Jeremiah Laufasa

Pac-12 spring games wrap-up

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

Utah
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.

Washington
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.”

Rice replaces A&M on its 2019 schedule with… Texas

AUSTIN, TX - SEPTEMBER 12:  Darik Dillard #1 of the Rice Owls breaks free against the Texas Longhorns during the second quarter on September 12, 2015 at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin, Texas.  (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images)
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Texas and Texas A&M can’t seem to get together to renew their rivalry on the football field, but the two programs still find their scheduling paths crossing every now and again.

Texas and Rice announced in separate press releases Thursday afternoon that the two schools have reached an agreement on a new three-game series that will renew the in-state rivalry yet again.  The first game of that series will be played at NRG Stadium in Houston on an undetermined date in 2019. The final two games will be played in Austin during the 2021 and 2023 seasons.

The 2019 game on Rice’s end will replace a previously-scheduled matchup with A&M.  According to Rice, A&M requested a release from that game because of a scheduling conflict.

The Longhorns and Owls have met 94 times previously, the most recent coming just this past season.  Those 94 games represent the most Rice has ever played against a single opponent.

UT owns a 72-21-1 edge in the all-time series.  The Owls only win in the series since 1965 came in October of 1994.

Jake Spavital’s addition to Cal as OC officially announced

COLLEGE STATION, TX - OCTOBER 11:  Kenny Hill #7 of the Texas A&M Aggies chats with quarterbacks coach Jake Spavital during the first half of their game against the Mississippi Rebels at Kyle Field on October 11, 2014 in College Station, Texas.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
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Yesterday we noted that Sonny Dykes had likely landed the man that will help direct Cal’s offense in 2016.  Today we get the confirmation.

In the expected press release, Cal confirmed that Jake Spavital has been added to Sonny Dykes‘ staff as offensive coordinator.  Additionally, Spavital will coach a Golden Bears quarterbacks room that will be without leading passer Jared Goff for the first time since the 2012 season.

Spavital replaces Tony Franklin, who abruptly left the program last month to take the same job at Middle Tennessee.

“Jake is one of the brightest young coaches in college football and he is a tremendous addition to our coaching staff,” Dykes said. “We were looking for someone to join our coaching family that shares our vision and has a similar offensive philosophy to what we have used to produce some of the nation’s top offenses for nearly two decades. Jake has gained a tremendous amount of experience by working with some of the top coaches in the game, while he has tutored some of the best quarterbacks in college football history. Both will pay huge dividends for us.”

Spavital had spent the past three seasons at Texas A&M, first as co-offensive coordinator in 2013 and then as coordinator in 2014 and 2015. He also coached quarterbacks all three seasons.

In early January of this year, it was announced that the two parties were “mutually parting ways.”

Vols (finally) receive signed NLI from No. 1 JUCO recruit Jonathan Kongbo

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For the Tennessee faithful in the audience, it appears you can finally breathe a sigh of relief.

On National Signing Day eight days ago, UT received a commitment from Jonathan Kongbo, one of the top junior college prospects in this year’s recruiting class. While Kongbo had committed to the Vols, he hadn’t yet sent the university a signed National Letter of Intent binding him to the football program; that meant other programs could continue to pursue the highly sought after defensive end.

Any ongoing pursuit from rival schools has unofficially come to an end, however, as Wes Rucker of 247Sports.com, citing a source close to the player’s recruitment, is reporting that Kongbo has indeed sent his signed NLI to the university. The delay reportedly involved Kongbo’s father.

Kongbo had signed the letter, but his father had not. Tennessee was able to announce him as a signee because he had signed his financial aid agreement.

Kongbo told SEC Country earlier this week that his father was out of town and he was waiting for him to return to sign and send the letter.

Rivals.com rated Kongbo as a five-star prospect coming out of Arizona Western Community College in Yuma. Not only that, but both Rivals and 247Sports’ composite rankings had the lineman rated as the No. 1 JUCO prospect in the country.

In addition to UT, Alabama, Florida State, Ole Miss and USC were finalists for the 6-6, 260-pound end.

Barry J. Sanders confirms he’s moving from Stanford to Okla. St. as grad transfer

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 28:  Running back Barry Sanders #26 of the Stanford Cardinal rushes against the Washington State Cougars on September 28, 2013 at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
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A move that has been two months in the making has been confirmed by one of the principles involved.

In an interview with The Oklahoman, Barry J. Sanders confirmed that he will be transferring into the Oklahoma State football program and playing his final season of college football with the Cowboys.  Sanders will graduate from Stanford this summer; as such, he will be eligible to play immediately for OSU in 2016 after he arrives this June.

In early January, Sanders confirmed his intention to transfer from the Cardinal after receiving a release from his scholarship.  That confirmation came a month or so after speculation began growing that Sanders, the son of Heisman-winning OSU legend Barry Sanders, was considering a move to his father’s alma mater, talk that prompted Cowboys head coach Mike Gundy to address the issue.

As the younger Sanders will be following in some rather sizable Stillwater shoes, he discussed the move with his father before deciding to become the second Barry Sanders to have his name on an OSU uniform.

“His message to me was to keep an open mind,” Sanders told the newspaper. “I think that he would have wanted me to look at more schools. He definitely didn’t want me to make a decision without considering other options. What I told him was that this was something I’ve been thinking about for some time. I just knew this was the right decision and the right fit for a variety of different reasons.

“So when I kind of explained my reasons behind it, he was pretty comfortable with it and he’s just as excited as I am.”

Sanders was a four-star member of the Cardinal’s 2012 recruiting class, rated as the No. 9 running back in the country and the No. 2 player at any position in the state of Oklahoma. He chose Stanford over, among others, Alabama and the Big 12 OSU.

The last three seasons, Sanders has rushed for 672 yards (5.8 yards per carry) and five touchdowns. He’s also caught 12 passes for 89 yards and averaged 9.5 yards on 10 punt returns.