Pac-12: Keith Heyward

Unlike last year, there aren't nearly as many questions surrounding the Washington defense as the Huskies head into the final stretch before fall camp.

Last year a new scheme and new coaches were being installed, headlined by new defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox. The Huskies' defense was abysmal in 2011 -- so head coach Steve Sarkisian blew it up and started from scratch.

Now the Huskies are looking to build off of the momentum they gained in 2012 when they made huge strides in one year under Wilcox & Co.

"The numbers don't lie," Sarkisian said.

They certainly don't.

The biggest advances were in the secondary, where the Huskies jumped from 87th to 27th in pass efficiency defense, 106th to 31st in total defense, 108th to 39th in scoring defense and 116th to 23rd in pass defense. They had 17 interceptions last year compared to 10 the year before.

"Our secondary really had a very good season for us last year," Sarkisian said. "I thought Justin Wilcox, Keith Heyward, our secondary coach, really came in and did a great job. ... You look at the increase in play we had in the secondary -- our pass defense numbers, our ability to create turnovers -- I think really speaks volumes to their coaching and their ability to develop our players."


That's what Sarkisian is banking on in 2013 -- player development. More specifically, at the cornerback spot where they have to replace first-round draft pick Desmond Trufant. Sarkisian called the competition "healthy" this spring, but isn't anywhere closer to declaring anyone as the leader in the clubhouse for that starting spot. And it might end up being by-committee or which player has the hot hand that week. A few defensive backs have switched positions or spent time at safety and corner in an effort to make the defensive backfield deeper and more versatile.

With Marcus Peters, who started the final eight games opposite Trufant last season, back on one side, the competition heated up over spring between Travell Dixon and Greg Ducre. Sarkisian said that redshirt freshman Cleveland Wallace has also made a big push. Dixon is a JC transfer (once committed to Alabama) and Ducre had 15 tackles while appearing in 13 games last season.

"Desmond Trufant was a great player for us," Sarkisian said. "Anytime you have a first-round draft pick at corner it tells you the quality of player you have. But I think we've got some really capable guys that are stepping in."

If the Huskies can shore up that spot, expect the secondary to make even bigger strides in 2013. Sean Parker, who started all 13 games at safety, returns as the unquestioned leader of the secondary. Will Shamburger, who started two games last year, will see a larger role. But there's some good competition there as well. Tre Watson (who can pitch in either at corner or safety) is in the mix, and early enrollee Trevor Walker had a strong first spring. Brandon Beaver, who converted from corner to safety late last season but was limited in the spring, is also going to press for playing time.

Lots of names. But that also means lots of depth.

"We've got a good amount of talent back there," Sarkisian said. "It's about finding the right combination of those guys. For some of those guys who were redshirt players for us last year, Travell, Brandon, Cleveland, fall camp is going to be big for them. This spring was good to get the terminology and fundamentals and techniques after spending all year on the service team last year. There is a healthy competition going on back there and the end result is we're fortunate to have good depth and good coaches and we feel good about our pass defense when the fall rolls around."

Take 2: Any second-week upsets?

September, 7, 2012
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Are there any upset specials on the menu in Week 2? Your Pac-12 bloggers can think of a couple.

Ted Miller: Wisconsin whipped Oregon State 35-0 last year. No way the Beavers can notch an upset against Wisky, right? A 35-plus point swing? Please.

Believe it. For one, we expect the Beavers to be much better than they were last year. And this Badgers team seems potentially much worse.

[+] EnlargeMike Riley
Steven Bisig/US PresswireOregon State coach Mike Riley welcomes back 17 starters.
Beavers better: QB Sean Mannion is no longer a redshirt freshman snagging a job away from a returning starter who was popular in the locker room.

Wisky worse: New Badgers QB Danny O'Brien, a Maryland transfer, is solid, but he's no Russell Wilson. Wilson made the Badgers last year, giving them a potent, efficient passing attack to complement a physical running game.

Beavers better: While things are chippy in Corvallis after consecutive losing seasons, the Beavers and coach Mike Riley mostly had a newsless offseason, only losing secondary coach Keith Heyward to Washington. They have stability.

Wisky worse: The Badgers have six new coaches, and among their losses was offensive coordinator Paul Chryst.

Beavers better: Oregon State welcomes back 17 starters.

Wisky worse: The Badgers welcome back only 11 starters.

Beavers better: Those seven freshmen or sophomore starters for Oregon State from a year ago will be far more seasoned.

Wisky worse: The Badgers, no matter how they say they won't, will have to difficult time mustering a focused respect for Oregon State, based on how easy things were a year ago.

Beavers better: They are playing at home, not in front of 80,000 hostile fans in Camp Randall Stadium.

Wisky worse: While it's not good that Oregon State's opener against Nicholls State was postponed, the Beavers got to stay home and watch the Badgers struggle in a 26-21 win over Northern Iowa. That game film, which Badgers coach Bret Bielema really, really didn't want Oregon State to see, surely boosted the Beavers confidence.

I think Oregon State is going to be better on both lines of scrimmage. I think Mannion's maturity as a passer will make it easier for the Beavers to establish an adequate running game. And I don't think the Badgers offensive line, replacing three starters, will be as good this fall.

Last year, the Beavers were outrushed 208 yards to 23. I think that number will be far closer this go-around.

Finally, there's this: Nobody on the Wisconsin defense can keep up with receiver Markus Wheaton. We know this because nobody on the Badger defense could keep up with De'Anthony Thomas in the Rose Bowl, and Wheaton is faster than Thomas.

No, this game is not 50-50. Or even 60-40. If the Beavers do win, it will be an upset, and just about everyone will be surprised.

Our point here is merely to prepare you to not be that surprised.

Kevin Gemmell: Wow. That was pretty compelling. Can't refute any of that, only to say that the last product we saw from Oregon State was the last product they had on the field in 2011. And it wasn't great. I too believe Oregon State will be much better this year, but if I were picking an upset in Week 2, I'd go with a team I've already seen in action (a lesson learned from my Washington State debacle last week).

[+] EnlargeJohnathan Franklin
Scott Halleran/Getty ImagesUCLA running back Johnathan Franklin ran for 214 yards in the opener against Rice.
Just so we're clear, I'm on record with a prediction that Nebraska beats UCLA. I was asked in my chat on Wednesday to assign a percentage to UCLA's chance of winning. And I went with 49 percent.

