Pac-12: Ricky Heimuli

Stanford's Oregon problem

November, 16, 2012
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Stanford is 31-5 since the beginning of the 2010 season. The Cardinal have lost three games during that span by a combined 14 points, and two of those were in overtime.

And they lost the other two, both to Oregon, by a combined 44 points.

Stanford has an Oregon problem.

"I think the entire conference has an Oregon problem," Stanford coach David Shaw countered reasonably.

True that. Oregon is on track for its fourth consecutive outright Pac-12 title. As ESPN's Brad Edwards noted this week : "If [the Ducks] can win [the Pac-12 title game] again this season, they will join John McKay's USC teams from 1966 to 1969 as the only groups in the history of that conference to win four consecutive outright titles."

[+] EnlargeJosh Huff, Kenjon Barner
Kelley L Cox/US PresswireOpponents haven't been able to slow down the Ducks' potent offense for four quarters.
So Oregon is historically good.

And Stanford, though on a historically good run for its own program, has been Wile E. Coyote to Oregon's Road Runner.

Stanford (8-2) will get another chance to change that Saturday in Autzen Stadium, with ESPN's "College GameDay" on hand. The stakes, just like the previous two seasons, are big. The winner takes control of the Pac-12 North Division. The Ducks, of course, need to win to remain in the national title chase.

Shaw didn't hold back praising Oregon (10-0) this week. It could be gamesmanship, but Shaw also seems to genuinely appreciate what coach Chip Kelly has built at Oregon. As Shaw said: "Great athletes, great scheme in all three phases."

"They know how to adjust those schemes based on what you are doing, which to me is the biggest key," he said. "You don't see them stopped for long. If you're doing something that is slowing them down, they are going to make a tweak and make you pay for it."

Well-put. That about sums up Oregon.

And yet ... what about Oregon's injury-riddled defense?

"It doesn't matter," Shaw said. "They put young guys in there, they put new guys in there, and those guys go out there and play great."

Maybe. But maybe not.

There are cracks in the Oregon facade, mostly because a number of front-line players on the Ducks' defense -- once a nationally elite unit -- are questionable or out for Saturday.

Safety Avery Patterson is out for the year with a knee injury. You might recall Oregon previously lost All-America safety John Boyett to a knee injury. Defensive tackle Wade Keliikipi also is almost certainly out with a leg injury.

Also banged up and of questionable health on the defense: DE/DT Taylor Hart (foot), DE/OLB Dion Jordan (shoulder), DT Isaac Remington (ankle) and NT Ricky Heimuli (knee). And backup cornerbacks Troy Hill and Dior Mathis didn't play last weekend against California, which is why word coming out of practice this week was that De'Anthony Thomas was taking reps on defense.

That's a lot of banged up high-quality players, particularly on the defensive line. The past two weeks, Oregon has had to rely on three true freshman D-linemen -- Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner and Alex Balducci -- often playing them at the same time.

While Stanford's offensive line is not what it was last year with David DeCastro and Jonathan Martin, it still is an above-average unit, one that likes to go mano a mano in the trenches. It's certainly much better than the Cal unit that did a fairly good job against the Ducks last weekend.

So the Cardinal may be able to control the football with Stepfan Taylor running the ball, though you can expect Ducks "Stop the Run First" defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti to dare Stanford to throw the ball with redshirt freshman quarterback Kevin Hogan, who is making his first road start.

But the bigger issue, as usual, is slowing the Ducks' explosive offense, which has gashed Stanford the past two years with big plays -- seven TD plays of 25 or more yards, not including a 40-yard pick-six last season.

Stanford has the nation's No. 1 run defense, but few teams run the ball as well as Oregon. And Ducks redshirt freshman quarterback Marcus Mariota leads the nation in passing efficiency.

Oregon, particularly playing at home, seems fully capable of outscoring Stanford if the Ducks' defense is having a bad day. A few teams have been able to slow the Ducks for a quarter here or a quarter there. But even then -- boom! -- things go haywire. Stanford has experienced that itself. Twice in the past two years, in fact.

The question then becomes simple for Stanford: Can it somehow make Mariota and the Oregon offense have a bad day for four quarters?

It's the Oregon problem, and it's not easy to solve.

What we learned in the Pac-12: Week 11

November, 11, 2012
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What did we learn in Week 11? Read on.

