Pac-12: Cecil Whiteside

Gunter glieben glauchen globen.
"What's new?" is an interesting and broadening eternal question, but one which, if pursued exclusively, results only in an endless parade of trivia and fashion, the silt of tomorrow. I would like, instead, to be concerned with the question "What is best?," a question which cuts deeply rather than broadly, a question whose answers tend to move the silt downstream.
Greetings. Welcome to preseason mailbag camp. The mailbag had great offseason workouts and we're using our low preseason ranking as motivation.

Follow me on Twitter here. All the cool kids are doing it.

To the notes!

Dennis from Washington, D.C., writes: Rather than focus on high level Oregon at USC, what are your thoughts on the matchup between Oregon defense vs. USC offense? The questions for Oregon largely center on QB, but we know that Oregon's defense is stacked and fast, and USC's offense is going to be great on offense.

Ted Miller: The season hasn't even started and we're already zeroing in on Nov. 3!

Oregon is going to be very good on defense. Perhaps as good as the Ducks have been since the Gang Green days. Yet I'd give the USC offense anedge. The Trojans are a little 2005-ish -- as in epically talented.

The Trojans offense has no obvious weakness. Perhaps there's a question how well Aundrey Walker will play at left tackle. And there are some depth concerns on the O-line. But you have nine starters coming back from a unit that averaged 35.8 points and 456.8 yards per game. You have the best quarterback in the nation throwing to the best receiver combo in the nation in front of four returning starters from a line that gave up just eight sacks in 2011. You have two 1,000-yard tailbacks. You have two future NFL tight ends. You have an X-factor guy like George Farmer.

It almost doesn't seem fair.

In last year's 38-35 USC victory in Autzen Stadium, the Trojans jumped ahead 38-14 in the third quarter, as Matt Barkley threw four touchdown passes, before the Ducks mounted a furious comeback to almost force overtime. USC rolled up 462 yards on the road. Oregon fans point out -- reasonably -- that defensive end Dion Jordan and linebacker Dewitt Stuckey were hurt, and losing Jordan in the first quarter can't be discounted. He's the guy who should have made life tough for Barkely. USC fans would counter -- reasonably -- that wide receiver Robert Woods was playing on one leg and the Ducks still couldn't stop Barkley and Marqise Lee.

But to me -- and be prepared to hear this much of the season from me -- the big issue is the game being played in the Coliseum. That means you give a four-year starter at QB -- Barkley -- plus total control at the line of scrimmage with no crowd noise issues. That favors Barkley, though I'm sure more than a few Ducks would point out the same could have been said in advance of the 2011 Stanford-Oregon game with Andrew Luck.

And, oh by the way, the Ducks will be using a first-year starter in the biggest stadium in the conference. I know a lot of Oregon fans feel great about Marcus Mariota and Bryan Bennett, perhaps even liking them more than Darron Thomas. But this is the sort of game where you'd want a veteran such as Thomas behind center. And I bet Thomas, who's apparently still looking for a pro team to give him a shot, wishes he were there, too.

Now, just because I give the very, very good USC offense an edge over the good Oregon defense doesn't mean the Ducks are doomed. I see the Oregon offensive line having an advantage against a thin and uncertain Trojans defensive front. With Kenjon Barner, De'Anthony Thomas and Chip Kelly's very, very big brain, it's entirely possible Oregon will be able to go point-for-point with the Trojans.

Of course, both teams might want to take heed of the eight games that separate them and this hot date.


Spence from Salt Lake City writes: USC is the obvious front-runner in the South. If they are upset what team is next in line to represent the South division in the PAC-12 championship game?

Ted Miller: My pick for No. 2 in the South is Utah, though I've sort of got a nagging UCLA thing of late, which I'm trying to resist because I've gotten that bug before.

Here's the problem with theorizing about an alternative team winning the South: Can it upset USC AND take care of business for the rest of the conference schedule? To me, that means going no worse than 7-2 in conference play because I don't see the Trojans losing more than two conference games.

The Utes, with no games with Oregon and Stanford, and USC coming to Salt Lake City on Oct. 4 for a Thursday-night matchup on ESPN, seem like the best bet to get that done. But they went 4-5 in their first year of Pac-12 play and were handled pretty easily by Washington, Arizona State and California, losing by a combined count of 100-38 in those three games. And two of them were in Rice-Eccles. Utes fans, of course, would note that they played those games without QB Jordan Wynn, who went down for the year in the first half against Washington.

