Pac-12: Courtney Viney
Both were listed as backups on the Bruins' post-spring depth chart.
Presley, a true junior who started six games in 2010, was considered one of the nation's top tight ends when he signed with the Bruins -- picking them over USC -- and entered school early. But he's had trouble both on and off the field and never lived up to the hype. He caught just 11 passes for the Bruins.
Viney, a fifth-year senior, started two games over the past two seasons and finished with 44 career tackles.
“I know that both Courtney and Morrell want to go where they can be starters and I certainly wish them both well,” coach Rick Neuheisel said in a statement. “I am happy that Courtney will earn his UCLA degree prior to his departure.”
And, for the first time in Pac-10 blog history, no one earns a "Great shape" tag.
Only one cornerback who earned All-Pac-honors is back: Arizona's second-teamer Trevin Wade. Only one other returning corner, Washington's Desmond Trufant, even earned honorable mention.
Three teams welcome back both starting corners from 2009: Oregon, Stanford and Washington. But the Ducks have moved Javes Lewis to rover, and a pair of true freshmen -- Terrance Mitchell and Avery Patterson -- are battling for the starting job opposite Talmadge Jackson. Stanford and Washington? They ranked eighth and ninth in the conference in pass efficiency defense last season.
USC and Arizona State are replacing both starting cornerbacks, but both actually look fairly strong at the position with plenty of returning experience and athleticism.
A number of teams might end up pretty good at the position. But no one looks like a sure-thing during the preseason. (Heck, we thought California was a sure thing in 2009 and things didn't exactly go according to plan).
So how do things stack up?
- No one.
- Arizona: Wade is an All-American candidate, and Marcus Benjamin showed he can play with a good performance against USC in 2009. And Mike Stoops always has good cornerbacks, so we won't dwell on the questionable depth.
- Oregon: Probably not a lot of worry here for the Ducks. Injuries in 2009 earned young players experience, and Oregon did rank third in the Pac-10 in pass efficiency defense. Still, it remains uncertain who will start opposite Jackson, with the freshmen outplaying the more experienced Cliff Harris and Anthony Gildon during the spring.
- Arizona State: On the one hand, both starters are gone from a unit that ranked second in the conference in pass efficiency defense. On the other, Omar Bolden would have been a starter if he didn't get hurt, and Deveron Carr, Osahon Irabor and LeQuan Lewis give the Sun Devils a nice mix of talent and experience.
- USC: Shareece Wright was academically ineligible last season, but he might end up first-team All-Pac-10. He might, in fact, be the conference's best cover cornerback. Torin Harris and T.J. Bryant are battling for the other spot in a secondary replacing all four 2009 starters.
- Washington: Trufant is an up-and-comer, Quinton Richardson is experienced, and backups Vonzell McDowell and Adam Long have starting experience, so the Huskies should be much improved here in 2010. The operative word, though, is "should."
- UCLA: It isn't easy to replace an Alterraun Verner. Sheldon Price returns at left cornerback after a good freshman season as a starter, and Aaron Hester has potential on the opposite side. Undersized junior Courtney Viney is an experienced third option.
- Oregon State: James Dockery is solid and new starter Brandon Hardin is big -- 6-2, 215 pounds. There's respectable depth. But the Beavers gave up 23 touchdown passes in 2009, tied for the most in the conference. Of course, the Beavers cornerbacks suffered last season because of an anemic pass rush. That might change in 2010.
- Stanford: If the Cardinal is going to take another step forward, it must get better in pass coverage. Three players who started last seaon are back: Richard Sherman (who's a sure-thing at left corner), Corey Gatewood and Johnson Bademosi. But opponents completed 63 percent of their passes with 23 touchdowns against those guys. Might redshirt freshman Terrence Brown make a move?
- California: Syd'Quan Thompson is gone; is Darian Hagan back? As in the 2008 version, not the one who lost his job and got buried on the depth chart in 2009. After being touted as one of the best secondaries in the country, the Bears finished 111th in the nation in pass defense in 2009. Bryant Nnabufie, who started four games in 2009, is listed No. 1 opposite Hagan, but Josh Hill (a five-game starter) and Marc Anthony and redshirt freshman Steve Williams are in the mix.
- Washington State: The Cougars feel pretty good about junior Aire Justin and sophomore Daniel Simmons, who was the defense's best cover corner before he got hurt midway through last season. But it's hard to ignore that the Cougars ranked 112th in the nation in pass efficiency defense with opponents completing nearly 67 percent -- 67 percent! -- of their passes.
