoughts.
  • In 2009, Oregon was No. 1 in the Pac-10 and tied for 18th in the nation with 41 explosion plays yielded. Oregon State was second with 43 (25th in nation).
  • Don't be too surprised by Oregon's middling number in 2010: The Ducks play an aggressive, attacking scheme that sometimes leaves them vulnerable. And they also see a lot of plays, which means more opportunities for an offense to break one.
  • USC tanked in 2010. It ranked second in the nation in 2008 with 22 and 28th in the nation in 2009 with 43. So in the first season under touted coordinator Monte Kiffin, the Trojans nearly tripled the number of explosion plays they surrendered in 2008.
  • Washington State ranked 95th in 2010 (62), 113th in 2009 (69) and 116th (75) in 2008. So that's improvement. Slow improvement.
  • Remember how it seemed like former Cal defensive coordinator Bob Gregory's defense was conservative, which would suggest not yielding a lot of explosion plays? Well, in 2009 the Bears ranked 89th (58), so that's significant improvement in year one under Clancy Pendergast. Of course, in 2008, the Bears ranked 14th (38).
  • Teams that ranked in the top-10 the past three years: Florida, TCU and Iowa. Ohio State and Penn State were also notably consistent.

But do limiting explosion plays on defense equate to winning? Short answer: Mostly, but not as much as the offensive numbers, at least this past season. Here's the top-10 in 2010 with the team's record in parenthesis to the right.

1. Pittsburgh... 30 (8-5)
2. Florida... 32 (8-5)
2. TCU... 32 (13-0)
4. West Virginia... 33 (9-4)
4. Iowa... 33 (8-5)
4. Temple... 33 (8-4)
7. Kent State... 34 (5-7)
7. California... 34 (5-7)
9. LSU... 36 (11-2)
10. Boston College.. 37 (7-6)
10. Ohio State... 37 (12-1)

Two teams have losing records, but three won 11 or more games. Still, it's a bit surprising that eight of 11 lost four or more games.

As for a correlation to defensive success: Every team here ranked in the top-42 in the nation in scoring defense and eight were ranked in the top-20. TCU, West Virginia, Ohio State, Iowa and LSU ranked in the top-11 in scoring defense.

Pac-10 lunch links: What's different about Cal's defense?

August, 19, 2010
I am a Tralfamadorian, seeing all time as you might see a stretch of the Rocky Mountains. All time is all time. It does not change. It does not lend itself to warnings or explanations. It simply is.

Opening camp: California

August, 7, 2010
California opens preseason camp today. Here's a quick look.

Who's back: Eight starters on offense, six on defense and both specialists.

Big names: RB Shane Vereen, LB Mike Mohamed, DE Cameron Jordan, P Bryan Anger

What's new: Bob Gregory, who had been Jeff Tedford's defensive coordinator since 2002, left for Boise State, and NFL veteran Clancy Pendergast replaced him. Pendergast is expected to bring a more aggressive approach that emphasizes pressure on the quarterback. Also, Jeff Genyk replaced Pete Alamar as special teams coach. Genyk will also coach tight ends.

Key competition: Three spots in the secondary beside safety Sean Cattouse are wide open, though Bryant Nnabuife and Darian Hagan are listed first at the corners and Chris Conte is No. 1 at safety. Things also are unclear at outside linebacker, left offensive guard and a pecking order at tailback behind Vereen must be established. Will any young receivers step up?

Breaking out: Is Marvin Jones ready to become a go-to receivers? And will touted freshman receiver Keenan Allen make an immediate impact and perhaps also play in the secondary? Kendrick Payne and Deandre Coleman figure to provide some quality depth on what could be a very good defensive line.

Quote: Tedford on quarterback Kevin Riley: "We are going to have great competition at the quarterback position, but Kevin is the guy who takes the first snaps. Kevin is the active leader in the Pac-10 in wins, touchdown passes and starts. We are really hoping that his experience will really help us and translate to more success on the football field. The team has a lot of confidence in him. He has worked very, very hard and he feels that this is his team."

Notes: Two key recruits won't be on the team this fall, one permanently. Linebacker Cecil Whiteside will grayshirt due to academic issues; he won't enroll until January. Defensive end Chris Martin was released from his letter of intent and opted to sign with Florida ... Because of the renovation of Memorial Stadium, the team is using temporary locker rooms. Practices also have been moved to the morning instead of the afternoon ... Cal was picked seventh in the preseason media poll.

