Pac-12: Zach Schlink

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Two years ago, Adam Tello was a big reason to doubt Arizona State. When he briefly became the starting right offense tackle as redshirt freshman, his ascension revealed just how down the talent on the Sun Devils line was.

Tello didn't pass the sight test. Whatever he was listed at, he looked like he carried about 270 pounds on his 6-foot-3 frame. The sight test, of course, isn't always right, but it proved prescient in Tello's case as he struggled mightily in losses to UNLV and Georgia.

"I remember mentally just not being in the right spot," Tello said. "Mentally, I just fell apart. Everything I got thrown into and I just fell apart. It carried over to playing on the field."

[+] EnlargeArizona State offensive line
Matt Kartozian/US PresswireGarth Gerhart (snapping the ball) is Arizona State's most experienced offensive lineman with 10 starts.
His confidence evaporated in the desert heat. He was a non-factor in 2009 -- back problems didn't exactly help, either.

This preseason, however, Tello might be a reason for hope. While he's again ascended to the starting lineup because of roster attrition -- the retirement due to knee injuries of guards Zach Schlink and Matt Hustad and the absence of Jon Hargis due to another knee injury -- he no longer does badly with the site test.

He's a solid 290 pounds. He bench presses over 400 pounds. He looks like a Pac-10 offensive lineman.

"This year I'm ready," he said. "I'm healthy. I got stronger. I got bigger in the weight room."

It all comes down to the offensive line for the Sun Devils. Sure, the quarterback competition is grabbing the spotlight, but Brock Osweiler, Steven Threet and Samson Szakacsy each appear capable of giving the offense at least competent play at the position. Perhaps even more than that. But the line's competency will determine the ultimate trajectory of the season -- either a third-straight losing one or a run to a bowl game.

Make no mistake: There are legitimate reasons to question the line. With four career starts, Tello will be the Sun Devils second most experienced lineman behind center Garth Gerhart (10 starts). Left tackle Dan Knapp is a converted tight end. Right tackle Evan Finkenberg is a redshirt freshman. Right guard Brice Schwab is a JC transfer.

There isn't anyone on the team who hasn't heard the doubts about the line. While many players and coaches feign ignorance when asked about preseason rankings and skeptical media reports, Gerhart admits he reads just about everything. No, he doesn't like it or agree with it.

"It's real frustrating," he said. "You always see this stuff, 'Oh the offensive line is terrible! They're struggling!' It kills you because you know that you're that person they're talking about. But I think we might change people's minds about what they think of the offensive line at Arizona State."

Both Tello and Gerhart know there's an easy way to find out what their chances are this season: Block their own defense. The Sun Devils front seven should be one of the best in the Pac-10. That's been hit or miss thus far, but a new spread offense, which features a quick-hit passing attack, and better (read: faster) depth at the skill positions, should make life easier up front.

Gerhart also knows how fast teams can turn things around (in either direction). He and brother -- you may have heard of a former Stanford running back named Toby Gerhart -- used to talk on the phone in 2007. The Sun Devils were headed to a 10-win season. Stanford finished 4-8 after going 1-11 the year before.

"He used to tell me how it sucked, how he hated it and how happy he was that baseball season was coming around," the younger Gerhart recalled. "But [last year] he started telling me they were going to surprise people, and sure enough, they surprised everybody."

Will the Sun Devils surprise folks in 2010? Only if Tello, Gerhart and their linemates dramatically improve over the past two seasons.

The good news is they at least look like they could do it.

More injury issues at UCLA, Arizona State

August, 12, 2010
8/12/10
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Projected starters at UCLA and Arizona State are done of the season.

Sun Devils junior offensive lineman Matt Hustad has opted to retire after he couldn't beat recurrent knee problems. That means the two guards listed No. 1 on the preseason depth chart have ended their careers in the early days of fall camp due to injury: Hustad and Zach Schlink. And that doesn't included returning starter Jon Hargis, who suffered a season-ending knee injury during the spring.

Meanwhile, at UCLA, the foot injury defensive end Datone Jones suffered Tuesday is worse than originally thought and could end his season.

The Sun Devils are reshuffling their line, according to Doug Haller of the Arizona Republic:
With Hustad out, the Sun Devils changed their line Tuesday, moving 6-foot-7, 345-pound junior Brice Schwab to right guard. Junior Adam Tello was at left guard Wednesday, with junior Dan Knapp and redshirt freshman Evan Finkenberg at the tackles. If that line stays intact, ASU's front will open the season with just 14 career starts, 10 coming from center Garth Gerhart.

As for UCLA, Jones could still come back this season, though he has a redshirt year available. He will be replaced in the lineup by Nate Chandler, who played tight end last year and defensive tackle during spring practices.

Mailbag: Is Tedford's job secure?

August, 6, 2010
8/06/10
6:39
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You can feel the season getting closer, can't you. Wheee!

You can follow me on Twitter. Doing so will dramatically increase the odds of your team going to the Rose Bowl.

To the notes.

Danny from Los Angeles writes: How warm is Jeff Tedford's seat in Berkeley? If this Cal team comes in 7th place, as many seem to predict, is his job still secure? As a Cal alumnus, I am forever grateful for Tedford's tenure, but like many other fans, I can't help but think, "Has Tedford peaked with this program?"

Ted Miller: Déjà vu.

Here's a note from a July 2008 mailbag.
Eric from Turlock writes: Gotta question for you. I am a young Cal fan, but even I can remember the 1-10 days of football mediocrity. Obviously I am very happy with Cal's rebirth under Jeff Tedford. However, I have heard many Cal fans saying that perhaps Tedford isn't the man to take Cal to the next level (i.e. Rose Bowl, BCS). While I disagree, I see that there are some valid points to be made. Do you think that Tedford will be able to take Cal to the "promised land"?

I wrote this:
Eric, go buy a case of yellow post-its. Every time you hear a Cal fan say, "You know, I'm not sure Tedford is the man to take us to the next level," take out a post-it and write this on it: "In Tedford I trust."

You can read the rest here.

As you Cal fans know, the Bears bounced back from a 7-6 2007 to go 9-4 2008. Perhaps the grumbling over last fall's underachievement will fuel another surge.

But if Cal, indeed, does finish seventh in the conference this year -- and that includes, say, six losses -- it probably would then be fair to say Tedford enters the 2011 season with some pressure to do better.

