Tag:Pac-12
Posted on: April 1, 2011 4:08 pm
 

Pac-12 injury list claims Bruin tackle, 'Cat RB

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Arizona and UCLA have a few things in common this spring, namely that both are coming off of disappointing seasons and are hoping for a big spring camp to propel them to greater things this fall.

Unfortunately, another thing both now also have in common are injuries to players expected to be key contributors in 2011. It's the same old story for the snake-bitten Bruins, who in 2010 saw multiple offensive lineman go down to injury and tackle Jeff Baca miss the season with an academic problem. Now Baca's season is in jeopardy again, but this time for a fractured ankle suffered during an 11-on-11 drill Thursday.

Baca has already undergone surgery, but according to the L.A. Times Bruin officials do not know if he'll be able to return in time for fall camp. It's a huge blow both individually for Baca -- who started 13 games in 2009 but likely needed as much practice time as he could get to knock off the rust of missing last season -- and for a Bruin line that's struggled to find healthy bodies for what seems like the entirety of Rick Neuheisel's Los Angeles tenure.

If there's any consolation for UCLA, it's that they're not the only members of the new Pac-12 South dealing with an injury problem. Following the departure of Nic Grigsby, Arizona power running back Greg Nwoko was expected to take a much larger share of the rushing load after carrying 57 times for 270 yards a year ago.

But that may not happen after Nwoko suffered a serious knee injury last weekend:
"He was just making a cut, trying to elude a tackler," said Arizona coach Mike Stoops. "Just a freak injury."

Stoops said the preliminary diagnosis is a torn ACL.

"We'll see how that progresses, but it looks like it will be a long-term deal with him," Stoops said. "This looks like a seven-month total injury for him. I would imagine we would get him back at some point during the season, but I would imagine it would be the latter end."

Nwoko has already used his redshirt season, removing that as an option. He's not the only personnel issue for the Wildcats, either, as two reserve linebackers have left the team, Stoops announced, giving the Wildcats only five scholarship players on the unit.

None of this means that either the Wildcats or Bruins can't bounce back this fall. But it's not the way either Stoops or Neuheisel would have wanted to start such a critical spring, either.


Posted on: March 29, 2011 7:13 pm
 

Tedford to take Cal play-calling reins ... again

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

When Andy Ludwig bailed on the Cal offensive coordinator's job in January, we wrote that Jeff Tedford had three options when it came to naming a new play-caller: 1. replacement coordinator Jim Michalczik, who hadn't called plays for a team at any level of football in nine season 2. new receivers coach/passing game coordinator Eric Kiesau, who oversaw two dreadful offenses under Dan Hawkins at Colorado 3. Jeff Tedford.

And though Tedford's last season as primary play-caller didn't end well -- in 2007, the Bears finished 3-6 in the Pac-10 as Tedford's offense ranked 50th in FBS scoring -- it's no surprise that with his Cal tenure at a critical juncture following last year's 5-7 disappointment, he's elected to go with the option he trusts most ... himself:
"I did it the first three or four years here, then went back and forth," Tedford said. "You've got to be all in or out, one of the two. There's got to be a role you play. You get to set things up, have a good feel for things."

Tedford has something of an uphill climb; the Bears languished at 90th in FBS total offense in 2010 and must replace longtime starting quarterback Kevin Riley.

But the reason anyone's interested in discussing Cal football in the first place is, of course, Jeff Tedford's offensive acumen, the driving force behind the Bears' rise from the Pac-10 basement to (occasional) title contention. If anyone knows the best way to turn the ship in Berkeley around, it's probably the guy who stopped it from dragging the conference floor in the first place.


Posted on: March 29, 2011 12:49 pm
Edited on: March 29, 2011 2:11 pm
 

Pac-12 Commish: Sunday games a possibility

Posted by Chip Patterson

Regardless of what side you are taking in the current NFL labor dispute, football fans can agree that our Sundays are going to feel very empty in the fall if there is no NFL football.  With a hungry audience trained to watch football on Sundays, some members of the college football world are considering the possibilities of filling that void in the event of a continued lockout.  

Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott has been working to increase the national attention on the conference, erasing some of the "east coast bias."  Rivals' Tom Dienhart is reporting that Scott has considered moving some games to Sunday should there be no NFL season.

"We certainly are monitoring the situation," Scott said. "We have no plans in place at this time, but you want to be prepared and consider all options. Still, these labor situations have a way of getting done the closer they get to a critical situation."

There are several obstacles that Scott would face, mostly having to do with the existing television deals.  In the past, networks have taken original programming from their vault to fill space suddenly left vacant by a sporting event.  It would be extremely difficult for the Pac-12 to put together new deals on such short notice, particularly if Scott is talking about capturing a national audience.  But if there really is no NFL season in September, viewers might embrace the bonus college football.  It's not a bad thing for Scott and other commissioners to consider, but the contractual obligations seem difficult to pull off on such short notice. 

Posted on: March 28, 2011 4:58 pm
Edited on: March 28, 2011 5:35 pm
 

Spring Practice Primer: Oregon

Posted by Bryan Fischer

College Football has no offseason. Every coach knows that the preparation for September begins now, in Spring Practice . So we here at the Eye on College Football   we  will get you ready as teams open spring ball with our Spring Practice Primers . Today, we look at Oregon , which starts spring practice on Tuesday.

Spring Practice Question: Can Oregon find replacements on both lines and keep the momentum from last season going?

As disappointing as last season's narrow (and by narrow, we mean just four points) championship game loss was, it also marked an unprecedented level of success for a program that won a conference title for just the eighth time in school history. Now comes the hard part, retooling and reloading for another run at the national championship and the inaugural Pac-12 title.

At the same time he's trying to find answers on the field this spring, head coach Chip Kelly will also have to deal with an ongoing NCAA investigation into recruiting services used by the school. It's not often people enjoy watching the big bodies in the trenches work but that might be where you'll find Kelly when he's not putting Lee Corso on a poster board.

Both lines have to replace three starters and it's an even tougher task when you consider who has moved on. Defensive end Kenny Rowe , the Ducks' sack leader, and both defensive tackles are gone, leaving Terrell Turner to lead a group that should feature multiple underclassmen on the two deep. Turner had 32 tackles and two sacks last season but needs to take his game to the next level after showing flashes at times last year. Senior Brandon Hanna should fill the other end spot but junior Dion Jordan could push him for playing time after getting a taste of the position last year after starting his career on offense.

There are several sophomores in the running for the two defensive tackle spots, led by Ricky Heimuli and Taylor Hart . Both turned in very solid debut seasons as freshmen and Oregon coaches are hoping they can go from contributors in a rotation to full-time starters. Sophomore Wade Keliikipi will also make a push but is coming off a year in which he rehabbed a shoulder surgery.

Even of that group, there's no sure-fire starter penciled in at the start of spring drills and part of the reason why everyone has a chance to crack the two-deep. Junior college transfers Isaac Remington (who redshirted last season) and Jared Ebert should be solid contributors in the rotation at tackle but the Ducks will hope they can wrestle one of the starting spots away from the younger players. Highly regarded line coach Jerry Azzinaro will have his hands full this spring but he's excelled with undersized linemen in the past and is finally starting to work with some big bodies thanks to better recruiting so it will be interesting to see what this unit looks like next month.

On the other side of the ball, it might be even more important to sort things out on the offensive line with the season opener against LSU and some mighty SEC defensive tackles looming. Guard Carson York and tackle Mark Asper will be the foundation of the unit and bring much-needed experience to the group with over 20 starts under their belts. Gone is one of the better interior lineman the Ducks have had in center Jordan Holmes , who was a first team All-Pac-10 player last year. Sophomore Karrington Armstrong will likely get first crack at the position and don't be surprised if the former wrestler ends up holding onto the starting spot for several years. Redshirt freshman Hroniss Grasu will compete against Armstrong.

