2023 faculty soccer spring preview: Pac-12
While the convention offers with its impending seek for a brand new media deal and potential enlargement within the wake of USC’s and UCLA’s 2024 departure to the Big Ten, this spring would be the first time we get to see glimpses of among the Pac-12’s new additions in addition to returning stars because it solidifies itself because the convention of quarterbacks.
USC’s Caleb Williams leads the cost after profitable the Heisman final season as a sophomore whereas Oregon’s Bo Nix, Utah’s Cam Rising and Washington’s Michael Penix Jr. all opted to return to highschool for yet another yr. All 4 of these groups ought to enter and emerge from spring ball because the favorites.
But do not overlook groups like Oregon State and Washington State. The former added Clemson quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei within the switch portal whereas the latter has Cameron Ward coming again for one more season. Rounding out the lineup is Kent State switch Collin Schlee at UCLA (who must regulate freshman Dante Moore), Notre Dame switch Drew Pyne (who landed at Arizona State underneath new coach Kenny Dillingham) in addition to returning starters Jayden de Laura (Arizona) and naturally, Deion Sanders’ son Shedeur Sanders, who will likely be kickstarting a brand new period of Colorado soccer.
In what’s already a transition yr for the Pac-12, it might be looking at its greatest likelihood to get a staff again into the College Football Playoff since Washington’s lone look in 2016.
Top storyline: Can Arizona’s protection enhance? It’s exhausting to overstate how dangerous the Wildcats’ protection was final season. They have been one of many worst 25 groups within the nation in each passing protection and dashing protection whereas having one of many 20 greatest offenses within the nation. The disparity between the 2 items is stark, but it surely additionally means there’s loads of room for enchancment. Defense will definitely be the discuss of spring camp, particularly after the unit misplaced gamers like defensive lineman Kyon Barrs and nook Christian Roland-Wallace to USC within the switch portal.
Newcomer to observe: Defensive lineman Bill Norton and linebacker Daniel Heimuli are two switch additions that would assist the lackluster unit head in the precise route whereas incoming four-star freshman linebacker Leviticus Su’a from California proves that head coach Jedd Fisch can recruit doubtlessly elite defensive gamers, not simply these on offense, too. All three will likely be gamers to observe in spring as Arizona continues to pry itself away from the underside of the convention. — Uggetti
Top storyline: The rent of Kenny Dillingham to steer the Sun Devils couldn’t have been extra reverse than that of his predecessor, Herm Edwards. By all accounts, Dillingham seems to be the precise man for the job given his allegiance to the varsity, his offensive acumen and recruiting prowess. Spring would be the first time we’ll get a take a look at how Dillingham fares as a head coach of a staff that badly wants management and a model new begin. And as Dillingham absolutely noticed at Oregon whereas he was an offensive coordinator there final yr in Dan Lanning’s first yr, that job is not simple.
Newcomer to observe: Drew Pyne. The impact of Dillingham’s rent has been felt instantly in not simply the recruitment of five-star quarterback Jaden Rashada (who has now flipped to the Sun Devils), however the addition of Notre Dame’s Pyne by means of the portal. Pyne threw for over 2,000 yards with 22 touchdowns and solely six interceptions final yr in South Bend and offers a greater than dependable possibility for ASU at a place that has seen higher days in Tempe. Pyne will present an ideal choice to bridge the hole between final season and Rashada’s eventual anticipated rise to starter. — Uggetti
Top storyline: The Justin Wilcox period has formally entered win-or-else territory. After 5 full seasons — plus the restricted 2020 season — the Bears have but to register a profitable document in convention play underneath Wilcox and, much more troubling, have regressed every year since going 8-5 in 2019. That’s sufficient time to know what to anticipate with Wilcox in Berkeley and if there is not important enchancment this season, it is truthful to count on a change. The timing is attention-grabbing right here as a result of had the plug been pulled final season (because the Bears went 4-8, 2-7), the logical substitute would have been former Cal quarterback Troy Taylor, who as a substitute took the job at Stanford after David Shaw stepped down.
Newcomer to observe: Jake Spavital is again in Berkeley because the offensive coordinator after serving the previous 4 seasons as head coach at Texas State. His return to Cal, the place he served because the offensive coordinator for Sonny Dykes in 2016 — and, briefly, because the offseason interim head coach — represents a blow-it-up-and-start-over method to the offense, which has been a obvious weak spot throughout Wilcox’s tenure. — Bonagura
Deion Sanders not shocked by success of 1st recruiting class
Colorado coach Deion Sanders weighs in on his first recruiting class with this system.