It's possible that USC could implode, perhaps after losing a game it thought it would win or catching a horrible injury bug. But my present feeling is "overwhelming" would be the best way to describe the Trojans frontrunner status in the South Division.


Justin from Dallas writes: What's your opinion on early-season neutral-site games? Like Alabama v Michigan at Cowboys Stadium and LSU v Oregon last year there. Shouldn't these games be preserved for the campus? All about the $$ right?

Ted Miller: Well, yes, everything is about the $$. This is the USA. We like money. A lot. And if you don't, send me yours. I'll put it to good use, like buying a bigger TV.

I love these big intersectional games -- neutral site or not. They might be my favorite thing in college football, other than the Rose Bowl. If it's necessary to use a venue like Cowboy Stadium to lure nationally ranked teams from different conferences to play regular season games, so be it.

We spend a lot of time comparing conferences. To me, these games are most revealing. My respect for LSU as a program -- and its incredible 2011 regular season -- is based more on its beating Oregon and West Virginia than winning the SEC West. It took guts to make that schedule.

I do not doubt that the SEC is the nation's best conference. In our BCS system, it has been able to win six consecutive "national title" games. But I also firmly believe -- as do all SEC coaches and athletic directors -- that if the SEC scheduled more tough nonconference games, the size of its perceived superiority would narrow considerably. Why? Because if Florida or Georgia or Auburn or Arkansas or South Carolina scheduled more home-and-home series with teams like USC, Oregon, Oklahoma, Wisconsin and the like, they'd lose a lot more often.

My hope with our new four-team playoff format and a selection committee is that it becomes a requirement -- if unwritten -- to schedule ambitiously out of conference.


Eric from Pullman, Wash., writes: Will Washington State be able to hold any Pac-12 opponent to fewer than 27 points this season (which was the fewest they allowed last year)?

Ted Miller: Maybe. But I suspect the Cougs will have to outscore folks, which is what Mike Leach did when he was at Texas Tech, by the way.

The Cougars allowed 34.6 points per game in conference play last year, which ranked 10th in the league. My belief is they will be a bowl team if they can become poor-to-middling on defense this year -- say surrendering 28 to 30 points per game -- rather than egregious.

But here's something that's simpler: 3-1.

The Cougs need to start at least 3-1 -- 4-0 is entirely possible, by the way -- to post a six- or seven-win season, one that will get them to a bowl game for the first time since 2003.


Rob from Redwood City, Calif., writes: As you are well aware, Cal has reinstated linebacker Cecil Whiteside, and added Khairi Fortt from Penn State. What impact if any would this have on your position ranking of the Cal linebackers? And even if neither starts how important is depth at a postion like linebacker when you run a 3-4 scheme? Do most teams really rotate players very often at this postion or are they important just in case of injury?

Ted Miller: Cal likely would boost up from the top of "Good shape" to the bottom of "Great shape." I'd still rate Stanford, USC and Oregon ahead of the Bears, because they have more proven players at the position. Both Whiteside and Fortt have seen action but they aren't sure things.

Cal had a good defense last year, and it's hard not to give conference Defensive Player of the Year Mychal Kendricks a lot of credit for that. And folks will tell you that while Kendricks was the engine of the Bears defense, fellow inside 'backer D.J. Holt was the brains. So those are legitimate voids they left behind.

I will say this: Cal has some real questions, such as receiver and offensive line. But its defense isn't going to keep Jeff Tedford up at night.


Scott from the U.S. Virgin Islands: Please please please help me settle a dispute that has been going on for months. Who is better at this point, Oregon or FSU? Every ranking on ESPN, Athlon, and the coaches' poll have Oregon ranked higher than FSU. The exception is Phil Steele's preseason ranking. I try to have this conversation with my FSU buddy but he will not admit anything. He agrees with Phil Steele on the rankings but then when it comes to strength of schedule by Phil Steele, Oregon 55th and FSU 70th, then Phil Steele doesn't know ACC football. I told my friend no one knows ACC football with the exception of VA Tech taking their usual thumping in the Orange Bowl. Please please please talk some sense into this guy.