Jordan, California seek to defy expectations

May, 13, 2010
Shortly after California's final spring practice ended, the Bears erupted in cheers in the locker room. But it wasn't for themselves. Or even about an ending. It was about a surprising beginning.

[+] EnlargeCameron Jordan
AP Photo/Ben MargotCameron Jordan embraces the fact that neither he nor Cal is garnering much national attention.
Their former teammate, defensive end Tyson Alualu, was picked 10th overall in the NFL draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Boom! He was a millionaire.

Cameron Jordan was among those cheering. He said he wasn't surprised the player who manned the opposite end of the line from him over the past two seasons was selected 10th overall. Nor, he said, did he consider that he was only a year away from finding where he might fall on draft day.

"I didn't even think about that part," the 6-foot-4, 282-pound senior defensive end said. "I was just happy and excited for him."

Jordan has the talent to become a first-round pick. Presently, he likely will be projected, much like Alualu was last May, as a second- or third-round selection.

He's flashed plenty of tantalizing ability, earning honorable mention All-Pac-10 honors the past two seasons. He had 48 tackles, 9.5 tackles for a loss and six sacks last fall. He also had five quarterback hurries, which suggests a lot of "what might have been." Not unlike Cal's 2009 season.

Last fall, Jordan looked like a potential All-Pac-10 selection, just as the Bears looked like a top-10 team and a threat to unseat USC atop the conference. More than a few Cal fans reacted angrily when Jordan was left off the Pac-10 blog's ranking of the conference's top 30 players.

Why did the Bears -- and Jordan -- fall short?

"There were multitude of reasons," Jordan said. "It seemed like after that first loss some guys were rattled and didn't really come back."

That would be the visit to Oregon, where the Bears swaggered into Autzen Stadium ranked sixth in the nation and staggered out 42-3 losers.

As for the defense -- which was mostly mediocre, despite eight returning starters from a unit that ranked among the nation's top-30 teams in nearly every statistical category -- Jordan said "some of it had to do with a lack of adjustments."

That's fairly general, but there was unhappiness with Cal's scheme last year. This led coach Jeff Tedford to say repeatedly during the offseason that the Bears would be more aggressive when attacking the quarterback.

New coordinator Clancy Pendergast will run more stunts and blitzes out of the Bears 3-4 front, which could benefit Jordan, who faced a lot of double teams last fall.

"Hopefully, it will free me up to get in the backfield more often," Jordan said. "I got a lot more one-on-ones this spring, and that only makes my day."

Jordan reportedly had a good spring. Here's what Pendergast said about him in a Q&A with the Pac-10 blog: "He's been very receptive. He pays attention to detail. He's very interested. When you have a guy like that, with his potential skill set, he can have an opportunity to make plays. So he's bought into the system and he's doing the different things that we are asking him to do within the scheme. So far so good."

Jordan has good bloodlines. His father, Steve, played at Brown and then 13 years in the NFL with the Minnesota Vikings, earning six invitations to the Pro Bowl. A gifted athlete, the young Jordan has always been a strong pass rusher, with good speed for his size. He's fallen short a bit with his strength in run support.

That might be changing. Jordan said he focused on that area.

"I'm more confident in my run game," he said. "It's been getting better every year. My freshman and sophomore year, I knew I wasn't a great run stopper. Pass rush yes. My junior year, I was a little bit more confident. Now, I'd like to say I'm one of the better guys on the unit against the run. I'm already confident in my pass rush abilities."

The next step, he said, is being so confident in his ability to defeat blocks that he focuses his attention on reading the action in the backfield: "Sometimes I get too focused on the man in front of me instead of what play can actually happen in the backfield."

Cal doesn't figure to get much preseason attention. Most projections will dump the Bears into the conference's muddled middle. That probably means Jordan, too, won't get too much preseason hype.

He seems fine with that.

"Coming in under the radar, there's no pressure on us. No one is looking at us," he said. "If we are under the radar, all we have to worry about is what we can do as a team, not what everybody else thinks we can do."

It's possible that by doing just that, the Bears might end up cheering in December -- and again in the spring when NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell calls Jordan's name.

