Pac-12 Updates for Players With Local Ties

Los Angeles –

Look around the Pac-12 conference, and you’re going to see some former Arizona high school football players. Playmakers who cut their teeth at the prep level and are making impacts for programs around the Conference of Champions. 

At Pac-12 Football Media Day, I was able to catch up with coaches and players throughout on the conference on some of these guys who came from State Forty Eight.

Washington head coach Chris Petersen on what Saguaro alum Byron Murphy needs to do to take his next step in development:

I think play more. Byron’s played six games for us. I’m excited to see what he’s going to do. He’s played very little football for us in the big picture. Hopefully we’ll be able to keep him out there longer than we had him last year.

I just think that he’s a really instinctual player. He’s got really good ball skills. He’s one of those guys that you see him in high school and he was a really spectacular receiver. A lot of times those DBs are on the other side of the ball because they can’t catch. But he can catch. He’s got a knack for getting his hands on the ball.

USC head coach Clay Helton on former North Canyon tackle Austin Jackson building off a strong true freshman season.

I think he’s doing it right now. I thought he did it as a freshman. He contributed very well. It’s so hard as an offensive lineman to contribute as a true freshman. For him to do what he did is  remarkable. I think about a young man that’s on our football team right now, Toa Lobendahn, and think about him going out there as a true freshman and the consistency and stability that he’s provided for us for a number of years, I see that same thing in Austin. I see a guy that’s going to be a constant force on that offensive line. Physical, tough, smart kid that is a tremendous teammate. Wants to be great. He’s put a lot of work in this summer, and he’s going to be a guy that’s going to be competing with Clayton Johnston to be able to see who that left tackle is.

Cal head coach Justin Wilcox on former Centennial offensive lineman Kamryn Bennett:

Kam did a nice job. He’s still continuing to grow as a player. Steve Greatwood has done a fantastic job with him. We expect him to improve, and Kam’s a guy that played last year, and he’s played quite a bit of football. I still think he’s got room to grow. We need him, and I think he’s continuing to develop his body, he’s getting stronger and more powerful, which is important at that position. So this will be a big camp for him.

Oregon State head coach Jonathan Smith on Timmy Hernandez (Mountain Pointe) and Kolby Taylor (Chandler) making an impact as receivers.

I thought both Timmy and Kolby had great spring practices. I was impressed with their understanding of the game, they were creative and made some plays. Just the understanding how to get open, when to get open is important. So we’re going to be counting on those guys to continue and improve through August camp, but we’ll be counting on them in the fall, for sure.

Smith on his first impressions of former Chandler defensive end Hamilcar Rashed.

For his size, I liked his athleticism. First impression. He’s a good looking kid and all those things, but his athleticism to run around. He’s not shy. He can play physical. Really, I was impressed to watch his effort on special teams. You know, some of these guys that are pretty good players, probably starters, they don’t play a ton of special teams. So that guy’s all about special teams play. So we’re expecting big things from him.

Smith on former Chandler two-way player Mason Moran making an impact as a quarterback or a safety.

He has a diverse skill set. His impact, again, I go to even the culture of being a great teammate that way, of being flexible to try different positions, contribute in whatever way he can. I think that resonates with the whole team of being able to bounce to a position. He’s trying to do things on special teams. He works really hard in the weight room. So all of that contributes.

Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham on the addition of former North Canyon receiver Solomon Enis.

Yeah, Solomon Enis is a great addition to our football team. Depending on the service you look at. He’s either the best or second best player coming out of Arizona this past year. Talented kid. Nearly 6’3″, 200 pounds. Runs like a gazelle, and we’re excited to see what he can do. We did not have him in spring. He didn’t get on campus until last month. Excited to watch him as well as a bunch

Whittingham on the impact former Chandler running back T.J. Green could have as a red-shirt freshman.

TJ’s going to have to be a factor for us this year. He’s going to be a red-shirt freshman. We did sit him out last year. We’ve got Zack Moss and Armand Shyne, our one-two guys right now. Beyond that, TJ will be battling for that next slot and see if he can get the third spot. We have five scholarship running backs coming to camp this fall, so we need to establish a pecking order behind Zack Moss and Armand Shyne.

Colorado head coach Mike MacIntyre on Centennial alum Brett Tonz making the transition from defensive to offensive line.

Brett Tonz, the transition has been excellent for him. This is a big fall camp. He’s competing to start at guard. I think he’s going to do really well for us this year. He’s gotten a little bigger. Understands the offensive scheme. We had talked to Brett a year earlier about maybe going to Oline, and he wanted to go to D-line, and he walked in and said: O-line is a better fit for me. So his whole heart and soul is into it. I look for Brett to make good strides for us this year. He’s a very athletic offensive guard. So is Will Sherman and Colby Pursell. They’re athletic guys. More athletic than we’ve had in the past in there. So I’m excited about watching those guys gel together.

He was a good enough athlete to do that. There were a lot of offensive linemen that couldn’t play defensive line, so he’s able to do that. He understands defensive schemes. He understands what the D-line men are trying to do in their lineup, and shade to the inside shade or outside shade or zero on him. So he has that intelligence factor that maybe an offensive lineman wouldn’t have that didn’t play defense.

MacIntyre providing an update on Saguaro tight end Jared Poplawski, who is coming back from injury.

Jared Poplawski gives us a multiple tight end. He can play in the back field, he can split out, he runs excellent routes, he can catch the football. Jared really helped us in the first six games. We were going to use him some more. His knee is back, and he’s doing really well. So you’ll see us using him in multiple spots, and he’s a multidimensional tight end. He’s not just an end-liner or an H-back, he can do both.

Former Desert Vista star and Oregon Duck Jalen Jelks was also in attendance and gave high praise to fellow Arizonans Tyler Shough and Johnny Johnson, who are both early in their careers in Eugene.

The scary thing is there are plenty of others from the Grand Canyon State who are making an impact with their Pac-12 teams, and it looks like that won’t change any time soon.

Mixing his passions for sports and storytelling, Jordan comes to Sports360az as a multimedia reporter/producer looking to share the best stories Arizona has to offer. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram @JordyHamm