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Pac-12 North Spring Football
Stanforf RB Stepfan Taylor
Stanforf RB Stepfan Taylor
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Mar 19, 2012


As spring ball kicks in, what's happening for each Pac-12 North team?

2012 Spring Preview   

Pac-12 North


North California | Oregon | Oregon St | Stanford | Washington | Wash St
South Arizona | Arizona St | Colorado | UCLA | USC | Utah 

2012 Pac-12 Pre-Spring Preview
- Pre-Preseason Pac-12 North Rankings
- Pre-Preseason Pac-12 South Rankings
- Why Every Pac-12 North Team Should Be Excited
- Why Every Pac-12 South Team Should Be Excited
- Why Every Pac-12 North Team Should Be Grouchy
- Why Every Pac-12 South Team Should Be Grouchy
- What Every Pac-12 North Team Needs To Work On 
- What Every Pac-12 South Team Needs To Work On 
2012 Recruiting Rankings Pac-12 North | Pac-12 South

By Richard Cirminiello 
Follow Us ... #ColFootballNews

- Pac-12 South Spring Preview & Thoughts

California

Different year, same climate. The Bears and head coach Jeff Tedford begin the spring with optimism, but also with the knowledge that they’ve been underachievers in recent seasons. The program is just 36-28 since 2007, consistently finishing with a thud. What’s even more frustrating is that the Cal roster has not been light on talented athletes, the kinds of players that go on to populate NFL rosters.

The team has had problems executing at key points in games, especially at the quarterback position, which has become a particular indictment of Tedford. His starter for 2012 is likely to be incumbent Zach Maynard, though a high-profile battle for the job could brew like a hot cup of mud in the coming months. Hard-throwing Zach Kline, the nation’s fourth-ranked hurler, is already on campus, delighting the locals with his poise and promise for the future.

- The primary role of Maynard—or Kline—will be to feed RB Isi Sofele and WR Keenan Allen as liberally as possible. Sofele is an underrated 1,000-yarder, and Allen is one of the most dangerous receivers in America.

- Who’s got next at defensive end? Cal is set with Aaron Tipoti at the nose, but now it’s time for the young ends, Deandre Coleman, Gabe King, Mustafa Jalil and Viliami Moala, to emerge into ferocious presences from the outside.

- Budding linebackers David Wilkerson, Cecil Whiteside and Chris McCain are going to play a huge role in a defense searching for replacements for Mychal Kendricks and D.J. Holt. All three have the skills to bloom into All-Pac-12 players before they’re through in Berkeley.

- The cornerbacks are set with Steve Williams and Marc Anthony. Safety? Not so much. The Bears lose Sean Cattouse and D.J. Campbell, creating possible openings for Michael Coley and Avery Sebastian.

- Kline isn’t the only rookie Cal can’t wait to unwrap this season. WR Bryce Treggs won’t arrive until the summer, but when he does, coaches expect him to compete right away to supplant Marvin Jones as the complement to Allen in the receiving corps.

Oregon

So what is the state of Oregon football these days? It all depends on what’s being judged. On the field, the Ducks have been one of the country’s elite programs over the last four years, winning 44 games and three straight conference championships. The Quack Attack has operated on full throttle throughout, which has attracted national notoriety and a different caliber of recruits.

Away from the field, though, Oregon has been dogged by numerous arrests and an NCAA investigation into recruiting violations that’s hung over it like an ominous storm front. And while head coach Chip Kelly eventually rebuffed overtures from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in February, the flirtation with the NFL could be a harbinger of things to come. While the Ducks clearly house the talent, staff and system to perennially remain in the BCS bowl hunt, the mounting off-field distractions could become a more daunting roadblock to Pasadena than any other member of the Pac-12.

- Bryan Bennett vs. Marcus Mariota just might be the most compelling quarterback battle of the offseason. Bennett, the frontrunner, played real well in place of Darron Thomas last fall, but Mariota, too, has the right mix of skills to pilot Kelly’s spread option.

- Even without two of last year’s starters, the linebackers will cover a ton of ground this fall. Michael Clay is in the all-star on-deck circle, and Kiko Alonso and Boseko Lokombo will shine with more reps.

