Pac-12: Michael Adkins

You remember the three-headed monster, right? It's about returning production that will scare -- terrify! --opponents. Or not.

On offense, it's elite combinations at quarterback, running back and receiver.

On defense, it's elite combinations of a leading tackler, a leader in sacks and leader in interceptions.

[+] EnlargeKevon Seymour, Taylor Kelly
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesTaylor Kelly could have Arizona State's offense off and running this fall.
This year, we're breaking things down by division.

First up: South Division offense three-headed monsters.

There are two "pure" offensive three-headed monsters in the South: USC and Utah. Both welcome back their leading passer, rusher and receiver, though some fans might be surprised to know that Marqise Lee didn't lead the Trojans in receiving last season.

The biggest mystery team? Arizona, which is replacing its leading passer and rusher and has several wild cards who might challenge to be the first pass-catching option. Typically we'd project a starter, but the Wildcats seem to be completely wide open at QB and RB. So they get a "?" at both positions.

Otherwise, the projections of new starters aren't terribly unpredictable.

1. Arizona State

QB Taylor Kelly, RB D.J. Foster, WR Jaelen Strong

The skinny: If you were ranking three-headed monsters nationally, this might be a top-10 troika. You have a three-year starter at quarterback who passed for 3,635 yards and 28 TDs last year, a receiver who caught 75 passes for 1,122 yards and versatile running back who's dangerous as a runner or receiver.

2. UCLA

QB Brett Hundley, RB Jordan James, WR Devin Fuller

The skinny: Hundley starts the season as a top Heisman Trophy candidate. James started off great last year -- 116 yards rushing per game with a 6.3 yards per carry average in the first four games -- before getting hurt. While WR Shaq Evans is off to the NFL, Fuller leads a strong crew of returning receivers.

3. USC

QB Cody Kessler, RB Javorius Allen, WR Nelson Agholor

The skinny: This is a strong threesome, though some see Kessler being threatened by redshirt freshman Max Browne this spring. Allen surged in the second half of the 2013 season, when he rushed for most of his 785 yards (5.8 yards per carry), but the Trojans have a lot of depth at the position. Agholor is a frontrunner for first-team All-Pac-12 honors after catching 56 passes for 918 yards last year.

4. Utah

QB Travis Wilson, RB Bubba Poole, WR Dres Anderson

The skinny: If Wilson is cleared medically and is 100 percent full-go, he's got a chance to be a good QB, building on what he did while healthy in 2013. Poole is the Utes' leading returning rusher, though he could face a challenge from a handful of other backs, including redshirt freshman Troy McCormick and juco transfer Devontae Booker. Anderson will be joined by Kenneth Scott, who suffered a season-ending ankle injury in the 2013 opener.

5. Colorado

QB Sefo Liufau, RB Michael Adkins, WR Nelson Spruce

The skinny: Liufau was solid as a true freshman starter last year. He should be much better this fall. Adkins combined with Christian Powell to essentially split 1,000 yards rushing in 2013, with Powell offering the power option. Spruce was a solid No. 2 behind Paul Richardson last year, but it remains to be seen how he will perform as option No. 1.

6. Arizona

QB ?, RB ?, WR Austin Hill

The skinny: We honestly have no idea who will start at QB and RB next year, and the Pac-12 Blog believes that's probably not far from what Rich Rodriguez is thinking today. If we were going to go with complete conjecture at QB, we'd bet on a showdown between Texas transfer Connor Brewer and redshirt freshman Anu Solomon. Same thing at running back, where it seems likely a true or redshirt freshman replaces Ka'Deem Carey. Even Hill is a projection here based on his outstanding 2012 numbers, as he sat out last season with a knee injury. Sophomore Nate Phillips is the Wildcats' leading returning receiver.

What to watch in the Pac-12: Week 9

October, 24, 2013
10/24/13
10:15
AM ET
Ten storylines to keep an eye on this week in the Pac-12.

