Pac-12: Keelan Johnson
Either way, there are plenty of players in the Pac-12 with something to prove in 2013. Yesterday we looked at six players from the North. Here are six players with something to prove from the Pac-12 South. This is last year's Proving Grounds post for the South. (The Pac-12 blog fully expects Will Sutton to thank us in his Heisman acceptance speech after that post motivated him last year).
Terrence Miller, WR, Arizona: Injury and attrition have eaten away at what could have been considered the top wide-receiver corps in the Pac-12 coming into 2013. But Austin Hill's injury and Tyler Slavin's unscheduled departure leaves a void that wasn't accounted for. Enter Miller, a fifth-year senior who has the experience to put the unit on his back and lead. He might even see some time at tight end and try to take advantage of mismatches. There are others who could step up. And others probably will. After all, Arizona's offense lends itself to productive wide-receiver play. But in times of uncertainty -- and there is a lot more uncertainty with this group than there was five months ago -- you look to veterans. And Miller is a veteran.
Alden Darby, S, Arizona State: It's easy to get caught up in talking about what Arizona State has coming back on defense with Will Sutton and Carl Bradford. But let's not forget that the Sun Devils lose Brandon Magee and Keelan Johnson. Not only were they the team's two leading tacklers last year, but they were also the verbal and emotional leaders of the defense. Sutton is a lead-by-example guy, so the Sun Devils need a voice for the defense. That falls on Darby -- and ASU coaches have said that he has embraced the role. Darby was second-team all-conference last year, so the skills are there. But Arizona State faces an extremely challenging schedule in 2013 -- especially early on -- so leadership will be paramount, and the players will be looking to Darby to bring it to them.
Shaq Evans, WR, UCLA: Tough to say the Bruins' leading receiver from last season has something to prove. And maybe that's the wrong choice of words. But without question, UCLA needs bigger things out of him. As quarterback Brett Hundley enters his second season as a starter, he's not going to have the security blanket in the run game that he did with Johnathan Franklin. Nor will he have the towering red zone target that he did in Joseph Fauria. Evans caught 60 balls for 877 yards last year. Very solid numbers. But of Hundley's 29 touchdown passes last year, only three went to Evans. Evans was a good wide receiver who last season showed that he could stretch the field -- as evidenced by his 14.6 yards per catch. But in this offense, with this quarterback, Evans has a chance to elevate himself into the class of the Pac-12's elite pass-catchers.
Silas Redd, RB, USC: From 1972-1981, USC posted a 1,000-yard rusher every season. Charles White and Marcus Allen were 2,000-yard rushers. Since 1981, only 11 Trojans have eclipsed 1,000 yards. Redd could be -- should be -- the next guy to do it. With the offense flowing mostly through Marqise Lee and Robert Woods last season, USC was seventh in the Pac-12 in rushing offense with 1,958 yards. But the Trojans were 11th in rushing touchdowns, better only than Washington State. Probably not by coincidence, they were 11th in red zone offense and ninth in third-down conversions. Coach Lane Kiffin was pinned as being too predictable as a playcaller last season. If Redd is let loose, 1,000 yards is very attainable. He did it in 2011, rushing for 1,241 yards while at Penn State. He's a hard-nosed back who averaged more than 5 yards per carry in seven games last year. Give him 250 carries, he'll give you 1,000 yards and open up a world of opportunities for Lee, Nelson Agholor and the tight-end combo of Xavier Grimble and Randall Telfer.
Kelvin York, RB, Utah: It's no easy task to replace John White, the school's all-time leading rusher. But for new co-coordinator Dennis Erickson's spread offense to take flight, there has to be the ever-present threat of a running game. And the pressure will be on York to keep safeties honest. At 5-foot-11, 220 pounds, he has the kind of frame to be a bruising back in this league. Think of how Erickson used Cameron Marshall -- who had a similar build -- at Arizona State. In 2012, York's first season at Utah, he saw 10 or more carries in only four games, finishing the year with 60 carries for 273 yards (4.6 average) and three touchdowns. With White out of the picture, York's workload will increase significantly. And if Utah wants to make gains offensively, its best hope is that York is able to take some of the pressure off of Travis Wilson, who will begin his first season as a full-time starting quarterback.
2012 record: 8-5
2012 conference record: 5-4 (Second in South Division)
Returning starters: Offense 6; defense 8; Kick/punt: 2
Top returners: QB Taylor Kelly, DT Will Sutton, LB Carl Bradford, RB Marion Grice, RB D.J. Foster, LT Evan Finkenberg, TE/H Chris Coyle, S Alden Darby, DE Junior Onyeali
Key losses: RB Cameron Marshall, LB Brandon Magee, WR Rashad Ross, P Josh Hubner, OL Andrew Sampson, OL Brice Schwab.
2012 statistical leaders (*returners)
Rushing: Marion Grice* (679)
Passing: Taylor Kelly* (3,039)
Receiving: Chris Coyle* (696)
Tackles: Brandon Magee (113)
Sacks: Will Sutton* (13)
Interceptions: Keelan Johnson (5)
- Dynamic duo (1): Running backs Marion Grice and D.J. Foster should make up one of the most prolific 1-2 punches in college football. This was the first time for both to go through full springs at a major college (Grice was a JC transfer, Foster is a sophomore) and the reports are both have added speed and muscle to their frames. With the way ASU uses its backs in the passing game, expect big total yardage numbers from both in 2013.