- Only in a place like Eugene can a team lose LaMichael James, Lache Seastrunk and Tra Carson in the span of a year, yet not skip a beat in the running game. The combination of Kenjon Barner and De’Anthony Thomas will be as dynamic as any duo in the nation.

- The Ducks can ill afford to lose WR Josh Huff, who was arrested earlier in the month on a DUI, for any length of time. A terrific all-around playmaker, his absence would leave the offense paper thin in the passing game.

- Start throwing around the name of Colt Lyerla now. The likely replacement for David Paulson at tight end is one of the most unique athletic specimens on the roster, and a likely favorite target of the new quarterback.

Oregon State

The little engine that could might be running out of diesel. The Beavers, the Pac-12’s perennial overachievers, have failed to qualify for the postseason in consecutive years for the first time since the end of the last century. Head coach Mike Riley, one of the most popular figures in Corvallis, will need to stem the tide immediately in order to quiet his increasing number of critics. He should have the troops to at least get his program back to the .500 mark and into a bowl game.

Injuries forced Oregon State to use more true freshmen and unproven players than it would normally prefer. The upshot, of course, is that this year’s roster is considerably more seasoned, bringing back 17 starters and nearly five dozen Beavers who saw action in 2011. Riley has to parlay his improved depth into results that show up in the standings … or else.

- If the Beavers are going to regain a little momentum, they’ll need to do so on the backs of the once-vaunted running game. When Oregon State was exceeding expectations, it always had a 1,000-yard back leading the charge.

- Last season was essentially an apprenticeship for redshirt freshman QB Sean Mannion. This fall, the school is hoping he can evolve into one of the Pac-12 better passers.

- The issues on the ground weren’t all the fault of the banged-up backs. No, the line shared in the blame, and now must replace three seniors. Hope comes in the return from injury of OT Michael Philipp, the team’s most physical blocker.

- The D-line has its own headaches with which to contend. The unit was trucked repeatedly last fall, leading to a Pac-12 worst run defense. Scott Crichton is an emerging star, but he’s also an end and primarily a pass rusher.

- The secondary can’t possibly be any more generous than it was in 2011. Oregon State yielded three or more touchdown passes to six opponents, but all-star CB Jordan Poyer returns, and only one Beaver defensive back graduated.

Stanford

A moment of silence, please, for the folks in Palo Alto. Andrew Luck is no longer a member of the program. In successive years, the Cardinal has parted with head coach Jim Harbaugh and Luck, the two architects of its most unlikely resurgence into the national discussion. Without his elite quarterback behind center, second-year head coach David Shaw would like to begin putting his own unique stamp on the squad.

While there are still many of Harbaugh’s recruits left on the Farm, Shaw will really start to own the results—good or bad—at Stanford. The Cardinal remains talented on both sides of the ball, thanks to some crackerjack recruiting, but there are surely more question marks than the last few editions. Luck’s successor, for instance. Now that the bar has been raised significantly higher, it’ll be interesting to see how Stanford handles those expectations now that a handful of key components are headed to—or already in—the NFL.

- So who follows Andrew? Although Shaw doesn’t plan on anointing a starter right now, early indications are that 2011 backup Brett Nottingham and junior Josh Nunes have pulled ahead in a five-man race.

- If Shayne Skov can make it all the way back from last year’s ACL tear—and avoid a lengthy suspension related to his DUI arrest—the Cardinal might have the best set of linebackers in America. The unit was instantly upgraded to “loaded” when First Team All-Pac-12 pick Chase Thomas opted to return for another year. - Yes, it hurts to lose LT Jonathan Martin and RG David DeCastro a year early to the NFL. No, the Cardinal isn’t barren up front. Three starters return, and G David Yankey and T Cameron Fleming are ready to become the school’s newest stars in the trenches.

- Only Stanford—or maybe Notre Dame—could lose a tight end of Coby Fleener’s caliber, yet still be rock solid at the position. Juniors Zach Ertz and Levine Toilolo are both capable of abusing opposing linebackers with their size and athleticism.

- RB Stepfan Taylor has resided in the long shadow of Luck for the past two years. That’ll no longer be a problem. No. 33 will be the focus of the attack, a season-long audition for pro scouts.

