Pac-12: Nick Reed
But ESPN.com's Bruce Feldman, who is always working the angles, decided to take a look at NFL stars with so-so college careers, and his list also includes some Pac-12 guys: USC linebacker Clay Matthews, Oregon State wide receiver Chad Ochocinco and California cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha.
He ranks Matthews No. 2. Notes Feldman:
No NFL player has better bloodlines than Matthews, but when he was coming up as a recruit he was a wiry, undersized, off-the-radar prospect who reportedly only weighed 166 pounds as a backup LB-TE for Agoura (Calif.) High. Matthews stared to sprout in his senior year, yet still only had one scholarship offer -- from former USC assistant Nick Holt at Idaho.
Sure, Matthews blossomed as a junior and senior. But he never really was seen as the brightest star in the constellation that was the Trojans' 2008 defense.
Still, Oregon's Nick Reed and Oregon State's Victor Butler were the first-team All-Pac-10 defensive ends. Matthews proceeded to wow scouts with his explosiveness and determination. Green Bay drafted the one-time walk-on 26th overall, and he has rewarded them with two spectacular seasons, going to back-to-back Pro Bowls and winning NFC Defensive Player of the Year honors, while helping lead Green Bay to a Super Bowl victory.
Ochocinco rates No. 4.
The Miami native didn't spend much time in the Pac-10 -- just one season at Oregon State. The receiver, then known as Chad Johnson, did flash some big-play potential during his time in Corvallis, catching 33 passes for 713 yards. He also flashed a lot of personality on his way to the draft, as you can tell if you read this old Q&A he did with Mel Kiper Jr., who at one point asks: "When all is said and done, how do you want people to remember Chad Johnson?"
Johnson's response: "As a very humble, nice person who had no off-the-field problems."
I'm not sure how many will recall the Cincinnati Bengals star as "humble," but he certainly has produced, notching seven 1,000-yard receiving seasons and going to six Pro Bowls. In truth, he'd be even higher on this list, but at 33, he has dipped some in the last three years.
Asomugha is No. 5.
Oakland certainly didn't whiff on this pick. Asomugha has emerged as a true shutdown corner, earning trips to the past three Pro Bowls. He's also as good as they come off the field, winning NFL Man of the Year honors, too.
He had a good but not great career for the Bears, getting chosen as an honorable mention All-Pac-10 pick as a senior. Some great individual workouts took a guy who some touted as a fifth-rounder all the way up into the first round when the Raiders selected him 31st overall.
On a personal note, I covered Asomugha's coming-out game: a 34-27 Cal win at Washington in 2002, which ended a 19-game Huskies winning streak in the series. In that game, Cal matched Asomugha, previously a safety, on All-American receiver Reggie Williams. Asomugha's physical style -- read here to see what Williams thought of it -- threw the Huskies' passing game out of sync.
Bet more than a few Cal fans remember that game fondly.
No. 13. Kenny Rowe, DE, Oregon
2009 numbers: The 6-foot-3, 231-pound senior led the Pac-10 with 11.5 sacks in 2009. He also had 43 tackles, 15 tackles for a loss, two QB hurries, four pass breakups, three forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.
Most recent ranking: Rowe was ranked 28th in our final Pac-10 top 30 list last year.
Making the case for Rowe: What is it with Oregon and undersized ends who opponents can't keep off their quarterback? First there was Nick Reed and now there's Rowe, who announced himself as a national figure when he tied a Rose Bowl record with three sacks. Rowe is quick and tenacious, which often causes problems for lumbering offensive tackles. He also has the speed to drop into coverage, though most would prefer to see him rushing off the edge. The goal this year is to become a more complete player. That means being more consistent in run support.
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
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
If Oregon's defensive coordinator had a reality show, it would be called, "Nick Aliotti: It's Complicated."
Some Ducks fans look at Aliotti's defense and only see a unit that surrendered 28 points and 390 yards per game, both measures ranking in the bottom half of the Pac-10.
|Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images|
|T.J. Ward needs to become more "cerebral" if he's to take the next step, according to Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti.|
"If we only could match a dominant defense with our already dominant offense!" the thinking goes. "Then we'd be USC, only with more colorful and creative uniforms!"
But it's not that simple.
The Ducks offense operates faster than any other. It rolled up 485 yards and 42 points a game in 2008, despite playing against five defenses ranked in the top 26 in the nation and using five different quarterbacks.
