Arizona: The Wildcats have a lot of experience at safety with a combined 78 starts between Jourdon Grandon, Tra'Mayne Bondurant and Jared Tevis. All three of their backups on the AdvoCare V100 Bowl depth chart -- Anthony Lopez, William Parks and Jamar Allah -- also return.
Arizona State: Damarious Randall returns as one of the more talented safeties in the conference after a season in which he finished tied for third on the team with 71 tackles. Marcus Ball is a strong candidate to eventually earn the job next to Randall, but he's still working his way back from a clavicle injury that cost him the 2013 season. Laiu Moeakiola, who appeared in 10 games last year as a reserve, James Johnson, Jayme Otomewo and Ezekiel Bishop are other names to watch.
California: Cal started five different players at safety last year and four of them -- Michael Lowe, Cameron Walker, Avery Sebastian and Damariay Drew -- will be back. Sebastian began the year in the starting lineup and had an interception and 10 tackles before suffering a season-ending Achilles tear in the first half of the season opener. Look for him to regain his starting job next to Lowe.
Colorado: The Buffs need to replace SS Parker Orms, who had 26 career starts and 10 last season, but FS Jered Bell will return. All three of the players competing to replace Orms -- Marques Mosley, Terrel Smith and Tedric Thompson -- have started at least three games. Smith redshirted last season after he underwent shoulder surgery and has 19 career starts.
Oregon: The Ducks lose both Brian Jackson and Avery Patterson from a secondary that has consistently been among the nation's best. Fifth-year senior Erick Dargan, Patterson's high school teammate, looks to slide into his first full-time starting role after three years of meaningful contributions on both special teams and reserve duty. Opposite him, Issac Dixon is the presumed favorite with Tyree Robinson and Reggie Daniels also in the mix.
Oregon State: The Beavers have both Ryan Murphy and Tyrequek Zimmerman back for their third year as starters, which should help soften the blow of losing CB Rashaad Reynolds. A few others to watch are sophomore Cyril Noland-Lewis, Justin Strong, Brandon Arnold, Zack Robinson and walk-on Micah Audiss, who was No. 2 behind Zimmerman in the season-ending depth chart.
Stanford: Ed Reynolds' early departure for the NFL creates the one real unknown spot for the Cardinal. Two former offensive players -- QB Dallas Lloyd and WR Kodi Whitfield -- are in the competition for the vacant spot, as is Kyle Olugbode. Zach Hoffpauir will join the competition once baseball season is over. The winner will play next to Jordan Richards, a senior who has started the past two seasons and played regularly as a freshman.
UCLA: Starters Randall Goforth and Anthony Jefferson are both back after being named all-Pac-12 honorable mention last season. Two names to watch are Tahaan Goodman and Tyler Foreman, both of whom arrived as part of the Class of 2013.
USC: Su'a Cravens and Josh Shaw are back, but the Trojans will have to replace Dion Bailey, who left early for the NFL after converting to safety from linebacker last year. Shaw could wind up back at corner, which would open the door for Leon McQuay III. Gerald Bowman got a medical redshirt after appearing in three games last year and should provide depth.
Utah: Veteran Eric Rowe is set to begin his fourth year as a starter in the Utes' secondary, but he'll play next to a new player with Michael Walker out of eligibility. Charles Henderson was Walker's primary backup last season, but look for junior-college transfer Tevin Carter -- a former Cal Bear -- to challenge him for the starting job.
Washington: The Huskies are looking to fill both starting spots and will likely do so with young players. Sophomores Brandon Beaver, Kevin King and Trevor Walker all saw spot duty last year and the program signed an impressive crop of high school safeties, including Bellevue's Bishard “Budda” Baker.
Washington State: Replacing Deone Bucannon means replacing one of the school's all-time greats at his position. Isaac Dotson looks like the favorite to take that spot, but will be pushed by David Bucannon, Darius Lemora and true freshman Markell Sanders, who arrived for spring practice.
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To the notes!
Rob from Northern Oregon writes: Ted, the up-tempo offenses have been targeted by [Nick] Saban because he cannot beat them in an even odds situation. Rather than meet the fight head-on, Mr. Saban (I use Mr. loosely here) has attempted to circumvent the situation by enacting a rule change, based upon player safety. I pose this: Has anyone looked into the health and safety issues related to being over 300 pounds and maintaining that mass throughout a college career? I suspect that even the most rudimentary study would show decreased lifespan, increased health problems and overall reduction in the quality of life that results from being fed and manipulated like a stockyard cow while in college. Player safety advocates might want to adopt a maximum BMI rule for college players if safety is such a concern. Lean and mean … It takes a lean horse for a long ride.
Ted Miller: "Cannot beat?" Well, Nick Saban has been pretty successful winning games. We probably should grant him that.
And there have been plenty of studies about BMI [Body Mass Index] and lifespan. People who are obese have more health problems. Generally, we can say weighing 300 pounds is not healthy. But adopting a maximum BMI sounds like it might be legally complicated, and I'd guess most 300-pound college football players are more physically fit than an average U.S. citizen.
You could remove face masks, which would increase the number of broken noses but might reduce the number of concussions because players would be forced to form tackle instead of leading with their head/helmet.
