Pac-12: Brian Johnson

I blew out my flip flop,
Stepped on a pop top,
Cut my heel, had to cruise on back home.
But there's booze in the blender,
And soon it will render
That frozen concoction that helps me hang on.

Spring preview capsules: Pac-12 South

February, 28, 2014
On Thursday, we looked at the Pac-12 North Division. Today, we turn to the South:


Spring start: March 3
Spring game: April 20

What to watch:
  • QB competition: Coach Rich Rodriguez has used first-year starters in his first two seasons at Arizona and will make it three-for-three in 2014. For the most part, things worked with both Matt Scott and more recently B.J. Denker, which should make Wildcats fans optimistic about what should be a wide-open competition.
  • Replacing Carey: As intriguing as the quarterback competition will be, the battle to replace all-time great Ka'Deem Carey at running back could be more important. None of the returning running backs had a carry last year, which led to this comment from Rodriguez: "Now it’s a mystery. That’s going to be one of the positions, like quarterback, that will be kind of open to see if we can get guys to get better."
  • Keep Austin healthy: After tearing his ACL last spring following a breakout season in which he caught 81 passes for 1,364 yards and 11 touchdowns, receiver Austin Hill has been given a clean bill of health. Said Rodriguez: "He is still wearing the knee brace but I think it is a little bit more precautionary. He is 100 percent doing everything. He’s even a bit bigger and stronger so he should have a big spring. I know he’s hungry to get out there, too."

Spring start: March 18
Spring game: April 19

What to watch:
  • OL changes: Auburn transfer Christian Westerman, a prototypical guard, could be the Sun Devils' best offensive lineman, which makes things interesting considering both starting guards -- Jamil Douglas and Vi Teofilo -- will be back next year. Douglas, a second-team All-Pac-12 selection, has worked at tackle in the past and could shift outside to replace first-team All-Pac-12 left tackle Evan Finkenberg.
  • Getting defensive: Coach Todd Graham's college roommate, Keith Patterson, has arrived as the defensive coordinator, but Graham will remain the play-caller and Chris Ball's title will still read co-defensive coordinator. Got all that? New coaching dynamics get sorted out in the spring, too.
  • Looking for replacements: On defense, ASU needs to replace seven starters, highlighted by DT Will Sutton, LB Carl Bradford and CBs Robert Nelson and Alden Darby. If ASU is to build off its impressive 2013 season, those holes need to be filled quickly. They'll benefit from a schedule that starts with Weber State, New Mexico, Colorado and a bye, but after that the Sun Devils have UCLA, USC and Stanford in a span of four weeks.

Spring start: March 7
Spring game: April 12

What to watch:
  • QB development: Sefo Liufau's development will be interesting if for nothing else than because the jump from Year 1 starter to Year 2 starter is always intriguing with quarterbacks. It's tempting to assume a big statistical jump is coming, but it's not always that simple (see: Hogan, Kevin; Mannion, Sean; Hundley, Brett). Liufau will need to get on the same page with his receivers as they combine to …
  • … Replace Paul Richardson: Look for Nelson Spruce, D.D Goodson and Tyler McCulloch to lead what will be a much more balanced receiving corps following Richardson's early departure for the NFL. Spruce was the Buffs' second-leading receiver last year, but Goodson, going into his second season at receiver, figures to make the biggest jump.
  • Rising expectations: It took MacIntyre three years to turn San Jose State into a winner, but there was a four-win improvement in the second year. He won't match that with the Buffs, but a two-win improvement gets Colorado bowl eligible. Colorado has a chance to match last year's win total (4) in the first five games next year: vs. Colorado State, at Massachusetts, Arizona State, Hawaii, at Cal. In fact, it's probably the internal expectation.

Spring start: April 1
Spring game: April 26

What to watch:
  • Manage expectations: The Bruins are in new territory this offseason with expectations through the roof. They'll likely be a preseason top-10 team, which will drum up chatter about a potential national championship run. Likely message from coach Jim Mora: "Tune out the noise."
  • The #Hundley4Heisman campaign: It's a real thing and Mora threw his weight behind it when he tweeted the hashtag on Jan. 26 with a picture of the Heisman Trophy. Get used to reading "Heisman candidate" next to "Brett Hundley" a lot between now and September. At times, it might feel unavoidable.
  • Leading rusher? They're set at quarterback and bring a lot of talent back at both receiver and on the offensive line, but the running back situation isn't as clear. Hundley was the team's leading rusher in 2013, but someone needs to step up to take pressure off him and LB/RB Myles Jack. It's an important spring for both Jordan James and Paul Perkins, who had varying degrees of success last year.

Spring start: March 11
Spring game: April 19

What to watch:
  • Under center? Cody Kessler is back, but coach Steve Sarkisian immediately made it known there would be an open competition for the quarterback job. Max Wittek is no longer around, but Kessler should get a serious challenge from redshirt freshman Max Browne. With a new offense to learn, spring will essentially serve as preparation period for the real competition during fall camp.
  • Catch your breath: The most noticeable change in USC during the first game will be how much faster it's playing offensively. Sarkisian installed a high-tempo offense at Washington last year and, pleased with the results, will continue to press the tempo with the Trojans. Goodbye, huddles.
  • Change it up: As is the case when new coaching staffs arrive, there will likely be a higher percentage of position changes than usual and a more fluid depth chart. It's hard to peg exactly where that'll occur with USC, but it'll be worth monitoring throughout the spring.

Spring start: March 18
Spring game: April 26

What to watch:
  • Wilson's road back: Travis Wilson is expected to be the Utes' starting quarterback next season, but he'll be limited to non-contact drills during the spring. That's about the best news Wilson could have received following an early November discovery that he had an undiagnosed injury to an intracranial artery -- a condition that threatened his career. Oklahoma transfer Kendal Thompson will not join the team until after he graduates in May, but he'll be immediately eligible to play.
  • Revolving OC door: Dave Christensen moves in, Dennis Erickson moves over and Brian Johnson moves out. Kyle Whittingham introduced the Utes' seventh offensive coordinator is seven years in early January. Christensen believes in similar philosophies to what the Utes had under Erickson/Johnson, but the terminology will change and the tempo will increase.
  • Pressure building? Utah was used to winning big before it got to the Pac-12 in 2011. Whittingham lost just 20 games in his six full seasons as the school's head coach while a member of the Mountain West Conference. In the three years since, Utah's dropped 19 and qualified for just one bowl. No one should doubt Whittingham's ability as a coach -- he's a good one -- but the jump in competition has been difficult.

