Oregon State seems to have a lot of lingering questions before spring practices begin on March 28 -- a "dark cloud" even -- but Beavers coach Mike Riley told The Oregonian that he's feeling "energized."

Still, Paul "Sunshine" Buker pointed out that the Beavers have significant issues. From his story:
1. Jacquizz Rodgers opted to skip his senior year and come out for the NFL draft, and this team has no featured running back at the moment.

2. Starting quarterback Ryan Katz is still rehabbing a broken bone in his throwing hand -- a slow-healing broken bone at that -- and could miss spring football.

3. Slotback Jordan Bishop, who figures to be one of the team’s top receivers next fall, is still having problems with an ankle he sprained in January.

4. The status of star wide receiver/kick returner James Rodgers, who has been out since suffering a serious knee injury last Oct. 9 at Arizona, remains in question with Rodgers currently in full rehab mode at home in Texas after a second procedure on his knee.
[+] EnlargeMike Riley
Kirby Lee/US PresswireMike Riley said he feels 'energized' by the challenges facing the Beavers.
That seems like a unhappy handful of hits to an offense that's trying to rediscover its mojo: The starting quarterback, two best skill players and a likely starting receiver.

Still, there is an optimistic counter.

  1. Jacquizz Rodgers made the right decision. He's not going to improve his NFL stock with another year of college ball, and running backs have a short shelf life. It was smart to enter the draft.
  2. Katz's injury might limit him for all or some of spring football -- and that's not good -- but the most urgent issue is improving the running game and the offensive line in general. One of the priorities of spring is a establishing pecking order at tailback because of Rodgers departure. And, by the way, getting backup quarterback Cody Vaz some quality work isn't a bad thing either.
  3. Jordan will be a redshirt junior this fall, so he's mostly a known quantity (though it's time his athletic ability spawned greater production). A key this spring for the Beavers as far as the passing game goes is taking a measure of its young receivers, which will be even more important if James Rodgers isn't ready to go this fall.
  4. There's no way to spin the potential loss of James Rodgers: He's a playmaker as a runner and receiver and return guy. Everybody's crossed their fingers, hoping for a full recovery.

The story provides the most complete picture so far on where Rodgers stands in his rehabilitation after a second surgical procedure.
[Riley] re-iterated that it’s true the Beavers can’t be 100 percent certain Rodgers will come back as the same player.

But Riley said speculation that Rodgers is done, that he isn’t coming back to school, “is absolutely false. … there’s (speculation) going on out there that isn’t true.’’

Said Riley, “the second surgery was delayed for a number of weeks, which was disappointing and I think it made James very anxious. … I talked to him last Friday and he sounded great. He was in rehab, he said he’s got very little pain, and things are going well. … they cleaned out some scar tissue that was causing the majority of his flexing problems. That was the delay into getting into the second surgery. … and evidently the repair (to the ACL) went fine.’’

Riley cautioned, “I don’t want to assume anything yet. All I know is, James is trying to be ready for the season. We all know how James will prepare for it.''

And Riley said that he won't play Rodgers unless "he is really, really healthy."

Riley also told Buker that he is close to naming who will replace Reggie Davis as running backs coach.

Pac-12 movement on Kiper's mock draft

March, 9, 2011
3/09/11
4:00
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ESPN's NFL draft guru, Mel Kiper, has posted his newest mock draft, and there's lots of movement among former Pac-12 players, including a new face added to the first round and the return of an old one.

Here's the link to Kiper's latest first-round projection and here's what he had on Feb. 16.

Here are the Pac-12 players Kiper projects for the first round, including the team that will select them and their position in his previous mock draft.

13. Tyron Smith, OT, USC (Detroit): Up from 18th
18. Cameron Jordan, DE, California (San Diego): Down from 17
21. Akeem Ayers, LB, UCLA (Kansas City): Same.
25. Jake Locker, QB, Washington (Seattle): Not on list.
26. Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado (Baltimore): Down from 13.
28. Nate Solder, OT, Colorado (Chicago): Down from 19
30. Rahim Moore, S, UCLA (New York Jets): Same.
32. Brooks Reed, DE, Arizona (Green Bay): Not on list.

