Pac-12: Brian Price

LOS ANGELES -- Last season, a group of players on the UCLA defense got together to watch the BCS national championship game. One Bruin in particular -- defensive end Datone Jones -- watched with a keener eye and sense of purpose.

"I was watching Alabama's defense and they were fearless," said Jones, who is heading into his fifth season at UCLA. "I'm a fan of good defense. Those guys aren't that much more special than we are. We are all 6-4 and strong. They just have a different mentality than we do. They found out who they were early and they weren't going to be anything else but that.

"That's how we have to be. I feel like we lost our way as a defense. When I got here, guys like Reggie Carter and Brian Price were taking control of the defense and making plays. We were known as a defensive team. We lost our way and now we're trying to find it. If we do, we've got eight fifth-year seniors on this defense, and we could be something special."

UCLA's numbers from last season suggest anything but special.

  • [+] EnlargeDatone Jones
    Ric Tapia/Icon SMIDatone Jones says UCLA's defense underperformed last season and this year's unit will be improved.
    8th in the conference in scoring defense
  • 8th in total defense
  • 11th in rush defense
  • 6th in pass efficiency defense
  • 11th in sacks
  • 12th in opponent first downs
  • 11th in opponent third-down conversion
  • 9th in red zone defense

"That's not us," Jones said. "We left too many plays on the field last year and got exposed and didn't look very good. That's not who we are. We're going hard on each other and the coaches are putting us in tough situations. We're being asked to man up and that's what we have to do."

Jones, in particular. After missing all of the 2010 season with a fractured foot, the 6-foot-5, 280-pounder from Compton, Calif., was heavy on the hype, but not so much on the results. Some of that wasn't his fault. Teams knew his reputation and either ran away from his side or double and triple teamed him. Tough to make a play with three offensive linemen on you.

Still he led the Bruins defensive line with 41 tackles, three sacks and 6.5 tackles for a loss. But that's not good enough in his mind.

"I know I had a lot of hype last year -- teams know UCLA has a potential All-American defensive end -- so they aren't running the ball or they are double-or-triple teaming me, but other guys weren't there to make the plays. If I'm getting double-downed, that means someone is free. But it works both ways. There were times when I was freed up and didn't make the play. That's what it comes down to. As a defense, we need to start making plays."

Jones is very encouraged by UCLA's switch to a mostly 3-4 defensive front. His responsibility changes a bit. The defensive linemen aren't asked to get as much penetration as they were in the 4-3. Rather their focus is on gap control and controlling the man in front of them. The new system means less double teams for Jones and more of an opportunity to showcase his skills as a run-stopper.

"I'm very excited about this defense," he said. "It's taking some getting used to. But I think at the next level this is what I'm probably going to have to do so it's good preparation.

"And I probably won't see as many double teams. Because if you double the end, [linebacker] Patrick Larimore is going to come free and I would not want to get hit by that man. Or Eric Kendricks or Keenan Graham. I feel like we're going to be loaded this year."

New defensive coordinator Lou Spanos said he and defensive line coach Angus McClure -- the only holdover from the previous coaching staff -- are spending the spring trying to change the mentality of the group. And Jones is going to be a big part of that.

"Right now he's doing a very good job adjusting," Spanos said. "He's focusing on the details and that's what we need and we drill these guys and install the ideas we think you need to be a successful defensive line."

With a renewed sense of excitement around the program and the scheme, Jones feels like he's ready to better handle the expectations this season.

"I'm definitely ready for the hype," he said. "I'm not drinking the Kool-Aid. I know it's there. There are always going to be assumptions that I can't do this or I can't do that. I'm ready to prove everyone wrong and I'm ready to start winning with my teammates."

Pac-10 lunch links: Harbaugh vs. Tedford

November, 16, 2010
11/16/10
2:30
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Scout, I think I'm beginning to understand something. I think I'm beginning to understand why Boo Radley's stayed shut up in the house all this time. It's because he wants to stay inside.

Pac-10 lunch links: WSU's Montgomery smiling over comeback

August, 3, 2010
8/03/10
2:30
PM ET
I been silent so long now it's gonna roar out of me like floodwaters and you think the guy telling this is ranting and raving my God; you think this is too horrible to have really happened, this is too awful to be the truth! But, please. It's still hard for me to have a clear mind thinking on it. But it's the truth even if it didn't happen.

