Pac-12: Troy Williams

Pac-12 media days wrap-up

July, 25, 2014
Jul 25
11:00
AM ET
That's a wrap. Media days have come and gone, and we are officially in full football mode.

The big news from Day 2 was that Washington Huskies quarterback Cyler Miles will be suspended for the first game of the season when the Huskies face the Hawaii Warriors on Aug. 30.

What does this mean for the Huskies in the short term? Nothing. As my colleague Ted Miller tweeted, a certain member of the Pac-12 blog could probably start at quarterback against Hawaii and win (though Ted is giving said member more credit than he deserves). Either Jeff Lindquist or Troy Williams will be fine.

But it hurts Miles' development in the sense that you are only guaranteed 12 (or 13, in the case of the Huskies this season) opportunities a season to improve, to learn, to develop. And when you lose one of those opportunities, you can't get it back.

We're confident that Miles (whom we all can assume would have won the starting job anyway) would have loved the opportunity to get that first touchdown throw out of the way, that first hit, that first good read and bad read. He'll likely get that shot a week later against Eastern Washington -- a team that gave Oregon State fits last season. Not saying the Huskies will share the same fate as the Beavers, but the Pac-12 blog would like its starter to at least have had a game under his belt.

On the flip side, it does give the Huskies a chance to get some valuable playing time for another quarterback. Miles already has some game experience. Last season he completed 37 of 61 passes for 418 yards and four touchdowns with two interceptions. He also rushed 23 times for 200 yards.

So I guess it depends on whether you view the glass as half empty or half full. But for coach Chris Petersen, it's a glass he'd much rather have not had to drink from in his first year with the team.

Hundley stereotyped?

An interesting read from Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports on UCLA Bruins quarterback Brett Hundley. Coach Jim Mora doesn't want Hundley to fall prey to the stereotype that African-American quarterbacks are just runners.

Here's what Mora told Mandel:
“People have a tendency at times to see an African-American quarterback and say, 'Oh, he's a runner.' I hate that stereotype and I always have," said Mora. "I coached Michael Vick and my belief [is] that we stereotype those guys started with him. I don't want that to happen with Brett, and I'm going to make sure that it doesn't, because it shouldn't. The guy's a passer."

Hundley doesn't want to get pigeonholed, either. Here's a story the blog did on him back in April, for which he talked about training with several NFL quarterbacks in the hopes of becoming a "complete" player.

He knows the Heisman hype is coming, telling the Pac-12 blog earlier Thursday, "There's nothing I can really do to stop other people from talking about it. I'm just going to do the best I can to block it out and focus on wins."

Is it boring? Yeah. Is it plain? Yeah. But considering some of the questionable off-the-field résumés of some recent Heisman winners, maybe we could all do with a little boring and plain off the field and center our focus on what happens on it.

Stanford-SJSU Take 2

Following up on a link we brought you yesterday, about San Jose State coach Ron Caragher addressing the possibility of the Stanford Cardinal and the San Jose State Spartans reuniting at Levi's Stadium, Stanford coach David Shaw says he's on board.

Shaw told Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News, "I never wanted to stop the series. I hope we get back to it."

For the Bay Area, for the schools and for the fans, we can all agree we'd like to see the game reinstated.

Injury notes

Some injury updates that came out of media days:

Oregon State's Isaac Seumalo should be available early in the season, according to Gina Mizell of the Oregonian.

Christian Caple reported that Washington defensive lineman Jaimie Bryant has taken a medical retirement.

Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News first reported that wide receiver Ty Montgomery might be inactive for Week 1 against UC Davis.
It's time to start our preseason position reviews. Please, hold your applause until we are finished.

Here's how we do this: We provide three evaluative categories: "Great shape," "Good shape" and "We'll see."

Hint: You'd prefer your team to be in "Great shape."

"We'll see" doesn't mean you're going to stink at said position. It means just what it says -- we'll see because there's no way at present to know.

You can review last year's rankings here.

And away we go ... starting, of course, with quarterback.

GREAT SHAPE

Oregon: Junior Marcus Mariota is -- again -- a leading Heisman Trophy candidate and a two-time first-team All-Pac-12 performer. He would have been an early-round NFL draft pick this spring if he'd opted not to return. The Ducks have some questions at receiver though.

UCLA: Junior Brett Hundley is the conference's No. 2 Heisman Trophy candidate. While Arizona State's Taylor Kelly eclipsed him for second-team All-Pac-12 last fall, Hundley's tremendous upside is why he has NFL scouts eagerly awaiting his entering the draft.

Arizona State: As noted, Kelly was the Pac-12's No. 2 QB last season, which means he was one of the nation's best at the position. It also helps his cause that he's got WR Jaelen Strong, an All-American candidate. However, Kelly does need to take fewer sacks -- you could say the same for Hundley -- and throw fewer interceptions.

Oregon State: Sean Mannion ranked second in the nation with 358.6 yards passing per game in 2013 and is also an NFL prospect. Life might be just a bit harder in the passing game without Brandin Cooks.

GOOD SHAPE

Stanford: Kevin Hogan, a third-year starter, had a good but not great sophomore season while leading the Cardinal to the Pac-12 championship. He was mostly efficient and showed a good touch downfield, but he made some surprisingly bad decisions and needs work with his intermediate passing game. He's got a good crew of veteran receivers coming back, which bodes well for him.

Washington State: Connor Halliday threw for a bunch of yards (4,597) and TDs (34) last season, but he also tossed way too many interceptions (22). Part of that was an inconsistent O-line and a neglected running game. The good news is he's in his third year under Mike Leach and has a strong crew of returning receivers. Of all the Pac-12 QBs, he might make the biggest climb this season.

USC: Cody Kessler didn't put up big numbers last season and didn't beat Notre Dame or UCLA but significantly improved after Lane Kiffin was fired. Like Kelly, he's got an A-list target coming back in WR Nelson Agholor. We expect Kessler to thrive with a new, up-tempo scheme under Steve Sarkisian.

Utah: Utah received good news yesterday when 16-game starter Travis Wilson was medically cleared to play. When healthy, Wilson has been a solid performer with good upside. He'll have to fight off a challenge this preseason from Oklahoma transfer Kendal Thompson though.

California: Jared Goff averaged 292 yards passing per game as a true freshman. That's good. But the Cal offense struggled to do much else but throw the ball between the 20s -- hence a conference-worst 23 points per game. He had just 18 TD passes on 531 attempts. Still, he flashed potential and has a very good crew of receivers coming back.

Colorado: Sefo Liufau became the Buffaloes' starter at midseason and often played like the true freshman he was. Furthermore, he won't have Paul Richardson serving as a safety blanket and making big plays for him. Still, Liufau's baptism by Pac-12 fire provided some seasoning that was evident this spring. The Buffs feel pretty good about having a returning starter behind center.

WE'LL SEE

Washington: While Cyler Miles flashed potential last season coming of the bench for Keith Price, logging a road victory at Oregon State in his first start, he also had an off-field issue that has muddied the waters at QB for the Huskies. It remains to be seen how quickly Miles emerges from Chris Petersen's doghouse, and if he can beat out Jeff Lindquist and Troy Williams.

