Pac-12: Verran Tucker

Preseason position reviews: receiver

July, 27, 2010
7/27/10
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Receiver is a difficult position to evaluate this year. Just about every team has a solid (or better) lead receiver back and some intriguing, but inexperienced, talent around him. But, other than Washington, no team should feel completely secure.

There is, however, a lot of potential at the position. Many of the names below who appear as secondary options could end up competing for All-Pac-10 spots.

Note: Tight ends and running backs don't count here.

Great shape

  • Washington: The Huskies entire two-deep is back, topped by second-team All-Pac-10 pick Jermaine Kearse and Devin Aguilar, who ranked seventh in the conference in receiving yards per game in 2009. James Johnson was probably the best freshman receiver in the conference last year.
Good shape

    [+] EnlargeJames Rodgers
    AP Photo/Ben MargotOregon State's James Rodgers caught 91 passes for 1,034 yards and nine TDs last year.
  • Oregon State: James Rodgers is clearly the No. 1 returning receiver in the conference. Markus Wheaton, Jordan Bishop and Darrell Catchings offer promising depth, but they combined for 25 receptions last year (Catchings was injured).
  • Oregon: The Ducks aren't flashy, but they welcome back their top three receivers from last year. By season's end, Jeff Maehl was one of the best in the conference. Things would have been better if Tyrece Gaines and Diante Jackson weren't ruled academically ineligible.
  • Arizona: After Delashaun Dean got himself kicked off the team, the Wildcats must replace their Nos. 1 and 4 WRs, which is why they aren't in "great shape." Still, Juron Criner tops a solid returning crew.
  • UCLA: The Bruins welcome back their top-two WRs -- Taylor Embree and Nelson Rosario -- and Colorado transfer Josh Smith figures to make an immediate impact. Sophomores Damien Thigpen and Morrell Presley also seem poised for breakthroughs.
  • USC: While he was hurt much of last year, Ronald Johnson is a top home run threat. Brice Butler and David Ausberry will have to fight to stay ahead of a talented crew of incoming freshmen.
  • Stanford: The Cardinal welcome back their top-two receivers in Ryan Whalen and Chris Owusu. That's the good news. The question is who will become options No. 3 and 4?
We'll see

  • California: The Bears only lose No. 2 WR Verran Tucker and the underwhelming Nyan Boateng, but, other than Marvin Jones, they didn't get much production here in 2009.
  • Arizona State: The Sun Devils lost their top-two WRs, but the cupboard isn't empty, with Oregon transfer Aaron Pflugrad, who would have started for the Ducks in 2009, and JC transfer George Bell, Gerell Robinson, Jamal Miles and Kerry Taylor. Still, it's not a proven group.
  • Washington State: The Cougars went through spring with just four scholarship receivers, a crew topped by Jared Karstetter and Gino Simone. The incoming recruiting class features five receivers, and at least a couple will get on the field. The Cougars are OK here but they did rank last in the conference in passing in 2009.

A-list position battles: California

May, 13, 2010
5/13/10
10:00
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Third in a series taking a look at top position competitions this fall.

California: Receiver

Why the competition? Though the Bears lost Verran Tucker and Nyan Boateng, they have fairly good experience at the position returning. The problem is that, other than junior Marvin Jones, they lack playmakers, which was abundantly clear this spring. Starting spots are wide open.

Candidates: Jones, Jeremy Ross, Alex Lagemann and Michael Calvin are returning players with game experience. The touted 2010 class includes five receivers: Keenan Allen, Coleman Edmond, Tevin Carter, Kaelin Clay and Terrance Montgomery.

The skinny: Lagemann got most of the first-team action opposite Jones this spring. The junior has 12 career receptions. Ross, a senior, has caught only two touchdown passes. Calvin's promising career has been hurt by injuries. He caught just one pass for the Bears in 2009. So, suffice it to say, that there are opportunities here for the freshmen to play, particularly Allen, a dynamic athlete who was No. 33 on the ESPNU 150. In fact, the guess here is at least two freshman get into the regular rotation.

Dallas adds a dose of Berkeley

April, 27, 2010
4/27/10
11:52
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Three former California players have signed free agent contracts with the Dallas Cowboys: receiver Verran Tucker and offensive linemen Chet Teofilo and Mike Tepper.

Linebacker Devin Bishop signed with Denver. The Pac-10 blog previously reported -- incorrectly -- that he'd signed with Dallas.

Meanwhile, former Bears safety Brett Johnson signed a free agent contract with Buffalo, while safety Marcus Ezeff will get a tryout next week with the New York Jets, according to a release from the school.

