Pac-12: Kasen Williams

You remember the three-headed monster, right? It's about returning production that will scare -- terrify! --opponents. Or not.

On offense, it's elite combinations at quarterback, running back and receiver.

On defense, it's elite combinations of a leading tackler, a leader in sacks and leader in interceptions.

This year, we're breaking things down by division.

We looked at the South Division offensive three-headed monsters on Monday. On Tuesday, we’ll take a look at the North Division offense.

Only Cal and Washington State return their three-headed leaders from last season. The other four teams have all had a change of some kind. And there are some big question marks surrounding a couple of schools -- especially the one in Seattle.

Let’s take a look:

1. Oregon

QB Marcus Mariota, RB Byron Marshall, WR, Bralon Addison

The skinny: Heisman candidate + rising star + explosive playmaker = nasty. Though losing Josh Huff and De’Anthony Thomas, the Oregon offense should be explosive once again. Mariota led the nation in adjusted QBR last season to go with 31 passing touchdowns to just four interceptions. Marshall is a returning 1,000-yard rusher with 14 touchdowns last season, and Addison hauled in nine scores.

2. Stanford

QB Kevin Hogan, RB ?, WR Ty Montgomery

The skinny: The Cardinal get the No. 2 spot here based on experience at quarterback and the fact Montgomery is returning after a second-team all-league year. And whoever the “regular” running back is, be it Kelsey Young (the leading returner in yards), Ricky Seale, Barry Sanders or Remound Wright, he will be running behind a stellar offensive line. Worth noting that Hogan and Montgomery had more rushing yards last year than any of the listed running backs. But Stanford's success running the football leads the Pac-12 blog to give it the benefit of the doubt.

3. Oregon State

QB Sean Mannion, RB Terron Ward, WR Richard Mullaney

The skinny: Though the Beavers lose Brandin Cooks, Mannion has the potential to be one of the top quarterbacks in the country after throwing 37 touchdowns last year. Storm Woods had more carries and touchdowns, but Ward had more yards, so they’ll likely work in unison, again. Mullaney had 52 catches last season.

4. Washington State

QB Connor Halliday, RB Marcus Mason, WR Gabe Marks

The skinny: WSU gets the edge in the rankings over Washington (for now) because there are still a lot of question marks around the Huskies. Halliday tossed 34 touchdowns last year and threw for nearly 4,600 yards. Marks has blossomed into a bona fide playmaker and should be in the mix for all-conference honors. The Cougars don’t do much in the way of running the football. But when they did last year, Mason totaled 429 yards on 87 carries.

5. Washington

QB?, RB Jesse Callier, WR, Jaydon Mickens

The skinny: Washington is one of those programs that could end up in one of the top two spots by the end of the season. But for now, there is too much unknown. The status of QB Cyler Miles is still up in the air. Callier has the most returning attempts (one more than Dwayne Washington and five more than Deontae Cooper) and the Huskies expect Kasen Williams back by the fall at receiver. Mickens caught 65 balls and five touchdowns last year and the aforementioned RB trio combined for 10 touchdowns.

6. California

QB Jared Goff, RB Khalfani Muhammad, WR Bryce Treggs

The skinny: There is a lot of potential in this group. The Bears just need that potential to translate into points on the field. Goff threw for 3,508 yards in his debut season, and Treggs caught 77 of his passes. Though just one for a touchdown (Chris Harper and Kenny Lawler each caught five). Though the departed Brendan Bigelow had more carries, Muhammad outperformed him with more yards and touchdowns.

Mailbag: QBs, Heisman, dominant teams

October, 25, 2013
10/25/13
5:30
PM ET
Nine out of 10 doctors recommend the Friday mailbag. The 10th is a loquacious colon and rectal surgeon, so to be honest we don't really care if he hangs out here or not.

Follow the Pac-12 blog on Twitter.

To the notes.

Swede from Tucson, Ariz., writes: I'm wondering if the one-game suspension and the two early byes for Arizona destroyed any discussion of Ka'deem Carey's efforts as being a Heisman candidate. He's 1-2 games behind most other RBs at this point, yet still 11th in the country in total yards (and averaging 160 yds/game - best in the country). If that pace can be sustained for the remainder of the season, it's entirely possible he will have the most yards gained (again). What is it that is keeping him from even being considered in the Heisman discussion?

Ted Miller: Carey's case has been hurt by the reasons you mention, as well as Arizona losing two games. You'll notice that the top Heisman candidates almost exclusively play for highly ranked teams.

But Carey could get back in the race, particularly if Florida State and Oregon falter with their previously perfect QBs posting poor performances.

Regardless, I think Carey could enter the discussion if he posts big numbers and leads the Wildcats to three consecutive victories, which would include a win over Pac-12 South Division rival UCLA on Nov. 9.

If Carey still led the nation in rushing and the Wildcats were 7-2 and nationally ranked, he'd start to raise eyebrows.

To really extend this, if the Wildcats end up winning the South Division and he leads the nation in rushing at the end of the regular season, the odds would get better for him to get an invitation to New York.

Carey needs a lot to happen to get into the discussion, including for other top guys to slip. But it's far from inconceivable.

In my mind, he's the best running back in the country.


Koosh from New York writes: There are so many cliches when referring to two quarterback systems "two quarterbacks means you don't have ONE quarterback", etc. But I find that it is mostly about confidence. See Jim Harbaugh at Stanford and at the Niners. As a former quarterback, he knew that a confident quarterback was a winning quarterback and spoke effusively about both of them at every chance he got. Which brings me to my question, even though [Jared Goff] has had some turnovers, Sonny Dykes has created a quarterback controversy at Cal where the ONLY thing going for them this season was that their freshman phenom was putting up video game-like numbers. Why put that kind of doubt into an 18 year old's head? For the first 3 games, I thought our offense could win almost any game for us. Since [Zach Kline] has gotten into the mix, my optimism has waned considerably and I don't think it is a coincidence.

Ted Miller: It's a tough situation at Cal, and Sonny Dykes is looking for answers. One of them might be changing quarterbacks.

