Pac-12: Lawrence Guy

Injuries epidemic for ASU

August, 15, 2011
8/15/11
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Injuries are part of the game, coaches will tell you. That doesn't make them any less of a drag.

And no team is dragging more with injuries than Arizona State, which lost senior linebacker Brandon Magee for the season Saturday due to a ruptured Achilles tendon.

Magee is not only a returning starter, there's also this from the Arizona Republic:
Defensive coordinator Craig Bray recently told The Republic that Magee was the team's best defensive player last season.

Over the past week, Magee had seemed to take a greater leadership role on the field, barking at the first-team defense to get to the ball and to work through fatigue.

Magee also is one of the "Centennial Threesome" with fellow LBs Vontaze Burfict and Shelly Lyons. He and Lyons keep pretty busy helping the volatile Burfict maintain an even keel.

Perhaps no team in the county expected to contend for a national ranking has suffered as much roster attrition as the Sun Devils since the end of 2010. QB Steven Threet (retired due to recurrent concussions), QB Samson Szakacsy (left team), DT Lawrence Guy (entered NFL draft), CB Omar Bolden (knee), WR T.J. Simpson (knee), DE James Brooks (left team) and RB Deantre Lewis (gunshot wound). And since the beginning of camp, linebacker Oliver Aaron suffered a high-ankle sprain, backup defensive tackle Joita Te'i suffered a foot injury that will sideline him for seven weeks and cornerback Devan Spann dislocated his left shoulder two times in the first week of practice.

And now Magee.

Despite all this, the Sun Devils still have the makings of a good team. Just not as good of a team as they had when they walked off the field Dec. 2 after beating rival Arizona.

Pac-12 'tease' team: Arizona State

August, 12, 2011
8/12/11
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In 2008, the then-Pac-10 blog noted that "If you Google 'Arizona State' and 'sleeping giant,' 3,400 articles come up."

If you did it this week, you get 85,900 results (in 0.23 seconds! Technology rocks! Though it doesn't seem as if all the matches are relevant, Google).

In 2008, we wrote, "If a Pac-10 team has a chance to break USC's choke-hold on the conference title -- or at least to regularly challenge the Trojans for the top spot -- it's the Sun Devils."

Drrrrrr.

We were wrong. Somehow I want to blame Chip Kelly.

We are considering programs that are "teases" in the Pac-12, which my new boss, Ruthless Reynolds, described as "teams that always look great in the preseason only to underwhelm when play starts."

Sun Devils, why can't we quit you?

Well, lots of reasons.

You have the only coach in the conference who's won a national title in Dennis Erickson. As a resident of north Scottsdale living in the shadow of Black Mountain, I can confirm that the weather -- though a bit toasty in the summer -- is just about perfect eight months of the year. Tempe is just a short flight from the recruiting hotbed of Southern California. The, er, scene at Arizona State strikes this codger as something that might appeal to an average 18- or 19-year-old male. Academic standards don't typically limit recruiting options.

And the program has been there before, becoming a national power in the 1970s under Frank Kush and then again in the 1996 season, when it lost a national title in a thrilling Rose Bowl defeat to Ohio State.

Still, it's one of the great questions in college football: Why doesn't Arizona State win more consistently?

Of late, the Sun Devils have typically underperform compared to expectations. In four of the past six years, they've finished below where they were picked in the Pac-10 preseason media poll, most notably in 2008 -- that year! -- when they were picked second in the conference but finished sixth with a 5-7 record.

To be fair, though, they've eclipsed their preseason prediction in two of the four years -- 2007 and 2010 -- under Erickson.

And so we have 2011.

The Pac-12 blog started touting Arizona State as a 2011 contender before last season was done. Why? It wasn't just that the Sun Devils went nose-to-nose with some of the best teams in the country -- Oregon, Wisconsin, Stanford -- it was coaches from other teams specifically noting how talented the Sun Devils were.

Then you looked at the 2010 depth chart: Everyone was coming back. Seriously: The only senior starters last year were receiver Kerry Taylor and defensive tackle Saia Falahola.

Wow. To be honest, my thought process immediately saw 6-6 in 2010 and thought Rose Bowl shot in 2011.

But after a nice finish to the 2010 season, little has gone right for the Sun Devils. Defensive tackle Lawrence Guy made a poor decision and entered the NFL draft. Quarterback Steven Threet was forced to retire due to concussions. Fellow quarterback Samson Szakacsy left the team. Unanimous All-Pac-10 cornerback Omar Bolden blew out his knee at the beginning of spring practices, followed shortly thereafter by top returning receiver T.J. Simpson. Starting defensive end James Brooks quit, and the status of talented running back Deantre Lewis (gunshot wound) remains up in the air as he might redshirt this season.

That's five starters, a co-starter (Lewis) and an experienced backup quarterback. So, Sun Devils fans, you have a ready-made excuse if the season falls short of expectations and you end up only wondering what might have been.