Cal had three players selected in the NFL Draft: defensive lineman Tyson Alualu (Jacksonville Jaguars, 10th overall) and tailback Jahvid Best (Detroit Lions, 30th overall) were both chosen in the first round last Thursday. Cornerback Syd’Quan Thompson (Denver Broncos, 225th overall) was picked up in the seventh round Saturday.

List of NFL combine invitees

January, 12, 2010
1/12/10
4:53
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Here's a list of the Pac-10 players invited to the NFL combine, courtesy of The Sporting News.

First of all, it's incomplete. Underclassmen will be added later, such as USC receiver Damian Williams and UCLA DT Brian Price. And a number of seniors also will get invitations.

My immediate guess is that Washington linebacker Donald Butler and Oregon defensive end Will Tukuafu will end up receiving invitations, among others.

Arizona: DT Earl Mitchell, CB Devin Ross

Arizona State: DE Dexter Davis, LB Travis Goethel, OT Shawn Lauvao, WR Chris McGaha, WR Kyle Williams

California: DE Tyson Alualu, WR Nyan Boateng, CB Syd'Quan Thompson, WR Verran Tucker.

Oregon: RB LeGarrette Blount, TE Ed Dickson, CB Walter Thurmond, S T.J. Ward.

Oregon State: QB Sean Canfield, OLB Keaton Kristick.

Stanford: TE Jim Dray, RB Toby Gerhart, OT Matt Kopa, DE Erik Lorig.

UCLA: OLB Kyle Bosworth, CB Alterraun Verner.

USC: OT Charles Brown, C Jeff Byers, RB Stafon Johnson, S Taylor Mays, TE Anthony McCoy, G Alex Parsons, CB Josh Pinkard, CB Kevin Thomas.

Washington: DE Daniel Te'o-Nesheim.

All-Star game invitees

January, 6, 2010
1/06/10
9:36
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Unless a guy plays for Central Michigan, Troy, Alabama or Texas, the 2009 football season is over. For a handful of players, their sights now turn to the NFL, and the next step for many of them is postseason All-Star games.

While there are a number of all-star games, the Senior Bowl is the premier game -- its roster is almost entirely directed by the NFL -- and the East-West Shrine Game is a clear No. 2.

Here's a list -- count on there being some additions in the coming days -- of the invitees.

Arizona

East-West Shrine Game
DT Earl Mitchell
CB Devin Ross

Arizona State

East-West Shrine Game
OL Shawn Lauvao
WR Chris McGaha
DE Dexter Davis

California

Senior Bowl
DE Tyson Alualu
CB Syd'Quan Thompson

East-West Shrine Game
OL Mike Tepper
CB Syd'Quan Thompson
WR Verran Tucker

Oregon

Senior Bowl
TE Ed Dickson

East-West Shrine Game
S T.J. Ward

Oregon State

Senior Bowl
QB Sean Canfield

East-West Shrine Game
LB Keaton Kristick

Stanford

Senior Bowl
RB Toby Gerhart

East-West Shrine Game
DE Erik Lorig
DL Ekom Udofia
OL Chris Marinelli

UCLA

East-West Shrine Game
LB Reggie Carter
TE Ryan Moya
CB Alterraun Verner

USC

Senior Bowl
TE Anthony McCoy
RB Stafon Johnson
S Taylor Mays
OL Charles Brown

East-West Shrine Game
DB Josh Pinkard

Washington

Senior Bowl
LB Donald Butler

East-West Shrine Game
DL Daniel Te'o-Nesheim

Washington State

East-West Shrine Game
C Kenny Alfred

Quick injury report

October, 12, 2009
10/12/09
5:51
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller


Some injury notes based on news reports.

Arizona
Guard Conan Amituanai sprained his knee against Washington. He won't play against Stanford. Defensive tackle Earl Mitchell was hurt in a freak accident on Oct. 9 -- he was knocked out by a door and required stitches -- and didn't play Saturday, but he might return this week. Receiver Bug Wright (knee), defensive end Brooks Reed (ankle), running back Nic Grigsby (shoulder), running back Keola Antolin and defensive end D'Aundre Reed (hand) are all questionable.

Arizona State
The Sun Devils got two player back at Washington State -- guard Garth Gerhart and safety Ryan McFoy -- and didn't suffer any additional injuries. Receiver Kerry Taylor (hamstring), guard Matt Hustad and cornerback Omar Bolden (knee) each missed the Washington State game and are questionable this week.