Will that hurt Goff's confidence? Perhaps. It would be understandable if it did. But the sort of QB who's going to lead Cal out of the Pac-12 basement would use a demotion as motivation to get better. You cannot underestimate how important resolve and mental toughness is in football, particularly at a highly scrutinized position like quarterback.

If Goff pouts or becomes gun-shy and obsessed with making mistakes and loses his confidence, he's probably not the right guy to lead Dykes' offense. My impression of Goff is he won't do any of those things. He'll just focus on what went wrong and try to get better.

The simple fact is Goff's performance slipped once the Pac-12 schedule started. As Jon Wilner pointed out:
Goff in [3] non-conference games: 7 TDs, 4 INTs

Goff in [4] conference games: 2 TDs, 3 INTs.

Is Kline the answer? No idea. But the preseason competition was close enough that Kline probably deserves a shot, particularly with things going as poorly as they are on both sides of the ball.

Of course, a coach has to know his players. It's in his best interest to know who needs his confidence consistently massaged and who responds better to tough love. It's a fine line. My feeling is that a coach can provide the unvarnished truth to a player in one-on-one meetings, but should spare the rod when talking to the media.

I haven't read any quotes from Dykes that seemed to throw Goff under the bus.


Matt from Washington, D.C. writes: What are your thoughts on UW's up-tempo offense thus far? I understand that this is where much of college football is headed, but at some point shouldn't UW play to its strengths, especially at receiver? (i.e. getting the ball to ASJ and Kasen Williams more) I feel like I've seen enough screen plays to Mickens and Kevin Smith to last all season.

Ted Miller: The biggest problem with Washington's offense isn't growing pains due to the new up-tempo style, it's Keith Price's thumb.

Pick up a football and throw it. Now imagine your thumb is working at about 50 percent. Not good.

The Huskies had a horrific performance at Arizona State, but otherwise the offense has been good, including the losses to Stanford and Oregon, which have the two best defenses in the Pac-12.

I think the chief issue in Tempe was Price's thumb. It will be interesting to see how well he throws against Cal on Saturday. I'm sure Price and coach Steve Sarkisian are both looking forward to the bye next week before playing host to Colorado.

But I do hear you: There is something to be said for targeting Kasen Williams and Austin Seferian-Jenkins more. Based on what Sarkisian has said of late, I think he agrees with you.


Eric from Somerset, Colo., writes: You guys are morons! I kid. I kid, because I love. Yes, AZ looks to be the better team against my Buffs. But! IF CU can put together a complete game - they've shown solid spurts in all phases at times this year, which has been lacking for a while - give Sefo some time, get Adkins and Powell going. Have Gillam stalk Carey the entire game, since it's at home, with a black-out (for cancer) at homecoming, there may be a little MikeMac Magic in the air, and they steal a win. If so? Is it a fluke, or do you guys see them pulling off two more wins and getting bowl eligible for the first time in nearly an eternity? Oh...we all remember the glory days (at least those of us over 40, who were there). Go Buffs!

Ted Miller: The Buffs need three more wins to become bowl eligible, so I rate that as a long shot, particularly with the schedule ahead -- six consecutive games with no bye, including three on the road.

As for your specific take on the meeting against Arizona on Saturday... maybe. Stranger things have happened. If the Buffs can slow down Carey and force B.J. Denker to throw, that might invite trouble for the Wildcats, though Denker has been passing much better of late. Further, the greatly improved Wildcats defense might be missing two key pieces: spur LB Tra'Mayne Bondurant, who is out, and bandit safety Jared Tevis, who is highly questionable.

Still, I've got the Wildcats winning decisively, as does Kevin. There's a reason Arizona is favored by nearly two touchdowns on the road.

There is no question Colorado is vastly improved. Yet I'd rate the chances 50-50 whether the Buffs can get two more wins down the home stretch of the season and finish 5-7. The most favorable opportunity to pick up win No. 4 is on Nov. 16, at home against struggling California. Otherwise, each of the other five foes at present own winning records, so the Buffs will have to post an upset as a likely big underdog.

The Buffs are young and they are playing hard under Mike MacIntyre. There is reason for optimism for the future. Even a 4-8 finish would represent a significant step forward from the woeful 1-11 performance last year.


Wat from Parts Unknown writes: The claim that Oregon has been the most consistently dominant team in the country is a strange one. FSU has won games 41-13, 62-7, 54-6, 48-34, 63-0 and 51-14. Baylor has won games 69-3, 70-13, 70-7, 73-42, 35-25, 71-7. Neither of those are far removed from Oregon's 66-3, 59-10, 59-14, 55-16, 57-16, 45-24 and 62-38. Other than some attempt to parse the relative merits of 4-3 Washington, 3-3 Boston College and 2-4 Kansas State, that is a pretty equal rate of dominance. Especially considering that ASU had a larger margin of victory over UW than UO did. You guys on the west coast might not want to acknowledge it, but Baylor is the #1 offensive team in the country (in points and yards and by a large margin) and FSU has the largest scoring margin in the country. Further, FSU has the most impressive wins of the 3, over 5-2 Maryland and 6-1 Clemson. It is fine to prefer Oregon over FSU and Baylor, but don't base it on false claims of "most explosive", "most weapons", "fastest", "best offense", "best scheme" etc. because all of those are factually false based on actual numbers and statistics against similar opposition. Instead, go with something that is actually true, such as how Oregon has earned it by finishing in the top 10 every year since 2008 and winning 2 consecutive BCS bowls. But when you do, don't complain about the SEC pulling the same "track record" argument also. But don't complain about the SEC's unquantifiable and sometimes demonstrably false "toughest, deepest conference/best defenses/best up front" propaganda while trying to contrive nonsense to artificially elevate Oregon over FSU and Baylor.

Ted Miller: The Pac-12 blog appreciates your note and the effort it took. For that reason, we are not going to go item by item and point out how you cherry-picked several things, such has Florida State's scoring margin being all of 0.6 points higher than Oregon's, or not accounting for the differences between playing at home and on the road. Or that Baylor is eliminated from the "consistently dominant" argument by winning only by 10 at Kansas State, where it trailed entering the fourth quarter.

Further, we won't tweak the idea of including Maryland, which just lost by 24 points at Wake Forest, as an "impressive" win.

