UW Huskies Insider

Scouting the PAC-12: Top to Bottom

Post by Darrin Beene / The News Tribune on Aug. 31, 2011 at 5:14 pm with 1 Comment »
August 31, 2011 5:16 pm

PAC-12 NORTH DIVISION

1. OREGON DUCKS

AT A GLANCE
Coach: Chip Kelly, third year
2010: 12-1, 9-0 in Pac-10 (first), lost to Auburn, 22-19, in BCS National Championship game.
Starters returning: Seven offense, six defense, two kickers.

SET YOUR SIGHTS ON

  • LaMicheal James, RB, 5-9, 185, Jr. Heisman finalist last year (1,731 yards, 21 TDs) could become school’s all-time leading rusher in first quarter vs. LSU.
  • Darron Thomas, QB, 6-3, 215, Jr. Dual-threat accounted for 35 TDs (30 passing, 5 running) and steered the nation’s top-ranked offense (47 points per game).
  • Cliff Harris, CB, 5-11, 165, Jr. Playmaker (6 INTs, 17 breakups) is indefinitely suspended after run-in with the law but is one of the nation’s best when on the field.
  • John Boyett, S, 5-10, 198, Jr. Harris isn’t the only dynamic player in secondary; Boyett ranked second in tackles while picking off five passes.

THE SKINNY
If it wasn’t players running afoul of the law (that’s you, Harris) it was the recruiting scandal sullying the Ducks reputation. That will fade if Oregon puts on an offensive clinic again – which they should do with their core back – and roll to the first Pac-12 title game. Tough test out of the gate vs. LSU, but it’s smooth sailing until Stanford in November.

2. STANFORD CARDINAL

AT A GLANCE
Coach: David Shaw, first year
2010: 12-1, 8-1 in Pac-10 (second), beat Virginia Tech, 40-12, in Orange Bowl.
Starters returning: Five offense, six defense, one kicker.

SET YOUR SIGHTS ON

  • Andrew Luck, QB, 6-4, 235, Jr. If you haven’t heard about the Heisman favorite and potential No. 1 draft pick … welcome back from Mars.
  • Stepfan Taylor, RB, 6-2, 202, Jr. Leading rusher in 2010 (1,137 yards) also had 28 receptions.
  • Shayne Skov, LB, 6-3, 244, Jr. Team’s top tackler and wearer of a Mohawk capped 2010 in Orange Bowl with three sacks, 12 tackles.
  • Delano Howell, S, 5-11, 198, Sr. No surprise if this ball hawk winds up earning All-America honors.

THE SKINNY
New coach Shaw lucked out when Luck (70.7 percent passing, 3,338 yards, 28 TDs) decided to return to school. Still, Shaw must uncover three new starters on offensive line and replace the top two leading receivers from 2010. Solid linebackers and DBs make defense especially stout and should help Shaw enjoy a winning first season. Cardinal could be 6-0 when they play UW.

3. WASHINGTON HUSKIES

AT A GLANCE
Coach: Steve Sarkisian, third year
2010: 7-6, 5-4 in Pac-10 (tie-third), beat Nebraska, 19-7, in Holiday Bowl.
Starters returning: Seven offense, eight defense, two kickers.
SET YOUR SIGHTS ON

  • Chris Polk, RB, 5-11, 214, Jr. Is there any such thing as minor knee surgery? Huskies fans hope so.
  • Keith Price, QB, 6-1, 195, So. Will need a lot of poise to fill some of the biggest shoes ever in Seattle.
  • Jermaine Kearse, WR, 6-2, 208, Sr. Lakes grad has improved in receptions, yards and TDs in each of his first three seasons.
  • Cort Dennison, LB, 6-1, 236, Sr. Must try and replace leadership and production of the departed Mason Foster, Victor Aiyewa.

THE SKINNY
Is the pendulum swinging upward? Even though Jake Locker has gone on to the NFL, the team should provide better supporting cast for Price as the new starting quarterback – especially Polk, who is on pace to reset many of school’s rushing records. Cornerback Desmond Trufant, out of Wilson High, is poised for a breakout season as a junior in leading deep secondary.