California
After taking the weekend off, the Bears may get guard Matt Summers-Gavin (shoulder), wide receiver Nyan Boateng (foot) and tight end Spencer Ladner back for the UCLA game. On the downside, receiver Verran Tucker is battling a calf injury and backup nose tackle Kendrick Payne, who didn't play against USC, is doubtful with plantar fasciitis.

Oregon
The Ducks only practice Wednesday and Friday during their bye week. It's unclear if quarterback Jeremiah Masoli (knee) or safety T.J. Ward (ankle) will be ready to participate. Offensive tackle C.E. Kaiser sat out all last week with a shin injury but he played against UCLA.

Oregon State
Offensive guard Gregg Peat bruised his knee against Stanford but he should be able to play after the bye week at USC. Running back Ryan McCants (knee) has yet to play this season but he is questionable for the USC game. Receiver Darrell Catchings (ankle) isn't expected to be ready by Oct. 24.

Stanford
Defensive end Erik Lorig didn't play at Oregon State because of a groin injury. Safety Delano Howell is nursing a quad injury. Both are questionable for the visit to Arizona.

UCLA
Linebacker Reggie Carter played through a sprained knee against Oregon but he's questionable for the Cal game. Tailback Johnathan Franklin and safety Glenn Love are both nursing sprained ankles. Defensive end Korey Bosworth bruised his ribs but is probable for Saturday.

USC
Receiver Ronald Johnson (collarbone) and defensive end Armond Armstead (foot) are expected to be cleared to play at Notre Dame.

Washington
Offensive guard Greg Christine broke his fibula against Arizona and is likely done for the year. He was replaced by sophomore Nick Wood. Running back Chris Polk played through a sprained shoulder against Arizona. Linebacker E.J. Savannah and defensive tackle Cameron Elisara are nursing stingers.

Washington State
It's good news and bad news for the Cougars. Cornerback Daniel Simmons may be done for the season after breaking his leg against Arizona State. On the plus side, guard Zack Williams (ankle) should be ready for the visit to California after the bye week. Tackle Steven Ayers (ankle) and guard B.J. Guerra (knee) are questionable, as are defensive tackle Bernard Wolfgramm (hip) and linebacker Alex Hoffman-Ellis (staph infection).

Sunday morning links

August, 30, 2009
8/30/09
9:56
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Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

In the time of chimpanzees I was a monkey.

  • Fear the Gronk, who is a Threat (and hope his back is OK). Who is going to be Arizona's quarterback? This from Ryan Finley: "Stoops could name a starting quarterback at his 11 a.m. news conference in McKale Center. But don't count on it -- Stoops and his assistants have been super secretive on the quarterback front over the last week, and could opt to keep Central Michigan guessing until kickoff. Regardless of what's said -- or not said -- Monday, the smart money's on sophomore Matt Scott."
  • No big surprises on Arizona State's depth chart, other than the pecking order at safety. The defense will lead.
  • California's Verran Tucker is starting at receiver because he started studying -- the last line of the preceding link is a must-read for Cal fans.
  • Oregon and Boise State talk about each other. Some notes on the Ducks' depth chart.
  • Oregon State focuses on Portland State.
  • Stanford is tough on the D-line.
  • UCLA's offense is still a work in progress. The Bruins picked up a defensive tackle transfer. Good feature on running back Christian Ramirez (but will he get healthy?).
  • Receiver Ronald Johnson's broken collarbone -- out at least six weeks -- is the latest in a string of injuries for USC. The depth chart. But note that Josh Pinkard is back at cornerback while Shareece Wright is out.
  • Nick Holt brings energy to Washington.
  • How will Washington State measure success? What stood out during camp and, more importantly, who's going to start?

A look at California's new depth chart

August, 29, 2009
8/29/09
12:33
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Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

California's depth chart will be distributed on Monday, but here's a look at some of the interesting changes from spring.

  • Nyan Boateng is now Marvin Jones' backup at Z receiver. He was the No. 1 X -- flanker -- coming out of spring.
  • Verran Tucker is No. 1 at the X.
  • The guards are Matt Summers-Gavin and Justin Cheadle. They were Mark Boskovich and Chet Teofilo after spring.
  • Anthony Miller is No. 1 at tight end because Tad Smith is out with a knee injury.
  • Brian Holley won the fullback job.
  • The depth chart doesn't list a slot receiver as it did before, when Alex Lagemann and Charles Satchell were Nos. 1 and 2. True freshman Isi Sofele is probably in the mix there.
  • The linebackers are Eddie Young and Mike Mohamed on the outside and D.J. Holt and Mychal Kendricks inside. Mohamed was inside after spring and Devin Bishop is now a backup inside after being No. 1 outside.
  • The starting secondary remains the same, but Jesse Brooks is a backup safety -- instead of D.J. Campbell --- and Josh Hill is Darian Hagan's backup instead of Chris Conte, who's now at safety.
  • Giorgio Tavecchio is the No. 1 kicker over David Seawright.
  • Syd'Quan Thompson is the No. 1 punt returner; Jahvid Best will return kicks.

