Pac-12: Chidera Uzo-Diribe

There were 34 Pac-12 players selected during the NFL draft, but there will be more than twice that many rookies in NFL training camps this summer. Shortly after the draft ended, the dominoes started falling and those who went undrafted started signing free-agent contracts.

The following list of undrafted free agent signings, which was compiled from various announcements and media reports, could change in the coming days:

Arizona
Arizona State
California
Note: K Vincenzo D'Amato will reportedly attend Green Bay's rookie minicamp.

Colorado
Oregon
Oregon State
Stanford
Notes: S Devon Carrington (Pittsburgh) and LB Jarek Lancaster (Oakland) will attend rookie minicamps.

UCLA
USC
Utah
Notes: DT LT Tuipulotu will attend Green Bay's rookie minicamp and C Vyncent Jones told the Deseret News he will attend minicamps for Pittsburgh and Kansas City.

Washington
Note: S Sean Parker will reportedly attend Washington Redskins rookie minicamp.

Washington State
Note: K Andrew Furney will attend Seattle Seahawks rookie minicamp.
This is the only way that you can hope to survive. Because life is not a movie. Everyone lies. Good guys lose. And love does not conquer all.

Pac-12 weekend rewind: Week 1

September, 2, 2013
9/02/13
12:00
PM ET
Taking stock of Week 1 in the Pac-12:

Team of the week: Washington opened fancy, renovated Husky Stadium with a dominant 38-6 win over No. 19 Boise State. Quarterback Keith Price was outstanding, and the defense kept the Broncos from scoring a touchdown. It was Boise State's worst loss since 2005.

Best game: While Oregon State's 49-46 loss to FCS school Eastern Washington was the biggest nail-biter, the Pac-12 blog isn't in the habit of celebrating a conference loss to an FCS team. So we're going with Utah's 30-26 comeback win over Utah State. The Utes trailed 23-14 early in the second half but stormed back after following up a 45-yard field goal with a successful onside kick. It was a gutsy call that led to the Utes' go-ahead points.

Biggest play: Colorado had taken a 26-24 lead over Colorado State early in the fourth quarter, but the Rams had driven to midfield and looked poised to counter on their next possession. On second-and-8, a Garrett Grayson pass to Kapri Bibbs looked like it was going to earn a first down, but Buffs defensive end Chidera Uzo-Diribe came from behind Bibbs and slapped the ball out. Greg Henderson got a nice bounce and scooped and scooted lickety-split down the sideline for a 53-yard touchdown that changed the game.

[+] EnlargeKeith Price
AP Photo/Ted S. WarrenKeith Price was stellar in Washington's win over No. 19 Boise State.
Offensive standout: Price completed 23 of 31 passes for 324 yards with a pair of touchdown passes and rushed for 25 yards in the win over Boise State. Moreover, he did all that after throwing a pick on his first pass, showing mental toughness by not letting an early mistake in a high-pressure environment get him down. His efficiency rating for the game -- 176.8 -- would have led the nation in 2012. Price also now has 56 career TD passes, a school record.

Defensive standout: Colorado's Addison Gillam was just the second true freshman to start a season opener at inside linebacker in school history, but that's not why he's noted here. He's here because he recorded 14 tackles, with two coming for a loss, and a sack. He also had a pass breakup and a key tackle on fourth down. The Buffaloes' defense, which was just awful last year, held Colorado State to 295 total yards.

Defensive standout II: Yes, Washington's Justin Wilcox knows what he's doing as he continues to climb the short list of nation's best defensive coordinators. The Huskies were bend-but-don't-break early against Boise State, and then they took over. Six points was the Broncos' lowest point total since 1997 (a 58-0 loss to Washington State). While Boise State gained some yards -- both teams were running up-tempo schemes, so there were 173 total plays in the game -- the Broncos averaged only 3.9 yards per play. For the sake of comparison, Alabama gave up 4.2 yards per play last year. Boise State's longest running play was 18 yards, and its longest passing play was 16 yards. When you don't give up big plays, you have a chance to win.

Special-teams standout: Utah kicker Andy Phillips, a former U.S. alpine skier who had never played competitive football -- at any level -- before his kickoff against Utah State, kicked field goals of 45, 19 and 38 yards and was perfect on three extra points in the Utes' 30-26 victory. The final two kicks came after the Utes had fallen behind 26-24 in the fourth quarter. Oh, and he perfectly executed an onside kick that might have been the biggest play of the game. His three kickoffs all went for touchbacks. See this video.

