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Two of the best college quarterback battles during this offseason will be happening on the campuses of the two teams that faced off in the national title game -- Ohio State and Oregon.

Though the Buckeyes' Braxton Miller-J.T. Barrett-Cardale Jones saga has gained plenty of attention (and rightfully so), the Ducks' QB battle picked up a bit of steam on Monday when it was announced that Eastern Washington's Vernon Adams would be transferring to Oregon.

But because Adams won't be able to participate in spring practices -- the Ducks will play their spring game on May 2, while Eastern Washington's final day of spring classes isn't until June 12 -- Oregon now has two quarterback battles on its hands:

• To find the top dog among the current quarterbacks on the roster this spring and summer; and

• The top dog vs. Adams competition in the fall.

[+] EnlargeJeff Lockie, Marcus Mariota
Jerome Miron/USA TODAY SportsJeff Lockie (17) has been backing up Marcus Mariota (8) for the past two years.
For the other five quarterbacks on the roster, adding Adams amps up spring practices -- even if one player secures the starting spot in the spring game, the battle has barely begun.

Oregon's offense isn't a plug-and-play scheme, and replacing Marcus Mariota is a task that will be considered a success even if it's only partly accomplished. The fact that Adams has already experienced success at the college level makes him an instant front-runner for the job, and the other five players likely understand that.

From an experience perspective, Adam's biggest competition will be Jeff Lockie, who has been Mariota's backup the past two seasons. In 2014, Lockie attempted just 28 passes.

By comparison, Adams attempted 380 passes this past season. Yes, those passes were attempted at the FCS level, but the experience Adams gained at Eastern Washington -- even if the competition level isn't the same -- is certainly a huge boost in the “Adams for starter” category.

Lockie attempted eight passes against Pac-12 opponents. He completed four of them for a total of 22 yards and no touchdowns. When Adams played Washington this season, he completed 31 of 46 passes for 475 yards and seven touchdowns.

Past Lockie, the Ducks also already have Morgan Mahalak, Ty Griffin and Taylor Alie on campus. The other QB in the 2015 class, Travis Waller, will enroll early in time for spring practices.

Of that group, Mahalak, a freshman, likely will be the other big competitor (Waller, unless he has a ridiculous spring performance, probably will redshirt), but he doesn't have college playing experience.

Though Adams doesn't boast the same kind of dual-threat capabilities of Mariota (and to be fair, no one on this roster does), he has shown that his feet can be a weapon. Adams rushed for only 285 yards last season on 100 carries, but he tallied six rushing touchdowns. The season before, he registered 605 rushing yards.

But even a hint of rushing talent should be enough to keep defenses honest against the Ducks.

It seems pretty likely that Oregon could have two QB battles brewing during the next seven months.

But Adams isn't without shortcomings. First, he can't get to campus until June. That puts him at a disadvantage when it comes to gaining chemistry with receivers. Considering the other four players will be able to gain that this winter and spring (Waller will be there only in the spring), that puts Adams in a bit of a time crunch.

Also, Adams is on the smaller end. At 6-foot, he'll be the shortest QB competing for the job. His height seems to be one of the main reasons why he didn't get a lot of recruiting attention, but he still excelled at the FCS level.

Can he overcome that hump again and excel at the FBS level?

Only time will tell, and that's what Adams has working against him.

But for those who thought Ohio State would have the best quarterback battle brewing heading into the 2015 season, the national runner-up is proving to have a pretty good battle (or two) of its own.
On signing day in 2014, USC coaches set their sights on closing out their class by going four-for-four with targets still on the board. Cornerback Lamont Simmons was the first shot fired by the Trojans, followed by three cannon blasts in the form of Damien Mama, Adoree' Jackson and JuJu Smith.

The haul signaled a massive victory for head coach Steve Sarkisian, who was only two months into his tenure as USC head coach. He beat out crosstown rival UCLA, as well as a number of national programs, for all three Southern California recruits.

One year later, Sarkisian topped his 2014 performance, as he and the USC coaches closed what could be a program-altering 2015 recruiting class by going six-for-six with its final targets. Five of them were ESPN 300 prospects, including the No. 4 overall recruit, as well as a local high three-star.

Players come and go.

In a perfect world, the teams only have to reload, not rebuild. But following this season, there are a lot of shoes that need to be filled due to early departures and expected graduations.

But that leaves the question: Will these spots be reloading or rebuilding? Your humble Pac-12 Blog takes a look at some of the biggest shoes that need to be filled entering the 2015 season.

ARIZONA

Biggest shoes: Basically the entire secondary, but we'll go with ... bandit safety Jared Tevis.

The redshirt senior finished the season as the second-leading tackler for the Wildcats (behind Scooby Wright III). His 120 total tackles was fourth-best in the Pac-12, and he was one of just eight defensive players to record 100 or more tackles. Even though the Wildcats didn't have as much defensive depth as they'd prefer to have in Rich Rodriguez's third season, Tevis and others proved that the system certainly can work and produce huge players. He was a do-everything guy for Rodriguez this season, finishing with nine tackles for a loss, four sacks, two interceptions, four pass break ups and two forced fumbles. Certainly, his shoes -- which were all over the field -- are going to be ones that won't be easy to fill.

