CFB DFS: Pac 12 Spring Report
The Pac 12 is one of the most fun conferences to cover because of the way they throw the ball around and are mostly all up-tempo offenses. With this being the case, the quarterback play has to be very good for your team to be successful. Some of these teams have great returners (USC) or answers (Oregon), and some of them might be better off hosting open tryouts (Washington). In honor of the Pac 12, read this article as fast as you can and see if you can keep up with this conference’s speed.
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The Cal Bears offense is going to be built around the pass and I think they have a great quarterback in Jared Goff. We’ll continue to see progression and part of it is because of their receiver depth. The four starters at receiver for the spring scrimmage were Bryce Treggs (H), Trevor Davis (X), Darius Powe (Y) and Kenny Lawler (Z). Lawler and Treggs are the two names you should know if you followed Cal at all in the past year or so, but the other two don’t have a ton of experience. One thing to like about the two of them is that they both averaged over 16 yards per catch last season. Those are big numbers, but they did do this with limited receptions. Both of them were more prevalent at the beginning of the season and faded as the season went on. Also, they’re both 6’2 or taller. Goff has himself a lot of potential out wide and Cal could be a team where we dig for underpriced receivers with guys like Davis and Powe.
There have been two big stories when it comes to Oregon’s football squad this spring and not surprisingly they both deal with skill positions. The less important of the two is Charles Nelson’s impact on the team in 2015. While it was announced that he would be playing defensive back the upcoming season, he still took snaps at receiver. This is good news for an offense that can never get enough talent out wide.
The biggest story since the loss to Ohio State in January is the addition of Vernon Adams. The star Eastern Washington player blew it up in his career breaking too many records to count and even playing phenomenally against two Pac 12 teams. He helped EWU beat Oregon State in 2013 and almost beat Washington this past season. The fifth year senior now has the opportunity to win the quarterback battle but hasn’t been able to step on the Oregon field just yet. Jeff Lockie was supposed to be the guy before the Adams transfer, and unfortunately for him, I think he’ll continue to be a backup in this offense. Lockie’s edge in the offense isn’t enough to overcome Adams’ success in college and style of play that does fit into Oregon football.
Something really interesting happened in Corvalis, Oregon this spring. True freshman Seth Collins outplayed everyone and is thought of as the favorite to replace recently drafted Sean Mannion. Because of this, it looks like Jordan Villamin’s production could suffer. With Collins at the helm, we saw less of Villamin than Richard Mullaney and Victor Bolden. In fact, it sounds like Bolden is going to be used like we hoped he would be last season, in a Brandin Cooks type role. Bolden put up a stat line of 5/99/1 in the spring game and was targeted often.
Before the spring, I would have said that Villamin was my favorite Oregon State receiver, but the news of Collins’ inability to throw the ball down the field has to hamper our expectations out of him (best attribute is making plays down the field). This was seen when OSU went with two receivers and one tight end. Villamin wasn’t on the field the majority of those snaps. Advantage Bolden.
The name to watch here is Christian McCaffrey, the all-purpose running back that should see the touches he needs to become a Fantasy star in 2015. Stanford struggled to have any sort of running game last season, and while I don’t think McCaffrey can or will handle 20+ carries, he certainly can handle 18-20 touches a game. And in CFB DFS, those 5-6 catches per game could easily make him a safe play each and every week.
McCaffrey was said to be close to 200 pounds this spring and he doesn’t seem to have lost any lateral mobility in open space. He’s going to need that weight if he’s going to continue to line up in I-formation sets like he did in the spring. The I-formation is one of the most important formations to be a part of due to the amount of times they use it. Barry Sanders Jr. had a nice spring as well and should get the other portion of the carries, so keep an eye on him. The Cardinals run it so much that there is a possibility that he has value. He’s only listed at 5’10, 192 pounds, but if he can get goal line carries then he can certainly have Fantasy value.
The Washington Huskies are hurting for offensive talent, and it doesn’t look bright with the loss of John Ross (WR) to a season ending injury. They also lost their quarterback, Cyler Miles, to a “leave of absence” this March. The Huskies have one returning quarterback in Jeff Lindquist, and he sounds like the eventual starter. He threw it well in the spring game totaling 237 yards and two touchdowns. One of those touchdowns was a 71-yard TD from Dante Pettis. Yes, son of Gary Pettis former MLB player and cousin of Austin Pettis from Boise State/Detroit. I haven’t seen a depth chart, but it looks like Pettis was playing with the first teamers and could be a potential punt play in late slate action to start the season.
As we all know, Washington tries to run the football, so that means Dwayne Washington is a guy to follow as the season progresses, but there is a running back worth mentioning other than him. Jomon Dotson ran for 2,000 yards as a senior in high school, has had a year to bulk up from his smaller high school frame, remains fast with 4.43 speed and coaches have raved about his play this spring. Washington is the guy to know right now for running backs, but Dotson could surprise if anything happens to the starter.
It’s all about the quarterbacks and receivers when it comes to the Cougars offense, so I’m going to focus on them here. The quarterback is obviously Luke Falk, but it looks like their top four receivers are pretty much set. We’re going to see Gabe Marks (Z), Dom Williams (X), River Cracraft (Y) and Robert Lewis (H) as the four guys out wide for them in 2015. Marks is known to be the explosive receiver, but it was Williams who had the big spring game. He caught eight passes for 164 yards and two touchdowns, both from Falk. With Vince Mayle gone, I expect Williams and Cracraft to have big seasons in 2015. Cracraft didn’t play in the spring game, but I think he’ll be the safest of the bunch, while guys like Williams and Marks are the high ceiling players.
