Pac-12: Rulon Davis

Free-agent signings thus far

April, 28, 2009
4/28/09
9:46
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

A list of free-agent signings, though more are likely to come.

Arizona
LB Ronnie Palmer, Washington Redskins
S Nate Ness, Cleveland Browns
CB Marquis Hundley, St. Louis Rams

Arizona State
QB Rudy Carpenter, Dallas Cowboys
WR Michael Jones, Houston Texans

California
DE Rulon Davis, Denver Broncos
LB Anthony Felder, San Diego Chargers
FB Will Ta'ufo'ou, Chicago Bears

Oregon
RB Jeremiah Johnson, Houston Texans
OL Mark Lewis, Miami Dolphins
WR Jaison Williams, Washington Redskins

Oregon State
WR Shane Morales, Arizona Cardinals
OT Tavita Thompson, New York Jets
SS Greg Laybourn, invited to New Orleans Saints minicamp

UCLA
QB Pat Cowan, New Orleans Saints
DT Brigham Harwell, Washington Redskins
RB Kahlil Bell, Minnesota Vikings
SS Bret Lockett, invited to Green Bay Packers minicamp
P Aaron Perez, invited to New England Patriots minicamp

USC
DE Gerald Washington, Buffalo Bills

Washington
C Juan Garcia, invited to Minnesota Vikings minicamp

Washington State
TE Devin Frischknecht, Washington Redskins

Pac-10 lunch links: Pac-10 at the NFL combine

February, 23, 2009
2/23/09
2:30
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

We're throwing at the NFL combine.

  • Former Arizona receiver Mike Thomas continues to be short, but Money Mike also continues to do things that figure to make him a lot of coin when the NFL draft rolls around. Like run faster than Percy Harvin. (And note that former UA OT Eben Britton's 40 time probably won't hurt him either).
  • And... not to let that combine list linger or anything... but who would have thought that USC linebacker Kaluka Maiava would do just as many reps with 225 pounds -- 30 -- as Brian Cushing, and both would leave sure-fire top-10 LB pick Aaron Curry in their dust (25)?
  • Speaking of Cushing... he tries to respond to rumors of steroid use.
  • Speaking of draft prospects, whatever happened to Rudy Carpenter's? He needs to convince scouts that a big arm isn't the only thing that matters.
  • Andy Levitre, late of Oregon State, talks... you guessed it! -- NFL combine.
  • Lots of Pac-10 names -- Patrick Chung, Rulon Davis, Keenan Lewis -- in this combine story.
  • Tim Hundley will leave SMU to become UCLA's new secondary coach. Hundley was Rick Neuheisel's defensive coordinator at Colorado and Washington.
  • It looks like Washington will have an easier time funding new uniforms than funding a massive renovation of Husky Stadium.

Jordan rising at Cal

November, 4, 2008
11/04/08
7:12
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Here's a nice stat line for a linebacker playing against Oregon's high-powered attack: 10 tackles, a sack, three tackles for a loss.

 
  AP Photo/Ben Margot
 California sophomore defensive end Cameron Jordan, right, celebrates his sack of Arizona State quarterback Rudy Carpenter (not shown) on Oct. 4.

When that stat line, however, belongs to a defensive end instead of a linebacker, nice becomes impressive. And when that line belongs to a true sophomore elevated into the lineup only because of an injury to the starter, well, it's time to find out who the heck this guy is.

Of course, we already sort of know who California's Cameron Jordan is.

A month ago, after replacing Rulon Davis in the starting lineup, Jordan posted eight tackles, two quarterback sacks and and a forced fumble in the Bears win over Arizona State and won Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Week honors.

He's started just four games but his 30 tackles rank second among Bears defensive linemen, just two fewer than junior Tyson Alualu, who is one of the best ends in the conference.

Jordan's seven tackles for a loss rank second on the team behind linebacker Zach Follett and 10th overall in the Pac-10.

