Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Pac Ten Alley - Spring Practice Edition

The veil of silence is lifting at Montlake as Spring practice begins. JR Hasty and EJ Savannah both enter the Spring on double secret probation which means they have some extra work to do to satisfy Coach Willingham before they hit the field. Neither are officially kicked off the team, but it seems that they may not have adhered to the Winter conditioning program among other things. the door is open for both of them to participate once Willingham is pleased with their effort. As usual Ty isn't giving a lot of details.

Willingham said both could return to action at any time. They are not academically ineligible, but have not "lived up to their football responsibilities." That brings to mind the smart ass rhetorical question of when Willingham is going to do the same.

You really have to wonder what is going through JR Hasty's head at this point. He has been screwing up ever since he got here, and this Spring may have been his last chance to make an impact. EJ Savannah on the other hand is probably the most talented defensive player on the roster, you would hope that he would take a leadership position and get his work don e so he can get back out on the field.

Johnnie Kirton will indeed be here this Spring after spending some time studying in Africa this Winter. He has been officially moved to the defensive line for his senior year which should help fill some holes opened by graduation. Kirton should have been here all among IMHO. He only has one year left so it will be interesting to see if he can contribute at his new position. As far as TE goes the Huskies should be fine with Gottleib, Winter, Izbicki, and Middleton who comes in next Fall.

Freshman TB/WR Chris Polk is listed at the #1 slot back which would seem to indicate that he's progressing as well as expected. Starting guard Ryan Tolar will miss spring football because of an undisclosed injury situation, along with starting safety Jason Wells who we already knew was going to miss the spring session. Look for Scott Shugert to step up big time in Tolars absence.

Luke Kravitz, an experienced senior fullback, is listed fourth on the depth chart. Willingham said that is because Kravitz missed all of winter conditioning when he went to South Africa for the academic quarter. Willingham praised the decision to go abroad, but said when players miss significant time, they start over. Expect to see Kravitz back in the mix with Paul Homer at fullback by fall. Once again you have to wonder about the mixed messages that Willingham is bringing when he preaches academics, but then temporarily zings a stalwart guy who take advantage of the opportunity.

26 year old DB Tripper Johnson has joined the team as an invited walk on this Spring. Johnson prepped at Newport and has been banging around baseball's minor leagues ever since. Since he hasn't played the game in eight years it may be a big if if he can contribute. Keep an eye on him this Spring, inside sources say that he may surprise.

Pac Ten Alley

I am getting things out a little early this week because of a string of endless meetings on the road, but there is a lot going on in the Pac Ten this week.

Now it is time to take a walk down the coast to see what the neighbors are up to.

We start off this week with UCLA because they are back in the Final Four once again. The question is asked if they don't win it all this time will they be failures?

It was a topic of discussion two weeks ago, on and around Selection Sunday. If UCLA was to make it back to the Final Four for a third consecutive year, and lost, would it be branded a failure? Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, the only one of the Bruins who will start in the national semifinals three years in a row, said that he expects a different result this time around and if they don't bring home a 12th NCAA championship then, yes, this season will have been a loss. "Yeah, definitely," he said. "I personally feel that way and I know the rest of my teammates do, too. We've been there and we have the experience and everything. "Anything less than a national championship would be a failure for us again. And, you know UCLA, they definitely expect a national championship again. Anything less than that would be a failure for the season."

I thought Oregon was the best football team in the country till Dixon went down. this Spring is going to be all about finding a replacement at QB for the Ducks.

A year after trudging off into the woods for some profound soul-searching, the Oregon football team enters spring practice today in what it considers a positive state of mental health.
The Ducks contended for a national title most of last fall, ending up 9-4. A series of injuries, most notably to quarterback Dennis Dixon, derailed their dreams. But a three-game losing streak to close the regular season was overshadowed by a blowout Sun Bowl victory. Among the UO veterans, there is a solemn awareness of last season’s unattained goals. But that’s a far cry from the disappointment they felt a year ago at this time, having lost four straight in the fall of 2006 to finish 7-6, with an embarrassing loss in the Las Vegas Bowl.

Dispelling some myths about Cal football.

With spring ball here, I’d like to dispel a few of the biggest myths from the 2007 season in our attempt to move forward. I’ve had plenty of time to peruse various Cal sports forums on the Internet and have heard quite a few myths thrown around as truth. With that, let’s dig in…

Mike Montgomery on Cal short list?

Mike Montgomery hasn't coached college basketball in four years, yet he’s one of the hottest names in the country — and has been since he was dismissed by the Warriors 18 months ago.
With his name being linked to vacancy after vacancy, Montgomery has spent time as a TV analyst (he’s very good), assisting Stanford athletic director Bob Bowlsby, playing golf and collecting his Warrior paychecks (he was under contract through this spring).

A little spring football going on at USC.

The quarterback goes back and throws a pass, and Smith plucks the ball out of the air and runs into the end zone for a USC touchdown.Sound familiar? But no, this wasn't former Trojan Steve Smith catching a pass on offense. It's his little brother Malcolm Smith intercepting a pass from Aaron Corp during Thursday's spring practice. Malcolm isn't a wide receiver like his brother, but a 6-foot-2, 215-pound athletic linebacker. It is clear, however, that Malcolm, who could be called Steve's "big" little brother, has the instincts of Steve, who won two national titles at USC and finished his four-year collegiate career in 2006 as the school's top receiver.

Arizona has a lot of work to do this Spring.

