Pac-12: San Diego Chargers

The longest-tenured coaches in the Pac-12 are on the hottest seats in 2012.'s coaching package continues today with a look at veteran coaches, and that's not necessarily a good -- or popular -- thing in the Pac-12.

While it might be a stretch to say California's Jeff Tedford and Oregon State's Mike Riley are facing "win-or-else" seasons, it wouldn't be ridiculous to say so, either. For one, Bears and Beavers fans saw four coaches get the can this season, and some big names were hired. And big contracts signed. There's a sense of transitioning up in the Pac-12, and with that comes a worry about getting left behind.

Tedford and Riley both took over programs that were mired in losing, and both built winners. But things have stalled of late. Memories aren't too long or terribly forgiving among fan bases these days.

Tedford, who enters his 11th season in Berkeley with a 79-48 record, was one of the hottest coaches in the nation in 2006 after posting his second 10-win season. He could have bolted for the Chicago Bears if he wanted. But Cal is just 21-24 in conference play since 2007. Bears fans quickly got used to winning, and seven or eight victories no longer impress them. A 12-13 record over the past two seasons particularly doesn't.

With a newly remodeled Memorial Stadium and substantially updated facilities, Tedford has finally received upgrades that he was promised when he was first hired in 2002. Some might say that it's impressive that he's won as much as he has with such dilapidated facilities. They could further point out that Tedford filled up Memorial Stadium with paying customers, thereby making facilities upgrades possible.

But others only see the recent struggles and the growing fortunes of Oregon and -- eeek! -- Stanford. Those folks are losing patience.

As for Riley, he enters his 12th season in Corvallis -- a tenure wrapped around an unhappy three years leading the San Diego Chargers -- with a 72-63 record and a .533 winning percentage. Just two seasons ago, he was the toast of the town. USC tried to lure him away before hiring Lane Kiffin. But after two losing seasons, some fans see not only a downturn, they also are no longer that impressed with the previous winning, writing it off as a misplaced satisfaction with only fair-to-middling results. And Riley's folksy charm no longer seems to hold much sway with his critics.

It doesn't help that Oregon has pushed into the nation's elite over the past three seasons. A rivalry that had been trending even is now owned by the Ducks.

It doesn't seem to matter to Riley's critics that the Beavers' all-time winning percentage is .481, which ranks 98th among FBS teams. They see that as the dusty past. And, again, if Oregon can do it, the Beavers believe they can, too.

After Tedford and Riley, only one other coach has been with his team five or more years: Utah's Kyle Whittingham. He's 66-25 in seven seasons, but, of course, six of those were in the Mountain West. He's about as secure and respected as a coach can be.

At least for now. They used to say that about Riley and Tedford.

Four new coaches highlight Pac-12 spring

February, 23, 2012
Oregon coach Chip Kelly was baffled in a phone interview before the Rose Bowl. How the heck could little-old-him be important to a reporter?

"The big story," he said conspiratorially,"is all these new coaches."

Well, it's the big story now as the Pac-12 turns its attention away from the 2011 season and toward 2012 spring practices. And, of course, Kelly is part of a reason there are four new coaches in the conference. Mike Stoops, Dennis Erickson, Rick Neuheisel and Paul Wulff -- fired at Arizona, Arizona State, UCLA and Washington State, respectively -- never beat Kelly and, in fact, came within double digits of his Ducks only once (Arizona, with a 44-41 loss in 2009).

But the story isn't just four new coaches. It's four new coaches whom folks have heard of, each of whom is getting a big-boy salary that would fit in among the SEC or Big Ten. Big salaries are the new normal in the Pac-12 after the conference signed a $3 billion TV deal with ESPN and Fox.

[+] EnlargeMike Leach
Karl Anderson/Icon SMIWashington State went from paying Paul Wulff a $600,000 salary to paying new coach Mike Leach $2,250,000.
So out goes Stoops and his $1,456,000 salary, and in comes Rich Rodriguez and his $1,910,000 paycheck. Out goes Erickson and his $1,503,000 salary, and in comes Todd Graham and his $2 million tab. Out goes Neuheisel and his $1,285,000 salary, and in comes Jim Mora and his $2.4 million annual take. Out goes Wulff and his $600,000 salary, and in comes Mike Leach and his $2,250,000 price tag.

