Pac-12 Football: Checklist for Every Team into Spring Practice 2014
Stanford got Pac-12 spring practices started this week and more teams will follow suit in the coming days. These 15 practice dates allotted by the NCAA offer the first taste of what is to come in the fall.
Every Pac-12 team has areas of emphasis to address with the initial round of 2014 workouts.
2014 Pac-12 Spring Game Dates
Arizona: Apr. 12
Arizona State: Apr. 19
Cal: Apr. 26
Colorado: Apr. 12
Oregon: May 3
Oregon State: May 3
Stanford: Apr. 12
UCLA: Apr. 26
USC: Apr. 19
Utah: Apr. 19
Washington: Apr. 19
Washington State: Apr. 26
Statistics compiled from CFBStats.com.
2013 Record: 8-5, 4-5 Pac-12
Postseason: AdvoCare V100 Bowl, W 42-19 vs. Boston College
Key Losses: RB Ka'Deem Carey, QB B.J. Denker, LB Jake Fischer, LB Marquis Flowers, DT Tevin Hood, WR Terrence Miller, DB Shaquille Richardson
Key Returners: OL Mickey Baucus, OL Fabbians Ebbele, WR Samajie Grant, WR Austin Hill, D Jonathan McKnight, WR Nate Phillips, S Jared Tevis, LB Scooby Wright
Arizona has back-to-back eight-win seasons in head coach Rich Rodriguez's first two campaigns but getting past that plateau must be a goal for the Wildcats in 2014.
The first and most obvious hurdle is replacing quarterback B.J. Denker, who was solid in the second half of the season, and All-American running back Ka'Deem Carey. Carey was the foundation of Arizona's offense each of the last two seasons, particularly in 2013.
Both competitions should be wide open but if a frontrunner can emerge in spring practices, that makes Rodriguez's job easier.
Coordinator Jeff Casteel's defense must also continue to make strides. Arizona was vastly improved from a 2012 season in which it surrendered 35.3 points per game, but it must continue its progression without linebackers Jake Fischer and Marquis Flowers.
2013 Record: 10-4, 8-1 Pac-12 (won Pac-12 South)
Postseason: Holiday Bowl, L 37-23 vs. Texas Tech
Key Losses: LB Carl Bradford, DE Davon Coleman, TE Chris Coyle, DB Alden Darby, OL Evan Finkenberg, RB Marion Grice, DB Osahon Irabor, DB Robert Nelson, DT Will Sutton
Key Returners: LB Salamo Fiso, RB D.J. Foster, QB Taylor Kelly, CB Damarious Randall, WR Jaelen Strong
Arizona State head coach Todd Graham emphasized attitude above all else in 2013, and his message resonated with the Sun Devils, earning them the best record in the Pac-12 regular season. Graham must keep their focus heading into spring, because the Sun Devils' dream season got a rude awakening last year.
They lost the Pac-12 Championship Game to Stanford by 24, then looked out of sorts in a 14-point Holiday Bowl loss to Texas Tech.
A top priority for Arizona State in spring practice is establishing new leaders. Defensive tackle Will Sutton led the charge last year, and his presence is not easily replicated.
Finding new leaders also means finding the next defensive playmakers. Arizona State lost more starting defenders than any other team in the Pac-12.
2013 Record: 1-11, 0-9 Pac-12
Key Losses: RB Brendan Bigelow, LB Khairi Fortt, DB Cameron Jackson, DT Viliami Moala, WR Richard Rogers
Key Returners: QB Jared Goff, WR Chris Harper, DB Michael Lowe, RB Khalfani Muhammad, WR Bryce Treggs
Cal suffered through a miserable 2013, Sonny Dykes' first season as Golden Bears head coach. His seat could get very hot if there's not measurable improvement.
The good news? Finishing 2013 without a single win against the Football Subdivision means there's little place to go but up. The bad news? Cal lost a surprising four early entries to the NFL draft, including three from a defense that was already the conference's worst.
Cal has playmakers on the offensive side, but the new defensive coordinator Art Kaufman has his work cut out for him. The Golden Bears will again be young, making the improvements in spring practice all the more significant for building their overall experience.
2013 Record: 4-8, 1-8 Pac-12
Key Losses: WR Paul Richardson, DE Chidera Uzo-Diribe, LB Derrick Webb
Key Returners: RB Mike Adkins, LB Addison Gillam, WR D.D. Goodson, QB Sefo Liufau, RB Christian Powell, WR Nelson Spruce
Colorado matched its win total of the previous two seasons in Mike MacIntyre's first campaign as head coach. The Buffaloes have modest positive momentum on which to build as a result.
