Pac-12: Clint Floyd
2011 conference record: 4-5 (T 3rd, South)
Offense: 4; defense: 7; kicker/punter: 2
RB Cameron Marshall, OT Evan Finkenberg, WR Jamal Miles, LB Brandon Magee, DT Will Sutton
QB Brock Osweiler, WR Gerell Robinson, WR Aaron Pflugrad, C Garth Gerhart, LB Vontaze Burfict, LB Colin Parker, S Clint Floyd
2011 statistical leaders (*returner)
Rushing: Cameron Marshall* (1,050 yards)
Passing: Brock Osweiler (4,036 yards)
Receiving: Gerell Robinson (1,397 yards)
Tackles: Colin Parker (75)
Sacks: Vontaze Burfict (5)
Interceptions: Clint Floyd (4)
1. He's selling, you buying? New head coach Todd Graham describes himself as an "old school" guy, meaning no swearing, no jewelry, yes sir, no sir ... that kind of stuff. His practices are intense, as is the fast-paced offense he's installing. Players talked about being a little shell-shocked by how he does things and the discipline he demands. But so far, they seem to have taken to it.
2. Oh, line: Once thought to be a concern for the Sun Devils after losing three offensive linemen from last year's squad, Graham has gone out of his way to note how good the unit looks. They are set at left tackle with Evan Finkenberg, a two-year starter, but he's versatile enough to play anywhere on the line. Andrew Sampson has 20 consecutive starts. Jamil Douglas, Kody Koebensky and Brice Schwab should fill out the line.
3. Back attack: The Sun Devils have something special in running back Cameron Marshall, who should flourish with Graham's downhill running offense. Behind him is a deep, talented group, but little is known about the pecking order. Kyle Middlebrooks, James Morrison, Deantre Lewis, Marion Grice and incoming freshman D.J. Foster all figure to play some sort of role. Worth keeping an eye on Marshall's surgically repaired foot as well. He's expected to be 100 percent by fall. While this might be ASU's deepest group, there is still some uncertainty to how it will all look in Week 1.
1. QB question mark: Graham hinted that the coaching staff is closer to a decision on their quarterback than they are probably letting on publicly. Still, the public at large is no closer to knowing whether it will be Mike Bercovici, Michael Eubank or Taylor Kelly running the show. Each has their own unique skill sets, but fans are calling for Eubank, who many have dubbed a Cam Newton replica.
2. Magee back? The return of linebacker Brandon Magee, who was limited in spring as he continues to recover from a torn Achilles that kept him out of 2011, would be a monumentally huge step in the right direction for the Sun Devils. And for Graham. Magee is not only a talented linebacker, he's a locker room guy who commands the respect of his teammates. They'll usually step in line with him. And if he's good to go, it would be a big step for the Sun Devils on and off the field.
3. New offense, new(er) receivers: Jamal Miles returns as the second-leading receiver (60 catches) and is a dynamic player, but there isn't a ton of experience at the position as the Sun Devils said goodbye to five scholarship receivers. Projected starters Rashad Ross and Kevin Ozier combined for just 29 catches between them last season. J.J. Holliday, A.J. Pickens and Kevin Anderson all figure to be in the mix as well. Plus there are more coming with the recruiting class and their impact remains to be seen.
QB Andrew Luck, Stanford: Luck completed 27 of 31 passes for 347 yards with two touchdowns and one interception in the Fiesta Bowl loss to Oklahoma State.
QB II Keith Price, Washington: It's impossible to leave Price or Luck out. Price completed 23 of 37 passes for 438 yards with four TDs and zero interceptions in the Alamo Bowl loss to Baylor. He also rushed for 39 yards and three scores. Those numbers typically would eclipse what Luck did, but Baylor might have the worst defense in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
RB LaMichael James, Oregon: James rushed for 159 yards on 25 carries with a TD in the Rose Bowl win over Wisconsin.
RB Stepfan Taylor, Stanford: Taylor rushed for 177 yards on 37 carries with two touchdowns in the Fiesta Bowl.
