Pac-12: Reggie Carter

LOS ANGELES -- Last season, a group of players on the UCLA defense got together to watch the BCS national championship game. One Bruin in particular -- defensive end Datone Jones -- watched with a keener eye and sense of purpose.

"I was watching Alabama's defense and they were fearless," said Jones, who is heading into his fifth season at UCLA. "I'm a fan of good defense. Those guys aren't that much more special than we are. We are all 6-4 and strong. They just have a different mentality than we do. They found out who they were early and they weren't going to be anything else but that.

"That's how we have to be. I feel like we lost our way as a defense. When I got here, guys like Reggie Carter and Brian Price were taking control of the defense and making plays. We were known as a defensive team. We lost our way and now we're trying to find it. If we do, we've got eight fifth-year seniors on this defense, and we could be something special."

UCLA's numbers from last season suggest anything but special.

  • [+] EnlargeDatone Jones
    Ric Tapia/Icon SMIDatone Jones says UCLA's defense underperformed last season and this year's unit will be improved.
    8th in the conference in scoring defense
  • 8th in total defense
  • 11th in rush defense
  • 6th in pass efficiency defense
  • 11th in sacks
  • 12th in opponent first downs
  • 11th in opponent third-down conversion
  • 9th in red zone defense

"That's not us," Jones said. "We left too many plays on the field last year and got exposed and didn't look very good. That's not who we are. We're going hard on each other and the coaches are putting us in tough situations. We're being asked to man up and that's what we have to do."

Jones, in particular. After missing all of the 2010 season with a fractured foot, the 6-foot-5, 280-pounder from Compton, Calif., was heavy on the hype, but not so much on the results. Some of that wasn't his fault. Teams knew his reputation and either ran away from his side or double and triple teamed him. Tough to make a play with three offensive linemen on you.

Still he led the Bruins defensive line with 41 tackles, three sacks and 6.5 tackles for a loss. But that's not good enough in his mind.

"I know I had a lot of hype last year -- teams know UCLA has a potential All-American defensive end -- so they aren't running the ball or they are double-or-triple teaming me, but other guys weren't there to make the plays. If I'm getting double-downed, that means someone is free. But it works both ways. There were times when I was freed up and didn't make the play. That's what it comes down to. As a defense, we need to start making plays."

Jones is very encouraged by UCLA's switch to a mostly 3-4 defensive front. His responsibility changes a bit. The defensive linemen aren't asked to get as much penetration as they were in the 4-3. Rather their focus is on gap control and controlling the man in front of them. The new system means less double teams for Jones and more of an opportunity to showcase his skills as a run-stopper.

"I'm very excited about this defense," he said. "It's taking some getting used to. But I think at the next level this is what I'm probably going to have to do so it's good preparation.

"And I probably won't see as many double teams. Because if you double the end, [linebacker] Patrick Larimore is going to come free and I would not want to get hit by that man. Or Eric Kendricks or Keenan Graham. I feel like we're going to be loaded this year."

New defensive coordinator Lou Spanos said he and defensive line coach Angus McClure -- the only holdover from the previous coaching staff -- are spending the spring trying to change the mentality of the group. And Jones is going to be a big part of that.

"Right now he's doing a very good job adjusting," Spanos said. "He's focusing on the details and that's what we need and we drill these guys and install the ideas we think you need to be a successful defensive line."

With a renewed sense of excitement around the program and the scheme, Jones feels like he's ready to better handle the expectations this season.

"I'm definitely ready for the hype," he said. "I'm not drinking the Kool-Aid. I know it's there. There are always going to be assumptions that I can't do this or I can't do that. I'm ready to prove everyone wrong and I'm ready to start winning with my teammates."

Pac-10 Q&A: UCLA defensive coordinator Chuck Bullough

May, 25, 2010
UCLA's must replace six starters on defense, including three first-team All-Pac-10 performers.

That is a cause for concern.

On the other hand, safety Rahim Moore, linebacker Akeem Ayers and end Datone Jones are future high NFL draft picks who provide a cause of optimism.

Although the Bruins walked away from spring practices with some questions -- particularly at two linebacker spots -- and an obvious need for some youngsters to immediately contribute, there's enough talent for them to again rank as one of the Pac-10's top defenses.

