Pac-12: Tyler Slavin

Arizona Wildcats season preview

August, 21, 2013
8/21/13
10:30
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We conclude our day-by-day snapshots of each Pac-12 team heading into the 2013 season in reverse alphabetical order with the Arizona Wildcats.

Arizona

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But those are two big ifs.

Proving grounds: Pac-12 South

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Arizona Wildcats spring wrap

May, 8, 2013
5/08/13
11:30
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ARIZONA WILDCATS

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

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

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

2012 statistical leaders (*returners)

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

Spring answers

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

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

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

Fall questions

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

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

3. Injuries stink: That's not so much a fall question as a statement on the olfactory unpleasantness of injuries. The Wildcats had as many as 20 injuries this spring, meaning a lot of players who might not start in the fall got to start in the spring. That's great for depth, but it leaves a lot of holes and a lot of questions still be to be answered when the bulk of those injured players return in the fall.
Optimism is an important part of the sporting experience. From fans to coaches to players, the vast majority espouse great hopes in advance of every season, even when bad things happen that seem to poleax those hopes.

A player or coach is never going to say, "We're doomed," when a star player gets hurt. It's "Next man in." As it should be. No one likes a whiner.

And woe to the sportswriter who, armed with a laptop, acts as the killjoy.

Take Arizona. It already was searching for a replacement for highly productive quarterback Matt Scott when, on the last week of spring practices, star receiver Austin Hill went down with a knee injury.

No worries, said fellow receiver David Richards.

"We have a lot of other weapons," Richards said. "I don't think we'll really lose a step. I don't think it will hurt us that bad even though he was a great receiver."

Richards added he plans to step up his game and help fill the void. That's good because he's now the Wildcats leading returning wide receiver after catching 29 passes for 298 yards with three TDs last year.

That, of course, is long way from the 81 passes for 1,364 yards with 11 scores Hill contributed as a sophomore. But we are not here to party poop. We are here to offer hope.

Hill's injury and the departure of second-leading receiver Dan Buckner leave a void without a doubt. Whoever wins the quarterback job won't have an obvious go-to option. On the positive side, he also won't be fixated on one guy, as, say, USC was last year with Marqise Lee.

The Wildcats have solid experience coming back at receiver. Richards is the leader of four wide outs who caught at least 19 passes last year, a crew that includes Tyler Slavin, Johnny Jackson and Garic Wharton. The imposing Terrence Miller also returns after receiving a medical hardship year from the NCAA. The 6-foot-4, 234 pounder had 13 receptions in the first four games before he got hurt.

Finally, there's a trio of promising redshirt freshmen -- Trey Griffey, Clive Georges and Jarrell Bennett -- who hinted this spring they are ready to help.

Let's just say there are plenty of teams in the country and even the Pac-12 that would trade their receivers for Arizona's, including rival Arizona State, which is essentially crossing its fingers over incoming players being ready to take over leading roles.

Hill's injury was a hit, but it didn't change the preeminent questions for the Wildcats: Quarterback and defense. Arizona has no idea who will be behind center, while the defensive question hangs on how much better 11 returning starters and some redshirt freshmen and newcomers can be compared to the overmatched group from 2012.

Richards, following the lead of his coaches, didn't reveal much about the QB competition, though B.J. Denker seemed to have the best spring, with USC transfer Jesse Scroggins sitting out and touted true freshman Anu Solomon arriving this summer.

"All the quarterbacks pretty much had a good spring," Richards said. "I think it will be a good camp with them all competing. The person that works the hardest and proves he wants to be the leader of this team will be the quarterback."

That same could be said of who will become that QB's top target.
Happy Friday. The mailbag is a bit longer this week because your questions are just so darn compelling. So snuggle up to the fireplace with your laptop, iPad or Kindle, put on a pot of chamomile (that's what the Pac-12 blog readers drink, right?) and settle in.

As always, follow the blog on Twitter.

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

Kevin Gemmell: Let’s check the scoreboard:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Read full post)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I think the Arizona offense takes a natural step back with a new quarterback at the helm. But it's not going to be a giant leap. Carey will get his 300-plus carries again, and the Wildcats should continue to move up and down the field. And if you've got your calendars handy, the two square off Sept. 28 in Seattle. You might want to tune in for that one.
We're looking at some of the top individual performances in the Pac-12 in 2012.

Up next: Hill in the clutch

Who and against whom: After a sluggish start for the Arizona offense, wide receiver Austin Hill stepped up big time in the fourth quarter of the New Mexico Bowl to help lead an improbable 49-48 come-from-behind win over Nevada.

The numbers: Hill caught a game-high eight balls for 175 yards with a pair of touchdowns.

A closer look: Things looked grim when the Wolf Pack jumped out to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter. Yet inch-by-inch, the Wildcats clawed their way back into the game and trailed 31-28 at halftime. They were grim again when Nevada claimed a 45-28 lead heading into the fourth. That's when Hill really stepped up. His 63-yard touchdown reception from Matt Scott -- the longest passing play of the 2012 season for Arizona -- cut the deficit to 45-35. Then with 46 seconds left in the game, Hill caught a 2-yard touchdown from Scott -- setting up a wild final minute. On the final drive, just before Tyler Slavin's go-ahead touchdown catch with 19 seconds left, Hill hauled in a 21-yard catch that set up the game winner. His 175 receiving yards were an Arizona bowl game record and the two touchdowns gave him 11 on the season -- which also matched a school record.

