You are currently viewing all posts written by Bud Withers.
May 21, 2013 at 10:29 AM
My post-spring take on the Pac-12 North, keeping in mind the picture could be different in three months, with developments in fall camp, injuries and the like:
1. Stanford. David Shaw, the Cardinal coach, has almost unfailingly made the right moves in two years in his first head position, winning Pac-12 coach-of-the-year honors twice. Now we’ll see whether he has the goods to take Stanford to another division title, something he’ll have to do in a different way. The Cardinal tight ends who were so basic to the offense the past couple of years have all gone to the pros, and though Stanford loves the heir to that tradition, Luke Kaumatule, now the focus shifts more to the wide receivers. Meanwhile, the Stanford career rushing leader, Stepfan Taylor, has graduated, leaving the job to lesser backs. But as I see it, there are at least four good arguments for projecting Stanford as a division winner: One, the offensive line should again be nasty, perhaps even better than a year ago, as young talent like Andrus Peat, Kyle Murphy and Josh Garnett matures. Two, much the same could be said about the defense, because even as it loses first-team all-league linebacker Chase Thomas, it gains a healthy Shayne Skov, an All-American-caliber player who was coming off a knee injury last year. Third, Stanford gets both Washington and Oregon at home in 2013, and those are the two obvious threats to a title. Finally, but not least, after a BCS-bowl season in which Stanford went much of the way with an average quarterback, now it has gifted Kevin Hogan running things. Combine it all, and Stanford merits the favorite’s role.
2. Washington. I debated going whole hog and picking the Huskies to take the North, and I think a case can be made. Ultimately, I tilted toward Stanford on the basis of more experience in high-level games, and the fact the Cardinal has the host role in their game, along with a revenge motive. So why jump on the bandwagon of a team that is 7-6 the past three years and slot them this high? To me, it looks like the fruition of Steve Sarkisian’s rebuilding effort, and the fact Washington gets back a lot of key players who were injured in 2012. Several of those are offensive linemen, who should help quarterback Keith Price be a closer approximation of the player he was in 2011, not ’12. Huskies have a quality back in Bishop Sankey, a couple of rushers who return from knee injuries, and a capable group of receivers, including hard-to-guard tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins. The biggest questionmark might be the interior defense, as the Huskies’ 4.4 yards per carry yielded was a worse mark than all but two Pac-12 teams in ’12. Bottom line: This pick is predicated on Washington finally beating Oregon on a football field. If it doesn’t, that makes 10 straight for the Ducks.
3. Oregon. Blasphemy, say the lemon-and-green faithful. Third, for a team that’s gone to four straight BCS bowl games? Yes, third. What we’re about to find out is whether the Oregon machine is so irrepressible that it can withstand a head-coaching change and the possibility the NCAA could hand down sanctions in the Willie Lyles case before the fall. It’s a bit of a leap to make the assumption that the penalty will be of a performance-affecting threshold, and that it could impact 2013, but I don’t think either possibility is out of the realm. As for Mark Helfrich, the successor to Chip Kelly is an unknown commodity, and while he has apparently changed little with the Ducks, it can’t be assumed that things will simply perk as smoothly as they did under Kelly. Oregon still has players, lots of them, and some dynamic ones like quarterback Marcus Mariota, receiver/runner/kick returner De’Anthony Thomas and TE Colt Lyerla. But the Ducks are apt to miss defensive studs like Dion Jordan, Kiko Alonso and Michael Clay.
4. Oregon State. Fourth almost seems like a slap in the face to the Beavers, a nine-victory club that returns 15 starters and has the only quarterback competition in the Pac-12 featuring two players, Sean Mannion and Cody Vaz, who have proved they can win games. But recognition has always been a challenge for Mike Riley’s program (and it doesn’t help when it gets blown out by Oregon, as it did last November). There’s a lot to like here, including a deeper and better offensive line and the nucleus of a defense that was salty in 2012. The big question is how OSU replaces two guys who were pivotal to its success last year, receiver Markus Wheaton and cornerback/returner Jordan Poyer. I don’t sense that there’s anything like a major chasm between the Beavers and the three programs I’ve slotted above them.
