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Utah football: Burning questions for Pac-12 Media Days

Published July 23, 2014 9:05 am

College football • What we all want to know about other teams in the league.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

We know other Pac-12 media will ask about Utah quarterback Travis Wilson on Wednesday in Los Angeles, but what do Ute fans hope to learn about the other teams in the Pac-12? The Tribune's Utah beat writers, Kyle Goon and Matthew Piper, throw some pertinent questions out there for consideration.

Arizona • How young will the Wildcats be?

Rich Rodriguez said in the spring he expects a high-impact freshman class to fill needs at quarterback, running back, defensive back — really, a lot of places. In a recruiting class rife with four- and three-star players, help should be on the way. But how quickly can these players adapt to the college level, and how will youth affect the character of the group?

Arizona State • Who will replace the stars on defense?

The Sun Devils lost nine starters from last year's unit, ranked No. 42 in total defense. Carl Bradford and Will Sutton were drafted into the NFL. The defensive rebuild coincides with Todd Graham ceding his defensive coordinator duties to new addition Keith Patterson, who will be under pressure to give Taylor Kelly and company the ball back.

Cal • Might this team improve and again go 1-11?

The correct answer from second-year head coach Sonny Dykes would be, after a long sigh, "Yes." Cal will probably beat Sacramento State. They may beat Colorado. But the Golden Bears allowed 45.9 points per game in 2013. The hire of defensive coordinator Art Kaufman and the return of injured defensive end Brennan Scarlett might help a little, but they'll need a lot.

Colorado • Who can help Sefo Liufau on offense?

The Buffs are excited by the potential of their quarterback, Sefo Liufau, who had his moments last season. But they need more around him, and Paul Richardson's departure doesn't help. While the running back position will return two 500-yard rushers, the receivers are young, and the offensive line is not concrete.

Oregon • Is The Duck ready?

Doing a push-up for each point after every score, The Duck has hit five bills in a game. But for fifteen games? With its offense returning nine starters, and with Heisman candidate Marcus Mariota at full strength after being hampered by a knee injury late last year, a healthy Oregon could steamroll through the Pac-12 Championship Game and into the first-ever four-team playoff.

Oregon State • Did Sean Mannion make Brandin Cooks, or vice versa?

Thanks to out-of-conference games against Portland State, Hawaii and San Diego State, the Beavers' schedule is as cushy as they come in the Pac-12. They hardly run the ball, and they don't play great defense, but if Mannion can replicate his junior numbers without Cooks' 128 receptions and 1,730 yards, Oregon State will be bowl-bound and he'll garner No. 1 overall pick consideration.

Stanford • Does quarterback Kevin Hogan need to be more than a game manager?

That the Cardinal is ranked in the top 10 in many preseason polls after losing six players to the draft is a testament to the prep talent they've been able to attract in recent years, but it might also be misguided faith if Hogan isn't less ho-hum and more hero. In a three-game stretch against Oregon State, Oregon and USC, he threw for 318 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions.

UCLA • Really, what's preventing the Bruins from winning the conference this year?

Jim Mora has injected life into UCLA with 19 wins in his first two seasons, but it's clear the Bruins are itching to sit atop the conference. They have an elite quarterback in Brett Hundley, and although the program graduated a ton of NFL talent, the last three nationally renowned recruiting classes are expected to fill in the gaps. There isn't much room for excuses with Stanford, Oregon and USC at home.

USC • Do the Trojans have enough depth to carry them for the season?

The Trojans have been more or less wiped clean from the sanctions era with one notable exception: They still have fewer players. New coach Steve Sarkisian expects it will take a few years to build back up. In the meantime, USC has the front-end talent to compete now, but the schedule starts out tough with Fresno State followed by Stanford and Boston College on the road.

Washington • Is Bishop Sankey replaceable?

Sankey willed Washington to a 9-4 finish last year, carrying 306 times for 1,775 yards. The frontrunners for his spot are the aptly named Dewayne Washington and injury-prone Deontae Cooper, but spring saw 6-foot-2, 230-pound Huskies linebacker Shaq Thompson taking a cue from UCLA two-way star Myles Jack and looking, reports say, Sankey-like.

Washington State • Are the Cougars on the rise, or will they plateau?

They were fourth in passing yards per game, but 112th in passing yards allowed per game in 2013. They had seven receivers with 390 or more yards, and many are back. Their secondary was torched, and few are back. So although a bowl berth seemed to signal a rebirth in Pullman, Mike Leach needs young players to outdo their predecessors if Washington State is to better 6-7.

mpiper@sltrib.com

Twitter: @matthew_piper

kgoon@sltrib.com

Twitter: @kylegoon —

Pac-12 media days

O Wednesday and Thursday

At Los Angeles

TV • Pac-12 Network