Pac-12 Media Day is finally here!
The conference may be the last of the BCS conferences to address the media, but there is plenty to discuss. All 12 coaches will be in attendance, including three new coaches in California's Sonny Dykes, Colorado's Mike MacIntyre and Oregon's Mark Helfrich. Each team also brought two players along for the ride.
The Pac-12 made tremendous strides last season, and today marks the beginning of a new year. Here are the highlights from Friday.
The Pac-12 predictions are in, according to Brett McMurphy of ESPN:
Pac-12 media poll: North-Ore, Stan, OSU, UW, Cal, WSU; South-UCLA, ASU, USC, Ariz, Utah, CU. Oregon picked to win P12 title— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) July 26, 2013
UCLA and Arizona State to finish above USC may come as a surprise to some, while the media don't seem too high on Washington having a breakout season. Oregon led the way as 14 predicted it to win the conference title. You can see the complete order of finish by clicking here.
Did the media get it right?
Pat Haden Backs Lane Kiffin
Many believe the USC head coach is sitting on one of the hottest seats in the country. However, according to the USC athletic director, this is the furthest thing from the truth (skip to the 2:30 mark):
Is this the truth? Is Haden bluffing? Kiffin can't possibly stick around much longer if USC continues to struggle, right?
Marqise Lee Doesn't Need Money
You can cross off the USC star wide receiver as one who doesn't really care whether college players get paid or not.
USC WR Marqise Lee said if players get $ for video games/jersey sales that's fine, but "I don't have to get paid. I'm getting an education."— Joe Schad (@schadjoe) July 26, 2013
Of course, it is a lot easier to think this way when you're the best player at your position and nearly guaranteed to make millions of dollars at the next level. As for the other guys on the team, not so much.
Due to injuries, USC has limited depth at wide receiver. Lee is easily the best wideout in the country, but he can't carry the offense by himself. Kiffin was asked who is due for a breakout season and he provided a name to keep an eye on:
Kiffin on which WR is due for a breakout season: "The development of Nelson Agholor. He's a very unique player from a skill set."— Brandon Huffman (@BrandonHuffman) July 26, 2013
Agholor really isn't a surprise name, but it appears that the USC staff is high on him. The sophomore finished last season with 19 receptions for 340 yards and two touchdowns.
Speaking of Lee, he appears to be real high on his current college coach, even though some may not be in Sunny California.
"I'd play for Lane Kiffin until I die - even at the next level" - #USC receiver Marqise Lee— Lindsey Thiry (@LindseyThiry) July 26, 2013
While on the topic of offense, Kiffin will continue to call the plays for the Trojans.
Lane Kiffin: "It's in the best interest of my football team for me to continue calling plays." On hotseat, so wants control. Makes sense.— ESPN_Pac12blog (@ESPN_Pac12blog) July 26, 2013
The USC head coach dealt with a lot of scrutiny last season for poor play-calling, which played a role in the disappointing 7-6 record, the same performance that Kiffin believes had an impact on last year's recruiting class.
Lane Kiffin said that the way last season ended and job security questions did have an impact on the last recruiting class— Joe Schad (@schadjoe) July 26, 2013
USC did have the 12th best 2013 recruiting class, according to 247Sports, but the program lost several elite recruits due to unanswered questions moving forward.
There is also no decision on who will start at quarterback. USC has a three-way battle with Max Wittek, Cody Kessler and Max Browne. Kiffin has yet to tip his hand at this point:
Kiffin on QB race: "All three guys are going to go in with a shot. All three are very different with the style that they play."— USC Trojans (@USC_Athletics) July 26, 2013
Group photo, anyone?
New Name for Rivalry
The Utah-Colorado matchup will have a new name, according to Lisa Horne of Bleacher Report:
Utah vs Colorado is now called the The Rumble in the Rockies. #Pac12MediaDay— Lisa Horne (@LisaHorne) July 26, 2013
Utah has won three of the last four meetings in the rivalry that dates back to 1905.
While other conferences hold their media days in a lousy hotel, the Pac-12 does it so much better, as Zach Barnett of Football Scoop described:
Every other big time conference holds their media days at a hotel. The Pac-12 holds theirs at a movie studio.— Zach Barnett (@zach_barnett) July 26, 2013
The event takes place in Sony Pictures Studios in Culver City, Calif. In case you are wondering what it looks like inside, JB Long of the Pac-12 Network has got you covered:
Remarkable setup & turn out for Pac-12 Media Day. Larry Scott kicking things off. Big news items coming... pic.twitter.com/Jd6TRPR3Cs— JB Long (@JB_Long) July 26, 2013
One of the benefits of having media day in a prime location is there is the possibly of running into a few celebrities.