5. Washington State. Here’s where the gap begins from the upper echelon of the division, down to teams (WSU, Cal) that finished 3-9 a year ago. I’m taking the Cougars to make some strides this year, based mostly on two factors: Surprisingly, they had some stretches of defensively stiff play in 2012; they were sixth against the run in the league, and that was better than teams like UCLA, USC, Arizona State and Cal. Problem was, their pass defense was 10th, and that must be shored up. Second, I’m figuring they advance in the area simply of knowing Mike Leach’s expectations, something that created obvious problems a year ago. They should be improved on the offensive line, if for no other reason than they have some competition now. But there’s one big caveat: Connor Halliday has to be effective at quarterback, willing to accept the dump-off to the running back and the chance of a five-yard gain, rather than chucking it downfield for the big play. If he can’t do it, then the Cougars essentially start over at QB with Austin Apodaca.
6. California. I don’t think there’s much doubt that across the board, Cal is better athletically than Washington State. But to a degree, the Bears are in the same position the Cougars were a year ago – starting over with a new coach who’s implementing a new, uptempo offensive style and changing the defense from a 3-4 to a 4-3. So I see a lot of growing pains for Sonny Dykes and the Bears, who were 10th in the Pac-12 last year in both pass efficiency and total defense. Two other issues: Cal is at square one at quarterback, where Zach Kline, Austin Hinder and Jared Goff are battling (look for Kline to emerge with the job), and the schedule the first half of the season could knock the wind from the Bears’ sails. Out of league, they have to deal with both Northwestern and Ohio State in September (albeit in Berkeley), and of the first four league games, three are on the road against Oregon, UCLA and Washington. The fourth, a homecoming game against WSU Oct. 5 in Berkeley, will say a lot about how the lower part of the division shakes out.
May 20, 2013 at 10:17 PM
USA Today reported Monday that Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott pulled down some $3.1 million in compensation during the calendar year 2011, almost double what powerful SEC commish Mike Slive made. The newspaper said the pay broke down as $1.575 million in base compensation and about $1.5 million more in bonus and other pay.
Scott received about $300,000 more than Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany. Scott’s pay was no doubt related to the $3-billion contracts he helped negotiate with Fox and ESPN in 2011.
By comparison, former Pac-10 commissioner Tom Hansen was making a reported $590,000 in 2008 just before he retired.
May 17, 2013 at 4:43 PM
Herewith, the spring version of our 2013 Pac-12 South football picks. I reserve the right to make adjustments in August, pending spring and summer developments like player movement on and off the roster, surges to prominence in fall camp and the inevitable long arm of the police blotter:
- Arizona State. You could boil down the debate on the Sun Devils to this question: How important is Will Sutton? Well, he’s clearly instrumental, an All-American defensive tackle, a position not all that well-endowed in the Pac-12. The question is whether his presence or absence is pivotal enough to have brought about a dramatically different level of play in the Sun Devils in 2012. It can be argued that ASU’s resurgence was a bit illusory last year; after a 5-1 start, it proceeded to go on a four-game losing streak in which it allowed 162 points. Of course, that coincided perfectly with Sutton’s loss due to a knee problem – he was hurt on the first series against Oregon. It should also be pointed out that the Sun Devils didn’t beat an FBS team with a winning record until the Arizona traditional. Still, some key metrics say ASU did a lot of things right, sacking quarterbacks 52 times and rushing for 205.5 yards a game. Sutton is back to demand double-teams and wreak havoc, ASU has QB Taylor Kelly returning as one of 14 starters, and even though the schedule is nasty early – Wisconsin, Stanford, USC and Notre Dame – it also doesn’t include Oregon.
