Pac-12: Matthew Tucker

Tuitea leads Sun Devils in weight room

May, 17, 2010
5/17/10
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Arizona State's Toa Tuitea, a sophomore defensive tackle, has been named the Sun Devils' "Hard Hat Program Champion," which recognizes his work in the football program's strength and conditioning program.

He topped a list of 48 Sun Devils who were honored.

A news release from the school said the "Hard Hat Program was created to reward those individuals who do what's right in the weight room even when no one is looking ... a Hard Hat Player is someone who is self-motivated, a competitor, committed to personal and team excellence, dependable, accountable, disciplined and most importantly, puts the team first."

To become a Hard Hat Player, a player has to achieve a certain point total during winter workouts. He earns points based on his effort for strength training, speed development and conditioning sessions. They are also awarded points for competitive events and performing extra workouts in the "Blitz Package Program." Each athlete is evaluated after every workout by the sports performance staff with input from an athlete's position coach when applicable.

The list of the honored includes: Corey Adams, Derrall Anderson, George Bell, Omar Bolden, Jarrid Bryant, Mike Callaghan, Jonathan Clark, Chris Coyle, Dean DeLeone, Eddie Elder, Steven Figueroa, Evan Finkenberg, Clint Floyd, Garth Gerhart, Lawrence Guy, Jon Hargis, J.J. Holliday, Matt Hustad, Osahon Irabor, Patrick Jamison, Keelan Johnson, Brandon Johnson, Anthony Jones, Kyle Johnson, Cameron Kastl, Ronald Kennedy, Dan Knapp, Trevor Kohl, LeQuan Lewis, Shelly Lyons, Cameron Marshall, Shane McCullen, Jamal Miles, Bo Moos, James Morrison, Gerald Munns, Brock Osweiler, Aaron Pflugrad, Cole Rarrick, Jamarr Robinson, Andrew Sampson, Zach Schlink, Max Smith, Adam Tello, Steven Threet, Matthew Tucker and Thomas Weber.

Starters or key contributors who didn't make the list (for whatever reason, including injury or excused absence) include: linebacker Vontaze Burfict, receiver Gerell Robinson, receiver Kerry Taylor, defensive end James Brooks, defensive tackle Williams Sutton, defensive tackle Saia Falahola, defensive end Greg Smith and linebacker Brandon Magee.

Scouting the nonconference games

May, 3, 2010
5/03/10
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The post-spring power rankings are out, which means it's a good time to see where the A-list Pac-10 nonconference foes rank.

Arizona

Sept. 18 vs. Iowa

Adam Rittenberg ranks the Hawkeyes second in the Big Ten. He writes: "A very good defensive line got better, players stepped up at linebacker, quarterback Ricky Stanzi worked on his interceptions and the offensive line saw some separation occur."

Arizona State

Sept. 18 at Wisconsin

Boy, Sept. 18 will be a Big Ten vs. state of Arizona challenge, eh? Rittenberg has the Badgers third in the Big Ten. Interesting note from Rittenberg here: "Injuries prevented the offensive line from truly coming together." Might this be a low scoring game because the Sun Devils should be pretty salty up front on D?

California

Sept. 11 vs. Colorado

Big 12 blogger David Ubben ranks the Buffaloes last in the Big 12, writing "... the defense gave up the second-most points in the conference last season, and there’s little reason to think they’ll be a lot better in 2010."

Sept. 17 at Nevada

The Bears better take the Wolf Pack seriously. First, it's not easy to win anywhere on the road. Second, Graham Watson ranks Nevada as the 10th-best non-AQ team in the nation. She writes, "... the defense still has a ways to go, but if the Wolf Pack can catch its defense up with its offense, it will be a tough team to beat this year."

Oregon

Sept. 11 at Tennessee

This isn't your father's Volunteers. Chris Low dumps Tennessee into the 10th spot in the SEC, concluding "even getting to .500 next season will be a challenge for the Vols, who will have five new starters on the offensive line, a first-year starter at quarterback and no depth at defensive tackle."

