By a conservative count, more than two dozen true freshmen made significant impacts for their teams during the 2014 season, with players such as Oregon running back Royce Freeman and USC do-it-all talent Adoree' Jackson stealing headlines all season. The possibility of earning playing time as a true freshman is now a recruiting pitch that must be used by every coach across the country. Pac-12 prospects are taking advantage, as seemingly more and more young players are making impacts each year. Looking ahead at the 2015 season, here are 10 prospects committed to Pac-12 programs who could make their presence felt on the field as true freshmen.

Pac-12 all-bowl team

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The Pac-12 finished the season with the best bowl record among the Power 5 conferences -- 6-3 -- and generally is regarded as displacing the SEC at the No. 1 conference in 2014, even if Oregon got run over by Ohio State in the national title game.

Here's how things went.

Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl: No. 22 Utah 45, Colorado State 10
Hyundai Sun Bowl: No. 15 Arizona State 36, Duke 31
National University Holiday Bowl: No. 24 USC 45, Nebraska 42
Foster Farms Bowl: Stanford 45, Maryland 21
VIZIO Fiesta Bowl: No. 20 Boise State 38, No. 10 Arizona 30
Rose Bowl: No. 2 Oregon 59, No. 3 Florida State 20
Valero Alamo Bowl: No. 14 UCLA 40, No. 11 Kansas State 35
TicketCity Cactus Bowl: Oklahoma State 30, Washington 22
CFP National Championship Game Presented by AT&T: No. 4 Ohio State 42, No. 2 Oregon 20

[+] EnlargeByron Marshall
Tom Pennington/Getty ImagesOregon's Byron Marshall notched his fourth 100-yard receiving game of the season in the Ducks' 42-20 loss to Ohio State on Jan. 12.
So who were the Pac-12 stars of the bowl season? Too many for this list, so apologies in advance for leaving off many of the fine performances.

OFFENSE

QB Marcus Mariota, Oregon: Completed 26 of 36 passes for 338 yards yards with two TDs and rushed for 62 yards and a TD in the Ducks' win against FSU in the Rose Bowl. Passed for 333 yards and two scores in the loss to Ohio State in national title game.

RB Thomas Tyner, Oregon: Rushed for 124 yards on 13 carries (9.5 yards per carry) and scored two TDs in the win against Florida State.

RB Paul Perkins, UCLA: Rushed for 194 yards on 20 carries (9.7 ypc) and scored two TDs in the win against Kansas State.

WR Darren Carrington, Oregon: Caught seven passes for 165 yards and two touchdowns in the win against Florida State.

WR Byron Marshall, Oregon: Caught eight passes for 169 yards with a 70-yard TD in loss to Ohio State.

OL Jeremiah Poutasi, Utah: The Utes rushed for 359 yards and didn't allow a sack against Colorado State.

OL Jake Fisher, Oregon: The Ducks dominated FSU up front, not allowing a sack and rushing for 301 yards.

OL Andrus Peat, Stanford: The Cardinal line led a 206-yard rushing attack in a win against Maryland and yielded just one sack.

OL Jake Brendel, UCLA: The Bruins rushed for 331 yards against Kansas State.

OL Toa Lobendahn, USC: Held All-Big Ten end Randy Gregory to four tackles and no sacks in the Trojans' win over Nebraska.

K Casey Skowron, Arizona: Went 3-for-3 on field goals with a long of 42 and good on all three PATs vs. Boise State.

DEFENSE

DL Nate Orchard, Utah: Sack and forced fumble in win against Colorado State.

[+] EnlargeLeonard Williams
Jake Roth/USA TODAY SportsTrojans defensive end Leonard Williams tackles Cornhuskers running back Ameer Abdullah in the National University Holiday Bowl.
DL Leonard Williams, USC: Had nine tackles and a sack in the win against the Cornhuskers.

DL Deon Hollins, UCLA: The outside linebacker -- yes, we are fudging here -- had three sacks in the win against Kansas State.

LB James Vaughters, Stanford: Had five tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble in win over Maryland.

LB Eric Kendricks, UCLA: Had 10 tackles, two sacks and three tackles for a loss in win over Kansas State.

LB Tony Washington, Oregon: Had four tackles and a sack against Florida State. Also forced a fumble from FSU QB Jameis Winston and returned it 58 yards for a TD.

LB Antonio Longino, Arizona State: Had a game-high 17 tackles in the Sun Devils' win against Duke.

DB Tra'Mayne Bondurant, Arizona: Had 11 tackles -- 10 solo -- with a sack, two tackles for a loss, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery against Boise State.

