Pac-12 South: Football Media Day Recap and Preview

August 3, 2013

Culver City, Calif. -- The following is a brief synopsis of the what’s taking place in the Pac-12 South, and our early predictions for each team, after we visited recently with the conference's coaches and players at Pac-12 football media day.


Mike MacIntyre has to balance his desire to change things at Colorado while reminding everyone that this university has a great football tradition. “When you go into a program that has been losing you have to have some culture change and change is tough sometimes. You will have some kids that move to commit and some that stay reluctant and we've got to get them all going the same direction…But it wasn't too long ago Colorado was one of the top-15 programs in the country year in and year out.”

Junior wide receiver Paul Richardson had to watch from the sidelines after suffering an ACL injury last spring. The Buffs certainly missed him last season. “It was a humbling experience not being able to compete with my teammates and you can't help but wonder and think about what I could be doing to help them. During the offseason I took time to gain weight, get stronger, faster, get healthy so I would be able to help my guys during the offseason coming into fall camp.”

FORECAST: With Richardson back, the offense will undoubtedly be better as they return their running backs as well. But with just 4 Pac-12 home games it will be tough for Colorado to escape the bottom of the conference this season.

(Pac-12 Media Prediction: 6th in South, 12th overall; DSH Prediction: 6th in North, 11th overall)


The Utes hopes for a special 2013 season are riding on the broad shoulders of 6-6, 245 pound sophomore QB Travis Wilson. Head Coach Kyle Whittingham stressed the importance of quarterback play for his team’s success: “We have not been able to start and finish a season with the same quarterback for four straight years, that's been a definite liability for us. So we have to get some continuity and consistency at that position…We hope Travis Wilson is going to bring that for us.”

Despite some early struggles in the Pac-12 conference, Whittingham strongly believes that Pac-12 affiliation has helped his program. He asserts that “about three-quarters of the guys we’ve signed in the past two years” were recruited as a result of the Utes being s Pac-12 team.

Like other coaches in this pass-happy league, Whittingham specifically identified cornerback as an area of concern for his squad. “The three corners that played for us last year were all seniors and they played 95% of the snaps during the course of the season. So it's a complete rebuild at the corner position…as much "man" defense as we play and as much as our defense success hinges on that, that's got to be an area that gets up to speed very quickly in fall camp and early in the season.”

FORECAST: This season the Utes will be forced to play Stanford and Oregon out of the Pac-12 North, two teams it had avoided in its first two years in the conference. They are returning just 12 starters and suffered their first losing season in ten years last season. Things might have to get worse before they get better.

(Pac-12 Media Prediction: 5th in South, 9th overall; DSH Prediction: 5th in South, 10th overall)


Will the Wildcats be able to improve their defense this season? Last year, Arizona allowed 498 yards/game. Head Coach Rodriguez seems to believe that it was just inexperience and bad luck that were the main culprits. “We were young at times and certainly we had a few injuries that hurt us…A lot of guys are back, and they’re older, stronger, a little more experienced, certainly; and we're going to have a little more competition and depth. And hopefully we will be luckier as well with keeping our guys healthy.”

Rodriguez also stated that his defense will play with a chip on their shoulder. For their sake, let's hope so. Shouldn't that be how all defenses play?

The QB situation is still undecided in Tucson and Rodriguez is not tipping his hand as to who is the likely starter. “Mike Scott was so good last year. The talents going to be there…we may not know the answer by the first couple of weeks…”

FORECAST: Can Junior RB Ka’Deem Carey chase 2,000 yards again? Some have questioned his maturity after some off-field incidents. A repeat of last year's performance may be necessary for the Wildcats success as the loss of QB Matt Scott will hurt this team. The defense will likely improve (how could they not) but not enough.

(Pac-12 Media Prediction: 4th in South, 8th overall; DSH Prediction: 4th in South, 9th overall)


Head Coach Todd Graham is not bashful about his confident team. “It's the best football team that I've ever coached and we have developed. This is a much more mature football team right now. We had a great spring, great summer…I'm excited to be here and we're looking forward to competing for a Pac-12 Championship, Rose Bowl Championship and ultimately a national championship.”

Graham adamantly asserts that ASU is looking forward to a brutal month of September where the Sun Devils play Wisconsin, Stanford, USC, and Notre Dame in consecutive weeks. “The great thing about our schedule, all you gotta do is win 13 games and you will be playing in a national championship because it's a challenging schedule.why you do this, our guys want to play in those games, they're excited about the opportunity and I think they know the potential that our football team has. Also, the investment that we have put in. So we're looking forward to a championship run and taking it one week at a time.”

On a side note, Coach Graham, while indicating he did not exactly support “pay to play”, did seem supportive of the idea of some additional economic aid to student athletes.

