Pac-12: Arizona Wildcats

Pac-12 morning links

January, 23, 2015
Jan 23
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You've gotta ask yourself one question: "Do I feel lucky?" Well, do ya, punk?

Call it, Friendo.

Two quotes today... because Happy Friday.

Leading off

In case you suffer from football withdrawals at any point this weekend, take solace in the fact that plenty of elite college talent will be suiting up for the Reese's Senior Bowl this Saturday. The Pac-12 is sending an entire gaggle of representatives to this game. Most will be representing the North team, but UCLA's Anthony Jefferson and Owamagbe Odighizuwa will play for the South.

There'll be a nasty collection of defensive line talent on the North team: Think Danny Shelton, Henry Anderson, Hau'oli Kikaha, and Nate Orchard -- all on the same unit. Seeing that group play together should create a fun dynamic for avid Pac-12 fans who have watched those players terrorize quarterbacks over the past few seasons.

On the other side of the ball, Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion may have a chance to throw to receivers from Stanford (Ty Montgomery) and Washington State (Vince Mayle).

Other Pac-12 representatives: Hayes Pullard and Josh Shaw (USC), Eric Rowe (Utah), Damarious Randle and Jamil Douglas (ASU)

This one will feature plenty of hustle, as it's the final live game opportunity for these seniors to raise their NFL Draft stock.

News/notes/team reports
Just for fun
Did you know Ronnie Lott played basketball at USC? That guy needs to be on the football team. Sign him up!

Earlier today, we took an early peek at the 2015 Pac-12 North nonconference slate. There's some intrigue in the agenda for the Pac-12 South, too. Here's the breakdown:

September 3-5
UTSA at Arizona
Michigan at Utah
Arizona State vs. Texas A&M (NRG Stadium, Houston)
Arkansas State at USC
Virginia at UCLA
Colorado at Hawaii

Weekend take: There's some early action to salivate over here. Jim Harbaugh will make his Michigan coaching debut on a Thursday night at Utah. It's hard not to love that: The Utes have developed into the same type of physical team that Harbaugh molded at Stanford and likely intends to create in Ann Arbor. Plus, that Rice-Eccles Stadium atmosphere is electric. Now just imagine it at night in front of a football-starved crowd against a traditional college football power. Yum.

With a maturing defense and plenty of experienced, explosive pieces returning on the offensive end, there's a feeling that ASU can do some more damage in 2015. They'll have an early chance to prove that on the massive stage that is Houston's Reliant Stadium against Texas A&M. A Pac-12-SEC matchup is a relative rarity. Think of the last one we had at a gigantic "neutral" site: Oregon-LSU in 2011. This game won't generate the same massive level of hype as that one did, but it's sure to drum up its share of buzz.

The UTSA-Arizona and Virginia-UCLA matchups have a key connecting thread: Those two opponents made the Wildcats and the Bruins sweat last year. There's not a single gimme on this opening weekend slate for the Pac-12 South.

September 12
Arizona at Nevada
Cal Poly at Arizona State
Idaho at USC
UCLA at UNLV
UMass at Colorado
Utah State at Utah

Weekend take: Nevada pushed Arizona deep into their meeting this past season, and that was in Tucson. The Wildcats must be wary entering Reno -- elevation can make for an unpleasant playing experience. Otherwise, the most notable Week 2 nonconference game for the Pac-12 South is the battle of the Beehive State: Utah State has seen plenty of success over the past few seasons, and they'll take their shot at the Utes very seriously. In-state rivalries are fun.

Outside of that, there's not much intrigue here. UCLA fans will get to make the weekend trip up I-15 through the desert to Las Vegas, though. There's some fun in the schedule for the Bruins there.

September 19
Northern Arizona at Arizona
New Mexico at Arizona State
BYU at UCLA
Colorado vs. Colorado State (Sports Authority Field at Mile High Stadium, Denver)
Utah at Fresno State

Weekend take: They might have tried to purge this from their memory, but there are certainly some UCLA fans who remember the last time the Bruins played BYU. The year was 2008, and the Cougars walloped UCLA 59-0. Any player connections from that shellacking are long gone by now, but BYU's visit to the Rose Bowl will be a key early-season game for both programs. Taysom Hill should be back under center for the Cougars while the Bruins will be adapting to life after Brett Hundley.

