Spring Practice Preview: Pac-12

Spring Practice Preview: Pac-12

This article is part of our Spring Practice Preview series.

Spring practice is in full swing across the Pac-12, and there are plenty of storylines to dig into.  The conference has a few teams that could find their way into the CFP, but they would probably need to run the table to warrant consideration. With a tough non-conference schedule, the new look USC Trojans will take Lincoln Riley's new scheme into the season with an eye to retake the crown from Utah, which has most of their top players returning. Chip Kelly and the UCLA Bruins will also have many of their notable players back, but the other teams in the conference face a lot of question marks as they prepare for the spring drills. 

ARIZONA

Spring Storyline: Quarterback and Running Back

The Wildcats shook off their massive losing streak last season, but there's still a lot of work to be done in Tuscon. The biggest development of the offseason is at quarterback, former Washington State signal-caller Jayden de Laura entered the transfer portal and now finds himself as the frontrunner to take over the duties at quarterback for the Wildcats. De Laura helmed one of the most potent passing attacks in the Pac-12 last season, but he also had a pair of standout receivers to target. The most promising wideout on the roster is four-star recruit Tetairoa McMillan, who is impressing the coaching staff in the early going. Jacob Cowing is another addition from the transfer portal. The former UTEP receiver seems to have a hold on one

Spring practice is in full swing across the Pac-12, and there are plenty of storylines to dig into.  The conference has a few teams that could find their way into the CFP, but they would probably need to run the table to warrant consideration. With a tough non-conference schedule, the new look USC Trojans will take Lincoln Riley's new scheme into the season with an eye to retake the crown from Utah, which has most of their top players returning. Chip Kelly and the UCLA Bruins will also have many of their notable players back, but the other teams in the conference face a lot of question marks as they prepare for the spring drills. 

ARIZONA

Spring Storyline: Quarterback and Running Back

The Wildcats shook off their massive losing streak last season, but there's still a lot of work to be done in Tuscon. The biggest development of the offseason is at quarterback, former Washington State signal-caller Jayden de Laura entered the transfer portal and now finds himself as the frontrunner to take over the duties at quarterback for the Wildcats. De Laura helmed one of the most potent passing attacks in the Pac-12 last season, but he also had a pair of standout receivers to target. The most promising wideout on the roster is four-star recruit Tetairoa McMillan, who is impressing the coaching staff in the early going. Jacob Cowing is another addition from the transfer portal. The former UTEP receiver seems to have a hold on one of the starting slots at wideout, and has also impressed in 7-on-7 drills.

Another promising freshman is running back Jonah Coleman, who recently excelled in 11-on-11 drills. He's undersized at 5'8", but his 216-pound frame gives him the opportunity to work as an every-down back. Michael Wiley is still the candidate to receive the most touches in the backfield, however.

ARIZONA STATE

Spring Storyline Restocking at Quarterback and Running Back

The Sun Devils' 2022 roster is a perfect example of how the transfer portal has transformed the college football landscape. Coach Herm Edwards had his share of portal losses, with former top QB Jayden Daniels transferring to LSU, but he also inherited the services of Paul Tyson, who backed up Bryce Young at Alabama last season and is the odds-on favorite to take over under center. It should be an open competition leading into the summer, as former backup Trenton Bourguet has been seen taking snaps with the first team. 

Edwards also received a transfer portal boost at running back. With Rachaad White opting to take his chances with the NFL Draft, the team was in desperate need of a solid every-down back. Enter Xazavian Valladay from Wyoming, who showed off his skills in a timeshare with  Titus Swen. Valladay has one year of eligibility remaining and should be able to heighten visibility for next season's draft. He'll have to contend with incumbent back Daniyel Ngata for snaps initially, however.

CALIFORNIA

Spring Storyline: Replacing Chase Garbers

Chase Garbers left the Bears to declare for the NFL Draft, and it appears that the Bears have found a replacement in Jack Plummer, who entered the transfer portal from Purdue. In seven starts with the Boilermakers, He threw for 864 yards, eight touchdowns and zero interceptions. 

