Pac-12: Trevor Reilly

Pac-12's lunch links

May, 13, 2014
May 13
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How is it that the ultimate prize in the most macho sport invented is a piece of jewelry?
You only think I guessed wrong! That's what's so funny! I switched glasses when your back was turned! Ha ha! You fool! You fell victim to one of the classic blunders -- The most famous of which is, "never get involved in a land war in Asia" -- but only slightly less well-known is this: "Never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line!"

Pac-12's lunch links

May, 7, 2014
May 7
2:30
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The reason for time is so that everything doesn't happen at once.

Pac-12's lunch links

April, 21, 2014
Apr 21
2:30
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You picked a dangerous mall to host a game show in. I hear the Easter bunny was accosted this morning.
After leading the Pac-12 in scoring defense in 2011, Utah has slipped into the middle of the pack in the conference the past two seasons. While the numbers have been generally solid -- most notably against the run -- you get the feeling that coordinator Kalani Sitake isn't happy with being fair-to-middling.

The Utes entered spring needing to replace some key guys, most notably outside linebacker Trevor Reilly, who was first-team All-Pac-12 in 2013, DT Tenny Palepoi, who earned second-team honors, and cornerback Keith McGill, who is expected to be picked in the NFL draft in May. It also didn't help the cause when playmaker Jacoby Hale blew out his knee in March.

Still, the Utes have some intrigue talent returning on defense, as well as some notable newcomers.

So, with the Utes' spring game scheduled for Saturday, it seemed like a good time to check in with Sitake, a guy who has generated some buzz as a future head coaching candidate.

First let's look back: What was good about the 2013 defense, and what were you unhappy about?

Kalani Sitake: The good part is we had some good play out of our defensive front. We've been solid in run defense for years now. I think the passing game was a little bit spotty at times, not the best. But the thing that was most negative was the lack of turnovers, specifically interceptions. We had three interceptions. In 2011, we led the Pac-12 in interceptions [with 19]. All of the sudden it dwindled to where we were last last year. Not that we didn't have opportunities, we just need to capitalize on opportunities. Three interceptions can't do it. So there's been a huge emphasis this spring on finishing plays and capitalizing on our opportunities. That was a huge, glaring negative for us last season.

With the spring game on Saturday, give me an overall assessment of where your defense is right now.

Kalani Sitake: We have some guys who are banged up, specifically at D-tackle, who haven't been participating. We also are counting on a few guys who have done some good things this spring. I think Eric Rowe and Reggie Porter, our cornerbacks, our defensive backfield of Davion Orphey and Justin Thomas -- I'm naming those guys as corners -- they have really improved. We seen really good things from them. I feel more comfortable with that position now than I did earlier. I think our safeties, with Brian Blechen playing there and as soon as Tevin Carter gets healthy, I think we'll see our safeties start to come along. We're going to be a lot deeper when we get some of these newcomers, Tevin Carter specifically, coming in. I think our defense as a whole got better. I think we are a lot more set. Going through some of the issues we had last year, a lot of guys are more experienced. It wasn't the best defense statistically for us, but the experience a lot of these young guys went through is going to pay off huge for us this fall. Going through the grind of the Pac-12 conference has been good for these guys.

Who replaces OLB Trevor Reilly's production?

Kalani Sitake: We did some things with Nate Orchard and we think he's going to be that guy. Probably not as much at inside linebacker as Trevor played. You'll see Nate doing a lot of what Trevor did last year. He's in his senior year. He's had a great spring, though we held him out of a lot of the scrimmage stuff. He's our big-play guy up front. I see him now as our leader. He's really starting to come into his own, which is perfect timing for us, especially with us replacing Trevor Reilly. Nate Orchard is the next guy in and I think he'll do a great job at it.

What does it mean to have S/LB Brian Blechen back and how will you guys use him this fall?

Kalani Sitake: It's huge because he has more interceptions than any of the defensive backs who are returning. He won games for us as a true freshman with interceptions. The main thing for us is he is a big-play guy. Having a big play guy at safety is valuable for us, specifically when we need turnovers, interceptions. Whether he causes a fumble, makes a big hit or gets an interception, just to have the impact he has. We'd like to keep him at safety but with his versatility and him knowing football so well and knowing our defense, he can play any of the spots on our defense. Having a guy that gives you those options is a huge benefit and huge asset for us defensively.

