Pac-12: Brice Schwab
2012 record: 8-5
2012 conference record: 5-4 (Second in South Division)
Returning starters: Offense 6; defense 8; Kick/punt: 2
Top returners: QB Taylor Kelly, DT Will Sutton, LB Carl Bradford, RB Marion Grice, RB D.J. Foster, LT Evan Finkenberg, TE/H Chris Coyle, S Alden Darby, DE Junior Onyeali
Key losses: RB Cameron Marshall, LB Brandon Magee, WR Rashad Ross, P Josh Hubner, OL Andrew Sampson, OL Brice Schwab.
2012 statistical leaders (*returners)
Rushing: Marion Grice* (679)
Passing: Taylor Kelly* (3,039)
Receiving: Chris Coyle* (696)
Tackles: Brandon Magee (113)
Sacks: Will Sutton* (13)
Interceptions: Keelan Johnson (5)
- Dynamic duo (1): Running backs Marion Grice and D.J. Foster should make up one of the most prolific 1-2 punches in college football. This was the first time for both to go through full springs at a major college (Grice was a JC transfer, Foster is a sophomore) and the reports are both have added speed and muscle to their frames. With the way ASU uses its backs in the passing game, expect big total yardage numbers from both in 2013.
- Dynamic duo (2): On the opposite side of the ball, DT Will Sutton and linebacker Carl Bradford make up an equally dangerous tandem. There are only 10 players in FBS football returning with 10-plus sacks from 2012. And ASU has two of them. Sutton, the league's defensive player of the year, had 13 and Bradford notched 11.5. Combined with several other returning starters, the Sun Devils boast one of the top front sevens in the league.
- QB depth: Per head coach Todd Graham, Mike Bercovici had a fantastic spring. We know Kelly is entrenched as the starter. But with Bercovici surging and Michael Eubank bringing the dimension he brings, the Sun Devils have fantastic depth at the position -- something very important for a team hoping to make a championship run.
- WR questions: Help should be on the way. Graham called wide receiver his biggest need and the 2013 class includes Jaelen Strong, Ronald Lewis, Joe Morris, Cameron Smith and Ellis Jefferson. When they get put into the fold, it should make an immediate impact on depth and athleticism at the position. All five are at least 6-foot, giving Kelly plenty of options and wiggle room in the red zone.
- Line depth: It's always a concern. And while the Sun Devils look stacked on the defensive line, they are working to replace departed Andrew Sampson and Brice Schwab. The staff spent the spring working Sil Ajawara (LG) and Vi Teofilo (RG) into the starting five. Behind them is some versatility in Tyler Sulka, Devin Goodman and Mo Latu.
- Special improvements: Graham called ASU's special teams middle of the road last year -- stressing they need to improve in the kicking game if they want to be a better team. Departed punter Josh Hubner was one of the best in the league. Dom Vizzare looks to step in but will be pushed by incoming freshman Matt Haack. Zane Gonzalez was brought in to push returning kickers Alex Garoutte and Jon Mora.
Ka'Deem Carey, RB, Arizona: Carey was a hyped recruit from Tucson -- Canyon del Oro High -- and the local boy seems likely to make good this year after rushing for 425 yards as a freshman. He led a solid crew of backs this spring.
Brice Schwab, OT, Arizona State: It's been a long time coming for Schwab, who has gone from heralded junior-college transfer to bust to likely starting right tackle. Schwab's problem when he arrived was conditioning: He was huge but it wasn't good weight. And he was way too weak. He started four games in 2010 and struggled, then redshirted last season in order to get in better shape. Once a 340-pounder, he's now 6-foot-7, 295. And he's a better player.
Deandre Coleman, DE, California: Said coach Jeff Tedford of the 6-5, 311-pound junior: "He may be one of the best that we've ever had." That about sums it up. Coleman dominated this spring, looking like an all-conference candidate.
Tony Jones, RB, Colorado: Replacing the highly productive Rodney Stewart was a spring priority and Jones, a sophomore, answered the bell. Jones is built a little like the diminutive "Speedy" -- 5-7, 175 pounds -- and he has a versatile range of skills, just like Stewart. With questions at quarterback, he will be asked to do a lot. Just like Stewart.
