U.S. News & World Report publishes 2011 College Rankings

U.S. News & World Report publishes 2011 College Rankings

Source: Cal To Make Key “Stadium Announcement”

California Memorial Stadium

Bears Could Be
Playing At AT&T Park

One Great Season

The mysterious announcement expected at Cal Monday morning probably won’t end up being all that mysterious.

The Golden Bears are expected to announce they’ll play their home games at AT&T Park in San Francisco during the 2011 season.

GAMEDAY GALLERY: USC at Cal (October 2009)

Cal’s Sports Information Department sent out a release Sunday night announcing Monday’s press conference scheduled to take place at AT&T Park, the home of baseball’s San Francisco Giants. That Giants president Larry Baer will be present Monday helps connects the dots, as does the Cal source who sent a text message to OGS late Sunday night confirming “a stadium announcement.”

Cal has played its home games at historic Memorial Stadium since 1923. In 2005, the school announced a two-stage plan to overhaul its athletic facilities, and just a few months ago approved $321 million to renovate the stadium, a project slated to begin next month and be completed by the 2012 season.

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The Golden Bears still have two open dates to fill for the non-league portion of their schedule in September 2011. Same goes for early 2012, but Cal will welcome Big Ten foes Northwestern and Ohio State in September 2013.

Cal’s Alualu surprise 10th pick in NFL draft

Here’s a prediction: California defensive end Tyson Alualu is going to surprise some folks and end up a top-10 NFL draft pick.

Little late on that one, eh?

Alualu was the first Pac-10 player drafted Thursday night — which was projected by no one — going 10th overall to the Jacksonville Jaguars, while Bears teammate Jahvid Best was the only other conference player selected on Day 1. Best went to the Detroit Lions with the 30th pick.

Round 2 begins today at 6 p.m. ET. Expect the second round to include a number of Pac-10 players, including those who slipped during recent weeks, such as USC safety Taylor Mays and UCLA defensive tackle Brian Price.

Alualu is the highest Cal selection since Andre Carter was taken seventh overall by San Francisco in 2001. He is the Bears’ ninth top-10 pick in the draft’s history. And his selection was rated the “biggest reach” of the first day by Todd McShay.

Wrote McShay, “Jacksonville used the 10th overall pick to take California DT Tyson Alualu, who we feel is a good player but is only the No. 35 overall on our board. Top-10 money is pretty rich for a player like Alualu, especially when pass-rushers like Derrick Morgan and Jason Pierre-Paul would have offered much more value at that point.”

Another notable pick is the Seattle Seahawks’ selection of safety Earl Thomas at No. 14. That means former USC coach Pete Carroll wanted a safety but didn’t want Mays.


Got to admit: I thought at least one team would jump on Mays just because of his athleticism, much like it took only one team to make Tim Tebow a No. 1 pick (Denver).

Another observation: Former Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford going No. 1 overall is a good thing for college football. It shows players who want to come back for their senior season that even a major injury won’t automatically ruin your draft prospects.

Of course, Mays right now is probably questioning his decision to return, considering he likely would have been a top-15 pick in 2009.

NFL Draft; USC Shaft

What if I told you more WAC players would be taken in the first round than PAC players? What if I told you the Broncos would give up their 2nd, 3rd and 4th round draft picks to trade back into the first round and pick up…Tim Tebow? That Cal’s defensive tackle Tyson Alualu would go 10th overall to Jacksonville while Jimmy Clausen’s phone would never ring? What if I told you the Raiders would actually draft with their brains instead of what’s down their pants? And what if I told you not a single USC Trojan would be taken in the first round?

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Opening the mailbag: Impressions of spring

Got bogged down on Friday, so this mailbag fermented over the weekend.

To the notes.

Jason from the Bay Area writes: So having seen most of the Pac-10 this spring, what are your impressions?

Ted Miller: Obviously, we’ll have more on this going forward with a spring wrapup, but here are some quick hits.

  • My top three remain: USC, Oregon and Oregon State.
  • Every team has significant questions. It doesn’t seem like there’s a national title contender.
  • USC’s defensive line is going to be strong, and I think the Trojans will again rank among the nation’s elite in defense in 2010.
  • That’s why I favor the Trojans at present. That and QB Matt Barkley appearing ready to take a significant step forward.
  • Washington’s offense is going to be very good if the O-line stays healthy.
  • UCLA’s and Arizona State’s offenses will be better.
  • Arizona is a top-25 team if it gets solid play at linebacker, but that’s a significant “if.”
  • Washington State is the clear choice for No. 10, but the Cougars will not be the patsies of 2008 and 2009.
  • You could throw Arizona, Arizona State, California, Stanford, UCLA and Washington into a hat and randomly pick their order and probably be as accurate as what you’ll read among preseason predictions from publications and pundits.