Hogan was the right choice for Stanford: It seemed like odd timing that Stanford coach David Shaw switched starting quarterbacks as his team headed into its biggest game of the year, but freshman Kevin Hogan made his coach look smart, though it wasn't always pretty. Hogan completed 22 of 29 passes for 254 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions in a 27-23 victory over Oregon State. He also rushed for 49 yards on 11 carries. His biggest pass was a 13-yard strike to tight end Zach Ertz for the winning points. Hogan was effective with his feet and his arm, and he didn't wilt when things didn't go his way through most of the second and third quarters. Now he faces a bigger test: Oregon at Autzen Stadium.

[+] EnlargeKevin Hogan
Ed Szczepanski/US PresswireKevin Hogan kept an even keel in Stanford's comeback victory over Oregon State.
USC shows some grit: USC held Arizona State to only 250 yards and three second-half points in a 38-17 win. The Trojans trailed 17-14 early in the third, and it looked as though they might pack it in for the season. But with senior center Khaled Holmes exhorting his teammates on the sidelines, USC showed some grit, particularly on defense. The same defense that got ripped by Arizona and Oregon's spread offenses shut down the Sun Devils, recording six sacks and forcing four turnovers. It was far from perfect. On the day quarterback Matt Barkley set the Pac-12 career passing yardage record (12,026 yards), surpassing the previous mark held by Carson Palmer, he threw three interceptions. Still, the Trojans play archrival UCLA next weekend for the Pac-12 South Division title.

Ducks are banged up with Stanford coming to town, but will that matter? Oregon arrived at California with major injury issues, particularly with its defensive front, and things only got worse as the game went on. The Ducks, however, pulled themselves together and dominated the Bears in the second half, winning 59-17. Still, Stanford, which visits Autzen Stadium on Saturday, is a much better team that Cal, particularly on the offensive line. Will the Ducks get some guys back, such as defensive linemen Ricky Heimuli, Dion Jordan and Isaac Remington? The Ducks don't talk about injuries, but injuries will be something lots of folks are talking about this week. Or speculating on.

UCLA gets its big shot at vulnerable USC: While UCLA let up in the second half at Washington State -- the Bruins were outscored 29-7 and won only 44-36 -- that doesn't change the big possibilities that lie ahead. Now 8-2, the Bruins can win the Pac-12 South Division if they beat archrival USC in the Rose Bowl on Saturday. That would mean stomping on the Trojans' once-hyped season, which would inspire plenty of consternation in Heritage Hall. UCLA fans would love to do that. And it would mean the Bruins could end up in the Rose Bowl, either as the Pac-12 champions or as an at-large selection. So big stakes are at hand.

Huskies step up, Utes step back: Utah and Washington squared off as teams that weathered midseason adversity and had won two in a row. But only one could maintain positive momentum. The Huskies' decisive 35-14 victory boosted their record to 6-4, earning them bowl eligibility. They can continue to climb the pecking order if they can beat Colorado and Washington State over the next two weekends, though both games are on the road. The Utes' offensive surge came to an end, with only 55 yards passing. They need to win their next two games, at home to Arizona and at Colorado.

Picking two first-team All-Pac-12 running backs won't be easy: Arizona running back Ka'Deem Carey rushed for 366 yards -- a new Pac-12 single-game record -- and five touchdowns in Arizona's 56-31 win over Colorado. He will take over the Pac-12 rushing lead, as Oregon's Kenjon Barner (65 yards) and UCLA's Johnathan Franklin (66 yards) had subpar games. The final two weeks probably will decide the two guys who end up first-team All-Pac-12.
USC might be No. 1 in the College Football Live spring Top 25 rankings. But it's No. 4 Oregon that has the best chance to knock the SEC off its six-ringed mountain. So says ESPN college football analyst Brock Huard, who laid out three reasons (all extremely sound and logical) why Oregon is actually the team to beat Insider in the Pac-12 this season.

Here's a minor re-hash of his three points.
Regarding the quarterback situation: Cam Newton and AJ McCarron won BCS titles the past two seasons as first-year starters under center. McCarron filled the role of game manager, while the Heisman Trophy-winning Newton was the ultimate game-breaker. For Oregon in 2012, either redshirt freshman Marcus Mariota or sophomore Bryan Bennett will be under center as a first-year starter, a point that isn't lost on coach Chip Kelly, but also one that doesn't scare him, either.
The Ducks have an SEC-worthy defensive front: "Yeah, our group thinks they could be [on that level]," Kelly said. "We have some size with Wade Keliikipi [6-foot-3, 300 pounds] and Ricky Heimuli [6-4, 321] that will match some of those guys. Football starts up front. We've learned that in our battles with LSU and Auburn. I really think our defensive line will be the strength of this football team."

