Pac-12: Mesphin Forrester
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
But I reckon I got to light out for the Territory ahead of the rest, because Aunt Sally she's going to adopt me and sivilize me and I can't stand it. I been there before.
- There are known and then there are soon-to-be-known quantities in Arizona prep recruiting.
- California spring review: Quarterback Kevin Riley helped his cause.
- Former Oregon cornerback Jairus Byrd, who left the Ducks after his junior season and was picked in the second round by the Buffalo Bills, will play free safety in the NFL.
- Oregon beat writer John Hunt, video star, breaks down the Ducks spring game.
- Oregon State's secondary issues are firstary. Beavers beat writer Paul Buker interviews himself about his team and does this video about the spring game. Of course, that's a stand-in. This is the real Paul Buker doing an interview with a Beaver.
- Whatever happened to former Stanford defensive lineman Babatunde Oshinowo, a member of the Pac-10 blog's all-name team? (How fun is that name to say over and over again!) Got a feeling things are going to work out for the bright-even-for-Stanford Oshinowo.
- Once a highly touted signee, UCLA running back Aundre Dean is thinking about transferring. What we learned from the Bruins spring: There's a lack of speed and passion at receiver.
- Here's why former USC linebacker Rey Maualuga fell in the draft. What we learned from the Trojans this spring: There's insane riches at cornerback.
- Former Washington defensive back Mesphin Forrester signs with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
Ten things to consider, underline or anticipate heading into the weekend.
1. California OTs vs. Oregon DEs: The California offensive line is expected to be missing three injured starters and a backup who would have started Saturday against Oregon. While left tackle Mitchell Schwartz has been a steady performer all year, the redshirt freshman will have his hands full with Nick Reed, the Ducks' relentless pass rusher. On the other side, Donovan Edwards, a JC transfer who signed in the late summer, will make his first start and will square off against the underrated Will Tukuafu, who has six sacks. Oh, by the way, it also appears that redshirt freshman Justin Cheadle will be stepping in for Noris Malele at right guard.
2. Mark Sanchez will have his way with the Washington pass defense: USC quarterback Mark Sanchez has been inconsistent this year, particularly on the road -- see his uneven effort at Arizona. But he's not on the road Saturday, and visiting Washington will offer him the most inviting pass defense of any BCS conference team. Moreover, the Huskies probably will be missing injured starting cornerback Mesphin Forrester. Sanchez should put up big numbers and then sit out the second half.
3. Will Washington State open up the offense for quarterback Kevin Lopina?: Lopina completed just 6 of 9 passes for 28 yards against USC in a 69-0 humiliation. It seemed like the Cougars coaches opted for a noticeably conservative game plan because they were worried about getting Lopina hurt and didn't want to risk him re-injuring his back in a game they weren't going to win. With the decision to no longer redshirt J.T. Levenseller -- coach Paul Wulff said Levenseller would play at Stanford -- perhaps the handcuffs will be off Lopina and he will run the entire offense.
4. Does Rudy have any magic left? Arizona State quarterback Rudy Carpenter will make his 39th consecutive start at Oregon State with a bum ankle, no running game and a decimated receiving corps. Last year, he was brilliant in leading the Sun Devils back from a 19-0 deficit against OSU, passing for 361 yards with four touchdowns in a 44-32 victory. It's hard to imagine things will go as well in Corvallis against a high-pressure Beavers defense that probably wants redemption.
5. USC's defense will miss safety Kevin Ellison: Ellison, our midseason defensive MVP, is out two-to-four weeks with a torn MCL, so the nation's best defense is without its headiest player for a few games. That won't matter against the Huskies, but it could in upcoming games with California and Notre Dame. Ellison, who will be replaced by junior Will Harris, is the second starter to go down in the Trojans secondary. Earlier, top cover cornerback Shareece Wright was lost to a season-ending neck injury.
6. Stanford quarterback Tavita Pritchard will regain his form against Washington State: Stanford quarterback Tavita Pritchard was mostly awful in the loss to UCLA, completed just 5 of 12 passes for 51 yards with an interception. Enter the Washington State defense, which makes everyone look good. While the Cougars are incompetent stopping the run -- 266 yards per game -- their likely attempt to gang up against Stanford's power running game will mean opportunities for Pritchard in the passing game.
7. Moevao and Rodgers: First-team All-Pac-10? Why the heck not? If true freshman running back Jacquizz Rodgers and quarterback Lyle Moevao, the conference's most improved player, continue to put up big numbers, why wouldn't this pair lead the All-Pac-10 team? Rodgers, in fact, with a conference-leading 116 yards rushing per game, is almost a shoo-in. Moevao leads the conference with 254 yards passing per game, but he likely will need to outplay Arizona's Willie Tuitama and USC's Mark Sanchez down the stretch. But if the Beavers make a run at the Rose Bowl, who's to say he won't?
8. Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli may need to throw to beat Cal: It's been a mostly dry fall in Eugene -- as we all know it NEVER RAINS IN AUTZEN STADIUM! -- but it looks like it's going to be a wet one Saturday in Berkeley. While such conditions may not encourage passing, the Ducks' run-heavy, spread-option offense may find the going tough if it is one-dimensional vs. Cal's 3-4 defense. This is a homecoming for Masoli anyway, so know that he'll want to put the ball in the air to impress family and friends.
