Pac-12: Ryan Murphy

Today, we finish our preseason position reviews.

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

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

"We'll see" doesn't mean you're going to stink at said position. It means just what it says -- we'll see, because there's no way at present to know.

You can review last year's rankings here.

Up next: Safety. Teams in each category are listed in alphabetical order.


Arizona: Jourdon Grandon, Tra'Mayne Bondurant and Jared Tevis return with a combined 78 starts. On Thursday, Tevis, a former walk-on, was named to the Bronko Nagurski watch list for the nation's best defensive player. Safety is a clear strength for the Wildcats.

Oregon State: Ryan Murphy and Tyrequek Zimmerman both begin Year 3 as starters. Combined, they have 345 career tackles and neither has missed a game the past two years. Murphy was an all-conference honorable mention selection last year.

UCLA: Between Randall Goforth, Anthony Jefferson and Tahaan Goodman, the Bruins are loaded with talent at safety. Both Goforth and Jefferson were named all-conference honorable mention last season, but Goodman has the potential to be the best of the group. Tyler Foreman, a well-regarded recruit, will be coming off his redshirt.

USC: Despite losing Dion Bailey early to the NFL, USC still has the potential to have one of the best safety combinations the conference. Su'a Cravens might have been the best freshman safety in the country last season. Who he'll play next to remains a bit of a question, but if it's Josh Shaw -- who is proven at both safety positions -- or someone else, possibly Leon McQuay III, USC will be in great shape.


Arizona State: One of only two returning starters for the Sun Devils on defense is safety Damarious Randall, which, by default, will rise expectations for his performance. The competition for the other starting spot still needs to run its course, but many expect Marcus Ball, who missed last season with an injury, to win the job.

Stanford: Jordan Richards is a potential All-American at strong safety, but the spot opposite him remains the biggest question mark on the Stanford defense. The vacancy, created by Ed Reynolds' early departure for the NFL, resulted in the coaching staff moving a pair of offensive players -- QB Dallas Lloyd and receiver Kodi Whitfield to safety. Those two will compete with Zach Hoffpauir, who spent the spring playing baseball, and Kyle Olugbode.


California: Much like the case at linebacker, the Bears return several players that have started games, but based on the defense's performance last year, it's hard to generate much optimism. The best thing going for the group is the return of Avery Sebastian, who was a starter before going down with an Achilles tear in the first half of the first game last year (at which point he already had 10 tackles and a pick). He'll likely line up next to Michael Lowe.

Colorado: Jered Bell is back, but the Buffs need to replace Parker Orms, who was a fixture in the starting lineup the last two seasons. Tedric Thompson, Marques Mosley and Terrel Smith have all started games in the past and they'll compete with Ryan Moeller, who is coming off his redshirt.

Oregon: Brian Jackson and Avery Patterson ran out of eligibility which makes safety one of question marks facing Oregon headed into 2014. Pencil in Erick Dargan, a fifth-year senior that has contributed throughout his career, at one spot, but the other isn't as clear. Issac Dixon is probably the favorite, but Tyree Robinson should push him.

Utah: After three years of starting at safety, Eric Rowe split his time between corner and safety in the spring and will likely wind up playing more cornerback. That move leaves the safety spot a little hazy. Tevin Carter, who started his career as a receiver at Cal, went to a junior college and sat out last season due to academic issues, is expected to have one spot. Brian Blechen, who missed last season with an injury, should have the other. Although, Blechen could play linebacker, which would likely result in Charles Henderson at safety.

Washington: The Huskies don't return either starting safety, but have a large group of talented players vying for playing time. It's probably too early to make safe predictions on who will start, but Brandon Beaver, Trevor Walker, Kevin King and Thomas Vincent are all in the mix. UW also signed three safeties to its most recent recruiting class.

Washington State: If you were to name the individual player who meant more to his team's defense than any other last season, Deone Bucannon might have been that pick. Without him, the Cougars have a likely pair of starters in Isaac Dotson, a former quarterback, and Taylor Taliulu, who lost his starting job late last year.
Our look at position groups in the Pac-12 continues with the safeties.

Arizona: The Wildcats have a lot of experience at safety with a combined 78 starts between Jourdon Grandon, Tra'Mayne Bondurant and Jared Tevis. All three of their backups on the AdvoCare V100 Bowl depth chart -- Anthony Lopez, William Parks and Jamar Allah -- also return.

Arizona State: Damarious Randall returns as one of the more talented safeties in the conference after a season in which he finished tied for third on the team with 71 tackles. Marcus Ball is a strong candidate to eventually earn the job next to Randall, but he's still working his way back from a clavicle injury that cost him the 2013 season. Laiu Moeakiola, who appeared in 10 games last year as a reserve, James Johnson, Jayme Otomewo and Ezekiel Bishop are other names to watch.

California: Cal started five different players at safety last year and four of them -- Michael Lowe, Cameron Walker, Avery Sebastian and Damariay Drew -- will be back. Sebastian began the year in the starting lineup and had an interception and 10 tackles before suffering a season-ending Achilles tear in the first half of the season opener. Look for him to regain his starting job next to Lowe.

Colorado: The Buffs need to replace SS Parker Orms, who had 26 career starts and 10 last season, but FS Jered Bell will return. All three of the players competing to replace Orms -- Marques Mosley, Terrel Smith and Tedric Thompson -- have started at least three games. Smith redshirted last season after he underwent shoulder surgery and has 19 career starts.

Oregon: The Ducks lose both Brian Jackson and Avery Patterson from a secondary that has consistently been among the nation's best. Fifth-year senior Erick Dargan, Patterson's high school teammate, looks to slide into his first full-time starting role after three years of meaningful contributions on both special teams and reserve duty. Opposite him, Issac Dixon is the presumed favorite with Tyree Robinson and Reggie Daniels also in the mix.

Oregon State: The Beavers have both Ryan Murphy and Tyrequek Zimmerman back for their third year as starters, which should help soften the blow of losing CB Rashaad Reynolds. A few others to watch are sophomore Cyril Noland-Lewis, Justin Strong, Brandon Arnold, Zack Robinson and walk-on Micah Audiss, who was No. 2 behind Zimmerman in the season-ending depth chart.

Stanford: Ed Reynolds' early departure for the NFL creates the one real unknown spot for the Cardinal. Two former offensive players -- QB Dallas Lloyd and WR Kodi Whitfield -- are in the competition for the vacant spot, as is Kyle Olugbode. Zach Hoffpauir will join the competition once baseball season is over. The winner will play next to Jordan Richards, a senior who has started the past two seasons and played regularly as a freshman.

UCLA: Starters Randall Goforth and Anthony Jefferson are both back after being named all-Pac-12 honorable mention last season. Two names to watch are Tahaan Goodman and Tyler Foreman, both of whom arrived as part of the Class of 2013.

USC: Su'a Cravens and Josh Shaw are back, but the Trojans will have to replace Dion Bailey, who left early for the NFL after converting to safety from linebacker last year. Shaw could wind up back at corner, which would open the door for Leon McQuay III. Gerald Bowman got a medical redshirt after appearing in three games last year and should provide depth.

Utah: Veteran Eric Rowe is set to begin his fourth year as a starter in the Utes' secondary, but he'll play next to a new player with Michael Walker out of eligibility. Charles Henderson was Walker's primary backup last season, but look for junior-college transfer Tevin Carter -- a former Cal Bear -- to challenge him for the starting job.

Washington: The Huskies are looking to fill both starting spots and will likely do so with young players. Sophomores Brandon Beaver, Kevin King and Trevor Walker all saw spot duty last year and the program signed an impressive crop of high school safeties, including Bellevue's Bishard “Budda” Baker.

Washington State: Replacing Deone Bucannon means replacing one of the school's all-time greats at his position. Isaac Dotson looks like the favorite to take that spot, but will be pushed by David Bucannon, Darius Lemora and true freshman Markell Sanders, who arrived for spring practice.