Colt Lyerla, TE, Oregon: Lyerla should be a big weapon for whomever wins the Ducks' quarterback job. The 6-5, 238 pound sophomore should step in for the departed David Paulson and could end up as one of the Ducks' leading receivers. He caught just seven passes last year, but five went for touchdowns. He's a special athlete with a year of seasoning, which often is the foundation for a breakout.
Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State: Cooks has speed and quickness and will play opposite one of the best receivers in the conference in Markus Wheaton. He caught 31 passes for 391 yards and three TDs last year while being extremely raw. He's less raw now and has good upside. And it will help that defenses will obsess over Wheaton.
James Vaughters, LB, Stanford: The coaches have said they are going to let the leash off of this aggressive, physically imposing linebacker and see what happens. We know he'll be at middle linebacker (as opposed to just a third-down specialist last year) where he's expected to wreak havoc.
Steven Manfro, RB, UCLA: Speed and quickness. There is a difference, but Manfro has both. He excelled in the spring sessions and though he sits third on the UCLA depth chart, he might work his way into carries if he continues to show explosive breakaway ability.
Isiah Wiley, CB, USC: Wiley quietly started the final six games in 2011 and played fairly well. While he's a senior, this is only the JC transfer's second year in the program. This spring, he took a step forward and seems likely to start opposite Nickell Robey.
V.J. Fehoko, LB, Utah: With possibly the best defensive line in the conference in front of him and offenses keying in on Trevor Reilly, Fehoko could be in position to be extremely productive filling the shoes of Chaz Walker. Similar build as Walker, who tallied 118 tackles last year.
James Johnson, WR, Washington: After an injury-plagued career, Johnson is finally healthy and in the starting lineup. The physical tools are all there and the quarterback is in place for him to put up some solid numbers -- if he can stay on the field.
Andrei Lintz, WR, Washington State: This converted tight end was the talk of WSU's spring session. He has the hands and size to be effective over the middle and he showed great chemistry with Jeff Tuel during the 15 practices. The more attention Marquess Wilson draws, the more opportunities there will be for Lintz to excel.
2011 conference record: 4-5 (T 3rd, South)
Offense: 4; defense: 7; kicker/punter: 2
RB Cameron Marshall, OT Evan Finkenberg, WR Jamal Miles, LB Brandon Magee, DT Will Sutton
QB Brock Osweiler, WR Gerell Robinson, WR Aaron Pflugrad, C Garth Gerhart, LB Vontaze Burfict, LB Colin Parker, S Clint Floyd
2011 statistical leaders (*returner)
Rushing: Cameron Marshall* (1,050 yards)
Passing: Brock Osweiler (4,036 yards)
Receiving: Gerell Robinson (1,397 yards)
Tackles: Colin Parker (75)
Sacks: Vontaze Burfict (5)
Interceptions: Clint Floyd (4)
1. He's selling, you buying? New head coach Todd Graham describes himself as an "old school" guy, meaning no swearing, no jewelry, yes sir, no sir ... that kind of stuff. His practices are intense, as is the fast-paced offense he's installing. Players talked about being a little shell-shocked by how he does things and the discipline he demands. But so far, they seem to have taken to it.
2. Oh, line: Once thought to be a concern for the Sun Devils after losing three offensive linemen from last year's squad, Graham has gone out of his way to note how good the unit looks. They are set at left tackle with Evan Finkenberg, a two-year starter, but he's versatile enough to play anywhere on the line. Andrew Sampson has 20 consecutive starts. Jamil Douglas, Kody Koebensky and Brice Schwab should fill out the line.
3. Back attack: The Sun Devils have something special in running back Cameron Marshall, who should flourish with Graham's downhill running offense. Behind him is a deep, talented group, but little is known about the pecking order. Kyle Middlebrooks, James Morrison, Deantre Lewis, Marion Grice and incoming freshman D.J. Foster all figure to play some sort of role. Worth keeping an eye on Marshall's surgically repaired foot as well. He's expected to be 100 percent by fall. While this might be ASU's deepest group, there is still some uncertainty to how it will all look in Week 1.
1. QB question mark: Graham hinted that the coaching staff is closer to a decision on their quarterback than they are probably letting on publicly. Still, the public at large is no closer to knowing whether it will be Mike Bercovici, Michael Eubank or Taylor Kelly running the show. Each has their own unique skill sets, but fans are calling for Eubank, who many have dubbed a Cam Newton replica.
