Pac-12: Nate Whitaker

Preseason position reviews: kicker

July, 5, 2011
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Kicker is typically a strong position in the Pac-12. That is not the case -- at least based on preseason appearances -- this fall.

Just five teams welcome back experienced kickers. The pickings is so slim in terms of quality that Phil Steele named Arizona's Alex Zendejas third-team All-Pac-10 in his preview magazine.

So how does this thin group stack up? Read on.

Great shape

Washington: Erik Folk was perfect on 33 PATs last year while also connecting on 13 of 20 field goals with a long of 54 yards. Most years, these numbers would rate as "good" rather than "great," but having the best returning kicker in the conference, even if his numbers aren't scintillating, is a significant boost.

Good shape

Oregon: Rob Beard made 10 of 13 field goals last year -- coach Chip Kelly doesn't like field goals -- and was 63 of 64 on PATs.

Arizona: Zendejas had some, er, notable issues -- we won't even bring up the PATs in the Arizona State game -- but he did make 14 of 19 field goals with a long of 47. His 73.7 percent field goal percentage ranked third in the Pac-10 in 2010, ahead, by the way, of UCLA's Kai Forbath.

Washington State: Washington State only attempted 11 field goals last year. It made seven of those, three from Andrew Furney, who tops the post-spring depth chart. He also was 18-of-18 on PATs.

California: Giorgio Tavecchio is probably not going to be a great kicker, but he's experienced. He made 11 of 16 kicks last year with a long of 53. He missed two of his 39 PATs.

We'll see

Stanford: Jordan Williamson and Eric Whitaker battled this spring to replace Whitaker's older brother, Nate, who was first-team All-Pac-10 in 2010. Williamson seemed to have a slight lead heading into the offseason, though Whitaker has more experience.

USC: True freshman Andre Heidari was the nation's top-rated prep kicker last year. It's unlikely he will do worse than last year's kicker, Joe Houston, who ranked last in the conference in field goal percentage, though he was perfect on 43 PATs.

UCLA: The post-spring depth chart included an "or" between junior Jeff Locke -- the Bruins' punter -- and redshirt freshman Kip Smith.

Oregon State: Trevor Romaine was ahead of Max Johnson after spring practices to replace Justin Kahut. Both missed two attempts in the spring game. Romaine showed a good foot on kickoffs.

Utah: Coleman Petersen beat out Nick Marsh, the Utes' kickoff specialist last year, this spring to replace Joe Phillips. He's never kicked in a game.

Arizona State: Thomas Weber is gone. His replacement looks like redshirt freshman Alex Garoutte, who wasn't consistent this spring.

Colorado: Justin Castor topped the depth chart this spring -- he wasn't terribly consistent -- but incoming freshman Will Oliver might give him some competition.

Shaw will be his own man this spring

February, 18, 2011
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It might seem very Jim Harbaugh-y that new Stanford coach David Shaw is so eager to get to work that he's schedule his first spring practice for Monday, when the calendar says we're still in winter. But Shaw is fully aware that he's not Jim Harbaugh. He's not going to adopt a Harbaughian pose. It's not likely he will talk about "enthusiasm unknown to mankind" or not bowing down to any program or comparing his quarterback (Andrew Luck) to his wife because both are "perfect."

Harbaugh was often a colorful quote but a prickly interview. He was unpredictable and edgy, incredibly competitive and just a little nutty.

[+] EnlargeDavid Shaw
Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US PresswireAmong David Shaw's chief concerns are filling voids on both lines and at linebacker.
Shaw is polished and measured. As Stanford's head coach, he's going to be David Shaw, and plenty of folks on the Farm think that's going to be a good thing -- see recent good news on ticket sales.

"I just have a different personality," he said. "I'm a different person."

That doesn't mean, however, he's any less competitive. During a short phone conversation Friday, he talked about being "single-minded" and "focused" and getting better each practice. The first task for Stanford this spring is moving past a scintillating 12-1 campaign in 2010. If the Cardinal start believing they've arrived, they surely won't.

As to the business at hand, Shaw announced a couple of staff additions. Mike Bloomgren, a New York Jets offensive assistant, is the Cardinal's new offensive line coach and running game coordinator, and Mike Sanford, a former Stanford assistant who was Western Kentucky's quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator last year, has been hired as running backs coach.

Shaw said the last void on his staff is at tight ends coach. "I'm not going to rush," he said. "I'm not just hiring guys for spring ball."