Offense

Z 1 Marvin Jones (6-2, 190, So.)
   8 Nyan Boateng (6-2, 211, Sr.)

LT 79 Mike Tepper (6-7, 319, Sr.)
    53 Donovan Edwards (6-5, 285, Jr.)

LG 75 Matt Summers-Gavin (6-4, 291, RFr.)
    70 Mark Boskovich (6-4, 304, Jr.)

C 54 Chris Guarnero (6-2, 275, Jr.)
   65 Dominic Galas (6-1, 281, RFr.)

RG 61 Justin Cheadle (6-2, 299, So.)
    58 Chet Teofilo (6-3, 329, Sr.)

RT 72 Mitchell Schwartz (6-6, 317, So.)
    53 Donovan Edwards (6-5, 285, Jr.)

TE 80 Anthony Miller (6-3, 258, So.)
    83 Skylar Curran (6-4, 256, Sr.)

    45 Spencer Ladner (6-7, 253, RFr.)
    19 Jarrett Sparks (6-2, 230, RFr.)

X 86 Verran Tucker (6-1, 204, Sr.)
    3 Jeremy Ross (5-11, 216, Jr.)

QB 13 Kevin Riley (6-2, 221, Jr.)
     10 Brock Mansion (6-5, 237, So.)
      9 Beau Sweeney (6-2, 226, RFr.)

FB 33 Brian Holley (5-10, 235, Sr.)
     22 Will Kapp (5-10, 216, So.)

TB 4 Jahvid Best (5-10, 195, Jr.)
   34 Shane Vereen (5-10, 198, So.)

Defense

DE 44 Tyson Alualu (6-3, 295, Sr.)
     92 Trevor Guyton (6-3, 285, So.)

NG 76 Derrick Hill (6-2, 302, Jr.)
     96 Kendrick Payne (6-2, 300, RFr.)

DE 97 Cameron Jordan (6-4, 287, Jr.)
     95 Ernest Owusu (6-4, 268, So.)

OLB 9 Eddie Young (6-0, 239, Sr.)
     43 Charles Johnson (6-2, 232, Jr.)

ILB 3 D.J. Holt (6-1, 250, So.)
    55 Jerome Meadows (6-3, 240, Jr.)

ILB 30 Mychal Kendricks (6-0, 230, So.)
     10 Devin Bishop (6-1, 239, Sr.)

OLB 18 Mike Mohamed (6-3, 237, Jr.)
       47 Keith Browner (6-6, 268, Jr.)

CB 5 Syd'Quan Thompson (5-9, 191, Sr.)
   15 Bryant Nnabuife (6-1, 190, Jr.)

S 29 Marcus Ezeff (5-11, 219, Sr.)
   11 Sean Cattouse (6-2, 206, So.)

S 25 Brett Johnson (6-1, 194, Sr.)
   20 Jesse Brooks (5-11, 197, Sr.)

CB 26 Darian Hagan (6-0, 186, Jr.)
    23 Josh Hill (5-11, 194, RFr.)

Around the Pac-10: Camp notes

August, 10, 2009
8/10/09
11:54
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Quick hits from around the conference...

Arizona
Running back Nic Grigsby returned to practice after sprained ankle scare. ... No one can block DE Brooks Reed. ... TE Rob Gronkowski and WR Delashaun Dean sat out Sunday's practice.

Arizona State
Talented by oft-injured reserve receiver Brandon Smith suffered a knee injury Saturday. ... The Sun Devils continue to await word from the NCAA Clearinghouse on whether super-recruit linebacker Vontaze Burfict has academically qualified. Burfict is practicing with the team. ... Reserve defensive tackle David Bertrand has left the program. ... Coach Dennis Erickson reiterated that he will call plays this fall.

California
Wide receiver Verran Tucker, who missed spring due to academics, suffered an undisclosed injury after Sunday's practice. ... Receiver Michael Calvin, who's coming back from an ACL injury, has played well during the first few practices. ... Devin Bishop will be challenged at weakside outside linebacker by JC transfers Ryan Davis, Jarred Price and Jerome Meadows, though Price and Meadows could play inside. ... Matt Summers-Gavin is playing first team left guard, the position on the offense line that is most up for grabs.