Just ran into some guys from The League on the Sony lot. Definitely unique to #pac12fb Media Day.— Bryan Fischer (@BryanDFischer) July 26, 2013
It seems like the days of those hotels are over.
Larry Scott Highlights
Scott opened up Pac-12 Media Day with bragging a little bit about his conference. While the SEC gets much of the credit for overall success, some of the numbers the commissioner was spewing out were mighty impressive:
Pac-12 has won 459 NCAA titles, 200 more than the next conference, per Larry Scott— Lisa Horne (@LisaHorne) July 26, 2013
If you are one who is stuck with Direct TV and is hoping that the Pac-12 Network comes to your living room, you should consider switching your cable provider.
Pac-12 commish Larry Scott on @Directv and Pac-12 Networks: "I urge our fans to drop DirecTV and switch to one that has it." No deal soon.— USC Trojans (@USC_Athletics) July 26, 2013
Start making phone calls!
Scott also took time to address the NCAA, and like many these days, he wasn't afraid to speak his mind:
Larry Scott says its time for a new vision for college athletics— Joe Schad (@schadjoe) July 26, 2013
Larry Scott says there has been an "eroding trust" in the NCAA but he wants evolution, not radical overhaul— Joe Schad (@schadjoe) July 26, 2013
Larry Scott's safety initiative for PAC-12: less contact in practice and more recovery time— Joe Schad (@schadjoe) July 26, 2013
Scott: The confidence in the [NCAA] enforcement process is at an all-time low.— Lisa Horne (@LisaHorne) July 26, 2013
Commissioner Scott didn't directly insult the SEC, but he did imply that his conference isn't afraid to go on the road to play tough opponents, per Bruce Feldman of CBS Sports:
For example: UCLA will travel to Nebraska this season, while Arizona State will travel to AT&T Stadium to play Notre Dame.
Mike Leach Highlights
Leach is always a fun interview and one of those coaches you aren't sure what to expect from. While most begin the interview with a lengthy opening statement, the Washington State coach handled his opening statement the only way Leach could:
Mike Leach's opening statement: "Alright, any questions?" #pac12— JB Long (@JB_Long) July 26, 2013
You have to love him.
Leach also offered his opinion on South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney's hit:
Leach: “The Clowney hit is why they invented football.”— Bryan Fischer (@BryanDFischer) July 26, 2013
Of course, Leach isn't exactly thrilled with the new targeting rule.
As for the Cougars, Leach has decided on a starting quarterback if the season was to begin today:
Leach: “If we were to play today, Connor Halliday would be the quarterback.” #pac12fb— Bryan Fischer (@BryanDFischer) July 26, 2013
Halliday played last season and threw for 1,878 yards, 15 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.
Sonny Dykes Challenges Saban
There is a lot of crying coming from the SEC when it comes to up-tempo offenses. Alabama's Nick Saban and Arkansas' Bret Bielema are two who have spoken publicly on the issue. However, the new California coach made a great point during Pac-12 Media Day:
SonnyDykes on Saban's worries abt INJ w up-tempo ftball:You could make argument smash-mouth FB triggers more injuries than spread or uptempo— Bruce Feldman (@BFeldmanCBS) July 26, 2013
It's going to be interesting if the Crimson Tide coach has a response.
Same Old Ducks
When former head coach Chip Kelly left to coach the Philadelphia Eagles, it was only natural people were going to question whether Oregon would ever be the same. New head coach Mark Helfrich handled the questions and said that the team won't change much:
.@CoachHelfrich on changes: "We're going to talk the same, work the same, practice the same. We're (just) going to tweak the margins a bit."— Rob Moseley (@DuckFootball) July 26, 2013
Mark Helfrich on replacing Chip Kelly: "We haven't done much differently at all." #pac12— John Henderson (@JohnHendersonDP) July 26, 2013
Asked what will be the biggest change this year, #oregon qb Marcus Mariota said: uniforms.— jill painter (@jillpainter) July 26, 2013
As for how versatile playmaker De'Anthony Thomas will be used this season, the first-year head coach wants to keep that a secret:
#Oregon's Mark Helfrich on how De'Anthony Thomas will be used in 2013: "To be determined." Expect Thomas to line up all over the place.— Lorenzo Reyes (@Lorenzo_G_Reyes) July 26, 2013
As for the play calls, it is expected that Oregon offensive coordinator Scott Frost will do the work from above.
