Pac-12: Rashad Ross

On Monday we looked at what each team in the Pac-12 had returning in terms of the rushing game. Here's the breakdown for the South and the North.

Today we turn our attention to the wide receivers. We're looking at returning receiving yards, returning receptions and returning receiving touchdowns. First up is the South.

As a reminder, here's how the teams ranked last year in passing offense:
  1. Washington State
  2. Oregon State
  3. Arizona
  4. USC
  5. UCLA
  6. Arizona State
  7. Oregon
  8. Washington
  9. California
  10. Stanford
  11. Colorado
  12. Utah

Here's what the teams in the Pac-12 South have coming back.

  • Receiving yards in 2012: 3,879
  • Receptions in 2012: 326
  • Receiving touchdowns in 2012: 30
  • Returning yards: 2,984
  • Returning receptions: 252
  • Returning touchdowns: 23
  • Percentage of yards returning: 76 percent
  • Percentage of catches returning: 77 percent
  • Percentage of touchdowns returning: 76 percent
  • Biggest statistical returner: Austin Hill, 1,364 yards, 81 catches, 11 touchdowns
  • Biggest statistical loss: Dan Buckner, 773 yards, 61 catches, five touchdowns

Note: Was torn on whether or not to include Austin Hill. Technically, he's not off the team and he's a returning player. But it's also unlikely he'll play in 2012. So above are his the numbers -- since he's still on the team. Without him, the numbers obviously dip significantly: 41 percent yards returning; 52 percent catches returning; 40 percent touchdowns returning.

Arizona State
  • Receiving yards in 2012: 3,369
  • Receptions in 2012: 275
  • Receiving touchdowns in 2012: 33
  • Returning yards: 2,271
  • Returning receptions: 186
  • Returning touchdowns: 26
  • Percentage of yards returning: 67 percent
  • Percentage of catches returning: 67 percent
  • Percentage of touchdowns returning: 78 percent
  • Biggest statistical returner: Chris Coyle, 696 yards, 57 catches, five touchdowns
  • Biggest statistical loss: Rashad Ross, 610 yards, 41 catches, six touchdowns
  • Receiving yards in 2012: 2,310
  • Receptions in 2012: 222
  • Receiving touchdowns in 2012: 11
  • Returning yards: 1,730
  • Returning receptions: 180
  • Returning touchdowns: 7
  • Percentage of yards returning: 74 percent
  • Percentage of catches returning: 81 percent
  • Percentage of touchdowns returning: 63 percent
  • Biggest statistical returner: Nelson Spruce, 446 yards, 44 catches, three touchdowns
  • Biggest statistical loss: Nick Kasa, 391 yards, 25 catches, three touchdowns
  • Receiving yards in 2012: 3,860
  • Receptions in 2012: 324
  • Receiving touchdowns in 2012: 29
  • Returning yards: 2,395
  • Returning receptions: 203
  • Returning touchdowns: 13
  • Percentage of yards returning: 62 percent
  • Percentage of catches returning: 62 percent
  • Percentage of touchdowns returning: 44 percent
  • Biggest statistical returner: Shaq Evans, 877 yards, 60 catches, three touchdowns
  • Biggest statistical loss: Joseph Fauria, 637 yards, 46 catches, 12 touchdowns
  • Receiving yards in 2012: 3,670
  • Receptions in 2012: 284
  • Receiving touchdowns in 2012: 39
  • Returning yards: 2,713
  • Returning receptions: 201
  • Returning touchdowns: 27
  • Percentage of yards returning: 73 percent
  • Percentage of catches returning: 70 percent
  • Percentage of touchdowns returning: 69 percent
  • Biggest statistical returner: Marqise Lee, 1,721 yards, 118 catches, 14 touchdowns
  • Biggest statistical loss: Robert Woods, 846 yards, 76 catches, 11 touchdowns

Note: Like Austin Hill, I included George Farmer's numbers. Though he's expected to miss the year, he's still technically a "returning" player. Though his numbers, one catch for 7 yards, don't alter the landscape like they do with Hill.

  • Receiving yards in 2012: 2,288
  • Receptions in 2012: 220
  • Receiving touchdowns in 2012: 16
  • Returning yards: 1,421
  • Returning receptions: 134
  • Returning touchdowns: 12
  • Percentage of yards returning: 62 percent
  • Percentage of catches returning: 60 percent
  • Percentage of touchdowns returning: 75 percent
  • Biggest statistical returner: Dres Anderson, 365 yards, 36 catches, three touchdowns
  • Biggest statistical loss: DeVonte Christopher, 301 yards, 22 catches, two touchdowns
Arizona State Sun Devils

2012 record: 8-5
2012 conference record: 5-4 (Second in South Division)
Returning starters: Offense 6; defense 8; Kick/punt: 2

Top returners: QB Taylor Kelly, DT Will Sutton, LB Carl Bradford, RB Marion Grice, RB D.J. Foster, LT Evan Finkenberg, TE/H Chris Coyle, S Alden Darby, DE Junior Onyeali

Key losses: RB Cameron Marshall, LB Brandon Magee, WR Rashad Ross, P Josh Hubner, OL Andrew Sampson, OL Brice Schwab.

