Tag:Steve Sarkisian
Posted on: November 1, 2011 1:39 pm
 

Keys to the game: Oregon at Washington

Posted by Bryan Fischer

OREGON WILL WIN IF: The Ducks offense has struggled to be consistent and it appears there's a minor quarterback controversy after Darron Thomas was pulled in the second half for backup quarterback Bryan Bennett. LaMichael James is back and Kenjon Barner and De'Anthony Thomas have done a great job running the football but Oregon has to get the passing game back on track with Thomas under center. This is likely the Ducks' stiffest test on defense all season but they're going to need the offense in its usual high-scoring mode to win.

WASHINGTON WILL WIN IF: The defense has to make play plays and force a few turnovers. There's no if's, and's or but's about this game, the defense will need to take a major step forward if the Huskies want to win this game. The offense has been great so far this year but the team has been in too many shootouts - a type of game they'll lose against Oregon. Chris Polk will need another monster game and will need to help control the clock and keep it out of the hands of the Oregon offense. This is a big game for Steve Sarkisian but it's an even bigger game for defensive coordinator Nick Holt.

X-FACTOR: Washington is bowl eligible for the second season in a row and the rivalry against Oregon is an underrated one nationally. That should create an electric crowd at Husky Stadium, one of the loudest venues in the Pac-12. If they can capitalize on the home field advantage and force Oregon in to some mistakes early, there's no doubt that Washington has a chance in this one.

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Posted on: October 30, 2011 8:27 pm
Edited on: October 30, 2011 8:28 pm
 

Pac-12 Winners and Losers: Week 9



Posted by Bryan Fischer


A handy recap of who really won and who really lost that you won't find in the box score.

WINNER: Andrew Luck's Heisman hopes

In case you've been living under a rock or on another planet, you know the Stanford signal-caller is the best quarterback in the country. After beating the last 10 opponents by at least 25 points, the Cardinal finally faced a stiff test from USC this week and it was Luck that helped lead them out of trouble and to another win to keep the record unblemished. True, he wasn't perfect, throwing an interception late in the 4th quarter that was returned for a touchdown. Luck responded though, leading a calm, efficient drive to tie the game before being flawless in three overtime periods - tossing a touchdown, the winning two-point conversion and picking up several yards using his legs. With two offensive linemen and one of his top targets in tight end Zach Ertz out due to injury, more of the load was on Luck's shoulders and he came through to deliver a big Heisman moment in front of a national television audience.

LOSER: Oregon's quarterback controversy

Starting quarterback Darron Thomas returned against Washington State after dealing with a knee injury and tossed two interceptions that kept the Cougars within five points at halftime. Chip Kelly swapped him out for backup Bryan Bennett, who led the offense to three touchdowns and a 43-28 win at home. Afterward Kelly said Bennett gave the Ducks the best chance to win but assistants downplayed any brewing quarterback controversy. The offense has not been as sharp as they were a year ago but that doesn't mean Thomas is not going to be the starter going forward, all he did was lead Oregon to the national title game in his first full year as a starter. The leash might be a little shorter with Bennett doing well but there's only a real quarterback controversy on message boards (or if they lose).

WINNER: De'Anthony Thomas

The sensational freshman from Los Angeles has continued to fit right into the fast-paced Oregon offense. He finished the game against Washington State with a pair of highlights on a 45-yard touchdown catch and a 93-yard kickoff return. Thomas now has 11 touchdowns this season, a school-record for a true freshman. What is surprising is how well he's held up over the season given his size but week-in and week-out he goes and makes plays. He finished with 262 all-purpose yards against the Cougars and should continue to be a focal part of the offense.

LOSER: Zach Maynard

California's starting quarterback, Maynard's third leading receiver this week was Tevin McDonald. The problem was McDonald plays safety for UCLA and ended up picking Maynard off three times on Saturday. The offense couldn't get much going against a Bruins defense that has struggled most of the year, with Maynard going 14-of-30 for 199 yards (he also threw another interception to Aaron Hester). It's somewhat puzzling how Jeff Tedford has never been able to get consistent quarterback play since Aaron Rodgers left but it appears he's sticking with Maynard through thick and thin this season. The Bears have lost four of five but have two winnable home games against Washington State and Oregon State to get bowl eligible. If they are going to win, they're going to need a lot more out of Maynard than what he showed at the Rose Bowl against UCLA.

