Posted on: May 9, 2011 5:20 pm
Edited on: May 9, 2011 5:20 pm
Posted by Bryan Fischer
Spring time is a time for learning. Ask any coach and you'll hear some derivative of, 'We want to get back to learning the fundamentals' at the beginning of their spring press conference. Now that spring practices have wrapped up for all of the Pac-12 schools though, it's time to figure out what we've learned from them. Here's a few things we've learned about all 12 teams (other than the fact that they're all very rich thanks to the new media deal).
What we've learned: The Ducks are still feeling out the offensive line situation, where they have to replace three of the starting five before taking on a top five team in LSU week one. Mark Asper is set at right tackle and Carson York returns at left guard but beyond that it's a few question marks. Expect the battles to start to continue with a few of the incoming freshmen to get a look once fall camp starts. Luckily the Ducks have two Heisman Trophy candidates in the backfield in running back LaMichael James and quarterback Darron Williams to smooth the transition as they can both hit the hole quickly with their speed. The defense seems set and will likely be better than last year's unit despite losing their leader, linebacker Casey Matthews, to graduation. Oregon still needs some receivers to step up but early enrollee Colt Lyerla figures to be in the mix early on offense.
What we've learned: Andrew Luck is good. But everybody already knew that. A few pieces around Luck still need to be ironed out though, namely at receiver and on the opposite side of the ball along the defensive line. By all indications the transition from Jim Harbaugh to new head coach David Shaw went smoothly but practices were closed so there's not a ton we can gleam from the Cardinal's spring. Luck led scoring drives on all three series he was in during the Stanford spring game and that's without running back Tyler Gaffney, who was playing baseball all spring. Having the best quarterback in college football seems to cover up a lot of holes.
What we've learned: The Sun Devils will be donning new uniforms in the fall and on top of looking pretty slick, they'll also be carrying the weight of expectations as the Pac-12 South favorite. Injuries were the story of the spring with starting corner Omar Bolden going down with a torn ACL early last year. He's expected to come back later in the season but that's a big blow on an otherwise solid and upperclassman-laden team. Wide out T.J. Simpson also injured his knee. The offensive line, an area of concern for years in the desert, appears to be at full strength and much improved.
What we've learned: Lots of injuries to deal with this spring with the Utes, who had several starters miss the spring game or spring all together. Starting quarterback Jordan Wynn was one such player who didn't get a chance to go through practices under new offensive coordinator Norm Chow but he's still expected to be the starter once fall camp opens. There are several players competing at running back and the staff is hopeful after Harvey Langi, John White and Thretton Palamo all had a good spring. Palamo becoming the starter is interesting because he's a former ruby player. Utes also seemed to figure out the replacements in the secondary which was something head coach Kyle Whittingham wanted to do.
What we've learned: There's some talent at USC but the depth is... lacking. The Trojans used to be able to stock pile four and five-star talent but it was evident that Lane Kiffin is doing some rebuilding with 49 out of the 85 scholarship players from the past two recruiting classes. That also means this is a young team but there's a lot to build around in quarterback Matt Barkley and wide out Robert Woods. The defense should be better than a year ago as players grow more comfortable with the system. The secondary should be much improved in particular. With 12 players out for spring and many freshmen expected to contribute, USC still has to figure a few things out in the fall.
What we've learned: Starting quarterback Nick Foles has a talented group of wide outs but he'll have to get the ball to them quickly. While every coach in the country wants their trigger man to get the ball out quickly, Foles has to do so mainly because he'll have an entirely new offensive line in front of him. At the moment both tackles will be redshirt freshmen who haven't played a game but they looked solid this spring. Both defensive ends (who were very productive) are gone but C.J. Parrish impressed everyone coming off the edge this spring. The secondary seems to be rounding into form and Texas transfer Dan Buckner should be a nice target for Foles.
What we've learned: The Bears' practices had to be moved off campus due to construction and that's pretty fitting considering that Cal football was, well, under construction this spring. The situation at quarterback seems to be Zach Maynard over Brock Mansion and Allan Bridgeford but none of the three seems to be particularly appealing based on reports. Jim Michalczik is back in Berkeley as offensive coordinator and we'll see what tweaks he makes but Jeff Tedford will be the play caller and quarterbacks coach this year. The defense will likely be the strength of the team, especially along the defensive line.
What we've learned: Not a ton about the team that will take the field in the fall. Quarterback Ryan Katz sat out with a broken bone in his wrist and all-everything athlete James Rodgers is rehabbing from knee surgery and might not make it back in time for the opener. The offensive line returns four of five and needs to play better but there weren't any indications they did so this spring. Terron Ward seems to have emerged as the favorite to replace Jacquizz Rodgers but there are plenty of players in the mix.
What we've learned: There are plenty of issues on offense out side of the running back position but at least the defense looks better. Being relatively healthy on defense is nice for the new staff and the defensive line looks like it can provide a nice pass rush. The quarterback battle is on hold until the fall but freshman Brett Hundley showed flashes and if he gets the playbook down, could end up the starter. Injuries along the offensive line were an issue once again.