California spring wrap

May, 7, 2010

2009 overall record: 8-5

2009 conference record: 5-4 (tied for fifth)

Returning starters

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

Top returners: QB Kevin Riley, OT Matt Summers-Gavin, OT Mitchell Schwartz, RB Shane Vereen, LB Mike Mohamed, DE Cameron Jordan, P Bryan Anger

Key losses: RB Jahvid Best, OT Mike Tepper, DE Tyson Alualu, CB Syd'Quan Thompson

2009 statistical leaders (*returning starter)

Rushing: Shane Vereen* (952)
Passing: Kevin Riley* (2,850)
Receiving: Marvin Jones* (651)
Tackles: Mike Mohamed* (112)
Sacks: Tyson Alualu (7.5)
Interceptions: Mike Mohamed* (3)

Spring Answers

1. Jordan steps up: Defensive end Cameron Jordan has the talent to be a first-team All-Conference player, but he's never broken through as a consistent performer. Heading into his senior year, however, he asserted himself this spring and established himself as the leader of the defensive line with the departure of Tyson Alualu. If that continues, he'll catch the attention of NFL scouts.

2. Attacking defense: Coach Jeff Tedford said the Bears would be more aggressive -- read: stunting, blitzing, etc. -- even before he hired Clancy Pendergast to replace Bob Gregory as coordinator. It became clear this spring that Pendergast, a veteran NFL coach, will focus on making life as difficult as possible for opposing QBs.

3. Replacing Tepper: Four starters return on the Bears offensive line, but the one void is sizable: 6-foot-7, 319-pound Mike Tepper. It appears that Matt Summers-Gavin will slide over from left guard to fill that void. While right tackle Mitchell Schwartz remains a possibility -- he played the position in 2008 -- Summers-Gavin is more athletic, which should help vs. speed rushing ends.

Fall questions

1. Will Riley arrive? Kevin Riley again fought off his challengers and will be the starting quarterback, despite his inconsistency during 22 starts over the previous three season. He's had plenty of good moments and he has ability. If he puts it all together as a senior, the Bears could be a factor in the conference race.

2. Who's the No. 2 tailback? Shane Vereen is the clear No. 1, but Tedford has always used tandems. Each of the four candidates -- Trajuan Briggs, Covaughn DeBoskie-Johnson, Isi Sofele and Dasarte Yarnway -- had productive moments this spring, but none separated himself. Sofele is almost certain to get touches as a scatback, hybrid runner/receiver, but the battle for No. 2 will be at issue early in preseason camp.

3. Who's the noseguard? Derrick Hill, a two-year starter, has been solid, but he's struggled to stay healthy. Sophomore Kendrick Payne had a great spring. He could end up winning the job. Considering coaches aren't afraid of playing Aaron Tipoti either, the good news is there's depth at the position.

Q&A: Cal defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast

April, 16, 2010
California expected to be good on defense last year. It wasn't. The Bears gave up 28 points per game vs. Pac-10 foes, which ranked ninth in the conference.

While the official word is long-time coordinator Bob Gregory voluntarily left for Boise State -- and there's been no indication that coach Jeff Tedford or Gregory himself have been spinning for public consumption a forced separation -- it was clear at season's end that some things had to change. Tedford, in fact, repeatedly said as much, emphasizing a need to better pressure opposing quarterbacks in 2010.

After Gregory bolted, Tedford brought longtime NFL coach Clancy Pendergast, former coordinator for the Arizona Cardinals and Kansas City Chiefs, aboard to rejuvenate a crew that often seemed to underachieve in 2009.

With the Bears well into spring practices, it seemed like a good time to check in and see how the defense had responded to their new coach.

So, you're a long-time NFL coach: Why jump to the college ranks now?

Clancy Pendergast: It was an opportunity to be a coordinator again. That was very intriguing to me. And to get an opportunity to work in the Pac-10. There's a lot of NFL influence in the Pac-10 with some of the schemes and coaches coming from NFL backgrounds. I looked at is as a challenge.

You're most of the way through spring practices, what's your first impression of what the differences are between coaching in college and the NFL?

CP: There needs to be teaching done at every level of football. I find myself teaching here just as much as I did in the NFL. The players are very receptive and have been real attentive. The more you give them the more they sort of thrive on it. It's been great.

What about recruiting, that's got to be a new skill set.