Smiley face: The most important thing is to be 1-0 after the opening week, and seven of 10 Pac-12 teams that played can now say that. Two of the teams that lost, California to No. 22 Northwestern and Washington State at Auburn, showed fairly well as underdogs and probably felt they should have won. Washington, Colorado, UCLA, Arizona and Oregon probably feel like they got exactly what they wanted out of the week. USC and Utah are, again, happy to be 1-0.

Frowny face: Oh, man, Oregon State. That defense.

Oregon State was the week's big loser. More like BIG LOSER. A four-touchdown favorite against Eastern Washington -- an FCS power but an FCS team nonetheless -- the No. 25 Beavers went down 49-46 because they simply couldn't stop Eagles quarterback Vernon Adams, who passed for 411 yards and rushed for 107. The Beavers welcomed back seven starters from one of the nation's best defenses, but that unit turned in a miserable performance. What the heck happened to All-Pac-12 defensive end Scott Crichton, who had just two tackles?

It was only the third time that an FCS school defeated a ranked FBS team.

Thought of the week: You can never -- ever! -- take any team lightly. In a week when every Pac-12 team will be favored in nonconference play, that's something to remember.

Questions for the week: USC and Washington State open Pac-12 play this week in the L.A. Coliseum on Saturday, and this game could be revealing. The Cougars showed they are an improved team at Auburn, while the Trojans are hard to pin down. Will Washington State get the upset? If that happens, the Mike Leach era gains momentum while the Lane Kiffin era takes a notable downturn. A secondary question is whether one or the other USC quarterbacks takes control of the starting job.

Colorado Buffaloes season preview

August, 16, 2013
8/16/13
10:30
AM ET
We continue our day-by-day snapshots of each Pac-12 team heading into the 2013 season in reverse alphabetical order with the Colorado Buffaloes.

Colorado

Coach: Mike MacIntyre (16-21, 0-0 at Colorado)

2012 record: 1-11, 1-8 Pac-12 South

Key losses: OT David Bakhtiari, TE Nick Kasa, OLB Jon Major, DT Will Pericak, FS Ray Polk.

[+] EnlargeMike MacIntyre
AP Photo/Brennan LinsleyMike MacIntyre is charged with turning around Colorado after making a winner out of San Jose State.
Key returnees: C Gus Handler, TB Christian Powell, WR Tyler McCulloch, S Marques Mosley, DE Chidera Uzo-Diribe, P Darragh O'Neill, WR Paul Richardson, Derrick Webb.

Newcomer to watch: It’s too early to tell which one, but three freshmen wide receivers -- Elijah Dunston, Devin Ross and Bryce Bobo (ironically numbered 1, 2 and 3) -- are all making a case to be in the rotation and two-deep.

Biggest games in 2013: The season opener against Colorado State (Sept. 1) is always a big one, and the rivalry with Utah (Nov. 30) is starting to take shape.

Biggest question mark: While no official word has come down on who will start at quarterback, it’s looking more and more like Connor Wood will at least begin the season as the starter. So we can at least put a partial check mark there. The biggest question is really what sort of progress -- if any -- we’ll see in Mike MacIntyre’s first season as the new head coach. He comes in with solid credentials and was Mr. Fix-It at San Jose State. But with the new job comes a new set of challenges. Chief among them, the proverbial challenge of “changing the culture.” MacIntyre made it clear that he wants to win and compete immediately, and he believes that his players have bought in. We’ll see how much on Sept. 1.

Forecast: The media doesn’t have much faith in the Buffs, picking the team that went 1-11 last season to finish last again in the Pac-12 South. This might be one of those situations in which the team shows improvement -- just not in the win department. Remember, San Jose State appeared to take a step back in MacIntyre’s first season, going 1-12, but it was during that time that he was establishing his schemes and philosophies, and in Year 2 they went 5-7. By the third season, the Spartans were 11-2 (10-2 under MacIntyre) and ranked in the top 25. No one is saying the Buffs will be ranked in three seasons, and most people probably aren't expecting it. The Pac-12 is a different animal than the now football-less WAC, but it's not wrong to hope for a postseason berth in the next 3-5 seasons.

And this season, the Buffs are loaded with young players who gained a ton of experience last season. They return 17 starters (eight offense, nine defense) including a young secondary that took its licks last season. Mosley, Kenneth Crawley and Yuri Wright all started last season, and Greg Henderson and Parker Orms are the veterans of the group. Up front defensively, Uzo-Diribe is a talented pass-rusher, and linebackers Derrick Webb and Paul Vigo should be the anchors on defense.

