Pac-12: Arizona State Sun Devils
Money, money, money, money .... Mon-ayyyyyy.
Yep, that's right. We're starting off Friday with conversations about dollars. It's one of the things you're not supposed to talk about at the dinner table, which means we'll absolutely discuss it on the Pac-12 Blog.
On Thursday, John Wilner looked into the salaries of each Pac-12 coach and compared the South coaches against the North coaches and came to a very interesting conclusion -- the South coaches are paid, on average, much better. He calculated that the North coaches' salaries came out to $13.95 million while the South coaches' salaries came out to $16.85 million.
One factor clearly is the artificially low compensation for two North coaches who were promoted from within. Mark Helfrich isn’t paid like a national finalists -- he’s a screamin’ deal -- and David Shaw would command more on the open market than he’s currently making with two of the past three league titles.
Then add Riley’s relatively low compensation, the result of being in one place for so many years, and the situation starts to make sense.
It's an interesting piece that's definitely worth your time. Note: The Stanford and USC dollar figures used are estimates, just keep that in mind.
Notes/team reports/recruiting updates:
- Not even Rob Gronkowski knows what makes him so great.
- A very interesting nugget in this story about the deflated balls story and Todd Graham at Tulsa.
- Aaron Rodgers continues to be a really great human (just continuing the NFL kick).
- You can vote on how you feel about Colorado's recruiting efforts.
- Oregon just keeps loading up at running back.
- Oregon State has lost two commitments.
- Stanford picked up a defensive back commitment.
- Three Bruin commits who will start a game this season.
- A preview of USC's 2015 running back class.
- A quick look at Utah's safeties on the 2015-16 roster.
- Washington could add another running back to the 2015 class.
- One report says that Connor Halliday will attend, but not work out at, the NFL combine.
Up next: How strong? Jaelen Strong
Who and against whom: Arizona State receiver Jaelen Strong's finest game -- and moment -- of his Sun Devils' career came at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in an improbable 38-34 win against USC.
The numbers: Strong caught 10 passes for 202 yards and three touchdowns, including a 46-yard Hail Mary as time expired that will forever be known as the Jael Mary.
A closer look: Even before ASU quarterback Mike Bercovici put one up for grabs in the final seconds, Strong had established himself as the Sun Devils' best player on the field. A week after making 12 catches for 146 yards against UCLA, he caught touchdown passes of four and 77 yards in the second quarter as ASU went back and forth with USC. If it hadn't been already been clear (it should have), Strong looked every bit the part of a top-flight NFL prospect. A big, physical player, Strong helped keep ASU around long enough for the final play to matter. At 6-foot-3, he possesses the ideal size for a Hail Mary, but his natural instincts are what made the play work. Strong appeared to have his eyes on the ball long before it came down and waited until the final moment before making a play for it, essentially decking the USC defenders to create an unobstructed path to victory.
Bercovici and Simone’s video interviews were done with azcentral.com and fans will have a chance to vote on which player they think was the better athlete-turned-reporter. Bercovici was assigned to the Patriots, while Simone focused on the Seahawks.
No surprises here: Bercovici is feeling pretty confident aboupt his chances to beat Simone in the viewer vote.
“I was actually more surprised with myself that I was pretty confident in front of the camera.” Bercovici said. “Perhaps [it’s] a career for me in the future.”
Bercovici admitted that at first he was a little bit nervous to ask questions “to such superstars,” but that as the day went on he became more comfortable fielding the questions.
But, to be fair, he wasn’t exactly asking any hard-hitting questions. He chatted with Patriots quarterback Tom Brady about hair product and 40-yard dashes.
And as a Sun Devil through and through Bercovici had to make sure to check in with former Arizona tight end Rob Gronkowski. Again, nothing too intense here, just a few questions about whether he had been to an Arizona State party or visited campus much or if he wished he had actually been a Sun Devil (Answer: No).
In total, Bercovici and Simone spent only three hours at the media event, but Bercovici admitted that “it felt like a lifetime.”
“Our feet were killing us, my back is killing me,” Bercovici said. “We just got done with a workout, but I think media day was more difficult.”