WINNER: Barking for Sark

There was a time where Washington was one of the worst programs in FBS, much less the then Pac-10. Steve Sarkisian has done a wonderful job turning around the program and for the second year in a row has the Huskies bowl eligble and sitting comfortably in third place in the Pac-12 North. Having to replace Jake Locker is no easy task but the offense has actually improved behind Keith Price's arm and Chris Polk's running. The defense remains a work in progress but it is good enough to step up when needed. From top to bottom though, this is a completely different program under Sarkisian and has the entire city of Seattle 'Barking for Sark.'

LOSER: Colorado

Six straight losses and they really haven't been close to being competitive. Jon Embree was given a tough rebuilding job at his alma mater but this is starting to get embarrassing for the once proud program. The defense has given up at least 45 points the last four games and has held just one team under 31 all year. The offense has dealt with injures but has failed to move the ball much at all. The Buffs still haven't won a Pac-12 game and have only a slim chance to win any of their remaining games. Embree could get there and make the program more competitive but it didn't look like it this week.

WINNER: Utah

It took longer - a lot longer - than those around the program had hoped but the Utes finally have a Pac-12 victory to their name with 27-8 home win over Oregon State. Utah's defense was the strength of the team and forced four turnovers against an underrated Beavers offense that was looking for a second straight road win. Running back John White continued to be a problem for defenses on the ground, rushing for a career-high 205 yards to keep the heat off of starter Jon Hays. The schedule does lighten up during the back half for Utah and getting their first Pac-12 win should provide some momentum going forward.

WINNER: USC


There is no phrase losing coaches hate more than "moral victories" but after almost beating Stanford in one of the most thrilling games of the year, it's safe to give USC a moral victory. The Trojans fought hard and were it not for a fumble near the goal line in the third overtime, were close to pulling the upset. Certainly it's no accomplishment allowing 56 points but when you consider how good Andrew Luck is and the limited depth USC has, Monte Kiffin's crew did enough to put the team in a position to win. Between the Notre Dame win and the game against Stanford, Lane Kiffin has solidified this team as a top 25 team and one that could give Oregon some trouble down the road. As much as anything, seeing the Coliseum full and loud was a welcome sight to coaches and players. “If you’re going to play a team that has the longest winning streak in the country and has beaten everybody by over 25 points and you go down to a game that could have gone either way,” Kiffin said. “You have to be pleased with where your team is at.” The last time USC played a triple overtime game they used it as a launching point for one of the best runs in college football history. Not saying this game can do the same but it could be the impetus for good things in the land of Troy.

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Posted on: October 24, 2011 12:44 pm
 

Pac-12 poll reactions, Week 8

Posted by Chip Patterson

This week's polls have been released. Here's how the Pac-12 fared, from the top of the polls to the bottom, and what it means.

(AP/Coaches)

4/3. Stanford

With the national audience and a ranked opponent, Stanford put on an explosive show at the right time for the voters. The 65-21 track meet victory against Washington highlighted everything dominant about Stanford not-named Andrew Luck. The 446-172 advantage in rushing yards showed the Cardinal have much more to going for them than just their junior star quarterback. The nation took notice, and now the Stanford has moved into position to possibly contend for a national title.

7/7. Oregon

Oregon showed no need to test their injured offensive backfield against Colorado during the 45-2 beatdown in Boulder. The Ducks move up in the polls to fill open spots, but unlike their Pac-12 rivals at Stanford they carry that one loss from the season opener. Oregon's best chances to continue to climb will require more top teams losing, but if LSU defeats Alabama and retains the top spot that one loss will continue to look "acceptable" in the minds of many voters.

20/N/A. USC

NCAA sanctions will keep USC out of the Coaches Poll, but their third 30+ point performance in as many weeks was enough to get them back into the AP rankings. USC's defense held Notre Dame to just 267 total yards and only one offensive touchdown in the impressive 31-17 victory under the lights in South Bend. The Irish got back to their turnover-prone ways, and the Trojans made sure to take advantage. Now Lane Kiffin gets the opportunity to play spoiler to title-contending Stanford when the Cardinal come to town this Saturday for the primetime showdown on national television.