1. Oregon in the spotlight: Separated by just 45 miles, Oregon and Oregon State will host a pair of California teams in games that will surely have major Pac-12 implications. Heisman hopefuls Marcus Mariota of Oregon and Brett Hundley of UCLA square off as the undefeated No. 3 Ducks look to crack the top two of the BCS standings. Oregon State, winners of six in a row, host a reinvigorated Stanford squad that topped UCLA last week to get back into the top 10.

2. Get up for GameDay: ESPN’s College Football GameDay will be in Oregon for the Bruins-Ducks showdown. While the Ducks' offense gets plenty of attention -- and rightfully so -- it’s that defense, allowing fewer than 18 points per game -- that has been equally spectacular, if not underappreciated. They’ll go against a UCLA offensive line that is young and a bit banged up. The Bruins scored a season-low 10 points in the loss last week to Stanford. Part of the decline has been the loss of running back Jordon James, who is questionable this week. In their last two weeks, per ESPN Stats & Information, UCLA backs have been hit at or behind the line of scrimmage on 60 percent of their designed runs. In the first four games they had nine rushes of 20 yards or more. In the past two games, zero. On the flip side, Oregon has had no trouble running the ball (332.4 yards per game), and should be bolstered by the expected return of De’Anthony Thomas.

[+] EnlargeTyler Gaffney
AP Photo/Marcio Jose SanchezCan Tyler Gaffney push Stanford past Oregon State?
3. Ground vs. air: In the other state of Oregon game, the high-flying passing attack of Oregon State will clash with the run-based approach of the Cardinal. Stanford running back Tyler Gaffney is coming off a career performance in the win over UCLA, rushing for 171 yards. He has broken 100 yards four times this season. Conversely, Sean Mannion and Brandin Cooks continue to put up ridiculous numbers -- 85.7 percent of Oregon State’s offense comes through the air, second in the FBS only to Washington State. Mannion came into the season with 31 career touchdowns and 31 interceptions. His FBS-leading 29 touchdown passes are already tied for the school record. He has thrown for at least 350 yards in all seven games; no other Oregon State quarterback had more than four in a season. Things will ramp up for the Beavers from here on out. Their next five opponents have a combined record of 26-9.

4. Bounce back? The Huskies -- once ranked as high as 15th in the country -- look to snap a three-game skid when California comes to town. The Bears are still looking for their first conference win and have dropped nine straight Pac-12 games dating back to last season. Complicating the matter for the Huskies is quarterback Keith Price and the injured thumb on his throwing hand. He has played through the injury for three weeks, but there is a question of whether he’ll be effective enough to play this week.

5. Honoring Coach James: Washington is also planning several tributes to legendary coach Don James, who died Sunday at age 80 of pancreatic cancer. In 18 seasons at Washington, James led the Huskies to six Pac-10 titles, a share of the 1991 national championship and a 153-58-2 record. Players and coaches will wear decals with the initials "DJ" and members of his family will serve as the honorary captains for the pregame coin toss. The band will perform a tribute to James at halftime, along with a memorial video. A public memorial service will be held Sunday afternoon at Alaska Airlines Arena.

6. Bounce back? Take 2: Utah and USC will both look to rebound from flat road performances last week. Utah is back on the road, headed down to L.A., where the Utes haven’t won since 1916. Aside from the bowl implications (see below) this is also a big recruiting trip for Utah, since 33 players on the roster hail from California. Utah’s front has been nasty, averaging 3.14 sacks per game, tops in the Pac-12. The Trojans got a boost with the return of Silas Redd (112 yards vs. Notre Dame) but marquee players from both teams, USC wide receiver Marqise Lee and Utah quarterback Travis Wilson, are battling injuries.

7. Off and running: In case anyone needs reminding, Arizona running back Ka’Deem Carey rushed for a Pac-12 record 366 yards and five touchdowns in last year’s win over Colorado. The teams will meet again in Boulder, and Carey has picked up where he left off last year. He has nine straight 100-yard rushing games and leads the country with an average of 161 yards per game. The Buffs are coming of a win over Charleston Southern where Michael Adkins II rushed for 137 yards and four touchdowns. Also, from the Department of Funky Stats, Colorado is 0-6 in the pregame coin toss this year.

