Pac-12: Brian Jackson

Today, we finish our preseason position reviews.

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

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

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

You can review last year's rankings here.

Up next: Safety. Teams in each category are listed in alphabetical order.

GREAT

Arizona: Jourdon Grandon, Tra'Mayne Bondurant and Jared Tevis return with a combined 78 starts. On Thursday, Tevis, a former walk-on, was named to the Bronko Nagurski watch list for the nation's best defensive player. Safety is a clear strength for the Wildcats.

Oregon State: Ryan Murphy and Tyrequek Zimmerman both begin Year 3 as starters. Combined, they have 345 career tackles and neither has missed a game the past two years. Murphy was an all-conference honorable mention selection last year.

UCLA: Between Randall Goforth, Anthony Jefferson and Tahaan Goodman, the Bruins are loaded with talent at safety. Both Goforth and Jefferson were named all-conference honorable mention last season, but Goodman has the potential to be the best of the group. Tyler Foreman, a well-regarded recruit, will be coming off his redshirt.

USC: Despite losing Dion Bailey early to the NFL, USC still has the potential to have one of the best safety combinations the conference. Su'a Cravens might have been the best freshman safety in the country last season. Who he'll play next to remains a bit of a question, but if it's Josh Shaw -- who is proven at both safety positions -- or someone else, possibly Leon McQuay III, USC will be in great shape.

GOOD

Arizona State: One of only two returning starters for the Sun Devils on defense is safety Damarious Randall, which, by default, will rise expectations for his performance. The competition for the other starting spot still needs to run its course, but many expect Marcus Ball, who missed last season with an injury, to win the job.

Stanford: Jordan Richards is a potential All-American at strong safety, but the spot opposite him remains the biggest question mark on the Stanford defense. The vacancy, created by Ed Reynolds' early departure for the NFL, resulted in the coaching staff moving a pair of offensive players -- QB Dallas Lloyd and receiver Kodi Whitfield to safety. Those two will compete with Zach Hoffpauir, who spent the spring playing baseball, and Kyle Olugbode.

WE'LL SEE

California: Much like the case at linebacker, the Bears return several players that have started games, but based on the defense's performance last year, it's hard to generate much optimism. The best thing going for the group is the return of Avery Sebastian, who was a starter before going down with an Achilles tear in the first half of the first game last year (at which point he already had 10 tackles and a pick). He'll likely line up next to Michael Lowe.

Colorado: Jered Bell is back, but the Buffs need to replace Parker Orms, who was a fixture in the starting lineup the last two seasons. Tedric Thompson, Marques Mosley and Terrel Smith have all started games in the past and they'll compete with Ryan Moeller, who is coming off his redshirt.

Oregon: Brian Jackson and Avery Patterson ran out of eligibility which makes safety one of question marks facing Oregon headed into 2014. Pencil in Erick Dargan, a fifth-year senior that has contributed throughout his career, at one spot, but the other isn't as clear. Issac Dixon is probably the favorite, but Tyree Robinson should push him.

Utah: After three years of starting at safety, Eric Rowe split his time between corner and safety in the spring and will likely wind up playing more cornerback. That move leaves the safety spot a little hazy. Tevin Carter, who started his career as a receiver at Cal, went to a junior college and sat out last season due to academic issues, is expected to have one spot. Brian Blechen, who missed last season with an injury, should have the other. Although, Blechen could play linebacker, which would likely result in Charles Henderson at safety.

Washington: The Huskies don't return either starting safety, but have a large group of talented players vying for playing time. It's probably too early to make safe predictions on who will start, but Brandon Beaver, Trevor Walker, Kevin King and Thomas Vincent are all in the mix. UW also signed three safeties to its most recent recruiting class.

Washington State: If you were to name the individual player who meant more to his team's defense than any other last season, Deone Bucannon might have been that pick. Without him, the Cougars have a likely pair of starters in Isaac Dotson, a former quarterback, and Taylor Taliulu, who lost his starting job late last year.
You remember the three-headed monster, right? It's about returning production that will scare -- terrify! --opponents. Or not.