Spring Practice Primers
Darrion Weems will be the left tackle barring injury after starting seven games last year, including the championship game against Auburn . Ramsen Golpashin, Mana Greig and Ryan Clanton will all get a look at right guard with Golpashin likely getting the nod after playing a lot last season. Don't be surprised if the coaches try and set the two-deep for next year during the spring so they can redshirt talented offensive line recruits Andre Yruretagoyena, Jake Fisher and Tyler Johnstone .

Luckily for all of the starters, they won't have to hold their blocks for long. Quarterback Darron Thomas turned in a fantastic debut season and is one of the best run-pass threats in the country. It wasn't too hard to notice Heisman finalist LaMichael James either, as the speedy running back led the nation in rushing. Backups Kenjon Barner and redshirt freshman Lache Seastrunk are just as quick (if not quicker) than James and figure to be a nice change of pace from fast to faster.

There's plenty of talent on the roster this spring as Oregon looks to figure out the winning combination on both lines to go for an unprecedented third consecutive conference title. If they can plug some holes here and there, the skill position talent should allow the Ducks to aim well beyond another conference title and look to return to the national championship game. Hopefully, Turner and Hanna establish themselves early on and allowing all of the attention to be on the youngsters on the interior defensive line. Three offensive line positions are pretty much set so it's up to a solid group of guys to fill in at guard and tackle this spring. 

Either way you look at it, it's a long road to New Orleans for a trip back to the title game. The first step for Kelly and the Ducks is Tuesday and they'll likely spend it in the trenches.


Posted on: March 28, 2011 3:39 pm
 

FX to carry weekly college football game

Posted by Tom Fornelli

We truly live in the greatest era to be college football fan. During the fall, there are more college football games on television than ever before, ensuring every fan that just about any game they want to watch, they can. Now it seems that we'll all be getting at least one more game a week to feast our eyes upon.

It was announced on Monday that the cable network FX, which is owned by Fox, will begin airing one game a week during the 2011 season.
Cable channel FX will broadcast a weekly college football game during the coming season.
The Fox-owned network said Monday it would air at least 13 games involving teams from the Big 12, Pac-12 and Conference USA.
FX is available in more than 99 million homes. The channel has shown other sports in the past, including Major League Baseball and NASCAR.
It makes sense that this would happen, since Fox has broadcast rights for the Big 12 and Pac-12. Instead of trying to fit a bunch of games on their regional Fox Sports stations, why not use a network that is already in so many homes? What would make it even better is if they surrounded the games on the schedule with reruns of Louie, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Sons of Anarchy and Archer. As a matter of fact, I don't see any reason why Sterling Archer shouldn't be doing the play-by-play.
Posted on: March 27, 2011 2:29 pm
 

Lane Kiffin doesn't buy Marc Tyler's story

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Here's a helpful hint for any college football player, or athlete in general who is reading this blog: if you get injured in practice, don't blame the team or the coaching staff. It seldom works out to your benefit.

For instance, last week USC running back Marc Tyler pulled his hamstring in practice. It's an injury that is going to keep him sidelined through spring practice. Well, when talking to the media about the injury, Tyler wanted to make sure that everybody understood it wasn't his fault he got hurt. According to Tyler, the reason he pulled up lame running a route in practice was because the team failed to hold proper stretching excercises before practice.

“I didn’t know we weren’t going to stretch like we usually do,” Tyler said. “I guess they want us to come here earlier and stretch before. I didn’t know they changed it.  My legs didn’t feel good all practice.”

Imagine that, an athlete who has been participating in sports for years having to make sure he stretches himself before practice. How crazy!

Anyway, Tyler's head coach Lane Kiffin caught wind of the excuse and quickly put an end to it.

“We’ve discussed that with Marc,” Kiffin said. “Since he pulled his hamstring two hours into practice, it wasn’t the stretching before that.”