2. Magee back? The return of linebacker Brandon Magee, who was limited in spring as he continues to recover from a torn Achilles that kept him out of 2011, would be a monumentally huge step in the right direction for the Sun Devils. And for Graham. Magee is not only a talented linebacker, he's a locker room guy who commands the respect of his teammates. They'll usually step in line with him. And if he's good to go, it would be a big step for the Sun Devils on and off the field.
3. New offense, new(er) receivers: Jamal Miles returns as the second-leading receiver (60 catches) and is a dynamic player, but there isn't a ton of experience at the position as the Sun Devils said goodbye to five scholarship receivers. Projected starters Rashad Ross and Kevin Ozier combined for just 29 catches between them last season. J.J. Holliday, A.J. Pickens and Kevin Anderson all figure to be in the mix as well. Plus there are more coming with the recruiting class and their impact remains to be seen.
So more important than the Xs and Os, Graham is stressing the dos and don'ts of being in his program and the challenges that come from making a culture change. And after a few months on the job, he's pleased to report that, in his mind, Arizona State is headed in the right direction.
"The thing I'm most proud of is how they responded to such a drastic change," said Graham. "In terms of accountability -- we expect them to go to class every day, we check every class, we drug test every kid in the program. We're trying to install this structure and discipline and I'm proud of the way this team has responded to that and embraced that. The guys have bought in."
"Those first six practices, you know how it is when you are trying to change things up, you just want to beat your head against a wall," Graham said. "But on the seventh practice, I got the impression that they were finally getting it."
Graham said he's been impressed with the offensive line play -- which he thought was going to be a question mark heading into the spring. He was complimentary of returning starters Evan Finkenberg and Andrew Sampson, but also noted that Brice Schwab and Jamil Douglas "have really been impressive."
"I think the strength of our defense is the defensive line so those guys [on the offensive line] are playing against some pretty good competition," Graham said. "Every day those guys get a little better. That has been a real bright spot."
Graham didn't add much to what offensive coordinator Mike Norvell said last week about the quarterback competition, but he did single out the springs of running back Cameron Marshall, safety Alden Darby, cornerback Osahon Irabor, defensive tackle Corey Adams and wide receivers Jamal Miles and Rashad Ross.
"Miles has really started to master his craft," Graham said. "He's been very disciplined in his route running. Marshall is at the front of a stable that I think is going to be very good.
"The reality is that we still have a long way to go. But I've got confidence because I think this team is coming together because of each one of them buying in and working as a team. We are making great progress in developing that trust that it takes to be a family and a team and a team that wins. I remind them every day that we're going to be a team that wins championships and you can't do that without winning every day in everything that you do."
- Former Arizona defensive end Ricky Elmore awaits a call from the NFL.
- Once a touted recruit, now a backup, Arizona State offensive lineman Brice Schwab is motivated by his detractors.
- Some thoughts on why former California defensive end Cameron Jordan slid to the bottom half of the first round. And some thoughts on quarterback Beau Sweeney's transfer.
- Former Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith went to the Baltimore Ravens.
- Information on Oregon's spring game Saturday.
- Checking in with injured Oregon State quarterback Ryan Katz. And the Beavers new coaches fly through their first spring.
- Some draft projections for some former Stanford players.
- UCLA has added an incoming freshman to its 2011 recruiting class. A depth-chart projection for the Bruins.
- More on former USC assistant coach Todd McNair losing his appeal to the NCAA. And here. Thoughts on quarterback Matt Barkley's mobility.
- An update at Block U. Jon Wilner is not impressed with Utah.
- It all worked out in the end for Jake Locker.
- Recalling former Washington State quarterback Ryan Leaf and considering how he has changed.
Tello didn't pass the sight test. Whatever he was listed at, he looked like he carried about 270 pounds on his 6-foot-3 frame. The sight test, of course, isn't always right, but it proved prescient in Tello's case as he struggled mightily in losses to UNLV and Georgia.
"I remember mentally just not being in the right spot," Tello said. "Mentally, I just fell apart. Everything I got thrown into and I just fell apart. It carried over to playing on the field."
This preseason, however, Tello might be a reason for hope. While he's again ascended to the starting lineup because of roster attrition -- the retirement due to knee injuries of guards Zach Schlink and Matt Hustad and the absence of Jon Hargis due to another knee injury -- he no longer does badly with the site test.
He's a solid 290 pounds. He bench presses over 400 pounds. He looks like a Pac-10 offensive lineman.