Following a winless Pac-12 campaign, Mike MacIntyre faces a massive season in Boulder, and it would behoove the Buffs to win the Rocky Mountain Showdown this time around. The game against Colorado State is played at a neutral site in Denver and promises to be an important early tone-setter for both programs.

Meanwhile, Utah has assembled quite the satisfying nonconference slate. The Utes follow those aforementioned exciting match-ups against Michigan and Utah State with a road trip to Fresno State that shouldn't be taken likely. The Bulldogs are known to circle the wagons and put up vicious fights against Power 5 opponents in their home fortress, so Kyle Whittingham's team will be tested.

September 26
Nicholls State at Colorado

Weekend take: It would be disingenuous to pretend that this game is intriguing. Colorado finished winless in Pac-12 play last season while Nicholls State ended 0-12.

October 17
USC at Notre Dame

Weekend take: Now we're talking. The Trojans embarrassed Notre Dame 49-14 to close the 2014 regular season. That sets up a revenge factor here -- though motivation should never be an issue in this storied rivalry. Both teams harbor high hopes for 2015, so this mid-October tilt is showing plenty of promise.

Pac-12 morning links

January, 22, 2015
Jan 22
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Leading off:

The NCAA is investigating 20 colleges, according to Brad Wolverton of the The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Wolverton reports that 18 of the cases are with Division I programs, so Pac-12 fans should certainly pay attention. Even if it's not affecting one of your programs it might be affecting a program that you're playing in 2015.
The cases are at various stages, from preliminary inquiry to awaiting a hearing with the Division I Committee on Infractions, and they involve a variety of missteps, including allegations that players received impermissible assistance from professors, academic advisers, or people outside of an athletic department.
News/notes/team reports:
Just for fun:

Pac-12.com did a fun #ExplainThe90s theme today on Twitter and the results are quite entertaining. Anytime there's a 90's throwback, the Pac-12 Blog is there, so we're all about this.

Earlier today, we offered up our thoughts on who truly had a chance to grab that Pac-12 North crown in 2015. Now, we're moving on to the South.

David Lombardi (@LombardiESPN): I'm changing gears here. My take on 2015 Pac-12 South is similar to the one you had on the North, Chantel: I think this division will again feature a wide-open race. It was a minefield in 2014, and nothing suggests that'll change next season. Arizona, the defending champion, was young, and they retain integral pieces on both sides of the ball. USC is the early Vegas favorite -- it's impossible to discount that stockpile of talent. We can expect more of the same rugged play from Utah, and Devontae Booker's return makes them truly dangerous again. Meanwhile, Todd Graham's young defense will have matured at ASU, and UCLA has recruited well enough to ensure they won't be an easy out in the post-Brett Hundley era. The only true outsider in the South is Colorado, and even they're supposed to be better. Let the reign of chaos continue.

[+] EnlargeDevontae Booker
George Frey/Getty ImagesUtah's Devontae Booker should keep the Pac-12 South from turning into a two-horse race.
Chantel Jennings (@ChantelJennings): I think it's a two-dog race between Arizona and USC. Both return a lot of talent, but if I must choose between the two I think I'm going to go with USC because you've got a more experienced quarterback running the show. I think Anu Solomon is going to make big strides between Year 1 and Year 2, but I think Cody Kessler is going to have a fire lit under him by all the young QB talent and show up. Plus, I think running back Justin Davis and wide receiver JuJu Smith will have breakout years. Defensively, there's a lot to replace as well, but I think it'll be more reloading than rebuilding and in Steve Sarkisian's second year, I think big things will happen.

Lombardi: No argument on the Arizona and USC fronts here, but I don't see the Pac-12 South turning into a simple two-team race. ASU, in particular, has developed a track record of consistent success, and I think there's every reason to believe that Todd Graham will again have them in the thick of the action. The boom-or-bust cycle of the Sun Devils' defense added up to an unremarkable 2014 on that side of the ball, but I think Graham will develop that aggressive defense into a much more stable unit next season. Plus, ASU isn't sinking at quarterback post-Taylor Kelly: Mike Bercovici is more than capable, and he'll have firepower named DJ Foster and Demario Richard at his side. The Devils aren't dead.