Coordinator changes: Pac-12 South

February, 20, 2014
So far, only three Pac-12 teams retained their 2013 offensive and defensive coordinators: Arizona, Colorado and Washington State.

Here's a look at who's in, who's out and what it means in the South Division. You can review the North Division here.

Arizona Wildcats

No change: Rich Rodriguez has proven coordinators on both sides of the ball, with the offensive humming under co-coordinators Calvin Magee and Rod Smith and the 2013 defense being the Pac-12's most improved unit under Jeff Casteel.

Arizona State Sun Devils

Out: Cornerbacks coach and special teams coordinator Joe Lorig left for Utah State, which allowed coach Todd Graham to rejigger his defensive coaching staff. Paul Randolph, a co-defensive coordinator the past two seasons, will serve as senior associate head coach and defensive ends coach.

In: Keith Patterson left West Virginia to co-coordinate the defense with Chris Ball. Patterson will coach linebackers and be the Sun Devils' defensive special teams coach. Ball will continue to serve as the safeties and defensive passing game coach.

Thoughts: A lot of these moves emerged from Graham's concern about special teams, as well as his wish to reunite with an old friend. He and Patterson, according to the press release announcing the hiring, "have a professional and personal relationship that goes back to East Central University where they were college roommates." That same press release noted that "Patterson will oversee the defense, but Graham will be heavily involved in the planning." Graham also will have a "major" role with the special teams coaching and will assist Ball with the cornerbacks. It was also announced that Chip Long, the Sun Devils tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator, will become the offensive special teams coach. As for Patterson's track record, it was a lot better at Pittsburgh than at West Virginia, where the Mountaineers allowed 33.3 and 38.0 points per game over the past two seasons.

Colorado Buffaloes

No change: Colorado's second-year coach Mike MacIntyre retained both defensive coordinator Kent Baer and offensive coordinator Brian Lindgren. Compared to 2012, the Buffaloes scored 7.6 more points per game and allowed 7.8 points fewer per game last season. The overall numbers weren't good, but it was clearly a step in the right direction on both sides of the ball.

UCLA Bruins

Out: Defensive coordinator Lou Spanos left to become the LBs coach for the Tennessee Titans

In: Jeff Ulbrich was promoted from LBs coach and special teams coordinator.

Thoughts: Ulbrich has coached perhaps the Bruins most improved position over the past two years -- linebackers -- and he deserves credit for players like Anthony Barr, Jordan Zumwalt, Myles Jack and Eric Kendricks developing into stars. He also ensures the Bruins improved defense retains schematic continuity. Named the 2013 FootballScoop Special Teams Coordinator of the Year, Ulbrich has guided the Bruins special teams unit to one of the top rankings in the country in each of the last two seasons. Ulbrich also won't have to work too hard to have credibility with his players as he was a LB San Francisco 49ers from 2000-2009.

USC Trojans

Out: Defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast

In: Justin Wilcox, who followed new Trojans coach Steve Sarkisian from Washington to USC

Thoughts: Sarkisian decided to retain USC offensive coordinator Clay Helton, though like his predecessor, Lane Kiffin, Sarkisian will call offensive plays. Pendergast did a great job last year with his hybrid 3-4, which he termed a 5-2. Wilcox is widely seen as one of the nation's top defensive coordinators and a future head coaching candidate. His scheme won't be too much different than what the Trojans ran last year, though the Huskies officially ran a 4-3.

Utah Utes

Out: Co-offensive coordinators Dennis Erickson and Brian Johnson were demoted to running backs and quarterbacks coaches, respectively. Johnson then left Utah to become Mississippi State's quarterbacks coach.

In: Former Wyoming head coach Dave Christensen was hired to be the Utes’ single offensive coordinator

Thoughts: Will Christensen bring the Utes offense stability? He's their sixth different play caller in six years. The good news is he's highly regarded, getting hired at Wyoming because of the work he did with Missouri's offense. Johnson's departure probably helps reduce the feeling that there are too many cooks in the kitchen, seeing that he, Erickson and Aaron Roderick, now the Utes QBs coach after coaching receivers since 2005, have each been in the coordinator carousel at Utah. Head coach Kyle Whittingham also hired former Purdue All-American Taylor Stubblefield to coach receivers. Christensen, an offensive line specialist, will oversee tight ends.

Video: Pac-12 mailbag

February, 13, 2014

Pac-12 reporter Kevin Gemmell talks about the departure of Utah's Brian Johnson and what it means for the Utes offense.

Lunch links: Stanford's QB future?

February, 11, 2014
Not knowing how he lost himself, or how he recovered himself, he may never feel certain of not losing himself again.

Johnson's move good for him, Utah

February, 11, 2014
Quickly promoted and then just as quickly twice demoted at Utah, Brian Johnson will once again be viewed as a smart, up-and-coming coach next year at Mississippi State. In fact, he would still be a smart, up-and-coming offensive coordinator at Utah if his quarterback these past two seasons had been Dak Prescott, the dual-threat talent he's inheriting with the Bulldogs.

Heck, reporters would probably be wondering when he'd become the nation's youngest head coach after previously being its youngest offensive coordinator.

[+] EnlargeBrian Johnson
Boyd Ivey/Icon SMIBrian Johnson has an opportunity to redirect the trajectory of his coaching career after leaving Utah for Mississippi State.
Yes, there are good coaches and bad coaches. We get that. Some coaches fail to do their job well. But it's more than a coincidence that those considered good coaches typically have the best players, often because of dumb luck. Maybe Phil Jackson is an NBA coaching genius, a Zen master enlightening players with daily haikus and self-help books, but his best skill was winding up leading teams with Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Kobe Bryant and Shaq.

The biggest reason the Utes' offense has mostly floundered the past three seasons as a Pac-12 member has been poor and middling play at quarterback, Johnson's responsibility. The biggest reason for poor to middling play at quarterback, however, is the designated preseason starter at the position couldn't stay healthy. Point a finger at a lack of a capable backup at the position if you want. That's fair, though that falls more on recruiting than coaching.

But do you think Johnson, the winningest quarterback in Utah history, would be in Starkville right now if Jordan Wynn and/or Travis Wilson never missed a snap?

