Pac-12: Shaquille Richardson

Season wrap: Arizona

January, 15, 2014
The Wildcats matched last season’s record, and they did it without several of their star receivers and the quarterback who got them to eight wins last year. Yes, they lost again to Arizona State, which is a ding.

But they also knocked off No. 5 Oregon at home in one of college football’s biggest upsets of the season and showed they have offensive staying power despite injuries and attrition. Plus, the defense was one of the most improved in the league.

Ending the season with a blowout bowl win over a BCS conference team should give the Wildcats plenty of steam moving forward into a year where several explosive playmakers are coming off the injured list or scout team.

You can read our graded review of Arizona here.

Offensive MVP: Running back Ka’Deem Carey was one of the most dominant, explosive players in the country, earning the Pac-12’s offensive MVP honor. He rushed for 1,885 yards and 19 touchdowns on 349 carries and leaves the school as its all-time leading rusher. Dating back to last season, Carey rushed for at least 100 yards in 16 consecutive games, which was the longest streak in FBS football.

Defensive MVP: Jake Fischer had another strong season with a team-high 99 tackles. But Marquis Flowers really elevated his game, posting 93 stops and 11 tackles for loss. He also had a sack, an interception and a pair of fumble recoveries. The defense as a whole gets a gold star for its drastic improvement from 2012.

Best moment: No question -- it was Arizona’s shocking 42-16 pummeling of the Ducks. Within that game was a four-touchdown performance from Carey and a dazzling interception when Shaquille Richardson tipped Marcus Mariota’s pass back inbounds to Scooby Wright. It was one of the top plays in the college football and one of the year’s biggest upsets.

Worst moment: It’s not just that they lost to Arizona State -- again. It’s how they lost, falling behind 30-7 before the bands took the field. Last year against the Sun Devils, they coughed up a fourth-quarter lead. This year, they just got beat. Rich Rodriguez has done a fantastic job in his first two years. But fans won’t fully be happy until he starts winning a few Territorial Cups.

Pac-12 names players of the week

November, 25, 2013
Arizona running back Ka’Deem Carey has been named the Pac-12 offensive player of the week, along with Arizona State linebacker Chris Young, who was named defensive player of the week and UCLA returner Ishmael Adams, who was named special teams player of the week.

Here’s some more on the trio per the Pac-12’s release:

Carey, a junior from Tucson, Ariz., racked up 206 yards on a school-record 48 carries to become the Wildcats’ all-time leading rusher with 3,913 career yards as Arizona upset No. 5 Oregon 42-16 on Saturday afternoon in Tucson. His four touchdowns on the day established a new program mark for career touchdowns with 49 while his 45 career rushing touchdowns are also a school record. The 48 carries were the most by an FBS player in a game this season and his string of 14 straight 100-yard rushing games is tied for the longest streak by an FBS player over the past ten seasons. The nation’s second-leading rusher (155.9 ypg) earns the conference offensive player of the week honor for the second time this year.

Young, a senior from Seattle, Wash., led an Arizona State defense that limited a potent UCLA offense and squashed a fourth-quarter comeback bid in a 38-33 win over the Bruins at the Rose Bowl on Saturday night as the Sun Devils clinched the Pac-12 South Division title with the victory. He collected a game-leading 13 tackles, including 12 solo, and three sacks for a loss of 27 yards. His two fourth-quarter sacks and game-ending tackle on the Bruins’ final two drives secured the win for the Sun Devils, who earned a spot in the Pac-12 Football Championship Game on Dec. 7.

Adams, a sophomore from Woodland Hills, Calif., collected 234 return yards in his first game serving as the return man in the Bruins’ 38-33 loss to Arizona State. His efforts in the return game led to three UCLA scores, including a 58-yard return on the Sun Devils’ first kickoff of the game to set up a 42-yard scoring pass on the next play and a 49-yard punt return that set up a 48-yard field goal that put the Bruins ahead late in the first quarter.

Also nominated for offensive player of the week honors were quarterbacks Taylor Kelly of Arizona State and Connor Halliday of Washington State; running backs Javorius Allen of USC and Bishop Sankey of Washington; and wide receivers Ty Montgomery of Stanford and Shaq Evans of UCLA. Also nominated for defensive player of the week honors were linebackers Anthony Barr of UCLA and Justin Sagote of Washington State; cornerbacks Shaquille Richardson of Arizona and Marcus Peters of Washington; and defensive end Leonard Williams of USC and free safety Jered Bell of Colorado. Also nominated for special teams player of the week honors was Washington State kicker Andrew Furney and USC fullback/special teams member Soma Vainuku.

Pac-12 All-Bowl team

January, 10, 2013
Ladies and gentlemen, a round of applause for your 2012 Pac-12 All-Bowl team.


QB: Taylor Kelly, Arizona State -- 17-of-19, 267 yards with four touchdowns and no picks. Outstanding performance.

RB: Bishop Sankey, Washington -- The lone player from a losing team on the all-bowl squad, but he was too good to ignore -- 30 carries for 205 yards and a touchdown.

RB: Marion Grice, Arizona State -- With a heavy heart, he earned offensive MVP by piling up 159 yards on just 14 carries for a robust 11.4-yard average. He also had a pair of rushing touchdowns in ASU's blowout win.

WR: Austin Hill, Arizona -- His 175 yards broke an Arizona record for receiving yards in a bowl game and his two touchdowns matched a school high.

[+] EnlargeArizona State's Rashad Ross
Cary Edmondson/USA TODAY SportsRashad Ross had four catches for 139 yards and three touchdowns against Navy.
WR: Rashad Ross, Arizona State -- Had a huge day with four catches for 139 yards and three touchdowns.

TE: Colt Lyerla, Oregon -- He's not here for his three catches and 52 yards. He's here because those three catches for 52 yards changed the way Kansas State played defense and it opened everything up for the Ducks.

OL: David Yankey, Stanford -- The Morris Trophy winner helped keep quarterback Kevin Hogan sack-free and QB hit-free.

OL: Kyle Quinn, Arizona -- Paved the way for Carey's record-setting performance.

OL: Hroniss Grasu, Oregon -- Kept a good Kansas State front at bay and delivered a knockout block on De'Anthony Thomas' touchdown reception.