Previously, Shaw announced that Pep Hamilton had been promoted to offensive coordinator and will work with quarterbacks and receivers and that Derek Mason and Jason Tarver, a former San Francisco 49ers assistant, would serve as co-defensive coordinators. Mason will oversee the secondary and call plays, while Tarver will coach linebackers.

Spring practices will be split into two minicamps. The first session runs Feb. 21 to March 5. The second starts March 28 and ends with the spring game on April 9.

When asked about his primary concerns, Shaw quickly named the offensive line, which must replace three starters, including All-America center Chase Beeler and guard Andrew Phillips.

Other issues: Who's Luck's backup? Who replaces Nate Whitaker at kicker? What about two voids at linebacker and on the defensive line? And who steps in for Richard Sherman at cornerback?

Shaw isn't eager to provide lists of possible answers. He obviously wants to create as much competition as possible. The good news is the Cardinal, who are almost certain to be ranked in the preseason top 10, appear to have plenty of up-and-coming players who are ready to step in.

As for Luck, Shaw isn't worried that a guy touted as the surefire No. 1 pick in the NFL draft this spring had he not decided to return will try to shoulder too much of a burden.

"I love his leadership style because it's a performance-based leadership," Shaw said. "He wants to be one of the hardest workers on the team. He wants to lead by example. He doesn't want to give a whole bunch of speeches."

In other words, Shaw expects Luck to be Luck. Just like Shaw plans to put his mark on the program instead of trying to be the second-coming of Harbaugh.

ESPN.com's 2010 All-Senior Pac-10 team

January, 25, 2011
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The SEC and Big Ten Bloggers -- Chris Low and Adam Rittenberg -- had an excellent idea: An All-Conference team of only seniors (fourth or fifth-year guys with no more eligibility).

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.]

Offense
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

Defense
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

Specialists
K Nate Whitaker, Stanford
P Reid Forrest, Washington State
PR/KR Ronald Johnson, USC

ESPN.com's All-Pac-10 team

December, 8, 2010
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We tried to emphasize consistent production this year on our All-Pac-10 team, not just NFL prospects. That's why some big names are missing.

For comparison, here is the coaches team, which was announced Tuesday.

We didn't include a tight end because receiver was a far deeper position. And, unlike the coaches, we didn't make a wishbone backfield just to accomodate Stanford's Owen Marecic. Instead, we made up a specialist position for a guy who starts at both fullback and linebacker: "STUD."

So here you go.

Offense
QB Andrew Luck, So., Stanford
RB LaMichael James, So., Oregon
RB Jacquizz Rodgers, Jr., Oregon State
WR Juron Criner, Jr., Arizona
WR Jeff Maehl, Sr., Oregon
WR Jermaine Kearse, Jr., Washington
OL Chase Beeler, Sr., Stanford
OL Colin Baxter, Sr., Arizona
OL Tyron Smith, Jr., USC
OL Bo Thran, Sr., Oregon
OL Jonathan Martin, Jr., Stanford

Defense
DL Brandon Bair, Sr., Oregon
DL Cameron Jordan, Sr., California
DL Stephen Paea, Sr., Oregon State
DL Jurrell Casey, Jr., USC
LB Chase Thomas, So., Stanford
LB Mason Foster, Sr., Washington
LB Casey Matthews, Sr., Oregon
DB Talmadge Jackson, Sr., Oregon
DB Omar Bolden, Jr., Arizona State
DB Delano Howell, Jr., Stanford
DB John Boyett, So., Oregon

Specialists
PK Nate Whitaker, Sr., Stanford
P Bryan Anger, Jr., California
KOR Robert Woods, Fr., USC
PR Cliff Harris, So., Oregon
STUD (FB-LB) Owen Marecic, Sr., Stanford

2010 Pac-10 review

December, 8, 2010
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If someone found a crystal ball in the preseason and, after giving it a good peering, had announced that one Pac-10 team would play for the national title and another would play in the Discover Orange Bowl, it's likely that Pac-10 administrators and athletic directors would have broken out into a celebratory dance thinking of the extra revenue, not to mention the prestige, the conference would gain.

So it's a good thing that didn't happen because that would have been hard on the eyes.

Oregon will play Auburn in the Tostitos BCS National Championship Game on Jan. 10. Stanford will play Virginia Tech in the Discover Orange Bowl on Jan. 3. Not only have teams other than USC risen to the elite level, but the Pac-10 has produced two BCS bowl teams for the first time since 2002.