Obviously, Kiper has the Colorado pair, Smith and Solder, falling, though not necessarily based on anything they did or didn't do. He's made Tyron Smith the No. 1 offensive lineman in the draft (ahead of Solder, who once held that spot). He doesn't believe Ayers' surprisingly modest 40-yard dash at the combine matters that much. And he believes Locker has done enough since a disappointing season ended to regain his footing among scouts.

Finally, what a ride for Reed. At season's end, he was a "tweener" projected for the middle rounds. Now Kiper believes he might slip into the first round.

Podcast: ESPNU College Football

March, 9, 2011
3/09/11
2:47
PM ET
Ivan Maisel and Mark Schlabach react to Ohio State's suspension of Jim Tressel. Plus, Maisel covers the Oregon allegations and assesses the state of recruiting with George Schroeder and Tom Luginbill.

Pac-12 lunch links: UCLA loses a defensive lineman

March, 9, 2011
3/09/11
2:30
PM ET
A lot of people are afraid of heights. Not me, I'm afraid of widths.

Report: 'Easy' class list at Stanford!

March, 9, 2011
3/09/11
1:53
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Stanford recently stopped distributing an "easy class list" to athletes after reporters started inquiring about it, according to this report.

An easy class list. In college. No way.

In other news, water is wet. Fire is hot. And Charlie Sheen is strange.

There are two issues here worth noting.

First, the list was given an institutional rubber stamp: Titled, "Courses of Interest," it was distributed by the Athletic Academic Resource Center. Few folks would really care if this wasn't Stanford, which is supposed to be, you know, Stanford-y.

Second, the school certainly makes itself look guilty when it allegedly kills said list when it is asked about it.

When will folks learn? Allow the Pac-12 blog to act as a Stanford flack for a moment.

Reporter: Does this list exist?

Pac-12 blog: Yes.

Reporter: Why?

Pac-12 blog: It's a resource for athletes. It helps them balance Stanford's academic demands with the extraordinary extracurricular demands of playing Division I-A sports. Whether they use the list is up to them. Each student at Stanford has his or her specific academic goals. Some seek challenges. Some just want a degree. That's not unique to athletes.

Reporter: But is it fair for it to be distributed just to athletes?

Pac-12 blog: Without question. This is the athletic department. We support our athletes in a variety of ways because we know the daily sacrifices they make when they play a sport at a high level. The commitment these athletes give to this institution in sports needs to be met with academic support, whether that's tutoring or guidance with class selection. Have you reviewed other parts of our university, such as clubs or fraternities, to see what sort of resources they offer? Or have you investigated just how many of these classes athletes actually take?

Reporter: No.

Pac-12 blog: Why not?

Reporter: I'll ask the questions here!

Pac-12 blog: Because if an athlete who is majoring in biology or English or political science also takes Social Dances of North America III, what's the big deal? He still has to complete his major.

Reporter: Hello, who's the reporter here?

Pac-12 blog: OK. Continue.

Reporter: [Crickets].

Pac-12 blog: Are we done?

Reporter: No. Aren't you concerned that "some faculty and students say the list may have offered an academic advantage for the athletes who requested it -- especially since the general population was unaware it was available?"

Pac-12 blog: So the existence of this list isn't an issue. It's that non-athlete students might want to get a look at it, too?

Reporter: Yes. It's unfair.

Pac-12 blog: Life is unfair. This list is a resource for athletes, who give back to the University in ways an average student does not and sacrifice in ways an average student does not. It helps them balance their academic demands with the extraordinary demands of playing Division I-A sports. If you want a look at the list, try out for a sport.

Reporter: Could you hurry up? I want to get in 45 minutes of studying before I go to this party.

Pac-12 blog: Sure. I'm going to watch the two and half hour football practice.

Staff changes: USC

March, 9, 2011
3/09/11
11:33
AM ET
Only Oregon and Washington didn't experience any staff turnover this offseason, so we're running through the staff changes for the other 10 Pac-12 teams.

Next up is USC , which only made a change at receivers coach.

Team in parenthesis is where the departing coach ended up.

