Pac-10's Offensive Impact Newcomers Part I

Fifteen first- and second-team All-Pac 10 selections from last year have moved on due to graduation or an early entry to the NFL. Thus, virtually every team in the league faces the challenge of replacing key components on its offense. With kickoff to the 2008 season looming in the horizon we evaluate the newcomers that are most likely to make a mark this year with ASU, Arizona, Cal and Oregon.

Arizona State

Generally speaking, the Sun Devils boast the luxury of several returning players on offense, especially at the skill positions. Tight end is the only skill position at which the starter will be a player who will have considerable less experience than the outgoing starter. Despite the bounty of returning receivers, running backs and a fourth-year starter at quarterback, ASU and head coach Dennis Erickson have continued to add several elite athletes to help improve the immediate and future talent level for the Sun Devil offense.

Two of the most potentially exciting offensive newcomers for the Devils are true freshmen Ryan Bass and Gerell Robinson, both of whom have the capability to make frequent and forceful contributions among the ASU offense.

Robinson, rated as the No. 14 wide receiver prospect in the nation and the country's No. 78 overall recruit by, comes to ASU by way of local powerhouse Hamilton High School, and is already on campus showing talent beyond his years. The 6-4, 210-pounder is greatly expected to work his way onto the field as a true freshman in 2008, despite the fact that the Sun Devils return all but one scholarship receiver from last season. A physical and versatile specimen, Robinson played quarterback, receiver and safety at the prep level and brings a skill set that perhaps no wide receiver on the roster possesses. If Robinson can become acclimated to the college level quickly, his presence will be felt early and often.

One of the most accomplished and explosive high school running backs in the nation, Ryan Bass, collected gaudy statistics to the tune of 7,096 career rushing yards with 117 touchdowns on the ground. An electric ball carrier with seemingly limitless potential, Bass (5-10, 200), was listed by as a four-star prospect and the No. 31 running back prospect in the nation. With upperclassmen throughout the entire running back depth chart for the Devils, Bass very likely could be the future of the Sun Devil running game. Sun Devil fans anxiously wait to see whether Bass will be cleared academically to join the team.

In gearing up for the 2008 season, ASU has acquired the services of a pair of junior college transfers on the offensive side to immediately plug holes either in the starting lineup or as top reserves.

Stanley Malamala became a Sun Devil in May as a late signee, however with the team's top three tight ends gone from 2007 and two others – including predicted starter Dane Guthrie and reserve Lance Evbuomwan – having recently left the team, the 6-4, 254-pounder may be called up on to make great contributions and potentially start as a junior in 2008, as ASU's current tight ends have totaled two receptions at the FBS level.

Offensive Tackle Tom Njunge (6-5, 280) picked the Devils over Boise State and joined the squad for spring drills, where he exited as the top backup to sophomore left tackle Jon Hargis.

Also expected to make an impact at tight end is redshirt freshman Dan Knapp (6-4, 250), who has been applauded as having tremendous upside since his college arrival last fall. Although limited due to injury on the scout team in 2007, he has shown flashes of ability, and also due to the mass exodus of bodies at tight end, his opportunities for quick playing time may be further expedited.

One of the top players at his position in the state of Arizona, Steven Figueroa (6-5, 225) who was listed by as the nation's No. 25 prospect at his position in 2008 and will be counted on to be a future contributor at tight end, as in addition to the five departed scholarship tight ends that were on the roster in 2007, returning lettermen Andrew Pettes (senior) and Jovon Williams (junior) will be upperclassmen in 2008, leaving a need for future depth that Figueroa could potentially be a top contender to fill.

Redshirt freshmen Chasen Stangel (6-0, 209) and Samson Szakacsy (6-3, 195), respectively rated by as the No. 29 and No. 48 quarterback prospects in 2007, will duke it out to be the team's third quarterback behind Rudy Carpenter and Danny Sullivan, while athletic and speedy wide receiver T.J. Simpson (6-0, 188) will compete for snaps among ASU's talented corps of receivers.

Jack Elway (6-3, 200), perhaps carrying the greatest amount of name value as any high school prospect in the country, will look to follow in his father's footsteps at quarterback in the Pac-10 Conference. True freshmen Kemonte Bateman (6-1, 178), a four-star recruit and the No. 35 wide receiver prospect last year by, speedster Allante Battle (5-8, 202) and all-purpose threat A.J. Pickens (5-10, 175) also provide a bright future for the Sun Devil offense. However, in 2008, Battle will be forced to redshirt after signing a track and field letter of intent to ASU, while Bateman awaits academic clearance.