Pac-12 names all-conference team

December, 2, 2013
The Pac-12 has announced its first- and second-team all-conference squads and postseason awards for 2013.

[+] EnlargeKa'Deem Carey
Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY SportsPac-12 Offensive Player of the Year Ka'Deem Carey was the only unanimous first-team pick.
Arizona running back Ka'Deem Carey has been named the league's offensive player of the year. Arizona State defensive lineman Will Sutton joins an elite fraternity, earning his second straight Pat Tillman Defensive Player of the Year award. Washington's Steve Emtman is the only other player to win the league's defensive player of the year award in back to back years (1990-1991).

UCLA's Myles Jack earned freshman of the year for both offense and defense with his 70 tackles as a linebacker and seven touchdowns as a running back. This is the first time since the awards were introduced in 2008 that the same player has won both sides.

Arizona State coach Todd Graham is the league's coach of the year for guiding the Sun Devils to a conference record of 8-1 and winning the South Division. The Sun Devils host Stanford this weekend in the Pac-12 championship game.

The team is selected by the Pac-12 head coaches.

Offensive player of the year: Ka'Deem Carey, RB, Arizona
Pat Tillman Defensive Player of the Year: Will Sutton, DE Arizona State
Freshman Offense and Defensive Player of the Year: Myles Jack, RB/LB, UCLA
Coach of the Year: Todd Graham, Arizona State

First team offense

QB Marcus Mariota, So., Oregon (2)
RB Ka'Deem Carey, Jr., Arizona (2)
RB Bishop Sankey, Jr., Washington
WR Brandin Cooks, Jr., Oregon State
WR Paul Richardson, Jr., Colorado
TE Chris Coyle, Grad., Arizona State
OL Evan Finkenberg, Grad., Arizona State
OL Hroniss Grasu, Jr., Oregon (2)
OL Marcus Martin, Jr., USC
OL Xavier Su'a-Filo, Jr., UCLA (2)
OL David Yankey, Sr, Stanford (2)

First team defense

DL Ben Gardner, Sr., Stanford
DL Trevor Reilly, Sr., Utah
DL Will Sutton, Sr., Arizona State
DL Leonard Williams, So., USC
LB Anthony Barr, Sr., UCLA (2)
LB Trent Murphy, Sr., Stanford (2)
LB Shayne Skov, Sr., Stanford
DB Deone Bucannon, Sr., Washington State
DB Alden Darby, Sr., Arizona State
DB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Jr., Oregon
DB Robert Nelson, Sr., Arizona State
DB Ed Reynolds, Sr., Stanford (2)

First team specialists

PK Zane Gonzalez, Fr., Arizona State
P Tom Hackett, So. Utah
RS Ty Montgomery, Jr., Stanford
ST Soma Vainuku, So. USC

Second team offense

QB Taylor Kelly, Jr., Arizona State
RB Tyler Gaffney, Sr., Stanford
RB Marion Grice, Sr. Arizona State
WR Ty Montgomery, Jr., Stanford
WR Jaelen Strong, So., Arizona State
TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Jr., Washington
OL Jamil Douglas, Jr., Arizona State
OL Cameron Fleming, Sr., Stanford
OL Andrus Peat, So., Stanford
OL Isaac Seumalo, So., Oregon State
OL Khalil Wilkes, Sr. Stanford

Second team defense

DL Scott Crichton, Jr., Oregon State
DL Taylor Hart, Sr., Oregon
DL Devon Kennard, Sr., USC
DL Hau'oli Kikaha, Jr., Washington
DL Tenny Palepoi, Sr., Utah
LB Carl Bradford, Jr., Arizona State
LB Myles Jack, Fr., UCLA
LB Hayes Pullard, Jr., USC
LB Chris Young, Sr., Arizona State
DB Dion Bailey, Jr., USC
DB Osahon Irabor, Grad., Arizona State
DB Marcus Peters, So., Washington
DB Rashaad Reynolds, Sr., Oregon State

Second team specialists

PK Vincenzo D'Amato, Sr., California
P Travis Coons, Sr., Washington
RS Nelson Agholor, So., USC
ST Erick Dargan, Jr., Oregon
ST Joe Hemschoot, Sr., Stanford
ST Ryan Hofmeister, Jr., UCLA

RS: Return Specialist
ST: special teams player (not a kicker or returner)
(2): Two-time first-team selection

Honorable mention

Arizona: LB Marquis Flowers, Sr.; DL Tevin Hood, Sr.; WR Nate Phillips, Fr.; DB Jared Tevis, Jr.; LB Scooby Wright, Fr.

Arizona State: DL Davon Coleman, Grad.; Gannon Conway, Sr.; ST D.J. Foster, So.; ST De'Marieya Nelson, Jr.

California: DL Deandre Coleman, Sr.; QB Jared Goff, Fr.; WR Bryce Treggs, So.

Colorado: RB Mike Adkins, Fr.; LB Addison Gillam, Fr.; PK Will Oliver, Jr.

Oregon: WR/RS Bralon Addison, So.; WR Josh Huff, Sr.; OL Tyler Johnstone, So.; DL Wade Keliikipi, Sr.; LB Derrick Malone, Jr.; RB Byron Marshall, So.; DL Tony Washington, Jr.

Oregon State: OL Grant Enger, Sr.; TE Connor Hamlett, JR.; QB Sean Mannion, Jr.; DB Ryan Murphy, Jr.; DB Steven Nelson, Jr.; ST Terron Ward, Jr.

Stanford: DL Henry Anderson, Sr.; DB Alex Carter, So.; OL Kevin Danser, Sr.; DL Josh Mauro, Sr.; P Ben Rhyne, Sr.; DB Jordan Richards, Jr.; LB A.J. Tarpley, Sr.

UCLA: OL Jake Brendel, So.; ST Jayon Brown, Fr.; P Sean Covington, Fr.; TE Thomas Duarte, Fr.; WR Shaq Evans, Sr.; WR Devin Fuller, So.; DB Randall Goforth, So.; QB Brett Hundley, So.; DB Anthony Jefferson, Jr.; LB Eric Kendricks, Jr.; DL Cassius Marsh, Sr.; DL Ellis McCarthy, So.; DB Fabian Moreau, So.; OL Alex Redmond, Fr.; DL Eddie Vanderdoes, Fr.; LB Jordan Zumwalt, Sr.

USC: P Kris Albarado, So.; RB Javorius Allen, So.; WR Nelson Agholor, So.; DB Su'a Cravens, Fr.; OL Kevin Graf, Sr.; TE Xavier Grimble, Jr.; QB Cody Kessler, So.; WR Marqise Lee, Jr.; DB Josh Shaw, Jr.; DL J.R. Tavai, Jr.; OL Max Turek, So.; DL George Uko, Jr.

Utah: WR Dres Anderson, Jr.; OL Vyncent Jones, Sr.; DB Keith McGill, Sr.; PK Andy Phillips, Fr.; LB Jason Whittingham, So.

Washington: OL Dexter Charles, So.; PK Travis Coons, Sr.; OL Mike Criste, Jr.; OL Micah Hatchie, Jr.; DB Sean Parker, Sr.; QB Keith Price, Sr.; DL Danny Shelton, Jr.; LB Shaq Thompson, So.

Washington State: OL Elliott Bosch, Sr.; WR River Cracraft, Fr.; PK Andrew Furney, Sr.; DB Damante Horton, Sr.;

Some notes on the teams:

By School: Arizona State and Stanford placed the most players on the first team with six selections each.

By Class: Of the 27 first-team selections, two are graduate students, 11 are seniors, nine are juniors, four are sophomores and one freshman.

Unanimous: Only one player was named on the first-team ballot of all 12 head coaches -- RB Ka'Deem Carey of Arizona.

Two-time Selections: Ten players are repeat first-team selections from last year.

