Pac-12: Jahvid Best

Kickoff Show (1 ET)

October, 23, 2014
Oct 23
10:15
AM ET
Join ESPN.com reporters Edward Aschoff, Heather Dinich, Adam Rittenberg and host Chantel Jennings as the discuss who should be in the top four when the College Football Playoff committee's first rankings come out next week. They will also preview Week 9's best games and take your questions.

Opening the mailbag: LaMike vs. Jacquizz

March, 23, 2012
3/23/12
5:30
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Here's hoping everyone's bracket is in fine shape.

If you go here, you will be able to answer the question of just how fun it would be to follow me on Twitter.

To the notes.

Brenden from Portland writes: I was curious of your thoughts as to the potential draft place of LaMichael James. It seems with RBs trending down in recent draft positions, and LM potentially having inflated "system" numbers, might spell a much lower draft position than people are anticipating (especially those overly confident duck fans). But really I am just looking for a glimmer of hope with a long ago bet (a delicious bottle of whiskey) made with a friend on who'd get drafted higher, Quizz or LM.Thanks,An Optimistic/Delusional Beaver Fan.

Ted Miller: James will be drafter higher than Jaquizz Rodgers, of that I'm almost certain. Rodgers was selected in the fifth round by the Atlanta Falcons last spring. If James falls past the third round, I'll be shocked. Mel Kiper has moved James up to No. 2 among available running backs Insider, behind only Alabama's beastly Trent Richardson.

James' stock has been rising since he got a solid 40 time at the NFL combine and was even faster during Oregon's pro day. He also has shown that he can be a capable receiver, which used to be a knock on him.

As many of you might recall, I've entertained this James vs. Rodgers debate a number of times, favoring Rodgers as sophomore but then admitting that James had grown as a player and had become more than just a speed back after the 2010 season. My feeling now is that James ranks among the top five running backs all-time in the Pac-12.

James and Rodgers are similar in stature -- James is a bit taller and Rodgers is a bit thicker -- but James is clearly faster, and speed is something you can't teach. Both have been compared to Darren Sproles, an undersized but highly productive back. A better comparison, to me, might be James to former California speedster Jahvid Best, only far more durable.

Will James become a feature back? Hard to say. It's critical for him to get into the right situation. I think it's ignorant that some folks dismiss James as a "system" back, or that he can't run between the tackles. That said, my feeling is James will be more effective if he's playing with an offense that uses a lot of zone blocking, as Oregon does. That fits better into his skill set.

Scott from Lafayette, Colo., writes: When you fill us in on Colorado's Spring practice can you find out if they are going to move senior LB Jon Major inside or leave him on the edge. Inside I think he could lead the conference in tackles and be our next All American LB. Outside, teams scheme away from him and he is in coverage so much he losses production in the run game. He started inside his sophomore year and was unblockable before going down with an injury. Paired with a healthy Rippy, they could make up one of the better LB duo's in the conference.

Ted Miller: Major is listed as the Buffaloes starting strong side linebacker on the pre-spring depth chart. Brady Daigh is presently listed No. 1 at MLB, but when Douglas Rippy comes back, he's almost certain to be the starting "Mike." Junior Derrick Webb is the weakside 'backer.

But defenses aren't inflexible. Recall that the Buffs were officially a 3-4 last year but are now back to a 4-3. I expect to see Major move around as the Buffs use different looks, so plenty of times he will appear to be playing an inside LB position.

And if Rippy and Major stay healthy, they are potentially one of the better tandems in the conference.

Pete from Calgary writes: Stanford's secondary took a lot of criticism last season for a number of reasons, usually revolving around not being able to tackle in space after a catch. Accepting the premise of the question (that they didn't play that well), do you think this is a result of the defensive scheme they ran (stop the run first, and let the opposition catch a few balls), injuries, not having the right players, something else, or all of the above? Do you see any reason to believe they will be better this coming season?

Ted Miller: There's a bit of all of the above, but there's also a need for some perspective.

Yes, when Stanford's defense got burned this past season, it did seem like it was the secondary getting burned. Still, playing against Pac-12 offenses, the Cardinal yielded 21.9 ppg and 337.62 ypg, totals that both ranked among the nation's top-30. Further, Stanford's defense got ripped by three teams: Oklahoma State, Oregon and USC. Those are the Nos. 2, 3 and 16 offenses in 2011.