(Would you pick Maryland over Tennessee? Of course you wouldn't. Or, for that matter, would you pick Boston College or Kansas State to beat Washington, which has whipped Boise State, Illinois and Arizona? Of course you wouldn't).

I continue to think that Oregon has the "most explosive", "most weapons", "fastest", "best offense", "best scheme" based on what I've seen this season, and I'm far from alone on that. There is a reason both polls have Oregon ranked No. 2 behind Alabama and the Ducks are getting the second-most No. 1 votes.

All that said, there is no question the most impressive performance so far this year by any team was Florida State's dominant win at Clemson.

Could you make an argument that FSU has been just as "consistently" dominant as Oregon? Absolutely.

Could you make a sound argument that FSU deserves to be ranked No. 1? Sure.

But I also think the assertion that Oregon has been the most consistently dominant team this year doesn't quite reach the realm of strange.

Strange would be claiming that Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota is so detail-oriented that he couldn't stand the idea of trash falling in between a trash can and its plastic liner in a hotel meeting room so he got on his hands and knees and fixed the liner and replaced the trash in the bag.

Oh... wait. That's true.


Jeff from Eugene, Ore., wrties: If you were lucky enough to be me, would you rather go to College GameDay or sleep in.

Ted Miller: That you even ask this makes me question whether this is the real Jeff from Eugene.

Everybody knows that if you sleep in and miss GameDay when it's on your campus, Corso will haunt you dreams, playing the role of Jacob Marley, and give you the full-on Ebenezer Scrooge treatment.

Three ghosts of College Football -- past (Knute Rockne), present (Nick Saban... eeeek!) and future (Scott Frost) -- and lots of traumatic experiences later, and you will see the error of your ways and never contemplate missing GameDay again.

You. Have. Been. Warned! Potential Impostor Jeff From Eugene!

Washington season preview

August, 7, 2013
8/07/13
10:30
AM ET
We continue our day-by-day snapshots of each Pac-12 team heading into the 2013 season in reverse alphabetical order with the Washington Huskies.

Washington

Coach: Steve Sarkisian (26-25 overall, 19-17 Pac-12)

2012 record: 7-6, 5-4 (Fourth in North Division)

Key losses: CB Desmond Trufant, DB Justin Glenn, DE Talia Crichton, C Drew Schaefer,

[+] EnlargeKeith Price
Steven Bisig/US PresswireTrigger-man Keith Price is the key to the Husky offense.
Key returnees: QB Keith Price, RB Bishop Sankey, WR Kasen Williams, TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, DB Sean Parker, LB John Timu, DE Josh Shirley, LB Shaq Thompson.

Newcomer to watch: WR Damore'ea Stringfellow is the highest-rated player in a strong incoming freshman class at receiver, a position where there should be opportunities for young players to see action.

Biggest games in 2013: After three consecutive 7-6 seasons playing in the rugged Pac-12 North, the Huskies are trying to take a step forward this fall as they open renovated Husky Stadium. So the season opener against Boise State takes on huge significance. A win provides momentum and hope. A loss casts doubt on the season.

Biggest question mark heading into 2013: The parts are here for the Huskies to move into the top 25. But that chiefly hinges on quarterback Keith Price getting back to his 2011 form after a poor-to-middling 2012 season.

Forecast: Sarkisian rebuilt a program that went winless in 2008, but now Huskies fans want more. They want to move up in the Pac-12 pecking order and become nationally relevant again.

As noted, Price is the key. He needs to protect the football in terms of interceptions and fumbles. If he does that, and he becomes the calm and efficient leader who ranked seventh in the nation in passing efficiency in 2011, the Huskies should thrive because they have talent on both sides of the ball.

The offense will be led by Sankey, Williams and Seferian-Jenkins. That's as good a troika of weapons as any team in the conference. The offensive line, beaten up last year, should be far more stout, particularly if a couple of players who were injured come back at 100 percent.

As for the defense, it starts with Shaq Thompson leading a speedy crew of linebackers who are a match for any team in the conference not playing in Palo Alto. The defensive line needs to be more stout against the run, and the ends need to get more pressure on the quarterback, but the biggest question is replacing Trufant, an NFL first-round draft pick.

If things go according to plan, the Huskies could be 4-0 and ranked when they hit a rugged midseason stretch: at Stanford, Oregon and at Arizona State. If they can manage to win two of those three -- Huskies fans really, really want to beat the Ducks -- it could become a special season.

But lose the opener and falter against the Pac-12's best at midseason, and folks in Seattle might be grumbling about Sarkisian by season's end.
Man is the only creature that consumes without producing. He does not give milk, he does not lay eggs, he is too weak to pull the plough, he cannot run fast enough to catch rabbits. Yet he is lord of all animals. He sets them to work, he gives back to them the bare minimum that will prevent them from starving, and the rest he keeps for himself.

Video: Washington coach Steve Sarkisian

July, 29, 2013
7/29/13
5:30
PM ET

Washington coach Steve Sarkisian discusses his expectations for the season and for QB Keith Price. He also addresses the offseason legal issues facing WR Kasen Williams and TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins.
Receiver is not as strong a position in the Pac-12 as it was last year, but it's still pretty darn good, with Belitnikof Award winner Marqise Lee back and Oregon State's Brandin Cooks being a potential All-American.

And if Arizona didn't lose Austin Hill to a knee injury this spring, three 1,000-yard receivers would be back.

So how do things stack up?

GREAT SHAPE

[+] EnlargeNelson Agholor
Jonathan Moore/Getty ImagesReceiver Nelson Agholor proved last season that he can be a deep threat for USC.
USC: Lee is the nation's best receiver. Sophomore Nelson Agholor averaged 17.9 yards per catch last year. Just like last year when Lee was paired with Robert Woods, this might become the best combo in the country, though, of course, Woods was far more proven than Agholor. The depth is questionable but, at least based on recruiting rankings, it is talented.

Oregon: While De'Anthony Thomas is officially a running back, you can't help but allow him to toss some fairy dust here. Further, Josh Huff seemed to take a step forward from being a pure athlete to a legit receiver last year, and up-and-comer Bralon Addison as well as Daryle Hawkins and Keanon Lowe are back. It's worth noting the top six pass-catchers overall are returning.

