Pac-12: California Golden Bears

Dominating Florida is always critical for Florida State, but another secret to the Seminoles' success is doing well in Virginia, and highly-coveted corner Levonta Taylor could be the Noles' next big get from the state.

You remember the three-headed monster, right? It's about returning production that will scare -- terrify! -- opponents. Or not.

On offense, it's elite combinations at quarterback, running back and receiver.

On defense, it's elite combinations of a leading tackler, a leader in sacks and leader in interceptions.

We're breaking it down by division. Yesterday, we handled North and South offenses. Now, we move to the other side of the ball. As you'll read below, the Pac-12 North must replace a tremendous amount of defensive production in 2015.

1. Oregon

LB Joe Walker, DL DeForest Buckner, CB Chris Seisay

The skinny: The Ducks did lose defensive firepower, but they've also retained some of their big guns. Buckner is a future NFL talent who led the team with 13 tackles for loss (four sacks) last year, while Walker's 49 solo tackles were the most from the linebacking corps. The biggest production vacuum comes in the secondary, where Erick Dargan's conference-best seven interceptions have vanished. Seisay filled in for Ifo Ekpre-Olomu late, so he has big shoes to fill.

2. Stanford

LB Blake Martinez, LB Peter Kalambayi, CB Ronnie Harris

The skinny: The Pac-12's best defense for three years running faces a daunting reloading effort. Cardinal defensive coordinator Lance Anderson remains bullish about much of his roster's talent, though. Martinez returns 101 tackles, the most from the 2014 team, while Kalambayi's speed rush netted 6.5 sacks last season. The secondary saw a heavy load of departures -- Harris is now the elder statesman in the midst of youngsters. The hinge point of Stanford defensive success, though, will likely be the performance of its new-look defensive line.

3. Cal

LB Michael Barton, LB Devante Downs, S Griffin Piatt

The skinny: The Bears return their leading tackler in Barton, who finished with 80 stops last season. Barton also paced the team with 7.5 tackles for loss. Downs came off the bench to top the roster with three sacks, but Cal needs to pressure the quarterback much more effectively to succeed defensively in 2015 -- as a team, they accumulated only 16 total sacks. There's an influx of fresh talent coming into the secondary (the Bears need it to stay healthy this time around), but Piatt grabbed three interceptions in just six games before going down with a season-ending injury.

4. Washington

LB Travis Feeney, S Budda Baker, CB Sidney Jones

The skinny: There's a lot of individual star power to replace in Seattle. Hau'oli Kikaha's boatload of sacks are gone, as are John Timu's tackles and Danny Shelton's mind-boggling numbers from the nose tackle slot. Feeney is the most experienced returning starter. He recorded 4.5 tackles for loss last year for a Washington team that has lost a staggering 60.5 tackles for loss and 44 sacks to graduation. Baker brings back 80 stops -- third most on last year's team -- while Sidney Jones should benefit from having a trial-by-fire freshman year under his belt.

5. Washington State

LB Kache Palacio, LB Jeremiah Allison, CB Charleston White

The skinny: Xavier Cooper has declared for the NFL draft, so Palacio is the Cougars' most productive returner. He led the team with 6.5 sacks last season. Allison's 71 stops in 2014 make him the top returning tackler. Washington State defensive backs finished with only one interception throughout all of last season -- yes, you read that right. It belonged to White, so he earns the mention here, although there are still plenty of questions left to answer.

6. Oregon State

DE Lavonte Barnett, CB Larry Scott, S Justin Strong

The skinny: The Beavers must replace nine defensive starters. Their top six tacklers are all gone, and not a single one of the team's 11 interceptions in 2014 is returning. So finding a strong three-headed nucleus is a tough task at this point. Barnett led the team with 4.5 sacks last year, so there's that. Scott and Strong both racked up tackles in the secondary, but there's not much else to write home about when it comes to proven talent in Corvallis.

Pac-12 morning links

March, 25, 2015
Mar 25
10:00
AM ET

And the capital of Nebraska is Lincoln!

You remember the three-headed monster, right? It's about returning production that will scare -- terrify! -- opponents. Or not.

On offense, it's elite combinations at quarterback, running back and receiver.

On defense, it's elite combinations of a leading tackler, a leader in sacks and leader in interceptions.

We're breaking it down by division. First up: the offensive three-headed monsters from the North. Both Bay Area schools feature complete returning trios (or more) on this side of the ball, so they earn the top nods. Oregon's reputable track record of reloading offensively comes next. Beyond that, question marks rule the Pacific Northwest.