Yes, there were some missed tackles, most notably against Oregon and Oklahoma State. Yes, it still seemed the Cardinal was just short of the sort of across-the-board athleticism you'd like to have in a secondary. There was a little too much 4.6 and not enough 4.4. Further, there were some injury and youth issues.

So what about 2012? Well, the return of CB Wayne Lyons should help. You'd also hope the youthful growing pains experienced by safeties Devon Carrington and Jordan Richards will yield mature, seasoned players a year later. And you'd hope that good recruiting -- such as incoming freshman Alex Carter -- will bolster the unit.

Further, it also might help that Derek Mason, the Cardinal's secondary coach, will be coordinating the defense alone, instead of sharing the job with Jason Tarver, who was hired to coordinate the Oakland Raiders defense. That way the front and backhalf will be hearing from one chief voice.

Tim from California writes: I know you're a braves fan so can we get a shout out to Chipper Jones for an amazing career he had, since he announced he's retiring at the end of the year. Also, what are Nickell Robey's NFL prospects?

Ted Miller: Wow, Chipper Jones. A tip of the cap to a great ballplayer. I turn 43 in September, and he turns 40 in April, so his career runs pretty parallel to my adult life. I remember the pure joy of running around Buckhead with my buddies during those glory days in the 1990s when winning was still fresh for Braves fans.

As for Robey, a first-team All-Pac-12 choice, he's certainly a very good college player. He will be a third-year starter in 2012 after winning the job as a true freshman in 2010, and I ranked him 23rd overall in the conference 2011. He was Pac-12's best cover corner last fall.

But the NFL is going to raise an eyebrow at his size: 5-foot-8, 165 pounds, particularly with the proliferation of big receivers. Robey's coverage skills will get him noticed, but his size likely will prevent him from being an early-round draft pick.

Who will be the big bust in 2012?

August, 23, 2011
8/23/11
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CBSSports.com's Brett McMurphy looks at the biggest AP preseason poll busts since 2001, and three Pac-12 teams make the list.

2002: No. 9 Washington (finished 7-6)
2001: No. 11 Oregon State (finished 5-6)
2009: No. 12 Cal (finished 8-5)

Easy to remember each of those teams.

The 2002 Huskies featured quarterback Cody Pickett, who passed for 4,458 yards that season, and wide receiver Reggie Williams. The season began with a last-second loss at Michigan due to a massive coaching blunder that cost the Huskies the game. Said then-coach Rick Neuheisel: "We switched substitution groups, which we're going to kick ourselves about for a thousand years."

The Huskies seemed to lose their mojo, but they then rallied for three consecutive wins to finish the regular season -- Neuheisel memorably created the "Northwest Championship" -- over Oregon, Oregon State and Washington State to earn bowl eligibility.

That Oregon State team was touted -- Sports Illustrated ranked the Beavers preseason No. 1 -- after an 11-1 finish in 2000, with quarterback Jonathan Smith and running back Ken Simonton returning. Things immediately fell apart with a blowout loss at Fresno State. A 1-3 start, in fact, featured a 38-7 home loss to UCLA.

As for Cal, at least one writer [insert uncomfortable cough] celebrated the 2009 Bears as a potential national title contender. (They were stacked with talent: backs Jahvid Best and Shane Vereen, defensive ends Cameron Jordan and Tyson Alualu, linebackers Mike Mohamed and Devin Bishop, cornerback Syd'Quan Thompson, etc.) After a 3-0 start, the Bears headed to Oregon ranked sixth.

SPLAT! Cal goes down 42-3. The next weekend, just in case we didn't get the message, USC ripped the Bears 30-3 in Berkeley. Suffice it to say, there was nothing subtle about Cal's unmasking.

Here's this year's preseason top 10. So who becomes the bust this year?

1. Oklahoma
2. Alabama
3. Oregon
4. LSU
5. Boise State
6. Florida State
7. Stanford
8. Texas A&M
9. Oklahoma State
10. Nebraska
The Man has been holding California running back Shane Vereen down. And by "The Man," I mean the media.

