Arizona: Terrence Miller was listed on the team's depth chart as a tight end, but he wasn't a traditional tight end. After catching 40 passes for 467 yards in 2013, he's out of eligibility. Former quarterback Josh Kern backed up Miller and is one of four tight ends listed on the roster.
Arizona State: Chris Coyle (29 catches, 423 yards, 4 TD) is a big loss for the Sun Devils and his primary backup, Darwin Rogers, also is out of eligibility. De'Marieya Nelson and Marcus Washington are the most experienced of the four tight ends on the roster, which will grow by one with the addition of recent signee Brendan Landman. Landman is expected to redshirt after playing left tackle during his senior year in high school.
California: There is no tight end position in Cal's offense, which was a factor in Richard Rodgers' early jump to the NFL. Rodgers was switched from tight end to wide receiver last season upon coach Sonny Dykes' arrival.
Colorado: Senior Kyle Slavin is atop the depth chart after catching nine passes in 2013. Sean Irwin played minimally as a freshman, but his role is set to increase. Three other tight ends are on the roster, including Connor Center, who did not play football in high school.
Oregon State: With Connor Hamlett and Caleb Smith both returning, the Beavers arguably have the best tight end tandem in the conference. Hamlett had 40 catches for 364 yards and Smith added 25 for 343 yards. Kellen Clute (19 catches, 159 yards) also contributed to the passing game and Tyler Perry, who will be a fifth-year senior, is an important run-blocker.
Stanford: A one-time strength of the Cardinal, tight ends weren't a significant factor in Stanford's offense in 2013, but the staff is hopeful that an influx of new players will change that. Stanford signed No. 1-ranked TE-Y Dalton Schultz, and he'll compete for playing time immediately. Greg Taboada, Eric Cotton and Austin Hooper -- all well-regarded tight end recruits -- are coming off redshirts and will compete with Charlie Hopkins, who started three games last season.
UCLA: There is no traditional tight end at UCLA, but Y receiver Thomas Duarte, who was recruited as a tight end, is coming off an exceptional freshman season. The 6-foot-3, 221-pound Orange County native appeared in all 13 games and tied a school freshman record with three touchdown receptions.
USC: Losing Xavier Grimble early to the NFL is a blow and just two other scholarship tight ends remain from last season: Randall Telfer and Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick. One of the nation's top tight ends, Bryce Dixon, signed with USC, but he wasn't among the group of four early enrollees.
Utah: The Utes were the only school in the country to send two tight ends -- Jake Murphy and Anthony Denham -- to the NFL combine, though Utah listed Denham at receiver. Siale Fakailoatonga, a former walk-on, was Murphy's primary backup on the final depth chart, and he caught two passes for 18 yards in 2013. Harrison Handley redshirted last season after enrolling early last spring and is a candidate to compete for playing time.
Washington: John Mackey Award winner Austin Seferian-Jenkins' departure for the NFL was expected, and how the Huskies replace him will be an interesting process. Clearly, there's not a one-man solution for what they'll lose with Seferian-Jenkins, but the combination that the returning players provide is a nice mix of different talents. Michael Hartvigson and Josh Perkins have the most experience at tight end, but they should receive a push from Darrell Daniels and David Ajamu. Daniels, a highly-regarded receiver recruit who switched to tight end, was a special-teams standout in 2013 as a freshman, while Ajamu redshirted.
Washington State: Washington State didn't list any tight ends on the roster last season, but early enrollee Nick Begg will start his career listed there. The long-term plan for Begg is likely elsewhere.
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To the notes!
Justin from Chantilly, Va., writes: I believe Utah fans should be excited for a QB competition entering spring practice. What are the odds of Oklahoma transfer Kendal Thompson assuming the starting role? Can Utah medically redshirt Travis Wilson for a year to evaluate?
Ted Miller: Things look at lot better at quarterback for Utah than they did a couple of months ago, eh?
Not only is there hope that 2013 starter Wilson will be able to play this fall, there's also the arrival this summer of Thompson, an Oklahoma transfer who is immediately eligible. Those are two guys most Utes fans probably weren't counting on.
I would suggest adopting a pose of cautious optimism.
You should be optimistic because Wilson brings experience and competence behind center that makes the Utes a bowl team. You should be optimistic because Thompson sounds like the sort of athlete who can help the Utes, whether he wins the job outright or not.
You should be cautious, however, because Wilson has not yet been cleared to play in 2014, only to participate in spring practices without contact. While the recent news is good, we won't know until well into the summer if he has overcome the pre-existing medical condition that ended his 2013 season.
As for the odds of Thompson winning the job, I have no idea. I haven't seen him play and we still don't know Travis Wilson's status. It does seem, however, that plenty of other programs wanted Thompson, and he fits well in new offensive coordinator Dave Christensen's theme.
The positive, big-picture issue is Utah now has more options than it had the past three seasons, when injuries to Jordan Wynn and then Wilson muted the Utes offense.
