Pac-12: Michael Jones

Arizona State spring wrap-up

May, 8, 2009

Posted by's Ted Miller

Arizona State Sun Devils

2008 overall record: 5-7

2008 conference record: 4-5

Returning starters

Offense: 7; Defense: 6; Punter/kicker: 2

Top returners

OT Shawn Lauvao, K Thomas Weber, DE Dexter Davis, DT Lawrence Guy, LB Mike Nixon, CB Omar Bolden

Key losses

QB Rudy Carpenter, OL Paul Fanaika, WR Michael Jones, FS Troy Nolan

2007 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Dimitri Nance* (410)
Passing: Rudy Carpenter (2,493)
Receiving: Michael Jones (744)
Tackles: Mike Nixon* (90)
Sacks: Dexter Davis* (11)
Interceptions: Mike Nixon* (5)

2009 Schedule

Sep. 5 Idaho State
Sep. 19 Louisiana-Monroe
Sep. 26 at Georgia
Oct. 3 Oregon State
Oct. 10 at Washington State
Oct. 17 Washington
Oct. 24 at Stanford
Oct. 31 California
Nov. 7 USC
Nov. 14 at Oregon
Nov. 21 at UCLA
Nov. 28 Arizona

Spring answers

1. Some line answers: Arizona State's 2009 may swing on the improvement of its offensive line, and two moves appear to be paying off. First, Shawn Lauvao moved from guard to left tackle. He's the Sun Devils' best blocker, and coaches believe he's an all-conference candidate. Also, sophomore Garth Gerhart, brother of Stanford running back Toby Gerhart, eclipsed senior Thomas Altieri at center.

2. Safety in McFoy: The Sun Devils' biggest void on defense was the safety spot vacated by Troy Nolan, but senior Ryan McFoy, who's bounced back and forth from the secondary and linebacker, looks like he's found a home. He's athletic, a big hitter and he could be the final piece on a defense that figures to be fairly stout.

3. Sullivan steps up: While senior Danny Sullivan hasn't won the quarterback job just yet, he's the heavy favorite to do so in the fall, replacing four-year starter Rudy Carpenter. Sullivan had plenty of doubters heading into spring, but he showed improved athleticism, a good and accurate arm, and his knowledge of the offense put him ahead of his competitors. Most importantly: His solid performance probably boosted confidence all around -- his as well as his coaches' and teammates' confidence in him.

Fall questions

1. Line needs to get healthy: Three potential offensive line starters -- Matt Hustad, Zach Schlink and Adam Tello -- need to get healthy. Each sat out the spring, and Hustad, perhaps the best of the lot, in particular, is a concern. If all three are healthy, the Sun Devils' line may improve dramatically. If one or two don't, then things will be pretty thin -- again -- up front.

2. A tangled Weber is weaved: Thomas Weber is one of the nation's best kickers, but he's only an OK punter. He doesn't mind doing both jobs, but the coaches think he'll be better at kicking if he concentrates on that. So there's been an ongoing search to find someone to beat him out at punter. That search continues because no one was able to consistently boot the ball better than Weber.

3. Will the frosh deliver? At least a couple of incoming freshmen are expected to help immediately, particularly touted linebacker Vontaze Burfict and defensive tackle Corey Adams. If they arrive in shape, ready to play and as talented as advertised, they should at least provide some much-needed depth. And then the Sun Devils' defense could really make some noise this fall.

Free-agent signings thus far

April, 28, 2009

Posted by's Ted Miller

A list of free-agent signings, though more are likely to come.

LB Ronnie Palmer, Washington Redskins
S Nate Ness, Cleveland Browns
CB Marquis Hundley, St. Louis Rams

Arizona State
QB Rudy Carpenter, Dallas Cowboys
WR Michael Jones, Houston Texans

DE Rulon Davis, Denver Broncos
LB Anthony Felder, San Diego Chargers
FB Will Ta'ufo'ou, Chicago Bears

RB Jeremiah Johnson, Houston Texans
OL Mark Lewis, Miami Dolphins
WR Jaison Williams, Washington Redskins

Oregon State
WR Shane Morales, Arizona Cardinals
OT Tavita Thompson, New York Jets
SS Greg Laybourn, invited to New Orleans Saints minicamp

QB Pat Cowan, New Orleans Saints
DT Brigham Harwell, Washington Redskins
RB Kahlil Bell, Minnesota Vikings
SS Bret Lockett, invited to Green Bay Packers minicamp
P Aaron Perez, invited to New England Patriots minicamp

DE Gerald Washington, Buffalo Bills

C Juan Garcia, invited to Minnesota Vikings minicamp

Washington State
TE Devin Frischknecht, Washington Redskins

Opening the mailbag: Players, player hating and Stendhal

April, 17, 2009

Posted by's Ted Miller

Good afternoon. On the Pac-10 blog it's always happy hour.

To your notes!