Pac-12 spring preview: South Division

February, 22, 2013
2/22/13
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Here are some keys and storylines to watch this spring in the South Division. Yesterday Ted looked at the North Division.

ARIZONA WILDCATS

Start date: March 3

Spring game: April 13

What to watch:
  1. New battery: The Wildcats are looking to replace a top-notch quarterback-center combo in Matt Scott and Kyle Quinn. The rock-solid duo helped produce one of the top offenses in the league. Jesse Scroggins and B.J. Denker are among those in the mix to run the offense and several returning offensive linemen are versatile enough to move around. Chris Putton and redshirt freshman Beau Boyster could be in the mix at center.
  2. Many happy return(er)s: Arizona returns a big chunk of its offensive production -- including running back Ka'Deem Carey and receiver Austin Hill. Both should be on all sorts of preseason teams and awards watch lists. But behind the big names, there's also David Richards, Johnny Jackson, Tyler Slavin and Garic Wharton back in the mix.
  3. No learning curve: Last spring, the talk was about Rich Rodriguez calling out his team for its lack of physical conditioning. The fact that the majority of the team understands what is expected -- and they don't need to spend the whole spring learning new systems, should be a huge help. Consider that the Wildcats return their entire defense from a group that was, at times, shaky, but will certainly benefit from another full season of playing in the 3-3-5 scheme.
ARIZONA STATE SUN DEVILS

Start date: March 19

Spring game: April 13

What to watch:
  1. Plugging the middle: One of the few losses to ASU's roster is middle linebacker Brandon Magee -- a leader on and off the field and an all-around heck of a player. Carlos Mendoza looks to be a good fit -- though he's likely to miss spring while continuing to recover from a shoulder injury suffered against Illinois. Folks might remember his two interceptions before going down for the year.
  2. Catching on: Unlike last spring, the Sun Devils have their quarterback. And he's a good one. Now, they need to find folks he can throw to. JC transfers De'Marieya Nelson (H-back, 6-3, 230) and Jaelen Strong (WR, 6-4, 205) are both big bodies who could step in and contribute immediately.
  3. Wait and see: The kicker here is a lot of these players who are expected to compete won't arrive until the fall. So in the meantime, a lot of the younger players and redshirts will get a ton of reps in the system. And speaking of kicker, don't underestimate how much of an impact Josh Hubner made at punter. Iowan Matt Haack, who arrives in the fall, is a rugby-style kicker who can kick with either foot. That's just cool.
COLORADO BUFFALOES

Start date: March 7

Spring game: April 13

What to watch:
  1. Meet your QB: Whomever it will be. There are five on the roster and a sixth coming in. Safe to say, quarterback play was extremely inconsistent last season for the Buffs. With an entirely new coaching staff coming in and installing the pistol, this could be one of the more interesting and wide-open position battles in the league.
  2. Curious defense: One needs only to review Colorado's national rankings last year to realize they struggled. As one Buffs insider mentioned to me, they were ranked No. 1 in a lot of categories. Unfortunately, that "1" was followed by two more numbers. Only three defensive ends have playing experience. However a secondary that lacked experience in 2012 has a lot more looking into 2013.
  3. Receiver options: The Buffs welcome back Paul Richardson, who missed all of last season with a knee injury. Colorado's premier offensive playmaker will be a nice veteran presence to whomever wins the quarterback job. Grayshirt Jeff Thomas also is back. An improved passing attack should help give the quarterback some confidence and open up the running game.
UCLA BRUINS

Start date: April 2

Spring game: April 27

What to watch:
  1. Life after Franklin: The Bruins say goodbye to the best statistical back in school history -- leaving a huge void in the backfield. Johnathan Franklin was a great presence for young quarterback Brett Hundley, but now someone has to step up to fill that role, either solo or along with a committee. Look for Jordon James, Steven Manfro and Damien Thigpen to all get looks.
  2. New No. 1: The Y-receiver, aka hybrid tight end, was filled wonderfully by Joseph Fauria -- Hundley's favorite red zone target. Darius Bell and Ian Taubler both had looks last year, but Fauria too will be tough to replace. Shaq Evans, Devin Fuller, Jordan Payton and Devin Lucien round out a pretty good receiving corps.
  3. Secondary solutions: The Bruins must replace two corners and a safety -- Sheldon Price, Aaron Hester, Andrew Abbott -- and there isn't a ton of starting experience. Randall Goforth has five starts, but veterans such as Brandon Sermons and Anthony Jefferson have more special-teams experience than actual secondary play. Keep an eye on the secondary too when the Bruins start fall camp to see if any freshmen jump into the mix immediately.
USC TROJANS

Start date: TBD

Spring game: April 13
  1. New defensive scheme: The Trojans will move to a 5-2 defensive scheme under Clancy Pendergast, and the spring drills will be the first opportunity to see the defense in action. The Trojans will have an experienced front seven, but four new starters are expected in the secondary.
  2. Replacing Barkley: Max Wittek got the first extended audition in the battle to take over for Matt Barkley, but he didn’t do enough in two late-season starts to claim the job. Cody Kessler and freshman spring enrollee Max Browne also will be looking to take the reins at one of the glamour positions in college football.
  3. Lane Kiffin on the hot seat: The Trojans are coming off a disappointing season, and the fans are howling in protest, but so far his boss Pat Haden has maintained full support for his coach. Now is the time for Kiffin to show why that support is warranted. -- Garry Paskwietz, WeAreSC
UTAH UTES

