Pac-12: Omar Bolden

Pac-12 players in the Super Bowl

February, 3, 2014
Feb 3
Another Super Bowl is in the books, and Pac-12 alumni played a major role in the Seattle Seahawks' 43-8 win over the Denver Broncos. Is it any surprise that the team with the most Pac-12 players won the game? (Hint, hint, Mr. Elway).

In all, there were 16 active players on both rosters: 11 for the Seahawks and five for the Broncos. There are other Pac-12 players on the rosters or practice squads, but they were either injured, suspended or inactive for XLVIII.

The standout was former USC linebacker Malcolm Smith, who was named MVP for an inspired defensive performance. The Pac-12 had hit a bit of an MVP dry spell. After John Elway (Stanford) won the MVP in 1999, the league went more than a decade without having an MVP. Now it has two in the last four years after Aaron Rodgers (Cal) was MVP of XLV, and now it's Smith's turn.

Here’s a look at how the the Pac-12 alumni performed.

Seattle Seahawks
  • Doug Baldwin, WR, Stanford: Started at wide receiver. Led the Seahawks with five catches for 66 yards, including a 10-yard touchdown. Also had an assisted tackle on special teams.
  • Derrick Coleman, RB, UCLA: Recorded one tackle on special teams.
  • Jermaine Kearse, WR, Washington: Caught four balls for 65 yards, including a 24-yard touchdown.
  • Marshawn Lynch, RB, Cal: Started at running back. Carried 15 times for 39 yards, including a 1-yard touchdown.
  • Brandon Mebane, DT, Cal: Posted three tackles, including a tackle for a loss.
  • Zach Miller, TE, ASU: Started at tight end. Had one catch for 10 yards and recovered an onside kick.
  • Mike Morgan, LB, USC: Appeared, but did not record any stats.
  • Richard Sherman, CB, Stanford: Started at left cornerback. Posted three tackles (two solo) with one pass defended. Left game with an injury in the fourth quarter.
  • Malcolm Smith, LB, USC: Crowned Super Bowl MVP. Returned an interception 69 yards for a touchdown and recovered a fumble to go along with 10 tackles (six solo) and a defended pass.
  • Walter Thurmond, CB, Oregon: Started at cornerback. Posted three tackles (one solo).
  • Max Unger, C, Oregon: Started at center.
Denver Broncos

Bolden and Burfict at ASU's pro day

March, 19, 2012
The big story from the NFL combine, at least Arizona State's angle, was bad news and no news.

LB Vontaze Burfict, once thought a sure first-round draft pick, had a notoriously bad combine showing at the end of February, both with his measurables and his interviews, and cornerback Omar Bolden didn't run the 40-yard dash, which might have caused some scouts to question his surgically repaired knee.

We have good news on both fronts. While Burfict still doesn't seem to be in A-list shape, he seems to be arriving at a better level of maturity. From the Arizona Republic:
Burfict didn't do many media interviews during his time at ASU, but he was among the last to leave Sun Devil Stadium. He answered every question, including those about his work ethic the past two seasons.

"I blame that on myself," he said. "Just immaturity. I'm growing up and realizing what the world is about and just trying to work harder in everything I do. ... This is where I want to be, so I just got to stay dedicated."

If Burfict stays dedicated — both to his football craft and to growing up — he's going to be an outstanding NFL linebacker. And if he's fueled by skeptics, he should know there are plenty of them out there now.

As for Bolden, Doug Haller reports he ran a 4.45 40. That's a good but not great time, but it will surely get him back on draft boards.

Cliff Harris drives fast, runs slow

February, 29, 2012
Cornerback Cliff Harris admitted during media interviews at the NFL combine that he likes to drive fast -- see his citation for driving 118 mph last June, a significant step toward his ultimate dismissal from Oregon.

His biggest problem now, however, is his apparent inability to run fast. Harris clocked a 4.64 40-yard dash Tuesday, a pedestrian time for a prospective NFL cornerback.

Writes's Steve Muench:

Former Oregon CB Cliff Harris played in just six games in 2011 before being dismissed form the team, so he needed a solid week both on and off the field. No word yet on how he interviewed, but Harris did not perform as well as expected during drills. He stumbled early on, didn't show great body control overall and failed to field the ball cleanly, including two double-catches in the final drill.

