Pac-12: Toby Turpin

Opening camp: Washington State

August, 8, 2010
8/08/10
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Washington State opens preseason camp today. Here's a quick look.

Who's back: Eight starters on offense, six starters on defense and both specialists.

Big names: Quarterback Jeff Tuel, defensive end Travis Long, receiver Jared Karstetter and punter Reid Forrest.

What's new: Coach Paul Wulff made two coaching changes. He hired veteran offensive line coach Steve Morton, who's coached five Pac-10 Morris Trophy winners, and special teams/running backs coach Dave Ungerer.

Key competition: The only two "ORs" on the depth chart are on the offensive line between Wade Jacobson and Micah Hannam at left tackle, and David Gonzalez and Hannam at right tackle. The pecking order at running back probably still remains open, too.

Breaking out: Long, a sophomore, and senior Kevin Kooyman should give the Cougars a solid tandem at defensive end. Junior college transfer Brandon Rankin was impressive during the spring. Cornerback Daniel Simmons has all-conference ability, and safety LeAndre Daniels and linebacker Alex Hoffman-Ellis also will lead the defense.

Quote: Kooyman on the Cougars being picked 10th: “The last two season’s have been really rough. You just kind of have to ignore it. We are going to shock some people ... this season. We don’t really care about the rankings. It is more of a distraction.”

Notes: James Montgomery is back in position to start at running back after a harrowing battle with illness and injury. He required emergency surgery last year for acute compartment syndrome -- which can be life-threatening -- and then missed spring practice because of micro-fracture surgery on his right knee ... Speedy linebacker Louis Bland continues to struggle with a knee problem. He might end up redshirting ... Former Cougars star Chad Eaton is serving as a graduate assistant working with the defensive line ... Backup defensive tackle Dan Spitz will be ineligible for the first nine games because he violated NCAA policy on banned substances. The Cougars previously lost senior defensive tackles Toby Turpin and Josh Luapo because of academic issues ... Redshirt freshman linebacker Andre Barrington is academically ineligible.

The Pac-10's most irreplaceable players

June, 4, 2010
6/04/10
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ESPN's "College Football Live" is running down its list of the most irreplaceable players for the 2010 season. So we thought we'd take a stab at it for every Pac-10 team, including a different take for USC.

Arizona: C Colin Baxter. Centers are the quarterbacks of the offensive line, and Baxter is a good O-line QB. He earned second-team All-Pac-10 honors in 2009 and his backup, sophomore Kyle Quinn, has little experience. With Baxter, the Wildcats should be strong up front. Without him, the line would be a question.

Thomas Weber
Icon SMIThomas Weber is 11-for-15 on field goals of 40 or more yards during his career.
Arizona State: K Thomas Weber. Weber, the 2007 Lou Groza Award winner, is a weapon when healthy. While his backup, sophomore Bobby Wenzig, didn't do a terrible job filling in for a hurt Weber last year -- he made 3 of 4 field goals and 10 of 12 PATs -- he's no Weber, who's 11-for-15 from 40 or more yards during his career. The Sun Devils may struggle again on offense next fall, which means that Weber's range will be critical for getting points on the board.

California: LB Mike Mohamed. Mohamed earned first-team All-Pac-10 honors in 2009 after leading the conference with 112 tackles, 16 more than any other defender. The Bears are replacing two of their four starting linebackers and, oh by the way, they didn't play the position terribly well last fall. It would be a big hit to lose both Mohamed's skill as well as his experience and leadership.

Oregon: WR Jeff Maehl. With the demise of quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, the Ducks likely will be a little more pass-happy next fall. That makes Maehl, the Ducks' best receiver, critical. He caught 53 passes for 696 yards and six touchdowns in 2009 and steadily improved throughout the season. The Ducks' next two returning receivers, D.J. Davis and Lavasier Tuinei, combined to catch 47 passes for 450 yards and two TDs.

Oregon State: RB Jacquizz Rodgers. It's not just that Rodgers is the conference's leading Heisman Trophy candidate. It's also about the Beavers' uncertain depth at the position. Jovan Stevenson and Ryan McCants combined for 164 yards rushing in 2009. Rodgers had 1,440. McCants turned in his best work yet this spring and the running game had its moments even without Rodgers, but let's just say the ground production likely would suffer -- big -- if Rodgers went down.