It doesn't end there, either: It may turn out that Utah and UCLA are both a quarterback short of being championship material, but as long as Booker and Paul Perkins (the Pac-12's two leading running backs in 2014) are along to complement talented defenses in Salt Lake City and Westwood, those two teams can do plenty of damage in the South. That'll leave us with another mess on our hands.

Jennings: I agree, ASU is going to be a player. But you've got to look at these schedules, specifically the road schedules, of the first two teams I mentioned ... USC has a relatively soft road schedule which would certainly aid them in getting to the Pac-12 title game. They have ASU early on the road. And I agree with you on the Graham front that he'll be able to develop that defense into something more consistent, but developing takes time. Could they be consistent by Sept. 26? Eh. I'll hedge my bets the other way. Their other road trips are at Notre Dame, at Cal, at Colorado and at Oregon. Playing at Autzen will probably be the toughest one of that group but again, I'll take a Cody Kessler on the road over whatever first-year starter the Ducks have. Arizona's road schedule is far tougher -- at Nevada, at Stanford, at Washington, at USC, at Arizona State. USC definitely has the easier path.

Lombardi: As the nuttiness of 2014 showed us, home-field advantage may no longer pack the punch it once did in the Pac-12. Visiting teams actually finished the season with a 33-21 record in league games, and I think that jarring stat just adds another reason to expect anything but smooth sailing in the Pac-12 South. Yes, some teams may be slightly better equipped than others to navigate the treacherous landscape and some teams may have easier roads through the maze. But at the end of the day, it looks like an overwhelming amount of thorns and land mines remain on the path to glory in that division. I certainly wouldn't bet on a winner based on what we know now in terms of talent or schedule.

Pac-12 morning links

January, 21, 2015
Jan 21
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People should know when they're conquered.

Would you, Quintus? Would I?

Leading off

Ah, late January is here. The college campaign is over, and the final, disheartening end to the American extravaganza that is football season looms. It's a time that evokes nostalgia, but it's certainly not a time to break from gridiron thoughts. The annual chance to flip the page and start reading the next chapter in advance has arrived. Jon Wilner comes through with one of the early looks, offering his prediction of the 2015 Pac-12 all-conference team in The Mercury News. Meanwhile, our friends at Pacific Takes have surveyed the field and taken the team-wide approach, releasing their way-too-early Pac-12 power rankings for 2015.

As your read, coaches are feverishly blazing the recruiting trail, paying some final visits before National Signing Day on February 4. Spring ball comes after that, and that'll be followed summer conditioning, a little time off, and then training camp. We may just now be winding down, but don't blink -- college football season will be back in a flash. Here's the latest news from the 365-day cycle that keeps churning on:

News/notes/team reports
Just for fun

This has already made rounds on social media, but former Arizona star Rob Gronkowski deserves acknowledgment on the Pac-12 blog for this, too. Seems like a perfectly reasonable explanation for the current scandal surrounding the Patriots.

This past season saw Marcus Mariota bring the Heisman Trophy back to the Pac-12 for the first time since 2005. Now that the league's top superstar is on his way to the NFL, focus shifts to the possibility of keeping the Heisman in the conference next season. Here's an early look at some Pac-12 candidates who may have a shot to succeed Mariota in 2015.

Scooby Wright, LB, Arizona

He's only a sophomore, yet Wright finished the season leading the nation in tackles (163), tackles for loss (29), and forced fumbles (6). He was the only player who averaged more than two TFL per game (2.07), and second place in that category (Hau'oli Kikaha, also from the Pac-12) was way down at 1.79. Simply put, Wright dominated the stat sheet in 2014, and that's what a defensive player must do to have any shot of contending for college football's grandest individual prize. Wright was the only Pac-12 player besides Mariota to finish in the top 10 of the Heisman balloting. His 17 votes put him on the radar for 2015.

Cody Kessler, QB, USC

Kessler's 2014 season created a true rarity: A statistically impressive USC quarterback flew under the Heisman radar. With the Trojans actually early Vegas favorites in the Pac-12's bid to again send a team to the College Football Playoff, don't expect that to repeat itself in 2015. Kessler threw only five interceptions in 452 attempts (only Mariota's interception rate was better), and he completed 70 percent of his passes in a season that saw USC finish with two consecutive strong offensive performances. Kessler's performance against top-flight competition must improve in 2015, but he'll undoubtedly be in the way-too-early Heisman discussion because of his 2014 numbers.

