2012 Pac-12 Preview - North Team Breakdown
Washington State WR Marquess Wilson
Washington State WR Marquess Wilson
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Aug 16, 2012


Preview 2012 - CFN Pac-12 Team By Team Quick Looks and Predicted Finish


Preview 2012

Pac-12 North Team By Team

 
NORTH
- 2012 Cal Preview | 2012 Oregon Preview
- 2012 Oregon State State Preview | 2012 Stanford Preview 
- 2012 Washington Preview | 2012 Washington State Preview

SOUTH
- 2012 Arizona Preview | 2012 Arizona State Preview
- 2012 Colorado Preview | 2012 UCLA Preview  
- 2012 USC Preview | 2012 Utah Preview  

- 2012 Pac-12 Preview
- 2012 Pac-12 Unit Rankings
- 2012 CFN Pac-12 Schedules & Picks
- 2012 CFN All-Pac-12 Team & Top 30 Players
- 2012 Pac-12 North Team Looks & Predicted Finish  
- 2012 Pac-12 South Team Looks & Predicted Finish  
 
Predicted Pac-12 Championship: USC over Oregon

Note: Predictions based on team talent and schedules.
 
1. Oregon
2012 CFN Prediction: 11-1
2012 Pac-12 Prediction: 8-1

Offense: There are changes galore on offense for the Ducks, but as long as Chip Kelly is the coach, no one seems particularly frazzled by the challenges ahead. QB Darron Thomas, RB LaMichael James, top receiver Lavasier Tuinei and a couple of starting linemen … all gone. Still, Kelly has now been in Eugene long enough to establish a dynamic plug-and-play system that’ll reload rather than rebuild. The big storyline throughout the season has been the nip-and-tuck battle between sophomore Bryan Bennett and redshirt freshman Marcus Mariota to fill Thomas’ shoes. Bennett played well in relief last year, but Mariota was otherworldly at times in the spring as he continuously channeled his inner-Dennis Dixon. Even without James, Oregon shouldn’t have many problems breaking the back of opposing defenses with bursts through the secondary. RB Kenjon Barner is through being one of the nation’s premier backups, and is eager to showcase his talent on a full-time basis. Second-year playmaker De’Anthony Thomas is one of college football’s most electrifying players, completely changing the momentum of games as a runner and a receiver. After him, WR Josh Huff is ready to emerge, provided a March 3 arrest and subsequent trial doesn’t shorten his season. Although three starters return to the offensive line, the unit still needs to locate a rhythm around vets Carson York and Nick Cody. Jake Fisher, who played some guard a year ago, is running with the ones at left tackle.

Defense: Nick Alioti continues to be one of the most underrated coordinators west of the Mississippi. While his defenses are rarely air-tight, they’re always fast, ferocious and fundamentally-sound. So, even with the loss of a bunch of starters, the program is confident that it can regroup in time for the opener. As the Ducks gradually shift to a 3-4 in 2012, there’s a base of talent at each level with which to build upon. Underrated Taylor Hart is moving from tackle to end, where he’ll be joining First Team All-Pac-12 pass rusher Dion Jordan, one of the conference’s emerging stars. On the inside, the D with be stout at the point of attack with the combination of Wade Keliikipi and Ricky Heimuli. Look out for the linebackers, an extremely athletic collection of defenders. Michael Clay and Rose Bowl hero Kiko Alonso both have all-star ability, while Boseko Lokombo brings instant playmaking ability to the defense. Hard-hitting S John Boyett will once again be the warden of the defensive backfield, roaming the secondary with a chip on his shoulder. However, Oregon will be very young after their all-league senior, likely starting three sophomores alongside him, rover Erick Dargan and cornerbacks Terrance Mitchell and Ifo Ekpre-Olomu.