There's a reason that Vereen is the best running back folks outside the West Coast haven't heard of. There's a reason a back who can go yard or run with power or catch passes doesn't get more publicity.

[+] EnlargeShane Vereen
AP Photo/Elaine ThompsonCal running back Shane Vereen has five career rushes for more than 50 yards.
Folks, these are tough times. Everyone is worried about jobs -- getting one, keeping one. And Vereen, a media studies major, is eyeballing a job at ESPN. After talking to the articulate junior for only a few minutes, there is one obvious reaction for any media member: Yikes.

"I've always wanted to be a sports analyst," he said. "One of my favorite shows is SportsCenter. I like PTI. I grew up watching Stuart Scott. It's been a big dream of mine to be able to argue about sports."

(Note to boss: Vereen wants to be on TV. He has no interest in taking over the Pac-10 blog. So no need to contact him. Really. Please.).

Vereen is presently second in the Pac-10 and 13th in the nation with 115.4 yards per game. He's tied with Oregon's LaMichael James for the Pac-10 lead in touchdowns with 10 (eight rushing, two receiving). He and the Bears visit USC on Saturday in a critical matchup for both teams. The winner figures to set a trajectory into the top-half of the Pac-10. The loser likely takes a turn to the bottom-half.

There is another reason Vereen hasn't been in the spotlight. Before this season, he was only a highly productive backup. While he posted 1,667 rushing yards and scored 16 touchdowns with a 5.1 yards per carry average, he, nonetheless, spent the previous two seasons as the counterpunch for Jahvid Best.

But Vereen has long had a fan club, which has only grown larger this fall. That fan club is comprised of coaches who watch him on tape and play against him on Saturdays.

"Wow, I think he's NFL [quality]," Arizona coach Mike Stoops said. "I don't think there's any question about his ability -- his size, his vision, his speed, his balance. He breaks tackles. He's a complete running back. There's nothing he can't do on the field. He's your prototypical NFL guy with size and speed and vision."

Then there's Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh: "He's a really efficient runner when it comes to him getting all the yards that are blocked for him. And he is explosive enough to get even more yards than what are blocked for. He can take it the distance. He's one of those backs who can make a big run. He's good after contact. He's really explosive -- just a good football player."

With Best injured last year, some Cal and Stanford fans might recall that Vereen piled up 193 yards on 42 carries in a 34-28 upset win in the Big Game.

Said UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel, "He's a fabulous back. He's been a fabulous back since he's been in this league. And once again on Saturday he was a great player."

Neuheisel is alluding to the Bears 35-7 win against UCLA in which Vereen rushed for 151 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries and caught three passes for 51 yards.

"He's the next great running back," said USC coach Lane Kiffin, who knows slowing down Vereen is the top priority for his struggling defense.

Vereen admits that redshirting his freshman season was difficult -- he was a touted recruit who wanted to play -- but he said he had no problem being Hutch to Best's Starsky the previous two seasons.

"That didn't bother me," he said. "Jahvid was a great running back and one of my best friends. I was happy for him. He deserved all the accolades he received."

What coaches keep coming back to with Vereen is his versatility. He's got five career rushes over 50 yards, but the 204 pounder also can get tough yards inside and break tackles. He also is an outstanding receiver and can return kicks.

"The thing that stuck out the most about Shane was his versatility," Cal coach Jeff Tedford said. "He has a great feel for the running game and he's got great speed, but the way he catches the football out of the backfield -- you can put him at receiver. He's got great feel for the passing game."

The general consensus is that Vereen will have to settle for an NFL career for a while before he joins the ESPN family. As for the lack of publicity -- at least to this point -- Vereen doesn't seem terribly worked up.

"I don't pay too much attention to it," he said. "I try to just focus on the simple things -- on what's important this week, in this day. I have enough trouble remembering my class schedule, let alone worrying about national attention and all that kind of stuff. I assume that when the time is right it will come."

Vereen, as a student of the sports media, also is painfully aware of the perception of Cal. The Bears boast great talent and can look unbeatable at times. Then, just when they get acclaim, they flop. Last year, the Bears were ranked No. 6 before they took consecutive whippings from Oregon and USC by a combined count of 72-6.

"We understand that in the past couple of years, we have had some letdowns," he said. "Because of that, I think we're conscious of what needs to be done. I think we feel like we have a lot to prove."

