Pac-12: Pac-10 spring wrap 050809

Arizona spring wrap-up

May, 8, 2009
5/08/09
9:45
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Arizona Wildcats
2008 overall record: 8-5

2008 conference record: 5-4

Returning starters

Offense: 6, defense: 7, kicker/punter: 1

Top returners

TE Rob Gronkowski, RB Nic Grigsby, C Colin Baxter, CB Devin Ross, DE Brooks Reed, DT Earl Mitchell, P Keenyn Crier

Key losses

QB Willie Tuitama, WR Mike Thomas, OT Eben Britton, LB Ronnie Palmer, FS Nate Ness, K Jason Bonzio

2008 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Nic Grigsby* (1,153)
Passing: Willie Tuitama (3,088)
Receiving: Mike Thomas (825)
Tackles: Ronnie Palmer (85)
Sacks: Brooks Reed* (8)
Interceptions: Trevin Wade* (4)

Spring answers

2009 Schedule

Sep. 5 Central Michigan
Sep. 12 Northern Arizona
Sep. 19 at Iowa
Sep. 26 at Oregon State
Oct. 10 at Washington
Oct. 17 Stanford
Oct. 24 UCLA
Nov. 7 Washington State
Nov. 14 at California
Nov. 21 Oregon
Nov. 28 at Arizona State
Dec. 5 at USC

1. Golden at strong safety: Sophomore Robert Golden, a marquee 2008 recruit, probably would have become a good cornerback but he's got a chance to be special at strong safety. Because that transition went well this spring, Cam Nelson could move to free safety from strong -- replacing the departed Nate Ness -- with Trevin Wade and Devin Ross giving the Wildcats a strong combination at corner.

2. No doubting Thomas can be replaced: Whoever wins the quarterback job, he'll have plenty of capable guys to throw to, even with the departure of four-year starter Mike Thomas. For one, Rob Gronkowski might be the best tight end in the nation. Second, Delashaun Dean and Terrell Turner combined for 96 receptions and nearly 1,200 yards receiving last year. Third, William "Bug" Wright appears capable of being a playmaker at Thomas' slot position.

3. Got your 'backer: Sure, two of three starting linebackers, including leading tackler Ronnie Palmer, are gone. But the play during spring suggested that the Wildcats might be more athletic at the position in 2009, with Sterling Lewis, Xavier Kelley and Vuna Tuihalamaka. These three also will be helped by what appears to be a deep and talented defensive line providing plenty of cover up front.

Fall questions

1. Replacing Willie: While sophomore Matt Scott may have emerged with a slight lead over sophomore Nick Foles coming out of spring, the competition to replace quarterback Willie Tuitama is far from over. Scott is a great runner and good passer. Foles isn't a bad runner but is more of a drop-back passer. It's possible both could play in the first two games to sort out a final pecking order in advance of a visit to Iowa.

2. What's left at tackle? It's still not clear how the offensive line will end up, particularly at left tackle, where the departure of Eben Britton left a sizable void. JC transfer Jack Julsing might be the answer. Or the emergence of junior guard Conan Amituanai might allow Mike Diaz to move outside from left guard. If Phillip Garcia comes back successfully from knee surgery in the fall, he also could be a factor.

3. The next step: Winning a bowl game was huge for a program that's been looking to regain its mojo for a decade. But the question now is sustaining and building on success. Coach Mike Stoops believes a winning attitude is developing. The way to prove that is another bowl berth. And maybe a better bowl berth.

Arizona State spring wrap-up

May, 8, 2009
5/08/09
9:40
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Arizona State Sun Devils

2008 overall record: 5-7

2008 conference record: 4-5

Returning starters

Offense: 7; Defense: 6; Punter/kicker: 2

Top returners

OT Shawn Lauvao, K Thomas Weber, DE Dexter Davis, DT Lawrence Guy, LB Mike Nixon, CB Omar Bolden

Key losses

QB Rudy Carpenter, OL Paul Fanaika, WR Michael Jones, FS Troy Nolan

2007 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Dimitri Nance* (410)
Passing: Rudy Carpenter (2,493)
Receiving: Michael Jones (744)
Tackles: Mike Nixon* (90)
Sacks: Dexter Davis* (11)
Interceptions: Mike Nixon* (5)