You could eliminate blitzes and zone defenses. If defenses were forced to be more predictable, then you'd have fewer blow-up shots on offensive players.
You could reduce the number of players on the field. You could reduce the size of the field.
You could make the game two-handed touch. Or use flags. Or have a player from each team debate what should happen on each play and then have a judge rewards or subtracts yards based on the merits of their arguments. The Ivy League might like that.
What's most interesting about this debate about so-called player safety is that the folks who want to slow down the up-tempo teams are simply saying this: Football is dangerous.
And that, unfortunately, is true.
Saban, one of the leaders of the slow-down movement, this week compared football to smoking cigarettes. Seriously. I will include the quote so we can all slap our foreheads in unison.
Said Saban, "The fastball guys (up-tempo coaches) say there's no data out there, and I guess you have to use some logic. What's the logic? If you smoke one cigarette, do you have the same chances of getting cancer if you smoke 20? I guess there's no study that specifically says that. But logically, we would say, 'Yeah, there probably is.'"
The slow-down folks are saying, "Because football is dangerous, and up-tempo teams run more plays, and plays are football and are therefore dangerous, we should try to reduce the number of plays in a game. For safety's sake."
Heck, why not shorten the game instead? Play eight-minute quarters. That would reduce the number of plays and reduce the number of injuries and no one would have to change their scheme.
(Shortly I will get an email from the TV side of ESPN saying, "Hush.")
The point here is simple: The slow-down folks want to slow the game down because they play slow-down football. They believe slow-down football gives them an advantage, and up-tempo teams are being mean and taking away that advantage. So, they scheme, let's change the rules and force folks to play the slow way, which means slow-down teams will win more.
Saban's Alabama team has become like USC was from 2002-2008 -- it's physically superior to just about any other team in the nation. Because his players can consistently win one-on-one battles, he wants to minimize strategy. He wants to line up and run a play. Wait 25 seconds, run another play. And see what happens.
Perhaps not coincidentally, Saban and Alabama's bitter rival, Auburn, is now coached by up-tempo maestro Gus Malzahn, owner of a gigantic football brain, one that might be even as big as Saban's. That matchup is on track to become one of the great annual stories in college football -- the Iron Bowl as essentially a national playoff game on a regular basis.
That's not what Saban wants, though. He's not happy with all these spunky teams with all their brainy football. He wants them to behave, get out of the way and let him win national championships.
Ted Miller: While others might disagree, I think the SEC is going to face pressure to play a nine-game conference schedule AND at least one high quality nonconference game a year, or it will be penalized.
That's at least if the selection committee has guts and wants to be fair. It can't be swayed by the "just trust us" justification we heard so often during the BCS era.
How would this go? Well, let's look at 2014 in the SEC East.
Let's say both South Carolina and Missouri finish 11-1, but Missouri's loss is on Sept. 27 in Columbia, S.C., so the Gamecocks win the East tiebreaker due to the head-to-head victory. South Carolina then goes on to the SEC championship game, and Steve Spurrier wins the press conference but loses to Alabama.
So Alabama is in the four-team playoff.
Then the SEC apologists would chime in: There is no WAY you can keep a one-loss SEC team out of the playoff! No matter that Missouri wouldn't have played Alabama, LSU and Auburn. Paired with a weak nonconference schedule, the Tigers set up as a team that shouldn't get the automatic benefit of the doubt when comparing them to other one-loss AQ conference teams.
For example, in this 2014 scenario, there is no way in Hades that Missouri should be able to slip in ahead of Stanford, which plays an exponentially tougher schedule next year. And there is no way in Hades that the Tigers should get into the playoff over an unbeaten team from an AQ conference, such as an Ohio State or Oklahoma State.
The very idea that a 14-team conference wants to play fewer conference games than 12- and 10-team conferences is beyond competitive reason. Isn't the conference schedule about figuring who the best teams in said conference are? How can you even compare Missouri's schedule with East rival Florida's? The Gators play Alabama and LSU (and, by the way, Florida State)?
The ONLY reason for playing eight conference games instead of nine is to rig the system.
I mean, just imagine if someone tried to force up-tempo teams to slow down by rigging the system with a new rule. But no one would ever do that, right?
Ted Miller: 426 days. Plus or minus.
I don't think Washington fans should expect the Huskies to immediately eclipse Oregon -- and Stanford -- in the North pecking order. I suspect Petersen will need to get the lay of the Pac-12 land for a couple of years and also get at least a few recruiting classes with "his" guys.
My impression during the 2013 Oregon-Washington game is that the rivalry is narrowing after a decade of Ducks dominance, despite the Huskies’ fourth-quarter meltdown. While some Huskies fans seem eager to cast aspersions at what Steve Sarkisian accomplished, he rebuilt a staggering program and left a top-25 team behind when he bolted to USC.
I don't see any reason for the Huskies to fall out of the Top 25 the next couple of years. The question is, do they move into the top 10 with Oregon and Stanford? They aren't alone, by the way, in wanting to get there.