Out
John Morton, receivers (San Francisco 49ers)

In
Ted Gilmore, receivers

Reaction: Coach Lane Kiffin snatched up Gilmore when he was dispatched during a staff purge by Bo Pelini at Nebraska, where Gilmore had coached six years. He's also coached at Colorado and Purdue. Morton, who joined the USC staff in 2007, was also the Trojans "passing game coordinator" in 2010, and that title was not attached to Gilmore when his hiring was announced. The likelihood is that Kiffin and quarterbacks coach Clay Helton will split that duty. Gilmore is considered a good recruiter, which surely played a role in his hiring. The Trojans also lost graduate assistant Keary Colbert, who apparently is looking to get back into the NFL. Colbert was considered a candidate for receivers coach. He officially was a "tight ends assistant" last season, so the Trojans still have a void there.

Pac-10 top 25 from 2010: No. 9

March, 9, 2011
3/09/11
9:00
AM ET
We continue our countdown of the Pac-10's 25 best players from 2010.

Note: Because we are ranking players based on this past season, it's Pac-10, not Pac-12.

Here are the preseason rankings (click each name to read the blurb).

[+] EnlargeJacquizz Rodgers
Harry How/Getty ImagesOregon State's Jacquizz Rodgers finished sixth on the Pac-10's career rushing list.
No. 9. Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, Oregon State

2010 numbers: Rodgers, a first-team All-Pac-10 selection, rushed for 1,184 yards with 14 touchdowns and caught 44 passes for 287 yards and three TDs.

Preseason ranking: No. 1

Making the case for Rodgers: It was a disappointing season for Rodgers and a disappointing season for Oregon State, while Oregon's LaMichael James produced a body of work that left little doubt who was the best running back in the Pac-10 -- and the state -- in 2010. Still, Rodgers put up good numbers by any measure, and his numbers are even better when you consider this detail: His offensive line failed him. The Beavers not only ranked ninth in the conference in rushing -- they got a total of 21 yards rushing per game from anyone other than Rodgers -- but they also yielded 35 sacks, which also ranked ninth in the conference. When brother James went down with a knee injury in game five at Arizona, the offense largely became "Jacquizz versus the world": He scored 17 of the Beavers 37 total TDs. Rodgers, typically a mellow sort, showed a lot of fire during the Beavers struggles -- he admitted his frustration multiple times -- but he also (at least from what we can gather) did it in a positive way, which is admirable. As it is, he turned in his third consecutive season with more than 1,000 yards rushing and pushed up to sixth on the Pac-10's career rushing list (3,877 yards), which is second on the Beavers all-time list behind Ken Simonton. Instead of returning next fall to make a run at the record, he opted to enter the NFL draft. It will be interesting to see where the diminutive but productive, multi-purpose runner is selected.

No. 10. Chase Beeler, C, Stanford
No. 11. Omar Bolden, CB, Arizona State
No. 12. Jeff Maehl, WR, Oregon
No. 13 Vontaze Burfict, LB, Arizona State
No. 14. Matt Barkley, QB, USC
No. 15. Brooks Reed, DE, Arizona
No. 16. Tyron Smith, OT, USC
No. 17. Kenny Rowe, DE, Oregon
No. 18. Nick Foles, QB, Arizona
No. 19. Casey Matthews, LB, Oregon
No. 20. Talmadge Jackson, CB, Oregon
No. 21. Akeem Ayers, LB, UCLA
No. 22. Cliff Harris, CB, Oregon
No. 23. Jermaine Kearse, WR, Washington
No. 24. Jurrell Casey, DT, USC

No. 25. Shane Vereen, RB, California

USC's Armstead released from hospital

March, 8, 2011
3/08/11
5:41
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USC defensive lineman Armond Armstead has been released from the hospital, but he will not resume off-season conditioning workouts until the results of his medical tests have been completed, according to a release from the school.

Armstead was hospitalized for undisclosed reasons on March 4.

"My family and I want to thank everybody for their thoughts and prayers," Armstead said in the statement. "I heard from so many people and I really appreciate their support. I also want to thank the USC doctors for their great medical care. These past few days, I really experienced the power of the Trojan Family. I feel good, my spirits are up, I'm ready to go back to class."

Armstead had 43 tackles and three sacks last year.