WR Gerell Robinson, Arizona State: Robinson caught 13 passes for 241 yards with a TD in the Las Vegas Bowl loss to Boise State.
WR Lavasier Tuinei, Oregon: Tuinei caught eight passes for 158 yards and two scores in the Rose Bowl victory.
TE Zach Ertz, Stanford: Ertz caught four passes for 38 yards and a touchdown in the Cardinal's Rose Bowl loss.
OL David DeCastro, Stanford: The unanimous All-American dominated Oklahoma State's D-linemen in the Fiesta Bowl. The Cardinal rushed for 243 yards.
OL Mark Asper, Oregon: Asper is the senior cornerstone of a line that led the way for 345 yards rushing in the Ducks' Rose Bowl victory.
OL Tony Bergstrom, Utah: The senior tackle helped RB John White gain 115 tough yards against Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl.
OL Hroniss Grasu, Oregon: The Ducks freshman center made all the right line calls against Wisconsin.
OL Senio Kelemete, Washington: The Huskies gained 620 yards and didn't allow a sack in the loss to Baylor.
Freak: Our special position for De'Anthony Thomas, who scored TDs on runs of 91 and 64 yards in the Rose Bowl against Wisconsin. The Black Mamba also caught four passes for 34 yards and returned five kickoffs for 125 yards.
K: Giorgio Tavecchio, California: Tavecchio capped a strong senior season with a 47-yard field goal in the Holiday Bowl loss to Texas.
RET: Rashad Ross, Arizona State: Ross returned the third-quarter kickoff 98 yards for a TD against Boise State in the Las Vegas Bowl.
DL Josh Shirley, Washington: While it's difficult to recognize anyone from the Huskies defense against Baylor, Shirley did sack Robert Griffin, the Heisman Trophy winner, three times.
DL Trevor Guyton, California: Guyton had five tackles, with two coming for losses, and a sack in the Bears' loss to Texas in the Holiday Bowl.
DL Star Lotulelei, Utah: The Utes DT had six tackles and a fumble recovery and generally blew up the middle of the Georgia Tech line in the Utes' Sun Bowl victory. He was named Most Valuable Lineman.
LB Jordan Zumwalt, UCLA: Zumwalt had 10 tackles, including two for a loss, and an interception in the Bruins' loss to Illinois in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.
LB Kiko Alonso, Oregon: The Ducks LB had five tackles, including 2.5 for a loss, with a sack and a key interception in the Ducks' Rose Bowl win. He was named Defensive MVP.
LB Michael Clay, Oregon: The Ducks LB had 13 tackles, including two for a loss, and a critical fumble recovery in the Rose Bowl victory.
LB Mychal Kendricks, California: Kendricks had 10 tackles, including 1.5 for losses, in the Bears' loss to Texas in the Holiday Bowl.
DB Terrance Mitchell, Oregon: Mitchell had five tackles in the Rose Bowl, but his most important contribution was forcing a Wisconsin fumble on the Ducks 27-yard line with four minutes left in the game. Perhaps even more important than that, he inspired coach Chip Kelly to jump up and down in a wonderful -- and slightly goofy -- show of spontaneous emotion (search YouTube for "Chip Kelly jumping").
DB Clint Floyd, Arizona State: Floyd had seven tackles -- two for a loss -- and an interception in the Sun Devils' loss to Boise State.
DB John Boyett, Oregon: Boyett had a bowl-high 17 tackles and half a sack in the Ducks' win over Wisconsin.
DB Marc Anthony, California: Anthony had four tackles, one coming for a loss, and two pass breakups against Texas.
P Sean Sellwood, Utah: Sellwood averaged 49.5 yards on eight punts against Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl.
- Former Oregon coach Mike Bellotti denies rumors he's a candidate for the Arizona vacancy.
- Cool dude Clint Floyd has come up big for Arizona State.
- An update from California's Thursday practice -- looks like linebacker Mychal Kendricks is good to go.
- Colorado is playing catchup in a quarterback-driven league, but it will get some reinforcements tonight against USC.