[+] EnlargeChuck Bullough
Rose Palmisano/Icon SMIChuck Bullough needs to identify some new leaders on his defense.
Here's what coordinator Chuck Bullough had to say.

You lost a lot of guys who saw a lot of action: Who's going to be hardest to replace?

Chuck Bullough: All of them were good. The hardest to replace? It's really different aspects. Obviously, Brian Price being such a disruptive force up front -- that's a guy you're going to miss. Then we have our two linebackers. Reggie Carter was a four-year starter, so obviously his experience, him knowing everything. He was a team leader of the defense. And obviously Alterraun Verner, who was one of the best corners to ever play here. But we have young guys who played well in spring who we hope can step up. Now, I don't know if they will be at the same level as those guys were because those guys were obviously seniors and these guys are younger. But these guys have the ability to get to that level.

How might the 2010 defense be different than the 2009 unit?

CB: We'll be a little younger. We lost those five seniors. But the guys who played this spring -- [middle linebackers] Steve Sloan and Patrick Larimore -- played really well. Replacing Kyle Bosworth at "will" linebacker we've got [Sean Westgate] and we moved a safety down there, Glenn Love, who played real well and was a real surprise of spring. They have a chance to be comparable to the guys from last year. We moved Nate Chandler over from tight end to defensive tackle. He's a big 6-foot-5, fast with great feet. Between him and David Carter and a couple of the young puppies coming in, we'll replace Brian Price. Well, a Brian Price only comes along every once in a while with his explosiveness. But these guys are good football players. The guy stepping in for Verner would be Sheldon Price. He was a freshman last year but he started as a true freshman just like Verner did. It all depends on them taking that next step and being leaders. We lost all our leadership. So I think, with the defense, it will have to be seen as to who takes over the leadership role with these guys gone, when it comes to the fall and it's time to play games, who are the leaders of the defense.

Let's go through the three levels: What are you happy with concerning your defensive line and what concerns you?

CB: We feel very good about our D-line. Obviously, we lost both our tackles, but like I said, Nate Chandler came over and played really well. David Carter has improved. Both of those guys are big bodies -- 6-5 and 6-4, 290 and both of them can run. A tackle we have coming in, Cassius Marsh, who we've been keeping in touch with, is really strong for a freshman, which is usually the problem they have coming in and trying to play Pac-10 football from high school. They aren't strong enough. But he's really strong and he's got a nasty streak. So we're expecting him to have to be in the rotation. We've got a guy, Sealii Epenesa, from Hawaii, who's a big, huge body guy. We'll have to see if he can hold up strength-wise but he'll definitely have the ability down the road. Then we have a guy named [Wesley] Flowers who's coming in. We're not sure if he's a D-end or D-tackle yet. But defensive tackle-wise, I feel pretty confident with the switch-over with Nate and having those other guys step up and grow up and the young puppies coming in and being able to help -- they probably won't be able to start -- but they will be able to help. We'll play about four tackles a game. Defensive end, we lost Korey Bosworth, but we have Iuta Tepa and Keenan Graham who made big improvements during spring. Obviously, Datone Jones should become a dominant defensive line player at tackle and end. He's taken a step up. I project for him down the road that he will be a first-round draft pick. He's that good, that big, that fast and he's really hungry. The other two guys obviously didn't play much, so when the live action starts we'll have to find out about those two. And obviously we have [Owamagbe Odighizuwa] coming in -- one of the top defensive ends in the nation. Then again, can he learn the defense? He's got the ability. But you never know until they get here and try to learn the defense. Obviously there's a lot more scheme in college. So we came out of spring feeling pretty good defensive line-wise, compared to going in. Going in we didn't know what Nate Chandler had, we didn't know what Keenan Graham had, we didn't know that Datone had made such a big jump, which he did.

At linebacker, what does Akeem Ayers need to do to become an All-American sort of player?