Arizona: The Wildcats have no clear frontrunner in their QB competition. That's the bad news. The good news is the performances this spring were generally solid. Rich Rodriguez believes he's got a couple of guys who can win games for him. He's just not sure which guy is No. 1 between Jesse Scroggins, Connor Brewer, Anu Solomon and Jerrard Randall.

Mailbag: QB issues, panic & worst cases

June, 13, 2014
Jun 13
7:00
PM ET
Welcome to the mailbag.

You can follow me on Twitter by clicking here. One word: Nirvana. And I'm not talking about the band, though they would sound pretty good just about now.

To the notes!

Grant from Seattle writes: Ted, what are the odds that someone other than Cyler Miles starts a game at QB for the Huskies this year? And who would it be -- Lindquist or Williams? I've heard some really good things about Lindquist.

Ted Miller: The Huskies QB situation will be intriguing to watch this August.

While the overwhelming sentiment is Miles is the most ready to take over for Keith Price, there are no guarantees. You, of course, start with his off-field incident after the Super Bowl. While Miles wasn't charged, there is no question that he didn't conduct himself well. Even if it was all on wide receiver Damore'ea Stringfellow, which I find dubious, Miles' proper response would have been to grab his enraged teammate by his collar and say, "You need to shut up and chill out."

(Funny fact: I have a good buddy who might be reading this who was the captain of my high school football team and did that exact thing to me when I was acting like an imbecile. Perhaps more than once. Gemmell now has that job).

The reason I bring that up is that coach Chris Petersen has made a big deal out of OKGs -- "Our Kind of Guys." When I say big deal, I mean it's actually written in big letters beside his picture on the Huskies official website.

It's fair to ask how quickly Miles might earn OKG status, whether he's the most game-ready guy or not. My feeling with Petersen is he probably isn't going to make things easy for Miles, at least in the early going.

As for a pecking order between Jeff Lindquist and Troy Williams, I haven't noted an appreciable separation, at least nothing that can't be quickly overcome in fall camp.

So, to answer your question, I'd rate it a 39-percent chance that someone other than Miles starts a game at QB for the Huskies this year.

 




0006shy from Los Angeles writes: hey ted, do you think the lack of conference championship games for the Big 12 and Notre Dame will hurt them when it comes to being selected for the playoff? Generally speaking won't teams that play thirteen games have stronger schedules?

Ted Miller: Yes and no.

A strong 12-game schedule will trump a weak 13-game one. An undefeated Notre Dame or undefeated Big 12 team is a very good bet for the four-team College Football Playoff because they will, more often than not, play a strong schedule.

On the other hand, it could hurt if the selection committee is comparing an array of one-loss teams, including Notre Dame and the Big 12 champion, and the SEC, Big Ten, ACC and Pac-12's one-loss champs are coming off impressive victories over ranked teams just days before. There is an unavoidable what-have-you-done-for-me-lately psychology there that might be difficult to overlook.

And an "extra" quality game would bolster a team's strength of schedule of metrics.

On the other hand, Notre Dame and the Big 12 also know that a conference title game means said conference's lead team is vulnerable to a season-ruining upset.

In the end, you are hitting on a point -- one of many -- that folks will be paying attention to when the committee starts making tough distinctions.

 




Ed from Placentia, Calif., writes: Why is your non-important article on kendricks on a Trojan website? As a Trojan fan, I don't care what he thinks or does to prepare for this season. Write and publish articles that are important to Trojan fans? Was this an error? I really don't want to read any more bRUIN articles. I paid money to read info regarding USC.

Ted Miller: I've received more of these sorts of notes from USC fans over the past year than any previous season. The meaning is simple. USC fans are officially concerned about UCLA's rise under Jim Mora.

In 2008, this was the sort of note a UCLA fan would write.

One of the unmistakable fan psychoses I've witnessed over the years is RUNT -- Rivalry Ululation from Niggling Team -- the often irrational petulance of fans whose team is struggling while their rival is thriving. (Kevin and I have been talking about this, and Chantel may take over the Pac-12 Blog's Department of Complaints this fall).

Ed, you are a fan of USC, perhaps college football's preeminent program. Act accordingly.

But feel free to worry privately about the Bruins' rise. That is completely rational.

 




Matt from Oakland writes: After losing one of the Robinson twins and Jake Rodriguez recently, should Oregon be concerned at the number of good players transferring away from the program?

Ted Miller: Absolutely. You should panic. That should be your perpetual state.

It sure seems as though a gaggle of Ducks fans love to cuddle with anxiety, obsessively wringing their hands over every single negative blip for the program.

Matt, you and Keith Dennis, who also asked this question, should band together for a trip to consult with the Oracle at Delphi. Only she can provide you the knowledge you seek!

Obviously, we've been here before.

Short answer: No.

Remember all the other sorts of offseason tribulations you've been through during the Ducks greatest run in program history? The departure of a few nonstarters is not something that should ruffle your feathers.

A loss to Michigan State, now that would be time to really panic.

 




Jake from MTL writes: Hey Ted. Whats your prediction for Arizona starting QB?

Ted Miller: Prediction? Paaaaaaaaainnnn.

Sorry, Clubber Lang took over the mailbag for a moment. He said to tell you he "pities the fool who thinks he knows what Rich Rodriguez is thinking."

Before spring practices began, I saw senior Jesse Scroggins as a long shot. Though I'd probably still take the field over him, I'd rate him a slight frontrunner, at least based on spring practices.

 




Tom from Portland writes: Inexperience. Reminds me of a secondary textbook I had in Economics 201: "Lying With Numbers".Having most of your lettermen back can sometimes be a very bad thing if, for example, those same guys went 1-8 in your own conference the year before.

Ted Miller: Yes, if your returning players are uninterested bloated zombies who drank beer and played video games all summer then their experience doesn't matter.

Another thing I've learned through the years -- so much wisdom today! -- is that folks who uproot Benjamin Disraeli's quote, "Lies, damned lies and statistics," often are having an emotional reaction to statistics that don't fall in their favor.

Getting a lot of this from Arizona State fans at present. Their offseason story is to judge it irrelevant that their team lost nine defensive starters and will be relying on a bevy of players on that side of the ball this season who haven't seen a Pac-12 snap.

Leaps of faith are great. Heroic even. But the available evidence suggests reasonable people should be skeptical about the Sun Devils defense this fall. Or any other unit on any other team in which inexperienced or generally unknown players will be taking over starting roles.

Folks, returning starters is simply one way we judge teams in the preseason. It's a straightforward measure of the known. It also takes the not unreasonable position that a freshman will be better as a sophomore and sophomore will advance as a junior, etc. Doesn't always work that way, but it's perfectly logical as a predictive model.

Consider this before/after photo of Washington State safety Deone Bucannon.

He kept getting better as a returning starter, no?

Sure, some teams seem to operate in a realm where returning experience doesn't matter, most notably during dynastic runs when top recruiting rankings are piling on top of each other -- see Alabama at present and USC from 2002 to 2008.