When you toss in Adam Schulz, who stepped in when Wilson went down, and redshirt freshmen Conner Manning and Brandon Cox, plus incoming freshman Donovan Isom, the Utes no longer seem to be all-in with just one guy. That's important.
As for redshirting Wilson, Utah could. He has a redshirt season available. Not sure if that's in play here, but I'm also not sure if it's not.
Ted Miller: Jeff, you are not the first to take note of Turley and his innovative conditioning techniques and philosophies. The National Strength and Conditioning Association named Turley its strength and conditioning coach of the year in 2013. More than a few folks around Stanford call him the Cardinal's secret weapon, pretty much a conditioning guru.
For one, this is a pretty strong sell from Turley's bio:
In 2013, his position became the first endowed football directorship in the FBS and was renamed the Kissick Family Director of Football Sports Performance. Turley has created a comprehensive player development program designed to achieve three primary goals: injury prevention, athletic performance enhancement and mental discipline development.
Turley was FootballScoop's 2011 Strength & Conditioning Coach of the Year as determined by a panel of coaches and previous recipients. Turley has earned significant credit from the Stanford coaching staff for his role in turning around a program that won a single game the year before his arrival to a program with three straight BCS bowl appearances.
And this is a pretty strong sell in the New York Times from former Stanford star Richard Sherman.
“We have an advantage when we get into the NFL,” Sherman said. “It shows you how little scouts know in their assessments. I’ll roll with Shannon Turley.”
While he might not be well-known nationally, Turley was important enough on the Farm to merit a three-part series in The Stanford Daily.
I've long believed that a football team's strength coach is every bit as important as a position coach who doesn't call plays, and they should be paid accordingly.
All good teams have great natural athletes with potential. What makes a team elite is what is done with those athletes to maximize that potential.
Ted Miller: I have no oversight. Maybe undersight. Or near sight. Or lack of insight.
I will grant you that Mason finished the regular season with three strong performances, rushing for 203 yards on 32 carries -- 6.3 yards per tote -- while catching 21 passes for 117 yards. Perhaps not coincidentally, the Cougars won two of those games and played a competitive Apple Cup on the road at Washington.
And I will grant you that the Cougs' measly 2.9 yards per carry last year, which ranked 120th in the nation, is a bit deceiving because Mason and Caldwell averaged 4.9 and 5.4 yards per carry, respectively, while also combining for 78 receptions, catching throws that mostly operated as aerial handoffs.
And the Pac-12 blog wants to give love. That's, really, what we are all about.
But I also think we can all agree that no Pac-12 team puts less emphasis on the running game, and until the Cougars make a big move in the North Division without a running game, a lot of folks will be skeptical that at team can thrive in the deep, physical Pac-12 without at least a fair-to-middling rushing threat.
Ted Miller: Man, forget Leonard Williams a couple of times and Benvolio goes from peacemaker to biting his thumb at the Pac-12 blog.
Perhaps Queen Mab hath been with me, distracting me from recalling the Pac-12's best defensive lineman this past fall?
Or maybe I just miss you, Benvolio, and wanted to see if you were paying attention?
Or maybe it was just a stupid oversight?
No, couldn't be that. That's too out of character. Had to be Queen Mab.
- Arizona is just about ready to kick off spring practice.
- Arizona State gets a nod as a potential national title contending sleeper.
- Here is a draft profile of former Cal tight end Richard Rodgers.
- Paul Richardson is mentioned as a potential target for the Carolina Panthers.
- If Oregon's Marcus Mariota is to win the Heisman, this is the road he'll follow.
- Oregon State has promoted Lyle Meovao to a graduate assistant.
- New Stanford defensive coordinator Lance Anderson: "Since Vic Fangio was here and we installed this defensive package in 2010, it's stayed roughly the same."
- Is UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley one of the few big-name quarterbacks left in college football?
- Pete Carroll returned to USC and it was just like old times.
- Utah is loading at quarterback, which bucks a recent trend.
- Taking a look at Washington's safeties before spring practice.
- Does Washington State need to run the ball more?
- See who tops the list in a ranking of Pac-12 football rosters based on recruiting rankings.
Former USC coach Pete Carroll fell into the latter category. He specifically believed in "anointing" -- his term -- a starter after spring practices so his teammates would know who to look to as the guy fronting the offense.
And some coaches just like to keep secrets.
Yet the fact is, fans and reporters tend to get a pretty good idea of a pecking order after spring practices. Recall Marcus Mariota's performance in the 2012 spring game, one that made it pretty clear he had pulled ahead of Bryan Bennett. Ducks coach Chip Kelly told us not to get ahead of ourselves, as was his wont, but the scuttlebutt all summer was Mariota, Mariota, Mariota.
Only four teams appear to have legitimate competitions -- Arizona, Washington, USC and Utah -- though we have included an "other" in this poll if you think an incumbent starter might lose his job to a young upstart.
That's not out of the realm of possibility -- see how we list USC in the poll. Many believe 2013 starter Cody Kessler is facing a stout challenge from redshirt freshman Max Browne.
