Pac-12: Utah Utes
Money, money, money, money .... Mon-ayyyyyy.
Yep, that's right. We're starting off Friday with conversations about dollars. It's one of the things you're not supposed to talk about at the dinner table, which means we'll absolutely discuss it on the Pac-12 Blog.
On Thursday, John Wilner looked into the salaries of each Pac-12 coach and compared the South coaches against the North coaches and came to a very interesting conclusion -- the South coaches are paid, on average, much better. He calculated that the North coaches' salaries came out to $13.95 million while the South coaches' salaries came out to $16.85 million.
One factor clearly is the artificially low compensation for two North coaches who were promoted from within. Mark Helfrich isn’t paid like a national finalists -- he’s a screamin’ deal -- and David Shaw would command more on the open market than he’s currently making with two of the past three league titles.
Then add Riley’s relatively low compensation, the result of being in one place for so many years, and the situation starts to make sense.
It's an interesting piece that's definitely worth your time. Note: The Stanford and USC dollar figures used are estimates, just keep that in mind.
Notes/team reports/recruiting updates:
- Not even Rob Gronkowski knows what makes him so great.
- A very interesting nugget in this story about the deflated balls story and Todd Graham at Tulsa.
- Aaron Rodgers continues to be a really great human (just continuing the NFL kick).
- You can vote on how you feel about Colorado's recruiting efforts.
- Oregon just keeps loading up at running back.
- Oregon State has lost two commitments.
- Stanford picked up a defensive back commitment.
- Three Bruin commits who will start a game this season.
- A preview of USC's 2015 running back class.
- A quick look at Utah's safeties on the 2015-16 roster.
- Washington could add another running back to the 2015 class.
- One report says that Connor Halliday will attend, but not work out at, the NFL combine.
Position to improve: Quarterback. Utah enjoyed a sack-happy defense and the Pac-12's third-most productive rushing attack behind Devontae Booker in 2014, but their passing attack languished in the conference cellar.
Why it was a problem: Travis Wilson and Kendal Thompson, who both saw action under center for Utah, were far from impressive. Both completed about 60 percent of their passes, but Thompson really wasn't much of a threat to throw at all -- he averaged only 46 passing yards per game. Wilson threw much more frequently, but he also finished with a rather meager average (166.9 yards per game). Both quarterbacks did some damage with their legs, but they ultimately didn't pack the desired aerial punch necessary to make Utah's attack balanced. Despite Booker's massive 1,500-yard year, the Utes finished last in Pac-12 total offense. That simply shouldn't happen.
How it can be fixed: It looks like it'll be either Wilson or Thompson (coming off a leg injury) at quarterback next year, so Utah will have to see tangible improvement from either of those two when it comes to the downfield passing game. This will be tough, especially since top receiving target Kaelin Clay has exhausted his collegiate ability. The Utes would be best served to hire a new offensive coordinator with quarterback-developing experience soon. That position is still vacant following Dave Christensen's departure for Texas A&M, and it's likely a key toward boosting quarterback productivity next year.
Early 2015 outlook: At the very least, Utah fans can take solace in the fact that Wilson took solid care of the football in 2014: He threw 18 touchdowns and only five interceptions. But unless he develops into a more consistent aerial threat while throwing to new primary targets, the Utes will have to again rely heavily on that workhorse named Booker, who made his living after contact running against stacked boxes in 2014.
Super Bowl media day has come and gone. With it there were a few notable appearances and quotes by some former Pac-12 players (there are 18 former conference players and five former conference coaches between the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots).
- Former Stanford DB Richard Sherman made a few comments about Deflategate when he and the Seahawks arrived in Arizona and on Tuesday Patriots owner Robert Kraft responded to those comments while also taking a bit of a shot at Stanford.
- The Huffington Post said that former California RB Marshawn Lynch's "I'm just here so I won't get fined" act was the best press conference ever. But USA Today says the league should fine Lynch anyway.
- The Washington Post put together an entire thread of former Arizona TE Rob Gronkowski-related items. And, some other Gronk nuggets.
- Former Washington WR Jermaine Kearse got a podium at this year's media day thanks to his game-winning catch against the Packers. Frank Schwab writes that this is what he'll forever be known for.
- Extra nuggets: If you're just looking for some general media day bites, here's an update from The Seattle Times. NJ.com compiled a list of the 10 worst questions asked at media day. And USA Today's Chris Strauss writes that the key to Super Bowl media day is to just embrace the absurdity of it all.