- UCLA. The Bruins had a nine-win season in 2012, although it was watered down a bit with three finishing losses – two to Stanford and an ugly Holiday Bowl defeat to Baylor. But in the big picture, they’ve developed some momentum, and now the issue is whether they’ve got the chops to win the Pac-12 South and represent the division in the league title game for the third straight year. I think there’s one predominant reason why they won’t: A two-Saturday stretch in October in which they have to play at Stanford and Oregon. Let’s face it, it’s going to be very difficult to win a division title if UCLA doesn’t win one of those. Quarterback Brett Hundley had a 29-11 TD-interception ratio last year and is plainly on the way to stardom. But there are some offensive-line issues (the Bruins may need help from incoming freshmen, which is always dicey), among them that UCLA allowed 52 sacks a year ago, which ranked down there with Colorado and WSU. Then there’s the graduation of the career-leading rusher, Johnathan Franklin, with the probability that the load in his wake will have to be shared. If it comes down to ASU and UCLA, though, the Bruins do get the Sun Devils in Pasadena.
- USC. If you’ve figured the Trojans out, let me know. One minute, Lane Kiffin is talking about how they made their own bed by not hitting enough in practice last year, implying workouts are going to be a lot more rugged. In the next breath, he’s easing off the reins in spring practice, because so many players are hurt. So I don’t know what formula he’s plotting for the fall, because USC does in fact figure to be thin in some areas, and USC athletic director Pat Haden told Sports Illustrated.com, “I think the toughest years (of the NCAA sanctions) are coming up.” Then there’s the revolving door of staff changes. Kiffin has four new assistants, which makes it seven in two years. That can’t be good for continuity. Defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast was effective at Cal doing odd-front looks, and there’s no reason to think that won’t continue at Troy, which has eight starters back both ways. But the secondary is depleted and nobody knows who the quarterback will be, which seems to augur an uneven ride in 2013.
- Utah. Is it time for a reassessment of the Utes? My sense of the program since it entered the Pac-12 is: Well-coached, solid fundamentally, defensively sound and rightly dedicated to the run. Well, you can argue the other side as well. Kyle Whittingham is only 7-11 in Pac-12 games since Utah joined the league after rampant success in the Mountain West – and it hasn’t had to play either Oregon or Stanford yet. But to some degree, the offensive shortfall is attributable to problems under center (Jordan Wynn was injured a bunch through those two years), and the Utes seem to have their QB of the future in Travis Wilson, now tutored by Dennis Erickson. Utah lost Star Lotulelei and Joe Kruger off its defensive line to the NFL, but Whittingham spoke blithely about it recently, saying the school merely reloads annually up front. The Utes have the most home-heavy early Pac-12 schedule of anybody in the league, with Oregon State, UCLA and Stanford before mid-October, and it’s safe to say if things aren’t trending right, Whittingham is going to hear some heavy growling around Salt Lake City.
- Arizona. This is a pick that doesn’t seem to do justice to Rich Rodriguez’ rebuilding effort in Tucson, one that yielded an 8-5 record in his first season. The ‘Cats rolled for 526 yards a game, second only to Oregon. Problem was, an overworked and smallish defense allowed 499 yards a game, worst in the league. This year, the gap between the two extremes is likely to narrow, as Arizona has 10 starters back on defense, but no obvious answer at quarterback, unless it’s JC transfer B.J. Denker. Getting a long look in the fall will be freshman Anu Solomon of Las Vegas. ‘Cats can hand it off a lot to Ka’Deem Carey, who quietly led the nation in rushing yards last year, but they lost primo receiver Austin Hill to a knee injury in spring. They need to keep it together early, because they have only one league game in Tucson before Nov. 9.
- Colorado. The Pac-12 South is competitive enough above Colorado that it would be a major coup for the Buffs if they figure out a way to finish anywhere but last. Now they’re starting over with a new staff, headed by Mike MacIntyre, who came from a successful run at San Jose State. And they’re going to be christening a new quarterback as well, after a strange sequence of spring events that saw senior Jordan Webb tear up a knee and after the session was done, Nick Hirschman transfer out just when it looked like he could start. Now Bellarmine Prep’s Sefo Liufau will merit consideration for the QB job in August, but otherwise, it’s probably Texas transfer Connor Wood. Perhaps of more concern to MacIntyre is a defense that allowed 488.5 yards and 46 points a game and collected a mere three interceptions.