Steve from Tucson writes: If the WSU vs. UW model works, do you think this will carry over to a potential ASU vs. UA @ University of Phoenix Stadium? My view is that there are enough U of A fans in the Phoenix area + Tucsonans willing to travel to carry the game. Students are tough to draw during the "traditional" thanksgiving weekend game so I don't think they would get ripped off very much by moving the game to Glendale (AZ).

Alex from Las Vegas writes: I think the rest of the Pac-10 should follow the Apple Cups lead and hold the big in-state rivalry on a neutral field. It would balance the number of home and away games for the conference season, neutral site games always have a great atmosphere and it would underscore the fact that the Pac-10 has the best rivalries in college football.

Ted Miller: Hmm. Is it possible I have become a stick-in-the-mud traditionalist?

I recoiled when I first read the proposal to move the Apple Cup to Qwest Field. Maybe the idea of not being able to go to the Coug and watch Chad Eaton flick beer on purple-clad Huskies fans any more made me sad.

Lots of folks agree with me. But lots of folks apparently disagree (see above).

My take is rivalry games are best when they are on-campus. Sure, Florida and Georgia and Oklahoma and Texas have great traditions with off-campus, neutral sites. But, to me, those are the exceptions.

But, as in many things, I could be in a minority.

What do you guys think? Would you want your rivalry game played in a neutral venue?

Such as: The Civil War in Portland or Arizona-Arizona State in University of Phoenix Stadium?

Raymond from Tucson writes: It's never to early for your 2009 PAC-10 predictions for finishing 1-10. I'm sure you will provide each school breakdown but I think I am looking for a real gut check on USC this year from experts. I'm looking to find that someone who is willing to say "USC is a true champion but in 2009 it will take a Trojan Horse trick to repeat as PAC-10 Champions. I want to see somebody use more than just rubber stamping statements like; 1. USC will reload 2. USC are champions until they lose the title. 3. Its USC then the PAC-9... USC has to replace their best offensive weapon (the QB) and the majority of their defense. USC tuffest games are ALL ON THE ROAD. Are you going to be the ONE who has the strength and vision to predict SC falling from its throne?

Ted Miller: Strength and vision! That sounds like me!

Not sure yet, Raymond. I'm still a USC lean, but as many have noticed, I've been developing a Cal jones this offseason.

Sweatervested from Mobile, Ala., writes: Ted, Good day to you sir! I have a question about recruits committing early. I would ask Chris Low on our SEC blog, but he has so many fans he may not get around to answer. Do you think committing early does more harm than good? Recruits these days seem to want to be catered to, and they seem to change their minds often.

Ted Miller: We meet again, Sweatervested, scourge of the Pac-10 blog!

The answer is Louisiana-Monroe and Utah!

Ah... but you played that darn Mobile card, so I have to be nice.

As for your question -- I know Chris is busy as heck -- no, I don't like early commitments, but each prep athlete and his family should do what's best for them.

If I'm a prep All-American linebacker at UMS-Wright playing for Terry Curtis and I love the Crimson Tide, maybe I should just get everyone off my back and commit.

But I'd advise my son -- who's four-months old but wears nine-month clothes by the way -- to make all five official visits, which is the only way to make an informed decision.

Plus, visits are fun and they are a great way to see other parts of the country, expenses paid.

And don't you owe me some royal red shrimp?

Stephen from Los Altos, Calif., writes: The NCAA knows who their cash cows are, so I thought nothing would become of this USC Investigation Probe until I heard the words 'lack of institutional control.' What do you realistically think will become of this situation? Outside of punishing EWU, the NCAA hasn't made any statements for a long time. Do you think that they may be making up for lost time with these UCONN and USC situations?

Ted Miller: Ha! Like I'd know what the NCAA might do.

The decision to combine the Reggie Bush-O.J. Mayo cases suggests that the NCAA is focusing on oversight within USC's athletic department as a whole. My intuition is that means some sort of sanction will come out of this, though it's hard to say if it will involve the dreaded scholarship cuts and postseason bans.

My personal take, as many of you know, is that the Bush case is incredibly difficult to dump on the football program. I've read all the stories and the book, and the connections to the program are tenuous, at best.

The Mayo case feels different. And the two paired together create a "where there's smoke, there's fire" impression that's hard to shake.

Will that end up being "a lack of institutional control"?


But my gut says it may end up being the lesser "failure to monitor," which should spare the programs from crushing penalties.

Eric from Terre Haute, Ind., writes: Do you think ASU's Michael Jones will garner any interest from NFL teams?

Ted Miller: I think Jones will get drafted on the second day because his decent speed and 6-foot-4 frame will raise at least one GM's eyebrow.

Vince from Scottsdale writes: please, please, please mention something about Pat's Run in your blog, especially in light of Coach Snyder's passing. I realize you live here in the valley and were most likely going to have a full blown entry about the foundation and the run itself but I just wanted to make sure it gets the recognition it deserves. I personally feel that the legacy of Coach Snyder was kind of put on the backburner by ESPN in favor of the baseball deaths that occurred on the same day. He was an important part of ASU, a strong proponent of the Tillman Foundation and an all around good person.