USC begins spring practices on March 22.

Dennis Erickson talks about ASU this spring

March, 8, 2011
3/08/11
4:39
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Arizona State provided a transcript Monday of coach Dennis Erickson's recent Q&A about spring football, and he touches on a lot of topics.

[+] EnlargeDennis Erickson
Mark J. Rebilas/US PresswireArizona State coach Dennis Erickson is excited about his young quarterbacks.
While more than a few folks will rate Erickson as a coach who's on the hot seat this year -- and not unfairly -- it also appears he's got enough talent in Tempe to considerably cool said seat. In fact, the Sun Devils will be most folks' pick in the Pac-12 South Division, and they likely will earn a spot in the preseason top-25.

Here are some Erickson highlights.

On how this spring practice feels as opposed to years past:
This spring feels quite a bit different, as far as the team itself. I think we came in last year with the feeling that it wasn’t quite there, particularly offensively, skill-wise, our offensive front … there were some question marks there.

On quarterback Brock Osweiler: Brock has got to really progress. I think he proved to everybody what kind of competitor he was in the last two games, in particular the Arizona game. To me, you could kind of tell when he was on and when he was off, and yet he willed us to win, found a way to get it done, which to me is kind of what that position is all about. He will technically get better and better.

On the talent the Sun Devils have a quarterback (RFr Taylor Kelly, Fr Mike Bercovici and incoming Fr. Michael Eubank): It's the best I've ever been around in college, or any place I have ever been, I've never had it that deep. Three of them are unproven, of course. But physical talent … from what you can see is pretty amazing.

On Osweiler's "it" factor: Sometimes you don't see it until it's presented to the guy. Sometimes it's hard to see that in practice. You look back to when we made the evaluation a year ago and the decision to go with Steven, because he was more consistent with what we were trying to do offensively, when you go into that situation you never really have a chance to say "you're going to start against Oregon and "you're going to start against USC" and really find out, because that's an intangible that you really just don't know. I think that showed up. The really good ones that I've had, they've got that intangible; being able to find a way to win, and that what’s its all about. Stats are stats. But making plays when you have to in key situations is what he did. In the UCLA game we were down and he came in and was hot and they couldn't stop us. But in that (UA) game, he had to make plays in the end just to get it to overtime. But he's got a lot of work to do, and he knows it. He's got some technical stuff that he's worked on this winter; getting the ball out quicker, being more accurate. But he's taken over the leadership of that offensive team.

Did last year's quarterback battle affect Brock's performance negatively? Yes. I expect a huge difference. And that happens in most quarterback battles I’ve been in. We can talk about how it’s good and gives you depth and you like the competition, but eventually you've got to make a decision. Whoever, the quarterback that doesn't win that thing, it hurts them. I think it affected Brock, no question about it.

On how Osweiler's accuracy is improving: He’s fairly accurate. He just doesn't get the ball out of his hands when he needs to. He's been working on that a lot. He can run, he runs a 4.7. He can keep that football. It doesn't look like he's going, but he runs pretty well. I think we can do things with him running the football in different situations that we didn't do with Steven [Threet].

On the running backs: Running back-wise, we've got guys who we all know can take it to the house. There are three or four of them that can do that. It's the experience of the guys who've proven themselves on the field. We only won six games, but they know what they're doing. It's given us a chance here in the offseason to tinker with what we're doing a little bit. Those guys went to that one-back clinic down there in Houston and shared ideas, because a lot of us are doing the same thing and picked up a few things here and there.

On the defensive front: With the defensive front, we're dealing with losing those two tackles; Lawrence Guy and Saia Falahola. But with Will Sutton we all know what he did the year before. I'm excited about Corey Adams because now he's a guy. We're young at tackle. I mean we are all underclassmen at tackle. And of course Junior Onyeali won't be in spring ball. Greg Smith has had a really good offseason. He's up to 270 pounds and can really run. I'm excited about watching him in the spring. The end is a little bit of a situation with Jamar Jarrett and James Brooks and those other guys, and see what happens there. Jordan McDonald has gained about 20 pounds this winter. We have some other guys that will be here this fall that will be good to take a look at.