- Get to know Arizona commit Jace Whittaker.
- What are the odds that Arizona State gets DE Porter Gustin?
- Cal picked up a huge commitment on Tuesday night.
- Mike MacIntyre owned one of his players on Twitter.
- Marcus Mariota's younger brother will walk on at Oregon.
- Gary Andersen added to his support staff on Tuesday.
- What kind of a player is Stanford getting in Dylan Jackson?
- The biggest needs for UCLA's 2015 recruiting class.
- Matt Leinart has some big expectations for USC next season.
- Utah added an offensive line commitment on Tuesday.
- Some final changes for Washington State's staff.
- Washington State lost a recruit to Arizona State on Tuesday.
On Tuesday, Arizona State quarterback Mike Bercovici and safety Jordan Simone attended Super Bowl media day to add to some of azcentral.com's coverage of the event. We'll have a story later on today with Bercovici's thoughts on the day and his advice to other reporters (now that he has such a deep understanding of the profession), but as a preview to some of the in-depth and exclusive content you'll get from the Bercovici-Simone media team, check out this tweet:
Just talked to Tom Brady about hair products... #BrotherFromAnotherMother— Michael Bercovici (@MikeBerco) January 27, 2015
We're sure it was enlightening. Someone get this man a Pulitzer.
It was a busy weekend in the conference, as 14 prospects made commitments between Friday and Monday night and several others backed out of Pac-12 recruiting classes. It looks as though this could be a sign of things to come, as the conference recruiting race is heating up with little more than a week until signing day.
Up next: Brett Hundley is the fruit of this Orchard
Who and against whom: Utah defensive end Nate Orchard turned in his "Hello, World" performance in the Utes' 30-28 upset win at No. 8 UCLA.
The numbers: Orchard tied a school record with four sacks and recorded a career-high 11 tackles in the Utes' victory.
A closer look: Orchard would go on to win the Ted Hendricks Award as the nation's best defensive end and earn All-American honors and the Utes would end up nationally ranked, but neither party was much of a known quantity coming into this game, particularly after Utah lost at home to Washington State the previous weekend. Yet Orchard was the most dominating player on the field -- his 11 tackles (eight solo) also registering as a co-game-high with UCLA's inside LB Eric Kendricks. Two of his sacks came in the fourth quarter and helped the Utes hold the Bruins to three consecutive three-and-outs. His 8-yard sack on third down stopped the first drive of the quarter and his 6-yard sack on first down in the third series of the quarter was the first of three consecutive sacks for the Utes. The performance earned Orchard Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week honors and moved him into the national lead in sacks per game, a distinction he would retain at season's end. Said fellow defensive end Hunter Dimick after the game, "The dude is just a freak athlete."
Here's a look at how programs in the Pac-12 are faring on the recruiting trail heading into national signing day on Feb. 4.
ESPN 300 commitments: 1
Who they have: The Wildcats hit it big with their top two commitments in ESPN 300 offensive tackle Keenan Walker and ESPN JC 50 defensive tackle Anthony Fotu. Arizona also will add four-star tackle Cody Creason, three-star tackle Harper Sherman and three-star guards Alex Kosinski and Nathan Eldrige to the offensive line. There are a number of skill players on both sides of the ball, including running backs Orlando Bradford and Darick Holmes Jr., cornerbacks Shun Brown, Anthony Mariscal, Samuel Morrison and Dane Cruikshank, wide receiver Cedric Peterson and athletes Antonio Parks and Brion Anduze.
Who they want: There aren't many spots left in this class for the Wildcats, but there are a few important names left on the board. The wide receiver spot could see another addition with Jaylinn Hawkins, though rival Arizona State will put up a fight there. Arizona also will look to continue its run of success in Louisiana, as teammates Arthur McGinnis and Darrell Clark (New Orleans/Warren Easton) are two of the top prospects left for the Wildcats, as well as teammates of Arizona commit Kendal Franklin.
To read the rest of our Pac-12 recruiting class breakdowns, click here .
The 2015 Senior Bowl has come and gone, and there were plenty of great showings from Pac-12 players. Here's a brief compilation of some of the content you can find regarding the event:
- CBSSports' Senior Bowl stock report of 10 players who looked good -- one Beaver shows up on this list and it's not the one you're thinking of ...
- FOX Sports made a list of guys who helped their NFL draft stock the most. On this listing you've got a Husky and a Ute (these are probably the ones you're thinking of).
- Sports Illustrated had some similar praise to that of FOX Sports. SI's Chris Burke writes that "[Danny] Shelton's showing for the North team solidified his status as a likely first-round pick."