OL: Evan Finkenberg, Arizona State -- Key player in Marion Grice's big day.

OL: Kyle Long, Oregon -- Helped limit Kansas State's aggressive front to just one sack.

K: Jordan Williamson, Stanford -- Shook off the Fiesta cobwebs and calmly drilled both field goal attempts, including a 47-yarder. His six points were the difference in the 20-14 outcome.


DL: Ben Gardner, Stanford -- Fourth-and-goal at the 1. James White, prepare to meet the mullet.

DL: Will Sutton, Arizona State -- Defensive MVP of Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. Hungry for more next season.

DL: Carl Bradford, Arizona State -- Three tackles for a loss, plus a sack, make him the perfect complement to Sutton.

LB: Kiko Alonso, Oregon -- Run blitzed the Wildcats all night and was as effective as he was punishing.

LB: Michael Clay, Oregon -- Your defensive MVP of the Fiesta Bowl had nine tackles, two for a loss, plus a sack. He was prolific.

LB: A.J. Tarpley, Stanford -- The leading tackler in the Rose Bowl helped the Cardinal to a second-half shutout.

LB: Marquis Flowers, Arizona -- The defensive MVP of the New Mexico Bowl posted 10 tackles, one for a loss, and an interception. He also recovered the onside kick that sparked Arizona's comeback.

DB: Jordan Richards, Stanford -- Seven tackles, two tackles for a loss, a sack and one very, very nasty (yet clean) hit.

DB: Erick Dargan, Oregon -- Two picks off a Heisman Trophy finalist is two picks off a Heisman Trophy finalist -- whether it's the end of the half or end of the game. He also had eight tackles, second only to Clay.

DB: Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Oregon -- Posted five tackles and a pass breakup. Kansas State challenged him. He responded.

DB: Shaquille Richardson, Arizona -- Nabbed his first interception of the season at the Arizona 2-yard line and returned it 27 yards. That kicked off a nine-play, 71-yard touchdown drive for the Wildcats.

KR: De'Anthony Thomas, Oregon -- DAT did what DAT does. And he did it great.

Pac-12 spring preview: South Division

February, 23, 2012
Pac-12 spring preview: South Division

Spring practice is almost here. Here's a snapshot at what to expect from the Pac-12 South in the coming weeks.


Spring practice starts: March 4

Spring game: April 14

What to watch:
  • Hello, my name is ... Like the other two teams in the South Division with new head coaches (Arizona State and UCLA) much of Arizona's first few weeks will be Rich Rodriguez evaluating his personnel and getting to know what he has to work with. Likewise, the players are going to have to figure out what this new coaching staff is about. Everything from how they do pre-practice stretches to how they call the cadence is going to change.
  • New scheme and a new scheme: A spread option on offense and a 3-3-5 on defense. That's a lot of new material to digest on both sides of the ball. Until Rodriguez can recruit the players he likes into his scheme, he's going to have to make it work with the players he has. Fortunately on the defensive side of the ball, Arizona has good depth in the secondary with Cortez Johnson, Marquis Flowers, Shaquille Richardson, Jourdon Grandon and Tra'Mayne Bondurant. The Wildcats should also get a boost with the return of injured players Jake Fischer (LB), Jonathan McKnight (CB) and Adam Hall (S).
  • Perfect fit? Former starter Matt Scott, who was beaten out by Nick Folesin 2009, is expected to reprise his starting role under Rodriguez. He redshirted the 2011 season and -- magically -- Foles never got hurt last year despite taking 23 sacks and countless hits. Scott is considered the more versatile quarterback and should fit nicely into the new run-based spread attack.

Spring practice starts: March 13

Spring game: April 21

What to watch:
  • QB competition: We know what kind of offense new coach Todd Graham is going to run; now it's a matter of figuring out who is going to run it. Graham has his choice of three players -- Mike Bercovici, Taylor Kelly or Michael Eubank -- to replace NFL-bound Brock Osweiler. Graham said earlier this month that there are no favorites heading into the competition and each one brings his own skill set to the table. Eubank has the size (6-foot-5, 235 pounds), Bercovici (6-1, 205) is a mechanic and Kelly (6-1, 202) is a little bit of everything.
  • Get the locker room: By the end of the 2011 season, ASU's locker room wasn't just divided, it was completely splintered. Graham's task -- and that of his new coaching staff -- is to pick up the pieces, mend internal fences and find some chemistry on both sides of the ball. Linebacker Brandon Magee, long considered a great locker room leader, should help get the Sun Devils back on track as he returns from a season-ending Achilles injury.
  • Hands competition: The Sun Devils lose three of their top four wide receivers from last season -- Gerell Robinson, Aaron Pflugrad and Mike Willie. Jamal Miles returns after finishing second on the team last season with 60 catches and six touchdowns. Rashad Ross figures to be the No. 2 guy, but establishing depth in that corps -- especially if Graham wants to be up-tempo -- is key.

Spring practice starts: March 10

Spring game: April 14

What to watch:
  • Momentum, maybe? For as rough as 2011 was for the Buffs, they ended the year on a high note, winning two-of-three down the stretch -- including a 17-14 win over Utah in the season finale. But there is also the possibility that things might get worse before they get better. With just four returning starters on offense, spring in Boulder will likely be more about teaching and less about refining.
  • Where to start (offense)? Well, quarterback might be a good place. In the court of public opinion, Connor Wood, a transfer from Texas, seems to be the favorite. Nick Hirschman appeared in five games last season, mostly in mop-up time when the game was already out of hand. It's also possible a starter could be named by the end of spring ball. Finding offensive weapons to surround the new quarterback will also be a challenge. Wide receiver Paul Richardson caught 39 balls last season, and running back Tony Jones showed a flare for catching the ball out of the backfield. He'll likely step in as the new workhorse back for the departed Rodney Stewart.
  • Where to start (defense)? Last in this. Last in that. Last in almost every team statistic the Pac-12 has to offer. But there are some intriguing youngsters on the roster. Cornerback Greg Henderson was all-conference honorable mention as a freshman with a team-high nine passes broken up. Jered Bell also returns from injury after blowing out a knee last preseason. If healthy, he's expected to be a big contributor in the secondary. Linebacker Jon Majorreturns as the team's leading tackler, and if Doug Rippy is fully recovered from his knee injury, he'll look to build on what was a pretty good season last year before getting hurt.

