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2011 Pac-12 Preview - South Lookaheads
UCLA QB Kevin Prince & Johnathan Franklin
UCLA QB Kevin Prince & Johnathan Franklin
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Aug 8, 2011


Preview 2011 - CFN Pac-12 South Team-By-Team Quick Looks and Predicted Finish


Pac-12 South

NORTH
- 2011 California Preview | 2011 Oregon Preview
- 2011 Oregon State Preview | 2011 Stanford Preview
- 2011 Washington Preview | 2011 Washington State Preview

SOUTH
- 2011 Arizona Preview | 2011 Arizona State Preview
- 2011 Colorado Preview | 2011 UCLA Preview 
- 2011 USC Preview | 2011 Utah Preview

- 2011 Pac-12 Preview
- CFN Thoughts on the Pac-12 | 2011 Pac-12 Unit Rankings
- 2011 CFN All-Pac-12 Team & Top 30 Players | 2011 Pac-12 Schedules & Picks
- 2011 Pac-12 North Team By Team Looks & Predicted Finish
- 2011 Pac-12 South Team By Team Looks & Predicted Finish
- 2010 Pac 10 Preview  

1. Arizona State 

Offense: If ever a team epitomized an inability to get over the hump, it was the 2010 Sun Devils. At times, their offense was a well-oiled machine out of the no-huddle spread. Still, in nearly each of their six losses, untimely turnovers and red zone futility were the program’s undoing. In Arizona State’s defense, last season was the debut of coordinator Noel Mazzone and his spread scheme. Therefore, it would not be a stretch to assume that this group has rid itself of most of the natural growing pains associated with a new system. QB Brock Osweiler started just one game last year, but with Steven Threet forced to retire due to post-concussion syndrome, the former is now the undisputed starter. The junior will have a proven stable of backs to balance the passing game to go along with a seasoned collection of receivers.

Defense: Coordinator Craig Bray has the necessary talent to forge a solid defense. Now what he needs is a little more consistency from his unit. While the Sun Devils generally overachieved in 2010, there were a few too many lapses in key games against Oregon, Cal, and USC. The 2011 edition will begin the season with a stout front seven, the backbone of last year’s league-best run D, yet a few question marks in the secondary. The line features a deep rotation, with a good mix of youth and experience. Fleet-footed DE Junior Onyeali is the reigning Pac-10 Defensive Freshman of the Year. The tone will once again be set by LB Vontaze Burfict, one of the most intimidating defenders in America. If he can focus his energy a little better, a spot on the All-American Team will be one of his many rewards. The issue for Bray will be a pass defense that was already a concern before star CB Omar Bolden suffered an ACL injury in April. The fate of the secondary could hinge on CB Deveron Carr, who ironically is returning from his own season-ending injury suffered last fall.

2. USC 

Offense: While there were misfires along the way, the Trojan offense played well in Lane Kiffin’s first season, running a balanced attack that averaged more than 400 yards and 30 points a game. The key constant from that group will be the Matt Barkley-to-Robert Woods hook-up, which is certain to become one of the nation’s most feared pitch-and-catch combos. What’s not so certain are the offensive line and the identity of the feature back. The front wall lost three starters, including first round pick Tyron Smith, and has spent the offseason trying to overcome various injuries. Rookies, like Cyrus Hobbi and Aundrey Walker, will quickly be thrust into prominent roles this summer. Last year’s leading rusher Marc Tyler is back, but he’s getting challenged by his own lack of focus and some gifted kids behind him. Redshirt freshman D.J. Morgan, in particular, looked great in the spring and has a chance to steal a number of carries from the incumbent this fall.

Defense: Celebrated coordinator Monte Kiffin is looking for a do-over after his first season on his son’s staff was a flop. He’ll get it after USC delivered one of its worst defensive performances in school history, yielding an improbable 400 yards and 26 points a game. The good news is that the young Trojans should have a better grip on his complex scheme. While there aren’t many obvious mega-stars, save for maybe FS T.J. McDonald, the coach has no shortage of budding playmakers just itching to turn the heads of NFL scouts. DE Nick Perry, LB Devon Kennard, and CB Nickell Robey are only three of last season’s handful of underclassmen capable of blooming into All-Pac-12 performers. Above all else, Troy needs to patch up a leaky secondary that gave up 30 touchdown passes, more than any team in the conference and all but five programs in the country.

3. Utah 

Offense: The big news on offense is the hiring of coordinator Norm Chow, a coaching legend in the Beehive State. Not only does he have a long track record of success, but he’s also had stints with USC and UCLA of the old Pac-10. The venerable assistant is scrapping the Utes’ mainstay system of late, the spread, in favor of a multiple attack. Utah will have more pro-style looks, employing a fullback and a tight end. Success hinges on the healthy return of QB Jordan Wynn, a late-season casualty to a shoulder injury in 2010. The junior is a winner and a deft distributor, particularly to top receiver DeVonte Christopher. The new backs competing for playing time will need to wear name tags. Harvey Langi is a true freshman, John White is in his first year out of junior college, and Thretton Palamo comes to Chow by way of the Utah rugby team. The front wall is a mixed bag of stability at tackle and center, and uncertainty at guard and off the bench.

Defense: The front seven will once again be terrific, but will it be imposing enough to offset a secondary that’s replacing all four starters? As if moving to the quarterback-rich Pac-12 isn’t daunting enough, the Utes will do so with two new corners and two untested safeties. The program loves the potential of the likes of CB Conroy Black and FS Keith McGill, but there’ll be trepidation until the defensive backfield proves it can contain some of the league’s better receivers. Up front, Utah will be Pac-12-ready. The D-line rotation will be deep and impressive, led by DE Dave Kruger and NT Star Lotulelei, an emerging force on the inside. While not household names, the linebackers simply know how to make plays. Senior Chaz Walker led the squad with 113 stops, and sophomore Brian Blechen is moving to stud after excelling at safety as a rookie. Perennially underrated, the Ute defense will again be stingy as long as the secondary is able to gel on the fly.