CP: It's just a matter of evaluating talent and how they are going to fit into the system that you run and really just building relationships. In football in general you have to have relationships with your players. You create that relationship early on in the process. In the NFL, we spend a lot of time preparing for the draft and combines, visiting with players at schools. You end up drafting some guys and some guys you don't draft but you build a relationship through that process that leads up into the draft before you actually get them into your building. I look at that as very similar to recruiting, trying to build relationship and finding guys who not only have the skill set to play at the level of competition you play in but also the type of person they are and how they fit into your program. It's a lot of the same things we do in the NFL in terms of identifying players that fit within your organization.

When you watched Cal's defense from 2009 on film, what seemed to go wrong?

CP: To be honest with you, I didn't watch a whole lot to see what they were doing. There were a few players that I wanted to look at from a skill set standpoint and wanted to see what they were asked to do and how they responded in certain schemes. That's all I really looked at. I didn't look at what they did or how they did it or what the score was or what their record was. We're starting out with a clean slate in a brand new system. I didn't pay any attention to what they did scheme-wise [last year].

(Read full post)

Pac-10 lunch links: Why did Bob Gregory leave Cal?

April, 16, 2010
Happy Friday.

Pac-10 Q&A: California coach Jeff Tedford, part II

March, 17, 2010
Part II of a Q&A with California coach Jeff Tedford.

Read Part I here.

The offense as a whole has a lot of guys back: Where do you expect to see the most improvement this spring?

Jeff Tedford: We have some guys back but are still young in certain areas. We really have only two receivers who've had any significant game time: Marvin Jones and Jeremy Ross. Besides that, we're very, very young there. Our depth at tight end is very young after Anthony Miller. Our fullback is completely new and our tailbacks, after Shane [Vereen], all those guys are new. [Sophomore Covaughn DeBoskie] played a little bit but after him you have [sophomore Isi Sofele] and you have Dasarte Yarnway, who was hurt all last year and Trajuan Briggs who came in as a mid-year transfer as a freshman. So we're young. That's an issue for us. On the offensive line, some guys need to step up and get in the rotation as well. So I don't think of us as real experienced. I know we have a couple people back but we are not deep with experience.

Besides the obvious starters, who do you expect to step up on offense with a much bigger role than in 2009?

JT: Spencer Ladner at tight end is a guy who should do that. Brian Schwenke played as a true freshman last year on the offensive line. He's competing for a starting spot. Dominic Galas also on the offensive line. Our fullbacks are all new -- Will Kapp, Eric Stevens and John Tyndall. The receiving corps, we're going to have to rely on some guys who are coming in. Some of the recruits coming in who are going to have to be in the rotation. It would be nice to see Michael Calvin step up at receiver and be healthy. He's a guy who's been injured every year. Alex Lagemann continues to grow and develop [at receiver]. But we're going to have to count on some young guys at that position.

Were you surprised when defensive coordinator Bob Gregory left to become an assistant at Boise State?

JT: I was, yeah, I was surprised. I think it was a personal decision, about the time in his life with his kids and his family. It was a move to have some more time with his family. I was not expecting that. But everything happens for a reason. I think it's probably working out great for Bob, I'm sure he's happy where he is. And I think we really landed on our feet with Clancy [Pendergast]. He's been a great addition to our staff. I think everybody is happy about it.

What will be different with Pendergast running the defense?

JT: We're probably going to pressure the passer a little bit more. That was one thing we didn't do a great job last year was pressure the passer, which kind of lends to 111th-ranked in pass defense. You've got to disrupt the timing of the passing game. So to get more pressure on the passer will be key. That's going to be the obvious thing.

Give me some new names you expect to break through on defense this spring.

JT: Guys like linebacker Chris Little, noseguard Kendrick Payne, linebacker J.P. Hurrell, [defensive backs] Alex Logan and Steve Williams and Vachel Samuels and Chris Moncrease -- all those guys are back-end players I think are going to do a nice job. Deandre Coleman on the defensive line, Keni Kaufusi on the defensive line. Those guys are redshirts from last year who are really good players. We're really anxious to see those guys play.

Defensive end Cameron Jordan has a lot of potential: What does he need to do to fulfill that potential?

JT: To be able to cut him loose and get him one-on-one at times. I think he gets double-teamed quite a bit in a three-man rush with eight dropping and three rushing. I think if you can get Cam one-on-one, he will be much more effective. But I think his maturity -- his physical and mental maturity -- has been something that has been a work in progress. I think he is poised for a very good season.

It's likely you won't get as much preseason attention this fall: Do you think your team may benefit from operating under the radar? Do you think they might be motivated by some not seeing themselves at the top of the conference?