Oregon
Redshirt freshman running back LaMichael James, who was injured during the spring, has looked good thus far and is the frontrunner to win the backup job behind LeGarrette Blount.. .. Receivers Jeff Maehl, Tyrece Gaines and Diante Jackson sat out Sunday's practice with injuries. ... Two recruits, Cliff Harris and Justin Brown, haven't reported because they still await a verdict from the NCAA Clearinghouse.

Oregon State
The Beavers begin practices today at 2 p.m. ... Sean Canfield will begin preseason practices as the No. 1 quarterback. Last season's starter, Lyle Moevao, will be taken along slowly as he comes back from shoulder surgery. ... With Jacquizz Rodgers also coming back from shoulder surgery, and backup Ryan McCants out with a knee injury, one of the key preseason competitions is at backup tailback between freshmen Jovan Stevenson and Ashton Jefferson.

Stanford
Offensive lineman Chris Marinelli may miss most of camp because of a chronic left shoulder problem. ... Offensive tackle Allen Smith hasn't been cleared to practice.

UCLA
The Bruins reported on Sunday. ... Defensive end Chinonso Anyanwu will be sidelined for at least three months due to hip surgery. ... Wide receiver Osaar Rasshan has retired due to injury. ... Fullback Jayson Allmond will not report until NCAA Clearinghouse issues have been resolved.

USC
Shane Horton switched from safety to weakside linebacker. ... Senior linebacker Luthur Brown and freshman safety Patrick Hall aren't practicing because of academic issues. ... Sophomore tight end Blake Ayles, who missed the end of last season and spring practice because of a knee injury, has looked good in practices thus far. ... Cornerback Shareece Wright (neck) and running back Allen Bradford (hip) also have been cleared to practice.

Washington
Center Matt Sedillo left the team. ... Johri Fogerson has moved from safety to tailback. ... A pair of JC transfers, offensive Daniel Mafoe and defensive tackle Johnny Tivao, haven't qualified academically. ... Receiver Vince Taylor and running back Brandon Yakaboski will miss camp with a knee injuries. ... Oft-injured safety Jason Wells has been cleared to practice.

Washington State
Coach Paul Wulff is serving a three-day suspension due to NCAA penalties he incurred while coach at Eastern Washington. ... Sophomore Marshall Lobbestael returned to practice after off-season knee surgery. He is competing with Kevin Lopina for the starting job. ... Linebacker Louis Bland and backup center Alex Roxas have not been cleared to practice due to injuries. Senior Jason Stripling stepped into Bland's spot. ... Defensive tackle Bernard Wolfgramm is practicing but his back problems are still causing him issues. ... Guard Kevin Freitag will miss the season due to toe surgery. ... Defensive lineman Qwayshawne Buckley failed to qualify academically.

Riley leads, but California QB competition will renew in August

April, 20, 2009
4/20/09
12:08
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Here are two thorough reviews of California's final scrimmage of spring practice: One & two.

The main points:

  • Kevin Riley continues to lead the quarterback competition because he's done nothing to lose his perch, nor have Brock Mansion and Beau Sweeney done anything to advance ahead of him. Riley's lead, which will be contested again in fall practices, would be more decisive if Mansion hadn't rallied late in spring.
  • Running back Jahvid Best, probably the West Coast's top Heisman Trophy candidate, is running again after elbow and foot surgeries. It appears he'll be ready to play by the beginning of fall practices.
  • The competition at receiver will be intense in the fall, particularly after Marvin Jones and Alex Lagemann asserted themselves this spring. With Nyan Boateng, Verran Tucker and Jeremy Ross the leading returning players, and talented Michael Calvin returning from injury, there are six possibilities for primarily three lead spots.
  • The defense generally dominated spring practices and this unit could end up as the best in the Pac-10, despite the loss of three of four starting linebackers. As for the LB corps, the plot may thicken there when a trio of touted JC transfers arrives in the fall, led by Ryan Davis.

Some notes from Cal: Few questions other than at starting pitcher

April, 1, 2009
4/01/09
6:48
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

BERKELEY, Calif. -- There will be no thunder clap at the end of spring practice at California.

In other words, the quarterback competition between Kevin Riley, who was the starter for most last year, and sophomore Brock Mansion won't end this spring.

"There will be no key decisions made after spring ball on who the starter is," coach Jeff Tedford said.

At this point in the story, Tedford and new offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig would hasten to add redshirt freshman Beau Sweeney into the mix, because that's what both did when only asked about Riley's and Mansion's progress.

Ludwig said he thought things would start to heat up during the first spring scrimmage Saturday, but it's clear he, too, isn't eager to reveal a pecking order, if there even is one.

So question No. 1 with the Bears isn't going to be answered anytime soon. (We had interesting chats with both quarterbacks and will post a story on that Friday.)

And, to be honest, this team doesn't have many questions other than that. Tedford listed fullback as his biggest concern.

"We didn't lose a lot," he noted.

Those three departed linebackers from the Bears 3-4? Worries are few about Eddie Young, Mychal Kendricks, Mike Mohamed and D.J. Holt. All four played last year, with Young and Mohamed logging starts.

Receiver? Everyone is back, so this will be a far more seasoned group than 2008. And there are new names -- youngsters and players returning from injuries -- making the list of potential contributors long.

Nyan Boateng, Verran Tucker and Jeremy Ross top the list, but it seems like everyone has a favorite to add to the mix.

Sophomore Marvin Jones? "He's a guy if you ask who stood out the first week, it was Marvin Jones," Tedford said.

Mansion praised sophomore Alex Lagemann, who also earned a note from Tedford. A couple of practice kibitzers expressed esteem for redshirt freshman Charles Satchell. Sophomore Michael Calvin, who's sitting out spring while still recovering from a knee injury that ended his 2008 season, might be the most talented of the lot.

Ludwig, meanwhile, gushed about the depth and athleticism at tight end.

Ludwig likes to talk about playing "pitch and catch." The Bears didn't do that very well last year, ranking seventh in the Pac-10 and 83rd in the nation in passing.

There seems to be plenty of catchers. The issue that likely will decide if Cal is a top-10 team is the pitcher.

Some other notes:

  • Tedford's special project with Riley during the offseason was shortening the junior's throwing motion. After watching film of 2008, Tedford said that as the season wore on Riley developed a bigger wind-up that hurt his passing accuracy.
  • While the secondary returns intact -- and was very good last year -- cornerbacks Josh Hill and Mark Anthony, both redshirt freshmen, have made an impression and could work their way into the rotation.
  • It appears that Mike Tepper and monstrous sophomore Mitchell Schwartz, a budding star, are set at left and right tackle, and Chris Guarnero leads in the competition to replace Alex Mack at center. The prime competition is at the guards.
  • Tedford raised a few eyebrows -- or was it panic? -- among Cal fans when he talked about running back Jahvid Best being out of his wheelchair. Best was in a wheelchair because he'd had both elbow and foot surgery, so he couldn't use crutches. Tedford said neither was a major procedure and he's confident Best will be 100 percent by the fall. "He's on track," Tedford said. "This week he's going to start running." Tedford added that it's actually been hard to keep Best in check: "He has so much energy bound up in him. Even with his boot on when he's out there, you'll see him start to jog and you'll go, 'Wait. Woooh. Are you supposed to be jogging in that boot?'"

Who's going to catch the ball? Rating the receiving corps

March, 11, 2009
3/11/09
4:03
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

I wrote yesterday that defensive ends were our last position to rate, but I forgot receivers and linebackers -- or, actually, I thought this entry and this entry did the trick but they didn't.

Whoops!

So there are two more...

The gist of that entry on receivers tells our story here:

Quick: Name the Pac-10's marquee receivers in 2009?

Don't look to the All-Pac-10 list. All four first- and second-team receivers are gone (Mike Thomas, Sammie Stroughter, Patrick Turner and Michael Jones).

And on the honorable mention list there's only USC's Damian Williams and Washington's D'Andre Goodwin.

In other words, everyone in the conference, other than USC, has a bit of the ole "We'll see."

Great shape

  • USC: Damian Williams is an All-American candidate and Ronald Johnson is a marquee athlete. They combined for 17 touchdown receptions last year -- no other returning combination in the conference is even close. And there's good young depth.
  • Arizona: Mike Thomas is a big loss, but Delashaun Dean and Terrell Turner combined for 86 receptions last year. While depth is an issue, word is David Douglas and William Wright could break though.
  • UCLA: Terrence Austin, Taylor Embree and Domonique Johnson combined for 127 receptions -- but only two touchdowns -- last year. Toss in talented sophomore Nelson Rosario and some touted incoming freshman and the Bruins have the "catch" side of pass-catch mostly covered.