I wouldn't say "hot seat" yet, but at that point, I'd say that Bears fans had a right to be frustrated and to expect more. Tedford is paid a lot of money to win -- his $2.8 million salary ranks second in the Pac-10 behind USC's Lane Kiffin, who reportedly makes about $4 million annually (mailbag item for next week: Kiffin makes $4 million!)

That said: Let me again point something out.

Tedford hasn't posted a losing season. His worst season featured seven wins.

From 1978-2001 -- 24 seasons before Tedford -- Cal won seven or more games four times. That included 10 games once and nine games once. Tedford has won 10 games twice and nine games once in eight years.

And during those 24 pre-Tedford years, Cal won three or fewer games nine times.

Cal fans certainly should be eager for the Bears to "take the next step" under Tedford. But if I were a Cal fan, I'd be suspicious of those nagging "grass-could-be-greener" feelings.

And I think Cal's recruiting will get a positive bump after the renovation of Memorial Stadium, which might not have happened without Tedford's success.


Michael from Phoenix writes: I know that USC cannot go to the Rose Bowl this year or any bowl game for that matter but if the Trojans have the best conference record at the end of the season will they still be named the conference champions?

Ted Miller: No official record will acknowledge USC as the Pac-10 champion, even if the Trojans finish atop the standings. That's part of the sanctions.

But my guess is Trojans fans -- and players and coaches -- would be able to get plenty of mileage out of being the "uncrowned, true champions." Kiffin would probably ante up for rings and T-shirts.


Bryan from Tigard, Ore., writes: I am curious why the Coaches Poll is used as a component in the BCS standings. Whenever I have looked at the voting results from the Coaches Poll they seem very biased. East coast coaches seem to vote east coast schools higher because they know much more about them than west coast programs. The same goes for west coast coaches. Therefore, shouldn't that poll be looked at as an unreliable source for determining BCS standings? I know that any human poll will have its own biases but I see there being the potential for a lot of politics within the coaches poll (for example voting to make your conference look stronger or voting another program down intentionally).

Ted Miller: The AP withdrew its poll from the BCS standings after the 2004 season. The BCS standings now use the Coaches Poll and the Harris Poll, which is made up of media members, former players, coaches and administrators.

And your point about the Coaches poll has been made many times. Another issue is that the poll is often consider the "Sports Information Director's" poll because coaches don't have time to study other teams before they vote.

But the poll has been around a long time and it's unlikely it's going anywhere.


Baal from Parts Unknown writes: TED where do get #1 RT-?? Zach [Schlink]. He didn't participate in spring drills--and had 4 surgical procedures in the last 2.5 years. Nobody expected him to contribute. It was more of a hope. This is like your worst reporting ever.

Ted Miller: First of all, I reported him as No. 1 at right guard.

Second, I reported that because that's where he was listed on the depth chart in the media guide.

So, really, your gripe is with Dennis Erickson's and the Arizona State sports information department's reporting on the Sun Devils.


Papa Mitch from Kensington, Calif., writes: You are such a bad influence. I got my plane and game tickets for my son and I to head to Knoxville to see the Ducks crush the Vols because of what you said in the past regarding Neyland Stadium. I figure we need a landmark roadtrip before he gets too grownup. Please give us your best tips for bars and restaurants to hit the night before and the day of the game.

Ted Miller: The place I always recommend is Ye Ole Steak House. It's an institution.

I fired an email to SEC blogger Chris Low, who lives in Knoxville. He added Calhoun's on the River and the Butcher Shop. Sure you can get some good bar recommendations at any of those places (I haven't been there in more than a decade).

Just make sure you get there soon enough to enjoy the tailgate. It's one of the best places in the country to see a game.

You might not want to bring up Lane Kiffin, though.


Michael from Portland writes: With regard to your House of Pain entry for UO, I think the 2000 Civil War loss was the most painful by a mile. To lose to your arch-rival (OSU) to send your most hated enemy (UW) to the Rose Bowl and set the Beavers up with a sweet Fiesta Bowl trip over a not-great Notre Dame team was PAINFUL. And the way UO lost was even worse--I think Joey Harrington turned the ball over 5 times and the Ducks still only lost by 10. I still get verklempt when I just write about it.

Ted Miller: I mostly published Michael's note because I have a new favorite word: verklempt!

But good point. Five picks from Harrington and a lost fumble (the Beavers had just one turnover) didn't help in that 23-13 defeat.

Pain meter: 1. Lose to your state rival, miss out on Rose Bowl; 2. Thereby send your other hated rival to Rose Bowl; 3. Watch both rivals win BCS bowl games while you play in the Holiday Bowl.

Rates pretty high. Of course, that was the best season in NW football history: Three teams finished ranked in the top-7 in the nation.


Robert from Superior, Colo., writes: Hi Ted, looking forward to reading your blog on a regular basis once CU joins the PAC 12. BTW, someone needs to tell Lane Kiffin that CU will not always be bad and that we will remember this. Pretty much assumed by CU fans that this is just pettiness on his part.

Ted Miller: Based on that story, holding up wide receiver Travon Patterson's transfer is pretty petty. I agree.


Brian from Pullman, Wash., writes: Hey Ted, what's on the poster behind you in your videos?

Ted Miller: That's Captain Seattle and his loyal mate Raindrop! Together they "fight for the rights of people no matter how weird they are"! Captain Seattle wields a nasty umbrella, by the way.

My now-wife and I bought the poster at Pike Place Market in 1999 when I was in the process of relocating from Mobile, Ala.


Zen from Portland writes: Ted, pardon my last rant, I was tired, and angry. I just feel like you don't give Oregon State enough credit. You project them 3rd in the Pac-10, which I guess I can see. But when you put them at 3rd you say reasons for concern are first year starter Ryan Katz, what about Oregon? You rank them first, and they are going through the same thing as Oregon State, you then rank 'SC second when they can't even go to a bowl. It's frustrating because you do this every year with Oregon State, I'm not saying they prove you wrong, but playing for a Rose Bowl two years in a row I think you would get the picture by now. This team is really good.

Ted Miller: No worries.

Both Oregon and Oregon State welcome back a lot of starters -- the Ducks 17 position players, the Beavers 15. Both are replacing quarterbacks.

As for quarterback, I think sophomore Ryan Katz has a chance to be very good. But he's never played a meaningful down of college football. Nate Costa is a fifth-year senior who's started a game. Darron Thomas is a redshirt sophomore who played impressively in the fourth quarter against Boise State in 2008. I'd give the Ducks a slight edge there.

