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Duck Dive: Pac-12 Football 2023 Updates

A final roundup of roster changes and camp battles for all 12 teams

Sunrise in Las Vegas
Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

This Summer between April and July, as I have for the last five years, I published a series of in-depth previews of each Pac-12 football team using complete roster breakdowns, charting their entire 2022 seasons, advanced statistical analysis, and podcast interviews. Because of liberalized transfer portal rules, none of those rosters were totally finalized until very recently (indeed there still may be some late departures, retirements, and suspensions coming); as such I’ve gathered news of comings and goings as they’ve happened over the past months so I could provide a final update for each team before the season began. This article gathers those updates in one place, with link to the Summer preview those updates modify. Roster finalization has also allowed me to visualize the Pac-12’s comparative talent situation:


Preview from April 20, 2023

The offense added two receivers since publication: #5 WR Lemonious-Craig from Colorado is a tall, experienced, and pretty good outside receiver and should be a decent replacement for Dorian Singer who defected to USC, and true freshman #31 WR English is rated a high 3-star and another outside receiver at 6’4” but decided to walk-on as a local player. They also switched redshirt freshman #47 DB Haynes to the secondary from the WR room. Haynes didn’t produce anything last year and the additions look like good pickups so this is a net improvement, but I didn’t think Arizona’s WR corps was the bottleneck going into the Fall.

The most interesting news from Fall camp is that true freshman low 4-star #79 OL Pulido has reportedly all but locked up the starting right guard spot, making the returner Langi into the sixth man with last year’s starting RG Savaiinea cemented as the new RT as predicted. Otherwise, camp battles are falling along expected lines.

On defense, the Wildcats added #11 DE Upshaw, a high 3-star who was a backup at Michigan, transferred to Colorado, then bailed immediately after the Spring game, but since he got his diploma during his brief time in Boulder he’s eligible to play in Tucson right away. The defensive ends lost two others, #8 LB Lane has been switched to a backer and Jason Harris has disappeared from the roster after playing in the Spring game and a recent Fall scrimmage. The ILBs get Lane, but lost backups Matt Weerts and Anthony Solomon, the former to the portal and the latter just isn’t on the roster at last check. I think this is somewhere between a wash and a small net improvement for the defensive front - I wasn’t expecting much production from anybody but Upshaw, and Coach Fisch brought in a huge amount of new depth to the front so additional attrition isn’t a surprise.

The corners have one departure and one addition. Isaiah Rutherford, the former mid 4-star from Notre Dame who never really lived up to billing, has transferred out after apparently getting beat again by a walk-on and a bunch of mid 3-stars. They got #3 CB Wyatt from FCS Cal Poly – he was a low 3-star in the 2018 cycle who signed with Illinois but didn’t get any playing time in his three years there due to red shirting then a knee injury, but has been the starter at Cal Poly the last two years. I’ve watched some of Wyatt’s tape (there are a lot of Big Sky interconnections with the Pac-12 this year) and he could be a starter in Arizona’s room so I consider this a net improvement, though that’s not saying a whole lot.

Arizona State

Preview from May 4, 2023

Coach Dillingham named bluechip true freshman #5 QB Rashada the starter this week, which was probably the right decision given the “year zero” nature of this season – I think he knows the size of the job to do in terms of roster transformation in Tempe and that unlike some of his previous schools his current access to top-shelf talent keeps him from getting it done in a single offseason. The backup QB situation remains strong with last year’s (eventual) starter #16 QB Bourguet, Notre Dame’s former starter #10 QB Pyne (though he suffered a hamstring injury in camp), and 4-star BYU transfer #15 QB Conover.

There were some changes to the offensive skill players since publication. They got #0 WR Tyson through the portal, Colorado’s leading receiver last year, but #3 WR J. Smith’s NCAA waiver was denied so he won’t be eligible to play, and they’ve made the Spring game move of #8 RB Jacobs from receiver to back official. All of these things were anticipated in the preview so they don’t change the picture for me.

The two additions to the offensive line, which is the unit that really did need help, are #72 OL Garvin now officially switching from tight end (he moonlighted in Spring as the RT for the twos, at 250 lbs no less), and #55 OL Briggs, a low 3-star backup center from the 2019 cycle, transferring in from Texas Tech and New Mexico before that. As far as I can tell neither have ever actually gotten any playing time before. I thought this was the most likely unit to hold back ASU’s offensive production and that Dillingham really needed to hustle to bolster the line with late additions, but I’m not sure that really happened.

