Pac-12: Jeff Locke

In the end, bro, everybody breaks. It's biology.
Yesterday we brought you the latest mock draft updates from Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay and as you can see from the post, there are as many as six Pac-12 players who could go in the first round.

Along with his mock draft, Kiper also updated his Big Board and top five player rankings for each position . There are just two players on the Big Board -- Dion Jordan and Star Lotulelei -- but among the position rankings the conference is well-represented. The position groups that don't have a top five player from the conference are fullbacks, offensive tackles, inside linebackers, safeties and kickers.

Here's how the Pac-12 players rank in their respective positions:

Quarterbacks

No. 2 Matt Barkley, USC

Kiper's take: I have Geno Smith now ahead of Matt Barkley, but Smith must perform well at his pro day this week.

Running backs

No. 3 Johnathan Franklin, UCLA

Wide receivers

No. 4 Keenan Allen, Cal

Tight ends

No. 2 Zach Ertz, Stanford

Kiper's take: (Notre Dame's Tyler) Eifert has created a little separation. He has the best range of traits and athleticism. Ertz is likely the No. 2 tight end taken. Both have the pass-catching skills of wide receivers and, given their size, can also overwhelm corners. There are about 10-12 intriguing tight ends in the class.

Offensive guards

No. 3 Kyle Long, Oregon

Kiper's take: The guy who has really leapt in the eyes of evaluators in recent weeks is Long, who worked out really well in Indy, and could at least fill in at tackle in a pinch, though guard will be his best position.

Centers

No. 2 Brian Schwenke, Cal

Defensive ends

No. 3 Datone Jones, UCLA

Defensive tackles

No. 2 Star Lotulelei, Utah

Kiper's take: Lotulelei is a certain top-10 pick if everything with his heart checks out, but we're waiting.

Outside linebackers

No. 2 Dion Jordan, Oregon

Kiper's take: Jordan has shown the ability to move and tackle in space, and really jumped from his combine performance.

Cornerbacks

No. 2 Desmond Trufant, Washington

Punters

No. 1 Jeff Locke, UCLA

No. 3 Josh Hubner, Arizona State

Kiper's take: Locke very well could end up being the top punter taken.

Pac-12 sees 38 invited to NFL combine

February, 8, 2013
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The official list of college players invited to the NFL combine is out and 38 from the Pac-12 made the cut. At least one player from every team in the conference was invited. A total of 333 players were invited and workouts begin Feb. 23. You can see the complete list here.

ESPN.com All-Pac-12 team

December, 10, 2012
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It wasn't easy putting together an All-Pac-12 team for 2012. Lots of tough choices, particularly at running back, where four guys were deserving.

It was difficult to leave off UCLA's Johnathan Franklin and Stanford's Stepfan Taylor. As a tandem, they are better than just about any other conference's first-team backs.

Oregon, the highest-ranked Pac-12 team at season's end, led the way with six players. UCLA and Stanford, which played for the Pac-12 title, had four each. Oregon State had three. California, Colorado and Washington were shut out.

Offense
QB Marcus Mariota, RFr., Oregon
RB Ka'Deem Carey, So., Arizona
RB Kenjon Barner, Sr., Oregon
WR Marqise Lee, So., USC
WR Markus Wheaton, Sr., Oregon State
TE Zach Ertz, Jr., Stanford
OL Khaled Holmes, Sr., USC
OL David Yankey, Jr., Stanford
OL Hroniss Grasu, So., Oregon
OL Xavier Su'a-Filo, So., UCLA
OL Jeff Baca, Sr., UCLA
K Andrew Furney, Jr., Washington State
KR Reggie Dunn, Sr., Utah

Defense
DE Dion Jordan, Sr., Oregon
DT Star Lotulelei, Sr., Utah
DT Will Sutton, Jr., Arizona State
DE Scott Crichton, So., Oregon State
OLB Anthony Barr, Jr., UCLA
ILB Michael Clay, Sr., Oregon
OLB Chase Thomas, Sr., Stanford
CB Jordan Poyer, Sr., Oregon State
CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, So., Oregon
S Ed Reynolds, So., Stanford
S Deone Bucannon, Jr., Washington State
P Jeff Locke, Sr., UCLA

Q&A: Oregon State's Mike Riley

November, 30, 2012
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Here's something a little different for this week's Friday Q&A. In honor of tonight's championship game, I thought it would be fun to talk to a coach who has seen Stanford and UCLA this season. Even during a game week, Oregon State coach Mike Riley was kind enough to take a few minutes to chat with the Pac-12 blog about the matchup. The Beavers beat UCLA in September 27-20 but fell to the Cardinal 27-23 earlier this month.

Here is Riley's take on each team and the game (plus a brief discussion about Brandin Cooks, because Riley and I tend to get chatty when we talk):

What has impressed you most about Stanford?