Let's go through all three levels. First, your defensive line: Who's had a good spring up front?

Kalani Sitake: Up front, I saw some good things out of Hunter Dimick and Jason Fanaika, playing D-end. Jason can also play inside at D-tackle. Same with Hunter. Viliseni Fauonuku has had a great spring. He was banged up a little bit but came back. He's the explosive defensive lineman we need at D-tackle. Pita Taumoepenu has proven that he's a good pass rusher. We're going to need him. As a true freshman last year, he wasn't ready to be an every-down guy. This next little bit in fall camp, I'd like to see him develop into an every-down type of D-end. A little bit undersized [6-foot-1, 230 pounds], but we've had guys we've had to add weight on before. Nate Orchard used to be that guy his freshman, sophomore year. We have some guys up front who are doing some really good things. I'll be excited to get some of our D-tackles back healthy -- Stevie Tu'ikolovatu, Sese Ianu -- and we're getting Star Lotulelei's little brother, Lowell, in the fall. And then there's Sam Tevi. So there's four D-tackles who haven't participated in spring. And Filipo Mokofisi will be huge for us up front, too. We also have a [junior college] transfer from Snow College, Pasoni Tasini, who will be huge for us. Defensive tackle-wise, I'm excited about those guys. I think the front is going to be a strength for us.

I think our defense as a whole got better. I think we are a lot more set. Going through some of the issues we had last year, a lot of guys are more experienced. It wasn't the best defense statistically for us, but the experience a lot of these young guys went through is going to pay off huge for us this fall.

Utah coordinator Kalani Sitake on the state of his defense going into the 2014 season.
And at linebacker?

Kalani Sitake: We had those unfortunate injuries with Jacoby Hale and Gionni Paul, but Gionni Paul will be back for us for fall camp and for the season. With Hale, it's as soon as we can get him back from his ACL, we'll take him. That's part of football. The great part of it is we've got some depth. We'll get Jason Whittingham back in the fall. Jared Norris has emerged as dynamic at linebacker for us. He can do anything. He can play inside or outside. He's got what it takes. I see, as far as last year to this year, he's made a huge improvement, his speed and agility. I'm excited to see what he can do this fall. Uaea Masina will be a solid linebacker for us this fall. We moved Marcus Sanders-Williams from running back to linebacker after those two injuries, and for a guy who's only been a linebacker for a week ... his second day of being a linebacker was our scrimmage, and he graded out higher than I've had a newcomer grade out. He understands defense and made a ton of big plays. For a guy who's got a lot of speed, I'm excited about him at linebacker. Those guys have done some really good things who we will be relying on this fall.

And in the secondary?

Kalani Sitake: Overall, Eric Rowe, we can play him at free safety, but we feel like Tevin Carter can be a guy, so we've got Tevin Carter and Brian Blechen at safety. We feel good with those guys. I also feel good with Charles Henderson backing up the safety position. A couple of these freshmen coming in should be able to help us out. We also moved Hipolito Corporan from corner to safety. Those guys will give us a solid group at free safety and strong safety. Eric Rowe can be a swing guy from corner to safety, but we feel really comfortable with him replacing Keith McGill and being a big corner for us. Reggie Porter will join him at a corner spot with Justin Thomas as our nickel corner. You also have Davion Orphey who started for us last year at corner. We feel really solid about those four corners right there. And Wykie Freeman is a guy that also gives us a corner we feel good about. We'll see how the young guys come along. We feel really good about our five corners, and Eric Rowe has been dynamic for us.

I know you coach defense, but folks are curious about QB Travis Wilson and his health. How has he looked this spring?