All-Academic: Two first team All-Pac-12 performers also were named to the Pac-12 All Academic second team -- RB Bishop Sankey of Washington and DB Ed Reynolds of Stanford, while Washington defensive lineman Hau'oli Kikaha was named to the All-Pac-12 second team and Pac-12 All-Academic first team. Arizona State QB Taylor Kelly earned second-team honors on both the Pac-12 All-Conference and All-Academic teams.

USC Trojans, Stanford Cardinal, Oregon Ducks, Pac-12, USC Trojans, Washington State Cougars, Oregon State Beavers, Jordan Zumwalt, Washington Huskies, UCLA Bruins, Devon Kennard, Arizona State Sun Devils, California Bears, Tyler Gaffney, Stanford Cardinal, Deandre Coleman, Utah Utes, Will Sutton, Colorado Buffaloes, Todd Graham, Arizona Wildcats, Oregon Ducks, Xavier Su\'a-Filo, Andy Phillips, Shayne Skov, Keith Price, Evan Finkenberg, Sean Parker, Soma Vainuku, Cassius Marsh, Xavier Grimble, George Uko, Hayes Pullard, Marquis Flowers, Taylor Kelly, Hroniss Grasu, Josh Huff, Sean Mannion, Eric Kendricks, Paul Richardson, Anthony Barr, Taylor Hart, Wade Keliikipi, Chris Coyle, Anthony Jefferson, Cody Kessler, Chris Young, Brett Hundley, Vincenzo D'Amato, Kevin Graf, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Jordan Richards, Shaq Evans, Deone Bucannon, Bishop Sankey, Danny Shelton, Marqise Lee, Khalil Wilkes, Kevin Danser, David Yankey, Davon Coleman, Dion Bailey, Alex Carter, Alden Darby, Terron Ward, Dres Anderson, Randall Goforth, Derrick Malone, Damante Horton, Connor Hamlett, Isaac Seumalo, Andrew Furney, Henry Anderson, Gannon Conway, Scott Crichton, Rashaad Reynolds, Ka'Deem Carey, Andrus Peat, Shaq Thompson, Will Oliver, Ben Gardner, Trevor Reilly, Ty Montgomery, A.J. Tarpley, Cameron Fleming, Trent Murphy, Su'a Cravens, Byron Marshall, Ben Rhyne, Josh Mauro, Nelson Agholor, Josh Shaw, Ellis McCarthy, Marcus Mariota, Erick Dargan, Joe Hemschoot, Devin Fuller, Leonard Williams, Max Turek, Grant Enger, Jared Goff, Brandin Cooks, Jared Tevis, Marcus Martin, Keith McGill, Marcus Peters, Ed Reynolds, Jamil Douglas, Bryce Treggs, Elliott Bosch, Tony Washington, Marion Grice, Eddie Vanderdoes, Ryan Murphy, J.R. Tavai, Carl Bradford, River Cracraft, Myles Jack, Thomas Duarte, Alex Redmond, Jake Brendel, Dexter Charles, Mike Criste, Tom Hackett, Bralon Addison, Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Travis Coons, Robert Nelson, Tyler Johnstone, De'Marieya Nelson, Jaelen Strong, Tenny Palepoi, Steven Nelson, Tevin Hood, Micah Hatchie, Vyncent Jones, Jason Whittingham, Addison Gillam, Scooby Wright, Zane Gonzales, Sean Covington, Kris Albarado, Hau'oli Kikaha, Fabian Moreau, Javorius Allen, Jayon Brown, Osahan Irabor, Ryan Hoffmeister, Nate Phillips, Mike Adkins

Pac-12 defenses closing the gap

August, 21, 2013
Changing the perception of a league is no easy task. And for the Pac-12, bucking its offense-first image may never happen.

As long as Oregon keeps gobbling up points by the minute and yards by the mile; as long as Rich Rodriguez does what RichRod does and there are Air Raids and Bear Raids about, offense will always be associated with the Pac-12. As long as De’Anthony Thomas and Marion Grice can score from anywhere; as long as Marqise Lee keeps turning a 4-yard slant into an 80-yard touchdown; as long as Ka’Deem Carey is running wild and Marcus Mariota and Brett Hundley are burning up stat sheets, Pac-12 defenses will continue to be overshadowed.

And yet …

[+] EnlargeAnthony Barr
Jonathan Moore/Getty ImagesUCLA linebacker Anthony Barr leads an impressive group of defenders in the Pac-12.
“I would love to see an all-star game with our conference’s defensive players on the same team,” said Stanford coach David Shaw. “I think it would be phenomenal, and scary. Anthony Barr is borderline unblockable. Will Sutton gets in the backfield seemingly every play, single block, double block, whatever. Morgan Breslin, Sutton and Ben Gardner on the line and Shayne Skov sideline to sideline with Barr coming off the edge.

“Maybe we’re getting to a golden era for defensive players in this conference because you’ve got good defensive units and some really elite standout players.”

Last season, five Pac-12 teams ranked in the top 15 nationally in sacks per game including Stanford (first), Arizona State (second), USC (fourth), UCLA (eighth) and Washington State (14th). That’s up from three teams in the top 20 in 2011, two teams in the top 20 in 2010 and zero teams in the top 10 in 2009.

ASU and Stanford were first and second, respectively, in tackles for a loss per game, and WSU and USC ranked in the top 11. It’s a given that a lot of points will be scored in the Pac-12. But defenses are making it tougher.

“It’s been an interesting evolution,” said Oregon State coach Mike Riley, the dean of the Pac-12 who is entering his 13th season. “What you’re seeing is a premium on speed and guys with a lot of flexibility. There are still big people that need to play on the interior. But your edges -- if you’re going to lead the league in sacks -- then having a great edge rusher is always at a premium.”

Guys like the aforementioned Barr, Sutton and Breslin, Stanford’s Trent Murphy, Oregon State’s Scott Crichton, Cal's Deandre Coleman and ASU’s Carl Bradford are in that conversation. All of them are expected to rank among the nation’s best in sacks and TFLs. That should make for a heated debate when picking the league’s defensive player of the year.

And who says it will be someone from the front seven? Four Pac-12 teams were among the top 20 in interceptions last year, and Oregon led the country. The Ducks have the nation’s best cornerback duo with Ifo Ekpre-Olomu and Terrance Mitchell, while Stanford boasts the outstanding safety tandem of Ed Reynolds and Jordan Richards. Oregon State’s Ryan Murphy, USC’s Dion Bailey and WSU’s Deone Bucannon are also elite safeties.

Washington might have the best young defensive player in the league in Shaq Thompson.

“You can have a high-powered offense that puts up big points, but if you can’t stop anybody, it’s anyone’s game,” said Sutton. “With a great defense, you can accomplish anything.”

Those who follow the league know there have been great defenses in the past. Washington in the early '90s and Arizona’s Bear Down defense come to mind. Behind all of USC’s Heisman quarterbacks a decade ago were outstanding defenses.

“I think what we’re starting to see is the individual players and coordinators starting to get some notoriety,” said Shaw, whose team ranked fifth nationally against the run last year -- an amazing statistic considering the running backs they faced in 2012. “When Oregon started being really good and scoring a ton of points, people didn’t realize they were keeping people from scoring too and playing great defense. To this day I still think they have the most underrated defensive coordinator [Nick Aliotti] in the country.”

One of the major challenges of being a defensive coach in the Pac-12 is the diversity of offenses. Oregon’s spread is considered run-based, yet the Ducks had the most efficient passing attack in the league. Arizona’s spread is considered pass-based, yet its running back led the nation in rushing. Stanford is considered “conventional” with its pro-style, but it’ll use personnel groups with seven offensive linemen.

