Pac-12: Washington State Cougars
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.
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 ...
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!
Eastern Washington at Oregon
Weber State at Oregon State
Washington at Boise State
Portland State at Washington State
Grambling State at California
Stanford at Northwestern
Weekend take: Don't forget the 2014 game in which Eastern Washington rolled up 52 points and 475 passing yards at Husky Stadium. The Eagles start their campaign at Autzen Stadium in 2015, so a reloading Oregon team must be sharp right out of bed -- they won't be kicking off their next season with the traditional cupcake gimme.
Chris Petersen's return to Boise supplies an early marquee nonconference battle. Washington's visit will be the Broncos' first game since their Fiesta Bowl victory over Arizona, so this is an early opportunity for the Pac-12 to exact some revenge for that defeat. It's tough to play on the blue turf, though, and the Huskies are confronted with enormous questions entering next season. Can they replace loads of star power on the defensive end, or can they find the offensive productivity to mask those big losses? The season opener will mark a trial by fire for Petersen's crew in his second year at the helm.
Stanford's trip to Northwestern pits two of the top academically performing programs in college football against each other. The Wildcats lead the nation with a 97 percent graduation rate, while the Cardinal aren't far behind at a stellar 93 percent. On the field, Stanford looks to have the definite edge, but this game is certainly a much bigger challenge than their 2014 opener against UC Davis.
Oregon at Michigan State
Oregon State at Michigan
Sacramento State at Washington
Washington State at Rutgers
San Diego State at California
Central Florida at Stanford
Weekend take: The action heats up in Week Two, as the Pac-12 North faces only one FCS opponent (Sacramento State). A trip to East Lansing promises to be an early sink-or-swim test for new Oregon quarterback Jeff Lockie. The Ducks must find their footing fast if they aspire to return to the College Football Playoff next season. Coincidentally, both schools from the Beaver State will play in Michigan on the same day. New Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh will make his home debut against new Oregon State coach Gary Andersen in Ann Arbor. That promises to be a potential tone-setting game for two programs looking to get up off the mat under new regimes.
Washington State will have its chance for revenge against Rutgers following a heartbreaking loss in Seattle this past year, while Stanford kicks off a rather exotic home-and-home with Central Florida. The Knights are in the midst of a very successful stretch, so that could be a hard-hitting match-up against a Stanford team harboring high hopes entering 2015.
Georgia State at Oregon
San Jose State at Oregon State
Utah State at Washington
Wyoming at Washington State
California at Texas
Weekend take: As league play approaches, the North's nonconference slate in the season's third week isn't quite as illustrious as the Saturday prior. But there's still some sizzle here: Cal's visit to Texas will certainly remind Bears' fans of their 2004 BCS nightmare, when the Longhorns jumped their team in the final regular season rankings. This shut the Bears out of their best Rose Bowl chance in decades, and one can bet that this game means a little something extra to the program because of that whole episode. This also happens to be a critical game for Sonny Dykes' team, which will be gunning for bowl eligibility under its third-year coach.
In other action, Washington shouldn't sleep on Utah State -- the Aggies have been on a successful run of their own over the past few seasons.
Notre Dame at Stanford
Weekend take: This one is obviously very far away, but if Stanford proves it can maintain systematic defensive success while carrying over its late-season offensive spark into 2015, it may mean a whole heck of a lot. The Cardinal and the Irish have delivered dramatic finishes in two of the past three seasons, and Stanford will again be looking for revenge here. It should be noted that David Shaw's club has a strong 2015 nonconference schedule -- this clash with Notre Dame caps off a slate that also includes Northwestern and Central Florida.
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.
They started with the North…
Lombardi: Stanford’s offense didn’t click until the very end of the 2014 season, and that cost them. But when it finally came together against UCLA, the Cardinal looked like a 10-plus win team. With most of the offensive pieces returning, expect the Stanford attack to carry its late success over into next season. Sure, there’ll probably be some drop-off on the defensive end -- eight starters depart -- but since the Cardinal actually improved defensively this season after losing a ton of talent, who says Lance Anderson’s system can’t reload again?
Lombardi: I see that you’re taking the prudent approach, Chantel, but I’m going to go out on a limb and take the foolish one: I think that Stanford is in a good position to emerge as a clear winner. I know, I should have learned my lesson from the minefield that was the Pac-12 South this past season. Given the post-Marcus Mariota uncertainty at Oregon, there's a chance that the North will follow suit and lose any semblance of order this next season.
But at the end of the day, I still think that the Ducks and the Cardinal are a cut above the rest of the division. Andersen will need time at Oregon State, Cal still needs to prove that it can play competent defense, Washington is losing considerable star power on defense, and Washington State is in a similar boat as the Bears.
Until I see tangible on-field proof from those programs, Stanford and Oregon are the two frontrunners in my book. You mentioned most of the questions facing the Ducks, but I think the loss of Jake Fisher is particularly huge: They gave up an average of six sacks per game when he didn’t play in 2014. The Ducks must reload quickly, because I think the schedule really lines up in Stanford’s favor. Aside from missing Arizona State and Utah, the Cardinal get Oregon at home.
Jennings: That's all fair. But remember when we started this season and Brett Hundley and UCLA were the favorite in the South? After that it was USC... Arizona State... and then Arizona. This is the #Pac12AfterDark. No one even considered Utah as anything other than an afterthought. Yes, maybe Stanford is a cut above the rest, but this is the conference gave us multiple Hail Marys, this is the conference that gave us insanity after everyone on the East Coast thought it was safe to go to bed. Maybe Stanford is going to be the most talented team in the Pac-12 North next season, but I'm not sure if that's enough to really make me buy them as the eventual representative in the Pac-12 championship game. I think we're going to have a crazy, crazy season, which makes me want to go with a dark horse candidate.
