Pac-12: Brooks Reed

Pac-12 lunch links

May, 27, 2014
May 27
2:30
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Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.

Big NFL draft year for the Pac-12

August, 25, 2011
8/25/11
12:32
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ESPN.com's NFL draft experts are well into their preseason evaluation of draft eligible players, and there is a lot of early love for the Pac-12, which could produce as many as eight to 10 first-round picks.

Consider this evaluation of the top-three offensive tackles: USC's Matt Kalil, Stanford's Jonathan Martin and Iowa's Riley Reiff. The analysis is based on how each did against former Arizona defensive end Brooks Reed, a second-round selection for the Houston Texans.

Steve Muench rated them like this: 1. Kalil; 2. Reiff; 3. Martin.

Overall, this year's top tackles acquitted themselves nicely against a top-level defensive player in Brooks. That will be noted in their evaluations as the draft process plays out, and these same comparisons could come into play for teams seeking to separate these players on their boards.


Then there are the quarterbacks. Three of the top-four prospects are from the Pac-12: Stanford's Andrew Luck (duh), USC's Matt Barkley and Arizona's Nick Foles.

Luck is No. 1 for mental makeup, second for accuracy, first for release/arm strength and first for pocket mobility. It was a bit surprising that Foles ranked ahead of Barkley for arm strength.

This ranking of running backs is sure to get Oregon and Washington fans nipping at each other (shocker): The Huskies' Chris Polk is the No. 2 running back behind Alabama's Trent Richardson, while the Ducks' LaMichael James is fifth.

(Please wait until the innocent blogger is out of the way before you start brawling).

Three of the top four tight ends and four of the top-seven are from the Pac-12: Stanford's Coby Fleener at No. 2, Oregon's David Paulson at No. 3, USC's Rhett Ellison at No. 4 and California's Anthony Miller at No. 7.

The list of offensive linemen has Kalil and Martin at Nos. 1 and 2. I would encourage Scouts Inc. to break out film of Stanford's David DeCastro: If he's not one of the first three guards off the draft board, well, cut off my legs and call me shorty.

Arizona's Juron Criner is ranked No. 5 among the receivers.

Defense will be up next.

While you were on vacation... Arizona

August, 1, 2011
8/01/11
4:51
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The first of 12 quick updates on offseason Pac-12 goings on.

Arizona in a sentence
  • The Wildcats are hoping to ride quarterback Nick Foles and a deep crew of receivers -- topped by Juron Criner -- to redemption after losing their final five games in 2010 after a 7-1 start.
The big issue
  • While replacing three productive defensive ends -- including multi-year starters Brooks Reed and Ricky Elmore -- is a big deal, even more critical is replacing all five starting offensive linemen from 2010.
Quick hit news
  • Knee injuries were epidemic for the Wildcats this offseason. Two defensive starters -- safety Adam Hall and linebacker Jake Fischer -- suffered knee injuries during spring practices, while backup running back Greg Nwoko and defensive tackle Willie Mobley also went down.
  • Criner's status seemed questionable at one point this summer amid reports he might miss the season because of personal issues. That apparently is no longer a concern, as coach Mike Stoops said at Pac-12 media day, "Juron just had some personal and family issues with his mother that he had to attend to."
  • The Wildcats are perilously thin at linebacker, and not only because of Fischer's knee injury. Two backups from 2010, R.J. Young and Trevor Erno, quit the team, and Kyle Benson was ruled academically ineligible. JC transfer David Lopez is listed No. 1 on the preseason depth chart at Fischer's strongside spot, while walk-on Bilal Muhammed is listed as the backup at the other two spots. Lopez was headed to FCS program Portland State before he signed in June. It's very likely at least one of the incoming freshmen -- Rob Hankins, Hank Hobson and Domonique Petties -- will see action (though Petties is still working through some NCAA Clearinghouse issues, which could cut into his camp preparation).
  • Both No. 1 offensive tackles, Mickey Baucus and Fabbians Ebbele are redshirt freshmen. On the plus side for the future, no member of the offensive line 2-deep is a senior.
  • The Wildcats had a number of staff changes during the offseason: On the offensive line, Robert Anae replaced Bill Bedenbaugh, who left for West Virginia, and Seth Littrell moved up from co-offensive coordinator to offensive coordinator; Co-defensive coordinator/secondary coach Greg Brown and defensive line coach Mike Tuiasosopo left for Colorado; Tim Kish moved up from co-defensive coordinator to defensive coordinator, Joe Salave'a became the defensive line coach and Ryan Walters took over the secondary, but only after Duane Akina changed his mind and returned to Texas.

