Pac-12: Brandon Williams

Preseason position reviews: tight end

June, 27, 2011
Tight end looks like a solid position heading into 2011, which wasn't the case in 2010.

So where does everyone stand? Let's check it out.

Great shape

Stanford: An embarrassment of riches at the position, even though 2010 official starter Konrad Reuland is gone. Coby Fleener, Zach Ertz and Levin Toilolo all have NFL futures. Ertz was dominant in the spring game. Fleener, second-team All-Pac-10, caught three touchdown passes in the Orange Bowl. Toilolo won the starting job in 2010 before he got hurt in the opener (after catching a 27-yard pass, no less). Fleener and Ertz combined for 44 receptions and 12 touchdowns in 2010. All three are athletic and taller than 6-foot-6. No team in the nation is stronger at tight end.

Oregon: David Paulson was first-team All-Pac-12 after catching 24 passes for 418 yards with four ouchdowns in 2010. He's also a good blocker. Backup Brandon Williams is an impressive specimen who figures to contribute more this fall -- unless touted true freshman Colt Lyerla eclipses him.

USC: The underrated Rhett Ellison caught 21 passes for 239 yards and three touchdowns in 2010, and Xavier Grimble, Randall Telfer and Christian Thomas provide quality depth. Ellison is versatile enough to double as a fullback, when necessary. Grimble, a redshirt freshman, led the Trojans with eight receptions for 73 yards the spring game.

Good shape

Colorado: Ryan Deehan, honorable mention All-Big 12, caught 25 passes for 249 yards and a touchdown in 2010. Backup DaVaughn Thornton has potential.

The position figures to get more work with new coach Jon Embree, a former Buffaloes and NFL tight end.

UCLA: Cory Harkey and Joseph Fauria are both solid veteran players, though Harkey suffered an outbreak of the dropsies last fall. They combined for 17 receptions -- 14 from Harkey -- in 2010.

California: Both Anthony Miller and Spencer Ladner are back, and Miller had 13 of their combined 16 receptions in 2010. Both are solid but unspectacular players.

Oregon State: While Joe Halahuni is officially an H-back, we count him as a tight end.

He caught 30 passes for 390 yards in 2010 and led Beavers receivers with six ouchdowns. If he wasn't coming back from shoulder surgery -- he could miss the first month of the season -- the Beavers would be in great shape. Junior Colby Prince is the "official" tight end. He caught one pass last season.

Utah: Kendrick Moeai, a three-year starter, caught 11 passes for 225 yards and a touchdown in 2010. Yes, that's an average of 20.5 yards per reception. He might get more looks in Norm Chow's pro-style offense. Backup Westlee Tonga hasn't caught a pass.

We'll see

Washington: On the one hand, the Huskies have no experience at the position. On the other, true freshman Austin Seferian-Jenkins and redshirt freshman Michael Hartvigson looked like a potentially outstanding duo this spring. Still, you've got to prove it.

Arizona: Since Rob Gronkowski departed, tight end hasn't been a go-to position for the Wildcats. Jack Baucus, atop the post-spring depth chart, caught four passes last season as a backup. Departed 2010 starter A.J. Simmons caught eight.

Arizona State: Not a big position for the Sun Devils, either. Trevor Kohl caught two passes in 2010. Center Garth Gerhart is credited with one reception. The ASU offense uses a "Y" receiver, who sometimes operates as tight end, which would be 235-pound Christopher Coyle.

Washington State: 2010 starter Skylar Stormo is now a defensive end. Junior Andrei Lintz sat atop the post-spring depth chart, and he caught one pass for four yards last fall. Promising freshman Aaron Dunn is the backup.

Pac-10 lunch links: Beavers depth at RB an issue

August, 24, 2010
Lighten up while you still can
Don't even try to understand
Just find a place to make your stand
and take it easy.

Preseason position reviews: tight end

July, 28, 2010
Welcome to the review of the weakest position in the Pac-10. And that was going to be the case even before Washington gave Kavario Middleton the boot.

Middleton, by the way, was named preseason first-team All-Pac-10 by Phil Steele, even though he only caught 26 passes last year and was being challenged for the starting job by Chris Izbicki.

Only four teams welcome back their starting tight end, and only one -- California's Anthony Miller -- even earned honorable mention all-conference honors.