May 13, 2013 at 8:23 PM
Last in a series on Pac-12 spring-football camps. Today, Washington State.
Starters returning – 16 (8 offense, 8 defense), plus P Mike Bowlin and PK Andrew Furney.
Refresher on 2012 – With much anticipation for the Mike Leach regime, Cougars flopped badly in their opener at BYU, lost as a big favorite at home against Colorado, and slogged through an eight-game losing streak. Then they fell behind Washington by 18 points in the fourth quarter before scrapping back for an overtime victory to finish 3-9.
Coaching changes – When Eric Morris left as inside receivers coach to go to Texas Tech, Leach replaced him with David Yost, for the past 12 years an assistant at Missouri. Linebackers coach Jeff Choate, who departed for UTEP and then Florida, was replaced by Ken Wilson, who came after a long tenure at Nevada.
Major spring concerns – Figuring out the QB position that played a part in WSU’s struggles in 2012 . . . fostering competition on the offensive line, where there was little last season . . . improving at CB, where the Cougars have had mediocre play for several years.
Developments – Connor Halliday, who had a 15-13 TD-interception ratio last season in an off-again, on-again role with graduated Jeff Tuel, seems to have the edge at QB, but Austin Apodaca, RS freshman (6-3, 191), could challenge him in the fall . . . the O-line, which frustrated Leach last year partly because there was little depth to push the starters, has many more candidates. Leach said recently four walk-ons would start if WSU played a game now – LT Gunnar Eklund, LG and Montana transfer Joe Dahl, C Elliott Bosch and RG Zach Brevick. The fifth player might be Rico Forbes, who missed 2012 with a knee injury. But others who figure in include John Fullington, Matt Goetz, Eduardo Middleton, Jake Rodgers (who sat out spring) and JC transfer Jacob Seydel . . . WR Gabe Marks was best among receivers . . . SB Ricky Galvin returned from a broken arm and has the inside track on a slot position . . . D-line had injuries to Toni Pole, who had the long OT interception in the Apple Cup; and Ioane Gauta, but both should be ready in the fall . . . getting limited time were D-linemen Robert Barber, who had a knee injury early last year, and Destiny Vaeao, so Darryl Paulo got heavy work at NT . . . depth at the LB spots might be best on the team, with Tana Pritchard and Justin Sagote battling at WLB; Darryl Monroe leading Jared Byers and Jeremiah Allison at MLB; Cyrus Coen ahead of Eric Oertel at SLB; and Logan Mayes (who sat out spring with a leg injury) penciled in atop rising soph Kache Palacio and JC transfer Ivan McLennan at departed Travis Long’s Buck LB spot . . . making a move at CB was Rahmel Dockery, RS freshman who was converted last year from WR . . . S Deone Bucannon, one of WSU’s top defenders, sat out spring with an injury but will return in the fall . . . Cougars had a 2.68 team GPA in the fall, their highest ever . . . offense seems almost certain to improve, after finishing 11th in Pac-12 in scoring at 20.4 ppg, and allowing 57 sacks, which makes it 243 over the past five years . . . defense was sporadically salty in 2012, sixth against the run at 163.2 . . . Leach seemed pleased at the end of the spring session, telling the Spokane Spokesman-Review, “We’re better at every position. A ton of these guys were here last year. They just developed. They improved.”
Spring game – In front of 8,340 at Albi Stadium in Spokane, Halliday was 38 of 58 for 406 yards with two interceptions. A perturbed Leach changed the second-half format from a running clock to a football-timed one.
2013 schedule – Cougars open on the road against a pair of traditional powers that struggled in 2012, Auburn and USC. The Seattle traditional is against Stanford Sept. 28 at CenturyLink Field, and WSU plays only three league games in Pullman, against Oregon State, ASU and Utah. The Cougars miss UCLA and Colorado.
May 11, 2013 at 9:00 AM
Another in a series featuring looks at the Pac-12 spring-football camps. Today, Washington, which looks to improve on a third straight 7-6 season.
Starters returning – 17 (9 offense, 8 defense), plus P-PK Travis Coons.
