Pac-12: Datone Jones

UCLA Bruins season preview

August, 12, 2013
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We continue our day-by-day snapshots of each Pac-12 team heading into the 2013 season in reverse alphabetical order with the UCLA Bruins.

UCLA

Coach: Jim Mora: (9-5)

2012 record: 9-5 (6-3 Pac-12 South)

Key losses: RB Johnathan Franklin, OL Jeff Baca, TE Joseph Fauria, DE Datone Jones, LB Damien Holmes.

[+] EnlargeJim Mora
James Snook/US PresswireCoach Jim Mora's Bruins have a brutal two-game stretch in late October.
Key returnees: QB Brett Hundley, OL Xavier Su'a-Filo, LB Anthony Barr, WR Shaq Evans, LB Eric Kendricks, LB Jordan Zumwalt.

Newcomer to watch: Now that the NCAA has signed off on his Irish exodus, five-star defensive lineman Eddie Vanderdoes might be able to jump in immediately and help restore some depth to UCLA’s defensive front, which has suffered some attrition through injury and graduation.

Biggest games in 2013: There are plenty of them, as the Bruins' schedule figures to be tougher than last season. At Nebraska (Sept. 14) highlights the nonconference slate and the back-to-back games at Stanford (Oct. 19) and at Oregon (Oct. 26) is a vicious two-week stretch. They close with ASU (Nov. 23) and at USC (Nov. 30) in a span that will likely decide the South Division.

Biggest question mark heading into 2013: There are more than most fans would prefer to see -- like a youthful secondary that’s without Tevin McDonald (dismissed from team) and Dietrich Riley (medical retirement) and gaps across the defensive front. But replacing Franklin -- or at least replicating most of his production through a committee -- has to be a top priority. The Doak Walker finalist departs as the school’s all-time leading rusher and was a comforting and stabilizing presence for Hundley in his first season as a starter. Jordon James, Paul Perkins, Craig Lee, Malcolm Jones and Steven Manfro make up the crowded committee – which will get even more crowded when Damien Thigpen returns from injury sometime in October.

Forecast: Picked by the media to take the Pac-12 South for the third straight year, the Bruins aren’t going to sneak up on anybody this season. Mora had a fantastic first season as a collegiate head coach and Hundley proved to be as advertised -- if not better. But he loses his favorite red zone target in Fauria, the aforementioned Franklin, and there are still holes on the offensive line that need to be sorted out.

The defense, as noted above, also has holes, but there are some exciting young players in the secondary eager to make a name for themselves. And, of course, Anthony Barr returns as one of the nation’s premier defensive players and a probable first-round draft pick -- possibly even top 10.

The schedule ramps up significantly in 2013. The Bruins go to Stanford for a rematch of the 2012 Pac-12 title game and also face Oregon for the first time in the Mora era. Almost all of their toughest games are on the road, including Nebraska, Stanford, Oregon and USC. With some of the previously mentioned offensive stars gone, Hundley will be asked to do more with the offense than he did last year -- which includes better decision-making and command of the offense.

Yet despite all of their success in 2012, the blowout loss to Baylor in the Holiday Bowl lingers. As does the fact that the Bruins were the most-penalized team in the country last year and they gave up an unhealthy amount of sacks. Mora is making sure his players know they haven’t arrived yet.

The Bruins are a fascinating balancing act of proven playmakers and untested youth. If their youth matures quickly, it wouldn’t be shocking to see them in the title game for the third straight year.
The UCLA Bruins got some good news this morning with the report that highly-touted defensive lineman Eddie Vanderdoes has been cleared to play in 2013.

The news puts his soap opera exit from Notre Dame to rest and comes at a time when the Bruins are looking to shore up their defensive front.

The Bruins begin practice on Aug. 5 and the 6-3, 310-pound defensive tackle -- considered one of the top defensive linemen of the 2013 recruiting class -- will likely make an immediate impact on the depth chart.

Jack Wang, beat writer for the Los Angeles News Group, offers up a good summation of UCLA's defensive line status:
All-Pac-12 selection Datone Jones graduated from the spot and became UCLA’s first first-round draft pick since 2006. Jones’ likely successor, rising senior Owamagbe Odighizuwa, underwent hip surgery in the offseason and is questionable to return. If Vanderdoes can impress enough early on, the UCLA staff could even elect to redshirt Odighizuwa -- a former five-star recruit himself -- to save him for a full season.