Oregon has all five starters back on its offensive line. That unit led the No. 1 rushing attack in the conference and only gave up 13 sacks, which was second fewest in the conference. Oregon State has four of five starters back. That unit led the No. 6 rushing attack in the conference and gave up 29 sacks, which ranked seventh in the conference. Edge Oregon.

On defense, the Ducks are replacing three starters from a unit that ranked fourth in scoring and total defense in the conference. The Beavers are replacing four starters from a crew that ranked sixth in scoring and total defense. Edge Oregon.

When you toss in the fact that the Ducks won the conference by two games last year, it seems fair to rate the Ducks ahead of the Beavers in the preseason. (And the value of preseason rankings in December? Not squat).

As for USC: I ranked the Trojans first (though I'm wavering on that one). I know they can't go to a bowl, but their games still count and they will appear in the standings. They were second in the official Pac-10 media poll behind Oregon and ahead of No. 3 Oregon State.

In fact, just about everyone has the Beavers third. So my take wasn't exactly contrarian.

But I appreciate your not giving up on the Pac-10 blog.


Todd from Anaheim, Calif., writes: I was reading your Mailbag: Does anyone care about USC or Jeremiah Masoli? and when I read Zen from Portland's post, I was taken back a little. That guy seems to genuinely hate you. Do you get a lot of readers that send comments like that?

Ted Miller: Yes.

And the Pac-10 blog appreciates all its readers -- even the angry ones -- who make us a part of their day.

Opening camp: Arizona State

August, 4, 2010
8/04/10
10:00
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Arizona State opens preseason camp today. Here's a quick look.

Who's back: Three starters on offense, four on defense and both specialists.

Big names: LB Vontaze Burfict, DT Lawrence Guy, K Thomas Weber, P Trevor Hankins

What's new: New offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone has been charged with fixing an offense that has struggled mightily for three consecutive seasons. Also new are linebackers coach Trent Bray and receivers coach Steve Broussard.

Key competition: Sophomore Brock Osweiler and junior Michigan transfer Steven Threet were in a dead-heat at the end of spring practices. Threet entered spring as a solid favorite, but Osweiler, who struggled in his one 2009 start, surged and made the competition wide-open. It wouldn't be surprising if both saw action in the Sun Devils first two games, which are both against FCS foes.

Breaking out: Brandon Magee and Shelly Lyons will flank Burfict at linebacker and give the Sun Devils an athletic threesome. Oregon transfer Aaron Pflugrad should give the receiving corps a boost. CB Omar Bolden is back after missing most of 2009 and he looked good during spring drills.

Quote: Coach Dennis Erickson on the QB competition: “You’d like to name one before the first game, but you never know. The good thing is that we have two good quarterbacks and that will help us as the season goes on.”

Notes: The Sun Devils lost their top-two guards to knee injury: Jon Hargis and Zach Schlink... Bray is defensive coordinator Craig Bray's son as well as a former two-time All-Pac-10 linebacker for Oregon State... The Sun Devils have the fewest returning starters in the Pac-10... They are coming off their first consecutive losing seasons since 1946-47... Erickson hadn't posted consecutive losing seasons in 19 years as a head coach until last year... The Sun Devils lost four games by five or fewer points, including three on late field goals in 2009... ASU was tapped ninth in the preseason Pac-10 media poll.

Arizona State loses two to injury

August, 3, 2010
8/03/10
4:37
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Arizona State issues on the offensive line just got a little worse.

Sophomore Zach Schlink, listed No. 1 at right guard on the preseason depth chart, has opted to "retire" due to longstanding knee problems.

The math up front for the Sun Devils isn't encouraging: When guard Jon Hargis went down with a knee injury during spring practices, that left only center/guard Garth Gerhart as a returning starter from a 2009 unit that struggled.

It's likely that sophomore Adam Tello will replace Schlink with the No. 1 offense. The other starting guard, junior Matt Hustad, also has battled knee injuries throughout his career. He started five games in 2009 before a knee injury ended his season. He also missed the 2008 season with a knee injury.

Schlink's promising career never really got started. The sophomore, who saw significant action as a true freshman, has required four knee operations and didn't play last season.

Also seeing his Sun Devils career end due to injuries is defensive tackle Otis Jones, but his loss is not as painful because ASU is deep at defensive tackle, where Jones was slated to be a reserve.

Tuitea leads Sun Devils in weight room

May, 17, 2010
5/17/10
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Arizona State's Toa Tuitea, a sophomore defensive tackle, has been named the Sun Devils' "Hard Hat Program Champion," which recognizes his work in the football program's strength and conditioning program.

He topped a list of 48 Sun Devils who were honored.

A news release from the school said the "Hard Hat Program was created to reward those individuals who do what's right in the weight room even when no one is looking ... a Hard Hat Player is someone who is self-motivated, a competitor, committed to personal and team excellence, dependable, accountable, disciplined and most importantly, puts the team first."

To become a Hard Hat Player, a player has to achieve a certain point total during winter workouts. He earns points based on his effort for strength training, speed development and conditioning sessions. They are also awarded points for competitive events and performing extra workouts in the "Blitz Package Program." Each athlete is evaluated after every workout by the sports performance staff with input from an athlete's position coach when applicable.

The list of the honored includes: Corey Adams, Derrall Anderson, George Bell, Omar Bolden, Jarrid Bryant, Mike Callaghan, Jonathan Clark, Chris Coyle, Dean DeLeone, Eddie Elder, Steven Figueroa, Evan Finkenberg, Clint Floyd, Garth Gerhart, Lawrence Guy, Jon Hargis, J.J. Holliday, Matt Hustad, Osahon Irabor, Patrick Jamison, Keelan Johnson, Brandon Johnson, Anthony Jones, Kyle Johnson, Cameron Kastl, Ronald Kennedy, Dan Knapp, Trevor Kohl, LeQuan Lewis, Shelly Lyons, Cameron Marshall, Shane McCullen, Jamal Miles, Bo Moos, James Morrison, Gerald Munns, Brock Osweiler, Aaron Pflugrad, Cole Rarrick, Jamarr Robinson, Andrew Sampson, Zach Schlink, Max Smith, Adam Tello, Steven Threet, Matthew Tucker and Thomas Weber.

