Pac-12: Tonio Celotto

While you were on vacation ... Oregon

July, 27, 2009

Posted by's Ted Miller

The fourth of 10 quick updates on offseason Pac-10 goings on.

Oregon in a sentence

  • The return of quarterback Jeremiah Masoli and running back LeGarrette Blount after a dominant Holiday Bowl performance against Oklahoma State have the Ducks in the top half of most preseason rankings, overshadowing questions on both lines as well as receiver.

The big issue

  • The Ducks rolled up 42 points and 485 yards per game in 2008 in large part because of an outstanding offensive line. Three starters are gone -- two whom were drafted -- so rebuilding this unit will be the critical concern in preseason camp.

Quick hit news

  • Four potential starters/key contributors transferred in offseason: defensive tackle Tonio Celotto (Nevada), receiver Aaron Pflugrad (Arizona State), quarterback Justin Roper (Montana) and receiver Chris Harper (Kansas State).
  • New head coach Chip Kelly hired Mark Helfrich, a Medford, Ore., native, away from Colorado to coordinate the offense. Kelly, the offensive coordinator under former coach Mike Bellotti, will still call plays.
  • Oregon signee Cliff Harris, an ESPNU 150 cornerback out of Fresno, pleaded no contest last week to obstructing a police officer in the line of duty -- a misdemeanor -- and was sentenced to one year of probation and fined $300, according to the Fresno Bee, which won't prevent him from playing for the Ducks this season.

Mailbag: Will Jacquizz be as quizz-tastic in 2009?

June, 19, 2009

Posted by's Ted Miller

It's Friday. So you've got that going for you.

Release the notes!

(However, we're taking a much-needed break from all the conference comparison blather this week after Oregon has been firmly established as the second-best team in the SEC).

Kenny from Corvallis, Ore., writes: All offseason there have been talks that Jacquizz Rodgers won't be as productive because teams now know what he's going to do. I say, what exactly did he do that USC didn't know? Or Cal? Or Penn State? You can't say they didn't know Oregon State was a run-up-the-middle kind of team. That's what he did all year long, and nearly won the rushing title doing it. Is that REALLY going to change next year?

Ted Miller: Who is saying this? No one as smart as you or the Pac-10 Blog, Kenny!

My guess is Rodgers will be a better back next year as a sophomore with a year of experience under his belt, but he might not pile up as many yards because the offensive line is replacing three key starters, topped by Andy Levitre a second-round pick who's already being projected as a rookie starter for the Buffalo Bills.

Moreover, shoulder injuries are tricky for any player but particularly for running backs.

Rodgers led the conference with 259 carries last year -- 35 more than anyone else -- despite only playing in 11 games.  The Beavers will be better off if his total is closer to 200 in 2009. So that might mean fewer yards.

Doug from Houston, Tx., writes: The story you posted on PAC 10 games on TV this season did not include the ASU - UGA game. What is the deal with that one? Don't tell me it is not on!

Ben from Thousand Oaks, Calif., writes: Just noticed you posted the Pac 10 TV schedule. I noticed no mention of the Cal @ Minnesota game.There was a recent rumor on the Minnesota fan boards that the game would be at 11am local time. As a Cal fan this has naturally left me scared after the whole Maryland fiasco last year, as this equates to another 9am pacific start.Has the time for that game been decided yet? I'm assuming its going to be shown (though I suppose if its shown on Fox or the Big Ten Network that'd explain why you didn't list it).

Ted Miller: Ah, the magic of TBA!

I'd be shocked if both games aren't picked up, but both are road games and therefore are not part of the Pac-10 television package.

The other road games that the conference included on the TV schedule released this week have already been announced, such as USC at Ohio State.

Cal-Minnesota and Georgia-Arizona State are high-profile games that will be part of the Big Ten and SEC TV deals.

So don't worry.

But, as for the start time at Minnesota, that's up to the Gophers and their Big Ten TV partners. My guess is it could be a 12:30 EST kickoff, so, yeah, the Bears might be dealing with some jet lag.