2009 Schedule

Sep. 5 Idaho State
Sep. 19 Louisiana-Monroe
Sep. 26 at Georgia
Oct. 3 Oregon State
Oct. 10 at Washington State
Oct. 17 Washington
Oct. 24 at Stanford
Oct. 31 California
Nov. 7 USC
Nov. 14 at Oregon
Nov. 21 at UCLA
Nov. 28 Arizona

Spring answers

1. Some line answers: Arizona State's 2009 may swing on the improvement of its offensive line, and two moves appear to be paying off. First, Shawn Lauvao moved from guard to left tackle. He's the Sun Devils' best blocker, and coaches believe he's an all-conference candidate. Also, sophomore Garth Gerhart, brother of Stanford running back Toby Gerhart, eclipsed senior Thomas Altieri at center.

2. Safety in McFoy: The Sun Devils' biggest void on defense was the safety spot vacated by Troy Nolan, but senior Ryan McFoy, who's bounced back and forth from the secondary and linebacker, looks like he's found a home. He's athletic, a big hitter and he could be the final piece on a defense that figures to be fairly stout.

3. Sullivan steps up: While senior Danny Sullivan hasn't won the quarterback job just yet, he's the heavy favorite to do so in the fall, replacing four-year starter Rudy Carpenter. Sullivan had plenty of doubters heading into spring, but he showed improved athleticism, a good and accurate arm, and his knowledge of the offense put him ahead of his competitors. Most importantly: His solid performance probably boosted confidence all around -- his as well as his coaches' and teammates' confidence in him.

Fall questions

1. Line needs to get healthy: Three potential offensive line starters -- Matt Hustad, Zach Schlink and Adam Tello -- need to get healthy. Each sat out the spring, and Hustad, perhaps the best of the lot, in particular, is a concern. If all three are healthy, the Sun Devils' line may improve dramatically. If one or two don't, then things will be pretty thin -- again -- up front.

2. A tangled Weber is weaved: Thomas Weber is one of the nation's best kickers, but he's only an OK punter. He doesn't mind doing both jobs, but the coaches think he'll be better at kicking if he concentrates on that. So there's been an ongoing search to find someone to beat him out at punter. That search continues because no one was able to consistently boot the ball better than Weber.

3. Will the frosh deliver? At least a couple of incoming freshmen are expected to help immediately, particularly touted linebacker Vontaze Burfict and defensive tackle Corey Adams. If they arrive in shape, ready to play and as talented as advertised, they should at least provide some much-needed depth. And then the Sun Devils' defense could really make some noise this fall.

California spring wrap-up

May, 8, 2009
5/08/09
9:35
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

California Golden Bears
2008 overall record: 9-4

2008 conference record: 6-3

Returning starters

Offense 7, defense 8, kicker/punter 2

Top returners

RB Jahvid Best, LT Mitchell Schwartz, WR Nyan Boateng, CB Syd'Quan Thompson, DE Tyson Alualu, DE Cameron Jordan, LB Mike Mohamed

Key losses

C Alex Mack, FB Will Ta'ufo'ou, TE Cameron Morrah, LB Zack Follett, LB Worrell Williams, LB Anthony Felder

2008 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Jahvid Best* (1,580)
Passing: Kevin Riley* (1,360)
Receiving: Nyan Boateng* (439)
Tackles: Anthony Felder (93)
Sacks: Zack Follett (10.5)
Interceptions: Syd'Quan Thompson* (4)

Spring answers

2009 Schedule
Sep. 5 Maryland
Sep. 12 Eastern Washington
Sep. 19 at Minnesota
Sep. 26 at Oregon
Oct. 3 USC
Oct. 17 at UCLA
Oct. 24 Washington State
Oct. 31 at Arizona State
Nov. 7 Oregon State
Nov. 14 Arizona
Nov. 21 at Stanford
Dec. 5 at Washington

1. On the run: California will again be one of the best rushing teams in the Pac-10 next fall with tailback tandem Jahvid Best and Shane Vereen, who combined for nearly 2,300 yards last year, even though two starting offensive linemen are gone, including All-American center and first-round NFL draft pick Alex Mack. All five of the linemen topping the depth chart after spring practices have previously started games, with mammoth 6-foot-6, 335-pound sophomore tackle Mitchell Schwartz stepping in for Mack as the designated star. Best, the conference's top Heisman Trophy candidate, sat out spring practices recovering from foot and elbow surgery, but he's expected to be full-go well before fall practices begin.

