Pac-12: Eddie Pleasant
Miller predicts that Oregon safety Eddie Pleasant is going to have a fruitful NFL career, though he wasn't all that surprised that he wasn't drafted.
Gemmell was slightly surprised that a team didn't take a chance on ASU linebacker Vontaze Burfict given the NFL's history of drafting players with questionable character.
There were a few other players who we thought might have ended up as draft picks but didn't make the cut.
Washington linebacker Cort Dennison, for example, who led the Pac-12 in tackles last season and was a second-team all-conference selection.
Also, Stanford safety Delano Howell was predicted by many to go in the draft, but ended up as a free agent.
Then there was Arizona State wide receiver Gerell Robinson -- who had more receiving yards than any wide receiver in the conference last year.
Which player did you feel should have been drafted but wasn't?
When your Pac-12 bloggers got together this week in Arizona and started brainstorming ideas for this week's Take 2, the NFL draft was an obvious choice. We both agreed that the biggest surprise was that Washington running back Chris Polk was not drafted. No debate, no Take 2. So instead this week we decided to just toss out our thoughts on two more players who went undrafted.
Ted Miller: It's an NFL tradition to underrate Oregon defensive backs, then hand them starting jobs -- see Jairus Byrd, T.J. Ward, Walter Thurmond, etc. So I am not shocked that former Ducks safety Eddie Pleasant didn't get drafted.
What will shock me is if he doesn't have an NFL career, whether that's with the Houston Texans, who signed him to a free agent contract, or not. I will admit that I vacillated between Pleasant and a more celebrated Pac-12 safety here: Stanford's Delano Howell. But I tapped Pleasant because I think he's a more consistent tackler and because, well, he played in the secondary at Oregon, which is an underrated NFL pipeline (and will continue to be so).
Kevin Gemmell: The NFL is filled with stories of redemption. Sadly, my spidey senses tingle to the tune that Vontaze Burfict isn’t going to be one of them.
Still, I’m mildly surprised that no one decided to take a flyer on him in the later rounds. It wouldn’t have been the first time players with sketchy reputations/head cases/drug histories were admitted to the NFL fraternity via the draft. As one colleague said this week, NFL teams would draft an axe murderer if they thought he could help them.
After all, Warren Sapp took a little slide in the draft after he admitted to marijuana use pre-draft -- but still ended up in the first round. Luis Castillo was a first-rounder despite admitting to using androstenedione before the combine to recover from an elbow injury. Even Maurice Clarett found his way to Denver in the third round.
Sapp went on to have a very successful career, Castillo is still in the league with the team that drafted him and Clarett, well, he never played a down in the NFL. It goes to show that all it takes is one general manager to roll the dice.
The point is that Burfict must have been so unbelievably toxic that any potential he has as a linebacker was superseded by his shortcomings (pick one: physical, mental, emotional etc.)
Burfict’s reputation proceeded him before ASU's season began -- but he was perceived as such a talent that most had no problem projecting him as a first-round pick; then a second-rounder; then a third-day pick before most eventually predicted he wouldn't be drafted at all. Mob stoolies in cement shoes don’t sink that fast.
Maybe this is the wake-up call he needed. Burfict is an easy target for one-liners, but he’s also still in the infancy of his adult life. The Bengals signed him to a zero-risk, free-agent contract. Maybe a veteran will take him under his wing and show him how to start manning up, because right now Burfict is the biggest joke of the draft. But when you really peel back the layers of his downfall, it’s not all that funny.
If you'd like to re-live it in its entirety, go here.
Here are some highlights.
David (Salt Lake City): Ted, with all of the new talent at quarterback, do you sense any indication that any of the incoming recruits have a shot at the starting position?
Ted Miller (3:01 PM): It's always a long shot for a true freshman to start at QB, particularly if he doesn't show up early for spring practices, as, for example, Matt Barkley did. I don't think any true freshmen will start at QB in the Pac-12 this year, and that includes Utah and Cal. I do think you will see at least one (maybe two) redshirt freshmen starting.
Ryan (Spokane): Do you expect the Cougs to start competing more, if not winning some of the in-state recruits (Locker, Kasen Williams) now that the Pirate is on the Palouse?
Ted Miller (3:04 PM): Even during Washington State's best years, it didn't typically beat Washington for the state's top recruits. But there's no reason it can't get, say, get three or four of the top ten if Washington gets five or six (others go out of state). Further, winning helps. If the Cougs start going to bowl games under [new coach Mike] Leach, better recruits will come in. But Leach won in the Big 12 without landing A-list recruits, which is a big reason he seems like a great fit in Pullman.
Warren (Lakewood): I believe Oregon state is going to make some noise this year in the pac12 north and that a sleeping giant has been reawakened in the pac12. [Coach Mike] Riley will rally these young guns and behind [Sean] Mannion and that wr corp they have I expect the Beavs to play in a bowl next year. What are your expectations for the Boys of Corvallis?
Ted Miller (3:15 PM): It's good to hear [I actually typed "here" during the chat, which is, well, really embarrassing] Beaver optimism. You guys have seemed kind of grumpy of late. I think the Beavers are good enough to get back to a bowl game in 2012, but it's also hard to project them too high until they answer questions on both lines.
Scott (Tempe): Ted, Heading to the topic of coaching changes in the desert. With Todd Graham displaying to us all his style of recruiting/coaching/discipline, how do you compare him to Rich Rodriguez? Rich Rod gets all the love, but who is the better coach in your eyes and will have the most impact?
Ted Miller (3:18 PM): Rich Rod has won a BCS bowl game and has a long track record of success. That's why he gets the love. But I do appreciate the notes Graham has been hitting: Demanding, discipline, up-tempo, etc. I think Rodriguez was a home run hire. But I also think better of the Graham hire based on what I've seen (and read) about what he's doing. But judgments on coach hires before they play a game is pretty superficial. It's just me -- and others -- yammering.
Nick Stratton (Dewitt, Michigan): How will Stanford's offense look this year without [Andrew] Luck? Who do you think will be the starter?
Ted Miller (3:23 PM): My only slightly educated guess is [Brett] Nottingham, mostly because I heard good things about him last year when he became the backup. I think Stanford will still be very good on offense, though it probably will take a step back without the best QB of a generation. I think the defense also will be good. So I still see the Cardinal as a top-25 team.