1. Cal

QB Jared Goff, RB Daniel Lasco, WR Kenny Lawler/Stephen Anderson/Bryce Treggs

The skinny: Yes, that's more of a five-headed monster than a three-headed one. But Cal's returning talent at all offensive skill positions -- and a particularly deep stockpile of it at receiver -- gives the Bears tantalizing punch. Cal already upped its average output from 23 to 38.3 points per game in 2014, so Goff is entering his third season on a promising trajectory. Lasco (5.3 yards per carry) gives him a solid rushing threat, while Trevor Davis can help fill Chris Harper's void alongside Lawler, Anderson, and Treggs -- all of whom finished with around 50 catches last year.

2. Stanford

QB Kevin Hogan, RB Remound Wright/Christian McCaffrey, WR Devon Cajuste

The skinny: Four players here, so my three-headed monster math is still off. But it's important to mention both Wright (nine touchdowns in 2014's final three games) and McCaffrey here, as they may roughly split duties between the red zone and the open field with Barry Sanders. McCaffrey, who averaged 7.1 yards per carry and 10.9 yards per touch in 2014, looks to be the explosive type of player who can thrust Stanford's offense into a new gear. Hogan is one of the most experienced quarterbacks in the nation, and Cajuste -- who averaged more than 15 yards per catch for the second straight year -- will be just one of his tall targets. This is a well-equipped nucleus.

3. Oregon

QB ?, RB Royce Freeman, WR Byron Marshall/Devon Allen

The skinny: The Ducks return a stockpile of offensive skill position talent. They just aren't set on a quarterback to replace Marcus Mariota yet. Regardless of Mark Helfrich's pick, is there anyone who truly expects that Oregon won't be productive next year? The Ducks have developed a reputable track record of reloading to light up the scoreboard. Match dynamic talent with that proven system, and there are bound to be fireworks at Autzen Stadium. The post-Mariota push starts with Freeman (1,365 yards, 19 touchdowns as a true freshman) and the versatile Marshall (over 1,000 receiving yards last year in addition to his rushing totals). Allen and Darren Carrington bring more speed to the outside, and that's just the tip of the iceberg. There are plenty of scorers here; Oregon just needs a point guard to glue it all together.

4. Washington State

QB Luke Falk, RB Jamal Morrow, WR River Cracraft

The skinny: Since running backs in Mike Leach's Air Raid system don't see much work, the focus in Pullman is on the passing components. Falk played in five games last season after Connor Halliday went down, and he'll be counted on to spark an offense that's losing Vince Mayle and Isiah Myers, its top two 2014 receivers. The most productive returner is River Cracraft, who caught 66 passes for 771 yards last year -- but never more than four receptions in a game when Falk was his quarterback. There's work to do in the Palouse.

5. Washington

QB ?, RB Dwayne Washington, WR Jaydon Mickens

The skinny: The quarterback situation certainly wasn't great in 2014. Now that Cyler Miles is on a leave of absence, it's even murkier in Seattle. The player who fills that first question mark -- be it K.J. Carta-Samuels, Jake Browning, or Jeff Lindquist -- will be tasked with sparking an offense that's been rather stale lately. Dwayne Washington came on strong to close the regular season, posting three straight 100-yard efforts. Mickens also developed some consistency as time passed, but the Huskies still need more bite beyond those two weapons.

6. Oregon State

QB ?, RB Storm Woods, WR Victor Bolden

The skinny: It's critical that the Beavers effectively fill the question mark that Sean Mannion left behind. Luke Del Rio, Nick Mitchell, and Seth Collins are the three candidates for the quarterback job. The Beavers aren't devoid of talent elsewhere: Woods will be the featured back as a senior, while Bolden thrived to the tune of 72 catches in Mannion's senior season. Oregon State's new signal caller will be tasked with making the receiver's speed shine again, and the hope in Corvallis is that Gary Andersen's fresh uptempo approach will infuse the proceedings with new vigor.

Pac-12 morning links

March, 24, 2015
Mar 24
10:00
AM ET

You talkin' to me?

Colorado has finished their spring game, so we're in a slight Pac-12 practice lull while basketball is in the spotlight. But the avalanche of 11 other spring games is creeping closer. Here are some links from around the conference:

We continue our position previews but with the defense, it's a little bit harder to completely categorize each team uniformly so we're going with three groups -- defensive linemen, linebackers and defensive backs.

