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Pac-12 Coaches Talk Anonymously About Conference Foes for 2015

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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 2015, Athlon asked coaches in the ACC to talk anonymously about their opponents.

Related: Pac-12 Predictions for 2015

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

“I think those guys made a little more progress in Year 2 than most people expected.”

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“They were really a handful of plays away from going 8–5, and most of it was because of their young kids, so that bodes pretty well for the future.”

“With Jared Goff, the numbers weren’t dramatically different from his freshman to sophomore year, but the film was much better. He’s pretty accurate throwing to all three levels, he doesn’t throw interceptions, and he doesn’t get sacked very often. That’s what you need in Sonny Dykes’ system. He had a clear conviction about the guy throwing him out there as a freshman, and it’s probably going to pay off this year.”

“They don’t have receivers that blow you away athletically, but they’ll go four or five wide and try to find a good matchup on the perimeter.”

“When they’re in a rhythm and playing at a high tempo, that’s tough to stop.”

“They had some issues defensively, and I think you’ll see a lot of new personnel on the back end because teams just threw it over the top on them all day long.”

“They brought in some juco guys, so we’ll see if that makes a difference. I know they feel like their depth has improved across the board.” 

“Their pass rush was basically nonexistent last year.”

 I think they’ll be better, but there aren’t a lot of easy wins in this league. They can definitely get to a bowl game, but it’s a thin line when you’re still trying to plug holes and rebuild.” 

Related: College Football's Top 50 Players for 2015

Oregon

“In my mind, they’re still the team to beat until somebody knocks them off.”

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“It’s not like this is the first time they’ve lost key guys and had to re-boot a little bit.”

“I read a bunch of stuff after the championship game about how their window was closing without Marcus Mariota, but they’re still going to be really good.”

“I haven’t really studied the quarterback from Eastern Washington (Vernon Adams) yet, but I’m sure they did their homework and feel like he’s got a chance to help them. Without having him in the spring, it’ll be interesting to see how much ground he can make up.”

“Their depth at receiver is sickening, and a lot of those guys can do different things. It’s not just all speed; they’re pretty good blockers too.”

“They’re so talented on the perimeter — I don’t think the next guy has to come in and be Marcus Mariota.”

“I’m not sure it would have made a difference against Ohio State, but I think losing Devon Allen in the Rose Bowl really hurt them.”

“Royce Freeman is already a grown man. He’s everything you want in a running back, and he’s only going to get better and stronger. He was as good as anyone the last half of the season.”

“They won’t be as good up front, but they got experience for some of their younger guys last year when Jake Fisher and Hroniss Grasu got hurt.”

“Switching Charles Nelson over to defense is classic Oregon. They recruit the guy to play receiver, he’s great down the stretch and then he willingly moves to defensive back because they needed more help there. That says it all about the culture they’ve got there.”

Related: Pac-12 Predictions for 2015

Oregon State

“I would think the difference in style of play is going to be pretty dramatic when you look at what they’ve got coming back and what Gary (Andersen) has done in the past.”

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“They were one of the most prolific passing teams in the country the last two years, but unless one of their freshman quarterbacks is all-world, they’re going to have to completely change their identity and play more ball control like they did at Wisconsin. I don’t think that’s what they want to be long-term because they brought in Dave Baldwin to run the spread, but they just have a lot of question marks at quarterback.”

“Storm Woods is pretty talented, but he’s never been the focus of their offense. I don’t know exactly how the new staff is going to use him, but I’m sure those guys put in some tape of Melvin Gordon and said, ‘Let’s go,’ to fire him up, which is really half the battle. If he buys in, they’re experienced enough up front that they’ll be decent running the ball.”

“From a personnel standpoint, they’re pretty much starting over on defense, so your guess is as good as mine.”

“We know what Kalani (Sitake) did at Utah, but they’re going to need some time to get the right kind of players in there to run that system.”

Related: New Coach Gary Andersen Faces Tough Task Against "Best of the Best"

Stanford

“I don’t know why it hasn’t totally clicked with Kevin Hogan. He looks the part and he doesn’t get them beat, but for whatever reason he just hasn’t gotten to that next level everybody envisioned when he played so well as a freshman.”

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“You can’t totally judge him (Hogan) on the numbers because of how conservative they play on offense. Still, it was a struggle last year. If they hadn’t turned it around the last three games, I’m not sure he’d have stuck around.”

“If he comes back with a big senior year, they have a chance because their tight ends, receivers and running backs are all good enough to win games in this league. It’s a solid group.”

“Ed McCaffrey’s kid (Christian McCaffrey) is going to be a big-time player for them. They’ve got to figure out a way to get him more touches.”

“Defensively, I think it’ll be hard for them to get back to where they were a couple of years ago.”

“It looked like their young guys got better as the year went on, but I just don’t see another Trent Murphy or Shayne Skov out there.”