Mike Riley: Their consistency this year has been outstanding. They've stayed true to their course. They have a great running game. They use multiple tight ends. They have an identity there that they just continue to build on and force upon others. They are a powerful football team, and they utilize their personnel so well. They changed quarterbacks late in the year and haven't missed a beat. In fact, I think this [Kevin] Hogan has really added to their team with his athletic ability. They are just an all-around, good solid football team with one of the best defenses in the country. They were the best defense we've seen this year. They play hard, they play smart, and they are complemented well by what they do offensively.

[+] EnlargeMike Riley
AP Photo/Don RyanMike Riley says it will be mentally challenging to play the same team just six days later.
How about UCLA?

MR: They've done a great job with a first-year staff of looking at that team and placing personnel -- both on offense and defense -- in good spots to really enhance their talent. I think that's a real good coaching job by Jim Mora and his staff. Noel Mazzone, their offensive coordinator, does a great job with the young talent at quarterback, and they've been productive offensively and dynamic defensively. For the first year in that program, they've done exceedingly well. Just a good, well-coached football team. Very good special teams. One of the best specialists in the country with [Jeff] Locke. They do a great job in all three phases.

Anything stand out that you remember from either of the games? Highlights or lowlights?

MR: Playing against Stanford's defense is no fun -- or their offense. I'll tell you that. Everything is hard. I think that we had a two-score lead in the third quarter and we had that quarterback sacked and he made a fantastic play -- probably the play of the game -- to [Stepfan] Taylor. He flipped the ball out to him. Then you've got a great back in space, uncovered, and he takes it 50 yards for a touchdown. That really changed the dynamic of that game in a hurry. That was a memorial lowlight in that game.

UCLA was just a hard-fought, good football game that went back and forth. We hit a couple of big plays. A big pass to Markus Wheaton for a touchdown and a big pass to Brandin Cooks for a touchdown. And defensively I thought we did a really good job against a hard offense to contain. They've got the quarterback, the running back, good receivers, a big tight end. We just hung on and scratched and clawed. At the time, it was a huge victory for the Beavers because it was so hard-fought against a good football team. And at that time, we didn't know how good they'd be, and they ended up being one of the best in the league.

I was at both games, and I thought the slant pass to Brandin against UCLA was really his coming-out moment.

MR: It was. That was kind of the beginning of what we hopefully envisioned as the duo of Markus Wheaton and Brandin Cooks. Markus, we knew about. Brandin was a young talented guy, and they both ended up as 1,000-yard receivers this year, which is hard to do, and we've had a lot of fun with them. But I think you're right. That was a big, big moment for Brandin and for what he would mean to the Beavers for the whole year.

As a head coach, how tough is it to turn around and play a team six days later?

MR: It's an interesting dynamic that hardly ever happens in college football. I've had a ton of experience with it because I coached in the Canadian Football League. And it's a real mental game. It's very interesting. We would literally play back-to-back with some teams every year. One time we played Toronto -- I think my last year in the Canadian League in 1990 -- we played Toronto five times. And we beat them every time, but the last one was the hardest. We beat them on a field goal on the last play of the game. It's very difficult to win back-to-back when the teams are good and very evenly matched. Stanford's got a big chore this week because they had their way last week. But to repeat that thing, there's a lot of mind games to it. Now Stanford is a mentally tough football game, but it's going to be harder.

Pac-12 2012 awards announced

November, 26, 2012
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The Pac-12 conference has announced its 2012 individual honors and all-conference first and second teams as voted on by the coaches.

Offensive Player of the Year: Marqise Lee, WR, USC.
Pat Tillman Defensive Player of the Year: Will Sutton, DE, Arizona State.
Freshman Offensive Player of the Year: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon.
Freshman Defensive Player of the Year: Leonard Williams, DE, USC.
Coach of the Year: David Shaw, Stanford.

FIRST-TEAM OFFENSE

QB Marcus Mariota, Fr., Oregon
RB Kenjon Barner, Sr., Oregon
RB Ka’Deem Carey, So., Arizona
WR Marqise Lee, So., USC
WR Markus Wheaton, Sr., Oregon State
TE Zach Ertz, Sr., Stanford
OL Hroniss Grasu, So., Oregon
OL Khaled Holmes, Sr., USC
OL Brian Schwenke, Sr., California
OL Xavier Su’a-Filo, So., UCLA
OL David Yankey, Jr., Stanford

SECOND-TEAM OFFENSE

QB Matt Scott, Sr., Arizona
RB Johnathan Franklin, Sr., UCLA
RB Stepfan Taylor, Sr., Stanford
WR Austin Hill, So., Arizona
WR Robert Woods, Jr., USC
TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, So., Washington
OL Jeff Baca, Sr., UCLA
OL David Bakhtiari, Jr., Colorado
OL Sam Brenner, Sr., Utah
OL Kevin Danser, Sr., Stanford
OL Sam Schwartzstein, Sr., Stanford