4. CALIFORNIA GOLDEN BEARS

AT A GLANCE
Coach: Jeff Tedford, 10th year
2010: 5-7, 3-6 in Pac-10 (eighth).
Starters returning: Seven offense, six defense, two kickers.

SET YOUR SIGHTS ON

  • Zach Maynard, QB, 6-2, 190, Jr. Transfer was so-so (2,694 yards, 18 TDs, 15 INTs) in only season as a starter at Buffalo.
  • Marvin Jones, WR, 6-2, 200 Sr. Top receiver from 2010 (50-765-4) should help Maynard’s transition to Pac-12.
  • Mychal Kendricks, LB, 6-0, 241 Sr. Second-team all-Pac-10 pick was tops for Bears with 8.5 sacks.
  • D.J. Holt, LB, 6-1, 252, Sr. Leading-tackler in 2010 gives Cal a dynamic, experienced linebacking corp.

THE SKINNY
Tedford is the longest tenured coach in the Pac-12, and needs just three wins to become the all-time wins leader at Cal. His teams are just 24-22 since beginning 5-0 in 2007, and Tedford is feeling some heat after disappointments the last two seasons. The key will be how Maynard plays, which could revive the Tedford as QB guru legend. With Memorial Stadium undergoing a $312 million renovation, Cal will play its games at AT&T Park this year.

5. OREGON STATE BEAVERS

AT A GLANCE
Coach: Mike Riley, 11th year
2010: 5-7, 4-5 in Pac-10 (fifth).
Starters returning: Eight offense, four defense, one kicker.

SET YOUR SIGHTS ON

  • Ryan Katz, QB, 6-1, 212, Jr. Solid as a sophomore (2,401 yards, 17 TDs), he’ll need to be even better this season.
  • James Rodgers, WR, 5-7, 188, Sr. Granted a medical hardship after tearing up his knee; will he have same explosiveness after two surgeries?
  • Lance Mitchell, S, 6-2, 207, Sr. Expected leader after the graduation of Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year Stephen Paea.
  • Jordan Poyer, CB, 6-0, 190, Jr. Honorable mention as kick returner (27.8 avg.) in 2010 has potential to be a shutdown cornerback.

THE SKINNY
Beavers, because of a rash of injuries, may not be the same team in September as they are in November. At least four starters (Rodgers, TE Joe Halahuni, CB Brandon Hardin and DT Kevin Frahm) will miss the opener, and leading receiver Markus Wheaton has been slowed with a hip pointer. True freshman Malcolm Agnew could be the first at OSU to open the season as a starter at running back.

6. WASHINGTON STATE COUGARS

AT A GLANCE
Coach: Paul Wulff, fourth year
2010: 2-10, 1-8 in Pac-10 (10th).
Starters returning: Nine offense, eight defense, zero kickers.

SET YOUR SIGHTS ON

  • Jeff Tuel, QB, 6-3, 214, Jr. Took a ton of abuse but proved to be a dual-threat. If he stays upright, potentially another great one for WSU.
  • Marquess Wilson, WR, 6-3, 173, So. Voted to writer’s Freshman All-America team after an outstanding debut (55-1,006-6).
  • Alex Hoffman-Ellis, LB, 6-1, 241, Sr. One of the rare senior starters, will be counted on to be a steadying influence.
  • Travis Long, DE, 6-4, 258, Jr. Could have a spike in production if his shoulder is close to 100 percent and he gets some help upfront.

THE SKINNY
Is this Wulff’s last stand? He’ll need to win more than two games – or his best in his three previous seasons – to see the final year of his contract. There’s the making of a decent offense, but Cougs will have to score more than the 19.7 points they averaged in 2010 to overcome their defense. Wulff’s future could come down to how WSU fares at CenturyLink Field (vs. Oregon State, UW).

PAC-12 SOUTH DIVISION

1. ARIZONA STATE SUN DEVILS

AT A GLANCE
Coach: Dennis Erickson, fifth year
2010: 6-6, 4-5 in Pac-10 (tie-sixth.)
Starters returning: Ten offense, eight defense, no kickers.