“You can talk about system and player development, but you still need some difference-makers. (Blake) Martinez is good, he’s just not at that level. If the defensive end (Solomon Thomas, who redshirted in 2014) is as good as advertised, maybe he could be that guy.”

Related: College Football Bowl Projections for 2015

Washington

“From the outside looking in, it seems like Chris Petersen had to clean up some stuff off the field from the previous staff, and that’s never easy. At Boise, he had the best talent in the league and everyone in the organization understood their culture. I think he figured out pretty quick this is a different deal.”

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“When you look at some of the big-time guys they lost, I think they may take a few steps back before they move forward.”

“You have to give their staff the benefit of the doubt until some of their guys (they recruited) hit the field, but they’re going to have some personnel problems this year.”

“It’s hard to get a feel for the offense because they’re completely new up front and they’re basically starting over at quarterback. That’s not usually a great formula for success.”

“The backup from last year (Jeff Lindquist) has some experience, but they may have better options with their newcomers. It’s just hard to say until you see them on the field.”

“I don’t see how they’re going to rebuild the front seven on the fly unless all the guys who were backups last year are ready to start. They were pretty good there last season, but they lost a ton.”

“The secondary is probably the most established group on their team. Budda Baker was one of the better freshmen we saw last year. He could be one of those guys people just don’t throw on.”

Washington State

“People are going to focus on the quarterback situation, but I think that’s the least of their worries.”

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“I hate to say this, but it may have been a blessing in disguise that Connor Halliday got hurt last year because they got a look at the other kid (Luke Falk) and probably have a pretty good idea what they’re working with going into the season. I don’t really know how good he is, but he threw the ball seventy-something times against Arizona State (45-of-74) so it’s not like they tried to hide him.”

“They bring back their entire offensive line back, and those guys were solid last year. They’ve got kids in the program now who know the system and what to expect.”


“They’re going to need some newcomers to show up ready to play on defense. They had one of the better linemen in the league last year (Xavier Cooper), but he and the nose tackle who was pretty good (Kalafitoni Pole) are both gone, so I’m not sure who they’ve got in there.”

“With a new defensive coordinator, I think they’ll make some changes schematically and look at some guys who maybe didn’t play a lot last year.”

“When you play like they do offensively, you’ve got to cause some havoc with your defense, and they just didn’t create a lot of turnovers.”

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South Division

Arizona

“If anyone in the country got more out of his roster last year than Rich Rodriguez, I don’t know who it is.”

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“You can say they got some breaks, and they did, but to come in with a (redshirt) freshman quarterback (Anu Solomon) and a freshman tailback (Nick Wilson) and win the best division in college football outside of the SEC West is pretty tough to do.”

“It seemed like Rich was playing mind games with the kid (Solomon) all season, and then he ripped him after the bowl game and said he had to win the job again. I laughed at that one. The guy threw for 4,000 yards as a freshman and is probably going to have a great year.”

“Their receivers and running backs are just fast across the board. Austin Hill was their third option in the passing game last year, and he’d probably be a front-line guy just about anywhere in the league. Cayleb Jones did nothing at Texas and instantly becomes a 1,000-yard guy in that system.”

“The tough thing about playing their defense is you can’t really scheme for Scooby Wright. Your guys know where he’s coming from and what he’s trying to do, but his motor is just off the charts, and he’s going to get five or six opportunities to make a game-changing play just off effort. He’s a special dude.”

“They need to find another guy besides Scooby who can pressure the quarterback.”

“People are going to try to throw over the top on them until their DBs prove they can cover. Boise State exposed them a little bit in the bowl game.”

Related: College Football's Top 50 Players for 2015

Arizona State

“I can’t speak to their locker room dynamic last year, but I’m not sure they were playing the right quarterback. I know Taylor Kelly was their guy and they couldn’t take his job over an injury, but to me, they were more dynamic when Mike Bercovici was in there. He’s got legitimate arm talent.”

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“Jaelen Strong made their passing game look better than it was last year. They had pretty good skill on the perimeter, but he was just so much physically stronger than the DBs in this league, it was almost comical. That’s a big loss for them.”

“The reason they’re moving D.J. Foster to the slot is because Demario Richard is the real deal. Physically, he looks like a grown man and runs like it too.” 

“Todd Graham ran the no-huddle back going back to Tulsa, and his teams have always put up a lot of points, but people forget he’s really a defensive guy. They’re probably more established in what they want to do on that side of the ball than they are offensively with everyone coming back but the safety (Damarious Randall).”

“He likes to blitz and get your offense out of rhythm. They switch up their pressure so much your QB has to really be on his toes and figure out where it’s coming from.”

“They’re one of the tougher teams to prepare for.”  

“When you’ve got two senior cornerbacks and an all-conference guy like Jordan Simone on the back end, you can take some chances with your pressure.” 

