The most exciting part of Pac-12 Media Day is picking up on the One Big Thing, that one storyline that will help define the preseason.

For some Pac-12 teams, they need a brand new approach. Others need to get back to what brought them success.

Here are half of the main storylines to emerge from media day, with the other half coming tomorrow.  And stay tuned: Saturday Out West will be diving deeper into all these stories during training camps.

Cal: Bears locker room needs a round of speed-dating

Few head coaches will have a more difficult time in 2022 than Justin Wilcox. The Cal coach will break in an almost entirely new roster,

Almost all of the Bears’ offensive production needs to be replaced, including quarterback Chase Garbers. Cal also loses its entire WR corps, its top tight end, and one of its two primary running backs.

“There’s going to be a lot of new faces playing for us,” Wilcox said. “There’s going to be times you’re going to be inexperienced at certain positions or units. However, we feel really strongly about the talent on the team. We have some inexperienced guys, but we have some really talented guys. They’ve had a really good off-season. Now it’s about putting it all together, creating some rhythm and getting into the season where we will be tested each and every Saturday.”

Don’t confuse lack of returners with lack of skill, though.

“We are inexperienced on offense at a number of positions, but we feel the talent is probably greater than what we’ve had,” Wilcox said. “The skill positions, we feel like we’re going to have some more guys create explosive plays. We as coaches have to put them in position to do that.”

Oregon: Ducks flock together during summer

For a team with Pac-12 title aspirations, the Oregon Ducks appreciated being able to work on their goals sooner this year than the previous two.

The Ducks had nearly a dozen player-led workouts during the summer, using a blueprint that they remembered from 2019, the last “normal” season.

“The best part about it is with the restrictions the past two years, its been hard to get some player-led practice stuff done,” senior offensive lineman Alex Forsyth said. “We were able to do that all summer and for us that was huge, we got 10-12 practices in with just players. For just the players to do that, it says a lot about our program and where we’re at. The past two years, it’s been hard to get that organized. Getting a full offseason is huge, that’s when a team really gets together.”

Oregon relied on older team leaders like Forsyth to guide them through the player-only practices.

“We remember how that was, and we got a script going. We have our independent drills we know. Finding time to get offense versus defense, offensive line versus defensive line. If you can get 10 of those in before you start fall camp, you’re already 10 practices ahead.”

Oregon State: For Beavers to take next step, defensive improvements needed

As a player, Oregon State head coach Jonathan Smith was one of the great Beaver quarterbacks in program history. In 2000 as a junior under Dennis Erickson, Smith was the Fiesta Bowl MVP and guided OSU to an 11-1 record, throwing darts to future NFL stars Chad Johnson/OchoCinco and T.J. Houshmandzadeh.

He brought that offensive acumen to the Beavers as head coach.

Now it’s time for his defense to take another step.

Oregon State ranked in the top-5 in the conference in rushing, passing, total offense and scoring and eighth or worse in three of those four categories on the defensive side.

That fact isn’t lost on Beavers defensive back Alex Austin, who saw a positive change in the team during spring workouts.

“The biggest improvement I’ve seen is everybody moving, flying to the ball, all at once,” defensive back Alex Austin said. “All 11 people pursuing the ball. That just comes from the energy from Coach (Trent) Bray. It’s hard not give him the same energy back. We trust the techniques the coaches are giving us. There’s been a big positive change.”

Stanford: Cardinal need to get back to what made them good

When Stanford was eschewing tradition and dominating in the 2010s like no other time in program history, it was a power running game that led them to greatness. Last year, the Cardinal ranked last in the conference in rushing. David Shaw believes its the boys up front who are going to turn the tide back this year.

“We did not play our brand of football last year to any degree,” Shaw said. “So now for these guys to come back, for me to continually say how our team goes depends on the offensive line. I mean it. Those guys are going to set the table for us, for Tanner (McKee) to do what he needs to do, E.J. Smith, those guys need to play at a high level. They’re taking that very seriously.”

The Cardinal were younger up front than usual, so Shaw understands the backslide. But that doesn’t make it any easier to withstand.”

“I’ve said this many times, that there’s a reason why they call it growing pains, because sometimes it hurts,” Shaw said. “We had some growing pains last year. But I think what that taught us really is what we do well, what we don’t do well. Really looking at this group, and having the off-season to really put some things together, both for them physically, but then also schematically, technique that we want to see on the field.”

Washington: Who is the Huskies new “secret weapon?”

Washington’s offense fell to new depths last year with offensive coordinator John Donovan at the helm.

In comes what the Huskies’ two media day player representatives call their new secret weapon: former Fresno State offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb, who followed new head coach Kalen DeBoer to Washington.

“Coach DeBoer brought in all the right pieces in terms of position coaches and the right structure to offense and defense,” Washington offensive lineman Jackson Kirkland said. “I think we have the best kept secret in college football in Ryan Grubb, our OC. He’s a wizard on offense, that’s for sure. I’ll just say it’s a lot different. I don’t want to give anything away. I can’t wait to see it in the fall.”

Added defensive back Alex Cook: “Ryan Grubb is a freaking genius. It was so hard playing against that offense in spring ball. Their rhythm and rolling tempo…they were flying up the field. Coach DeBoer has installed something amazing.”

Washington State: With interim tag removed, Dickert gets to work

A third of the conference is under new leadership, but unlike DeBoer, USC’s Lincoln Riley and Oregon’s Dan Lanning, Washington State’s Jake Dickert is the only one whose interim tag was removed. The Cougars’ former defensive coordinator took over for Nick Rolovich in October and led the team to a 3-1 conference record down the stretch.

“We still had an opportunity to play for something when I took over,” Dickert said. “You can’t ever replicate experience and I think all our young guys got to see that. We’ve carried over that mindset yet changed the mentality of the program. When I was interim, it was like keep things structured the same, pick and choose our little spots to change. January 9, it was a big change, and players have reacted really positively to that.”

For Dickert, the changes aren’t limited to the football field.

“It’s a holistic approach to developing people,” Dickert said. “It’s physical, it’s spiritual, it’s social, it’s relational. Our coaches are elite trust-builders. When you’re open to sharing your experiences and your failures, it’s amazing what you’ll get back from the guys. It’s about providing them many resources. Sometimes they don’t want to tell the coach; they want to tell the chaplain, they want to tell the psychologist, the clinical person. We have those resources and we talk about them openly. We care about them and love them, and we care about them as people first. Being a player doesn’t define them.  Too many times in our world, twitter defines people. We’re running our own race.”