This is not to say Johnson is merely a victim of circumstances. In big-time coaching you are either moving forward or you are failing, and Johnson going from Utah's offensive coordinator in 2012 at age 25, to co-offensive coordinator with Dennis Erickson at age 26, to only QBs coach under new coordinator Dave Christensen at age 27 sure seems like a career tumble. There is no doubt that head coach Kyle Whittingham earnestly wanted Johnson to be successful, both on a personal (he won a Sugar Bowl over Alabama with Johnson as his QB) and professional level.

But Whittingham is feeling a bit of heat in Salt Lake City, whether that is reasonable or not. As members of the Mountain West Conference, his Utes were a Top 25 team, potent on both sides of the ball. In the Pac-12, they have yet to post a winning conference record and their offense has ranked ninth, eighth and eighth in the conference in scoring over the past three seasons.

Whittingham's relentless tinkering with his offensive leadership -- six different play-callers in six years -- might seem impatient, counterproductive or even desperate, but it emerges from his desire to win. His detail-oriented mind sees things he doesn't like -- play calls, overall scheme, practice conduct, leadership style -- and he isn't afraid of making aggressive moves to change things.

What that also does is put the pressure entirely on him. The traffic in and out of the offensive meeting room has been too transient for there to be another scapegoat. Whittingham has been the constant.

Johnson's departure does un-complicate things, if just a bit. Christensen took over an offensive staff featuring three men who'd once sat in and were subsequently removed from his office. Now there's just two: Erickson and receivers coach Aaron Roderick.

There is no question who's in charge of the offense. No co-coordiantor titles to speculate about. Whittingham is all in with Christensen, an offensive line specialist who will call plays. Whittingham hopes Christensen can recreate the magic he had running a potent Missouri offense from 2001 to 2008.

Yet Christensen, even if he's the Garry Kasparov of Xs and Os, won't be successful without a good quarterback. Three years with Chase Daniel starting at Missouri cemented Christensen's reputation. If Travis Wilson's career is indeed over due to preexisting medical condition discovered late in the 2013 season, then the Utes prospects for 2014 are deeply uncertain.

Meanwhile, Johnson reunites with Bulldogs head coach Dan Mullen, who recruited and coached him as Urban Meyer's offensive coordinator. Further, Johnson also will be familiar with Mississippi State's co-offensive coordinators Billy Gonzales and John Hevesy, who also were on Meyer's staff at Utah.

While being an offensive coach in the SEC West isn't the easiest job, particularly in Starkville, Johnson is getting a good opportunity to redirect the trajectory of his coaching career.

Utah moves on with Christensen, one voice speaking for the Utah offense.

And that voice is likely echoing inside his head as you read this, "Quarterback, quarterback, quarterback."

Q&A: Utah OC Dave Christensen

January, 16, 2014
Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham made a splash last year by hiring Dennis Erickson to be his co-offensive coordinator with Brian Johnson. After one season, he’s made another change, bringing in former Wyoming head coach Dave Christensen to run the show on offense and moving Erickson to running backs coach. Christensen took a few minutes this week to chat with the Pac-12 blog about his plans for fixing the Utes offense, the hierarchy of the coaching staff and his transition back to being a coordinator.

When you look at game film and the offense, what’s step 1?

Dave Christensen: What we’re trying to do first and foremost is identify where some of our strengths and weaknesses are, personnel-wise, and then when we implement the offense we do things that play to our strengths. We’re in that process. We have a base system that we’re putting together and we’ll have a chance to evaluate kids in the offseason process. Spring is going to be huge for us because that’s going to give us a chance to throw everything out there and get a feel for what best fits with the personnel we have, and we can start narrowing the scope after that. We’re in a position where we’re not sure on our starter at quarterback. We have different guys that have different skill sets. We have to have enough in the offense that all of them have an opportunity to show their skill set and we can fine tune from that point.

[+] EnlargeDave Christensen
Troy Babbitt/USA TODAY SportsNew Utah offensive coordinator Dave Christensen, the former head coach at Wyoming, will call the plays for the Utes this season.
For some of these guys, this is their third offensive approach or philosophy or coordinator in three years. How difficult is it for them to keep everything together, and how different are things going to be from what they were doing last year under Coach Erickson?

DC: I think the exciting thing is there is a lot of carryover in some of the schemes that we’re using and the things we want to do, albeit a bit of a change in the terminology. Some for the kids, some for the coaches. I don’t think it’s as drastic of a change as people might think. I think there are a lot of similarities after watching the videos. I think there will be some adjustments made. Some additions, some subtractions. But overall I think the kids will be comfortable once they learn the terminology and once we get on the same page and package things how we want to use them. We’re certainly not starting over.

How do you go about evaluating quarterbacks?

DC: What we have to do is put them into game-like situations and see who handles the offense best. Who is going to make the best decisions with the football? Who is going to protect it? Who is going to execute the offense the way it’s designed? There is going to be a daily evaluation. In this offense, you have to play catch. You have to throw and catch, and at the end of the day, the guy who can throw and extend plays is probably going to be the guy that gives us the best chance to win.

The Pac-12 has always been known for its offense and its offensive skill players. But there are some pretty good defenses, too. What are your impressions of the league’s defenses as you watch game film?

DC: They are outstanding. It’s going to be a challenge. The good news is we get to face a great one every day in practice. Our defense has always been very good. It’s been very good since Kyle has been here, and I think that’s a plus for us to be able to face an attacking-style defense that will get in your face and play man coverage each and every day in practice.

What’s the transition been like for you so far going from head coach back to coordinator?

DC: It’s an easy transition. I spent more time as a coordinator than I did as a head coach. To come to a program that’s committed to winning with the high-level players that we have and a league that I think is one of the premier in the country, it’s exciting. It’s been an easy transition to go from that office where you have your phone ringing constantly and trying to put fires out to where I get to sit in there and do the things I love doing, which is watching football and scheming.

Between you, Coach Erickson and Coach Whittingham, you have three guys who have head coaching experience. At some point, are there too many cooks in the kitchen? What’s the hierarchy like?

DC: It’s very clear. This is Kyle’s program and I’m here to do whatever he wants, however he wants it. He gives me a lot of latitude with the offense. Dennis has done everything in football you can do. Having him in there is a great plus. We have a great working relationship and great respect for each other. I could not ask for a better situation. I am blessed to be in the situation I’m in to work with all of these guys here. I feel very comfortable. No egos. It’s been fantastic in the short time I’ve been here.

Last year Brian Johnson and Coach Erickson were co-offensive coordinators. Dennis called the plays. Have you guys figured out how that dynamic will work on offense?

