Pac-12 Coaches Talk Anonymously About Conference Foes for 2014

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Coaches dish on all 12 teams in the Pac-12.

Pac-12 Coaches Talk Anonymously About Conference Foes for 2014

It's not easy getting college football coaches to honestly comment on another coach, player or team. Most coaches don't want to give opposing teams billboard material, which is why there is a lot of coach speak or overused cliches used during the year.

 

In order to get an accurate assessment of teams heading into 2014, Athlon asked coaches in the Pac-12 to talk anonymously about their opponents.

 

Note: These scouting reports come directly from coaching staffs and do not necessarily reflect the views of Athlon's editorial staff.

 

Pac-12 Coaches Anonymously Scout Conference Foes
 

North Division

 

California


“They just struggled. Defensively, they were one of the worst in the country.”…

“The offense wasn’t controlling the ball really well. The defense couldn’t stop anybody. They made some staff changes.”…

“I know they are high on the young quarterback, Jared Goff, but they had no one to protect him last year. They have to get better up front to give him time.”…

“There’s still some talent there – they lost five guys to the draft – and this year’s recruiting class was pretty good.”…

“They run the Air Raid, which puts a lot of pressure on the quarterback, but Cal wants to complement that with big backs in the running game, and they didn’t have that last year. Maybe with a year of recruiting and development they can get that.”…

“Injuries just killed them last year. It happens to everybody, but they got hit bad.”…

“Sonny just had a nightmarish first year. They were moving defensive lineman to the offensive line midseason.”…

“They need to find ways just to win a few games. They basically needed to score 50 points to win last year because the defense was so bad and they couldn’t do it.”…

“Hiring Art Kaufman to run the defense is one of the more important hires in the league because Cincinnati was a top-10 defense last year.”…

“If they can just get some help defensively and find a few young playmakers, build the depth a bit, that can go a long way for them.”…
 

Oregon


“To me the whole thing that happened to them was Mariota was hurt for 4-5 games. They never ran him. When he was running, nobody was beating them. He ran again in the bowl game and you could see a different guy. If he stays healthy, they are the best team in the league and the most explosive.”…

“They lost some guys on defense, and losing their coordinator is going to be huge.”…

“Offensively, if healthy, with the run-pass dimension, they are basically unstoppable. Mariota’s running is such a big part of their offense, that when he was out it was tough.”…

“Mariota reminds me a lot of Colin Kaepernick. When he ran, forget it. That’s the same thing with him. Against Stanford, they had no design runs for him. That’s a huge dimension.”…

“They are huge on the defensive line, they were one of the biggest teams we saw. They had some big boys up there.”…

“You’ve got to know how to pick up Stanford’s stunts. If not, it’s tough to deal with. That’s what happened.”…

“The young tight end, Pharaoh Brown, he is a specimen of a player. He can run, is big and athletic.”…

“The young tailback, Thomas Tyner, he’s a lot faster than you think. I didn’t realize how fast he was until he’s on the field. He’s a powerful back. He’s really good. I don’t know if people realize how good he really is yet.”…

 

Oregon State


“They were a big-play team. Of course, many of the big plays came with receiver Brandin Cooks, who was phenomenal and will be sorely missed.”…

“I thought they did a good job getting the ball to the running backs in the passing game.”…

“Sean Mannion can make every throw. They are a threat to score from anywhere.”…

“Their defense played really hard. Defensive end Scott Crichton caused a lot of problems, played hard, played aggressively. They’ll definitely miss him.”…

“Safety Ryan Murphy impressed me. He’s a playmaker.”…

“I thought they were really high in effort and played sound and fundamental. They always brought it every game.”…

“A concern would be that, since they are such a big-play-oriented team and do so much straight drop back, it seems when they turn the ball over, they turn the ball over in droves. The games they lost, it seemed they had 4-5 turnovers.”…

“They had enough firepower, good special teams, well coached - just turned it over too much.”…

“They are trying to throw the ball downfield a lot, and that causes problems. We basically double covered Cooks a few times and Mannion still threw it. He came down with it and we should have come down with it. It’s kind of feast of famine. It’s a huge part of their offense and sometimes it can be a negative. It’s like basketball with a guard that keeps shooting. Mannion won a lot of games for them, too.”…

“I would think this year they would have more balance.”…
 

Stanford


“Obviously they were pretty senior-heavy last year, so they could be young in the back end. Still, they have quite a bit left there.”…

“What they do schematically is pretty darn good.”…

“One of the things they did is, though their first-line guys were senior-heavy, they still played a lot of guys in a steady rotation. Those guys will be ready now.”…

“With the staff, they’ll keep a lot of continuity in what they are doing.”…

“One of the top defensive teams in the country, no doubt.”…

“I think one of the keys to their offense, the thing that makes them tough, is the explosive receivers they’ve got. The Montgomery kid is one of the top players in the conference, and he doesn’t get a lot of pub.”…