At this point, 2010 looks to be a black-and-blue season. Hard to imagine the eventual champion going undefeated in league play. Things might end up like last year, when the conference had a lot of ranked teams, just none near the top of the polls.

Scott from Palo Alto writes: Let’s put Andrew Luck in perspective to help jog readers’ memories… very few turnovers… back-to-back victories over Oregon and USC. Did we mention he was a mere freshman? I think you have to be amazed by Luck overall and I’m sorry but Stanford vs. Oregon was not a game for the defensive-minded. We put the pedal to the medal and outscored them when they were considered the hottest team around.

Ted Miller: No question Luck looks like a budding star after leading the Pac-10 in passing efficiency as a redshirt freshman. He looks, at this point, like a future first-round NFL draft pick. Perhaps a top-10 pick. Or higher.

We’ve already discussed the possibility of him and Jake Locker battling for the top spot in the 2011 NFL draft.

However — you knew that was coming — any quarterback will tell you having the nation’s best running back vexing a defense makes it easier to throw the ball. Toby Gerhart rushed for 1,871 yards and 28 TDs last fall. Every defender Luck threw against was leaning forward on its toes thinking one thing: “Gerhart… hope he runs to the other side.”

Luck is in luck that he’s got almost his entire receiving corps back and the Cardinal offensive line should again be solid. There is no reason he can’t be an elite QB in a conference loaded with elite QBs.

Still, don’t take for granted a blockbuster season. It’s possible that it will take time for the Cardinal offense to reinvent itself with Gerhart off the the NFL.

Nick from Washington D.C. writes: I have been a Duck fan for most of my life and growing up in Portland, it always felt like we were the dark horse… My question is this: Has Chip Kelly turned the corner? Even with all the haywire crazy that is the athletic department, are we now a legitimate year in year out contender?

Ted Miller: Oregon has won nine or more games six times over the past 10 seasons. And during that decade, it suffered only one losing season.

The Ducks are no longer darkhorses. They are perennial contenders, a second-tier power rating a step below programs such as Texas, USC, Florida and Ohio State.

If your question is will the Ducks make that next step and become an equal to those schools, my guess would be no, not on an annual basis.

Why? Start with population base. Those four schools have huge head starts in recruiting.

Moreover, what’s the common denominator for nearly all BCS football champions? Big Stadiums. The only team that won a BCS title that doesn’t play in front of home crowds of 80,000-plus is Miami, which is smack-dab in the middle of prime recruiting real estate.

That doesn’t mean Oregon can’t regularly beat the superpowers and contend for a national title every few years. They’ve proven they can.

The program’s momentum under Kelly, despite the recent bad off-field news, is clearly positive. The distance between what the program was in the “old days” and present is significant.

So, yeah, Oregon has turned the corner. What benchmark challenges are ahead? Win a Rose Bowl in the modern era. Or a national title.

Bill from Oakland writes: Why is it that when an offense/defense performs well in a Spring Game all the talk is about how the other side of the ball struggled and not about how good the offense/defense may be? It happened with Cal and their defense performing well and with Oregon and their defense performing well too. Is it all about perspective and expectations? With both Cal and Oregon their offenses were thought to have some issues (Cal more than Oregon) so is it just everyone saying I knew that would be a problem, instead of looking at the possibility that maybe the defenses are good?

Ted Miller: Well, obviously when a team is scrimmaging against itself any success on one side of the ball means failure on the other.

Still, it’s not that difficult to figure out if a unit is playing poorly or is simply getting beat by outstanding opposing talent.

For example on offense: penalties, missed receivers, unblocked defenders, fumbles, dropped passes, a QB with happy feet not seeing open receivers, etc. Those sorts of things indicate a poor offensive performance.

Same thing for defense: penalties, wide-open receivers, missed tackles, multiple explosion plays, huge holes through the line, etc. Those sorts of things indicate a poor defensive performance.

Moreover, a person can make distinctions. If Oregon State defensive tackle Stephen Paea whips an opposing offensive lineman one-on-one, you sort of go: “Well, Paea’s a beast.” But if you see a starting offensive tackle getting whipped by a junior what’s-his-name defensive end, you might wonder how he’ll do against, say, Ricky Elmore or Nick Perry.

