Pac-12: Oregon State Beavers
Malik Lovette commits to Oregon
Lovette’s head coach, Kurt Bruich, offered his congratulations to his star athlete, who committed to Oregon while on an official visit. The commitment didn't come as much of a shock, and Oregon continues to stockpile talent in the offensive backfield, as Lovette teams with fellow ESPN 300 running back Taj Griffin to give the Ducks a potent duo.
Congrats to @MalikLovette for verbally committing to the University of Oregon! He's going to be a great Duck! The kid can fly!— Kurt Bruich (@CoachBruich) August 31, 2014
2016 talent takes in big USC win
KJ Costello and ESPN 300 wide receiver Tyler Vaughns are pictured above, and there was plenty more junior talent in attendance. Cornerback C.J. Polland, athlete Brandon Burton and linebackers Darrian Franklin and Blake Walls were a few other 2016 ESPN 300 prospects in attendance.
Trojans make solid first impression under Sarkisian
(Pause again, for laughter)
(Pause, again, still for more laughter)
UCLA head coach Jim Mora had just been asked a purely-for-fun, purely-hypothetical question: What if UCLA and USC had to play in Week 1?
“I don’t think it would be a good deal,” Mora said. “You want the drama to build. I don’t know what it would be like. I never thought of that. [Pause for laughter, again]. It would make for an interesting off season. You’d have a whole lot of time to talk about it rather than just a week. Heck, I don’t know.”
And make no mistake -- this is a rivalry game. This will be the 86th game in the series (the Buffs lead 62-21-2), which has been played off and on since 1893 and annually since 1995 (the longest gap was between ’58 to ’83).
It doesn’t matter that Colorado is in the Pac-12 and Colorado State is in the Mountain West. This game is as heated as it gets.
“We think of this as a traditional rivalry, no doubt about it,” said Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre. “You hear about it every day. Everybody is up and down Interstate 25, and CU fans and CSU fans run into each other. The kids know each other. The coaches know each other because we speak at different clinics and run into each other all of the time.”
Colorado State got win No. 1 for coach Jim McElwain in 2012 with a 22-17 victory. A year later, the MacIntyre era kicked off with a 41-27 victory.
“The pros of it are it’s a big, heightened game,” MacIntyre said. “It keeps your kids on their toes. They hear about it all the time. It makes it a little more special. All opening games are special. But this puts an extra flavor to it, so to speak.”
That got the Pac-12 blog to thinking … simply for extra flavor … what if every rivalry game in the league was played in Week 1. What would the storylines be?
- Territorial Cup: New Arizona QB faces new ASU D as RichRod looks for first win in rivalry.
- The Big Game: Bear Raid looks to get off the mat against two-time conference champs.
- The Civil War: Potential first-round picks Marcus Mariota and Sean Mannion duel in opener.
- UCLA-USC: Oh jeez … can you imagine USC and UCLA squaring off Saturday after the week the Trojans have had? This one writes itself.
- The Apple Cup: Chris Petersen’s Washington debut against the Cougs.
Look, we know this isn’t ever going to happen. But it’s fun to think about the possibilities. Right?
“Oh, we wouldn’t like that. I wouldn’t like that at all,” said Arizona State coach Todd Graham, [OK, guess not]. “I’m a fan. I don’t want to start the season off with a rivalry game. We love that being at the end of the season for our fans.”
The consensus was that if the rivalry game was in Week 1, so be it, the coaches would prepare per usual. But it just wouldn’t feel the same.
“One year we played Hawaii after [we played Oregon] at the end of the year and that felt funny,” said Oregon State coach Mike Riley. “It would definitely make for an interesting start to the season.”
Because the CSU-CU game is an out-of-conference showdown, the thought is that this game is best played before league play cranks up. And that makes sense.
“Late in the conference, you’re worried about conference games and getting to the conference championship game,” MacIntyre said.” I think playing it early in the year is a good thing for both of us.”
So, no. Pac-12 rivalries should not be played in Week 1. But the tradition works for the Colorado folks so don’t mess with it. It will make for a fun debut Friday night and add some sizzle to a Week 1 slate that doesn’t have a ton of gusto.
And we can all get on board with Graham: “That game is the game for us. You can win 11 games and lose that one and have an unsuccessful season. You could lose 11 and win that one and have a successful season. That’s how big that game is for us. I kind of like it where it’s at.”
Saturday, when the Beavers take on Portland State, Oregon State defensive end Obum Gwacham -- who’s currently listed as the back up right end behind Dylan Wynn -- has the opportunity to answer that question.
Typically the people who find the end zone and the ones who take quarterbacks to the ground are not the same people. For the past three seasons, Gwacham has been a slot receiver for the Beavers. But he wasn’t heavily used due to other players stepping up and a few nagging injuries. He appeared in 38 games and only caught 11 passes for 165 yards and one touchdown, which triggered the move to the defensive line.
And with the move, and his one touchdown catch in hand, he could move into a select group who knows which is better -- TD or sack? There are actually quite a few guys who could help Gwacham find the answer.
Since 2000, there have been 96 players who’ve both recorded a touchdown reception and tallied a sack during their college careers (starting with the 2000 season) according to ESPN Stats & Information. In the Pac-12, over that same time span, there have been 12 players to accomplish both. And at Oregon State? There has only been one other -- Gabe Miller.
Like Miller, several of those players who were able to accomplish both were tight ends. The transition from tight end to defensive end seems a bit more manageable and one that makes a certain amount of sense. But to go from slot to pass-rusher? That’s a bit more difficult.
Oregon State defensive line coach Joe Seumalo first brought up the idea last season and knew that if Gwacham committed to changing his diet and exercise routines, that he’d be able to successfully make the transition to the other side of the ball -- and into the trenches -- by the fall.
This meant that Gwacham needed to spend more time with strength and conditioning coach Bryan Miller, who stressed one principle: Don’t panic.
“If they’re a good athlete, if they have good genetics, if they take care of going through the steps in a logical manner, it should happen,” Miller said. “When people hit the panic button … a lot of times it backfires.”
