Pac-12: preseason position reviews 2013

Stacking up Pac-12 position reviews

August, 13, 2013
8/13/13
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Our Pac-12 position rankings were completed last week. You can review them here.

So, how about going big picture?

Our methodology, as we point out on an annual basis, is suspect. But it's our methodology and if you don't like it, hey, get your own methodology.

And, yes, I cut and pasted that from last year.

So here's our imperfect formula for big picture evaluation. Each team gets three points for "Great shape," two points for "Good shape," and one point for the dreaded "We'll see."

However, we make exceptions for two positions and two position groups: 1. kickers and punters have been reduced in value; 2. elite quarterbacks have been increased; 3. For the first time this year, we're giving extra consideration to the offensive and defensive lines.

If you are in "great shape" at kicker or punter, you only get two points, and you get one point for good, and zero for "we'll see." If you are in "great shape" at quarterback, offensive or defensive line you get four points. Good shape still gets two and "we'll see" one.

Here are the standings:
1. Oregon... 28 (great shape in eight of 11 positions)

2. Stanford... 26 (tie)

2. USC... 26 (tie)

4. Oregon State... 25

5. Arizona State... 23 (tie)

5. Washington... 23 (tie)

7. UCLA... 19 (tie)

7. Washington State... 19 (tie)

9. California... 18

10. Arizona... 16

11. Colorado... 14

12. Utah... 12 (we'll see in eight of 11 positions)

Utah fans panic! Or get mad!

The Utes, who were third in last year's position reviews, have a lot of questions that already have hopeful answers, most notably quarterback, offensive line, defensive line and running back. The Pac-12 blog believes those are perfectly valid "we'll sees." It also believes the odds are promising that what we will be seeing will be good to solid.

Further, the difference between Utah and Colorado is about specialists, as the Buffaloes got three points for kicker/punter while the Utes got zero.

Obviously, returning starters boosts the numbers here. Few would rank Washington State tied with UCLA heading into the season, but the Cougars have 17 starters back and the Bruins have just 12. UCLA got a "we'll see" at running back, tight end, cornerback, safety and punter.

Oregon State didn't have a single "we'll see." If we had broken up defensive line into tackles and ends, as we have in the past, it would have gotten a "great shape" at end and a decided "we'll see" at tackle.

Oregon's only "we'll sees" were linebacker, kicker and punter. Stanford had "we'll sees" at receiver, tight end, kicker and punter. The Cardinal was in "great shape" in all four defensive spots.

USC only had "we'll sees" at cornerback and punter. Arizona State got no points for its specialists and got a "we'll see" at receiver.

Great shape-We'll see per team
Arizona 1-5

Arizona State 4-3

California 0-3

Colorado 1-7

Oregon 8-3

Oregon State 4-0

Stanford 6-4

UCLA 3-5

USC 6-2

Utah 0-8

Washington 4-1

Washington State 2-3

Teams averaged 3.25 "great shapes," matching last year's average, and 3.67 "we'll sees," which is significantly more than last year's average of 2.92. In 2011, it was 2.67 "great shapes" and 3.58 "we'll sees."
  • Positions with the most "Great shapes": receiver and running back (5).
  • Position with the most "We'll sees": punter (8), cornerback and tight end (5)
  • Every position had at least two great shapes. Seven had four or five.
  • Every position had at least two "We'll sees." Receiver and safety had two.

Does any of this mean anything?

We'll see.

Preseason position reviews: punter

August, 6, 2013
8/06/13
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After years of being a decided strength, punter might be the most questionable position in the Pac-12 this fall.

Just five teams welcome back their starting punter, and a couple of those jobs aren't secure.

So how do things stack up?

GREAT SHAPE

Colorado: The Buffs top the list! Darragh O'Neill is the leading returning punter after averaging 43.5 yards per punt in 2012.

[+] EnlargeOregon State punter Keith Kostol
AP Photo/Mark J. TerrillOregon State punter Keith Kostol excels at pinning opponents back.
Oregon State: While Keith Kostol's per punt average was middling -- 41.9 yards -- he dropped 24 of his 59 punts inside the 20-yard line.

GOOD SHAPE

Washington State: Michael Bowlin averaged 41.9 yards per boot last year with 14 of 58 punts going over 50 yards.

California: Cole Leininger averaged 40 yards per kick as a freshman.

WE'LL SEE

Washington: Travis Coons ranked last in the Pac-12 with 39.8 yards per punt, and it's likely he will concentrate on his kicking competition with Cameron Van Winkle. Korey Durkee or Colorado transfer Zach Grossnickle will compete for the punting duties.

Stanford: Junior Ben Rhyne and redshirt freshman Contrad Ukropina are competing for the job. Rhyne punted nine times last year, averaging 41.1 yards per kick.

Utah: Tom Hackett averaged 38.9 yards on 25 punts last year filling in for Sean Sellwood.

UCLA: Jeff Locke was one of the nation's best punters throughout his UCLA career, which is why he was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings. The hope is touted freshman Sean Covington immediately steps into a strong punting tradition.

USC: Sophomore Kris Albarado is the favorite to win the job after the departure of Kyle Negrete.

Oregon: Jackson Rice, one of the nation's best punters the past couple of years, needs to be replaced. JC transfer Dylan Ausherman is competing with senior Alejandro Maldonado and true freshman Matt Wogan for the job.

Arizona State: Freshman Matt Haack is expected to replace Josh Hubner, a 2012 Ray Guy semifinalist who led the conference with 47.1 yards per boot. A rugby-style punter, Haack also is a good enough athlete to see action at receiver.

Arizona: Sophomore walkon Drew Riggleman will compete with freshman walkon Bret Miller to replace Kyle Dugandzic.

You can see previous previews here:

Quarterback

Running back

Receiver

Tight end

Offensive line

Kicker

Linebacker

Defensive line

Cornerback

Safety

Preseason position reviews: safety

August, 1, 2013
8/01/13
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Safety is a strong position in the conference. Only UCLA has almost no experience returning to man the middle of its back-half, while the battle for the two All-Pac-12 teams should be tight.

