Questions We'd Love to Ask Every Coach at Pac-12 Media Days
Pac-12 Media Days are nearly upon us and with the event comes the grand smell of college football along with many high hopes and dreams of successful 2014 campaigns.
Each coach will get his moment in the spotlight as he sits down in front of a sea of reporters who will ask about everything from the backup running back situation to what a perfectly ripe plum should taste like. Okay, so we made that last one up, but topics will inevitably range from silly to serious and back again.
As much as we'd love to ask Mike Leach for a history lesson, however, what we're really excited about is football. Hopefully those at the helm of each program will give us some interesting tidbits to hold us over until the season starts.
Take a look now at one question that we'd love to ask every Pac-12 coach during Media Days.
All stats via cfbstats.com
Arizona Coach Rich Rodriguez
One Question: How do you plan to make up for the loss of Ka'Deem Carey in your rushing attack?
As we all know by now, Rich Rodriguez's bread-and-butter on offense is the rushing attack, which spreads out defenses and keeps them guessing as to which player will take off down the field. You can't always tell where his offenses will attack, but one thing is for sure: Having a dynamic, all-around back like Ka'Deem Carey helps immensely.
But Carey is off to the NFL and last year's backup, Daniel Jenkins, has graduated. B.J. Denker was the only other player to gain significant yardage on the ground in 2013 and well, he's gone too. So who will carry the load in 2014?
Junior Jared Baker will definitely see some time and whoever wins the starting quarterback gig will also be capable of doing damage on the ground. But there doesn't appear to be anyone who even comes close to matching Carey's skill set, so it'll be interesting to see how the Wildcats' offense adapts.
Arizona State Coach Todd Graham
One Question: Who are a couple of players you expect to become leaders on defense?
This is an important question for two reasons. The first is that the offense already has leaders, and first on the list is quarterback Taylor Kelly. If young guys don't have a player they can look up to and someone whose example they can follow, it could cause problems.
That brings us to our second reason for asking this particular question, which is that is all the team's dominant defensive players from 2013 are gone. In fact, only two of the Sun Devils' top 12 tacklers from last season are back this year.
Two names that jump out right away are defensive back Damarious Randall and linebacker Salamo Fiso, but it would be interesting to see who coach Graham thinks can step up in the leadership department.
California Coach Sonny Dykes
One Question: Are you erasing last year from the team's memory or using it as a learning tool?
There is no right or wrong way for coach Sonny Dykes to answer the question, but we're very curious about his methodology. Is he the type to throw away the majority of the game film, focus on the few positives and make sure the team has the right mindset heading into 2014?
Or has he spent every waking moment dissecting what went wrong and sharing it with his players so they know what to work on? Either way, Dykes knows that one win just isn't acceptable at Cal, and a slow start to the season could hurt morale.
The other angle to this question is that if he did spend time re-watching everything, will we be able to notice any specific changes made?
Colorado Coach Mike MacIntyre
One Question: Which guys do you expect to help fill the void left by Paul Richardson?
It may be the most obvious question of the bunch, but Colorado is in dire need of more fireworks on offense and the biggest fuse from 2013 is now in the NFL. Without wide receiver Paul Richardson, who will step up and force defenses to adjust their game plan?
In the backfield, we could see a lot more of sophomore Michael Adkins II, who gained more than five yards per carry in 2013. At receiver, D.D. Goodson looks like the next man up.
But part of the reason for asking the question is so MacIntyre can identify a couple names that may have escaped the media attention throughout the offseason. Will it take a group effort to replace Richardson, or do the Buffaloes have an explosive weapon waiting in the wings?
Oregon Coach Mark Helfrich
One Question: What have you done to help ensure that last November's struggles don't continue?
Most Duck fans will immediately point out the injury to Marcus Mariota whenever last year's late-season struggles get brought up—and that's fair. Mariota is much more dangerous when he can move at full speed, which is the perfect response to use if someone asks you to make the most obvious statement you can think of.
Still, the defense was lousy, especially against the run, and things just didn't quite seem to click. The offensive line was particularly woeful. Even in a dominant win over Texas in the Alamo Bowl, the Ducks had two defensive scores compared to just one touchdown on offense.
Despite questions at wide receiver and defensive line, we're curious to see if Helfrich pinpointed what went wrong and then discover what he's done to make sure it doesn't happen again.
Oregon State Coach Mike Riley
One Question: You passed the ball a lot last year. Will you try to incorporate more of a run game in 2014?