Stanford: QB Andrew Luck. Pretty obvious, eh? The Cardinal's offense is already replacing Toby Gerhart. It can't afford to lose Luck also and expect to compete in the top half of the Pac-10. Backups Josh Nunes and Robbie Picazo are both redshirt freshmen, though if Luck went down, it's possible senior Alex Loukas could move from safety back to QB, where he started one game in 2008.

Shareece Wright
Jason O. Watson/US PresswireThe Trojans are already replacing four starters in the secondary and can't afford to lose their best corner, Shareece Wright.
UCLA: LB Akeem Ayers. Ayers is an All-America candidate who has a knack for making big plays. If the Bruins' already-rebuilding defense lost him, it would then be replacing all three starting linebackers from 2009. His backup, Isaiah Bowens, is a redshirt freshman.

USC: CB Shareece Wright. Michael Lev of The Orange County Register already beat me to this one in his list of indispensable Trojans. Wright's career has been riddled by injuries and he was academically ineligible last year, but he's long been considered the Trojans' best cover corner. USC is replacing all four starters in its secondary. Wright has four career starts and was a standout this spring. If he went down, the Trojans would have one career start returning in the secondary. That is not a good thing.

Washington: QB Jake Locker. Locker is the Huskies' best player and their unquestioned leader. He's likely going to be a high first-round NFL draft pick next spring. But it's not just how important Locker is. Because last year's backup, Ronnie Fouch, opted to transfer, Locker's backup in 2010 will be either redshirt freshman Keith Price or true freshman Nick Montana. Neither, obviously, has any playing experience.

Washington State: DE Travis Long. Long, though just a sophomore, is the Cougars' best pass-rusher and best overall defensive lineman. After a year of getting bigger and stronger, he's expected to be much better in 2010. The Cougars' defensive line already lost tackles Toby Turpin, who was kicked out of school for an academic incident, and Josh Luapo (academic ineligibility) and is waiting to find out the academic status of tackle Bernard Wolfgramm. They are not deep enough up front to recover from the loss of Long. His backup, sophomore Adam Coerper, has no experience.

Washington State spring wrap

May, 7, 2010
5/07/10
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Washington State

2009 overall record: 1-11

2009 conference record: 0-9 (10th)

Returning starters

Offense: 8, Defense: 6, punter/kicker: 2

Top returners: QB Jeff Tuel, WR Jared Karstetter, DE Travis Long, LB Alex Hoffman-Ellis, P Reid Forrest

Key losses: C Kenny Alfred, RB Dwight Tardy, FS Xavier Hicks, LB Andy Mattingly

2009 statistical leaders (*returning starter)

Rushing: Tardy (417)

Passing: Tuel* (789)

Receiving: Karstetter* (540)

Tackles: Alex Hoffman-Ellis* (84)

Sacks: Travis Long*, Toby Turpin, Casey Hamlett*, Anthony Laurenzi* (2)

Interceptions: Xavier Hicks (3)

Spring Answers

1. Solid at QB: Both sophomore Tuel and junior Marshall Lobbestael played well this spring. Both are more skilled, more mature and better versed in the offense than when they were prematurely forced into action the previous two seasons. Tuel is the heavy frontrunner to start, but it's always nice to have two quarterbacks with starting experience.

2. Offensive line improvement: A big area of concern the past two seasons, the Cougars added a pair of JC recruits midyear and the additions greatly enhanced the competition and depth up front. Also, the addition of offensive line coach Steve Morton and his 35 years of experience, which includes five Morris Trophy winners, already has made a big impact. The line lost one starter from last season (center Kenny Alfred) but the return of four starters, along with the JC additions and return of Andrew Roxas, who missed 2009 due to illness, could make this one of the most improved units in the conference.

3. There's some depth: Everyone around the program insists this is by far the best spring for coach Paul Wulff since he took over a beleaguered program two years ago. Part of that success is legitimate competition for starting spots and playing time. Players who redshirted the past two seasons, in particular, made an impact during the 15 practices

Fall questions

1. Confidence? The Cougars have won just three games over the past two seasons -- just one Pac-10 game. Many of their defeats have been blowouts. While the talent looks better heading into 2010, the Cougars have to believe they can compete -- and win -- in the Pac-10. That belief will drive players to work out hard during the summer. That belief will keep games close into the fourth quarter. That belief might even help them steal a few games. But that belief has to be real, which means it will have to block out all the talk about another dreary 10th-place finish.

