Pac-12: Terrence Miller

There were 34 Pac-12 players selected during the NFL draft, but there will be more than twice that many rookies in NFL training camps this summer. Shortly after the draft ended, the dominoes started falling and those who went undrafted started signing free-agent contracts.

The following list of undrafted free agent signings, which was compiled from various announcements and media reports, could change in the coming days:

Arizona
Arizona State
California
Note: K Vincenzo D'Amato will reportedly attend Green Bay's rookie minicamp.

Colorado
Oregon
Oregon State
Stanford
Notes: S Devon Carrington (Pittsburgh) and LB Jarek Lancaster (Oakland) will attend rookie minicamps.

UCLA
USC
Utah
Notes: DT LT Tuipulotu will attend Green Bay's rookie minicamp and C Vyncent Jones told the Deseret News he will attend minicamps for Pittsburgh and Kansas City.

Washington
Note: S Sean Parker will reportedly attend Washington Redskins rookie minicamp.

Washington State
Note: K Andrew Furney will attend Seattle Seahawks rookie minicamp.

Spring position breakdowns: TE

February, 28, 2014
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Our look at position groups in the Pac-12 continues.

Arizona: Terrence Miller was listed on the team's depth chart as a tight end, but he wasn't a traditional tight end. After catching 40 passes for 467 yards in 2013, he's out of eligibility. Former quarterback Josh Kern backed up Miller and is one of four tight ends listed on the roster.

Arizona State: Chris Coyle (29 catches, 423 yards, 4 TD) is a big loss for the Sun Devils and his primary backup, Darwin Rogers, also is out of eligibility. De'Marieya Nelson and Marcus Washington are the most experienced of the four tight ends on the roster, which will grow by one with the addition of recent signee Brendan Landman. Landman is expected to redshirt after playing left tackle during his senior year in high school.

California: There is no tight end position in Cal's offense, which was a factor in Richard Rodgers' early jump to the NFL. Rodgers was switched from tight end to wide receiver last season upon coach Sonny Dykes' arrival.

Colorado: Senior Kyle Slavin is atop the depth chart after catching nine passes in 2013. Sean Irwin played minimally as a freshman, but his role is set to increase. Three other tight ends are on the roster, including Connor Center, who did not play football in high school.

[+] EnlargePharaoh Brown
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesOregon's Pharoah Brown made 10 catches, two for touchdowns, in 2013.
Oregon: The Ducks have a trio of players who gained significant experience in 2013 in Pharaoh Brown, Johnny Mundt and Evan Baylis. Brown started five games, Mundt had a 121-yard receiving game and Baylis started in the Civil War game against Oregon State. Koa Ka'ai and Davaysia Hagger will provide depth, but they don't appear on track to make much of an impact on the depth chart.

Oregon State: With Connor Hamlett and Caleb Smith both returning, the Beavers arguably have the best tight end tandem in the conference. Hamlett had 40 catches for 364 yards and Smith added 25 for 343 yards. Kellen Clute (19 catches, 159 yards) also contributed to the passing game and Tyler Perry, who will be a fifth-year senior, is an important run-blocker.

Stanford: A one-time strength of the Cardinal, tight ends weren't a significant factor in Stanford's offense in 2013, but the staff is hopeful that an influx of new players will change that. Stanford signed No. 1-ranked TE-Y Dalton Schultz, and he'll compete for playing time immediately. Greg Taboada, Eric Cotton and Austin Hooper -- all well-regarded tight end recruits -- are coming off redshirts and will compete with Charlie Hopkins, who started three games last season.

UCLA: There is no traditional tight end at UCLA, but Y receiver Thomas Duarte, who was recruited as a tight end, is coming off an exceptional freshman season. The 6-foot-3, 221-pound Orange County native appeared in all 13 games and tied a school freshman record with three touchdown receptions.

USC: Losing Xavier Grimble early to the NFL is a blow and just two other scholarship tight ends remain from last season: Randall Telfer and Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick. One of the nation's top tight ends, Bryce Dixon, signed with USC, but he wasn't among the group of four early enrollees.

Utah: The Utes were the only school in the country to send two tight ends -- Jake Murphy and Anthony Denham -- to the NFL combine, though Utah listed Denham at receiver. Siale Fakailoatonga, a former walk-on, was Murphy's primary backup on the final depth chart, and he caught two passes for 18 yards in 2013. Harrison Handley redshirted last season after enrolling early last spring and is a candidate to compete for playing time.

Washington: John Mackey Award winner Austin Seferian-Jenkins' departure for the NFL was expected, and how the Huskies replace him will be an interesting process. Clearly, there's not a one-man solution for what they'll lose with Seferian-Jenkins, but the combination that the returning players provide is a nice mix of different talents. Michael Hartvigson and Josh Perkins have the most experience at tight end, but they should receive a push from Darrell Daniels and David Ajamu. Daniels, a highly-regarded receiver recruit who switched to tight end, was a special-teams standout in 2013 as a freshman, while Ajamu redshirted.

Washington State: Washington State didn't list any tight ends on the roster last season, but early enrollee Nick Begg will start his career listed there. The long-term plan for Begg is likely elsewhere.

Previous positions
Quarterback
Running back
Receiver
Offensive line

What we learned in the Pac-12: Week 1

September, 1, 2013
9/01/13
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A look at what we learned about the Pac-12 in Week 1.