Ted Miller: Did it, but if you missed it, here it is.

More details, here.

Alex from Carlsbad, Calif., writes: I know you want to shy away from the top 30 list in Friday's mailbag, but I'm curious about the Mays' vs Berry topic. Mays doesn't have the "stats" that Berry does, and it's my opinion that he does his job so flawlessly, that you don't see it happening. Can you find the total amount of "big plays" Tennessee's defense gave up compared to SC's? Then maybe some SEC fans will give credit where credit is do.

Ted Miller: I know some see me as an SEC gadfly, but I'm just into telling the truth or at least gathering the facts and not making judgments on
teams and conferences based on stadium size.

And, with that in mind, Berry, my friend, is the truth.

Mays is a more spectacular athlete, by Berry has been more productive statistically by a wide-margin, and that can't be completely explained away by scheme.

Yes, USC had the nation's best pass defense in 2008. But Tennessee ranked 11th, and the Vols only gave up eight touchdown passes (USC gave up six).

And Berry's supporting cast was vastly inferior -- only end Robert Ayers would have started for USC.

Now, as I wrote, I still think it's wide-open on who gets picked first in the 2010 NFL draft. Mays could make up ground this season, and Berry could, perhaps, lose some in a new system. But that is not a majority opinion -- most favor Berry, in large part because of his production.

John from Portland writes: Ted, What's your sense of WSU's ability to compete in the PAC10 over the next 5-10 years. Seems that budget and facilities will become more and more of an issue.

Ted Miller: My sense is that Washington State has been to two Rose Bowls since 1997 and the Cougs won 30 games from 2001-2003. Have budget and facilities issues gotten that much worse during that span?


The Cougs can compete. They've proven it before and I bet they'll prove it again.

Or my friend Jim Moore's head might explode.

John from Seattle writes: Hey, Ted, I just had a discussion with my wife about the percentage of people who would get a Stendhal reference. I said 10 percent, she said one. As for a Beckett allusion, well, since this is a college football blog, I'll upgrade it to 12 percent. Though as it's a Pac-10 blog, with all those Cal and Stanford folks (and OK, UCLA and USC aren't terrible), I might go as high as 14 percent. Might. It's probably closer to the one percent, of course. As a writer, I understand how fun it is to drop in literary references, even if only one percent of my audience gets it. And it's fun as a reader, too. So keep it up, but you should challenge your readers to Name That Writer! And now I must go on. I can't. But I will.

Ted Miller: Literary references? You mean those random lines before my lunch links? Those are just my original scribblings. Really! And who is this Stendhal? Didn't he play defensive end for Stanford in the '80s?

John, I try to touch a lot of cultural bases -- high and low -- with those entry lines. Hopefully, folks find it amusing.

Of course, pleasure is often spoiled by describing it.

Jason from Queen Creek, Ariz., writes: Where was Nic Grigsby on your Top-30 list? He was only 4th in the conference in rushing as a Sophomore and tied for 4th in TD's. And all this was while splitting time with Keola Antolin. I would think based on production AND potential, he would have made the list.

Nick from the Bay Area writes: why don't you go on web cam and post a video on youtube where you say "based on my top-31 list, i am saying that i think cameron jordan is, at most, the eighth best defensive end in the conference"... and then keep a straight face for at least 5 seconds... seriously, i dare you to try.

John from Oregon writes: I'm sure you do this to cause questions to be raised but...You have Blount listed as the 4th best running back in the Pac-10??? McKnight has how many yards on how many carries? Rodgers is a fun little story but that is it. Blount would have had 1800 to 2000 yds last year if the Ducks didn't have Jeremiah Johnson. I'll give you Best but outside of him the only other Pac-10 running back who will be in the NFL in the next two years is Blount. Get your act together.

Ryan from Berkeley writes: Now that you have posted the whole list, I think that you have underrated Alterraun Verner.

Dan from Austin, Tx., writes: While I am an Arizona Wildcat, I'm gonna give another guy props first. Toby Gerhart is rated way too low. He is a beast and one of the hardest RB's to bring down not to mention he rushed over 1000 yds sharing time at RB? Stafon Johnson and Joe McKnight from USC are rated way too high !! Everyone is on the USC bandwagon but to have these two guys high on the list and not even have Nic Grigsby make the top 30??? Grigsby is the other lone thousand yard rusher in the Pac-10 and rushed for more TD's than McKnight and Johnson combined. I'm not saying Grigsby is top 10...but he HAS to be in the top 30!

Raffy from Los Angeles writes: While Taylor Mays may be an exceptional safety, no Pac10 OC's are game planning around him...In January of 2010, the one player the world will associate with Pac10 football will be Jahvid Best. It is an easy out to put an SC player at the top of this list (happens often I imagine) but let's face it, among college football players in 2009, few if any are comparable to the electricity and sheer physical talent that is Jahvid Best. Hard to appreciate from Bristol and other points east, but Best is a singular running back talent that must be watched to be appreciated

Ted Miller: Great points. Duly noted.