Were the Bruins outstanding in Week 1? No. But they won on the road with a rookie quarterback (never easy) and for the most part they were pretty good considering all of the youth they put out there. And that youth was evident, especially in the first half when the defense yielded 24 points and 282 yards.

Ah, but here's a little not-so-secret secret, Jim Mora can coach. Consider the second half -- a couple of tweaks to what Rice was doing on offense and the Bruins surrendered just 76 yards in the final 30 minutes -- only crossing into the UCLA half once. I asked Mora to explain the defensive difference between halves and his answer was satisfactory. UCLA didn't do a lot of full tackling in the fall camp, so they were a little rusty. Makes sense.

UCLA can't win this game on athleticism alone. Because Nebraska can match them speed-for-speed and player-for-player. In fact, when you look at the rosters side-by-side, it's probably a draw in terms of who has the better athletes. So UCLA will have to take advantage of the wealth of coaching knowledge it has on the sidelines and exploit the mismatches it does have.

For example, UCLA's offensive line is young and probably inferior to Nebraska's defensive front. So expect a lot of quick passes from second-time-starter Brett Hundley. No reason to make those guys pass block for three seconds, because they probably won't be able to. Nebraska will pressure Hundley far more than Rice did.

Also, Joseph Fauria is a mismatch for any linebacker or safety in the country. I wouldn't be shocked to see the Bruins ride that guy to the tune of nine or 10 catches. And we'll find out whether Johnathan Franklin is as good as his three-touchdown, 214-yard rushing performance against Rice suggests.

Defensively, they need an answer for Taylor Martinez. I'm not going to pretend to have it. But I will say Datone Jones might finally be maturing into the player we all thought he could be and a little pressure -- especially against a team on the road -- can go a long way.

This is going to be a competitive game, and much like your Oregon State scenario, no one should be shocked if the Bruins walk away from this game 2-0.

Post-signing day Power Rankings

February, 6, 2012
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We like doing Power Rankings at ESPN.com. These are the post-signing day Power Rankings.

If you want to see where your team stood on Jan. 10, go here.

The schedule does not factor into these. This is a projected pecking order based on where a team stands right now.

And if you don't like where your team is in the post-signing day Power Rankings, then I'd suggest whining about it until your team plays better.

1. USC: The Trojans ranked 13th in the final recruiting rankings with just 12 signees. They will be ranked in the preseason top 5, perhaps even No. 1. If things go according to plan, USC will blow a big raspberry at Paul Dee next January.

2. Oregon: The Ducks surprisingly lost QB Darron Thomas to the NFL, but the far more important news is not losing coach Chip Kelly to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. A strong recruiting class and another likely top-5 preseason rankings sets the Ducks up nicely to enter the national title chase.

3. Stanford: Stanford signed the best recruiting class in the Pac-12. It was ranked 12th by ESPN Recruiting and much higher by just about every other recruiting service. While the Cardinal have big holes to fill -- most notably behind center -- a glance through the roster suggests those rooting for the program to topple after a grand rise are going to be disappointed.

4. Washington: Much of the recruiting season had been disappointing for the Huskies, particularly losing almost all of the top in-state prospects, including a pair of A-list linemen who would have addressed major needs. But Steve Sarkisian made a series of aggressive moves rebuilding his coaching staff, most notably with the hiring of defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox and ace recruiter Tosh Lupoi. That supplies much of the positive momentum here.

5. Utah: The Utes signed a strong recruiting class and welcome back a wealth of starters from a team that won eight games without much production at QB. The promotion of 24-year-old Brian Johnson to offensive coordinator was a surprising move, particularly with fans rooting for a "celebrity" hire. It could prove to be a stroke of genius, but the onus is now on Johnson to make it become so.

6. UCLA: The Bruins are the big climbers from our Jan. 10 power rankings -- moving up from No. 10 -- but that's what happens when new coach Jim Mora punches back at skepticism with an outstanding recruiting class. A team that looked like a "neh" is moving closer to a "maybe."

7. California: Despite all the hand-wringing over the loss of Lupoi and receivers coach Eric Kiesau to Washington, the Bears still signed a top-25 recruiting class that addresses needs. Still, perception matters, and at present, Bears fans seem more worried than optimistic. Nothing, of course, a few wins in a shiny remodeled stadium can't change.

8. Arizona: Rich Rodriguez's recruiting class finished at or near the bottom of the Pac-12, according to most rankings. That said, Rodriguez got his man at defensive coordinator, Jeff Casteel, which is significant because most trace the problems at Michigan to his failure to do so for the Wolverines.

9. Washington State: The Cougars didn't soar in the recruiting rankings just because of the hiring of coach Mike Leach. Still, that doesn't appear to be dampening the enthusiasm in Pullman.

10. Arizona State: New coach Todd Graham did a solid job salvaging the Sun Devils' recruiting class. But the loss of QB Brock Osweiler to the NFL and the NCAA's rejection of receiver T.J. Simpson's bid for a sixth year of eligibility leave the program with plenty of questions on offense. And just as many on defense.

11. Oregon State: The Beavers were victimized by a handful of late recruiting flips that put dents in what was shaping up to be a strong class. And the loss of secondary coach Keith Heyward to Washington also was a blow. On the plus side, the Beavers will see 17 returning starters during spring practices.

12. Colorado: The Buffaloes remain at the bottom because the bottom line is this: They welcome back 13 starters from a team that went 3-10 and ranked last in both scoring offense and scoring defense. Still, coach Jon Embree put together a solid recruiting class, one that could become the foundation of his substantial rebuilding project.

Opening the mailbag: Sark's hotseat?

February, 3, 2012
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Happy Friday. Welcome to the post-signing day mailbag.

I arranged these questions in front of me like hats, then picked them.

If you wish to follow me on Twitter, which you most certainly should, then go here and follow the directions.

To the notes.

Pheezie from Nor Cal writes: Reflecting on the moves and news of the last few weeks in the conference, [Washington coach Steve Sarkisian] program raids now seem to smack loudly of desperation. While you could view them as savvy, it seems to put the impetus on winning, like now. I don't think you can count on raiding other schools' top recruiters every single year and hoping they flip enough guys -- especially at the prices they're paying. At what point does Udub admin sour on Sark's antics? I know a lot depends on wins, but, is Sark on the #1 P12 hot seat heading into the 2012 season? And what is his magic win number to beat the heat?