CB: He's a guy who should be another high-round draft pick for the NFL. He's grown with the defense and he's probably the most athletic linebacker you're going to find. He's a guy who, the more he's in the system, every year, he's gotten better. His second year, we had to play him as a nickel linebacker because he couldn't mentally handle both base and be a nickel. Those were just two different spots. Last year, he could. This year, we feel he should be even more comfortable with the defense. He should not even have to think at all. He still had to think a little bit last year, I believe, but he should just react now because he knows the defense inside and out

How do the competitions at middle and weakside linebacker stand?

CB: I've mentioned Sloan and Larimore need to battle it out next fall and Westgate and Love got to battle it out in the fall. Both are open. Both will be competitions in training camp. They have three months here to improve and we'll see in training camp. But we've got four guys who we believe can play. They did a good job in spring and showed it. Now it's just going to be a training camp battle.

Rahim Moore is already an All-American: Where can he improve?

CB: He's started for two years. He's into the system for a third year. Now his role has become that he has to be the leader in the secondary. Verner was kind of the leader last year. Now Moore has got to be the leader.

Besides Moore, tell me about what's good and what concerns you in the secondary?

CB: We feel pretty good with our two safeties. Obviously, both Tony Dye and [Moore] have both played. They've started for two years now. That's where our veterans are in the secondary and the safety position. And obviously we have Dietrich Riley coming in who's a big-time recruit who is very bright. We expect him to be able to come in and contribute and play. And we've got some guys who've got another fall to improve. We feel good about the safety position. The corners, obviously I mentioned Price before. He's a second-year starter. He's a tall guy who's gaining weight. Last year, he didn't have enough weight. He was probably 160 pounds. He was too small. But he's gained 15 or 20 pounds, I think, without losing his 10.5 speed in the 100 [meters]. He could be a special player and it's his turn to take over at corner. Then we have Aaron Hester who was a starter before he broke his leg. He's another big, tall, long-armed guy who can run like the wind. We feel comfortable with him. We have Andrew Abbott and Courtney Viney behind those two who are two savvy veterans that we feel can play. And obviously we've got a couple of freshmen coming in. We've got Anthony Jefferson and Tevin McDonald. With Tevin McDonald, we don't know if he's a safety or a corner. We also have Shaq Richardson coming in. So we have some guys there. But it's hard to know with those rookies until they actually play. If those guys can play, they will just be bonuses.

When you lose six guys like you lost, most folks think you'll take a step back. Do you think the 2010 unit can be as good as your 2009 crew?

CB: I think it will be interesting who steps up and becomes a leader. The "mike" [middle] linebacker in my defense has always been that guy. He makes all the checks. So Sloan and Larimore, one of them -- whoever it is -- has got to step up. Reggie Carter grew up into that leadership role as he got older. In spring, we saw Datone and Ayers and Rahim take up that leadership role which last year was with the older guys. Those three guys should be the leaders because they've played so much and gotten a lot of accolades.

A-list position battles: UCLA

May, 19, 2010
Seventh in a series taking a look at top position competitions this fall.

UCLA: Linebacker (times two!)

Why the competition? Middle linebacker Reggie Carter, a four-year starter, and "will" outside linebacker Kyle Bosworth, a 21-game starter, are both gone.

Candidates: In the middle: junior Steve Sloan (6-foot-4, 232) and sophomore Patrick Larimore (6-3, 250). On the outside: junior Sean Westgate (5-11, 216) and junior Glenn Love (6-4, 216).

The skinny: A quick review of the Bruins' depth chart reveals few areas without a fairly clear post-spring pecking order, but both these linebacker spots are wide open. Sloan started nine games as a redshirt freshman, so he has more experience, but Larimore is a hard-hitter who played well this spring. Love had 27 tackles last year as a backup safety in 2009 before being moved up. He has the frame and athleticism to beat out the undersized Westgate, but he's still learning the position. Westgate had 18 tackles and started once last fall. If things don't shake out like the Bruins' coaches want them to, then expect at least one of the three incoming freshmen linebackers to press for playing time. And if touted recruit Anthony Barr isn't the answer at running back, might his athleticism be intriguing on defense?