- Oregon coach Chip Kelly likes to be in control, but he can't tamp down reality: The game with Washington matters more. This is a very good column.
- Oregon State's injury list is long -- perhaps too long -- with Stanford coming to town. It appears Oregon State's students have lost faith in the Beavers.
- Stanford would like to start fast and put Oregon State away early.
- What to watch with UCLA's game with Arizona State.
- Nice feature of USC running back Curtis McNeal. What to watch with USC-Colorado.
- Utah is focused on getting itself to a bowl game.
- What will Washington do to stop the Oregon offense?
- Washington State finalizes its prep for Cal.
Arizona State leads 31-7, outgaining the injury-ravaged Buffaloes 350 yards to 181.
Sun Devils quarterback Brock Osweiler completed 13 of 18 passes for 230 yards with two touchdowns. Running back Cameron Marshall has 10 yards on 99 carries with two scores.
Colorado's TD came on Josh Moten's return of an Osweiler fumble. Otherwise, the Buffs highlights have been few.
Nick Hirschman started at QB for the Buffs, but Tyler Hansen came off the bench. He had been considered as questionable with a concussion. Hansen threw an interception to Clint Floyd that foiled a scoring opportunity.
But the only the reason starter Kevin Riley was on the bench -- and Brock Mansion was playing -- was because Riley and his teammates delivered a 50-17 beat down to Arizona State and they were able to relax on the bench.
The Sun Devils led 3-0 and then the Bears scored 40 unanswered points. The Sun Devils didn't put up much of a fight and looked a lot like the Bears did last week during a feckless effort at USC.
Cal is now 4-0 at home. Three road losses leave then at 4-3. They are 2-2 in the Pac-10.
The Sun Devils fall to 3-4 overall and 1-3 in the Pac-10. They need to win four of their final five games to become bowl eligible due to playing two FCS teams.
Riley completed 19-of-29 for 225 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. His favorite target was receiver Marvin Jones, who had 111 yards receiving and a touchdown on just four receptions. Shane Vereen gained 106 yards rushing and scored two touchdowns.
But the bigger story might have been the defense, which got picked apart at USC. The Bears held the Sun Devils to just 233 total yards.
ASU quarterback Steven Threet was pulled in the second half for Samson Szakacsy but the offense didn't score a touchdown with either. One came on a blocked punt, the other on a fumble return by Clint Floyd.
As impressive as the win was, it's hard to buy in with the Bears just yet. The good news is three of their final five games are at home -- and one road game is at Washington State -- but let's see how they handle themselves at Oregon State next weekend.
Arizona State finally goes home after three consecutive road games. It hosts Washington State on Saturday. But that one should make Sun Devils fans nervous. The Cougs are much improved.
- Arizona is hoping to nickel and dime Toledo to death. On defense, we mean.
- Arizona State safety Clint Floyd is solid at safety, but there are some concerns about DT depth. A notebook.
- A couple of updates with California's offensive line. Filling the voids on defense.
- Despite, er, the loss of certain players, Oregon's expectations are really high. So much Oregon stuff here that you'll never read every word.
- Paul Buker takes a nice, big-picture look at Oregon State's Jacquizz Rodgers. The return of Wilder McAndrews is a good story.
- What were Stanford's training camp surprises.
- UCLA kicker Kai Forbath might not play at Kansas State, which is another big injury hit for the snakebit Bruins. Also, QB Kevin Prince remains iffy.
- Its tumultuous offseason over, USC now focuses on Hawaii. USC wouldn't consider leaving the Pac-10 to go independent, would it?
- It appears Washington RB Chris Polk wants to talk with his legs. The Huskies are ready-- and mostly healthy -- for BYU.'
- Some Washington State notes and a look at the two QBs who'll face off in Stillwater on Saturday.
- Jon Wilner's always entertaining and informative action/reaction.
Only UCLA, Oregon State and Washington "officially" welcome back both of their starting safeties, with the Bruins boasting perhaps the best in free safety in the nation: Rahim Moore. Only Arizona State and USC must find two new safeties.
So how do things stack up?