Four football players win Hansen Medal

July, 11, 2011
7/11/11
7:00
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Four former Pac-12 football players were awarded the Tom Hansen Conference Medal, which is given annually to each member institution’s outstanding senior male and female student-athlete based on "the exhibition of the greatest combination of performance and achievement in scholarship, athletics and leadership."

The winners were Oregon State center Alex Linnenkohl, Arizona defensive end Brooks Reed, Oregon center Jordan Holmes and Stanford fullback Owen Marecic.

The Tom Hansen Conference Medal winners will be honored at the State Farm Pride of the Pac-12 Breakfast held in Los Angeles in conjunction with the Pacific Life Pac-12 men's and women's basketball tournaments next March.

The Tom Hansen Conference Medal was named in honor of Hansen, who served 26 years as commissioner of the Pac-10 Conference, retiring in June of 2009. The award was first named in his honor in 2008-09.

You can view all the winners here.
The reality of college football is that all players eventually leave and the best players often leave sooner -- for the NFL draft -- than fans and coaches would want.

So while many view a count of returning starters as a great measure of what things might look like in the future, filling voids is really what spring practices are all about.

Many key conference players are off to the NFL. But which leaves behind the biggest hole?

For four years, Jake Locker was the face of Washington. While his numbers weren't good in 2010, he was the Huskies unquestioned leader, not to mention being good enough to go eighth overall in the NFL draft.

Just like Locker, Jacquizz Rodgers was the face of Oregon State, starting with his thrilling debut in the 2008 upset of USC. Speaking of difficult to replace, what about one player who was two players? That was Stanford's Owen Marecic in 2010, who was the Cardinal's starting fullback and linebacker.

Oregon is replacing three starters on its defensive line, but none was as productive over the past two seasons as end Kenny Rowe, who produced 20 sacks and 31.5 tackles for a loss over the past two seasons.

Spring wrap: Arizona

May, 9, 2011
5/09/11
11:30
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ARIZONA

2010 overall record: 7-6

2010 conference record: 4-5

Returning starters

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

Top returners

QB Nick Foles, WR Juron Criner, LB Paul Vassallo, DT Justin Washington, CB Trevin Wade

Key losses

C Colin Baxter, DE Brooks Reed, DE Ricky Elmore

2010 statistical leaders (*returning starter)

Rushing: Keola Antolin* (668)

Passing: Nick Foles* (3,191)

Receiving: Juron Criner* (1,233)

Tackles: Paul Vassallo* (102)

Sacks: Ricky Elmore (11)

Interceptions: Joseph Perkins, Adam Hall*, Shaquille Richardson* (2)

Spring answers

1. Set at QB: With starter Nick Foles and backups Matt Scott and Bryson Beirne, no team in the conference will be as comfortable at quarterback. Foles is a three-year starter and All-American candidate who likely will be a high NFL draft pick. The hope is to redshirt Scott so he can return in 2012 and compete for the starting job with Rutgers transfer Tom Savage, but if Scott is needed he can seamlessly step in. Toss in the veteran Beirne, and you have a troika that combined for 31 completions, 380 yards and four scores in a 60-play scrimmage.

2. Deep at receiver: This is without question the deepest corps of receivers in the Pac-12 and one of the best in the nation, starting with All-American candidate Juron Criner. Texas transfer Dan Buckner provides another big target, and David Douglas, David Roberts, Richard Morrison, Terrence Miller, Austin Hill, Tyler Slavin and Garic Wharton provide plenty of options for Foles. Yes, the Wildcats should be able to pass this fall.