[+] EnlargeScooby Wright
Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY SportsArizona linebacker Scooby Wright was the only Pac-12 player to finish in the top 10 of the Heisman voting besides Marcus Mariota.
Royce Freeman, RB, Oregon

Seeing a true freshman succeed is by no means a college football rarity, but Freeman's bruising style of productivity was indeed unusual for a youngster. The 230-pounder is built like a senior, and he ran like one in 2014, becoming the first true freshman 1,000-yard rusher in Ducks history. Freeman led Pac-12 backs with 18 touchdowns -- scoring seems to be a Heisman prerequisite -- and his workload is likely to increase in 2015 when increased experience and Mariota's departure are both taken into account.

Paul Perkins, RB, UCLA

Most of the UCLA glory went to Brett Hundley, but he's moving on. That means that Paul Perkins' eye-popping productivity will have more of a chance to shine in 2015. Perkins led the Pac-12 with 1,575 rushing yards this past season, and his average of 6.3 yards per carry was head and shoulders above other runners with at least 200 attempts. Perhaps Perkins' touchdown total hindered his visibility -- he rushed for only nine -- but with Hundley's 10 rushing touchdowns out the door, expect more end zone visits for the running back in 2015.

Devontae Booker, RB, Utah

Booker's return to Salt Lake City is a major boost to the Utes' offense moving forward. The team' passing attack was inconsistent at best in 2014, and that made Booker's 1,500-yard season -- second-best in the Pac-12 -- essential to Utah's success. With the quarterback position remaining a question mark entering 2015, Booker is again set to be Kyle Whittingham's offensive centerpiece. Expect more big numbers in the 203-pounder's senior season.

Jared Goff, QB, Cal

It's extremely difficult to enter the Heisman conversation when playing on a team that went 1-11 the year prior. That was Goff's predicament in 2014, when he threw for nearly 4,000 yards and established a solid 5:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio as the Bears improved to 5-7. Fair or not, that record will still prevent Goff from being a popular preseason award candidate, but it certainly puts him in better position than he was in a year ago. Goff seems primed for another statistical jump, and that makes him an early candidate for some 2015 attention.

D.J. Foster, RB/WR, Arizona State

Foster was the only Pac-12 player to finish with more than 1,000 rushing yards and 500 receiving yards in 2014. His 62 catches were second to only Jaelen Strong in Tempe, and the big receiver's departure to the NFL means that Foster should have more opportunities to score touchdowns in 2014 (he found the end zone 12 times in 2014). Todd Graham retains plenty of explosiveness at ASU: Foster has shown he can light up highlight reels, while Demario Richard averaged 5.7 yards per carry while playing almost all of 2014 as a 17-year old.

Nick Wilson, RB, Arizona

A healthy Anu Solomon may get some Heisman run in Rich Rodriguez's offense next season, but the true freshman Wilson delivered the most impressive 2014, so he's more prominent on our early radar. Wilson actually led all non-kickers in Pac-12 scoring, averaging 7.8 points per game. His power-speed combination fueled a 1,375-yard, 5.8 per carry, 17-touchdown season.

Kevin Hogan, QB, Stanford

Hogan is the latest addition to the 2015 Heisman radar, yet it would only be fair to classify him as a long shot at this point. Still, the quarterback's impressive finish to the 2014 season merits at least a mention on this list. Hogan battled considerable adversity this past year: His father passed away in December after a battle with cancer. Hogan delivered sterling performances against UCLA and Maryland to round out the campaign. He passed precisely and rushed effectively in both contests. Stanford returns most of its offensive talent in 2015, so a continuation of that strong finish is possible — especially if explosive youngster Christian McCaffrey continues to emerge as a force to be reckoned with.

Pac-12 morning links

January, 20, 2015
Jan 20
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I was hiding under your porch because I love you.

Leading off:

Some interesting news out of California.

On Wednesday the governing board of the University of California campuses will meet to discuss a new incentive-pay policy approved by university President Janet Napolitano that will tie together how coaches and athletic directors are evaluated/compensated and the academic achievements of their student-athletes.
The new policy will apply to all coaches of intercollegiate sports and athletic directors going forward, both new hires and those whose contracts are up for renewal. The so-called "gatekeeper clause" establishing a minimum level of team-wide academic performance for coaches to receive any bonus pay will follow a formula the National Collegiate Athletic Association already uses to monitor student athletes.