23/20. Arizona State

Very little movement in the polls for the Sun Devils, as Dennis Erickson's squad got the enjoyed their off week. They will return to action on Saturday against Colorado at home (basically part of the bye week) before focusing on the home stretch and a potential Pac-12 South division crown. The schedule sets up well for the Sun Devils, who should be favored to represent the division in the inaugural Pac-12 Championship Game. All they need to do is make sure they don't slip up along the way.


Others receiving votes: Washington was dropped from the rankings after their loss at the hands of Stanford, but still received 32 points in the AP and 20 from the Coaches.

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Posted on: October 18, 2011 12:20 pm
Edited on: October 18, 2011 1:22 pm
 

Keys to the game: Washington at Stanford

Posted by Bryan Fischer

STANFORD WILL WIN IF: If they don't get off to a slow start. It took about a half for the offense to get going last week before Andrew Luck started picking apart the Washington State defense, often finding his tight ends. Establishing the run game and remaining balanced will be key. The defense will face their biggest test yet with the explosive Huskies offense and they'll need to contain running back Chris Polk if they want to slow them down.

WASHINGTON WILL WIN IF: If the defense can create stops, the offense might be able to put up enough points for a road victory. The team was embarrassed last year in a 41-0 loss to the Cardinal and were simply out muscled by a superior Stanford team. Steve Sarkisian has brought along quarterback Keith Price quickly and the offense has plenty of weapons but this game will come down to Nick Holt's defense creating turnovers and forcing some three and outs.

X-FACTOR: The tight end position for both teams are a huge threat in the passing game. Stanford relies heavily on their trio, to the point that the wide receivers are rarely the first option. They can create big mismatches against smaller safeties or linebackers. For Washington, freshman Austin Seferian-Jenkins is a big, athletic player who can help in the run game and make a few moves in the open field to find the end zone.
Posted on: October 18, 2011 11:11 am
 

Eye on College Football Midseason Report: Pac-12



Posted by Bryan Fischer

Everybody is still trying to get used to calling it the Pac-12 but the football being played out West hasn't changed much at all from last year. Stanford still has the best player in college football and a punishing style of football that has them on the fringe of the national title race. Oregon continues to put up points faster than anybody and even if a few players are hurt, they just plug another player in to break big plays. There's been surprises too, like Washington doing just fine with new starter Keith Price under center. It's not as strong top-to-bottom as it was last year but there's plenty of quality football (and plenty of money) that Larry Scott couldn't be happier to watch.

With that, let's get onto the superlatives for the year thus far. There was plenty of competition every step of the way, and truth be told we could have handed out some ties on a lot of these categories, but if college football fans wanted ties we wouldn't have overtime, so here we go.

Offensive Player of the Year: Andrew Luck, Stanford. The object of many NFL general managers affection, Luck has gone out and played nearly flawless despite a rebuilt offensive line and a brand new cast of wide receivers. He's tossed 18 touchdowns against just three interceptions and positioned the Cardinal for a Rose Bowl for the first time since 2000. Watch him pick apart any secondary on a nice Saturday afternoon and it's a thing of beauty. Without Luck, one wonders if Stanford even makes a decent bowl game so it's easy to see why he's the Pac-12 offensive player of the year at the halfway point. Also considered: LaMichael James, Oregon; Keith Price, Washington; Robert Woods, USC.

Defensive Player of the Year: Vontaze Burfict, Arizona State. Burfict has built of a reputation for playing beyond the whistle and that sometimes overshadows how good he is between the lines. Despite losing several starters to the Sun Devils defense, the unit has still performed very well. He's much more dangerous on blitzes this season and is sixth in the conference in sacks. Burfict doesn't fill the stat sheet like others might but his impact on the field can be felt on every snap. Also considered: Chase Thomas, Stanford; Mychal Kendricks, Cal

Coach of the Year: Steve Sarkisian, Washington. Need to replace one of the most productive quarterbacks in school history? No problem for this former signal-caller, who has the Huskies offense humming and off to a 5-1 start and an appearance in the top 25. They've got a tough stretch of games coming up but they're almost assured of going to a bowl game for the second consecutive year. Also considered: Dennis Erickson, Arizona State; David Shaw, Stanford.

