Wilner Hotline – Pac-12 football preview: Impact newcomers for each team

Arizona Sports News online

The transfer portal whirled like never before, coaching staffs were turned over in dizzying fashion, and when the movement stopped late this spring, Pac-12 rosters had undergone significant remodeling.

All told, more than 50 transfers are expected to be rotation players across the conference.

Eight teams have new defensive coordinators.

Seven will start quarterbacks who weren’t on campus last fall.

The Hotline believes all the change warrants further inspection — hence our assessment of the top newcomers for each team.

However, this list has a twist: We did not include head coaches or quarterbacks in order to expose readers to players and coordinators with whom they might not be familiar.

They are listed in alphabetical order (by school), not in order of impact.

Arizona: WR Jacob Cowing (previous school: UTEP). The Wildcats have no shortage of candidates given needs across the depth chart and the roster turnover orchestrated by coach Jedd Fisch. Perimeter playmakers are high on the list, and Cowing’s production for the Miners (69 catches last year) makes him the most likely change agent in the aerial game.

Cal: LB Jackson Sirmon (Washington). The Bears have produced several high-level linebackers in recent years but needed to reload for 2022. Sirmon received honorable mention all-conference recognition for the Huskies, and his father, Peter, calls the plays for Cal. Seems like the stars are aligned for an impact year.

Colorado: offensive coordinator Mike Sanford (Minnesota). CU averaged just 18.8 points per game last season, then made a coordinator change. Sanford’s offense in Minneapolis averaged 25.5 points per game. If his new attack equals the production of his old attack (a 36 percent uptick), the Buffaloes will be delighted.

Oregon: offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham (Florida State). New head coach Dan Lanning is a defensive specialist, and that side of the ball is loaded with talent. As a result, Dillingham is effectively the head coach of the unit that carries the most uncertainty. His work with quarterback Bo Nix will shape the conference race.

Oregon State: TB Jam Griffin (Georgia Tech). The run-heavy Beavers return two rotation players in the backfield but will need depth. We selected Griffin, who rushed for about 400 career yards in the ACC, but considered freshman Damien Martinez. All in all, Oregon State had very little roster or staff turnover. Our options were few.

Stanford DB Patrick Fields (Oklahoma). Rookie edge rusher David Bailey, a four-star recruit from famed Mater Dei HS, received strong consideration before we settled on Fields. Both play positions of significant need, but Fields is the proven commodity after 43 career starts for the Sooners; he also provides flexibility with the ability to play nickel or safety.

UCLA: DL Gabriel and Grayson Murphy (North Texas). The Hotline allowed a two-for-one selection here with the identical twins, who combined for 35.5 tackles-for-loss and 23.5 sacks at UNT. They are listed as linemen but will man the edge for a defense hit hard by attrition. The Bruins have two chances to find one impact player.

USC: defensive coordinator Alex Grinch (Oklahoma). We considered receiver Jordan Addison and tailback Travis Dye but settled on Grinch because the Trojans will go as their defense goes — not any particular unit but the entirety of it. And Grinch is responsible for orchestrating the needed upgrade. A playoff berth could hinge on the depth of his impact.

Utah: DE Gabe Reid (Stanford). The Utes must replace the best defensive player in the conference (linebacker Devin Lloyd) and one of the top pass rushers (Mika Tafua). They have options for both, but nothing is more valuable than a high-level edge. And Reid has 30.5 tackles-for-loss in his career. Also considered: linebacker Mohamoud Diabate.

Washington: LB Cam Bright (Pittsburgh). Bright is one of the most proven commodities to enter the conference, a multi-year starter who served as team captain last season for the ACC champs. But let’s be honest: While they should be solid on the edge, the Huskies need loads of help in the middle of the defense.

Washington State: offensive coordinator Eric Morris (Incarnate Word). Comparable to Oregon’s situation with a new head coach whose background is on defense and a starting quarterback from the transfer portal. But Morris, a disciple of the Aid Raid, spent two years coaching Cam Ward at Incarnate Word. The transition should be smooth.

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