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Pac-12 Spring Football - South
Arizona State RB Cameron Marshall
Arizona State RB Cameron Marshall
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Mar 19, 2012


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

2012 Spring Preview   

Pac-12 South



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 North Spring Preview & Thoughts

Arizona

There’s enthusiasm once again in Tucson thanks to the arrival of Rich Rodriguez as the new head coach. After eight disappointing seasons under Mike Stoops, the Wildcats were jonesing for a change at the top, and the new regime brings much-needed fresh energy. It’ll also be accompanied by dramatically new systems on both sides of the ball, Rich Rod’s spread-option attack and Jeff Casteel’s unique 3-3-5 stack defense.

The next few months will be all about getting the staff better acclimated with the personnel, and getting those personnel gradually more comfortable with an unfamiliar playbook. From the beginning of spring to the final practice of summer, all eyes will be on QB Matt Scott. The senior, a redshirt in 2011, has the right mix of athleticism and poise to click in the offense, but needs to prove that he can remain healthy for an entire year.

- When evaluating the hiring of Rodriguez, think West Virginia, not Michigan. He was a bad fit in Ann Arbor, to be sure, but in the Pac-12, he’s capable of flourishing real early in his tenure.

- The Wildcats are going to run the ball … a lot. Enter Ka’Deem Carey into the running for Pac-12 leading rusher. The talented sophomore was going to be a focal point of the offense even before the new system was installed.

- Will the stats of Akron transfer Brian Wagner translate against much better competition? The ‘Cats, desperate for help at linebacker, need the tackling machine to become one of the leaders of the D in his only season in the desert.

- Although Arizona will throw the ball far less than it did in recent seasons, getting the ball in the hands of receivers Dan Buckner and Austin Hill still ought to be a priority. Both players are capable of creating serious matchup problems for smaller defensive backs.

- DB Tra’Mayne Bondurant may be a ‘tweener because of his modest size, but he’ll fit just fine in an alignment that covets physical safeties. The new “spur” at Arizona is ideally positioned to make a ton of big plays for Casteel this season.

Arizona State

New coach. New quarterback. New mindset. Same old results? While there’s a new sheriff in Tempe, Todd Graham, he’ll have his hands full trying to turn around a program that was mired in mediocrity for the past four seasons under Dennis Erickson. There are countless challenges associated with the implementation of a completely new staff.

For the Sun Devils, there’s also the added complication of dealing with extensive turnover on the roster. The two-deep will need to be rearranged now that so many starters have used up their eligibility. In fact, of the seven Arizona State players who earned at least All-Pac-12 honorable mention in 2011, just one is still with the team. QB Brock Osweiler could have helped immensely with the transition, but opted instead to turn pro a year early. Patience will be a must for Devils fans this season … at a minimum.

- So who’ll be Graham’s first starting quarterback? He has three choices, Mike Bercovici, Taylor Kelly and Michael Eubank. Eubank is green, but has Cam Newton-like characteristics, an enticing blend of size and athleticism in an attack that covets mobile players behind center.

- Bank on a big year for RB Cameron Marshall, the lone returning all-star. The Devils would like to run 60% of the time, and the senior can be a 223-pound load between the tackles.

- All bets are off on offense if the line can’t finally start playing with more consistency, an elusive pursuit for many years. Three starters are gone, including its leader, All-Pac 12 Second Team C Garth Gerhart.

- Brandon Magee is back after missing all of 2011 to an injury. He’ll be asked to be more than a starting linebacker in his final year. He’ll need to be a coach on the field for a unit losing four of its top performers from a year ago.

- Just because two-thirds of last season’s pass-catching production has departed doesn’t mean ASU won’t have pop on the outside. Jamal Miles is one of the league’s best all-around playmakers, and Rashad Ross built a head of steam down the stretch.

Colorado

Jon Embree’s first season at his alma mater was supposed to be challenging. It was. Now, the coach and his staff are looking to build on last year’s 3-10 campaign. The last time the Buffaloes finished above .500 it was 2005, so the transformation in culture will be an ongoing process in Boulder. Compared to the rest of the Big 12, Colorado simply doesn’t harbor enough depth, overall talent or kids who know what it takes to win on a consistent basis.

On the bright side of things, the Buffs did deliver two upsets in their final three games, and will be far less unsure of their assignments in the second year with Embree in charge. Employing so many young players in 2011 will pay off in 2012 since the program is forced with having to fill multiple holes on both sides of the ball.

- The quarterback job will be Connor Wood’s to lose. Not only is the transfer from Texas a former four-star recruit, but his top competitor, Nick Hirschman, is sitting out the spring with a broken bone in his foot.

- This is a big huge for senior Nick Kasa. The five-star recruit from 2009 never reached expectations as a defensive end, so he’ll spend his finale trying to plug the Buffs’ gap at tight end. At a minimum, the 6-6, 265-pounder, with the great wheels, ought to be like having a third pulling guard on running plays.

- Provided everyone stays healthy, the linebackers will be the best unit in Boulder. Doug Rippy is on the mend from a knee injury, Jon Major is the anchor of the group and Brady Daigh displays plenty of potential in just his second year out of high school.

- Give Paul Richardson a full year on the field and a little more support from the quarterback, and he’ll bloom into one of the country’s premier wide receivers. The junior is one of the best-kept secrets in the Pac-12 … for now.

- Of the myriad hurdles the Buffs are facing in 2012, tightening up in pass coverage is the tallest one. After getting burned for 34 touchdown passes, Colorado needs young CB Greg Henderson and veteran FS Ray Polk to take charge of the secondary.