Keith Price
AP Photo/Ted S. WarrenWashington's Keith Price dazzled in his 2013 debut, throwing for 324 yards and two TDs.
Washington looks to be legit: Per my co-blogger, Washington quarterback Keith Price was “lights out” in his performance against Boise State. Bishop Sankey picked up where he left off last season, and the defense kept the Broncos out of the end zone. For those nervous about letting their expectations get raised, go ahead and raise them. Oh yeah, and you get the best tight end in the country back next week.

Andy Phillips is now a household name: In his first career game, the redshirt freshman kicker from Utah went 3-for-3, including a 45-yarder on his first career kick -- and executed a perfect onside kick to swing the momentum in the Utes’ victory over in-state rival Utah State.

USC QB TBD: Is it going to be Cody Kessler or Max Wittek at USC? What we learned is we didn’t learn much. Neither looked particularly sharp as USC struggled offensively against Hawaii. Kessler was 10-of-19 for 95 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Wittek was 5-of-10 for 77 yards. Both seemed constrained by a conservative gameplan of short throws and swing passes.

Oregon likes to run (well, duh): Three different Ducks eclipsed the 100-yard mark: De’Anthony Thomas, Marcus Mariota and Byron Marshall. In all, the Ducks rushed for 500 yards and a robust 11.1 yards per carry against Nicholls State. It marked the first time in school history three players went for 100 yards in the same game. Yes, it was Nicholls State, but you have to figure rushing records are getting harder and harder to break at Oregon.

DAT the featured back? New Oregon coach Mark Helfrich had been fairly noncommittal when talking about how Thomas would be used. He looked the part of an every-down back Saturday night, carrying 18 times for 128 yards and two touchdowns. The 18 carries were a career high.

Utah’s depth will be tested: For the second season in a row, the Utes lost a big-name player for the year at the hands of Utah State. Wide receiver Kenneth Scott will miss the rest of the season after suffering a leg injury in the first quarter. Others will have to step up. Sean Fitzgerald looked pretty good in relief, catching five balls for 79 yards.

They’re serious about this ejection thing: The NCAA’s new targeting rule, which went into effect this season, can lead to an ejection on the spot if the official deems it a head-to-head hit. The first big-name casualty was Oregon cornerback Terrance Mitchell, who makes up half of Oregon’s outstanding cornerback tandem with Ifo Ekpre-Olomu. Miller was ejected late in the first quarter of Oregon’s win over Nicholls State.

Really, Beavers? Maybe more of the offseason focus should have been on the defense, and less about the quarterback competition. Sean Mannion played brilliantly. The defense, not so much, allowing Eastern Washington quarterback Vernon Adams to throw for 411 yards and run for 107. Not that it bears repeating, but this is the second time in three seasons the Beavers have opened the season with a loss to an FCS team.

We’re not done yet: One more game on the Week 1 docket with Colorado and Colorado State squaring off Sunday in Denver.

The Cougs looked better: A gutty effort in SEC country from Washington State, which went toe-to-toe with Auburn before falling 31-24. Turnovers continue to be a curse and three interceptions from Connor Halliday, including one in the red zone in the fourth quarter, contributed to WSU’s downfall.

Speaking of turnovers: In its nine games (Colorado pending), the Pac-12 won the turnover battle, 15-11. When the Pac-12 tied in turnovers (Utah, Cal, Oregon State, Washington), it was 2-2. When it won the turnover battle (Arizona, Oregon, USC), it was 3-0, and when it lost the turnover battle (UCLA, Washington State), it was 1-1.

Special teams had special plays: See Vincenzo D’Amato’s pass to Jackson Bouza on the fake field goal (one of the more creative give-and-gos I’ve seen). See UCLA’s punt block for a touchdown against Nevada. See Phillips’ performance.

Speaking of special: After posting the worst field-goal percentage in college football last year (67.9 percent) the Pac-12 kickers came out swinging in Week 1, converting on 14 of 17 attempts (82 percent).

Arizona Wildcats season preview

August, 21, 2013
8/21/13
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We conclude our day-by-day snapshots of each Pac-12 team heading into the 2013 season in reverse alphabetical order with the Arizona Wildcats.

Arizona

Coach: Rich Rodriguez (83-53, 8-5 at Arizona)

[+] EnlargeRich Rodriguez
AP Photo/John MillerLast season Rich Rodriguez's offense scored 38 points per game, but his defense gave up 35.
2012 record: 8-5 (4-5 Pac-12 South)

Key losses: QB Matt Scott, WR Dan Buckner, C Kyle Quinn, DL Dominique Austin, OL Trace Biskin.

Key returnees: RB Ka'Deem Carey, RB Daniel Jenkins, LB Jake Fischer, LB Marquis Flowers, WR Terrence Miller, OL Fabbians Ebbele, OL Mickey Baucus, OL Chris Putton.

Newcomer to watch: The Wildcats have put an emphasis on building defensive depth, so look for linebacker Scooby Wright to contribute immediately. The all-state performer out of Cardinal Newman (Windsor, Calif.) has impressed so far in camp.

