Pac-12: Marquis Flowers

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: Linebacker. Teams in each category are listed in alphabetical order.

GREAT SHAPE

Oregon: The Ducks are in great shape with inside linebackers Derrick Malone and Rodney Hardrick returning next to outside linebacker Tony Washington. The only departure they’ll have to account for is Boseko Lokombo, and that spot appears destined for Tyson Coleman once he’s completely healthy following a knee injury that sidelined him for the Alamo Bowl. Sophomore Torrodney Prevot is one of several talented young players to keep an eye on when the Ducks empty their bench during blowouts.

Oregon State: The Beavers are deep at linebacker with D.J. Alexander, Jabral Johnson and Michael Doctor projected to start in their 4-3 scheme. Rommel Mageo was a starter down the stretch last season and should see plenty of playing time, as will Caleb Saulo and Darrell Songy.

USC: Only outside linebacker Devon Kennard is gone from a a solid group that should have a rather seamless transition playing in new defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox's 3-4 defense. Hayes Pullard and Anthony Sarao figure to start inside, with Jabari Ruffin or Quinton Powell playing outside opposite J.R. Tavai.

Washington: The Huskies weren’t fully stocked during the spring, but figure to have one of the best groups in the conference with John Timu playing between Shaq Thompson and Travis Feeney. Cory Littleton can be listed at defensive end or outside linebacker -- UW calls him a rush end -- and is coming off a productive sophomore season.

GOOD SHAPE

Colorado: Addison Gillam led the Pac-12 in tackles per game last year (8.9) and will likely start between sophomore Kenneth Olugbode and senior Woodson Greer. The Buffaloes have depth, too, with Brady Daigh, a reliable backup for Gillam, and outside linebacker Deaysean Rippy, who sat out last season after transferring from Pittsburgh. Rippy was listed as an alternative starter to Greer on Colorado’s post spring depth chart.

Stanford: There might not be a more difficult task in the conference than replacing outside linebacker Trent Murphy and inside linebacker Shayne Skov, both of whom drew All-American accolades in multiple season. Inside linebacker A.J. Tarpley, already a three-year starter, is one of the conference’s unheralded players and outside linebacker James Vaughters is poised for a breakout senior season. Kevin Andersen has seen a lot of playing time over the past two years at outside linebacker, but the other inside spot needs to be ironed out.

UCLA: Like Stanford, the Bruins have a tough task in replacing Anthony Barr and Jordan Zumwalt, but have two talented returners in Eric Kendricks and Myles Jack. UCLA could very well end up one of the best groups in the conference pending the development of Kenny Orjioke, Deon Hollins, Isaako Savaiinaea and Zach Whitley.

Utah: Junior Jason Whittingham is a potential first-team all-conference type player and the Utes are high on Jared Norris, who started seven games last year. The group looked even better when Miami-transfer Gionni Paul was projected to contribute, but the start to his season is expected to be delayed by a broken bone in his foot. Uaea Masina, after contributing on special teams last year, will likely see a lot of playing time.

Washington State: Darryl Monroe and Cyrus Coen return as starters and Tana Pritchard, who saw his role grow as the season went along, will be leaned on heavily. The final spot up for grabs is the ‘buck,’ which looks like it will come down to Kache Palacio, a slight favorite who started at the end of the season, and Ivan McLennan. Chester Su'a could also make some noise after missing last season with an injury.

WE'LL SEE

Arizona: The Wildcats need to replace three-year starter Marquis Flowers and two-year starter Jake Fischer. Scooby Wright started 12 games as a true freshman last season and gives the Wildcats a good piece to start with, but we’ll take a wait-and-see approach once the other pieces are in place. The good news is that Arizona has recruited well at linebacker.

Arizona State: Salamo Fiso returns, but having to replace three of the four starters from a year ago leaves more questions than answers. Early-enrollee D.J. Calhoun drew rave reviews during spring practice, but will have to beat out redshirt junior Antonio Longino for a starting job. Eriquel Florence (devil), and Laiu Moeakiola/Marcus Washington (spur) were also listed as starters at the end of spring practice.

Cal: Jalen Jefferson, Michael Barton and Hardy Nickerson are all back, but after last season’s defensive woes it’s hard to go in with much optimism. The situation at linebacker is clearly better than it was last year, but that’s not inspiring enough not to erase speculation.

OTHER POSITION REVIEWS:

Reviewing the Pac-12 pro days

April, 3, 2014
Apr 3
12:00
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Washington was the final Pac-12 school to host its pro day Wednesday, essentially putting an end to 40-yard-dash season. Here is a look at some of the conference's top prospects and a few others who helped their cause over the past month.

Arizona (March 6)
Big name: RB Ka'Deem Carey. After getting clocked at 4.70 in the 40 at the combine, Carey's pro day was a bit more intriguing than some of the other big-name players. There was some improvement -- various reports had him in the high 4.6-range -- but it wasn't enough to change the book on him. Still, Carey's production should make up for his perceived shortcomings.
Sleeper: OLB Marquis Flowers. Flowers reportedly ran in the 4.4s and had a good showing in position drills.

Arizona State (March 7)
Big name: DT Will Sutton. The Sun Devils' pro day further cemented what scouts learned at the combine, when he turned in below average numbers. There was slight improvement at the pro day, according to several reports, but nothing to save his falling stock.
Sleeper: RB Marion Grice. Grice was invited to the combine, but didn't participate as he recovers from a broken leg suffered late in the season. He also didn't participate at the pro day, but will hold an individual workout for NFL scouts on April 8.

California (March 19)
Big name: DT Deandre Coleman. Coleman only participated in the bench press at the combine, but fared well in field drills on campus with a reported 40 time in the mid 4.9-range. Coleman is projected by most to be a mid-round selection.
Sleeper: RB Brendan Bigelow. Bigelow was perhaps the player with the most to gain at pro day. The book on him has always been that he's loaded with talent and the physical skills necessary to be an impact player. It didn't happen for the Bears before he decided to leave early for a shot at Sunday football. Despite injuring his hamstring midway through his 40, Bigelow still was reported as running in the high 4.4-range with former Cal running backs Marshawn Lynch and Jahvid Best looking on.

Colorado (March 12)
Big name: WR Paul Richardson. There were 24 teams on hand, with Richardson the obvious prize of the nine that worked out. He only participated in the vertical jump, short shuttle and three-cone drills.
Sleeper: LS Ryan Iverson. Iverson will not be drafted, but after four years as the Colorado long snapper he has a chance to make some money at the next level. His 27 reps on the bench press were a team high. All the Colorado results can be viewed here.

Oregon (March 13)
Big name: RB De'Anthony Thomas. Thomas' 4.50 40 time at the combine was among the disappointments for the conference and turned a perceived strength into average attribute. After his showing in Eugene -- a 4.34 40 time -- the world is back on its axis. On his combine performance, Thomas told the Ducks' official website: “I ran a 4.5 in ninth grade, so I was like, ‘Wow, that’s crazy’. I feel like that made me train harder and I used it as motivation.”
Sleeper: CB Avery Patterson. Patterson was left puzzled by his own performance after putting up just 10 repetitions in the bench press, but the two-year starter remains focused on making the jump to the next level. He's likely the type of player that will have to earn his way on a team via a training camp invitation and possibly a practice squad.

Oregon State (March 14)
Big name: WR Brandin Cooks. The Biletnikoff Award winner could have showed up to the Beavers' pro day as a spectator and it likely wouldn't have mattered. His showing at the combine was enough to solidify his stock as a first-round pick. Cooks didn't take part in field drills, but did run routes.
Sleeper: WR Micah Hatfield. Yes, a receiver with 20 career catches helped his cause. One scout told the Oregonian he had Hatfield at 4.33 in the 40 -- the same times Cooks clocked when he was the fastest receiver at the combine.

Stanford (March 20)
Big name: OL David Yankey. Kansas City, Tampa Bay and St. Louis were the only no-shows at Stanford. If the mock drafts are to be trusted, Yankey figures to be the first Stanford player of the board. He improved slightly on the bench press (22 to 25) and clocked the same 40 time (5.48) from the combine.
Sleeper: DE Ben Gardner. Is it fair to call Gardner a sleeper after earning some form of all-Pac-12 recognition the past three years? Probably not, but after not being invited to the NFL combine we'll go ahead and list him here anyways. Gardner benefitted most from the day, quantifying his explosiveness and athleticism with a 39.5-inch vertical jump.