2. Will the D-line step up? Sophomore end Travis Long should take the next step. JC transfer Brandon Rankin lived up to his considerable hype at tackle. Senior end Kevin Kooyman is back from injury and had a good spring. That's the good news. The bad news is three of the top four or five tackles are either gone -- or close to going -- before their time. Toby Turpin was kicked out of school over an undisclosed academic incident, while tackles Bernard Wolfgramm and Josh Luapo are struggling to remain academically eligible (coaches are more hopeful about Wolfgramm getting back on track). That means youngsters such as Justin Clayton, Dan Spitz, Jordan Pu’u Robinson and Anthony Laurenzi will need to be ready -- and be better than they were in 2009.

3. Receiver depth? The Cougars went through spring with just four scholarship receivers (Jeffrey Solomon, Jared Karstetter, Gino Simone and Daniel Blackledge). The incoming recruiting class features five receivers. JC recruit Isiah Barton is probably the most ready, but at least a couple of freshmen will need to earn spots in the rotation.

Post-spring Pac-10 power rankings

May, 3, 2010
5/03/10
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The post-spring power rankings do not match the pre-spring power rankings.

Why? After all, no games were played.

Well, it's an extremely complicated process that's difficult to explain unless you are familiar with the jargon of sportswriting and theoretical physics. In layman's terms, a supersymmetry exists between bosons and fermions as viewed through a prism of the spring football action principle -- the Nambu-Goto action or the Polyakov action or the Masolian action -- which describes how footballs move through space and time.

Or, I just changed my mind. For now. (Still think Nos. 4-8 are a toss-up).

1. USC: The Trojans move up to the top spot not just because Oregon moved down when the Ducks lost starting quarterback Jeremiah Masoli to a season-long suspension, though that's the biggest reason. USC will have the best defensive line in the Pac-10, the value of which can't be underestimated, and the hunch here is that Lane Kiffin and Matt Barkley are going to make beautiful music together. (Talked to a BIG Tennessee fan over the weekend who, while not a big fan of Kiffin -- surprise! -- acknowledged that his transforming quarterback Jonathan Crompton into a fifth-round NFL draft pick was a minor miracle).

2. Oregon: Oregon takes a step back without Masoli, but the Ducks weren't widely seen as national title contenders just because of him. Nine other starters are back on offense and eight on defense and if you watched the Ducks practice this spring, it was hard not to be impressed. These guys look like the fastest team in the conference.

3. Oregon State: The Beavers were rated No. 3 before two defensive starters quit the team: Linebacker David Pa'aluhi and end Matt LaGrone. Considering they are one of just three teams in the conference breaking in a new quarterback, they seemed ripe for a demotion. But sophomore QB Ryan Katz was so impressive this spring, the Beavers hold steady.

4. Stanford: The Cardinal make the big jump all the way from sixth. Why? We ranked them sixth because we obsessed over what was missing (namely Toby Gerhart) and what was questionable (the defense). They are now fourth because of what is there -- quarterback Andrew Luck, a good offensive line and solid receivers -- and the impression the defense will take a significant step forward with new coordinator Vic Fangio's new 3-4 look.

5. California: Considering the Bears were the only Pac-10 team with nearly all spring practices closed to the media, it's hard to form an impression other than one based on the pluses and minuses from the 2009 depth chart. And that impression remains: There are enough quality pieces here to believe a consistent senior season from quarterback Kevin Riley would make the Bears a top-25 team.

6. Washington: It's tempting to move the Huskies up just because of Year Two of the Steve Sarkisian-Jake Locker combinaton. But we're holding off until we hear reports that defensive ends Kalani Aldrich and Everette Thompson are back and running at 100 percent after sitting out spring with worrisome injuries.

7. Arizona: The Wildcats have plenty of talent on offense but the defense is replacing seven starters. Moreover, while reviews of the new four coordinator system -- co-coordinators on both sides of the ball -- were positive, it remains worthy of a raised eyebrow, at least until it is properly measured by actual game-day stress.