- UCLA: Moore, a true junior and 25-game starter, led the nation with 10 interceptions in 2009 and is a consensus All-American. Tony Dye ranked fourth on the Bruins with 73 tackles.
- Oregon: Sure, the Ducks lost hard-hitting T.J. Ward to the NFL, but Ward was hurt much of last season, so John Boyett, the first freshman to lead the Ducks in tackles, and Javes Lewis, who played both free safety and rover, are returning starters, as is Eddie Pleasant, a linebacker starter in 2009 who's moved to rover.
- Oregon State: Lance Mitchell and Cameron Collins give the Beavers a solid, experienced combination and Suaesi Tuimaunei also has starting experience.
- Washington: Nathan Felner and Nate Williams are both returning starters, but the competition is ongoing among players with experience, not to mention touted incoming freshman Sean Parker.
- Arizona: The Wildcats lost Cam Nelson, and Robert Golden might move back to cornerback after playing strong safety last year. Still, there's talent here. Adam Hall, a touted, 6-foot-4, 212-pound 2009 recruit, might make a move.
- Arizona State: Both starters, Jarrell Holman and Ryan McFoy, are gone, but Clint Floyd and Keelan Johnson have started games and junior Eddie Elder has been surging since the spring.
- California: While the Cal secondary didn't play well in 2009, Sean Cattouse is solid. Senior Chris Conte has converted to safety from cornerback, but he could be challenged in camp for the starting job.
- Stanford: Strong safety Delano Howell should blossom as a junior, and Michael Thomas has potential at free safety. Still, the Cardinal secondary got burned in 2009 and is probably the team's biggest question mark.
- USC: The Trojans are replacing all four starters in their secondary, and the days of giving them a free pass based on recruiting rankings are over. Still, Jawanza Starling, T.J. McDonald and Drew McAllister (if he's healthy) are a talented trio.
- Washington State: WSU lost free safety Xavier Hicks, but LeAndre Daniels, Chima Nwachukwu, Tyree Toomer, Casey Locker and Jamal Atofau give the Cougars hope at the position.
He topped a list of 48 Sun Devils who were honored.
A news release from the school said the "Hard Hat Program was created to reward those individuals who do what's right in the weight room even when no one is looking ... a Hard Hat Player is someone who is self-motivated, a competitor, committed to personal and team excellence, dependable, accountable, disciplined and most importantly, puts the team first."
To become a Hard Hat Player, a player has to achieve a certain point total during winter workouts. He earns points based on his effort for strength training, speed development and conditioning sessions. They are also awarded points for competitive events and performing extra workouts in the "Blitz Package Program." Each athlete is evaluated after every workout by the sports performance staff with input from an athlete's position coach when applicable.
The list of the honored includes: Corey Adams, Derrall Anderson, George Bell, Omar Bolden, Jarrid Bryant, Mike Callaghan, Jonathan Clark, Chris Coyle, Dean DeLeone, Eddie Elder, Steven Figueroa, Evan Finkenberg, Clint Floyd, Garth Gerhart, Lawrence Guy, Jon Hargis, J.J. Holliday, Matt Hustad, Osahon Irabor, Patrick Jamison, Keelan Johnson, Brandon Johnson, Anthony Jones, Kyle Johnson, Cameron Kastl, Ronald Kennedy, Dan Knapp, Trevor Kohl, LeQuan Lewis, Shelly Lyons, Cameron Marshall, Shane McCullen, Jamal Miles, Bo Moos, James Morrison, Gerald Munns, Brock Osweiler, Aaron Pflugrad, Cole Rarrick, Jamarr Robinson, Andrew Sampson, Zach Schlink, Max Smith, Adam Tello, Steven Threet, Matthew Tucker and Thomas Weber.
Starters or key contributors who didn't make the list (for whatever reason, including injury or excused absence) include: linebacker Vontaze Burfict, receiver Gerell Robinson, receiver Kerry Taylor, defensive end James Brooks, defensive tackle Williams Sutton, defensive tackle Saia Falahola, defensive end Greg Smith and linebacker Brandon Magee.