Surprise: Washington State. The conference bottom-dweller for so many years, the Cougars are much, much more competitive in 2011. They've won three games already and should be 4-2 but let a late lead slip at UCLA. There's still an outside shot of a bowl game but considering they're even this good despite quarterback Jeff Tuel has missed most of the season, returning just last week against Stanford. Also considered: Washington

Disappointment:  Utah. Everybody knew it would be a difficult transition for the Utes to a BCS league and the week-in and week-out grid. But not everyone expected the injuries, such as a season-ending one to quarterback Jordan Wynn, and trailing off in the second half of just about every game. They went on the road and beat Pitt so maybe they'll have a little momentum headed into the back half of their schedule (which is much easier than the front half). Still, for a team some touted as the possible Pac-12 South winner, the .500 record isn't what was expected. Also considered: Oregon State; Arizona; Cal

Game of the Year (so far): Utah at USC. We wouldn't exactly call this a scintillating game but it had drama and was hard-fought until the end. The first ever Pac-12 conference game, it pitted the league's most storied member against the league's newest. There was plenty of drama, as the Utes drove down the field in a last-minute to set up a game-tying field goal. But the kick was blocked and, in a unsual series of events, run back by USC for a touchdown while officials signaled that the points would be taken off the board due to unsportsmanlike conduct. Only hours later was their mistake corrected and the points added to the final score, sending Las Vegas sports books into a frenzy. Also considered: Oregon vs. LSU, Arizona State at Oregon.

Game of the Year (to come): Oregon at Stanford. The defacto Pac-12 championship game, this is a top 10 match up with the winner likely headed to the Rose Bowl at the end of the year. The Cardinal led last year before the Ducks stormed back on their way to the national championship game. This year Stanford will likely be favored to win the game at home and they're better equipped to stop Oregon's high-powered offense with the Pac-12's best defense this year. Running back LaMichael James should be back in the starting lineup by then so this is a battle of Heisman trophy runners-up from last year in Luck and James.  Also considered: Stanford at USC, Oregon at Washington.

North Division Champion: Stanford. See above, the division champion will be decided in Palo Alto in early November. Technically Washington still has an outside shot and they do host Oregon but they're not an elite team like the Ducks and Cardinal are. With Andrew Luck under center and an improved defense, the road to the first Pac-12 North title, and league championship, runs through Stanford. Also considered: Oregon.

South Division Champion: Arizona State. Thanks to a head-to-head win and USC being ineligible, the Sun Devils have locked up the South well before the end of the season. They don't have to play Stanford this season but in their first big test against elite team, they fell short against Oregon. Still, the schedule is easy the rest of the way and they will be favored to win out before playing at the North winner in the Pac-12 Championship game at 10-2.

Pac-12 Champion: Stanford. Having the best player in the league, the best defense in the league and the biggest game of the year sets up nicely for first year head coach David Shaw. Winning the inaugural Pac-12 title and a trip to Pasadena for Stanford's first Rose Bowl in over a decade would have been unexpected just two years ago but here the Cardinal are, in the driver's seat. They also have a chance to move into the top five and on the cusp of a national title appearance if still undefeated at the end of the year. Also considered: Oregon.

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Posted on: October 16, 2011 6:09 pm
Edited on: October 16, 2011 6:12 pm
 

Pac-12 poll reactions, Week 7

Posted by Bryan Fischer

This week's polls have been released. Here's how the Pac-12 fared, from the top of the polls to the bottom, and what it means.

(AP/Coaches)

7/5. Stanford

No movement for the Cardinal in the polls for the first time in a while. Perhaps voters only watched the second half of their game against Washington State or checked the box score because Andrew Luck and the offense struggled early in the game before blowing things open late. The issue with this team will be that they haven't played a ranked team at all but that will change with a game against Washington this week and possibly another with USC in two weeks before the big November showdown with Oregon.