2. California
2012 CFN Prediction: 9-3
2012 Pac-12 Prediction: 6-3

Offense: The Bears are going to run the ball, but can they achieve the level of balance and potency that the coaching staff is desperately seeking? The team has been missing its offensive objectives for years now. The ground game figures to be in good shape with the returns of 1,000-yard rusher Isi Sofele and emerging complement C.J. Anderson running behind a physical offensive line. However, the passing attack is a series of riddles. QB Zach Maynard is a returning starter, yet was inconsistent in his debut after transferring from Buffalo. While the corps of receivers has an All-American contender in Keenan Allen, it’s also extremely green after its leading man. And the O-line is sturdy on the right side, yet unproven on the left. No one will be carrying more weight on 2012 than Maynard, who has to evolve in his second—and final—year in Berkeley.

Defense: The bad news is that the Bears lost five key starters to graduation. The good news? The program is about to enter its third year in coordinator Clancy Pendergast’s 3-4 system, meaning everyone should have a firm handle on it now. Oh, and also, the staff has recruited this side of the ball exceptionally well in recent years. So, while Mychal Kendricks, Trevor Guyton and Sean Cattouse will be missed, their departures open the door for DE Deandre Coleman, LB Chris McCain and LB Nick Forbes, among others, to blossom into Pac-12 playmakers. Having stockpiled exciting young talent for the past few years, Cal is poised to start turning some of its prized recruits loose. Pendergast prefers an attacking style of D that helps accentuate the speed and aggressiveness that have become the trademarks of this team. It often pays off for the Bears, but not without a cost. Cal has had a knack for yielding big plays at costly times in games.

T3. Stanford
2012 CFN Prediction: 6-6
2012 Pac-12 Prediction: 4-5

Offense: If David Shaw knows who the heir apparent to Andrew Luck will be, he hasn’t told anyone. Hey, at least the head coach narrowed a five-man battle in the spring to two combatants, junior Josh Nunes and sophomore Brett Nottingham. Although Nottingham has the edge in potential and overall physical ability, no one is quite ready to hand him the keys to the offense. No matter who gets the nod, the Cardinal will still feature a physical brand of football that accentuates the team’s strength at running back and tight end. Not only will RB Stepfan Taylor finally get the bigger spotlight he richly deserves, but he’ll be closely monitored by the NFL scouting community as well. Add in Anthony Wilkerson and Tyler Gaffney, provided he doesn’t leave to play Major League Baseball, and Stanford houses a deep stable of backs capable of wearing down defenses. At tight end, the team parted with elite talent Coby Fleener, yet will remain dangerous on intermediate routes to Zach Ertz and Levine Toilolo. Nottingham and Nunes must pay extra attention to the tight ends since, Ty Montgomery aside, the wide receivers are a gray area. While not as painful as the departure of Luck, the Cardinal will find it difficult to move on without LT Jonathan Martin and RG David DeCastro, repeat First Team All-Pac-12 performers. Up-and-coming David Yankey is making the move from left guard to left tackle, one of a number of offseason developments worth watching in the summer.

Defense: Once again operating out of a 3-4 alignment, Derek Mason’s front seven is going to be suffocating. While the defensive line will miss the motor and intensity of DE Matt Masifilo, there’s plenty of talent left in the wake. DE Ben Gardner was an All-Pac-12 second-teamer in 2011, and NG Terrance Stephens played well in his first year as a full-timer. Plus, the staff really likes the upside of young ends Henry Anderson and Josh Mauro. It’s on the second level where the Cardinal might harbor the best collection of linebackers in America. The unit boasts the depth, talent and size to stuff the run, while consistently exploit the holes in an O-line on blitzes. Chase Thomas and Shayne Skov are All-American candidates on the outside and inside, respectively, though Skov still must get past last season’s ACL tear and February’s DUI arrest. Trent Murphy, Jarek Lancaster and James Vaughters will further flood the field with big, physical playmakers. The biggest question mark on this defense—by far—is the secondary. Three starters are gone, namely all-star S Delano Howell. CB Barry Browning is the long holdover, but it remains to be seen who’ll join him in the lineup. CB Terrence Brown and safeties Jordan Richards and Kyle Olugbode got the most first-team reps in the spring, but the competition will heat up again in the summer.

