Pac-12: Green Bay Packers

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.
ESPN.com has been doing a series on great college players who didn't pan out in the NFL -- "Simply Saturday," -- which has featured a number of Pac-10 players, including Washington's Steve Emtman and USC's Matt Leinart.

Interesting stuff.

But ESPN.com's Bruce Feldman, who is always working the angles, decided to take a look at NFL stars with so-so college careers, and his list also includes some Pac-12 guys: USC linebacker Clay Matthews, Oregon State wide receiver Chad Ochocinco and California cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha.

He ranks Matthews No. 2. Notes Feldman:
No NFL player has better bloodlines than Matthews, but when he was coming up as a recruit he was a wiry, undersized, off-the-radar prospect who reportedly only weighed 166 pounds as a backup LB-TE for Agoura (Calif.) High. Matthews stared to sprout in his senior year, yet still only had one scholarship offer -- from former USC assistant Nick Holt at Idaho.

Sure, Matthews blossomed as a junior and senior. But he never really was seen as the brightest star in the constellation that was the Trojans' 2008 defense.
Still, Oregon's Nick Reed and Oregon State's Victor Butler were the first-team All-Pac-10 defensive ends. Matthews proceeded to wow scouts with his explosiveness and determination. Green Bay drafted the one-time walk-on 26th overall, and he has rewarded them with two spectacular seasons, going to back-to-back Pro Bowls and winning NFC Defensive Player of the Year honors, while helping lead Green Bay to a Super Bowl victory.

Ochocinco rates No. 4.
The Miami native didn't spend much time in the Pac-10 -- just one season at Oregon State. The receiver, then known as Chad Johnson, did flash some big-play potential during his time in Corvallis, catching 33 passes for 713 yards. He also flashed a lot of personality on his way to the draft, as you can tell if you read this old Q&A he did with Mel Kiper Jr., who at one point asks: "When all is said and done, how do you want people to remember Chad Johnson?"

Johnson's response: "As a very humble, nice person who had no off-the-field problems."

I'm not sure how many will recall the Cincinnati Bengals star as "humble," but he certainly has produced, notching seven 1,000-yard receiving seasons and going to six Pro Bowls. In truth, he'd be even higher on this list, but at 33, he has dipped some in the last three years.

Asomugha is No. 5.
Oakland certainly didn't whiff on this pick. Asomugha has emerged as a true shutdown corner, earning trips to the past three Pro Bowls. He's also as good as they come off the field, winning NFL Man of the Year honors, too.

He had a good but not great career for the Bears, getting chosen as an honorable mention All-Pac-10 pick as a senior. Some great individual workouts took a guy who some touted as a fifth-rounder all the way up into the first round when the Raiders selected him 31st overall.

On a personal note, I covered Asomugha's coming-out game: a 34-27 Cal win at Washington in 2002, which ended a 19-game Huskies winning streak in the series. In that game, Cal matched Asomugha, previously a safety, on All-American receiver Reggie Williams. Asomugha's physical style -- read here to see what Williams thought of it -- threw the Huskies' passing game out of sync.

Bet more than a few Cal fans remember that game fondly.

Final Pac-12 NFL draft tally

May, 1, 2011
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The Pac-12 provided 37 players to the NFL draft over the weekend, one fewer than the SEC, which led all conferences.

If the six combined picks from Colorado and Utah are taken away from the conference, the old Pac-10 provided NFL teams 3.1 draft picks per team, also just behind the SEC at 3.17.