8. UCLA: The new revolver offense, a knockoff of Nevada's "pistol," got mixed reviews, but the rebuilding defense probably looked better than expected. Questions about the offensive line remain, and it's fair to believe that line will be the reason the Bruins either climb into the conference's top half or remain in the bottom five.

9. Arizona State: There were encouraging signs of offensive improvement, even though the quarterback competition between Michigan transfer Steven Threet and sophomore Brock Osweiler, who appeared to lead as spring ended, wasn't resolved. It didn't help, however, that guard Jon Hargis, a starter the previous two seasons, blew out his knee and won't be available in 2010.

10. Washington State: Coach Paul Wulff called it the Cougars' best spring since he arrived. Every account notes that the Cougars will be physically superior to the teams that won just three games over the previous two seasons. Depth is clearly better. On the downside, it wasn't good that Toby Turpin got kick out of school and that Bernard Wolfgramm and Josh Luapo are struggling to remain academically eligible. Those are three of the Cougars' top four defensive tackles.

WSU's Turpin expelled from school

April, 4, 2010
4/04/10
8:22
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Washington State Cougar's senior defensive tackle Toby Turpin has been expelled from school over an undisclosed academic incident.

The decision from the WSU Student Conduct Board was not unexpected, but it's a big hit for a spot where the Cougars are questionable. Sophomore Dan Spitz was listed as Turpin's backup on the pre-spring depth chart.

Turpin started six games last year and made 28 tackles before being suspended for an undisclosed team rules violation.

“It’s a real unfortunate situation for any student, whether you are a student athlete or a student,” coach Paul Wulff told the Spokesman-Review. “There are students that get dismissed for a variety of reasons all the time on campus. It’s very unfortunate for him and us.”

Washington State notes: Who's in, out, up and down

March, 22, 2010
3/22/10
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Will have lots more from my visit to Washington State, which starts spring practices Thursday, but here are some notes from a conversation with coach Paul Wulff.
  • The Cougars are much healthier this spring than last: 24 players missed offseason workouts last year. This year, just four will sit out spring practices: running back James Montgomery (knee, calf), defensive tackle Josh Luapo (knee), linebacker Louis Bland (knee) and cornerback Anthony Houston (knee).
  • As for Montgomery, he had knee surgery in addition to his scary episode with "acute compartment syndrome" with his calf. Wulff said he won't be cleared to start full-speed running until June. As for the depth at running back Wulff listed Marcus Richmond, Chantz Staden, Logwone Mitz, Carl Winston and Leon Brooks, a walk-on who's made a positive impression.
  • Wulff said there's no hope for receiver Johnny Forzani returning to the program: "He's going to try to play in the CFL." The Cougars have four receivers back who caught at least 20 passes: Jared Karstetter, Gino Simone, Jeffrey Solomon and Daniel Blackledge. Wulff said he expects JC transfer Isiah Barton and perhaps a couple of the four incoming freshmen receivers to contribute, most particularly Marquess Wilson. "Most everybody in the Pac-10 was trying to go on him," Wulff said. "He's a big-time, big-time player."
  • Offensive lineman Brian Danaher, a 12-game starter over the past three seasons, won't be back because of recurrent concussions.
  • Starting defensive tackle Toby Turpin's status is questionable due to an academic dispute, which Wulff said should be resolved -- positively or negatively -- within the next week or two. Turpin will be allowed to practice until his case is resolved.
  • Wulff, perhaps surprisingly, said he believes the offensive line will be the strength off the offense. Andrew Roxas, who missed all of last season due to illness, will step in to fill the void at center due to the departure of stalwart Kenny Alfred. B.J. Guerra, Zack Williams and Steven Ayers will compete at guard. At tackle, two JC transfers will be in the mix this spring -- David Gonzales and Wade Jacobson -- along with Micah Hannam, Tyson Pencer and Alex Reitnouer. Wulff also said the he thinks incoming true freshman John Fullington might be ready to immediately contribute. "I think he was one of the best [high school] offensive linemen in the country," he said.
  • Tight end Zach Tatman was granted a sixth year of eligibility, which means the Cougs will have three experienced tight ends with Skylar Stormo and Andrei Lintz.
  • Redshirt freshman Sekope Kaufusi will see time as a hybrid outside linebacker-defensive end. Wulff said he's been impressed by redshirt freshman end Jordan Pu'u Robinson during the off-season.
  • Touted JC transfer Brandon Rankin -- he was offered a scholarship by Alabama -- will play both end and tackle.
  • Defensive tackle Bernard Wolfgramm continues to struggle with back problems, but Wulff said he was "moving around and participating in drills better since his back surgery. So that's promising." Still, it's likely his action will be limited this spring.
  • Depth at defensive tackle is a question, but sophomore Dan Spitz, who started five games at tackle and end last year, redshirt freshman Justin Clayton and sophomore Anthony Laurenzi are promising prospects.
  • Wulff said the defense will be much faster at linebacker. When he's healthy in the fall, Bland will move to middle linebacker. Mike Ledgerwood also is a top candidate in the middle, along with redshirt freshman Darren Markle. Alex Hoffman-Ellis will move from middle to weakside linebacker. Arthur Burns will move from running back to "Will" linebacker. Myron Beck and Andre Barrington will man the strongside. Incoming recruit C.J. Mizell also could be in the mix.
  • The secondary, hit hard by injuries a year ago, should be much improved with LeAndre Daniels, Tyree Toomer, Chima Nwachukwu, Jay Matthews and redshirt freshman Anthony Carpenter, Casey Locker -- Jake's cousin -- and Jamal Atofau competing at safety and Daniel Simmons, Aire Justin, Terrance Hayward and promising redshirt freshman Nolan Washington at corner.