Stepping in: Paul Magloire/Tellas Jones

Tevis' back up most of the season was a fellow redshirt senior Blake Brady, so the Wildcats will have to look further down the depth chart for someone to fill Tevis' shoes. Brady, as well as redshirt junior Tellas Jones, stepped in for Tevis when he was injured in the Wildcats' bowl loss to Boise State, but don't expect that it will automatically be Jones who takes over at the bandit spot. Arizona Western Community College transfer Paul Magloire enrolled at Arizona in January and will have all spring to fight for that starting spot. He has played all over the field (quarterback, running back, now safety) but the Arizona staff feels like he can fit into the Wildcats' scheme at both the bandit and spur positions, so it'll be interesting to see exactly where he settles in.
How resilient was your defense in 2014?

Last Thursday, we looked at the teams in the Pac-12 and how well they produced points after turnovers. This was the South Division, and here was the North. Now, we look at the flip side.

It can be frustrating when, after a big defensive stand, the offense coughs it up and gives the ball right back. Time for the defense to take the field again, be it inside their own red zone, the 50 or the opponent’s 1-yard line. (Or if you’re Shaq Thompson, just run it back 100 yards.)

Just like offensive points off of turnovers, there are exceptions. Sometimes a team gets a turnover at the end of the half or a game, so the defense doesn’t have to make a stand. So these numbers aren’t completely cut-and-dried. But rather it’s a measuring stick.

We looked at the South earlier today, and now we turn our attention to the North. If you’re curious how your team did last year, here are the numbers for the South and the numbers for the North.

California

Turnovers committed: 20
Opponent scores vs. opportunities: 10-20 (50 percent)
Total points allowed after turnovers: 69
Games without committing at least one turnover: 2
Games without allowing points after turnovers: 3

Oregon

Turnovers committed: 11
Opponent scores vs. opportunities: 3-11 (27 percent)
Total points allowed after turnovers: 13
Games without committing at least one turnover: 7
Games without allowing points after turnovers: 5

Oregon State

Turnovers committed: 14
Opponent scores vs. opportunities: 9-14 (64 percent)
Total points allowed after turnovers: 43
Games without committing at least one turnover: 3
Games without allowing points after turnovers: 3

Stanford

Turnovers committed: 21
Opponent scores vs. opportunities: 6-21 (28 percent)
Total points allowed after turnovers: 38
Games without committing at least one turnover: 1
Games without allowing points after turnovers: 7

Washington

Turnovers committed: 17
Opponent scores vs. opportunities: 10-17 (58 percent)
Total points allowed after turnovers: 53
Games without committing at least one turnover: 5
Games without allowing points after turnovers: 2

Washington State

Turnovers committed: 25
Opponent scores vs. opportunities: 18-25 (72 percent)
Total points allowed after turnovers: 114
Games without committing at least one turnover: 2
Games without allowing points after turnovers: 1
How resilient was your defense in 2014?

Last Thursday, we looked at the teams in the Pac-12 and how well they produced points after turnovers. This was the South Division, and here was the North. Now, we look at the flip side.

It can be frustrating when, after a big defensive stand, the offense coughs it up and gives the ball right back. Time for the defense to take the field again, be it inside their own red zone, the 50 or the opponent’s 1-yard line. (Or if you’re Shaq Thompson, just run it back 100 yards.)

Just like offensive points off of turnovers, there are exceptions. Sometimes a team gets a turnover at the end of the half or a game, so the defense doesn’t have to make a stand. So these numbers aren’t completely cut-and-dried. But rather it’s a measuring stick.

We’ll start with South and look at the North later today. If you’re curious how your team did in 2013, here are the numbers for the South and the numbers for the North.

Arizona

Turnovers committed: 18
Opponent scores vs. opportunities: 10-18 (55 percent)
Total points allowed after turnovers: 53
Games without committing at least one turnover: 3
Games without allowing points after turnovers: 5

Arizona State

Turnovers committed: 13
Opponent scores vs. opportunities: 10-13 (76 percent)
Total points allowed after turnovers: 62
Games without committing at least one turnover: 6
Games without allowing points after turnovers: 0

Colorado

Turnovers committed: 21
Opponent scores vs. opportunities: 16-21 (76 percent)
Total points allowed after turnovers: 104
Games without committing at least one turnover: 2
Games without allowing points after turnovers: 0

UCLA

Turnovers committed: 16
Opponent scores vs. opportunities: 13-16 (81 percent)
Total points allowed after turnovers: 82
Games without committing at least one turnover: 2
Games without allowing points after turnovers: 3

USC

Turnovers committed: 12
Opponent scores vs. opportunities: 6-12 (50 percent)
Total points allowed after turnovers: 42
Games without committing at least one turnover: 5
Games without allowing points after turnovers: 4

Utah

Turnovers committed: 16
Opponent scores vs. opportunities: 9-16 (56 percent)
Total points allowed after turnovers: 55
Games without committing at least one turnover: 4
Games without allowing points after turnovers: 3

Video data polishes College Total QBR

February, 9, 2015
Feb 9
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Wire photosConnor Cook (left), Blake Sims were among those most affected by postseason adjustments to QBR.
Every year, ESPN’s College Total QBR metric undergoes minor changes at the end of the season. In the interest of complete transparency, an explanation and analysis of the 2014 changes are below.