Any type of revenge against Oregon will have to wait until the Ducks visit on Nov. 13 in what might be a game with national title implications.

But Vereen and the Bears get the Trojans on Saturday, a team Cal hasn't beaten since 2003. If Vereen puts up big numbers in a Cal win, it's not likely The Man will be able to keep a lid on his talents much longer.

Preseason position reviews: running back

July, 22, 2010
7/22/10
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Another year, another strong collection of running backs, even with the departures of Toby Gerhart and Jahvid Best.

While Pac-10 quarterbacks will grab most of the preseason headlines -- that's what happens when the two best NFL prospects at the position play in the same conference -- the class of running backs is nearly as strong.

Three 1,00o-yard rushers are back, and that doesn't include California's Shane Vereen, who piled up 952 yards as a backup, nor does it including Arizona's Nic Grigsby, who rushed for 1,153 yards in 2008. Six of the top-nine running backs will return this fall, and more than a few teams are decidedly deep at the position.

By the way, you might note there is more mention of incoming freshman at this position than others. Two reasons: 1. The Pac-1o had a strong haul of RBs in recruiting; and, 2. RB is often the easiest place for a young player to break into the lineup.

Great shape

  • Oregon: While the Pac-10 blog rates Oregon State's Jacquizz Rodgers ahead of LaMichael James as an individual player, the Ducks have a decided edge in depth, and not only because James' backup, Kenjon Barner, is one of the conference's most explosive players. The incoming recruiting class also features Lache Seastrunk and Dontae Williams, the No. 6 and No. 13 prep running backs in the nation in 2009.
  • [+] EnlargeJacquizz Rodgers
    Rick Scuteri/US PresswireJacquizz Rodgers may be the most talented individual running back in the Pac-10 this year, but Oregon has the best group.
  • Oregon State: Jacquizz Rodgers is a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate as the most complete back in the conference. Depth behind him is a little iffy, though Ryan McCants turned in some of his best work during spring practices.
  • Washington: Washington fans often note that Chris Polk gained most of his 1,113 yards last year after contact because he was running behind a young offensive line. That line, with four starters back, should be better in 2010. Good depth with Johri Fogerson and freshmen Deontae Cooper and Jesse Callier, who both participated in spring drills.
  • California: As noted above, Vereen put up impressive numbers as a backup and then starter over the final four games after Best got hurt. 12 TDs on 183 carries shows he has a nose for the endzone. Depth behind him is uncertain. Trajuan Briggs, Covaughn DeBoskie-Johnson, Isi Sofele and Dasarte Yarnway are competing for backup touches.
  • USC: Allen Bradford, a neglected talent under Pete Carroll, who was oddly in love with the mercurial Joe McKnight, could end up being a first-team All-Pac-10 back. C.J. Gable also will have a chance to emerge from Carroll's doghouse. True freshman Dillon Baxter was the star of spring practices, while Curtis McNeal and Marc Tyler are major talents who just need to stay healthy.
  • Arizona: The Wildcats welcome back their top three running backs: Grigsby, Keola Antolin and Greg Nwoko. But Grigsby, who averaged 7.2 yards per carry last year when he wasn't hurt, needs to find a way to stay healthy.
Good shape
We'll see

  • Stanford: The Cardinal doesn't have one guy who can replace Gerhart. But who does? The good news for a backfield-by-committee approach with Jeremy Stewart, Tyler Gaffney, Stepfan Taylor and freshman Usua Amanam in the mix is the offensive line in front of them should be outstanding.
  • Arizona State: The Sun Devils must replace leading rusher Dimitri Nance, who didn't exactly scare opposing defenses in 2009. Cameron Marshall is the leading returning rusher with 280 yards. James Morrison and Jamal Miles will provide depth, though an incoming freshman might get into the mix. As has been the case for a while with the Sun Devils, the first order is improving the offensive line.
  • Washington State: Leading 2009 rusher Dwight Tardy is gone. If James Montgomery is healthy -- and stays that way -- he gives the Cougars a quality runner. He was clearly the best guy last preseason before he got hurt. Logwone Mitz, Chantz Staden, Carl Winston and Marcus Richmond will compete for touches during fall camp. Whatever the pecking order, the offensive line is the biggest issue.

