2014 Pac-12 College Football Spring Practice Preview

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2014 Pac-12 Spring Practice Preview

pac 12
Matt Kartozian - USA TODAY Sports

Teams across the Pac-12 are gearing up for spring practices, set to take the first steps towards a successful 2014 season. For the defending conference champs, the Stanford Cardinal, spring ball has already begun but the rest of the conference isn’t far behind them. Over the next few weeks, most spring practices will get under way with each team shooting for greatness in the fall.

To get there, each team is going to need to answer some questions about their team after the 2013 season. While many teams return strong rosters with plenty of star power, every team lost at least one major contributor and will need to find their replacement this spring. A number of schools will open up quarterback competitions in the spring that could very well decide the fate of their program next season.

While every conference in the country lost some star power from 2013, the Pac-12 returns as one of the strongest conferences in the nation this spring. That doesn’t mean they can rest on their laurels, however. Every program has a shot at taking major strides over the course of these 15 practices that can set them up for some strong play out of the gate next fall. For Stanford, their preparation centers on defending their title for a third straight year. For the rest of the conference, they’re looking to close the gap in 2014.

So as the winter thaws into spring and teams put the pads back on for the first time since bowl season (or the regular season finale for some), let’s preview exactly what each team is looking to improve upon during the 2014 spring practice session.

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Arizona Wildcats

rich rodriguez
Mark J. Rebilas - USA TODAY Sports

Spring Practice Starts: March 3

Spring Game: April 20

Biggest Question: Who plays quarterback?

Heading into his third season with the Arizona Wildcats, Rich Rodriguez will be looking for his third starting quarterback this spring. Four players have a legitimate shot to replace B.J. Denker in what is likely the most wide-open quarterback competition in the country. Senior Jesse Scroggins, a transfer from the USC Trojans, sophomore Connor Brewer, a transfer from the Texas Longhorns, junior Jerrard Randall, a transfer from the LSU Tigers, and redshirt freshman Anu Solomon will start to build their cases during the spring. Solomon is a player to watch as one of the biggest stars of the 2013 recruiting class as he could become Rodriguez’s quarterback to build some continuity around for the next several years.

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Arizona State Sun Devils

todd graham
Robert Hanashiro - USA TODAY Sports

Spring Practice Starts: March 18

Spring Game: April 19

Biggest Question: Who steps up on defense?

The Arizona State Sun Devils had a wildly successful 2013 season thanks in part to the play of their swarming defense. This spring, they’ll have to find replacements for seven starters, including DT Will Sutton, LB Carl Bradford, and CBs Robert Nelson and Alden Darby. The team will be breaking in a new defensive coordinator with Keith Patterson joining the staff this offseason, though Todd Graham will continue to call the defensive plays. Can the team juggle new coaching dynamics and finding a lot of fresh faces to plug into the defense this spring?

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Cal Bears

sonny dykes
Kelley L. Cox - USA TODAY Sports

Spring Practice Starts: March 31

Spring Game: April 26

Biggest Question: Can the defense get turned around?

While there were flashes of the exciting brand of offensive football that Sonny Dykes has built his coaching career on in 2013, the Cal Bears could never get on the winning track because of their defense. They finished second-to-last in the nation in scoring defense, allowing a whopping 45.9 points per game. New defensive coordinator Art Kaufman has his work cut out for him as he attempts to completely overhaul one of the worst defenses in the country. Can he make some positive progress this spring?

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Colorado Buffaloes

mike macintyre
Steven Bisig - USA TODAY Sports

Spring Practice Starts: March 3

Spring Game: April 26

Biggest Question: Who replaces Paul Richardson?

Richardson was an elite talent for the Colorado Buffaloes in 2013 and was far and away their best receiving option in the passing game. With his early departure for the NFL, the team has to find receivers to step their game up to replace that lost production. While it will likely be a more balanced approach in 2014 as no one receiver on the Buffs’ roster is likely to fill Richardson’s shoes next season, look for Nelson Spruce, the team’s No. 2 receiver in 2013, to take on a larger role this spring. D.D. Goodson is also set to take a major step forward in his development if he can have a productive spring.

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Oregon Ducks

mark helfrich
Scott Olmos - USA TODAY Sports

Spring Practice Starts: April 1

Spring Game: May 3

Biggest Question: Who fills out the receiver rotation?

The Oregon Ducks lose three of their top receivers from 2013 with Josh Huff, Daryle Hawkins, and De’Anthony Thomas all moving on. Bralon Addison returns and moves in the No. 1 receiver position with Keanon Lowe likely moving up to the No. 2 role. After that, however, the rotation gets murky. This spring will be a proving ground for young and untested receivers to make a name for themselves and push for a spot in the passing attack next season. Whoever comes out strong in the spring will likely secure a spot for the fall.