- The Atlanta Journal Constitution put together a photo gallery of the weekend.
- Former Wazzu receiver Vince Mayle does a video interview for the Senior Bowl.
- Former UCLA defensive lineman Owamagbe Odighizuwa also did a video interview at the Senior Bowl.
- Catching up with Sean Mannion following the Senior Bowl.
- Henry Anderson wrote six "diary" entries from AL.com during Senior Bowl week. You can check all of them out right here.
- Nate Orchard picked up some MOP honors at the Senior Bowl.
- Arizona picked up a wide receiver commitment from a three-star player out of Louisiana.
- Redshirt freshman quarterback Manny Wilkins says ASU is ready to compete for a national title.
- Arizona wasn't the only Pac-12 school to get a commitment from the South this weekend. So did Cal.
- Colorado is finally putting some money into athletics, writes Kyle Ringo.
- Marcus Mariota isn't sure if he's going to throw at the NFL combine.
- Add UCLA to the list of Pac-12 programs that went South this weekend for verbal commitments.
- USC got a verbal commitment from a four-star linebacker, and his mom had some pretty clever shirts made.
- Washington picked up its 24th commitment for the 2015 class.
- Connor Halliday has signed with an agent an intends to start practicing sometime this week.
There was some #Pac12Trolling happening Sunday as former Arizona State defensive lineman Will Sutton decided to comment on Taylor Kelly and Jaelen Strong's autograph session. Always nice to see a few (fun) shots taken between teammates when it comes to this kind of stuff.
Also, if anyone has a chance, check out Sutton's photo at the top of his Twitter page. It's pretty fantastic. Especially if you're a fan of The Lion King ...
Bruins looking to close with Clark
UCLA and Michigan are in a neck-and-neck battle for ESPN 300 tight end Chris Clark. And after visiting the Wolverines two weekends ago, Clark was in Los Angeles this weekend.
The future ??? pic.twitter.com/T0uVlzglpU— Chris Clark (@Clark8Chris) January 24, 2015
The Bruins also received some help from former UCLA and current Jacksonville Jaguars tight end Marcedes Lewis.
Clark would be a significant addition for either program, and the Bruins are hoping they can sway him into becoming the lone true tight end on the roster and a potential immediate-impact player.
UCLA also hosted LSU offensive line commit Maea Teuhema. The nation's No. 71 overall prospect has been committed to the Tigers since February, but the Bruins are looking to make the nation's No. 2 offensive guard part of their strong finish in the state of Texas.
Throw them 4's up!=;=; pic.twitter.com/pI9WdLM0br— TRISTAN. (@MaeaTeuhema) January 23, 2015
And although not from Texas -- but close enough -- ESPN 300 offensive guard Josh Wariboko could also be part of a massive closing stretch for UCLA. The No. 105 overall prospect was in Los Angeles for the B2G West Coast Bowl over the weekend and had an opportunity to spend time with UCLA commits Colin Samuel and Bolu Olorunfunmi.
Arizona State hosted ESPN 300 defenders Rasheem Green and Porter Gustin this weekend, and the Sun Devils look to be in competition with USC for both prospects.
While Arizona State hasn't been discussed much in terms of top classes during this recruiting cycle, Todd Graham's program has an opportunity to close in a big way with some impact prospects still on the board. And speaking of impact, Green had an opportunity during his visit to meet an NFL superstar who can make an impact with any recruit (regardless of the typo in his last name).
Oregon State's big weekend
Rasheem Green and JJ Wyatt just chillin in Arizona State. SFG. pic.twitter.com/BZs0uyU1bJ— Serrahighfootball (@Serrahighsfg) January 25, 2015
The new Oregon State coaches hit the ground running when they took over the program after Mike Riley took much of his staff with him to Nebraska. Gary Andersen's staff has reshaped much of the recruiting class and added a big one recently when they were able to flip defensive end Keivonnis Davis from his Syracuse commitment. Davis was on his official visit this weekend and took some time to get to know the Oregon State mascot.
Me&Benny pic.twitter.com/fEgD8SnEBF— 1Double_Stick1 (@keivonnis) January 24, 2015
Oregon State is also in on fellow defensive end Simi Moala, who holds offers from Miami, Utah and Washington State. At 6-foot-7 and 220 pounds, Moala is an intriguing prospect along the defensive line.