Oregon State

Sept. 4 vs. TCU (Dallas Cowboys Stadium)

Welcome to the nation's toughest nonconference schedule. The Horned Frogs rank second in the non-AQ power rankings and sixth overall in the nation, according to Mark Schlabach, who writes, "Quarterback Andy Dalton and running backs Matthew Tucker and Ed Wesley lead what should be a very potent running attack."

Sept. 11 vs. Louisville

Brian Bennett dumps Louisville into the cellar of the Big East: "The team got better and tougher this spring under Charlie Strong but still has a long way to go," he writes.

Sept. 25 at Boise State

Boise State is this season's likely BCS buster but on a grander scale than previous versions, considering they almost certainly will start the season ranked among the top-five. Schlabach has the Broncos second and notes, "Boise State could very well be in the BCS title game hunt at season's end. The Broncos return 23 of 24 players who started against TCU in the Fiesta Bowl."

Stanford*

Sept. 18 vs. Wake Forest

The Cardinal will want to take revenge for their loss at Wake Forest a year ago. Heather Dinich has the Demon Deacons ranked ninth in the ACC, noting "The Deacs will reveal a more run-based, option offense under their new quarterback. The interior defensive line remains a concern. "

*The Cardinal also play at Notre Dame, which wasn't ranked by Schlabach.

UCLA

Sept. 4 at Kansas State

Another "what were they thinking?" nonconference schedule. Ubben has the improving Wildcats sixth in the Big 12. He writes, "The Wildcats aren’t built to win 10 games just yet, but if Nebraska and Missouri stumble, they’ll be there to slip into the North conversation just like last season."

Sept. 18 vs. Houston

Watson has the Cougars seventh among non-AQ schools. She writes, "[New defensive coordinator Brian] Stewart’s work paid dividends during the spring game when his defense had 12 sacks, three interceptions and one fumble recovery."

Sept. 25 at Texas

Schlabach ranks the Longhorns No. 4 in the nation. He writes, "The Longhorns have several pieces to replace from the team that lost to Alabama in the BCS Championship Game, but replacing quarterback Colt McCoy doesn't seem as daunting after Garrett Gilbert's performance this spring."

USC

Sept. 11 vs. Virginia

This shouldn't be much of a challenge for the Trojans, but it figures to be more of a challenge than it was in 2008, when they rolled 52-7 in Charlottesville. Dinich has the Cavaliers 12th in the ACC: "This will be a transition year with a new staff, new philosophies and possibly a new quarterback."

Sept. 18 at Minnesota

Rittenberg rates the Golden Gophers ninth in the Big Ten, and he suggests that Matt Barkley should be eager for this road game: "The Gophers had some setbacks on defense, including safety Kim Royston's broken leg, and still have to replace a whopping nine starters."

Washington

Sept. 4 at BYU

Is BYU rebuilding? That seems to be what Watson thinks, writing, "The Cougars had a lot of questions to answer this spring and they seemed to come out with more questions."

Sept. 11 vs. Syracuse

Huskies quarterback Jake Locker made an impressive debut three years ago at Syracuse. Bennett ranks the Orange seventh in the Big East, and his praise is faint: "Syracuse still should show improvement based simply on having more healthy bodies."

Sept. 18 vs. Nebraska

This should be a great matchup of Locker and a talented Huskies offense vs. a rugged Nebraska defense. Ubben ranks the Cornhuskers third in the Big 12, though with one reservation, "... don’t count on another 10-win season if the offense doesn’t improve."

Washington State

Sept. 4 at Oklahoma State

The Cowboys lose a lot of key pieces from their 2009 team, which is why they are rated eighth in the Big 12. Writes Ubben, "Oklahoma State should have an impact player at each level of the defense in defensive end Ugo Chinasa, safety Markelle Martin and linebacker Orie Lemon, but they’ll need the rest of the D to solidify for the Cowboys to climb to a higher rung of the South ladder."