My top-30 list no longer will be carved into granite with gold leaf accents and hung from the highest point of Mt. Olympus.

More notes from Erickson's presser

March, 16, 2009

Posted by'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.

Who's going to catch the ball? Rating the receiving corps

March, 11, 2009

Posted by's Ted Miller

I wrote yesterday that defensive ends were our last position to rate, but I forgot receivers and linebackers -- or, actually, I thought this entry and this entry did the trick but they didn't.


So there are two more...

The gist of that entry on receivers tells our story here:

Quick: Name the Pac-10's marquee receivers in 2009?

Don't look to the All-Pac-10 list. All four first- and second-team receivers are gone (Mike Thomas, Sammie Stroughter, Patrick Turner and Michael Jones).

And on the honorable mention list there's only USC's Damian Williams and Washington's D'Andre Goodwin.

In other words, everyone in the conference, other than USC, has a bit of the ole "We'll see."

Great shape

  • USC: Damian Williams is an All-American candidate and Ronald Johnson is a marquee athlete. They combined for 17 touchdown receptions last year -- no other returning combination in the conference is even close. And there's good young depth.
  • Arizona: Mike Thomas is a big loss, but Delashaun Dean and Terrell Turner combined for 86 receptions last year. While depth is an issue, word is David Douglas and William Wright could break though.
  • UCLA: Terrence Austin, Taylor Embree and Domonique Johnson combined for 127 receptions -- but only two touchdowns -- last year. Toss in talented sophomore Nelson Rosario and some touted incoming freshman and the Bruins have the "catch" side of pass-catch mostly covered.

Good shape

  • Arizona State: Michael Jones is gone, but Chris McGaha, Kerry Taylor and Kyle Williams are a good troika to welcome back. They combined for 81 receptions last year.
  • California: This is a case of experience and potential trumping production. Just about everyone is back and the crew, led by Nyan Boateng and Verran Tucker, has a lot of talent. Much depends on guys like Michael Calvin and Marvin Jones breaking through. Injuries are an issue this spring for Calvin and maybe Boateng.
  • Stanford: Starters Ryan Whalen and Doug Baldwin are both back. They combined for 64 receptions in the Cardinal's mostly anemic passing offense. There are high hopes that sophomore Chris Owusu adds some athleticism to the unit.

We'll see

  • Oregon: The Ducks didn't throw that well last year and their two best receivers, Terence Scott and Jaison Williams, are gone. Jeff Maehl -- 39 receptions, five touchdowns -- is the only returning receiver with double-digit receptions. Hopes are high for Chris Harper, Drew Davis, Jamere Holland and the incoming recruits, but that falls under "we'll see."
  • Oregon State: Sammie Stroughter and Shane Morales were the Beavers' receiving corps last year -- see 124 receptions, nearly 1,800 yards and 15 touchdowns. They're gone. Slot James Rodgers is mostly a fly sweep guy. The hope is young guys will step up.
  • Washington: The good news is the entire crew is back, led by D'Andre Goodwin, who ranked among the Pac-10 leaders with 60 receptions for 692 yards. But the Huskies only had six touchdown receptions in all of 2008.
  • Washington State: Brandon Gibson's 673 yards and two touchdowns represented a third of the Cougars' passing offense last year. He's gone. Jeshua Anderson caught 33 passes a year ago, but there's a lot of youth and inexperience after him.

Give and receive: Who's going to catch the ball?

February, 10, 2009

Posted by's Ted Miller

Over the coming weeks, we're going to stop looking back at 2008 and move ahead to the issues that will occupy spring practices across the Pac-10.

Consider this an appetizer.

Every spring, the biggest and most hyped competitions happen at quarterback. It's fair to say only Oregon, Oregon State and Washington have clearly established starters at the position, and Ducks and Beavers coaches might tell you there will be competition.

Nate Costa? Sean Canfield? Both won starting jobs in Eugene and Corvallis before (though certainly Costa's injury issues make him a longshot).

So quarterback will be front-and-center, as always. And for good reason. Let's remember many traced the perception of a down 2008 in the conference to instability at quarterback and a decline in passing offenses.

But a quarterback does not alone make an efficient passing offense.

Quick: Name the Pac-10's marquee receivers in 2009?

Don't look to the All-Pac-10 list. All four first- and second-team receivers are gone (Mike Thomas, Sammie Stroughter, Patrick Turner and Michael Jones).

And on the honorable mention list there's only USC's Damian Williams and Washington's D'Andre Goodwin.

The teams that return the most experience and production in the pass-catch category?

UCLA, California, Washington, Stanford and Washington State.

Those teams ranked fifth, seventh, eighth, ninth and 10th in passing offense last year.

Every team has spring issues unique to itself.

But if you're looking for one overriding theme for the conference looking forward to the 2009 season, it is this:

Will the Pac-10 return to its high-flying passing roots, or will passing offenses be grounded again?