Start date: March 19

Spring game: April 20

What to watch:
  1. Erickson impact: The biggest question was what sort of role Dennis Erickson would play in the offense once he arrived. We'll know sooner than later. He already has talked about putting an identity on the Utah offense. That starts in spring when routines are established and expectations are set. And with Erickson on board to give the offense a push, the expectations will be much higher.
  2. Wilson maturing: That leads us to the presumptive starting quarterback -- Travis Wilson -- who jumped in midseason after Jordan Wynn got hurt and Jon Hays struggled to produce. Wilson went from OK to pretty good in just a few weeks. A nice jump considering his experience level. With an entire offseason knowing he'll be the starter -- and with Erickson and Brian Johnson molding him -- it will be interesting to see what progress he makes this spring.
  3. D-line makeover: The Utes lose some talent on the defensive line -- specifically All-American defensive tackle Star Lotulelei. Look for DE/LB Trevor Reilly to spend more time with his hand down. Tenny Palepoi, LT Tuipulotu and JC transfer Sese Ianu could all see time in the mix at defensive tackle.

Poll: Best postseason game of 2012

January, 24, 2013
1/24/13
7:00
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On Tuesday we polled you on the best regular-season game of the 2012 season. With more than 6,700 votes, Stanford's win over Oregon remains slightly ahead of the USC-Oregon game.

But there were nine other games after the regular season ended -- the Pac-12 championship game and eight bowl games.

Since the Pac-12 lost four of those games, those losses probably wouldn't qualify in a "best of" poll (stop your snickering, Oregon fans).

So for today's poll question, we're asking what the was the Pac-12's best postseason game.

Your options:

SportsNation

What was the best Pac-12 postseason game in the 2012 season?

  •  
    10%
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    19%
  •  
    7%
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    17%
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    47%

Discuss (Total votes: 5,862)

Pac-12 title game: It was the long-awaited rematch -- a full six days in the making. After the Cardinal thumped the Bruins at the Rose Bowl in the regular season finale, 35-17, they met six days later at Stanford. This time around, it was a much tighter contest. UCLA running back Johnathan Franklin exploded for 194 yards on 19 carries and two touchdowns. Three times the Bruins held the lead, including a 24-17 edge heading into the fourth quarter. But Kevin Hogan's legs and arm -- coupled with a pair of Jordan Williamson field goals -- were enough to lock up the 27-24 win for the Cardinal.

New Mexico Bowl: The first bowl game of the 2012 postseason may very well have been the most thrilling. Arizona mounted a furious comeback in the final two minutes, erasing a 48-35 deficit, to pull off a shocking 49-48 victory over Nevada. Arizona scored 14 points in the final minute (after recovering an onside kick), including a 2-yard go-ahead touchdown pass from Matt Scott to Tyler Slavin with 19 seconds left in the game.

Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl: The other Arizona team didn't need any last second miracles as Arizona State throttled Navy 62-28. But what made this game compelling was running back Marion Grice -- playing with a heavy heart following his brother's murder -- erupted for 159 yards and two touchdowns to earn offensive MVP honors.

The Rose Bowl: In vintage 2012 Stanford fashion, the Cardinal gutted out a 20-14 victory over Wisconsin. They jumped out to a 14-0 lead on rushing touchdowns from Kelsey Young and Stepfan Taylor and let the defense and Williamson do the rest of the work. It was Stanford's eighth victory of the season coming by a touchdown or less.

The Fiesta Bowl: If the Rose Bowl was vintage Stanford, the Fiesta was vintage Oregon -- which used its speed to overwhelm Kansas State. De'Anthony Thomas set the tone by returning the opening kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown, Kenjon Barner rushed for 143 yards and the defense kept Heisman Trophy finalist Collin Klein and the Wildcats to just 283 yards of total offense.

Pac-12's best moments in 2012

January, 14, 2013
1/14/13
11:00
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Here's a collection of great moments/storylines from the 2012 Pac-12 season in no particular order:

  • Clutch catches: A couple from Arizona wide receivers come to mind. There was Austin Hill laying out in the season opener against Toledo for a 30-yard touchdown -- quite possibly the best catch in the Pac-12 this season -- and Tyler Slavin's snag in the New Mexico Bowl. Zach Ertz's haul-in against Oregon was as clutch as it gets.
  • [+] EnlargeReggie Dunn
    Russ Isabella/US PresswireUtah's Reggie Dunn was a threat to go the distance every time he touched the ball.
    Dunn and done: It was a record-setting year for Utah's All-American kick returner Reggie Dunn. He set the NCAA single-season record with four 100-yard kickoff returns for touchdowns. He set the NCAA mark for career 100-yard kickoff returns with five, the single-game 100-yard kickoff return record with two and the kick return average in a game at 74.0. He also tied the NCAA record for kick return touchdowns in a game from any distance with two. His performance prompted one of the best quotes of the year from Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. "I can't believe they kicked to him," Whittingham said after the Colorado game.
  • Having their moment: Colorado is going to get mentioned a lot in this post -- mostly because of what others did to it. But in a season loaded with disappointments, it was a gritty fourth-quarter performance that stands out as a highlight for the Buffs. Trailing 31-14 in the final frame, Colorado outscored the Washington State Cougars 21-3 in the final 7:06 for their only win of the season, a 35-34 victory in Pullman, Wash.
  • The other side of Colorado: Feeling good after reading that, Buffs fans? Here comes the rub. Pac-12 teams exploded against Colorado this year with several record-setting performances. We've already mentioned Dunn getting one of his kickoff return TDs against the Buffs. But before that, Matt Barkley and Robert Woods had record-setting days against Colorado. Barkley threw six touchdowns and completed 95 percent of his passes (19 of 20), giving him the Pac-12 career touchdown record. Woods caught eight balls to set the USC career receptions record and he became the first USC player to have four touchdown catches in one game. A couple of weeks later, Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey ran for a league-record 366 yards and five touchdowns, averaging 14.6 yards per carry. In conference games, Colorado was outscored, on average, 49-17.
  • Clutch kicks: In what was a very off year for Pac-12 kickers, a few key moments stand out: Ka'imi Fairbairn's 33-yard game winner lifted the Bruins to a 45-43 win at Arizona State; Jordan Williamson's 37-yarder in overtime downed Oregon and changed the entire landscape of college football; and WSU's Andrew Furney was oh-so-money in the Apple Cup, drilling a 45-yarder to tie the game in the closing minutes and then hitting a 27-yarder in overtime.
  • UW shockers: For as shocking as the Apple Cup demise was for the Huskies, they also provided a couple of big shockers of their own, knocking off a pair of top-10 teams. A week after Stanford stunned USC (not as stunning as it was at the time), Washington held the No. 8 Cardinal without an offensive touchdown in a 17-13 home win. A month later -- to the day -- it snapped No. 7 Oregon State's six-game winning streak, also at the Clink.
  • SoCal slugfest: Before the season, we all looked to the Oregon-USC game as the first of two that would determine the conference championship. As it turned out, neither team even reached the title game. But the game itself didn't disappoint. It was a 62-51 thrill ride in which Kenjon Barner rushed for 321 yards and four touchdowns, Barkley threw for 484 yards and five scores and the two schools gained 1,345 yards of total offense between them.
  • Quarterback controversies: Midseason switches and turnover at the position seemed like a constant throughout the Pac-12. Only four schools -- Arizona State, Oregon, UCLA and Washington -- started the same quarterback in every game this season. Injury caused changes at Arizona, Cal, Oregon State, USC and Utah, while competitions/switches happened at Washington State, Stanford, Oregon State and Colorado. In the end, it was a good move for Stanford -- which went on to win the Pac-12 title. At Oregon State, the competition is certainly wide open after the Alamo Bowl collapse. Colorado has some things to figure out with a new coaching staff and we'll see if Connor Halliday can hold on to the job next year.
  • Heisman shutout: The Pac-12 didn't have a finalist for the first time since 2008 -- despite strong seasons from Marqise Lee, Barner, Carey, Johnathan Franklin, etc. Barkley was the preseason favorite, but fizzled as USC imploded. Despite having the nation's top wide receiver and three of the four consensus All-American running backs, the Pac-12 was snubbed out of a trip to New York.
  • Stanford's staying power: Surely, 2012 was the year Stanford would come back to earth. No Andrew Luck, no Coby Fleener, no Jonathan Martin and David DeCastro. But behind a fierce defense, the Cardinal won the league title, Kevin Hogan is 5-0 as a starter at quarterback and the Cardinal won the Rose Bowl. Not bad for a rebuilding year.
  • Coaches are better than ever: Jim Mora, Todd Graham and Rich Rodriguez all took their teams to bowl games in their first seasons. Mike Riley has his team back in the Top 25. David Shaw has won the coach of the year honor twice in two seasons. Chip Kelly is back. Sonny Dykes has an exciting offense. Mike MacIntyre has a history of rebuilding. The Pac-12 might have the hottest crop of coaches in the country. That's a very good thing.
  • 2-0: There are many ways to judge the talent of a conference. BCS bowl games are the biggest litmus test. The Pac-12 went 4-4 in the bowl season, but won both of its BCS games: Stanford beating Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl and Oregon thrashing Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl. History judges the best of the best. And there was no doubt those two teams earned everything they got this year.

South division scrimmage roundup

April, 16, 2012
4/16/12
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Catching up on the scrimmages and spring games in the south division.

ARIZONA

The Wildcats quarterbacks combined for six passing touchdowns -- including four from Matt Scott, who completed 22 of 35 passes for 315 yards. Arizona threw 55 times and ran 43 times in addition to working through several different scenarios.

“I shouldn’t expect too much with the first year in the system, but with Matt Scott I’m going to expect a lot,” head coach Rich Rodriguez told the Tucson Citizen. “And I think Matt can deliver.”

Tyler Slavin caught three touchdowns and Richard Morrison caught a pair. Dan Buckner hauled in the sixth.

Safety Marquis Flowers brought in the lone interception of the day and linebacker Jake Fischer matched a team high with six tackles after missing all of 2011 with a knee injury.

The day was marred, however, by another knee injury. Safety Adam Hall tweeted Saturday night that he tore his ACL -- a similar tear to the one he had last spring that kept him out of all but one game in 2011.

ARIZONA STATE

The three-way quarterback competition isn't settled, but head coach Todd Graham said he'd like to see someone take the lead before the end of the spring session, writes Doug Haller of the Arizona Republic.

Michael Eubank threw three touchdowns -- a pair to Gary Chambers and a third to Rashad Ross. But he also threw a pair of interceptions.

