Pac-12: Juron Criner

Pac-12's 1,000-yard receivers

June, 8, 2012
We've looked at the potential 3,000-yard passers and the 1,000-yard rushers in the Pac-12 over the last few days. But this is the conference of wide receivers -- a place for Biletnikoff's boys to run free and unabated up and down the field. So who's going to be in 2012's 1K club?

First, here's last year's 1,000-yard receivers:
With only four returning 1K receivers coming back from last season -- and two of them are on the same team -- how does that bode for the rest of the teams in the conference?

Arizona: The Wildcats lose their top three receivers from last year -- including headliner Juron Criner and his 956 receiving yards. Big boy Dan Buckner (6-foot-4, 214) returns after 42 catches and 606 yards last year, when he averaged 14.4 yards per catch. But the Wildcats will run the ball more this year. Buckner will likely improve on his numbers, but reaching 1K will be tough.

Arizona State: Another team shifting its mentality from pass first to run first, and they lose their top receiver in Robinson. Jamal Miles had 60 catches and six touchdowns last year, but only 361 yards. His yard total should go up as the No. 1 guy, but with more focus on the run game, 1,000 yards might be a stretch.

[+] EnlargeKeenan Allen
Jason O. Watson/US PresswireWith quarterback (and half-brother) Zach Maynard more comfortable, Keenan Allen could put on a show for Cal during his junior season.
Cal: Keenan Allen. Yes. Quarterback Zach Maynard reportedly had a great spring and looks more comfortable in the offense -- and Allen might be the best all-around receiver in the conference (that phrase will be written a couple of times throughout this post). The Bears will lean heavily on Allen and he'll reward them with another 1,000 yard season.

Colorado: Prior to Paul Richardson's injury, it still would have been 50-50 with a new quarterback. But without their top receiving threat it leaves relatively inexperienced players like Tyler McCulloch and Nelson Spruce in the mix. The quarterback position is still in flux and with a pretty good offensive line and a talented running back in Tony Jones, the Buffs' focus will probably be more ground-based.

Oregon: Whether De'Anthony Thomas reaches 1,000-1,000 is a debate for another day. But I like his chances of 1,000 yards receiving. He caught 46 balls for 605 yards and nine touchdowns last season. Coach Chip Kelly finds creative ways to get Thomas the ball in space and then he just takes off. He'll make the new quarterback look good and suck up receiving yards in the process. My crisp $1 bill says yes to 1K.

Oregon State: Markus Wheaton returns after catching 73 balls for 986 yards. He's an extremely gifted wide receiver who is often forgotten among the Pac-12's A-list of pass catchers. But he shouldn't be. Sean Mannion should be more steady in his second year and as Brandin Cooks develops opposite Wheaton, it should open up more opportunities. He'll break 1K this season.

Stanford: Run-first team. The top three receivers (which includes tight end Coby Fleener) are gone and the leading, returning receiver is fullback Ryan Hewitt. Even if Andrew Luck were back it would be tough. The Cardinal spread the ball around so much that it's unlikely one guy would get all the catches. Wide receiver Ty Montgomery, however, is a rising star in the conference and should have a very good season. He's Stanford's best chance at 1K.

UCLA: If the Bruins can get the quarterback spot situated and if they take to the new pass-happy offense relatively quickly, there is a good chance someone could emerge as a 1K receiver. Joseph Fauria is the strongest pass catcher, but Shaq Evans and Ricky Marvray will have plenty of chances to emerge.

USC: Yes and yes. Robert Woods and Marqise Lee are two of the best wide receivers in the country and with the quarterback they have throwing the ball, there is no reason to think both won't return as 1,000-yard receivers. This one is a no-brainer.

Utah: The Utes were dead last in the conference last year in passing offense. That's expected to change with new offensive coordinator Brian Johnson taking a more aggressive approach and quarterback Jordan Wynn staying healthy, they hope. When DeVonte Christopher did catch the ball (42 times) he made the most of it with one of the league's highest averages per catch (15.8). But running the ball is still going to be Utah's bread and butter. The numbers will improve, but a 1K receiver will be tough.

Washington: This is a tough call. Quarterback Keith Price has another year of experience, but there is so much distribution in the Huskies offense -- which includes a tight end who should see the ball at least five to seven times per game -- that there might not be a chance for one guy to separate himself. Kasen Williams and James Johnson both have big-play potential -- which might be part of the problem because they could take yards away from each other. And without Chris Polk running the ball, teams might not be as quick to send safeties down to defend the run.