Ted Miller: Tough one. Just like a lot of folks, I'm high on Florida State this year. But a significant part of FSU getting a high preseason ranking is its playing in the ACC. You need look no further than the past two Orange Bowls to make a definitive statement about the ACC.

If I were talking to your friend, I'd say something like this: "Did you say something? I'm sorry. I was distracted by this shiny Rose Bowl trophy, three consecutive BCS bowl games and 34 victories over the past three years. Where do you guys keep your trophy from the Champs Sports Bowl? I bet it's really cute, you little champ! Nice nail-biting, four-point win over Notre Dame. The Irish only lost by 14 points to a Stanford team we beat by 23. You lost four games last year. We've lost six over the past three years. Look I like your spunk. I like your enthusiasm. It makes me want to pinch your little garnet cheeks. But we're Oregon. We're there. You're a nice little team down below eyeballing our behinds. I'm not even sure I'm allowed to talk to a guy who's a fan of a team that lost to Wake Forest, Virginia and Clemson last year. Ergo, you've got the next round to compensate me for my noblesse oblige."


Darren from Monterey, Calif., writes: I'm getting a little nervous about the PAC-12 Network not coming to DISH. Should I be worried? Or should I wait until August 24th-ish?

Ted Miller: The Pac-12 Network is pretty confident in its position. It's already happy with its distribution deals on cable. And DirecTV has its own issues.

I think the deal will get done, though the Pac-12 Networks launch date of Aug. 15 is getting pretty close.

The satellite carriers have less leverage than the Pac-12 Network does. And you, as a customer with options, shouldn't be shy about telling your satellite carriers about how great cable looks with the Pac-12 Networks. If the satellite carriers don't make a deal with the Pac-12 Networks, they essentially are saying they don't care about major West Coast markets. They are throwing sand in the eyes of their Pac-12 footprint customers.

Here is a handy FAQ page for the Pac-12 Network.


Gary from Eugene, Ore., writes: Guess what a new Duck song is out by Xile, you can check it out here and the news story that talks about the former Ducks in the video.

Ted Miller: Every time I get one of these, I think, "OK, enough is enough. No more Oregon videos." But my policy is to post it if it's good, and that's pretty darn fresh.

Are they still saying "fresh"? Or did I just look really 40-something?

Excuse me while I pull up my black socks up from my sandals.


You know, there's a million fine looking women in the world, dude. But they don't all bring you lasagna at work. Most of 'em just cheat on you.

Cal reinstates Cecil Whiteside

July, 30, 2012
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A prodigal son is back in good graces for California, and the Bears just got stronger at linebacker as a result.

Bears coach Jeff Tedford has reinstated linebacker Cecil Whiteside, who on May 24 was kicked off the team for unspecified team rules violations.

The story was first reported by CBS Sports.

Whiteside had 17 tackle and three sacks last season. He was listed as Chris McCain's backup on the post-spring depth chart. While it's doubtful he will eclipse the promising McCain, he's almost certain to see significant playing time.

Pac-12 lunch links: Good news for Colorado

May, 25, 2012
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Happy Friday.
A couple of unfortunate discipline notes to get to.

First, Cal has dismissed linebacker Cecil Whiteside from the team for violating team rules.

Head coach Jeff Tedford made the announcement this morning, but no further information or the nature of the violation was made available. To get booted off the team, though, you have to assume it was probably worse than missing a study hall session.

Whiteside was expected to add depth to a very good Cal front seven. Last season he had 17 tackles -- including three sacks -- in 10 games.

Also, the recent slew of arrests at Oregon State has prompted head coach Mike Riley to issue the following statement:

"We have had a few legal issues as of late with a handful of members of our football team. This behavior is totally unacceptable and the appropriate discipline started immediately with each event and future incidences could result in exclusion from our football program.”

The most recent incident involves standout cornerback Jordan Poyer, who was arrested on charges of second-degree criminal trespass. Worth noting that Poyer says the incident was blown out of proportion. And in my limited conversations with him, this seems extremely out of character.

All in all, this hasn't been a very good offseason for the conference when it comes to bad behavior and run-ins with the law.