3. Secondary not really an issue: Free safety Adam Hall is a budding star, so you can't write off his knee injury this spring, but the Wildcats are fairly stacked in the secondary. Robert Golden can move back to strong safety from cornerback, while Trevin Wade, Jonathan McKnight and Shaquille Richardson give the defense three strong options at cornerback. Marquis Flowers is a rising star at safety. Of course, it would be nice to get Hall back at some point this season.

Fall questions

1. Young on the offensive line: There was optimism about the five new offensive line starters this spring, but, heck, it's five new offensive line starters. That's not an easy thing in the Pac-12. It typically takes a young line time to develop chemistry, so it will be interesting to see how the process goes for the Cats. Redshirt freshman tackles Mickey Baucus and Fabbians Ebbele looked solid, as did junior Trace Biskin and sophomore Chris Putton at the guards. Junior center Kyle Quinn is the only guy with a start to his credit (one, in the Alamo Bowl).

2. Help wanted at linebacker: The Wildcats welcomed back all three starting linebackers from 2010 until Jake Fisher went down late in the spring game with a knee injury. That brought up an issue: Sure, the starters were back but there was little to no depth behind them, particularly after two backups who were expected to return in 2011 quit the team. That means incoming freshmen will be thrown immediately into the mix: Rob Hankins, Hank Hobson and Domonique Petties.

3. Edge rush? The Wildcats are replacing three defensive ends who were selected in the NFL draft, including Brooks Reed and Ricky Elmore, multi-year starters who combined for 17.5 sacks last fall. Converted linebacker C.J. Parish was a breakout player this spring, and Mohammed Usman is solid. Still, just how good will the edge pressure be with this much inexperience?

Final Pac-12 NFL draft tally

May, 1, 2011
5/01/11
12:10
PM ET
The Pac-12 provided 37 players to the NFL draft over the weekend, one fewer than the SEC, which led all conferences.

If the six combined picks from Colorado and Utah are taken away from the conference, the old Pac-10 provided NFL teams 3.1 draft picks per team, also just behind the SEC at 3.17.

Here's where the Pac-12 players went:

First round
No. 8 Jake Locker, QB, Washington: Tennessee
No. 9 Tyron Smith., OT, USC: Dallas
No. 17 Nate Solder, OT, Colorado: New England
No. 24 Cameron Jordan, DE, California: New Orleans
No. 27 Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado: Baltimore

Second round
7. Akeem Ayers, LB, UCLA: Tennessee
10. Brooks Reed, DE, Arizona: Houston
13. Rahim Moore, FS, UCLA: Denver
21. Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State: Chicago
24. Shane Vereen, RB, California: New England

Third round
13. Jurrell Casey, DT, USC: Tennessee
20. Mason Foster, LB, Washington: Tampa Bay
25. Shareece Wright, CB, USC: San Diego
29. Christopher Conte, S, California: Chicago
33. Sione Fua, DT, Stanford: Carolina

Fourth round
5. Jordan Cameron, TE, USC: Cleveland
19. Casey Matthews, LB, Oregon: Philadelphia
21. Jalil Brown, CB, Colorado: Kansas City
27. Owen Marecic, FB, Stanford: Cleveland

Fifth round
8. Brandon Burton, CB, Utah: Minnesota
9. Gabe Miller, DE, Oregon State: Kansas City
14. Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, Oregon State: Atlanta
23. Richard Sherman, CB, Stanford: Seattle

Sixth round
2. Ryan Whalen, WR, Stanford: Cincinnati
14. Caleb Schlauderaff, OG, Utah: Green Bay
17. Ronald Johnson, WR, USC: San Francisco
19. David Carter, DT, UCLA: Arizona
22. Allen Bradford, RB, USC: Tampa Bay
24. Mike Mohamed, LB, California: Denver
32. Ricky Elmore, DE, Arizona: Green Bay
38. Zach Williams, C, Washington State: Carolina