On defensive tackle Corey Adams: Well, he's been hurt all the time. There's no question about that. But right now, you watch him, and he's what we thought. When you see him in the offseason in the mat drills, he's more flexible, healthy, moving around. If he stays healthy, he'll have a tremendous career. I think he can be a real impact player.

On any changes to the offensive schemes: I think we'll add a few things. It might even be simpler than it's been. I think one thing we can do right now is line up and run the football without having to trick people ... Shoot, we got a whole lot of offense. Let's just be good at what we do. Let's get the ball to our guys who can run fast and let them make plays. So you'll see a thing here or there, but not much.

On linebacker Vontaze Burfict: Vontaze Burfict has stepped up. It's amazing his change in the last three months. Now, he doesn't miss workouts, ever. He's a leader out there doing all sorts of stuff. He's in the best shape I've ever seen him in. He's a big-time leader out there.

On what prompted Vontaze's change: Maturity. Teammates challenging him to be what he is. Don't be something you're not. Be what you are; a great football player. The light just came on. I think the light came on at the end of last year. I think from the Stanford game on. I think having some success and winning, and saying maybe that gray-haired (coach) knows a little bit about what's going on.

On Vontaze and the preseason praise he's been garnering so far: I think if he does what he's doing right now, he has the capabilities to be as good as anybody in the country.

On Vontaze realizing it: I don't know. I think he just plays football. He's having fun. He's smiling, having fun. I don't know why he had that chip on his shoulder. Maybe it was immaturity. But it's totally different now.

On the secondary: I think our secondary is going to be better than we've ever had. Our corner situation, depth-wise, is going to be better. Deveron Carr, he won't be out there in the spring, but he's out there running. With Deveron, Osahon Irabor, and Omar Bolden, we've got three or four guys, and Devan Spann -- I think he’s the real deal. So we've got more depth than we've ever had. At safety, Eddie Elder I think really got better as the year went on, last part of the season he really jumped out at you. I think Clint Floyd's getting better all the time. Keelan Johnson is very athletic and will continue to get better as he learns. Shane McCullen, Matt Tucker ... we've got some depth there. It'll be fun to watch those guys play. Alden Darby has moved to safety and he'll make us better there. It'll an interesting spring competition-wise. The great thing about Darby is he can go outside too. He can play nickel and has the ability to play man-to-man coverage.

On defensive end James Brooks playing up to his potential on the field: We think he can be better than he has been. He knows that. Hopefully he'll have that opportunity. He's been here a long time and gotten better and better.

On defensive priorities this spring: I think defensively we'll sit down and decide how much more we want to blitz. We've got some awfully good blitzers. We talked about this last year, the 30 (3-4 alignment) stuff is one thing, but can you do it in your four-down package? Strategically those are things we'll look at. We're a 4-3 team. That’s what we do. We’ll spend some more time, give them more looks ... We played our best last year when we just sat there and played and let our guys run around. And when you have a middle linebacker like we have, and some outside guys who can run to the football, you want to be able to blitz. But do you want to have to go to a three-down scheme to do it? I don't know. I'd be happy to do some things, but if you're a 4-3 team, you're a 4-3 team.

On team's energy heading into spring practice: It's exciting and it's got to happen. What's exciting to me, finally, is after four years we're worthy. I thought last year we were really close, now I feel like we're here. Now we've got to do it on the field. Numbers-wise, even though we've got a lot of seniors, we do have a lot of young guys playing. We're finally at a place, where if we have the success we think we're going to have next year, that we can plug guys in the year after that and the year after that and the year after that. And we know what we need and what we can plug in to be really really well ... I never doubted that we were going to get to this point, but sometimes it's just hard. Now we've got to do it on the field, and our schedule isn't exactly easy. I mean we play a top 10 team right out of the shoot [Missouri], then you have to go back and play Illinois. Then you come back and play USC and Oregon State. Two years ago I would have said ‘give me a break.’ Now I say ‘bring it on, lets go’ and that’s how our players feel.

On the pivotal season for ASU football: Yeah … I mean this is my fifth year. I have been going at this for four years. I mean if we win eight or seven games is it the end of the world? Not really. But I believe this team is capable of winning some games and having an opportunity to compete for the championship, and that’s what we want to do. For me, I think it’s a very important season for this program, no question about it.