2. Is this the Pac-10's best secondary? While USC's secondary should be exceptional in 2009, Cal's might be every bit the Trojans' match. All four starters are back from a crew that ranked sixth in pass efficiency defense last year and intercepted 24 passes (third in the nation). Moreover, the depth is strong with youngsters pushing for playing time.

3. Bears up front: This could be an exceptional defensive line. Few teams in the country will have a better pair of defensive ends than senior Tyson Alualu and junior Cameron Jordan, and nose tackle Derrick Hill is no stiff either. Further, the play of the backups this spring suggested this crew could go six or seven deep.

Fall questions

1. QB still undecided: The post-spring depth chart featured two "Ors" between junior Kevin Riley, sophomore Brock Mansion and redshirt freshman Beau Sweeney, though the general belief is Riley finished spring ahead of the other two. While it may be Riley's job to lose, those "Ors" mean coach Jeff Tedford doesn't want him to feel secure just yet.

2. Replacing the big three: The spring question on defense was obvious: How will the Bears replace linebackers Anthony Felder, Zack Follett and Worrell Williams, the anchors of their successful transition to a 3-4 defense in 2008? After the linebacking corps -- Mychal Kendricks, Devin Bishop, Mike Mohamed and Eddie Young -- turned in a strong spring, that question lost some urgency. Still, how well those linebackers perform when the games begin likely will determine if this is a great or merely good defense.

3. Who will receive? Strong springs from sophomores Marvin Jones and Alex Lagemann mean the receiving corps, which returned intact, will be highly competitive for playing time. The post-spring depth chart lists seven names and all seven are in the running for significant action, but it's unlikely more than four or five will see many passes.

Oregon spring wrap-up

May, 8, 2009
5/08/09
9:30
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Oregon Ducks
2008 overall record: 10-3

2008 conference record: 7-2

Returning starters

Offense 5, defense 5, kicker/punter 0

Top returners

QB Jeremiah Masoli, RB LeGarrette Blount, TE Ed Dickson, CB Walter Thurmond III, DE Will Tukuafu, FS T.J. Ward

Key losses

C Max Unger, LT Fenuki Tupou, RB Jeremiah Johnson, WR Terence Scott, DE Nick Reed, CB Jairus Byrd, ROV Patrick Chung, DT Ra'Shone Harris

2008 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Jeremiah Johnson (1,201)
Passing: Jeremiah Masoli* (1,744)
Receiving: Terence Scott (751)
Tackles: T.J. Ward* (101)
Sacks: Nick Reed (13)
Interceptions: Walter Thurmond*, Jairus Byrd (5)

Spring answers

2009 Schedule

Sep. 3 at Boise State
Sep. 12 Purdue
Sep. 19 Utah
Sep. 26 California
Oct. 3 Washington State
Oct. 10 at UCLA
Oct. 24 at Washington
Oct. 31 USC
Nov. 7 at Stanford
Nov. 14 Arizona State
Nov. 21 at Arizona
Dec. 3 Oregon State

1. Passing the test: The Ducks passing game was only OK last year -- ranking fifth in the Pac-10 -- and with two of the top three receivers leaving, it was a question mark entering spring. It's less so now. Both quarterbacks Jeremiah Masoli and Justin Roper threw well, particularly in the spring game, while Jamere Holland led a receiving corps that appears capable and deep. No longer does it seem essential that JC transfer Tyrece Gaines and freshman Diante Jackson contribute from game one.

2. Linebacking up: Oregon's linebackers have been mostly mediocre in recent years, but this crew has a chance to tip the scales from middling to good. Casey Matthews, Spencer Paysinger and Eddie Pleasant give the Ducks a solid troika of experienced starters, with JC transfer Bryson Littlejohn, Dewitt Stuckey and Josh Kaddu providing depth.