On offense, it's elite combinations at quarterback, running back and receiver.

On defense, it's elite combinations of a leading tackler, a leader in sacks and leader in interceptions.

This year, we're breaking things down by division. We've already done offense for the South and North divisions. Wednesday we looked at defenses in the South.

Next up: North Division defensive three-headed monsters.

1. Stanford

LB A.J. Tarpley, DE Henry Anderson, S Jordan Richards

The skinny: The Cardinal lose their top tackler (Shayne Skov) and top sack guy (Trent Murphy). But there are others ready to take control. Tarpley has long been one of the league’s most underappreciated linebackers (93 tackles last season) and Anderson’s return boosts a front seven that should continue to party in the backfield. Richards is solid at one safety spot, though there are some questions about who will play opposite him. The Cardinal still boast the top defense in the league until proven otherwise.

2. Washington

LB Shaq Thompson, DE Hau’oli Kikaha, DB Marcus Peters

The skinny: The Huskies have some losses, like everyone else in the country, but there is plenty of talent coming back for the new coaching staff to work with. That returning production is enough to slot them No. 2. Thompson continues to get better with each season and appears on the verge of a breakout year. Kikaha has not-so-quietly turned into one of the Pac-12’s most feared rushers (13 sacks last season) and Peters is back after making five interceptions last season. They lose some leadership with the departure of Sean Parker and there's some question marks in the secondary. But this should be a salty group in 2014.

3. Oregon

LB Derrick Malone, DE/OLB Tony Washington, CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu.

The skinny: Despite losing Avery Patterson, Brian Jackson and Terrance Mitchell, the secondary still boasts one of the top defensive backs in the country in Ekpre-Olomu. Mitchell led the team with five picks in 2013, but a lot of teams opted not to test Ekpre-Olomu. Malone is back after making 105 tackles, and Rodney Hardrick should be on his heels as top tackler. The linebackers should be a strength. Washington returns after recording 7.5 sacks to go with 12 tackles for a loss. Now, if they could just get off the dang field on third down ...

4. Oregon State

S Tyrequek Zimmerman, DE Dylan Wynn, CB Steven Nelson

The skinny: Zimmerman brings his 104 tackles back from last season and the return of OLB Michael Doctor, the team’s leading tackler in 2012, should be a nice boost. Replacing the production of Scott Crichton and his 7.5 sacks will be difficult. Linebacker D.J. Alexander and Wynn should see their share of time in the backfield. Nelson, a former junior college transfer, had a spectacular first season with the Beavers with a team-high six interceptions (tied with Rashaad Reynolds) and eight breakups.

5. Washington State

LB Darryl Monroe, DT Xavier Cooper, ?

The skinny: Do-all safety Deone Bucannon is gone after leading the team in tackles (114) and interceptions (6). He was an All-American for a reason. Monroe is an obvious choice for tackles, and Cooper is the obvious choice for sacks. But the secondary is wide open. Mike Leach has essentially said all four spots in the secondary are up for grabs. Clouding the issues is the future of cornerback Daquawn Brown, who has legitimate experience but also some legal hurdles to overcome.

6. California

S Michael Lowe, LB Jalen Jefferson, S Avery Sebastian?

The skinny: We all know about the defensive injury issues the Bears had last season, which is why Lowe returns as the leading tackler and tied for the lead in interceptions with one (the Bears only had five all last season). Jefferson returns with the most sacks, and Kyle Kragen appears to be a good fit for the scheme. (Remember when Kameron Jackson had three in one game!) We’ll see how oft-injured but talented Stefan McClure fares at safety. Getting Sebastian back from injury will help in the secondary. The pass rush should be improved with Brennan Scarlett’s return.

Lunch links: The Doctor is back

March, 14, 2014
Mar 14
2:30
PM ET
Happy Friday!