The Golden Bears have done well at the wide receiver spot in this class, but head coach Sonny Dykes obviously feels there can't be enough talent at that position on his roster. High three-star Texas receiver A.D. Miller took an official visit to Cal over the weekend and had a simple question for Golden Bears fans.
Utes host commit
Do I look good in gold & blue? =›=™=; pic.twitter.com/fSoNc9i5IF— A.D. Miller (@Admiller_9) January 25, 2015
Part of Oregon State's recent run on the recruiting trail has come at the expense of Utah, as former Ute assistant coaches made their way to Corvallis and were able to flip two commitments in the process. But Utah still holds a strong class, especially with the recent flip of former Cal commit Johnny Capra. The offensive tackle makes four nice additions at that position for the Utes, including three-star Arizona prospect Nick Carman, who took his official visit to Utah over the weekend.
Call it, Friendo.
Two quotes today... because Happy Friday.
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.
- Let's check in on former Arizona star Rob Gronkowski in the buildup to the Super Bowl. Seahawks cornerback Jeremy Lane doesn't think he's that good. #BulletinBoard
- Building smarter stadiums is a goal of the future, and ASU is part of the effort.
- There's a smattering of not-so-good Cal recruiting news here, including word of Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh taking a look at a current Golden Bear commit.
- Colorado's season will begin two days earlier than planned -- at Hawaii on Thursday, September 3.
- FishDuck.com delivers a nice Oregon recruiting update regarding official visits.
- New Oregon State coach Gary Andersen told Sports Illustrated that he left Wisconsin because of his frustrations with that university's admissions standards.
- Stanford basketball added backup Stanford football offensive tackle Nick Davidson to its roster. The 6-foot-7, 288-pounder did not see action in Thursday's game against Arizona.
- Who'll replace Brett Hundley as UCLA's starting quarterback? A true freshman named Josh Rosen is one option. There's more here.
- An interview with USC athletic director Pat Haden, who says the arrow is pointing up for Trojan football.
- A column that will make Ute fans smile: BYU football falling behind Utah.
- Chris Petersen is having some success on the recruiting trail. He tweeted the signature #Woof after the Huskies netted a four-star commitment.
- Did Washington State defensive lineman Xavier Cooper leave for the NFL draft too soon? Cougfan.com has its take.
Did you know Ronnie Lott played basketball at USC? That guy needs to be on the football team. Sign him up!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In case you missed the first three installments, check out Nos. 21-25 here, 16-20 here, and 11-15 here.
Now, on to the next batch ...
No. 6: Washington DE Hau'oli Kikaha
Statistics: 25 tackles for loss (139 TFL yards), 19 sacks, 2 pass breakups, 3 forced fumbles
To contextualize the sheer amount of damage Kikaha inflicted on opposing offenses this season, imagine the length of a football field -- plus 40 yards. The Washington senior led the nation with a staggering 139 tackle for loss yards, and he also edged Utah's Nate Orchard for the national lead in sacks (19, though Kikaha played in one more game). The 6-foot-3, 246-pound senior was a speed-rushing force of nature in Seattle throughout his collegiate career, one in which he successfully fought back from two ACL tears. He was consistent, too: Kikaha registered at least a half-sack in all but one of Washington's games this season.
No. 7: Washington DT Danny Shelton
Statistics: 93 tackles, 16.5 tackles for loss, 9 sacks, 3 QB hits, 5 fumble recoveries
Kikaha -- and other 2014 Washington defensive stalwarts such as Shaq Thompson -- are quick to credit a large part of their statistical success to the disruptive force that Shelton generated inside. First off, this guy checks in at 6-2, 342 pounds, and he can move. That's obviously a rare combination, and it's the reason Shelton is dominating at Senior Bowl practices. But unlike most good defensive tackles who occupy double-teams without lighting up the stat sheet, Shelton went the extra mile: He racked up statistical productivity, too. This season saw 93 tackles, 16.5 TFL and nine sacks -- all absurd numbers for a tackle.
No. 8: UCLA QB Brett Hundley
Statistics: 3,155 passing yards, 69.1 percent completion rate, 22 TD passes, 5 INT, 871 rushing yards, 10 TD
Hundley showed the type of improvement NFL teams wanted to see out of him in 2014. He became more accurate (he upped his completion rate to 69.1 percent from 66.8 in 2013), and he cut his interception tally down to only five. In short, Hundley did a better job avoiding mistakes despite feeling significant pressure throughout the season -- the Bruins surrendered 40 sacks, the 113th-worst protection performance in the nation. Hundley showcased his dual-threat explosiveness throughout the year, and he saved a stellar performance for hated rival USC, throwing for 326 yards and three TDs. Hundley finished 3-0 in his career against the Trojans. In Westwood, that's a huge deal.