Kiffin also pointed out that USC has four stretching tables available to its players at all times, and that he doesn't think "any college in America does that." 

I guess Tyler wants eight.
Posted on: March 24, 2011 7:39 pm
Edited on: March 24, 2011 7:46 pm
 

Spring Practice Primer: Arizona State

Posted by Bryan Fischer

College Football has no offseason. Every coach knows that the preparation for September begins now, in Spring Practice. So we here at the Eye on College Football  will get you ready as teams open spring ball with our Spring Practice Primers. Today, we look at Arizona State, who started spring practice on Tuesday. 

Spring Practice Question: Are Brock Osweiler and Vontaze Burfict ready to step up and lead the Sun Devils?

Oh what a difference a year makes.

Coming out of spring practice a year ago, Arizona State was picked to finish in the bottom half of the Pac-10 and faced issues at just about every position group. Entering the spring this year, the Sun Devils are now considered the favorite to win a Pac-12 South title thanks to 18 returning starters from last year's squad that played top ten teams Oregon, Stanford and Wisconsin tough.

"I thought last year we were really close, now I feel like we're here," head coach Dennis Erickson said at his pre-spring press conference. "Now we've got to do it on the field. Numbers wise, even though we've got a lot of seniors, we do have a lot of young guys playing. We're finally at a place, where if we have the success we think we're going to have next year, that we can plug guys in the year after that and the year after that and the year after that."

One starter returning is junior quarterback Brock Osweiler but it might be a bit of a stretch to actually call him a returning starter. Osweiler played in just five games last season but came on strong in two starts at the end of the year, a blow out of UCLA and an upset win at archrival Arizona.

"Yes, without a question, he is the guy," Erickson said. "Now who is two...that's kind of where we are going into spring football."

In addition to refining the 6-foot-7 quarterback's game this spring, finding a backup (important considering the revolving door at the position recently) is an unexpected challenge for Erickson and staff. Former starter Steven Threet had to retire due to concussions and Samson Szakacsy left the team to pursue other interests. Despite the vacancy at backup quarterback, Erickson still feels as though he has a talented group of quarterbacks with Osweiler, redshirt freshman Taylor Kelly and early enrollee Michael Bercovici.

"It's the best I've ever been around in college, or any place I have ever been, I've never had it that deep," Erickson said "Three of them are unproven, of course. But physical talent...from what you can see is pretty amazing."

Quite a statement for the fifth-year head coach to make considering some of his stops in college and the NFL, such as with the Miami Hurricanes and the San Francisco 49ers. All three quarterbacks have strong arms and can throw it anywhere on the field but Osweiler's maturity and experience have him firmly planted atop the depth chart. The lack of a quarterback battle has allowed him to focus less on beating another player and more on just being himself.

"It's a lot different," Osweiler told the Arizona Republic. "I'm a lot more comfortable. I've been in the offense for a year, and it's a little different. There's not exactly a quarterback competition, so it kind of takes that weight off you and just allows you to play."

Fans in Tempe are hoping that he can duplicate his numbers from the games against UCLA and Arizona, where he threw five touchdowns and no picks in helping the team reach the .500 mark on the year. With the expectation that Osweiler can successfully pilot the offense, Arizona State is undergoing a few minor tweaks this spring in order to help him get the ball in the hands of playmakers like running back Cameron Marshall.

"I think we'll add a few things. It might even be simpler than it's been," Erickson said. "I think one thing we can do right now is line up and run the football without having to trick people. I don't know if that's more complex or simpler. But we're not going to change a lot of things. I think that happens sometimes when you look at this offense is you have success and start putting too much in and they don't become as good."

On the other side of the ball, personal foul machine Vontaze Burfict is expected to - and we're not joking - take on a leadership role as an upperclassman this year. Though he has typically been known for a lack of self control on the field, the recent offseason program has given the talented middle linebacker a chance to help his team instead of hurt it.