This is why it's important to write stories about USC going to Haiti, Oregon honoring the military in its spring game, Washington players visiting a children's hospital and Stanford players working with Habitat for Humanity.

Those stories don't drive blog traffic as much -- but they are a lot more fun to write about and a good reminder that there is also a lot of good being done by players in the conference.

Spring scrimmage roundup

April, 23, 2012
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Catching you up on the spring games and scrimmages from over the weekend.

Arizona State

All three of Arizona State's quarterbacks did some good things during Saturday's spring games. ASU didn't keep official stats, but Doug Haller of the Arizona Republic kept his own unofficial stats here.

Michael Eubank completed 8 of 15 passes for three touchdowns, Mike Bercovici went 12-of-21 for a pair of scores and Taylor Kelly was 10-of-12 with a touchdown and an interception. Eubank also rushed for a touchdown to go with 52 yards on the ground.

But the highlight might have been the performance of running back James Morrison, who carried 13 times for 83 yards and a score.

"I thought 'Tank' Morrison had an incredible spring," Graham said following Saturday's game. "... I think Tank is a guy that's going to contribute, no doubt about it."

Haller reports it was a pretty vanilla showing from the defense -- adding that linebacker Jason Franklin and cornerback Joe Eason logged interceptions.

"Once they started grasping and understanding the vision and our philosophy, the football part of it started to come along faster," defensive coordinator Paul Randolph said of implementing the system. "We threw the whole kitchen sink at them. We got everything in."

California

Zach Maynard completed 6 of 10 passes and tossed a 29-yard touchdown to Maurice Harris to open the scoring of the Cal Football Spring Experience. He also added a 1-yard touchdown run that put his team ahead 14-3. But his "Blue" team would ultimately fall to the "Gold" squad as a pair of long James Langford field goals, a C.J. Anderson touchdown run and a 40-yard touchdown pass from Zach Kline put the Gold team in front for good.

With the Blue team trailing 21-14, Austin Hinder connected with Stephen Anderson on a 75-yard touchdown as time expired. But the 2-point conversion failed and the Gold team held on 21-20.

“It was a good game, a hard-fought game and a good practice overall,” Maynard said. “Unfortunately, we got beat by one point.”

Kline, who threw a 40-yard touchdown to tight end Spencer Hagan in the fourth quarter and also completed the 2-point conversion, is off limits to the media. But Maynard said after the game that he thought Kline played well.

"Zach did very well today," Maynard said. "He's progressed since he's been here. He's one of those high-caliber type of guys so he's going to perform quickly and early."

Anderson looked particularly strong, rushing for 85 yards on 14 carries, which included a 15-yard touchdown run.

John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle noted strong defensive performancesfrom Mustafa Jalil and Cecil Whiteside. Puka Lopa, Whiteside and Nick Forbes shared game-high honors with seven tackles apiece.

UCLA

Following Saturday's scaled-down scrimmage, head coach Jim Mora said he was "encouraged, but not satisfied."

And it doesn't look like there is much clarity in the way of the quarterback competition, either. Richard Brehaut, Kevin Prince and Brett Hundley all threw interceptions. Though Prince and Brehaut both threw touchdowns to Steven Manfro.

Due to injuries and a lack of depth at several key positions, Mora made Saturday more about situational scrimmaging rather than a full experience.

"We are moving closer to the kids understanding my expectations," offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone told Chris Foster of the L.A. Times. " … It's hard for me to get mad at them for trying to run stuff they have never run before. We're getting to the point where these guys should have a handle on it. It's like a Rubik's Cube; you have to keep turning it until the colors line up."

Utah

Jordan Wynn completed 8 of 11 passes for 124 yards and a score, but two of the incompletions were interceptions in the annual spring game in front of more than 13,500 at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

Wynn's touchdown was a 48-yarder to Dres Anderson. It looked like he had touchdown No. 2, but a holding call negated the 21-yard pass to Westlee Tonga and Wynn was picked off in the end zone on the next play by Tyler Cahoon.

Naturally, head coach Kyle Whittingham isn't thrilled with turnovers in the end zone.

"You can't turn the ball over," he told Mike Sorenson of the Deseret News. "That's job one for the offense. You have to take care of the ball and we didn't get that done. That was one of the negatives, but the flip side is, the defense was making plays and they came up with two interceptions."