Washington State: Not if, but when. Marquess Wilson, last year's yardage runner up is in a system that's tailor-made for him. Of the league's top receivers -- Allen, Woods, Lee, Wheaton -- Wilson might be the best of them all (doesn't that make for a fun debate?). There are plenty of other good receivers at Washington State. But Wilson is the guy. He'll clear 1K about the time you're recovering from your Halloween candy hangover.
There he goes. One of God's own prototypes. Some kind of high-powered mutant never even considered for mass production. Too weird to live, and too rare to die.

Biggest shoes to fill: Arizona

March, 20, 2012

Starters in, starters out. That's college football. Players' eligibility expires and they leave for the rest of their lives, whether that includes the NFL or not.

And they leave behind shoes of various sizes that need to be filled.

Our concern with this series? The biggest shoes -- in some cases Shaq-like size 23s.

We start with Arizona.

Big shoes: WR Juron Criner.

This isn't just about Criner -- the Wildcats lose a ton of production at receiver -- but the 6-foot-4, 215-pound Criner caught 209 passes and scored 32 TDs over the past four years. He's been the Wildcats go-to receiver for two years. Further, new coach Rich Rodriguez is almost completely rebuilding the receiving corps as he installs his spread-option offense. Arizona's top three receivers from 2011 are gone and that absence grows to four of the top five if you include departed running back Keola Antolin. Also, seventh-leading receiver Richard Morrison is playing QB this spring.

Stepping in: WR Dan Buckner

The first question is whether Dan Buckner can step up. The hyped, 6-foot-4 Texas transfer had a decent 2011, ranking fourth on the team with 42 receptions for 606 yards and two touchdowns, but he needs to be more consistent in order to step into Criner's shoes. There are other options, too, including 6-foot-3 sophomore Austin Hill. Or perhaps it will be Tyler Slavin or Garic Wharton? Or perhaps Rodriguez's run-first offense won't throw the ball enough for these shoes to be so critical?

Lunch links: Leach gets tough with Cougs

February, 27, 2012
Billy, this is Chad Bradford. He's a relief pitcher. He is one of the most undervalued players in baseball. His defect is that he throws funny. Nobody in the big leagues cares about him because he looks funny. This guy could be not just the best pitcher in our bullpen, but one of the most effective relief pitchers in all of baseball. This guy should cost $3 million a year. We can get him for $237,000.

Pac-12 winners and losers at NFL combine

February, 27, 2012
Some former Pac-12 players impressed. Others didn't. Here are some notes from the NFL combine.

Let's start at quarterback. And let's start at the top. While former Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III put up stunning numbers at the combine, Andrew Luck wasn't too far behind.
Griffin's rare speed dominated the headlines Sunday, but Luck was no slouch, either. At 6-4 and 234 pounds, Luck ran the fourth-fastest time of the quarterbacks with an official 4.67. He also had the top broad jump (10-4), tied for the fourth-best vertical jump (36 inches), ran the fifth-fastest short shuttle (4.28), and had the third-best time in the three-cone drill (6.80).

Those results are even more impressive when you consider that Luck is one of the biggest quarterbacks to participate in drills. They also match up with what we see on tape, confirming his deceptive agility in the pocket (shuttles), underrated running ability (40-yard dash), and explosive lower-body strength (jumps) to throw with defenders hanging from his legs.

There has been a lot of discussion about the similarities between Luck's results and those of Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton from a year ago. Newton -- who was an inch taller and 14 pounds heavier -- clearly has the edge, but Luck's results are closer than anticipated.

Luck: 6-4, 234; 4.67 in the 40, 10-4 broad, 36 vertical

Newton: 6-5, 248; 4.59, 10-6, 35.

It doesn't appear the combine went well for former Arizona quarterback Nick Foles. Wrote ESPN's John Clayton: "Based on the way things went Sunday, it looks as though Tannehill, Osweiler and Cousins are competing for the Nos. 3, 4 and 5 spots among quarterbacks. Osweiler's the wild card. He's a 6-foot-6 quarterback with mobility and a decent arm. You get the feeling that Tannehill is the one quarterback of the three who could go in the first round, but more will be determined in school workouts and how the offseason goes for quarterback acquisitions."