Much of the offensive line depth will consist of freshmen, including center Garth Gerhart (6-0, 305), listed as's No. 7 center recruit in 2007, guard Matt Hustad (6-4, 275), tackle Mike Marcisz (6-5, 292) and guard/tackle Adam Tello (6-2, 283), whom all redshirted in 2007, while talented true freshmen Patrick Jamison (6-5, 290), Kyle Johnson (6-7, 287), Andrew Sampson (6-4, 280) and Zach Schlink (6-4, 300) will work to gain playing time or develop as redshirt members of the scout team. Schlink was the highest-rated of the group, as he was recognized as a four-star prospect and the nation's No. 25 offensive tackle prospect, while Sampson was the country's No. 33 offensive guard recruit and Jamison was listed as the No. 40 offensive tackle.


After not signing a scholarship offensive lineman to a letter of intent in 2007, the Wildcats beefed up the line this year by taking a total of seven o-linemen, including four junior college transfers.

Highlighting the group is former Texas Longhorn left tackle J'Marcus Webb (6-8, 280), expected to join the team in the fall. Although he was unable to meet his potential, Webb was brought to Austin with tremendous expectations as he was regarded as a five-star prospect and the nation's No. 8 offensive tackle by in 2006. Gargantuan JUCO teammates Mike Diaz and Phillip Garcia, who are 6-5 and 6-8, respectively and combine for over 650 pounds, joined the team for spring ball, as did center Herman Hall (6-3, 310), while true freshmen Trace Biskin (6-5, 275) and Vaughn Dotsy, the latter of which tips the scales at nearly 370-pounds, will provide depth in 2008.

Although record-setting passer Willie Tuitama returns for his senior season, a pair of freshmen also has a chance to earn time set back in the shotgun for the Wildcats. After redshirting a year ago, Bryson Beirne (6-3, 215) emerged as the number two quarterback in the spring and has the coaching staff's confidence if thrust into duty.

The future of the Arizona offense may be found in Matt Scott, the No. 17 quarterback recruit in the country for 2008 by An athletic and accurate 6-3, 205-pounder from Corona (Calif.) Centennial High School, Scott is evaluated as having the key attributes to thrive in Arizona's offense and may be featured in certain packages in his first year on campus, while Beirne would likely be the first option if Tuitama were to miss action on a prolonged basis.

It is somewhat unusual for a team featuring a record-setting freshman rusher to be still looking for options at running back, but the Wildcats' depth at the position is noticeably thin, despite Nicholas Grigsby's school freshman record 704 rushing yards last season.

Redshirt freshman Joe Reese (6-2, 190), rated as the No. 42 running back prospect in the country by last year, looks to earn time in his first year on the field, as does diminutive Keola Antolin, who at 5-8, 186-pounds, may earn early action on special teams returns. Also added to the fray will be late signee Nick Booth, a 6-2, 225-pound back from the College of DuPage in Glen Ellen, Ill.

Arizona's three newcomers will compete with juniors Terry Longbons and Xavier Smith behind Grigsby for action in the ‘Cat backfield, however both Longbons and Smith have been tremendous disappointments after both were rated as four-star prospects and were respectively ranked as the No. 17 and No. 13 running back prospects in the country by in 2005 but have made virtually no significant impact during their time spent thus far in Tucson, as Smith has carried only 49 times for 227 yards while Longbons has yet to record a carry in two seasons.

Redshirt freshmen Dave Roberts (6-1, 175), Devin Veal (6-1, 175) and William Wright (5-10, 170) are listed among the team's spring three-deeps at wide receiver, and anyone who saw the Arizona offense in 2007 knows that Wildcat receivers will get plenty of chances to touch the ball in Sonny Dykes' spread attack. Also added to the roster for 2008 are scholarship true freshmen Juron Criner (6-4, 200) and David Douglas (6-1, 185).

True freshman Greg Nwoko, evaluated by as a fullback, will join the team in the fall. Although the Wildcats do not employ a traditional fullback in their offense, at 6-2, 213-pounds, Nwoko could add depth at tailback or could also work at the h-back position.


No team in the Pac-10 was hit as hard by offseason departures at wide receiver as California, as the Bears lost the services of mega-playmaker DeSean Jackson as an early entry to the NFL Draft, while seniors Lavelle Hawkins and Robert Jordan exhausted their eligibility in 2007. Last year, that trio combined for 184 catches for 2,323 yards and 15 touchdowns, while only LaReyelle Cunningham, with a meager four catches for 33 yards, entered the stat books last year among returning Golden Bear receivers to return for 2008. It goes without saying that Cal's wide receivers corps will virtually be loaded with newcomers, which will likely consist of both freshmen and first-year transfers.