8. Bowl bound: Three Pac-12 teams are already bowl eligible: Oregon (7-0), Oregon State (6-1) and Stanford (6-1). For those three, it’s all about pecking order and jockeying for position to get to the best possible bowl game, which could include Roses, or maybe something bigger. All three of those teams still have to play each other starting with Stanford’s trip to Oregon State this weekend, Oregon’s trip to Stanford on Nov. 7 and OSU’s trip to Autzen on Nov. 29 for the Civil War.

9. Bowl bound? Lots of teams are on the bubble, but only one team could become bowl eligible this week. That’s UCLA (5-1). Of course, to do it, they’ll have to upset Oregon on the road. With GameDay in town, this one takes center stage across the country. Arizona State is the league’s only other five-win team, for now, and is off this weekend. Five other teams have four wins: Washington State (4-4, 2-3), Washington (4-3, 1-3), Arizona (4-2, 1-2), USC (4-3, 1-2) and Utah (4-3, 1-2).

10. Taking a breather: Two byes this week with Arizona State and Washington State resting up. The Cougars started the year with eight straight games, and head coach Mike Leach said that it’s possible some fatigue may have set in over the past couple of games -- both losses to the Oregon teams. WSU and ASU will meet next Thursday night in Pullman.

Pac-12 names players of the week

October, 21, 2013
10/21/13
6:00
PM ET
Arizona running back Ka'Deem Carey has been named the Pac-12’s offensive player of the week, along with defensive player of the week Jordan Richards of Stanford and special teams player of the week Zane Gonzalez of Arizona State.

Here’s some more on the trio and other nominees per the Pac-12’s release:
Carey, a junior from Tucson, Ariz., carried the ball a school-record 40 times for 236 yards and a game-clinching touchdown as Arizona beat Utah 35-24 on Saturday night at home. He gained 30-yards on his first carry of the game and ran for a 44-yard touchdown on his last carry with 90 seconds remaining to secure the Wildcats‘first Conference win. The 236 rushing yards is Carey’s second-highest career tally and third-highest in Arizona single-game history. The reigning national rushing champion now leads the nation with 161.0 rushing yards per game.

Richards, a junior from Folsom, Calif., intercepted two passes, broke up another pass and recorded a team-leading 10 tackles as Stanford rebounded after its first loss of the season to take down No. 9 UCLA 24-10 on Saturday afternoon. Both of Richards’ interceptions set up Stanford touchdowns, which proved to be the difference in the game. It was his first multi-interception game of his career.

Gonzalez, a freshman from Deer Park, Texas, set a career-high for field goals, going 4-for-4 in the Sun Devil’s 53-24 win over No. 20 Washington at Sun Devil Stadium on Saturday. He has connected on 11-straight field goal attempts and is 15-of-18 on the season. Gonzalez scored 17 points in the game, bringing his season total to 80 points and ranks No. 5 nationally in scoring at 11.4 ppg.

Also nominated for offensive player of the week honors were quarterbacks Sean Mannion of Oregon State and Connor Halliday of Washington State; running backs Marion Grice of Arizona State, Byron Marshall of Oregon, Tyler Gaffney of Stanford, and Silas Redd of USC and tailback Michael Adkins of Colorado. Also nominated for defensive player of the week honors were defensive linemen Sione Tuihalamaka of Arizona, Will Sutton of Arizona State, Scott Crichton of Oregon State, Leonard Williams of USC and Trevor Reilly of Utah; and safety Randall Goforth of UCLA. Also nominated for special teams player of the week honors were kickers Conrad Ukropina of Stanford and Ka’imi Fairbairn of UCLA, Utah punter Tom Hackett; wide receiver/punt returner Nelson Agholor of USC; and Arizona running back Terris Jones-Grigsby.

Pac-12 recruiting notebook

February, 6, 2013
2/06/13
3:45
PM ET
SAN DIEGO -- The twins Robinson -- Tyree and Tyrell -- and Darren Carrington all went window shopping. But in the end, they trusted their guts and suppressed the knee-jerk, caveat emptor reaction when Chip Kelly left the Oregon Ducks for the NFL.