Here's where the Pac-12 players went:

First round
No. 8 Jake Locker, QB, Washington: Tennessee
No. 9 Tyron Smith., OT, USC: Dallas
No. 17 Nate Solder, OT, Colorado: New England
No. 24 Cameron Jordan, DE, California: New Orleans
No. 27 Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado: Baltimore

Second round
7. Akeem Ayers, LB, UCLA: Tennessee
10. Brooks Reed, DE, Arizona: Houston
13. Rahim Moore, FS, UCLA: Denver
21. Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State: Chicago
24. Shane Vereen, RB, California: New England

Third round
13. Jurrell Casey, DT, USC: Tennessee
20. Mason Foster, LB, Washington: Tampa Bay
25. Shareece Wright, CB, USC: San Diego
29. Christopher Conte, S, California: Chicago
33. Sione Fua, DT, Stanford: Carolina

Fourth round
5. Jordan Cameron, TE, USC: Cleveland
19. Casey Matthews, LB, Oregon: Philadelphia
21. Jalil Brown, CB, Colorado: Kansas City
27. Owen Marecic, FB, Stanford: Cleveland

Fifth round
8. Brandon Burton, CB, Utah: Minnesota
9. Gabe Miller, DE, Oregon State: Kansas City
14. Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, Oregon State: Atlanta
23. Richard Sherman, CB, Stanford: Seattle

Sixth round
2. Ryan Whalen, WR, Stanford: Cincinnati
14. Caleb Schlauderaff, OG, Utah: Green Bay
17. Ronald Johnson, WR, USC: San Francisco
19. David Carter, DT, UCLA: Arizona
22. Allen Bradford, RB, USC: Tampa Bay
24. Mike Mohamed, LB, California: Denver
32. Ricky Elmore, DE, Arizona: Green Bay
38. Zach Williams, C, Washington State: Carolina

Seventh round
12. D'Aundre Reed, DE, Arizona: Minnesota
24. Scotty McKnight, WR, Colorado: New York Jets
30. Lawrence Guy, DT, Arizona State: Green Bay
37. Stanley Havili, FB, USC: Philadelphia
38. David Ausberry, WR, USC: Oakland
39. Malcolm Smith, LB, USC: Seattle

By Pac-12 school:
Arizona (3)
Arizona State (1)
California (4)
Colorado (4)
Oregon (1)
Oregon State (3)
Stanford (4)
UCLA (3)
USC (9)
Utah (2)
Washington (2)
Washington State (1)

The final tally by automatic qualifying conferences:
SEC... 38
Pac-12... 37
Big Ten... 36
ACC... 35
Big East 22
Big 12...19

Nebraska was a big swing to the Big Ten from the Big 12 with seven picks. With Colorado and Nebraska, the Big 12 provided 30 selections.

This was the tally through three rounds:
SEC: 20
ACC: 19
Pac-12: 15
Big Ten: 13
Big 12: 9
Big East: 4

Kiper's final 'Big Board' before NFL draft

April, 27, 2011
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ESPN draft guru has released his final 'Big Board' before the NFL draft begins Thursday.

So where did your favorite former Pac-12 players end up? Well, truth be told, all the conference players listed ended up in the same place they were on the last Big Board.

Here's where they rank and what Kiper has to say about each.

No. 13 Cameron Jordan, DE, California
Analysis
: Frame and skills capable of handling 3-4 or 4-3 defensive end duty. Has top athleticism, smarts and speed for defensive end position.

No. 16 Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado
Analysis
: Excellent size and speed combination, Smith quietly shut down receivers all season. Character issue overstated in eyes of many personnel folks.

No. 17 Tyron Smith, OT, USC
Analysis
: A future blindside tackle. Fallen some after a quick rise. Good frame, athleticism and quickness. Has added bulk.

No. 22 Nate Solder, OT, Colorado
Analysis
: A physical specimen, has great length and has added bulk to his long frame. Could be moved along offensive line to provide help early in NFL career.

No. 25 Jake Locker, QB, Washington
Analysis
: In eyes of evaluators, rebounded some with good workouts, interviews after combine. Arm, attitude, athleticism all there. Accuracy the question.

In Todd McShay's latest mock draft from April 20, he projected six Pac-12 players being picked in the first round, but not Locker.

Here's how he ordered the players and where he sees them going.