Ted Miller: Sarkisian is not only not on the Pac-12's hottest seat, his seat isn't even warm.

It's fair to say, however, that Sarkisian made a mistake when he hired Nick Holt, his good friend and former colleague at USC, as his defensive coordinator. At the time, Sarkisian sold it as a home run hire, which was justification for the Holt's exorbitant $650,000 salary.

It wasn't. So that is on Sark.

But there is nothing desperate about hiring Tosh Lupoi and Eric Kiesau away from California, or Justin Wilcox and Peter Sirmon away from Tennessee, or Keith Heyward away from Oregon State. I call that savvy without reservation. Those are good coaches and good recruiters. Further, beyond the respect all those guys command, Sarkisian immediately generated some positive momentum for his program after a lackluster finish to the season.

As for winning "like now," well, welcome to the world of big-time college coaching. Every AQ program needs to win "like now." You mention a hot seat. Sarkisian isn't on one, but if the Huskies post a losing season in 2012, his seat would certainly warm up in 2013. That's the nature of the business. But I don't think that's going to happen. I see a program with a clear upward trajectory.

Wilcox is one of the bright young coordinators in the country, a guy who is headed for an A-list head coaching job, perhaps within the next five years. Lupoi is widely regarded as one of the nation's best recruiters. Those hires are about right now but they are more about rebuilding Washington into an elite, top-25 program.

Wilcox should yield immediate help on defense. I'd be shocked if the Huskies give up 33.3 points and 426.3 yards per game next fall. And while Lupoi perked up recruiting this go-around -- hello Shaq Thompson! -- he should be an even greater asset in 2012.

But, of course, my typing it doesn't make it so. Sarkisian, just like any other coach, needs to produce. What I am merely saying is the Pac-12 blog is still putting a "buy rating" on the Huskies.

Will from Norfolk, Va., writes: What do you think about Rich Rodriguez's unimpressive recruiting class for Arizona? Do you think it'll get better next year?

Ted Miller: I think: 1. It's probably better than it's being rated; 2. Absolutely, things will get better. And, by the way, if Arizona inks Davonte Neal that one signature would make Rodriguez's first class a success. He's a guy who could provide immediate help on either side of the ball.

One thing that might have hurt Arizona's short-term recruiting success is Rodriguez hired a staff with very little West Coast recruiting experience (other than retaining respected O-line coach Robert Anae). Don't take that wrong: As you know, the Pac-12 blog has repeatedly said that new coaches need to hire their guys -- guys they know and trust. Rodriguez learned that at Michigan when he couldn't lure defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel away from West Virginia, as he did for Arizona.

It's best to view this class as a "getting-to-know-you" effort. Sure, Wildcats fans would have loved if Rodriguez reeled in some big names based on his big name. But his recruiting track record is strong. Just look how successful Michigan was this season with his recruits.

Of course, Wildcats fans also have a right to expect Rodriguez and his staff to land a higher rated class in 2013.

Brent from Salt Lake City writes: A little shocked by the Brian Johnson hire at the U. Can you make me feel better about the prospect of a 25 year old OC?

Ted Miller: Of course, it's a risk. Johnson, who doesn't turn 25 until Feb. 16, has only been a full-time assistant coach -- quarterbacks -- since 2010. When you see a want ad, just about every one requires a certain amount of experience. Why? Because it means you'll know the ins and outs of said job. You'll have already seen -- and overcome -- the myriad challenges a job presents. There is no way around it: Johnson lacks experience. He hasn't seen a lot as a coach. Further, you could argue that Utah hasn't exactly been lights out at quarterback since he took over the position.

Again, a risk.

That said: What successful person doesn't take risks? As they say: High risk, high reward. That's what Johnson represents.

You need reassurance, Brent? Let me introduce you to someone. His name is Kyle Whittingham. He's your highly successful coach. He made a former BYU fullback your defensive coordinator in 2009. What do you think about Kalani Sitake now?

The obvious read on this is Whittingham sees something in Johnson. When he interviewed Johnson about the job, Johnson wowed him. Whittingham's spidey senses started to tingle. My guess is Whittingham is a believer in his instincts. And he went with his instincts.

Understand: This is not a move that would be made by a coach with questionable job security. If the Utes offense falters next fall -- it wasn't exactly the cat's meow in 2011 under the venerable Norm Chow, by the way -- Whittingham won't get fired over it. He can afford to take a big risk and hope for a big reward down the road.

Shane from Fort Lewis, Wash., writes: How is Washington State truly going to do next year? Is Mike Leach the real answer to get us back in the top 10? Last question; when will WSU be back in a RoseBCS bowl game?

Ted Miller: Shane wants answers!

1. Washington State is going to go 7-5 next year; 2. Yes; 3. The Cougars will play in the 2016 Rose Bowl.

I think Leach will produce immediate results. I think the Cougars will be a bowl team in 2012. How much of a "bowl" team depends on the defense stepping up.

As for the Rose Bowl and top-10, that could take some time. And some savvy recruiting. But Washington State has been to two Rose Bowls since 1997, and Leach produced top-10 teams at a Washington State-like program (Texas Tech). It's entirely reasonable to believe the marriage will yield success.

I'm in the process or reading Leach's book, "Swing Your Sword." Here's something of note. Leach, who never played college football and went to law school before he swerved into coaching, had to work his way up through the coaching ranks, starting at the very bottom of the bottom. Here is Leach recalling his time with Hal Mumme at Iowa Wesleyan.
In these sorts of situations, it's easy to fixate on how the other team has better resources than you do. But it's more important to concentrate on maximizing your own resources instead of worrying about things you can't control. It's a challenge, obviously, because the stronger and faster the other team is, the better they can minimize damage and the better their chances of popping open a big play. Regardless, you just can't spend a lot of time dwelling on what you don't have. Instead, you think about the areas you need to fortify and find your opponent's weaknesses so you can direct your attack.

Leach's coaching strength is doing more with less, with outsmarting more talented foes. That means Cougars teams with five-win talent, win six or seven games. And Cougars with seven-win talent win nine or 10.