Some observations from's Steve Muench:
  • Arizona quarterback Nick Foles -- who is fighting for position on the board with the likes of Brandon Weeden (Oklahoma State) and Brock Osweiler (Arizona State) -- failed to stand out this morning. Unfamiliarity and a lack of timing with the receivers likely played a role, but he didn't show great foot speed in his drops and took too long to get the ball out on deeper throws.
  • Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas looked overwhelmed, especially early on. His first pass was badly underthrown and his accuracy was inconsistent throughout.
  • Arizona State wide receiver Gerell Robinson didn't perform as well as expected. He didn't make crisp breaks and he fought the ball, dropping at least two passes. Robinson also appeared to pull back on a ball that he could have gotten his hands on.
  • UCLA TE Cory Harkey didn't put up great numbers, recording a 26.5-inch vertical jump and 9-foot-1 broad jump, in addition to an unofficial 5.09-second 40-yard dash. However, Harkey projects as a situational blocking tight end, so expectations weren't high. And while he didn't always field the ball cleanly, he helped himself by catching everything thrown at him.
  • Stanford G David DeCastro and Baylor C Phillip Blake didn't shine in the edge-rush drill, but that's somewhat expected from players who line up on the interior. However, Utah OTs Tony Bergstrom and John Cullen both need to show a quicker kick step and slide more fluidly if they hope to make their living on the edge.
  • The weigh-in did not go nearly as well for Washington RB Chris Polk, who has shed nine pounds since looking sluggish at the Senior Bowl and is now 5-101D2 and 215 pounds. However, Polk doesn't look the part physically and needs a lot of work in the weight room. His body is unimpressive. Not good for a player looking to hold on to a spot on Day 2.

The Pac-12 is likely to produce the first offensive tackle and offensive guard off the board. From Todd McShay: "OT Matt Kalil (USC) and G David DeCastro used impressive workouts to cement their status as the top prospects at their respective positions."
Kalil had the second-fastest 40-yard dash (4.99 seconds), 10-yard split (1.69) and 3-cone drill of all offensive linemen, and he showed great quickness and balance in his pass sets. He was quick out of his stance, ran tight loops on pulls and showed good snap on his short punch against the bags during drills.

As for DeCastro, he was by far the most impressive interior offensive lineman during drills. He was smooth and quick, posting the best 3-cone time (7.3) since 2008, as well as the third-best short shuttle (4.56) and fifth-best broad jump (8-foot-2) among 2012 linemen. His 291D2-inch vertical jump was also well above the average for guards (261D2) over the past four combines.

Some notes:
  • Luck will have his pro day at Stanford on March 22. Foles is scheduled for March 19. And former Arizona State quarterback Brock Osweiler for March 16. Osweiler didn't work out at the combine because of a foot injury.
  • Former Stanford TE Coby Fleener, the top TE in the draft, didn't work out because of an ankle injury. He'll perform with Luck on March 22.
  • Former Oregon RB LaMichael James ran a 4.45 40-yard dash. That will help him. Former USC RB Marc Tyler ran a 4.76 40. That won't help him.
  • Former Arizona wide receiver Juron Criner and Oregon State wide receiver James Rodgers ran two of the slower 40s among the receivers -- 4.68 and 4.67. That will hurt the 5-foot-7 Rodgers much more than the 6-foot-2 Criner.
  • Former Stanford wide receiver Chris Owusu, riddled by injuries, particularly concussions, during his career, was a workout warrior, running a blazing 4.36 40 with a 4o.5-inch vertical leap.
  •'s combine tracker is pretty cool.

Combine cheat sheets!

February, 22, 2012
Who doesn't love cheat sheets? They make life so much easier. And the folks at Scouts Inc. have the complete cheat sheet breakdown for the NFL combine.

Here's their look at the offensive side of the ball and how some of the players stack up in various categories.