It's also worth noting that the defensive backs end their session with a ball-skills competition, and an excited Harris punted the ball after that second double-catch. While it's good to see competitive spirit coming out and it's important not to exaggerate here, Harris should be more careful and avoid drawing any kind of attention that could be viewed as negative. He needs to show teams he's not going to be a distraction going forward.

Harris wasn't the only Pac-12 DB to run poorly. Former California safety Sean Cattouse ran a 4.74.

Former Arizona CB Trevin Wade ran a middle-of-the-pack 4.59. Former Arizona State CB Omar Bolden didn't run the 40, but did lead all defensive backs with 24 reps at 225 pounds.

Harris will get an opportunity to run again during individual workouts with NFL scouts, as will Bolden, who's status on draft boards won't be established until he shows how well his surgically repaired knee is responding.

Lunch links: Stanford is QB shopping

February, 28, 2012
Looking good, Billy Ray!
Feeling good, Louis!

Lunch links: Hansen hangs with Tebow

February, 22, 2012
Success at sports is the province of the almost empty head.

Chris Polk could be a riser

February, 21, 2012
With the NFL combine coming up, Steve Muench of Scouts Inc., took a look at three players who could see their draft stock increase dramatically Insider with a strong performance. His list of three includes former Washington running back Chris Polk.
Muench on Polk:

Polk is coming off a somewhat underwhelming performance at the Senior Bowl, where he didn't look as quick as he appears on film, so running well in Indianapolis would help Polk regain some momentum. He's said he expects to run in the 4.4-second range in the 40, which would be well below the four-year combine average (4.60) for running backs.

The link also includes a very cool, behind-the-scenes video of former USC offensive tackle Matt Kalil training for the combine, plus five additional players to keep an eye on, including former Arizona State defensive back Omar Bolden, who enters the workouts with some medical questions.

Pac-12 intrigue at NFL combine

February, 21, 2012
The Pac-12 will send 45 players to the NFL combine, which starts Wednesday in Indianapolis.

You can see the complete list of invitees here. And here's the schedule -- things don't really start rolling until Thursday.

There are plenty of subplots for the Pac-12 players on hand.
  • Arizona quarterback Nick Foles is among a handful of quarterbacks vying to be the third quarterback off the board after Stanford's Andrew Luck and Baylor's Robert Griffin. And, by the way, you might want to toss Arizona State quarterback Brock Osweiler into the mix there, too.
  • Arizona State cornerback Omar Bolden, who sat out the entire 2011 season, will try to prove his knee is 100 percent.
  • Will Arizona State linebacker Vontaze Burfict be able to rehabilitate his image, both with a strong performance and convincing interview? The scuttlebutt for him since the start of the season has been almost entirely negative, with the latest being this: He's a "fake tough guy." Even worse than rumors like that is the more measurable claim that he may show up out of shape.
  • Oregon cornerback Cliff Harris, who essentially missed the entire season due to suspension, will need to show some newfound maturity. And he'll need to test well to distract from the challenge he may face producing that.
  • Oregon running back LaMichael James could substantially boost his stock will an impressive 40-yard dash, which would prove he has elite speed and offset size concerns.
  • The same could be said for Washington running back Chris Polk, whose biggest knock is an apparent lack of top-end speed.
  • Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas, a surprise early entry into the draft, will get a chance to prove he's worthy.
  • Washington defensive tackle Alameda Ta'amu entered the 2011 season looking like a potential first-round pick, but his stock slid with a lackluster season. He also didn't impress during Senior Bowl practices. But 330 pound DTs are hard to find, particularly ones as athletic as Ta'amu. A good combine could get him back on the first-day radar.
  • Receivers Chris Owusu of Stanford and James Rodgers of Oregon State also need to overcome health issues. Rodgers needs to show his quickness is back after major knee surgery. Owusu will need to address issues with multiple concussions.
  • A guy the Pac-12 blog is curious about: Cal linebacker Mychal Kendricks. The conference defensive player of the year seems like a guy who might surprise folks and push into the early rounds.
  • The Pac-12 is sending a strong group of offensive linemen into the combine, with USC's Matt Kalil and the Stanford tandem of Jonathan Martin and David DeCastro likely first-round picks. But what about the other seven guys? Who might step up and generate some buzz? Perhaps Cal's Mitchell Schwartz?