Fourth-year junior Nyan Boateng (6-2, 210) made the cross-country trip from the University of Florida to enroll at California last spring after catching four passes for 77 yards in five games over two years for the Gators. Formerly rated as the No. 38 wide receiver prospect in the nation by in 2005, Boateng will have a chance to reestablish himself on the west coast in 2008.

Michael Calvin was regarded as the Bears' Offensive Scout Team Player of the Year in 2007 and has the potential to start as a redshirt freshman in 2008, while classmate Alex Lagemann also is expected to contribute this season. Both Calvin (6-2, 202) and Lagemann (6-1, 216) were regarded as four-star prospects by in 2007.

Among the team's 2008 signing class, Cal stockpiled wide receivers in an attempt to counter the tremendous loss of veteran talent from 2007, highlighted by 6-2, 185-pound Marvin Jones of Etiwanda, Calif., who was rated as the nation's No. 23 wide receiver and a four-star recruit by and has all the tools to dive right into action in Berkeley. Joining Jones among those to ink their names in favor of Cal were Charles Germany-Satchell (6-3, 200), Jarrett Sparks (6-3, 210) and Joe Washington (6-0, 180), as well as Verran Tucker (6-2, 180), a junior college transfer from El Camino College in Torrance, Calif.

Also looking to boost Cal's passing game after the graduation of honorable mention All-Pac-10 recipient Craig Stevens are newcomer tight ends Savai'i Eselu (6-3, 259), a redshirt freshman, and Skyler Curran (6-4, 256), a transfer from Butte Community College in Oroville, Calif., that redshirted in 2007. One of the highest-ranked prospects in Cal's 2008 class was Spencer Ladner (6-7, 232), the No. 15 tight end prospect in the nation by whose brother, Ben, is the top tight end at Spencer's new rival school, Stanford. Three-star Anthony Miller (6-3, 250) will also join the team as a true freshman in 2008. California returns only two lettermen at tight end from 2007, juniors Cameron Morrah and Tad Smith, leaving ample opportunities for a first-year player to earn stable playing time.

With holes to fill at running back after the graduation of star Justin Forsett, the transfer of Forsett's potential replacement James Montgomery and with injury setbacks suffered by ultra-athletic Jahvid Best, the Bears may have to rely on the services of first-year players to carry some of the bulk in the running game. Redshirt freshman Shane Vereen (5-10, 192) is seen as possessing tremendous athletic potential after being regarded as a four-star prospect and the nation's No. 24 running back recruit by in 2007, while Covaughn DeBoskie (5-11, 198), also listed as a four-star prospect and ranked as the country's No. 28 running back recruit, graduated early from Hamilton High School in Chandler, Ariz., to join the team for spring ball. Although Best is expected to be ready for action when the 2008 season kicks off, Vereen and DeBoskie are likely to be among the top candidates among the remainder of the California running back depth.

California boasted one of the most talented offensive line signing classes in 2007, many of whom will compete for time as redshirt freshmen this year and provide future talent, as the Bears look to replace the left side of its line, while the three returning starters will all be seniors in 2008, creating a need to develop starters for 2009 and beyond.

Class of 2007 signees Sam DeMartinis (6-5, 288; No. 7 offensive tackle) and Justin Cheadle (6-2, 303; No. 13 offensive guard) were both four-star prospects, as was Matt-Summers Gavin (6-4, 311; No. 14 offensive guard), greyshirted in 2007 and joins the team this season as a true freshman. Massive Mitchell Schwartz, measuring 6-7, 330-pounds, was regarded by as the nation's No. 24 offensive guard in 2007, while classmate Todd Huber will also add depth as a redshirt freshman in 2008.

A pair of scholarship true freshmen will begin their collegiate careers along the offensive line in 2008, including four-star offensive tackle Tyler Rigsbee (6-5, 260) and center Dominic Galas (6-2, 275), rated as the No. 12 prospect at the position in 2008.

Quarterbacks Brock Mansion (6-5, 229), a redshirt freshman listed in 2007 as a four-star recruit and the nation's No. 28 quarterback by, and Beau Sweeney (6-1, 185), a true freshman in 2008 rated as the country's No. 39 passer by, will compete for time behind senior Nate Longshore and sophomore Kevin Riley, who will also be engaged in a heated contest for starting duties.


Before bouncing back with a dominant performance against South Florida in the Sun Bowl, Oregon fans caught a three-game glimpse of life without Dennis Dixon at quarterback – and it wasn't pretty.