JT: Yeah, I do. I think that would be just fine -- for us to earn where we need to be and not just go off of on-paper stuff. That's going to be the mindset here. We're going to do everything we can everyday to reach our full potential, whatever that potential may be. We've got a lot of work to do. I think it will be motivating for us to strive to be at the top of the conference and not have all the press clippings. There's so many things out there and so many people patting you on your back and expectations that I think us just flying under the radar and saying, 'OK prove it.' That type of thing will be good. And we'll see where we go from there.

Pac-10 lunch links: Gregory wants to 'work smart' at Boise State

February, 22, 2010
Biggie Biggie Biggie can't you see
Sometimes your words just hypnotize me
And I just love your flashy ways
Guess that's why they broke, and you're so paid (uh)

Cal makes Pendergast hire official

February, 19, 2010
California confirmed that it has hired Clancy Pendergast as its new defensive coordinator, replacing Bob Gregory, who left for Boise State.

You can read the official release here.

Report: Cal hires new defensive coordinator

February, 19, 2010
California wouldn't confirm a report from the National Football Post that coach Jeff Tedford has hired Clancy Pendergast to replace Bob Gregory as the Bears defensive coordinator.

Pendergast was hired by the Oakland Raiders just last week. He was the Arizona Cardinals' defensive coordinator for five years before serving in the same post with the Kansas City Chiefs last year.

Pac-10 lunch links: Oregon's James is out of jail

February, 19, 2010
Happy Friday.

What to watch in the Pac-10 this spring

February, 19, 2010
Taking a look at what to watch for as teams head into spring practices, officially ringing the bell on preparations for the 2010 season.

Spring practice starts: March 5
Spring game: April 10

What to watch:

The new coordinators: The Wildcats lost two outstanding coordinators -- Sonny Dykes on offense and Mark Stoops on defense -- and decided to replace them with four guys. Tim Kish, promoted from linebackers coach, and Greg Brown, hired away from Colorado, will run the defense, while Bill Bedenbaugh and Seth Littrell, both promoted from within, will run the offense, with an assist from new quarterbacks coach Frank Scelfo. These guys will need to develop a coaching rhythm this spring that will ensure things go smoothly in the fall.

The JC linebackers: The Wildcats must replace three starting linebackers, and JC transfers Derek Earls and Paul Vassallo weren't brought in to watch. If they step into starting spots, then guys like sophomore Jake Fischer, redshirt freshman Trevor Erno and redshirt freshman Cordarius Golston can fight over the third spot and add depth.

Foles 2.0: Quarterback Nick Foles was dynamic when he was on last year, but the shutout loss in the Holiday Bowl served as a reminder that he's not there yet. He's going to be surrounded by a lot of weapons at the skill positions, so he should be able to take another step forward this spring, even with the loss of Dykes.

Arizona State
Spring practice starts: March 30
Spring game: April 24

What to watch:

The QB battle: It's a wide-open battle between Michigan transfer Steven Threet and Brock Osweiler, though the new guy -- Threet -- is perhaps the most intriguing. Samson Szakacsy was supposed to join the battle, but his elbow problem is acting up again, coach Dennis Erickson said Thursday. The competition will be overseen by new offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone, who's been handed an offense that has sputtered the past two seasons.

O-line issues (take 3): The Sun Devils' offensive line has struggled three years running, and it won't matter who starts at QB if the unit continues to get pushed around. First off is health. Will Matt Hustad, Zach Schlink, Garth Gerhart, Mike Marcisz and Adam Tello be ready to battle the entire spring? If so, there should be good competition here, particularly with a couple of JC transfers looking to break through.

The secondary: The Sun Devils were very good against the pass last year, but three starters in the secondary need to be replaced. Both starting corners are gone -- though if Omar Bolden successfully returns from a knee injury he should step in on one side -- as well as strong safety Ryan McFoy. The good news is a number of guys saw action here last fall, so the rebuilt unit won't be completely green.

Spring practice starts: March 6
Spring game: N/A

What to watch:

Embattled Riley: When things go well, the quarterback often gets too much credit. When things go badly... well, you know. Senior Kevin Riley has started 22 games and has played well at times. But there's a reason he's in a quarterback competition for a third consecutive season. Will he be able to hold off a rising Beau Sweeney this spring?

