Pac-12: Mike Mohamed
Cattouse was cast as the part of roadkill for one of Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck's most replayed highlights -- his 58-yard scramble in last year's Big Game blowout of the Bears. "Roadkill" is not a role any football player wants.
"A lot of jokes. It's all fun and games," Cattouse said when asked -- again and again -- this week about the play. "I'm just more sickened with myself with how I went about trying to tackle him. It looked like nothing I've done before."
The Big Game is always a big game. It's a rivalry game between elite schools that like to tout how they are more elite really than the other.
And it means plenty to Cal.
For one, they'd get the Axe back. While the Bears have split the last four Big Games, they have won seven of nine under coach Jeff Tedford.
Tedford is another issue. While he's been successful against the Bears' biggest rival -- Stanford was riding its longest winning streak in the series with seven consecutive Big Game victories from 1995-2001 when he arrived in Berkeley -- there is considerable fan frustration with his program's inconsistency over the past few years. A win over a highly ranked Stanford team would mute that, at least in the short term.
Further, Cal is playing for its own stakes. If it beats the Cardinal, it improves to 7-4 and moves up in the pecking order with bowl selections.
That said, there are unintended consequences of playing the spoiler. It would cost the Pac-12 about $6 million because Stanford wouldn't be the pick for an at-large BCS bowl berth. And then the Cardinal likely would end up in the Alamo Bowl, which would knock every other bowl-eligible team down a notch.
"It's not about spoiling anything for them," Cal quarterback Zach Maynard said. "It's a huge rivalry game for us."
Cal also has a strong history of upsets in the series, particularly when the Cardinal boasts a celebrated quarterback.
The Bears beat John Elway twice, producing the greatest play in college football history -- "The Play," in fact -- to do so in 1982. They knocked off Heisman Trophy winner Jim Plunkett in 1970. And, of course, they upset Luck in 2009, 34-28, with Cal linebacker Mike Mohamed grabbing an interception in the waning moments with Stanford on the Bears' 3-yard line.
That, in fact, was one of the worst games of Luck's career. He was 10-of-30 for 157 yards with no touchdowns.
Before that game, Tedford repeatedly tweaked his players with how the media and fans believed then-No. 14 Stanford and running back Toby Gerhart were too physical for the Bears. In response, Cal's Shane Vereen rushed for 193 yards on 42 carries with three touchdowns and outplayed Gerhart.
It was a successful motivational angle that Tedford might revisit. Young people often seem to respond well to the underdog, no-respect role.
"Those are always motivational pieces," Tedford said. "We have a great deal of respect for them. Their accolades -- they are worthy of them."
Still, in the end, all rivalry games are like this. There are Cal men and Stanford men. Blues and Cardinal. And when they meet -- their own and the other -- they will remember who won, and when and how it went down.
Said Cattouse, "It's a big game every year. Every year we want to win it."
2002: No. 9 Washington (finished 7-6)
2001: No. 11 Oregon State (finished 5-6)
2009: No. 12 Cal (finished 8-5)
Easy to remember each of those teams.
The 2002 Huskies featured quarterback Cody Pickett, who passed for 4,458 yards that season, and wide receiver Reggie Williams. The season began with a last-second loss at Michigan due to a massive coaching blunder that cost the Huskies the game. Said then-coach Rick Neuheisel: "We switched substitution groups, which we're going to kick ourselves about for a thousand years."
The Huskies seemed to lose their mojo, but they then rallied for three consecutive wins to finish the regular season -- Neuheisel memorably created the "Northwest Championship" -- over Oregon, Oregon State and Washington State to earn bowl eligibility.
That Oregon State team was touted -- Sports Illustrated ranked the Beavers preseason No. 1 -- after an 11-1 finish in 2000, with quarterback Jonathan Smith and running back Ken Simonton returning. Things immediately fell apart with a blowout loss at Fresno State. A 1-3 start, in fact, featured a 38-7 home loss to UCLA.
As for Cal, at least one writer [insert uncomfortable cough] celebrated the 2009 Bears as a potential national title contender. (They were stacked with talent: backs Jahvid Best and Shane Vereen, defensive ends Cameron Jordan and Tyson Alualu, linebackers Mike Mohamed and Devin Bishop, cornerback Syd'Quan Thompson, etc.) After a 3-0 start, the Bears headed to Oregon ranked sixth.
SPLAT! Cal goes down 42-3. The next weekend, just in case we didn't get the message, USC ripped the Bears 30-3 in Berkeley. Suffice it to say, there was nothing subtle about Cal's unmasking.
Here's this year's preseason top 10. So who becomes the bust this year?
5. Boise State
6. Florida State
8. Texas A&M
9. Oklahoma State
Follow me on Twitter.
To the notes.
Nic from Tampa writes: Your crazy! Don't even put the pac12 and the SEC in the same sentence. Just look at the NFL. It's all SEC!!!! Do any soft pac12 players even play in the NFL? Your an idiot, by the way and every body makes fun of you SEC message boards, I hope you know!
Ted Miller: Sniffle.
Nic, you hurt my feelings, but I suspect that was your purpose. You're pointing out things in your note I must acknowledge. You're spot on. I respect your opinions. I respect your ability to put me in my place.
But your note did get me to thinking.
Do any Pac-12 players really play in the NFL? So I racked my brain for exactly 17 minutes and came up with an All-Pac-12 NFL team (Pac-12 fans, I did this quickly, so feel free to chime in your opinions).