Dan (Eugene): Eddie Pleasant will be tougher for the Ducks to replace than Darron Thomas OR LaMichael James. True or false.
Ted Miller (3:30 PM): I would have said true until John Boyett talked up the guys who might step in to me, such as Brian Jackson and Avery Patterson. And I wonder if the transition at QB will be as easy as many fans think. Will Chip Kelly always hit a home run at QB? And as good as Kenjon [Barner] is, LaMike is one of the all-time best Pac-12 RBs.
David (San Francisco, CA): Ted, what do you expect out of Brett Hundley and the UCLA quarterback position this year?
Ted Miller (3:33 PM): I think Hundley will be given every opportunity to win the job, though I'm not sure it's a slam dunk that Kevin Prince won't. Last spring, Hundley wasn't ready, and that was clear. So he needs to be substantially better this spring. But he's a good prospect -- sharp, dual threat, seems to have leadership ability. And I think the work Noel Mazzone did with Brock Osweiler shows he knows how to teach a spread system to a young QB.
Bob (Seattle): Think the dawgs will be alright at LB this season?
Ted Miller (3:42 PM): I don't know... big question. Some guys coming back, but the position was not played well in 2011. You'd hope some of those youthful mistakes will correct themselves. But I saw too many Huskies LBs get stuck on blocks last year to not see it as a question.
Pirates of the Palouse (Pullman): [Jeff] Tuel or [Connor] Halliday?
Ted Miller (3:43 PM): Tuel... folks seem to forget how good he is when healthy. He's an NFL prospect and he has a lot of experience. Also, after being sacked so many times and showing outstanding toughness and resolve, I think he's earned an opportunity to see the postseason.
darrell (tacoma): Who has the weakest nonconference schedule, who has the toughest?
Ted Miller (3:52 PM): Easiest is Oregon (Ark State, Fresno State, Tennessee Tech).Hardest: Oregon State (BYU and Wisconsin with Nicholls State). Hardest game period is Washington at LSU. And USC, with Hawaii, Syracuse and Notre Dame, doesn't have an official patsy.
Daniel (Eugene): What do you think about Arik Armstead also playing basketball for the Ducks? Will dual responsibilities make him a better lineman or just confused, especially with Oregon now contending for March Madness positions?
Ted Miller (3:59 PM): I don't like guys playing hoops and football, though I certainly respect the athleticism it requires. If he asked me my advice, which he won't, I'd say choose a sport. But I'd also then say do what makes you happiest.
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To the notes!
Kohler from Boise writes: I'm a bit confused about your end of season rankings. A 7-6 Washington, that finished #3 in the Pac-12 is given a final grade of a C. Meanwhile, a 4-8 WSU is ALSO given a final grade of a C? The Huskies Defense was horrible in 2011, but they still managed to overcome that and rise to the top of the league. I'd throw in some comment about how you must hate the Huskies, but I'm not one of those Duck haters who just looks for a reason to complain about your writing.
Ted Miller: A fair question.
Let's start with this (and assuming you are a Washington fan). Remember your August of 2011 self. Strapping. Confident. Trash talking. What record would you have projected for Washington? And for Washington State. My guess is most Huskies fans thought an eight-win regular season perfectly reasonable. And my guess is your Cougars brethren were hoping for six but foresaw something closer to 5-7. Each team had a different set of reasonable expectations. And both teams fell short of expectations. So both teams get docked.
In the same vein, if Oregon had finished, say, 9-3 and not won the North Division it likely would have been in the Cs. And at 8-4 with a loss to Washington, it might have been a D, though injuries and circumstances also play a role in the final grade.
Different teams, different sorts of expectations. So, yes, these grades are on a certain curve. All seasons don't start from the same place.
Further, there are variables. The Cougars received a benefit of the doubt because they lost their starting QB to injury for essentially the entire season. While the Huskies could counter that QB Keith Price was an unknown as a first-year starter, the complete collapse of the defense earned a major demerit because there were high preseason expectations that the unit would be vastly better than recent vintages. It wasn't. Meanwhile, the Cougars dramatically improved their numbers on both sides of the ball from 2010 to 2011. Washington, perhaps surprisingly, was much better on offense but much worse on defense.
Further, the Huskies get docked because of their downward trajectory at season's end. This 7-6 finish was not nearly the match of last year's 7-6 finish. They started 5-1 this fall, earned a national ranking, but then got exposed when the schedule toughened up. Losing four of the final five is a worse path to 7-6 than winning four in a row to end the season in 2010 was.
As far as their place in the Pac-12, it makes sense to rate the Huskies fourth (did you forget USC?), a decisive head-to-head win at Utah giving them an edge over the 8-5 Utes, who got a B for their strong showing in their first year of Pac-12 play. But that's largely a function of the competition for that spot. California, which got a C also? Or Arizona State, which got a D? Or UCLA, which got a D+?
To me, the Huskies and Cougars seasons seem very similar in terms of generating fan satisfaction. Neither team failed, but neither walked away happy. And both teams made major staff changes as a result -- changes both sets of fans, by the way, are thrilled about.
Patrick from Las Vegas writes: During the Pete Carroll years, we all wanted a USC vs SEC BCS title game. Isn't it kind of fitting that it USC has the best chance of all other contenders to end the SEC's run?
Ted Miller: Well, let's not count Trojans before they hatch. Keep in mind that the reason USC didn't win more national titles under Pete Carroll was its predilection to throw up on itself against a middling foe at least once a year. And, based on the totality of the 2011 season, they didn't completely kick that habit -- see the loss at Arizona State that, obviously, looks much worse now than it did at the time.
To play for the 2012 national title, the Trojans likely will need to go undefeated. They have a favorable schedule, but if they take a foe lightly, they will face plant. Paging leadership from Matt Barkley.
As for past misses between USC and the SEC: In 2003 and 2008, I would have been extremely confident picking USC over LSU and Florida, respectively. I'd rate 2006 a toss-up between USC and Florida.
But, as of today, I'd like LSU's chances against USC.
