Video: Oregon LB Tony Washington

April, 11, 2014
Apr 11
9:00
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Chantel Jennings speaks with Oregon OLB Tony Washington about the team’s depth and Don Pellum becoming defensive coordinator.

Ducks' Bralon Addison has torn ACL

April, 11, 2014
Apr 11
12:42
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[+] EnlargeBralon Addison
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesA torn ACL for top wideout Bralon Addison could shelve him for the season, according to reports, leaving Oregon with a void at receiver.

The Oregon Ducks have lost top returning receiver Bralon Addison to a torn ACL suffered Wednesday in spring practice, according to multiple reports.

Addison's knee injury could shelve him for the season, the reports said, leaving the Ducks with a void at the position. The team lost its No. 1 and No. 3 receivers in Josh Huff and Daryle Hawkins, who were seniors in 2013.

Addison had 61 catches for 890 yards with seven touchdowns last season, when Oregon's top four receivers accounted for 72 percent of the receiving yardage and the season receiving touchdown total.

But Addison was the only player of those who was to return.

Oregon was hoping he could use that experience not only to step up as a player but also lead the other younger receivers.

Senior Keanon Lowe also returns. He played in 12 games and started three for the Ducks but averaged just 19.4 yards per contest.


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And I said "What about Breakfast at Tiffany's?" … Well, that's the one thing we've got.

Offensive explosion plays: North

April, 10, 2014
Apr 10
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Just as defenses like to create negative plays for offenses, offenses like to create explosion plays -- plays of more than 20 yards.

So which Pac-12 offenses created the most explosion plays in 2013? And how? And who's coming back in 2014?

I appreciate you asking.

The number to the left is the team's national ranking. "TDs" is how many of the explosion plays produced touchdowns. The "returning in 2014" is the explosion plays produced in 2013 by players who return in the fall.

In the "lost" and "returning" categories, we list players who had five or more explosion plays in 2013.

We did the South Division on Wednesday. Here's the North.

3. Oregon (11-2)
2013 explosion plays: 106 (64 pass, 42 run)

TDs: 11 pass, 14 run

Returning in 2014: 64 (29 pass, 35 run)

Lost: WR Josh Huff (24); RB De'Anthony Thomas (111); WR Daryle Hawkins (6)

Returning: RB Byron Marshall (14); QB Marcus Mariota (13); WR Bralon Addison (10); RB Thomas Tyner (9); TE John Mundt (5)
6. Washington (9-4)
2013 explosion plays: 87 (53 pass, 34 run)

TDs: 8 pass, 7 run

Returning in 2014: 40(28 pass, 12 rush)
Numbers included suspended QB Cyler Miles and WR Damore'ea Stringfellow, who each contributed four explosion plays.

Lost: RB Bishop Sankey (24); WR Kevin Smith (14); TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins (8)

Returning: WR Jaydon Mickens (10); WR Kasen Williams (6)
11. Oregon State (7-6)
2013 explosion plays: 84 (74 pass, 10 run)

TDs: 10 pass, 1 run

Returning in 2014: 42 (35 pass, 7 run)

Lost: WR Brandin Cooks (35); WR Kevin Cummings (5)

Returning: WR Richard Mullaney (10); TE Caleb Smith (9); RB Storm Woods (8); RB Terron Ward (5)
T37. Stanford (11-3)
2013 explosion plays: 68 (43 pass, 25 run)

TDs: 14 pass, 10 run

Returning in 2014: 54 (42 pass, 12 run)

Lost: RB Tyler Gaffney (11)

Returning: WR Ty Montgomery (18); WR Devon Cajuste (12); WR Michael Rector (11)
T64. California (1-11)
2013 explosion plays: 58 (50 pass, 8 run)

TDs: 8 pass, 3 run

Returning in 2014: 39 (33 pass, 6 run)

Lost: WR Richard Rodgers (11); WR Jackson Bouza (5)

Returning: WR Chris Harper (11); WR Bryce Treggs (10); RB Khalfani Muhammad (6)
T73. Washington State (6-7)
2013 explosion plays: 55 (52 pass, 3 run)