SET YOUR SIGHTS ON

  • Brock Osweiler, QB, 6-8, 235, Jr. Led ASU to wins over UCLA and Arizona in final two games by throwing for 647 yards and five TDs.
  • Garth Garrett, C, 6-1, 300, Sr. Honorable mention all-Pac-10 pick heads offensive line that returns all five starters.
  • Vontaze Burfict, LB, 6-3, 252, Jr. Plays with a ferocity that is devastating to opponents and his own team, occasionally.
  • Junior Onyeali, DE, 5-11, 233, So. He was chosen the Pac-10’s defensive freshman of the year and to the writer’s freshman All-America team.

THE SKINNY
The worry isn’t about the new helmets and look but the old coach. So far, Erickson’s first year in Phoenix (10-3) has been his best. If things don’t improve this year, this might be his last. The Sun Devils haven’t been to a bowl game since 2007 – Year 1 of the Erickson era – but that could change with this team, which returns more starters than any team in the Pac-12. Osweiler is the fourth different starter at QB in Erickson’s four years but he’s played in 12 games and solidified the job with a solid spring.

2. USC TROJANS

AT A GLANCE
Coach: Lane Kiffin, second year
2010: 8-5, 5-4 in Pac-10 (tie-third).
Starters returning: Six offense, seven defense, no kickers.

SET YOUR SIGHTS ON

  • Matt Barkley, QB, 6-1, 212, Jr. It’s no slight being the second-best quarterback (Barkley’s 2010: 2,791 yards, 26 TDs) in the conference.
  • Marc Tyler, RB, 5-11, 230, Sr. Leading rusher from 2010 was suspended for a month for flippant comments about being paid.
  • Robert Woods, WR, 6-1, 185, So. Was selected as Pac-10 freshman offensive player of the year for his 65-catch, 792-yard debut.
  • Chris Galippo, LB, 6-2, 250, Sr. Slowed by injured shoulder, must lead a unit that is replacing four key starters.

THE SKINNY
They can’t go to a bowl and they can’t play in the Pac-12 championship game. What they can do is spoil the chances of others, and that, along with preparing for a big 2012 season, is what USC is playing for this year. There’s a ton of talent here but these Trojans aren’t the Trojans old. The defense ranked 84th in 2010, giving up 400 yards per game utilizing Monte Kiffin’s “Tampa 2” scheme. Expect better in year two, not that it will really matter because the theme at USC is wait until next year.

3. ARIZONA WILDCATS

AT A GLANCE
Coach: Mike Stoops, eighth year
2010: 7-6, 4-5 in Pac-10 (tie-fifth), lost to Oklahoma State, 36-10, in the Alamo Bowl.
Starters returning: Five offense, seven defense, one kicker.

SET YOUR SIGHTS ON

  • Nick Foles, QB, 6-5, 245, Sr. Despite missing two games, still passed for 3,191 yards and 20 TDs last season.
  • Juron Criner, WR, 6-4, 210, Sr. Led Pac-10 – by far, by the way – with 82 receptions and 1,233 yards as a junior. Added 11 TDs for good measure.
  • Paul Vassallo, LB, 6-3, 240 Sr. As a junior transfer, he led Cats in tackles last season (102), including eight for losses.
  • Robert Golden, S, 5-11, 200, Sr. Third on team with 60 tackles, will switch here from CB to replace the injured Adam Hall.

THE SKINNY
Spring injuries have already cost Arizona two defensive starters in Hall and linebacker Jack Fischer, which could be problematic with a schedule that features three top 10 teams (Oklahoma State, Stanford, Oregon) in the first four weeks. Offensively, the Cats will throw, throw and throw some more behind Foles, who needs 3,535 yards to become the school’s all-time leading passer. They’ll need to get points as well as yards, because the defense may not be up to Stoops’ standards, at least to start.

4. UTAH UTES

AT A GLANCE
Coach: Kyle Whittingham, seventh year
2010: 10-3, 7-1 in Mountain West (second).
Starters returning: Seven offense, five defense, one kicker.