Kalani Sitake: He's a lot lighter now and he's actually caused problems for us scrambling around. He's going against the first-team defense every day and he's looking a lot quicker. He's more comfortable the more he plays. I've been really impressed with some of the things he's done. I think he's back to himself. He's taking on leadership roles with the team. It will be really exciting to see what he can do this fall. Losing the weight, he's a lot more elusive for a 6-foot-7 guy -- I think that's working for him. He can make guys miss and run around and beat guys to the edge. I see him doing some really good things. He's older and feels more comfortable, even though it's a new offensive system.

Biggest shoes to fill: Utah

March, 28, 2014
Mar 28
9:00
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Starters in, starters out. That's college football. Players' eligibility expires and they leave for the rest of their lives, which might include the NFL or not. And they leave behind shoes of various sizes that need to be filled.

In alphabetical order, we will survey each Pac-12 team’s most notable void. Today we look at Utah.

Biggest shoes: DL/OLB Trevor Reilly

Man, was this guy good. He played through injuries and carried the Utes with his ability to rush the quarterback, stop the run and play in coverage. He was a true hybrid, and as a result was rewarded as a first-team all-conference performer. He led the Utes with 100 tackles. He led the Utes with 16 tackles for a loss. He led the Utes with 8.5 sacks. He tied for the most interceptions (1) and most fumbles recovered (3). Of all the players we’ve talked about replacing so far in this series, few were as versatile and wore as many hats as Reilly.

Stepping in: No one

Does that seem a little vague? Well, coach Kyle Whittingham said it himself. “It takes two guys to replace Trevor.” It’s a very apt statement, because Utah doesn’t have another hybrid guy like Reilly. Not many teams do. Reilly would handle responsibilities at both defensive end and outside linebacker. Now, it will be an individual guy in each spot. Nate Orchard will handle the defensive end responsibilities and Jason Whittingham will be the linebacker. Not complete downgrades, by any means. Whittingham was second on the team in tackles last year behind Reilly with 81. He was also notched five tackles for a loss, a sack and broke up four passes. Orchard did some good work in the backfield as well, recording 9 tackles for a loss and 3.5 sacks to go with his 50 tackles.

Previous big shoes
Our look at position groups in the Pac-12 continues.

Arizona: Coach Rich Rodriguez is confident in both Reggie Gilbert and Dan Pettinato and anxious to get junior-college transfers Jeff Worthy, who also spent a year at Boise State, and Jerod Cody acclimated to the system. Calvin Allen, Jack Banda and Luca Bruno are coming off redshirt seasons and represent a group Rodriguez said the team needs production from.

Arizona State: With the departure of Gannon Conway and Davon Coleman, there is a question about the team's depth at end. Without Will Sutton clogging things up next year, the Sun Devils' lack of experience is even more of a concern. Sean O'Grady backed up Conway and Coleman last year, but ASU has several well-regarded junior-college transfers in Edmond Boateng, Marcus Hardison and Demetrius Cherry.

California: The Bears list seven defensive ends, but former junior-college transfer Kyle Kragen and Puka Lopa gained the most experience last season listed at the rush position. Antione Davis was outgoing starter Dan Camporeale's primary backup, but Brennan Scarlett's return is more important. He started nine games in 2012 and has been cleared to play following a hand issue that cost him the 2013 season. Todd Barr, Sione Sina and recent-transfer Jonathan Johnson are also in the mix.

Colorado: Colorado must replace Chidera Uzo-Diribe, but Juda Parker is back for his senior season, and several others have game experience. Samson Kafovalu is the likely candidate to start opposite him after making 18 tackles in seven games last year. Jimmie Gilbert was Uzo-Diribe's backup, Kirk Poston and De'Jon Wilson also played.

Oregon: The Ducks took a hit with the departure of Taylor Hart, who was named second-team All-Pac-12, but have a talented player in Arik Armstead lined up to take his spot. Armstead started five times in 2013 and left the basketball team midseason to shift his focus back to football. T.J. Daniel, Jason Sloan are projected to be in the mix for playing time.

Oregon State: Scott Crichton is gone, but Dylan Wynn remains and will likely be the Beavers' best defensive player a year after finishing fourth on the team in tackles. Lavonte Barnett, Crichton's primary backup in 2013, and Jaswha James figure to compete for the starting job, but there are two others to keep an eye on. Obum Gwacham recently switched from receiver and Mike Riley has been complimentary of Titus Failauga, who is coming off his redshirt.