Lucky for Miller, Gwacham had the athletic ability, genetics and level head to take the process step-by-step.
Breakfast, Miller explained, was the most critical because it’s so easy for most people -- especially tired, college athletes -- to skip breakfast. Then, Gwacham needed to make sure he was eating immediately after the workout and then another solid meal 45 minutes after the workouts. Those foods don’t even account for big, nutritious lunches and dinner, plus a high-caloric snack before bed.
“The whole process of gaining weight,” Miller said, “is you being uncomfortably full at every meal. A lot of people go to dinner and eat a big dinner and think, ‘Oh my, I’m so full,’ but you look at the rest of the meals through the day and it was nothing. They have to do that at every meal.”
On top of that, he needed to do fewer speed workouts and more lifting.
After focusing on those elements through the winter, the spring season wasn’t as bad as he thought it would be, Gwacham said. He was able to hold his ground for the most part even though he was lined up against offensive linemen who were pushing 300 pounds. Meanwhile, Gwacham’s body -- still moving up the scale -- was south of those numbers, sometimes by nearly 75 pounds.
“I kind of thought of it as: as a receiver, I was always going up against a DB -- you’ve got to give them a move and try to get by them,” Gwacham said. “It’s almost similar with playing D-end. The guy you’re going up against is a little bigger, he could be a little quicker but I feel like I’m more athletic and I think I’m faster than them so I have to use what I have to work to go against them.”
Last March, Gwacham weighed in at 220 pounds with 7.1 percent body fat. In July, he finished at 240 pounds and just 7.9 percent body fat, meaning he gained 19.4 pounds of muscle.
Miller said he has seen players gain more weight than Gwacham was asked to gain, but the fact that he retained his speed and explosiveness through the whole process is incredibly impressive.
Whether the payoff is worth it or not will show itself this season. As a wide receiver, he only scored one touchdown. But on Saturday, he’ll line up in the trenches for the first time. And maybe after he faces Portland State quarterback Kieran McDonagh, he’ll be able to really know whether it’s more satisfying to score a touchdown or take down a signal caller.
“It’s hard to rank them,” Gwacham said. “After that first sack, I guess we’ll see.”
But don’t forget the talent the league has at running back, too. The run game, after all, is what opens up the passing lanes for the signal-callers.
The 1,000-yard mark has acted as a benchmark for backs for years, so, how many Pac-12 rushers (for fun, let's include QBs) will hit the mark in 2014?
Byron Marshall (1,038). Only one of those guys, Marshall, returns in 2014, and even he is listed in a three-way battle for the starting RB spot at Oregon with Thomas Tyner and Royce Freeman.
In 2012 and 2010 there were six 1,000-yard rushers, and in 2011 there were seven. So what exactly will 2014 bring us?
Oregon has its three-headed monster (in addition to quarterback Marcus Mariota, who rushed for 715 yards last season). Will one or two emerge and become 1,000-yard backs? Or will they split carries, gain major yardage together and not have a single guy hit that mark? Could go either way.
USC has Buck Allen and Justin Davis and Tre Madden. ASU has D.J. Foster. Utah has Bubba Poole. Could Stanford’s Barry Sanders follow in his dad’s footsteps? Or will it be Kelsey Young who steals the show at Stanford? UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley accounted for 748 rushing yards last season. Could he add a few more long runs and hit the mark? What about one of his backs, such as Jordon James or Paul Perkins?
Colorado is pretty deep, Washington has options, and Oregon State says its run game is much improved.
With all those guys, how many 1,000-yard rushers will we actually see? History says it can range greatly. But what say you?
Name: Sean Mannion
School: Oregon State
2013 passing stats: Completed 400 of 603 attempts (66.3 percent) for 4,662 yards with 37 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. Posted a raw QBR of 68.5 and an adjusted QBR of 74.1.
2013 rushing stats: Rushed 34 times for minus-223 yards and no touchdowns.
Career rushing stats: Has rushed 84 times for minus-498 yards and one touchdown.
Mannion on Twitter
What you need to know about Mannion: By the time he ends his career as a four-year starter, he’ll be one of the most accomplished quarterbacks in league history. That's impressive, considering the rocky start to his career. He split time with Ryan Katz in 2011 as the Beavers opened that season with a loss to Sacramento State and then got thumped a week later by Wisconsin. It was in the third game against UCLA that Mannion was named the sole starter. In 2013, he set the league’s single-season passing record with 4,662 yards and needs just 1,436 more yards to pass Matt Barkley as the Pac-12’s all-time leading passer. He already owns 11 Oregon State passing records.
Career high point: While not his most impressive game statistically (he’s had seven games with at least four passing touchdowns), the Pac-12 blog thought he showed great poise in 2012 in a 27-20 victory over a surging No. 19 UCLA team at the Rose Bowl on Sept. 22, 2012. He threw a pair of touchdowns and one interception, completing 24 of 35 passes for 379 yards. Afterward, coach Mike Riley called it an important game for Mannion’s development and maturity. That would prove to only be partially true as injuries and a quarterback debate took center stage in 2012.
Career low point: Losing to a rival stinks. Losing to a rival and playing poorly stinks even more. In the 2012 Civil War – a 48-24 loss to the Ducks -- Mannion had just one touchdown and four interceptions. The earlier victory over UCLA seemed like a distant memory as Mannion’s 2012 was accented by a midseason knee injury and some flip-flopping with Cody Vaz. Though the Beavers had one win left against Nicholls State (and then a bowl loss to Texas), the Civil War was a reminder that Mannion still had a lot of growing to do in terms of decision-making.
When he was a recruit: In the 2010 recruiting class, Pac-12 programs signed six of the top 30 quarterbacks in the country, including Mannion. Though he was pursued by several programs, Oregon State was the only one to step in with an early offer, which Mannion jumped on during the summer before his senior season. Standing 6-foot-4 and 190 pounds coming out of high school, size was never a concern and neither was arm strength, according to his ESPN Recruiting Nation profile. “The more you watch Mannion, the more you like him. He is green and has yet to grow into his impressive frame, but as far as pocket passers go in this class, he is extremely impressive in terms of arm strength and most importantly accuracy.”