  • The quarterbacks are broken down by mental makeup, accuracy, release/arm strength and pocket mobility. In the accuracy category, Stanford's Andrew Luck, Arizona's Nick Foles and Arizona State's Brock Osweiler all rank favorably.
  • The running backs are broken down by competitiveness, vision/patience, agility/acceleration, power/balance and passing-game skills. Oregon's LaMichael James checks in on the agility/acceleration list and Washington's Chris Polk gets high marks in the passing game.
  • The offensive linemen are broken down by pass protection, run blocking, awareness and toughness. Scouts Inc. further breaks it down by the top three tackles, guards and centers. Not surprising to see USC tackle Matt Kalil and the Stanford pair of Jonathan Martin (tackle) and David DeCastro (guard) on most of the top threes.
  • The wide receivers are broken down by separation skills, ball skills, big-play ability and competitiveness/toughness. Not much of a Pac-12 showing in their breakdowns. Only Arizona's Juron Criner appears in the ball skills category.
  • The tight ends are broken down by separation skills, ball skills, big-play ability, competitiveness and blocking. Stanford tight end Coby Fleener ranks No. 1 or in the top three of all the categories except for blocking. Cal's Anthony Miller makes an appearance in the blocking category.

Top performances 2011: Juron Criner

February, 16, 2012
We're looking at the top individual performances in the Pac-12 in 2011.

Up next: Criner's hat trick.

Who & against whom: Arizona wide receiver Juron Criner broke loose (and all of Arizona's offense for that matter) in a wild 48-12 win at home over UCLA.

The numbers: Criner caught 10 balls for 101 yards to go with three receiving touchdowns of 4, 7 and 25 yards.

A closer look: This Thursday night game will be most remembered for the brawl. Ugly. It might also be remembered as the straw that broke Rick Neuheisel's back. But what shouldn't go unmarked is the way Arizona rallied around interim coach Tim Kish and the offensive shellacking they put on the Bruins. Criner and quarterback Nick Foles were clicking from the start. They marched the opening kickoff 80 yards before Foles found a wide-open Criner for a 4-yard score. They connected again to start the second quarter -- capping another 80-yard drive. This 7-yard score might have been Criner's best catch of the year, reaching around UCLA's Aaron Hester (who had really good coverage) to haul in the lofting ball. Then he added a 25-yard strike near the end of the first half that gave Arizona a 35-7 lead.
Winter is coming.

Pac-12 top 25 for 2011: No. 23

February, 9, 2012
Our countdown of the Pac-12's top 25 players continues.

You can see our preseason top 25 here.

23. Nickell Robey, CB, USC

2011 numbers: Robey finished with 63 total tackles, including 3.5 for a loss and two sacks. He also had two interceptions and 11 pass defenses.

Preseason ranking: Unranked.

Making the case for Robey: Robey, the Trojans' fourth leading tackler, not only earned first-team All-Pac-12 honors in 2011, he also was the only cornerback to do so (all the other first-team defenders from the secondary were safeties). It's reasonable then to presume that the sophomore was the conference's best cover corner. The USC secondary gave up just 17 TD passes last year, which was tied with two other teams for second-fewest in the conference. Robey, listed at just 5-foot-8, 165 pounds, isn't big, but he's not lacking in toughness and he's typically outplayed bigger receivers, most notably Notre Dame's Michael Floyd (6-3, 225), who caught only four passes for 28 yards against Robey and the Trojans. Robey also had a pick-6 against Stanford QB Andrew Luck, and he shut down Arizona's Juron Criner (three catches for 29 yards). Robey isn't the biggest corner in the Pac-12. But heading into 2012, he'll be considered the best.

24. Stepfan Taylor, RB, Stanford
25. David Paulson, TE, Oregon

Foles, Pac-12 receivers shine in Senior Bowl

January, 30, 2012
Pac-12 receivers caught three touchdown passes in the Senior Bowl on Saturday, a 23-13 North victory at Ladd-Peebles Stadium (40,646) in Mobile, Ala.

California's Marvin Jones caught an 8-yard scoring toss from Wisconsin's Russell Wilson in the second quarter. Arizona State's Gerell Robinson hauled in a 41-yard touchdown from Michigan State's Kirk Cousins, which gave the North a 20-6 lead. The South got an answer with Arizona quarterback Nick Foles’ 20-yard touchdown toss to his former teammate in Tucson, Juron Criner.

Foles, after a middling week of practice, had a strong showing in the game, completing 11 of 15 passes for 136 yards. Criner caught six for 77 yards. He and Boise State's Kellen Moore were the only two of the six quarterbacks in the game who didn't throw interceptions.

Robinson caught two passes for 64 yards. Washington had two players in the game. Running back Chris Polk had six carries for 19 yards, while defensive tackle Alameda Ta'amu had two tackles for a loss.