You can read our review of the Pac-12 QB situations here.
Spotlight: WR Darreus Rogers , So., 6-2, 210
2013 summary: Rogers caught 22 passes for 257 yards last season.
Spring start: March 3
Spring game: April 20
What to watch:
- QB competition: Coach Rich Rodriguez has used first-year starters in his first two seasons at Arizona and will make it three-for-three in 2014. For the most part, things worked with both Matt Scott and more recently B.J. Denker, which should make Wildcats fans optimistic about what should be a wide-open competition.
- Replacing Carey: As intriguing as the quarterback competition will be, the battle to replace all-time great Ka'Deem Carey at running back could be more important. None of the returning running backs had a carry last year, which led to this comment from Rodriguez: "Now it’s a mystery. That’s going to be one of the positions, like quarterback, that will be kind of open to see if we can get guys to get better."
- Keep Austin healthy: After tearing his ACL last spring following a breakout season in which he caught 81 passes for 1,364 yards and 11 touchdowns, receiver Austin Hill has been given a clean bill of health. Said Rodriguez: "He is still wearing the knee brace but I think it is a little bit more precautionary. He is 100 percent doing everything. He’s even a bit bigger and stronger so he should have a big spring. I know he’s hungry to get out there, too."
Spring start: March 18
Spring game: April 19
What to watch:
- OL changes: Auburn transfer Christian Westerman, a prototypical guard, could be the Sun Devils' best offensive lineman, which makes things interesting considering both starting guards -- Jamil Douglas and Vi Teofilo -- will be back next year. Douglas, a second-team All-Pac-12 selection, has worked at tackle in the past and could shift outside to replace first-team All-Pac-12 left tackle Evan Finkenberg.
- Getting defensive: Coach Todd Graham's college roommate, Keith Patterson, has arrived as the defensive coordinator, but Graham will remain the play-caller and Chris Ball's title will still read co-defensive coordinator. Got all that? New coaching dynamics get sorted out in the spring, too.
- Looking for replacements: On defense, ASU needs to replace seven starters, highlighted by DT Will Sutton, LB Carl Bradford and CBs Robert Nelson and Alden Darby. If ASU is to build off its impressive 2013 season, those holes need to be filled quickly. They'll benefit from a schedule that starts with Weber State, New Mexico, Colorado and a bye, but after that the Sun Devils have UCLA, USC and Stanford in a span of four weeks.
Spring start: March 7
Spring game: April 12
What to watch:
- QB development: Sefo Liufau's development will be interesting if for nothing else than because the jump from Year 1 starter to Year 2 starter is always intriguing with quarterbacks. It's tempting to assume a big statistical jump is coming, but it's not always that simple (see: Hogan, Kevin; Mannion, Sean; Hundley, Brett). Liufau will need to get on the same page with his receivers as they combine to …
- … Replace Paul Richardson: Look for Nelson Spruce, D.D Goodson and Tyler McCulloch to lead what will be a much more balanced receiving corps following Richardson's early departure for the NFL. Spruce was the Buffs' second-leading receiver last year, but Goodson, going into his second season at receiver, figures to make the biggest jump.
- Rising expectations: It took MacIntyre three years to turn San Jose State into a winner, but there was a four-win improvement in the second year. He won't match that with the Buffs, but a two-win improvement gets Colorado bowl eligible. Colorado has a chance to match last year's win total (4) in the first five games next year: vs. Colorado State, at Massachusetts, Arizona State, Hawaii, at Cal. In fact, it's probably the internal expectation.
Spring start: April 1
Spring game: April 26
What to watch:
- Manage expectations: The Bruins are in new territory this offseason with expectations through the roof. They'll likely be a preseason top-10 team, which will drum up chatter about a potential national championship run. Likely message from coach Jim Mora: "Tune out the noise."
- The #Hundley4Heisman campaign: It's a real thing and Mora threw his weight behind it when he tweeted the hashtag on Jan. 26 with a picture of the Heisman Trophy. Get used to reading "Heisman candidate" next to "Brett Hundley" a lot between now and September. At times, it might feel unavoidable.
- Leading rusher? They're set at quarterback and bring a lot of talent back at both receiver and on the offensive line, but the running back situation isn't as clear. Hundley was the team's leading rusher in 2013, but someone needs to step up to take pressure off him and LB/RB Myles Jack. It's an important spring for both Jordan James and Paul Perkins, who had varying degrees of success last year.
Spring start: March 11
Spring game: April 19
What to watch:
- Under center? Cody Kessler is back, but coach Steve Sarkisian immediately made it known there would be an open competition for the quarterback job. Max Wittek is no longer around, but Kessler should get a serious challenge from redshirt freshman Max Browne. With a new offense to learn, spring will essentially serve as preparation period for the real competition during fall camp.
- Catch your breath: The most noticeable change in USC during the first game will be how much faster it's playing offensively. Sarkisian installed a high-tempo offense at Washington last year and, pleased with the results, will continue to press the tempo with the Trojans. Goodbye, huddles.