QB Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay (California)
RB Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville (UCLA)
RB Steven Jackson, St. Louis (Oregon State)
WR DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia (California)
WR Chad Ochocinco, New England (Oregon State)
TE Marcedes Lewis, Jacksonville (UCLA)
OL Sam Baker, Atlanta (USC)
OL Alex Mack, Cleveland (California)
OL Ryan Kalil, Carolina (USC)
OL Jordan Gross, Carolina (Utah)
OL Andre Gurode, Dallas (Colorado)
DL Haloti Ngata, Baltimore (Oregon)
DL Tyson Alualu, Jacksonville (California)
DL Sedrick Ellis, New Orleans (USC)
LB Desmond Bishop, Green Bay (California)
LB Clay Matthews, Green Bay (USC)
LB Lance Briggs, Chicago (Arizona)
LB Terrell Suggs, Baltimore (Arizona State)
CB Nnamdi Asomugha, Oakland (California)
CB Antoine Cason, San Diego (Arizona)
S Troy Polamalu, Pittsburgh (USC)
S Jairus Byrd, Buffalo (Oregon)
Couple of thoughts.
Man, Oregon has been a safety factory of late. Picked Byrd, who played corner for the Ducks, but could have gone with T.J. Ward or Patrick Chung also.
After Ngata, defensive line wasn't easy to put together. That is one position where the SEC has a clear edge on everybody.
Lots of All-Pros here. Some might argue that Rodgers, Ngata, Matthews, Suggs, Asomugha and Polamalu are the best at their positions in the NFL.
But, really, none of these guys exist. I just made them up.
Jake from Phoenix writes: ASU has its first game on a Thursday and plays Missouri the following Friday thus giving the sun devils 8 days to prepare for mizzou. But mizzou plays on Saturday and has to also travel to ASU to play, thus only having like 5 or 6 days to prepare. How big of an advantage is this?
Ted Miller: Extra practice time should provide an advantage. Repetition helps execution. The Sun Devils will get more reps with their game plan than Missouri.
Further, the game is at ASU and kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. PDT, which will feel like 9:30 CDT for the Tigers.
Finally, the Tigers play Miami of Ohio in their opener. While they should win fairly easily, the Redhawks went 10-4 last year and welcome back 17 starters from the MAC championship team. In other words, the Tigers probably won't spend a ton of time this preseason game planning specifically for the Sun Devils. The Redhawks are good enough to require a 100 percent focus.
The Sun Devils, meanwhile, open against UC Davis, an FCS team that went 6-5 last year. The Sun Devils can afford to do some Missouri game planning this month.
So, yes, this game sets up well for Arizona State. Now they just need to get it done on the field.
Josh from Lynden, Wash., writes: Ted, in your last article about Kiffin (which was a good read) you mentioned that USC was in store for an inevitable step back. Can you explain why this step back is inevitable? The way I see it they are painstakingly young right now, and if they win 10 games this year they should open in the top 10 next year and if Barkley comes back they could be a legit NC contender. Am I a blind Trojan fan for thinking this? And when you say a step back what should be realistic expectations after Barkley is gone?
Ted Miller: You can't really get around losing 30 scholarships over three recruiting classes. You just can't.
Further, this is not the 2004 Trojans, who had stockpiles of talent. This is a team with plenty of talent -- talent that 80 percent of the programs in the country would envy -- but there are several thin positions, and that wasn't the case at the height of the Pete Carroll Era.
USC has enough talent -- baring some key injuries -- to win 10 games this year. But I'd be surprised if Barkley returned for his senior year in 2012 (of coure, I wrote the same about Andrew Luck). And my guess is OT Matt Kalil, DE Nick Perry and FS T.J.McDonald also could join him in leaving early for the NFL draft. Those are some big hits.
Now, if all of those guys -- or most of them, including Barkley -- came back in 2012 after winning 10 games in 2011, yes, I'd think the Trojans would have a good chance at a top-10 preseason ranking. That's a big if, though.
But scholarship reductions will really start to hurt in 2013-2016. The Trojans will be stuck with an almost unworkable small margin for error in terms of injuries and recruits not panning out, particularly on the lines.
Do I think USC is likely to bottom out with, say, a three- or four-win season? Probably not. But my guess is there will be at least a couple of six- or seven-win seasons over the next four to six years.
Daryl from Oakland writes: Has the recent failures of Cal, despite the crazy amount of defensive talent, skewed preseason predictions concerning the team? I've not seen one list or publication which has any optimism for the team and, watching Cal for a long time, I believe this is the most talented defense they've ever had. Your thoughts?
Ted Miller: Naturally, Cal's recent struggles, particularly at quarterback, have reduced the program's perception among so-called pundits. But if Cal gets at least adequate QB play this fall, it's hard for me to not believe they won't go to a bowl game, particularly with a forgiving nonconference schedule.
Of course, getting to a bowl game -- or winning seven or eight games -- is no longer a thrill for Bears fans.
As for the Bears talent on defense, they certainly have some intriguing young talent, but it's unproven, and the Bears lost a lot of good guys from last year's unit, including DE Cameron Jordan, LB Mike Mohamed and S Chris Conte.
I tend to be cautious projecting great things based on freshmen and redshirt freshmen. I want to see what they do in games first. It's notable that no freshmen or redshirt freshman made first- or second-team All-Pac-10 last year as a position player (USC WR Robert Woods made it as a kick returner).
Getting away from defense for a moment, let's touch on a guy that some Cal fans are hounding me about as the savior of the running game.: Freshman running back Brendan Bigelow.