Opposing head coach’s take: “He’s your prototypical NFL quarterback. Tall, quick release, accurate. Not as mobile as you’d love to have. But at the same time, he can stay in the pocket and really hurt you … he’s tough. A lot of people don’t appreciate how tough he is. He stands in there and takes some big hits, but always seems to get the ball out just in time.”
Scouts' take: An accountable, respectful and mature individual. Strong work ethic and willing to put in the time. Has taken on more of a leadership role this offseason. One of the guys, but not a follower. Can take hard coaching. Will be the only player in team history to be elected a three-time team captain. ... Shows a strong grasp of defensive fronts and pre-snap coverages. Knows where he is protected and where his hot reads/site adjustments are. Flashes ability to work the entire field and get through progressions. Ball security has been an issue throughout his career so far (46 career INTs). Inconsistent decision-maker and takes too many risks into traffic. Must learn when to pick and choose when it comes to taking his shots. ... Lacks ideal mobility and does not have the ability to escape and put stress on a defense with his legs. However, he’s not completely without mobility, as he possesses adequate foot quickness to maneuver within the pocket.
What to expect in 2014: By virtue of their personnel, i.e. Brandin Cooks, the Beavers were much more tilted toward the pass than head coach Mike Riley probably would have liked (63 percent pass ratio). They’d like a little more balance to one, keep opposing defenses on their toes; and two, to take a little more pressure off of Mannion. He’s had the benefit the last two seasons of working with remarkable receivers in Cooks and Markus Wheaton in 2012. Look for Mannion – and the Beavers – to be more well-rounded in 2014. The tight end will likely take on a larger role with the talented Connor Hamlett. And while the Beavers need other receivers to step up, it’s still on Mannion to get them the football. His completion percentage has climbed every year he’s been a starter – as have his touchdowns and yards. Each year you can see marked improvement in his game. And 2014 should be no different.
Erik McKinney and Kevin Weidl contributed reporting.
Nearly 90 recruits -- including 10 ESPN 300 prospects -- made commitments to the Pac-12 since the start of June, as the conference recruiting race heated up alongside the weather this summer. Not surpisingly, even with the boon over the past two and a half months, the Pac-12 still lags behind other conferences when it comes to sheer commitment numbers. Many Pac-12 programs have become content to wait until the season, or after the season, to put an emphasis on official visits and commitments. At this point, 35 programs hold commitments from 16 or more recruits, and only one of those -- Arizona -- resides in the Pac-12.
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I went to college at the University of Michigan, which is about 40 minutes (depending on whether you drive the speed limit or not) from its in-state rival, Michigan State. For the most part, it really was one of those “throw the records out the window” kinds of game and the football -- and insults -- flew.
These in-state rivalries just have a special hold over the state, whether it creates divides in high school, families, relationships, whatever.
Just looking at some of these in-state rivalries on the Pac-12 slate make me really excited for my first year of covering West Coast football. Which brings me to the poll question: Which of these five in-state, in-conference rivalry games is going to have the best finish this season?
What game is going to come down to the final drive? What game is going to have that highlight play in the waning moments? Which two teams will provide us with a fourth-and-2 on your own 28-yard line with second ticking down on the clock in the fourth quarter, Hail Mary kind of game? The kind of stuff you tell your grandkids about. The kind of stuff your grandkids will tell their grandkids about.
Details: Friday, Nov. 28 @ Arizona
2013 finish: ASU 58, Arizona 21
Visiting teams have had decent success in the rivalry (at least better than some others) but could this finally be the season that -- behind their fans -- that the Wildcats and Rich Rodriguez finally takes down Todd Graham?
Details: Saturday, Nov. 29 @ Oregon State
2013 finish: Oregon 36, Oregon State 35
The Civil War in Corvallis. Will Sean Mannion cap off his final year for the Beavers in an exciting fashion or will Marcus Mariota march through the season in a furious, Heisman-like fashion?
Details: Saturday, Nov. 22 @ UCLA
2013 finish: UCLA 35, USC 14
The bright lights of Hollywood will shine on a brand new coach facing off on opposing grounds against a team that has found its recent success and a pre-season top-10 ranking.
Details: Saturday, Nov. 29 @ Washington State
2013 finish: Washington 27, Washington State 17
The Apple Cup isn’t exactly the fiercest of names for a rivalry (sorry, guys), but this could really be an interesting match up. Mike Leach's against first-year coach Chris Petersen. Can Petersen and his Huskies handle the air raid?
Details: Saturday, Sept. 6 @ Stanford
2013 finish: USC 20, Stanford 17
So, I know this isn't a drive (unless you’re super ambitious), but it’s an old and lovely in-state rivalry that I’m psyched to see. Unlike most rivalry games, we’ll get this one very early in the season, but could Week 2 provide one of the best rivalry finishes this season in Pac-12 football?