Again, noting returning starters and lettermen isn't the end-all of analysis, but it unquestionably is a useful piece of information.

 




Eric from Somerset, via Boulder writes: Ted, the best-case/worst-case cannot die. Not only are they hilarious, and well written -- even the ones you probably don't like after writing them, but more importantly, What will happen to Jon Embree's daughter's bike? I have a solution. Don't worry that it may mean more work for you. You no doubt have ample free time to fill anyway, writing and rewriting pieces you don't like. Have us -- we humble Pac 12 Blog fans -- submit them. Your time "could" be cut in half, just reviewing, editing and posting, vs. writing, reviewing, editing and posting. It might even end up not sucking. Just an idea. ... Long live the Pac-12 Blog, and hopefully the best-case/worst-case scenarios. Go Buffs.

Andy from Austin, Texas writes: Ted, I have a suggestion to appease folks asking for the best/worst case series to continue, hopefully without adding to your work load too much: Why not ask for fan submissions? As an avid UW fan I would love to spend a few days perfecting a 1000-word piece about my beloved Huskies going 12-1, dropping one on the road to the frequently pesky Arizona, followed by winning the Pac-12 championship game before losing a heartbreaker to FSU in the first round of the playoffs. Similarly, I'd relish the chance to craft a couple submissions about Oregon crashing and burning to 7-6 post-Mariota injury with Phil Knight having a crisis of conscience and deciding to refocus all of his financial resources on tackling child labor laws in southeast Asia, as well as WSU flaming out to 3-9 with Mike Leach jumping ship in favor of using his law background to defend actual Somali pirates in legal proceedings. It might take some time for you and your team to read through a lot of these submissions, but that may be more amenable (and hopefully more entertaining) than to have to actually create all of these yourself. Just a thought. Love the blog.

Brian from Cincinnati writes: Hi Ted, I read your comment about the Best Case/Worst Case piece and have an idea to keep it going. Launch a reader contest and have them submit their takes -- you select and publish the best or most relevant? I'd take a crack at Oregon's if you opened it up to us readers. Thanks for what you do. Keep it going!

Ted Miller: Did you guys get together and talk about this? Lots of notes suggesting this course of action.

First of all, thanks for the kind words. Gratifying to know some folks enjoyed the pieces.

I am intrigued. Let me give this some thought. Maybe I can set up an email box for folks to send in their work/ideas.

Going on vacation next week, so I can let this marinate.

Washington spring wrap

May, 2, 2014
May 2
6:00
AM ET
Three things we learned in the spring:
  • 1. Despite losing so much, Washington’s offense will be OK. It’s hard to lose a 3,000-yard passer (Keith Price), a Mackey Award winner (Austin Seferian-Jenkins) and a 1,800-yard rusher (Bishop Sankey) and imagine the offense will be anything other than catastrophic. Since those three players took most of the game reps at their positions, there will certainly be growing pains. But with the depth and players who learned from Price, Seferian-Jenkins and Sankey, there is a lot of potential for this team.
  • 2. Shaq Thompson could be a two-way player for the Huskies. The inside linebacker made tons of huge plays for Washington throughout the spring and did enough on the offensive side of the ball to have the coaches consider him as a RB. The Huskies will need a few guys to tote the ball, so having the ILB jump to offense a bit as well doesn’t seem too crazy.
  • 3. Chris Petersen likes a good joke, too. The new coach decided to prank his team on April Fool’s Day by bringing in hideous uniforms and telling the Huskies that these were somehow representative of the team’s attitude and play. Players were less than impressed before realizing that the coach was pulling a fast one over on them.
Three questions for the fall:
  • 1. What will Petersen do about suspended players? Damore'ea Stringfellow was sentenced to five days on a work crew after pleading guilty to three misdemeanors and ordered to pay restitution following a post-Super Bowl assault. Cyler Miles was also connected to the event but not charged. Petersen already dismissed one player from the team, freshman cornerback Patrick Enewally, for punching a teammate. Could more dismissals be coming? Or will Miles and Stringfellow be reinstated?
  • 2. Who will be the starting QB? Petersen spent the spring evaluating Jeff Lindquist and Troy Williams and following the spring game, Lindquist seemed to be the front runner for the job. But that doesn’t factor Miles in and it’s a long way off until the Huskies’ season opener. If this is a three-man race, who starts against Hawaii?
  • 3. How big will the learning curve be for the offense? The Huskies have four games to get it together before Stanford comes to Seattle on Sept. 27. The offense needs to be running smoothly by then. Can Petersen turn the potential into efficient talent by then? Last season the Huskies were No. 2 in the Pac-12 in total offense (499.3 yards per game). But will they even finish in the top half of the Pac-12 this upcoming season with the yardage Washington can put on the field?
One way-too-early prediction: Washington goes 5-2 at home. The three nonconference games should go Washington’s way, leaving the Huskies to go 2-2 against Stanford, Arizona State, UCLA and Oregon State. Best guess? The two wins come over ASU and OSU while the losses will be to Stanford and UCLA (this one will be close though). Give the offense time to gel and there’s a chance they could pick up a third win in that conference group over UCLA in November.

Poll: Top spring storyline

April, 24, 2014
Apr 24
5:30
PM ET
There hasn’t been a shortage of intriguing storylines this spring in the Pac-12. Then again, there usually aren’t. From quarterback battles to disciplinary issues, the 2014 spring has given us plenty to talk about. But which one stands out as the biggest storyline? That’s today’s Pac-12 blog poll question.

What’s the biggest storyline in the Pac-12 this spring?

Your options:

SportsNation

What is the biggest storyline in the Pac-12 this spring?

  •  
    43%
  •  
    19%
  •  
    17%
  •  
    14%
  •  
    7%

Discuss (Total votes: 3,677)

Bralon Addison injury: The Ducks lost one of their top receiving threats when Addison tore his ACL in spring practice. There are options for the Ducks, who are never wanting for offensive talent. But Addison seemed poised to build off an outstanding 2013 after catching 61 balls for 890 yards and seven touchdowns -- not to mention his prowess as a return man. This is the third-straight spring a marquee receiver has gone down (Paul Richardson, 2012; Austin Hill, 2013).

USC quarterback: Cody Kessler is USC’s starting quarterback, for now. New coach Steve Sarkisian announced before the spring game that the incumbent had continued to distance himself from challengers Max Browne and Jalen Greene. It wasn’t a total shock -- given Kessler’s year of experience and the fact that he came on strong in the second half last fall. But USC quarterbacks will always garner national attention.

Quarterback questions marks: While 10 Pac-12 coaches have the luxury of having their QB in place already, two schools are still looking for their starter. Arizona has a host of quarterbacks to choose from. And spring has brought little clarity to the situation. At Washington, Jeff Lindquist and Troy Williams split the snaps, but we won’t know much until Cyler Miles returns from his suspension.

ASU’s defense: Every team has to replace a few key players, but the Arizona State Sun Devils essentially have to replace its entire starting defense. With nine starters gone from last season’s defense gone -- including two-time Pac-12 defensive player of the year Will Sutton -- the competition level was upped to see who is going to step in.