“They’ll do a great job running the football.”…

“They have a couple of tough receivers that make them go. They’ll miss Gaffney, who was making a lot more of those bigger runs late in the year.”…

“I think it’s one of the most overstated parts of their offense is the ability to hit vertical shots. I think it’s pretty clear, they are going to run the ball.”…

“One thing they might be missing is the elite tight ends they had in the past. Last year’s guys didn’t have as much experience, so maybe there was a bit of a drop off there.”…

 

Washington


“I know they lost quite a few guys, but Coach Petersen, everyone has a ton of respect for him as a coach and what he does. It will be quite intriguing to see what he does, especially what they do schematically on offense and defense.”…

“Petersen is adaptive. If you look at the different ways he won while at Boise, he was always very innovative. He’s been very successful over a good period of time. He keeps players accountable. The question coming in was can he sustain recruiting and it seems they did pretty well last year.”…

“Marcus Peters, I think he’s one of the top corners in the league. They have some good outside linebackers, some guys up front who can cause some trouble.”…

“If you look at talent, they will always be up there in the Pac-12. Sark recruited well there but couldn’t produce a breakthrough season. With a new coach they will be motivated.”…

“I think Petersen has shown he’s a really good coach, but how does everything fit? It has to be a good marriage. It seems it will be on the surface but still hard to tell.”…

“Replacing Bishop Sankey and Keith Price won’t be easy. Sankey was their safety valve. You could go to him 25 or 30 times and he would get it done. Not sure what they have in the backfield now.”…

“They were pretty high on the quarterback Cyler Miles, but he was suspended during the spring, so who knows where that will go.”…

 

Washington State


“I thought they were pretty good on defense, and talent wise, with their defensive line, you saw in some games they did a few good things. They weren’t always dominant, but they did dominate the USC game up front. They mauled them.”…

“They are returning a lot of guys, and they have the quarterback, Connor Halliday, returning who’s in his third year, so that offense will put up points again.”…

“Leach knows what he’s doing. They have a bunch of guys they feel comfortable with in their third season.”…

“If you can jump out on them, that’s what can hurt them, because they turn the ball over when they get rattled because they throw so much. When you turn the ball over and are not as efficient as you’d like to be, it’s hard to win.”…

“You have to be balanced in what you’re doing, or at least that’s what some believe in. Everybody has his own way. But with throwing as much as they do, if you don’t have an elite quarterback, that system can place a lot of pressure on the passer. I’m not sure Halliday is elite enough in that regard, though maybe another year in the system will make him so. Leach hasn’t always had elite quarterbacks and has made it work, but eventually you hit a ceiling because defenses sit on those short routes.”…

“Their receivers are getting better and the quarterback should be better than he was.”…

 

Listen to the Cover 2 college football podcast with guest Steven Godfrey:

 

South Division

 

Arizona


“They’ve done a good job defensively. They are probably the most improved defense in the league.”…

“Coach Rodriguez does a good job. He kind of changed up to adapt to the personnel.”…

“They are still young with a bunch of players. They lost probably the best player in the league last year. After watching him for two years, Ka’Deem Carey was unbelievable. Replacing the quarterback and him will be big.”…

“If they are able to get someone in there to manage the game at quarterback it will be crucial, because they will have different transfers coming in and a few receivers back from injury, so they need to find a rhythm quickly.”…

“They have a chance to be explosive offensively, depending on whom they have calling the shots at quarterback. But they’ve always been run-heavy so that probably won’t change.”…

“Everything will start with the run. They try to be balanced. They’ve got a ton of quarterbacks, though —I think they have six or seven. I have no idea who the guy will be, which can be a good or bad thing. Junior college transfers, high school kids – they have a ton on scholarship. I’m not sure who the guy is going to be.”…

“Defensively, they play a heavier technique, an inside shade to try to stop the interior run game. They were able to stop the run more efficiently. It forced teams to do other things. They did a good job against Oregon though that was when Mariota was limited.”…

 

Arizona State


“At times, they were the best team in the league.”…

“They lose a bunch of guys on defense, but Todd Graham does a great job with that unit, so they should be fine.”…

“The quarterback, Taylor Kelly, is really underrated. He’s not as flashy as the other guys but he’s really good. He just gets things done. I really like him. He might not play in the NFL, but he’s a great player for that scheme.”…

“They’ve got some big receivers that I’ve seen. Really big and athletic. They’ve done a good job finding those guys and getting them involved. From the sidelines you say, ‘Gosh, those receivers are huge and they can run.”…

“I thought Stanford beat them twice handedly, and it looked like to me, defensively, that they stunt a lot and press you a lot, and Stanford was able to stay in there, run on them and play-action pass. That’s how they got hurt. Texas Tech spread them out and hit them with seam routes when they blitzed. That’s how those two teams hurt them - two different ends of the spectrum, but when they were pressuring they were attacking the one-on-one. With Stanford, when they saw a crease, they hit it.”…