So, yeah, it's fair to say the word "upside" is being tossed around concerning the 6-foot-4, 286 pounder.

"We sure did miss out on the guy," said USC coach Pete Carroll, who admitted his recruiting machine didn't make a stop in Chandler, Ariz., to look at Jordan.

Carroll's Trojans will try to slow down Jordan's ascension as one of the conference's bright, young defensive standouts on Saturday when the Bears visit the Coliseum.

"He's getting after the quarterback and making things happen and putting a lot of pressure on people," Carroll said.

One thing that helped Jordan against the Ducks was he, at times, lined up in a two-point stance -- the "almost wanna-be linebacker stance," Jordan called it -- at the line of scrimmage. That helped him spy the Ducks backfield.

Still, 10 tackles is a highly productive afternoon for an end, no matter how he lines up. Jordan said he was surprised when he learned he'd been in on that many plays.

"I was impressed when my coach told me that too," he said. "I'd like to say it was pure hustle. Our coach is always trying to instill in us a non-loaf mentality. You have to run everywhere."

And Jordan can really run.

"He's very fast and he's very athletic," Cal coach Jeff Tedford said. "He runs so well that he chases a lot of things down."

Jordan, who had 18 tackles and a pair of half-sacks as a true freshman, also has a strong initial strike on opposing offensive linemen that's beyond his years. He's good at keeping blockers from getting to his body as well as to his legs with cut blocks.

And he seems to find the ball, which is not typical for an end playing in a 3-4 scheme where the linebackers typically make most of the plays.

It's hard to believe that Jordan didn't really hit on the recruiting radar until his senior year, though most of the Pac-10 ended up offering him by the time he recorded 17.5 sacks as a senior at Chandler High School.

He's certainly got good football bloodlines. His dad, Steve Jordan, played 13 years for the Cleveland Browns and was selected six times for the Pro Bowl.

As for getting ready for big, bad USC, Jordan does show his age.

"I'm not treating it any differently," he said. "They're in the Pac-10 and every Pac-10 team has to be respected."

Or maybe that's actually another impressive line?

Pac-10 internal affairs: Rudy may be running (limping?)

October, 22, 2008
10/22/08
10:54
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Getting deep into this week's games.

Will Arizona go small and get big?: USC's defense hasn't allowed a point in 10 quarters. It's ranked No. 1 in scoring defense and No. 2 in total defense. In other words, the Trojans have the nation's best defense. Only one team had success of any kind against them and that was Oregon State, which used a balanced attack to gain 343 total yards in a 27-21 victory. Balance is the key. Without at least a threat to run, an opposing quarterback is simply fresh meat for a fast USC defense, which can then tape its ears back in the pass rush. The Beavers, however, gashed the Trojans with diminutive true freshman Jacquizz Rodgers, who used his 5-foot-7 frame to his advantage instead of disadvantage. After the game, the Trojans defenders actually complained that they couldn't find Rodgers amid the crowd of large bodies. Just so happens that Arizona boasts two speedy, undersized backs. Freshman Keola Antolin (5-foot-7) burst onto the scene with 149 yards rushing on 21 carries with three touchdowns in the 42-27 win over California. He stepped in for Nic Grigsby (5-foot-10), who fumbled in the first quarter, but Grigsby is solid when he holds onto the football -- see 627 yards rushing and nine touchdowns this year with a 5.9 yards-per-carry average. Considering the Wildcats' offensive line is a more experienced group than the Beavers' was, the question is whether the Trojans have learned to find the little guys who are trying to slice them apart.