No. 9: Utah RB Devontae Booker
Statistics: 1,512 yards, 5.2 per carry, 306 receiving yards, 12 TD
In the regular season, Booker rushed for 759 yards after contact, 187 more than any other Pac-12 player. That statistic alone is enough to demonstrate Booker's value as a runner who has brought an impressive speed-power combination to the Salt Lake City backfield. Booker finished second in the Pac-12 rushing rankings behind only UCLA's Paul Perkins with 1,512 yards. Booker also registered 306 receiving yards as the centerpiece of Utah's offense. Booker's performance was made more impressive by the fact that defenses could frequently key on him since Utah's passing attack was so inconsistent. His return next year is critical news for Kyle Whittingham's team.
No. 10: UCLA LB Eric Kendricks
Statistics: 149 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, 4 sacks, 3 INT, 5 passes defended
Kendricks led the nation twice in solo tackles over the course of his UCLA career, and one of those campaigns came in 2014, his final go-round in Westwood. This guy was a tackling machine throughout his time in Bruin blue, so it's fitting that he was the only player in the nation to eclipse the century mark in solo tackles this past season. The other statistical inventory here might be even more impressive: When Kendricks led the nation with 150 tackles in 2012, he recorded the highest tally of any UCLA player since 1978. Given his consistently excellent productivity from the second level, it's no surprise that Kendricks leaves college as the Bruins' all-time leading tackler. He also has the Butkus Award in hand. Well deserved.
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:
- One reporter caught up with former Arizona defensive lineman Dan Pettinato at the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl.
- Arizona State could possibly get a late commitment from a player who's currently committed to UCLA and has some familial ties to Stanford.
- The California Golden Blogs has got you covered from a recruiting perspective. It had not just one, but two recruiting updates on Tuesday.
- Colorado athletic director Nick George said he knows the defensive coordinator search is taking longer than expected but he hopes to make a hire soon.
- OregonLive.com is counting down the top 10 Oregon football commits -- No. 8 was on Tuesday.
- Oregon State has flipped a former Syracuse commitment with just a few weeks left in the 2015 recruiting circuit.
- A current San Francisco 49er is pulling for his younger brother -- a three-star safety from Louisiana -- to commit to Stanford.
- Bruins Nation took a fun look back at the 1947 UCLA Rose Bowl team.
- A former four-star recruit who redshirted this past year at USC will be transferring.
- Former Utah head coach Ray Nagel has died at the age of 87.
- A review of the 2014 Washington defensive line, and a look at what the future holds for the position group in 2015.
- CougCenter checked in with former Wazzu receiver Vince Mayle at the Senior Bowl.
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.
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.
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.
Would you, Quintus? Would I?
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:
- Arizona offered a scholarship to a wide receiver prospect. And in case you missed this, famous former Wildcat Rob Gronkowski is returning to the Grand Canyon State, where he'll play on the grandest stage of them all: the Super Bowl.
- Former Arizona State stud wide receiver Jaelen Strong is preparing for the NFL draft, and this feature examines that process and some of the connections Strong has built in Tempe.
- Lonny Powell, "arguably the crown jewel in Cal's recruiting class," has signed a financial aid agreement. That means the versatile talent is set to join the Bears in spring practice.
- Colorado athletic director Rick George spoke about the Buffs' search for a new defensive coordinator, a process which has taken longer than expected.
- Oregon fans have petitioned for the Ducks to retire Marcus Mariota's No. 8 jersey. We'll go out on a limb and predict that this endeavor will be successful.
- A longtime Utah verbal pledge flipped his commitment to Oregon State.
- Stanford blog Go Mighty Card attempted to put quarterback Kevin Hogan's career in the larger context of program history.
- This past weekend, UCLA athletic Dan Guerrero and coach Jim Mora reserved an ad in the Los Angeles Times to thank their program's fans.
- The sky is the limit for USC's incoming recruiting class. Why? The Los Angeles Times explains.
- Kyle Whittingham's football program is the most popular sports team in Utah, tied with the Jazz and ahead of BYU.
- Adam Jude supplies a useful early look at Washington's 2015 offensive line.
- Former USC pledge Tae'on Mason flipped his pledge to Washington State.
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.
Whoops lol pic.twitter.com/uLxN7A5cpq— Rob Gronkowski (@RobGronkowski) January 20, 2015