Total QBR is an all-encompassing metric that captures all aspects of a quarterback’s play – passing, rushing, sacks, fumbles, penalties, etc. It is built off play-by-play data and accounts for down, distance, field position, clock and score to determine which quarterbacks are the most and least efficient in the country. A full explanation of Total QBR can be found here.

College QBR differs from the NFL version in a few important ways. First, College QBR adjusts for the strength of opposing defenses and the NFL version does not. This is necessary in college because of the varying competition faced in conference and non-conference play.

Another important difference is that the NFL version uses live video tracking to capture data such as air yards of passes, number of pass rushers, run type, etc. This information is not widely available for all FBS schools, particularly the lower-level ones, so - during the season - this component of QBR is estimated from play-by-play data (down, distance, target position, etc.). The estimates are based on statistical analysis and modeling.

Once the season is complete, ESPN obtains video-derived data for the majority of FBS conferences (all Power 5, American, Mountain West and a few others) and replaces the estimated component of QBR with exact data.

Factoring in the exact data generally does not result in significant changes to a player’s season QBR, though there were some notable changes in 2014. A complete list of updated player QBRs can be found here, but below are some notable changes. As you will see, most changes are a result of air yards and scrambles for quarterbacks.

2014 final QBR numbers
Marcus Mariota remained No. 1 in Total QBR after the postseason adjustments. His QBR remained relatively unchanged, and he ended the season with a sizable lead over the second-place finisher, J.T. Barrett.

The biggest mover in the top 10 was Michigan State’s Connor Cook. Why? Sixty-three percent of Cook’s passing yards came through the air (rather than after the catch), the highest percentage of any Power 5 quarterback with at least 100 passes. In other words, Cook did not rely on yards after the catch for his passing yards.

Blake Sims fell from second to fifth in QBR for reasons similar to Cook’s rise. Led by Amari Cooper, Alabama gained 54 percent of its passing yards after the catch, the third-highest percentage in the SEC. Sims also benefited from some improbable long plays; he led the SEC with 24 completions of 30 yards or longer, yet six of those completions came on passes thrown behind the line of scrimmage (see Cooper’s 52-yard touchdown against FAU). No other Power 5 player had more 30-yard completions (six) or touchdowns (four) on passes behind the line of scrimmage than Sims.

Barrett replaced Sims as No. 2 in Total QBR. Barrett was helped by his scrambling: a Big Ten-high 315 rush yards (7.3-yard average) and three touchdowns.

Looking beyond the top 10, Clemson’s Cole Stoudt had the largest decrease in Total QBR (-7.8 points) among qualified players after the addition of tracked data. Stoudt’s average pass traveled 6.5 yards past the line of scrimmage, two yards shorter than the Power 5 average (8.7).

Conversely, UNLV’s Blake Decker had the largest increase in Total QBR (+4.8 points). His average pass traveled 10.9 yards past the line of scrimmage, two yards farther than the Power 5 average. He gained 364 of his 366 rush yards on scrambles, and a player generally receives more credit for a scramble than a designed rush in the Total QBR calculation.

Overall, the teams that relied heavily on quick, short screens (Washington State, West Virginia, Texas Tech) were negatively affected by the updated information, and the ones that passed downfield more frequently (Michigan State, Minnesota, Florida) were positively affected.

Though these changes were minor – two players had QBR changes of more than five points – adding the additional information at the end of the season made QBR more accurate by adding information that allows us to isolate the quarterback's effect on each play. Feel free to ask any questions in the comments section of this post and we will do our best to answer.

Teams trending up post-signing day 

February, 9, 2015
Feb 9
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Who needs the NFL, Los Angeles? With the way USC and UCLA are going, the city is just fine when it comes to football.

The Trojans and Bruins lead our look at programs trending up following the end of the season, the coaching carousel and signing day.


1. USC
The Trojans just signed their first full recruiting class since 2011, when they were hit by NCAA penalties. Finishing behind only Alabama and Florida State in ESPN RecruitingNation's rankings, it wasn’t just a matter of quantity for USC. Among the 16 ESPN 300 prospects signed, it added the country’s No. 1 cornerback, running back and inside linebacker. The Trojans are stockpiling at this point.

Beyond recruiting, quarterback Cody Kessler -- the country’s most underrated passer -- is back. So are sophomore stars-in-the-making cornerback Adoree' Jackson and wide receiver JuJu Smith.

Pac-12 coaches always believed the Trojans had as much talent as anyone in the country, not just the league. With the numbers bouncing back, now they have the depth to counter any rash of injuries.

Given all that, and the Holiday Bowl win against Nebraska, this is why a number of people -- myself, included -- see USC as a playoff-type team in 2015. The talent is there. Can Steve Sarkisian coach the Trojans to that level?