Brian from Syracuse, NY writes: One of the big unwritten rules in recruiting is that when a coach changes schools, he should cease recruitment of the kids he had been recruiting for his old school. Thus it is surprising how unapologetically Tosh Lupoi has continued to recruit since going to UW. How sacred are the unwritten rules among the coaching fraternity? Is the wrath of other coaches any real deterrent.
Ted Miller: Unwritten rules in recruiting?
There are written rules -- the NCAA's -- that get bent, twisted and broken all the time. As for unwritten rules, it's mostly about every man for himself.
Yes, as some of you have observed, I did write this on on Jan. 17:
If Lupoi aggressively tries to flip a handful of players committed to Cal -- something we honestly doubt he will do -- then, well, we'd hope that would cause him to lose some sleep. While all is fair in love, war and recruiting, that would be a bit sleazy. Of course, effective sleazy that is within NCAA rules often falls under this category: good recruiting.
Now, there is a difference between recruiting players committed to Cal, and recruiting players who are still uncommitted that he was recruiting for Cal. But, of course, Lupoi has been actively pursuing touted safety Shaq Thompson and athlete Cedric Dozier, who are both committed to Cal. Yes, that looks yucky.
My guess is Lupoi has lost some sleep on this and, yes, probably feels a little sleazy. But this is the business. It's sleazy. He was hired by Steve Sarkisian to kick butt and sign names, not win a Nobel Peace Prize.
I also think it might be helpful to imagine a workable recruiting pitch for Lupoi at present. It probably goes something like this, "Look, I'm not going to say anything bad about Cal and Jeff Tedford. Great school, great program. But let me tell you about Washington and Coach Sarkisian." And then Lupoi hopes his personality and ability to connect (or re-connect) with young men takes over. I can't believe Lupoi would badmouth Cal, because any athlete with a lick of sense would see right through that.
As for long-term relationships among the coaches, they tend to work themselves out. Sarkisian and Tedford are pros. They know the business. I'm sure Tedford isn't happy about things, and as a competitor he'd probably like to stick it to Sark in some way. But there will be no "wrath" between the two. That's a waste of energy.
Nick from Conway, Ark., writes: You're already writing off the Red Wolves in their opener against Oregon? We all saw what Mike Dyer did against them a couple of years ago. True, Oregon will likely win this game, but if the Ducks have the same mindset as you, this game can get interesting.
Ted Miller: Yes, Nick, I am writing off Arkansas State against Oregon on Sept. 1. If the Red Wolves are within 30, I'd be shocked.
As for Dyer's transfer from Auburn, that makes things worse for the Red Wolves. Chip Kelly will be able to play that excruciating video over and over again, so Ducks defenders should be plenty motivated to stick it to Dyer. And make sure he's down.
Of course, Dyer should feel fortunate that safety Eddie Pleasant is now off the to NFL. He's surely the one who'd most like another shot at Dyer.
Up next is the North Division.
QB: Zach Maynard will be a senior, and it says something about the depth behind him that he never lost his job during his midseason swoon.
WR: Keenan Allen is back, but that's it in terms of returning production and experience.
S: Three of the top four safeties from 2011 are gone.
Skill: In Chip Kelly's offense, you can never have enough fast guys. Sure, Kenjon Barner, De'Anthony Thomas and Josh Huff are back, but there's a lot of youth and uncertainty after that at running back and wide receiver.
TE: His name is David Paulson, but he's gone. Colt Lyerla was a productive backup -- at least in terms of finding the end zone -- but after him things are uncertain. Tight end is one of the most underrated positions in the Ducks offense, so having more than one Kelly trusts is significant.
S: Eddie Pleasant is gone and John Boyett is a senior. Avery Patterson, Erick Dargan and Brian Jackson are next in line, but the young talent isn't as certain as it is at corner.
OL: Oregon State lost three starters from a line that led the worst rushing attack in the conference and surrendered 27 sacks. Quarterback Sean Mannion has potential, but he needs time. And a running game.
DT: The Beavers had the worst rushing defense in the Pac-12 in 2011. 'Nuff said.
LB: The Beavers had the worst rushing defense in the Pac-12 in 2011. Almost enough said. Cameron Collins is gone, and all the contributors on the two-deep will be seniors, other than junior Michael Doctor.
WR: Perhaps the weakest position for the Cardinal in 2011, this need is augmented by the loss of Griff Whalen and Chris Owusu and the lack of up-and-comers other than sophomore Ty Montgomery.
DB: Three of four starters are gone, including both safeties. In the Cardinal's two losses -- to Oregon and Oklahoma State -- an absence of top-end athleticism in the back half was exploited.
OL: Three starters are back, but the losses are huge: Tackle Jonathan Martin and guard David DeCastro. And backup tackle Tyler Mabry and backup guard Matt Bentler also are gone. If coach David Shaw intends to remain a physical, downhill running team -- and he does -- he'll need to continuously stock up on linemen who can get the job done.
DB: Lots of guys are back in the secondary, but the Huskies gave up 284.6 yards passing per game, which ranked 11th in the Pac-12. They couldn't cover anybody and often seemed out of position. So new blood might help.
DL: (See if you can notice a theme here that ignores questions at wide receiver and running back). Two starters are gone from a line that consistently underperformed based on preseason expectations.
LB: Second-team All-Pac-12 middle linebacker Cort Dennison is the only one of the eight men on the depth chart who won't be back, but he was the team's only consistent linebacker.
DL: Three of four starters are back, but all three will be seniors.
OL: Three starters are back, but to make the next step on offense, the Cougars need to run the ball better. They ranked 10th in the conference in rushing offense. And that might reduce a conference-high 3.3 sacks per game. Mike Leach's quick-hit offense also might help.
RB: 170-pound sophomore Rickey Galvin is back, as is senior Carl Winston, but the backs need to share responsibility for a 3.1-yards-per-carry average, worst in the conference (of course, losing 237 yards to sacks doesn't help).
We even created an All-Underrated Team.
Now we recognize our Most Improved Players on both offense and defense.
Jordan went from single-game starter in 2010 to first-team All-Pac-12 as a junior in 2011. Jordan had 5.5 tackles for loss and two sacks in 2010, when he showed promise after converting from tight end. He lived up to that promise in 2011 with 13 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks. Jordan figures to be a leading candidate for Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year in 2012, particularly if he gets his skinny butt into the weight room and eats a lot of steak.
Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
Lotulelei started the final three games of the 2010 season and finished with 21 tackles with 2.5 tackles for loss and 0.5 sacks. In 2011, he won the Morris Trophy as the Pac-12's best defensive lineman, as voted on by his peers -- the guys who had to block the 325-pounder. He earned first-team All-Pac-12 honors and was the lineman of the game in the Utes' Sun Bowl victory over Georgia Tech. He finished with 44 tackles, including nine for loss, but his main job was occupying two blockers so linebackers could make tackles. The Utes ranked third in the Pac-12 -- and 20th in the nation -- in run defense.
Honorable mention: Conroy Black, CB, Utah; Ben Gardner, DE, Stanford; Trevor Guyton, DE, California; D.J. Holt, LB, California; Josh Kaddu, LB, Oregon; C.J. Mizell, LB, Washington State; Nick Perry, DE, USC; Eddie Pleasant, S, Oregon; Jordan Poyer, CB, Oregon State; Nickell Robey, CB, USC; Trevin Wade, CB, Arizona
Offense: Gerell Robinson, WR, Arizona State
Robinson went from bust to bust-out in 2011. In 2010, the once-touted recruit caught just 29 passes for 387 yards. He was best known for inconsistent hands. And at the start of 2011, he also caught an early case -- or two -- of the dropsies. But Robinson caught fire just as the rest of the Sun Devils started to tank, hauling in more than 100 receiving yards in six of the final eight games, including 13 receptions for 241 yards in the Las Vegas Bowl loss to Boise State. He finished with 77 receptions for 1,397 yards and seven touchdowns. His 107.5 yards receiving per game ranked ninth in the nation, and his 18.1 yards per catch was tied for first in the Pac-12. His late-season surge earned him a spot in the Senior Bowl.
Honorable mention: Mark Asper, OG, Oregon; Matt Barkley, QB, USC; Matt Kalil, OT, USC; Brock Osweiler, QB, Arizona State; Isi Sofele, RB, California; Markus Wheaton, WR, Oregon State; Marquess Wilson, WR, Washington State; Robert Woods, WR, USC
Nike made sure it would be a hot topic during Rose Bowl preparations by revealing this week its latest space-age design, which the Ducks will don in the Rose Bowl on Monday.
The most dramatic addition is the reflective helmet, which suggests Darth Vader. The helmet was different enough to merit a question to Wisconsin's players on Wednesday.
Question: It looks like a big mirror. Have you seen the helmet? If so, are you worried about any reflection?
Wisconsin QB Russell Wilson confessed that he had not seen the helmet. He said he was "sure they're good-looking helmets" but he wasn't really worried about the Ducks helmets and whether he might be able to see his reflection in one.
"Oregon is a great football team," Wilson said. "They have, I guess, the fashion going on where they can wear whatever they want and look pretty good in it. But that's not what the game comes down to."
It's interesting that the Ducks mostly agree. Oregon's players embrace their varied looks, but few seem to spend much time thinking about it. Coach Chip Kelly insists that the uniform combinations be planned out in the preseason so it doesn't become a focus in the locker room.
"That stuff don't matter to us," safety Eddie Pleasant said. "It's nice to have it, but we don't care about that."
Added cornerback Anthony Gildon, "The jersey is cool to have, but it's more something for everybody that's looking in [at the program] than within the team."
Everybody seems to agree the players inside, not the uniforms, win games.
That said, sources who requested anonymity due to the fact they don't exist, said that the Ducks' lime green socks and shoes in last year's national title game against Auburn cost the Ducks four points from the football gods.
From the Pac-12 office's official release.
Barkley, a junior from Newport Beach, Calif., threw a school-record six touchdown passes in USC’s 42-17 win at Colorado. He completed 25-of-39 passes for 318 yards with one interception to earn College Football Performance Awards National Performer of the Week and National Quarterback of the Week honors. On the year, Barkley has completed 229-of-342 passes (67.0%) for 2,608 yards and 28 touchdowns. He ranks fourth on USC’s career passing and total offense lists with 675 completions and 8,104 yards. Barkley is the only Trojan to have thrown at least five touchdowns four times in his career.
Pleasant, a senior from La Palma, Calif., had two interceptions for 65 yards in the 34-17 win at Washington. Both first-half interceptions led to Oregon touchdown drives that gave the Ducks a slim 17-10 halftime lead. Pleasant also added five tackles, including two unassisted, as Oregon held Washington to 278 yards of total offense (82 rush/196 pass).
Sellwood, a junior from Salt Lake City, Utah, averaged 50.5 yards on four punts in the Utes’ 34-21 win at Arizona. He tied his career-long with a 67-yard punt in the first quarter. Sellwood dropped two of his punts inside the 20-yard line in the fourth quarter with Utah nursing a 27-14 lead. The Utes came up with take-aways after both of those punts, the latter of which led to a Utah touchdown with 2:50 remaining to seal the win.
Also Nominated (Defense): Colin Parker, ASU; D.J. Holt, CAL; Jarek Lancaster, STAN; Tevin McDonald, UCLA; Matt Martinez, UTAH.
Also Nominated (Special Teams): Erik Whitaker, STAN; Kyle Negrete, USC.
Team of the week: UCLA and coach Rick Neuheisel were left for dead on Oct. 20 after an embarrassing loss at Arizona in which ESPN commentators questioned the Bruins' pride. Since then, however, the Bruins have won two in a row, including nipping No. 19 Arizona State on Saturday. That 29-28 win means the Bruins control their own destiny in the Pac-12 South Division. Win-out, and they play for the conference championship on Dec. 2.
Best game: The UCLA-Arizona State game wasn't decided until Sun Devils kicker Alex Garoutte missed from 46 yards on the game's final play. It was Garoutte's third missed field goal. The game featured five lead changes.
Offensive standout: USC quarterback Matt Barkley set a school record with six touchdown passes in the Trojans 42-17 win against Colorado. He completed 25 of 39 throws for 318 yards with an interception. His 28 touchdown passes ranks first in the Pac-12 and third in the country.
