Pac-12: Eben Britton

Bigger shoes than you think: Arizona

March, 25, 2010
3/25/10
7:23
PM ET
First of a series looking at lineup holes that are important even if they don't make headlines.

Arizona

Everybody's talking about: The Wildcats have to fill seven holes on defense, including all three linebacker spots and both defensive tackles.

Bigger shoes than you think: Left tackle Mike Diaz

Diaz didn't even make honorable mention All-Pac-10 in 2009, but he was the starting left tackle for a team that only gave up 13 sacks and rushed for 159 yards per game despite injuries to its top two tailbacks much of the year. There has to be some connection to Diaz and the success of the Wildcats offensive line. Diaz might not get drafted like the guy he replaced did -- Eben Britton -- but the 6-foot-5, 320 pounder leaves behind a sizable void.

Who's stepping in: Adam Grant, a sixth-year senior, started on the right side in 2009 and earned second-team All-Pac-10 honors. Despite injury issues for two seasons, he's an 18-game starter, so he has experience. At 6-6, 325, he's even bigger than Diaz and the former tight end is less limited athletically, though his footwork remains a work in progress. Still, he's moving from the right to left side and now will face the defense's best pass rusher while protecting his quarterback's blind side. That's a big step.

Pac-10 Q&A: Arizona offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes

September, 18, 2009
9/18/09
12:06
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller


Arizona offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes has transformed the Arizona offense since coach Mike Stoops hired him away from Texas Tech in 2007.

But the Wildcats began 2009 with questions on offense due to the departure of quarterback Willie Tuitama -- a three-plus year starter -- receiver Mike Thomas and offensive tackle Eben Britton.

Matt Scott won the quarterback competition over fellow sophomore Nick Foles, but it was close and Foles is still in the picture.
 
 Chris Morrison-US PRESSWIRE
 Arizona hasn't asked quarterback Matt Scott to pass downfield much so far this season.

The Wildcats opened with two efficient victories, but the offense played conservatively, leaning on a running attack that is averaging a stout 306 yards per contest and a stout defense.

But a visit to Iowa will pose a far tougher test on Saturday. It's unlikely the Wildcats can just line up and run right at the Hawkeyes.

Seemed like a good time to check in with Dykes and see where things stand.

Tell me how things are going at quarterback, starting with Matt Scott?

Sonny Dykes: He's made good progress so far. It's kind of been weird because we had a lead early in both games and have been pretty content to try to hold onto the ball and run it and try not to put too much on those guys right now. So he's done a good job doing that. We're completing a pretty high percentage of our throws. We haven't gotten the ball down the field a ton yet but we really haven't had to. So he's done a good job of executing what we've done. We've got to continue to improve our downfield passing game. But part of that has been we've had some guys injured and been a little bit slower than I would like to all get on the same page. Not having [tight end Rob] Gronkowski hurts us a bunch as far as getting it down the field. And Chris Gronkowski has been banged up. It's just been kind of slow to all come together.

(Read full post)

Stoops is motivated by Arizona doubters

August, 20, 2009
8/20/09
8:47
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Arizona coach Mike Stoops is fit and relaxed and just a bit irritated.

All three speak to him being in a far better place as he enters his sixth season as Arizona's coach.

Fit? The former All-American safety at Iowa looks like he could suit up again. If the Pac-10 title were decided in a bar room brawl, Stoops might be your guy. The avid runner has been hitting the weight during the off-season and he is not above suggesting that a reporter might want to do the same.

Relaxed? Instead of getting his butt burned by the hot seat upon which he sat last year, he led the Wildcats to an impressive victory in their first bowl game since 1998.

Irritated? He's just a bit piqued at his Wildcats being picked to finish eighth in the Pac-10.

(The Pac-10 blog is on record, by the way, believing he has a point.)

His Wildcats were picked behind UCLA and Arizona State, teams they beat by identical 31-10 counts in 2008.