Commits: 22 | ESPN 300 commits: 1
OT Keenan Walker (Scottsdale, Ariz./Chaparral); OG Cody Creason (Folsom, Calif./Folsom); RB Orlando Bradford (Shreveport, La./Calvary Baptist Academy); WR Cedric Peterson (Moreno Valley, Calif./Rancho Verde); OT Harper Sherman (New Westminster, BC, Can./New Westminster Secondary); CB Anthony Mariscal (Bakersfield, Calif./Liberty); CB Samuel Morrison (Washington, DC/Gonzaga College); ATH Antonio Parks (Reserve, La./East Saint John); ILB Kendrick Jackson (Haynesville, La./Haynesville); OG Alex Kosinski (Larkspur, Calif./Redwood); DE Kendal Franklin (New Orleans, Warren Easton); RB Darick Holmes Jr. (Newbury Park, Calif./Newbury Park); DT Finton Connolly (Gilbert, Ariz./Campo Verde); TE Ricky McCoy (Fresno, Calif./Bullard); TE Jamie Nunley (Murrieta, Calif./Vista Murrieta); ATH Brion Anduze (Silverdale, Wash./Central Kitsap); S Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles (Tucson, Ariz./Tucson); OG Nathan Eldrige (Anthem, Ariz./Boulder Creek); RB Dami Ayoola (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./Arizona Western College); S Paul Magloire (Yuma, Ariz./Arizona Western College); RB Kendall Williams (North Little Rock, Ark./Butte College); Dane Cruikshank (Chino Hills, Calif./Citrus College)
Commits: 12 | ESPN 300 commits: 1
QB Brady White (Newhall, Calif./William S. Hart); ATH Morie Evans (Huntsville, Tex./Huntsville); ATH Tony Nicholson (Grand Prairie, Tex./South Grand Prairie); QB Bryce Perkins (Chandler, Ariz./Chandler); OT Mason Walter (Temecula, Calif./Chaparral); TE Tommy Hudson (San Jose, Calif./Archbishop Mitty); ATH Alfred Smith (Destrehan, Calif./Destrehan); OG Cade Cote (Gilbert, Ariz./Williams Field); OT Steve Miller (Gilbert, Ariz./Gilbert); OLB Malik Lawal (Murrieta, Calif./Chaparral); RB Nick Ralston (Argyle, Tex./Argyle); TE Raymond Epps (Yuma, Ariz./Arizona Western College)
Commits: 10 | ESPN 300 commits: 0
QB Ross Bowers (Bothell, Wash./Bothell); WR Greyson Bankhead (Corona, Calif./Centennial); CB Malik Psalms (Chino Hills, Calif./Ayala); RB Lonny Powell (Sacramento, Calif./Sacramento); OG Ryan Gibson (Bay Saint Louis, Miss./Saint Stanislaus); OT Johnny Capra (Auburn, Calif./Placer); WR Austin Aaron (Napa, Calif./Napa); DT Luc Bequette (Little Rock, Ark./Catholic High School For Boys); TE Zeandae Johnson (Fresno, Calif./Central); DE Trevor Howard (Westlake Village, Calif./Oaks Christian)
Commits: 8 | ESPN 300 commits: 1
OG Tim Lynott (Aurora, Col./Regis Jesuit); QB Steven Montez (Del Valle, Tex./Del Valle); DE T.J. Fehoko (Salt Lake City/Cottonwood); OG Dillon Middlemiss (Arvada, Col./Pomona); K Alex Kinney (Fort Collins, Col./Rocky Mountain); OLB N.J. Falo (Sacramento, Calif./Inderkum); DT Brett Tonz (Peoria, Ariz./Centennial); WR Josiah Blandin (Long Beach, Calif./Long Beach City College)
Commits: 12 | ESPN 300 commits: 4
WR Alex Ofodile (Columbia, Mo./Rock Bridge); RB Taj Griffin (Powder Springs, Ga./McEachern); QB Travis Waller (Anaheim, Calif./Servite); OG Zach Okun (Newbury Park, Calif./Newbury Park); OT Jake Hanson (Eureka, Calif./Eureka); WR Jake Breeland (Mission Viejo, Calif./Trabuco Hills); S P.J. Locke (Beaumont, Tex./Central); OT Shane Lemieux (Yakima, Wash./West Valley); OT Brady Aiello (Lafayette, Calif./Acalanes); CB Jihree Stewart (Corona, Calif./Centennial); OT Calvin Throckmorton (Bellevue, Wash./Newport); S Dylan Kane (Honolulu/Kamehameha Schools)
Commits: 11 | ESPN 300 commits: 0
TE Matt Pistone (Yuma, Ariz./Yuma Catholic); OG Beau Hott (Plano, Tex./Plano Senior); S Solomon Matautia (Ewa Beach, Hi./Campbell); QB James Pensyl (Land O'Lakes, Fla./Land O. Lakes); OLB Tyrin Ferguson (New Orleans/Edna Karr); S Omar Hicks-Onu (Carrollton, Tex./Hebron); OG Miki Fifita (Bradenton, Fla./IMG Academy); DE Hunter Mattox (Chatsworth, Calif./Sierra Canyon); OG Jacob Jimenez (Pflugerville, Tex./Pflugerville); OLB Angelo Garbutt (Carrollton, Tex./Hebron); CB Treshon Broughton (Tustin, Calif./Los Angeles Harbor College)
Commits: 9 | ESPN 300 commits: 3
OG Nick Wilson (Milton, Ga./Milton); S Arrington Farrar (College Park, Ga./Woodward Academy); C Brian Chaffin (Charlotte, NC/Charlotte Christian); ILB Christian Folau (Salt Lake City/East); WR J.J. Arcega-Whiteside (Roebuck, SC/Dorman); K Jake Bailey (Solana Beach, Calif./Santa Fe Christian); DT Rex Manu (Mililani, Hi./Mililani); ILB Reagan Williams (Jackson, Ohio/Jackson); OLB Casey Toohill (San Diego, Calif./Cathedral Catholic)
Commits: 14 | ESPN 300 commits: 5
QB Josh Rosen (Bellflower, Calif./Saint John Bosco); TE Alize Jones (Las Vegas/Bishop Gorman); OG Fred Ulu-Perry Jr. (Honolulu/Saint Louis); OT Andre James (Herriman, Utah/Herriman); OG Tevita Halalilo (Moreno Valley, Calif./Rancho Verde); WR L.J. Reed (Elk Grove, Calif./Cosumnes Oaks); DT Bryce English (DeSoto, Tex./DeSoto); ATH Stephen Johnson (San Leandro, Calif./San Leandro); CB Will Lockett (Manvel, Tex./Manvel); ILB Victor Alexander (Jacksonville, Fla./Trinity Christian Academy); RB T.J. Simmons (Lakeland, Fla./Lakeland Christian); DE Rick Wade (Rancho Sant Margarita, Calif./Santa Margarita Catholic); RB Bolu Olorunfunmi (Clovis, Calif./Clovis North); OLB Josh Woods (Upland, Calif./Upland)
Commits: 15 | ESPN 300 commits: 7
