Welcome back for this week’s Gold Nuggets, Saturday Out West columnist Jon Gold’s weekly trip around the Pac-12.

Read below for news, notes, and quotes from the final week of fall camp…

Arizona: Former Wildcats coach RichRod wins wild debut

It’s been a while since Rich Rodriguez has popped up on the sideline of a college football game, but he finally made his head coaching re-debut on Saturday as his Jacksonville State Gamecocks defeated Stephen F. Austin, 42-17. Rodriguez, who was fired in January 2018 by Arizona after going 43-35 in six seasons, had served as offensive coordinator for Ole Miss in 2019 and for Louisiana-Monroe in 2021 before being hired to coach Jax State in November 2021.

Rodriguez’s Gamecocks showed some of the flair that his offenses displayed at Arizona, and before that, at Michigan and West Virginia. Down 17-7, Jacksonville State scored 35 straight points to close out the game.

Arizona State: Sun Devils’ offensive line coming into focus

Normally a coach wants to nail down the left tackle spot before any other position on the offensive line, but with four-fifths of its line set, Arizona State is still deciding between two formidable options in Isaia Glass and Northern State (S.D.) transfer Emmit Bohle. Glass appears to have gotten the upper hand with Bohle missing practice recently.

Glass would line up next to star LaDarius Henderson at left guard, with Ben Scott at center, San Diego State transfer Chris Martinez at right guard and Penn State transfer Des Holmes at right tackle. Former Iowa State lineman Joey Ramos is also in the fold as well, and the Sun Devils could rotate seven linemen as soon as Week 1.

“I think everyone felt like coming into fall camp, kind of curious how we were going to work together with all the new guys but I think by now after fall camp we’re all starting to click,” Glass told the Arizona Republic. “We’re all starting to mesh. We’re communicating a lot better. I think the guys really like being around each other and we’re on the same page.”

Cal: ESPN predicts Bears to bite the Ducks

It’s but one note, but it is a significant one. In ESPN’s Power Five conference prediction, columnist Mark Schlabach pegged one major upset per conference.

For the Pac-12, Schlabach tabbed Cal to knock off Oregon when the two teams meet on Saturday, Oct. 9. In some ways it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch — the Bears have defeated Oregon in Berkeley in two of their last three matchups in the Bay.

Curiously enough, Schlabach also lists Oregon’s Dan Lanning as the best first-year coach. Perhaps a loss to the Bears doesn’t ding him too bad.

Colorado: Karl Dorrell — and Sonny Dykes — remain mum on Week 1 QBs

With the first-year TCU head coach keeping his starting quarterback announcement close to the vest, Colorado head coach Karl Dorrell has matched him word for word. Or, at least, unsaid word for unsaid word.

The Horned Frogs have implied that all three quarterback candidates — Max Duggan, Chandler Morris, and Sam Jackson — could play against Colorado. Perhaps we’ll see both Brendon Lewis and JT Shrout for the Buffaloes as well.

“Our competition didn’t have anything to do with what they’re doing,” Dorrell told BuffZone.com. “The way that we felt, the competition was so close. I feel if you’re going to try to beat a guy out (who was the starter), your statistical numbers and your production, your consistency has to be above and beyond who you’re unseating and that wasn’t the case.

“B-Lew was better in this category, JT was better in this category. It was kind of like that. It was very close; not enough to unseat B-Lew.”

Oregon: Bo Nix not a shoo-in to start against Georgia?

Well we know one thing about Oregon’s starting quarterback position: It won’t be Dan Lanning.

“You guys see that first snap, yeah,” Lanning told reporters in Eugene. “We’ll see who’s out there on the field. I’m not playing quarterback; I’ll tell ya that.”

Former Auburn three-year starter Bo Nix, who many expected to seize the starting gig early in fall camp, has split time with redshirt freshman Ty Thompson, with third-year freshman Jay Butterfield trailing.

Nix was 21-13 as a starter for the Tigers but had many uneven moments during his tenure.

Oregon State: Beavers’ coach Jonathan Smith keeping media guessing

Oregon State head coach Jonathan Smith said he will wait until Monday to announce the Beavers’ starting lineup, including the quarterback battle between Chance Nolan and Tristan Gebbia.

“It’s such a team game. I get the quarterback interest. I mean, I played quarterback. But there’s a bunch of starters, and we’ll announce them on Monday,” Smith told reporters.

