Pac-12: Washington State Cougars

I remember the stupid things, the mood rings, the bracelets and the beads, the nickels and dimes, yours and mine. Did you cash in all your dreams?
And I said "What about Breakfast at Tiffany's?" … Well, that's the one thing we've got.

Pac-12's lunch links

April, 9, 2014
Apr 9
If I owned the Twins, I wouldn't even show up here. I'd just hire a bunch of scientists to do my homework. I mean, if you're rich you don't have to be smart. That's the whole beauty of this country.

The ball is tipped and there you are. You're running for your life. You're a shooting star.
Washington State’s (very) youthful secondary is about to get a lesson in what defensive coordinator Mike Breske calls “sweat equity.” While some coaches opt to recruit a few junior college players as stop-gaps to fill holes, the Cougars’ staff believes in throwing youngsters into the fire to see who can play and who can’t.

And things are getting toasty in Pullman.

Taylor Taliulu, who started 10 games a year ago, seems to have a hold on the free safety job, but with three of the four starting spots up for grabs (both cornerback spots and strong safety), Washington State will present an intriguing defensive mix when the 2014 season rolls around. Though not senior-heavy, there is some experience in the front seven. Contrast that with a lot of inexperience in the secondary and you have a defensive coordinator who is both excited for the potential and cautious with his expectations.

[+] EnlargeDarryl Monroe
Ric Tapia/Icon SMIWith inexperience in other areas, linebacker Darryl Monroe will have be one of Washington State's defensive anchors.
“It’s going to be an interesting group,” Breske said. “They’ll grow up together and hopefully we’ll see them get better week after week.”

When scanning the side-by-side statistical comparisons from Washington State’s defense in 2013 vs. 2012, it’s clear the Cougars got better … mostly.

Aside from reaching a bowl game for the first time since 2003 -- the most obvious sign of improvement (after all, this game is about wins) -- the Cougars improved in average points allowed last year, though not by much: 32.5 points per game in 2013 to 33.7 in 2012. Not exactly a huge jump. The Cougars also had more interceptions, but fewer sacks; more first downs allowed, but significantly better third-down defense.

“I think it was a roller-coaster year for us,” Breske said. “We showed some good signs, and then again, I don’t think we played to our ability.”

Stats rarely paint a complete picture. For example, the Cougars gave up more passing and rushing yards in 2013 than they did in 2012. But when it mattered most -- inside the red zone -- Washington State’s defense buckled down and was one of the best in the Pac-12. The Cougars tied for third with Oregon in red-zone defense behind USC and Stanford. In 2012, the Cougars were last in the league.

“That’s our emphasis,” Breske said. “We win with field goals, we lose with touchdowns. We’re not wrapped up in total yards and passing and that type of deal. Tackles for a loss, sacks, takeaways, explosive plays, those are the major things. We want to get off the field, get our ‘O’ on the field and watch a little Air Raid.”

Last season the Cougars forced 30 turnovers -- the most since 2006 and second in the conference. They were still minus-5 in turnover ratio, 10th in the league, but that comes in large part to 24 interceptions from the offense. They also posted their first shutout since 2003.

While there’s a lot of inexperience in the secondary, the front seven returns a group that got quality reps in 2013. Linebackers Darryl Monroe and Cyrus Coen are back after posting 94 and 60 tackles, respectively. Xavier Cooper returns his team-high five sacks from last season and Tana Pritchard pitched in 4.5 tackles for a loss.

“It’s great experience when you compare it to what we have on the back end,” Breske said. “We’re still not where we need to be in our numbers. For whatever reason, guys leave or quit and you never really have that full complement. Twenty years ago, a guy came, he stayed and he’d contribute to whatever degree. Nowadays, my jersey isn’t getting dirty, I’m out of here.”

During the 15 spring practices, Breske said the Cougars will be putting an extra emphasis on tackling. Missed tackles, more than anything, is what led to the extra yards allowed in 2013.