- Dynamic duo (2): On the opposite side of the ball, DT Will Sutton and linebacker Carl Bradford make up an equally dangerous tandem. There are only 10 players in FBS football returning with 10-plus sacks from 2012. And ASU has two of them. Sutton, the league's defensive player of the year, had 13 and Bradford notched 11.5. Combined with several other returning starters, the Sun Devils boast one of the top front sevens in the league.
- QB depth: Per head coach Todd Graham, Mike Bercovici had a fantastic spring. We know Kelly is entrenched as the starter. But with Bercovici surging and Michael Eubank bringing the dimension he brings, the Sun Devils have fantastic depth at the position -- something very important for a team hoping to make a championship run.
- WR questions: Help should be on the way. Graham called wide receiver his biggest need and the 2013 class includes Jaelen Strong, Ronald Lewis, Joe Morris, Cameron Smith and Ellis Jefferson. When they get put into the fold, it should make an immediate impact on depth and athleticism at the position. All five are at least 6-foot, giving Kelly plenty of options and wiggle room in the red zone.
- Line depth: It's always a concern. And while the Sun Devils look stacked on the defensive line, they are working to replace departed Andrew Sampson and Brice Schwab. The staff spent the spring working Sil Ajawara (LG) and Vi Teofilo (RG) into the starting five. Behind them is some versatility in Tyler Sulka, Devin Goodman and Mo Latu.
- Special improvements: Graham called ASU's special teams middle of the road last year -- stressing they need to improve in the kicking game if they want to be a better team. Departed punter Josh Hubner was one of the best in the league. Dom Vizzare looks to step in but will be pushed by incoming freshman Matt Haack. Zane Gonzalez was brought in to push returning kickers Alex Garoutte and Jon Mora.
Writes Bucky Brooks of NFL.com:
Trufant had been considered a fringe first-round prospect following the Senior Bowl, but a strong showing in Indianapolis now has him firmly entrenched in the conversation. He blazed a 4.38 40, displaying exceptional speed and acceleration. Additionally, Trufant popped impressive measurements in the vertical (37.5 inches) and broad jump (10-foot-5). Scouts were already convinced Trufant possesses the requisite cover skills to be a solid starter as a pro; the rest of the workout confirmed his movement skills as a borderline blue-chip talent.Unfortunate headliner
ESPN's John Clayton recapped the top five stories of the combine. And Star Lotulelei made the list for unfortunate reasons.
The second-biggest story was Star Lotulelei. The Utah defensive tackle came to the combine as a star. Mel Kiper had him in the top five. He was considered the best defensive tackle in the draft. But an echocardiogram determined that his left ventricle was pumping only at 44 percent, so doctors wouldn't let him work out. He is trying to find out if this is a serious heart problem or just the byproduct of losing about 10 pounds in three days. Still, his uncertainty caused a panic toward the top of the draft. The hope is that he can get a clean bill of health and then work out for teams at Utah next month. The good news is that doctors found a problem that he wouldn't have known about had he not been tested at the combine. College football teams don't provide echocardiograms because of the cost. NFL teams spare no expense to check out prospects.
In No. 5 at that link, Clayton notes that Oregon's Dion Jordan has also bumped his already-high draft stock. Speaking of Jordan, some of you might be shocked to see an Oregon player leading a poll. I know, doesn't happen often. Say this for Ducks fans, they know how to get out the vote.
Football Outsiders uses a formula to calculate "Speed Scores," which are a player's time on the 40-yard dash based on his weight. And it wasn't an impressive crop of running backs, writes Danny Tuccitto.
Turning to more heralded running backs in this draft class, consensus No. 1 back Eddie Lacy (Alabama) did not participate because of a hamstring injury, and Speed Scores shouldn't affect the rankings much for those who did participate. Michigan State's Le'Veon Bell (102.7) and UCLA's Johnathan Franklin (100.9) were the only ones to break 100, albeit barely, and the worst result among potential Day 1 or Day 2 selections was the 83.4 Speed Score posted by Stanford's Stepfan Taylor. Otherwise, backs such as Mike Gillislee (Florida), Giovani Bernard (North Carolina), Kenjon Barner (Oregon), Montee Ball (Wisconsin), Joseph Randle (Oklahoma State) and Andre Ellington (Clemson) all finished in a group one would classify as "slightly below average."Measurables from the secondary
Desmond Trufant, DB, Washington: 4.38 (seconds)
Steve Williams, DB, Cal: 4.42
Nickell Robey, DB, USC: 4.53
Jordan Poyer, DB, Oregon State: 4.54
Keelan Johnson, S, ASU: 4.54