T3. Washington
2012 CFN Prediction: 6-6
2012 Pac-12 Prediction: 4-5

Offense: With Steve Sarkisian at the helm, the Huskies feel that they can be the kind of offense that regroups on the fly when a star graduates. Last year, for instance, U-Dub averaged 409 yards and 33 points a game in the first year after bellwether QB Jake Locker’s graduation. So, even with the losses of 1,000-yard rusher Chris Polk and top two receivers Jermaine Kearse and Devin Aguilar, Washington is confident that it won’t veer off the tracks. Of course, it helps immeasurably to have back QB Keith Price, who exploded out of the gate in his debut to throw for 33 touchdowns and 3,063 yards. The new names worth knowing at the skill positions in Seattle are Jesse Callier and Bishop Sankey at running back, and Kasen Williams, an emerging star at wide receiver. Not to be forgotten, Austin Seferian-Jenkins is one of the country’s most dangerous young tight ends, debuting with six touchdown catches a year ago. The situation up front is going to be a little tenuous for the Huskies. It looked for a while as if the unit would return four starters from 2011, but RG Colin Porter was forced to retire because of chronic shoulder problems, and a handful of others were banged up in the spring. Without an obvious star in the mix, this group has to pull together before the opener.

Defense: After twice allowing 65 points in the final seven games of 2011, it had become obvious that the Huskies needed to make changes on defense. Enter coordinator Justin Wilcox, the crown jewel of the reshuffled staff. It’s early in the process, but the coach’s new disciples appear to be buying into his philosophy, showcasing noticeably more intensity and aggressiveness than recent squads. The hope is that the returning talent, many of whom were coveted high school recruits, can bloom into reliable playmakers. The new system will include three down linemen and a rush end handled by the explosive Josh Shirley. Fingers are crossed that DE Hau’oli Jamora, a breakout star in 2010, can return without incident from last year’s season-ending knee injury. One of the revelations of the spring was the play of young NT Danny Shelton, who appears up to the challenge of replacing Alameda Ta’amu. The linebackers, who had played poorly in 2011, could be a liability again in 2012. S Nate Fellner is now the favorite at strongside, while John Timu looks capable of becoming a long-term fixture in the middle. The secondary has the pieces be the cornerstone of the D. All but one starter returns, and SS Sean Parker and CB Desmond Trufant will both contend for all-conference honors.

5. Washington State
2012 CFN Prediction: 5-7
2012 Pac-12 Prediction: 3-6

Offense: Back in the day when Mike Price had Wazzu contending for Pac-10 championships, the program was always led by a high-powered passing attack. New head coach Mike Leach hopes to recapture that persona with his high-flying, time-tested aerial assault. The Cougars are going to spread the field with four receivers, which will also create wider running lanes for backs Rickey Galvin and Carl Winston. Although there were early whispers that the competition at quarterback would be wide open, Jeff Tuel is on the verge of becoming Leach’s first gunslinger on the Palouse. He was sharp in his return from an injury-filled junior year, quickly grasping the nuances of the offensive attack. Tuel-to-Marquess Wilson will be a hook-up that produces monster numbers in 2012, though it’s also imperative that others, like Blair Bomber, Drew Lofthus and converted TE Andrei Lintz, take a little heat off the Cougs’ obvious go-to guy in the passing game. LT John Fullington is the signature player of an offensive line coming off a miserable season. Not only is this group trying to absorb new blocking schemes on the fly, but it’s also light on depth and long on injuries. It’s incumbent upon the eventual starting five that they afford Tuel the time he needs to find his open receiver slicing through the defense.