- Change it up: As is the case when new coaching staffs arrive, there will likely be a higher percentage of position changes than usual and a more fluid depth chart. It's hard to peg exactly where that'll occur with USC, but it'll be worth monitoring throughout the spring.
Spring start: March 18
Spring game: April 26
What to watch:
- Wilson's road back: Travis Wilson is expected to be the Utes' starting quarterback next season, but he'll be limited to non-contact drills during the spring. That's about the best news Wilson could have received following an early November discovery that he had an undiagnosed injury to an intracranial artery -- a condition that threatened his career. Oklahoma transfer Kendal Thompson will not join the team until after he graduates in May, but he'll be immediately eligible to play.
- Revolving OC door: Dave Christensen moves in, Dennis Erickson moves over and Brian Johnson moves out. Kyle Whittingham introduced the Utes' seventh offensive coordinator is seven years in early January. Christensen believes in similar philosophies to what the Utes had under Erickson/Johnson, but the terminology will change and the tempo will increase.
- Pressure building? Utah was used to winning big before it got to the Pac-12 in 2011. Whittingham lost just 20 games in his six full seasons as the school's head coach while a member of the Mountain West Conference. In the three years since, Utah's dropped 19 and qualified for just one bowl. No one should doubt Whittingham's ability as a coach -- he's a good one -- but the jump in competition has been difficult.
Arizona: The Wildcats welcome back four starters, losing only RG Chris Putton. This mostly starless unit led the second-best rushing attack in the Pac-12 and yielded the second fewest sacks (17) in 2013. Junior Lene Maiava, the line's top backup at OT and OG last year, is a good bet to step in for Putton. By the way, all the 2013 backups are back as well.
California: Cal welcomes back all five guys who started the Big Game against Stanford, a crew that included three freshmen and one sophomore. Only one of those guys, sophomore Jordan Rigsbee, started the first game, and he had moved from LG to center. The truth is, these guys played OK late in the season, and you'd think they'd improve significantly after a year of seasoning. Rigsbee and LG Chris Borrayo are good players, and Chris Adcock and Matt Cochran will be back in the mix after injuries derailed their seasons. There's also juco transfer Dominic Granado and four redshirt freshmen. As with most positions after the Bears’ miserable 2013, this unit should be much-improved.
Colorado: Three starters are back from a line that often struggled in 2013 -- LG Kaiwi Crabb, RG Daniel Munyer and RT Stephane Nembot -- with LT Jack Harris and C Gus Handler departing. Crabb was the backup center last year, so he might get a look there. In the mix are junior Marc Mustoe, junior college transfer Sully Wiefels, sophomore Alex Kelley and four redshirt freshmen.
Oregon: The Ducks lose undersized OG Mana Greig, who often struggled last year, but welcome back four starters, though LT Tyler Johnstone will miss spring practices after knee surgery. Center Hroniss Grasu earned first-team All-Pac-12 honors for a second time last year and is a likely preseason All-American -- he was second team for the FWAA in 2013. OG Cameron Hunt, who started five games as a true freshman, is almost certain to step into a starting guard positions opposite Hamani Stevens. Junior Andre Yruretagoyena is a guy to watch, also. It's likely position coach Steve Greatwood will do a lot of shuffling this spring, working a variety of combinations that allow him to develop depth.
Oregon State: Two starters are back -- C Isaac Seumalo and RT Sean Harlow -- and three starters are gone: LT Michael Philipp, LG Josh Andrews and RG Grant Enger. Seumalo earned second-team All-Pac-12 honors and could get All-American consideration this fall, while Harlow should be much-improved after taking his lumps as a true freshman. Sophomore Grant Bays, junior Josh Mitchell, junior Gavin Andrews and juco transfer Luke Hollingsworth are in the mix.
Stanford: While the Cardinal are replacing four starters from the Pac-12's best offensive line last season -- only LT Andrus Peat returns -- a number of the 2013 backups saw significant action. So the hope is Josh Garnett replaces David Yankey at LG, Graham Shuler steps in for Khalil Wilkes at center, Johnny Caspers replaces Kevin Danser at RG and Kyle Murphy takes over for Cameron Fleming at RT. And the best guys who don't beat them out will act as the sixth and seventh O-linemen in Stanford's now-infamous "jumbo" packages.
UCLA: While UCLA loses first-team All-Pac-12 guardXavier Su'a-Filo to the NFL, the Bruins should be strong on the offensive line after injuries force them to start three true freshmen last fall. And those freshmen, Alex Redmond, Caleb Benenoch and Scott Quessenberry, played pretty darn well, considering. Jake Brendel is back at center -- he and Redmond earned honorable mention all-conference honors -- and tackles Torian White and Simon Goines, starters sidelined by injuries last year, are back. Then there's Miami transfer Malcolm Bunche and Conor McDermott and Ben Wysocki, among others. Figures to be a lot of competition this spring.