The chief idea is obvious: Pac-12 schools are paying for an upgrade in coaching talent, and there are high expectations for getting their money's worth. And, by the way, there's an added bonus for each hire: Each new coach has a chip on his shoulder and something to prove.

  • In 2010, Rodriguez was ingloriously dispatched at Michigan after three tumultuous and unsuccessful years. Athletic director Greg Byrne is betting that Rodriguez is far closer to the highly successful coach he was at West Virginia than the one who got run out of Ann Arbor, and Rodriguez surely wants that impression to be his legacy. It helps that he got his man, Jeff Casteel, to run the Wildcats' defense, which he failed to do at Michigan.
  • Graham took a lot of heat from a pandering, sanctimonious media and a whiny Pittsburgh fan base for how he left the Panthers. "He didn't even say goodbye," they collectively sobbed. "Waaah." Of course, Graham does have an unfortunate habit of describing every job as his "dream job." All that stuff is mostly hogwash, though. What matters is winning, and if Graham does that, the media will all come down en masse to Tempe pretending they didn't trash Graham's character for taking a better job, in a better conference, in a better place to live while making his family happy in the process.
  • Mora was fired in 2009 after only one season with the Seattle Seahawks, and he's bided his time looking for another head-coaching job. Seeing that he was two or three names down UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero's coaching list -- Chris Petersen! Kevin Sumlin! -- some Bruins fans reacted with disappointed smirks to Mora's hiring. Then Mora hired an outstanding staff. Then he reeled in an outstanding recruiting class. Some of those frowns are turning upside down.
  • Leach was fired at Texas Tech in 2009. He's one of the best offensive minds in the nation, and the almost universal reaction is athletic director Bill Moos hit a home run with this big-name hire. The Pirate Captain looks like the perfect match for Pullman and the Cougs, and he'll be plenty motivated to prove his critics wrong and erase the bad ending in Lubbock.

It's fair to say these four hirings have generated positive momentum for these programs, though, of course, to varying degrees. There's a hope among the fan bases that these four can create quick turnarounds.

And that also leads into another major coaching story entering the spring: The Pac-12's most senior coaches, California's Jeff Tedford and Oregon State's Mike Riley, sit on the hottest seats.

Tedford enters his 11th season in Berkeley having followed up his first losing campaign -- 5-7 in 2010 -- with a middling 7-6 finish in 2011. Riley, the man deserving the most credit for making one of the worst programs in college football respectable, enters his 12th year in Corvallis -- two tenures wrapped around an ill-fated stint with the San Diego Chargers -- burdened by consecutive losing seasons, including a 3-9 finish that felt so 1987.

Spring practices for Tedford and Riley will be about setting up turnaround season that give their frustrated fan bases hope -- and keep their athletic directors from issuing dreaded votes of confidence while checking their coaching Rolodexes.

Meanwhile, Kelly and USC's Lane Kiffin, still relative coaching newbies in the conference, enter spring likely trying to tone down the positive hype. Both will begin the 2012 season ranked in the top 10. USC could be preseason No. 1. Both are overwhelming favorites in the North and South Divisions. And their meeting on Nov. 3 in L.A. could have national title implications.

But that's looking ahead.

The big story this spring in the Pac-12 is newness and rebirth. One-third of the conference's teams hope that newness at the top of their programs will create a rebirth in the Pac-12 standings.

Ryan Leaf calls Mike Riley an 'idiot'

February, 6, 2012
We all love redemption stories, yes? It's satisfying when a jerk redeems himself by: 1. Admitting he was a jerk; 2. Ceasing to act like a jerk.

Unfortunately, former Washington State quarterback Ryan Leaf's redemption from being a jerk, for which he is seeking attention, is incomplete.

We know this because Leaf called Oregon State coach Mike Riley "an idiot" this past week as he tried to drum up publicity for his new book.

Said Leaf: “I know the Chargers made mistakes, but I made a bunch of mistakes myself, and I’ve got to take responsibility for that. I mean, Mike Riley is an idiot, but I can’t do anything to change that. He wasn’t supposed to be a head coach in the NFL. Why was he there?”

No. 1: I know Riley is not an idiot. I've never heard Riley's intelligence called into question by anyone. And, by the way, I was there when he was about to get fired by San Diego.