No. 9 Tyron Smith (Dallas)

No. 12 Jordan (Minnesota)

No. 21 Brooks Reed, DE, Arizona (Kansas City)

No. 22 Solder (Indianapolis)

No. 23 Jimmy Smith (Philadelphia)

No. 32. Akeem Ayers, LB, UCLA (Green Bay)

Notes on Pac-12 players at NFL combine

February, 28, 2011
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Holy Stephen Paea!

We knew Paea, Oregon State's two-time winner of the Pac-10's Morris Trophy, was a beast, but the defensive tackle proved it to everyone else when he set an NFL combine record with 49 reps at 225 pounds on the bench press.

Folks, it's hard to do any repetitive movement 49 times, much less with 225 pounds.

Paea was just the lead note -- and he knows how to celebrate, by the way -- on what mostly appears to be a strong showing by Pac-12 players at the NFL combine.

Jake Locker ran fast; Nate Solder showed explosiveness, and a lot of other guys made good impressions, including a couple of Pac-12 running backs -- small ones -- per ESPN's Todd McShay:

Vereen leads smaller backs
California's Shane Vereen had a monster day, running the 40 in 4.48, posting a 34-inch vertical jump and putting up 25 repetitions on the 225-pound bench press. Vereen is an instinctive back on tape and shows good skills in the passing game, but we haven't seen the kind of explosiveness on film that Vereen displayed Sunday. It's time to go back to the film room and see if we missed anything during our previous evaluation.

Other diminutive backs had good showings as well. Pittsburgh's Dion Lewis, Oregon State's Jacquizz Rodgers, Syracuse's Delone Carter and Kentucky's Derrick Locke all showed good balance and lateral explosiveness when bouncing to the outside and then cutting upfield during position-specific drills.


Here are some more links and notes

Pac-12 Valentines

February, 14, 2011
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It's Valentines Day. I know. Awesome.

Because we are so captivated by the spirit of the holiday, which isn't a holiday, we're handing out Roses to the Pac-12. Just like our hero does.

A Rose for Arizona quarterback Nick Foles: Nick, you lose all five starting offensive linemen, but don't think of this rose as something you'd get at a funeral. Really.

A Rose for Arizona State linebacker Vontaze Burfict: Vontaze, buddy, stop and smell the flowers. Er, rose. Chill. Breathe. You're going to have several million dollars in the bank 14 months from now. No need to act so crazy.

A Rose for California coach Jeff Tedford: Jeff, it's not really about the rose. It's the guy giving it to you. It's Aaron Rodgers. He's back. With four more years of eligibility.

A Rose for Colorado running back Rodney Stewart: Does anyone know you rushed for 1,318 yards last season? No? Well, here's a rose and a guess you're going to be the "Who the heck is that guy?" player in the Pac-12.

A Rose for Oregon coach Chip Kelly: You don't like my rose, Chip? Oh, did I mention that Nick Fairley is allergic to roses? And that this rose doubles as a time machine? And you can go back and get quarterback Darron Thomas to make the right read on the first play of the second quarter?

A Rose for Oregon State: But it's not just a rose. It's a Rose Bowl. You like?

A Rose for Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck: Not to get all serious, but we're glad you're back. Stay healthy.

A Rose for UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel: "Hey, Rick, the Pac-12 blog told me to give you this rose. I coach defense. My name is Dick LeBeau. Can I have a job?"

A Rose for USC coach Lane Kiffin: It's from the NCAA. Note reads: "Sorry. We were wrong about you and the Trojans." Anybody have any idea what that means?

A Rose for the Utah student section: They don't know about the MUSS yet, do they?

A Rose for Washington running back Chris Polk: Guess who finally gets the credit he deserves in 2011? Can I interest you in a Pac-12 rushing title, perhaps?

A Rose for Washington State: It has six petals. One for each win in 2011.

Opening the mailbag: Tedford's hotseat?

January, 28, 2011
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Welcome to the mailbag.

