SALT LAKE CITY — Fall camp is underway for Pac-12 football, leaving coaches, players and fans alike eager for the season to arrive.
With the season fast approaching, here’s what’s happening with each team so far in camp:
Arizona is embracing a “New Era” mantra for the upcoming season as it’s under new leadership and aiming for a new direction after a disappointing 7-6 finish last year.
Despite the changes, the Wildcats are impressed with their young quarterbacks and how the offense is handling learning a new playbook after only a few practices. Who will back up Khalil Tate is turning to be a closer call than expected.
The heat is up in Tempe. New head coach Herm Edwards expressed concern with his team fighting on the second day of practice, telling reporters had it been a game, three players would’ve been ejected.
Speaking of heat, new defensive coordinator Danny Gonzales’ goal for his unit is to build confidence and toughness. He’s doing so with a lead-by-example approach, showing players he’ll never ask them to do anything he can’t, as he runs 4.2 miles every day when the thermometer is at its peak. With a fearless attitude, Gonzales is sure the Sun Devils can be one of the top defenses.
Cal head coach Justin Wilcox is stressing the importance of the details and physicality of the game before the season begins. Once the Bears can wear pads, the team will focus on the line of scrimmage for both the offense and defense, as well as its run game. The second-year coach doesn’t feel as though they were at their best at the line of scrimmage and in the run game last season.
Quarterback Steven Montez wasn’t voted a captain despite playing in 22 games with 15 starts. Instead, players nominated three wide receivers, a linebacker, a tackle and the punter. Alex Kinney becomes Colorado’s first punter to be named a captain in more than 30 years.
Montez and wide receiver Juwann Winfree have built a strong bond over the summer. The pair live close to each other, so they worked together nearly every day in summer to practice different routes and their timing. When they couldn’t get into the practice facility, they’d practice in the streets. It’s that kind of work ethic the Buffs think will enhance their offense this season.
Despite not having any seniors among the offensive line, Oregon feels as though it has the experience it needs for a successful front line. The Ducks’ center, guards and right tackle are all juniors who have started in every game the past two seasons.
The Ducks lost just one game in Autzen Stadium last season. It was another story on the road, where they won just a single game. The team has taken to the road to help with its mindset of not playing on its home turf. Oregon traveled 100 miles north to practice at Ronaldo Field at Nike World Headquarters.
Offensive coordinator Brian Lindgren has yet to share his insight on who’s looking best at quarterback. Consistency is much more important to him than flashy skills, so whoever can take care of the ball best is who will go under center on game day.
The Beavers are already at a disadvantage on their defensive line. Defensive end Jeromy Reichner will miss the first part of the season with an injury. The transfer was expected to add depth to an inexperienced position.
The key to Stanford’s offense is star running back Bryce Love and its top receivers, but the health of their quarterbacks was in question coming into fall camp. Expected starter K.J. Costello sat out of spring practice with a hip injury, but head coach David Shaw believes he’ll be ready to go by Week 1. Presumed backup Davis Mills is also making his way back from a knee injury.
After a stellar season last year, Love is ready to take on a bigger load this year. The running back is stronger than ever, thanks to an extra 10 pounds of muscle to push through defenses.
With a new head coach at the helm, UCLA is not, surprisingly, running practices differently. Chip Kelly has players moving at a fast pace from the moment they jog to their warm-up positions. During spring ball, the Bruins were reportedly running plays as fast as 15 seconds each. The defense, which was exhausted by the up-tempo earlier in the year, is becoming used to it.
After ranking near the bottom in rushing yards per game among all FBS teams, the Bruins are looking to Kelly to revive the run game. Kelly’s Oregon teams never ranked below sixth in the nation in rushing, never averaging fewer than 231 rush yards per game. UCLA hasn’t reached that average since 1979.
Who will replace Sam Darnold is the key question for USC. Freshman JT Daniels looks to be the guy as he’s impressed coaches early. However, returning quarterbacks Jack Sears and Matt Fink are close behind with improvements since spring.
Outside linebacker Porter Gustin reportedly has a slightly torn meniscus after he injured his knee on a non-contact play in practice. He’ll undergo surgery and is expected to be out for several weeks. The timetable of his return depends on his recovery.
Head coach Kyle Whittingham previously listed a starting five for Utah’s offensive line, but now mentioned there’s still a battle between Orlando Umana and Nick Ford for left guard. With the team now practicing in full pads, a lineup will be soon be determined.
Quarterback Tyler Huntley has reportedly improved his efficiency 10-15 percent from last season. He hasn’t quite put on the weight that coaches want, but his decision-making has improved and he looks comfortable continuing in Troy Taylor’s scheme.
The defensive backs are hungry in Washington. The incredibly competitive group gives the youngest defensive back the responsibility of recording each interception, then noting it on the “Pick Board” after each practice. Their competitive edge is working as quarterback Jake Browning’s first throw of fall camp was picked.
As for replacing Dante Pettis at punt returner, head coach Chris Petersen isn’t giving any leads, but noted that he’s looking for an explosive player who won’t necessarily also do kick returns.
The quarterback competition was a three-man race, but a fourth was added to the mix on day four of camp. Cougars head coach Mike Leach told reporters he’s trying to give all quarterbacks a look while moving fast.