No. 2: Leaf's intelligence — intellectual as well as emotional — has been called into question by just about everyone who has known him throughout his life, even by those who defended him, such as former Washington State coach Mike Price.

Leaf is not qualified to call someone an idiot. The life he has led, from an NFL bust, to blaming everyone but himself for being a bust, to pleading guilty to felony drug charges, to calling a truly nice guy an idiot, shows that his bulb continues to burn dimly. Saying such a thing so publicly only makes Leaf look crass and petty and juvenile.

Leaf told Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune that he wants to pursue a career as a motivational speaker, particularly working with young people.

“I don’t want anyone to ever feel how I felt,” Leaf said. “I was just miserable. I wasn’t happy with who I was.”

So, Ryan, if Riley cared about your opinion, how do you think he'd feel about being called "an idiot"?

The problem with redemption is the person seeking it actually needs to be redeemed, and not just trying to get some attention so he can sell some books and maybe pick up an easy paycheck for a speaking engagement.
Stanford's recent success just about Andrew Luck? That's just silly talk.

If ESPN NFL draft guru Todd McShay is on target with his mock 2012 NFL draft, plenty of evidence to the contrary will be produced on draft day. Insider
McShay projects that Luck will be the No. 1 overall pick, of course, but he also projects that Luck will be joined by three teammates in the first round.

How many other teams will produce that many first-round picks? One: National champion Alabama.

The Pac-12 has seven first-round picks in McShay's mock draft.

Here's how McShay sees things, with some comments included.

1. Andrew Luck, QB Stanford (Indianapolis Colts)

2. Matt Kalil, OT, USC (St. Louis Rams)

13. David DeCastro, OG, Stanford (Arizona Cardinals)
This might seem a bit high for a guard, but DeCastro was the most dominant interior offensive lineman in the nation in 2011 and has a chance to develop into one of the elite NFL players at his position. Offensive tackle is also a need area, but DeCastro is a much better overall player than the top available tackle. Cornerback could also be a consideration, but both Janoris Jenkins (North Alabama) and Dre Kirkpatrick (Alabama) carry off-field baggage.

18. Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford (San Diego Chargers)

20. Nick Perry, DE, USC (Tennessee Titans)
The Titans have three defensive ends set to become free agents and need a dynamic pass-rusher to complement Derrick Morgan. While Perry is raw, he has good initial burst and natural pass-rush skills. Cornerback, safety and offensive line are also need areas, but Perry makes the most sense in this situation.

26. Coby Fleener, TE, Stanford (Houston Texans)
The Texans would rather get a wideout here to complement Andre Johnson, but Rutgers' Mohamed Sanu and South Carolina's Alshon Jeffery would be reaches at this point. A difference-maker at tight end would help, though, and Fleener is a reliable target with toughness, a competitive nature and underrated speed/athleticism. He could draw some attention to the middle away from Johnson, and with a deep wideout class Houston could find a quality receiver in the next couple of rounds.

29. Vontaze Burfict, LB, Arizona State (Baltimore Ravens)
Burfict is a physical freak with tremendous athleticism and explosive power. He's a top-20 talent, but questions about his discipline on and off the field are hurting his stock. However, Burfict could contribute immediately and would benefit greatly from the leadership and guidance of Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis. And you have to wonder whether the Ravens would press their luck and take another player with character flags after bringing cornerback Jimmy Smith into the fold last year.

Here's McShay's player rankings. Insider

Here's Kiper's Big Board. Insider

And here's Kiper's top-five by position, Insider which is chock full of Pac-12 players.

Most interesting: Kiper ranks former Arizona State's Brock Osweiler No. 3 among the quarterbacks, ahead of former Arizona's Nick Foles, who is fifth. Luck, of course, is No. 1 and Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III is No. 2.

If Osweiler ends up getting picked on the first day -- first two rounds -- it certainly will validate his surprising decision to enter the NFL draft.

Opening the mailbag: More on Graham crackers

December, 16, 2011
Happy Friday.

Follow me on Twitter.

To the notes!

Zach from Mesa, Ariz., writes: Not sure how I should feel about Todd Graham coaching my Sun Devils. Seems like a used-car salesman and he really hasn't done anything.

Mike from Philly writes: I'm not going to call you an idiot, even though that might help get this published, but you've missed the mark on Graham. Not sure if he can coach, but he's completely full of it. He's a liar. He's spineless. Why would anybody want him to lead their sons?