Starters or key contributors who didn't make the list (for whatever reason, including injury or excused absence) include: linebacker Vontaze Burfict, receiver Gerell Robinson, receiver Kerry Taylor, defensive end James Brooks, defensive tackle Williams Sutton, defensive tackle Saia Falahola, defensive end Greg Smith and linebacker Brandon Magee.

Arizona State spring wrap

May, 7, 2010
5/07/10
10:00
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Arizona State

2009 overall record: 4-8

2009 conference record: 2-7 (ninth)

Returning starters

Offense: 3, Defense: 4, punter/kicker: 2

Top returners: K Thomas Weber, DT Lawrence Guy, LB Vontaze Burfict, DE James Brooks

Key losses: WR Kyle Williams, WR Chris McGaha, RB Dimitri Nance, OT Shawn Lauvao, DE Dexter Davis, LB Travis Goethel, LB Mike Nixon

2009 statistical leaders (*returning starter)

Rushing: Dimitri Nance (795)
Passing: Danny Sullivan (1,939)
Receiving: Kyle Williams (815)
Tackles: Mike Nixon (73)
Sacks: Lawrence Guy* (4.5)
Interceptions: Mike Nixon, Jarrell Holman, Ryan McFoy (3)

Spring Answers

1. Help at receiver: Even though the Sun Devils lost their top two receivers, Kyle Williams and Chris McGaha, the position appears fairly solid, particularly with Oregon transfer Aaron Pflugrad, who would have started for the Ducks in 2009, and JC transfer George Bell performing well this spring.

2. Em-Bolden: Cornerback Omar Bolden looked like the budding star he was supposed to be as a true freshman, but he struggled mightily as a sophomore and then missed 2009 with a knee injury. Entering spring, there were questions about whether he could regain a starting spot. No longer. Bolden may have turned in his best work yet this spring and should be a leader in the secondary.

3. For the defense: The Sun Devils lost seven starters from their outstanding 2009 defense, but they may be even better this fall. There's lots of speed and young players who excelled in 2009, most particularly linebacker Vontaze Burfict, had a year of seasoning in which to mature and refine their game.

Fall questions

1. Who's the QB? Before spring, many expected Michigan transfer Steven Threet to win the job. At the end of spring, sophomore Brock Osweiler instead emerged as the leader. In the fall, Samson Szakacsy rejoins the competition after sitting out spring drills, hopefully with a healthy arm. All three are capable, so there may be a few more plot twists before this one is resolved.

2. What about the O-line (again!)? The Sun Devils were already replacing two starters on the O-line when veteran guard Jon Hargis injured his knee, ending his 2010 season before it began, so there are lots of questions. For instance, will Zach Schlink and Matt Hustad be available? Both are talented but have been riddled with knee problems. And: Are JC transfer Brice Schwab and redshirt freshman Evan Finkenberg ready for Pac-10 play? Both are slated to start at tackle. It doesn't matter who plays QB if the O-line can't get the job done.

3. What about maturity? Sure, there's loads of talent on defense, but look at the sorts of guys who graduated: end Dexter Davis and linebackers Mike Nixon and Travis Goethel. Each were smart, savvy players and strong locker room guys. In other words, leaders. It's unclear who will fill their shoes. Even with those guys, the Sun Devils had over 1,000 yards in penalties last year -- 200 more than any other conference team. Smarter, more disciplined play might make a difference in close games.

What to watch in the Pac-10 this spring

February, 19, 2010
2/19/10
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Taking a look at what to watch for as teams head into spring practices, officially ringing the bell on preparations for the 2010 season.

Arizona
Spring practice starts: March 5
Spring game: April 10

What to watch:

The new coordinators: The Wildcats lost two outstanding coordinators -- Sonny Dykes on offense and Mark Stoops on defense -- and decided to replace them with four guys. Tim Kish, promoted from linebackers coach, and Greg Brown, hired away from Colorado, will run the defense, while Bill Bedenbaugh and Seth Littrell, both promoted from within, will run the offense, with an assist from new quarterbacks coach Frank Scelfo. These guys will need to develop a coaching rhythm this spring that will ensure things go smoothly in the fall.

The JC linebackers: The Wildcats must replace three starting linebackers, and JC transfers Derek Earls and Paul Vassallo weren't brought in to watch. If they step into starting spots, then guys like sophomore Jake Fischer, redshirt freshman Trevor Erno and redshirt freshman Cordarius Golston can fight over the third spot and add depth.

Foles 2.0: Quarterback Nick Foles was dynamic when he was on last year, but the shutout loss in the Holiday Bowl served as a reminder that he's not there yet. He's going to be surrounded by a lot of weapons at the skill positions, so he should be able to take another step forward this spring, even with the loss of Dykes.

Arizona State
Spring practice starts: March 30
Spring game: April 24

What to watch:

The QB battle: It's a wide-open battle between Michigan transfer Steven Threet and Brock Osweiler, though the new guy -- Threet -- is perhaps the most intriguing. Samson Szakacsy was supposed to join the battle, but his elbow problem is acting up again, coach Dennis Erickson said Thursday. The competition will be overseen by new offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone, who's been handed an offense that has sputtered the past two seasons.

O-line issues (take 3): The Sun Devils' offensive line has struggled three years running, and it won't matter who starts at QB if the unit continues to get pushed around. First off is health. Will Matt Hustad, Zach Schlink, Garth Gerhart, Mike Marcisz and Adam Tello be ready to battle the entire spring? If so, there should be good competition here, particularly with a couple of JC transfers looking to break through.

The secondary: The Sun Devils were very good against the pass last year, but three starters in the secondary need to be replaced. Both starting corners are gone -- though if Omar Bolden successfully returns from a knee injury he should step in on one side -- as well as strong safety Ryan McFoy. The good news is a number of guys saw action here last fall, so the rebuilt unit won't be completely green.

California
Spring practice starts: March 6
Spring game: N/A

What to watch:

Embattled Riley: When things go well, the quarterback often gets too much credit. When things go badly... well, you know. Senior Kevin Riley has started 22 games and has played well at times. But there's a reason he's in a quarterback competition for a third consecutive season. Will he be able to hold off a rising Beau Sweeney this spring?

Rebuilding the D: The Bears had questions on defense even before coordinator Bob Gregory unexpectedly bolted for Boise State. Five starters need to be replaced, including mainstays like end Tyson Alualu and cornerback Syd'Quan Thompson, both first-team All-Pac-10 performers. And with Gregory gone, a new, likely more aggressive scheme now must be incorporated.