UCLA spring wrap

May, 7, 2010

2009 overall record: 7-6

2009 conference record: 3-6

Returning starters

Offense: 7, Defense: 5, punter/kicker: 2

Top returners: K Kai Forbath, QB Kevin Prince, WR Nelson Rosario, FS Rahim Moore, LB Akeem Ayers, DE Datone Jones, P Jeff Locke

Key losses: TE Logan Paulsen, OT Xaiver Su'a-Filo (LDS mission), DT Brian Price, CB Alterraun Verner, LB Reggie Carter, DE Korey Bosworth, LB Kyle Bosworth

2009 statistical leaders (*returning starter)

Rushing: Johnathan Franklin* (566)

Passing: Kevin Prince* (2,050)

Receiving: Nelson Rosario* (723)

Tackles: Reggie Carter (79)

Sacks: Brian Price (7)

Interceptions: Rahim Moore* (10)

Spring Answers

1. The revolver will evolve: While the new "revolver" offense -- read: Nevada's pistol -- wasn't a smashing success, coach Rick Neuheisel and coordinator Norm Chow believe adopting some spread-option elements will add productive wrinkles to the offense, which will burden an opposing defense's preparation. Quarterback Kevin Prince ran something similar in high school and is a good athlete. Will it become the base offense? We'll see.

2. There's speed on the rebuilding D: Sure, the Bruins should take a step back on defense. Losing six quality starters, including three first-team All-Pac-10 performers is a blow. But one thing may accelerate the rebuilding: The defense will be faster in 2010. That doesn't mean it will be better, but speed makes for a more favorable margin of error.

3. The transfers will help: While they were both banged up this spring, receiver Josh Smith and tight end Joseph Fauria -- transfers from Colorado and Notre Dame respectively -- both flashed enough potential during the off-season and the spring to make clear they will be major contributors to the offense.

Fall questions

1. Is there enough in the trenches? UCLA's depth is questionable on both lines, most particularly the offensive line. If everybody stays healthy, things should work out fine -- there's enough experience and talent to get the job done. But a couple of injuries could mean trouble.

2. Who wins out at linebacker? Akeem Ayers is a given at strongside linebacker, but the other two spots haven't been decided. In the middle, sophomore Pat Larimore is battling junior Steve Sloan, while Sean Westgate and Glenn Love, a converted safety, are competing on the weakside.

3. Will Prince break through? Prince has talent and he's been productive at times. A run of injuries hampered his progress in 2009. If he takes a step forward this fall and stays healthy, he has enough skill around him for the Bruins to score plenty of points.

Big names gone, UCLA to reload on defense

April, 21, 2010
LOS ANGELES -- The UCLA glass is half-empty on defense. Everyone acknowledges that losing first-team All-Pac-10 tackle Brian Price, cornerback Alterraun Verner and linebacker Reggie Carter as well as three other starters from one of the best units in the conference is an issue.

But the Bruins glass is also half-full on that side of the ball.

"Rahim Moore, Akeem Ayers, Datone Jones, David Carter -- those four guys are big-time players," coach Rick Neuheisel said. "They all will get chances to play at the next level. The next seven who come after them have to play their [rear ends] off. I think there's enough talent. There's just not a lot of experience."

Fact is the Bruins look pretty good getting off the bus. Take converted tight end Nate Chandler, a 6-foot-5, 291 pounder who's lining up beside Carter at defensive tackle.

"He's a physical specimen. In the weight room, he's a freak of nature," quarterback Kevin Prince said.

Then there are cornerbacks Sheldon Price and Aaron Hester. Both are over 6-feet. Both are fast. Both have good hips.

"You can't go out and look at two prettier corners," Neuheisel said. "They look like what the NFL looks for. But they've got to play like it."

Glenn Love has a 6-foot-4 frame that could fill out and make him a speedy outside linebacker instead of an inconsistent safety. Hard-hitting Patrick Larimore is making noise at middle linebacker, where he's competing with Steve Sloan.

Still, the front-seven depth is questionable. What is not questionable is whether a highly rated crew of incoming freshmen will contribute. "They have to," Neuheisel said.

The Bruins led the conference in turnover margin a year ago in large part because they forced 30, which was five more than any other team. Three fourths of a secondary that grabbed 20 interceptions is back. UCLA ranked third in scoring defense (21.2 ppg) and total defense (334 yards per game), which was even more impressive when you consider that the offense was mostly rotten.