Kevin from Santa Cruz, Calif., writes: Bowl selection wise, what do you think would happen if three Pac-10 teams ended up tied for first place in the conference at 11-1 with losses to each other, ala the Big 12 South last year?Although unlikely, I'm very curious to see how you think this situation would shake out come January.

Ted Miller: I'm going to put this as a link on my blog roll.

Here are the Pac-10's Rose Bowl selection procedures.

It's hard to follow, which is why every year I hope I don't have to try to explain it.

JT Light from writes: A couple of comments on your Tonio Celotto piece. Originally, Tonio left Oregon because he was giving up football altogether. After being out for a few months, he decided he couldn't give up football. He attempted to get back on the Oregon football team after spring ball, but was declined because he had already fallen behind academically.

Ted Miller: JT, who was less charitable in his assessment of my blog entry here, is referring to this May 29 note from Rob Moseley.

Yep. I missed that. Went on vacation on May 28 and this story was far enough back that when I returned a week later and tried to catch up, well, like I said I missed it.

Still, I'm not sure what this note, albeit interesting, would have changed from my conclusion about the Ducks recent transfers:

While it may raise an eyebrow or two, it doesn't strike me as terribly alarming. There's no indication anything sinister is at work here -- each of these four had valid reasons for leaving. And new coach Chip Kelly's consistent attitude of "if you don't want to be here, then go" is the correct approach.

Ian from Lafayette, Ind., writes: I'd be happy to provide you with examples [of the Pac-10 blog's anti-Oregon bias], Ted. Could you please forward me the archive of your last 100 or so Pac 10 blogs? I can look through them and give you examples. Do you have them archived? I don't.My comment was based more on my observations of your column over the past 6 months. I'm a casual Oregon and Oregon State football fan. Again, this is based on a cumulative trend, and no one or two posts in particular.

Ted Miller: Ian wrote about his perception of my anti-Oregon bias in last week's mailbag -- linked above -- but this week's note provides a teachable moment.

The archive of every article from the Pac-10 blog can be found under the word "Archive" on the right of the webpage, about an inch and a half to the right of ole Sparky.

Moreover, the "Search the blog" function is about an inch from the mug shot of the ugly dude who types all this stuff.

Stuart from Oak Park, Calif., writes: I must address a most grievous error/omission from a recent post of yours, a post that cannot stand in it's current form. How do you leave out the WonderPets from the Top 5 Noggin shows!?!? Ted - "The phone...the phone is ringing..." you best pick up that phone Ted, b/c the truth is on the other end. Go WonderPets! (15 month old twins).

Matt from Warren, Ore., writes: I used to like your stuff ... smart, balance, and even funny. But, with that being said, your omission of Wonder Pets in the top Noggin Shows list is unforgivable."What's it gonna take? Team work ..."

Ted Miller: Blame my wife for this one. She once noted to me how annoying the Ducks' voice is, and I can't shake it -- maybe that's the source of my reputed anti-Oregon bias.

Also, I think The Mayor of Millerville once had a classic tantrum -- think Auburn in 2004 -- when the "Team Work!" song was going on in the background, so I might associate it with a bad experience.

Former Duck lands at Nevada; Are UO transfers an issue?

June, 17, 2009

Posted by's Ted Miller

He was projected to start on Oregon's defensive line in 2009, but Tonio Celotto quit football in March and told the Eugene Register-Guard that he was moving back "to Southern California to attend to an ailing grandmother."

Celotto has resurfaced at Nevada, where he'll resume his football career after sitting out a season.


There was also this from the Register-Guard in March:

Celotto said the departure of former UO defensive line coach Michael Gray also factored into his thinking. [New head coach Chip] Kelly elected not to retain Gray when it was announced Kelly would replace Mike Bellotti as Oregon's head coach.

Celotto called new defensive line coach Jerry Azzinaro "an amazing guy" but said Gray was "not only like a father but also a friend."