Defensive standout: Oregon safety Eddie Pleasant grabbed two interceptions in the 34-17 win against Washington. His returning those picks for 65 combined yards also helped set up two short Ducks touchdown drives.
Special teams standout: Oregon State punter Johnny Hekker averaged 44 yards on five punts against Stanford, with three downed inside the 20, including one at the Cardinal 8-yard line and another at the 5-yard line. He also had a 65-yard punt.
Smiley face: Oregon and Stanford took care of business -- last weekend and all season -- to set up the Pac-12 game of the year, a matchup of top-10 teams with national title implications in Palo Alto. It looked like a redletter date in the preseason, but both teams had to avoid upsets to make it happen. They did.
Frowny face: Arizona State had a chance for a special season. The schedule set up for a 10-2 regular season and a South Division championship. Such a finish likely would have landed it in or at least near the top-10. And a win in the Pac-12 championship game would have earned them a Rose Bowl berth. The Sun Devils might, indeed, still win the South, but the loss at UCLA put an unexpected smirch on the season. And certainly made the Sun Devils, who are no longer ranked, look less like a team that could beat the eventual North champion.
Thought of the week: Zzzzzzzzz. Oh, hey... Sorry. I was just watching a replay of last weekend's game of the century between Alabama and LSU. Great defenses yes. Some of the best we've seen in college football, no doubt. But, really, let's admit what's unquestionably true. The great numbers of SEC defenses are due, in part, because of bad -- terrible in some cases -- SEC offenses. I'd pick LSU and Alabama to beat any Pac-12 team. And, yes, extra time to prepare makes those SEC defenses particularly valuable in BCS bowl games. But I guarantee five conference teams -- Oregon, Stanford, USC, Arizona State and Washington -- would at least score a freaking touchdown against either one.
Questions for the week: Speaking of games of the century, what will the Pac-12's version at Stanford yield? Will Andrew Luck and the Cardinal come out and make a Heisman Trophy and national title statement? If the Cardinal beats Oregon worse than LSU beat Oregon -- 13 points -- then that will raise some national eyebrows. And if the Ducks win decisively, might they become a darkhorse for the national title discussion? And when the smoke clears, will the Pac-12 be well-positioned, at least, to earn two BCS bowl berths?
California's defense: The Bears held Washington State to 224 yards in a 30-7 win. The Cougars rushed for just 69 yards and were 4-of-16 on third down. The Bears had three sacks.
John Hays, Utah: While John White -- 109 yards and 2 TDs -- was the star for Utah in the 34-21 win over Arizona, Hays passed for 199 yards and two TDs with no interceptions. Most important: No interceptions.
Eddie Pleasant, Oregon: The Ducks safety grabbed two interceptions in the 34-17 win over Washington. His 65 yards of INT return also helped set up two short Ducks TD drives.
Matt Barkley, USC: The USC QB set a school record with six touchdown passes in the Trojans 42-17 win over Colorado.
Derrick Coleman, UCLA: The Bruins running back rushed for 119 yards on 17 carries -- 7.0 yards per carry -- and scored two TDs, including the 1-yard game-winner over Arizona State with less than a minute left in a game they won 29-28.
Griff Whalen, Stanford: The underrated Whalen has become Andrew Luck's favorite target, and he'll need to be with Chris Owusu hurt. Whalen caught six passes for 87 yards with a TD in the 38-13 win over Oregon State.
Chris Polk, Washington: The Huskies running back scored five touchdowns and became the first player in Washington history with 100 yards rushing and receiving in a single game. Polk had 34 carries for 144 yards and four TDs and he caught four passes for 100 yards with another score in Washington's 42-31 win over Arizona.
Eddie Pleasant, Oregon: The Ducks safety had six tackles, a sack and an interception in the 43-28 win over Washington State.
John White, Utah: The Utes running back ran for a career-high 205 yards on 35 carries with a TD in Utah's 27-8 win over Oregon State, the program's first in Pac-12 play.
Kevin Prince, UCLA: The UCLA quarterback only passed for 92 yards but he also rushed for 163 yards on 19 carries in the 31-14 win over California.
Andrew Luck, Stanford: The Cardinal QB completed 29-of-40 for 330 yards with three TDs and an interception in the 56-48 triple-overtime win over USC. He also rushed for 36 yards and a score.
Cameron Marshall, Arizona State: The Sun Devils running back rushed for 114 yards on 15 carries with three TDs in the 48-14 win over Colorado.
Anyone else eager to end the worst offseason in the history of college football and start talking about games again?
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To the notes.
Roger from Oregon writes: I am a high school student in Oregon. It has really been bothering me how many columnists are calling out Darron Thomas and his leadership. I know that he has been in the car on three separate occasions were citations, as well as marijuana were involved. How does this make him a bad leader? At my school, a high school not a university, smoking weed is commonplace. While I don't smoke, most of my friends and about 75% of male athletes do, yet they are still able to be leaders on the football field, basketball court, etc. Maybe weed is taboo for all these old journalists, but in my opinion Darron Thomas is a leader (have you seen him stay in the pocket and take a big hit). His toughness and incredible play make him a leader on the field, I honestly don't care how he spends his time off the field (as long as nobody gets hurt).
Ted Miller: Here's the chief problem with marijuana and high-profile people smoking it: It's against the law, so getting caught with it brings bad publicity.
For a sports team, that could mean said team loses a player to suspension, which would make the team worse than before the player passed the dutchie on the left hand side. So players on a team that smoke the wacky weed, put their team at risk of being less good. Some, including me, would call that selfish.
Does it makes sense that one can legally purchase grain alcohol but not marijuana? Do people lose arguments when they are asked to explain why marijuana is illegal? These are questions the Pac-12 blog will not answer because they lead us on tangents away from the football field.
But I will write on leadership. It's more than taking charge of the huddle. It's more than showing infectious poise when the pressure is on. Or popping up with a confident smirk after a hard hit. We've seen all that from Thomas and we surely will see more of it.
But let's imagine a couple of scenarios.
We are in a car with Thomas and safety Eddie Pleasant in 2008. Pleasant decides to race his car with someone. Instead of what actually happened, this happens.
Thomas: Slow down. This is stupid.
Pleasant: Don't be lame!
