Gold Nuggets: 5-star QB to Pac-12? Justin Dedich takes center stage for USC and more
Here’s a look at news, notes and quotes from around the Pac-12 this week…
Arizona: Jedd Fisch takes a chance on pair of defenders
Credit to the Arizona head coach: You don’t get anywhere without taking calculated risks. And with Daniel Heimuli and Chase Randall, he’s going out on a limb.
Heimuli arrives from Washington, where he was basically kicked off the team for allegedly being involved in a bar fight. Head coach Kalen DeBoer called it an indefinite suspension, but apparently the writing was on the wall. Now the former UW reserve linebacker, who had 8 tackles against the Wildcats in their 2022 matchup, can rewrite his story in Tucson. You’ve got to trust that Fisch set some pretty strict standards and did a ton of research on the former Husky.
Randall, meanwhile, arrives back in his hometown of Tucson after a stint with the Valparaiso Beacons of the Football Championship Subdivision. Is is the defensive lineman a Power 5 player? Fisch decided it’s worth finding out, which is a savvy move, considering Randall comes from Canyon Del Oro High, which has traditionally had a strong program. If you’re gonna take a chance, go for a local kid from a good school.
— The Wildcaster (@TheWildcaster) January 18, 2023
Arizona State: Can Sun Devils reel in another former (sort of) Gator?
Top-10 national quarterback Jaden Rashada reportedly has begged out of his Florida letter-of-intent and is attempting to reopen his recruitment. Might the Sun Devils be able to boost their quarterback room?
Rashada, who hails from Pittsburgh (Calif.) High, reportedly has several Pac-12 teams on his short list. If Arizona State is in that mix, it drastically changes their passing fortunes going forward.
According to 247Sports’ Steve Wiltfong, Rashada has a “long-standing relationship” with Dillingham, established when Dillingham was offensive coordinator for Oregon. Should the Sun Devils land Rashada, he instantly becomes their most talented quarterback, joining former walk-on Trenton Bourguet and Notre Dame transfer Drew Pyne.
ASU started a former Gators QB last year. Emory Jones initially won the starting job, struggled and recently transferred again, this time to Cincinnati.
Cal: New offensive line coach Mike Bloesch champing at the bit
The Cal offensive line struggled mightily in 2022, so it wasn’t much of a surprise to see offensive line coach Angus McClure become one of Justin Wilcox’s fall guys late in the season, along with offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave.
Wilcox replaced McClure with former North Texas offensive coordinator Mike Bloesch, who is charged with returning some juice into the Bears’ league-worst running game.
“I’m from an old school of thought,” Bloesch said, according to BearInsider.com. “I don’t want to hear what kids can’t do. Tell me what they can do because as I look at this roster, we’ve got a lot of highly-recruited guys here. Everyone was fired up about these guys 2-3 years ago, but now I’m supposed to believe they’re not worth a crap? So my job is to come in here and get these guys to believe and to work at a level that maybe they don’t know they can work at right now. And then build an offense and a run game and an identity up front to put those guys in position to showcase what they do well.”
Colorado: New TE coach Tim Brewster lights a fire
Colorado football fans, get ready for Any Given Sunday meets Remember the Titans. New Buffaloes tight end coach Tim Brewster brought it in the team’s first meeting of the season. Given how lackadaisical Colorado has looked the past 2 years, this kind of fiery attitude is far from a bad thing.
— Barstool Colorado (@CUBarstool) January 16, 2023
Oregon: Ducks maintain safety, keep Steve Stephens IV
Oregon’s defense has taken several hits this offseason, but the defensive backfield just gained a second starter back for 2023 as safety Steve Stephens IV announced he is returning for his final year of eligibility, according to the Oregonian’s James Crepea.
With stars like Christian Gonzalez bolting for the NFL and Justin Flowe, among others, announcing his intra-conference transfer to Arizona, the Ducks needed to hold on to as many viable starters as possible. And Stephens is certainly that. He totaled a career-high 43 tackles with 2 pass breakups in 10 starts last year across from safety Jamal Hill, who also returns next year.
Oregon State: Tristan Gebbia trades one OSU for another
One of the great under-told tales of the 2022 season for the Beavers was the unselfish attitude of QB Tristan Gebbia, who went from the backup spot to 3rd string in the blink of an eye yet continued to show up every day and perform whatever role Jonathan Smith needed. So much so that Smith rewarded Gebbia with extensive playing time in the Beavers’ big Las Vegas Bowl win over Florida.