On defense, there was some doubt about whether Michigan St transfer #98 DT Mallory would in fact make the roster, but he has (indeed he gave a thoughtful and interesting podcast interview). I’m not sure that’s enough, though; I still think the Sun Devils’ defensive line is undersized and inexperienced even with him, and the rest of the offseason news has been unfortunate. They had gotten the commitment of DT Kori Robertson, but then he flipped to SMU instead. Former Texas and Tennessee linebacker Juwan Mitchell joined in August but was dismissed from the team a week later.

CB Isaiah Johnson, their highest rated recruit in the 2021 cycle, was dismissed from the team this month as well (Hod was right about that prediction after all), and CB Jean Boyd is no longer on the roster. I contacted Hod about ASU’s seemingly perilous cornerback depth with just two scholarship returners left; he said those two will start and the backups will be FCS transfer #4 CB Ford and true freshman mid 3-star #19 CB Abney, with the other two 2023 signees redshirting and #6 CB M. Williams moving to backup nickel safety.

Other than the notable handicap of not having a coach, I thought it was clear that liabilities in the trenches and in pass defense were the biggest reasons ASU went 3-9 last year, and Dillingham seemed to get it too with a massive roster overhaul in the relevant areas. But it looks like time’s run out on him this offseason with inadequate and mostly negative post-publication roster changes.


Preview from April 25, 2023

After adding and losing some QB names to the competition to replace the completely vacated unit from last year, Cal is right back where they were in the Spring game: with #5 QB Jackson as starter. It would seem that former 2-star and scholarship athlete #15 QB Mendoza is still the primary backup. One post-publication addition, #10 QB Finley from NC State (younger brother of Ryan), is still in Berkeley, but the other, Luke Bottari, has gone back to Utah (in what may be a troubling sign for Utes fans, if they thought about it).

As predicted, Cal took two more RB additions after publication: #22 RB Ifanse from the FCS, who’s been named the primary backup to #6 RB Ott, and #23 RB Doerue from Purdue, who doesn’t appear on the depth chart (he missed a lot of playing time earlier in his career and may still be hurt). Tennessee transfer #4 RB Williams-Thomas got hurt in camp and is absent from the depth chart though not ruled out for the season, but Oregon transfer #21 RB Cardwell will apparently miss this year with an injury. The third back listed is #31 RB Stredick, who got three carries last year, and the fourth is a fullback who got none.

WR and TE had several ins and outs as well. They got #9 WR T. Davis from UW who I thought was pretty good and underutilized by the Huskies, and redshirt freshman low 4-star #81 WR Dortch from Mississippi St, while redshirt freshman #47 TE Tuitele has been switched in from the OLB unit. Late last month, scholarship WRs Justin Richard Baker and Tommy Christakos plus TE Jake Muller disappeared from the roster without explanation; they’d each seen the field a lot since 2020 though without much production. I don’t really think any of the changes here make up for the earlier loss of J. Michael Sturdivant to UCLA and I still doubt Cal will have a reliable TE unit, but overall it remains my opinion that receiving options are the least likely bottleneck for Cal’s offense.

Cal had the worst offensive line in the Pac-12 last year, a remarkable distinction, and in the Spring I thought they hadn’t come anywhere close to fixing that. After publication, they got a commitment from OL Trevonte Sylvester from Houston, but then he flipped to Louisville. They then added Barrett Miller from Stanford, who played guard and tackle on what was probably the second worst line in the league; he’s listed as the starting LT. The Bears got #74 OL Wykoff from Texas A&M in the closest thing to a win, though his snapping was problematic and he was in the portal because he lost his job when the starter he replaced got healthy again on a line that Aggie fans universally described to me as “terrible”; he didn’t beat out the incumbent. Cal may have also switched #75 DL J. Roberts to OL, but the roster page says two different things about him and he doesn’t appear anywhere on the depth chart. These post-publication moves don’t move the needle for me, and my read of the running QB Jackson winning the competition over the far more experienced pocket passer Finley is that OC Spavital knows he needs a scrambler because of this line’s insufficiency.