Among the building blocks are a trio of freshmen who made impacts in 2013. Sefo Liufau stepped in at starting quarterback midway through the season, running back Mike Adkins was an All-Conference honorable mention selection and linebacker Addison Gillam was named a Football Writers' Association of America Freshman All-American.
The key for MacIntyre is building on the positives. Transforming Colorado back into a contender is going to take time; the Buffs are smaller and younger than many of their Pac-12 counterparts.
2013 Record: 11-2, 7-2 Pac-12
Postseason: Alamo Bowl, W 30-7 vs. Texas
Key Losses: WR Josh Huff, DT Wade Keliikipi, LB Boseko Lokombo, DB Terrance Mitchell
Key Returners: WR Bralon Addison, DB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, OL Hroniss Grasu, OL Tyler Johnstone, LB Derrick Malone, QB Marcus Mariota, RB Byron Marshall, RB Thomas Tyner, DE Tony Washington
Though Oregon suffered some late-season frustration, dropping Pac-12 games at Stanford and Arizona to finish out of the BCS bowl picture for the first time since 2008, the Ducks have plenty on which to build into the spring season.
Quarterback Marcus Mariota, offensive lineman Hroniss Grasu and cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu all opted to return for another season in pursuit of the national title that has eluded the program.
Oregon looks like the conference favorite—but then, that's been the case each of the last two seasons. The Ducks must shore up their play on both lines to handle the physical defenses that have caused them problems in recent years. They must also stop the ground-and-pound run games that exploited Oregon up front on the defensive side.
2013 Record: 7-6, 4-5 Pac-12
Postseason: Hawaii Bowl, W 38-23 vs. Boise State
Key Losses: WR Brandin Cooks, OL Grant Enger, DE Scott Crichton, DB Rashaad Reynolds
Key Returners: TE Connor Hamlett, QB Sean Mannion, DB Ryan Murphy, DB Steven Nelson, RB Terron Ward, RB Storm Woods
Oregon State pulled out of a late-season tailspin with impressive performances against rival Oregon and in the bowl win over Boise State.
The Beavers were much-improved in the run game against the Ducks and Broncos and continuing to develop the rush is going to be a top priority this spring.
Oregon State has a pair of capable ball-carriers in Storm Woods and Terron Ward, and the Beavers need them to realize their potential to alleviate pressure on quarterback Sean Mannion.
Defensive line play is another area of concern for the spring, particularly losing standout defensive end Scott Crichton.
2013 Record: 11-3, 7-2 Pac-12
Postseason: Rose Bowl, L 24-20 vs. Michigan State
Key Losses: OL Cameron Fleming, RB Tyler Gaffney, DE Ben Gardner, DE Josh Mauro, LB Trent Murphy, DB Ed Reynolds, LB Shayne Skov, OL David Yankey
Key Returners: WR Devon Cajuste, DB Alex Carter, QB Kevin Hogan, WR Ty Montgomery, OL Andrus Peat, DB Jordan Richards, LB A.J. Tarpley
High turnover both on the roster and in the coaching staff? A formidable schedule ahead? Stanford's been here before and exceeded expectations. The two-time defending Pac-12 champion Cardinal are not without their potential problem points entering spring, however.
Stanford must rebuild critical parts of the defensive front seven and find a replacement for star running back Tyler Gaffney. For Stanford's complete spring checklist, read here.
2013 Record: 10-3, 6-3 Pac-12
Postseason: Sun Bowl, W 42-12 vs. Virginia Tech
Key Losses: LB Anthony Barr, WR Shaquelle Evans, DE Keenan Graham, RB Malcolm Jones, DE Cassius Marsh, OL Xavier Su'a-Filo, LB Jordan Zumwalt
Key Returners: DB Ishmael Adams, OL Jake Brendel, WR Devin Fuller, QB Brett Hundley, LB Myles Jack, RB Jordon James, LB Eric Kendricks, RB Paul Perkins, OL Alex Redmond, DL Eddie Vanderdoes
UCLA's first 10-win season in eight years has Bruins football abuzz. It also doesn't hurt that head coach Jim Mora returns the most experienced starting lineup in the Pac-12.
With quarterback Brett Hundley back in the fold, the outlook for UCLA is bright. But the Bruins must go into spring with an attitude they have something to prove—because they do.