You can follow me on Twitter here.

To the notes.

Nathan from Boston writes: You mentioned that Jeff Tedford's not quite on the hot seat, and it coincides with Aaron Rodgers' rise to the Super Bowl. Clearly, Rodgers should have gotten more credit for what the did at Cal and gotten drafted higher. Perhaps, it was Rodgers giving to Tedford rather than the other way around, as was the perception. Furthermore, Tedford is in a perfect area for recruiting. So, I think he's very overrated, and question why he's not "firmly" on the hot seat.

Ted Miller: The Bay Area is the "perfect" area for recruiting? Neh. It's decent, probably underrated, in fact, but there are parts of Florida, Texas, Southern California, Louisiana and Georgia I'd rate as just a bit more perfect.

And Tedford's reputation wasn't built just on Rodgers, who is one of six quarterbacks he coached who became first-round NFL draft picks, the others being Kyle Boller, David Carr, Trent Dilfer, Joey Harrington and Akili Smith. And those guys' fair-to-lousy levels of success in the NFL suggests, in fact, that Tedford might be "giving" more than he is "receiving."

That said, Tedford's run of quarterbacks has dried up of late, consider Joe Ayoob, Nate Longshore, Kevin Riley and the late-season performance of Brock Mansion in 2010 (though let's recall that at one point Longshore looked like a future first-round draft pick before he lost his mojo).

As for Rodgers, his extended marinating on the Green Bay bench probably served him well. Instead of being thrust into service as a rookie or first-year player, Rodgers was able to learn the nuances of the NFL game over three seasons before becoming the starter.

While I don't see Tedford as being on the "hot seat" -- barring an absolute disaster, I think he'll be back as the Bears coach in 2012 -- he does deserve increased scrutiny. His transformation of the program, which was 1-10 the season before he arrived in 2002, was impressive. Cal, however, now has higher expectations -- expectations beyond seven or eight wins and certainly beyond the 5-7 finish in 2010. And a quick glance at the Bears' depth chart and their schedule in 2011 doesn't suggest a bounce back to nine or so wins.

On the other hand, the defense perked up under Clancy Pendergast last year, recruiting is going extremely well, and the return of offensive line coach Jim Michalczik (not official yet) and receivers coach Eric Kiesau feels like Tedford is reconnecting to his glory days. If the Bears find the right quarterback, they will be formidable again going forward.

But, yes, it is fair to say that Tedford is no longer untouchable.


Justin from Omaha writes: What would be a successful first year in the Pac-12 for the Buffaloes? I am excited for the 2011 season but, I have know idea what to expect. I don't think they are South contenders but, is being maybe 3 or 4 a possibility?

Ted Miller: Would you think less of me if I said I'm with you: I don't know what to expect.

The only Colorado game I watched in its entirety last season was the 52-7 beatdown defeat at California. Justin from Butte, Mont., wrote last week that I might be weighing that game too heavily, and I agree with him. But I also noted that the Buffaloes have a new coach, new staff, a questionable defense and a bit of uncertainty at quarterback.

Colorado is not a "Little Sisters of the Poor" program, and old Pac-10 fans who think the Buffaloes aren't going to be competitive from the get-go are probably going to be surprised. They were competitive last year in the Big 12 and beat Georgia. While my initial feeling is the Buffs won't end up bowl-eligible and will fall toward the bottom of the South Division in 2011, I also wouldn't be shocked if they scrapped their way to around .500.


George from Phoenix writes: Please put out the wildfire of ASU hype and stellar predictions for next year! I'm already seeing reports of us taking the South and potentially more. I'm having flashbacks of DE yr 2 pre season. "We went 10-3 in DE's first year, will be roses the next", etc, etc, etc...thud!Don't most teams have a build up / ok year before hitting it big? Ore had a good year, then roses, then NC. Isn't that how it usually happens?

Ted Miller: No. Sorry. I am hyping.