The offense should be better this fall because Prince and most of the starters are back. The question now is whether -- or how much -- the defense falls off. It has been solid in recent years in large part due to Price, Verner and Carter, who combined for 120 starts over the past four seasons.

"I feel real comfortable with the defense," Prince said. "They don't have the names yet but I think they will start establishing names for themselves."

That's the message. The big names are gone. Which means new names are poised to grow.

Jones, for one, thinks the defense will be faster in 2010. And, he said, it will play angry.

"A lot of guys think we lost a lot but we're going to be loaded," he said.

Bigger shoes than you think: UCLA

April, 2, 2010
Seventh in a series looking at lineup holes that are important even if they don't make headlines.


Everybody is talking about: Three defensive players who earned first-team All-Pac-10 honors need to be replaced: defensive tackle Brian Price, linebacker Reggie Carter and cornerback Alterraun Verner.

Bigger shoes than you think: The Bosworth brothers: defensive end Korey and weak side linebacker Kyle.

These two never became stars but they were multi-year starters who played hard and made plenty of plays for a good defense. Kyle ranked second on the Bruins in 2009 with 77 tackles, with 7.5 coming for a loss. Korey ranked sixth on the team with 58 tackles, 14 coming for a loss. He also broke up five passes.

Who is stepping in: There's not much experience at either position, and it's possible that incoming freshman will immediately enter the mix at both spots. At end, redshirt freshman Keenan Graham is atop the spring depth chart ahead of sophomore Iuta Tepa, who recorded a single tackle last year. There's also senior Reginald Stokes, who's seen plenty of action but is sitting out spring practices with a knee injury. His status for the fall is "undetermined." At linebacker, junior Sean Westgate will get first crack. He recorded 18 tackles last year. Behind him are true freshman Jared Koster, who grayshirted in 2009, and converted safety Glenn Love.

Next step for UCLA LB Ayers is stardom

March, 17, 2010
A pick-six interception is just about the best thing a defensive player can do. Some players, however, never experience one over their entire career.

UCLA's Akeem Ayers got two of them last year. But that's not even the best part.

Ayers, an outside linebacker, wasn't in coverage when he made the plays. He produced his two pick-sixes while rushing the passer. Yes, he reached up and snagged balls that were intended to sail over his head.

Joe Robbins/Getty ImagesUCLA's Akeem Ayers has potential to be an all-conference player next season.

Against Oregon, he was right in quarterback Nate Costa's face when the ball was released from the back of the endzone. Ayers jumped, grabbed the ball and then showed the presence of mind -- and nimbleness -- to drop both feet in bounds before he fell out of the back of the endzone.

Then, in the EagleBank Bowl against Temple, he added a new element, falling on his face as he charged out of his stance before leaping into the errant pass and jogging four yards for the TD.

While most would rate the Oregon play higher in degree of difficulty, Ayers prefers highlight No. 2.

"Just because of the whole situation, being down [UCLA trailed 21-20 at the time] and being in a bowl game," the rising junior explained.

Those are notable sentiments: Ayers cares more about the team's situation than his own spectacularness. That's the sort of team-first mentality the Bruins will need if they expect to take another step forward in year three under Rick Neuheisel.

While just about every Pac-10 team must replace key defensive players this spring, UCLA perhaps takes the hardest hits of all: It loses six starters, including three first-team All-Pac-10 players, including conference Defensive Player of the Year, defensive tackle Brian Price.

Of course, Ayers doesn't see it that way.

"We have a lot of young talent on defense," he said. "We lack playing experience, but as far as talent we have players who will step up in spring ball and fill the gaps."

Ayers ticks off linebacker sophomore Patrick Larimore, a candidate to replace Reggie Carter at middle linebacker, and sophomore defensive lineman Damien Holmes as two examples.

He could toss himself into the mix, though he's no newbie. Ayers ranked third on the Bruins in 2009 with 75 tackles, including 14.5 tackles for a loss, which ranked second on the team and fifth in the conference. Playmaking? He recorded six sacks, grabbed four interceptions, forced four fumbles and recovered two.