UCLA went 0-3 against the Pac-12's best last year, dropping decisions at Stanford and Oregon, then losing at home to Arizona State in a de facto South division championship.
The Bruins need a clear No. 1 running back to standout. The shell game offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone was forced to play with the position, which led to the star turn of linebacker Myles Jack, but it's not a sustainable model. UCLA also needs its offensive line to step up.
The youngsters who started across the front five aren't young any longer.
2013 Record: 10-4, 6-3 Pac-12
Postseason: Las Vegas Bowl, W 45-20 vs. Fresno State
Key Losses: LB/S Dion Bailey, TE Xavier Grimble, WR Marqise Lee, LB Devon Kennard, OL Marcus Martin, DL George Uko
Key Returners: WR Nelson Agholor, RB Buck Allen, DB Su'a Cravens, QB Cody Kessler, RB Tre Madden, LB Hayes Pullard DB Josh Shaw, OL Max Tuerk
New USC head coach Steve Sarkisian must hit the ground running in USC spring practices. His first workouts leading the Trojans will set the tone for a campaign with lofty expectations, hot on the heels of their surprise 10-win run a season ago.
Sarkisian is faced with making some big decisions in the offseason, particularly at quarterback and running back. The Trojans have competitions likely to unfold between proven quarterback Cody Kessler and talented youngster Max Browne. Meanwhile, No. 1 running backs Tre Madden and Buck Allen will jockey for the lion's share of carries in Sarkisian's hurry-up offense.
Ultimately the players who catch onto the hurry-up, no-huddle will find their way into Sarkisian's lineup, and that includes offensive linemen. USC had spotty play up front early last season.
2013 Record: 5-7, 2-7 Pac-12
Key Losses: TE Jake Murphy, DT Tenny Palepoi, DE Trevor Reilly, DB Michael Walker
Key Returners: WR Dres Anderson, LB Jared Norris, DE Nate Orchard, RB Bubba Poole, DB Eric Rowe, QB Travis Wilson, LB Jason Whittingham
The 2013 season was one of bad breaks and missed opportunities for Utah. The Utes dropped three Pac-12 decisions by single digits in 2013: Oregon State by three in overtime, UCLA by seven and Arizona State by one.
Still, head coach Kyle Whittingham must find ways to reverse Utah's misfortune or the Utes are in serious danger of missing the postseason for a third consecutive year.
Utah starts its spring on the right foot with quarterback Travis Wilson cleared for non-contact drills. A healthy Wilson is crucial for Utah kick-starting its offense under new coordinator Dave Christensen.
2013 Record: 9-4, 5-4 Pac-12
Postseason: Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, W 31-16 vs. Brigham Young
Key Losses: DB Sean Parker, QB Keith Price, RB Bishop Sankey, TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, WR Kevin Smith
Key Returners: OL Dexter Charles, OL Mike Criste, DE Hau'oli Kikaha, WR Jaydon Mickens, DB Marcus Peters, LB Shaq Thompson, WR Kasen Williams
The Chris Petersen era begins in earnest with spring practice, though the new Washington head coach told Sports Illustrated the past two-plus months have been "chaotic. It's just scrambling from one thing to the next."
Practice will probably give Petersen a much-needed distraction and an important opportunity for he and his staff to build the bond with the 2014 Huskies.
Washington's most pressing areas of concern are at quarterback and running back, where Keith Price and Bishop Sankey so expertly manned the positions. Finding their replacements is essential because the rest of the Washington roster is well stocked to make some noise in the Pac-12.
2013 Record: 6-7, 4-5 Pac-12
Postseason: New Mexico Bowl, L 48-45 vs. Colorado State
Key Losses: OL Elliott Bosch, DB Deone Bucannon, DB Damante Horton
Key Retuners: DT Xavier Cooper, WR River Cracraft, QB Connor Halliday, WR Gabe Marks, LB Darryl Monroe, WR Dom Williams
The sour manner in which Washington State's return to the postseason ended shouldn't put too much of a damper on the Cougars' spring.
Head coach Mike Leach returns a host of talent, particularly on the offensive end. Quarterback Connor Halliday is throwing to one of the deepest wide receiving corps in the nation and playing behind an experienced offensive line.
The most pressing need the Cougars face this spring is in the secondary, where they lose the dynamic turnover-creating duo of Deone Bucannon and Damante Horton.
Their replacements must rely on a solid front seven to get up to speed quickly—and defensive coordinator Mike Breske will need them producing as soon as possible. Washington State had the nation's No. 10 turnover-generating defense in 2013.