Yesterday we examined the South's status in the secondary. Today, we're moving on to the North.

Spring position breakdown: Pac-12 North defensive backs, Part I

Cal: At safety, the Bears lost Michael Lowe (graduation) and Avery Sebastian (transfer) and the two main returning options -- Stefan McClure and Griffin Piatt are both spending this spring rehabbing. Not exactly the best situation for a team that desperately needs to build depth in its secondary. But, if there's a silver lining to all of this, it's this: having that many sidelined players certainly opens up a ton of reps at safety for converted quarterback Luke Rubenzer and Cameron Walker. Walker is back at safety after having started eight games at strong safety as a freshman before moving to cornerback last season. Both he and Rubenzer will need to get acclimated/re-acclimated and now, there are plenty of reps to do just that. But, through practices so far, JUCO transfer Derron Brown is looking like he'll be able to make a smooth transition to the FBS level and possibly overtake any of the guys we've already named.

At cornerback the Bears are in much better shape. Cedric Dozier and Darius White Jr. both return, as do Darius Allensworth, Caleb Coleman and A.J. Greathouse. So even with Walker moving back over to safety, they're still in pretty good shape at CB. Though the secondary as a whole will feature a few new faces in 2015, it looks like they're making the right steps to move forward, too. After all, after giving up an FBS-worst 4,406 passing yards (and that's without a bowl game) it'd be hard to take a step backwards.

Oregon: The Ducks secondary will be going through some major transition this spring. It loses cornerbacks Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Troy Hill and Dior Mathis, as well as safety Erick Dargan, who led the Pac-12 in interceptions a season ago. But safety Tyree Robinson got some good experience there last season (finished with 36 tackles) and will work to solidify himself as the starter for the fall alongside the only returning starter in he secondary, safety Reggie Daniels. A season ago, Daniels finished as the team's third-leading tackler and though there are certainly strides to be made on the field for him, a lot of this spring will be about him filling a leadership void in the secondary. Chris Seisay stepped in for the injured Ekpre-Olomu in the postseason and because of that experience, defensive coordinator Don Pellum considers Seisay to be battle tested. At the corner spot opposite Seisay there will be some interesting competition between Arrion Springs, Mattrell McGraw and early enrollee Ugo Amadi.

Oregon State: First, the good news: One of the two cornerback starters from a season ago is in the Oregon State secondary. Bad news: The Beavers are going through a complete defensive coaching change and need to find players who can not only start, but also several others who can rotate in to Kalani Sitake's defense. Returning starter Larry Scott has the lead at one corner, but nothing is in sharpie yet so expect him to be pushed by the other top three cornerbacks on the Beavers' spring roster -- Dashon Hunt, Dwayne Williams and Charles Okonkwo -- as OSU looks for the top two guys. At safety, it'll be 100-percent turnover and there are only four scholarship safeties on the roster this spring -- Justin Strong, Cyril Noland-Lewis, Brandon Arnold and Adam Soesman. Strong and Noland-Lewis are the obvious frontrunners due to the fact that they've actually been on the field, but with minutes dangling in front of some younger players, don't discount how much someone can step up. But, this is a position to watch this spring as quarterback Tanner Sanders could join the competition. He's not in the running for the QB job so it'd make sense for him to look at a position shift and safety would make sense considering he was actually recruited as a safety by some schools. Will he play here for the Beavers? Maybe.

Even though recruiters aren't in attendance at events like this past weekend's The Opening regional in Los Angeles, they're easily able to find out who performed well. Melquise Stovall was one of the players that stood out in everything he did and his stock is now red hot with colleges.


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With spring practice underway at many Pac-12 destinations, it's time to do our annual position-by-position breakdown.

Heading up North to take a look at the wide receivers there.

Cal: Developing depth this spring at the wide receiver spot is key for the Bears’ success next fall. And with quarterback Jared Goff entering his third year as a starter, the expectations for this unit will be very high. Cal returns its top five receivers from the 2014 season in Kenny Lawler, Stephen Anderson, Chris Harper, Bryce Treggs and Trevor Davis. The unit looks to be doing some major strength and conditioning work in the offseason (example: Davis’ ridiculous vertical). The inside receivers will pick up some depth from former running backs Jeffrey Coprich and Patrick Laird, who’ve made the move over. But this should be an interesting spring considering most of the turnover is in the coaching staff, not the players. Former offensive graduate assistant Jacob Peeler was promoted to the inside receivers coach and Pierre Ingram, who was in charge of the run game and recruiting, will now be in charge of the passing game, wide receivers and recruiting.