On how the new recruiting territories have been for the staff: I think we're going to put [new defensive line coach Scott Brown] in Texas. He's been recruiting Texas for a long time. It's not just one area for him; he's recruited the whole state. He knows the coaches all around Texas, so we’ll evaluate the film and call and get interest and cover it. Hopefully that'll open up some things for us. But the majority of our recruiting will be done in this state and California. So we've got a lot of guys in California. I mean we are in there hard … we'll leave no stone unturned. I have been my best in recruiting over the years, turning stones over. Its just how its been every place I have been, because that’s just what you have had to do to win. When I was at Oregon State, Washington State, or even Miami, we were never able to get the 50 or five star guys, so you've got to find out who can play. It's all about evaluation. You’ve got to focus yourself on your staff's ability to evaluate. You've got evaluate what's going to win at Arizona State.

On the late signings: The four or five guys that we signed after the letter of intent day are every bit as good as the guys we didn't get. Because I'm not going to take a guy just to take a guy. Why would you do that? You can take one in the winter or even the next recruiting season. The guys we've taken late aren't guys we took just to take. They're guys that can play football that we found out about late and studied very hard. And you'll see when they get here that we were right.

Pac-10 lunch links: Cal impresses top recruits

March, 8, 2011
3/08/11
2:30
PM ET
We fail!
But screw your courage to the sticking-place,
And we'll not fail.

Cal will wear white hats in 2011

March, 8, 2011
3/08/11
1:23
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One of the more amusing things before every Oregon football game is the race between beat writers to announce -- typically via Twitter -- what uniforms the sartorially splendid Ducks will be wearing.

Confession: I do not care.

I have no problem with the Ducks' diverse and sometimes odd helmet, jersey and pant combinations. But, really, my only concern is making sure I know which team is which. That and not getting beheaded by my boss.

Which brings us to the Great White Helmet Mystery at California.

I've been asked a number of times -- in the mailbag, in chats -- if I have any insider information on whether Cal will wear white helmets next fall. These questions held my attention for about 0.34 seconds before I began fretting anew over who would be Oregon State's No. 3 fullback.

First, I apologize for my selfish neglect. This is apparently very, very important to some Cal fans. (And there's even an entire blog dedicated to uniforms).

Second, it appears the answer is yes -- and the California Golden Blogs even offers up a picture!

As per my own follow-up investigation, what I can ascertain is the helmet, indeed, is white -- perhaps cream colored? -- and there is a script "Cal" on the side of said helmet that looks not unlike other script "Cal"s you often see in and around Berkeley, unless of course you find yourself looking at a Stanford fan, which probably wouldn't happen because all Stanford fans are put into the stocks for six weeks if they are discovered in Berkeley.

Now if there were a rumor that a Pac-12 team would don pink football helmets this fall, I might be quicker to look into that.

Staff changes: UCLA

March, 8, 2011
3/08/11
12:03
PM ET
Only Oregon and Washington didn't experience any staff turnover this offseason, so we're running through the staff changes for the other 10 Pac-12 teams.

Next up is UCLA , which went through considerable -- and highly public -- staff upheaval this offseason.

Team in parenthesis is where the departing coach ended up.

Out
Norm Chow, offensive coordinator/QBs (Utah)
Reggie Moore, receivers

In
Mike Johnson, offensive coordinator/WRs
Head coach Rick Neuheisel will coach QBs

Out
Chuck Bullough, defensive coordinator (Cleveland Browns)

In
Joe Tresey, defensive coordinator

Out
Todd Howard, defensive line (Washington State)

In
Inoke Breckterfield, defensive line

In
Jim Mastro, tight ends/F-backs
(A GA worked with TEs in 2010)

Reaction: Well, it was a messy offseason -- at least in terms of public perception -- as Neuheisel re-made his staff. He faces a make-or-break campaign in 2011. But at least you can say this: This is Neuheisel's staff. When he was hired before the 2008 season, his staff was in some ways forced upon him, particularly Chow and defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker. Further, the Bruins biggest question heading into spring practices is quarterback. And that's the position Neuheisel will coach. So, really -- pass or fail -- this season should provide a fair window to assess where the program is under Neuheisel. Johnson and Neuheisel know each other well from their days with the Baltimore Ravens, so they should be able to work together. The hiring of Mastro away from Nevada means that both get an expert in the Wolf Pack pistol offense who can help them incorporate however many elements they want to this season. Tresey wasn't the first choice on defense, but he's got a solid resume and likes to attack, which should be appealing to fans. Breckterfield, 33, was a star at Oregon State who might inject some fire into a unit that sometimes lacked it. Still, with this much turnover, there's a lot to get done before the Bruins visit Houston on Sept. 3.