There is, however, a back door, at least with the Ducks. What if Mark Helfrich is not able to maintain what Mike Bellotti/Chip Kelly built? What if the Ducks end up missing Nick Aliotti more than some expect? Washington could move past Oregon because Oregon might not remain a top-10 team. I'm not saying I think that will happen, only that it's a reasonable possibility.
I talked to a Pac-12 coach the other day who said Petersen is going to get things going quickly. He termed him one of the nation's truly elite coaches. Which is nice, if you're a UW fan.
Many of us suspect the same. But it's now up to Petersen to justify the plaudits that have been flung his way for years while playing in a major conference.
Ted Miller: You're welcome.
- Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey improved his 40-yard dash time, slightly, at the Wildcats' Pro Day.
- Arizona State's Pro Day is Friday.
- California has reportedly reassigned former defensive coordinator Andy Buh to another job within the athletic department.
- More touchdowns, fewer field goals. That's what Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre is preaching.
- Former Oregon coach Mike Bellotti is "very excited and pleased" to be a College Football Hall of Fame nominee.
- Former NFL player Rockne Freitas is receiving a prestigious honor from Oregon State.
- Stanford notes before Saturday's second open practice of the spring.
- In case you missed it, former UCLA running backs coach Steve Broussard was hired by SMU.
- An argument for USC as a playoff contender next season.
- An on-camera interview with Utah's Moana Ofahengaue, who has been hospitalized for more than a week after a scooter crash.
- Washington linebacker Shaq Thompson got in a running back drill during Huskies practice.
- WSU has set a date for when it will open its new football operations building.
But let's get specific. While some units or position groups are fully stocked -- UCLA and Oregon both have nine starters coming back on offense -- there are a lot of questionable areas across the conference that will get their coaches full attention this spring.
You could start with Arizona State's defense, which welcomes back just three starters and lost six All-Conference performers.
The Sun Devils' friends in Tucson, Ariz., also have some questions. While the quarterback battle is a headline grabber, it's perhaps even more notable that Arizona is replacing its top three rushers from 2013, including All-American Ka'Deem Carey, and have no healthy RB this spring who produced more than 50 yards on the ground last season.
Stanford is replacing four big-time players on its offensive line, but the Cardinal might have more issues with their defensive front seven, which is replacing LBs Shayne Skov, Trent Murphy and Jarek Lancaster as well as defensive linemen Ben Gardner and Josh Mauro.
Washington ranked second in the Pac-12 in pass efficiency defense in 2013, but it must replace three starters as well as a top backup in its secondary. Cornerback Marcus Peters returns, but the Huskies' 2013 depth chart was otherwise full of freshmen.
Finally, Utah loses three of four starters on its defensive line, topped by two All-Conference performers, end Trevor Reilly and tackle Tenny Palepoi. Only end Nate Orchard is back in 2013.
While a lot of these teams feel they have answers among young or incoming players -- or those miracle junior college transfers who will solve all your woes! -- none of those answers are sure-things by any measure.
So which unit faces the biggest rebuilding job?
Ted Miller: Spring practice is the official transition from taking stock of the 2013 season, including recruiting, and looking ahead to next fall. The 2013 season was all about top-to-bottom depth for the Pac-12 -- and the lack of an elite national-title contender. That might be the case again in 2014, but if the conference is going to be nationally relevant in year one of the four-team College Football Playoff, I think it will be because of the depth and quality of the quarterbacks.
If Travis Wilson is cleared to play at Utah, 10 Pac-12 teams welcome back 2013 starters, and many of these guys are All-American candidates, most notably Oregon's Marcus Mariota, UCLA's Brett Hundley, Arizona State's Taylor Kelly and Oregon State's Sean Mannion
What most interests you this spring with the Pac-12?
Kyle Bonagura: As a result of the continuity at quarterback, offenses should be in line for a collective step forward. How far could be determined by how quickly the conference's seven new defensive coordinators acclimate to -- and perform at -- their new jobs.
We won't get a great read on how that process is going during the spring, but it'll be interesting to see in what ways defenses evolve moving forward.
For Arizona State, Oregon, Stanford and UCLA, the change will be minimal. Todd Graham will remain heavily involved in how ASU plays defense and the other three promoted staff members will use the framework and schemes already in place. USC might have a new staff, but considering coach Steve Sarkisian and defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox were in the conference last season, it should be an easy transition.
I'm more interested to see how things play out at California and Washington.
Washington is set up for success with the much-anticipated arrival of longtime Boise State coach Chris Petersen, who brought his defensive coordinator for the past four seasons, Pete Kwiatkowski. They have a talented front seven to work with and a favorable early schedule that'll allow the staff to iron out any kinks: at Hawaii, Eastern Washington, Illinois, Georgia State.
Art Kaufman's job taking over the Cal defense won't be as easy. The Golden Bears should be in better shape than last season from a health and experience standpoint -- the latter partially a result of 2013's injury woes -- but there's a lot of ground to cover between where they were and being competitive.
Ted Miller: One team that had coaching continuity at both coordinator spots is Arizona, and I think the Wildcats are setting up to be a dark horse in the Pac-12 South, though I do see UCLA as a strong favorite at this point. The intrigue with Arizona, though, is at quarterback. It seems like the most wide-open competition in the conference.