The University of Arizona entered the 2007 season with 10 returning starters on defense.
That unit was supposed to be special, but was anything but, allowing 27 points and 372 yards per game. The Wildcats offense comes in returning 10 offensive starters. Arizona’s scoring woes should be no more. Think again.

Lute is back, could coach till 80, but Kevin O'Neill isn't waiting, he is moving on.

Lute Olson refused Tuesday to elaborate what caused him to take a leave of absence, but the 73-year-old Arizona basketball coach admitted he sought treatment for stress and anxiety. "I'm already going beyond what I was going to tell you," Olson said at a televised news conference. "That's a personal issue." But Olson did say his family doctor examined him last month, and said, "You're ready for whatever you want do do." Olson said he plans to coach at least until 2011, when his contract runs out, and said the school's verbal agreement with Kevin O'Neill to be Olson's successor has been tabled. "I asked him, if he wanted to be an assistant another three or five years, and Kevin said, no." Olson said the school would honor O'Neill's remaining year on his contract but that O'Neill would not be on the basketball staff next season.

At Stanford the Lopez Twins are headed to the NBA.

More than anything, what happened to Stanford in the Sweet 16 is what always happens to Stanford. The opponent turned up the intensity on both ends, and the Cardinal had no response.
Sometimes it happens in the opening minutes of the game, sometimes in the middle minutes of the second half, sometimes in the final minutes of the game. Sometimes it happens in the first round, sometimes in the second, occasionally in the Sweet 16, once in a while in the Elite Eight.

QB Danny Sullivan waiting for his chance at Arizona State behind Carpenter.

Danny Sullivan was fully committed to Arizona State from the start."I told my dad right before I came here my freshman year, I'm not going anywhere," said Sullivan, who comes from a family of athletes and coaches. "When you think about it, if you go somewhere, it's going to end up in a bad situation unless you're going I-AA. My thought process was wait it out, and your time is going to eventually come."The junior quarterback still feels that way, even though circumstances took away his chance to redshirt and could leave him with only one year of significant playing time.

Spring ball is winding up at WSU, do they practice in the snow over there? Tony Bennett turned down Indiana, but will he turn down LSU, or Cal?

Whatever the reason, it's a new week and spring ball is in the home stretch. While spring has been "OK", according to some, Wulff weighs in today in the Spokesman about how important this week really is. For a quick recap, here's where we are with one week left:

At Oregon State they only care about baseball this time of the year, so Jake from the Building the Dam Blog and I exchanged some baseball questions this past week. For the record I think the Beaver baseball program has been one of the brightest spots in Northwest sports the past couple of years.

John: How deep will the Beavers go this year, do they have the ability to get back into the CWS?

Jake: Well, it's hard to say. If you would have asked me that same question at the end of Pac-10 play last year I would have told you that they have a tough shot at making it to NCAA Regionals. They did that thanks to a series win against UCLA the last week of the season, and made it to Omaha unscathed. Whether they were truly the last team team into the field or not I don't know, but it was definitely a impressive feat to dominate Omaha after a less than impressive Pac-10 season. That said, OSU can definitely make it back to Omaha. They've got guys back from last season that played roles in the titles (Wong, Wallace, Hopkins, Lechelt, George, Lennerton, etc.), but they lose their key leaders (Darwin Barney and Mitch Canham). I can assure you that this team will improve as the season goes on and the weather gets better (they're already showing signs of this), and will make a run at the postseason.

John: Who is the best player on the Beaver roster?

I'm partial to Joey Wong, but there are plenty of talented players on this roster. Just looking at the pitching staff, Mike Stutes returns for his senior season after many expect him to go pro, Jorge Reyes, CWS MVP, returns, some other relief pitchers are back, and a bunch of talented newcomer's join the squad this year. Closer Kevin Rhoderick (96 mph fastball) will continue right where former OSU closers Kevin Gunderson and Eddie Kunz left off. As for the position players, there's Chris Hopkins returning for his senior season in center field, Joey Wong at short stop (he moved across the bag after Barney left), Jason Ogata who mostly DH's, transfer Daniel Robertson in right, John Wallace in left, and the list goes on. Every one of these players has the potential to be an MVP of any game. It depends what you're looking for in the best player on the roster, but I would probably go with the senior leadership in Stutes on the hill.

John : Is ASU the team to beat this season in the Pac Ten?

Jake: Absolutely. The Sun Devils are always going to put good clubs together, as they did this year. They're easily one of the best teams in the nation this year, and they were last year. Even though Oregon State won the National Championship, I don't truly believe that we had the best team. I would say that Arizona State's team was better, as they displayed in a series sweep in the Pac-10 season. But Oregon State had the benefit of getting things done when it mattered most, and the Beavers execution led to a 12-6 win against ASU in Omaha, one of the most surreal victories I've ever witnessed. That said, the Sun Devils took it to the Beavers in a pre-season game at the DeMarini Invitational this pre-season. Arizona State put up seven runs in the first inning, possibly some retribution for what happened at Rosenblatt last year. The Bears couldn't get a lick for the rest of the game, and went down by the score of 11-0.

John: How do you feel about Oregon restarting their baseball program, does it worry you, or will it be good healthy competition?

I know a lot of people have, but I really haven't thought about it that much. Obviously it's great for the game of baseball, but I feel bad for the UO wrestlers and the way the Ducks administration went about dismissing the wrestlers in favor of baseball. The thing that irks me is that their main motive for bringing it back is likely the fact that they want to tap into the Beavers success, and they aren't happy that their rivals are excelling in something they don't have. But once things get up and running, it will be nice to have an in-state rival.

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