Before a four-touchdown effort over the Bulls in the postseason, Justin Roper – who took the reins after Dixon, and later senior Brady Leaf, both were shelved due to injury – collected pedestrian statistics of 162 yards on 15-of-31 passing with two touchdowns and two interceptions in three games to close out the 2007 regular season, all of which the Ducks lost.

A consolation to Duck fans is that Roper was not the first – or second, or even third – option at quarterback last season if the Heisman hopeful Dixon were to miss time, however the injury bug bit Oregon passers in epidemic fashion late last year.

Although Roper is still on board, sophomore Nate Costa is greatly expected to be Dixon's heir to the throne of the Oregon spread offense, however Costa missed all last season as well as the spring due to injury, prompting head coach Mike Bellotti and staff to heavily recruit the quarterback position, as the Ducks brought in a pair of prep passers and one from the junior college level.

Chris Harper and Darron Thomas both graduated high school early to participate in spring drills in Eugene, Ore. Both players add the dual-threat element to the position, as Thomas (6-3, 190) was rated as the No. 15 quarterback recruit in the nation by, while Harper (6-2, 220) was evaluated at running back, where he was rated the nation's No. 34 prospect.

Added to the mix was Jeremiah Masoli (6-0, 205) from the City College of San Francisco, who signed in May and maintains four years to play three at Oregon. Had Masoli stayed for his sophomore season in San Francisco, he likely would have been regarded as the nation's top JUCO quarterback; however the opportunity to compete to start at Oregon was one he could not turn down. All three newcomers are expected to heat up the competition in the fall; however the experience advantage shared by both Costa and Roper helps keep their names at the top of the depth chart.

Running back Jonathan Stewart departing early for the NFL was entirely a foregone conclusion, but that notion coupled with a 2007 season-ending injury to Jeremiah Johnson, which also sidelined him for spring drills, gave the Ducks substantial needs at the position.

Luckily for Oregon, they may have struck gold in four-star junior college transfer LeGarrette Blount (6-2, 229) of East Mississippi Community College, who turned down Florida State to head to Eugene. Blount showcased an excellent spring and possesses many of the traits that Stewart did during his college career. If Johnson is able to make it back to full health in a timely manner, the two could form a similar duo that Johnson and Stewart did the past three years; but if the injury continues to keep Johnson on the sidelines, Blount is more than capable of assuming a full load. Also signed in February was all-purpose threat LaMichael James (5-9, 185), rated by as the nation's No. 40 running back prospect.

An intriguing wide receiver making his Oregon debut in 2008 is former USC Trojan Jamere Holland, who sat out 2007 after switching schools. A standout track star at the high school level, Holland (6-1, 190), now a third-year sophomore, was regarded by as the nation's No. 11 wide receiver prospect in 2006, but has yet to play a down of college football.

Also entering the wide receiver depth chart will be junior college transfer Ellis Krout (6-4, 190), as well as prep signees Blake Cantu (6-1, 190) and Garrett Embry (6-1, 208). A versatile pass-catching threat to watch is Dion Jordan (6-6, 215), who was listed as's No. 10 tight end prospect in 2008. A hybrid receiver/tight end, Jordan could be a second-coming of current Duck Jaison Williams, originally scouted as a tight end at the prep level before making the switch to receiver. Redshirt freshman David Paulson (6-4, 250) was rated as the nation's No. 30 tight end prospect in 2007 while incoming true freshman Mychal Rivera (6-4, 228) was listed as the No. 45 tight end recruit in 2008 and will join the squad in the fall.

With the Ducks looking to replace a pair of departed starters on the offensive line, a trio of scholarship freshmen signed in 2007 will look to earn time this season, including Charlie Carmichael, Darrion Weems and Carson York. Carmichael (6-4, 296) was rated as a four-star recruit and the nation's No. 11 offensive guard prospect, while Weems (6-5, 300) also earned four-star recognition and was listed as the No. 25 offensive tackle recruit. York (6-5, 280) was sidelined due to injury during the 2007 and delayed his college enrollment, thus he enters 2008 technically as a true freshman. In 2007, York was one of Oregon's most highly-ranked signees, earning consideration as the nation's No. 8 offensive tackle prospect as well as four-star categorization.

The Ducks added a pair of linemen among the 2008 class, including Hamani Stevens (6-2, 290), rated as the nation's No. 11 prospect at center, along with Nick Cody (6-6, 290), listed as the country's No. 47 offensive tackle recruit.

Stay tuned next week as we bring you Pac-10 Preview: Offensive Impact Newcomers Part Two

Joe Healey is a 2006 graduate of Arizona State University and a guest contributor to Devils Digest. He is also a feature writer each month in Maroon and Gold Illustrated and has contributed to ASU media guides, press releases and other official athletic publications. He can be contacted by email at

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