T.J. McDonald, S, USC: 4.59
Aaron Hester, DB, UCLA: 4.62
Marc Anthony, DB, Cal: 4.63
Jawanza Starling, S, USC: 4.64
John Boyett, S, Oregon: 27 reps
T.J. McDonald, S, USC: 19 reps
Jawanza Starling, S, USC: 17 reps
Desmond Trufant, DB, Washington: 17 reps
Marc Anthony, DB, Cal: 12 reps
Steve Williams, DB, Cal: 12 reps
Keelan Johnson, S, ASU: 12 reps
Nickell Robey, DB, USC: 10 reps
Jordan Poyer, DB, Oregon State: 8 reps
Steve Williams, DB, Cal: 40.5 (inches)
T.J. McDonald, S, USC: 40
Nickell Robey, DB, USC: 37.5
Desmond Trufant, DB, Washington: 37.5
Keelan Johnson, S, ASU: 36.5
Jawanza Starling, S, USC: 36
Marc Anthony, DB, Cal: 35
Jordan Poyer, DB, Oregon State: 30.5
Aaron Hester, DB, UCLA: 29
T.J. McDonald, S, USC: 131 (inches)
Steve Williams, DB, Cal: 128
Nickell Robey, DB, USC: 127
Keelan Johnson, S, ASU: 125
Desmond Trufant, DB, Washington: 125
Jawanza Starling, S, USC: 122
Jordan Poyer, DB, Oregon State: 118
Marc Anthony, DB, Cal: 118
Aaron Hester, DB, UCLA: 112
Jawanza Starling, S, USC: 6.68 (seconds)
Marc Anthony, DB, Cal: 6.74
Nickell Robey, DB, USC: 6.74
Keelan Johnson, S, ASU: 6.77
Jordan Poyer, DB, Oregon State: 6.87
T.J. McDonald, S, USC: 6.89
Steve Williams, DB, Cal: 6.89
Aaron Hester, DB, UCLA: 7.26
Desmond Trufant, DB, Washington: 3.85 (seconds)
Marc Anthony, DB, Cal: 4.07
Keelan Johnson, S, ASU: 4.07
Nickell Robey, DB, USC: 4.09
Steve Williams, DB, Cal: 4.10
Jordan Poyer, DB, Oregon State: 4.18
T.J. McDonald, S, USC: 4.20
Aaron Hester, DB, UCLA: 4.33
Jawanza Starling, S, USC: 4.34
Jordan Poyer, DB, Oregon State: 11.51 (seconds)
Keelan Johnson, S, ASU: 11.53
Jawanza Starling, S, USC: 11.62
- Keenan Allen, WR, California
- Kiko Alonso, LB, Oregon
- C.J. Anderson, RB, California
- Marc Anthony, DB, California
- Jeff Baca, OL, UCLA
- David Bakhtiari, Colorado
- Matt Barkley, QB, USC
- Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon
- John Boyett, S, Oregon
- Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford
- Joseph Fauria, TE, UCLA
- Johnathan Franklin, RB, UCLA
- Aaron Hester, DB, UCLA
- Khaled Holmes, OL, USC
- Josh Hubner, PK, Arizona State
- Keelan Johnson, DB, Arizona State
- Datone Jones, DL, UCLA
- Dion Jordan, DL, Oregon
- Nick Kasa, TE, Colorado
- Joe Kruger, DL, Utah
- Jeff Locke, PK, UCLA
- Kyle Long, OL, Oregon
- Star Lotulelei, DL, Utah
- Brandon Magee, LB, Arizona State
- T.J. McDonald, DB, USC
- Jordan Poyer, DB, Oregon State
- Nickell Robey, DB, USC
- Brian Schwenke, OL, California
- Matt Scott, QB, Arizona
- Jawanza Starling, DB, USC
- Stepfan Taylor, RB, Stanford
- Chase Thomas, LB, Stanford
- Levine Toilolo, TE, Stanford
- Desmond Trufant, DB, Washington
- Markus Wheaton, WR, Oregon State
- Steve Williams, DB, California
- Marquess Wilson, WR, Washington State
- Robert Woods, WR, USC
Offensive Player of the Year: Marqise Lee, WR, USC.
Pat Tillman Defensive Player of the Year: Will Sutton, DE, Arizona State.
Freshman Offensive Player of the Year: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon.
Freshman Defensive Player of the Year: Leonard Williams, DE, USC.
Coach of the Year: David Shaw, Stanford.
QB Marcus Mariota, Fr., Oregon
RB Kenjon Barner, Sr., Oregon
RB Ka’Deem Carey, So., Arizona
WR Marqise Lee, So., USC
WR Markus Wheaton, Sr., Oregon State
TE Zach Ertz, Sr., Stanford
OL Hroniss Grasu, So., Oregon
OL Khaled Holmes, Sr., USC
OL Brian Schwenke, Sr., California
OL Xavier Su’a-Filo, So., UCLA
OL David Yankey, Jr., Stanford
QB Matt Scott, Sr., Arizona
RB Johnathan Franklin, Sr., UCLA
RB Stepfan Taylor, Sr., Stanford
WR Austin Hill, So., Arizona
WR Robert Woods, Jr., USC
TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, So., Washington
OL Jeff Baca, Sr., UCLA
OL David Bakhtiari, Jr., Colorado
OL Sam Brenner, Sr., Utah
OL Kevin Danser, Sr., Stanford
OL Sam Schwartzstein, Sr., Stanford
DL Scott Crichton, So., Oregon State
DL Dion Jordan, Sr., Oregon
DL Star Lotulelei, Sr., Utah (2)
DL Will Sutton, Jr., Arizona State
LB Anthony Barr, Jr., UCLA
LB Trent Murphy, Sr., Stanford
LB Chase Thomas, Sr., Stanford (2)
DB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, So., Oregon
DB Jordan Poyer, Sr., Oregon State
DB Ed Reynolds, Jr., Stanford
DB Desmond Trufant, Sr., Washington
DL Henry Anderson, Jr., Stanford
DL Morgan Breslin, Jr., USC
DL Ben Gardner, Sr., Stanford
DL Datone Jones, Sr., UCLA
LB Kiko Alonso, Sr., Oregon
LB Michael Clay, Sr., Oregon
LB Brandon Magee, Sr., Arizona State
DB Deone Bucannon, Jr., Washington State
DB Alden Darby, Jr., Arizona State
DB T.J. McDonald, Sr., USC
DB Nickell Robey, Jr., USC
PK Vince D'Amato, Jr., California
P Jeff Locke, Sr., UCLA
RS Reggie Dunn, Sr., Utah
ST Jordan Jenkins, Sr., Oregon State
PK Andrew Furney, Jr., Washington State
P Josh Hubner, Sr., Arizona State
RS Marqise Lee, So., USC
ST David Allen, Sr., UCLA
ALL-PAC-12 HONORABLE MENTION
- ARIZONA: WR Dan Buckner, Sr.; LB Jake Fischer, Jr.; OL Kyle Quinn, Sr.; DB Jared Tevis, So.