[+] EnlargeOregon's Chip Kelly
Steve Dykes/Getty ImagesChip Kelly and the Pac-10 are looking forward to January, when two conference schools will participate in BCS games: Stanford in the Orange Bowl and Oregon in the national title game.
Of course, some sourpusses will point out that the conference only produced four bowl teams. First, it's five, really, only USC is ineligible for the postseason due to NCAA sanctions. And five bowl-eligible teams in a 10-team league that plays nine conference games and doesn't load its schedules with nonconference patsies isn't terrible.

Could be better. But not terrible.

The Pac-10 finished the regular season ranked No. 2 behind the SEC in the Sagarin Ratings. Pac-10 teams played the seven toughest schedules in the nation, as well as Nos. 10 and 11. Oregon's schedule ranked 20th, the lowest in the conference, in large part because the Ducks lucked out by not having to play themselves.

The Pac-10 went 10-5 versus other BCS conferences.

Further, the Pac-10 is sending two finalists to the Heisman Trophy ceremony: Oregon running back LaMichael James and Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck. No other conference is doing that.

Still, the conference didn't post any marquee nonconference victories. Wins over Iowa and Texas lost a lot of value as both teams struggled as the season went on. Winning at Tennessee isn't as impressive as it was a decade ago. Arizona State lost by a point at Wisconsin. The conference lost three games to elite non-AQ teams: TCU, Boise State and Nevada. Nebraska stomped on Washington.

Quarterbacks were all the talk in the preseason, but the results were mixed there, too. Luck, obviously, lived up to and even beyond expectations. Washington's Jake Locker fell well short. Oregon's Darron Thomas came from no where to earn second-team All-Pac-10 honors. USC's Matt Barkley and Arizona's Nick Foles had good, but not great seasons.

Luck could come back next fall, but he's likely going to be the No. 1 overall pick in this spring's NFL draft. Thomas, Barkley and Foles will return, though, again giving the conference a good foundation at the position (It's possible that Foles, too, could opt to enter the NFL draft).

As far as where the conference ranks as it heads into the postseason, the bowl season should be telling. It would be particularly meaningful for Oregon to end the SEC's run of national titles at four. Stanford is expected to beat ACC champ Virginia Tech, so losing would inspire plenty of wisecracks.

Arizona and Washington are both significant underdogs against Big 12 foes in the Valero Alamo Bowl -- where the Wildcats play No. 14 Oklahoma State -- and the Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl -- where the Huskies face No. 18 Nebraska, which bludgeoned them 56-21 on Sept. 18.

A 2-2 bowl season would be respectable. 3-1 would be worth crowing about. But anything worse, and it could be a long offseason for Pac-10 fans who enjoy trash talking other conferences.

[+] EnlargeStanford's Andrew Luck
Kyle Terada/US PRESSWIREAndrew Luck passed for 3,051 yards and 28 touchdowns, while completing 70.2 percent of his passes this season.
Offensive MVPs: Call me a wuss for refusing to decide between Luck and James, but I'm not going to. Hey, they're both Heisman Trophy finalists. Luck passed for 3,051 yards with 28 touchdowns and seven interceptions, completing 70 percent of his passes. He also rushed for 438 yards and three touchdowns. James led the nation with 152.9 yards rushing per game and 21 touchdowns. He also caught 13 passes for 169 yards and a TD.

Defensive MVP: This was a tough call, but Oregon State defensive tackle Stephen Paea is the guy who causes the most problems for opposing offenses and consistently receives praise from opposing offensive linemen. After a slow start, Paea led the Beavers with 10 tackles for a loss and six sacks. He also had 42 total tackles -- despite constant double-teams -- and four forced fumbles.

Newcomer of the year: USC true freshman Robert Woods made big plays as receiver and a kick returner. As a receiver, caught 64 passes for 786 yards and six touchdowns. As a return man, he averaged 25.6 yards on 38 returns -- a school record -- including one for a 97-yard touchdown. He ranks second in the Pac- 10, and 27th nationally, with 139.8 all-purpose yards.

Coach of the year: Folks asked what Oregon coach Chip Kelly would do for an encore after he led the Ducks to a Pac-10 title and the Rose Bowl his first season. Well, how about going undefeated and earning a berth in the national title game? His Ducks were the first team to go undefeated in the nine-game conference schedule. He also got a nice reward for his extraordinary success.

