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Pac-12 spring football ends in time (almost) for regular season

May 10, 2012|By Chris Dufresne
  • UCLA football Coach Jim Mora during spring practice.
UCLA football Coach Jim Mora during spring practice. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)

Spring football in the Pac 12 stretched out so long it nearly had to sign up for summer school.

It finally ended last Saturday, on Cinco de Mora, with a ruby-red sunset over the Rose Bowl’s west end.

UCLA, a team that still has a lot of hay to bail, was last team in the barn.

Rick Neuheisel, the former coach who left a quarterback son (Jerry) on the bench, watched as a proud pop from on high (the stands) as new Coach Jim Mora demanded more pop from his Bruins defense.

The end-game allowed the Pac 12 to coordinate a wrap-up teleconference to familiarize reporters with some of the new faces and fashions.

So what did we learn?

“We don’t have answers that are answered after spring,” Oregon Coach Chip Kelly offered.

Spoken like a true almost-was/soon-to-be NFL coach.

First-year Washington State Coach Mike Leach was said to be out of cellphone range on a return trip from Mars as part of his never-ending "Swing Your Lawsuit" book tour.

We did get grainy, audio feedback from first-year men Mora (UCLA), Rich Rodriguez (Arizona) and Todd Graham (Arizona State).

Teleconference takeaways:

-- Wow, is this an eclectic group of whistle blowers. Adding Leach, RichRod, Mora and Graham to a conference with Kelly and Lane Kiffin is like dropping a Mento into Diet Coke.

What a car collision of personalities and styles. Leach, Rodriguez and Graham run variations of the spread offense. Leach’s system is pass-the-pumpkin, while Rodriguez and Graham’s offense will be rooted closer to the ground. They’ll match wits with Kelly’s pace-setter in Eugene. Mora is a defensive mind with NFL lineage.

The Pac 12 in 2012, as a Jeopardy question, would be "Hodgepodge."

-- Is there life at Stanford after Andrew Luck?

"I’m not going to lie," Cardinal Coach David Shaw said. "There’s a little bit of an Andrew Luck hangover going on here at Palo Alto."

Take two aspirin and call us some August morning.

Brett Nottingham and Josh Nunes are the "lucky" hurlers looking to succeed Luck.

"The quickest way for those guys to lose the competition is to try to be Andrew," Shaw said.

Dear Abby couldn’t have offered better advice.

-- The conference is, and always has been, as good as its quarterbacks. Fall camp could be more exciting than "American Idol" tryouts.

Let’s divide this into camps:

Stable: USC, Washington, Oregon. USC’s only worry is how best to manage Matt Barkley’s Heisman campaign.

Washington State once mailed tree parts to promote a failed campaign for Ryan Leaf.

In other words, USC, don’t start mailing out chunks of bark.

Washington is ultra set with Keith Price, who kept pace with Baylor’s Robert Griffin III in last year’s 67-56 Alamo Bowl loss.

Oregon? Trust me, the Ducks would have been a lot worse off had Darron Thomas stayed and Kelly left to coach at Tampa Bay. Thomas made an ill-advised decision to op -out early for an NFL he may never play in. The Ducks should be just fine, though, with either Bryan Bennett (despite a poor spring game) or Marcus Mariota.

It’s the system, not the signal caller, at Oregon.

Settled but shaky: Oregon State, California, Arizona, Washington State, Utah. Mike Riley ran Ryan Katz out of Corvallis in favor of Sean Mannion, who threw 18 passes for interceptions. Cal Coach Jeff Tedford is sold on Zach Maynard … why? Fifth-year clip-board holder Matt Scott becomes RichRod’s point man in Tucson, while it will be interesting to see whether injury-riddled Jeff Tuel can thrive in Leach’s offense. Utah’s concern with Jordan Wynn (two shoulder surgeries) is keeping him on the field.

-- Up for grabs: UCLA, Stanford, Arizona State, Colorado. Most expect Brett Hundley will win the job at UCLA, Stanford could be an opening-huddle decision, Arizona State is looking at three candidates to succeed Brock Osweiler, while Colorado weighs the difference between Nick Hirschman and Texas-transfer Connor Wood.

-- Best defensive coordinator off-season hire: Justin Wilcox (Washington). Wilcox succeeds Nick Holt, whose bend-and-break defense allowed 453.3 yards per game. Wilcox, at Boise State and Tennessee, proved himself to be one of the nation’s top defensive minds.

-- Toughest defensive coordinator job: Mike Breske (Washington State). How do you prepare for running teams when all your own team does in practice is throw?

Leach’s high-octane offense could leave Breske’s defense fuming as it tries to stop Pac-12 schools that run.

-- Don’t miss this year’s "Big Game" on Oct. 20.

Excuse me?

Part of the Pac 12’s new television deal requires moving some games off their traditional dates.

Stanford vs. Cal is the first casualty.

"Playing Stanford in the middle of the season is going to feel really odd," Cal Coach Jeff Tedford said.

End quote from Arizona State Coach Todd Graham, trying to change the football culture.

"It’s not about coming in and being a jerk. It’s about developing relationships with players."

Quickie end quote follow-up:  Graham comes to Tempe after one season of relationship building at the University of Pittsburgh.

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 Pac-12 spring football ends in time (almost) for regular season  

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