Preseason position reviews: defensive tackle

August, 3, 2010
8/03/10
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Defensive tackles clog the middle and collapse pockets. Dominant ones who demand attention from two blockers make life much easier for defensive coordinators, who suddenly see their linebackers running to the ball unmolested.

And it's typically not a strength position in the Pac-10. Coaches who have worked both down south and out west will tell you that one of the peculiar differences is how many more DTs there are in SEC and ACC country. (Quarterback goes the other way.)

[+] EnlargeCasey
Tony Medina/SMICasey Jurrell had 54 tackles and four sacks in 2009.
In 2010, however, defensive tackle is solid in the conference. The three teams at the top of this list feature potential All-Americans at the position.

So how do things stack up?

Great shape

  • USC: The Trojans would rank among the nation's best at the position if not for the season-ending knee injury to Christian Tupou. Still, Jurrell Casey is a beast, Hebron Fangupo is huge and DaJohn Harris was one of the surprises of spring practices.
  • Oregon State: All-America candidate Stephen Paea is powerful and explosive and if he turns in a big season beating double-teams, he could end up a first-round NFL draft pick. Brennan Olander is a returning starter and converted end Kevin Frahm provides depth.
  • Arizona State: Both 2009 starters, Lawrence Guy and Saia Falahola, are back, and Corey Adams and Williams Sutton should provide quality depth.
Good shape

  • Oregon: Brandon Bair is underrated, and Zac Clark saw plenty of action as a backup in 2009. While inexperienced, there's young talent to provide depth.
  • Washington: The Huskies are solid with Cameron Elisara and Alameda Ta'amu, returning starters who turned in their best work this past spring.
  • California: Hard to rate teams that use a pure 3-4 because there's only a single nose tackle. Still, if Derrick Hill can stay healthy, he and Kendrick Payne will be an outstanding tandem making life tough for opposing centers.
  • Stanford: The Cardinal is breaking in its own 3-4 this year. Nose tackle Sione Fua is solid in the middle, with Terrence Stephens his backup. Stephens saw limited action as a true freshman in 2009.
We'll see

  • UCLA: The Bruins are replacing two starters, including the dominant Brian Price. David Carter, Justin Edison and Nate Chandler were solid in spring practices, so the position isn't a huge concern.
  • Arizona: The Wildcats are replacing two starters, including the underrated Earl Mitchell, a third-round NFL draft pick. After spring practices, Sione Tuihalamaka and Lolomana Mikaele topped the depth chart, which featured six names.
  • Washington State: Another position where the Cougars might be "better than you think," particularly if Bernard Wolfgramm can stay healthy. Touted JC transfer Brandon Rankin was impressive this spring, and true sophomore Anthony Laurenzi, a five-game starter in 2009, offers experienced depth.

Pac-10 lunch links: More on Haden as USC's AD

July, 21, 2010
7/21/10
2:30
PM ET
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

A look back at 2007 recruiting

July, 21, 2010
7/21/10
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The 2007 recruiting class members are either seniors or redshirt juniors this fall, so they should be the backbones of most Pac-10 team's starting lineups.

Therefore, it seems like a reasonable moment to look back and review some recruiting hits and misses. (And, yes, we did this last summer with the 2006 class, which you can review here -- Ducks fans should get a kick out of it).

As for the 2007 rankings, USC ranked No. 1 in the nation, according to ESPN.com's Scouts Inc. Oregon, at No. 23, was the only other Pac-10 team in the Scouts Inc., top-25.

Scout.com ranked USC No. 2 in the nation, Oregon ninth, and California 12th. The rest of the Pac-10 went, in order, Washington (29th in nation), UCLA (36th), Arizona State (38), Oregon State (40), Stanford (43), Arizona (49) and Washington State (54).

Here's an overview.

Arizona

Class: 17

ESPNU top 150 players: 2 (DE Apaiata Tuihalamaka, TE Rob Gronkowski)

How many are expected to start in 2010: Four (RB Nic Grigsby, CB Trevin Wade, WR William Wright, K Alex Zendejas)

Misses: Tuihalamaka, QB Bryson Beirne,

Verdict: Obviously, the biggest catch of this class, Gronkowski, is gone. Otherwise, a lot of these guys qualify for the "where are they now?" file.