Cal football coach Sonny Dykes already has a contract that links his bonuses to how his athletes perform in class, but he is the only coach that has that type of a contract. So, it should be interesting to see how this goes over on Wednesday.

News/notes/team reports:
  • Former Arizona tight end Rob Gronkowski is excited to return to the state where he played his college ball for the Super Bowl. Fun fact: It'll be the first time Gronk has returned to Arizona to play since his college playing days.
  • Arizona State is getting a lot of interest from a three-star defensive end that looks like he'd be a pretty good Devil-backer. "There's a lot going on there," he told Doug Haller. "They're on the rise."
  • There's some movement in the world of Cal football recruiting. A wide receiver who was committed to Illinois has decommitted and has a visit to Cal planned for next weekend, plus some other offers and info on recruits.
  • Oregon coach Mark Helfrich announced on Monday afternoon that there will be three transfers (at least) away from the program. Helfrich said that it's "just guys looking for an opportunity or a better fit."
  • The Oregonian's Gina Mizell is going through Oregon State's new staff, giving each new member a closer look. On Monday she caught up with running back coach Telly Lockette. This is her sixth piece in the series and the links to her others are on the page as well.
  • Can Stanford actually be an offense-first team in 2015? There's very little turnover on the offensive side of the ball so signs point to "yes they should be able to" but does that mean that yes, they will be able to? Rule of Tree takes a closer look.
  • UCLA's success has been tied to its quarterback's consistency. Over the past three seasons Brett Hundley has been that and more for the Bruins, but, who is the next guy up -- Josh Rosen? Jerry Neuheisel? Asiantii Woulard?
  • A quick look at the five biggest goals for USC football this spring.
  • It was a good news-bad news type of day for the Utes on Monday when it came to their recruiting.
  • NFL analyst Mike Mayock believes that Washington defensive lineman Danny Shelton could be a top-10 pick in this year's NFL draft. "When you put the tape on, he's quick. He gets up and down the line of scrimmage and plays forever at 350 pounds," Mayock said of Shelton.
  • Connor Halliday was nominated for the 2015 MTR Western Sports Star of the Year Award. Halliday is up against two Seattle Sounders, a Seattle Mariner, a Seattle Seahawk and Washington football linebacker Shaq Thompson.
Just for fun:

Before Saturday night's Arizona-Utah basketball match up, Wildcat coach Rich Rodriguez gave some love to the students in the form of ... chicken sandwiches. Rich, the form was pretty good. But if you're going to be out there tossing things, you have a pretty decent QB you could use to really get that Chick-fil-A to the students in the higher seats.



Also, according to TMZ, UCLA defensive back Justin Combs -- son of P Diddy -- had a birthday party this weekend and Justin Bieber was in attendance. So, you know, just put that in your back pocket.
So, the Pac-12 Blog is no Miss Cleo.

But even so, we went out on a limb and made 10 fearless predictions at the beginning of the season. Now, we look back on those predictions.

1. A Pac-12 team will win the national championship. We were close. A Pac-12 team got to the national championship game. It didn't deliver quite as much as we thought it might, but it got there. Not a perfect prediction but a nearly correct one. Meanwhile, we're still looking for the person who predicted that a Big Ten team, behind a third-string quarterback, would win the national championship. Bueller? Bueller?

2. A Pac-12 player will win the Heisman Trophy. Got it. Congrats, Marcus Mariota. It was a fun season to watch this special player and he more than deserved this trophy.

3. No Pac-12 coach will be fired at season's end. We got this one, too. Though, like the Ohio State/third-string QB prediction, no one really saw the Mike Riley departure coming. However, Gary Andersen infuses some new blood into this conference that also saw a fair number of coordinator changes. But as far as a coach being fired? The Pac-12 is in the clear. And your humble blog got this one right.

4. Cal and Colorado will be good enough to deliver a major upset this fall. Cal won five games this year. The Bears' wins at Washington State and Oregon State can certainly be put into this category. And the Buffs came close ... so, so close. But no cigar. We'll count half credit for this one.

5. The USC-UCLA game will be a battle of top-10 teams. Not top 10, but top 20. The 19th-ranked Trojans fell to No. 9 UCLA, 38-20.