Sept. 18 at SMU

The Mustangs are on the rise under coach June Jones, even though they gave -- literally, gave, see four interceptions, two of which were returned for TDs -- Washington State its only win last year. Watson rates SMU fourth among non-AQ teams: "The Mustangs will be young for the second consecutive season, but a lot of that youth has experience."

More bodies, more competition for Sun Devils

March, 16, 2009
3/16/09
6:46
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Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Arizona State coach Dennis Erickson is throwing names around and reporters pens are racing and it's hard to figure out who's first team, who's second team and who's merely intriguing.

The confusion, by the way, is a good thing.

 
  Gary A. Vasquez/US Presswire
  Arizona State's Danny Sullivan is one of five guys competing for the starting quarterback spot.
A year after trotting out a handful of young guys who clearly weren't ready to play in the Pac-10 -- particularly on the offensive line -- the Sun Devils' depth chart appears full of potential and full of reasons to believe that a disappointing 5-7 finish in 2008 was merely a blip for Erickson's rebuilding project in the desert.

"We've got bodies for a change," Erickson said. "That also brings in the thing USC has -- competition."

Of course, when spring practices start on March 24, everyone will be asking about the quarterbacks, and Erickson is glad to answer.

And the names start flowing.

He's got five guys competing. Senior Danny Sullivan, who waited patiently while Rudy Carpenter owned the position the previous three-plus seasons, starts at No. 1. Sophomore Samson Szakacsy is No. 2, but he's got to prove his elbow has fully healed.

Redshirt freshman Jack Elway -- yes, that guy's son -- is No. 3 after running the scout team a year ago. Sophomore Chasen Stangel is fourth in the pecking order.

Then there's the tall guy.

He's No. 5 for now, but 6-foot-8, 235-pound Brock Osweiler, a true freshman from Kalispell, Mont., has already enrolled and already has tongues wagging.

"He's got a chance," Erickson said.

Coy isn't a term often applied to Erickson, but there's just a hint of that when he fields questions about Osweiler. Time's winged chariot might be hurrying near, as coach Andrew Marvell once told reporters, but Osweiler's candidacy could linger into the fall as the Sun Devils' coaches winnow the field to two or three guys.

"Age has nothing to do with who will be the guy," Erickson said. "None of them have any experience."

That's not completely true. Sullivan has seen spot action. He went 15-of-43 for 151 yards last year with two interceptions and one touchdown. But Erickson isn't counting those uninspiring numbers, or counting out Sullivan, whose lack of mobility is countered by his experience and strong arm.

"We've seen Danny Sullivan every day for two years, and I think he's very underrated," Erickson said.

Of course, quarterback isn't everything. The Sun Devils felt pretty good about Carpenter last year, but their inability to protect him over the past two seasons seemed to catch up to them as the season wore on and the record-setting hurler seemed to lose his rhythm.

Which brings us back to the exact same Big Issue Above All Others ASU had a year ago. Any Sun Devils fans know what's coming?

"Bottom line is you've got to block somebody," Erickson said. "Bottom line is you've got to be able to run the football."

That is where Erickson is most optimistic about improvement. He now sees a for-real two-deep depth chart with more guys who look like they can play.

The only certainty is workout-warrior Shawn Lauvao moving from guard to left tackle. After that, it's wide open.

On the other side of the ball, there's also going to be competition and player-shuffling, but the questions are more pleasant.

"Defensively, we've got a lot of good players coming back," Erickson said. "That's a strength for us."

The biggest position switch is Travis Goethel moving from strongside linebacker to the middle, replacing Morris Wooten, where he'll compete with former starter Gerald Munns, who's returning after leaving the team last season for personal reasons. The arrival of prep All-American Vontaze Burfict in the fall figures to further thicken the plot.