FIRST-TEAM DEFENSE

DL Scott Crichton, So., Oregon State
DL Dion Jordan, Sr., Oregon
DL Star Lotulelei, Sr., Utah (2)
DL Will Sutton, Jr., Arizona State
LB Anthony Barr, Jr., UCLA
LB Trent Murphy, Sr., Stanford
LB Chase Thomas, Sr., Stanford (2)
DB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, So., Oregon
DB Jordan Poyer, Sr., Oregon State
DB Ed Reynolds, Jr., Stanford
DB Desmond Trufant, Sr., Washington

SECOND-TEAM DEFENSE

DL Henry Anderson, Jr., Stanford
DL Morgan Breslin, Jr., USC
DL Ben Gardner, Sr., Stanford
DL Datone Jones, Sr., UCLA
LB Kiko Alonso, Sr., Oregon
LB Michael Clay, Sr., Oregon
LB Brandon Magee, Sr., Arizona State
DB Deone Bucannon, Jr., Washington State
DB Alden Darby, Jr., Arizona State
DB T.J. McDonald, Sr., USC
DB Nickell Robey, Jr., USC

FIRST-TEAM SPECIALISTS

PK Vince D'Amato, Jr., California
P Jeff Locke, Sr., UCLA
RS Reggie Dunn, Sr., Utah
ST Jordan Jenkins, Sr., Oregon State

SECOND-TEAM SPECIALISTS

PK Andrew Furney, Jr., Washington State
P Josh Hubner, Sr., Arizona State
RS Marqise Lee, So., USC
ST David Allen, Sr., UCLA

ALL-PAC-12 HONORABLE MENTION
NOTES
  • By School: OREGON and STANFORD placed the most players on the first team with five selections each, followed by OREGON STATE with four.
  • By Class: Of the 26 first-team selections, 14 are seniors, five are juniors, six are sophomores and one freshman.
  • Unanimous: Only one player was named on the first-team ballot of all 12 head coaches--WR Marqise Lee of USC.
  • Two-time selections: Two players are repeat first-team selections from last year--DT Star Lotulelei of Utah, LB Chase Thomas of Stanford.
  • All-Academic: Two players were named to the first team on both the All-Pac-12 Team and the Pac-12 All-Academic Football Team--P Jeff Locke of UCLA, OL Khaled Holmes, USC. In addition, OL Kevin Danser of Stanford, DL Ben Gardner of Stanford and Michael Clay of Oregon were named second-team All-Academic and second-team All-Pac-12.
Tags:

Datone Jones, USC Trojans, Washington State Cougars, Oregon State Beavers, Washington Huskies, UCLA Bruins, Alex Debniak, Johnathan Franklin, Jeff Locke, Arizona State Sun Devils, Joseph Fauria, Matt Barkley, California Bears, Jeff baca, Kenjon Barner, Usua Amanam, Markus Wheaton, Keelan Johnson, Stanford Cardinal, Jordan Poyer, Damien Thigpen, Utah Utes, Will Sutton, Stepfan Taylor, Colorado Buffaloes, Wes Horton, Dion Jordan, Matt Scott, Arizona Wildcats, Brandon Magee, Oregon Ducks, Xavier Su\'a-Filo, Travis Long, Josh Hill, Justin Glenn, Desmond Trufant, Vince D'Amato, Daniel Simmons, Chase Thomas, Deveron Carr, Shayne Skov, Evan Finkenberg, Isaac Remington, Dan Buckner, Sean Parker, Cassius Marsh, Robert Woods, Xavier Grimble, George Uko, Nickell Robey, Hayes Pullard, Keenan Allen, Taylor Kelly, Chris McCain, Hroniss Grasu, Josh Huff, Eric Kendricks, Xavier Cooper, T.J. McDonald, Jake Fischer, Anthony Barr, Taylor Hart, Kiko Alonso, Osahon Irabor, Brian Schwenke, Steve Williams, Terrance Mitchell, Drew Schaefer, Michael Clay, Ryan Hewitt, Jordan Jenkins, Levine Toilolo, Chris Coyle, DeAnthony Thomas, Andrew Abbott, Kyle Quinn, Brett Hundley, Jake Fisher, Zach Ertz, Terrence Stephens, Terrence Brown, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Kasen Williams, Jordan Richards, Shaq Evans, Deone Bucannon, Tony Burnett, David Shaw, Bishop Sankey, Danny Shelton, Marqise Lee, Kevin Danser, Rashad Ross, Sam Schwartzstein, David Yankey, Drew Terrell, John White IV, Dion Bailey, Austin Hill, Star Lotulelei, Brian Blechen, Jake Murphy, Alex Carter, Alden Darby, Joe Kruger, Reggie Dunn, Trevor Romaine, Colt Lyerla, Isaac Seumalo, Tevita Stevens, Andrew Furney, Andre Heidari, Sean Sellwood, Josh Hubner, Kyle Negrete, Henry Anderson, Scott Crichton, Rashaad Reynolds, Ka'Deem Carey, Shaq Thompson, D.J. Foster, Brendan Bigelow, Ben Gardner, Trevor Reilly, Darragh O'Neill, Andrew Hudson, Ty Montgomery, Max Tuerk, Cameron Fleming, Trent Murphy, Sam Brenner, Kevin Hogan, Eric Rowe, David Bakhtiari, Marcus Mariota, Yuri Wright, Kenneth Crawley, Leonard Williams, Grant Enger, Brandin Cooks, Jared Tevis, Travis Feeney, Avery Sebastian, John Martinez, Ed Reynolds, Daniel Munyer, Elliott Bosch, Morgan Breslin, Darryl Monroe, Marion Grice, John Timu, Carl Bradford, Nate Fakahafua, Silas Redd, Jeremiah Poutasi, Nick Kasa, Jake Brendel, Christian Powell, Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Brett Bartolone, Teondray Caldwell, Andrew Seumalo, Daniel Zychlinski, David Allen, Jaxon Hood, Alex Lewis, Marques Moseley, Will Perciak, Wade Keliikippi, Cyrus Coen