Michael from Houston writes: I think that a lot of Oregon State fans are tired of reading about how dominant our defensive line looks. Last spring and fall, I constantly took in all the stories I could about how dominant the defensive line looked, yet we all know how poorly the sack total was for the defense last year. So here we are again with a new year, but with the same stories of dominance by the D-Line. At this point, I’m having a real hard time buying into this idea. I sorta feel like it’s déjà vu all over again. Is it truly possible to get a good take on a position (O-Line, D-Line, Secondary, etc) from Spring reports?

Ted Miller: The Beavers defensive line looks like a bunch of petunias.

Feel better?

Well, see above for some explanation. Does a dominate D-line suggest a weak O-line during spring? Which comes first, the chicken or the egg? If a tree falls in the woods, will it leave?

My impression from my one day at Oregon State is both Beavers lines should be better in 2010 than 2009. Paea is the Pac-10’s best defensive tackle and end Gabe Miller looks poised for a breakout. Obviously, the D-line would be better if end Matt LaGrone didn’t quit and the O-line will look better when it gets some guys back who are sitting out spring with injuries, including tackle Michael Philipp and guard Grant Johnson.

It’s possible, in fact, that the D-line looks so good because the O-line is beaten up.

But to your final question: You really don’t know how good a team is until it plays a real game. And recent history has taught us that Oregon State often takes four or five games to find itself anyway.

Jacob from Myrtle Point, Ore., writes: Ted Miller, pardon my informality, but you are the man!! This blog has kept me sane throughout the offseason, especially as a Duck fan. One quick question for you: can you use your powers to talk either Oregon or Oregon State into putting its Spring Game later/earlier in the day on May 1!? I know that the UO game is scheduled on ESPN2, and I could TIVO it and go to the OS game, but it just isn’t the same! I could go to the first part of the Beaver scrimmage then fly (no pun intended) up I-5 for the Duck game, but that really takes a hit on beverage choice. Miller, I ask your professional advice!! What should I do!?!?

Ted Miller: No, you’re the man.

Couple of ideas. First, you could replicate yourself. Not only could you be in two places at one time, but you could make a third and force him to be the designated driver.

You could buy a helicopter. Or a jet.

You could hire the Flash to carry you back and forth.

As for my professional take: It’s my responsibility to recommend against seeing both games, particularly if you plan to wear Ducks colors at Reser Stadium.

But your obsessiveness is certainly admirable.

Pac-10 lunch links: ASU’s Szakacsy gets involved in more than football

Walk along the river, sweet lullaby, it just keeps on flowing,

It don’t worry ’bout where it’s going, no, no.

Don’t fly, mister blue bird, I’m just walking down the road,

Early morning sunshine tell me all I need to know.

Headlinin': Dillon Baxter is still Kiffin’s Bush 2.0

Making the morning rounds.

Somebody get that kid’s parents a rent-free house. Hey everybody, check out Southern Cal freshman Dillon Baxter:

Wait, wait — actually, that’s former Trojan star Reggie Bush on one of his most famous runs in 2005, in a game against Fresno State in which he set a Pac-10 record with 513 all-purpose yards and essentially locked up the Heisman. Although new USC coach Lane Kiffin, Bush’s offensive coordinator in ’05 and explicit endorser of Baxter as the next "Next Reggie Bush," still doesn’t see much of a difference after Baxter stole the show during Saturday’s scrimmage with 94 yards on nine carries, 50 of those on a dazzling touchdown run that Kiffin didn’t hesitate to describe as like "Reggie versus Fresno." Maybe more impressive, considering Baxter’s crazy run came against mostly walk-ons in the secondary: Sophomore quarterback Matt Barkley hooked up with Ronald Johnson for two touchdowns, including a 70-yarder, and would have had an even better afternoon if not for a a few dropped passes. [Orange County Register]

Green out. Alabama safety Robby Green, a regular contributor (and sometime-starter) on last year’s dominant Tide defense in nickel packages, has been declared ineligible for the 2010 season for undisclosed reasons, costing ‘Bama yet another likely starter in an already attrition-racked secondary. The only remotely experienced player remaining in the back four is All-SEC safety Mark Barron, who’s also the only full-time starter back on the entire D. [Associated Press]