“I don’t even know what pro-style means anymore,” said UCLA coach Jim Mora. “The perceptions are distorted. You can break down a spread offense or a pro-style and they’ll have the same route concepts. There are only so many. But the formations are different. The personnel is different. The motion before the snap is different. The league has so many speed athletes so one of the reasons we play a 3-4 is to get more speed athletes on the field.”

It’s time, says Bucannon, to let rest of the country know the Pac-12 can play a little defense, too.

“We have fast, up-tempo teams and marquee offensive players. At the same time, there are some great defensive players on that side of the ball,” he said. “And we refuse to be overshadowed.”

Oregon State season preview

August, 14, 2013
We continue our day-by-day snapshots of each Pac-12 team heading into the 2013 season, in reverse alphabetical order, with the Oregon State Beavers.

Oregon State

Coach: Mike Riley (81-67, 13th year)

2012 record: 9-4 (6-3 Pac-12 North)

Key losses: WR Markus Wheaton, CB Jordan Poyer, DT Castro Masaniai, RT Colin Kelly, TE Colby Prince, DT Andrew Seumalo.

Key returnees: WR Brandin Cooks, RB Storm Woods, DE Scott Crichton, LB D.J. Alexander, CB Rashaad Reynolds, Michael Doctor, S Ryan Murphy, DE Dylan Wynn.

Newcomer to watch: With the departure of Poyer, the coaching staff will look to replace him with a rotation of Sean Martin -- who saw some time last season -- and newcomer Steven Nelson, rated by one service as the No. 2 junior college cornerback in the country. Nelson, once a Georgia commit, comes from the College of Sequoias and, by all accounts, has had a solid spring and fall camp thus far.

Biggest games in 2013: The Civil War at Oregon (Nov. 29) is always huge. But Stanford (Oct. 26) and Washington (Nov. 23) -- both home games -- will be big for establishing the pecking order in the Pac-12 North.

[+] EnlargeOregon State's
Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesReceiver Brandin Cooks will surely be the top target for the winner of Oregon State's QB race.
Biggest question mark heading into 2013: On the surface, the outcome of the quarterback competition seems like the biggest question. And it’s an important one. Yet Sean Mannion and Cody Vaz have both shown they can win big games. Who they’ll be throwing to, however, might be the more important question. Without a doubt, Cooks is an explosive playmaker. But we’re still waiting to see who steps up opposite him. Much of Cooks’ success last season (67 catches, 1,151 yards, five touchdowns) was because of Wheaton playing on the other side. Double-teaming either one was a nightmare because the other would break out. Kevin Cummings is a solid slot receiver. But the Beavers will need someone like Obum Gwacham or Richard Mullaney to provide a threat that opens things up for Cooks, or vice versa.

Forecast: The Beavers are a really interesting team this season because of the way their schedule shapes up. You have to think they’ll be favorites in their first seven games (though at Utah, at San Diego State and at California probably won’t be walkovers). Just before Halloween, it starts to get nasty, with five straight against teams that will likely be in or hovering around the Top 25: Stanford, USC, ASU, Washington and Oregon.

It’s not hard to believe the Beavers could replicate last year’s 6-0 start, and possibly even press it to 7-0 before the schedule ramps up. There are a couple of ways to look at it; it’s a good thing because it will give Riley more time to settle on either Mannion or Vaz, and it allows ample time for the receiving corps to come together. There are also some plug-and-play JC defensive linemen who could also use a few warm-up games.

The flip side is that outside of San Diego State, the Beavers won’t be facing an FBS team that had a winning record last year until Stanford comes to town. How much will we really know about this team? Unlike last season -- when the Beavers scored quality wins at home against No. 13 Wisconsin and on the road at No. 19 UCLA and BYU in the first half of the season -- the Beavers will probably achieve a high ranking, though the résumé won’t be there to support it.

But as they say, you can only play the teams on your schedule, and Oregon State should come out of the gates blazing.

Aside from Cooks, the Beavers have an explosive running back, Storm Woods. The ground game took a big step forward in 2012, and Woods is on the verge of becoming a 1,000-yard rusher (940 yards last year, 13 touchdowns). The offensive line continues to improve and returns four of five starters across the front -- headlined by center Isaac Seumalo, who was phenomenal as a freshman and has emerged as one of the top anchors in the country.

The secondary should also be one of the best in the league with the Martin/Nelson duo playing alongside Ryan Murphy, Tyrequek Zimmerman and Reynolds.

No doubt excitement will bubble over if the Beavers start 7-0. But what they do after those first seven will go a long way toward determining the program’s success in 2013.

Best case-worst case: Oregon State

August, 12, 2013
This is the seventh in a series looking at potential dream and nightmare scenarios for all Pac-12 teams.

Understand: These are not predictions. They are extreme scenarios and pieces of fiction. You can read last year's versions here.

We're going in reverse order of my post-spring power rankings (which might not be identical to my preseason power rankings).

Up next: Oregon State

Best case

Fade from black. A desperate man with a dark mustache and a bald head sits in a shadowy, wood paneled office.

He says, "I believe in the Pac-12 ... I rooted for my team in the Pac-12 fashion."

He tells a tale of woe, his team losing and his family being teased by other Pac-12 fans.

"I said to my wife," he concludes. "For justice, we must go to Don Mike Riley."

"Well, heck," Riley says. "Why didn't you come to me first? We've known each other many years, but this is the first time you came to me for counsel, for help. But, gosh, that's OK. Some day, and that day may never come, I'll call upon you to do a service for me. But, until that day, accept this stuffed Beaver as a gift on the first day of preseason camp. Now, I want to tell you about my team. I really like these guys!"

Cody Vaz and Sean Mannion then walk into Riley's office.

"Gosh, guys, I really like how both of you competed and did everything we asked you," Riley says. "But we have to make a decision. This is business not personal. Sean, you're going to start against Eastern Washington. Cody, I think we have the best backup quarterback in the Pac-12. I want you guys to handle this the right way. A hundred other guys will be watching what happens next."

Oregon State stomps Eastern Washington and Hawaii. Mannion throws five TD passes and sits out of the fourth quarter of each game. The Beavers are challenged during road trips to Utah and San Diego State, but they prevail with dominant fourth quarters on both sides of the ball.

They then blow out Colorado, win on a last-second field goal at Washington State and take down California 27-17. At 7-0, Oregon State is ranked 11th, but the toughest part of the schedule lies ahead as each of the final five foes are ranked, including No. 3 Stanford, which heads to Corvallis next.

Reporter: Mike, you're the don, er, dean of Pac-12 coaches, having led Oregon State for 12 years, 10 consecutively since you dabbled in the NFL. What's the secret to your longevity, considering just two other Pac-12 coaches have been at their schools for four or more seasons?

Riley: There are many things my father taught me growing up in Corvallis. He taught me: keep your friends close, but your good friends closer.

Riley gathers his team before they take the field opposite the unbeaten Cardinal.

"I was watching ESPN GameDay this morning and those guys were saying no one really knows what to make of the Beavers, no one knows who we are," Riley says. "Well, I think I know who we are. And I think you know who we are. Tonight we've got a great opportunity to show everyone else who we are. This sounds like a great opportunity to me. Let's show Stanford and everyone else who the Beavers are."

With 17 seconds left, the score is tied 20-20. Stanford has a first and 10 on the Beavers 40.

Announcer: Stanford probably needs about 10 yards to get into field goal range or we go to overtime.

Color analyst: This might be a good time for Kevin Hogan to look for his big tight end Luke Kaumatule.

Kaumatule lines up in the slot opposite linebacker Michael Doctor, who steps up in press coverage.

Kaumatule: What are you up to, Michael?

Doctor: Don't ask me about my business, K.

On the snap, Doctor cuts inside on a blitz. Kaumatule takes three steps, and Hogan turns with Doctor in his face. He throws toward his big tight end.

Announcer: Ryan Murphy! Murphy, the Beavers safety, cuts in front of Kaumatule and he's going back the other way for the touchdown! It looks like the unbeaten Beavers have announced themselves to the nation as Pac-12 and national title contenders!