TDs: 17 pass, 0 run

Returning in 2014: 55 (52 pass, 3 run)

Lost: None

Returning: WR Dom Williams (11); WR River Cracraft (10); WR Vince Mayle (8); WR Gabe Marks (7); WR Isiah Myers (6); Kristoff Williams (5)

Video: Oregon OL Tyler Johnstone

April, 10, 2014
Apr 10
9:00
AM ET

Chantel Jennings speaks with Oregon left tackle Tyler Johnstone about his rehab and what he's doing for the Ducks offensive line this spring.
As he has done the past five seasons, ESPN contributor Phil Steele takes a crack at projecting the preseason AP Top 25 Insider.

Steele has been pretty solid the last couple of years -- picking all 25 ranked teams in consecutive seasons. If he’s projecting your team, chances are they’ll be the list. He notes that this isn’t his personal preseason ranking, but rather his projection of how the AP will likely vote.

The Pac-12 is represented with Oregon at No. 3 and UCLA at No. 7 and three other teams in the projected Top 25.

Steele on Oregon:
While the Ducks, under new head coach Mark Helfrich, failed to make a BCS bowl for the first time in five seasons in 2013, they still managed their sixth-straight season with double-digit wins. This year they return 15 starters, led by quarterback Marcus Mariota, who is clearly one of the Heisman favorites heading into 2014. The biggest question might be how they adjust to long-time defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti's retirement. However, they do return linebacker Derrick Malone, their leading tackler, and Ifo Ekpre-Olomu could be the best cornerback in the country.

Stanford and USC check in at 12 and 14, respectively, and Washington rounds out the group at No. 22.

He raises an interesting point regarding the Cardinal:
The biggest question for the Cardinal in 2014, however, is how they will navigate one of the toughest schedules in the country: Stanford plays Washington, Notre Dame, Arizona State, Oregon and UCLA --- all on the road.

The Pac-12 finished up 2013 with six teams ranked in the Top 25. ASU is the only team that was ranked to close the season that isn’t projected by Steele. But the Sun Devils are likely to receive some votes and have a chance to slip into the Top 25 in the first couple of weeks with a softer schedule. But then it ramps up for ASU with four straight games against teams in Steele’s projections, starting off with a home date against UCLA. Recall the last couple of seasons that game has essentially decided the Pac-12 South title, and the road team has won in consecutive years. Then ASU is at USC, home to Stanford and at Washington.

Arizona ended the season receiving votes and should start out 4-0 (vs. UNLV, at UTSA, vs. Nevada, vs. California). Then the Wildcats have back-to-back games against Oregon (in Eugene, can you say revenge game?) and home to USC. A 4-0 start and a win in either of those games keeps the Wildcats in the Top 25.

Oregon State may receive a few votes as well -- though voters will likely be timid with the Beavers considering how last season started. Still, with three projected nonconference wins (vs. Portland State, at Hawaii, vs. San Diego State) the Beavers should be undefeated heading into conference play at USC. A 4-0 start and a win over USC would go a long way toward getting OSU in the Top 25.

Pac-12's lunch links

April, 9, 2014
Apr 9
2:30
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If I owned the Twins, I wouldn't even show up here. I'd just hire a bunch of scientists to do my homework. I mean, if you're rich you don't have to be smart. That's the whole beauty of this country.

video

Projected Preseason AP Top 25 ESPN Insider Phil Steele joins Toni Collins to discuss his take on what he thinks the AP Preseason Top 25 will look like for the 2014 college football season.
EUGENE, Ore. -- One of Oregon’s more imposing figures -- 6-foot-3, 297-pound senior center Hroniss Grasu -- is about to become even more imposing.

“Leadership-wise, I need to get better,” Grasu said. “[I need to not] be afraid what other people think about me. I’m going to get on their case if they’re not blocking well.”

There are certainly parts of Grasu’s game that can be elevated over the next year but after passing up the 2014 NFL draft, Grasu is looking at this spring as an opportunity to become more of a vocal leader for the Ducks.

