Pac-12: Lloyd Carrington

We're continuing our preseason position reviews. Please, hold your applause until we are finished.

Here's how we do this. We provide three evaluative categories: "Great shape," "Good shape" and "We'll see."

Hint: You'd prefer your team to be in "Great shape."

"We'll see" doesn't mean you're going to stink at said position. It means just what it says -- we'll see, because there's no way at present to know.

You can review last year’s rankings here.

Up next: Cornerbacks. Considering the talent pool of quarterbacks in the Pac-12, each team’s secondary is going to be tested more and more this season. Teams are really (read: really, really, really) going to want to be good here in 2014.

GREAT SHAPE

Oregon: All-American Ifo Ekpre-Olomu is back, and considering how much opponents want to throw (though, who knows how much they will actually throw at him), he’s looking at what could be a really, really impressive final season. Through the spring, fellow senior Dior Mathis emerged as the other starter, though Troy Hill could make this an intriguing position battle to watch. Backing up these guys will be Chris Seisay, junior college transfer Dominique Harrison and Stephen Amoako. Elite talent and excellent depth make this one of the best position groups for the Ducks.

Stanford: The Cardinal have a new defensive backs coach in Duane Akina. In his 13 years with Texas he developed two Thorpe Award winners and 14 all-conference defensive backs, and he inherits a stocked pantry at Stanford. Alex Carter -- who sat out this spring -- and Wayne Lyons are both very, very good players who will anchor the secondary. Ronnie Harris will play the outside when Lyons shifts over to cover the slot.

UCLA: Last year at this time, UCLA’s cornerbacks were in the “we’ll see” category. Well, we saw. We liked. The Bruins return Fabian Moreau, Ishmael Adams and Anthony Jefferson -- they combined for 201 tackles, six interceptions and 11 pass breakups in 2013. With an offseason to gel as a unit, mature and condition, expect those numbers to grow. If need be, Randall Goforth could play some cornerback, and early enrollee Adarius Pickett and 2014 signee Jaleel Wadood (younger brother of Arizona State cornerback Rashad Wadood) could also contribute.

GOOD SHAPE

Oregon State: Steven Nelson has one of the cornerback spots locked down. He recorded 62 tackles, six interceptions and eight pass breakups last season. Opposite him, Larry Scott and Dashon Hunt are vying for the starting spot. Scott has more game experience but spent half of the spring on the sideline nursing a hamstring injury, giving Hunt more and more reps as the spring season went on. And considering these guys go up against quarterback Sean Mannion every day in practice, their learning curves are going to be expedited.

Washington: In Marcus Peters (55 tackles, five interceptions, 14 PBR in 2013) the Huskies have a very, very good cornerback on their hands. Opposing quarterbacks probably aren’t going to throw at him a ton, which brings the second starter into question. The starter opposite Peters will be the one put in bigger situations (at least until he proves himself as a lockdown cornerback. If he doesn’t, the passes will keep coming). Redshirt freshman Jermaine Kelly and former Alabama transfer Travell Dixon had the first shot at the job in spring ball, and the Huskies will get four freshman cornerbacks in the fall to add to that group. It is a young group, but expect Peters -- who we think could be one of the best defensive backs in the Pac-12 this season -- to pull along whoever plays the opposite spot.

Colorado: Senior Greg Henderson is the most experienced defensive player returning to the Buffs this season, and his history of steadily improving through his Colorado career is a good sign that this season will be his best. On the other side, Colorado is still going through a position battle with junior college transfer Ahkello Witherspoon (who had an interception three pass breakups in the spring game) and Kenneth Crawley (who played in 11 of 12 games last season for the Buffs). Chidobe Awuzie also returns, making cornerback one of Colorado's deepest positions.

WE’LL SEE

USC: A coaching change and a lot of questions about players made this a hard decision between Good Shape and We'll See. With the pure talent the Trojans have, it will be surprising if this is not a productive group, but that potential doesn’t necessarily mean anything. Kevon Seymour has one starting spot. He ended last season on a high note and played well in the spring, but has had a very up-and-down career. Can he sustain this recent production? We’ll see. Opposite Seymour, there is a battle brewing between Josh Shaw, Chris Hawkins and possibly Adoree' Jackson. This might be the group with the most upside and the most downside (basically, the most unknowns) of any cornerback corps in the conference.