DB Adoree' Jackson, USC: Had seven tackles and a deflection on defense against Nebraska. Also caught three passes with a 71-yard TD and returned a kickoff for a 98-yard TD. Played 103 plays, 78 on defense.

DB Kweishi Brown, Arizona State: Grabbed the game-clinching interception in the Sun Devils' win.

DB Troy Hill, Oregon: Led the Ducks with nine tackles against FSU with a tackle for a loss and two pass breakups.

P Drew Riggleman, Arizona: Averaged 43.1 yards on seven punts, killing three inside the Boise State 20-yard line.

Top recruiting targets in the Pac-12 

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With a little more than two weeks before signing day, a number of uncommitted prospects remain who could greatly alter both the college football landscape as well as the way recruiting classes are perceived on Feb. 4. Remaining “must get” recruits don’t check all the same boxes for every program, as some schools already have commitments from their must gets (for example, Arizona with Keenan Walker, or UCLA with Josh Rosen) and some of these prospects won’t exactly break a class if they don’t wind up there. But whether it’s keeping a local prospect at home, landing a five-star standout or filling a position of need, these are the uncommitted must-get recruits for every Pac-12 program between now and signing day.


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As usual, the Pac-12 experienced some significant star drain from players opting to enter the NFL draft before their eligibility was over -- seven first-team all-conference performers amid the crew of 16 -- and, as usual, USC was hit the hardest.

The Trojans lost four players, including their best receiver (Nelson Agholor), running back (Javorius Allen) and defensive lineman (Leonard Williams). The lone quasi-surprise was receiver George Farmer, who apparently is counting on his raw talent to overcome his notable lack of production and injury-prone nature.

While USC welcomes back quarterback Cody Kessler and a talented crew around him, that's a drain of 3,607 yards and 26 TDs from a team that is expected to be ranked in or near the top 10 to begin the 2015 season.

Overall in the conference, there were few surprise decisions. While Oregon and UCLA lost elite quarterbacks Marcus Mariota and Brett Hundley as expected, two A-list running backs opted to return in Utah's Devontae Booker and Arizona State's D.J. Foster, who will switch positions to slot receiver.

Oregon got good news on defense when end DeForest Buckner decided to return, but Ducks fans might note that their marquee nonconference game at Michigan State on Sept. 12 will be against a Spartans team welcoming back quarterback Connor Cook and defensive end Shilique Calhoun.

While USC lost four players to lead the Pac-12, Oregon, Stanford, UCLA and Washington each lost two, though that counts Huskies cornerback Marcus Peters, who was kicked off the team during the season.

Arizona, Colorado and Oregon State didn't lose any players early to the NFL draft. The Buffaloes were relieved that wide receiver Nelson Spruce decided to stick around, while the Wildcats' group of receivers remains deep after Cayleb Jones decided to return for his redshirt junior season.

Here is the Pac-12's early-entry list:

Arizona State
WR Jaelen Strong

California
WR Chris Harper

Oregon
QB Marcus Mariota
DE Arik Armstead

Stanford
CB Alex Carter
OT Andrus Peat

UCLA
QB Brett Hundley
DT Ellis McCarthy

USC
WR Nelson Agholor
WR George Farmer
RB Javorius Allen
DE Leonard Williams

Utah
OT Jeremiah Poutasi

Washington
LB Shaq Thompson
CB Marcus Peters

Washington State
DT Xavier Cooper

Pac-12 morning links

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Happy Friday!

Leading off

The end of the college football season also means it's time for the NCAA convention. Having covered it last year in SoCal, I can tell you it was a non-stop laugh riot. OK, I kid. It can be a little dry. But it's also very important.

And as the Power 5 conferences (Pac-12, SEC, ACC, Big 12, Big Ten) move into the age of their newly-granted autonomous governance model, there are going to be some significant changes. Chief among them is full cost of tuition. That's just one of the topics that's on the table at this year's convention near Washington D.C.

Part of the restructuring also involves student-athlete feedback. Here are the three Pac-12 representatives.

Luke Cyphers put together a really informative Q&A style article for espnW that's worth your read if you have any interest in the future of collegiate athletics. And it's not just football-centric, it's men's and women's sports across the board.
On Saturday afternoon, the Power 5, their pockets filling with new FBS playoff cash, will propose several new rules under a new voting system. A group of presidents, athletics directors, faculty and athlete representatives will decide on new concussion protocols, boosting scholarship grants to cover the "full cost of attendance," extending scholarship guarantees beyond a one-year commitment, and increasing players' options to buy insurance to hedge against career-killing injuries.

