View Mobile Site

Ask the Expert

Signal Photos


Pac 12 takes centerstage at Media Day

Posted: July 26, 2013 7:33 p.m.
Updated: July 26, 2013 7:33 p.m.
Oregon coach Mark Helfrich, center, talks to reporters as he is flanked by quarterback Marcus Mariota, left, and cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu during Pac-12 Conference Media Day Friday in Culver City. Oregon coach Mark Helfrich, center, talks to reporters as he is flanked by quarterback Marcus Mariota, left, and cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu during Pac-12 Conference Media Day Friday in Culver City.
Oregon coach Mark Helfrich, center, talks to reporters as he is flanked by quarterback Marcus Mariota, left, and cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu during Pac-12 Conference Media Day Friday in Culver City.


CULVER CITY – The Pac-12 took its turn on the big stage.

More specifically, it was soundstage 8 at Sony Pictures Studios that served as the main stage to the annual Pac-12 football media day.

It was the last of the media sessions for the major football conferences in the country.

Head coaches and two prominent players from each Pac-12 team gathered for another cliche-filled gauntlet of radio, TV and newspaper interviews and photo ops.

With media day also came the release of the preseason media conference poll, which put Oregon and its lightning-fast, ultra-productive offense as the favorite to win the Pac-12 Championship.

That was the case despite Oregon losing highly successful head coach Chip Kelly after four years at the helm, as well as consensus All-American running back Kenjon Barner. Both are off to the NFL.

“We’re going to talk the same, work the same, practice the same,” said new Ducks head coach Mark Helfrich, who served as an offensive assistant under Kelly since 2009. “We’re going to tweak the margins. We have guys that grow up, get better.”

It isn’t as if the Ducks come into 2013 empty-handed, with Heisman hopeful and sophomore quarterback Marcus Mariota leading the way.

Joining him in the backfield will be dynamic junior running back De’Anthony Thomas, one of the conference’s top overall athletes.

The only other teams that received conference-champion votes were defending Pac-12 champion Stanford and two-time defending Pac-12 South champion UCLA.

UCLA was chosen to win the South again, while the voters had Stanford finishing as runner-up in the North Division despite coming off a Rose Bowl victory.

The Bruins are aiming high as they enter year two under energetic head coach Jim Mora. The team returns five starters on defense and six on offense, many of them in key positions.

That includes sophomore quarterback Brett Hundley, who is coming off a stellar freshman campaign, and a strong stable of running backs that includes Valencia High graduate Steven Manfro.

The redshirt sophomore will presumably play an elevated role this year after getting into the action last season as a runner and kick returner. He’ll be among those backs trying to fill the vacancy left by NFL draftee and all-time UCLA career rushing leader Johnathan Franklin.

“You don’t just replace the leading rusher in UCLA history,” Mora said. “But there is a belief that maybe one of them can become the next Johnathan Franklin eventually.”

Following the Bruins in the South standings is Arizona State, USC, Arizona, Utah and Colorado, in that order.

Picked to finish behind Stanford in the North is Oregon State, followed by Washington, UC Berkeley and Washington State.

At the No. 3 spot in the South, USC enters fall camp completely under the radar compared to last year, when the Trojans began the year atop the nation’s Associated Press poll.

In the end, it was a disappointing 7-6 finish for USC that ended with a 21-7 loss to Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl.

“As we look at where we need to improve, it’s not some things that maybe (the media) thinks, it’s things that we believe within our program are very easy to look at with that happened last year,” said USC head coach Lane Kiffin.

If nothing else, Trojans fans will get to watch junior and 2012 Biletnikoff Award-winning wide receiver Marqise Lee try to put together a Heisman Trophy campaign.

The question is who will throw to Lee?

Kiffin is one of many coaches in the conference who will head into camp next week without having named a starting quarterback.

The same goes for Oregon State, Arizona, Washington State, Colorado and Cal, which all have two to three players competing for the starting signal caller job.

Media day also provided a chance for three new head coaches to introduce themselves to West Coast reporters — Cal’s Sonny Dykes, Colorado’s Mike MacIntyre and Helfrich.

Dykes and MacIntyre both inherited Santa Clarita Valley products this season.

For Cal, Dykes will have West Ranch graduate Jeff Coprich at his disposal to play running back. Though Coprich was recruited as a cornerback last year, after redshirting in 2012, he has entered into the competition to help Cal’s backfield.

MacIntyre spoke highly of Valencia graduate and incoming Colorado freshman Tedric Thompson, who recently arrived on campus and will take the field for the first time when fall camp opens in August.

As a whole, coaches were asked about a new NCAA targeting rule, which carries a penalty of ejection if a player intentionally drives another player to the ground on a tackle.

Some coaches, like Washington State’s Mike Leach, are strongly against the rule, while most coaches were more reserved but still skeptical about it.

That rule is part of an ongoing emphasis on player safety in college football, which was discussed by Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott at the beginning of media day.

Scott touched on several issues relating to the change needed within the NCAA, saying “evolution, rather than radical overhaul” is what’s needed.

On a more optimistic note, Scott discussed the success of the Pac-12 Networks in their first year of existence. He said the series of TV and online networks will be expanding their coverage of conference athletics this year.

The Pac-12 calls media day the unofficial start to football season, so let the games begin.




Commenting not available.
Commenting is not available.


Powered By
Morris Technology
Please wait ...