Pac-12 football coaches teleconference: Spring quarterback battles and satellite camps
Spring is winding down, meaning college football goes dormant while school is out. But in Pac-12 country, quarterback battles continue to rage. Pac-12 coaches joined with the media for a teleconference call Tuesday to wrap up spring and discuss the challenges ahead.
Stanford's David Shaw
Stanford hasn't used spring for starting quarterback evaluations in a few years but now that Kevin Hogan is gone, it's back to determining who can settle into the starting gig. Keller Chryst and Ryan Burns remain even in that competition and Shaw said their battle could go into the season unless one player separates himself during the fall. "Both guys have done well. At the same time, both guys need to wrap it up," Shaw said. "We need to go on a game tempo during practice to make sure those guys can operate that when the lights come on."
While the offensive line is far from set, Shaw likes his options. Most importantly, he's found a starting center in junior Jesse Burkett, who "played extremely well." Senior David Bright and junior Casey Tucker look like locks on the line and can add depth with their ability to play either tackle spot or even guard.
Shaw doesn't believe that the loose personality of last year's Rose Bowl team carried into spring. "I think we have to earn the right to be loose. That team last year, about midseason, started to play at a really high level," he said.
USC's Clay Helton
Two things stood out to Helton during spring: the competitiveness of the quarterback battle and the offensive line play. Regarding the former, the USC coach was pleased that redshirt freshman Sam Darnold and redshirt sophomore Jalen Greene kept pace with redshirt junior signal-caller Max Browne.
Helton said he will likely make a final decision on the starting quarterback before the preparation week as USC opens its season against reigning champion Alabama.
On several Trojans offensive linemen getting stuck in an elevator: "I believe it happened before dinner. I need to teach those guys to be a little bit smarter. I'm just glad they made it out. If that's the worst thing that happens all offseason, I'll take it."
Helton called the defensive line the "thinnest" position on the team. The depth took a blow when senior Kenny Bigelow tore his ACL in March. "We're going to have to play above our head," Helton said.
Arizona State's Todd Graham
ASU is the only FBS school without a quarterback on the roster who has thrown a D-I pass. So between Brady Manny Wilkins, Brady White or Bryce Perkins - who will win the job? "Each one of them have different things," Graham said. "It's been a very close race in the spring and it'll go through the summer. It'll clear up."
Staff turnover for the Sun Devils might lead to questions about how the team will function, but regarding offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey especially, Graham feels comfortable. Lindsey is from the same coaching tree -- he studied under Gus Malzahn at Auburn -- and the terminology hasn't changed. "When you have new people and stuff it just creates excitement. I did sense that. I sense new energy there. We hadn't gone to battle together, we have to do a great job of being organized and being prepared."
Utah's Kyle Whittingham
Charged with replacing the entire linebacker group, Whittingham called junior Sunia Tauteoli the "clear-cut" No. 1 linebacker. Sophomore Cody Barton and junior Christian Drews round out the top three, but Whittingham wants at least two more linebackers to step up for Utah to feel good about the depth at the position.
The quarterback battle is even between three players. Freshman Tyler Huntley is right in the mix with juniors Troy Williams and Brandon Cox. Williams is dealing with a minor throwing injury but should be ready for fall, while Huntley is maybe a surprise. "The way the guy came in and...his ability to assimilate the offense and absorb it," Whittingham said. "His athleticism is incredible. He makes some throws that you just don't see a freshman make."
Whittingham said he isn't one to push for a reversal of the Pac-12 decision to ban satellite camps but isn't afraid to share his opinion. "There are a lot of kids that won't be able to be evaluated," he said. "The only thing that matters is the best interest of the players."
Arizona's Rich Rodriguez
On NFL Draft prospect Scooby Wright: "Scooby, wherever he gets drafted, I think he'll make a roster and end up being a starter. There's going to be a lot of value wherever they take him -- early or late."
Freshman quarterback Khalil Tate will remain at quarterback for Arizona "for the time-being" Rodriguez said. That said, he remains behind the more experienced Anu Solomon and Brandon Dawkins in the quarterback battle.
California's Sonny Dykes
That Cal quarterback Jared Goff is expected to be picked first or second in the NFL Draft hints at it, but Dykes will say it more clearly: NFL teams don't judge a quarterback by the system he played in during college so much as his skill set. "I don't know that we've had that many (quarterbacks Dykes has coached) in the past that have even fit that mold they're looking for. I don't know if it's necessarily been the system. (North Dakota State prospect) Carson Wentz, Goff, the guy at Memphis (Paxton Lynch), they're bigger guys, they have big arms. Regardless of what the system is, they're looking for a particular skill set."