The Wildcats have some very talented players on offense, but it’s just a matter of how they’ll be used and how often. Anu Solomon is the guy at the quarterback position and Nick Wilson is the guy at running back, but who becomes the star out wide? Who replaces Wilson if he gets hurt? This spring it looked like both of those questions were answered pretty easily. Out wide, it really feels like Cayleb Jones, a CFB DFS favorite in 2014, is going to be the main target for Solomon. He caught a TD pass in the spring game and played well all spring.
Nick Wilson sat out all spring from contract drills and will be the starter come fall, but who replaces him when he needs a break? Coach Rodriguez really liked the performance of senior Jared Baker and it certainly sounds like he’s slotted into the number two role for Arizona, which can be an important one. Last season it was Wilson that was the backup until Terris Jones-Grigsby went down. One last thing to add to this is all-purpose receiver Samaje Grant will continue to be asked to make plays in 2015. It’s been hinted at that he’ll be getting some carries as well as targets this season.
The Sun Devils have had a very interesting spring with their top quarterback and receiver graduating and moving on to pro football and some other happenings impacting the depth chart. For starters, Cameron Smith was the guy people pegged to replace Jaelen Strong as the top receiver, but he suffered a season ending injury. This might have impacted the decision of Devin Lucien, who decided to go from UCLA to ASU this spring. He’s friendly with the upcoming quarterback, Mike Bercovici, so I’m sure that also helped. D.J. Foster is going to be permanently moved out wide with the depth of the backfield the Sun Devils have, so he’ll be Bercovici’s top target all season long.
The running back depth is pretty nice out west with Demario Richard, Kalen Ballage and explosive Gump Hayes back there. Richard is the starter headed into the fall after some great production in 2014. Ballage has received big praise this spring and it’s no surprise. He’s 6’3, 222lbs and is even considered the top pass rusher on the team. Yes, I said pass rusher. He’s expected to receive some snaps on third down situations this fall. Hayes is the playmaker of the group with explosive speed and a knack for finding the hole. He won’t be relevant in CFB DFS early on due to the guys in front of him, but he’ll get some snaps weekly. If something happens to Richard, or Ballage gets pushed permanently to the defensive side of the ball, then Hayes could become a much more relevant player.
Colorado hasn’t had a whole lot of success running the football, but they have had some throwing it. They have a stud receiver in Nelson Spruce and a solid, experienced quarterback in Sefo Liufau. Now, they just need another receiver. This guy is likely to be Shay Fields, a true sophomore who caught 50 passes last season as a freshman. Or, it could be Devin Ross, a former three-star recruit who made some big plays in the spring. I’m leaning towards Fields due to the fact that Ross was active and not a top target for Liufau in 2014. They’re about the same size coming in at 5’10 or 5’11 depending on which website you’re looking at and they both utilize speed to get open. For me, this second receiver could easily see big games with the way defenses are likely going to play Nelson Spruce. There is going to be a lot of shifting of coverages his way, which should open up some space for these other two receivers.
I have come to two different revelations while looking into UCLA this offseason: Josh Rosen is who I believe starts in 2015 at quarterback and Paul Perkins could easily go beast mode for them this season. UCLA hasn’t named a starter at quarterback yet, but I think Rosen gets it even though he hasn’t had crazy stats in the spring. He’s been solid and received plenty of rave reviews. He threw for a couple of touchdowns on 13 of 17 passing in the spring game, which was great, but it’s the constant talk of improvement that I like. I also like the fact no other name has been talked about as much from players, coaches and media.
I’ve never been a huge Paul Perkins fan. To be honest, I haven’t seen a lot of him due to him playing on the west coast and it’s not like he puts up the monster numbers we typically see from running backs, but I’m starting to really like how he runs. In this one play during the spring game (https://youtu.be/Vpw0_BYPjUs?t=16s) he makes a great move and really impressed me throughout the limited snaps he had. With a new quarterback under center, the running game will be more important than ever in this offense. It’s also nice to see Brett Hundley and his ability to run out of the picture.
Cody Kessler had a great season in 2014 and should be a top 10 Heisman contender, but he’s still trying to improve on his game. In the offseason, he talked about being better about scrambling for yards after the play breaks down instead of throwing the ball away. As a CFB DFS player this is great news. When it comes to Kessler throwing the football, we have some legit options to choose from. The first one is JuJu Smith, the best returning receiver the Trojans have and the guy I think will be a star in the offense. There is junior college transfer, Isaac Whitney, a 6’4 receiver who could easily start on the other side and benefit big time from Smith getting coverage pushed his way. Lastly, Steven Mitchell is rather intriguing. He was a big recruit two years ago but tore his ACL his freshman season and was low on the depth chart in 2014. Mitchell had a great spring before last season and has followed it up with another great offseason in 2015. With his speed, he could fit in easily at the slot receiver position and be an interesting guy to follow as the season progresses.
I was startled to see the lack of returning receivers for Utah and was even more surprised by the lack of production when looking at their roster. Kenneth Scott is their leading receiver returning (48/506/4) and could make some noise as the lone consistent receiver for them, but there is a high likelihood of inconsistent play from their quarterback, Travis Wilson. Everyone knows Devontae Booker is going to be a great running back for them, but Wilson is going to be a huge boom or bust player this season. He’s had some huge games in his career like his three rushing TD game in the bowl game or the five touchdown passes against Fresno State at the beginning of last season. He can really move for a man of his stature (6’7, 233) and should be able to provide us some very entertaining nights come fall.
Check out Chris’ Spring Reports for the other power conferences:
What players or teams do you have your eye on for the upcoming CFB DFS season?