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Top performances: Nelson Spruce

February, 9, 2015
Feb 9
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We continue our series looking at some of the top individual performances in the Pac-12 in 2014. If you feel a little nostalgic, you can check out the top performances from 2013.

Up next: Sprucing up the passing game

Who and against whom: Colorado WR Nelson Spruce was the Buffaloes' go-to guy in a crazy, 59-56 double-overtime loss to California.

The numbers: Spruce caught 19 passes for 179 yards with three touchdowns in the offensive slugfest.

A closer look: This nutty game was an offensive bonanza -- we'll celebrate it that way and ignore the olé defenses -- that ended in shocking fashion: A goal-line stand followed by a 34-yard field goal. We've already taken note that both quarterbacks threw seven TD passes, giving Jared Goff lead billing over Sefo Liufau because he won the game, but it wouldn't be right to overlook what Spruce did. His 19 receptions tied the Pac-12 single-game record and it came just a week after Spruce set a Colorado record with 13 catches for 172 yards and a score in a 21-12 win over Hawaii, one of just two Colorado victories in 2014. Spruce went on to earn second-team All-Pac-12 honors and was a semifinalist for the Biletnikoff Award. Spruce's biggest catch was a 25-yard scoring strike in the first overtime that tied the game at 56-56. We won't even mention, Buffs, that first possession of the second OT, that first-and-goal from the 2-yard line and what happened next. We're sure none of you ever think about that one.
Happy Friday After Signing Day.

Hope you feel signed, sealed and delivered and certain your position coach isn't headed out of town.

Follow me on Twitter.

To the notes!

Matt from Sunnyvale, California, writes: I'm sure most questions this week will be recruiting-focused, but how about some of the recent DC hires by Wazzu, Utah and Colorado? I must say the Wazzu and Utah hires may fly under the radar as more of an unknown. But the Buffs actually investing in a "name" coach for DC was a nice surprise. There's always more to a name, but a big-time hire can only help excite the fan base. What do you expect Jim Leavitt to bring to the Buffs?

Ted Miller: Colorado, without question, made the most inspired hire, tapping Jim Leavitt to run its defense.

Leavitt had a successful head-coaching tenure building South Florida from the ground up, so he's experienced first-hand taking a program from Point A to Point Win. Yes, things ended badly, but that smirch is probably why Mike MacIntyre was able to land an A-list coach.

Leavitt was Bill Snyder's defensive coordinator at Kansas State from 1990-95, so there's even more significant experience taking a program from Point A to Point Win. And Snyder, a Hall of Famer, is a heck of a guy to learn from. Leavitt's four years with the San Francisco 49ers working for Jim Harbaugh also seems like valuable experience.

This appears to be a huge upgrade from Kent Baer, who was encouraged to break camp in Boulder and head to UNLV. I got a $1 that says the Buffs will be substantially better on defense next fall. Maybe not certifiably good, but better.

As for Utah's and Washington State's, they went in much different directions, from Colorado and from each other.

Washington State coach Mike Leach tapped Alex Grinch to coordinate his defense. Leach went young and promising, as Grinch is 34, and he's never coordinated a defense before. But his work with the secondary at Missouri was impressive. He takes over a defense that was bad last year and has a lot of questions heading into 2015.

We shall see.

As for Utah, it went, well, old and known. Coach Kyle Whittingham promoted 67-year-old Dennis Erickson to assistant head coach and handed over co-offensive coordinator duties to Aaron Roderick and Jim Harding, who were already on staff. Roderick was the Utes co-offensive coordinator in 2010, weathered a demotion and now has a second chance.

As for the defense, Whittingham lured John Pease, 71, out of retirement -- for a second time! -- to run the Utes defense.

Those are all good, proven coaches, but there is little question this is a stop-gap solution after things got a little fractious with coaching attrition and behind-the-scenes politics at Utah this winter. Got another $1 that says the Utes coaching lineup is different in 2016, though this is a great opportunity for Roderick and Harding to distinguish themselves and stop the eight-year flip-flopping on offense.

What's interesting about Utah -- as opposed to Colorado and Washington State -- is it appears talented enough to make a run in the South Division next fall. There's good talent returning on both sides of the ball, though competing for the division title almost certainly will require clarity at QB.


Peter from Tempe writes: We've been seeing some hype around Mike Bercovici and, by all accounts, he has the starting position locked down for next year. I wouldn't say I'm questioning the decision, but as a skeptic on most matters, how optimistic can the Sun Devils be with Bercovici behind center? He definitely played well as a starter this season, but that was three games. Is that enough to be confident? Where do you place him in your way-too-early QB rankings?

Ted Miller: I'd rate Arizona State and Mike Bercovici fifth in my Way-Too-Early QB rankings, behind USC, Cal, Stanford and Arizona, though he'd fall into the "Experienced but Questions Remain" bunch that includes Colorado's Sefo Liufau, Utah's Travis Wilson, Washington's Cyler Miles and Washington State's Luke Falk.

Bercovici has an A-list arm that will open up the Sun Devils down-field passing options, which in some ways compensates for his lackluster running ability. As a fifth-year senior who started key games last year, he brings plenty of experience and knowledge to the offense.