That said, Arizona State, despite these major personnel losses, is still good enough to win the South Division. It also helps, by the way, that USC's ineligibility means it's only a five-team race among squads that each have significant holes.

But every time you start to think they'll be OK, something else happens, such as All-American linebacker Vontaze Burfict fighting a receiver he outweighs by 50 pounds in the locker room last week, or linebacker Oliver Aaron suffering a high ankle sprain, or backup defensive tackle Joita Te'i suffering a foot injury that will sideline him for seven weeks, or cornerback Devan Spann dislocated his left shoulder two times in the first week of practice.

Still, 28 seniors back in the locker room, five starters back on the offensive line, Burfict leading impressive talent in the front seven, an underrated running back in Cameron Marshall and a quarterback in Brock Osweiler who looks ready to lead.

Sun Devils, why can't we quit you?
No team in the Pac-12 wows you at defensive tackle. No team is a sure thing. There is a lot of "maybe" at the position. And probably some maybe not.

The uncertainty of quality -- both in terms of returning stars and depth -- made this a difficult position to rank. For example, Washington has a nice foursome at tackle, led by Alameda Ta'amu, who might be the best tackle in the conference.

That's great. Good for the Huskies. But they ranked 97th in the country in run defense last year. You sort of pause over that, you know?

So a lot of this ranking is feel thing, a projection of potential. And "great shape" here is relative to the conference. Nebraska, for example, wouldn't exchange its tackles -- Jared Crick and Baker Steinkuhler -- for any Pac-12 tandem.

Some of this figures to inspire a bit of debate.

Great shape

USC: This may be in some part based on fumes from the Trojans reputation at the position. It definitely includes a vote of faith that they will get a 100 percent Christian Tupou back from the knee injury that killed his 2010 season. If so, the threesome of Tupou, George Uko and DaJohn Harris is strong. And if you toss in Armond Armstead -- who missed spring with an undisclosed medical condition that threatens his career -- you'd have a clear No. 1.

Washington: Ta'amu seemed to find himself during the second half of last year, and the 330-pounder could end up getting some All-American consideration if he consistently plays like he did against Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl. Sione Potoa'e and Semisi Tokolahi are both experienced, and Lawrence Lagafuaina a space-grabbing, 344-pound redshirt freshman.

Colorado: The Buffaloes are sneaky good here, even though they only ranked 48th in the nation in run defense in 2010. Both starters, Will Pericak and Curtis Cunningham, are back, but Conrad Obi was a revelation this spring. He looked like a future NFL draft choice, not a player who'd mostly been a bust. Nate Bonsu, who missed spring with a knee injury, also should help.

Good shape

Utah: The Utes, who ranked 11th in the nation in run defense in 2010, lost Sealver Siliga, but they believe they have a budding star in, er, Star Lotulelei, while James Aiono, LT Tuipulotu and Joape Peta are solid. Also, Dave Kruger, who played end this spring, is 280 pounds and can play inside.

Arizona: The loss of backup Willie Mobley to a knee injury hurts depth, but Justin Washington figures to take a step forward after an impressive true freshman season, Sione Tuihalamaka started four games in 2010. Depth is a question. The Wildcats ranked 33rd in the nation in run defense last fall.

Oregon: On the one hand, Oregon lost both starting defensive tackles in Brandon Bair and Zac Clark from a unit that ranked 27th in the nation in run defense. On the other, they played so many guys last fall, the new starters are experienced players. Further, Ricky Heimuli, Taylor Hart, Wade Keliikipi, Isaac Remington and Jared Ebert played well enough this spring to suggest the position will be a strength in the fall.

Arizona State: If Lawrence Guy didn't make his ill-fated decision to enter the NFL draft, the Sun Devils, who were 16th in the nation against the run last fall, would be in great shape here. As it was, Will Sutton had a great spring and looks like a potential All-Conference guy. Grinder Bo Moos is listed as the starter at the other tackle, though he could be eclipsed by Corey Adams. Toa Tuitea saw limited action last year.

UCLA: The Bruins defensive line was terrible last year, ranking 108th in the nation against the run, but the talent is there for a significant turnaround. Cassius Marsh, Nate Chandler, Justin Edison, Donovan Carter and Seali'i Epenesa should do a much better job plugging the middle.

California: Cal is actually fine here, despite the loss of NG Derrick Hill. For one, when you run a 3-4 defense, it's hard to rate your DTs, even if your DEs often operate like them. The Bears have two solid options at NG in Aaron Tipoti and Kendrick Payne, and it's also possible that touted 350-pound incoming freshman Viliami Moala will eclipse both of them.

We'll see

Oregon State: Dominic Glover moves inside from end and Kevin Frahm has experience, but this unit didn't play well last year -- 89th in run defense -- even with one of the best DTs in the nation in Stephen Paea. 340-pound Castro Masaniai could help but he missed spring after shoulder surgery and has off-field issues. There's also Mana Tuivailala and Ben Motter.

