Pac-12: Washington Huskies

Four more spring games are set for Saturday, at which point more than half the Pac-12 will be done with spring ball. You know what that means ... the countdown to fall camp begins!

Here is quick peek at the four games being played this weekend:

Arizona State

Where: Sun Devil Stadium
Kickoff: 11 a.m. PT
TV: Pac-12 Arizona (replays throughout the week)

What to watch: When there are steaks on the line, like there will be in this one, you can pretty much guarantee a competitive atmosphere. Instead of an offense vs. defense scoring system, coach Todd Graham broke up the team with a good amount of starters on each side. Starting quarterback Taylor Kelly will lead the maroon team and Mike Bercovici will quarterback the gold team, but the with nine starters departed off last season's defense, it's that side of the ball that will be worth paying attention to. Running back D.J. Foster, who has battled a minor toe sprain throughout the spring, will see limited action despite a clean bill of health. Former Arizona State quarterback Jake Plummer will serve as the analyst on the Pac-12 Arizona broadcast.

USC

Where: Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
Kickoff: 3 p.m. PT
TV: Pac-12 Networks (replays throughout the week)

What to watch: It would have been a lot more fun if coach Steve Sarkisian waited until after the spring game to announce Cody Kessler as the starting quarterback. That way everyone could have overanalyzed the competition based on one meaningless game. But really, who are we kidding? The overanalyzation will go on regardless -- and Sarkisian did leave the door open for Max Browne to work his way back into the mix. It'll be interesting to watch both Kessler and Browne operate the up-tempo offense Sarkisian brought with him from Washington and how a rebuilt offensive line stacks up against a talented defensive front. The guys from WeAreSC kick around much more to pay attention to in this roundtable discussion.

Utah

Where: Rice-Eccles Stadium
Kickoff: 1 p.m. MT
TV: Pac-12 Mountain (replays throughout the week)

What to watch: It'll be good to see quarterback Travis Wilson back under center in a game-like situation again, and even more intriguing because he'll be running new coordinator Dave Christensen's offense against the Utes' base defense. While the setting won't showcase the depths of the playbook, the Cliffs Notes version should provide enough to develop a better understanding of how things will be different next season. The clock will operate as it would in a regular game during a pair of 10-minute quarters in the first half and will use a running clock in the second half after an eight-minute halftime. If you're planning on attending, a food competition and MUSS football game will be held at 11 a.m. MT, with an alumni football game to follow at noon.

Washington

Where: Husky Stadium
Kickoff: 1 p.m. PT
TV: Pac-12 Washington (replays throughout the week)

What to watch: Is Shaq Thompson the new Myles Jack? It has been a major storyline in Seattle throughout the spring how the talented linebacker -- and former minor-league baseball player -- is working with the offense. And after watching his some of his high school highlights, it's understandable why new coach Chris Petersen is intrigued by letting him go both ways. Any time there's a brand new coaching staff, the spring game carries a little extra sizzle, but it should also be noted those games aren't necessarily always as telling due to the lack of time the players have spent with the staff. It's a lot of fundamentals, a lot of evaluation, and the scope of what is accomplished is different when compared with schools with established staffs that are familiar with their rosters. Petersen has installed about 50 percent of the playbook. With Cyler Miles still suspended, quarterbacks Jeff Lindquist and Troy Williams top the depth chart and will make their cases to replace the departed Keith Price.
Happy Friday!
USC coach Steve Sarkisian named Cody Kessler his starting quarterback this week, though he noted that Kessler will have to continue to defend the position against competition from redshirt freshman Max Browne during fall camp.

It wasn't a big surprise. After all, Kessler was the 2013 starter and acquitted himself fairly well, particularly over the second half of the season with Clay Helton calling plays instead of deposed coach Lane Kiffin.

Still, Sarkisian is following in the philosophical footsteps of his mentor, Pete Carroll, who believed it was best to name a starting quarterback by the end of spring practices.