Arizona, which won eight games last year, has 14 starters back, UCLA 17 and Arizona State 15. The Sun Devils and Bruins combined for nine wins. Each will feature a quarterback making his first start this season.

Beyond that, the Wildcats largest margin of defeat was 10 points (Oregon). They lost two games by a combined three points

So why the diss?

"I don't know," Stoops said. "This is our best team."

Really? Stoops must replace quarterback Willie Tuitama, practically a four-year starter, receiver Mike Thomas, offensive tackle Eben Britton and four defensive starters.

The only player on his team someone in, say, Des Moines, Iowa might have heard of is tight end Rob Gronkowski.

So why is Stoops certain his team is being underrated?

"Our greatest strength is we don't have any really big weaknesses," he said. "We don't have any really big holes... We're pretty strong across the board."

In a conference with two fancypants secondaries getting national attention -- USC and California -- Stoops believes he's got a match.

In a conference where everybody is touting their linebackers, Stoops believes his three are as athletic as any troika in the conference -- and junior middle linebacker Vuna Tuihalamaka looks like a potential star.

He thinks defensive end Brooks Reed is underrated, despite recording eight sacks last year. He likes the rest of his D-line, which is returns intact and is deeper than it was a year ago.

He's fired up about his three tailbacks. Things are good at receiver. He gushes about his offensive line.

"I'm really pleased with our ability to play physically and protect," he said.

A decision at quarterback is expected shortly -- perhaps as soon as this weekend -- between Matt Scott and Nick Foles, with Scott being the favorite.

And if the quarterback doesn't, as Stoops said, "Go crazy," this team should meet or exceed last year's performance.

Eighth place!

It might seem that Stoops is mustering a motivational angle, and not just for his team.

Stoops clearly likes maintaining an edge. While no one relishes job insecurity, last year provided him an obvious one.

"Things were defined last year -- that almost made it easier, if that makes sense," he said. "We knew we had to win. They gave us ample time. We knew we were close. Clearing that mental obstacle for our team was huge."

Making the next step as a program won't be easy. As hard as it is to go from three to eight wins, it's not any easier to go from eight to 10.

"Until you do it, you are always going to wonder [if you can]," he said.

It's still a work in progress in Tucson. Stoops wants his team to play loose and confident but also be able to set its collective jaw during the waning moments of close games so they don't slip away.

Eighth-place? It seems like Stoops believes his team is a play or two away from finishing in the top-third of the Pac-10.

Who's your No. 5? It should be Arizona

August, 3, 2009
8/03/09
11:06
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Thirty-nine points separated No. 1 USC and No. 2 California in the Pac-10 media poll.

Cal's lead over Oregon was 27 points. Oregon's over Oregon State, 34.

No. 9 Washington trailed No. 8 Arizona by a whopping 68 points.

While Arizona fans -- and players and coaches -- might be miffed that their Wildcats ended up No. 8 after finishing fifth a year ago, the margin between the Wildcats and No. 5 Arizona State was just 13 points.

If you forgot, the tally looked like this:

  1. USC (28)... 316
  2. California (3)... 277
  3. Oregon (1)... 250
  4. Oregon State... 216
  5. Arizona State... 155
  6. Stanford... 150
  7. UCLA... 145
  8. Arizona... 142
  9. Washington... 74
  10. Washington State... 35

Arizona was my No. 5.  

(In a side note, it was interesting at media day listening to the coaches of the mid-level teams. Arizona coach Mike Stoops, Arizona State's Dennis Erickson and Stanford's Jim Harbaugh each sold their team as being better than the experts were projecting. UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel seemed notably -- and curiously -- modest about his team's chances, humbly asking the football spirits for six wins. That gets a "hmmm.")  

I only pulled back at the last moment from adding the Wildcats to my preseason Top 25. I thought it might be a good idea to watch them carry a 2-0 record to Iowa on Sept. 19 before I committed to a national ranking. This is a team, however, with top-25 potential.

