Pac-10 burning questions (cont.)
Can Washington's two Pac-10 schools combine for more than two wins in 2009?
That could be up to first-year Washington coach Steve Sarkisian. Sarkisian, the former USC offensive coordinator, takes over a program that went 0-for-2008 and devolved into a national laughingstock during Tyrone Willingham's final season. The first step, Sarkisian has said, is to instill confidence and toughness in his players. He said everyone will start with a "clean slate," including quarterback Jake Locker. The Tim Tebow of the Pacific Northwest missed most of last season with a shattered thumb, but Sarkisian said last month Locker is throwing again.
Meanwhile, in Pullman, coach Paul Wulff suspended quarterback Marshall Lobbestael late last month after Lobbestael was arrested on an underage drinking charge. According to Washington State's student paper, The Daily Evergreen, police found Lobbestael passed out in a Dodge pickup in front of the police station. Wulff later told Cougfan.com the report wasn't entirely accurate and gave a somewhat more plausible reason to explain why his best quarterback was asleep in a pickup truck in the parking lot of the police station. It's unclear how long Lobbestael's suspension will last, but Wulff can empathize. He's suspended for the Cougars' first three preseason practices as part of his punishment for NCAA rules violations that occurred during his tenure at Eastern Washington.
Can Oregon State build on 2008?
The Beavers have some issues heading into spring practice. Quarterback Lyle Moevao will miss the spring after undergoing arm surgery this week that could require anywhere from six weeks to four months rehabilitation. That means senior Sean Canfield, who missed last year's spring practice following surgery on his throwing shoulder, will take all the first-team snaps, which could spark a quarterback competition come August. Meanwhile, the Beavers must find replacements for three offensive line starters and all four secondary spots. The good news? The Rodgers brothers (James and Jacquizz) seem to have recovered from their respective injuries. Receiver James (collarbone) may play some this spring, while tailback Quizz (shoulder) will be limited. Meanwhile, Oregon State coach Mike Riley tipped off The Oregonian that he may install a Wildcat formation. The Wild Quizz? Sounds exciting.
Which program is poised to make a leap in 2009?
That would be Arizona. The Wildcats return 14 starters from a team that went 8-5 and closed the season with a win over BYU in the Las Vegas Bowl. The only catch? They must find a new quarterback this spring. Sophomore Matt Scott, Willie Tuitama's backup in 2008, will compete with Michigan State transfer Nick Foles. Neither quarterback should have trouble getting the ball to Rob Gronkowski, the Pac-10's best tight end last year. On defense, Arizona returns its entire front four. Defensive tackle Earl Mitchell, who moved from fullback last spring, and defensive end Brooks Reed, who led the team with eight sacks last season, should provide stability for a defense that must replace two linebackers and two defensive backs.
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