RB depth: Shane Vereen is the obvious starter after the departure of Jahvid Best, but Cal has, during the Tedford years, always used two backs. So who's the No. 2? Sophomore Covaughn DeBoskie was third on the team with 211 yards rushing last year, while promising freshman Dasarte Yarnway redshirted. One or the other will look to create separation.

Oregon
Spring practice starts: March 30
Spring game: May 1

What to watch:

The D-line: The Ducks lost perennially underrated end Will Tukuafu, tackle Blake Ferras and backup Simi Toeaina up front. Considering the plan is to run an eight-deep rotation, there will be plenty of opportunities for players like ends Terrell Turner and Taylor Hart and tackles Anthony Anderson, Zac Clark, Wade Keliikipi as well as 6-foot-7 JC transfer Isaac Remington to work their way into the rotation.

The passing game: The Ducks' passing game was inconsistent last year, though by season's end receiver Jeff Maehl was playing at a high level. Refining that part of the offense with quarterback Jeremiah Masoli would make the spread-option even more dangerous. The receiving corps is looking for playmakers, which means youngsters, such as redshirt freshman Diante Jackson, might break through.

Who steps in for Ed Dickson? Oregon only loses one starter on offense, but tight end Ed Dickson is a big one. David Paulson was a capable backup last year, and mercurial Malachi Lewis may be ready to step up. Expect JC transfer Brandon Williams to work his way into the mix.

Oregon State
Spring practice starts: March 29
Spring game: May 1

What to watch:

Katz steps in: Sean Canfield is off to the NFL, so the Beavers' biggest question this spring is crowning a new starting quarterback. Most observers feel the job is Ryan Katz's to lose, and the sophomore looks good throwing the rock around. Still, being a quarterback is about more than a good arm. If he falters, Virginia transfer Peter Lalich might offer an alternative.

Better defensive pressure: The Beavers run a high-pressure defensive scheme, so when the stat sheet says they only recorded 17 sacks in 2009, which ranked ninth in the conference and was 22 fewer than in 2008, you know something is wrong. The entire defensive line is back, so the hope is a year of seasoning, particularly for ends Gabe Miller, Matt LaGrone and Kevin Frahm will mean better production this fall.

The O-line grows up: The Beavers' offensive line returns four starters from a unit that got better as the year went on. Still, it yielded 29 sacks and the run game struggled at times -- Jacquizz Rodgers often had to make yards on his own. Talented left tackle Michael Philipp, who did a solid job as a true freshman starter, should be much improved. A second year playing together with underrated senior center Alex Linnenkohl also should help.

Stanford
Spring practice starts: March 1
Spring game: April 17

What to watch:

Replacing Toby: How do you replace Toby Gerhart and his 1,871 yards and 28 touchdowns? You do not. But the hope is sophomores Tyler Gaffney and Stepfan Taylor and senior Jeremy Stewart will provide a solid answer that keeps the Cardinal's power-running game churning. It helps to have four starters back from a good offensive line.

Rebuilding the D: If you toss in linebacker Clinton Snyder and end Erik Lorig, Stanford must replace six defensive starters from a unit that ranked near the bottom of the conference in 2009. The secondary is a particular concern after giving up 23 touchdown passes and a 63 percent completion rate. The hope is good recruiting from coach Jim Harbaugh will provide better athleticism in the back-half. Another issue: There was huge coaching turnover, particularly on defense during the offseason, so new coordinator Vic Fangio & Co. will be implementing new schemes and learning about what sort of talent they have to work with.

Luck steps up: This was Gerhart's team in 2009. Now it's Luck's. He might be the most talented QB in the conference. Heck, he might become a Heisman Trophy candidate before he's done. But life won't be as easy without defenses crowding the line of scrimmage because they are fretting about Gerhart. Luck will need to step up his game -- and leadership -- to meet the challenge.

UCLA
Spring practice starts: April 1
Spring game: April 24

What to watch:

Prince becomes king? The fact that offensive coordinator Norm Chow has been such an advocate for sophomore quarterback Kevin Prince should tell you something: He's got the ability. Prince flashed some skills during an injury-plagued 2009 season, and it's important to remember he was a redshirt freshman playing with a questionable supporting cast, particularly the O-line. Prince needs to improve his decision-making, and the passing game needs to develop a big-play capability that stretches defenses.

Front seven rebuilding: UCLA not only must replace six starters on defense, it must replace six guys everyone in the Pac-10 has heard of. And five of the lost starters come from the front seven, and the guys who were listed as backups on the 2009 depth chart won't necessarily inspire confidence. In other words, the Bruins will try to take a step forward in the conference with what figures to be an extremely green defense, particularly up front.

The running game? Know what would help Prince and a young defense? A better running game. The Bruins were significantly better in 2009 than in 2008, but that merely means one of the worst rushing attacks in the nation moved up to ninth in the conference. There's a logjam of options at running back -- with a couple of dynamic runners in the incoming recruiting class -- and the offensive line welcomes back a wealth of experience. It would mean a lot if the Bruins could boost their rushing total to around 150 yards per game (from 114.6 in 2009).

USC
Spring practice starts: TBA
Spring game: TBA

What to watch:

Welcome, Lane Kiffin: The Pete Carroll era is over. Enter Lane Kiffin & Co. In terms of scheme, things will be fairly consistent, seeing that Kiffin was formerly Carroll's offensive coordinator and Monte Kiffin was Carroll's defensive mentor. But there will be a period of adjustment. The guess is the hyper-intense Ed Orgeron might provide a bit of a shock to the D-linemen.

Matt Barkley Year 2: Barkley won't have the president of his fan club -- Carroll -- around anymore. He's a true talent. Everyone knows that, even without Carroll's daily sonnets about his ability. But the numbers show he threw 14 interceptions in 12 games vs. 15 TD passes last year, so he's obviously not arrived. Kiffin runs the offense, so you can expect these two to work closely together. Barkley will have plenty of help on offense, but the talent won't be as good as it was in 2009, with six starters needing to be replaced, including his top two targets (receiver Damian Williams and tight end Anthony McCoy).

Secondary questions: All four starters from the defensive backfield are gone, including center fielder Taylor Mays. It helps that cornerback Shareece Wright, an academic casualty in 2009, will be back. He was a projected starter last fall. There's plenty of talent on hand, but last year's team proved that the Trojans don't always just plug-and-play.

