College Football 2011: Pac-12 Spring Game Report Cards
With the Pac-12’s first spring in the books, it is time to hand out grades on what we saw.
Spring can be a tough season for college football fans.
While spring games and practices can placate these uncontrollable urges for a college football fix, these offseason activities can often bestow unnerving concerns that will not be truly answered for another four months.
Although the appetizer size of action that spring games produce is only a snapshot of what is actually going on behind the curtain, a picture is worth a 1,000 words. Let’s take a look at what developed from the spring games for each Pac-12 team.
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Spring Game Type: First-team offense/second-team defense (Huskies) vs. first-team defense/second-team offense (Dawgs)
Final Score: Dawgs 31, Huskies 14
Hopes are high for Washington after the conclusion of spring activities. While contending for a North Division title might be farfetched, a productive spring proved that these Huskies are still feeding off the momentum from their Holiday Bowl victory.
All eyes will be on Jake Locker’s replacement in 2011, and if the spring was any indication, it looks like it will be Keith Price. Price, alternating between the first and second teams, lit up the spring-game box score, connecting on 20 of 28 passes for 212 yards and three touchdowns.
While Jermaine Kearse will certainly be the No. 1 receiver come fall, senior Cody Burns caught the eyes of many, hauling in four passes for 102 yards, which included a 70-yard strike for a touchdown from Nate Montana.
The Huskies first-team running game didn’t spark much attention in the spring game, gaining only 72 yards on the ground. Chris Polk led the charge for the Huskies with seven carriers and 22 yards.
Washington’s defensive line appears to be its most promising area on this side of the ball.
Defensive end Josh Shirley has become the talk of the town after his outstanding spring. He capped off a successful session with three tackles, including one tackle for a loss.
The secondary has been a bit of a concern for Washington this offseason, but the returning talent has apparently impressed Steve Sarkasian. In the spring game, the first-team defense held the Huskies to 14 points, with several impressive plays throughout the game.
While the Huskies defense still needs some work, they are certainly showings areas of improvement.
Washington State Cougars
Spring Game Type: First team (Crimson) vs. second team (Gray)
Final Score: Crimson 38, Gray 3
Washington State’s woes seem to be never ending. However, according to Paul Wulff, this is the best spring he has witnessed since joining the program. We will have to see about that.
Against the second-string defense, Washington’s potential starting lineup looked sublime. Unfortunately, the Cougars will be facing defenses 100-times tougher than that through the year.
Senior Logwone Mitz stampeded for 106 yards and two touchdowns, leading the Crimson to a blowout victory against an overmatched Gray squad.
Jeff Tuel also displayed promise for the Cougars. He was fairly accurate with the ball (12-of-17) and laced a beautiful touchdown pass to Andrei Lintz in the back left corner of the endzone.
However, it is hard to tell how these performances will translate into success in 2011.
Again, with the Cougars’ first team playing against the second squad, the tilt on the scoreboard can be a little misleading.
Shining bright for Washington State on that line in the spring game was defensive tackle Brandon Rankin. He collected two sacks against the Cougars’ spotty second-tier offensive line.
The Cougars defensive line should be one of their brightest spots all season.
Spring Game Type: First team (Green) vs. second team (White)
Final Score: Green 16, White 0
Oregon reached the property limits of the promise land last season, only to find a sign that said “No Ducks Allowed." With only three months to recover from that disappointing ending, many expected Oregon to come out a little sluggish this spring. This was hardly the case.
LaMichael James didn’t miss a beat from last year’s astonishing season. While he only carried the ball three times, on his final carry he broke off a 67-yard touchdown run, reminding the world why Oregon is once again a national-championship contender.
While Darron Thomas didn’t put up spectacular numbers, he managed the game properly and came out with his first spring-game win in three tries.
The first-team defense pitched a shutout for the Green squad, collecting two sacks, nine tackles for a loss, a fumble recovery and an interception.
Sophomore defensive tackle Wade Keliikipi made the biggest splash in Oregon’s spring game, rattling off six tackles, two sacks, one TFL and a broken-up pass.
Oregon State Beavers
Spring Game Type: Scrimmage with situational plays
Final Score: N/A
Key injuries kept Oregon State’s spring scrimmage from holding that much weight. The Beavers still have way too many unanswered questions entering the summer.
With the key parts to its first-team offense sidelined with injuries, Oregon State chose to do a spring scrimmage instead of a traditional spring game.
Tight end Connor Hamlett saw the most action for the Beavers, catching 11 balls for 153 yards. Standing tall at 6’7”, the redshirt freshman should become an excellent target for Ryan Katz once he returns.
While Malcom Marable rushed for over 100 yards and a touchdown in this spring scrimmage, Oregon State’s overall offense is still highly questionable without Jacquizz Rodgers.
Oregon State’s defense played strong in the spring scrimmage, collecting eight total sacks and four interceptions, returning one for a touchdown.
Sophomore linebacker Michael Doctor patrolled the field with authority, leading the team with 10 tackles (one TFL) and reaching the quarterback once.
While this suspect success could be closely correlated with the inexperience of the offense, the Beavers defense is definitely improving, which is highly necessary if they want to stay in games against the hefty Pac-12.
Spring Game Type: First team (Cardinal) vs. second team (White)
Final Score: Cardinal 42, White 3
The Stanford Cardinal offense hasn’t missed a beat since Jim Harbaugh’s departure. As long as they have that Heisman Trophy candidate, they should be just fine.
It only took a few plays for Andrew Luck to quickly remind everyone why he is considered to be the best quarterback in the conference. Under Luck’s direction, the Cardinal squad scored a touchdown on every drive. He connected on 16 of 22 passes and tossed three touchdowns with ease.
Stepfan Taylor also provided the Cardinal with a steady ground game, gaining 61 yards and scoring one touchdown.
Even with the coaching change, it appears that Stanford’s offense is still legit with Luck running the show.
With the departure of Vic Fangio and five key defensive starters, there are some concerns about how the Cardinal’s defense will stack up to last year’s impressive outing.
While Stanford is stacked at the linebacker position with Chase Thomas and Shane Skov, Thomas missed the spring game with an undisclosed matter, which raises some questions.
Despite these variables, Fangio’s successor, former secondary coach Derek Mason, is pumped about his team's chances at continuing the dominance it asserted last season.
Spring Game Type: 11-on-11 full-team practice
Final Score: N/A
California suffered its first sub-.500 record under Jeff Tedford last season. Armed with several new staff members, the Bears started the process of erasing those scathing memories during a successful spring.
The first task for new quarterback coach Marcus Arroyo and Tedford’s revamped offensive staff was to find a new signal caller. Brock Mansion did not impress most people after taking over for Kevin Riley, and he did even less to change the minds of the coaches this spring.
Zach Maynard, on the other hand, keeps improving and took the majority of the Bears offensive snaps during the final team practice. He finished the scrimmage completing seven of 12 passes with a touchdown and should be named the starting quarterback in the near future.
Ise Sofele, also hoping to nail down a starting role, looked powerful in the running game, gaining 77 yards on three carries with a touchdown.
California returns only five starters from last year’s 18th-ranked defense, but the Bears appear to be heading in the right direction following the spring.
The Bears’ defense picked Maynard off two times during the final scrimmage and was able to tap on his red jersey twice.
With several holes to fill on every level of the defense, seeing consistent improvement from recruits will be necessary to keep pace in this high-powered conference.
Spring Game Type: Offense (Cardinal) vs. defense (White)
Final Score: White 42, Cardinal 19 (White earned points by forcing punts and turnovers)
Tailbacks shined for the offense, while the White squad dispelled several demons that haunted them time after time last year.
It is a common notion that USC’s offense leans heavily on Matt Barkley. However, after the Trojans spring game, USC might have a few concerns about its fearless leader.
In front of a defense that was not allowed to blitz, Barkley completed only 22 of 42 passes and threw two reckless interceptions. While Barkley’s receiving corps was a little thin, this does not do much to ease the minor case of worries that his performance reverberated with the Trojans fans.
To make things slightly better, USC’s running game sparkled in the spring game, with both Curtis McNeal and Dillon Baxter rushing over 100 yards. Redshirt freshman D.J. Morgan also pulled in 89 more.
USC’s secondary was mocked throughout the 2010 season for its inferiority, but early signs this spring indicate that this will not be the case in 2011.
Cornerbacks Anthony Brown and Brian Baucham each intercepted passes during the spring game, while safety Jawanza Starling collecting a game-high nine tackles with a pass deflection.
The Trojans also showed decent strength with their men up front. Defensive end Zack Kusnir pushed through the line to record two sacks and three TFLs, and defensive tackle DaJohn Harris tallied five tackles with two TFLs.
Spring Game Type: 80-play scrimmage
Final Score: N/A
UCLA’s spring practices did not significantly answer any of the questions that still linger from last year. The offense seems to still be in transition, and the defense will need to carry the Bruins in 2011.
The biggest concern involving UCLA this spring (and it seems like every spring) is which quarterback will finally step up as the Bruins offensive leader.
With Kevin Prince sidelined this offseason, coach Rick Neuheisel’s silent hopes that talent would miraculously emerge from his depth chart went unfulfilled. Although Brett Hundley and Richard Brehaut each threw a touchdown pass, neither quarterback was that accurate or looked ready for real playing time.
Unfortunately for UCLA, new OC Mike Johnson seems to be abandoning the running game, which is a shame with the budding John Franklin waiting to prove his worth.
UCLA's defense dropped from 27th in scoring defense in 2009 (21.2 p/g) to 85th in the NCAA last year (30.3 p/g). While this unexpected showing of futility shocked many, the Bruins are determined to prove it was a one-year hiccup.
With eight returning starters from last year, UCLA’s defense is already showing vast improvements this spring.
Sophomore linebacker Jordan Zumwalt led the charge for the Bruins defense in the spring game, snatching five tackles and one sack.
Junior cornerback Andrew Abbott also created various frenzies throughout the day, collecting four tackles, one tackle for a loss and two pass break ups.
Spring Game Type: 60-play scrimmage
Final Score: N/A
Passing ruled the day at Arizona’s spring game. However, that was the one area that critics were the least concerned with.
Nick Foles, Matt Scott and Bryson Beirne each saw a heavy dosage of action in Arizona’s spring game, combing for 39 passes in the 60-play scrimmage.
Each player threw for over 100 yards and at least one touchdown, connecting with 13 different receivers on the day. Beirne tacked on an additional touchdown pass before it was all said and done, leading the team with two.
The running game was practically non-existent, though. Sophomore Daniel Jenkins carried the ball eight times, but only gained 35 yards. Foles had the second-most rushing yards with 20.
Arizona’s defense only stopped five drives and converted just one turnover during Mike Stoop’s 60-play scrimmage.
Safety Marquis Flowers led the charge for the Wildcats, jarring four tackles and breaking up two passes.
Defensive tackle Sione Tuihalamaka also exerted some dominance on the field, pulling in four tackles and notching a sack.
Overall, Arizona’s defense didn’t play that awful, but allowing four touchdowns proves that they still need a ton of improvement before opening day.
Arizona State Sun Devils
Spring Game Type: Offense (Maroon) vs. defense (Gold)
Final Score: Maroon 83, Gold 27
Arizona State’s offense danced circles around its defense in the2011 spring game. Although many believe that the Sun Devils' offense will be a handful in 2011, the spring game unveiled several egregious holes within their defense.
Brock Osweiler made it rain touchdowns in the Sun Devils’ spring game, slicing the skies with five touchdowns and 237 yards. Five different receivers caught touchdowns from a corps that kept busy for most of the day.
Arizona State’s running game also shined, scoring two touchdowns and rushing for over 140 yards. Kyle Middlebrooks led the pack, gaining 66 yards on four carries. James Morrison saw most of the load, rushing the ball 10 times for 25 yards.
Although Arizona State’s offense is expected to be good next season, the Sun Devils defense made Osweiler look like Peyton Manning.
While it appears that defensive coordinator Bill Miller has his work ahead of him, the secondary seems to be the biggest problem. If they can’t pull it together before the fall, the quarterback-laced Pac-12 could eat them alive.
Despite their ineptitude, the Sun Devils defense managed to collect four sacks. However, the unit is still extremely suspect as a whole and needs to vastly improve in order to truly contend for the Pac-12 South Division title.
Spring Game Type: Red vs. White (both squads were a mixture of first-and-second team offenses and defenses)
Final Score: Red 7, White 0
Red squeaked out a victory in Utah’s yawner of a spring game. Let’s hope that the Utes’ first season in the Pac-12 is a little livelier.
With Jordan Wynn nursing a shoulder injury this spring, Utah’s offense looked quite horrific.
Although Utah’s spring game featured mostly unpolished members of the depth chart, a total of seven points by both the Red and the White is pretty shameful.
Freshman quarterback Tyler Shreve threw the only touchdown to Dexter Ransom, but connected on just nine of 20 passes.
Harvey Langi, another true freshman, led the team in rushing yards with 63 yards on 10 carries.
It is hard to judge Utah’s offense solely on this spring considering the parts they were missing. Don’t let this non-existent showing lull you into believing that this offense will not create some waves in 2011.
However, they did not do much from a spring report card standpoint.
While both defenses only surrendered a total of one touchdown, it is hard to give them all of the credit when you consider the talent that was running the offense.
Nevertheless, it is important to give credit where credit is due.
Junior defensive end and Michigan State transfer David Rolf batted down a game-winning pass in the end zone for the Red squad, adding onto a day with a sack, a tackle for a loss and another broken pass.
Sophomore linebacker Trevor Reilly also made a lasting impression with 2.5 sacks and a deflected pass.
All in all, the Utes’ defense looked pretty good, but they will have to survive much harder tests in order to gain any kind of respect this season.
Spring Game Type: 105-play scrimmage
Final Score: N/A
Colorado’s new head coach Jon Embree emerges from spring drills with a little more buzz surrounding the Buffaloes than when he entered it. The road ahead is still quite treacherous, but it seems like there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
Senior quarterback Tyler Hansen’s performance in Colorado’s spring game was good enough to land him the starting job a few days later. Although Hansen didn’t have the best stats on the day (8-of-15, 120 yards, one TD), his poise and decision making in the pocket was noticeably improved from last year’s shortened season.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Nick Hirschman also showed signs of promise for Colorado’s future, connecting on 11-of-19 passes for 170 yards and two touchdowns.
Sophomore running back Josh Ford provided Colorado with a sprinkle of potential in their backfield as well, collecting 164 yards on 17 carries, breaking off a 56-yard scamper for a touchdown.
Colorado’s defense started off solid in the spring game, impressing their coach with textbook tackling.
Redshirt freshman linebacker Zac Blaha bullied his way towards the ball on practically every play, leading the team with nine tackles and forcing the quarterback to hold onto the ball twice.
Senior defensive end David Goldberg did his best to gain a starting role in his final season, collecting three sacks in the absence of projected starter Chidera Uzo-Dirlbe.
The Buffaloes defense definitely had several bright spots this spring and it will be exciting to see how this spring’s success translates in the fall.
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