Ducks foresee sack time with Rudy: In Oregon's 35-23 win over Arizona State last year, the Ducks sacked Rudy Carpenter nine times, including 3.5 takedowns by end Nick Reed. To say the least, it was a long day for Carpenter. The problem for him this go-around is there are abundant reasons to believe he will be again running for his life ... or limping for his life, considering he's nursing an ankle sprain. The Sun Devils have no running game to slow down Oregon's pass rush; they rank 117th in the nation in rushing. While the inexperienced offensive line has mostly pass protected better than last year's unit that surrendered 55 sacks, it still has yielded 2.5 sacks per game. Meanwhile, Reed is back, leading the Pac-10 with eight sacks this season, and his opposite end, Will Tukuafu, is just behind with six. In fact, Oregon leads the Pac-10 with 3.57 sacks per game. So there's your game: Can Rudy get enough time to pick on the Ducks hobbled secondary? Or will he hobble off the field himself?

Washington's players can make a statement on their feelings for Tyrone Willingham by playing hard vs. Notre Dame: It's not hard to pick apart what's gone wrong with Washington during the Tyrone Willingham Era. That's been going on ad nauseum for nearly two years and it won't end until the school puts his administration out of its misery. What can be said is this: Willingham is a man of integrity who cares about his players and has never been accused of unethical behavior. So how do his players feel about him? We'll see this weekend. While Willingham played off the Notre Dame angle this week, this also is a man of considerable ego and his ego will never be more vulnerable than it will be Saturday. If the Fighting Irish blow Willingham out of Husky Stadium, it will be a humiliating repudiation of him as a coach, at least in terms of popular perception. Thing is, Notre Dame isn't that good and the Huskies aren't that bad. If Washington plays hard for four quarters and fights for its coach, this won't be a blowout.

UCLA's offensive line vs. California's defensive line is a battle of wounded animals: UCLA's offensive line was considered a significant weakness entering the season. Each time coaches shuffled the available bodies and produced a small step forward, adversity seemed to bite back. This week, after starting the same five for consecutive games, it was freshman left tackle Jeff Baca going down with a hamstring injury during practice Tuesday. If he can't go against California, Micah Kia (bad back) likely will replace him, while Mike Harris (bum ankle) would make his first start at right tackle. Meanwhile, Cal's defensive front was forced to burn the redshirt of touted freshman Trevor Guyton against Arizona. With end Rulon Davis and tackle Kendrick Payne out and end Tyson Alualu slowed by a leg infection, the Bears got pushed around up front by Arizona, which gained 404 yards on a defense that had previously given up just 291 yards per game. The advantage here might go to the Bears for a simple reason: UCLA can't win on the road. The Bruins have lost five straight away from the Rose Bowl and 12 of their past 15. The O-line is the area that suffers most in a hostile environment.

You'll know in the first quarter if USC is going to roll: USC went to Oregon State planning to take the crowd out of the game. It didn't happen when the Trojans fell behind 21-0. A fast start at Arizona is a hot topic this week. "It's imperative that we're scoring on that first drive," USC quarterback Mark Sanchez told reporters Tuesday. "That means a lot. For the offense, it gives us confidence. It pumps up the defense. Things just go." While the Wildcats received a confidence boost by whipping Cal, they are not at the point where they won't lose faith against an early show of force from the Trojans. And it's not just a fast start; Oregon got that but then faltered for a moment and USC exploded. The Wildcats will have to be at their focused best -- think that dominant third quarter vs. Cal for an entire game -- to notch the upset. In Arizona's favor: It has won six in a row at home, tied for the longest home winning streak in the conference with USC and Oregon State, and a packed house is expected. A tight score at halftime will keep fans in the stands barking at the Trojans. A big USC lead at the break will send them to University Blvd. for a cold one. Or two.

California DE Jordan makes most of his first start

October, 5, 2008
10/05/08
8:35
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

While California surely isn't happy that it lost defensive end Rulon Davis to a leg injury a week ago, sophomore Cameron Jordan had an impressive debut stepping in for Davis on Saturday against Arizona State.

Jordan recorded two sacks and another tackle for a loss among his eight tackles and forced a fumble in the Bears' 24-14 victory.

Jordan, a native of Chandler, Ariz., had one sack last year as a true freshman.

