USC Trojans: Matt Haack

Our look at position groups in the Pac-12 concludes with punters.

Arizona: Drew Riggleman is back after handling all of the punting responsibilities last season. He averaged 40.1 yards per kick, pinned 18 inside the 20 and had 12 kicks of 50-plus yards. He ranked eighth in the conference -- though the difference between first (Utah’s Tom Hackett) and Riggleman was an average of 3.4 yards.

Arizona State: Punting was one of ASU’s biggest issues last season. Matt Haack started to come on strong at the end of the season and will likely challenge Alex Garoutte, who averaged 38.8 yards per kick last season. Should Haack win the job, Garoutte is always an option with his rollout style. Quarterback Taylor Kelly has also been known to offer the occasional boot. He punted six times last season, once for 50-plus, and had three downed inside the 20.

California: Cole Leininger is back after a very solid season for the Golden Bears, where he was tied for second in the conference with an average of 42.9 yards per kick. Cal has four punters on the roster in addition to Leininger. And while he’s mostly unchallenged, there are plenty of backup options.

Colorado: Third-team all-conference punter Darragh O'Neill returns and was a midseason Ray Guy candidate last season. He averaged 40.5 yards per punt last year and pinned 22 inside the 20.

Oregon: Alejandro Maldonado handled the punting duties last season and made a couple of appearances as a kicker before the job went to Matt Wogan. Expect Wogan to handle all kicking responsibilities, though some walk-ons will also get looks.

Oregon State: Keith Kostol is back as a third-year starter. He finished last season tied for fifth in the conference with an average of 40.5 yards per punt. He also put 23 kicks inside the 20.

Stanford: Ben Rhyne returns to handle the punting duties for the Cardinal. He was one of the best in the conference last season with an average of 42.9 yards per kick -- just half a yard behind Hackett. He had 12 kicks of 50-plus yards and put 15 inside the 20.

UCLA: Sean Covington is back after having a very solid season, where he posted an average of 42.6 yards per punt. Do-it-all quarterback Brett Hundley punted once last season, but it’s safe to assume that Convington’s job is secure.

USC: Kris Albarado didn’t post an impressive yards-per-punt average (37.1), but he was very good at pinning opponents, with 27 kicks inside the 20. And of his 64 kicks, almost half were fair-caught.

Utah: Hackett was last season's first-team all-conference punter, so expect some preseason All-American hype for him. As noted earlier, he led the conference with an average of 43.4 yards per punt and buried 27 kicks inside the 20.

Washington: Travis Coons pulled double-duty last season. In addition to nailing 15 of 16 field goal attempts, he also averaged 40.4 yards per punt and had eight kicks of 50-plus yards to go with 23 inside the 20. Korey Durkee did some punting in 2012 before Coons won the job, so he’ll get the first look in 2014. Newcomer Tristan Vizcaino could also get looks at kicker and/or punter.

Washington State: Wes Concepcion was the starter in the final two games as punter last season. With Mike Bowlin gone, he should be the favorite to handle punting duties full time. Concepcion punted 12 times last season for an average of 36.2 yards. Eight of those 12 were fair catches and three were inside the 20.

Previous positions

Kicker
Safety
Cornerback
Linebacker
Defensive end
Tight end
Quarterback
Running back
Receiver
Offensive line
Defensive tackle

Sun Devils will test the Trojans

September, 25, 2013
9/25/13
5:00
AM PT
LOS ANGELES -- USC (3-1 overall, 0-1 in the Pac-12) will head to the desert to take on Arizona State (2-1, 0-1) Saturday in a battle between Pac-12 South Division foes. The Sun Devils, coming off a 42-28 loss to Stanford, showcase a high-octane offense and a defense headlined by 2012 Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Will Sutton. The Trojans defeated Utah State 17-14 in a contest that featured another phenomenal outing by the defensive front seven, but also a passing game that was stagnant for the third time in four games this season.