So how do things stack up?

GREAT SHAPE

[+] EnlargeStanford's Ed Reynolds
Ed Szczepanski/US PRESSWIREStanford's Ed Reynolds had six interceptions last season, returning three for a touchdown.
Stanford: Just as Oregon might have the best combination of cornerbacks in the nation, so do the Cardinal at safety. Ed Reynolds is a preseason All-American and Jordan Richards is an all-conference sort. Devon Carrington -- recall a certain notable play in the Oregon game -- is a strong No. 3. Stanford yielded just 13 touchdown passes last year.

Oregon: The Ducks welcome back Erick Dargan and Brian Jackson, but Avery Patterson is back from injury, so expect him to break back into the starting lineup. Again, this might be the nation's best secondary, with the Cardinal also in that discussion.

Oregon State: We're already on record noting Ryan Murphy could be poised for a breakout season, but veteran Tyrequek Zimmerman also is back. Depth is a little questionable. The Beavers, who welcome back three of four secondary starters, ranked third in the conference in pass efficiency defense in 2012.

GOOD SHAPE

USC: Although the Trojans lost mainstay T.J. McDonald, they welcome back Josh Shaw, who mostly played corner last year, and Dion Bailey, who mostly played linebacker. Both were mostly out of position and are highly skilled. Throw in big-time talents such as frosh Leon McQuay and Su'a Cravens, and there aren't many teams that wouldn't trade their safeties for USC's. And no more Tampa 2 confusion also should help.

Arizona State: Team leader Alden Darby was second-team All-Pac-12 last season as the Sun Devils led the Pac-12 in pass efficiency defense. Redshirt freshman Viliami Moeakiola topped the post-spring depth chart at free safety, but the competition remains open heading into fall camp. Watch out for Damarious Randall.

Washington: Sean Parker is back, and he was honorable mention All-Pac-12 a year ago. Redshirt freshman Brandon Beaver is competing with experienced senior Will Shamburger for the other spot.

Arizona: Everyone is back in the Wildcats secondary, and just like the cornerbacks, the safeties will look good if the pass rush is at least adequate. Former walk-on Jared Tevis was a revelation last season, while Jourdon Grandon also returns. Tra'Mayne Bondurant is a hybrid linebacker/safety sort. Patrick Onwuasor was kicked off the team.

Washington State: Deone Bucannon was second-team All-Pac-12 last season and he packs a punch, while Casey Locker also is a returning starter. Sophomore Taylor Taliulu is in the mix. What holds the Cougars back here, not unlike Arizona, is poor 2012 pass efficiency defense.

Utah: Eric Rowe is back and he's flashed plenty of potential, but Brian Blechen is -- wisely, the Pac-12 blog thinks -- moving back to linebacker. Though Tevin Carter was listed as an "Or" beside Rowe on the post-spring depth chart, expect him to compete with Tyron Morris-Edwards for the spot opposite Rowe. Charles Henderson offers depth.

California: Michael Lowe is a returning starter, but he was listed behind Alex Logan on the post-spring depth chart. Avery Sebastian is solid at strong safety. Again, this seems like a solid crew, but Cal gave up 32 touchdown passes last season, second most in the conference.

WE'LL SEE

UCLA: It was a big blow when Tevin McDonald, brother of T.J. and the secondary's lone returning starter, got kicked off the team. It also didn't help when the career of the star-crossed Dietrich Riley ended because of injuries. Sophomore Randall Goforth is the likely starter at free safety, while touted incoming freshmen Tahaan Goodman and Tyler Foreman figure to be in the mix opposite him. There are plenty of opportunities here for youngsters and veterans to make a fall camp move.

Colorado: The Buffaloes lose Ray Polk, but there's no lack of returning experience here among Josh Moten, Terrel Smith, Parker Orms, Marques Mosley and Jered Bell. But, as we noted with the corners, when you rank last in the nation in pass efficiency defense, it's difficult not to rank a "we'll see."

You can see previous previews here:

Quarterback

Running back

Receiver

Tight end

Offensive line

Kicker

Linebacker

Defensive line

Cornerback
Cornerback, at least from a preseason perspective, is not a strong position across the conference in 2013.

Three of the four corners on the 2012 All-Pac-12 first- and second-teams -- Oregon State's Jordan Poyer, Washington's Desmond Trufant and USC's Nickell Robey -- are now in the NFL. Only Arizona, Colorado, Oregon and Washington State welcome back both starting corners, and of those, only the Ducks ranked in the top eight in the conference in pass efficiency defense last year.

So how do things stack up?

GREAT SHAPE

[+] EnlargeStanford celebrates
AP Photo/Marcio Jose SanchezWayne Lyons, along with experienced safeties, gives Stanford one of the conference's top secondaries.
Oregon: The Ducks have the nation's best corner tandem in All-American Ifo Ekpre-Olomu and Terrance Mitchell. In fact, their backups, Dior Mathis and Troy Hill, probably would rate as one of the better tandems in the conference if they were starting. The Ducks welcome back the entire two-deep from their 2012 secondary, as well as safety Avery Patterson, an All-Conference talent who was hurt last year. This is probably the best secondary in the nation.

Stanford: While the Cardinal's star power is at safety, they are also strong at corner with Alex Carter, Wayne Lyons, Barry Browning and Usua Amanam giving them an experienced, athletic foursome.

GOOD SHAPE

Arizona: If Jonathan McKnight and Shaquelle Richardson are healthy -- and get supported by any sort of pass rush -- they have the potential to be an elite cover tandem. Derrick Rainey is also in the mix.

Oregon State: Rashaad Reynolds is now the lead dog with Poyer gone. There’s and interesting competition on the other side between veteran Sean Martin and juco transfer Steven Nelson, who had a strong spring showing. It helps that things are good at safety -- and that the Beavers gave up just 14 TD passes last year.