Biggest games in 2013: With UCLA, USC and ASU getting the bulk of the hype in the Pac-12 South, the Wildcats will have to pull off some upsets if they want to be in contention. That makes all three (at USC Oct. 10, vs. UCLA Nov. 9, at ASU Nov. 30) critical. Of course, the ASU game is the biggest of all.

Biggest question mark: Next week is game week, and the Wildcats are still in quarterback limbo. It was thought that B.J. Denker and Jesse Scroggins would be the front-runners, but neither has pulled away and Javelle Allen, Anu Solomon and Nick Isham have all kept pace. They’ve all shared close to equal reps in camp, so at least there is continuity with the receivers seeing all of the QBs (Denker is the only lefty). The fact that the Wildcats have a fairly easy nonconference schedule bodes well. Rodriguez has already said it’s possible he could start three different quarterbacks the first three weeks before Arizona opens league play on the road at Washington on Sept. 28. There are a few more practices coming up before the Wildcats get into “game week” mode, so every rep will count.

Forecast: It hasn’t been the greatest offseason for the Wildcats. The opening of the new facility and a couple of awesome! videos (Part I and Part II) were overshadowed by Carey’s off-field indiscretions, the loss of wide receiver Austin Hill to injury and the departure of receiver Tyler Slavin. Once thought to be their strongest position group, the Wildcats now find themselves struggling with some wide receiver depth.

Terrence Miller, Garic Wharton and Johnny Jackson make up a solid starting three, and David Richards, though hampered by injuries, is a solid 3B. And Jenkins can be a do-it-all guy, but it’s still an area of concern.

Matt Scott was obviously a huge part of the offense. And he and Carey complemented each other nicely. It will be interesting to see if Carey continues his outstanding pace with a new quarterback. The belief is that there will be just as much passing as last season, and given Arizona’s scheme, it’s unlikely Carey will be seeing many eight- and nine-man boxes.

The offensive line should also be solid. Quinn was an underappreciated center and he’ll be missed, but Ebbele, Baucus and Putton (who will be plugged in as needed) make up a strong troika.

Defensively, the question is if this group, which returns virtually every starter from last year, got better. Fischer and Flowers are legit playmakers, and you’d think a second year in the 3-3-5 will help. As explosive as the Wildcats were offensively, the defense gave up more than 35 points a game -- ranking 102nd nationally. Fortunately, the offense averaged better than 38 points per game.

Arizona is an extremely intriguing team. If Rodriguez can make the quarterback spot plug-and-play, and Scott’s production can be mostly replicated, that will take a lot of pressure off Carey, who could be in for another big season. And, if the defense is improved, the offense won’t have to feel like it has to win every game.

But those are two big ifs.

Video: Arizona WR Terrence Miller

August, 13, 2013
8/13/13
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Arizona receiver Terrence Miller talks about missing the 2012 season, his role in the passing game and the Wildcats QB competition.

Pac-12 media day primer

July, 12, 2013
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Two weeks and counting. Ted and I are gearing up for media day. Are you? Here's what you should know.

When: July 26

Where: Sony Studios, Los Angeles

Who will be there (all times PT):
UPDATE: Arizona State informed me Friday morning that it has decided to bring Will Sutton instead of safety Alden Darby. This is a good thing because Sutton was the league's defensive player of the year last season, and his presence helps bolster his name -- and the program -- in the eyes of the national media.

Who won’t be there: The biggest name missing is Arizona running back Ka'Deem Carey, who led the nation in rushing last season. Coaches tend to bring veterans and guys with experience. Yankey is a great spokesman for Stanford and a good candidate, but I know others wouldn't mind hearing some thoughts from Cardinal QB Kevin Hogan.

Five storylines:
  1. Hitting? Scott is expected to announce the league's health and safety initiative, which will limit how much hitting can be done in practice. This isn't a new concept, but the league jumped in front of it by being the first to make a conference-wide mandate.
  2. Bowl updates? We know the status of the Rose, Alamo, Holiday, Kraft Fight Hunger and Sun bowls. Not sure if the rest of the lineup for beyond this season will be announced at media day. But one of us will ask.
  3. New coaches: This is the meet-the-world opportunity for the new head coaches in the league: Dykes, MacIntyre and Helfrich. Expect the requisite questions on the difficulty of changing cultures and rebuilding programs.
  4. Preseason poll: Is there any fodder better than preseason polls? Oregon or Stanford? Stanford or Oregon? ASU, UCLA or USC? Your Pac-12 bloggers will be submitting their ballots this weekend after a visit to the Oracle of Delphi, a seance channeling Nostradamus and a dartboard.
  5. Quirky questions: With the access of media day comes the spectacle of media day. Granted, it's not as bad as some of the quirks at Super Bowl media day. But there's bound to be a couple of left-field questions -- and they'll probably be directed at Leach, who is great and usually has fun with them. Last year he was asked which Pac-12 coach he'd go hunting with and which Civil War generals he'd compare some of his players to.

Ted and I will be trying something new this year (we think). Instead of the on-the-stage posts, we'll be doing a live chat during the entire stage session and bringing you info real time. So take note of the times (in Pacific, to save you the math) and be ready to interact.

Proving grounds: Pac-12 South

July, 11, 2013
7/11/13
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Some players come in with plenty of hype, but never quite seem to match it. Others have a great season, then slip the following one, leaving many to wonder if they were one-year wonders. Still others have to bounce back from injury and show they aren't shells of what they used to be.

