Pac-12: Marcus Hardison

Video: Arizona State DT Marcus Hardison

April, 7, 2014
Apr 7
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video
Arizona State DT Marcus Hardison talks about the Sun Devils rebuilding defense and his improvement this spring.
Starters in, starters out. That's college football. Players' eligibility expires and they leave for the rest of their lives, whether that includes the NFL or not.

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

In alphabetical order, we will survey each Pac-12 team’s most notable void.

Biggest shoes: Defensive lineman Will Sutton

Duh. He was the two-time Pac-12 defensive player of the year, aptly named for former ASU linebacker Pat Tillman. Many debated whether Sutton was playing at his proper weight in 2013 after putting on about 25 pounds. As a result, his numbers declined from what they were in 2012. But he also garnered plenty of attention from offensive coordinators and as a result was still voted as the top defensive player in the conference in 2013. His first-step was wickedly fast, and on a defense loaded with seniors and veterans last season, he was the glue that kept it all together in the locker room and in the huddle.

Stepping in: TBD, but there are options.

Sutton is one of nine defensive starters who are gone from last season's squad. But D-line is a big deal to Todd Graham, who believes in stopping the run first and foremost. Senior Marcus Hardison will get an extended look after appearing in 13 games last season and posting five tackles, a sack and a tackle for a loss. Dalvon Stuckey will be in the mix as will Demetrius Cherry, formerly a defensive end who missed last season but is up to about 300 pounds and could fill in at nose tackle. JC transfer Edmond Boateng will be in spring ball and has three years of eligibility.
Our look at position groups in the Pac-12 continues.

Arizona: Coach Rich Rodriguez is confident in both Reggie Gilbert and Dan Pettinato and anxious to get junior-college transfers Jeff Worthy, who also spent a year at Boise State, and Jerod Cody acclimated to the system. Calvin Allen, Jack Banda and Luca Bruno are coming off redshirt seasons and represent a group Rodriguez said the team needs production from.

Arizona State: With the departure of Gannon Conway and Davon Coleman, there is a question about the team's depth at end. Without Will Sutton clogging things up next year, the Sun Devils' lack of experience is even more of a concern. Sean O'Grady backed up Conway and Coleman last year, but ASU has several well-regarded junior-college transfers in Edmond Boateng, Marcus Hardison and Demetrius Cherry.

California: The Bears list seven defensive ends, but former junior-college transfer Kyle Kragen and Puka Lopa gained the most experience last season listed at the rush position. Antione Davis was outgoing starter Dan Camporeale's primary backup, but Brennan Scarlett's return is more important. He started nine games in 2012 and has been cleared to play following a hand issue that cost him the 2013 season. Todd Barr, Sione Sina and recent-transfer Jonathan Johnson are also in the mix.

Colorado: Colorado must replace Chidera Uzo-Diribe, but Juda Parker is back for his senior season, and several others have game experience. Samson Kafovalu is the likely candidate to start opposite him after making 18 tackles in seven games last year. Jimmie Gilbert was Uzo-Diribe's backup, Kirk Poston and De'Jon Wilson also played.

Oregon: The Ducks took a hit with the departure of Taylor Hart, who was named second-team All-Pac-12, but have a talented player in Arik Armstead lined up to take his spot. Armstead started five times in 2013 and left the basketball team midseason to shift his focus back to football. T.J. Daniel, Jason Sloan are projected to be in the mix for playing time.

Oregon State: Scott Crichton is gone, but Dylan Wynn remains and will likely be the Beavers' best defensive player a year after finishing fourth on the team in tackles. Lavonte Barnett, Crichton's primary backup in 2013, and Jaswha James figure to compete for the starting job, but there are two others to keep an eye on. Obum Gwacham recently switched from receiver and Mike Riley has been complimentary of Titus Failauga, who is coming off his redshirt.

Stanford: Henry Anderson has a chance to be one of the best defensive players in the conference and Blake Lueders, who switched from OLB, began the spring atop the depth chart. The intriguing prospect is Luke Kaumatule, who was recruited to play defense but began 2013 as the team's starting tight end. Spring will be important for his development, but his raw ability is impressive.

UCLA: Both Ellis McCarthy and Eddie Vanderdoes were all-Pac-12 honorable mention last season and highlight a talented UCLA defensive line. Their return will help account for the loss of Cassius Marsh, who started 12 games last year. Both McCarthy and Vanderdoes can play inside or outside, but the Bruins listed them both at end. Highly recruited DE Kylie Fitts saw playing time as a true freshman last season.

