May 6, 2013 at 5:48 PM
Snippets from a spring-wrapup conference call with Pac-12 coaches . . .
The Pac-12 today had a teleconference with its coaches, who summarized their spring-football sessions. Some highlights:
UA coach Rich Rodriguez has hopes for Jesse Scroggins, the quarterback who transferred from USC by way of junior college, despite the fact Scroggins missed most of spring ball after foot surgery.
“Jesse came in with a really good attitude,” said Rodriguez. “He knew it was kind of his last chance, he’d bounced around a little bit. He’s matured, and he understands this was an opportunity for him to prove himself all over again. I’ve been really pleased at how he’s jumped in and tried to learn the system. He’s been a good teammate. When August gets here, he’s going to be right in the mix.”
Todd Graham says his team had a heavy dose of big-boy football in the spring: “We spent a lot of time with two-back power. We spent a lot of time on the power running game, and I think we improved. You obviously want it to be give-and-take (both sides making progress), but we had a really strong spring on both sides of the football.”
ASU lost early entrant Chans Cox, a 6-3, 225-pound, four-star, in-state linebacker recruit with an ankle injury on the first day of practice, but Graham said, “He can flat-out run, he’s big and physical, smart and a great character guy. He’ll be coming into the two-deep to compete, and I think he’s a guy who will play for us and help us win a championship.”
First-year coach Sonny Dykes wasn’t glossing over the uncertainty of not yet having a starter at quarterback among Zach Kline, Jared Goff and Austin Hinder.
“I kind of believe in the old adage: If you have two quarterbacks, you don’t have any,” Dykes said. “So if you have three, that really means you don’t have any. I think whoever the starter is, he’s going to go through some growing pains.”
The Bears were done with spring ball a week before April, giving players a five-week program in the weight room and coaches time to map out recruiting strategies for the spring evaluation period.
First-year coach Mike MacIntyre, fresh from San Jose State, gave a broad-brush look at his available talent from a 1-11 team of 2012, saying, “I think we definitely have some players that can make plays. I feel good about our team. It’s all relative until you get out there in a Pac-12 football game and see exactly where you stack up.”
Regarding Bellarmine High QB prospect Sefo Liufau, who will get a shot in August, MacIntyre said, “He’s big, athletic, can run it, throw it and he’s smart. I’m excited about seeing what he can do.”
First-year coach Mark Helfrich said he got the same bit of advice from his predecessors at Oregon: “Be yourself. This is a place where succession and continuity has worked for a long time. Almost every person that touches our guys’ lives has been here for more than a decade.”
As for the NCAA clouds hanging over the Ducks, Helfrich said, “Our general feeling has been to go about our business and not comment on the ongoing deal. Our guys have done a great job focusing on what they can control, and that’s not one of those things.”
Asked about the NCAA board of directors’ decision last week to suspend some de-regulation of rules — which would have allowed unlimited text messaging in recruiting and removed restrictions on printed material to prospects, Mike Riley said he was strongly against the stalled rules, saying that otherwise, “People (staffers) would be assigned to text-messaging every day. If phone calls were unlimited, kids would be bombarded.”
Imagine a recruit getting 100 scholarship offers, he said: “Multiple that by text messages, phone calls, visits to schools, it would become where you would need another staff to do that.”
As for the oft-asked questions surrounding his two quarterbacks, Cody Vaz and Sean Mannion, Riley said, “We’re pleased with both of them. Both had very good springs. There were no negative surprises.”
LB Shayne Skov showed the explosion he had before his knee injury of 2011, says David Shaw, and the coach expects him to be 100 percent in the fall and “hopefully, better than ever.”
Luke Kaumatule, a tight end who will follow NFL draftees Zach Ertz and Levine Toilolo, “has a chance to be a special, special football player. He’s one of the few people I’ve ever been around that’s never had a bad day. He’s just a positive influence on everybody around him.”
Regarding the NCAA recruiting-rules de-regulation, Shaw said, “Most coaches I talk to are against de-regulation. It’s about 20-1. Instead of making it legal (unlimited texts, etc.), let’s catch the guys doing it wrong.”
Jim Mora pinpointed three areas of primary focus as the Bruins look to the fall: The offensive line, which he called in “a real state of flux” right now other than left guard and center; running back, where UCLA must replace career leading rusher Johnathan Franklin; and the secondary, where “We need to have guys step up early and say, ‘OK, I can play this position, and we can win with me at this position.’ ”
Quarterbacks Max Wittek, Cody Kessler and Skyline High product Max Browne impressed Lane Kiffin. “It sounds like coach talk, but I think all three had great springs,” Kiffin said. In terms of a timetable for naming a starter in the fall, he added, “Whenever it shows itself. Obviously, the earlier, the better.”
Kiffin said he could sense Philadelphia was serious about drafting quarterback Matt Barkley. “The assumption probably was, he wasn’t what Chip (Kelly) was looking for,” Kiffin said. “But Chip talked about Matt early on, and he sent his quarterback coach out here, separate from pro day, to work him out privately. He (the assistant) came up here and spent time with me. Chip was very serious about it all along.”
Kyle Whittingham lost some key parts of a standout defensive line, including NT Star Lotulelei, but he isn’t backing down from the expectation that the group will be good again, led by Tenny Palepoi. “We’ve had a tradition here of being good up front on both sides of the ball,” Whittingham said. “Each year, instead of rebuilding, we’ve just reloaded. I expect it to be the same. We fully expect to be one of the best defensive lines in the conference this year.”
Steve Sarkisian was highly complimentary of tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins’ response to a winter DUI charge, saying, “To Austin’s credit, he’s done everything we could have asked, and beyond. He’s done a nice job in school, in the community, he’s doing all the counseling we’ve asked him to do. To his credit, he’s stayed ahead of this thing. It’s not just the legal matter, it’s the University of Washington and our football program.
“As I’ve said numerous times about Austin, so many times when you deal with 18-22-year-old males, we’re going to make some mistakes. One of the keys for me was, was (the incident) truly indicative of a young man’s character, or was it truly a mistake? It was a mistake. He’s a good individual.”
Mike Leach says that if the Cougars were playing today, they would start four walk-ons on the offensive line, either current or former, in Gunnar Eklund, Joe Dahl, Elliott Bosch and Zach Brevick.
Asked if that’s good or bad, Leach said, “You try to avoid it. That’s just the reality.”
Leach said defensive lineman Xavier Cooper “is getting better and better every time I see him.”
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