Running back Jarrell Oliver ran for a pair of scores and 24 yards on five carries.

Defensively, Dave Fagergren also had an interception and Joape Pela, running-back-turned-defensive end Thretton Palamo and Cameron Taylor all logged sacks.

"A lot of progress was made in many areas," said Whittingham. "Always, the most critical thing for us is to get fundamentals and technique sound during spring football. There is some scheme we will also put in with the change of coordinators. But overall, this was a very positive spring. We stayed very healthy, which is always something in question. It is still a work in progress, but with each successive recruiting class we have been able to add to the depth."

Washington State

Jeff Tuel was a crisp 19-of-21 for 285 yards two touchdowns as the first team offense had its strongest showing of the spring.

"Guys kind of let it go and we just played," Tuel said. "There wasn't a lot of hesitation from the first-team offense which was good to see. ... It's easy to come into a scrimmage and not be 100 percent focused. Today we really treated it like a game so guys came real focused and were real sharp with their routes and my reads and the receivers and myself were really on the same page and I felt good about it."

Marquess Wilson and Dominique Williams both had monster receiving days. Wilson caught four balls for 149 yards and a score and Williams had five catches for 122 yards to go with his touchdown.

Logan Mayes continued to be a terror on the defensive side, notching 4.5 touch sacks.

"I was pretty happy with our play, especially the D-line," Mayes said. "I feel like we've been getting after it all spring and we really proved it here. ... People are thinking of us as an offensive team right now, but we have some good defensive players out there. It's going to be an exciting year I think."
USC-Oregon, Oregon-USC. Ducks-Trojans. Kiffin-Kelly! Barkley-Black Mamba!

Golly, doesn't anybody else have a chance in this Pac-12 conference? Should we just call off the regular season and have the Ducks and Trojans settle things in a 13-game series?

(That actually might be fascinating to watch. Think about all the interesting weekly coaching adjustments).

Well, that's not happening.

So then the question before us is a radical one. It might very well split up the space-time continuum and send us spinning into a massive black hole: Which team possibly might shock the world? Which team could break up this apparently preordained marriage at the top of the conference, one reportedly written in gold leaf onto the granite facade of Mount Rushmore?

[+] EnlargeWynn
Kirby Lee/US PresswireJordan Wynn and the Utes have a favorable schedule this season.
It's a dangerous question, I know. Not the sort of one entertained by the meek. But if you are brave, read on.

Hey, you in the gray shirt, you're not brave! Better stop reading.

We warned you.

Kevin Gemmell: The general consensus is that Oregon and USC will meet for the Pac-12 title. But which team could put a wrinkle in that plan?

Whenever you are dealing with a could question, you always have to stipulate with ifs. X could happen if Y and Z fall into place. The team that strikes me as having the fewest ifs is Utah.

My first thought was to go wayyyyy out there and tinker with the idea of Oregon State being the team to shock the Pac-12. The Beavers could be the surprise team if they get the running game in order, and if the offensive line holds up, and if Sean Mannion continues to mature, and if all of that experience from last season pays off. But that's just too many ifs, and way too far to reach.

Utah, however, has a lot of pieces in place already to be the surprise team this season. First, its schedule helps, because the Utes don't have dates with Oregon or Stanford. Their first three games are in-state, and the fourth is at ASU, which will likely still be adjusting to life under a new head coach. That's potentially 4-0 out of the gate.

Then they get an extra week to prepare for the big showdown -- at home -- with USC. That game will be high-noon in the Pac-12 South, and Rice-Eccles will be jumping. If the Utes can somehow get over that hump, they have four more winnable games before traveling to Washington, which could be a hiccup. That notion alone, however, is one major if. USC also has extra time to prepare, because it's a Thursday game.

Another reason to be encouraged is that all reports are that quarterback Jordan Wynn is healthy. He's chock full of experience, and has shown he can be an elite quarterback when he gets his rhythm. The only reason to think the running game will take a step backwards is that Utah has to replace two stud offensive tackles in Tony Bergstrom and John Cullen. But John White IV has shown to be a very capable -- if not special -- running back. He shouldn't have any trouble adapting.

Also, unlike a lot of other teams with new coordinators, the transition to Brian Johnson should be silky, since he's a veteran of the system and has worked with Wynn since Day 1.