Haller reports that Taylor Kelly looked effecient, throwing an 11-yard touchdown to tight end Max Smith and Mike Bercovici tossed three touchdowns -- all in the overtime session of the scrimmage.

Defensively, the Sun Devils forced a trio of turnovers and three times stopped the offense on fourth-and-1.

COLORADO

The Buffs ran a 42-play scrimmage with the emphasis on the offense. Head coach Jon Embree said he was happy with the performance of Connor Wood, who completed 7 of 10 passes for 137 yards and touchdowns to Jarrod Darden and Dustin Ebner.

"I thought No. 5 was sharp," Embree said. "He missed a couple of deep balls ... but I thought he played well."

Embree also said that running back Tony Jones separated himself from the rest of the pack and looked solid during the spring session. Jones carried four times for 23 yards on Saturday. Josh Ford, however, stood out with 141 yards and two touchdowns on eight carries -- though Colorado's defensive line has been patchwork.

Embree said that if Colorado wants to reach a bowl game in 2012, they are going to have to rely on some of the players coming in this fall.

"I still think it's achievable, but how far we go towards that goal and how we accomplish it, we're going to lean on some guys coming in," Embree said. "So how quickly -- and I told this to the seniors and the rest of the team -- how quickly you're able to help them assimilate, help them know how to practice, know how to work, will help us get to that goal.

"If you want to look at it as they're the bad guy because they coming here to compete for a job, then we'll all have the same fate -- we'll all be home for Christmas."

USC

The Trojans secondary picked up a pair of interceptions -- one from safety Drew McAllister off of Cody Kessler and the other from cornerback Brian Baucham off of Matt Barkley -- as the defense outshined the offense at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Barkley completed 23 of 39 passes for 212 yards with a touchdown -- a 1-yard pass to Marqise Lee. Kessler (3-of-6, 68 yards) picked up the majority of his passing yards on a 44-yard touchdown to fullback Soma Vainuku.

"It was definitely a learning experience," Kessler told USC's blog.

Linebacker Hayes Pullard and cornerback Anthony Brown each had six tackles, while linebacker Dion Bailey added five stops. Cornerback Isiah Wiley had five deflections to go with his four tackles. There were three sacks (by defensive ends Devon Kennard, Greg Townsend Jr. and Morgan Breslin).

"I think the young linebackers are playing really well," Lane Kiffin told Erik McKinney of WeAreSC. "Like I mentioned, the defensive backs have improved a lot. That was really critical, especially with a new coach back there."

UTAH

Quarterback Jordan Wynn completed 7 of 12 passes for 149 yards with a touchdown and zero interceptions as the Utes' offense continues to find its rhythm under new offensive coordinator Brian Johnson.

“Brian wants to take more shots downfield than we have recently and we can do that now because we have the speed in the wideouts to create separation and we have quarterbacks who can throw with accuracy,” head coach Kyle Whittingham said. “Our quarterback situation is the best it has been in years."

Dave Kruger, LT Filiaga and Trevor Reilly all recorded sacks for the defense and Terrell Reese returned an interception for 43 yards to go with a pair of tackles for a loss.

Luke Matthews and Kenneth Scott both had touchdown catches. DeVonte Christopher had two catches, but led the receivers with 70 yards.
While there is no on-the-record clarity on the situation, it's fair to say that Arizona's All-Pac-10 receiver Juron Criner's season is at-risk due to an "undisclosed personal issue," which a source told the Pac-12 blog was a "non-injury, medical issue."

[+] EnlargeJuron Criner
Rick Osentoski/US PresswireJuron Criner is the best player among a deep group of receivers at Arizona.
Arizona is not commenting because of student privacy guidelines. A source inside the football office texted the Pac-12 blog that his hope was Criner "will be ready for the season."

Criner, a second-team All-American, led the Wildcats with 82 receptions for 1,233 yards and 11 touchdowns last season. Arizona starts fall camp Aug. 3.

What does this mean for the Wildcats? Well, nothing yet. This is obviously a serious situation, but the endgame won't reveal itself until Criner's status is made official.

But it does force us to speculate what the Wildcats offense might be without Criner. The short answer is "probably OK."

While no team wants to lose an All-American, the Wildcats have one of the deepest and experienced crews of receivers in the conference and the nation. Sure, the 6-foot-4, 210-pound Criner was the headliner, a guy who could tax a defense in a variety of ways and who always seemed to be the go-to guy when the screws tightened.

But, as we noted with our review of Pac-12 receiving corps, the Wildcats should be better than OK, even without Criner. To quote ourselves:

"David Douglas, David Roberts, Terrence Miller and Richard Morrison -- each caught between 19 and 52 passes a season ago. Oh, and there's also Texas transfer Dan Buckner, Austin Hill, Garic Wharton and Tyler Slavin. There's size, speed, depth and experience."

What this does mean is that Buckner needs to live up to the high expectations we've been hearing for months, and at least one of the speedy youngsters needs to step up as a deep threat.

Still, the Wildcats and quarterback Nick Foles will be able to line up in a four- and even five-receiver set without resorting to a scrub as the last option.

Criner made the Wildcats receivers looking like a great unit. But even -- potentially -- without him, they should be very good.

More on the Criner situation here. And here.