Marcus Mariota said he believes Scott Frost will call plays from the press box; not sure of mechanism changes since Chip was on sideline— Joe Schad (@schadjoe) July 26, 2013
Get ready for another exciting season if you're an Oregon fan.
Way to Be a Leader
The leader of the team not only has to lead by example, but he must also be vocal and speak to his teammates when needed. This is why Helfrich is working with quarterback Marcus Mariota in hopes of building that leadership on offense.
Mark Helfrich has instructed shy, soft-spoken Marcus Mariota to talk to one teammate after every single play.— Joe Schad (@schadjoe) July 26, 2013
This is a wonderful idea that should help the sophomore come out of his shell a bit.
David Shaw Highlights
There are a ton of coaches and players who have really disapproved of the new targeting rule, but the head coach of Stanford is one of a few who thinks the rule is needed.
Stanford coach David Shaw on targeting rule: “College football needs the rule, just like the NFL needs the rule."— Dan Greenspan (@DanGreenspan) July 26, 2013
Stanford's defense is easily the most physical in the Pac-12, but it is also a disciplined group of guys. It is going to be interesting to see how some of the players adjust to the rule changes. To help out his players, Shaw brought in NFL Hall of Fame defensive back Ronnie Lott to speak to his team.
David Shaw on ejection argument: Ronnie Lott spoke to team. If rule would have been effect when he played, RL would have adjusted.— Dennis Dodd (@dennisdoddcbs) July 26, 2013
Shaw also loves the quarterback star power in the Pac-12. He sees potential in a lot of the starters and also believes the conference has the most complete quarterback in the country.
David Shaw believes Pac-12 QB play on upswing, calls Stanford QB Kevin Hogan "a budding star" and Oregon's Marcus Matiota best in country.— Dan Greenspan (@DanGreenspan) July 26, 2013
There are a few SEC schools that may disagree with that comment.
Shaw also touched on paying players, which has become a popular topic of discussion throughout the country. Should college players get paid? The Stanford coach doesn't think so:
DavidShaw on stipend: We're giving these guys a $58K a yr educatn. Its our job to teach them how to make a living.Not make a living in coll.— Bruce Feldman (@BFeldmanCBS) July 26, 2013
More Football, More Football
For those lucky enough to receive the Pac-12 Network, you're in for a treat. The coverage this season will expand greatly, per Daily Bruin writer Andrew Erickson and Fox Sports Arizona's Craig Morton:
Lydia Murphy-Stephans, Pac-12 President, now up to talk. Live coverage will go from 550 events to 750 events this year.— Andrew Erickson (@AndrewRErickson) July 26, 2013
We want more, we want more, like, you really like it, you want more!
Will Sutton Is Even Bigger
The Arizona State defensive tackle was already widely considered one of the top defensive linemen in the country. What's scary is that he may just be getting started, as the senior has put on even more weight and has head coach Todd Graham drooling over the potential.
Todd Graham pinpoints Will Sutton's weight at 305.— Craig Morgan (@cmorganfoxaz) July 26, 2013
#ASU coach Todd Graham on DT Will Sutton: "In 25 years I've never coached a defensive player more passionate about competing."— Craig Morgan (@cmorganfoxaz) July 26, 2013
Sutton was under 290 pounds at the end of last season and finished with 12 sacks and 23.5 tackles for loss. Watch out!
Eddie Vanderdoes Appeal
UCLA defensive lineman Vanderdoes transferred from Notre Dame earlier this year and is hoping to win an appeal that would allow him to play this season. If he loses the appeal, he would be forced to sit out this season and would be eligible to play beginning in 2014. UCLA coach Jim Mora updated his progress.
Jim Mora on Eddie Vanderdoes: "He has an appeal scheduled for Monday in person. Hopefully we'll have more information after that."— Edward Lewis (@EdwardLewisBSR) July 26, 2013
Mora said that the Vanderdoes situation is still very much up in the air.— Ryan Kartje (@Ryan_Kartje) July 26, 2013
Vanderdoes was ranked as the sixth-best player in the 2013 recruiting class, according to 247Sports.
Oregon State the Toughest Offense?
Quick question: Who has the toughest offense in the Pac-12?
Arizona linebacker Jake Fischer gave an answer you probably wouldn’t have expected.
Arizona LB Jake Fischer says as effective as Oregon offense is, Oregon State's O is actually most frustrating to face— Joe Schad (@schadjoe) July 26, 2013
While Oregon relies on a ton of speed and read-options, the Beavers hit a defense with a more balanced attack and uses a lot of play-action plays. Oregon State finished sixth in the conference last season in offensive yards per game.
Check back later, this article will be updated with highlights throughout Pac-12 Media Day.