A look back at 2007 recruiting

July, 21, 2010
7/21/10
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The 2007 recruiting class members are either seniors or redshirt juniors this fall, so they should be the backbones of most Pac-10 team's starting lineups.

Therefore, it seems like a reasonable moment to look back and review some recruiting hits and misses. (And, yes, we did this last summer with the 2006 class, which you can review here -- Ducks fans should get a kick out of it).

As for the 2007 rankings, USC ranked No. 1 in the nation, according to ESPN.com's Scouts Inc. Oregon, at No. 23, was the only other Pac-10 team in the Scouts Inc., top-25.

Scout.com ranked USC No. 2 in the nation, Oregon ninth, and California 12th. The rest of the Pac-10 went, in order, Washington (29th in nation), UCLA (36th), Arizona State (38), Oregon State (40), Stanford (43), Arizona (49) and Washington State (54).

Here's an overview.

Arizona

Class: 17

ESPNU top 150 players: 2 (DE Apaiata Tuihalamaka, TE Rob Gronkowski)

How many are expected to start in 2010: Four (RB Nic Grigsby, CB Trevin Wade, WR William Wright, K Alex Zendejas)

Misses: Tuihalamaka, QB Bryson Beirne,

Verdict: Obviously, the biggest catch of this class, Gronkowski, is gone. Otherwise, a lot of these guys qualify for the "where are they now?" file.

Arizona State

Class: 24

ESPNU top 150 players: 0.

How many are expected to start in 2010: Five (C Garth Gerhart, WR Kerry Taylor, CB Omar Bolden, DE James Brooks, OG Matt Hustad)

Misses: OL Po'u Palelei, LB Oliver Aaron

Verdict: This is a decent class, particularly when you factor in the contribution of the since-departed JC signees, such as LB Morris Wooten and DE Luis Vasquez. And there are several non-starters who will contribute this year.

California

Class: 27

ESPNU top 150 players: 0

How many are expected to start in 2010: 10 (OT Matt Summers-Gavin, P Bryan Anger, LB D.J. Holt, WR Alex Lagemann, OT Mitchell Schwartz, S Sean Cattouse, S Chris Conte, OG Justin Cheadle, DE Cameron Jordan, RB Shane Vereen).

Misses: QB Brock Mansion, CB D.J. Campbell

Verdict: Obviously, ESPN.com's Scouts Inc., missed with its evaluation of this solid recruiting class, particularly when you consider RB Jahvid Best, WR Nyan Boateng and LB Devin Bishop were significant contributors before their tenures were done. Jordan and Vereen obviously were well underrated. And there were 21 running backs better than Best?

Oregon

Class: 29

ESPNU top 150 players: 1 (DE Kenny Rowe)

How many are expected to start in 2010: 10 (Rowe, WR D.J. Davis, LB Casey Matthews, CB Talmadge Jackson, OG Carson York, TE David Paulson, OG Mark Asper, WR Jeff Maehl, S Eddie Pleasant, DE Terrell Turner).

Misses: DT Myles Wade, S Malachi Lewis

Verdict: When you toss in DE Will Tukuafu, WR Aaron Pflugrad (a starter who transferred to Arizona State) and WR Terence Scott, this is a good, if not great, class. Three or four of these guys should be All-Conference players.

Oregon State

Class: 35

ESPNU top 150 players: 0

How many are expected to start in 2010: Eight (HB Joe Halahuni, S Cameron Collins, WR Darrell Catchings, CB Brandon Hardin, FB Will Darkins, DE Taylor Henry, LB Keith Pankey, WR James Rodgers)

Misses: CB David Ross, RB Reggie Dunn

Verdict: We don't have the time to go back and retrace the maneuvers that are part of managing a 35-man recruiting class (each class can only include a maximum of 25 members, but there are lots of ways to fudge numbers). Obviously, there are the Beavers typical crew of so-called diamonds in the rough -- hello, James Rodgers -- but here's a guess that coach Mike Riley winces over some of these names. Certainly not a lot of production from the six JC guys.

Stanford

Class: 19

ESPNU top 150 players: 0.

