Can't wait to see these things this fall

Originally Published: May 15, 2008
By Ivan Maisel and Mark Schlabach |

Three Things I Can't Wait To See This Fall In The Pac-10
Ivan Maisel
Mark Schlabach
Mark Sanchez1. Mark Sanchez, meet James Laurinaitis -- and the rest of the defenders who will be trying to separate your neck from your shoulder pads. The USC fourth-year junior quarterback started three games last season and played just OK. Now the Trojans need him to produce -- especially with that Ohio State showdown looming on Sept. 13.

2. Ty Willingham's staff at Washington needs name tags for its three new coaches, including defensive coordinator Ed Donatell. The Huskies must rebuild their defensive line. But the offense is more interesting. The offensive line is solid, which should be good news for sophomore Jake Locker, too often a one-man band at quarterback. If tailback Brandon Johnson steps up, the Huskies may end their streak of nonwinning seasons at five.

Ben Olson3. Yes, UCLA went into its next-to-last practice this spring with two fifth-year quarterbacks and came out with none. Ben Olson is supposed to return healthy by midsummer. The problem is keeping him that way. The Bruins' offensive line has two returning starters. The others are mostly redshirts and walk-ons. What's worse, UCLA signed only two offensive linemen in February. And it's not as if Olson has a history of staying healthy.
Rudy Carpenter1. If Dennis Erickson is going to turn Arizona State into a true Pac-10 title contender, the Sun Devils will have to protect quarterback Rudy Carpenter. The Sun Devils allowed a school-record 55 sacks last season, and Carpenter was forced to hurry too many of his throws. The onus isn't only on Arizona State's offensive line; the tailbacks have to do a better job of picking up blitzes.

2. The way California ended the 2007 season -- the Bears went from 5-0 and No. 2 in the country to 7-6 and No. 7 in the Pac-10 -- was one of the most monumental collapses in recent college football history. Much of the Bears' late problems could be attributed to the poor health of quarterback Nate Longshore. He missed most of the spring with a pectoral injury and might have a tough time holding off Kevin Riley during preseason camp.

Joe McKnight3. USC tailback Joe McKnight looked a lot like Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush in last year's 49-17 demolition of Illinois in the Rose Bowl. McKnight ran 10 times for 125 yards and one touchdown and returned three punts for 36 yards against the Illini. If McKnight regains his eligibility this fall -- he missed most of spring practice after falling below the NCAA's minimum requirement for semester hours -- he might emerge as a big-play threat the Trojans largely lacked last season.

Ivan Maisel | email

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Mark Schlabach | email

College Football and Basketball