UCLA is making things hard on itself for Kansas State's visit.
Starting cornerback Courtney Viney is among four UCLA players who have been suspended from the Bruins game Saturday against the Wildcats.
Also suspended by coach Rick Neuheisel for violating undisclosed team rules were freshman running back Milton Knox and freshmen wide receivers Morrell Presley and Randall Carroll.
The players will participate in practices during the one-game suspension.
“When you are a member of a team, you have a special commitment to the entities that make up that unit and to those that you represent,” Neuheisel said in a statement. “When someone falls short in that regard, there have to be consequences, and then, we move on.”
UCLA already is scrambling to figure out who will start at quarterback Saturday after starter Kevin Prince broke his jaw late in the Bruins victory at Tennessee. That will fall to either true freshman Richard Brehaut or senior Kevin Craft.
Viney's absence could be a challenge to fill. He ascended to the starting job only after Aaron Hester suffered a cracked fibula in the opener against San Diego State. Hester is still a few weeks away from returning.
Viney's backup is true freshman Sheldon Price.
Knox, No. 3 at tailback, has 57 yards on 11 carries this season. Carroll and Presley both have one reception.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
- Arizona's "other" defensive end looks like he's finding his rhythm.
- Arizona State freshman running back Cameron Marshall is earning touches.
- California's Shane Vereen isn't exactly chopped liver at tailback behind Jahvid Best.
- Oregon is, not surprisingly, eager to move on.
- Sean Canfield will lead Oregon State at UNLV, hoping to buck the trend of nonconference road game flops.
- Chris Owusu is Stanford's big hit. The Cardinal will have to get up pretty early to beat Wake Forest. Literally.
- UCLA's Courtney Viney is a little guy who will be a big target at UCLA.
- I agree with Bill Plaschke's take on USC's best running back. Trojans injury update.
- Washington expects to end a 15-game losing streak this weekend against Idaho.
- Washington State quarterback Kevin Lopina is growing on Jim Moore. Kevin Kooyman is banged up but hopes to shine against Hawaii.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
Redundant questions are part of the game, and a veteran coach like Rick Neuheisel knew entering the week that he was going to field a bevy of inquiries about how his young UCLA Bruins would handle the intensity of 100,000 fans at Tennessee's Neyland Stadium.
Neuheisel's responses included two two points: 1. It's going to be fun; 2. It's not that big of a deal.
"A lot is made of it. It's going to be no secret to our players that it's going to be loud," Neuheisel said. "I don't think making this seem like this is a mountain we have to climb is the right way. We address it. We deal with the practical things in terms of snap counts and trying to make checks as an offense."
Eyebrows arched at these responses.
In 2006, a very good California squad wilted inside Neyland, losing 35-18, a final score that doesn't do justice to how badly things went that day for the Bears.
It's pointed out that the Bruins feature a redshirt freshman quarterback and two offensive linemen -- one a true freshman, the other a JC transfer -- making their first road start. Is Neuheisel really confident that these youngsters won't be wide-eyed?
"Do I have a choice? Ready or not, here we come," Neuheisel said. "We have to go and play and I don't want them to be nervous about it. I want them to go and enjoy the dang experience and I think we're going to do that."
UCLA enjoyed last year's game, a 27-24 overtime victory in the Rose Bowl over the then-18th-ranked Volunteers, who would fire coach Phil Fulmer at season's end and hire former USC assistant Lane Kiffin to restore the once proud program to national prominence.
Which is sort of why UCLA hired Neuheisel last year.
Both Neuheisel and Kiffin energized their fans with highly rated recruiting classes, and both teams will feature plenty of freshmen in the rotation. UCLA played eight, Tennessee 11, in their respective season openers.
UCLA quarterback Kevin Prince, a redshirt freshman, had mixed results in his first start against San Diego State. He completed 18 of 29 passes for 176 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. He also fumbled and was sacked three times.
"In the second half, I made some silly mistakes and poor reads, little things I could have easily avoided," Prince said. "I thought it was a good learning experience."
Neuheisel said he thought Prince "relaxed" in the second half.
"I saw a lot of good things," he said. "He was better than he'd been in our scrimmages, so he handled the pressure of game day. He was very sharp for most of the evening. But there were some mental lapses, some things that I know he's scratching his head as to how he let that happen."
There will be no relaxing against the Vols, particularly with ball-hawking safety Eric Berry prowling the secondary.