Stanford's RBs: Being a starting running back at Stanford means big production. The Cardinal have had a 1,000-yard rusher every year since 2008, so whoever replaces Tyler Gaffney is probably in for a big season. Though coach David Shaw told the Pac-12 blog earlier this month he’d prefer to have a committee approach, a natural No. 1 will likely emerge. Who that is, however, remains a question.
Welcome to the mailbag, where no question is dumb. Except for the dumb ones.

Jaime in Los Angeles writes: Your poll was interesting about anointing a quarterback. Where do you come down?

Kevin Gemmell: If you can, you should, without question. Coaches, however, don’t always have that luxury.

This is an interesting season for Pac-12 quarterbacks because there are potentially 10 starters returning. That’s pretty rare for a conference. But it’s also a relief to 10 coaches who don’t have to deal with Ted texting them at 2 a.m. inquiring who their starting quarterback is going to be. (Now he just texts me).

To have a starting quarterback in place post-spring -- if it’s the right quarterback -- can be a blessing. He’ll lead the way in the weight room. He’ll call his receivers up to go throw for no other reason than he wants to throw. He’ll bond with his guys and they’ll start to respect him off the field.

Now for the two schools that don’t have a starter coming back -- Arizona and Washington -- there is no reason to rush things. During this time, Chris Petersen and Rich Rodriguez will be getting feedback from their strength coaches about how the quarterbacks interact with the other players. Who is stepping up and being a leader? Who do the guys respect? Who do they respond to? It’s not just about the Xs and Os.

So while I wholeheartedly endorse the idea of anointing a quarterback, I also know that if you don’t have one in place you shouldn’t force the issue.




Tim in Salt Lake City writes: Kevin, Which Pac-12 programs do you expect to benefit the most from new rules allowing coaches to work with players over the summer?

Kevin Gemmell: I could give you the “duh” answer, and that’s all of them. Because obviously it’s going to benefit every team. But if you’re looking for the impact on just this upcoming season, I think it’s a huge asset to every team with a young or new quarterback. An Arizona, California, Colorado, Washington, etc.

The rule offers an additional eight hours per week (assuming student-athletes hit certain academic benchmarks) and up to two of those hours can be spent in the film room. That means extra time studying formations, cutups, etc. It gives a Sefo Liufau and Jared Goff extra time to review what they did right and wrong in 2013. And it allows one of Arizona’s 17 quarterbacks to gain that little extra knowledge that might make the difference. It could either be catch-up for Cyler Miles or the difference between starting or sitting on the bench for Jeff Lindquist or Troy Williams.

The physical aspect of it is important, also. It’s a way to make sure guys are sticking with their regimen. And for a team like, say, Colorado, which has dramatically needed to improve its physical strength (and made strides in 2013), it’s another few hours of supervised work.

Since you’re writing from SLC, this will be especially helpful as the Utes adjust to their third offensive coordinator in three years. Even for Travis Wilson (assuming he’s the guy), it’s a similar system in terms of concepts, but with probably just enough tweaks from the previous one that a little extra film time would be beneficial.

There isn’t a coach out there who thinks more time during the summer is a bad thing. If for no other reason than just to remind them to do the right thing when they go out at night. I remember a conversation I had once with Mike Leach about players getting into to trouble in the offseason, but because of limited contact, coaches can’t always babysit. Will this new rule stop players from getting into trouble? No. But maybe it stops one from having one too many pops and creating a ruckus.

This is a good thing developmentally for all parties involved on and off the field.




Ryan in NYC writes: Kevin, saw your interview of the UCLA DC. You looked pretty sharp in that coat and tie. But seriously, aren't you guys getting a little tired of the relentless "happy, happy and more happy" spin coming from the UCLA camp? I mean, isn't it pretty clear that they've assumed this position that they won't say anything negative or even something not deemed positive about their program? I mean come on man. I can understand their energy and focus. They have a chance at a really good year. But everybody has concerns and questions, let's be fair. Finally, I think the way they ended recruiting is a reason why they need to be careful. They did a poor job of managing expectations and fell on their faces. Yes, college football fans are passionate, but we're not stupid. Be frank and candid. We know they have a shot at something special, but nothing is perfect, right? Just an observation, not a question. Peace out.

Kevin Gemmell: I found it interesting, Ryan, that you opted to chime in this week regarding the UCLA coverage. Because since I visited both LA schools last week, there was an equal amount of USC stuff -- yet you’re choosing to focus on UCLA. Fascinating.

First, thanks for the kudos. But as someone kindly mentioned in the comments section, I could stand to drop a couple of pounds. So that was appreciated.

As for the message, I got a lot of the same positive thinking at USC as I did at UCLA. Heck, Steve Sarkisian essentially said USC is historically due for a big run. That seemed pretty positive.

Except for maybe the Week 1 news conferences, you won’t find a time when players and coaches are as optimistic about their programs as they are now. Same goes for fans, who are scanning the schedules right now and checking off perceived wins. This is, of course, a dangerous exercise (see Utah-Stanford/Oregon-Arizona etc.). But it’s fun to do.

Yes, I happen to think UCLA is going to be pretty darn good in 2014. And though we haven’t filled out our preseason ballots yet, I’m strongly considering the Bruins as the No. 1 team in the South.

But you’re right. Every team has questions and concerns. The Bruins still need to figure out what’s going to happen at right tackle. They need to find a way to replace Anthony Barr’s production. They need to settle on the running back situation and see just how much the secondary has grown up from last season.

I have no problem with players and coaches putting a positive spin on their team in April. But if a team is 0-5 in October, then the happy-go-lucky chatter gets a little old.




Cougar Brian in Stumptown writes: Hey Kevin, any word on the status of Gabe Marks and DaQuawn Brown in Pullman? Mum seems to be the word, and both are touching the three pillars of Coach Leach's no-nos. Hope all is well, friend!

Kevin Gemmell: As of right now, both guys are practicing with the team. Leach hasn’t addressed it much, other than when he was asked about Brown during his pre-spring news conference and he offered up this:
We’re going to have to wait and see how everything unfolds. I mean, right now it’s appearing most of what’s come out and been spewed around has been greatly embellished so we’ll just have to see how all that comes out.

Marks was limited for the first couple of practices, but has been full go the rest of the way. Though he didn’t participate in the scrimmage on Saturday. I talked to someone in the know Monday and they said they didn’t think that was because of disciplinary reasons.

My guess is that when the legal side of everything gets worked out in the coming weeks, we’ll have a clearer picture of what punishments await. And don’t forget that Leach has already booted a few guys from the team in his two-and-a-half-year tenure.

Worth noting that, from the folks up there I’ve talked to, Connor Halliday is having a great spring, along with receivers Vince Mayle and Dominique Williams. Mayle has leaned up and is “running around and through people,” according to one person I talked to. So if Marks isn’t able to go, the corps is looking pretty good. And so is the quarterback.