Offensively, they lose Bakhtiari to the NFL and Alex Lewis announced a transfer, which was followed by some bizarre and unfortunate circumstances. But they get Richardson back after he missed all of 2012 with a knee injury. When he’s healthy, he’s one of the most explosive wide receivers in the country and should give the Buffs a stretch-the-field threat they were lacking.

Powell also quietly put together a strong second half last season, posting a pair of 100-yard games and four touchdowns over the final five. If they can plug the left side of the line (it’s looking like veteran Jack Harris at left tackle and Kaiwi Crabb at left guard), he could inch closer to 1,000 yards on the ground after posting 691 and a 4.4 yards per carry average last season.

There is talent on Colorado’s roster, but, as what's becoming a trend with Colorado, fans are going to have to be patient until the new staff figures out how best to use it.

Preseason position reviews: defensive line

July, 30, 2013
7/30/13
7:00
PM ET
Defensive line is difficult to compare among Pac-12 teams because schemes aren't as consistent as they used to be.

Five or so years ago, just about everyone ran a 4-3. Now, most of the conference runs a hybrid 3-4. California went the other way, however, switching back to a 4-3.

In most cases, when a team runs an odd front, we counted the "rush end" as an outside linebacker, but there's always a bit of crossover into defensive end territory, whether he puts his hand down or not.

Continuing our theme of strong defenses heading into the 2013 season, this is a good position in the conference across the board. Even the "We'll see" teams probably believe they will be as good or better up front this fall.

So how do things stack up?

GREAT SHAPE

[+] EnlargeWill Sutton, Corbin Berkstresser
AP Photo/L.G. PattersonAfter a 12-sack season in 2012, Will Sutton will once again be a force on Arizona State's defensive line.
Arizona State: Everyone knows about DT Will Sutton, the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, who was mostly unblockable last year, but all three D-line starters are back for the Sun Devils. While the Pac-12 Blog doesn't give too much credit to incoming players, juco transfer Marcus Hardison, ESPN's No. 5 overall junior college prospect in the country, is apparently ready for prime time.

Oregon: Five of the top six from the 2012 depth chart are back, and that was a very good crew, led by end Taylor Hart. Wade Keliikipi and Ricky Heimuli are veteran 300-pounders, while Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner and Alex Balducci each saw significant action last year as true freshmen. This unit can go even nine-deep.

Stanford: End Ben Gardner leads a strong, experienced unit. He and fellow end Henry Anderson combined for 27.5 tackles for a loss, and NG David Parry stepped into the starting lineup late last season when Terrence Stephens had some issues. Depth is promising but mostly unproven.

USC: The Trojans have the potential to be rugged front as they switch to a base 3-4 look if former tackles now ends Leonard Williams and George Uko take another step forward. Things are fluid at nose tackle between Antwaun Woods, Cody Temple and touted frosh Kenny Bigelow. Some depth questions remain, and the run defense was only middling a year ago.

GOOD SHAPE

California: In terms of name recognition from recruiting, there's plenty of potential here as the Bears transition to a 4-3 scheme: massive NT Deandre Coleman is top NFL prospect, as are ends Chris McCain and Brennan Scarlett. Tackle Mustafa Jalil is a big-time talent, but depth is a question and the results in 2012 were mediocre.

UCLA: Datone Jones is gone, and that's a big hit, but most of the depth chart is back, including DE Cassius Marsh and NT Seali'i Epenesa. The Bruins probably would be in great shape if not for some health issues. NT Brandon Tuliaupupu was lost in the spring to a knee injury, and end Owamagbe Odighizuwa remains questionable for fall camp with a hip injury. Is touted NT Ellis McCarthy ready to roll after injury issues his freshman year? And will the NCAA make Eddie Vanderdoes, who signed with Notre Dame in February but changed his mind, immediately eligible?

Washington: Talia Crichton is gone, but three of four starters are back, including NT Danny Shelton. Ends Andrew Hudson and Josh Shirley combined for 13 sacks last year. If the D-line take a step forward, the Huskies have a chance to have a top-25 defense.

Oregon State: This is a compromise grade for the Beavers, who are in great shape at end -- Scott Crichton! Dylan Wynn! -- and a decided "we'll see" at tackle, where incoming juco players need to step up, big time.

Washington State: The Cougars welcome back all three starters from late in the season, led by NT Ioane Gauta. Sophomore tackle Xavier Cooper could be poised for a breaktout season -- injuries slowed his development last year. This is a ‘better than you think unit’, one that only allowed 4.0 yards per rush, same as Oregon and Oregon State.