If Cyler Miles gets back in Chris Petersen's good graces, he's got a significant lead for the Washington QB vacancy. At USC, I think that Cody Kessler is likely to retain his starting job over touted redshirt freshman Max Browne. Kessler steadily improved as a difficult season went on, and he still has his 2013 offensive coordinator/position coach in Clay Helton. At Utah, a healthy Wilson starts for the Utes.
But Arizona has four guys with a legitimate shot at winning the starting QB job next fall: Redshirt freshman Anu Solomon, senior Jesse Scroggins, sophomore Connor Brewer and junior Jerrard Randall. Solomon was one of the jewels of the 2013 recruiting class, while the other three are transfers from A-list programs -- Scroggins from USC, Brewer from Texas and Randall from LSU.
The first big question will be whether Rich Rodriguez narrows the field at the end of spring practices. How much does he want to establish a clear pecking order? You'd think at least one of these guys is going to be relegated to fourth place because there are only so many practice reps to go around.
The good news is the guy who wins the job is going to have an outstanding crew of receivers. While he won't have running back Ka'Deem Carey lining up as a security blanket behind him, Rodriguez's offenses almost always run the ball well. The Wildcats will average over 200 yards rushing again next season, I feel confident saying that.
The million dollar question -- the difference between competing for the South title and winning eight games again -- is how efficient the guy behind center is.
Any position battles particularly intrigue you this spring?
Kyle Bonagura: Like you, I'm really intrigued to see how the quarterback competition at Arizona progresses. That's a lot of pressure for the three guys who already transferred from big-time programs. All of them clearly want to play, and it makes you wonder if one of them will end up at an FCS school before the season starts.
The most high-profile battle outside of quarterback has to be at Stanford, where four guys are competing to replace Tyler Gaffney at running back. I was out at the Cardinal's first open practice of the spring last week -- and will be out there again on Saturday -- and what stood out immediately was how balanced the reps were. If Remound Wright, Ricky Seale, Barry Sanders and Kelsey Young didn't have equal reps with the first team, it was close.
However it plays out, it's unlikely Stanford will feature one back like it has the past six years with Gaffney, Stepfan Taylor and Toby Gerhart.
Wright probably holds a slight edge in terms of the overall package -- largely because of his capabilities in pass protection -- but there are more similarities than differences in comparing each guy. A lot of people ask about Sanders because of his famous father (my favorite football player as a kid), but the reality with him is that expectations were probably too high when he arrived. His name and recruiting profile are to blame, and the coaching staff isn't going to force his development.
Young, who switched back to running back from receiver, might be the most dangerous with the ball in his hands and Seale, a fifth-year senior, might have the best grasp of the offense.
Arizona: Jonathan McKnight returns, but the Wildcats will have to replace a good player in Shaquille Richardson. Wildcats coach Rich Rodriguez mentioned Derek Babiash and Devin Holiday as potential candidates for Richardson's spot. Babiash appeared in nine games with a pair of tackles last season, and Holiday appeared in all 13 with an interception. Junior college transfer Patrick Glover could be a factor, and freshmen Logan Bartlett, Jarvis McCall and Arlandis Hinton are coming off redshirt seasons.
Arizona State: With potentially 10 starting quarterbacks returning in the Pac-12, it's not a good season to lose both corners, which is the case for ASU. Robert Nelson and Osahon Irabor are gone, and Lloyd Carrington returns as the most experienced player. Junior college transfer Kweishi Brown was the nation's No. 3-ranked corner and should be expected to contribute right away.
California: Kameron Jackson's surprising decision to leave early for the NFL leaves new defensive coordinator Art Kaufman without much experience. Cedric Dozier, Joel Willis, Adrian Lee and Isaac Lapite all started at least one game last season, but none more than four (Dozier). The newcomer is junior college transfer Darius White, who was the No. 7-ranked juco CB in the Class of 2014.
Colorado: The Buffs return both Kenneth Crawley and Greg Henderson, who topped the final depth chart of the season. Chidobe Awuzie started at nickel and the team also returns Jeffrey Hall, John Walker and Marques Mosley, all of whom appeared on the three-deep depth chart.
Oregon: Terrance Mitchell decided to leave a year early for the NFL, but the Ducks will benefit greatly from Ifo Ekpre-Olomu's decision to return. Dior Mathis, who played in all 13 games last season, is the favorite to move into Mitchell's role, and Troy Hill should be in the rotation. Junior college transfer Dominique Harrison is on campus and a candidate for playing time and the coaches like Chris Seisay, who is coming off his redshirt.
Oregon State: Losing Rashaad Reynolds will be tough, but Steven Nelson, an all-Pac-12 honorable mention honoree, gives the Beavers a playmaker on one side. Like Nelson last season, junior college transfer DeMarlon Morris could be in line for immediate playing time. Dashon Hunt, a prize recruit of the Beavers' 2013 recruiting class, and Larry Scott, who played in 12 games last season, are two others to keep an eye on.
Stanford: Alex Carter is expected to miss all of spring practice with a hip injury, which will create reps for guys such as Ronnie Harris, Ra'Chard Pippens and Taijuan Thomas. Harris is the favorite emerge from that group at corner in nickel situations, when Wayne Lyons will shift over to cover the slot.
