North Division Football Team Previews
The 2011 football season is right around the corner. Below, read a quick preview of each team in the Pac-12 North division. On Tuesday, we'll preview the Pac-12 South division.
Offense: The Golden Bears are set to replace former quarterback starter Kevin Riley with Zach Maynard under center in 2011, after the junior had a stellar spring season. The transfer from Buffalo has two years of eligibility left and has a good receiving corp, led by sophomore wide receiver Keenan Allen, who caught five touchdowns in 2010. Senior Marvin Jones also made an impact, as he caught 50 passes for 765 yards to lead the Bears. The departure of Shane Vereen at running back leaves a big void in the backfield.
Defense: It will be a challenge to replace team leaders, and NFL Draft picks, Mike Mohamed, Cameron Jordan and Chris Conte on the Golden Bear defense in 2011. The return of linebackers Mychal Kendricks and D.J. Holt will help the squad defend against the run. Kendricks had a stellar junior season in leading the team with 15.0 tackles for a loss and 8.5 sacks, while Holt is the team's top returning tackler (85). Defensive backs Sean Cattouse and Marc Anthony will thwart against the deep threat. All-Pac-10 punter Bryan Anger (45.6 yards per punt) will continue to pin the opposition deep in their own territory.
The Schedule: The Bears will play all home games this season at AT&T Park in San Francisco due to the renovation of Memorial Stadium on campus in Berkeley. To open the season, Cal will meet Fresno State in a neutral site game at Candlestick Park in San Francisco. A quirk in the schedule - due to a previously contracted arrangement, the Colorado game will not count in the Pac-12 standings.
Offense: The defending Pac-10 Champion Ducks, who were one win away from a national championship, are primed to make another run at the BCS title in 2011. On the offensive side of the ball, they return star QB Darron Thomas under center and 2010 Heisman Trophy finalist LaMichael James in the backfield, along with offensive lineman Carson York, Darrion Weems and Mark Asper. Expect the same quick pace from Chip Kelly's squad in 2011, as they appear to have all the pieces in place that averaged 47.0 points per game in just 27:54 per game. While they will miss the services of wide receiver Jeff Maehl, the Ducks will have stellar athletes who can catch and run in TB Kenyon Barner, WR Lavasier Tuinei, and TE David Paulsen.
Defense: On the defensive side, Oregon loses six starters, including captain Brandon Bair at defensive tackle, along with stellar linebackers Casey Matthews and Spencer Paysinger. Defensive end Kenny Rowe is also a departure. This is where the Ducks will need to retool. They do boast the return of DE Terrell Turner, LB Josh Kaddu and rover Eddie Pleasant. CB Cliff Harris, the team's leader with six interceptions, and who will also return punts, anchors a talented Duck secondary that includes senior CB Anthony Gildon and junior S John Boyett.
The Schedule: The schedule for the two-time defending Pac-10 champions begins with a match-up against SEC stronghold LSU, who should give the Ducks a challenge right out of the gates in the Cowboy Classic. In the Pac-12 North, Oregon will need to play three of its final four games on the road, including games at the always difficult Washington, at co-North Division favorite Stanford and at rival Oregon State.
Offense: Eight starters return to the Oregon State offensive unit, but the big loss will be electric running back Jacquizz Rodgers, who entered the NFL a year early and was a fifth-round pick of the Atlanta Falcons. However, his older brother James Rodgers will look to return to form as a receiver after a knee injury cut short his 2010 season. Quarterback Ryan Katz returns as well, as does most of his protection in Michael Philipp, Grant Johnson, Burke Ellis and Mike Remmers. Katz connected on 60 percent of his passes for 2,401 yards and 18 TDs, with his top target being WR Markus Wheaton. The sophomore hauled in 55 catches for 675 yards and four TDs in 2010.
Defense: On defense, the Beavers lose seven starters, including Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year, Stephen Paea. Safety Lance Mitchell and CB Brandon Hardin return and will be looked to as a leaders in the Beaver secondary. Middle linebacker Rueben Robinson will return as well, but with just four returning starters, expect Oregon State's defense to have a much different look in 2011.
The Schedule: Head Coach Mike Riley is one not to shy away from challenges when it comes to non-conference scheduling. This season's docket includes a tough road game at Wisconsin and one at home against BYU. In the Pac-12, OSU will miss USC and Colorado from the South Division, but will need to find a way to win on the road as four of its last six games are on foreign turf.