Defensive line depth also wasn’t helped when backup nose tackle Brandon Tuliaupupu tore his ACL near the end of spring camp.

Wang goes on to mention that the unit is still anchored by Cassius Marsh, an honorable mention pick last season. And while linebacker Anthony Barr gets much of the hype, Marsh is considered the fiery leader of the defense.

The Bruins were one of the top pressure defenses in the country in 2012 -- ranking eighth nationally in sacks per game and 22nd in tackles for a loss. They ranked 58th nationally in scoring defense, allowing an average of 27.5 points per game.

Perhaps the most important element of all this is that Vanderdoes has four years of eligibility.

"While I disagree with yesterday's decision by the NCAA National Letter of Intent Appeals Committee to reverse its original ruling and grant Eddie Vanderdoes a complete release from his NLI, I understand and respect the entire appeal process," Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said in a statement released through the school. "However, this result does not change my opinion concerning the importance of protecting the integrity of the NLI program, nor will it change our approach to the process going forward."

Preseason position reviews: defensive line

July, 30, 2013
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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
She would merengue and do the cha-cha. And while she tried to be a star, Tony always tended bar.
We're taking a look at the can't-miss games of the 2013 Pac-12 season. The Ultimate Road Trip continues.

Remember all that sanction talk back in June? Sooooo two-and-a-half months ago. Welcome to Week 3.

Saturday, Sept. 14
  • Stanford at Army
  • Fresno State at Colorado
  • Tennessee at Oregon
  • Ohio State at California
  • Wisconsin at Arizona State
  • Oregon State at Utah
  • UTSA at Arizona
  • Boston College at USC
  • Southern Utah at Washington State
  • UCLA at Nebraska
  • Washington vs. Illinois (at Soldier Field)
My choice: UCLA at Nebraska

Why: This is a week where allegiances are truly divided -- because Week 3 provides a really good slate of games. There will be griping. Feelings will be hurt. Such is the cruel mistress that is the Pac-12 Blog Ultimate Road Trip.

We have a league game with Oregon State traveling to Rice-Eccles. We've got potentially the No. 1 team in the country in Ohio State coming into Berkeley. We've got an SEC team coming to Autzen and three other Pac-12/Big Ten games. Plus -- and Stanford should have smooth sailing at Army -- I always enjoy watching the service academies play. If you've never been to a game at West Point and stood in silence when they play the alma mater, it should be on your bucket list. But not this year. Not this week. Too many other good games.

This week we go beyond the borders of the Pac-12 states. In a rematch of one of the more exciting games of last season, the Bruins return the trip to Nebraska after topping the then-No. 16 Huskers 36-30 last year in Week 2 at the Rose Bowl.

More than Brett Hundley's coming-out party against tougher competition (and his home debut, where he threw for 305 yards and four touchdowns), it was UCLA sending a message that things were going to change in the Jim Mora era. The Bruins made big plays on offense when they had to and made the stops -- especially in the second half -- when needed. Datone Jones was beastly.

After a 24-24 tie at intermission, the Bruins held Taylor Martinez to 11 rushing yards following a first half in which he ran for 101. UCLA limited Nebraska to 76 rushing yards in the second half after allowing 184 in the first.

This year's matchup could prove to be equally exciting. It features a much more seasoned Hundley clashing with Martinez -- so quarterback productivity will certainly be an interesting sidebar in this rematch. Both teams return experienced lines and key players on defense.

Assuming the Bruins show up and aren't overwhelmed by the environment, this should be the week's most exciting game.

However, if you want to make a case for Arizona State-Wisconsin (a game I think ASU wins -- especially at home), it would be tough to argue. If you want to make a case for road-tripping to Chicago -- a heck of a city -- I wouldn't complain. If you want to argue for watching Oregon blow up a bottom-tier SEC team and all the schadenfreude that comes with that ... by all means. Those who want to see Cal-Ohio State (though the Bears will probably be fairly heavy home dogs), I could see that. Even Oregon State-Utah, a league game that was probably closer than last year's 21-7 would indicate, is of interest.

This week, you can follow our road trip, or simply follow your gut, because there aren't many bad choices.
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%
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    21%
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    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
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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.
Happy Friday.
Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned for Sega.