I like the Sun Devils' offensive line (imagine that!). I like the skill positions and speed on both sides of the ball. I think either quarterback, Brock Osweiler or Steven Threet, can win games. I have a feeling linebacker Vontaze Burfict grows up next fall and becomes an All-American and NFL first-round pick. I like Omar Bolden as a shut-down cornerback with leadership skills. I like Junior Onyeali as a super young talent at end.

I worry a little about depth at defensive tackle with the departure of Lawrence Guy, but not that much.

This team is nothing like 2008, a team with HUGE questions on the offensive line. The Sun Devils should win the South and end up ranked in the top-25.

Again, sorry for the hype.


Shane from Corvallis, Ore., writes: I know quiz was a great teammate and player. and maybe it's just me trying to be optimistic, but any chance that quiz leaving might be addition by subtraction..., i was thinking that maybe quiz leaving will force Riley and company to modify their game style for the better.

Ted Miller: Shane, I like the effort but you, my friend, are reeeeaaaaching!

Jacquizz Rodgers is a dynamic weapon because he's such a complete player: He runs, he catches, he blocks and he's a great locker room guy. The Beavers will not be better because he's gone. Not saying they are going to stink without him, only that if Rodgers was coming back, expectations for 2011 would be much higher.

The problems in 2010 had nothing to do with Jacquizz.
  • Breaking in a new quarterback. Even though Ryan Katz has notable talent, the Beavers offense has, historically, been hard on first-year starters.
  • Bad-to-mediocre offensive line play. The Beavers' line took a step back last year. It must improve for 2011 to turn out better.
  • James Rodgers gets hurt in he fifth game. Recall that the Beavers were 3-2 -- with road losses to TCU and Boise State -- and won at Arizona with Rodgers. No way the Beavers fail to reach a bowl game if he never got hurt.
  • Defensive inconsistency. It seemed like the Beavers lacked a dynamic guy in their front seven, other than defensive tackle Stephen Paea.

Finally, the depth chart behind Rodgers is unproven. The Beavers always seem to find a running back. But, at present, we really don't know who that will be.


Aaron from Flagstaff, Ariz., writes: Just wondering how you would figure out how many recruits your college can get each year. I thought ASU was very limited, and now we are at 17 recruits.

Ted Miller: Two rules: 85 total players on scholarship, 25 per recruiting class.

(And if you want to read a great story about how coaches fiddle with these rules by "oversigning," check out Andy Staples' story here).

Arizona State had a very small senior class, which was why the 2011 recruiting class was -- and still is, really -- expected to be small. At the end of the process, you still can only give out 85 scholarships per team, per year.

But there's been some roster attrition -- quarterback Samson Szakacsy, defensive tackle Lee Adams, cornerback Josh Jordan and tight end Steven Figueroa have left the program -- and two players listed with this year's class, quarterback Mike Bercovici and punter Josh Hubner, are already enrolled.

Doing roster math from the outside isn't easy because there are always things going on "inside." But, unless you want to get highly detailed, just understand the numbers 85 and 25.


Greg from Seattle writes: Hey Ted, did you ever see this?

Ted Miller: Pretty darn polished by Washington running back Johri Fogerson.

Pac-12 players on NFL All-Pro Team

January, 25, 2011
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The Associated Press has announced its 2010 NFL All-Pro Team, and it includes four former Pac-12 players:

Edit note: The original version of this incorrectly listed OG Logan Mankins as going to Utah instead of Fresno State.

Defense
Haloti Ngata, DT, Baltimore (Oregon)
Clay Matthews, OLB, Green Bay (USC)
Nnamdi Asomugha, CB, Oakland (California)
Troy Polamalu, S, Pittsburgh (USC)

Interesting that more than a third of the defense comes from the Pac-12.

Pac-12 players in Super Bowl

January, 24, 2011
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The Super Bowl is set for Feb. 6 -- or as college football fans will remember it, "the Sunday after national signing day" -- and the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers both feature a number of former Pac-12 players.