DC: I’ll call the plays on offense and we’ll all work together as a unit to come up with the best plan that we can to put our players in position to be successful.

Whittingham's six-coordinator itch

December, 20, 2013
You can't say Utah coach Kyle Whittingham is afraid of change. You can't say he's not desperately trying to fix his ailing offense. And you can't say that the unexpected hiring of former Wyoming head coach Dave Christensen on Friday to run the Utes offense in 2014 isn't a bold move with a potentially substantial payoff.

Christensen has a great reputation for offensive innovation -- just review what he did at Missouri in 2007 with QB Chase Daniel.

Still, it is fair to wonder if a revolving door at offensive coordinator is a good thing for the Utes' short-term prospects, particularly with growing pressure on Whittingham to reverse a two-year bowl-less slide.

[+] EnlargeKyle Whittingham
Robert Hanashiro/USA TODAY SportsKyle Whittingham has had a revolving door at offensive coordinator.
Revolving door? Christensen is Utah’s sixth offensive coordinator in… six years:

• Andy Ludwig -- 2009
• Aaron Roderick and Dave Schramm -- 2010
• Norm Chow -- 2011
• Brian Johnson -- 2012
• Dennis Erickson (Johnson remained co-coordinator in name only) -- 2013
• And now Christensen -- 2014

Here's an interesting dynamic: At least as of now, Roderick, Johnson and Erickson will remain on staff, working under Christensen. Erickson will coach running backs, Johnson quarterbacks. There was a void on the offensive staff because tight ends coach Jay Hill was hired as Weber State's head coach. Christensen will coach tight ends. Roderick was receivers coach and passing game coordinator last year. The release from Utah on Christensen's hiring doesn't note any change to his status.

The Pac-12 blog's oft-stated position on why the Utes offense has struggled the past few years, other than a higher quality of opposing defenses in the Pac-12 compared to the Mountain Weast, was the lack of continuity at quarterback. Unless Christensen has a cure for what ails the health of the promising Travis Wilson, that will be the overriding issue in 2014.

Whittingham also probably will need to smooth over some roughed-up egos.

It would seem this move is a surprise to Erickson, who refused to comment to the Salt Lake Tribune, per Twitter, but had said he wanted to return as coordinator. The feeling when Erickson, 66, was hired last winter to play lead with demoted co-coordinator Brian Johnson was he would mentor Johnson, an inexperienced but undeniably promising coach, not to mention a former Utes football great. The seeming ideal scenario there was Erickson retiring after a few years and Johnson regaining his old spot with a new bag of tricks and far more seasoning. That scenario has been clouded by the hiring of Christensen.

It will be interesting to see if this offensive staff doesn't undergo a few more changes before next season.

Christensen was only fired at Wyoming on Dec. 1. He went 27-34 overall in five seasons coaching the Cowboys and 16-23 in the Mountain West. He was Mountain West Conference Coach of the Year in 2011, but he went 9-15 the past two seasons.

Before Wyoming, he served 17 years as an assistant for Gary Pinkel at Toledo (1992-2000) and Missouri (2001-08), and he's a no-huddle, spread specialist, the scheme the Utes have been tinkering with with varied results for several seasons.

"As one of the pioneers of the spread offense, Dave Christensen is an innovative coach and was the architect of one of the top offenses in the country during his time at Missouri,” Whittingham said in a statement from the school. “We feel fortunate he was available and interested in joining our program, and he will be a great fit with our staff. We want an explosive offense and that’s been a trademark of Dave’s throughout his career as an offensive coordinator.”

Whittingham and Christensen worked together at Idaho State in 1989-90. Christensen played offensive line at Washington from 1980-82 before getting his degree in 1985 at Western Washington.

This is a good hire in many ways. Erickson wasn't the long-term answer, and Christensen's availability and willingness to come to Salt Lake probably was too alluring to pass up for Whittingham. Yet six coordinators in six years is pretty extreme turnover. While there are reasonable explanations for each change, it's impossible to not at least raise an eyebrow.

Of course, the way to lower that skeptical eyebrow is the same for Whittingham/Christensen as it is in all things in big-time college football.

Produce results. Win.

Utah Utes season preview

August, 8, 2013
We continue our day-by-day snapshots of each Pac-12 team heading into the 2013 season in reverse alphabetical order with the Utah Utes.


Coach: Kyle Whittingham (71-32 overall, 7-11 Pac-12)

2012 record: 5-7 (3-6, Pac-12 South)

Key losses: RB John White, LT Sam Brenner, DT Star Lotulelei, DE Joe Kruger, DT Dave Kruger, KR Reggie Dunn, P Sean Sellwood, K Coleman Petersen.

[+] EnlargeKelvin York
Scott Olmos/USA TODAY SportsKelvin York steps in as the starting tailback, replacing John White.
Key returnees: WR Dres Anderson, TE Jake Murphy, QB Travis Wilson, RB Kelvin York, LB Brian Blechen, LB Trevor Reilly.

Newcomer to watch: The team is still waiting to see whether defensive back Tevin Carter will be eligible. He was once a highly rated wide receiver who originally committed to Cal before transferring to L.A. Southwest College. Juco transfer Sese Ianu from Golden West College is a big-bodied defensive tackle who is expected to compete immediately.

Biggest games in 2013: The Utes will be looking for vengeance against Utah State in the opener on Aug. 29. At BYU on Sept. 21 takes on even greater significance with the Holy War going on break. They also host Stanford (Oct. 12) and travel to Oregon (Nov. 16) for the first time since joining the conference.

Biggest question mark heading into 2013: Whittingham said that he wasn't expecting Joe Kruger to leave early for the NFL -- and that left an additional void on the defensive front that already had to replace Lotulelei and another Kruger. Tenny Palepoi has good experience and played in every game last year. Ianu should help, and the tentative plan is to toggle Reilly -- last year’s leading tackler -- back and forth between defensive end and linebacker. Nate Orchard and Jason Whittingham will also rotate through, and when those two are on the line, Reilly might play back at linebacker and vice versa.

Forecast: While the line might be the biggest question mark on defense, many are wondering what the passing attack -- which ranked last in the league last season with just 190.7 yards per game (and eighth in efficiency) -- is going to look like with Dennis Erickson now commanding the offense. He joins the staff as co-offensive coordinator alongside Brian Johnson and will serve as the primary playcaller.