As we've noted a few times, Carroll called this "anointing." He believed that by anointing a starting quarterback in the spring, that allowed the QB to carry authority into the offseason. Teammates would recognize the crown on his head, as they might not if two or more candidates officially remained on even footing.

The anointing ended intrigue. It ended media speculation players would read. It ended an offseason rivalry that might split players into bailiwicks, based on personal preferences both on and off the field.

So Sarkisian has his way of doing it.

Then there's most other coaches. They prefer keeping their cards close to their chests. They like the intrigue. They like the prolonged competition. They want to measure offseason work and mental toughness. Who gets better from April to August? Who seems to take control of the locker room or huddle on his own, without the anointing from a coach?

SportsNation

Is it better to announce a starting quarterback after spring practices or wait until the end of fall camp?

  •  
    71%
  •  
    29%

Discuss (Total votes: 851)

So we have the two true QB competitions in the Pac-12 this spring: Arizona and Washington, where neither Rich Rodriguez nor Chris Petersen is likely to give us a firm idea of their starter until perhaps as late as the week before the season opener.

Of course, there's not 100 percent purity of approach here. If Kessler hadn't outplayed Browne, Sarkisian almost certainly wouldn't have made an announcement. And if Rodriguez or Petersen were sitting on an Andrew Luck-type talent right now, they probably would go ahead and pull the trigger and announce him as the No. 1 guy.

Fact is, the present consensus is neither Arizona nor Washington has any clear pecking order. The Wildcats have four guys who didn't separate themselves this spring, and the Huskies still have to see where the suspended Cyler Miles, the 2013 backup, fits into their plans.

Yet there is a clear philosophical difference here.

So what do you think? Is it better to anoint a starting QB after spring practices in order to give him a leadership role over the summer, or is it better to wait as long as possible to foster uncertainty and, therefore, continued competition?
video

SEATTLE -- Chris Petersen sits in his office, anxiously folding an address label he peeled off a magazine. He looks past the football field into Union Bay, where the Washington crew team is practicing. He's still getting used to this view.

His last meeting ran 45 minutes long, but it was no worry to him. His family is still in Boise, Idaho, so he can stay at the office as long as he wants, which is what he needs right now. He needs to get to work on "the process."

This is not the "Boise State process." That might be where he gained his fame for working the process so well, but by no means was it built there. The process isn't one of blue turf. It comes from a program with no scholarships, a torn up field and an aged locker room.

It's a process Petersen learned 30 years ago. A process that was perfected at a Division II school 75 miles northwest of San Francisco.

It worked there. And at Boise. And in Seattle, Petersen says, it will work here, too.

The process will work. Just give it time.

To continue reading, click here.
I remember the stupid things, the mood rings, the bracelets and the beads, the nickels and dimes, yours and mine. Did you cash in all your dreams?
And I said "What about Breakfast at Tiffany's?" … Well, that's the one thing we've got.
SEATTLE -- If all had gone to plan, Deontae Cooper would’ve been getting ready for the NFL draft right now.

Instead, the redshirt junior running back -- who has suffered three season-ending knee injuries in three separate seasons at Washington -- is going through just the second spring season of his college career.

He knows the ins and outs of the Washington rehabilitation staff better than nearly anyone. That is, after all, where he spent his last three spring seasons -- rehabbing knee injuries.

[+] EnlargeDeontae Cooper
Jesse Beals/ Icon SMIDeontae Cooper has a shot to be Washington's featured back this season.
Cooper entered this spring as one of the oldest players on the team and one of the least experienced when it comes to the type of practices and routines the team goes through during this period.

“It is kind of weird,” Cooper said. “But the way I look at it is … the past is behind me and it’s good that I have a fresh start with a fresh new staff.”

The last spring season Cooper went through was with then-Washington coach Steve Sarkisian. It was 2010 and the early enrollee, who should’ve still been in high school, going to math classes and prom, impressed the coaching staff. Now, four years later, he’s doing the same under Chris Petersen.