Rebuilding the D: The Bears had questions on defense even before coordinator Bob Gregory unexpectedly bolted for Boise State. Five starters need to be replaced, including mainstays like end Tyson Alualu and cornerback Syd'Quan Thompson, both first-team All-Pac-10 performers. And with Gregory gone, a new, likely more aggressive scheme now must be incorporated.

RB depth: Shane Vereen is the obvious starter after the departure of Jahvid Best, but Cal has, during the Tedford years, always used two backs. So who's the No. 2? Sophomore Covaughn DeBoskie was third on the team with 211 yards rushing last year, while promising freshman Dasarte Yarnway redshirted. One or the other will look to create separation.

Spring practice starts: March 30
Spring game: May 1

What to watch:

The D-line: The Ducks lost perennially underrated end Will Tukuafu, tackle Blake Ferras and backup Simi Toeaina up front. Considering the plan is to run an eight-deep rotation, there will be plenty of opportunities for players like ends Terrell Turner and Taylor Hart and tackles Anthony Anderson, Zac Clark, Wade Keliikipi as well as 6-foot-7 JC transfer Isaac Remington to work their way into the rotation.

The passing game: The Ducks' passing game was inconsistent last year, though by season's end receiver Jeff Maehl was playing at a high level. Refining that part of the offense with quarterback Jeremiah Masoli would make the spread-option even more dangerous. The receiving corps is looking for playmakers, which means youngsters, such as redshirt freshman Diante Jackson, might break through.

Who steps in for Ed Dickson? Oregon only loses one starter on offense, but tight end Ed Dickson is a big one. David Paulson was a capable backup last year, and mercurial Malachi Lewis may be ready to step up. Expect JC transfer Brandon Williams to work his way into the mix.

Oregon State
Spring practice starts: March 29
Spring game: May 1

What to watch:

Katz steps in: Sean Canfield is off to the NFL, so the Beavers' biggest question this spring is crowning a new starting quarterback. Most observers feel the job is Ryan Katz's to lose, and the sophomore looks good throwing the rock around. Still, being a quarterback is about more than a good arm. If he falters, Virginia transfer Peter Lalich might offer an alternative.

Better defensive pressure: The Beavers run a high-pressure defensive scheme, so when the stat sheet says they only recorded 17 sacks in 2009, which ranked ninth in the conference and was 22 fewer than in 2008, you know something is wrong. The entire defensive line is back, so the hope is a year of seasoning, particularly for ends Gabe Miller, Matt LaGrone and Kevin Frahm will mean better production this fall.

The O-line grows up: The Beavers' offensive line returns four starters from a unit that got better as the year went on. Still, it yielded 29 sacks and the run game struggled at times -- Jacquizz Rodgers often had to make yards on his own. Talented left tackle Michael Philipp, who did a solid job as a true freshman starter, should be much improved. A second year playing together with underrated senior center Alex Linnenkohl also should help.

Spring practice starts: March 1
Spring game: April 17

What to watch:

Replacing Toby: How do you replace Toby Gerhart and his 1,871 yards and 28 touchdowns? You do not. But the hope is sophomores Tyler Gaffney and Stepfan Taylor and senior Jeremy Stewart will provide a solid answer that keeps the Cardinal's power-running game churning. It helps to have four starters back from a good offensive line.

Rebuilding the D: If you toss in linebacker Clinton Snyder and end Erik Lorig, Stanford must replace six defensive starters from a unit that ranked near the bottom of the conference in 2009. The secondary is a particular concern after giving up 23 touchdown passes and a 63 percent completion rate. The hope is good recruiting from coach Jim Harbaugh will provide better athleticism in the back-half. Another issue: There was huge coaching turnover, particularly on defense during the offseason, so new coordinator Vic Fangio & Co. will be implementing new schemes and learning about what sort of talent they have to work with.

Luck steps up: This was Gerhart's team in 2009. Now it's Luck's. He might be the most talented QB in the conference. Heck, he might become a Heisman Trophy candidate before he's done. But life won't be as easy without defenses crowding the line of scrimmage because they are fretting about Gerhart. Luck will need to step up his game -- and leadership -- to meet the challenge.

Spring practice starts: April 1
Spring game: April 24

What to watch:

Prince becomes king? The fact that offensive coordinator Norm Chow has been such an advocate for sophomore quarterback Kevin Prince should tell you something: He's got the ability. Prince flashed some skills during an injury-plagued 2009 season, and it's important to remember he was a redshirt freshman playing with a questionable supporting cast, particularly the O-line. Prince needs to improve his decision-making, and the passing game needs to develop a big-play capability that stretches defenses.