Is he perfect? No. He sometimes thinks his arm can overcome a well-positioned DB. It can't. He's going to need to learn some patience. Good thing his offensive coordinator/QBs coach Mike Norvell is among the best in the business.

Let's just say this: Sun Devils fans should worry more about their young defense maturing than what's coming back behind center, and neither of those issues should keep you up at night.


Kevin from San Jose writes: I'm sorry, I'm not getting enough USC, UCLA, Oregon and ASU blog articles. Thanks for rarely posting anything on the team that I am interested in gives me another reason to phase this site out. Yes, I'm being sarcastic. Go Dawgs!

Ted Miller: So the issue is we are writing too much about the Pac-12 frontrunners heading into 2015 who also landed the Pac-12's best recruiting classes on national signing day?

Assuming you are grousing about Washington -- the "Go Dawgs!" being a small clue -- what major news item did you want to read about? Coach Chris Petersen calling signing day "anticlimactic"? Or the Seattle Times calling signing day "drama free."

The reason you saw a lot of signing day coverage of USC, UCLA and Arizona State is all three scored major commitments on ... wait for it... signing day. USC might have signed the nation's best class, which is sort of a big deal around these parts.

Oregon? It didn't have any huge signing day news, but the Ducks keep getting themselves ranked in the nation's top 5 and playing for national titles and all that stuff that tends to attract some news coverage, even when nothing of note happens.

Funny thing: UCLA and Arizona State fans used to send in notes like this. Wonder why they don't any more?

We grade each Pac-12 recruiting class here. Washington got a "B":
Chris Petersen's first full class at Washington came together nicely, led by ESPN 300 quarterback Jake Browning and running back Austin Joyner. Offensive line was a key position in 2015 and the Huskies added a pair of four-star tackles in Trey Adams and Henry Roberts. At receiver, Isaiah Renfro and Andre Baccellia are future targets. On defense, linebacker was also a must-fill position, and three-stars D.J. Beavers and Ben Burr-Kirven, along with Kyler Manu, were key grabs.

Sounds pretty positive.

But if Washington fans want their team to get as much coverage nationally as the Pac-12's leading teams, the Huskies need to do something they once did on an annual basis: Be a Pac-12 leader.
The 2015 recruiting cycle is sooooo last year. Onward and upward to 2016.

If you haven’t familiarized yourself with the ESPN Junior 300, now would be a good time to start. Because, let’s be honest, we can’t worry much about Iman Marshall or Chris Clark until they actually get into a game. So for them, it’s just a matter of sitting and watching them develop.

But we can always speculate about the next, next crop of talent. And several Pac-12 schools have already made a play for some of the top juniors in the country. Here’s a quick snapshot of where things stand.
  • No. 53 Breland Brandt, TE, Los Angeles, committed to UCLA
  • No. 129 Isaac Garcia, DE, Bellevue, Washington, committed to USC
  • No. 155 Seth Green, QB-DT Woodbury, Minnesota, committed to Oregon
  • No. 175 Daelin Hayes, Athlete, Ann Arbor, Michigan, committed to USC
  • No. 217 Mique Juarez, QB-DT Torrance, California, committed to USC
  • No. 240 Brandon Wellington, Athlete, Bellevue, Washington, committed to Washington
  • No. 280 Micah Croom, S, Anaheim, California, committed to Utah
  • No. 291 Brady Breeze, S, Portland, Oregon, committed to Oregon
  • No. 292 Dillon Mitchell, WR, Memphis, Tennessee, committed to Oregon

For perspective, there were 44 players on the 2015 ESPN 300 who signed with Pac-12 schools and one more who is committed (No. 29 Roquan Smith) but hasn’t signed with the Bruins yet … most likely pending the outcome of the Jeff Ulbrich situation.
EUGENE, Ore. -- A rundown from Oregon coach Mark Helfrich on his 22 signed players in the 2015 class.