A look back at 2006 recruiting classes

July, 20, 2009
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Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

The 2006 recruiting class members are either seniors or redshirt juniors this fall, so they should be the backbones of most Pac-10 team's starting lineups.

Therefore, it seems like a reasonable moment to look back and review some recruiting hits and misses.

In the big picture, USC ranked No. 2 in the nation, according to ESPN.com's Scouts Inc., behind No. 1 Florida (sorta makes sense, eh?). UCLA, at No. 19, was the only other Pac-10 team in the Scouts Inc., top-25.

Scout.com ranked USC No. 1 in the nation, Arizona 19th, UCLA 20th and California 23rd. The rest of the Pac-10 went, in order, Arizona State (32nd in nation), Washington (35th), Stanford (38), Oregon State (41), Washington State (45) and Oregon (52).

Oregon last? Hmm.

Anyway... here's an overview

Arizona

Class: 24

ESPNU top 150 players: 2

How many are expected to start in 2009: Nine (CB Devin Ross, DT Earl Mitchell, FS Cam Nelson, WR Terrell Turner, DE Brooks Reed, DE Ricky Elmore, WR Delashaun Dean, OG Conan Amituanai, C Colin Baxter)

Misses: QB Tyler Lyon, RB Derke Robinson

Verdict: This is an underrated class -- even guys who aren't listed as starters are projected to contribute in 2009. It's also notable that the few who didn't pan out -- or were problems, such as DE Louis Holmes -- were the big names.

Arizona State

Class: 24

ESPNU top 150 players: 0

How many are expected to start in 2009: Seven (SS Ryan McFoy, RB Dimitri Nance, OG Jon Hargis, WR Kyle Williams, DT Saia Falahola, QB Danny Sullivan, LB Travis Goethel OR LB Gerald Munns)

Misses: DE Jermaine Williams, RB Rodney Glass

Verdict: A solid class when you consider that nine of the 24 signees were JC players who have already moved on -- a group that included RB Ryan Torain and S Troy Nolan, who were the class's most elite performers.

California

Class: 20

ESPNU top 150 players: 2

How many are expected to start in 2009: Six (CB Darian Hagan, DT Derrick Hill, QB Kevin Riley, C Chris Guarnero, DE Tyson Alualu, LB Mike Mohamed)

Misses: RB James Montgomery, RB Tracy Slocum, DT Justin Prueitt

Verdict: Ratings, smatings. Montgomery, Slocum and Prueitt were highly rated, Alualu and Mohamed barely registered. Overall, a solid class.

Oregon

Class: 20

ESPNU top 150 players: 0

How many are expected to start in 2009: Five (C Jordan Holmes, LT Bo Thran, RT C.E. Kaiser, DT Brandon Bair, LB Spenser Paysinger)

Misses: The class included three quarterbacks: Cody Kempt, Justin Roper and Nate Costa. Kempt and Roper have transferred, Costa has been riddled by injuries.

