Jeremiah Laufasa

Pac-12 spring games wrap-up


A recap of this weekend’s spring games from the Pac-12: 

After a disappointing season, Utah is looking to rebound in 2013 with a new addition on offense: co-offensive coordinator Dennis Erickson. Following the Utes spring game on Saturday, head coach Kyle Whittingham explained what Erickson’s presence has done for the offense:

“He’s adjusted the tempo of the offense, he’s simplified what we’re doing, and he’s added some elements that have been good additions–mainly utilizing the running backs in the throw game a bit more and simplifying the run game,” Whittingham said. “There’s not a whole lot of variation from one team to another team that runs the spread, but just those subtle changes can make a big difference.”

The Utes showed off that new-look offense in a 35-28 spring game. Travis Wilson, who started the final seven games at quarterback last season, threw for 210 yards and three touchdowns on an efficient 13-of-17 passing. Senior Karl Williams led the running backs with 108 yards and three touchdowns on 19 carries.

Whittingham attributed Utah’s offensive production to a better, and healthy, offensive line. “The offensive line has been night and day compared to last year,” Whittingham said. “The main reason is Dan Finn has done a great job coaching them, they’ve worked their tails off in the offseason, and we’ve been able to have some continuity in the spring without any injuries. We had 17 guys in spring camp without any days missed, and I can’t ever remember that being the case.”

On defense, true freshman linebacker Uaea Masina had a game-high seven tackles.

Though Washington’s offense was missing tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins because of a suspension, the Huskies’ defense under second year coordinator Justin Wilcox was the star of UW’s spring game. Defensive tackle Connor Cree had a pair of tackles-for-loss and a fumble recovery while Josh “don’t call me” Shirley had a sack and a fumble recovery that went 60 yards the other direction.

“Of course spring games are a little vanilla. But that’s no excuse,” said quarterback Keith Price. “Quarterbacks should lead with pushing the pace. I thought we could have done a better job with that.” For what it’s worth, Price went 5-of-14 passing and a touchdown.

Head coach Steve Sarkisian has been implementing a faster, no-huddle offense this spring, but that wasn’t on display just yet.

“We’ve been faster than this,” Sarkisian said. “You are in a spring game and I want to give the fans something to see and a chance to see what fall camp will be about and the season will be about. But I am also aware of the fact we were on national television.

“We’re doing something a little bit new. You don’t want to give up all of your goodies. We want to save a few things for August 31st. That was a little bit of the challenge. And I think some of the (guys), especially the quarterbacks, got a little bit frustrated with the simplicity of the stuff we were running – and not all the stuff that we had been running for the last few weeks.”

“We’re going to be a scary offense,” Price said. “Especially when we get Austin back.”

The highlight of the day was seven-year-old Jordan Johnston, called on to the field from the stands, was asked to call a play for the Huskies offense: a toss sweep that went for eight yards.

Washington State
Suffice to say, the first year at Washington State under Mike Leach didn’t go as planned. Consistency is key if the Cougars want to improve in 2013, but the team still got off to a sluggish start in Saturday’s spring game.

“We didn’t get our work done the first half,” Leach said, “so we were going to play a full second half.”

Expected starter Connor Halliday led all quarterbacks with 406 yards and three touchdowns while Austin Apodaca went 27-of-45 for 279 yards and one touchdown. Three receivers went over 100 yards with Kristoff Williams leading with seven catches for 136 yards — including an 80-yard touchdown.

“If we’re going to be the team that we want to be next year, we’ve got to fight through those lulls at the middle of the scrimmage,” Halliday said afterward. “I think that’s kind of the biggest thing we’re fighting right now. We did get through that in the second half and moved the ball a little bit, so that was good.”

Former Texas A&M WR Thomas Johnson arrested on murder charge

Thomas Johnson
Associated Press

A very disturbing story has emerged out of Dallas, where former Texas A&M wide receiver Thomas Johnson sits in a Dallas County jail cell after allegedly admitting to hacking an unsuspecting jogger to death with a machete.

Just before 8 a.m. Monday, authorities say Johnson went to White Rock Creek Trail, a popular jogging trail in northeast Dallas, and randomly slashed a jogger to death. “It appears Mr. Johnson picked this victim at random. Absolutely random,” Deputy Chief Rob Sherwin told the Dallas Morning News. “He just attacked him. … It’s just very unusual. It’s quite shocking.”

Johnson then walked away from the scene in search of a cell phone. An onlooker had already dialed 911, and when police arrived Johnson allegedly told them there was a man “laying down with a sword in his head and not moving.”

“I just committed capital murder,” Johnson said and then repeated, according to his arrest affidavit. The only motive police reported was that Johnson was angry at his situation in life at the time of the slaying.

The victim, an unidentified male between the age of 25 and 35, passed away at a nearby hospital.

Johnson, meanwhile, remains in a Dallas County jail in lieu of $500,000 bail.

Johnson was a highly-regarded member of Kevin Sumlin‘s first recruiting class at Texas A&M. As a true freshman in 2012, the Dallas native caught 30 passes for 339 yards and one touchdown through the Aggies’ upset of then-No. 1 Alabama and then simply… disappeared. He went missing for three days in November 2012 before turning up back home in Dallas. His mother told the San Antonio Express-News last April Johnson would like to return to college football, but a return to the game never materialized.

No punishment from SEC for Bielema’s sideline interaction with Alabama player

Bret Bielema

Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema will not be disciplined by the SEC office for his brief interaction with Alabama offensive lineman Cam Robinson last weekend. A video showing Bielema exaggerating his interaction with Robinson at the end of a play was reviewed by SEC commissioner Greg Sankey, and the commissioner has discussed the situation with the Razorbacks coach.

“I visited with Bret over the phone on Monday and we discussed the play that has now become widely reviewed through a brief video clip,” Sankey said in a released statement. “Football is played in an intense competitive environment and I reminded him of the need for head coaches to resolve with their own players issues that may arise, which was his intent. The unsportsmanlike penalty assessed on the play was not directly associated with Bret’s efforts to intervene at the end of the play and we are moving forward in a positive manner.”

That appears to be the end of the discussion regarding Bielema’s act. I personally think there should have been some more done here by the league’s commissioner, but we will see if Bielema avoids putting himself in a similar position moving forward.