Oregon: Though there’s nothing official out yet, it’s safe to bet that Darren Carrington will not be participating in spring ball for the Ducks. But what about Devon Allen? Will he be fully recovered at any point this spring? Will Oregon be down one or two receivers? But outside of those two players, it should be fun to see how this all shakes out. Without all the members of the QB competition on campus until the summer, this spring could essentially be a season spent building chemistry with a future backup (for those who believe it will be QB Vernon Adams starting next fall). Regardless, it’s important for all of these guys to get touches this spring. Byron Marshall is going to be a veteran leader for the group, as will Bralon Addison. Dwayne Stanford, Charles Nelson and Jalen Brown are guys looking to take a step up this spring.

Oregon State: The Beavers have a young but promising wide receiver group that needs to build chemistry with the quarterbacks this spring. Victor Bolden, who was the heir apparent to Brandin Cooks last season, scored just two touchdowns on 72 receptions in 2014. The Beavers will need him to step up this spring along with Jordan Villamin, who finished last season with six touchdowns on just 35 catches, and Hunter Jarmon, who tallied one touchdown on 20 catches in 2014. With the Beavers wanting to move faster under Gary Andersen, substitutions are going to be necessary, so players like Richard Mullaney, Rahmel Dockery, Xavier Hawkins and Malik Gilmore need to have big springs for receivers coach Brent Brennan. Bonus: this is the only OSU position group that didn’t go through a position coach change as Andersen decided to retain Brennan. Is that decision going to pay off for Andersen? He needs his receivers to have big springs so they can have bigger falls.

Stanford: Reports are positive for the Cardinal so far out of spring camp for an offense that struggled to find consistency last season. Devon Cajuste will be the prime candidate for Kevin Hogan’s go-to weapon. In 2014, Cajuste scored a team-high six receiving touchdowns on just 34 receptions. More impressively was the reliability with which he did that -- Cajuste was targeted just 56 times last season (expect that number to go up in 2015), and he caught 34 of those balls. That isn’t top of the Pac-12 good, but it’s still pretty good. Without Ty Montgomery, expect the balls to be distributed a bit more evenly. The Cardinal have a speed demon in Michael Rector and hope that this could be the year (starting now) that Francis Owusu really shines.

Washington: Chris Petersen will have his three bowl game starters returning in Jaydon Mickens, Dante Pettis and Brayden Lenius, so that’s certainly good news as all three of those players will have the upper hand in building chemistry with Cyler Miles this offseason. Past this, the Huskies will look to build some serious depth on the offensive side of the ball as they will need to be more explosive in 2015 considering the defense probably won’t be able to be stout next year. A few names to remember: Drew Before, John Gardner and Marvin Hall.

Washington State: The Cougars are going to have to replace the No. 1 and No. 7 receiver out of the Pac-12 this past year. For most coaches, that would sound horrifying. For Mike Leach, it’s just another day. The Cougs have River Cracraft, Dom Williams, Tyler Baker, Calvin Green, Robert Lewis and Gabe Marks (redshirted 2014 but played in 2012-13), who are all returners and will get a ton of reps this summer. One of the biggest names to watch will be Texas A&M transfer Sebastian LaRue, who had to sit out last year but is good to go this spring. And all of these guys had better make moves because while there are plenty of passes to go around, each guy wants to be featured, and the Cougars have 6-foot-6 juco transfer Chris Dimry coming in this summer who’s certain to make moves. Y’all know how Leach loves that fade.
With spring practice underway at many Pac-12 destinations, it's time to do our annual position-by-position breakdown.

Yesterday we began with the quarterbacks. Today, we move onto running backs. We gave a look to the South this a.m. and now we're moving up North.

California: Daniel Lasco is the undisputed top dog, a spring after being the Bears' MVP as well as the conference's fifth leading rusher. But that's really not the interesting storyline out of Berkeley. It gets interesting after Lasco, where early enrollee Lonny Powell -- a four-star RB and the Bears' second-highest ranked signee in the 2015 class -- has gotten compliments from Sonny Dykes already this spring. Could he make moves past Tre Watson and Vic Enwere into the second spot at RB? Khalfani Muhammad won't really factor into the spring since he's making moves on the track. Other notables notes from this group: Jeffrey Coprich and Patrick Laird both moved from running back to inside receiver giving Cal more depth there.