Stanford: Like Cal, Stanford runs a 3-4, so it naturally it is going to suffer a bit in DT rankings. More important: The loss of Sione Fua is significant. Terrence Stephens and Henry Anderson had solid springs but neither has much experience.

Washington State: Brandon Rankin, a returning starter, was listed No. 2 on the depth chart behind Anthony Laurenzi after spring practices, with redshirt freshman Toni Pole No. 1 at the other tackle. Justin Clayton, Steven Hoffart and Xavier Cooper provide depth. It's not unreasonable for Cougars fans to expect improvement, perhaps significant improvement. But a team that ranked 115th in the nation in run defense the previous season is automatically a "We'll see" here.

Spring wrap: Arizona State

May, 9, 2011
5/09/11
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ARIZONA STATE

2010 overall record: 6-6

2010 conference record: 4-5

Returning starters

Offense: 9, Defense: 8, punter/kicker 0

Top returners

WR Gerell Robinson, RB Cameron Marshall, C Garth Gerhart, LB Vontaze Burfict, DE Junior Onyeali, LB Brandon McGee

Key losses

WR Kerry Taylor, DT Lawrence Guy, QB Steven Threet

2010 statistical leaders (*returning starter)

Rushing: Cameron Marshall* (787)

Passing: Steven Threet (2,534)

Receiving: Kerry Taylor (699)

Tackles: Vontaze Burfict* (90)

Sacks: Junior Onyeali* (6.5)

Interceptions: Omar Bolden* (3)

Spring answers

1. Experience on offensive line: The Sun Devils are the only Pac-12 team that welcomes back its entire starting offensive line from 2010. In fact, the only person from last year's depth chart not back is guard Jon Hargis. Garth Gerhart, a 22-game starter, is the anchor at center, and with Evan Finkenberg, Dan Knapp and Aderious Simmons, there are three tackles with starting experience.

2. A couple of Guys at defensive tackle: The Sun Devils lost both starting defensive tackles -- Lawrence Guy and Saia Falahola -- but Will Sutton and Corey Adams stepped up this spring and showed they can be more than adequate replacements. Sutton, in particular, was unblockable at times. The key for Adams is staying healthy.

3. Hello Mr. Robinson: With receiver Mike Willie out while recovering from offseason surgery and receiver T.J. Simpson suffering a knee injury this spring, the Sun Devils needed someone to step up as a go-to receiver. That would be Gerell Robinson, who might have had as good a spring as anyone on the team.

Fall questions

1. Is Osweiler ready for prime time: When quarterback Steven Threet, the Sun Devils' 2010 starter, was forced to retire because of recurrent concussions, the offense was handed over to Brock Osweiler. His strong finish coming off the bench for Threet had most believing the transition would be smooth (and that Osweiler might have beaten out Threet in any event). Osweiler seemed to get better as spring went on and was very good in the spring game. Still, how well will he lead a top-25 team with visions of a Pac-12 South championship?

2. Secondary issues: Losing first-team All-Pac-10 cornerback Omar Bolden to a knee injury was huge. You can't easily replace a very good player and leader. Further, safety might be the most questionable position on a good defense. There's a feeling sophomore Alden Darby is going to step up somewhere. Devan Spann, Osahon Irabor and Deveron Carr are going to need to do the same at cornerback.

3. Special questions: The Sun Devils need to replace punter Trevor Hankins and kicker Thomas Weber. Touted junior college punter Josh Hubner had a solid spring, but it remains to be seem if he can be consistent on Saturdays. At kicker, Alex Garoutte struggled with inconsistency. Is he going to find his rhythm? And, if not, are there other options?

Pac-12 links: Is Foles the No. 2 QB in 2012?

May, 2, 2011
5/02/11
2:30
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I know what you're thinking. "Did he fire six shots or only five?" Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I kind of lost track myself. But being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you've got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?

Final Pac-12 NFL draft tally

May, 1, 2011
5/01/11
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The Pac-12 provided 37 players to the NFL draft over the weekend, one fewer than the SEC, which led all conferences.

If the six combined picks from Colorado and Utah are taken away from the conference, the old Pac-10 provided NFL teams 3.1 draft picks per team, also just behind the SEC at 3.17.

Here's where the Pac-12 players went:

First round
No. 8 Jake Locker, QB, Washington: Tennessee
No. 9 Tyron Smith., OT, USC: Dallas
No. 17 Nate Solder, OT, Colorado: New England
No. 24 Cameron Jordan, DE, California: New Orleans
No. 27 Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado: Baltimore

Second round
7. Akeem Ayers, LB, UCLA: Tennessee
10. Brooks Reed, DE, Arizona: Houston
13. Rahim Moore, FS, UCLA: Denver
21. Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State: Chicago
24. Shane Vereen, RB, California: New England

Third round
13. Jurrell Casey, DT, USC: Tennessee
20. Mason Foster, LB, Washington: Tampa Bay
25. Shareece Wright, CB, USC: San Diego
29. Christopher Conte, S, California: Chicago
33. Sione Fua, DT, Stanford: Carolina