Cal's Mitchell Schwartz started at right tackle for the North.

Criner, Schwartz climbing at Senior Bowl

January, 26, 2012
Former Arizona receiver Juron Criner continues to rally at the Senior Bowl, as he has clearly boosted his stock this week.

From ESPN's Todd McShay: "Arizona WR Juron Criner has had a sneaky-strong week, showing smoothness for his size (6-2, 220) and impressive hands. Criner uses his frame effectively when shielding defenders from the ball, and his 10-4 hands were on display today on over-the-shoulder grabs and catches in traffic. He continued to help himself with another solid effort."

And then there's this from Rob Rang of CBS: "Though he certainly doesn't possess the big play speed of Arkansas' Joe Adams or Houston's Patrick Edwards, he's frankly been a more reliable target this week than either of the other two big possession receivers currently rates ahead of him -- North Carolina's Dwight Jones and Texas A&M's Jeff Fuller."

Also, it appears Criner's former quarterback, Nick Foles, was better on Day 3. From McShay: "Day 3 was a bit better for Arizona's Nick Foles, who showed better balance and accuracy. Foles is playing smart and making good decisions, though we would like to see him be a bit more aggressive. He's making a lot of safe throws, but we'd like to see him let it rip a bit more and show off his arm talent. He's doing what's asked of him within the system but little more, but there's not a lot of excitement or creativity in his game this week."

Rang liked other former Pac-12 players, including a couple from California. He's already touted former Bears wide receiver Marvin Jones, but offensive tackle Mitchell Schwartz also caught his eye:
OT Mitchell Schwartz, California: Overshadowed in the Pac-12 due to the presence of two elite prospects in USC's Matt Kalil and Stanford's Jonathan Martin, Schwartz has stood out this week due to his size (6-5, 317), long arms (33 1/8"), strength and surprising agility. He's held up well at right tackle in pass blocking drills and has done a nice job of sealing off defensive linemen in the running game and has been able to get to the second level, as well. Schwartz has been especially impressive in pass blocking drills, where he's repeatedly stoned Penn State's Jack Crawford and Virginia's Cam Johnson, among others.

Foles coming up short at Senior practices

January, 25, 2012
The Senior Bowl offers a prospect a chance to move up NFL draft charts, and many scouts and GMs are looking at the QB pecking order behind Stanford's Andrew Luck and Baylor's Robert Griffin III. That's where Arizona's Nick Foles has a chance to land.

But Foles hasn't made a big first impression at Senior Bowl practices, according to Todd McShay.
"Plenty of NFL talent evaluators I talked to entering the week named Foles as a player to watch, but he has failed to blow scouts and front-office types away. He simply hasn't shown anything over the first two days here that we haven't already seen on tape, and he's fallen short of the performance level in some of his best games from 2011.

"Foles has been a little less consistent with his accuracy, and as we've seen in the past he tends to do a lot of checking down and dumping off. That two-day practice showing alone isn't enough to change Foles' entire evaluation, but after watching things up close I've been surprised how much better [Oklahoma State's Brandon] Weeden's performance has been."

Another former Wildcat has made an impression — in good ways and bad ways — and that's Foles' top target, Juron Criner.
Arizona WR Juron Criner had a hard time creating separation and didn't show much explosiveness out of breaks, but he caught everything thrown his way. Criner was excellent on Day 2 with his ability to extend his arms and snatch balls out of the air.

Some other Pac-12 players made an impression.

From the Philadelphia Eagles Blog, two Pac-12 players moved up:
Marvin Jones/WR/Cal: Jones, 6-2, 198, was a reliable wideout all through his college career and today showed he has the skills to play at the next level. Jones ran crisp, precise routes which enabled him to get separation from defenders. He also displayed the ability to turn it on with a single step and beat defenders in the deep field. Jones caught everything thrown in his direction and has scouts believing he’ll be a solid fit as a third wide out in the NFL.

Senio Kelemete/OL/Washington: Kelemete looked like the most athletic offensive lineman on the field today and did a great job handling the left tackle spot, where he spent the day. He moves his feet well, displays terrific quickness and handled the speed rushers that lined up against him. The big question about Kelemete is whether his 6-3 ? frame will allow him to play left tackle at the next level or whether he’ll be forced to move to guard.