Either way, there are plenty of players in the Pac-12 with something to prove in 2013. Yesterday we looked at six players from the North. Here are six players with something to prove from the Pac-12 South. This is last year's Proving Grounds post for the South. (The Pac-12 blog fully expects Will Sutton to thank us in his Heisman acceptance speech after that post motivated him last year).

Terrence Miller, WR, Arizona: Injury and attrition have eaten away at what could have been considered the top wide-receiver corps in the Pac-12 coming into 2013. But Austin Hill's injury and Tyler Slavin's unscheduled departure leaves a void that wasn't accounted for. Enter Miller, a fifth-year senior who has the experience to put the unit on his back and lead. He might even see some time at tight end and try to take advantage of mismatches. There are others who could step up. And others probably will. After all, Arizona's offense lends itself to productive wide-receiver play. But in times of uncertainty -- and there is a lot more uncertainty with this group than there was five months ago -- you look to veterans. And Miller is a veteran.

Alden Darby, S, Arizona State: It's easy to get caught up in talking about what Arizona State has coming back on defense with Will Sutton and Carl Bradford. But let's not forget that the Sun Devils lose Brandon Magee and Keelan Johnson. Not only were they the team's two leading tacklers last year, but they were also the verbal and emotional leaders of the defense. Sutton is a lead-by-example guy, so the Sun Devils need a voice for the defense. That falls on Darby -- and ASU coaches have said that he has embraced the role. Darby was second-team all-conference last year, so the skills are there. But Arizona State faces an extremely challenging schedule in 2013 -- especially early on -- so leadership will be paramount, and the players will be looking to Darby to bring it to them.

[+] EnlargePaul Richardson
Ron Chenoy/USA TODAY SportsReceiver Paul Richardson lost all of last season to injury, and Colorado's offense suffered as a result.
Paul Richardson, WR, Colorado: Richardson brings everything Colorado needed on offense last season: speed, the ability to stretch the field, speed, veteran leadership, speed. Is one wide receiver going to change the fortunes of a team? Probably not. Even the best wide receiver in the country could only do so much for USC. The Buffs did the best they could under tough circumstances last season. With a new coaching staff, some semblance of stability at quarterback (presumably) and a motivated Richardson, the Buffs should see their offensive production improve. When he's healthy, Richardson is one of the elite offensive playmakers in the league. At least that's what we said all last season when he wasn't on the field. Now is his chance to show it.

Shaq Evans, WR, UCLA: Tough to say the Bruins' leading receiver from last season has something to prove. And maybe that's the wrong choice of words. But without question, UCLA needs bigger things out of him. As quarterback Brett Hundley enters his second season as a starter, he's not going to have the security blanket in the run game that he did with Johnathan Franklin. Nor will he have the towering red zone target that he did in Joseph Fauria. Evans caught 60 balls for 877 yards last year. Very solid numbers. But of Hundley's 29 touchdown passes last year, only three went to Evans. Evans was a good wide receiver who last season showed that he could stretch the field -- as evidenced by his 14.6 yards per catch. But in this offense, with this quarterback, Evans has a chance to elevate himself into the class of the Pac-12's elite pass-catchers.

Silas Redd, RB, USC: From 1972-1981, USC posted a 1,000-yard rusher every season. Charles White and Marcus Allen were 2,000-yard rushers. Since 1981, only 11 Trojans have eclipsed 1,000 yards. Redd could be -- should be -- the next guy to do it. With the offense flowing mostly through Marqise Lee and Robert Woods last season, USC was seventh in the Pac-12 in rushing offense with 1,958 yards. But the Trojans were 11th in rushing touchdowns, better only than Washington State. Probably not by coincidence, they were 11th in red zone offense and ninth in third-down conversions. Coach Lane Kiffin was pinned as being too predictable as a playcaller last season. If Redd is let loose, 1,000 yards is very attainable. He did it in 2011, rushing for 1,241 yards while at Penn State. He's a hard-nosed back who averaged more than 5 yards per carry in seven games last year. Give him 250 carries, he'll give you 1,000 yards and open up a world of opportunities for Lee, Nelson Agholor and the tight-end combo of Xavier Grimble and Randall Telfer.

Kelvin York, RB, Utah: It's no easy task to replace John White, the school's all-time leading rusher. But for new co-coordinator Dennis Erickson's spread offense to take flight, there has to be the ever-present threat of a running game. And the pressure will be on York to keep safeties honest. At 5-foot-11, 220 pounds, he has the kind of frame to be a bruising back in this league. Think of how Erickson used Cameron Marshall -- who had a similar build -- at Arizona State. In 2012, York's first season at Utah, he saw 10 or more carries in only four games, finishing the year with 60 carries for 273 yards (4.6 average) and three touchdowns. With White out of the picture, York's workload will increase significantly. And if Utah wants to make gains offensively, its best hope is that York is able to take some of the pressure off of Travis Wilson, who will begin his first season as a full-time starting quarterback.

Media day lineup set

June, 18, 2013
6/18/13
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Last week, Ted gave you the rundown of which Pac-12 players will be attending media day on July 26. Now the on-stage lineup has been set.