Top storyline: Unlike in earlier seasons, there are many storylines and questions in and across the program at Boulder heading into this spring, however all of these roughly come again to the identical overarching storyline: How will Deion Sanders start to reshape a Division I program that wants not simply assist however a whole overhaul? That overhaul has already begun in myriad methods, however spring camp ought to be the primary take a look at what Sanders (in addition to the seven Jackson State gamers who adopted him to Colorado) will deliver to the desk.
Newcomer to observe: Travis Hunter. After surprising the game by getting Hunter (the No. 1 total recruit final season) to choose Jackson State over Florida State, Sanders’ transfer west meant the Buffs have been getting Hunter as effectively. Colorado is not in a spot the place one elite participant may utterly elevate their protection, however Hunter’s expertise will inevitably elevate their ground. — Uggetti
Top storyline: It’s Dan Lanning’s staff now. What does that imply? Even on this period of school soccer, the place turning over a roster is less complicated by the evolution of switch guidelines, it is exhausting for first-year coaches to play precisely how they need. Style of play continues to be dictated, to a level, by the roster make-up. So, whereas Lanning turned in a powerful debut season in Eugene — 10-3, 7-2 within the convention — it was at all times half of a bigger course of. This is not distinctive, in fact, however that dynamic is what makes this spring so attention-grabbing for the Ducks. There are nonetheless inherited gamers on the roster, however that is now, roughly, a staff inbuilt Lanning’s imaginative and prescient. It will likely be notably attention-grabbing to see how that manifests on the defensive facet, given Lanning’s historical past on that facet of the ball.
Newcomer to observe: Offensive lineman Ajani Cornelius is likely one of the extra attention-grabbing offseason transfers. An unheralded recruit popping out of highschool in New York, he blossomed into one of the sought-after gamers within the portal during the last two seasons at FCS Rhode Island. — Bonagura
Top storyline: Defining success in Corvallis this yr will likely be troublesome. Continued enchancment? Maintain the extent the Beavers confirmed in 2022? Only slight regression (contemplating the losses on protection)? It’s a matter of framing. Since Jonathan Smith took over previous to the 2018 season, the Beavers have made incremental progress every year to succeed in final yr’s 10-3 season, capped by a win within the Las Vegas Bowl. It was simply the third time at school historical past the Beavers gained at the very least 10 video games, so it ought to be remembered as an all-time nice season. Except, on the identical time, the Beavs solely completed in fifth place and, regardless of the historic context, that is hardly a satisfying spot within the standings.
Newcomer to observe: QB DJ Uiagalelei’s arrival is among the many most high-profile transfers in faculty soccer. He went from the subsequent massive factor to out of a job at Clemson on account of inconsistent play. Either means, he represents a major improve on the place for Oregon State, which has been held again by QB play in recent times. — Bonagura
Top storyline: New period, new imaginative and prescient. After overseeing essentially the most profitable interval at school historical past, issues simply did not work for David Shaw on the finish. A recent set of concepts was wanted and that is what new coach Troy Taylor ought to present. At Sacramento State, he took over a staff that went 2-8 total and 0-7 within the Big Sky Conference in 2018 and proceeded to lose only one convention recreation over the subsequent three seasons (they didn’t play in 2020). Replicating that kind of speedy turnaround will likely be considerably harder on this state of affairs, but it surely does present some optimism that Stanford might be aggressive once more.