Thomas: Being lame is us getting arrested and letting our teammates, coaches and fans down. And racing a car on public roads is a stupid thing immature people do. It's low-rent. So cut the crap before I whup you.
Now we are watching Thomas as he's about to get into a car with cornerback Cliff Harris in June.
Thomas: Cliff. Cliff, look at me.
Thomas: Cliff, you do a lot of stupid things. When I am with you, you will not do stupid things. I am not demented enough to think of all the potential stupid things you might do on our drive back to Eugene. But my singular task at this moment in time is to make sure you don't get us in trouble. That means: No speeding. That means: No substances that could get us in trouble will pass within 25 feet of this car.
Thomas: Cliff. Cliff, look at me. I am not asking you. I am not presenting an opinion. I am telling you how this ride will be. Nothing means more to me than beating LSU and making Coach Kelly and the Duck nation proud. I particularly want to do more interviews with the Pac-12 blog.
Harris: Yeah, he's cool!
Thomas: Yes, he is. But focus Cliff. Focus. Do you hear me? Speed limit, no illicit substances. Right?
Harris: Gosh, good idea. I can't wait to pick off Jordan Jefferson.
Thomas: Yes, I can't believe Les Miles thought he would be a great quarterback but saw me as just an athlete. Going make that fool eat grass.
Harris: Yeah! By the way, I just finished "Gravity's Rainbow." You were right. It was Pynchon's densest novel, but very rewarding to a patient read.
Now, if Thomas, however he might have accomplished it, had convinced Harris not to drive 118 mph nor allowed anyone to smoke weed in that car, would Ducks fans be celebrating his leadership?
No, because they wouldn't know about it. This embarrassing story wouldn't exist.
And Oregon's chances of beating LSU and winning a national title would be better.
Nick from San Luis Obispo, Calif., writes: Whats your take on the whole players being paid idea? All the ex coaches were on today saying how its a wonderful idea to give players a cost of living expense of $3,000 to $4,000 depending on the school. They also said that this should only be for sports that bring in the money. (men's football and basketball)My reaction is how is this far? Not all schools can afford to give scholarship athletes extra $ giving the ones who can an unfair advantage in recruiting. Also what about all the other sports? Isn't the whole idea of giving extra money to a athlete is so they can live comfortably? (extra spending money for clothes and other food then the cafe) Why is it that only football and basketball players need extra money?
Ted Miller: I agree with a lot of athletic directors: Scholarships should cover full cost of attendance. And I also believe they should be given to every scholarship athlete. Why? Because you can't do it any other way and still be in compliance with Title IX.
You are correct, though. Most schools outside of AQ conferences would be hard-pressed to pay that added expense. That's an issue.
As for why football and men's basketball players believe they should be paid and other college athletes should not? Well, that reasoning is simple. Football and men's basketball make millions every year. And every other sport runs a deficit, many substantial deficits.
Pat from So. Cal writes: In my effort to get any type of response Teddy I've decided to ask you one question everyday until I make the mailbag. For my SECOND question, on this inaugural day of questioning: do you think the university presidents at the largest, most influential schools, across conferences, will get together at some point and begin the process of detaching themselves from the NCAA??? The system doesn't work and we can all yell until we're red in the face but the simple fact remains, there needs to be some sort of governance going on in college REVENUE PRODUCING SPORTS, and it's clear the NCAA has failed its member institutions and that they aren't the right organization.
Ted Miller: There is an undercurrent of feeling that the big football conferences might break away from the NCAA, particularly when we get further consolidation in "super-conferences," which seems inevitable.
That's one reason the NCAA is talking massive reform. We shall see.
What should the NCAA do? Here are a few ideas:
- Full cost of attendance scholarships.
- Assigning an NCAA staffer -- not a university employee -- to each school to act as a head of compliance. If something happens that doesn't cross his desk, it's a major violation.
- A rule that the NCAA's marketing budget shall not exceed what it spends on enforcement. More investigators with good salaries, fewer "We're the NCAA and we're awesome!" commercials.
- An outside team of legal experts -- unaffiliated with universities -- to man an Infractions Committee.
- A streamlining of rules, eliminating many of the piddly, secondary violations.
- An outline of specific consequences for breaking specific rules.
- An understanding that relying on precedent is critical to fairness (that you can't just randomly, say, hammer USC because you're tired of reading about how dominant it is).
Ben from Salt Lake City writes: Can we think about a possible future for a minute? Let's pretend that Utah somehow goes undefeated this year and wins the BCS National Championship game. Then let's assume that next year, both Utah and TCU go undefeated and play each other in the BCS National Championship game. If that ridiculously crazy scenario were to happen, do you think that the media that clings to the idea that the "week in and week out of Non-AQ's is too weak to get them to the NC Game" would go out the window? Do you think it would validate other top Non-AQ teams that have proven themselves like Boise State or BYU? Or do you think that the 100+ year old bias of college football is protected no matter what happens?
Ted Miller: Are you asking if a pattern is established of non-AQ teams going undefeated and winning national championships, will that win over the media?
That said: This is Boise State's schedule. This is LSU's schedule.
Anyone saying that an unbeaten Boise State team in 2011 should play for the national championship over a once-beaten LSU team would -- and should -- get laughed out of the room.
Let's not give Boise State or TCU a free pass, either. Both programs are outstanding and worthy of elite rankings, but they also both work the angles to manufacture great records. Neither has adopted the old Bobby Bowden at Florida State "anywhere, anytime" scheduling philosophy.
If either said "we'll go anywhere to play and won't insist on a home-and-home series," we'd see them be able to schedule two or three high-quality games with AQ conferences foes every year.
And, I suspect, we'd see fewer undefeated seasons.
By the way, Utah is now a member of the Pac-12 family. It's in the club, drinking single malt in the beach-front penthouse with UCLA Oregon, Stanford and the rest of the gang.
Rob from San Jose writes: I am wondering how I missed your Post-spring Power Rankings. I thought for sure Cal would be ahead of UCLA; Cal beat UCLA in 2010 and it was not close. Cal has a proven defense (even with three good starters gone), but you think UCLA's defense "will arrive". Could you do a pre-season opener power rankings to see what has changed. ASU has had some bad luck with injuries and some schools have had academic ineligibility concerns. Since Cal's Maynard is QB, Sofele and Deboskie-Johnson have established 1-2 at RB; I am wondering where Cal would rank now?