Spring practice starts: April 3

Spring game: May 5

What to watch:
  • QB up for grabs: Like the majority of the conference, UCLA enters spring with a quarterback competition. New offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone said he doesn't care how much experience (or lack thereof) a player has -- if he can play, he wins the job. So don't be surprised if Brett Hundley passes Kevin Prince and Richard Brehautas the new man leading the Bruins. Fans have been clamoring for a change. Hundley might be it.
  • Attitude adjustment: One of the first things new head coach Jim Mora did was slam the team for its tradition of going "over the wall," a time-honored senior ditch day, saying if they want to jump the wall, they should just keep on going. How's that for sending a message? UCLA has earned a reputation for being soft and underachieving despite good talent. Attitude and toughness is needed -- and so far, Mora appears to be hammering that point home.
  • Speaking of toughness ... The defense has to get tougher. No two ways about it. It was weak against the run last season, allowing more than 190 yards per game on the ground; couldn't get to the quarterback; and couldn't get off the field almost 50 percent of the time on third down. It's time for potential all-conference players such as defensive end Datone Jones to start living up to the hype and the defense as a whole to stop getting pushed up and down the field. At 6-5, 275 pounds, Jones has the physical makeup to be a major force in the conference and catapult himself into the elite class of collegiate defensive players.

Spring practice starts: March 6

Spring game: April 14

What to watch:
  • Ignore the hype: Few teams ended last season hotter than USC and returning quarterback Matt Barkley. The Heisman talk has already started, the way-too-early rankings already have the Trojans as national championship contenders, and the public perception is that the offense is unstoppable. Nice to hear, but hype is a double-edged sword. Head coach Lane Kiffin has a knack for deflecting hype. This season will be his toughest test to date.
  • Insurance? The Trojans are loaded on both sides of the ball with returning players. But after the starting 22, things start to get dicey. Developing depth and keeping the starters healthy is a top priority -- particularly on the offensive and defensive lines and at running back, where experience is thin outside of the starters. The entire back seven returns on defense -- headlined by hard-hitting safety T.J. McDonald. Stopping the pass has been a major priority for Kiffin, and if this group stays healthy it should see the pass-efficiency numbers improve even more.
  • Other options: Along those same lines, wide receivers Robert Woods and Marqise Lee make up the most feared receiving duo in the conference -- maybe the country. But who are the Nos. 3 and 4 receivers behind them? George Farmer? Victor Blackwell? De'Von Flournoy? Don't overlook the tight end duo of Xavier Grimble and Randall Telfer, which should rival Stanford's Zach Ertz and Levine Toilolo as the best tight end tandem in the conference.

Spring practice starts: March 20

Spring game: April 21

What to watch:
  • Youthful approach: Head coach Kyle Whittingham turned some heads by naming former Utah quarterback Brian Johnson as his offensive coordinator. Johnson, who recently turned 25, said he's not looking to make wholesale changes to the offense, though he wants to put his stamp on it and continue to build around running back John White IV, who had a breakout season in his first year of major college football. Having quarterback Jordan Wynn back healthy should also help as the team transitions to Johnson running the offense.
  • Fixing the line: Who is going to protect Wynn (if he does indeed win back the starting job) and make holes for White? That's a major concern heading into spring as the Utes have to replace a pair of all-conference linemen in Tony Bergstrom and John Cullen. The Utes should be set at the interior but have to adjust to a new position coach, with Tim Davis leaving for Florida after just one season and Dan Finn -- a former Utah graduate assistant who was brought on to help Davis -- taking over the whole line following a one-year stint at San Diego State.
  • Work the experience: The defensive line should be one of the best in the conference, especially with the return of Star Lotulelei, who won the Morris Trophy last season as the conference's best defensive lineman. With the Kruger brothers returning to the line -- Joe at defensive end and Dave at tackle -- Derrick Shelby is the lone starter who has to be replaced. There's also some pretty good depth in the secondary that was tops in the conference last season in pass-efficiency defense.

Kish is doing things his way for Arizona

October, 26, 2011
Tim Kish's responsibilities at Arizona are: "Interim Head Coach, Defensive Coordinator and Linebackers."

That's a lot of coaching hats. And work. And it's hard not to belabor the pyrrhic reward of "interim." But let's bracket off for a moment the circumstances and the uncertain future for a 57-year-old coaching lifer.

Here Kish is: A head coach for the first time. And he and Stanford's David Shaw give the Pac-12 two undefeated head coaches, something no other conference can boast.

Kish, easygoing and mellow, is almost an exact opposite of the man he replaced, the hyper-intense Mike Stoops. His first goal after taking over, he said, was to make football fun again for the Wildcats, who were mired in a 10-game losing streak against FBS foes when Stoops was fired. The second was accountability. The remainder of the season would only be what Arizona -- players and coaches -- made of it.

[+] EnlargeTim Kish
Chris Morrison/US PresswireIn his debut as head coach at Arizona, Tim Kish's wildcats set a record by scoring 42 points in the first half.
"The pride thing I thought was a given. It really wasn't addressed," he said. "We tried to block out all the noise and the distractions and asked the seniors to take ownership of this team. In the big picture, all we had was each other. That was the message. That's been the mantra going forward."

That mantra worked in Game 1: an impressive and dominant 48-12 whipping of UCLA.

Further, Kish was willing to improvise on the fly.

He gave the offensive coaches complete control of their unit, and they handed over some play-calling responsibility to quarterback Nick Foles. All that did was produce 42 points in the first half, a program record against a conference foe. He handed over the kicking duties -- a position that had been horrible for two years -- to walk-on John Bonano, who didn't miss a kick. And he changed the Wildcats' defensive scheme, adopting the old double-eagle flex the program used during the glory days of the Desert Swarm in the 1990s. UCLA, which entered the game averaging 194.5 yards rushing per game, produced 37 and just 1.5 yards per carry.

