Pac-12 spring football previews: USC, Washington, ASU and Utah headline second weekend
USC Trojans, 3 p.m. PT, Pac-12 Networks
Steve Sarkisian has worked for nearly a semester as the USC head coach, and now the Trojan faithful get their first semi-organized look at what's been built so far. From Day 1 of Sark's tenure, the old school USC approach of bruising running backs and pro sets has been challenged by the more modern look of a spread attack that Sarkisian brings from Washington. Now fans get to see what exactly that'll look like in USC cardinal and gold.
Don't be mistaken: USC will still have a physicality that relies on bullying around the opposition. There's the usual depth in the backfield with durable backs Tre Madden and Javorius “Buck” Allen leading the way. USC also likes what's it's seeing from fullbacks Jahleel Pinner and Pat Hart, not to mention tight end Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick.
Position battle of note: At running back, Tre Madden and Buck Allen are listed as a one-two punch at the running back spot, but will it pan out the way of the complete split? Saturday might hint toward an answer either way.
A name you should know: Darreus Rogers is considered to be next in line in the long list of great Trojan wide receivers. From Robert Woods to Marqise Lee to Nelson Agholor, there has been a two-headed monster at wideout in the last several years, and USC doesn't expect that to change with the 6'1, 210 pound Rogers stepping in.
Washington Huskies, 1 p.m. PT, Pac-12 Washington
The Washington Huskies are one of a number of Pac-12 teams looking into using two-way players a bit more than they have in the past. At the forefront of this push is Shaq Thompson, a starting linebacker last season who will be getting a good deal of snaps on the offensive side of the ball, where the Huskies and first-year coach Chris Petersen must replace dynamic running back Bishop Sankey. Part of replacing Sankey's 1,870 yards and 20 touchdowns will also fall on redshirt freshman Lavon Coleman, a beefy 215-pound back who could be the main option if he continues to produce and improve throughout the summer.
The multifaceted look isn't just for Thompson. Elsewhere, the Huskies have also taken a look at moving wide receiver John Ross into the defensive secondary. Ross, who is a freshman this season, pulled in 16 receptions for 208 yards last season.
Position battle of note: Jeff Lindquist and Troy Williams will battle for the right to replace departed quarterback Keith Price until the status of last year's backup, Cyler Miles, is decided. Will either one do anything to give them the edge in the eyes of Petersen?
A name you should know: Redshirt freshman linebacker Keishawn Bierria could get a bit of run with the first team group and has impressed this spring.
Utah Utes, 12 p.m. PT / 1 p.m. MT, Pac-12 Mountain
It's not only the the Utah Utes have a fresh offense to debut in front of fans on Saturday. New offensive coordinator Dave Christensen wants the tempo fast and the field spread, but the more intriguing storyline involves the man who is likely to run that new scheme. The return of quarterback Travis Wilson is the most important storyline of all, even if he's not cleared for contact yet.
During the 2013 season, it was unknown whether Wilson would play again after an examination following a concussion determined a serious head injury. But the sophomore is back this spring and has been looking more athletic than ever. In recent weeks he's seemingly separated himself from a deep group of reserves led by redshirt freshman Conner Manning.
Position battle of note: Highly-regarded defensive back Tevin Carter remains out due to injury, and a shallow safety position will allow for opportunities in the defensive backfield. That could extend into corner if veteran Eric Rowe switches back to his old safety spot because of the depth issues.
A name you should know: Marcus Sanders-Williams. The sophomore was switched from running back to linebacker less than a week ago and has already moved into the first team group to help an injury-depleted crew that lost Gionni Paul and Jacoby Hale to injury this spring.
Arizona State Sun Devils, 11 a.m. PT / 12 p.m. PT, Pac-12 Arizona
Defensive tackle Will Sutton left for the NFL after his senior season, and more surprisingly so did hybrid Devil-backer Carl Bradford. ASU lost all but one of its defensive backs, and Damarious Randall is being relied upon to quarterback what will be an inexperienced defense from his safety spot.
There are many questions for a team that lost so much on the defensive side of the ball. Additionally, coach Todd Graham is hoping for some stability in the special teams play that hurt the Sun Devils toward the end of last season. Sophomore Matt Haack has taken over the punting duties and seemingly has been a sight for sore eyes this spring.
A name you should know: Mo Latu. A giant of a defensive tackle at 6'3, 384 pounds, the Sun Devils are attempting to get the big guy down to 340 pounds to allow him to play more snaps. Because even at 340 pounds, the space-eater will do his job. That said, ASU already likes what it sees from Latu.
Position battle of note: While running back D.J. Foster seems to be the heir apparent to Marion Grice, he'll need a backup. Fifth-year senior Deantre Lewis and Kyle Middlebrooks will likely be the two frontrunners to relieve the lightning-quick Foster.
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