Pac-12 spring storylines

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For the past three seasons, Oregon has become accustomed to being the top dog — or, duck — in the Pac-12 with two Rose Bowl berths and a BCS championship appearance. Heading into 2012, can Oregon make it four conference titles in a row?

After all, change is in the air for Pac-12 teams, from saying hello to new coaches to goodbye to some of the best players in college football. But some familiarity returns, too. USC is once again feeling preseason love and could be back to contending for national titles after finishing a two-year bowl ban.

It all starts sometime. Here’s what storylines we’re watching in the Pac-12 this spring:

Can the Quack Attack fly without missing a beat?
Oregon executes the “next guy in” philosophy as good as any program in the country. So the fact that running back LaMichael James and quarterback Darron Thomas left for the NFL is less worrisome than some of the other off-the-field distractions the Ducks have had since their Rose Bowl victory over Wisconsin. Coach Chip Kelly reportedly nearly left for the head coaching job with the Tampa Bay Bucsor maybe not — and the NCAA’s investigation into UO’s recruiting practices took another step forward last week with the “proposed findings of violations.”  The good news is that Kelly does a phenomenal job at keeping his players focused on the task at hand. Spring practice is going to look a little different for the Ducks without James and Thomas, but the players asked to fill the void should be able to do so in a business-as-usual way.

Stanford, you got some replacin’ to do, too 
Yes, Stanford has to replace quarterback Andrew Luck. That’s going to be a point of emphasis with all Cardinal coverage until the first snap of the season is taken. But coach David Shaw has more gaps to fill than the one Luck is leaving behind. Stanford loses two outstanding lineman in Jonathan Martin and David DeCastroas well as a senior-laden receiving group. That’s not even counting the three starters from the team’s secondary that will be replaced, including all-conference safety Delano Howell. 2012 will only be Shaw’s second season as head coach, but it has more of an intrigue than Shaw’s first year where he was handed the keys to a football team littered with All-American and All-Pac-12 players.

New coaches, ahoy!
Four Pac-12 teams will be breaking in new coaches this spring: Arizona (Rich Rodriguez), Arizona State (Todd Graham), UCLA (Jim Mora) and Washington State (Mike Leach). Rodriguez and Graham will have plenty to talk about when they meet for the Territorial Cup this year. Both have Big East ties, with Graham coaching under Rodrguez for two seasons at West Virginia. Leach and Mora join the Pac-12 after getting fired from their previous jobs following the 2009 season. Spring practices for these four programs should be a lot of fun as most of the new coaches are known for airing it out on offense.

Return of Troy?
USC became the media’s sexy pick to win the Pac-12, and maybe a BCS championship, next season when quarterback Matt Barkley announced he would be coming back for his senior year. Receivers Robert Woods and Marqise Lee are back, too. But the biggest question for the Trojans is depth. Scholarship reductions as a result of NCAA sanctions mean USC will have to make the most of the talent available and USC only signed 12 players this past signing day. Simply put, there is no room for error. The effects of the depth chart belt-tightening may not be felt right away, but health and production will start to be a top priority for USC this spring.

Last spring for Jeff Tedford?
A 7-6 season and Holiday Bowl loss to Texas has fans in Berkeley a little restless with Cal coach Jeff Tedford. The Golden Bears haven’t won 10 games or at least a share of the Pac-12 title since 2006 when they defeated Texas A&M in the, you guessed it, Holiday Bowl. And it’s not as though Cal doesn’t have talent — the Bears have always had plenty — but when Washington scooped up ace recruiter Tosh Lupoi last month, it cost Tedford’s program some top-notch recruits. Going into spring, Tedford is going to have questions, fairly or not, about his job security. Sept. 1’s kickoff against Nevada probably can’t come soon enough for the 11th-year coach.

Steven Clark transfers to Western Michigan after being medically DQd by Syracuse

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Steven Clark will indeed give college football at this level another go.

In a text message to the Syracuse Post-Standard, Clark confirmed that he has decided to transfer to Western Michigan.  The move comes a little over a month after a health issue prematurely ended his time at Syracuse.