Ted Miller: Got plenty of feedback on my admittedly quasi-Machiavellian takes -- and here -- on Todd Graham bolting Pittsburgh after one year for Arizona State and texting his departure to his players instead of meeting with them face-to-face. I have many thoughts on this, but I'd rather not do another 1,000-plus word column. So I'll try to be brief. Briefer, at least.

Let's start with this: Recall just a week ago when Graham said, "I don't know how else I can say it. I've said it on three different occasions. I'm not going to be the Arizona State's coach."

Oh. Wait. That wasn't Graham talking about Arizona State. That was the best coach in college football. That was, gulp, then Miami Dolphins coach Nick Saban, talking about Alabama, not Arizona State, and who just days after saying that became... wait for it... wait for it...

Alabama's coach!

And what did Saban say when he later sat down with ESPN Chris Mortensen, who asked if Saban's disingenuousness would be an issue for him in recruiting going forward?

"The number one thing for me, Nick Saban, whatever anyone thinks, is to be a good person," Saban said. "Honesty, integrity, loyalty, being fair and honest with people is always been the trademark of what I've done."

So know that when Graham talked about how important "relationships" were for him Wednesday, that same forehead slap of indignation over the unintentional irony has happened before. And will again. It's the nature of their business.

You cannot compare Saban's and Graham's resumes, of course. But Saban has long been a climber at the highest level while Graham has been scratching and clawing -- some might suggest scurrying -- to arrive at an A-list job. That means you often leave unhappy people in your wake.

Do any Alabama fans care about Saban's messy departure from Miami? Are you kidding? No coach in America is more beloved by his fan base. Why? Have you looked at Saban's win-loss ledger and trophy case?

Same goes for Bobby Petrino at Arkansas, who didn't even finish his only season with the Atlanta Falcons before bolting for the Razorbacks, leaving behind only a note for his players.

Graham, suffice it to say, is not alone in the Hall of Coaching Transition Infamy. Don't gloat Arizona fans. You might recall your new coach, Rich Rodriguez had some issues at West Virginia, too.

Then let's consider this name: Mike Riley.

Riley left Oregon State in 1998 after just two season -- his hometown team! -- for the San Diego Chargers, where things went badly. But he got lucky. The Beavers were willing to re-hire him in 2003, believing he'd learned the proverbial "the grass is always greener lesson." No coach in the nation has been more loyal to his university since then while not getting super-rich. At $1.3 million a year, Riley is now the second lowest paid coach in the Pac-12.

He could have doubled his pay when Alabama came calling. He could have tripled his pay when USC came calling. But he remained loyal. And he's been praised for it. Which is nice.

Yet now, despite averaging nine wins a year from 2006-09 at a program that didn't post a winning season from 1971-98, two consecutive losing seasons have him sitting on the conference's hottest seat heading into 2012. There's a vocal minority of fans who believe he should be fired now. A larger percentage believe he needs to make a staff overhaul. My belief is he won't survive a third consecutive losing season.

If Riley had been "disloyal" to Oregon State and bolted in 2010 for USC -- he was widely seen as then-athletic director Mike Garrett's first choice -- he would have more job security today than he does now and a far more financially-secure future for his family. This side of the story is rarely considered, but such cautionary tales pass by word of mouth among coaches -- i.e., watch your back and look out for No. 1.

Maybe Graham is a double-talking con artist. Or maybe his circumstances and opportunities just have been different than other coaches, particularly in terms of timing. Maybe he felt like he and his family being unhappy at Pittsburgh was a good enough reason to leave for a place they wanted to go.

What Arizona State fans need to know is this: This is a tempest in a teapot. It's the story of the week. If Arizona State wins eight games next year, there will be grins all around in Tempe. And if the Sun Devils go to the Rose Bowl within five years with Graham, his exit from Pitt will, at most, be a curious sidenote.

Brian from Pullman, Wash., writes: In your post "Imagining the perfect coach," you said that "There are only 10 or so destination jobs in college football -- places where there really isn't a move up." I'm curious to know which universities you believe are on this list.

Ted Miller: My list of 13 destination jobs would include (in alphabetical order): Alabama, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, LSU, Michigan, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Penn State, Texas and USC.