The Utes have one of the top -- if not the best -- defense in the conference. With plenty of returning starters and the most feared defensive lineman in the Pac-12, they should be able to win a game or two on defense alone.

Given the way their schedule is laid out -- combined with returning talent on both sides of the ball and an outstanding coaching staff -- it's not outside the realm of possibility that the Utes could emerge from the South.

Ted Miller: One word: Plastics.

[+] EnlargeJeff Tedford
Ezra Shaw/Getty ImagesJeff Tedford and California could be on the cusp of a return to prominence in the Pac-12.
No, wait. That's something else. Our word is "schedule."

Now we have four words: California Freaking Golden Bears! You're back. Welcome. You remember where everything is, right, up here in the national rankings? No, coach Tedford, you don't have to sleep on that twin mattress in your office. You have the view suite down the hall. Yes, it has been a while. Yes, breakfast is included. Eggs Benedict? Well, your wife did tell us about your cholesterol. You want us to stick it? Well, then, Eggs Benedict it is!

The Bears have the schedule to upset the Trojans-Ducks destination wedding. And the talent, by the way.

Schedule? Cal plays host to Oregon, Stanford and Washington, the likely three top teams in the North Division. Plays host, by the way, at an awesomely cool renovated Memorial Stadium that will put the Strawberry back in the Canyon. The Bears went 30-9 in Memorial Stadium between 2005-2010 before playing their home games in AT&T Park in 2011, including 7-0 marks in 2006 and 2008.

Every team is better at home. Cal fans would tell you their team is better-er at home. Sure, it's had its share of mega face-plants in front of the home fans -- Oregon State in 2007 (altogether now "ouch"), USC in 2009, and that three-game home losing streak to end 2010 with a whimper. But there is no doubt it will be better to play the Ducks, Huskies and Cardinal at home, particularly with the Ducks and Cardinal breaking in new quarteracks.

And Cal isn't breaking in a new quarterback. What if, just maybe, Zach Maynard plays the entire season like he did the final four games of the 2011 regular season? And what if offensive coordinator Jim Michalczik works his magic with the line his second year back in Berkeley? And what if all that young talent -- Mustafa Jalil, Stefan McClure, Todd Barr, Viliami Moala, Brennan Scarlett, David Wilkerson, Chris McCain, Michael Coley, Avery Sebastian, Cecil Whiteside, etc. -- breaks through on defense?

We'll probably get a pretty good measure of the Bears early on. They will take a 2-0 record to Ohio State on Sept. 15. That is a winnable game, but it will require the Bears to go East and show some fire. You might recall that they didn't exactly do that in recent years at Tennessee and Maryland.

Then they visit USC. Jeff Tedford is 1-9 against USC, losing those nine by a combined count of 291-144. The Bears can afford to lose at USC, though a poor showing might cause the team to question itself and make it seem like these are the "same ole Bears." That, however, is not a divisional game. The larger issue is holding serve at home, which would give Cal an advantage in the event of a tie atop the North.

As Kevin noted above, we have a surfeit of "ifs" for both scenarios. It just feels as though Oregon and USC are that far ahead of everyone else.

But you do know that you never know until you do know.
Every season true freshman make an impact and underclassmen become stars. Who might those guys be in the Pac-12 in 2011?

(Note: With "underclassmen to watch," we mostly stayed away from guys who made a significant impact in 2010, such as Arizona State defensive end Junior Onyeali, Colorado receiver Paul Richardson or California receiver Keenan Allen).

Underclassmen to watch

[+] EnlargeJonathan McKnight
Jason O. Watson/US PresswireArizona cornerback Jonathan McKnight has a bright future.
Jonathan McKnight, CB, So, Arizona: McKnight, younger brother of former USC running back Joe McKnight, might already be the best cover guy in an already good secondary.

Davon Coleman, DE, So, Arizona State: The junior college transfer -- a late signing for the 2011 recruiting class -- might already be the Sun Devils' No. 3 defensive end, and ASU needs him to step up after returning starter James Brooks quit the team.

David Wilkerson, OLB, RFr., California: While fellow outside linebacker Cecil Whiteside might be more heralded, Wilkerson was listed as a starter on on the post-spring depth chart.