Nonetheless, the Bruins seem to be down-playing Berry's threat -- he had an interception in last year's game -- just like they are the hostile atmosphere.
"You can't focus too much on one player -- you can't be afraid," Prince said. "You've just got to look at the schemes they are running and try to attack the schemes and not worry about a single player."
Both defenses are solid, though the Bruins took a big hit to their secondary when Aaron Hester went down with a fractured right fibula. Hester's replacement, 5-foot-8 Courtney Viney, will be a tempting target for Vols quarterback Jonathan Crompton, who threw for 233 yards and five touchdowns in the 63-7 win over Western Kentucky.
The game almost certainly will turn on how well Prince and his rebuilt offensive line handles the pressure of the crowd and the moment, not to mention a fairly good Tennessee defense.
Twenty-three Bruins saw their first college action in the win over San Diego State. This one will feel different.
Neuheisel, again, just wants his guys to enjoy themselves.
"I don't want them to avoid the excitement that comes from playing in that kind of venue," he said. "You'd be missing out on something that could be a memory for a long time."
Then he concluded, "How positive that memory is going to be is up to how well we play."
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
- If it's not Rob Gronkowski at tight end, then Arizona will turn to this guy. A former Florida QB is looking at the Wildcats.
- Checking in with Arizona State linebacker Mike Nixon, the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Week.
- California is taking Eastern Washington seriously. Seriously.
- Oregon is transitioning -- and going small -- at running back. Safety T.J. Ward almost certainly won't play against Purdue.
- Jacquizz Rodgers can help Oregon State's passing offense, too. At UNLV is a step up from Portland State at home
- More on the shakeup of Stanford's offensive line.
- UCLA's new starting cornerback, Courtney Viney, isn't big but he's got heart. Some subplots afoot for UCLA at Tennessee.
- Nervous? USC's freshman quarterback Matt Barkley can't wait to meet 105,000 new best friends at Ohio State.
- Washington's freshman receiver James Johnson looks like he's for real. Jim Moore apparently sneaked into a Huskies coaches meeting. Update from Tuesday's practice.
- Washington State has booted receiver Kevin Norrell from the team.
- The Pac-10 is on the road again, with big nonconference games in hostile sites.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
Every team enters spring practices with at least a couple of personnel questions, even those with their starting lineup returning nearly intact.
Sometimes those questions don't get answered. Other times they do.
Such as ...
Arizona: The Wildcats lost two of their three starting linebackers, but coach Mike Stoops said he believes they will be better at the position in 2009, with junior Vuna Tuihalamaka making a special impression in the middle this spring.
Arizona State: The Sun Devils lost middle linebacker Morris Wooten, but the LB position looks like it could run six-deep in 2009, particularly with the expected arrival of super-recruit Vontaze Burfict in the fall. The return of former starter Gerald Munns, who left the team for personal reasons, helps as does the emergence of young players whose speed upgrades are intriguing.
California: Not to get stuck on a linebacker theme, but most previews of the Bears will raise questions about them losing three longtime starters at linebacker. Hanging around this spring, however, you get the feeling this position will be fine. In fact, a couple of touted incoming JC transfers will make the fall competition intense. Look for Mike Mohamed and Mychal Kendricks to make a play for All-Conference honors.
Oregon: The Ducks lost three of four starting defensive linemen, including end Nick Reed, so this seemed like as big a question mark as the offensive line entering spring. Apparently not, at least according to coach Chip Kelly. Will Tukuafu should emerge from Reed's shadow as one of the conference's best ends, and tackle Brandon Bair and end Kenny Rowe stepped up. There's still competition at one tackle, but the Ducks' recruiting class included six defensive linemen, at least a couple of whom figure to see action.
Oregon State: The Beavers lost receivers Sammie Stroughter and Shane Morales, but by the end of spring that didn't seem like a problem, even with James Rodgers sitting out with a shoulder injury. Junior Darrell Catchings broke through and redshirt freshman Jordan Bishop lived up to high expectations and others flashed potential.
Stanford: The passing game -- on offense and defense -- has been a problem for Stanford. For the offense, redshirt freshman quarterback Andrew Luck was just short of spectacular this spring. For the defense, the insertion of Delano Howell at strong safety and Michael Thomas at cornerback upgrades the secondary's athleticism.
UCLA: The secondary began spring needing two new starters, but a handful of guys stepped up to complement cornerback Alterraun Verner and free safety Rahim Moore. While Aaron Hester and Glenn Love are the favorites to start at corner and strong safety, respectively, sophomores Courtney Viney and Tony Dye and redshirt freshman E.J. Woods will get extended looks in the fall.