Stanford: Henry Anderson has a chance to be one of the best defensive players in the conference and Blake Lueders, who switched from OLB, began the spring atop the depth chart. The intriguing prospect is Luke Kaumatule, who was recruited to play defense but began 2013 as the team's starting tight end. Spring will be important for his development, but his raw ability is impressive.

UCLA: Both Ellis McCarthy and Eddie Vanderdoes were all-Pac-12 honorable mention last season and highlight a talented UCLA defensive line. Their return will help account for the loss of Cassius Marsh, who started 12 games last year. Both McCarthy and Vanderdoes can play inside or outside, but the Bruins listed them both at end. Highly recruited DE Kylie Fitts saw playing time as a true freshman last season.

USC: Leonard Williams, the only sophomore named first-team all-Pac-12 on defense last season, is the best in the conference. Delvon Simmons, who sat out last season after transferring from Texas Tech, has a lot of game experience. He started 12 games for the Red Raiders in 2012 and had regular playing time as a freshman there in 2011. Both Simmons and J.R. Tavai, who was an all-Pac-12 honorable mention selection, can play inside or outside.

Utah: There's no replacing Trevor Reilly, who made 100 tackles despite lingering effects from a torn ACL, but Nate Orchard and Hunter Dimick both saw extensive playing time last season. The Utes have five other defensive ends on the roster, but of that group only LT Filiaga made a tackle last season.

Washington: The Huskies are in great shape with the return of Hau'oli Kikaha, a second-team All-Pac-12 selection, Cory Littleton and Evan Hudson. Josh Shirley has 10 career starts, while Joe Mathis and Psalm Wooching provide depth.

Washington State: With Toni Pole expected to move back inside, the depth chart will look similar to how it did going into last season, minus Matt Bock. After making 50 tackles last year, Xavier Cooper will start on one side, with Destiny Vaeao and Lyman Faoliu strong candidates for more playing time. Emmitt Su'a-Kalio is coming off a redshirt, and the Cougars also signed a pair of defensive ends from Hawaii in Kingston Fernandez and Hercules Mata'afa.

Previous positions

Tight end
Quarterback
Running back
Receiver
Offensive line
Defensive tackle

Offseason spotlight: Utah

March, 3, 2014
Mar 3
9:00
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We're taking a look at a player from each Pac-12 team who could step into the spotlight in 2014.

[+] EnlargeWhittingham
Boyd Ivey/Icon SMIJason Whittingham will be asked to lead Utah's defense.
Spotlight: LB Jason Whittingham, Jr.

2013 summary: In 10 games, Whittingham ranked second on the team with 81 tackles.

The skinny: Utah loses defensive standouts DE/OLB Trevor Reilly, DL Tenny Palepoi and CB Keith McGill, which leaves a potential leadership void on that side of the ball. After making 81 tackles as a sophomore and landing on the all-Pac-12 honorable mention list, Whittingham will likely be called on to fill it. Whittingham, who is head coach Kyle Whittingham's nephew, was originally expected to move to defensive end after starting six games as a middle linebacker in 2012. Another player to keep an eye on is receiver Dres Anderson, who is setup for a big senior year after catching 53 passes for 1,0002 yards. He'll be one of the conference's best returning receivers.

Previous spotlights

Pac-12 lunch links

February, 21, 2014
Feb 21
2:30
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Happy Friday!

Top 2013 performances: Trevor Reilly

February, 13, 2014
Feb 13
9:00
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We're looking at some of the top individual performances in the Pac-12 in 2013.

Up next: Reilly's hard-luck run

Who and against whom: Utah outside linebacker/defensive end Trevor Reilly had one of the best four-game runs -- Arizona, USC, Arizona State and Oregon -- of any Pac-12 defensive player from Oct. 19 to Nov. 16.

The numbers: In four consecutive games, Reilly piled up 39 tackles and seven sacks.