- ARIZONA STATE: LB Carl Bradford, So.; DB Deveron Carr, Sr.; TE Chris Coyle, Jr.; OL Evan Finkenberg, Jr.; RB D.J. Foster, Fr.; RB Marion Grice, Jr.; DT Jaxon Hood, Fr.; DB Osahon Irabor, Jr.; DB Keelan Johnson, Sr.; QB Taylor Kelly, So.; RS Rashad Ross, Sr.
- CALIFORNIA: WR Keenan Allen, Jr.; RS Brendan Bigelow, So.; DB Josh Hill, Sr.; LB Chris McCain, So; ST Avery Sebastian, So.; DB Steve Williams, Jr.
- COLORADO: DB Kenneth Crawley, Fr.; TE Nick Kasa, Sr.; OL Alex Lewis, So.; DB Marques Moseley, Fr.; OL Daniel Munyer, So.; P Darragh O’Neill, So.; DL Will Perciak, Sr.; RB Christian Powell, Fr.; OL Yuri Wright, Fr.
- OREGON: OL Jake Fisher, So.; DL Taylor Hart, Jr.; WR Josh Huff, Jr.; DL Wade Keliikippi, Jr.; TE Colt Lyerla, So.; DB Terrance Mitchell, So.; DL Isaac Remington, Sr.; RS De’Anthony Thomas, So.
- OREGON STATE: WR Brandin Cooks, So.; OL Grant Enger, Jr.; DB Raashad Reynolds, Jr.; PK Trevor Romaine, So.; DL Andrew Seumalo; OL Isaac Seumalo, Fr.;
- STANFORD: DB Usua Amanam, Sr.; DB Terrence Brown, Sr.; DB Alex Carter, Fr.; ST Alex Debniak, Sr.; OL Cameron Fleming, Jr.; RB Ryan Hewitt, Sr.; QB Kevin Hogan, So.; RS Ty Montgomery, So.; DB Jordan Richards, So.; LB Shayne Skov, Sr.; DL Terrence Stephens, Sr.; RS Drew Terrell, Sr.; TE Levine Toilolo, Sr.; P Daniel Zychlinski, Sr.;
- UCLA: DB Andrew Abbott, Sr.; OL Jake Brendel, Fr.; WR Shaq Evans, Jr.; TE Joseph Fauria, Sr.; QB Brett Hundley, Fr.; LB Eric Kendricks, So.; DL Cassius Marsh, Jr.; RS Damien Thigpen, Jr.;
- USC: LB Dion Bailey, So.; QB Matt Barkley, Sr.; ST Tony Burnett, Sr.; TE Xavier Grimble, So.; PK Andre Heidari, So.; DL Wes Horton, Sr.; OL John Martinez, Jr.; P Kyle Negrete, Sr.; LB Hayes Pullard, So.; RB Silas Redd, Jr.; OL Max Tuerk, Fr.; DL George Uko, So.; DL Leonard Williams, Fr.
- UTAH: DB Brian Blechen, Jr.; DL Nate Fakahafua, So.; DL Joe Kruger, Jr.; TE Jake Murphy, So.; OL Jeremiah Poutasi, Fr.; LB Trevor Reilly, Jr.; DB Eric Rowe, So.; P Sean Sellwood, Sr.; OL Tevita Stevens, Sr.; RB John White, Sr.;
- WASHINGTON: LB Travis Feeney, Fr.; ST Justin Glenn, Sr.; DL Andrew Hudson, So.; DB Sean Parker, Jr.; RB Bishop Sankey, So.; OL Drew Schaefer, Sr.; DL Danny Shelton, So.; LB Shaq Thompson, Fr.; LB John Timu, So.; WR Kasen Williams, So.;
- WASHINGTON STATE: WR Brett Bartolone, Fr.; OL Elliott Bosch, Jr.; RS Teondray Caldwell, Fr.; LB Cyrus Coen, So.; DL Xavier Cooper, Fr.; LB Travis Long, Sr.; LB Darryl Monroe, Fr.; DB Daniel Simmons, Sr.
- By School: OREGON and STANFORD placed the most players on the first team with five selections each, followed by OREGON STATE with four.
- By Class: Of the 26 first-team selections, 14 are seniors, five are juniors, six are sophomores and one freshman.
- Unanimous: Only one player was named on the first-team ballot of all 12 head coaches--WR Marqise Lee of USC.
- Two-time selections: Two players are repeat first-team selections from last year--DT Star Lotulelei of Utah, LB Chase Thomas of Stanford.
