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College Hotline - Pac-12 football: Top story lines from spring practice

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    (Credit: OC Register)

    First in a series assessing the football landscape in the aftermath of spring practice. (Please note: Some of these topics were touched on in my spring preview.)

    Coming next: Ranking the quarterback comfort quotients (QBCQ)

    One story line not listed below, because it continues to unfold: The landing spot for Texas Tech quarterback Davis Webb, who has 46 career TD passes.

    Webb signed with Colorado in the winter, but the paperwork isn’t binding. He visited Cal last month and reportedly has SEC schools on his short list.

    Webb’s decision could have a significant impact on the fate of the Bears and Buffaloes, given that neither team is exactly guaranteed elite quarterback play from the existing personnel.

    He would be a season-changer.

    Now, to the post-spring stories that caught my attention …

    *** Quarterback clutter.

    By my count, nine teams entered spring with uncertainty at the most important position, either because the 2015 starter had moved on or because the returning starter had injury or performance issues (or both).

    Spring practice brought resolution at Oregon State with the naming of Darell Garettson, allowing the Beavers to join UCLA (Josh Rosen) and the Washington schools (Jake Browning/Luke Falk) in attaining quarterback clarity. But that’s it: The eight other teams must wait for training camp, or beyond.

    Max Browne failed to secure the USC job; same with Keller Chryst at Stanford. Oregon arrival Dakota Prukop was well short of sensational. Anu Solomon’s hold on the Arizona job seems fragile (in part because of health). Utah, Cal, Colorado, Arizona State? Take your best guess.

    Why it matters: The Pac-12 goes as its quarterbacks go, and in 2016, the going starts early: The fabulous Week 1 schedule will help shape the conference’s playoff positioning.

    *** USC’s defensive line.

    Hardly a dominant unit last season, the Trojans lost three starters and five key rotation players up front. Then came the most significant injury of spring practice anywhere in the conference: Kenny Bigelow, arguably USC’s best defensive lineman, was lost for the year with a torn ACL.

    Why it matters: The Trojans have a loaded depth chart, with two exceptions: Quarterback and the defensive line. Bigelow’s loss places added stress on the weakest unit on what could be a division, and perhaps even conference, champion.

    ** Cal’s receivers.

    The Bears are a trendy – and understandable – pick to challenge Oregon State for the bottom spot in the Pac-12 North, in part because of attrition at a crucial position in the Bear Raid attack.

    But combination of freshman Melquise Stovall’s emergence in spring practice and the late, surprising signing of 5-star recruit Demetris Robertson gives Cal two high-level playmakers on the perimeter. If the Bears add Webb to deliver the ball, the Bear Raid just might remain potent in the wake of Jared Goff’s departure.

    Why it matters: The deeper the conference, the more treacherous the path for playoff contenders. If the Bears can avoid a backslide in the post-Goff era, the North could be one of the toughest Power 5 divisions.

    *** All quiet on the northern front.

    The fact that the Washington schools emerged from spring without major distractions, derailments or injuries bodes well for the Huskies and Cougars in their pursuit of the division title.

    Why it matters: Stanford and Oregon have dominated the North since its inception in 2011. For the first time, their hold seems a tad tenuous. Washington and Washington State have momentum, veteran rosters and far more stable quarterback situations than the Ducks and Cardinal.

    As I assess the situation — it’s only four months before kickoffs — a case could be made for any of the four teams to win the North.

    No roster is superior to the other three; each team is flawed in one fashion or another; and yet, with a few breaks and good health, the Cougars are just as capable as the Ducks, the Huskies just as dangerous as the Cardinal.


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    The post Pac-12 football: Top story lines from spring practice appeared first on College Hotline.

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    by Jon Wilner

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