Huskies Insider Blog

2015 Pac-12 football preview capsules

Each football season, the News Tribune’s college football preview includes a capsulated look at each Pac-12 team. So here they are, in order of predicted finish.



Coach: Mark Helfrich, third year

2014: 13-2 overall, 8-1 in Pac-12

Starters returning: 7 on offense, 6 on defense


Vernon Adams, QB, 5-11, 201, RSr.

Adams didn’t transfer from Eastern Washington so he could sit on the bench, and on Friday, the Ducks named Adams their starting quarterback after just two weeks in the program.

Royce Freeman, RB, 5-11, 230, So.

Big, strong, fast, physical back could be a Heisman contender if he stays healthy and builds upon last season’s 1,365-yard effort.

DeForest Buckner, DL, 6-7, 290, Sr.

Second-team all-conference as a junior after finishing 2014 season with 81 tackles (13 for loss). Also had four sacks, and will anchor Oregon’s d-line as a senior.

Byron Marshall, WR, 5-10, 200, Sr.

Former tailback made a successful transition to receiver and caught 74 passes for 1,003 yards and six TDs last season.

Rodney Hardrick, LB, 6-1, 245, RSr.

Has started Oregon’s last 28 games, and was one of the team’s most productive tacklers last season with 75 (and six for loss).


The Ducks are still the obvious favorite to win the Pac-12 North, though Marcus Mariota’s departure to the NFL means Oregon has to break in a new quarterback. Adams is his replacement. And if his success at the FCS level translates to the ultra-competitive Pac-12, the Ducks’ offense – with Royce Freeman and Byron Marshall starring – could again be one of the best in the country, despite tailback Thomas Tyner’s season-ending surgery. And with six starters back on defense, that unit should have enough experience to get the few stops per game that it needs.


Coach: David Shaw, fifth year

2014: 8-5 overall, 5-4 in Pac-12

Starters returning: 8 on offense, 2 on defense


Kevin Hogan, QB, 6-4, 218, RSr.

Cardinal offense will go as far as Hogan can take them. Completed 65.7% of his pass attempts last year for 2,792 yards and 19 TDs.

Devon Cajuste, WR, 6-4, 227, RSr.

Big, physical receiver should be Hogan’s No. 1 target after he caught 34 passes for 557 yards and six TDs in 2014.

Blake Martinez, LB, 6-2, 245, Sr.

Stanford lost plenty of defensive talent to the NFL, but Martinez, the team’s leading tackler last season with 102, returns.

Kevin Anderson, LB, 6-4, 244, RSr.

A.J. Tarpley and James Vaughters got attention as top Stanford LBs last year, but Anderson quietly had 52 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks.

Joshua Garnett, OG, 6-5, 321, Sr.

Puyallup native started every game for the Cardinal last season at left guard and is an All-America candidate as a senior.


Stanford once again has to replace a considerable amount of NFL talent and other departures on defense – Martinez and Anderson are the team’s lone returning starters. But the Cardinal has a bevy of skilled, experienced offensive players, including a veteran quarterback, a handful of promising running backs and a group of tall, physical receivers and tight ends. And Stanford has proven itself capable in recent years of reloading defensively.


Coach: Sonny Dykes, third season

2014: 5-7 overall, 3-6 in Pac-12

Starters returning: 8 on offense, 7 on defense


Jared Goff, QB, 6-4, 215, Jr.

The Pac-12’s top returning passer, Goff is a legitimate NFL prospect and leads a Cal offense that returns nearly all of its stars.

Kenny Lawler, WR, 6-3, 195, Jr.

One of four receivers who caught at least 46 passes last season, Lawler led the team with 701 yards and nine TDs.

Daniel Lasco, RB, 6-1, 205, RSr.

Who said you can’t run the ball in the Air Raid offense? Lasco bulled his way for 1,115 yards and 12 TDs last season, averaging 5.3 yards per carry.

Michael Barton, LB, 6-0, 240, RJr.

Was Cal’s top tackler in 2014 with 80, and also led the team with 7.5 tackles for loss.

Stefan McClure, S, 5-11, 205, RSr.

He’s missed 25 games due to injury in his career, but the 15-game starter should be ready to go for Cal’s opener.


Cal showed marked improvement in Dykes’ second season as coach. But nearly all of that improvement occurred on the offensive side of the ball. The Bears were still a mess defensively in 2014, ranking 115th nationally in yards-per-pass-attempt (8.1) and 123rd in scoring defense (39.8). They do return most of their defensive starters, so if that side of the ball can improve enough to let Goff and Cal’s talented offense go to work, Cal should return to its first bowl game since 2011.