“Good tackling lends itself to cutting down those stats,” he said. “We have to do a better job of the first man there making a play. When you look at the cut-ups, you can see we just need to take one more step. That’s a huge focus for us this spring and an area we really need to improve.”
Happy Friday!
I saw the sign and it opened up my mind.
On Monday, we took a look at how the Pac-12's offensive players stack up as NFL prospects in the eyes of ESPN analysts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay. Tuesday, it's the defense's turn.

Defensive line

  • DE Scott Crichton, Oregon State: No. 4 (Kiper), No. 5 (McShay)
  • DT Will Sutton, Arizona State: No. 8 (Kiper), No. 10 (McShay)

If you've been following along since the end of the season, Sutton's spot isn't all too surprising. He didn't have a good showing at the combine and has taken heat about his physical condition, dating to before last season. Even with the concerns, it's hard to imagine he won't eventually find his way in the NFL. After all, he's only the second player in conference history to be a two-time Defensive Player of the Year. Washington's Steve Emtman (1990-91) was the other. That's not by accident.

Coincidentally, the SEC's Defensive Player of the Year, Michael Sam, isn't ranked in the top 10 by either. See the list here. Insider

Other Pac-12 defensive linemen who figure to be in the mix in the draft are Cassius Marsh (UCLA), Taylor Hart (Oregon), Deandre Coleman (Cal), George Uko (USC), Tenny Palepoi (Utah), Morgan Breslin (USC), Ben Gardner (Stanford) and Josh Mauro (Stanford).


  • [+] EnlargeAnthony Barr
    Kirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsFormer UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr could be the first Pac-12 player to be drafted this year.
    OLB Anthony Barr, UCLA: No. 2 (both)
  • OLB Trent Murphy, Stanford: No. 6 (Kiper), No. 9 (McShay)
  • ILB Shayne Skov, Stanford: No. 3 (both)
  • ILB Jordan Zumwalt, UCLA: No. 8 (Kiper)

Barr is widely considered the Pac-12's best hope at landing in the first 10 picks, but if McShay was drafting, that wouldn't be the case. On drafting Barr, McShay wrote:
[Barr] of UCLA is a speed-rusher who stalls out when attempting to convert speed to power, and there is too much finesse to his game for me to pay a top-15 price for him. He looks like he's on skates when he attempts to set the edge.

That's not exactly a ringing endorsement for the same player Stanford coach David Shaw compared to Jevon Kearse. Shaw called Barr called the best (defensive) player the conference has had in the "last few years."

Murphy is in a similar boat to Sutton in that his college production isn't necessarily being viewed as a lock to translate to the NFL. He still figures to be a good fit for a 3-4 team and should be expected to contribute right away.

Outside of the four listed, it wasn't a very deep year for linebackers in the conference. Utah's Trevor Reilly, who can play both OLB and DE, Arizona State OLB Carl Bradford and USC's Devon Kennard headline the rest of the NFL hopefuls.

Defensive back

McGill should send a thank you card in Pete Carroll's direction. It's largely because of Seattle's use of big-bodied corners en route to a Super Bowl victory that the league appears to be trending in that direction. At 6-foot-4, McGill's size -- in addition to his solid showing at the combine -- is a rare asset among the group of corners.

Bucannon looks like he'll be the first defensive back off the board, but will he be a first-round pick? That's unlikely, but it would be a surprise if he lasts into the third round.

Another storyline to watch is where the three defensive backs who left early -- safety Ed Reynolds (Stanford), cornerback Terrance Mitchell (Oregon) and cornerback Kameron Jackson (Cal) -- wind up.

See the lists for linebackers and defensive backs here.Insider
That was a crazy game of poker.
As Washington State kicks off spring ball Thursday, head coach Mike Leach isn’t focusing on one particular theme or message. In his mind, the message should be universal: get better every day, regardless of the calendar. And if he has to remind his guys of that, then, well, they aren’t his guys.