George Schroeder of USA Today has a nice summary of the first day here.

News/notes/team reports
Just for fun

Utah kicker Andy Phillips is ready for the preseason watch lists to come out.

Pac-12's top recruiting visits 

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With the dead period over, this weekend marks the first of three official-visit weekends before signing day on Feb. 4. While several Pac-12 programs will host official visits, the top three teams in the conference were fairly easy to separate this week.

Arizona State

The Sun Devils will get official visits from several committed prospects, including Tommy Hudson, Cade Cote, Paul Lucas, Alfred Smith, Mason Walter, Malik Lawal and Bryce Perkins, and will have some top uncommitted targets in attendance as well. At the top of the list is ESPN 300 cornerback DeChaun Holiday. The 6-foot-2 defensive back is looking hard at UCLA, but a positive visit to see the Sun Devils could put Arizona State back in the battle for Holiday. Arizona State is also scheduled to host 6-foot-3, 225-pound athlete Jay Jay Wilson, safety Kareem Orr and defensive end Shareef Miller, who would be nice late additions to the class. The junior college ranks will be represented as well as ESPN JC 50 defensive tackle DeOnte Reynolds and ESPN JC 50 wide receiver Dominique Reed will take official visits to Tempe.


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video

Recruiting reporters Erik McKinney, Derek Tyson and Tom VanHaaren join ESPN's Phil Murphy to update where the six uncommitted top-10 recruits stand in their college decision processes.
USC head coach Steve Sarkisian and his coaching staff have a huge recruiting weekend scheduled to kick off this Friday, with a collection of official visitors set to converge on campus that will be high in terms of quantity and quality.

With the number of available rides dwindling in the Trojans’ signing class of 2015, a majority of those on hand will be prospects already committed to USC. Included in the group of 10 Trojans pledges expected are five players ranked in the ESPN 300 -- quarterback Sam Darnold (San Clemente, Calif./San Clemente), tight end Tyler Petite (Moraga, Calif./Campolindo), defensive tackle Jacob Daniel (Fresno, Calif./Clovis North), defensive tackle Noah Jefferson (Henderson, Nev./Liberty), and athlete Isaiah Langley (Pleasanton, Calif./Foothill).

In addition to the USC commits, three big-time undeclared targets are to make the trip as well -- two of whom hail from right in USC’s backyard at Southern California powerhouse Gardena (Calif.) Serra -- defensive tackle Rasheem Green and linebacker John Houston Jr. The Trojans figure to have the inside track for both coveted recruits, but with a number of other programs still in the hunt for their services -- particularly Oregon -- this trip could play a pivotal role in their decision-making process.

Making the trek from out-of-state will be linebacker Porter Gustin (Salem, Utah/Salem Hills), who like Green and Houston is also an ESPN 300 member. Another prospect who USC seems to have a good shot at landing, he reportedly came away impressed after his unofficial visit to check out the Trojans in November. However, Arizona State and Ohio State are still in the thick of things, and he’ll likely visit both schools this month.

As is always the case, there is a chance that more recruits -- both committed and uncommitted -- will be added to the list.

Here is a complete list of who is scheduled to be on campus:

USC Commits

DT Daniel (Fresno, Calif./Clovis North)
QB Darnold (San Clemente, Calif./San Clemente)
RB Dominic Davis (Mission Hills, Calif./Bishop Alemany)
WR De'Quan Hampton (Long Beach, Calif./Long Beach City College)
DT Jefferson (Henderson, Nev./Liberty)
OL Clayton Johnston (Anaheim, Calif./Servite)
ATH Langley (Pleasanton, Calif./Foothill)
TE Petite (Moraga, Calif./Campolindo)
DE Christian Rector (Los Angeles, Calif./Loyola)
OL Cole Smith (Mission Viejo, Calif./Mission Viejo)

USC Targets

LB Houston (Gardena, Calif./Serra)
DT Green (Gardena, Calif/Serra)
ATH Gustin (Salem, Utah/Salem Hills)

Elliott headlines All-Bowl team

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video

Ohio State became the first team to win the College Football Playoff after running over Alabama in the semifinal and then Oregon in the championship game.

It should be no surprise that the Buckeyes are well represented on ESPN.com's All-Bowl team with four selections. Leading the way is tailback Ezekiel Elliott, who ran for a combined 476 yards with six touchdowns against the Crimson Tide and Ducks.

Quarterback Cardale Jones, linebacker Darron Lee and safety Tyvis Powell also made the team.

Elliott was one of four running backs to make the squad, along with Georgia's Nick Chubb, Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon and LSU's Leonard Fournette, who was an all-purpose selection.