ASU DT Will Sutton brushed off any sense of D-Lineman of the Year competition with much-hyped South Carolina DE Jadevon Clowney. But he admitted that deciding whether to play another year of college football instead of entering the NFL draft was a tough. Among the factors that persuaded him to return was the anticipation of a very successful season for the Sun Devils. “We want to accomplish something that once again hasn’t been done here before and I want to be a part of that.”

FORECAST: The Sun Devils have big dreams this year get a scheduling break by avoiding Oregon this year, but a rough early part of the season will determine the fate of this team. If they survive that September stretch the schedule gets much easier until a huge showdown at UCLA on 11/23. Will Sutton leads the best defensive line in the conference and certainly this team has all the swagger of a team that believes it will succeed. It is totally reasonable to pick ASU to win the Pac-12 South, but the belief here is that the two LA schools are just a bit better.

(Pac-12 Media Prediction: 2nd in South, 4th overall; DSH Prediction: 3rd in South, 6th overall)


What the hell happened last year? Head Coach Lane Kiffin didn’t offer up any excuses as to why USC collapsed last year after being ranked #1 in the preseason.

“I think we didn't play very well and we didn't coach very well. When you do that, that's what happens. It's not about what someone was wearing or any of that stuff, it's about not turning the football over, it's about playing better on third down, it's about playing better in the red zone than we did last year and tackling better on defense.”

Despite the loss of all-time USC career receptions leader Robert Woods, Kiffin is not worried because he likes what he sees from Sophomore Nelson Agholor. “[All-American WR Marquise Lee] missed some time during the spring so not only did we see Nelson perform as the No. 2 receiver he was performing as the No. 1 receiver. He's a player with a skill set and he's a unique kid, very exciting and active on the field and he's a great leader already, even though he has just finished up his first year.”

The loss of Matt Barkley does destabilize the quarterback position, but Kiffin is no hurry to name a new starter. “We're no different than we were in the spring with our quarterback race and a lot of that is because we are not allowed to work with our guys in the summer. So I don't know what they're doing and how they're performing. All three guys will have a shot...It’s most important for us to name the right guy.” He likened the situation to when Carson Palmer left USC and the staff ultimately chose Matt Leinart to replace him.

Kiffin also confirmed that he will not be calling the plays this season on offense.

MLB Hayes Pullard seemed happy with the changes on the defensive side, noting “Coach [Clancy] Pendergast brings that swagger that’s been great for us.”

FORECAST: Last year’s shocking 7-6 season (5-4 in conference) has led to alumni grumblings about Lane Kiffin and his ability to continue Pete Carrol’s legacy at USC. However the feeling here is that the demise of Troy has been greatly exaggerated. The Trojans are just too talented. New Defensive Coordinator Clancy Pendergast is just what USC needed and the Trojans front seven will be revitalized in his attacking schemes. The offensive line is deep and will be better. The Trojans won’t necessarily be more talented overall than last season, but they are deeper and more capable of surviving injuries. Like ASU, USC benefits greatly by avoiding Oregon on the schedule.

(Pac-12 preseason media prediction: 3rd in South, 5th overall; DSH Prediction: 2nd in South, 4th overall)


Head Coach Jim Mora is preparing to defend last year’s Pac-12 South championship without his top running back from last year. “I think that successful teams, unless you're the Minnesota Vikings and you have Adrian Peterson, this day and age it's about ‘by committee’…will anybody be able to replace Johnathan Franklin? No, you don't just replace the leading rusher in UCLA history, but there is a belief that maybe one of them can become the next Johnathan Franklin, eventually”.

Is true Sophomore QB Brett Hundley ready to take his game to the next level? And what does he need to do to get there?

“Brett has all the tools to be a great player...He can stand in the pocket and see over the line and throw the ball down the field with accuracy and velocity and touch. He can get out of the pocket and throw the ball on the move with timing and accuracy. When a play breaks down, he can run. I think the next step for Brett and the step that comes with experience and maturity and having played the game and being put in those situations is to become a better decision maker, a more crisp decision maker.”

The Bruins untested and inexperienced secondary is Mora’s greatest area of concern right now, but he is still confident.

“I am worried more about the secondary than I ever was about the line last year…There’s nobody. The only guys that have even played a down are Randall Goforth and Ish [Ishmael Adams] who played a little early and then he had to redshirt. [Fabian Moreau] didn’t play...he ran down on some kickoffs I think...but, if they weren’t talented I might be singing a different tune.”

FORECAST: There is a new attitude in Westwood and it does not appear to be going away anytime soon. The Bruins may have the most talented offensive and defensive players in the conference in QB Brett Hundley and LB Anthony Barr. It’s hard to argue that UCLA is better than either of the Pac-12 North powers, Stanford and Oregon, both of whom they will visit this year. Nonetheless, we predict the Pac-12 South title will be decided when they play at USC on November 30th.

(Pac-12 preseason media prediction: 1st in South, 3rd overall; DSH Prediction: 1st in South, 3rd overall)

By Manish Pandya
Staff Editor for

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