Here's the list (some are injured or inactive).

Pittsburgh
Dennis Dixon, QB, Oregon
Chris Kemoeatu, OG, Utah
Stevenson Sylvester, LB, Utah
Keenan Lewis, CB, Oregon State
Troy Polamalu, S, USC

Green Bay
Aaron Rodgers, QB, California
Dimitri Nance, RB, Arizona State
Spencer Havner, LB, UCLA
Nick Barnett, LB, Oregon State
Brandon Chillar, LB, UCLA
Brad Jones, LB, Colorado
Clay Matthews, LB, USC
Mason Crosby, K, Colorado
Desmond Bishop, LB, California

Pac-10 presence on All-NFL team

January, 19, 2011
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Pro Football Weekly and the Professional Football Writers of America have announced their 2010 All-NFL team, and there's plenty of Pac-10 presence.

Former USC linebacker Clay Matthews was named Defensive MVP, and he led three Pac-10 defenders on the team:

Haloti Ngata, DT, Baltimore (Oregon)
Clay Matthews, LB, Green Bay (USC)
Troy Polamalu, S, Pittsburgh (USC)

Further, an All-Rookie team was announced, and four from the Pac-10 made the team.

LeGarrette Blount, RB, Tampa Bay (Oregon)
Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England (Arizona)
Tyson Alualu, DE, Jacksonville (California)
*T.J. Ward, S, Cleveland (Oregon)

*Ward also was honored for special teams.

It's fair to say that Blount's fortunes have taken a positive turn since Sept. 3, 2009.

Matthews, Harris key Ducks defense

January, 6, 2011
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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- One is the veteran linebacker with the last name that says "football." The other is the young, boisterous and sometimes spectacular playmaker who earned All-American honors despite not earning a starting job until midseason.

Oregon's senior linebacker Casey Matthews and sophomore cornerback Cliff Harris are different sorts in more ways than one, but they will be two of the key pieces in the Ducks most challenging chess game on defense this season: How do you slow Auburn and Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Cameron Newton?

[+] EnlargeCasey Matthews
Jason O. Watson/US PresswireCasey Matthews will be at the center of an Oregon defense hoping to stop Cam Newton.
Matthews, who earned first-team All-Pac-10 honors after being second-team a year ago, will lead the charge against Auburn's rushing attack in the Tostitos BCS National Championship Game on Jan. 10. The Tigers rank fifth in the nation with 287 yards rushing per game.

Harris, who earned All-American recognition as both a corner and return man, will be at the center of a secondary trying to contain Auburn's downfield passing attack. The Tigers lead the nation in passing efficiency.

In both instances, the focus will be on Newton, who is extremely efficient and productive -- 28 touchdowns and six interceptions -- and one of the best running quarterbacks in recent memory -- 1,400 yards rushing and 20 touchdowns.

Oh, and Newton is 6-foot-6, 250 pounds.

"He will be very tough to tackle," Matthews said. "He's not your ordinary quarterback. I mean, he's huge. He's got a pretty powerful stiff arm ... he makes a lot of his plays on third and long. If no one is open, he is going to take off and run. We had problems with that last year in the Rose Bowl. That's one thing we knew we had to work on going into this game."

Matthews refers to the career game that Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor produced against the Ducks in the previous year's Rose Bowl. Pryor is 6-foot-6, 233 pounds, so the Ducks know how hard it is to contain a big, fast quarterback who can complete passes downfield. Only Newton is way better.

Oregon hopes its No. 16 run defense will hold down Newton's scrambles -- something it didn't do against Pryor -- and force him to throw into a secondary that ranks sixth in the nation in pass efficiency defense, and has grabbed 20 interceptions. Five of those picks went to Harris.

"[Harris] has a great overall game," Auburn receiver Kodi Burns said. "He's just a great talent. He's somebody we're really going to have to deal with."