9. Will Washington play hard for lame-duck coach Tyrone Willingham? It might not matter if the winless Huskies give USC their best shot -- the Trojans are better at every position. Yet it will be fairly obvious in the early-going how much Willingham's players still care. Will they show some pride and fight for themselves and their outgoing coach? A season's best performance might cause some to wonder where the effort was when it could still help Willingham, but if that is indeed what happens know that a team is tipping its helmet to its coach.
10. Quarterback Kevin Riley's mobility will keep Cal in the game with Oregon: It's safe to assume Cal's makeshift offensive line won't be able to consistently handle the Ducks defensive front. If slow-footed Nate Longshore were the Bears quarterback, that would be a huge issue. But Riley can make plays with his feet -- both with rollouts and with scrambles. If the conditions are sloppy, Riley's improvisation skills could become a key element in the game.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
You won't find too many more interesting games featuring a double-digit underdog than Washington's visit to No. 21 Oregon on Saturday.
Let us count the plot lines:
- Washington coach Tyrone Willingham is facing a win-or-else season after going 11-25 his first three years. Beating a ranked conference rival to open the season could create a massive momentum swing within the program, one that could fuel the Huskies through one of the nation's toughest schedules.
- After epidemic injuries ruined their 2007 national title run, the Ducks suffered a painful recurrence of déjà vu this week when projected starting quarterback Nate Costa was lost for the season to a knee injury. That puts pressure on Justin Roper to duplicate his stellar Sun Bowl performance running the Ducks' spread-option attack, because his two backups have zero Division I-A experience.
- Huskies sophomore quarterback Jake Locker was often spectacular last year as a run-pass threat. Oregon coach Mike Bellotti went as far as to call him "the most dangerous weapon in Division I football." Locker must improve on his 47 percent completion rate from 2007, but he's the Huskies' unquestioned leader and owns superstar potential.
- Expectations are stratospheric for the Ducks backfield tandem of Jeremiah Johnson and LeGarrette Blount running behind perhaps the Pac-10's best offensive line. Johnson, who missed half of the 2007 season with a knee injury, is the multi-purpose "lightning," while the 230-pound Blount provides the "thunder."
- The Huskies will start a true freshman at tailback -- Chris Polk -- and defensive tackle -- Senio Kelemete -- and three of their top four receivers are freshmen, who, by the way, will be facing the Pac-10's best secondary. How will those wet-behind-the-ears players respond to the frenzy of Autzen Stadium?
- Oregon's spread offense often seemed unstoppable last year, while the Huskies' defense was the worst in program history. Consider Oregon's 55-34 assault at Washington, a game in which the Ducks rushed for a school-record 465 yards. It's hard to believe the game was actually tied entering the fourth quarter before the Ducks took over. How much will each unit regress (or progress, in the Huskies case) toward the mean in 2008?
- Washington center Juan Garcia appeared to suffer a potential career-ending foot injury during spring practices. He's expected to start against Oregon.
- And, while we're making a list, might as well toss in that these two programs can't stand each other and the Huskies are facing a potential five-game losing streak for the first time in the history of the rivalry.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
|John Pyle/Icon SMI|
|Taylor Mays started 13 games last season, collecting 65 tackles.|
Safety looks like a strong position in the Pac-10 this season. About half of these guys -- maybe more -- figure to have NFL futures.
The top-four are legitimate All-American candidates, and USC junior Taylor Mays may be touted as the best all-around athlete in the 2009 NFL draft -- unless he opts to return for his senior season.
That said, more than a few USC observers will tell you that Kevin Ellison was the better all-around player for the Trojans defense last year.
- Taylor Mays, Jr., USC: Even among the extraordinary athletes at USC, Mays stands out. He's one of the fastest players in the conference -- at 225 pounds. He'll probably be the first safety taken in Round 1 of the 2009 NFL draft.
- Patrick Chung, Sr., Oregon: If you don't like the way Chung plays, you don't like football. He led the Ducks with 117 tackles in 2007.
- Kevin Ellison, Sr., USC: Notable that he was first-team All-Pac-10 in 2007 and Mays wasn't. He had 57 tackles, including eight for a loss, two sacks, two interceptions and two forced fumbles in 2007.
- Troy Nolan, Sr., Arizona State: Second in the conference with six INTs in 2007. He returned two of those for TDs. Solid against the run and pass, this NFL prospect was second-team All-Pac-10 a year ago.
- Bo McNally, Sr., Stanford: Second in the Pac-10 with 9.5 tackles per game in 2007, though it's not always good that a DB leads his team in tackles. Also had 7.5 tackles for a loss, two interceptions and 1.5 sacks. Underrated in pass defense.
- Al Afalava, Sr., Oregon State: He's a stocky, physical presence who will be one of the leaders in the Beavers strong secondary. His 64 tackles ranked third on the team in 2007.
- Nate Ness, Sr., Arizona: He's got a nose for the ball -- see five INTs in 2007. Needs to prove he's an all-around player.
- Mesphin Forrester, Sr., Washington: With 93 tackles and two INTs in 2007, he's a critical piece of an experienced secondary that struggled a year ago. [Update: He moved to cornerback during spring practices, but his performance last year earns him this ranking].
- Josh Pinkard, Sr., USC: Pinkard has essentially missed the past two years with knee injuries. He's back, though, and if one of Pete Carroll's favorite players stays healthy, he'll find a spot in the Trojans secondary, though likely at CB.
- Bernard Hicks, Sr., California: He's started 18 games for the Bears, though he mostly played better in 2006 than in 2007. Had 40 tackles and four pass breakups a year ago. Can lay the lumber at times.