How many are expected to start in 2010: Six (P David Green, CB Corey Gatewood, LB/FB Owen Marecic, TE Coby Fleenor, DE Thomas Keiser, DE Matt Masifilo)

Misses: QB L. D. Crow, S Sean Wiser

Verdict: An interesting class considering that six of the eight lowest rated players are on the Cardinal's preseason two-deep depth chart, including three starters. In terms of skill positions -- see the two QBs -- this class doesn't measure up.

UCLA

Class: 11

ESPNU top 150 players: 2 (QB Chris Forcier, RB Raymond Carter)

How many are expected to start in 2010: Five (LB Akeem Ayers, LB Glenn Love, LB Steve Sloan, DT Nate Chandler, OT Mike Harris)

Misses: Forcier, Carter

Verdict: This is a very small but highly productive class collected by former coach Karl Dorrell -- note that it includes DT Brian Price, who bolted early for the NFL. The only busts were the two highest rated players, Forcier and Carter, and JC LB Mike Schmitt. The other eight members are either on the two-deep or, in Price's case, already in the NFL.

USC

Class: 20

ESPNU top 150 players: 10 (RB Joe McKnight, LB Chris Galippo, RB Marc Tyler, S Marshall Jones, DE Everson Griffen, QB Aaron Corp, WR Ronald Johnson, OT Martin Coleman, DT DaJohn Harris, C Kris O'Dowd)

How many are expected to start in 2010: Four (LB Chris Galippo, WR Ronald Johnson, C Kristofer O'Dowd, LB Malcolm Smith)

Misses: S Marshall Jones, OT Martin Coleman

Verdict: Obviously, this class, ranked No. 1 in the nation, was overrated, even when you factor in that McKnight, Griffen and Damian Williams already are in the NFL, and NT Christian Tupou would be a second-year starter if he didn't blow out his knee this spring. Lots of guys who never contributed or left the program.

Washington

Class: 27

ESPNU top 150 players: 0

How many are expected to start in 2010: Eight (WR Devin Aguilar, LB Alvin Logan, LB Cort Dennison, SS Nate Williams, LB Mason Foster, CB Quinton Richardson, DE Kalani Aldrich, K Erik Folk)

Misses: DE Emeka Iweka, DT Nick Wood

Verdict: You read the names of the seven highest-rated players in this class and you have one reaction: Terrible. But then you see six defensive starters among the lower rated guys. Still, the Huskies defense is a huge question mark. How it performs this year will tell you how this class should be rated.

Washington State

Class: 26

ESPNU top 150 players: 0

How many are expected to start in 2010: Five (CB Aire Justin, WR Daniel Blackledge, C Andrew Roxas, OG B.J. Guerra, SS Chima Nwachukwu)

Misses: WR Deon Ford

Verdict: Not much should be expected from Bill Doba's final recruiting class, and this one doesn't deliver much sizzle. A couple of solid hits, though, including a couple of departed JC transfers.

Pac-10 lunch links: Can Washington State start fast?

June, 8, 2010
6/08/10
2:30
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TIGER, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

California spring wrap

May, 7, 2010
5/07/10
9:30
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California

2009 overall record: 8-5

2009 conference record: 5-4 (tied for fifth)

Returning starters

Offense: 8, Defense: 6, punter/kicker: 2

Top returners: QB Kevin Riley, OT Matt Summers-Gavin, OT Mitchell Schwartz, RB Shane Vereen, LB Mike Mohamed, DE Cameron Jordan, P Bryan Anger

Key losses: RB Jahvid Best, OT Mike Tepper, DE Tyson Alualu, CB Syd'Quan Thompson

2009 statistical leaders (*returning starter)

Rushing: Shane Vereen* (952)
Passing: Kevin Riley* (2,850)
Receiving: Marvin Jones* (651)
Tackles: Mike Mohamed* (112)
Sacks: Tyson Alualu (7.5)
Interceptions: Mike Mohamed* (3)

Spring Answers

1. Jordan steps up: Defensive end Cameron Jordan has the talent to be a first-team All-Conference player, but he's never broken through as a consistent performer. Heading into his senior year, however, he asserted himself this spring and established himself as the leader of the defensive line with the departure of Tyson Alualu. If that continues, he'll catch the attention of NFL scouts.