Arizona State: Osahon Irabor, a four-year starter, is back and senior Robert Nelson has experience, including a notable interception in the win over Arizona. Rashad Wadood, who redshirted last year due to injuries, is a third option who had a strong spring. The Sun Devils ranked first in the Pac-12 in pass efficiency defense in 2012.

Washington: Like Oregon State's Reynolds, Marcus Peters now moves out of a big shadow -- Trufant -- and gets an opportunity to show what he can do. While Greg Ducre and Tre Watson, backups last year, are back, watch out for junior college transfer Travell Dixon, a former Alabama signee.

Washington State: The Cougars welcome back three corners with significant experience: Damante Horton, Anthony Carpenter and Nolan Washington. On the downside, the pass defense struggled last year, ranking 11th in pass efficiency defense, yielding a 65.5 percent completion rate.

WE'LL SEE

USC: Josh Shaw has moved back to safety, so this position is in flux for the Trojans. Senior Torin Harris has nine career starts but his play has been uneven, while Anthony Brown has two. Kevon Seymour, Devian Shelton and freshman Chris Hawkins are in the mix.

California: While the Bears lost both starters -- Steve Williams and Marc Anthony were a strong tandem -- Kameron Jackson has plenty of experience and Stefan McClure has plenty of pure talent. Depth is a question.

UCLA: The Bruins are replacing their entire secondary, and that might not be a bad thing considering they gave up 27 TD passes in 2012. Anthony Jefferson and Ishmael Adams are the leaders to start, with Fabian Moreau also in the mix. It will be interesting to see if true freshmen Priest Willis and Johnny Johnson make a move. It hurt to lose sophomore Marcus Rios to a serious sinus infection.

Utah: The Utes lost their top three corners from a fair-to-middling 2012 pass defense, one that grabbed just eight interceptions. Keith McGill is a likely starter, while redshirt freshman Justin Thomas and JC transfer Davion Orphey are competing on the other side. Lots of inexperience here.

Colorado: The Buffaloes welcome back essentially their entire 2012 depth chart at corner, including intriguing young talents Kenneth Crawley, Greg Henderson and Yuri Wright. But the Buffs ranked last in the nation in pass efficiency defense in 2012 -- just three interceptions -- which must be accounted for here.

You can see previous previews here:

Quarterback

Running back

Receiver

Tight end

Offensive line

Kicker

Linebacker

Defensive line

Preseason position reviews: defensive line

July, 30, 2013
7/30/13
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Defensive line is difficult to compare among Pac-12 teams because schemes aren't as consistent as they used to be.

Five or so years ago, just about everyone ran a 4-3. Now, most of the conference runs a hybrid 3-4. California went the other way, however, switching back to a 4-3.

In most cases, when a team runs an odd front, we counted the "rush end" as an outside linebacker, but there's always a bit of crossover into defensive end territory, whether he puts his hand down or not.

Continuing our theme of strong defenses heading into the 2013 season, this is a good position in the conference across the board. Even the "We'll see" teams probably believe they will be as good or better up front this fall.

So how do things stack up?

GREAT SHAPE

[+] EnlargeWill Sutton, Corbin Berkstresser
AP Photo/L.G. PattersonAfter a 12-sack season in 2012, Will Sutton will once again be a force on Arizona State's defensive line.
Arizona State: Everyone knows about DT Will Sutton, the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, who was mostly unblockable last year, but all three D-line starters are back for the Sun Devils. While the Pac-12 Blog doesn't give too much credit to incoming players, juco transfer Marcus Hardison, ESPN's No. 5 overall junior college prospect in the country, is apparently ready for prime time.

Oregon: Five of the top six from the 2012 depth chart are back, and that was a very good crew, led by end Taylor Hart. Wade Keliikipi and Ricky Heimuli are veteran 300-pounders, while Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner and Alex Balducci each saw significant action last year as true freshmen. This unit can go even nine-deep.

Stanford: End Ben Gardner leads a strong, experienced unit. He and fellow end Henry Anderson combined for 27.5 tackles for a loss, and NG David Parry stepped into the starting lineup late last season when Terrence Stephens had some issues. Depth is promising but mostly unproven.

USC: The Trojans have the potential to be rugged front as they switch to a base 3-4 look if former tackles now ends Leonard Williams and George Uko take another step forward. Things are fluid at nose tackle between Antwaun Woods, Cody Temple and touted frosh Kenny Bigelow. Some depth questions remain, and the run defense was only middling a year ago.

GOOD SHAPE

California: In terms of name recognition from recruiting, there's plenty of potential here as the Bears transition to a 4-3 scheme: massive NT Deandre Coleman is top NFL prospect, as are ends Chris McCain and Brennan Scarlett. Tackle Mustafa Jalil is a big-time talent, but depth is a question and the results in 2012 were mediocre.

UCLA: Datone Jones is gone, and that's a big hit, but most of the depth chart is back, including DE Cassius Marsh and NT Seali'i Epenesa. The Bruins probably would be in great shape if not for some health issues. NT Brandon Tuliaupupu was lost in the spring to a knee injury, and end Owamagbe Odighizuwa remains questionable for fall camp with a hip injury. Is touted NT Ellis McCarthy ready to roll after injury issues his freshman year? And will the NCAA make Eddie Vanderdoes, who signed with Notre Dame in February but changed his mind, immediately eligible?

Washington: Talia Crichton is gone, but three of four starters are back, including NT Danny Shelton. Ends Andrew Hudson and Josh Shirley combined for 13 sacks last year. If the D-line take a step forward, the Huskies have a chance to have a top-25 defense.

Oregon State: This is a compromise grade for the Beavers, who are in great shape at end -- Scott Crichton! Dylan Wynn! -- and a decided "we'll see" at tackle, where incoming juco players need to step up, big time.

