More than a few notes on new USC athletic director Lynn Swann. You can read my thoughts on that here.
To the questions!
Kalen writes: Larry Scott vs. Dan Guerrero -- what are we supposed to think? Fellow sports writers say Scott threw Dan under the bus, while many fans, including UCLA fans, think Chianti Dan is the problem. Your take?
Ted Miller: The first issue is the Pac-12 now actively participating in an NCAA policy correction: the rejection of the new ban on coaches participating in satellite camps, which is the Point A of this controversy.
I was on the fence about the camps, in large part because of Jim Harbaugh's unnecessary peacocking on the matter, but also because the energy I'd put into thinking about them couldn't even toast a slice of bread lightly. After talking with a bunch of coaches and players, I no longer doubt the sincerity on the issue of providing more and better opportunities for under-the-radar players to ferret out college scholarships.
The camps are a good thing, though they also will be complicated to monitor and surely will lead to plenty of Harbaugh-ian limit pushing.
But you're asking me about Scott's very public finger pointing at Guerrero, blaming UCLA's athletic director for his misrepresenting the conference's will with his vote as the Pac-12 representative. A vote, oh by the way, that matched the Bruins' position on that matter, which was in contrast to 11 other program who supported the camps (though to significantly varying degrees).
My take is this is not a good thing for the Pac-12.
Scott publicly calling out a veteran, sitting AD is nearly unprecedented. As for Guerrero's explanation for his vote, well, it's not unreasonable to raise an eyebrow. It's at the very least safe to assume he didn't aggressively advocate for the Pac-12 position because it wasn't his own.
When Scott brought the Pac-12 its $3 billion TV deal in 2011, the conference was unified behind him. He, in fact, was unanimously toasted. It's no secret that is no longer the case. For a variety of reasons -- compounded by the SEC and Big Ten making moves that increased revenues and left the Pac-12 in the dust -- there is a faction of athletic directors that is unhappy with him.
Odd thing is, Guerrero didn't seem to be one of those unhappy campers, at least not a vocal one.
Yes, the Pac-12 meetings in Phoenix the first week of May figure to be pretty interesting. The conversation will be animated over many substantive and logistical issues, but the biggest might turn out to be marshaling divergent sentiments to present a newly unified front to reporters and fans.
If not, it's certainly reasonable to wonder if this latest tempest is a precursor to earnest discussion about a change in conference leadership in the not-too-distant future.
Tom writes: If you had to pick two or three players from the PAC-12 who might surprise people due to being selected higher than the draft pundits predict, who would they be?
Ted Miller: First, amateur NFL evaluations are worth what you're paying me, Tom. But I'll bite.
It would surprise me if a pair of QBs, Stanford's Kevin Hogan and Oregon's Vernon Adams, don't have NFL careers. While they are very different players, with very different college careers, I suspect they can at the very least prove to be solid backups. Perhaps more.
I think you're going to look up five years from now and see former USC NG Antwaun Woods quietly laboring in the interior of an NFL defensive line.
But a position group to watch is linebacker. Among the crew of Arizona's Scooby Wright, Stanford's Blake Martinez, Utah's Jared Norris and Gionni Paul, and Washington's Travis Feeney, I think there's at least two long-term NFL starters.
Jaime writes: With UCLA turning to a "pro-style" offense this year, Josh Rosen is expected to have a great season in 2016. Will the Bruins take the Pac-12 South crown this coming season, or will USC repeat as South champions?
Ted Miller: I am on record favoring Utah. Nothing I've seen or read this spring changes that. In fact, the strong play of Brandon Cox means the QB competition in fall camp will be legitimate instead of a coronation for JC transfer Troy Williams. That's a good thing.
I'm choosing to believe that coach Kyle Whittingham has a magical garden where he grows linebackers. That's how I'm blocking out that worrisome position group.
When I tap the Utes, however, I do so as a 1A with USC being 1B and UCLA 1C. I'd be surprised if one of those three doesn't win the South Division.
UCLA's strength obviously starts with Rosen. No QB in the country has more upside. Yet the Bruins, outside of a potentially strong secondary and good talent at running back, have plenty of questions for just about every other position group.
USC should have the Pac-12's best offensive line, which is a great start, and it's strong at the skill positions. While QB is a question, both Max Browne and Sam Darnold have the potential to become A-list starters. Oh, but that defensive line is going to be young.
Beyond personnel is schedule, and that is where UCLA has the most notable advantage and USC has the biggest deficit.
UCLA is the only one of the troika with just four conference road games, and it plays host to both the Utes and Trojans. Its North Division misses are Washington and Oregon, which seems ideal.
USC owns the nation's toughest schedule. Beyond nonconference dates with Alabama and Notre Dame, it visits both the Bruins and Utes among its five road games, and it also visits Stanford and plays Oregon and Washington. The Trojans miss Oregon State and Washington State.
Utah has five road games and misses Stanford and Washington State.
Of course, last year Pac-12 teams thrived on the road, so who knows? As far as I can tell, no matter what I predict, they will go ahead and play the season out and see what happens.