Dropping the hammer on sickle-cell. The NCAA is expected to vote this week on a proposal to make sickle-cell testing mandatory at all member schools in hopes of preventing further deaths during training. At least eight of 21 college players who have died in workouts over the last 10 years were known to carry the sickle-cell trait, a genetic disorder — found about eight times as often in blacks as in whites — which can disrupt blood flow. Somewhat surprisingly, the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America is ambivalent on the idea of testing, according to Dr. William Roberts, who told the New York Times he’d rather see a concerted effort to change the workouts" "There’s not any data that shows that screening can save lives. A lot of the kids who have died, they’ve known they have sickle-cell trait and they still run them to death. It should just be a change in the training program to protect everyone and not just the kids with sickle." [New York Times, via Ghetto Testimonial]

Badgers elect not to swoosh. The University of Wisconsin-Madison will cut all ties with Nike in protest of the apparel giant’s ongoing "labor issues with factories in Honduras," where 1,800 workers have argued they haven’t received more than $2 million in severance, among other charges of sweatshop tactics. Nike isn’t the Badgers’ major outfitter — that title already belongs to Adidas — but does sell licensed apparel (hats, t-shirts, etc.) that brought the school $49,000 last year. [Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel]

Today’s hypothetical conference expansion scenario … Based on nothing in particular except his finger in the air, the Miami Herald’s Joseph Goodman constructs a series of imaginary dominoes that ends with Miami and Florida State joining the SEC — along with Texas and Texas A&M on the other side — to create an unrivaled 16-team juggernaut that would likely put the ACC and Big 12 out of business as major football conferences and put even the 16-team Big Ten to shame. The cash-soaked Southern behemoth would then secede from the Union and dig in for a long war of attrition when Obama threatens its social and economic model by suggesting players get a cut of the profits. [Miami Herald]

Sexy Kiffin juggernaut, mobilize! Esquire, finally, has opened the voting on the second round of its "Sexiest Woman Alive" bracket, where USC coach Lane Kiffin looks to follow his first-round trouncing of top-seeded Natalie Gulbis with a much taller upset over NASCAR pioneer/GoDaddy.com spokesbabe Danica Patrick. It is your patriotic duty to vote early and often for Lane, whose legs hold the power to crash 100,000 horrified browsers. [Esquire.com]

Quickly … Minnesota linebacker Sam Maresh was held out of Saturday’s scrimmage after being cited for underage drinking for the second time in two weeks. … Ohio State kickers struggled on long field goals during the Buckeyes’ semi-annual "kick scrimmage." … USC quarterback Mitch Mustain empathizes with former teammate Aaron Corp’s decision to transfer to I-AA Richmond, but that didn’t help Corp’s rough afternoon in the Spiders’ spring game. … The Red River Shootout isn’t going anywhere. … A handful of Mexican coaches are getting some spread offense tips from Wyoming head coach Dave Christensen. … Georgia still has no idea who its starting quarterback is going to be. … And Woody Hayes still thinks you’re soft.

Headlinin': Bryce Brown won’t be Trojan-bound

Making the morning rounds.

Don’t you remember? That bridge burned. Just in case any of them were still hanging on to some shred of hope, the L.A. Daily News’ Scott Wolf disabused USC fans Tuesday of the notion that former über recruit Bryce Brown might follow coach Lane Kiffin from Tennessee to Southern Cal, citing an anonymous source who would be "shocked" if UT overcame the "frayed relations" over Kiffin’s departure long enough to sign any transfer papers on his behalf. Brown remains more likely to follow his brother, Arthur, home to Kansas State, and anyway, the Trojans have plenty of new five-star toys in the backfield already.
In the meantime, Kiffin’s first day was about tightening the clamps on the Trojans’ notoriously freewheeling practices, for star players and certain onlookers alike. [L.A. Daily News, Orange County Register]

Just helping out. Suspended Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli was the first player on the field Tuesday for the Ducks’ first day of spring practice, though he spent as much time rotating in at slot receiver as he did taking snaps, catching a few, dropping a few and seeming to have a good time of it for a guy who already knows he won’t see the field in the fall. The race to replace Masoli at quarterback began with senior Nate Costa taking reps with the first-team offense, but sophomore Darron Thomas had his turn with the starters, too. [The Oregonian]

Early bird get that worm. Sixteen-year-old cornerback Lonnie Ballentine will skip his senior year of high school to play for hometown Memphis, with whom he signed a letter of intent on Tuesday. Ballentine had planned to return to Southwind High and graduate in December, but he has the credits to leave early and allowed new coach Larry Porter to talk him into joining the Tigers despite the overtures of a handful of SEC suitors, including Tennessee and Alabama. [Memphis Commercial-Appeal]