USC: Lose three elite linebackers? Find three more. Malcolm Smith, Chris Galippo and Michael Morgan might not have the experience or pedigree of their predecessors, but they are faster and may end up being nearly as good.
Washington: A lot was made of how well quarterback Jake Locker adjusted to a pro-style offense this spring -- and rightfully so -- but that pro-style passing attack needs targets, so perhaps that part of the pass-catch equation is being undersold. D'Andre Goodwin, Jermaine Kearse and Devin Aguilar give the Huskies three respectable receivers, and tight ends Kavario Middleton and Chris Izbicki are solid.
Washington State: One area where the Cougars have quality starters and quality depth is running back, with Dwight Tardy stepping up to the challenge of California transfer James Montgomery this spring, and Logwone Mitz and 220-pound Marcus Richmond adding depth.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
It's a little-known fact that links are a good source of Vitamin C.
- Arizona might have found its next Antoine Cason in a Golden freshman cornerback, say Greg Hansen and John Moredich. Up front, the pressure is on players like end Ricky Elmore to help the Wildcats inexperienced defense hold its own.
- Arizona State WR Mike Jones hit .184 in the Yankees farm system this summer, so he's obviously saved some juice as he tries to improve on his 10 TD receptions from a year ago. It's never good when your starting tailback is having shoulder issues before full-contact starts. On the other side of the ball, the primary concern is the interior defensive line, where some young guys might see action. Dan Zeiger's notebook also included this about freshmen who could see action:
"Conventional wisdom is that three true freshmen -- Bass, receiver Gerell Robinson and defensive lineman Lawrence Guy -- are expected to play this season. But a number of others are getting every chance to make an impression. Such newcomers as linebackers Shelly Lyons and Brandon Magee and offensive linemen Zach Schlink and Patrick Jamison have received practice action with the second team.
- California's new 3-4 defense has been installed. Now it's a matter of figuring out who plays where, with key battles at the fourth LB spot and at nose guard. Two critical things in Jonathan Okanes' practice report: 1. TB Jahvid Best appears completely healthy; 2. Both QBs, Nate Longshore and Kevin Riley, are playing well, with Longshore even showing some mobility. And Rusty Simmons agrees, noting Best might return both punts and kickoffs. Of course, the QB debate hasn't abated in the blogdom.
- If Oregon receiver Jaison Williams has cured his dropsies, then he's going to the best receiver in the Pac-10 and the NFL will raise more than an eyebrow. That's a big IF, though. Speaking of "Ifs" at WR, the Ducks need Jamere Holland to get healthy and learn his plays. Here's a report on the helmet decal tribute to Todd Doxey, who drowned this summer.
- Oregon State's Rodgers brothers might be a problem for the rest of the Pac-10 for years to come. Here's a good story about a young man who found himself and now may help answer questions on the Beavers offensive line.
- The Bootleg talks to a few key Stanford freshmen. If I were a Stanford football fan, I'd subscribe to this Web site -- by far the best source for Stanford football and recruiting information.
- UCLA will vary its snap count this year (it always went on "one" in 2007). So hut... hut... hut--hut... HUT! And when they finally go, the ball will be better spread around under offensive coordinator Norm Chow.
- Brian Dohn also gives UCLA's pecking order in the secondary: "First team
Michael Norris and Alterraun Verner are the cornerbacks, Aaron Ware and Rahim Moore are the safeties. Second team Courtney Viney and Aaron Hester are the cornerbacks and Bret Lockett (suspended for first game) and Glenn Love are the safeties." By the way, that's true freshman Rahim Moore.
- This second item might worry USC fans just a little: OG Jeff Byers is sitting out with an enlarged spleen. And back injuries are starting to hamper the Trojans backup LBs. The important thing here isn't that frosh TE Blake Ayles is getting rock by an overzealous DB, it's that he's already running with the 1s and 2s.
- Bob Condotta looks at Washington's young defensive line. He also includes an item in his blog's practice report about a former player taking issue with coach Tyrone Willingham. Molly Yanity leads her notes with a quick hit on QB Jake Locker's conditioning -- it's good. That's good, because Locker told Don Ruiz he wants to complete 65 percent of his passes this season, which is considerably higher than his 47-percent rate in 2007.
- Washington State needs WR Michael Willis to step up, particularly after Daniel Blackledge suffered a hamstring injury. Willis brought his mom to town for support. And a Coug practice report.