He’s been a head coach at six universities and for two NFL teams, and he’s the only person to be the league’s coach of the year at three different schools (Washington State, Oregon State and Arizona State). His offenses know how to move the ball and put up points.

That should bode well as Wilson grows into his role as the starting quarterback. He came in midseason last year and steadily improved each week. With an entire offseason working with Erickson and Johnson, his learning curve shouldn't be as steep.

Kelvin York steps in as the primary ball carrier, replacing White, a two-time 1,000-yard rusher. He’ll have the benefit of what should be an improved offensive line. The coaching staff is high on 6-foot-5, 345-pound left tackle Jeremiah Poutasi and guard Junior Salt.

Last season, Utah’s second since joining the league from the Mountain West Conference, wasn't a pleasant one for Kyle Whittingham, who was never shy about expressing his disappointment. Keep in mind, this isn't a team used to missing the postseason. Before last year’s 5-7 record, the Utes had been to nine straight bowl games with an 8-1 postseason mark. Injuries, which led to inconsistent quarterback and offensive line play, were major contributing factors. At least for now, it appears like those have been sorted out, so marked improvement is expected.

Nonconference primer: Utah

July, 2, 2013
We continue our series taking a closer look at each Pac-12 team's nonconference schedule.


Utah State, Aug. 29
  • Coach: Matt Wells, first year
  • 2012 record: 11-2, 6-0 WAC
  • Returning starters: eight offense, seven defense
  • Offensive headliner: We read about quarterback Chuckie Keeton in USC's preview yesterday. Snapping him the ball is standout center Tyler Larsen, who anchors a very solid offensive line.
  • Defensive headliner: Defensive end Connor Williams started all 13 games last season and earned all-league honorable mention, notching 32 tackles and seven for a loss. He also led the Aggies with six sacks.
  • The skinny: The Utah State game last year was when it all started to unravel for the Utes. Week 2, Jordan Wynn went down (unfortunately, for the final time), the offensive line looked atrocious and the Aggies won 27-20 in overtime, ending a 12-game losing streak to the Utes. As noted yesterday, the Aggies were a legit non-BCS program under Gary Andersen, so we'll see if Wells can keep it going.
Weber State, Sept. 7
  • Coach: Jody Sears (2-9), second year
  • 2012 record: 2-9, 2-6 Big Sky
  • Returning starters: seven offense, seven defense
  • Offensive headliner: Running back Bo Bolen was all-conference as a freshman and sophomore, averaging nearly 151 all-purpose yards in his first two seasons.
  • Defensive headliner: Linebacker Anthony Morales returns after earning all-league honorable mention last season. A two-time team captain, the senior led the conference with an average of 12 tackles per game.
  • The skinny: The Wildcats are replacing Mike Hoke, a two-year starter at quarterback. The competition is still on between senior Jordan Adamczyk and JC transfer Alfonso Medina. Whoever wins the job will be working with new offensive coordinator Robin Pflugrad (formerly of ASU, Washington State and Oregon). The last time the teams met was in 2008, when the No. 17 Utes won 37-21 behind a pair of touchdowns from Brian Johnson.
at BYU, Sept. 21
  • Coach: Bronco Mendenhall (74-29), ninth year
  • 2012 record: 8-5, Independent
  • Returning starters: eight offense, six defense
  • Offensive headliner: BYU's top receiver the last three years, Cody Hoffman, is back for a fourth season after catching 100 balls for 1,248 yards and 11 touchdowns. He's on pace to become the school's all-time leading receiver in catches, yards and touchdowns.
  • Defensive headliner: Outside linebacker Kyle Van Noy is one of the best in the country at his position, finishing tied for second in the nation last year in sacks and fourth nationally in tackles for a loss.
  • The skinny: Van Noy is a game-changer, and his return is a significant boost to a BYU defense that has to replace three starters along the defensive line. There is some mixing and matching to be done on the offensive line, but they'll be blocking for very good runners in Jamaal Williams and Michael Alisa. There is plenty of talent to do some damage against a schedule that includes Boise State, Texas, Wisconsin, Nevada and Notre Dame.
Thoughts: Week 1 will be critical. We need to see how the defense comes together with the new-look line and the Aggies will certainly provide a challenge there. Again, this isn't a low-level team and after winning last year, you can be sure they have developed a taste for it. Weber State isn't much of a threat and will likely provide a good opportunity to work out any Week 1 kinks that showed against Utah State. Obviously, the Holy War is the marquee game on the nonconference schedule -- especially since it goes on hiatus and bragging rights will linger. This rivalry is as heated as any in the country, and after last year's wild ending, tensions should be at a fever pitch. It took aligned stars for a good Utah State team to beat the Utes in overtime last year and with some more stability at quarterback and on the offensive line (keep an eye on LT Jeremiah Poutasi, who could be the league's next great lineman), the Utes should be better on offense. No one needs to be told how big BYU is. One game is an obvious win, the other two are "should" wins. Coming out of nonconference play at 3-0 wouldn't surprise me. But then again, neither would 2-1. 1-2 might.
It's 8 p.m. in the Louisiana Bayou, and Utah's co-offensive coordinator is just leaving a high school spring game. Notes in tow, the grind never ends.

Brian Johnson didn't always have the "co" before his title. It's new. Happened a couple of months ago when Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham decided the offense needed a new identity and some fresh blood, so he hired Dennis Erickson to be co-offensive coordinator.

Johnson barely had the position to himself for a year. But in that one year, the Utes offense continued a downward trend that began even before he was running the show. Missing a bowl game for the first time in nine years didn't sit well either. Hence, the Erickson hire.

For the youngest coordinator in the nation, this could have been a devastating blow to his confidence. Whittingham had shown great faith in Johnson by elevating the once-Utah-star-turned-quarterbacks-coach so quickly. And yet almost as rapidly as he ascended to the title of offensive coordinator, many of those responsibilities were revoked in favor of Erickson -- a seasoned coach with a national championship to boot.

Johnson was candidly introspective when talking about what he learned about himself in 2012.

"I could write a book about the amount of stuff I learned," he said. "I'm grateful for the opportunity to do what I do and be around these guys. Aside from the football stuff, there is so much more to the managerial aspect and being involved with every single aspect of the game that I didn't have as a position coach. Just understanding that was a big learning curve.

"And there is a ton of stuff that goes into scheming and game-planning week-to-week and picking up little nuances here and there about what you're doing as an offense and how you respond to what the defense does. It's a balancing act. Some valuable lessons were learned when things didn't go the way I would have liked them to go."