USC: The Trojans lost center Marcus Martin, first-team All-Pac-12 in 2013, and RT Kevin Graf, but welcome back sophomore LT Chad Wheeler, senior LG Max Tuerk and senior RG Aundrey Walker, though Walker will be out spring after breaking his ankle against UCLA. Further, with a new coaching staff on hand, there's sure to be competition and some position changes. Junior Cyrus Hobbi and redshirt freshman Khaliel Rodgers figure to battle at center, and with sophomore Zach Banner sitting out with an injury, senior Nathan Guertler and redshirt freshman Nico Falah likely will man the RT spot. True freshman early enrollee Toa Lobendahn also could get into the mix, as could true freshman Damien Mama when he arrives in the fall, though he plans to take a Mormon mission in 2015.
Utah: Utah loses two starters, LG Jeremiah Tofaeono and center Vyncent Jones, but welcomes back junior LT Jeremiah Poutasi, RG Junior Salt and RT Siaosi Aiono, though Isaac Asiata started the final three games at RT. Sophomore Hiva Lutui was the backup center last year, but he'll battle Nick Nowakowski for the starting job, while junior J.J. Dielman has the inside track at LG.
Washington: Not only does Washington welcome back all five starters from 2013, it welcomes back a crew that started every game together. (Well, actually, James Atoe started the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl at RG for Colin Tanigawa). And not only that, this is the Pac-12's most veteran crew, perhaps the most experience group in the nation, with four senior starters and one junior. Oh, and not a single backup from the Apple Cup depth chart graduated either, though Erik Kohler took injury retirement. LT Micah Hatchie and LG Dexter Charles both earned honorable mention All-Pac-12 honors last year. This has a chance to be a very good line.
Washington State: Offensive line is a questionable area for the Cougars this spring. They lost three starters, topped by center Elliott Bosch, the line's leader in 2013, and three top backups. Junior LT Gunnar Eklund and junior LG Joe Dahl are back. Sophomore Riley Sorenson is almost certain to win a starting job, likely at right guard, while Sam Flor and Carlos Freeman will battle at center, while Cody O'Connell, Cole Madison, Devonte McClain and Jacob Seydel are in the mix at the vacant tackle spot.
Ever heard of the names Larry Sagouspe, Dick Allmon, Dave Brown or Bob McCaffrey? OK, how about Chris Foote, Norm Katnik, or Ryan Kalil?
With the Trojans in search of a starting center heading into 2014 spring practice, candidates like redshirt freshman Khaliel Rodgers and true freshman Toa Lobendahn might draw inspirations from those past snappers that became vital cogs in national championships runs.
In the early 1960s, Larry Sagouspe (6-foot, 224 pounds) was a Chaffey College transfer and a former offensive guard out of Chino High. There were a number of high profile offers coming Sagouspe’s way out of Chaffey College, but thanks to a connection, No. 55 found his way to Troy and eventual team success.
In his junior season, the little known Sagouspe evolved into a linchpin on coach John McKay’s first national championship team in 1962. You know the one that featured offensive firepower like Hall of Fame receiver Hal Bedsole, quarterbacks Pete Beathard and Bill Nelsen, receiver Willie Brown, and offensive tackle Marv Marinovich. Sagouspe was one of those invisible role players, yet he became a major contributor to McKay’s title run.
Another no-name center who shortly followed Sagouspe was Dick Allmon, the pride and joy of La Jolla (Calif.) High. In 1967, Allmon (6-1, 230) wasn’t a household name on McKay’s second national championship club, which included the offensive likes of All-American tailback O.J. Simpson, receiver Earl “The Pearl” McCullouch, and All-American tackle Ron Yary. In fact during Allmon’s final two seasons, all his teams did were go a combined 19-2-1 with two Rose Bowl appearances.
Allmon, however, will always be remembered for contributing to the most famous play in USC Trojans history -- 23 blast. When Simpson, then a junior, went on his historic, fourth-quarter 64-yard touchdown against UCLA, it was Allmon that laid a key block on Bruins All-America linebacker Don Manning, who was knocked backward, allowing Simpson to dash into the blue and gold secondary.
Many consider the 1972 USC Trojans as arguably the greatest college football team of all-time. The names on McKay’s third national title are legendary. There was fullback Sam “Bam” Cunningham, tailback Anthony “AD” Davis, tight end Charles “The Tree” Young, and All-America sophomore linebacker Richard “Batman” Wood.
Center Dave Brown does not fit in that legendary group. Yet talk to members of that championship team, and they all have the utmost respect for Brown, who hailed from Eagle Rock (Calif.) High in suburban Los Angeles.
Like his national championship center predecessor’s, Brown was not a physical specimen (6-0, 229), but there was an intenseness and intelligence that translated into major leadership material.
Before the 1972 Trojans went on their historic 12-0 run, the season before they were a modest 6-4-1. Brown organized a Fellowship of Christian Athletes chapter, and it seemed to galvanize his teammates for their extraordinary run for McKay’s third national title. Brown’s leadership skills were eventually recognized by being named the Trojans 1972 Most Inspirational Player.