“We don’t have a lot of guys looking for ways to get out of work,” Leach said. “They are all collectively working pretty hard. Those looking for the easy way are quickly getting outnumbered.”

As Leach enters his third spring as the Cougars’ head coach, the team has taken on more of a “his guys” personality. Gone are the days of whiny receivers and bellyaching over workouts. He believes everyone on his roster is committed to his way of thinking … at least, he hopes so.

And his guys know that heading into spring, nothing is certain.

“Everything is a competition,” Leach said. “People have the opportunity to beat one another out and you earn your job every day. The reps will be split up. The guys who are ahead or performing better will get more reps to try and further develop their skills. How you perform will impact the number of reps you get. But that won’t declare anything necessarily. Once you get to camp you have to do it all over again.”

[+] EnlargeMike Leach
AP Photo/Chris CarlsonMike Leach is stressing competition this spring.
That shines an extremely bright spotlight on a few position groups: the secondary, the offensive line and possibly running back. The Cougars have to replace All-American safety Deone Bucannon and both corners, Damante Horton and Nolan Washington. Several spots on the line are up for grabs -- returning starters included. And even the running back position, where Marcus Mason returns as the team’s leading rusher, isn’t a sure bet. Leach praised the potential of Theron West and Jamal Morrow.

“That whole position is chopping at his heels,” Leach said. “Mason was a steady guy last year. He did some good things. At the end of last year, the hottest running back we had was West. A lot of that took place in the bowl workouts and he had a pretty good game in the bowl game. Then Morrow has looked pretty good. He redshirted and did a lot of good things there. It will be a very competitive position.”

The spring depth chart -- the very definition of a living document -- lists a lot of youth in the secondary, including redshirt freshman Charleston White and sophomore Daquawn Brown as the corners and sophomore Isaac Dotson and junior Taylor Taliulu as the safeties.

“There are plenty of jobs open there,” Leach said. “The corner positions are open. The safety positions are open. It will be interesting to see. It’s a bunch of people who haven’t played a lot so they’ll be fighting it out to see who gets more playing time.”


  • Leach said he believes backup quarterbacks Tyler Bruggman and Luke Falk will get enough work to put some pressure on incumbent starter Connor Halliday: “I think Bruggman and Falk are both capable of pushing him. Both have a really good skill sets. Connor has the advantage in experience. We’re going to have the opportunity to rep a lot of them. We’ll run two pass skills throughout spring and rotate guys around. They’ll all have a lot of reps.”
  • The depth in the secondary might be complicated by the recent legal trouble of Brown. While he’s still officially listed on the depth chart, Leach said they are taking a wait-and-see approach with him: “We’re going to have to wait and see how everything unfolds. Right now what’s come out has been greatly embellished so we’ll have to see how all of that comes out.”
  • Leach was asked his thoughts on the news Wednesday that Northwestern football players qualify as employees and could unionize: “If these guys are professionals and they want everything to be like it is in the NFL, that means that shortly we’re going to be having a draft and I for one would be pretty excited about having a whole nation full of quality athletes to draft from. So I’m looking forward to that … That means if somebody doesn’t perform well, you pay them less. If somebody performs real well, you pay them more. Although obviously every team should have the same salary cap. In addition to that, you have the opportunity to draft anybody you want. And maybe I’m wrong, but it follows if we’re going to professionalize this kind of stuff. It follows that you handle it like professionals do.”

Pac-12's lunch links

March, 26, 2014
Mar 26
Whether it's rock and roll or old soul, it don't matter.
The last we saw of Washington State, it was going rear-end-over-tea-kettle against Colorado State in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl. Despite owning a 15-point lead with just over nine minutes left against a middling Mountain West team, the Cougars were, well, we're not going to type that hated term rivals use to tweak those in crimson and gray.

But it rhymes with "flooging zit."