Washington
Spring practice starts: March 30
Spring game: April 30

What to watch:

Unleashing Locker: The return of quarterback Jake Locker was the best news any Pac-10 team received this offseason. Locker's passing improved dramatically in just one year under coach Steve Sarkisian, so it's not unreasonable to expect him to be even better in 2010, particularly with nine starters back on offense and just about every skill player on the depth chart.

Replacing Te'o-Nesheim: Daniel Te'o-Nesheim was a four-year starter who blossomed into an All-Pac-10 performer despite almost no supporting cast. He led the Huskies with 11 sacks in 2009, which was 8.5 more than any other player. Also, opposite end Darrion Jones is gone, and the cast at the position is extremely young. Who's the next pass-rushing threat?

The Butler did it: Linebacker Donald Butler blossomed last year, earning second-team All-Pac-10 honors and leading the Huskies in tackles and tackles for loss (15.5). Toss in E.J. Savannah's failure to earn a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA, and the Huskies have some questions at linebacker. Mason Foster is a sure thing at one outside position, and Cort Dennison likely will fill a second gap, but there's an opportunity for a young player to fill void No. 3.

Washington State
Spring practice starts: March 25
Spring game: April 24

What to watch:

Tuel time: Coach Paul Wulff decided that freshman Jeff Tuel was the Cougars' quarterback of the future last year, so he opted to start him instead of going with a redshirt season. Tuel showed promise in six games, completing 59 percent of his passes with six touchdowns and five picks. Most of his supporting cast is back on offense, so the expectation is the Cougars' offense could take a significant step forward this fall.

O-line intrigue: Some of the Cougars starting on the offensive line last fall didn't look like Pac-10 players. Injuries and youth made the line a glaring area of weakness, even with veteran Kenny Alfred at center. Alfred is gone, but the expectations are that last year's youth will be saltier after taking their knocks. Plus, a couple of juco additions should be in the mix for starting jobs.

Growing up: There is hope in that 19 starters are back from a team that played a lot of underclassmen in 2009. That youth should mature in 2010. And solid recruiting classes the past two seasons should offer an infusion of young promise.

Pac-10 Q&A: Arizona State coach Dennis Erickson

December, 21, 2009
12/21/09
5:39
PM ET
In his first 19 years as a head coach, Dennis Erickson posted just three losing seasons and never two in a row.

So you can understand if Erickson, having just suffered through his second consecutive losing season at Arizona State, isn't thrilled about watching seven other Pac-10 teams play in bowl games over the coming days.


Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesArizona State coach Dennis Erickson's Sun Devils have posted back to back losing seasons for the first time in his career.
Without those extra practices, he's free to think about his 4-8 team losing four games by five or fewer points, including three on late field goals.

Not that he isn't busy.

Erickson has been recruiting hard to address the Sun Devils shortcomings -- many of which are on offense, particularly the line -- and he's also trying to hire and offensive coordinator.

Erickson knows that the glow of his 10-win season in 2007 has faded. He knows that Arizona State fans aren't happy about the program posting consecutive losing seasons for the first time since 1946-47.

Neither party is accustomed to losing. It's fair to say there's pressure on Erickson to reverse that trend for both next fall.

It won't be easy. The Pac-10 looks to be even deeper in 2010 and the Sun Devils and Oregon State are the only two teams looking for new starting quarterbacks.

So, before the bowl season takes off in earnest, it seemed like a good time to check in.

You had a great start but the past two seasons haven't produced bowl games, give me your state of the program.

Dennis Erickson: I believe the program is in good shape. We had a plan coming in here where we were going to build it from the ground floor up and that's what we've done. Obviously, we've played a lot of freshmen over the last couple of years and we've had some injuries. But we're getting better and better all the time. Defensively, we're about where we want to be. That's the No. 1 thing. We've played well defensively. The biggest problem the last two years is we haven't been real productive offensively. We've got to get that taken care of. If we can do that, we'll win a lot of football games.

Was there one critical moment this fall where if things had gone your way the season might have turned out differently?

DE: Without question. There were a couple of times. If we win down at Georgia, even though they didn't turn out like everybody thought they were going to be -- we got beat by a field goal there [20-17] -- things might have gone differently. But probably more than anything was the Cal game [a 23-21 loss], where we had a chance to win it and they came down and beat us at the end. We had a bunch of them like that -- Georgia, that one, USC [a 14-9 loss] and, of course, Arizona [a 20-17 loss]. That one [Cal] could have really got us going, though. Had we won that game, I really believe we would have probably won a couple more.

When do you expect to name your new offensive coordinator? And what are you looking for?

DE: That's a good question as far as when it's going to happen. I'm going to take my time. I'm going to talk to five or six different coaches, maybe even more than that. I don't know when I'm going to get it done because there may be some guys in the NFL who I want to talk to and I wouldn't do that until their season is over with. Hopefully by the middle of January I'd have that done, possibly earlier than that. What I'm looking for is a guy with experience being a coordinator, who's coached the quarterbacks, who does a good job of coaching and teaching the quarterbacks, who's been a play-caller. Those are the biggest things I'm looking at. I think, for philosophy, everybody is kind of the same, somewhat the same. We're looking for some new ideas like everybody else is. That's something I want to talk about. I'd like to be multiple, formation-wise. I don't want to be in the gun all the time and I don't want to be under center all the time. I want to mix it up. I think you've got to run the football, so we've got to find a way to do that.

How do you see things going in the quarterback competition this spring? Is there already a pecking order in your mind?

DE: Not really with a pecking order because it's really kind of a toss up. Brock [Osweiler] really improved from where he started a spring ago. Obviously he was put in a tough situation at Oregon. I think Samson [Szakacsy], once his elbow is completely healed, he gives you a chance because he's so athletic and accurate. He did some good things, though his inexperience hurt us at times. Steven Threet has more experience than all of them because he played at Michigan. It will be really interesting. I don't know if I've ever been blessed with three guys like that. We'll let the competition roll and see what happens. If possible, I'd like to make a decision by the time we go into camp in the fall, but I don't know if I can do that. It's really kind of open. Pecking order? That's a good question. I think you'd start with the guys who played a lot last year and then work your way down, but all three will get opportunities with the first group, particularly during the first weeks of spring football.

How about the offensive line, do you expect a step forward in 2010? And what about some of those injured guys: Are they going to be able to come back next fall?