Two seasons later in 1974, the Trojans captured yet another national title. The center on that McKay team was buried underneath star-power names like tailback Anthony Davis, receiver Lynn Swann, linebacker Richard Wood, and the quarterback and receiving tandem of Pat Haden and J.K. McKay.
The center? A guy named Bob McCaffrey, once a celebrated prep lineman out of Bakersfield (Calif.) Garces High.
Despite others receiving more acclaim along the offensive line, McCaffrey (6-2, 240) was named the 1974 USC Lineman of the Year by the coaching staff. And by the way, McCaffrey was the center for the Trojans unforgettable 1974 comeback 55-24 victory over Notre Dame in the Coliseum, helping lead touchdown charges in the Trojans’ famous sweep play.
Then there were the 1978 national champions under John Robinson. Another star-studded team filled with talent like of All-American tailback Charles White, All-America quarterback Paul McDonald and stud offensive linemen like guards Pat Howell and Brad Budde and tackle Anthony Munoz. Being the center on that 12-1 club was like being the doorman at The Ritz.
Does the name Chris Foote ring a Mudd Tower bell?
The importance of Foote (6-4, 250) was never more evident as when he was out of the Arizona State game because of an ankle injury. The Trojans proceeded to fumble the snap on six occasions and lost the ball four times, which lead to 13 Arizona State points that turned into the difference in a 20-7 loss.
Foote’s eventual return propelled the Trojans back into the national championship hunt.
The 2003 Trojans won the national championship under Pete Carroll and had a slew of future pros, including quarterback Matt Leinart, wide receiver Mike Williams, defensive tackles Shaun Cody and Mike Patterson and linebacker Lofa Tatupu.
But perhaps you’ve forgotten that center Norm Katnik (6-4, 280) was in the middle of an offensive line that also featured All-American tackle Jacob Rogers. As for Katnik, he was a finalist for the Rimington Award and was a third-year starter. Although he is somewhat a forgotten man on that championship unit, his contributions continued right through the Trojans’ victory over Michigan in the 2004 Rose Bowl.
An outstanding student, Katnik was the epitome of brains and brawn.
The Trojans had a new center in 2004, but that didn’t stop them from winning the BCS national championship, clobbering Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl, 55-19. With basically the same cast of national championship characters from the previous season, the only one real change was at center. Enter a sophomore named Ryan Kalil, who later become not only an All-American but went on to become the highest paid center in the NFL.
Talk about a rags to riches story, the unheralded Kalil recalled the 2004 season by telling the Los Angeles Times, “That was my first year starting. I was just trying to make sure I didn't screw that up."
Kalil went from not trying to screw it up to arguably the greatest center in the history of USC football.
There have been other centers that were valued members of successful Trojans teams like Paul Johnson (1965), who blocked for the Trojans first Heisman Trophy winner, tailback Mike Garrett. You can also add to list of standout centers All-American Tony Slaton (1983) and Khaled Holmes (2012). While all not starters on national championship teams, they all were successful foot soldiers of their offensive lines.
If the Trojans are going to rise again in the national or Pac-12 title picture, they’ll need to have a center of attention and that new search begins in days.
- Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez gives the low-down on his team as it gets ready for spring practices.
- Arizona State makes a hire to boost recruiting.
- More from a Q&A with California coach Sonny Dykes.
- A thorough preview of Colorado heading into spring practices.
- Not surprisingly, Oregon folks think the proposed 10 second rule is "baloney."
- Former QB Lyle Moevao joins a crew of former Oregon State players working as Beavers GAs.
- A look at Stanford's big issues this spring.
- UCLA has announced its spring football dates, so plan accordingly.
- Former USC coach Pete Carroll makes several accurate observations about the travesty that was the NCAA's treatment of the Trojans.
- New Utah offensive coordinator Dave Christensen says he wants competition at QB, whether Travis Wilson is permanently cleared or not.
- Five issues for Washington heading into spring practices.
- A scouting report on former Washington State safety Deone Bucannon. This is about Washington State basketball coach Ken Bone, but I think there are well-expressed sentiments in it that certainly touch how we talk about football coaches.
And with what he showed as a freshman last fall in a somewhat limited role, hauling in 22 passes while showcasing a unique blend of size, sure hands and playmaking ability, there’s reason to believe that the former Carson (Calif.) standout is on the cusp of doing just that.
“My mindset is to come in and step in for Marqise so the offense doesn’t miss a beat,” Rogers said. “I’m just focused on coming out and working hard each and every day.”
“He’s made a big impact on my game,” said Rogers of Lewis following a conditioning workout earlier this week. “Probably the best thing that’s ever happened to me is having a strength coach like him. My body feels different. I can see a difference in how I’m running, my flexibility, and I’m excited to see what I can do on the field.”
Part of the secret to the success of the training regimen is the frenetic speed in which Rogers and his teammates are put through their paces -- a direct byproduct of Sarkisian’s no-huddle offense. According to Rogers, that faster, quicker mode of doing things is something that the coaches have made a concerted effort to engrain in every player on the USC roster.