The most significant news from Fall camp may be that there has been no news about #90 DL B. Johnson or #94 NG Saole-McKenzie, and as such Cal may be able to actually operate their 3-down front effectively for the first time since 2018. They’ve added Juco #50 OLB Jalloh but have lost #46 OLB Ross for the year to injury, which appears to be a wash – I didn’t think depth was a plus or a minus for that unit but rather the mediocre effective talent and havoc production, and this news changes nothing on that front.

Nickel #21 DB Gamble will miss the season with an injury so the fulltime job will go to Juco #22 DB Littlejohn (I’d previously written they’d split time). They got a late transfer of low 4-star from the 2022 cycle #24 CB M. Scott, he’d originally signed with Mizzou but took a medical redshirt last year; he doesn’t appear on this Fall’s depth chart so it’s possible he’s still hurt. I’m not as high on Cal’s secondary as Cal fans are (taking five transfers when the Bears returned all their starters and backups but one, and most of those transfers now being high on the depth chart should have clued them in) but despite the post-publication changes my opinion that this will be the same caliber secondary as the last several years remains the same.


Preview from June 28, 2023

Coach Sanders’ overhaul of this roster was so extreme that I waited until the end of this series to write the preview, as such there are few updates. The most significant is that the NCAA denied the transfer waiver for Jackson State OL Tyler Brown, whom I believe they were counting on to be their starting left guard – indeed, a 4-star Florida transfer left after the Spring game evidently because Brown had beaten him out for that job. My guess is that Juco #50 OL Wilty gets it now since he was with the ones at RG in Spring (starting RG will probably still go to incoming Kent St transfer #65 OL Bailey). They’ve added an unrated Juco who played only a couple games last year, #66 OL McCrimmon – he’s likely just a depth piece but CU needs that with only a dozen scholarship o-linemen (and losing maybe half of that next year for running out of eligibility).

For reasons discussed in the original article, #36 RB Wilkerson needed an NCAA waiver to be eligible to play this season; he was granted that this week. Fullback Champion Johnson from Cal has disappeared from the roster (his brother Victory remains a scholarship linebacker).

On defense, the only official changes are at the 4i spot. DT Chance Main, who hit the portal but then was persuaded to stay in Boulder and compete for the job – I had him in a fight with #50 DT Hawkins for 2nd string behind starter #99 DT Cokes – has decided to transfer to Texas State after all. And DT Zach Blackwood, whom I’d tabbed as the 4th string when he was to arrive in Fall, instead opted to return to his Junior college. I think that means they’ll move Fresno transfer #55 DT Payne from nose, which is where he should be playing due to his body type and stamina limitations, to backup 4i for depth purposes. That would still leave the Buffs three nose tackles, but two of them will have had basically no prior playing time. So three noses and three 4is, but half of them with less than ideal experience and capabilities – all told it’s a suboptimal situation but far from a disaster, and still better and more appropriate depth at interior defensive line than many Pac-12 teams that have had years to prepare for this moment.

Late on Friday, an internet video surfaced that appears to show dismissed ASU linebacker Juwan Mitchell wearing a temporary #90 jersey at Colorado practice. He doesn’t appear on the official roster and no reputable source has yet confirmed such a transfer.


Preview from July 6, 2023

There’s only been one official roster change since I published my Oregon preview, as always the final entry in the series, which is track star Micah Williams joining the team as a punt returner (he’s listed as a WR with jersey #84 but I only expect to see him on special teams). Williams’ 9.86-second 100m dash time is the fastest in school history and the second best ever recorded by a college athlete.

There are a host of up-and-down injury reports as usual, but I’ve seen nothing indicating a player I had tabbed as a contributor in my preview will be unavailable. The most significant news is that the health of the likely starters at tight end and offensive line appears to be green across the board.

Oregon State

Preview from May 24, 2023

The Beavs named #5 QB Uiagalelei as starter as anticipated. It would have taken a miracle for the true freshman #0 QB Chiles to have the job out of Fall camp given the politics of the situation, though given my doubts about QB coach Lindgren’s ability to develop quarterbacks and Uiagalelei’s OSU-level performance at Clemson as explained in the original article, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them try out Chiles by the end of the year.