- All-Academic: Two players were named to the first team on both the All-Pac-12 Team and the Pac-12 All-Academic Football Team--P Jeff Locke of UCLA, OL Khaled Holmes, USC. In addition, OL Kevin Danser of Stanford, DL Ben Gardner of Stanford and Michael Clay of Oregon were named second-team All-Academic and second-team All-Pac-12.
From the Pac-12 release:
Ertz, a senior from Alamo, Calif., hauled in a career-high 10 receptions for 106 yards and accounted for the game-tying touchdown in final two minutes of regulation in Stanford’s 17-14 overtime victory over No. 1 Oregon. He caught four passes for 53 yards on Stanford’s final drive of the fourth quarter, capping the series with a an acrobatic 10-yard touchdown reception in the back of the end zone that helped turn the tide in Stanford’s favor. He also played a pivotal role in the Cardinal’s rushing attack, blocking for a backfield that gained 200 yards on the ground. Ertz has 58 receptions -- tied for the Conference lead among tight ends-- for 747 yards on the season. His 747 receiving yards rank second among Pac-12 tight ends.
Kendricks, a sophomore from Fresno, Calif., collected 10 tackles, including a tackle for a loss, registered a pair of takeaways and blocked a punt in a 38-28 win over USC to earn his second Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week honor. He forced a fumble in the first quarter that led to a UCLA touchdown and intercepted a pass in the fourth quarter to help the Bruins to their first win over USC since 2006. His punt block, which came after USC had narrowed the margin to 24-20 in the third quarter, led to another UCLA touchdown, extending its lead to 31-20. Kendricks has recorded 112 total tackles (66 solo) on the year, a figure that tops the Conference.
Zychlinski, a senior from Tampa, Fla., punted six times for an average 45.7 yards per attempt, including boots of 62 and 58 yards, in Stanford’s upset win over Oregon. He was instrumental in limiting Oregon’s average starting field position to its own 23-yard line, as he placed five punts in side the 20-yard line (three inside the 10) and allowed just two punt return yards on the evening. He also was the holder on a wet field for the game-winning field goal in overtime. Zychlinski averages 42.9 yards per punt this season.
Also nominated for offensive player of the week honors were quarterbacks Taylor Kelly of Arizona State, Sean Mannion of Oregon State and Keith Price of Washington, running back Johnathan Franklin of UCLA and wide receiver Austin Hill of Arizona. Also nominated on defense were defensive backs Keelan Johnson of ASU, Jordan Poyer of Oregon State and Eric Rowe of Utah, linebackers Marquis Flowers of Arizona, Michael Clay of Oregon and Shayne Skov of Stanford and defensive end Josh Shirley of Washington. Also nominated on special teams were running back Kylan Butler of Arizona and punter Jeff Locke of UCLA.
Threet, a senior who started 11 games last year, suffered three concussions this past season, coach Dennis Erickson said.
"I don't know if he'll play spring football," Erickson said.
Threet briefly spoke to the Arizona Republic about his status at the end of January.
While Erickson described his quarterback competition as "wide open," it would appear that junior Brock Osweiler now owns the inside track to the starting job in 2011.
Osweiler replaced Threet early in the UCLA game -- and threw for 380 yards and four touchdowns in a 55-34 win -- and then led the Sun Devils to a victory over rival Arizona.
Threet completed 62 percent of his passes for 2,534 yards with 18 touchdowns and 16 interceptions in 2010. Osweiler completed 57 percent for 797 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions. While their efficiency ratings were nearly identical, Threet's tendency to throw interceptions and Osweiler's ability to avoid doing so was a chief reason many saw Osweiler as the favorite to win the job, no matter Threet's health.
Erickson also said four other players will be out or significantly limited this spring due to shoulder injuries: defensive end Junior Onyeali, safety Eddie Elder, safety Keelan Johnson and receiver Mike Willie.
Only UCLA, Oregon State and Washington "officially" welcome back both of their starting safeties, with the Bruins boasting perhaps the best in free safety in the nation: Rahim Moore. Only Arizona State and USC must find two new safeties.
So how do things stack up?
- UCLA: Moore, a true junior and 25-game starter, led the nation with 10 interceptions in 2009 and is a consensus All-American. Tony Dye ranked fourth on the Bruins with 73 tackles.
- Oregon: Sure, the Ducks lost hard-hitting T.J. Ward to the NFL, but Ward was hurt much of last season, so John Boyett, the first freshman to lead the Ducks in tackles, and Javes Lewis, who played both free safety and rover, are returning starters, as is Eddie Pleasant, a linebacker starter in 2009 who's moved to rover.
- Oregon State: Lance Mitchell and Cameron Collins give the Beavers a solid, experienced combination and Suaesi Tuimaunei also has starting experience.
- Washington: Nathan Felner and Nate Williams are both returning starters, but the competition is ongoing among players with experience, not to mention touted incoming freshman Sean Parker.
- Arizona: The Wildcats lost Cam Nelson, and Robert Golden might move back to cornerback after playing strong safety last year. Still, there's talent here. Adam Hall, a touted, 6-foot-4, 212-pound 2009 recruit, might make a move.
- Arizona State: Both starters, Jarrell Holman and Ryan McFoy, are gone, but Clint Floyd and Keelan Johnson have started games and junior Eddie Elder has been surging since the spring.