USC: Leonard Williams, the only sophomore named first-team all-Pac-12 on defense last season, is the best in the conference. Delvon Simmons, who sat out last season after transferring from Texas Tech, has a lot of game experience. He started 12 games for the Red Raiders in 2012 and had regular playing time as a freshman there in 2011. Both Simmons and J.R. Tavai, who was an all-Pac-12 honorable mention selection, can play inside or outside.

Utah: There's no replacing Trevor Reilly, who made 100 tackles despite lingering effects from a torn ACL, but Nate Orchard and Hunter Dimick both saw extensive playing time last season. The Utes have five other defensive ends on the roster, but of that group only LT Filiaga made a tackle last season.

Washington: The Huskies are in great shape with the return of Hau'oli Kikaha, a second-team All-Pac-12 selection, Cory Littleton and Evan Hudson. Josh Shirley has 10 career starts, while Joe Mathis and Psalm Wooching provide depth.

Washington State: With Toni Pole expected to move back inside, the depth chart will look similar to how it did going into last season, minus Matt Bock. After making 50 tackles last year, Xavier Cooper will start on one side, with Destiny Vaeao and Lyman Faoliu strong candidates for more playing time. Emmitt Su'a-Kalio is coming off a redshirt, and the Cougars also signed a pair of defensive ends from Hawaii in Kingston Fernandez and Hercules Mata'afa.

Previous positions

Tight end
Quarterback
Running back
Receiver
Offensive line
Defensive tackle

Will Arizona State take a step back?

January, 14, 2014
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It flew a little under the radar on Monday that Arizona State linebacker Carl Bradford entered the NFL draft because a pair of Pac-12 All-Americans -- Arizona RB Ka'Deem Carey and Stanford OG David Yankey -- also announced they'd be going pro.

[+] EnlargeTaylor Kelly
Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY SportsWith the loss of key defensive starters, Arizona State may have to rely on QB Taylor Kelly and its offense to carry the load in 2014.
But Bradford's departure, though far from unexpected, is a big deal for the defending South Division champions, who now must replace nine starters and three key backups from its strong 2013 defense.

In fact, the Sun Devils will have only two of their top 11 tacklers, safety Damarious Randall and linebacker Salamo Fiso, back in 2014. The other returning starter is nose tackle Jaxon Hood.

Further, when we say "nine starters" we pretty much mean the 2013 defense's nine best players: Bradford, DT Will Sutton, S Alden Darby, LB Chris Young, CB Robert Nelson, DE Gannon Conway, CB Osahon Irabor, DE Davon Coleman and LB Anthony Jones.

Tackles, sacks, interceptions -- just about all the production from Todd Graham's aggressive, blitz-happy defense will be gone next fall.

While we are relentlessly raining on Arizona State's parade -- hey, want to talk about the Holiday Bowl? -- we'll also point out that the offense won't go unscathed, as it loses five starters, including two offensive linemen, tight end Chris Coyle and RB Marion Grice.

Here's the part, however, where we type "… and yet."

While the defense almost certainly will take a step back, and might require some scheme tweaks to fit the inexperienced personnel, the Sun Devils should have the firepower on offense to pile up points in high-scoring offensive slugfests, starting with QB Taylor Kelly and WR Jaelen Strong probably being the top returning pass-catch combination in the Pac-12.

Versatile RB D.J. Foster is a more than adequate replacement for Grice, while the offensive line should be solid, led by Jamil Douglas, who seems ready for his star turn.

As for the defense, it will be time for several promising young players to step up, such as linebackers Chans Cox, Carlos Mendoza and Viliami Latu and defensive lineman Corey Smith, cornerback Lloyd Carrington and safety Viliami Moeakiola.

Further, the development of defensive end Marcus Hardison could be critical. Graham expected the touted JC transfer to have a big impact this past fall but as often happens when touted JC players arrive, he wasn't ready for the demands of Pac-12 football -- in practice or games. That said, he showed improved gumption over the latter part of the season and certainly has the physical skills to be an impact player on the line.

UCLA, which also loses some key guys from its defense but has a lot of playmakers coming back on both sides of the ball, is the clear favorite in the Pac-12 South heading into 2014. USC will be a bit of a mystery in Year 1 under Steve Sarkisian. It lost some key players but has plenty of talent, though little depth, coming back. Arizona is looking for a new quarterback and running back, but it also could be in the mix.