The road has been kind to the Ducks

October, 9, 2013
10/09/13
8:00
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Autzen Stadium is one of the loudest, most imposing venues in college football. As far as home-field advantages go, Oregon's is among the best in the nation, and its 22-2 record in Eugene over the past four seasons reflects that.

[+] EnlargeLaMichael James
Otto Greule Jr/Getty ImagesOregon's 34-17 victory over Washington in 2011 is one of 17 straight road conquests for the Ducks.
It also makes it difficult to comprehend how the Ducks have been even better in true road-game scenarios during that stretch. They haven't lost a non-neutral-site game away from home since Nov. 7, 2009, at Stanford -- a national-best span of 17 games.

It's one of two streaks near and dear to hearts of Ducks fans that will be on the line Saturday at newly renovated Husky Stadium in Seattle, where No. 2 Oregon (5-0, 2-0 Pac-12) will look to make it 10 wins in a row against No. 16 Washington (4-1, 1-1).

"It's going to be a hostile environment, and I think that's part of the fun of it," Oregon safety Brian Jackson said. "But we'll also have a lot of our people coming too. It's a very passionate game between both fan bases."

Passionate might be an understatement. For many fans at both schools, the game has surpassed the instate rivalries in terms of the animosity involved. So much that Oregon fans have taken to using the hashtags "HuskyHateWeek" and "WinTheDecade" on Twitter this week.

For Oregon coach Mark Helfrich, preparation remains the same as any other week, but he admitted that, unlike his predecessor Chip Kelly, he has a specific appreciation for the rivalry.

“This isn’t a me-versus-Chip thing, but growing up here, sure I know what the Oregon State rivalry means, I know what the Washington rivalry means,” Helfrich said. “I was sitting in the stands in the olden days when the Washington fans certainly vocally outnumbered the Oregon fans, singing ‘Tequila,’ and all those kind of things.”

The $280 million renovation of Husky Stadium has made what was already a loud environment even more so. Without the track that used to create a buffer between the fans and field, there is now a feeling of intimacy at field level. It's similar, in that respect, to Autzen.

Washington is 3-0 at the new digs, with wins over Boise State, Idaho State and Arizona. The Huskies' last win against Oregon came at home in 2003.

Helfrich said the Ducks' road winning streak is a result of circumstances as much as anything. Any advantages of playing away from home are minimal, at best.

"I think there is a certain element of less distractions on the road," he said. "Less guys are worried about tickets and who's coming and sleeping in their bed or whatever those things [are] that go along with playing at home."

Preseason position reviews: safety

August, 1, 2013
8/01/13
7:00
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Safety is a strong position in the conference. Only UCLA has almost no experience returning to man the middle of its back-half, while the battle for the two All-Pac-12 teams should be tight.

So how do things stack up?

GREAT SHAPE

[+] EnlargeStanford's Ed Reynolds
Ed Szczepanski/US PRESSWIREStanford's Ed Reynolds had six interceptions last season, returning three for a touchdown.
Stanford: Just as Oregon might have the best combination of cornerbacks in the nation, so do the Cardinal at safety. Ed Reynolds is a preseason All-American and Jordan Richards is an all-conference sort. Devon Carrington -- recall a certain notable play in the Oregon game -- is a strong No. 3. Stanford yielded just 13 touchdown passes last year.

Oregon: The Ducks welcome back Erick Dargan and Brian Jackson, but Avery Patterson is back from injury, so expect him to break back into the starting lineup. Again, this might be the nation's best secondary, with the Cardinal also in that discussion.

Oregon State: We're already on record noting Ryan Murphy could be poised for a breakout season, but veteran Tyrequek Zimmerman also is back. Depth is a little questionable. The Beavers, who welcome back three of four secondary starters, ranked third in the conference in pass efficiency defense in 2012.