UCLA: The Bruins have a lot of talent back, starting with Fabian Moreau, who earned all-Pac-12 honorable mention in his first season as a starter last season. Ishmael Adams started every game and led the team with four interceptions. Priest Willis played mostly on special teams as a freshman, but the former big-time recruit is in line for more playing time on defense.
USC: Kevon Seymour's first season as a starter finished on a high note with a solid performance in the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl. He'll be expected to remain in that role with a competition for the spot next to him. Senior Anthony Brown figures to get the first crack, but injury problems have been a concern, as has been the case with Devian Shelton. It's a big spring for Chris Hawkins, who is coming off his redshirt, before a solid crop of recruits, led by Adoree' Jackson, arrive.
Utah: The Utes lose one of the draft's rising prospects in Keith McGill, who at 6-foot-3 provided a unique look for the Utah defense. Davion Orphey, a transfer from Santa Ana College, saw the most starts opposite McGill last season, but Justin Thomas and Reginald Porter also saw time in the starting lineup.
Washington: With Marcus Peters coming back, the Huskies have a good starting spot and will look for a new starter to play alongside him. It's an important spring for both senior Travell Dixon, who transferred from Alabama after a brief stop there in 2012, and freshman Jermaine Kelly as they try to make a positive impression on the new staff before four new corners arrive in the fall.
Washington State: Possibly the most important step for the Cougars this spring is to shore up the secondary -- a difficult task following the departure of seniors Damante Horton and Nolan Washington (in addition to Deone Bucannon at safety). Daquawn Brown, who is not short on confidence, started three games last season and fared well against USC's Marqise Lee. There isn't much other experience on the roster, and the team signed four corners from the high school ranks.
The addition is UCLA offensive guard Xavier Su'a-Filo, who McShay envisions joining former USC coach Pete Carroll in Seattle with the No. 32 pick.
On Su'a-Filo, McShay wrote:
We only have a second-round grade on him, but he is a guy whose stock is rising as the draft process goes on, and he has good foot quickness and size.
His UCLA teammate, Anthony Barr, is projected at No. 11, but it didn't come with a ringing endorsement:
I'm not someone who thinks Barr has enough upside to be an early first-round pick, but there seem to be a lot of guys in the league who do.
USC receiver Marqise Lee (No. 18 to the Jets) and Oregon State receiver Brandin Cooks (No. 26 to the Browns) are the other Pac-12 players included, but both are lower than in McShay’s previous mock. In this scenario, Cooks would be paired with Johnny Manziel, who is projected to Cleveland at No. 4.
- Ka'Deem Carey isn't the only former Arizona player looking to impress at pro day.
- Check out former Arizona State DB Alden Darby's highlight film.
- How might California improve its game-day experience?
- Colorado RB Christian Powell will miss the start of spring football.
- Why are former Oregon players slower at the NFL combine?
- Former Oregon State punter Johnny Hekker is loony for a good cause.
- Stanford's young o-linemen are ready to step up.
- Former UCLA OLB Anthony Barr is impressive but raw.
- A look at USC's QB situation heading into spring practices.
- A scouting report on former Utah TE Jake Murphy.
- More on the suspension of Washington LB John Timu.
- Important question: Which Washington State football player is the best dunker (of a basketball, not a donut)?
“It's an enormous honor to just be on the ballot when you think that more than 4.99 million people have played college football,” said NFF President Steven J. Hatchell. “The Hall's requirement of being a First-Team All-American creates a much smaller pool of only 1,500 individuals who are even eligible to be on the ballot, so being in today's elite group means an individual is truly among the greatest to ever have played the game, and we are proud to announce their names.”
The 2014 class will be announced in May, with the official inductions coming on Dec. 9.
Here are the players and coaches for current Pac-12 programs on the ballot:
Eric Bieniemy, RB, Colorado
Tony Boselli, OT, USC
Bob Breunig, LB, Arizona State
Mark Carrier, S, USC
Al Harris, DE, Arizona State
Roy Jefferson, WR, Utah
Keyshawn Johnson, WR, USC
Lincoln Kennedy, OT, Washington
Greg Lewis, RB, Washington
Jess Lewis, DT, Oregon State
Cade McNown, QB, UCLA
Darrin Nelson, RB, Stanford
Ken Norton Jr, LB, UCLA
Ron Rivera, LB, Cal
Rashaan Salaam, RB, Colorado
John Sciarra, QB, UCLA
Clarence Williams, RB, Washington State
Mike Bellotti -- Chico State, Oregon
Darryl Rogers -- Call State-Hayward, Fresno State, San Jose State, Michigan State, Arizona State
When NFL executive Ray Anderson was hired in January, he became the Sun Devils' sixth athletic director since 1996, with former ADs such as Kevin White, Gene Smith and, most recently, Steve Patterson leaving for bigger, richer athletic departments.
That shows Sun Devils administrators are pretty good at hiring ADs because they are shortly coveted by other programs, but they'd appreciate some continuity, particularly at a critical time when they are trying to get a stadium renovated.
"I didn't come here to have this be a stepping stone to somewhere else," he said. "This is where I want to be."