“They were big but just okay on the offensive line. I think they were probably fourth or fifth there, but they were so good with what they did. They didn’t just maul you, but they were good technique wise.”…

 

Colorado


“Very well-coached.”…

“Paul Richardson was a concern, but his departure is a relief for Pac-12 cornerbacks.”…

“It’s a very different team from the year before. They seemed to be disjointed in 2012. No strategic plan on either side of the ball. These coaches know what they’re doing. Kids reflected that. Played with a ton more confidence.”…

“They did a really good job coming in on short notice and getting their system in and they do a good job schematically. They finished up the year pretty strong so signs are positive - but how far they are able to progress is hard to tell. You just never know because it’s hard to gauge their talent level – they’ve been a bit behind since joining the Pac-12 - but the coaching staff is good. Can they recruit enough will be the question?”…

“They had a true freshman middle linebacker, Addison Gillam, who made a ton of plays.”…

“The best player was a defensive end, Chidera Uzo-Diribe, who’s gone. He was strong, one of their best players the last couple of years. Losing him will be big.”…

“They’ve been really young the last few years, so if they can get the right personnel in there, they have a chance. They almost always have good first-half game plans.”…

“It seems quarterback Sefo Liufau is mentally tough and does all the things they want, but I’m not sure how prolific he is. He could turn into that, but do they have a quarterback that can push them to the middle-of-the-pack in the league or better?

 

UCLA


“A lot of people are going to be placing them to finish first in the league. Their best offensive lineman declared early, but the young guys they are high on and already played some, probably by design. I think they’ve done a good job, it’s just about how you catch them.”…

“You can have success moving the football on them. They make you finish drives and can turn you over, but if you’re sound you can get yards and score on them. You can also sneak in a big play or two on them.”…

“Defensively they continue to grow as a unit. They lost a couple of talented playmakers.”…

“Myles Jack is athletic, you have a guy at that size who can run around like he does, either at running back or linebacker. He’s impressive. Playing offense and defense can be good and bad for a young player. It will be interesting to see how they do that again because do you want to overuse him?”…

“Brett Hundley’s biggest thing is extending plays. When I watch him, I don’t see him throw a ton on time. He’s not a guy from what I’ve seen who’s going to hit the mark. When he’ll hurt you is when he runs around. He’s hurt a lot of people that way. If you can get to him, he can struggle a little bit. You’ve got to keep him contained. If you let him outside, the offense is tough to stop.”…

 

USC


“Just extremely talented. I know they lost five guys or so early to the draft, but going into our game I thought defensively they were one of the most talented in the country.”…

“Defensive end Leonard Williams is one of the toughest players in the entire league.”…

“They were talented at a lot of positions but struggled with depth. The teams that played tempo and were able to sustain drives on them with multiple positions could hurt them. Extremely talented enough to offset that, though.”…

“They will change a little bit defensively. With Justin Wilcox coming in, they are a base three-down team, but there will be some changing of formations and personnel. It’s their third defensive coordinator in three years.”…

“They probably have the best set of running backs in the league.”…

“I keep hearing it’s an open competition at quarterback, but Cody Kessler’s their guy, it seems.”…

“I think they are probably getting closer to where they want to be.”…

“The defensive linemen are really talented.”…

“They are not at top strength with full scholarships. It will be interesting to see what Sark does. They finished well in recruiting, but if you can’t recruit at USC you have some issues.”…

“Defensively, I thought they were dang good in front seven when they wanted to play. The safeties will come down and hit you but are maybe overly aggressive. Wasn’t impressed with corners based on caliber USC should have. You could confuse their front seven with blocking schemes up front.”…

 

Utah


“They have a really good defensive line, which surprises no one. They always do.”…

“They struggled a bit when their quarterback (Travis Wilson) was hurt. If he’s healthy, it will really help their team. When Wilson was the quarterback, they were able to do some things in those games because of the throws he could make.”…

“When they beat Stanford, it showed how physical and tough they are.”…

“Wilson is athletic and throws better than average, but they didn’t use him to their advantage as a dual-threat quarterback – they tried to make him a play-action guy and he’s just okay at that”….

“On defense, they are really aggressive. I think they were a little lean on the back end, which is a bad spot to be thin the Pac-12. Their inside guys were really powerful. Maybe their outside guys aren’t as good of pass rushers as you need with speed sideline to sideline, but they are stout against the run against powerful teams.”…

“Down the line, they can compete. Their corners were pretty big, and they did a lot of zone blitzing. When they have lock-down corners, they are really good. The last few years they haven’t had the same caliber of cornerback. Have had to play more zone pressures.”…

“When Wilson was there they were doing pretty good, but that was a big loss for them. If he’s healthy, that will help the offense.”…

“I’m not sure what happened with (former offensive coordinator) Dennis Erickson. The offense was sort of handcuffed because of the quarterback injuries.”…

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