WE'LL SEE

Utah: The Utes lose three of four starters from their 2012 line, including first-round NFL draft pick Star Lotulelei, but there doesn't seem to be much worry heading into fall camp, particularly with Trevor Reilly fully installed at end instead of OLB. Nate Orchard, who changed his last name from Fakahafua, is back at the other end, and there are a handful of 300-pound options at DT. Utah was second in the Pac-12 in rush defense last season and there is a tradition of being stout up front.

Arizona: Five of the top six from the 2012 depth chart are back, but the Wildcats D-line got pushed around last year. Only Colorado was worse against the run -- 4.6 yards per carry, 206 yards per game. Further, the Wildcats had just 16 sacks last year, last in the conference.

Colorado: With a team-high seven sacks, DE Chidera Uzo-Diribe is a strong player, but his supporting cast is questionable. Still, it's not unreasonable to project significant improvement from a unit that was forced to play several young players in 2012. While the experience factor is nice, the Buffs still gave up 5.9 yards per rush last year, second worst in the nation.

You can see previous previews here:

Quarterback

Running back

Receiver

Tight end

Offensive line

Kicker

Linebacker

Pac-12 media day primer

July, 12, 2013
7/12/13
10:00
AM ET
Two weeks and counting. Ted and I are gearing up for media day. Are you? Here's what you should know.

When: July 26

Where: Sony Studios, Los Angeles

Who will be there (all times PT):
UPDATE: Arizona State informed me Friday morning that it has decided to bring Will Sutton instead of safety Alden Darby. This is a good thing because Sutton was the league's defensive player of the year last season, and his presence helps bolster his name -- and the program -- in the eyes of the national media.

Who won’t be there: The biggest name missing is Arizona running back Ka'Deem Carey, who led the nation in rushing last season. Coaches tend to bring veterans and guys with experience. Yankey is a great spokesman for Stanford and a good candidate, but I know others wouldn't mind hearing some thoughts from Cardinal QB Kevin Hogan.

Five storylines:
  1. Hitting? Scott is expected to announce the league's health and safety initiative, which will limit how much hitting can be done in practice. This isn't a new concept, but the league jumped in front of it by being the first to make a conference-wide mandate.
  2. Bowl updates? We know the status of the Rose, Alamo, Holiday, Kraft Fight Hunger and Sun bowls. Not sure if the rest of the lineup for beyond this season will be announced at media day. But one of us will ask.
  3. New coaches: This is the meet-the-world opportunity for the new head coaches in the league: Dykes, MacIntyre and Helfrich. Expect the requisite questions on the difficulty of changing cultures and rebuilding programs.
  4. Preseason poll: Is there any fodder better than preseason polls? Oregon or Stanford? Stanford or Oregon? ASU, UCLA or USC? Your Pac-12 bloggers will be submitting their ballots this weekend after a visit to the Oracle of Delphi, a seance channeling Nostradamus and a dartboard.
  5. Quirky questions: With the access of media day comes the spectacle of media day. Granted, it's not as bad as some of the quirks at Super Bowl media day. But there's bound to be a couple of left-field questions -- and they'll probably be directed at Leach, who is great and usually has fun with them. Last year he was asked which Pac-12 coach he'd go hunting with and which Civil War generals he'd compare some of his players to.

Ted and I will be trying something new this year (we think). Instead of the on-the-stage posts, we'll be doing a live chat during the entire stage session and bringing you info real time. So take note of the times (in Pacific, to save you the math) and be ready to interact.
A bunch of the major college football awards are announcing their preseason watch lists this week. They'll stagger them -- as to heighten the anticipation.

Today's release includes the Maxwell Award, which goes to the nation's top player, and the Bednarik Award, which goes to the nation's top defensive player. The Pac-12 is all over both lists.

You can see all of the nominees here. But if you're only interested in the Pac-12 players, read on.

Maxwell Award
Bednarik Award

*Returning semifinalist

Colorado names its captains

June, 21, 2013
6/21/13
1:00
PM ET
The Colorado Buffaloes selected their 2013 captains on Thursday -- picking six players through two rounds of voting.

Seniors Jack Harris (offensive tackle), Chidera Uzo-Diribe (defensive end), Paul Vigo (linebacker) and Derrick Webb (linebacker), along with juniors Paul Richardson (wide receiver) and Connor Wood (quarterback) will serve as the Buffs' captains in the upcoming season.

Traditionally, Colorado has picked its captains in August. But new head coach Mike MacIntyre wanted to move up the process.

"We elected captains early this year so they could be leaders throughout the summer,” MacIntyre said in a statement. “We demand and expect a lot out of our leaders on this team, and I’m very excited about the six players selected by their teammates to serve as the captains.”