Biggest surprise: While more than a few folks thought Stanford would be good, and even might improve on last year's 8-5 finish, no one saw 11-1 and a No. 4 ranking coming. That's a tribute to coach Jim Harbaugh, who built a program from the ground up. While he's widely praised as an offensive innovator and outstanding motivator, Harbaugh's best move might have been hiring Vic Fangio last offseason to coordinate the defense. The improvement on that side of the ball is the reason the Cardinal became elite.

Biggest disappointment: Oregon State was ranked in the preseason and was expected to contend at the top of the conference, but the Beavers are staying home during the postseason for the first time since 2005. While a rugged schedule didn't help, and a knee injury to receiver James Rodgers on Oct. 9 was a major blow, the biggest issue was poor play on both lines. Further, the Beavers would have finished 6-6 if they had managed to not lose at home to Washington State, which ended the Cougars 16-game conference losing streak.

Game of the year: Stanford's 37-35 win over USC had just about everything. It had a pregame plot line: USC wanted revenge -- "What's your deal?" -- for Harbaugh running the score up the year before in a 55-21 Cardinal win in the Coliseum. It had two future NFL quarterbacks at the the top of the game: Luck passed for 285 yards and three TDs and Matt Barkley passed for 390 yards and three TDs. Neither threw an interception. It had Stanford's potential goats -- kicker Nate Whitaker, who missed a PAT, and running back Stepfan Taylor, whose fumble set up the Trojans' late, go-ahead TD -- find redemption on the final drive. Taylor's 21-yard run set up Whitaker's game-winning, 30-yard field goal on the final play.

Pac-10 players of the week

November, 29, 2010
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Arizona State quarterback Brock Osweiler, Stanford outside linebacker Chase Thomas and Arizona State kick returner Jamal Miles have been named Pac-10 Players of the Week.

Osweiler, a sophomore from Kalispell, Mont., came off the bench when starter Steven Threet suffered a head injury in the first quarter and completed 27 of 38 passes for 380 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions in Arizona State’s come-from-behind 55-34 win against UCLA. Osweiler also rushed six times for 35 yards, including a 15-yard TD run, and avoided being sacked.

Thomas, a junior from Marietta, Ga., recorded nine tackles, including 3.5 for loss and 2.5 sacks in the 38-0 win against Oregon State. He also forced a fumble and added a pass breakup, leading the Cardinal to its third shutout of the season. It’s the first time Stanford has had three shutouts in the same season since 1969.

Miles, a sophomore from Peoria, Ariz., returned a kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown in Arizona State’s win against UCLA. Miles became the third different Sun Devil player who has returned a kickoff for a touchdown in 2010. The three kickoff returns for touchdowns set an ASU school record -- and tied a Pac-10 record -- for the most in a single season.

Also nominated for offensive player of the week honors were quarterbacks Nick Foles of Arizona, Darron Thomas of Oregon, Andrew Luck of Stanford, Richard Brehaut of UCLA and running back Chris Polk of Washington. Also nominated on defense were safety Eddie Elder of Arizona State, linebacker Casey Matthews of Oregon, safety Tony Burnett of USC and linebacker Mason Foster of Washington. Also nominated on special teams were place kickers Nate Whitaker of Stanford, Kai Forbath of UCLA, Joe Houston of USC and punter Kiel Rasp of Washington.

Pac-10 players of the week

November, 1, 2010
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Oregon receiver Jeff Maehl, Arizona State defensive end Junior Onyeali and Arizona linebacker Jake Fischer have been named Pac-10 players of the week.

Maehl, a senior from Paradise, Calif., caught eight passes for a career-best 145 yards and three touchdowns in the Ducks' 53-32 win at USC. Each of his three touchdowns came at times Oregon was trailing and gave the Ducks the lead. Over the past three games, he’s collected 26 receptions for 371 yards. Maehl has 148 career receptions and needs 14 more to reach the top five on Oregon’s all-time list.

Onyeali, a freshman from Denver, Colo., made his third career start in the 42-0 shutout of Washington State. He collected four tackles for a loss, including a career-high three sacks. He also forced two fumbles. The Sun Devils limited Washington State to 264 yards of total offense.

Fischer, a sophomore from Oro Valley, Ariz., helped preserve a Wildcat lead with his special-teams play in the second half of Arizona’s 29-21 victory at UCLA. The Bruins, who had just cut a 12-point deficit down to five points, forced Arizona to punt from its own 27-yard line midway through the fourth quarter. The Wildcats called for a fake punt on fourth-and-3, which Fischer turned into a 29-yard gain to maintain possession and ultimately flip the field position on the Bruins. After that, UCLA started each of its final two drives from inside its own 30-yard line. The Bruins netted minus-6 yards of offense on those two possession. On the Wildcats kickoff coverage teams, he recorded two tackles in the second half. Each of Fischer’s kickoff coverage tackles kept the Bruins inside their own 30-yard line.