Washington: Kasen Williams is the headliner after catching 77 passes last year. He's big and fast. The next two leading wideouts, Jaydon Mickens and DiAndre Campbell, also are back. Like the Ducks, the Huskies' top six pass-catchers, which includes a TE and RB you might have heard of, are back. Washington and Oregon fans will delight in knowing that I switched these two at the last minute, when I decided you couldn't completely ignore Thomas as a receiver.

Washington State: While there's no Marquess Wilson among the returning guys, this is a deep crew: Brett Bartolone, Gabe Marks, Dominique Williams, Isiah Myers, Bobby Ratliff and Kristoff Williams caught between 53 and 22 passes last year. Phil Steele ranked the Cougars 28th in the nation at this position.

Oregon State: The Beavers cling to "great shape" only because the speedy Cooks could be headed for a huge season after he caught 67 passes for 1,151 yards -- 17.2 yards per catch -- last year. There are some depth questions, though Kevin Cummings and Richard Mullaney combined for 31 receptions last year and Obum Gwacham and Micah Hatfield are back.

GOOD SHAPE

UCLA: Shaq Evans caught 60 passes for 877 yards last year, but after him the leading returning receiver is Devin Fuller, who caught just 20 passes. Still, there's young talent here, topped by Devin Lucien, Jordan Payton and Kenny Walker.

California: Sure, Keenan Allen is gone, but there's lots of young talent that saw action last year. Chris Harper was second on the 2012 Bears with 41 catches, while speedy Bryce Treggs had 21. Darius Powe and Maurice Harris also saw action, while redshirt freshman Kenny Lawler is promising. This might turn out to be a "Great shape" crew -- if there's a QB getting them the ball consistently.

Colorado: Don't laugh -- the Buffaloes are solid at receiver, particularly with Paul Richardson back after missing 2012 with a knee injury. He's an All-Pac-12 type talent, and the top two receivers from 2012, Nelson Spruce and Tyler McCulloch, are also back. Further, converted running back D.D. Goodson is intriguing. Question for Buffs is QB, not WR.

Utah: The Utes two leading wideouts in 2012 are back. Dres Anderson and Kenneth Scott combined for 69 catches last year. And they are probably better than folks think because the Utes' passing game problems started at QB, where true freshman Travis Wilson was taking his lumps most of the season. It hurts that projected starter Quinton Pedrosa was given the boot this summer for violating team rules.

Arizona: The Wildcats would have been in "Great shape" if Hill hadn't blown out his knee and Tyler Slavin hadn't left the program. The issue isn't experience: Five guys return with at least 20-catch seasons. But there's a decided lack of a go-to guy. The leading returning receiver, Dave Richards, caught just 29 passes last year and ranked fourth on the team.

WE'LL SEE

Stanford: Five of the top six receivers from 2012 are gone, though it's worth noting the top two didn't play receiver. While Ty Montgomery hinted at his potential in 2012, he only caught 26 passes for 213 yards with no TDs. After that, there are just names and potential based on strong spring performances: Devon Cajuste, Michael Rector, Kodi Whitfield and Kelsey Young.

Arizona State: None of the Sun Devils' top five pass catchers from 2012 are back playing receiver this fall. The position was decidedly questionable last year -- see the top three receivers being a tight end and a pair of running backs -- and it is even more so this year, in large part because it's the team's only obvious hole. Yet, great hope hangs on incoming players, most notably the touted Jaelen Strong.

You can see previous previews here:

Quarterback

Running back
The watch list for the Biletnikoff Award, presented annually to the nation's top receiver, was announced Tuesday morning. Here are the seven candidates from the Pac-12:
The most obvious omission is Washington's Kasen Williams, and here's a bet one of Washington State's receivers -- Gabe Marks? Dominique Williams? Isiah Myers? -- will get some consideration. It's also worth noting that Arizona's Austin Hill would have been on the list had he not blown out his knee during spring practices.


Washington tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins has pleaded guilty to a charge of driving under the influence stemming from his arrest after crashing his car in March, and he was sentenced Monday to 364 days in jail with 363 suspended.

So he'll serve a day in jail before fall camp begins on Aug. 5.

But the big question, at least for the Pac-12 blog's purposes, is what coach Steve Sarkisian will do now? Not only with Seferian-Jenkins but also receiver Kasen Williams, who had his own offseason legal scrape.

Sarkisian's two best weapons in the passing game appear to be due some sort of suspension, which would mean quarterback Keith Price could be severely hamstrung in the season-opener against Boise State, a likely preseason top-25 team.

[+] EnlargeAustin Seferian-Jenkins
Jesse Beals / Icon SMIWhat kind of suspension, if any, will Steve Sarkisian hand down to star tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins?
That game, of course, will be the first in remodeled Husky Stadium. It is a huge game for Sarkisian and the Huskies as they try to take a step forward after three consecutive seven-win seasons.

There isn't anyone who doesn't view that game as huge for the program -- a tone-setter for the season.

You can imagine that Sark is just a bit unhappy that his stars players, who should be barking in the locker room at teammates about not doing these stupid things that they were doing. They've screwed him and their teammates.

Where's the leadership, gents? Call a freaking cab. Heck, call Sark. I know he'd stop whatever he was doing and come pick you up in order to keep you from driving while impaired.

The Pac-12 blog is not going to get bent about underage drinking. But getting behind the wheel at any age after drinking is not a victimless, boys-will-be-boys crime, even if good luck prevails and no one else gets hurt. Putting others at risk by drinking and driving is not a minor mistake that can be addressed by a slap on the wrist.

So the easy answer for Sarkisian is to suspend these guys for one, two or three games. Last year, Stanford linebacker Shayne Skov was suspended for just one game for a DUI. That probably would satisfy the folks who expect Sarkisian to hold his players accountable. Some would say that would send a message to the Huskies as a whole about discipline and there being nonnegotiable consequences for their poor behavior. And maybe it would.