Refresher on 2012 – Huskies had a Jekyll-and-Hyde season, upending Stanford, losing a ninth straight game to Oregon, being routed at Arizona, piecing together a promising four-game winning streak – and then dropping season-ending cliffhangers to Washington State and Boise State (in the Las Vegas Bowl), the Cougar game after blowing an 18-point, fourth-quarter lead. They were bedeviled by both injuries and turnovers, 14 interceptions and 14 lost fumbles, as QB Keith Price backslid from his big 2011 season with a poor 122.4 efficiency rating.
Coaching changes – Head coach Steve Sarkisian called back a UW hero of more than a decade ago, Marques Tuiasosopo, to coach QBs, and promoted GA Jordan Paopao to full-time tight ends coach.
Major spring concerns – Propping up Price after his mediocre ’12 season and determining whether Cyler Miles or Jeff Lindquist was ready to make a run at the job . . . shoring up the CB spot vacated by NFL first-round draft pick Desmond Trufant . . . sorting out possibilities for competitive free-safety spot.
Developments – Price had a terrific spring, as Sarkisian told ESPN.com: “Of the 15 practices, he might have had one where he wasn’t at his best, and one where he was just OK. Outside of that, I thought he was fantastic.” . . . Miles outstripped Lindquist and appears to have a hold on the No. 2 spot entering fall camp . . . Huskies jumped into the trend of increasingly uptempo offenses . . . OL, which was injury-pocked and struggled much of 2012, looks to be a strength, left to right, with Micah Hatchie, Dexter Charles, Mike Criste, James Atoe and Ben Riva, with some reinforcements back from injury rehabs in the fall . . . RB Deontae Cooper, RB Jesse Callier, DE Hau’oli Jamora and LB Travis Feeney are among those who missed the session rehabbing injuries but could figure prominently in ’13 . . . TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins was suspended from spring drills after an arrest for a DUI, when he allegedly recorded a .18-percent blood-alcohol level – more than twice the legal limit – and Sarkisian is waiting to see how the case unfolds before settling on final disciplinary action. He praised Seferian-Jenkins’ response to the incident as regards counseling, community work and school, while in his absence, Josh Perkins had a strong spring . . . Times beat writer Bob Condotta’s five breakout players of the spring were Price, WR DiAndre Campbell, rush end Cory Littleton, Perkins and Criste . . . despite broken finger that kept DT Sione Potoa’e out, UW appears closer to developing winning D-line depth . . . DT Connor Cree, converted from end, had a good showing . . . Will Shamburger didn’t lock down the FS spot, which likely will see heated competition in August . . . Sarkisian talked up RS freshman CB Cleveland Wallace (5-11, 165) . . . another CB candidate is Travell Dixon (6-1, 190) of Miami, a JC signee with Alabama who left the Tide prior to last season . . . Huskies hope to exert more pass rush, and DC Justin Wilcox says DE Josh Shirley (6.5 sacks last year) is capable of doubling that . . . PK Cameron Van Winkle enrolled for the latter half of drills and could push Coons, who missed key kicks in the close losses to WSU and Boise State . . . LB Shaq Thompson spent spring break at Fort Myers, Fla., where, as an 18th-round Red Sox draft pick last year, he was in their minor-league camp . . . Huskies readying for the move into renovated stadium after spending a year at CenturyLink Field.
Spring game – Little of consequence took place in a scaled-down game transplanted to Memorial Stadium in front of 7,000 fans.
2013 schedule – Aug. 31 opener against Boise State in the refurbished stadium looms large, and if they win that, Huskies could well be 4-0 entering an industrial-strength three-week stretch of October featuring Stanford, Oregon and Arizona State, two of them on the road. Misses are USC and Utah.
May 9, 2013 at 11:28 AM
Latest in a series on Pac-12 spring football camps. Today, Oregon, which turns to a new regime after Chip Kelly led the UO to four straight BCS bowls:
Starters returning – 15 (8 offense, 7 defense), plus PK Alejandro Maldonado.