Washington

Now that fourth-year head coach Steve Sarkisian has shown he can rebuild the U-Dub program, expectations are rising in Seattle. That’s a good thing, but it also adds a degree of pressure that this school—or its staff—hasn’t faced since Don James was on Montlake. Sarkisian appears to be up to the challenge, provided he can get much better play out of his defense.

In going 7-6 over the past two years, Washington’s first back-to-back winning seasons in a decade, very little of the support came from the D. A 67-56 Alamo Bowl loss to Baylor marked the unofficial end of the Huskies’ career of coordinator Nick Holt, who has since been replaced by Justin Wilcox. Even marginal defensive gains will go a long way toward boosting the potential of a squad that’ll few problems putting up points.

- Naturally, you don’t get better by losing a back the caliber of Chris Polk, but the drop-off may not be as precipitous as many assume. The tussle between Jesse Callier and Bishop Sankey could produce another 1,000-yard rusher.

- Get ready for the Keith Price-to-Kasen Williams connection to start lighting up the airways in the Pac-12. Price was an unmitigated revelation in his debut filling Jake Locker’s shoes, and Williams flashed signs of greatness in his first year out of Skyline (Wash.) High School.

- There’ll be no shortcuts for Wilcox, a hotshot young coach who has yet to accept an assignment with such a high level of difficulty. Stopping the run will be doubly hard in 2012 now that the two all-stars in the middle, DT Alameda Ta’amu and ILB Cort Dennison, have graduated.

- Wilcox, though, can’t wait to turn loose Josh Shirley, a lightning quick defensive end capable of leaving opposing tackles in his wake. He has 10-sack potential if the staff allows him to freelance and make plays.

- There’s cautious optimism that the secondary could be vastly improved this fall. Only one regular has departed, and, with improvement, CB Desmond Trufant and SS Sean Parker are capable of contending for All-Pac-12 honors.

Washington State

It’s been a long time since there’s been as much excitement on the Palouse about football as there is today. That’s the power of Mike Leach. The Cougars landed a proven winner, a showman and a coach who’s capable of putting the program back on the radar for the first time since Mike Price was handing the baton to Bill Doba nearly a decade ago. While Wazzu is still rebuilding, particularly on defense, don’t expect the transformation to be a protracted process. Leach doesn’t operate that way. It’ll help that he and his staff inherit the key pieces of a passing attack that should flourish early in the season. It’s not going to take much, such as a high-profile upset or a late-season push for bowl eligibility, for Washington State to turn a flicker of optimism into a full-blown movement in parts of the Pacific Northwest.

- Jeff Tuel or Connor Halliday? Being Leach’s first quarterback at Wazzu will be college football’s version of winning the lottery. Notoriety and numbers await the Cougar who’s best suited to run the new pass-happy attack.

- Marquess Wilson was already one of the five or six most underrated wide receivers in America. Anonymity won’t be as big of a problem in 2012 for No. 86.

- The Cougars have options at the skill positions, but will the O-line be a major impediment to success? The unit has rarely been a strength, and now is being forced to inject new starters into an already suspect lineup.

- Washington State is putting out APBs for quality linebackers. Not only did its best player from a year ago, Alex Hoffman-Ellis, graduate, but two other starters, sophomores C.J. Mizell and Sekope Kaufusi, were booted from the team for disciplinary reasons.

- The entire D-line is back, headed by all-star DE Travis Long, but no amount of experience will matter if the Cougars can’t get to the quarterback more often. While a Leach-led production doesn’t win with defense, even mild gains up front will have a positive impact on both sides of the ball.

- Pac-12 South Spring Preview & Thoughts

North California | Oregon | Oregon St | Stanford | Washington | Washington St
South Arizona | Arizona St | Colorado | UCLA | USC | Utah 

2012 Pac-12 Pre-Spring Preview
- Pre-Preseason Pac-12 North Rankings
- Pre-Preseason Pac-12 South Rankings
- Why Every Pac-12 North Team Should Be Excited
- Why Every Pac-12 South Team Should Be Excited
- Why Every Pac-12 North Team Should Be Grouchy
- Why Every Pac-12 South Team Should Be Grouchy
- What Every Pac-12 North Team Needs To Work On 
- What Every Pac-12 South Team Needs To Work On 
2012 Recruiting Rankings Pac-12 North | Pac-12 South