Bigelow may become a star. He may take over the starting job by the end of fall camp and rush for 1,500 yards. But that's hugely speculative. What he is today is a 180-pound true freshman who's blown out his knee the past two seasons of high school football. I'm not going to cut and paste greatness on him before I see him making Pac-12 defenders miss him in a real live game.
Just like I'm not going to call the Cal defense dominant until I see how it fills some notable holes and how good the youngsters look when the lights come on for real.
Aaron from Portland writes: In Jon Wilners article the date CAL is receiving this list of recruits Feb. 11, 2009 at 10:34 a.m. Lyles had yet to form his company Complete Scouting Services. This leads me to believe that he actually gave them the list from his at that time current employer Elite Scouting Services. If he hadn't yet formed the new service or as the timeline suggest even thought of it till December 2009 how could he have made this list under that business name or billed them under that name?
Ted Miller: Got a bunch of notes like this. I thought Ducks fans wanted the media to stop writing about Willie Lyles and Oregon?
I get your point. In fact, both Wilner and I recognized this, er, oddity.
Again, here's what Wilner wrote:
The list was sent from Lyles’ personal email account, as an attachment, to assistant coach Kenwick Thompson on Feb. 11, 2009 at 10:34 a.m., according to a document provided by Cal. (Thompson is from Houston and recruits the state of Texas.)
The date is five days after the National Signing Day for the class of 2009 and coincides with the start of the recruiting cycle for the class of 2010.
Lyles has said he worked for Elite Scouting Services until forming CSS in late 2009.
Asked about the apparent conflict, Tedford said: “That’s their problem. He billed us as Complete.”
Lyles could not be reached for comment.
I also took note of this:
Though it's notable that it appears [Lyles] gathered much of his information while working for another recruiting service: “That’s their problem," Cal coach Jeff Tedford told Wilner.
And Tedford is right: If there's an issue -- speculate on its nature as you wish -- between the two scouting services, it's not Cal's problem. Lyles departure from Elite Scouting Services reportedly was not on good terms, perhaps this is one of the reasons why.
Further, writes Wilner, "Starting in Feb. ’09 and ending nearly a year later, [Lyles] provided Cal with more than 30 videos of prospects in the class of 2010, a school official said."
So Lyles' provided Cal with original video throughout the 2009-10 recruiting season, just as ESS did.
Does it appear Lyles was two-timing, working for one recruiting services while making his own side deals? Hard not to construe that. So, yes, that's some more murk here -- shocking, eh? -- though not directly relevant to Cal or, really, Oregon.
Of course, it could prove relevant -- indirectly -- for Oregon if the grand secret in this turns out to be that Oregon can prove it received hours and hours of quality video from Lyles. You'll recall that, for whatever reason, Oregon hasn't released any video produced by Lyles.
From The Oregonian:
Oregon did receive video from Lyles, Oregon spokesman Dave Williford said Thursday [July 14]. But Williford said he could not characterize how much video the Ducks received or in what format, or say whether the Ducks received anything other than the YouTube link. Video was the only item mentioned in Lyles' Feb. 22, 2010, invoice to Oregon.
If Lyles sent DVDs to Oregon as he did to LSU, it's not clear why the Ducks do not have them. Oregon's state records law generally requires institutions to retain records about recruitment of athletes for five years or until the end of an athlete's eligibility, whichever is longer.
So, as I have written repeatedly, there figure to be several more chapters in this twisting tale and the ultimate resolution -- good or bad for Oregon -- remains decidedly uncertain.
Oh, you should follow me on Twitter. Not going to say why. But you should. It's important.
To the notes:
Micah from Northfield, Minn., writes: Why did Cal drop from 8 to 10 in your Post-spring rankings? I am curious as to what has happened that they've actually gotten worse. Cal and UCLA have switched places since January. Why? Both have equally troubling QB issues and both seem to have good defenses (my personal bias gives the edge to Cal). Neuheisel has yet to prove he can win consistently while Tedford seems so be sliding backwards, but at least has a good track record. I'd like to hear more of your logic on switching these two teams.
Ted Miller: First off, just a wee bit of this is the notion that the rankings shouldn't stay static -- for entertainment purposes. Otherwise, I wouldn't get notes from worried or angry fans. And that would make me cry.
Why did the Bears go down? Well, for one, a team that has closed practices sometimes falls for a simple reason: It doesn't get as much of a chance to impress me-- live or through the reporting of others (of course, that could work the other way, too).
While I watched UCLA practice, I thought this: These guys have plenty of players, particularly on defense. I also have a feeling that the quarterback situation will work itself out, particularly if Kevin Prince is healthy and stays that way. The Bruins have two experienced QBs in Prince and Richard Brehaut and true freshman Brett Hundley has plenty of talent. The biggest question is the offensive line, which should be fine if health issues are resolved.
When I left Westwood, my opinion of the Bruins went up (I also think the new coordinators, Mike Johnson and Joe Tresey, are going to do well).
Why did Cal move down? Well, I didn't read anything this spring that convinced me the Bears were going to solve their QB issues. Transfer Zach Maynard appears to have a clear lead heading into the offseason, but it seems that's mostly because he's mobile. Further, the questions at running back and on the O-line are noteworthy issues. As for the defense, we hear about young talent, but the Bears also lost three NFL draft choices: defensive end Cameron Jordan, linebacker Mike Mohamed and safety Chris Conte. When I went position-by-position with coordinator Clancy Pendergast, he kept noting incoming freshmen. And injuries.