OT Chuma Edoga (Powder Springs, Ga./McEachern); QB Sam Darnold (San Clemente, Calif./San Clemente); QB Ricky Town (Ventura, Calif./Saint Bonaventure); DT Jacob Daniel (Fresno, Calif./Clovis North); WR Tristan Payton (Jacksonville, Fla./First Coast); ATH Isaiah Langley (Pleasanton, Calif./Foothill); ILB Cameron Smith (Granite Bay, Calif./Granite Bay); WR Desean Holmes (Mission Hills, Calif./Bishop Alemany); DT Noah Jefferson (Las Vegas/Liberty); RB Aca'Cedric Ware (Cedar Hill, Tex./Cedar Hill); CB Taeon Mason (Pasadena, Calif./John Muir); OT Clayton Johnston (Anaheim, Calif./Servite); DE Christian Rector (Los Angeles/Loyola); OT Roy Hemsley (Los Angeles/Windward); WR De'Quan Hampton (Compton, Calif./Long Beach City College)
Commits: 9 | ESPN 300 commits: 0
WR Donzale Roddie (Paramount, Calif./Paramount); OT Jake Grant (Scottsdale, Ariz./Horizon); WR Justice Murphy (Vancouver, Wash./Evergreen); K Chayden Johnston (South Jordan, Utah/Bingham); ATH Tuli Wily-Matagi (Kahuku, Hi./Kahuku); WR George Wilson (Tustin, Calif./Tustin); QB Michael Jacquet III (Beaumont, Tex./Central); OLB Cody Barton (Salt Lake City/Brighton); OT Zach Lindsay (Kaysville, Utah/Snow College)
Commits: 9 | ESPN 300 commits: 1
QB Jake Browning (Folsom, Calif./Folsom); OT Trey Adams (Wenatchee, Wash./Wenatchee); WR Isaiah Renfro (Chatsworth, Calif./Sierra Canyon); WR Andre Baccellia (Westlake Village, Calif./Westlake); RB Myles Gaskin (Seattle/O'Dea); TE Michaeal Neal (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif./Etiwanda); OT Jared Hilbers (Beaverton, Ore./Beaverton); CB Jordan Miller (Oceanside, Calif./Oceanside); LS A.J. Carty (Anaheim, Calif./Servite)
Commits: 12 | ESPN 300 commits: 2
DT Thomas Toki (Mountain View, Calif./Saint Francis); RB Austin Joyner (Marysville, Wash./Marysville-Pilchuck); CB Darrien Molton (Temecula, Calif./Chaparral); WR Deontay Burnett (Gardena, Calif./Junipero Serra); RB James Williams (Burbank, Calif./Burbank); S Kameron Powell (Upland, Calif./Upland); QB Tyler Hilinski (Upland, Calif./Upland); S Dominic Davis (Mission Hills, Calif./Bishop Alemany); K Matt Abramo (Petaluma, Calif./Casa Grande); OG Cedric Bigge-Duren (Oceanside, Calif./Oceanside); OG Noah Myers (Walnut Creek, Calif./Las Lomas); ILB Aaron Porter (Norwalk, Calif./Cerritos College)
- These classes are already beginning to fill up pretty well, some better than others (cough, Arizona). And looking forward, the coaches are getting in early on some younger guys, too. Throughout the conference there are already three 2016 commits and two 2017 commits. The three 2016 commits are running back Trevor Speights (Arizona), safety Brady Breeze (Oregon) and athlete Daelin Hayes (USC). The 2017 commits are defensive end Loren Mundy (Arizona State) and quarterback Tathan Martell (Washington).
- So far, there are five special team commits in the Pac-12, keeping with the national trend of placing higher importance on special teams players. Stanford, Utah, Colorado and Washington State have all picked up commitments from kickers while Washington has a verbal from a long snapper.
- The conference has 11 commits who are within the top five nationally in their respective position groups. UCLA leads the way with three top-5 commits (Rosen - No. 1 QB, Jones - No. 1 TE-Y, Ulu-Perry Jr. - No. 4 OG). Behind the Bruins are USC (Edoga - No. 3 OT, Darnold - No. 3 QB-PP), Oregon (Ofodile - No. 5 WR, Griffin - No. 4 RB) and Stanford (Chaffin - No. 3 C, Bailey - No. 4 K) with two apiece. Arizona has Walker, the No. 4 OT, and Washington has Browning, the No. 5 QB-PP.
- There are 10 juco players already committed to Pac-12 schools. Arizona, which leads the league with 22 commits, has four verbal commitments from junior college players. There are six other schools with commitments from junior college players -- Arizona State, Colorado, Oregon State, USC, Utah and Washington State.
- Stanford is doing a tremendous job recruiting nationally. Its nine commitments hail from seven different states ranging from Georgia to Ohio to California to Hawaii. But Arizona is doing the best internationally with a commit from British Columbia.
- Early front runner for best name in the Pac-12 is UCLA running back Bolu Olorunfunmi. C'mon Olo-RUN-FUN-mi. He's going to have so much FUN being a RUNning back. And writers (and editors who write headlines) are going to have a lot of fun, too.
Anderson says that Oregon is the spotlight team for many reasons, one of which is the schedule the Ducks face in 2014.
"Please adjust all perceptions of the concept to account for the Ducks’ position within the maelstrom of the Pac-12, particularly as residents of the Hydra-headed North division. This team gets Michigan State in Week 2; plays Arizona and UCLA out of the South; and operates in a division containing defending Pac-12 champ Stanford, can’t-be-discounted peskiness enthusiasts Oregon State and Washington State, and a looming legitimate threat in Washington. The very least the Ducks have to manage just to maintain respectability in this league is, in itself, a big damn deal."
She also analyzes a few different story lines, mentions a few notable players and touches on some other categories -- toastiest coach, breakout stars, must-watch games and outlandish predictions.
It's worth checking out. To read the full preview, click here.
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So which Pac-12 rivalries are heating up, stagnating or cooling as we head into the 2014 season?
USC Trojans-UCLA Bruins
The facts: USC leads the series 46-30-7 and has won 12 of the last 15 games, but the Bruins have won two in a row under Jim Mora, including a 35-14 domination last year.