While the school’s medical results were disputed by his family, Clark (pictured, No. 72) was medically disqualified by ‘Cuse in June because of a genetic disorder that makes him susceptible to blood clots. Not long after, the defensive lineman stated on Twitter that he had “requested… permission to contact other schools in order to see if I can go anywhere else to play.”

According to the Post-Standard, “four independent doctors cleared Clark for physical activity — two before the disqualification and two after.” WMU doctors will need to sign off on Clark’s health as well.

If that happens, Clark would be eligible to play immediately for the Broncos.

The lineman ended his Orange career having played in 21 games, starting nine of those contests. He was credited with 37 tackles, three tackles for loss and a pair of fumble recoveries.

Coming to SU as a three-star 2015 recruit out of Alabama, Clark held offers from, among others, Florida, Memphis and Vanderbilt.

Ex-Michigan State football player suing Draymond Green

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An incident involving one former Michigan State football player and one ex-Spartans basketball player continues to make headlines a year later.

In mid-July last year, former MSU hoops star hoops star and current Golden State Warrior Draymond Green was arrested and charged with assault following an altercation at an East Lansing drinking establishment.  According to police reports at the time, the target of the alleged assault was Spartans cornerback Jermaine Edmondson.

Fast-forward a little over 12 months later, and Edmondson, along with his girlfriend Bianca Williams, has filed a civil lawsuit in California against Green.  Per mlive.com, the attorney representing the plaintiffs “declined to specify an amount of damages her clients are seeking.”

“I think about what happened with Draymond every day,” Edmondson said according to the website. “I still feel his hand on my jaw. There are nights when I wake up crying. I don’t understand why my name has been turned into this joke, and he gets all this credit for being a superstar and for standing up for women.”

Less than a week after the incident, Edmondson, who claimed during today’s press conference he longer felt safe on the university’s campus because the incident involved the beloved Green, was granted a release from his MSU scholarship and transferred from the Spartans.  Reportedly, however, the incident and transfer had nothing to do with each other.

Edmondson ended up at a Div. II program in Virginia, but did not play at all during the 2016 season.

Green ultimately saw the original assault charge dropped, instead paying a noise violation fine.

“Draymond looks forward to defending himself and clearing up the misinformation put forth today,” a portion of a statement from Green’s publicist read.

Larry Fedora part of North Carolina contingent attending mid-August NCAA hearing

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I’m quite certain that Larry Fedora is absolutely thrilled over this development.

On Aug. 1, North Carolina football players will report to campus.  A day later, the Tar Heels will kick off their sixth summer camp under Fedora.  Exactly two weeks after that?  Fedora will be forced to leave his football squad as part of the UNC contingent that will be in attendance at the university’s hearing in front of the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions.

The two-day hearing will take place Aug. 16-17 in Nashville, Tenn.

The news comes exactly two months after, for the third time in as many years, UNC responded to a Notice of Allegations connected to a decade-long academic scandal.

In June of 2014, the NCAA informed UNC “that it would reopen its original 2011 examination of the past academic irregularities.” The first NOA was sent to the university in 2015, with UNC accused of lack of institutional control as to student-athletes in multiple sports, including football, receiving preferential access to the controversial African and Afro-American Studies (AFAM) courses dating all the way back to 2002.  In April of 2016, UNC received an amended NOA that replaced “lack of institutional control” with “failure to monitor.”

A decision from the NCAA on what if any punitive measures the football program will face is expected to come two months or so after the conclusion of the hearing.  Such a timeline would, of course, put the resolution right in the middle of the football season.

It should be noted that Fedora is not facing any type of misconduct connected to the academic scandal.

Jim Harbaugh confirms Michigan football will head to Paris, Normandy next offseason

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At least partially, Michigan players will see their offseason travel wishes for next year granted.

Fresh off their spring break trip to Rome this year, Jim Harbaugh revealed last month that his Wolverines football players, following a team vote, were eyeing a trip next year that would include stops in Paris and London.  At the Big Ten Media Days Tuesday, Harbaugh confirmed that they would indeed be taking the team to Paris around the same time next year.

Instead of London, however, U-M will take in the sights at historically-steeped Normandy.

The trip to Rome this year cost in the neighborhood of $800,000, although that particular tab was picked up by a well-heeled booster of the program. It’s expected that the same scenario financially will play out for this trip as well, regardless of the cost.