The result was a stunning 48-45 loss that was difficult to even describe. Washington State had wrapped a bow around its first bowl game since 2003 and handed it to the grateful Rams. The Cougs had blown their chance for their first winning record in a decade.

[+] EnlargeConnor Halliday
Otto Greule Jr/Getty ImagesConnor Halliday has good reason to believe the 2014 season could be a special one at Washington State.
The collapse was so epic and strange that it seemed perfectly reasonable to a reporter that he began an interview with Washington State quarterback Connor Halliday on Tuesday with, "New Mexico Bowl… what the hell?" And Halliday didn't miss a beat.

"I don't know," Halliday said. "I've tried to explain it to many people. I don't know how you go about it. You can point the finger in many different places. You can say you can't fumble the ball two times in a matter of 45 seconds. You also can say you shouldn't give up [25] points in a half of football. You can say we should have thrown more instead of being conservative. You can say different things, but in the end you've just got to find a way to close out the game."

True. But the result itself wasn't what pained Halliday the most. The worst part was sending out guys he'd labored beside for four years, through some pretty darn tough times, with frowns on their faces.

"Probably the hardest thing for me was that was my graduating class that was leaving," he said. "I redshirted, but I came in with all those guys. It was tough to see Deone [Bucannon] go out like that. It was tough to see Damante [Horton] go out like that. It was tough to see Elliott Bosch, our center, go out like that. It was a crappy way to send out our seniors."

Yet while there are myriad ways to parse out the misery of that defeat, the reality is it was only one game in a season that hinted at a program climbing out of the muck. In the second season under coach Mike Leach, Washington State had again become competitive. It had become bowl-eligible by winning two out of its final three games in the rugged Pac-12. Bracketing off the bowl disaster, the 2013 season ultimately suggested an upward trend in Pullman, Wash.

While some fans might still be mourning the ending of 2013, Halliday and his teammates have moved on as they eyeball the beginning of spring practices Thursday. If the bowl loss has any lingering effect, it's a reminder of what the program is trying to leave behind.

"I think we were ready to get back to work [after the bowl game]," Halliday said. "I think we are really hungry. Part of the deal that Leach has instilled in us is there is no real option, no real choice. It's just like ingrained in your mind that you get back to work. We're going to get this ship back on the right path."

Halliday's junior season was notable for more than a few passing numbers. He ranked fifth in the nation with 353.6 yards passing per game. His 34.5 completions per game ranked second in the nation. His 34 TD passes were second-most in the Pac-12.

On the downside were 22 interceptions, six more than any other Pac-12 quarterback.

Of course, Halliday didn't have much support from one of the nation's worst running games. His receivers were mostly young and therefore, at times, out of position. And he was often under duress because his line was middling and opposing defenses were pinning their ears back in full-time pass-rushing mode.

It's probably encouraging to Cougars fans, however, that Halliday doesn't play along with the option of sharing blame for the interceptions.

[+] EnlargeGabe Marks
Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY SportsGabe Marks caught a team-leading 74 passes for the Cougars last season.
"The bottom line is I play a position where the fault is on me," he said. "It doesn't matter if the receiver ran the wrong route or protection broke down. No matter what happens, it's my job to take care of the football."

The offseason message for Halliday as he heads into his senior season is pretty straightforward: Make better decisions, protect the football, and this team will take another step forward.

Said Halliday, "If we eliminate the mistakes here and there, we can really do something special."

Don't quickly discount that as typical spring optimism. While there are some holes on defense and the offensive line, Washington State welcomes back its top-10 pass catchers from last season. And we're not just talking about warm bodies. The Cougars have size, speed, experience and depth at the position that rivals any team in the Pac-12 or, really, the nation.

"Go down the list. Everybody can make a play," Halliday said."It's a great time to play quarterback here."

There's so much depth at receiver, you have to wonder if Leach might move at least one guy over to defense to bolster his young and questionable secondary.