Kish said he and assistant Jeff Hammerschmidt, a former Wildcats defensive back and assistant coach during the Desert Swarm era under Dick Tomey, liked the idea of using a defense that was more aggressive and required less thinking.

"It doesn't have all the rules and regulations a lot of standard defenses have," he said. "It gave our guys a little boost."

Of course, a season isn't one game. The Wildcats know that as well as anybody. Further, they head to Washington on Saturday with major personnel issues they didn't have last week: Four players are suspended for their role in a brawl with UCLA just before halftime. All four are from a secondary that already lost two starters to injury. Cornerback Shaquille Richardson and nickelback Jourdon Grandon are suspended for the entire game; cornerback Lyle Brown and strong safety Mark Watley are suspended for the first half.

While Richardson is the only starter, things are still going to be tough against a Huskies passing offense led by quarterback Keith Price and a deep crew of receivers. Price leads the Pac-12 with 22 touchdown passes and ranks sixth in the nation in passing efficiency.

Kish called the suspensions "justified," but they are a major blow to a unit that ranks last in the conference in pass efficiency defense.

"We're not sure how it's all going to fit together on Saturday," he said.

But what if it does fit together? What if Kish leads the Wildcats to a major turnaround after a 1-5 start and, perhaps, a bowl game? Does that put him in position to have the "interim" removed from his title?

Probably not. Kish doesn't have any illusions of where he likely stands in athletic director Greg Byrne's coaching search.

"I knew what my place was when I was hired to take over this position," Kish said. "My patented answer to everybody who asks that question is I am not auditioning for the head coaching job."

If that's the case, then he and the rest of the staff face an uncertain future in December. While a couple of assistants might be retained, if Byrne hires a veteran or "name" head coach, he'll likely have a pretty good idea how he'll fill out his nine-man staff.

In other words: Merry Christmas! You're fired.

And this is undoubtedly a distraction. Kish and his assistants are coaching and recruiting -- work that demands long hours -- but they've also got to prepare their résumés and renew old coaching contacts in anticipation of shortly needing a new job.

"That's always tough. This situation pulls at a lot of heartstrings," Kish said. "That somewhere down the road will need to be addressed. But I've asked them to keep engaged with our players and keep the focus on the game plan."

This isn't Kish's first square dance. He's been a coach 36 years -- 34 in college, two in high school -- and worked at eight different programs before landing at Arizona in 2004 when Stoops hired him as linebackers coach. He's worked for, among others, Jim Young, Gary Barnett and Gerry DiNardo, each of whom had success and failure as head coaches. He's been a good soldier, a players' coach. And he's shown a lot of grace by repeatedly paying tribute to the positive things Stoops accomplished -- which is plenty, by the way -- instead of tweaking him.

But the "grieving" period -- his term -- has ended. Kish has too much to do to spend time looking back.

"It's a scar that lasts, but we needed to put it to rest," he said. "We needed to put that first half of the season to rest as well."

Pac-12 suspends 10 from UCLA-Arizona

October, 22, 2011
More often than not, a bar-room brawl is entertaining to watch -- in a bar room as well as just before halftime in a college football game -- but it almost always has bad repercussions for the participants.

And that's the case for the 10 Arizona and UCLA players who opted to go nuts with 0:04 remaining before halftime Thursday, immediately after a streaker interrupted play.

The Pac-12 announced suspensions for all 10 Friday night, and neither team has the depth to make the personnel hits not matter.

In the immediate aftermath of the fight, UCLA senior receiver Taylor Embree and Arizona sophomore cornerback Shaquille Richardson were penalized by on-field officials for unsportsmanlike conduct and ejected for fighting. The penalty, by NCAA rule, required the individuals to sit out the second half of the game.

In addition to the on-field penalties assessed to Embree and Richardson, and based on further review of available game footage, the Pac-12 extended an additional one-game suspension for both players.

The suspensions will occur during the next scheduled contest. Both teams play on Oct. 29: UCLA plays host to California, and Arizona is at Washington.

The Pac-12 also suspended eight other players who engaged in the on-field incident. Those penalties are as follows:


Sophomore guard Alberto Cid - Half-game suspension

Sophomore wide receiver Randall Carroll - One-game suspension

Sophomore wide receiver Shaq Evans - One-game suspension

Sophomore wide receiver Ricky Marvray - One-game suspension

Sophomore defensive tackle Cassius Marsh - Two-game suspension (consecutive games)


Senior cornerback Lyle Brown - Half-game suspension

Junior strong safety Mark Watley - Half-game suspension

Freshman nickelback Jourdon Grandon - One-game suspension

“The Conference is extremely disappointed in the actions of the student-athletes involved in this incident. It is unacceptable behavior and violated Conference rules, as well as NCAA fighting rules. I have taken these actions today because it is imperative that we hold our student-athletes and coaches to the highest standards of sportsmanship,” Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott

For UCLA, the suspensions will hit an already struggling passing game hard -- three receivers will be out next weekend. Arizona's secondary already has seen multiple starters lost to injury, so losing three defensive backs in advance of a visit to Washington, where it will face quarterback Keith Price and a deep crew of receivers, is especially troublesome.

In other words, these suspension hurt two teams that can't afford to be hurt.

LA Times on the suspension. The Orange County Register. And the Tucson Citizen.

Streaking! Brawling! Arizona wins!

October, 21, 2011
From a sports entertainment perspective, Arizona's 48-12 beatdown of UCLA was awful.

While Wildcats fans certainly enjoyed it -- and deserved it after watching 10 consecutive defeats to FBS foes -- the Bruins' utter lack of resistance was embarrassing for the program and for coach Rick Neuheisel.

And it looked like, by the way, the Bruins got the worst of it in the pre-halftime brawl, which started -- strangely -- just after a streaker dashed onto the field dressed as an official and then was tackled, arrested and will certainly disappear back into the complete anonymity from which he came. Only now with a record. Congrats.

Streakers and brawls break up the droning of a bad football game -- hey, look at that! -- but they also produce ramifications.

Arizona cornerback Shaquille Richardson and UCLA receiver Taylor Embree, son of Colorado coach Jon Embree, were ejected for committing flagrant personal fouls. Both will face suspensions, and the Pac-12 likely will hand out more when it reviews game film.