UCLA

In an effort to put the brakes on the program’s recent slide, UCLA went in an unconventional route by hiring longtime NFL coach Jim Mora. Unconventional results are the goal. The Bruins have been a collection of underachievers for the better part of a decade, losing at least five games in 11 of the last 13 years. Rick Neuheisel’s final squad was a microcosm for what’s been taking place in Westwood.

Yeah, UCLA backed into a Pac-12 South Division title, but also got engulfed by Oregon in the championship game and went on to become the first bowl team in NCAA history to finish two games below .500. By the time Mora was hired, change was long overdue. Although no games have been played, the coach and his staff have gotten off to a fast start, hiring a quality staff, amassing a terrific first recruiting class and ever so gradually changing the culture on campus.

- Kevin Prince and Richard Brehaut have starting experience. Redshirt freshman Brett Hundley is the fan favorite to become a four-year starter. Mora’s first really big decision will be deciding who’ll be his quarterback when the team visits Rice Sept. 1.

- No matter who gets the ball at quarterback, RB Johnathan Franklin will be the focus of the offense. The senior has proven many times in the past that he’s capable of carrying this offense.

- Mora has been around a lot of NFL tight ends during his career. He’ll be coaching another one, 6-8, 252-pound senior Joseph Fauria, once again this fall.

- The embattled UCLA O-line is getting a big lift from the return of Xavier Su'a-Filo, who went on a Mormon mission in 2009. As a rookie, he started 13 games, and looked as if he was ready to become a cornerstone up front.

- While the Bruins have some terrific pieces in the back seven, like FS Tevin McDonald, CB Andrew Abbott and linebackers Patrick Larimore, Jordan Zumwalt and Eric Kendricks, they’ll get exposed if the team can’t crank up the pass rush. After ranking 112th nationally in sacks, UCLA has to do a better job of getting a push.

USC

It all happened so fast. Wasn’t it just yesterday that the Trojans were down and out, a little wobbly in the legs from the right cross delivered by the NCAA nearly two years ago? That was then, and this is now. Troy regrouped from its bowl ban and scholarship reduction with unexpected suddenness last fall, winning seven of its final eight games to ascend back into the national consciousness. After beating Oregon—at Autzen—and rival UCLA, 50-0, to put a bow on the season, it had become clear that USC was once again set to join the game’s elite schools.

And then just before Christmas, QB Matt Barkley gave a beleaguered fan base exactly what it wanted, one more season behind center. All of the stars have aligned for the Trojans to explode back on to the grand stage. Forget about simply returning to the postseason now that the ban has been lifted. No, USC will be shooting big in 2012, with the right mix of talent to contend for a Pac-12 crown and a national championship.

- Hey, it’s real easy to get overlooked when you compete for touches with Robert Woods and Marqise Lee, but the Trojans tight ends are going to be fantastic. Barkley will have a field day exploiting the middle of the field with help from athletic sophomores Randall Telfer, Xavier Grimble and Christian Thomas.

- If USC misses its mark this fall, it’ll likely be because of the play of the lines. Both sides of the ball lost big-time talents, like OT Matt Kalil and DE Nick Perry, and modest depth will make injuries tougher than normal to endure.

- A lack of depth at running back could also haunt the program. Curtis McNeal will be the workhorse, but transfers Dillon Baxter and Amir Carlisle are no longer around to provide insurance. Sophomore D.J. Morgan and redshirt freshman Buck Allen are suddenly a turned ankle away from being very important parts of the title quest.

- The Trojans will be set at linebacker in 2012 … and beyond. Dion Bailey, Lamar Dawson and Hayes Pullard, all sophomores, comprise a unit that has range, fundamentals and yet-to-be reached ceilings.

- Kevin Graf might be Troy’s most important player of the season. He’s not Barkley, but he will be protecting No. 7’s blindside. The junior, who started at right tackle in 2011, has been tabbed to replace Kalil on the left side of the line.

Utah

The toughest part is over. Now, the Utes can go about the business of planting even deeper roots in the Pac-12. Last season had an obvious learning curve associated with the shift in conference. The competition wasn’t just new; it was also significantly tougher than in the days of the Mountain West. And yet, Utah met the challenge, finishing 8-5, and winning four of its final five conference games.

Head coach Kyle Whittingham wants to build on that success in 2012. In fact, he already has by assembling arguably the most talented recruiting class in school history. On the field, the quarterbacks—past and present—will be getting a lot of the attention during the offseason. Jordan Wynn is working on a return from a season-ending shoulder injury that would bring much-needed stability to the position. His new offensive coordinator Brian Johnson, a former Ute hurler, is just 25 years old, and about to undergo an intriguing baptism under fire.

- Just because John White is the unquestioned starter at running back doesn’t mean the battle for No. 2 will be uneventful. Junior college transfer Kelvin York is such a talented recruit, it’ll be hard not to feed him periodically.

- NT Star Lotulelei just might be the most underrated defensive lineman in the game today. He’s a vintage run-stuffer who’ll get swarmed by pro scouts between September and January.

- A healthy Wynn will help keep the Utes’ offense from being so monotone and one-dimensional in 2012. So, too, for that matter will the return of WR DeVonte Christopher and last season’s top seven pass-catchers.

- There’s good news and bad news at linebacker in Salt Lake City. Chaz Walker and Matt Martinez are gone, but junior Trevor Reilly is ready to blow up into a special player, a hybrid who’ll rush the passer like an end.

- Developing replacements for two all-star offensive tackles, John Cullen and Tony Bergstrom, will be a huge priority in the offseason. The battle lines have been drawn, with a handful of holdovers set to lock horns with a pair of transfers and incoming freshmen.

- Pac-12 North Spring Preview & Thoughts

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