For Halliday, however the depth chart pencils out, he expects the program to make a mark in the highly competitive Pac-12 North Division. And, yes, that means going nose-to-nose with the top programs, such as Stanford and Oregon.

"Our biggest thing is to worry about ourselves, what we can control," he said. "But we are really not that far away."
We're taking a look at a player from each Pac-12 team who could step into the spotlight in 2014.

[+] EnlargeTheron West
Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY SportsTheron West had a big bowl game.
Spotlight: RB Theron West, 5-7, 172

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.
Previous spotlights

Spring position breakdowns: OL

February, 27, 2014
Feb 27
Our look at position groups in the Pac-12 continues.

Arizona: The Wildcats welcome back four starters, losing only RG Chris Putton. This mostly starless unit led the second-best rushing attack in the Pac-12 and yielded the second fewest sacks (17) in 2013. Junior Lene Maiava, the line's top backup at OT and OG last year, is a good bet to step in for Putton. By the way, all the 2013 backups are back as well.

[+] EnlargeHroniss Grasu
AP Photo/Chris BernacchiAll-Pac-12 center Hroniss Grasu is back to anchor Oregon's offensive line.
Arizona State: The Sun Devils lose LT Evan Finkenberg and center Kody Koebensky, but welcome back three starters, a crew headlined by LG Jamil Douglas, an NFL prospect who earned second-team All-Pac-12 honors in 2013. Also back are RT Tyler Sulka and RG Vi Teofilo. Junior Nick Kelly will get first crack at center, while junior Evan Goodman was Finkenberg's backup last year. Auburn transfer Christian Westerman, Sil Ajawara and Stephon McCray also are in the mix inside.

California: Cal welcomes back all five guys who started the Big Game against Stanford, a crew that included three freshmen and one sophomore. Only one of those guys, sophomore Jordan Rigsbee, started the first game, and he had moved from LG to center. The truth is, these guys played OK late in the season, and you'd think they'd improve significantly after a year of seasoning. Rigsbee and LG Chris Borrayo are good players, and Chris Adcock and Matt Cochran will be back in the mix after injuries derailed their seasons. There's also juco transfer Dominic Granado and four redshirt freshmen. As with most positions after the Bears’ miserable 2013, this unit should be much-improved.

Colorado: Three starters are back from a line that often struggled in 2013 -- LG Kaiwi Crabb, RG Daniel Munyer and RT Stephane Nembot -- with LT Jack Harris and C Gus Handler departing. Crabb was the backup center last year, so he might get a look there. In the mix are junior Marc Mustoe, junior college transfer Sully Wiefels, sophomore Alex Kelley and four redshirt freshmen.

Oregon: The Ducks lose undersized OG Mana Greig, who often struggled last year, but welcome back four starters, though LT Tyler Johnstone will miss spring practices after knee surgery. Center Hroniss Grasu earned first-team All-Pac-12 honors for a second time last year and is a likely preseason All-American -- he was second team for the FWAA in 2013. OG Cameron Hunt, who started five games as a true freshman, is almost certain to step into a starting guard positions opposite Hamani Stevens. Junior Andre Yruretagoyena is a guy to watch, also. It's likely position coach Steve Greatwood will do a lot of shuffling this spring, working a variety of combinations that allow him to develop depth.

Oregon State: Two starters are back -- C Isaac Seumalo and RT Sean Harlow -- and three starters are gone: LT Michael Philipp, LG Josh Andrews and RG Grant Enger. Seumalo earned second-team All-Pac-12 honors and could get All-American consideration this fall, while Harlow should be much-improved after taking his lumps as a true freshman. Sophomore Grant Bays, junior Josh Mitchell, junior Gavin Andrews and juco transfer Luke Hollingsworth are in the mix.