Spring games roundup

April, 21, 2014
Apr 21
9:00
AM ET
Here's a quick look at some of the highlights of the four spring games this past weekend.

Arizona State

Sophomore linebacker Viliami Moeakiola stopped running back Jarek Hilgers on fourth-and-short on the final play as the Maroon team held off the Gold squad 29-23 in front of 8,456 fans at Sun Devil Stadium.

Quarterback Taylor Kelly completed 7 of 22 passes with a touchdown for the Maroon team. Gold quarterback Mike Bercovici went 11-of-24 with three touchdowns and an interception.

“I like the format that we did because it created more competition,” said ASU coach Todd Graham. “The gold team was really down, but came back and fought back, got a chance to win. Maroon held on with a fourth down, goal-line stand. D.J. [Foster] was frustrated with me—he really wanted to play more. I thought he did some good things when he was in there. Loved the big shot to Jaelen [Strong] from Taylor Kelly. I thought Kelly really looked good today. He really managed the offense and was very much in command of things. Both offensive lines divided up evenly on each team — all those guys did some good things."

The complete stats are available here.

USC

In front of 17,500 fans at the L.A. Coliseum, kicker Andre Heidari made four field goals. But the offense failed to get into the end zone and the defense came out on top 16-15.

Newly re-anointed starting quarterback Cody Kessler completed 5 of 10 passes for 86 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions. Max Browne went 6-of-17 for 76 yards with no scores or picks and Jalen Greene was 4-of-11 for 61 yards – also without a touchdown nor an interception. Notes Gary Klein of the Los Angeles Times:
Before getting too alarmed, it is worth noting that dating to the Pete Carroll era, USC's spring finale has not served as a reliable indicator of fall performance.

Rather, it's annually an exercise in avoiding major injury while looking ahead to summer.

So a true evaluation of [Steve] Sarkisian's new fast-paced, no-huddle scheme cannot begin until USC plays its Aug. 30 opener against Fresno State at the Coliseum.

Walk-on tailback James Toland IV was the top rusher with 36 yards on eight carries and tight end Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick caught three passes for 56 yards. Scott Starr had a game-high six tackles, with three for a loss.

"We had a couple big pass plays, but the defense played really well and tackled well,” Sarkisian said. "And we got out of the game with no serious injuries."

Utah

Despite 103 rushing yards and two touchdowns from transfer Devontae Booker, the Red team took down the White squad 28-27 in front of 12,056 fans at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Quarterback Travis Wilson, still shackled by noncontact restrictions, completed 7 of 12 passes for 116 yards and a touchdown in five drives.

Dominique Hatfield (four catches, 93 yards) and Westlee Tonga hauled in touchdown receptions for the White team. Troy McCormick rushed eight times for 34 yards with a touchdown to lead the Red squad.

"We've been high on Devontae Booker ever since he got here," head coach Kyle Whittingham said. "He didn't get here more than a week or two before the start of spring ball, so he was fighting his lack of conditioning all spring. But as soon as he gets himself in great shape, I think he'll be a very good running back in this conference. All of the running backs ran hard today. A strong running game is where everything begins, even if you are a spread team."

Sal Velasquez and Filipo Mokofisi each picked off Brandon Cox, who threw the only interceptions of the game. Adam Schulz was 9-of-13 for 110 yards with a touchdown and Conner Manning was 9-of-12 for 86 yards and a score.

The complete stats are available here.

Washington

Though Washington didn’t keep official stats for its drizzly spring game, quarterback Jeff Lindquist threw four touchdowns in red zone and situational drills and, per Adam Jude of the Seattle Times, was unofficially 11-of-15 for 134 yards.

Troy Williams, who has been splitting reps all spring with Lindquist while the team awaits the status of Cyler Miles, was 11-of-18 for 38 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions.

Deontae Cooper, Lavon Coleman and Ralph Kinne were the only backs who participated. Cooper carried nine times for 68 yards, Colmean rushed 18 times for 99 yards and a touchdown and Kinne had seven carries for 38 yards.

Head coach Chris Petersen told Gohuskies.com that picking a quarterback to replace Keith Price could go all the way up until the season opener – if not longer.

“Absolutely, that’s possible. Yeah, we could go to Game 9, if it hasn’t been decided,” Petersen said. “We’ll take this one day at a time. One day, one game. I know it sounds cliché, but it really will be. … I mean, it’s all nice to have a starting quarterback, but that guy graduated in December. And so, we are at square one. Until one guy establishes himself, we don’t have a guy.”
SEATTLE -- As if there weren’t enough changes at Washington this offseason between the Steve Sarkisian era ending and the Chris Petersen era beginning, the team graduated three-year starter Keith Price and then began spring football without his heir apparent Cyler Miles, who was being investigated for a post-Super Bowl incident.

Last week it was decided that Miles wouldn’t be charged in the incident. However, he still wasn’t back practicing with the team and Petersen wouldn’t give a timeline or ultimate decision on when -- or if -- Miles will return to the team.

“We haven’t really decided on that whole situation,” Petersen said. “It’s kind of one day, one week at a time and there’s no reason to rush anything. We’re always going to do the right thing. … We have to do the right thing by the school, this program and by the kids as well.”

Without Miles as a part of the equation the Huskies are running spring practice with just two quarterbacks, sophomore Jeff Lindquist and redshirt freshman Troy Williams. Between the two, Lindquist is the only one with game experience, though he has only appeared in three games. Miles, on the other hand, appeared in eight games last season for the Huskies, completing 37 of 61 pass attempts for four touchdowns, 418 yards and two interceptions.

Not having Miles this spring puts the Huskies at a disadvantage for next season. But it’s not just the fact that they’re missing their best QB this spring -- they’re also missing any kind of veteran player in the quarterback meeting room, which is a first for offensive coordinator and QB coach Jonathan Smith. It adds yet another wrinkle in the challenges Smith is facing as a coordinator installing a new offense with the Huskies.

“How young we are, and especially you add in the piece of a new offense, so that’s new to us,” Smith said.

But the youth isn’t a complete bad situation for Washington. With younger players it’s easier to mold them into the type of players who better fit into a newer offense and that’s what’s happening with Lindquist and Williams this spring.

[+] EnlargeJeff Lindquist
Otto Greule Jr/Getty ImagesJeff Lindquist is splitting quarterback reps with Troy Williams this spring for the Huskies.
“In some ways they might not be as ingrained in what [Sarkisian had] done,” Smith said. “But I would definitely take a veteran, though, a guy who has seen a lot of plays.”

So far the Huskies have split first-team reps equally with Lindquist and Williams.

Lindquist said that because everything is so new and because both players are inexperienced, this spring has been less about the competition between the two and more about trying to help one another with the offense and playbook.

“Obviously, we’re competing against each other,” Lindquist said. “But I think right now for the two of us it’s more about getting a good grasp of the concepts and how to operate the offense.”

Creating a learning environment with competition between Lindquist and Williams will be crucial for the Huskies whether or not Miles comes back next week, next fall or not at all.