Try, try again. Nate "Yes That Montana" Montana has apparently installed himself as Notre Dame’s No. 2 quarterback behind unquestioned starter Dayne Crist, an otherwise unremarkable headline until you read further: Montana, apparently feeling the weight of his famous last name, gave up football to focus basketball in high school, returned to the field serve as the third-string QB for a veer option team as a senior and was such an afterthought as a no-star walk-on under former Irish coach Charlie Weis that he decided to leave ND for a junior college. Back in South Bend this spring, he’s the only player in camp so far who’s compelled Kelly to break with his prohibition on the notion of a depth chart. [South Bend Tribune]

Quickly … Tommy Tuberville on social networking in recruiting. … Scouts weren’t exactly blown away by former Oklahoma State receiver Dez Bryant’s personal workout in Stillwater, but he likely won’t fall out of the top half of the first round. … Giving his new defensive coordinator a wide berth, Mark Richt is spending more time with Georgia’s quarterbacks this spring instead. … And at least we know who the NCAA should not hire to replace late president Myles Brand.

Trojans Headed For One Last Trip to the Desert

Southern California guard Mike Gerrity  is fouled by Oregon State guard Josh Tarver in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Feb. 27, 2010, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

More photos »

Alex Gallardo – AP

4 days ago:

Southern California guard Mike Gerrity is fouled by Oregon State guard Josh Tarver in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Feb. 27, 2010, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

28 games into the USC basketball season, the latest reports emerging from Galen Center unsurprisingly suggest that the current Trojans’ bunch may be undergoing some sort of burnout effect. With a shortened roster and a general lack of depth, this concept shouldn’t come as a big shock to most ‘SC fans. From the Los Angeles Times:

USC is said to be running on fumes. The truth is, the Trojans would be lucky to have any fumes left.

With a shallow bench and a roster that includes several players racking up minutes after not playing much last season, it’s evident the team is worn to the bone.

Coach Kevin O’Neill said that “tired shouldn’t be an excuse,” but he also admits that obstacles his players faced this year are a major factor in their current fatigue.

“The adversity and the constant having to overcome adversity takes a toll on guys who haven’t had to play major minutes before,” O’Neill said.

Senior guard Mike Gerrity had been going with the company line: that every player is tired at this point in the season. But he changed his tune Tuesday and said USC’s recent losses against Oregon and Oregon State came from something else.

“We lost focus in both these past couple games,” Gerrity said. “We had leads at halftime and we lost sight of what was getting us those leads.”

In some ways, fatigue is a reasonable excuse for this team’s recent troubles, but in the end, I’m not ready to go ahead and buy it. For one, the Trojans struggles have been on the offensive end – they shoot just 30.2% from beyond the arc and rank among the worst teams in all of Division 1 in terms of points per game. Most scouts will tell you that defense takes far more energy to play than offense so the idea that the team’s offensive performance is lagging due to exhaustion is a little tough for me to understand at this point. 

Furthermore, the Trojans’ effort hasn’t entirely been consistent. Why does the fatigue only kick in for games against the conference’s bottom feeders – Oregon, Oregon State, and  Washington State. It looked like the effort was certainly there against Washington in Seattle and Cal at Galen Center. Something doesn’t match up exactly.

Surprisingly, O’Neill acknowledged the the team may be wearing down this week and that if may be negatively impacting the team’s recent performance. From Scott Wolf’s blog:

“Basically we are a little fried as a team,” said O’Neill. “I don’t know how we will react over these last two games being that we really have nothing to play for like the Pac-10 Tournament of anything like that.”    

Yet, even with the season winding down, USC has one final road trip left to Arizona on the horizon, where they will aim to finish the year on a positive note. It’s going to be tough for these to get motivated to play in these games, considering that Cal has already won the Pac-10 regular season title and there is no Pac-10 tournament for ‘SC. Yet, with three important seniors in Mike Gerrity, Marcus Johnson, and Dwight Lewis, on the roster, it would be nice to see them play well over the final stretch run. 

Additionally, the trip to the Valley of the Sun, will also mark Kevin O’Neill’s return to Arizona, where he once coach for the Wildcats for one season back in 2008. Of course, O’Neill has been downplaying its significance:

“To me it’s just another game against a quality team. I have great respect for Arizona and their tradition. I loved my time in Tucson, but it’s just another game. It’s unfortunately our last game of the year, but it’s just another outing.”  

Nonetheless, this season is just about all wrapped up, and as a result, most of the Trojan faithful is already taking a quick glance at the future. And as it looks now, that future appears to be pretty bright. 