Pac-12 All-Academic team

November, 20, 2012
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The Pac-12 conference has announced its 2012 All-Academic team. To be eligible, the player must have a minimum 3.0 overall grade-point average and be either a starter or significant contributor.

FIRST TEAM OFFENSE

QB Connor Wood, Colorado, So., 3.55, Finance
RB Jared Baker, Arizona, RS, Fr., 3.56, Undeclared
RB Patrick Skov, Stanford, So., 3.41, Undeclared
WR Andrei Lintz, Washington State, RS Sr., 3.72, Sport Management
WR Luke Matthews, Utah (2), Sr., 3.69, Mass Communication
TE Koa Ka'ai, Oregon, RS Fr., 3.94, History
OL Chris Adcock, California, So., 3.57, Business Administration
OL Jake Brendel, UCLA, RS Fr., 3.60, Math/Applied Science
OL Khaled Holmes, USC , Sr., 3.31, Communication
OL Tevita Stevens, Utah (2) , Sr., 3.54, Spanish
OL Matt Summers-Gavin, California, Sr., 3.27, Political Science

FIRST TEAM DEFENSE

DL Henry Anderson, Stanford, Jr., 3.43, Political Science
DL Nate Bonsu, Colorado, Jr., 3.42, International Affairs
DL Will Pericak, Colorado (2), RS Sr., 3.45, Accounting
DL Danny Shelton, Washington, So., 3.47, Anthropology
LB Dave Fagergren, Utah, Sr., 3.51, Business
LB Jake Fischer, Arizona (2) , Jr., 3.32, Marketing
LB Brandon Johnson, Arizona State, RS Jr., 3.44, Sociology
DB Brian Blechen, Utah, Jr., 3.18, Sociology
DB Jordan Richards, Stanford, So., 3.34, Undeclared
DB Eric Rowe, Utah, So., 3.54, Undeclared
DB Jared Tevis, Arizona, So., 3.25, Finance
PK John Bonano, Arizona (3), Sr., 3.93,Physiology
P Jeff Locke, UCLA (3), RS Sr., 3.70, Economics
ST Justin Gorman, Colorado RS So., 3.61, Finance
(2) Two-time first-team All-Academic selection; (3) Three-time first-team All-Academic selection

SECOND TEAM OFFENSE

QB Matt Barkley, USC, Sr., 3.21, Communication
RB Kenny Bassett, Oregon, So., 3.31, Business Administration
RB Steven Manfro, UCLA, RS Fr., 3.20, Undeclared
WR Dustin Ebner, Colorado, RS Sr., 3.47, Integrative Physiology
WR Nelson Spruce, Colorado , RS Fr., 3.73, Business
TE Michael Cooper, Arizona, So., 3.92, Pre-Business
OL Trace Biskin, Arizona, Sr., 3.29, Political Science
OL Zach Brevick, Washington State, RS Jr., 3.23, Entrepreneurship
OL Brad Cotner, Colorado, RS Fr., 3.34, Arts and Sciences
OL Kevin Danser, Stanford, Sr., 3.13, Biomechanical Engineering
OL Stephane Nembot, Colorado , RS Fr., 3.20, International Affairs

SECOND TEAM DEFENSE

DL Nate Fakahafua, Utah, So., 3.19, Undeclared
DL Ben Gardner, Stanford, Sr., 3.01, Science, Technology and Society
DL Taylor Hart, Oregon, Jr., 3.17, Sociology
DL Andrew Seumalo, Oregon State, Sr., 3.17, Finance
LB Michael Clay, Oregon, Sr., 3.10, Family and Human Services
LB V.J. Fehoko, Utah, So., 3.31, Economics
LB Travis Long, Washington State, Sr., 3.02, Management and Operations
DB Isaac Archuleta, Colorado, RS Fr., 3.09, Business
DB Tyré Ellison, California, Sr., 3.01, Social Welfare
DB Ronnie Harris, Stanford, So., 3.13, Undeclared
DB Charles Henderson, Utah, RS Fr., 3.47, Undeclared
PK William Oliver, Colorado , So., 3.66, Management
P Sean Sellwood, Utah, Sr., 3.70, Exercise and Sport Science
ST Richard Yates, Colorado, RS Fr., 3.60, Mechanical Engineering

For the list of all players who were named honorable mention, you can see the complete release from the Pac-12 conference here.

