Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Updated: February 29, 4:37 PM ET
Trojans loaded but searching for QB replacement
By Tim Griffin
The same familiar powers will be found at the top of the Pac-10 coming into the spring, even with some substantial personnel losses.
USC has its typical collection of highly recruited athletes, but must settle on a quarterback, either Mitch Mustain and Mark Sanchez, to replace John David Booty. Oregon will be scrambling to replace top offensive threats Dennis Dixon and Jonathan Stewart. California's starting quarterback job is open after last season's late collapse. And UCLA added the conference's biggest offseason hires when former Bruins QB Rick Neuheisel returned to Westwood, bringing Norm Chow as his offensive coordinator.
What we know: The Trojans will have the deepest collection of talented, athletic running backs in the country this spring. Coach Pete Carroll's RB stable could stock three or four college teams.
What we don't know: How many holes will be there for the running backs? The Trojans are retooling after losing four starters on the offensive line from last season.
How the Trojans can win the Pac-10: By taking advantage of a favorable schedule that will have them playing most of their tough games, including a huge nonconference showdown with Ohio State, at home.
What we know: Coach Dennis Erickson turned around the Sun Devils' program faster than expected last season and should have better talent in 2008.
Pac-10 Spring Primer
Take a quick look at the position battles, coaching changes and other key factors to pay attention to during spring practices around the Pac-10 Conference. Tim Griffin
What we don't know: Whether the Sun Devils will have a better record as the schedule toughens considerably in 2008.
How the Sun Devils can win the Pac-10: By protecting QB Rudy Carpenter better and hoping for an immediate talent upgrade in the secondary from a heralded juco class.
What we know: The injury to QB Dennis Dixon late last season forced Cody Kempt into action and has the Ducks better prepared to solve their QB question in 2008.
What we don't know: If the Ducks' secondary can improve enough to enable them to compete with USC and Arizona State.
How the Ducks can win the Pac-10: By winning on the road. In order to win the title, Oregon will need to play well away from home against USC, ASU and Cal.
What we know: Sean Canfield's injury could provide Lyle Moevao with a good chance to emerge as the starting quarterback after the spring.
What we don't know: If the Beavers can find a running back to replace Yvenson Bernard with the players on the roster.
How the Beavers can win the Pac-10: If the run defense can be retooled, a quarterback emerges and WR Sammie Stroughter receives an extra season of eligibility and returns healthy and productive.
What we know: The arrival of offensive coordinator Norm Chow might rank as the most important recruiting coup of Rick Neuheisel's first few months.
What we don't know: If the defense can play to the same high level as last year after losing three starters in the secondary and pass-rushing terror Bruce Davis.
How the Bruins can win the Pac-10: If Neuheisel and Chow can boost the offensive production and the defense continues responding to coordinator DeWayne Walker.
What we know: The battle between Nate Longshore and Armed Forces Bowl MVP Kevin Riley at quarterback will be one of the most highly scrutinized in the nation. Don't expect it to be settled until fall practice.
What we don't know: If the Cal offense can find quality replacements for the losses at both receiver and running back.
How the Golden Bears can win the Pac-10: By returning to the form they showed in the first half of the 2007 season.
What we know: Mike Stoops' comments about Arizona State's recruiting have made the rivalry between the schools even bitterer than before.
What we don't know: If the Wildcats have enough defensive talent to compete in the Pac-10. The offense should be fine, but losing players like Antoine Cason and Dominic Patrick will test the defense.
How the Wildcats can win the Pac-10: If the defense makes a major step and QB Willie Tuitama continues improving. But the pressure is on Stoops as the Wildcats seek their first bowl berth since 1998.
What we know: Jake Locker is one of the most exciting players in college football. But the QB must improve last season's atrocious 47 percent completion percentage.
What we don't know: Whether new coordinator Ed Donatell will settle on a 4-3 or 3-4 defense system while rebuilding 2007's beleaguered unit.
How the Huskies can win the Pac-10: Tyrone Willingham has upgraded the Huskies' talent, but a conference title might be a tad optimistic.
What we know:After beating Cal and USC last season, coach Jim Harbaugh's team might have had the most satisfying 4-8 record in the country in 2007.
What we don't know: How the Cardinal can be much better without really upgrading their pass protection. Building better continuity will be a major spring aim after yielding 48 sacks in 2007.
How the Cardinal can win the Pac-10: Another couple of years of solid recruiting are a must to get the program to that level.
What we know: New coach Paul Wulff was thankful when WR Brandon Gibson decided to return for his senior season. Gibson, who led the Pac-10 with 1,180 receiving yards, will be the Cougars' biggest offensive weapon.
What we don't know: Whom Wulff will settle on as his starting quarterback. The matchup between Gary Rogers and redshirt freshman Marshall Lobbestael appears the most even in the conference.
How the Cougars can win the Pac-10: Washington State's not going to challenge in 2007, but the Cougars must have patience with Wulff.
Tim Griffin is a college football writer for ESPN.com. Send your questions and comments to Tim at firstname.lastname@example.org.