The meter: Sizzling and rising.
The animosity between the fan bases is always strong, but what makes a rivalry truly heat up is relevance. And substantial stakes. This rivalry is gaining in both areas. USC is one of the preeminent football programs in the nation, even though UCLA fans hate to read that. UCLA is the rising western power under Mora, even though USC fans mock the idea. USC has a new coach in Steve Sarkisian and is moving past NCAA sanctions. UCLA is a top-10 team eyeballing the College Football Playoff. Know what I say? Release the hounds!
Arizona Wildcats-Arizona State Sun Devils
The facts: Arizona leads the series 47-39-1, but Todd Graham has won the last two against Rich Rodriguez, including a 58-21 blowout last year in Tempe. Before that, the visiting team has won eight of the last 13 matchups, including the last four -- games that were decided by a total of 15 points.
The meter: Blistering and heating up.
While Oregon-Washington fans provide the most blowback to the Pac-12 blog -- Yakety Yak! Oh, yeah! Yakety Yak -- Arizona and Arizona State fans are a strong No. 2. It used to be the fans hated each other and whined a lot -- "You cover them more... waaaaaa!" -- because both teams were fairly mediocre. But the Sun Devils won the South Division last year and are now 2-0 under Todd Graham against the Wildcats and Rich Rodriguez. With both programs trending up in an overall sense, the rivalry is gaining relevance. It also helps that Graham and Rodriguez don't particularly care for each other.
Oregon Ducks-Washington Huskies
The facts: Washington leads the series 58-43-5, but the Ducks have won 10 straight in the series by at least 17 points, including a 45-24 win in Seattle last year.
The meter: Hot but stagnating.
This has long been the most bitter Pac-10/12 rivalry but it has experienced a dramatic power shift to the Ducks. Sorry Huskies, you know it's true. It seems like Oregon fans these days are more worried about winning that darn absent national title than fretting about that team from up North. Now, if Washington and new coach Chris Petersen go into Autzen Stadium and steal one this year... well, that can't happen. Can it? Maybe that possibility needs to be debated.
USC-Notre Dame Fighting Irish
The facts: USC has won nine of the last 12 meetings, but the Fighting Irish has won three of the last four, including a 14-10 win last year. Since 1967, USC has gone 24-20-3 in the series.
The meter: Simmering with many hoping for a boil (particularly TV executives)
As far as national rivalries go, this one is without peer. It's an annual classic that matches two of college football's top powers. Lately, both teams have been nationally relevant, albeit not on an annual basis, and that's the issue. This rivalry is more about national relevance than bitterness. What it needs to heat up is for both teams to be national contenders with the winner in line for the College Football Playoff.
Washington-Washington State Cougars
The facts: Washington leads the series 68-32-6, including a 27-17 victory last year. The Cougars have lost 11 of the last 16 Apple Cups, but are 1-1 under Mike Leach.
The meter: Simmering with lots of potential spice
Have you stopped and pondered just how fun this one might get if Petersen and Mike Leach get their programs' performances to match their respective coaching reputations? For one, in terms of the media, it could be a Don James-Jim Walden deal where Petersen is a "2,000-word underdog" to the loquacious Leach. As it is at present, the Cougars really, really hate the entitled Huskies but the Huskies reserve their most bitter distain for Oregon.
The facts: Oregon leads the series 61-46-10 and has won the last six meetings, including a 36-35 thriller in Autzen Stadium last year.
The meter: Warm but in need of another log on the fire
Know what bothers Oregon State fans? When some Ducks fans say they root for the Beavers when the two aren't playing. It probably isn't a statement of emotional fact, but Oregon fans recognize it as the ultimate patronizing gesture. See above with Washington: The Beavers really, really hate the entitled Ducks but the Ducks reserve their most bitter distain for Washington. Now, if the Ducks start to slide a bit and the Beavers push past them in the North Division -- or at least become Oregon's equal again -- this one will immediately boil over, potentially returning to the back-and-forth turf battle it was from 1998-2008, when it was one of the conference's most interesting and meaningful rivalries.
The facts: In a series that dates back to 1905, USC holds a 59-29-3 lead, but Stanford has won four of the last five meetings. Still, a year after Stanford upset the then-No. 2 Trojans, USC returned the favor by knocking off No. 4 Stanford 20-17 last fall.
The meter: Most rivalries are more about the fans than the players. This one might be more about the players than the fans. These two teams go at each other -- hard. Things really picked up steam with former Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh mouthing off about Pete Carroll, then backing it up with two wins, including the classic "What's your deal?" game in 2009. Stanford started USC's and Lane Kiffin's downward spiral in 2012, while the Trojans ended the Cardinal's national title hopes in 2013. And I personally enjoy watching the Stanford band drive the Coliseum crowd crazy -- "And now a tribute to a great USC graduate... Joe Francis!"
California Golden Bears-Stanford
The facts: Stanford leads the Big Game rivalry 54-44-10 and has won four in a row, including a 63-13 blowout last year.
The meter: Luke warm until Cal rights itself
The Big Game is a great rivalry with a great history. The problem is getting the two teams to be good at the same time. Cal dominated the rivalry under Jeff Tedford until 2009. Now the Cardinal is fully in control. Second-years Bears coach Sonny Dykes probably could win over the Old Blues by pulling the upset this fall, but that will mean winning as a double-digit underdog.
BYU Cougars-Utah Utes
The facts: Utah leads the series 57-34-4. Utah has won four straight and nine of the last 12 games with the Cougars, including a 20-13 victory last year in Provo.
The meter: Always hot but chilling for two years
Utah has dominated this bitter series of late, most notably since joining the Pac-12, but there will be a two-year hiatus until the Holy War is renewed in 2016. That is unfortunate, as the series hasn't been interrupted since BYU didn't field teams during World War II (1943-45). Further, BYU is presently outside looking in, as it is not a Power Five conference member. It will be interesting to see how things go in the future.