Conference names players of the week

November, 19, 2012
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The Stanford Cardinal took two-thirds of the players of the week honors for their win over Oregon. Tight end Zach Ertz was named offensive player of the week, UCLA linebacker Eric Kendricks was defensive player of the week and Stanford's Daniel Zychlinski was special teams player of the week by the conference.

From the Pac-12 release:
Ertz, a senior from Alamo, Calif., hauled in a career-high 10 receptions for 106 yards and accounted for the game-tying touchdown in final two minutes of regulation in Stanford’s 17-14 overtime victory over No. 1 Oregon. He caught four passes for 53 yards on Stanford’s final drive of the fourth quarter, capping the series with a an acrobatic 10-yard touchdown reception in the back of the end zone that helped turn the tide in Stanford’s favor. He also played a pivotal role in the Cardinal’s rushing attack, blocking for a backfield that gained 200 yards on the ground. Ertz has 58 receptions -- tied for the Conference lead among tight ends-- for 747 yards on the season. His 747 receiving yards rank second among Pac-12 tight ends.

Kendricks, a sophomore from Fresno, Calif., collected 10 tackles, including a tackle for a loss, registered a pair of takeaways and blocked a punt in a 38-28 win over USC to earn his second Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week honor. He forced a fumble in the first quarter that led to a UCLA touchdown and intercepted a pass in the fourth quarter to help the Bruins to their first win over USC since 2006. His punt block, which came after USC had narrowed the margin to 24-20 in the third quarter, led to another UCLA touchdown, extending its lead to 31-20. Kendricks has recorded 112 total tackles (66 solo) on the year, a figure that tops the Conference.

Zychlinski, a senior from Tampa, Fla., punted six times for an average 45.7 yards per attempt, including boots of 62 and 58 yards, in Stanford’s upset win over Oregon. He was instrumental in limiting Oregon’s average starting field position to its own 23-yard line, as he placed five punts in side the 20-yard line (three inside the 10) and allowed just two punt return yards on the evening. He also was the holder on a wet field for the game-winning field goal in overtime. Zychlinski averages 42.9 yards per punt this season.

Also nominated for offensive player of the week honors were quarterbacks Taylor Kelly of Arizona State, Sean Mannion of Oregon State and Keith Price of Washington, running back Johnathan Franklin of UCLA and wide receiver Austin Hill of Arizona. Also nominated on defense were defensive backs Keelan Johnson of ASU, Jordan Poyer of Oregon State and Eric Rowe of Utah, linebackers Marquis Flowers of Arizona, Michael Clay of Oregon and Shayne Skov of Stanford and defensive end Josh Shirley of Washington. Also nominated on special teams were running back Kylan Butler of Arizona and punter Jeff Locke of UCLA.
Punters are often overlooked, at least until they mess up badly and shank one. But punters play a major role in field position, which often proves crucial in a tight game.

So how do things stack up at punter in the Pac-12?

By the way, if you want to review previous position reviews, go here.

Great shape

Oregon: Jackson Rice was a finalist for the Ray Guy Award. The Ducks were No. 1 in the nation in net punting last year. Really not much else to say.

[+] EnlargeJackson Rice
Matthew Emmons/US PresswireAs a Ray Guy finalist last season, Jackson Rice had Oregon tops in the NCAA in net punting.
Arizona: Kyle Dugandzic led the Pac-12 with an average of 46 yards per punt.

Utah: Sean Sellwood was fourth in the Pac-12 with an average of 45 yards per boot. And the Utes were 12th in the nation in net punting.

UCLA: UCLA's Jeff Locke averaged 44.3 yards per punt, which ranked fifth in the conference. The Bruins were 22nd in the nation in net punting. Locke is also good on kickoffs.

Good shape

Colorado: Darragh O'Neill was solid last year with a 42.6-yard average, but he's being challenged by Zach Grossnickle.

Arizona State: While Josh Hubner only averaged 41.3 yards per punt, the Sun Devils were fifth in the conference in opponent punt returns.

USC: Kyle Negrete averaged a modest 40.1 yards per punt in 2011. The Trojans were 43rd in the nation in net punting.

We'll see

Stanford: Daniel Zychlinski was Stanford's starting punter for the first 10 games in 2010 before David Green took over. He averaged 41.7 yards in 2010.

Washington State: JC transfer Mike Bowlin will take care of punting and kickoffs. He looked good this spring.

Oregon State: Australian Tim McMullen was No. 1 on the post-spring depth chart. Hopefully he is as colorful as the departed Johnny Hekker. Keith Kostol is another possibility.