Seventh round
12. D'Aundre Reed, DE, Arizona: Minnesota
24. Scotty McKnight, WR, Colorado: New York Jets
30. Lawrence Guy, DT, Arizona State: Green Bay
37. Stanley Havili, FB, USC: Philadelphia
38. David Ausberry, WR, USC: Oakland
39. Malcolm Smith, LB, USC: Seattle

By Pac-12 school:
Arizona (3)
Arizona State (1)
California (4)
Colorado (4)
Oregon (1)
Oregon State (3)
Stanford (4)
UCLA (3)
USC (9)
Utah (2)
Washington (2)
Washington State (1)

The final tally by automatic qualifying conferences:
SEC... 38
Pac-12... 37
Big Ten... 36
ACC... 35
Big East 22
Big 12...19

Nebraska was a big swing to the Big Ten from the Big 12 with seven picks. With Colorado and Nebraska, the Big 12 provided 30 selections.

This was the tally through three rounds:
SEC: 20
ACC: 19
Pac-12: 15
Big Ten: 13
Big 12: 9
Big East: 4

Updating Pac-12 in NFL draft

April, 30, 2011
4/30/11
12:12
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Here's where things stand for the Pac-12 through three rounds of the NFL draft.

First round
No. 8 Jake Locker, QB, Washington: Tennessee
No. 9 Tyron Smith., OT, USC: Dallas
No. 17 Nate Solder, OT, Colorado: New England
No. 24 Cameron Jordan, DE, California: New Orleans
No. 27 Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado: Baltimore

Second round
7. Akeem Ayers, LB, UCLA: Tennessee
10. Brooks Reed, DE, Arizona: Houston
13. Rahim Moore, FS, UCLA: Denver
21. Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State: Chicago
24. Shane Vereen, RB, California: New England

Third round
13. Jurrell Casey, DT, USC: Tennessee
20. Mason Foster, LB, Washington: Tampa Bay
25. Shareece Wright, CB, USC: San Diego
29. Christopher Conte, S, California: Chicago
33. Sione Fua, DT, Stanforrd: Carolina

Through three rounds by conference (with Nebraska in the Big Ten and Colorado and Utah in the Pac-12):

SEC: 20
ACC: 19
Pac-12: 15
Big Ten: 13
Big 12: 9
Big East: 4

Note: The old Pac-10 has 13 without two first-round picks from Colorado. Big Ten has 12 without Nebraska. Big 12 has 12 if Colorado and Nebraska are included.

A Pac-12 review of NFL draft's first round

April, 29, 2011
4/29/11
10:11
AM ET
Five Pac-12 players were picked in the first round, with Jake Locker going higher than some projected and Cameron Jordan going lower.

Here's the draft order:

No. 8 Jake Locker, QB, Washington: Tennessee
No. 9 Tyron Smith., OT, USC: Dallas
No. 17 Nate Solder, OT, Colorado: New England
No. 24 Cameron Jordan, DE, California: New Orleans
No. 27 Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado: Baltimore

Here's analysis by Mel Kiper. And here's more on the first round.

Kiper also projects the second round, which starts Friday at 6 p.m. ET on ESPN (3 p.m. PT).

Kiper has Arizona DE Brooks Reed going first in the second round -- 33rd overall -- to New England. Other Pac-12 players in his second round: UCLA safety Rahim Moore to Houston at No. 42, Oregon State DT Stephen Paea to Oakland at No. 48 and Utah CB Brandon Burton to Philadelphia at No. 54.

Who is missing? Well what about UCLA LB Akeem Ayers, who was once considered a sure first-round pick.

Todd McShay also projects the second round, and he has Reed going first and Ayers going second, to the Buffalo Bills.

The rest of McShay's second round: Paea to Denver at No. 36, Moore to Minnesota at No. 43, Washington LB Mason Foster to Denver at 46 and USC DT Jurrell Casey to Seattle at No. 57.