2012 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Marion Grice* (679)
Passing: Taylor Kelly* (3,039)
Receiving: Chris Coyle* (696)
Tackles: Brandon Magee (113)
Sacks: Will Sutton* (13)
Interceptions: Keelan Johnson (5)

Spring answers
  1. Dynamic duo (1): Running backs Marion Grice and D.J. Foster should make up one of the most prolific 1-2 punches in college football. This was the first time for both to go through full springs at a major college (Grice was a JC transfer, Foster is a sophomore) and the reports are both have added speed and muscle to their frames. With the way ASU uses its backs in the passing game, expect big total yardage numbers from both in 2013.
  2. Dynamic duo (2): On the opposite side of the ball, DT Will Sutton and linebacker Carl Bradford make up an equally dangerous tandem. There are only 10 players in FBS football returning with 10-plus sacks from 2012. And ASU has two of them. Sutton, the league's defensive player of the year, had 13 and Bradford notched 11.5. Combined with several other returning starters, the Sun Devils boast one of the top front sevens in the league.
  3. QB depth: Per head coach Todd Graham, Mike Bercovici had a fantastic spring. We know Kelly is entrenched as the starter. But with Bercovici surging and Michael Eubank bringing the dimension he brings, the Sun Devils have fantastic depth at the position -- something very important for a team hoping to make a championship run.
Fall questions
  1. WR questions: Help should be on the way. Graham called wide receiver his biggest need and the 2013 class includes Jaelen Strong, Ronald Lewis, Joe Morris, Cameron Smith and Ellis Jefferson. When they get put into the fold, it should make an immediate impact on depth and athleticism at the position. All five are at least 6-foot, giving Kelly plenty of options and wiggle room in the red zone.
  2. Line depth: It's always a concern. And while the Sun Devils look stacked on the defensive line, they are working to replace departed Andrew Sampson and Brice Schwab. The staff spent the spring working Sil Ajawara (LG) and Vi Teofilo (RG) into the starting five. Behind them is some versatility in Tyler Sulka, Devin Goodman and Mo Latu.
  3. Special improvements: Graham called ASU's special teams middle of the road last year -- stressing they need to improve in the kicking game if they want to be a better team. Departed punter Josh Hubner was one of the best in the league. Dom Vizzare looks to step in but will be pushed by incoming freshman Matt Haack. Zane Gonzalez was brought in to push returning kickers Alex Garoutte and Jon Mora.
We're looking at some of the top individual performances in the Pac-12 in 2012.

Up next: Kelly sinks Navy

Who and against whom: Arizona State quarterback Taylor Kelly put on a clinic in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, leading the Sun Devils to a 62-28 blowout victory over Navy.

The numbers: Kelly completed 17 of 19 passes for 268 yards with four touchdown passes. He also rushed for 81 yards on seven carries (11.6 average) and scored on a 1-yard run, giving him five touchdowns. Worth noting too that his performance gave him a 67.1 completion percentage for the season, a school record for quarterbacks with 300-plus passes.

A closer look: This was a game with multiple offensive MVPs for the Sun Devils -- Rashad Ross caught three touchdown passes and Marion Grice (the game's offensive MVP) rushed for 159 yards and two scores on 14 carries. But it was Kelly who directed the blowout and helped the Sun Devils shatter 20 Kraft Fight Hunger bowl records. A couple of minutes into the game, he hooked up with Ross on a 16-yard strike, then would find Ross again for scores of 52 and 50 yards. His fourth touchdown pass was an 11-yard toss to Alonzo Agwuenu and his 1-yard touchdown run gave the Sun Devils a 21-0 lead at the end of the first. It was an emotionally-charged game with Grice returning a week after his brother's murder. And his 11.4 yards per carry certainly warranted his winning offensive MVP for the game. But Kelly was near perfect with his accuracy, efficient in the air and on the ground and outstanding in helping ASU to its first bowl win since the 2005 Insight Bowl.

Pac-12 All-Bowl team

January, 10, 2013
Ladies and gentlemen, a round of applause for your 2012 Pac-12 All-Bowl team.


QB: Taylor Kelly, Arizona State -- 17-of-19, 267 yards with four touchdowns and no picks. Outstanding performance.

RB: Bishop Sankey, Washington -- The lone player from a losing team on the all-bowl squad, but he was too good to ignore -- 30 carries for 205 yards and a touchdown.

RB: Marion Grice, Arizona State -- With a heavy heart, he earned offensive MVP by piling up 159 yards on just 14 carries for a robust 11.4-yard average. He also had a pair of rushing touchdowns in ASU's blowout win.

WR: Austin Hill, Arizona -- His 175 yards broke an Arizona record for receiving yards in a bowl game and his two touchdowns matched a school high.

[+] EnlargeArizona State's Rashad Ross
Cary Edmondson/USA TODAY SportsRashad Ross had four catches for 139 yards and three touchdowns against Navy.
WR: Rashad Ross, Arizona State -- Had a huge day with four catches for 139 yards and three touchdowns.

TE: Colt Lyerla, Oregon -- He's not here for his three catches and 52 yards. He's here because those three catches for 52 yards changed the way Kansas State played defense and it opened everything up for the Ducks.

OL: David Yankey, Stanford -- The Morris Trophy winner helped keep quarterback Kevin Hogan sack-free and QB hit-free.

OL: Kyle Quinn, Arizona -- Paved the way for Carey's record-setting performance.

OL: Hroniss Grasu, Oregon -- Kept a good Kansas State front at bay and delivered a knockout block on De'Anthony Thomas' touchdown reception.

OL: Evan Finkenberg, Arizona State -- Key player in Marion Grice's big day.