Arizona: Earlier this spring, head coach Rich Rodriguez said he wasn’t as excited about his secondary’s depth as he wanted to be. Considering the Wildcats play with a five defensive back system, that is not great. But, they have Jonathan McKnight to anchor one side. He started all 13 games for the Wildcats last season and led the team with eight pass breakups. The other side is still a question mark as the team tries to replace Shaquille Richardson.

Utah: Expect to see a lot of nickel from the Utes as they prepare for life-after-Trevor-Reilly. Eric Rowe -- the team’s third-leading tackler in 2013 -- is back and has secured one of the starting spots. He is the fastest defensive back on the team (4.39 seconds in the 40-yard dash) but the other starter remains a question. Utah likes sophomore Reginald Porter (10 tackles in 2013) and senior Davion Orphey (eight starts, 33 tackles in 2013) but they could see competition from incoming players like Travonne Hobbs and Casey Hughes.

Arizona State: ASU lost both cornerback starters in Osahon Irabor and Robert Nelson following the 2013 season. Nelson accounted for 57 tackles, six interceptions and six pass breakups, and Irabor tallied 54 tackles, three interceptions and five pass breakups. Their backups -- Lloyd Carrington and Rashad Wadood -- finished the spring atop the depth chart. Those two combined for just 32 tackles in 2013. There is always the argument that these two will step right into their mentors’ shoes as they have had time to learn, but the verdict is still out on how effective these two will be.

Washington State: The Cougars have taken major steps forward under head coach Mike Leach. At some point the cornerbacks need to follow suit (especially considering what they face in practice every single day). The Washington State secondary is in a major rebuilding period after losing cornerbacks Nolan Washington and Damante Horton. The only player with any kind of experience is Daquawn Brown, but beyond him it could be a lot of youth in the secondary.

Cal: The Bears have new defensive backs coach Greg Burns, who helped USC win national titles in 2003 and 2004 (in those two seasons the Trojans gave up just 239 passing yards per game) so there is certainly not a lack of talent and experience on the coaching end. But on the field, it’s a different matter. Cameron Walker -- who had to play safety last season because of injuries -- will return to cornerback and start alongside Stefan McClure. Both have experience at safety, which should help the defense be more dynamic, but again, that alone doesn’t necessarily propel the group into good or great shape this season.

Other position reviews:

Mailbag: Love from Pittsburgh

April, 5, 2013
4/05/13
6:00
PM ET
Happy Friday.

Follow the Pac-12 blog on Twitter.

Greetings to all our new Pitt fans. Maybe you can start a blog club with Kansas State and Mississippi State fans?

To the notes!

Alex from Ann Arbor, Mich., writes: Ted,Your article about Rushel Shell's transfer reveals a lack of research on your part. Pitt's transfer policy has been consistent for the past 15 years. The University of Pittsburgh has never allowed transfers to schools with multiple former Pitt staffers. While the merits of this can be argued, this is an issue that needs to taken up with the NCAA as a whole, not just Pitt. If I remember correctly, in a previous article about Todd Graham leaving Pitt for ASU you told Pitt fans to get over it while not bringing to light the issue in college sports where college Presidents can freely lure coaches away from signed contracts. In other words, when Graham came to ASU there was no mention of the underlying NCAA issue at hand but when Shell transfers to ASU you are calling Pitt fans to take action against this problem that is an NCAA problem. It appears that you might be the one who needs to "get over" the fact that Shell won't be joining ASU or AZ unless he wants to pay his own way.

Ted Miller: This was one of the less addled responses to my column on Pitt blocking running back Rushel Shell from transferring to either Arizona or Arizona State, reportedly because former Pitt coaches are on the Wildcats and Sun Devils coaching staffs.

That, of course, includes Arizona State head coach Todd Graham, who isn't very popular at Pitt.

There were a variety of counterpoints from Pitt fans -- see below -- none that I found terribly compelling. There's a reason for that. As noted in the article, there really isn't anyone in the world who doesn't believe Pitt coach Paul Chryst and athletic administrators are wrong for limiting a young man's transfer options for no credible reason other than being petty.

Of course, some liked the idea of being petty. At least they were honest.

I did read one writer who said allowing Shell to transfer where he wanted would set a "bad precedent." That sort of thinking emerges from the perspective of "program above all else, right or wrong." Within that thinking is the justification that is that if Shell gets to join Graham at Arizona State, others might follow.

The gee whiz solution to that false problem is to make your program appealing so players don't want to leave. And if they do, good riddance.