But the Beavers go down to USC on a Friday night in Corvallis and, after an off week, lose in overtime at Arizona State.

The post game locker room in Tempe is silent. Defensive coordinator Mark Banker huddles with Riley.

"It's like, with good fortune and national attention, they didn't know what to do," he says.

Riley erupts, "They could act like men! What's the matter with you guys? Is this what you've become, wide-eyed when you get ranked in the top-10? What ... you think it gets easier? If you want to win a championship, you have to embrace the fact that every step forward is infinitely more difficult that the one that preceded it. You must think like that and you must prepare like that."

The Beavers clobber No. 15 Washington 40-17. That sets up a Civil War showdown with 10-1 Oregon, which lost only to Stanford. The winner goes to the Pac-12 title game because the Cardinal followed up their win over the Ducks with a defeat at USC.

The Beavers walk into their locker room before Tuesday's practice and there's a large stuffed Duck wearing an Oregon jersey laying on the floor. It's got a Copper River salmon sticking out of its mouth.

Storm Woods: Wait... I know this one.

Brandin Cooks: It's a Sicilian message. It means Oregon sleeps with the fishes.

Woods: Or will.

Center Isaac Seumalo pulls the fish out.

Seumalo: That's all great but Copper River king salmon is like $40 a pound, and this baby is pretty large. Let's grill this bad boy up!

Autzen Stadium is throbbing as the Beavers gather around Riley. After a long pause, he begins.

"Their time is done," he says. "It's over. This is our time. So go out there and take it."

Oregon takes a 28-24 lead on a 30-yard touchdown run from De'Anthony Thomas. The Beavers take over on their 20-yard line with 1:35 remaining. They drive to the Ducks 14-yard line, but face a fourth-and-3 with 14 seconds left.

After a timeout, Mannion eyeballs Cooks in the huddle.

"You'll be one-one-one with Ifo [Ekpre-Olomu] on the outside," Mannion says. "Go hard inside and sell a fake, then break to the flag. I'll be coming over your left shoulder. This is all or nothing. So sell that inside move hard!"

Says Cooks, "I'm gonna make him an offer he can't refuse."

Ekpre-Olomu bites on the fake; Mannion lobs to the flag; Cooks leaps. Touchdown. Autzen Stadium goes quiet, other than a pie slice of fans in orange and black, who go bonkers.

Oregon State beats USC 30-24 in the Pac-12 title game and advances to its first Rose Bowl since the 1964 season.

The Beavers whip No. 7 Michigan in Pasadena and finish 12-2 and ranked fourth.

Headline in the Portland Oregonian: "Oregon football facility found to cause hallucinations." The story then recounts that when you combine ostentation, Brazilian Ipe wood and extreme hubris, it forms a rare, airborne, psychotropic gas.

"Yes, it all must be torn down," says a smiling man with dark mustache and a bald head. "And a new building can't be constructed on the site for five years. But Ducks like to be outside in the rain, yes?"

Worst case

Cody Vaz and Sean Mannion then walk into Riley's office.

"Gosh, guys, I really like how both of you competed and did everything we asked you," Riley says. "But we have to make a decision. Sean, you're going to start against Eastern Washington. Cody, I think we have the best backup quarterback in the Pac-12."

The Beavers whip Eastern Washington and Hawaii, but a late Mannion interception keys an upset loss at Utah.

"We're going to go with Cody Vaz against San Diego State," Riley tells reporters the following Monday.

The Beavers beat the Aztecs and Colorado and then slip Washington State in overtime. However, they are flat at California, perhaps looking ahead to Stanford, and lose 20-17.

Kevin Gemmell: As we noted in the preseason, the Beavers schedule ramps up from here. Their next five foes are all ranked.

Ted Miller: Is that what you said when they asked you to do SportsCenter!

Gemmell: Yes.

Ted Miller: I'm your older blogger, Kevin, and I was stepped over!

Stanford whips the Beavers 30-10 as Vaz throws two picks and is sacked five times.

"We're going to go with Sean Mannion against USC," Riley tells reporters the following Monday.

USC rolls over Oregon State 40-10.

Opponents are exploiting the weakness of the Beavers interior defensive line -- see 175 yards rushing surrendered per game -- and both quarterbacks are inconsistent. Defenses are blanketing receiver Brandin Cooks with bracket coverages, and no No. 2 option is stepping forward. The offensive line, thought a strength in the preseason, has been underwhelming.

The Beavers go down at Arizona State with Vaz and lose at home to Washington with Mannion. They head to Autzen Stadium to take on No. 2 and unbeaten Oregon at 5-6, needing a win to earn bowl eligibility, not to mention to prevent the Ducks from playing Alabama for the national title.

Both QBs play. Oregon rolls 45-17.

Ducks first-year coach Mark Helfrich is carried off the field by his team, but he tells consigliere, er, defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti to relay a message to Riley: "Tell Mike it was only business. I've always liked him."

The Ducks win the national title with a blowout win over the Crimson Tide. As a reward, Nike founder Phil Knight gives each Oregon player a brass bottle.

With a genie in it. And no limit on wishes. The NCAA deems the gift, "Really cool and fine with us."

Riley retires to his vacation him in Gruene, Texas along the Guadalupe River.

The Beavers hire Charlie Weis away from Kansas.

"Folks around here sometimes complained the Mike was too nice," athletic director Bob De Carolis says. "So we went another direction."

Previous "Best case-worst case" posts


Washington State





Preseason position reviews: safety

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

So how do things stack up?


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

You can see previous previews here:


Running back


Tight end

Offensive line



Defensive line


Video: Under the radar -- Oregon State

July, 29, 2013

Oregon State free safety Ryan Murphy has quietly become one of the conference's best safeties.
If the Dictionary of Phrases needs a demonstration of what "cautiously optimistic" sounds like, they might want to chat with Mark Banker about his Oregon State defense.

He makes a good case for optimism. And he's got reasons to be cautious.

It must be first said that Banker probably feels a lot better than he did a year ago when Beavers fans were doubting him, despite a distinguished track record of consistent success, both on the field and in terms of transforming under-the-radar recruits into NFL draft choices.

[+] EnlargeMark Banker
Jesse Beals/ Icon SMIDefensive coordinator Mark Banker is optimistic the Beavers can continue the growth they showed last season, when they ranked second in the Pac-12 and 22nd in the nation, giving up 20.6 points per game.
Yet after consecutive losing seasons in Corvallis, Banker and head coach Mike Riley were on the spot. The 2011 Beavers ranked seventh in the Pac-12 in scoring defense, surrendering 30.8 points per game, and they often were pushed around, yielding a conference-worst 196.8 yards rushing per game.

Few units in the Pac-12 improved as much as the Beavers' defense from 2011 to 2012. Last fall, the Beavers ranked second in the Pac-12 and 22nd in the nation, giving up just 20.6 points per game, a 10.2-point per game improvement. They also ranked third in run defense, holding foes to 129.5 yards per game in a conference with a lot of good running backs.

The difference? Better players, experience, staying healthy and a rejiggered defensive staff, says Banker.

As to what he sees for 2013, he said, "This group is more than capable."

He likes his defensive ends, Dylan Wynn and All-American candidate Scott Crichton. He's got two speedy, experienced outside linebackers in Michael Doctor and D.J. Alexander. Three of four starters are back from a secondary that yielded just 14 touchdown passes last fall.

And yet.

He's replacing his middle linebacker Feti Taumoepeau, as well as do-everything backup Rueben Robinson. All-American cornerback Jordan Poyer is now playing for Chip Kelly in Philly. And he's got 644 pounds missing in the middle of his defensive line with the departure of tackles Castro Masaniai and Andrew Seumalo.

Let's start with the optimism. Banker loves underrated free safety Ryan Murphy.