Lombardi: I just have to see to believe, Chantel, and I haven’t seen any convincing signs of life from the rest of the Pac-12 North in a long, long time. In fact, Oregon and Stanford have combined to go 39-1 against the other four Pac-12 North teams this decade (I’m including 2010 in that tally). The only blemish on that record is Stanford’s 2012 loss to Washington. That’s staggering, and for me it’s convincing: The Cardinal and Ducks own this division until proven otherwise.
Jennings: And I think there’s a solid shot that in 2015 “otherwise” could occur.
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
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.
- 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.
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.
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.
Offense: Washington State was very Mike Leach-esque this season, which we all expected. Quarterback Connor Halliday (who we're wishing a speedy recovery to) made some major strides in his passing from last season to this season. His completion percentage improved from 62.9 to 67.3 and he cut his interceptions in half (22 to 11). Just as impressively, when Halliday went down, freshman Luke Falk stepped in and played like he had been starting all season. In the four games in which he saw major time (plus his two passes against Portland State), Falk threw for 1,859 yards, 13 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Yes, his third-of-a-season statistics put him just about 200 yards behind Taylor Kelly and Travis Wilson for total yardage. But giving this offense a grade is always difficult. Statistically, the Cougars were insane, leading the nation in passing (477.7 yards per game), and from Leach's perspective there was a run game since the Cougs averaged 39.8 rushing yards per game. But it wasn't all roses -- when you lead the conference in interceptions (18), are second in interception-to-pass-attempt percentage (2.3 percent) and are in the bottom third in sacks given up (36), your grade is going to take a bit of a hit. Grade: B
Defense: The Cougars' defense had its highlights this season. Its performance against Oregon -- though it was eventually a loss -- was quite promising. But the only thing that game did was show that, yes, this group could be productive and get to opposing quarterbacks. So, where was that the rest of the season? The upset of Oregon State was also big -- the Cougars held the Beavers to just 4-of-12 third-down conversions. But there were far more lowlights than highlights with this group. The Cougs were near the bottom of the Pac-12 in all of the yardage categories, but more troubling was the fact this group really didn't make much happen. The Cougars only forced seven fumbles all season. They only recorded three interceptions all season. They were one of four Pac-12 teams to not record a single defensive touchdown all season. And at year's end, Leach fired defensive coordinator Mike Breske. Honestly, if your offense gets up in the 30s (or 50s -- cough, cough), you'd think that'd be enough to seal a win. But plenty of times this season we saw that simply wasn't true. Grade: D
Special teams: Oy. Where to start? Maybe that missed 19-yard field goal against Cal? Maybe the continued punt and punt coverage issues throughout the season? Maybe the time Leach fired special-teams coach Eric Russell midway through the season? On kickoffs, the Cougars gave their opponents the best field position in the Pac-12. They were the worst in the conference when it came to net yards per punt. They were also second worst in kickoff returns and No. 9 in the Pac-12 in punt returns. Grade: F
Overall: A season removed from being bowl eligible, the Cougars took a big step back as they only managed to win three games in 2014. At the beginning of the season there was serious talk about Wazzu going 3-0 leading into that big matchup with Oregon. Yes, the Cougars picked up big wins over Utah and Oregon State, giving the fan base something to cheer about. But it wasn't nearly enough. This team had a lot of talent. Yes, there was a lot of youth, specifically on the defensive side of the ball, but expectations were higher and this season was a big disappointment. Grade: C-
Frank's coming ...
But Monday's links are here first.
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.
- 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.
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.
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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.
- This story is partly Arizona, partly Oregon, partly Pac-12. But it's an interesting look at the league the last 20 years.
- ASU athletic director Ray Anderson talking Sun Devils on the radio.
- Cal has reportedly interviewed its first candidate for the O-line coaching job.
- Missed this one yesterday, big for Colorado that Nelson Spruce has opted to return.
- Deforest Buckner decided to come back to Oregon for another year.
- Getting to know OSU's new offensive coordinator.
- Some more on Kevin Hogan's decision to return to Stanford.
- Josh Rosen is hoping for a fast start at UCLA.
- Three USC assistants stayed local on the first day of the contact period.
- Some more on Devontae Booker's return to Utah.
- Five Huskies to watch next season on defense.
- Some video on WSU's new defensive coordinator from when he was at Missouri.
Utah kicker Andy Phillips is ready for the preseason watch lists to come out.
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.
- Mariota's legacy is secure.
- Any chance Mariota and Chip Kelly can reunite?
- An SI mock draft has Mariota at No. 1.
- Andrew Greif of the Oregonian shadowed Mariota on the awards circuit. Here's his story.
- The loss in the title game shouldn't impact Mariota's legacy.
- A look at Oregon in 2015.
- Lost in the quarterback shuffle, Connor Brewer is transferring from Arizona.
- The Sun Devils are in position for another strong recruiting class.
- Via Athlon Sports, Cal is a team on the rise in 2015.
- Some pics of Colorado beginning offseason workouts.
- Royce Freeman was named to the FWAA Freshman All-America team. Here's the link to the full team, which includes DJ Calhoun from ASU and a pair from USC.
- Some Oregon State pod from the Oregonian talking recruiting.
- Would Andrus Peat be a good fit in Washington?
- Brett Hundley has declined an invitation to the Senior Bowl. Not uncommon for quarterbacks.
- George Farmer opts for the NFL draft.
- While others jumped, Devontae Booker announced he's coming back to Utah.
- The Dawg Pound grades Washington's coaches in their first season, and it's mostly unfavorable.
- The Cougars have their defensive coordinator.
Oregon's senators had to pay up to Ohio's senators. Here's the story.