Every team in the Pac-12 has places to fill. Guys leave to graduate, to play in the league, or for any number of other reasons. That's what makes college football great and more than just what you see on the field. There are some big names that aren't easily replaced, such as Marcus Mariota and Brett Hundley. Then there's a few other known quantities being replaced with unknowns. Let's speculate on who's up next to replace these guys, starting with Oregon, UCLA, Cal, and Arizona State.
Oregon - Marcus Mariota - Vernon Adams
This one we don't have to speculate on, because the answer was made apparent to us this past week. Vernon Adams, former Eastern Washington quarterback, has decided to go to Eugene for some graduate studies, a la Russell Wilson. Some say he wanted to torment Washington some more after his 475 yard and 7 touchdown performance against the Huskies. Our recruiting expert, Jamie Uyeyama had this to say about Adams.
From the look of his tape, he's a guy who's not afraid to pull on the zone read. He can make defenders miss whether he's avoiding the pass rush. This was an area that Mariota was so good at, and Adams can continue the trend. He's not great at throwing the intermediate routes, but aside from the occasional seam route, the Oregon offense doesn't require too many of those. He can throw the screen passes, as well as a good deep ball. With Eastern Washington (along with so many other schools) running something similar to the Oregon offense, Adams won't have too much trouble catching up to the Oregon schemes.
UCLA - Brett Hundley - Jerry Neuheisel or Josh Rosen
This is another big name to replace. Hundley is obviously not easy to replace. The question that will befuddle the Bruins until the end of fall camp is whether to bump Jerry Neuheisel into the conversation, or to take a bit of a risk on incoming freshman Josh Rosen. Neuheisel came to UCLA as unheralded as they come, due to his dad taking the job there. He got his chance to shine last year against Texas, where he came in for an injured Brett Hundley and led the comeback in a 20-17 victory.
The issue with Neuheisel is the same on that gets applied to Alex Smith, the dreaded "game manager" tag. He went 23-30 for 178 yards and 2 TDs. No interceptions as well. The problem is that many of his completions in that game were from short swing routes and screens. That's what this UCLA offense is based off of, and due to using a backup quarterback, the conservative nature of the offense was put forth even more. He can make a big throw, as shown by the throw made to Jordan Payton to win the Texas game. He'll have Paul Perkins and Jordan Payton around to help him if he does start, but he may not have as high of a ceiling as Rosen.
Rosen, a top QB prospect from Southern California, comes in as someone who can play right away. First impressions of his Hudl tape show good footwork in the pocket, a very good deep ball thrown with touch, and an ability to get out of the pocket and make a throw. He isn't a dual-threat type of guy, but his pass-rush evasion is pretty solid. He doesn't seem to get "happy feet" at first sign of pressure. He's capable of making back shoulder throws as well, whether it's on a comeback or a fade route. I wouldn't be surprised if he's the man starting against Virginia on September 5th, and he will make Jim Mora and company think real hard about playing him
Cal - Chris Harper - Trevor Davis
It's a little tough to say who's the most important piece of the Bears that's leaving, but I've chosen Chris Harper due to his consistency over departing center Chris Adcock.
This one is a little bit set in stone already. For part of the season, Davis was listed as a co-starter to Harper, but had injuries that set him back for the last half of the season. Harper, who was told he wouldn't get a college scholarship, ended up making the most immediate impact of the fantastic 2012 receiver class for Cal. He declared for the draft after receivers coach Rob Likens went to Kansas to become their offensive coordinator. He has a very worthy replacement to take over full-time in Trevor Davis.
Davis made an impact last year in the Washington State game, scoring two touchdowns on receptions, one being the game winner, along with returning two kickoffs for touchdowns. He was a transfer from Hawaii who had his teammates raving about his work on the scout team in 2013. He is a fluid route runner, has excellent top speed, and great hands. This doesn't even mention his agility, showcased in his first touchdown catch against Washington State. He even got a Special Teams coach fired. He has the ability to be a 1000 yard receiver for Jared Goff, and may be the perfect complement to Kenny Lawler, Bryce Treggs, and Stephen Anderson. Overall, a very polished receiver.
Arizona State - Jaelen Strong - Ellis Jefferson
An argument could be made for Taylor Kelly being the most important piece to replace, but Mike Bercovici proved that the Sun Devils are in good hands moving forward. Jaelen Strong seemed like the largest piece to be replaced. He provided a go to receiver for the offense, who the defense had to keep an eye on at all times. This showed after he got injured in the Notre Dame game. ASU's offense came to a screeching halt, and they had to rely on David Robinson's son bobbling a pass right into the hands of Lloyd Carrington. Plus, the Jaelmary was one of the best moments of 2014.
Anyway, Ellis Jefferson brings a similar skillset to the table. He's 6'4", 210 pounds and is built in the same mold as Strong. He has a talent for finding open seams in the defense. From what I can take from a very limited recruiting tape, he has an ability to find space in his routes to make catches. His routes don't look terribly sharp, but he has had two years of improvement from this tape. During last years' spring ball practices, Jefferson proved to be a big target in traffic, becoming a standout in practices while backing up Strong. With his body type and his ability to make catches in tight spaces, he compares to Kenny Lawler of Cal. Whether he can continue to improve and replace Strong remains up to him.
Next time, we cover the rest of the Pacific-Northwest, along with who can replace Kaelin Clay of Utah.