Oregon: There might not be a team in the nation that's deeper at running back than the Ducks right now. Before the postseason, it probably would've been 100-percent safe to say that Royce Freeman had the job on lock. And maybe that's still the case, but can anyone really count out Thomas Tyner, especially after that two-touchdown, 124-yards game against Florida State? Freeman still has the lead, but did the postseason performances diminish that at all? This spring could answer some of those questions. Then, you've got stud early enrollee Taj Griffin to add to the mix. He might not be 100 percent this spring due to a knee injury he sustained last fall, but expect him to be a factor in whatever ways he can -- the weight room, in meetings. And lest we forget about Byron Marshall who seems to be happy with his move to slot, but it would be short sighted to not give him a few carries to keep defenses honest, so he should take some reps there this spring too. Phew. And that's just the battle for the top few spots.

Oregon State: All eyes will be on Gary Andersen as he transitions the Beavers from a Mike Riley offense to one which he describes as "wide open." He said Oregon State will have success with running the ball. We've heard that before, but the Pac-12 Blog seems to believe it more when a guy who has featured players like Melvin Gordon and Robert Turbin says it. The Beavers' top returner is Storm Woods, who will need to prove himself to this new staff this spring. He showed flashes last year -- 100-yard games against Arizona State and Oregon late in the season -- but this spring he'll need to show that he can also be consistent. Pushing him will be Chris Brown and Damien Haskins, who both saw an increase in carries in the middle and toward the end of the season due to injuries to others.

Stanford: In February, reports circled about Stanford running backs coach Lance Taylor leaving for the wide receivers job at Georgia. So he might be the most important player in the game returning for the Stanford running backs this spring. Remound Wright will miss the first session of the spring season due to disciplinary issues. That leaves just two scholarship players to battle it out from the get-go for Taylor -- Barry Sanders and Christian McCaffrey. David Shaw also told reporters in late February that Patrick Skov and Daniel Marx will carry the ball some, too.

Washington: Both running backs who carried the ball 100-plus times for the Huskies return this spring, so expect Dwayne Washington and Lavon Coleman to be going after it for that top spot. Quarterback Cyler Miles carried the ball 118 times so he'll factor into the run game, as well. Fighting for carries behind that lead RB duo will be Deontae Cooper -- who has the upper hand on everyone else after 63 carries in 2014 -- as well as Jomon Dotson or Myles Gaskin, who will most likely find themselves in fourth-string or scout team spots come fall, unless they really surprise some folks. But the big question this spring is: Will there be a featured back coming out of camp or will it remain a committee approach?

Washington State: During Mike Leach's tenure the Cougs have averaged 40.8 rushing yards per game, which is less than many Pac-12 teams average in a quarter. That 12th-place finish in rushing yards in the league each season under Leach means there are very limited rushing yards to fight for on this team. But, which players will have the honor of doing that scrapping this spring? Expect it to be a two-man battle between Jamal Morrow and Gerard Wicks.

Pac-12 morning links

March, 10, 2015
Mar 10
7:00
AM ET
I can sing, but I'm also good at modern dance, olden dance, and mermaid dancing, which is a little different.
When looking out west, it’s USC, Oregon, UCLA, and Arizona State receiving the majority of recruiting headlines. On Thursday, it was California’s turn picking up its first ESPN Jr 300 commitment, safety Marquel Dismuke. The Golden Bears equaled the 2015 class on Thursday after having signed just a single ESPN 300 in the 2015 class and finishing No. 53 in the RecruitingNation class rankings.


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Last week your humble Pac-12 Blog broke down the 2015 Pac-12 recruiting class and where those players came from. But those kinds of numbers always prompt more questions like: OK, this is one class, what about the last two classes? The last three? What about every class that each Pac-12 coach has signed?

Well, your humble Pac-12 Blog is back. And it's back with those answers (with signees by state).