Season grade: Arizona State

January, 10, 2012
The 2011 season is over. That means report cards are due.

Up next: Arizona State

Offense: It's difficult to find too much fault with an offense that averaged 446 yards and 33.15 points per game, numbers that ranked in the top-five of the Pac-12 and top-30 in the nation. Quarterback Brock Osweiler broke through in his first full year as a starter into an A-list quarterback and leader, while receiver Gerell Robinson also found himself after an up-an-down career. When healthy, running back Cameron Marshall was one of the top-five or so backs in the league. Lots of credit should go to coordinator Noel Mazzone -- now with Jim Mora's staff at UCLA -- who in two years transformed an anemic offense into a potent one. Questionable areas? The Sun Devils sometimes struggled to convert touchdowns in the redzone, were mediocre on third down and couldn't seem to put together decisive drives in the fourth quarter of games during their second-half collapse.

Grade: B-

Defense: The Sun Devils get graded on a negative curve, as their mediocre numbers feel much worse based on the talent on hand, starting with the Pac-12's most disappointing player: Linebacker Vontaze Burfict. Burfict had long been a difficult presence in the locker room, but his liability on the field previously had been only about boneheaded penalties -- notably personal fouls and unsportsmanlike conduct calls. The problem this season was he missed tackles, couldn't get off blocks and disappeared during long stretches of games. And this isn't a sour grapes, "Vontaze won't talk to the media" deal. He didn't even earn honorable mention All-Pac-12 honors from the coaches vote. It's fair to wonder how things might have gone if two unit leaders, cornerback Omar Bolden and linebacker Brandon Magee, hadn't suffered season-ending knee injuries. The Sun Devils gave up 419 yards and 26 points per game and were bad against the pass, yielding a 66 percent completion rate. During the five-game losing streak to end the season, the defense gave up 40 points per game.

Grade: D

Overall: The Sun Devils played two seasons. The 6-2 start was, at worst, a B+. The 0-5 finish was an F, and it felt even worse based on the early season optimism. Further, the collapse got coach Dennis Erickson fired, and the process of hiring Todd Graham to replace him couldn't be described as a well-oiled machine finding a candidate that reinvigorated the fan base. Then Osweiler surprises many with his decision to bolt to the NFL. The program, in fact, feels pretty low at present. Still, the Sun Devils won six games and played in a bowl game. The season can't be considered a total failure. Just close to it.

Grade: D.

Lunch links: Rodriguez gets head start

November, 28, 2011
Barzini is dead. So is Phillip Tattaglia. Moe Greene. Stracci. Cuneo. Today I settled all family business so don't tell me that you're innocent. Admit what you did.

Lunch links: QB injuries for Cougs, Buffs

October, 27, 2011
One of the peculiar imbecilities of our time is the grid of morality we have placed on human behavior: so that every act of man must be measured against an arbitrary latitude of right and longitude of wrong-in exact minutes, seconds, and degrees!

ASU can't overlook 'easy' games

October, 25, 2011
Our lesson today comes from the Football Scriptures, Bear Bryant, Chapter Four, Verse Eight, which includes the 10 Sacred Football Commandments. See just after Commandment V, "Thou shall play one game at a time."

Commandment VI: "Thou shall not take any opponent lightly, for thenst thou surely will get thou butt kickest."

(Note: We prefer to use the Codex John McKay, as translated by the Venerable Bede, instead of the Codex Fielding Yost, translated by Alcuin, per a directive from Charlemagne).

Woe to the team that overlooks an apparently weak foe. Ask any team that's lost to an FCS program. Or USC in 2007 against Stanford. Or Oklahoma last weekend.

[+] EnlargeArizona State's Omar Bolden
Mark J. Rebilas/US PRESSWIREArizona State is getting healthier. All-league cornerback Omar Bolden, who has missed the season, has been cleared to play.
Arizona State should take heed. It is very easy to look at the Sun Devils schedule and have one reaction: Piece of cake!

Of the Sun Devils five remaining opponents, just one -- 4-3 California, which must come to Tempe for the season finale on Nov. 25 -- owns a winning record at present.

Further, the Sun Devils, 3-1 in Pac-12 play, appear to be in complete control of the conference's South Division. USC also is 3-1 in the conference but is ineligible for the postseason. Three of the four remaining South Division foes already have four conference defeats. The lone team in striking distance? UCLA, at 2-2.