"This year I'm ready," he said. "I'm healthy. I got stronger. I got bigger in the weight room."
It all comes down to the offensive line for the Sun Devils. Sure, the quarterback competition is grabbing the spotlight, but Brock Osweiler, Steven Threet and Samson Szakacsy each appear capable of giving the offense at least competent play at the position. Perhaps even more than that. But the line's competency will determine the ultimate trajectory of the season -- either a third-straight losing one or a run to a bowl game.
Make no mistake: There are legitimate reasons to question the line. With four career starts, Tello will be the Sun Devils second most experienced lineman behind center Garth Gerhart (10 starts). Left tackle Dan Knapp is a converted tight end. Right tackle Evan Finkenberg is a redshirt freshman. Right guard Brice Schwab is a JC transfer.
There isn't anyone on the team who hasn't heard the doubts about the line. While many players and coaches feign ignorance when asked about preseason rankings and skeptical media reports, Gerhart admits he reads just about everything. No, he doesn't like it or agree with it.
"It's real frustrating," he said. "You always see this stuff, 'Oh the offensive line is terrible! They're struggling!' It kills you because you know that you're that person they're talking about. But I think we might change people's minds about what they think of the offensive line at Arizona State."
Both Tello and Gerhart know there's an easy way to find out what their chances are this season: Block their own defense. The Sun Devils front seven should be one of the best in the Pac-10. That's been hit or miss thus far, but a new spread offense, which features a quick-hit passing attack, and better (read: faster) depth at the skill positions, should make life easier up front.
Gerhart also knows how fast teams can turn things around (in either direction). He and brother -- you may have heard of a former Stanford running back named Toby Gerhart -- used to talk on the phone in 2007. The Sun Devils were headed to a 10-win season. Stanford finished 4-8 after going 1-11 the year before.
"He used to tell me how it sucked, how he hated it and how happy he was that baseball season was coming around," the younger Gerhart recalled. "But [last year] he started telling me they were going to surprise people, and sure enough, they surprised everybody."
Will the Sun Devils surprise folks in 2010? Only if Tello, Gerhart and their linemates dramatically improve over the past two seasons.
The good news is they at least look like they could do it.
Sun Devils junior offensive lineman Matt Hustad has opted to retire after he couldn't beat recurrent knee problems. That means the two guards listed No. 1 on the preseason depth chart have ended their careers in the early days of fall camp due to injury: Hustad and Zach Schlink. And that doesn't included returning starter Jon Hargis, who suffered a season-ending knee injury during the spring.
Meanwhile, at UCLA, the foot injury defensive end Datone Jones suffered Tuesday is worse than originally thought and could end his season.
The Sun Devils are reshuffling their line, according to Doug Haller of the Arizona Republic:
With Hustad out, the Sun Devils changed their line Tuesday, moving 6-foot-7, 345-pound junior Brice Schwab to right guard. Junior Adam Tello was at left guard Wednesday, with junior Dan Knapp and redshirt freshman Evan Finkenberg at the tackles. If that line stays intact, ASU's front will open the season with just 14 career starts, 10 coming from center Garth Gerhart.
As for UCLA, Jones could still come back this season, though he has a redshirt year available. He will be replaced in the lineup by Nate Chandler, who played tight end last year and defensive tackle during spring practices.
2009 overall record: 4-8
2009 conference record: 2-7 (ninth)
Offense: 3, Defense: 4, punter/kicker: 2
Top returners: K Thomas Weber, DT Lawrence Guy, LB Vontaze Burfict, DE James Brooks
Key losses: WR Kyle Williams, WR Chris McGaha, RB Dimitri Nance, OT Shawn Lauvao, DE Dexter Davis, LB Travis Goethel, LB Mike Nixon
2009 statistical leaders (*returning starter)
Rushing: Dimitri Nance (795)
Passing: Danny Sullivan (1,939)
Receiving: Kyle Williams (815)
Tackles: Mike Nixon (73)
Sacks: Lawrence Guy* (4.5)
Interceptions: Mike Nixon, Jarrell Holman, Ryan McFoy (3)
1. Help at receiver: Even though the Sun Devils lost their top two receivers, Kyle Williams and Chris McGaha, the position appears fairly solid, particularly with Oregon transfer Aaron Pflugrad, who would have started for the Ducks in 2009, and JC transfer George Bell performing well this spring.
