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Wednesday, April 28, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
By Bud Withers
Spring theme: Adjustment to the Pac-10's only new head coach, Mike Stoops.
New doin's: Stoops spent most of practices watching the defense, coached by his brother Mark. The offense likely will be mostly in the hands of coordinator Mike Canales, a LaVell Edwards-Norm Chow disciple.
What happened: Stoops implemented punishing offseason regimen for downtrodden Wildcats, who went 2-10 in 2003 season marked by John Mackovic's midstream firing. ... A key returnee is OT Brandon Phillips, who will sit out three games following NCAA petition to return after signing with agent. ... QB Kris Heavner was named No. 1, though it's considered tenuous. ... TB Mike Bell, who averaged 5.5 yards in gaining 920, will be the offensive focus.
Call for fall: 'Zona will be everybody's pick to finish last, but Cats have seven home games, including first four at home. Last of those is Pac-10 opener with WSU on Oct. 2.
New doin's: Coach Dirk Koetter switched the defense from a 4-2-5 to more traditional 4-3, though the extra LBs are mostly ex-safeties.
What happened: WR Derek Hagan has excelled, but search for second WR may be problematic. Daryl Lightfoot, last year's top WR, transferred to Northern Arizona after a falling-out with Koetter. Top candidate is soph Terry Richardson. ... OL shift included RT Grayling Love, a second-team all-leaguer, moving to LG, but ASU has four players who have started up front. ... Andrew Walter has second-most QB experience in Pac-10. ... Much-awaited will be frosh TE Zach Miller, rated by some No. 1 at his position as a prep.
Call for fall: Big season for Koetter, 8-16 in three years of Pac-10 games. Anything lower than first division might cost him his job.
New doin's: Cal's new punter, and possibly kicker, will be Australian-born David Lonie.
What happened: QB Aaron Rodgers, a potential All-American, sat out of drills rehabbing from knee surgery but should be healthy by June. ... OL Marvin Philip, Aaron Merz, Ryan O'Callaghan and Jonathan Giesel all missed spring while recovering from surgeries. ... RS freshmen WRs like Sam DeSa, Sean Young and Noah Smith emerged at a position where Cal should be as strong as anyone, with Geoff McArthur and Jonathan Makonnen also back.
Call for fall: Bears will be a trendy pick nationally to explode in 2004. Two disclaimers: The OL injuries could slow progress, and the schedule puts them on road for four of first five, including USC game Oct. 9.
New doin's: WR corps strengthened by emergence of RS freshman Garren Strong and return of Keith Allen, whose season-ending knee injury last August hurt Oregon.
What happened: Ducks don't conclude drills until this weekend. ... Like a lot of Pac-10 teams, UO has had skimpy complement of O-linemen in spring; it was down to six healthy ones recently. ... Two best returning DL, Devan Long (back) and Haloti Ngata (knee) have sat out, meaning no 2003 DL starters have been on the field. QB Kellen Clemens, one of Pac-10's top returnees, was 10 of 12 in last weekend's scrimmage and ran for a TD. Bethel product Johnny DuRocher is No. 2. ... Projected top two RBs, Terrance Whitehead (foot surgery rehab) and Kenny Washington (ankle), have missed the spring.
Call for fall: Ducks appear to have enough to rate best-of-the-rest nod behind USC, Cal.
New doin's: Beavers announcing $33 million plan to expand Reser Stadium to 43,000.
What happened: Seemingly perennial problem of not enough receivers is the biggest issue. It's so acute, rising standout CB Brandon Browner spent time at WR, as did RB prospect Charles Burnley and another CB, Anthony Wheat-Brown. ... Beavers recruited five WRs, and all will get a big shot in the fall. ... QB Derek Anderson has looked good, but the WR picture doesn't help him. ... OL could be hurt with possible departure of OG Kanan Sanchez, who has missed work for reasons unrelated to football. If he's gone, Decatur product J.C. Ronnfeldt has a better chance of winning starting spot.
Call for fall: Beavers appear to be part of Pac-10's vast middle class, capable of first division or lower.
New doin's: Cardinal has tried to smooth the offensive communication. Last year, WRs coach David Kelly was coordinator and Bill Cubit, QBs coach, called the plays. Kelly has left for Duke, leaving Cubit the coordinator.
What happened: After-effects from a serious thigh bruise suffered against Cal hurt conditioning of QB Trent Edwards, who had surgery to have fluid drained and couldn't run until February. But Edwards completed 20 of 25 for 270 yards and 4 TDs in spring game. ... Like a lot of the team, OL will be young; on the two-deep, every player except C Brian Head (a junior) is a freshman or sophomore. ... WRs Mark Bradford and Evan Moore figure to be the go-to guys.
Call for fall: Could inch toward first division, but USC league opener doesn't help.
New doin's: Offensive coordinator Steve Axman is gone, returned to the Washington staff. He's replaced by Tom Cable of Snohomish, fired as Idaho head coach, while Jim Svoboda, for the last 10 years at Division II NW Missouri State, handles the QBs.
What happened: Bruins finish drills this weekend. ... QB Drew Olson has looked better; meanwhile, the QB who is leaving the program, Matt Moore, has found few takers and is undecided about a destination. ... WR Tab Perry, an academic casualty last fall but somebody the Bruins had counted on having back, has transferred to Montana. ... DL, which loses its top five players, is getting rebuilt. DE Kyle Morgan, originally a signee with Miami who left for JC, has one spot.
Call for fall: After losing four straight to end 2003, Bruins are popularly viewed as second-division stuff.
New doin's: DT Shaun Cody has moved to end, making room for promising DT Manuel Wright.
What happened: OL needed to be pieced together, and coach Pete Carroll said it came the furthest in spring. ... RS freshman Sam Baker did well at LT. ... John Drake missed drills in recovery from broken leg but should be ready. ... RS soph OT Kyle Williams performed well. ... At QB, Trojans still pondering redshirt for touted John David Booty. ... WR Steve Smith has shown well, and Carroll called play of Whitney Lewis, who had a rocky first season, very good . . . Trojans still hopeful of NCAA decision that would give them back WR Mike Williams, prevented by court from entering NFL draft.
Call for fall: Almost everybody picking Trojans to win Pac-10, and possibly make another run at the national title.
New doin's: Huskies appear to have strengthened staff with addition of ex-UW defensive coordinator Chris Tormey (linebackers) and former QBs coach Steve Axman (receivers), plus two other staff changes.
What happened: Not surprisingly, QB battle is still a three-way race between Casey Paus, Carl Bonnell and Isaiah Stanback. Huskies probably need to make a choice a week into fall camp just to apportion reps. ... Huskies need to get more from RBs, and may be positioned to do that with Kenny James, a bigger Shelton Sampson and Louis Rankin. ... WR opposite Charles Frederick still a question, but there are young candidates. ... OL is in doubt, partly because of injuries. Call for fall: Lots still to be settled in August, but Huskies have enough goods to figure in battle for a bowl game.
New Doin's: SLB Will Derting moved to MLB and the Cougars liked the switch. Playing there prevents teams from running away from Derting, and WSU hopes it minimizes offensive tendency to pick on their inexperienced DT positions.
What happened: Swogger, who got valuable late-season experience last year, was named No. 1 for fall, but Brink is still considered a threat because of his feel for defenses. ... OL won't be complete until Cougars shore up guard spots. They think junior Riley Fitt-Chappell may be ready to return to solid freshman form, and RS freshman Bobby Byrd could nab the other G position. ... WR was a trouble spot because of injuries.
Call for fall: Defensive rebuild, not as dramatic as it looks, is still considerable. Bowl game would be a worthy accomplishment.
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