Washington State: The Cougars welcome back all three starters from late in the season, led by NT Ioane Gauta. Sophomore tackle Xavier Cooper could be poised for a breaktout season -- injuries slowed his development last year. This is a ‘better than you think unit’, one that only allowed 4.0 yards per rush, same as Oregon and Oregon State.

WE'LL SEE

Utah: The Utes lose three of four starters from their 2012 line, including first-round NFL draft pick Star Lotulelei, but there doesn't seem to be much worry heading into fall camp, particularly with Trevor Reilly fully installed at end instead of OLB. Nate Orchard, who changed his last name from Fakahafua, is back at the other end, and there are a handful of 300-pound options at DT. Utah was second in the Pac-12 in rush defense last season and there is a tradition of being stout up front.

Arizona: Five of the top six from the 2012 depth chart are back, but the Wildcats D-line got pushed around last year. Only Colorado was worse against the run -- 4.6 yards per carry, 206 yards per game. Further, the Wildcats had just 16 sacks last year, last in the conference.

Colorado: With a team-high seven sacks, DE Chidera Uzo-Diribe is a strong player, but his supporting cast is questionable. Still, it's not unreasonable to project significant improvement from a unit that was forced to play several young players in 2012. While the experience factor is nice, the Buffs still gave up 5.9 yards per rush last year, second worst in the nation.

You can see previous previews here:

Quarterback

Running back

Receiver

Tight end

Offensive line

Kicker

Linebacker
Linebacker should a strong position in the Pac-12 this fall. You could argue that six or seven guys are or could become All-American candidates.

So how do the units stack up?

GREAT SHAPE

Stanford: Three starters back for the Pac-12's best run defense, including All-American candidates Trent Murphy and Shayne Skov. Even the competition to replace Chase Thomas between James Vaughters and Blake Lueders is between two A-list veterans. Depth is good, too. Might be the best unit in the country.

[+] EnlargeAnthony Barr
Jonathan Moore/Getty ImagesAnthony Barr is a big reason why the Bruins boast one of the Pac-12 best linebacker corps.
UCLA: Well, start with Anthony Barr on the outside. The general reaction to him at media day, "Dang. He's big. I didn't know he was that big." Then there's the underrated Eric Kendricks inside along with the solid Jordan Zumwalt. There doesn't seem to be much concern about the vacancy at the other OLB, where Aaron Wallace, Kenny Orjioke and, perhaps, incoming freshman Myles Jack are competing.

USC: Inside 'backer Hayes Pullard and Morgan Breslin on the outside make for a good start, as the Trojans transition to a 3-4. Fellow inside linebacker Lamar Dawson had a forgettable 2012 season, but he reacted well to being challenged this spring. Then there's the return of Devon Kennard, who should finally feel comfortable playing the OLB position he was made for.

Washington: As previously noted, the Huskies are extremely strong here, though it doesn't seem that many folks realize it. They will. The general feeling among just about everyone is that Shaq Thompson will make a move toward All-American recognition this year, while Travis Feeney and John Timu also are well above average. Rush end Josh Shirley also merits note as a hybrid LB/DE in Justin Wilcox's amorphous scheme.

GOOD SHAPE

Oregon State: Michael Doctor and D.J. Alexander are both back, giving the Beavers speed and experience on the outside. Joel Skotte is expected to win the job at MLB. Depth is a little iffy, but the Beavers run defense was strong in 2012.

Arizona State: Pac-12 blog favorite Brandon Magee is gone, and for that we are terribly sad. Incredibly productive Devil 'backer Carl Bradford is back, as are Steffon Martin and Chris Young, as well as Anthony Jones. Sun Devils struggled a bit against the run last year.

California: The Bears are switching from a 3-4 to a 4-3, which means Chris McCain is now officially a rush end, not an outside linebacker. But this is a better-than-you-think crew, despite the lousy numbers from 2012. Nick Forbes is strong inside, while Jalen Jefferson is back on the strongside. Penn State transfer Khairi Fortt is finally healthy and ready to roll. Depth is a little questionable.

Arizona: Everyone is back, led by Jake Fischer and Marquis Flowers, and the Pac-12 blog is of the mind the Wildcats are actually OK at linebacker. The issue is the guys in front of them not being very good at gobbling up blockers. Terrible run defense last year, though.

Washington State: We think one of the big surprises this year might be how solid the Cougars are on defense, and linebacker is one of several reasons why. Most of the 2012 two-deep is back, though losing OLB Travis Long is a big hit. Darryl Monroe is the leader inside.

WE'LL SEE

Oregon: It's not just that the Ducks lost three of four starters. It's that they lost OLB Dion Jordan and Kiko Alonso and Michael Clay inside. Each is on an NFL roster, Jordan being a first-round pick and Alonso going in the second round. No team in the country lost anything approaching that at linebacker. Boseko Lokombo is back on the outside, but injury issues this spring prevented there from being much depth chart clarity.

Utah: While the 2012 run defense was solid, the Utes didn't play well at linebacker last year, though injury issues were the chief concern, preventing any type of week-to-week continuity. Trevor Reilly, who played "stud" 'backer last year, has returned to his more natural end position. A healthy Brian Blechen will take over at "stud" after bouncing back and forth at safety -- he's 230 pounds, too -- and that should help. Big area of fall competition here.

Colorado: Senior Derrick Webb is a strong presence on the weakside, but Jon Major and Doug Rippy are gone. The Buffaloes likely will be young here, see true freshman Addison Gillam topping the post-spring depth chart.

You can see previous previews here:

Quarterback

Running back

Receiver

Tight end

Offensive line

Kicker

Preseason position reviews: kicker

July, 22, 2013
7/22/13
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Kickers are important. Just ask Oregon.

It's also hard to measure kickers. They can be good one year but fall off the next. They can put up good numbers but miss when the pressure is on. And new kickers are impossible to gauge, even if they arrive with an impressive recruiting ranking.