The facts: Colorado leads the series 31-26-3, and this is both teams’ longest series against any Pac-12 team. They played annually from 1903-62 with four exceptions, but then the rivalry went dormant for 49 years before it resumed in 2011 as Pac-12 members. As Pac-12 members, Utah leads 2-1 having won two in a row.
The meter: Tepid while awaiting some seasoning
Sure, this is a bit of an artificial rivalry. They are paired as rivals because they joined the conference together. But as both start to develop their Pac-12 legs, you can count on this rivalry heating up. They will be compared for a long time. Neither wants to be the one not measuring up. And don't forget the "Red Bike Incident."
» More team previews: ACC | Big 12 | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC.
Previewing the 2014 season for the Oregon State Beavers:
2013 record: 7-6, 4-5 in Pac-12; beat Boise State 38-23 in Sheraton Hawaii Bowl
Final grade for 2013: C-minus. The Beavers had a dynamic pass-catch combination in Sean Mannion and Brandin Cooks but little else. The back-loaded schedule probably made the season feel worse than it was, but a 7-6 finish was a win or two below realistic preseason expectations.
Key returnees: QB Mannion, OL Isaac Seumalo, TE Connor Hamlett, S Ryan Murphy, CB Steven Nelson, DE Dylan Wynn, LB Michael Doctor
Key losses: WR Cooks, DE Scott Crichton, CB Rashaad Reynolds
Instant impact newcomers: DT Jalen Grimble, OT Bobby Keenan
Chances to win the conference (ESPN.com Stats & Information): 0.9 percent
Best-case scenario: 9-3
Worst-case scenario: 6-6
Over-under win total (Bovada): 7
Biggest question mark: How does the offense -- read: Mannion -- adjust to life after Cooks, who was the best receiver in the nation in 2013? Who steps up at receiver, and does the running game get going?
Most important game: Nov. 22 at Washington. The Huskies embarrassed the Beavers in Corvallis last year, and this game might determine the No. 3 spot in the Pac-12 North.
Upset special: Oct. 25 at Stanford. The Cardinal might be looking ahead to their Nov. 1 date at Oregon, and the Beavers played Stanford tough in 2013.
They said it: "There's no doubt about it. I think I actually became a little bit of a victim of it myself early because we were so good throwing the ball for six games." -- Oregon State coach Mike Riley, on whether he passed too much in 2013
- Sizing up Washington State and Rutgers.
- Notes and pics from Washington's practice on Thursday.
- Some good background on one of Utah's vying QBs.
- USC is adding stadium upgrades including smoked ribs.
- Behind Eddie Vanderdoes, the UCLA D-line is set to improve.
- With 12 starters gone, there's opportunity for former Cardinal backups.
- Breaking down Oregon State's defensive line.
- The battle for top Oregon RB is good for both Byron Marshall and Thomas Tyner.
- Safety Terrel Smith is making a good impression at Colorado practices.
- A list of every Cal football Twitter handle that you might want to follow.
- Tacos are now a "prohibited item" in Sun Devil Stadium.
- Arizona QB coach Rod Smith sheds some light on the Wildcat QB battle.
- Dennis Dodd on what the College Football Playoff really means.
- Reddit made a map of the most hated college football team by state.
In 2013, the Pac-12 had 10 quarterbacks who threw for at least 2,500 yards, including five who threw for at least 3,500 yards and two who threw for at least 4,500 yards.
Sean Mannion (4,662 yards) and Connor Halliday (4,597 yards).
And the 10 Pac-12 QBs who passed for more than 2,500 yards -- how did that stack up nationally? The Big Ten, SEC and ACC had five quarterbacks each who threw for at least 2,500 yards. And when looking at 3,500-yard passers, the Pac-12 had more QBs accomplish that feat (five) than the other four power conferences combined (four).
The Pac-12 is loaded with these great quarterbacks in 2014, including 10 returning starters, eight of whom threw for 2,500 yards or more in 2013. So, how much better are they going to be this year than they were last season? Are we going to see a major jump in passing yardage? Or with so many top receivers gone, will some of the numbers stagnate?
Given those musings, we bring the poll question for the week: How many 3,500-yard passers will the Pac-12 have in 2014? How confident are you in the top one-third -- one-half, two-thirds -- of the conference?
To give you an idea statistically, here are the 10 returners along with their passing yardage from 2013 as well as some of their top expected receiver targets for 2014.
1. Sean Mannion (4,662 yards) -- Victor Bolden, Richard Mullaney, Malik Gilmore
2. Connor Halliday (4,597 yards) -- Gabe Marks, Vince Mayle, Kristoff Williams
3. Marcus Mariota (3,665 yards) -- Keanon Lowe, Devon Allen, Dwayne Stanford
4. Taylor Kelly (3,635 yards) -- Jaelen Strong, Ellis Jefferson
5. Jared Goff (3,508 yards) -- Bryce Treggs, Chris Harper, Kenny Lawler
6. Brett Hundley (3,071 yards) -- Devin Fuller, Jordan Payton, Devin Lucien
7. Cody Kessler (2,968 yards) -- Nelson Agholor, Darreus Rogers
8. Kevin Hogan (2,630 yards) -- Ty Montgomery, Devon Cajuste, Michael Rector
9. Travis Wilson (1,827 yards) -- Dres Anderson, Kenneth Scott
10. Sefo Liufau (1,179 yards) -- Nelson Spruce, D.D. Goodson, Tyler McCulloch
So will we see a similar repeat, with five passers throwing for at least 3,500 yards? Or will the conference QBs make an even-bigger step forward? Let us know what you think.
Sometimes, coaches use it to imitate opposing stadiums, turning players’ own practice fields against them for a few days so that when they actually walk into enemy territory, they’re more prepared.
But it’s always diverse. Like the players and coaches and schemes, practice music across the Pac-12 is a smorgasbord of genres and styles. You’ve got your ‘80s rock, your top 40 hits, your crying babies. It’s like listening to the radio, if there were no confines on what could or could not be played. Ever.
