Pac-12: Max Tabach
Here are some outstanding senior Pac-10 players, none of whom made first- or second-team All-Conference teams.
Arizona: NT Lolomana Mikaele
The fifth-year senior was a co-captain this season who matured significantly during his time in Tucson. He missed the 2008 season because of a suspension for violating team rules, but he returned in 2009 and 2010 as one of the Wildcats quiet leaders and became well-respected by his teammates. He started all 12 games and finished with 32 tackles, including 7.5 for a loss.
Arizona State: S Max Tabach
The Scottsdale native grew up a Sun Devils fan: He's quoted in his bio as saying that "the day he received a scholarship from ASU was 'one of the best days' of his life." Despite only starting six games -- out of the final seven -- he tied for third on the team with 64 tackles. He also chipped in a sack and two interceptions. He was ASU's most consistent safety in 2010.
California: C Chris Guarnero
It's not easy to replace the best center in program history: Alex Mack. And Guarnero is not terribly big -- 6-foot-2, 270; Mack is 6-5, 316 -- but he started 27 career games and earned honorable mention All-Pac-10 honors the past two seasons.
Oregon: WR D.J. Davis
Davis, the Ducks second-leading receiver, has started 20 games, but his 36 receptions for 410 yards don't tell his whole story. For one, he's a tenacious blocker, a key part of the Ducks rushing success the past two seasons. Second, he's a class guy. Davis, who in high school won the Watkins Memorial Award as the nation’s top African American male scholar athlete, was so moved by the death of Notre Dame student videographer Declan Sullivan, he decided to make a touching tribute this season.
Oregon State: WR Aaron Nichols
Nichols is a former walk-on who ended up tied for third on the Beavers with 29 receptions for 330 yards. When the Beavers needed a clutch play this year -- particularly after James Rodgers went down -- Nichols was often the go-to guy. And he's been accepted into Oregon State's highly competitive Doctor of Pharmacy Program.
Stanford: OG Andrew Phillips
Phillips is the unsung leader of one of the nation's best offensive lines, and he played well this season despite a heavy heart: In August, his father, Bill Phillips Sr., died in a plane crash.
UCLA: DT David Carter
Carter never started until he was a fifth-year senior, yet he led all Bruins defensive linemen with 42 tackles and 3.5 sacks. Further, he's a history major and honor roll student.
USC: FB Stanley Havili
Havili is a four-year starter who's made so many big plays he's hardly "unsung." But he's still underappreciated. He was named USC's Most Inspirational Player Award and was named Co-Lifter of the Year. He played the entire season with a shoulder injury. His 116 career receptions are the most of any fullback in program history.
Washington: OLB Victor Aiyewa
He's a two-time first-team Pac-10 All-Academic selection (2nd team this year) and made All-Pac-10 honorable mention. A former safety who moved to "Sam" outside linebacker this season, he ended up leading the Pac-10 in tackles for a loss with 18, 11th-most in school history.
Washington State: OT Micah Hannam
The four-year starter and three-time Pac-10 All-Academic first team member started more losses than any player in the 107-year history of Cougars football. That's perseverance.
Katz, a sophomore from Santa Monica, Calif., completed 30 of 42 passes for 393 yards -- 10th most in school history -- with two touchdowns and one interception in the Beavers 29-27 win against No. 9 Arizona. It was his first interception of the season in 148 attempts. He also rushed for a touchdown and three times scrambled for a first down. Oregon State put up 486 yards of offense against a unit that ranked second in the nation in total defense (230.75 yards per game) entering the contest.
Hagan, a senior from Los Angeles, Calif., had the first two sacks of his career against UCLA, adding an interception, a pass breakup and a team-high-tying five tackles. California's defense limited UCLA to 144 yards, including 26 yards rushing to a Bruin squad that had been averaging 262.4 yards rushing per game.
Anger, a junior from Camarillo, Calif., punted five times for 252 yards -- 50.4 yards per punt -- and placed three punts inside the 20-yard line.
Also nominated for offensive player of the week honors were quarterback Steven Threet of Arizona State, wide receiver Juron Criner of Arizona, running back Shane Vereen of California, quarterback Nate Costa of Oregon, quarterback Andrew Luck of Stanford, and wide receiver Robert Woods of USC. Also nominated on defense were safety Max Tabach of Arizona State, linebacker Casey Matthews of Oregon, linebacker Shane Skov of Stanford, and linebacker Shane Horton of USC. Also nominated for special teams were punt returner Cliff Harris of Oregon, place kicker Nate Whitaker of Stanford, and punter Jeff Locke of UCLA.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Some notes, quotes and sundry information from Arizona State coach Dennis Erickson's sit-down with reporters Monday.
- Erickson said spring practices, which begin March 24, will be "very physical," with more live contact than in the past. He also said the offensive scheme could be tweaked: "I think coaches make a mistake when they are stubborn about what they do."
- He said he'd like to winnow the five guys competing to start at quarterback to two by the end of spring, but he also said he's not opposed to playing two guys next fall -- something he said he'd never done before.
- Defensive tackle Jonathan English and tight end Dan Knapp will miss spring while recovering from injuries. Offensive tackle Matt Hustad will be limited as will safety Max Tabach. Running back James Morrison, now on scholarship, should be able to practice.
- Erickson called his decision to keep Shawn Lauvao at guard last year instead of moving him outside to tackle his "biggest mistake."
- Lauvao's weight room numbers: 500 pound bench press, 675-pound squat, 350-pound power clean. If it's not readily apparent, those are big numbers.
- He said Kerry Taylor, though he can play all three receiver positions, is first in line to replace Michael Jones at the 'X'.
- The most intense competition on the offensive line might be at center, where Garth Gerhart, brother to Stanford running back Toby Gerhart, will challenge starter Thomas Altieri.
- While talking about his defense, this is what Erickson said about ASU's 54-20 loss to Oregon last fall: "That was embarrassing. I'll never forget that one."
- Erickson brought up redshirt freshman defensive tackle Otis Jones a number of times, noting Jones and his 400-pound bench press figure to be in the playing rotation.
- Erickson reiterated his desire for someone else to punt rather than Thomas Weber, who won the Groza Award as the nation's best field goal kicker in 2007 but wasn't as dead-on last fall.
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.|
"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.
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.
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.
- 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.