Alex from Las Vegas writes: So USC was limited to 15 signings but only got 12. What happens to the balance? Does USC lose them or do theyet to apply those 3 next year?

Ted Miller: I could answer this, but Michael Lev of the Orange County Register did such a good job today that, well, I'm going to steal from him.

The short answer: Signing 12 works in USC's favor. The Trojans are presently at 77 scholarships, according to Lev, which means two players will need to be shaved in order to be in line with NCAA sanctions, which mandate that USC can't have more than 75 scholarship players over each of the next three seasons. That will be easy to hit with natural attrition.

Further, Lev points this out:
As things stand now, Kiffin and his staff can bring in three midyear enrollees next winter. Add those to the 15 signees allowed next February, and you’ve got a total of 18.

That’s a meaningful number.

According to the USCFootball.com’s database, USC signed an average of 18 players from 2007-10, with a high of 19 (2008) and a low of 17 (2010). So this year’s total of 17 and next year’s projected total of 18 are hardly out of the ordinary.

What we're starting to see is that coach Lane Kiffin has a plan to manage the scholarship reductions, and it just might work out. There's no way around being down 10 scholarships each year. It limits options and makes a team more vulnerable to injuries due to depth issues. But if the Trojans stay healthy, and touted recruits pan out, they might just be able to weather the next three years pretty well, despite sanctions.

Mister Kilmister from Front Range, Colo., writes: Ted. You seem like a nice guy. You've done well trying to include CU and Utah into the mix. We're trying out best to fit in with our new conference. We want things to go well. But if you ever call us part of the West Coast again I swear to God I will put a cutout of Ubben's head on a stick and wave it in front of you anytime you set foot in our state. I hope we don't have to go over this again.

Ted Miller: You mean you'll make me younger and better looking?

As new members of the Pac-12, and as a school with a lot of students from California, you guys are a little West Coast-y, aren't you? I'm in landlocked Arizona -- no coast to be seen -- and I'm West Coast-y.

Or do you Utah and Colorado folks insist on being mountain folk even as you settle into the Pac-12?

D from Oakland writes: Got to tell you Ted. I frequent your blog less and less these day. Primarily because the discussion has been overrun by [people D doesn't like in the comments sections]. I know its not your fault and there may be no way to reign in these losers but it makes for a [not fun] lunchtime read. I now go elsewhere for my college football lunchtime fix.

Ted Miller: D, you do realize you can read my wonderful posts -- each and every one, over and over and over -- without reading the comments section? There is no rule that you have to trade barbs in the dark netherworld of the blog comments section.

Jeffrey from Flagstaff, Ariz., writes: For the sake of offseason humor, can you please refer to the upcoming Cal-UW match as the "Raise Bowl."

Ted Miller: "Raise Bowl" is good. We definitely have to figure out a good, snarky name for Washington's visit to California on Nov. 2.

Tosh-o-palooza?

The Welcome Back &%$##@ Bowl!

Thoughts?

Huskies top Pac-12 assistant coach pay

January, 23, 2012
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Washington's rebuilt football staff is in the money, but perhaps not as in the money as some speculated in would be during a flurry of postseason hires.

Tosh Lupoi, the recruiting ace who bolted California to be the Huskies defensive line coach, won't get $500,000 as speculated. Lupoi's memorandum of understanding -- the figures released by the school have not yet become signed contracts -- calls for guaranteed $350,000 per year from 2012 through February 6, 2015. It includes one-time payment of $100,000 and an additional $100,000 if he remains on the Huskies' staff through the agreement's end date.

Including a $51,000 supplement on top of a base salary of $164,000 Lupoi made $215,000 in 2011 at Cal.

New defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox will be paid $750,000 in 2012, with $350,000 in base pay and $400,000 in supplemental pay. He will get $800,000 guaranteed in 2013 and $850,000 in 2014.

Wilcox is essentially taking a pay cut to move back to the Northwest from Tennessee. While he was scheduled to make $700,000 in 2012 with the Volunteers, Seattle has a substantially higher cost of living than Knoxville -- making $750,000 in Seattle is the equivalent of making $552,000 in Knoxville.

In total, the Huskies staff, which includes five new members, will be paid $2.73 million in 2012, which is more than any Pac-12 staff was paid in 2011 (though USC's and Stanford's figures are not public records because both are private schools).

New offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau will be paid $375,000 this year, $400,000 in 2013 and $425,000 in 2014. His first-year pay is $10,000 more than what the man he replaced -- Doug Nussmeier -- earned last year. Nussmeier left for Alabama. Huskies head coach Steve Sarkisian will still call offensive plays.

Linebackers coach Peter Sirmon, who came with Wilcox from Tennessee, is getting a two-year contract that will pay him $225,000 in 2012 and $250,000 next year. New secondary coach Keith Heyward, who came from Oregon State, will get $150,000 this year and $160,000 in 2013

Also, according to the release, "All the new assistants can earn incentive pay for reaching the Pac-12 championship game, for winning it, for appearing in a bowl game and for appearing in a Bowl Championship Series game or the BCS title game."

Former defensive line coach, Johnny Nansen, got a raise with his new title as assistant head coach, special teams coordinator and recruiting coordinator. His salary of $165,000 in 2011 will increase to $200,000 in 2012 and $225,000 in 2013.

Jimmie Dougherty, the 2011 wide receivers coach, is now also the pass game coordinator. His salary of $135,000 in 2011 will increase to $190,000 this year and $205,000 next year.

Running backs coach Joel Thomas has added the title of associate head coach for offense. His pay goes from $160,008 to $190,000 in 2012 and $205,000 in '13.

Offensive line coach and running game coordinator Dan Cozzetto's salary remains $300,000 per year.

The Huskies staff was paid up from $2,305,028 in 2011. It is scheduled to be $2,895,000 in 2013.

You can read more here.

Lupoi will need to step up at Washington

January, 17, 2012
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After the "boom!" there's this for Tosh Lupoi and Washington: Now what?

Well, of course, Lupoi, who bolted his alma mater California for the Huskies on Monday, will start reeling in four- and five-star recruits, correct? That's the thinking. There will be significant pressure for him to do just that -- and immediately. If he doesn't swing a Shaq Thompson (Cal commit) or an A-list D-lineman or help coach Steve Sarkisian close the deal with offensive lineman Zach Banner, the state's No. 2 prospect, and Washington's class sags to the middle of the Pac-12, then some will wonder what all the hubbub was about.