On the downside, there was Utah OT Tony Bergstrom and Washington RB Chris Polk:
Tony Bergstrom/OL/Utah: Bergstrom, 6-5, 315, looked outclassed on a number of snaps today and was consistently beaten by defensive tackles. He showed little in the way of balance, strength or the ability to stay on his feet.

Chris Polk/RB/Washington: Polk has been running hard on the inside yet shows no elusiveness or creativity. He gets high in his stance and on several occasions during Tuesday practice was stopped dead in his tracks by defenders and showed no ability to bounce around piles or elude would-be tacklers.

Also, Huskies DT Alameda Ta'amu didn't impress CBS draft guru Rob Rang:
The duo stood in strong contrast to Washington's Alameda Ta'amu and Boise State's Billy Winn, each of whom have been disappointments, thus far. Ta'amu is a powerful run plugger sure to intrigue 3-4 teams looking for a nose guard. His power and mass (6-2, 341) makes him a classic block-eater but his lack of any type of pass rush ability is painfully apparent during drills. If his opponent has the anchor and core flexibility to handle Ta'amu's bull rush, the big Husky can offer little else. Winn, who was used inside and out while with the Broncos, may be proving himself to be a 'tweener with a lackluster performance, thus far. He hasn't shown the agility to slip blocks nor the power to push the pocket.

But, as it's important to note, NFL beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and impressions will go up and down during the week. Consider this on Ta'amu.
Watching Washington DT Alameda Ta’amu, it’s really impressive the kind of raw power he possesses when asked to simply overwhelm opposing lineman through contact. He also has a sneaky quick set of hands when trying to shed and can keep himself clean. However, he has a tough time keeping his pad level down through contact and far too often is easy to block because of it.

As a person who has covered multiple Senior Bowls, I can tell you that impressions are complicated. You stand at practice and you can only focus on one position group at a time. You watch 10 plays here. You watch 10 plays there. The 10 plays you see with either could end up being far different than the 10 plays that follow when you move on. The same with the NFL guys you chat with. And those guys often don't want to show their cards anyway.

So the analysis you read at the end of the week rather than the beginning tends to be more complete.

Chris Polk becomes senior for Senior Bowl

January, 19, 2012
Ten Pac-12 players have been invited to the Senior Bowl, the premier postseason star game, but there's also an interesting sidenote for Washington fans.

Huskies running back Chris Polk is one of the invitees. It turns out that Polk's announcement that he would bypass his senior season and enter the draft was purely academic: Polk is actually a senior.

From the Senior Bowl press release:
Polk was extended a Senior Bowl invite after it was determined that he had exhausted his eligibility at Washington. Despite being listed as a junior, he never applied for a medical redshirt his freshman year (2008) and thus had no more eligibility remaining.

“We made sure that we followed proper protocol before we invited Chris and that entailed getting everything cleared through the NFL and Coach Sarkisian at the University of Washington,” Senior Bowl President and CEO Steve Hale said. “Once it was determined that Chris had exhausted his eligibility at Washington there was no question we wanted him on our roster. He is an excellent player and has a bright future in the National Football League.”

The 10 Pac-12 selections come from five different schools, with Washington leading the way with three.

Arizona: Juron Criner, WR; Nick Foles, QB
Arizona State: Garth Gerhart, OL; Gerell Robinson, WR
California: Mychal Kendricks, LB; Mitchell Schwartz, OL
Utah: Tony Bergstrom, OL;
Washington: Senio Kelemete, OL; Chris Polk, RB; Alameda Ta’amu, DL

The 63rd Senior Bowl is scheduled for 4 p.m. on Jan. 28 in Mobile’s Ladd-Peebles Stadium. The game and all practices will be televised live by NFL Network.

All 10 invitees were named to All-Pac-12 squads, including four first-team selections. It’s a group that includes the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year (Kendricks) and the conference’s leading passer (Foles) and receiver (Robinson).

Here's the rest of the release:
Kelemete (pronounced KEL-uh-MET-tay) started every game at left tackle for the Huskies this season, earning second-team All-Pac-12 honors in the process. He anchored an offensive line that helped pave the way for fellow Senior Bowl invitee Chris Polk to rush for more than 1,000 yards each of the last three seasons. A converted defensive lineman, Kelemete made 37 starts on offense and four on defense over the course of his career.