So how do things stack up heading into 2013? Let's take a look.

GREAT SHAPE

Oregon State: Trevor Romaine was 16 of 18 -- best percentage in the conference -- with a long of 45 yards. On the downside, he missed three of his 54 PATs.

[+] EnlargeKa'imi Fairbairn
AP Photo/Matt YorkKa'imi Fairbairn's clutch field goal lifted UCLA over Arizona State.
Washington State: Andrew Furney was second-team All-Pac-12 and kicked a 60-yard field goal against Eastern Washington, the longest in the nation last year. Doesn't kick off.

UCLA: Ka'imi Fairbairn turned in a strong freshman season, making 16 of 22 field goals with a long of 48 yards. Had a 33-yard game winner at the final bell against Arizona State. Missed three PATs and doesn't kick off.

California: Vince D'Amato was first-team All-Pac-12 in 2012, though it seemed like an odd pick at the time considering he only hit 16 of 23 field goals and missed three extra points. Still, his 52 yarder against Washington State was the second longest in the conference last year.

GOOD SHAPE

USC: Andre Heidari made 10 of 16 field goals with a long of 41 yards and 39 of 41 PATs. More talented than his numbers -- he battled knee issues in 2012 after earning first-team All-Pac-12 honors in 2011.

Stanford: Jordan Williamson overcame his late-season yips from 2011 to kick a clutch game-winner at Oregon. Overall, he was 17 of 27 on field goals with a long of 48 and he missed just one of 46 PATs. Best returning guy on kickoffs, too.

Colorado: Will Oliver is a good kicker but he only got eight attempts -- making six -- with a long of 37 yards. Didn't miss a PAT.

Washington: Travis Coons, who also punted for the Huskies, had a bad miss in the Apple Cup, but he had a decent 2012 season, making 9 of 14 field goals with a long of 45 yards and hitting all 39 of his PATs. Not very good on kickoffs, and he could be challenged by incoming freshmen.

WE'LL SEE

Oregon: Alejandro Maldonado is back, but his star-crossed career might be over with the arrival of touted freshman Matt Wogan.

Arizona: The Wildcats are replacing the solid John Bonano. Syracuse transfer Jake Smith and Casey Skowron will compete in preseason camp for the job.

Arizona State: Alex Garoutte struggled last season, making just 6 of 11 kicks with a long of 43 yards. He did make 59 of 60 extra points. He lost his job to Jon Mora, who was 9 of 12 but with limited range. They are competing for the job, along with incoming freshman Zane Gonzalez.

Utah: Coleman Petersen is gone -- he was just 8 of 13 last year -- and the competition is pretty wide open after Jamie Sutcliffe and Andy Phillips didn't light things on fire during the spring. There are six kickers on the roster.

You can see previous previews here:

Quarterback

Running back

Receiver

Tight end

Offensive line
We've previously noted that offensive line is going to be a strong position in the Pac-12 this year.

To, cough, cough, quote ourselves:
The only team that doesn't welcome back at least three starters on the line is Utah, but a big story in Salt Lake this spring has been how good the Utes' O-line has looked.

Seven teams welcome back four starters, compared to just two (Arizona and USC) a year ago. Moreover, just about every team offers up some star power, established or budding.

No team will exit the spring with serious concerns -- at least in terms of overall team priorities and uncertainties -- on the O-line, though Colorado and Washington State still are questionable, despite four returning starters each, due to yielding 52 and 57 sacks and run blocking poorly a year ago.

There were no returning first-team All-Pac-12 linemen in 2012. This year there are three, including Morris Trophy winner David Yankey of Stanford and UCLA's Xavier Su'a-Filo. Both are likely preseason All-Americans, and they might get joined by Oregon center Hroniss Grasu, who was first-team all-conference as a sophomore.

So how do things stack up?

GREAT SHAPE

[+] EnlargeDavid Yankey
AP Photo/Rob HoltDavid Yankey and Stanford's offensive line are expected to lead the Pac-12 this season.
Stanford: All-American David Yankey leads one of the nation's best lines. It welcomes back 82 total starts among its four returning starters. Watch out of LT Andrus Peat. He's also got All-American potential.

Oregon: The Ducks are replacing both guards but the three guys returning are A-list: C Hroniss Grasu, OT Jake Fisher and OT Tyler Johnstone.

USC: Phil Steele ranked the Trojans' four returning starters the nation's sixth best unit. Last year, the Trojans allowed just 17 sacks, fewest in the conference. The run blocking, however, was only mediocre.

GOOD SHAPE

Arizona: This no-name unit, though Fabbians Ebbele is a heck of a name, welcomes back three starters from a line that led the Pac-12's second best rushing attack and yielded just 18 sacks, second fewest in the conference, though QB Matt Scott was really good at avoiding a pass rush.

Oregon State: This is a little bit of a projection forward because the Beavers' offensive line was just so-so last year -- the rushing attack ranked 10th and, well, the pass blocking in the Alamo Bowl left something to be desired. But four quality starters are back, led by freshman All-American center Isaac Seumalo. The Beavers' 90 returning starts on the line ranks 17th in the nation and first in the Pac-12.

Arizona State: Three quality starters return from a unit that was solid last year, topped by tackles Evan Finkenberg and Jamil Douglas. They did give up 38 sacks a year ago, which was tied for seventh in the conference.

UCLA: Four starters are back, and OG Xavier Sua'Filo is one of the nation's best, and the run blocking was mostly good in 2012. But, yeesh, 52 sacks. The strong incoming freshman class might push for playing time, too.

Washington: Four starters are back from a unit that seems likely to improve, as last year's injuries helped get younger guys experience, which as Huskies fans know, didn't often go well. Keith Price is the key to the Huskies' season, but how the line plays in front of him is the key to Price playing well.