Dykes hired offensive coordinator Jake Spavital away from Texas A&M this summer. He is expected to be a help in the recruiting department as well as continuing Cal's offensive improvements since Dykes took over. "Jake's a young guy. He's really had a great track record developing quarterbacks," Dykes said, listing off Brandon Weeden, Johnny Manziel and Case Keenum's names. "He listens. He's a good communicator."
While the Cal offense must find a replacement for Goff, Dykes feels his offensive line has the best depth and talent since he's been in Berkeley. Additionally, he likes the group of receivers who are more "catch-and-run" than the Golden Bears' past teams. "They were more down-the-field guys. These guys can catch the ball in space, create things, and make plays," Dykes said.
Oregon's Mark Helfrich
Helfrich said new defensive coordinator Brady Hoke, the former Michigan head coach, has fit in seamlessly as a demanding presence but also a players' coach. The Ducks' head coach has enjoyed adding a former head coach's perspective that has "added a bunch just in terms of making us validate the ways we're doing things."
Oregon quarterbacks Dakota Prukop, a redshirt senior transfer, and Travis Jonsen, a redshirt freshman, continue to fight for the enviable yet challenging position of following Vernon Adams Jr. as the starting quarterback. "I think that's a burden and also a beauty of the deal. They're all conscientious guys," Helfrich said. "They also know there's an extremely high standard here and expectation here of how that position is supposed to play."
Helfrich did not reveal the Ducks' spring game plan other than saying, "We're going to play a game. It will resemble American football."
UCLA's Jim Mora
UCLA moved senior Ishmael Adams from defensive back to receiver to provide a punch on offense. It appears he's taking to the transition well. "He was very fun to watch this spring, the progress he made," Mora said. "Now to be able to give him the ball where we want and when we want and watch him go do it .... he really developed as a route runner. It's not easy. It's an art."
Mora, who coached in the NFL before his UCLA tenure, doesn't buy the over-emphasis on the college system a player performs in influencing how he's viewed. "Very rarely do you look at system. You look at talent and you look at ability," he said. "A route is a route is a route is a route. Cover 3 is cover 3 is cover 3 is cover 3."
The Bruins were hit hard with six underclassmen declaring for the NFL Draft before their senior seasons. " It's kind of a new phenomenon," Mora said. "These guys are ready to play. I think it says a lot about the individual, and I think it says a lot about the program."
Washington's Chris Petersen
Jake Browning pushed his way into the starting quarterback role as a freshman for UW but Petersen said that situation is rarely ideal. "As much as he wanted to play, I think the whole thing was harder than he thought it was going to be. If you can actually sit and learn for at least a year at that position, I don't think it's that different from the NFL," Petersen said.
On NFL Draft linebacker prospect and former Husky Travis Feeney: "Physically he can run, he's just really, really fast. His game is all about speed and I think it's more about speed at the next level. He can cover ground with the best of them. We moved him around a little bit the last few years. I think that helps as well - the versatility."
Oregon State's Gary Andersen
Andersen knows the Beavers are playing catch-up following a 2-10 season. "We have to out-work people. We want to change the culture, it's easy to talk about those things," he said. "It's hard to get better. It's hard to chase people. We have to judge ourselves and have some checks-and-balances. We put that process in place, it's a long story ... we're working hard."
While the Oregon State coach called sophomore Ryan Nall the No. 1 running back, Andersen said the team will not put a feature back label on Nall. "I think you earn your right to be a feature back," he said. "(He's) not there today."
Washington State's Mike Leach
Leach spoke at length on the satellite camp controversy. The value to Washington State using camps in southern California is immense. "We provide a great opportunity here, we provide a contrast that a lot of the conference doesn't. There are two real college towns in the conference that aren't in real urban settings -- that'd be us and Oregon State," Leach said. "If you're a low-income family and get to the four corners of the earth ... it only makes sense, in the interest of our sports and our stewardship to student-athletes, we would do everything to provide that."
Leach, obviously, has hope the decision will be reversed. "It's my hope that it gets reversed. The notion of banning them in the first place was dubious and very behind-the-scenes."
Colorado's Mike MacIntyre
MacIntyre is excited to see a 2016 version of the Buffaloes that has the experience of 21 scholarship seniors and 22 scholarship juniors. "I see guys that are hungry and have been in the heat of the battle," he said.
The Colorado coach says he talks to Texas Tech transfer and quarterback commit Davis Webb every day. Webb committed to Colorado but MacIntyre admitted other teams have continued recruiting him. "He's told me every time he's definitely coming to Colorado," MacIntyre said. "I don't have any reason to think he wouldn't."
Colorado's Derek McCartney missed several spring practices to donate bone marrow to a patient in need. His coach didn't mind. "It's more important to save a life," MacIntyre said.