His bloodlines are outstanding. His father, Steve Jordan, played 13 years for the Minnesota Vikings and was selected to the Pro Bowl six times.

A quick look ahead

September, 30, 2008
9/30/08
5:12
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

A few sentences looking at this week's matchups.

Oregon State (2-2) at No. 15 Utah (5-0) (Thursday): Any other Pac-10 fans feel like this is a big game, not only to validate the Beavers win over USC but to at least momentarily hush all the crowing coming out of the Mountain West Conference? Beavers bullied the Utes 24-7 last year, but they've got to prove they can win on the road.

No. 23 Oregon (4-1, 2-0) at No. 9 USC (2-1, 0-1): The Ducks are the nation's fourth best rushing team (309 yards per game), and surely eyebrows were raised at how poorly the Trojans defended the run against Oregon State. Oregon won a battle of top-10 teams a year ago, 24-17.

Arizona State (2-2, 1-0) at California (3-1, 1-0): California emerged with more questions than any team in history has following a 42-7 victory. The Bears lost star RB Jahvid Best to an elbow injury, the quarterback competition between Kevin Riley and Nate Longshore has begun anew and the injury bug hit starting defensive end Rulon Davis and offensive guard Chris Guarnero. The Bears also probably remember seeing a 13-0 lead disappear in a 31-20 loss to the Sun Devils last year.

Stanford (3-2) at Notre Dame (3-1): If Stanford has designs on making a statement that will resonate with college football fans, here's an opportunity. The Cardinal has lost six straight in the series -- including a sloppy 21-14 defeat last year -- and haven't won in South Bend since 1992.

Washington (0-4, 0-2) at Arizona (3-1, 1-0): Will the Huskies make any effort to save Tyrone Willingham's job? Or will the Wildcats take Washington too lightly and ruin a nice start to their season? Washington begins life after Jake Locker with redshirt freshman quarterback Ronnie Fouch running what figures to be a more conventional offense. Last year, Arizona scored the final 22 points to overcome a 41-26 fourth-quarter deficit and win 48-41.

Washington State (1-4, 0-2) at UCLA (1-3, 0-1): UCLA's reinvigorated running game meets its perfect match: The nation's 118th-ranked run defense. The Bruins spoke of improvement after losing a tight game to Fresno State, but losing at home to the woeful Cougars and their redshirt freshman quarterback, Marshall Lobbestael, who is making his first start on the road, would be crushing, perhaps as crushing as the 59-zip loss at BYU. It's notable that the Cougs beat the Bruins 27-7 last year.

Best tops worrisome California injury list

September, 29, 2008
9/29/08
10:31
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

California will face a key game against Arizona State on Saturday without standout running back Jahvid Best, and at least two other starters are going to be out for extended periods of time.

Best dislocated his elbow against Colorado State but the extent of his injury won't be known until he has an MRI this morning. Cal has a bye after the Sun Devils come to town and visit Arizona on Oct. 18, the earliest date Best could return.

Also on the injury list: hard-luck defensive end Rulon Davis, who suffered a leg injury that will sideline him six weeks, and guard Chris Guarnero, who's out for the year with a toe injury.

Davis missed half of the 2006 and 2007 seasons due to injuries.

The Bears' offensive line is already missing tackle Mike Tepper, who's been slow to recover from a pectoral injury.

Cal's Davis wants to be known for sacks, not military service

August, 14, 2008
8/14/08
12:34
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

BERKELEY, Calif. -- Even after a dutiful warning from a California athletic department staffer that he doesn't want to talk about it, it's impossible for a curious person not to ask California defensive end Rulon Davis about his six months in Iraq as a U.S. Marine.

 
 Icon SMI
 Rulon Davis wants to focus discussions on the Cal defense.

"Everybody is really inquisitive about that aspect of my life," Davis said. "But I'm playing football now. I'm not in the Marine Corps. I love the Marines. Every time a commercial comes on I get all motivated and pumped up. But at the same time, it's . . . I'm done. I did my deal. I served my country. I'm playing Cal football now. If it comes up, it comes up and I answer any little questions you guys have and that's it."