Front seven rebuilding: UCLA not only must replace six starters on defense, it must replace six guys everyone in the Pac-10 has heard of. And five of the lost starters come from the front seven, and the guys who were listed as backups on the 2009 depth chart won't necessarily inspire confidence. In other words, the Bruins will try to take a step forward in the conference with what figures to be an extremely green defense, particularly up front.

The running game? Know what would help Prince and a young defense? A better running game. The Bruins were significantly better in 2009 than in 2008, but that merely means one of the worst rushing attacks in the nation moved up to ninth in the conference. There's a logjam of options at running back -- with a couple of dynamic runners in the incoming recruiting class -- and the offensive line welcomes back a wealth of experience. It would mean a lot if the Bruins could boost their rushing total to around 150 yards per game (from 114.6 in 2009).

Spring practice starts: TBA
Spring game: TBA

What to watch:

Welcome, Lane Kiffin: The Pete Carroll era is over. Enter Lane Kiffin & Co. In terms of scheme, things will be fairly consistent, seeing that Kiffin was formerly Carroll's offensive coordinator and Monte Kiffin was Carroll's defensive mentor. But there will be a period of adjustment. The guess is the hyper-intense Ed Orgeron might provide a bit of a shock to the D-linemen.

Matt Barkley Year 2: Barkley won't have the president of his fan club -- Carroll -- around anymore. He's a true talent. Everyone knows that, even without Carroll's daily sonnets about his ability. But the numbers show he threw 14 interceptions in 12 games vs. 15 TD passes last year, so he's obviously not arrived. Kiffin runs the offense, so you can expect these two to work closely together. Barkley will have plenty of help on offense, but the talent won't be as good as it was in 2009, with six starters needing to be replaced, including his top two targets (receiver Damian Williams and tight end Anthony McCoy).

Secondary questions: All four starters from the defensive backfield are gone, including center fielder Taylor Mays. It helps that cornerback Shareece Wright, an academic casualty in 2009, will be back. He was a projected starter last fall. There's plenty of talent on hand, but last year's team proved that the Trojans don't always just plug-and-play.

Spring practice starts: March 30
Spring game: April 30

What to watch:

Unleashing Locker: The return of quarterback Jake Locker was the best news any Pac-10 team received this offseason. Locker's passing improved dramatically in just one year under coach Steve Sarkisian, so it's not unreasonable to expect him to be even better in 2010, particularly with nine starters back on offense and just about every skill player on the depth chart.

Replacing Te'o-Nesheim: Daniel Te'o-Nesheim was a four-year starter who blossomed into an All-Pac-10 performer despite almost no supporting cast. He led the Huskies with 11 sacks in 2009, which was 8.5 more than any other player. Also, opposite end Darrion Jones is gone, and the cast at the position is extremely young. Who's the next pass-rushing threat?

The Butler did it: Linebacker Donald Butler blossomed last year, earning second-team All-Pac-10 honors and leading the Huskies in tackles and tackles for loss (15.5). Toss in E.J. Savannah's failure to earn a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA, and the Huskies have some questions at linebacker. Mason Foster is a sure thing at one outside position, and Cort Dennison likely will fill a second gap, but there's an opportunity for a young player to fill void No. 3.

Washington State
Spring practice starts: March 25
Spring game: April 24

What to watch:

Tuel time: Coach Paul Wulff decided that freshman Jeff Tuel was the Cougars' quarterback of the future last year, so he opted to start him instead of going with a redshirt season. Tuel showed promise in six games, completing 59 percent of his passes with six touchdowns and five picks. Most of his supporting cast is back on offense, so the expectation is the Cougars' offense could take a significant step forward this fall.

O-line intrigue: Some of the Cougars starting on the offensive line last fall didn't look like Pac-10 players. Injuries and youth made the line a glaring area of weakness, even with veteran Kenny Alfred at center. Alfred is gone, but the expectations are that last year's youth will be saltier after taking their knocks. Plus, a couple of juco additions should be in the mix for starting jobs.

Growing up: There is hope in that 19 starters are back from a team that played a lot of underclassmen in 2009. That youth should mature in 2010. And solid recruiting classes the past two seasons should offer an infusion of young promise.