Good shape

  • Arizona State: Michael Jones is gone, but Chris McGaha, Kerry Taylor and Kyle Williams are a good troika to welcome back. They combined for 81 receptions last year.
  • California: This is a case of experience and potential trumping production. Just about everyone is back and the crew, led by Nyan Boateng and Verran Tucker, has a lot of talent. Much depends on guys like Michael Calvin and Marvin Jones breaking through. Injuries are an issue this spring for Calvin and maybe Boateng.
  • Stanford: Starters Ryan Whalen and Doug Baldwin are both back. They combined for 64 receptions in the Cardinal's mostly anemic passing offense. There are high hopes that sophomore Chris Owusu adds some athleticism to the unit.

We'll see

  • Oregon: The Ducks didn't throw that well last year and their two best receivers, Terence Scott and Jaison Williams, are gone. Jeff Maehl -- 39 receptions, five touchdowns -- is the only returning receiver with double-digit receptions. Hopes are high for Chris Harper, Drew Davis, Jamere Holland and the incoming recruits, but that falls under "we'll see."
  • Oregon State: Sammie Stroughter and Shane Morales were the Beavers' receiving corps last year -- see 124 receptions, nearly 1,800 yards and 15 touchdowns. They're gone. Slot James Rodgers is mostly a fly sweep guy. The hope is young guys will step up.
  • Washington: The good news is the entire crew is back, led by D'Andre Goodwin, who ranked among the Pac-10 leaders with 60 receptions for 692 yards. But the Huskies only had six touchdown receptions in all of 2008.
  • Washington State: Brandon Gibson's 673 yards and two touchdowns represented a third of the Cougars' passing offense last year. He's gone. Jeshua Anderson caught 33 passes a year ago, but there's a lot of youth and inexperience after him.

Spring football Q&A: California coach Jeff Tedford

February, 25, 2009
2/25/09
10:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

A lot has been going on at California during the offseason.

Running back and Heisman Trophy candidate Jahvid Best will sit out spring practices while recovering from foot and elbow surgery, though neither injury is considered serious.

 
  James Lang/US PRESSWIRE
  Jeff Tedford is comfortable with the high expectations for his team entering the 2009 season.

Accomplished offensive line coach Jim Michalczik left to become Washington's offensive coordinator -- and then bolted for a post with the Oakland Raiders. He was replaced by Steve Marshall.

And, finally, offensive coordinator coach Frank Cignetti, after just one season in Berkeley, was hired for the same post at Pittsburgh.

Coach Jeff Tedford then quickly replaced Cignetti with Andy Ludwig, who'd just been hired away from Utah by Kansas State.

With all the transition on the offensive coaching staff, Tedford decided to delay the start of spring practice by four days, with practices now beginning on March 14.

Still, it seemed like a good time to check in with Tedford and get his thoughts on things heading into spring.

First, tell us about new offensive line coach Steve Marshall: How might his approach be different than the man he replaced, Jim Michalczik?

Jeff Tedford: Steve brings some great experience and knowledge from some of his college stops -- Tennessee, Virginia Tech, UCLA -- and then moving into the NFL, so he brings a great deal of knowledge and experience from all different backgrounds of offense. It's a great fit for what we're doing. Being a two-back offense, he comes from that background. I think it's a natural fit for him and for us. I also think he's going to bring an added dimension to our offense. Anytime you get new guys coming in there are going to be new ideas.

Same with Andy Ludwig: What does he bring to the staff that might be different?

Tedford: Not a whole lot is different to tell you the truth because there is a lot of familiarity there in our backgrounds. He followed me [as offensive coordinator] at Fresno State; he followed me to Oregon. We've been in touch a lot over the years. And, obviously, being a guy who just went 13-0 at Utah and beating Alabama in the bowl game, there's a couple of things that he brings -- some spread concepts -- that we've dabbled in a little bit. But the familiarity of our offense to him; he's not starting from scratch. More than anything he's going to bring some stability to the offense.

Any regrets about how things went at quarterback last year between Nate Longshore and Kevin Riley?

Tedford: I don't think there are regrets. I just wish one of them would have taken it over. There were plenty of opportunities for one guy to take it over, here and there. But we didn't play consistently enough at that position for that to happen. We ended up having to go back and forth through the season.