Matthews is the steady leader with good instincts. He led the Ducks with 73 tackles and is the quarterback of the defense. Harris is more of a wild card. He can grab a pick-six at any moment. Or he can get busted on a double move. He's got impressive skills, but he also can lose focus or freelance, which often draws the ire of coordinator Nick Aliotti and even other Ducks.

"For all the big plays he makes, he will sometimes slip a little bit," Matthews said. "It comes back to the mental discipline, just taking your assignment. Sometimes you will try to make the big play on a double route or stop and go and he will jump it and then [the receiver] will be wide open. But you can't go yelling at people, telling them to do this. You just got to keep them calm and remember how he had his success. He's a great corner. Just around the receiver when the ball is thrown, he has got a chance to pick it. That's the big part about him -- his big-play ability."

Matthews obviously has plenty of help becoming a smart, disciplined player. His brother, Clay, is a star linebacker for the Green Bay Packers. His father, Clay, Jr., played the third most games in NFL history (278) over 19 seasons as a linebacker. His uncle, Bruce, is in the NFL Hall of Fame as an offensive lineman.

But it was his mother, Leslie, whose recent advice most resonated.

"My mom told me I had to be slightly insane with my play," Casey Matthews said. "That is one thing I haven't heard her say ever, but she did tell me that."

As for Harris, he wasn't one of the players brought to the news conference featuring Ducks defenders. Part of that is the belief of Oregon coaches that senior Talmadge Jackson is the Ducks best corner, despite Harris' flashy play. Jackson didn't earn All-American honors, but he did get the first-team All-Pac-10 nod over Harris as voted on by conference coaches.

Jackson has served as a bit of a tutor to Harris, who only became a starter in the season's seventh game.

"I try to help him improve his overall knowledge of the game," Jackson said. "He's a great athlete. He's very smart. And he's willing to work at anything you tell him."

As for Harris' sometimes demonstrative personality or his occasional blown coverage, Jackson said there's a fine line between correcting and browbeating.

"Cliff is a very exciting guy to be around," he said. "You don't want to mess up anybody's personality or try to take anything away from him. You want to let him play his style of football but keep it respectable."

Considering how high-powered the Tigers offense has been this season, if Matthews, Harris and the Ducks keep things respectable, Oregon could end up with the national championship.

Stanford, Washington lead in graduation

October, 27, 2010
10/27/10
5:51
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In the Pac-10, only Stanford and Washington are above average when it comes to football's "Graduation Success Rate (GSR)," according to figures released this week by the NCAA.

The average GSR in FBS football is 69 percent. Stanford's GSR was 86, Washington's 82. California ranked third in the conference at 65.

The GSR measures what percentage of athletes who enrolled in 2003 graduated within six years.

On the plus side, Arizona (48), Arizona State (63), Cal, USC (61) and Washington each achieved their highest rating since the measure was implemented in 1998.

The national average for all sports is 79 percent.

As for future Pac-12 members, Utah scored an all-time high at 62. Colorado came in at 59.

You can review the NCAA's numbers here. Here is how the Pac-10 stacks up.

Stanford... 86
Washington... 82
California... 65
Arizona State... 63
USC... 61
Washington State... 60
Oregon State.... 56
Oregon... 54
UCLA... 52
Arizona... 48

Defensive NFL ROY has Pac-10 flavor

January, 7, 2010
1/07/10
12:15
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I know this is a day late, but take a gander at this:


What do you notice?

That the former Pac-10 defensive players went one, two, three in the Defensive Rookie of the Year voting.

Not too shabby.

Five Pac-10 defensive players are candidates to be drafted in the first two rounds this spring: UCLA defensive tackle Brian Price, USC safety Taylor Mays, USC defensive end Everson Griffen, California cornerback Syd'Quan Thompson and Cal defensive lineman Tyson Alualu. Oregon State's junior defensive tackle Stephen Paea would join that list if he opts to enter the draft.