Why is the position down? Attrition after an "up" season. Consider the departed: Arizona's Rob Gronkowski, Oregon's Ed Dickson, Stanford's Jim Dray, UCLA's Logan Paulsen and Ryan Moya and USC's Anthony McCoy. Those guys are now stocking NFL rosters.

So where do things stand? Well, you might say we graded the position on a curve, though there is plenty of potential here.

Great shape
  • California: Miller was the Bears' third-leading receiver last year. Six-foot-7 sophomore backup Spencer Ladner saw action in seven games.
Good shape
  • UCLA: While the Bruins lost their top two TEs, they look solid here with Cory Harkey, Notre Dame transfer Joseph Fauria and hybrid TE-WR Morrell Presley.
  • Stanford: Even though the Cardinal lost Dray, Coby Fleener was their top pass-catcher at the position, and the depth is good with Konrad Reuland, Zach Ertz and 6-foot-8 Levine Toilolo.
  • Oregon State: The Beavers get credit here for H-back Joe Halahuni, who caught 35 passes for 486 yards and three TDs in 2009. Senior Brady Camp is a good blocker with 18 career starts.
  • Oregon: The Ducks lose Dickson, but David Paulson saw extensive action in 2009 and JC transfer Brandon Williams was impressive this spring.
  • Arizona: Gronkowski's back injury made A.J. Simmons the season-long starter, so the Wildcats are at least experienced. Redshirt freshman Jack Baucus is the backup.
  • Washington State: The Cougars' depth chart lists five TEs, with Skylar Stormo and Zach Tatman offering experience at the top.
We'll see
  • USC: Attrition and injuries make this a questionable position for the Trojans. If Blake Ayles and Rhett Ellison stay healthy, things should be OK. The incoming freshman class is strong, starting with Xavier Grimble, who ranked No. 1 at the position, according to ESPN Recruiting.
  • Washington: With Middleton, the Huskies would have been in great shape. Izbicki had a good spring, but he only caught three passes for 7 yards in 2009 and the depth is questionable.
  • Arizona State: Jovon Williams is gone and Dan Knapp is a tackle, but the Sun Devils could move up here just because the position figures to be more involved in the offense in 2010. Trevor Kohl and Christopher Coyle top the depth chart.

Oregon spring wrap

May, 7, 2010

2009 overall record: 10-3

2009 conference record: 8-1 (conference champion)

Returning starters

Offense: 9, Defense: 9, punter/kicker: 1

Top returners: RB LaMichael James, WR Jeff Maehl, OT Bo Thran, DT Brandon Bair, DE Kenny Rowe, LB Casey Matthews, LB Spencer Paysinger

Key losses: QB Jeremiah Masoli, TE Ed Dickson, DE Will Tukuafu, FS T.J. Ward

2009 statistical leaders (*returning starter)

Rushing: LaMichael James* (1,608)
Passing: Jeremiah Masoli (2,147)
Receiving: Jeff Maehl* (696)
Tackles: John Boyett* (90)
Sacks: Kenny Rowe* (11.5)
Interceptions: Talmadge Jackson* (4)

Spring Answers

1. The secondary is deep: Injuries forced the Ducks to use a lot of young players in the secondary in 2009. The payoff this fall should be what amounts to four returning starters and some experienced backups. But, hold your horses. A number of youngsters, including hotshot freshmen such Terrance Mitchell, were impressive this spring and could eclipse those with starting experience.

2. Position changes worked: Eddie Pleasant moved from linebacker to safety and he's in line to start after showing a good learning curve for playing in space. Dion Jordan switched from tight end to defensive end and he looks like a potential breakout player -- particularly as a pass rusher -- in 2010.

3. Tight end looks good: One of the questions entering spring was replacing All-Pac-10 tight end Ed Dickson. It appears that David Paulson, Dickson's backup last year, and JC transfer Brandon Williams are ready for their close-ups. In the fall, touted freshman Curtis White arrives and could play his way into the mix.

Fall questions

1. Who's the starting QB? Think this is a big one? It seems as though senior Nate Costa and sophomore Darron Thomas are about even at the end of spring, which means this will be one of the more closely watched competitions in the nation. Sure would have been easier if Jeremiah Masoli had... oh, never mind.

2. How good is the defense? While many see Oregon as an offensive power, the Ducks were underrated on defense last year and expect to be better this fall. How much better could determine whether they win the Pac-10 title and finish in the nation's top-10.