Throw in returning first-team all-conference defensive end Dion Jordan (6-7, 245), lengthy and productive redshirt junior Taylor Hart (6-6, 289) and four-star recruit Arik Armstead (6-8, 297) and it becomes clear as to why the normally reserved Kelly gets so excited about his team's prospects up front.
The schedule favors the Ducks: The only road trip in the first six weeks is to face the Washington State Cougars, and not even in Pullman, but rather at Century Link Field in Seattle where the Green and Gold could very well equal the Crimson and Grey in the stands. The easy early slate will provide a soft landing for Oregon's first-year QB.

This will obviously be a major point of contention for both USC and Oregon fans, assuming both teams do as expected, until Nov. 3 rolls around. [Utah fans, feel free to jump in on this until Oct. 4 -- and beyond if your team can top the Trojans at home]. Still, it doesn't mean we can't stoke the fires a little early.

Some more Oregon notes

April, 2, 2012
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Cleaning out the pre-spring notes on Oregon beginning spring practices Tuesday.
  • A quote from coach Chip Kelly on redshirt freshman Marcus Mariota that was left out of my story this morning on the quarterback competition. Kelly was asked about Mariota's rapid development: "That's what we were excited about. Each week you could see him starting to grasp things." On what Mariota's specific improvements were: "He improved everywhere. That's the key. There's never one thing."
  • Here's a small world tidbit on Mariota's competition, sophomore Bryan Bennett. As a prep sophomore, Bennett was UCLA quarterback Kevin Prince's backup at Crespi High in Encino, Calif. Bruins fans probably have a good idea how Bennett become the starter -- the oft-injured Prince blew out his knee early in the season opener.
  • Center Hroniss Grasu rooms with Bennett. But he also has a third roommate: 320-pound defensive tackle Rick Ricky Heimuli, whom Grasu often blocks in practice. And, yes, they take their competition -- and squabbles -- home with them. Said Grasu, "We go at it every day. I get mad at him for knowing my calls and he thinks I know his calls."
  • I asked linebacker Michael Clay for some guys he thinks are ready to step up on defense. He named sophomore corner Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, sophomore linebackers Rodney Hardrick and Anthony Wallace, and junior defensive tackle Jared Ebert. He also was high on the idea of DT Taylor Hart moving outside to end to replace the departed Terrell Turner: "People don't understand that Taylor is an athletic guy. He's going to surprise people."
  • One of Kelly's big things is not letting "outside distractions" -- read: media reports -- get into the locker room. But, of course, Kelly can't encircle his players within an impenetrable bubble. I asked a couple of guys whether they'd noticed all the offseason attention -- read: hype -- that USC is getting and whether it bothered them. Yes, all said, they'd noticed. Said Clay, "Does it get into my head? No. Do I notice it? Yeah. Everyone can read the newspaper or go on ESPN.com and see it. But around here we don't talk about it. We're focused on us."
  • Clay didn't say it specifically but it was clear that he and his teammates know how important it is to focus also on the Pac-12 blog.
No team in the Pac-12 wows you at defensive tackle. No team is a sure thing. There is a lot of "maybe" at the position. And probably some maybe not.

The uncertainty of quality -- both in terms of returning stars and depth -- made this a difficult position to rank. For example, Washington has a nice foursome at tackle, led by Alameda Ta'amu, who might be the best tackle in the conference.

That's great. Good for the Huskies. But they ranked 97th in the country in run defense last year. You sort of pause over that, you know?

So a lot of this ranking is feel thing, a projection of potential. And "great shape" here is relative to the conference. Nebraska, for example, wouldn't exchange its tackles -- Jared Crick and Baker Steinkuhler -- for any Pac-12 tandem.

Some of this figures to inspire a bit of debate.

Great shape

USC: This may be in some part based on fumes from the Trojans reputation at the position. It definitely includes a vote of faith that they will get a 100 percent Christian Tupou back from the knee injury that killed his 2010 season. If so, the threesome of Tupou, George Uko and DaJohn Harris is strong. And if you toss in Armond Armstead -- who missed spring with an undisclosed medical condition that threatens his career -- you'd have a clear No. 1.

Washington: Ta'amu seemed to find himself during the second half of last year, and the 330-pounder could end up getting some All-American consideration if he consistently plays like he did against Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl. Sione Potoa'e and Semisi Tokolahi are both experienced, and Lawrence Lagafuaina a space-grabbing, 344-pound redshirt freshman.

