Pac-12: hope and concern

Video: Hope and Concern -- Oregon State

July, 12, 2012
7/12/12
5:30
PM ET

Oregon State's biggest reason for hope in 2012 is the return of quarterback Sean Mannion and a good crew of receivers. But the biggest concern is both lines.

Hope and concern: Washington State

July, 21, 2009
7/21/09
6:59
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Tenth in a series on grounds for optimism and worry.

Biggest reason for hope -- The running game should improve.

A solid running game would solve a lot of the problems that plagued Washington State last year. Or at least significantly help them. There are reasons to believe that can happen. For one, four starters, including underrated center Kenny Alfred, are back on the offensive line, as well as three others with starting experience. Some of those guys were too young in 2008 and were physically overwhelmed. That shouldn't be as much of a problem after a year in the weight room. What's more, running back might be the Cougars deepest position, with Dwight Tardy, James Montgomery and Logwone Mitz forming a solid threesome. An improved run threat could cause a ripple effect, improving the passing game, limitings turnovers and sacks and allowing the defense to rest.

Biggest reason for concern -- The defense lacks depth and experience.

The Cougars were historically awful on defense last year, surrendering nearly 44 points per game. Just six starters are back, including just three in the front seven. The hope is some redshirts and JC transfers will be able to step in, but that's far from a sure thing. It didn't help either that promising defensive end Cory Mackay suffered a serious back injury after spring practice, or that defensive tackle Bernard Wolfgramm, a JC transfer who redshirted last year, is nursing a troublesome back. Or that two likely starting defensive backs, Romeo Pellum and Devin Giles, were dismissed from the team. If the Cougars are going to be competent defensively in 2009, guys are going to have to grow up quickly.

Hope and concern: Oregon State

July, 14, 2009
7/14/09
10:38
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Fifth in a series on grounds for optimism and worry.

Biggest reason for hope -- Two quarterbacks; two Rodgers Brothers

There's a saying that if you have two starting quarterbacks you don't have one. Or something like that. That doesn't apply for the Beavers, who will enter the fall with two quarterbacks, Lyle Moevao and Sean Canfield, who have proved they can successfully lead an offense. Canfield is the leader heading into fall camp because Moevao sat out spring practices with a shoulder injury, but Moevao, who won the job last fall due to a reversed injury situation, is throwing again. As for who the quarterback should get the ball to, few teams in the country boast two better playmakers than sophomore running back Jacquizz Rodgers and junior receiver James Rodgers.

Biggest reason for concern -- A rebuilt secondary with two new corners

While all four starters are gone from 2008's secondary, the biggest issue is at corner. The Beavers' "gap cancellation" defensive scheme puts a lot of pressure on opposing offenses, but that pressure relies on cornerbacks who thrive in press-man coverage. Keenan Lewis and Brandon Hughes were the starters at corner from 2005 to 2008. In 2005, they got eaten alive -- the Beavers ranked 115th in the nation in pass defense and surrendered an eye-popping 31 touchdown passes. In 2008, the Beavers ranked 22nd in the nation and gave up 15 touchdown passes. The prospects to start in 2009 are more experienced than Hughes and Lewis were in 2005, and there's no lack of athletic ability. But the spring performance was uneven, suggesting that there may be some fits and starts along the way.

Hope and concern: Oregon

July, 13, 2009
7/13/09
12:47
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Fourth in a series on grounds for optimism and worry.

Biggest reason for hope -- Quarterback Jeremiah Masoli.

Masoli was thrown into the fire as a junior college transfer in 2008 and even got booed in Autzen Stadium. That could crush a guy's confidence. Masoli, however, just shrugged and became a spectacular playmaker over the final quarter of the season, completing 50 of 75 (67 percent) passes for 830 yards and six touchdowns with one interception and rushing 38 times for 248 yards (6.5 yards per carry) and seven scores. It's reasonable to assume he'll show improvement -- nearly all quarterbacks do -- with experience. Or just multiply those numbers by four. If that happens ... golly. Masoli might even steal some of that Big 12 quarterback spotlight.

Biggest reason for concern -- Six starting linemen need to be replaced.

Four of those guys -- two offense, two defense -- got drafted, too, so this isn't just a case of plug and play. Oregon's offensive line under assistant Steve Greatwood has quietly become one of the most consistent units in the Pac-10, but it didn't look very good in spring, though injuries were a big reason for that. As for the D-line, it did look good this spring, but three new starters is always a cause for concern.

Hope and concern: Arizona State

July, 8, 2009
7/08/09
6:30
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Second in a series on grounds for optimism and worry.

Biggest reason for hope -- The defense will be good.

The Sun Devils welcome back six starters from a unit that ranked fourth in the conference in scoring defense a year ago, and that is even more impressive when you consider a bad offense left them on the field a lot -- the Sun Devils ranked ninth in the conference in time of possession. Dexter Davis and Lawrence Guy might be the best end-tackle combination in the conference, and good recruiting under Dennis Erickson has upgraded the speed at linebacker and in the secondary.

Biggest reason for concern -- It's never good to have quarterback and offensive line issues.

Senior Danny Sullivan played well at quarterback during the spring, significantly elevating the confidence his coaches and teammates have in him. But he hasn't started a game yet, so no one knows how he will perform when, say, he steps out "Between the Hedges" at Georgia and goes, "Golly, this place is big. And these folks seem to really care about this game!" But the biggest issue is not Sullivan. It's the same one as the previous two seasons: Will the offensive line be good enough? The unit gave up 34 sacks last year and the anemic run game averaged 89 yards per game and 2.9 yards per rush. Four starters are back, and there's some hope for new faces to emerge, but the O-line is again a huge question mark.

Hope and concern: Arizona

July, 7, 2009
7/07/09
7:42
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

First in a series on grounds for optimism and worry.

Biggest reason for hope -- Seven starters back from the Pac-10's No. 3 scoring defense.

All four starters are back on the defensive line, including junior Brooks Reed, who finished eighth in the Pac-10 with eight sacks a year ago. The secondary is led by second-team All-Pac-10 cornerback Devin Ross, and coaches were raving about middle linebacker Vuna Tuihalamaka this spring. Moreover, after five recruiting classes, coach Mike Stoops has the sort of players who fit into his system. The only concern here is a lack of depth at linebacker.

Biggest reason for concern -- Uncertainty at quarterback

While Matt Scott and Nick Foles, both sophomores, were mostly solid during spring practices, it's impossible not to wonder how whoever wins the job will react when the games are real and the screws tighten. Neither has seen any significant action. With good skill receivers -- not to mention All-American tight end Rob Gronkowski -- the real issue is how well the rookie starter will deliver the ball under pressure.

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