Coach: Chris Petersen, second season

2014: 8-6 overall, 4-5 in Pac-12

Starters returning: 4 on offense, 4 on defense


Jake Browning, QB, 6-2, 206, Fr.

It remains to be seen whether Browning will play this year as a true freshman. But he’s done enough in fall camp to think that he’s got a shot, even if Petersen hasn’t announced a decision yet.

Dwayne Washington, RB, 6-2, 226, RJr.

A strong, fast back with a knack for the big play, Washington led the Huskies last season with 655 yards and nine TDs – five of which came on runs of 51 yards or more.

Dante Pettis, WR, 6-0, 185, So.

Should have a bigger role in the offense after infrequent playing time as a freshman. Also averaged 10.3 yards per punt return last season.

Travis Feeney, LB, 6-4, 226, RSr.

Only returning starter from last season’s vaunted front seven has moved to hybrid “buck” linebacker position. Had 60 tackles, 4.5 for loss in 2014.

Sidney Jones, CB, 6-0, 178, So.

Emerged as a tough cover-corner as a true freshman last season, and, along with FS Budda Baker, could be a sure starter as long as he’s at UW.


There might be more talent on the Huskies’ defense than some would assume after the departures of Danny Shelton, Marcus Peters, Shaq Thompson and Hau’oli Kikaha to the NFL. There just isn’t a lot of experience. And the Huskies obviously have some holes to fill offensively, particularly at quarterback (a position that remains unsettled) and along the offensive line, which will look completely different than it did a year ago. UW recruited well the past few years, but those star prospects now must develop into productive Pac-12 players if the Huskies are to extend their streak of bowl appearances to six seasons.


Coach: Mike Leach, fourth season

2014: 3-9 overall, 2-7 in Pac-12

Starters returning: 7 on offense, 6 on defense


Luke Falk, QB, 6-4, 205, RSo.

Former walk-on showed promise last season in relief of the injured Connor Halliday, including 471-yard, 5-TD performance at Oregon State.

Gabe Marks, WR, 6-0, 195, RJr.

Redshirted last season for reasons not made particularly clear, but caught 74 passes for 807 yards as a sophomore and is back for 2015.

Kyrin Priester, WR, 6-1, 190, So.

Clemson transfer recently ruled eligible to play right away at WSU has earned rave reviews from coaching staff during training camp.

Jeremiah Allison, LB, 6-2, 228, Sr.

Started nine games last season and finished with 78 tackles, 8.5 for loss and 3.5 sacks.

River Cracraft, WR, 6-0, 200, Jr.

Sure-handed slot receiver is WSU’s top returning pass-catcher (66 receptions, 771 yards, 8 TDs in 2014).


The Cougars return several dependable receivers, their entire starting offensive line, and a quarterback in Falk who gained some valuable game experience as a redshirt freshman last season. So the offense should be fine. It’s the defense that worries Cougars fans. Can first-year coordinator Alex Grinch revamp a unit that allowed opponents to gain 6.2 yards per play and 8.3 yards per pass attempt in 2014? WSU’s progression on that side of the ball will determine whether the Cougars make their second bowl appearance under Leach.


Coach: Gary Andersen, first season

2014: 5-7 overall, 2-7 in Pac-12

Starters returning: 10 on offense, 2 on defense


Storm Woods, RB, 6-0, 207, RSr.

With a new quarterback replacing Sean Mannion, Woods (121 carries, 766 yards, 5 TDs in 2014) and OSU’s running game will have to be stout this season.

Victor Bolden, WR, 5-9, 174, Jr.

Led the Beavers with 72 catches for 798 yards last season, and should be a favorite target of whoever wins OSU’s quarterback competition.

Larry Scott, CB, 6-0, 192, RSr.

One of only two starters returning from last year’s defense. Had 43 tackles and broke up 11 passes in 2014.

Jordan Villamin, WR, 6-5, 231, RSo.

Averaged 16.5 yards per catch as a freshman, and is obviously a big target.

Isaac Seumalo, OL, 6-5, 298, RJr.

Redshirted last season while recovering from a foot injury, but started 25 games in 2012 and 2013. Now healthy, he should be one of OSU’s top linemen.


The Beavers actually return a bunch of experience on the offensive side of the ball – but one of the two starters they lost was Sean Mannion, the record-setting quarterback who is now with the St. Louis Rams. Two competitors – Seth Collins, a true freshman, and Marcus McMaryion, a redshirt freshman – will see time at quarterback in OSU’s opener, with a resolution perhaps coming thereafter. The Beavers must also replace nine defensive starters, probably the biggest reason they’re picked to finish last in the North.