Fourth round
5. Jordan Cameron, TE, USC: Cleveland
19. Casey Matthews, LB, Oregon: Philadelphia
21. Jalil Brown, CB, Colorado: Kansas City
27. Owen Marecic, FB, Stanford: Cleveland

Fifth round
8. Brandon Burton, CB, Utah: Minnesota
9. Gabe Miller, DE, Oregon State: Kansas City
14. Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, Oregon State: Atlanta
23. Richard Sherman, CB, Stanford: Seattle

Sixth round
2. Ryan Whalen, WR, Stanford: Cincinnati
14. Caleb Schlauderaff, OG, Utah: Green Bay
17. Ronald Johnson, WR, USC: San Francisco
19. David Carter, DT, UCLA: Arizona
22. Allen Bradford, RB, USC: Tampa Bay
24. Mike Mohamed, LB, California: Denver
32. Ricky Elmore, DE, Arizona: Green Bay
38. Zach Williams, C, Washington State: Carolina

Seventh round
12. D'Aundre Reed, DE, Arizona: Minnesota
24. Scotty McKnight, WR, Colorado: New York Jets
30. Lawrence Guy, DT, Arizona State: Green Bay
37. Stanley Havili, FB, USC: Philadelphia
38. David Ausberry, WR, USC: Oakland
39. Malcolm Smith, LB, USC: Seattle

By Pac-12 school:
Arizona (3)
Arizona State (1)
California (4)
Colorado (4)
Oregon (1)
Oregon State (3)
Stanford (4)
UCLA (3)
USC (9)
Utah (2)
Washington (2)
Washington State (1)

The final tally by automatic qualifying conferences:
SEC... 38
Pac-12... 37
Big Ten... 36
ACC... 35
Big East 22
Big 12...19

Nebraska was a big swing to the Big Ten from the Big 12 with seven picks. With Colorado and Nebraska, the Big 12 provided 30 selections.

This was the tally through three rounds:
SEC: 20
ACC: 19
Pac-12: 15
Big Ten: 13
Big 12: 9
Big East: 4

Pac-12 lunch links: Former players eyeball NFL draft

April, 28, 2011
4/28/11
2:30
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Is man no more than this? Consider him well. Thou owest the worm no silk, the beast no hide, the sheep no wool, the cat no perfume. Ha! here's three on 's are sophisticated; thou art the thing itself; unaccommodated man is no more but such a poor, bare, forked animal as thou art.
A year ago, Arizona State headed into spring practices with lots of questions, and most projected the Sun Devils were bound for the bottom third of the Pac-10. This week, the Sun Devils begin spring practices with few questions and expectations that they should win the first Pac-12 South title.

Expectations do not win football games, but 18 returning starters from a team that went 6-6 and pushed three top-10 teams to the brink -- Wisconsin, Oregon and Stanford -- is a reasonable foundation for optimism.

Of course, there are still issues, starting with quarterback Brock Osweiler asserting himself as the leader of the offense after Steven Threet was forced to retire due to recurrent concussions. Threet is serving as a student assistant this spring.

"I'd love to have Steven, but without having him, I think it kind of identified who our leader is," coach Dennis Erickson said.

Some notes:

Who's out: Arizona Republic writer Doug Haller was at the first practice Tuesday and provided this list of players who were out or limited: "... defensive end Junior Onyeali, receiver Mike Willie, safety Keelan Johnson, safety Eddie Elder, cornerback Deveron Carr, receiver Aaron Pflugrad and running back Deantre Lewis. Linebacker Brandon Magee was with the baseball team and didn't practice."

Haller also provided a depth chart from the first day.

Osweiler then who? With Threet, Osweiler and Samson Szakacsy, the Sun Devils had three quarterbacks with starting experience. Without Threet and Szakacsy, who left the team to pursue other interests, the Sun Devils have a first-team quarterback with two career starts and no experience behind him. Redshirt freshman Taylor Kelly and big-armed true freshman Mike Bercovici are competing for the backup role, which is often a key spot seeing how often starters get hurt and miss action.

O-line competition: If you're looking for a major reason the Sun Devils have high hopes, look no further than the line, which welcomes back, well, just about everybody from the two-deep. This will be a veteran unit led by senior center Garth Gerhart, younger brother of Toby. More than five guys have starting experience, so there may be some mixing and matching and shuffling as players fight for first-unit spots.

DT is the question: Both starting defensive tackles, Lawrence Guy and Saia Falahola, are gone. The ideal rotation would be Corey Adams and Will Sutton starting, with Bo Moos and Toa Tuitea providing depth. But can Adams stay healthy? Sutton was academically ineligible last year, so he's high on talent and low on experience. Developing depth this spring will be critical. And might the Sun Devils use more three-man fronts? Said Erickson, "We're a 4-3 team," while still leaving the option open.