From the Arizona Daily Star:

According to the NCAA rule book, if video review "of a game by a conference reveals plays involving flagrant personal fouls that game officials did not call, the conference may impose sanctions prior to the next scheduled game."
Translation: If video review finds players who threw punches or players that left the bench, those players might not be in uniform next week. Also, according to the rule book, players ejected because of a flagrant personal foul "shall automatically initiate a video review for possible additional sanctions before the next scheduled game."

Richardson, you might recall, originally signed with UCLA but left the program after he and fellow incoming freshmen, receiver Paul Richardson and linebacker Josh Shirley were arrested for suspicion of felony theft after allegedly stealing a student's bag on campus. Paul Richardson transferred to Colorado, Shirley to Washington. UCLA could use all three, by the way.

More on the brawl here.

Lunch links: Cougs center out for SD State

September, 16, 2011
Happy Friday.

Starting CB goes down for Arizona

August, 26, 2011
The desert hasn't been good to defensive backs of late.

Arizona lost starting cornerback Jonathan McKnight for the season after it was announced he tore his ACL during Wednesday's practice. The true sophomore, brother to former USC tailback Joe McKnight, has a redshirt year available.

That's not a total disaster because McKnight was one of three good cornerbacks, but his injury makes Shaquille Richardson and Trevin Wade the starters with little margin for error, and bumps true freshman Cortez Johnson up the depth chart. Redshirt freshman Jourdon Grandon becomes the nickelback.

McKnight is the third member of the Wildcats' defense to suffer a knee injury this offseason: Safety Adam Hall and linebacker Jake Fischer were hurt in the spring. Hall and Fischer could return to action in October.

Up I-10 in Tempe, Arizona State also has struggled with injuries, most notably cornerback Omar Bolden and linebacker Brandon Magee.

Opening the mailbag: USC got what it deserved

May, 31, 2011
Vacation created a backlog in the mailbag, so I'm going to hit it twice this week.

Follow me on Twitter.

To the notes.

Frank from Dallas writes: U$C is the biggest cheating school in college football and everyone knows that besides you. Your article was ignorant. U$C got what it deserved. It knew Bush was getting money. He was driving around in a souped up car. U$C is a repeat violator, which you should know is why they got such hard penalties. This was one of the worst cases in NCAA history. You're an idiot.

Ted Miller: May I whine for a moment? I am weary of this subject. This might be the last time I reply to a note about USC, Reggie Bush and the NCAA.

Part of my exhaustion is this: USC critics who celebrate the NCAA's harsh penalties almost uniformly don't know what they are talking about. They don't know the facts of the case. They don't know what is and isn't relevant to the case. They haven't read the relevant documents.

Let's just take one of Frank's assertions: Bush was driving around in a "souped up car."

Wrong. Bush was driving around in a 1996 Impala. The car didn't get dudded up until after Bush declared that he would enter the 2006 NFL draft a year early. Here's the often, er, mis-remembered photo. Note the date. Of course, you can't blame Frank and others. The NCAA infractions committee struggled to keep its facts straight, too.

Look, I know many of you hate USC. I know there are USC-hating blogs out there that have blistered me over my belief the NCAA treated USC unfairly, even though that is a widely held perception among sports writers who actually know the details of the Bush case. I don't mind getting blistered. Just get the details right.

My position on USC and the Reggie Bush case has not changed and is entirely based on my perception of fairness, not some sort of pro-USC bias: USC deserved significant sanctions for major violations, and those penalties should have fallen under the penalties Alabama received in 2002.

There is no conceivable way -- and I'd be glad debate anyone at the NCAA over the matter -- to insist that the widespread, booster pay-for-play scheme uncovered at Alabama shouldn't be considered a worse case than USC-Bush. Just read the USA Today article on the Alabama case.

This is when someone throws out "repeat violator" as a rationale for USC getting worse sanctions. Er, so was Alabama.

(Alabama fans: I am not picking on you. It's just the most relevant, recent case to compare to USC).

Some have suggested that the NCAA wanted to make an example out of USC by handing out game-changing penalties that might act as a deterrent for others. Sorry, I didn't get the memo on that one. If that is, indeed, the case -- that the NCAA took unprecedented measures against one program without formally announcing a policy change -- well, that my friends would be the definition of unfair.

And, by the way, more than a few schools should be worried if that's the case.

As for USC being a big "cheating" school, well, let's just put it this way: List the major football violations the NCAA's four-year investigation uncovered other than Bush getting extra benefits.

Yes, you hear crickets.

"One of the worst cases in NCAA history"? Well, you compare.

I believe USC was treated unfairly by the NCAA. I have yet to read a reasoned account -- from the media or from the NCAA -- that makes a convincing argument otherwise.

Spencer from San Francisco writes: I'm hearing a lot of concern about Cal's chemistry on the offensive line. Shouldn't the return Jim Michalzckzyckyikxzixkxik ease some of these doubts?

Ted Miller: You, of course, mean Jim Michalczik, who shortened his name when he moved from the old country of Port Angeles, Wash.

Cal's offensive line has been disappointing since Michalczik left for Washington (briefly) and then the Oakland Raiders. The first place to point, logically, would be talent. The second, Michalczik's absence. I've consistently heard from people that he's one of the best offensive line coaches out there.

So, yes, I think it's fair for you to ease some doubts about the Bears O-line due to his return.

Andrew from Seattle writes: With the resignation of Jim Tressel, do you think that Mike Bellotti would consider taking a job at Ohio State? Would they be a good fit?

Ted Miller: Bellotti was a serious candidate for the Ohio State job in 2001, when Tressel was hired. Ohio State certainly could do worse than Bellotti. It could make for an interesting Rose Bowl if the Ducks and Buckeyes met again.

But Bellotti turns 61 in December, and keep in mind this is a pending hire for the 2012 season. Ohio State probably wouldn't want a coach at that age who'd have to learn the Big Ten and Big Ten recruiting on the fly. And I doubt Bellotti would want a job that came with significant NCAA sanctions.

So, no, it doesn't seem like a good fit.

If Bellotti is going to coach again -- he's done an outstanding job as an ESPN color guy since leaving Oregon -- it almost certainly would be at West Coast school. Don't be surprised if his name comes up as some Pac-12 hot seats get hotter during the fall.