“When we go out there everything is rapid-fire,” said Rogers, who currently stands 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds. “No walking -- get after it and get it done. Everything, and I mean everything, we do is fast. Eat fast, shower fast, wake up fast … everything around here is done quickly now. We’ve had to get used to it.”
And while Rogers and his offensive teammates won’t be able to fully immerse themselves into Sarkisian’s system -- which the new head coach has described as being essentially a fast-paced, pro-style scheme that contains some spread principles -- until they hit the field in pads this spring, he’s excited about the future based on what he’s already learned.
“I can’t wait to play in this offense,” Rogers said. “For a receiver this is the type of offense that really showcases you. It’s no-huddle, spread it out and pass, so I really feel like it’s a blessing for me.”
With the prospect of George Farmer and Steven Mitchell participating in spring ball on a full-time basis still potentially in doubt as each are coming off knee injuries, and acclaimed freshmen Juju Smith, Rahshead Johnson and Ajene Harris still a few months away from arriving on campus, Rogers will be part of a receiver corps that will possibly include just two other scholarship performers in Agholor and Victor Blackwell.
Therefore, Rogers is expected to be relied upon heavily, and the experience of working closely this offseason with Agholor, the team’s leading returning pass-catcher, has proven to be especially helpful in preparing him for the increased responsibility.
“I’ve just been staying in Nelson’s right pocket all the time,” Rogers said. “Having a receiver like him coming back for me to work with gives me a great opportunity, so I’m just taking advantage of it every day.”
After having been away from live action since late December, Rogers, as well as the other Trojans players, are now less than two weeks away from hitting the field again as a team -- this time under a new coaching. It can’t come soon enough for Rogers.
“It just feels great to almost be back out there again,” Rogers said. “We ended last season with 10 wins, and that was good, but I feel like we could have done better. And this year we just have a chip on our shoulder -- just to try to be the best and to show our fans what we can do. I can’t wait.”
Pete Carroll criticized the NCAA on Wednesday night, saying again that college athletics' governing body "made a terrible error" in punishing USC in the wake of his time as coach.
In his first appearance at the school since 2010, Carroll said the NCAA mishandled the sanctions that came down shortly after he left that year to coach the Seattle Seahawks.
The NCAA penalized USC with a two-year bowl ban and the loss of 30 scholarships over three years after it determined former running back Reggie Bush and basketball player O.J. Mayo had received impermissible benefits. The last of the penalties expire this year.
"We made some mistakes along the way but I don't think it was dealt with properly," Carroll told reporters, according to the Los Angeles Times. "I thought it was dealt with poorly and very irrationally and done with way too much emotion instead of facts."
Is 2014 the season for a new color scheme at the top? Will the South (Division) rise again? (We're eyeballing you, UCLA.) While we're at it, will the conference, which last won a national title in 2004, break through this fall, finishing atop the inaugural four-team College Football Playoff?
These are the big-picture questions that start to get answered as Pac-12 teams begin spring practice. Stanford got rolling Monday. Arizona, Washington and Colorado hit the field next week. Oregon and UCLA won't get cracking until April 1, and the Ducks and Oregon State won't finish until May 3, officially sending us into the long, hot days of the summer offseason.
As is the case most years, there's a little old and a little new in the Pac-12 this spring.
Start with the head coaches. USC and Washington will hit the field for the first time with new guys in charge, making Oregon State and Utah the only two conference teams headed by the same guy since the 2010 season. Neither coach is much of a stranger. USC hired Steve Sarkisian away from the Huskies, and Washington turned around and lured Chris Petersen away from Boise State.
The bigger area of turnover was coordinators. Just three teams didn't make any changes on the top of their offensive and defensive units: Arizona, Colorado and Washington State.
There will be more stability at quarterback. Ten teams welcome back their 2013 starters, if we can be optimistic enough to include Utah's Travis Wilson, who will practice this spring with no contact but still has not been fully cleared to continue his career due to a pre-existing medical condition.
Arizona and Washington will stage full-on competitions to replace B.J. Denker and Keith Price, respectively. Wilson's uncertain status makes the Utes' QB situation complicated, while at USC, touted redshirt freshman Max Browne is expected to provide a strong challenge to incumbent starter Cody Kessler.
Meanwhile, the returning QB talent is strong. Oregon's Marcus Mariota and UCLA's Brett Hundley will be near the top of every preseason Heisman Trophy watch list. Arizona State's Taylor Kelly and Oregon State's Sean Mannion aren't too far behind.
The situation at running back and receiver is not as strong. The top four rushers from 2013 are gone: Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey, Washington's Bishop Sankey, Stanford's Tyler Gaffney and Arizona State's Marion Grice. The top three receivers -- as well as USC's Marqise Lee -- also are off to the NFL: Oregon State's Brandin Cooks, Colorado's Paul Richardson and Oregon's Josh Huff.
While Stanford and Oregon -- it used to be Oregon and Stanford -- will remain the favorites among many, both have big questions on defense. The Ducks will be projected ahead of the Cardinal, however, because of Mariota's return and Stanford having to replace Gaffney and four starting O-linemen.