Ted Miller: And UCLA beat Oregon State, which beat Cal 35-7. Those same Beavers also beat USC 36-7 and USC beat Cal 48-14.
So Cal gets crushed by UCLA if you selectively use the transitive property.
I got to watch UCLA practice this spring and came away impressed, at least with the defense. Cal had closed practices, so I didn't get to see the Bears. Further, most of what I read wasn't terribly good about the Bears in the spring -- injuries and poor execution.
You do make a good point: Cal fans should feel better today about quarterback and running back.
Still, I sort of have a hunch about the Bruins -- one that, if they lose at Houston to open the season, I will quickly disavow.
Peter from Salt Lake City writes: A little disappointed in your all pro pac-12 team to see an exclusion of Utes other than Jordan Gross. Steve Smith, Paul Soliai(franchise tag), Sean Smith, Eric Weddle(highest paid safety in the league), and Sione Pouha certainly could have been considered. However, Weddle and Soliai definitely should have been on the list.
Ted Miller: Peter, my honest answer is that I am not as familiar with Utah's past players as I am with the old Pac-10 guys.
Further, as I wrote: "... I racked my brain for exactly 17 minutes and came up with an All-Pac-12 NFL team (Pac-12 fans, I did this quickly, so feel free to chime in your opinions)."
I was being slack and didn't want to spend hours researching the "perfect" guy at every position. But you are correct: Weddle and Soliai would have been good names on the list.
Ben from Centerville, Utah writes: As a lifelong fan of the Utes, I have greatly enjoyed your blog and anticipate reading it from here on out. Question for you: I can't take the suspense. I anticipate that no Utes will make the top 25 list. Is that right? Are there REALLY no Utes in the top 25? I find it difficult to believe.
Ted Miller: No, no player from Utah nor Oregon State made the top-25. From Utah, I considered offensive tackle Tony Bergstrom, quarterback Jordan Wynn and linebacker Chaz Walker.
With 12 teams, a 25-player list is pretty select. My typical reply to a query like this -- and there are lots of them -- is not to ask who from Utah you believe should be on the list but who you would knock off.
And, yes, there probably is some bias against Utah due to playing a Mountain West schedule last season. Wynn's numbers are comparable to Washington State quarterback Jeff Tuel, but Tuel put up his numbers against a far tougher schedule (nonconference game with Oklahoma State, too). And the 6-foot-3, 220-pound Tuel is probably a better NFL prospect due to superior arm strength.
Put it this way: Pac-10 defensive freshman of the year Junior Onyeali is not on the list. Two players who had five interceptions last season, safeties Nate Fellner of Washington and John Boyett of Oregon, are not on the list. Colorado guard Ryan Miller, a potential first-round NFL draft pick, is not on the list.
A lot of really good players are not on the list. Just the way one person's opinion worked out.
And, by the way, the list almost certainly will be much different when we re-do it after the season.
Huy Tran from Eugene writes: If you ever compile a list of your favorite "pump-up" videos throughout the Pac-12 this season, please consider ours. I know there's a million out there, but we've worked long and tirelessly and thought you'd might enjoy it (from an unbiased view, of course).
Ted Miller: Does anyone at Oregon not make football videos?
If you've been thinking, "I wish I could follow the Pac-12 blog on Twitter, only I don't know how!" Click here.
To the notes.
Mike from Fullerton, Calif., writes: What are the chances that Barkley puts up better numbers than Luck this year? Barkley is now in his third year as a starter and second with his offensive coordinator. He has what appears to be a budding college superstar in Robert Woods and long list of unproven but talented skill players around him. He obviously needs some help at o-line but if they can even give him some protection he should be able to convert. Luck is coming off a monster year with a new HC and lost his number one WR. i know luck has a dump truck load of good TE but so does SC. With an unproven o-line and talented but raw RB's isn't it foreseeable that Barkley just starts hurling it all over the field?
Ted Miller: That could happen.
Barkley actually attempted more passes in 12 games last year than Luck in 13 games. Luck passed for more yards -- 257 yards per game compared to 233 -- because he completed 71 percent of his passes compared to 63 percent for Barkley.
Both teams want to be balanced, so the likelihood is neither will abandon the running game. But Stanford is better off on the offensive line, so it might be able to stick its desire to maintain balance more than the Trojans, who are thin and questionable on the O-line. And USC is more talented at receiver.
If I were betting, I'd guess Barkley's numbers are going to be better in 2011 than 2010 while Luck's will remain about the same -- mostly because it's difficult to be much better passing than Luck was in 2010.
Eric from Mountain View, Calif., writes: Ted, your post today about the New Mexico Bowl was the first I heard the Rose Bowl will not be on New Years Day. To whom do I direct my vitriol over this?
Ted Miller: I understand the tradition of the Rose Bowl always being played Jan. 1, but New Year's Day falls on a Sunday this year, meaning it could be in conflict with the NFL schedule. So no bowl games will be played on Jan. 1.
Here's the BCS release on the scheduling:
As a result of continued uncertainty involving the upcoming National Football League schedule, the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) group today announced a change in dates for three of its upcoming bowl games in order to avoid possible conflicts with NFL Monday Night Football.
The Allstate Sugar Bowl will be played Tuesday, January 3; the Discover Orange Bowl will be played Wednesday, January 4; and the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl will be played Thursday, January 5. The Rose Bowl presented by VIZIO will remain Monday afternoon, January 2, and the Allstate BCS National Championship game remains Monday, January 9th.
“We consulted the involved parties and made a careful decision to choose dates that will ensure a prime-time showcase for our student-athletes while also being mindful of the potential for change in the NFL’s schedule,” said BCS Executive Director Bill Hancock. “At this point in time, we want to create certainty in a somewhat uncertain scheduling environment.”
Jeff from Boston writes: With their new defensive coordinator, how good can UCLA's safeties be? Best tandem in the PAC12? I expect BIG things from Tony Dye and Riley, especially with how good our D-line can be.