9/9. Oregon

It's rare to see two ties in the poll but that's what the Coaches Poll had and the Ducks were involved with one of them. They're still at nine in the AP behind Clemson but are tied with the Tigers in the coaches at eight. It speaks to the perception of Oregon, especially after beating Arizona State at home, that they could be tied with an undefeated team in the polls and into the top eight despite the season opening loss to LSU. They still control their own destiny for the Rose Bowl which is all a Pac-12 team can ask for at this point.

18/20. Arizona State

A big win over Utah one week, a big loss to Oregon the next. The good news is they put up enough of a fight to show voters that they still deserve to remain in the top 25. The Sun Devils fell six spots in the AP and five in the Coaches but have a schedule that allows them to win and move back up into the top 20. They look set to be the Pac-12 South division champion so it might just be a matter of time before they have a second shot at the Ducks.

22/24. Washington

A 5-1 start and plenty of momentum around the program under Steve Sarkisian and the Huskies find themselves back in the top 25 for the first time in over two years. It's actually been even longer since Washington was ranked in both polls, as they are this week, because you have to go all the way back to October 5, 2003. It might be a short-lived stay in the top 25 for the team however, with a trip to Palo Alto to play Stanford this week. Still, quite the accomplishment for Sarkisian and his team.

Others receiving votes: USC (87 points AP)


Posted on: October 16, 2011 3:19 am
 

Pac-12 Winners and Losers: Week 7



Posted by Bryan Fischer


A handy recap of who really won and who really lost that you won't find in the box score.

WINNER: Oregon's ground game

When you look at the great programs in college football, whenever they had a string of great seasons, everybody would often say they just kept reloading year after year. In Chip Kelly's offense, it's safe to say that is just what the Ducks are doing right now. Nation's leading rusher out with an injury? That would be crippling to other schools but not for Oregon, who just gave Kenjon Barner the football and all he did was rush for 171 yards and a touchdown against one of the conference's best defenses. Freshman De'Anthony Thomas ran for 73 yards and two scores to give the Ducks their 15th straight win over a Pac-12 team.

LOSER: The Arizona State defense

The vaunted Sun Devils defense, despite losing several starters to injury, came into their primetime game against Oregon ranked second in the conference in several defensive categories and were 11th in the country in turnover margin. Of course, those stats were built up against opponents that don't run an offense anything close to what the Ducks run. They gashed ASU for 530 total yards, including 318 on the ground. ASU never seemed to create a stop in the second half and penalties (16 for 190 yards total) kept giving the Ducks extra chances. The schedule eases up going forward and they should be fine, but Dennis Erickson has to fix a few things if they end up running into Oregon in the Pac-12 championship game down the road.

WINNER: Keith Price

Jake Locker who? The Huskies' signal-caller continued to impress with his grasp of the offense, throwing touchdown passes to four different receivers while routing Colorado 52-24. With Price making plays with his arm, Washington has now scored 30 or more points in their first six games - a new school record. He was fifth in the country in points responsible for and should move up on that list, just like he is on the single-season touchdowns thrown list at UW (he's fourth). Price could have padded his stats too had Steve Sarkisian not taken him out of the game before the end of the 3rd quarter. Many expected Washington to take a step back with Price under center but it looks like nothing could be further from the truth.

LOSER: Oregon State's rushing attack

While their in-state rival is running wild, the Beavers can't get anything going on the ground. Quarterback Sean Mannion had to pass the ball 43 times, rarity under Mike Riley before this season, in order to move the ball at all against BYU and was picked twice to give him nine on the year. Freshman tailback Malcolm Agnew returned to the lineup - he rushed for 223 yards in the opener - but that didn't matter at all as Oregon State managed just 59 yards total. Surpisingly, all-purpose threat James Rodgers had only one attempt and wasn't much of a factor at all. A road trip to Washington State for a revenge game might be the only chance the Beavers have at getting another win this year.

WINNER: John White

Another big performer on the ground in the Pac-12? I am sensing a theme among the winners. After taking a tough home loss to Arizona State, Utah went on the road for one of the rare mid-season non-conference games at Pitt. White rushed for 171 yards on 35 carries, one of the key reasons why the Utes held onto the ball for nearly 38 minutes against the Panthers defense that became worn out by the end of the game. Feeding White the ball was partly out of necessity, as the team was without leading receiver DeVonte Christopher and quarterback Jordan Wynn. Jon Hays was making only his second start ever at quarterback and first on the road as well. Considering the offensive line gave up seven sacks, it's clear they wanted to run block for White much more on a chilly day in Pittsburgh.