Some draft links:

Pac-12 lunch links: Former players eyeball NFL draft

April, 28, 2011
4/28/11
2:30
PM ET
Is man no more than this? Consider him well. Thou owest the worm no silk, the beast no hide, the sheep no wool, the cat no perfume. Ha! here's three on 's are sophisticated; thou art the thing itself; unaccommodated man is no more but such a poor, bare, forked animal as thou art.

Some Pac-12 draft notes, Part 2

April, 27, 2011
4/27/11
4:00
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ESPN draft guru Todd McShay took a measure of specific qualities of defensive players expected to be selected in this week's NFL draft, which starts Thursday, and a number of Pac-12 players fall into interesting spots.

Here are some notes.

Defensive line
Defensive ends
McShay ranks Arizona's Brooks Reed No. 2 in pass-rush skills among all defensive ends and No. 3 in instincts/motor.

He ranks Cameron Jordan No. 2 versus the run and No. 2 in versatility.

He ranks Jordan No. 3 overall among defensive linemen and Reed 11th.

Defensive tackles
McShay ranks Oregon State's Stephen Paea No. 2 in toughness/motor.

He ranks Paea 17th overall among defensive linemen. He also has USC's Jurrell Casey at 19th.

Linebackers
McShay ranks Oregon's Casey Matthews No. 2 in instincts/recognition among inside linebackers.

He ranks Washington's Mason Foster No. 1 in range versus the run among inside linebackers.

He ranks UCLA's Akeem Ayers No. 2 in third-down capabilities among outside linebackers.

McShay ranks Ayers No. 2 overall among the linebackers. Foster is No. 4 and Matthews is 13th.

Defensive backs
McShay ranks UCLA's Rahim Moore No. 2 in instincts/recognition and No. 1 in cover skills and ball skills among safeties.

He ranks Colorado's Jimmy Smith No. 1 in cover skills and No. 2 in run support among cornerbacks.

McShay ranks Smith No. 3 overall among defensive backs. He ranks Moore seventh. Utah cornerback Brandon Burton is 13th and USC cornerback Shareece Wright is 14th. Colorado's other cornerback, Jalil Brown, is 17th.

Kiper's final 'Big Board' before NFL draft

April, 27, 2011
4/27/11
3:00
PM ET
ESPN draft guru has released his final 'Big Board' before the NFL draft begins Thursday.

So where did your favorite former Pac-12 players end up? Well, truth be told, all the conference players listed ended up in the same place they were on the last Big Board.

Here's where they rank and what Kiper has to say about each.

No. 13 Cameron Jordan, DE, California
Analysis
: Frame and skills capable of handling 3-4 or 4-3 defensive end duty. Has top athleticism, smarts and speed for defensive end position.

No. 16 Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado
Analysis
: Excellent size and speed combination, Smith quietly shut down receivers all season. Character issue overstated in eyes of many personnel folks.

No. 17 Tyron Smith, OT, USC
Analysis
: A future blindside tackle. Fallen some after a quick rise. Good frame, athleticism and quickness. Has added bulk.

No. 22 Nate Solder, OT, Colorado
Analysis
: A physical specimen, has great length and has added bulk to his long frame. Could be moved along offensive line to provide help early in NFL career.

No. 25 Jake Locker, QB, Washington
Analysis
: In eyes of evaluators, rebounded some with good workouts, interviews after combine. Arm, attitude, athleticism all there. Accuracy the question.

In Todd McShay's latest mock draft from April 20, he projected six Pac-12 players being picked in the first round, but not Locker.

Here's how he ordered the players and where he sees them going.

No. 9 Tyron Smith (Dallas)

No. 12 Jordan (Minnesota)

No. 21 Brooks Reed, DE, Arizona (Kansas City)

No. 22 Solder (Indianapolis)

No. 23 Jimmy Smith (Philadelphia)

No. 32. Akeem Ayers, LB, UCLA (Green Bay)
TUCSON, Ariz. -- It's not difficult to come up with a fair explanation for Arizona's 7-1 start that devolved into a 0-5 finish. In the first eight games, the Wildcats played an easy schedule. They were better than teams such as Toledo, Washington State and UCLA. In the last five games, they played a brutal schedule. Their opponents went a combined 49-15, including two top-five (Stanford and Oregon) and one top-10 team (Oklahoma State).