Christopher Brooks and Marcel Dancy are gone, leaving Damien Moore as the heir apparent in the backfield. The team may opt for more of a committee approach, as DeCarlos Brooks and Chris Street will also see time when spring practice commences.

At wideout, the roster is brimming with talent, and players like J. Michael Sturdivant and Mavin Anderson will get a chance to show their stuff. Returnee Jeremiah Hunter is the senior presence in the wideout corps, and he is a lock at the position.

COLORADO

Spring Storyline: Finding Traction on Offense

Coach Karl Dorell directed the Buffaloes to a disappointing 4-8 record last season, and the team is looking to make some significant improvements, especially on offense, where they ranked among the worst offenses in the country. To compensate, they've added Mike Sanford into the mix as offensive coordinator

One of Colorado's biggest concerns is at quarterback. Brandon Lewis is the incumbent, but he needs to prove himself as the team's offensive leader after a tepid 202 campaign. J.T. Shrout (knee) has a strong arm and big-play capability, but it's doubtful that he'll be available to participate in spring drills. Houston transfer Maddox Kopp is expected to make the job a true competition heading into August. 

The loss of Jarek Broussard provides a lot of questions at running back, as well. Alex Fontenot is slated to be the lead back, but Jayle Stacks could be in line for an increased role in his junior campaign.  Deion Smith should also factor into the rotation.

R.J. Sneed is a transfer from Baylor who is poised to make waves in the WR rotation during spring camp, and he's a top candidate to line up opposite Montana Lemonious-Craig, who is probably the player most poised for a breakout season in the offense. 

If the Buffaloes stick to script, they will lean on their tight ends, and they are deep at the position. Brady Russell and Caleb Fauria lead the way as the top options.

OREGON

Spring Storyline: Lanning's First Spring

The Ducks enter spring practice with some big shoes for new coach Dan Lanning to fill, most notably in the form of Anthony Brown at quarterback and Travis Dye at running back.  At quarterback, the leader appears to be redshift freshman Ty Thompson as the team's signal-caller, but Auburn transfer Bo Nix will turn this into a hotly-contested quarterback competition that could last well into August. 

Although Dye and CJ Verdell are no longer with the program, the Ducks are fairly secure with Byron Cardwell, who came on strong in relief of Dye toward the end of the season and will inherit the job with a lot of experience under his belt. Sean Dollars will likely relieve Cardwell.

Seven McGee, a top recruit from last season, appears to have made the switch to wide receiver, as he was seen working out with the wideouts in the team's first practice. He often lined up wide last season, so the switch isn't a big surprise. His addition at wideout makes sense, as the Ducks lost their top two wideouts in the offseason (Devon Williams and Johnny Johnston), leaving Kris Hutson as the most experienced receiver on the roster. Sophomores Dont'e Thornton and Troy Franklin showed flashes of potential last season, especially Franklin, who is the frontrunner for the No. 2 job,

OREGON STATE

Spring Storyline: Replacing B.J. Baylor

Although the Beavers fade down the stretch, they were one of the more surprising storylines of the 2021 season, Their success was due in large part to QB Chance Nolan, who should once again take all the snaps at quarterback. Tristan Gebbia has looked great in the opening days of camp and appears to be beyond the hamstring injury that sidelined him last season, but right now, it's Nolan's job to lose. A darkhorse candidate at the position is Ben Gulbranson, who may actually have the most natural athletic ability of the trio.

Freshman running back Damien Martinez is making the most waves in the offense so far this spring. The 6-0, 228-pound back has displayed some bruising north-south running and has been seen taking some snaps with the first unit. Losing B.J. Baylor leaves a lot of output to be absorbed, and right now it appears Deshaun Fenwick has the inside track to start, although Trey Lowe, Georgia Tech transfer Jamious Griffin and Martinez will all figure into the rushing attack.

With Trevon Bradford gone, things open up a bit ay wideout, but right now Tyjon Lindsey and Tre'Shaun Harrison appear to be the top options headed into camp. Zeriah Beason, Anthony Gould and Silas Bolden round out a moderately experienced group that will endure some growing pains.

STANFORD

Spring Storyline: Restocking the Backfield

The Cardinal struggled to a 3-9 season last year, and despite major losses at key positions, they have a core alongside some new additions that show some promise.