He won't make excuses, though it wouldn't be totally unjustified if he did. In his first year calling the shots, the Utes had to replace two all-conference offensive tackles, he lost his starting quarterback in the second game of the season and his 1,000-yard rusher battled injuries all year.

To say the dice were loaded would be an understatement.

"Things aren't always going to go by design," Johnson said. "You have to be able to adjust and roll with it. That's something we all had to learn."

Just four years earlier, Johnson was quarterbacking the Utes to a 13-0 record and a BCS-busting 31-17 win over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. He threw for 336 yards and three touchdowns, earning the game's most outstanding player and capping a career as Utah's winningest quarterback (26-7).

Two years later he was a position coach at his alma mater, one of the nation's most successful non-BCS programs. And two years after that he was offensive coordinator for a Pac-12 school.

This isn't a guy who drops his head when things get tough.

"I believe in what we're doing offensively," he said. "It works. You see people around the country doing it and it works. Confidence isn't an issue for me. It's a matter of getting some consistency with what we're trying to do. Getting some consistency at quarterback. That's what we need to do and it looks like we're moving in the right direction.

"It's a pleasure working with coach 'E' everyday. I love his personality and his demeanor. It's been great having him around our program and our guys. Anytime you can have someone like that and draw from their experiences and talk about certain things, it's a huge positive."

So Johnson keeps grinding. Keeps learning from his mistakes. Keeps handling whatever adversity gets thrown his way. There isn't time for sulking. Not that he would. It's not who he is or what he's about. For guys like Johnson, confidence isn't something that's lost and found like pennies on the street. It's just always there.

"There were definitely some frustrating times last year," he said. "But, like in life, you learn from those experiences and you find ways to get through it. There definitely were some things that were extremely frustrating . But you push through and you try to get better. And we will."
The offseason is the season of lists. And here's another.

Athlon Sports ranked the Pac-12 running backs, 1-20, and offered a breakdown of each player for your reading pleasure.

It's a pretty solid list, with maybe one or two position flips. But overall, it's a good assessment of the running back talent in the league and an example of just how deep the conference is at the position. As a reminder, the league produced six 1,000-yard rushers last season, the national rushing leader and two of the three Doak Walker finalists. Only two of those six are back -- and, yes, they are highly ranked.

Here's Athlon's take:
  1. Ka'Deem Carey, Arizona
  2. De'Anthony Thomas, Oregon
  3. Bishop Sankey, Washington
  4. Silas Redd, USC
  5. Marion Grice, ASU
  6. Storm Woods, Oregon State
  7. Brendan Bigelow, California
  8. Byron Marshall, Oregon
  9. D.J. Foster, ASU
  10. Anthony Wilkerson, Stanford
  11. Christian Powell, Colorado
  12. Tyler Gaffney, Stanford
  13. Thomas Tyner, Oregon
  14. Barry Sanders, Stanford
  15. Kelvin York, Utah
  16. Paul Perkins, UCLA
  17. Jordon James, UCLA
  18. Justin Davis, USC
  19. Terron Ward, Oregon State
  20. Teondray Caldwell, Washington State

Some thoughts:
  • The top three make sense -- and the order of those three could really fall into personal preference because all three could be No. 1. If you're looking for a "traditional" running back, then you could probably put Sankey over Thomas. But DAT does so much more than just run the football and is so explosive that I could see him at Nos. 1, 2, or 3. Carey's credentials certainly warrant the top spot and the Pac-12 blog is very high on Sankey, as you can see from here and here. Expect to see more from him in the receiving game as well in 2013.
  • Personally, I'd put Grice ahead of Redd. As Ted pointed out earlier in the week, the Pac-12 is home to the hybrid back and Grice is a super dynamic. And the way ASU uses its backs in the passing game, it will equate to huge total yardage numbers for Grice and Foster. I do think we'll see more ground game from the Trojans this year, which could also mean bigger numbers from Redd. A few guys behind him though who could steal some carries.
  • The Pac-12 blog is a big fan of Woods and we're expecting an even bigger year in 2013. The Beavers were 53-47 in the pass to run ratio, which is good balance. But the passing game was more productive than the ground attack, which ranked 10th in the league last year. As Woods develops (and Ward is a solid change-of-pace back), we're expecting to see those numbers even out.
  • Between Bigelow, Marshall and Foster, Foster was more productive last year (1,026 total yards, six combined touchdowns) compared to Marshall (461, 4) and Bigelow (523, 4) -- but Bigelow and Marshall certainly have explosive potential. Foster should also see increased productivity with Byron's brother, Cameron, gone at ASU. You could easily interchange all three at all three spots and make a solid case for their placement.
  • Stanford and Oregon are the only schools with three backs on the list. Gaffney's return certainly bolsters the Cardinal running back corps -- but neither he nor Wilkerson have had to carry the load the way Stepfan Taylor, a three-time 1,000-yard rusher, did the previous seasons. That continues to be one of the most intriguing position battles of the offseason.
  • Very excited to see what 6-0, 240-pound bruiser Christian Powell can do in the pistol.
  • As I've mentioned on previous Athlon lists, I'm not a huge fan of ranking players who haven't taken snaps yet -- but in the case of Sanders and Tyner, I can buy that. Sanders has arguably the best offensive line in the country ahead of him and Tyner fits an offense that makes great running backs better.
  • York showed some potential last year when he started sharing some carries with two-time 1,000-yard rusher John White, but he missed three games with an ankle injury late in the season. It will be interesting to see what he does over the course of the season and how the running game plays into Utah's new offensive philosophy in the Dennis Erickson-Brian Johnson brain trust.
  • Big hole at UCLA. Anyone have a five-sided coin?
  • Washington State averaged 29.1 rushing yards per game last year. And unless Mike Leach is secretly switching to the triple option, any mention of a WSU running back doesn't feel particularly applicable.

Mailbag: Oregon, USC and the NCAA

April, 19, 2013
Welcome to the mailbag.

Follow the Pac-12 blog on Twitter. We can't guarantee it will make you smarter, but it probably will.

To the notes!

Bruce from Los Altos, Calif., writes: Re: Oregon's penalties for NCAA infractions. How do you think these will stack up against the loss of 30 (THIRTY) scholarships which USC lost. Remember, we had exactly ONE player and, at worst, one assistant coach involved. The Oregon situation has more players and the HEAD coach involved in what the NCAA has already called major infractions. Is there any hope that the NCAA will ever reduce the loss of scholarships?

