The end of football conference media days takes us out west for the Pac 12. If you have ever watched the Academy Awards in the last four or five years, you know the Dolby Theater at Hollywood and Highland, and what could be more West Coast than to have the Pac 12 Media Days at that venue. Nothing says West Coast more than all of the coaches in polo shirts, a doughnut stand with a special make for each team, and a lunch for players, coaches and media of local Mexican food that includes vegetarian options and gluten free chips. Come on…you all know this is how you think of the Southern California folks anyway.
Pac 12 Media Days News and Notes
Larry Scott, Conference Commissioner
We generally don’t give much space to the conference commissioner, but Scott did discuss the desire to shorten games. The conference is going to have an experiment during non-conference games that are on the Pac 12 Network. Halftime will be reduced by five minutes and there will be fewer commercial breaks in favor of on-screen sponsorship opportunities for advertisers. We also put Scott in here because he opened the event by doing the obvious; inviting the women’s rowing coach from Washington up to speak. Not such an obvious? UW’s national title was the 500th for the conference, so Scott was in a celebratory mood. By comparison, the Big 10 has 309 and the SEC is third with 222.
Rich Rodriguez, Arizona
“RichRod” has had a couple of tough years. Each season he comes in with a little swagger, but the product on the field has not lived up to that.
- Rodriguez says the current roster has 50 new players and a lot of them will be seeing playing time early. The Wildcats have lost three of their top five tacklers from a year ago and Scott Boone was brought in from Nevada as the new defensive coordinator because, as Rodriguez put it Wednesday, the schemes and the talent did not match.
- “The attitude needed to be more competitive than it was and losing needed to hurt more.”
- With regards to playing for Arizona, “You can’t just like it, you have to love it.”
- Defensive lineman Luca Bruno said, “Everyone needs to be more accountable and it starts with the players.”
Justin Wilcox, Cal
The rookie coach had three years as an assistant under Jeff Tedford so he knows the program and what changes he wants to bring about. The biggest obstacle is a financially hamstrung athletic department, which he can only do so much about. The more immediate issue for him is to fix a defense that gave up 42 points per game last year.
- The Bears will be switching to a 3-4 defense with what Wilcox called, “Unique secondary coverages.”
- I want our players to be known as a smart team, a resilient and tough team and a team that sticks together. It’s (the coaches’) job to put the systems in place, which we will do, but at the core, we need to be a smart, resilient team that plays together. That will give us our best chance.”
- The competition for quarterback is wide open with junior Chase Forrest, sophomore Ross Bowers, and freshman Chase Garbers all having a shot according to Wilcox.
Jim Mora, UCLA
Mora is coming off his first losing season in five years at the helm. The spotlight was on a porous offensive line which ultimately contributed to the season ending injury to quarterback Josh Rosen in week five.
- Mora said the depth and health of the offensive line continues to be the top priority for the staff. “We need to have five guys that can stay healthy and build a chemistry for the season.”
- Rosen is now on his third offensive coordinator in three years as Jedd Fisch comes over from Michigan. “This actually helps Josh because he absorbs information and direction so much that this helps him mature.”
- On the poor showing in 2016, “The first thing you do is point the finger at yourself, but you have to tear everything apart and look at it and see what you can fix and what needs to change.”
Gary Anderson, Oregon State
Anderson is in his third year in Corvallis, and has a 6-18 record with no road wins in his tenure. He said the focus needs to be on the ground game in 2017.
- “Everywhere I have been, teams win with a good ground game and we have the ability to have three or four good backs with this roster.”
- The maturation of his quarterbacks, Jake Luton and Marcus McMaryion are also key. “In this league you play against elite level corners each week, so the technical development for the quarterbacks is critical.”
Mike Macintyre, Colorado
The Buffaloes had a breakout season in 2016, winning the Pac 12 South in his seventh season in Boulder. It was a surprise to everyone but him.
- “Coming into last season, I thought we could win the conference championship. I just didn’t say anything to anyone, because I wanted to see them feel it on their own.”
- “Once I saw how we played in back to back road games against Michigan and Oregon, I knew how good we were.”
- The Buffaloes are being picked by the media to finish fourth in the Pac 12 South this season. Of course they were picked to finish fifth last year and well, we were not very close, were we?
Chris Petersen, Washington
The Huskies were the first Pac 12 team to make the College Football Playoffs. They also lost some of the most critical elements of that roster to the NFL draft, and thus depth is a concern.
- “With the losses to the NFL, health is going to be a key for this year’s team.”
- “Our mentality is not to reload but rebuild every year. We start at ground zero each year and have to develop the players from there.”
- Petersen was on the same side as nearly all the coaches in voicing his disapproval for the NCAA doing away with two-a-day practices in favor of having longer training camps instead. “I think it is bad that we are bringing them in earlier. It is bad for the players and it is bad for the coaches.”
- The Huskies were picked by the media to win the Pac 12 North. Quarterback Jake Browning said anytime you have a returning quarterback, you have a chance to be very competitive.”
For the quote of the day we go to UCLA linebacker Kenny Young who was discussing how he takes care to watch what he eats.
“I know the things to eat. I know the things to drink and I don’t smoke. It’s like an engine. If you put regular gas in a Ferrari, it won’t be a Ferrari in five years. It will be a Prius.”