"I feel this is our best overall team from one to 85," Stoops said.

I agree.

"I think our lack of respect in this conference is built around our ability to replace a very quality player in [quarterback] Willie Tuitama," Stoops said.

I agree. But I think that conventional thinking is wrong. Tuitama re-wrote the Wildcats' passing record book, but the most remarkable thing about the Wildcats' passing record book is the stunning lack of recognizable names. Tom Tunnicliffe? Moreover, there is this: Tuitama wasn't invited to the NFL combine, nor was he drafted, nor has he signed an NFL contract.

All due respect to Tuitama, who tossed 67 career touchdowns passes, but he was just one piece of the Wildcats' offensive success the past two seasons. And he probably wasn't the most important one (Rob Gronkowski? Mike Thomas? Eben Britton? Coordinator Sonny Dykes?).

He's certainly replaceable. Whether that ends up being Matt Scott or Nick Foles. Before the 2008 season, there were big questions about the Wildcats' defense. That no-name unit ended up third in the Pac-10 in both scoring and total defense. And it welcomes back seven guys.

"Defensively, we have never been stronger -- this is the best 11 that we've ever put on the field," Stoops said.

Added safety Cam Nelson: "We're going to play the usual Coach Stoops type of defense -- hard-nosed with a lot of no-name guys who are going to come out and play as hard as they can."

While Arizona and its fans seemed happy with eight wins and a bowl victory last year, the Wildcats left a lot of football on the field. Their largest margin of defeat was 10 points (Oregon). They lost two games by a combined three points.

Stoops has made Arizona competitive again. The next step is learning how to finish games.

Here's a guess that next step is taken in 2009.

Sorting out the Pac-10 middle

July, 22, 2009
7/22/09
5:43
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Results of the annual Pac-10 media poll will be announced on July 30, but here's a guess at how most ballots will look:

1. USC; 2. California; 3. Oregon; 4. Oregon State... 9. Washington; 10. Washington State

And from five to eight all heck breaks loose.

Now, some -- such as Phil Steele -- think Oregon will tumble. Some have issues with Oregon State. And some think Washington will be a surprise team.

But a plurality figures to vote these six teams as they appear above and then throw the other four into the air and leave it to the college football spirits to decide.

So where do you rank Arizona, Arizona State, Stanford and UCLA?

I wouldn't be completely shocked if any of those four actually broke into the top four. I also wouldn't be astonished if any finished ninth.

I think I've written at various times that all four should end up bowl-eligible, even though eight conference teams with a .500 record or better is difficult to pencil out. (It did, however, happen in 2006 -- and Washington even finished 5-7).

I changed my own 5-8 a number of times. I won't tell you how I voted yet. My boss threatened to tear off my arm and beat me with it if I did. He's done it before so I believed him.

Why the difficulty?

For one, each of the Unfixed Four will break in a new quarterback, though Stanford and UCLA both have their starters back from 2008.

(Read full post)

Dykes: Arizona QB competition even heading into camp

July, 21, 2009
7/21/09
3:25
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Couple more interesting things from my conversation with Arizona offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes...

While most post-spring accounts -- including mine -- wrote that Matt Scott led the quarterback competition with Nick Foles, Dykes nipped that in the bud.

So who takes the first snaps?

"We'll rotate them and make sure they get as many reps as they can with the starters so we can get a good evaluation on them," Dykes said. "But honestly, they came out of spring pretty even. I think when we went back and looked at the [film] cut-ups, I think it was a little bit more even than we thought it was. The big thing is we want to try to find one. I've always been a believer in the old adage that if you've got two [quarterbacks] that means you really don't have one. But this situation is making me see things a little bit differently."

The question was restated: Is Scott at least slightly ahead because most beat writer accounts said he was?

"I don't think so. I think it depends on who you talk to," Dyke said. "I think the dimension that separates [Scott] a little bit is his ability to run. But he's 195 pounds. If he runs it 15-20 times a game, he's not going to last very long."