Ted Miller: No. There is no hope the NCAA will ever reduce the loss of scholarships for USC. For one, USC already lost its appeal. Second, the 2014 class will be the final one under NCAA limitations.

Look: Everybody knows USC got screwed by the NCAA. Not just in the "In my opinion, the sanctions for the Reggie Bush case were too severe" way, but in the "The process was corrupt and the judgment unjustifiable" way.

And I don't think anyone in the country has hammered this point home as much as me.

A couple of years ago I was at USC, having a casual conversation with athletic director Pat Haden. Then, for whatever reason, I started to rant about USC's NCAA case. Not because I have any specific affection for USC, nor because I wanted to brownnose Haden, but because it really chafes me how horribly unfair the process was, how faulty the conclusions were, and how devoid of leadership the NCAA was when it refused to take corrective action against this unquestionably failed process.

No, I wasn't standing on a soapbox, but I got pretty wound up, as I am wont to do. You know what Haden said? "Let it go," he told me.

And he was right.

As for comparing the USC and Oregon situations, I have three words: Blueberries and potatoes (you thought I was going to type "Apples and Oranges," but I'm just way too writerly for that!).

I seriously doubt sanctions against Oregon will even approach those against USC. There is a gray area with Oregon, whether you think it passes the stink test or not.

But, well, with the NCAA, you never really know.

Tim from San Diego writes: What is up with Ucla recruiting? They are still recruiting right? After the top ranked class in the Pac this year, why has that momentum translated to more commits? They have 1(?), while the Pac12 blog is providing updates on the other schools recruiting efforts. Please advise.

Ted Miller: Clearly, UCLA is doomed.

I called up Jim Mora and asked about this tragic recruiting situation.

"I was going to recruit some guys," Mora didn't say. "But I first needed to catch up on 'Breaking Bad.' Then I got sleepy. Took a 35-day nap. Then Kevin Gemmell called and we chatted for, like, a week. Just, you know, talking about life and relationships. Noel Mazzone came over and we made a brisket and watched 'The Notebook.' Wait. What was the question?"

Tim, UCLA had just one commitment at this time last year. Didn't get No. 2 until June. Got No. 6 on Sept. 22, same day the Bruins lost to Oregon State in week four.

Seems like everything turned out OK.

Remember: Recruiting is like most things. It's not how you start, it's how you finish.

James from Salt Lake City writes: I just read an article on why the Utes should abandon the spread offense and switch to a power offense that is able to control the clock and slowly wear down defenses. The article states it would be similar to what Stanford has done and states several players like Karl Williams, Radley, Poole, Murphy, and Scott as well as others as their weapons to do this. I have seen the Utes at practice and thought the article was crap until I finished it. It had several good points and made more sense then what they have accomplished so far this spring. I also think they would have more options and success especially whe utilizing both tight ends. This goes against the trending PAC 12 offenses but may also give the Utes an edge in their conference games. What are your thoughts about the Utes running a power offense and do you think they could be more successful in the PAC 12 with it?

Ted Miller: I have a confession. I do have a preference when it comes to offenses. I tend to favor the one playing for the winning team. So I like Oregon's offense. And Stanford's. Also like Alabama's offense.

I know that's flip and not what you're looking for, but what we're ultimately talking about is not a scheme, but what's going to be effective. If Utah has the right personnel and coaching, it can run an effective spread. If it has the right personnel and coaching, it can run a pro-style or power attack.

But, ultimately, it's about winning the game, whether that's 17-10 or 52-35.

I do think changing coordinators and schemes, as the Utes have done three times since 2010, make establishing an offensive identity difficult. I'm sure coach Kyle Whittingham believes the same. When he hired Dennis Erickson to co-coordinate with Brian Johnson, he specifically cited the lack of an offensive identity.

Part of that struggle has been dumb bad luck: Norm Chow leaves after a season to become Hawaii's head coach; quarterback Jordan Wynn can't stay healthy, etc.

My feeling is Erickson has been brought in to help season Johnson, so a couple years down the road Johnson can take over with his own scheme.

As for power versus spread: The general feeling is spread or pistol offenses help teams with fewer five-star athletes compensate with misdirection. Alabama and USC aren't spread teams, because they get those A-list guys.

The question is can Utah push into the top-third of the Pac-12 as a power team? Can it get the athletes and the linemen to make it work, as Stanford has? And that's on both sides of the ball, by the way, because you've got to consistently stop opponents if you're not going to score 45 every Saturday.

Perhaps, James, the Utes look to you like they would be a better power team in the short term -- as in this fall. But this is ultimately about establishing a brand of football the program can recruit to and win with over the long term.

I don't think lining up in an I-formation with the quarterback under center is a long-term answer for the Utes.

Josh from Lynden, Wash., writes: Did you see the USC spring game? Is it possible that the Trojans are actually better at WR this year? With Lee, Agholor and some combo of Blackwell, Flournoy or Rogers? And in all honesty who do you think should be throwing to them this year?

Ted Miller: Are you asking me if losing Robert Woods is a good thing?


All of those guys, other than freshman Darreus Rogers, were there last year. Heck, George Farmer, now out with a knee injury, also was there, at least when he wasn't hurt. The problem last year with the Trojans' passing game, which was pretty darn potent just based on raw numbers, was not a lack of talent. It was execution and play-calling. The Trojans were too focused on the blinding talents of Marqise Lee, instead of distributing the ball to other playmakers, which would have kept defenses off-balance.

That said: I don't think receiver is a question mark for USC. Just about every team in the country would trade their top-two guys for Lee and Agholor.

As for quarterback: Cody Kessler made more plays this spring and was more consistent than Max Wittek, but Wittek has an arm that will make NFL scouts swoon. Coach Lane Kiffin doesn't seem to be in a hurry to name a starter, so the competition is almost certain to go at least a week or two into fall camp.

And, with a fairly forgiving early schedule, I almost wonder if Kiffin might give both guys a chance when the lights are on.

Jeff from Tucson, Ariz. writes: UA will be a much tougher out than last year. Their defense has now had a year to get used to a new scheme, and returns all starters. The offense, even with a bad injury to Austin Hill, has many weapons including the nations leading rusher, and now comes Davonte Neal a transfer from ND. I am excited and believe the Cats will challenge for the South title.

Ted Miller: Hmm.

First off, Arizona wasn't an easy out last year. It beat Oklahoma State, Washington and USC, and pushed Stanford into overtime.

