Pac-12 Media Days roundup: Bruins and Trojans and Huskies; oh my!

Photo gallery from Day 2 of Pac-12 Media Days (Andy Holzman/Daily News)

The Pac-12 stretched its annual media event across two days for the first time, In case you missed any of it, here’s a roundup of all the coverage that appeared in Los Angeles News Group newspapers.

Day 1
– Columnist Jill Painter, on the “glitz and glamour” of the Pac-12′s coaches and athletes.
– The Pac-12 returns 10 of its starting quarterbacks … leaving defensive backs somewhat forgotten.
– It’s a high-scoring conference, but its member teams find the end zone in different ways.
Steve Sarkisian does not care that his USC team received just one division vote to UCLA’s 37.

Day 2
– He isn’t the biggest UCLA name, but linebacker Eric Kendricks is ready to play.
– How many good quarterbacks does the Pac-12 have? Not one, not two, not three
– Washington suspended quarterback Cyler Miles, the Pac-12 Networks are going international, and other conference notes.

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UCLA notes: Jim Mora warns against stereotyping Brett Hundley as ‘runner’

» Brett Hundley led UCLA with 748 rushing yards last season, but head coach Jim Mora emphasized at Pac-12 Media Days that his quarterback is — first and foremost — a passer.

“I say that about Brett because people have a tendency at times to see an African-American quarterback and say he’s a runner,” Mora said. “And I hate that stereotype. I always have. I coached Mike Vick. I believe we stereotype those guys started with that, and I don’t want that to happen with Brett.

“I’m going to make sure it doesn’t. It shouldn’t. The guy’s a passer, man, but he can run.”

» Mora smiled when asked about the weather in San Bernardino, where UCLA will start training camp on Aug. 4: “I hope it’s hot. I would just like us to be in triple digits. As long as we’re in triple digits, I’ll be happy.”

Unlike last summer, UCLA will not go down to San Diego for a three-day pre-camp session with Navy SEALs. Mora said the experience helped his team later in the season — particularly when it needed to bond together through the death of receiver Nick Pasquale — but didn’t want to dull the impact by repeating it too often.

» What does two-way superstar Myles Jack have in store for his sophomore season? Not even his teammates are sure.

“I’m excited,” said linebacker Eric Kendricks. “I don’t even know what to expect. He put on 15 (pounds) of muscle. He’s gotten so much stronger. He’s been working hard. That’s all you can ask of a guy. He doesn’t let any of this hype, this circle of fame get to his head.” Continue reading

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Quarterback Brett Hundley doesn’t care about ‘big superstar’ status

It’s getting harder and harder for Brett Hundley to walk around unnoticed. This offseason, the redshirt junior has made the rounds the media rounds, been slapped on a budding Heisman campaign, and featured in a sketch video touting him as UCLA’s “Campus Enforcer.”

About par for the course when you turn down NFL riches for one last shot at collegiate glory. Hundley knows the Bruins have been marked as a dark-horse national title candidate. He knows that, lest the team stumbles, the hype is only going to grow with each passing week.

So, what is he thinking?

“I think I feel more confident and relaxed this season,” Hundley said Thursday, shortly before a UCLA official shuttled him off to yet another interview spot.

The Bruins were arguably the biggest attraction at the latter half of Pac-12 Media Days, drawing a crowd even during an impromptu game of cornhole on the Paramount Studios lawn. It helps that Hundley doesn’t seem to care. Continue reading

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Jim Mora: Leaving UCLA would have left Bruins with ‘empty lessons’

Over his first two seasons at UCLA, Jim Mora has fielded overtures everywhere from Washington to Texas to the San Diego Chargers. Each time, he said no, eventually signing an extension through 2019.

During his Pac-12 media scrum on Thursday, he again reiterated his commitment to the Bruins. Acknowledging that he was not the “the most popular hire in the history of college sports,” he said he wanted to reciprocate the trust athletic director Dan Guerrero gave him back in December 2011.

Mora also remarked on — and disapproved of — the way that some college coaches have changed jobs.

“Most importantly, I’m committed to our players,” he said. “We go recruit these kids, go into their homes and talk to their parents and we ask them to commit to us. We see coaches run out on them, and I don’t think that’s right. We sit in our meeting rooms and talk to our kids about being selfless and sacrifice and putting a team first. Then you see coaches when the first opportunity comes up to take off and better their situation, they run and do it and leave these kids behind with these, to me, empty lessons.

“And that’s not who I want to be. I’m saying there until they kick me out. That might be tomorrow, who knows. I’ve been kicked out before. But I’m staying until they kick me out.”

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Pac-12 notes: Mike Leach thinks Connor Halliday is better than your quarterback

Connor Halliday is the best quarterback in the country, according to Connor Halliday’s coach.

After talking up the Pac-12′s depth behind center on Wednesday, Washington State’s Mike Leach said he would take his redshirt senior over just about anybody else.

“You might be rooting for your guy, and I don’t care what you think,” Leach said. “He’s better than your guy is.”

Some other Pac-12 Media Day highlights from the conference’s most quotable coach (as well as other coaches and players) …

» Asked how he would pick a bear-hunting partner between Washington coach Chris Petersen and Utah coach Kyle Whittingham: “We get a large bag and we stick in Coach Petersen, Coach Whittingham, and we shake that bag up really high and really hard.”

» On his fishing trip this summer: “My staff and I went fishing up in McCall, Idaho on the Snake River and got a huge 9.5-foot, 350-pound sturgeon, probably 95 years old. Of course, turned him loose so he could pull somebody else’s boat around for a while next time.” Continue reading

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Oregon picked to win Pac-12 title over UCLA in preseason poll

Oregon and UCLA are both overwhelming favorites in their respective divisions, but for the fourth time in five years, the Ducks are the preseason pick to win the Pac-12.

Media members gave Oregon 24 votes to win conference title game at Levi’s Stadium on Dec. 5, nearly double the 13 votes UCLA received. Stanford and USC also received one vote each to win the league, though they only combined for three votes to take their respective divisions.

The preseason poll has correctly picked 28 of 53 conference champions, and 11 of the last 14. 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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Brett Hundley, Eric Kendricks to represent UCLA at Pac-12 Media Days

Junior quarterback Brett Hundley and senior linebacker Eric Kendricks will represent UCLA at Pac-12 Media Days in late July, alongside Bruins head coach Jim Mora.

The event will be held at Paramount Studios in Hollywood on July 23 and 24, expanding to two days for the first time. UCLA will be available to most media on latter of the two days, taking the podium at 10:50 a.m.

You can see the full Pac-12 Media Days schedule below. Continue reading

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