Dykes added: "For me, the real important time for quarterbacks is the summer, to see how hard those guys work and how much film they watch and how they develop in the summer. That's when guys always seem to make a big move."

Dykes also seemed aware that most preseason prognostications have the Wildcats slipping back in the Pac-10 pecking order after losing offensive tackle Eben Britton, receiver Mike Thomas and quarterback Willie Tuitama.

He seemed confident that the wouldn't be the case.

"I don't think people realize how much good young depth we have on our offensive line," he said.

Pac-10 lunch links: The return of Nate Costa

July, 20, 2009
7/20/09
2:30
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

I ain't like that no more. I ain't the same, Ned. Claudia, she straightened me up, cleared me of drinkin' whiskey and all. Just 'cause we're goin' on this killing, that don't mean I'm gonna go back to bein' the way I was. I just need the money, get a new start for them youngsters.

  • The Battle of Britton: Arizona's Mike Diaz will step in for Eben Britton at left tackle.
  • San Jose State drops Arizona State from its 2010 schedule for a cash grab at Wisconsin. How should the Sun Devils react?
  • Another bit of Emerald Bowl X's and O's analysis from a California perspective: This time the focus is on footwork.
  • Who is Chip Kelly, really? A thorough look at Kelly's background and how he became Oregon's head coach. Anyone remember Nate Costa? Well, the guy who entered camp in 2008 as Oregon's No. 1 quarterback before getting hurt is back and wants to contribute in 2009.
  • This look into the crystal ball has Oregon State going 9-3.
  • A Q&A with UCLA defensive end Reginald Stokes.
  • Faith, football and new USC defensive coordinator Rocky Seto.
  • It appears a defensive line recruit, JC transfer Johnny Tivao, won't make it to Washington.
  • How does Washington State's offensive line stack up?
  • Ranking the Pac-10 guards.

A quick defense of Eben Britton

April, 27, 2009
4/27/09
9:36
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Sure many of you saw this story about how former Arizona tackle Eben Britton went a little haywire when he talked to reporters after being drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the second round.

Britton was disappointed and angry about slipping out of the first round, where most projected him to be selected. So he went off on teams that passed over him and draft gurus who questioned him.

"You know what, if one of these draft guys lined up across from me they'd be dead, so that's not something I'm really concerned with," he said. "If you want to line up across from Eben Britton you're going to know what's happening to you, I guarantee you that."

I do not know Britton personally, but I've interviewed him at least five or so times. He was my go-to guy for a quick comment on all things Wildcat last season. With me, he was always bright and personable.

And I'm willing to bet folks who do know him well were shocked that Britton got overly chippy on a conference call.

What I'd tell Jaguar fans -- and reporters -- is this is completely out of character, based on what I know and everything I've heard about Britton through the years.

And, by the way, my money is on Britton being right in the end: GMs are going to regret passing on him.

Big East nips Pac-10 for draft lead

April, 27, 2009
4/27/09
10:23
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

[Note this is a corrected post... apologies for not factoring in the underrated Big East].

The Big East nipped the Pac-10 for the lead among conferences in the 2009 NFL draft.

The eight-team Big East supplied 27 total players in the draft, or 3.4 players per team. The Pac-10 supplied 32 selections (3.2 players per team). The 12-team SEC was third with 37 selections overall, or 3.1 per team. The 12-team ACC was third with 33 (2.8 per team).

Last year, the Pac-10's led with 3.4 per team vs. 2.92 per team for the SEC and ACC (2.75).

USC led the way with 11 players selected, including three in the first round, though many are shaking their heads of linebacker Rey Maualuga's tumble into the second round. Every draft-eligible Trojan who started last season was picked.

Oregon State was second with seven players selected and Oregon was third with six. Arizona State, with a pair of seventh-round selections, maintained a 45-year streak with at least one player drafted.

Not all the news was good: Stanford, UCLA and Washington each had no players selected.