UCLA (March 11)
Big name: OLB Anthony Barr. After running a 4.66 40 at the combine, Barr was clocked at 4.45 to ease any lingering doubt about his straight-line speed. Barr helped his case to become a top-10 pick and will likely be the first player from the Pac-12 selected.
Sleeper: RB Malcolm Jones. The Gatorade national high school player of the year never developed into the player UCLA fans were hoping for, but he's still hanging on to hopes of an NFL career. He was credited with a 4.57 40 at the Bruins' pro day.

USC (March 12)
Big name: WR Marqise Lee. Lee went Jerry Seinfeld and chose not to run, letting his combine performance serve as the final measurement of his ability. After not lifting in Indianapolis, Lee finished with 11 reps in the bench. He's tagged for the first round.
Sleeper: DE Morgan Breslin. Like Gardner, who he has been working out with in San Ramon, Calif., Breslin was a combine snub. He ran a 4.75 40, put up 26 reps on the bench and registered a 35.5-inch vertical jump. Here are the complete results for the 18 players who took part.

Utah (March 19)
Big name: CB Keith McGill. One of the fastest risers since the season has ended, McGill decided to participate in every drill despite a good showing at the combine. His 40 time (4.52) was a hundredth of second slower than what he did at combine, and his vertical leap (35.5) was about four inches less.
Sleeper: FB Karl Williams. The 240-pound former walk-on clocked a 4.5, which will could give him a shot to get in a training camp.

Washington (April 2)
Big name: RB Bishop Sankey. Content with his good showing in Indy, Sankey elected to just run the 60-yard shuttle and catch passes. Most mock drafts have Sankey, who left with a year of eligibility remaining, as the No. 2 running back.
Sleeper: QB Keith Price. There were 19 quarterbacks at the combine, but Price was not one of them, marking the first time since at least 1999 that the conference didn't send a quarterback -- and it could be longer -- we could only find combine rosters dating back that far. Price got good reviews for his performance Wednesday, but it would still be surprising if he gets drafted.

Washington State (March 13)
Big name: S Deone Bucannon. WSU's remote location and limited number of pro prospects resulted in less than a dozen scouts on hand, but those that were there got to see one of the conference's most intriguing prospects. Bucannon just participated in position drills after performing well across the board in Indianapolis.
Sleeper: K Andrew Furney. Furney showed a leg capable of hitting from beyond 60 yards and further established himself as a potential candidate for training camp invitations.

Season wrap: Arizona

January, 15, 2014
Jan 15
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The Wildcats matched last season’s record, and they did it without several of their star receivers and the quarterback who got them to eight wins last year. Yes, they lost again to Arizona State, which is a ding.

But they also knocked off No. 5 Oregon at home in one of college football’s biggest upsets of the season and showed they have offensive staying power despite injuries and attrition. Plus, the defense was one of the most improved in the league.

Ending the season with a blowout bowl win over a BCS conference team should give the Wildcats plenty of steam moving forward into a year where several explosive playmakers are coming off the injured list or scout team.

You can read our graded review of Arizona here.

Offensive MVP: Running back Ka’Deem Carey was one of the most dominant, explosive players in the country, earning the Pac-12’s offensive MVP honor. He rushed for 1,885 yards and 19 touchdowns on 349 carries and leaves the school as its all-time leading rusher. Dating back to last season, Carey rushed for at least 100 yards in 16 consecutive games, which was the longest streak in FBS football.

Defensive MVP: Jake Fischer had another strong season with a team-high 99 tackles. But Marquis Flowers really elevated his game, posting 93 stops and 11 tackles for loss. He also had a sack, an interception and a pair of fumble recoveries. The defense as a whole gets a gold star for its drastic improvement from 2012.

Best moment: No question -- it was Arizona’s shocking 42-16 pummeling of the Ducks. Within that game was a four-touchdown performance from Carey and a dazzling interception when Shaquille Richardson tipped Marcus Mariota’s pass back inbounds to Scooby Wright. It was one of the top plays in the college football and one of the year’s biggest upsets.

Worst moment: It’s not just that they lost to Arizona State -- again. It’s how they lost, falling behind 30-7 before the bands took the field. Last year against the Sun Devils, they coughed up a fourth-quarter lead. This year, they just got beat. Rich Rodriguez has done a fantastic job in his first two years. But fans won’t fully be happy until he starts winning a few Territorial Cups.

Season review: Arizona

January, 13, 2014
Jan 13
5:30
PM ET
We conclude our team-by-team review of the Pac-12 with Arizona.

Offense: The Wildcats were a little funny this year, offensively. While they excelled at running the football, averaging 264.9 yards per game, the passing attack was last in the conference at 193.5 yards per game. This is a far cry from the Matt Scott-led attack of 2012, which averaged nearly 300 yards per game and produced 30 touchdowns in the air. But, as is always the case, it all comes down to points. And the Wildcats were sixth in the league with an average of 33.5 points per game -- that’s down from last year’s total of 38.2 ppg. As you’d expect, it was the Ka'Deem Carey show. The Doak Walker finalist and Pac-12 offensive player of the year rushed for at least 100 yards in every game he played in and was second nationally with 157.1 yards per game. The reason for the step back was the transition to B.J. Denker at quarterback. He never replicated Scott’s production, but after a rocky start he went seven straight games with a completion percentage of at least 60 percent, including a 17-of-24 performance for 275 yards with two touchdowns in the bowl win over Boston College. He also posted a 90.8 QBR in the win over Oregon. Down a few receivers because of injury and attrition, Nate Phillips stepped up to lead the team with seven touchdown receptions. With Austin Hill expected to return from injury and several key transfers making the jump from the scout team, Arizona’s offense is expected to take a big step forward next season. But in 2013, Carey’s presence alone made the Wildcats formidable. Grade: B-

Defense: A lot of what we’ve based these grades on in this series is improvements from last year to this year. And Arizona’s defense certainly qualifies as having improved. With almost the entire starting 11 back from last year, the Wildcats made huge strides in scoring defense, rush defense and they upped their sacks and tackles for loss per game. In 2012, the Wildcats allowed 35.3 points per game and ranked 102nd nationally. This year they cut that number by 11 points per game to 24.2. You can chalk it up to another year in the 3-3-5 and understanding roles better. Coaching has a lot to do with that, as well. They weren’t a great turnover team, posting a minus-1 turnover ratio. Though they were one of the better teams at recovering fumbles. Jake Fischer was his steady self with 99 stops, and Marquis Flowers posted a team high 11 tackles for a loss. Tra'Mayne Bondurant had an exceptional year in the secondary with a pair of pick sixes. Though they weren’t tops in the league, there was still marked improvement from last year to this year. Grade: B

Special teams: Jake Smith was streaky, converting 12 of 19 field goals, including a long of 53. But he also struggled from the 30-39 range, converting just 2 of 5. From a punt and kick standpoint, the Wildcats didn’t return either for a score. But they didn’t give up any, either. Nor did they have any field goals blocked. They were middle of the road in punting average and middle of the road in kick coverage. Not spectacular, but not bad, either. Grade: C+

Overall: After dropping their second Territorial Cup of the Rich Rodriguez era, they rebounded to knock of a BCS conference team and win their bowl game. They’ve posted back-to-back eight win seasons and scored a signature 42-16 win at home over No. 5 Oregon. If you’re a Wildcat fan, you have to feel pretty good about the direction of the program under Rodriguez. Though being 0-2 against the Todd Graham led Sun Devils stings a bit. New facilities are in place, a solid recruiting class is on the way, and the team received votes in the final AP poll. Quarterback is a question for next year. But given the talent coming in, combined with the talent coming back and coming off of injury/the scout team, it’s not unreasonable for fans to get their hopes up for next season and the possibility of their team contending for a division title. Grade: B

Pac-12 names all-conference team

December, 2, 2013
12/02/13
3:50
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The Pac-12 has announced its first- and second-team all-conference squads and postseason awards for 2013.

[+] EnlargeKa'Deem Carey
Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY SportsPac-12 Offensive Player of the Year Ka'Deem Carey was the only unanimous first-team pick.
Arizona running back Ka'Deem Carey has been named the league's offensive player of the year. Arizona State defensive lineman Will Sutton joins an elite fraternity, earning his second straight Pat Tillman Defensive Player of the Year award. Washington's Steve Emtman is the only other player to win the league's defensive player of the year award in back to back years (1990-1991).