Further, part of establishing a strong locker room culture as well as credibility with recruits and their parents is not doing things that are counter to the interests of student-athletes. Yes, schools that recruit against Pittsburgh will add the treatment of Shell to their clip file.

Alex from Ann Arbor seems like a pretty bright sort, but I'm not sure his initial point is very effective: "Your article about Rushel Shell's transfer reveals a lack of research on your part. Pitt's transfer policy has been consistent for the past 15 years. The University of Pittsburgh has never allowed transfers to schools with multiple former Pitt staffers."

You are correct. I didn't research whether this was institutional policy. For one, CB Lloyd Carrington already followed Graham from Pittsburgh to Arizona State (apparently Pitt didn't know his destination, other than to be closer to his Texas home, when he was granted his release). And, second, I don't think it bolsters Pitt's position to point out that a petty decision by Pitt is actually a petty institutional policy.

As for "college Presidents can freely lure coaches away from signed contracts," well, college presidents can freely fire their head coach, too. Within those signed contracts are buyout clauses that explain what happens if a coach is fired before his contract is over or if he decides to go elsewhere before his contract is over. These are business relationships. Not marriages.

Neither Pitt denying Shell the freedom to transfer where he wants to go, nor Graham leaving Pitt are NCAA issues. The NCAA does have transfer rules -- Shell will lose a year while he sits out the season -- but Pitt has the power to decide the nature of its release.

Beyond Alex's note, most of what landed in the mailbag -- and on Twitter -- made the following weak assertions:
  • "Arizona State is tampering!" Really? That's an NCAA violation. Report it.
  • "Everybody else does this!" Er, no. But, still, this is what happened TODAY. Ergo, my column.
  • There were lots of attacks on Shell's character, which is called "changing the subject." And being petty and churlish in a new way.
  • There were lots of "You defended Graham." Yep. I don't believe a guy should be forced to not take a job he really wants or to stay in a place he doesn't want to be.
  • There were lots of "You live in Scottsdale!" Yeah ... since 2008. Lived in Seattle from 1999-2008. Mobile, Ala., before that. Went to the University of Richmond. And was born and raised in Atlanta. So what?
  • There were accusations of a "hatchet job." This column wouldn't exist without Pitt's actions. No hatchet. Just doing my job.
  • There were lots of "Get your facts straight" with zero examples of facts not being straight.
  • And there were plenty of the classic, "Your an idiot."

Kevin also dropped me a note, thanking me for ruining his spring vacation to Pittsburgh.

Steve from Highland, Mich., writes: Can you please tell me why the Oregon Ducks have not been hit with sanctions yet? Is it because of the big bucks of Phil Knight with Nike? I find it rather odd some of the other schools are getting hammered with the exception of Oregon.

Ted Miller: Nothing to do with Phil Knight and Nike.

The NCAA simply moves at a glacial pace, which is unfair to the investigated school because part of the ultimate punishment becomes the prolonged presence of a dark cloud over the program.

I wrote this in December, and it still holds true today.

And you might have noticed the NCAA has its own issues these days.

Jay from Cambridge, Mass., writes: In a world where a lot of people around the country still characterize the Pac-12 as an offense-only conference, to what degree does having someone like DE Dion Jordan going as a second-overall draft pick remind people otherwise?

Ted Miller: It's even more than that: Both ESPN NFL draft gurus Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay project the first three Pac-12 players picked in the first round will all play defense: Jordan, Utah DT Star Lotulelei and Washington CB Desmond Trufant.

It probably will surprise some folks, but the Pac-12 has long had plenty of good defenses and plenty of good defensive players. The more pass-happy and, more recently, uptempo styles of offense out West have skewed defensive numbers, often making them look worse than they are.

Just about every Pac-12 team that has beoame a national contender played good defense, most notably Washington under Don James, USC under John McKay and Pete Carroll. Oregon under Chip Kelly and coordinator Nick Aliotti consistently played underrated defense. And Stanford's legitimacy as a national title contender is more about defense than offense.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

PAC-12 SCOREBOARD

Friday, 12/26
Saturday, 12/20
Monday, 12/22
Tuesday, 12/23
Wednesday, 12/24
Saturday, 12/27
Monday, 12/29
Tuesday, 12/30
Wednesday, 12/31
Thursday, 1/1
Friday, 1/2
Saturday, 1/3
Sunday, 1/4
Monday, 1/12