Washington fans, however, probably shouldn't get their hopes up too high. For one, signing day is Feb. 1. The window here is small, particularly when Lupoi now must completely change directions with his sales pitch. Young men and their parents who have for months heard, "Here's why you should come to Cal" -- a pitch, by the way, that previously implied why they shouldn't go to Washington -- will now hear something else.

It figures that Lupoi might need some time to create some new recruiting traction for himself. He has been a part of the Cal program for nearly half his life -- 12 of 30 years. He played for Jeff Tedford and hasn't coached anywhere else. As ESPN Recruiting's Greg Biggins told Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times that Lupoi "had a passion for Cal." Consider his Twitter page, where his "#Calgang" hashtag figures to be retired.

If Lupoi aggressively tries to flip a handful of players committed to Cal -- something we honestly doubt he will do -- then, well, we'd hope that would cause him to lose some sleep. While all is fair in love, war and recruiting, that would be a bit sleazy. Of course, effective sleazy that is within NCAA rules often falls under this category: good recruiting.

The bigger picture is what matters here for the Huskies and Lupoi.

For the Huskies, it's getting a guy who is a proven, elite recruiter. And -- oh, by the way -- it also is getting a good defensive line coach. Further, it's valuable that Lupoi has a good relationship with new defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox. Toss in LBs coach Peter Sirmon, and there will be immediate comfort and familiarity among the rebuilt defensive staff, one that includes DBs coach Keith Heyward, an import from Oregon State who also is a young, energetic recruiter.

For Lupoi, he takes a step forward in his career. If he has head-coaching ambitions, he doesn't want to get locked into a "super-recruiter" label. He needs to be eyeballing a coordinator role down the road. He needs to prove himself as a teacher and X's and O's guy.

That's the ultimate rub of Sarkisian's impressive defensive hires. If Wilcox does well rebuilding the Huskies' defense, he's going to get an opportunity to be a head coach at an A-list program within three or four years. Maybe sooner. And he might take Sirmon or Lupoi with him as a coordinator. Or Sarkisian might counter with an alluring promotion for one or the other.

But Sarkisian knows future staff turnover will only happen if Wilcox, Lupoi and the rest produce positive results in the short term. That means upgrading recruiting and upgrading scheme and execution. That means creating a defense that can win the Pac-12 North Division.

For everyone to win, the Huskies have to win first.

Lunch links: Huskies after Cal's Lupoi?

January, 13, 2012
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You see, Jason was my son, and today is his birthday.

Washington makes Heyward hire official

January, 12, 2012
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Keith Heyward is leaving Oregon State to coach the secondary at Washington, the Huskies announced Thursday.

Here's the official press release:

Keith Heyward has joined the Washington football coaching staff as defensive backs coach, Husky head coach Steve Sarkisian announced today.

Heyward comes to Washington after having served the past four seasons on the coaching staff at his alma mater, Oregon State, where he was the Beavers' secondary coach.

"Keith is a bright, young coach and a terrific recruiter," Sarkisian said. "I think he'll be a great fit with our new defensive staff, in particular Justin Wilcox, our new coordinator."

Prior to joining the OSU staff in 2008, Heyward has spent one season (2007) as an assistant at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and the two seasons prior to that as a graduate assistant at Oregon State.

In 2011, Heyward coached second-team All-Pac-12 cornerback Jordan Poyer, as well as safety Lance Mitchell, who earned honorable mention all-conference.

In his first season in charge of the secondary in Corvallis (2008), he coached cornerbacks Brandon Hughes and Keenan Lewis, currently with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Philadelphia Eagles, respectively.

A four-year letterman (1997-2000) for the Beavers, Heyward earned honorable mention All-Pac-10 following his senior season and played in the Hula Bowl. He started 35 consecutive games at cornerback for the Beavers and finished his career with a 41-9 victory over Notre Dame in the 2001 Fiesta Bowl, a win that capped an 11-1 season for OSU.

Following his college career, Heyward played professionally for the BC Lions in the CFL, the Scottish Claymores in NFL Europe and the L.A. Avengers in the Arena League. He also spent time in training camps with the 49ers and Seahawks in the NFL.

Heyward, who graduated from Taft High School in Woodland Hills, Calif., earned his degree in communications from OSU in 2002.

A Beaver becomes a Husky?

January, 12, 2012
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It appears that Washington will hire Keith Heyward away from Oregon State to coach the Huskies secondary, according to a report from the Seattle Times.

Heyward would replace cornerbacks coach Demetrice Martin, who left for UCLA.

The latest from the Times and ESPN recruiting West Coast guru Greg Biggins:

Strong indications tonight that this is a done deal and Heyward will be the next coach to join the UW defensive coaching staff.

According to USA Today, Heyward was the lowest-paid assistant on the OSU staff at $105,000 in 2011.

Every UW assistant last year made at least $124,000, so Heyward is surely getting a raise and likely a multi-year deal, to come to Washington.

Biggins called the hiring of Heyward "a big-time move'' and also called Heyward an "excellent coach & recruiter'' on his Twitter page.

It's unclear if Heyward is being hired to coach the entire secondary or just cornerbacks or safeties. UW will have one assistant coaching spot remaining to fill.

While you were on vacation ... Oregon State

August, 9, 2011
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The fifth of 12 quick updates on offseason Pac-12 goings on.