As for the win-loss column, while the opener against the Broncos would be put at risk, the Huskies should be able to handle Illinois and Idaho State without Seferian-Jenkins and Williams.

Yet there are two alternatives: 1. Sarkisian doesn't suspend either player and says punishment was internal; 2. He opts to suspend the players for Games 2 and 3 but plays them against Boise State.

He would not be the first Pac-12 coach to go wishy-washy over an off-field incident -- recall this expediency from Oregon State's Mike Riley.

In both cases, Sarkisian would get plenty of blowback, even some from the Pac-12 blog. He'd probably get more for No. 2, which would amount to an admission that winning the Boise State game mattered more than that whole "molding young men into upstanding citizens" thing.

Yet here's the reality: If the Huskies win 10 games and earn a final top-25 ranking this fall, no one will be talking about Sarkisian going soft on Williams and Seferian-Jenkins. For better or worse, winning cures just about everything in big-time sports, including college football.

Sarkisian, whether anyone at Washington would admit it or not, was hired to win football games, not teach his players tough life lessons that guide them down the path toward high character. He can try to do both -- and my personal opinion is Sarkisian legitimately cares about his players -- but winning comes first.

I remember covering the 1999 national title game between Florida State and Virginia Tech when Bobby Bowden opted to not penalize kicker Sebastian Janikowski for violating curfew. I thought Bowden was hilarious while defending himself against a media pounding, but I found myself in the minority amid much righteous indignation.

Bowden's reasoning was simple: Playing Janikowski improved his chances to win a national title. Suspending him would hurt them.

"I like him," Bowden said at the time. "Sure, it's favoritism, but we have the international rule [Janikowski was from Poland]. This isn't a democracy, and everyone doesn't have a vote. It's communism or whatever. I made the decision."

Bowden got his second national title. Any of you remember much about the Janikowski incident?

I also remember an interesting conversation with former Oregon coach Mike Bellotti after I wrote this in 2004, ripping him for allowing Richie Incognito and Rodney Woods to become Ducks. As was Bellotti's way, which is unusual among football coaches, he was measured and objective.

To paraphrase a long-ago chat, he told me he understood my take, though he disagreed with it. He and I both had a job to do. His was winning football games and dealing with guys like me. And it's notable that the second-chance worked out for Woods (and Incognito lasted just a week with the Ducks).

Of course, decisions have ripples, and those ripples can lead to unintended consequences. Bowden and Florida State, though they played for the national title the next season, began a gradual decline that led to his awkward exit in 2009.

If Sarkisian shows leniency, it could end up loosening his grip on the locker room, where guys might believe they'll also get a pass. It could become a long-term negative for his tenure.

But is Sarkisian thinking longterm? He is under moderate pressure to produce this season or find his seat warming substantially. And he has the team to do it ... at least when you factor in having A-list guys at tight end and receiver.

It's a tough call.

But the only reason we'd still be talking about it in December is if the Huskies underachieve and fans are grousing about Sarkisian.
I work like I drink: alone, or with a monkey watching.
On Monday we looked at what each team in the Pac-12 had returning in terms of the rushing game. Here's the breakdown for the South and the North.

Tuesday, we turned our attention to the wide receivers. We're looking at returning receiving yards, returning receptions and returning receiving touchdowns. The South came first; today we look at the North.

As a reminder, here's how the teams ranked last year in passing offense:
  1. Washington State
  2. Oregon State
  3. Arizona
  4. USC
  5. UCLA
  6. Arizona State
  7. Oregon
  8. Washington
  9. California
  10. Stanford
  11. Colorado
  12. Utah

Here's what the teams in the Pac-12 North have coming back.

California
  • Receiving yards in 2012: 2,499
  • Receptions in 2012: 212
  • Receiving touchdowns in 2012: 13
  • Returning yards: 1,465
  • Returning receptions: 118
  • Returning touchdowns: 6
  • Percentage of yards returning: 58 percent
  • Percentage of catches returning: 55 percent
  • Percentage of touchdowns returning: 46 percent
  • Biggest statistical returner: Chris Harper, 544 yards, 41 catches, 2 TDs
  • Biggest statistical loss: Keenan Allen, 737 yards, 61 catches, 6 TDs
Oregon
  • Receiving yards in 2012: 2,888
  • Receptions in 2012: 250
  • Receiving touchdowns in 2012: 35
  • Returning yards: 2,376
  • Returning receptions: 204
  • Returning touchdowns: 31
  • Percentage of yards returning: 82 percent
  • Percentage of catches returning: 81 percent
  • Percentage of touchdowns returning: 88 percent
  • Biggest statistical returner: De'Anthony Thomas, 445 yards, 45 catches, 5 TDs
  • Biggest statistical loss: Kenjon Barner, 256 yards, 20 catches, 2 TDs

Fun fact: Oregon is the only team in the league (I'm not sure about the rest of college football) that returns a quarterback and an offensive linemen who return with touchdown "receptions." Jake Fisher fell on a fumble in the end zone, but because it came on a swing pass to Thomas, he gets credit for the receiving touchdown, but not the catch. And let's not forget the awesomely bizarre Bryan Bennett-to-Marcus Mariota connection.