ARIZONA WILDCATS:
Rich Rodriguez, four classes -- 98 signees, 11 ESPN 300 members
  • California: 41
  • Arizona: 16
  • Texas: 9
  • Florida: 7
  • Louisiana: 5
  • Colorado: 3
  • Two signees: Georgia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia
  • One signee: Canada, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, Nevada, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Washington
ARIZONA STATE SUN DEVILS:
Todd Graham, four classes -- 100 signees, seven ESPN 300 members
  • California: 46
  • Arizona: 17
  • Florida: 7
  • Louisiana: 6
  • Three signees: Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas
  • Two signees: Nevada, Washington, Washington D.C.
  • One signee: Canada, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Kansas, New York, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah
CALIFORNIA BEARS:

Sonny Dykes, three classes -- 71 signees, four ESPN 300 members
  • California: 49
  • Texas: 6
  • Three signees: Arizona, Washington
  • Two signees: Hawaii, Mississippi, Oregon
  • One signee: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana
COLORADO BUFFALOES:

Mike MacIntyre, three classes -- 66 signees, no ESPN 300 members
  • California: 33
  • Colorado: 14
  • Texas: 8
  • Arizona: 3
  • Two signees: Hawaii, Utah
  • One signee: Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, Washington
OREGON DUCKS:

Mark Helfrich, three classes -- 63 signees, 17 ESPN 300 members
  • California: 26
  • Oregon: 5
  • Four signees: Arizona, Texas, Washington
  • Three signees: Florida, Georgia, Hawaii
  • Two signees: Louisiana, Nevada
  • One signee: Idaho, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, Tennessee
OREGON STATE BEAVERS:

Gary Andersen, one class -- 22 signees, no ESPN 300 members
  • Utah: 6
  • Four signees: California, Florida
  • Two signees: Oregon, Texas
  • One signee: American Samoa, Arizona, Hawaii, Louisiana
STANFORD CARDINAL:

David Shaw, five classes -- 95 signees, 26 ESPN 300 members
  • California: 25
  • Georgia: 7
  • Six signees: Arizona, Florida, Texas
  • Five signees: Utah, Washington
  • Four signees: Louisiana
  • Three signees: North Carolina
  • Two signees: Colorado, Illinois, Minnesota, New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon, Tennessee, Virginia
  • One signee: Hawaii, Indiana, Idaho, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Washington D.C.
UCLA BRUINS:

Jim Mora, four classes -- 92 signees, 31 ESPN 300 members
  • California: 55
  • Texas: 10
  • Arizona: 5
  • Three signees: Florida, Georgia, Hawaii
  • Two signees: Delaware
  • One signee: Colorado, Connecticut, Indiana, Louisiana, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, Washington
USC TROJANS:

Steve Sarkisian, two classes -- 43 signees, 25 ESPN 300 members
  • California: 32
  • Texas: 3
  • Two signees: Florida, Utah
  • One signee: Georgia, Idaho, Nevada, Oklahoma
UTAH UTES:

Kyle Whittingham, five classes* -- 108 signees, 0 ESPN 300 members
  • California: 40
  • Utah: 29
  • Texas: 15
  • Florida: 8
  • Louisiana: 6
  • Nevada: 3
  • Two signees: Arizona, Hawaii
  • One signee: Maryland, New Jersey, New York

*This is only counting Whittingham's classes that he recruited into the Pac-12 conference (so, starting with the 2011 signing class since the Utes made it official on June 22, 2010).

WASHINGTON HUSKIES:

Chris Petersen, two classes -- 49 signees, 4 ESPN 300 members
  • California: 28
  • Washington: 14
  • Idaho: 2
  • One signee: Maryland, Montana, Oregon, Texas, Wyoming
WASHINGTON STATE COUGARS:

Mike Leach, four classes -- 102 signees, one ESPN 300 members
  • California: 57
  • Washington: 14
  • American Samoa: 7
  • Three signees: Arizona, Florida, Hawaii, Texas
  • Two signees: Alabama, Georgia
  • One signee: Colorado, Delaware, Louisiana, Maryland, Montana, Oregon, Oklahoma, Utah
NOTES/OBSERVATIONS:

There are 20 states from which no current Pac-12 South coach has ever signed a player, and 18 from which no current North coaches have never signed a player. Of those states, 11 are overlapping, meaning that no player from the following states has been signed to a current Pac-12 coach during his tenure as head coach -- Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

It's not surprising that no players has been signed from Wyoming, Vermont, Alaska or North Dakota because those are the four least-populated states in the U.S. What is surprising is that only three players have been signed from the state of Alabama -- two to Mike Leach and one to Sonny Dykes.