Oregon State in a sentence
  • The Beavers have critical questions -- both lines, injury issues, etc. -- that make it difficult to say whether they will end their bowl-less run at just one season.
The big issue
  • While a 100 percent healthy return of receiver James Rodgers would pack a positive punch, it's really all about the lines: The Beavers must fill big holes on the their defensive line, while the offensive line, which welcomes back four starters, needs to improve significantly.
Quick hit news
  • The early camp news on Rodgers, who underwent two surgical procedures on his right knee, is mostly good. He's practicing in a limited fashion. When he could return to full-contact work and just how much he'll look like his old self when he does remains to be seen.
  • Others players who missed spring practices due to injury include quarterback Ryan Katz (wrist), receiver Jordan Bishop (ankle), tight end Joe Halahuni (shoulder) and running back Jordan Jenkins (shoulder). Katz, Bishop and Jenkins were practicing at full speed, while Halahuni is expected to miss at least the first two games, including the visit to Wisconsin.
  • The status of starting DT Castro Masaniai, arrested in May after getting into a fight with his girlfriend, remains unclear. He's not yet practicing and he has a court appearance Thursday.
  • Another potential starting defensive lineman, Dominic Glover, had some academic issues, but he assured the local beat writers Wednesday that they will be cleared up by by next week.
  • Oregon State hired two new assistant coaches, but the bigger news was the firing of linebackers coach Greg Newhouse, who had been at Oregon State for 14 years. Chris Brasfield was hired as running backs coach and Brent Brennan was hired to coach receivers. Defensive coordinator Mark Banker will coach linebackers next fall. He supervised the safeties last season. Cornerbacks coach Keith Heyward will now be in charge of the entire secondary.
  • Linebacker Michael Bibbee and safety Dax Dilbeck quit the team. Both were reserve players not expected to start.
  • Oregon State played seven ranked teams in 2010 -- five of which were in the top 10 when they faced the Beavers. They will play just three teams ranked in the preseason coaches poll this fall, but all three -- Wisconsin, Stanford and Oregon -- are ranked in the top-10. They also play Arizona State, which is ranked in ESPN.com's preseason power rankings, as well as Utah and BYU.

Mailbag: Who cares about Willie Lyles?

March, 25, 2011
3/25/11
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Who owns Robert Redford?

We may have an angle to fire-up the Utah-Colorado rivalry (albeit a contrived, forced one)!

The response to the Pac-12's blog request for food and drink recommendations in Salt Lake City and Boulder from Utah and Colorado fans has been huge. And when I say "huge," I mean it took me three days to shuffle through all of the notes.

And from reading the notes, it became clear that Colorado fans particularly like "The Sink" -- a Boulder institution -- and many noted that Redford used to work there.

And, of course, Utah fans also know that Redford founded the Sundance Resort in Utah.

So where does Redford's heart belong? Colorado, where he went to school, or Utah, where he built a resort community and lives?

Ready, set ... insult each other! (You may need to consult Oregon and Washington fans about generating endless supplies of bile, though you, of course, have experience with Nebraska and BYU fans).

Anyway, just a thought.

Follow me on Twitter. (Talking to you, Sundance!)

To the notes.

Pedro from Eugene writes: Ted, Today the headline of your links was, "Another Duck knows Lyles." Who cares? Because of who this guy is, hundreds if not thousands of current and past college football players know him. This Oregon thing has been blown so far out of proportion they are writing articles about a guy with a different mentor knowing him; a guy who didn't even play a down of football for Oregon. Wow.

Ted Miller: Pedro, the simple answer is the NCAA is investigating Willie Lyles and other "street agents," and if the NCAA cares, you should care.

Lyles doesn't know thousands of college football players. I doubt he even "knows" a hundred. What I do know is that he knows a lot of players who were highly rated high school prospects, some of whom ended up at Oregon, including Dontae Williams, the player the article is about. Whether Williams played a down or not is irrelevant. He signed with Oregon and was on the team in 2010.

You say "wow," as if you're dumbfounded. You're either trying to spin things or you aren't paying attention. This a serious NCAA matter, whether or not the Ducks are found, in the end, to have violated NCAA rules.

The fundamental lesson in all this, however, is simple. Dear top high school prospects. You do not need to suddenly adopt a "mentor" your junior or senior years of high school. If a guy shows up and offers his mentorship AFTER you already are a nationally known prospect, know that what he offers is worthless to you but probably is valuable to him.


Dustin from Soldotna, Alaska writes: Ted,I was just reviewing your "Who's back from the top-25?" list. I can agree with all of them, but at the bottom you have the players on the left-out list. I have failed to see anywhere James Rogers being mentioned. I understand there is still a question mark by his name pending his full recovery, but shouldn't he still be considered at the very least with an * by his name? If he is able to play this year, knowing his love and intensity for playing the game he will shine like he has year in and year out. He would have no doubt been on your top-25 at the end of the season and the Beavs would have played in a bowl game without question if he had not been injured in Arizona. Alas that is all just would have, could have, should have stuff, but none-the-less I still think there should be consideration regarding the upcoming season when you compile your list this summer and James Rogers being included.I would love to hear your thoughts.

Ted Miller: Because he was out most of the year, James Rodgers was not considered for the top-25, but it would have been wise of me to at least mention his expected return (hopefully) in 2011. Rodgers WILL be in the preseason top-25 if he is cleared to play.

After all, he was ranked No. 6 heading into the 2010 season.


Greg from Hillsboro, Ore., writes: Wazzu. 2011 in the Pac-12. No one is paying any attention. I think they will surprise people this next season. I think they will win at least 5 games, maybe as many as 7. Wins: Idaho State, UNLV, @SDSU, @Colorado (they are terrible too), Oregon State. Losses: Stanford, @Oregon, @California, Arizona State. Unknowns/Swings: @UCLA, Utah, @Washington.They might even shock me and win all those swing games and win 8 games.Their DL has more depth, as does the LB group. DB's are a BIG question. Their OL is going to be better, and their WR group is pretty decent/good. And Tuel is a good QB. Lots of returning starters and players with an upgraded talent level. They gave OSU, UCLA, Stanford, Cal and UW all they could handle last year.... WSU will be better than many predict or think.As Gomer Pyle (in)famously said, "Surprise, surprise, surprise!"Doubt not Oregon fans Ted, you know better.

Ted Miller: If Washington State avoids the injury bug, I see it as a threat to win six games and be competitive with just about any team they play. I think the key is line play on both sides of the ball. If the Cougs can run and stop the run -- at least moderately -- much will be different in 2011. I think they are better than "decent" at receiver, and the secondary will be much improved in 2011, particularly if it gets help from a pass rush.

Not sure I'd write in road wins at San Diego State, Colorado and Oregon State. The Aztecs are no pushover, and I'm getting a feeling many of you old school Pac-10 fans are underestimating Colorado. And the Beavers are going to be plenty motivated at home to get revenge versus the Cougars.

Still, your point is solid. Washington State was competitive in 2010. The Cougs will take another step forward in 2011. They are no longer an easy out.