Oregon State
  • Receiving yards in 2012: 3,992
  • Receptions in 2012: 315
  • Receiving touchdowns in 2012: 27
  • Returning yards: 2,513
  • Returning receptions: 199
  • Returning touchdowns: 13
  • Percentage of yards returning: 62 percent
  • Percentage of catches returning: 63 percent
  • Percentage of touchdowns returning: 48 percent
  • Biggest statistical returner: Brandin Cooks, 1,151 yards, 67 catches, 5 TDs
  • Biggest statistical loss: Markus Wheaton, 1,244 yards, 91 catches, 11 TDs
Stanford
  • Receiving yards in 2012: 2,802
  • Receptions in 2012: 240
  • Receiving touchdowns in 2012: 19
  • Returning yards: 490
  • Returning receptions: 57
  • Returning touchdowns: 1
  • Percentage of yards returning: 17 percent
  • Percentage of catches returning: 23 percent
  • Percentage of touchdowns returning: 5 percent
  • Biggest statistical returner: Ty Montgomery, 213 yards, 26 catches, 0 TDs
  • Biggest statistical loss: Zach Ertz, 898 yards, 69 catches, 6 TDs
Washington
  • Receiving yards in 2012: 2,767
  • Receptions in 2012: 266
  • Receiving touchdowns in 2012: 19
  • Returning yards: 2,643
  • Returning receptions: 251
  • Returning touchdowns: 17
  • Percentage of yards returning: 95 percent
  • Percentage of catches returning: 94 percent
  • Percentage of touchdowns returning: 89 percent
  • Biggest statistical returner: Kasen Williams, 878 yards, 77 catches, 6 TDs
  • Biggest statistical loss: Cody Bruns, 103 yards, 13 catches, 2 TDs
Washington State
  • Receiving yards in 2012: 3,965
  • Receptions in 2012: 363
  • Receiving touchdowns in 2012: 23
  • Returning yards: 2,791
  • Returning receptions: 275
  • Returning touchdowns: 18
  • Percentage of yards returning: 70 percent
  • Percentage of catches returning: 75 percent
  • Percentage of touchdowns returning: 78 percent
  • Biggest statistical returner: Brett Bartolone, 435 yards, 53 catches, 4 TDs
  • Biggest statistical loss: Marquess Wilson, 813 yards, 52 catches, 5 TDs

Pac-12 offenses set to rebound?

June, 10, 2013
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In 2011, UCLA ranked 10th in the Pac-12 in scoring offense with a measly 23.1 points per game. Oregon State was even worse, ranking 11th with just 21.8 ppg.

Bad offenses!

Both finished with losing records. The Bruins fired coach Rick Neuheisel. Oregon State fans were grumbling about coach Mike Riley.

Yet in 2012 both made huge improvement on offense.

Under coordinator Noel Mazzone, the Bruins ended up ranked fourth in the Pac-12 with 34.4 points per game, a dramatic 11.3 points improvement.

Oregon State, despite being undecided at quarterback much of the season, ended up fifth with 32.5 points per game, a 10.7-point improvement.

Our, er, point? Units can make major improvements from one year to the next.

So who is poised to make a big jump this fall?

Well, the first question is can we glean anything from UCLA and Oregon State?

UCLA welcomed back seven starters but was looking for a quarterback. Of course, everyone knew that QB would be Brett Hundley, a touted recruit who had hinted at his big-time potential. There were also three offensive linemen coming back, but only one would be a starter in 2012 -- Jeff Baca.

There was a certifiable star returning on offense in RB Johnathan Franklin, and none of the departed players were All-Conference guys.

Oregon State welcomed back eight starters, including QB Sean Mannion. It would get a little messy with him and Cody Vaz. There also were three starting offensive linemen coming back.

There was a certifiable star returning in WR Markus Wheaton, and none of the departed players were All-Conference guys, though James Rodgers was a strong team leader.

And so we have the bottom five offenses from 2012:


If we were a betting blog -- titter -- we'd tap the Huskies. It's not just that Price seems poised to reverse course after a disappointing 2012 season, it's that he's got 10 returning starters around him, including such stars as Seferian Jenkins, RB Bishop Sankey and receiver Kasen Williams. Not to mention the injury issues of 2012 have created eight linemen with starting experience heading into 2013.

Second would be Washington State, mostly because of coach Mike Leach's track record. It's difficult to imagine the Cougs not scoring at least in the mid-to-high 20s. And they'll probably cross the 30 threshold.

In fact, I'd expect all five of those offenses to post better numbers in 2013.

Utah expects to be much better on the offensive line, and Wilson should do well as a second-year starter working with new co-offensive coordinator Dennis Erickson. Further, the receivers along with Murphy are solid.

Colorado can't be any worse, really. New coach Mike MacIntyre created an explosive offense at San Jose State. And the return of Paul Richardson -- he missed 2012 with a knee injury -- gives the Buffs a A-list playmaker.

Cal might be the most questionable one, but new coach Sonny Dykes has produced good offenses at both Arizona and Louisiana Tech. The Bears have plenty of questions, but there's also some intriguing talent, including QB Zach Kline, receivers Bryce Treggs and Chris Harper.
We've been reviewing Pac-12 statistical leaders from 2012 who are coming back in 2013. Now it's your turn.

We've already polled you on passing and rushing, with 45 percent saying "Other" for rushing and 42 percent saying Oregon's Marcus Mariota for passing.

SportsNation

Who will lead the Pac-12 in receiving?

  •  
    40%
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    16%
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    11%
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    6%
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    27%

Discuss (Total votes: 4,919)

Now we move on to receiving.

USC's Marqise Lee is the obvious front-runner. Not only was he a unanimous All-American last year, he led the Pac-12 and ranked second in the nation with 132.4 yards receiving per game.

But he will be playing without QB Matt Barkley and WR Robert Woods, who forced defenses not to commit too many resources to Lee.

The second-leading returning receiver is Oregon State's Brandin Cooks. He ranked fifth in the conference with 88.5 yards receiving a game. He and Markus Wheaton were the conference's only tandem who both went over 1,000 yards receiving. If the Beavers get things straight at quarterback, Cooks could be in for a big year as the Beavers' go-to guy.

The No. 3 returning receiver in the conference is Washington's Kasen Williams, who could be in for a star turn as a junior. He ranked seventh in the conference with 67.5 yards receiving per game in 2012. His candidacy could hinge on whether QB Keith Price gets back on track this fall.

UCLA's Shaq Evans caught 60 passes for 877 yards last year in quarterback Brett Hundley's first year as a starter. Hundley is going to be better, and there's no RB Johnathan Franklin to share the ball with. If you're looking for a good dark horse in the race, Evans might be your man.

"Other" also is a dark horse. It could include Washington State's Gabe Marks, who likely will flourish this year as the Cougars' go-to guy in Mike Leach's "Air Raid" offense. And speaking of pass-happy offenses, that's what both California's Chris Harper and Colorado's Paul Richardson will be playing for this fall, as new coaches Sonny Dykes and Mike MacIntyre like to throw the ball around. A lot.

And you Oregon fans likely will vote "Other" to represent your certainty that a Duck will also dominate this category.