GOOD SHAPE

USC: Although the Trojans lost mainstay T.J. McDonald, they welcome back Josh Shaw, who mostly played corner last year, and Dion Bailey, who mostly played linebacker. Both were mostly out of position and are highly skilled. Throw in big-time talents such as frosh Leon McQuay and Su'a Cravens, and there aren't many teams that wouldn't trade their safeties for USC's. And no more Tampa 2 confusion also should help.

Arizona State: Team leader Alden Darby was second-team All-Pac-12 last season as the Sun Devils led the Pac-12 in pass efficiency defense. Redshirt freshman Viliami Moeakiola topped the post-spring depth chart at free safety, but the competition remains open heading into fall camp. Watch out for Damarious Randall.

Washington: Sean Parker is back, and he was honorable mention All-Pac-12 a year ago. Redshirt freshman Brandon Beaver is competing with experienced senior Will Shamburger for the other spot.

Arizona: Everyone is back in the Wildcats secondary, and just like the cornerbacks, the safeties will look good if the pass rush is at least adequate. Former walk-on Jared Tevis was a revelation last season, while Jourdon Grandon also returns. Tra'Mayne Bondurant is a hybrid linebacker/safety sort. Patrick Onwuasor was kicked off the team.

Washington State: Deone Bucannon was second-team All-Pac-12 last season and he packs a punch, while Casey Locker also is a returning starter. Sophomore Taylor Taliulu is in the mix. What holds the Cougars back here, not unlike Arizona, is poor 2012 pass efficiency defense.

Utah: Eric Rowe is back and he's flashed plenty of potential, but Brian Blechen is -- wisely, the Pac-12 blog thinks -- moving back to linebacker. Though Tevin Carter was listed as an "Or" beside Rowe on the post-spring depth chart, expect him to compete with Tyron Morris-Edwards for the spot opposite Rowe. Charles Henderson offers depth.

California: Michael Lowe is a returning starter, but he was listed behind Alex Logan on the post-spring depth chart. Avery Sebastian is solid at strong safety. Again, this seems like a solid crew, but Cal gave up 32 touchdown passes last season, second most in the conference.

WE'LL SEE

UCLA: It was a big blow when Tevin McDonald, brother of T.J. and the secondary's lone returning starter, got kicked off the team. It also didn't help when the career of the star-crossed Dietrich Riley ended because of injuries. Sophomore Randall Goforth is the likely starter at free safety, while touted incoming freshmen Tahaan Goodman and Tyler Foreman figure to be in the mix opposite him. There are plenty of opportunities here for youngsters and veterans to make a fall camp move.

Colorado: The Buffaloes lose Ray Polk, but there's no lack of returning experience here among Josh Moten, Terrel Smith, Parker Orms, Marques Mosley and Jered Bell. But, as we noted with the corners, when you rank last in the nation in pass efficiency defense, it's difficult not to rank a "we'll see."

You can see previous previews here:

Quarterback

Running back

Receiver

Tight end

Offensive line

Kicker

Linebacker

Defensive line

Cornerback

Pac-12 chat wrap

March, 23, 2012
3/23/12
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If you missed my Thursday chat, I apologize for the rash that ensued. Hope it doesn't ruin your weekend.

If you'd like to re-live it in its entirety, go here.

Here are some highlights.

David (Salt Lake City): Ted, with all of the new talent at quarterback, do you sense any indication that any of the incoming recruits have a shot at the starting position?

Ted Miller (3:01 PM): It's always a long shot for a true freshman to start at QB, particularly if he doesn't show up early for spring practices, as, for example, Matt Barkley did. I don't think any true freshmen will start at QB in the Pac-12 this year, and that includes Utah and Cal. I do think you will see at least one (maybe two) redshirt freshmen starting.

Ryan (Spokane): Do you expect the Cougs to start competing more, if not winning some of the in-state recruits (Locker, Kasen Williams) now that the Pirate is on the Palouse?

Ted Miller (3:04 PM): Even during Washington State's best years, it didn't typically beat Washington for the state's top recruits. But there's no reason it can't get, say, get three or four of the top ten if Washington gets five or six (others go out of state). Further, winning helps. If the Cougs start going to bowl games under [new coach Mike] Leach, better recruits will come in. But Leach won in the Big 12 without landing A-list recruits, which is a big reason he seems like a great fit in Pullman.