2. Attacking defense: Coach Jeff Tedford said the Bears would be more aggressive -- read: stunting, blitzing, etc. -- even before he hired Clancy Pendergast to replace Bob Gregory as coordinator. It became clear this spring that Pendergast, a veteran NFL coach, will focus on making life as difficult as possible for opposing QBs.

3. Replacing Tepper: Four starters return on the Bears offensive line, but the one void is sizable: 6-foot-7, 319-pound Mike Tepper. It appears that Matt Summers-Gavin will slide over from left guard to fill that void. While right tackle Mitchell Schwartz remains a possibility -- he played the position in 2008 -- Summers-Gavin is more athletic, which should help vs. speed rushing ends.

Fall questions

1. Will Riley arrive? Kevin Riley again fought off his challengers and will be the starting quarterback, despite his inconsistency during 22 starts over the previous three season. He's had plenty of good moments and he has ability. If he puts it all together as a senior, the Bears could be a factor in the conference race.

2. Who's the No. 2 tailback? Shane Vereen is the clear No. 1, but Tedford has always used tandems. Each of the four candidates -- Trajuan Briggs, Covaughn DeBoskie-Johnson, Isi Sofele and Dasarte Yarnway -- had productive moments this spring, but none separated himself. Sofele is almost certain to get touches as a scatback, hybrid runner/receiver, but the battle for No. 2 will be at issue early in preseason camp.

3. Who's the noseguard? Derrick Hill, a two-year starter, has been solid, but he's struggled to stay healthy. Sophomore Kendrick Payne had a great spring. He could end up winning the job. Considering coaches aren't afraid of playing Aaron Tipoti either, the good news is there's depth at the position.

Dallas adds a dose of Berkeley

April, 27, 2010
4/27/10
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Three former California players have signed free agent contracts with the Dallas Cowboys: receiver Verran Tucker and offensive linemen Chet Teofilo and Mike Tepper.

Linebacker Devin Bishop signed with Denver. The Pac-10 blog previously reported -- incorrectly -- that he'd signed with Dallas.

Meanwhile, former Bears safety Brett Johnson signed a free agent contract with Buffalo, while safety Marcus Ezeff will get a tryout next week with the New York Jets, according to a release from the school.

Cal had three players selected in the NFL Draft: defensive lineman Tyson Alualu (Jacksonville Jaguars, 10th overall) and tailback Jahvid Best (Detroit Lions, 30th overall) were both chosen in the first round last Thursday. Cornerback Syd’Quan Thompson (Denver Broncos, 225th overall) was picked up in the seventh round Saturday.

Pac-10 lunch links: Have Cougars found a stud on the D-line?

April, 26, 2010
4/26/10
2:30
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Gunter glieben glauchen globen.

Taylor Mays hurting after draft tumble

April, 24, 2010
4/24/10
11:19
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The NFL draft teaches hard lessons. Two USC players are learning that now: Taylor Mays and Everson Griffen.

Mays would have been a first-round pick last year. I know folks believe his perceived weaknesses would have revealed themselves on film Insider then just as they did this season. But the 2008 USC pass defense was simply extraordinary in large part because of Mays playing an intimidating and impenetrable center field.

So Mays blew it by coming back for his senior season. And he now knows this.

As for you, San Francisco 49ers fans: Didn't you guys do fairly well a few years back with another hard-hitting former USC safety? I got a $5 bill right here that says Mays is going to become an outstanding NFL safety.

Griffen is another story: First-round talent with questions about his attitude and work ethic. (Keep this in mind about Mays: his work ethic couldn't be any better).

Who would have thought that Washington's Daniel Te'o-Nesheim would go before Griffen? Te'o-Nesheim is superior to Griffen in only one way but its a critical one: motor. Griffen's is questionable, Te'o-Nesheim's is not.

The lesson here is that being good isn't enough. The NFL cares about the entire package. And NFL teams don't want players who aren't self-starters, who don't motivate themselves.

Take note incoming five-star recruits.

Here are the Pac-10 picks to this point (11:15 a.m. ET ).