That is because, the Trojans recently got its first verbal commitment from the class of 2012 – 6’2″ combo guard Larry Lewis of Arcadia High School in Phoenix, Arizona according to WeAreSC.com:

Lewis verbally committed to the Trojans on Tuesday night, after sitting down with his mother and AAU coach, Jeff De Laveaga.  The 6-2 guard had unofficially visited the Trojans several weeks ago and felt that experience, coupled with strong pushes from USC assistant coach Bob Cantu and head coach Kevin O’Neill, was enough to make him a Trojan.

“Larry wanted to get it done,” De Laveaga said of the recruiting process, adding that Lewis chose USC for the location, the education and the chance to play as a freshman.  “He had a great time on his unofficial visit.  He said it was a great campus, with great facilities and he loved the staff.”

Though Lewis currently stands at 6-2, he’s projected to hit 6-4 by the time he’s done growing, which may take several more years considering his age.  Lewis will graduate at 17 and won’t turn 18 until he’s enrolled at USC.

With Jio Fontant becoming eligible to play next December, along with the arrivals of Bryce Jones in 2010 and Gelaun Wheelwright in 2011, Kevin O’Neill looks to have a formidable backcourt for years to come.

Trojans Shock Huskies 67-64

KO 21910.jpg
(Photo by Icon Sports Media)

USC (16-9, 8-5 Pac-10) upset the Huskies (17-9, 7-7) at home last night 67-64. This was only the second time Washington had lost at home this season. Dwight Lewis led all scorers with 22 points, 16 in the first half. The Trojans are now only a half game back of Cal for first place in the Pac-10.

No one expected anything from the Trojans this season after losing Taj Gibson, DeMar DeRozan and Daniel Hackett to professional basketball. This year has been a pleasant surprise and a majority of the praise must go to coach Kevin O’Neill. It is very disappointing this team won’t get an opportunity to play in the post season, but with O’Neill running the program the future looks bright.

USC next game is at Washington State on Saturday at 2 p.m.

Southern Cal 67, Washington 64 [espn]

What to watch in the Pac-10 this spring

Taking a look at what to watch for as teams head into spring practices, officially ringing the bell on preparations for the 2010 season.


Spring practice starts: March 5

Spring game: April 10

What to watch:

The new coordinators: The Wildcats lost two outstanding coordinators — Sonny Dykes on offense and Mark Stoops on defense — and decided to replace them with four guys. Tim Kish, promoted from linebackers coach, and Greg Brown, hired away from Colorado, will run the defense, while Bill Bedenbaugh and Seth Littrell, both promoted from within, will run the offense, with an assist from new quarterbacks coach Frank Scelfo. These guys will need to develop a coaching rhythm this spring that will ensure things go smoothly in the fall.

The JC linebackers: The Wildcats must replace three starting linebackers, and JC transfers Derek Earls and Paul Vassallo weren’t brought in to watch. If they step into starting spots, then guys like sophomore Jake Fischer, redshirt freshman Trevor Erno and redshirt freshman Cordarius Golston can fight over the third spot and add depth.

Foles 2.0: Quarterback Nick Foles was dynamic when he was on last year, but the shutout loss in the Holiday Bowl served as a reminder that he’s not there yet. He’s going to be surrounded by a lot of weapons at the skill positions, so he should be able to take another step forward this spring, even with the loss of Dykes.

Arizona State

Spring practice starts: March 30

Spring game: April 24

What to watch:

The QB battle: It’s a wide-open battle between Michigan transfer Steven Threet and Brock Osweiler, though the new guy — Threet — is perhaps the most intriguing. Samson Szakacsy was supposed to join the battle, but his elbow problem is acting up again, coach Dennis Erickson said Thursday. The competition will be overseen by new offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone, who’s been handed an offense that has sputtered the past two seasons.

O-line issues (take 3): The Sun Devils’ offensive line has struggled three years running, and it won’t matter who starts at QB if the unit continues to get pushed around. First off, is health. Will Matt Hustad, Zach Schlink, Garth Gerhart, Mike Marcisz and Adam Tello be ready to battle the entire spring? If so, there should be good competition here, particularly with a couple of JC transfers looking to break through.

The secondary: The Sun Devils were very good against the pass last year, but three starters in the secondary need to be replaced. Both starting corners are gone — though if Omar Bolden successfully returns from a knee injury he should step in on one side — as well as strong safety Ryan McFoy. The good news is a number of guys saw action here last fall, so the rebuilt unit won’t be completely green.