Who believes UCLA, a 48-12 loser at Arizona last Thursday, is going to win the South? Anyone? [Crickets] Anyone? [Crickets].

So it would be very easy for the Sun Devils to start looking ahead to the Pac-12 championship game on Dec. 2.

Colorado coming to town on Saturday? Pfftt. The Buffaloes are 1-7 and have surrendered 145 points in their past three games. Just about all their good players -- receiver Paul Richardson, linebacker Doug Rippy, running back Rodney Stewart, etc. -- are hurt. Heck, QB Tyler Hansen is questionable after suffering a concussion in the 45-2 loss to Oregon.

At this point, one should re-read Commandment VI.

“I think in the game of football, sometimes you’ll see a team looking past another team," Sun Devils quarterback Brock Osweiler said. "[This week] it will be a good test for us."

No doubt. The entire five-game stretch will be a good test of ASU's focus, which, if true, could yield substantial rewards. And things are looking up in other ways, too.

Sure, the 41-27 loss at Oregon still smarts, but as solid as the Sun Devils have been so far, they might bring a substantially better team to the championship game (sportswriters have no such prohibition on looking ahead). Recall how injury ravaged this team once was? Well, it's getting healthier after a bye week.

For one, defensive end Junior Onyeali, only the team's best pass-rusher, is expected to play against Colorado, his first action since hurting his knee at Illinois on Sept. 17. Offensive tackle Evan Finkenberg (knee) could be back this week but more likely will be ready for the trip to UCLA on Nov. 5. Further, running back Cameron Marshall and offensive tackle Aderious Simmons, who both have ankle injuries -- Marshall has continued to play through it; Simmons returned for the Oregon game -- used the bye week to get healthier.

Finally, there's the Omar Bolden question. Bolden, perhaps the best defensive back in the conference, who has not played this season after tearing his ACL in spring practice, has been cleared by doctors to practice.

"He was actually on the scout team the other day," coach Dennis Erickson "He’s moving around pretty well. I don’t know if or when he will play. It’s up to him and the doctors."

Adding an A-list cornerback -- he was a unanimous first-team All-Pac-10 pick last year -- to an already solid Sun Devils defense would be, well, huge.

You can follow Omar's progress on his Twitter page, where he Monday tweeted: "Cleared by my doctor from a medical standpoint..... Now I gotta get my #Swagger back!!!" And "I won't play unless I'm just as effective as I was 6 months ago.... Refuse to damage stock!"

So stay tuned.

As for not taking teams lightly, Erickson said the good news is his team is mature and senior-laden. And if they need a reminder of what can happen when they give a less-than-focused effort, they can just reference the Sept. 17 trip to Illinois, a 17-14 loss to a team that had no business being within two TDs of the Sun Devils.

There's no escaping the reality of the schedule. The Sun Devils should win their next five games and finish at 10-2, a record that should have them within striking distance of the top-10.

And who knows what could happen in one-game playoff to get to the Rose Bowl?

"We have some goals that we can achieve," Erickson said. "We will not achieve them if we do not win the next game and the next game and the next game."

And, of course, it all starts with THE next game, and nothing else.

Pac-12 lunch links: QB questions

October, 24, 2011
I wish I was special
But I'm a creep
I'm a weirdo
What the hell am I doing here?
I don't belong here.

Pac-12 lunch links: Bolden coming back?

September, 27, 2011
I needed a drink, I needed a lot of life insurance, I needed a vacation, I needed a home in the country. What I had was a coat, a hat and a gun. I put them on and went out of the room.

Lunch links: UW preps for Nebraska, take 3

September, 12, 2011
Purple haze all in my brain
Lately things just don't seem the same
Actin' funny, but I don't know why
'Scuse me while I kiss the sky.

Pac-12 lunch links: Burfict's time to shine

September, 5, 2011
Don’t call what you're wearing an outfit. Don’t ever say your car is broke.
Don’t sing with a fake British accent. Don’t act like your family’s a joke.
Have fun, but stay clear of the needle. Call home on your sister’s birthday.
Don’t tell them you’re bigger than Jesus. Don’t give it away.



Thursday, 10/2
Saturday, 10/4