A closer look: The original intention here was to take note of Reilly's game-high 14 tackles and two sacks in a losing effort at Arizona. It's not often that a guy who mostly plays on the edge gets that many stops, while still dominating as a pass rusher. But then we couldn't help but notice his stat lines over the next three games: a team-high 11 tackles with two sacks at USC, nine tackles and 1.5 sacks against Arizona State and five tackles and 1.5 sacks at Oregon. That's four big-time performances -- three on the road -- against teams that combined for 39 victories. Of course, one of the reasons you didn't hear more about Reilly in general, or specifically these performances, is that the Utes lost all four games. There's a reason Reilly won first-team All-Pac-12 honors and was ranked 20th on our survey of the conference's top-25 players: He was a really good and highly productive player.

Pac-12's lunch links

January, 30, 2014
Jan 30
2:30
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Now it is done. Now the story ends. And there is no way to tell it. The art of fiction is dead. Reality has strangled invention. Only the utterly impossible, the inexpressibly fantastic, can ever be plausible again.
Welcome to the mailbag. This is a safe place that allows the free expression of ideas. Let your power animal run wild, just please clean up after it.

Couple of questions about the departure of Oregon State offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf (Eric and Benny, questions received) mainly inquiring as to the direction of the offense, what it means for Sean Mannion and how this impacts the team this close to recruiting.

[+] EnlargeSean Mannion
Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY SportsWill Oregon State QB Sean Mannion miss coach Danny Langsdorf, who is heading to the NFL? Sure, but it shouldn't affect his production.
Kevin Gemmell: First, I’m not sure what this does for Mannion. I’m hoping to get him on the phone sometime in the next couple of days to chat about it. We’re working on that. I do know that Mannion specifically cited Langsdorf as a reason for him coming back another year. He wasn’t the only reason, but he was important enough for the QB to make note of it.

As for what it means for the direction of the offense. Not too much, I don’t think. Mike Riley has basically been the offensive coordinator the last couple of seasons anyway, calling all of the plays. And you can’t argue with OSU’s offensive production the last couple of seasons. It’s the defense that cost it some games in 2013. You could probably make a case that Brandin Cooks leaving might have the bigger impact than Langsdorf. After all, Biletnikoff winners don’t come around all that often.

Possible replacements? The trend -- at least among the league’s departed defensive coordinators -- has been to keep it in-house. And if that’s the case, maybe wide receivers coach Brent Brennan gets a long look. In three years in Corvallis he’s helped develop, among others, Cooks, Markus Wheaton and James Rodgers. Offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh is another interesting name. He’s been around nine years and is extremely well respected. Just floating that one for kicks. I have no idea if he’s interested.

As for recruiting, I talked to someone in the know at Oregon State who said Riley isn’t too concerned about it right now. Is it possible that they lose a commit over this? Maybe. But no doubt Riley has already reached out or made visits to all of Langsdorf’s targets and assured them that the buck stops with him offensively.

So the takeaway is this -- Langsdorf was a very good position coach. That’s why he’s been offered a position to keep doing it at the next level. But it’s hard not imagine Riley isn’t still going to be the primary play-caller, regardless of who gets the OC gig. And with Mannion back for another season, the Beavers should be pretty potent again if they can find some receivers (paging Victor Bolden?) and get the running game going.

Michael in Phoenix writes: It has been thoroughly discussed how ASU is losing 9-starters on defense. While this is disconcerting, ASU also welcomes back most of its explosive offense. Not going to ask you to predict next season’s outcome just yet, but what would you characterize as a successful season in Year 3 under CTG? 8 wins? 9 wins? 10? (It goes without saying a win over He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named down south is mandatory).

Kevin Gemmell: Offense is nice. But as your coach is fond of saying -- defense wins, wait for it … championships. OK, so Todd Graham isn’t the first guy to come up with that one. But I know he believes in it. And I know he makes his living on that side of the football. And when you look at all of the talent they are losing -- combined with a lack of experienced depth -- then the Sun Devils are probably going to have to win some track meets.

And that’s OK. As you pointed out, they are pretty loaded offensively. Losing Marion Grice and his 20 touchdowns is obviously a hit. But Taylor Kelly returns at quarterback and we got glimpses of what D.J. Foster is capable of as the No. 1 back. What we saw in those glimpses was inconsistency. At times, brilliant and electric. Other times, he looked like a young back. Which is expected. There are also some depth issues across the offensive line that will have to be addressed.