Offense: The Cardinal will be down six offensive starters in 2011, but the biggest name to return to The Farm will be 2010 Heisman Trophy runner-up Andrew Luck. Luck completed 70.7 percent of his passes for 3,338 yards and 32 TDs during his sophomore season, but will need to develope a new go-to receiver, with the loss of Doug Baldwin and Ryan Whalen (combined for 99 catches, 1,296 yards and 11 TDs). That could be tight end Coby Fleener, his third favorite receiver (28 cartchs, 434 yards, 7 TDs) or senior WR Chris Owusu. Owusu is coming off an injury-plagued junior season, but is a proven dual-threat at receiver and kick returner. Junior TB Stepfan Taylor will bolster the Cardinal ground game in 2011, as he rushed for 1,137 yards and an impressive 15 TDs last season.
Defense: Stanford loses two-way starter Owen Marecic at inside linebacker/fullback and emotional leader Richard Sherman at corner back, but a veteran group is set to return in 2011. Defensive ends Thomas Keiser and Chase Thomas will be back, along with LB Shayne Skov, who helped lead the Cardinal defense to a league-low 17.4 points. Both Thomas and Skov had 7.5 quarterback sacks in 2010 and and will continue to pressure opposing quarterbacks, while Skov was the team's top tackler last season (84). The 2010 interception leader for the Cardinal, Delano Howell (5 interceptions) will be patrolling from his strong safety position to anchor a veteran secondary that includes senior CB Johnson Bademosi and senior FS Michael Thomas.
The Schedule: The Cardinal are home-heavy with a pair of non-league games at home, as well as three of their five North Division games played at Stanford Stadium. Stanford closes the season with three tough ones at home - Oregon, California and Notre Dame.
Offense: Third-year coach Steve Sarkisian has the Huskies moving in the right direction. After a 0-12 season two years ago, Washington posted a 7-6 record last season, with four straight wins to close out the season that included a Holiday Bowl victory over Nebraska. A big loss will be QB Jake Locker, but the Huskies have plenty of other offensive standouts returning in 2011. Wide receivers Jermaine Kearse and Devin Aguilar will be lining up for the Huskies. Kearse was Locker's main target, amassing 1,005 yards on 63 receptions and 12 TDs. Tailback Chris Polk, who led the team with 1,415 yards and nine touchdowns is returning to control the ground game for the Huskies. On the offensive line, left tackle Senio Kelemete, center Drew Schaefer and guard Colin Porter will all be returning.
Defense: On the defensive end, Washington returns eight starters, but loses linebackers Mason Foster and Victor Aiyewa, whom led the Huskies in tackles, tackles for loss and quarterback sacks in 2010. Senior LB Cort Dennison will look to pick up the slack after the departure of Foster and Aiyewa. The secondary will be a strong unit featuring FS Nate Fellner, who had five interceptions in 2010, CB Desmond Trufant and CB Quinton Richardson. This unit was among the league's best in defending the pass, allowing 194 yards per game.
The Schedule: The Huskies will visit Nebraska on Sept. 17, a rematch of the 2011 Bridgeport Education Holiday Bowl. In the Pac-12 North Division, the November 5 home game with Oregon could have implications for the Pac-12 North title. Washington will finish out the season by hosting Washington State in the Apple Cup at Qwest Field.
Offense: The Cougars return seven starters in 2011 from an improving team, including QB Jeff Tuel and a duo of standout wide receivers in Marquess Wilson and Jared Karstetter. Karstetter led the way with seven touchdowns, but Wilson was a 1,000-yard receiver, who caught six touchdowns and averaged 18.3 yards per catch to earn Football Writers Association of America Freshman All-America honors. Wilson will return as the team's top big play receiver. Tuel, who threw for 2,780 yards, including at least 200 yards passing in each of the first nine games of the 2010 season, can also move the ball on the ground as he rushed for 204 yards. Four offensive linemen return, led by B.J. Guerra at right guard. The squad loses running back James Montgomery, but Logwone Mitz, who rushed for 263 yards and 4 touchdowns will look to pick up the slack.
Defense: The defensive side will have eight starters returning, including standout defensive end Travis Long, who amassed five sacks last season. Strong safety Deone Bucannon led the team as a freshman with 84 tackles in 2010 is set to return in 2011. The linebacker position will be shored up by C.J. Mitzell and Alex Hoffamn-Ellis and FS Tyree Toomer will look to break up the deep play. Missed will be punter Reid Forrest, who was among the league's best (45.4 yards).
The Schedule: The Cougars' schedule includes non-conference matchups with Idaho State, UNLV and at San Diego State. The Cougars will need to get Conference play started in the right direction as they'll be on the road for the first two games of Pac-12 play. The Cougars actually will play two games in Qwest Field in Seattle, one as the home team versus Oregon State, the second as visitors in the Apple Cup against Washington.