Arizona State

Class: 24

ESPNU top 150 players: 0.

How many are expected to start in 2010: Five (C Garth Gerhart, WR Kerry Taylor, CB Omar Bolden, DE James Brooks, OG Matt Hustad)

Misses: OL Po'u Palelei, LB Oliver Aaron

Verdict: This is a decent class, particularly when you factor in the contribution of the since-departed JC signees, such as LB Morris Wooten and DE Luis Vasquez. And there are several non-starters who will contribute this year.

California

Class: 27

ESPNU top 150 players: 0

How many are expected to start in 2010: 10 (OT Matt Summers-Gavin, P Bryan Anger, LB D.J. Holt, WR Alex Lagemann, OT Mitchell Schwartz, S Sean Cattouse, S Chris Conte, OG Justin Cheadle, DE Cameron Jordan, RB Shane Vereen).

Misses: QB Brock Mansion, CB D.J. Campbell

Verdict: Obviously, ESPN.com's Scouts Inc., missed with its evaluation of this solid recruiting class, particularly when you consider RB Jahvid Best, WR Nyan Boateng and LB Devin Bishop were significant contributors before their tenures were done. Jordan and Vereen obviously were well underrated. And there were 21 running backs better than Best?

Oregon

Class: 29

ESPNU top 150 players: 1 (DE Kenny Rowe)

How many are expected to start in 2010: 10 (Rowe, WR D.J. Davis, LB Casey Matthews, CB Talmadge Jackson, OG Carson York, TE David Paulson, OG Mark Asper, WR Jeff Maehl, S Eddie Pleasant, DE Terrell Turner).

Misses: DT Myles Wade, S Malachi Lewis

Verdict: When you toss in DE Will Tukuafu, WR Aaron Pflugrad (a starter who transferred to Arizona State) and WR Terence Scott, this is a good, if not great, class. Three or four of these guys should be All-Conference players.

Oregon State

Class: 35

ESPNU top 150 players: 0

How many are expected to start in 2010: Eight (HB Joe Halahuni, S Cameron Collins, WR Darrell Catchings, CB Brandon Hardin, FB Will Darkins, DE Taylor Henry, LB Keith Pankey, WR James Rodgers)

Misses: CB David Ross, RB Reggie Dunn

Verdict: We don't have the time to go back and retrace the maneuvers that are part of managing a 35-man recruiting class (each class can only include a maximum of 25 members, but there are lots of ways to fudge numbers). Obviously, there are the Beavers typical crew of so-called diamonds in the rough -- hello, James Rodgers -- but here's a guess that coach Mike Riley winces over some of these names. Certainly not a lot of production from the six JC guys.

Stanford

Class: 19

ESPNU top 150 players: 0.

How many are expected to start in 2010: Six (P David Green, CB Corey Gatewood, LB/FB Owen Marecic, TE Coby Fleenor, DE Thomas Keiser, DE Matt Masifilo)

Misses: QB L. D. Crow, S Sean Wiser

Verdict: An interesting class considering that six of the eight lowest rated players are on the Cardinal's preseason two-deep depth chart, including three starters. In terms of skill positions -- see the two QBs -- this class doesn't measure up.

UCLA

Class: 11

ESPNU top 150 players: 2 (QB Chris Forcier, RB Raymond Carter)

How many are expected to start in 2010: Five (LB Akeem Ayers, LB Glenn Love, LB Steve Sloan, DT Nate Chandler, OT Mike Harris)

Misses: Forcier, Carter

Verdict: This is a very small but highly productive class collected by former coach Karl Dorrell -- note that it includes DT Brian Price, who bolted early for the NFL. The only busts were the two highest rated players, Forcier and Carter, and JC LB Mike Schmitt. The other eight members are either on the two-deep or, in Price's case, already in the NFL.