Coach: Steve Sarkisian, second season

2014: 9-4 overall, 6-3 in Pac-12

Starters returning: 8 on offense, 7 on defense


Cody Kessler, QB, 6-1, 215, RSr.

The league’s top returning quarterback is a big reason why the Trojans were picked to win the Pac-12. Threw for 3,826 yards, 39 TDs and five interceptions last season.

Adoree Jackson, DB, 5-11, 185, So.

Considered one of the country’s top playmakers, Jackson will start at cornerback, return kickoffs and punts, and should play some receiver, too.

Su’a Cravens, LB/S, 6-1, 225, Jr.

Led team with 17 tackles for loss as a sophomore in 2014, and was named first-team All Pac-12. He’s a candidate for defensive player of the year.

Juju Smith-Schuster, WR, 6-2, 215, So.

Second on team last season (behind Nelson Agholor) with 54 catches for 724 yards and five TDs.

Justin Davis, RB, 6-1, 195, Jr.

Trojans lost leading rusher Javorius Allen, but Davis tallied 595 yards and four TDs himself last season.


The Trojans were loaded with young talent last season, and that young talent is now a year older. Players like Jackson, Cravens and Smith-Schuster combine with an experienced offensive line and a star quarterback to form what might be the most talented roster in the Pac-12. Of course, USC has already had to deal with some off-field drama after Sarkisian made a few inappropriate remarks while intoxicated at a booster function. The former UW coach has said he’ll seek treatment. It remains to be seen what effect that will have on a team picked by media to win the Pac-12 championship.


Coach: Todd Graham, fourth season

2014: 10-3 overall, 6-3 in Pac-12

Starters returning: 7 on offense, 8 on defense


Mike Bercovici, QB, 6-2, 210, RSr.

Had to wait for his turn behind former starter Taylor Kelly, but the Pac-12’s best backup quarterback from last season is finally a full-time starter.

D.J. Foster, RB, 6-0, 195, Sr.

Versatile player who rushed for 1,081 yards last season and also caught 62 passes. Now a full-time slot receiver.

Jordan Simone, S, 6-0, 195, RSr.

Once a walk-on at Washington State, the Sammamish native enters his senior season as a Sun Devils captain after leading team with 8.3 tackles per game in 2014.

Salamo Fiso, LB, 6-0, 230, RJr.

Had 83 tackles and 11 tackles for loss last season as a third-year sophomore, and is one of a handful of returning playmakers on ASU’s defense.

Demario Richard, RB, 5-10, 220, So.

Rushed for 487 yards and four TDs as a true freshman, and should be a bigger factor this season.


Not many teams could lose a starting quarterback of Taylor Kelly’s caliber and immediately feel complete confidence in his replacement, but that’s the pleasant situation in which ASU finds itself. Bercovici has plenty of game experience, and completed 61.8% of his passes last season for 1,445 yards, 12 TDs and four interceptions while filling in for an injured Kelly. He’ll have a lot of talent around him this year, and ASU’s stout defense returns all but three starters, too. No reason the Sun Devils can’t compete for the Pac-12 title.


Coach: Rich Rodriguez, fourth season

2014: 10-4 overall, 7-2 in Pac-12

Starters returning: 6 on offense, 6 on defense


Anu Solomon, QB, 6-2, 205, RSo.

Needs to improve accuracy (58.0 completion percentage last season), but he showed promise – and threw for 3,793 yards with 28 TDs – at the helm of Arizona’s fast-paced offense.

Scooby Wright, LB, 6-1, 246, Jr.

One of the country’s best defensive players is back for his junior season. Wright earned a bevy of postseason awards last year after recording 163 tackles, 29 tackles for loss and 14 sacks.

Cayleb Jones, WR, 6-3, 215, RJr.

Had a breakout season in 2014 with 73 catches, 1,019 yards and nine TDs, and leads a talented, experienced group of receivers.

Nick Wilson, RB, 5-10, 199, So.

Led all Pac-12 freshmen in total yards and set Arizona’s freshman rushing record with 1,375 (and 16 TDs).

Will Parks, S, 6-1, 195, Sr.

Wright wasn’t the only productive member of Arizona’s defense last year – Parks started every game and finished with 81 tackles and 13 tackles for loss.


Arizona returns a decent amount of talent, but does have some holes to fill – particularly on the offensive line, where only two starters return. But the Wildcats do have an established starting quarterback (Solomon), a handful of productive receivers (Jones, Trey Griffey, Samajie Grant), and a young tailback who burst onto the scene as a freshman (Wilson). Their defense is led by a strong linebacker corps, and while they have a few question marks in the secondary, this looks like a team capable of defending its Pac-12 South championship crown.