UCLA's Myles Jack earned freshman of the year for both offense and defense with his 70 tackles as a linebacker and seven touchdowns as a running back. This is the first time since the awards were introduced in 2008 that the same player has won both sides.

Arizona State coach Todd Graham is the league's coach of the year for guiding the Sun Devils to a conference record of 8-1 and winning the South Division. The Sun Devils host Stanford this weekend in the Pac-12 championship game.

The team is selected by the Pac-12 head coaches.

Offensive player of the year: Ka'Deem Carey, RB, Arizona
Pat Tillman Defensive Player of the Year: Will Sutton, DE Arizona State
Freshman Offense and Defensive Player of the Year: Myles Jack, RB/LB, UCLA
Coach of the Year: Todd Graham, Arizona State

First team offense

QB Marcus Mariota, So., Oregon (2)
RB Ka'Deem Carey, Jr., Arizona (2)
RB Bishop Sankey, Jr., Washington
WR Brandin Cooks, Jr., Oregon State
WR Paul Richardson, Jr., Colorado
TE Chris Coyle, Grad., Arizona State
OL Evan Finkenberg, Grad., Arizona State
OL Hroniss Grasu, Jr., Oregon (2)
OL Marcus Martin, Jr., USC
OL Xavier Su'a-Filo, Jr., UCLA (2)
OL David Yankey, Sr, Stanford (2)

First team defense

DL Ben Gardner, Sr., Stanford
DL Trevor Reilly, Sr., Utah
DL Will Sutton, Sr., Arizona State
DL Leonard Williams, So., USC
LB Anthony Barr, Sr., UCLA (2)
LB Trent Murphy, Sr., Stanford (2)
LB Shayne Skov, Sr., Stanford
DB Deone Bucannon, Sr., Washington State
DB Alden Darby, Sr., Arizona State
DB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Jr., Oregon
DB Robert Nelson, Sr., Arizona State
DB Ed Reynolds, Sr., Stanford (2)

First team specialists

PK Zane Gonzalez, Fr., Arizona State
P Tom Hackett, So. Utah
RS Ty Montgomery, Jr., Stanford
ST Soma Vainuku, So. USC

Second team offense

QB Taylor Kelly, Jr., Arizona State
RB Tyler Gaffney, Sr., Stanford
RB Marion Grice, Sr. Arizona State
WR Ty Montgomery, Jr., Stanford
WR Jaelen Strong, So., Arizona State
TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Jr., Washington
OL Jamil Douglas, Jr., Arizona State
OL Cameron Fleming, Sr., Stanford
OL Andrus Peat, So., Stanford
OL Isaac Seumalo, So., Oregon State
OL Khalil Wilkes, Sr. Stanford

Second team defense

DL Scott Crichton, Jr., Oregon State
DL Taylor Hart, Sr., Oregon
DL Devon Kennard, Sr., USC
DL Hau'oli Kikaha, Jr., Washington
DL Tenny Palepoi, Sr., Utah
LB Carl Bradford, Jr., Arizona State
LB Myles Jack, Fr., UCLA
LB Hayes Pullard, Jr., USC
LB Chris Young, Sr., Arizona State
DB Dion Bailey, Jr., USC
DB Osahon Irabor, Grad., Arizona State
DB Marcus Peters, So., Washington
DB Rashaad Reynolds, Sr., Oregon State

Second team specialists

PK Vincenzo D'Amato, Sr., California
P Travis Coons, Sr., Washington
RS Nelson Agholor, So., USC
ST Erick Dargan, Jr., Oregon
ST Joe Hemschoot, Sr., Stanford
ST Ryan Hofmeister, Jr., UCLA

RS: Return Specialist
ST: special teams player (not a kicker or returner)
(2): Two-time first-team selection

Honorable mention

Arizona: LB Marquis Flowers, Sr.; DL Tevin Hood, Sr.; WR Nate Phillips, Fr.; DB Jared Tevis, Jr.; LB Scooby Wright, Fr.

Arizona State: DL Davon Coleman, Grad.; Gannon Conway, Sr.; ST D.J. Foster, So.; ST De'Marieya Nelson, Jr.

California: DL Deandre Coleman, Sr.; QB Jared Goff, Fr.; WR Bryce Treggs, So.

Colorado: RB Mike Adkins, Fr.; LB Addison Gillam, Fr.; PK Will Oliver, Jr.

Oregon: WR/RS Bralon Addison, So.; WR Josh Huff, Sr.; OL Tyler Johnstone, So.; DL Wade Keliikipi, Sr.; LB Derrick Malone, Jr.; RB Byron Marshall, So.; DL Tony Washington, Jr.

Oregon State: OL Grant Enger, Sr.; TE Connor Hamlett, JR.; QB Sean Mannion, Jr.; DB Ryan Murphy, Jr.; DB Steven Nelson, Jr.; ST Terron Ward, Jr.

Stanford: DL Henry Anderson, Sr.; DB Alex Carter, So.; OL Kevin Danser, Sr.; DL Josh Mauro, Sr.; P Ben Rhyne, Sr.; DB Jordan Richards, Jr.; LB A.J. Tarpley, Sr.

UCLA: OL Jake Brendel, So.; ST Jayon Brown, Fr.; P Sean Covington, Fr.; TE Thomas Duarte, Fr.; WR Shaq Evans, Sr.; WR Devin Fuller, So.; DB Randall Goforth, So.; QB Brett Hundley, So.; DB Anthony Jefferson, Jr.; LB Eric Kendricks, Jr.; DL Cassius Marsh, Sr.; DL Ellis McCarthy, So.; DB Fabian Moreau, So.; OL Alex Redmond, Fr.; DL Eddie Vanderdoes, Fr.; LB Jordan Zumwalt, Sr.

USC: P Kris Albarado, So.; RB Javorius Allen, So.; WR Nelson Agholor, So.; DB Su'a Cravens, Fr.; OL Kevin Graf, Sr.; TE Xavier Grimble, Jr.; QB Cody Kessler, So.; WR Marqise Lee, Jr.; DB Josh Shaw, Jr.; DL J.R. Tavai, Jr.; OL Max Turek, So.; DL George Uko, Jr.

Utah: WR Dres Anderson, Jr.; OL Vyncent Jones, Sr.; DB Keith McGill, Sr.; PK Andy Phillips, Fr.; LB Jason Whittingham, So.

Washington: OL Dexter Charles, So.; PK Travis Coons, Sr.; OL Mike Criste, Jr.; OL Micah Hatchie, Jr.; DB Sean Parker, Sr.; QB Keith Price, Sr.; DL Danny Shelton, Jr.; LB Shaq Thompson, So.

Washington State: OL Elliott Bosch, Sr.; WR River Cracraft, Fr.; PK Andrew Furney, Sr.; DB Damante Horton, Sr.;

Some notes on the teams:

By School: Arizona State and Stanford placed the most players on the first team with six selections each.

By Class: Of the 27 first-team selections, two are graduate students, 11 are seniors, nine are juniors, four are sophomores and one freshman.

Unanimous: Only one player was named on the first-team ballot of all 12 head coaches -- RB Ka'Deem Carey of Arizona.

Two-time Selections: Ten players are repeat first-team selections from last year.