WE'LL SEE

California: Just two starters are back, and the Bears' total returning starts -- 28 -- ranks 117th in the nation. That said, one of the new starters is the massive, talented LT in Freddie Tagaloa. Part of the mystery here is how the Bears adopt a very different blocking scheme under Sonny Dykes.

Utah: The word out of spring camp was how well the Utes' line was playing, and LT Jeremiah Poutasi is a rising star. Still, like Cal, Utah has just two returning starters and 28 total starts coming back on its line.

Colorado: Four starters are back. RG Daniel Munyer made honorable mention All-Pac-12. OT Stephane Nembot has a lot of physical talent. But the Buffs gave up 50 sacks and averaged 3.1 yards per rush.

Washington State: Washington State has three starters coming back, but the Cougars' line was awful last year. Perhaps the worst unit playing for a major conference team. It gave up 57 sacks, which ranked last in the nation. It led a ground game that averaged 29 yards per contest, again last in the nation. If you are looking for an A-No. 1 concern for the Cougs, this is it. Expect newcomers -- the recruiting class is strong with O-linemen -- to immediately compete for jobs.

You can see previous previews here:

Quarterback

Running back

Receiver

Tight end
It's not unusual that tight end is a strong position in the conference. What's unusual is that Stanford doesn't lead the way in 2013.

At least, not from a preseason perspective.

So how do things stack up?

GREAT SHAPE

[+] EnlargeAustin Seferian-Jenkins
Ezra Shaw/Getty ImagesAustin Seferian-Jenkins could be the first tight end taken in the NFL draft next year.
Washington: Austin Seferian-Jenkins is a consensus preseason All-American and the junior is likely to be the first tight end selected in this spring's NFL draft. He ranked eighth in the Pac-12 last year with 77 receptions for 878 yards and six touchdowns. Backup Michael Hartvigson is solid.

Oregon: Colt Lyerla is a versatile weapon for the Ducks' offense, one we expect to get more use this fall. His backup, Pharaoh Brown, was one of the stars of spring practices.

USC: Xavier Grimble caught 29 passes for 316 yards with five touchdowns, and Randall Telfer caught 12 passes for 100 yards and four scores. Both are NFL prospects. It would be wise to get them the ball more this season.

Arizona State: Chris Coyle, officially an H-back, led the Sun Devils with 57 receptions for 696 yards and five touchdowns last season. The depth behind him is questionable. Darwin Rogers, who plays tight end, is almost exclusively a blocker.

GOOD SHAPE

Oregon State: 6-foot-7 Connor Hamlett, an H-back, caught 32 passes last season for 403 yards. Tyler Perry is competing with Caleb Smith for the starting spot at tight end. The promising Kellen Clute is Hamlett's backup. Lots of big bodies that can catch here.

Utah: Jake Murphy caught 33 passes for 349 yards and four touchdowns, and earned honorable mention All-Pac-12 honors. Westlee Tonga will also see plenty of action. Coach Kyle Whittingham has said he wants his tight ends to play a bigger role this fall.

California: Sonny Dykes offense uses a "Y" receiver, which can be a tight end or another receiver. Richard Rodgers is an impressive athlete who looks like a prototypical tight end. He caught 20 passes for 288 yards and a score last season. It will be interesting to see how he is used this fall.

WE'LL SEE

Stanford: 6-foot-7 Luke Kaumatule and Davis Dudchock might become the next great Cardinal tight end combination, but neither caught a pass last season. It's tempting to throw fullback and former tight end Ryan Hewitt in here and boost Stanford up to good shape.

UCLA: The Bruins are another team that use a "Y" receiver instead of a tight end, and the departure of Joseph Fauria probably means that position will be more like a receiver than a tight end this fall -- see 5-foot-11 Darius Bell being a first option here after spring practices. That said, Ian Taubler and touted freshman Thomas Duarte have traditional tight end builds and could be in the offensive mix.

Colorado: Nick Kasa was one of Colorado's best players last year but he's gone and anyway he caught just 25 passes. Kyle Slavin, who topped the spring depth chart, caught 14 balls last season. It will be interesting to see how Mike MacIntyre's "pistol" offense incorporates some of the young tight ends -- redshirt freshmen Sean Irwin and Austin Ray -- into its offense going forward.

Arizona: Drew Robinson was listed as the Wildcats starting tight end last season, and he didn't catch a pass. The 2013 roster only lists two tight ends, though big receiver Terrence Miller, at 6-foot-4, 234 pounds, looks like a tight end. It's not a priority position in Rich Rodriguez's spread offense.

Washington State: Mike Leach is not a tight end guy.

You can see previous previews here:

Quarterback

Running back

Receiver
Receiver is not as strong a position in the Pac-12 as it was last year, but it's still pretty darn good, with Belitnikof Award winner Marqise Lee back and Oregon State's Brandin Cooks being a potential All-American.

And if Arizona didn't lose Austin Hill to a knee injury this spring, three 1,000-yard receivers would be back.

So how do things stack up?

GREAT SHAPE

[+] EnlargeNelson Agholor
Jonathan Moore/Getty ImagesReceiver Nelson Agholor proved last season that he can be a deep threat for USC.
USC: Lee is the nation's best receiver. Sophomore Nelson Agholor averaged 17.9 yards per catch last year. Just like last year when Lee was paired with Robert Woods, this might become the best combo in the country, though, of course, Woods was far more proven than Agholor. The depth is questionable but, at least based on recruiting rankings, it is talented.

Oregon: While De'Anthony Thomas is officially a running back, you can't help but allow him to toss some fairy dust here. Further, Josh Huff seemed to take a step forward from being a pure athlete to a legit receiver last year, and up-and-comer Bralon Addison as well as Daryle Hawkins and Keanon Lowe are back. It's worth noting the top six pass-catchers overall are returning.