What we've learned: Keith Price is the new starter at quarterback and has the task of keeping the Huskies afloat without Jake Locker and several other starters. Chris Polk has looked good at running back and is primed for another good season if he can deal with more defenders in the box. Three starters along the offensive line needed to be replaced and some of the battles will likely continue in fall camp. Early enrollee Austin Seferian-Jenkins made an impression and figures to make an impact on offense at tight end.
What we've learned: Everything is new for the conference's newest member. First time head coach Jon Embree takes over the reigns as the program tries to reset after a down couple of years. Tyler Hansen had a good spring in the new pro-style offense and the Buffs have a listed 17 starters coming back overall that gives them some hope this year. There's a bunch of questions on defense as the team moves to a more traditional 4-3 alignment from last year's 3-3-5. The front seven seems to be ok coming out of drills but replacing both corners is still a concern.
What we've learned: There are plenty of issues on the Palouse but there's hope this spring. The Cougars are set at quarterback with Jeff Tuel and former starter Marshall Lobbestael and the offensive line seems solid coming out of the spring. The front seven was impressive this spring and should be much improved from last year with a bit of depth Washington State hasn't had. Special teams is a bit of a concern and didn't really get worked out this spring.
Tags: Allan Bridgeford, Andrew Luck, Arizona, Arizona State, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Brett Hundley, Brock Mansion, C.J. Parrish, Cal, Carson York, Casey Matthews, Chris Polk, Colorado, Colt Lyerla, Dan Buckner, Darron Williams, David Shaw, Harvey Langi, Heisman Trophy, Jacquizz Rodgers, Jake Locker, James Rodgers Terron Ward, Jeff Tedford, Jeff Tuel, Jim Harbaugh, Jim Michalczik, John White, Jon Embree, Jordan Wynn, Keith Price, Kyle Whittingham, LaMichael James, Lane Kiffin, LSU, Mark Asper, Marshall Lobbestael, Matt Barkley, Nick Foles, Norm Chow, Omar Bolden, Oregon, Oregon State, Pac-12, Robert Woods, Ryan Katz, Stanford, T.J. Simpson, Texas, Thretton Palamo, Tyler Gaffney, Tyler Hansen, UCLA, USC, Utah, Washington, Washington State, Zach Maynard
Posted on: November 13, 2010 10:22 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
The vaunted offense of the top-ranked Oregon Ducks has looked uncharacteristically human today, and the Ducks have taken a two-point lead into the fourth quarter at California tonight, 15-13.
It could actually be worse for the Ducks; their only points in the first half came on a Bryan Anger punt return, and California had a bizarre sequence of events take a go-ahead field goal off the board. Cal kicker Giorgio Tavecchio hit a 24-yard chip shot to give California a 16-15 lead, but Tavecchio had taken a step before the snap; that's illegal motion, homes. Backed up five yards, Tavecchio was nowhere close on the re-kick, and Oregon retained the lead.
And yet, it could also be a whole lot better for Oregon, too. California has stayed in the game thanks to two missed field goals by Rob Beard -- the second of which was a 48-yard attempt that was such a bad decision, the entire California defense assumed it was a fake and didn't try to block it. California also scored its second touchdown on a strip of Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas into the end zone, where it was recovered by the Bears. California tried a two-point conversion to tie it at that point, but the Brock Mansion throw into double coverage was hopeless before it left his hand.
Still, California's got a great chance of winning this game, and its 4th down stop of Oregon deep in Bears territory breathed new life into the team after that field goal debacle mentioned earlier. Cal has 11 minutes to outscore No. 1 Oregon by at least three points. No pressure.
Posted on: November 6, 2010 11:56 pm
Edited on: November 7, 2010 1:21 am
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
1. The biggest game of the league's season was played back on Oct. 2. And Oregon won it, 52-31 over Stanford . By this point, with the Ducks at least two games up on the rest of the league (and three on everyone but the Cardinal as soon as they dispose of Arizona ) and second-place Stanford two games up on everyone trailing them , there's absolutely no question who the best two teams in the conference are. Not that the league's schedule-makers could have forseen the Ducks' and Cardinal's dominance, but after a few seaosns with massive (and massively hyped) late-season showdowns with Rose Bowl berths on the line, this season whatever attention the Pac-10 garner will come exclusively from Oregon's run at Glendale.
2. Speaking of which, Oregon is the nation's best second-half team. We'd seen this movie before, against Tennessee , against Stanford, against USC: the Ducks look vaguely sluggish for 30 minutes or slightly more, and just as it appears they might be in genuine trouble, they floor it. Today's edition : a scoreless first quarter, couple of turnovers, an 18-13 lead early third quarter ... and three Duck touchdowns before the period is up, with two more just for fun in the fourth to end the game on 35-3 run. Your final: 53-16. Chip Kelly says he wants to wear his opponents out and crush them down the stretch, and whaddya know, that's what his teams do.