Verdict: Decidedly mixed. One thing is for sure: This class bolstered the Ducks offensive line. Also interesting, Bair and Paysinger transitioned to their current positions from tight end and receiver, respectively.

(Read full post)

Need areas heading into summer

May, 26, 2009
5/26/09
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Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Every team enters spring practices with at least a couple of personnel questions, even those with their starting lineup returning nearly intact.

Sometimes those questions get answered. Other times they don't.

Such as...

Arizona: The Wildcats didn't walk away from spring practices worried about their quarterback spot -- Matt Scott and Nick Foles acquitted themselves fairly well. But if you look up and down the depth chart, quarterback is where you eyes linger. Yes, Willie Tuitama's shoes are big.

Arizona State: You, of course, know what's coming. Sorry to be a broken record: offensive line. Matt Hustad, Zach Schlink and Adam Tello have to get healthy and the entire unit needs to get good or the Sun Devils won't bounce back.

California: It's as simple as this: If the Bears get solid -- not spectacular, solid -- play at quarterback, this is a top-10 team. And quarterbacks can do a lot in the offseason to firm up their foundation on the team (hint, hint).

Oregon: The Ducks lost three multi-year starters from the offensive line to the NFL. Projected starters Bo Thran and C.E. Kaiser sat out spring practices. In their absence, the O-line mostly got stuffed. If Steve Greatwood works his magic again, the offense again hits ludicrous speed. If not...

Oregon State: The Beavers lost two multi-year starters at cornerback to the NFL. The secondary got burned throughout spring, though there was some redemption in the spring a game. The general feeling is there's plenty of athleticism here, but recall that it took a while for Keenan Lewis and Brandon Hughes to become Keenan Lewis and Brandon Hughes.

Stanford: Let's just go ahead and say that Andrew Luck is going to be an outstanding quarterback. So who's going to catch the ball? There's plenty of experience at receiver and there some athleticism, but you ain't it until you do it.

UCLA: Much like Arizona State, this one is embarrassingly predictable, but Bruins fans are well-aware that their season hangs on getting at least adequate play on the offensive line. Injuries clouded the issue during the spring, so the hope is a clean bill of help will bring significant improvement.

USC: The Trojans need a kicker, but we're going to go with quarterback. While it's easy to be impressed by the talent and spring performances of Aaron Corp and Matt Barkley, they still haven't done squat when the lights are on.

Washington: An 0-12 team has a lot of need areas, but the Huskies must replace both specialists. As any coach will tell you, special teams are critical, and here's a guess that at least a couple of games will swing one way or the other for the Huskies, depending on how good their answers are at kicker and punter.

Washington State: Only one starter, tackle Toby Turpin, returns on the defensive line, a position that was a decided weakness in 2008 in any event. After spring practice, redshirt freshman end Cory Mackay, who'd played well during spring practices, suffered a serious back injury in an automobile accident. Young and unproven players will need to step up. And the Cougs are due for some good fortune.

Washington State spring wrap-up

May, 8, 2009
5/08/09
9:00
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Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Washington State Cougars
2008 overall record: 2-11

2008 conference record: 1-8

Returning starters

Offense 8, defense 5, kicker/punter 2

Top returners

C Kenny Alfred, RB Dwight Tardy, FS Xavier Hicks, LB Louis Bland, LB Andy Mattingly, P Reid Forrest, K Nico Grasu

Key losses

OT Vaughn Lesuma, TE Devin Frischknecht, WR Brandon Gibson, LB Greg Trent, CB Romeo Pellum, DT A'i Ahmu

2008 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Dwight Tardy* (481)
Passing: Marshall Lobbestael* (571)
Receiving: Brandon Gibson (673)
Tackles: Greg Trent (88)
Sacks: Toby Turpin* (3)
Interceptions: Romeo Pellum, Xavier Hicks* (2)

2009 Schedule
Sept. 5 Stanford
Sept. 12 Hawaii (in Seattle)
Sept. 19 Southern Methodist
Sept. 26 at USC
Oct. 3 at Oregon
Oct. 10 Arizona State
Oct. 24 at California
Oct. 31 vs. Notre Dame
(in San Antonio, Texas)
Nov. 7 at Arizona
Nov. 14 UCLA
Nov. 21 Oregon State
Nov. 28 at Washington

Spring answers

1. Culture change: Big injury issues within many position groups limited a lot of definitive depth chart moves, so what the Cougars' coaches talked most about at the end of spring was establishing a better team culture, which includes practice tempo, trust among players and staff and off-field responsibilities, both in the classroom and weight room.