Colorado: The Buffaloes are sneaky good here, even though they only ranked 48th in the nation in run defense in 2010. Both starters, Will Pericak and Curtis Cunningham, are back, but Conrad Obi was a revelation this spring. He looked like a future NFL draft choice, not a player who'd mostly been a bust. Nate Bonsu, who missed spring with a knee injury, also should help.

Good shape

Utah: The Utes, who ranked 11th in the nation in run defense in 2010, lost Sealver Siliga, but they believe they have a budding star in, er, Star Lotulelei, while James Aiono, LT Tuipulotu and Joape Peta are solid. Also, Dave Kruger, who played end this spring, is 280 pounds and can play inside.

Arizona: The loss of backup Willie Mobley to a knee injury hurts depth, but Justin Washington figures to take a step forward after an impressive true freshman season, Sione Tuihalamaka started four games in 2010. Depth is a question. The Wildcats ranked 33rd in the nation in run defense last fall.

Oregon: On the one hand, Oregon lost both starting defensive tackles in Brandon Bair and Zac Clark from a unit that ranked 27th in the nation in run defense. On the other, they played so many guys last fall, the new starters are experienced players. Further, Ricky Heimuli, Taylor Hart, Wade Keliikipi, Isaac Remington and Jared Ebert played well enough this spring to suggest the position will be a strength in the fall.

Arizona State: If Lawrence Guy didn't make his ill-fated decision to enter the NFL draft, the Sun Devils, who were 16th in the nation against the run last fall, would be in great shape here. As it was, Will Sutton had a great spring and looks like a potential All-Conference guy. Grinder Bo Moos is listed as the starter at the other tackle, though he could be eclipsed by Corey Adams. Toa Tuitea saw limited action last year.

UCLA: The Bruins defensive line was terrible last year, ranking 108th in the nation against the run, but the talent is there for a significant turnaround. Cassius Marsh, Nate Chandler, Justin Edison, Donovan Carter and Seali'i Epenesa should do a much better job plugging the middle.

California: Cal is actually fine here, despite the loss of NG Derrick Hill. For one, when you run a 3-4 defense, it's hard to rate your DTs, even if your DEs often operate like them. The Bears have two solid options at NG in Aaron Tipoti and Kendrick Payne, and it's also possible that touted 350-pound incoming freshman Viliami Moala will eclipse both of them.

We'll see

Oregon State: Dominic Glover moves inside from end and Kevin Frahm has experience, but this unit didn't play well last year -- 89th in run defense -- even with one of the best DTs in the nation in Stephen Paea. 340-pound Castro Masaniai could help but he missed spring after shoulder surgery and has off-field issues. There's also Mana Tuivailala and Ben Motter.

Stanford: Like Cal, Stanford runs a 3-4, so it naturally it is going to suffer a bit in DT rankings. More important: The loss of Sione Fua is significant. Terrence Stephens and Henry Anderson had solid springs but neither has much experience.

Washington State: Brandon Rankin, a returning starter, was listed No. 2 on the depth chart behind Anthony Laurenzi after spring practices, with redshirt freshman Toni Pole No. 1 at the other tackle. Justin Clayton, Steven Hoffart and Xavier Cooper provide depth. It's not unreasonable for Cougars fans to expect improvement, perhaps significant improvement. But a team that ranked 115th in the nation in run defense the previous season is automatically a "We'll see" here.

Exiting the spring: Oregon

April, 28, 2011
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Oregon concludes spring practices with its spring game on Saturday. Here's a brief primer.

Spring game: 4 p.m. ET at Autzen Stadium. The game will be televised on ESPN2. Here’s the link to the Oregon spring game on ESPN3.com.

Questions answered: The Ducks lost five starters from the defensive front seven, but this one may be more a reload rather than rebuild. This is due in large part to the experience of the so-called new guys, most of whom saw significant action last fall. Ends Dion Jordan and Brandon Hanna -- returning starter Terrell Turner sat out with a leg injury -- and tackles Ricky Heimuli, Taylor Hart and Wade Keliikipi all played well. At linebacker, Kiko Alonso takes over in the middle for Casey Matthews, while Michael Clay, Josh Kaddu and Boseko Lokomobo capably man the outside spots. More depth is provided by Dewitt Stuckey and Derrick Malone.

Questions unanswered: The defense was mostly in control this spring, and a lot of that was due to three new starters on the offensive line. Things aren't settled there other than tackles Mark Asper and Darion Weems and guard Carson York. Further, the Ducks are replacing their top two receivers, Jeff Maehl and D.J. Davis, and that may be a spot the requires help from a touted crew of incoming freshmen.