3. Who's the kicker? While it's not a spotlight position like quarterback, the competition at kicker is just as undecided. Will it be between Rob Beard, the 2009 kickoff specialist, and incoming freshman Alejandro Maldonado?

Quick notes from Oregon's practice

April, 9, 2010
EUGENE, Ore. -- Watched Oregon practice Friday before trucking to the airport, so here are some quick observations.

  • The most important thing: The notion that the Ducks are going to go rear-end-over-tea-kettle without suspended quarterback Jeremiah Masoli is absurd. There's too much skill on both sides of the ball for them not be a major factor in the Pac-10 race.
  • Still, it's hard to look at No. 8 lining up as a slot receiver and not wonder what might have been, even with the season months away.
  • As for the quarterback competition between senior Nate Costa and sophomore Darron Thomas, both appear capable of competently running the offense. Here's a guess that Costa owns a slight lead (understand that coach Chip Kelly offered no such analysis). Costa clearly knows the offense and seems confident running it. He also appears to be regaining confidence in his knees, despite three surgeries. He showed some nice quickness both scrambling and running the spread option. Thomas has a lot of skill and upside as a runner and passer. He does, however, tend to lock on his intended receiver, which led to a couple of picks Friday. By the way, No. 3 quarterback Daryle Hawkins made a number of nice passes.
  • A second guess: Both quarterbacks will play in 2010. Whether it's because Kelly decides to use two quarterbacks or because one guy gets injured, it just seems a reasonable bet to expect to see both at some point. How many Pac-10 teams used only one QB last season? (Answer: two -- Oregon State and Washington).
  • Tight end Brandon Williams, a JC transfer, certainly looks the part. His 6-foot-4, 235-pound frame, in fact, makes him look a bit like an Ed Dickson clone.
  • There's no "bunker mentality" with the team, despite the off-field problems. Practices are open. Players talk freely about all that has happened. Kelly, who looked like he was eating a bag of lemons during his many media moments over the past six weeks speaking about the off-field issues, is positively buoyant at practice -- very active coaching and trading barbs with players. He even volunteered to play cameraman for a video that shortly will appear on the Pac-10 blog.
  • Hard to imagine there are too many backfield tandems more explosive than LaMichael James and Kenjon Barner.
  • Eddie Pleasant's move from linebacker to safety is receiving mostly rave reviews. He intercepted a Thomas pass on Friday.
  • While the defense has been in control much of spring practice, the offense won the day, 98-95.
  • Said Kelly after the sixth spring practice concluded, "We haven't had a bad day."

Bigger shoes than you think: Oregon

March, 30, 2010
Fourth in a series looking at lineup holes that are important even if they don't make headlines.


Everybody is talking about: Take a guess. When a team loses a potential Heisman Trophy candidate at quarterback, particularly in the sad and embarrassing way the Ducks lost Jeremiah Masoli for the 2010 season, the player who will step into replace him -- senior Nate Costa or sophomore Darron Thomas -- becomes a big deal.

Bigger shoes than you think: Tight end Ed Dickson

Oregon remains one of the conference's most veteran teams, at least in terms of returning starters: Including Masoli, it only lost six starters from its Rose Bowl squad. If things had remained as they should have -- Masoli deciding not to break into a fraternity and steal things -- this would have been about losing defensive end Will Tukuafu. Or maybe kicker Morgan Flint. But Masoli's departure makes Dickson's exit to the NFL even more important. Why? New starting quarterbacks tend to love veteran tight ends, particularly speedy ones who are 6-foot-5. It's a case of, when in doubt in the pocket, find the biggest guy out there wearing the same color jersey (which, for the Ducks, could mean lots of colors, of course). Even for Masoli, Dickson was a prime target, tying for the team lead with six touchdowns and ranking second with 42 receptions for 551 yards in 2009. And with the next quarterback less likely to run, having a variety of targets in the passing game will be critical.

Who's stepping in: Junior David Paulson did some nice things last year as Dickson's backup, catching 12 passes for 185 yards. He's got good hands and is a solid blocker and a better-than-you'd-think overall athlete. Still, a team needs more than one tight end and there are a couple of new guys who could push Paulson for the starting job. JC transfer Brandon Williams arrived in January. He had 56 receptions for 908 yards and seven touchdowns for Joliet Junior College. Also, incoming freshman Curtis White is one of the Ducks most celebrated recruits. He'll almost certainly be in the mix in the fall.