Related: Arizona State QB Mike Bercovici Finally in the Spotlight

Colorado

“I know ‘almost’ doesn’t mean much in this business, but they lost three or four conference games almost on the final play. They were a little better than their record.”

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“I don’t think there’s a tougher rebuilding job in the country when you think about how far down they were coming into the Pac-12 and all the sudden everyone else in the division has it rolling a little bit.”

“They’re doing the right things to get on a level playing field from a facility standpoint, and they’re getting better. It’s just hard to get the momentum going until you start winning games.”

“You’re just not going to win very much giving up as many yards as they did in the running game (204.8 ypg) and not creating turnovers or sacks.”

“I think it’s pretty simple. If they don’t get better up front with the schedule they play, they might struggle to win a game in the league.”

“They’re maturing on offense. Sefo (Liufau) has a lot of snaps under his belt, and if he can be a little more consistent in his decision-making he can be really effective before it’s all said and done.”

“(Nelson) Spruce is just a fantastic route-runner. I was a little surprised he didn’t put his name in the draft after blowing up last year, but I’m not sure if the NFL guys are sold on him because of his (lack of) speed.”

“With what they’ve got coming back in the running game, I think their offense is going to be a net-plus.” 

UCLA

“I don’t think they’ll mind coming in a little bit more under the radar this year. The media got so fixated on the quarterback (Brett Hundley) last year, it kind of glossed over some of their other issues. This year people are going to talk about the new quarterback and forget that they’re bringing, like, everybody else back.”

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“I don’t think they’re as talented player-for-player as SC, but they’re not that far behind.”

“(Jim) Mora is a hell of a recruiter.”

If they’re not a dominant team running the ball this year, I’ll be pretty surprised.”

“They took their medicine up front last year, but they were figuring it out by the end, and they’re going to be deeper with that group coming back.”

“I’m not sure how many people even realize Paul Perkins ended up the leading rusher in the conference. He’s not a guy with electric speed, but he’s a pretty smooth runner. He’s a bigger weapon than people give him credit for.”

“Everyone on the West Coast saw the (Josh) Rosen kid in high school, and he’s going to be really good. He’s a big, fluid, pro-style guy who probably fits what they want to do better than Hundley. It’s just a matter of whether they want to throw him out there right away. Getting him in the spring is huge.”

“If they figure out who’s going to play linebacker for them they’ll be the best defense in the league because they’re loaded up front and on the back end.”

“Kenny Clark is really the key in that three-man front. You can put two guys on him, but he’ll still make plays or free up space for their linebackers. He’s a monster.”

Related: Pac-12 Predictions for 2015

USC

“Their talent is just really strong across the board. Even in places where they lost some guys to the draft, it’s not like they’re taking a huge step back.”

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“They may have the best player in the country at a few positions, including quarterback.”

“I’m not sure people nationally caught on because of what Marcus Mariota did, but in any other year Cody Kessler would have been the Pac-12 Player of the Year by a pretty big margin. He’s such an accurate passer and so good in the pocket, it makes the game pretty easy when you surround him with the kind of athletes they’ve got.”

“Unless they just have a bunch of injuries, I don’t see too many people slowing down their offense.”

“They’ve got everything you need. Great quarterback, great at receiver, good enough in the running game, experience on the offensive line and some big-play guys they can throw to down the field.”

“They’ve got some questions on their defensive front, but it’s not about talent. They just need a couple of the younger guys to figure it out.”

“If Su’a Cravens could have entered the draft last year, he would have.”

“You lose to Boston College last year and you can talk about scholarships, but I don’t think they’ve got any excuses this year.”

“I think they’ve got the best center in the country, which helps them play at the tempo Sark wants.”

Related: College Football Bowl Projections for 2015

Utah

“They’re just not a fun crew to play against.”

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“They don’t do anything unique on defense from a scheme standpoint, but they’re just really physical, they get off blocks and they fly to the ball.”

“They’re not going to give up easy scores, and their ability to disrupt you with a sack or turnover can turn a game around pretty quickly. That’s why you saw them play over their heads a little bit at times. I think they’ll be the same kind of team this year.”

“Nobody really blocked Nate Orchard all year, but a lot of that was because their defensive front was so good across the board. They probably can’t replace his production in terms of sacks and TFLs and things like that, but they’re still going to rush the quarterback because of their scheme and the long, athletic guys they bring off the end.”

“They kept going back and forth at quarterback until the kid from Oklahoma (Kendal Thompson) got hurt, and they’re probably going to be right back in the same boat this year.”

“They’re probably the only team in the league that truly doesn’t mind playing field position.”

“The big left tackle is gone (Jeremiah Poutasi) and that could hurt them. It’s a younger group up front, but they’ve got some guys who played last year that they can move around.”

“I like the tailback a lot (Devontae Booker), but they just don’t have enough firepower on offense overall.”