OL: Kyle Long, Oregon -- Helped limit Kansas State's aggressive front to just one sack.

K: Jordan Williamson, Stanford -- Shook off the Fiesta cobwebs and calmly drilled both field goal attempts, including a 47-yarder. His six points were the difference in the 20-14 outcome.


DL: Ben Gardner, Stanford -- Fourth-and-goal at the 1. James White, prepare to meet the mullet.

DL: Will Sutton, Arizona State -- Defensive MVP of Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. Hungry for more next season.

DL: Carl Bradford, Arizona State -- Three tackles for a loss, plus a sack, make him the perfect complement to Sutton.

LB: Kiko Alonso, Oregon -- Run blitzed the Wildcats all night and was as effective as he was punishing.

LB: Michael Clay, Oregon -- Your defensive MVP of the Fiesta Bowl had nine tackles, two for a loss, plus a sack. He was prolific.

LB: A.J. Tarpley, Stanford -- The leading tackler in the Rose Bowl helped the Cardinal to a second-half shutout.

LB: Marquis Flowers, Arizona -- The defensive MVP of the New Mexico Bowl posted 10 tackles, one for a loss, and an interception. He also recovered the onside kick that sparked Arizona's comeback.

DB: Jordan Richards, Stanford -- Seven tackles, two tackles for a loss, a sack and one very, very nasty (yet clean) hit.

DB: Erick Dargan, Oregon -- Two picks off a Heisman Trophy finalist is two picks off a Heisman Trophy finalist -- whether it's the end of the half or end of the game. He also had eight tackles, second only to Clay.

DB: Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Oregon -- Posted five tackles and a pass breakup. Kansas State challenged him. He responded.

DB: Shaquille Richardson, Arizona -- Nabbed his first interception of the season at the Arizona 2-yard line and returned it 27 yards. That kicked off a nine-play, 71-yard touchdown drive for the Wildcats.

KR: De'Anthony Thomas, Oregon -- DAT did what DAT does. And he did it great.

Pac-12 2012 awards announced

November, 26, 2012
The Pac-12 conference has announced its 2012 individual honors and all-conference first and second teams as voted on by the coaches.

Offensive Player of the Year: Marqise Lee, WR, USC.
Pat Tillman Defensive Player of the Year: Will Sutton, DE, Arizona State.
Freshman Offensive Player of the Year: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon.
Freshman Defensive Player of the Year: Leonard Williams, DE, USC.
Coach of the Year: David Shaw, Stanford.


QB Marcus Mariota, Fr., Oregon
RB Kenjon Barner, Sr., Oregon
RB Ka’Deem Carey, So., Arizona
WR Marqise Lee, So., USC
WR Markus Wheaton, Sr., Oregon State
TE Zach Ertz, Sr., Stanford
OL Hroniss Grasu, So., Oregon
OL Khaled Holmes, Sr., USC
OL Brian Schwenke, Sr., California
OL Xavier Su’a-Filo, So., UCLA
OL David Yankey, Jr., Stanford


QB Matt Scott, Sr., Arizona
RB Johnathan Franklin, Sr., UCLA
RB Stepfan Taylor, Sr., Stanford
WR Austin Hill, So., Arizona
WR Robert Woods, Jr., USC
TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, So., Washington
OL Jeff Baca, Sr., UCLA
OL David Bakhtiari, Jr., Colorado
OL Sam Brenner, Sr., Utah
OL Kevin Danser, Sr., Stanford
OL Sam Schwartzstein, Sr., Stanford


DL Scott Crichton, So., Oregon State
DL Dion Jordan, Sr., Oregon
DL Star Lotulelei, Sr., Utah (2)
DL Will Sutton, Jr., Arizona State
LB Anthony Barr, Jr., UCLA
LB Trent Murphy, Sr., Stanford
LB Chase Thomas, Sr., Stanford (2)
DB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, So., Oregon
DB Jordan Poyer, Sr., Oregon State
DB Ed Reynolds, Jr., Stanford
DB Desmond Trufant, Sr., Washington


DL Henry Anderson, Jr., Stanford
DL Morgan Breslin, Jr., USC
DL Ben Gardner, Sr., Stanford
DL Datone Jones, Sr., UCLA
LB Kiko Alonso, Sr., Oregon
LB Michael Clay, Sr., Oregon
LB Brandon Magee, Sr., Arizona State
DB Deone Bucannon, Jr., Washington State
DB Alden Darby, Jr., Arizona State
DB T.J. McDonald, Sr., USC
DB Nickell Robey, Jr., USC


PK Vince D'Amato, Jr., California
P Jeff Locke, Sr., UCLA
RS Reggie Dunn, Sr., Utah
ST Jordan Jenkins, Sr., Oregon State


PK Andrew Furney, Jr., Washington State
P Josh Hubner, Sr., Arizona State
RS Marqise Lee, So., USC
ST David Allen, Sr., UCLA

  • By School: OREGON and STANFORD placed the most players on the first team with five selections each, followed by OREGON STATE with four.
  • By Class: Of the 26 first-team selections, 14 are seniors, five are juniors, six are sophomores and one freshman.
  • Unanimous: Only one player was named on the first-team ballot of all 12 head coaches--WR Marqise Lee of USC.
  • Two-time selections: Two players are repeat first-team selections from last year--DT Star Lotulelei of Utah, LB Chase Thomas of Stanford.
  • All-Academic: Two players were named to the first team on both the All-Pac-12 Team and the Pac-12 All-Academic Football Team--P Jeff Locke of UCLA, OL Khaled Holmes, USC. In addition, OL Kevin Danser of Stanford, DL Ben Gardner of Stanford and Michael Clay of Oregon were named second-team All-Academic and second-team All-Pac-12.