He was stationed at Al Taqaddum, which is about 10 miles outside of Fallujah. Yes, he saw action. No, he's not going to share war stories.

"It was a combat zone," he said with a tone that suggested it was time to move on to the next topic.

Which should be how Davis is widely known as one of the Pac-10's best defensive ends, but that topic is limited also -- in this instance because injuries have truncated the senior's resume.

Davis, a transfer from Mt. San Antonio College, played in six games in 2006 before a stress fracture in his left leg ended his season. Last year, he missed seven games due to injury. He missed four with a foot injury, but returned to play against Arizona State, when he recorded 1.5 sacks and forced a fumble before a knee injury sent him back to the sidelines for three games.

Davis, who carries a solid 281 pounds on his 6-foot-5 frame, certainly passes the sight test. He's also been dominant at times during practices.

The hopeful question around the Bears is: What could Davis do if he stays healthy for 12 games?

"I think the sky is the limit as far as that goes," Davis said. "I am going to play 12 games, so I guess we'll see what happens."

Said defensive line coach Tosh Lupoi, "He definitely offers us some great play-making ability."

Making a bunch of plays also would help Davis to become the most famous "Rulon". More than a handful of writers (who me?) have slipped up and called him "Rulon Jones" in stories.

"Yeah, I get that a lot," he said.

Davis wasn't recruited out of Charter Oak High School in Covina, Calif., where he played on the offensive line. He'd attended military school in Texas when he was younger and enjoyed the structure and had long wanted to be a Marine. So he enlisted.

While he doesn't want to detail his Iraq tour, he is willing to extol the value of what he experienced as a whole. 

"You couldn't put a price on it," he said. "All the things I've learned, the experiences I've had -- I feel like I'm 45 with the knowledge I have and all the experiences I've gained, learning what the real world was really like."

He's 25, by the way, and therefor a lot older than nearly all of his teammates. But he said he views himself as "just one of the guys."

That means talking about the Cal defense as a whole and not himself.

That said, Davis knows that if he plays 12 games, there's almost certainly going to be a 13th -- a bowl game -- and perhaps some games in the future. "I know so," he said of his NFL prospects. "I'm not going to have any of those [injury] problems this year. I need to prove to everybody that I can stay healthy."

Cal's youth movement on DL is about coach, too

August, 12, 2008
8/12/08
1:03
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

BERKELEY, Calif. -- When I watched Washington roll up 360 yards rushing against California last fall, one thought stood out about the Bears defense, particularly their defensive line.

These guys are terrible.

Two very different things, however, stood out watching Monday's practice.

The Bears -- if they stay healthy -- will be a lot better up front with their new 3-4 defense. They will be more athletic. They will be much deeper.

They certainly pass the sight test -- hello, 6-foot-5, 281-pound Rulon Davis.

And with an impressive foursome of linebackers, my guess is no team will rush for 360 yards against them. Or even half that.

The second thing that stood out is the guy running around barking instructions looked like he forgot to put on his uniform. With his hat turned backwards and unwrinkled face, Tosh Lupoi looked more like a player than an assistant coach.

And, if you followed Cal football during the Jeff Tedford years, you know that, of course, Lupoi was a standout on the defense from 2001-05.

A standout when he was healthy, that is. His career was cut short by a recurrent foot injury.

Which, in part, is why Lupoi, who turned 27 in July, is the youngest position coach in the Pac-10 -- and perhaps in any BCS conference.

"[As a player] he almost worked too hard, almost went overboard," Tedford said. "That's how he ended up hurting himself with his stress fractures."

Now for Tedford, an admitted workaholic who often sleeps in his office, to accuse someone of working too hard is meaningful. Clearly, the coach saw a kindred spirit in the player.