"He can really play -- he's got the greatest chance of being drafted in a high position," Banker said. "He'll be one of the, if not the best, safety we've ever had here as this thing plays out. I hope I don't jinx him."

Further, he feels like he's got a pretty good competition for replacing Poyer, with experienced senior Sean Martin and talented junior college transfer Steve Nelson in a tight battle for the starting job, with the No. 2 guy likely filling a nickel role.

Banker likes true sophomore Joel Skotte stepping into the middle linebacker spot. While Skotte, who saw significant special teams action last season, isn't yet there physically, he's a smart player, the kind of guy who won't make mental mistakes in the middle of the Beavers' defense.

Further, the position isn't as critical to the Beavers' defense as it was in the past, because eight conference teams run no-huddle spread offenses.

"The basis of what we have to have at that position, [Skotte] has," Banker said. "But at the same time, with so many different spread types of offenses, we're in our sub packages quite a bit."

Which means Doctor, who made great strides in 2012, moves into the middle.

Banker admits some frustration trying to get Alexander in the right place to maximize his athletic potential. There were plenty of feast or famine moments with the speedy rising junior in 2012. Great plays followed by mental errors.

"There were quite a few times last year we'd take him out to let him know, No. 1, it's not acceptable and, No. 2, so we could get him squared away in the mental aspect of the game," Banker said.

Then there are the voids at defensive tackle. You can almost feel Banker rubbing a rabbits foot through the phone line.

"We're not so much uncertain, but we're not satisfied with our defensive tackle play," Banker said.

The Beavers welcome back reserves Mana Rosa and John Braun, but four junior college signees are expected to compete for the starting spots.

Edwin Delva and Siale Hautau both participated in spring practices. Hautau, however, broke his hand and missed most of the action, and Delva has a ways to go.

Kyle Peko, Charlie Tuaau and Lyndon Tulimasealii are scheduled to arrive for fall camp, but Banker sounded a cautionary note about all three being squared away academically.

"All three have significant work that they are doing in the classroom that they need to become eligible," he said.

The hope is that, of the tackles who do make it to camp, at least two will be Pac-12 ready. And maybe one or two others can adequately take up space.

"That's the biggest thing that I'm curious about: Where do they start? Where's the bottom? I hope they don't start down too low," Banker said.

Banker likes what he knows about his defense. And has his fingers crossed hopefully over what he's yet to find out.

Mailbag: Power ranking gripes

May, 10, 2013
Have a great weekend.

As always, follow the Pac-12 blog on Twitter.

To the notes.

Ryan in New York City: Did you read [Brian] Fremeau? He makes you and Miller look like clowns. Try objective analysis and not who's the most charming coach when making your selections. Really, read Fremeau. Brutal.

Matt in Ontario, Calif. writes: Your Post Spring Power Rankings are (crud). If you say UCLA and Arizona St are 3A and 3B then you should give the edge to the two time defending PAC 12 South Champ. Tell me what other school has played in every PAC 12 Championship game. Give the Bruins a little love.

Kevin Gemmell: I packaged these two questions together for a reason.

Ryan, first off, how did you get an advanced copy of the Christmas card Ted and I are sending out this year?

I'm going to go out on a limb and guess you like Fremeau's projections because he has USC winning the South and UCLA finishing fourth. Clearly, you think we don't give USC enough love (even though the stipulation is there that USC could be a 10-win team and take the South) and give too much to UCLA.

Matt, you don't like our power rankings because we didn't clearly have UCLA as the top team in the South -- rather we separated the Bruins and Sun Devils with "A/B."

One guy is mad for giving UCLA too much love. Another is mad for not giving them enough.

When I started out in this business, around the time our hearts sank for Titanic and Dirk Diggler's name was so bright it burned out light bulbs, one of my first editors said if you've got both sides mad, you're doing something right. By the way, Matt, I'd like to refer you to my daily UCLA ritual. Ryan, I've always found Lane Kiffin to be extremely charming. Yet while the Pac-12 blog got along great with Chip Kelly, we wouldn't call him the most charming guy -- but his team sat atop the power rankings for a long time. Just sayin'.

Brent in Salt Lake City writes: Kevin,I liked your draft updates on the Pac-12, however, I think only including the last two years for the Utes is deceiving for us as a school. It makes it look worse (and we don't need help looking bad right now). Maybe consider a follow-up post where you look at including Colorado and Utah's performance in the same window (since 2000) and include all our draft picks?The Utes have put tons of players into the NFL via the draft since 2000. We've been [cruddy] enough since joining the Pac-12, I'd prefer to think fondly on our draft history. Thanks - enjoy your work.

Steve in Salt Lake City writes: While I understand your keeping to the PAC10/12 for your article I think you probably should have used Utah's and Colo's past history to 2000 since they are certainly in the conference going forward.

Kevin Gemmell: Colorado and Utah fans, I did you wrong. But know that this slight wasn't intentional. It was a Pac-12 writer writing a Pac-12-centric story. Sometimes I forget that there were other conferences before ours. Maybe I was jealous. Maybe I don't like to think about you running around with all of those other teams in all of those other locker rooms. I didn't want to recognize the life you had before the Pac-12.

But fair is fair -- and I owe you a statistical breakdown. I already included the 2013 and 2012 drafts in the original post. Here's the rest of the years.

Since 2000, Colorado has had 34 players drafted -- including four first-round draft picks. Their best draft was 2003 with six players taken and the low end was zero players drafted in 2010, 2005 and 2001. By round, it's four in the first, five in the second, three in the third, two in the fourth, five in the fifth, six in the sixth and nine in the seventh.
  • 2011 (4): Nate Solder (No. 17), Jimmy Smith (27), Jalil Brown (118), Scotty McKnight (227).
  • 2010 (0)
  • 2009 (1): Brad Jones (218).
  • 2008 (2): Jordon Dizon (45), Terrence Wheatley (62).
  • 2007 (2): Mason Crosby (193), Abraham Wright (238).
  • 2006 (4): Joe Klopfenstein (46), Jeremy Bloom (147), Quinn Sypniewski (166), Lawrence Vickers (180).
  • 2005 (0)
  • 2004 (2): D.J. Hackett (157), Sean Tufts (196).
  • 2003 (6): Tyler Brayton (32), Donald Strickland (90), Chris Brown (93), Justin Bates (219), Brandon Drumm (236), Wayne Lucier (249).
  • 2002 (5): Daniel Graham (21), Andre Gurode (37), Michael M. Lewis (58), Justin Bannan (139), Victor Rogers (259).
  • 2001 (0)
  • 2000 (4): Ben Kelly (84), Damen Wheeler (203), Brad Bedell (206), Rashidi Barnes (225).

Since 2000, Utah has had 34 players drafted, including three first-round draft picks and the No. 1 overall pick in Alex Smith in 2005. The high was in 2010 with six players taken and the low was 2008 and 2004 when no players were drafted. By round, it's three in the first, six in the second, three in the fourth, two in the fourth, four in the fifth, six in the sixth and nine in the seventh.
  • 2011 (2): Brandon Burton (139), Caleb Schlauderaff (179).
  • 2010 (6): Koa Misi (40), Zane Beadles (45), Robert Johnson (148), David Reed (156), Stevenson Sylvester (166), R.J. Stanford (223).
  • 2009 (4): Paul Kruger (57), Sean Smith (61), Brice McCain (188), Freddie Brown (252).
  • 2008 (0)
  • 2007 (2): Eric Weddle (37), Paul Soliai (108).
  • 2006 (2) Spencer Toone (245), Quinton Ganther (246).
  • 2005 (5): Alex Smith (1), Sione Pouha (88), Chris Kemoeatu (204), Paris Warren (225), Jonathan Fanene (233).
  • 2004 (0)
  • 2003 (3): Jordan Gross (8), Lauvale Sape (187), Antwoine Sanders (258).
  • 2002 (2): Cliff Russell (87), Ed Ta'amu (132).
  • 2001 (2): Andre Dyson (60), Steve Smith (74).
  • 2000 (3): John Frank (178), Mike Anderson (189), Richard Seals (218).