6. Oregon will cover the spread against Michigan State in Week 2. Yup. Got 'em.

7. The Pac-12 will go 3-0 against Notre Dame. The conference went 2-1 against the Irish but as of Oct. 4, 2014, we knew this prediction wouldn't come true because someone (C'mon, Stanford) didn't get stuff done on the road. But Arizona State's 55-31 thumping and USC's 49-14 statement certainly made a 2-1 feel as good as a 2-1 can feel for the Pac-12.

8. Whoever starts at quarterback for Arizona will pass for more than 3,000 yards. Redshirt freshman Anu Solomon passed for 3,793 yards, finishing fifth in the league.

9. Stanford QB Kevin Hogan will be the Pac-12's most improved player. This was a whiff. If we're talking about most improved quarterbacks the award would probably go to Cal's Jared Goff. If we're talking most improved player, the field is wide open. We'll have more on that in the next few weeks. But one thing is for sure -- it wasn't Hogan.

10. Six teams will be ranked in the final top 25 at the end of the season. Though it might not have been the six teams we expected to be in the top 25 or the specific order, we did nail this one. The Pac-12 finished with six teams in that top 25 -- Oregon, No. 2; UCLA, No. 10; ASU, No. 12; Arizona, No. 19; USC, No. 20; Utah, No. 21.

Pac-12 morning links

January, 19, 2015
Jan 19
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Such a waste of talent. He chose money over power -- in this town, a mistake nearly everyone makes.

Frank's coming ...

But Monday's links are here first.

Leading off

If it wasn't for the East-West Shrine game (where both Taylor Kelly and Austin Hill fared well) and the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, this past Saturday would have been the first since August without any football.

Sunday was a far more heralded day on the gridiron, as several former Pac-12 players made prominent contributions in both of the NFL's conference championship games. California product Marshawn Lynch powered his way to bragging rights over former Golden Bear Aaron Rodgers in Seattle's win over Green Bay, all while Washington's own Jermaine Kearse scored the game-winning touchdown in Seattle. Stanford alumnus Andrew Luck didn't fare as well in the AFC title game, but Oregon's LeGarrette Blount and Cal's Shane Vereen left that one with Super Bowl tickets in hand.

News/notes/team reports
  • Arizona leveraged basketball success to their football benefit. The Wildcats hosted several of their prized recruits this past weekend, and the visits coincided with the basketball team's resounding 69-51 win over Utah inside the electric McKale Center.
  • According to a Wall Street Journal study, the value of the Arizona State football program on the open market would be $277 million -- good for 27th in the country.
  • The Oregonian's Andrew Greif shadowed Marcus Mariota on his epic awards tour up the East Coast -- a trip which included Disney World and ended with the Heisman Trophy ceremony in New York City. Here's the full article, including pictures. And here's an early prospectus of life after Mariota in Eugene.
  • In a critical recruiting weekend for new coach Gary Andersen in Corvallis, Oregon State netted the commitment of an under-the-radar safety.
  • You may have already guessed that recruiting was a central theme of the weekend. Stanford also hosted the majority of their 2015 class. Here's a tracker of what went down on the Farm.
  • Their big matchup happened yesterday and Lynch's team got the best of Rodgers' crew in dramatic fashion, but the Seattle Post-Intelligencer looked back at their Berkeley past before the NFC championship.
  • Former USC defensive back Josh Shaw is catching up on missed reps, and he recorded an interception in the East-West Shrine game.
  • Given extremely high expectations, a number of big wins, and a trio of disappointing losses, it's tough to judge UCLA's season. This article attempts to peg the 2014 Bruins' place in program history.
  • Six Washington official visitors took recruiting trips to Seattle this weekend.
  • Mike Leach continues to construct his new defensive staff. Washington State hired former Michigan assistant Roy Manning as its outside linebackers coach just days after naming new defensive coordinator Alex Grinch.
  • As Colorado aims to rise from the Pac-12 cellar, the Buffs' strength and conditioning program under Dave Forman takes center stage in this feature.
  • Here are some terms and details of Kyle Whittingham's four-year contract extension at Utah.
Just for fun

Colorado punter Darragh O'Neill has drawn at least one comparison to Odell Beckham Jr. for his catching ability. OK, the degree of difficulty on O'Neill's snag in the East-West Shrine game didn't quite match Beckham's sensational grab earlier this year, but it is morning link-worthy.