QB Travis Waller | 6-foot-3, 194 pounds | Highlights
  • Will enroll in time for spring practice
  • "Every coach that we talked to, and not only at Servite but teams that he played against ... loved this guy."
RB Taj Griffin | 5-foot-10, 175 pounds | Highlights
  • Early enrollee
  • Versatile -- Helfrich mentioned defensive back, returner, receiver and tailback. "We'll sort all that out down the road."
  • Brother, Ty, is already on the roster -- Ty says Taj is faster
  • Taj got hurt early in his senior year, but is on campus training already. "Has a great attitude about getting healthy."
WR Malik Lovette | 5-foot-11, 204 pounds | Highlights
  • "This guy is special in his vibe, his energy, everything about him."
  • Played corner, safety, tailback, specialist, receiver
  • Helfrich says he'll remind people of Keanon Lowe
WR Kirk Merritt | 5-foot-11, 206 pounds | Highlights
  • Will start as a receiver then could move elsewhere -- Helfrich mentioned secondary coach John Neal has already voiced his hopes for him to come over to the defensive side of the ball
WR Alex Ofodile | 6-foot-3, 190 pounds | Highlights
  • Early enrollee
  • Dad played at Missouri and in the NFL
  • "We loved his film, he's a big guy, very physical player."
  • Good hands and range but sounds like he needs to add weight.
TE Jake Breeland | 6-foot-5, 205 pounds | Highlights
  • Outside receiver/tight end
  • Father played at USC
OL Brady Aiello | 6-foot-7, 265 pounds
  • "We'll try him out at center and hopefully he'll be able to play all five positions on the front."
  • Multiple, good length, "great looking body type"
  • Has only played football a few years but was a team captain this year
OL Jake Hanson | 6-foot-5, 288 pounds
  • Physical, good pad level, good finisher
  • Needs to get bigger, faster and stronger -- Helfrich sees "a huge upside."
OL Shane Lemieux | 6-foot-6, 310 pounds
  • Big, physical, versatile
  • Has played both guard and tackle, has played both offense and defense
  • "We'll bring him in and figure out what his best spot is."
OL Zach Okun | 6-foot-5, 340 pounds
  • Early enrollee
  • Powerful first step, very physical
  • Sounds like he needs to get into better shape before he's more of a contender
OL Calvin Throckmorton | 6-foot-6, 268 pounds
  • Both of his parents went to the University of Washington
  • Recruited on both sides of the ball, but will begin as an offensive lineman
  • "Calvin is a big guy, has a young body that's going to really develop with [Jim Radcliffe] and the strength program."
DL Gary Baker | 6-foot-4, 290 pounds |Highlights
  • Couldn't play senior year because of transfer rules, ruled ineligible because of a family move. Even with that, Baker never missed a practice -- high school coach called him the team's best practice player.
  • "One of the greatest home visits of all time ... Had about 35 or 40 in attendance, about four or five of us [coaches], they sang this very emotional Samoan song and it was unbelievable. Imagine the Samoan Von Trapp family singers or something."
DL Drayton Carlberg | 6-foot-5, 290 pounds | Highlights
  • Plays football, basketball and wrestles -- versatile, athletic
  • Recruited on both sides of the ball ... "Initially we see him as a defensive lineman but the offensive lineman, Coach [Steve] Greenwood and the offensive staff have already tried to lay their claim to him."
DL Gus Cumberlander | 6-foot-6, 241 pounds | Highlights
  • "For a long time we thought [he] was our big hidden gem, but he was not so hidden over the last several weeks. Due to his character, his mom standing firm, he remained committed to us after an onslaught of recruiting activity."
  • Long, athletic, great pad level
  • Could play both sides of the ball but will start as a defensive lineman
DL Canton Kaumatule | 6-foot-7, 290 pounds | Highlights
  • Early enrollee
  • "He's huge and runs around really well. We'll first look at him on defense."
  • Has the body type Oregon wants on the D-line
DL Rex Manu | 6-foot-3, 298 pounds | Highlights
  • Manu was committed to Stanford but after visiting Eugene with his high school football team for camp last summer he switched his commitment.
  • "Grinder" defensive lineman
  • Was recruited as a center by some schools because he has such good hands
  • "He's not the biggest guy in the world, but [he has] tremendous leverage and just has a great feel for using his hands and getting his hips past you."
LB Paris Bostick* | 6-foot-1, 218 pounds | Highlights
  • Played both sides at Santa Monica College
  • "He's kind of a box safety slash linebacker, depending on how he continues to grow and develop. He has really grown to be a much more physical guy over the last few years."
LB Jonah Moi* | 6-foot-4, 235 pounds | Highlights
  • "Some big upside to this guy."
  • Former rugby player
  • "When you sit there with him and his family, he's our kind of guy."
LB Fotu Leiato | 6-foot-1, 200 pounds | Highlights
  • "Just a human highlight film type of kid -- just loves to run and hit."
  • Initially will play as a safety, could play a nickel-hybrid position "depending on how he develops."
S Dylan Kane | 6-foot-3, 195 pounds | Highlights
  • Reigning 100-meter state champion (11.14) and 200-meter state champion (21.92) in Hawaii
  • Could play safety or corner, was a wide out and returner in high school
CB Ugo Amadi | 5-foot-10, 183 pounds | Highlights
  • Early enrollee
  • Could play safety
  • Helfrich noted that the 5-foot-10 is probably "generous," meaning, another small guy in Oregon's secondary
  • Electric, powerful, physical, good change of direction
CB Jihree Stewart | 6-foot, 175 pounds | Highlights
  • Will start as a corner/safety/returner and "we'll sort it out from there."
  • Good range, physical hitter
  • "He's a guy that gives us some versatility on the back end."

*Denotes junior college transfer

2016 recruits to watch in the Pac-12 

February, 6, 2015
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Signing day for the Class of 2015 just wrapped up, but coaches have been hard at work on the 2016 class for months. Oregon and USC each already have three ESPN Junior 300 prospects committed, and UCLA holds a commitment from the No. 53 overall prospect, tight end Breland Brandt.

Here are five uncommitted 2016 prospects to watch in the West region who will be of particular interest to Pac-12 programs.


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Pac-12 morning links

February, 6, 2015
Feb 6
9:00
AM ET
You're gonna need a bigger boat.