But it ranked last in the nation in time of possession: 25:11 per game.
That means Duck defenders often were only halfway through a sideline orange slice before they were called back to the field.
Only one team faced more plays on defense last season than Oregon: Missouri, which also seeks a ludicrous pace on offense.
And here's an interesting factoid: The Ducks yielded just 4.90 yards per play.
That's a better number than Virginia Tech, which ranked seventh in the nation in total defense, Georgia (22nd), Oregon State (23) and Arizona (24), among others.
Oh, and Oregon also ranked No. 1 in the Pac-10 with 40 sacks and No. 2 with 31 forced turnovers.
Still, many Ducks fans never got past "a unit that surrendered 28 points and 390 yards per game."
"Complicated" sometimes doesn't wash with football fans.
So it seemed reasonable to stop by for a chat with the affable Aliotti, who's replacing six starters from last year's unit.
Nick Aliotti: Had an excellent summer! Did a lot of fun things. Played a lot of golf. I finally got my handicap down to a reasonable amount but you know how that goes -- I won't swing again until June or July.
So after one spring and offseason, what's the biggest difference for you working under Chip Kelly as opposed to Mike Bellotti?
NA: It's always tough when you compare somebody because one guy could get offended by what you say sometimes. But, not being too political, I think the biggest difference is we play in hyperspeed now and we practice in hyperspeed. Chip, having not been a head coach before, is more into coaching football -- doing X's and O's -- and not that CEO-type job yet. And that's not a knock on Mike. I'm just explaining my answer. So practicing at hyperspeed and Chip being a football junkie jump out to me.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
Oregon's All-Pac-10 defensive end Nick Reed tops the three-man list of football players among the 39 Pac-10 athletes who were honored with postgraduate scholarships for 2008-09.
The other two were Washington long-snapper Robert Lukevich and Arizona State linebacker Anthony Reyes.
These $3,000 awards go to athletes who have a minimum GPA of 3.0 and have also demonstrated a commitment to continuing education, campus and community involvement, and leadership, according to the conference office. Since the program began in 1999, the Pac-10 has awarded over $1 million for postgraduate study.
The scholarship winners become candidates for the Oroweat "Healthy Minds" Scholarship. The "Healthy Minds" scholarship provides $10,000 each to one male and one female student-athlete for postgraduate study. The winners are selected by a Pac-10 committee which includes institutional administrators and a student-athlete member of the Pac-10 Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. The scholarship winners will be announced in August.
For more information, go here.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
Fifth in a series of Pac-10 thoughts that might come from unusual angles.
Don't be surprised if ... Oregon's defense is better in 2009, despite welcoming back only five starters.
If you are surrounded by Oregon fans who are bothering you, pretend you see somebody behind them and then yell, "Hey, is that Nick Aliotti?"
Then step back and watch the impassioned discussion over the Ducks' defensive coordinator.
Heck, the debate over the Ducks' defense in 2008 -- the subtle quality or abject underachievement -- even extended into the Web pages of The Oregonian, where Paul Buker (Oregon State beat writer) made fun of Oregon beat writer John Hunt's completely reasonable defense of the Ducks, er, defense.
It was a hoot, as Buker's posts from the "dark, rainy, bullet-riddled southeast [Portland]" usually are.
Some surely have imagined offensive-minded Mike Bellotti's internal but never uttered answer to questions about his defense over the years as, "Defense? We don't need no ... stinkin' defense!"
Bellotti, when asked, always said he cared most about points-allowed, not yards, which justified Aliotti's bend-but-don't-break scheme.
Points you say? Well, the defense gave up 28 of 'em per game last year, which ranked seventh in the Pac-10 and muted the factoid that the Ducks only surrendered 4.9 yards per play, which ranked fourth in the conference.
And now the Ducks head into a 2009 season, one filled with high expectations, with a defense that not only lost six starters, but it lost five starters presently on NFL rosters, four of whom were drafted and two of whom were early second-round picks.
So why the belief the Ducks' D will improve despite the turnover?
To be honest, it takes root in this: Chip Kelly said so.
Another big reason goes back to Hunt's story: The Ducks' no-huddle offense works about as fast as an offense can work. It ranked last -- 119th! -- in the nation in time of possession last year.
(Pause for a moment and consider the quick-strike efficiency of Kelly's offense, which averaged 42 points and 485 yards per game).