Datone Jones, USC Trojans, Washington State Cougars, Oregon State Beavers, Washington Huskies, UCLA Bruins, Alex Debniak, Johnathan Franklin, Jeff Locke, Arizona State Sun Devils, Joseph Fauria, Matt Barkley, California Bears, Kenjon Barner, Usua Amanam, Markus Wheaton, Keelan Johnson, Stanford Cardinal, Jordan Poyer, Damien Thigpen, Will Sutton, Stepfan Taylor, Colorado Buffaloes, Wes Horton, Dion Jordan, Matt Scott, Arizona Wildcats, Brandon Magee, Oregon Ducks, Xavier Su\'a-Filo, Travis Long, Justin Glenn, Desmond Trufant, Vince D'Amato, Daniel Simmons, Chase Thomas, Deveron Carr, Shayne Skov, Evan Finkenberg, Isaac Remington, Dan Buckner, Sean Parker, Cassius Marsh, Robert Woods, Xavier Grimble, George Uko, Nickell Robey, Hayes Pullard, Keenan Allen, Taylor Kelly, Chris McCain, Hroniss Grasu, Eric Kendricks, Xavier Cooper, T.J. McDonald, Jake Fischer, Anthony Barr, Taylor Hart, Kiko Alonso, Osahon Irabor, Brian Schwenke, Steve Williams, Terrance Mitchell, Drew Schaefer, Michael Clay, Ryan Hewitt, Jordan Jenkins, Levine Toilolo, Chris Coyle, DeAnthony Thomas, Andrew Abbott, Kyle Quinn, Brett Hundley, Jake Fisher, Terrence Stephens, Terrence Brown, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Kasen Williams, Jordan Richards, Shaq Evans, Deone Bucannon, Tony Burnett, David Shaw, Bishop Sankey, Danny Shelton, Marqise Lee, Kevin Danser, Rashad Ross, Sam Schwartzstein, David Yankey, Drew Terrell, John White IV, Dion Bailey, Austin Hill, Star Lotulelei, Brian Blechen, Jake Murphy, Alex Carter, Alden Darby, Joe Kruger, Reggie Dunn, Trevor Romaine, Colt Lyerla, Isaac Seumalo, Tevita Stevens, Andrew Furney, Andre Heidari, Sean Sellwood, Josh Hubner, Kyle Negrete, Henry Anderson, Scott Crichton, Rashaad Reynolds, Ka'Deem Carey, Shaq Thompson, D.J. Foster, Brendan Bigelow, Ben Gardner, Trevor Reilly, Darragh O'Neill, Andrew Hudson, Ty Montgomery, Cameron Fleming, Trent Murphy, Sam Brenner, Kevin Hogan, David Bakhtiari, Marcus Mariota, Yuri Wright, Kenneth Crawley, Leonard Williams, Grant Enger, Brandin Cooks, Jared Tevis, Travis Feeney, Avery Sebastian, John Martinez, Ed Reynolds, Daniel Munyer, Elliott Bosch, Morgan Breslin, Darryl Monroe, Marion Grice, Carl Bradford, Nate Fakahafua, Silas Redd, Jeremiah Poutasi, Jake Brendel, Christian Powell, Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Brett Bartolone, Teondray Caldwell, Andrew Seumalo, Daniel Zychlinski, David Allen, Jaxon Hood, Alex Lewis, Marques Moseley, Will Perciak, Wade Keliikippi, Cyrus Coen

Oregon State quarterback Cody Vaz, California defensive back Steve Williams and Arizona State wide receiver/kick returner Rashad Ross have been named Pac-12 Players of the Week.

From the official news release:
Vaz, a junior from Lodi, Calif., completed 20 of 32 passes for 332 yards and three touchdowns in a 42-24 road win over BYU. Vaz, in his first collegiate start-- and his first game action since 2010--posted a 180.59 passer rating and averaged 16.6 yards per completion against a team that ranked fifth in the nation in total defense. He is the first quarterback to throw for 300 yards against BYU since the Beavers put up 306 yards in Corvallis last season, and his passing total is the highest for a first-game OSU starter since 2005. Vaz earned a Manning Award Star of the Week honor following Saturday’s performance. He is the second OSU quarterback to be named the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week this season (Sean Mannion, Oct. 1), marking the second time in three years that two quarterbacks from the same school have earned the award in the same season. Arizona’s Nick Foles and Matt Scott both earned the award in 2010.

Williams, a junior from Dallas, Texas, recorded his team-high-tying third interception of the season in Cal’s end zone and notched a career-high four pass breakups in a 31-17 victory over Washington State. He added a team-high six tackles and held Washington State WR Marquess Wilson to four receptions. Williams, whose 6.6 tackles per game average rank second on the team, leads the Bears and ranks sixth in the Conference in passes defended (1.43 per game). His four pass breakups represent a team single-game high this season.

With Arizona State holding a 20-17 halftime lead, Ross, a senior from Vallejo, Calif., returned the opening kickoff of the second half 100 yards for a touchdown in a 51-17 win at Colorado. Ross’ second career touchdown set the tone for a second half in which the Sun Devils scored 31 unanswered points to put the game away. Ross became just the fifth player in school history to record a 100-yard kickoff return. He also caught two passes for 23 yards.

