The 2017 Pac-12 season has been officially kicked off with the conference’s media days getting underway on Wednesday in Hollywood, California. The aspect I took away from opening day is the amount of straight talk from the coaches about their teams and the conference.
For the second straight year, the Wildcats were the lead off team during the media days. Head coach Rich Rodriguez brought Jacob Alsadek (OL) and Luca Bruno (DL) to Hollywood.
This is going to be a challenging year in Tucson for Coach Rodriguez. He’s going to have 50 new players.
“A lot of those guys will play because of depth issues, but there will a bunch of new kids playing.” Rodriguez said.
“We need to get more athletic on all three levels. We better have a chip on our shoulder. The level of competitiveness needs to be higher and losing needs to hurt more with the players.” Coach Rodriguez said in a matter of fact way.
There would be no denying that. Arizona is coming off a terrible year and the pressure to show improvement is high for Rodriguez and his staff. He hears the whispers of being on the hot seat for his job.
“I get it. With a new university president and athletic director, that kind of talk gets spoken about. For me, the pressure to win is every year.” Rich Rod explained.
With the amount of new players he will have, Rodriguez needs to show a little bit of patience. Not sure if that is in his DNA, but we will certainly find out.
This year is a transition type of year for the Bears. New coaching staff, change of culture, and change in attitude. The excitement around the program is undeniable. That excitement begins with first year head coach Justin Wilcox.
“There is a lot of energy in the building right now. Everybody is coming back to work. I think everybody is just eager. They know we’ve got a lot of work to do.” Wilcox stated.
He has Beau Baldwin and Marques Tuiasosopo running the offense for the Bears and was asked about his thoughts on these two guys working together.
“Beau Baldwin, lots of great qualities. He’s a guy that always built the offense around the players. Marques has a great history in the conference. Many of you know him and his history already. Marques is a team guy through and through, just couldn’t be more excited to have him on staff.”
There is a ton of work to do at California, but Justin Wilcox has the energy and game plan to turn it around.
According to Yogi Roth, “Wilcox was the right guy for the job. The only guy.”
Let’s hope Golden Bear fans and administration believe the same thing.
Talk about a program that many people is teetering on falling off the map. One of the key things for the Bruins is to get quarterback, Josh Rosen, back and functioning at full strength. Keeping Rosen upright will be of the upmost importance.
“Bringing in Hank Fraley as the offensive line coach who has played in the NFL, he did it really probably less on talent and more on technique and intelligence and work ethic.” Mora stated.
This type of coach hopefully will be the right guy with the right coaching style to help UCLA keep their quarterback healthy and upright.
Speaking of Josh Rosen, Mora is happy with how his quarterback has matured over this offseason.
“I think he has progressed tremendously. Just like all young men, they get it at different times. I think it’s a huge credit to how he has approached the offseason and how he has shown maturity.”
Given that Rosen is a big part of whatever UCLA does, the maturity that Rosen has apparently shown will need to be in full force for UCLA to make any noise in the Pac-12 South Division.
This is the team that for many people is the team that will take another step in the positive direction this year.
“Whatever, Coach Andersen is selling, those kids are buying it and it is great to see.” Yogi Roth told me.
Ryan Nall, the face of the program now, was even more excited for the season to begin.
“The ceiling is as high as we want to make it.” Nall exclaimed.
Coach Andersen said the team has learned that learning how to win is a constant learning process.
“They learned that if they don’t approach each game with a high level of detail, then things don’t go their way.” Andersen said.
Ryan Nall is excited for the what the season brings and believes the turn in the team attitude came with the Civil War win against Oregon.
“You could just tell in how we reacted after the win. The monkey was lifted off of our backs finally. I do notice a lot more Beaver stickers in cars in now. That tells you that our fans feel the change.” Nall stated.
Are the Beavers the upcoming version of Colorado? Time will tell, but the right steps are being taken by Coach Andersen and his staff.
This is the team in the conference that many people want to believe in, but don’t just yet even though the Buffaloes went to the conference title game.
Coach MacInytre feels that mistrust with people outside the program.
“We are still a team that people don’t believe in.” Coach MacIntyre stated matter-of-factly.
Expectations have been raised in Boulder and that is a good thing to Coach Mac.
“We set the expectations. We have a lot to prove.” MacIntyre stated.
I agree with him though. They have experienced players coming back and want to rely on that experience to get back to the Pac-12 Championship game.
“What we want to do is be in the Pac-12 Championship game and not get our brains beat in like we did last year, so we’d like to finish it better.” Coach MacIntyre explained.
That’s what all Buff fans want to happen as well.
Chris Petersen’s Huskies are the team that arguably may have the biggest target on their back because they are the defending conference champions. The Huskies also got the College Football Playoff and so the high expectations are higher than Husky Stadium.
When Petersen was asked about how consistency is maintained in a program his response was simple.
“You know, I think talent is number one. I think we’ve got really good guys that know how we operate and are all about those type of things. So I think if you get the injury bug and those type of things, you’ve always going to have to recoup.” Petersen said.
Washington return their multi-talented quarterback Jake Browning. When you have an experienced quarterback the amount wins for a program go up. When you have a guy like Browning, it goes way up.
“Looking at the physical attributes of a quarterback, it is completely overrated.” Petersen told the media.
If people thought he was downplaying his own quarterback with that statement, I don’t believe it. What he has in Browning is what he wants with any quarterback he brings to Seattle.
I would take Browning on my team in a heartbeat.
While the media picked USC to win the conference, let’s remember one thing. The Huskies are the champs right now. The road to the title goes through Seattle until we know otherwise.
Washington has won a conference title, they know how to do it. USC has not done that yet. The Trojans have something to prove. The Huskies have something to prove as well, but they have the experience of having won something. The Dawgs are not going down without a fight.
Husky fans want that siren going off as much as possible in 2017 and a return trip to Levi Stadium in December. If injuries stay away from the team, I see that happening for them.