- California: While the Cal secondary didn't play well in 2009, Sean Cattouse is solid. Senior Chris Conte has converted to safety from cornerback, but he could be challenged in camp for the starting job.
- Stanford: Strong safety Delano Howell should blossom as a junior, and Michael Thomas has potential at free safety. Still, the Cardinal secondary got burned in 2009 and is probably the team's biggest question mark.
- USC: The Trojans are replacing all four starters in their secondary, and the days of giving them a free pass based on recruiting rankings are over. Still, Jawanza Starling, T.J. McDonald and Drew McAllister (if he's healthy) are a talented trio.
- Washington State: WSU lost free safety Xavier Hicks, but LeAndre Daniels, Chima Nwachukwu, Tyree Toomer, Casey Locker and Jamal Atofau give the Cougars hope at the position.
He topped a list of 48 Sun Devils who were honored.
A news release from the school said the "Hard Hat Program was created to reward those individuals who do what's right in the weight room even when no one is looking ... a Hard Hat Player is someone who is self-motivated, a competitor, committed to personal and team excellence, dependable, accountable, disciplined and most importantly, puts the team first."
To become a Hard Hat Player, a player has to achieve a certain point total during winter workouts. He earns points based on his effort for strength training, speed development and conditioning sessions. They are also awarded points for competitive events and performing extra workouts in the "Blitz Package Program." Each athlete is evaluated after every workout by the sports performance staff with input from an athlete's position coach when applicable.
The list of the honored includes: Corey Adams, Derrall Anderson, George Bell, Omar Bolden, Jarrid Bryant, Mike Callaghan, Jonathan Clark, Chris Coyle, Dean DeLeone, Eddie Elder, Steven Figueroa, Evan Finkenberg, Clint Floyd, Garth Gerhart, Lawrence Guy, Jon Hargis, J.J. Holliday, Matt Hustad, Osahon Irabor, Patrick Jamison, Keelan Johnson, Brandon Johnson, Anthony Jones, Kyle Johnson, Cameron Kastl, Ronald Kennedy, Dan Knapp, Trevor Kohl, LeQuan Lewis, Shelly Lyons, Cameron Marshall, Shane McCullen, Jamal Miles, Bo Moos, James Morrison, Gerald Munns, Brock Osweiler, Aaron Pflugrad, Cole Rarrick, Jamarr Robinson, Andrew Sampson, Zach Schlink, Max Smith, Adam Tello, Steven Threet, Matthew Tucker and Thomas Weber.
Starters or key contributors who didn't make the list (for whatever reason, including injury or excused absence) include: linebacker Vontaze Burfict, receiver Gerell Robinson, receiver Kerry Taylor, defensive end James Brooks, defensive tackle Williams Sutton, defensive tackle Saia Falahola, defensive end Greg Smith and linebacker Brandon Magee.
Arizona State: Free safety
Why the competition? Jarrell Holman and Ryan McFoy, who combined for 18 starts at safety in 2009, are gone, while Clint Floyd, who started three games at free safety, was listed No. 1 at strong safety at the end of spring practices.
Candidates: Sophomore Keelan Johnson (6-0, 199) and junior Eddie Elder (5-10, 186).
The skinny: Johnson saw extensive action last year and started one game. He finished with 11 tackles. He's one of the Sun Devils' best all-around athlete -- which is saying something given how athletic the team's defense is -- and he had a solid spring. Elder, the reigning California Junior College Defensive Player of the Year winner, however, showed big-play ability by intercepting three passes in the final two scrimmages. That earned him high praise from some of his comrades in the secondary. "Eddie's going to make some big plays for us," cornerback Omar Bolden told the Arizona Republic. Both of these guys will play. But only one will run onto the field with the starting unit.
Bolden, who made 22 consecutive starts before getting hurt, will play next fall as a redshirt junior instead of a true senior.
Bolden hurt his hamstring in the the second game of the 2009 season and played a limited role in game three at Georgia. He then injured his knee during practice and missed the remaining nine games.
The Sun Devils lost three of the four players who started the season finale against Arizona, but they could be fairly solid in the secondary in 2010.
Along with Bolden, junior free safety Clint Floyd returns, as does cornerback Deveron Carr, who started three games but will miss spring after shoulder surgery. Redshirt freshman cornerback Osahon Irabor was a candidate to start last fall until he got hurt and redshirted. Sophomore strong safety Keelan Johnson started one game last year and saw significant playing time.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
The Pac-10 is solid at safety -- it's not all about Taylor Mays either.
In fact, the stockpile in the secondary likely will make choosing an All-Pac-10 team a big challenge.
- USC: It doesn't matter if Josh Pinkard stays at safety or moves to corner: The Trojans are stacked here, starting with Mays, a two-time All-American. Will Harris is hardly a stop-gap if he steps in for Pinkard, and there's good depth.
- California: While the Bears lack the Trojans' star quality, they are experienced, productive and deep with Marcus Ezeff and Brett Johnson leading the charge.
- Arizona: Cam Nelson is an all-conference-type player, while Robert Golden is an all-conference-type talent who is transitioning from cornerback.
- Oregon: T.J. Ward is one of the conference's premier hitters. He figures to become a complete player this fall. Javes Lewis won the competition at rover to replace Patrick Chung.
- Stanford: Bo McNally is a reliable veteran and Delano Howell, albeit green as the former running back switches to defense, will improve the Cardinal's athleticism.