But in 2008 Kelly wasn't responsible for the defense. Now he is.
The Ducks' coaches in the past have discussed tempo. Kelly loves controlling it. And here's a guess that Kelly will be more willing to mix-and-match his approach and even slow things down. Not to the detriment of his offense, mind you, but as an added way to keep opposing defenses guessing. And, of course, to help his D rest.
It also should help that most of the best offenses Oregon will face -- Utah, California, USC and Oregon State -- will be visiting Autzen Stadium.
Moreover, the new personnel, particularly on the D-line, looked good this spring. And there are plenty of quality, experienced players to hold things together.
Cornerback Walter Thurmond III is healthy, which means he's an All-American candidate. T.J. Ward will become a star when he learns that there's more to playing safety than blow-up hits. End Will Tukuafu, stepping out of the shadow of Nick Reed, could play his way into the first day of the NFL draft. The linebacking unit is faster and deeper than it has been in years.
Of course, we won't have to wait long for an early statement: Oregon opens on Sept. 3 at Boise State, which hung 37 points and 386 passing yards on the Ducks a year ago.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
Have you seen Junior's grades?
- The NCAA investigation into USC's athletic department is building a case for lack of institutional control, according to this report.
- Fox Sports Arizona pays tribute to former Arizona State coach Bruce Snyder, who died on April 13.
- Jonathan Okanes continues his thorough review of California's spring practices with the Bears' secondary, which should be among the nation's best.
- Checking in with former Oregon star Max Unger in Seattle, and even more here on former Duck Nick Reed. Links courtesy of Addicted to Quack.
- It's too early to judge new UCLA defensive coordinator Chuck Bullough -- obviously -- but it appears he's bringing more intensity to the Bruins.
- Former Washington and Oregon quarterback Johnny DuRocher is trying to make a comeback.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
[Note this is a corrected post... apologies for not factoring in the underrated Big East].
The Big East nipped the Pac-10 for the lead among conferences in the 2009 NFL draft.
The eight-team Big East supplied 27 total players in the draft, or 3.4 players per team. The Pac-10 supplied 32 selections (3.2 players per team). The 12-team SEC was third with 37 selections overall, or 3.1 per team. The 12-team ACC was third with 33 (2.8 per team).
Last year, the Pac-10's led with 3.4 per team vs. 2.92 per team for the SEC and ACC (2.75).
USC led the way with 11 players selected, including three in the first round, though many are shaking their heads of linebacker Rey Maualuga's tumble into the second round. Every draft-eligible Trojan who started last season was picked.
Oregon State was second with seven players selected and Oregon was third with six. Arizona State, with a pair of seventh-round selections, maintained a 45-year streak with at least one player drafted.
Not all the news was good: Stanford, UCLA and Washington each had no players selected.
Here's the complete list
Patrick Chung, S, New England, second
Jairus Byrd, CB, Buffalo, second
Max Unger, C, Seattle, second
Fenuki Tupou, OT, Philadelphia, fifth
Ra'Shon Harris, DT, Pittsburgh, sixth
Nick Reed, DE, Seattle, seventh
Andy Levitre, OG, Buffalo, second
Keenan Lewis, CB, Pittsburgh, third
Victor Butler, OLB, Dallas, fourth
Slade Norris, OLB, Oakland, fourth
Brandon Hughes, CB, San Diego, fifth
Al Afalava, S, Chicago, sixth
Sammie Stroughter, WR, Tampa Bay, seventh
Mark Sanchez, QB, New York Jets, first (No. 5)
Brian Cushing, OLB, Houston, first (No. 15)
Clay Matthews, OLB, Green Bay, first (No. 26)
Rey Maualuga, LB, Cincinnati, second
Fili Moala, DT, Indianapolis, second
Patrick Turner, WR, Miami, third
Kaluka Maiava, LB, Cleveland, fourth
Kyle Moore, DE, Tampa Bay, fourth
David Buehler, PK, Dallas, fifth
Cary Harris, CB, Buffalo, sixth
Kevin Ellison, S, San Diego, sixth
Brandon Gibson, WR, Philadelphia, sixth
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
The National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame (NFF) has announced the members of the 2009 NFF Hampshire Honor Society, which is composed of college football players from all divisions who maintained a 3.2 GPA or better. A total of 564 players from 266 schools qualified for membership, including 11 from the Pac-10.