Eric from Albany, Ore., writes: Hey Ted, I love the coaching changes Riley has made this off-season. I have felt that the beavers have looked a little "old skool" on both sides of the ball for a while now. Last year was certainly a disappointment, but not entirely unexpected. What do you think about the changes at Oregon State? Do you think we can expect an immediate impact or are we more likely to only see an impact in recruiting, which could take a few seasons?

Ted Miller: Considering Oregon State had built a reputation over the past decade-plus of producing plenty of top-flight linebackers, it's hard to say that Greg Newhouse, the longest tenured coach in the program at 14 seasons, was dispatched because of his coaching. Though the Beavers LB play wasn't terribly good in 2010. The move did clearly show that coach Mike Riley was unhappy with the way things were going and he was willing to make a bold move. Riley is known for his loyalty to his staff, so it's doubtful that he made a change just to shake things up.

I don't know much about Brent Brennan (receivers) and Chris Brasfield (running backs). Both will be coaching critical positions for the Beavers in 2011. It would be easier for both to break in if they saw a Rodgers brother lining up with their unit this spring. From what I gather -- and a number of Beavers observers have written it -- recruiting was a big reason for making changes.

One of the more notable changes was defensive coordinator Mark Banker taking over the linebackers and Keith Heyward, who coached cornerbacks in 2010, taking over the entire secondary. That seems like a nice vote of confidence in Heyward. Coaching secondary is the quickest route to a coordinator role.

As for immediate impact, hard to say. Having good players helps. Brennan probably will look like a really good coach if he gets to pair a healthy Rodgers with Markus Wheaton. As for an impact in recruiting, we'll see next February.


Ryan from Tacoma writes: Just curious, wondering if you can quickly indulge me (and fully aware that if you do indulge me you possibly open yourself up to eventually making statements like "Player X is not in my top 350 because of Y"), but why did you leave Victor Aiyewa out of your top 45?Being a Dawg fan I know how inconsistent he was, but it seems that the conference's leader in tackles for loss should be one of its top 45 players.

Ted Miller: Aiyewa was a tough player to judge. He led the Pac-10 with 21 tackles for a loss, but he didn't earn All-Conference honors. I asked a couple of people about him during the season, and it seemed he was a bit of a "feast or famine" guy. He either made a big play or got blocked.

That was sort of what happened with Arizona DE Ricky Elmore. He led the Pac-10 in sacks with 11 but also was inconsistent at times, though he did end up second-team All-Pac-10.


Casey from Parts Unknown writes: I understand your perception of Havili being the number #1 fullback in the conference, but let me say you are wrong here. This perception has been driven by all the media. Every time you turn on a USC game the announcers massage the USC ego and talk about what a great player he is. But talk to people who critically watch what happens on the field, NFL scouts, etc and see who they would rather have blocking for Chris Johnson, Adrian Petersen, or Maurice Jones-Drew. Havili is no doubt a good player, but he is not a fullback in the traditional sense. He is a tailback who happens to line up in the fullback position on the field. While he is a good receiver and runner, the main job of a fullback is to block and Havili pales in comparison to Owen in this regard. Ask any linebacker in the Pac-10 who they would rather go up against in the middle of the hole and there would be no stuttering on their part. Let's see, Owen was selected to the Senior Bowl to play fullback, where was Havili? As you stated Owen was 10th in the Heisman voting, where was Havili? Owen won the Paul Hornung Award, where was Havili? As you stated some of this is due to Owen playing linebacker, but it is clear that he will be playing fullback at the next level. When it comes to playing fullback in the traditional sense, I am sorry, there is no comparison.

Ted Miller: I did notice the other day that ESPN.com's NFL draft folks actually have Marecic rated ahead of Havili, which did surprise me.

It will be interesting to see who gets picked first. Marecic is a better blocker than Havili, though I've heard that Havili is a better pass blocker. Also, Marecic is not a natural receiver and Havili is. That's a big skill for a fullback.

There aren't many traditional, lead-blocker fullbacks in the NFL anymore. My feeling is that Havili will be drafted before Marecic because of his versatility. But I could be wrong.

And, again, I love Marecic as a player and student-athlete.


Scott from Gilbert, Ariz., writes: Cliff Harris on the top 25. No doubt that the guy has skills but it may be his real talent is getting coaches, sports writers, teammates and fans to all shake their heads and say "Man, if that guy just , he would be a top 5 pick!". It takes real talent to get that many people to speak the same phrase in unison.

Ted Miller: The best analysis on Cliff Harris yet.
How galling was Oregon State's first losing season since 2005 for coach Mike Riley? Well, Riley underwent surgical procedures to remove gallstones and then his gallbladder March 12 and 13, so apparently pretty galling.

Snare roll, cymbal crash! (But seriously, folks, I just flew in from Scottsdale and, boy, my arms sure are tired!).

While Riley is the sort who can remain good-natured through most things (even a horrific pun), losing is not really one of them. His seriousness about reversing the Beavers 2010 downturn was perhaps best manifested by a surprising staff change: the dispatch of long-time linebackers coach Greg Newhouse.

The Beavers head into spring practices, which begin Monday, with plenty of questions, but it stands to reason the veteran players are motivated by a disappointing 5-7 finish that was further aggravated by watching state rival Oregon play for the national championship.

[+] EnlargeJames Rodgers
Chris Morrison/US PresswireJames Rodgers is still recovering from an injury to his knee.
"You certainly hope it does," Riley said. "You'd like to think it's made everybody take it up a notch."

The biggest questions surround the Rodgers brothers. How will Oregon State replace running back Jacquizz Rodgers and how healthy will receiver James Rodgers be after two knee surgeries?

The competition at running back includes senior Ryan McCants, junior Jordan Jenkins, sophomore Jovan Stevenson, redshirt freshman Malcolm Marabel and greyshirt freshman Terron Ward. Riley said he'd like to establish a pecking order as soon as possible and then figure out a rotation based on what skills each offer to the offense.

"It's probably very important to distinguish between No. 1 and No. 2 [this spring]," Riley said.

As for James Rodgers, things are fluid. He was granted a medical hardship year, but there have been complications with his recovery -- starting with the need for a second procedure -- and it's unclear if he'll be ready for preseason practices, or how long it will take him to get back to full-speed.

"We'll just have to see where that goes," Riley said.