USC

Class: 20

ESPNU top 150 players: 10 (RB Joe McKnight, LB Chris Galippo, RB Marc Tyler, S Marshall Jones, DE Everson Griffen, QB Aaron Corp, WR Ronald Johnson, OT Martin Coleman, DT DaJohn Harris, C Kris O'Dowd)

How many are expected to start in 2010: Four (LB Chris Galippo, WR Ronald Johnson, C Kristofer O'Dowd, LB Malcolm Smith)

Misses: S Marshall Jones, OT Martin Coleman

Verdict: Obviously, this class, ranked No. 1 in the nation, was overrated, even when you factor in that McKnight, Griffen and Damian Williams already are in the NFL, and NT Christian Tupou would be a second-year starter if he didn't blow out his knee this spring. Lots of guys who never contributed or left the program.

Washington

Class: 27

ESPNU top 150 players: 0

How many are expected to start in 2010: Eight (WR Devin Aguilar, LB Alvin Logan, LB Cort Dennison, SS Nate Williams, LB Mason Foster, CB Quinton Richardson, DE Kalani Aldrich, K Erik Folk)

Misses: DE Emeka Iweka, DT Nick Wood

Verdict: You read the names of the seven highest-rated players in this class and you have one reaction: Terrible. But then you see six defensive starters among the lower rated guys. Still, the Huskies defense is a huge question mark. How it performs this year will tell you how this class should be rated.

Washington State

Class: 26

ESPNU top 150 players: 0

How many are expected to start in 2010: Five (CB Aire Justin, WR Daniel Blackledge, C Andrew Roxas, OG B.J. Guerra, SS Chima Nwachukwu)

Misses: WR Deon Ford

Verdict: Not much should be expected from Bill Doba's final recruiting class, and this one doesn't deliver much sizzle. A couple of solid hits, though, including a couple of departed JC transfers.

Pac-10 Q&A: UCLA defensive coordinator Chuck Bullough

May, 25, 2010
5/25/10
11:00
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UCLA's must replace six starters on defense, including three first-team All-Pac-10 performers.

That is a cause for concern.

On the other hand, safety Rahim Moore, linebacker Akeem Ayers and end Datone Jones are future high NFL draft picks who provide a cause of optimism.

Although the Bruins walked away from spring practices with some questions -- particularly at two linebacker spots -- and an obvious need for some youngsters to immediately contribute, there's enough talent for them to again rank as one of the Pac-10's top defenses.

[+] EnlargeChuck Bullough
Rose Palmisano/Icon SMIChuck Bullough needs to identify some new leaders on his defense.
Here's what coordinator Chuck Bullough had to say.

You lost a lot of guys who saw a lot of action: Who's going to be hardest to replace?

Chuck Bullough: All of them were good. The hardest to replace? It's really different aspects. Obviously, Brian Price being such a disruptive force up front -- that's a guy you're going to miss. Then we have our two linebackers. Reggie Carter was a four-year starter, so obviously his experience, him knowing everything. He was a team leader of the defense. And obviously Alterraun Verner, who was one of the best corners to ever play here. But we have young guys who played well in spring who we hope can step up. Now, I don't know if they will be at the same level as those guys were because those guys were obviously seniors and these guys are younger. But these guys have the ability to get to that level.

How might the 2010 defense be different than the 2009 unit?

CB: We'll be a little younger. We lost those five seniors. But the guys who played this spring -- [middle linebackers] Steve Sloan and Patrick Larimore -- played really well. Replacing Kyle Bosworth at "will" linebacker we've got [Sean Westgate] and we moved a safety down there, Glenn Love, who played real well and was a real surprise of spring. They have a chance to be comparable to the guys from last year. We moved Nate Chandler over from tight end to defensive tackle. He's a big 6-foot-5, fast with great feet. Between him and David Carter and a couple of the young puppies coming in, we'll replace Brian Price. Well, a Brian Price only comes along every once in a while with his explosiveness. But these guys are good football players. The guy stepping in for Verner would be Sheldon Price. He was a freshman last year but he started as a true freshman just like Verner did. It all depends on them taking that next step and being leaders. We lost all our leadership. So I think, with the defense, it will have to be seen as to who takes over the leadership role with these guys gone, when it comes to the fall and it's time to play games, who are the leaders of the defense.

Let's go through the three levels: What are you happy with concerning your defensive line and what concerns you?