Preach to the choir, Berco.
ASU's Jordan Simone & Mike Bercovici here asking questions. Asked Gronk if he wishes he woulda gone to ASU. Said no, but he does like Mill.— Daniel Berk (@DSBerk) January 27, 2015
Super Bowl media day has come and gone. With it there were a few notable appearances and quotes by some former Pac-12 players (there are 18 former conference players and five former conference coaches between the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots).
- Former Stanford DB Richard Sherman made a few comments about Deflategate when he and the Seahawks arrived in Arizona and on Tuesday Patriots owner Robert Kraft responded to those comments while also taking a bit of a shot at Stanford.
- The Huffington Post said that former California RB Marshawn Lynch's "I'm just here so I won't get fined" act was the best press conference ever. But USA Today says the league should fine Lynch anyway.
- The Washington Post put together an entire thread of former Arizona TE Rob Gronkowski-related items. And, some other Gronk nuggets.
- Former Washington WR Jermaine Kearse got a podium at this year's media day thanks to his game-winning catch against the Packers. Frank Schwab writes that this is what he'll forever be known for.
- Extra nuggets: If you're just looking for some general media day bites, here's an update from The Seattle Times. NJ.com compiled a list of the 10 worst questions asked at media day. And USA Today's Chris Strauss writes that the key to Super Bowl media day is to just embrace the absurdity of it all.
- Get to know Arizona commit Jace Whittaker.
- What are the odds that Arizona State gets DE Porter Gustin?
- Cal picked up a huge commitment on Tuesday night.
- Mike MacIntyre owned one of his players on Twitter.
- Marcus Mariota's younger brother will walk on at Oregon.
- Gary Andersen added to his support staff on Tuesday.
- What kind of a player is Stanford getting in Dylan Jackson?
- The biggest needs for UCLA's 2015 recruiting class.
- Matt Leinart has some big expectations for USC next season.
- Utah added an offensive line commitment on Tuesday.
- Some final changes for Washington State's staff.
- Washington State lost a recruit to Arizona State on Tuesday.
On Tuesday, Arizona State quarterback Mike Bercovici and safety Jordan Simone attended Super Bowl media day to add to some of azcentral.com's coverage of the event. We'll have a story later on today with Bercovici's thoughts on the day and his advice to other reporters (now that he has such a deep understanding of the profession), but as a preview to some of the in-depth and exclusive content you'll get from the Bercovici-Simone media team, check out this tweet:
Just talked to Tom Brady about hair products... #BrotherFromAnotherMother— Michael Bercovici (@MikeBerco) January 27, 2015
We're sure it was enlightening. Someone get this man a Pulitzer.
Up next: Arizona State (recognizing you Sun Devils are probably ambivalent with this association)
Two-Star Scoob: QB Taylor Kelly
Recruiting ratings: ESPN.com: Not rated; Rivals.com: Two stars; Scout.com: No. 83 QB in nation.
Recruiting analysis: Scout.com wrote: "A dual-threat passer, Kelly is at his best when using his legs and feet to make plays. OK arm strength." Kelly originally committed to Nevada before switching to Arizona State in mid-January. He helped lead 11-1 Eagle High (Idaho) to the Class 5A state championship with a dramatic 22-21 win over Capital. In that contest, he ran for two touchdowns and passed for a third. As a senior, he completed 182 of 265 attempts (69 percent) for 2,059 yards and 22 touchdowns. Rushed for 1,005 yards and 10 more scores. Idaho Gatorade Player of the Year. Class 5A Player of the Year.
On campus? Kelly's story is pretty well known. He was expected to finish third in the 2012 QB competition to replace Brock Osweiler behind Mike Bercovici and Michael Eubank, and at the end of 2012 spring practices, he was, yes, in third place. But he used the offseason wisely and ended up shocking everyone -- including head coach Todd Graham -- by winning the job. Then, not only did he hold onto the job for three years, he became one of the best QBs in school history. While his senior year was injury-riddled, the Sun Devils won 30 games with Kelly as their starting QB. He passed for 8,819 yards and 79 touchdowns in 37 career starts -- those totals ranking fourth and third all-time in the school's record books -- and ended up the school's all-time leader in total offense with 10,223 yards. Oh by the way, he was the Pac-12 Football Scholar-Athlete of the Year, Pac-12 All-Academic First Team, NFF National Scholar-Athlete, William V. Campbell Trophy finalist, Wuerffel Trophy finalist, Senior CLASS Award finalist and Capital One Academic All-District VIII Team. So, yeah, good student, too.