Also nominated for offensive player of the week honors were quarterback Taylor Kelly of ARIZONA STATE, running back Silas Redd of USC, wide receiver Keenan Allen of CALIFORNIA and tight end Nick Kasa of COLORADO. Also nominated on defense were defensive backs Ryan Murphy of OREGON STATE and Jawanza Starling of USC and linebacker Brandon Magee of ARIZONA STATE. Also nominated on special teams were punters Keith Kostol of OREGON STATE and Sean Sellwood of UTAH and defensive back Anthony Brown of USC.

Pac-12 weekend rewind: Week 7

October, 15, 2012
Taking stock of the seventh week of games in the Pac-12.

Team of the week: Lose starting QB Sean Mannion to a knee injury? No problem for Oregon State. Backup Cody Vaz, making his first career start, was exceptional, and the defense was opportunistic as the Beavers rolled 42-24 at BYU. Oregon State is 5-0 for the first time since 1939. So, yeah, this is big.

Best game: However you want to view the ending -- and the accurate way is Stanford got screwed by the Pac-12 officials! -- Stanford's 20-13 overtime loss at Notre Dame was great theater. Two good defenses, two struggling offenses, physical football and every point counted. And the rain provided a nice backdrop.

[+] EnlargeStepfan Taylor
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesStepfan Taylor was unable to find the end zone on the final play of the game.
Biggest play: Four of them actually: Four straight-ahead, overtime runs from Stanford RB Stepfan Taylor that didn't -- at least clearly and without a doubt to everyone -- get into the end zone. When Stanford gets a first-and-goal on the 4-yard line, you typically like its chances.

Offensive standout: Vaz completed 20-of-32 for 332 yards with three touchdowns and zero interceptions in the 42-24 victory at BYU. The efficiency rating on those numbers -- 180.6 -- would rate only slightly below West Virginia's Geno Smith for No. 1 in the nation. And the Cougars entered the game with one of the nation's best defenses.

Defensive standout: Stanford outside linebacker Trent Murphy is one of the Pac-12's most underrated players. He rolled up a team-high 10 tackles at Notre Dame, with 2.5 tackles for a loss and 1.5 sacks. He also had three quarterback hurries.

Special-teams standout: Know a good way to crush the hopes and dreams of an underdog? Return the third-quarter kickoff 100 yards for a TD. That is what Arizona State's Rashad Ross did to Colorado after the Buffaloes had rallied late in the second quarter to make it a 3-point game at halftime in Boulder. Ross' dash was the first -- and loudest -- of 31 unanswered second-half points from Arizona State in a 51-17 win.

Smiley face: Hey, how about a weekend with no chokes, with the favorites coming out on top, as well as Oregon State, a highly ranked underdog? Arizona State, UCLA, USC and California each took care of business as favorites, while the Beavers overcame the loss of their starting QB in a road date with a solid BYU team. If Stanford had prevailed instead of falling in overtime at Notre Dame, it would have been an exceptional weekend for the conference. Oregon, at 6-0, is already bowl eligible and Arizona State, Oregon State, UCLA and USC have five wins. At this point in the season, some of those six- and seven-win teams of past years are positioned to win eight, nine or even 10 games.

Frowny face: Stanford had a chance to make a big statement at Notre Dame but it fell just short. While the officiating got the publicity, the Cardinal are going to look at that game tape and slap their collective forehead many, many times. Lots of miscues, mistakes and missed opportunities.

Thought of the week: Maybe we need to give USC a break. Coach Lane Kiffin has decided to win ugly, so be it. Run the ball, play to his defense, etc. Fine. QB Matt Barkley is 30th in the nation in passing efficiency? USC is 48th in scoring offense? Sure, it's surprising. Sure, it doesn't fit our preseason image of the Trojans. Sure, it seems like this team isn't nearly as dominant as many projected. Still, USC is ranked ninth in the coaches' poll and, at 5-1 overall, is in good position in both the Pac-12 and perhaps even nationally. If the Trojans don't lose again, it won't matter if it was pretty.

Questions for the week: Is there a Heisman Trophy candidate in the Pac-12 this year? It appears that Barkley's candidacy is over. If a guy is going to emerge, it might happen Thursday in Tempe. Oregon's one-two punch of Kenjon Barner and De'Anthony Thomas will be on display against a good Sun Devils defense. And what happens if ASU QB Taylor Kelly, presently third in the nation in passing efficiency, is lights out?

Big second half boosts ASU over Buffs

October, 12, 2012

For the first 30 minutes, it looked like Colorado had a chance. The Buffs had all of the momentum heading into the locker room after scoring 10 points in the final 24 seconds of the half and cutting Arizona State’s lead to 20-17.

But a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to start the second half from ASU’s Rashad Ross, and the Sun Devils’ screen game on offense, was more than the young Buffs squad could handle and Arizona State pulled away for a 51-17 road victory.

Running back Marion Grice caught three of Taylor Kelly's career-high five touchdown passes; another went to running back D.J. Foster, who was running out of the slot. The two backs combined for 11 catches, 178 yards and four touchdowns. Kelly finished 20-of-28 for 308 yards. It was also the fifth time in six games that Kelly did not throw an interception.

The victory moves the Sun Devils to 5-1 (3-0 Pac-12) and sets up an intriguing showdown next Thursday night with No. 2 Oregon (6-0, 3-0). Colorado slips to 1-5, 1-2.