Spring stars: Jordan was an intriguing prospect when he switched to defensive end last season. Now he's starting to look like a player. Alonso missed last season due to suspension -- he also was injured -- but he's brought a physical presence to the middle of the defense. Running back Lache Seastrunk has played well enough to earn touches at a deep position. Spring always provides good walk-on stories, and the Ducks have theirs in Ramsen Golpashin, a fifth-year senior who's in the mix at offensive guard. Now some of you less sentimental sorts might not be thrilled with what a senior walk-on winning the job says, but let's see the glass as half-full.

Pac-12 links: Locker in the first or third?

April, 6, 2011
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Well, my name's Dewey Oxburger. My friends call me Ox. I don't know if you've noticed, but I got a slight weight problem.

Which true freshmen are ready to play?

August, 17, 2010
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The ink dries on the national letters of intent and the recruiting class rankings are handed out, then the real business begins: Which true freshmen are ready to play right now?

Here's an early list for every Pac-10 team.

A caveat: This is hardly a scientific survey, evaluations are still in their early stages and I've only personally seen a handful of these guys play. These names are here because of news reports and comments from coaches and other observers (sports information directors also chipped in).

Further, some schools will start or play a lot of freshmen -- USC and UCLA for example -- while that doesn't appear likely for other schools (Oregon State may only use freshmen on special teams).

So here we go.

Arizona
CB Shaquille Richardson, S Marquis Flowers

Note: Frosh will bolster the Wildcats secondary. Richardson was kicked off UCLA's team for being one of three freshmen who allegedly tried to steal a purse. Coach Mike Stoops told the Arizona Daily Star that Richardson is "as good a corner as I've coached at this young stage."

Arizona State
RB Deantre Lewis, WR Kyle Middlebrooks

Note: Lewis turned in a good scrimmage over the weekend for an offense that needs playmakers. Middlebrooks should at least get into the rotation and may return punts.

California
WR Keenan Allen, WR Kaelin Clay, WR Tevin Carter, LB David Wilkerson

Note: Receiver is a need position for the Bears -- not all of the passing game struggles can be hung on QB Kevin Riley. All three likely will be in the rotation, with Allen a candidate to start. Wilkerson is pushing for time at OLB.

Oregon
DT Ricky Heimuli, K Alejandro Maldonado

Note: The 320-pound Heimuli offers a big body in the middle of the D-line. Maldonado is in the thick of the race to start at kicker. (The two touted frosh RBs could get into the mix, but No. 3 is deeper than we want to go).

Oregon State
WR Kevin Cummings, LB Michael Doctor

Notes: No true freshman has cracked the Beavers two-deep and both of these guys are grayshirts. Cummings could get into the rotation at flanker behind James Rodgers. Both are expected to play special teams.

Stanford
CB Barry Browning, S Devon Carrington

Note: Browning is the highest true freshman on the depth chart at present, though he's not with the first-team, according to Jim Harbaugh. He and Carrington could provide help in a questionable secondary.

UCLA
SS Dietrich Riley, F Anthony Barr, OG Chris Ward, DT Cassius Marsh, DE Owa Odighizuwa

Notes: This list, by the way, could have been much longer. The Bruins signed a strong recruiting class last February and a lot of those guys will play this fall. Riley, Barr and Ward are in the mix to start.

USC
WR Robert Woods, RB Dillon Baxter, WR Markeith Ambles, CB Nickell Robey

Notes: Woods may end up starting, and Baxter has been a spectacular playmaker since he showed up during spring drills, though he's suspended for the opener. Robey is the leading candidate to be the nickelback.

Washington
RB Jesse Callier, S Sean Parker, DE Hau'oli Jamora, TE Michael Hartvigson

Note: It doesn't appear at this point that any of these four will start, but they each are expected to play. Callier steps to the fore with Deontae Cooper out with a knee injury. Jamora and Hartvigson provide depth at need positions.

Washington State
WR Marquiss Wilson, WR Kristoff Williams, OT John Fullington, LB C.J. Mizell, DT Kalafitoni Pole

Notes: All five of these guys will play. Fullington has seen some action with the first-team. Mizell might be the Cougars fastest LB.

Opening the mailbag: Worries about Oregon's D-line

March, 9, 2010
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This is a quick makeup for missing last Friday while I was doing interviews at Arizona.