Oregon State used to belong in the conversation of "Running Back U" with Ken Simonton, Steven Jackson, Yvenson Bernard and Jacquizz Rodgers all making a stop in Corvallis on their way to bigger and better things. That was, until 2013 when the rushing attack disappeared and Sean Mannion's arm carried the entire team.
It was effective enough as Oregon State managed seven wins, including a 38-23 victory over Boise State to end the season. But ideally, Mike Riley would love to have a more balanced offense that knows how to attack in a variety of ways.
With Sean Mannion showing that he's capable of putting up monster yardage, will Riley continue to rely on an aerial assault early and often or will he try to utilize the legs of Storm Woods and Terron Ward more often?
Stanford Coach David Shaw
One Question: Will your offensive philosophy change at all with a young offensive line and an inexperienced running back corps?
It's unlikely that Stanford will open up the season running an up-tempo spread offense with multiple tight ends lined up out wide simply because of a young offensive line. The talent is there, and the only way for the unit to develop into the machine of years past is practice.
Still, out of the 431 carries by running backs a year ago, only 25 came from backs still on the roster in 2014. That, combined with the youth up front, could mean that the Cardinals' go-to formula of three yards and a cloud of dust won't be ready to start the season.
Will Shaw add some variety to his offense as the young guys develop or will he stick to his guns and trust that his players will be ready to go despite the lack of experience?
UCLA Coach Jim Mora
One Question: What areas do you need to improve in the most to be ready for the 2014 season?
It's hard to find any real flaws with UCLA heading into the season. You can nitpick by saying the offensive line is still a bit young, the wide receiver group lacks star-power and the defensive line isn't ready for the spotlight, but the key word in all of that is "nitpick".
In other words, the talent is there for a conference title run and you have to try really hard to find glaring holes. So we're curious to see which areas Jim Mora might address heading into the season.
That wouldn't be how he'd word it, but there are clearly strengths and weaknesses on the Bruins. We'd like to find out what he wants the team to work on so we can see if those players and units progress as the season plays out.
USC Coach Steve Sarkisian
One Question: What are the biggest changes you've made from the previous regime at USC?
It became quite clear last fall that whatever plans USC and Lane Kiffin had for the future of Trojan football weren't working. Much like Duck fans pointing out Mariota's injury as the cause for Oregon's late-season slide, USC fans will play the "sanctions" card over and over.
And yes, it's undeniable that the penalties handed down by the NCAA hurt the program in a number of ways. But aside from a thin roster, the talent was there and just never seemed to come together as a group.
With recruiting on the rise and Sarkisian having spent time on the USC sidelines during the glory days of the '00s, the hype is back. What will Sark and company change to complete the re-emergence of Troy as a college football power?
Utah Coach Kyle Whittingham
One Question: What kind of goals do you have in place for the 2014 season?
This question is important for one reason and one reason only: We need to have something by which to measure Kyle Whittingham at the end of the year.
After two consecutive five-win seasons, another mediocre campaign should raise questions about the coach's future regardless of what he accomplished in the past. Football is a forward-thinking operation and reputation can only save you for so long.
It will be interesting to see what Whittingham thinks the Utes can realistically accomplish in the fall. If the program fails, changes could be on the horizon.
Washington Coach Chris Petersen
One Question: What drew you to the University of Washington and what can you accomplish in year one?
Technically we're combining two questions here, but the storyline of Chris Petersen leaving Boise State for Washington is just too juicy to leave anything out. Inquiring minds want to know: What are some specific aspects of the Washington program that compelled you to make the move to Seattle?
Petersen will be inheriting a young team, but one with more talent than it's had in years. So after learning why he wanted to coach the Huskies, the follow up question has to be: What can he get done in year one?
Depending on who you ask, the Huskies will either become a team of destiny that sees the stars align every time it plays or a squad that can't quite put it all together just yet. Either way, it will be fascinating to watch.
Washington State Coach Mike Leach
One Question: What are several things that must happen for Washington State to routinely compete for Pac-12 titles?
As blunt as Mike Leach can be sometimes, there are a good number of reporters who would pay money to hear the answer to this one. On the one hand, you may get a sarcastic response the likes of which Nick Saban and Chip Kelly have become famous for.
But if Leach answered truthfully, it would give us all great insight into the direction of the program. The offense is clearly on the right track, and a few more Deone Bucannon's would have the defense where it needs to be as well.
However, being a mainstay at the top of the league isn't a position the Cougars have ever been in. But Leach wouldn't have taken the job if he didn't think they could win conference championships. So, coach Leach, what will it take to get there?