Like every coach, Petersen will rely heavily on his QB, but he’s accustomed to a lot of production out of that position. He’s coming off a season with terrific quarterback play at Boise State. The Broncos finished the 2013-14 season second in QB completion percentage (70.6) while averaging 36 pass attempts per game as opposed to Washington, which attempted only 32 passes per game.

Through 10 practices Petersen has been relatively happy with what he has seen out of his young quarterbacks. Certainly they’re not close to where they want to be, but all things considered -- a coaching change, the quarterback graduation and suspension, new verbiage, new wrinkles -- the transition is running fairly smooth in Seattle.

“I think both guys are making progress, I really do,” Petersen said. “I think both guys are truly improving.”

Biggest shoes to fill: Washington

March, 31, 2014
Mar 31
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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. 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. Monday, we look at Washington.

Biggest shoes: QB Keith Price

While some might believe it will be more difficult to replace stellar running back Bishop Sankey, the Huskies boast three experienced and capable backs who combined to rush for 815 yards and 10 TDs last season. When you toss in a strong, veteran offensive line, it seems a good bet that among Dwayne Washington, Deontae Cooper and Jesse Callier the Huskies will produce a 1,000-yard rusher again. Yet, we still might have gone with Sankey if not for QB Cyler Miles getting into off-field trouble that presently has him not participating in spring practices and his longterm status in limbo (he has yet to be charged). While not a sure thing, Miles had shown enough under stress in games -- not just throwaway time -- to suggest he could be a more-than-capable Pac-12 QB. Recall that a year ago, some thought he might unseat Price, who struggled in 2012. But this isn't just about uncertainty with Price's departure, it's also a tip of the cap to Price, who is on the short list of best Huskies QBs. He completed 66 percent of his passes last fall for 2,966 yards with 21 touchdowns and six interceptions. He ranked third in the Pac-12 and 20th in the nation in passing efficiency. He also rushed for five touchdowns. And he became the school's all-time leader in touchdown passes with 75, completion percentage (64 percent) and passing efficiency. He played through injuries throughout his career and showed mental toughness with his bounce-back in 2013. Moreover, if you polled the 2013 Huskies on who the best-liked guy on the team was, I'd wager it would be Price, whose nickname, "Teeth," was based on his bright and constant smile.

Stepping in: TBA
If Miles can settle his legal problems, which also involve top receiver Damore'ea Stringfellow, then he still seems like the frontrunner, even if he's suspended for a game or two or three. But maybe not. We don't know much of new coach Chris Petersen's thinking on this one. Miles might find himself irrevocably entrenched in Petersen's doghouse. Or he might just get booted from the team entirely. There is another option: Sophomore Jeff Lindquist or redshirt freshman Troy Williams simply plays great and outright wins the job. The problem with that is neither has thrown a pass in college. Miles beat Lindquist out for the backup job last season, but there's a new coaching staff and offensive system, so the slate is mostly clean along those lines. Neither Lindquist nor Williams has produced any obvious separation during the first portion of spring practices, which resume on Tuesday. Finally, uncertainty at QB is not a good thing in the Pac-12 in 2014, with 10 conference teams owning a fair degree of certainty at the game's most important position this spring. Only Arizona and the Huskies are looking for new starters.

Previous big shoes

Spring position breakdown: QBs

February, 24, 2014
Feb 24
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Spring has sprung in the Pac-12, with Stanford starting spring practices this week and several schools following suit next week.

Ergo, we break down where teams stand with each position group, starting with quarterbacks.

Arizona: The Wildcats probably have the most wide-open QB competition, with four guys having a legitimate chance to replace the departed B.J. Denker. Three are transfers from big-time programs: senior Jesse Scroggins (USC), sophomore Connor Brewer (Texas) and junior Jerrard Randall (LSU). The fourth, redshirt freshman Anu Solomon, was one of the biggest stars in the 2013 recruiting class. Don't expect much to be settled by the end of spring, though coach Rich Rodriguez might at least allude to some sort of pecking order. Or a top three.

Arizona State: The Sun Devils are strong at QB with senior Taylor Kelly, a third-year starter who has put up big numbers the past two seasons, and junior Mike Bercovici, a big-armed backup -- perhaps, in fact, the best backup in the Pac-12. That's why Michael Eubank opted to transfer to Samford in Birmingham, Ala. It will be interesting to see which of the youngsters on the roster emerge as a No.3, a guy who might challenge Bercovici in 2015.

California: It seems unlikely that sophomore Jared Goff will be unseated, particularly after Zach Kline opted to transfer. Goff was uneven last season -- his entire team was -- but flashed plenty of potential. He and a talented crew of receivers should get better this spring. The big question might be whether anyone challenges senior Austin Hinder for the backup job.

Colorado: Sophomore Sefo Liufau is solid as the returning starter. He took some lumps last season but also flashed plenty of promise -- as both a player and leader. After him, there's junior college transfer Jordan Gehrke, a redshirt sophomore, the likely backup. Depth is a problem, at least this spring. As the Boulder Daily Camera noted, "Five quarterbacks have left the CU program either to transfer to other schools or give up the sport entirely since the start of spring football last year. A sixth completed his eligibility last season." That's why the Buffs added walk-on Trent Sessions to the roster. He worked with the equipment staff last year.

Oregon: The Ducks probably feel pretty good about their third-year starter, junior Marcus Mariota, a leading 2014 Heisman Trophy candidate who would have been a first-round pick if he'd entered the 2014 NFL draft. The competition for the backup spot, however, will be interesting because Mariota is almost certain to enter the NFL draft after the season. Sophomores Jeff Lockie and Jake Rodrigues are 2A and 2B, with Lockie first off the bench as the backup in 2013, but Rodrigues the more physically talented player as a runner and passer.

Oregon State: Like their friends to the south, Oregon State is fortunate its 2013 starter, Sean Mannion, decided to return instead of entering the NFL draft. Mannion's chief focus will be finding some receivers to replace the production of the departed Brandin Cooks. The battle for the backup job also will be interesting between sophomore Brent VanderVeen and redshirt freshman Kyle Kempt. Of course, their battle might not resolve things much for 2015, with incoming Alabama transfer Luke Del Rio joining the fray after sitting out a season.

Stanford: It seems unlikely that two-year starter Kevin Hogan will be challenged for the starting job this spring, even though he had some ups and downs in 2013, but there is no lack of talent battling for the backup job. Junior Evan Crower was the backup in 2013, but redshirt freshman Ryan Burns is a big-time talent. As is incoming freshman Keller Chryst, who officially will arrive in the fall but, as a Palo Alto resident, figures to hang around spring practices.

UCLA: Heading into his third season running the offense, Brett Hundley gives the Bruins one of the best starting quarterbacks in the nation. He's a proven dual threat and leader who will be refining his game this spring and building chemistry with his receivers. After him, however, things are a bit iffy, in large part because of the 2013 preseason transfer of T.J. Millweard to Kansas. The chief competitors for the backup job are Jerry Neuheisel, the 2013 backup, and redshirt freshman Asiantii Woulard, with Woulard being the guy with the most future upside. Of course, there is another QB out there some UCLA fans might be thinking about.

