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Pac 10 Spring College Football Practice Update

College football players started reporting for spring practices over the past few weeks, meaning it’s time to take a look at the programs and see what we can expect in the fall. Let’s start by taking a look at the teams in the Pac 10 and then be sure to take a look at our 2010 NCAA football preview. See something you like or dislike in the Pac 10 spring update? Be sure to discuss it on one of the many great Pac 10 forums listed in our NCAA message board directory.

 

Arizona

  • It was an offseason that featured major turnover in Tucson. After back to back bowl seasons, both coordinators left for greener pastures, OC Sonny Dykes to become Louisiana Tech’s head coach and DC Mark Stoops to run Jimbo Fischer’s defense at Florida State. While Head Coach Mike Stoops knows how to run a defense, that’s a ton of turnover, especially in a year where he has to replace seven starters on defense.

  • The biggest position of concern for Arizona’s veteran offense is the offensive line, where there is not significant depth behind the starters, four of whom will be seniors in 2010. A full season of health is paramount to the Wildcats’ success this fall and with virtually no underclassmen ready to contribute, it appears that recruiting at the position in the past few years hasn’t lived up to expectations.

  • Rising sophomore linebacker Jake Fischer impressed the coaches with his football intelligence and toughness this spring and appears in line to start at one of the three open linebacker positions. Fischer was called “a tough nut, a little bit of a throwback” (Arizona Daily Star) by new co-Defensive Coordinator Tim Kush.

Arizona State

  • Junior cornerback Omar Bolden had a huge camp, showing no carryover from a 2009 knee injury while being perhaps the most athletic player on the field. Expect Bolden to form a strong corner tandem with LeQuan Lewis, who was also very impressive before suffering a minor hand injury that won’t keep him out of fall camp.

  • While most pundits believed that Georgia Tech/Michigan transfer Steven Threet would be ASU’s best option under center, sophomore Brock Osweiler turned heads with his advanced grasp of the Sun Devil offense and made a serious push for playing time. Expect a very interesting battle in fall camp but Osweiler is now the favorite to start.

  • Redshirt freshman Evan Finkenberg made a serious bid for playing time at tackle this spring and finished up atop the depth chart heading into the fall. His emergence was a needed blessing after losing starting guard Jon Hargis to a knee injury that will cost him the 2010 season and practicing for long periods of time without four other projected major contributors.

California

  • Camp was on lockdown this spring in Berkeley as Head Coach Jeff Tedford decided to conduct his camp largely outside of the glare of the cameras. While this might have been a good idea to lower expectations after falling short last season, it won’t make it easy to figure out how this team progressed in camp.

  • Senior Quarterback Kevin Riley has been a target for Cal fans’ anger throughout his career under center. However, indications are that he’s distanced himself from all supposed challengers and has been doing the little things it takes to be successful. Only time will tell, however, if Riley has truly turned the corner in his decision-making in the passing game.

  • Cal should have much stronger special teams this fall after placing a major emphasis on the kicking game. Punter Bryan Anger performed well in pressure drills and kicker Giorgio Tavecchio asserted himself in both kickoffs and field goals. Expect this focus on the kicking game to bear fruit in the fall.

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Oregon

  • Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve read about the difficulties that Oregon has endured off the field this offseason. Sophomore tailback LaMichael James will be suspended for the first game of the year, one of a number of players who were either suspended or outright thrown off the time. But the biggest blow was losing starting QB Jeremiah Masoli for the season after theft-related allegations.

  • The battle to replace Masoli won’t be decided until the fall but Head Coach Chip Kelly should have two solid options to choose from as sophomore Darron Thomas and senior Nate Costa, both of whom were strong during the Spring. Costa and Thomas have embraced the competition and are expected to be the offense’s co-leaders during the summer conditioning period.

  • Oregon made some disappointing noises about having their offensive signals stolen by Ohio State in the Rose Bowl. Without directly accusing the Buckeyes, multiple Ducks insinuated that their second-lowest point total of the season was more of a product of Buckeye subterfuge than defensive excellence. This writer would like to directly accuse the Ducks of Sour Grapes and encourage them to change their signs this fall.

  • Former receiver Dion Jordan was a shocking development this spring as he moved to defensive end and turned into a pass-rushing terror seemingly overnight. Defensive coordinator Nick Allioti raved about Jordan’s potential, saying, “He’s the surprise of spring camp.” (Ted Miller, ESPN) Expect Jordan to play a big role terrorizing QBs this fall.

Oregon State

  • While Oregon State has a ton of returning talent, they had two disappointing setbacks when starting linebacker David Pa’aluhi and defensive end Matt LaGrone both quit the team. Losing two starters from a veteran team that could potentially challenge for the Pac Ten might have been a devastating blow were it not for the emergence of some surprise talent.

  • The breakout star of Spring was sophomore defensive end Taylor Henry, who notched four sacks during the Beaver Spring Game. Expect Henry to step into LaGrone’s shoes with ease this fall as a staple on the D-Line.

  • Ryan Katz locked down the #1 quarterback position this Spring despite an inconsistent showing in the Spring Game. The rising sophomore was universally praised for his play throughout and is the heir apparent to the departed Sean Canfield under center.

  • A major point of pride during the Spring was the play of the secondary, which fit the definition of ‘ball hawking’ during the Spring Game. Cornerbacks Brandon Hardin and James Dockery were both universally praised and there appear to be three or four safeties that could realistically play at a high level in the fall. Expect the Beavers to do very well in pass coverage in 2010.

Southern California

  • The biggest concern in the Spring for the Trojans had to be the health of their offensive line, as only six players remained healthy throughout practice. Even with the eventual arrival of #1 overall prospect Seantrel Henderson, USC looks to have no more than eight linemen that could see the field, a major concern in a program famous for its depth.