Here's the complete list

Arizona

Eben Britton, OT, Jacksonville, second
Mike Thomas, WR, Jacksonville, fourth

Arizona State

Troy Nolan, S, Houston, seventh
Paul Fanaika, OG, Philadelphia, seventh

California

Alex Mack, C, Cleveland, first
Zach Follett, LB, Detroit, seventh
Cameron Morrah, TE, seventh

Oregon

Patrick Chung, S, New England, second
Jairus Byrd, CB, Buffalo, second
Max Unger, C, Seattle, second
Fenuki Tupou, OT, Philadelphia, fifth
Ra'Shon Harris, DT, Pittsburgh, sixth
Nick Reed, DE, Seattle, seventh

Oregon State

Andy Levitre, OG, Buffalo, second
Keenan Lewis, CB, Pittsburgh, third
Victor Butler, OLB, Dallas, fourth
Slade Norris, OLB, Oakland, fourth
Brandon Hughes, CB, San Diego, fifth
Al Afalava, S, Chicago, sixth
Sammie Stroughter, WR, Tampa Bay, seventh

Stanford

NONE

UCLA

NONE

USC

Mark Sanchez, QB, New York Jets, first (No. 5)
Brian Cushing, OLB, Houston, first (No. 15)
Clay Matthews, OLB, Green Bay, first (No. 26)
Rey Maualuga, LB, Cincinnati, second
Fili Moala, DT, Indianapolis, second
Patrick Turner, WR, Miami, third
Kaluka Maiava, LB, Cleveland, fourth
Kyle Moore, DE, Tampa Bay, fourth
David Buehler, PK, Dallas, fifth
Cary Harris, CB, Buffalo, sixth
Kevin Ellison, S, San Diego, sixth

Washington

NONE

Washington State

Brandon Gibson, WR, Philadelphia, sixth

Cal's Jordan shakes off top-30 omission, eyes next season

April, 23, 2009
4/23/09
3:30
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

In early April, this item appeared in the mailbag, eliciting a "Yikes!" from the Pac-10 blog.

 
  AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
  Cameron Jordan racked up six tackles and a sack against the Trojans last season.

Cameron from Berkeley writes: Dear Mr. Miller, I would like to remind you that you've left me off your list of top 30 players in the Pac-10. I can only assume this is a glaring oversight, and if you could do it all over again, you would. I see that many of your picks have been based on future NFL projections. Well, I have it on good authority that my draft stock will skyrocket once more scouts realize how the 3 DLs in Cal's 3-4 make it seem like a we're playing a 5-4. I am also the fastest lineman on the team, despite being over 285 pounds. You, however, don't need to take my word for all of this. I will use the field of play to air out my grievances. Everson "I'm Offsides" Griffen? REALLY? Thank you in advance for your All Pac-10 selection for 2009. Violently yours, Cameron Jordan Incredible Defensive End California Golden Bears

"I was pretty sure I didn't write that," Cameron Jordan said this week. "And if I did it, I would have said it jokingly."

Jordan, a junior from Chandler, Ariz., added that the note was brought to his attention in the Cal training room. He added that he had not been following the Pac-10 blog's ranking of the conference's top 30 players.

"I don't really read articles and tabloids like that," he said.

Touche.

Of all the players who were left off the top-30 list, Jordan's absence probably caused the most indignant stir, at least based on notes and comments.

And not without justification.

Jordan didn't start until the fifth game of the season, after Rulon Davis injured his foot. It was an auspicious debut. He wracked up eight tackles and two sacks vs. Arizona State and earned Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Week honors.

He also stepped up in big games. He had 10 tackles, 2.5 for loss, and a sack versus Oregon and a sack and six stops against USC. He had two tackles for loss and a fumble recovery in the Emerald Bowl victory over Miami.

His 11 tackles for loss tied for 13th in the conference by season's end.