3. DL hope: Oregon lost three starters from its 2008 defensive line, and projected 2009 starter Tonio Celotto quit football. All that raised eyebrows, but the D-line controlled the line of scrimmage throughout the spring. Will Tukuafu, the lone returning stater, tackles Brandon Bair, Blake Ferras and Simi Toeaina and end Kenny Rowe showed promise up front. The question, though, is whether much of their success was a function of the banged-up offensive line's struggles.

Fall questions

1. O-line woes: With returning starters C.E. Kaiser and Bo Thran sitting out due to injuries, the offensive line was green and it looked the part during spring practices. Run and pass blocking were problems. Moreover, when the injured players return, there's still a question of who will be the fifth starter and whether there will be some reshuffling of positions in the fall.

2. Thurmond sidekick? Cornerback Walter Thurmond, who was banged up much of last year, was healthy during spring practices and he looked like the NFL prospect he is. But who will play opposite him and fill the void left by the early departure of Jairus Byrd to the NFL? Will it be Talmadge Jackson or Willie Glasper, who were both injured, or will someone else step up?

3. Nothing special: A lot is expected of incoming punter Jackson Rice and kicker Mike Bowlin, particularly after the inconsistency -- and downright awfulness (see the spring game) -- of the kicking and punting. If those guys aren't ready, special teams may be an adventure next fall, though it's worth noting the kicker Morgan Flint, who was mostly solid last year, may have just had an off couple of weeks.

Oregon State spring wrap-up

May, 8, 2009
5/08/09
9:25
AM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Oregon State Beavers
2008 overall record: 9-4

2008 conference record: 7-2

Returning starters

Offense 6, defense 3, kicker/punter 2

Top returners

RB Jacquizz Rodgers, QB Lyle Moevao, WR James Rodgers, C Alex Linnenkohl, LB Keaton Kristick, DT Stephen Paea

Key losses

WR Sammie Stroughter, WR Shane Morales, LT Andy Levitre, DE Victor Butler, DE Slade Norris, CB Keenan Lewis, CB Brandon Hughes

2008 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Jacquizz Rodgers* (1,253)
Passing: Lyle Moevao* (2,534)
Receiving: Sammie Stroughter (1,040)
Tackles: Greg Laybourn (113)
Sacks: Victor Butler (12)
Interceptions: Keenan Lewis (4)

Spring answers

2009 Schedule

Sep. 5 Portland State
Sep. 12 at UNLV
Sep. 19 Cincinnati
Sep. 26 Arizona
Oct. 3 at Arizona State
Oct. 10 Stanford
Oct. 24 at USC
Oct. 31 UCLA
Nov. 7 at California
Nov. 14 Washington
Nov. 21 at Washington State
Dec. 3 at Oregon

1. Canfield can get on field: With 2008 starter Lyle Moevao out with a shoulder injury, Sean Canfield took advantage of the opportunity and showed he's good enough to start. While he was off during the spring game, tossing three interceptions, Canfield ran the huddle well and was in sync with a rebuilding receiving corps.

2. Catchings on: Speaking of receivers, Darrell Catchings turned in a strong spring, and the unit as a whole eased worries about losing Sammie Stroughter and Shane Morales. Jordan Bishop, Geno Muoz and Casey Kjos, among others, showed that the Beavers appear plenty deep at the position, with lead Beaver James Rodgers coming back from a shoulder injury in the fall.

3. Reload at LB: While the defense lost eight starters, there are few worries at linebacker. Keaton Kristick was the known quantity going in, while sophomore middle linebacker David Pa'aluhi was one of the breakout performers this spring. Keith Pankey and Dwight Roberson will continue to be a two-headed monster on the weak side.

Fall questions

1. Corner questions: The Beavers are replacing two cornerbacks who were drafted by NFL teams. Their high-pressure defense requires the cornerbacks to be able to lock down receivers one-on-one. For much of spring, the new guys didn't do that -- they got burned. Over and over again, though no-hit rules on the quarterbacks might have skewed things a bit. The pecking order here feels unresolved.