When I left Berkeley, my opinion of the Bears didn't exactly crater. I just felt like the team was in a worrisome gray area.
Of course, we've still got the offseason and fall camp to shake things up (no need for an actual game to be played!). An injury here or there, or a player seeming to step up, that could again send a team -- or teams -- up or down in the power rankings. For example, reliable word that Maynard is slinging the rock like a champ could bolster the Bears standing.
It's also important to remember this: I could be wrong. Really. No, seriously. I kid you not.
Eric from Mountain View, Calif., writes: Can you explain to me what the TV schedule that was released means. Are there more games that can be picked up by ABC/ESPN? Did Fox have first choice on any games? Will Fox be releasing their schedule soon? Mostly confused how ABC wouldn't snatch up the Stanford/Oregon game right away, so assuming it's either because Fox got first pick of it, or ABC will pick it up later on.
Ted Miller: First, keep in mind this is all old TV contract stuff. The Pac-12's new blockbuster deal doesn't begin until 2012, when ABC/ESPN and Fox -- big show, network Fox -- will adopt equitable draft system for picking games.
As for the games that were announced Tuesday, those were only the priority picks by ABC/ESPN. Lots and lots of other games are going to be picked up later and televised. From the Pac-12 website:
Some of the games to be televised are selected prior to the season, others will be selected as the season progresses with picks made either six or 12 days prior to the games. Additional telecast selections by Fox Sports Net/Versus/FX will be announced in early June, 2011.
Many games that don't seem terribly important now will become so as the season progresses. The conference's TV partner leave themselves some room to pick up such games later in the season.
Tyler from Corvallis writes: Not one Beaver game slated for the ESPN/ABC schedule? Are they waiting for the underdogs to rise up or are we just that bad of a market for them? Doesn't look like the Pac-12 media deal is working out in our favor much.
Ted Miller: Not yet. But guess what? If you win and get ranked, the TV networks will come running to pick up your games.
The problem is going 5-7 in 2010 and not generating much preseason buzz, particularly compared to last year.
Further, here's the great news about the new TV contract, as opposed to the current one in place this season: It's equal revenue sharing, no matter how many times you're on TV. Oregon State gets the same as USC -- $21 million, plus or minus -- no matter how many times one or the other is on TV.
Pretty cool, huh?
Lawrence from Salt Lake City writes: Just noticed that you said the USC-Arizona State was the Pac-12 opener for both teams in your most recent video. However, Utah plays at USC the 2nd week of the season.
Ted Miller: You -- and many others -- are correct. No edit function on videos. Just the hazards of adding details while speaking without double-checking.
Chris from Phoenix writes: Is California playing Colorado as a non-conference game?
Ted Miller: Yes, California's visit to Colorado on Sept. 10, the second game of a home-and-home series, won't count in the conference standings.
2010 overall record: 5-7
2010 conference record: 3-6
Offense: 7, Defense: 5, punter/kicker: 2
WR Marvin Jones, WR Keenan Allen, OT Mitchell Schwartz, LB Mychal Kendricks, LB D.J. Holt, P Bryan Anger
RB Shane Vereen, C Chris Guarnero, QB Kevin Riley, DE Cameron Jordan, S Chris Conte
2010 statistical leaders (*returning starter)
Rushing: Shane Vereen (1,167)
Passing: Kevin Riley (1,409)
Receiving: Marvin Jones* (765)
Tackles: Mike Mohamed (95)
Sacks: Mychal Kendricks* (8.5)
Interceptions: Marc Anthony* (2)
1. Getting defensive: Even with the top two nose tackles out -- Aaron Tipoti and Kendrick Payne -- the Bears' front seven controlled the line of scrimmage. Ends Trevor Guyton, Gabe King and Deandre Coleman turned in strong springs. Mychal Kendricks moves from outside to inside linebacker next to D.J. Holt, while the rest of the linebacking crew is young but talented, including Cecil Whiteside, Chris McCain, Nick Forbes and David Wilkerson.
2. Isi on top: Isi Sofele isn't big and some wonder if he can take the week-to-week pounding a starting tailback does, but he was the clear No. 1 on the depth chart at the end of spring. He likely faces a challenge this fall.
3. Team matters: There was a lot of focus this spring on intangibles -- improving the team culture and building unity. Players wore workout shirts that said "Team Matters," and that was a theme that seemed to catch on. In 2010, the Bears were a talented team that often appeared unfocused. They either played great or terrible. Coach Jeff Tedford wants more consistency.
1. Is Maynard the man? Zach Maynard, a transfer from Buffalo, seemed to emerge as the top quarterback by the end of spring practices, eclipsing Brock Mansion and Allen Bridgford. Particularly appealing is his mobility. Will he hold his spot in fall camp, or might Mansion or Bridgford make a charge?
2. Is there going to be a youth movement? The Bears signed an outstanding recruiting class, and incoming players could be in the mix immediately on both sides of the ball. Who makes a move? It seems almost certain that one of the running backs gets into the rotation, but the incoming talent on defense is already on coordinator Clancy Pendergast's radar.
3. Tedford takes charge: Tedford is working extensively with the quarterbacks now, and he will be the primary play-caller this fall, a job he's juggled at various times during his Berkeley tenure. Will this extra coaching involvement help, particularly at quarterback, where things have fallen off in recent years?
If the six combined picks from Colorado and Utah are taken away from the conference, the old Pac-10 provided NFL teams 3.1 draft picks per team, also just behind the SEC at 3.17.