Andrew from Syracuse writes: Regarding your Oregon strong and weak article, I agree that the defensive line is the obvious weakness of team but I noticed that you didn't mention incoming freshman Ricky Heimuli. I was wondering what kind of impact you think he'll have next year. I know that it's tough for true freshman to make the transition to D1 football but with the state of the D line it seems that he has the size and strength to contribute right away. At least I'm hoping he does because the line (minus Rowe) was awful against Ohio State and needs big bodies.

Ted Miller: I mostly don't include freshmen who arrive in the fall when assessing the strength of a position for spring practices -- unless the frosh is a spectacular talent at a skill position, where it's easier to contribute early. Line positions are much different animals. When you see true freshmen starting on either line, more often than not it's about a gaping talent void rather than a player beating out veterans.

My guess is Oregon would prefer to redshirt Heimuli but odds are fairly good he'll play because of depth issues and his obvious talent and advanced physical development. Further complicating things, however, is his stated desire to go on a LDS mission after his freshman year (see UCLA offensive tackle Xavier Su'a-Filo, who started at left tackle as a true freshman last fall but opted to go on a mission).

As for the D-line in the Rose Bowl: I disagree.

Ohio State got a career-best performance from quarterback Terrelle Pryor in the Rose Bowl, while Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli reverted to his Boise State passing form -- 9-of-20 for 81 yards with a pick. Quarterback play was the difference in the game, particularly on third down.

Ohio State didn't run the ball well against Oregon, other than Pryor's scrambles. Buckeye backs combined for 87 yards on 28 carries (3.1 yards per carry) with a long run of 11 yards.

The Ducks didn't dominate up front, but they certainly weren't pushed around.


Kevin from Scottsdale writes: I'm a fan of Keaton Kristick's (Oregon State) and I can't figure out why his performance at the combine isn't getting any attention? He finished in the top 10 in 5 out of 6 "field" categories against 36 of the best college LB's in the country? Yet, most of what has been written about him says he's not athletic, too small (since when was 6'3" 234lbs too small?), and CBS Sports went so far as to say his best chance may be the CFL? Here's what what I saw on the NFL combine website shortly after Monday's session. He tied for 4th among LB's in the 40 (4.64), finished 3rd in the BJ (10'), 6th in the 20S (4.21), 3rd in the 60S (11.33) and 9th in the 3 cone (6.96). Find another player at any position that can say that? I'm guessing not very many.

Ted Miller: I was surprised how well Kristicks's measurables came out -- even his size. I'd have pegged him at about 6-foot-2, 225 when I chatted with him at Pac-10 media day last July.

What stood out to me about Kristick is he tested well in the drills that measure quickness and change of direction. Help me out here: Are those good skills for a LB to have?

I have read the same things you have. Little has been written that indicates Kristick will get drafted anywhere before the late rounds.

One thing to keep in mind is much of what is written around draft time is just blather. There's so much misdirection and overanalysis it's hard to measure what's accurate.

My guess -- and it's only a guess -- is that Kristicks's performances, combined with lots of impressive game tape, as well as a good Beavers legacy at the position, will get him drafted.

I expect him to stick on a team. He may not become star or even a starter, but guys like Kristick seem to find their way to solid NFL careers.


Andrew from Seattle writes: Is there any actual truth to the discussion of kicking WSU out of the Pac 10 or are the local sports talk stations trying to fill a really slow period in local sports? It seems to me that while there are negatives WSU brings to the table there are some positives and reasonable recent success Rose bowl 03 Sweet 16 in 06. All the Internet folks are bringing up comments from Sterk from last April. That too seems a bit far fetched for me.

Ted Miller: At the risk of sounding wishy-washy: No.

There's no chance of kicking Washington State out of the Pac-10.

Zero.


Jeremy from Tempe writes: Why all the Arizona stories? Who cares? Isn't this the Pac-10 blog, not the Arizona blog?

Ted Miller: Three reasons for the glut of Arizona stories.

1. Arizona started spring practices last Friday.

2. I was in Tucson that day.

3. Only Arizona and Stanford are practicing right now.


JT from New York City writes: Ted, I got two weird questions for you. How tall are you and how much do you weigh? It helps give perspective on the dudes you interview.

Ted Miller: I'm 6-foot-10, 280 pounds.

Plus or minus.

No, I'm 5-11, 210. OK, 215. But I'm shooting to drop to two bills by the preseason.

Speaking of which...


Andrew from Berkeley, Calif., writes: I'm headed to Eugene for a non-football related sporting event, I was wondering if you had any suggestions for good food? I noticed you liked Le Cheval in Oakland so I can trust your taste.