2. Sack men: Ben Terry, Kevin Frahm and Gabe Miller looked good this spring at defensive end. But they are replacing Victor Butler and Slade Norris, who combined for 22 sacks last year. Yes, big shoes to fill. And, with green corners, it might be even more important for the pressure to get to the quarterback as fast as possible. This is a wait-and-see until the games begin.

3. Who's the QB? It should be a positive that the Beavers have two capable senior quarterbacks with starting experience. That's the way coach Mike Riley sees it. But it also becomes a tough issue, because there is only one starting job. Does Moevao slide because he missed spring while Canfield played well? Or does Moevao prevail if things are close because of the way he played last year? And will the loser of this competition be able to keep it together and be a "team" guy?

Stanford spring football wrap-up

May, 8, 2009
5/08/09
9:20
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Stanford Cardinal
2008 overall record: 5-7

2008 conference record: 4-5

Returning starters

Offense: 8, defense: 8, kicker/punter: 1

Top returners

RB Toby Gerhart, OT Chris Marinelli, FB-LB Owen Marecic, DE Tom Keiser, FS Bo McNally, NT Ekom Udofia

Key losses

C Alex Fletcher, OT Ben Muth, DE Pannel Egboh, LB Pat Maynor, CB Wopamo Osaisai

2008 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Toby Gerhert* (1,136)
Passing: Tavita Pritchard* (1,633)
Receiving: Ryan Whalen* (508)
Tackles: Bo McNally* (76)
Sacks: Tom Keiser* (6)
Interceptions: Bo McNally (4)

Spring answers

2009 Schedule

Sep. 5 at Washington State
Sep. 12 at Wake Forest
Sep. 19 San Jose State
Sep. 26 Washington
Oct. 3 UCLA
Oct. 10 at Oregon State
Oct. 17 at Arizona
Oct. 24 Arizona State
Nov. 7 Oregon
Nov. 14 at USC
Nov. 21 California
Nov. 28 Notre Dame

1. Luck of the Cardinal: While coach Jim Harbaugh wouldn't say after spring practices ended that Andrew Luck will be Stanford's starting quarterback at Washington State on Sept. 5, all signs point to the talented redshirt freshman besting 19-game starter Tavita Pritchard in their competition. Luck was brilliant in the spring game and barring any dramatic fall-off -- or injury -- he'll be the guy running the Cardinal offense.

2. Two-way can work: Players like Owen Marecic (fullback and middle linebacker), Michael Thomas (cornerback and receiver), Richard Sherman (cornerback and receiver) and Alex Debniak (linebacker and running back) -- among others, potentially -- likely will see playing time on both sides of the ball. That's one way to address depth issues and to get the best athletes on the field as much as possible.

3. Howell shores up secondary: Sophomore Delano Howell was switched from running back to strong safety to give the secondary some much-needed athleticism, and the move was widely viewed as a success as Howell proved himself a physical player as well as a guy who can move. He almost immediately ascended to the first-team defense.

Fall questions

1. Can they run? Last year, Stanford became one of the Pac-10's most physical running teams with a tough-guy offensive line and 237-pound running back Tony Gerhart. But Gerhart might sign a pro baseball contract and two key starters are gone from that line. The depth behind Gerhart is questionable, and the line took a hit when talented but star-crossed offensive tackle Allen Smith re-injured the knee that kept him out in 2008.

2. Can they run II? For Stanford to push into the top half of the conference, it's got to get faster across the board, but particularly in the secondary and at receiver. The need for speed inspired some of the spring position changes, and the touted incoming freshmen should inject some speed. But will it be enough...

3. ...To end the eight-year itch? Stanford hasn't been to a bowl game since 2001, when Tyrone Willingham was the coach many moons ago. But with 17 starters back from a team that finished 5-7 and lost three games by a touchdown or less, there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic. Of course, such a breakthrough might renew talk about Harbaugh becoming a hot head-coaching candidate.

UCLA spring wrap-up

May, 8, 2009
5/08/09
9:15
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

UCLA Bruins
2008 overall record: 4-8

2008 conference record: 3-6

Returning starters

Offense 9, defense 7, punter/kicker 1

Top returners

TE Logan Paulsen, WR Terrence Austin, K Kai Forbath, LB Reggie Carter, CB Alterraun Verner, DT Brian Price, FS Rahim Moore

Key losses

DT Brigham Harwell, CB Michael Norris, P Aaron Perez

2008 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Kahlil Bell (397)
Passing: Kevin Craft* (2,341)
Receiving: Taylor Embree* (531)
Tackles: Reggie Carter* (83)
Sacks: Korey Bosworth* (7)
Interceptions: Michael Norris, Rahim Moore* (3)

Spring answers

2009 Schedule

Sep. 5 San Diego State
Sep. 12 at Tennessee
Sep. 19 Kansas State
Oct. 3 at Stanford
Oct. 10 Oregon
Oct. 17 California
Oct. 24 at Arizona
Oct. 31 at Oregon State
Nov. 7 Washington
Nov. 14 at Washington State
Nov. 21 Arizona State
Nov. 28 at USC

1. Prince gets crowned: While Kevin Prince wasn't terribly good in any of the Bruins' three scrimmages, he did enough during practices to elevate himself above true freshman Richard Brehaut and last year's starter Kevin Craft. Prince has a lot of upside, and it will be a major upset if he doesn't end up the starter against San Diego State.

2. Plenty of runners: While the running game didn't get untracked this spring, the general feeling is that isn't because of a lack of talent at tailback. While expected starter Christian Ramirez sat out, sophomores Raymond Carter and Derrick Coleman and redshirt freshmen Johnathan Franklin and Milton Knox each had their moments. The crowd may get thinned a bit with sophomore Aundre Dean apparently thinking about transferring.

3. Stars on D: The Bruins defense looked good all spring, and there's star power at each level with tackle Brian Price, linebacker Reggie Carter and cornerback Alterraun Verner. The secondary, in particular, looked good with several youngsters ready to contribute or even challenge for starting jobs, including sophomores Courtney Viney and Tony Dye and redshirt freshman E.J. Woods.

Fall questions

1. Is there any hope for the O-line? The line was awful this spring just as it was last fall. There's plenty of experience with six returnees who started at least five games in 2008, though two sat out spring practices with injuries. And there's plenty of incoming possibilities, with touted freshmen and JC transfers arriving in the fall to offer alternatives. It feels like the Bruins' bowl hopes rest almost entirely on whether this unit can find some answers.

2. D-line depth: The Bruins starting crew of tackles Price and Jerzy Siewierski and ends Korey Bosworth and Datone Jones form one of the better foursomes in the Pac-10, but depth, especially at tackle, needs to develop. An injury or two here and things get pretty thin.

3. Playmakers on offense: If the offensive line figures things out, and Prince comes through, then somebody has to do something with the football in the passing game. During spring practices, the performance of the receivers was mediocre to bad, though true freshman hybrid tight end/receiver Morrell Presley lived up to his hype. If the veterans don't step up, then a strong incoming freshman class -- including speedster Randall Carroll -- is going to move up quickly.

USC spring wrap-up

May, 8, 2009
5/08/09
9:10
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

USC Trojans
2008 overall record: 12-1

2008 conference record: 8-1

Returning starters

Offense 9, defense 3, kicker/punter 0

Top returners

WR Damian Williams, C Kristofer O'Dowd, OT Charles Brown, OG Jeff Byers, TB Stafon Johnson, TB Joe McKnight, FS Taylor Mays, CB Josh Pinkard, DE Everson Griffen.

Key losses

QB Mark Sanchez, LB Rey Maualuga, LB Brian Cushing, DE Clay Matthews, DT Fili Moala, SS Kevin Ellison.

2008 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Stafon Johnson* (705)
Passing: Mark Sanchez (3,207)
Receiving: Damian Williams (869)
Tackles: Rey Maualuga (79)
Sacks: Kyle Moore (5)
Interceptions: Cary Harris, Drew McAllister*, Kevin Thomas* (3)

2009 Schedule
Sep. 5 San Jose State
Sep. 12 at Ohio State
Sep. 19 at Washington
Sep. 26 Washington State
Oct. 3 at California
Oct. 17 at Notre Dame
Oct. 24 Oregon State
Oct. 31 at Oregon
Nov. 7 at Arizona State
Nov. 14 Stanford
Nov. 28 UCLA
Dec. 5 Arizona

Spring answers

1. Reload at LB: Sure, the Trojans lost three first-day NFL draft picks at linebacker, but it's hard to find anyone around the program worried about the position. With Chris Galippo in the middle, and Michael Morgan and Malcolm Smith flanking him, this unit will be faster than last year. That said, incoming freshmen Frankie Telford and Jarvis Jones may be able to work their way into the rotation.