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Oregon State Beavers

mike riley
Marco Garcia - USA TODAY Sports

Spring Practice Starts: March 31

Spring Game: May 3

Biggest Question: Can the running game become a factor?

Last season, the Oregon State Beavers ranked No. 3 in the nation in passing offense, averaging 372.6 yards per game. However, the running game was a complete afterthought, ranking No. 115 in FBS averaging just 94.4 yards per game. Terron Ward and Strom Woods need to step up this spring to show they can help bring a big of offensive balance to the Beavers’ attack in 2014. Look for Chris Brown to also get some reps this spring to see about adding depth to the position next fall.

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Stanford Cardinal

david shaw
Matt Cashore - USA TODAY Sports

Spring Practice Starts: February 24

Spring Game: April 12

Biggest Question: Can the defense reload?

The Stanford Cardinal have used a physical, dominating defense to win back-to-back Pac-12 titles. But this spring, they need to find replacements for standouts like Shayne Skov, Trent Murphy, Ben Gardner, Ed Reynolds, and Josh Mauro. That’s a lot of talent to replace but Stanford has talent waiting in the wings to step up this spring. A.J. Tarpley will assume the mantle of leadership for the defense with players like OLB Kevin Anderson, S Kodi Whitfield, DE Luke Kaumatule, and ILB Blake Martinez getting serious looks to earn more playing time next fall.

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UCLA Bruins

jim mora
Gary A. Vasquez - USA TODAY Sports

Spring Practice Starts: April 1

Spring Game: April 26

Biggest Question: Who steps up at running back?

Last season, the UCLA Bruins relied on quarterback Brett Hundley to lead the rushing attack (which he did admirably) and even flipped linebacker Myles Jack over to the offense to give them some carries. The Bruins are loaded at just about every position on offense for 2014 but running back remains a serious concern. Jordan James and Paul Perkins both had varying degrees of success last season and will need to use this spring to show they’re capable of carrying the load in the running game to take some of the pressure off their Heisman Trophy candidate at quarterback.

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USC Trojans

steve sarkisian
Kirby Lee - USA TODAY Sports

Spring Practice Starts: March 11

Spring Game: April 19

Biggest Question: Is Cody Kessler the starting quarterback?

Kessler returns after eventually winning the quarterback job for the USC Trojans in 2013 over Max Wittek and finishing the year with a strong showing in bowl season. But new head coach Steve Sarkisian is opening up the QB position to competition this spring and Kessler will face a serious challenge from redshirt freshman Max Browne. Sark heavily recruited Browne while he was head coach with UW and is familiar with the skillset he brings to the table. With a new playbook to learn, the playing field is even for the two QBs to battle out for the No. 1 spot on the depth chart.

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Utah Utes

kyle whittingham
Chris Nicoll - USA TODAY Sports

Spring Practice Starts: March 18

Spring Game: April 26

Biggest Question: Will yet another OC make a difference?

Kyle Whittingham hired his seventh offensive coordinator in the last seven years this offseason, naming Dave Christensen the new play-caller for 2014. Christensen uses many of the same philosophies as what 2013 co-OCs Dennis Erickson and Brian Johnson but will change up the terminology and pick up the pace in 2014. Getting the team acclimated to the new playbook will be a huge point of emphasis in spring practice which might be more difficult than expected with projected 2014 starting quarterback Travis Wilson limited to non-contact drills during the spring.

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Washington Huskies

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Getty Images

Spring Practice Starts: March 4

Spring Game: April 19

Biggest Question: Can Chris Petersen succeed in a major conference?

There’s no denying the accomplishments of Petersen during his time with the Boise State Broncos, posting a 92-12 record over eight seasons and going to multiple BCS bowls as one of the premier non-AQ programs in college football. Now, we’ll get to see what he does with the “big boys” on a week-to-week basis. He steps in as the new head coach of the Washington Huskies in 2014 with a roster that is loaded with talent but locating leaders and key contributors in the spring will help get Petersen’s run as head coach off to a fast start next fall.

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Washington State Cougars

mike leach
James Snook - USA TODAY Sports

Spring Practice Starts: March 27

Spring Game: April 26

Biggest Question: Who steps up in the secondary?

The Washington State Cougars face the task of replacing three starters from their secondary of 2013 with cornerbacks Damante Horton and Nolan Washington and hard-hitting safety Deone Bucannon moving on. Spring practice will be the time for their replacements to distinguish themselves in key positional battles to help improve WSU’s pass defense in 2014. Safeties Isaac Dotson and Darius Lemora and cornerbacks Daquawn Brown, Charleston White, and early-enrollee Marcellus Pippins will be names to watch as the Cougs look to add fresh faces to the secondary this spring.

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