The Buffs didn’t make it easy on ASU early on. After the Sun Devils took the lead on Grice’s first touchdown (point-after attempt blocked), Colorado responded by taking a 7-6 lead early in the second quarter on a 2-yard run from Tony Jones. Touchdown receptions from Grice and Foster moved the Sun Devils ahead 20-7 toward the end of the first half.

But Jordan Webb (20-of-41 for 180 yards) engineered an 11-play, 75-yard drive that cut the lead to 20-14 in the closing minute. On the ensuing kickoff, Jamal Miles fumbled the ball back to Colorado at the ASU 19, which set up a 37-yard Will Oliver field goal to close out the first 30 minutes.

It was a different story in the second half, which started with Ross’ touchdown. ASU’s defense blanked the Buffs and Kelly added his fourth and fifth touchdown passes of the game -- the last one going for 31 yards to Richard Smith.

A scary moment in the closing minutes of the game when Colorado linebacker Brady Daigh was taken off the field on a stretcher after a collision with ASU's Michael Eubank. Daigh was seen moving his hands and his head; ESPN's Samantha Steele, who was working the game on the sidelines, reported that the medical staff was taking precautionary measures by putting him on the stretcher.

After the delay, Cameron Marshall (13 carries, 98 yards) added a late 14-yard touchdown run.

Pac-12 Player of the Week

September, 24, 2012
First, give credit to Arizona State head coach Todd Graham and offensive coordinator Mike Norvell for drawing up the plan against Utah. But as the old saying goes, coaches don't win games, players do.

Which is why ASU quarterback Taylor Kelly is the Pac-12 blog's pick for player of the week. Kelly executed the plan against the Utes with cool precision en route to a 37-7 blowout win over Utah. He was 19 of 26 for 326 yards with three touchdowns.

It was a career day for Kelly against what was supposed to be one of the tougher defenses in the Pac-12 -- North or South. But Kelly carved up the Utes, posting career highs in attempts, completions, yards, touchdowns and rating. He now leads the Pac-12 in passing efficiency.

Kelly engineered five consecutive scoring drives to open the game for the Sun Devils, who produced four touchdowns and a field goal to take a 31-7 lead into the locker room at halftime. By the break, Kelly had already surpassed his career high in passing yards.

His touchdowns included a 38-yard strike to Rashad Ross, a 10-yarder to Marion Grice and 13-yard touchdown to Cameron Marshall. He also rushed seven times for 19 yards and was fantastic at keeping plays alive with his feet.

In four games this year, Kelly has completed at least 73 percent of his passes in three of them and twice he's completed better than 78 percent.

ASU blasts Utah in rebound win

September, 23, 2012
If Saturday’s Arizona State-Utah matchup was supposed to be a “separation” game in the Pac-12 South, then you have to consider the Sun Devils and Utes miles apart after what happened in Tempe.

The Sun Devils unloaded on the Utes early and often, scoring on their first five possessions (four touchdowns, one field goal) to take a 31-7 lead into the locker room at halftime before closing out a 37-7 victory.

ASU (3-1, 1-0) jumped out to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter behind a pair of touchdown passes from Taylor Kelly and a 1-yard rushing touchdown from Cameron Marshall.

The shell-shocked Utes had few answers -- especially in the first half -- for ASU’s offense, which totaled 512 yards for the game and converted 7 of 16 third-down attempts.

It was the ninth consecutive win for ASU over Utah and the kind of bounce back performance head coach Todd Graham was hoping for following ASU’s first loss of the season last week at Missouri.

“They did a good job responding after a tough setback last week,” Graham told the Pac-12 Network after the game.

Kelly finished the game 19 of 26 for a career-high 326 yards with touchdown passes to Rashad Ross, Marshall and Marion Grice.

Defensively, the Sun Devils stifled the Utes (2-2, 0-1), who managed just 209 total yards -- 92 of them coming on the ground. Running back John White fumbled twice and had just 18 yards on 14 carries. Kelvin York led the Utes on the ground with 86 yards on 13 carries. Utah’s lone score came early in the second quarter -- a 2-yard pass from Jon Hays to Karl Williams.

“We want to be known for defense and our guys have taken on that challenge and I thought we dominated tonight so I was proud of them,” Graham said.
Happy Friday.

Arizona State spring wrap

May, 14, 2012
2011 overall record: 6-7

2011 conference record: 4-5 (T 3rd, South)

Returning starters

Offense: 4; defense: 7; kicker/punter: 2

Top returners

RB Cameron Marshall, OT Evan Finkenberg, WR Jamal Miles, LB Brandon Magee, DT Will Sutton

Key Losses

QB Brock Osweiler, WR Gerell Robinson, WR Aaron Pflugrad, C Garth Gerhart, LB Vontaze Burfict, LB Colin Parker, S Clint Floyd

2011 statistical leaders (*returner)
Rushing: Cameron Marshall* (1,050 yards)
Passing: Brock Osweiler (4,036 yards)
Receiving: Gerell Robinson (1,397 yards)
Tackles: Colin Parker (75)
Sacks: Vontaze Burfict (5)
Interceptions: Clint Floyd (4)

Spring answers

1. He's selling, you buying? New head coach Todd Graham describes himself as an "old school" guy, meaning no swearing, no jewelry, yes sir, no sir ... that kind of stuff. His practices are intense, as is the fast-paced offense he's installing. Players talked about being a little shell-shocked by how he does things and the discipline he demands. But so far, they seem to have taken to it.