We'll be there to bring you each team's summary "On stage..." post like we did last year, as well as "Seen and Heard" posts, a multi-story notebook and plenty of videos.

We can't make any promises that the entire Google-web won't collapse and Utah's "On Stage" post won't disappear like it did last year (Ted still feels really bad about that one), but he told me he's going to slip the IT guy at Sony Studios a $20 just in case. (Anyone needing a refresher on that story can check out the final question from this mailbag last year.)

Here's the lineup so you can start planning ahead.

9 a.m. Larry Scott, Pac-12 Commissioner

9:15 a.m. Washington State - Coach Mike Leach, Elliott Bosch (OL), Deone Bucannon (DB)

9:30 a.m. California - Coach Sonny Dykes, Bryce Treggs (WR), Nick Forbes (LB)

9:45 a.m. Washington - Coach Steve Sarkisian, Keith Price (QB), Sean Parker (DB)

10:00 a.m. Oregon State - Coach Mike Riley, Brandin Cooks (WR), Rashaad Reynolds (DB)

10:15 a.m. Oregon - Coach Mark Helfrich, Marcus Mariota (QB), Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (CB)

10:30 a.m. Stanford - Coach David Shaw, David Yankey (OL), Shayne Skov (LB)

10:45 a.m. Break

11:00 a.m. Colorado - Coach Mike MacIntyre, Paul Richardson (WR), Chidera Uzo-Diribe (DE)

11:15 a.m. Utah - Coach Kyle Whittingham, Jake Murphy (TE), Trevor Reilly (DE)

11:30 a.m. Arizona - Coach Rich Rodriguez, Terrence Miller (WR), Jake Fischer (LB)

11:45 a.m. USC - Coach Lane Kiffin, Marqise Lee (WR), Hayes Pullard (LB)

12:00 p.m. Arizona State - Coach Todd Graham, Taylor Kelly (QB), Alden Darby (S)

12:15 p.m. UCLA - Coach Jim Mora, Xavier Su’a Filo (OL), Anthony Barr (LB)

Pac-12 players attending media day

June, 13, 2013
6/13/13
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The official start to the countdown to the Pac-12 College Football Season begins for most media folks at media day (for the Pac-12 blog, there is no start or finish line, just one continuous super-marathon of joy).

This year Pac-12 media day is Friday, July 26 at the Sony Studios Lot in Culver City, Calif. The Pac-12 coaches will be in Bristol, Conn., talking to ESPN folks the two days before the LA event, and yours truly will also be there, making himself profoundly annoying.

In LA, Kevin and I will be there, diligently polishing the bland overflow of verbiage into shiny nuggets of fun and useful information.

But the chief question on your mind is this: Who shall tell you reporters about how offseason workouts were the best IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD and that this team has great chemistry and leadership?

Glad you asked. Each team brings its coach and two players, one offense, one defense.

And here they are:
Arizona: LB Jake Fischer, WR Terrence Miller
Arizona State: QB Taylor Kelly, S Alden Darby
California: WR Bryce Treggs, LB Nick Forbes
Colorado: WR Paul Richardson, DE Chidera Uzo-Diribe
Oregon: QB Marcus Mariota, CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu
Oregon State: WR Brandin Cooks, CB Rashaad Reynolds
Stanford: OG David Yankey, LB Shayne Skov
UCLA: OLB Anthony Barr, OG Xavier Su'a-Filo
USC: WR Marqise Lee, LB Hayes Pullard
Utah: TE Jake Murphy, DE Trevor Reilly
Washington: QB Keith Price, S Sean Parker
Washington State: S Deone Bucannon, C Elliott Bosch

The most glaring omission is Arizona State defensive tackle Will Sutton, who is only the defending Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year. The second most glaring is Arizona running back Ka'Deem Carey, who only led the nation in rushing last year.

Carey's excuse is offseason, off-field trouble. He's not talked to reporters since a series of knuckle-headed events. Many of you might recall his last public quote not being particularly admirable.

Sutton's omission was coach Todd Graham's decision, according to the Sun Devils sports information department, though it's no secret Sutton isn't a huge fan of interviews, despite being pretty good at them and never receiving any bad publicity (at least that comes to mind).

Darby was selected for his "leadership." The problem with that explanation is it chips away at Sutton, fairly or unfairly, as in: Is he not a good leader, too? And everyone wants to talk to Sutton, a preseason All-American who notably opted to return for his senior season instead of entering the NFL draft.

Things certainly will be quieter at Arizona State's table. If Sutton attended, many of the reporters on hand would have written, "Will Sutton is unblockable and Arizona State is going to be good" stories. Now they won't, which means less buzz for the team.

Does it matter? It certainly won't blow up a season. But there are probably a few AP voters on the East Coast who will, as a result, know less about the Sun Devils before they fill out their preseason ballots. In college football, where you start does matter in terms of where you finish.

Arizona Wildcats spring wrap

May, 8, 2013
5/08/13
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ARIZONA WILDCATS

2012 record: 8-5
2012 conference record: 4-5 (fourth in South Division)
Returning starters: Offense: 6; defense: 11; kicker/punter: 0

Top returners
RB Ka'Deem Carey, WR David Richards, LB Jake Fischer, LB Marquis Flowers, WR Terrence Miller, OL Fabbians Ebbele, OL Mickey Baucus.