An initial vote was held June 2 and the field was narrowed to 10 finalists. The top six were so close that MacIntyre opted for six captains. A maximum of four players are allowed to walk out for the coin toss, so the players will rotate throughout the year.

Media day lineup set

June, 18, 2013
6/18/13
1:00
PM ET
Last week, Ted gave you the rundown of which Pac-12 players will be attending media day on July 26. Now the on-stage lineup has been set.

We'll be there to bring you each team's summary "On stage..." post like we did last year, as well as "Seen and Heard" posts, a multi-story notebook and plenty of videos.

We can't make any promises that the entire Google-web won't collapse and Utah's "On Stage" post won't disappear like it did last year (Ted still feels really bad about that one), but he told me he's going to slip the IT guy at Sony Studios a $20 just in case. (Anyone needing a refresher on that story can check out the final question from this mailbag last year.)

Here's the lineup so you can start planning ahead.

9 a.m. Larry Scott, Pac-12 Commissioner

9:15 a.m. Washington State - Coach Mike Leach, Elliott Bosch (OL), Deone Bucannon (DB)

9:30 a.m. California - Coach Sonny Dykes, Bryce Treggs (WR), Nick Forbes (LB)

9:45 a.m. Washington - Coach Steve Sarkisian, Keith Price (QB), Sean Parker (DB)

10:00 a.m. Oregon State - Coach Mike Riley, Brandin Cooks (WR), Rashaad Reynolds (DB)

10:15 a.m. Oregon - Coach Mark Helfrich, Marcus Mariota (QB), Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (CB)

10:30 a.m. Stanford - Coach David Shaw, David Yankey (OL), Shayne Skov (LB)

10:45 a.m. Break

11:00 a.m. Colorado - Coach Mike MacIntyre, Paul Richardson (WR), Chidera Uzo-Diribe (DE)

11:15 a.m. Utah - Coach Kyle Whittingham, Jake Murphy (TE), Trevor Reilly (DE)

11:30 a.m. Arizona - Coach Rich Rodriguez, Terrence Miller (WR), Jake Fischer (LB)

11:45 a.m. USC - Coach Lane Kiffin, Marqise Lee (WR), Hayes Pullard (LB)

12:00 p.m. Arizona State - Coach Todd Graham, Taylor Kelly (QB), Alden Darby (S)

12:15 p.m. UCLA - Coach Jim Mora, Xavier Su’a Filo (OL), Anthony Barr (LB)
On Tuesday, we looked at the five worst defenses in the Pac-12 in 2012: UCLA, California, Washington State, Arizona and Colorado.

The issue was not pointing out past badness but considered the potential for 2013 improvement. That included returning starters, defensive line starters back, star power and the biggest personnel loss.

Here's our chart:


We've already offered our take: While all five teams have the potential to improve, perhaps significantly, the most likely to make a big jump is Arizona, due to 11 returning starters.

SportsNation

Which Pac-12 defense rebounds in 2013?

  •  
    33%
  •  
    21%
  •  
    13%
  •  
    24%
  •  
    9%

Discuss (Total votes: 2,609)

But what's your take?

Colorado might be the pick just because it will be difficult to surrender 46 points per game again.

California has a solid recent track record on defense, though that was with a 3-4 scheme under Clancy Pendergast, who's now running USC's defense. The Bears' 2012 performance might rate as an anomaly. There is plenty of returning talent.

UCLA also has some strong returning talent, led by Barr and MLB Eric Kendricks. While the secondary is being entirely rebuilt, the young players slated to step up might be more physically talented than those who preceded them.

Washington State is replacing four-year sack leader Travis Long, but it's got a lot of guys back from a unit that will be far more seasoned this fall.

Pac-12 defenses set to rebound?

June, 11, 2013
6/11/13
5:30
PM ET
In 2011, Oregon State ranked seventh in the Pac-12 in scoring defense, surrendering 30.8 points per game. Washington was even worse, ranking 11th while yielding 35.9 points per game

Bad defenses!

Oregon State finished 3-9, the Beavers' worst record since going 3-8 in 1997, coach Mike Riley's first season. The Huskies fired defensive coordinator Nick Holt and paid big bucks to lure Justin Wilcox away from Tennessee.

And in 2012 both made huge improvement on defense.

The Beavers ended up ranked second in the Pac-12 and 22nd in the nation, giving up just 20.6 points per game. That's a 10.2-point per game improvement.

Washington ended up fourth in the conference, surrendering a respectable 24.2 points per game, which was 11.2 points better per game.

Our, er, point? Units can make major improvements from one year to the next.