2. Oh, line: Once thought to be a concern for the Sun Devils after losing three offensive linemen from last year's squad, Graham has gone out of his way to note how good the unit looks. They are set at left tackle with Evan Finkenberg, a two-year starter, but he's versatile enough to play anywhere on the line. Andrew Sampson has 20 consecutive starts. Jamil Douglas, Kody Koebensky and Brice Schwab should fill out the line.

3. Back attack: The Sun Devils have something special in running back Cameron Marshall, who should flourish with Graham's downhill running offense. Behind him is a deep, talented group, but little is known about the pecking order. Kyle Middlebrooks, James Morrison, Deantre Lewis, Marion Grice and incoming freshman D.J. Foster all figure to play some sort of role. Worth keeping an eye on Marshall's surgically repaired foot as well. He's expected to be 100 percent by fall. While this might be ASU's deepest group, there is still some uncertainty to how it will all look in Week 1.

Fall questions

1. QB question mark: Graham hinted that the coaching staff is closer to a decision on their quarterback than they are probably letting on publicly. Still, the public at large is no closer to knowing whether it will be Mike Bercovici, Michael Eubank or Taylor Kelly running the show. Each has their own unique skill sets, but fans are calling for Eubank, who many have dubbed a Cam Newton replica.

2. Magee back? The return of linebacker Brandon Magee, who was limited in spring as he continues to recover from a torn Achilles that kept him out of 2011, would be a monumentally huge step in the right direction for the Sun Devils. And for Graham. Magee is not only a talented linebacker, he's a locker room guy who commands the respect of his teammates. They'll usually step in line with him. And if he's good to go, it would be a big step for the Sun Devils on and off the field.

3. New offense, new(er) receivers: Jamal Miles returns as the second-leading receiver (60 catches) and is a dynamic player, but there isn't a ton of experience at the position as the Sun Devils said goodbye to five scholarship receivers. Projected starters Rashad Ross and Kevin Ozier combined for just 29 catches between them last season. J.J. Holliday, A.J. Pickens and Kevin Anderson all figure to be in the mix as well. Plus there are more coming with the recruiting class and their impact remains to be seen.

USC's Marqise Lee is a freak

May, 9, 2012
USC receiver Marqise Lee has been named a member of Bruce Feldman's 2012 "Freaks" list, his annual accounting of some of college football's most freakish athletes.

Of Lee, he writes:

Projected by many to play safety for the Trojans, Lee outshined his former high school teammate, five-star WR recruit George Farmer, from the moment both arrived at USC. By the end of the 2011 season, Lee may have even surpassed star Robert Woods. (Lee caught 39 passes for 609 yards and six TDs in USC's final four games of the season.) Lee's athleticism had Lane Kiffin saying the rising sophomore could leave the school as the program's best receiver ever. This spring, the 6-1, 200-pound Lee moonlighted as a long jumper on the USC track team where he had Trojans coaches raving there, too, after leaping 24-4. Lee said he's found that the jumping training has helped hone his body control and anticipation as a receiver, which means he may be ready to take another leap as a football player this fall.

In the original post, I missed Colorado DT Eric Richter. Writes Feldman:

The 6-3, 315-pound Californian only got in action for seven plays last fall for the Buffs, but it's not for a lack of strength. When CU players were tested this offseason on the bench press, Richter banged out 51 reps at 225, 10 more reps than he did a year ago. "He doesn't need a cheerleader, he doesn't need a audience," says CU strength coach Malcolm Blacken, "he just needs a lot of weight on the bar to get motivated. A strength coach's dream -- a real living and breathing Frankenstein!"

Oregon's De'Anthony Thomas and Arizona State's Rashad Ross -- both on the short list of college football's fastest player, along with USC's Farmer -- were named honorable mention.

It has nothing to do with the Pac-12, but his No. 1 guy, SMU's Margus Hunt, has a fascinating backstory.

South division scrimmage roundup

April, 16, 2012
Catching up on the scrimmages and spring games in the south division.


The Wildcats quarterbacks combined for six passing touchdowns -- including four from Matt Scott, who completed 22 of 35 passes for 315 yards. Arizona threw 55 times and ran 43 times in addition to working through several different scenarios.

“I shouldn’t expect too much with the first year in the system, but with Matt Scott I’m going to expect a lot,” head coach Rich Rodriguez told the Tucson Citizen. “And I think Matt can deliver.”

Tyler Slavin caught three touchdowns and Richard Morrison caught a pair. Dan Buckner hauled in the sixth.

Safety Marquis Flowers brought in the lone interception of the day and linebacker Jake Fischer matched a team high with six tackles after missing all of 2011 with a knee injury.

The day was marred, however, by another knee injury. Safety Adam Hall tweeted Saturday night that he tore his ACL -- a similar tear to the one he had last spring that kept him out of all but one game in 2011.


The three-way quarterback competition isn't settled, but head coach Todd Graham said he'd like to see someone take the lead before the end of the spring session, writes Doug Haller of the Arizona Republic.

Michael Eubank threw three touchdowns -- a pair to Gary Chambers and a third to Rashad Ross. But he also threw a pair of interceptions.

Haller reports that Taylor Kelly looked effecient, throwing an 11-yard touchdown to tight end Max Smith and Mike Bercovici tossed three touchdowns -- all in the overtime session of the scrimmage.