Still, at 7-1 and ranked 13th with a win over Iowa, the Wildcats headed into a marquee showdown with Stanford on Nov. 6 believing they could play with anyone. Turns out they couldn't. And, considering the Cardinal, Ducks and Cowboys whipped up the Wildcats badly, well, a fair explanation only goes so far.

"It still exposes some things within your team," coach Mike Stoops said. "It told you when the going got tough, we didn't respond as well as we needed to."

[+] EnlargeStanford's Anthony Wilkerson
Jason O. Watson/US PRESSWIREDuring a five-game losing streak that began with a loss to Stanford, coach Mike Stoops said his Wildcats were exposed. "The physical part of it, we didn't respond well," he said.
And where the Wildcats most didn't respond clearly bothers Stoops.

"The physical part of it, we didn't respond well," he said. "We have to be more than just a finesse team. The physical matchup is what I didn't like."

Therein lies the challenge for the Wildcats as they leave spring practices behind and focus on offseason workouts. They must find five new starters on the offensive line -- the 2010 unit decidedly underachieved -- and they must replace the best defensive end combination in the Pac-10: Brooks Reed and Ricky Elmore.

That suggests a need for some finesse due to physical losses. The defense is likely going to have to blitz more, while the offense -- which welcomes back quarterback Nick Foles and one of the best groups of receivers in the country -- is likely going to be pass-heavy.

Said Stoops, "We're going to have to throw to set up the run, I don't think there's any question about that."

Offensive coordinator Seth Littrell, who learned offense from spread savant Mike Leach after four years coaching at Texas Tech, talks about finding "different ways as coaches to scheme people to run the football," but he admits there's going to be a temptation to scrap the handoffs and throw 50 times a game.

"Absolutely. Especially because that's kind of the background where I came from," he said. "That's what I, at times, feel comfortable with. But at the same time you've got to take pressure off the quarterback by running the football."

A key proponent of balance: Foles. All quarterbacks like to throw the ball, but the passing game is much easier when defenses have to respect the run.

"There's definitely a need for balance," Foles said. "People saw that in the national championship game with Oregon, one of the nation's most high-powered offenses. When you can't run the ball, it's tough. Passing is great but to be a great team you've got to be able to do both."

During the five-game losing streak, the Wildcats averaged 98 yards rushing. Not good.

On the other side of the ball, the run defense wasn't much better during the downturn. Oregon rushed for a whopping 389 yards, while Stanford and USC both went over 200.

That's the out-physical-ed part that irks Stoops.

The Wildcats also head into the 2011 season with significant changes on the staff, starting with the departures of one half of the coordinator tandems they used on both sides of the ball in 2010. That means the offense is up to Littrell and the defense belongs to Tim Kish. Stoops said the co-coordinator setup was more of a challenge on offense. The theme this spring was simplify.

"We were trying to mix and match too much last year," he said. "We got discombobulated, I think. We got exposed late in the year on some things. Seth has to grow into this position and have total control with Nick. We need to all be on the same page."

Stoops has built a winning program but taking the next step means that no portion of the schedule proves insurmountable. And, yes, that five-game losing streak still lingers in just about every Wildcats' head, coaches and players.

"We all have it in the back of our minds," linebacker Paul Vassallo said. "It's not talked about anymore. It's the 2011 season. But we're all hungry to get that first win, that's for sure."

Ah, but the scheduled does a reverse next fall. The Wildcats figure to get their first win -- and end the losing streak -- in the opener against Northern Arizona, but then look at the schedule: Oklahoma State, Stanford, Oregon and USC on consecutive weekends. The Cowboys, Cardinal and Ducks each will be ranked in the preseason top-10, and it's still not easy to visit the Coliseum.

