Gold: The Pac-12's summer wish list
Ah, the dog days of summer. A time for college football coaches to get away, for fans to recharge their batteries and players to take it upon themselves to get bigger, faster and stronger.
The best programs in the country treat their summer sessions with the kind of intensity that other programs reserve for late-November.
Here is a look at every Pac-12 program’s summer wish list…
Arizona: A defensive identity
We’ve seen entire units turn on a dime, and not because of an infusion of talent or a new innovative scheme. Sometimes players get fed up with being the scapegoats, as the Arizona defense has over the last half-dozen years. The Wildcats have some impressive young leaders who have the chance to galvanize even the upperclassmen, and if Jacob Manu and Co. can instill a new level of effort and discipline this summer, it will pay off in heaps in the fall.
Arizona State: A boost of energy
First-time head coach Kenny Dillingham came back to Tempe with the hopes of infusing the entire community with energy that has been lacking for years. Even in Todd Graham’s best seasons at the helm, the Sun Devils did not have the local support that a program with their history deserves.
If anyone appreciates that history, it’s the home-grown Dillingham. He needs to get the players and community to take some ownership over the program, especially after a disappointing spring game turnout.
Cal: Time in the weight room
The Bears were blown off the ball some games last year, lacking the burst on both lines of scrimmage. Cal had just 19 sacks last year, fewer than half of league-leading Utah, which had 41. The Bears allowed 31 sacks, as well, a terrible ratio. As much as Cal has needs all over the field, getting to the quarterback and protecting the quarterback will be paramount for the program in 2023.
Colorado: Name tags and some kumbaya
This is one of the strangest experiments in college football history. It might take months for the Buffaloes to actually become acquainted with one another. Deion Sanders needs to spend the summer holding regular getting-to-know-you sessions.
Can the Buffaloes speed up the introduction process? Summer will be a critical time for the players to come together outside the watchful eyes of the coaches.
Oregon: Another toy opposite Troy?
With Bo Nix entering his swan song with massive expectations in Eugene, it feels like the Ducks’ offense is one weapon short, particularly considering the remarkable passing games littering the Pac-12.
Could help be on the way?
Former UTSA wide receiver Zakhari Franklin — a top producer under new Oregon offensive coordinator Will Stein — entered the transfer portal after becoming the school’s all-time leader in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns. He would be an ideal complement to Troy Franklin and instantly vault the Ducks’ passing game to the top tier.
Oregon State: Quarterback maturation
Jonathan Smith has organically grown his alma mater into one of the best-run, toughest programs in the country, and there’s not much to be wanting for.
The Beavers have questions at quarterback, but those won’t be solved in the summer. It’s more important for all three — D.J. Uiagalelei, Ben Gulbranson and Aiden Chiles — to each get better. Whomever emerges from the muck will be counted on to lead the Beavers to double-digit wins.
Stanford: Plenty of time in the weight room
Somehow, the tough, gritty, oversized Cardinal have gotten a bit lean on both sides of the ball. If the Cardinal aren’t going to be able to recruit the kind of 5- and 4-star offensive and defensive linemen that became their hallmark during their dominating decade of the 2010s, they’re going to have to build from within. That, of course, really starts during the summer.
Forget the books. It’s time for Stanford to add some bulk.
UCLA: Dante Moore to dive into the playbook
Coming off one of the best quarterbacks in program history, the Bruins hit the refresh button this season at the position. But all upsides don’t have the same potential.
Will it be Ethan Garbers or Collin Schlee who rules the day? Or can electrifying true freshman Dante Moore get a leg up on the competition?
That all starts in the summer, when Moore has a lot more growing to do. If Moore can grasp the offense and hit the ground running in fall camp, the Bruins will chase double-digit wins.
USC: Some defensive synergy
The danger of totally rebuilding a program from the transfer portal is you’re bound to get some guys who are just looking out for themselves, and it was clear USC’s defense did not congeal into a single unit last year. The Trojans were incredibly opportunistic and certainly managed to dig themselves out of a few jams, but they ultimately played way too much hero ball.
USC coaches would do well to take the entire defense through extensive film sessions, if only to highlight the selfishness.
Utah: A speedy recovery for Cam Rising
All eyes will be on Salt Lake City this summer, monitoring how Cam Rising is coming along. The Utes’ starting quarterback is working his way back from a torn ACL suffered in the Rose Bowl. Utah did well in spring ball in cultivating Brandon Rose as perhaps the league’ most valuable backup, but the gap between Rose and Rising is bigger than the Rose Bowl itself.
If Rising can accelerate his recovery process, Utah’s entire outlook is, well, rosier.
Washington: Just staying healthy across the board
The Huskies have everything lined up for a truly special 2023 campaign. They’re truly loaded just about across the board, including perhaps the best passing game in the country. Unlike some other top Pac-12 programs who may still be looking to add what feels like the missing piece, Washington is the most complete team in the conference.
If the Huskies stay healthy and maybe even add to their timing during the dog days, Kalen DeBoer is in store for something special.
Washington State: Passing game cohesion
The Cougars said goodbye to leading receivers De’Zhaun Stribling (Oklahoma State) and Donovan Ollie (Cincinnati) and welcomed UNLV’s Kyle Williams and Fresno State’s Josh Kelly.
Unlike their Apple Cup rivals, who have almost remarkable consistency returning to the passing game, Cam Ward and the Cougars have their work cut out for them. Using the summer for additional reps and timing is key for Ward taking a step forward in 2023 after a good-not-great debut season for the Cougars.