2. Tardy and Montgomery running: The Cougars feel good about their depth at running back, with senior Dwight Tardy and California transfer James Montgomery leading the way. If the offensive line can stay healthy -- depth is a big issue -- the running game has a chance to improve dramatically.

3. New faces' chance to shine: The injuries allowed youngsters and newcomers to make statements, and a handful did, including redshirt freshman defensive ends Dan Spitz and Cory Mackay, redshirt freshman tight end Skylar Stormo and junior transfer receivers Johnny Forzani and Jeffrey Solomon.

Fall questions

1. Get healthy: The spring injury list was a who's who of likely starters, and some of the issues will be worrisome. For example, Bernard Wolfgramm was practically penciled in as a starting defensive tackle, but he had back surgery this winter and back problems are tricky. The Cougars suffered epidemic injuries last year; they need to avoid that if 2009 is going to be any better.

2. Is Lobbestael the man? While senior Kevin Lopina showed significant improvement passing this spring, the general feeling is sophomore Marshall Lobbestael will be the quarterback when Stanford comes to town on Sept. 5. But, again, Lobbestael is coming back from a knee injury and didn't get to do any full-go action this spring. He still needs to win the job on the field.

3. Not to be defensive, but ... Washington State lost six starters from a defense that gave up 43.8 points and 443 yards in 2008, and the departed include mainstays such as linebacker Greg Trent, end Matt Mullennix and tackle A'i Ahmu. The Cougars are set at safety with Xavier Hicks and Chima Nwachukwu, and they feel good about linebackers Andy Mattingly and Louis Bland, but there are a lot of questions here that need to be resolved during preseason practices.

Revisiting our defensive tackle rankings

March, 11, 2009
3/11/09
7:13
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Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Turns out the post on Pac-10 defensive tackles doesn't fit our present format either. Drat.

So let's take another look.

Great shape

  • Arizona: Earl Mitchell leads a crew of five returning tackles from the 2008 depth chart, not to mention the return from suspension of former starter Lolomana Mikaele.
  • Oregon State: Stephen Paea had five sacks and 11 tackles for a loss in 2008. He's a load. Junior Mitchel Hunt is the frontrunner for the other tackle, and the depth chart features four or five guys who can play.
  • UCLA: Brian Price's 14 tackles for a loss led all conference interior defensive linemen. If he sharpens up against the run, he could become an All-American. Jerzy Siewierski and Jess Ward will battle for the spot next to Price. Both have seen significant action.
  • USC: Fili Moala is gone, but four of the top five tackles from 2008 are back, including returning starter Christian Tupou. Sophomores Jurrell Casey and Armond Armstead look like the next great Trojan DTs.

Good shape

  • Arizona State: Lawrence Guy earned Freshman All-American honors and Saia Falahola and Jonathan English have both seen a lot of action. In the fall, 292-pound touted freshman Corey Adams arrives.
  • Stanford: Ekom Udofia, Matt Masifilo, Sione Fua and Brian Bulcke give the Cardinal an effective, experienced crew inside. They combined for 12.5 tackles for a loss in 2008.
  • California: A 3-4 defense obviously means fewer tackles, but the Bears top two nose tackles -- Derrick Hill, who will miss spring after arthroscopic surgery on his knee, and Kendrick Payne -- should be solid.

We'll see

  • Oregon: Both starters need to be replaced. Tonio Celotto, who battled nagging injuries last year, and Blake Ferras appear to have the inside track, but newcomers will have to help immediately.
  • Washington: Everyone is back, but no one stood out in 2008. The thinking is sophomores Alameda Ta'amu and Senio Kelemete should be much better after being prematurely thrown into action. There's also junior Cameron Elisara and Johnny Tivao, a 5-foot-10, 350-pound JC transfer.
  • Washington State: Three of their top four tackles on the season-ending depth chart are gone, but maybe that's the good news. Junior Toby Turpin, who had 20 tackles and 3.5 tackles for a loss last year, will man one spot and Bernard Wolfgramm is the frontrunner for the other.