Pac-10 internal affairs: It's Soap Opera Saturday!

November, 12, 2008

Posted by's Ted Miller

Getting deep into this week's games.

Welcome to Soap Opera Saturday: Down year in the Pac-10? Whatever! This is the Conference of Intrigue on Soap Opera Saturday! (Cue dramatic music). We've got a coach with a history, a tale of woe and redemption. A man facing his demons. Likely in the rain. Rick Neuheisel and his band of UCLA Bruins, the football family that brought him into the football world, return to Seattle to face the bitter and woebegone Washington Huskies, the team he left in an acrimonious split that has been wounded and lost ever since. But there's more in the Northwest! California visits Oregon State, and the last time these two teams tangled, the Bears were poised to ascend to No. 1 in the nation. But then quarterback Kevin Riley, a freshman filling in for injured starter Nate Longshore, while leading a potential game-tying drive, made a fateful decision to scramble with no timeouts and the clock ran out on the Bears. And their glorious season promptly fell apart, as that became the first of six losses in seven games amid locker room recriminations. Meanwhile, downstate in Eugene, Oregon faces the Arizona team that ended its 2007 national championship hopes when quarterback and leading Heisman Trophy candidate Dennis Dixon crumpled to the ground with a knee injury. Wait! There's more! Remember the Greatest Upset of All-Time! USC, a 41-point favorite, going down at home vs. Stanford. Guess who's coming to dinner, Stanford!

Oregon State Canfield a Rose Bowl team. Or it Can'tField one: Sean Canfield has been solid for Oregon State since taking over for quarterback Lyle Moevao, who's still nursing a shoulder injury this week and is questionable for the Cal game. Canfield has completed 70 percent of his passes for 440 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions in roughly seven quarters of action. But California is a much better team than Arizona State and UCLA, and the Bears defense has been outstanding of late. It has limited opponents to under 300 yards of total offense in five of nine games and in the last six games it has recorded 19 quarterback sacks among 41 tackles for a loss and forced 19 turnovers (12 interceptions and seven fumbles). The Bears' 17 interceptions this season lead the Pac-10 and rank third in the nation. Canfield has been surprisingly poised thus far, but Beavers fans surely remember that a year ago, as a nine-game starter, he tossed 15 interceptions. The Bears will come after him. And they'll drop eight into coverage and try to tempt him to force balls into tight spaces. How will he respond? And will Moevao be ready and available, if needed?

Arizona's success this year is defined by run defense; Oregon's by running the ball: Oregon leads the Pac-10 and ranks fifth in the nation with 274 yards rushing per game. Only USC shut down the Ducks' running game, holding them to 60 yards on the ground. Arizona has been decent against the run this year with its no-name but productive defense, ranking sixth in the conference (131 yards per game). Yet, at least during the first half of the season, the Wildcats faltered against power running teams. New Mexico rushed for 211 yards with rugged Rodney Ferguson leading the charge, while Stanford piled up 286 yards behind twin 100-yard efforts from Toby Gerhart and Anthony Kimble. That convinced coach Mike Stoops that the Wildcats needed to get fancier up front, mixing up looks and using more stunts to keep opposing linemen -- and offensive coordinators -- guessing. It worked great against California, which only rushed for 110 yards at Arizona, and pretty well against USC (151). But these new looks have been on film for a couple of weeks now. They won't surprise the Ducks. Or will the Wildcats have a few new wrinkles for the run-happy, spread-option?

Does Stanford have enough offensive balance to challenge the USC defense? Oregon State's Jacquizz Rodgers rushed for 186 yards against USC. Since then against the Trojans D: Nothing. Seven of nine opponents have been held under 100 yards rushing. The Trojans have allowed only one touchdown in their last five games and that came on a 15-yard drive by Arizona following a turnover. They have held their last four opponents to less than 200 yards of total offense. So the odds of Stanford just lining up and playing smash mouth in the run game, particularly with running back Toby Gerhart hobbled with a hamstring injury, fall somewhere between zero and none-at-all. The image of last year's upset victory, in fact, were well-thrown, clutch passes from Tavita Pritchard. Last week at Oregon -- in a persistent rain -- Pritchard completed 15 of 22 for 138 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions. Not spectacular numbers, but they suggest the Cardinal might have a larger offensive inventory now than they showed during the first half of the season.

The stars are rising for Arizona State: The Sun Devils will take one more step in the milquetoast portion of their schedule Saturday by trouncing Washington State. Expect to see more from some of the familiar names who created high -- and misguided -- expectations during the preseason. Quarterback Rudy Carpenter will make his nation-leading 41st consecutive start, and he's finally getting some help on offense as his skill position cohorts get healthy. Receiver Michael Jones, muted much of the season with a variety of injuries, hauled in 11 passes for 146 yards and two touchdowns in last weekend's trouncing of Washington. Running back Keegan Herring, who's been limited much of the season with a hamstring injury, had 22 carries for 144 yards, giving the offense a one-two, lightning and thunder punch at tailback with burly Shaun DeWitty. Meanwhile, on the defen
se, underrated safety Troy Nolan has helped the offense by scoring two touchdowns over the previous two games -- a 41-yard interception return against Oregon State and a 44-yard fumble return against the Huskies.