With Ben Gulbranson returning after seizing the starting role from Chance Nolan and DJ Uiagalelei joining the program, Gebbia didn’t see much playing time in his future, so he entered the transfer portal.
On Tuesday, he announced his decision, trading Oregon State for Ohio State as he joined the College Football Playoff semifinalist Buckeyes. With a professional career likely not in the offing, perhaps Gebbia is hoping to build up his coaching bona fides. He could’ve picked a worse place.
Stanford: Cardinal land commitment from top 2-sport prospect
Looking to repair a running game that has fallen from great heights, Stanford added a big piece in coveted back Caleb Hampton out of Chattanooga, Tenn. But in typical Cardinal fashion, Troy Taylor and the football team will have to share him.
Hampton is also a baseball star and he’ll play both sports for the Cardinal beginning next year.
This is nothing new at Stanford, of course. From John Elway to Toby Gerhart to Tyler Gaffney, the Cardinal have boasted incredibly versatile 2-sport athletes.
UCLA: Who gets first crack at running back with Zach not back?
As expected, Bruins star running back Zach Charbonnet is taking his talents to the NFL. But UCLA proved it can survive life after the talented back as the running game had a fine season even aside from arguably the Pac-12’s most talented runner.
At various times, TJ Harden, Keegan Jones and even Kazmeir Allen and Colson Yankoff handled the rock for the Bruins in 2022, with varying success. A lot of success, that is, as UCLA ran for more than 3,000 yards and averaged 6.0 yards per carry.
Next year, Harden and Jones will vie for time with Ball State transfer Carson Steele and Army transfer Anthony Adkins, who should also command plenty of carries.
USC: Trojans get big return up front
Losing Andrew Vorhees and Brett Neilon will be a tough pill to swallow for USC in 2023, particularly quarterback Caleb Williams, who was on the run often even with the presence of those two stud linemen.
But getting Justin Dedich back in the fold is a huge key for the Trojans. Dedich announced his return to USC on Monday, a major hold for Lincoln Riley and Co. Dedich is expected to slide to the center position, where he’ll be the vocal mouthpiece of a unit that needs to get better in pass protection next season.
— Justin Dedich (@Justin_BigDaddy) January 15, 2023
Utah: Utes maintain a coat of Armour
Under Armour’s famous divorce from UCLA created shockwaves throughout the Pac-12 and the rest of college athletics.
Now, with the Bruins’ big brother Cal joining the ranks and ditching UA, Utah is the lone Pac-12 school still affiliated with the Maryland-based sports apparel brand. That could be a good thing for the Utes, who will bask in the attention of being Under Armour’s furthest brand to the west.
“Various reasons have now allowed us to be sort of the signature carrier of partnership in the West with them moving on from Cal and UCLA,” Harlan told The Salt Lake Tribune last month. “We’re very, very appreciative of them. There’s a lot of things they do for us. They’re important to us, (Under Armour founder) Kevin (Plank) has been terrific, his team has been terrific, and we’re honored to be with them.”
Washington: Huskies lose key depth from offensive line
Tuesday’s news cycle brought with it a relatively minor note that might have major implications for the Huskies next year.
Former 2-year starter Victor Curne, who lost his starting role in 2022 with the introduction of new head coach Kalen DeBoer, announced his transfer to Ole Miss on Tuesday.
Curne may not have regained his starting role in 2023, but he likely would’ve at least played a major rotational role. Losses like that tend to rear their ugly heads when you least expect it.
Washington State: New OC Ben Arbuckle sports one heck of an origin story
Loved the story from CougFan.com’s Jamey Vinnick about new Washington State offensive coordinator Ben Arbuckle. The 27-year-old former Western Kentucky offensive coordinator, who became known for his innovative play-calling with the Hilltoppers, is only a half-dozen years out from his own playing career.
“I went and took an unpaid volunteer job at Houston Baptist University,” Arbuckle told Vinnick. “That’s how my awesome my wife is. She let me quit my job and not make any money for two-and-a-half years. We made it work. My wife was a nanny and I did Uber Eats at night, that way I could afford to take care of me and my wife.”