Here's the ESPN.com All-Bowl team:

OFFENSE

Quarterback

Cardale Jones, Ohio State


(Read full post)


He was so much more than the "other" college basketball coach in town.

Unfortunately, that's the label Bob Boyd had to live with for much of his career at USC. The reason was obvious. The gentleman working his wizardry at UCLA at the time was none other than John Wooden, only the most successful coach in the history of the sport.

So Boyd, who died at age 84 on Wednesday, labored quietly and effectively for the Trojans -- much more effectively than most people realize.

The truth is, Boyd was the best USC basketball coach of the modern era, if not any era. He went 216-131 from 1967 to 1979, but that only begins to tell the story.

In 1971, he coached the finest Trojans team in school history. Led by the extraordinary Paul Westphal and Ron Riley, it went 24-2, was ranked No. 1 in the country at midseason and No. 5 at the end of the year.

The sad part was, at 24-2 it still couldn't get into the NCAA tournament. Back then, you had to win your conference title to make it in, and the only two USC losses that year happened to be at the hands of Sidney Wicks and UCLA.

In 1969, Boyd handed Wooden and the Bruins their first loss after three unbeaten years at Pauley Pavilion. He did it in the infamous "stall game," brilliantly executing a slow, controversial, hold-the-ball tempo that allowed the Trojans to upset Lew Alcindor and his No. 1 ranked team, 46-44.

It was one of only two losses Alcindor, now Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, suffered in his three years at UCLA. The other was the so-called Game of the Century when Elvin Hayes and Houston beat an injured Alcindor and the Bruins in the first game played in the Houston Astrodome.

A three-year letterman and USC MVP in the early 1950s, Boyd had the fierce intensity of a former athlete and the dry sense of humor of someone who never took himself too seriously.

He took the game seriously, though. Ask those who competed against him, and they'll tell you he was a tremendous technician and student of the sport.

"I think he was an outstanding coach," said Jerry Norman, who was Wooden's top assistant at UCLA through the Alcindor era. "He understood the game, his teams were fundamentally sound and he was a great judge of talent."

Norman was on the opposing bench the night Boyd's stall tactics created the upset of the year in college basketball in 1969.

"We didn't like it very much," Norman said, "but it was the right strategy and they executed it really well."

For writers covering college basketball back then, Boyd was a refreshing change from the often stern, more conservative Wooden. He'd laugh and joke and sometimes even sit around and enjoy a beer or two with reporters, something the UCLA coach never would have done.

For me, personally, Boyd's success was always fascinating. He was the head coach at Alhambra High when I was a student there, much like my esteemed colleague Greg Katz, who arrived a few years later. Boyd not only coached basketball, but he taught P.E. at Alhambra, where I was a member of his class, something he never failed to kid me about.

"Tardy again, huh, Bisheff?" he'd say, smiling, when I showed up to get a quote from him after a game. I would just laugh and shake my head.

Boyd had that kind of easy rapport with lots of people, both on and off the basketball floor. He was a dedicated family man, but he loved to get away with his friends for a little fun. In the summer, he often could be found at Del Mar, trying to handicap horses with the same fertile mind he used to work up game plans.

Nothing compared to basketball for him, though. He not only coached it, he was consumed by it. He could never get enough. It's why, later in his career, he became the head coach at Mississippi State and eventually worked as an assistant for Dale Brown at LSU, where, Brown would confide, Boyd did most of the coaching.

In his time at USC, Boyd, who eventually was inducted into the school's Athletic Hall of Fame, sent no less than 10 players to the NBA, including Westphal and Gus Williams, a couple of All-Pros.

Those who played for him and coached with him still swear by him. Everything about Boyd, the basketball coach and the man, was first class.

The only thing wrong was his timing. He just happened to coach in the same town, at the same time, as a college basketball icon.
LOS ANGELES -- With Ohio State’s mauling of Oregon, the College Football Playoff finale means the official close to the 2014 season and soon the beginning of the 2015 season.

And no team in America is likely happier about that than the USC Trojans. So, what can the Trojans learn from Ohio State’s victory on Monday night?

Well, in order to be a strong championship contender, the Trojans will have to be extremely talented, physical, disciplined, dedicated, and well coached. They will also have that special team chemistry, which usually is the proverbial “it” factor.

In watching Ohio State coach Urban Meyer and his old-school, disciplined style of football, it probably confirmed what USC coach Steve Sarkisian already knew in terms of the style and type of blueprint needed to get to the top of the college football mountain.