Long story short: If you're a high school prospect and you want to play in the Pac-12, it doesn't hurt to live in California, Florida or Texas (if you live outside of "Pac-12 territory"). If you're a high school prospect and you live in Wisconsin or West Virginia -- even though some of these coaches have been head coaches in those states, your chances don't look good at all.

Eleven of the 12 programs have signed the most players from the state of California during current coaches' tenures. The only coach who hasn't is Oregon State coach Gary Andersen, but California is tied for second-most on his list.

North coaches have signed -- on average -- three classes per coach while the South coaches have signed -- on average -- four per. While it's really only a difference of one class, it is a difference of 20-30 student athletes per coach, so really the possibility of 120-180 different home states.

In the South the most recruited states outside of California and home states -- as a whole -- are Florida and Texas. Again, this might not be surprising considering how talent-rich both of those states are, but the only Pac-12 South coach who has ever coached in one of those states is Todd Graham (Rice).

In the North, it's a bit more of a mash-up. The states of Arizona and Washington are big for Cal and Oregon. Florida is big for Oregon State and Stanford. Chris Petersen really hasn't had to reach out of California or Washington, much like his in-state foe, Mike Leach. However, Leach also likes to go to American Samoa, where he has signed seven players.

USC has had the most success with the top recruits. Fifty-eight percent of Sarkisian's recruits are ESPN 300 members. After him, the next most "successful" recruiting coaches are Mora (33.7 percent), Shaw (31.6 percent) and Helfrich (27 percent).

Signing top recruits certainly gives teams a boost on the field as evidenced by the teams above and the successes they've had under each coach. But look at Utah. Whittingham hasn't signed a single ESPN 300 player and yet his team was in the hunt for the South title last season. It's the same with Rich Rodriguez: Even though just 7 percent of his players have been ESPN 300 members, he has still had major success on the field for the Wildcats.

Spring questions: California

February, 25, 2015
Feb 25
1:00
PM ET
Spring practices end the retrospective glances at the last season and begin the forward-looking process of the next fall. Departed players need to be replaced and returning starters need to get better and youngsters need to step up.

While some teams have more issues than others, every team has specific issues that will be front and center. So we begin a look at the main questions each Pac-12 team will address this spring.

The alphabet tells us that California is next.

1. Can the secondary finally improve? The Bears surrendered a conference-worst 367.2 passing yards per game in 2014. Their secondary was young, oft-injured and undersized. That's not a good combination in the pass-happy Pac-12. Spring practice is Cal's first chance to show that winter conditioning helped fortify this beleaguered unit. A pair of junior college transfers -- Derron Brown and Antoine Albert -- are expected to provide a boost to the secondary, and Brown will have a chance to make his first impression this spring (Albert will not arrive in Berkeley until the fall).

Given how much Cal has struggled on the back end lately, improvement in this position group is a massive project moving forward. Physical work, experience and repetitions are the Bears' greatest allies in their quest for brighter days. That's why the upcoming spring session is so vital.

2. Can the offensive line continue to improve? Cal's hogs up front showed enormous improvement in 2014 -- especially in the run game. The Bears began to open up holes on the ground with some serious nasty, and that proved to be the key in the offense's surge to the next level. (Cal averaged over 4 yards per carry after mustering only 3.4 in 2013.) But pass protection still left something to be desired: Opponents sacked Jared Goff 28 times on the year.

The Bears are stocked with talent at quarterback, receiver and even running back. The offensive line is the one position group on that side of the ball where marked improvement still seems realistic, and spring practice will be an excellent early opportunity to achieve some forward progress there. Position coach Zach Yenser has left to Kansas, so the Bears are tasked with replacing graduating center Chris Adcock under new leadership. Brandon Jones is the new assistant in charge, and Cal hopes 305-pounder Chris Borrayo continues manhandling defenders under his watch.

3. Will we see Goff morph into superhuman form? The answer to this question is likely contingent on the answer to the question No. 2. Goff made tremendous strides from his freshman to his sophomore years, and that's created some serious anticipation ahead of his junior campaign. Last season's 5-1 ratio of touchdowns to interceptions was very good, but further rapid statistical improvement can push Goff into the realm of transcendent in 2015. Beyond his own talent, the quarterback has the necessary tools for a great year at his disposal: Cal's talented receiving corps remains intact and surging running back Daniel Lasco will return for his final season. With some decent pass protection, Goff can continue his upward climb and become a true star in 2015. The real fireworks, of course, must wait until September, but it'll be fun to track his continued development through spring practice.
Signing day has come and gone and with it an entirely new batch of Pac-12 players is joining the conference (269 players, to be exact).