The most significant offensive news is the loss of projected starting guard #60 OL Brewer for the season to injury. For reasons anticipated in the preview, they have three options to replace him but they’re all very significant dropoffs in observed or projected performance, and since my prediction is that the Beavs’ inside run game is the one (and possibly only) cudgel they were going to have with which to beat seven to nine teams into submission in the upcoming season, this could have a potentially large impact on their season.

I spent some time in the original article puzzling over the peculiar class balance in the running back unit, and it’s gotten worse since then – Jam Griffin hit the transfer portal early this month, and a Juco won’t be joining the team because he was charged with attempted murder.

The preview also wondered why, given that he lost his top two targets and only productive one taller than 5’9”, Coach Smith didn’t add any FBS transfer receivers. He still hasn’t, taking only two Jucos: #3 WR East who’s a mid 3-star value and had 11 catches last year, and #14 WR Holmes, an unrated transfer who got 13. Still, at 6’1” and 5’10” respectively they tower over the rest of the WR corps and have more receptions than all but two returners. The unit loses John Dunmore, a mid 4-star from Penn State at 6’2” who had 9 receptions, though I didn’t expect much out of him as usual.

On defense, the interior defensive line position is complicated to explain. On the one hand, they return two experienced, longtime starters, and per the Beavs’ 2022 defensive success (and past patterns as well) I think that pair is in line for a great 2023 … plus they added a late transfer from Minnesota, mid 3-star #62 DT Schuster, who’ll be the most talented on paper in the unit. On the other hand, Schuster basically hasn’t seen the field over the last two seasons, and neither has anyone else in this unit besides the two starters … plus they two of the most promising, Omarion Fa’amoe and Thomas Sio, to medical retirement just before Fall camp. But back on the first hand, the losses weren’t really experienced either so they’re not losing proven production, and it’s possible that Schuster winds up outperforming what they would have done had they been healthy.

At any rate, the fate of the defense will more likely be determined by every other unit, where the great super-senior performers of last year weren’t replaced through the portal when I wrote my preview and still haven’t been, and so I continue to project a steep decline in defensive output. The only change has been the addition of #39 DB J. Young from Arizona, an unrated walk-on who got five tackles last year in Tucson.


Preview from May 10, 2023

Stanford hasn’t named a starting quarterback, one of only two teams not to do so. I don’t have any information on which to make a prediction, since effectively none of the four options have thrown any college passes worth writing about. The fact that against such competition no one has stood out is itself a sign, however, and not a very good one about whoever is eventually chosen.

There are only two changes since publication: they’ve added true freshman mid 3-star #46 TE Holt who originally enrolled at Northwestern but was released from his commitment when Pat Fitzgerald was fired, and 2020 low 4-star #57 ILB Lytle from Wisconsin. Neither are likely to be high impact moves and I question the wisdom of both. Taylor’s offense doesn’t run through tight ends and he already has a good one he’s going to struggle to use … he needed receivers, a QB, and maybe six more linemen, basically everyone on offense except a modestly talented freshman tight end. Lytle has recorded seven tackles in three seasons as a bluechip, which means the transplant staff from Wisconsin probably took him out of sentimentality rather than performance … their front will probably be okay without more help, what they needed was a dozen new defensive backs to shore up their depleted secondary.


Preview from June 7, 2023

The other school yet to name a starting QB is UCLA. Camp reports indicate it’s down to true freshman 5-star #3 QB Moore and longtime backup #4 QB Garbers. I’m not surprised that the talented dual-threat #6 QB Martin still isn’t up to speed despite being the best physical match for Coach Kelly’s offense; I suspect Kelly’s playbook is either something you get when you first pick it up or you never do. I am surprised however that the challenger to Moore has turned out to be Garbers and not Kent St transfer #9 QB Schlee. That’s because the former is just a less gifted pocket passer than Moore and carries all the same scheme mismatch problems discussed in my original article with less upside, while the latter at least replicates, if to a lesser degree, the play of five-year starter and Kelly’s saving grace Dorian Thompson-Robinson.

I suspect this much delay means Kelly is really making a go at the whole pocket-passer playbook thing and is frustrated that Moore isn’t as far along in his first year as was promised (which is why such promises, on both ends, are foolish). I’ll stick with my prediction that Kelly eventually grows tired of all of it and reverts to what he knows, which is a dual-threat playbook and a scrambling QB bailing him out of his simplified passing progressions, and Schlee finishes the year for him.