Happy Friday.

Leading off

February 4 is long gone, but don't think that the drama of national signing day has vanished with the date. UCLA is still at the center of some national attention because linebacker Roquan Smith, one of their touted Wednesday commits, hasn't faxed his national letter of intent to Westwood. Smith is reportedly concerned that Bruins defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich has been in talks with the Atlanta Falcons, news that leaked shortly after Smith's commitment to UCLA but before his pledge to the Bruins became binding.

Smith may feel fortunate that he's not in the same boat as Ohio State recruit Mike Weber, who found Buckeyes running backs coach Stan Drayton was leaving to the NFL after he was locked into Urban Meyer's program.

In the case of Smith, UCLA, Georgia, Michigan, and Texas A&M are still technically alive in the battle for his services, and the saga will likely stretch into next week.

"[The recruiting period] isn't over until the end of April," Smith's coach said. "So there's no rush."

So in case any Pac-12 recruiting fans thought signing day would present a cut and dry finish to the 2015 cycle, think again. We're going to overtime, and it'll be a while longer before the drama fully subsides and the pre-spring ball vacation is here.

News/notes/team reports
  • Arizona's DaVonte' Neal is changing positions to help a thinned-out Wildcats defense. Read about the switch here.
  • .One of Arizona State's biggest victories this recruiting season came through the signing of defensive tackle prospect Joseph Wicker.
  • Is Cal football trying to mimic how Stanford recruits?
  • Colorado's series with an in-state rival is likely to end after 2020.
  • More signing day aftermath: This piece examines Oregon's slow-and-steady recruiting style.
  • A developing Oregon State trend: Polynesian players. The Beavers just signed eight of them.
  • Offensive lineman Kevin Reihner has exercised a graduate transfer to Penn State, and David Shaw indicated that he's not the only Stanford player who's been mulling his future options.
  • Chronicling UCLA's Jeff Ulbrich/Roquan Smith saga.
  • When it comes to recruiting, Steve Sarkisian has finished strong at USC.
  • Grading Utah's coaches for their 2014 performance while looking ahead to 2015.
  • Chris Petersen believes he has something special at Washington in Jake Browning.
  • Washington State has lost wide receivers coach Dennis Simmons to Oklahoma.
Just for fun

Here's another "my, how times have changed" glimpse at college football, featuring a former USC Heisman Trophy winner.

USC is back at or near the top of the recruiting rankings, depending on which service you favor, signing a top-five class for the first time since 2011. UCLA wasn't too far behind Wednesday, its 11th-rated class being its highest in the ESPN.com RecruitingNation rankings since it finished 10th in 2011. The Bruins also can wink at their friends from Heritage Hall while holding up three fingers, though we have no idea what that could possibly mean.

Oregon? The Ducks, winners of four of the last six Pac-12/10 crowns, finished 15th, their highest ranking by ESPN.com since they were 14th in 2011, their only other top-15 ranking from the last 10 years.

Those were the consensus top-three recruiting classes in the conference, and those programs are likely to be projected as the top three teams in the Pac-12 in 2015, though that assertion might make Stanford and three other South Division squads a bit grumpy.

Bottom line of recruiting rankings: While they are far from a science, they are meaningful and reflect the competitive reality of FBS football. The last four national champions had a four-year average recruiting ranking in the top six. Each of the last nine national champions signed a top-10 class the year before winning.

[+] EnlargeJohn Houston
Chris Williams/Icon SportswireLinebacker John Houston was one of USC's prized recruits signing on Wednesday, helping USC to No. 3 in the ESPN RecruitingNation class rankings.
Oregon could have broken those rules by winning its final game in 2010 or 2014. But it didn't.

The day after signing day always feels like a moment of existential reflection. What does it all mean? Does it, in fact, mean much of anything? Where do things really stand? Is it decidedly different today than it was a week or two months ago?

For those in a hurry, the most honest answers we can give you to those four questions are: 1. Heck if we know; 2. Probably; 3. See No. 1; 4. Maybe, but not terribly so.

The most obvious takeaway is that USC, no longer yoked with NCAA-mandated scholarship reductions, is on the cusp of returning to its super-elite recruiting perch. Since the turn of the millennium, the Trojans have been the Pac-12's only true threat for a top-five recruiting class, at least with any regularity. It's unusual, in fact, for any other conference program to have a class among the top 10.

That immediately feeds into the next USC question: Can second-year coach Steve Sarkisian capitalize on elite recruiting the way Pete Carroll did from 2001-09? Lots of folks, -- USC fans and rivals -- are doubting him, which stands in stark contrast to the 100-percent embrace of Carroll's hiring and his 6-6 first season that was capped with a Las Vegas Bowl loss to a non-AQ team whose name escapes me.

Wait. We may be screwing up our history. Anyway...

Conventional wisdom with USC apparently rising would be that other top Pac-12 teams will fall. After all, the Trojans are going forward with a full slate of 25 scholarships, instead of the 15 of the previous three classes. That alters the recruiting dynamic -- a leak of 30 scholarships mostly distributed throughout the conference the previous three seasons has been filled. Was it a coincidence that the conference developed unprecedented depth with the Trojans in NCAA purgatory?