Pac-10 top 25 from 2010: No. 10

March, 8, 2011
3/08/11
9:00
AM ET
We continue our countdown of the Pac-10's 25 best players from 2010.

Note: Because we are ranking players based on this past season, it's Pac-10, not Pac-12.

Here are the preseason rankings (click each name to read the blurb).

No. 10. Chase Beeler, C, Stanford

[+] EnlargeChase Beeler
Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesChase Beeler was part of an offensive line that surrendered just six sacks last season.
2010 numbers: Beeler earned first-team All-Pac-10 honors. Oh, and he was a consensus All-American.

Preseason ranking: No. 19

Making the case for Beeler: Beeler was the quarterback of perhaps the best line in the nation. Stanford ranked 17th in the nation in rushing -- 213.8 yards per game -- and allowed just six sacks, the second fewest in the nation. The Cardinal ranked 14th in the nation in total offense (472.5) and ninth in scoring offense with 40.3 ppg. While Beeler isn't widely seen as an elite NFL prospect, this ranking is about what he accomplished on the field in 2010, and that was quite a lot. And that's why he was a first-team All-American for the Associated Press, Football Writers Association of America and American Football Coaches Association and earned second-team honors with Walter Camp.

No. 11. Omar Bolden, CB, Arizona State
No. 12. Jeff Maehl, WR, Oregon
No. 13 Vontaze Burfict, LB, Arizona State
No. 14. Matt Barkley, QB, USC
No. 15. Brooks Reed, DE, Arizona
No. 16. Tyron Smith, OT, USC
No. 17. Kenny Rowe, DE, Oregon
No. 18. Nick Foles, QB, Arizona
No. 19. Casey Matthews, LB, Oregon
No. 20. Talmadge Jackson, CB, Oregon
No. 21. Akeem Ayers, LB, UCLA
No. 22. Cliff Harris, CB, Oregon
No. 23. Jermaine Kearse, WR, Washington
No. 24. Jurrell Casey, DT, USC
No. 25. Shane Vereen, RB, California

Cougars see reason for hope at start of spring

March, 7, 2011
3/07/11
6:15
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A quick glance at the Washington State depth chart yields something it hasn't over the previous three years. A "maybe."

Paul Wulff probably needs a bowl game to coach into his fifth season, which means he needs to exceed in 2011 the five total wins he's produced in the previous three. But that stark thought ends with that surprising "maybe."

Wulff talks about how winning teams need talent, experience, leadership and chemistry, and -- for the first time -- he sees it with his Cougars.

"As those things start to grow and age -- like a fine wine -- your team is going to start winning football games," he said. "I think this team is going to win football games and I think we can compete for a bowl game, without question... I think we are going to surprise a lot of people."

Where's the hope for a team that went 2-10 in 2010? Consider:
  • Junior quarterback Jeff Tuel heads into his third year as a starter with one of the more experienced and talented receiving units in the Pac-12.
  • While the offense officially must replace four starters, there's experience up and down the depth chart.
  • Washington State has had one All-Pac-10 player over the past three years (center Kenny Alfred, second team in 2009). They have a number of candidates in 2011: Tuel, wide receiver Marquess Wilson, guard B.J. Guerra, tackle John Fullington, defensive end Travis Long and strong safety Deone "D-I" Bucannon.

The big question for the Cougars is the trenches: Both groups of linemen struggled last year. WSU couldn't run or stop the run, and the offensive line yielded 51 sacks, second most in the nation. If the Cougars are merely adequate up front, they have a good shot at making a run at six wins and getting to a bowl game.

