Pac-12: Jason Bondzio

Academic honors for 11 Pac-10 players

April, 24, 2009

Posted by's Ted Miller

The National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame (NFF) has announced the members of the 2009 NFF Hampshire Honor Society, which is composed of college football players from all divisions who maintained a 3.2 GPA or better. A total of 564 players from 266 schools qualified for membership, including 11 from the Pac-10.

Previously, California's Alex Mack, a potential first-round pick in this weekend's NFL draft, won the 2008 NFF Draddy Trophy, often called the academic Heisman.

See a complete list of winners here.

The Pac-10 honorees are:

Jason Bondzio, Arizona
Anthony Reyes, Arizona State
Alex Mack, California
Zach Smith, California
Will Ta'ufo'ou, California
Nick Reed, Oregon
Andrew Levitre, Oregon State
Logan Paulsen, UCLA
Jeff Byers, USC
Vaughn Lesuma, Washington State
Matt Mullennix, Washington State

Off the hot seat, Stoops enters 2009 confident

March, 5, 2009

Posted by's Ted Miller

TUCSON, Ariz. -- A year ago, when Arizona coach Mike Stoops met with reporters before spring practices, just about every question hinted at a simple, uncomfortable subtext.

  Tom Hauck/Getty Images
  Coming off Arizona's first bowl victory since 1998, there are higher expectations for Mike Stoops and the Wildcats this season.

Win or else.

His seat was hotter than Tucson asphalt in July.

While the fortunes of a college football coach can change with a single bounce of the oblong spheroid, Stoops was greeted with back slaps (which were absent any sharpened hardware) when he sauntered onto the Wildcats' practice field Wednesday afternoon and opened 2009 spring practices.

The sense is that Arizona, coming off its first bowl victory since 1998, is on the uptick.

And that means Stoops, after some fits and starts as a first-time head coach, enters his sixth year with newfound confidence and security.

And, notably, a contract extension.

"I don't think there is any self-doubt about what we can do," he said. "We got through that hurdle, which was the most important part. It becomes, 'Can we do this?' And to be able to do it under the pressure we were under, I think, was very gratifying for them. Now we can almost play free."

It was hard to tell if Stoops was talking about himself or his program.

Fact is, it doesn't matter. For the most part, they are one and the same. The Wildcats' players, all collected by Stoops, labored last year knowing their measure was being taken simultaneously with their coach's.

Either they all were good enough. Or they were not.

"I know the pressure here to succeed was pretty apparent," senior defensive tackle Earl Mitchell said.

With 15 starters back from an 8-5 team, the word around the program is that reaching a bowl game is no longer the singular goal.

A national ranking? Why not?

And what about competing for a Rose Bowl berth?

That may elicit grins in some quarters, but Stoops didn't need to be prodded to observe that was a major absence on the program's résumé.

"We don't want to be a seven- or eight-win team," he said.

From the outside, the Wildcats seem to have huge questions. Sure, a lot of guys are back, but a lot of production also walked out the door: record-setting pass-catch combination Willie Tuitama and Mike Thomas are gone, as is leading tackler Ronnie Palmer, not to mention kicker Jason Bondzio, whose 97 points in 2008 ranked second in the Pac-10.

But the general feeling, as the breakthrough of 2008 is put to bed and the program starts to consider the future, is that expectations in 2009 should be higher.

"We have as much talent as we've ever had coming back," Stoops said.

And Stoops believes he's a better coach than he was during his first few seasons, when broadcast production crews seemed to assign a cameraman the singular duty of capturing Stoops' sideline histrionics.

"I think we feel freer as a program," Stoops said. "I think I feel better, more relaxed. Sure. That experience has hopefully made me a better coach [so I can] handle our team better. There are a lot of things I wish I could have done better, but that's just part of the process and evolving as a head football coach."

Has Arizona turned a corner and is it now headed into the top half of the Pac-10?

We'll see.

"We hope these next five years aren't as hard as the first five years," Stoops said.

Pac-10 players of the week

October, 20, 2008

Posted by's Ted Miller

Arizona running back Keola Antolin, Oregon State safety Greg Laybourn and UCLA kicker Kai Forbath have been named Pac-10 players of the week.

Antolin, a freshman from Las Vegas, rushed 21 times for 149 yards (7.1 yards per carry) with three touchdowns and added a reception for nine yards and had four kickoff returns for 79 yards, giving him 237 all-purpose yards.

Laybourn, a senior from Portland, led the Beavers' defensive effort in a 34-13 win at Washington. He posted a game-high 12 tackles, including 10 solo stops. The OSU defense forced four turnovers.

Forbath, a sophomore from Pacific Palisades, Calif., scored 11 of UCLA's 23 points in the Bruins' 23-20 win against Stanford. He was 3-for-3 on field goal attempts, connecting from 37, 19 and 28 yards, and made both of his PAT attempts.

This marks the second player of the week honors this year for both Laybourn and Forbath.

Also nominated for offensive player of the week honors were Oregon State flanker James Rodgers and quarterbacks Mark Sanchez of USC and Kevin Craft of UCLA. Also nominated on defense were cornerbacks Devin Ross of Arizona, Alterraun Verner of UCLA and Josh Pinkard of USC. Kickers David Buehler of USC and Jason Bondzio of Arizona were nominated for special teams play.