Refresher on 2012 – The Ducks burst to a 10-0 start and were poised to be in the discussion for the national-championship game when they were upset by Stanford, 17-14 in overtime, in Eugene Nov. 17. They went on to blow out Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl to finish 12-1, averaging a league-leading 49.5 points and 537.4 yards a game. Head coach Chip Kelly, after initially appearing out of the NFL picture, was hired by the Philadelphia Eagles, ending a hugely successful run with the Ducks.
Coaching changes – Kelly’s offensive coordinator, Mark Helfrich, takes over, and he retained seven Duck assistants, including several longtime aides. Helfrich hired Ron Aiken from the Arizona Cardinals to coach the defensive line.
Major spring concerns – Adjusting to Helfrich’s regime (although he says changes are minimal) . . . developing a backup quarterback to standout Marcus Mariota . . . replacing both starting OGs . . . seeking adequate successors to standout defenders Dion Jordan, Kiko Alonso and Michael Clay.
Developments – Helfrich, like Kelly, kept all practices closed except the spring game, so information is somewhat sketchy . . . QB Jeff Rodrigues (6-3, 218), a better runner with more arm strength, seemed to lead over Jeff Lockie (6-2, 195) in the backup derby . . . meanwhile, Bryan Bennett, who once looked like long-term QB option, transferred . . . WRs Josh Huff and Bralon Addison had good camps, but WR Dwayne Stanford suffered a knee injury believed to require surgery . . . Ducks added to TE depth with a solid effort from Pharoah Brown, who should team with Colt Lyerla for a strong 1-2 punch . . . Maldonado, who has had some key misfires in the past, figures to get a strong challenge in the fall from Matt Wogan, 6-2, 195-pound freshman North Carolinian rated by some analysts as having the strongest leg in the country. Ducks made only 1 of 5 FG attempts from beyond 40 yards in 2012 . . . Ifo Ekpre-Olomu and Terrance Mitchell should be the best pair of corners in the league . . . Nick Aliotti, veteran defensive coordinator, told the Oregonian he’s never had a trio of true sophomores like linemen Arik Armstread, Alex Balducci and DeForest Buckner, and that the line is the strongest unit on the defense . . . RB Byron Marshall (5-10, 201) showed flashes, but coaches still want more consistency from him, because it’s questionable how much pounding electric De’Anthony Thomas can take as a feature back . . . Portland-area product Thomas Tyner enters in the fall as a mega-hyped freshman RB . . . Mana Greig and Hamani Stevens look like the best bets to fill OG vacancies, but injuries limited their work there . . . Tony Washington supplants Jordan (No. 3 overall NFL draft pick) at DE/OLB, but 6-5, 245-pound Christian French’s skills have elicited some comparisons to Jordan . . . LB Tyson Coleman, figured for major playing time, had a leg injury for part of camp, but it isn’t serious . . . Sports Illustrated wrote that the NCAA committee on infractions met with the Ducks, and Kelly, late in April, and that it could levy penalties sometime in the next 2-3 months, possibly affecting the 2013 season.
Spring game – Using a scoring system that Helfrich admitted later he inadvertently tilted, the offense drubbed the defense, 65-10, running up 802 yards in 117 plays. Some 36,588 watched, by far the biggest turnout among Pac-12 teams.
2013 schedule – Oregon has three BCS-league teams in September, but the first significant test looms as Washington in Seattle Oct. 12. The Ducks also have to play at Stanford Nov. 7. They miss Arizona State and USC.
May 7, 2013 at 4:24 PM
The long-awaited decision of UNLV transfer forward Mike Moser apparently came down today, and it wasn’t positive for two of the three teams in the running — Washington and Gonzaga. Moser, according to the Oregon website DuckTerritory.com, committed to the Ducks.
The website quoted a text from Moser’s AAU coach and mentor, Kumbeno Memory, as saying, “Mike just committed to Oregon.”
Oregon coach Dana Altman has had much success in recent seasons with one-year transfers, getting big production in 2011-12 from Olu Ashaolu (Louisiana Tech) and this year, Arsalan Kazemi (Rice).
Washington had been linked to Moser by CBSSports.com last month. But the Portland product didn’t decide right away, and took visits to all three schools recently.