Stanford: While the Cardinal are replacing four starters from the Pac-12's best offensive line last season -- only LT Andrus Peat returns -- a number of the 2013 backups saw significant action. So the hope is Josh Garnett replaces David Yankey at LG, Graham Shuler steps in for Khalil Wilkes at center, Johnny Caspers replaces Kevin Danser at RG and Kyle Murphy takes over for Cameron Fleming at RT. And the best guys who don't beat them out will act as the sixth and seventh O-linemen in Stanford's now-infamous "jumbo" packages.

UCLA: While UCLA loses first-team All-Pac-12 guardXavier Su'a-Filo to the NFL, the Bruins should be strong on the offensive line after injuries force them to start three true freshmen last fall. And those freshmen, Alex Redmond, Caleb Benenoch and Scott Quessenberry, played pretty darn well, considering. Jake Brendel is back at center -- he and Redmond earned honorable mention all-conference honors -- and tackles Torian White and Simon Goines, starters sidelined by injuries last year, are back. Then there's Miami transfer Malcolm Bunche and Conor McDermott and Ben Wysocki, among others. Figures to be a lot of competition this spring.

USC: The Trojans lost center Marcus Martin, first-team All-Pac-12 in 2013, and RT Kevin Graf, but welcome back sophomore LT Chad Wheeler, senior LG Max Tuerk and senior RG Aundrey Walker, though Walker will be out spring after breaking his ankle against UCLA. Further, with a new coaching staff on hand, there's sure to be competition and some position changes. Junior Cyrus Hobbi and redshirt freshman Khaliel Rodgers figure to battle at center, and with sophomore Zach Banner sitting out with an injury, senior Nathan Guertler and redshirt freshman Nico Falah likely will man the RT spot. True freshman early enrollee Toa Lobendahn also could get into the mix, as could true freshman Damien Mama when he arrives in the fall, though he plans to take a Mormon mission in 2015.

Utah: Utah loses two starters, LG Jeremiah Tofaeono and center Vyncent Jones, but welcomes back junior LT Jeremiah Poutasi, RG Junior Salt and RT Siaosi Aiono, though Isaac Asiata started the final three games at RT. Sophomore Hiva Lutui was the backup center last year, but he'll battle Nick Nowakowski for the starting job, while junior J.J. Dielman has the inside track at LG.

Washington: Not only does Washington welcome back all five starters from 2013, it welcomes back a crew that started every game together. (Well, actually, James Atoe started the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl at RG for Colin Tanigawa). And not only that, this is the Pac-12's most veteran crew, perhaps the most experience group in the nation, with four senior starters and one junior. Oh, and not a single backup from the Apple Cup depth chart graduated either, though Erik Kohler took injury retirement. LT Micah Hatchie and LG Dexter Charles both earned honorable mention All-Pac-12 honors last year. This has a chance to be a very good line.

Washington State: Offensive line is a questionable area for the Cougars this spring. They lost three starters, topped by center Elliott Bosch, the line's leader in 2013, and three top backups. Junior LT Gunnar Eklund and junior LG Joe Dahl are back. Sophomore Riley Sorenson is almost certain to win a starting job, likely at right guard, while Sam Flor and Carlos Freeman will battle at center, while Cody O'Connell, Cole Madison, Devonte McClain and Jacob Seydel are in the mix at the vacant tackle spot.

Previous positions


Running back


Spring preview capsules: Pac-12 North

February, 27, 2014
Feb 27
A glimpse at what's going on in the Pac-12 North:


Spring start: March 31
Spring game: April 26

What to watch:
  • Kaufman effect: New defensive coordinator Art Kaufman has his work cut out for him after inheriting a Cal defense that allowed 45.9 points per game during coach Sonny Dykes' first season. This isn't a case of needing few tweaks back to respectability; it could take a complete overhaul to get things turned in the right direction.
  • Developing Goff:Jared Goff jumped right into the starting job as a true freshman, and his considerable talent was evident from the beginning. With a year under his belt, Goff will take on more of a leadership role as he begins his first spring as the unquestioned starter.
  • Get healthy: Cal's 2013 season was met with a rash of injuries that made one of the nation's toughest schedules even tougher to navigate. The Golden Bears will show extreme caution during the spring as to remain as healthy as possible for fall camp.