(Read full post)

What we learned in the Pac-10: Week 11

November, 9, 2008
11/09/08
10:42
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Revelations from the past weekend's action:

1. USC's offensive inconsistency is consistent: For the second time in three weeks, USC scored just 17 points in a victory. In the 17-3 win over Cal, unlike the 17-10 win over Arizona, the Trojans moved the ball fairly consistently. They just couldn't make plays once they got inside Cal territory, which happened nine times. It wasn't turnovers; the Trojans had just one. Cal's defense, just like Arizona's, deserves some credit, but 17 points was well below the 21 the Bears have been giving up this season. Afterwards, coach Pete Carroll said the game plan was conservative because of how many takeaways the Cal defense has forced this year, and he praised quarterback Mark Sanchez. Sure, a win is a win, but it's clear that the Trojans offense is the character actor while the defense is laden with leading men.

2. California's quarterback situation is no less murky today: Coach Jeff Tedford started Nate Longshore but benched him at halftime for Kevin Riley. Then he stuck with Riley while he played much worse than Longshore had. Longshore completed 11 of 15 for 79 yards with no interceptions in the first half, though a pair of apparent picks were killed by penalties. He was sacked once. Riley, who was sacked three time despite his superior mobility, completed 4 of 16 passes for 59 yards with an interception. His only impressive play, a 31-yard completion, was mostly about a circus catch by Verran Tucker. Nine games into the season and heading into a critical matchup with Oregon State, the answer to who should be the starting quarterback isn't clear. Here's a guess that, fully recovered from his concussion, Riley still will get the call at Oregon State on Saturday.

3. It's time to put Oregon's quarterback debate to bed; Jeremiah Masoli is the man: Masoli didn't post huge numbers in the comeback win over Stanford, and the sophomore is still developing as a passer. And a pair of fumbles won't charm fans or coaches. But his clutch play suggests he's got the mental side whipped, which might be the most important quality a quarterback can possess. He only completed 11 of 21 passes for 144 yards, but he led the Ducks 74 yards in 11 plays for the winning touchdown, completing 3 of 6 passes for 39 yards and running for 30 more, including a 25-yard scramble on third-and-8 to the Stanford 8-yard line. It appears that this question already has been answered in coach Mike Bellotti's mind -- Justin Roper didn't play in the 35-28 win.

4. Oregon State appears ready to face the meat of its schedule with the Rose Bowl on the line: The Beavers have won four in a row since a 2-3 start. The four wins have come vs. teams with a combined 7-30 record. The three teams that remain between them and the Rose Bowl all have winning records and are a combined 19-9. Yet the Beavers' second-half surge against UCLA -- they outscored the Bruins 31-3 after the break -- suggests this team is (again) peaking late in the season. What's more, while other teams are still struggling at quarterback, Sean Canfield's performance shows Oregon State has two quarterbacks it can win with. Stepping in for starter Lyle Moevao, Canfield completed 16 of 22 passes for 222 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Of course, Canfield got a lot of help from the Rodgers brothers: freshman Jacquizz (31 carries for 144 yards) and sophomore James (6 receptions, 115 yards).

5. The state of Washington still has a small spark of fight left: In their showdowns with the state of Arizona, Washington and Washington State both turned in semi-respectable performances and perhaps -- for the moment -- dispelled feelings that both teams had quit on their respective miserable seasons. Washington was actually leading 19-16 in the third quarter over Arizona State before Rudy Carpenter rallied the Sun Devils for a 39-19 win, the Huskies school-record 11th defeat in a row. Meanwhile, Washington State scored a season-high 28 points -- against FBS competition -- and didn't surrender more than 60 points for a fifth time this season in a 59-28 loss to Arizona. Sure, the Wildcats had 531 total yards, including 317 on the ground, against the woeful Cougars defense, but it's something, right?

Arizona 42, California 27: Third-quarter reflections

October, 19, 2008
10/19/08
12:55
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Arizona just plays better at home. Way better. Particularly against ranked teams.

It certainly owned the third quarter. Owned with a capital O.

As in 28-3 owned. The Wildcats took a 42-27 lead into the fourth quarter after trailing 24-14 at the half.

There was more Keola Antolin, whose 59-yard touchdown run gave the Wildcats a 28-27 lead.

And there was a 21-yard pick-six from Devin Ross when he wrestled a Nate Longshore pass away from Verran Tucker.

But the overriding theme was getting the ball back in the hands of the Wildcats money players: Money Mike Thomas and Big Freak Rob Gronkowski.

They combined for just six catches for 61 yards and no touchdowns a week ago in the loss at Stanford.

Through three quarters, Thomas has six catches for 104 yards and a 56-yard TD on Arizona's first possession of the second half that swung momentum the Wildcats' way.

And Gronkowski had six receptions for 91 yards, including the 35-yard TD that made it 42-27.

Here's where Arizona got the idea to throw the ball to Thomas and Gronkowski.

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