So who is poised to make a big jump this fall?

Well, the first question is can we glean anything from Oregon State and Washington?

Oregon State welcomed back eight starters, and that doesn't include space-eating, 354-pound tackle Castro Masaniai. Moreover, there was plenty of star power at all three levels: DE Scott Crichton, LB D.J. Alexander and CB Jordan Poyer.

The personnel losses didn't leave big questions. In fact, it seemed likely in the preseason that the Beavers' defense would be better, even if there's a minor application of hindsight there.

Washington welcomed back seven starters, but there were plenty of questions, starting with a new base 3-4 scheme. There was some veteran talent, topped by CB Desmond Trufant, and promising young players such as DT Danny Shelton, rush end Josh Shirley and LB Shaq Thompson, but dramatic improvement wasn't a certainty. The personnel losses -- DE Everrette Thompson, DT Alameda Ta’amu , LB Cort Dennison and CB Quinton Richardson -- were multiyear starters.

Yet the Huskies, probably in large part due to much better coaching under Wilcox and his rejiggered staff, were dramatically better.

And so we have the bottom five defenses from 2012:


Wow, Colorado ... 46 points per game. That was worst in the nation by nearly three points. I know Buff fans are tired of hearing this but, well, that can't get any worse.

California is transitioning to a 4-3 after being pretty successful with a 3-4 under Clancy Pendergast. The good news is solid talent at all three levels, though some of that talent has yet to live up to its formally big-time recruiting pedigree.

As we've previously touched on, UCLA needs to get better on defense if it wants to again become a national presence. Barr is a great place to start, seeing that he's on the short list for national defensive player of the year. That said: The entire secondary is being rebuilt.

Washington State is filling the biggest void -- Long was the Cougars' four-year sack leader -- but it has a better-than-you-think crew coming back next fall.

But if you were betting on improvement, the Wildcats might be the best place to start. The grounds for that is pretty straight-forward: Everyone is back, so you'd expect most of those guys to be better this fall, with the added bonus of some youthful reinforcements. Further, coordinator Jeff Casteel knows what he's doing. Year 2 with his 3-3-5 scheme is almost certainly going to be better.

The Wildcats' defense might even get a boost from its offense: With QB Matt Scott gone, the offense might lean more on the running game, topped by Ka'Deem Carey. It also might slow things down just a bit, though Rich Rodriguez isn't likely to huddle up and go pro style.
We've looked at offensive three-headed monsters -- elite combinations of quarterback, running back and receiver -- so now let's look at the defensive version.

That would be elite combinations of top tacklers, top sack men and top interceptors, as tackles, sacks and interceptions make defensive coordinators happy.

The combinations here might be stronger even than the offensive troikas. Stanford, for example, welcomes back an elite, All-America sort of player for each category. It seems to us all 12 teams have at least one player to be excited about heading into the fall.

Just two teams -- Arizona State and Utah -- only hit on one category. Arizona, Colorado and Washington join Stanford hitting all three, though Colorado's interception numbers from 2012 are so meager -- 3! -- that it's not terribly relevant. And USC's just missing was a matter of 0.4 tackles per game.

So here's how we see things stacking up.

And, again, you should feel free to be outraged by our lunkheaded bias against your team, which obviously should be ranked much higher.

1. Stanford
LB Shayne Skov, OLB Trent Murphy, S Ed Reynolds

The skinny: Three potential All-Americans. There is no finer troika in the nation. Not sure if anyone else is even close.

2. USC
LB Hayes Pullard, OLB Morgan Breslin, S Dion Bailey

The skinny: Pullard was seventh in the conference with 8.2 tackles per game, just behind safety T.J. McDonald. Breslin is transitioning from defensive end to outside linebacker, which actually seems like a better fit. And Bailey, who led the Trojans with four interceptions, is moving back to safety from linebacker.

3. UCLA
LB Eric Kendricks, OLB Anthony Barr, S Randall Goforth

The skinny: UCLA gets here on the power of the first two, an elite combination, with Barr a likely top-10 NFL draft pick next spring. That balances out the questions in the secondary. Goforth, a promising player, just seemed like as good a choice as any.

4. Oregon State
LB Michael Doctor, DE Scott Cricthon, CB Rashaad Reynolds

The skinny: Doctor took a big step forward last year, even if D.J. Alexander is a flashier player. Crichton, first-team All-Pac-12 in 2012, is trying to lead the Beavers in sacks for a third consecutive year. Reynolds had three picks last year and now becomes the Beavers' lead cornerback with Jordan Poyer off to the NFL.