Of course, Wildcats fans already might be thinking about "what-might-have-been" before the 2011 season begins. Criner is potentially the third projected starter lost since the end of last season. Safety Adam Hall and linebacker Jake Fischer suffered knee injuries this spring, as did backup running back Greg Nwoko and backup defensive tackle Willie Mobley.

Hope & concern: Arizona

May, 16, 2011
5/16/11
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Every team has hope heading into the offseason. And every team has concerns.

Ergo, we're going to run through the conference and look at the chief matters -- on the up and downside -- for each Pac-12 team.

First up: Arizona

Biggest reason for hope: The Wildcats passing game will be potent.

Three-year starter at quarterback who's thrown for more than 5,000 yards and 39 touchdowns (Nick Foles)? Check. All-American candidate at receiver (Juron Criner). Check. A 6-foot-4, 220-pound transfer who was good enough to catch 45 passes as a sophomore on a team that played for the national title (Dan Buckner). Check. Three other receivers with at least 29 receptions in 2010 (David Douglas, David Roberts and Terrence Miller)? Check. A converted QB who surged late in the season catching the ball (Richard Morrison)? Check. Intriguing, athletic young players (Austin Hill, Tyler Slavin and Garic Wharton). Check. An offensive coordinator with a Texas Tech-Mike Leach background (Seth Littrell). Check. A backup QB (Matt Scott) who has proven himself capable as a starter? Check. Arizona led the Pac-10 with an average of 307.7 yards passing last year. Don't be surprised if that already high number goes up.

Biggest reason for concern: There are five new starters on the offensive line.

Another reason the Wildcats might pass a bunch in 2011 is because a young line might not be able to push anyone around. The Wildcats are replacing all five starters from 2010, and only center Kyle Quinn has ever started a game. And he's only started one -- last year's Alamo Bowl -- because Colin Baxter had a knee injury. Further, these guys were on the bench while last year's starters often struggled: The Wildcats gave up 32 sacks, ranking eighth in the Pac-10, and also ranked eighth in rushing. If the Wildcats have to throw the ball 45 to 50 times a game, Foles is probably going to take some hits. That's why Scott is a valuable security blanket. Things went OK for the line in spring practices, but the unit will be the biggest concern heading into the season.

Mailbag: Arizona's receivers aren't the best!

April, 15, 2011
4/15/11
7:14
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Happy Friday.

Follow me on Twitter.

To the many who asked: I have no idea when the NCAA will rule on USC's appeal. On Saturday, it will be 12 weeks since USC met with the appeals mmittee. I thought it might happen this week. If it doesn't happen next week, the term "absurd" will start to apply.

The notes.

Chris from Seattle writes: You've been calling Arizona's group of receivers "the best in the conference." I'd like to submit that, it's far less clear than you are painting it. The way I see it, UW is equally as deep at receiver. Kearse and Aguilar are two returning seniors who merit pre-season all-conference mention and Kearse is potentially a first teamer and all-american. From there, James Johnson (stellar freshman year who is returning to form), Kevin Davis (really turning it on this spring), DiAndre Campbell (great hands and big plays this spring), and Cody Bruns (another returning senior) are all in the mix for the third spot. But, let's not forget that Kasen Williams (the Parade All-America player of the year - if you have forgotten) will be showing up in the fall. I'd say that group would go toe-to-toe with UA's group any day! Sure, UA has a better QB at the moment, but if we're talking about talent at the receiver position, I think you haven't done your homework and I'd appreciate it if you stop matter-of-factly stating they are the best in the conference. In your UA spring review, you said, "the conference's deepest, most talented crew of receivers." I call BULL! Prove me wrong!

Ted Miller: OK, I'll prove you wrong, you, you, Bull Caller!

Washington has good receivers, but the Huskies don't match up with the Wildcats.

So let's do our homework!

You note Jermaine Kearse (63 receptions, second-team All-Pac-10) and Devin Aguilar. Aguilar caught 28 passes last season. Every one else you mention is a "maybe." Why do I type that? Here are the official stats. Johnson caught one pass last year. Bruns? Seven.

And, really, Kearse has plenty of room to improve -- see dropped passes, see struggles versus physical cornerbacks.

Down in Tucson, you have the best receiver in the Pac-12: Juron Criner (82 receptions, first-team All-Pac-10).

Then you have David Douglas (52 receptions), David Roberts (45), Terrence Miller (29) and Richard Morrison (19). Oh, and you also have Texas transfer Dan Buckner, who caught 44 passes for 445 yards and four touchdowns in 2009 for the Longhorns.

I'd even counter that Arizona's "maybes" are every bit the match of Washington's: redshirt freshmen Tyler Slavin, Austin Hill, and speedster Garic Wharton.


JJ from McCall, Idaho writes: Looking at returning running backs, it's amazing to see USC in 10th position. What happened to all those 5 star recruits?

Ted Miller: USC isn't exactly hurting at running back. In fact, off the top of my head, I'd rate the Trojans fourth in the Pac-12 at the position behind Oregon, Washington and Stanford.

First, let's recall the Trojans averaged 190 yards rushing per game in 2010. That ranked third in the conference.

Second, Marc Tyler, who rushed for 913 yards and averaged 5.3 yards per carry, is back. Yes, he's injury prone, but not so injury prone that he didn't nearly crack the 1,000-yard mark in 2010.

And there is plenty of young talent, starting with Dillon Baxter and D.J. Morgan. Further, the Pac-12 blog has always thought that if Curtis McNeal, academically ineligible in 2010, got touches, he'd make plays.