- UCLA: Sophomore Rahim Moore looks like a budding star. Tony Dye leads the battle at strong safety over fellow sophomore Glenn Love.
- Oregon State: Junior Suaesi Tuimaunei will replace Al Afalava at strong safety and Lance Mitchell will set in for Greg Laybourn at free. While they lack experience -- Tuimaunei started twice in 2008 -- they are more athletic than their predecessors.
- Arizona State: Perhaps it's a sign of the Sun Devils' depth that expected starters Clint Floyd and Ryan McFoy are listed second-team on the depth chart behind Jarrell Holman and Keelan Johnson. Coach Dennis Erickson said Monday he hasn't decided who will start. This gives us pause, though there's no lack of athletic ability here.
- Washington State: The Cougars probably feel pretty good about Xavier Hicks and Chima Nwachukwu, a solid pair of returning starters.
- Washington: Nate Williams is a solid strong safety and redshirt freshman Greg Walker has flashed ability at free, but the Huskies have a long way to go in the secondary.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Arizona State coach Dennis Erickson is throwing names around and reporters pens are racing and it's hard to figure out who's first team, who's second team and who's merely intriguing.
The confusion, by the way, is a good thing.
|Gary A. Vasquez/US Presswire|
|Arizona State's Danny Sullivan is one of five guys competing for the starting quarterback spot.|
"We've got bodies for a change," Erickson said. "That also brings in the thing USC has -- competition."
Of course, when spring practices start on March 24, everyone will be asking about the quarterbacks, and Erickson is glad to answer.
And the names start flowing.
He's got five guys competing. Senior Danny Sullivan, who waited patiently while Rudy Carpenter owned the position the previous three-plus seasons, starts at No. 1. Sophomore Samson Szakacsy is No. 2, but he's got to prove his elbow has fully healed.
Then there's the tall guy.
He's No. 5 for now, but 6-foot-8, 235-pound Brock Osweiler, a true freshman from Kalispell, Mont., has already enrolled and already has tongues wagging.
"He's got a chance," Erickson said.
Coy isn't a term often applied to Erickson, but there's just a hint of that when he fields questions about Osweiler. Time's winged chariot might be hurrying near, as coach Andrew Marvell once told reporters, but Osweiler's candidacy could linger into the fall as the Sun Devils' coaches winnow the field to two or three guys.
"Age has nothing to do with who will be the guy," Erickson said. "None of them have any experience."
That's not completely true. Sullivan has seen spot action. He went 15-of-43 for 151 yards last year with two interceptions and one touchdown. But Erickson isn't counting those uninspiring numbers, or counting out Sullivan, whose lack of mobility is countered by his experience and strong arm.
"We've seen Danny Sullivan every day for two years, and I think he's very underrated," Erickson said.
Of course, quarterback isn't everything. The Sun Devils felt pretty good about Carpenter last year, but their inability to protect him over the past two seasons seemed to catch up to them as the season wore on and the record-setting hurler seemed to lose his rhythm.
Which brings us back to the exact same Big Issue Above All Others ASU had a year ago. Any Sun Devils fans know what's coming?
"Bottom line is you've got to block somebody," Erickson said. "Bottom line is you've got to be able to run the football."
That is where Erickson is most optimistic about improvement. He now sees a for-real two-deep depth chart with more guys who look like they can play.
The only certainty is workout-warrior Shawn Lauvao moving from guard to left tackle. After that, it's wide open.
On the other side of the ball, there's also going to be competition and player-shuffling, but the questions are more pleasant.
"Defensively, we've got a lot of good players coming back," Erickson said. "That's a strength for us."
The biggest position switch is Travis Goethel moving from strongside linebacker to the middle, replacing Morris Wooten, where he'll compete with former starter Gerald Munns, who's returning after leaving the team last season for personal reasons. The arrival of prep All-American Vontaze Burfict in the fall figures to further thicken the plot.
The biggest competition will be to replace All-Pac-10 safety Troy Nolan. The list of candidates for Nolan's spot -- and strong safety for that matter -- includes Clint Floyd, Max Tabach, Ryan McFoy, Keelan Johnson, Jarrell Holman and freshman Matthew Tucker, who's already enrolled.
So, yeah -- whew -- that's a lot of guys.
Which has Erickson expecting his Sun Devils to emerge from spring practices believing 2008 was the program equivalent of eating a bad oyster.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
Which Pac-10 newcomers might make a name for themselves this spring and put themselves into position to start or see significant action in 2009?
Let's take a look.
- QB Nick Foles & OT Phillip Garcia: Foles is a sophomore transfer from Michigan State who will compete with Matt Scott and Bryson Beirne to replace Willie Tuitama. Garcia was a JC transfer last January, but the 6-foot-7, 340 pounder hurt his knee and missed the season. He's in the mix at left tackle.
- S Keelan Johnson, RB James Morrison, DE Dean DeLeone: Johnson, a redshirt freshman, is the sort of athlete who could end up playing both ways. Morrison was a true freshman walk-on destined to play last year before he broke his ankle. He's back this spring. The 25-year-old DeLeone, a JC transfer, is already drawing raves for his weight room work.
- WR Marvin Jones & LB Mychal Kendricks: Jones was a touted true freshman last year but hurt his knee and never broke through. Kendricks had 16 tackles and a sack as a true freshman and is a frontrunner to fill one of the three vacancies at linebacker.