Key losses
QB Matt Scott, WR Dan Buckner, C Kyle Quinn, DL Dominique Austin, OL Trace Biskin.

2012 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Ka'Deem Carey* (1,929 yards)
Passing: Matt Scott (3,620 yards)
Receiving: Austin Hill* (1,364, suffered ACL tear in spring, out indefinitely)
Tackles: Jake Fischer* (119)
Sacks: Marquis Flowers* (5.5)
Interceptions: Marquis Flowers* and Jonathan McKnight* (3)

Spring answers

1. Plenty of weapons: Yes, Austin Hill's injury is brutal. Yes, it's a big blow to the Wildcats. Is it a game-changer? Maybe, maybe not. It's not like the Cats are strapped for receiving options. Johnny Jackson, David Richards, Tyler Slavin and Garic Wharton still make up an awfully formidable receiving corps. If a couple emerge, Arizona will be OK. If they all do, the Wildcats might not miss a beat.

2. The whole defense returns: Great -- except that the defense struggled last season. Having a ton of starters back is a good thing -- but only if they get better. A second year in the 3-3-5 should naturally lend itself to less thinking and more playing. And it's not just the starting 11. There are 20 defensive players who notched at least one start last season -- so there is depth to go with the experience.

3. O-line rising: It's no easy task replacing center Kyle Quinn. But the good thing about Arizona's line is that its members are versatile and can play multiple positions. Mickey Baucus (LT) and Fabbians Ebbele (RT) started every game last year and Chris Putton started multiple games at both guard spots and can also play center. The five isn't set -- but there is room and depth to mix and match.

Fall questions

1. QB roulette? Unlike with some other Pac-12 teams with quarterback competitions, Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez doesn't want to name his starter and then stand by his man. He could name a different starter the next day. And then a different one the day after that. Rodriguez said he could have three different quarterbacks start the first three weeks of the season. Many feel B.J. Denker had the strongest spring with Jesse Scroggins slowed by injury. Stay tuned.

2. Ready to lead? Did Matt Scott make Ka'Deem Carey look good? Or did Carey make Scott look good? Most think it was a bit of both. With Scott gone and Carey now a national name, the target will be squarely on the chest of last season's national leader in rushing. Carey isn't going to surprise anyone. Can he duplicate 2012's production with the increased attention and a new quarterback at the helm?

3. Injuries stink: That's not so much a fall question as a statement on the olfactory unpleasantness of injuries. The Wildcats had as many as 20 injuries this spring, meaning a lot of players who might not start in the fall got to start in the spring. That's great for depth, but it leaves a lot of holes and a lot of questions still be to be answered when the bulk of those injured players return in the fall.
Happy Friday. The mailbag is a bit longer this week because your questions are just so darn compelling. So snuggle up to the fireplace with your laptop, iPad or Kindle, put on a pot of chamomile (that's what the Pac-12 blog readers drink, right?) and settle in.

As always, follow the blog on Twitter.

Kote in Palo Alto writes (and writes, and writes, and writes): Hi Kevin, First off, I'm thrilled about Stanford football over the past four years. I don't think any Stanford fan isn't, and if they are, they're wrong to be. That said, I am concerned about the coaching staff's alleged conservatism, but it's not the general concern that most people have cited. Instead, I'm specifically concerned about conservatism in situations that call for more spontaneity. The Rose Bowl was a great example of what I mean. Stanford jumped out to a 14-0 lead on some terrific play-calling: the pitch to Terrell who tossed it to JRP, Hogan airing it out to Ertz, and the sweep to Young. Those were great plays, but they were ones that Shaw and Hamilton probably drew up and planned out weeks before. After those first two series, the playcalling got much more conservative, and we never saw the end zone again. Then I thought about the rest of this past year, and particularly Stanford's losses. In both cases, we had a lead, and in both cases the other team came from behind to win it. We can blame Josh Nunes and an anemic offense all we want, but it seemed like things got pretty uncreative at the ends of those games (just think about ND's goal line "stand"). For whatever reason, once Stanford gets beyond the initial game plan, things seem to tighten up a bit, and the result is less scoring. The defense also stops worrying about the long ball or the trick play as well, and that makes the vintage pound-it-up-the-middle strategy less effective, too. This was true in some other games as well -- we didn't score in the second half at all against Cal, and only 3 points in the second half against SJSU. That might be selection bias, but it seemed like a lot of the time this year the offense built a lead at the beginning of the game, and we either clung on for dear life or kicked a last minute field goal or two to get the win or pad the margin. Is it possible that Shaw and his staff are good at drawing up creative plays before the game starts, but that they need to work on the confidence/grit/toughness/whatever to call gutsy plays off the cuff?

Kevin Gemmell: Let’s check the scoreboard:

Pac-12 coach of the year honors for David Shaw: 2

Pac-12 coach of the year honors for Kote from Palo Alto: 0

I poke fun in jest. But hopefully the sentiment is well taken. David Shaw is not an exciting play-caller, nor are the Cardinal built to be the greatest show on turf. He’s a very traditional West Coast offense-minded coach who plays to his strength: strong running backs and a strong offense line. Isn't that what good coaches do? Play to strengths?