Here's where the Pac-12 players went:
No. 8 Jake Locker, QB, Washington: Tennessee
No. 9 Tyron Smith., OT, USC: Dallas
No. 17 Nate Solder, OT, Colorado: New England
No. 24 Cameron Jordan, DE, California: New Orleans
No. 27 Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado: Baltimore
7. Akeem Ayers, LB, UCLA: Tennessee
10. Brooks Reed, DE, Arizona: Houston
13. Rahim Moore, FS, UCLA: Denver
21. Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State: Chicago
24. Shane Vereen, RB, California: New England
13. Jurrell Casey, DT, USC: Tennessee
20. Mason Foster, LB, Washington: Tampa Bay
25. Shareece Wright, CB, USC: San Diego
29. Christopher Conte, S, California: Chicago
33. Sione Fua, DT, Stanford: Carolina
5. Jordan Cameron, TE, USC: Cleveland
19. Casey Matthews, LB, Oregon: Philadelphia
21. Jalil Brown, CB, Colorado: Kansas City
27. Owen Marecic, FB, Stanford: Cleveland
8. Brandon Burton, CB, Utah: Minnesota
9. Gabe Miller, DE, Oregon State: Kansas City
14. Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, Oregon State: Atlanta
23. Richard Sherman, CB, Stanford: Seattle
2. Ryan Whalen, WR, Stanford: Cincinnati
14. Caleb Schlauderaff, OG, Utah: Green Bay
17. Ronald Johnson, WR, USC: San Francisco
19. David Carter, DT, UCLA: Arizona
22. Allen Bradford, RB, USC: Tampa Bay
24. Mike Mohamed, LB, California: Denver
32. Ricky Elmore, DE, Arizona: Green Bay
38. Zach Williams, C, Washington State: Carolina
12. D'Aundre Reed, DE, Arizona: Minnesota
24. Scotty McKnight, WR, Colorado: New York Jets
30. Lawrence Guy, DT, Arizona State: Green Bay
37. Stanley Havili, FB, USC: Philadelphia
38. David Ausberry, WR, USC: Oakland
39. Malcolm Smith, LB, USC: Seattle
By Pac-12 school:
Arizona State (1)
Oregon State (3)
Washington State (1)
The final tally by automatic qualifying conferences:
Big Ten... 36
Big East 22
Nebraska was a big swing to the Big Ten from the Big 12 with seven picks. With Colorado and Nebraska, the Big 12 provided 30 selections.
This was the tally through three rounds:
Big Ten: 13
Big 12: 9
Big East: 4
This post projects ahead: These players are the leading candidates for a preseason top 25.
First, here's who's back in 2011 -- 11 players -- from our top-25.
1. Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
2. LaMichael James, RB, Oregon
4. Darron Thomas, QB, Oregon
6. Juron Criner, WR, Arizona
7. Chris Polk, RB, Washington
11. Omar Bolden, CB, Arizona State
13. Vontaze Burfict, LB, Arizona State
14. Matt Barkley, QB, USC
18. Nick Foles, QB, Arizona
22. Cliff Harris, CB, Oregon
23. Jermaine Kearse, WR, Washington
And here's who's back -- nine players -- from our "left-out list."
Shayne Skov, LB, Stanford
Chase Thomas, LB, Stanford
Mychal Kendricks, LB, California
John Boyett, FS, Oregon
Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
David DeCastro, OG, Stanford
Marquess Wilson, WR, Washington State
Jeff Tuel, QB, Washington State
Delano Howell, SS, Stanford
So that's 20 front-runners for the next list we'll put together this summer. Also, don't forget that competition will be more intense with the inclusion of Utah and Colorado for the next list.
Or will the Utes and/or Buffaloes get shutout? Neither welcomes back a first-team all-conference player from the Mountain West or Big 12, respectively (Colorado doesn't have a second-team player coming back, either).
Should be pretty interesting.
Our ranking of the top-25 Pac-10 -- not Pac-12 yet -- players is over. Here is our final tally.
Sure each of you has some sort of gripe with the list, and I would hope you would. The cool kids hang out here, and cool kids don't agree on everything because then they wouldn't be cool.
The most popular harrumph was the omission of Stanford's two-way player, Owen Marecic. I completely understand that. I likely would have ranked him 26th, but even then I would have paused. I will tell you why in a moment.
The angry mobilization by typically "read but don't comment" Stanford fans was great, though. I anticipated both the irritation with Marecic's absence and the general frustration with the lack of Stanford players on the list. Both reactions were perfectly reasonable, and the zealousness was fun. There were plenty of "What about Stanford?" moments for me while I toiled over the final list.
So now I will take on the unenviable task of briefly explaining why players didn't make the list. I'm guessing I will want to take a shower afterwards because the "left-out list" includes many outstanding players, many of whom will be high draft choices this year and in years to come.
But Marecic gets special treatment; he goes first. Here's my reasoning.
Yes, Marecic is a great story. Two-way player. Good on both sides of the ball. Tough guy. Quiet. Cool hair. Cult hero. Really, really smart. Tenth in the Heisman Trophy vote. Jim Harbaugh struggled each week to top the previous week's praise of a guy he repeatedly called "his favorite player."
But here's the problem: 1. He was the second best fullback in the conference (USC's Stanley Havili was the best; he didn't make the list); 2. He was Stanford's fourth-best linebacker -- see the numbers here.