Previously, California's Alex Mack, a potential first-round pick in this weekend's NFL draft, won the 2008 NFF Draddy Trophy, often called the academic Heisman.
See a complete list of winners here.
The Pac-10 honorees are:
Jason Bondzio, Arizona
Anthony Reyes, Arizona State
Alex Mack, California
Zach Smith, California
Will Ta'ufo'ou, California
Nick Reed, Oregon
Andrew Levitre, Oregon State
Logan Paulsen, UCLA
Jeff Byers, USC
Vaughn Lesuma, Washington State
Matt Mullennix, Washington State
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
Will Tukuafu, DE, Oregon: Hey, look -- new Oregon coach Chip Kelly and the Pac-10 blog agree: Tukuafu is a bad man. Said Kelly: Tukuafu is "as good as any D-lineman in this conference." Tukuafu didn't make the All-Pac-10 team in 2008 in large part because he played in the shadow of All-American end Nick Reed, but Tukuafu, who will be starting his third consecutive season in 2009 after transferring from junior college, figures to find the spotlight this fall. The 6-foot-4, 272-pounder is strong against both the run and pass -- he actually led all Ducks defensive linemen with 59 tackles in 2008. He also recorded 7.5 sacks and ranked fifth in the conference with 17.5 tackles for loss.
19. Josh Pinkard, DB, USC
20. Reggie Carter, LB, UCLA:
21. Stafon Johnson, RB, USC
22. James Rodgers, WR, Oregon State
23. Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, DE, Washington:
24. Lawrence Guy, DT, Arizona State; Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State
25. Toby Gerhart, RB, Stanford
26. Tyson Alualu, DE, California
27. Devin Ross, CB, Arizona
28. Keaton Kristick, LB, Oregon State
29. Brooks Reed, DE, Arizona
30. Everson Griffen, DE, USC
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
Friday! Friday! Friday!
- California starts spring practices Saturday, and it's time for quarterback Kevin Riley to make a statement. Here's a preview of the running backs -- with Jahvid Best sitting out and Shane Vereen limited, it's opportunity time for youngsters.
- Adam Grant is finally healthy and ready to help rebuild Arizona's offensive line, but some other guys are hurting.
- It looks like the NFL made a mistake snubbing former Oregon All-American defensive end Nick Reed at the combine. Lots of good Ducks pro day numbers at the link, too.
- Oregon State gets ready for its pro day and spring practices... some injury updates too.
- As expected, two UCLA starters received medical redshirts and will be eligible as fifth-year seniors in 2009.
- USC's official spring football media guide. And you too could be a Trojan.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
The Pac-10 spring position reviews conclude with the defensive ends, the guys who get after the quarterback. Or are supposed to.
Even with four of the top five conference leaders in sacks gone, this is a fairly solid position across the board. The only team that raises a rebuilding red flag is Oregon State, which lost twin sackmasters Victor Butler and Slade Norris.
Of course, Washington and Washington State both produced only 16 sacks in 2008, tied for worst in the conference and among the fewest in the nation.
- California: Cal welcomes back underrated end Tyson Alualu, second-team All-Pac-10 in 2008, and rising star Cameron Jordan, a junior. They combined for 22 tackles for loss last year in the Bears' 3-4 defense. There's also solid, young depth behind them in sophomore Trevor Guyton and junior Keith Browner.
- Arizona: Juniors Brooks Reed and Ricky Elmore combined for 15 sacks last year and both backups, D'Aundre Reed -- who started four games and had 2.5 sacks in 2008 -- and Apaiata Tuihalamaka are back.
- Arizona State: Dexter Davis had 11 sacks and 15 tackles for loss last season. James Brooks, Jamaar Jarrett, Jamarr Robinson and 25-year-old newcomer Dean DeLeone will battle it out to replace Luis Vasquez and provide depth.
- Stanford: Tom Keiser had six sacks last year and earned freshman All-American honors while Erik Lorig has started 20 career games. Tom McAndrew provides experienced depth.
- UCLA: Senior Korey Bosworth had 7.5 sacks and 11 tackles for loss in 2008, while junior Reginald Stokes started five of the final seven games last year. He will be challenged by sophomore Datone Jones.
- Oregon: Sackmaster Nick Reed is gone, but that at least means Will Tukuafu might finally get some credit. He had 7.5 sacks and 17.5 tackles for loss last year. Competition will be hot to replace Reed, with juniors Brandon Bair, Zac Clark and Kenny Rowe in the running.