LOSER: Washington State's moral victories

Last week at UCLA, the Cougars gave up a late lead and saw a victory snatched from their grasp. This week against the conference's top team, Stanford, they were within three at halftime and were creating turnovers and playing Andrew Luck and company very tough. To cap it all off, the Cardinal returned a kick return for a touchdown on the final play of the game to make the score look even worse and push the Cougars' attitude even further down in the dumps. There was a thought that quarterback Jeff Tuel's return would provide a boost but he was mediocre most of the game and never could get the offense going against the stiff Stanford defense. Saturday was the second straight game where Washington State couldn't finish despite being in the game. Even though they were overmatched this week against a superior foe, the way the wheels came off late means there was no moral victory from hanging around early.

Posted on: July 26, 2011 10:17 pm
Edited on: July 26, 2011 11:21 pm
 

Media Day Tidbits: Pac-12 North

Posted by Bryan Fischer

LOS ANGELES -- Following a video production that would have made Steven Spielberg proud, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott kicked off the conference's inaugural Pac-12 Media Days from Los Angeles Tuesday morning. Though he didn't make bold proclamations about the state of NCAA affairs like some of his peers, Scott did extoll the virtues of the league on the heels of landing a big new media deal.

"The last 12 months have brought monumental change to the Pac 10 conference, now the Pac 12," Scott said. "The conference moniker, Conference of Champions, has been well earned and embraced over the years. And this past year was no exception.

"This is a new era for the conference as we embrace the future, and the addition of Colorado and Utah very much helped us secure a landmark media agreement that's going to provide for unprecedented exposure nationally for the conference.

Scott focused on the accomplishments of the conference both on and off the field, noting that two players were finalists for the William Campbell Trophy, the so-called "academic Heisman." Of course, he also mentioned the fact that the league put two teams in BCS bowls and is returning two returning Heisman finalists.

"The Pac 12 brand of football, if I can describe it that way, is as dynamic as any in college sports. Year after year we seem to produce the best quarterbacks and the most sophisticated offenses in the country," Scott said. "All five of the quarterbacks that are here with us today uphold the standard of play that legends before them set."

Plenty of coaches and players also talked about their teams heading into the league's first year, here's some highlights from Pac-12 North:

Cal:

- "This is always a favorite time of the year because the players have been working hard all summer long and now it's timed to get back to work," head coach Jeff Tedford said. "The chemistry, I'm really excited about this team with the leadership, the work ethic, the team chemistry. I'm really pleased with how they've come together and their work ethic. Very eager to compete."

- The Bears failed to go to a bowl last year but, according to Tedford, they were a handful of plays away.

"Last season we fell short of that, and we're not hiding from that," he said. "We understand that there is a very fine line between winning and losing, and we're six points away from being 8-4 last year."

- Tedford said he will be more involved with play calling this season as a result, hoping to improve a Cal offense that floundered down the stretch last season.

"Offensively we need to improve. We were not close to the consistency that we needed to compete at a high level," Tedford said. "Zach Maynard has been named the started and he earned it."

- With the departure of the team's leading rusher Shane Vereen, Tedford is counting on one of his incoming freshmen to compliment his inexperienced returnees at the tailback position.

"We recruited four tailbacks and I'm excited to see what they can do," he said. "I really think we'll have one back or two be solid contributors."

- Tedford said it would be a little bit different playing two Thursday games and one on Friday. The Bears are also playing the majority of their "home" games at AT&T Park due to construction on Memorial Stadium.

"Wherever those lines are, that's what were going to focus on," he said.

- The 10th year head coach was also asked about Will Lyles since the program purchased a scouting package from the now infamous high school scout.

"I'm not concerned one bit," Tedford said. "I wouldn't know Will Lyles if he were in this room."

Oregon

- Ducks head coach Chip Kelly knew right away the questions about the program's NCAA investigation were coming early and coming often.

