Pac-12 QBs are throwing it like crazy

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The Pac-12 has always been known as a conference with wide open offenses and sophisticated passing schemes. But this year’s crop of conference quarterbacks may be taking that reputation to the next level.

The top three quarterbacks in the nation in passing yardage per game — and nine of the top 26 overall — come from the Pac-12.

Leading the way is true freshman Jared Goff of California, who recently became the first Bears quarterback since Aaron Rodgers to have three-straight 300-yard passing games. Goff is averaging 434 yards per game and is on pace to finish the regular season with an astounding 5,204 yards.

After Goff comes Oregon State’s Sean Mannion, who is averaging 412 yards per game while tying for the national lead with 12 touchdown passes. Mannion is on pace to throw for 5,356 yards and 52 touchdowns, assuming the Beavers make a bowl game.

Next is Colorado’s Connor Wood. The Texas transfer is averaging 370 yards per game, which puts him on pace for 4,440 yards for the season.

If Goff and Mannion keep their pace, they’ll become the first duo from the same conference to throw for over 5,000 yards in the same season. If Wood stays on his pace, they will be the first trio from the same conference to throw for over 4,400 yards in a single season. There’s a decent chance that the conference could have as many as six quarterbacks with 4,000-plus yards.

Other prolific quarterbacks this year in the conference include Washington’s Keith Price (7th nationally, on pace for 4,329 yards), Taylor Kelly of Arizona State (11th nationally, on pace for 4,238 yards), Connor Halliday of WSU (15th nationally, on pace for 3,768 yards), Marcus Mariota of Oregon (19th nationally, on pace for 4,144 yards), Brett Hundley of UCLA (23rd nationally, on pace for 3,692 yards) and Utah’s Travis Wilson (26th nationally, on pace for 3,666 yards).

This list is even more impressive when you consider that Goff, Mariota, Hundley and Wilson are all either freshmen or sophomores.

Blame most of this offensive explosion on the changing of the guard in the coaching ranks that went on in the league recently. Sonny Dykes and Mike Leach brought the Air Raid offense to Cal and WSU, respectively. Noel Mazzone’s offensive style reigns at both UCLA and Arizona State. Dennis Erickson is helping to revive Utah’s offense. Colorado has ditched its pro-style scheme for a more wide open style. Rich Rodriguez has Arizona’s offense playing at a high level. Teams like Washington State and Oregon State are doing their best to keep up with the Joneses by tweaking what they do on offense. About the only teams refusing to go along with the new styles are Stanford and USC, both of which rank near the bottom of the conference in total offense.

The SEC became the hands-down best conference once it upgraded its coaches starting in 2005. Great head men like Urban Meyer and Nick Saban came aboard, which helped change the balance of power in the league and, hence, in college football (these two won five of the SEC’s seven BCS titles during its recent run). If the Pac-12’s flagship program — USC — finds its way and installs a quality coach, the conference might actually be able to challenge the SEC for conference supremacy.

Report: Steve Spurrier Jr. leaving WKU for job at Wazzu

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With coaching holes throughout his Washington State staff to fill thanks to significant offseason poaching, Mike Leach has added a very famous college football surname.  Reportedly.

According to the Bowling Green Daily News, Steve Spurrier Jr. is leaving Western Kentucky to take a job under Leach at Wazzu.  The son of College Football Hall of Famer Steve Spurrier just completed his first season as the Hilltoppers’ quarterbacks coach.  He also held the title of assistant head coach under Mike Sanford.

It’s unclear what specific title Spurrier Jr. will hold at Wazzu.

Prior to his one season at WKU, and one season as an off-field staffer at Oklahoma, Spurrier Jr. had been an assistant on his father’s South Carolina staff for 11 seasons.  During his time with the Gamecocks, he served at various points as wide receivers coach (2005-15), passing-game coordinator (2009-11) and co-offensive coordinator (2012-15).

Spurrier Jr., who played wide receiver at Duke, has also spent time during his coaching career as receivers coach at Oklahoma (1999-2001) and with the Washington Redskins (2002-03).

Ex-Texas All-Big 12 defensive tackle takes DL coaching job at Baylor

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Baylor’s latest coaching addition is a very familiar name in the state of Texas.

BU confirmed Wednesday evening that Frank Okam has been added to Matt Rhule‘s coaching staff.  Okam, who was a Freshman All-American and two-time All-Big 12 defensive tackle at Texas from 2004-07, will coach the Bears’ defensive line.

