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.

Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze resigns after discovery of phone calls to escort service

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Forget about Hugh Freeze being on the hot seat in Oxford. He won’t even be coaching a single game for the Rebels this fall.

Hugh Freeze resigned from his position as head coach at Ole Miss suddenly on Thursday evening, just a week after SEC Media Days. The resignation is effective immediately, and the school has announced co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Matt Luke will take over the head coaching responsibilities for the upcoming season as the interim head coach. It should be expected Ole Miss will conduct a search for a new full-time head coach as soon as possible, but an official hire being made before the start of the season remains in question.

The resignation comes after the school discovered a phone call to an escort service coming from his school-issued cell phone. And it apparently was not an accidental wrong number either.

According to a report from Mark Schlabach of ESPN.com, Ole Miss reviewed phone records tied to Freeze as far back as 2012. Earlier in the day, USA Today reporter Dan Wolken reported Freeze had made a phone call to the number associated with a female escort service. The phone call in the report occurred in January of 2016. How many phone calls were discovered by Ole Miss is at this time unknown. Once confronted with the phone numbers by Bjork, Freeze is said to have offered his resignation. Whether he voluntarily offered to resign or if he was pushed to resign by the school may never be known for sure, but given the heat on Freeze already following recent headlines it may be pretty easy to see how this all played out behind closed doors.

It has been a troublesome summer for Freeze. Just last week, he was targetted in a lawsuit filed by former Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt, and Freeze has had to deny any members of his staff knowingly violated any NCAA rules following an investigation into the program. Freeze was previously targeted in a lawsuit filed by the stepdad of former Ole Miss player Laremy Tunsil just months after the NCAA discovered 13 violations against the Ole Miss program under the leadership of Freeze last year.

In five seasons at Ole Miss, Freeze was 39-25 and coached Ole Miss to a 2-1 record in postseason bowl games. Along the way, he recruited some of the best classes in school history, although how he and his staff managed to do so has been the subject of plenty of scrutinies and the findings continue to come together to suggest foul play was used. Calls to escort services will not help that look at all. Before being hired at Ole Miss, Freeze coached Arkansas State to a 19-3 record in 2011.

Luke, an Ole Miss alum from the Class of 2000, joined the Ole Miss coaching staff in 2012 with Freeze.

Todd Graham subtly names Manny Wilkins starting QB at ASU, says Barnett will have to win the job

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Arizona State picked up a nice addition to the depth chart with the addition of quarterback Blake Barnett this past winter. Barnett was given the chance to be immediately eligible to play for Arizona State this season rather than have to sit out a season, but he will have to get to work in order to win the starting job with the Sun Devils if Todd Graham‘s latest comments are accurate.

Speaking to media today at a facilities tour, Graham was asked about the quarterback competition. Graham not-so-subtly named Manny Wilkins the team’s starter for the 2017 season, barring any other changes between now and the start of the season.

“I didn’t make an announcement, I just didn’t want our opponent know who was going to play but I thought our opponent knew, I think everybody knew,” Graham said, referring to a season-opening game against New Mexico State. “We have a returning starter and he’s the starting quarterback until someone beats him out.”

Perhaps most notably, one of the quarterbacks who will look to knock Wilkins off the top of the depth chart will be Barnett, the transfer from Alabama who was a major recruit for the Crimson Tide not so long ago. Barnett started the  2016 season as Alabama’s official starter but lost the full-time job to Jalen Hurts right out of the gate with a shaky performance in the season opener while Hurts put on a show (and led Alabama to the national championship game). Barnett then opted to leave the program in search of a new opportunity to compete for the starting job.

“Right now, we have a starting quarterback and Blake knows he has to beat him out,” Graham said. “I’m looking forward to see that competition and a very physical, Sun Devil tough training camp.”

Report: Alabama RB B.J. Emmons, CB Aaron Robinson leaving program

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The Alabama Crimson Tide may not be hurting on the depth chart as a result, but two players are leaving the program in search of other opportunities. Running back B.J. Emmons and cornerback Aaron Robinson are both leaving Tuscaloosa, according to a report from AL.com.

As the news was breaking, multiple reports say Emmons has enrolled at Hutchinson Community College. Emmons missed some games last season due to a foot injury, but he is expected to be back to 100 percent health this fall. Of course, at Alabama, the running back position is stacked and difficult to get much playing time to begin with. Robinson was also expected to be a backup for Alabama this fall after working with the second team unit in the spring.

Emmons was Alabama’s fifth-leading rusher in 2016 with 173 yards and a touchdown in seven games. Robinson appeared in 13 games and recorded five total tackles as a freshman.

Both Emmons and Robinson will be eligible to play for another FBS program starting in 2018 after sitting out the 2017 season, due to NCAA transfer rules. They are eligible to play at a lower division school this fall, whether it is an FCS or lower program or a junior college. The junior college route appears to be the path Emmons is taking by enrolling at a community college.

Fifth member of Jim McElwain’s first recruiting class at Florida to transfer

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Florida’s secondary continues to face some depth concerns ahead of the 2017 season. The depth chart lost Chris Williamson, multiple reports confirmed today, who is opting to transfer to a new school.

The former four-star defensive back was recently guided through a position change to pad the depth at the safety position this spring. Williamson has spent the past two seasons in Gainesville and has appeared in 14 games with one start. He came to Florida as part of the first recruiting class signed by Gators head coach Jim McElwain in 2015, and he is now the fifth player from that class to transfer, according to Inside the Gators.

From Inside the Gators;

Williamson is the fifth player from Jim McElwain’s inaugural recruiting class at Florida in 2015 to transfer from the program, joining running back Jordan Cronkrite (USF), offensive lineman Brandon Sandifer, tight end Daniel Imatorbhebhe (USC) and tight end/linebacker Camrin Knight (Georgia State).

The news of Williamson’s intent to transfer comes on the same day Florida revealed it will be without safety Marcell Harris for the 2017 season. Harris suffered a torn Achilles tendon that will force the fifth-year senior to miss the entire 2017 season.

Williamson will have to sit out the 2017 college football season if he transfers to another FBS program, according to NCAA transfer rules. He will be eligible to play immediately this fall if he transfers to a program at the FCS level or below.