Five questions: FOX Sports’ Tyler Lockman talks Arizona State

UCLA opens its conference schedule on Thursday with a big road game at No. 15 Arizona State — a primetime chance for the Bruins to prove themselves still capable of a juggernaut performance. FOX Sports Arizona’s Tyler Lockman answered five questions about the Sun Devils, who are without starting quarterback Taylor Kelly.

1. How do ASU fans feel about Todd Graham two-plus years in? Does he need to show progress after a Pac-12 South title to keep them satisfied?

It’s hard to imagine them feeling any better about Graham in year three. He has overhauled the program’s culture, taken the team to two bowl games, boosted recruiting and gotten unprecedented commitment — financially and otherwise — out of ASU’s administration. That’s all before mentioning the Sun Devils won the Pac-12 South and hosted the conference title game in his second season. On top of it all, he recently backed up his talk of a long-term commitment to ASU by donating $500,000 of his own money to ASU’s stadium renovation fund. How could ASU fans not be happy with him leading the program?

All that good will afford him some breathing room this season. Fans tempered their expectations a bit after ASU lost nine defensive starters to graduation and the NFL following last season, so while Graham and the players expect themselves to at least match last season’s 10-4 finish, fans would probably be pretty happy to see ASU finish with eight or nine wins in what was expected to be a bit of a building year.

2. How does ASU’s defense look after losing nine starters? Might it get exposed against a more potent offense?

It’s hard to tell exactly where the defense is because ASU has so far faced an FCS team (Weber State), a team that runs the triple option offense (New Mexico) and a team that has two conference wins in the past two seasons (Colorado). Continue reading

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Jim Mora: Lack of clarity on Brett Hundley doesn’t give UCLA edge

As he has for most of the past week, UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley practiced on Tuesday with a brace covering his left elbow — the one he injured in a 20-17 win against Texas 10 days ago.

And as he has for most of the past week, UCLA head coach Jim Mora didn’t offer many details: “He’s been limited. He’s done a few things. He’s worked a little bit.” He said again that he is relying on the team’s medical staff to determine if Hundley is ready — a decision that could stretch, naturally, as late as Thursday evening.

Mora added that the lack of clarity surrounding his star quarterback’s health doesn’t give UCLA any sort of tactical advantage heading into Thursday’s 7 p.m. kickoff at Arizona State, particularly given who the Sun Devils’ head coach is. Continue reading

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First look: Arizona State Sun Devils

No. 11 UCLA Bruins (3-0) vs. No. 15 Arizona State Sun Devils (3-0)
Kickoff: 7 p.m. PT, Sun Devil Stadium (Tempe, Ariz.)
TV: FOX Sports 1 (Tim Brando, Joel Klatt, Jenny Taft)
Radio: AM 570 / SIRIUS 108 (Chris Roberts, Matt Stevens, Wayne Cook)

Coach: Remember when Todd Graham looked like the biggest turncoat in college football?

A little more than a year ago, ESPN’s anonymous poll of 92 college football players found that 14 percent said Graham was the last coach they’d want to play for — beating out Lane Kiffin by three percent.

But Graham only needed two seasons to win a Pac-12 South title, endearing himself to the Arizona State fan base and pushing his messy departure from Pitt deeper into the newspaper archives. ASU has compensated him handsomely for that success — paying him around $800,000 in performance bonuses for the 2013 season.

Key players:

QB Mike Bercovici, Jr., 6-1, 200 — 9/17, 79 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT, 7 carries, 12 rushing yards
– Once considered Brock Osweiler’s heir apparent until Taylor Kelly won out, Bercovici finally gets his chance to start in the wake of Kelly’s foot injury. He’s not the same type of running threat as Kelly (ASU’s second-leading rusher at 19 carries for 168 yards) but Bercovici has a strong arm and has been in the program for years.