Defensively, the Sun Devils forced a trio of turnovers and three times stopped the offense on fourth-and-1.


The Buffs ran a 42-play scrimmage with the emphasis on the offense. Head coach Jon Embree said he was happy with the performance of Connor Wood, who completed 7 of 10 passes for 137 yards and touchdowns to Jarrod Darden and Dustin Ebner.

"I thought No. 5 was sharp," Embree said. "He missed a couple of deep balls ... but I thought he played well."

Embree also said that running back Tony Jones separated himself from the rest of the pack and looked solid during the spring session. Jones carried four times for 23 yards on Saturday. Josh Ford, however, stood out with 141 yards and two touchdowns on eight carries -- though Colorado's defensive line has been patchwork.

Embree said that if Colorado wants to reach a bowl game in 2012, they are going to have to rely on some of the players coming in this fall.

"I still think it's achievable, but how far we go towards that goal and how we accomplish it, we're going to lean on some guys coming in," Embree said. "So how quickly -- and I told this to the seniors and the rest of the team -- how quickly you're able to help them assimilate, help them know how to practice, know how to work, will help us get to that goal.

"If you want to look at it as they're the bad guy because they coming here to compete for a job, then we'll all have the same fate -- we'll all be home for Christmas."


The Trojans secondary picked up a pair of interceptions -- one from safety Drew McAllister off of Cody Kessler and the other from cornerback Brian Baucham off of Matt Barkley -- as the defense outshined the offense at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Barkley completed 23 of 39 passes for 212 yards with a touchdown -- a 1-yard pass to Marqise Lee. Kessler (3-of-6, 68 yards) picked up the majority of his passing yards on a 44-yard touchdown to fullback Soma Vainuku.

"It was definitely a learning experience," Kessler told USC's blog.

Linebacker Hayes Pullard and cornerback Anthony Brown each had six tackles, while linebacker Dion Bailey added five stops. Cornerback Isiah Wiley had five deflections to go with his four tackles. There were three sacks (by defensive ends Devon Kennard, Greg Townsend Jr. and Morgan Breslin).

"I think the young linebackers are playing really well," Lane Kiffin told Erik McKinney of WeAreSC. "Like I mentioned, the defensive backs have improved a lot. That was really critical, especially with a new coach back there."


Quarterback Jordan Wynn completed 7 of 12 passes for 149 yards with a touchdown and zero interceptions as the Utes' offense continues to find its rhythm under new offensive coordinator Brian Johnson.

“Brian wants to take more shots downfield than we have recently and we can do that now because we have the speed in the wideouts to create separation and we have quarterbacks who can throw with accuracy,” head coach Kyle Whittingham said. “Our quarterback situation is the best it has been in years."

Dave Kruger, LT Filiaga and Trevor Reilly all recorded sacks for the defense and Terrell Reese returned an interception for 43 yards to go with a pair of tackles for a loss.

Luke Matthews and Kenneth Scott both had touchdown catches. DeVonte Christopher had two catches, but led the receivers with 70 yards.
Todd Graham can throw all kinds of diagrams and playbooks and chalk talks at his players until their heads spin. But if they don't believe in what the Sun Devils are trying to do, then it doesn't really matter how much of the playbook they do or don't retain.

So more important than the Xs and Os, Graham is stressing the dos and don'ts of being in his program and the challenges that come from making a culture change. And after a few months on the job, he's pleased to report that, in his mind, Arizona State is headed in the right direction.

"The thing I'm most proud of is how they responded to such a drastic change," said Graham. "In terms of accountability -- we expect them to go to class every day, we check every class, we drug test every kid in the program. We're trying to install this structure and discipline and I'm proud of the way this team has responded to that and embraced that. The guys have bought in."

[+] EnlargeTodd Graham
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesNew ASU coach Todd Graham said his team has responded well to his direction this spring.
Before the start of the spring session, Arizona State's players were little more than images on film to Graham. He could read bios, track workouts and see what they did last season. But that didn't really give him a sense of what he had to work with as he and his staff are trying to install new systems on both sides of the ball. Now that he's seen them do some live work, he's starting to get a sense of the team's identity.

"Those first six practices, you know how it is when you are trying to change things up, you just want to beat your head against a wall," Graham said. "But on the seventh practice, I got the impression that they were finally getting it."

Graham said he's been impressed with the offensive line play -- which he thought was going to be a question mark heading into the spring. He was complimentary of returning starters Evan Finkenberg and Andrew Sampson, but also noted that Brice Schwab and Jamil Douglas "have really been impressive."

"I think the strength of our defense is the defensive line so those guys [on the offensive line] are playing against some pretty good competition," Graham said. "Every day those guys get a little better. That has been a real bright spot."

Graham didn't add much to what offensive coordinator Mike Norvell said last week about the quarterback competition, but he did single out the springs of running back Cameron Marshall, safety Alden Darby, cornerback Osahon Irabor, defensive tackle Corey Adams and wide receivers Jamal Miles and Rashad Ross.

"Miles has really started to master his craft," Graham said. "He's been very disciplined in his route running. Marshall is at the front of a stable that I think is going to be very good.

"The reality is that we still have a long way to go. But I've got confidence because I think this team is coming together because of each one of them buying in and working as a team. We are making great progress in developing that trust that it takes to be a family and a team and a team that wins. I remind them every day that we're going to be a team that wins championships and you can't do that without winning every day in everything that you do."