Pac-12: D.J. Welch

Pac-12 superlative tracker

September, 26, 2012
We're tracking the offensive, defensive and coach-of-the-year races in the Pac-12.

For a more thorough look at offense, re-read our Heisman Trophy update.

Offensive player of the year

1. De'Anthony Thomas, RB/WR, Oregon: Thomas is 24th in the nation in all-purpose yards and 13th in the nation in scoring, with 10.5 points per game. He also was on the cover of Sports Illustrated, which, yes, counts for something.

2. Johnathan Franklin, RB, UCLA: He ranks fourth in the nation with 146.5 yards rushing per game. Only had 45 yards rushing in loss to Oregon State.

3.Taylor Kelly, QB, Arizona State: Kelly is first in the Pac-12 and ninth in the nation in passing efficiency. The Sun Devils are second in the Pac-12 with 41.3 points per game. Only six touchdown passes hurts.

4. Matt Barkley, QB, USC: His stock took another hit with a middling performance in the victory over California. His 12 TD passes still lead the conference, but he's fifth in the conference in passing efficiency.

Keep an eye on: Arizona QB Matt Scott; Stanford RB Stepfan Taylor; UCLA QB Brett Hundley; USC WR Marqise Lee; Oregon RB Kenjon Barner.

Defensive player of the year

1.Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah: Fourth on the Utes with 19 tackles. Also has four tackles for a loss, a sack, two pass defenses and two forced fumbles.

2. Chase Thomas, OLB, Stanford: He's got 16 tackles, four tackles for a loss and a sack. The leader of what might be the conference's best defense.

3. Will Sutton, DT, Arizona State: He's second on the Sun Devils with 26 tackles, including six for a loss. Also has 3.5 sacks and two pass breakups.

4. Morgan Breslin, DE, USC: Leads the conference with 9.5 tackles for a loss and is tied for second with five sacks.

5. Chris Young, LB, Arizona State: He's second in the conference with 8.5 tackles for a loss. Tied for third in conference with eight tackles per game. Has two sacks and a forced fumble.

6. Datone Jones, DE, UCLA: He's third in the conference with eight tackles for a loss. He also has two sacks and 13 total tackles with a forced fumble.

Keep an eye on: T.J. McDonald, S, USC; D.J. Welch, Oregon State; Travis Long, OLB, Washington State.

Coach of the year

1. Mike Riley, Oregon State: The Beavers are back in the national rankings. If they finish there, Riley could become the front-runner. Unless Oregon or Stanford goes undefeated.

2. Chip Kelly, Oregon: Ducks are atop the Pac-12 and ranked No. 2. If they ended up winning a fourth consecutive Pac-12 title and earn another berth in the national title game, Kelly wins.

2. David Shaw, Stanford: If the Cardinal eclipses Oregon in the North Division and wins the Pac-12, Shaw would have the inside track.

Keep an eye on: Todd Graham, Arizona State; Jim Mora, UCLA.

Oregon State defense does it again

September, 22, 2012

PASADENA, Calif. -- It’s campaign season. And while the Oregon State defense was busy laying demo to another Heisman campaign for the second consecutive game, coach Mike Riley looked like he was launching a campaign for some kind of office. Clinching his grandson, “Baby Eli,” Riley laid a long, deep kiss on his wife, Dee, that would make Al and Tipper Gore blush.

“Yeeeaaahhhhhh, Mike,” came a shout from the crowd that surrounded the Oregon State locker room following the Beavers' 27-20 victory over No. 19 UCLA.

The win, Riley’s 74th, ties him with Lon Stiner for most as an Oregon State head coach.

“It’s great,” said Riley of his team’s 2-0 start. “... We get to start fresh and we get to make our own bed. So we’ll see how we do. We’re off to a good start.”

Given the quirky beginning to the Beavers’ season, folks were wondering whether Oregon State was for real after knocking off No. 13 Wisconsin. The Beavers were on bye last week and the Badgers hadn’t looked all that impressive since. But Riley cautioned against taking anything away from his squad.

“You should never do that to teams,” he said. “You should never try to quantify a win or downgrade an opponent because of something else that happened. That’s really unsafe to do. We thought Wisconsin was a good team and we played them and beat them, and we thought these guys [UCLA] were a good team and played them and beat them and that’s where we are.”

The last time the Beavers defeated ranked teams in back-to-back games was during the 2000 season (No. 8 OSU defeated No. 5 Oregon 23-13 on Nov. 18, and then No. 5 OSU beat No. 10 Notre Dame on Jan. 1 in the Fiesta Bowl). This was the first time in school history, however, the Beavers have beaten ranked teams consecutively in the regular season.