Tanner McKee was a serviceable starter at quarterback last season and had some excellent games. He's the clear frontrunner to reclaim the job, although Ari Patu appears to be fully healthy and ready to compete for the job.

Things are really shaky for the Cardinal at running back right now. The losses of Austin Jones (to USC) and Nathaniel Peat (to Missouri) leave a huge hole at the position. E.J. Smith and Casey Filkins both experienced injuries to curtail their 2021 campaigns, but they enter 2022 as the team's top two options. They both showed flashes of promise prior to their injuries, with Smith looking like the most reliable every-down option.

At wide receiver, Elijah Higgins, Brycen Tremayne and Michael Wilson have elected to return as fifth-year players, so the team's wide receiver situation is remarkably solid. Both players had season-ending injuries last season but appear to be fully healthy heading into camp. They'll also add freshman 3-star recruit Mudia Reuben into the mix.

Benjamin Yurosek will once again start at tight end, although he will be pushed for time by 4-Star freshman tight end Sam Roush. Stanford is famous for utilizing the positions extensively, so both players should see several snaps.

UCLA

Spring Storyline: Transfer Infusion At Receiver

It looked like Chip Kelly and the Bruins were going to make a run to glory, but defensive mistakes and an inconsistent offense derailed them down the stretch. Despite a few losses, the team will return with two of its key offensive performers as they try to retake the Pac-12 crown.

Dorian Thompson-Robinson returned to Westwood despite speculation that he would declare for the draft and has looked spectacular so far in camp. Ethan Garbers, who served capably in relief last season, has also looked good in camp so far.

Zach Charbonnet was about the best thing that could have happened to UCLA's offense last season, as the transfer stepped right in and made an immediate impact. He was easily one of the conference's most consistent running backs, and he'll once again take snaps behind Thompson-Robinson as the lead back. It appears that Deshun Murrell has broken away from the pack and should be the next running back in line.

The Bruins also had to part with prime receiving talent in Kyle Philips and Greg Dulcich, and several notables are filling in the gaps. Logan Loya and Kazmeir Allen sit atop the depth chart, but UCF transfer Titus Mokiao-Atimalala is seeing time as well, Kam Brown should also see a lot of time, and Duke transfer Jake Bobo will also fight for a starting role. 

USC

Spring Storyline: New Era Under Lincoln Riley

The arrival of Lincoln Riley has prompted some big changes. For starters, spring practice has been almost entirely focused on understanding and retaining an entirely new offensive system. That task is easier than it seems, because not only did Riley bring a lot of players with him, former standouts who saw the writing on the wall speedily left L.A. through the transfer portal. Kedon Slovis, Jaxson Dart  are gone. Drake London and Keaontay Ingram are making a play fr the NFL. The result is an almost complete facelift of the offense

'The changes begin at quarterback, with Caleb Williams joining his former coach. Williams is a game-changer for USC. Although Kedon Slovis was one of the Pac-12's best passers, he suffered through a plodding offense that could only move when Slovis managed to find Drake London.  Williams demonstrated his dynamic playmaking ability at Oklahoma and is a veteran of Riley's offensive scheme He'll also be throwing to a familiar face in Mario Williams, who also came over from Oklahoma. Miller Moss appears to be the leader for the backup spot in camp./

Another big change is the arrival of running Travis Dye from Oregon. After CJ Verdell went down with the injury, Dye proceeded to surgically take apart Pac-12 defenses, and he's on track to do the same thing this season. Austin Jones also arrived via Stanford, and you'll likely see him in passing packages on third down.  Darwin Barlow elected to stick around amidst the changing of the guard, and although he seems like the odd man out, he had some excellent games last season in relief of Ingram and should also find some playing time.

If you watch any Oklahoma tape, you'll see that Riley's Sooners often ran sets with four or five receivers, which will be a massive change for the Trojans returnees. Gary Bryant and Tahj Washington are trying to learn an entirely new system, but if they can find synergy with Williams, they will have plenty of opportunity in this scheme. Another gift from the transfer portal is Brenden Rice, who put up excellent numbers in Colorado. His skills were mostly wasted in a run-heavy offense, so he is a dark horse on the depth chart. Mater Dei tends to deliver some promising players to USC as well, and this year, it's wideout CJ Williams, who is probably their most promising freshman on the roster.