Celotto also wanted to go into law enforcement and Oregon doesn't offer a major in criminal justice.

He was the first of four Ducks who were expected to start or be key reserves this season but ended up bolting this spring. He was followed by starting receiver Aaron Pflugrad, backup quarterback Justin Roper and potential starting receiver Chris Harper, a former quarterback.

Roper left to find playing time; Harper to play quarterback and be closer to home. Pflugrad skipped town because his father, Robin, was fired as receivers coach.

Celotto, it appears, falls somewhere between Pflugrad and Harper.

There is almost always player attrition after a coaching change. But, yes, this is more than usual, at least in terms of players who were likely going to be high-level contributors.

While it may raise an eyebrow or two, it doesn't strike me as terribly alarming. There's no indication anything sinister is at work here -- each of these four had valid reasons for leaving. And new coach Chip Kelly's consistent attitude of "if you don't want to be here, then go" is the correct approach.

It would only become a worrisome trend if similar transfers continued at the same rate into next year.

Harper third to bolt Oregon

May, 27, 2009

Posted by's Ted Miller

Perhaps transfers happen in threes?

First, it was projected starting receiver Aaron Pflugrad. Then it was veteran backup quarterback Justin Roper. Now Oregon is losing receiver Chris Harper, who showed great promise in 2008 after switching positions from quarterback.

Harper has been granted a release and will transfer from Oregon, possibly to Kansas State, Kansas or Oklahoma State, which are closer to his home in Wichita, Kan.

The Eugene Register-Guard also pointed out that "combined with the loss of defensive tackle Tonio Celotto, who gave up football, and center Hamani Stevens, who took a church mission, the Ducks have lost five players" who likely would have started or contributed in 2009.

Oregon spring wrap-up

May, 8, 2009

Posted by's Ted Miller

Oregon Ducks
2008 overall record: 10-3

2008 conference record: 7-2

Returning starters

Offense 5, defense 5, kicker/punter 0

Top returners

QB Jeremiah Masoli, RB LeGarrette Blount, TE Ed Dickson, CB Walter Thurmond III, DE Will Tukuafu, FS T.J. Ward

Key losses

C Max Unger, LT Fenuki Tupou, RB Jeremiah Johnson, WR Terence Scott, DE Nick Reed, CB Jairus Byrd, ROV Patrick Chung, DT Ra'Shone Harris

2008 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Jeremiah Johnson (1,201)
Passing: Jeremiah Masoli* (1,744)
Receiving: Terence Scott (751)
Tackles: T.J. Ward* (101)
Sacks: Nick Reed (13)
Interceptions: Walter Thurmond*, Jairus Byrd (5)

Spring answers

2009 Schedule

Sep. 3 at Boise State
Sep. 12 Purdue
Sep. 19 Utah
Sep. 26 California
Oct. 3 Washington State
Oct. 10 at UCLA
Oct. 24 at Washington
Oct. 31 USC
Nov. 7 at Stanford
Nov. 14 Arizona State
Nov. 21 at Arizona
Dec. 3 Oregon State

1. Passing the test: The Ducks passing game was only OK last year -- ranking fifth in the Pac-10 -- and with two of the top three receivers leaving, it was a question mark entering spring. It's less so now. Both quarterbacks Jeremiah Masoli and Justin Roper threw well, particularly in the spring game, while Jamere Holland led a receiving corps that appears capable and deep. No longer does it seem essential that JC transfer Tyrece Gaines and freshman Diante Jackson contribute from game one.

2. Linebacking up: Oregon's linebackers have been mostly mediocre in recent years, but this crew has a chance to tip the scales from middling to good. Casey Matthews, Spencer Paysinger and Eddie Pleasant give the Ducks a solid troika of experienced starters, with JC transfer Bryson Littlejohn, Dewitt Stuckey and Josh Kaddu providing depth.