And then he had the Shayne Skov, Chase Thomas, Sione Fua, Delano Howell, Jonathan Martin, David DeCastro problem. If you were picking a team for a high-stakes game, you'd pick those guys -- all Cardinal teammates -- before Marecic. And none of those guys made the list.
Yes, you would. Trust me. If, say, you were playing for $10 million, you'd pick one of them. Why? Because a good fullback and solid-to-middling linebacker isn't as valuable as an outstanding one-way player.
Nor would you pick Marecic over Shane Vereen, No. 25 on our list. Before you scream at your computer screen, let your mind drift back to this unhappy memory, Stanford fans.
Now, Stanford fans, take heart. This summer, we will begin an top-25 preseason list, and at this point you figure to get as many as six guys on that list, including No. 1 overall.
Also, it might help to look at the list below. Not exactly chopped liver.
This list is roughly in the order of consideration.
Rahim Moore, FS, UCLA: He's a cool dude. He's going to be off the NFL draft board before the end of the second round. But he didn't put up great numbers for a bad defense.
Brandon Bair, DT, Oregon: Bair's production went down over the second half of the season. He got beaten up a bit, and offensive coordinators starting paying him more attention. Further, I was already uncomfortable with seven players from one team on the list.
Shayne Skov, LB, Stanford: Love his game. Got better as year went on. Just missed the cut. He, Vontaze Burfict and Mychal Kendricks are your first-team All-Pac-12 LBs in 2011.
Ricky Elmore, DE, Arizona: 21.5 sacks over the past two seasons, including a conference-leading 11 in 2010. But Brooks Reed was a better player, and Elmore had a couple of off games. At one point, he was fighting to retain his starting job over D'Aundre Reed.
Chase Thomas, LB, Stanford: A close second to Skov as the most productive player on the Stanford defense.
Sione Fua, NT, Stanford: Fua might have been the conference's most underrated player. So why stop now?
Mychal Kendricks, LB, California: 15 tackles for a loss. Highly productive. Highly talented. But he didn't fully arrive in 2010.
Jake Locker, QB, Washington: He may still end up a first-round draft choice but his numbers just weren't good enough this fall.
John Boyett, FS, Oregon: Got caught in the shuffle of Ducks. Further, the coaches didn't pick him first- or second-team All-Pac-10, rating him behind Cal's Chris Conte, UCLA's Rahim Moore, USC's T.J. McDonald and Washington's Nate Williams, none of whom made the top-25.
Mike Mohamed, LB, California: A very good player who perhaps slipped a little in 2010.
Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford: The top-25 was hard on O-linemen.
David DeCastro, OG, Stanford: See above.
Marquess Wilson, WR, Washington State: No true freshman made the list, not Wilson, not USC's Robert Woods. But Coug fans: You will have your first top-25 player this preseason. Maybe more than one.
Colin Baxter, C, Arizona: Baxter dropped because the Wildcats offensive line underachieved.
Jeff Tuel, QB, Washington State: A good QB. Folks will see that this year. Still, only ranked sixth in the conference in passing efficiency.
Chris Conte, S, California: First-team All-Pac-10. Safeties didn't fare well on the list.
Delano Howell, SS, Stanford: Second-team All-Pac-10. See above.
Lawrence Guy, DT, Arizona State: A solid tackle who was eclipsed by better players.
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on"
- Some items from California's pro day, including Cameron Jordan and Mike Mohamed.
- New Colorado coach Jon Embree didn't like what he saw from the Buffaloes on 2010 film. Scotty McKnight put on a good show on pro day, even bringing in his own guess star QB.
- Missed this the other day: QB Jerrard Randall apparently will not sign with Oregon.
- The Civil War "Mascot Head Caper" is reaching closure. The Beavers are headed to the Boys & Girls Club.
- An injury update at UCLA. The transfer of DT Brandon Willis to North Carolina still has a hurdle.
- It's time for USC DE Nick Perry to break through.
- Utah is an AQ team! Does it feel different? Neh.
- NFL Films will feature former Washington QB Jake Locker.
Those who did well include a pair of defensive ends: Arizona's Brooks Reed and California's Cameron Jordan.
Reed's 4.68 40-yard dash tied for third among defensive linemen, and Jordan ran a 4.78 (tied for 10th) at 281 pounds.
Reed is projected to move to outside linebacker in the NFL. Here's what Todd McShay wrote about him: "Reed isn't an elite athlete, but he has good short-area explosiveness and a nonstop motor that will have him off the board before Day 2 is over."
Another take on Reed: "[Reed] has gotten a lot of comparisons to NFL Defensive Player of the Year Clay Matthews over the past few weeks. He's not quite as athletic as Matthews, but Reed's respectable 4.67 40, ability to change direction fluidity, and quickness in turn-the-corner drills make him a legitimate second-round pick as a 3-4 rush linebacker."
And here's the review of Jordan: "Jordan (6-41, 281) continues to build momentum after a strong showing at the Senior Bowl. He ran a 4.78 and put up 25 reps with 35-inch arms, and continued to show the speed and athleticism to make an impact as a mid-first round pick."
On the downside, it appears the combine hasn't been kind to UCLA linebacker Akeem Ayers or Oregon linebacker Casey Matthews:
Akeem Ayers, UCLA: Ayers could have helped lock down a spot in the first round, but he failed to impress. He ran in the low 4.8-second range, failed to show good change-of-direction skills and was not elite in the jumps, shuttles or cone drill. He had a chance to prove he is an elite prospect, but his workout did not match up to the productive player we saw on film early in the season before Ayers was nicked up.