UTAH

Spring Storyline: Rising's Rise

The Utes will try to defend the Pac-12 title with many of the same key offensive players from last season.

Cameron Rising returns and is the unquestioned leader of this team. Rising wasn't a statistical beast last year, but he knew how to win games for Kyle Whittingham, and that's the primary reason why he'll win the starting gig. The Utes' quarterback of the future is 4-star recruit Mack Howard, but Ja'Quinden Jackson will probably be Rising's backup this year.

Although TJ Pledger elected to declare for the draft, the Utes received great news when they learned that Tavion Thomas would stick around. He enjoyed a breakout season last year, rushing for over 1,100 yards and 21 touchdowns, and he should remain the every-down back for the Utes. Micah Bernard will also return as a change-of-pace back, and freshman Jaylon Glover is having an excellent camp so far.

Things are a bit shallower at wide receiver with the loss of Britain Covey, but after some soul-searching, top tight end Brant Kuithe elected to return to school, and that's great news for Rising and the passing game. Solomon Enis and Theo Howard are returning, but who will lead the way at wideout is still pretty muddy at this point.

WASHINGTON

Spring Storyline: Sorting Out Quarterback

The Kalen DeBoer era begins this season, and the former Fresno State coach has his hands full as he tried to build a winning squad this spring. DeBoer employed a dynamic, high-powered offense with his former team, but his ability to draw the right players to execute is his biggest problem.

The top concern is at quarterback, where nothing is certain at this juncture. Dylan Morris is still the front-runner, but he'll be pressured at camp by redshirt Sam Huard and Indiana transfer Michael Penix.  The competition at this position is probably the biggest news for their spring activities.

The Huskies are on the hunt for their new starter at running back after the departure of Sean McGrew. Cameron Davis won't take part in spring camp, so a plethora of running backs are getting a look, most notably Camden Sirmon, who is making a permanent move from quarterback to running back this season. New Mexico transfer Aaron Dumas will get an extended look for a starting role this spring as well. Dumas rushed for 658 yards with the 3-9 Lobos last season.

At wideout, Jalen McMillan, Rome Odunze and Ja'Lynn Polk were seen taking snaps with the first team to begin camp. The depth chart thinned out without Cade Otton and Terrell Bynum, but these role players from last year will take the mantle moving forward.

WASHINGTON STATE

Spring Storyline: Breaking In A New-Look Offense

If you were looking to pick the most potent passing attack in the Pac-12 last year, you probably wouldn't have picked the Cougars.  Jayden de Laura and company did exactly that in 2021, leading the way with excellent performances from de Laura and a host of top-notch receivers. 

With their starting quarterback off to Arizona, the time is now for the heir apparent, and right now the frontrunner is Cameron Ward, who moved from Incarnate Word with new offensive coordinator Eric Morris. Ward knows Morris' system, so it's a given that he'll have the best panhandle on the offense in the spring, and as of now, seems to be the guy for the Cougars. The 6-3 Ward is drawing comparisons to Josh Allen, and behind an entirely new coaching staff, Ward shows a lot of promise.

De'zhaun Stribling is the top wideout in camp, taking over for Travell Harris. The Cougars also hope to have Renard Bell back at full strength after a season-ending ACL injury. Assuming Bell is on track, the Cougars are relatively secure at the position.

With Max Borghi and Deon McIntosh gone, the opposite is true at running back. The presumed frontrunner here is Nakia Watson, who drew the start in the Sun Bowl. The Cougars' offensive line isn't the best, so it will be an uphill battle for their running game, and there are a lot of less-experienced backs behind Watson if he struggles. Jouvensly Bazil is the second man up in the backfield

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jeff Edgerton
Jeff has provided sports content for numerous sports outlets and has played fantasy sports since scores had to be tabulated via newspaper. He started working with RotoWire in 2017. Originally from South Carolina, he's a lifelong Clemson fan now enjoying the sun in Los Angeles.
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