With spring practice underway at many Pac-12 destinations, it's time to do our annual position-by-position breakdown.
We're making our way through the offensive position groups and today we get to wide receivers. Let's begin with the South ...
Arizona: The Wildcats could have one of the most electric passing attacks in the Pac-12 next season with Anu Solomon and his crop of returning receivers. Arizona has five of its top seven receivers returning with the only Cats out being Austin Hill, who graduated, and DaVonte' Neal, who's still on the roster but moved over to defense. But between Cayleb Jones, Samajie Grant, Trey Griffey, Nate Phillips and David Richards, there's going to be a lot of competition for catches this spring. Also, according to this report, there are a few 2014 scout team players who've impressed wide receivers coach Tony Dews so far this spring -- Tony Ellison, Kaelin DeBoskie, Jocquez Kalili and Darius Aguirre.
Arizona State: D.J. Foster will have his first full WR spring this year after being the second-leading receiver for the Sun Devils last year. Past Foster, the only other player who had significant receiving experience last season was Cameron Smith, who caught 41 passes for ASU. Look for these two to solidify their roles as starters, but they'll also have competition from Gary Chambers, Frederick Gammage, Ellis Jefferson and former JUCO transfer Eric Lauderdale.
Colorado: Nelson Spruce deciding to come back for his final year of eligibility might be one of the biggest returns -- from a team's own stock perspective -- in the league this year. This spring, expect him and Sefo Liufau to keep building that chemistry, especially considering Mike MacIntyre told reporters that he could see Spruce having another 100-reception season, which would make him the first Pac-10/Pac-12 player in history to have two 100-reception seasons. Shay Fields and Bryce Bobo will duel it out for the opportunity to get those non-Spruce balls as the Buffaloes attempt to replace the production of Tyler McCulloch and D.D. Goodson.
UCLA: The Bruins return their top six receivers from last year so since Jim Mora has plenty of experience returning, expect this spring to be a lot of experimentation with different formations for those top guys, while also building depth with lesser-known players. Is there a chance that Mora could go crazy and pull a Mike Leach and throw four (maybe five?) receivers out there on a single down? He certainly has the talent and depth to do so. Jordan Payton will be the Bruins' go-to, but past him Devin Fuller, Thomas Duarte, Eldridge Massington, Mossi Johnson, Devin Lucien and Kenneth Walker are more than capable. Better yet for the Bruins, all of those receivers except Walker, are at least 6-foot, giving UCLA serious opportunities for mismatches downfield. But Walker, even though he might be vertically challenged compared to his receiver teammates, is known as one of the fastest (if not the fastest) on the team, so he creates mismatches of his own. Long story short: The Bruins are going to have a strong spring full of veteran players who will be impact players come fall.
USC: The Trojans lost a lot when both Nelson Agholor and George Farmer decided to leave early for the NFL. Add to that 41-catch RB Buck Allen and USC has a lot of shoes to fill. But fear not, they seem to have the numbers to do it. JuJu Smith returns and he'll become Cody Kessler's go-to receiving weapon. This spring will be spent building trust and chemistry between those two as Kessler adapts to the post-Agholor era. Past Smith, Adoree' Jackson, Darreus Rogers and Steven Mitchell will have a lot to prove after showing flashes last fall. On top of those four familiar faces, the Trojans welcome early enrollee JUCO transfer Isaac Whitney, who could boost the USC wide receiver corps. At 6-foot-4 Whitney towers over most other wide receivers and though spring will be his first reps with the Trojans (meaning he might be slower to start because of the new-ness of everything) he could be a guy that makes monstrous gains this spring and summer.
Utah: Last year the Utes finished last in the Pac-12 in passing yards per game. Heading into this spring the Utes lost three of their four top receiving threats, so to say that players need to step up is a bit of an understatement. One of the problems last fall was the quarterback rotation, so it was hard to build chemistry when a new face popped up every game behind the offensive line. This spring, that problem will still exist since Kendal Thompson is out, so the Utah receivers need to do the best they can to just build depth with a question mark still at the QB spot. Utah can't afford to be a singular attack (read: Devontae Booker) come fall. Kenneth Scott will look to step up as the go-to receiver while Tim Patrick and Delshawn McClellon spend the spring battling for those No. 2 and No. 3 receiving spots before junior college transfer Deniko Carter (No. 8 WR in the 2015 JUCO class) gets to campus this summer and tries to climb the ladder himself.