- DE Zac Clark & WR Lavasier Tuinei: Oregon has big-time needs on the D-line and at receiver, and these JC transfers will be given an opportunity to immediately ease those needs. Tuinei, at 6-foot-5, should give the Ducks receiving corps some size, while Clark will be eyeballing the vacancy left by Nick Reed.
- WR Jordan Bishop & OT Colin Kelly: Receiver is a need area for the Beavers, and Bishop, a redshirt freshman, impressed on the scout team and during Sun Bowl practices. Kelly, a redshirt freshman, is in the mix on an offensive line that lost both starting tackles.
- QB Andrew Luck, OG David DeCastro, TE Konrad Reuland: Luck almost lost his redshirt last year while Tavita Pritchard struggled, and he'll have a good chance to win the starting job. DeCastro is presently No. 1 on the depth chart, while Reuland is a transfer from Notre Dame.
- QB Kevin Prince & TE Morrell Presley: Prince, a redshirt freshman, is the most likely candidate to unseat returning starter Kevin Craft. Presley, a true freshman, could make an immediate impact as a hybrid TE/WR.
- QB Matt Barkley, DE Nick Perry, RB Curtis McNeal: Barkley, the nation's No. 1 recruit in 2009, could jump over Mitch Mustain and Aaron Corp in the quarterback competition, while Perry, a redshirt freshman, is almost certain to be in the mix at end or perhaps outside linebacker. McNeal, a redshirt freshman, was a late arrival last year but made an impression with his explosiveness.
- LB E.J. Savannah, C Mykenna Ikehara , WR Anthony Boyles: Savannah is not a newcomer -- he was the Huskies leading tackler in 2007 before finding his way into Tyrone Willingham's spacious doghouse and getting kick off the team. Pencil him in as a starter. Ikehara, a redshirt freshman, could replace Juan Garcia at center. Boyles, a redshirt freshman, was a touted recruit who didn't break through last year but is expected to be sharper this spring.
- DT Bernard Wolfgramm, CB Brandon Jones, RB James Montgomery: It's not unreasonable to go ahead and pencil in all three of these guys in as starters. Wolfgramm is a 2008 JC transfer who redshirted last year, while Jones and Montgomery both transferred from California.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
One of the charms of college football is the mostly predictable roster rotation. Young guys break through, become stars and then leave after their third, fourth or fifth year. Then a new cast tries to fill the void.
While there are numerous size 36 EEE shoes to fill -- figuratively speaking, of course -- in the Pac-10 this spring, we'll focus on five here.
|Jeff Golden/Getty Images|
|It's going to be tough for the Trojans to replace Rey Maualuga.|
And because quarterback competitions across the conference are so obvious, we're going to make this a "non-quarterback" category.
Also note that spring is a time for the experimentation. Coaches love to mix-and-match players, so there might be some surprises we didn't anticipate.
Big shoes: USC LB Rey Maualuga
Stepping in: Sophomore Chris Galippo
- Out goes everybody's All-American Maualuga, in goes everybody's 2006 prep All-American Galippo, a sure tackler who packs a punch at 255 pounds. He had 12 tackles, two coming for a loss, and an interception last season. He saw action as a true freshman before suffering a herniated disk in his back, an injury that also limited him last season. He seemed healthy the second half of the season, but back injuries are tricky. That might be the biggest issue standing between Galippo and future stardom.
Big shoes: California C Alex Mack
Stepping in: Junior Richard Fisher or junior Chris Guarnero
- Fisher is a former walk-on and a vegetarian. For real. He was listed as the backup behind Mack last season. Guarnero started the first three games at left guard before suffering a season-ending toe injury. He is expected back for spring ball. With a new offensive line coach, Steve Marshall, and lots of returning starting experience -- seven players have started at least one game -- there might be lots of experimenting up front this spring.
Big shoes: Oregon DE Nick Reed
Stepping in: Junior Brandon Bair, junior Kenny Rowe, JC transfer Zac Clark
- Reed had 20 tackles for a loss and 13 sacks last year (29.5 for his career). His potential replacements had no sacks last season. Some Oregon fans took issue with my suggesting in our "What to watch this spring," that Bair was the frontrunner to replace Reed. I wrote that because Rowe was listed at 215 pounds on last year's depth chart and was almost exclusively a pass-rush specialist. Meanwhile, Clark is an unknown quantity as an incoming JC transfer. On the other hand, Bair is more in the mold of returning big end Will Tukuafu, so perhaps Rowe, who's listed at 230 pounds on the updated roster, and Clark will battle it out. Guessing this one is wide open, to be honest.
Big shoes: Arizona State FS Troy Nolan
Stepping in: Sophomore Clint Floyd leads a pack of possibilities
- Nolan had 64 tackles and four interceptions playing center field for the Sun Devils' defense, and he'll be the toughest guy to replace for a unit that should be fairly salty next fall. Floyd will get first crack, but junior Max Tabach, redshirt freshman Keelan Johnson and senior Jarrell Holman could make a move.
- Stroughter was the Pac-10's only 1,000-yard receiver last year. Morales added 743 yards, while this duo combined for 15 of the Beavers 25 touchdown receptions. Catchings caught only seven passes but was No. 2 on the depth chart. Bishop was impressive while redshirting, particularly during Sun Bowl practices. And slot receiver James Rodgers figures to see more balls downfield this fall after mostly being a fly-sweep specialist the past two seasons.