Wonder if any of them will challenge Ndamukong Suh, Eric Berry or Gerald McCoy for 2010 Rookie of the Year honors?

Is Harbaugh a candidate at Notre Dame?

December, 8, 2009
12/08/09
12:27
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Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh has been vague -- as coaches are wont to do when other jobs come up -- as to whether he is a candidate for the vacant Notre Dame job, but his athletic director, Bob Bowlsby, has been unequivocal in his statements.

Harbaugh will be Stanford coach next year, accordingly to Bowlsby.

From The New York Times: [Bowlsby] said Monday he was “100 percent confident” that his coach, Jim Harbaugh, was not a candidate. He said there was “absolutely no chance” of Harbaugh’s being the next coach at Notre Dame, as he has been speaking with [Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack] Swarbrick, his close friend, throughout the process to give him advice.

The Associated Press added this, which includes Bowlsby saying that Harbaugh's agent isn't talking to Notre Dame either -- often a ruse coaches can do to maintain deniability.

Mark Purdy believes, however, Harbaugh needs to be more forthcoming about his job intentions as well as about quarterback Andrew Luck's finger injury that he suffered vs. Notre Dame but was only reported on Sunday.

Harbaugh was more specific with ESPN's Michelle Tafoya, who interviewed him before the start of Monday night's game between the Green Bay Packers and Baltimore Ravens. Harbaugh's brother, John, coaches the Ravens.

"There's no meeting [with Notre Dame]," Harbaugh said. "I haven't talked to anyone at Notre Dame. I haven't talked to anyone at Notre Dame about a meeting.

Pac-10 Q&A: USC assistant Jethro Franklin

October, 16, 2009
10/16/09
2:46
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

USC assistant Jethro Franklin isn't terribly long-winded -- as you shortly will find out in this Q&A -- but he's good with a defensive line and he's awesome on the slip-and-slide.

Franklin out-slipped and out-slided offensive line coach Pat Ruel this week in two rounds on the Trojans rain-soaked field, which served as a tiebreaker between the offense and defense for the day. So things weren't too uptight during Notre Dame week.

Franklin is in his second tenure at USC. He was the D-line coach in 2005, and also coached the position for the Green Bay Packers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Houston Texans.

Despite replacing three starters on his line -- only tackle Christian Tupou returned from the record-setting 2008 unit -- the Trojans presently rank among the national leaders in all major defensive categories and are getting more pressure on opposing quarterbacks -- see 21 sacks through five games vs. 29 all of last year.

Franklin and his line have their eyes set on chasing down Heisman Trophy contender Jimmy Clausen on Saturday. Seemed like a good time to check in.

Five games into the season, what's the biggest surprise for you?

Jethro Franklin: The biggest surprise? I don't know. We've still got a ways to go. I haven't had a chance to reflect on it in that manner. I don't know. I just take them one at a time. I'd like to answer that one but I really can't.

Has the defensive line exceeded your expectations?

JF: Well, we're making progress. As long as we can continue to go up the ladder and not take any steps backwards then I'm satisfied. So far, we just keep plugging away and improve week-in and week-out. We look forward to doing things right, finishing plays and basically not having any steps backwards on the ladder of success.

Who's playing well?

JF: They are all playing hard. I would say they are all playing with pretty good consistency. We just have to continue to improve and don't let anything that is sub-par or any thing that is just OK -- we've got to continue to get better.

If there was one thing you could improve coming into the game at Notre Dame, what would it be?

JF: We can always improve on our effort. That's something we can always improve on. We can always improve on assignments and being consistent and doing things right. We can always improve on our technique.

Notre Dame has put up some good offensive numbers: Is this the best offense you guys have faced this season?

JF: They're doing a heck of a job over there. We respect the heck out of those guys. We know in order for us to do what we want to accomplish we've got to go out there and play our hearts out. We've got to play our best performance so far.

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