All-Academic: Two first team All-Pac-12 performers also were named to the Pac-12 All Academic second team -- RB Bishop Sankey of Washington and DB Ed Reynolds of Stanford, while Washington defensive lineman Hau'oli Kikaha was named to the All-Pac-12 second team and Pac-12 All-Academic first team. Arizona State QB Taylor Kelly earned second-team honors on both the Pac-12 All-Conference and All-Academic teams.
Tags:

USC Trojans, Stanford Cardinal, Oregon Ducks, Pac-12, USC Trojans, Washington State Cougars, Oregon State Beavers, Jordan Zumwalt, Washington Huskies, UCLA Bruins, Devon Kennard, Arizona State Sun Devils, California Bears, Tyler Gaffney, Stanford Cardinal, Deandre Coleman, Utah Utes, Will Sutton, Colorado Buffaloes, Todd Graham, Arizona Wildcats, Oregon Ducks, Xavier Su\'a-Filo, Andy Phillips, Shayne Skov, Keith Price, Evan Finkenberg, Sean Parker, Soma Vainuku, Cassius Marsh, Xavier Grimble, George Uko, Hayes Pullard, Marquis Flowers, Taylor Kelly, Hroniss Grasu, Josh Huff, Sean Mannion, Eric Kendricks, Paul Richardson, Anthony Barr, Taylor Hart, Wade Keliikipi, Chris Coyle, Anthony Jefferson, Cody Kessler, Chris Young, Brett Hundley, Vincenzo D'Amato, Kevin Graf, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Jordan Richards, Shaq Evans, Deone Bucannon, Bishop Sankey, Danny Shelton, Marqise Lee, Khalil Wilkes, Kevin Danser, David Yankey, Davon Coleman, Dion Bailey, Alex Carter, Alden Darby, Terron Ward, Dres Anderson, Randall Goforth, Derrick Malone, Damante Horton, Connor Hamlett, Isaac Seumalo, Andrew Furney, Henry Anderson, Gannon Conway, Scott Crichton, Rashaad Reynolds, Ka'Deem Carey, Andrus Peat, Shaq Thompson, Will Oliver, Ben Gardner, Trevor Reilly, Ty Montgomery, A.J. Tarpley, Cameron Fleming, Trent Murphy, Su'a Cravens, Byron Marshall, Ben Rhyne, Josh Mauro, Nelson Agholor, Josh Shaw, Ellis McCarthy, Marcus Mariota, Erick Dargan, Joe Hemschoot, Devin Fuller, Leonard Williams, Max Turek, Grant Enger, Jared Goff, Brandin Cooks, Jared Tevis, Marcus Martin, Keith McGill, Marcus Peters, Ed Reynolds, Jamil Douglas, Bryce Treggs, Elliott Bosch, Tony Washington, Marion Grice, Eddie Vanderdoes, Ryan Murphy, J.R. Tavai, Carl Bradford, River Cracraft, Myles Jack, Thomas Duarte, Alex Redmond, Jake Brendel, Dexter Charles, Mike Criste, Tom Hackett, Bralon Addison, Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Travis Coons, Robert Nelson, Tyler Johnstone, De'Marieya Nelson, Jaelen Strong, Tenny Palepoi, Steven Nelson, Tevin Hood, Micah Hatchie, Vyncent Jones, Jason Whittingham, Addison Gillam, Scooby Wright, Zane Gonzales, Sean Covington, Kris Albarado, Hau'oli Kikaha, Fabian Moreau, Javorius Allen, Jayon Brown, Osahan Irabor, Ryan Hoffmeister, Nate Phillips, Mike Adkins

Arizona relates to USC’s situation

October, 9, 2013
10/09/13
9:00
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The last time a Pac-12 coach was fired midseason, his players shouldered some responsibility. They bunkered down through the upcoming bye week, got over their most recent conference road loss and then responded by taking out their frustrations on the next opponent.

If Arizona is a little anxious entering its Thursday night game at USC, the Wildcats can be forgiven. It is just that they know exactly what the Trojans are going through right now, and what that could mean come kickoff.

Mike Stoops was fired after a 1-5 start in 2011, and Arizona bounced back 10 days later with a 48-12 rout of UCLA under interim coach Tim Kish.

"That's when we all came together as a team," running back Ka'Deem Carey said. "When something happens like that, that's when teams just have to bond together and just get even closer and go out there and win, so I know that they're going to definitely be fired up coming in.

"We beat them last year, so they'll have a lot of fire going into this game."

There is that small matter, too.

Much of the downward spiral that ultimately spelled doom for Lane Kiffin at USC started last Oct. 27 in Tucson, where the Wildcats pulled off a 39-36 upset. It was the first of the then-No. 9 Trojans' five losses over their final six games, an ugly stretch that shook a program that had entered 2012 with a No. 1 ranking.

"The biggest memory I can think of is just that last play, the Hail Mary play, where our guys are jumping up for the ball and Marqise Lee and the others guys are jumping for the ball," safety Tra'Mayne Bondurant said, "and just wondering what was going to happen in the air and just the celebration after, and all the joy that we had after that game, winning it in a good fashion."

The sting of Lee setting a conference record with 345 receiving yards still lingers, but the junior is not expected to go for the Trojans this week because of a sprained left knee suffered in Kiffin's final outing two weeks ago.

"I try not to look at last year's game too much, but I remember Marqise Lee definitely just carving up our defense," linebacker Marquis Flowers said. "That's definitely one thing I do remember."

Even without their All-American receiver and with the burden of scholarship restrictions, it is not like the Trojans are at a loss for talent after landing nothing but top-15 recruiting classes under Kiffin.

Those bodies, plus the liberation of playing with house money, make them dangerous in their first game under interim coach Ed Orgeron.

"I know in our first game after our head coach got fired, it was a team that had a fire lit -- it was kind of like a relief, you know?" Flowers said. "Going into a new thing, it's a relief. You just play. You're just out there and you're just playing. You're going to play fast, you're going to keep the game plan simple and you're just going to play for each other, and they're going to come out and play inspired football, so we've got to be ready."

Rich Rodriguez echoed those sentiments this week at his press conference, cautioning that the Wildcats cannot adjust to the circumstances as they come off their first loss of the season, two weeks ago at Washington.

"I did tell the players that this game is going to be more difficult because USC is going to play extremely fired up, loose and come out with a chip on their shoulder," the second-year Arizona coach said. "We will get USC’s best shot.”

Arizona Wildcats season preview

August, 21, 2013
8/21/13
10:30
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We conclude our day-by-day snapshots of each Pac-12 team heading into the 2013 season in reverse alphabetical order with the Arizona Wildcats.

Arizona

Coach: Rich Rodriguez (83-53, 8-5 at Arizona)

[+] EnlargeRich Rodriguez
AP Photo/John MillerLast season Rich Rodriguez's offense scored 38 points per game, but his defense gave up 35.
2012 record: 8-5 (4-5 Pac-12 South)

Key losses: QB Matt Scott, WR Dan Buckner, C Kyle Quinn, DL Dominique Austin, OL Trace Biskin.

Key returnees: RB Ka'Deem Carey, RB Daniel Jenkins, LB Jake Fischer, LB Marquis Flowers, WR Terrence Miller, OL Fabbians Ebbele, OL Mickey Baucus, OL Chris Putton.

Newcomer to watch: The Wildcats have put an emphasis on building defensive depth, so look for linebacker Scooby Wright to contribute immediately. The all-state performer out of Cardinal Newman (Windsor, Calif.) has impressed so far in camp.

Biggest games in 2013: With UCLA, USC and ASU getting the bulk of the hype in the Pac-12 South, the Wildcats will have to pull off some upsets if they want to be in contention. That makes all three (at USC Oct. 10, vs. UCLA Nov. 9, at ASU Nov. 30) critical. Of course, the ASU game is the biggest of all.

Biggest question mark: Next week is game week, and the Wildcats are still in quarterback limbo. It was thought that B.J. Denker and Jesse Scroggins would be the front-runners, but neither has pulled away and Javelle Allen, Anu Solomon and Nick Isham have all kept pace. They’ve all shared close to equal reps in camp, so at least there is continuity with the receivers seeing all of the QBs (Denker is the only lefty). The fact that the Wildcats have a fairly easy nonconference schedule bodes well. Rodriguez has already said it’s possible he could start three different quarterbacks the first three weeks before Arizona opens league play on the road at Washington on Sept. 28. There are a few more practices coming up before the Wildcats get into “game week” mode, so every rep will count.

Forecast: It hasn’t been the greatest offseason for the Wildcats. The opening of the new facility and a couple of awesome! videos (Part I and Part II) were overshadowed by Carey’s off-field indiscretions, the loss of wide receiver Austin Hill to injury and the departure of receiver Tyler Slavin. Once thought to be their strongest position group, the Wildcats now find themselves struggling with some wide receiver depth.

Terrence Miller, Garic Wharton and Johnny Jackson make up a solid starting three, and David Richards, though hampered by injuries, is a solid 3B. And Jenkins can be a do-it-all guy, but it’s still an area of concern.

Matt Scott was obviously a huge part of the offense. And he and Carey complemented each other nicely. It will be interesting to see if Carey continues his outstanding pace with a new quarterback. The belief is that there will be just as much passing as last season, and given Arizona’s scheme, it’s unlikely Carey will be seeing many eight- and nine-man boxes.