USC: The returning starter facing the most formidable challenge to his starting job this spring is probably Cody Kessler, even though Kessler played well in the second half of the 2013 season. With the transfer of Max Wittek, touted redshirt freshman Max Browne, at the very least, sets up to be a high-quality backup next season. But plenty of folks think Browne has a legitimate shot to unseat Kessler, particularly with new coach Steve Sarkisian taking over.

Utah: There's still no final word on the long-term health issue that might end QB Travis Wilson's career, and anything decisive might not come for weeks. If Wilson gets cleared, the good bet is on him returning to the starting job. If not, a spring competition will begin between Adam Schulz, who stepped in when Wilson went down, and redshirt freshmen Conner Manning and Brandon Cox. In the fall, dual-threat QB Donovan Isom arrives.

Washington: Keith Price, a three-year starter, is gone, but the Huskies seemed fairly set at QB with sophomore backup Cyler Miles appearing plenty capable of stepping into the cockpit this spring. In limited action last season, Miles completed 61 percent of his throws for 418 yards with four TDs and two picks, and he also showed good mobility, rushing for 200 yards. The pecking order at least seemed set, that is, until Miles got into some off-field trouble that threatens his status for spring practice and perhaps beyond. If Miles is still suspended, that means opportunity comes knocking for sophomore Jeff Lindquist or redshirt freshman Troy Williams to make an impression.

Washington State: Connor Halliday will be a senior, three-year starter and the Cougars' top leader in the third season running Mike Leach's "Air Raid" offense. He figures to put up huge numbers this fall with a strong crew of receivers. His 2013 backup, sophomore Austin Apodaca, opted to transfer, perhaps believing that redshirt freshman Tyler Bruggman had the inside track to the starting job in 2015. Depth is a bit of a question, with the No. 3 this fall likely being true freshman Peyton Bender.
Waiting to see Washington's new-look, no-huddle offense? Keep waiting. Head coach Steve Sarkisian poured on the vanilla during Washington's spring game in Seattle, keeping the offensive play-calling low key.

"We've been faster than this," Sarkisian told GoHuskies.com. "You are in a spring game and I want to give the fans something to see and a chance to see what fall camp will be about and the season will be about. But I am also aware of the fact we were on national television.

"We're doing something a little bit new. You don't want to give up all of your goodies. We want to save a few things for August 31st. That was a little bit of the challenge. And I think some of the (guys), especially the quarterbacks, got a little bit frustrated with the simplicity of the stuff we were running -- and not all the stuff that we had been running for the last few weeks."

And the numbers were a reflection of that, at least for the presumptive starter. Keith Price was 5 of 14 for 56 yards with one touchdown. Cyler Miles was more efficient, converting 8 of 11 tosses for 74 yards and three touchdowns.

Despite playing hamstringed, Price said it shouldn't be an excuse.

"The QBs, starting with myself, could have pushed the tempo a little bit more," Price said. "But spring games are a little vanilla. We didn't have a lot of our best calls dialed up. But that's no excuse. I think the quarterbacks should lead the tempo and I don't think we did a good job of that."

Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times notes Miles might have locked up the backup spot -- after Jeff Lindquist went 0-for-5 and Troy Williams was 2 of 5. Though Williams did toss a touchdown while scrambling toward the end of the game.
Still, Miles may have won the backup quarterback job today because he looked more comfortable in front of 7,000 fans than Jeff Lindquist or Troy Williams.

It was just a miserable day for Lindquist who was 0-for-5 passing during five possessions. He fumbled a snap, but recovered the loose ball.

Williams was a little better connecting on 2-of-5 passes. His best play finished the game. Williams eluded a heavy rush, scrambled to his left and drilled a 23-yard pass in traffic to [Antavius] Sims in the endzone.

As a result of the scaled-back offense playing under very controlled scrimmage settings, the defense thrived.

Writes Gregg Bell of Gohuskies.com:
Second-year coordinator Justin Wilcox's attacking unit controlled most of the scrimmaging - red-zone situations, drive starts from the offense's own 25-yard-line and an overtime simulation.

But this wasn't the offense Washington will feature Aug. 31 against Boise State in the unveiling of new Husky Stadium.
Said cornerback Marcus Peters: "I think we kind of got the edge over [the offense]. We had a lot of three-and-outs. But the offense made their plays. But it was very competitive. It was a productive day for the whole team."

Notable offensively was the play of Sims, who caught five balls for 53 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

The low-key approach also underscored the light-hearted nature of the event -- which included wiener dog races, a seven-year-old fan getting to call a play and a quarterback competition between the current players and several notable alums trying to hit the goalpost from 40 yards out.

You can see some highlights from the Pac-12 Network here.

Pac-12 practice, scrimmage roundup

March, 18, 2013
3/18/13
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Catching you up on some of the spring action from late Friday and over the weekend.

CALIFORNIA

The quarterback competition continued at Cal with the Bears holding another scrimmage Saturday at Memorial Stadium.

The team ran approximately 55 plays, scoring three touchdowns and a field goal in nine possessions. Zach Kline, Jared Goff and Austin Hinder all shared the work, with Kyle Boehm getting one series on offense.

Kline went 5 of 6 for 88 yards with a 16-yard touchdown pass to Darius Powe. Goff went 5 of 11 for 90 yards with a 36-yard touchdown to Bryce Treggs. Hinder was 4 of 8 for 54 yards and a rushing touchdown. But coach Sonny Dykes said he hasn't seen any separation yet.

“I don’t think so, not based on what I saw," Dykes said. "We’ll doublecheck our work, but it looked like to me they all did some good things, kind of more of the same. They just keep working harder and getting more comfortable. It seems like every day they’re starting to get a little bit of a better sense of timing and more comfortable with their receivers.”

Treggs, who caught three balls for 39 yards, also weighed in on the competition.

“I see it’s pretty even right now," he said. "All of them are doing a great job. One hasn’t really emerged yet. All of them are doing great, and right now I’m comfortable with any of them if they were to be named the starter.”

COLORADO

The Buffs held their first full scrimmage under new coach Mike MacIntyre on Friday afternoon, running 116 plays (91 from scrimmage, 25 special teams) in about 80 minutes.

Jordan Webb (5 of 11, 98 yards) and Nick Hirschman (4 of 7, 61 yards) had the two lone touchdown passes with Josh Ford (4 carries, 42 yards) scoring the lone touchdown on the ground. Shane Dillon, who worked four drives -- the most of any of the quarterbacks -- was 4 of 9 for 56 yards with an interception.

"Our quarterbacks made some plays,” MacIntyre said. “We have a very quarterback friendly offense. We had a couple of picks, but overall, we made a lot of plays. They played well. [Receivers] D.D. [Goodson] and Gerald [Thomas] made some big plays. Gerald did a good job, he has a lot of talent, he just has to do it every day.”

Colorado will be back at it Tuesday and Thursday before another scrimmage Friday afternoon heading into spring break.

USC

You may have already heard the news that running back Silas Redd will miss the rest of spring practice with a torn meniscus that will require surgery this week. The good news is he's expected to be back for spring ball.

