Pac-12 coaches teleconference: Quarterback comparisons

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In this week's Pac-12 coaches teleconference, two sophomore quarterbacks were compared to NFL quarterbacks -- Utah Utes signal-caller Travis Wilson and Oregon Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota should take those as compliments. Ed Orgeron also discussed what's taken place at USC since he took over as interim coach, and Cal's Sonny Dykes talked about facing former mentor Mike Leach of Washington State.

Colorado

Colorado's Mike MacIntyre

The Buffaloes host Oregon in Boulder, Colo., this weekend, and MacIntyre made what may be an obvious comparison to Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota. “Nevada had a guy named Colin Kaepernick,” MacIntyre said. “Just how fast he is, how long he is … he's got a great arm and can make all the throws. When he's on, he's extremely hard to stop.”

MacIntyre joined Colorado after coaching the last three seasons at San Jose State, but two key recruits followed him when he decided to make the move to the Pac-12. Linebacker Addison Gillam and running back Michael Adkins both have made instant impacts. Against Colorado State, Gillam had a team-high 14 tackles in his first significant role. Last week in a loss to Oregon State, Adkins rushed 14 times for 98 yards. The Buffs coach said he had no doubt they would be able to compete at the Pac-12 level. “Not only are they really good athletes,” he said, “they're good young men.”

Oregon

Oregon's Mark Helfrich

As most Pac-12 conference calls go, coaches are asked to compare the league to others. While the vast majority have agreed that the Pac-12 is one of the best conferences, Helfrich isn't so sure. Or maybe he's just giving his Ducks motivation for a potential title game matchup. “The SEC still has the puffed-out chest and I think deservedly so,” he said.

ESPN's Ted Miller asked Helfrich about the Ducks' well-documented philosophy of playing a “faceless opponent." The sticking point, Helfrich said, is worrying about Oregon's own improvements rather than spending too much time on who's lining up against the Ducks. “That's just kind of our way,” Helfrich said. “If we had to block Ted Miller, we'd talk about Ted Miller for a moment … and then talk about our effort.”

The Pacific Northwest hosted several Pac-12 games last week with rain playing a big part in the playing field. If he had seen that coming, Helfrich said he'd have made his team “practice in a washing machine or a dishwasher. I've lived in Oregon the majority of my life and I haven't seen it like that, ever,” he said.

UCLA

UCLA's Jim Mora

Mora said he felt empathy for recently fired USC Trojans coach Lane Kiffin, but that's about all he cared to say about the battle for bragging rights in Los Angeles. Mora insists that his Bruins aren't distracted by what happens at USC, be it good or bad. “We don't worry about that stuff,” he said. “That's another team. Our players don't worry about another team. It's a non-factor.”

The Bruins will play a Thursday night game at Utah this week, and Mora knows that the Utes' offense could be a problem. Quarterback Travis Wilson, who stands 6'6", is playing well in new offensive coordinator Dennis Erickson's offense, and Mora said he's reminded of former ASU Sun Devils quarterback Brock Osweiler, who played under Erickson in Tempe and is now backing up Peyton Manning for the Denver Broncos.

Mora sees Erickson reflected in the Utah offense, but he also sees Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham's fingerprints on the roster. “Dennis is a guy that looks for the big play. Dennis is a guy that's very protection-oriented,” Mora said. “You still see Kyle. You see discipline, you see toughness, you see ball control.”

Utah

Utah's Kyle Whittingham

One of the biggest worries for Whittingham against UCLA this week will be starting off strong after halftime. The Bruins have made it a habit to make the right adjustments. And overall, physicality is the biggest worry for the Utes – Whittingham says Mora is “rubbing off” on his team. “We'll have to play our best game to have our best chance,” Whittingham said. “They just got a lot of players playing with physicality. And that's more so than last year.”

Whittingham on quarterback Travis Wilson: “He's matured faster than I think any of us thought he would.”

Oregon State

Oregon State's Mike Riley

While several Pac-12 teams have brought in no-huddle offenses, Oregon State has maintained the status quo. The Beavers have been successful, but it doesn't mean Riley hasn't toyed with the idea of implementing an up-tempo offense. “We have examined it for ourselves and messed around a little bit,” he said. “What we do and how we play, we just couldn't make it fit comfortably in calling plays and how we do it. We kind of do it the old-fashioned way.”

The Beavers have eclipsed the 100-yard rushing mark in only two of their five games so far. Part of it has been OSU's affinity for getting behind early and needing to go with the pass to play catch-up. Quarterback Sean Mannion has been putting up stellar numbers as a result, so there hasn't been much reason to push for more of a run game. Riley knows that'll change, however. “We actually did some better things in the run game this last weekend,” Riley said of a 44-17 win against Colorado. “We've also got to go with whatever's working to try to win a game. Perhaps in the first few games I haven't had enough patience.”