Casey Matthews, Oregon: Matthews aggravated a recurring shoulder injury during the bench press and raised another red flag for a guy who struggled to get off blocks and has an average body type. He's tough and instinctive, but the injury dates to his freshman year and is cause for concern.
That said on Matthews, there was also this paraphrase of Mike Mayock of the NFL Network: "Matthews is not explosive like his brother Clay, but he is instinctive and will play better than his measurables suggest."
- Some pool reports on the quarterbacks, including Jake Locker.
- It's possible five quarterbacks -- including Locker -- could end up getting picked in the first round.
- Reed talks about transitioning from a defensive end to an outside linebacker.
- Here's a positive review of former Cal linebacker Mike Mohamed.
- You can track the top performers in testing here.
Many of you will be outraged.
Why? Because I am outraged at the limits of 25 spots, which means a number of top players -- even high NFL draft picks -- are going to get left off.
A number of players from our preseason top-25 list fall out for no justifiable reason, other than other players are more impossible to not include on the list.
You will send hate mail. I am already sending some to myself.
Just for reference, here's our preseason top-25.
No. 1. Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, Oregon State
No. 2. Jake Locker, QB, Washington
No. 3. LaMichael James, RB, Oregon
No. 4. Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
No. 5. Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State
No. 6. James Rodgers, WR, Oregon State
No. 7. Rahim Moore, S, UCLA
No. 8. Akeem Ayers, LB, UCLA
No. 9. Mike Mohamed, LB, California
No. 10. Trevin Wade, CB, Arizona
No. 11. Mason Foster, LB, Washington
No. 12. Ricky Elmore, DE, Arizona
No. 13. Kenny Rowe, DE, Oregon
No. 14. Jurrell Casey, DT, USC
No. 15. Cameron Jordan, DE, California
No. 16. Nick Foles, QB, Arizona
No. 17. Vontaze Burfict, LB, Arizona State
No. 18: Colin Baxter, C, Arizona
No. 19: Chase Beeler, C, Stanford
No. 20. Lawrence Guy, DT, Arizona State
No. 21. Matt Barkley, QB, USC
No. 22. Owen Marecic, LB/FB, Stanford
No. 23. Kristofer O'Dowd, C, USC
No. 24: Casey Matthews, LB, Oregon
No. 25 Kai Forbath, K, UCLA
See the South Division here.
Defensive line: The Bears lost two starters -- end Cameron Jordan and noseguard Derrick Hill -- and you can never have too many D-linemen. This class is particularly strong in that area, with four of 18 commitments listed as D-linemen, including two tackles (Todd Barr, Viliami Moala) who are ESPNU 150 members.
Linebacker: The Bears lost two starters, including Mike Mohamed, and linebacker has been an inconsistent position the past couple of years in the 3-4. The Bears have commitments from two outside and one inside linebacker.
Running back: With the early but not unexpected departure of Shane Vereen, the Bears are uncertain at running back for the first time in the Jeff Tedford Era. Three running backs have already committed.
Receiver: The Ducks need to restock at receiver with the departures of Jeff Maehl and D.J. Davis. They have three commitments from players listed as receivers and three others listed as "athletes" who could end up at the position. They could end up with as many as six in this class.
Defensive line: Three of four starting D-linemen from 2010 are gone. So far the class includes two tackles and two ends, but one of the four players listed as an outside linebacker also could end up as a rush end.
Linebacker: Two 0f three starters and a key backup need to be replaced, though there's solid, experienced depth. Five of the 23 commitments are listed at linebackers, a position that one of the "athletes" also could end up playing.
Defensive line: The Beavers lost their two best defensive linemen -- DT Stephen Paea and DE Gabe Miller -- from a group that didn't play terribly well in 2010. That's why they have 11 incoming D-linemen -- eight listed as ends -- including four JC transfers, two of whom are already enrolled.
Offensive line: The line struggled last year and three projected 2011 starters are seniors. It's time to restock and upgrade. The Beavers top recruit, Darryl Jackson, is a 6-foot-7 tackle and one of three commitments from O-linemen.
Receiver: The Beavers are solid at receiver for 2011, particularly with the return of James Rodgers, but they need to restock depth. Five already have committed.
Defensive backs: While Stanford welcomes back three of four starters in the defensive backfield, the secondary still is an area that needs an athletic and depth upgrade. Two safeties are among the Cardinal's 18 commitments. It would be ideal to add a cornerback or two.
Defensive line: Two of three starters are gone from the 2010 line, and end Matt Masifilo will be a senior. That's a good reason five of the committed players are D-linemen, including three tackles.
Receivers: Leading receivers Doug Baldwin and Ryan Whalen are gone, and Chris Owusu will be a senior. Some of the players expected to step up last year didn't. At present, the Cardinal have one commitment from a receiver, though Jordan Richards could end up as a corner or receiver (and address a need, one way or the other).
Quarterback: Jake Locker is gone and only two scholarship quarterbacks are presently on the roster: sophomore Keith Price and redshirt freshman Nick Montana. The Huskies lured Derrick Brown away from his Utah commitment, and would like to sign one more, with Florida prospect Jacoby Brissett being a dark-horse possibility.
Linebacker: The Huskies lost two quality senior starters in Mason Foster and Victor Aiyewa, and middle linebacker Cort Dennison is a senior. The depth is young and uncertain. JC transfer Thomas Tugoti should immediately compete for playing time, and he is just one of five incoming linebackers.