But when you look at the potential of the passing attack, it’s pretty scary. Combine Kelly with returning Jaelen Strong and the addition of Eric Lauderdale, that’s going to be a potent air strike. Lauderdale is one of the top JC wide receivers in the country. Graham hit a home run when he brought in Strong, also a JC transfer, last season. He’s done it again with the 6-foot-2, 200-pound Lauderdale, who runs in the 4.4 range. He picked the Sun Devils over Florida, Oregon, Nebraska, Texas Tech and Washington, to name a few.

So yes, I expect the offense to be really good. It’s going to have to be. But given what Graham has accomplished in his first two seasons, I think folks would be disappointed with anything less than eight wins. But a hat trick against the Wildcats will go a long way, even if they don’t repeat as South champs.

Scott in Concord writes: Did you know that when the Pac-12 lunch links post a link to the Seattle Times, it asks the reader for a subscription to view the article? I am pretty sure ESPN has subscriptions to these links, but I think people should haven't to pay for subscriptions for links posted from your site. Thanks.

Kevin Gemmell: Ted touched on this in his mailbag last week. This is the way newspapers are trending. Having spent the bulk of my career coming home with ink on my fingers, I can tell you that it’s an industry that is struggling to find a viable business model for making money on the Web.

Just for kicks, you should watch this. It’s scary interesting.

As for the alternative, it’s tough to find a link for every school each day -- especially in the offseason. The other option is that the school doesn’t get a link for that day. Would you guys prefer that? Let us know. But we try very hard to make sure every school is linked. We’ll obviously continue to look for free options. But if a non-pay option isn’t available, you have free will to do what you want. You can either pay for the information, or not. The market will decide if there is enough demand to pay for content. We’re just putting it out there.

[+] EnlargeTrevor Reilly, Shayn Reilly
AP Photo/Rick BowmerThings are looking up for Trevor Reilly and his daughter, Shayn, who has been battling cancer.
FG in Seattle writes: You made Trevor Reilly from Utah your No. 20 pick on your postseason list of Top 25 conference players. You point out he played through a torn ACL in 2012. Per the Pac 12 channel, he played this entire season with his 11-month-old daughter going through chemotherapy for a renal cancer and was due to be done in December if all went well. Is there some type of public update on this story? If there is, and it's good news, a lot of Pac 12 fans outside of Utah would like to hear it. Thanks.

Kevin Gemmell: The last public report I saw about this was last month following the Utah-Colorado game. And the news appears to be very good.

I’ve known Trevor since he was a sophomore at Valley Center High School and covered him through his prep days into the Mountain West and finally through the Pac-12. That’s one of my favorite parts of the job is seeing these guys as high school players going on to have great college careers and then into the professional ranks. I’m thrilled for him and his family.

Trev on the West Coast writes: Read the article about the ACC stepping up its scheduling for the upcoming year, however I can't help but notice with its eight-game conference schedule, each team only averages 9.35 big boy teams (ACC/BIG12/B1G/PAC12/SEC/ND/BYU). So I checked each conference to see the stats: BIG12 -- 10.1; PAC 12 -- 10; ACC -- 9.35; B1G -- 9.14; SEC -- 8.88. My question is when will the polls actually stop ranking teams for good records against weak OCCs and actually make you beat people before you get ranked? On a side note, if you are curious how big a difference there is between nine and eight conference games, use the NCAA game and swap the PAC and SEC and watch how in 2-3 years the number of ranked teams each year is flopped.

Kevin Gemmell: What you have to understand is that “the polls” aren’t one single, entity. They consist of dozens of voters. And each of those voters has their own value system that they apply to factors like strength of schedule, overall record, good wins vs. good losses, etc.

You can see it when Ted and I do our weekly rankings. He and I differ quite a bit on certain things. I tend to not punish teams as much for losing to good teams on the road. Ted, however, clearly lets his time in the South bias his views to the point where it gets nauseating. I jest, of course.

