Over the past few weeks, we've been ranking the Pac-12's defensive and offensive triplets.
For a refresher, here were the parameters: We've selected a trio of skill players from each team in the conference. Each player comes from a different position group, so the offensive version of this series features a quarterback, a running back and a receiver. We then ranked each program's troika against the others in the Pac-12.
Here is the full rundown of the rankings:
The Cougars clearly have the most proven group of skill guys in the Pac-12. There is high-end talent along with impressive depth and while that, of course, doesn’t guarantee anything, it has raised expectations considerably in Pullman. Not since the early Bill Doba years has there been as much optimism going into a season.
For the Cougars' full breakdown, click here.
When one analyzes a season yet to be played, it's always a projection. There is no guarantee a player improves from one season to the next. In fact, the whole "sophomore slump" is a thing because sometimes touted freshmen take a step back after first-year success, something that can happen for a variety of reasons. So our extremely positive projection for a pair of true sophomores and a player who sat out last season is obviously leaning on an optimistic assessment of their projected mental and physical improvement. None of these players have "arrived." But all three seem well on their way, which is pretty much how folks are stacking up the Huskies heading into the 2016 season.
For the Huskies' full breakdown, click here.
With McCaffrey as the unit's centerpiece, anything is possible. There's plenty to replace, though, and the beginning of that effort lies with either Burns or Chryst. It's a domino effect beyond that. If Stanford's quarterbacks are effective, expect the receivers to thrive as well. In that scenario, Rector will have a big season and this trio will live up to its potential.
For the Cardinal's full breakdown, click here.
The Trojans feel as good as any conference team about their situations at running back and receiver. The question, obviously, is how much mature production, consistency and leadership they will get behind center. There are good reasons to believe that things at QB should work out fine, starting with the fact that the Trojans have been pretty darn good at QB since, well, 2002. Browne looks as though he's ready to lead this offense; if he's not, Sam Darnold ain't too shabby either. Of course, Nick Saban and the Alabama defense will provide a bit of a test on opening day, Sept. 3.
For the Trojans' full breakdown, click here.
Rosen is a budding superstar, while Jamabo could become a star this fall even in a conference loaded at running back. Andrews is a solid Pac-12 receiver, a leader at one of UCLA's most questionable positions -- one that is obviously vital to Rosen showcasing his arm. The Bruins should have a good offense this season. They could have a great offense if some pass-catchers step up to join Andrews.
For the Bruins' full breakdown, click here.
Prukop has the game experience, but he falls short of Jonsen’s knowledge of how Oregon does what it does. And while Jonsen has the knowledge, he falls short of Prukop as a seasoned QB. Freeman has accounted for 3,201 rushing yards and 35 rushing touchdowns in two seasons and will be expected to take some of the pressure off Prukop/Jonsen. Carrington was a big-play weapon last season, and even though he only played half the games of many Pac-12 players, he was still named to the All-Pac-12 second team following his 32-reception, 609-yard season.
For the Ducks' full breakdown, click here.
Fun fact: With an injured Solomon and Wilson, Arizona still scored more touchdowns in 2015 (60) than any other season of the Rich Rodriguez era. Scoring points has never been much of a problem. The scheme is sound and it works. And when everyone is healthy, it’s outstanding. When everyone isn’t, it’s still pretty darn good. Rodriguez has managed to recruit good skill players and put them into position to put up very solid numbers. If the Wildcats can keep the offensive backfield healthy, there’s no reason to believe the offense won’t continue to be among the league’s elite.
For the Wildcats' full breakdown, click here.
No member of this triumvirate is a sure thing, but it also has strong potential upside, particularly with Webb behind center. We don't know how these guys will work together -- Webb might not adjust to new teammates and coaches; Enwere could get lost in a backfield by committee; and the receivers might show as much youthful inconsistency as promise. Or these guys could mesh well, reach their potential and transform Cal into a team to watch in the North.
For the Bears' full breakdown, click here.
If Garretson makes the passing game viable and Gary Andersen is able to use Nall like he has other running backs, this could be an offense that makes some noise. Whether that’s enough noise to rock defenses remains to be seen (especially considering the injuries on the offensive side of the ball for the Beavers this offseason), but there’s certainly potential for this group.
For the Beavers' full breakdown, click here.
The biggest issue, obviously, is QB, and that's why Arizona State ranks 10th here. The Sun Devils feel pretty good about Richard and White, as well as their depth at running back and receiver, but if the guy delivering the ball isn't productive and consistent, then White won't get touches and defenses will gang up on Richard and a rebuilding O-line. That said, if things go well at QB, this could be one of the better troikas in the conference.
For the Sun Devils' full breakdown, click here.
Liufau’s experience obviously trumps the Utes’ current quarterback situation as does Fields’ experience in comparison to Utah WR Tyrone Smith, who only had 18 catches in 2015 compared to Fields’ 42. The Utes do have the advantage at running back in that most likely would choose Joe Williams over Lindsay, but at the end of the day the scales tip toward the Buffs as they enter the fourth year of the Mike MacIntyre era.
For the Buffaloes' full breakdown, click here.
There are too many unproven variables here to rank Utah’s trio above any of the others in the conference. Coach Kyle Whittingham sounds excited about his talent at quarterback, but there’ll inevitably be growing pains with a new man under center, and there are also a plethora of questions to answer at receiver. Williams might have inspired confidence with his late-season performance in 2015, but the Utes are still replacing the country’s most heavily used running back in Devontae Booker.
For the Utes' full breakdown, click here.