Pac-12 Football Media Day storylines
Friends, we made it through another offseason. Yes, Pac-12 football media day is on Friday and that means the football season is upon us all.
It was a relatively stress-free few months following spring practices around the Pac-12. There was compliance news at Oregon, a new AD at Colorado, a few significant injuries and tons of players named to preseason watch lists. But all-in-all everybody’s arrived just about where they want to be for the start of fall camp in August.
With an eye toward the future, here are a few key storylines to track for each school during Friday's Pac-12 football media day at Sony Pictures Studios in Culver City. The event will live stream on Pac-12.com starting at 9 a.m. PT.
Key departure: Quarterback Matt Scott
Big question for Rich Rodriguez: “So coach, who’s your quarterback?”
Answers needed: Will Arizona have enough depth on defense and on a perilously thin wide receiving corps?
Under the radar: Running back Ka’Deem Carey will likely be the focal point of the offense after a big year in 2012.
Top storyline: The interest in the Arizona contingent coming to Culver City picked up noticeably with the recent news that linebacker Jake Fischer would be one of two Wildcats joining the Ed O’Bannon lawsuit regarding student-athletes’ names and likeness. While Fischer is coming off a season where he racked up 119 tackles, he’ll be in the spotlight for his off-the-field actions too.
Key departure: Linebacker Brandon Magee
Big question for Todd Graham: “Can you survive the four-week stretch early in the season?”
Answers needed: Will a wide receiver step up and can this be the best defense in the league?
Under the radar: Tight end/H-back Chris Coyle goes unnoticed by a lot of folks who aren’t quarterback Taylor Kelly or an NFL scout.
Top storyline: The early-season stretch of Wisconsin, at Stanford, vs. USC and Notre Dame in Dallas is one of the toughest you’ll see from anybody. That said, a good reason why ASU has a chance is because of its defense and that means the big man in the middle, Will Sutton. He’s already collected some hardware out West in 2012, but is the upcoming season the one where he becomes a household name nationally?
Key departure: Running back Isi Sofele
Big question for Sonny Dykes: “Is Zach Kline your quarterback?”
Answers needed: The running back spot seems to be extremely thin for the Golden Bears and that could mean even more pressure on an inexperienced signal-caller.
Under the radar: New defensive coordinator Andy Buh has switched Cal from a 3-4 to a 4-3, and that means loads of guys putting their hand on the ground or standing up for the first time.
Top storyline: The Bear Raid has arrived in Berkeley and while there’s plenty of optimism with guys like Bryce Treggs and Chris Harper around, it may be a work in progress in 2013.
Key departure: Defensive tackle Will Pericak
Big question for Mike MacIntyre: “Do you have enough quarterbacks?”
Answers needed: With the move to the pistol offense, finding a signal-caller who can run things is at the top of the list.
Under the radar: The Buffs have had a lot of young players see game action the past two years and that could pay off in 2013 and beyond.
Top storyline: Paul Richardson's return to the Buffs is a welcome one as he is undoubtedly one of the top guys in the conference at the receiver position when healthy, as well as a reliable high-level Pac-12 player for Colorado in the lineup.
Key departure: Running back Kenjon Barner
Big question for Mark Helfrich: “What’s changed from last year to this year with Chip Kelly gone?”
Answers needed: One could say that kicking has been an issue for the Ducks the past few years and cost them a shot at the national title. It figures to be an open position for the job.
Under the radar: This appears to be one of the best defenses in Eugene in a while with experience in the secondary and along the defensive line becoming a big strength.
Top storyline: Helfrich taking over the program will grab most of the press, but the progression of Marcus Mariota shouldn’t be overlooked. He put up numbers that may have won him the Heisman in other seasons and very well should put him in the mix in 2013.
Key departure: Receiver Markus Wheaton
Big question for Mike Riley: “Sean Mannion or Cody Vaz?”
Answers needed: The quarterback spot is obvious, but finding a cornerback to replace Jordan Poyer’s reps and a foil to Brandin Cooks are high on the list for Riley and company.
Under the radar: Nobody mentions Storm Woods as one of the best backs in the conference, but he certainly is -- and can get the accolades with another big season.