Receiver is an interesting position for the Beavers. With Rodgers, it looks like a definite strength. Rodgers at flanker and junior Markus Wheaton at split end, with Jordan Bishop, Geno Munoz and Darrell Catchings providing depth, not to mention intriguing big target Obum Gwacham and H-back Joe Halahuni; that's a strong lineup of targets for QB Ryan Katz.

But Rodgers is a question, and the inconsistent Bishop is sitting out spring with a foot injury. Catchings and Gwacham aren't sure things, either.

And in terms of delivering the ball, Katz is coming back from a wrist injury, and Riley likely will be cautious with overworking him. That means more opportunities for Cody Vaz, Sean Mannion and Jack Lomax to compete for the backup job.

Some further notes:

Injuries and departures: Rodgers, Bishop, DT Castro Masaniai (shoulder) are sitting out. Fullback Will Darkins opted not to return for his senior year.

Additions and changes: Five greyshirts have been added to the roster. K Trevor Romaine, LB Will Storey, DT Fred Thompson, RB Terron Ward and LB D.J. Welch, as well as a true-freshmen in offensive lineman Darryl Jackson. Two JC transfer defensive ends will participate in spring practices: Rusty Fernando and Blake Harrah. Munoz has switched from split end to slot receiver. Tyler Anderson has moved from cornerback to fulback. Expected starting CB Jordan Poyer will practice football on Mondays and Wednesdays and play baseball on Fridays.

Coaching changes: Brent Brennan is the new receivers coach and Chris Brasfield will coach running backs. With the departure of Newhouse, defensive coordinator Mark Banker will coach linebackers. Banker oversaw safeties last season. Keith Heyward is now in charge of the entire secondary.

Offensive line reshuffle: The Beavers offensive line was a disappointment in 2010, so it's probably not a surprise that there are some changes, even with four starters returning. Sophomore Josh Andrews has been moved from center, where he was expected to replace Alex Linnenkohl, to left guard. Grant Johnson has moved from LG to C. Michael Philipp is the RT and Mike Remmers is the LT. Last fall, they were reversed. Remmers is a better pass blocker, which means he's better suited to protect Katz's blindside.

Filling in on D: The Beavers must replace six defensive starters, including a DE, a DT, two OLBs and a CB and a S. Poyer and Anthony Watkins are expected to fill the secondary voids, while Taylor Henry, Andrew Seumalo, John Braun and Fernando and Harrah are competing for the end spot opposite Dominic Glover. With Masaniai out, Kevin Frahm, Mana Tuivailala and Ben Motter are the top tackles, though Thompson is an intriguing talent. Cameron Collins and Michael Doctor are the top two candidates at OLB, though Riley is high on Shaydon Akuna and Michael Bibbee, a pair of redshirt freshmen.

Spread? Katz is a good all-around athlete, so Riley said there will be some experiments with the spread-option this spring. "We are going to mess with the zone read like we did with the fly sweep,” he said.

Riley makes changes to Oregon State staff

March, 21, 2011
3/21/11
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Oregon State has hired two new assistant coaches, but the bigger news is Greg Newhouse is out as linebackers coach.

Newhouse, who's been at Oregon State for 14 seasons, "was offered another position within the program, but elected to pursue other opportunities," according to a news release from the school.

Defensive coordinator Mark Banker will coach linebackers next fall. He supervised the safeties last season. Cornerbacks coach Keith Heyward will now be in charge of the entire secondary.

Meanwhile, Chris Brasfield was hired as running backs coach and Brent Brennan has been hired to coach receivers.

Brasfield, a defensive graduate assistant for Oregon last season, takes over for Reggie Davis, who left for the San Francisco 49ers. Brennan coached receivers at San Jose State last season. Beavers assistant head coach Jay Locey coached receivers last fall but will be in charge of the tight ends this season. Graduate assistant Robin Ross, who was hired for a full-time post at UNLV, coached tight ends in 2010.

Brennen had been at San Jose State since 2005. Before that, he spent four seasons as the wide receivers coach at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. A former UCLA receiver -- he played on the 1994 Rose Bowl team -- he previously was a GA at both Washington (1999) and Arizona (2000).

As for Brasfield, prior to arriving at Oregon in March of 2010, he spent three years as the running backs coach at Samford University in Birmingham, Ala. He was a receiver and return specialist at TCU in 1994 and ’95 after transferring from UTEP, where he played from 1991-93.

Here's the Beavers updated coaching roster under Riley: Jay Locey, assistant head coach/tight ends; Mark Banker, defensive coordinator/linebackers; Bruce Read, coordinator of special teams; Danny Langsdorf, offensive coordinator/quarterbacks; Chris Brasfield, running backs; Brent Brennan, wide receivers; Mike Cavanaugh, offensive line; Keith Heyward, secondary; Joe Seumalo, defensive line; Alan Darlin, graduate assistant/asst. linebackers; Mitch Meeuwsen, graduate assistant/asst. secondary.

Pac-10 lunch links: A guess at UCLA's depth chart

April, 29, 2009
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Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Weaseling out of things is important to learn. It's what separates us from the animals ... except the weasel.

  • Michigan transfer Steven Threet, at worst, means Arizona State might be the nation's tallest team at quarterback. 
  • Oregon's defensive line has looked good this spring, but part of that is injuries to the Ducks' offensive line. Behind them, the Ducks also feel good where they are at linebacker.
  • More on Oregon State's rebuilding offensive line. Beavers cornerbacks coach Keith Heyward has his hands full this spring, with two of his former corners off to the NFL.
  • A good but not great baseball season suggests Stanford will get tailback Toby Gerhart back in 2009.
  • UCLA's depth charts: offense and defense. An uneven performance this spring by the receivers.
  • USC linebacker Chris Galippo is glad to be back, and glad his back is feeling good. Three Trojans opted to stay instead of enter the NFL draft. Two concerns heading into the fall.
  • Chris Defresne considers the rites and wrongs of spring.
  • John McGrath likes all the fulminating and thinks the Apple Cup should be played, like, right now! Washington State athletic director Jim Sterk responds to Washington AD Scott Woodward's chiding.
  • Former Washington receiver Brandon Gibson, a sixth-round pick of the Philadelphia Eagles, doesn't regret returning for his senior season.
  • Considering the top Pac-10 tight ends.

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