Of course, everyone's personal list would be different. I'd rather be the coach at Stanford or California -- Bay Area! -- than Nebraska or Oklahoma. But the quality of area restaurants is more important to me than most coaches.

And immediate circumstances matter. Even before the Penn State scandal, following Joe Paterno would have been an extraordinary challenge. No one likes to be the man after the man.

Factors? Tradition, stadium size, all-time winning percentage, recruiting base and revenue.

Lolita from Riverside, Calif., writes: My name is Lolita Anderson. I am Dres Anderson's mother. I am so elated! Thank you so much for my son's recognition. You absolutely made our family's Christmas! By the way what rubric do you use when making these decisions? This is Awesome!!! Go Airforce! Go Utes!!

Ted Miller: Most of it has to do with on-field performance.

But some of it is based on having a cool mom.

Jones to Arizona State heating up

December, 7, 2011
Arizona State is preparing to announce that SMU coach June Jones will become the team's next coach, sources told

While the Twitter-sphere has already moved into the analysis phase, Doug Haller of the Arizona Republic reported that a final deal has not yet been signed: "According to sources, both sides are working to iron out final details. As of 11:30 a.m. (MT), ASU had not scheduled a news conference announcing Jones' hire."

Jones, 58, a run-and-shoot specialist, has rebuilt two losing college programs into bowl teams: Hawaii and SMU. He led Hawaii to the Sugar Bowl in 2007. He also was an NFL coach with the San Diego Chargers and Atlanta Falcons.

This season, SMU went 7-5 overall and 5-3 in Conference USA. The Mustangs will play Pittsburgh in the BBVA Compass bowl on Jan. 7.

Final Pac-12 NFL draft tally

May, 1, 2011
The Pac-12 provided 37 players to the NFL draft over the weekend, one fewer than the SEC, which led all conferences.

If the six combined picks from Colorado and Utah are taken away from the conference, the old Pac-10 provided NFL teams 3.1 draft picks per team, also just behind the SEC at 3.17.

Here's where the Pac-12 players went:

First round
No. 8 Jake Locker, QB, Washington: Tennessee
No. 9 Tyron Smith., OT, USC: Dallas
No. 17 Nate Solder, OT, Colorado: New England
No. 24 Cameron Jordan, DE, California: New Orleans
No. 27 Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado: Baltimore

Second round
7. Akeem Ayers, LB, UCLA: Tennessee
10. Brooks Reed, DE, Arizona: Houston
13. Rahim Moore, FS, UCLA: Denver
21. Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State: Chicago
24. Shane Vereen, RB, California: New England

Third round
13. Jurrell Casey, DT, USC: Tennessee
20. Mason Foster, LB, Washington: Tampa Bay
25. Shareece Wright, CB, USC: San Diego
29. Christopher Conte, S, California: Chicago
33. Sione Fua, DT, Stanford: Carolina

Fourth round
5. Jordan Cameron, TE, USC: Cleveland
19. Casey Matthews, LB, Oregon: Philadelphia
21. Jalil Brown, CB, Colorado: Kansas City
27. Owen Marecic, FB, Stanford: Cleveland

Fifth round
8. Brandon Burton, CB, Utah: Minnesota
9. Gabe Miller, DE, Oregon State: Kansas City
14. Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, Oregon State: Atlanta
23. Richard Sherman, CB, Stanford: Seattle

Sixth round
2. Ryan Whalen, WR, Stanford: Cincinnati
14. Caleb Schlauderaff, OG, Utah: Green Bay
17. Ronald Johnson, WR, USC: San Francisco
19. David Carter, DT, UCLA: Arizona
22. Allen Bradford, RB, USC: Tampa Bay
24. Mike Mohamed, LB, California: Denver
32. Ricky Elmore, DE, Arizona: Green Bay
38. Zach Williams, C, Washington State: Carolina

Seventh round
12. D'Aundre Reed, DE, Arizona: Minnesota
24. Scotty McKnight, WR, Colorado: New York Jets
30. Lawrence Guy, DT, Arizona State: Green Bay
37. Stanley Havili, FB, USC: Philadelphia
38. David Ausberry, WR, USC: Oakland
39. Malcolm Smith, LB, USC: Seattle

By Pac-12 school:
Arizona (3)
Arizona State (1)
California (4)
Colorado (4)
Oregon (1)
Oregon State (3)
Stanford (4)
UCLA (3)
USC (9)
Utah (2)
Washington (2)
Washington State (1)

The final tally by automatic qualifying conferences:
SEC... 38
Pac-12... 37
Big Ten... 36
ACC... 35
Big East 22
Big 12...19

Nebraska was a big swing to the Big Ten from the Big 12 with seven picks. With Colorado and Nebraska, the Big 12 provided 30 selections.