Jordan will again pair with senior end Tyson Alualu next fall, giving the Bears the best combination of defensive ends in the conference. And with eight starters back overall on the unit, the defense as a whole should be pretty formidable, even with the departure of three A-list linebackers.

The unit certainly controlled the action during spring practices, which ended for the Bears with a scrimmage last Saturday.

"It's just spring ball but it seems like we've got a pretty solid core group," Jordan said.

Jordan also knows where his game needs to improve. He has uncanny speed to go with a 6-foot-4, 285-pound frame but he needs to get physically stronger. Last year, if an offensive tackle got his hands on Jordan, he had trouble breaking free.

Arizona's Eben Britton, a likely NFL first-round draft pick, smothered Jordan, holding him to just one tackle in the Bears 42-27 defeat.

"I've got a little ways to go in the weight room," Jordan admitted, adding he's 25 pounds short of pushing his bench press over 400 pounds.

Jordan didn't seemed too stressed about being left off the list. He said a certain Pac-10 blogger should feel perfectly safe wandering the streets of Berkeley.

And just wait until this season.

"It's all good with me," he said. "I honestly think I should be on any list, especially if it's top 30. But if I didn't get on it, it means I have something to work for next year."

Violently yours, Cameron Jordan, Incredible Defensive End, California Golden Bears.

Pac-10 lunch links: Locker showing promise in pocket

April, 23, 2009
4/23/09
2:30
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

It really don't matter if I lose this fight. It really don't matter if this guy opens my head, either. 'Cause all I wanna do is go the distance. Nobody's ever gone the distance with Creed, and if I can go that distance, you see, and that bell rings and I'm still standin', I'm gonna know for the first time in my life, see, that I weren't just another bum from the neighborhood.

Opening the Mailbag: Top-30 discussion and gripes

April, 10, 2009
4/10/09
5:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Happy Friday.

Why is Oregon safety T.J. Ward standing in my driveway in full uniform? Pacing. And pacing.

To your notes.

Blake from Beaverton writes: I'm assuming the top two on your top thirty (one) list is Mays and Best which is understandable but how come T.J. Ward isn't on there somewhere? Ward is pretty close to Walter Thurmond, if not better.

Ted Miller: Ward is an outstanding hitter. My guess is he'll become a complete player this year. But, to be honest, I'd bet if I went up to Ward after practice and asked him why he thought I didn't rank him among the top 30 he'd look me in the eye and go, "I need to be more consistent in coverage. I also need to not bite on play-action fakes."

I will not, however, go and ask him this in my driveway. I want Chip Kelly and Mike Bellotti around to protect me.


Tom from Sacramento writes: Ted, I've been following your list of the 30 best players in the Pac-10, and I believe you're making a huge omission: SPECIAL TEAMS. Where are all the kickers and punters and KRs and PRs? As a Cal fan, I know Bryan Anger is one of the best punters in the country, and was vital to Cal's success last season. Do you think the Pac-10 is full of glass boots, or do you just not respect the guys that coaches depend on in the final seconds of many close games?

Ted Miller: Fair point. And talk about Anger management. Got lots of notes about him.

I'd just point out how rare it is for an NFL team to draft a punter or kicker early in the draft. Great ones are extremely valuable. And Anger is a freak. But if I were starting a team, there's no one on this list I'd trade for a punter or kicker, no matter how good.


Nate from Nashville writes: You ought to create a revised 30 best players at season's end, see how they compare to your pre-season predictions. I think by then, there will be more than just three of my Cal bears on the list.

Ted Miller: Nate, you may be correct. And that is a good idea. Seeing as I keep noting a potential top-10 finish for Cal, my guess is a receiver, defensive lineman, linebacker and maybe even a quarterback could be Bears added to a post-eason list.

We shall see.


Danny from Los Angeles writes: Ted, With regard to your Top 30 of the Pac-10, I wonder if all the underclassmen that entered the draft remained, where would they rank in that list? (E.g., Is Mark Sanchez in the top 5? Does Cameron Morrah make the top 30?)