BDAZzler in Phoenix writes: Considering that ASU will be facing a much tougher schedule this year than they have in the past few years, and that they have been underwhelming against the softer schedules in those years, how many early-season losses will it take for us to say that the Giant will continue to be sleeping this year?

Kevin Gemmell: Arizona State's schedule is interesting this year. We're going to give them the benefit of the doubt against Sacramento State. Then they've got back-to-back Pac-12 games sandwiched between a home game against Wisconsin and a neutral field game against Notre Dame.

Obviously, going 4-0 during that stretch would be outstanding. I don't think they will. It has nothing to do with talent or coaching. Those are just four really hard games to play without any bye weeks in between. 3-1 would also be great. 2-2 would be solid and even 1-3 would be OK -- so long as that one win was USC for South Division tiebreaking purposes. No promises there.

Losing all four would be a huge blow. ASU could still win the South Division with a 1-4 start -- but they'll have to run out seven straight (which is unlikely) and hope that USC loses. Taking at least one of those games will be critical.

If they win a couple of those games early, it will be a huge boost to their national credibility. And I think they can beat Wisconsin and Notre Dame. I'd say they are underdogs at Stanford, though not by much, and depending how USC's quarterback competition shakes out and the new defense comes together, that could be a coin flip. But it's at home, so maybe they get an edge.

But it's also not the end of the world if they have a slow start. It just means they'll have a lot of making up to do on the back end.

Derek in Portland writes: I liked the Oregon State cornerback article. But please explain to me how this is more important than the quarterback competition?

Kevin Gemmell: Just for the record, I said it might be. And here's my thinking. You know what you are getting with Sean Mannion and Cody Vaz. Both of them have won big games and both have quality experience/starts.

This isn't a situation with two or three young quarterbacks who have never taken a collegiate snap learning an entirely new offense and trying to build continuity with receivers. These guys have been in the system for multiple years and they know who they are going to be throwing to.

Of course, the quarterback is the most important position on the team. You'll never hear either half of the Pac-12 blog say otherwise.

However -- the cornerback spot -- and we're just talking about Oregon State, not making a sweeping statement about all teams -- that position battle is extremely important because whoever fills in for Jordan Poyer will be joining an experienced secondary. And if I'm an offensive coordinator scouting Oregon State and putting together my passing game plan, I'm looking at the experience of Rashaad Reynolds, Ryan Murphy and Tyrequek Zimmerman -- and also the lack of starting experience at left corner -- and that's where I'm testing the waters.

The combination of Sean Martin and Steven Nelson (and it sounds like Mike Riley wants to use them as a duo -- which makes sense) might end up being as lockdown as Poyer was. And for the record I think Martin did an outstanding job last season in spot duty -- so much so that I bestowed on him the highest honor we have on the Pac-12 blog back in Week 10: a helmet sticker.

But until we see what he/Nelson can do each week, that position is more of an unknown than what we'll be getting at quarterback. And that's why it might end up being the more important position battle.
While so much of the attention on Oregon State this spring has been on the quarterback competition -- one of the most intriguing in the nation between Sean Mannion and Cody Vaz -- there are other critical position battles.

And the one at cornerback might even be of greater importance.

Post spring, Sean Martin sits atop the depth chart at left corner, opposite returning starter Rashaad Reynolds on the right side. This position is of great interest because it was formerly held by the departed Jordan Poyer -- one of the school's top secondary players of all-time who sits fourth on the school's career interceptions list with 13.

[+] EnlargeMike Riley
AP Photo/Don Ryan"I'm not ready to say which one of them is going to come out of the fold as 'the starter,'" Oregon State's Mike Riley said of cornerbacks Sean Martin and Steven Nelson.
Pushing Martin is junior college transfer Steven Nelson -- who was rated by one service as the No. 2 JC cornerback in the country.

But head coach Mike Riley isn't approaching it with the thought that one will be a starter and one will be a backup. If all goes according to plan -- it's likely we'll see them on the field at the same time.

"That competition is good for the Beavers because my goal out of this thing is that both of these guys become bona fide starters," Riley said. "They both won't necessarily start on first down, but if they proceed to grow as we've seen them through their competition in the spring, then you'll see them both playing together a lot. Third-down defenses, nickel or dime. We actually need both of them to be considered as starters."

He says that with the caveat that he's not ready to say which one has pulled ahead in their competition. Spring depth charts offer a little insight, but not nearly enough to pass judgment.

Once a commit to Georgia, Nelson comes to Oregon State from the College of Sequoias in California, and has spent the spring playing catch up. Martin, however, started three games last year -- twice as a nickel and one at corner against Arizona State when Poyer was out with an injury. After missing the majority of 2011 with a broken foot, Martin bounced back in 2012 to register 43 tackles, two interceptions and three pass breakups.

Martin's experience might be what keeps him atop the depth chart -- at least for now.

"I think Sean Martin has improved dramatically in the course of two years here and I think Steven has all the athletic tools to be a corner in our league and be a good player," Riley said. "He needs to learn more and more about what we do and how he fits into that, but I think he's very conscientious and I think he'll make that move. I think this has all been very good."

After a rough 2011, where the Beavers ranked 104th in pass-efficiency defense, they bounced back and were 20th nationally last year. After giving up 28 passing touchdowns in 2011, they cut that number in half to 14 in 2012. Poyer was a huge part of that, hauling in seven of OSU's 20 interceptions last season.

With Reynolds (25 career starts) on the other side and returning safeties Tyrequek Zimmerman (13 starts) and Ryan Murphy (15 starts), the secondary should again be solid with just the one hole to fill.

But Riley isn't as concerned with finding one guy who can step in for Poyer as he is developing them to work together in unison.

"I'm not ready to say which one of them is going to come out of the fold as 'the starter,'" Riley said. "But my goal is for both of them to be ready to play and be good, solid players in the fall."

Oregon State spring wrap

May, 14, 2012
2011 overall record: 3-9

2011 conference record: 3-6 (fifth in North)

Returning starters: offense: 8; defense: 8; kicker/punter: 1

Top returners
QB Sean Mannion, DB Jordan Poyer, WR Markus Wheaton, WR Brandin Cooks, DE Scott Crichton, DB Rashaad Reynolds, OL Josh Andrews, S Anthony Watkins.

Key losses
WR James Rodgers, S Lance Mitchell, C Grant Johnson, DT Fred Thompson (passed away last December, could have been in contention for starting spot).

2011 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Malcolm Agnew* (423 yards)
Passing: Sean Mannion* (3,328 yards)
Receiving: Markus Wheaton* (986 yards)
Tackles: Anthony Watkins* (85)
Sacks: Scott Crichton* (6)
Interceptions: Jordan Poyer* (4)

Spring answers

1. Running game revival: Head coach Mike Riley has been adamant that his team will be better at running the ball in 2012. The Beavers rotated through four backs last season -- mostly because of injuries -- but redshirt freshman Storm Woods has come on strong in the spring. Though a pecking order hasn't been established, it's safe to say that the Beavers will have a deep rotation.

2. Secondary depth is solid: With Watkins sidelined during the spring with a shoulder injury, it opened up opportunities for Ryan Murphy and Tyrequek Zimmerman to replace the graduated Lance Mitchell. Murphy, last year's nickelback, looks like he's won the job to start along Watkins. Pair that with Poyer and Reynolds and the Beavers should be solid in the defensive backfield.

3. LB corps filling out: D.J. Welch looks like the heir apparent to Cam Collins on the strong side. Feti Unga, who was among the conference leaders in tackles last year prior to a knee injury, appears to be back and ready to go for the fall. Michael Doctor also appears more comfortable as he readies for his second year as a starter. Rueben Robinson and Cade Cowdin should provide the Beavers with some good depth across the board.