Pac-10 helmet stickers for week 11

November, 9, 2008

Posted by's Ted Miller

Helmet stickers for those who stood out during the weekend's games.helmet sticker

USC's defensive stars: Linebackers Rey Maualuga and Brian Cushing and safety Taylor Mays led the Trojans with 10, 9 and five tackles, respectively, but they also led by setting a tone. A very physical one. All three posted multiple hits that drew gasps from the crowd in the Trojans' 17-3 victory, another gem for the nation's best defense.

Sean Canfield: It's one thing to come off the bench and lead a team to victory, which is what Canfield, Lyle Moevao's backup, did for Oregon State two weeks ago against Arizona State. It's another to start a game and lead a team to victory, which Canfield did Saturday in a 34-6 win over UCLA. He completed 16 of 22 passes for 222 yards with two touchdowns, and led the Beavers to a 31-3 advantage in the second half.

Keegan Herring and Michael Jones: This was supposed to be a big year for Herring and Jones -- both in their final years of eligibility -- but injuries and the general struggles of the Arizona State offense have mostly left them out of the picture. But both busted out against Washington. Jones hauled in 11 receptions for 146 yards with two touchdowns, while Herring rushed 144 yards on 22 carries.

California's defense: USC gained 411 yards and notched 22 first downs, but the Bears stiffened when the Trojans pushed into their territory. Nine such trips yielded just 17 points. The Bears were particularly tough on third down, holding the Trojans to a 4-for-11 conversion rate. Anthony Felder (team-high 10 tackles), defensive end Cameron Jordan (six tackles, a sack) and Zack Follett (five tackles, forced fumble) turned in noteworthy performances.

Arizona State's stock has crashed

October, 29, 2008

Posted by's Ted Miller

Arizona State coach Dennis Erickson knew his answer sounded trite, but it also rang true.

What do Erickson's Sun Devils need to do to snap out of their funk?

They need to practice hard and play better, he said.

"It's not that we haven't practiced well," he added. "It's that we haven't taken it to the game field."

It's been a monumentally disappointing season for the Sun Devils, who were ranked 15th in the preseason and started 2-0 but have since lost five in a row.

They head to Oregon State on Saturday trying to avoid the program's first six-game losing streak since 1929 (and, yes, there seems to be some symmetry there considering the state of all of our stock portfolios).

"It's discouraging when you lose five games in a row but we've got to fight through it," Erickson said.

There are some obvious reasons for the Sun Devils' sorry state.

  • The offensive line has been mostly overwhelmed, particularly in the run game, which ranks 114th in the nation (87 yards per game).
  • Quarterback Rudy Carpenter, who's played with a sprained ankle the past two games, hasn't been sacked as much as last year but he's been hit a lot and is banged up. That's started to show in his sometimes erratic performances.
  • Moreover, Carpenter's supporting skill players -- running back Keegan Herring and receivers Michael Jones and Chris McGaha -- have been injured. Herring has missed nearly the entire season and hasn't been terribly effective when playing, and Jones and McGaha haven't matched last year's production while trying to play through injuries.
  • The defense has been OK, but it's not good enough to carry an impotent offense. And it was no match for Oregon last week, yielding 537 total yards, including an embarrassing 304 yards on the ground.

Erickson isn't one to make excuses.

"The reality right now is we're not playing very well," he said.

The reality is preseason prognostications overrated the offensive skill players' ability to carry the Sun Devils, and when those guys got banged up, things fell apart.

A year ago, Arizona State was rising while simultaneously enjoying rival Arizona's struggles under coach Mike Stoops.

Now the Wildcats have captured the momentum while the Sun Devils are languishing.

"With the expectations high, it's obviously more disappointing to our fans," Erickson said.

Playing at surging Oregon State seems a tough order, but the next three games -- at Washington, Washington State and UCLA -- are winnable.

And concluding the season with a victory over those Wildcats, which could mean bowl eligibility, would go a long way toward healing the wounds of a lost season.

ASU needs to abandon its nonexistent running game

September, 20, 2008
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Arizona State fans griped about conservative play-calling last week after the loss to UNLV.

Now, I'm going to gripe.

I understand the need to strive for balance, even though you know it's not going to work. That whole keep-a-defense-honest thing.

But let's consider a couple of sequences during Arizona State's best chance to score a touchdown in the first half.

Down 14-0, the Sun Devils had a first-and-5 on the Georgia 29 after an illegal substitution penalty. At the time, ASU had rushed for 13 yards.

They ran on first down, lost a yard and decide to run on second down. The run results in a loss of two yards. On third and 8 Arizona State elects to throw and the result is an incompletion.