That doesn’t mean he can’t mix it up with a fun play every so often. But he’s extremely calculating. Don’t think for a second that someone on their staff hasn’t sabremetricized Stanford’s success/failure ratio on certain plays in certain situations. You cite the Notre Dame game. With that offensive line and that running back, I’d go up the middle four times too. Because the odds of Stanford failing to go four yards on four plays have to be extremely long. (And depending who you ask, they did go 4 yards.)

Allow me to offer an example of gutsy play-calling. Down 23-21 with a little more than five minutes left in the game, Stanford was at the Oregon State 13-yard line. The play-calling brain trust dialed up a post route to Zach Ertz – knowing that he was going to draw man-to-man coverage from Jordan Poyer, arguably the best cover-corner in the league last year with a league high six interceptions. Ertz beat Poyer with a head fake to the corner and caught the 13-yard pass, leading to Stanford’s 27-23 victory. This wasn’t a trick or flashy play – but given the circumstances and the defender, it was a gutsy call. It was taking a chance. It just doesn't meet your definition of "gutsy."

And there is a purpose to those vintage “drive it up the middle” plays. It’s demoralizing to a defense when they get dragged up and down the field. Stanford’s approach last year was to get an early lead, and then grind teams down with long drives. It is a proven formula as old as football itself.

Shaw isn’t totally against trickery, either. We’ve seen a couple of flea flickers. The Wildcat reverse of Andrew Luck to Ty Montgomery against USC in 2011 comes to mind, as does Luck’s one-handed catch. But every risk Shaw takes offensively is extremely calculated and measured.

I appreciate where you are coming from. But the sooner you understand that Mike Martz isn't running the offense and start embracing the smashmouth culture your team has adopted, you'll be able to enjoy their success that much more.

(Read full post)

We've been talking a lot about running backs this week. There was the feature on Washington running back Bishop Sankey. Some chatter about Arizona and looking ahead to Ka'Deem Carey in 2013 and the ESPN conference-call video segment featuring a dapper Pac-12 blogger talking about the running back race at UCLA.

But with some of the league's top backs from 2012 moving on, who is going to be the rushing king of 2013?

Ted Miller: Why do I think Washington's Sankey will lead the Pac-12 in rushing in 2013? First of all, because I think Huskies quarterback Keith Price will play more like Arizona's Matt Scott in 2012 than Keith Price in 2012.

No, I don't think Price will put up spinning slot machine numbers, as Scott did. But I think the Huskies' improved passing game and more experienced offensive line will mean a more efficient Price. That will mean bigger holes for Sankey, who averaged 154.6 yards per game over the last five games of 2012, a per-game total that would have led the nation if extended over the entire season.

[+] EnlargeKa'Deem Carey
Rick Scuteri/US PresswireArizona's Ka'Deem Carey will be trying to put up big rushing numbers with a new QB under center.
Don't buy it? Well, consider what Sankey did last year with Price in the dumps and the Huskies' offensive line shuffling injured players in and out. He rushed for 1,436 yards and 16 touchdowns, and his 110.7 yards per game ranked fourth in the Pac-12 and 21st in the nation.

The three backs in front of Sankey -- Arizona's Carey, Oregon's Kenjon Barner and UCLA's Johnathan Franklin -- each played for an offense that ranked in the nation's top 25. The Huskies' offense ranked 97th in the nation.

Further, Carey, the only other returning Pac-12 back with more than 1,000 yards in 2012, won't have Scott. We don't know who he will have playing quarterback, but there's been little to suggest this spring that the Wildcats will approach Scott's production at the position in the fall.

So I expect Sankey's numbers to go up and Carey's to go down. When the smoke clears, they both likely will be first-team All-Pac-12. But this go-around, Sankey will be 1A and Carey 1B.

Kevin Gemmell: Ted stole my choice! But only because as the guy going first this week, I just assumed he'd go with Carey and I'd slide right in and make all the same arguments in favor of Sankey that he just made. Sneaky, Ted. Very sneaky.

Oh well, I guess that leaves me talking about the guy who actually led all of FBS football last season -- the aforementioned Carey, who totaled 1,929 yards on the ground and a robust 6.4 yards per carry.

I don't think the offensive drop-off at Arizona is going to be as significant as Ted does. Carey certainly benefited from Scott -- but Scott also benefited from Carey. It works both ways.

Whoever wins the quarterback job at Arizona has a deep and talented wide receiver corps to throw to -- including Biletnikoff semifinalist Austin Hill and returners Johnny Jackson, Terrence Miller and Tyler Slavin, among others. This isn't an offense that is suddenly going to flatline because Scott is gone. In fact, by the very nature of the offense Arizona runs, it's likely that Sankey is going to see far more eight-man boxes than Carey. You don't sell out against the run with Hill running sluggos all day.

It's also worth noting that Sankey has to face Stanford, which had the nation's No. 5 rush defense last season, in Palo Alto. The Wildcats miss the Cardinal this season. Sankey had a big game against Stanford last season -- but when we're talking about rushing titles, one game could be the difference, and that's certainly worth considering.

Plus, Washington is hoping to have Jesse Callier back from the knee injury that initially thrust Sankey into the starting role. I'm not saying they'll be by-committee -- but a healthy Callier will certainly cut into Sankey's carries. Great for Washington. But when you're talking rushing titles, that could have a big impact.