The Ducks were probably the least equipped at Moser’s forward spot, and most able to offer the biggest role. They lose the bulk of their front line, but return guards Dominic Artis and Damyean Dotson. Washington loses center Aziz N’Diaye, but returns forwards Shawn Kemp Jr., Desmond Simmons and Jernard Jarreau.
Gonzaga takes a big hit inside with the loss of center Kelly Olynyk and senior Elias Harris, but has back promising Polish rising sophomore Przemek Karnowski and fifth-year senior Sam Dower.
The Zags are recruiting another final-year transfer in Tulane’s Josh Davis.
May 7, 2013 at 12:45 PM
Latest in a series on Pac-12 spring camps. Today, Oregon State, which authored a big turnaround in 2012:
Starters returning – 15 (8 offense, 7 defense), plus PK Trevor Romaine.
Refresher on 2012 – Picked last in the Pac-12 North by media, the Beavers stormed out of the gate with an upset of Wisconsin on the way to a six-game winning streak, then lost on alternate weeks the rest of the way — culminating with a disheartening defeat in the Alamo Bowl to Texas, after the Beavers held a double-digit lead — to finish 9-4 and 20th in the AP poll. QB Cody Vaz gave OSU a lift when Sean Mannion hurt a knee, and the Beavers finished No. 2 in the league in pass offense (307.1) and No. 2 in scoring defense (20.6). The six-win improvement over a 3-9 season in 2011 was biggest in school history.
Coaching changes – Former Beaver and assistant head coach Jay Locey moved to become chief of staff, and Trent Bray, former OSU linebacker, was promoted from a GA to full-time at that position.
Major spring concerns — Scrutinizing the competitive QB competition between Mannion and Vaz . . . trying to find starters at defensive tackle and one cornerback.
Developments – QBs Vaz and Mannion continued a duel that took shape last fall and probably won’t be decided until sometime in fall camp. “We’ve got two kids who can win,” said OSU coach Mike Riley. “I think they both got a little bit better.” . . . a poll in the OSU student newspaper, the Barometer, on which QB should start favored Mannion, 200-49 . . . asked to single out players who made a push for playing time, Riley mentioned DLs Akeem Gonzales and Lavonte Barnett, CBs Larry Scott and Sean Martin, S Cyril Noland-Lewis, WR Obum Gwacham, TE Caleb Smith and OLs Josh Mitchell and Gavin Andrews . . . OL looks to have better depth and veteran Michael Philipp “is playing the best ball of his life,” Riley told the Oregonian . . . S Kendall Hill tore up his right knee after missing all of 2012 with a torn left ACL . . . DT Siale Hautau broke his hand before the midway point in drills. He was a JC import, along with Edwin Delva, to shore up a depleted position . . . Malcolm Agnew, first true freshman in modern OSU history to start the opener at tailback – he rushed for 223 yards against Sacramento State – has transferred to FCS Southern Illinois . . . CBs Sean Martin and Steven Nelson battled for the spot vacated by NFL draftee Jordan Poyer, Riley saying “my goal is to come out of it with both of them bona fide starters.” . . . last year’s primo freshman center, Isaac Seumalo, sat out with an elbow problem . . . S Ryan Murphy will be an honors candidate; defensive coordinator Mark Banker told the Oregonian, “The sky’s the limit for him,” and RB Storm Woods, who broke an 80-yard scrimmage run, at one point said Murphy “is having a hall-of-fame spring.” . . . RB Terron Ward said brashly that the goal is for both him and Woods to rush for 1,000 yards . . . OL Sean Harlow came in as an early freshman entrant, saying his ex-HS teammate at San Clemente, Calif., Utah QB Travis Wilson, recommended it after he did it in 2012 . . . Beavers will feature new Nike uniforms, with striped helmets, and a redone logo.
Spring game – It was a low-key affair in front of 8,263, starters playing minimally. Third-team QB Brent VanderVeen was 15 of 27 for 153 yards.