At Saturday's scrimmage, the defensive front impressed Lane Kiffin the most, who told Garry Paskwietz he "couldn't imagine being more pleased" with the progress of the unit as they transition to an odd front.
“I really thought the front seven on the first-unit defense played well,” USC coach Lane Kiffin said. “Hayes Pullard played great at linebacker while George Uko and Leonard Williams were dominant up front. The defense is really picking things up with the new scheme. I can’t imagine being more pleased.”

Pullard tallied six tackles, one for a loss, and Kenny Bigelow had a pair of sacks.

The quarterback competition continues -- likely without end this spring. And with Max Wittek sidelined with a knee injury, Cody Kessler and Max Browne have been getting in all of the work. Kessler went 13 of 19 for 161 yards, including a 75-yard touchdown pass to Nelson Agholor. Browne went 6 of 9 for 69 yards with a 52-yard touchdown to Darreus Rogers.

Washington

Per the all-knowing Bob Condotta, Cyler Miles and Troy Williams got the bulk of the backup quarterback work behind Keith Price -- who Condotta characterizes as "clearly the No. 1 guy." So those of you hoping for a quarterback controversy, you're out of luck.

Here's what Steve Sarkisian said about the backups:
“I thought Troy Williams had two really good practices here the last two practices for a true freshman from day one and then working his way up to practices five and six, I thought he was impressive. I thought Cyler has flashed at some times. But for all of them, like any young quarterback, is finding the consistency and doing things right consistently at a high level, and that’s where those guys get themselves in trouble so that’s what we will continue to work on."

RecruitingNation links: Pac-12 edition

March, 6, 2013
3/06/13
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DuckNation
From Brandon P. Oliver Insider: The Ducks offer fast-rising recruit Mattrell McGraw, QB target Manny Wilkins shines in 7-on-7 and more in this week's recruiting quick-hitters.

HuskyNation
From Mason Kelley: Composure will be key for early enrollees Troy Williams and Trevor Walker this spring.

More from Kelley Insider: 2014 LB recruit Alex Weber has loaded up in schedule in preparation for college.

WeAreSC
From Johnny Curren: After spending much of last year at cornerback, Josh Shaw is eager to return to his natural position at safety in 2013.

From Garry Paskwietz: The Trojans opened spring practice with a high-energy effort, according to coach Lane Kiffin.

Huskies' Price needs to get right

March, 5, 2013
3/05/13
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Call them seeming contradictions if you will, but Washington begins spring practices Tuesday with two mixed messages.

  • Senior Keith Price is the Huskies' starting quarterback. Unless he isn't.
  • There is a lot of enthusiasm surrounding the Huskies' potential in 2013. And general frustration with the program.
[+] EnlargeSteve Sarkisian, Keith Price
AP Photo/Wily LowCoach Steve Sarkisian says Keith Price is the Huskies' starting quarterback in 2013 -- unless he loses it to four players trying to oust him.
With 20 starters back, including a handful of seeming budding stars, the Huskies have the look of a top-25 team that could make some noise in the rugged Pac-12 North Division after three consecutive 7-win seasons, campaigns that have progressively soured fans pining for the proverbial "next step."

This, coach Steve Sarkisian acknowledges.

“I don’t see why we wouldn’t be in a position to compete for a division championship," he said.

Sarkisian also acknowledged the Huskies' offensive struggles in 2012. While an equal share of the blame should go to poor offensive line play, which was aggravated by injury issues, the easy guy to point the finger at is Price, whose play decidedly regressed after a strong debut season in 2011.

Price went from a darkhorse Heisman Trophy contender to eighth in the Pac-12 in passing efficiency, trailing three first-year starters and California's oft-criticized Zach Maynard. The Huskies averaged just 24 points per game, down nine from the 2011 season.

"We need to get our offensive numbers back to where they were two years ago," Sarkisian said.

And that starts with Price. Unless it doesn't.

"Keith Price is our starting quarterback -- the goal is to get Keith Price back to playing the way he was two years ago," Sarkisian said. "But there are four guys behind him who are going to be chomping at the bit to get an opportunity to make this thing into a competition that either is going to push Keith to be better than he's been or, ultimately, try to surpass him."

So this is Price's job. Unless... "As I've said to Keith," Sarkisian said, "we're not going to be stubborn enough that if we think another guy is playing better that guy won't get that opportunity to beat him out."

Those four guys trying to raise an eyebrow at Price's expense: Redshirt freshmen Cyler Miles, Jeff Lindquist, sophomore Derrick Brown and true freshman Troy Williams.

The bottom line meaning behind Sarkisian's statements is fairly straightforward: 1. He wants Price to win the job; 2. But he wants the Huskies to win as many games as possible in a critical season for him and the program; 3. He's going to play the guy who gives him the best chance for No. 2.

The quarterbacks will be working with a new position coach, Marques Tuiasosopo, whose name immediately evokes pleasant memories for Huskies fans. He quarterbacked the program to a No. 3 final ranking after the 2000 season, the Huskies' last Rose Bowl victory. A former dual-threat player, he's got an NFL pedigree, an easy-going style and a natural follow-me-to-the-gold! ability to lead. He also will allow Sarkisian to be more big-picture with the offense.

If the Huskies get the Price of 2011 -- or someone else who can produce a top-10 in the nation passing efficiency rating -- there are a lot of toys to play with, starting with RB Bishop Sankey, WR Kasen Williams and TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins. A young offensive line that got pushed around in 2012 should be much better, and the (eventual) return of former starters Colin Tanigawa and Erik Kohler will provide another boost.

The dramatic improvement of the defense in Year 1 under coordinator Justin Wilcox also suggests strong reasons for optimism.

Of course, the program has been glutted with optimism the past few seasons. Seven wins were a revelation in 2010. Not so much in 2012, particularly when the Huskies blew their final two games, most notably a shocking fourth-quarter collapse against Washington State, something that Cougars fans never, ever, ever bring up these days.

Sarkisian, as is his wont, can find a silver lining even there.

"I don’t think that taste is going to go anywhere for awhile, which is OK," he said. "We lost two games that we should have won. The end result is we are sitting here talking about a 7-6 football team when we could have been here talking about a 9-4 football team. But I don’t know if that’s all bad. If we would have finished 9-4 and found a way to finish those last two games, I don’t know what January or February would have been like for us as a football team. We may have still been hungry and I would like to think so and striving for more. We might have grown a bit complacent. What I do know is there is zero complacency in our locker room right now."

That lack of complacency must start with Price. He needs to regain his mojo. The same could be said for Sarkisian.

Washington will open a remodeled Husky Stadium this fall, a facility that will immediately rank among the nation's best. That will add to the anticipation of a special season, one that Huskies fans have turned purple -- appropriately -- holding their collective breath anticipating.

Said Sarkisian of Price, "We've been through a lot together and we've got one chapter left that we want to make a great ending."
Hail to the chief he's the one we all say hail to;
We all say hail 'cause he keeps himself so clean.
He's got the power, that's why he's in the shower.

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