It was a busy weekend in the conference, as 14 prospects made commitments between Friday and Monday night and several others backed out of Pac-12 recruiting classes. It looks as though this could be a sign of things to come, as the conference recruiting race is heating up with little more than a week until signing day.
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Here's a look at how programs in the Pac-12 are faring on the recruiting trail heading into national signing day on Feb. 4.
ESPN 300 commitments: 1
Who they have: The Wildcats hit it big with their top two commitments in ESPN 300 offensive tackle Keenan Walker and ESPN JC 50 defensive tackle Anthony Fotu. Arizona also will add four-star tackle Cody Creason, three-star tackle Harper Sherman and three-star guards Alex Kosinski and Nathan Eldrige to the offensive line. There are a number of skill players on both sides of the ball, including running backs Orlando Bradford and Darick Holmes Jr., cornerbacks Shun Brown, Anthony Mariscal, Samuel Morrison and Dane Cruikshank, wide receiver Cedric Peterson and athletes Antonio Parks and Brion Anduze.
Who they want: There aren't many spots left in this class for the Wildcats, but there are a few important names left on the board. The wide receiver spot could see another addition with Jaylinn Hawkins, though rival Arizona State will put up a fight there. Arizona also will look to continue its run of success in Louisiana, as teammates Arthur McGinnis and Darrell Clark (New Orleans/Warren Easton) are two of the top prospects left for the Wildcats, as well as teammates of Arizona commit Kendal Franklin.
To read the rest of our Pac-12 recruiting class breakdowns, click here .
Now that the season has ended, we decided it was time to come out with a final tally. One that included the full body of work in the discussion (and yes, there was a lot of discussion), and then allowed the statistics and arguments of 12,13, 14 or 15 games to rank the players accordingly. So with that, we start today with No. 5.
No. 5: Arizona State senior Taylor Kelly
Statistics: 165-of-278 (59.4 percent), 2,114 passing yards, 22 touchdowns, 5 interceptions | 95 rushes, 256 rushing yards, 3 rushing touchdowns
Why he's here: Kelly had a bit of a tough season. During the three game stretch in which he was out, Mike Bercovici led ASU to a 2-1 record and became almost a folk hero after his performance on the road against USC. By the time Kelly was able to come back, there was serious doubt as to whether he should get the starting job back since Bercovici seemed to have the hot hand. However, Kelly got the starting spot back -- as coach Todd Graham said he would -- and led the Sun Devils to a 5-2 record to finish the season.
Though his completion percentage actually went down from his junior year to his senior year, his yards per completion (12.8) was second-best in the Pac-12, and was the best of his career. He had the fifth-highest passer efficiency rating in the league, and finished with just five interceptions (only four other Pac-12 quarterback's finished with five or fewer). Sixty-three percent of Kelly's completions went for first downs or touchdowns (third-best in the Pac-12), and 47.9 percent of his completions were for 10 or more yards (sixth-best in the Pac-12).
If that's not enough, look at a few of the non-statistical reasons why we thought Kelly deserved this No. 5 spot. First, opposing teams pretty much knew where he was going with the ball (hint: their names are Strong and Foster) but because of Kelly's ability and his chemistry with those players, Kelly was able to get the job done offensively for the Sun Devils. Arizona State finished with the league's third-highest scoring offense (36.9 points per game) despite finishing No. 7 in the Pac-12 in offensive yards per game, meaning the offense was incredibly efficient. This is largely thanks to Kelly.
Second, Kelly finished strong after coming back from injury and came up big for his team a lot of times (and when he didn't, he took the blame). He led the Sun Devils to a Hyundai Sun Bowl victory against Duke with his best showing of the season. He completed 70.6 percent of his passes -- his best since ASU's season opener -- and his 240 passing yards were the second best total of his season.