If you're looking for a defender to rise from mostly unknown to first-team All-Conference in 2010, Ayers might be your man.

But he's still got areas to improve. For all his instincts and athletic ability, the 6-foot-4, 252-pound Ayers has a tendency to freelance outside of his assignments in the specific defensive scheme, something that used to infuriate Carter.

"If the guy is not near the play or ball, Akeem doesn't always want to be bothered with it," Carter told the LA Times last year. "That's understandable when you're young. As you get older, you realize you have to work in the scheme. He could hurt us one day."

Ayers, who saw Carter as a mentor on and off the field, is as aware of this as anyone. When asked what he needs to do to ascend from young talent to star, he said, "It's not so much physical. It's more the mental aspect, getting the defense down pat."

Despite the new starters on defense, that may not be the side of the ball that most worries Bruins fans. The offense ranked ninth in the Pac-10 in scoring a year ago (22 points per game), and that's got to improve if the goal is to win more than seven games and to push into the top half of the conference standings.

Ayers said he's seen sophomore quarterback Kevin Prince working hard and taking a leadership role this offseason. As for the Bruins offensive line, which has been among the worst in the conference for the past three seasons, Ayers said he expects dramatic improvement.

"That's probably the least of my worries this season," he said.

Despite replacing several key starters, Ayers believes the Bruins are moving up in the Pac-10 and closing in on rival USC for one important reason.

"We have players who can play now," he said.

Strong & weak: UCLA

March, 9, 2010
The seventh of a 10-part series that looks at where Pac-10 teams are strongest and weakest as they begin spring practices.


Strong: Safety

Why it's a strength: Junior free safety Rahim Moore led the nation with 10 interceptions last year and is a potential preseason All-American. So the Bruins should feel pretty good about that spot. Junior strong safety Tony Dye ranked fourth on the defense with 73 tackles, while his backup, junior Glenn Love, saw plenty of action and finished with 27 tackles. While life for the safeties might be a little bit more difficult without cornerback Alterraun Verner, the Bruins probably have the best returning crew at the position in the conference.

Weak: Defensive front seven

Why it's a weakness: The Bruins not only lost five starters from their front seven, they lost five quality starters, including stalwarts like defensive tackle Brian Price, linebacker Reggie Carter and the Bosworth brothers, end Korey and linebacker Kyle. What's more, the depth is questionable and/or inexperienced, particularly at defensive tackle. While any team would be glad to welcome back players like end Datone Jones or outside linebacker Akeem Ayers, the Bruins will be young up front and that typically is a reason to worry.

Pac-10 top-30: Then and now

January, 26, 2010
Some of you may recall we ranked the top-30 players in the Pac-10 during the 2009 offseason.

There were some hits and misses.

With national signing day just around the corner, it shortly will be time to put the 2009 season to bed and start looking ahead.

But first we're going to re-rank the top-30 based on what actually happened this fall.

For reference, here is the preseason list. Feel free to critique.

1. Taylor Mays, S, USC
2. Jahvid Best, RB, California
3. Rob Gronkowski, TE, Arizona
4. Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, Oregon State
5. Kristofer O’Dowd, C, USC
6. Brian Price, DT, UCLA
7. Damian Williams, WR, USC
8. Syd’Quan Thompson, CB, California
9. Jeremiah Masoli, QB, Oregon
10. Walter Thurmond, CB, Oregon
11. Jake Locker, QB, Washington
12. Joe McKnight, RB, USC
13. Dexter Davis, DE, Arizona State
14. LeGarrette Blount, RB, Oregon
15. Alterraun Verner, CB, UCLA
16. Ed Dickson, TE, Oregon
17. Charles Brown, OT, USC
18. Will Tukuafu, DE, Oregon
19. Josh Pinkard, DB, USC
20. Reggie Carter, LB, UCLA
21. Stafon Johnson, RB, USC
22. James Rodgers, WR, Oregon State
23. Daniel Te’o-Nesheim, DE, Washington
24. Lawrence Guy, DT, Arizona State; Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State
25. Toby Gerhart, RB, Stanford
26. Tyson Alualu, DE, California
27. Devin Ross, CB, Arizona
28. Keaton Kristick, LB, Oregon State
29. Brooks Reed, DE, Arizona
30. Everson Griffen, DE, USC