Thomas Weber connects on a 49-yard field goal, but a personal foul penalty against the Bulldogs gives the Sun Devils a first down on the 17.

Quarterback Rudy Carpenter (passing!) hits Michael Jones for 7 yards to the 10.

On second and 3, the Sun Devils run and gain a whole two yards. On third and 1, they run and gain nothing. Weber then connects on a 25-yard field goal.

Why didn't the Sun Devils throw the ball into the endzone, at least once?

Stanford-Arizona State: First-half reflections

September, 6, 2008

Posted by's Ted Miller

TEMPE, Ariz. -- From the Sun Devil Stadium press box:

Two first-and-goals inside the 5-yard line for Arizona State and both turn into field goals. Two drives, 140 yards, six points.

Not a disaster, but not very efficient.

ASU provides the game's first defensive stop.

Another Sun Devils drive... Keegan Herring goes for tough, rumbling, stumbling 20 yards on his first carry. Guess he's OK.

And Rudy Carpenter decides not to bother with the first-and-goal thing, hurling an 11-yard TD pass to Michael Jones for a 13-7 lead.

Carpenter has 185 passing yards already -- he's now 14th on the Pac-10's all-time career yardage list.

Jason Forcier in at QB for Stanford -- doesn't appear that Tavita Pritchard is hurt. A little surprising.

Carpenter makes his first bad mistake -- lobbing the ball up for grabs -- and Kris Evans intercepts and returns 21 yards to the Sun Devils 41 with just inside of four minutes left until the break.

Pritchard came back on the field for a third-and-6 play from the ASU 12 and misses a wide open Richard Sherman in the end zone. The 28-yard field goal to close the gap to 13-10 has to feel a bit like an ASU hold.

Stanford sends the ensuing kickoff out of bounds, so ASU starts on its 40. A roughing the passer penalty gives the Sun Devils a first down on the Cardinal 45 with 38 seconds left.

Forget the field goal... Carpenter finds a wide open Kerry Taylor for a 45-yard TD and a 20-10 lead.

Both offenses are moving the ball.

Questions for the second half:

  • Will the beating from Stanford on Carpenter -- even if he avoids sacks -- cause him to lose his rhythm and make a few more bad throws?
  • Or will the Sun Devils' offensive line make halftime adjustments and shore up its protection?
  • Will Stanford start to wear down in the heat?
  • Carpenter has 237 yards passing. Is he headed for 500?

Pac-10 Morning: Breaking down Week 2

September, 6, 2008

Posted by's Ted Miller

Game day links for ya. It's going to be a hot one here in Tempe:

Pac-10 Morning: WSU's Ahmu out for half vs. Cal

September, 5, 2008

Posted by's Ted Miller

These links are trying to establish a running game.

  • Arizona wants to keep the number of people on the sideline manageable, which means some guys don't suit up. QB Willie Tuitama is searching for the perfect game. Toledo has some good receivers who should challenge the Wildcats CBs.
  • Arizona State is leaning on its freshman class, with nine in the playing rotation (out of a class of 20). Injured TB Keegan Herring (hamstring) and WR Michael Jones (Achilles) are improved, with Herring being the more questionable for the Stanford game.
  • California notes from Thursday's practice, with an injury update calling WR Michael Calvin and P Bryan Anger healthy and OT Mike Tepper not. Calvin should help the WRs, who mostly struggled against Michigan State.  Another step forward for building the California training facility.
  • Oregon faces a team with no hope, and it only cost $235,000 to lure the Utah State Aggies to their demise. CB Walter Thurmond III will wear the No. 29 jersey in tribute to former Ducks DB Todd Doxey, who drowned this summer. A look at potential QB combinations for both teams.
  • Rachel Bachman takes a look at Penn State legend -- and presently divisive figure -- Joe Paterno. With two starting Penn State D-linemen suspended, the Beavers O-line has a chance to shine.
  • Stanford's already struggling secondary is down a top reserve for its visit to Arizona State.
  • UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel wasn't thrilled with the effort in practice. And that's not good because there are injury holes to fill, including at running back. The freshmen are helping on defense. WR Nelson Rosario sprained his knee at practice Thursday.
  • USC's WRs have always been talented, but now they seem to be performing. True freshman OL Tyron Smith and redshirt freshman RB Broderick Green are trying to get into the mix. Speaking of Green, I wish I saw this hit on Rey Maualuga. Trojans are thinking about Buckeyes.
  • Washington -- and beleaguered coach Tyrone Willingham -- are looking for a turning point that doesn't turn sour. How much will the Huskies gain from week one to week two? Willingham talks about how the Huskies might attack BYU. Remembering 1984, when BYU won a "national championship" and a clearly superior Washington team didn't.
  • Washington State will play California without its best D-lineman, A'i Ahmu, for a half. Ahmu is suspended after missing a court date over minor in possession charges. Injuries are preventing OL continuity.