Washington: The Huskies are counting on touted incoming freshman Korey Durkee to replace Kiel Rasp.

California: The Bears are only replacing Bryan Anger, perhaps the best punter in school history. On the post-spring depth chart, incoming freshman Cole Leininger was the only punter listed.

What about Pac-12 in 2013 draft?

May, 1, 2012
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The 2012 NFL draft is over. So, naturally, let's look ahead to the 2013 draft. Will the Pac-12 recover from a miserable showing this go-around?

Maybe.

Here are the Pac-12 players on a list of the top-30 prospects from Bucky Brooks of NFL.com.

1. Matt Barkley, QB, USC
3. Robert Woods, WR, USC
11. Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
19. Dion Jordan, DE, Oregon
23. T.J. McDonald, S, USC
26. Keenan Allen, WR, California
28. Joseph Fauria, TE, UCLA

This list of the top-five prospects by position has solid Pac-12 representation.

QB: No. 1 Barkley

RB: No. 2 Kenjon Barner, Oregon

WR: No. 1 Woods, No. 2 Allen

TE: No. 2 Fauria, No. 3 Zach Ertz, Stanford

Interior line: No. 2 Khaled Holmes, USC (center)

DT: No. 2 Lotulelei

ILB: No. 4 Shayne Skov, Stanford

CB: No. 5 Jordan Poyer, Oregon State

S: No. 2 McDonald, USC

Specialists: No. 5 Jeff Locke, UCLA (punter)

Weekend rewind: Pac-12

December, 5, 2011
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Taking stock of the Pac-12 heading into the bowl season.

Team of the week: Oregon won its third consecutive Pac-12 championship with a 49-31 win over UCLA in the inaugural conference title game. The Ducks have officially become a mini-conference dynasty.

[+] EnlargeLaMichael James
Mark J. Rebilas/US PresswireThis 30-yard touchdown run by LaMichael James set the tone for Oregon against UCLA.
Biggest play: After UCLA fumbled on its first possession, Oregon faced a fourth and 1 on the Bruins 30-yard line in the first quarter. A defensive stop would have made a big statement. Instead, LaMichael James went 30-yards for a 7-0 lead. What seemed inevitable in any event seemed even more so at that moment.

Offensive standout: James, the 2010 Doak Walker Award winner and Heisman Trophy finalist, is one of the best backs in the history of the Pac-8, Pac-10 and Pac-12. And, Huskies, USC and Beavers fans, to argue the point is to be stupid.

Consider:

  • James, a junior, rushed for 219 yards on 25 carries against UCLA, giving him 1,646 on the season. He becomes the first player in conference history to rush for 1,500 or more yards three times in a career. First. In. History. That's enough, by the way. But there's more!
  • James passed former USC back Marcus Allen (4,810 from 1978-81) for third on the Pac-12’s career rushing list with 4,923 yards.
  • James tied USC’s LenDale White (2003-05) for second in conference history in career rushing touchdowns with 52. He also equaled White’s 342 career points, which is 10th in Pac-12 history.

If you want to argue, please, first insist the earth is flat. It's a more intelligent position.

Defensive standout: Oregon linebacker Michael Clay had two sacks, six tackles, a forced fumble and fumble recovery in the Ducks win against UCLA.

Special teams standout: UCLA punter Jeff Locke averaged 48.2 yards on four punts, killing two inside the Oregon 20-yard line.

Smiley face: Washington State for hiring Mike Leach. We don't use a hashtag often on the Pac-12 blog, but this gets one: #brilliant!

Frowny face: Arizona and Washington State conducted A-list coaching searches and got their man. It doesn't appear at this point Arizona State and UCLA are. We'll see who both end up with -- this frown can be turned upside down -- but it appears we're going to have an athletic director (or two) picking a third or fourth choice and then disingenuously insisting that's not the case.

Thought of the week: Getting two BCS bowl berths for a second consecutive year means each Pac-10 team will take home at least $1.2 million more over the past two years than if it had just one. And, yeah, I mean Pac-10 because Colorado and Utah don't get a BCS bowl share this year. Commissioner Larry Scott had nothing to do with Oregon and Stanford getting good, but he is the commissioner of record during those two years. Just by standing around and smiling, it seems as though Scott makes revenue appear.

Questions for the week: The Pac-12 is likely to be underdogs in five or six of its seven bowl games (spreads will be released later today). Oregon is expected to be favored against Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl and UCLA could go either way with Illinois in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. So will the conference lay an egg -- as expected in Vegas -- this bowl season or will it step up and prove the experts wrong?

What to watch in the Pac-12: Week 14

December, 1, 2011
12/01/11
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Issues to consider heading into the Pac-12 title game:

The first quarter: Does UCLA show up hungry and inspired? One plausible scenario is a flat UCLA team, demoralized by a 50-0 loss to USC and the firing of its head coach, Rick Neuheisel, doesn't show up focused and motivated. Mails it in, so to speak. And a flat effort would get the Bruins squashed by the high-powered Ducks, who are smelling roses in front of their home crowd. This one could get ugly quickly and get progressively worse. Or is the reverse true: Do the Bruins come out fiery and inspired and get to halftime with things tight? The first question to ask is how do the Bruins come out of the gate.