With the way that Cooper has performed this spring, his past ACL injuries haven’t even crossed Petersen’s mind as he has watched him run and cut.

“Oh no, I don’t even think about it,” Petersen said.

Last season, Bishop Sankey (20 TDs, 327 carries, 1,870 yards) took the majority of the carries for the Huskies. Cooper, who had actually enrolled more than a year before Sankey, was listed as a redshirt freshman on that roster, despite the fact that he was taking his senior classes.

But, it was his first time in uniform at Washington. Cooper appeared in seven games, accounting for three touchdowns and 270 yards on just 43 attempts. And in this offseason -- the first true collegiate offseason of his career -- Cooper got the good news that the NCAA would be granting him two extra seasons of eligibility, giving him three more seasons with the University of Washington.

With that kind of a relief and thoughts of “what if” out of his head, he let himself really look into the future and focus on what he can accomplish at Washington.

At Boise State, Petersen ran a very balanced offense. Of the 1,029 plays the Broncos ran last season, 563 were run plays, while 466 were pass attempts. On average, Boise State accounted for more passing yardage than rushing yardage, but Boise State running back Jay Ajayi accounted for 109 rushing yards per game and Petersen is certainly going to look for a back to carry the load in a similar way at Washington.

And with Sankey gone, Cooper is in the thick of it, battling sophomore Dwayne Washington, among others, to be the featured running back.

Cooper certainly has a maturity advantage that comes with being a senior, but he also has a tenacity from watching so many spring practices from the sideline as well as a gratitude for the opportunity to even put a jersey on. He knows too well what it feels like to not have one.

Mostly, there might be no one on the roster who’s more excited for the daunting and exhausting grind of the offseason and spring practices than Cooper.

“I’ve been looking forward to this -- just a healthy offseason,” Cooper said. “No hiccups, no setbacks. I just wanted a clean slate, just a nice smooth offseason and I’m finally getting it.”

And with that healthy offseason, he has a healthy relationship with a new staff that doesn’t necessarily look at him as “the comeback kid” or “the injured one.” Cooper is just another running back in the group, even if he has a few more scars on his knees.

Cooper said that Petersen has never once brought up the injuries and that’s exactly what Cooper wanted.

“We knew he had some knee injuries, but that’s in the past,” Petersen said. “He’s healthy so we don’t even talk about it.”

“It feels good just to be [seen as]: ‘Deontae, he’s ready to go. I don’t know about what he did in the past or what happened to him in the past,’ ” Cooper added. “That’s good for anybody. A fresh slate like that, I can’t complain.”

This spring, most of his 2010 class is graduating, though there are a few redshirts staying behind with him. And if he fulfills each extra season of eligibility granted to him, he’ll end up graduating with the class that came in this past fall.

So while it might take him seven full years to get four seasons of football in, he isn’t complaining about every extra step -- even when it was on a wobbly knee.

“As far as playing, those three years I sat out, those are three lost years so you can’t get that back,” Cooper said. “But just being much more mature, understanding the game, watching guys leave here … it has helped me.”

Pac-12's lunch links

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

The ball is tipped and there you are. You're running for your life. You're a shooting star.
SEATTLE -- As if there weren’t enough changes at Washington this offseason between the Steve Sarkisian era ending and the Chris Petersen era beginning, the team graduated three-year starter Keith Price and then began spring football without his heir apparent Cyler Miles, who was being investigated for a post-Super Bowl incident.

Last week it was decided that Miles wouldn’t be charged in the incident. However, he still wasn’t back practicing with the team and Petersen wouldn’t give a timeline or ultimate decision on when -- or if -- Miles will return to the team.

“We haven’t really decided on that whole situation,” Petersen said. “It’s kind of one day, one week at a time and there’s no reason to rush anything. We’re always going to do the right thing. … We have to do the right thing by the school, this program and by the kids as well.”