5. Oregon
LB Derrick Malone, DE Taylor Hart, S Erick Dargan

The skinny: Malone was just thrown in there because the Ducks' linebacker situation is cloudy. Hart is a budding all-conference guy who should get his due this fall. Dargan led the Ducks with five picks, but there's an acknowledgement here also of cornerback Ekpre-Olomu, a preseason All-American, who had four.

6. Arizona State
LB Chris Young, DT Will Sutton, S Alden Darby

The skinny: Sutton is the big fish here, obviously. Linebacker is a question for the Sun Devils, who lost their top two tacklers. Young and Darby are returning starters, though, with Young ranking third in tackles and Darby second in interceptions in 2012.

7. Washington
LB John Timu, OLB Josh Shirley, CB Marcus Peters

The skinny: This is a solid but unspectacular trio, as none of the three were all-conference. But the Huskies defense, which was greatly improved in 2012, has a lot of production back. It's worth noting that defensive end Andrew Hudson tied Shirely for the team lead with 6.5 sacks, and linebacker Shaq Thompson also had three picks, like Peters.

8. Arizona
LB Jake Fischer, LB Marquis Flowers, CB Jonathan McKnight

The skinny: All three leaders are back, but they get marked down for the overall defensive numbers in 2012. Flowers, an underrated player, had 5.5 sacks and was tied with McKnight with three interceptions.

9. California
LB Nick Forbes, DE Chris McCain, S Michael Lowe

The skinny: Forbes averaged 7.1 tackles per game last year. McCain tied for the team lead in sacks with 3.5, but don't be surprised if Todd Barr or Brennan Scarlett lead the pass rush. Lowe had three picks last year to tie for the team lead, but he's listed behind Alex Logan on the post-spring depth chart.

10. Washington State
S Deone Bucannon, OLB Logan Mayes, LB Cyrus Coen

The skinny: Bucannon is an A-list guy, earning second-team All-Pac-12 honors in 2012. He led the Cougars in tackles and interceptions, so we included Coen, who was second with three picks. The gigantic void is the pass rush, which lost four-year sack leader Travis Long.

11. Utah
LB/S Brian Blechen, DE Trevor Reilly, S Eric Rowe

The skinny: These are three solid players, but there's a lot of uncertainty on the Utes defense. The Utes lost their top two sack men and their top three cornerbacks. Blechen has bounced back and forth between linebacker and safety, and neither Reilly nor Rowe were able to top the depth chart at his position this spring without an "Or" beside him.

12. Colorado
LB Derrick Webb, DE Chidera Uzo-Diribe, CB Kenneth Crawley

The skinny: All three leaders are back, but we're listing the promising Crawley instead of the two guys who had a single pick last year. Uzo-Diribe is legit. He has 12.5 sacks over the past two seasons, including seven last year. Big issue here, however, is how terrible the Buffs defense was last year.

Pac-12's top sack men

June, 3, 2013
6/03/13
11:00
AM ET
The Pac-12 is welcoming back a strong crew of quarterbacks, but life might not be terribly fun in the pocket for even the best of them. Perhaps the strongest returning group in the conference in 2013 will be defenders who specialize in knocking quarterbacks on their rear ends.

Nine of the top-10 sack men in 2012 will be back this fall. And 14 of the top-20. And just two teams -- Utah and Washington State -- don't welcome back at least one of their top pass rushers.

Five of six pass rushers who recorded at least 10 sacks will be back.
So who might join the double-digit sack club this fall? Here are some thoughts.

Arizona: Linebacker Marquis Flowers led the Wildcats with 5.5 sacks in 2012, but rushing the passer was one of the biggest issues with last year's overmatched defense, which was 108th in the nation with just 16 sacks. Maybe a young player, such as redshirt freshman Kyle Kelley, will rise in the fall?

California: The Bears spread out their 28 sacks last year, with OLB Chris McCain and DT Kendrick Payne leading the way with 3.5 apiece. McCain is back, Payne is not, and the Bears are converting from a 3-4 to a 4-3. Guys who should be first to the QB include McCain, Todd Barr and Brennan Scarlett.

Colorado: End Chidera Uzo-Diribe led Colorado with seven sacks last year -- no other Buff had more than three -- and it's a good bet he will again this fall. He has 12.5 sacks over the past two seasons.

Oregon: Underrated end Taylor Hart recorded eight sacks last year to lead the Ducks, but Oregon wasn't as good rushing the passer last year as it has been in the past. That might have been by design though, seeing the Ducks were 15th in the nation in pass efficiency defense. Hart is back, but it will be interesting to see if one of the young D-linemen, such as Arik Armstead or DeForest Buckner, steps up as a pass rusher this fall.

Oregon State: First-team All-Pac-12 end Scott Crichton, who led the Beavers and tied for eighth in the conference with nine sacks, fell just short of the list at the top. It seems almost certain he will lead the Beavers in sacks for a third consecutive season.

Utah: Joe Kruger led the Utes with six sacks last year and Star Lotulelei was second with five. A good bet to lead the pass rush this fall is hybrid LB/DE Trevor Reilly, who had 4.5 sacks last year.

Washington: Both the Huskies top two sack men are back: Josh Shirley and Andrew Hudson, who both had 6.5 sacks in 2012. Shirley, who seemed to have a lot of near-misses, is talented enough to get to double-digits this fall.

Washington State: Travis Long had been the Cougars best defensive player for four consecutive years, so he leaves behind a significant void. How will the Cougs replace his 9.5 sacks? No other defender had more than three sacks last fall. Logan Mayes, likely to replace Long at "Buck" LB, is the most obvious candidate.
COLORADO BUFFALOES

2012 record: 1-11
2012 conference record: 1-8 (Last in South Division)
Returning starters: Offense 9; Defense 7; Kick/punt 2

Top returners: WR Paul Richardson, WR Nelson Spruce, LB Derrick Webb, RB Christian Powell, C Gus Handler, DE Chidera Uzo-Diribe, CB Kenneth Crawley.

Key losses: TE Nick Kasa, OL David Bakhtiari, LB Jon Major, DB Ray Polk.

2012 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Christian Powell* (691)
Passing: Jordan Webb* (1,434, out indefinitely with knee injury)
Receiving: Nelson Spruce* (446)
Tackles: Derrick Webb* (88)
Sacks: Chidera Uzo-Diribe (7)
Interceptions: Jered Bell*, Jon Major, Marques Mosley* (1)

Spring answers

1. He's back: After missing all of 2012 with a torn ACL, wide receiver Paul Richardson is back and healthy. This is a huge boost for an offense that was lacking an explosive playmaker. In four Colorado scrimmages this spring, he had eight catches for 294 yards and three touchdowns. It's not the greatest barometer, but the fact he's on the field and running by defenders is a very positive sign.

2. Starting from scratch: Colorado has an entirely new coaching staff for the first time since 1979. So a good chunk of spring was spent reading name tags. It was also spent getting the team used to running a no-huddle offense. New coach Mike MacIntyre noted that the 15 practices were simply about introducing concepts -- which was accomplished. Translating those concepts into progress on the field will be a bigger task this fall.

3. Filling holes: Obviously, nothing is set in stone. A new coaching staff means a complete evaluation of every position. But there were some names that jumped out as candidates. D.D. Goodson made the move from tailback to wide receiver -- giving them a little more speed and depth at the position. January enrollee Addison Gillam jumped to the top of the depth chart at linebacker and cornerback John Walker made a big push in the secondary -- probably Colorado's deepest and most hotly contested position group.

Fall questions

1. QB questions: Last year there were three -- Jordan Webb, Nick Hirschman and Connor Wood. This year there are three -- Wood, Shane Dillon and incoming freshman Sefo Liufau. There are rumblings Webb might make it back by October -- but even then you have to wonder if he'll be close to 100 percent. Still, there are lots and lots of question about who will be running the new offense.

2. Sorting out the line: Just when it seems like the Buffs are starting to get a little continuity on the offensive line, right guard Daniel Munyer breaks his fibula during a fumble drill. It's not all completely up in the air -- and they do have a solid returning center in Gus Handler -- who should again be on the Rimington Trophy watch list. But there is still a lot of evaluation to be done.

3. Time to grow up: By now we all know about Colorado's youth in the secondary. A lot of freshmen played last year (1,476 snaps between a trio of freshmen defenders) and they learned the hard way what it's like to guard Pac-12 receivers. The maturation of this group is critical because improved secondary play will trickle down and take some of the pressure off of the front seven. This group has the athleticism and potential to be very good. The question is, will they?

Lunch links: Cal's over/under?

April, 23, 2013
4/23/13
2:30
PM ET
And that's how it came to pass that on the second-to-last day of the job, the convict crew that tarred the plate factory roof in the spring of '49 wound up sitting in a row at 10 o'clock in the morning drinking icy cold, Bohemia-style beer, courtesy of the hardest screw that ever walked a turn at Shawshank State Prison.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

PAC-12 SCOREBOARD

Thursday, 9/4
Friday, 9/5
Saturday, 9/6