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.

Pac-10: Biggest shoes to fill in 2010

February, 8, 2010
After every season, starters leave. But not all starters are created equal.

Here are the biggest shoes to fill in the Pac-10 with spring practices just around the corner.

Toby Gerhart, RB, Stanford

How do you replace the best running back in the nation, a guy who scored 28 touchdowns and rushed for 1,871 yards? You don't. Those sorts don't come around every season.

The Contenders: Stepfan Taylor and Tyler Gafney will get first crack, as well as Jeremy Stewart, who's coming back from a knee injury. Incoming freshman Anthony Wilkerson could be a dark horse.

Sean Canfield, QB, Oregon State

The first-team All-Pac-10 quarterback became an NFL prospect during a strong senior season. He led the conference with 3,271 yards passing and 21 touchdowns, which tied with Washington's Jake Locker.

The Contenders: This will be a showdown between Ryan Katz and Peter Lalich this spring, with Katz starting as the leader.

Brian Price, DT, UCLA

Price could be an NFL first-round draft pick. He led the Pac-10 with 23.5 tackles for a loss in 2009. 'Nuff said.

The Contenders: Good question. The Bruins are perilously thin here, considering both tackles need to be replaced and only senior David Carter has much experience. The answers here might be in the Bruins' recruiting class.

Syd'Quan Thompson, CB, California

The Cal secondary was a huge disappointment this season, but Thompson, a four-year starter and two-time first-team All-Pac-10 performer, was mostly his usually stellar self.

The Contenders: Will Darian Hagan step up in his senior season? Perhaps the answer is sophomore Josh Hill? Or maybe a redshirt guy? The Bears only signed one player listed as a corner in their most recent recruiting class. Expect there to be a lot of competition here this spring.

Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, DE, Washington

Te'o-Nesheim, a high-motor guy who started four years and earned second-team All-Pac-10 honors his final two seasons, ranking third in the conference with 9.5 sacks.

The Contenders: Considering the other end, Darrion Jones, also is gone, the Huskies will trend young here. Andru Pulu was listed behind Te'o-Nesheim on the depth chart, with Talia Crichton and Kalani Aldrich on the other side. There also will be opportunities for younger players here.

Ed Dickson, TE, Oregon

Dickson not only was the Ducks' second-leading receiver with 42 receptions for 551 yards and six touchdowns, the matchup problems he presented forced defenses to scheme specifically for him. That helps an offense in ways that aren't accounted for in statistics.

The Contenders: Junior David Paulson was Dickson's backup last year, and he had some nice moments, but he's no Dickson. JC transfer Brandon Williams and touted incoming freshman Curtis White will be in the mix here.

Kenny Alfred, C, Washington State

Alfred, a four-year starter, was a good player on a bad -- and beaten up -- line. His brain as well as his physical ability will be hard to replace.

The Contenders: Walk-on junior Chris Prummer was listed as Alfred's backup -- largely due to injury -- but Andrew Roxas, who redshirted this year after contracting viral hepatitis, is probably the leader here, though Steven Ayers could move inside to challenge him. Or there could be some reshuffling.

Oregon signs three JC players

December, 22, 2009
Oregon has signed three junior college players who could bolster the lines on both sides of the ball.

The three signees are: offensive lineman Ryan Clanton (Bakersfield, Calif./CC of San Francisco), defensive lineman Isaac Remington (Chandler, Ariz./Phoenix JC) and tight end Brandon Williams (Beaumont, Texas/Joliet JC, Ill.).

All three will begin classes in January and will be eligible to participate in spring practices.

The Ducks lose only four seniors off of the current defensive depth chart, but three are on the defensive line, including tackle Blake Ferras and end Will Tukuafu. Remington, who redshirted in the JC ranks and has two years of remaining eligibility, should immediately compete for a spot in the rotation.

Williams, a touted receiver who reportedly possesses 4.5 speed, could ease the impending departure of All-Pac-10 tight end Ed Dickson and push the likes of young TEs Dion Jordan and David Paulson. Like Remington, he also has two years to play two.

The current offensive line returns intact in 2010, but Clanton could provide immediate depth and challenge for a starting spot in the future. He has "true junior status," meaning he has three years remaining to play two and could redshirt next fall.

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