"I know the one everybody is waiting to have answered but we sent out a release earlier," Kelly opened his remarks to the media with. "We've cooperated fully with (the NCAA) and will continue to cooperate them."

For more on Chip Kelly's comments on the Lyles situation, click here.

- Kelly's appearance wasn't completely about the cloud hanging over his program. Fresh off a BCS National Championship game appearance, the Ducks head coach is experiencing quite the roster turnover and focused on other issues.

"I looked at our roster coming in here and I think we have 11 or 12 seniors, and we'll have 47 either freshmen or red shirted freshmen," he said. "It's a good time for us. We're excited. We start on August 8, and we have an interesting game to start the season on September 3rd that has every one of our players attention, and we'll work as hard as we can to prepare for that game on September 3rd against a really, really good LSU team."

- Luckily for Oregon's explosive offense, the Ducks aren't hurting for talent despite being young.

"LaMichael (James) is the returning Doak Walker Award winner as the nation's number one running back," Kelly said. "I've always believed that to win football games you have to be able to run the football. And we've led the Pac-10 in rushing in the last four years. Total offense the last four years, scoring offense the last four years, and LaMichael's a huge part of that."

- Kelly said he hasn't made any decisions on suspended players Kiko Alonso and Cliff Harris. Both players are working out with the team but their status for opener and beyond is still up in the air.

- Incoming recruit D'Anthony Thomas, "Can flat out run," according to Kelly and the coaching staff will figure out a way to incorporate him into the offense. Lache Seastrunk is one of the players that's a possibility to be the third string running back behind James and Kenjon Barner but nothing is set in stone because no one grabbed hold of the position in spring practice.

Oregon State

- "We're excited to be here at the dawning of the Pac-12 conference," veteran coach Mike Riley said. "But we're going to really, really have to grow a lot through fall camp and through our season. We had five guys that had off-season surgeries and missed spring practice. So as we get back into this thing, we'll have to grow a lot and be ready to compete all the way down the stretch, get better every day."

- As someone who has just about seen it all over the years, the new format with two divisions and not playing everybody every year will take a bit of getting used to for Riley but he was excited about the changes.

"I've been in the conference a long time now, 11 years, and I've seen the competition rise to where every week is like the Super Bowl," he said. "So I think it's going to be really, really competitive."

- The Pac-12 put on a seminar with their head of officiating on Monday in order to better educate the media about some of the new rules going into effect in 2011. The one rule that has drawn the most criticism is the new celebration rule, which Riley says is just something the players will have to adjust to.

"It's going to be an emphasis for the officials early," he said. "Whether or not you agree with the rules, this is what it is. I think it's going to be to a point where you're going to have to be really careful."

"You've got to deal with it," senior safety Lance Mitchell said. "When it affects the team, it's just bad all around and you have to keep it under control."

- One of the key players for the Beavers is all-everything athlete James Rodgers, who is coming off his second knee surgery but should be able to contribute this season.

"The one thing you can never do with James is count him out," Riley said. "He's been deemed ahead of schedule but I'm going to play this conservatively."

- Rodgers' brother, Jacquizz, was the team's leading rusher for the past few years but left early for the NFL, a decision Riley said was a good one despite the criticism "Quizz" took. Though there's some talent at the position to replace him in the offense, it will be a wait and see approach until one player separates from the pack.

"We don't have a number one back that can replace Quizz today," he said "I think if we look at that group it will probably be running back by committee."

- Riley expects the team to be very solid on defense and expects Jordan Poyer and Michael Doctor to be key contributors among others.
He also said key contributor Joe Halahuni will be ready going into the fall camp after having surgery in April.

Stanford:

- So what's David Shaw's deal? Apparently, it's much like Jim Harbaugh's, the man he replaced in Palo Alto.

"The differences are minimal because our biggest differences are we have different personalities," Shaw said. "We have the same goals and same competitive drive. We like to teach. I see myself as a teacher and that's the environment we've created down there."

- For Shaw's Heisman Trophy front-running quarterback Andrew Luck, not having much a transition between the two head coaches has been invaluable.

"It's definitely nice not to have to learn a new scheme, a new offense," Luck said. "Coach Shaw recruited me. He's been instrumental in my growth as a football player and ever since I've been on campus.  So continuity was definitely something that a lot of the players were hoping for when the coaching change was being made. It's definitely been easier for me, I think.