Can Burfict be perfect? Of course, no one can be perfect, but Burfict, a junior linebacker likely spending his final season in Tempe, will play himself into becoming a first-round NFL draft pick in 2012 if he saves all his nutty behavior for between the whistles, not after. He needs to lead in word and deed, which means growing up and acting and playing like a man. The way-early returns this offseason are positive. "I'm trying to get us to a national championship," Burfict told the Republic, "and to do that, I feel like I need to become more of a leader."

Just for kicks? The Sun Devils must replace kicker Thomas Weber and punter Trevor Hankins. Alex Garoutte and Parker Flynn are competing at kicker, with Garoutte the front-runner. JC transfer Josh Hubner is expected to win the punting job. Will the Sun Devils get quality or merely warm bodies here?

Who's back from the top 25?

March, 22, 2011
3/22/11
11:30
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This will be my final post on our 2010 top 25 players rankings. It's also a line between looking back at the Pac-10 and looking forward to the Pac-12.

This post projects ahead: These players are the leading candidates for a preseason top 25.

First, here's who's back in 2011 -- 11 players -- from our top-25.

1. Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
2. LaMichael James, RB, Oregon
4. Darron Thomas, QB, Oregon
6. Juron Criner, WR, Arizona
7. Chris Polk, RB, Washington
11. Omar Bolden, CB, Arizona State
13. Vontaze Burfict, LB, Arizona State
14. Matt Barkley, QB, USC
18. Nick Foles, QB, Arizona
22. Cliff Harris, CB, Oregon
23. Jermaine Kearse, WR, Washington

And here's who's back -- nine players -- from our "left-out list."

Shayne Skov, LB, Stanford
Chase Thomas, LB, Stanford
Mychal Kendricks, LB, California
John Boyett, FS, Oregon
Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
David DeCastro, OG, Stanford
Marquess Wilson, WR, Washington State
Jeff Tuel, QB, Washington State
Delano Howell, SS, Stanford

So that's 20 front-runners for the next list we'll put together this summer. Also, don't forget that competition will be more intense with the inclusion of Utah and Colorado for the next list.

Or will the Utes and/or Buffaloes get shutout? Neither welcomes back a first-team all-conference player from the Mountain West or Big 12, respectively (Colorado doesn't have a second-team player coming back, either).

Should be pretty interesting.

Who just missed the top-25? And why

March, 22, 2011
3/22/11
9:00
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Welcome to the "How the heck could you be so stupid, Pac-12 blog!" post.

Our ranking of the top-25 Pac-10 -- not Pac-12 yet -- players is over. Here is our final tally.

Sure each of you has some sort of gripe with the list, and I would hope you would. The cool kids hang out here, and cool kids don't agree on everything because then they wouldn't be cool.

The most popular harrumph was the omission of Stanford's two-way player, Owen Marecic. I completely understand that. I likely would have ranked him 26th, but even then I would have paused. I will tell you why in a moment.

The angry mobilization by typically "read but don't comment" Stanford fans was great, though. I anticipated both the irritation with Marecic's absence and the general frustration with the lack of Stanford players on the list. Both reactions were perfectly reasonable, and the zealousness was fun. There were plenty of "What about Stanford?" moments for me while I toiled over the final list.

So now I will take on the unenviable task of briefly explaining why players didn't make the list. I'm guessing I will want to take a shower afterwards because the "left-out list" includes many outstanding players, many of whom will be high draft choices this year and in years to come.

But Marecic gets special treatment; he goes first. Here's my reasoning.

Yes, Marecic is a great story. Two-way player. Good on both sides of the ball. Tough guy. Quiet. Cool hair. Cult hero. Really, really smart. Tenth in the Heisman Trophy vote. Jim Harbaugh struggled each week to top the previous week's praise of a guy he repeatedly called "his favorite player."

But here's the problem: 1. He was the second best fullback in the conference (USC's Stanley Havili was the best; he didn't make the list); 2. He was Stanford's fourth-best linebacker -- see the numbers here.

And then he had the Shayne Skov, Chase Thomas, Sione Fua, Delano Howell, Jonathan Martin, David DeCastro problem. If you were picking a team for a high-stakes game, you'd pick those guys -- all Cardinal teammates -- before Marecic. And none of those guys made the list.

Yes, you would. Trust me. If, say, you were playing for $10 million, you'd pick one of them. Why? Because a good fullback and solid-to-middling linebacker isn't as valuable as an outstanding one-way player.

Nor would you pick Marecic over Shane Vereen, No. 25 on our list. Before you scream at your computer screen, let your mind drift back to this unhappy memory, Stanford fans.

Now, Stanford fans, take heart. This summer, we will begin an top-25 preseason list, and at this point you figure to get as many as six guys on that list, including No. 1 overall.

Also, it might help to look at the list below. Not exactly chopped liver.

This list is roughly in the order of consideration.