Parker Orms, CB, So., Colorado: Orms was the starting nickel back in 2010 before he blew out his knee on the third play of the season-opener against Colorado State. He's now No. 1 at cornerback -- the Buffs more worrisome position -- despite sitting out spring practices.

Scott Crichton, DE, RFr., Oregon State: The Beavers have major questions at defensive end -- a traditionally strong position for their defense. While he didn't come from nowhere, it was a bit of a surprise to see Crichton atop the depth chart after spring practices.

Dietrich Riley, So, SS, UCLA: By the end of the season Riley and Tony Dye might be widely viewed as the best safety combo in the conference. Heck, they might already be.

Dres Anderson, RFr, WR, Utah: Anderson already looks like the Utes' No. 2 option after junior DeVonte Christopher.

Josh Shirley, RFr., LB, Washington: Shirley was such a force as a pass-rusher this past spring, they created a position for him: "Rush" linebacker.

Rickey Galvin, RFr, RB, Washington State: Galvin broke his arm at Oklahoma State on the first play of his college career, which ended his debut season. He's speedy and shifty and the Cougars really need him to provide a running threat to help out quarterback Jeff Tuel.

Impact freshmen

Hank Hobson, LB, Arizona: The Wildcats have major depth issues at linebacker. Hobson looks like the most ready-made guy in the incoming class. He might not start, but he's a good bet to be the No. 4 guy behind the starting three.

Stefan McClure, CB, California: While many Cal fans are more eager to see 325-pound nose tackle Viliami Moala, the Bears have depth issues at cornerback, and McClure is almost certain to be in the mix.

Colt Lyerla, TE, Oregon: While Oregon needs help at receiver, and at least one one of the incoming guys is almost certain to climb into a prime spot in the rotation, we don't know who that will be. We feel pretty good projecting Lyerla as the Ducks' No. 2 tight end behind David Paulson.

James Vaughters, ILB, Stanford: The word most often used to describe Vaughters? "Beast." Stanford is solid at linebacker, but this guy is going to play, and and might well end up suggesting a second-coming of Vontaze Burfict by season's end.

George Farmer, WR, USC: There might be somebody who doesn't believe Farmer is a budding star but I have yet to speak with him. Even USC super-soph Robert Woods talks about Farmer's freakish skills.

Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington: Seferian-Jenkins showed this past spring that he's ready for prime time. He's likely to be the Huskies' starting tight end. A runner-up for the Huskies, by the way, is receiver Kasen Williams, but he will join a deep, veteran crew of receivers.

Looking back on the 2010 ESPNU 150

June, 7, 2011
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They were the best 150 recruits in the nation last season, according to ESPN Recruiting, and 26 of them committed to Pac-10 schools, including 10 who chose USC. Some of them have already made an impact while others either haven't been afforded that opportunity or haven't earned it.

Here's a look back at the Pac-12 2010 ESPNU 150 recruits:

Biggest impact: USC receiver Robert Woods, ranked seventh overall, was first-team All-Pac-10 as a kick returner and was the Trojans' leading receiver with 64 receptions for 786 yards with six touchdowns. He made just about every freshman All-America team. Honorable mentions go to USC CB Nickell Robey (No. 149) and California receiver Keenan Allen (No. 33), who both almost immediately became starters.

Jury's still out (has played, but hasn't quite broken out): UCLA DE Owamagbe Odighizuwa (No. 17), Washington S Sean Parker (No. 49) and USC RB Dillon Baxter (No. 117) each saw action last fall and flashed ability -- in some cases big-time ability -- but didn't break through as starters. None of the three finished spring practices as a clear No. 1 on the depth chart.

Worth watching (hasn't played or redshirted last season): A lot of the redshirts are expected to break through and contribute in 2011, including Oregon RB Lache Seastrunk (No. 40), UCLA RB Jordan James (No. 38), USC WR Kyle Prater (No. 45), USC DT George Uko (No. 58) and California OLB Cecil Whiteside (No. 116). Seastrunk and James are expected to get touches, despite the return of talented, experienced players ahead of them on the depth chart. Prater would have been a contributor in 2010 if not for injuries. Uko was a surprise No. 1 on the post-spring depth chart, while Whiteside was a standout this spring.

