Pac-12 coaches and players gathered today at Universal Studios in Burbank, California, for the 2012 Pac-12 media day. There was some extra buzz around this year's media day mostly surrounding the addition of the Pac-12 Network and the four new coaches in the conference.
The Pac-12 media poll was released Tuesday morning, and to no one's surprise USC was picked to win not only the Pac-12 South, but the conference title as well. The Trojans received 102 championship votes, Oregon received 18 votes, and Arizona State surprisingly received three votes.
"I think at USC right now, we kinda feel like we are in a perfect storm," said the head coach of the Trojans Lane Kiffin. "We feel great about our current team, but we also feel great about our future teams for years to come."
USC returns quarterback Matt Barkley along with talented receivers Robert Woods and Marquis Lee. The Trojans are coming off a two-year bowl ban many national polls have the Trojans ranked No. 1 in the country.
"I keep saying it over and over again, but one game at a time," said Matt Barkley about national expectations. "I think it's an approach you have to have, we have all this hype going into this year and I think that it's good for our program, but for us it doesn't mean anything, it's not going to win us any games," said Barkley.
Three-time defending conference champion Oregon is picked to win the Pac-12 North by the media, collecting 117 first place votes. Although the Ducks lose LaMichael James and quarterback Darron Thomas, the Ducks return plenty of firepower on offense, including running back Kenjon Barner and hybrid WR/RB De'Anthony Thomas.
"Knowing that we've got Kenjon Barner and we've got De'Anthony Thomas makes you sleep a little better at night," said Oregon head coach Chip Kelly. "There's some things that he (Thomas) does in practice that you just kind of go 'wow,' he's a real smart kid he understands concepts very well, so we will keep adding to his plate."
Four coaches made their debut at Pac-12 media day, including three coaches from the southern division. UCLA's Jim Mora Jr., Arizona's Rich Rodriguez, Arizona State's Todd Graham and Washington State's Mike Leach are the new kids on the block and each had different messages to the media.
From the day he was hired at Arizona State, Todd Graham has instilled a level of passion and excitement into the program, and that was no different at his press conference.
"We are very, very excited about this season," said Graham. "It's been fast and furious since December, for all of our great players in the past it's been a great time of coming together, I've been on campus with our students, we've got one of the most incredible student sections in the country."
Arizona coach RIch Rodriguez praised the former Wildcat coaching staff, saying their that perhaps their best move was to redshirt quarterback Matt Scott, who figures to be the starting QB this year for Rich Rod.
"Coach Stoops and his staff, they are terrific coaches, they worked the kids very hard," said Rodriguez. "We we do is simply different, what we ask our players to do from a conditioning standpoint is a little different. So no matter what coaching staff was here before us, and they had a very good one before I got here, it was going to be different because of what we require our players to do in our system."
Jim Mora Jr. returns to the college gridiron for the first time since 1984, when he as a graduate assistant at Washington. Mora takes over for Rick Neuheisel, who went 21-30 in four seasons. UCLA has not won more than eight games in a season since 2005.
Mora was the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons from 2004-2006 and the head coach of the Seattle Seahawks in 2009.
"I've really enjoyed the transition from the National Football League to UCLA," said Mora Jr. "It's been a lot of fun, what stands out for me is how much more involved in the lives of your students athletes you are at this level, than you are in the National Football League."
Mike Leach was typical Mike Leach, he had reporters laughing and recommended bear hunting to the contingency at the event. Leach compared his players to Civil War generals.
Stay tuned for more on Pac-12 media day including in-depth reports on both ASU and Arizona.