Without Miles as a part of the equation the Huskies are running spring practice with just two quarterbacks, sophomore Jeff Lindquist and redshirt freshman Troy Williams. Between the two, Lindquist is the only one with game experience, though he has only appeared in three games. Miles, on the other hand, appeared in eight games last season for the Huskies, completing 37 of 61 pass attempts for four touchdowns, 418 yards and two interceptions.

Not having Miles this spring puts the Huskies at a disadvantage for next season. But it’s not just the fact that they’re missing their best QB this spring -- they’re also missing any kind of veteran player in the quarterback meeting room, which is a first for offensive coordinator and QB coach Jonathan Smith. It adds yet another wrinkle in the challenges Smith is facing as a coordinator installing a new offense with the Huskies.

“How young we are, and especially you add in the piece of a new offense, so that’s new to us,” Smith said.

But the youth isn’t a complete bad situation for Washington. With younger players it’s easier to mold them into the type of players who better fit into a newer offense and that’s what’s happening with Lindquist and Williams this spring.

[+] EnlargeJeff Lindquist
Otto Greule Jr/Getty ImagesJeff Lindquist is splitting quarterback reps with Troy Williams this spring for the Huskies.
“In some ways they might not be as ingrained in what [Sarkisian had] done,” Smith said. “But I would definitely take a veteran, though, a guy who has seen a lot of plays.”

So far the Huskies have split first-team reps equally with Lindquist and Williams.

Lindquist said that because everything is so new and because both players are inexperienced, this spring has been less about the competition between the two and more about trying to help one another with the offense and playbook.

“Obviously, we’re competing against each other,” Lindquist said. “But I think right now for the two of us it’s more about getting a good grasp of the concepts and how to operate the offense.”

Creating a learning environment with competition between Lindquist and Williams will be crucial for the Huskies whether or not Miles comes back next week, next fall or not at all.

Like every coach, Petersen will rely heavily on his QB, but he’s accustomed to a lot of production out of that position. He’s coming off a season with terrific quarterback play at Boise State. The Broncos finished the 2013-14 season second in QB completion percentage (70.6) while averaging 36 pass attempts per game as opposed to Washington, which attempted only 32 passes per game.

Through 10 practices Petersen has been relatively happy with what he has seen out of his young quarterbacks. Certainly they’re not close to where they want to be, but all things considered -- a coaching change, the quarterback graduation and suspension, new verbiage, new wrinkles -- the transition is running fairly smooth in Seattle.

“I think both guys are making progress, I really do,” Petersen said. “I think both guys are truly improving.”
Happy Friday!
Last week, Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay updated their top-10 lists at each position for the upcoming NFL draft.

Here's a look at how the Pac-12 offensive players stack up:

Quarterback

Marcus Mariota might have been taken No. 1 overall if he decided to leave Oregon, but without him the Pac-12 doesn't have any top-10 representation. Washington's Keith Price, who was not invited to the NFL combine, has a big day on Wednesday when the Huskies hold their pro day. Barring a team taking a flyer on him in the draft, Price is probably going to have to take the undrafted route to forge a NFL career.

Running back/fullback

The surprise here is how little both analysts think of Carey, who was the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year and ranked No. 3 in the nation in rushing yards. Sure, his 40-yard dash time at the NFL combine (4.70) didn't do him any favors, but this feels like a situation where the film isn't speaking as loudly as it does for others.

The love for Thomas was a bit surprising as well, but it's also tough to compare him to the rest of the group because he doesn't project as a true running back in the NFL. His versatility undoubtedly scored him points, but it also should be noted that 10 other running backs clocked faster 40 times at the combine -- including Stanford's Tyler Gaffney. See the whole list here Insider.

Receiver/tight end

Cooks and Lee, a pair of Biletnikoff Award winners, will both expect to hear their name called in the first round. After that, it will be interesting to see how the rest of the pass-catchers fall into place.