DE: That's kind of been an Achilles heel for us. Two or three young offensive linemen we think would be great players haven't played much, Zach Schlink being one of them. He starts against Washington last year and plays real well but hurt his knee again and didn't play this fall. We had to redshirt him. He''ll be ready to go in the spring. Matt Hustad, when he was healthy and played, he played really well, then he got hurt against Oregon. We look for him to be back in the spring. We've got some young guys who worked their way into it who played quite a bit. Garth Gerhart will be our starting center. Andrew Sampson played quite a bit last year at guard and center. Guard Jon Hargis is back. Kyle Johnson at left tackle -- he has been a backup but is getting bigger and stronger. He'll be a redshirt sophomore next year. Patrick Jamison, he'll be a redshirt sophomore. So these guys who we recruited three years ago are starting to grow into what they are doing. So we've got guys who have experience in our front and have practiced and know what we're doing. That makes a big difference when we go into spring. And then we've got a couple off junior college guys that will be in here that we really think can help us. We've got a kid, a true freshman we redshirted this year, Evan Finkenberg, who has a lot of promise. Again, we're a little young but we've got guys who have been around here two or three years, too, which makes a heck of a difference. They're a lot bigger and stronger than anybody we've had here over the last couple of years.

Do you expect to get back to a bowl game in 2010?

DE: Without a question. That's one of our goals. If we can continue to improve offensively and stay like we are on defense, that's what we should do. Defensively, we've got a lot of guys coming back. It will be interesting to see. The problem that you have is in our league. I don't see anybody getting worse. I see guys getting better. This league is hard.

Pac-10 injury update

September, 28, 2009
9/28/09
11:56
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller


Updating the worst part about the game.

Arizona
Arizona is banged up but it has a chance to get much healthier during its bye week and before it visits Washington on Oct. 10. Receiver Bug Wright is out after knee surgery, but running back Nic Grigsby (shoulder), running back Keola Antolin (ankle), defensive end Brooks Reed (ankle), offensive tackle Mike Diaz (concussion), offensive guard Vaughn Dotsy (concussion) and receiver Delashaun Dean (thigh bruise) all could be ready to go after the bye.

Arizona State
The Sun Devils get defensive end James Brooks back from a three-game suspension, which means senior end Dexter Davis can move back to the weak side, where he has a better chance to get to the quarterback. On the downside, the struggling offensive line has issues. The top two centers, Garth Gerhart (toe) and Thomas Altieri (knee) are banged up, as are guards Jon Hargis (shoulder), Zach Schlink (knee) and Matt Hustad (knee). Hustad is doubtful for Oregon State's visit, while the others are questionable. Also, tight end Jovon Williams (knee) is questionable.

Oregon
Oregon cornerback Walter Thurmond is likely out for a few games with a knee injury. Coach Chip Kelly may provide more specifics during his news conference today, but he typically calls every player "day-to-day" and forces reporters to read between the lines. Kelly did say Saturday that he didn't believe Thurmond would be done for the season. Safety T.J. Ward (ankle) and receiver Rory Cavaille (shoulder) are both questionable.

Oregon State
Receiver Darrell Catchings, who just came back from a wrist injury, is now out for 2-3 weeks with an ankle sprain. Also, linebacker Keaton Kristick suffered a stinger against Arizona and probably won't practice much this week.

Stanford
Backup tailback Jeremy Stewart hurt is right knee against Washington. It's unclear how serious the injury is.

USC
Defensive tackle Hebron Fangupo (broken leg) and end Marshall Jones (neck) suffered season-ending injuries against Washington State. Linebackers Jordan Campbell and Nick Garratt sprained their ankles and are questionable for the Cal game as is linebacker Malcolm Smith (ankle), who sat out against the Cougars.

Washington
The Huskies might get receiver Devin Aguilar back for the visit to Notre Dame. Aguilar sat out the Stanford game with a sprained knee.

Washington State
The Cougars can't stay healthy. They probably lost a starting offensive and defensive lineman against USC: Steven Ayers (ankle) and defensive tackle Josh Luapo (knee). Starting guards B. J. Guerra (knee) and Zack Williams (ankle) aren't expected to be ready to play at Oregon. Defensive end Kevin Kooyman (knee) missed the USC game but might be ready for the trip to Eugene.

Pac-10 lunch links: How will Washington cope with LSU's speed?

September, 4, 2009
9/04/09
2:30
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller


Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Pac-10 injury update

August, 31, 2009
8/31/09
11:26
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller


Based on news reports and this this useful Web site: The latest on injuries heading into week one.

Arizona
TE Rob Gronkowski, back, questionable
OG Vaughn Dotsy, finger, probable
WR Delashaun Dean, hamstring, probable

Arizona State
OT Tom Njunge, biceps, questionable
C Garth Gerhart, toe, questionable
C Thomas Altieri, concussion, probable
OG Zach Schlink, knee, out
DT Lawrence Guy, biceps, probable
DE James Brooks, suspension, out

California
RB Jahvid Best, toe, probable
TE Tad Smith, knee, out
OT Mitchell Schwartz, leg, probable
S Marcus Ezeff, ankle, questionable
WR Michael Calvin, knee, probable
LB Robert Mullins, knee, out
TE Skylar Curran, ankle, probable

Oregon
WR Rory Cavaille, shoulder, out,
OT Bo Thran, knee, questionable

Oregon State
WR Darrell Catchings, wrist, out
WR Markus Wheaton, NCAA Clearinghouse, questionable
WR Geno Munoz, abdominal, questionable
QB Lyle Moevao, shoulder, out
RB Ryan McCants, knee, out
CB Brandon Hardin, leg, out
OT Timi Oshinowo, knee, out
LB Tony Wilson, knee, out
S Josh LaGrone, knee, out
S Lance Mitchell, hamstring, probable

Stanford
OT Allen Smith, knee, out
S Taylor Skaufel, knee, out
OT Chris Marinelli, shoulder, probable
LB Alex Debniak, knee, out

UCLA
OG Micah Kia, knee, out
OL Nick Ekbatani, knee, out
DE Reginald Stokes, knee, out
DT Jess Ward, knee, doubtful
RB Christian Ramirez, ankle, questionable
DE Chinonso Anyanwu, hip, out
WR Gavin Ketchum, hamstring, questionable
OG Stanley Hasiak, stinger, probable
FB Chane Moline, hip, probable