Arizona State: Free safety
Why the competition? Jarrell Holman and Ryan McFoy, who combined for 18 starts at safety in 2009, are gone, while Clint Floyd, who started three games at free safety, was listed No. 1 at strong safety at the end of spring practices.
Candidates: Sophomore Keelan Johnson (6-0, 199) and junior Eddie Elder (5-10, 186).
The skinny: Johnson saw extensive action last year and started one game. He finished with 11 tackles. He's one of the Sun Devils' best all-around athlete -- which is saying something given how athletic the team's defense is -- and he had a solid spring. Elder, the reigning California Junior College Defensive Player of the Year winner, however, showed big-play ability by intercepting three passes in the final two scrimmages. That earned him high praise from some of his comrades in the secondary. "Eddie's going to make some big plays for us," cornerback Omar Bolden told the Arizona Republic. Both of these guys will play. But only one will run onto the field with the starting unit.
"You want the long story or the short story?" Threet replies.
The short story: Threet signed with Georgia Tech out of Adrian (Mich.) High School but opted to transfer to Michigan when the Yellow Jackets changed offensive coordinators. Then the Wolverines changed head coaches and offenses from a pro-style scheme to a spread-option under Rich Rodriguez, which didn't fit the 6-foot-5, 237-pounder's style in the least.
The Sun Devils also have changed offensive coordinators since Threet arrived, but no matter. He's hopeful that three times -- and programs -- is the charm.
"I'm comfortable with this offense," he said.
Threet, now a junior, and true sophomore Brock Osweiler will be competing this spring to take the reins of an offense that can only get better in large part because it was mostly lousy in 2009, averaging just 18 points per game against BCS conference foes.
Osweiler (6-foot-8, 245 pounds) played in six games and started one -- an ill-fated, blowout loss at Oregon -- completing 43.6 percent of his passes for 249 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Threet started eight games at Michigan in 2008, completing 51 percent of his throws for 1,105 yards with nine touchdowns and seven interceptions. He also rushed for 201 yards and two scores, so he's not a complete stiff in the pocket.
Both guys have some experience, but neither was anything close to lights out. Both have talent. Both have leadership skills. Both are tall.
And it's a straight-up competition with no leader at this point, at least officially. Coach Dennis Erickson said he flipped a coin to decide who would get the first snaps with the No. 1 offense when spring practices started Tuesday. Threet won the toss, by the way.
"Steven has experience playing in games, and Brock has a lot of physical talent," Erickson said. "So we're going to give them both a fair shot and see what transpires."
Erickson said he's looking for accuracy and good decision making in the Sun Devils' "new" spread offense, which will be run by new coordinator Noel Mazzone.
"New" in quotes mostly means that the scheme looks a lot like what Erickson did in the past when his offenses were humming -- spread the field with four receivers and control the game's tempo.
"The guy who wins the job is the guy who manages what we do offensively," Mazzone said. "You can't be just a flash player and be a good quarterback. The, 'Oh, man, he's got a strong arm -- did you see him throw that one deep?' So what? Can a guy move the football, keep us out of bad situations with down and distance and protect the football?"
Four of those losses, all to teams that won at least eight games, came by a combined 13 points. Those are puncture wounds. They don't look so bad on the outside, but the internal damage was severe. The other four came by at least 10 points. Those wounds are much messier.
So what did the autopsy reveal?
Start with a bad offense, one that averaged just 22.3 points and 334.4 yards per game -- numbers that ranked eighth and ninth in the Pac-10 -- and cost coordinator Rich Olson his job. That's the most obvious disease.
"You don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that we've got to figure out how to score some points," Erickson said.
But when you talk to the Sun Devils, many of them seem to believe the 2009 season passed away because of internal injuries.
"I think it was a lack of leadership," safety Clint Floyd said. "We didn't have much leadership last year. Guys wanted to be individuals. They didn't want to play as a whole, as a unit. I think that caused us to not be successful. Some guys were just out there for themselves."