[+] EnlargeHroniss Grasu
AP Photo/Chris BernacchiOregon center Hroniss Grasu believes he must transition into being a vocal leader.
After a disappointing 2013 season, which Grasu partly attributes to the offensive line falling off and losing its competitive edge, he has decided to make his final year with the Ducks a better memory, and he knows the only way he can do that is by leading the charge -- not only by leading by example, which his teammates laud him for, but also leading with his voice.

“I think he is being more of a vocal leader,” backup center Doug Brenner said. “On and off the field, he’s such a good role model for everyone. I’m just trying to learn everything I can from him before he graduates.”

But it’s not an easy transition for Grasu and it’s a problem coach Mark Helfrich has seen before. He has a team problem, which many coaches would consider the best problem to have -- too many nice, respectful guys.

“That’s kind of one of our great shortcomings is we have a lot of great guys in leadership positions that are naturally very quiet,” Helfrich said. “Especially in Hroniss’ case … he’s a guy who can play better and certainly also has the authority to speak up.”

“Naturally, I’m a nice guy,” Grasu added. “I’m nice with everyone. Even when I’m pissed off I’ll hold it in.”

But that’s coming to an end now. Grasu is beginning to hold the rest of the Oregon O-line to his own standards. And after last season when the offensive line let up, he was less than pleased.

For the Ducks' offensive line, that’s a very good thing because Grasu’s critiques should only improve the group. But Grasu’s standards are that of an All-American, Rimington Award candidate, so the offensive line is going to have a new standard starting this spring.

“The thing you always talk about with those guys is that it’s not a personal thing, it’s a standard of what’s acceptable both from themselves and from the guy next to him or the backup or whomever it may be,” Helfrich said. “It's, ‘Hey, that wasn’t up to our standard. Do it this way or step here or do this.’ ”

The Ducks finished the 2013-14 season with the second-best offensive yardage in the nation (565 yards per game) while finishing in the top 10 in yards per play (7.6, No. 2 nationally), yards per rush (6.3, No. 5 nationally) and yards per completion (10.8, No. 9 nationally).

But Grasu said all of those stats can improve next season, which was a big reason why he chose to return to Eugene. And with him becoming a more vocal force in the offensive line meeting room, it’d be a hard group to bet against.

“In many ways, he’s the glue of the offensive line,” Brenner said of Grasu. “Every play starts and ends with Hroniss.”

And is there anyone else he’d be more comfortable with in that position, especially now that Grasu is starting to hold everyone else up to that standard?

“No,” Brenner said. “Not at all.”
The ball is tipped and there you are. You're running for your life. You're a shooting star.
It’s hard to feel confident in a position group when there isn’t a single senior in the meeting room, but Oregon's tight ends are one of the team's deepest and most experienced groups.

The Ducks return rising junior Pharaoh Brown and rising sophomores Johnny Mundt and Evan Baylis. In 2013, those three accounted for five touchdowns and 475 yards on just 30 receptions, and with another offseason under their belts, more can be expected during the spring game and next fall.

[+] EnlargeOregon Ducks and Tennessee Volunteers
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty ImagesJohnny Mundt aims to lead a productive group of Oregon tight ends.
“I think we can contribute a lot more,” Baylis said. “We’re all a lot more comfortable and we know more about the system and can really understand the offense. [The coaches] can trust us more to put in more tight end packages and involve us more in the offense now that we have a better understanding.”

Mundt described the offseason as “intense,” because they all wanted to make sure they came into this spring as ready as possible. With the Ducks losing their No. 1 and No. 3 receivers, the tight ends might be looked at more by quarterback Marcus Mariota in the passing game. There also is a big push by the offensive line this offseason to become more physical, so they need to be ready to handle serious blocking duties as well.

“We were all pushing each other in the weight room and in conditioning,” Mundt said. “We’ve all put on weight and gotten better and stronger. It’s going to be exciting.”

“We put in a lot of hard work,” Baylis added. “We were making sure we were all at [7-on-7s] and all the extra work, getting in reps with the quarterbacks, lifting in the weight room, just making sure we were ready and would be in good shape to produce as tight ends this season.”