The Beavers will have plenty of depth in their Week 1 battle with Boise State, as only defensive end Ryan Franke and defensive lineman Sione Lolohea are among Oregon State’s projected two-deep who will be out.

Stanford:  Cardinal looking to shake off poor 2021 campaign

Much has been made about the USC football team needing to shake off the stink of a bad 2021 season. Certainly the same can be said for members of the Arizona and Colorado football teams, too.

But after a 3-9 finish, the team’s fewest wins since 2006, revenge is on the minds of the Cardinal as well.

“Let’s say we didn’t forget it,” cornerback Kyu Blu Kelly told reporters. “We don’t talk about it every day, but we knew what we needed to do this offseason.

UCLA: Freshman punter Chase Barry coming along

The UCLA football team has a long history of impressive punting, but the latest potential long-time starter is finally starting to show the leg that landed him in Westwood.

On Friday, true freshman punter Chase Barry took over punting duties from dual kicker/punter Nicholas Barr-Mira, which could be a major signal going forward. Barry reportedly had his best day of practice so far, including multiple punts that went 50-plus yards.

USC: Battle brewing at left tackle

One of the biggest question marks entering the season for USC is up front, where the Trojans’ offensive line looks to take major steps forward in 2022.

That all starts with left tackle, where Courtland Ford and Bobby Haskins are squaring off. Early on, Ford was clearly in the driver’s position, but Haskins has narrowed the gap.

“They’ve both done a really good job,” offensive line coach Josh Henson told reporters. “They’re just kind of neck and neck. They’re just battling. I mean one day I think one guy has pretty good practice the next day it’s the next guy, and so they’ve just been really competing back and forth. And so that may not get decided, like I told them, I said, they’re gonna decide it. And that may not get decided until sometime during the season once they’re playing games, and it may not get decided all year,” said Henson. “They’re both good players. They may both play all year, but it might get decided after the first game. I don’t know. But once one guy clearly separates himself from the other then we’ll have a decision to make.”

Utah: Defensive backfield healthy, hungry after busy Rose Bowl

The Utah Utes’ defensive backfield was much-maligned after a 48-45 Rose Bowl loss to Ohio State, when quarterback C.J. Stroud went 37-for-46 passing for 573 touchdowns and six touchdowns. But the Utes were without several key starters who are now ready for 2022, including JaTravis Broughton, Faybian Marks, Zemaiah Vaughn and Malone Mataele.

“When you have a collection of really good ball players, guys with experience and guys that you’re going to rely on heavily,” cornerbacks coach Sharrieff Shah told reporters. “We don’t win the (Pac-12) championship last year without Faybian Marks, Zemaiah Vaughn and Malone Mataele. We don’t win. Those players come back with a renewed sense of confidence and accomplishment.”

Added defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley: “Man, it’s nice to have those bodies back. Zemaiah Vaughn got injured in the Pac-12 championship game,” he said. “You get Faybian back, and JT, who was lost in the BYU game with a labrum. It allows us to do much more schematically. Coach Shah is a great coach and he’s coached them up.”

Washington: Unsung linebacker raising eyebrows

On a linebacker corps that includes some of the most highly decorated players in the Pac-12, little-known sophomore Alphonzo Tuputala is getting some attention. The 6-foot-2, 238-pound Tuputala is rebounding from a torn Achilles as he looks to help fortify the Husky defense.

“He’s got that body that’s built like a bull,” co-defensive coordinator William Inge said. “When you have someone that literally looks like an active football player, that’s what you want. I think Alphonzo brings that to the table. He’s got the skill to play in space and be effective, but also he can come to the core and be a thumper.”

Washington State: Offensive line lands its last starter

Washington State redshirt freshman Christian Hilborn has made just about the most progress as anyone on the Wazzu offensive line during training camp, and as such, he was rewarded with the starting left guard role for the Cougars’ home opener Sept. 3 against Idaho.

“Christian Hilborn we feel like has really established himself coming out of fall camp as that guy,” head coach Jake Dickert told reporters. “We’re really happy with Christian’s progress and I think he’s really earned that (role).”

Hilborn’s main competition, former defensive tackle Fa’alili Fa’amoe, figures more as a tackle than guard, Dickert believes.

“We feel very comfortable about leaving ’Lili, as an athlete, more at the tackle position,” Dickert said. “(Fa’amoe) is still new to the position. His progress is tremendous. … He hasn’t reached his best football yet, so we’re excited about ’Lili and what he’s doing and giving us another option at tackle.”