The Cougars hold their first spring practice this afternoon. Here are some notes from Wulff. (Note: If your favorite backup from last fall is not listed, it doesn't mean he's not in the mix.)
  • Out or limited: RB Arthur Burns (wrist), DE Travis Long (shoulder), DE Jordan Pu'u Robinson (knee), OT Dan Spitz (shoulder), FB Jared Byers (knee), LB Louis Bland (suspended).
  • Position changes: Not many. Spitz has been moved from the defensive line to the offensive line. Fullington, who started at left tackle as a true freshman, has moved to right tackle because David Gonzalez, who broke his arm at midseason last year, is back at LT. Wulff said Guerra or Gonzalez could see some action at center, the biggest position of competition on offense. Brandon Rankin, who played DT last year, could see time outside at defensive end.
  • Redshirt freshmen to watch: WR Kristoff Williams (though he's nursing a turf toe), WR Bobby Ratliff, QB Connor Halliday, RB Rickey Galvin and Toni Pole. Further, early entrants -- LB Darryl Monroe and receivers Henry Eaddy and Isiah Myers -- as well as grayshirt DE Xavier Cooper could play their way into the mix as true freshmen.
  • Quarterback: Halliday could push senior Marshall Lobbestael for the backup job.
  • Running back: Senior Logwone Mitz is No. 1 and Carl Winston is No. 2 on the spring depth chart, but watch out for Galvin, who broke his arm on his first play of the opener versus Oklahoma State. He's undersized but can make folks miss, which the Cougars need at the position. James Montgomery, last year's starter, is not expected to apply for an injury hardship waiver that would allow him to come back for a sixth year.
  • Offensive line: Center is up for grabs between junior Andrew Roxas and JC transfer Taylor Meighen. The other four spots seem mostly set. On Fullington, Wulff said: "[He's] one of the best young tackles in the country. He's got special upside... He's a high draft pick guy."
  • Defensive line: Long and Robinson, the Cougars top two DEs, are out. JC transfer Ian Knight has been generated some buzz; he's listed No. 1 at one end. Anthony Laurenzi steps in for the departed Bernard Wolfgramm at DT. Steven Hoffart also is worth watching at DT. Pole only redshirted last year because he got hurt. He's solidly in the mix inside, as is Justin Clayton, who was hurt last year, too.
  • Linebacker: Sekope Kaufusi steps in at the "sam" strongside lineabcker for Myron Beck, though Eric Oertel could make a push. Wulff called Kaufusi, "a hell of a talent." Getting Bland back -- he's been riddled by injuries as well as off-field issues -- would help next fall because he's a speedy playmaker. Wulff said of talented by sometimes difficult MLB C.J. Mizell: "He's definitely made strides... He's not where he needs to be or can be, but he's clearly growing and that's all we can ask."
  • Secondary: All four starters are back from 2010, but there figures to be plenty of competition. Daniel Simmons, who's struggled with injuries, may challenge at cornerback, where Nolan Washington and Aire Justin are presently No. 1 on the depth chart.
  • Specialists: Andrew Furney is back at kicker, while Dan Wagner will get first crack at replacing Reid Forrest.

Update on ASU's Deantre Lewis

March, 7, 2011
3/07/11
4:11
PM ET
More than a few of you have inquired about the status of Arizona State running back Deantre Lewis, who was the victim of a random shooting in his hometown of Riverside, Calif., on Feb. 12.

There appeared to be some concern whether Lewis, who rushed for 539 yards and four touchdowns and caught 23 passes for 370 yards and two touchdowns as a true freshman last fall, would return to the team.

Here's a quote from coach Dennis Erickson, supplied by Arizona State, in advance of spring practices:

“Well, this time yesterday [Lewis] was out running, doing some stuff. Our trainers feel like he'll be ready for spring football. His health is fine. It's just a mentally scary thing for a guy. He's fortunate, being shot is bad enough, but he knows that it could have been a lot worse.”


Lewis was shot in his buttocks but there was no muscle damage, so his injury isn't something that should limit his running ability in any way.

So unless Lewis has a change of heart for some reason, it appears that he's on track to share carries this spring -- and next fall -- with Cameron Marshall.

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