Baylis said the biggest difference between the group last season and this spring is mainly in accountability. With another year in the program, every player has matured and is focusing even more than he did last season.

And with each player maturing as an individual, the group as a whole is making strides forward to be a reliable, deeper position group for the Ducks offense.

“We’re not accepting mental mistakes and small, little things,” Baylis said. “We expect more out of ourselves and our group.”
They say defense wins championships. Well, creating negative plays typically makes for a winning defense.

We're defining negative plays as tackles for a loss, sacks, interceptions and forced fumbles (we went with forced fumbles instead of fumble recoveries). We're tallying how many of each that Pac-12 defenses produced in 2013 and -- more important -- how many of those negative plays were created by returning players.

We move on to the North Division. You can see the South here.

(Number in parentheses is number of negative plays made by returning players).

California

Tackles for a loss: 76 (43)

Sacks: 18 (13.5)

Interceptions: 5 (3)

Forced fumbles: 9 (4)

Key returner: Jalen Jefferson (6.5 tackles for a loss, 3 sacks, INT)

Key loss: DL Deandre Coleman (9 TFL, 2.5 sacks)

Breakdown: The Bears’ 2013 defense, perhaps the worst unit in team history, was hit so hard by injuries, these numbers aren't of much consequence. The big questions are if players such as DE Brennan Scarlett, DT Mustafa Jalil, S Avery Sebastian can put up numbers this fall after returning from injuries.

Oregon

Tackles for a loss: 70 (40.5)

Sacks: 28 (18.5)

Interceptions: 17 (8)

Forced fumbles: 17 (12)

Key returners: OLB Tony Washington (12 tackles for a loss, 7.5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles); CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (5 TFL, 3 interceptions, forced fumble)

Key losses: DE Taylor Hart (6.0 TFL, 3.5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles); CB Terrance Mitchell (5 INTs)

Breakdown: Mitchell's decision to enter the draft a year early hurts -- just as Ekpre-Olomu's decision to return was a pleasant surprise -- but the Ducks have plenty of numbers coming back. Washington led the 2013 defense in TFL, sacks and forced fumbles, and Ekpre-Olomu was a consensus All-American.

Oregon State

Tackles for a loss: 75 (43.5)

Sacks: 25 (11.5)

Interceptions: 19 (13)

Forced fumbles: 13 (7)

Key returners: CB Steven Nelson (6 INTs); S Ryan Murphy (8 tackles for a loss, 1.5 sacks, 3 INTs, forced fumble).

Key losses: DE Scott Crichton (19 TFL, 7.5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles); CB Rashaad Reynolds (3.5 TFL, 1.0 sacks, 6 INTs, 2 forced fumbles)

Breakdown: Crichton led the Beavers in TFL, sacks and forced fumbles. His playmaking won't be easy to replace, though having a healthy D.J. Alexander and Michael Doctor at LB should help the front seven's numbers. Nelson and Reynolds tied for the Pac-12 lead in interceptions.

Stanford

Tackles for a loss: 109 (44.5)

Sacks: 44 (13)

Interceptions: 13 (10)

Forced fumbles: 15 (7)

Key returners: Kevin Anderson (6.5 tackles for a loss, 1.5 sacks, INT); S Jordan Richards (4.0 TFL, 3 INTs, 1 forced fumble)

Key losses: OLB Trent Murphy (23.5 TFL, 15.0 sacks, INT, 2 forced fumbles); LB Shayne Skov (13 TFL, 5.5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles)

Breakdown: Murphy was among the most productive defensive players in the nation, Skov was the defense's leader, and guys like D-linemen Josh Mauro and Ben Gardner shouldn't be overlooked, so the Cardinal defense loses a lot of numbers. The biggest question is how well Anderson replaces Murphy.