CB: We feel very good about our D-line. Obviously, we lost both our tackles, but like I said, Nate Chandler came over and played really well. David Carter has improved. Both of those guys are big bodies -- 6-5 and 6-4, 290 and both of them can run. A tackle we have coming in, Cassius Marsh, who we've been keeping in touch with, is really strong for a freshman, which is usually the problem they have coming in and trying to play Pac-10 football from high school. They aren't strong enough. But he's really strong and he's got a nasty streak. So we're expecting him to have to be in the rotation. We've got a guy, Sealii Epenesa, from Hawaii, who's a big, huge body guy. We'll have to see if he can hold up strength-wise but he'll definitely have the ability down the road. Then we have a guy named [Wesley] Flowers who's coming in. We're not sure if he's a D-end or D-tackle yet. But defensive tackle-wise, I feel pretty confident with the switch-over with Nate and having those other guys step up and grow up and the young puppies coming in and being able to help -- they probably won't be able to start -- but they will be able to help. We'll play about four tackles a game. Defensive end, we lost Korey Bosworth, but we have Iuta Tepa and Keenan Graham who made big improvements during spring. Obviously, Datone Jones should become a dominant defensive line player at tackle and end. He's taken a step up. I project for him down the road that he will be a first-round draft pick. He's that good, that big, that fast and he's really hungry. The other two guys obviously didn't play much, so when the live action starts we'll have to find out about those two. And obviously we have [Owamagbe Odighizuwa] coming in -- one of the top defensive ends in the nation. Then again, can he learn the defense? He's got the ability. But you never know until they get here and try to learn the defense. Obviously there's a lot more scheme in college. So we came out of spring feeling pretty good defensive line-wise, compared to going in. Going in we didn't know what Nate Chandler had, we didn't know what Keenan Graham had, we didn't know that Datone had made such a big jump, which he did.

At linebacker, what does Akeem Ayers need to do to become an All-American sort of player?

CB: He's a guy who should be another high-round draft pick for the NFL. He's grown with the defense and he's probably the most athletic linebacker you're going to find. He's a guy who, the more he's in the system, every year, he's gotten better. His second year, we had to play him as a nickel linebacker because he couldn't mentally handle both base and be a nickel. Those were just two different spots. Last year, he could. This year, we feel he should be even more comfortable with the defense. He should not even have to think at all. He still had to think a little bit last year, I believe, but he should just react now because he knows the defense inside and out

How do the competitions at middle and weakside linebacker stand?

CB: I've mentioned Sloan and Larimore need to battle it out next fall and Westgate and Love got to battle it out in the fall. Both are open. Both will be competitions in training camp. They have three months here to improve and we'll see in training camp. But we've got four guys who we believe can play. They did a good job in spring and showed it. Now it's just going to be a training camp battle.

Rahim Moore is already an All-American: Where can he improve?

CB: He's started for two years. He's into the system for a third year. Now his role has become that he has to be the leader in the secondary. Verner was kind of the leader last year. Now Moore has got to be the leader.

Besides Moore, tell me about what's good and what concerns you in the secondary?

CB: We feel pretty good with our two safeties. Obviously, both Tony Dye and [Moore] have both played. They've started for two years now. That's where our veterans are in the secondary and the safety position. And obviously we have Dietrich Riley coming in who's a big-time recruit who is very bright. We expect him to be able to come in and contribute and play. And we've got some guys who've got another fall to improve. We feel good about the safety position. The corners, obviously I mentioned Price before. He's a second-year starter. He's a tall guy who's gaining weight. Last year, he didn't have enough weight. He was probably 160 pounds. He was too small. But he's gained 15 or 20 pounds, I think, without losing his 10.5 speed in the 100 [meters]. He could be a special player and it's his turn to take over at corner. Then we have Aaron Hester who was a starter before he broke his leg. He's another big, tall, long-armed guy who can run like the wind. We feel comfortable with him. We have Andrew Abbott and Courtney Viney behind those two who are two savvy veterans that we feel can play. And obviously we've got a couple of freshmen coming in. We've got Anthony Jefferson and Tevin McDonald. With Tevin McDonald, we don't know if he's a safety or a corner. We also have Shaq Richardson coming in. So we have some guys there. But it's hard to know with those rookies until they actually play. If those guys can play, they will just be bonuses.

When you lose six guys like you lost, most folks think you'll take a step back. Do you think the 2010 unit can be as good as your 2009 crew?

CB: I think it will be interesting who steps up and becomes a leader. The "mike" [middle] linebacker in my defense has always been that guy. He makes all the checks. So Sloan and Larimore, one of them -- whoever it is -- has got to step up. Reggie Carter grew up into that leadership role as he got older. In spring, we saw Datone and Ayers and Rahim take up that leadership role which last year was with the older guys. Those three guys should be the leaders because they've played so much and gotten a lot of accolades.

UCLA spring wrap

May, 7, 2010
5/07/10
7:30
AM ET
UCLA

2009 overall record: 7-6

2009 conference record: 3-6

Returning starters

Offense: 7, Defense: 5, punter/kicker: 2

Top returners: K Kai Forbath, QB Kevin Prince, WR Nelson Rosario, FS Rahim Moore, LB Akeem Ayers, DE Datone Jones, P Jeff Locke

Key losses: TE Logan Paulsen, OT Xaiver Su'a-Filo (LDS mission), DT Brian Price, CB Alterraun Verner, LB Reggie Carter, DE Korey Bosworth, LB Kyle Bosworth

2009 statistical leaders (*returning starter)

Rushing: Johnathan Franklin* (566)

Passing: Kevin Prince* (2,050)

Receiving: Nelson Rosario* (723)

Tackles: Reggie Carter (79)

Sacks: Brian Price (7)

Interceptions: Rahim Moore* (10)

Spring Answers

1. The revolver will evolve: While the new "revolver" offense -- read: Nevada's pistol -- wasn't a smashing success, coach Rick Neuheisel and coordinator Norm Chow believe adopting some spread-option elements will add productive wrinkles to the offense, which will burden an opposing defense's preparation. Quarterback Kevin Prince ran something similar in high school and is a good athlete. Will it become the base offense? We'll see.

2. There's speed on the rebuilding D: Sure, the Bruins should take a step back on defense. Losing six quality starters, including three first-team All-Pac-10 performers is a blow. But one thing may accelerate the rebuilding: The defense will be faster in 2010. That doesn't mean it will be better, but speed makes for a more favorable margin of error.

3. The transfers will help: While they were both banged up this spring, receiver Josh Smith and tight end Joseph Fauria -- transfers from Colorado and Notre Dame respectively -- both flashed enough potential during the off-season and the spring to make clear they will be major contributors to the offense.

Fall questions

1. Is there enough in the trenches? UCLA's depth is questionable on both lines, most particularly the offensive line. If everybody stays healthy, things should work out fine -- there's enough experience and talent to get the job done. But a couple of injuries could mean trouble.

2. Who wins out at linebacker? Akeem Ayers is a given at strongside linebacker, but the other two spots haven't been decided. In the middle, sophomore Pat Larimore is battling junior Steve Sloan, while Sean Westgate and Glenn Love, a converted safety, are competing on the weakside.

3. Will Prince break through? Prince has talent and he's been productive at times. A run of injuries hampered his progress in 2009. If he takes a step forward this fall and stays healthy, he has enough skill around him for the Bruins to score plenty of points.

Pac-10 lunch links: Huskies Pulu pleads guilty to assault

April, 29, 2010
4/29/10
2:30
PM ET
Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves.

Taylor Mays hurting after draft tumble

April, 24, 2010
4/24/10
11:19
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The NFL draft teaches hard lessons. Two USC players are learning that now: Taylor Mays and Everson Griffen.

Mays would have been a first-round pick last year. I know folks believe his perceived weaknesses would have revealed themselves on film Insider then just as they did this season. But the 2008 USC pass defense was simply extraordinary in large part because of Mays playing an intimidating and impenetrable center field.

So Mays blew it by coming back for his senior season. And he now knows this.

As for you, San Francisco 49ers fans: Didn't you guys do fairly well a few years back with another hard-hitting former USC safety? I got a $5 bill right here that says Mays is going to become an outstanding NFL safety.

Griffen is another story: First-round talent with questions about his attitude and work ethic. (Keep this in mind about Mays: his work ethic couldn't be any better).

Who would have thought that Washington's Daniel Te'o-Nesheim would go before Griffen? Te'o-Nesheim is superior to Griffen in only one way but its a critical one: motor. Griffen's is questionable, Te'o-Nesheim's is not.

The lesson here is that being good isn't enough. The NFL cares about the entire package. And NFL teams don't want players who aren't self-starters, who don't motivate themselves.