But this wasn't completely out of the blue. Kelly also shined in a huge win against Notre Dame. In that game, his adjusted QBR of 86.1 was the second-best of his senior season (his best was versus Colorado) as he led ASU to a statement win against the Irish.
The 2015 Senior Bowl has come and gone, and there were plenty of great showings from Pac-12 players. Here's a brief compilation of some of the content you can find regarding the event:
- CBSSports' Senior Bowl stock report of 10 players who looked good -- one Beaver shows up on this list and it's not the one you're thinking of ...
- FOX Sports made a list of guys who helped their NFL draft stock the most. On this listing you've got a Husky and a Ute (these are probably the ones you're thinking of).
- Sports Illustrated had some similar praise to that of FOX Sports. SI's Chris Burke writes that "[Danny] Shelton's showing for the North team solidified his status as a likely first-round pick."
- The Atlanta Journal Constitution put together a photo gallery of the weekend.
- Former Wazzu receiver Vince Mayle does a video interview for the Senior Bowl.
- Former UCLA defensive lineman Owamagbe Odighizuwa also did a video interview at the Senior Bowl.
- Catching up with Sean Mannion following the Senior Bowl.
- Henry Anderson wrote six "diary" entries from AL.com during Senior Bowl week. You can check all of them out right here.
- Nate Orchard picked up some MOP honors at the Senior Bowl.
- Arizona picked up a wide receiver commitment from a three-star player out of Louisiana.
- Redshirt freshman quarterback Manny Wilkins says ASU is ready to compete for a national title.
- Arizona wasn't the only Pac-12 school to get a commitment from the South this weekend. So did Cal.
- Colorado is finally putting some money into athletics, writes Kyle Ringo.
- Marcus Mariota isn't sure if he's going to throw at the NFL combine.
- Add UCLA to the list of Pac-12 programs that went South this weekend for verbal commitments.
- USC got a verbal commitment from a four-star linebacker, and his mom had some pretty clever shirts made.
- Washington picked up its 24th commitment for the 2015 class.
- Connor Halliday has signed with an agent an intends to start practicing sometime this week.
There was some #Pac12Trolling happening Sunday as former Arizona State defensive lineman Will Sutton decided to comment on Taylor Kelly and Jaelen Strong's autograph session. Always nice to see a few (fun) shots taken between teammates when it comes to this kind of stuff.
Also, if anyone has a chance, check out Sutton's photo at the top of his Twitter page. It's pretty fantastic. Especially if you're a fan of The Lion King ...
Bruins looking to close with Clark
UCLA and Michigan are in a neck-and-neck battle for ESPN 300 tight end Chris Clark. And after visiting the Wolverines two weekends ago, Clark was in Los Angeles this weekend.
The future ??? pic.twitter.com/T0uVlzglpU— Chris Clark (@Clark8Chris) January 24, 2015
The Bruins also received some help from former UCLA and current Jacksonville Jaguars tight end Marcedes Lewis.
Clark would be a significant addition for either program, and the Bruins are hoping they can sway him into becoming the lone true tight end on the roster and a potential immediate-impact player.
UCLA also hosted LSU offensive line commit Maea Teuhema. The nation's No. 71 overall prospect has been committed to the Tigers since February, but the Bruins are looking to make the nation's No. 2 offensive guard part of their strong finish in the state of Texas.
Throw them 4's up!=;=; pic.twitter.com/pI9WdLM0br— TRISTAN. (@MaeaTeuhema) January 23, 2015
And although not from Texas -- but close enough -- ESPN 300 offensive guard Josh Wariboko could also be part of a massive closing stretch for UCLA. The No. 105 overall prospect was in Los Angeles for the B2G West Coast Bowl over the weekend and had an opportunity to spend time with UCLA commits Colin Samuel and Bolu Olorunfunmi.
Arizona State hosted ESPN 300 defenders Rasheem Green and Porter Gustin this weekend, and the Sun Devils look to be in competition with USC for both prospects.