Ten things to watch for Saturday

September, 5, 2008

Posted by's Ted Miller

Ten big issues as we gambol into Week 2.

1. Willingham must win: The heat already was on Washington coach Tyrone Willingham before his Huskies went belly-up at Oregon. Now rumblings about his job security are registering on the Richter scales by Mount Rainier. He needs an upset win over No. 15 BYU to regain some footing, with No. 4 Oklahoma next headed to Seattle. The schedule is unforgiving, yes, but so suddenly are Huskies fans.

2. Put '55' to bed: A 41-3 victory doesn't raise many fretful eyebrows for a winning team, but Arizona State bludgeoned Stanford by that count in its 2007 Pac-10 opener, while -- eyebrow arch now! -- giving up five first-half sacks. Thus commenced a storyline that continues today with the oft-repeated stat of 55 sacks yielded last year by the Sun Devils OL. Stanford's defensive front is stout, winning the battle at the line of scrimmage last Thursday against Oregon State. If the rebuilt Sun Devils offensive line, however, can at least reach a stalemate, then...

3. Given time, Carpenter will shine: If Arizona State QB Rudy Carpenter isn't running for his life against Stanford, he will pick apart the Cardinal secondary, which won't match up with the Sun Devils skill and depth at WR, even if Michael Jones is limited by a toe injury. Oregon State and its outstanding WRs piled up over 400 yards passing; Carpenter could equal that.

4. They do call it 'Beaver' Stadium: Oregon State's pattern is struggle early, or at least lose a couple of winnable games, then surge over the second half of the season. But many of us also recall the Beavers going down to LSU in the 2004 opener and losing 22-21 in overtime, a game in which three missed extra points made the difference. So it's not a matter of being good enough to play with the so-called Big Boys, even in one of their overflowing venues. Penn State suspended two starters on its D-line; can OSU take advantage? The Beavers have the skill on offense and speed on defense to shake up the Nittany Lions and notch the upset.

5. Jahvid Best will live up to his last name: The California running back piled up 277 total yards in the win over Michigan State, including 111 yards rushing on 24 carries. No one on the Washington State defense will be able to keep up with him, so don't be surprised if he meets or exceeds last weekend's numbers. And, if he does, how long before he starts getting some national love?

6. Tuitama is No. 1 with a Rocket: Arizona QB Willie Tuitama threw for three scores vs. Idaho to establish a new school career record for TD passes with 47. He should get Nos. 48, 49 and 50 (51 & 52?) against Toledo. It will be interesting to see if the Wildcats maintain the intensity they displayed on both sides of the ball while dominating overmatched Idado 70-0. Arizona basically scheduled itself a preseason with the Pac-10's softest nonconference slate, but there's no reason these games shouldn't be useful tune-ups.

7. Oregon will Roper some Aggies: Ducks QB Justin Roper was knocked out with a concussion in the first half against Washington, but coach Mike Bellotti said he should be good to go Saturday against a Utah State team that has no hope. Will Roper: 1) stay healthy, something Ducks QBs struggle to do; 2) play well? While Oregon has way too much athleticism for this one to be interesting, at some point offensive coordinator Chip Kelly is going to want his Ducks to develop some continuity, particularly with a visit to Purdue ahead the following weekend.

8. What about Gerhart's encore?: Stanford running back Toby Gerhart ate up Oregon State with 147 yards on 19 carries and two TDs. The 230 pounder has the speed to get to the corner and the size to make things difficult once he breaks the line of scrimmage. He shredded the Beavers typically rugged run defense, so what will he do against the Sun Devils? If there's not a lot of room for Gerhart and the Cardinal running game, then things will be much harder for Stanford, which struggled to establish its passing game against the Beavers and is thin at receiver.

9. Look sharp in L.A.: It's a weekend of rest in the City of Angels -- or the City of a Challenged Football Monopoly. Of course, everyone knows No. 1 USC is working itself into a froth with No. 3 Ohio State coming to town. But the No. 23 Bruins, perhaps even more than the Trojans, who are accustomed to a big stage, need to stay sharp and focused during their bye weekend. They head to BYU next, which figures to get a challenge at Washington. A 2-0 start no one saw coming would show the nation that UCLA wasn't just a flash in the pan.

10. Staying healthy is the key (knock on wood): To a person, college football writers will tell you their least favorite thing to do is catalog injuries -- and to endure the irritation from coaches as the writers try to figure out just how "questionable" or "doubtful" a player is. Injuries can wreck a season -- or a young man's career. Lost amid UCLA's big win over Tennessee was three senior offensive starters going down to significant injuries, particularly TE Logan Paulsen (at least eight weeks), who likely would have been a key weapon for QB Kevin Craft this season. Recall how the trajectory of Oregon's season changed when QB Dennis Dixon went down. Writers don't root for teams, but I will certainly admit to rooting for each team being able to start its best players.

Pac-10 Morning: Arizona in search of 2-0

September, 4, 2008

Posted by's Ted Miller

They say fans improve the most between week one and week two.