The biggest competition will be to replace All-Pac-10 safety Troy Nolan. The list of candidates for Nolan's spot -- and strong safety for that matter -- includes Clint Floyd, Max Tabach, Ryan McFoy, Keelan Johnson, Jarrell Holman and freshman Matthew Tucker, who's already enrolled.

So, yeah -- whew -- that's a lot of guys.

Which has Erickson expecting his Sun Devils to emerge from spring practices believing 2008 was the program equivalent of eating a bad oyster.

The Replacements: Biggest shoes to fill in the Pac-10

February, 23, 2009
2/23/09
10:00
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Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

One of the charms of college football is the mostly predictable roster rotation. Young guys break through, become stars and then leave after their third, fourth or fifth year. Then a new cast tries to fill the void.

While there are numerous size 36 EEE shoes to fill -- figuratively speaking, of course -- in the Pac-10 this spring, we'll focus on five here.

 
  Jeff Golden/Getty Images
  It's going to be tough for the Trojans to replace Rey Maualuga.

And because quarterback competitions across the conference are so obvious, we're going to make this a "non-quarterback" category.

Also note that spring is a time for the experimentation. Coaches love to mix-and-match players, so there might be some surprises we didn't anticipate.

Big shoes: USC LB Rey Maualuga

Stepping in: Sophomore Chris Galippo

  • Out goes everybody's All-American Maualuga, in goes everybody's 2006 prep All-American Galippo, a sure tackler who packs a punch at 255 pounds. He had 12 tackles, two coming for a loss, and an interception last season. He saw action as a true freshman before suffering a herniated disk in his back, an injury that also limited him last season. He seemed healthy the second half of the season, but back injuries are tricky. That might be the biggest issue standing between Galippo and future stardom.

Big shoes: California C Alex Mack

Stepping in: Junior Richard Fisher or junior Chris Guarnero

  • Fisher is a former walk-on and a vegetarian. For real. He was listed as the backup behind Mack last season. Guarnero started the first three games at left guard before suffering a season-ending toe injury. He is expected back for spring ball. With a new offensive line coach, Steve Marshall, and lots of returning starting experience -- seven players have started at least one game -- there might be lots of experimenting up front this spring.

Big shoes: Oregon DE Nick Reed

Stepping in: Junior Brandon Bair, junior Kenny Rowe, JC transfer Zac Clark

  • Reed had 20 tackles for a loss and 13 sacks last year (29.5 for his career). His potential replacements had no sacks last season. Some Oregon fans took issue with my suggesting in our "What to watch this spring," that Bair was the frontrunner to replace Reed. I wrote that because Rowe was listed at 215 pounds on last year's depth chart and was almost exclusively a pass-rush specialist. Meanwhile, Clark is an unknown quantity as an incoming JC transfer. On the other hand, Bair is more in the mold of returning big end Will Tukuafu, so perhaps Rowe, who's listed at 230 pounds on the updated roster, and Clark will battle it out. Guessing this one is wide open, to be honest.

Big shoes: Arizona State FS Troy Nolan

Stepping in: Sophomore Clint Floyd leads a pack of possibilities

  • Nolan had 64 tackles and four interceptions playing center field for the Sun Devils' defense, and he'll be the toughest guy to replace for a unit that should be fairly salty next fall. Floyd will get first crack, but junior Max Tabach, redshirt freshman Keelan Johnson and senior Jarrell Holman could make a move.

Big shoes: Oregon State WR Sammie Stroughter (and WR Shane Morales)

Stepping in: Junior Darrell Catchings and redshirt freshman Jordan Bishop

  • Stroughter was the Pac-10's only 1,000-yard receiver last year. Morales added 743 yards, while this duo combined for 15 of the Beavers 25 touchdown receptions. Catchings caught only seven passes but was No. 2 on the depth chart. Bishop was impressive while redshirting, particularly during Sun Bowl practices. And slot receiver James Rodgers figures to see more balls downfield this fall after mostly being a fly-sweep specialist the past two seasons.

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