Offense
Scoring: 38.3 points per game (No. 8 Pac-12, No. 35 overall)
Rushing: 108 yards per game (No. 9 Pac-12, No. 107 overall)
Passing: 361.3 yards per game (No. 4 Pac-12, No. 8 overall)
Total: 469.3 yards per game (No. 7 Pac-12, No. 43 overall)

[+] EnlargeTaylor Kelly
AP Photo/Marcio Jose SanchezTaylor Kelly is a valuable weapon on the ground and in the air.
Quarterback: No. 10 Taylor Kelly (6-foot-2, 201, RS Jr.)
Directing ASU’s up-tempo, spread attack, Kelly is a precision passer who can also make things happen on the ground when he has to. He has completed 82 of 137 passes for 1,019 yards and eight touchdowns with three interceptions in 2013, and he ranks No. 9 nationally in total offense (354.7 yards per game).

Running Back: No. 1 Marion Grice (6-0, 207, Sr.), No. 8 D.J. Foster (5-11, 195, So.)
Grice gives the Sun Devils’ offense a dangerous rushing option, and both he and Foster are also utilized frequently as pass-catchers. Still, there is definitely room for improvement when it comes to the output of this group. As a team, Arizona State averages just 2.9 yards per rush.

Wide Receiver: No. 21 Jaelen Strong (6-3, 205, RS So.), No. 82 Kevin Ozier (6-2, 200, RS Sr.), No. 3 Richard Smith (5-9, 172, So.)
Strong, a transfer out of Los Angeles (Calif.) Pierce College, has quickly emerged as Kelly’s go-to receiver, leading ASU with 24 catches for 330 yards and two touchdowns. He made 12 grabs for 168 yards and one touchdown against Stanford.

Tight End: No. 87 Chris Coyle (6-3, 240, RS Sr.), No. 17 Darwin Rogers (6-4, 248, Sr.), No. 12 De’Marieya Nelson (6-3, 226, RS Jr.)
Coyle is coming off an impressive 2012 campaign in which he hauled in 57 passes for 696 yards and five touchdowns. He has six receptions for 126 yards and two touchdowns so far this season.

Offensive Line: LT No. 62 Evan Finkenberg (6-4, 298, RS Sr.), LG No. 74 Jamil Douglas (6-4, 301, RS Jr.). C No. 67 Kody Koebensky (6-3, 298, RS Sr.), RG No. 73 Vi Teofilo (6-3, 302, RS So.), RT No. 54 Tyler Sulka (6-5, 289, RS Jr.)
The Arizona State offensive line had a rough day against Stanford, allowing a constant flow of pass-rushers into the backfield, while also failing to open up lanes for a run game that had only 50 yards on 24 carries. USC racked up seven sacks against the Sun Devils in 2012, and the Trojans’ front seven is even better this time around, so this will be a key matchup to watch.

Defense
Scoring: 24 points per game (No. 8 Pac-12, No. 59 overall)
Rushing: 174 yards per game (No. 11 Pac-12, No. 77 overall)
Passing: 159 yards per game (No. 2 Pac-12, No. 17 overall)
Total: 333 yards per game (No. 7 Pac-12, No. 35 overall)

Defensive Line: DT No. 90 Will Sutton (6-1, 305, RS Sr.), NT No. 92 Jaxon Hood (6-0, 299, So.), DE No. 95 Gannon Conway (6-4, 280, RS Sr.)
Sutton leads an aggressive ASU defense that features multiple fronts, but the Corona (Calif.) Centennial product has yet to perform at quite the same level that he did a year ago, and as a whole, the Sun Devils have struggled against the run. Hood went down with a hamstring injury against Stanford and is doubtful, so Conway will likely see time inside along with Mo Latu (6-3, 380, RS So.), while Davon Coleman (6-1, 283, Sr.) could take on a bigger role at end.

Linebacker: No. 31 Anthony Jones (6-1, 215, RS Sr.), No. 2 Steffon Martin (6-1, 231, Sr.), No. 52 Carl Bradford (6-1, 242, RS Jr.), No. 21 Chris Young (6-0, 244, Sr.)
Bradford, who plays at the hybrid linebacker/end DEVIL backer spot, can be a disruptive force -- he had seven tackles, one sack and two quarterback hurries this past Saturday. Young leads the team with 19 tackles.