This was the tally through three rounds:
SEC: 20
ACC: 19
Pac-12: 15
Big Ten: 13
Big 12: 9
Big East: 4

Updating Pac-12 in NFL draft

April, 30, 2011
Here's where things stand for the Pac-12 through three rounds of the NFL draft.

First round
No. 8 Jake Locker, QB, Washington: Tennessee
No. 9 Tyron Smith., OT, USC: Dallas
No. 17 Nate Solder, OT, Colorado: New England
No. 24 Cameron Jordan, DE, California: New Orleans
No. 27 Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado: Baltimore

Second round
7. Akeem Ayers, LB, UCLA: Tennessee
10. Brooks Reed, DE, Arizona: Houston
13. Rahim Moore, FS, UCLA: Denver
21. Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State: Chicago
24. Shane Vereen, RB, California: New England

Third round
13. Jurrell Casey, DT, USC: Tennessee
20. Mason Foster, LB, Washington: Tampa Bay
25. Shareece Wright, CB, USC: San Diego
29. Christopher Conte, S, California: Chicago
33. Sione Fua, DT, Stanforrd: Carolina

Through three rounds by conference (with Nebraska in the Big Ten and Colorado and Utah in the Pac-12):

SEC: 20
ACC: 19
Pac-12: 15
Big Ten: 13
Big 12: 9
Big East: 4

Note: The old Pac-10 has 13 without two first-round picks from Colorado. Big Ten has 12 without Nebraska. Big 12 has 12 if Colorado and Nebraska are included.

Former NFL executive to run title game

April, 18, 2011
Longtime NFL executive Jim Steeg has been hired by the Pac-10 "as a consultant to help plan and execute the inaugural Pac-12 Football Championship game," the conference announced today.

The news release says Steeg "built the Super Bowl into the world’s premier sporting event and managed all special events for the NFL, including championship games, the Pro Bowl and the Draft."

So it would seem commissioner Larry Scott continues to aggressively court top talent -- and make major changes -- as the conference moves into a new era.

The Pac-10, which officially becomes the Pac-12 on July 1, will host its first-ever football championship game at the home stadium of the team with the best overall conference record. The game is tentatively scheduled for Dec. 3, 2011 at 3:30 p.m. ET. Steeg will serve as the Director of the Pac-12 Football Championship Game.

Steeg spent 35 years with the NFL, including 26 in charge of special events, where he grew the Super Bowl from a championship football game to a week-long extravaganza featuring signature events, including The NFL Experience. Steeg served as COO of the San Diego Chargers from 2004-2010. He left the Chargers in March of 2010.

You can read the rest of the news release here.

Six from Pac-12 in latest Kiper mock draft

February, 16, 2011
Mel Kiper has done his second mock draft for this spring's NFL draft, and it features six Pac-12 players.

While no conference player is projected to be among the first 10 picks, there's a strong presence over the first round's second half.

The Pac-12 players Kiper projects ending up in the first round are:

No. 13: Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado (Detroit)
No. 17: Cameron Jordan, DE, California (New England)
No. 18: Tyron Smith, OT, USC (San Diego)
No. 19: Nate Solder, OT, Colorado (New York Giants)
No. 21: Akeem Ayers, DE, UCLA (Kansas City)
No. 30: Rahim Moore, S, UCLA (New York Jets)

Pick six? Pac-10 in McShay mock draft

November, 10, 2010
ESPN draft guru Todd McShay has released his first mock 2011 NFL draft Insider, and he projects six Pac-10 players to be selected in the first round.

Those picks are as follows:

No. 1: Stanford QB Andrew Luck (Buffalo Bills)

No. 8 Washington QB Jake Locker (Minnesota Vikings)

No. 11 UCLA LB Akeem Ayers (San Diego Chargers)

No. 13 Oregon State DT Stephen Paea (St. Louis Rams)

No. 28 California DE Cameron Jordan (New England Patriots)

No. 30 UCLA S Rahim Moore (Baltimore Ravens)

Pac-10 lunch links: UCLA QB Brehaut gets first-team reps

August, 13, 2010
You see, Jason was my son, and today is his birthday.