Rahim Moore, FS, UCLA: He's a cool dude. He's going to be off the NFL draft board before the end of the second round. But he didn't put up great numbers for a bad defense.
Brandon Bair, DT, Oregon: Bair's production went down over the second half of the season. He got beaten up a bit, and offensive coordinators starting paying him more attention. Further, I was already uncomfortable with seven players from one team on the list.
Shayne Skov, LB, Stanford: Love his game. Got better as year went on. Just missed the cut. He, Vontaze Burfict and Mychal Kendricks are your first-team All-Pac-12 LBs in 2011.
Ricky Elmore, DE, Arizona: 21.5 sacks over the past two seasons, including a conference-leading 11 in 2010. But Brooks Reed was a better player, and Elmore had a couple of off games. At one point, he was fighting to retain his starting job over D'Aundre Reed.
Chase Thomas, LB, Stanford: A close second to Skov as the most productive player on the Stanford defense.
Sione Fua, NT, Stanford: Fua might have been the conference's most underrated player. So why stop now?
Mychal Kendricks, LB, California: 15 tackles for a loss. Highly productive. Highly talented. But he didn't fully arrive in 2010.
Jake Locker, QB, Washington: He may still end up a first-round draft choice but his numbers just weren't good enough this fall.
John Boyett, FS, Oregon: Got caught in the shuffle of Ducks. Further, the coaches didn't pick him first- or second-team All-Pac-10, rating him behind Cal's Chris Conte, UCLA's Rahim Moore, USC's T.J. McDonald and Washington's Nate Williams, none of whom made the top-25.
Mike Mohamed, LB, California: A very good player who perhaps slipped a little in 2010.
Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford: The top-25 was hard on O-linemen.
David DeCastro, OG, Stanford: See above.
Marquess Wilson, WR, Washington State: No true freshman made the list, not Wilson, not USC's Robert Woods. But Coug fans: You will have your first top-25 player this preseason. Maybe more than one.
Colin Baxter, C, Arizona: Baxter dropped because the Wildcats offensive line underachieved.
Jeff Tuel, QB, Washington State: A good QB. Folks will see that this year. Still, only ranked sixth in the conference in passing efficiency.
Chris Conte, S, California: First-team All-Pac-10. Safeties didn't fare well on the list.
Delano Howell, SS, Stanford: Second-team All-Pac-10. See above.
Lawrence Guy, DT, Arizona State: A solid tackle who was eclipsed by better players.

Some notes & thoughts on top-25

March, 21, 2011
3/21/11
12:00
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Our countdown of the Pac-10's top-25 players is over, and the chief result is annoying Stanford fans, particularly those of FB-LB Owen Marecic.

Their gripe is legit. Not including Marecic kept me up at night -- really -- but this wasn't a list of my favorite players.

On Tuesday, we will look at the players who just missed the cut, which includes Marecic and a significant group of Stanford teammates. It's a long list -- nearly as long as the top-25 -- with a lot of good players. It was easier when I did my first iteration of this list in 2009, which included 30 players.

A lot of Oregon fans disagree with me -- and with Chip Kelly and Nick Aliotti and the Pac-10 coaches who vote for the All-Pac-10 team -- and rank Cliff Harris ahead of Talmadge Jackson. Certainly their right. Not sure Ducks fans have much to gripe about with this list, though, considering there are seven Ducks on it and no other team has more than three.

Feel free to make your own lists. The most difficult part, you'll find, is when you come up with 25 names and then go, "Oh, crud, forgot about X! Can't leave him off!" And then you have to knock someone off your list.

And the next list -- preseason -- will be tougher because it will including Colorado and Utah.

Couple of notes.

Here are the top-25 players by team. The bolded names return in 2011.

Arizona
6. Juron Criner
15. Brooks Reed
18. Nick Foles

Arizona State
11. Omar Bolden
13. Vontaze Burfict


California
8. Cameron Jordan
25. Shane Vereen

Oregon
2. LaMichael James
4. Darron Thomas
12. Jeff Maehl
17. Kenny Rowe
19. Casey Matthews
20. Talmadge Jackson
22. Cliff Harris

Oregon State
3. Stephen Paea
9. Jacquizz Rodgers

Stanford
1. Andrew Luck
10. Chase Beeler

UCLA
21. Akeem Ayers

USC
14. Matt Barkley
16. Tyron Smith
24. Jurrell Casey

Washington
4. Mason Foster
7. Chris Polk
23. Jermaine Kearse


Washington State
None

And here are the players who made the preseason list but didn't make this list. Some tough cuts here.

No. 2. Jake Locker, QB, Washington
No. 6. James Rodgers, WR, Oregon State
No. 7. Rahim Moore, S, UCLA
No. 10. Trevin Wade, CB, Arizona
No. 12. Ricky Elmore, DE, Arizona
No. 18: Colin Baxter, C, Arizona
No. 20. Lawrence Guy, DT, Arizona State
No. 22. Owen Marecic, LB/FB, Stanford
No. 23. Kristofer O'Dowd, C, USC
No. 25 Kai Forbath, K, UCLA

Pac-10 lunch links: Stanford, Luck look for receivers

February, 22, 2011
2/22/11
2:30
PM ET
While on the corner
the jury's sleepless
we found your weakness
and it's right outside the door.
Now testify.