Cornerback: Both starters are back, but Quinton Richardson is a senior and Desmond Trufant is a junior and there isn't much reliable depth behind them. Only one committed player is listed as a cornerback.
Offensive line: It's not just that two starters must be replaced this season and two projected 2011 starters are seniors. The Cougars gave up 51 sacks last year and ranked last in the Pac-10 in rushing with 91 yards per game. Three O-linemen are committed, and two already are enrolled.
Defensive line: Two D-linemen and a top backup need to be replaced, and the Cougars only had 23 sacks and surrendered 220 yards rushing per game, with both numbers ranking last in the Pac-10. Seven of 23 current commitments are D-linemen.
Running back: While the Cougars lost top running back prospect Bishop Sankey to rival Washington, there are two running backs still in the class for a position that offers the possibility of immediate playing time.
And being the radical sort of guy I am, we're going to do an "All-Underclass" Pac-10 team Wednesday morning, which will feature players who will have at least two years of eligibility left next year. So stay tuned!
And here's my All-Pac-10 team without regard to year, just for reference.
So here's my take for the seniors of 2010.
[Edit note: We subbed in USC TE Jordan Cameron after realizing that Stanford TE Coby Fleener has another year of eligibility.]
QB Jake Locker, Washington
RB Owen Marecic, Stanford
RB Allen Bradford, USC
TE Jordan Cameron, USC
WR Jeff Maehl, Oregon
WR Ronald Johnson, USC
OL Chase Beeler, Stanford
OL Jordan Holmes, Oregon
OL Adam Grant, Arizona
OL Colin Baxter, Arizona
OL Bo Thran, Oregon
LB Casey Matthews, Oregon
LB Mason Foster, Washington
LB Mike Mohamed, California
DE Cameron Jordan, California
DT Stephen Paea, Oregon State
DT Brandon Bair, Oregon
DE Brooks Reed, Arizona
CB Talmadge Jackson, Oregon
CB Shareece Wright, USC
S Chris Conte, California
S Nate Williams, Washington
K Nate Whitaker, Stanford
P Reid Forrest, Washington State
PR/KR Ronald Johnson, USC
Their Day 1 material had some observations about three Pac-12 guys.
Arizona offensive tackle Adam Grant gets a thumbs-up, while Oregon DE Kenny Rowe gets a thumbs-down in this practice review.
And Arizona DE Ricky Elmore was a "top performer" on Day 1.
There will daily updates from these guys, and with 15 Pac-12 players in the game, there should be plenty of info on players of interest.
These are the Pac-12 players in the game.
Brandon Bair, DT, Oregon
Jordan Cameron, TE, USC
David Carter, DT, UCLA
Ricky Elmore, DE, Arizona
Adam Grant, OT, Arizona
Trevor Hankins, P, Arizona State
Alex Linnenkohl, C, Oregon State
Jeff Maehl, WR, Oregon
Mike Mohamed, LB, California
Caleb Schlauderaff, OG, Utah
Justin Taplin-Ross, SS, Utah
Ryan Whalen, WR, Stanford
Nate Williams, SS, Washington
Zach Williams, OG, Washington State
Kenny Rowe, DE, Oregon*
* Playing for East team.
1. Oregon: The Ducks likely will be ranked in the preseason top five even though the offensive line and defensive front seven take some hits.
2. Stanford: While there are plenty of questions -- both lines, head coach -- the return of Andrew Luck makes the Cardinal a preseason top-10 team.
3. Arizona State: Losing defensive tackle Lawrence Guy to the NFL is a significant hit, but the Sun Devils still have 19 starters back from a team that lost by one at Wisconsin. But who will be the quarterback?
4. USC: Trojans take some hits on both sides of the ball, particularly on both lines, but quarterback Matt Barkley will have some nice skill surrounding him on offense.
5. Arizona: On the downside, the Wildcats must completely rebuild their lines. On the upside, quarterback Nick Foles and wide receiver Juron Criner will be the top pass-catch combination in the conference.
6. Washington: The post-Jake Locker era begins, so it's hard to judge the Huskies. And post linebacker Mason Foster, for that matter. But coach Steve Sarkisian has been recruiting well, and there are plenty of returning starters.
7. Utah: Hard to place the Utes because we don't know them in this environment. And there are questions on both sides of the ball, particularly in the secondary and offensive skill positions. But the return of quarterback Jordan Wynn helps.
8. California: The Bears must replace their best offensive player, running back Shane Vereen, and their three best defensive players, end Cameron Jordan, linebacker Mike Mohamed and safety Chris Conte. And don't even ask about quarterback.
9. Oregon State: Putting the Beavers down here might be an overreaction to running back Jacquizz Rodgers' decision to enter NFL draft. Or it might be because they lost four of their final five games. And Stephen Paea's departure leaves a HUGE void on the defensive line.
10. UCLA: The Bruins actually have some good players coming back, despite some high-profile early departures (linebacker Akeem Ayers, safety Rahim Moore). But they have offensive questions and we don't know who the coordinators will be in 2011.
11. Colorado: Just like Utah, we don't know the Buffaloes in this environment, plus there's a new coach. And, to be honest, that 52-7 loss at Cal isn't helping their candidacy. Curious how quarterback Tyler Hansen will look this spring after missing much of the year because of injury.
12. Washington State: Do. Not. Panic. Cougars. Fans. I'd bet $1 the Cougs will not finish last in 2011. Quarterback Jeff Tuel should take another step forward and he's got his top targets back. But we're not ready to promote the Cougars just yet.