Ted Miller: Mmmm. Le Cheval. Made the mistake of pulling up the menu. When's lunch?

Most folks in Eugene would start with Beppe & Gianni's. You'll probably run into Ducks defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti there. Beppe is a great guy and he's particularly skilled at hiring hostesses.

I've had a handful of good meals at Adam's Place, home of the Eugene Martini Association, but some folks accused me of being hoity-toity when I touted the place two years ago.

Fact is, I've always thought there were plenty of good meals to be had in Eugene.

And this inquiry is a good time for a heads up: I'm going to put together a list of Pac-10 restaurants for you road trippers this year and, obviously, we need our loyal readers to participate.

So feel free to send in suggestions.

Pac-10 recruiting wrap: Oregon

February, 4, 2010
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Oregon's class of 23 ranked 22nd in the nation and included four players in the ESPNU 150.

Coach Chip Kelly said the Ducks class was all about speed, and he signed five players ranked among the top-13 at their respective positions in the country.

Top prospects: Running back Lache Seastrunk is a fast guy who can catch the ball. Tight end was a need position, and Curtis White should immediately help fill that need. Cornerback also was a need area, so Dior Mathis figures to be in the mix. While Kelly quibbled with the idea the Ducks are thin on the defensive line, tackle Ricky Heimuli was as important a signing as any member of the class.

Under the radar: Kelly was quick to point out quarterback Bryan Bennett's track numbers to counter the idea that he was a drop-back passer instead of a spread-option guy. Kelly projected Hroniss Grasu as a center and lauded him as an athlete. Josh Huff and Eric Dungy are athletes who could play on either side of the ball.

Issues? The class could have been stronger on the defensive line, particularly with ends Gabe King (California) and Owamagbe Odighizuwa (UCLA) playing high school ball in the state. The Ducks also were in on elite tackle Dominique Easley until he opted for Florida.

Notes: Heimuli is likely to take a two-year Mormon mission after his freshman season. ... Dungy is the son of former NFL coach Tony Dungy. This column explains how he ended up signing with Oregon. ... Receiver Keanon Lowe first committed to Washington. ... Drew Howell will be a long-snapper. ... Class included players from nine states.

UCLA makes biggest signing day move

February, 3, 2010
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UCLA and Rick Neuheisel will get their coffee tonight -- as you know, coffee is for closers.

UCLA signed 22 Wednesday, and a number of marquee late additions pushed the class to No. 11 in the latest ESPNU rankings.

While the Bruins lost a couple early -- linebacker Hayes Pullard and defensive tackle Ricky Heimuli -- it landed defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa, safety Dietrich Riley, linebacker Dietrich Riley and linebacker Jordan Zumwalt.

The class includes five members of the ESPNU 150.

Oregon scores with D-lineman Heimuli

February, 3, 2010
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Four-star defensive tackle Ricky Heimuli (Salt Lake City, Utah/Brighton), ranked 133rd on the ESPNU 150, has picked Oregon over UCLA, Utah and Washington.

That's a big one for the Ducks, who have missed out on some defensive linemen this recruiting season.

Who's still in play on signing day?

February, 3, 2010
2/03/10
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Here are the big-name guys who are considering Pac-10 teams today, with info provided by Scouts Inc.

Seantrel Henderson, OT

Saint Paul, MN

Cretin-Derham Hall H.S.

Scouts Grade: 86

ESPNU150 Rank: 8

Position Rank: 1

Five-star offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson of Cretin-Derham Hall (Saint Paul, Minn.) is set to announce his college decision on signing day among Ohio State, Notre Dame, USC, Florida and Miami-Florida.

Demar Dorsey, S

Fort Lauderdale, FL

Boyd Anderson H.S.

Scouts Grade: 85

ESPNU150 Rank: 12

Position Rank: 2

ESPNU 150 safety Demar Dorsey of Boyd Anderson (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) is expected to chose between Florida State and Southern California on signing day.

Owamagbe Odighizuwa, DE

Portland, OR

David Douglas H.S.

Scouts Grade: 84

ESPNU150 Rank: 17

Position Rank: 2

High four-star defensive end Owa Odighizuwa (Portland, Ore./Douglas) will join the Huskers, Beavers or Bruins Wednesday during ESPN's national signing day coverage.

Keenan Allen, ATH

Greensboro, NC

Northern Guilford

Scouts Grade: 83

ESPNU150 Rank: 33

Position Rank: 5

Four-star wideout /safety Keenan Allen of Northern Guilford (Greensboro, NC) could no longer be headed to Alabama and head coach Nick Saban. Allen has not publicly confirmed a decommitment, but is also considering California, Penn State and Clemson.