I hear you on the defense, but I'm not so sure you should write off the loss of Hill so easily. And you guys all know where I stand on losing quarterback Matt Scott.

To me, it all comes down to how much production the Wildcats get at quarterback. The defense will be better. The offensive line should at least be as good. Running back Ka'Deem Carey is an All-American. The receivers, even without Hill, are solid.

But Scott ranked sixth in the nation with 343.8 yards of total offense per game in 2012. That is not easy to replace.

John from Royal Air Force Mildenhall, UK writes: Hey Ted,First off, thanks for the Blog. I read it all the time, but right now I am deployed to Afghanistan, so it is particularly nice to read it and get a piece of home. I especially like the creative ideas you guys come up, like the Buy or Sell piece, with in the off season to keep us fanatics involved. I'm a Washington grad, husly fanatic, so I always have to wait until you go over all of the other schools before we get to the Washington schools. Can't we reverse the order every once in a while? It's not our fault we fall at the end of the alphabet! In fact, you could just leave Oregon out if you wanted to.Thanks again.

Ted Miller: John, first off, thanks for your service. Stay safe.

We can't leave out Oregon, but I will now announce that our "Most Important Game" series is dedicated to John and all of our readers whose teams are discriminated against alphabetically.

And we do try to reverse things every once and a while, so Arizona doesn't always have to go first. Or the Cougs last.

Francis from Federal Way, Wash., writes: I know this isn't about the Pac 12 but a football icon has died today in the Great PNW! I know since you used to live here you've heard about PLU (Pacific Lutheran University) and their football coach Frosty Westering. Well he passed away today and he's one of nine other coaches that have won 300+ college football games. Hoping you can give him a shout out and all great things he accomplished on and off the field. I had a chance to have him come and be a "guest coach" for a day for my old high school football team (Bellarmine Prep in Tacoma...Sefo Luifau Colorado recruit). He was such a motivational, positive guy that brought the best out of anyone. Made the crappiest player on the team feel he was just as important as the best player on the team. Anyways, just thought you'd like to know and as a committed reader of the Pac 12 blog hoping you can do a little write up on him! Keep up the good work and GO COUGS!

Ted Miller: Class act. Great coach. Even better man.

I must admit that I never had the privilege to talk to him or write about him, but I certainly, as a nine-year Seattle resident, was familiar with him and his glowing legacy.

My former Seattle Post-Intelligencer colleague Art Thiel frequently cited him as an example of what a coach should be.

Here's his tribute to the man.
Before 2011, it was one of the great theoretical questions in college football: What would happen if you plopped an elite non-automatic qualifying team into the middle of an AQ conference?

Utah provided us an answer the past two seasons, one in which neither the pro-AQ folks nor the pro-non-AQ folks can claim complete victory -- as in: "They'd get dominated!" versus "They'd be just the same!"

The Utes have been respectable if slightly south of mediocre in the Pac-12, going 7-11 in conference play the past two seasons, albeit without facing Oregon or Stanford. That's better than Big 12 transplant Colorado as well as Washington State, California and Arizona but worse than seven other conference teams.

The Utes certainly didn't get dominated. But they also weren't much of a threat to push into the top third of the conference, as they were annually in the Mountain West.

"We definitely know we are in a harder league now," Utah quarterback Travis Wilson said. "There are no bad teams in the Pac-12. Every game is a challenge. But that's something we can't hold onto or think about. We've got to go into every game believing we are the better team and we are going to win."

[+] EnlargeTravis Wilson
AP Photo/David ZalubowskiUtah QB Travis Wilson, who has thrown five TDs and run for two more this season, says throwing them beats running them in.
Of course, Wilson was a true freshman last year -- he took over the starting job in game six against UCLA -- so he never played in the Mountain West. And that's part of the story for Utah. The strapping 6-foot-6, 240 pounder is a big "maybe" as the Utes seek to advance in the pecking order of the Conference of Quarterbacks.

The Utes defense has been respectable in Pac-12 play. The offense? Not so much.

Now, the Pac-12 blog -- and more than a few Utah insiders -- would counter that if quarterback Jordan Wynn hadn't proven a magnet for shoulder injuries, things might have been different. Just ask California fans about the 2009 Poinsettia Bowl. But, well, football isn't much of a place for woulda-coulda-shoulda.

Wilson didn't blow anyone away last year. He passed for a Pac-12-low 109 yards per game with seven touchdowns and six interceptions, but it's worth noting that his efficiency rating was better than Washington State's Jeff Tuel and Connor Halliday and essentially equal to Washington's Keith Price.

And there were plenty of moments when Wilson did things that raised impressed eyebrows. He's got potential.

He's already gone corporate this spring, cutting off his notably long locks from 2012.

Not to read too much into a coiffure, but Wilson knows his role will expand this fall compared to last and he needs to look the part. He's no longer the wide-eyed-but-trying-to-play-it-cool youngster who was handed the ball at midseason, just a few months after high school graduation (Wilson participated in 2012 spring practices). He's a returning starting quarterback in the Pac-12.

"I want to make this my team," he said. "I want to lead all these people. I know they have faith in me to do it. I want to improve on being a vocal leader."

Wilson and his offensive teammates are adjusting to the arrival of Dennis Erickson, who is sharing coordinating duties with Brian Johnson, who held the post in a solo capacity a year ago. Erickson was hired to provide the Utes' offense an identity, but Johnson remains the QBs coach and Wilson's primary conduit to the 2013 scheme.

"It's good," Wilson said. "They are both excellent coaches. They feed off each other. They both help me in different ways. I'm glad with the situation we have right now. I think it was a good thing to do."

As with Wynn the previous two years, Wilson needs to come through because the depth chart behind him is pretty questionable: A sophomore walk-on and three freshmen.

Utah figures to face some challenges in 2013. It welcomes back just 12 starters and the schedule takes a major uptick with the addition of both Stanford and Oregon, top-five preseason teams. The Utes seem likely the fall in behind UCLA, Arizona State, USC and Arizona in the South Division pecking order, at least from a preseason perspective.

But Wilson provides a point A of hope. If he leads a solid passing attack, which Utah hasn't had as a Pac-12 team, and questions get answered on both lines, the Utes might surprise some folks.
And Lot's wife, of course, was told not to look back where all those people and their homes had been. But she did look back, and I love her for that, because it was so human. So she was turned into a pillar of salt. So it goes.