At USC, recruiting coordinator Alex Rios (whose Twitter bio reads: “Office: USC Football Recruiting Analyst, Field: Dancing DJ”) uses Spotify -- an online music library -- to create playlists for practice.
“I try to tailor that day’s songs to the theme of practice,” Rios said. “For example, if we are focusing on up-tempo in practice, I build a playlist of up-tempo songs, or if we are going to play at a stadium that has loud fans, I try to play songs that stadium uses to pump up its fans.”
The approach at Stanford is similar. Ryan Devlin, assistant director of football operations and recruiting, has taken over the reigns as the Cardinal practice DJ. He has over 2,000 songs in his Spotify library and during any given practice he only employs 35-45 of those.
“I'd say 60 percent of the songs I use came directly from me -- songs that I know fit the tempo we're looking for,” Devlin said. “The rest come from searching other playlists on Spotify and YouTube, hearing a new song on the radio, or a suggestion from a coach or player. I always say I take suggestions, not requests. I have to make sure it's appropriate and will fit the tempo of practice.”
Since Stanford has an outdoor practice field, the music flows out onto campus, meaning students, professors and visitors can hear what’s being played. That adds another level to Devlin’s job, as it’s not just the players he needs to keep happy, but the community as well.
That same problem hasn’t stopped Washington State though. Though practice music is only played on Thursdays in Pullman, they’ve still found a way to annoy some students and faculty. Quarterback Connor Halliday said that a few fellow students have mentioned to him that the raucous crowd noise that's blasted on Thursdays during the season isn’t always welcomed by non-football-playing students as they amble from class to class.
But be grateful, Pullman students. At least you’re not in Tucson.
Andrew Warsaw, Arizona’s Operation's Coordinator, is in charge of the Wildcats’ music. After the series of promotional videos Arizona has released, it should come as no surprise that the practice music is also a little bit off-the-wall sometimes.
“Depending on what coach [Rich Rodriguez] wants, we will play whatever,” Warsaw said. “If he wants to us to play something annoying during a certain period of practice we will play a baby crying for five-straight minutes, or songs like Barbie Girl or The Macarena.”
Arizona also takes player requests (which tend to stay closer to top-40 radio hits). Arizona State only plays music during warm-ups and seniors are asked to request which songs they’d like to hear during that time. California and Oregon State rely heavily on player requests -- though Oregon State players have been known to request Miley Cyrus music, which makes avoiding any parties in the USA awfully difficult.
Though if it were up to only coaches to choose the music, practices would probably sound quite different.
Arizona State coach Todd Graham would probably pick mostly country music or Bruce Springsteen, while Utah coach Kyle Whittingham would stick to only classic rock. In the perfect world, he wants to hear nothing post-1980 played at his practices. Though, he knows that no matter what is played “one-third of the team will love it, one-third of the team will hate it, and one-third of the team won’t care.” Little does he know, Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” now haunts the dreams of wide receiver Dres Anderson and defensive end Nate Orchard. “Starships” by Nicki Minaj has had a similar effect on Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, but he should consider himself lucky. When asked to name the worst practices songs they'd heard, Washington players at Pac-12 media days had no shortage to chose from. Offensive lineman Ben Riva stole the competition (if this is a competition) for the worst song when he said that he had heard “The Safety Dance” by Men Without Hats.
Yes, the Canadian band that has had enough members over its years to field an entire first string on offense and defense in American football has resounded through Chris Petersen’s practices.
But, maybe Petersen is onto something. Maybe that song, followed by Cyrus and some Ylvis is just a way to better prepare his team for what they could face in the Pac-12 this season. Maybe these songs are fueling what could be a breakout year for the Huskies in a very deep conference.
Or maybe it’s just a lot of really, really terrible music.
Can’t promise they’re incredible. Can promise they’re better than "Barbie Girl."
- Arizona: "Title Sequence," BT -- Reasoning: They're into speed this year and this is The Fast & The Furious theme song
- Arizona State: "Runnin' with the Devil," Van Halen -- Reasoning: ASU's run game has improved under Graham. They're the Sun Devils. A + B = Van Halen.
- California: "Pachanelly’s Canon," Gentleman’s Rule -- Reasoning: Because Cal winning four times as many games as it did last season sounds as crazy taking Nelly and adding Pachelbel’s Canon. But, it works. Cal will too.
- Colorado: "Buffalo Soldier," Bob Marley -- Reasoning: 1. Buffaloes. 2. Bob Marley would love Colorado for many reasons. Well, mostly for one reason.
- Oregon: "We Will Rock/Quack You," D2: The Mighty Ducks version -- Reasoning: It could only be more obvious if the offense were to run a Flying V formation this season.
- Oregon State: "Happy," Pharrell -- Reasoning: Mike Riley is happy.
- Stanford: Anything by Weezer -- Reasoning: Best nerd band. Stanford: best nerd football team.
- UCLA: "Show 'Em What You're Made Of," Backstreet Boys -- Reasoning: 1. Like Backstreet Boys, UCLA is back ("All right!") 2. They're favored in the South, now they just need to show everyone what they're made of
- USC: "Let It Go," Frozen -- Reasoning: The sanctions are gone. Let it go.
- Utah: "Ring Of Fire," Lennon and Maisy cover -- Reasoning: Maybe the players can't like Cash's version. They'll have to like these two singing sisters covering it. Maybe? Guys, just give it a chance.
- Washington: "Who'll Stop The Rain," CCR -- Reasoning: Can't promise Chris Petersen will get rid of the rain in Seattle, but the future is looking bright.
- Washington State: "Hoist the Colors," Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End -- Reasoning: There’s a flag, there are pirates. No more explanation needed. You're welcome, Mike Leach.
3:00 PM ET Colorado Massachusetts 3:00 PM ET Fresno State Utah 3:00 PM ET Sacramento State California 3:05 PM ET Eastern Washington 25 Washington 3:30 PM ET 15 USC 11 Stanford 6:30 PM ET 8 Michigan State 3 Oregon 7:00 PM ET 19 Arizona State New Mexico 10:00 PM ET Memphis 7 UCLA 10:30 PM ET Oregon State Hawaii