If Oregon State’s defense needed any motivation to stay focused during its bizarre, hiatus-heavy opening to the 2012 season, all the players need to do is close their eyes and think back to last year’s 12-week train wreck.

[+] EnlargeScott Crichton
Jayne Kamin-Oncea/US PresswireDefensive end Scott Crichton had six tackles and both of Oregon State's sacks against UCLA.
“We learned from being 3-9 last year,” said cornerback Jordan Poyer. “The season sucked. The guys don’t want to go through that again. We have a good attitude. This is the best attitude we’ve had as a team since I’ve been here.”

And the defense played with a bit of an attitude as well. UCLA (3-1) entered the game with the nation’s No. 2 offense, averaging 622 yards per game. OSU held it to 444. Perhaps more importantly, the Beavers contained the nation’s leading rusher, UCLA running back Johnathan Franklin, to just 45 yards on 12 carries. He had been averaging 180.3 yards per game. This on the heels of limiting Wisconsin’s Montee Ball to 61 yards on 15 carries two weeks ago. Ball was considered a preseason Heisman finalist and Franklin had gained Heisman steam through the first three weeks.

“They don’t matter to us,” said OSU defensive end Scott Crichton, who had six tackles, three tackles for a loss and both of OSU’s sacks. “Whoever we go against, we just want to beat them. ... We know Franklin is an explosive running back. We just tried to slow him down and we did a pretty good job today.”

The Beavers also got a fantastic performance from outside linebacker Michael Doctor, who notched a team-high nine tackles -- including eight solo and a tackle for a loss. Doctor’s job was to spy ultra-athletic UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley. Riley pointed to one specific play late in the game when Hundley started to scramble and Doctor chased him down and limited the third-and-6 dash to just 3 yards. Hundley (32 yards rushing, 27-of-42 passing for 372 yards and a score) looked like he had some daylight, but Doctor was able to smother him before a big gain. Trailing 27-17, that forced the Bruins to attempt a 42-yard field goal, which Ka'imi Fairbairn missed wide right.

“That one play was probably a game winner. It might have been,” Riley said. “Michael Doctor can run. In this day and age, to have two linebackers that can run like Doctor and D.J. Welch is a good thing for your defense with as spread out as everybody is.”

Offensively, the Beavers got explosive performances from wide receivers Markus Wheaton (9 catches 150 yards and a touchdown) and Brandin Cooks (6 catches, 175 yards and a touchdown) while totaling 501 yards of offense. Quarterback Sean Mannion was 24-of-35 for 379 yards with two scores and an interception. Storm Woods netted 96 yards on the ground with a touchdown.

But it was the Beavers’ defense that made the bigger statement.

“Our expectations of ourselves are pretty high,” Poyer said. “We know we’re a good defense. We know there are going to be people out there doubting us. We know if we stick together as a team, the sky is the limit for us.”

Pac-12 superlative tracker

September, 12, 2012
It's early -- very -- but we're going to start tracking the offensive, defensive and coach of the year races in the Pac-12. Expect these to change extensively before we hit midseason.

For a more thorough look at offense, re-read our Heisman Trophy update.

Offensive player of the year

1. Matt Barkley, QB, USC: He's the nation's top Heisman Trophy candidate. He's already thrown 10 touchdown passes, including six last weekend against Syracuse. Ninth in the nation in passing efficiency.

2. De'Anthony Thomas, RB/WR, Oregon: He's averaging 16.6 yards per rush and has already scored five touchdowns -- three running, two receiving.

3. Johnathan Franklin, RB, UCLA: He leads the nation in rushing with 215.5 yards per game and is averaging 10.5 yards per carry. If Franklin even keeps close to his present pace into midseason -- and the Bruins keep winning -- his candidacy will get legitimate steam.

Keep an eye on: Arizona QB Matt Scott; UCLA QB Brett Hundley,;USC WR Marqise Lee; Oregon RB Kenjon Barner.

Defensive player of the year

1. Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah: While it hasn't been a good start for the Utes, Lotulelei has seven tackles, two tackles for a loss, a sack and a forced fumble.

2. Chase Thomas, OLB, Stanford: Thomas has 12 tackles, three for a loss and half a sack.

3. T.J. McDonald, S, USC: McDonald has 11 tackles, two for a loss and a pass breakup.

Keep an eye on: Chris Young, LB, Arizona State; Datone Jones, DE, UCLA; D.J. Welch, Oregon State.

Coach of the year

1. Lane Kiffin, USC: It's a rule: Win the national championship, get named Pac-12 coach of the year.

2. Chip Kelly, Oregon: A fourth consecutive Pac-12 crown remains the goal.

3. Mike Riley, Oregon State: If the Beavers make a significant jump from last year's 3-9 season, he'll be in the race.

Keep an eye on: Jim Mora, UCLA; Todd Graham, Arizona State; Rich Rodriguez, Arizona.