UCLA had no transfer portal additions or departures since publication and very few in total, as getting an offer from Kelly as a coach or a player is the coziest sinecure in college athletics. However, since UCLA fails to publish their official roster until the middle of August every year, I am forced to guess at every position in my preview and then learn what surprises the Bruins have in store for Fall. This year they were:

  • #20 RB Ryan and #28 RB Pedersen were converted from unused tight ends to probably unused running backs
  • #22 WR K. Jones was converted from a running back, as anticipated in the preview
  • #52 DL H. Nelson was converted from a linebacker, probably an end now due to his size
  • #48 ILB Price was converted from a defensive end, in exchange for Nelson I suppose
  • #33 ILB Lee is a Fall enrollee true freshman I thought would be a nickelback

None of these guys really played last year and more aggressive programs would have processed the first five out to reclaim the scholarships for more productive portal replacements; I don’t think these moves have any significance to UCLA’s 2023 performance.

Unfortunately OL Liam Douglass has disappeared from the roster; I hadn’t seen him in practice reports since transferring from USC and I know he’s been battling injury for a long time, so I wasn’t expecting him to be in the rotation this year and suspect a medical retirement. But I can’t confirm that, since there’s been no reporting on the subject in local media as is typical.


Preview from June 14, 2023

USC made essentially no official changes to its roster since I published my preview. The depth chart has #14 WR R. Brown at 4th string on the inside after switching from running back as anticipated, and true freshman #19 WR D. Robinson is listed as a 3rd string outside receiver instead of a tight end, as speculated. Post-Spring Wyoming transfer #70 LG Pregnon took returner #66 OL Quinones’ job as expected, with the minor surprise of returner #79 LT Monheim swapping spots with Florida transfer #71 RT Tarquin, and all other offensive positions laid out in Wednesday night’s depth chart release proceeding exactly as predicted.

On defense, the unfortunate news is that #58 DE Tuliaupupu will miss the season with an injury; I had predicted him getting a good chunk of the reps at his position in 2023. Otherwise the defensive line is exactly as written, which was a tall order because DC Grinch has been slowly but steadily shifting away from his novel 3-down front into an insipid 4-down one but kept the confusing old nomenclature. The surprise is that true freshman #25 LB Curtis has apparently beat out returning starter #18 LB Gentry – the article anticipated some shakeup to this unit and even located Curtis as the guy who might do it, but not that he’d displace a starter nor that this would be a positive sign. While all the expected names appear on the depth chart at the three safety positions, there are some ostensible changes to who’s where – for example longtime nickel #4 DB Max Williams is now the starting free safety while #27 DB Shaw and #7 DB Bullock have swapped positions between strong and free, despite not swapping body types or competencies. I find all these putative changes fanciful and suspect that the worst safety coach in the league (which is saying something now that Stanford employs Bob Gregory at the position) is just pretending to re-arrange deck chairs.


Preview from May 17, 2023

The news from Fall camp is that starter #7 QB Rising and backup #8 QB Rose have not been practicing due to ongoing injury issues, Rising because he’s not recovered from his ACL injury in last year’s bowl game and Rose from getting hurt in camp. I spent eight paragraphs in my preview discussing what the likelihood of Rising being injured would mean to the team and how the backup order would proceed. I didn’t come to great conclusions, and the situation is now much worse. Evidently it’s a tight battle between the remaining options, the experienced but low-ceiling #16 QB Barnes and the inexperienced but talented redshirt freshman #13 QB N. Johnson, who has his own injury history and has reportedly struggled to learn the playbook. The final option, #18 QB Bottari, has transferred back from Cal; I wouldn’t have placed much stock in an unrated Juco who’s never thrown a pass in the FBS before but given that there’s still an ongoing fight in which to insert himself the Utes might need him too.

The other starter who’s absolutely necessary to OC Ludwig’s offense, missed time last season with an ACL tear, and hasn’t practiced in Fall camp — a remarkable thing to have written – is #80 TE Kuithe. If he’s still not ready to go that’s quite a blow to Ludwig’s TE-centric offense given how good Kuithe is, though there are a few other options in the room in returner #87 TE Yassmin, Auburn transfer #14 TE King, and post-publication mid 3-star Juco addition #88 TE Bentley.