Where do the defending champions fit in? Hard to say. Next fall will be a good test of the recruiting for which Graham has been generally receiving good reviews. The good money is on the Sun Devils finding a way to thrust themselves into the mix, even with a completely rebuilt defense. It helps that the schedule starts out gently -- Weber State, New Mexico and Colorado -- before a a brutal four-game gauntlet -- UCLA, USC, Stanford and Washington -- that likely will determine the ultimate trajectory of the season.

Don't count the Sun Devils out, only you probably should expect a few more high-scoring shootouts in Tempe next fall.

Pac-12 recruiting wrap: South Divison

February, 7, 2013
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We're reviewing hits and misses in Pac-12 recruiting, starting with the South Divison.

ARIZONA

Needs filled: The Wildcats have two incoming quarterbacks -- USC transfer Jesse Scroggins, who's already in school, and Anu Solomon -- who will be in competition to replace the departing Matt Scott. The class includes five linebackers, a need position. Don't be surprised if running back Pierre Cormier gets touches behind Ka'Deem Carey. It seems that coach Rich Rodriguez stocked up on athletes -- receivers and defensive backs.

Holes remaining: The Wildcats' biggest weakness in 2012 was the defensive line -- they ranked last in the Pac-12 in sacks and gave up more than 200 yards rushing per game -- and this class of 23 includes just two defensive linemen. Who's going to rush the passer in 2013?

ARIZONA STATE

Needs filled: The Sun Devils needed receivers and defensive backs. They signed five receivers and and five defensive backs -- and one athlete, who could play either. Defensive tackle Marcus Hardison, the nation's No. 5 junior college player, should help bolster a poor run defense.

Holes remaining: The Sun Devils lost QB Joshua Dobbs to Tennessee on signing day, which means they haven't signed a quarterback in two consecutive classes. Nine JC transfers means the Sun Devils are counting on immediate impact rather than long-term development. That approach can be a gamble, though four of the juco recruits have three years of eligibility instead of two.

COLORADO

Needs filled: The Buffs have a lot of needs, as they were last in the Pac-12 in scoring offense and scoring defense in 2012. The class includes six offensive linemen, and quarterback Sefo Liufau, 6-foot-4, 215-pound product of Bellarmine Prep in Tacoma, Wash., is a guy Buffs fans should be excited about. Considering the poor production at the position last season and the fact that there's a new scheme, he might get into the mix this fall.

Holes remaining: This is a fairly balanced class but there isn't a single interior defensive lineman. The Buffs gave up 226 yards rushing per game last season. The Buffs did, however, sign nine defensive linemen last year. While Liufau is the star of the class, this crew is lacking pizzazz and will rank last in the Pac-12, which is not surprising for a 1-11 team that fired its coach.

UCLA

Needs filled: Jim Mora said his top needs were offensive line, defensive back and linebacker. He signed seven offensive linemen, four defensive backs -- highly rated safety Priest Willis is still pending -- and three linebackers. As for the offensive line, two are ESPN 300 prospects and a third is a four-star lineman. Including Willis, who is expected to sign with the Bruins, two defensive backs are ESPN 150 players, a third is an ESPN 300 recruit and the fourth is rated with four stars. As for linebacker, two are ESPN 150 players.

Holes remaining: The Bruins signed the Pac-12's top-rated class and had a great final week. There is little not to celebrate, other than defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes picking Notre Dame. The most obvious hole is running back, where there's no obvious replacement for Johnathan Franklin. Craig Lee had committed to the Bruins but hasn't signed, so there's no true RB in this class.

USC

Needs filled: USC lost three of four starters from a secondary that underperformed last year, so signing two of the top three safeties in the nation -- Su’a Cravens and Leon McQuay -- as well as the No. 11 cornerback in Chris Hawkins is a pretty nice haul. The Trojans also added a pair of elite running backs in Ty Isaac and Justin Davis, the nation's No. 3 DT in Kenny Bigelow and the No. 2 quarterback in Max Browne. All three spots were need areas.

Holes remaining: The story of this class, as good as it is, is the handful of decommitments. In November, this was the No. 1 class but fell out of the top 10. Bigelow is the only defensive lineman; there are only two offensive linemen. In November, the question was how was USC going to finagle its way to just 75 scholarships, per NCAA sanctions. That's no longer an issue.

UTAH

Needs filled: With the graduation of RB John White and three voids on the defensive line, those were two need spots addressed by this class of 23. The Utes signed five defensive linemen, including three defensive tackles. They also signed four running backs, including JC transfer Devontae Booker.