Also nominated for offensive player of the week honors were quarterback Matt Scott of Arizona, quarterback Steven Threet of Arizona State, running back Jacquizz Rodgers of Oregon State, quarterback Andrew Luck of Stanford and wide receiver Randall Carroll of UCLA. Also nominated on defense were defensive end Brooks Reed of Arizona, linebacker Spencer Paysinger of Oregon, linebacker Keith Pankey of Oregon State, linebacker Chase Thomas of Stanford and safety Tony Dye of UCLA. Also nominated on special teams were punter Trevor Hankins of Arizona State, linebacker Bosko Lokombo of Oregon, kicker Nate Whitaker of Stanford and punter Jeff Locke of UCLA.

Pac-10 Players of the Week

October, 11, 2010
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Oregon State quarterback Ryan Katz, California cornerback Darian Hagan and Cal punter Bryan Anger have been named Pac-10 Players of the Week.

Katz, a sophomore from Santa Monica, Calif., completed 30 of 42 passes for 393 yards -- 10th most in school history -- with two touchdowns and one interception in the Beavers 29-27 win against No. 9 Arizona. It was his first interception of the season in 148 attempts. He also rushed for a touchdown and three times scrambled for a first down. Oregon State put up 486 yards of offense against a unit that ranked second in the nation in total defense (230.75 yards per game) entering the contest.

Hagan, a senior from Los Angeles, Calif., had the first two sacks of his career against UCLA, adding an interception, a pass breakup and a team-high-tying five tackles. California's defense limited UCLA to 144 yards, including 26 yards rushing to a Bruin squad that had been averaging 262.4 yards rushing per game.

Anger, a junior from Camarillo, Calif., punted five times for 252 yards -- 50.4 yards per punt -- and placed three punts inside the 20-yard line.

Also nominated for offensive player of the week honors were quarterback Steven Threet of Arizona State, wide receiver Juron Criner of Arizona, running back Shane Vereen of California, quarterback Nate Costa of Oregon, quarterback Andrew Luck of Stanford, and wide receiver Robert Woods of USC. Also nominated on defense were safety Max Tabach of Arizona State, linebacker Casey Matthews of Oregon, linebacker Shane Skov of Stanford, and linebacker Shane Horton of USC. Also nominated for special teams were punt returner Cliff Harris of Oregon, place kicker Nate Whitaker of Stanford, and punter Jeff Locke of UCLA.

Some Pac-10 numbers to chew on

October, 5, 2010
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Some numbers that might interest you.
  • In four games last weekend, Pac-10 teams averaged 487 yards and 34.4 points per game. No conference team scored fewer than 28 points.
  • Three conference running backs rushed for more than 200 yards: Oregon's LaMichael James (257 yards vs. Stanford), USC's Allen Bradford (223 vs. Washington) and UCLA's Johnathan Franklin (216 yards vs. Washington State).
  • A conference of QBs? Four Pac-10 teams rank among the nation's top-25 in rushing: No. 2 Oregon, No. 10 UCLA, No. 15 USC and No. 24 Stanford. But only two are among the top-25 in passing: No. 9 Arizona State and No. 11 Arizona.
  • Arizona is the only conference team that ranks in the top-25 in rushing and pass defense. The Wildcats are No. 2 in the nation in total defense (230.75 yards per game). The Wildcats have not allowed a TD in three of four games. They've surrendered zero rushing TDs.
  • USC QB Matt Barkley is No. 1 in the Pac-10 and 14th in the nation in passing efficiency.
  • Three Pac-10 kickers have yet to miss a field goal attempt: Stanford's Nate Whitaker (9 for 9, long of 46 yards), Washington's Erik Folk (7 for 7, long of 54 yards) and Oregon's Rob Beard (5 for 5, long of 42 yards). The longest field goal so far this year came from Washington State's Nico Grasu, who connected from 56 yards (vs. Oklahoma State).
  • Washington LB Mason Foster leads the conference with 48 total tackles and 12 tackles per game.
  • Oregon DT Brandon Bair leads the conference with 8.5 tackles for a loss.
  • Oregon CB Cliff Harris leads the conference with four interceptions and eight pass breakups.
  • Four Pac-10 teams rank among the top-15 in the nation in turnover margin. Oregon is No. 1 (2.20), Oregon State is No. 2 (2.0), California is No. 12 (1.0) and Stanford is 15th (0.80). The Beavers are the only team in the country that hasn't turned the ball over.
  • Four Pac-10 punters rank among the top-14 in the country. Arizona State's Trevor Hankins is No. 1, UCLA's Jeff Locke is No. 10, Washington's Kiel Rasp is No. 12 and Washington State's Reid Forrest is 14th.
  • On the downside for punters, five conference punt returners also rank among the top-14 in the country: Oregon's Harris is No. 1, Oregon State's James Rodgers is No. 4, USC's Ronald Johnson is No. 6, Oregon's Kenjon Barner is No. 11 and Cal's Jeremy Ross is 14th.