USC went 9-4 in 2014, and Sarkisian's rah-rah oratory suggests that the Trojans are on the way back. But if you think that Sark is using over-the-top hyperbole, there are others that agree that the best is yet to come.

The Trojans are getting some very early 2015 love from ESPN’s plethora of college football experts, proclaiming the Men of Troy a consensus No. 4 seed for next season’s CFP and even a very early No. 4 preseason national ranking.

Although some might dispute the optimism or be in denial, the Trojans are positioning themselves nicely for a potential return to glory, but attaining that high level of success won’t come easy. The coaching and competition level in the Pac-12 has never been better, and then there is the pressure that goes along with high expectations.

While the Trojans have lost some key players from 2014 like All-America defensive tackle Leonard Williams, All-Pac-12 wide receiver Nelson Agholor, and All-Pac-12 tailback Javorius “Buck” Allen to the NFL draft, there is still enough talent left -- led by Heisman Trophy quarterback candidate Cody Kessler -- to make a run in the difficult Pac-12 South Division and beyond.

One area of legitimate concern for 2015 is the Trojans' lack of experience in handling being highly ranked or having even recently participated in a pressure-packed elimination game like the Pac-12 championship.

It takes a special type of mental toughness to crack through this big-game inexperience. It may turn out to be the Trojans' biggest hurdle next season, something that the Oregon program has already overcome thanks to past Pac-12 championships and the recent CFP semifinal victory over Florida State.

In 2012, the Trojans, under former head coach Lane Kiffin and heralded quarterback Matt Barkley, were the nation’s preseason No. 1 team. That team and its head coach didn’t have the experience or maturity to handle the top spot and eventually finished a very disappointing 7-6.

So, one of Sarkisian’s major offseason objectives will be to educate his team on how to handle such lofty expectations. So much of the success of the Pete Carroll era was that his players, season after season, had learned how to approach and win big games on the big stage.

The question now becomes how much continuing progress can be made in 2015 and can it be considered a legitimate building block in the return to long-lasting cardinal and gold glory?

Thanks to Ohio State, the roadmap and template for the CFP has been reaffirmed.
Mel Kiper’s first NFL Mock Draft for 2015 is out. Among the 32 first-round projections are nine players who played in the Under Armour All-America Game, as well as four former five-star ranked prospects by ESPN RecruitingNation as well as 16 four-stars and 12 former ESPN 300 prospects.

An asterisk denotes a junior for the 2014 season; two asterisks denote a redshirt sophomore.


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video

National recruiting coordinator Craig Haubert explains how updated ESPN 300 rankings for commitments to Tennessee and USC improved the class rankings for both programs.
video
The newest and final ESPN 300 was released on Thursday, and eight Pac-12 programs are represented by 34 commitments. Arizona State, Oregon, Stanford, UCLA, USC, Washington and Washington State all have multiple commitments in the list, with USC's 12 leading the way, followed by Oregon's six. Here are some news and notes regarding the most recent update and how things stack up in the Pac-12.


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Pac-12 morning links

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A word to the not very wise. You will never win an argument with a Borgia and a leopard in the room.

Leading off

Now seems like an apropos time to share this story.

Following Pac-12 Media Day, before the start of the 2013 season, Ted Miller and I were on a bus with Marcus Mariota and Ifo Ekpre-Olomu being shuttled from the event to the airport. Ted and I were trying to come up with our preseason top 25 list of players during the 20-minute ride. (Looking at it now, that's a pretty darn good list, by the way, in terms of talent).

Ekpre-Olomu was extremely helpful -- particularly when it came to the receivers -- but he also had an opinion on pretty much everyone we listed off. Mariota, not so much. All he would do was compliment each player and talk about how great they were. His main contribution to the conversation was, "Man, that guy's really good. Oh him, he's really good. That guy is really, really good." Ask Mariota about a fourth-string walk-on center, and he'll tell you he's got Rimington potential. That's just the kind of guy he is.

When we told him he was No. 1, he flashed the same humble smile -- an ah shucks-y grin with a mouth full of humility -- as when he accepted the Heisman Trophy last month. Then he thanked us with a handshake and told us it was a great honor.

He's the same guy after Year 3 as he was after Year 1 ... only now he has a lot more touchdowns and hardware.

Mariota's college career came to an end Wednesday when he announced he's entering the NFL draft. And after three years of watching him perform on the field and talking to him off it, the Pac-12 blog can say the honor was all ours.

Here's some reactions, both nationally and within the conference. News/notes/team reports
Just for fun

Oregon's senators had to pay up to Ohio's senators. Here's the story.

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