2. Em-Bolden: Cornerback Omar Bolden looked like the budding star he was supposed to be as a true freshman, but he struggled mightily as a sophomore and then missed 2009 with a knee injury. Entering spring, there were questions about whether he could regain a starting spot. No longer. Bolden may have turned in his best work yet this spring and should be a leader in the secondary.
3. For the defense: The Sun Devils lost seven starters from their outstanding 2009 defense, but they may be even better this fall. There's lots of speed and young players who excelled in 2009, most particularly linebacker Vontaze Burfict, had a year of seasoning in which to mature and refine their game.
1. Who's the QB? Before spring, many expected Michigan transfer Steven Threet to win the job. At the end of spring, sophomore Brock Osweiler instead emerged as the leader. In the fall, Samson Szakacsy rejoins the competition after sitting out spring drills, hopefully with a healthy arm. All three are capable, so there may be a few more plot twists before this one is resolved.
2. What about the O-line (again!)? The Sun Devils were already replacing two starters on the O-line when veteran guard Jon Hargis injured his knee, ending his 2010 season before it began, so there are lots of questions. For instance, will Zach Schlink and Matt Hustad be available? Both are talented but have been riddled with knee problems. And: Are JC transfer Brice Schwab and redshirt freshman Evan Finkenberg ready for Pac-10 play? Both are slated to start at tackle. It doesn't matter who plays QB if the O-line can't get the job done.
3. What about maturity? Sure, there's loads of talent on defense, but look at the sorts of guys who graduated: end Dexter Davis and linebackers Mike Nixon and Travis Goethel. Each were smart, savvy players and strong locker room guys. In other words, leaders. It's unclear who will fill their shoes. Even with those guys, the Sun Devils had over 1,000 yards in penalties last year -- 200 more than any other conference team. Smarter, more disciplined play might make a difference in close games.
"You want the long story or the short story?" Threet replies.
The short story: Threet signed with Georgia Tech out of Adrian (Mich.) High School but opted to transfer to Michigan when the Yellow Jackets changed offensive coordinators. Then the Wolverines changed head coaches and offenses from a pro-style scheme to a spread-option under Rich Rodriguez, which didn't fit the 6-foot-5, 237-pounder's style in the least.
The Sun Devils also have changed offensive coordinators since Threet arrived, but no matter. He's hopeful that three times -- and programs -- is the charm.
"I'm comfortable with this offense," he said.
Threet, now a junior, and true sophomore Brock Osweiler will be competing this spring to take the reins of an offense that can only get better in large part because it was mostly lousy in 2009, averaging just 18 points per game against BCS conference foes.
Osweiler (6-foot-8, 245 pounds) played in six games and started one -- an ill-fated, blowout loss at Oregon -- completing 43.6 percent of his passes for 249 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Threet started eight games at Michigan in 2008, completing 51 percent of his throws for 1,105 yards with nine touchdowns and seven interceptions. He also rushed for 201 yards and two scores, so he's not a complete stiff in the pocket.
Both guys have some experience, but neither was anything close to lights out. Both have talent. Both have leadership skills. Both are tall.
And it's a straight-up competition with no leader at this point, at least officially. Coach Dennis Erickson said he flipped a coin to decide who would get the first snaps with the No. 1 offense when spring practices started Tuesday. Threet won the toss, by the way.
"Steven has experience playing in games, and Brock has a lot of physical talent," Erickson said. "So we're going to give them both a fair shot and see what transpires."
Erickson said he's looking for accuracy and good decision making in the Sun Devils' "new" spread offense, which will be run by new coordinator Noel Mazzone.
"New" in quotes mostly means that the scheme looks a lot like what Erickson did in the past when his offenses were humming -- spread the field with four receivers and control the game's tempo.
"The guy who wins the job is the guy who manages what we do offensively," Mazzone said. "You can't be just a flash player and be a good quarterback. The, 'Oh, man, he's got a strong arm -- did you see him throw that one deep?' So what? Can a guy move the football, keep us out of bad situations with down and distance and protect the football?"
Four of those losses, all to teams that won at least eight games, came by a combined 13 points. Those are puncture wounds. They don't look so bad on the outside, but the internal damage was severe. The other four came by at least 10 points. Those wounds are much messier.
So what did the autopsy reveal?