Kicker Thomas Weber cited "a snowball effect": "It was one thing after another, and I think we could have reacted a lot better to certain things that happened, to losing those close games, instead of getting down on certain guys and stuff like that."
Weber saw the locker room fracture between one of the nation's best defenses -- 13th in the nation in total defense -- and the woeful offense.
"You could definitely see it happening like that," he said. "We weren't being accountable on both sides of the ball. I think that was one of our weaknesses last year -- that we did start to do stuff like that. Guys on the defensive side started to get on offensive side, instead of pushing them and supporting them. It was more like ridicule, coming down hard on them when some of the things they couldn't control."
Not to beat an already tortured metaphor, but the internal illness of 2009 is the foundation for the preventative medicine being implemented while 2010 is in its infancy as spring practices commenced this week.
The Sun Devils should again be good on defense, where they are fast and talented. New faces provide hope for offensive improvement, from new coordinator Noel Mazzone to quarterback Steven Threet, a Michigan transfer, to receiver Aaron Pflugrad, an Oregon transfer, to mammoth tackle Brice Schwab, a highly touted JC transfer who was headed to USC before Pete Carroll bolted for the NFL.
But the players talk as much about accountability, unity, goal setting, hard work and being positive with each other. If that all sounds like the Sun Devils have been working with a life coach, well, that's because they have.
Erickson enlisted the Pacific Institute and its PX2 program to help his players get their minds right.
"It's about getting your life going in the right direction, being responsible, being accountable," Erickson said. "It's not just about playing football. It's about their life after playing football."
Perhaps that raises an eyebrow or provokes a smirk. Moreover, it's not hard to imagine the same reaction from players who might be skeptical of self-help mumbo-jumbo.
That may be the case -- and probably is for some -- but it also appears that more than a few are buying in.
"It's a pretty cool thing," offensive lineman Matt Hustad said. "Lots of psychological stuff. Knowing what you want your goals to be. A lot of it has to do with keeping the positives in your life and weeding out the negative."
Hustad, who has suffered through three knee operations and will be limited to non-contact work this spring, said the Sun Devils, hungry to reverse the losing trajectory the program has taken since going 10-3 in 2007 -- Erickson's first season -- have set their jaded, young-adult cynicism aside.
"Usually, when we do these big team things people are kind of iffy about it, but I haven't heard one negative thing," he said. "Believe me, I'd hear it if people didn't like it."
Erickson himself isn't letting the negative chatter or sagging ticket sales drive him to distraction. This isn't his first tour of duty, after all. He turned 63 last week and has coached six college teams -- seven if you count two stints with Idaho separately -- and two NFL teams. While his NFL résumé isn't terribly impressive, he's always been a winner in college.
Hot seat? Whatever.
"I don't worry about that stuff," he said. "I've been on the hot seat 100,000 times in my life. It doesn't even phase me."
And he's got a encouraging prognosis for 2010: "We'll be a lot better next year," he said.
Bolden, who made 22 consecutive starts before getting hurt, will play next fall as a redshirt junior instead of a true senior.
Bolden hurt his hamstring in the the second game of the 2009 season and played a limited role in game three at Georgia. He then injured his knee during practice and missed the remaining nine games.
The Sun Devils lost three of the four players who started the season finale against Arizona, but they could be fairly solid in the secondary in 2010.
Along with Bolden, junior free safety Clint Floyd returns, as does cornerback Deveron Carr, who started three games but will miss spring after shoulder surgery. Redshirt freshman cornerback Osahon Irabor was a candidate to start last fall until he got hurt and redshirted. Sophomore strong safety Keelan Johnson started one game last year and saw significant playing time.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
The Pac-10 is solid at safety -- it's not all about Taylor Mays either.
In fact, the stockpile in the secondary likely will make choosing an All-Pac-10 team a big challenge.
- USC: It doesn't matter if Josh Pinkard stays at safety or moves to corner: The Trojans are stacked here, starting with Mays, a two-time All-American. Will Harris is hardly a stop-gap if he steps in for Pinkard, and there's good depth.