Joey from Chicago writes: What does Arizona's depth chart look like on offense and defense with all the injuries? Can you name the starters if the season started today?

Ted Miller: Arizona has lost two starters and two backups to ACL injuries since the end of last season: safety Adam Hall and linebacker Jake Fischer are the starters, and running back Greg Nwoko and defensive tackle Willie Mobley are the backups.

That's certainly not good, but it doesn't exactly send Arizona into disarray. Hall and Fischer are big losses. Hall is a budding star, and Fischer's loss is worrisome because the Wildcats are thin at linebacker. The depth in the secondary is pretty good: Robert Golden moves from cornerback to safety beside Marquis Flowers, which doesn't hurt badly because Trevin Wade, Jonathan McKnight and Shaquille Richardson are three quality corners.

Linebacker is a bit more tricky. Two backups from 2010, R.J. Young and Trevor Erno, quit the team before spring practices. Redshirt freshman Kyle Benson is listed as Fischer's backup on the spring depth chart, while walk-on Bilal Muhammed is listed as the backup at the other two spots. It's almost certain that at least one of the touted incoming freshmen -- Rob Hankins, Hank Hobson and Dominique Petties -- will be immediately in the mix.

Vince from Scottsdale writes: Ted, You forgot to mention that ASU is @22 in Phil Steele's top 30 rankings..... that scorches the butthole Ted.

Ted Miller: Or, just maybe, when I included the link, Phil Steele had only reached No. 17 on his count-up.

You'll note Steele has Stanford at No. 16.

Cody from Okinawa, Japan writes: Just wanted to point out what some Beaver football players and other athletes are up to. Going to Macedonia to build a house for others.

Ted Miller: Good show. Here's the link to a short video on "Beavers Without Borders."

Spring wrap: Arizona

May, 9, 2011

2010 overall record: 7-6

2010 conference record: 4-5

Returning starters

Offense: 5, Defense: 5, punter/kicker: kicker

Top returners

QB Nick Foles, WR Juron Criner, LB Paul Vassallo, DT Justin Washington, CB Trevin Wade

Key losses

C Colin Baxter, DE Brooks Reed, DE Ricky Elmore

2010 statistical leaders (*returning starter)

Rushing: Keola Antolin* (668)

Passing: Nick Foles* (3,191)

Receiving: Juron Criner* (1,233)

Tackles: Paul Vassallo* (102)

Sacks: Ricky Elmore (11)

Interceptions: Joseph Perkins, Adam Hall*, Shaquille Richardson* (2)

Spring answers

1. Set at QB: With starter Nick Foles and backups Matt Scott and Bryson Beirne, no team in the conference will be as comfortable at quarterback. Foles is a three-year starter and All-American candidate who likely will be a high NFL draft pick. The hope is to redshirt Scott so he can return in 2012 and compete for the starting job with Rutgers transfer Tom Savage, but if Scott is needed he can seamlessly step in. Toss in the veteran Beirne, and you have a troika that combined for 31 completions, 380 yards and four scores in a 60-play scrimmage.

2. Deep at receiver: This is without question the deepest corps of receivers in the Pac-12 and one of the best in the nation, starting with All-American candidate Juron Criner. Texas transfer Dan Buckner provides another big target, and David Douglas, David Roberts, Richard Morrison, Terrence Miller, Austin Hill, Tyler Slavin and Garic Wharton provide plenty of options for Foles. Yes, the Wildcats should be able to pass this fall.

3. Secondary not really an issue: Free safety Adam Hall is a budding star, so you can't write off his knee injury this spring, but the Wildcats are fairly stacked in the secondary. Robert Golden can move back to strong safety from cornerback, while Trevin Wade, Jonathan McKnight and Shaquille Richardson give the defense three strong options at cornerback. Marquis Flowers is a rising star at safety. Of course, it would be nice to get Hall back at some point this season.

Fall questions

1. Young on the offensive line: There was optimism about the five new offensive line starters this spring, but, heck, it's five new offensive line starters. That's not an easy thing in the Pac-12. It typically takes a young line time to develop chemistry, so it will be interesting to see how the process goes for the Cats. Redshirt freshman tackles Mickey Baucus and Fabbians Ebbele looked solid, as did junior Trace Biskin and sophomore Chris Putton at the guards. Junior center Kyle Quinn is the only guy with a start to his credit (one, in the Alamo Bowl).

2. Help wanted at linebacker: The Wildcats welcomed back all three starting linebackers from 2010 until Jake Fisher went down late in the spring game with a knee injury. That brought up an issue: Sure, the starters were back but there was little to no depth behind them, particularly after two backups who were expected to return in 2011 quit the team. That means incoming freshmen will be thrown immediately into the mix: Rob Hankins, Hank Hobson and Domonique Petties.

3. Edge rush? The Wildcats are replacing three defensive ends who were selected in the NFL draft, including Brooks Reed and Ricky Elmore, multi-year starters who combined for 17.5 sacks last fall. Converted linebacker C.J. Parish was a breakout player this spring, and Mohammed Usman is solid. Still, just how good will the edge pressure be with this much inexperience?

Arizona spring notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[+] EnlargeNick Foles
Rick Osentoski/US PresswireArizona enters the upcoming season with lofty expectations, thanks in part to returning quarterback Nick Foles.
But if taking a step forward toward 2011 is the carrot, a lingering backwards glance to 2010 is the stick. The Wildcats should be plenty motivated.

"The kids know we are close, but we need to do some things better to take that next step," coach Mike Stoops said. "We've gotten to this point. We need to go further."

On the one hand, the losing streak happened against a brutal schedule: Stanford, USC, Oregon, Arizona State and Oklahoma State combined for a 49-15 record. But the Wildcats aspire to being a team that wins those sorts of games.

"We just need to be stronger in some ways, stronger against stronger teams," Stoops said.

The Wildcats have intriguing talent coming back -- with quarterback Nick Foles and perhaps the Pac-12's best group of receivers leading the way -- but they also have two glaring holes: offensive line and defensive end. All the 2010 starters at those positions are gone.