Best of the visits: Pac-12

January, 18, 2015
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The first weekend back from the recruiting dead period saw dozens of prospects taking official visits to Pac-12 campuses. While programs such as Arizona State, Oregon State, UCLA, USC, Washington and Washington State all put together solid weekends, no program’s recruits (and parents) were better about documenting the events than Stanford’s, where Big Visit Weekend seemed to go over extremely well with everybody in attendance.

Here is a look through the eyes of recruits on social media at this weekend’s Pac-12 recruiting visits.

Big visit weekend at Stanford

Everything is better when you start off with dessert, and defensive tackle Ross Donelly probably agrees with that sentiment after being welcomed to his visit by two Stanford cupcakes.


From there, the visit got a little more interesting for the recruits. The parents of offensive line commits Brian Chaffin and Nick Wilson snapped shots of their sons hitting the road.


Later, Chaffin summed up the first day of the visit, while fellow commit Mustafa Branch provided some visual proof.


Stanford also made sure to introduce prospects to former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who has become a recruiting staple for the Cardinal. After his cupcakes, Donelly, a four-star uncommitted prospect, made sure to snap a quick photo.


Of course, no official visit anywhere would be complete without the gear, shown here by defensive tackle commit Wes Annan ...


Or the bling, worn here by ESPN 300 running back target Bryce Love.


And at least one Stanford commit received some especially good news during the trip, as wide receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside announced.


And Nick Wilson’s father provided one final look at the committed prospects who took their official visits to Stanford over the weekend.

Utah lands another juco prospect

The Utes had several intriguing visitors on campus for official visits and came away with another junior college wide receiver commitment, bringing their total to three juco receivers in this class. Deniko Carter made the call during this visit, and he joins Kyle Fulks and Brandon Snell.

Arizona’s final push

There aren’t many spots left in Arizona’s recruiting class, but the Wildcats are hoping they can finish things off with a couple of teammates in three-star outside linebacker Arthur McGinnis and wide receiver Darrell Clark.

Trojans host stars

USC was scheduled to have nearly every one of its commitments on hand this weekend, as five early enrollees are already there and 10 commitments were taking official visits. But three huge uncommitted prospects were slated to be in attendance as well, in defensive tackle Rasheem Green, inside linebacker John Houston and athlete Porter Gustin. Here is Green, along with defensive line coach Chris Wilson and his son, Caleb Wilson.

Visitors to Oregon State

Oregon State coaches have been furiously trying to rebuild the Beavers class after several formerly committed prospects flipped following the departure of Mike Riley. This weekend, Oregon State welcomed a number of visitors, including some position help in the secondary, in cornerback Jay Irvine and safety Treston Decoud.

Future Dawgs

Washington had several official visitors on campus, including wide receiver commit Andre Baccellia and tight end Ricky McCoy, who apparently hit it off with big-time Washington target Benning Potoa’e, who is down to the Huskies and UCLA, and will likely make his decision shortly following this trip.

UCLA looks at 2016

The Bruins had a number of 2016 prospects on campus, as UCLA coaches look to get a head start on next year’s class while finishing this one off strong. One of those in attendance was Camilo Eifler, an outside linebacker who already holds Pac-12 offers from Cal, Colorado, Oregon State, UCLA and Washington.

ASU’s sweet finish

It only makes sense to bookend this post with dessert, and uncommitted safety Kareem Orr provided a shot of his welcome gift from Arizona State. The Sun Devils will need to fend off Clemson, Oklahoma and others to land Orr, but they hope he is part of what could be a huge finish to this class for Arizona State.

Top recruiting targets in the Pac-12 

January, 16, 2015
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With a little more than two weeks before signing day, a number of uncommitted prospects remain who could greatly alter both the college football landscape as well as the way recruiting classes are perceived on Feb. 4. Remaining “must get” recruits don’t check all the same boxes for every program, as some schools already have commitments from their must gets (for example, Arizona with Keenan Walker, or UCLA with Josh Rosen) and some of these prospects won’t exactly break a class if they don’t wind up there. But whether it’s keeping a local prospect at home, landing a five-star standout or filling a position of need, these are the uncommitted must-get recruits for every Pac-12 program between now and signing day.

Pac-12 morning links

January, 16, 2015
Jan 16
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Happy Friday!