Take note incoming five-star recruits.

Here are the Pac-10 picks to this point (11:15 a.m. ET ).

First round
DE Tyson Alualu, California, Jacksonville (10)
RB Jahvid Best, California, Detroit (30)

Second round
DT Brian Price, UCLA, Tampa (35)
S T.J. Ward, Oregon, Cleveland (38)
TE Rob Gronkowski, Arizona, New England (42)
S Taylor Mays, USC, San Francisco (49)
RB Toby Gerhart, Stanford, Minnesota (51)
OT Charles Brown, USC, New Orleans (64)

Third round
TE Ed Dickson, Oregon, Baltimore (70)
WR Damian Williams, USC, Tennessee (77)
LB Donald Butler, Washington, San Diego (79)
DT Earl Mitchell, Arizona, Houston (81)
DE Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, Washington, Philadelphia (86)
OG Shawn Lauvao, Arizona State, Cleveland (92)
CB Kevin Thomas, USC, Indianapolis (94)

Fourth round
DE Everson Griffin, USC, Minnesota (100)
CB Alterraun Verner, UCLA, Tennessee (104)
CB Walter Thurmond, Oregon, Seattle (111)
RB Joe McKnight, USC, New York Jets (112)

Cal's Alualu surprise 10th pick in NFL draft

April, 23, 2010
4/23/10
9:58
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Here's a prediction: California defensive end Tyson Alualu is going to surprise some folks and end up a top-10 NFL draft pick.

Little late on that one, eh?

Alualu was the first Pac-10 player drafted Thursday night -- which was projected by no one -- going 10th overall to the Jacksonville Jaguars, while Bears teammate Jahvid Best was the only other conference player selected on Day 1. Best went to the Detroit Lions with the 30th pick.

Round 2 begins today at 6 p.m. ET. Expect the second round to include a number of Pac-10 players, including those who slipped during recent weeks, such as USC safety Taylor Mays and UCLA defensive tackle Brian Price.

Alualu is the highest Cal selection since Andre Carter was taken seventh overall by San Francisco in 2001. He is the Bears’ ninth top-10 pick in the draft’s history. And his selection was rated the "biggest reach" of the first day by Todd McShay.

Wrote McShay, "Jacksonville used the 10th overall pick to take California DT Tyson Alualu, who we feel is a good player but is only the No. 35 overall on our board. Top-10 money is pretty rich for a player like Alualu, especially when pass-rushers like Derrick Morgan and Jason Pierre-Paul would have offered much more value at that point."

Another notable pick is the Seattle Seahawks' selection of safety Earl Thomas at No. 14. That means former USC coach Pete Carroll wanted a safety but didn't want Mays.

Ouch.

Got to admit: I thought at least one team would jump on Mays just because of his athleticism, much like it took only one team to make Tim Tebow a No. 1 pick (Denver).

Another observation: Former Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford going No. 1 overall is a good thing for college football. It shows players who want to come back for their senior season that even a major injury won't automatically ruin your draft prospects.

Of course, Mays right now is probably questioning his decision to return, considering he likely would have been a top-15 pick in 2009.

Big names gone, UCLA to reload on defense

April, 21, 2010
4/21/10
2:35
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LOS ANGELES -- The UCLA glass is half-empty on defense. Everyone acknowledges that losing first-team All-Pac-10 tackle Brian Price, cornerback Alterraun Verner and linebacker Reggie Carter as well as three other starters from one of the best units in the conference is an issue.

But the Bruins glass is also half-full on that side of the ball.

"Rahim Moore, Akeem Ayers, Datone Jones, David Carter -- those four guys are big-time players," coach Rick Neuheisel said. "They all will get chances to play at the next level. The next seven who come after them have to play their [rear ends] off. I think there's enough talent. There's just not a lot of experience."

Fact is the Bruins look pretty good getting off the bus. Take converted tight end Nate Chandler, a 6-foot-5, 291 pounder who's lining up beside Carter at defensive tackle.

"He's a physical specimen. In the weight room, he's a freak of nature," quarterback Kevin Prince said.

Then there are cornerbacks Sheldon Price and Aaron Hester. Both are over 6-feet. Both are fast. Both have good hips.