It won't be surprising if Cal or Oregon State take an early lead with the Ducks on the road, won't be a total shock if they carry an edge into the break, or even if they're up after 45 minutes. But we're long past the point where we can expect any team remaining on Oregon's schedule to play them even over the full 60 minutes.
3. Maybe Cal isn't schizophrenic. Maybe they just hate the road. The Bears went up to the Palouse today and nearly handed Paul Wulff his first Pac-10 win in his three seasons at Wazzu , falling behind 10-7 at the half and leading only 14-13 entering the fourth quarter before squeaking by 20-13 . New starting quarterback Brock Mansion didn't make anyone forget the injured Kevin Riley , hitting only 12-of-24 with a pair of picks against the league's worst defense.
Truthfully, we already knew Cal was terrible on the road; the win snapped a six-game losing streak away from Berkeley. But even "six-game losing streak" doesn't quite say "terrible on the road" the way "seven-point win over Washington State" does.
4. Stanford's defense is maybe the league's most underreported story. The Cardinal defense in 2009: 403 yards allowed per-game, 90th in the country. The Cardinal defense in 2010: 330 yards allowed per-game, 30th in the country. And that was before they held Arizona to just three first-half points and no touchdowns until the Stanford offense had already built a 28-3 lead late in the third quarter.
No question that between the likes of Andrew Luck and Chris Owusu and Stepfan Taylor and Jim Harbaugh 's precision pro-style attack, the Cardinal is an offense-first team. But the difference between last year's 8-5 Sun Bowl team and this year's potential 11-1 BCS at-large selection is almost entirely the work first-year defensive coordinator Vic Fangio has done with his starless unit.
5. Oregon State is just another team. The early read on the Beavers was that after near-impossible assignments at Boise State and TCU but a vindication win at Arizona, Mike Riley 's team was better than their record, as they usually are in mid-October.
But after losing in overtime at Washington (losers at home to Arizona State and big losers at home to Stanford and Nebraska ) and now 17-14 at previously-reeling, 3-5 UCLA , it's time to acknowledge that the Beavers aren't top-25 material. In fact, at 4-4 and with games still to come against the Ducks, Cardinal, and Trojans, they may not even be bowl material.
6. Matt Barkley is in a slump. USC escaped Arizona State's upset bid 34-33 late Saturday thanks to some huge plays in the field goal department -- a blocked extra point returned for two Trojan points, a game-winning Joe Houston field goal, a wayward Sun Devil attempt with 90 seconds to play -- but the Trojans won't survive their grueling late-season stretch (starting with next week's visit to Arizona) without better play from their sophomore quarterbacking prodigy. Barkley threw three touchdowns against the Sun Devils, but also threw a pair of interceptions and settled for a mediocre average of 5.8 yards per-pass. Barkley has only dipped below the 7 yards-per-attempt mark three times this season, but it's happened each of the last two weeks. Those two games also account for half of his eight picks for the year. Where's the gunslinger who carpet-bombed Cal and nearly took down Stanford in Palo Alto?
Posted on: November 1, 2010 4:21 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
You would think that a 41-0 loss to Stanford and a 35-7 loss to Oregon State would be enough bad news for one Saturday for Washington and Cal . Unfortunately for both teams, injuries to their starting quarterbacks mean that you'd think wrong.
For the Huskies' Jake Locker , the problem is a cracked rib that had already suffered a hairline fracture before being further exacerbated by the rough treatment from the Cardinal. Though the oft-injured Locker should be able to return before missing too much action -- the early indications seem to be that he could return for the Nov. 18 meeting with UCLA , meaning he'd sit out only one game -- the timing for Washington truly could not be worse, as this week's schedule sends the Huskies to Eugene to take on No. 1 Oregon .
Taking Locker's place will be redshirt freshman Keith Price , who'll be making his first career start at Autzen Stadium and will likely triple his 9 career passing attempts. Best of luck, Keith.
Things could be so much worse for Washington, though, as the knee injury suffered by Cal's Kevin Riley early in the Bears' loss in Corvallis illustrates. When even your head coach isn't really holding out hope for your return ...
Tedford acknowledged that the injury was serious, saying, "Right now, it looks a little bit more serious than just your everyday sprained knee" ...... things are not looking good. An MRI today should confirm the extent of Riley's injury, but if he's torn a ligament, the fifth-year senior's career at Cal will be over.
Replacing Riley will be junior Brock Mansion , who completed 14 of his 24 passes against the Beavers (including a late touchdown) but for only 5.8 yards an attempt. Mansion's a seasoned veteran compared to Price; he has 32 total career attempts.
The good news for the Bears is that Jeff Tedford has a strong track record of developing college quarterbacks, and that Mansion will have at least a week to get his feet underneath him against hapless Washington State . But unless Mansion is a stunningly quick learner (or Riley ends up OK), any hope of the Bears scoring the upset of the season when Oregon visits Nov. 13 has probably gone out the window.