  • Quarterback provided more drama than expected in the Spring, as sophomore Matt Barkley injured his hand while following through on a pass in SC’s final scrimmage. This came as senior Mitch Mustain was busy throwing for 300 yards and 5 touchdowns. While new coach Lane Kiffin has continually stated that Barkley is the starter, any lingering injury concerns in his hand combined with Mustain’s performance could cause some drama in Tinseltown at SC’s most visible position.

  • While the Trojans have a ton of depth at tailback, early enrolling freshman Dillon Baxter displayed uncanny shiftiness and great speed while earning rave reviews for his performance. Expect Baxter to play a major role in the Trojan offense this fall in a limited role that could be reminiscent of former star Reggie Bush.

  • One major concern that was repeated throughout the Spring was a lack of depth at a number of key positions, namely linebacker, defensive back and offensive line. If USC can’t stay healthy in the fall, it could lead to another late season struggle in Kiffin’s first year back in L.A.

 



Stanford

  • Shane Skov is a name well-known to recruitniks and his play in the Spring solidified the rising sophomore’s spot as one of Stanford’s starting linebackers. Skov played his way into the lineup late last year and was dominant in camp, earning the nickname “The Predator” after the fearsome alien film franchise. Expect Skov to be one of the Pac Ten’s best defensive players this year.

  • Replacing Heisman runner up Toby Gerhart at tailback will be delegated to a committee of runners. Alex Debniak, Usua Amanam and Jeremy Stewart appear to be the top three heading into fall camp but the position is truly wide open.

  • Expect a lot of Gerhart’s production to be absorbed by redshirt sophomore QB Andrew Luck, who is widely considered one of the top passers in the entire country. Luck only threw one incompletion in the Spring Game and has a myriad of weapons at his disposal. Stanford’s running back concerns mixed with Luck’s talent could equate to the Cardinal producing the conference’s top passing attack in 2010.

UCLA

  • While the linebacker position featured major competition at all three spot this Spring, only Akeem Ayers solidified a starting spot. That leaves Steve Sloan and Patrick Larimore to battle over the MLB spot and Glen Love and Sean Westgate to compete for the Weakside spot. Both the ‘Mike’ and ‘Will’ positions will be decided in fall camp.

  • A major focus for UCLA was finding a way to replace 2009 Pac Ten Defensive Player of the Year Brian Price’s production on the line. Replacing Price, who was a 2 nd round pick in the NFL draft, will be a group effort as D-Line coach Todd Howard moved his players up and down the line, taking advantage of the versatility of the six players he singled out as ready to play, especially tackle Nate Chandler, who could play both DT and DE this fall. Still, a lack of depth is a major concern in Westwood.

  • While sophomore Kevin Prince had a tough Spring Game, his performance in practice implementing the new ‘Revolver’ offense was enough to solidify his spot atop the depth chart entering fall camp. Staying healthy is his primary concern after being banged up in 2009 but he’ll be asked to run a lot more this year, which won’t help soothe the durability concerns of the Bruin faithful.

  • Tailback Derrick Coleman is listed at #1 on the depth chart after jumping Johnathan Franklin and Milton Knox. Coleman capped off a strong camp by rushing for 64 yards and a TD on only 6 carries in the Spring Game. With depth at RB and a new run-based offense, expect UCLA to be dangerous on the ground.

Washington

  • Quarterback got a lot of publicity in the Spring, as senior Jake Locker is widely considered to be one of the best in the nation, earning comparisons to Carson Palmer from the Husky coaching staff. But Locker wasn’t the only famous QB to make a splash as early enrollee Nick Montana conjured images of his legendary dad with solid play all Spring and he could emerge as Washington’s backup QB this fall and Locker’s heir apparent.

  • While a few high-profile Huskies sat out the Spring game (Chris Polk, Kalani Aldrich, Jermaine Kearse, among others), the best news coming out of Seattle was that there were no major injuries and UW should be 100% healthy entering the fall. In a league that suffered some major injuries this spring, that’s fantastic news.

  • Safety should be an improved position this fall as Will Shamburger progressed in a major way and is expected to start next to sophomore Nate Fellner. The duo was singled out by Defensive Coordinator Nick Holt upon conclusion of camp.

  • Holt also feels that his defensive line depth should be much improved with the returns of Kalani Aldrich and Evrette Thompson, both of whom were held out of spring to recover from injury, in the fall. Along with rising youngster Cameron Elisara, Holt was confident that his team would find the depth to field a solid D-Line.

Washington State

  • Despite Head Coach Paul Wulff’s best efforts to create a competition at quarterback, the most open ‘secret’ of camp was that Jeff Tuel was the Cougars’ clear-cut starter under center. Tuel, noticeably bigger and stronger, displayed a significantly better grasp of the offense than challenger Marshall Lobbestael and will be the starting quarterback this fall.

  • Tuel will need his newfound strength playing behind a line that encountered difficulties with injury and their new scheme this spring. Starters Andrew Roxas and Zack Williams both missed significant time and virtually every lineman expected to contribute was banged up at some point, making new line coach Steve Morton’s implementation of his system chaotic at best.

  • Expect the WSU offense to avoid huddling for the majority of the 2010 season. Wulff wants an up-temp offense and this group didn’t huddle once during the Spring Game. Expect to see a lot of calls changed after players line up and read the defense.

  • Defensively, the secondary is wide open but the front seven appears relatively set. With little depth up front, expect the starting four of Travis Long, Brandon Rankin, Bernard Wolfgramm and Kevin Kooyman to see a ton of snaps. However, keep an eye on Sekope Kaufusi, who can play a hybrid end/backer position that hasn’t been seen in Pullman in recent years.


 

By Matt Baxendell
CollegeSports-fans.com Staff Writer

 

 


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