Defense: The Cougars have a very long way to go on defense, but the locals have no choice but to be patient with the Pac-12’s most generous unit of the past few seasons. The first-year staff has already installed a new 3-4 alignment that aims to leverage the program’s speed and athleticism from the second level. Yeah, the linebackers were hit hard by graduation and dismissals, but Chester Sua, Darryl Monroe and Eric Oertel appeared up to the challenge in the spring. And former DE Travis Long is going to be a force at Buck, a hybrid position that’ll put the senior in a position to make plays all over the field—and capture the attention of NFL scouts. After playing modestly well last fall, the run defense is susceptible to a sharp regression unless Lenard Williams, Anthony Laurenzi and Xavier Cooper can do a much better job of controlling the line of scrimmage. The defensive backfield has plenty of scars after enduring a 3:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio last season. It also has considerable room for growth thanks to the return of all four of last year’s starters, particularly CB Damante Horton SS Deone Bucannon, who both put down the ground floor of promising careers in Pullman.

6. Oregon State
2012 CFN Prediction: 3-9
2012 Pac-12 Prediction: 2-7

Offense: Run the ball better. That has been the mantra coming down from the coaching staff from the moment last year’s regular season came to a close. When the Beavers were exceeding expectations over the past decade, they always had a 1,000-yard rusher on offense, but last year’s squad normed just 87 yards a game on the ground. The responsibility of restoring some order to the rushing attack could belong to multiple players, though Storm Woods and Malcolm Agnew appear to have the most long-term potential. Woods, in particular, had the kind of breakout spring that’s sure to earn him plenty of reps in the fall. Everyone is going to benefit if the offensive line can remain healthy, which was not the case a year ago. RT Michael Philipp, who sat out the entire 2011 season, is the kind of drive blocker who can really spark the unit if he’s able to recapture his pre-injury form. Contrary to the ground game, the passing attack figures to be on far more solid footing. Sean Mannion took some predictable lumps as a redshirt freshman, but is clearly the program’s quarterback of the future. If he can begin to turn the corner, he’ll be on his way to becoming one of the Pac-12’s top young hurlers. It’ll surely help having access to an electric set of hands that includes wide receivers Markus Wheaton and Brandin Cooks.

Defense: The Oregon State defense was a major disappointment in 2011, yielding more than 30 points a game. A turnaround is possible since only a couple of starters from that group need to be replaced. Now that the Beavers are a year older, they need to be a year better. On the first line of defense, the coaches are ecstatic about the ends, but concerned about the tackles. While ends Scott Crichton and Dylan Wynn possess the get-off to become a dominating tandem off the edge, the tackles are pedestrian, an issue for a struggling run defense. The program feels set at linebacker with Feti Unga, Michael Doctor and D.J. Welch. Unga was unable to play a complete season because of an injury, but he was racking up the tackles from the middle in the games he was available. While S Lance Mitchell needs to be replaced, Oregon State has very high hopes for its secondary. Three starters are back, led by Second Team All-Pac-12 CB Jordan Poyer. The team is also eager to get big-hitting S Anthony Watkins back on the field. The borderline all-star, who led the Beavers with 85 tackles a year ago, sat out the spring to recover from shoulder surgery.
 
NORTH
- 2012 Cal Preview | 2012 Oregon Preview
- 2012 Oregon State State Preview | 2012 Stanford Preview 
- 2012 Washington Preview | 2012 Washington State Preview

SOUTH
- 2012 Arizona Preview | 2012 Arizona State Preview
- 2012 Colorado Preview | 2012 UCLA Preview  
- 2012 USC Preview | 2012 Utah Preview  

- 2012 Pac-12 Preview
- 2012 Pac-12 Unit Rankings
- 2012 CFN Pac-12 Schedules & Picks
- 2012 CFN All-Pac-12 Team & Top 30 Players
- 2012 Pac-12 North Team Looks & Predicted Finish  
- 2012 Pac-12 South Team Looks & Predicted Finish