Coach: Jim Mora, fourth season

2014: 10-3 overall, 6-3 in Pac-12

Starters returning: 9 on offense, 8 on defense


Josh Rosen, QB, 6-4, 210, Fr.

Heralded true freshman won the quarterback competition and was named the team’s starter on Aug. 26.

Paul Perkins, RB, 5-11, 210, RJr.

Pac-12’s top returning rusher finished sophomore year with 1,575 yards and 6.3 yards per carry.

Myles Jack, LB, 6-1, 245, Jr.

College football’s favorite two-way threat had 88 tackles and 8 tackles for loss as a sophomore.

Jordan Payton, WR, 6-1, 212, Sr.

Led the Bruins last season with 67 catches for 954 yards and nine TDs, plus an impressive average of 14.2 yards per catch.

Ishmael Adams, DB, 5-8, 180, RJr.

Started all 26 games the last two seasons, and returned a pair of interceptions for touchdowns in 2014. Also a standout kick returner.


The Bruins are loaded with talent on both sides of the ball, and might have been a popular pick as Pac-12 champions if not for one thing – they lost star quarterback Brett Hundley, and are replacing him with a true freshman. Then again, that freshman is Josh Rosen, a 5-star, all-everything prospect who could have played anywhere he wanted. And he has a stud tailback, an experienced offensive line and several proven receivers alongside him. Plus, UCLA’s defense is just as experienced.


Coach: Kyle Whittingham, 11th season

2014: 9-4, 5-4 in Pac-12

Starters returning: 7 on offense, 7 on defense


Devontae Booker, RB, 5-11, 212, Sr.

Former WSU signee burst onto the scene in 2014, rushing for 1,512 yards and 10 TDs – and also caught 43 passes for another 306 yards.

Travis Wilson, QB, 6-7, 233, Sr.

Threw for 2,170 yards and 18 TDs with just five interceptions as a junior, but must take another step forward to lead Utes to success against brutal Pac-12 South.

Jared Norris, LB, 6-2, 244, RSr.

Had 116 tackles last season, second-most among returning Pac-12 players. Also had 13 tackles for loss and four sacks.

Hunter Dimick, DE, 6-3, 270, RJr.

Had 10 sacks in just 11 games in 2014, missing the last two due to injury.

Kenneth Scott, WR, 6-3, 208, 6Sr.

Granted a medical hardship waiver due to injuries that wiped out his 2010 and 2013 seasons. Led team last year with 48 catches for 506 yards.


The Utes feel a little bit like the forgotten team in the Pac-12 South, despite returning their starting quarterback, a star tailback, four offensive line starters and several key pieces of what was a pretty effective defensive unit last season. Trips to Oregon, USC and Arizona will be difficult, but don’t sleep on Utah in the race for the South division title. Losing players like Kaelin Clay and Nate Orchard didn’t help, but there’s still a lot to like about this roster.


Coach: Mike MacIntyre, third season

2014: 2-10 overall, 0-9 in Pac-12

Starters returning: 6 on offense, 9 on defense


Nelson Spruce, WR, 6-1, 195, RSr.

Maybe the best Pac-12 player nobody is talking about, Spruce set Colorado’s single-season record with 106 catches last year and finished with 1,198 yards and 12 TDs.

Sefo Liufau, QB, 6-4, 235, Jr.

Tacoma native returns for this third season as Colorado’s starting QB. Struggled some last year, throwing 28 TD passes but 15 interceptions.

Addison Gillam, LB, 6-3, 225, Jr.

Former Freshman All-America selection finished last season with 79 tackles despite missing nearly two full games.

Kenneth Olugbode, LB, 6-1, 220, Jr.

Led the team in tackles with 83 as a sophomore and is one of three returning starting linebackers.

Christian Powell, RB, 6-0, 235, Sr.

Averaged 5.3 yards per carry as a junior, and should be a bigger part of the offense this season.


2014 was another rough season for Colorado, as the Buffaloes generally appeared more competent but still failed to win a Pac-12 game. And while they should continue to improve in 2015, they still seem the obvious pick to finish in the South cellar. This is simply too competitive of a division for the still-rebuilding Buffaloes to hope for anything better than a last-place finish. But the Liufau-to-Spruce connection should still be worth watching, and hey, with a nonconference slate that features Hawaii, Massachusetts, Colorado State and Nicholls State, the Buffaloes could start 4-0.

Christian Caple can be reached at Twitter: @ChristianCaple