3. DL hope: Oregon lost three starters from its 2008 defensive line, and projected 2009 starter Tonio Celotto quit football. All that raised eyebrows, but the D-line controlled the line of scrimmage throughout the spring. Will Tukuafu, the lone returning stater, tackles Brandon Bair, Blake Ferras and Simi Toeaina and end Kenny Rowe showed promise up front. The question, though, is whether much of their success was a function of the banged-up offensive line's struggles.

Fall questions

1. O-line woes: With returning starters C.E. Kaiser and Bo Thran sitting out due to injuries, the offensive line was green and it looked the part during spring practices. Run and pass blocking were problems. Moreover, when the injured players return, there's still a question of who will be the fifth starter and whether there will be some reshuffling of positions in the fall.

2. Thurmond sidekick? Cornerback Walter Thurmond, who was banged up much of last year, was healthy during spring practices and he looked like the NFL prospect he is. But who will play opposite him and fill the void left by the early departure of Jairus Byrd to the NFL? Will it be Talmadge Jackson or Willie Glasper, who were both injured, or will someone else step up?

3. Nothing special: A lot is expected of incoming punter Jackson Rice and kicker Mike Bowlin, particularly after the inconsistency -- and downright awfulness (see the spring game) -- of the kicking and punting. If those guys aren't ready, special teams may be an adventure next fall, though it's worth noting the kicker Morgan Flint, who was mostly solid last year, may have just had an off couple of weeks.

Will the Pac-10 be defensive in 2009?

April, 28, 2009

Posted by's Ted Miller

Talked to Oregon coach Chip Kelly this morning -- he's the Wednesday Q&A -- and he told me he's not surprised in the least that his defense has been stout this spring.

It surprised me. The Ducks lost three starting defensive linemen and likely starting tackle Tonio Celotto quit football, not to mention rover Patrick Chung and corner Jairus Byrd are off to the NFL.

Yet it fits a pattern this spring. Everybody keeps telling me how good their defense looks.

So here's a guess that the Pac-10, a year after four teams ranked in the nation's top-26 in total defense, will play its best defense in years next fall.

Only two teams welcome back fewer than five starters: USC and Oregon State. And those two, with just three starters back apiece, have been the conference's most consistent units in recent years.

And I'll just go ahead and tell you USC will rank in the nation's top 10 in total and scoring defense next year. Promise.

But other than the Trojans and Beavers -- and perhaps also Oregon (we'll see Coach Kelly) -- the other seven teams appear poised to play better defense in 2009.

Washington and Washington State couldn't help but improve. The Huskies have 10 starters back, and that doesn't include linebacker E.J. Savannah, who's a legit difference-maker.

Arizona, Arizona State, California and UCLA each have defenses that could rank in the top-25 in the nation, and Stanford, with eight starters back and a much-needed injection of athleticism courtesy of some position switches, should be vastly improved.

It certainly looks like a particularly strong year for defensive linemen. Only Washington State doesn't have at least one player up front who is widely considered an NFL prospect.

And can any conference match this secondary: FS Taylor Mays (USC), SS T.J. Ward (Oregon), CB Walter Thurmond III (Oregon), CB Alterraun Verner (UCLA) and CB Syd'Quan Thompson (California) (You choose who's the nickel)? And that leaves out Arizona corner Devin Ross, who was second-team All-Pac-10 in 2008.

If there is a position that may slide from 2008, it's linebacker, with USC, California, Arizona and Washington State taking significant hits at the position.

Yet what transpired this spring suggests each feels pretty good about the guys who will be stepping into the voids.

Toss in issues at quarterback throughout the conference, which might not bode well for a return to typical high-flying Pac-10 offenses, not to mention a number of teams with significant issues on the offensive line, and 2009 might be the year the conference hangs up impressive defensive numbers.

So if don't expect a return to the good ole days of 42-40 games next fall. It figures there will be more 20-17.

Revisiting our defensive tackle rankings

March, 11, 2009

Posted by'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

Posted by'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?