Fall questions

1. Offensive line issues: With only eight healthy linemen this spring, there wasn't much of an opportunity to fill out a starting five. Riley said he doesn't like leaving spring without knowing who his starters are, but it's just something they have to deal with. Andrews helps solidify the line and Grant Enger and Colin Kelly will be in the mix when they return from injury. But with a big influx of freshmen, Riley has essentially said all positions are up for grabs.

2. Has Mannion taken the next step? If you ask Riley, he has. If you ask Mannion, he has. But it won't be known until he steps on to the field. He showed last season that he has the potential to be an A-list quarterback in this conference. Better decisions should improve his 16-to-18 touchdown to interception ratio and an improved running game will almost certainly be a plus.

3. Who is No. 3 at WR? We know about Wheaton. We know that Cooks is up and coming. But who is going to be that No. 3 option for Mannion? Jordan Bishop is penciled in as the slot guy, but he missed his second straight spring. That opened the door for Obum Gwacham to emerge as the potential No. 3. He's Wheaton's immediate backup on the outside, but Riley couldn't help but gush about Gwacham's performance this spring.

Pac-12 scrimmage roundup

April, 30, 2012
Catching you up on all of the scrimmage and spring game info from over the weekend.


One of the most secretive quarterback competitions in the country made a very public splash as Marcus Mariota outshined Bryan Bennett in Oregon's spring game.

Mariota ran for an 82-yard touchdown, threw for another and led his team to four touchdowns on five drives. He completed 18 of 26 passes with a score and an interception while rushing for 99 yards on five carries.

Bennett, conversely, was 19-of-32 for 209 yards, throwing two interceptions (including a pick-six) and he also fumbled.

“That’s why you have days like this,” UO coach Chip Kelly said. “It’s interesting to see how guys react.”

A very important note from Rob Moseley of The Register-Guard:
Afterward, Kelly and offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich reiterated that Bennett and Mariota will be judged on their entire bodies of work from this spring, and that the Ducks won’t feel any pressure to name a starter until the week of their 2012 opener, Sept. 1 against Arkansas State. Public opinion, at least, no doubt swayed toward Mariota on Saturday.

In other words, while Saturday provided a nice peek behind the curtain, official word probably isn't coming any time soon.


Sean Mannion completed 8 of 15 passes for 81 yards with no touchdowns and an interception. Backup quarterback Cody Vaz, who coach Mike Riley has singled out numerous times for having a good spring, was 11-of-21 for 151 yards with a touchdown and an interception.

“I thought they both made some good throws and plays in general,” Riley said. “I feel like we have two starting quarterbacks right now.”

Malcolm Agnew had the lone rushing touchdown while Jordan Jenkins led the way with nine carries for 45 yards. Storm Woods carried eight times for 37 yards. Kicker Trevor Romaine connected on field goals of 41, 33 and 45 yards.

Ryan Murphy, Micah Audiss and Peter Ashton all recorded interceptions for the defense and Audiss blocked a 50-yard field goal attempt.

“We have a long way to go before we win a game, but there were guys making plays today,” Riley said. “We had a great spring practice session and I’m excited to get going again this fall.”


The Bruins might be a step closer to naming a starting quarterback, writes Chris Foster of the LA Times.

Redshirt freshman Brett Hundley had a strong showing on Saturday, working almost exclusively with the first-team offense, where he completed 7 of 11 passes that included a 28-yard touchdown to Shaquelle Evans and he also added a 5-yard scramble for a touchdown.

"Getting 24 plays was fun," Hundley told Foster. "But I don't worry about whether I'm getting looked at longer. I just trying to master my craft."

It appears Hundley is finally starting to distance himself from seniors Kevin Prince and Richard Brehaut, the other two top contenders for the starting job. But despite the surge over the past few practices from Hundley, head coach Jim Mora wasn't ready to name anyone the starter yet.

"We will announce it at the appropriate time, when it becomes apparent, when we have a chance to sit down as a staff and talk about which way want to go," Mora said.


Washington's defense was the stronger unit in Saturday's Spring Game.

In a format with the defense being awarded points for stops, turnovers, etc., the defense topped the offense 36-10. With close to 12,000 fans on hand at CenturyLink Field, head coach Steve Sarkisian saw a defensive unit that was much maligned last season show encouraging improvement.

"I thought our guys defensively really played well and that's on a lot of fronts," head coach Steve Sarkisian said after the game. "One, I thought we lined up really well. We didn't have a bunch of busts where we lined up wrong. They were aggressive. They played enthusiastic and I thought one of the big telling things defensively is that they won a lot of the one-on-one battles, especially down the field with the ball in the air. They closed on the ball and they were confident closing on the ball in the back end and they made plays. That was extremely encouraging.''

Quarterback Keith Price completed 14 of 28 passes for 168 yards and a touchdown. Running back Bishop Sankey did the bulk of the work on the ground, rushing for 34 yards on 11 carries. James Johnson led the receiving corps with six catches for 42 yards.

But the story was defense. Andrew Hudson helped lead the charge for the Huskies with six tackles, a pair of sacks and 2.5 tackles for a loss.

Spring notebook: Oregon State

April, 27, 2012
As Oregon State wraps up its spring session Saturday with its Fan Fest activities at Reser Stadium, head coach Mike Riley said he's feeling pretty good about what the Beavers accomplished this spring.

Last year's growing pains, which led to a 3-9 season, also produced a lot of first-time starters who now have some game experience. In fact, there will be 27 players on the 2012 roster who have started at least one game. That depth allowed Riley to really focus on the details this spring.

"I'm not sure we got the whole volume of what we wanted to get in, but we got to repeat a lot of stuff," Riley said. "We took this spring as a fundamentals look. We tried not to be too exotic. We worked on the timing of certain routes with the receivers and quarterbacks, worked on the details of fundamentals and blocking schemes. It was a good mixture of coverages, but not too much that we can't get good reps. Volume hasn't been great, but our work on the details has vastly improved."

[+] EnlargeOregon State's Sean Mannion
Jim Z. Rider/US PRESSWIREOregon State QB Sean Mannion said he improved his confidence and throwing accuracy this spring.
Riley said he's liked the growth of the quarterbacks, citing an improvement in efficiency and overall production. Starter Sean Mannion said he's a much more confident quarterback as well.

"The Sean Mannion now is more comfortable," Mannion said, when asked to describe himself from last year to this year. "I think he's more experienced. I think he's improved his accuracy, improved his decision making. But that being said, I know there is a long way to go."

The biggest frustration for Riley this spring was the lack of depth on the offensive line. With players like Colin Kelly and Grant Enger out, Riley said it was a good chance for other players to compete. Plus, with an influx of offensive linemen coming in this fall, there is more uncertainty across the line than any other position group on the Beavers' roster.

"You always want to come out of spring set on starters," Riley said. "But we're not going to be able to do that on the offensive line. We'll still be scratching and clawing to find the right group of guys."

Riley said he's been very pleased with the development of safeties Ryan Murphy and Tyrequek Zimmerman. With Jordan Poyer and Rashaad Reynolds returning at both cornerback spots, Riley thinks he's got a pretty good secondary.

"I like the look of that group a lot," he said. "They are all really instinctual players as well as talented. That goes a long way to being successful. Reynolds has grown a lot and Poyer is a proven commodity and it's been fun watching the two safeties grow."

Oregon State also was one of its deepest wide receiving corps in years. And Riley has previously said he wants to take more shots down the field this season. He's moved Obum Gwacham into the slot as a third receiver (though he'll continue to back up Markus Wheaton) in an effort to get more playmakers on the field.

"It's a good step for the growth of this offense and we really like [Gwacham] in that spot," Riley said. "We've gotten a good look at him inside and we've been really pleased how he's adapted to the role."