The offensive line should also be solid. Quinn was an underappreciated center and he’ll be missed, but Ebbele, Baucus and Putton (who will be plugged in as needed) make up a strong troika.

Defensively, the question is if this group, which returns virtually every starter from last year, got better. Fischer and Flowers are legit playmakers, and you’d think a second year in the 3-3-5 will help. As explosive as the Wildcats were offensively, the defense gave up more than 35 points a game -- ranking 102nd nationally. Fortunately, the offense averaged better than 38 points per game.

Arizona is an extremely intriguing team. If Rodriguez can make the quarterback spot plug-and-play, and Scott’s production can be mostly replicated, that will take a lot of pressure off Carey, who could be in for another big season. And, if the defense is improved, the offense won’t have to feel like it has to win every game.

But those are two big ifs.

Best case-worst case: Arizona State

August, 19, 2013
8/19/13
7:00
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This is the tenth in a series looking at potential dream and nightmare scenarios for all Pac-12 teams.

Understand: These are not predictions. They are extreme scenarios and pieces of fiction. You can read last year's versions here.

We're going in reverse order of my post-spring power rankings (which might not be identical to my preseason power rankings).

Up next: Arizona State

Best case

Arizona State defensive tackle Will Sutton comes to a stop outside Sun Devil Stadium. It's 9 p.m. He realizes he left his playbook in the coaches' offices.

He re-enters the athletic building, but he hears music. It's coming from head coach Todd Graham's office.
Here we go yo, here we go yo
So what so what so what's the scenario?

"Coach Graham listens to A Tribe Called Quest?" Sutton wonders. "Now that is unexpected."

Sutton opens Graham's door. He sees Graham sitting at his desk. Another man is sprawled on the sofa laughing.

"Will," Graham says. "Have you met my friend Jay-Z?"

Later, Sutton tells quarterback Taylor Kelly about seeing Jay-Z in Graham's office.

"You didn't know that coach hangs with all those hip-hop guys?" Kelly replies. "I saw Lil Wayne in his office once. Coach was telling him how to make a court deposition hilarious. Yep, Coach been smooth since days of Underroos. Arizona [Kelly fake gags] is all about country western. We're urban up here."

Sutton almost notes that Kelly is from Eagle, Idaho, population 20,000, but says nothing.

After Arizona State whips Sacramento State 55-3 to open the season, Wisconsin comes to town. The Sun Devils hold the Badgers to just 197 total yards in a 21-3 victory.

Sutton and safety Alden Darby meet with reporters after the game. They are asked about how they could so thoroughly shut down a big physical team like Wisconsin.

Says Darby, "Ain't nothin' but a D thang, baaaaabay!"

Sutton gives him a fist bump, "Corona and Long Beach together, now you know you in trouble."

Stanford is also a big, physical team, but it surprises the Sun Devils by throwing the ball early and often. Kevin Hogan's three touchdown passes prove the difference in a 28-27 Cardinal victory.

"Guys," Graham says after the game. "That was a tough one. We've been hit with a few shells but we don't walk with a limp. We'll just get back to work."

The Sun Devils bounce back with a 30-21 win over USC. Running backs Marion Grice and D.J. Foster combine to rush for 260 yards and three scores.

Grice and Foster are asked after the game about sharing the ball and whether that's ever frustrating.

Says Grice, "It takes two to make a thing go right."

Adds Foster, "It takes two to make it outta sight."

The Sun Devils move up to No. 15 in the AP poll as they head to Texas to play Notre Dame in Cowboys Stadium. Things go poorly in the first half as the Fighting Irish jump to a 17-0 lead and take a 24-3 advantage into the halftime locker room.

But the Sun Devils drive 80 yards for a touchdown on their first possession of the second half and the momentum shifts. Still, it's 31-27 Notre Dame when the Sun Devils get the ball back on their 35-yard line with 2:30 on the clock. They drive to the Irish's 22 with one minute left, but face a fourth-and-inches. They take their final time out.

Kelly returns to the huddle. He looks at receiver Jaelen Strong.

"You've been dogging that corner all night and he's nervous," Kelly said. "They'll be thinking run, so I'm going to play-action and you're going to do a hitch on the near side. Can you make a hitch work?"

Replies Strong, "I got 99 problems but a hitch ain't one. Hit me."

Kelly connects with Strong, who slips the corner in press coverage and sprints for the winning touchdown.

Reporter: That was quite a comeback. Do you think this marks a program, long called a sleeping giant, waking up?

Linebacker Carl Bradford seems mildly irritated by the question. He replies, "Don't call it a comeback. We've been here for years."

Reporter: I suppose you're going to tell us the plan is to put suckas in fear, makin' the tears rain down like a monsoon. And, you know, make the bass go boom?

Bradford: No. We're going to play one-game-at-a-time and give 110 percent.

Arizona State moves up to 12th in the national polls. It buries Colorado and slips Washington 24-20. It's greeted by a blizzard at Washington State, but Grice and Foster lead a rushing attack that gains 375 yards against the Cougars. Kelly throws just two passes.

Says Graham, "Today I didn't even have to use my T.K. I got to say it was a good day."

Arizona State rolls past Utah and nips Oregon State to win its seventh game in a row. Up next is a visit to No. 12 UCLA, which has only lost to Stanford and Oregon.

Kevin Gemmell: The winner in Pasadena will position itself to win the South Division and get a shot in the Pac-12 championship to make a date with the Granddaddy. The problem both defenses have is opposing quarterbacks who are at the top of their games.

Ted Miller: If there was a problem, Yo – I'll solve it! Check out the hook while DJ revolves it!

Gemmell: Please -- please! -- don't ever do that again.

Arizona State and UCLA are tied 24-24, but Brett Hundley drives the Bruins to the Sun Devils' 17 with three minutes left. He drops back, looking for Shaq Evans, but he's sacked from behind by Sutton. Darby picks up the loose ball and dashes for what proves to be the winning touchdown.

Sutton turns to Hundley, "You're just a butter knife, I'm a machete."

Hundley replies, "If I wasn't so angry, I would salute that old school reference."

At 10-1, Arizona State moves up to No. 5 in the nation. Rival Arizona comes to town limping at 5-6, needing a win to become bowl eligible. Arizona State runs onto the field with Kool Moe Dee's "Wild Wild West" blaring through the Sun Devil Stadium sound system. There is a suspicion on the opposite sideline that Graham is making fun of the Wildcats and coach Rich Rodriguez.

"He's making fun of us!" Rodriguez says to quarterback B.J. Denker.

Says Graham, "I'm making fun of them!"

Arizona State wins the toss. As the players shake hands, Kelly pulls Arizona linebacker Marquis Flowers close. He says, "You are now about to witness the strength of street knowledge."

The Sun Devils roll 38-17. That earns them a spot opposite unbeaten and second-ranked Oregon in the Pac-12 title game.

Graham gathers the Sun Devils in the locker room at Autzen Stadium.

"Look, if you had one shot, or one opportunity, to seize everything you ever wanted -- one moment! -- would you capture it or just let it slip?" he says to his players. "Yo?"

The Sun Devils take a 33-30 lead in the second overtime. Ducks kicker Matt Wogan lines up for a 27 yard field goal to send it to a third overtime.

Announcer: Wide left! For the third time in three years, a missed field goal ruins Oregon's season.

Arizona State whips Ohio State in the Rose Bowl and finishes 13-1 and ranked third.

The athletic department receives an anonymous gift of $200 million to finance the $300 million renovation of Sun Devil Stadium.

Explains Steve Patterson, ASU vice president for athletics: "Cash Rules Everything Around Me -- C.R.E.A.M. -- Get the money! Dollar, dollar bill y'all!"

Worst case

Arizona State bombs Sacramento State, but Wisconsin grinds down the smaller Sun Devils defense, and the Badgers mostly mute the Sun Devils running game. The passing game falters in the fourth quarter, with a Taylor Kelly interception killing a final drive in a 24-20 loss.

The Sun Devils' struggles are even more pronounced against Stanford, owners of one of the nation's best defenses. Not only do they go down 28-10, they lose their composure when frustration sets in during the fourth quarter, getting a pair of unsportsmanlike conduct flags.