What we can tell you in advance of our post-season list is there are plenty of new names, considering six players were knocked off the list for missing all -- or at least significant portions -- of the year with injuries (or in one high-profile case a suspension):

3. Rob Gronkowski, TE, Arizona
5. Kristofer O’Dowd, C, USC
10. Walter Thurmond, CB, Oregon
14. LeGarrette Blount, RB, Oregon
21. Stafon Johnson, RB, USC
29. Brooks Reed, DE, Arizona

Nos. 30, 29 and 28 will be posted this afternoon.

All-Star game invitees

January, 6, 2010
Unless a guy plays for Central Michigan, Troy, Alabama or Texas, the 2009 football season is over. For a handful of players, their sights now turn to the NFL, and the next step for many of them is postseason All-Star games.

While there are a number of all-star games, the Senior Bowl is the premier game -- its roster is almost entirely directed by the NFL -- and the East-West Shrine Game is a clear No. 2.

Here's a list -- count on there being some additions in the coming days -- of the invitees.


East-West Shrine Game
DT Earl Mitchell
CB Devin Ross

Arizona State

East-West Shrine Game
OL Shawn Lauvao
WR Chris McGaha
DE Dexter Davis


Senior Bowl
DE Tyson Alualu
CB Syd'Quan Thompson

East-West Shrine Game
OL Mike Tepper
CB Syd'Quan Thompson
WR Verran Tucker


Senior Bowl
TE Ed Dickson

East-West Shrine Game
S T.J. Ward

Oregon State

Senior Bowl
QB Sean Canfield

East-West Shrine Game
LB Keaton Kristick


Senior Bowl
RB Toby Gerhart

East-West Shrine Game
DE Erik Lorig
DL Ekom Udofia
OL Chris Marinelli


East-West Shrine Game
LB Reggie Carter
TE Ryan Moya
CB Alterraun Verner


Senior Bowl
TE Anthony McCoy
RB Stafon Johnson
S Taylor Mays
OL Charles Brown

East-West Shrine Game
DB Josh Pinkard


Senior Bowl
LB Donald Butler

East-West Shrine Game
DL Daniel Te'o-Nesheim

Washington State

East-West Shrine Game
C Kenny Alfred

Pac-10 lunch links: Blount's mom speaks

December, 28, 2009
I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.

EagleBank Bowl preview

December, 28, 2009
Breaking down the EagleBank Bowl between UCLA (6-6) and Temple (9-3).

WHO TO WATCH: UCLA quarterback Kevin Prince has been inconsistent this year and is coming back from a shoulder injury that he suffered against USC. If he is healthy and on-target, the Bruins should be able to attack an Owls secondary that isn't terribly skilled. And the passing threat should open up the Bruins' typically anemic running game a bit against a tough Owls run defense. In other words, Prince is the linchpin here. If he play well, UCLA should be able to score. But the Bruins won't be able to just line up and run right at Temple, which boasts a solid front-seven, particularly with a banged up offensive line.

WHAT TO WATCH: The Bruins' run defense has been hot and cold this year, ranking seventh in the Pac-10 while giving up 144 yards on the ground per game. Temple is a run-first team with a good pair of true freshmen running backs in Bernard Pierce and Matt Brown. The good news for UCLA is middle linebacker Reggie Carter, who has been slowed by a sprained knee much of the year, is healthy again. And it's unlikely that the Owls have faced many front-sevens with as much power and athleticism as UCLA, particularly junior tackle Brian Price, a potential first-round NFL draft choice if he opts (as expected) to enter the NFL draft. If Temple struggles to run, it could be in trouble because it ranks 112th in the nation in passing and the Bruins' ball-hawking secondary is among the best in the country.

WHY WATCH: It's a last chance to see -- probably -- three of the Pac-10's best defensive players in Price, Carter and cornerback Alterraun Verner. Also, the Pac-10 is looking to even its bowl record after an 0-2 start to the postseason. Further, if Price and the offense show some sparks, it bodes well for the Bruins continuing their deliberate climb in the conference pecking order in 2010, Season 3 under Rick Neuheisel.