Yet this go-around, Stanford has the winning streak in the series and consecutive crowns and Oregon has the chip on its shoulder.
"It's not that we should [have a chip on our shoulder]. It's that we need to," Oregon running back Byron Marshall said. "Like you said, Stanford has kind of had our number the past couple of years. … As one of the leaders on this team, it's my job to remind everyone that [Stanford] beat us the last two years. It hasn't really been a close game. It might be close by score, but they've dominated us in both performances. We need to have a chip on our shoulder in order to get where we want to this year."
That last line pretty much applies to every Pac-12 team this spring.
The conference was as deep as it's ever been in 2013 and a record six teams ended up ranked in the final Associated Press poll, but the conference produced just one BCS bowl team and no team finished in the final top eight.
Will a Pac-12 team advance from good to elite in 2014? Spring practice provides an important step toward that possibility.
Give your offensive and defensive "spring revelations," guys who will make the biggest noise in spring.
Garry Paskwietz: These are good times for the USC tailback spot. Buck Allen was the 2013 team MVP, and Tre Madden and Justin Davis were the darlings of the early part of the season. By the end of the year, however, you couldn’t help but notice the progress that Ty Isaac had made as well. Isaac combines a chiseled, big frame with a natural running style, and it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see him really make a statement this spring.
My defensive revelation is more of a position group than an individual player. The need to replace George Uko along the interior of the line is critical, and the Trojans have some pretty good options. Delvon Simmons is eligible after sitting out last season as a transfer from Texas Tech. You can’t substitute experience, and Simmons has a year as a starter in the Big 12 under his belt. Kenny Bigelow redshirted last year and is ready to start showing why he was such a highly rated recruit coming out of high school. Claude Pelon offers another big, veteran body as a junior college transfer and then there is always the possibility of Greg Townsend, if he can stay healthy.
I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Khaliel Rodgers potentially make a splash at center. I was extremely impressed with what I saw from him in practice last season, as well as in high school, and I think, given the opportunity this spring, he’ll succeed.
On the other side of the ball, I think Simmons is the big name to watch. At a hulking 6-foot-6 and 300 pounds, he’s another performer who impressed out on Brian Kennedy-Howard Jones Field on a daily basis last fall. With the added benefit of having started 13 games as a sophomore in 2012 at Texas Tech, he has the ability to step in right away and contribute with no adjustment period. He’ll challenge for the starting defensive end spot opposite Leonard Williams, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he lines up there when the Trojans open up the 2014 season. Linebackers Quinton Powell and Scott Starr are two more outstanding athletes who could make some noise this spring.
Greg Katz: Given that it’s a position of not only great need but of great interest, a spring revelation from this prospective will be redshirt freshman Rodgers, who has the size (6-3, 310) to be a dominant center. Playing in postseason all-star game competition coming out of high school, Rodgers really established himself as a prospect. Extremely physical and nasty at the point of attack, Rodgers can play two positions: center and guard. Because of the need at center, Rodgers will get every opportunity to show his stuff there, and it will be a revelation just how much potential this kid has to be outstanding. That said, there is still the leadership role of center and that will be one factor to monitor in his bid to be the starter.
The early loss of Uko leaves a real void and opportunity for somebody to step in and take that defensive tackle spot. There are enough candidates, but the one that will be a revelation will be Simmons, the former U.S. Army All-American. That "6-6, 300" is not some number put into a media guide. He has the necessary game experience and also had quality results playing as a true freshman with the Red Raiders. Keep an eye on this up-and-comer.
Final Washington State 45 Colorado State 48 Final 20 Fresno State 20 25 USC 45 Final Buffalo 24 San Diego State 49 Final Tulane 21 Louisiana-Lafayette 24
Final Pittsburgh 30 Bowling Green 27 Final Utah State 21 23 Northern Illinois 14
Final Marshall 31 Maryland 20 Final Syracuse 21 Minnesota 17 Final Brigham Young 16 Washington 31
Final Rutgers 16 Notre Dame 29 Final Cincinnati 17 North Carolina 39 Final Miami (FL) 9 18 Louisville 36 Final Michigan 14 Kansas State 31
Final Middle Tennessee 6 Navy 24 Final Ole Miss 25 Georgia Tech 17 Final 10 Oregon 30 Texas 7 Final 14 Arizona State 23 Texas Tech 37
Final Arizona 42 Boston College 19 Final Virginia Tech 12 17 UCLA 42 Final Rice 7 Mississippi State 44 Final 24 Duke 48 21 Texas A&M 52
Final Nebraska 24 22 Georgia 19 Final UNLV 14 North Texas 36 Final Iowa 14 16 LSU 21 Final 19 Wisconsin 24 9 South Carolina 34 Final 5 Stanford 20 4 Michigan State 24 Final 15 UCF 52 6 Baylor 42
Final 13 Oklahoma State 31 8 Missouri 41 Final 12 Clemson 40 7 Ohio State 35