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:
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.
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:
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.
While on the topic of offense, Kiffin will continue to call the plays for the Trojans.
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.
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:
Group photo, anyone?
New Name for Rivalry
The Utah-Colorado matchup will have a new name, according to Lisa Horne of Bleacher Report:
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:
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:
One of the benefits of having media day in a prime location is there is the possibly of running into a few celebrities.
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:
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.
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:
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:
You have to love him.
Leach also offered his opinion on South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney's hit:
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:
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:
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:
As for how versatile playmaker De'Anthony Thomas will be used this season, the first-year head coach wants to keep that a secret:
As for the play calls, it is expected that Oregon offensive coordinator Scott Frost will do the work from above.
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.
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'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.
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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.