I mentioned the possible transfer of former Oklahoma WR Trejan Bridges in my article despite pending criminal charges, because several media sources connected him with the Utes and 24/7’s captured Utah publisher put in a crystal ball for him. The last word in May was that he had a court status conference scheduled for August, which of course meant even a favorable result would leave him available too late to play in 2023, and so I found this all to be moot, but for posterity I searched for the outcome. Unsurprisingly, local media has lost interest and failed to report on the matter; Bridges does not appear on Utah’s roster. Even had all of this worked out somehow I doubt Ludwig’s offense would find use for anyone but a running back, a running quarterback, or a tight end.

There’s still no word on the resolution to the box safety logjam noted in my preview, and no scholarship defensive changes whatever. An unrated Juco who got some playing time last year, #39 DB Pearson, announced his intention to transfer but is still listed on the roster; I don’t know his status. True freshman walk-on Preston Viehweg, who started at free safety in the Spring game for some reason, has disappeared from the most recent roster, perhaps indignant at his name being misspelled on the jersey assigned to him for the broadcast.


Preview from May 31, 2023

UW had a bit of a scare as starter #9 QB Penix didn’t practice for a week at Fall camp, but evidently he was just resting a sore arm and is back at it. Given that the Huskies had no running game, the 70th ranked F+ defense, and did little if anything to improve in the offseason, I’m not surprised Penix’s arm needed a break after carrying the entire team.

The Huskies made only one addition since publication, high 3-star redshirt freshman #70 OL Klemm (son of former Oregon OL coach Adrian) transferred in from Kansas St. I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if he sees some playing time in 2023, between the doubts extensively detailed in OL coach Huff’s development of the existing players and an unfortunate season-ending injury to backup #64 OL Memmelaar.

There have been several other losses. #22 RB C. Davis has also suffered a season-ending injury, I thought he was going to be first or second on the depth chart. True freshman #20 RB Rogers has been suspended indefinitely. This offense doesn’t really lean on its rushing attack but it does require short yardage conversions and they’re down to five backs on scholarship, of which only two were unhurt in the Spring game – a converted WR and a backup who the previous staff kept off the field.

King County 4-star Jabez Tinae made it official and left the roster, as suspected, but walk-on #18 WR C. Sirmon who got a few touches is still on it despite entering the transfer portal. Recent camp reports indicated #0 WR G. Jackson hurt his thumb and may miss the season, which is jarring, but I haven’t seen much in the way of confirmation.

I expected a significant defensive overhaul after last season, and when it didn’t happen I thought it might come after publication. That didn’t happen either. The only change at all is that freshman #26 DB Gordon has been suspended indefinitely, which is not what I meant. In fact, the re-arrangement of the defensive back room discussed in my preview and observed in Spring practices, with #7 DB Hampton switching out of the “Husky” hybrid LB/S position to play deep safety and #3 DB Powell switching into it from cornerback where he severely underperformed, is not reflected on the official roster. I suspect those changes have actually happened, since they make sense, and UW’s site administrator has just neglected to update their position labels, since complacency appears to be the norm on Montlake.

Washington State

Preview from June 21, 2023

All of Wazzu’s post-publication changes were in the trenches. OL Kendal Williams, a mid 3-star redshirt freshman who was hurt last year, has disappeared from the roster; I didn’t expect him to play. The walk-on offensive lineman I noted playing 90 seconds into the Spring game with the first team defense on the interior of the d-line has made the switch official, #53 DT Tafia. That’s potentially significant because the Cougs are really thin at DT and they might need him.

It got worse this week when DT Ty Garay-Harris entered the portal as a grad transfer. That leaves the unit with just three scholarship defensive tackles who aren’t freshman. There are eight other bodies in the room, but of those five are freshmen, four are walk-ons, one is both, and none have played meaningful ball. They’ve also unfortunately lost quality backup #50 DE Falatea to a season-ending ACL tear, however unlike the tackles, the ends run five deep of good experienced players without him. The DT situation is one that Wazzu had to improve on with some late portal additions if they were going to avoid what seems like an inevitable defensive falloff from last year given the very significant losses at linebacker and the secondary; instead the opposite has happened on the d-line and they’ve done nothing to the other units.