UCLA Bruins spring wrap

May, 8, 2013
5/08/13
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UCLA Bruins

2012 record: 9-5
2012 conference record: 6-3 (First in South Division)
Returning starters: Offense: 6; Defense: 6; Kicker/punter: 1

Top returners: QB Brett Hundley, OL Xavier Su'a-Filo, LB Anthony Barr, WR Shaq Evans, LB Eric Kendricks, LB Jordan Zumwalt.

Key losses: RB Johnathan Franklin, OL Jeff Baca, TE Joseph Fauira, DE Datone Jones, LB Damien Holmes.

2012 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Johnathan Fraklin (1,734)
Passing: Brett Hundley* (3,745)
Receiving: Shaq Evans* (877)
Tackles: Eric Kendricks* (149)
Sacks: Anthony Barr* (13.5)
Interceptions: Andrew Abbott, Sheldon Price (4)

Spring answers
  1. When in doubt, form a committee: There is no replacing Johnathan Franklin, UCLA’s all-time leading rusher and a finalist for the Doak Walker award last season. But the hope is that a group of backs can combine to replicate his production. Jordon James looks like he might have a leg up as the leader of the committee, though Paul Perkins and Malcolm Jones had solid springs. Steven Manfro and Damien Thigpen shouldn't be counted out, either, heading into fall since the coaches have said they are fine with using five backs in a game.
  2. The corps stepping up: The coaches were extremely pleased with the production of the wide receiver corps this spring. Devin Fuller might have had the strongest spring of the group -- though returning leader Shaq Evans (60 catches, 877 yards, three touchdowns) still figures to be the primary target. Jordan Payton, Kenneth Walker, Eldridge Massington and Devin Lucien round out what should be a solid group.
  3. LB depth: Anthony Barr, Eric Kendricks and Jordan Zumwalt make up a fantastic linebacking unit. Barr and Kendricks were among the national leaders in production last year. But this spring the Bruins saw the emergence of players like Aaron Wallace, Kenny Orijoke and Taylor Lagace and Aaron Porter. Defensive depth was a big concern for the Bruins last year. And for now, at least, it looks like they have solidified the two-deep at all the linebacking spots.
Fall questions
  1. Speaking of depth: The Bruins return the bulk of their offensive line -- but as we learned in the Baylor game when two linemen went down -- you can never have enough depth on the line. Finding backups will be key. And while players like Ben Wysocki stepped up this spring -- showing he can fill in at tackle or guard -- there will be plenty of competition with some good offensive linemen joining the team this fall. The starting five might be close to set -- but nothing is solidified.
  2. Secondary issues: As in issues in the secondary, not secondary concerns. Ishmael Adams and Anthony Jefferson looked solid at cornerback and Brandon Sermons and Randall Goforth stepped up at safety. Though it’s likely that several, if not all four spots, will still be up for grabs come August. A highly-rated group of recruits join the secondary in the fall and playing time in the secondary is expected to be highly contested.
  3. Looking for leaders: Franklin, gone. Jeff Baca, gone. Datone Jones, gone. Damien Holmes, gone. These were leaders who rallied the troops when times were tough and, in their own ways, pulled their respective units together. Head coach Jim Mora talked about the importance of leadership and said it can’t be forced. Rather, it has to happen organically. He said he started to see some guys develop this spring, but the next few months before they meet for fall camp will be very telling in regards to who takes this team on their shoulders.
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.
Happy Friday.
Five Pac-12 players were selected in the first round of the NFL draft on Thursday.

Here's the chart:


So... what's our take?

Thanks for asking.

Kevin Gemmell: I must say, very, very interesting first round. And one that I think most Pac-12 fans can be relatively pleased with. The five players drafted Thursday night are the most since the league sent six in 2008. So that's progress.

Two things really stood out as surprising to me. First, it's not that Dion Jordan went third overall to the Miami Dolphins. It's that he went to a 4-3 defense. Perhaps Jeff Ireland is a huge fan of the Pac-12 blog and was reading our Take 2 from a few weeks ago. And if that's the case, you're welcome, Jeff.

[+] EnlargeDion Jordan
Al Bello/Getty ImagesThe Dolphins traded up from No. 12 to No. 3 in the first round to select Oregon's Dion Jordan.
Jordan is pretty good at stopping the run -- but it's not the strength of his game. As every draftnik in the world noted before and after the selection, he's a beast at speed rushing off the edge, but has some work to do in other aspects of his game. They also made the apt comparison to former Dolphin defensive end Jason Taylor. Fitting since both players have similar frames and skill sets. He had an OK career, so maybe it all works out.