Polk was a first-team All-Pac-12 selection at running back this season after posting his third straight 1,000-yard rushing season. He totaled 1,488 yards on the ground in 2011, ranking third in the Pac-12 and 16th in the nation. That total was the second-highest single-season output in school history. He also scored 12 touchdowns and averaged 114.5 yards per game. He added two receiving touchdowns for a total of 16 scores on the year, fifth-most in school history for a single-season.

Polk ranks second on UW’s all-time rushing list with 4,049 yards and is only one of seven players in Pac-12 history to break the 4,000-yard mark. His 799 career carries are a school record and he’s tied for eighth in career rushing touchdowns with 26. He also holds the UW mark for most career 100-yard rushing games (21) and is one of only two Huskies to rush for more than 1,000-yards in three different seasons.

Ta’amu (pronounced tah-AH-moo) was an Honorable Mention All-Pac-12 selection for the Huskies from his defensive tackle spot this season. He recorded 30 total tackles, including eight tackles for loss and four sacks. For his career, Ta’amu made 42 starts, totaling 109 tackles, including 19 tackles for loss and nine sacks.

Juron Criner was an Honorable Mention All-Pac-12 selection this season after catching 75 passes for 956 yards and 11 touchdowns in eleven games for the Wildcats. He ranked sixth in the conference with 86.91 receiving yards per game and was eighth in total receiving yards. He had five 100-yard receiving yard games on the year and three games in which he had multiple touchdowns.

Criner is Arizona’s career record holder with 32 receiving touchdowns and is number four all-time in career receptions (209) and receiving yards (2,859). He posted 11 career 100-yard receiving games and five games with ten or more catches.

Garth Gerhart was a second-team All-Pac-12 honoree after starting all 13 games for the Sun Devils in 2011. The center was part of a unit that ranked third in the conference this year in passing offense, averaging 316.7 yards per game. He played in 39 career games at ASU, making 35 starts and is the brother of former Heisman Trophy finalist Toby Gerhart, who currently plays for the Minnesota Vikings.

Gerhart’s teammate, Gerell Robinson was an Honorable Mention All-Pac-12 selection in 2011 after posting the second-highest single-season total for receiving yards in school history. The wide out finished with 1,397 yards—tops in the conference—and totaled six 100-yard receiving games and seven touchdowns. He also set a school record for receiving yards per game (107.5) and his 77 receptions were third-most in ASU history. He closed out his career with a huge game in the Las Vegas Bowl, totaling 13 catches for 241 receiving yards.

A three-year starter for the Sun Devils, Robinson finished his career with 135 receptions for 2,071 yards and 12 touchdowns. He played in 47 career games, making 25 starts.

Cal linebacker Mychal Kendricks was named the Pat Tillman Defensive Player of the Year in the Pac-12 and was a first-team All-Pac-12 selection after leading the Bears with a career-high 106 tackles and 14.5 tackles for loss. Those totals ranked fifth and third respectively in the Pac-12 this season. He also had two interceptions, three sacks and two pass breakups on the year. A three-year starter for the Bears, Kendricks played in all 51 games possible during his career with 29 starts. He made 258 tackles, including 36.5 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks. He added seven fumble recoveries, four interceptions, five pass breakups and a forced fumble.

Mitchell Schwartz was a first-team All-Pac-12 pick in 2011 after starting all 13 games at left tackle for the Bears. He was a key member of an offensive line that helped pave the way for Isi Sofele to rack up 1,000-yards rushing this year. He started all 51 games possible during his career, including 35 at left tackle and 16 at right tackle.

Utah offensive lineman Tony Bergstrom was a first-team All-Pac-12 selection this season after leading the Utes with an 85% overall grade on his blocking assignments. The right tackle ‘won’ 546 of 639 assignments in 2011, starting all 12 games in which he played. A Salt Lake City native, Bergstrom made 38 career starts for the Utes, appearing in 48 overall.

Final: Arizona 45, Louisiana-Lafayette 37

November, 26, 2011
Arizona has some momentum as it heads into the Rich Rodriguez Era.

With their new coach on hand, the Wildcats overcame a Louisiana-Lafayette team to win 45-37, thereby ending the season with a modest two-game winning streak.

The Wildcats finish 4-8 overall.

Arizona fans also got vintage performances from quarterback Nick Foles and wide receiver Juron Criner.