- California: While the Bears lack the Trojans' star quality, they are experienced, productive and deep with Marcus Ezeff and Brett Johnson leading the charge.
- Arizona: Cam Nelson is an all-conference-type player, while Robert Golden is an all-conference-type talent who is transitioning from cornerback.
- Oregon: T.J. Ward is one of the conference's premier hitters. He figures to become a complete player this fall. Javes Lewis won the competition at rover to replace Patrick Chung.
- Stanford: Bo McNally is a reliable veteran and Delano Howell, albeit green as the former running back switches to defense, will improve the Cardinal's athleticism.
- UCLA: Sophomore Rahim Moore looks like a budding star. Tony Dye leads the battle at strong safety over fellow sophomore Glenn Love.
- Oregon State: Junior Suaesi Tuimaunei will replace Al Afalava at strong safety and Lance Mitchell will set in for Greg Laybourn at free. While they lack experience -- Tuimaunei started twice in 2008 -- they are more athletic than their predecessors.
- Arizona State: Perhaps it's a sign of the Sun Devils' depth that expected starters Clint Floyd and Ryan McFoy are listed second-team on the depth chart behind Jarrell Holman and Keelan Johnson. Coach Dennis Erickson said Monday he hasn't decided who will start. This gives us pause, though there's no lack of athletic ability here.
- Washington State: The Cougars probably feel pretty good about Xavier Hicks and Chima Nwachukwu, a solid pair of returning starters.
- Washington: Nate Williams is a solid strong safety and redshirt freshman Greg Walker has flashed ability at free, but the Huskies have a long way to go in the secondary.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
As a UCLA observer wryly noted, ESPN.com has Bruins cornerback Alterraun Verner as a first-team All-American, while the Pac-10 blog had California's Syd'Quan Thompson and Oregon's Walter Thurmond III as the first-team All-Pac-10 corners.
Yes, there were coin flips involved. There are a lot of good cornerbacks in this conference.
Fact is, the guy who deserves to gripe the most is Arizona's underrated Devin Ross, who was second-team All-Pac-10 a year ago yet seems to be operating in the shadows.
- California: Might be the best pair in the nation. Two accomplished, full-time starting cornerbacks from 2008 -- senior Thompson (first-team All-Pac-10) and junior Darian Hagan -- return from a statistically impressive pass defense (24 Ints vs. 12 TD passes).
- USC: There are questions here -- is Shareece Wright going to be: 1. healthy; 2. eligible -- but even if Josh Pinkard has to move from safety back to corner, the Trojans are strong here based on pure athleticism.
- Arizona: We've mentioned Ross, but Trevin Wade, who steps in for the departed Marquis Hundley, tied Hundley for the team lead with four interceptions in 2008.
- UCLA: Verner is as good as anybody in the country, and expectations are high for redshirt freshman Aaron Hester.
- Oregon: Coach Chip Kelly tells anyone who will listen that Thurmond is the Ducks best player. Talmadge Jackson and Willie Glasper are 1A and 1B veterans on the opposite side.
- Arizona State: Omar Bolden expects to bounce back after a sub-par 2008 season. A troublesome back has returning starter Terell Carr now listed as second-team, with former walk-on Pierre Singfield now No. 1. Safety Clint Floyd might even see action at corner.
- Oregon State: The Beavers are replacing both cornerbacks but a strong preseason from Tim Clark and James Dockery ended a lot of hand-wringing over the issue. There's also solid depth.
- Washington State: The Cougars pass defense wasn't that bad last year, but that might have been because the run defense was horrible. Things are not completely set here. Brandon Jones will start if his ankle is OK, while Aire Justin is the frontrunner opposite him.
- Stanford: Richard Sherman and Corey Gatewood should upgrade the Cardinal's pass defense, but Sherman was a receiver in 2008 and Gatewood was injured. And Stanford was terrible against the pass last year.