One reason to believe Anderson's not-uncommon assertion is he took a pay cut to come to ASU. As the NFL’s executive vice president of football operations based in Manhattan, he said he made over $2 million a year. His base pay at Arizona State will be $600,000, though potential bonuses could as much as double that number.
Anderson said money wasn't the issue. He said, in fact, he was looking for "a more balanced situation where revenue is not the only driver" and had told NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in December that he was looking to move on.
"For me, [his NFL job] had run its course ... my position had evolved into dispute resolution," he said. "It became a lot of arguing, fighting and clawing for territory. After a while, that wasn't fun anymore."
He was contacted by Jed Hughes, a friend who worked for executive search firm Korn Ferry, about the vacancy at Arizona State and was immediately intrigued. Things moved pretty quickly, as his hiring was announced just two months after Patterson left.
The fit 59-year-old said he's in the "fourth quarter" of his career, but that "even the word retirement scares me." He projected he'd like to stick around for 12 to 15 years.
It's unlikely, however, he will face any more important challenge over the next decade than the short-term need to improve the Sun Devils football facilities, starting with the renovation of Sun Devil Stadium.
"We need to spruce up the place, quite frankly," he said.
The stadium project already has begun at a symbolic level with renovation of the north end zone, a demolition that will open up the view to Tempe Town Lake and reduce capacity by about 5,700 seats. But that's not part of an ambitious $260 million plan to completely renovate and modernize the stadium, which will require raising $50 million.
That, once Patterson's challenging child, is now Anderson's to raise. The goal is to open the renovated stadium before the 2016 season.
Anderson, a Stanford and Harvard Law School graduate, knows about dealing with people and negotiating. A former agent, he represented Tony Dungy, Brian Billick, Tyrone Willingham and Marvin Lewis, among others. He's also a quick learner when it comes to AD-speak.
As in, "Your athletic success kind of brands your university, the broad appeal and knowledge people have a lot of times is led by how your football and basketball teams are doing."
Or, "[We need to] strike balance between revenue generation and what's good for the student-athlete and coaches."
Arizona State football seems to be on the uptick under coach Todd Graham, but there's no question the arms race has been renewed in the Pac-12 and the rest of the country. And that ASU lags behind most top-25 programs.
Anderson's chief task as long as he fronts Arizona State's athletic program is to make sure the Sun Devils catch up. And then becomes a member of the elite.
"There's no question our facility, our football facilities, are substandard," he said. "We can't hide from that. I've been in a lot better football facilities than here and we need to do something about it."
Arizona: The Wildcats are going to be young at linebacker, as even returning starter Scooby Wright is a true sophomore. Stalwarts Jake Fischer and Marquis Flowers, the Wildcats' top two tacklers in 2013, are gone. Senior Hank Hobson was Fischer's backup last year, and sophomores DeAndre' Miller and Jake Matthews were officially behind Flowers. But there will be plenty of competition, with touted juco transfer Antonio Smothers, junior Keoni Bush-Loo and sophomore Derrick Turituri -- listed behind Wright last year -- also in the mix, along with a handful of redshirt freshmen.
Arizona State: Arizona State is replacing three of its four starting linebackers, most notably Carl Bradford and Chris Young. Sophomore "Sam" linebacker Salamo Fiso is the only returning starter. Expect Carlos Mendoza and Antonio Longino to top the spring depth chart at the "Spur" and "Will" spots. They combined for 11 tackles last season. Chans Cox and Viliami Latu could be in the mix to replace Bradford in the key "Devil" LB spot, though neither at present looks like the pass-rushing threat he was. There could be some mixing and matching, and safety Viliami Moeakiola played some linebacker last year. Also in the fray: true freshman early enrollee D.J. Calhoun, Eriquel Florence and juco transfer Darrius Caldwell.
California: Junior Jalen Jefferson, sophomore Michael Barton and sophomore Hardy Nickerson are back. They ranked among the Bears' top six tacklers in 2013. Those three seem likely to find a spot in the starting lineup, but this is a fluid situation after Cal was hit hard by injuries last year and has a new defensive coordinator in Art Kaufman. Nathan Broussard, who is coming back from an ACL injury, could be in the mix, as could Jason Gibson. Obviously, young players will have an opportunity to earn early playing time.
Colorado: While the Buffaloes lose Derrick Webb, they welcome back Addison Gillam, who had a sensational freshman year, and seniors Woodson Greer III and Brady Daigh, who both started and/or saw significant action last season. Sophomores Kenneth Olugbode, Ryan Severson and Clay Norgard also are in the mix. Watch out for sophomore Pittsburgh transfer Deaysean Rippy, cousin of former LB Doug Rippy. Deaysean Rippy, a touted recruit in 2012, seems likely to challenge for a starting job.
Oregon: The Ducks lose only one of their four starting linebackers from 2013 -- Boseko Lokombo -- and his backups, Tyson Coleman and Torrodney Prevot, saw plenty of action. Outside linebacker Tony Washington and inside 'backers Derrick Malone and Rodney Hardrick should be better as second-year starters. Backup inside LBs Joe Walker and Rahim Cassell also have significant experience. It will be interesting to see if any youngsters, most notably Prevot, make a push.