Matt from Salt Lake City writes: With the Utah Utes bringing in a new O and with [quarterback Jordan Wynn] out of the spring how far behind is Wynn and do you think he can get the new O going and be ready for the fall?

Ted Miller: No matter how much of a "glass half-full guy" you are, it's not ideal for Wynn to be sitting out spring practices after undergoing shoulder surgery. A full spring practice with new offensive coordinator Norm Chow and pro style offense would have been valuable.

But there are a couple of things that work in Wynn and Utah's favor here. For one, Wynn is only a few weeks from full-go throwing again, so he'll have a full summer to work with his receivers and backs and get a general feel for the playbook.

Second, Wynn told me he played a pro style offense in high school, so this shouldn't be an overwhelming transformation. He actually called it a "better fit" than the Utes old spread-option. Third, Chow was most taken with Wynn's intelligence, noting that Wynn seems to be picking things up quickly in meetings and film sessions. Said Chow, "Just sitting in meetings with him, it's extremely obvious he's very bright. To me the key element for a quarterback is you've got to be smart. He gets it all."

Further, Wynn is a one-and-a-half-year starter. He's a veteran who knows game speed. That should help him digest things during fall camp.

Again, not ideal. But far from a cause for panic.

If Utah fans are looking for something to worry about -- and what fan isn't? -- backup quarterback might be a good place to release a harrumph or two. It doesn't seem like either Tyler Shreve or Griff Robles have figured things out.


Thomas from San Francisco writes: Cal fans are a bit up in arms about a quote from Jeff Tedford in your latest article, and I was hoping for some clarification. Specifically, this quote: "I have it back in focus now, not to worry about the external things," he said. "That one year [2009] we went [8-5] and it felt like we went [5-8], it felt like people were real irritable about that. I was irritable, too. About their reaction to [8-5]. Now, I'm just back to focusing on what it takes to get us back on the upward trend again." You bracketed "2009" and "8-5" which means he didn't actually say those terms, but you interpreted him to be referring to 2009 and 8-5. Is it possible he was referring to going 8-4 in 2005? Or something else? It is concerning because it sounds like Tedford is happy with 8-5, which he should not be (especially because there were a handful of blowout losses in those 5 losses, which you note in the story). Is there any way you can post the full Q&A? Or at least enough to get the context of what he was saying? Or simply why you interpreted him to be referring to 2009/8-5?

Ted Miller: You are an observant reader. Oh, you Cal fans!

What Tedford said was a little confusing to me at the time also. The recording is gone, but, to paraphrase, he said "a couple of years ago" in the context of this quote but said "8-3" as the record, as well as the 3-8 reverse. Obviously, there is no 8-3 season, though he could have been referring to finishing the 2005 regular season 8-3 and then winning the Las Vegas Bowl over BYU.

So I did make an assumption based on a couple of things: He said "couple of years ago," which suggested two to me. And I remembered very little carping after the 2005 season, seeing that was the first season after Aaron Rodgers (Joe Ayoob!), though Bears fans feel free to correct me.

Either way, to me, the gist is the same: In the past, he allowed fan reaction to irritate him after an eight-win season. He's now trying to ignore fan reaction after a five-win season because he's got plenty of other things to think -- and get irritated -- about.

I've never had the feeling that Tedford would be happy with 8-5. I do think that he was a bit surprised how quickly Cal fans became bored with winning seasons.


Todd from Mission Viejo, Calif., writes: Regarding the Pac-12 media deal, should I be worried about the Pac-12 signing a long-term deal (say 15 years)? Yes, it would provide stability, but if the college sports media market continues to grow, could the media rights become undervalued for the final part of its contract. Would it not be better to sign a medium length media deal, then renegotiate to reflect the new value of the media property?

Ted Miller: Larry "Let's make a deal!" Scott is seeking a 10-year deal worth $220 million, according to multiple reports, including the Wall Street Journal, which I think got the number from the myriad great articles Jon Wilner has been doing on the behind-the-scenes machinations.

If there is a downside to a 10-year, $220 million deal, I don't know what it is. Other than it's not a 10-year $230 million deal, with the extra $10 million going to the Pac-12 blog, which of course would buy a yacht and throw a righteous party for you loyal readers.

Miriam from Stanford, Calif., writes: In addition to reading the stories on the blog, I often go to your lunch links to find interesting news items about Stanford and other teams. I know that you don't always include a link for every team every day, but I've noticed a lot of times when you seem to have a story for every team except Stanford (see 4/6/11, 4/12/11). Is it really that much harder to find news stories about Stanford than about the other teams in the conference? Or is it just my selection bias coming into play, only noticing when my team is the one missing?

Ted Miller: Yes, it is that much harder to find stories on Stanford football, and it annoys me, too. I even groused about this to Wyndam Makowsky of The Stanford Daily, noting that the Daily's enlightened policy of covering all of Stanford's 14,524 sports teams vexed me when, really, people only care about football.

Some teams get so much local coverage, it's often difficult to figure out which articles to post and which to exclude. That's not the case with Stanford, in large part because Bay Area newspapers have significantly rolled back their staff numbers.

Every weekday morning I go through a series of websites -- newspapers, responsible fan blogs, even the official website -- that offer Stanford coverage. If you don't see a Stanford link at lunch, it's because I couldn't find a story.

Same thing goes for every Pac-12 team.