PREDICTION: UCLA has better players, but Temple, playing in its first bowl game in 30 years, will compete as though its collective hair is on fire. So the big issue is will the Bruins match the Owls' passion? Or at least approach it? And might chilly temperatures in Washington, D.C., get the best of the Bruins, who are accustomed to the warmth of Southern California? If UCLA is focused, it should win. The guess here is that the Owls will scrap and claw into the third quarter, but the Bruins will gradually take control and win 24-17.

Pac-10 lunch links: USC's Barkley wants new beginning

December, 17, 2009
You'll never fit in! Now you come to elf practice, learn how to wiggle your ears, chuckle warmly, go hee-hee and ho-ho, and important stuff like that. A dentist! Good grief!

  • The Holiday Bowl between Arizona and Nebraska may be the same financial success of the 1998 version -- now will it match it on the field?
  • More on California running back Jahvid Best not playing in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl.
  • Does it mean anything that Oregon beat the two teams that beat Ohio State? Some Ducks get into some trouble.
  • It's been a long, strange trip for Oregon State quarterback Sean Canfield.
  • He took a break -- hmm, wonder why? -- but Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh is back on his Twitter page.
  • UCLA quarterback Kevin Prince is testing his injured shoulder, and linebacker Reggie Carter is academically eligible after a brief scare.
  • USC's former linebackers are thriving in the NFL. Is the Emerald Bowl a new beginning for Matt Barkley? Josh Pinkard is due for some good luck.
  • Jake Locker's father talks about his son's decision to return for his senior season.
  • Some help is arriving at Washington State.
  • Some not-so-obvious awards in the Pac-10.

UCLA goes over the wall, but will Carter be back?

December, 16, 2009
As far as school traditions go, UCLA's "Wall Day" is pretty lame -- hmm, dotting the "I" at Ohio State or bailing out on practice? -- but that tradition was re-enacted Tuesday when the Bruins bolted over the brick wall at Spaulding Field, leaving Rick Neuheisel and his staff with an unexpected couple of hours off.

But the L.A. Times, linked above, included a note that should be more concerning as the Bruins prepare for a date with Temple in the EagleBank Bowl on Dec. 29: Senior All-Pac-10 linebacker Reggie Carter is in danger of being academically ineligible for the bowl game. If Carter doesn't pass his classwork, he'd likely be replaced by sophomore Steve Sloan.

As for "Wall Day," Neuheisel participated in them when he played for the Bruins, but he's not necessarily been a fan of the tradition as the head coach. He, however, was a good sport this week, according the news reports, because the practices had been focused on developing underclass players and not yet on the Temple game plan.

"They caught us all by surprise with this one," Neuheisel told reporters. "I do compliment them on the choice of days, when we are still getting back into football mode. I am pleased with the leadership in terms of the choice."

Preseason vs. postseason All-Pac-10 teams

December, 10, 2009
Before listing my preseason All-Pac-10 team in August, I wrote this: "Perhaps this list will be much different by mid-December."

So take a look.

Some changes are obvious. Gronkowski, Best, Thurmond and O'Dowd were switched out because of injuries. That also applies in large part to Carter, who played with a sprained knee much of the season.

Some nagged at me a bit.

Safety: Nelson had a great season at safety, but Moore led the nation with nine picks. I know lots of you folks aren't impressed with the way Mays played this year, but most coaches and scouts don't share your opinion. He's still going to be a first-round pick.

Offensive line: Baxter and Lauvao did nothing wrong. Peat just had a very good season, while Alfred in some ways gets a tip of the cap for a great career playing in obscurity for a lousy team.

Defensive end: Davis and Tukuafu have had great careers, and it was hard to leave off Arizona's Ricky Elmore, who led the conference in sacks. Just how things go.

Quarterback: Masoli is preseason All-Pac-10, puts up great numbers, leads his team to the Rose Bowl and drops off the first team? Yeah, I winced at that, too. But Canfield had a great year and put up great numbers. And, yes, it matters that he is a senior and Masoli will be back next fall.