- USC: Sure, both Kyle Moore and Clay Matthews are gone, but how many teams in the nation do you think would trade defensive ends with the Trojans? Everson Griffen, who had 4.5 sacks last year, is a true talent as a pass rusher, but he needs to be more consistent. Sophomore Malik Jackson and freshmen Wes Horton and Nick Perry each have huge upside.
- Washington: The Huskies sneak in here mostly because of second-team All-Pac-10 end Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, a high-motor senior who had eight of the team's 16 sacks in 2008. Senior Darrion Jones returns at the other end and youngsters like Kalani Aldrich and Everrette Thompson showed flashes of promise.
- Oregon State: The Beavers also had to replace both starting defensive ends last season, but this year the backups don't arrive with 19.5 sacks split between them like Victor Butler and Slade Norris did. Sophomore Kevin Frahm and senior Ben Terry split two sacks between themselves in 2008.
- Washington State: Matt Mullennix is gone, but Kevin Kooyman is back as is Andy Mattingly, but he might end up as an outside linebacker. But, really, the Cougars only had 16 sacks last year (in 13 games). Youngsters and newcomers will need to step up.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
Just like the Pac-10 coaches, you've got questions heading into spring.
Eric from Pullman writes: Some more information about the [Washington State quarterback Marshall Lobbestael] alcohol incident has been brought forward and it appears that the initial reports from [The Daily Evergreen] were not correct. Cougfan.com has some updated info on the incident (although I'm sure you have probably figured that out by now. I figured i would send it to you since I'm sure multiple Cougs have already emailed you calling you an idiot for posting misleading information, but it wasn't your fault and I just wanted to say thanks for doing a great job covering the Pac-10 this season!)
Ted Miller: Eric thanks for the link. And the compliment is even better.
My inclination was to avoid this question. But we may be able to learn something about "news events" that could be valuable.
First, the second story corrected the other in one significant way, revealing that that Lobbestael, 19, was arrested for "minor exhibiting the signs of having consumed alcohol" instead of "minor in possession of alcohol."
Sounds like splitting hairs, but it's about being correct.
Other than that, however, no set of "facts" was established with a firmer foundation.
Clearly, we two versions of an event: 1. The Pullman police; 2. One that could be termed coming from Lobbestael's camp.
The Daily Evergreen story included this:
Pullman Police Cmdr. Chris Tennant said the police found Lobbestael passed out in a Dodge pickup parked in front of the Pullman Police Department.
"He was slumped over with a grocery bag of vomit between his feet,” Tennant said.
The rebuttal story said Lobbestael was not passed out and added this:
A different news report later quoted a Pullman police officer saying Lobbestael was "slumped over with a grocery bag of vomit between his feet." CF.C has since learned it was instead a car trash bag, similar to what someone might put on a stick shift that contained some McDonald's wrappers and other garbage, but no "vomit."
The second story cites "reliable independent sources," who appear to be saying Cmdr. Tennant isn't telling the truth.
What really happened?
We don't know.
In general, it doesn't seem that hard to fill in some blanks here, but we're going to stay away from speculating.
Getting caught drinking when you are underage has consequences. Getting caught drinking when you are underage and you play for a BCS conference football team means those consequences include news stories.
Is underage drinking the worst crime known to man? No.
I talked to Lobbestael just a few weeks ago. Seemed like a great kid. I've only heard good things about him, too. You might even read into this arrest story that he ended up getting in trouble because he was trying to help the girl in question, who I've been told is his out-of-town girlfriend.
When I finish typing this, I really won't think any less of him. My guess is you won't either. And he'll probably still start at quarterback for the Cougars in 2009.
Ryan from Atherton, Calif., writes: I just read your article about "big shoes to fill". I was surprised that you did not mention the three pairs of linebacker shoes that need to be filled in Berkeley. How do you think Cal's young and inexperienced linebackers will perform this season? Also, any ideas on who the starting linebackers will be besides Mohamed?
Ted Miller: It might sound silly, Ryan, but I just said to myself, "Bigger shoes? Center Alex Mack or those three LBs?"
Mack, at 6-foot-5, 320 pounds, seemed like he had bigger shoes.
But, seriously, it seems to me that replacing a center as good and as smart as Mack with a player who's seen little to no time at the position will be a bigger challenge than promoting three linebackers, particularly when the potential replacements saw action last season.