The second thing that surprised me was that Star Lotulelei was not the first defensive tackle taken. We figured he could go pretty much anywhere in the top 15 -- most mocks had him where he landed at No 14 to the Carolina Panthers. One pick earlier, Missouri's Sheldon Richardson went at No. 13 to the New York Jets. I admit I don't know a ton about Richardson. I just know that Lotulelei graded out higher, had a comparable 40 time (though it was inconsistent because it was at a pro day, not the NFL scouting combine) and he had eight more reps on the bench. Maybe it's just personal preference, but I was pretty surprised he wasn't the first defensive tackle off the board.

Liked the pick of Oregon's Kyle Long by the Bears. They are getting a versatile player who could really fit in at any position across the line after he gets a little seasoning. We've seen him slowly creep up in mock drafts -- starting several months ago in the third-round range -- and that buzz was legitimized with his pick at No. 20.

And I liked that Atlanta had Desmond Trufant targeted and they traded up to get him. It was a need position and they jumped at the chance to get an NFL-ready starter. Good pick.

Datone Jones is a guy Ted and I have been talking about for a couple of years now -- how we just kept waiting for him to breakout. And then UCLA switches to the 3-4 and he blows up. He could be a real solid player for years in Green Bay's 3-4 front.

Overall, I'd call it a fair-to-good first day for the Pac-12.

Ted Miller: Of course, the big question many will ask is how did the Pac-12 compare to the other conferences.

Here are the first-round numbers. Yes, there will be SEC crowing, with some justification.

  • SEC – 12
  • ACC – 6
  • Pac-12 – 5
  • Big 12 – 3
  • Independent – 2
  • MAC – 1
  • C-USA – 1
  • Big East - 1
  • Big Ten - 1

The SEC's 12 picks ties the record set by the ACC in 2006. Don't forget the SEC now has 14 teams. Or, for that matter, the Big 12 has 10.

My first-round takeaways? Well, the above numbers are meaningful.

The SEC? Well. I'll let you guys try to explain those away. (Good luck with that.) I tweeted this story the other day, and I think it well relates how SEC dominance, once a chimerical creation from a region that often doesn't fret the truth getting in the way of a good story, has become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The bottom, however, is almost as telling -- see the Pac-12's Rose Bowl partner, the Big Ten with just one selection. That certainly validates the perception that conference has slipped, something we've seen on the field in recent years.

As for the five Pac-12 picks, I had a nice conversation with Jordan at the Fiesta Bowl about how his fortunes had turned. He seemed genuinely awed by it. And grateful. After the game, I was standing there when his mother worked here way through the crowd to give him a hug. Apparently it was raining inside University of Phoenix Stadium.

One of the things I always think about on draft day is how through-the-looking-glass strange it's got to feel for guys, at least the reflective ones. Sure, most top picks get fronted money by their agents, so they've been living the life for a few months. But when it becomes official, a guy in his early 20s suddenly become certifiably rich.

The third pick last year, Cleveland's Trent Richardson, got four years at $20.4 million. Just imagine yourself at 23 having a conversation about $20 million. And how it's a bit low.

[+] EnlargeMatt Barkley
Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY SportsMatt Barkley could be the next Pac-12 alum off the board.
As for the rest, the Panthers got a steal with Star Lotulelei at No. 14. The Panthers just put a checkmark in the box for the middle of their defensive line. And I think Jets fans will remember in a very Jets fans way that the Jets took Missouri DT Sheldon Richardson a pick before the Panthers.

Oregon O-lineman Kyle Long at No. 20 was a mild surprise, but the Bears probably swooned over his obvious upside. You can't beat his bloodlines either.

The Trufant pick clearly validates the Pac-12 blog at the expense of Washington fans. See... we told you he was good.

Wait. I may not be recalling that accurately. Two words: Kevin's fault.

And Jones, whom we've been touting pretty much since he arrived at UCLA, obviously found his rhythm over the past year.

As Kevin noted, there are a lot of good Pac-12 players left on the board, including a substantial handful who figure to get selected in the next two rounds. Things should continue to be interesting, starting with who steps up and picks USC quarterback Matt Barkley.
It didn’t take long for there to be some drama in the 2013 NFL draft. And former Oregon Duck Dion Jordan was right in the middle of it.