[+] EnlargeBrandin Cooks
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhOregon State wideout Brandin Cooks could be a first-round pick.
Notably absent is Colorado WR Paul Richardson, who ran a 4.40 40 at the combine and caught 83 passes for 1,343 yards and 10 touchdowns for the Buffaloes. He still figures to have a shot to go in the second-round to third-round range.

McShay lists Lyerla as the pass-catcher with the biggest risk:
Lyerla has some significant behavioral and emotional issues (leaving the Oregon program at midseason in 2013 and being arrested for cocaine possession weeks later) that just aren't worth dealing with, even for the potential reward his talent promises, were he to straighten things out.

See the whole list here Insider.

Offensive line

If they were quarterbacks, Yankey and Su'a-Filo would be forever linked. Widely regarded as two of the best offensive guards in the country, it will be interesting to see who goes off the board first. Su'a-Filo was the players' choice as the best offensive lineman in the conference in 2013, but Yankey was given the honor in 2012.

Martin is one of eight players Kiper and McShay agree is the best player at his position. See the whole list here Insider.
That was a crazy game of poker.

Biggest shoes to fill: Washington

March, 31, 2014
Mar 31
9:00
AM ET
Starters in, starters out. That's college football. Players' eligibility expires, and they leave for the rest of their lives, which might include the NFL. And they leave behind shoes of various sizes that need to be filled.

In alphabetical order, we will survey each Pac-12 team’s most notable void. Monday, we look at Washington.

Biggest shoes: QB Keith Price

While some might believe it will be more difficult to replace stellar running back Bishop Sankey, the Huskies boast three experienced and capable backs who combined to rush for 815 yards and 10 TDs last season. When you toss in a strong, veteran offensive line, it seems a good bet that among Dwayne Washington, Deontae Cooper and Jesse Callier the Huskies will produce a 1,000-yard rusher again. Yet, we still might have gone with Sankey if not for QB Cyler Miles getting into off-field trouble that presently has him not participating in spring practices and his longterm status in limbo (he has yet to be charged). While not a sure thing, Miles had shown enough under stress in games -- not just throwaway time -- to suggest he could be a more-than-capable Pac-12 QB. Recall that a year ago, some thought he might unseat Price, who struggled in 2012. But this isn't just about uncertainty with Price's departure, it's also a tip of the cap to Price, who is on the short list of best Huskies QBs. He completed 66 percent of his passes last fall for 2,966 yards with 21 touchdowns and six interceptions. He ranked third in the Pac-12 and 20th in the nation in passing efficiency. He also rushed for five touchdowns. And he became the school's all-time leader in touchdown passes with 75, completion percentage (64 percent) and passing efficiency. He played through injuries throughout his career and showed mental toughness with his bounce-back in 2013. Moreover, if you polled the 2013 Huskies on who the best-liked guy on the team was, I'd wager it would be Price, whose nickname, "Teeth," was based on his bright and constant smile.

Stepping in: TBA
If Miles can settle his legal problems, which also involve top receiver Damore'ea Stringfellow, then he still seems like the frontrunner, even if he's suspended for a game or two or three. But maybe not. We don't know much of new coach Chris Petersen's thinking on this one. Miles might find himself irrevocably entrenched in Petersen's doghouse. Or he might just get booted from the team entirely. There is another option: Sophomore Jeff Lindquist or redshirt freshman Troy Williams simply plays great and outright wins the job. The problem with that is neither has thrown a pass in college. Miles beat Lindquist out for the backup job last season, but there's a new coaching staff and offensive system, so the slate is mostly clean along those lines. Neither Lindquist nor Williams has produced any obvious separation during the first portion of spring practices, which resume on Tuesday. Finally, uncertainty at QB is not a good thing in the Pac-12 in 2014, with 10 conference teams owning a fair degree of certainty at the game's most important position this spring. Only Arizona and the Huskies are looking for new starters.

Previous big shoes

Pac-12's lunch links

March, 26, 2014
Mar 26
2:30
PM ET
Whether it's rock and roll or old soul, it don't matter.

SPONSORED HEADLINES