Sean Parker, S

Harbor City, CA

Narbonne H.S.

Scouts Grade: 82

ESPNU150 Rank: 49

Position Rank: 5

ESPNU 150 safety Sean Parker (Harbor, City, Calif./Narbonne) will sign with Michigan, USC or Washington Wednesday morning on ESPNU's coverage over national signing day.

Chaz Green, OT

Tampa, FL

Tampa Catholic H.S.

Scouts Grade: 82

ESPNU150 Rank: 52

Position Rank: 4

Four-star offensive tackle Chaz Green of Tampa Catholic (Tampa, Fla.) will announce his Class of 2010 college choice on signing day among Florida, Southern California, Ohio State and Tennessee.

Dietrich Riley, S

La Canada, CA

Saint Francis H.S.

Scouts Grade: 81

ESPNU150 Rank: 108

Position Rank: 10

Four-star safety Dietrich Riley of Saint Francis (La Canada, Calif.) is leaning toward a Class of 2010 commitment to the UCLA Bruins.

Ivan McCartney, WR

Miramar, FL

Miramar H.S.

Scouts Grade: 81

ESPNU150 Rank: 109

Position Rank: 18

Ivan McCartney, a four-star receiver from Miramar, Fla., is down to West Virginia, Miami-Florida and Oregon for his announcement of a college choice on Signing Day.

Ricky Heimuli, DT

Salt Lake City, UT

Brighton H.S.

Scouts Grade: 81

ESPNU150 Rank: 133

Position Rank: 13

Four-star Ricky Heimuli (Salt Lake City, Utah/Brighton) spoke with ESPN affiliate Web site DuckTerritory.com a few days before sending in his letter of intent. "Utah, UCLA, Oregon, and Washington are my final four that I will choose from," he said.

J.R. Ferguson, DT

Frederick, MD

Hargrave Military Academy (VA)

Scouts Grade: 81

ESPNU150 Rank: 136

Position Rank: 14

Four-star J.R. Ferguson of Frederick, Md./Hargrave Military Academy, Va., who had previously narrowed his Class of 2010 list to Miami-Florida, Notre Dame, Florida State, LSU and California, has added Texas Tech.

Christian Thomas, TE

Palmdale, CA

Highland H.S.

Scouts Grade: 80

Position Rank: 8

Christian Thomas, a four-star tight end from Highland (Palmadale, Calif.), has narrowed his college choices down to four for signing day.

Gabe King, DE

Eugene, OR

South Eugene H.S.

Scouts Grade: 80

Position Rank: 19

Touted defensive end Gabe King of South Eugene (Eugene, Ore.) is expected to announce on signing day between the Bears and Oregon.

Josh Shirley, OLB

Fontana, CA

Henry J. Kaiser H.S.

Scouts Grade: 79

Position Rank: 19

USC, Arizona, Washington and Miami-FL are four-star outside linebacker Josh Shirley's (Fontana, Calif./Kaiser) finalists, ESPN's Greg Biggins reports.

Bjoern Werner, DE

Salisbury, CT

Salisbury School

Scouts Grade: 79

Position Rank: 24

Four-star defensive lineman Bjoern Werner (Salisbury, Conn./Salisbury School) will send in his letter of intent to Florida State, Oregon or California Wednesday after announcing on ESPNU.

Will Pac-10 close a good recruiting season with a flourish?

January, 25, 2010
1/25/10
3:52
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With just over a week until national signing day, the recruiting rankings look a lot like the late-season national rankings for the Pac-10: Lots of depth.

USC, at No. 10, is tops among six conference teams in the national top 25.

Recall that seven Pac-10 teams were ranked at some point last season and five were ranked in the final regular-season BCS standings.

Ah, but then also recall that only two were ranked after a woeful 2-5 bowl season.

So, the big question with the Pac-10 and recruiting is not unlike it was in the postseason: Can the conference close the deal?

Things are fairly fluid right now. A "commitment" doesn't mean much. For example:

Stanford, which had taken some recruiting hits of late, punched back at one of its victimizers, Notre Dame, by snagging an ESPNU 150 defensive end.

Oregon just grabbed a receiver previously committed to Washington.

Washington is trying to give Arizona that sort of treatment over a defensive tackle.

So don't take anything for granted. It's the signature on Feb. 3 that matters.

You can follow the plot twists here.

The biggest names remaining in play among Pac-10 teams on the ESPNU 150 are:

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