Holes remaining: One bit of bad news for the defensive line is that DT Lowell Lotulelei, younger brother of Star and the Utes' highest-rated player, didn't sign because he's going on a Mormon mission right out of high school. This is a balanced class but it includes just two offensive linemen. The Utes also didn't get great linebacker play last season and this class only includes one, Uaea Masina.

Pac-12 recruiting primer

February, 6, 2013
2/06/13
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ESPN RecruitingNation has signing day covered. Follow ESPNU’s coverage, chat with analysts and get breaking news on our Signing Day Live page beginning at 7:30 a.m. ET through 7 p.m. ET. For more on what to expect on signing day, check out the Pac-12 conference breakdown Insider.

Bold prediction for the Pac-12: UCLA is in a position to shock the conference and perhaps the country on signing day. Already in possession of a top-12 class, the Bruins have a chance to close with a bang, as UCLA is in a good position with ESPN 150 prospects Eddie Vanderdoes, Isaac Savaiinaea and Asiantii Woulard. If all goes well in Westwood on signing day, Jim Mora could finish the day with a top-five recruiting class.

Arizona
Biggest need: Linebacker. Arizona’s defense is in need of some immediate help in all three levels, but the Wildcats will add some serious depth at linebacker with five commitments at the position.
Biggest recruit: QB Jesse Scroggins. A case could be made for either quarterback commitment -- Anu Solomon is the other -- but with Scroggins’ experience at USC and his status as an early enrollee, he could have an advantage when it comes to battling for the vacated starting quarterback spot.

Arizona State
Biggest need: Secondary. Arizona State is set to add plenty of help at the offensive skill positions, but the Sun Devils needed to add depth on the defensive side of the ball, and they did so. Safeties James Johnson and Jayme Otomewo are strong additions, as are cornerbacks Damarious Randall and Will Earley.
Biggest recruit: DT Marcus Hardison. Getting defensive tackle Will Sutton back for another year was a big win for Arizona State’s defense. Getting the No. 5 junior college player in Hardison, a 6-foot-4, 275-pound defensive tackle who can help Sutton inside this year, is another big win.

California
Biggest need: Offensive line. With head coach Sonny Dykes and offensive coordinator Tony Franklin, Cal is looking to take off offensively, but that can’t happen without a dominant front. Six offensive line commitments, including four-star tackles Aaron Cochran and Erik Bunte, are a good way to continue building up front.
Biggest recruit: OT Aaron Cochran. This is true figuratively and literally. Cochran, at 6-foot-8 and 364 pounds, is an important recruit for Cal, as the offensive tackle plays a position of need. He is the younger brother of Cal lineman Matt Cochran. Honorable mention here to Cameron Hunt, who committed to Cal last summer but opened his recruitment after the coaching change and now appears to be headed to Oregon.

Colorado
Biggest need: Offensive line. The Buffaloes need help everywhere, but solidifying the offensive line is step one for the new regime. Colorado holds commitments from five offensive linemen as it looks to take a step forward in the Pac-12.
Biggest recruit: QB Sefo Liufau. While building along the lines is important, Colorado needs to add playmakers at every position, and Liufau is definitely that at quarterback. He understands and appreciates the challenge at Colorado and is the kind of player the Buffs need to bring in and build around.

Oregon
Biggest need: Running back. While the Ducks have been blessed with an embarrassment of riches at tailback, it’s important that they continue to stock the cupboard in order to keep finding those gems and running the blur offense. Three tailbacks were a possibility in this class, as there will be an opportunity for playing time.
Biggest recruit: RB Thomas Tyner. This was big on two fronts as Tyner has an opportunity to contribute as a freshman, and the Ducks were able to keep Oregon’s top recruit from leaving the state. Tyner’s commitment became even more important when Dontre Wilson flipped from Oregon to Ohio State on Monday.

Oregon State
Biggest need: Defensive line. The Beavers looked to get bigger and better up front and did so in a big way. Six defensive linemen are headed to Corvallis, including four junior college defensive tackles capable of playing as soon as they arrive on campus.
Biggest recruit: CB Dashon Hunt. Oregon State needed to add talent in the secondary as well and Hunt -- the Beavers’ lone ESPN 300 commitment -- will help there. Hunt’s commitment also helped Oregon State continue its presence in Southern California, which it recruited extremely well with this class.