- Luck was sporting a rather large beard for his media day appearance and according to him, the first time he's grown one. Though he's not sure if he's keeping it, the humble star did make news by announcing that he would indeed be leaving Stanford after this season.

"I'm viewing this as my last college football season and approaching it as such," he said.

- On the opposite side of the ball for The Cardinal, Shaw will be using to co-coordinators on defense with Derek Mason and Jason Tarver.

"We do have co-coordiators," Shaw said. "The mix of those two guys are phenomenal. They're like an old married couple, they finish each others' sentences."

- Wide receiver and ace return man Chris Owusu missed six games due to injury last year and will be a key part of the offense this year with an inexperienced group of receivers - if he can stay healthy.

"I haven't said anything to Chris except play every game," Shaw said. "We need Chris Owusu to play every game. We've got a talented but inexperienced receiving core around Andrew."

Washington

- If there was one person in the room who was really excited to be a part of the inaugural Pac-12 Media Day, it was Washington coach Steve Sarkisian.

"Being a Southern California guy and being raised in this thing when it went from Pac-8 to Pac-10, to Pac-12, it's just exciting," Sarkisian said. "I think for us as the University of Washington and our program as we're growing, we couldn't be in a better conference at you a better time for the exposure needed for us and for this conference."

- Sarkisian talked at length about the Huskies' brand of football as the team moves on from the Jake Locker era.

"I think we've got a football team that you saw at the end of last season starting to play a brand of football that we believe in, that is one that is physical that believes in running the football and playing sound defense," Sarkisian said. "We're fortunate to have veteran leadership as we grow but we're still a very young football team. We've played 16 true freshmen last fall. And we've got veteran leaders."

- There's not much that can get a head coach going than talking about his quarterback and the former signal-caller-turned-coach had no problems praising starter Keith Price but cautioning that they would take it slow in his first year as the starter.

"He's a kid that comes to work with a smile on his face," Sarkisian said. "But the reality of it is we're not going to be able to rely on that quarterback position like we were able to with Jake for two years. It's going to be more on relying on Chris (Polk), and Jesse Callier of running the ball, then utilizing the one-on-one matchups on the outside with the Jermaine Kearse, Devin Aguilar, Kevin Smith, and maybe the emergence of a newcomer in Kasen Williams.

- With someone new behind center, many expect Polk to carry the offense on his back, something he accepts but realizes he can't really do if the team is to be successful.

"It's not necessarily on my back, because the game of football is not based off individual performances," Polk said. "So if our O-line's not working and the running game's not working and the passing game's not working."

- A few players, such as Semisi Tokolahi and Sione Potaoa'e, might be limited once the Huskies break for fall camp but the team should be close to full strength once the pad comes on.

"For the most part we're healthy," Sarkisian said. "We look good. Our guys are transforming their bodies and look great."

Washington State

- Washington State was picked last in the North Division but if there is one encouraging sign for the Cougars, it's on defense with some players who are young but have starting experience.

"There's a good chance that we'll start just one or two seniors on defense," head coach Paul Wulff said. "I'm pretty sure we're going to take a big step on defense."

- Wulff signaled out running back Rickey Galvin, wide receiver Kristoff Williams and linebackers Sekope Kaufusi and Alex Hoffman-Ellis as players who he expects to make the leap to key contributors.

- Despite being at the bottom of the conference standings for awhile, Jared Karstetter said that the Cougars are being taken more serious by other Pac-12 programs.

"Yeah, I think we were more competitive especially the end of last year," he said. "Any sort of lack of respect that we feel as a team, I think that we just use that as motivation to go out there on game day and compete and prove ourselves.

- Wulff talked at length about the type of player he recruits and specifically said the staff is looking for players with their head on straight.

"We've gone about our business to recruit the right type of person," Wulff said. "Great football players that can help you build a team. We go after guys that fit our profile."

- With a good quarterback with plenty of experience behind center in Jeff Tuel and an improved defense, Wulff thinks the team can build on last season and move up in the pecking order.

"I know through spring football, we were executing things we'd never done," he said.
 
 
 
 
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