Ted Miller: USC quarterback Mark Sanchez, Arizona offensive tackle Eben Britton and Oregon cornerback Jairus Byrd all would have made the list, with Sanchez and Britton clearly ranking toward the very top.

California tight end Cameron Morrah would have been considered but I don't think I would have ranked him top-30. It would have been close.


Todd from Granada Hills, Calif., writes: Can you look at the recruiting done so far this year (for 2010 class) and let me know if my excitement for the Husky class is justified. It looks like Sark is getting the best talent in the state, and some good talent from out of state, to commit early and build a class that Heaps cannot say no to. Let me know your thoughts.

Ted Miller: Well, the Huskies already have seven oral commitments, apparently the most in the Pac-10, and appear to be mopping up in-state, though marquee in-state quarterback Jake Heaps is still on the board.

How could you not be excited about that?

The momentum is there. And it feels completely different than last year.

Now the question is whether they can keep up that momentum and get the signatures.

You Husky fans have been through a lot over the past few years. It seems perfectly reasonable to me to get pumped up when even a whiff of good news wafts through the Seattle fog.


Patrick from Garden Grove, Calif., writes: While following one of the links covering Cal's quarterback Kevin Riley i noticed that Tad Smith, Cal's #1 Tight End on the depth chart, suffered a broken scapula during one of their practices and could be out as long as 4-6 months. After an early exit for the NFL draft by last years starter Cameron Morrah, isn't this a big injury for the bears?

Ted Miller: Patrick, I've got good news for you, courtesy of Jonathan Okanes. At the bottom of his story from Friday he has this:

Tight end Tad Smith underwent surgery on his broken scapula Tuesday and is expected to be sidelined for 3½ months. Tedford expects Smith to be ready by the beginning of fall camp in August.

So you can let out that breath.


Cam from Albany, Ore, writes: Ted, It is looking more and more like Oregon will have Masoli, Blount, Dickson, Harper, Maehl,and the speedster Holland on the field at the same time next year. Who around the Pac-10, or the nation, can match that kind of talent at every position on offense?

Ted Miller: Every position? There are 300-pounders everywhere grunting.

That's certainly a nice group at the skill positions, though the receivers are unproven. My guess is USC, other than a big if at quarterback, is fairly excited about the nine starters it's got back. Florida also might have something to say if you're thinking nationally.

Oregon's issue on offense in 2009 will be the maturation of a rebuilt offensive line. And, by the way, its issue on defense will be the maturation of its defensive line.

And, as for the O-line, it's not just me saying that either.


Logan from Tucson, Ariz., writes: After watching Arizona's spring game I came away very impressed with Foles ability to move in the pocket. He is my opening day starter as of now. If you were Mike Stoops who is your starting QB if games started this weekend?

Ted Miller: I only watched one practice in Tucson, but it sounds like the two quarterbacks, Matt Scott and Nick Foles, were neck-and-neck throughout spring. Stoops told me he was happy with both. And he intimated that he might play both in the opener vs. Central Michigan to see how each reacts under fire. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if he didn't let both play in the first two games before the big visit to Iowa on Sept. 19.

At least, that's what I'd do.

St. Patrick's Day: Greenest units in the Pac-10

March, 17, 2009
3/17/09
1:30
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Every Pac-10 team will be young somewhere... so what are the green units?

Arizona -- OT: Both starting tackles are gone, including potential NFL first-round pick Eben Britton. The four tackles on this spring two-deep roster have combined for only five starts, all by right tackle Adam Grant.

Arizona State -- QB: Combined starts of the five candidates to replace Rudy Carpenter at quarterback? Zero.

California -- TE: When Cameron Morrah, the Bears second-leading receiver in 2008, unexpectedly bolted a year early for the NFL draft, he left behind four combined receptions for backups Tad Smith, Anthony Miller and touted redshirt freshman Spencer Ladner.