Pac-10 players of the week

September, 27, 2010
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UCLA's big win over No. 7 Texas continues to earn kudos as two Bruins earned Pac-10 Player of the Week honors.

Bruins center Ryan Taylor and linebacker Sean Westgate earned offensive and defensive honors, while Stanford place kicker Nate Whitaker earned the nod for special teams.

Taylor, a senior from Denison, Texas, keyed the Bruins running attack that accounted for 264 yards against the nation's No. 1 rushing defense in the 34-12 win at Texas. UCLA’s ground game was instrumental in the Bruins eating up 35:29 on the clock, compared to 24:31 time of possession for Texas. Taylor is the first lineman to earn the Pac-10 weekly offensive honor since Oregon tackle Adam Snyder claimed the award on Sept. 20, 2003.

Westgate, a junior from Oak Park, Calif., collected a career-high and team-high 11 tackles (seven solos) and forced a fumble on a punt to set up UCLA’s first touchdown of the game. The Bruin defense limited Texas to 85 yards rushing and 264 yards passing (85 passing yards came on Texas’ final possession of the game). Westgate leads the team with 32 tackles and ranks tied for seventh in the Pac-10, averaging 8.0 per game.

Whitaker, a senior from San Diego, Calif., matched a single-game Stanford record with five field goals. He was successful on all five attempts: 24, 41, 36, 33, and 29 yards. He added two PATs to tally 17 points in the Cardinal’s 37-14 win at Notre Dame.

Also nominated for offensive player of the week honors were wide receiver Juron Criner of Arizona, and running backs Deantre Lewis of Arizona State and Shane Vereen of California, quarterback Darron Thomas of Oregon, and running backs Stepfan Taylor of Stanford and Stanley Havili of USC. Also nominated on defense were defensive tackle Justin Washington of Arizona, defensive back Chris Conte of California, linebacker Casey Matthews of Oregon, linebacker Shayne Skov of Stanford, and cornerback Nickell Robey of USC. Also nominated for special teams play were punter Trevor Hankins of Arizona State, punter Jackson Rice of Oregon, wide receiver/returner James Rodgers of Oregon State, punter Jeff Locke of UCLA and defensive end Wes Horton of USC.

Pac-10 rewind and look ahead

September, 27, 2010
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A look back as we now hit the meat of the conference race.

Team of the week: UCLA shocked the nation with a 34-12 stomping of No. 7 Texas. The Bruins, who were physically dominant on both lines of scrimmage, now seem fully recovered from an 0-2 start.

Best game: Arizona needed a late drive and defensive stand for a second weekend in a row as the Wildcats nipped California 10-9. Not a lot of 10-9 games through the years in the Pac-10, eh?

[+] EnlargeJuron Criner
AP Photo/Wily LowArizona receiver Juron Criner came through with some big catches against California.
Biggest play: The Wildcats wouldn't have won without a 51-yard completion from Nick Foles to Juron Criner, which was the centerpiece of the 77-yard, game-winning drive. Criner, who was questionable for the game with a turf toe, fought off tight coverage from Darian Hagan to make the play.

Offensive standout: The UCLA running game, which piled up 264 yards against Texas, gets the nod. Therefore, we include the offensive line, running backs Johnathan Franklin (118 yards) and Derrick Coleman (94 yards) as well as quarterback Kevin Prince (50 yards).

Defensive standout(s): UCLA linebacker Akeem Ayers led the defensive effort at Texas. He had six tackles and an interception, and his sack included a forced fumble. Oregon safety John Boyett also merits a tip of the cap. He recorded a game-high 11 tackles against Arizona State and returned an interception 39 yards for a TD.