Spring practice starts: March 6

Spring game: N/A

What to watch:

Embattled Riley: When things go well, the quarterback often gets too much credit. When things go badly… well, you know. Senior Kevin Riley has started 22 games and has played well at times. But there’s a reason he’s in a quarterback competition for a third consecutive season. Will he be able to hold off a rising Beau Sweeney this spring?

Rebuilding the D: The Bears had questions on defense even before coordinator Bob Gregory unexpectedly bolted for Boise State. Five starters need to be replaced, including mainstays like end Tyson Alualu and cornerback Syd’Quan Thompson, both first-team All-Pac-10 performers. And with Gregory gone, a new — likely more aggressive scheme — now must be incorporated.

RB depth: Shane Vereen is the obvious starter after the departure of Jahvid Best, but Cal has, during the Tedford years, always used two backs. So who’s the No. 2? Sophomore Covaughn DeBoskie was third on the team with 211 yards rushing last year, while promising freshman Dasarte Yarnway redshirted. One or the other will look to create separation.


Spring practice starts: March 30

Spring game: May 1

What to watch:

The D-line: The Ducks lost perennially underrated end Will Tukuafu, tackle Blake Ferras and backup Simi Toeaina up front. Considering the plan is to run an eight-deep rotation, there will be plenty of opportunities for players like ends Terrell Turner and Taylor Hart and tackles Anthony Anderson, Zac Clark, Wade Keliikipi as well as 6-foot-7 JC transfer Isaac Remington to work their way into the rotation.

The passing game: The Ducks’ passing game was inconsistent last year, though by season’s end receiver Jeff Maehl was playing at a high level. Refining that part of the offense with quarterback Jeremiah Masoli would make the spread-option even more dangerous. The receiving corps is looking for playmakers, which means youngsters, such as redshirt freshman Diante Jackson, might break through.

Who steps in for Ed Dickson? Oregon only loses one starter on offense, but tight end Ed Dickson is a big one. David Paulson was a capable backup last year, and mercurial Malachi Lewis may be ready to step up. Expect JC transfer Brandon Williams to work his way into the mix.

Oregon State

Spring practice starts: March 29

Spring game: May 1

What to watch:

Katz steps in: Sean Canfield is off to the NFL, so the Beavers’ biggest question this spring is crowning a new starting quarterback. Most observers feel the job is Ryan Katz‘s to lose, and the sophomore looks good throwing the rock around. Still, being a quarterback is about more than a good arm. If he falters, Virginia transfer Peter Lalich might offer an alternative.

Better defensive pressure: The Beavers run a high-pressure defensive scheme, so when the stat sheet says they only recorded 17 sacks in 2009, which ranked ninth in the conference and was 22 fewer than in 2008, you know something is wrong. The entire defensive line is back, so the hope is a year of seasoning, particularly for ends Gabe Miller, Matt LaGrone and Kevin Frahm will mean better production this fall.

The O-line grows up: The Beavers’ offensive line returns four starters from a unit that got better as the year went on. Still, it yielded 29 sacks and the run game struggled at times — Jacquizz Rodgers often had to make yards on his own. Talented left tackle Michael Philipp, who did a solid job as a true freshman starter, should be much improved. A second year playing together with underrated senior center Alex Linnenkohl also should help.


Spring practice starts: March 1

Spring game: April 17

What to watch:

Replacing Toby: How do you replace Toby Gerhart and his 1,871 yards and 28 touchdowns? You do not. But the hope is sophomores Tyler Gaffney and Stepfan Taylor and senior Jeremy Stewart will provide a solid answer that keeps the Cardinal’s power-running game churning. It helps to have four starters back from a good offensive line.

Rebuilding the D: If you toss in linebacker Clinton Snyder and end Erik Lorig, Stanford must replace six defensive starters from a unit that ranked near the bottom of the conference in 2009. The secondary is a particular concern after giving up 23 touchdown passes and a 63 percent completion rate. The hope is good recruiting from coach Jim Harbaugh will provide better athleticism in the back-half. Another issue: There was huge coaching turnover, particularly on defense during the offseason, so new coordinator Vic Fangio & Co. will be implementing new schemes and learning about what sort of talent they have to work with.

Luck steps up: This was Gerhart’s team in 2009. Now it’s Luck’s. He might be the most talented QB in the conference. Heck, he might become a Heisman Trophy candidate before he’s done. But life won’t be as easy without defenses crowding the line of scrimmage because they are fretting about Gerhart. Luck will need to step up his game — and leadership — to meet the challenge.