Re-ranking the Pac-10's top-25 players

February, 11, 2011
2/11/11
4:21
PM ET
Next week, the blog begins a countdown of the Pac-10's top-25 (not Pac-12 when we look back).

Many of you will be outraged.

Why? Because I am outraged at the limits of 25 spots, which means a number of top players -- even high NFL draft picks -- are going to get left off.

A number of players from our preseason top-25 list fall out for no justifiable reason, other than other players are more impossible to not include on the list.

You will send hate mail. I am already sending some to myself.

Just for reference, here's our preseason top-25.

No. 1. Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, Oregon State
No. 2. Jake Locker, QB, Washington
No. 3. LaMichael James, RB, Oregon
No. 4. Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
No. 5. Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State
No. 6. James Rodgers, WR, Oregon State
No. 7. Rahim Moore, S, UCLA
No. 8. Akeem Ayers, LB, UCLA
No. 9. Mike Mohamed, LB, California
No. 10. Trevin Wade, CB, Arizona
No. 11. Mason Foster, LB, Washington
No. 12. Ricky Elmore, DE, Arizona
No. 13. Kenny Rowe, DE, Oregon
No. 14. Jurrell Casey, DT, USC
No. 15. Cameron Jordan, DE, California
No. 16. Nick Foles, QB, Arizona
No. 17. Vontaze Burfict, LB, Arizona State
No. 18: Colin Baxter, C, Arizona
No. 19: Chase Beeler, C, Stanford
No. 20. Lawrence Guy, DT, Arizona State
No. 21. Matt Barkley, QB, USC
No. 22. Owen Marecic, LB/FB, Stanford
No. 23. Kristofer O'Dowd, C, USC
No. 24: Casey Matthews, LB, Oregon
No. 25 Kai Forbath, K, UCLA

Arizona State loses D-line coach

February, 8, 2011
2/08/11
4:19
PM ET
Arizona State is looking for a new defensive line coach after Grady Stretz was hired by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a school spokesman confirmed.

Stretz, who was also the Sun Devils recruiting coordinator, spent five seasons at ASU. He signed a three-year contract with the Buccaneers, according to the Arizona Republic, which includes a significant raise.

Whoever replaces Stretz inherits one of the few questionable positions for Arizona State, which welcomes back 19 starters and is the probable favorite in the Pac-12 South Division. Two of the three lost starters -- other than both specialists -- are at defensive tackle: Lawrence Guy, who opted to enter the NFL draft a year early, and Saia Falahola.

Opening the mailbag: Tedford's hotseat?

January, 28, 2011
1/28/11
6:04
PM ET
Welcome to the mailbag.

You can follow me on Twitter here.

To the notes.

Nathan from Boston writes: You mentioned that Jeff Tedford's not quite on the hot seat, and it coincides with Aaron Rodgers' rise to the Super Bowl. Clearly, Rodgers should have gotten more credit for what the did at Cal and gotten drafted higher. Perhaps, it was Rodgers giving to Tedford rather than the other way around, as was the perception. Furthermore, Tedford is in a perfect area for recruiting. So, I think he's very overrated, and question why he's not "firmly" on the hot seat.

Ted Miller: The Bay Area is the "perfect" area for recruiting? Neh. It's decent, probably underrated, in fact, but there are parts of Florida, Texas, Southern California, Louisiana and Georgia I'd rate as just a bit more perfect.

And Tedford's reputation wasn't built just on Rodgers, who is one of six quarterbacks he coached who became first-round NFL draft picks, the others being Kyle Boller, David Carr, Trent Dilfer, Joey Harrington and Akili Smith. And those guys' fair-to-lousy levels of success in the NFL suggests, in fact, that Tedford might be "giving" more than he is "receiving."

That said, Tedford's run of quarterbacks has dried up of late, consider Joe Ayoob, Nate Longshore, Kevin Riley and the late-season performance of Brock Mansion in 2010 (though let's recall that at one point Longshore looked like a future first-round draft pick before he lost his mojo).

As for Rodgers, his extended marinating on the Green Bay bench probably served him well. Instead of being thrust into service as a rookie or first-year player, Rodgers was able to learn the nuances of the NFL game over three seasons before becoming the starter.

While I don't see Tedford as being on the "hot seat" -- barring an absolute disaster, I think he'll be back as the Bears coach in 2012 -- he does deserve increased scrutiny. His transformation of the program, which was 1-10 the season before he arrived in 2002, was impressive. Cal, however, now has higher expectations -- expectations beyond seven or eight wins and certainly beyond the 5-7 finish in 2010. And a quick glance at the Bears' depth chart and their schedule in 2011 doesn't suggest a bounce back to nine or so wins.