Start with a bad offense, one that averaged just 22.3 points and 334.4 yards per game -- numbers that ranked eighth and ninth in the Pac-10 -- and cost coordinator Rich Olson his job. That's the most obvious disease.
"You don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that we've got to figure out how to score some points," Erickson said.
But when you talk to the Sun Devils, many of them seem to believe the 2009 season passed away because of internal injuries.
"I think it was a lack of leadership," safety Clint Floyd said. "We didn't have much leadership last year. Guys wanted to be individuals. They didn't want to play as a whole, as a unit. I think that caused us to not be successful. Some guys were just out there for themselves."
Kicker Thomas Weber cited "a snowball effect": "It was one thing after another, and I think we could have reacted a lot better to certain things that happened, to losing those close games, instead of getting down on certain guys and stuff like that."
Weber saw the locker room fracture between one of the nation's best defenses -- 13th in the nation in total defense -- and the woeful offense.
"You could definitely see it happening like that," he said. "We weren't being accountable on both sides of the ball. I think that was one of our weaknesses last year -- that we did start to do stuff like that. Guys on the defensive side started to get on offensive side, instead of pushing them and supporting them. It was more like ridicule, coming down hard on them when some of the things they couldn't control."
Not to beat an already tortured metaphor, but the internal illness of 2009 is the foundation for the preventative medicine being implemented while 2010 is in its infancy as spring practices commenced this week.
The Sun Devils should again be good on defense, where they are fast and talented. New faces provide hope for offensive improvement, from new coordinator Noel Mazzone to quarterback Steven Threet, a Michigan transfer, to receiver Aaron Pflugrad, an Oregon transfer, to mammoth tackle Brice Schwab, a highly touted JC transfer who was headed to USC before Pete Carroll bolted for the NFL.
But the players talk as much about accountability, unity, goal setting, hard work and being positive with each other. If that all sounds like the Sun Devils have been working with a life coach, well, that's because they have.
Erickson enlisted the Pacific Institute and its PX2 program to help his players get their minds right.
"It's about getting your life going in the right direction, being responsible, being accountable," Erickson said. "It's not just about playing football. It's about their life after playing football."
Perhaps that raises an eyebrow or provokes a smirk. Moreover, it's not hard to imagine the same reaction from players who might be skeptical of self-help mumbo-jumbo.
That may be the case -- and probably is for some -- but it also appears that more than a few are buying in.
"It's a pretty cool thing," offensive lineman Matt Hustad said. "Lots of psychological stuff. Knowing what you want your goals to be. A lot of it has to do with keeping the positives in your life and weeding out the negative."
Hustad, who has suffered through three knee operations and will be limited to non-contact work this spring, said the Sun Devils, hungry to reverse the losing trajectory the program has taken since going 10-3 in 2007 -- Erickson's first season -- have set their jaded, young-adult cynicism aside.
"Usually, when we do these big team things people are kind of iffy about it, but I haven't heard one negative thing," he said. "Believe me, I'd hear it if people didn't like it."
Erickson himself isn't letting the negative chatter or sagging ticket sales drive him to distraction. This isn't his first tour of duty, after all. He turned 63 last week and has coached six college teams -- seven if you count two stints with Idaho separately -- and two NFL teams. While his NFL résumé isn't terribly impressive, he's always been a winner in college.
Hot seat? Whatever.
"I don't worry about that stuff," he said. "I've been on the hot seat 100,000 times in my life. It doesn't even phase me."
And he's got a encouraging prognosis for 2010: "We'll be a lot better next year," he said.
Here are some guesses.
LB Derek Earls, 6-3, 220 and/or LB Paul Vassallo, 6-3, 240
The Wildcats must replace all three starting linebackers from 2009. It's almost certain at least one of these two JC transfers starts.
OT Brice Schwab, 6-7, 310
Schwab, a touted JC transfer who originally committed to USC, is expected to immediately work his way into the Sun Devils' starting lineup, giving their beleaguered offensive line a boost.
RB Trajuan Briggs, 5-11, 200
Through the years, Cal has thrived with a tandem of running backs. With the departure of Jahvid Best, Shane Vereen moves up to No. 1. But who's his wingman? Coach Jeff Tedford gushed about Briggs at signing day, and he'll be there to compete this spring.
DE Isaac Remington, 6-5, 265 and/or DE Anthony Anderson
The Ducks lost two starting defensive linemen, including end Will Tukuafu. Kenny Rowe is the undersized speed rusher on one side, but can Remington immediately push himself into the mix on the other? And will Anderson step up after making noise as a freshman on the scout team?