“Frank is a living embodiment of everything the young men in our program should want to accomplish,” the head coach said in a statement. “He’s a college graduate, an All-American, a Big 12 champion, a national champion, a NFL draft pick and then he continued life after football earning his master’s degree from Rice and is now one of the top young football coaches in the country.

“We are excited to have Coach Okam on staff and for him to mentor our defensive line group and help take them to the next level.”

The 32-year-old Okam, who went to high school in Dallas, spent the past four seasons at Rice, the last two as the Owls’ line coach.  This will mark Okam’s first coaching job at a Power Five program.

Longtime ESPN play-by-play man Mike Patrick announces retirement

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ESPN’s roster of college football play-by-play announcers suffered a high number of attrition of late. Brent Musburger retired. Brad Nessler replaced Verne Lundquist at CBS. Sean McDonough moved to Monday Night Football. Now the dean of ESPN’s Saturday voices is going away, too.

Mike Patrick announced his retirement on Wednesday, ending a 32-year run that began in 1982, three years after the network launched.

“It’s wonderful to reflect on how I’ve done exactly what I wanted to do with my life,” Patrick said. “At the same time, I’ve had the great pleasure of working with some of the very best people I’ve ever known, both on the air and behind the scenes. While I’m not sure exactly what’s next for me, I’m looking forward to continuing my journey with new life experiences.”

His biggest assignment came as the voice of ESPN’s Sunday Night Football from 1987 until the package moved to NBC after the 2005 season, but outside of that he was one of the Worldwide Leader’s leading college sports voices. He was the lead voice on the network’s ACC basketball package, he called the Women’s Final Four for a decade and a half, and he was a leading voice on the College World Series and served as the play-by-play man for ESPN’s Thursday night and Saturday night packages, before ESPN turned its Saturday primetime window into the top package owned by the network.

You may remember this moment.

ESPN will say goodbye to Patrick through a pre-recorded tribute voiced by Rece Davis airing throughout the day on SportsCenter and a tribute during the network’s coverage of the Louisville vs. Duke basketball game tonight (9 p.m. ET).

Heisman winner Chris Weinke hired as Tennessee’s running backs coach

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It can be argued that the only reason Tennessee has a national championship is because of Chris Weinke. As we know, the Vols claimed the 1998 national championship by defeating Florida State in the 1999 Fiesta Bowl, the first national championship game of the BCS era. Tennessee won that game, 23-16, thanks in large part to a pick-six thrown by Marcus Outzen, a third-string quarterback forced into action due to an injury by the two signal callers ahead of him on the depth chart.

Here’s how a Sports Illustrated article described Weinke and that FSU team in its 1999 preview issue:

Don’t think of 1999 as a new season for Florida State, think of it as the resumption of an old one. Before quarterback Chris Weinke was dumped on his head and suffered a season-ending ruptured disk in his neck in a 45-14 win over Virginia last Nov. 7, no team in the country was playing better than the Seminoles, who had bounced back from an early-season defeat at North Carolina State. So how cruel was this? Upset losses suffered by Ohio State, UCLA and Kansas State sent 11-1 Florida State to the national title game in the Fiesta Bowl, but without its best quarterback. The Seminoles and backup signal-caller Marcus Outzen struggled on offense and lost to Tennessee.

Nevertheless, Tennessee won that season’s title, Weinke would lead Florida State to the 1999 national title and take the Heisman Trophy a year after that. The past is the past.

But now the past is the present, as the former Florida State quarterback on Wednesday was announced as Tennessee’s running backs coach.

“I’m excited to have Chris Weinke on our staff to coach running backs,” Vols head coach Jeremy Pruitt said in a statement. “He has played the game at the highest level and what he has accomplished on the field speaks for itself. He is also an outstanding coach and teacher of the game, coaching in the NFL, in college this past season and at the high school level. He has a great eye for talent and knows the game on the offensive side of the ball as well as anybody I’ve been around. He will be a great fit for our Tennessee program.”

Weinke entered the NFL as a 26-year-old and lasted seven seasons with the Panthers and 49ers before moving into coaching. He first worked as a trainer at IMG Academy, then moved onto coaching the high school program, where he went 19-2 as head coach and offensive coordinator. From there he deposited a stint as the Los Angeles Rams’ quarterbacks coach before spending the 2017 season as an offensive analyst at Alabama, where he hooked up with Pruitt.

Weinke will be charged with re-building the Vols’ backfield after losing John Kelly to an early entry into the NFL draft. Rising sophomore Ty Chandler is Tennessee’s leading returning rusher, carrying 71 times for 305 yards and two touchdowns in 2017.