Whose defense is stacked inside?

February, 16, 2009
2/16/09
4:59
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Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

You're going to hear a lot of talk over the coming weeks heading into the NFL draft about how important defensive tackles are and how rare the dominant ones are.

The recent history with defensive tackles in the Pac-10, outside of USC, of course, isn't great. Not counting the Trojans, the only conference defensive tackle picked in the first round since the 2000 draft was Oregon's Haloti Ngata in 2006.

That may change in either 2010 or 2011 with UCLA's Brian Price, a rising junior and the top returning interior defensive lineman in the conference.

Here's our list of the top returning tackles heading into spring practices, followed by notes on where each team stands at the position.

  1. Brian Price, UCLA: 4.5 sacks, 14 tackles for a loss led all conference interior defensive linemen.
  2. Stephen Paea, Oregon State: He's a load who's also productive, see five sacks, 11 tackles for a loss.
  3. Lawrence Guy, Arizona State: 10 tackles for a loss as a true freshman. Hello upside.
  4. Earl Mitchell, Arizona: 40 tackles, 5.5 for a loss after switching from H-back.
  5. Christian Tupou, USC: Sure, he only had 12 tackles last year, but he started for the nation's best defense, which counts for a lot.
  6. Derrick Hill, California: Mostly platooned with Mika Kane last year, but he's got the talent to break through as a junior.

Some notes:

Arizona: The Wildcats welcome back all five tackles listed on their 2008 depth chart and are expected to reinstate suspended former starter Lolomana Mikaele. Toss in marquee, 21-year-old JC transfer Jonathan Hollins, and the Wildcats probably have more depth at the position than any other team in the conference.

Arizona State: The biggest question is will 292-pound incoming freshman Corey Adams start beside Guy from day one. Saia Falahola and Jonathan English have both seen a lot of action, so it's not a sure thing.

California: A 3-4 defense obviously means fewer DT-types play. The question for the Bears is the pecking order behind Hill: Cody Jones and Kendrick Payne both missed last season with injuries, and is rising sophomore Trevor Guyton a big end or nose tackle?

Oregon: The interior d-line is probably the Ducks biggest question mark, seeing that both starters need to be replaced. There are high expectations for Tonio Celotto, who battled nagging injuries last year, but there is little to no experience. A pair of incoming JC tackles are expected to help immediately.

Oregon State: Paea can be a force when healthy, and there are experienced players competing to replace Pernnell Booth. The spring focus will be mostly on replacing both defensive ends.

Stanford: Brian Bulcke and Sione Fua give the Cardinal a quietly effective combination inside. They combined for seven sacks and 10 tackles for a loss. Matt Masifilo leads the depth, which will be at issue this spring. [Edit: As a reader pointed out in an email, starting DT Ekom Udofia will be back in 2009. So the Cardinal D figures to be fairly solid in the interior].

UCLA: Price will demand two blockers next year, particularly with the departure of the solid Brigham Harwell. The Bruins will be fairly experienced inside, but will any other player step forward to complement -- and take the focus off -- Price?

USC: Sure, Fili Moala is a big loss, but the Trojans will still will boast the strongest interior defensive lineup in the conference. Start with Tupou and the player he beat out in 2008, Averell Spicer. Then toss in Jurrell Casey and Armond Armstead, who both were impressive in limited action as true freshmen last year. USC actually might be STRONGER at tackle than 2008. Seriously.

Washington: Good news is just about everyone is back. Bad news is the Huskies got pushed around up the middle last year. Still, if rising sophomores Alameda Ta'amu and Senio Kelemete have big off-seasons in the weight room, they could form a solid troika with Cameron Elisara. And incoming JC transfer Johnny Tivao is listed at 5 foot 10, 350 pounds, so that's something.

Washington State: Lots of questions here for the Cougars, who will be young inside with the departure of three of their top four tackles on the season-ending depth chart. Rising junior Toby Turpin, who had 20 tackles and 3.5 tackles for a loss last year, will man one spot and Bernard Wolfgramm is the frontrunner for the other. And might the Cougs consider adopting a 3-4 scheme?

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