Daniel from Eugene, Ore., writes: You probably already know this is out there, but I thought it'd be nice if you could post this. Really a quality podcast all about the Ducks.

Ted Miller: Wow, you put the bad boys of podcasting, Ty and Dan of "Solid Verbal," on the same wavelength with The One They Call "Rob Moseley" and you've got the makings of an epic Guy Ritchie shoot-em-up.

Arizona spring notes

April, 14, 2011
4/14/11
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TUCSON, Ariz. -- It was just a short, shells -- shorts and shoulder pads -- practice Thursday at Arizona, but even then there was plenty of "wow" in the downfield passing game.

No team in the Pac-12 can offer up two quarterbacks as good as Nick Foles and Matt Scott. No team in the Pac-12 can match the Wildcats depth and talent at receiver.

That's the good news. Questions, though, remain, starting with five new starters on the offensive line.

"We're going to have to throw to set up the run, I don't think there's any question about that," coach Mike Stoops said.

As for folks questioning the line, Stoops understands and has no problem with it. He hopes it bothers them.

"They'll hear about it," Stoops said. "I think that will serve as motivation."

On defense, the Wildcats must replace defensive ends Brooks Reed, Ricky Elmore and D'Aundre Reed. And it's not good that talented safety Adam Hall is standing on the sidelines with a surgically repaired ACL.

Some notes from Arizona practice -- two days before Saturday's spring game -- after chats with Stoops, offensive coordinator Seth Littrell and defensive coordinator Tim Kish.
  • The plan remains to redshirt Scott, if possible. He's certainly not going to enter a game late in the fourth quarter to take a knee. But if Foles gets hurt, Scott would be the guy. He'd probably start for a majority of teams in the Pac-12.
  • At running back, Daniel Jenkins has had "one of the best springs of any of our young players," Stoops said. He looks like Keola Antolin's backup. Both Stoops and Littrell, however, expect incoming freshmen Ka'Deem Cary and Jared Baker to perhaps push into the mix.
  • Receiver? Well, there's Juron Criner -- an All-American candidate -- David Douglas, Texas transfer Dan Buckner, David Roberts, Richard Morrison, Tyler Slavin, Austin Hill, Terrence Miller and speedster Garic Wharton. Suffice it to say, the Wildcats will be able to spread the field in 2011.
  • As it stands now, the starting offensive line goes line this: LT Mickey Baucus, LG Chris Putton, C Kyle Quinn, RG Trace Biskin, RT Fabbians Ebbele. Only Quinn has started a game -- the Alamo Bowl last December -- and both tackles are redshirt freshmen. On the plus side, if you want to look ahead, no lineman on the two-deep is a senior. Four are freshmen, two are sophomores and four are juniors.
  • H-back Taimi Tutogi hinted at great things last preseason but was ultimately disappointing. There's a feeling that he could break through in 2011. While he's not an elite blocker by any stretch, the 260 pounder isn't easy to deal with when he has the ball in space.
  • On defense, the ends are C.J. Parrish and Mohammed Usman. Both are listed at 245 pounds, which means the Wildcats will be much smaller at end compared to a year ago. On the depth chart, redshirt freshman Dan Pettinato and converted tackle Dominique Austin are listed, but JC transfer Lamar De Rego is likely to immediately jump into the mix.
  • Kish called Parrish "a pleasant surprise...We didn't think he'd pick it up as quick as he did and be as effective as he is."
  • Inside at defensive tackle, there's solid depth. Justin Washington, who's sitting out with a shoulder injury, and Sione Tuihalamaka are the starters and Willie Mobley and Kirifi Taula are the backups. Aiulua Fanene is a fifth option.
  • Stoops said the Wildcats "are much better inside," and Kish made an interesting point about last fall. Because Reed and Elmore were so good at pinching down from the outside against the pass, while the tackles were limited and not getting much inside push, the Wildcats often created passing lanes for opposing quarterbacks. Passing lanes and running lanes, which some of you Wildcats fans might remember quarterbacks scrambling through, such as Arizona State's Brock Osweiler.
  • The good news is all three starting linebackers are back. The bad news is a lack of depth, particularly after R.J. Young -- the fourth LB -- and Trevor Erno quit. Presently, walkon Bilal Muhammed -- "He's damn good," said Kish -- is the backup at two spots and undersized though athletic Kyle Benson is No. 2 behind Jake Fisher on the outside. Both Kish and Stoops expect help from incoming freshmen Rob Hankins, Dominique Petties and Hank Hobson.
  • The good news in the secondary is the renewed focus of cornerback Trevin Wade, who had a poor junior year after earning accolades as a sophomore. Stoops and Kish don't hold back when talking about Wade's struggles in 2010, but both see a different player this spring: "He took a lot for granted (last year)," Stoops said. "He has a different attitude, a different level of effort (this spring)."
  • Along with Wade at corner, there's Jonathan McKnight, brother of former USC RB Joe McKnight and perhaps the best pure cover corner, and Shaquille Richardson, who's sitting out with a shoulder injury.
  • Robert Golden has moved back to safety from cornerback -- he's started extensively at both spots -- after Hall went down, where he's beside free safety Marquis Flowers. Redshirt freshamn Jourdan Grandon is making a bid to be the nickel, though there's clearly competition for backup roles. Neither Mark Watley nor Josh Robbins has made a decisive push for playing time. And there's some hope that Hall could make a fast recovery and be back by October.

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