While Arizona State hasn't been discussed much in terms of top classes during this recruiting cycle, Todd Graham's program has an opportunity to close in a big way with some impact prospects still on the board. And speaking of impact, Green had an opportunity during his visit to meet an NFL superstar who can make an impact with any recruit (regardless of the typo in his last name).
Oregon State's big weekend
Rasheem Green and JJ Wyatt just chillin in Arizona State. SFG. pic.twitter.com/BZs0uyU1bJ— Serrahighfootball (@Serrahighsfg) January 25, 2015
The new Oregon State coaches hit the ground running when they took over the program after Mike Riley took much of his staff with him to Nebraska. Gary Andersen's staff has reshaped much of the recruiting class and added a big one recently when they were able to flip defensive end Keivonnis Davis from his Syracuse commitment. Davis was on his official visit this weekend and took some time to get to know the Oregon State mascot.
Me&Benny pic.twitter.com/fEgD8SnEBF— 1Double_Stick1 (@keivonnis) January 24, 2015
Oregon State is also in on fellow defensive end Simi Moala, who holds offers from Miami, Utah and Washington State. At 6-foot-7 and 220 pounds, Moala is an intriguing prospect along the defensive line.
The Golden Bears have done well at the wide receiver spot in this class, but head coach Sonny Dykes obviously feels there can't be enough talent at that position on his roster. High three-star Texas receiver A.D. Miller took an official visit to Cal over the weekend and had a simple question for Golden Bears fans.
Utes host commit
Do I look good in gold & blue? =›=™=; pic.twitter.com/fSoNc9i5IF— A.D. Miller (@Admiller_9) January 25, 2015
Part of Oregon State's recent run on the recruiting trail has come at the expense of Utah, as former Ute assistant coaches made their way to Corvallis and were able to flip two commitments in the process. But Utah still holds a strong class, especially with the recent flip of former Cal commit Johnny Capra. The offensive tackle makes four nice additions at that position for the Utes, including three-star Arizona prospect Nick Carman, who took his official visit to Utah over the weekend.
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Call it, Friendo.
Two quotes today... because Happy Friday.
In case you suffer from football withdrawals at any point this weekend, take solace in the fact that plenty of elite college talent will be suiting up for the Reese's Senior Bowl this Saturday. The Pac-12 is sending an entire gaggle of representatives to this game. Most will be representing the North team, but UCLA's Anthony Jefferson and Owamagbe Odighizuwa will play for the South.
There'll be a nasty collection of defensive line talent on the North team: Think Danny Shelton, Henry Anderson, Hau'oli Kikaha, and Nate Orchard -- all on the same unit. Seeing that group play together should create a fun dynamic for avid Pac-12 fans who have watched those players terrorize quarterbacks over the past few seasons.
On the other side of the ball, Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion may have a chance to throw to receivers from Stanford (Ty Montgomery) and Washington State (Vince Mayle).
Other Pac-12 representatives: Hayes Pullard and Josh Shaw (USC), Eric Rowe (Utah), Damarious Randle and Jamil Douglas (ASU)
This one will feature plenty of hustle, as it's the final live game opportunity for these seniors to raise their NFL Draft stock.
- Let's check in on former Arizona star Rob Gronkowski in the buildup to the Super Bowl. Seahawks cornerback Jeremy Lane doesn't think he's that good. #BulletinBoard
- Building smarter stadiums is a goal of the future, and ASU is part of the effort.
- There's a smattering of not-so-good Cal recruiting news here, including word of Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh taking a look at a current Golden Bear commit.
- Colorado's season will begin two days earlier than planned -- at Hawaii on Thursday, September 3.
- FishDuck.com delivers a nice Oregon recruiting update regarding official visits.
- New Oregon State coach Gary Andersen told Sports Illustrated that he left Wisconsin because of his frustrations with that university's admissions standards.
- Stanford basketball added backup Stanford football offensive tackle Nick Davidson to its roster. The 6-foot-7, 288-pounder did not see action in Thursday's game against Arizona.
- Who'll replace Brett Hundley as UCLA's starting quarterback? A true freshman named Josh Rosen is one option. There's more here.
- An interview with USC athletic director Pat Haden, who says the arrow is pointing up for Trojan football.