Stanford

Stanford's David Shaw

Stanford hosts Washington this week looking to redeem a 17-13 loss to the Huskies in 2012. “I know that we need to be at our best,” Shaw said. “They've been cranking up yards. Offensively, this is a team that matched us blow-for-blow.”

Offensively, the Cardinal has changed over the past few years because of its personnel. Under quarterback Andrew Luck, there were drop-backs and sets emphasizing tight ends. Now, quarterback Kevin Hogan brings diversity with his mobility, and the wide receivers are more dangerous than ever. Shaw said it helps take pressure off of the run game. “Kevin's mobility changes things. The threat of him running, getting outside the pocket, helps get guys open,” he said.

On quarterback Kevin Hogan's growth and improvements so far this season. “He grows a little bit each week. We took more downfield passes this week, and he did a great job of hitting guys in stride.”

Washington

Washington's Steve Sarkisian

The Huskies are rolling coming off a 31-13 win against Arizona and know they have the attention of Stanford. While the Cardinal will, per usual, pound the rock with running backs, it's all about that ground attack setting up to the pass game. “They have a great deal of speed on the perimeter with Ty Montgomery and Michael Rector,” he said. “Then the challenge is how not to give up the big plays.”

Sarkisian said he's proud of building a winning culture in Seattle, and said his team doesn't seem likely to take its challenge against Stanford for granted. Fifth-year seniors Keith Price and Will Shamburger spoke to their teammates on Monday, “just to remind the guys of where we came from and where we started, and what this process has been about to get us to this point,” Sarkisian said.

Washington State

Washington State's Mike Leach

Leach built his coaching name up at Texas Tech, but along the way he's had a number of assistant coaches leave his staffs for opportunities elsewhere. Dykes was one of those coaches that began as a graduate assistant under Leach at Kentucky and later became an offensive coordinator for Leach at Texas Tech. “I see him off and on, and talk to him off and on," Leach said of Dykes. "I'm happy for him."

California

California's Sonny Dykes

Cal found itself in a driving rain storm during its game against Oregon this weekend, and freshman quarterback Jared Goff was pulled for backup Zach Kline after having multiple fumbling issues. Dykes said he “would be surprised” if Goff wasn't the starter this week against Washington State. “We're going to try to remedy it in case we get into a wet game again,” Dykes said. “We're going to play in rain any time we play in the Pacific Northwest."

WSU Cougars coach Mike Leach pioneered his Air Raid offense at a high level while coaching at Kentucky, but ultimately had the most success at Texas Tech. As an assistant coach in Lubbock, Texas, Dykes became a well-regarded offensive coordinator and eventually brought a version of the Air Raid to Arizona before becoming a head coach himself. Dykes said that while a number of former Leach assistants use the offense, Leach has maintained the most “pure” form of it to this day. “It's the more pure, true version of the Air Raid. Mike's spin is the original offense,” Dykes said.

On Leach's best traits as a football coach: “Mike's got an ability to focus on things that really matter in football and kind of sort through all the different things and focus on what matters. This is how you win and lose football games; these are the important things.”

USC

USC's Ed Orgeron

After USC fired coach Lane Kiffin early Sunday morning, former defensive line coach Ed Orgeron was installed as the interim head coach. He's been quick in moving forward from a 62-41 loss to Arizona State. “We've made corrections, we've put it away,” he said. “We've made some new goals with our program, had a couple of team meetings and told them what we expect of them.”

Orgeron said the team has “turned the page” and the players have responded well despite losing their head coach. USC had already come under a lot of fire prior to the coaching change, and Orgeron said that spoke to the team's resiliency. “I actually think they're fired up with a fresh start,” he added.

Orgeron on what he expects of himself with eight games remaining: “I'm going for it 110 percent with my personality on it. Let the chips fall where they may.”

Arizona

Arizona's Rich Rodriguez

Rodriguez and the Wildcats have a bye week before facing the Orgeron-led USC Trojans next Thursday. From the Wildcats' end, the offensive side of the ball could be the biggest challenge for UA defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel. Rodriguez said Arizona will prepare for everything.

Arizona's offense sputtered in the rain against Washington in a 31-13 loss this weekend. After “corrective” meetings and practices since, Rodriguez praised starting quarterback B.J. Denker, who completed 14-of-35 passes and had two interceptions. “He's a competitive guy, and I think he'll bounce back and work hard to make mistakes he made,” Rodriguez said. “It wasn't just the players but the coaches, too.”

Rodriguez on if backup quarterback Javelle Allen had closed the gap between himself and Denker. “He's closed the gap over the last several weeks.”

Arizona State

Arizona State's Todd Graham

Graham said that consistency has been an issue for the Sun Devils, who head to Dallas to play against Notre Dame this week. Most specifically, he said ASU needs to tighten up a kicking game and avoid giving up big plays on defense.

On the goals of playing a tough four-game stretch against Wisconsin, Stanford, USC and Notre Dame: “We knew that once we got through this stretch we wanted to be healthy and wanted to be a better football team.”

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