Leading off

The end of the college football season also means it's time for the NCAA convention. Having covered it last year in SoCal, I can tell you it was a non-stop laugh riot. OK, I kid. It can be a little dry. But it's also very important.

And as the Power 5 conferences (Pac-12, SEC, ACC, Big 12, Big Ten) move into the age of their newly-granted autonomous governance model, there are going to be some significant changes. Chief among them is full cost of tuition. That's just one of the topics that's on the table at this year's convention near Washington D.C.

Part of the restructuring also involves student-athlete feedback. Here are the three Pac-12 representatives.

Luke Cyphers put together a really informative Q&A style article for espnW that's worth your read if you have any interest in the future of collegiate athletics. And it's not just football-centric, it's men's and women's sports across the board.
On Saturday afternoon, the Power 5, their pockets filling with new FBS playoff cash, will propose several new rules under a new voting system. A group of presidents, athletics directors, faculty and athlete representatives will decide on new concussion protocols, boosting scholarship grants to cover the "full cost of attendance," extending scholarship guarantees beyond a one-year commitment, and increasing players' options to buy insurance to hedge against career-killing injuries.

George Schroeder of USA Today has a nice summary of the first day here.

News/notes/team reports
Just for fun

Utah kicker Andy Phillips is ready for the preseason watch lists to come out.

Pac-12 morning links

January, 15, 2015
Jan 15
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A word to the not very wise. You will never win an argument with a Borgia and a leopard in the room.

Leading off

Now seems like an apropos time to share this story.

Following Pac-12 Media Day, before the start of the 2013 season, Ted Miller and I were on a bus with Marcus Mariota and Ifo Ekpre-Olomu being shuttled from the event to the airport. Ted and I were trying to come up with our preseason top 25 list of players during the 20-minute ride. (Looking at it now, that's a pretty darn good list, by the way, in terms of talent).

Ekpre-Olomu was extremely helpful -- particularly when it came to the receivers -- but he also had an opinion on pretty much everyone we listed off. Mariota, not so much. All he would do was compliment each player and talk about how great they were. His main contribution to the conversation was, "Man, that guy's really good. Oh him, he's really good. That guy is really, really good." Ask Mariota about a fourth-string walk-on center, and he'll tell you he's got Rimington potential. That's just the kind of guy he is.

When we told him he was No. 1, he flashed the same humble smile -- an ah shucks-y grin with a mouth full of humility -- as when he accepted the Heisman Trophy last month. Then he thanked us with a handshake and told us it was a great honor.

He's the same guy after Year 3 as he was after Year 1 ... only now he has a lot more touchdowns and hardware.

Mariota's college career came to an end Wednesday when he announced he's entering the NFL draft. And after three years of watching him perform on the field and talking to him off it, the Pac-12 blog can say the honor was all ours.

Here's some reactions, both nationally and within the conference. News/notes/team reports
Just for fun

Oregon's senators had to pay up to Ohio's senators. Here's the story.

Pac-12 morning links

January, 14, 2015
Jan 14
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This is the end. My only friend, the end.

Leading off

Now, we begin the long and slow march until the 2015 college football season. But fear not, the Pac-12 blog isn't going anywhere. We've got recruiting, spring ball and spring meetings to kill the time -- a long with plenty of debate about rebuilding teams and the ensuing chaos that is sure to be the Pac-12 South.

As we transition to the offseason, we first look at the final AP rankings and how the Pac-12 fared.

Oregon (2), UCLA (10), ASU (12), Arizona (19), USC (20) and Utah (21) all closed out the year ranked in the Top 25. That's five of six teams from the South in the top 21. Four of those five teams won their bowl game and three of them beat teams from other Power 5 conferences. Stanford also received votes and was the unofficial 27th team.

The same six appeared in the USA Today poll in a few different orders: Oregon (2), UCLA (10), ASU (14), Arizona (17), Utah (20) and USC (21).

You can see the complete polls here.

As we wrote last week, regardless of the outcome of the title game, this was an extremely strong year for the conference. Chantel has a story on the final conference power rankings coming out later today.

News/notes/team reports
Just for fun

In case you missed it, ASU grad Jimmy Kimmel had a bold prediction for the national championship game.

Final 2014 Pac-12 Power Rankings

January, 13, 2015
Jan 13
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» More Final 2014 Power Rankings: Top 25 | ACC | Big 12 | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC



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