Washington: Kasen Williams is the headliner after catching 77 passes last year. He's big and fast. The next two leading wideouts, Jaydon Mickens and DiAndre Campbell, also are back. Like the Ducks, the Huskies' top six pass-catchers, which includes a TE and RB you might have heard of, are back. Washington and Oregon fans will delight in knowing that I switched these two at the last minute, when I decided you couldn't completely ignore Thomas as a receiver.

Washington State: While there's no Marquess Wilson among the returning guys, this is a deep crew: Brett Bartolone, Gabe Marks, Dominique Williams, Isiah Myers, Bobby Ratliff and Kristoff Williams caught between 53 and 22 passes last year. Phil Steele ranked the Cougars 28th in the nation at this position.

Oregon State: The Beavers cling to "great shape" only because the speedy Cooks could be headed for a huge season after he caught 67 passes for 1,151 yards -- 17.2 yards per catch -- last year. There are some depth questions, though Kevin Cummings and Richard Mullaney combined for 31 receptions last year and Obum Gwacham and Micah Hatfield are back.

GOOD SHAPE

UCLA: Shaq Evans caught 60 passes for 877 yards last year, but after him the leading returning receiver is Devin Fuller, who caught just 20 passes. Still, there's young talent here, topped by Devin Lucien, Jordan Payton and Kenny Walker.

California: Sure, Keenan Allen is gone, but there's lots of young talent that saw action last year. Chris Harper was second on the 2012 Bears with 41 catches, while speedy Bryce Treggs had 21. Darius Powe and Maurice Harris also saw action, while redshirt freshman Kenny Lawler is promising. This might turn out to be a "Great shape" crew -- if there's a QB getting them the ball consistently.

Colorado: Don't laugh -- the Buffaloes are solid at receiver, particularly with Paul Richardson back after missing 2012 with a knee injury. He's an All-Pac-12 type talent, and the top two receivers from 2012, Nelson Spruce and Tyler McCulloch, are also back. Further, converted running back D.D. Goodson is intriguing. Question for Buffs is QB, not WR.

Utah: The Utes two leading wideouts in 2012 are back. Dres Anderson and Kenneth Scott combined for 69 catches last year. And they are probably better than folks think because the Utes' passing game problems started at QB, where true freshman Travis Wilson was taking his lumps most of the season. It hurts that projected starter Quinton Pedrosa was given the boot this summer for violating team rules.

Arizona: The Wildcats would have been in "Great shape" if Hill hadn't blown out his knee and Tyler Slavin hadn't left the program. The issue isn't experience: Five guys return with at least 20-catch seasons. But there's a decided lack of a go-to guy. The leading returning receiver, Dave Richards, caught just 29 passes last year and ranked fourth on the team.

WE'LL SEE

Stanford: Five of the top six receivers from 2012 are gone, though it's worth noting the top two didn't play receiver. While Ty Montgomery hinted at his potential in 2012, he only caught 26 passes for 213 yards with no TDs. After that, there are just names and potential based on strong spring performances: Devon Cajuste, Michael Rector, Kodi Whitfield and Kelsey Young.

Arizona State: None of the Sun Devils' top five pass catchers from 2012 are back playing receiver this fall. The position was decidedly questionable last year -- see the top three receivers being a tight end and a pair of running backs -- and it is even more so this year, in large part because it's the team's only obvious hole. Yet, great hope hangs on incoming players, most notably the touted Jaelen Strong.

You can see previous previews here:

Quarterback

Running back
While the Pac-12 lost a lot of star power at running back from 2012 -- Kenjon Barner, Johnathan Franklin, Stepfan Taylor and John White -- it also welcomes back a strong core of ball carriers.

Four RBs are back who gained at least 900 yards, and that includes the nation's leading rusher in Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey.

Still, there is uncertainty at the position for a number of schools.

Evaluations aren't easy here. A number of teams have an A-list leading rusher back but uncertain depth. Others have plenty of experience returning but no proven A-lister. So stars and depth matter here.

So how does it stack up?

GREAT SHAPE

Arizona: Carey rushed for nearly 2,000 yards last year and could eclipse that mark this fall. He also scored 23 TDs and averaged 6.4 yards per carry. The depth behind him is solid.

[+] EnlargeKa'Deem Carey
Rick Scuteri/US PresswireArizona's Ka'Deem Carey led the nation with 1,929 rushing yards last season.
Arizona State: Marion Grice and D.J. Foster, as noted by the Arizona State sports information office, produced 2,130 combined yards in 2012 (1,172 rushing, 958 receiving) and 25 touchdowns. Grice averaged 6.6 yards per carry, Foster 4.8. Both are good receivers. They are one of the best combos in the nation, if not the best.

Washington: Bishop Sankey ranked fourth in the Pac-12 in 2012 with 110.7 yards rushing per game. He averaged 5.0 yards per carry and scored 16 TDs. There's good depth behind him, particularly if Jesse Callier is back to form after a knee injury.

Oregon: While running back is one of the Ducks questions, that question is more about how they will do things rather than whether or not they will be good. If De'Anthony Thomas is the No. 1 running back and gets 15 to 20 carries a game (and, knock on wood, stays healthy), he'll be a money guy. Byron Marshall is capable and incoming freshman Thomas Tyner is highly touted.

USC: Silas Redd is back after rushing for 905 yards, but he'll have to fight off some youngsters who want the ball, namely freshman Justin Davis, who was impressive in spring practices. There's also D.J. Morgan, and don't forget about Tre Madden, who offers a power option after sitting out last year with a knee injury.

Oregon State: Storm Woods and Terron Ward combined for 1,747 yards (1,355 rushing, 392 receiving) and 19 touchdowns in 2012. Woods rushed for 940 yards and 13 TDs, despite being banged up much of the year. Ward averaged 6.1 yards per carry. These guys won't wow you but they are a strong pair.