Talked to coach Jeff Tedford today for a Q&A that runs Wednesday. Not to bite off my own feature, here's what he said when I asked him about the LBs.
We have some guys, thankfully, who got a lot of playing time last year. Those guys who left us are big-time players, who were very productive for us, especially when we went to a 3-4. But Eddie Young started at an outside linebacker last year. Devin Bishop moves inside and he's a guy who's ready to step up. Mike Mohamed played a lot for us last year. Mychal Kendricks, who was a true freshman, played a lot. We feel pretty good about those guys. And giving us a little bit of depth there are some of our junior college guys, Ryan Davis and Jarred Price and Jerome Meadows are three JC linebackers coming in to give us a little bit of depth, too.
And a guy I forgot to mention is D.J. Holt. He's inside and he played quite a bit last year as well. We're not starting from scratch. These guys have been on the field and have a lot of ability.
So my guess is Mohamed and Young can be penciled into two spots, with Bishop, Kendricks and Holt and the JC guys competing for the other two voids.
Honestly, I think Cal will be fine at LB.
Aaron from Ocala, Fla., writes: What is the big deal about Mike Thomas running a faster 40 time than Percy Harvin? ... Also, Harvin's main attribute was never his straight line speed anyway. Anyone who paid attention to Florida knows that RBs Will Demps and Chris Rainey are faster than Harvin, and that WR Louis Murphy is only a hair behind Harvin (as the combine proved). What makes Harvin such an effective football player is his quickness, explosiveness, and change of direction.
Ted Miller: Aaron wrote a lot more about Harvin, but you get his point.
The big deal to me was that, until the combine times were published, it would never have occurred to me that Thomas was faster -- any which way -- than Harvin.
Did any of you think Thomas would run a better 40 than Harvin?
Harvin is a wonderful, thrilling player and will be picked well before Thomas. And rightfully so.
But I'm a Thomas fan -- both as a player and person. I think he's going to help a team smart enough to take him off the board on the first day of the draft.
Mitch from San Jose writes: Ted, I think I would enjoy your perspective on guys like Nick Reed at Oregon who were outstanding college performers (even on a national level), but don't even get an invitation to the NFL Combine. How do these guys cope? What must that be like for them? And what are their options?
Ted Miller: I could answer this, but I'm going to do you a favor and turn you over to the best NFL writer in the nation (who doesn't work for ESPN.com, that is).
Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News talked to Reed
about not getting invited to the combine and explains why the NFL went that direction.
It will be interesting to see what happens with Reed. I have to admit every time I interviewed him I thought, "How does this guy do it?" Defensive ends are supposed to look like Jevon Kearse or Julius Peppers.
Reed ain't much to look at. But production is production and he's gotten past a lot of offensive linemen in his career who are now playing in the NFL.
Joseph from Everett, Wash., writes: With Sark bringing in a new, pro-style offensive system, do you think Jake Locker's skills will be under utilized because he will no longer do what he does best (run) or do you think Sark will instill some running plays for Jake to continue to use his athleticism on the ground? P.S. You said it will take Huskies @ least 3 years to get back to .500? You are scaring me, Sir!
Ted Miller: Without question, the best offense for Washington in 2009 with Jake Locker would be a spread-option that features lots of Jake Locker right and Jake Locker left with a mix of Jake Locker up the middle.
He knows that offense. He's good at it. It works with the Huskies personnel.
And Jake Locker is a baaaaad man with the ball in his hands.
That said, it will be better for Locker's NFL prospects and, in my opinion, the Huskies program in the long run, to adopt more of a pro-style offense.
Sarkisian can help Locker prove he can play QB in the NFL. And, along the way, a message will be sent to all the golden-armed prep passers on the West Coast that they don't have to fret about the proliferation of the spread-option scheme.
And I promise Locker will run plenty next year, even from pro sets.
As for three years to .500... I thought I typed -- during a ESPN.com chat -- that the Huskies would get there within three years.
My guess is there's a real shot for .500 by Locker's senior season in 2010.
Robert from Seattle writes: Simple question Ted - is it good for USC to be so dominant in the pac ten?
Ted Miller: Not if you're UCLA.
Or Arizona. Or Arizona State, California, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, Washington or Washington State.
But if you're USC, it's great.