Yet there were UCLA and Oregon and much of the rest of the Pac-12 showing well on signing day, with seven teams finishing in the top 40 of the recruiting rankings, the best recruiting haul for the conference since 2012. A USC surge was not accompanied by a notable retreat, starting with the Bruins and Ducks.

While Arizona and Arizona State fans are at this moment noting they won the last two South Division crowns -- a rare moment of the Sun Devils and Wildcats being in accord! -- that's really not the core issue here. Anything USC does is immediately brought into comparison with its L.A. rival, and Jim Mora and his Bruins held tough in recruiting while owning a decided recent upper hand on the field. Though UCLA again figures to be looking up at the Trojans in the 2015 preseason rankings, a reasonable case could be made that shouldn't happen based on the football side of football.

In fact, I get this case stated to me every single time I chat with Pac-12 blog bud Kevin Gemmell. As in, "Kevin, what are you going to order to eat?" "Oh, I'd like an order of UCLA ranked ahead of USC with a side of why is everyone so high on Cody Kessler when he hasn't played well in big games?"

Still, USC will be the most physically talented team in the Pac-12 next fall. That, at least in our model of projection, makes the Trojans the conference's most immediate threat to insinuate themselves into the national picture, which means they threaten the Ducks' status as the Pac-12's top team. While Stanford won consecutive conference titles in 2012 and 2013, the Ducks are the only conference team to play for a national title since 2005, when one might recall a certain other Pac-12 program falling just short of all-time dynastic brilliance.

Ultimately, the big picture is what demands the most eyeballs and ensuing cogitation, at least from the national perspective of our College Football Playoff: Which Pac-12 team is most likely to secure one of four CFP spots in 2015? And which team is most likely to keep doing it going forward?

Again, the most obvious takeaway from national signing day is that USC, no longer yoked with NCAA-mandated scholarship reductions, is on the cusp of returning to its super-elite perch.

But takeaways from signing day are pure speculation. There's a lot of urp-less coaching Sarkisian must do in order to concretize USC's return to national relevance.

Know what isn't pure speculation? USC playing Oregon and UCLA on back-to-back Saturdays -- Nov. 21 and 28 -- in 2015. That's a scheduling fact.

Wonder what the stakes might be?
EUGENE, Ore. -- No news is good news ... at least for Oregon on signing day.

"I think we hit today with no surprises, in terms of good or bad," Oregon coach Mark Helrich said. "Which is always kind of maybe your goal on signing day."

Unlike a few of its Pac-12 brethren, the Ducks weren’t waiting on some last-minute commitments from top recruits. The only activity of late was a few other schools coming on hard to some of Oregon’s commits, and the visit from Eastern Washington quarterback Vernon Adams last weekend.

However, even with that action, there were no changes in the class and the Ducks signed 22 players -- two junior college transfers and 20 high school seniors. Of those players, five have enrolled in Eugene.

Headlining the class and the early enrollees is five-star defensive end Canton Kaumatule, who could add immediate depth to the Ducks' pass rush this fall. Their second-highest signee is running back Taj Griffin, whose brother Ty is already on the roster. Griffin will add depth to a loaded Oregon backfield.

Oregon also added depth (both on the roster and height-wise) to their wide receiver and tight end groups. Both 6-foot-2 wide receiver Alex Ofodile and 6-foot-5 WR/TE hybrid Jake Breeland could see early playing time because of injuries and transfers.

Though the Ducks did manage to address a few areas of need with this class, the big question remains at quarterback: Who is going to replace Heisman winner Marcus Mariota?

Signee Travis Waller will arrive on campus in time for spring football, so he will be competing for the starting spot. At 6-3, he matches Morgan Mahalak as the tallest quarterbacks in competition, but Mahalak has the advantage of a year of training under Mariota in Oregon’s scheme.

But all of these names and heights and weights are old hat to most Oregon fans, who have been aware of these players for the past few months.

So what is it about the Ducks and their program that caused them not to have any late additions or subtractions?

"I think we’re honest -- it’s a very simple way to put it," Helfrich said. "I think there’s a lot of guys that love the sales aspect and the recruiting aspect. ... If we see you at this position, we’re going to be honest with you. It’s not the end all, be all, but we talk about how hard it is to play here and that, in the end, gets the right guys."

"We got some guys in this class because we deal with guys very honestly, and we lost some guys in this class because we deal with guys very honestly," Helfrich added.

Helfrich’s consistency in his personality and attitude has been talked about at length throughout this season as one of the reasons why his team was able to bounce back from an early loss to Arizona and make it to the national title game.

It appears that same attitude exists in recruiting, too. And Helfrich said "derecruiting," -- the idea that when a four- or five-star player gets to campus he needs to be reminded that he isn’t all that -- just doesn’t happen with him because he never starts by telling a recruit he is all that.

"We don’t go into a tailback’s home and say, 'Hey, man, you’re going to carry the ball 35 times a game, you’re our bell cow, boom, let’s go,'" Helfrich said. "That never happens. They’re a part of something great."

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