GOOD SHAPE

Stanford: The Cardinal is replacing Taylor's conference-high 322 carries, so even if the prospects are strong, there's some question of if it will be one or two guys or a committee. The return of Tyler Gaffney from pro baseball is big. He had 449 yards and seven TDs in 2011 before taking a year off. There's also Anthony Wilkerson, the most likely starter, Ricky Seale, Remound Wright and Barry Sanders. The Cardinal does get a boost from the return of fullback Ryan Hewitt.

California: The Bears might have an outstanding combination here with Brendan Bigelow and Daniel Lasco. Both have flashed potential, particularly Bigelow, who rushed for 431 yards and averaged 9.8 yards per carry -- yeah, 9.8 yards -- in 2012. But they are not a sure-thing. Bigelow has trouble staying healthy, and Lasco had just six carries last year, though one went for 77 yards.

Colorado: Everybody of note is back, led by 235-pound sophomore Christian Powell, who rushed for 691 yards and seven TDs, averaging a solid 4.4 yards per carry. There's also Tony Jones and Donta Abron to compliment Powell's power with some breakaway ability. Of the Buffs worries, running back is way down the list.

WE'LL SEE

UCLA: Replacing Franklin won't be easy, and it's likely this one will be by-committee, because no single player looks like a go-to guy. Jordon James, Paul Perkins, Malcolm Jones, Steven Manfro and Damien Thigpen, who is coming back from a knee injury, are in the mix. James was the top backup last year, while Perkins is the intriguing redshirt freshman. Thigpen, if healthy, is a slash type guy who isn't a pure running back.

Utah: White, the first Ute to rush for more than 1,000 yards in consecutive seasons, is gone. Kelvin York, White's backup, now gets his shot after rushing for 273 yards last year. He, however, has some injury worries. Behind him, there's Lucky Radley, James Poole and 243-pound Karl Williams. It's also possible JC transfer Devontae Booker will get into the mix. The Utes should be OK here but the pecking order isn't yet clear.

Washington State: Does this position even apply for the Cougars? Last year, they ranked last in the nation in rushing with 29 yards per game and 1.38 yards per carry. Teondray Caldwell is the leading returning rusher with 269 yards. There's also Leon Brooks and Marcus Mason. The issue here isn't the running backs. It's the run blocking, which was pitiful last year.
It's time to start our preseason position reviews. Please, hold your applause until we are finished.

Here's how we do this: We provide three evaluative categories: "Great shape," "Good shape" and "We'll see."

Hint: You'd prefer your team to be in "Great shape."

"We'll see" doesn't mean you're going to stink at said position. It means just what it says -- we'll see because there's no way at present to know. Stanford and Arizona State both got "We'll see" last year at quarterback and things turned out OK.

You can review last year's rankings here. Plenty of hits. And plenty of misses.

And away we go ... starting, of course, with quarterback.

GREAT SHAPE

Oregon: Marcus Mariota, a sophomore, is among the best returning quarterbacks in the nation and a leading Heisman Trophy candidate. He's also got a strong supporting cast to make him look good. Of course, Matt Barkley showed us last year that there are no sure things.

[+] EnlargeTaylor Kelly
Ron Chenoy/US PresswireWith Taylor Kelly back at quarterback, Arizona State could be doing a lot of celebrating in 2013.
Arizona State: Taylor Kelly came from nowhere to lead the conference's No. 2 scoring offense (38.4 points per game). He ranked second behind Mariota in passing efficiency, which was good for ninth in the nation. The depth behind him is good: Michael Eubank and Mike Bercovici.

UCLA: Brett Hundley led an offense that averaged 467 yards and 34 points per game last year as a redshirt freshman. He ranked second in the Pac-12 and 23rd in the nation in total offense. Took a few too many sacks, though. The Bruins rank below Arizona State here because the Sun Devils' backups are stronger.

Stanford: Kevin Hogan didn't put up big numbers but he went 5-0 after he took over the starting job, including leading a win at Oregon and in the Rose Bowl. He's plenty capable and his numbers should take a big jump this fall. It's also nice to have a beastly O-line in front of you.

GOOD SHAPE

Oregon State: The biggest story with Oregon State is the quarterback competition between Sean Mannion and Cody Vaz. The silver lining is the Beavers have two capable QBs with starting experience. Things could be far worse.

Washington: Keith Price rated the Huskies in "Great shape" heading into 2012, but things didn't go as planned. While it wasn't all his fault, he nonetheless has a lot to prove this fall. If he looks like his 2011 self, Washington will have a breakthrough season.

Washington State: Connor Halliday has played well at times, and Austin Apodaca was good enough this spring to make things interesting entering fall camp. Further, Year 2 with Mike Leach figures to be good to whoever plays QB.

USC: Star rating tends to boost USC, and Max Wittek, Cody Kessler and frosh Max Browne have plenty of star power. The big-armed Wittek has experienced gained last year when Barkley was hurt, but Kessler had the best spring. QB is a question for the Trojans, but probably not a big worry.

WE'LL SEE

Utah: Travis Wilson flashed potential last year, and it will help that Dennis Erickson is on board with the offense. But there are questions when you average 109 yards passing, as Wilson did in 2012.

Arizona: Who's it going to be? There are three choices with promise: Returning backup B.J. Denker, who saw some action last year; USC transfer Jesse Scroggins, who's got a great arm; and touted incoming freshman Anu Solomon. It doesn't help that the previously deep crew of receivers has thinned a bit since the end of the 2012 season, most notably the loss of Austin Hill to a knee injury.

California: While many folks believe the job is Zach Kline's to lose this preseason, new coach Sonny Dykes isn't showing his cards. Kline has a lot of potential, but he wasn't able to distance himself this spring from freshman Jared Goff and Austin Hinder. Will he do so early in fall camp? Or will the plot thicken?

Colorado: Connor Wood is the favorite over Shane Dillon and freshman Sefo Liufau. He has some experience but it's not terribly impressive. Still, Wood had enough talent to be originally signed by Texas. If he gets comfortable and confident, he could be at least solid. It will help having receiver Paul Richardson back.

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