Spring start: April 1
Spring game: May 3

What to watch:
  • Life after Mariota? Much like Andrew Luck's 2011 season at Stanford, it's clear Marcus Mariota is headed into his final season as the Ducks quarterback despite having two years of eligibility left. It really began last season, but Jeff Lockie and Jake Rodrigues, who served as dual backups last year, will continue to compete for the soon-to-be-vacated starting job.
  • Pellum takes over: Don Pellum replaces longtime defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti, who held the job for the previous 17 seasons. It'll take some adjusting without Aliotti around, but Pellum, who has spent 23 years coaching at Oregon, figures to make it close to a seamless transition.
  • Building receiver depth: Bralon Addison is back, but the Ducks will need to find players to replace Josh Huff, Daryle Hawkins and De'Anthony Thomas in the passing game. Keanon Lowe will likely jump into the No. 2 role, but after that the pecking order is unclear.

Spring start: March 31
Spring game: May 3

What to watch:
  • Garrett steps in: There won't be any major philosophical overhauls under new offensive coordinator John Garrett, but new twists are inevitable. He and fifth-year senior quarterback Sean Mannion will spend the spring getting on the same page.
  • Revitalized running game? Running backs Terron Ward and Storm Woods will have to be more involved as the Beavers pursue greater offensive balance. Chris Brown's development will be important to add depth at the position after he saw scarce playing time as a redshirt freshman.
  • Replacing Crichton: Receiver Brandin Cooks isn't the only big-name player leaving Corvallis; finding a replacement for defensive end Scott Crichton will be just as important. Lavonte Barnett and Jaswha James are two players to keep in mind at the spot opposite Dylan Wynn, while defensive tackle Jalen Grimble should immediately contribute on the line as well.

Spring start: Feb. 24
Spring game: April 12

What to watch:
  • RB by committee? After Stanford's first spring practice, coach David Shaw touched on how it might become a running-back-by-committee in the Stanford backfield. He said it last year too, but without an experienced ball carrier on the roster, it rings truer this time.
  • Reloading on defense: The Cardinal had four defensive players at the NFL combine and also will replace first-team All-Pac-12 defensive end Ben Gardner. OLB Kevin Anderson, S Kodi Whitfield, DE Luke Kaumatule and ILB Blake Martinez are four players fighting for a chance at more playing time.
  • Staff changes: The program faces the most staff turnover in Shaw's tenure, with defensive coordinator Derek Mason (head coach, Vanderbilt), quarterbacks coach Mike Sanford (offensive coordinator, Boise State) and inside linebackers coach David Kotulski (defensive coordinator, Vanderbilt) all taking promotions elsewhere. Spring will be an important time to bring new coaches Lance Taylor and Pete Hansen -- and a third yet to be hired -- up to speed.

Spring start: March 4
Spring game: April 19

What to watch:
  • Petersen era begins: Chris Petersen's arrival to a major conference will be a national story line heading into the 2014 season. After posting a 92-12 record at Boise State in eight seasons, expectations are high in Seattle, where he'll replace Steve Sarkisian.
  • Status of Miles/Stringfellow: Quarterback Cyler Miles, who was expected to take over as the starting quarterback, and receiver Damore'ea Stringfellow were suspended indefinitely on Feb. 6, leaving questions about their status with the team. With Miles away, Jeff Lindquist and Troy Williams will get more opportunities.
  • Replacing Sankey: Jesse Callier, Deontae Cooper and Dwayne Washington will all compete for carries with Bishop Sankey off to the NFL. That much is clear. How the offense will use the trio isn't, thanks to the arrival of Petersen.

Spring start: March 27
Spring game: April 26

What to watch: