Despite being only a sophomore in high school, Jack Anderson has already developed into one of the top offensive linemen in Texas and could easily become the top line target in the nation for the 2017 class.

Pac-12 morning links

March, 18, 2015
Mar 18

May you have the hindsight to know where you've been, the foresight to know where you are going, and the insight to know when you have gone too far.

Call me old fashioned, but I'm a "show me" kind of guy.

I picked Stanford to win the Pac-12 in 2013 because I wanted Oregon to "show me" it could win in its first year without Chip Kelly. It didn't.

I picked Oregon to win in 2014 because I wanted Stanford to "show me" it could win without one of its bell cow running backs. It didn't.

I picked USC to beat the Bruins in 2012, because I needed to see the Bruins "show me" that they'd put the 50-0 beat down behind them and could move forward in the Jim Mora era. They did.

And so on and so on. It's not a perfect system. But it's the most logical one I have to operate with. I rarely pick on hype. Last time I did, Washington State was getting spanked at BYU in Mike Leach's debut (it remains my most shameful hour since joining ESPN).

[+] EnlargeCody Kessler
Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesCody Kessler passed for 3,826 yards with 39 touchdowns and five interceptions for USC last season. But how did he do against ranked teams?

While on vacation last week I stumbled across Ted Miller's column asking whether 2015 is the Year of the South in the conference? and felt the urge to weigh in.

Obviously -- especially in the league where anything can happen "after dark" -- there are a few South teams that have a chance. But until one of them can show me, I'm not buying it yet.

Is the South deeper? Sure. But that's not the issue. The question is whether a South team is poised to rise up and take the title from Oregon or Stanford (a team I have a feeling is going to bounce back pretty strong in 2015).

Ted references Mark Schlabach's Way-Too-Early Top 25, in which USC starts the year ranked at No. 3. On the surface, it sort of makes sense, I guess. They do, after all, have Cody Kessler coming back. And I get that there are some young and electrifying players on the Trojans roster, plus a few more coming in.

My concern with Kessler -- who I've spent some one-on-one time with -- is that he has to "show me" he can do it against ranked teams. His numbers in 2014 were impressive, for sure. The 39-5 touchdown-to-interception ratio immediately jumps out.

But take a closer look. Against unranked teams, he completed 70 percent of his throws, averaged more than 336 passing yards per game and had a ratio of 33 touchdowns with two picks. Against four ranked teams, he drops below 200 passing yards on average and he has just four touchdowns to three interceptions. Twenty-two of his touchdown passes came against Colorado, Washington State, Cal and Notre Dame – teams that ranked 114th, 122nd, 116th and 84th, respectively, in pass efficiency defense.

Before I buy into the Trojans, I need them to show me they can also do it against upper-tier teams. Because as of March 17, I'm not yet a believer.

Before you start horn-tooting, UCLA fans, let's not forget you have to overcome the loss of a quarterback who accounted for 32 of your 44 offensive touchdowns (including a team-high 10 rushing and 22 passing). And you're still 0-for-Stanford/Oregon in the Jim Mora era.

Arizona, the defending South champion, has offensive line concerns and a quarterback looking to win back the confidence of his coaches. Utah might have one of the best ground attacks in the conference, but the Utes are breaking in another offensive coordinator (must be March). Not sure what to make of ASU yet.

And I know the counter argument is coming: "Buh … buh … Gemmell … what about Oregon having to replace Marcus Mariota. Don't they have to 'show you' they can win without him?"

Of course. But for all the passing efficiency that Mariota brought -- and it was substantial -- Oregon is still a run-first offense. It's why the Ducks have led the league in rushing offense the last four seasons. And last time I checked, there are still a few Seabiscuits in that stable.

Stanford is an intriguing team. Few squads finished the year as strongly as the Cardinal did -- when they finally found their offensive footing.

If you want to argue whether the South is the stronger division, I'll listen. Then I'll agree. Because I think it is top to bottom. But will the South champ, which no doubt will have run a brutal gauntlet just to get to the conference title game, actually win the whole thing? Think it'll have to show me first. Let the mailbag rage commence in 3 ... 2... 1...

We continue our position previews but with the defense, it's a little bit harder to completely categorize each team uniformly so we're going with three groups -- defensive linemen, linebackers and defensive backs.

Yesterday we examined the South's status in the secondary. Today, we're moving on to the North.

Spring position breakdown: Pac-12 North defensive backs, Part I

Cal: At safety, the Bears lost Michael Lowe (graduation) and Avery Sebastian (transfer) and the two main returning options -- Stefan McClure and Griffin Piatt are both spending this spring rehabbing. Not exactly the best situation for a team that desperately needs to build depth in its secondary. But, if there's a silver lining to all of this, it's this: having that many sidelined players certainly opens up a ton of reps at safety for converted quarterback Luke Rubenzer and Cameron Walker. Walker is back at safety after having started eight games at strong safety as a freshman before moving to cornerback last season. Both he and Rubenzer will need to get acclimated/re-acclimated and now, there are plenty of reps to do just that. But, through practices so far, JUCO transfer Derron Brown is looking like he'll be able to make a smooth transition to the FBS level and possibly overtake any of the guys we've already named.

At cornerback the Bears are in much better shape. Cedric Dozier and Darius White Jr. both return, as do Darius Allensworth, Caleb Coleman and A.J. Greathouse. So even with Walker moving back over to safety, they're still in pretty good shape at CB. Though the secondary as a whole will feature a few new faces in 2015, it looks like they're making the right steps to move forward, too. After all, after giving up an FBS-worst 4,406 passing yards (and that's without a bowl game) it'd be hard to take a step backwards.

Oregon: The Ducks secondary will be going through some major transition this spring. It loses cornerbacks Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Troy Hill and Dior Mathis, as well as safety Erick Dargan, who led the Pac-12 in interceptions a season ago. But safety Tyree Robinson got some good experience there last season (finished with 36 tackles) and will work to solidify himself as the starter for the fall alongside the only returning starter in he secondary, safety Reggie Daniels. A season ago, Daniels finished as the team's third-leading tackler and though there are certainly strides to be made on the field for him, a lot of this spring will be about him filling a leadership void in the secondary. Chris Seisay stepped in for the injured Ekpre-Olomu in the postseason and because of that experience, defensive coordinator Don Pellum considers Seisay to be battle tested. At the corner spot opposite Seisay there will be some interesting competition between Arrion Springs, Mattrell McGraw and early enrollee Ugo Amadi.

Oregon State: First, the good news: One of the two cornerback starters from a season ago is in the Oregon State secondary. Bad news: The Beavers are going through a complete defensive coaching change and need to find players who can not only start, but also several others who can rotate in to Kalani Sitake's defense. Returning starter Larry Scott has the lead at one corner, but nothing is in sharpie yet so expect him to be pushed by the other top three cornerbacks on the Beavers' spring roster -- Dashon Hunt, Dwayne Williams and Charles Okonkwo -- as OSU looks for the top two guys. At safety, it'll be 100-percent turnover and there are only four scholarship safeties on the roster this spring -- Justin Strong, Cyril Noland-Lewis, Brandon Arnold and Adam Soesman. Strong and Noland-Lewis are the obvious frontrunners due to the fact that they've actually been on the field, but with minutes dangling in front of some younger players, don't discount how much someone can step up. But, this is a position to watch this spring as quarterback Tanner Sanders could join the competition. He's not in the running for the QB job so it'd make sense for him to look at a position shift and safety would make sense considering he was actually recruited as a safety by some schools. Will he play here for the Beavers? Maybe.

Mariota: No. 1 'not a huge thing'

March, 17, 2015
Mar 17

Marcus Mariota may or may not be the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' target with the first pick of the 2015 NFL draft, and that's just fine with the Heisman Trophy winner from Oregon.

"Being the first pick, to me, it's not a huge thing," Mariota told the Bucs' team website Monday during his visit to Tampa. "I'd love to play for the Bucs. With that being said, if you find the team that wants you, that's going to be the right team. I look forward to marketing myself and finding that team."

Mariota was in Tampa to visit with Bucs general manager Jason Licht ahead of the draft, which will be held April 30 to May 2 in Chicago. Licht attended Mariota's pro day on March 12.

"This is an opportunity to kind of show how much you know mentally," Mariota told the website about his visit. "It's going to be one of those times where you get to talk about football. I've been looking forward to it."

The Bucs likely will take a quarterback with the first pick, and several draft experts, including ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay, have forecast that Jameis Winston will be Tampa Bay's selection.

(Read full post)

While it might not be as deep as other cities in the Midlands, Wichita has a great reputation with recruiters, producing top prospects such as Kamerion Wimbley, Arthur Brown and Bryce Brown since 2000. Next on the list is likely to be defensive end Xavier Kelly.

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ARLINGTON, Texas – The Nike Opening Dallas Regional produced more invites to The Opening in one stop, 13, than any ever. When taking a look at the uber-talented roster in the days leading up to Sunday’s marquee event, that came without surprise when 40 members of the ESPN Junior 300 come together to compete on the same field.

Here is a look at some of the sights and sounds from the regional that brought out the best from Louisiana, Arkansas, Kansas, Oklahoma and Minnesota in addition to the Lone Star State.

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Pac-12 morning links

March, 16, 2015
Mar 16
She sang beyond the genius of the sea.
The Arizona Wildcats rolled over the Oregon Ducks thanks to a dominating first half, cruising to a 80-52 victory in the Pac-12 championship game on Saturday night. It marked the Wildcats' first Pac-12 tournament title in 13 years and clinched an NCAA tournament berth.
Happy Friday. Welcome to the Mailbag, pre-March Madness edition.

Follow me on Twitter.

To the notes!

Grant from Seattle writes: What do you make of Cyler Miles' leave of absence? A precursor to his leaving the program? And to me, it seems like Chris Petersen didn't handle this very well, given Troy Williams ' departure as well. Is that fair & accurate?

Ted Miller: It seems safe to say that Miles is questionable-to-doubtful to be Washington's quarterback in 2015.

This from Adam Jude:
As things stand, Miles does not plan to play for the Huskies during the 2015 season, but he is keeping his options open, a source with knowledge of Miles’ plans told The Seattle Times.

Even if Miles' up-and-down career at Washington -- both on and off the field -- isn't over, he figured to face a stiff challenge in spring practices and preseason camp for the Huskies' starting job. While Miles did some good things in 2014 after being suspended for his first spring practice with new coach Chris Petersen, it became pretty clear that his upside as a playmaker is limited, though it might be unfair to dismiss the rising junior thusly because he was a first-year starter working with a new system.

What this means is the Huskies' quarteback next fall will either be junior Jeff Lindquist, who has some experience but hasn't done much with his game action, or redshirt freshman K.J. Carta-Samuels or true freshman Jake Browning, a touted recruit.

This, by the way, doesn't feel like a disaster for the Huskies. Based on heavy roster losses, 2015 looks like a transition year for Petersen and his team. I'm not ruling out a successful season -- however you define it -- before we even get past spring practices, but the roster attrition from an 8-6 team is significant enough to say the Huskies don't look like a Top-25 squad.

The point is going young at quarterback might have a payoff in, say, 2016 and beyond.

As for how Petersen handled this, I see no fault with him. Williams' transfer was his choice. It appears that Miles is dealing with personal issues, as the news release emphasized this was not a suspension or disciplinary issue.

It's fair to say there are some growing pains for the Huskies under Petersen. His approach is different than former coach Steve Sarkisian. That means installing his culture isn't something that happens seamlessly and in one season. While Huskies fans might have been hoping that Petersen would wave a magic wand and immediately create a Pac-12 contender to unseat their good friends from Eugene, Oregon, it's become clear the process is going to be a bit more complicated. More like making sausage than making magic.

Larry from Chino Hills, California, writes: Can Jim Mora get UCLA over the hump and win the big games to get to the playoff? Everyone but Hundley back on offense and defense returns 90 percent too ...can't beat Stanford or Oregon. Is this the year?

Ted Miller: Yes to the first question. Maybe to that one you tagged on at the end.

Is there some movement out there to make me out as Jim Mora's Boswell? It seems like we consider Mora just about every mailbag, whether it's his postgame handshake after the Alamo Bowl or some wondering if the Bruins had a disappointing season in 2014.

Again, in 1998, UCLA went 10-2 and lost the Rose Bowl to Wisconsin. The Bruins won 10 games again in just one season -- 2005 -- between then and when Mora was hired in 2012. UCLA had eight nonwinning seasons under three coaches during that span.

Mora has gotten UCLA over the hump already by winning 29 games in three seasons. UCLA's "hump" wasn't becoming a national-title contender in Mora's third season. UCLA becoming a national-title contender would be a modern-day plateau for a program that owns one national championship all-time (1954).

As for the Bruins earning a spot in the College Football Playoff this fall, let's first see how things go at quarterback, really the Bruins' only big question heading into 2015. At present, I'd rate Oregon and USC slightly ahead of the Bruins as playoff contenders, but not by much.

Oscar from Irwindale, California, writes: Being a USC fan, I can say that since the 2010 season it's been a roller-coaster ride. In large part because of the NCAA sanctions on the team, but we can now put that behind us and officialy start clean. Reggie Bush is viewed by many USC fans as the culprit for the team's punishment, but it seems like the recruits or the current young players -- Adoree' Jackson, for example -- idolize him and obviously wants to follow his footsteps for what he did on the field, not off. My question is will Reggie ever be part of USC like Matt Leinart is, or is this a bridge that burned along time ago and will never get repaired? There's no denying what Reggie did for USC, but I think it's time we let go of the past. Fight On!

Ted Miller: If you want my long-form take on this, read this.

As for whether Bush and USC can be reconciled, that seems unlikely in the near future, or at least as long as the NCAA holds sway in Power 5 football. Bush was "permanently disassociated" from USC, per NCAA sanctions, so his coming back to USC would require an OK from the NCAA.

Lachlan from Los Angeles writes: Is this the year we see Cal become an elite member of the Pac-12, or will their defense continue to hold them back?

Ted Miller: "Elite" might not be the right term. Cal, keep in mind, went 1-11 in 2013, so the baseline 2015 goal in my eyes is a winning record and a bowl game.

And, yes, Cal's defense figures to hold the Bears back. The Bears should have an offense good enough to win a Pac-12 North title, but the defense would have to improve dramatically to attain merely mediocre status statistically. It gave up 40 points per game and 42 touchdown passes last year, numbers that cause a sportswriter to double-check himself with a "really?"

You can't win the Pac-12 without a defense that ranks in the top half of the league. In fact, the teams that have dominated the conference in the past decade-plus -- USC, Oregon and Stanford -- typically had defenses that ranked in the top 25 nationally.

Roger from The Woodlands, Texas, writes: Ted, I followed your tweet to the Oregon Register-Guard article about the university potentially taxing the athletic department. After reading the article and posted comments, two of the impressions I came away with: 1) liberal ideology of tax the wealthy (but that's not for the Pac-12 Blog to discuss) and 2) the college sports arms race is amplifying the feeling many have that the athletes are not a proper representation of the university and student body as a whole.Do the faculty and "regular" students feel the athletes even deserve to be there? I'd be curious to see a chart comparing respective graduation rates of each football team, men's basketball team and entire subset of athletes to the entire university. That would be one quick, fact-based way (although I'm sure there are other more elaborate measures) to see if the athletes are truly part of the student body. I suspect negative feelings in some cases are warranted.

Ted Miller: Not sure how we equate a university's academic side wanting a larger portion of athletic department revenue to taxing the rich. The university preceded the football team. The football team is a part of the university. The football team wouldn't exist without the university.

A rough analogy would be a 12-year-old child actor getting $10 million to star in a movie but not wanting to share that money with his parents, though he still wants to live under their roof and have his needs taken care of.

As for comparing student-athletes to regular students, it's complicated. Even with graduation rates.

Based on available numbers, athletes typically graduate at a slightly higher rate than regular students, and the numbers have been improving nationwide. That holds true at Oregon, too.

Yet there's a lot of comparing apples to roses here. For the most part, once a young person arrives at most colleges -- athlete or not -- he or she can figure out a way to graduate as long as they show up to class and complete assignments. It's easy to avoid academic rigor that requires a significant intellectual investment simply to pass.

It's no secret that many athletes tend to take, er, "forgiving" majors. Even when they don't want to, some academic advisers push them away from classes and majors that might conflict with football. Or prove too demanding. When you read through a media guide and 25 football players are "criminal justice" majors, you should raise a skeptical eyebrow.

On the other hand, when you see an athlete not only seeking a legit major -- economics! English! history! business! pre-med! -- band doing well, you should know those folks are achieving much more than a regular student because they are thriving academically while holding down what amounts to a full-time job.

Tony from Chandler, Arizona, writes: If you could be a fly on the wall for a conversation between any two sports personalities, who would they be? I'm thinking a private conversation between Mike Leach and Bill Walton would be fascinating and mostly incomprehensible, or maybe fascinatingly incomprehensible.

Ted Miller: That's a good one.

What about Richard Sherman and Marshawn Lynch? Or Chip Kelly and Bill Belichick? Or Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods?

Oh, what about Sherman and Floyd Mayweather?

All that said, if you could get Philip Roth and Cormac McCarthy together for a couple of hours and let me listen, I'd die a happy man.

By the way, who's joining me on my campaign to get one or the other the Nobel Prize for Literature?

Duck Tales: Oregon's pro day

March, 13, 2015
Mar 13
EUGENE, Ore. -- On Thursday, Oregon hosted its pro day, which, if you've never been to one (like me), just think of middle school fitness testing with about 100 people judging you while you do it, and then another 30-40 people writing about it.

Writers were kind of roped off to one side of Oregon's indoor practice facility, and since most of us a) didn't bring our binoculars and b) don't know NFL scouts by their faces, it's hard to say exactly who was in the building. But, we do know all 32 teams were there -- thanks to their team-issued wind breaks (NFL scouts, keeping the wind-breaker jacket business in business since...) -- including one head coach (Tennessee Titans), and five GM's. And know this, there was a good presence from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (No. 1 overall pick), a large contingent from the Titans (No. 2 pick), and Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly wasn't there.

Here are some observations from Eugene...

QB Marcus Mariota

Like most of the past three years in Eugene, Mariota was the headliner of this day. He didn't show up right away, which left us writers wondering if he would be showing up at all, or whether he would just be doing individual workouts with teams.


After a good performance at the NFL combine, he certainly didn't need to work out for everyone, and even though he did end up throwing, many of us wondered how much that even mattered. He didn't look perfect (he said it was just an "OK" performance) and though only one pass was a bad miss, he overthrew and underthrew a few others. But, does 67 passes (he completed 60, unofficially) like that really matter? The teams that liked him before that performance still like him after that performance, and if a team brings him in for an individual workout, there really isn't going to be anyone in the room saying, "Well, you know when he went back to Eugene for pro day..."

So, it's hard to say whether any stock should really be placed into that or not. It was interesting to see Mariota under center with Hroniss Grasu, then calling a huddle together and breaking said huddle.


DL Arik Armstead

Armstead, looking a bit more trim than the last time he was in Eugene, didn't participate in any of the testing. However, he was run through a bunch of bag drills, run by a rep from the Chargers. Several scouts (and a few teammates -- most notably DeForest Buckner on crutches) looked on. Armstead's main critique was that he needed to cut his arms through faster and get his knees higher -- nothing too earth-shattering to hear for a defensive lineman.


OL Jake Fisher

It sounds like Jake Fisher had a great day at the event. Though, it was hard to tell from the reporters' row since he didn't test in anything (no need to after the numbers he posted at the combine). He did go through drills/stretches for the offensive linemen. This was on the opposite side of the field and had a gaggle of scouts, so unlike Amstead's workout, which happened directly in front of us, it was nearly impossible to tell what kind of feedback Fisher was getting.

But, according to it was Fisher who possibly boosted his stock the most of any player at the event.

S Erick Dargan

Coming into pro day, it seemed as though Dargan had the most to gain from the experience. He didn't get invited to the NFL combine, so unlike the other players on this list, he didn't have a national stage like this at any other time. He didn't necessarily wow anyone with his stats though -- 4.74 in the 40-yard dash, 29' in the vertical jump, 9-5 in the broad jump, and 17 bench-press reps. He participated in a few other events (see video below), but those numbers weren't passed along.

But how would those numbers have stacked up against other safeties at the combine?

For the 40, vertical jump and broad jump, he would've been in the lower groups of the safeties at the combine who actually did participate in those drills. But, he showed off his strength. His 17 bench-press reps would've tied him for sixth at the combine with Louisville's Gerod Holliman.

Erick Dargan. 40.

A video posted by mollyablue (@mollyablue) on


OL Hroniss Grasu

Grasu wasn't 100 percent, but he still ran the 40 (5.06).

In the 20-yard shuttle he ran a 4.71, and in the three-cone drill he clocked a 7.84.

With spring practice underway at many Pac-12 destinations, it's time to do our annual position-by-position breakdown.

Today, we'll finish up the offense with a look a the offensive lines. And to change things up, we'll go with the North first.

Cal: The Bears are set on the left side with left tackle Steven Moore (sitting out spring) and left guard Chris Borrayo returning, but began spring practice looking to find permanent solutions for the other three spots. Jordan Rigsbee played right tackle last year, but will likely slide inside leaving center and right tackle as the primary spots for competition. Matt Cochran is the clear name to watch at center, while right tackle is less defined with Dominic Granado and Vincent Johnson the most obvious candidates. Walk-on Addison Ooms has been a bright spot early in spring practice and looks like he could push at center or guard (possibly keeping Rigsbee at right tackle).

Oregon: First, the obvious -- losing center Hroniss Grasu and left tackle Jake Fisher hurts. But after the Ducks showed they can mix-and-match with varying degrees of success -- they used eight different starting combinations in 2014 -- there is reason for optimism. Tyler Johnstone, who missed all of last season with an ACL tear, will be back at left tackle, where he’ll likely play alongside Matt Pierson. Doug Brenner, Cameron Hunt and Jake Pisarcik are in the mix on the interior, while Tyrell Crosby has a leg up at right tackle.

Oregon State: Offensive line could be one of the Beavers’ strengths next season as they return the five players who finished last season atop the depth chart. Of course, with a new coaching staff it’s hard to know to what degree that matter, but experience counts for something. Tackle Sean Harlow started all 12 games (five at right tackle, seven at left tackle); Josh Mitchell started every game at center; Gavin Andrews started 10 games between the two tackle spots and at right guard; Dustin Stanton started six games at right tackle; and Fred Lauina started the final five games at left guard. Kammy Delp and Robert Olson will also compete for time.

Stanford: With Andrus Peat off to the NFL as a likely first-round draft pick, Kyle Murphy will flip from right to left tackle along what is now an experienced line. Joshua Garnett could be in line for an all-conference type season at left guard, next to center Graham Shuler. Questions remain on the right side, where Casey Tucker projects at tackle, but Johnny Caspers and Brendon Austin will compete at right guard.

Washington: The Huskies face a difficult rebuild after coming into 2014 with a very experienced unit. Siosifa Tufunga and Dexter Charles, both at guard, are two good pieces to start with, while Jake Eldrenkamp and Coleman Shelton are the odds-on-favorites -- if only slightly -- at tackle. Others to watch include Shane Brostek, Dane Crane and Andrew Kirkland. There’s still more questions than answers at this point and spring will especially important for this group.

Washington State: The Cougars stayed relatively healthy on the offensive line with left tackle Joe Dahl, left guard Gunnar Eklund and right guard Eduardo Middleton all starting all 12 games. Center Riley Sorenson started 10 games and right tackle Cole Madison started nine, while Sam Flor (two at center) and Jacob Seydel (started final three at right tackle) also received starting experience. All seven of those players have eligibility remaining, but WSU has yet to release a spring roster.

Pac-12 morning links

March, 13, 2015
Mar 13
What business is it of yours where I'm from, friendo?
EUGENE, Ore. -- Marcus Mariota returned to the place that's the most familiar for him when it comes to football -- the University of Oregon.

But for those who've watched Mariota over the past few seasons in Oregon's up-tempo offense, watching him huddle and drop back at the Ducks' pro day on Thursday was quite unfamiliar.

"It was a little different," Mariota admitted. "It's unique ground for us so we get to enjoy that and start to get used to those things. Again, it was fun."

A month after the NFL Combine, which drew nice reviews for Mariota's arm, he followed it up with a less than stellar day in Eugene. Unofficially, he completed 60 of 67 passes, including 9-of-10 in the red zone portion of the day.

Mariota didn't participate in any testing other than his 67 pass attempts, which were run by Browns quarterback coach Kevin O'Connell who helped train Mariota in Carlsbad, California for the NFL Combine.

"I haven't been able to be on the field with him in a few weeks since he took the job with Cleveland," Mariota said of O'Connell. "But it was good to have him out there and he has been a tremendous help."

Mariota said that most of O'Connell's focus before the combine was Mariota's footwork and keeping his base steady while moving about in the pocket. Mariota admitted that those traits are ones that are difficult to see during a pro day workout, but he feels as though he has improved on them.

Though it was Mariota who drew the biggest crowds for his portion of the day, there were a few other Ducks who pulled in some attention themselves -- center Hroniss Grasu, defensive lineman Arik Armstead and safety Erick Dargan.

Grasu, who still isn't 100 percent following surgery to his ankle, only participated in the 40 (he ran a 5.06) while Armstead didn't participate in any testing. Dargan, who wasn't invited to the NFL Combine despite leading the Pac-12 in interceptions a season ago, ran a 4.74 in the 40-yard dash, jumped 9-foot-5 in the broad jump and did 17 reps at 255 pounds in the bench press.
Cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu also attended, though mostly out of emotional support as the All-American is still nursing a postseason knee injury that has his left knee in a large brace. He did bench press for the scouts, registering 14 reps. He said he won't be able to be back practicing until September, leaving lots of question marks swirling around a player who was once considered an early-round pick.
For Marcus Mariota's sake, hopefully he fared better in his private workout with the Tennessee Titans than he did at his pro day.

"I thought it went OK,” Mariota told NFL Network after his workout Thursday. “There were some misthrows here and there."

Analyst Mike Mayock, who was part of Mariota’s TV interview after the workout, told him he was a little uptight early and trying to be too perfect but got better as he relaxed. Mariota agreed.

The Heisman Trophy winner worked from under center and huddled between plays, two things that were not part of what he did in the Oregon Ducks' offense.

I didn’t get to see it on TV, but it’s always a surprise when a quarterback’s pro day workout is reviewed as anything other than great,

Charlie Casserly of NFL Network said he wouldn’t grade the workout based on having watched it on TV.

“I like a lot of things I see about the guy,” he said. “He’s not a sure thing. So you're going to take him, there is a little bit of hold your breath here."’s New York Jets reporter Rich Cimini watched it on TV and wrote that he agreed with some in attendance that it was “underwhelming.” This is what he wrote.
“Mariota's ball placement was off on some short and intermediate throws. He underthrew a couple of long balls. He overthrew a couple of long balls. He put too much air under a couple. He was much better on seam routes, post routes and any type of crossing routes, where he showed nice timing and anticipation.”

Lindsay Rhodes of NFL Network said it was a 65-throw script devised with Kevin O'Connell, who trained Mariota for the combine before joining the Cleveland Browns' staff.


Pac-12 Teams Can Load Up At WR
Recruiting reporter Erik McKinney joins ESPN's Phil Murphy to break down the deep West Region wide receiver class in 2016.