First round
DE Tyson Alualu, California, Jacksonville (10)
RB Jahvid Best, California, Detroit (30)

Second round
DT Brian Price, UCLA, Tampa (35)
S T.J. Ward, Oregon, Cleveland (38)
TE Rob Gronkowski, Arizona, New England (42)
S Taylor Mays, USC, San Francisco (49)
RB Toby Gerhart, Stanford, Minnesota (51)
OT Charles Brown, USC, New Orleans (64)

Third round
TE Ed Dickson, Oregon, Baltimore (70)
WR Damian Williams, USC, Tennessee (77)
LB Donald Butler, Washington, San Diego (79)
DT Earl Mitchell, Arizona, Houston (81)
DE Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, Washington, Philadelphia (86)
OG Shawn Lauvao, Arizona State, Cleveland (92)
CB Kevin Thomas, USC, Indianapolis (94)

Fourth round
DE Everson Griffin, USC, Minnesota (100)
CB Alterraun Verner, UCLA, Tennessee (104)
CB Walter Thurmond, Oregon, Seattle (111)
RB Joe McKnight, USC, New York Jets (112)

Cal's Alualu surprise 10th pick in NFL draft

April, 23, 2010
4/23/10
9:58
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Here's a prediction: California defensive end Tyson Alualu is going to surprise some folks and end up a top-10 NFL draft pick.

Little late on that one, eh?

Alualu was the first Pac-10 player drafted Thursday night -- which was projected by no one -- going 10th overall to the Jacksonville Jaguars, while Bears teammate Jahvid Best was the only other conference player selected on Day 1. Best went to the Detroit Lions with the 30th pick.

Round 2 begins today at 6 p.m. ET. Expect the second round to include a number of Pac-10 players, including those who slipped during recent weeks, such as USC safety Taylor Mays and UCLA defensive tackle Brian Price.

Alualu is the highest Cal selection since Andre Carter was taken seventh overall by San Francisco in 2001. He is the Bears’ ninth top-10 pick in the draft’s history. And his selection was rated the "biggest reach" of the first day by Todd McShay.

Wrote McShay, "Jacksonville used the 10th overall pick to take California DT Tyson Alualu, who we feel is a good player but is only the No. 35 overall on our board. Top-10 money is pretty rich for a player like Alualu, especially when pass-rushers like Derrick Morgan and Jason Pierre-Paul would have offered much more value at that point."

Another notable pick is the Seattle Seahawks' selection of safety Earl Thomas at No. 14. That means former USC coach Pete Carroll wanted a safety but didn't want Mays.

Ouch.

Got to admit: I thought at least one team would jump on Mays just because of his athleticism, much like it took only one team to make Tim Tebow a No. 1 pick (Denver).

Another observation: Former Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford going No. 1 overall is a good thing for college football. It shows players who want to come back for their senior season that even a major injury won't automatically ruin your draft prospects.

Of course, Mays right now is probably questioning his decision to return, considering he likely would have been a top-15 pick in 2009.

Links: Katz continues to shine for Beavers

April, 20, 2010
4/20/10
2:30
PM ET
Art thou not, fatal vision, sensible
To feeling as to sight? or art thou but
A dagger of the mind, a false creation,
Proceeding from the heat-oppressed brain?

Former Pac-10 players on top-100 list

April, 16, 2010
4/16/10
10:00
AM ET
Twelve former Pac-10 players -- topped by USC defensive end Everson Griffen at No. 20 overall -- made the Scouts Inc. top-100 list of NFL draft prospects, which was published in the latest ESPN Magazine.

Those players are (number is top-100 rank):

20. Everson Griffen, DE, USC
21. Taylor Mays, S, USC
24. Brian Price, DT, UCLA
37. Tyson Alualu, DT, California
41. Jahvid Best, RB, California
43. Rob Gronkowski, TE, Arizona
46. Charles Brown, OT, USC
52. Damian Williams, WR, USC
62. Anthony McCoy, TE, USC
74. Joe McKnight, RB, USC
88. T.J. Ward, S, Oregon
94. Ed Dickson, TE, Oregon

Pac-10 lunch links: Arizona introduces its 'Two Chaw' offense

April, 12, 2010
4/12/10
2:30
PM ET
So that was Mrs. Lundegaard on the floor in there. And I guess that was your accomplice in the wood chipper. And those three people in Brainerd. And for what? For a little bit of money. There's more to life than a little money, you know. Don'tcha know that? And here ya are, and it's a beautiful day. Well. I just don't understand it.

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