Bruins' running game vs. Oregon run defense: UCLA is 11th in the Pac-12 in passing offense. Quarterback Kevin Prince has passed for over 200 yards just three times this year, and just once in a win. The Bruins aren't going to win in Autzen Stadium throwing the ball for 300 yards. They must run well against an Oregon defense that is strong against the run (135.6 yards per game). Expect the Ducks to gang up on the run -- even normally, coordinator Nick Aliotti is obsessed with stopping the run first -- and dare Prince to throw. The Bruins will need to throw to keep the Ducks honest, but they are going to need to somehow win at the point of attack and establish consistency running right at Oregon. The key is early-down production, so Prince doesn't constantly face third and long, which would force him to throw against a strong Ducks pass rush.

[+] EnlargeLaMichael James
AP Photo/Paul SakumaA weak UCLA run defense could help LaMichael James make a last, definitive statement to Heisman voters.
Turnovers? Big upsets happen when the favorite decisively loses the turnover battle. But Oregon doesn't turn the ball over much. The Ducks are third in the Pac-12 in turnover margin -- plus-7 -- in large part because of just 16 giveaways, which is second fewest to Stanford's 15. UCLA is minus-2 in turnovers, and has forced just 18 this year, eighth most in the conference. It seems inconceivable that the Bruins can pull the upset -- heck, stay close -- if they don't win the turnover battle. And they likely need to be plus-2 or -3.

LaMike's last dance? Oregon running back LaMichael James has fallen off the Heisman Trophy radar, despite leading the nation in rushing and averaging a yard and a quarter more per carry than Alabama running back Trent Richardson. Go figure. While James is a junior, this is likely his last game in Autzen Stadium before he's off to the NFL. He's been dinged up, having hurt the elbows of both arms. But he's a tough guy who surely wants to go out with a bang. The Ducks' forte is running the ball and no back has done it better for Oregon than James. Is he headed for a big evening against a weak Bruins run defense?

Special teams rule: Oregon is also good on special teams, though a missed field goal cost them at the end against USC. But UCLA will need to be better on special teams to pull the upset, too. That means no missed field goals and no long kickoff or punt returns. That means punter Jeff Locke pinning the Ducks far away from the Bruins' goal line. That means a big return -- or two -- for the Bruins, giving them points or a short field. Maybe a blocked kick or punt? UCLA needs to win field position and needs to find creative ways to get -- and prevent -- points. Special teams help with all of that.

Hot and not in the Pac-12

September, 21, 2011
9/21/11
11:35
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Who's hot and who's not in the Pac-12?

Here's a random sampling.

Hot: Stanford's defense. It ranks seventh in the nation in scoring, holding foes to just nine points per game. It ranks fifth in the nation with 13 sacks. It ranks No. 2 in the nation against the run. Sophomore DE Ben Gardner leads the conference with 5.5 tackles for a loss. LB Chase Thomas is tied for first in the conference with four sacks.

Not: Washington's and UCLA's defense. The Huskies rank 108th in the nation in total defense and 107th in scoring defense. The Bruins rank in the 100s in run defense (108), scoring defense (103), total defense (100) and tackles for a loss (111).

Hot: Tedfords. California coach Jeff Tedford won his 75th game at Cal to make him the Bears' all-time winningest coach, and his son, junior receiver Quinn Tedford, caught his first career pass in the win over Presbyterian.

Not: Defensive injuries. Stanford LB Shayne Skov is done for the year due to a knee injury and Arizona State DE Junior Onyeali also is likely done for the year with a knee injury. Skov is a certain first-team All-Pac-12 linebacker, and Onyeali was a good bet for that postseason honor, too. Two great players, two great teammates, two great big drags.

Hot: Utah opportunism. The Utes forced seven turnovers, including six fumbles, in their blowout win over BYU.

Not: Arizona's running game. The Wildcats rank 116th in the nation with 55.67 yards per game.

Hot: Giorgio Tavecchio. The Cal kicker missed three of his first nine PATs but he was 9-for-9 against Presbyterian.

Not: Jaime Salazar. The Arizona kicker has lost his job after making just 1 of 4 field goals. He missed all three outside of 30 yards and also missed a PAT.

Hot: UCLA kicker/punter Jeff Locke. Locke averaged 48.8 yards on four punts against Texas and was 2-for-2 on field goals with a long of 51 yards, as he stepped in for normal kicker Kip Smith.

Not: Stanford punting. The Cardinal rank 94th in the nation in net punting at 34.75 per boot.

Hot: Oregon's run offense. The Ducks rank eighth in the nation in rushing with 261 yards per game.

Not: Oregon run defense. The Ducks rank 107th in the nation against the run (214.33 yards per game).