Pac-12 names players of the week

September, 10, 2012
The Pac-12 named its players of the week for Week 2. UCLA's Johnathan Franklin was named offensive player of the week, OSU linebacker D.J. Welch was defensive and Arizona kicker John Bonano was special teams.

From the release:
Franklin, a senior from Los Angeles, Calif., rushed for a career-best 217 yards on 26 carries (8.3 average) and hauled in three passes for 59 yards (19.6 average) and a touchdown in a 36-30 win over No. 16 Nebraska to earn his second-straight Pac-12 Player of the Week honor. He became the seventh Bruin to eclipse the 3,000-yard rushing mark and moved into seventh place on UCLA’s all-time rushing list. Through two games this season, Franklin is the NCAA’s leading rusher, averaging 215.5 yards per game.

Welch, a sophomore from Palm Desert, Calif., tied for the team lead with seven tackles, including two tackles for loss (8 yards) in a 10-7 win over No. 13 Wisconsin. Oregon State’s defense held the Badgers to 207 yards of total offense, including just 35 rushing yards, and kept Wisconsin running back Montee Ball out of the end zone, snapping a 21-game touchdown streak for the 2011 Heisman finalist.

Bonano, a senior from Salinas, Calif., was perfect in the kicking game and scored a career-high 15 points in a 59-38 win over No. 18 Oklahoma State. He converted field goals of 22 yards, 24 yards, and 46 yards and was 5-5 on PAT attempts. Bonano kicked off 11 times, logging 4 touchbacks and contributing Oklahoma State’s average starting field position at their own 24 yard-line.

Oregon State spring wrap

May, 14, 2012
2011 overall record: 3-9

2011 conference record: 3-6 (fifth in North)

Returning starters: offense: 8; defense: 8; kicker/punter: 1

Top returners
QB Sean Mannion, DB Jordan Poyer, WR Markus Wheaton, WR Brandin Cooks, DE Scott Crichton, DB Rashaad Reynolds, OL Josh Andrews, S Anthony Watkins.

Key losses
WR James Rodgers, S Lance Mitchell, C Grant Johnson, DT Fred Thompson (passed away last December, could have been in contention for starting spot).

2011 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Malcolm Agnew* (423 yards)
Passing: Sean Mannion* (3,328 yards)
Receiving: Markus Wheaton* (986 yards)
Tackles: Anthony Watkins* (85)
Sacks: Scott Crichton* (6)
Interceptions: Jordan Poyer* (4)

Spring answers

1. Running game revival: Head coach Mike Riley has been adamant that his team will be better at running the ball in 2012. The Beavers rotated through four backs last season -- mostly because of injuries -- but redshirt freshman Storm Woods has come on strong in the spring. Though a pecking order hasn't been established, it's safe to say that the Beavers will have a deep rotation.

2. Secondary depth is solid: With Watkins sidelined during the spring with a shoulder injury, it opened up opportunities for Ryan Murphy and Tyrequek Zimmerman to replace the graduated Lance Mitchell. Murphy, last year's nickelback, looks like he's won the job to start along Watkins. Pair that with Poyer and Reynolds and the Beavers should be solid in the defensive backfield.

3. LB corps filling out: D.J. Welch looks like the heir apparent to Cam Collins on the strong side. Feti Unga, who was among the conference leaders in tackles last year prior to a knee injury, appears to be back and ready to go for the fall. Michael Doctor also appears more comfortable as he readies for his second year as a starter. Rueben Robinson and Cade Cowdin should provide the Beavers with some good depth across the board.

Fall questions

1. Offensive line issues: With only eight healthy linemen this spring, there wasn't much of an opportunity to fill out a starting five. Riley said he doesn't like leaving spring without knowing who his starters are, but it's just something they have to deal with. Andrews helps solidify the line and Grant Enger and Colin Kelly will be in the mix when they return from injury. But with a big influx of freshmen, Riley has essentially said all positions are up for grabs.

2. Has Mannion taken the next step? If you ask Riley, he has. If you ask Mannion, he has. But it won't be known until he steps on to the field. He showed last season that he has the potential to be an A-list quarterback in this conference. Better decisions should improve his 16-to-18 touchdown to interception ratio and an improved running game will almost certainly be a plus.

3. Who is No. 3 at WR? We know about Wheaton. We know that Cooks is up and coming. But who is going to be that No. 3 option for Mannion? Jordan Bishop is penciled in as the slot guy, but he missed his second straight spring. That opened the door for Obum Gwacham to emerge as the potential No. 3. He's Wheaton's immediate backup on the outside, but Riley couldn't help but gush about Gwacham's performance this spring.