Warren (Lakewood): I believe Oregon state is going to make some noise this year in the pac12 north and that a sleeping giant has been reawakened in the pac12. [Coach Mike] Riley will rally these young guns and behind [Sean] Mannion and that wr corp they have I expect the Beavs to play in a bowl next year. What are your expectations for the Boys of Corvallis?

Ted Miller (3:15 PM): It's good to hear [I actually typed "here" during the chat, which is, well, really embarrassing] Beaver optimism. You guys have seemed kind of grumpy of late. I think the Beavers are good enough to get back to a bowl game in 2012, but it's also hard to project them too high until they answer questions on both lines.

Scott (Tempe): Ted, Heading to the topic of coaching changes in the desert. With Todd Graham displaying to us all his style of recruiting/coaching/discipline, how do you compare him to Rich Rodriguez? Rich Rod gets all the love, but who is the better coach in your eyes and will have the most impact?

Ted Miller (3:18 PM): Rich Rod has won a BCS bowl game and has a long track record of success. That's why he gets the love. But I do appreciate the notes Graham has been hitting: Demanding, discipline, up-tempo, etc. I think Rodriguez was a home run hire. But I also think better of the Graham hire based on what I've seen (and read) about what he's doing. But judgments on coach hires before they play a game is pretty superficial. It's just me -- and others -- yammering.

Nick Stratton (Dewitt, Michigan): How will Stanford's offense look this year without [Andrew] Luck? Who do you think will be the starter?

Ted Miller (3:23 PM): My only slightly educated guess is [Brett] Nottingham, mostly because I heard good things about him last year when he became the backup. I think Stanford will still be very good on offense, though it probably will take a step back without the best QB of a generation. I think the defense also will be good. So I still see the Cardinal as a top-25 team.

Dan (Eugene): Eddie Pleasant will be tougher for the Ducks to replace than Darron Thomas OR LaMichael James. True or false.

Ted Miller (3:30 PM): I would have said true until John Boyett talked up the guys who might step in to me, such as Brian Jackson and Avery Patterson. And I wonder if the transition at QB will be as easy as many fans think. Will Chip Kelly always hit a home run at QB? And as good as Kenjon [Barner] is, LaMike is one of the all-time best Pac-12 RBs.

David (San Francisco, CA): Ted, what do you expect out of Brett Hundley and the UCLA quarterback position this year?

Ted Miller (3:33 PM): I think Hundley will be given every opportunity to win the job, though I'm not sure it's a slam dunk that Kevin Prince won't. Last spring, Hundley wasn't ready, and that was clear. So he needs to be substantially better this spring. But he's a good prospect -- sharp, dual threat, seems to have leadership ability. And I think the work Noel Mazzone did with Brock Osweiler shows he knows how to teach a spread system to a young QB.

Bob (Seattle): Think the dawgs will be alright at LB this season?

Ted Miller (3:42 PM): I don't know... big question. Some guys coming back, but the position was not played well in 2011. You'd hope some of those youthful mistakes will correct themselves. But I saw too many Huskies LBs get stuck on blocks last year to not see it as a question.

Pirates of the Palouse (Pullman): [Jeff] Tuel or [Connor] Halliday?

Ted Miller (3:43 PM): Tuel... folks seem to forget how good he is when healthy. He's an NFL prospect and he has a lot of experience. Also, after being sacked so many times and showing outstanding toughness and resolve, I think he's earned an opportunity to see the postseason.

darrell (tacoma): Who has the weakest nonconference schedule, who has the toughest?

Ted Miller (3:52 PM): Easiest is Oregon (Ark State, Fresno State, Tennessee Tech).Hardest: Oregon State (BYU and Wisconsin with Nicholls State). Hardest game period is Washington at LSU. And USC, with Hawaii, Syracuse and Notre Dame, doesn't have an official patsy.