It won't be too difficult to come up with a fair explanation for a slow start. But those fair explanations have a shelf life. Stoops and his Wildcats don't want to give them anymore. And Wildcats fans don't want to hear them.

Foles focuses on present, not NFL

April, 19, 2011
4/19/11
1:00
PM ET
TUCSON, Ariz. -- Before we engage our topic -- Arizona quarterback Nick Foles -- let's pause for a moment and consider the Wildcats' NFL history at Foles' position. It will only require the briefest of pauses, however, so don't worry about your eyes glazing over.

In 1985, the Seattle Seahawks used their 10th-round selection -- the 277th overall pick in the NFL draft -- to select Arizona quarterback John Connor. Connor would later save the world from evil computers and indestructible robots that looked not unlike the former governor of California, so we should give him a break for not making much of a mark in the pro ranks.

In 1972, six years before the Wildcats joined the Pac-8, the Buffalo Bills used their first pick... of the 16th round (391st overall)... on Arizona quarterback Brian Linstrom. In 1962, quarterback Eddie Wilson went to the Detroit Lions with the 10th pick of the second round, 24th overall.

And so ends our history lesson entitled, "The NFL draft and Arizona Quarterbacks."

[+] EnlargeArizona's Nick Foles
Chris Morrison/US PRESSWIRE"Nothing rattles him," offensive tackle Adam Grant said of quarterback Nick Foles following a dramatic win over Iowa. "I've seen guys with fear in their eyes on the field. He was completely calm."
If Foles were in this class, he'd probably yawn. He's not much into history, even though he could have made it for the Wildcats if he'd opted to enter the draft instead of returning for his senior season. Heck, he's not much into the future either because he says -- convincingly, by the way -- that he's not thinking about the NFL.

"I grew up going to college football games and I wanted to play college football. I'm in a wonderful place because I'm living my dream right now," he said. "I know there is money and fame or whatever, but I love where I'm at. I love the University of Arizona. The most important thing right now is to focus on that. I think too many people get caught up in the, 'NFL this, NFL that,' and they don't focus on where they are now, the present moment. The most precious time you have is right now in the present. I don't want to think about a year down the road."

In the present time, Foles is headed into the 2011 season -- spring practices ended over the weekend -- on the cusp of becoming the best quarterback in program history, even if he doesn't break all of Willie Tuitama's records. After all, Tuitama, a four-year starter, wasn't drafted and didn't get invited to an NFL training camp. As for those records, Foles needs 3,478 yards passing to eclipse Tuitama's career record of 9,211 yards. Considering the talent Foles has surrounding him at receiver, it's possible that he could break Tuitama's single-season passing record (3,683 yards) and even reach his career TD mark (67; Foles has 39 touchdowns in two years as a starter).

Of course, stats aren't the only thing that matters. The Wildcats split the job between Keith Smith and Ortege Jenkins in 1998, and their middling numbers were nonetheless good enough to front a 12-1 team that finished ranked No. 4 in the nation.

The Wildcats don't look at first glance like a team that could go 12-1. All five starters must be replaced on the offensive line, while the defense loses premier pass-rushing ends Brooks Reed and Ricky Elmore, both of whom figure to be drafted. Further, the Wildcats are presently riding a five-game losing streak that took the shine off a 7-1 start in the 2010 season.

For Arizona to be a factor in the Pac-12 South's first season, Foles needs to be out front posting big numbers.

"He's grown a lot each year. I think you'll see a more polished player," coach Mike Stoops said. "He's going to be an elite player at the next level if he can continue to grow."

Foles, who missed two games last season with a dislocated knee cap, said he sees plenty of room for improvement when he watches game tape. While he completed a strong 67 percent of his passes, his 2:1 TD to interceptions ratio -- 20 TDs, 10 picks -- won't blow anyone away. Foles also was streaky. He seemed to often break out of lulls while running the two-minute offense in high-pressure situations -- see clutch drives produced in wins over Iowa and California and in a heart-breaking loss to Arizona State.