Stanford
Biggest need: Wide receiver. The Cardinal needed to add receiving threats in this class, and adding wide receivers Francis Owusu and Taijuan Thomas did that. Of course, at Stanford, no position poses more of an offensive threat than tight end, and the Cardinal have commitments from three high school standouts who will suit up there.
Biggest recruit: WR Jordan Cunningham. As the Cardinal continue to hunt for pass-catchers in this class, snagging Cunningham -- an ESPN 150 wide receiver -- on signing day would nicely cap an undermanned but still impressive recruiting class. It would also carry over Stanford’s terrific signing-day success from last year.

UCLA
Biggest need: Offensive line. While it might not be the most immediate need for the roster, the UCLA coaches saw a need to infuse the offensive line with young talent and they went out and did just that. There are offensive line recruits, including two ESPN 300 prospects and a third four-star lineman.
Biggest recruit: DT Eddie Vanderdoes. The country’s top defensive tackle will announce at 5 p.m. PT and the Bruins are thought to be in good position. Landing Vanderdoes -- a former USC commitment -- would be another positive sign for the Bruins in their quest to tip the rivalry in their favor.

USC
Biggest need: Secondary. The Trojans have been shaky in the secondary for several years now and are in need of players capable of adding depth and perhaps playing as freshmen. Signing day could offer a disappointment if cornerback Jalen Ramsey goes elsewhere, but the early enrollee group of safeties Su’a Cravens and Leon McQuay and cornerback Chris Hawkins, gives the Trojans three players capable of stepping in and offering a solution to the pass defense troubles.
Biggest recruit: S Su’a Cravens. USC is set to add plenty of impact players in this recruiting class, but landing Cravens as an early enrollee was huge. A local player who plays a position of need and has the talent to make an impact as a freshman, Cravens was as close to a must-get recruit as the Trojans had in this class.

Utah
Biggest need: Running back. With John White finished at Utah, the Utes have just one player returning in 2013 who logged more than 25 carries last season. While there are several tailbacks on the roster, Utah looked to add talent at the tailback position in this class and did so with four commitments from running backs, including junior college back Devontae Booker.
Biggest recruit: DT Lowell Lotulelei. There is no guarantee that the defensive tackle will turn into his older brother, Star Lotulelei, a likely top-five pick in the upcoming NFL draft. But getting a commitment from Lowell Lotulelei was arguably the most important piece of Utah’s recruiting puzzle. The four-star defensive tackle is Utah’s top-ranked commitment and will look to take over where his brother left off.

Washington
Biggest need: Offensive line. The Huskies hoped to find several big bodies to position as the future of the offensive line in this class and have commitments from three high school linemen, including four-star center Dane Crane. While the Huskies lost a commitment from Sean Harlow, who flipped to Oregon State, they could make up for it in a big way by grabbing ESPN 300 tackle Nico Falah away from USC on signing day.
Biggest recruit: WR Damore’ea Stringfellow. The highest-ranked player in the class, the ESPN 150 wide receiver is a playmaker capable of providing an immediate spark for Washington’s offense. He also gives the Huskies a big recruiting win in Southern California, as he was sought after by UCLA and USC.

Washington State
Biggest need: Offensive line. While much of the attention with Mike Leach’s offense goes to the offensive skill players, it can’t take off without an effective offensive line. Six offensive linemen, including junior college tackle Jacob Seydel, are headed to Pullman in this class.
Biggest recruit: QB Tyler Bruggman. The Cougars won a big recruiting battle for Bruggman, as they were able to pull him away from hometown Arizona State. He was someone Washington State targeted early on as a player who could fit into and succeed in the offense.

Top JC DE commits to Arizona State

January, 18, 2013
1/18/13
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Arizona State's defensive line, already bolstered by the return of Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Will Sutton, got some more good news Friday with the commitment of Dodge City (Kan.) Community College defensive end Marcus Hardison, the No. 5 player in the ESPN Junior College 100.

Hardison, 6-foot-4, 275 pounds, chose the Sun Devils over Kansas State, West Virginia, Washington, South Florida and Auburn, but he also had offers from programs such as Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Arkansas, Oklahoma State and TCU.

Hardison became the 25th known commitment for the Sun Devils, and the eighth junior-college pledge. He's the third defensive end commitment to go along with four-star Garrett Marino (Mission Viejo, Calif./Mission Viejo), the No. 31 defensive end overall, and Kisima Jagne (Chandler, Ariz./Chandler).

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