Newcomer to observe: Taylor. Some extra information about Taylor at Sac State: The Hornets ranked No. 3 in whole offense (499.8 yards per recreation) utilizing a two-quarterback system by which QB Asher O’Hara was second on the staff in passing yards (883) and dashing yards (938). — Bonagura
Top storyline: Who will substitute Dorian Thompson-Robinson underneath heart? After waving goodbye to his longtime, NFL-bound quarterback, Chip Kelly could have a great quaint quarterback battle on his palms. The Bruins plucked Kent State’s Collin Schlee from the switch portal and Schlee is about up effectively to take over the quarterback gig for the Bruins. Last season. Schlee threw for over 2,000 yards and 13 touchdowns (and ran for practically 500 yards and 4 touchdowns) and has the potential to additional excel in an offense like Kelly’s. Yet incoming recruit Dante Moore provides UCLA a five-star wunderkind who seems the half and will give Schlee a run on the place. Speaking of…
Newcomer to observe: The 17-year-old quarterback out of Michigan shocked the faculty soccer world final yr when he flipped from Oregon to UCLA. Then, on the 2023 All-American bowl this yr, Moore proceeded to point out simply how good he already is. In restricted snaps on the bowl, Moore threw for 4 touchdowns and gained the sport’s MVP award. — Uggetti
Top storyline: It will likely be troublesome for USC to persuade the faculty soccer world it has achieved sufficient to enhance its protection till the autumn when video games start. Yet after leaving final season on a bitter be aware following a bowl recreation loss to Tulane, defensive coordinator Alex Grinch’s unit would be the focus of spring camp. Lincoln Riley retained Grinch and strengthened his belief in him after an-up-down season that was buoyed by a historic turnover price. But a lot must enhance for the protection to realize a degree of play that will likely be sufficient to keep away from getting in the way in which of what may as soon as once more be the most effective offenses in faculty soccer. The additions of gamers like defensive linemen Anthony Lucas and Kyon Barrs through the switch portal ought to assist.
Newcomer to observe: Dorian Singer. In the wake of Jordan Addison’s departure to the NFL, Heisman winner Caleb Williams will want a brand new No. 1 goal. Spring may very well be the time when Singer — who transferred from Arizona after a 1,105-yard, six-touchdown season — could develop a vital chemistry with Williams to make sure their partnership will likely be as productive. USC’s extensive receiver room is filled with gifted gamers, however Singer has all of the makings to emerge as its greatest. — Uggetti
Top storyline: What can Utah do to turn out to be a playoff contender? For a staff that has now gained the convention two seasons in a row, the one ceiling left to interrupt by is the College Football Playoff. Last yr, the Utes have been a few shut losses away from being within the discipline and although there’s little doubt Kyle Whittingham’s staff may have one other robust season throughout all place teams, it has been evident that they are nonetheless a lower beneath the nation’s elite groups. Rising’s return for one more motive provides the Utes each alternative to get to that degree, however changing gamers like tight finish Dalton Kincaid and cornerback Clark Phillips III will likely be a problem.
Newcomer to observe: Emery Simmons. The four-star extensive receiver from Indiana hasn’t had a very stellar profession thus far, however his transfer to Salt Lake City may give the Utes a much-needed possibility on offense. Last yr, Utah’s main receiver was tight finish Dalton Kincaid, who’s now NFL-bound. Both returning receivers Devaughn Vele and Money Parks ought to play substantial roles in making certain Rising has loads of choices subsequent season. Spring may very well be a time for Simmons to get within the combine as effectively. — Uggetti
Top storyline: Is Washington a nationwide title contender? It may appear ridiculous to ask that of a Pac-12 staff given the convention’s historical past within the playoff period, however that is what springtime is for. This is a staff that returns most of its key offensive items — together with Heisman candidate Michael Penix Jr. — from a staff that ranked No. 7 within the nation in scoring. And it did so in coach Kalen DeBoer’s first season. There are some inquiries to reply within the dashing recreation with beginning RB Wayne Taulapapa gone, however there’s each motive to imagine this offense will likely be even higher in 2023.
Newcomer to observe: Dillon Johnson might be the participant with the prospect to make the largest influence immediately. The Mississippi State switch arrives with over 1,000 profession dashing yards and can compete for the beginning working again job. — Bonagura
Top storyline: How a lot does the dearth of continuity on the teaching workers matter? Appointing Jake Dickert as head coach was supposed to offer some stability for the Cougars after Nick Rolovich’s awkward departure. Instead, the Cougs are working with their third set of coordinators on each side of the ball in three years. Common sense says that is not best, however this group of gamers has been remarkably resilient by fixed change. The Cougars have reached a bowl recreation in every of the final seven (full) seasons, which is an enormous accomplishment contemplating the earlier program document was three (2001 to 2003).
Newcomer to observe: Offensive coordinator Ben Arbuckle. At Western Kentucky, Arbuckle coordinated the No. 7 offense in faculty soccer (497.2 yards per recreation) and greatest among the many Group of 5. — Bonagura