On the other hand, the defense perked up under Clancy Pendergast last year, recruiting is going extremely well, and the return of offensive line coach Jim Michalczik (not official yet) and receivers coach Eric Kiesau feels like Tedford is reconnecting to his glory days. If the Bears find the right quarterback, they will be formidable again going forward.

But, yes, it is fair to say that Tedford is no longer untouchable.


Justin from Omaha writes: What would be a successful first year in the Pac-12 for the Buffaloes? I am excited for the 2011 season but, I have know idea what to expect. I don't think they are South contenders but, is being maybe 3 or 4 a possibility?

Ted Miller: Would you think less of me if I said I'm with you: I don't know what to expect.

The only Colorado game I watched in its entirety last season was the 52-7 beatdown defeat at California. Justin from Butte, Mont., wrote last week that I might be weighing that game too heavily, and I agree with him. But I also noted that the Buffaloes have a new coach, new staff, a questionable defense and a bit of uncertainty at quarterback.

Colorado is not a "Little Sisters of the Poor" program, and old Pac-10 fans who think the Buffaloes aren't going to be competitive from the get-go are probably going to be surprised. They were competitive last year in the Big 12 and beat Georgia. While my initial feeling is the Buffs won't end up bowl-eligible and will fall toward the bottom of the South Division in 2011, I also wouldn't be shocked if they scrapped their way to around .500.


George from Phoenix writes: Please put out the wildfire of ASU hype and stellar predictions for next year! I'm already seeing reports of us taking the South and potentially more. I'm having flashbacks of DE yr 2 pre season. "We went 10-3 in DE's first year, will be roses the next", etc, etc, etc...thud!Don't most teams have a build up / ok year before hitting it big? Ore had a good year, then roses, then NC. Isn't that how it usually happens?

Ted Miller: No. Sorry. I am hyping.

I like the Sun Devils' offensive line (imagine that!). I like the skill positions and speed on both sides of the ball. I think either quarterback, Brock Osweiler or Steven Threet, can win games. I have a feeling linebacker Vontaze Burfict grows up next fall and becomes an All-American and NFL first-round pick. I like Omar Bolden as a shut-down cornerback with leadership skills. I like Junior Onyeali as a super young talent at end.

I worry a little about depth at defensive tackle with the departure of Lawrence Guy, but not that much.

This team is nothing like 2008, a team with HUGE questions on the offensive line. The Sun Devils should win the South and end up ranked in the top-25.

Again, sorry for the hype.


Shane from Corvallis, Ore., writes: I know quiz was a great teammate and player. and maybe it's just me trying to be optimistic, but any chance that quiz leaving might be addition by subtraction..., i was thinking that maybe quiz leaving will force Riley and company to modify their game style for the better.

Ted Miller: Shane, I like the effort but you, my friend, are reeeeaaaaching!

Jacquizz Rodgers is a dynamic weapon because he's such a complete player: He runs, he catches, he blocks and he's a great locker room guy. The Beavers will not be better because he's gone. Not saying they are going to stink without him, only that if Rodgers was coming back, expectations for 2011 would be much higher.

The problems in 2010 had nothing to do with Jacquizz.
  • Breaking in a new quarterback. Even though Ryan Katz has notable talent, the Beavers offense has, historically, been hard on first-year starters.
  • Bad-to-mediocre offensive line play. The Beavers' line took a step back last year. It must improve for 2011 to turn out better.
  • James Rodgers gets hurt in he fifth game. Recall that the Beavers were 3-2 -- with road losses to TCU and Boise State -- and won at Arizona with Rodgers. No way the Beavers fail to reach a bowl game if he never got hurt.
  • Defensive inconsistency. It seemed like the Beavers lacked a dynamic guy in their front seven, other than defensive tackle Stephen Paea.

Finally, the depth chart behind Rodgers is unproven. The Beavers always seem to find a running back. But, at present, we really don't know who that will be.


Aaron from Flagstaff, Ariz., writes: Just wondering how you would figure out how many recruits your college can get each year. I thought ASU was very limited, and now we are at 17 recruits.

Ted Miller: Two rules: 85 total players on scholarship, 25 per recruiting class.

(And if you want to read a great story about how coaches fiddle with these rules by "oversigning," check out Andy Staples' story here).

Arizona State had a very small senior class, which was why the 2011 recruiting class was -- and still is, really -- expected to be small. At the end of the process, you still can only give out 85 scholarships per team, per year.

But there's been some roster attrition -- quarterback Samson Szakacsy, defensive tackle Lee Adams, cornerback Josh Jordan and tight end Steven Figueroa have left the program -- and two players listed with this year's class, quarterback Mike Bercovici and punter Josh Hubner, are already enrolled.

Doing roster math from the outside isn't easy because there are always things going on "inside." But, unless you want to get highly detailed, just understand the numbers 85 and 25.


Greg from Seattle writes: Hey Ted, did you ever see this?

Ted Miller: Pretty darn polished by Washington running back Johri Fogerson.

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