(Our spring wraps are a recap of events from spring practices from around the country. For more detailed information on each team see our Conference Look Aheads)
Compared to the other BCS conferences the Pac-10 was relatively quiet this spring. It's business as usual in most places out west. Sure the big news was the fact that Oregon conducted its first spring practice in 14 years without Mike Bellotti at the helm, but even this transition to Chip Kelly appears so seamless that we don't expect the Ducks to miss a beat.
Quarterback jobs were apparently won at USC and UCLA, and the Trojan backfield remains as crowded as ever. And while his former USC cohort was raising all kinds of hell out of Knoxville, Steve Sarkisian was just sending mindless messages on Twitter.
Let's get to the summer months when we may see some real movers and shakers emerge on the left coast.
Movers and Shakers (newbies that made noise)
**QB Aaron Corp, USC
QB Andrew Luck, Stanford
*RB Chris Polk, Washington
RB Ryan Bass, Arizona State
RB Jovan Stevenson, Oregon State
RB Curtis McNeal, USC
*WR Marvin Jones, Cal
WR Alex Lagemann, Cal
*WR Jamere Holland, Oregon
WR Aaron Pflugrad, Oregon
WR Chris Harper, Oregon
*WR Darrell Catchings, Oregon State
WR Casey Kjos, Oregon State
WR Jordan Bishop, Oregon State
WR Bug Wright, Arizona
WR Gerell Robinson, Arizona State
* denotes draft worthy player in BCS-only leagues
** denotes draft worthy player in All-120 leagues
The ballyhooed spring battle between Matt Scott and Nick Foles produced no real separation. This race will continue into the summer and fall. Regardless of which quarterback wins the job he’d be wise to find Bug Wright, a receiver who emerged during spring drills and who'll look to raise a ruckus underneath secondaries. Of course he’ll have to look closely as the 5’8” receiver may be lost among the trees. But Mike Thomas isn’t a big fella either.
Quarterbacks stole the show at Arizona State this spring. Jack Elway has decided he’s had enough football, and Steven Threet decided he had enough of Rich Rodriguez at Michigan, so he’ll look to compete for the starting job at ASU in 2010. As for this season it appears that Danny Sullivan will assume the role as leader of Dennis Erickson’s offense. Though we continue to think that the seat is being kept warm for Brock Osweiler.
In running back news Ryan Bass really pushed Dimitri Nance this spring, and there’s a very good chance that Bass takes the job eventually. Regardless, split carries appear very likely.
Looking for a possible WR sleeper? Then it’s definitely Gerell Robinson, who has reportedly made some great strides.
One of our Cal areas of focus this spring was the development of the wide receivers and tight ends. By all accounts Marvin Jones had a spectacular spring, and he immediately becomes a draftable late-round commodity, and certainly a top WR in Pac-10 leagues. Michael Calvin was held out will recovering from an ACL injury last fall, and it is unknown if he'll be ready this fall. Should Calvin be fine then he, along with Jones, should pair with Alex Lagemann (took advantage of Calvin’s absence) to breathe some life into the Cal passing game. Tight end Tad Smith broke his shoulder blade, which is never good for development.
It also sounds like Kevin Riley held on to the starting quarterback job...for now.
RB LeGarrette Blount was back from suspension but was hobbled by an ankle injury. Blount was also carrying around a little extra baggage this spring. We’d prefer that Blount not appear in any more headlines until the season begins. Staying in the Oregon backfield, though LaMichael James was limited with by a shoulder injury for most of spring he appears to be the ying to Blount's yang. See Johnson, Jeremiah in 2008.
The light bulb turned on this spring for speedy WR Jamere Holland. Holland, Jeff Maehl and Aaron Pflugrad exit spring as the starters. The versatile (even took some reps at runnin back this spring) Chris Harper is a wildcard and will be heavily involved in the offense as well. Both Holland and Harper are decent sleeper considerations.
Lyle Moevao sat out spring after having shoulder surgery, and there are lots of ifs on Moevao's return to 100 precent health this fall, making him too risky to draft. Sean Canfield will be the starter should Moevao be unable to take snaps.
WR Darrell Catchings should take over Sammie Stroughter’s spot, and fellow wide receiver Casey Kjos looked very good.
Running back Ryan McCants was injured in a April 24 scrimmage, and he will need knee surgery. Jovan Stevenson, who was already making a push to serve as Jacquizz Rodgers' backup, should be a clear #2 come fall.
Aaron Corp exists the clear-cut starter. Barring a strong push from Matt Barkley he will start on September 5 against San Jose State. Corp was almost perfect this spring, and it’s looking more and more like Mitch Mustain will have a difficult time seeing significant snaps in the Coliseum.
At the running back spot it’s same old, same old. Backs go from looking brilliant to nursing injuries at a moment’s notice. Shampoo, rinse and repeat. RB Joe McKnight (dislocated toes) returned to practice late while C.J. Gable and Allen Bradford dealt with hamstrings. Not to be left out Stafon Johnson sat some practices with a knee issue. Curtis McNeal also had a nice spring and will be in the mix this fall. All backs are very, very good and none are worth a high fantasy selection.
Talented tight end Blake Ayles spent his spring recovering from knee surgery, though he remains convinced that he will be good to go this fall.
QB Andrew Luck was the story of the spring, and it appears to be just a matter of time before he takes over for incumbent Tavita Pritchard
And the other news deals with team heart and soul Toby Gerhart. Gerhart is currently hitting about .280 with a very nice slugging percentage for the baseball squad, and like Minnesota’s Eric Decker and Notre Dame's Golden Tate, there is a very good chance that the Cardinal back will be a high selection in MLB’s June draft. Gerhart is a very talented and well-rounded baseball player. And while we expect him on the gridiron this fall there is still a chance he’s on a minor league bus this summer.
Kevin Prince was named the starting quarterback this spring, though even with Norm Chow’s presence it’s hard to see good fantasy numbers coming from a quarterback in Westwood in 2009.
Despite missing much of the spring it appears that the starting running back job belongs to Christian Ramirez. He brings a nice combination of size and speed, though we haven’t seen enough to have too much optimism. In other running back news it looks like the crowded UCLA backfield will thin out a bit as one of my favorite keeper backs heading into last season, Aundre Dean, is exploring his transfer options.
We’ve learned that Coach Sarkisian likes to Twitter, and he (or some grad assistant with Sark’s phone) likes to Twitter a lot. However because it’s reported that Twitter’s retention rate is around 35% there’s a very good chance we won’t read Coach Sark’s thoughts on everything come fall.
And to be completely honest we are having a tough time keeping track of who is playing running back and who is playing wide receiver on any given day. As of today Chris Polk is your starter at running back and we like this kid’s upside playing alongside Jake Locker...that is until he is moved to wide receiver and someone else comes back to running back.
RB/WR Curtis Shaw is back after taking a year off, and he was working out at running back. Which, as we just mentioned, means he will likely be playing wide receiver or nose tackle come fall.
Not too much to report out of Wazzu this spring. Dwight Tardy and Cal transfer James Montgomery seemed to split a majority of the snaps. One steady back for WSU will have a hard time making a fantasy impact for in 2009, so clearly we don’t see much potential in either making noise.
We still like WR Jeshua Anderson and TE Jared Karstetter in deep Pac-10 leagues this fall, and we were pleased to learn of Anderson’s increased bulk gained without suffering any speed.