Pac-12's three-headed monsters

June, 5, 2013
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What the heck is a three-headed monster in the Pac-12? It's about returning production: Elite combinations of quarterback, running back and receiver in the conference.

The only "pure" three-headed monsters in the Pac-12 this fall are Arizona State and Washington, in that the Sun Devils and Huskies welcome back their quarterback, leading rusher and leading receiver.

Yet, even they aren't without issues. The Sun Devils probably wish they had an elite receiver leading their passing offense instead of tight end Chris Coyle. The Huskies are hoping the Keith Price in 2013 is not the Price of 2012, but of 2011.

Further, some teams are close: Oregon State has two quarterbacks coming back with extensive starting experience, leading rusher Storm Woods and an 1,000-yard receiver in Brandin Cooks.

Two teams, California and Washington State, don't welcome back their leader at any of the three positions

Ranking these isn't easy. The challenge is priority and value. What if a team is, say, outstanding at running back and receiver, but inexperienced at quarterback? How does that measure up with a team that is merely good, but also experienced at all three positions?

Further, four teams are difficult to rate because of uncertainty at at least one position: Arizona, California and USC at quarterback, and UCLA at running back.

So here's how we see things stacking up -- and, yes, we did some projecting at some positions. And, yes, you should feel free to be outraged by our lunkheaded bias against your team, which obviously should be ranked much higher.

1. Oregon
QB Marcus Mariota, RB De'Anthony Thomas, WR Josh Huff

The skinny: If you give extra weight to quarterback, the Ducks prevail. Moreover, Thomas and Huff are explosive playmakers who seem poised to step into the limelight and put up big numbers this fall. And there's also tight end Colt Lyerla.

2. Arizona State
QB Taylor Kelly, RB Marion Grice, TE/H-back Chris Coyle

The skinny: Kelly is a good start and there's depth at running back behind Grice with the capable D.J. Foster. Both Grice and Foster are good receivers, so they can be lumped in with Coyle. This offense will be outstanding if an incoming receiver can step in and stretch the field.

3. Oregon State
QB Sean Mannion/Cody Vaz, RB Storm Woods, WR Brandin Cooks

The skinny: We can make an exception for the Beavers indecision at quarterback, because we know both guys well. Woods and Cooks are a strong running back-receiver combo who will give whoever wins the quarterback job plenty to work with.

4. UCLA
QB Brett Hundley, RB Jordon James, WR Shaq Evans

The skinny: Hundley carries the Bruins here. There is uncertainty at running back, and Evans averaged just 62.9 yards receiving last season with just three TDs. But Hundley is an All-American candidate.

5. Washington
QB Keith Price, RB Bishop Sankey, WR Kasen Williams

The skinny: If Price returns to form, this troika would move up a couple of notches. Williams gets seconded by tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins.

6. Stanford
QB Kevin Hogan, RB Tyler Gaffney, WR Ty Montgomery

The skinny: Hogan was the guy in the cockpit during the Cardinal's late-season charge. Gaffney is a proven guy, despite taking a year off. And Montgomery has shown flashes of being a first-option wide-out.

7. USC
QB Max Wittek/Cody Kessler, RB Silas Redd, WR Marqise Lee

The Skinny: Whoever wins the starting quarterback job should be at least solid. Redd should hit the 1,000-yard mark. And Lee is the best guy at his position in the country. But will his numbers go down this fall without Matt Barkley?

8. Utah
QB Travis Wilson, RB Kelvin York, WR Dres Anderson

The skinny: Plenty of experience here, and the depth is solid behind York and Anderson. And don't forget underrated tight end Jake Murphy. The key element is Wilson taking a strong step forward after being thrown to the wolves as a true freshman starter.

9. Arizona
QB Jesse Scroggins, RB Ka'Deem Carey, WR David Richards

The skinny: Carey carries this one because the Wildcats are uncertain at quarterback -- it as easily could be B.J. Denker or true freshman Anu Solomon up there. Even with that fluidness at quarterback, this ranking would be much higher if leading receiver Austin Hill didn't blow out his knee this spring.

10. California
QB Zach Kline, RB Brendan Bigelow, WR Chris Harper

The skinny: Yes, we are projecting Kline wins the quarterback competition. There is great potential here, and Harper isn't the only talented young receiver who could lead the Bears. But Bigelow, as explosive as he is, needs to prove he can stay healthy and become an every-down back.

11. Washington State
QB Connor Halliday, RB Teondray Caldwell, WR Gabe Marks

The skinny: Halliday has yet to completely win over coach Mike Leach, as much of Leach's post-spring commentary was on how well redshirt freshman quarterback Austin Apodaca played. Caldwell is a quick scat back, but the Cougs had essentially zero running game last season. Marks might be poised for a breakout, and the Cougs are solid at receiver overall.

12. Colorado
QB Connor Wood, RB Christian Powell, WR Paul Richardson

The skinny: This is a better-than-you-think troika, because Richardson is among the most talented receivers in the conference. But he's coming back from a knee injury that killed his 2012 season. Powell, a 235 pounder, rushed for a respectable 691 yards last season. The linchpin is Wood: Is he ready to lead this offense? The bottom line is the Buffs can't rank higher because they were last in the Pac-12 in total and scoring offense last season.

Pac-12's 1,000-yard receivers

May, 30, 2013
5/30/13
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Gabe Marks, Marcus PetersWilliam Mancebo/Getty ImagesIn Mike Leach's offense, WSU's Gabe Marks, left, looks like a good bet to have a 1,000-yard season.
We've looked at the Pac-12's 2,500-yard passers and its 1,000-yard rushers. Now we turn to the third wheel of the skill position tricycle: 1,000-yard receivers.

The conference featured four 1,000-yard receivers last year. One is off to the NFL: Oregon State's Markus Wheaton. One is out for the season -- or at least a significant part of it -- with a knee injury: Arizona's Austin Hill. Two others are back:
That's a good start. Lee was a unanimous All-American and Cooks could push for such recognition this fall.

There's plenty of talent after them. This is hardly a down position in the conference. In fact, several teams feel pretty good about their chances to produce a 1,000-yard pass-catcher.