Two-way standout: Owen Marecic, Stanford's starting fullback AND linebacker, scored on an offensive run and interception return that were just 13 seconds apart at Notre Dame.

Special teams standout: Stanford kicker Nate Whitaker tied a school record with five field goals: 24, 41, 36, 33 and 29 yards during the Cardinal's 37-14 win at Notre Dame, where Whitaker played before transferring to Stanford.

Smiley face: Oregon and Stanford both passed tough road tests and set up a top-10 matchup in Autzen Stadium on Saturday that will announce the Pac-10's early leader.

Frowny face: Poor Cal. The Bears have lost consecutive games in painful fashion. First, they were embarrassed at Nevada, a team they couldn't stop on defense. Second, they yielded a late TD vs. Arizona, failing to score a TD in a 10-9 loss. Two missed field goals from Giorgio Tavecchio would have helped the cause, too.

Thought of the week: The Pac-10 is clearly nine teams deep. Good for the conference. The question, however, is whether any team can go undefeated in a nine-game conference schedule and play its way into national title consideration. The feeling here is no. Then the question becomes: Can any team get through with only one loss? Maybe. But it will be taxing to do so.

Thought of the week II: While most national eyes will be on Stanford's visit to Oregon -- and rightly so -- Washington's visit to USC and Arizona State's trip to Oregon State should be revealing. We don't know what to make of these four teams just yet. We should get a much clearer picture of the conference pecking order by Sunday.

Quote of the week: Said UCLA safety Tony Dye to the LA Times: "The first two weeks, we didn't exist. This is our team right now. If we keep rolling like this, we're going to win the [Pac-10]."

Quote of the week II: Said Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh as he opened his press conference following a blowout win at Notre Dame, "Might be the biggest press conference I've ever been to right here."

Pac-10 helmet stickers: Week 4

September, 26, 2010
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Who deserves a sticker on his helmet for a job well done?

UCLA: While individuals played big roles -- linebacker Akeem Ayers, the offensive line, quarterback Kevin Prince, free safety Rahim Moore, running backs Johnathan Franklin and Derrick Coleman, etc. -- the Bruins shocking 34-12 domination of Texas was a total team effort and should be credited as such.

Stanley Havili: Havili, USC's fullback, had four carries for 80 yards, including a 59-yard TD in the Trojans' 50-16 win at Washington State. He also caught five passes for 107 yards -- including a 58 yarder -- with a TD.

Nate Whitaker: Playing against his old team, Notre Dame, he tied a Stanford record with five field goals: 24, 41, 36, 33 and 29 yards during the Cardinal's 37-14 win.

Juron Criner: He wasn't supposed to play due to a turf toe, but in a game devoid of offense, Criner made the two biggest plays on Arizona's 77-yard, game-winning TD drive against California. First, he hauled in a 51-yard pass from Nick Foles. Then, on third down, he caught a 3-yard TD from Foles to give the Wildcats a 10-9 win.

John Boyett: The Oregon safety had a game-high 11 tackles and an interception he returned 39 yards for a TD. He also had three pass breakups in the 42-31 win at Arizona State.

Six Pac-10 kickers on Groza watch list

August, 24, 2010
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Six Pac-10 kickers are on the 30-man Lou Groza Award watch list, including 2009 winner Kai Forbath of UCLA and 2007 winner Thomas Weber of Arizona State.

Forbath could become the second kicker to earn back-to-back awards. The only previous Groza winner to repeat is current Oakland Raiders kicker Sebastian Janikowski, who received the honor in 1998 and 1999, while playing for Florida State.

You can view the complete watch list here.

In addition to Forbath and Weber, the Pac-10 kickers on the list are:

Erik Folk, Washington
Justin Kahut, Oregon State
Nate Whitaker, Stanford
Alex Zendejas, Arizona

Preseason position reviews: kicker

July, 30, 2010
7/30/10
10:36
AM ET
A good kicker solves a lot of problems. An inconsistent one makes everyone anxious, particularly late in tight games.

The Pac-10 will feature two of the best kickers in the nation -- two Lou Groza Award winners, no less -- in 2010, but for a handful of schools, the position is questionable.

So, who stands where?