Pac-10 players of the week

October, 13, 2008

Posted by's Ted Miller

Stanford running back Toby Gerhart, Oregon cornerback Jairus Byrd and USC defensive tackle Fili Moala were named Pac-10 Players of the Week on Monday.

Gerhart, a junior from Norco, Calif., rushed 24 times for 116 yards in the Cardinal's 24-23 win over Arizona, scoring the game winning touchdown with 25 seconds remaining in the game. Considering Stanford piled up 286 yards rushing against the Wildcats, Gerhart's backfield mate Anthony Kimble, who contributed 110 yards, also deserves note.

Byrd, a junior from Clayton, Mo., recorded nine tackles, an interception and three pass breakups in the Ducks 31-24 win over UCLA. The Oregon defense limited UCLA to 53 yards rushing and 351 total yards and posted six sacks.

Moala, a senior from Buena Park, Calif., blocked two field goal attempts in the third quarter of USC's 28-0 win against Arizona State. The two blocks ties the NCAA record for most blocked field goal attempts in a quarter.

Also nominated for offensive player of the week were Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, running backs Joe McKnight of USC and Jacquizz Rodgers of Oregon State, UCLA tight end Ryan Moya and Arizona wide receiver Terrell Turner. Also nominated on defense were defensive backs Kevin Thomas of USC, Kris Evans of Stanford and Nate Ness of Arizona, Oregon State end Slade Norris and Arizona State linebacker Mike Nixon. Arizona Kicker Jason Bondzio was nominated for special teams play.

Three Pac-10 kickers on Groza Watch List

August, 22, 2008

Posted by's Ted Miller

Arizona State kicker Thomas Weber won the 2007 Groza Award as the nation's top kicker, so it should be no surprise that he made the 2008 Preseason Watch List.

He's joined on the list by UCLA's Kai Forbath and USC's David Buehler.

It's inexplicable, however, how the Groza Award could miss Arizona's Jason Bondzio, who connected on 21 of 26 field goals a year ago with a long of 49. In fact, he was 8-of-10 from outside of 40 yards.

An official release from the school already identified Bondzio as a leading Groza candidate.

Guessing the folks at the Groza Award will call Arizona and apologize.

The complete list is here.

Best Case-Worst Case: Arizona

August, 11, 2008

Posted by's Ted Miller

Fifth in a series looking at potential dream and nightmare scenarios for all Pac-10 teams, starting from the top of our preseason Power Rankings and working down.

Up next: Arizona

Best case

The soft early schedule, as many expected, helped, but the 47-13 beat-down delivered to a respectable New Mexico team sent a message -- the offense was as-advertised but the defense was a lot better than previously thought.

That became clear after a solid victory at UCLA when Washington and quarterback Jake Locker came to town. The 2-2 Huskies had moved the ball on everyone, including during a close loss to Oklahoma. But the Wildcats jump on the Huskies early, building a 14-0 first-quarter lead, while the defense forces a pair of turnovers. Washington, forced to play catch-up, can't, and the Wildcats improve to 5-0 with a 45-20 victory.

Make it 6-0, though Stanford becomes the first defense to consistently pressure QB Willie Tuitama. Still, "hot-seat" talk for coach Mike Stoops ends when the Wildcats become bowl-eligible by midseason.

Of course, the tough part of the schedule is ahead. California and spectacular running back Jahvid Best become the first team that scores with the Wildcats. Best gains 262 total yards, and the outlandish dreams of a perfect season end when Bears kicker Jordan Kay connects on a 45-yard field goal with less than a minute left for a 33-30 Arizona loss.

(Read full post)

Ranking the Pac-10 kickers...

July, 21, 2008

Posted by's Ted Miller

Kickers? The Pac-10's got kickers, even with the departure of 2006 Groza Award winner Alexis Serna of Oregon State.

That's because 2007 Groza Award winner Thomas Weber will again be splitting the uprights for Arizona State.

Only three schools are looking for new kickers: Oregon State, Stanford and Washington State. And the returning kickers ranged from solid to, well, Weber.

  1. Thomas Weber, So., Arizona State: In 2007, he was the nation's best kicker. He might not connect on 24 of 25 field goals again, but he's got a big, accurate leg. And he's been clutch.
  2. Kai Forbath, So., UCLA: Just about any other year, connecting on 25 of 30 field goals with a long of 54 would be good enough for First-Team All-Pac-10. In 2007, all it got was an honorable mention.
  3. Jason Bondzio, Sr., Arizona: This is depth -- the No. 3 kicker hit 21 of 26 in 2007.
  4. David Buehler, Sr., USC: Trying. To. Resist. 80s movie. Reference. 16 of 19 last year. Anyone? Anyone?
  5. Matt Evensen, Sr., Oregon: Good on 16 of 20 in 2007 and looked good this spring.
  6. Ryan Perkins, Jr., Washington: Add toughness to his resume (15 of 20) -- he's struggled with injuries.
  7. Jordan Kay, Sr., California: Coaches would like him be as consistent on field goals (65 percent) as extra points (100 percent).
  8. Justin Kahut, So, Oregon State: He looked so good this spring, some wondered if he might be better than Serna.
  9. David Green, RFr., Stanford: Former big-time recruit expected to win the job.
  10. Wade Penner, So, Washington State: Kicker has been uneven, at best, for the Cougars in recent years. Penner showed promise during the spring.



Thursday, 10/2
Saturday, 10/4