"No, we're not reverting to former undisciplined ways," Graham tells reporters. "We've just got to keep our heads in the game. We knew our schedule was going to be tough. We just need to get back to our high-octane ways."

That doesn't happen against USC, which blisters the Sun Devils 30-13.

Kevin Gemmell: A 1-3 start is bad, but losing two conference games probably means the Sun Devils can't lose another Pac-12 game if they hope to win the Pac-12 South Division.

Ted Miller: They better start thinkin' of a master plan, 'Cuz ain't nuthin' but sweat inside their hands.'

Gemmell: Really? You need to learn to let a conceit go.

The Sun Devils fall 20-17 to Notre Dame in Cowboys Stadium. The opposing defensive plan has been set: Gang up against Marion Grice and D.J. Foster and force the Sun Devils to throw the ball. As of yet none of the receivers, including touted recruit, Jaelen Strong, has been able to make the defense pay consistently. The defense has been solid, but it's not unreasonable to wonder if a guy like Will Sutton will start thinking about the NFL as the losses pile up.

"I'm not thinking about the NFL," Sutton says. "I'm thinking about Colo... oh ... is that a Bentley driving down Mill Avenue?"

The Sun Devils dump Colorado 30-20, upset Washington and even their record with a 28-24 win at Washington State. A late field goal gives Arizona State a 31-30 win at Utah.

"We need one more win to become bowl eligible," Graham says. "But we also think we can win out and get to a good bowl game."

Oregon State whips the Sun Devils 28-17, and UCLA scores 21 fourth-quarter points to win 35-31. That sets up a Territorial Cup with Arizona over big stakes. The Wildcats need to win to capture the South Division title, which will give them an opportunity to play in the program's first Rose Bowl. The Sun Devils need to win to become bowl eligible.

The Wildcats end all intrigue by halftime. Ka'Deem Carey rushes for 205 yards and QB B.J. Denker passes for 235 and three scores in a 44-17 victory.

The Sun Devils finish at 5-7, their fourth losing mark since 2008.

Carey wins the Heisman Trophy. Arizona upsets unbeaten Stanford for the Pac-12 title and then beats Ohio State in the Rose Bowl to finish 12-2 and ranked sixth.

The Wildcats also win national titles in basketball, baseball and softball.

Graham texts his players at 4 a.m. on Dec. 25 that he's leaving to become special teams coach at Arizona.

He calls it his dream job.

Previous "Best case-worst case" posts

California

Washington State

Colorado

Utah

Arizona

USC

Oregon State

Washington

UCLA
Linebacker should a strong position in the Pac-12 this fall. You could argue that six or seven guys are or could become All-American candidates.

So how do the units stack up?

GREAT SHAPE

Stanford: Three starters back for the Pac-12's best run defense, including All-American candidates Trent Murphy and Shayne Skov. Even the competition to replace Chase Thomas between James Vaughters and Blake Lueders is between two A-list veterans. Depth is good, too. Might be the best unit in the country.

[+] EnlargeAnthony Barr
Jonathan Moore/Getty ImagesAnthony Barr is a big reason why the Bruins boast one of the Pac-12 best linebacker corps.
UCLA: Well, start with Anthony Barr on the outside. The general reaction to him at media day, "Dang. He's big. I didn't know he was that big." Then there's the underrated Eric Kendricks inside along with the solid Jordan Zumwalt. There doesn't seem to be much concern about the vacancy at the other OLB, where Aaron Wallace, Kenny Orjioke and, perhaps, incoming freshman Myles Jack are competing.

USC: Inside 'backer Hayes Pullard and Morgan Breslin on the outside make for a good start, as the Trojans transition to a 3-4. Fellow inside linebacker Lamar Dawson had a forgettable 2012 season, but he reacted well to being challenged this spring. Then there's the return of Devon Kennard, who should finally feel comfortable playing the OLB position he was made for.

Washington: As previously noted, the Huskies are extremely strong here, though it doesn't seem that many folks realize it. They will. The general feeling among just about everyone is that Shaq Thompson will make a move toward All-American recognition this year, while Travis Feeney and John Timu also are well above average. Rush end Josh Shirley also merits note as a hybrid LB/DE in Justin Wilcox's amorphous scheme.

GOOD SHAPE

Oregon State: Michael Doctor and D.J. Alexander are both back, giving the Beavers speed and experience on the outside. Joel Skotte is expected to win the job at MLB. Depth is a little iffy, but the Beavers run defense was strong in 2012.

Arizona State: Pac-12 blog favorite Brandon Magee is gone, and for that we are terribly sad. Incredibly productive Devil 'backer Carl Bradford is back, as are Steffon Martin and Chris Young, as well as Anthony Jones. Sun Devils struggled a bit against the run last year.

California: The Bears are switching from a 3-4 to a 4-3, which means Chris McCain is now officially a rush end, not an outside linebacker. But this is a better-than-you-think crew, despite the lousy numbers from 2012. Nick Forbes is strong inside, while Jalen Jefferson is back on the strongside. Penn State transfer Khairi Fortt is finally healthy and ready to roll. Depth is a little questionable.

Arizona: Everyone is back, led by Jake Fischer and Marquis Flowers, and the Pac-12 blog is of the mind the Wildcats are actually OK at linebacker. The issue is the guys in front of them not being very good at gobbling up blockers. Terrible run defense last year, though.

Washington State: We think one of the big surprises this year might be how solid the Cougars are on defense, and linebacker is one of several reasons why. Most of the 2012 two-deep is back, though losing OLB Travis Long is a big hit. Darryl Monroe is the leader inside.

WE'LL SEE

Oregon: It's not just that the Ducks lost three of four starters. It's that they lost OLB Dion Jordan and Kiko Alonso and Michael Clay inside. Each is on an NFL roster, Jordan being a first-round pick and Alonso going in the second round. No team in the country lost anything approaching that at linebacker. Boseko Lokombo is back on the outside, but injury issues this spring prevented there from being much depth chart clarity.

Utah: While the 2012 run defense was solid, the Utes didn't play well at linebacker last year, though injury issues were the chief concern, preventing any type of week-to-week continuity. Trevor Reilly, who played "stud" 'backer last year, has returned to his more natural end position. A healthy Brian Blechen will take over at "stud" after bouncing back and forth at safety -- he's 230 pounds, too -- and that should help. Big area of fall competition here.

Colorado: Senior Derrick Webb is a strong presence on the weakside, but Jon Major and Doug Rippy are gone. The Buffaloes likely will be young here, see true freshman Addison Gillam topping the post-spring depth chart.

You can see previous previews here:

Quarterback

Running back

Receiver

Tight end

Offensive line

Kicker

Video: On the spot -- Arizona

June, 19, 2013
6/19/13
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Arizona's defense, led by coordinator Jeff Casteel, is on the spot in 2013.
We've looked at offensive three-headed monsters -- elite combinations of quarterback, running back and receiver -- so now let's look at the defensive version.

That would be elite combinations of top tacklers, top sack men and top interceptors, as tackles, sacks and interceptions make defensive coordinators happy.

The combinations here might be stronger even than the offensive troikas. Stanford, for example, welcomes back an elite, All-America sort of player for each category. It seems to us all 12 teams have at least one player to be excited about heading into the fall.

Just two teams -- Arizona State and Utah -- only hit on one category. Arizona, Colorado and Washington join Stanford hitting all three, though Colorado's interception numbers from 2012 are so meager -- 3! -- that it's not terribly relevant. And USC's just missing was a matter of 0.4 tackles per game.

So here's how we see things stacking up.

And, again, you should feel free to be outraged by our lunkheaded bias against your team, which obviously should be ranked much higher.

1. Stanford
LB Shayne Skov, OLB Trent Murphy, S Ed Reynolds

The skinny: Three potential All-Americans. There is no finer troika in the nation. Not sure if anyone else is even close.

2. USC
LB Hayes Pullard, OLB Morgan Breslin, S Dion Bailey

The skinny: Pullard was seventh in the conference with 8.2 tackles per game, just behind safety T.J. McDonald. Breslin is transitioning from defensive end to outside linebacker, which actually seems like a better fit. And Bailey, who led the Trojans with four interceptions, is moving back to safety from linebacker.

3. UCLA
LB Eric Kendricks, OLB Anthony Barr, S Randall Goforth

The skinny: UCLA gets here on the power of the first two, an elite combination, with Barr a likely top-10 NFL draft pick next spring. That balances out the questions in the secondary. Goforth, a promising player, just seemed like as good a choice as any.