Great shape
  • UCLA: Kai Forbath is the best kicker in the country. The first-team All-American and 2009 Groza Award winner is practically automatic, even outside 50 yards.
  • Arizona State: Thomas Weber suffered through a lost 2009 season because of injuries, but when healthy the 2007 Groza Award winner is a potential All-American.
  • Oregon State: Justin Kahut earned second-team All-Pac-10 honors in 2009 after converting 22 of 27 field goals with a long of 50 yards.
  • Washington: Erik Folk bounced back from two injury-plagued years to connect on 18 of 21 field goals in 2009.
Good shape
  • Stanford: Nate Whitaker made 16 of 22 field goals last year, which is solid, but his 54-yarder against Wake Forest was the longest in the conference last season.
  • Arizona: As a sophomore, Alex Zendejas was true on 17 of 22 field goals with a long of 47 yards.
We'll see
  • California: Cal used two kickers last season -- Giorgio Tavecchio and Vincenzo D'Amato -- but neither was consistent.
  • Washington State: Nico Grasu was solid in 2008 -- booting the game-winner in the "Crapple" Cup against Washington -- but he faded in 2009, missing the final four games with a thigh injury.
  • Oregon: The Ducks are replacing the reliable Morgan Flint. Rob Beard and incoming freshman Alejandro Maldonado are the top candidates for the spot.
  • USC: Unproven seniors Joe Houston and Jacob Harfman are competing to replace Jordan Congdon, the seventh-best kicker in the conference in 2009.

Arizona State's Nixon leads the smart guys

December, 2, 2009
12/02/09
8:56
PM ET
Let us remember as the season winds down that the teams we follow with such passion are made up of college students.

So, we present this year's Pac-10 All-Academic team, which is topped by three-time first-team selection Mike Nixon, the fine linebacker -- and former professional baseball player -- from Arizona State.

Last week, Nixon also was named a first-team ESPN The Magazine Academic All-American. In addition to Nixon, nine other players were named to the Pac-10 academic team for the second time.

You also will notice that Stanford's Toby Gerhart, a top Heisman Trophy candidate, is a first-team member. Gerhart boasts a 3.25 GPA in management science & engineering, which sounds hard to me.

For those keeping score -- you always do -- Stanford has the most first-team members with eight. Washington State has five and Oregon State four. California has three, Oregon has two and Arizona State, UCLA and Washington have one apiece.

Neither Arizona nor USC had a first-team member.

To be eligible for selection, a student-athlete must have a minimum 3.0 overall grade-point average and be either a starter or significant substitute.

To see the second-team and honorable mentions, click here.

FIRST TEAM

Pos. Name, School Yr. GPA Major

  • QB Andrew Luck, Stanford RFr. 3.55 Undeclared
  • RB Josh Catron, Stanford Sr. 3.48 Economics
  • RB Toby Gerhart, Stanford Sr. 3.25 Management Science & Engineering
  • WR Casey Kjos, Oregon State (2) Jr. 3.63 Psychology & Sociology
  • WR Alex Lagemann, California Jr. 3.68 Media Studies
  • TE David Paulson, Oregon So. 3.68 Business Administration
  • OL Mark Boskovich, California (2) Jr. 3.73 Political Science
  • OL Micah Hannam, Washington State (2)Jr. 3.59 Civil Engineering
  • OL Andrew Phillips, Stanford Jr. 3.53 Classics
  • OL Chris Prummer, Washington State Jr. 3.88 Zoology
  • OL Carson York, Oregon RFr. 3.70 Journalism
  • DL Kevin Frahm, Oregon State So. 3.24 Political Science
  • DL Kevin Kooyman, Washington State Sr. 3.16 Management & Operations
  • DL Erik Lorig, Stanford Sr. 3.12 Public Policy
  • DL Tom McAndrew, Stanford (2) Sr. 3.58 Science, Technology & Society
  • LB Mike Mohamed, California (2) Jr. 3.43 Business Administration
  • LB Mike Nixon, Arizona State (3) Sr. 4.07 Political Science
  • LB Will Powers, Stanford (2) Sr. 3.48 Classics
  • DB Victor Aiyewa, Washington (2) Jr. 3.36 Sociology
  • DB Cameron Collins, Oregon State (2) So. 3.37 Business
  • DB Jay Matthews, Washington State RFr. 3.68 Undeclared
  • DB Chima Nwachukwu, Washington State (2)Jr. 3.79 Political Science
  • PK Nate Whitaker, Stanford Jr. 3.38 Engineering
  • P Jeff Locke, UCLA RFr. 3.69 Undeclared
  • RS Taylor Kavanaugh, Oregon State Sr. 3.28 Construction Engineering
(2) Two-time first-team All-Academic selection

(3) Three-time first-team All-Academic selection

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