Pac-12: Nate Ness

Free-agent signings thus far

April, 28, 2009
4/28/09
9:46
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

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

Arizona
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

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

Oregon
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

UCLA
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

USC
DE Gerald Washington, Buffalo Bills

Washington
C Juan Garcia, invited to Minnesota Vikings minicamp

Washington State
TE Devin Frischknecht, Washington Redskins

Pac-10 players of the week

October, 13, 2008
10/13/08
3:19
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Stanford running back Toby Gerhart, Oregon cornerback Jairus Byrd and USC defensive tackle Fili Moala were named Pac-10 Players of the Week on Monday.

Gerhart, a junior from Norco, Calif., rushed 24 times for 116 yards in the Cardinal's 24-23 win over Arizona, scoring the game winning touchdown with 25 seconds remaining in the game. Considering Stanford piled up 286 yards rushing against the Wildcats, Gerhart's backfield mate Anthony Kimble, who contributed 110 yards, also deserves note.

Byrd, a junior from Clayton, Mo., recorded nine tackles, an interception and three pass breakups in the Ducks 31-24 win over UCLA. The Oregon defense limited UCLA to 53 yards rushing and 351 total yards and posted six sacks.

Moala, a senior from Buena Park, Calif., blocked two field goal attempts in the third quarter of USC's 28-0 win against Arizona State. The two blocks ties the NCAA record for most blocked field goal attempts in a quarter.

Also nominated for offensive player of the week were Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, running backs Joe McKnight of USC and Jacquizz Rodgers of Oregon State, UCLA tight end Ryan Moya and Arizona wide receiver Terrell Turner. Also nominated on defense were defensive backs Kevin Thomas of USC, Kris Evans of Stanford and Nate Ness of Arizona, Oregon State end Slade Norris and Arizona State linebacker Mike Nixon. Arizona Kicker Jason Bondzio was nominated for special teams play.

Oregon State is rolling; Arizona and Stanford are brawling

October, 11, 2008
10/11/08
7:18
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Any possibility that Washington State might show up inspired and challenge homestanding Oregon State disappeared quickly. It's 14-0 Beavers with eight minutes left in the first and the Cougars look like a FCS team.

Meanwhile, there's a really good game going on in Stanford, but, of course, we can't watch it because Stanford is too big to care about TV (the school wouldn't adjust its homecoming pans to accommodate TV).

Stanford will, however, offer a money-back guarantee on its tickets to try to fill its mostly empty stadium.

Sure TV couldn't help there.

Anyway... just looking at the numbers, the Cardinal is dominating statistically, leading the total yardage tally late in the third quarter 368 to 197, but the score is tied at 17-17.

The obvious explanation is that Arizona is winning the turnover battle 2-0, and Stanford quarterback Tavita Pritchard's interception was returned 75 yards for a TD by Nate Ness.

Really surprised that the Wildcats haven't been able to exploit the Stanford secondary.

Wish this one was on TV because OSU-WSU doesn't look like it's going to be very interesting.

Addition by subtraction for Arizona defense

August, 22, 2008
8/22/08
7:03
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Arizona strong safety Cam Nelson is a polite, mostly soft-spoken Texan, but he doesn't hem and haw and soft sell when asked why a talented Wildcats defense was so mediocre in 2007.

"A lot of people looking from the outside-in thought we were going to have a good defense, which we should have," he said. "But there were a lot of selfish things going on on the defense, and people weren't playing hard every snap. Everybody was looking out for themselves. We looked for [CB] Antoine Cason and [LB] Spencer Larsen to make all the plays and it just didn't come together like we thought it would."

That defense gave up nearly 27 points per game, despite the presence of four NFL draft picks. With Nelson just one of three starters back -- linebacker Ronnie Palmer and free safety Nate Ness are the other two -- most would project an even more challenging year.

Nelson said everyone has a right to their own opinion, even one that will be as wrong as that one.

"We've got a lot of new faces who play hard and play every snap and want to learn and have been waiting their turn," he said. "We'll prove ourselves as the season starts."

He ticks off a list of just about every starter on the defense, not to mention a few backups, talking about playing hard and fast and being hungry.

Still, he admits, "We haven't done anything yet."