Lupoi's father, John, played at BYU and was a longtime football coach, including a stint at Cal. But Tosh had no plans to pursue coaching; he dreamed only of the NFL. But when he broke his foot for the third time, he started to face the reality of his situation.

And then defensive coordinator Bob Gregory invited Lupoi to spend a game in the press box with him.

"That was the day when I started pondering about doing this for the rest of my life," Lupoi said.

Lupoi spend the past two years as a Cal graduate assistant. When D-line coach Ken Delgado left for Louisville, Tedford didn't worry too much about Lupoi's youth.

Lupoi was smart, hard-working and already was well-versed in the system and personnel.

"He's unbelievably dedicated and passionate about his work, and he's a very good recruiter," Tedford said. "A young guy's got to get their start somewhere and he really deserved the opportunity to fill that position."

Of course, he's only a few years older than the players he's in charge of -- Davis, for example, is 25 after having served three years in the Marines.

No problem, Tedford and Lupoi both said. The trust developed quickly, and Lupoi said he's never felt like the players view him as a peer instead of a coach.

"It wasn't really my goal to prove anything," he said. "It was just to show them as quickly as I could that I could offer them some things to better them as players."

Now he's convinced he's found his life's calling.

"I get so fired up out here, I feel like I'm living through them still," he said. "There's nothing like the reward of seeing players commit themselves to improving and then actually seeing that on film."

Cal's Worrell Williams talks Pac-10 linebackers

July, 31, 2008
7/31/08
1:11
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

 
 Rob Holt/Icon SMI
 Worrell Williams on how Cal's LBs stack up with those of other teams in the conference: "I think we rate No. 1."

California senior Worrell Williams is the man in the center of the Bears defense, a 250-pound three-year starter who forced three fumbles in 2007 while recording 105 tackles.

While he's in position to play his way into the first day of the NFL draft, and he and Zach Follett and Anthony Felder are as good as any threesome of linebackers in the country, few folks outside of the Bay Area have even heard of him.

Maybe that's because of the way Cal finished its 2007 season: six losses over the final seven regular-season games after being unbeaten and ranked No. 2 in the country.

Or maybe it was because the Bears defense hung up decidedly mediocre numbers last year, including a piddling, conference-worst 22 quarterback sacks.

So, with head coach Jeff Tedford giving up play-calling duties so he can pay more attention to his team, and the defense adopting a 3-4 look, it made sense to check in with the younger brother of Denver Broncos LB D.J. Williams.


Who's the best linebacker in the Pac-10?

Worrell Williams: [Laughs] That's a trick question, right? I honestly think, with my abilities, I bring a lot to the table. So you can put that I think I'm one of the best linebackers.


Do you think USC's linebackers get too much hype and too much credit?

WW: They are always in the top patch of linebackers each year. If the scouts are looking at them as the top guys, I ask myself what am I not doing that they are doing. Sometimes, it comes with the school. But those guys can play. They're always big and athletic and fast. They can punch a runner. So I don't knock them at all. They can't help it that they went to a school that gets a lot of publicity.


As a group, where do you think Cal's linebackers rate in the conference?

WW: I think we rate No. 1. I think we've got a lot more depth than the other schools.


Who's the best of you Cal linebackers?

WW: Of me [Zach Follett and Anthony Felder]? You're killing me here! We all bring something to the table. Zach is versatile off the edge and me and Tony are both stout in the middle.  Tony's a big, rangy guy who can do a lot of things. So I really don't know who's better.


Tell me more about Zach.

WW: Zach shows it all the time, coming off the edge with his blitz presence. He's got a lot of moves, a lot of ability out there. He's extremely fast.


And Felder?

WW: Tony is physical and strong next to me. He can get to the ball.


And you?

WW: I think I have a lot of athleticism for my size -- you know, speed. I'm just trying to get my knowledge of the game up now so I can be prepared before the ball's even snapped.


Word is you guys are going to use a 3-4 look this season. So who's the fourth guy?