Jordan, the hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker, was selected by the Miami Dolphins with the No. 3 pick ... much to the surprise of the ESPN draft coverage crew. And Jordan.

After offensive tackles went first and second, Jordan was the first defensive player taken in the draft when the Oakland Raiders traded the pick to the Dolphins.

Jordan’s selection was met with mostly positive, yet still mixed responses. Mel Kiper Jr., Jon Gruden and Chris Berman praised Jordan’s athleticism and ability to rush off the edge. But they also questioned whether that’s worth the No. 3 overall pick. Obviously, the Dolphins thought it was.

Many believed that former Oregon coach Chip Kelly, now the head coach with the Philadelphia Eagles, was going to take Jordan with the fourth pick. Instead, the Dolphins moved one spot ahead, leaving Kelly to take Oklahoma offensive tackle Lane Johnson.

“I was surprised ... I wasn’t expecting that,” Jordan told ESPN’s Suzy Kolber. “I’m very blessed. I’m going to bring tremendous athletic ability … I’m ready to get in there and work with the guys.”

Jordan, Oregon’s highest drafted player since Joey Harrington went No. 3 overall in the 2002 draft, was the first of what turned out to be five first-round picks for the Pac-12 on Thursday night. It was the most first-round picks since the league had six in 2008.

After the Jordan selection, things quieted down for the league until the 14th pick, when the Carolina Panthers selected Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei. He was the second defensive tackle taken in the draft after Missouri’s Sheldon Richardson went at No. 13 to the New York Jets.

“He is a space-eater,” said Kiper after the selection. “He’s a stay-at-home type defensive tackle. He won’t give you a lot of pass rush. But he’s strong. He’s quick. He’s a tough kid. I thought a very good player, but the pass rush wasn’t there.”

ESPN's Pat Yasinskas has a good breakdown of what this means for the Panthers.

The second “surprise” pick of the draft also involved a Duck – when the Chicago Bears drafted Oregon offensive guard Kyle Long.

Said Kiper: “He has the kind of skill set you want. [But] he needs a lot of coaching ... he’s a developmental prospect … [His] versatility and mean streak intrigued a lot of people.”

Just two picks later, the Atlanta Falcons traded up to get Washington cornerback Desmond Trufant at No. 22. After posting a 4.38 at the NFL scouting combine -- third fastest among the defensive backs -- his stock jumped from early second round to first-round selection.

Said Kiper: “He’s an instinctive ball hawk. A guy I think really got better as his career moved along … this is a need area and [Atlanta] went up aggressively to get him.”

UCLA defensive end Datone Jones became the league’s fifth selection when the Green Bay Packers took him at No. 26. ESPN's Jon Gruden was a fan of the pick.

“If you’re into combine workouts, you’re into Datone Jones. Because he dominated the combine,” Gruden said. “The arrow is going up on this kid. He’s my sleeper of the first round. He has NFL movement skills ... he can play on a tight end. He can play inside. And the Packers need a dominant inside defender. Good pick.”

There is still plenty of intrigue looking ahead with names like Zach Ertz, Robert Woods, Matt Barkley, Keenan Allen, Matt Scott, Brian Schwenke, Steve Williams, Markus Wheaton, Jordan Poyer, David Bakhtiari, Chase Thomas, Kenjon Barner, Johnathan Franklin and about a dozen more from the league still on the board.

Settle in for a draft-filled weekend.

Pac-12 draft primer

April, 25, 2013
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After all that mocking, the NFL gets around to beginning its real, live draft tonight at 8 p.m. ET (ESPN, NFL Network).

As usual, the Pac-12 should be well-represented in the first round and throughout. As Kevin pointed out this week, as many as nine conference players are prospects for the first round.

Here's Todd McShay's Mock Draft 6.0 Insider:
The there's Mel Kiper Jr.'s latest Mock Draft Insider:
And don't completely count out USC quarterback Matt Barkley or California receiver Keenan Allen. Remember: It takes just one GM to fall in love with a guy.

Also, here's an interactive version Insider of Kiper's mock draft.

Here's a complete seven-round Mock Draft Insider, where former Washington State receiver Marquess Wilson is the last conference player off the board with the 12th pick of the final round -- No. 218 overall.

Of course, there are a lot of mock drafts out there. Here are a few to consider before things get real.

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