With the Pac-12 gaining more national recognition, it’s no surprise to see the recruiting trends heading further outside of what was typically considered “Pac-12 territory.”

For example, the most heavily recruited area was -- unsurprisingly -- the West Coast and states that are the home to one or more Pac-12 programs. But right after that, the next-biggest target was the South and Southeast: SEC territory. The Pac-12 signed the same number of recruits from Texas as it did Arizona. Louisiana was a big state for the conference as well -- Pac-12 schools signed 13 players from the Bayou State.

Here’s a closer look at where exactly the conference picked up its Class of 2015 talent:
Observations:
  • One obvious note is the number of players from California -- players from the Golden State account for 48 percent of Pac-12 signees in 2015. That’s not too surprising, considering how large and talent-rich the state is. Of the top 25 players in California, 21 signed with Pac-12 schools. The other four signed with Alabama, Tennessee, Notre Dame and San Jose State.
  • Each Pac-12 program signed at least one player from California in the 2015 class (that’s the only state with which that’s true this season). On average, there are 11 signees from California in each recruiting class this season. Though it’s USC who leads the way with 17 signees from California, Washington State was right on the Trojans’ heels with 16 signees from Cali.
  • The state of Washington showed out pretty well in the conference. While there was only one player from Washington in the ESPN 300, there were 16 signees from the state who landed with Pac-12 programs.
  • The only program to not sign a player from the program’s home state was Oregon. However, there were five players from Oregon that did sign with Pac-12 programs. Those players ended up at Arizona (1), Oregon State (2), Stanford (1) and Washington (1).
  • Players staying home: Arizona and Arizona State signed seven players from Arizona; California, Stanford, UCLA and USC signed 48 players from California; Colorado signed four players from Colorado; Oregon State signed two players from Oregon; Utah signed three players from Utah; and Washington and Wazzu signed a total of nine players from Washington.
  • The most national class (meaning the team that signed the players from the most number of states) was Stanford, which signed players from 13 states. The least national class was USC, which signed players from just six states.

But what about the concentration of top talent in the 2015 class?

Again, unsurprisingly, California leads the way. The Golden State makes up half of the four-star and five-star players in the 2015 Pac-12 class. USC snagged five-star cornerback Iman Marshall, who hails from Long Beach, California, and 33 of the 66 four-stars in the 2015 class are also from California.

But this is where there’s a bit of a changeup. Of the 14 players from Texas that signed in the 2015 class, five (36 percent) are four-star players who landed at Pac-12 programs. After that -- with the exception of three four-star players from Georgia -- the majority of the top talent, again, hails from the traditional Pac-12 region.

[+] EnlargeChris Clark
Joe Faraoni/ESPN ImagesIt's not often that the Pac-12 pulls top prospects from Connecticut, such as UCLA-bound tight end Chris Clark.
Five-stars:

  • Hawaii: 1
  • California: 1
Four-stars:
  • California: 33
  • Texas: 5
  • Washington: 4
  • Arizona: 3
  • Georgia: 3
  • Utah: 3
  • Two four-star signees: Louisiana, North Carolina, Nevada, Oklahoma
  • One four-star signee: South Carolina, Colorado, Missouri, Tennessee, Florida, Connecticut, Hawaii

More notes:
  • Notably, the conference signed a four-star and five-star player from Hawaii. There were only four players in the state that were four- or five-star players. The two players who didn’t sign with a Pac-12 team went to Texas Tech and BYU. Both had Pac-12 offers.
  • The conference also cleaned up -- in regard to snagging the limited top talent out of state -- in Nevada. There were only three four-star players in Nevada and two ended up in the Pac-12 (UCLA and USC). The other player signed with Notre Dame.
  • More impressively, the conference was able to sign one of two four-star players out of Connecticut (TE Chris Clark, UCLA). When considering the distance between Nevada and the Pac-12 and Connecticut and the Pac-12, this is quite a recruiting feat.

As these players get more into the programs and possibly become big Pac-12 contributors, it will only open up these national pipelines more, making the conference’s footprint even bigger.
Not all recruitments are created equal, as some see prospects commit to their dream school early and never waver, while others have more twists and turns than a Formula 1 race. Taking a look through the recently released 2015 Ultimate 300, we spotlight five of the more interesting recruitments in the Pac-12, alphabetically by prospect.


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