SET YOUR SIGHTS ON

  • Jordan Wynn, QB, 6-1, 195, Jr. Must deal with surgically repaired shoulder and new offense under new OC Norm Chow.
  • John White, RB, 5-8, 186, Jr. Transfer who won battle to start rushed for 2,527 yards, 34 TDs in two junior college seasons.
  • Tony Bergstrom, T, 6-6, 315, Sr. Second-team all-MWC pick will anchor a line that’s been rebuilt.
  • Chaz Walker, MLB, 6-0, 215, Sr. Captain led team in tackles in 2010 with 113 and leads solid corps of LBs (returners Matt Martinez and Brian Blechen).

THE SKINNY
Soon there will be answers to the many questions. Can the Utes, after years of being the original BCS Buster, be a factor in the Pac-12? Were last year’s blowout losses to TCU, Notre Dame and Boise State proof that Utah is just a big fish in a small pond? How will the offense fare after losing its two top RBs and two all-MWC linemen and switching to a new system? Will an inexperienced secondary be scorched by the high-flying offenses and strong-armed QBs in the conference? And, does anyone know what a Ute is?

5. UCLA BRUINS

AT A GLANCE
Coach: Rick Neuheisel, fourth year
2010: 4-8, 2-7 in Pac-10 (ninth).
Starters returning: Seven offense, eight defense, one kicker.

SET YOUR SIGHTS ON

  • Johnathan Franklin, RB, 5-10, 198, Jr. Fifth in Pac-10 with 1,132 yards and ably backed up by Derrick Coleman (487 yards, 5.9 per carry).
  • Taylor Embree, WR, 6-3, 205 Sr. Leading receiver from 2010 (32-409) is the son of Colorado head coach Jon Embree.
  • Tony Dye, FS, 5-11, 205 Sr. Leading tackler from 2010 (96) will switch to free safety to better utilize his aggressiveness.
  • Jeff Locke, P, 6-1, 210, Jr. Bruins like that he led the conference in punting (45.8) but would like to not use him as much this year.

THE SKINNY
As puzzling as it is that some Husky fans still blame Neuheisel for anything that goes wrong at Montlake, it’s even more puzzling that Neuheisel has struggled as he has in Westwood. He’s a Rose Bowl hero for the Bruins, but the only postseason game he’s had UCLA in is the EagleBank Bowl in 2009. That’s got to change. The QB position is still a mess, as Neuheisel said Kevin Prince will start but Richard Brehaut will play in the opener. It may not matter; super frosh Brett Hundley could be the starter before all is said and done.

6. COLORADO BUFFALOES

AT A GLANCE
Coach: Jon Embree, first year
2010: 5-7, 2-6 in Big 12 North (fifth).
Starters returning: Nine offense, eight defense, one kicker.

SET YOUR SIGHTS ON

  • Rodney Stewart, RB, 5-6, 175, Sr. Nicknamed “Speedy,” Stewart rushed for 1,318 yards and 10 TDs as a junior.
  • Tyler Hansen, QB, 6-1, 215, Sr. Did not play in 2010 after rupturing his spleen in seventh game. Has thrown for 2,822 yards with 15 TDs, 17 INTs in career.
  • Paul Richardson, WR, 6-1, 165, So. Picked as Big 12 freshman offensive player of the year (34-514-6).
  • Ray Polk, S, 6-1, 215, Jr. Former RB must step up for unit that allowed almost 260 yards passing per game in 2010.

THE SKINNY
Colorado used to be a good program – capped by a shared national title in 1990 – with a great mascot (Ralphie). The buffalo is still there, but the team needs lots of work. Colorado has not had a winning season since 2005, has lost 40 of its last 61 games and carries an 18-game road losing streak into its opener at Hawaii. First-year coach Embree is an alumn, and he’s stacked his staff with ex-Buffs to help implement a return to Colorado football. That sounds like it’s happening, but a return to prominence is still a ways off.

Leave a comment Comments → 1
  1. huskydawgfan says:

    Tough conference to play in. No sure things except UCLA. Team with least season ending injuries will win. A grab bag.

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