Oregon State: This might sneak up on you, but Oregon State has one of the best linebacker trios in the conference coming back: D.J. Alexander, Michael Doctor and Jabral Johnson. Johnson replaced Doctor when his season ended in Week 2 with a foot injury, so it should be interesting how the outside spots work out. In the middle is sophomore Rommel "The Desert Fox" Mageo, who replaced the inconsistent Joel Skotte, a junior, in the starting lineup five games into the season. Sophomores Caleb Saulo and Darrell Songy also saw plenty of action last year.
Stanford: The Cardinal are replacing two first-team All-Pac-12 linebackers from their 3-4 defense: OLB Trent Murphy and ILB Shayne Skov. James Vaughters is back on the outside and 2013 second-leading tackler A.J. Tarpley is back on the inside. Kevin Anderson is almost certain to replace Murphy. He had 6.5 tackles for a loss to go with 26 tackles last year. Blake Martinez, Joe Hemschoot and Noor Davis are competing for the other inside spot.
UCLA: The Bruins are replacing All-American OLB Anthony Barr and ILB Jordan Zumwalt, two highly productive players who figure to have NFL careers. The good news is the return of senior Eric Kendricks on the inside and sophomore Myles Jack on the outside. Junior Kenny Orjioke is the top candidate to replace Barr, and sophomore Isa Savaiinaea and senior Ryan Hofmeister have received a lot of playing time inside.
USC: The Trojans lose outside linebacker Devon Kennard, but welcome back three starters (considering OLB Morgan Breslin only played five games), including highly productive veteran ILB Hayes Pullard, who has led the team in tackles the past two seasons. Also back is OLB J.R. Tavai and ILBs Anthony Sarao and Lamar Dawson, co-starters last year. Still, things figure to be highly competitive this spring, with Pullard being the only sure thing. Sophomore Jabari Ruffin received plenty of playing time last season, and fellow sophomores Michael Hutchings and Quinton Powell should be in the mix. Some touted freshmen might enter the mix in the fall.
Utah: While Utah loses Trevor Reilly, a hybrid DE/OLB, it welcomes back pretty much every linebacker from the 2013 depth chart. In the middle there's Jason Whittingham, who earned honorable mention All-Pac-12 honors last season. Also back are senior Jacoby Hale, who had 6.5 sacks last year, and Jared Norris. Further, Miami transfer Gionni Paul figures to challenge for a starting spot after sitting out last season, and there are several younger players who could make a move. Also, it remains to be seen where Brian Blechen, who has bounced back and forth between safety and linebacker, ultimately ends up.
Washington: Inside linebacker John Timu was suspended after he was charged with misdemeanor vehicle prowling, which wasn't a great welcome for new defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski. Nevertheless, the Huskies are pretty stacked at linebacker. If Timu gets his act together, then the Huskies will have three players with starting experience, including the athletic duo of Travis Feeney and Shaq Thompson on the outside. You could also include rush ends Corey Littleton and Josh Shirley as returning OLBs in the hybrid defense the Huskies ran under Justin Wilcox. While junior Scott Lawyer has some experience, the overall depth is young, if promising. Azeem Victor, Connor O'Brien and Keishawn Bierria are youngsters to watch.
Washington State: With junior Destiny Vaeao moving to end from "Buck" linebacker, the Cougars will be replacing two starters. Junior Darryl Monroe is a two-year starter and the leader in the middle, and Cyrus Coen is back at "Sam" LB. The battle to replace Vaeao figures to be between juniors Kache Palacio and Ivan McLennan, and Tana Pritchard is the favorite to replace Justin Sagote at "Will" linebacker. A big question: Where does junior Chester Su'a fit in? He missed last year because of injury, and could play behind Monroe or challenge Pritchard. There are some intriguing young players who also could insinuate themselves into the rotation.
But for Arizona receiver Austin Hill, spring practice feels like he's standing in front of a spectacular buffet dinner. And he's really, really hungry.
Hill was a second-team All-Pac-12 selection following the 2012 season after ranking second in the conference in receiving yards. The sophomore looked like a potential All-American in 2013 after catching 81 passes for 1,364 yards -- 16.8 yards per reception -- with 11 touchdowns.
But his 2013 season ended before it began on April 10 after he tore his ACL during the second-to-last session of spring practice.
Poof -- just like that, football was taken away, replaced by uncertainty and the daily burden -- and boredom -- of rehabilitation. That's why even a no-pads practice to start spring drills this week was invigorating.
Hill practiced with the Wildcats in a limited fashion during the final weeks of the 2013 season, but he's still not 100 percent healthy. While he's officially full-speed this spring, he's still wearing a knee brace and his explosiveness and speed are not fully back.
"That's basically the last step of ACL recovery," he said. "I'm still in those processes."
Neal and Jones both sat out last season, so Hill knows they share his hunger, while the returning starters and contributors don't want to yield repetitions. While it's a collegial atmosphere among the receivers at practice, it's also a competition for touches and position in the pecking order.
"Everyone is helping each other out on the field," Hill said. "It's fun to see athletes compete. It's always fun."