Arizona: The Wildcats not only lost Hill, they also are replacing quarterback Matt Scott. Moreover, their No. 2 receiver in 2012, Dan Buckner, is gone, and the No. 3 guy was running back Ka'Deem Carey. There's solid experience returning at the position, but no one player looks like the go-to guy. The Wildcats are more likely to have three guys with over 600 yards receiving than to have one with 1,000.

Arizona State: Receiver is the Sun Devils' most questionable position. At this point, the most likely guy to go over 1,000 yards is tight end Chris Coyle. But if you were to imagine who will be the Sun Devils' top wideout in 2013, a good bet is touted juco transfer Jaelen Strong.

California: Keenan Allen is gone, but the Bears have plenty of young talent at receiver, a list topped by Chris Harper and Bryce Treggs. With new coach Sonny Dykes' new high-flying spread passing offense, it's difficult to imagine the Bears don't produce a 1,000-yard receiver.

Colorado: The Buffaloes' only legitimate A-list player is receiver Paul Richardson. He'd start for just about any Pac-12 team. And, considering how much new coach Mike MacIntyre likes to throw, Richardson seems likely to hit the 1,000-yard mark if he stays healthy.

Oregon: The Ducks are expected to throw more this season for a number of reasons -- new coach, questions at running back, etc. -- but the chief reason is because quarterback Marcus Mariota is a highly capable passer. Last year, we saw flashes of what he could do. We'll see plenty more in 2013. With De'Anthony Thomas slated to be primarily a running back, expect Josh Huff to become Mariota's favorite target.

Stanford: Stanford isn't the sort of team that produces a 1,000-yard receiver, and its most likely candidates in recent years were tight ends. But if things fell a certain way, Ty Montgomery might make a run at it.

UCLA: If you were to make a list of most likely new members of the 1,000-yard club in 2013, Bruins wide receiver Shaquelle Evans would be on it. He caught 60 passes for 877 yards last year in quarterback Brett Hundley's first year as a starter. With no Johnathan Franklin at running back, the Bruins should be throwing plenty.

Utah: The Utes should be much better throwing the ball this season. For one, quarterback Travis Wilson can only be more mature after starting as a true freshman. Second, new co-offensive coordinator Dennis Erickson likes to spread defenses out and throw the ball. Dres Anderson and Kenneth Scott are a good tandem, and one or the other could make a run at 1,000 yards.

Washington: The Huskies have two legit candidates -- wide receiver Kasen Williams and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins. But Jenkins is working through a DUI arrest that has him presently suspended. Williams, who caught 77 passes for 878 yards a year ago, is a strong bet to be Keith Price's go-to guy.

Washington State: That list with likely new 1,000-yard receivers? Colorado's Richardson, UCLA's Evans and Washington's Williams would be on it. But atop the list would be Washington State's Gabe Marks. If he stays healthy, he's almost a sure thing, considering how much coach Mike Leach likes to throw the ball.
WASHINGTON HUSKIES

2012 record: 7-6
2012 conference record: 5-4 (Fourth in North Division)
Returning starters: Offense 10; Defense 8; Kicker/punter: 2

Top returners: QB Keith Price, RB Bishop Sankey, WR Kasen Williams, TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, DB Sean Parker, LB John Timu, DE Josh Shirley, LB Shaq Thompson.
Key losses: CB Desmond Trufant, DB Justin Glenn, C Drew Schaefer, FB Jonathan Amosa.

2012 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Bishop Sankey* (1,439)
Passing: Keith Price* (2,726)
Receiving: Kasen Williams* (878)
Tackles: John Timu* (91)
Sacks: Josh Shirley*; Andrew Hudson* (6.5)
Interceptions: Justin Glenn, Shaq Thompson*, Marcus Peters* (3)

Spring answers
  1. Picking up the pace: We know the Huskies spent the spring installing a new up-tempo offense. How much of it was installed and how comfortable the players are running it remains to be seen. But Steve Sarkisian has made a point that his team needs to 1) do a better job keeping up with the up-tempo offenses in the league and 2) do a better job keeping teams on their heels. This philosophical switch seems to address both since the defense has been practicing against an up-tempo offense.
  2. Starting five: Many believe this is the best team Sarkisian has had since coming to Washington. And part of that might be that he finally has a healthy offensive line with quality depth behind the starters. The group of Micah Hatchie (LT), Dexter Charles (LG), Mike Criste (C), James Atoe (RG) and Ben Riva (RT) worked as the first-team starting five all spring. And former starters Erik Kohler and Colin Tanigawa, along with experienced backup Shane Brostek, give the Huskies quantity and quality up front.
  3. Progress of Price: The breakout player of 2011 and embattled starter of 2012, Keith Price, quickly shook off whispers of a quarterback competition with a strong spring that left Sarkisian feeling good about his third-year starter. He distanced himself from would-be challengers and, if he can return to that 2011 form, could have Washington in the top 25.
Fall questions
  1. After Price: It looks like Cyler Miles has established himself as No. 2 in the quarterback hierarchy, but the battle to be Price's understudy will continue into the fall with Derrick Brown and Jeff Lindquist still in the mix. The Huskies were one of only four teams in the conference last year to have the same quarterback start every game. So Price has proven his durability. But having a clear pecking order behind the starter can be equally important.
  2. Replacing Trufant: No easy task to replace Desmond Trufant, a staple in the Washington defensive backfield who at one point started 45 straight games. Marcus Peters is all but locked in on one side, leaving Greg Ducre and Travell Dixon battling it out on the other side. Tre Watson will also be in the mix.
  3. ASJ MIA: How long will Austin Seferian-Jenkins, the Pac-12's top tight end, be out? Will he miss any games? He's been suspended indefinitely stemming from his DUI arrest and many are wondering if he'll miss at least the season opener against Boise State. Sarkisian pointed to the silver lining of the situation -- noting that his absence has allowed others at the position to get extensive work this spring. He also said Seferian-Jenkins is taking all of the proper steps to rejoin the team. There is little doubt he'll be the most dominant tight end in the league in 2013, and probably the country. The timetable for his return will be of great interest in the coming months.

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