At a national signing day event at the San Diego Hall of Champions, the trio from San Diego all put ink to their verbal commitments and signed to play with the Ducks, ending weeks of speculation that they would be 11th-hour flips and spurn the Ducks and new head coach Mark Helfrich.

"At first it was about exploring options," said Tyrell Robinson, who attends Lincoln High in San Diego with his brother. "We made a commitment to Chip Kelly. When he left, we felt disappointed because who doesn't want to play for a man like that? Me and my brother took our trips to UW and SC, we turned down Ohio State. We were very close to switching schools. We liked UW a lot on our last visit. But at the end of the day we felt Oregon was still the best choice for us."

"Us" being the operative word. Because the Robinsons were going to be a package deal no matter what.

"That was really important to us," Tyrell said. "We were going to go to the same place so it was a matter of finding the spot that was best for us. We really had to think about it. We wanted to see what else was out there after Chip left. That was our chance to get out there and see what else was available.

"But Coach Helfrich told us we were going to be a big factor in this recruiting class and he felt we could come in right away and make an impact."

Carrington, a wide receiver from Horizon High School, said he liked the elevation of Scott Frost from receivers coach to offensive coordinator.

"I was definitely considering somewhere else," he said. "They talked about throwing the ball more and I think in the end, this was the best fit for me."

Carrington's father, Darren Carrington Sr., was the main speaker at the event that included hundreds of San Diego athletes in various sports. The former NFL safety said he was there to counsel his son, but ultimately let him make his own decision.

"I was there to give him information, but you're raising a man so you have to teach him to make up his own mind," Carrington Sr. said. "Chip was checking things out so we thought it was only fair that we check things out. We took a couple of trips and ultimately this is what he thought was best for him."

MORA THE CLOSER

Center Scott Quessenberry (Carlsbad, La Costa Canyon High), the No. 3-rated center nationally and an ESPN 300 player, said head coach Jim Mora was "very convincing" when he met with him. One of the early knocks on Mora, of course, was that he lacked college experience and might struggle in recruiting. But his first two recruiting classes say otherwise.

"I hope he's proved a lot of people wrong," Quessenberry said. "We've got a heck of a class. He's changed people's minds about recruiting and UCLA football. We're hungry. We're coming and we're going to win a lot of games."

Quessenberry said he prefers the center position, but feels he's versatile enough to play anywhere on the line.

"Anywhere they need me, I'm ready," he said.

CHANGE OF HEART

Cornerback Derek Babiash (Poway, Poway High) said he's at peace with his decision to sign with Arizona after initially giving a commitment to Washington. The 6-foot, 165-pound cornerback who ranks 38th nationally at the position, said he got caught up in all of the excitement of being recruited when he made his initial commitment.

"When I made my first commitment, I went on a spring game visit and I think it was rushed and spur of the moment," Babiash said. "I just got really excited. I went home and thought on it and decided it wasn't going to be the right place for me.

"I think I'll have the opportunity to step in right away and if I work hard I can be one of the five DBs in that (3-3-5 defensive) set."

USED TO WINNING

New Colorado running back Michael Adkins (La Mesa, Helix High) comes from one of the strongest high school football programs in San Diego. He's aware of the difficulties facing Colorado and he's looking forward to attacking it head on.

"I'm from Helix and we have a winning tradition," Adkins said. "I hate losing. I'm looking forward to getting there and helping change some things. The team is young so hopefully we can come in and start making a difference in the Pac-12."

Asked about new coach Mike MacIntyre, Adkins said he loved the enthusiasm.

"He's a fiery guy," Adkins said. "He knows his stuff. And I loved the whole staff. They really felt like a family."

SPONSORED HEADLINES

PAC-12 SCOREBOARD

Monday, 12/22
Saturday, 12/20
Tuesday, 12/23
Wednesday, 12/24
Friday, 12/26
Saturday, 12/27
Monday, 12/29
Tuesday, 12/30
Wednesday, 12/31
Thursday, 1/1
Friday, 1/2
Saturday, 1/3
Sunday, 1/4
Monday, 1/12