Hot: A dual-threat Buffalo. Colorado RB Rodney Stewart had 98 yards rushing and 93 yards receiving against Colorado State.

Not: Colorado's kickoff returns. The Buffs rank 120th -- last -- in the nation in kickoff returns (14.67 per return).
The hip flexor injury to kicker Kip Smith appears to be giving the UCLA coaching staff cause for a little bit more concern than they are letting on because on Wednesday they had men's soccer team manager Tyler Gonzalez trying out for the job.

Gonzalez, a senior who last kicked at Fullerton High school, kicked early in practice, making an extra-point attempt and a 40-yard field goal, but also had a 30-yard attempt blocked by Joe Fauria. He finished practice with a 40-yard field goal at the end of the two-minute drill, drawing a rousing ovation from the team.

"We’re just taking a look around," coach Rick Neuheisel said. "By rule we can have a couple of day tryouts."

Because Gonzalez is not an official member of the team, he was not available to talk to the media, but Neuheisel says he is a roommate of one of the football team's student assistants. He was an all-CIF soccer player in high school but has not played soccer for UCLA.

Smith, the redshirt freshman who made two field goals Saturday during UCLA's 27-17 victory over San Jose State, did not dress for practice Wednesday. He left practice Tuesday after trying one kick and complaining of tightness in his kicking leg.

Neuheisel said Smith would rest again Thursday, but that he was hopeful to have him available for Saturday's game against Texas.

"We’ll see how it responds to treatment but my expectation is that he’ll be ready to go," Neuheisel said. "I don’t know that we’ll practice tomorrow. We’ll test it out before game time, but I don’t know that we’ll do anything tomorrow."

If Smith is unable to go, it leaves punter Jeff Locke as the only other legitimate option among players on the current roster. Backup Joe Roberts is out because of a quad injury.

Locke, who also handles kickoffs, has been reluctant to add field-goal kicking to his duties. He kicked Wednesday, however, hooking an extra point wide right before making an extra point, a 30-yard field goal and a 40-yard field goal.

Ranking the Pac-12's NFL draft prospects

July, 12, 2011
7/12/11
12:30
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Mel Kiper has made two lists of top NFL prospects by positions: top seniors and and top juniors (or draft-eligible sophomores).

As for the Pac-12 prospects on his lists, it appears the conference is stronger among juniors than seniors. Of course, a lot of early-round talents don't last until their senior seasons. And the offensive talent far eclipses the defensive talent.

Here's where Pac-12 seniors rank among his top five seniors by position. (Note the lack of highly rated defensive players.)

Quarterback
No. 3 Nick Foles, Arizona

Kiper comment: "Is Foles more of a physical prototype than a QB?"

Receiver
No. 4 Juron Criner, Arizona
No. 5 Chris Owusu, Stanford

Tight end
No. 3 David Paulson, Oregon
No. 4 Coby Fleener, Stanford

Offensive guard
No. 2 Ryan Miller, Colorado

Kiper comment: Miller could be the second top-OL guy from Colorado in as many years, following Nate Solder.

Center
No. 4 Garth Gerhart, Arizona State

Safeties
No. 5 Lance Mitchell, Oregon State

Punter
No. 1 Bryan Anger, California

And here's Kiper's take on Pac-12 juniors (and draft eligible sophomores).

Quarterback
No. 1 Andrew Luck, Stanford
No. 2 Matt Barkley, USC

Kiper comment: Amazing that, in terms of eligibility, Luck is still a junior. He'll command the most attention, for sure. Even with a new coach, he will be a front-runner for No. 1 in the 2012 NFL draft from August onward. Barkley has had two solid seasons at USC -- and this while thrown into a pretty tough situation.

Running back
No. 3 LaMichael James, Oregon

Fullback
No. 5 Taimi Tutogi, Arizona

Offensive tackle
No. 1 Matt Kalil, USC
No. 2 Jonathan Martin, Stanford

Kiper comment: Kalil has been a guy pro scouts have known since he arrived at Southern Cal. He has the bloodlines, the frame and the footwork to be a future left tackle in the NFL. Nobody will be under a bigger spotlight at the position this year than Martin, who protects the blind side of Andrew Luck.

Offensive guard
No. 1 David DeCastro, Stanford

Kiper comment: Stanford has a wealth of talent on the offensive line, and the departure of Jim Harbaugh shouldn't diminish what they're able to accomplish. When it comes to the running game, watch DeCastro, who will maul on the interior.

Linebacker
No. 1 Vontaze Burfict, Arizona State

Kiper comment: There are some scary hitters on this list, starting with Burfict, who was most productive against ASU's toughest competition last season. The guy was a force, quite literally, the moment he stepped on campus. Imagine if he'd stayed with USC.

Outside linebacker
No. 2 Chase Thomas, Stanford

Cornerback
No. 2 Cliff Harris, Oregon

Safety
No. 4 T.J. McDonald, USC

Punter
No. 1 Jeff Locke, UCLA

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