Of course, the competition at receiver figures to yield certainty -- an outstanding and deep crew of four or five guys in a regular rotation with one or two leading the way. The bigger issue is who is going to deliver the ball.
Hill laughs at the inevitable quarterback competition question, for an answer behind center probably won't be delivered until fall camp. Perhaps even late in fall camp, as it was last year.
Hill, for one, admits he'd prefer to get some clarity much sooner.
"Right now ... who knows? I just hope it doesn't end up like it was last year, where even in the first couple of games we really didn't know who the quarterback was," he said. "I want it to be a QB we know is going to start. That's the most important thing for your passing game, that receiver-QB sync. It's hard to get that sync when you don't know who your quarterback is and it's getting switched up every day."
“Of course, that's up to the QBs -- senior Jesse Scroggins, sophomore Connor Brewer, junior Jerrard Randall and redshirt freshman Anu Solomon -- and coach Rich Rodriguez, who has said repeatedly about QB competitions that he would prefer that one guy quickly and decisively wins the job.
I just hope it doesn't end up like it was last year, where even in the first couple of games we really didn't know who the quarterback was. I want it to be a QB we know is going to start. That's the most important thing for your passing game, that receiver-QB sync. It's hard to get that sync when you don't know who your quarterback is and it's getting switched up every day.” Arizona receiver Austin Hill on the Wildcats' quarterback competition.
Just don't expect it to happen this spring.
As for Hill's take, he often doesn't even know who's delivering the ball.
"The quarterbacks are getting switched around so much, sometimes it's even hard to tell which quarterback even went with my group when I went," he said. "We move so fast, I don't get to pay attention to what quarterback is throwing me the ball."
While the QBs work through their competition, Hill will be a veteran leader for the offense, back in action after a year of observing the team from the outside. When he looks around at practice at the improved personnel on both sides of the ball, he senses that the Wildcats are going to surprise some folks this season.
"I'm ready to help this team to a BCS bowl," he said. "I feel like that's where we're headed."
As Hill missed last season and is still not 100 percent, he, of course, can be forgiven for forgetting 2013 was the last season of the BCS era. His point is clear. He believes Arizona is going to be a threat in the Pac-12's South Division in 2014.
- In case you missed Rich Rodriguez's "Arizona Speed," here it is again. It's worth watching.
- Arizona State's Carl Bradford on his NFL combine experience.
- Looking at the state of Cal heading into spring practice.
- Are there bowl expectations at Colorado next year?
- Oregon picked up a commitment from an offensive lineman.
- This mock draft has Oregon State DE Scott Crichton to the Vikings.
- A Q&A with new Stanford running backs coach Lance Taylor.
- UCLA is No. 2 on this list of teams that could win a national title by 2020.
- Previewing USC's offensive line.
- New Utah QB Kendal Thompson said he needed a "fresh start."
- Washington suspended LB John Timu for the first two weeks of spring practice.
- Is it time to expand alcohol sales at Washington State football games?
He returned a Super Bowl champion.
The All-Pro cornerback is part of a group of several NFL players -- including Andrew Luck, Zach Ertz and Jonathan Martin -- back on campus as part of a coordinated trip. More than 20 are expected back at some point to train together and take advantage of the program's new alumni locker room, which was part of a $21-million addition to the Arrillaga Family Sports Center completed in October.
"It's unbelievable, man," Sherman said. "It feels nice to have somewhere to go when you come here. You don't have to borrow or bum any of the young guys' lockers."
That Stanford has a designated area for NFL players is symbolic in the program's rise.
"It's a testament to a lot of groups of guys. It's testament to the group of guys that came before us who set the groundwork for us," Sherman said. "Jim Harbaugh did a heck of a job changing the culture and changing the mindset and also the players now."
Sherman's arrival was good timing, too. The Cardinal are still without a full-time defensive backs coach following Derek Mason's departure for Vanderbilt and are in the process of converting Kodi Whitfield from receiver to safety. Sherman made a similar change, albeit to corner, while he was at Stanford.
The Seahawks star spoke with Whitfield and other defensive backs about technique during position drills and watched from the sideline during team drills.
"He's trying not to coach from the sidelines, but he can't help himself sometimes," Stanford coach David Shaw said. "Just the fact that he's here, just the fact that he's around kind of reaffirms why some of these guys are here."
Sherman said he would like to get into coaching after his NFL career is over, but said he's more interested in the high school level.
He will spend the majority of his offseason in Seattle, but, along with several others, plans on being a visitor to his old home.
2013 summary: 4 carries, 18 yards; 3 catches, 50 yards, 1 TD.
The skinny: A brief look at West's season summary doesn't read like a player in line to make a big impact next year -- and that still could be the case. His regular-season totals -- 1 carry, 1 yard; no catches -- are even less inspiring. So, why West? The Gildan New Mexico Bowl, that's why. Whether it was something he did during the bowl lead-up that opened coach Mike Leach's eyes or a build up that finally peaked, there was a difference. West got an opportunity to showcase what he can do and took full advantage. In addition to contributing in both the receiving and running game, West blocked a punt. He won't necessarily make a huge impact as a runner, receiver or on special teams next year, but he looks like a player who could hold a measurable value doing all three.