Spring practice starts: April 1

Spring game: April 24

What to watch:

Prince becomes king? The fact that offensive coordinator Norm Chow has been such an advocate for sophomore quarterback Kevin Prince should tell you something: He’s got the ability. Prince flashed some skills during an injury-plagued 2009 season, and it’s important to remember he was a redshirt freshman playing with an questionable supporting cast, particularly the O-line. Prince needs to improve his decision-making, and the passing game needs to develop a big-play capability that stretches defenses.

Front seven rebuilding: UCLA not only must replace six starters on defense, it must replace six guys everyone in the Pac-10 has heard of. And five of the lost starters come from the front seven, and the guys who were listed as backups on the 2009 depth chart won’t necessarily inspire confidence. In other words, the Bruins will try to take a step forward in the conference with what figures to be an extremely green defense, particularly up front.

The running game? Know what would help Prince and a young defense? A better running game. The Bruins were significantly better in 2009 than in 2008, but that merely means one of the worst rushing attacks in the nation moved up to ninth in the conference. There’s a logjam of options at running back — with a couple of dynamic runners in the incoming recruiting class — and the offensive line welcomes back a wealth of experience. It would mean a lot if the Bruins could boost their rushing total to around 150 yards per game (from 114.6 in 2009).


Spring practice starts: April 31

Spring game: TBA

What to watch:

Welcome, Lane Kiffin: The Pete Carroll era is over. Enter Lane Kiffin & Co. In terms of scheme, things will be fairly consistent, seeing that Kiffin was formerly Carroll’s offensive coordinator and Monte Kiffin was Carroll’s defensive mentor. But there will be a period of adjustment. The guess is the hyper-intense Ed Orgeron might provide a bit of a shock to the D-linemen.

Barkley Year 2: Barkley won’t have the president of his fan club — Carroll — around anymore. He’s a true talent. Everyone knows that, even without Carroll’s daily sonnets about his ability. But the numbers show he threw 14 interceptions in 12 games vs. 15 TD passes last year, so he’s obviously not arrived. Kiffin runs the offense, so you can expect these two to work closely together. Barkley will have plenty of help on offense, but the talent won’t be as good as it was in 2009, with six starters needing to be replaced, including his top two targets (receiver Damian Williams and tight end Anthony McCoy).

Secondary questions: All four starters from the defensive backfield are gone, including center fielder Taylor Mays. It helps that cornerback Shareece Wright, an academic casualty in 2009, will be back. He was a projected starter last fall. There’s plenty of talent on hand, but last year’s team proved that the Trojans don’t always just plug-and-play.


Spring practice starts: March 30

Spring game: April 30

What to watch:

Unleashing Locker: The return of quarterback Jake Locker was the best news any Pac-10 team received this offseason. Locker’s passing improved dramatically in just one year under coach Steve Sarkisian, so it’s not unreasonable to expect him to be even better in 2010, particularly with nine starters back on offense and just about every skill player on the depth chart.

Replacing Te’o-Nesheim: Daniel Te’o-Nesheim was a four-year starter who blossomed into an All-Pac-10 performer despite almost no supporting cast. He led the Huskies with 11 sacks in 2009, which was 8.5 more than any other player. Also, opposite end Darrion Jones is gone, and the cast at the position is extremely young. Who’s the next pass-rushing threat?

The Butler did it: Linebacker Donald Butler blossomed last year, earning second-team All-Pac-10 honors and leading the Huskies in tackles and tackles for loss (15.5). Toss in E.J. Savannah’s failure to earn a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA, and the Huskies have some questions at linebacker. Mason Foster is a sure thing at one outside position, and Cort Dennison likely will fill a second gap, but there’s an opportunity for a young player to fill void No. 3.

Washington State

Spring practice starts: March 25

Spring game: April 24

What to watch:

Tuel time: Coach Paul Wulff decided that freshman Jeff Tuel was the Cougars’ quarterback of the future last year, so he opted to start him instead of going with a redshirt season. Tuel showed promise in six games, completing 59 percent of his passes with six touchdowns and five picks. Most of his supporting cast is back on offense, so the expectation is the Cougars’ offense could take a significant step forward this fall.

O-line intrigue: Some of the Cougars starting on the offensive line last fall didn’t look like Pac-10 players. Injuries and youth made the line a glaring area of weakness, even with veteran Kenny Alfred at center. Alfred is gone, but the expectations are that last year’s youth will be saltier after taking their knocks. Plus, a couple of juco additions should be in the mix for starting jobs.

Growing up: There is hope in that 19 starters are back from a team that played a lot of underclassmen in 2009. That youth should mature in 2010. And solid recruiting classes the past two seasons should offer an infusion of young promise.