Spring practices end the retrospective glances at the last season and begin the forward-looking process toward the next fall. Departed players need to be replaced, and returning starters need to get better, and youngsters need to step up.
While some teams have more issues than others, every team has specific issues that will be front and center. So we're looking at the main questions each Pac-12 team will address this spring.
Up next: Oregon.
1. What will this quarterback competition look like? By now, everyone knows that Eastern Washington transfer Vernon Adams is a talented, dual-threat quarterback who basically fits the mold for the Oregon offense (except for the fact he's a smidge short at 5-foot-10). But, unfortunately for Adams, he won’t be able to come to campus until he finishes at EWU, and worse yet, he won’t be working out with the Eagles on campus since they're Oregon’s season opener. Could that put him a beat (or several) behind when it comes to the Ducks? Absolutely. Because while he’s working out on his own, there is going to be a slew of other quarterbacks in Eugene throwing with the Oregon wide receivers, working with the running backs, getting acclimated to the offense line, building relationships with Scott Frost. Which of these guys on campus can emerge as the front-runner? Or at least the front-runner to battle Adams once he arrives on campus? It has been a while since there was a quarterback battle (for the starting job) in Eugene but now, we’ve got one. Jeff Lockie? Morgan Mahalak? Those seem to be the front-runners, but for how long?
2. Who’s going to emerge in the secondary? Oregon defensive backs coach John Neal has his work cut out for him. Not only does he need to replace All-American Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Neal also needs to replace Erick Dargan, who led the Pac-12 in interceptions, and Troy Hill, who played some really strong football for the Ducks last year. Chris Seisay made some strides in making Neal’s job a little less tough last season when he stepped in for Ekpre-Olomu in the postseason, but the right cornerback and free safety positions are still in question. People need to step up and step up soon because the Ducks weren’t in the top pack of Pac-12 pass defenses, and with several good QBs on the Ducks’ schedule in 2015 taking a step back isn’t an option.
3. Is anyone going to challenge Royce Freeman for carries? Freeman beating out Byron Marshall for the running back spot last fall might’ve been the best thing that ever happened in Marshall’s career. Without it, he’s just a good running back. With it, he’s one of the best threats in the Pac-12 when it comes to defensive coordinators trying to know what he’s going to do. Plus, he gets out of this battle for carries that’s now happening between Freeman and Thomas Tyner, who had a great postseason for the Ducks. Add to that incoming freshman Taj Griffin, the nation’s No. 4 running back, and we have, yet again, some serious questions to answer when it comes to the Ducks’ running backs. Griffin might not be able to compete 100 percent yet this spring as he’s still recovering from a knee injury, but expect him to still be a factor in the discussions.