I think the Arizona offense takes a natural step back with a new quarterback at the helm. But it's not going to be a giant leap. Carey will get his 300-plus carries again, and the Wildcats should continue to move up and down the field. And if you've got your calendars handy, the two square off Sept. 28 in Seattle. You might want to tune in for that one.

Top performances of 2012: Matt Scott

February, 25, 2013
2/25/13
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We're looking at some of the top individual performances in the Pac-12 in 2012.

Up next: Oh so close

Who and against whom: Arizona quarterback Matt Scott came up on the losing end of an epic overtime shootout with Stanford -- arguably the most entertaining game in the Pac-12 last season. But even in defeat, he did something no other quarterback had done or would do in 2012 -- scorch the mighty Cardinal defense.

The numbers: Scott completed 45 of 69 passes for 491 yards and he tossed three touchdowns.

A closer look: We're dipping into the well on this game again having already recognized the winning quarterback -- Josh Nunes. This game was that epic. Right up until overtime, Scott was having one of the best individual games in the Pac-12 all season. Even his interception in overtime -- which gave the Cardinal the ball and eventually the 54-48 win -- wasn't a wayward throw, it was just tipped at the line (credit to Stanford's Chase Thomas for beating out a couple of teammates in a game of three flies up). But until then, Scott was on. He threw ropes to Austin Hill (11 catches, 165 yards, two touchdowns). His fade touchdown to Terrence Miller was as pretty a pass as you'll see in college football. He completed 65 percent of his throws and tossed three scores against a secondary that allowed just one receiving touchdown or less in 10 games. No quarterback threw more touchdowns in a game against Stanford and no quarterback tossed for more yards in a game against Stanford in 2012. His 491 yards were the second highest passing total in the Pac-12 last season second only to Matt Barkley's 493 against Arizona. Ironically enough, also a losing effort.

How's that for an opener to the bowl season? Twice the Arizona Wildcats overcame three-score deficits -- also recovering an onside kick in the final minute -- to shock Nevada in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl. Here's how it all went down in Albuquerque, N.M.

It was over when: Not until the clock read zeros, seriously. After cutting the score to 48-42 with 42 seconds left, the Wildcats recovered the onside kick at their own 49. They needed only three plays to move 51 yards. With 19 seconds left, Matt Scott connected with Tyler Slavin on a 2-yard pass to tie the score at 48-48, and the PAT from John Bonano was the deciding margin. Nevada quarterback Cody Fajardo was intercepted in the closing seconds to complete Arizona's comeback.

Gutsy call: With 3:20 left in the game and Nevada leading 45-35, Wolf Pack coach Chris Ault opted to go for it on fourth-and-1 at the Arizona 11-yard line. Nevada converted and forced Arizona to use all of its timeouts. Allen Hardison then hit a 25-yard field goal to put Nevada up 48-35, and that appeared to be the clincher. "Appeared" being the operative word.

Second guessing: As good as Ault's call was there, you question burning a timeout to ice Bonano on the go-ahead PAT. It turned out to be meaningless because of the interception, but with 19 seconds left, timeouts could have been very valuable.

Game ball goes to: No questions here. Although much of the attention was on the running backs, Arizona’s Ka'Deem Carey and Nevada’s Stefphon Jefferson, it was Fajardo who turned in a gritty performance. He ran for 139 yards and a touchdown and threw for 255 yards and three touchdowns. Tip of the cap goes to his Arizona counterpart, Scott, who tossed for 369 yards and three TDs and showed a lot of poise on the go-ahead drive.

Unsung hero: Arizona linebacker Marquis Flowers recovered the onside kick that allowed the Wildcats to go ahead -- and came up with the interception with 13 seconds left.

Stat(s) of the game: As expected, plenty of offense. The teams combined for 1,234 yards and 70 first downs (39 from Nevada).

Pac-12 helmet stickers: Week 1

September, 2, 2012
9/02/12
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Helmet stickers are back! And there are some very worthy winners this week. If you forgot the criteria, Ted explains it quite well in this mailbag from a year ago.

On to the stickers:

Johnathan Franklin, UCLA: The Bruins running back rushed for 214 yards (2 yards shy of his career high) and three touchdowns in helping UCLA to a 49-24 win at Rice. Franklin scored on runs of 74, 78 and 22 yards.

Usua Amanam, Stanford: While the Cardinal defense as a whole looked average at best in a 20-17 win over San Jose State, Amanam was head and shoulders above all defensive players, notching six tackles, two sacks, four tackles for loss and a fumble recovery.

Marqise Lee, USC: The wide receiver took USC's first offensive play 75 yards for a touchdown and never looked back. He finished with 10 catches for 190 yards and a touchdown, but also returned a kickoff 100 yards for a score in a 49-10 win over Hawaii.

De'Anthony Thomas, Oregon: Can you imagine what this guy could have done if he actually played for more than a quarter and a half? He caught four balls for 55 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 64 yards and a score on three carries -- including a 33-yard touchdown run during Oregon's 57-34 win over Arkansas State.

Matt Scott, Arizona: The Wildcats' quarterback came up big in overtime, connecting with Terrence Miller on a 10-yard pass to give Rich Rodriguez a 24-17 victory in his Arizona debut. He completed 30 of 46 passes for 384 yards and two scores and also rushed 14 times for 74 yards.

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