USC
CB Shareece Wright, knee, academics, questionable
WR Ronald Johnson, collarbone, out
DE Armond Armstead, foot, out
C Kristofer O'Dowd, knee, doubtful
DT Averell Spicer, ankle, questionable
OG Nick Howell, ankle, questionable
LB Luthur Brown, academics, out
TE Blake Ayles, heart condition, probable
QB Aaron Corp, leg, questionable
QB Mitch Mustain, illness, probable
CB Patrick Hall, knee, out

Washington
CB Justin Glenn, knee, questionable
DT Cameron Elisara, shoulder, probable
RB Johri Fogerson, ankle, probable
RB Chris Polk, concussion, probable
WR James Johnson, ankle, probable
DE Darrion Jones, illness, probable
TE Kavario Middleton, hamstring, probable
DE Everrette Thompson, ankle, questionable
S Jason Wells, Achilles, doubtful

Washington State
WR Jeshua Anderson, hamstring, probable
RB James Montgomery, knee, probable
CB Brandon Jones, ankle, probable
WR Jeffrey Solomon, ankle, probable
LB Alex Hoffman-Ellis, foot, questionable

As O-line goes, so goes Arizona State

August, 14, 2009
8/14/09
1:55
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

While quarterback uncertainty is the focal point for most Arizona State fans -- is senior Danny Sullivan up to the job? -- it won't matter who plays quarterback if the Sun Devils stink up front again.

Coach Dennis Erickson believes things might turn around because his linemen are healthier, more experienced and have "a chip on their shoulder."

Why a chip? "They can read," he said.

Here's something to read: There's reason for hope. The depth chart looks nothing like last year.

Shawn Lauvao, the Sun Devils' best lineman, has moved from guard to left tackle. Garth Gerhart has passed Thomas Altieri at center. Jon Hargis has moved from left tackle to left guard. Adam Tello, who was overwhelmed as a redshirt freshman while starting the first four games at right tackle, is a reserve guard.

The only departed starter is right guard Paul Fanaika. Zach Schlink is the front-runner there ahead of Mike Marcisz, though both were out with injuries Thursday.

A guy to watch is Matt Hustad, a talented sophomore who missed all of last year with a knee injury. He could challenge Tom Njunge, who started four games in 2008, at right tackle or move inside to guard.

"I feel like if I stay healthy anything is possible," Hustad said. "I'm real confident in my skills."

"Healthy" is the operative word. Hustad, Schlink, Tello, Marcisz and Altieri each missed all or some of spring practices.

"I got to be pretty good friends with all the guys who were injured but other than that, it's no fun to sit out while you see all your friends are there getting better," Hustad said. "Since I've been injured, I've kind of been missing the whole 'team' mentality."

So far so good with Hustad.

The lack of depth last year had Tello starting on the edge at less than 290 pounds. This year, there's an extra year of maturity for all and the new depth means competition.

But only if folks stay healthy.

The news is good for Arizona State

July, 29, 2009
7/29/09
9:43
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

There's a lot of Arizona State information packed into this story from Jeff Metcalfe of the Arizona Republic, and nearly all of the news is good.

The Sun Devils are almost entirely healthy, Metcalfe reports, other than defensive tackle Otis Jones. The key thing there is the availability of offensive linemen who were banged up before and during spring practices: Zach Schlink, Adam Tello, Matt Hustad, Mike Marcisz and Thomas Altieri.

ASU's season probably hinges on how much the O-line improves, even more than how well things go at quarterback.

Further, folks around the program continue to believe super-recruit Vontaze Burfict will qualify academically. If so, the prep All-American linebacker figures to be in the mix to either start or see significant action.

Still, having seen how things often go with the NCAA Clearinghouse, the Sun Devils might want to continue to rub their rabbits' feet on that one.

ASU's Lauvao a workout and good-works warrior

July, 9, 2009
7/09/09
12:24
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Arizona State fans don't need to worry about Sun Devils offensive tackle Shawn Lauvao spending so much of his time this summer mentoring young people. He's not going to fall behind in the weight room for any reason.

 
  Photo by Kevin Terrell/Getty Images
  Arizona State guard Shawn Lauvao is balancing his work outs and charity work this offseason.
Unless you think a 500 pound bench press and 675 pound squat is falling behind.

While Lauvao did work at a Fellowship of Christian Athletes sports camp in Flagstaff, Ariz., and an Athletes in Action camp on the campus of Colorado State, he still made his 6 a.m. workouts with the rest of the Sun Devils offensive line.

That maligned unit, which has struggled the past two seasons, decided that joint early workouts would build camaraderie. He and the rest of the Sun Devils are eager to put a 5-7 campaign in 2008 behind them.

"I want to say last year was a fluke," Lauvao said.

Lauvao, a 6-foot-3, 305-pound senior, is the Sun Devils best blocker, which is why he switched from guard to tackle this spring. He believes a lack of experience and injuries made the line vulnerable last year.

"That's the biggest thing," he said. "We have a lot of ballers but you'd be surprised what injuries do."

The hope is the line will be far deeper and athletic if Matt Hustad, Zach Schlink and Adam Tello all make successful returns from injuries that knocked them out of spring practices.

The other big question for the Sun Devils is how well quarterback Danny Sullivan will play after four up-and-down years with Rudy Carpenter leading the offense.

"He's really stepped it up," Lauvao said. "He realizes his clock is running down and this is his opportunity. He's really taken the reins and been a vocal leader, making guys accountable. He's really elevated his play. He's taken the initiative and handled the situation well."

As for Lauvao off the field, he earned a degree in educational sociology in three and a half years and is now pursuing his master's degree in secondary education. He said he wants to mentor and coach young people when he's done with football, perhaps as a high school teacher.

In other words, he's not just dabbling when he volunteers.

"I kind of wish I did more," he said. "To have that type of positive influence can go a long way, pushing kids in the right directions instead of them believing, 'I don't have any options. I don't have anything to believe in.'"

Hard work and, Lauvao said, strict parenting got him where he is today. He noted that he only weighed 185 pounds as a high school sophomore and didn't play football until his junior year at Farrington High in Honolulu, where he was a two-time Scholar Athlete of the Year.

Now he's a top candidate for All-Conference honors and could play his way into the first day of the NFL draft.

But first he wants to get the bad taste of 2008 out his mouth and be part of an offensive line renaissance in Tempe.

"Last year was unacceptable," he said.

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