4. Oregon State
LB Michael Doctor, DE Scott Cricthon, CB Rashaad Reynolds

The skinny: Doctor took a big step forward last year, even if D.J. Alexander is a flashier player. Crichton, first-team All-Pac-12 in 2012, is trying to lead the Beavers in sacks for a third consecutive year. Reynolds had three picks last year and now becomes the Beavers' lead cornerback with Jordan Poyer off to the NFL.

5. Oregon
LB Derrick Malone, DE Taylor Hart, S Erick Dargan

The skinny: Malone was just thrown in there because the Ducks' linebacker situation is cloudy. Hart is a budding all-conference guy who should get his due this fall. Dargan led the Ducks with five picks, but there's an acknowledgement here also of cornerback Ekpre-Olomu, a preseason All-American, who had four.

6. Arizona State
LB Chris Young, DT Will Sutton, S Alden Darby

The skinny: Sutton is the big fish here, obviously. Linebacker is a question for the Sun Devils, who lost their top two tacklers. Young and Darby are returning starters, though, with Young ranking third in tackles and Darby second in interceptions in 2012.

7. Washington
LB John Timu, OLB Josh Shirley, CB Marcus Peters

The skinny: This is a solid but unspectacular trio, as none of the three were all-conference. But the Huskies defense, which was greatly improved in 2012, has a lot of production back. It's worth noting that defensive end Andrew Hudson tied Shirely for the team lead with 6.5 sacks, and linebacker Shaq Thompson also had three picks, like Peters.

8. Arizona
LB Jake Fischer, LB Marquis Flowers, CB Jonathan McKnight

The skinny: All three leaders are back, but they get marked down for the overall defensive numbers in 2012. Flowers, an underrated player, had 5.5 sacks and was tied with McKnight with three interceptions.

9. California
LB Nick Forbes, DE Chris McCain, S Michael Lowe

The skinny: Forbes averaged 7.1 tackles per game last year. McCain tied for the team lead in sacks with 3.5, but don't be surprised if Todd Barr or Brennan Scarlett lead the pass rush. Lowe had three picks last year to tie for the team lead, but he's listed behind Alex Logan on the post-spring depth chart.

10. Washington State
S Deone Bucannon, OLB Logan Mayes, LB Cyrus Coen

The skinny: Bucannon is an A-list guy, earning second-team All-Pac-12 honors in 2012. He led the Cougars in tackles and interceptions, so we included Coen, who was second with three picks. The gigantic void is the pass rush, which lost four-year sack leader Travis Long.

11. Utah
LB/S Brian Blechen, DE Trevor Reilly, S Eric Rowe

The skinny: These are three solid players, but there's a lot of uncertainty on the Utes defense. The Utes lost their top two sack men and their top three cornerbacks. Blechen has bounced back and forth between linebacker and safety, and neither Reilly nor Rowe were able to top the depth chart at his position this spring without an "Or" beside him.

12. Colorado
LB Derrick Webb, DE Chidera Uzo-Diribe, CB Kenneth Crawley

The skinny: All three leaders are back, but we're listing the promising Crawley instead of the two guys who had a single pick last year. Uzo-Diribe is legit. He has 12.5 sacks over the past two seasons, including seven last year. Big issue here, however, is how terrible the Buffs defense was last year.

Pac-12's top sack men

June, 3, 2013
6/03/13
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The Pac-12 is welcoming back a strong crew of quarterbacks, but life might not be terribly fun in the pocket for even the best of them. Perhaps the strongest returning group in the conference in 2013 will be defenders who specialize in knocking quarterbacks on their rear ends.

Nine of the top-10 sack men in 2012 will be back this fall. And 14 of the top-20. And just two teams -- Utah and Washington State -- don't welcome back at least one of their top pass rushers.

Five of six pass rushers who recorded at least 10 sacks will be back.
So who might join the double-digit sack club this fall? Here are some thoughts.

Arizona: Linebacker Marquis Flowers led the Wildcats with 5.5 sacks in 2012, but rushing the passer was one of the biggest issues with last year's overmatched defense, which was 108th in the nation with just 16 sacks. Maybe a young player, such as redshirt freshman Kyle Kelley, will rise in the fall?

California: The Bears spread out their 28 sacks last year, with OLB Chris McCain and DT Kendrick Payne leading the way with 3.5 apiece. McCain is back, Payne is not, and the Bears are converting from a 3-4 to a 4-3. Guys who should be first to the QB include McCain, Todd Barr and Brennan Scarlett.

Colorado: End Chidera Uzo-Diribe led Colorado with seven sacks last year -- no other Buff had more than three -- and it's a good bet he will again this fall. He has 12.5 sacks over the past two seasons.

Oregon: Underrated end Taylor Hart recorded eight sacks last year to lead the Ducks, but Oregon wasn't as good rushing the passer last year as it has been in the past. That might have been by design though, seeing the Ducks were 15th in the nation in pass efficiency defense. Hart is back, but it will be interesting to see if one of the young D-linemen, such as Arik Armstead or DeForest Buckner, steps up as a pass rusher this fall.

Oregon State: First-team All-Pac-12 end Scott Crichton, who led the Beavers and tied for eighth in the conference with nine sacks, fell just short of the list at the top. It seems almost certain he will lead the Beavers in sacks for a third consecutive season.

Utah: Joe Kruger led the Utes with six sacks last year and Star Lotulelei was second with five. A good bet to lead the pass rush this fall is hybrid LB/DE Trevor Reilly, who had 4.5 sacks last year.

Washington: Both the Huskies top two sack men are back: Josh Shirley and Andrew Hudson, who both had 6.5 sacks in 2012. Shirley, who seemed to have a lot of near-misses, is talented enough to get to double-digits this fall.

Washington State: Travis Long had been the Cougars best defensive player for four consecutive years, so he leaves behind a significant void. How will the Cougs replace his 9.5 sacks? No other defender had more than three sacks last fall. Logan Mayes, likely to replace Long at "Buck" LB, is the most obvious candidate.

Arizona Wildcats spring wrap

May, 8, 2013
5/08/13
11:30
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ARIZONA WILDCATS

2012 record: 8-5
2012 conference record: 4-5 (fourth in South Division)
Returning starters: Offense: 6; defense: 11; kicker/punter: 0

Top returners
RB Ka'Deem Carey, WR David Richards, LB Jake Fischer, LB Marquis Flowers, WR Terrence Miller, OL Fabbians Ebbele, OL Mickey Baucus.

Key losses
QB Matt Scott, WR Dan Buckner, C Kyle Quinn, DL Dominique Austin, OL Trace Biskin.

2012 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Ka'Deem Carey* (1,929 yards)
Passing: Matt Scott (3,620 yards)
Receiving: Austin Hill* (1,364, suffered ACL tear in spring, out indefinitely)
Tackles: Jake Fischer* (119)
Sacks: Marquis Flowers* (5.5)
Interceptions: Marquis Flowers* and Jonathan McKnight* (3)

Spring answers

1. Plenty of weapons: Yes, Austin Hill's injury is brutal. Yes, it's a big blow to the Wildcats. Is it a game-changer? Maybe, maybe not. It's not like the Cats are strapped for receiving options. Johnny Jackson, David Richards, Tyler Slavin and Garic Wharton still make up an awfully formidable receiving corps. If a couple emerge, Arizona will be OK. If they all do, the Wildcats might not miss a beat.

2. The whole defense returns: Great -- except that the defense struggled last season. Having a ton of starters back is a good thing -- but only if they get better. A second year in the 3-3-5 should naturally lend itself to less thinking and more playing. And it's not just the starting 11. There are 20 defensive players who notched at least one start last season -- so there is depth to go with the experience.

3. O-line rising: It's no easy task replacing center Kyle Quinn. But the good thing about Arizona's line is that its members are versatile and can play multiple positions. Mickey Baucus (LT) and Fabbians Ebbele (RT) started every game last year and Chris Putton started multiple games at both guard spots and can also play center. The five isn't set -- but there is room and depth to mix and match.

Fall questions

1. QB roulette? Unlike with some other Pac-12 teams with quarterback competitions, Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez doesn't want to name his starter and then stand by his man. He could name a different starter the next day. And then a different one the day after that. Rodriguez said he could have three different quarterbacks start the first three weeks of the season. Many feel B.J. Denker had the strongest spring with Jesse Scroggins slowed by injury. Stay tuned.