WW: It will probably be Eddie Young. He's a young guy who's explosive and strong. He's similar to Zach in that he's coming off the edge, but he's playing the SAM, so he's a little more roughneck in there. I wouldn't say he's tougher than Zach, but he's more built for the contact.


How do you feel about switching from a 4-3 look to primarily a 3-4?

WW: I feel good about it. At first, I was kind of skeptical because as a linebacker you want defensive linemen in front of you -- [In a 3-4] you go, 'Oh, there are offensive linemen who are going to be free to get you.' But you've got to trust and believe that the coaches are going to put you in the right place to make plays and make the team successful. When we put it in during the spring, it worked pretty well when everybody handles their job. I actually kind of like it. We've been watching other teams run it [on film] and be successful with it. For the most part, it causes an offense fits.

I'm going to take you back to last season, but I want to ask you about the positive side first. Before you guys played Oregon State last year, were you aware that if you won that you'd become the No. 1 team in the nation?

WW: It showed up on the big screen that whoever was in front of us lost, so we were kind of aware, but we weren't focused on it. We were just trying to win that ballgame.

Now the Cal team that beat Tennessee and Oregon didn't seem like the same team over the second half of the season, losing to teams like Washington and Stanford. I know you've been asked this a bunch, but tell me what you think went wrong?

WW: It was a matter of two things. First, was execution. Early in the season, we were hungry and we were executing our plays. Being rated that high early in the season, I think some guys got kind of lackadaisical. I won't say we weren't hungry to win any more, but the little things you've got to focus on got away from us. And those little things take care of the big things. So we got away from executing. If you look back at the film, it was execution mistakes. Little things here and there that turn into big things.

Then, there was a lack of leadership. We had leaders on the team, but they hadn't been in that position before. It was adversity that no one on the team had ever faced. I think leadership could have helped us. Zach and I and Tony and other guys on the team who are leaders, got together this offseason and said, 'Hey, we can't let something like that happen. At some point last year, one of us should have stepped in and tried to spark this thing.' But it never happened. So you learn from it and make it a positive coming into this season.

Jeff Tedford has been pretty open talking about chemistry problems. Can you give me an example of what a chemistry problem meant to you last year?

WW: Chemistry problems ... That's something like: I have the C-gap and the ball goes out on a stretch play and you run out there fast [out of the C-gap] because you don't think the safety is going to be there, and then the running back cuts back into the C-gap and gashes you for a big play. You know what I mean? Do your responsibility. That's a trust issue. A major trust issue. I can't speak for offense, but on defense it's stuff like that. You're trying to do too much. It's not about guys not liking each other. It's guys trying to do too much and not trusting guys. You need to do your own job first, then rally to the ball.

Coach Tedford gave up play-calling duties in large part because he wanted
to pay more attention to the team as a whole -- namely, the defense. Did you see a difference during spring practices?

WW: Yeah. It was kind of crazy. It was the first time since I've been here -- four years almost -- that I see him on our side of the ball, over here watching us. I was like, 'What's going on? Are we in trouble?' He wants to make his presence felt everywhere. He wants to be involved in everything a little bit. He didn't put the clamps on. Spring ball was fun. It was loose. We were laughing, joking and playing hard-nosed football. I got asked the question about our laughing and having fun and how we could be doing that coming off the season we'd had. And I said, 'Coach Tedford wants us to know that was one season and it's behind us. Let's move on. We can't dwell on that.' We've got a season ahead and that's the beautiful thing.


That leads into my next question: We know about the linebackers, but who else is going to step up on defense this year?

WW: A lot of guys. [Defensive end] Rulon Davis is going to make a big impact for us. I think or D-line as a whole is going to make a tremendous impact. Our safeties are solid guys. I don't see one guy shooting out. There's plenty who can. [Cornerback] Chris Conte or [free safety] Bernard Hicks, who can get the job done -- but I don't know which individual is going to spark out to be a headliner, but I know we have a defense built for success.