4. UCLA 

Offense: If Norm Chow couldn’t move the needle with this group, it doesn’t bode well for his successor, Mike Johnson. Now, Johnson has a distinguished coaching career, but most of it was spent with the NFL, and he’s inheriting an offense that’s been huffing and puffing for years. While UCLA has recruited well, all of the shiny parts have rarely resulted in a well-oiled finished product. Particularly feeble, the passing game will be hosting a quarterback race between juniors Kevin Prince and Richard Brehaut, and possibly rookie Brett Hundley. The Bruins are likely to leverage their talent in the backfield, a deep group led by all-star Johnathan Franklin that ranked a respectable 32nd nationally a year ago. As is often the case in Westwood, the attack will only go as far as the line permits it. Long an issue in these parts, UCLA is trying to piece together a combination of returning starters with linemen who missed all of 2010 due to injuries or academics.

Defense: It was supposed to be a down year for the Bruin D, and boy did it fulfill expectations. After losing four all-stars to the NFL, UCLA plummeted to the bottom of the Pac-10 in just about every major statistical category. Enter Joe Tresey, who takes over as the new coordinator. A veteran, who’s held the same position at South Florida and Cincinnati, he arrived with a reputation as a developer of young talent and a purveyor of attacking defenses. In Los Angeles, he’ll have plenty of talented kids to coach. Yeah, there’s a contingency of quality vets, like S Tony Dye and LB Sean Westgate, but the Bruins’ future rests with a slew of gifted up-and-comers, with at least two years of eligibility remaining. The program is loaded with future stars, like DT Cassius Marsh, DE Owamagbe Odighizuwa, LB Patrick Larimore, and S Dietrich Riley, who’ll be All-Pac-12 before their through in Westwood. Tresey needs them to approach that level of play as quickly as possible.

5. Arizona 

Offense: As the offensive line goes, so goes the Arizona attack this year. While the Big 3, QB Nick Foles, RB Keola Antolin, and WR Juron Criner, are back in Tucson for one final season, the Wildcats must rebuild from the bottom up a front wall that loses all five of last year’s starters and a pair of Pac-10 all-stars. Making matters even worse, line coach Bill Bedenbaugh took an offer from West Virginia, leaving the group with even less continuity in 2011. The blockers must grow up in a hurry in order to support an offense that has plenty of firepower, including a possible first round quarterback and a terrific ensemble of pass-catchers being bolstered by Texas transfer Dan Buckner. One of the Cats’ non-personnel goals this fall is to produce more points deep in enemy territory after finishing 91st nationally in red zone touchdown ratio.

Defense: Defensive coordinator Tim Kish is going to have his work cut out for him this fall. Not only did last year’s squad get progressively worse as the season unfolded, but five key starters from that group are gone, including the pass rush tandem of Brooks Reed and Ricky Elmore. Oh, and making matters even worse, three projected members of the two-deep suffered ACL tears in the spring. The Wildcats might be even more vulnerable than in 2010, looking to locate a pass rush, develop a new middle linebacker, and plug holes in the defensive backfield. The staff is holding out hope that some of the gifted sophomores, such as DT Justin Washington, SS Marquis Flowers, and corners Jonathan McKnight and Shaquille Richardson can seize leadership roles and take some heat off of the veterans.

6. Colorado 

Offense: So long, spread. Hello, pro-style attack. New coordinator Eric Bieniemy will spend the offseason installing an offense that employs more traditional looks, including better use of the fullback, tight end, and two-wide sets. His most important pupil will be QB Tyler Hansen, who’ll be trying to bring some long-awaited stability and spark to the passing game. If he’s not up to the challenge, the Buffaloes are in deep trouble because his caddy has yet to take a snap. The skill positions have plenty of upside with the returns of 1,000-yard rusher Rodney Stewart and three of last fall’s top four pass-catchers. Paul Richardson, in particular, is on his way to becoming one of the Pac-12’s premier young playmakers on the outside. The line is a perennial issue, more so now that LT Nate Solder is a member of the New England Patriots.

Defense: The job of elevating the Colorado defense now belongs to well-travelled coordinator Greg Brown. He got his first good look at the talent he inherited this spring, but not quite as complete as he will in the summer. A number of Buffaloes who’ll compete for jobs in August sat out the session with an injury. The D played to mixed reviews in its final year in the Big 12, looking stout in the front seven, but wilting in the secondary. Now, that defensive backfield will attempt to regroup without Jimmy Smith and Jalil Brown, a couple of NFL corners. The strength will once again be up front, especially since LB Jon Major is returning from a season-ending injury. DT Will Pericak and DE Josh Hartigan are scrappy veterans, with All-Big 12 honorable mention on last season’s résumé.

NORTH
- 2011 California Preview | 2011 Oregon Preview
- 2011 Oregon State Preview | 2011 Stanford Preview
- 2011 Washington Preview | 2011 Washington State Preview

SOUTH
- 2011 Arizona Preview | 2011 Arizona State Preview
- 2011 Colorado Preview | 2011 UCLA Preview 
- 2011 USC Preview | 2011 Utah Preview

- 2011 Pac-12 Preview
- CFN Thoughts on the Pac-12 | 2011 Pac-12 Unit Rankings
- 2011 CFN All-Pac-12 Team & Top 30 Players | 2011 Pac-12 Schedules & Picks
- 2011 Pac-12 North Team By Team Looks & Predicted Finish
- 2011 Pac-12 South Team By Team Looks & Predicted Finish
- 2010 Pac 10 Preview