That's why much of the commentary on the team starts with the notion that the Wildcats veteran offense will need to carry the defense early. And with 10 starters back from a unit that set a number of school passing records, topped by quarterback Willie Tuitama, receiver "Money" Mike Thomas and tight end Rob "Big Freak" Gronkowski, it's not hard to imagine a lot of points on the board. (Nicknames courtesy of Nelson).

"We've got a lot of weapons on offense," Nelson said.

Nelson admitted that the players are keenly aware of the pressure on coach Mike Stoops to win now. The general feeling is the Wildcats need to reach a bowl game for Stoops to retain his job. 

"He tells us to not worry about it and just go out and play," Nelson said. "We hear it on the news, though. We just try not to pay attention to it. We need to go out and give it our all and win games so he can stay here and can be our coach for the next season."

Nelson, a junior from Dallas, said he's watch Stoops grow as a coach, pointing to Stoops' improved demeanor on the sidelines. Stoops has been known for his wild gesticulations during play and his occasional berating of players and officials within view of television cameras.

Nelson said Stoops has become more accessible to his players. 

"One thing that he did this year -- and me and Nate [Ness] asked him to -- is he got more in-tune with the defense," Nelson said. "That's what I think is going to be a big key for us on the defense."

Stoops was widely considered one of the nation's best defensive coordinators when he coached under his big brother, Bob, at Oklahoma. So his greater involvement with the defense likely will be a good thing.

One thing Nelson won't bite on is talking smack about rival Arizona State.

"There's not too much I can say about Arizona State because they've beaten us the last two years [three actually]," Nelson said. "We played them close but just couldn't finish. But we respect them."

Ranking the Pac-10 safeties

July, 28, 2008
7/28/08
12:30
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

 
 John Pyle/Icon SMI
 Taylor Mays started 13 games last season, collecting 65 tackles.

Safety looks like a strong position in the Pac-10 this season. About half of these guys -- maybe more -- figure to have NFL futures.

The top-four are legitimate All-American candidates, and USC junior Taylor Mays may be touted as the best all-around athlete in the 2009 NFL draft -- unless he opts to return for his senior season.

That said, more than a few USC observers will tell you that Kevin Ellison was the better all-around player for the Trojans defense last year.

  1. Taylor Mays, Jr., USC: Even among the extraordinary athletes at USC, Mays stands out. He's one of the fastest players in the conference -- at 225 pounds. He'll probably be the first safety taken in Round 1 of the 2009 NFL draft.
  2. Patrick Chung, Sr., Oregon: If you don't like the way Chung plays, you don't like football. He led the Ducks with 117 tackles in 2007.
  3. Kevin Ellison, Sr., USC: Notable that he was first-team All-Pac-10 in 2007 and Mays wasn't. He had 57 tackles, including eight for a loss, two sacks, two interceptions and two forced fumbles in 2007.
  4. Troy Nolan, Sr., Arizona State: Second in the conference with six INTs in 2007. He returned two of those for TDs. Solid against the run and pass, this NFL prospect was second-team All-Pac-10 a year ago.
  5. Bo McNally, Sr., Stanford: Second in the Pac-10 with 9.5 tackles per game in 2007, though it's not always good that a DB leads his team in tackles. Also had 7.5 tackles for a loss, two interceptions and 1.5 sacks. Underrated in pass defense.
  6. Al Afalava, Sr., Oregon State: He's a stocky, physical presence who will be one of the leaders in the Beavers strong secondary. His 64 tackles ranked third on the team in 2007.
  7. Nate Ness, Sr., Arizona: He's got a nose for the ball -- see five INTs in 2007. Needs to prove he's an all-around player.
  8. Mesphin Forrester, Sr., Washington: With 93 tackles and two INTs in 2007, he's a critical piece of an experienced secondary that struggled a year ago. [Update: He moved to cornerback during spring practices, but his performance last year earns him this ranking].
  9. Josh Pinkard, Sr., USC: Pinkard has essentially missed the past two years with knee injuries. He's back, though, and if one of Pete Carroll's favorite players stays healthy, he'll find a spot in the Trojans secondary, though likely at CB.
  10. Bernard Hicks, Sr., California: He's started 18 games for the Bears, though he mostly played better in 2006 than in 2007. Had 40 tackles and four pass breakups a year ago. Can lay the lumber at times.

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