Here are some notes:

Out of spring: Just two starters will not participate in full-contact work: defensive tackle Justin Washington and cornerback Shaquille Richardson. Both had shoulder surgery. Receiver Bug Wright was given the boot for repeated team rules violations.

Offensive line questions? All five starters are gone on the offensive line. Sophomore Mickey Baucus and redshirt freshman Fabbians Ebbelle are the front-runners at the tackles. Kyle Quinn, who started the Alamo Bowl for Colin Baxter, is the leader at center, though mid-year transfer Addison Bachman could make a challenge. Sophomores Chris Putton, Trace Biskin and Eric Bender-Ramsay are in the mix at the guards. Redshirt freshmen Trent Spurgeon and Carter Lees and junior Shane Zink also are in the mix. With a new offensive line coach -- Robert Anae -- there could be plenty of mixing and matching.

End of the line? Senior Muhammed Usman and redshirt freshman Dan Pettinato will be with the first unit to start spring, but defensive end might be an even bigger question than offensive line. The Wildcats are deep at tackle -- Washington, Sione Tuihalamaka, Willie Mobley, Chris Merrill, Dominique Austin, Jowyn Ward, Aiulua Fanene, etc. -- so it's possible things might be fluid on the defensive line. One of the more athletic tackles might move outside to become a big, strongside end. And junior college transfer Lamar de Rego arrives in the fall.

Good to receive: The Wildcats welcome back potential preseason All-American receiver Juron Criner, but the big news is the overflow of enthusiasm for Texas transfer Dan Buckner, who will give the Wildcats a second speedy, 6-foot-4 target on the outside. Said Stoops, "I think he gives us the two best outside receivers maybe in the country. Having [Buckner] and Criner on opposite sides is going to create problems for people." When you toss in Dave Roberts, David Douglas and Richard Morrison on the inside, you have a deep crew that Stoops called "the best receiving group we've ever had, without question." Oh, and don't forget: Terrence Miller, Garic Wharton, Austin Hill and Tyler Slavin. Lots of competition for touches here.

Backed by seven: The Wildcats welcome back all three starting linebackers and a talented secondary. Sophomore Marquis Flowers and junior Adam Hall figure to offer an upgrade in the secondary -- both saw plenty of action in 2010. Robert Golden, Trevin Wade, Shaquille Richardson and Jonathan McKnight provide talent and experience at cornerback. And Stoops thinks Wade, who suffered through a notable slump last fall, is going to bounce back: "Trevin has had a much better out-of-season already. I think he learned a great deal from some of his mistakes a year ago as well as his preparation. I look for him to come back strong." He added, "This is the most athletic back-seven we've had. Best group of corners we've had."

Not special: The Wildcats didn't get much from their kicker Alex Zendejas and punter Keenyn Crier last season. Zendejas is back, but he needs to step up. Said Stoops: "Zendejas needs to become a much better player... we need more out of him." Junior college transfer Jaimie Salazar arrives in the fall. Junior college transfer punter Kyle Dugandzic was signed to start, so he needs to come through.

Redshirt or backup for Scott: Stoops wants to redshirt backup quarterback Matt Scott, which means he could return for a redshirt senior season in 2012. But that might not be doable. Said Stoops, "In a perfect world, we'd love to redshirt him. But we've got to keep him ready to play if things slide or something happens to Nick." Junior Bryson Beirne would make things easier on his coaches with an inspired effort this spring.

This is Foles' team: Foles has been a good quarterback for two years. If he becomes an All-Conference or even All-American quarterback as a senior, the Wildcats could climb to the top of the Pac-12 South Division. Stoops expects a lot out of Foles. "Nick has to have total control of this team and this offense," he said. "He's a premier starter who will become, hopefully, a first-round NFL draft pick. He needs to assert himself in every way possible as a leader."

Q&A: Arizona D-coordinator Tim Kish

December, 23, 2010
Arizona started 7-1 and its defense ranked among the nation's best. Then the Wildcats lost their final four games, and the defense struggled mightily, particularly against the run.

The Wildcats, nonetheless, ended up in the Valero Alamo Bowl, where they will take on No. 14 Oklahoma State, which only ranks No. 1 in the nation in total offense, with 537.6 yards per game.

The Cowboys will be the third top-10 offense the Wildcats have faced this year.

Moreover, Arizona just lost a pair of defensive coaches to Colorado: co-coordinator Greg Brown and defensive line coach Mike Tuiasosopo. Joe Salave'a is already on board taking over the defensive line, but the secondary will be mostly supervised by head coach Mike Stoops heading into the bowl game.

Further, Stoops has announced that Tim Kish, who shared the coordinator duties with Brown this year, will be the solo defensive coordinator in 2011.

So it seemed like a good time to check in with Kish as he gets ready for the Cowboys potent attack and prepares for the future in Tucson.

So co-coordinator Greg Brown is gone: How does that change your job heading into the Alamo Bowl?

Tim Kish: It just requires me to do a little bit more prep work than I would do normally. But everybody is pitching in. Coach Stoops is pitching in, Ryan Walters, our graduate assistant who helped Greg with the back end is doing an awesome job right now. We are just all rallying around each other and making sure we dot our 'Is' and cross our 'Ts' in our game preparation.

There won't be any "co" with the defense next year. Coach Stoops has said you'll be the coordinator alone. How do you feel about running the defense next year?

TK: It really isn't going to change a whole lot from what we've done here in the past. We'll continue to use our base package, which we've had our previous six years with Mike's brother Mark. The thing we did this year is experiment a little bit with more man coverage and some man-pressures and things we hadn't done previously. We're going to continue to grow but we aren't going to ask our guys to do things that they are not capable of. The key to any good defense is adapting to your personnel. As that progresses, we'll progress.

Were there any challenges specific to being a co-coordinator that you won't face now?

TK: To be honest, I couldn't have had a better co-coordinator to work with. There were no egos. Greg and I kind of plotted out how we were going to handle game preparation each week. Obviously, we overlapped each other in a lot of things we did, so it was an ideal situation for both of us, I felt. It's just unfortunate it only lasted one year. Now you've got to go back and kind of reorganize your thought process. But it's not going to change dramatically. It just puts a little more onus on me being more involved in the full picture, especially in the passing game. I look forward to that challenge.