The polls are a human system. And with human systems come flaws. At least they are perceived as flaws because you don’t agree with the way someone is voting. They think their vote is perfect.

My good friend Jon Wilner is one of the more renegade voters out there. And he and I have had many, many discussions about how he votes. I don’t always agree with him. But I also know he’s not just throwing darts. He takes it very seriously. I’ve seen him after games furiously scribbling out his Top 25 in his notepad, and his voting system works for him.

Regional bias comes into play -- as well as what we see with our own eyes. Trying to make sense of it all can make you go koo-koo bananas.

Cougy the Coug in Spokane, Wash. writes: Great job leaving Deone Bucannon off of your departing players list. He was only an All-American!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Kevin Gemmell: Thank you for your interest in the Pac-12 blog’s reading comprehension seminar and your gratuitous use of exclamation points. I’m afraid this is the advanced course. Ted already covered remedial reading last week. Your submission is appreciated.

Pac-12 Top 25 for 2013: No. 20

January, 22, 2014
Jan 22
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Our countdown of the Pac-12’s Top 25 players from the 2013 season continues.

You can review our 2013 preseason Top 25 here.

No. 20: Trevor Reilly, DE/OLB, Utah

2013 numbers: Reilly was fourth in the Pac-12 with 100 tackles and fifth in sacks (8.5) and tackles for a loss (16). He also forced a fumble, recovered three of them and had an interception.

Preseason ranking: Unranked

Making the case for Reilly: You combine passion for football with a motor that won’t quit and you have Reilly. While Star Lotulelei got a lot of the ink for the Utes the last couple of years, Reilly has really been the anchor of the defense for some time. And this season he had the spotlight all to himself and made the most of it. He landed on the first-team All-Pac-12 squad as a defensive lineman, though he was just as versatile as a rush backer or dropping back into coverage. A former walk-on, he played through -- not with, through -- a torn ACL in 2012. That kind of grit earns you respect from your teammates and coaches, which is why he was a team captain. He’s probably better suited for a 3-4 scheme at the next level, but with some weight he could be a 4-3 outside linebacker. He has coverage skills and a run-stopping nose for the football. It seemed only fitting that it was Reilly who snagged the game-winning interception in the season finale against Colorado. And Reilly’s performance against Stanford -- probably the biggest home win in school history -- stands out for his team-high seven tackles, forced fumble and two fumble recoveries.

The countdown:
No. 21: Sean Mannion, QB, Oregon State
No. 22: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington
No. 23: Hroniss Grasu, C, Oregon
No. 24: Josh Huff, WR, Oregon
No. 25: Myles Jack, LB/RB, UCLA
The Pac-12 has seen a flurry of defensive coordinator movement over the last couple of weeks -- starting with the power struggle for former Washington defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox to the recent exoduses of Stanford’s Derek Mason to Vanderbilt as head coach and UCLA’s Lou Spanos to the Tennessee Titans as linebackers coach. Oregon’s promotion of Don Pellum to defensive coordinator to replace Nick Aliotti will also shine a spotlight on the Ducks’ defense in 2014 and beyond.

And then there is, of course, former USC defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast, who mysteriously continues to be out of work.

[+] EnlargeKevin Hogan, Scott Crichton
Steve Dykes/Getty ImagesOregon State defensive end Scott Crichton is among the Pac-12 defensive stars entering the NFL in 2014.
Look at the top five scoring defenses in the Pac-12 in 2013: Stanford, Oregon, USC, Washington and UCLA, respectively. All five have had defensive coordinators in flux in the young offseason.

That makes for an interesting transition period for the Pac-12. Defenses had closed the gap in recent years with several teams ranking in the top 25 nationally in scoring defense. That in itself is an achievement considering the level of offensive skill players and the diversity of offenses in the conference.

But when you look ahead to 2014, there are a lot of quarterbacks coming back to man the league’s high-powered offenses -- Marcus Mariota, Brett Hundley, Taylor Kelly, Sean Mannion, Connor Halliday, etc. You combine that with a massive talent drain of defensive players graduating or declaring for the NFL, plus all of the shifting within the defensive coaching ranks, and you have to wonder if 2014 is going to be the Year of Offense in the Pac-12.