- A column that will make Ute fans smile: BYU football falling behind Utah.
- Chris Petersen is having some success on the recruiting trail. He tweeted the signature #Woof after the Huskies netted a four-star commitment.
- Did Washington State defensive lineman Xavier Cooper leave for the NFL draft too soon? Cougfan.com has its take.
Did you know Ronnie Lott played basketball at USC? That guy needs to be on the football team. Sign him up!
UTSA at Arizona
Michigan at Utah
Arizona State vs. Texas A&M (NRG Stadium, Houston)
Arkansas State at USC
Virginia at UCLA
Colorado at Hawaii
Weekend take: There's some early action to salivate over here. Jim Harbaugh will make his Michigan coaching debut on a Thursday night at Utah. It's hard not to love that: The Utes have developed into the same type of physical team that Harbaugh molded at Stanford and likely intends to create in Ann Arbor. Plus, that Rice-Eccles Stadium atmosphere is electric. Now just imagine it at night in front of a football-starved crowd against a traditional college football power. Yum.
With a maturing defense and plenty of experienced, explosive pieces returning on the offensive end, there's a feeling that ASU can do some more damage in 2015. They'll have an early chance to prove that on the massive stage that is Houston's Reliant Stadium against Texas A&M. A Pac-12-SEC matchup is a relative rarity. Think of the last one we had at a gigantic "neutral" site: Oregon-LSU in 2011. This game won't generate the same massive level of hype as that one did, but it's sure to drum up its share of buzz.
The UTSA-Arizona and Virginia-UCLA matchups have a key connecting thread: Those two opponents made the Wildcats and the Bruins sweat last year. There's not a single gimme on this opening weekend slate for the Pac-12 South.
Arizona at Nevada
Cal Poly at Arizona State
Idaho at USC
UCLA at UNLV
UMass at Colorado
Utah State at Utah
Weekend take: Nevada pushed Arizona deep into their meeting this past season, and that was in Tucson. The Wildcats must be wary entering Reno -- elevation can make for an unpleasant playing experience. Otherwise, the most notable Week 2 nonconference game for the Pac-12 South is the battle of the Beehive State: Utah State has seen plenty of success over the past few seasons, and they'll take their shot at the Utes very seriously. In-state rivalries are fun.
Outside of that, there's not much intrigue here. UCLA fans will get to make the weekend trip up I-15 through the desert to Las Vegas, though. There's some fun in the schedule for the Bruins there.
Northern Arizona at Arizona
New Mexico at Arizona State
BYU at UCLA
Colorado vs. Colorado State (Sports Authority Field at Mile High Stadium, Denver)
Utah at Fresno State
Weekend take: They might have tried to purge this from their memory, but there are certainly some UCLA fans who remember the last time the Bruins played BYU. The year was 2008, and the Cougars walloped UCLA 59-0. Any player connections from that shellacking are long gone by now, but BYU's visit to the Rose Bowl will be a key early-season game for both programs. Taysom Hill should be back under center for the Cougars while the Bruins will be adapting to life after Brett Hundley.
Following a winless Pac-12 campaign, Mike MacIntyre faces a massive season in Boulder, and it would behoove the Buffs to win the Rocky Mountain Showdown this time around. The game against Colorado State is played at a neutral site in Denver and promises to be an important early tone-setter for both programs.
Meanwhile, Utah has assembled quite the satisfying nonconference slate. The Utes follow those aforementioned exciting match-ups against Michigan and Utah State with a road trip to Fresno State that shouldn't be taken likely. The Bulldogs are known to circle the wagons and put up vicious fights against Power 5 opponents in their home fortress, so Kyle Whittingham's team will be tested.
Nicholls State at Colorado
Weekend take: It would be disingenuous to pretend that this game is intriguing. Colorado finished winless in Pac-12 play last season while Nicholls State ended 0-12.
USC at Notre Dame
Weekend take: Now we're talking. The Trojans embarrassed Notre Dame 49-14 to close the 2014 regular season. That sets up a revenge factor here -- though motivation should never be an issue in this storied rivalry. Both teams harbor high hopes for 2015, so this mid-October tilt is showing plenty of promise.