Last year, you guys had some big names. This year, you guys are kind of a no-name team. What's your expectation this year?

WW: I expect to win every game. You prepare and get yourself ready and you believe in your ability. There should be no doubt in your mind that you won't win the game. I think we can win every game, and I'm serious. Our guys may be no-name, but this is an opportunity to make themselves known.

Is 6-foot-5, 316-pound All-American center Alex Mack a pain in the butt in practice?
WW:
[Laughs] Oh, my goodness. I see him the most of anybody. We're real close to each other; we're good pals. But he's whupping my butt all the time. He causes me fits, but he's making me better. He's huge.

The position rankings: What do they mean?

July, 30, 2008
7/30/08
1:17
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

After I finished ranking the Pac-10 cornerbacks Tuesday -- the final position to be sorted -- I immediately thought to go back and review all the position rankings and see what they reveal.

I wondered in particular if they'd indicate that I needed to rethink my predicted Pac-10 finish:

  1. USC
  2. Oregon
  3. Arizona State
  4. California
  5. Arizona
  6. Oregon State
  7. Washington
  8. UCLA
  9. Stanford
  10. Washington State

Now, obviously, all these preseason rankings are just my opinion, and making distinctions between players at under-the-radar positions as well as players whose resumes are incomplete are mostly a crapshoot.

Moreover, I fudged around with some things while ranking the positions to make a simple averaging impossible. Some rankings were for individuals. Other were for positions as a whole.

I'm sure a math guy who loves a spreadsheet might be able to work this out toward more exacting conclusions, but since my measurements are merely educated guesses (and some of you might suggest that education didn't get past third grade), I'm merely going to point out some trends.

  • USC ranked highly at every position other than punter (7) and tight end (9). Of course, the low TE ranking was based on Anthony McCoy's inexperience (offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian told me he expects big things out of McCoy). Also, incoming frosh Blake Ayles is supposed to be a sure-thing star.
  • Arizona's passing offense? No. 2 at quarterback, No. 1 at receiver and No. 1 at tight end.
  • There's a reason Cal is switching to a 3-4. It's got three excellent linebackers (Nos. 3, 5 and 8) and big questions up front. Of course, a healthy Rulon Davis at end will make a big difference.
  • Stanford's defense, which welcomes back nine starters, should be much improved (6 top-10 players). NFL draft lists played a big role in the rankings, and the Cardinal defense features a number of NFL prospects at all three levels. On offense? Not so much.
  • If Gary Rogers steps up at quarterback, Washington State will score some points. And, with questionable talent on defense, the Cougars probably will need to.
  • Folks at Arizona State feel pretty good about their linebackers -- none of whom made the top 10 -- so the rankings suggest that the Sun Devils only real question is the offensive line.
  • With the No. 1 offensive line and No. 2 backfield -- and an athletic first-year starter at quarterback -- Oregon should be able to run the ball.
  • Arizona's defense is a complete mystery. So is Washington's offense, other than, of course, quarterback Jake Locker.
  • Hard to imagine there are too many programs that can match the secondaries of Oregon, Oregon State and USC.
  • Arizona and UCLA should feel really good about their specialists. Stanford, Oregon State and Cal don't really know what they're getting.
  • UCLA fans have a lot to worry about -- health issues at QB and RB, the offensive line, the secondary. But it might be hard to run up the middle on the Bruins.

So,  does anything change my Pac-10 rankings? I'll admit to pausing a bit over Stanford, but I'm going to stand pat.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

PAC-12 SCOREBOARD

Saturday, 12/20
Monday, 12/22
Tuesday, 12/23
Wednesday, 12/24
Friday, 12/26
Saturday, 12/27
Monday, 12/29
Tuesday, 12/30
Wednesday, 12/31
Thursday, 1/1
Friday, 1/2
Saturday, 1/3
Sunday, 1/4
Monday, 1/12