Oregon -- DT: Both starting defensive tackles are gone and this unofficial depth chart shows 14 combine tackles for seven potential replacements.

Oregon State -- DE: Sackmasters Victor Butler and Slade Norris and their 41.5 combined sacks over the past two seasons are gone. Sophomore Kevin Frahm and senior Ben Terry, who split two sacks between themselves in 2008, are in.

Stanford -- K: Kicker Aaron Zagory is gone and either Travis Golia or David Green will take over, though neither has kicked a college field goal.

UCLA -- P: After four years of huge boots, punter Aaron Perez is gone. Redshirt freshmen Jeff Locke and Danny Rees will compete to replace him.

USC -- LB: All three starting linebackers, including All-Americans and future first-round draft choices Rey Maualuga and Brian Cushing, are gone. Chris Galippo, Malcolm Smith and Michael Morgan aren't exactly chopped liver, though.

Washington -- K-P: The Huskies need to replace both specialists with players who have no college experience.

Washington State -- TE: Devin Frischknecht and Ben Woodard, the top two guys on the 2008 depth chart, are gone and the expected replacement, JC transfer Peter Tuitupou, unexpectedly opted to go on a two-year church mission.

Pac-10 lunch links: Pac-10 at the NFL combine

February, 23, 2009
2/23/09
2:30
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

We're throwing at the NFL combine.

  • Former Arizona receiver Mike Thomas continues to be short, but Money Mike also continues to do things that figure to make him a lot of coin when the NFL draft rolls around. Like run faster than Percy Harvin. (And note that former UA OT Eben Britton's 40 time probably won't hurt him either).
  • And... not to let that combine list linger or anything... but who would have thought that USC linebacker Kaluka Maiava would do just as many reps with 225 pounds -- 30 -- as Brian Cushing, and both would leave sure-fire top-10 LB pick Aaron Curry in their dust (25)?
  • Speaking of Cushing... he tries to respond to rumors of steroid use.
  • Speaking of draft prospects, whatever happened to Rudy Carpenter's? He needs to convince scouts that a big arm isn't the only thing that matters.
  • Andy Levitre, late of Oregon State, talks... you guessed it! -- NFL combine.
  • Lots of Pac-10 names -- Patrick Chung, Rulon Davis, Keenan Lewis -- in this combine story.
  • Tim Hundley will leave SMU to become UCLA's new secondary coach. Hundley was Rick Neuheisel's defensive coordinator at Colorado and Washington.
  • It looks like Washington will have an easier time funding new uniforms than funding a massive renovation of Husky Stadium.

Pac-10 returning starters in 2009

January, 16, 2009
1/16/09
3:52
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

The deadline has passed and only three Pac-10 players will join the ranks of the NFL draft early entries:

Eben Britton, OT, Arizona
Mark Sanchez, QB, USC
Jairus Byrd, CB, Oregon

USC and Oregon fans probably are crossing their fingers over the possibility, however remote, that Sanchez and Byrd might change their minds.

Here's a rough look returning starters in 2009 in terms of numbers:

Returning starters
Arizona: 6 offense; 7 defense; 1 specialist
Arizona State: 7 offense, 7 defense; 2 specialists
California: 8 offense; 8 defense; 2 specialists
Oregon: 4 offense; 5 defense; 1 specialist
Oregon State: 7 offense; 3 defense; 2 specialists
Stanford: 9 offense; 7 defense; 1 specialist
UCLA: 9 offense; 6 defense; 1 specialist
USC: 9 offense: 5 defense; 0 specialists
Washington: 8 offense; 9 defense; 0 specialists
Washington State: 8 offense; 6 defense; 2 specialists

California, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, UCLA, Washington and Washington State each welcome back a starting quarterback.

Average back on offense in 2009: 7.5 (6.3 in 2008).

Average back on defense in 2009: 6.3 (6.3 in 2008).

So, the numbers suggest Pac-10 offenses should be on an uptick in 2009.

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