If you're asking if it might benefit the conference to have another team win the conference and play for a national title, I'd say absolutely without a doubt.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
One of the charms of college football is the mostly predictable roster rotation. Young guys break through, become stars and then leave after their third, fourth or fifth year. Then a new cast tries to fill the void.
While there are numerous size 36 EEE shoes to fill -- figuratively speaking, of course -- in the Pac-10 this spring, we'll focus on five here.
|Jeff Golden/Getty Images|
|It's going to be tough for the Trojans to replace Rey Maualuga.|
And because quarterback competitions across the conference are so obvious, we're going to make this a "non-quarterback" category.
Also note that spring is a time for the experimentation. Coaches love to mix-and-match players, so there might be some surprises we didn't anticipate.
Big shoes: USC LB Rey Maualuga
Stepping in: Sophomore Chris Galippo
- Out goes everybody's All-American Maualuga, in goes everybody's 2006 prep All-American Galippo, a sure tackler who packs a punch at 255 pounds. He had 12 tackles, two coming for a loss, and an interception last season. He saw action as a true freshman before suffering a herniated disk in his back, an injury that also limited him last season. He seemed healthy the second half of the season, but back injuries are tricky. That might be the biggest issue standing between Galippo and future stardom.
Big shoes: California C Alex Mack
Stepping in: Junior Richard Fisher or junior Chris Guarnero
- Fisher is a former walk-on and a vegetarian. For real. He was listed as the backup behind Mack last season. Guarnero started the first three games at left guard before suffering a season-ending toe injury. He is expected back for spring ball. With a new offensive line coach, Steve Marshall, and lots of returning starting experience -- seven players have started at least one game -- there might be lots of experimenting up front this spring.
Big shoes: Oregon DE Nick Reed
Stepping in: Junior Brandon Bair, junior Kenny Rowe, JC transfer Zac Clark
- Reed had 20 tackles for a loss and 13 sacks last year (29.5 for his career). His potential replacements had no sacks last season. Some Oregon fans took issue with my suggesting in our "What to watch this spring," that Bair was the frontrunner to replace Reed. I wrote that because Rowe was listed at 215 pounds on last year's depth chart and was almost exclusively a pass-rush specialist. Meanwhile, Clark is an unknown quantity as an incoming JC transfer. On the other hand, Bair is more in the mold of returning big end Will Tukuafu, so perhaps Rowe, who's listed at 230 pounds on the updated roster, and Clark will battle it out. Guessing this one is wide open, to be honest.
Big shoes: Arizona State FS Troy Nolan
Stepping in: Sophomore Clint Floyd leads a pack of possibilities
- Nolan had 64 tackles and four interceptions playing center field for the Sun Devils' defense, and he'll be the toughest guy to replace for a unit that should be fairly salty next fall. Floyd will get first crack, but junior Max Tabach, redshirt freshman Keelan Johnson and senior Jarrell Holman could make a move.
- Stroughter was the Pac-10's only 1,000-yard receiver last year. Morales added 743 yards, while this duo combined for 15 of the Beavers 25 touchdown receptions. Catchings caught only seven passes but was No. 2 on the depth chart. Bishop was impressive while redshirting, particularly during Sun Bowl practices. And slot receiver James Rodgers figures to see more balls downfield this fall after mostly being a fly-sweep specialist the past two seasons.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
Excited about using my new letter opener.
Mitch from Alameda, Calif., writes: After reviewing the invitee list for the NFL combine, I noticed one name from the Ducks that wasn't included: Nick Reed. I saw the posting on the Duck Feed regarding the "snub," but I was wondering what your take is. 13 solo sacks and 20 tackles for loss in 2008 should speak for something, right?
Ted Miller: Got a lot of notes about Reed's omission.
One word: Measurables.
Reed is undersized (he's generously listed at 6-foot-2, 255 pounds). And, well, slow -- at least for a player his size trying to make the NFL as a front-seven guy.
Reed is mostly projected to go undrafted, but perhaps someone will take a late-round flier on him.
All it takes is one coach who values production and a high-grade motor.
And Reed could still get an combine invitation -- a handful of guys get late calls every year. If not, then Reed needs to be impressive during the Ducks' pro days on March 12 and 19.