Let's talk about this season: What's your overall feeling on how the defense played?

TK: I felt like we started strong out of the gate. We were playing with some good momentum. We had some teams there at the latter part of the season that we probably didn't match up as well with as we did earlier in the season. There's no excuses, though. We just didn't play as well. We didn't have that energy and enthusiasm that I thought we played with in the first two-thirds of the season. Part of that was the types of offenses we were facing. But there are no excuses on this end. We knew what we were getting ourselves into. We didn't respond the way I expected us to respond at the end of the season.

What went wrong with the run defense late in the season?

TK: I don't know if I can point the finger at any one thing. For whatever reason, we weren't playing as physically as we were early in the season. Everybody wears down; everybody gets bumps and bruises. Those are no excuses for anything that went wrong with the run defense. We just weren't getting downhill as well at the second level, fitting our gaps. We weren't holding onto the double-teams and the scoop blocks as well as we did early in the season. It was a combination of a lot of things. We didn't tackle very well. We missed a lot of tackles at the end of the season. There were a lot of things we have to take a good, hard look at in the offseason and see what we need to do to shore up. We know we want to get bigger and more physical up front. We're not a huge team up front, and yet we have got to be in position where we can control those gaps with our front-seven. It's just something we are going to have to take a good hard look at and evaluate and critique and see what we can do to help that situation next year.

Who exceeded your expectations this season?

TK: I expected the ends [Brooks Reed & Ricky Elmore] to play well and they did. D'Aundre Reed was the biggest surprise of the three [ends] up front. At the end of the season, we were actually starting him as one of the top two guys [ahead of Elmore]. All three of those guys were as advertised. We knew what we were getting out of them over the course of the year. I think [DT] Justin Washington had his moments in there as a freshman D-lineman in there. He played well at times but he wore down a little bit there and got nicked up at the end of the season and didn't play as well. Mana Mikaele up front at nose guard had a pretty consistent year. I was pleased with his effort all year long. Obviously, with the three linebackers, the unknown was across the board. But I think Paul Vassallo exceeded my expectations, all of our expectations, because he was as much a defensive end as he was a linebacker in junior college. He was the most consistent at linebacker. Jake Fischer adds a good dose of athletic ability and flexibility in there. Derek Earls was fairly steady as well. From that standpoint, I was fairly pleased with that group. In the back end, to be honest it was the young guys who garnered the attention. [CB] Shaquille Richardson had some really good moments in there, but he's still learning. Jonathan McKnight is going to be a hell of a corner. He's just coming into his own. And so is [SS] Marquis Flowers. The future bodes pretty well for that back end right now.

Tell me about Oklahoma State's offense.

TK: The All-American wide receiver doesn't drop a ball [Justin Blackmon]. He catches anything within 10 feet of him. He's just smooth. He looks so natural out there running routes. He has a great knack for finding grass and sitting down in the zone and beating man coverage. And the quarterback [Brandon Weeden] has played consistently all year long for them. They are real solid up front -- three juniors, a sophomore and a redshirt freshman starting for them up front. They know how to zone block. They know how to pass protect. It's hard to get to [the QB] because they are not doing a lot of five-step drop. They're getting the ball quickly out of the quarterback's hands. Those two other receivers complement Blackmon because they're steady. I don't know if people call them possession receivers but I know they run good routes and catch the ball as well. Then once you look at all that, they've got a bevy of running backs -- they can throw any one of three at you -- and they can pound the ball on you. We're expecting them to try to run the ball early and then play-action pass us like they do everybody else. We can't give up a lot of after-contact yardage, whether it's in the passing game or run game. So we've concentrated on trying to shore up our tackling.

You guys lost your final four games. What do you think the guys mindset is after the disappointing finish?

TK: We've put that behind us. No question about it, we laid an egg last year at the Holiday Bowl last year. These kids have a lot of pride. You can say, 'What if, what if, what if,' but that's not what we do. We have to learn from our mistakes. We certainly didn't finish the season the way we wanted to. Could we have won a couple of those games? Absolutely. But that didn't happen. Our mindset is totally on Oklahoma State and getting prepared as well as we can for this bowl game, playing hard for 60 minutes.

Pac-10 Players of the Week

October, 18, 2010
USC quarterback Matt Barkley, Arizona cornerback Shaquille Richardson and USC place kicker Joe Houston have been named Pac-10 Players of the Week.

Barkley, a sophomore from Newport Beach, Calif., completed 25 of 37 passes for 352 yards and a school-record-tying five touchdowns and no interceptions in a 48-14 win against California. He threw all five scoring strikes in the first half, leading USC to a 42-0 lead at the break. He helped USC’s offense to roll up 602 total yards against a Cal defense that led the Pac-10 in total (254.8) and pass (148.8) defense. Barkley also threw five TD passes at Hawaii. He currently is eighth nationally in passing efficiency (167.3). His 20 touchdown passes are second most in the nation.

Richardson, a freshman from Carson, Calif., started in place of injured junior cornerback Trevin Wade, a second team All-Pac-10 performer, and he grabbed two interceptions, broke up three other passes and registered seven total tackles – all solo – in the 24-7 win at Washington State. Richardson, picked off his second pass of the game in the endzone, ensuring a single-digit point total for the opponent. Arizona held an opponent to single digits for the fourth time this season. The overall effort improved UA’s defensive marks in several statistical categories. The Wildcats lead the Pac-10 in total defense (284.3 ypg, No. 10 nationally), scoring defense (13.3 ppg, No. 7 nationally) and rushing defense (89.7 ypg, No. 8 nationally).

Houston, a senior from Redondo Beach, Calif., hit a pair of 27-yard field goals, all six of his PATs and had a 26-yard pooch punt down to the California 8-yard line. A former walk-on now on scholarship, Houston is 28-of-28 on PATs in 2010 in his first year as USC’s kicker and now is 4-of-8 on field goals.

Also nominated for offensive player of the week honors were running backs Keola Antolin of Arizona and Jacquizz Rodgers of Oregon State, and quarterback Jake Locker of Washington. Also nominated on defense were linebackers Chris Galippo of USC and Mason Foster of Washington, and safety Deone Bucannon of Washington State.