- Washington: Speaking of terrible against the pass... the Huskies allowed opponents to complete 67 percent of their passes and surrendered 24 TD passes with just seven interceptions in 2008. Quinton Richardson will man one side while the uncertain health of redshirt freshman Justin Glenn means true freshman Desmond Trufant or junior Vonzell McDowell will start on the other side.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
Much of the talk during spring practices is about guys who are raising eyebrows, pushing for starting jobs or are on the cusp of breaking through.
Here are some of those guys.
Conan Amituanai, Arizona, OG: This 335-pound junior played well this spring and is expected to give the Wildcats flexibility up front as they fill some gaps. Most particularly, his emergence allows Mike Diaz to move out to left tackle, where he'd replace Eben Britton.
Clint Floyd, Arizona State, FS: This sophomore saw action in 2008 -- when he wasn't hurt -- and he's the guy who will replace the invaluable Troy Nolan.
Alex Lagemann, California, WR: Fellow receiver Marvin Jones got a lot of attention for his strong spring, but Lagemann also opened eyes. The sophomore could emerge if returning veterans don't rise to the challenge.
Eddie Pleasant, Oregon, LB: New coach Chip Kelly raved about his linebackers this spring, and Pleasant earned kudos for stepping in for the departed Jerome Boyd.
Suaesi Tuimaunei, Oregon State, S: The Beavers are rebuilding their secondary, with all four 2008 starters gone. While there are concerns at cornerback, Tuimaunei and sophomore Lance Mitchell are an upgrade athletically at the two safety spots, and some believe this position will be stronger next fall.
David DeCastro, Stanford, OG: This redshirt freshman earned good reviews and is almost certainly going to start on one of the guard spots.
Aaron Hester, UCLA, CB: Hester will need to show mental toughness because teams are going to target this redshirt freshman opposite Alterraun Verner.
Tyron Smith, USC, OT: The Trojans welcomed back all five 2008 starters on their offensive line. Smith wasn't one of them. The true sophomore is just too talented to sit.
Jermaine Kearse, WR, Washington: The Huskies need a receiver to emerge to complement D'Andre Goodwin. Kearse, a sophomore, could be the guy. Or maybe it will be fellow sophomore Devin Aguilar. Or both.
Skyler Stormo, TE, Washington State: The redshirt freshman had the best spring of any Cougar at the position and caught a couple of passes in the spring game. Showed promise blocking, too.
6:41 3rd Qtr Nebraska 24 24 USC 38 Final Cincinnati 17 Virginia Tech 33 Final 15 Arizona State 36 Duke 31 Final Miami (FL) 21 South Carolina 24 Final/OT Boston College 30 Penn State 31
Final Nevada 3 Louisiana-Lafayette 16 Final Utah State 21 UTEP 6 Final 22 Utah 45 Colorado State 10 Final Western Michigan 24 Air Force 38 Final South Alabama 28 Bowling Green 33
Final Marshall 52 Northern Illinois 23 Final Navy 17 San Diego State 16
Final Central Michigan 48 Western Kentucky 49 Final Fresno State 6 Rice 30
Final Illinois 18 Louisiana Tech 35 Final Rutgers 40 North Carolina 21 Final North Carolina State 34 UCF 27
2:00 PM ET Texas A&M West Virginia 5:30 PM ET Oklahoma 17 Clemson 9:00 PM ET Arkansas Texas
3:00 PM ET Notre Dame 23 LSU 6:30 PM ET 13 Georgia 21 Louisville 10:00 PM ET Maryland Stanford
12:30 PM ET 9 Ole Miss 6 TCU 4:00 PM ET 20 Boise State 10 Arizona 8:00 PM ET 7 Mississippi State 12 Georgia Tech
12:00 PM ET 19 Auburn 18 Wisconsin 12:30 PM ET 8 Michigan State 5 Baylor 1:00 PM ET 16 Missouri 25 Minnesota 5:00 PM ET 2 Oregon 3 Florida State 8:30 PM ET 1 Alabama 4 Ohio State
12:00 PM ET Houston Pittsburgh 3:20 PM ET Iowa Tennessee 6:45 PM ET 11 Kansas State 14 UCLA 10:15 PM ET Washington Oklahoma State