Michael from Los Angeles writes: As of February 2, 2009, there are 2 Pac-10 teams in the top 25 of the recruit rankings (according to ESPN)- USC and Stanford. Okay, I know USC is USC, but Stanford went 4-8 and 5-7 the last 2 years. Even though Stanford is a great academic school, so are UCLA, Cal, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, etc. Why or how are these schools not bringing in top talent when each year they outperform many other schools listed in the top 25 recruiting classes?
Ted Miller: As for Stanford, coach Jim Harbaugh is clearly a good recruiter. But I'll also say -- again -- that a savvy coach should always be able to get a top-25 class at Stanford. It's a unique opportunity to combine Ivy League academics and BCS football, and a surprising number off young men want just that.
As for the rest, my guess is that at least one or two other Pac-10 teams will end up in the top 25. California, UCLA and Arizona State are still in on some big names who could give them a late boost.
That said: My perception is this was a down year on the West Coast for recruiting, particularly in the Northwest. If the prospects aren't there, then the rankings will suffer.
Kenji from Parts Unknown writes: Do you ever wonder WHAT some of these recruits are thinking when they make their decisions? Does [Adam] Hall "think" about who will be throwing to him when he commits to Arizona? How does he not consider his QB, say like Barkley at USC being a better option to be thrown to? I believe recruits all too often think only one level deep, "can I start right away?"
Ted Miller: First, Hall wants to play safety for Arizona. Second, he apparently wants to play near his hometown of Tucson. Third, some guys would rather be a big fish in a smaller pond. Fourth, Hall can get to the NFL just as easily as a Wildcat as a Trojan. All he needs to do is dominate football games.
And let's give credit to coach Mike Stoops and his staff for keeping the hometown kid home. There was a lot of pressure to get Hall, and Stoops came through.
Jess from North Bend, Ore., writes: Why do so many highly touted players decide to play for USC instead of going to a team where they have a better chance of getting playing time? For instance, USC has tons of high school stars who don't get to play until they are juniors or seniors if at all. It happens every year and yet they still go there. Explain.
Ted Miller: First, word is Pete Carroll is pretty hard to turn down. Second, highly competitive, elite prospects often aren't afraid of competing for playing time at USC. They think they are the best and the other guys are the poor souls headed for the bench.
Third, Southern California. Sunshine. Los Angeles. Bright lights. Big City. Lots of things to look at.
Fourth, USC is USC. It's got incredible tradition and under Carroll it's become the nation's premier college football program.
Ian from Parts Unknown writes: Great recruiting moment stories. By the way whatever happened to [Kevin] Hart? Did he go to a college for football??
Ted Miller: Glad you asked, Ian. Kevin Hart is trying to put his embarrassing moment behind him.
Great "Outside the Lines" piece here from Tom Friend. Watch and muster some sympathy for the guy we all laughed at. Good luck to him.
Jordan from Phoenix writes: Ted, I'm a fan of Darron Thomas, so Tahj Boyd passing up Oregon wasn't a huge disappointment. But the whole "spread QBs don't work in the NFL" thing seems...I don't know...off. I mean, there are four former Oregon QBs in the NFL right now. Granted, none are all that spectacular, but they're there. But Boyd picked Clemson, who's produced...Charlie Whitehurst. Is the spread really all that bad? QBs still have to make reads and throws, right?
Ted Miller: Word I got is Boyd tapped Clemson, in large part, because it was closest to his Hampton, Va., home.
As for the spread, it's not specifically a "pro" offense, so, yes, an NFL coach would raise an eyebrow over a spread quarterback. The biggest issue is a college quarterback who worked almost exclusively in the shotgun getting used to taking snaps under center. It doesn't sound like a huge adjustment but it apparently is.
Still, if a quarterback is an accurate, efficient college passer who just so happens to have great athletic ability, well, my guess is the NFL is still going to want that guy.
It also helps if he's 6-foot-4, 230 pounds and can hurl a ball 75 yards with a wrist flick.
Ryan in Salt Lake City writes: What about California has you believing they have the best shot at bring down USC. If Oregon gets both lines figured out they could be very good. California has yet to find a solid quarterback and Best can only do so much. Masoli should be scary good next year and Blount will plow his way to Jonathan Stewart like numbers.
Ted Miller: "If Oregon gets both lines figured out ..."
Gosh, Ryan, getting both lines figured out is, well, a lot of figuring.
There are far fewer variables with Cal. For better or worse, preseason projections give a lot of weight to returning starters and the Bears have 18.
I also believe that Kevin Riley and his receivers will be way better in 2009.