"It's amazing his change in the last three months. Now, he doesn't miss workouts, ever," Erickson said. "He's a leader out there doing all sorts of stuff. He's in the best shape I've ever seen him in. He's a big time leader out there.

"The light just came on. I think the light came on at the end of last year. I think from the Stanford game on. I think having some success and winning, and saying maybe that gray-haired (coach) knows a little bit about what's going on."

Spring Practice Primers
In addition to showing NFL scouts he has what it takes to play at the next level between the ears, the 6-foot-3, 240 pound linebacker has set a high bar for the season that goes beyond just a division title.

"I'm trying to get us to a national championship," Burfict said, "and to do that, I feel like I need to become more of a leader."

In addition to leading by example, Burfict will have to get used to playing behind two new defensive tackles following the departure of Lawrence Guy and Saia Falahola. Oft-injured tackle Corey Adams is talented but needs to stay on the field and Will Sutton will return after being academically ineligible last season. Despite a few new parts on defense, all eyes this spring will be on how the new and improved Burfict plays.

"I don't know why he had that chip on his shoulder. Maybe it was immaturity," Erickson said. "But it's totally different now."

The head coach hopes spring practice is totally different from years past as well. In addition to seeing Osweiler and Burfict step up their roles on the team, Erickson understands how much this spring means for the future of the program.

"I mean this is my fifth year. I have been going at this for four years," he said. "For me, I think it's a very important season for this program, no question about it."

If the Sun Devils are going to take the leap this upcoming spring and lay the foundation for a run, they'll have to hope Osweiler and Burfict take the necessary leap as leaders. The talk is certainly encouraging and there's no doubt that Osweiler is top dog on offense and Burfict has a better head on his shoulders on defense. But if Arizona State wants to see success in the fall, the next few weeks of spring practice are all about seeing if the two can start walking the walk and not mearly talking the talk.

Posted on: March 24, 2011 10:52 am
 

Buffaloes may have found stadium sponsor

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Other than perhaps "mediocre," over the past couple of years no adjective has been used more often to describe Colorado's football program than "cash-strapped ." And with a raft of buyouts and new contracts to pay for in the wake of Dan Hawkins' dismissal (and Jon Embree's hiring), not to mention the cost of the switch from the Big 12 to the Pac-12, gridiron money in Boulder is still as scarce as ever.

So maybe it's no surprise the Buffs are exploring one of football's most time-honored strategies for a quick injection of cash: renaming the stadium after someone willing to give them an awful lot of money , as the Boulder Camera reports:
The University of Colorado is discussing a deal for the naming rights to Folsom Field with at least one Colorado-based company, athletic director Mike Bohn confirmed ...

The Camera reported several years ago that the Board of Regents gave initial approval to Bohn to pursue naming rights opportunities for the stadium with the stipulation that any deal retain Folsom Field as part of the name. The regents would have to approve any agreement.

"We recognize the significant partnership and activation opportunity that exists with a stadium naming relationship," Bohn said. "We have been working for the last several years to find a partner to play a role in our continued movement to the Pac-12.

"It would be premature to reveal potential partners or naming efforts at this time."

Premature or not, one potential partner-slash-naming effort has been reveealed all the same, as the following snapshot appeared Tuesday on the Colorado message board AllBuffs.com:

That's an image of a Frontier Airlines jet behind the "Frontier Stadium" banner on the Folsom Field video board there. So we'd say it's a pretty safe bet that the Colorado-based air carrier is a primary candidate for the naming rights; the Camera reported the image was placed on the board to give visiting Frontier executives an idea of how the name might look. (And now, thanks to the leak, everyone knows how it might look.)

If the deal is done, obviously, that'll be great news for a Colorado program that needs the money, and the proposed "Folsom Field at Frontier Stadium" moniker is at least more palatable than simply ditching the Folsom Field name that's graced the venue since 1944 .

That said, it's still just one more way the economics of major college football is making our sport more and more similar to its professional counterpart. Here's to hoping the expected deal in Boulder is the end of a trend rather than the start of one.


 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com