"You can't go out and look at two prettier corners," Neuheisel said. "They look like what the NFL looks for. But they've got to play like it."

Glenn Love has a 6-foot-4 frame that could fill out and make him a speedy outside linebacker instead of an inconsistent safety. Hard-hitting Patrick Larimore is making noise at middle linebacker, where he's competing with Steve Sloan.

Still, the front-seven depth is questionable. What is not questionable is whether a highly rated crew of incoming freshmen will contribute. "They have to," Neuheisel said.

The Bruins led the conference in turnover margin a year ago in large part because they forced 30, which was five more than any other team. Three fourths of a secondary that grabbed 20 interceptions is back. UCLA ranked third in scoring defense (21.2 ppg) and total defense (334 yards per game), which was even more impressive when you consider that the offense was mostly rotten.

The offense should be better this fall because Prince and most of the starters are back. The question now is whether -- or how much -- the defense falls off. It has been solid in recent years in large part due to Price, Verner and Carter, who combined for 120 starts over the past four seasons.

"I feel real comfortable with the defense," Prince said. "They don't have the names yet but I think they will start establishing names for themselves."

That's the message. The big names are gone. Which means new names are poised to grow.

Jones, for one, thinks the defense will be faster in 2010. And, he said, it will play angry.

"A lot of guys think we lost a lot but we're going to be loaded," he said.

Former Pac-10 players on top-100 list

April, 16, 2010
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Twelve former Pac-10 players -- topped by USC defensive end Everson Griffen at No. 20 overall -- made the Scouts Inc. top-100 list of NFL draft prospects, which was published in the latest ESPN Magazine.

Those players are (number is top-100 rank):

20. Everson Griffen, DE, USC
21. Taylor Mays, S, USC
24. Brian Price, DT, UCLA
37. Tyson Alualu, DT, California
41. Jahvid Best, RB, California
43. Rob Gronkowski, TE, Arizona
46. Charles Brown, OT, USC
52. Damian Williams, WR, USC
62. Anthony McCoy, TE, USC
74. Joe McKnight, RB, USC
88. T.J. Ward, S, Oregon
94. Ed Dickson, TE, Oregon

Bigger shoes than you think: UCLA

April, 2, 2010
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Seventh in a series looking at lineup holes that are important even if they don't make headlines.

UCLA

Everybody is talking about: Three defensive players who earned first-team All-Pac-10 honors need to be replaced: defensive tackle Brian Price, linebacker Reggie Carter and cornerback Alterraun Verner.

Bigger shoes than you think: The Bosworth brothers: defensive end Korey and weak side linebacker Kyle.

These two never became stars but they were multi-year starters who played hard and made plenty of plays for a good defense. Kyle ranked second on the Bruins in 2009 with 77 tackles, with 7.5 coming for a loss. Korey ranked sixth on the team with 58 tackles, 14 coming for a loss. He also broke up five passes.

Who is stepping in: There's not much experience at either position, and it's possible that incoming freshman will immediately enter the mix at both spots. At end, redshirt freshman Keenan Graham is atop the spring depth chart ahead of sophomore Iuta Tepa, who recorded a single tackle last year. There's also senior Reginald Stokes, who's seen plenty of action but is sitting out spring practices with a knee injury. His status for the fall is "undetermined." At linebacker, junior Sean Westgate will get first crack. He recorded 18 tackles last year. Behind him are true freshman Jared Koster, who grayshirted in 2009, and converted safety Glenn Love.

Nine Pac-10 players rank on Kiper's top-five list by position

April, 1, 2010
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A bevy of Pac-10 players may not be selected in the first round of the NFL draft on April 22, but the second and third rounds will feature plenty of West Coast flavor, at least according to Mel Kiper.

Kiper ranks nine conference players among the top-five at their respective positions.
Notice that seven different schools have players ranked. While no Oregon State or Stanford players were ranked, both schools are certain to produce draft picks: quarterback Sean Canfield and linebacker Keaton Kristick for the Beavers and running back Toby Gerhart and offensive lineman Chris Marinelli for the Cardinal.

That leaves out only Washington State, and center Kenny Alfred might just get picked late in the draft -- he's not off the radar.

Not since 2007 have all 10 conference teams had at least one player drafted -- see some lean years for Stanford, Washington and Arizona.

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