2. Griffen steps up: Defensive end Everson Griffen has always been a spectacular talent, but his focus and work ethic haven't been consistent. Until this spring, at least, when Griffen joined Smith as the defense's standout player. He leads a young defensive line that flashed brilliance at times this spring.

3. If the QBs come through ...: With nine starters back and depth at every position, the Trojans' offense doesn't appear to have any weaknesses. Of course, the guy who's going to distribute the ball -- either Aaron Corp or Matt Barkley -- will be making his second career start at Ohio State, which gets a qualified, "Yikes!"

Fall questions

1. Is Barkley really in this? While coach Pete Carroll has long shown no fear starting -- or at least playing -- true freshmen, he has yet to do that at quarterback, where a pattern of sitting for three years and learning the system has been established. Corp emerged from spring the clear leader at the position, but Barkley flashed passing talent that's hard to ignore. Can Barkley really beat out Corp, and if he doesn't will he be the backup and burn his redshirt in 2009?

2. How will the tailback rotation go? With Curtis McNeal and Marc Tyler making statements this spring -- particularly McNeal -- it appears that the Trojans are again a six-headed monster at tailback. There's just one ball, but there's Stafon Johnson, Joe McKnight, Allen Bradford and C.J. Gable, with Gable presently the favorite to get his carries cut due to fumbling issues. Or will McKnight's inability to stay healthy -- at least during practices -- suddenly be recognized as a problem?

3. Who's the kicker? Joe Houston seemed to emerge with a small lead over Jordan Congdon at kicker, but touted JC transfer Jacob Harfman arrives in the fall, and Harfman could end up kicking and punting.

Washington spring wrap-up

May, 8, 2009
5/08/09
9:05
AM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Washington Huskies
2008 overall record: 0-12

2008 conference record: 0-9

Returning starters

Offense 8, defense 10, kicker/punter 0

Top returners

QB Jake Locker, WR D'Andre Goodwin, DE Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, LB E.J. Savannah, S Nate Williams, LB Mason Foster

Key losses

C Juan Garcia, CB Mesphin Forrester

2008 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Terrence Dailey (338)
Passing: Ronnie Fouch* (1,339)
Receiving: D'Andre Goodwin* (692)
Tackles: Mason Foster (105)
Sacks: Daniel Te'o-Nesheim (8)
Interceptions: Mesphin Forrester (2)

2009 Schedule
Sep. 5 LSU
Sep. 12 Idaho
Sep. 19 USC
Sep. 26 at Stanford
Oct. 3 at Notre Dame
Oct. 10 Arizona
Oct. 17 at Arizona State
Oct. 24 Oregon
Nov. 7 at UCLA
Nov. 14 at Oregon State
Nov. 28 Washington State
Dec. 5 California

Spring answers

1. Locker on target: Quarterback Jake Locker has been dogged by questions about his passing accuracy. He answered them during spring, particularly in the spring game when he completed 16 of 18 throws and the two incompletions were drops. If Locker, with his running ability, can complete more than 60 percent of his passes, the Huskies offense will make a dramatic turnaround from its woeful 2008.

2. Savannah brings it: E.J. Savannah, banished without sufficient explanation by Tyrone Willingham, was brought back this spring by new coach Steve Sarkisian and his contribution should be a huge upgrade to what looks like a solid corps of linebackers. Savannah had 111 tackles in 2007 and will bolster the confidence of a defense that was stunningly soft in 2008.

3. Might run OK: The Huskies' offensive line was supposed to be a strength last season, but it looked fat and plodding and struggled against quick front sevens. A new strength program aimed at slimming the hogs down, combined with some intriguing talent at tailback -- freshmen Chris Polk and Demitrius Bronson stood out -- suggests that Locker won't be the only weapon in the ground game.