2013 schedule – On a schedule that looks fiercely back-loaded, the early hurdle is at Utah Sept. 14. Starting Oct. 26, Beavers face a gauntlet of Stanford, USC, Arizona State, Washington and Oregon. The “misses” are Arizona and UCLA.
May 6, 2013 at 5:48 PM
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.”
May 5, 2013 at 9:00 PM
Another in a series reviewing Pac-12 spring-football camps. Today, Stanford, which is coming off three consecutive BCS-bowl appearances.
Starters returning – 14 (6 offense, 8 defense) plus PK Jordan Williamson.
Refresher on 2012 – Stanford (11-2) played in its second straight BCS bowl, winning the Rose over Wisconsin, and David Shaw won the league’s coach-of-the-year vote for the second time in a two-year stint. Cardinal essentially launched a big season with an early upset of USC, then were upended by Washington, and later lost a controversial game at the wire against Notre Dame. But Stanford finished on an eight-game win streak, the big breakthrough an overtime win at Oregon.
Coaching changes – Shaw elevated two staffers to full-time status, one of them Clover Park grad Tavita Pritchard, the former Cardinal quarterback who will coach running backs.
Major spring concerns – Finding a replacement for career-rushing leader Stepfan Taylor . . . brainstorming a revised offensive thrust now that TEs Zach Ertz and Levine Toilolo have moved to the pros . . . refining the picture at the linebacker positions.
Developments – QB Kevin Hogan, who took over in mid-season, 2012, looked sharp and said he felt like it, telling CBSSports.com, “Our coaches tell us that there are few NFL teams that are running the complexity of our offense. We carry over 300 plays going into each game. Last spring I was kind of lost, trying to find my way in the offense. I was mostly focused on getting up to the line and running the play, instead of on what the defense was doing. I want to get in the head of the opposing defensive coordinator.” . . . Evan Crower, a 6-5, 215-pound junior from San Diego, appears to be the backup . . . Josh Nunes, who started last season at QB, had a bench-pressing accident in February that would have required a long rehab, so he gave up football . . . so did Lynnwood High product Geoff Meinken, a fullback who had knee problems . . . meanwhile, QB Brett Nottingham, who was battling Nunes a year ago for the job, transferred to Columbia . . . TE Luke Kaumatule, 6-7, 260-pound Honolulu product, is the heir to that tradition, but Cardinal will likely become more wide receiver-oriented, with good springs by 6-2, 215-pound junior Ty Montgomery (troubled by leg injuries last season), 6-1, 190-pound freshman Michael Rector (Bellarmine High product who was originally committed to Washington) and 6-2, 197-pound RS freshman Kodi Whitfield . . . Taylor’s RB spot may be manned by Anthony Wilkerson and Tyler Gaffney, 221-pound back who missed considerable football while playing baseball in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ chain . . . On the O-line, Cardinal seeking replacement for C Sam Schwartzstein, and elsewhere, it’s possible two-year starter David Yankey could move from guard to LT to accommodate Puyallup product Josh Garnett, a rising sophomore . . . RT Cameron Fleming looks ready to blossom . . . defense looks potent, bad news for Pac-12 foes because Stanford led league in scoring defense (17.2), total defense (336.2 ypg), and by a wide margin, run defense (97.0 ypg) . . . Cardinal also had 37 sacks more than opponents . . . all-league Chase Thomas and NFL free-agent signee Alex Debniak figure to be replaced, at least partly, by senior Blake Lueders (6-5, 258) and James Vaughters (6-2, 245), who had four starts a year ago . . . LB Shayne Skov, an All-American possibility, missed the first half of Stanford drills as he sat out winter quarter, a suspension related to a DUI a year earlier.
Spring game — It returned to campus after an appearance at San Francisco’s Kezar Stadium last year, and the defense beats the offense, 40-34, as Hogan completed 14 of 23 passes for 170 yards and two TDs and Williamson hit field goals of 42 and 45 yards.
2013 schedule — If the optimum schedule means tougher games at home and weaker ones on the road, Stanford looks equipped for a possible run at a national title. Cardinal gets Arizona State, Washington, UCLA and Oregon in Palo Alto.
About the author
Trending with readers