Top storyline: Everyone will focus on the quarterback battle but a bigger storyline is the Beavers getting overlooked once again in 2013. The team returns a good chunk of a nine-win team from last year and their schedule sets up well for them to be 7-0 before hosting Stanford.
Key departure: Running back Stepfan Taylor
Big question for David Shaw: “Can the Cardinal repeat?”
Answers needed: There’s enough depth and experience at tailback for Stanford to be fine until one guy emerges, but there are still some questions regarding the wide receiving corps – especially without some quality tight ends around.
Under the radar: If it’s possible, the 2013 team might even be deeper than the 2012 version that won the Pac-12 title and the Rose Bowl.
Top storyline: The Cardinal enter fall camp in a new position: as a top-five team with high expectations and even some national-title talk. There has been plenty of interest in the team before with Andrew Luck around but it’s being turned up even more on the Farm.
Key departure: Running back Johnathan Franklin
Big question for Jim Mora: “What will you do for an encore?”
Answers needed: The Holiday Bowl wasn’t pretty for the defense because they couldn’t stop the running game. While that figures to be corrected by Mora, the secondary has to replace all four starters. That’s cause for alarm in this league.
Under the radar: While replacing Franklin garners a lot of focus by most, don’t underestimate how tough it will be to replace Joseph Fauria.
Top storyline: UCLA enters 2013 as one of, if not THE favorite in the South, but there’s still some work to be done in Westwood if the Bruins are to get over the hump and capture the conference championship after making it to the title game two straight years.
Key departure: Quarterback Matt Barkley
Big question for Lane Kiffin: “How do you forget last season and move on?”
Answers needed: The quarterback battle will draw eyes first but the secondary could be the big Achilles heel for the Trojans in 2013.
Under the radar: Monte Kiffin has returned to the NFL and Lane Kiffin tapped former Cal defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast to run things on defense this season. He’s shifted alignments and changed things up but that should be to USC’s benefit with guys like Leonard Williams and Morgan Breslin headlining a strong D-line.
Top storyline: The hangover from last year will be a constant refrain for USC until this season’s games are played. While everyone will be asked what happened, the most pressing issue for the team is running the ball better and stopping the run.
Key departure: Running back John White IV
Big question for Kyle Whittingham: “Who will step up on the defensive line?”
Answers needed: The Utes need to restock the defensive line, find a starter at running back and get back to being consistent in all three phases of the game.
Under the radar: Of the five starters Utah needs to replace on offense, three are along the offensive line.
Top storyline: The hire of Dennis Erickson should provide some direction for a team that has shifted strategies on offense the past few seasons. How he fits in with promising quarterback Travis Wilson and others is something to keep an eye on.
Key departure: Cornerback Desmond Trufant
Big question for Steve Sarkisian: “Is this the year the Huskies break through?”
Answers needed: What exactly went wrong last season for Keith Price? Sarkisian thinks that the senior quarterback actually played well in some of the up-tempo sets the Huskies ran so they’ll be making that much more a part of the offense in 2013. Still, everybody is curious as to what they’ll get out of the veteran signal-caller when the action starts.
Under the radar: The offense gets a lot of attention on Montlake but the defense’s turnaround under coordinator Justin Wilcox is not talked about as often and that’s a shame. This group should be even better than last season with studs like Sean Parker, Shaq Thompson and Josh Shirley.
Top storyline: This is looking like a make-or-break year for UW with 20 starters returning, Husky Stadium reopening and a deep collection of skill position talent in the fold.
Key departure: Defensive end Travis Long
Big question for Mike Leach: “Will the Cougars run the ball more in 2013?”
Answers needed: There’s still a lot of holes on the team but Leach needs to get around to naming Connor Halliday the starter at quarterback and figure out what the defensive line looks like.
Under the radar: Safety Deone Bucannon is one of the biggest bright spots on the team and somebody you have to keep an eye out for if you’re a quarterback.
Top storyline: 2013 is all about progress for Wazzu and seeing if they can get the little details down pat in Leach’s Air Raid system.