Pac-12 North: Training Camp Questions

August 14, 2012

With training camps in full swing throughout the Pac-12 Conference, here are some of the main questions facing the teams in the North Division:


How will the Ducks replace LaMichael James?

The most obvious question in Eugene is who will be the starting quarterback.  Moving beyond that however, the Ducks have to replace the most valuable piece of their offense from the last two years, LaMichael James.

Kenjon Barner has done an excellent job backing up James throughout his career at Oregon, but it remains to be seen whether he can handle the pounding of 20 carries a game throughout an entire season.  Super-soph De'Anthony Thomas figures to see an increased number of carries with James' departure, although at 175 pounds it is unlikely that he can withstand the rigors of many 20-carry games as well.

Given the potential durability issues, it is critical for the Ducks to find a reliable third running back to take some of the pounding.


Who will replace Andrew Luck?

What happens when the best quarterback to come out of the Pac-12 in the last 20 years leaves for the NFL?  As David Shaw will tell you, that is a good question.

As fall camp gets underway, sophomore Brett Nottingham and junior Josh Nunes have resumed the battle they waged during spring practice. Nottingham was the more heralded recruit coming out of high school and figures to secure the job if he can avoid costly turnovers during camp.


How will Justin Wilcox' arrival impact the Husky defense?

When we last saw the Washington defense they were wiping the treadmarks off their backs after being run over by the Baylor Bears, to the tune of 777 yards and 67 points allowed in last year’s Alamo Bowl.  In an effort to shore up what had become a porous defense, Head Coach Steve Sarkisian replaced defensive coordinator Nick Holt with Justin Wilcox from the University of Tennessee.

Wilcox's number one priority is to toughen up the Husky defenders, as there were far too many attempted arm tackles in 2011.  Wilcox will also emphasize the importance of conditioning and mental toughness as the Huskies will have one of the toughest schedules in the country, facing LSU, USC, and Oregon in the first 6 weeks of the season.


Has Zach Maynard put last season’s early struggles behind him?

Maynard was afflicted with a case of Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde during the 2011 season.  He would typically complete several terrific passes followed by multiple throws that left observers scratching their heads.  Maynard improved significantly however over the course of the final four games of the season.

Maynard doesn't wow you with his physique, throwing motion, or arm strength, but he did prove to be a solid facilitator by the end of the 2011 season.  Given the number of weapons Cal has in their attack -- starting with All-Conference wide receiver Keenan Allen -- all Maynard needs to do is make the right decision, deliver a catchable ball, and avoid costly interceptions in order for Jeff Tedford's offense to return to its high-flying ways of the past.

Washington State

Will the defense make a stand?

Much like their in-state rivals, the Cougars' defense left a lot to be desired in 2011.  So Coach Mike Leach brought Mike Breske to Pullman with him in the hopes of improving last season's porous defense.

There isn't one particular position the coaches point to as the group that must improve, but rather the entire unit must take a significant step forward from 2011.

Simply put, if the Cougars are able to push down their opponent's points-per-game average into the mid 20's (compared to almost 32 in 2011), they likely will have a chance in most games given the new and improved Air Raid attack installed by Leach.

Oregon State

How will carries be allocated among running backs?

Head coach Mike Riley refused to name a starter at tailback during spring practice and stated that the competition would continue through fall camp.  With that being said, it seems unlikely the starter title will lead to exclusive carries for one back.

Storm Woods is a redshirt freshman out of Texas who showed significant promise during spring ball.  He will compete with sophomore Malcom Agnew, among others.  But whoever receives the majority of the carries, expect that player to find some open space in front of him as opposing defenses must respect the dangerous combination of Sean Mannion to Markus Wheaton.

By Chris Harker
Contributing Writer for The Daily Sports Herald

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