Cornerback: No. 24 Osahon Irabor (5-11, 186, RS Sr.), No. 17 Lloyd Carrington (6-1, 185, RS So.)
The secondary has been one of the strengths of the Arizona State defense, evidenced by the Sun Devils’ No. 17 national ranking against the pass. Irabor, who has started 36 consecutive games, has been the star of the group.

Safety: No. 4 Alden Darby (5-11, 192, Sr.), No. 9 Robert Nelson (5-11, 169, RS Sr.)
A 2012 second-team All-Pac-12 honoree, Darby is a rangy playmaker who is also a team leader. Nelson possesses exceptional cover skills for a safety.

Special Teams

Punter: No. 99 Dom Vizzare (6-4, 234, Jr.), No. 26 Matt Haack (6-1, 192, Fr.)
Neither Vizzare nor Haack have looked particularly sharp. Haack assumed punting duties for the first time last weekend and averaged 38.8 yards on four punts, while booting one attempt into the back of a blocker.

Kicker: PK No. 5 Zane Gonzalez (6-1, 162, Fr.), KO No. 25 Alex Garoutte (6-1, 209, RS Jr.)
Garoutte has been solid, drilling 14 of 22 kickoffs for touchbacks. Gonzalez hasn’t been as reliable as the team’s placekicker, however, going 4-for-7 on field goals, including just 1-of-3 from 40 yards or longer.

Kick returner: No. 1 Marion Grice (6-0, 207, Sr.), No. 3 Richard Smith (5-9, 172, So.)
As a team Arizona State averages 21.7 yards per kick return.

Punt returner: No. 9 Robert Nelson (5-11, 169, RS Sr.)
Nelson averages six yards per punt return.

Pac-12 spring preview: South Division

February, 22, 2013
2/22/13
8:03
AM PT
Here are some keys and storylines to watch this spring in the South Division. Yesterday Ted looked at the North Division.

ARIZONA WILDCATS

Start date: March 3

Spring game: April 13

What to watch:
  1. New battery: The Wildcats are looking to replace a top-notch quarterback-center combo in Matt Scott and Kyle Quinn. The rock-solid duo helped produce one of the top offenses in the league. Jesse Scroggins and B.J. Denker are among those in the mix to run the offense and several returning offensive linemen are versatile enough to move around. Chris Putton and redshirt freshman Beau Boyster could be in the mix at center.
  2. Many happy return(er)s: Arizona returns a big chunk of its offensive production -- including running back Ka'Deem Carey and receiver Austin Hill. Both should be on all sorts of preseason teams and awards watch lists. But behind the big names, there's also David Richards, Johnny Jackson, Tyler Slavin and Garic Wharton back in the mix.
  3. No learning curve: Last spring, the talk was about Rich Rodriguez calling out his team for its lack of physical conditioning. The fact that the majority of the team understands what is expected -- and they don't need to spend the whole spring learning new systems, should be a huge help. Consider that the Wildcats return their entire defense from a group that was, at times, shaky, but will certainly benefit from another full season of playing in the 3-3-5 scheme.
ARIZONA STATE SUN DEVILS

Start date: March 19

Spring game: April 13

What to watch:
  1. Plugging the middle: One of the few losses to ASU's roster is middle linebacker Brandon Magee -- a leader on and off the field and an all-around heck of a player. Carlos Mendoza looks to be a good fit -- though he's likely to miss spring while continuing to recover from a shoulder injury suffered against Illinois. Folks might remember his two interceptions before going down for the year.
  2. Catching on: Unlike last spring, the Sun Devils have their quarterback. And he's a good one. Now, they need to find folks he can throw to. JC transfers De'Marieya Nelson (H-back, 6-3, 230) and Jaelen Strong (WR, 6-4, 205) are both big bodies who could step in and contribute immediately.
  3. Wait and see: The kicker here is a lot of these players who are expected to compete won't arrive until the fall. So in the meantime, a lot of the younger players and redshirts will get a ton of reps in the system. And speaking of kicker, don't underestimate how much of an impact Josh Hubner made at punter. Iowan Matt Haack, who arrives in the fall, is a rugby-style kicker who can kick with either foot. That's just cool.
COLORADO BUFFALOES