Washington

Tackles for a loss: 74 (58)

Sacks: 41 (36.5)

Interceptions: 16 (8)

Forced fumbles: 11 (6)

Key returners: DE Hau'oli Kikaha (15.5 tackles for a loss, 13.0 sacks, 3 forced fumbles); CB Marcus Peters (3.5 TFL, 1 sack, five interceptions, forced fumble)

Key loss: S Sean Parker (3.5 TFL, 1 sack, 4 INTs)

Breakdown: These numbers reflect that the Huskies are in great shape with their front seven but the secondary is rebuilding. The Huskies should be plenty capable of putting pressure on opposing QBs, and that should help a secondary that will be young.

Washington State

Tackles for a loss: 75 (52)

Sacks: 21 (18)

Interceptions: 16 (3)

Forced fumbles: 17 (9)

Key returners: DE Xavier Cooper (13.5 tackles for a loss, 5.0 sacks, 2 forced fumbles); LB Darryl Monroe (8 TFL, 2 sacks, 2 forced fumbles)

Key losses: S Deone Bucannon (4.5 TFL, 6 INTs, 3 forced fumbles); CB Damante Horton (3.5 TFL, 5 interceptions, forced fumble)

Breakdown: Like their friends from Seattle, the Cougars return a lot of production from their front seven but they are rebuilding their secondary. In fact, Bucannon, a four-year starter, leaves some of the biggest shoes to fill in the Pac-12.

3-point stance: No help needed

April, 8, 2014
Apr 8
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1. Northwestern has played its hand in the unionization issue beautifully. The university never blamed its student-athletes. Head coach Pat Fitzgerald has gone public with his opposition to the union, but has done so with facts and without histrionics. The last thing Northwestern needs is NCAA president Mark Emmert making headlines by calling unionization "grossly inappropriate." Emmert has been an ineffective reformer. He lost a lot of credibility by railroading Penn State before he had the facts. He could best help Northwestern by going on vacation for the rest of April.

2. Rutgers athletic director Julie Hermann said it would be great if the Newark Star-Ledger went out of business. Hermann doesn't like what one columnist writes about her. The Star-Ledger last week laid off 167 people in her state. You would think an athletic official who has been accused of verbal abuse in the past would think twice before lashing out. Whatever justification Hermann thought she had to say that, she didn't.

3. I got a tour Monday of the not-quite-one-year-old football building that Phil Knight built for Oregon and I have three words: Oh. Em. Gee. Whatever you heard or read about the spare-no-expense design doesn't do the building justice. Italian leather chairs. German lockers. Brazilian wood floors -- in the weight room. Turkish toilets. (I am leaving a few countries out.) Wall coverings and upholstery of football leather. Hand-painted foosball players. And on. And on. The arms race is over. We have a winner.

[+] EnlargeJohnathan Loyd
AP Photo/Morry GashJohnathan Loyd will look to strut his stuff on the football field as a receiver for the Ducks this season.

It's less than a week into spring practice, and Oregon has added a new receiver to its roster: former Ducks basketball player Johnathan Loyd.

Loyd, the winningest player in Oregon basketball history and a four-year starter for coach Dana Altman, will use a loophole in NCAA rules that permits players a fifth year of eligibility in a different sport, the university said in a statement.

The 5-foot-8 Loyd attended Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas, where he played both football and basketball. On the football field he was a cornerback and returner, but after spending some time spent watching practice, he seems to be making a pretty smooth transition to receiver.

"That's one thing I can do -- I can catch the ball," Loyd said. "I can run and I can catch. Receiver is not too much different than anything else."

Loyd will be a boost for the Oregon receiving corps, as coach Mark Helfrich looks to replace the team's Nos. 1 and 3 receivers from a season ago.


(Read full post)


Pac-12's lunch links

April, 7, 2014
Apr 7
2:30
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I think human consciousness is a tragic misstep in evolution. We became too self-aware, nature created an aspect of nature separate from itself, we are creatures that should not exist by natural law.

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Darnold talks on Day 2 at the Elite 11
Sam Darnold (San Clemente, Calif./San Clemente) took time out to talk to WeAreSC on Day 2 of the Elite 11 Finals about what the experience has been like so far, and what he believes he brings to the table at the quarterback position.
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PAC-12 SCOREBOARD

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