Consider a few of the defensive standouts leaving: Anthony Barr (UCLA), Will Sutton (ASU), Shayne Skov (Stanford), Dion Bailey (USC), Terrance Mitchell (Oregon), Scott Crichton (Oregon State), Trent Murphy (Stanford), Carl Bradford (ASU), Deone Bucannon (Washington State), Trevor Reilly (Utah). There are a couple dozen others who aren’t mentioned who were high-impact guys like Stanford’s Ben Gardner and Ed Reynolds, Jordan Zumwalt and Cassius Marsh from UCLA and Alden Darby, Osahon Irabor and Robert Nelson from ASU.

In total, 19 of the 25 all-conference defensive players from 2013 will be gone next year -- including 10 of 12 from the first team. Plus about a dozen more that were honorable mention are leaving or graduating. That is a major hit to the defensive talent in the league.

The Pac-12 is rarely appreciated nationally for its defensive prowess, either from a player or coaching perspective. And now three of the best coordinators in the conference are gone, one has moved from Washington to USC and another is looking for a gig.

Pac-12 offenses are going to be loaded in 2014 while the defenses have huge question marks. There is plenty of young talent. Guys like Myles Jack (UCLA), Addison Gillam (Colorado) and Su’a Cravens (USC) have all made names for themselves early in their careers. There are also some very notable returners like Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (Oregon), Henry Anderson (Stanford), Shaq Thompson (Washington) and Hayes Pullard (USC).

But a lot more is gone than is coming back.

That opens the door for all sorts of comparison storylines. Wilcox did an outstanding job re-tooling the defense at Washington. And now Pete Kwiatkowski will be measured against what Wilcox was able to accomplish. Likewise, Pendergast probably should have been USC’s MVP for what he did with the Trojans in one season. Now Wilcox has to take over an outfit that is losing a lot of playmakers to the NFL. No doubt, he’ll be compared to his predecessor. Just as Pellum will be compared to Aliotti, and whoever fills the seats at Stanford and UCLA will be compared to what Mason and Spanos were able to accomplish.

The guard is changing, as it does every year in college football. This year it might be the Pac-12 defenses that take a step back.

Season wrap: Utah

January, 15, 2014
Jan 15
6:30
AM ET
Utah’s season can be defined by two halves. There was leading up to and including the Stanford upset, and then everything after that, which was mainly the injury to Travis Wilson and the subsequent downfall that comes with losing a starting quarterback.

The Utes were 4-2 and seemed poised to crack the postseason. But Wilson’s injury kicked off a five-game slide (he played sparingly in three of the first five before a possible career-ending brain condition was uncovered). There were highlights, but all in all, missing the postseason for another year has left a lot of Utah fans -- and its coach -- feeling frustrated. Offseason changes have already occurred, but questions about Wilson’s long-term health linger.

You can read our graded review of Utah here.

Offensive MVP: Though he missed the final three games and was injured for three more, the numbers still point to Wilson, because when he was at his best, the gettin' was good. The Utes averaged 37 points per game when Wilson was at full strength, but 21.3 in the games he was injured or missed. That is, by definition, the most valuable player.

Defensive MVP: No question it's DE/LB Trevor Reilly, who had a team-high 100 tackles to go with 16 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks. He also had an interception, defended three passes, forced a fumble and recovered another. He was well deserving of his spot on the first-team all-conference squad.

Best moment: Wilson takes a knee, flashes the “U” symbol to the MUSS and the students storm the field following a 27-21 win over Stanford. It was that signature Pac-12 win that everyone had been waiting for since the Utes joined the conference, and it was arguably the biggest regular-season win in school history. Diehards will argue the win over BYU was more important -- and they might be right, given that the Holy War goes on hiatus. I’d listen to that argument.

Worst moment: You could argue that pretty much every other game that followed, save Colorado, qualifies. But when you look back at the six interceptions against UCLA in a 34-27 loss, or the 51-48 overtime loss to Oregon State -- both at home -- it’s easy to see where one or two plays make all the difference between going bowling and staying home.

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