Start date: March 7

Spring game: April 13

What to watch:
  1. Meet your QB: Whomever it will be. There are five on the roster and a sixth coming in. Safe to say, quarterback play was extremely inconsistent last season for the Buffs. With an entirely new coaching staff coming in and installing the pistol, this could be one of the more interesting and wide-open position battles in the league.
  2. Curious defense: One needs only to review Colorado's national rankings last year to realize they struggled. As one Buffs insider mentioned to me, they were ranked No. 1 in a lot of categories. Unfortunately, that "1" was followed by two more numbers. Only three defensive ends have playing experience. However a secondary that lacked experience in 2012 has a lot more looking into 2013.
  3. Receiver options: The Buffs welcome back Paul Richardson, who missed all of last season with a knee injury. Colorado's premier offensive playmaker will be a nice veteran presence to whomever wins the quarterback job. Grayshirt Jeff Thomas also is back. An improved passing attack should help give the quarterback some confidence and open up the running game.
UCLA BRUINS

Start date: April 2

Spring game: April 27

What to watch:
  1. Life after Franklin: The Bruins say goodbye to the best statistical back in school history -- leaving a huge void in the backfield. Johnathan Franklin was a great presence for young quarterback Brett Hundley, but now someone has to step up to fill that role, either solo or along with a committee. Look for Jordon James, Steven Manfro and Damien Thigpen to all get looks.
  2. New No. 1: The Y-receiver, aka hybrid tight end, was filled wonderfully by Joseph Fauria -- Hundley's favorite red zone target. Darius Bell and Ian Taubler both had looks last year, but Fauria too will be tough to replace. Shaq Evans, Devin Fuller, Jordan Payton and Devin Lucien round out a pretty good receiving corps.
  3. Secondary solutions: The Bruins must replace two corners and a safety -- Sheldon Price, Aaron Hester, Andrew Abbott -- and there isn't a ton of starting experience. Randall Goforth has five starts, but veterans such as Brandon Sermons and Anthony Jefferson have more special-teams experience than actual secondary play. Keep an eye on the secondary too when the Bruins start fall camp to see if any freshmen jump into the mix immediately.
USC TROJANS

Start date: TBD

Spring game: April 13
  1. New defensive scheme: The Trojans will move to a 5-2 defensive scheme under Clancy Pendergast, and the spring drills will be the first opportunity to see the defense in action. The Trojans will have an experienced front seven, but four new starters are expected in the secondary.
  2. Replacing Barkley: Max Wittek got the first extended audition in the battle to take over for Matt Barkley, but he didn’t do enough in two late-season starts to claim the job. Cody Kessler and freshman spring enrollee Max Browne also will be looking to take the reins at one of the glamour positions in college football.
  3. Lane Kiffin on the hot seat: The Trojans are coming off a disappointing season, and the fans are howling in protest, but so far his boss Pat Haden has maintained full support for his coach. Now is the time for Kiffin to show why that support is warranted. -- Garry Paskwietz, WeAreSC
UTAH UTES

Start date: March 19

Spring game: April 20

What to watch:
  1. Erickson impact: The biggest question was what sort of role Dennis Erickson would play in the offense once he arrived. We'll know sooner than later. He already has talked about putting an identity on the Utah offense. That starts in spring when routines are established and expectations are set. And with Erickson on board to give the offense a push, the expectations will be much higher.
  2. Wilson maturing: That leads us to the presumptive starting quarterback -- Travis Wilson -- who jumped in midseason after Jordan Wynn got hurt and Jon Hays struggled to produce. Wilson went from OK to pretty good in just a few weeks. A nice jump considering his experience level. With an entire offseason knowing he'll be the starter -- and with Erickson and Brian Johnson molding him -- it will be interesting to see what progress he makes this spring.
  3. D-line makeover: The Utes lose some talent on the defensive line -- specifically All-American defensive tackle Star Lotulelei. Look for DE/LB Trevor Reilly to spend more time with his hand down. Tenny Palepoi, LT Tuipulotu and JC transfer Sese Ianu could all see time in the mix at defensive tackle.

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