2. Ready to lead? Did Matt Scott make Ka'Deem Carey look good? Or did Carey make Scott look good? Most think it was a bit of both. With Scott gone and Carey now a national name, the target will be squarely on the chest of last season's national leader in rushing. Carey isn't going to surprise anyone. Can he duplicate 2012's production with the increased attention and a new quarterback at the helm?

3. Injuries stink: That's not so much a fall question as a statement on the olfactory unpleasantness of injuries. The Wildcats had as many as 20 injuries this spring, meaning a lot of players who might not start in the fall got to start in the spring. That's great for depth, but it leaves a lot of holes and a lot of questions still be to be answered when the bulk of those injured players return in the fall.

Best/Worst of the Pac-12 bowl season

January, 10, 2013
1/10/13
3:00
PM ET
We're taking a look at the best and worst of the Pac-12 bowl season.

Best player, offense: Washington RB Bishop Sankey was the best player on the field in the Huskies' 28-26 defeat in the MAACO Las Vegas Bowl. He gained 205 yards on 30 carries with a TD. He also caught six passes for 74 yards, giving him 279 of Washington's 447 yards from scrimmage.

Best player, defense: Arizona State DT Will Sutton had 2.5 sacks and 3.5 tackles for a loss in the Sun Devils' 62-28 domination of Navy.

Best player, special teams: De'Anthony Thomas' 94-yard return of the opening kickoff of the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl set the tone for Oregon's 35-17 triumph over Kansas State. We'll also slip in that his 23-yard TD on a screen pass was perhaps even more spectacular.

Best game: It's still difficult to wrap one's mind around Arizona's comeback against Nevada in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl. The Wolf Pack led 48-35 with 1:48 remaining, but the Wildcats scored two touchdowns and recovered an onside kick in the final 46 seconds to steal a 49-48 victory. Arizona trailed 21-0 in the first quarter and was down 45-28 entering the final period, but still won.

Worst game: USC's 21-7 loss to a Georgia Tech team with seven defeats in the Hyundai Sun Bowl was not only the worst performance of the Pac-12's bowl season, it was the worst bowl performance in USC history. The Trojans, the preseason No. 1 team, managed to gain just 205 yards against a bad defense, one that had been shredded in a 49-28 loss to Middle Tennessee.

Best play: Arizona linebacker Marquis Flowers recovered the onside kick that set up the Wildcats' go-ahead drive against Nevada. He also grabbed the interception with 13 seconds left that ended the high drama.

Best goal-line stand: Stanford dominated Wisconsin's offense in the second half of the Rose Bowl, but that wasn't the case in the second quarter, when the Badgers scored 14 points and were gashing the Cardinal. Gashing, other than one critical play. On fourth-and-goal at the Stanford 1-yard line, Badgers RB James White was stonewalled by DE Ben Gardner.

Worst play: Baylor led UCLA 14-0, but UCLA looked poised to make a defensive stop in the Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl. The Bears faced a third-and-9 from their 45-yard line. UCLA decided to blitz, and Bears QB Nick Florence made them pay with a 55-yard TD pass to Tevin Reese. It was a beautiful pass and catch for Baylor. But it was a crushing blow to the Bruins, who never mounted much of a challenge the rest of the evening.

Best stat(s): Arizona State QB Taylor Kelly was nearly perfect against Navy. He completed 17 of 19 passes for 277 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. That's a pass efficiency rating of 277.43. Alabama's AJ McCarron led the nation with a pass efficiency rating of 175.28 this season. Oh, and Kelly also rushed for 81 yards on seven carries -- 11.6 yards per rush -- and a TD.

Best stat(s) II: Stanford's defense shut out Wisconsin in the second half of the Rose Bowl, holding the Badgers to just four first downs and 82 total yards, including 13 yards rushing from All-American RB Montee Ball.

Worst stat: UCLA's feckless performance against Baylor was best summed up by the Bruins going 1-for-17 on third downs. That's bad against any defense, but making matters worse is this: Baylor ranked 119th in the nation in third-down conversions allowed.

Crazy stat: Texas' defense posted an Alamo Bowl-record 10 sacks for minus-81 yards against Oregon State. Alex Okafor alone set a bowl record with 4.5 sacks. Here's a guess that Beavers fans were wondering how a team that gave up 23 sacks in its previous 12 games couldn't make an adjustment, because Okafor doesn't rank in the top five of defensive linemen/outside linebackers Oregon State faced during the regular season.

Pac-12 All-Bowl team

January, 10, 2013
1/10/13
11:00
AM ET
Ladies and gentlemen, a round of applause for your 2012 Pac-12 All-Bowl team.

OFFENSE

QB: Taylor Kelly, Arizona State -- 17-of-19, 267 yards with four touchdowns and no picks. Outstanding performance.

RB: Bishop Sankey, Washington -- The lone player from a losing team on the all-bowl squad, but he was too good to ignore -- 30 carries for 205 yards and a touchdown.

RB: Marion Grice, Arizona State -- With a heavy heart, he earned offensive MVP by piling up 159 yards on just 14 carries for a robust 11.4-yard average. He also had a pair of rushing touchdowns in ASU's blowout win.

WR: Austin Hill, Arizona -- His 175 yards broke an Arizona record for receiving yards in a bowl game and his two touchdowns matched a school high.

[+] EnlargeArizona State's Rashad Ross
Cary Edmondson/USA TODAY SportsRashad Ross had four catches for 139 yards and three touchdowns against Navy.
WR: Rashad Ross, Arizona State -- Had a huge day with four catches for 139 yards and three touchdowns.

TE: Colt Lyerla, Oregon -- He's not here for his three catches and 52 yards. He's here because those three catches for 52 yards changed the way Kansas State played defense and it opened everything up for the Ducks.

OL: David Yankey, Stanford -- The Morris Trophy winner helped keep quarterback Kevin Hogan sack-free and QB hit-free.

OL: Kyle Quinn, Arizona -- Paved the way for Carey's record-setting performance.

OL: Hroniss Grasu, Oregon -- Kept a good Kansas State front at bay and delivered a knockout block on De'Anthony Thomas' touchdown reception.

OL: Evan Finkenberg, Arizona State -- Key player in Marion Grice's big day.

OL: Kyle Long, Oregon -- Helped limit Kansas State's aggressive front to just one sack.

K: Jordan Williamson, Stanford -- Shook off the Fiesta cobwebs and calmly drilled both field goal attempts, including a 47-yarder. His six points were the difference in the 20-14 outcome.

DEFENSE

DL: Ben Gardner, Stanford -- Fourth-and-goal at the 1. James White, prepare to meet the mullet.

DL: Will Sutton, Arizona State -- Defensive MVP of Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. Hungry for more next season.

DL: Carl Bradford, Arizona State -- Three tackles for a loss, plus a sack, make him the perfect complement to Sutton.

LB: Kiko Alonso, Oregon -- Run blitzed the Wildcats all night and was as effective as he was punishing.

LB: Michael Clay, Oregon -- Your defensive MVP of the Fiesta Bowl had nine tackles, two for a loss, plus a sack. He was prolific.

LB: A.J. Tarpley, Stanford -- The leading tackler in the Rose Bowl helped the Cardinal to a second-half shutout.

LB: Marquis Flowers, Arizona -- The defensive MVP of the New Mexico Bowl posted 10 tackles, one for a loss, and an interception. He also recovered the onside kick that sparked Arizona's comeback.

DB: Jordan Richards, Stanford -- Seven tackles, two tackles for a loss, a sack and one very, very nasty (yet clean) hit.

DB: Erick Dargan, Oregon -- Two picks off a Heisman Trophy finalist is two picks off a Heisman Trophy finalist -- whether it's the end of the half or end of the game. He also had eight tackles, second only to Clay.

DB: Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Oregon -- Posted five tackles and a pass breakup. Kansas State challenged him. He responded.

DB: Shaquille Richardson, Arizona -- Nabbed his first interception of the season at the Arizona 2-yard line and returned it 27 yards. That kicked off a nine-play, 71-yard touchdown drive for the Wildcats.

KR: De'Anthony Thomas, Oregon -- DAT did what DAT does. And he did it great.

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