Fall questions

1. Does experience mean better? The good news is the Huskies welcome back 18 starters. The bad news is the Huskies welcome back 18 starters. That's the only way to look at a team that went 0-12 the year before. There are reasons for optimism -- Locker; a new, high-energy coaching staff; etc. -- but Huskies fans have seen their optimism crushed under the spiked heel of reality before.

2. Secondary issues: The Huskies pass defense was terrible last year, ranking 115th in the nation and last among BCS programs. Opponents completed 67 percent of their passes, 24 of which went for touchdowns and just seven were intercepted. Quinton Richardson is set at one corner, and strong safety Nate Williams is solid, but free safety and the other cornerback spot are wide open heading into the fall.

3. Kicking and punting: The Huskies must replace both starting specialists. Erik Folk, a scholarship kicker, has had injury problems but, if healthy, should win the job. Since there are no scholarship punters, fingers are crossed that incoming JC transfer Will Mahan will be the man this fall.

Washington State spring wrap-up

May, 8, 2009
5/08/09
9:00
AM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Washington State Cougars
2008 overall record: 2-11

2008 conference record: 1-8

Returning starters

Offense 8, defense 5, kicker/punter 2

Top returners

C Kenny Alfred, RB Dwight Tardy, FS Xavier Hicks, LB Louis Bland, LB Andy Mattingly, P Reid Forrest, K Nico Grasu

Key losses

OT Vaughn Lesuma, TE Devin Frischknecht, WR Brandon Gibson, LB Greg Trent, CB Romeo Pellum, DT A'i Ahmu

2008 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Dwight Tardy* (481)
Passing: Marshall Lobbestael* (571)
Receiving: Brandon Gibson (673)
Tackles: Greg Trent (88)
Sacks: Toby Turpin* (3)
Interceptions: Romeo Pellum, Xavier Hicks* (2)

2009 Schedule
Sept. 5 Stanford
Sept. 12 Hawaii (in Seattle)
Sept. 19 Southern Methodist
Sept. 26 at USC
Oct. 3 at Oregon
Oct. 10 Arizona State
Oct. 24 at California
Oct. 31 vs. Notre Dame
(in San Antonio, Texas)
Nov. 7 at Arizona
Nov. 14 UCLA
Nov. 21 Oregon State
Nov. 28 at Washington

Spring answers

1. Culture change: Big injury issues within many position groups limited a lot of definitive depth chart moves, so what the Cougars' coaches talked most about at the end of spring was establishing a better team culture, which includes practice tempo, trust among players and staff and off-field responsibilities, both in the classroom and weight room.

2. Tardy and Montgomery running: The Cougars feel good about their depth at running back, with senior Dwight Tardy and California transfer James Montgomery leading the way. If the offensive line can stay healthy -- depth is a big issue -- the running game has a chance to improve dramatically.

3. New faces' chance to shine: The injuries allowed youngsters and newcomers to make statements, and a handful did, including redshirt freshman defensive ends Dan Spitz and Cory Mackay, redshirt freshman tight end Skylar Stormo and junior transfer receivers Johnny Forzani and Jeffrey Solomon.

Fall questions

1. Get healthy: The spring injury list was a who's who of likely starters, and some of the issues will be worrisome. For example, Bernard Wolfgramm was practically penciled in as a starting defensive tackle, but he had back surgery this winter and back problems are tricky. The Cougars suffered epidemic injuries last year; they need to avoid that if 2009 is going to be any better.

2. Is Lobbestael the man? While senior Kevin Lopina showed significant improvement passing this spring, the general feeling is sophomore Marshall Lobbestael will be the quarterback when Stanford comes to town on Sept. 5. But, again, Lobbestael is coming back from a knee injury and didn't get to do any full-go action this spring. He still needs to win the job on the field.

3. Not to be defensive, but ... Washington State lost six starters from a defense that gave up 43.8 points and 443 yards in 2008, and the departed include mainstays such as linebacker Greg Trent, end Matt Mullennix and tackle A'i Ahmu. The Cougars are set at safety with Xavier Hicks and Chima Nwachukwu, and they feel good about linebackers Andy Mattingly and Louis Bland, but there are a lot of questions here that need to be resolved during preseason practices.

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