Daniel (Eugene): What do you think about Arik Armstead also playing basketball for the Ducks? Will dual responsibilities make him a better lineman or just confused, especially with Oregon now contending for March Madness positions?

Ted Miller (3:59 PM): I don't like guys playing hoops and football, though I certainly respect the athleticism it requires. If he asked me my advice, which he won't, I'd say choose a sport. But I'd also then say do what makes you happiest.

Pac-12 recruiting needs: North Division

January, 25, 2012
1/25/12
10:30
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Every team needs to hit every position group each recruiting season, but there are always priorities. It's not just positions where starters are lost or going to be seniors, it's about addressing weaknesses where a true freshman might be a better answer than a returning player.

Up next is the North Division.

California
QB
: Zach Maynard will be a senior, and it says something about the depth behind him that he never lost his job during his midseason swoon.
WR: Keenan Allen is back, but that's it in terms of returning production and experience.
S: Three of the top four safeties from 2011 are gone.

Oregon
Skill:
In Chip Kelly's offense, you can never have enough fast guys. Sure, Kenjon Barner, De'Anthony Thomas and Josh Huff are back, but there's a lot of youth and uncertainty after that at running back and wide receiver.
TE: His name is David Paulson, but he's gone. Colt Lyerla was a productive backup -- at least in terms of finding the end zone -- but after him things are uncertain. Tight end is one of the most underrated positions in the Ducks offense, so having more than one Kelly trusts is significant.
S: Eddie Pleasant is gone and John Boyett is a senior. Avery Patterson, Erick Dargan and Brian Jackson are next in line, but the young talent isn't as certain as it is at corner.

Oregon State
OL:
Oregon State lost three starters from a line that led the worst rushing attack in the conference and surrendered 27 sacks. Quarterback Sean Mannion has potential, but he needs time. And a running game.
DT: The Beavers had the worst rushing defense in the Pac-12 in 2011. 'Nuff said.
LB: The Beavers had the worst rushing defense in the Pac-12 in 2011. Almost enough said. Cameron Collins is gone, and all the contributors on the two-deep will be seniors, other than junior Michael Doctor.

Stanford
WR
: Perhaps the weakest position for the Cardinal in 2011, this need is augmented by the loss of Griff Whalen and Chris Owusu and the lack of up-and-comers other than sophomore Ty Montgomery.
DB: Three of four starters are gone, including both safeties. In the Cardinal's two losses -- to Oregon and Oklahoma State -- an absence of top-end athleticism in the back half was exploited.
OL: Three starters are back, but the losses are huge: Tackle Jonathan Martin and guard David DeCastro. And backup tackle Tyler Mabry and backup guard Matt Bentler also are gone. If coach David Shaw intends to remain a physical, downhill running team -- and he does -- he'll need to continuously stock up on linemen who can get the job done.

Washington
DB:
Lots of guys are back in the secondary, but the Huskies gave up 284.6 yards passing per game, which ranked 11th in the Pac-12. They couldn't cover anybody and often seemed out of position. So new blood might help.
DL: (See if you can notice a theme here that ignores questions at wide receiver and running back). Two starters are gone from a line that consistently underperformed based on preseason expectations.
LB: Second-team All-Pac-12 middle linebacker Cort Dennison is the only one of the eight men on the depth chart who won't be back, but he was the team's only consistent linebacker.

Washington State
DL:
Three of four starters are back, but all three will be seniors.
OL: Three starters are back, but to make the next step on offense, the Cougars need to run the ball better. They ranked 10th in the conference in rushing offense. And that might reduce a conference-high 3.3 sacks per game. Mike Leach's quick-hit offense also might help.
RB: 170-pound sophomore Rickey Galvin is back, as is senior Carl Winston, but the backs need to share responsibility for a 3.1-yards-per-carry average, worst in the conference (of course, losing 237 yards to sacks doesn't help).

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