WR Markus Wheaton, 6-0, 167
The Beavers don't have any flashy newcomers this spring, but Wheaton, who caught eight passes last year, is a potentially dynamic player who might assert himself this spring.
WR Jamal-Rashad Patterson, 6-3, 201
Stanford doesn't have any new guys around for spring practices, but Patterson, a touted 2009 recruit who caught one pass as a true freshman, probably senses his opportunity. With Toby Gerhart gone, and quarterback Andrew Luck back, the Cardinal figures to throw the ball more in 2010, which means the receivers will need to step up.
TE Joseph Fauria, 6-7, 245
The Bruins lost two quality senior tight ends, but this Notre Dame transfer figures to step right in and compete for playing time.
WR Kyle Prater, 6-5, 200
With the departure of Damian Williams, there will be opportunities for young USC receivers. Prater's big frame would be a nice complement to Ronald Johnson's speed.
RB Deontae Cooper, 6-1, 185
With starter Chris Polk sitting out this spring after shoulder surgery, Cooper should get plenty of opportunities to make a statement that he's ready to contribute as a true freshman.
OT David Gonzales, 6-5,290 and/or G Wade Jacobson, 6-5, 300
Washington State has to get better on the offensive line. These two might begin to fight their way into the starting lineup this spring.
The Sun Devils defense broke through last fall, but the offense struggled -- again --and lost seven starters. The class includes five receivers and three running backs, and it's almost certain at least a couple will be in the rotation in the fall.
Top prospects: You can probably pencil in Brice Schwab as a starting offensive tackle. Erickson called the 6-foot-8, 320 pounder "the best junior college offense lineman that I saw." Offensive guard Chris De Armas also could break through. The Sun Devils needed a tight end and Josh Fulton is a good one, though he is recovering from shoulder surgery. Safety Eddie Elder was signed to compete immediately for playing time. Erickson said receiver George Bell "could be special."
Under the radar: Erickson compared receiver Michael Willie to T. J. Houshmandzadeh, whom he coached at Oregon State. He called cornerback Alden Darby a "sleeper." Erickson compared the class' lone quarterback, Taylor Kelly, to Jake Plummer.
Issues: The class was generally ranked in the bottom half of the Pac-10. And the influx of junior college players might send up a red flag to some. It's a little surprising Erickson wasn't able to sign a couple of highly rated skill position players, considering the immediate opportunity to play.
Notes: Two key players not listed in the class are transfers: quarterback Steven Threet (Michigan) and Aaron Pflugrad (Oregon). Both could be starters in the fall ... Erickson said Joita Te'i and Calvin Tonga will start out on the defensive line but could end up as offensive linemen ... The class features players from five states.
First, fans and media -- particularly around Tennessee -- are outraged. And the media reaction in LA isn't exactly a warm hug.
But one place where Kiffin landing at USC is seemingly being met with great cheer is recruiting. At least on the Trojans' end of things.
Tennessee? Not so much.
You can follow along here -- count on numerous updates over the coming days as national signing day nears.
The early returns are the Vols are getting a number of decommits from their class, which was ranked sixth in the nation before Kiffin bolted, while USC's class is getting good news, starting with a reaffirmation from elite receiver Kyle Prater, who told ESPN's Greg Biggins that he will enroll at USC next week and be available to participate in spring practices.
What about QB Jesse Scroggins?
"[I'm] Overjoyed. Excited," Scroggins told ESPN affiliate Web site WeAreSC.com. "Lane recruited me at Tennessee as his No. 1 quarterback. I went on an unofficial visit to Tennessee in April. At that time he told me he was going to run an offensive system similar to USC and that I was perfect for the system."The big question: Will some of these marquee Tennessee guys follow Kiffin to USC?
And what about big-ticket recruits like DE Ronald Powell (a Florida commit over USC), DE Jackson Jeffcoat (uncommitted), OT Brice Schwab (a USC decommit after Pete Carroll's departure to Seattle) and OT Seantrel Henderson (uncommitted)?
Here's the shocker: With Kiffin and recruiting star Ed Orgeron back in Heritage Hall, the Trojans' class might actually moves up in the national rankings -- it's presently 11th -- after Carroll's departure.
Who saw that coming?