Ted Miller: Tony Dye and Dietrich Riley are a very good tandem, but there are a lot of good safety tandems in the Pac-12. Dye is a proven quantity who should emerge from the Rahim Moore's considerable shadow this fall, while Riley is a touted 2010 recruit who has flashed plenty of ability.
I'd rate Stanford (Delano Howell and Michael Thomas) and Oregon (John Boyett and Eddie Pleasant) ahead of Dye-Riley at this point, in terms of best tandems. And Washington State's Deone Bucannon and Tyree Toomer are pretty good, too.
Keep in mind USC's T.J. McDonald, California's Sean Cattouse, Oregon State's Lance Mitchell and Washington's Nate Felner are back this fall, while talented youngsters not unlike Riley -- Arizona's Marquis Flowers, Arizona State's Alden Darby, Utah's Terrell Reese and Washington's Sean Parker -- will be trying to make their marks.
Safety, in fact, seems like a strong position in the conference this fall.
Michael from Salt Lake City writes: When viewing your entry about ASU's schedule I noticed there was no mention of having to play a pivotal game at Utah on Oct. 8, one week before ASU plays Oregon. If you over looked the games importance, my hope is that ASU will too? This could be a huge trap game for ASU, as they look ahead to a top ten matchup the following week. My guess is that the winner of the Oct 8th game will represent the south in the Pac 12 title game.
Ted Miller: I mentioned the game without typing "Utah."
Key stretch: Is Arizona State just a solid bowl team, or something bigger? The Sun Devils will know by Oct. 16, after a six-game stretch that includes two tough nonconference games, two games with top South Division rivals and winds up with a trip to Oregon.
The "two games with top South Division rivals" would be USC and Utah.
As for the game being a "trap," I'd expect not. To me, a trap game is one that potentially might be overlooked. The Sun Devils would be well-advised not to overlook the Utes and I don't think they will.
Jim from Bellevue, Wash., writes: I've been reading your articles since you were at the Seattle PI. Normally I think you do great work, but I've noticed lately a lack of OSU info on your "lunch links". Is that because there is just no news of late from OSU, or is it because they finished 5-7 last year, or are there too many teams to cover now in the new PAC12 and OSU is getting the slight? What gives?
Ted Miller: You can blame the Pac-12 blog for a lot of things: the weather, the economy, the inexplicable popularity of "The Situation." But not a lack of links for Pac-12 programs.
I want to find links for every school, every day, but I have to depend on the work of others. When you don't see a link from your school, know that I spent more time looking for -- and failing to find -- one than with the schools that actually get a link that day. Not finding links makes my life harder, not easier.
A lack of Oregon State links? It's because I couldn't find any articles. The present explanation for the lack of Beavers links has to do with this little baseball team of theirs taking up all their beat writers' time.
Kona from Phoenix writes: I have two wonderful questions that your blog followers are dying to know:(i) How many emails do you get in your mail bag per week?(ii) What do you feel the odds are of a person getting their question posted and answered on your blog? A ball park estimate is fine.Bonus Question: Which university in the PAC-12 has the best mascot? It is a tough call with newcomer Colorado in the mix, but I still will not cross the Devil, so my vote is for ASU.
Ted Miller: ESPN.com is a busy place. I get a lot of mail. Not sure exactly how many. I know it's too many to read each week. I often hear from friends that they sent me a note and I never responded but that's typically because I didn't read their message.
Odds of getting a question posted? Not sure. I give the mailbag a first glance Friday morning and start flagging questions that catch my fancy. Then I start typing. I try to get a handful of diverse topics and tones. My general feeling, depending on the week, is I will review about 50 notes to get five to seven questions.
Mascot? The Tree.
Tom from Chicago writes: You sound like a real loser writing a USC article like an opposing fan. Just remember, your bosses at ESPN are bigtime USC fans. I'm sure they'll enjoy reading your biased rubbish. Furthermore, I'm sure your measely paycheck reflects your opinions. Enjoy your six pack of cheap bear and deli sandwich. You wish you were a Trojan.
Ted Miller: You misspelled "measly."
And, yes, I could use a turkey sandwich and a cold Bud right now.
First of all, plenty of top non-seniors from the conference might -- or are likely to -- enter the draft, including Stanford QB Andrew Luck, Oregon RB LaMichael James, Arizona State LB Vontaze Burfict and USC QB Matt Barkley. Those four range from sure to likely first-round draft picks.
But this list includes only players in their final year of eligibility. And some might rate a bit of a reach as NFL prospects.
Arizona: QB Nick Foles, WR Juron Criner, CB Trevin Wade
Arizona State: CB Omar Bolden, DE James Brooks, C Garth Gerhart
California: S Sean Cattouse, TE Anthony Miller, LB Mychal Kendricks, LB D.J. Holt, OT Mitchell Schwartz, P Bryan Anger
Colorado: OG Ryan Miller, RB Rodney Stewart, DT Conrad Obi, TE Ryan Deehan
Oregon: TE David Paulson, SS Eddie Pleasant, OT Mark Asper, LB Josh Kaddu
Oregon State: S Lance Mitchell, WR James Rodgers, FB-TE Joe Halahuni
Stanford: WR Chris Owusu, TE Coby Fleenor, S Delano Howell
UCLA: S Tony Dye, FB Derrick Coleman, TE Cory Harkey
USC: LB Chris Galippo, DE Armond Armstead, TE Rhett Ellison, RB Marc Tyler
Utah: OT Tony Bergstrom, LB Chaz Walker, OT John Cullen
Washington: DT Alameda Ta'amu, WR Jermaine Kearse, OT Senio Kelemete, K Erik Folk
Washington State: DT Brandon Rankin, OG B.J. Guerra, WR Jared Karstetter
- There is no offseason for Arizona.
- What's on Arizona State's to-do list heading into the final week of spring practices.
- Checking in with former California DE Cameron Jordan, who figures to be a first-round NFL draft pick on April 28.
- Oregon rover Eddie Pleasant should be better in year two after switching from linebacker, and that should help erase a bad memory.
- Oregon State coach Mike Riley praises his backup QBs.
- Did the UCLA offense take a step back?
- Has the USC offensive line found its leader?
- Washington D-lineman Everrette Thompson is happy to be healthy.
- Some Washington State post-spring game ruminations.
- An NCAA academic rule change could affect football.