Opening camp: California

August, 7, 2010
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California opens preseason camp today. Here's a quick look.

Who's back: Eight starters on offense, six on defense and both specialists.

Big names: RB Shane Vereen, LB Mike Mohamed, DE Cameron Jordan, P Bryan Anger

What's new: Bob Gregory, who had been Jeff Tedford's defensive coordinator since 2002, left for Boise State, and NFL veteran Clancy Pendergast replaced him. Pendergast is expected to bring a more aggressive approach that emphasizes pressure on the quarterback. Also, Jeff Genyk replaced Pete Alamar as special teams coach. Genyk will also coach tight ends.

Key competition: Three spots in the secondary beside safety Sean Cattouse are wide open, though Bryant Nnabuife and Darian Hagan are listed first at the corners and Chris Conte is No. 1 at safety. Things also are unclear at outside linebacker, left offensive guard and a pecking order at tailback behind Vereen must be established. Will any young receivers step up?

Breaking out: Is Marvin Jones ready to become a go-to receivers? And will touted freshman receiver Keenan Allen make an immediate impact and perhaps also play in the secondary? Kendrick Payne and Deandre Coleman figure to provide some quality depth on what could be a very good defensive line.

Quote: Tedford on quarterback Kevin Riley: "We are going to have great competition at the quarterback position, but Kevin is the guy who takes the first snaps. Kevin is the active leader in the Pac-10 in wins, touchdown passes and starts. We are really hoping that his experience will really help us and translate to more success on the football field. The team has a lot of confidence in him. He has worked very, very hard and he feels that this is his team."

Notes: Two key recruits won't be on the team this fall, one permanently. Linebacker Cecil Whiteside will grayshirt due to academic issues; he won't enroll until January. Defensive end Chris Martin was released from his letter of intent and opted to sign with Florida ... Because of the renovation of Memorial Stadium, the team is using temporary locker rooms. Practices also have been moved to the morning instead of the afternoon ... Cal was picked seventh in the preseason media poll.

Pac-10 lunch links: Jeremiah Masoli talks

July, 30, 2010
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Happy Friday.

Pac-10 recruiting wrap: California

February, 4, 2010
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California's class of 20 ranks 15th in the nation and includes three ESPNU 150 players.

Coach Jeff Tedford said the class was "as solid as any class we've ever had here."

Top prospects: Keenan Allen, who decommitted from Alabama, was a highly rated safety that Tedford said would play on both sides of the ball, though primarily at receiver. Tedford compared Chris Martin to former Bears outside linebacker Zack Follett. Cecil Whiteside is another guy who figures to challenge for playing time at linebacker. Defensive end Gabe King also figures to be in the mix early.

Under the radar: The Bears need help at receiver and Tedford called Terrance Montgomery "one of the more underrated guys that we have in our class." Tevin Carter also figures to be in the mix at receiver. Tedford gushed about running back Trajuan Briggs and compared tight end Jacob Wark to former Bear Craig Stevens.

Issues? Hard to find many problems with this class. There's no obvious, run-stuffing noseguard for the Bears' 3-4 scheme. Adrian Lee is the only cornerback, and he played tailback in high school.

Notes: Linebacker Chris McCain most likely will grayshirt in order to get his academics in order ... Receiver Coleman Edmond will get a look returning punts and kicks ... Quarterback Zach Maynard, a transfer from Buffalo, is Allen's brother and they were a package deal ... Quarterback Austin Hinder is the grandson of Cal Hall of Famer Jim Hanifan.

Report: Cal picks up D-line recruit

February, 1, 2010
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Four-star defensive end Gabe King Insider will pick California on Wednesday, according to a report from the Contra-Costa Times.

That's a blow to Oregon because King transferred from North Carolina to South Eugene (Ore.) High School this past season.

The Ducks also are apparently out of the running for ESPNU 150 end Owamagbe Odighizuwa, who attends Portland's David Douglas High School.

It's not often the state or Oregon produces two elite defensive linemen, and the position was a need-area for the Ducks in recruiting.

Meanwhile, California's class may move up from its No. 22 national ranking. King is the third ESPNU 150 defender to commit to the Bears, joining end Chris Martin and outside linebacker Cecil Whiteside.

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