Don't be surprised if ... Oregon State

August, 3, 2010
Seventh in a series of Pac-10 thoughts that might come from unusual angles (You can see Oregon State's 2009 prediction here).

Don't be surprised if ... Beavers offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf becomes a hot head-coaching candidate when new starting quarterback Ryan Katz posts surprisingly strong numbers this fall.

If the above line is giving you a sense of deja vu, it should. We wrote the same thing about Sonny Dykes last year, and Arizona's offensive coordinator was hired this past offseason as Louisiana Tech's head coach.

Langsdorf, who doubles as the Beavers' quarterbacks coach, will be a head coach within the next two years -- at least he should be -- and if Katz puts up impressive numbers as a first-year starter, a sharp AD somewhere will snatch him away from what many feel is the Pac-10's best collection of assistant coaches before the 2011 season.

Why? In his six seasons as offensive coordinator, the Beavers have posted five of their top-nine all-time seasons of total offense.

Remember the early careers of quarterbacks Matt Moore, Sean Canfield and Lyle Moevao? One word: Yucky. Remember their late careers? Two words: Dramatic transformation. Canfield earned first-team All-Pac-10 honors in 2009 and joined Moore in the NFL.

The fly sweep with James Rodgers and the "Wild Beaver" formation with Jacquizz Rodgers lining up at quarterback? Those innovations were executed by Langsdorf, who took over play-calling duties from head coach Mike Riley midway through the 2008 season.

Langsdorf is young enough -- 38 -- to be young and old enough to be experienced (14 years coaching, with three years in the NFL and CFL). Character? In 2007, he donated a kidney to Laurie Cavanaugh, the wife of Beavers offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh.

And, really, isn't it time that Riley developed a coaching tree? Is there any college coach who is a better role model for the best way to be?

Langsdorf learned to evaluate talent from Riley, who's built a top-25 program and NFL pipeline without ever ranking in the top 25 in recruiting. He's learned how to gather and cultivate a loyal, accomplished staff from Riley. He's learned how to win under less-than-ideal circumstances from Riley. He's learned how to conduct himself with class from Riley.

He also probably learned a bit from his father, Ed Langsdorf, who coached at Linfield College in McMinnville, Ore., Danny Langsdorf's alma mater, for 20 years before becoming a scout for the San Diego Chargers.

No assistant coach is a sure thing when he makes the leap to head coach. But Langsdorf feels pretty close to it, particularly in the right circumstances.

If Oregon State surges this year on offense, and Katz stands out as another Langsdorf pupil, it's hard to imagine Langsdorf won't raise more than a few eyebrows among ADs looking for a go-getter to jump-start their program.

A-list position battles: Washington

May, 21, 2010
Ninth in a series taking a look at top position competitions this fall.

Washington: Strongside outside linebacker

Why the competition? With the departure of middle linebacker Donald Butler to the San Diego Chargers, the Huskies have two returning starters at linebacker: Mason Foster and Cort Dennison. Dennison, however, will move from the outside to Butler's former spot, leaving a vacancy on the strong side.

Candidates: Junior Alvin Logan (6-2, 219), senior Matt Houston (6-0, 220) and senior Victor Aiyewa (6-1, 208)

The skinny: With 19 starters back, there aren't many holes in the Huskies' lineup. The big questions at defensive end concern having enough bodies to go two-deep. At outside linebacker, however, there's uncertainty. Logan started 11 games at receiver in 2008 (though he only caught six passes) and was a reserve safety last year. He mostly ran with the first team during spring practices. Houston started one game in 2008 and has seven career tackles. Aiyewa, who started two games at safety in 2009, was in a red no-contact jersey this spring because of a shoulder injury. True freshman Victor Burnett, an early enrollee, was impressive. Though he's projected as a backup in the middle, he might be the Huskies' third-best linebacker. Or, perhaps another freshman will enter the mix in the fall.

Pac-10 lunch links: Reggie Bush's magical lawyer

May, 13, 2010
Go, go, go, go, go, go, go,
Go shorty, it's ya birthday
We gon' party like it's ya birthday.