RB D.J. Foster, Jr., 5-11, 205 — 54 carries, 510 rushing yards, 5 TD, 11 catches, 139 receiving yards, 1 TD
– Looks like a workhorse back capable of racking up yards after contact. Averages 216.3 all-purpose yards per game, good for second in the country and one spot ahead of Georgia’s Heisman candidate Todd Gurley. Continue reading

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Jim Mora: No status update on Brett Hundley’s elbow injury

UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley (17) watches action against UCLA from the sideline during the second half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 13,  2014, in Arlington, Texas. He left the game after an injury in the first half. (AP/Tony Gutierrez)

UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley (17) watches from the sideline on Sept. 13, 2014, in Arlington, Texas. He the Bruins’ eventual 20-17 win after a first-quarter elbow injury. (AP/Tony Gutierrez)

After injuring his left elbow early in UCLA’s 20-17 win over Texas, star quarterback Brett Hundley’s status won’t be official one way or another until the Bruins take the field again.

“I’m not going to tell anybody anything until kickoff versus Arizona State,” head coach Jim Mora said Sunday. “Nobody. Nothing.”

Hundley reportedly suffered a slight hyperextension of his left (non-throwing) elbow that will hold him out one week, but Mora said the redshirt junior had not yet had his MRI. He may be examined on Monday, but Mora didn’t give a firm schedule.

UCLA (3-0) has a bye week ahead, and will travel to Tempe to play the Sun Devils on Sept. 25 at 7 p.m. PT. That’s ideal timing for the Bruins, which can now give its Heisman contender more time to recover — as well as give backup Jerry Neuheisel more practice reps if needed to fill in. Continue reading

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Pac-12 links: Arizona State’s Chip Sarafin comes out as gay

» Arizona State offensive lineman Chip Sarafin came out on Wednesday, becoming first openly gay active player in Division I football.

» Redshirt freshman Anu Solomon is trying to win Arizona’s starting quarterback — something that would require beating out transfers from USC, LSU and Texas.

» The Ice Bucket Challenge has helped raise $2.3 million for the national ALS association since July 29, and UCLA coach Jim Mora accepted a challenge to join yesterday:

» Washington State crossed the Idaho border for training camp, but wildfires forced the Cougars back to Pullman. Continue reading

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Which players have the best names in the Pac-12?

By now, you’ve read many of the lists that have proliferated in college football’s dry summer months. The best 100 players. The freakiest players. The best coaches, best offseasons, best uniforms.

But this? This is the most important of them all. With Pac-12 Media Days — schedule here — kicking off this morning, I have compiled the five best names from each team in the conference.

Without further ado …

Arizona: Sir Thomas Jackson, Antonio Smothers, Tra’Mayne Bondurant, Brogan Kemmerly, Abraham Mendivil

Not great depth here, as the latter two names sacrifice catchiness in favor of length. Still, Sir Thomas Jackson alone is an MVP candidate.

Arizona State: Ezekial Bishop, Demetrius Cherry, Zane Gonzalez, Jaxon Hood, Jaelen Strong

A solid quintet that lacks a superstar.

Cal: Hardy Nickerson, Avery Sebastian, Bryce Treggs, Brennan Scarlett, Maximo Espitia

A nice throwback in Hardy Nickerson, bookended by a name that makes me want to re-watch Russell Crowe take on a despotic Joaquin Phoenix. Continue reading

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Zach LaVine bedevils Arizona State in UCLA’s blowout win

Welcome back, Zach.

After a mini-slump doused the fiery start to his UCLA career, freshman guard Zach LaVine shot back with a vengeance on Sunday night, keying the Bruins to a 87-72 win over Arizona State.

There were the customary dunks, including a vicious windmill that had all of Pauley Pavilion holding his breath as he hung in the air. There was the 3-point range, rediscovered as he drilled his first three attempts. Continue reading

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Pac-12 opponents vote Xavier Su’a-Filo top offensive lineman

If you ask those who play against him, Xavier Su’a-Filo is the best offensive lineman in the Pac-12. The UCLA junior won the Morris Trophy Thursday, an award voted on by opposing defensive lineman — and an honor that pushes him out of the shadow of another conference guard.

Stanford’s David Yankey has been widely regarded as the position’s standard bearer this season, not only in the league but arguably across all of college football. With a year of eligibility left, the 6-foot-5, 313-pounder earned unanimous All-American honors this year — the eighth player in Cardinal history to do so.

Su’a-Filo was a second-team AP All-American, but was forced to move from left guard to left tackle to help patch a battered Bruins’ line. He has not yet decided whether or not to declare for the 2014 NFL draft.

Arizona State tackle Will Sutton won the defensive Morris Trophy, as voted on by opposing offensive lineman.

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