We're going from the east coast to the left coast with this week's spring outlook. After knocking out the ACC last week we are focused on the Pac 10 for the next couple days and as always, we'll kick it off with our Five Questions series. No need for a lengthy introduction y'all we will jump right into the issues.
Who will step up to help Matt Barkley lead the Trojans back to prominence?
Joe McKnight is gone. Damian Williams is gone. Anthony McCoy is gone. Stanley Havili is gone. The defense is without a leader and still young. The only true constant returning for the Trojans was freshman sensation Matt Barkley but his proven weapons, best offensive linemen and defensive leader are all gone. What the Trojans will need is another 1,000 yard rusher to emerge from their stable of supremely talented running backs. With CJ Gable and Allen Bradford returning as the likely back to step into McKnight's vacated role the Trojans should be well equipped at running back.
Read more for the rest of big questions the Pac 10 needs to answer
However, the same cannot be said for the receiving core as the men of Troy are without a legitimate threat on the edge. Damian Williams and McCoy were their two best threats and it will be on Lane Kiffin to get someone on the outside to step up in their stead. Look for Brice Butler and Kyle Prater to be battling Ronald Johnson for that spot as Barkley's go to guy.
Will Chip Kelly be able to replace Jeremiah Masoli and keep the offensive machine moving?
It looks like Kelly is opening up with Nate Costa and Darron Thomas as the two competing for the starting job as Daryle Hawkins is third on the depth chart. Thanks to Masoli's off the field issues he'll be available for practice but won't be listed as he's suspended for the 2010 season. We've already seen a bit of Nate Costa as he played in 10 games last season and is no threat to carry the football on the ground. Darron Thomas is the wildcard as he's a kid built in that same mold as former Oregon Heisman Candidate Dennis Dixon; tall, athletic, lean and strong armed.
If Kelly can bring Thomas along this spring the sophomore should be able to find his groove during the Ducks remaining practices.
How does Mike Stoops' defense rise to match the Wildcats' potent offense?
Last year Arizona had one of the best defenses in the Pac 10 and were among the league's leaders in several statistical categories. In 2010 for this to happen team must overcome one massive hurdle, losing coordinator Mark Stoops to the Florida State-Jimbo Fisher rebuilding project. The players were never the true showcase talents under Stoops but there are plenty of question marks surrounding co-defensive coordinators Tim Kish and Greg Brown.
Kish was already an Arizona staffer who got promoted when Stoops left for FSU. Brown is from Colorado, a team that didn't perform so well on defense in 2009, coming in 57th overall. We've seen this "co-defensive coordinator" monster fail miserably at places such as Notre Dame in 2009 and succeed at Alabama in 2008 so the system has gotten mixed reviews. If these two men can maintain the defenses output from a season ago they'll be able to help Arizona's offense stay on the field and keep putting points on the board.
Will we see true improvement from Jake Locker in year two under Sarkisian?
Having been crowned as "The Tim Tebow of the West" early in his career and following that up with a brutal sophomore campaign that experienced injuries and a lot of losses it is now time for Jake to grow up. The kid improved tremendously with just a spring and season under new head coach Steve Sarkisian and in the winter he decided he'd be best served returning for his final season to better prepare for the NFL.
This spring all eyes will be on Locker's improvements. He must work on bettering his accuracy, decision making and looking more comfortable in the pocket if he wants to not only elevate his draft stock but send Washington to their first bowl game since 2002. Locker will need compliments to Jermaine Kearse and Chris Polk in order to truly shine but the Washington roster does have some good, young talent on the roster.
How does Andrew Luck perform without the dominating presence of Toby Gerhart?
The Cardinal lose 66% of their rushing attack with the departure of phenom Toby Gerhart but they do return Andrew Luck and their top three pass catchers. As Stepfan Taylor learns how to carry the load fulltime for Harbaugh's squad look for the Cardinal to rely on the sophomore quarterback and his receiving core to pace the team. Luck will have to prove that he's as good as he showed a season ago without teams loading up the box to stop Gerhart.