So while Foles talks about improving his recognition skills, his knowledge of opposing defenses and building consistency, he also finds a less cerebral area in which to improve.

"When I just play the game and don't think as much, and let it just come to me, that's when I play my best," he said. "When I'm trying to over-analyze a play or I am thinking too much, I play mechanically and that's just not where I'm good."

Stoops and Foles have talked about another area in which Foles needs to focus: Leadership. As a quarterback who could receive All-American consideration, Foles is the centerpiece of the Wildcats. Everyone in the locker room will turn to him this fall.

"I wish at times he showed more emotion," Stoops said. "But you don't want that to be forced. That has to be natural. Nick has to pick and choose. He should know when those times are."

Said Foles, "There's a time and place to be loud and emotional but I also think it comes with knowing your teammates. The most important thing with anything you do is being natural. There will be times when I need to be vocal, but it has to come naturally. When it doesn't come naturally, it's just doesn't feel right."

In other words, leaderships is complicated. Consider: In the Wildcats 34-27 win over Iowa, Foles led by being loose and saying just enough to make his team confident.

"Nothing rattles him," offensive tackle Adam Grant said after that game. "I've seen guys with fear in their eyes on the field. He was completely calm."

Foles said he talked to his parents about potentially entering this spring's draft, but also said he told them in advance that he wanted to return. By returning, he almost guaranteed that -- barring injury -- he will become the greatest quarterback in school history.

Ah, but that's all history and the future and destination talk. Foles is more focused on the present, on the process.

"I'll watch film and go, 'Man, I've got a lot to work on,'" he said. "But that's exciting to me. I love working on that stuff. It's a continual process."

Spring concludes: Arizona

April, 15, 2011
4/15/11
3:30
PM ET
Spring game: Saturday at 4:30 p.m. ET at Arizona Stadium

What happened: How to completely rebuild the offensive line and replace defensive ends Brooks Reed and Ricky Elmore were some of the big questions for Arizona heading into spring. Things seemed to clear up fairly quickly. The offensive line looks like this: LT Mickey Baucus, LG Chris Putton, C Kyle Quinn, RG Trace Biskin, RT Fabbians Ebbele. C.J. Parrish and Mohammed Usman asserted themselves at DE. Still, there's still room for refinements, developing depth and perhaps some more competition. On the downside, the ACL injury for promising safety Adam Hall was a major hit to one of the Pac-12's strongest secondaries. Backup quarterback Matt Scott had an impressive spring, but the (optimistic) plan still is to redshirt him and bring him back as the 2012 starter.

What's ahead: The Wildcats offense will pass to set up the run, but it probably will just pass a lot with quarterback Nick Foles and the conference's deepest, most talented crew of receivers. It's hard to imagine the edge rush on defense will be as good as 2010, so it's likely a veteran group of linebackers will blitz more this fall. There's also some concern as to whether kicker Alex Zendejas can recover his confidence after a late-season swoon that included a handful of painfully memorable misses. Ultimately, the Wildcats season will turn on how well the young, inexperienced line performs. If it's more than passable, Arizona will be in the mix for the Pac-12 South title.

Spring stars: With backup running back Greg Nwoko going down with a knee injury, the Wildcats needed Daniel Jenkins to step up and he did. Parrish, a former H-back who moved to linebacker and missed last season due to concussions, was a pleasant surprise on defense, drawing raves from coordinator Tim Kish and coach Mike Stoops. The depth already was good at receiver but redshirt freshmen Tyler Slavin, Austin Hill, and speedster Garic Wharton might be good enough to push into the rotation. Baucus impressed coaches with his fiery attitude at LT. DT Kirifi Taula stepped up this spring and should add depth on the defensive line. Cornerback Trevin Wade, after a forgettable junior season that fell well short of expectations, has been focused and playing well. Still, sophomore Jonathan McKnight is touted as the team's best coverage corner. Redshirt freshman Jourdan Grandon could get into the mix at safety.

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