Foles, who has re-written the Wildcats record book, completed 33-of-43 for 352 yards with three touchdowns and an interception, overcoming a rib injury that looked like it might knock him out of the game early in the week. Criner, his favorite target, caught nine passes for 129 yards and two scores.

Both will be gone when Rodriguez steps in, but it's fair to say that they helped get things started in a positive way for their program's new coach.

Weekend rewind: Pac-12

November, 21, 2011
Taking stock of the 12th week of games in the Pac-12.

Team of the week: USC ended Oregon's 21-game home winning streak as well as the Ducks' 19-game conference winning streak with a 38-35 victory, giving coach Lane Kiffin and QB Matt Barkley a signature victory.

[+] EnlargeMatt Barkley
Steve Dykes/Getty ImagesMatt Barkley threw four touchdown passes in USC's win over Oregon.
Best game: Unlike most weeks this season, four Pac-12 games came down to the waning moments, but the Trojans' win in Autzen Stadium was thrilling and meaningful, featuring a pair of ranked teams. The Trojans jumped ahead 38-14 but the Ducks stormed back with 21 unanswered points. The game would have gone to overtime if Ducks kicker Alejandro Maldonado hadn't missed from 37 yards on the game's final play.

Biggest play: Hey, Cougs, did Marquess Wilson score?

Washington State was inches short from beating Utah in regulation, and more than a few folks in Pullman -- including coach Paul Wulff -- believe the 6-yard pass Wilson caught in the waning moments from QB Connor Halliday was actually a 7-yard TD pass. As it was, Mo Lee's tackle stopped Wilson from getting the go-ahead TD and, after two incompletions, the Cougars settled for a tying field goal that sent the game into overtime. Utah prevailed 30-27.

This from Howie Stalwick explains the situation:
The Cougars were out of time-outs, so Wulff could not call for a review. The upstairs review official had the option to review the play. A touchdown would have given WSU the win, but Wulff wound up going for a field goal.

NCAA rules permit the reversal of on-field rulings only if evidence is abundantly clear that an error was made. Television replays were inconclusive regarding whether Wilson broke the plane of the goal line. Snow on the field complicated matters.

Wulff said a photo he observed, combined with video he watched, convinced him that Wilson scored.
Offensive standout: Barkley completed 26 of 34 passes for 323 yards with four touchdowns and one interception in the Trojans' 38-35 win at Oregon.

Defensive standout: Oregon State defensive end -- and Washington native -- Scott Crichton had two sacks, three total tackles for a loss and forced a key fourth-quarter fumble in the Beavers' 38-21 win over Washington.

Special-teams standout: Oregon's De'Anthony Thomas had a 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against USC. He also caught a 29-yard TD pass.

Smiley face: Little has gone right for Arizona this year. Heck, it fired its head coach, Mike Stoops, before the season was over. But things are a little brighter in Tucson after a 31-27 upset win at Arizona State. QB Nick Foles and WR Juron Criner -- the Wildcats' two biggest stars -- turned in strong performances and the defense did just enough to win. In a tough situation, interim head coach Tim Kish has done a good job keeping things together and giving his seniors a great memory.

Frowny face: Arizona State. The Sun Devils have lost four of five, and their three-game losing streak came against teams that have less talent and less reason to play hard. Not much to say, but I'm guessing Sun Devils fans can think of plenty.

Thought of the week: Utah plays Colorado on Friday. The Utes should beat the woeful Buffaloes and finish the regular season with a five-game winning streak and an 8-4 record. Then the Utes will watch Arizona State play host to California that night and UCLA visit USC on Saturday. If the Sun Devils and Bruins both lose, the Utes will win the South Division in their first year in the conference. And they'd deserve it more than UCLA or Arizona State, which have meandered through a year that might get both head coaches fired.

Questions for the week: Are there any upsets left? Will Stanford beat Notre Dame and earn an at-large BCS bowl berth? Or will Oregon fall to Oregon State at home and allow the Cardinal to slip into the Rose Bowl -- win or lose versus the Fighting Irish? Will UCLA whip suddenly hot USC and save Rick Neuheisel's job? What about the Apple Cup: If Washington State beats rival Washington, will that be enough to save Wulff's job? Or might Colorado rise up and end its 24-game losing streak outside its home state at Utah? Lots of intrigue for the final weekend of the regular season.