HOLLYWOOD, Cal. -- The PAC 12 Conference held its annual media day on Wednesday, making head coaches of all 12 teams as well as two players from each team available to the media. Below are some of the top takeaways from the event.
1. They might have a former offensive line coach as their new head coach, in Mario Cristobal, but the Ducks' run-and-gun offense isn't going anywhere.
"I think people automatically assume, ‘Oh, it’s Alabama of 2013.’ No, it’s not. We’re a fast-paced, tempo offense. I think the biggest difference you’ll see is up front, at the line of scrimmage, we’ve invested in physicality," Cristobal said about the offense.
2. The offseason conditioning program, largely created by strength and conditioning coach Aaron Feld, has been the biggest difference the Ducks players and coaches have seen between this offseason and last offseason.
A lot of people on our team have gotten bigger, stronger, faster. I feel like that's going to contribute a lot to our success," senior defensive end Jalen Jelks said.
"I think one of the biggest differences has been the weight room. The hire of Coach Feld has been a great addition to the program," junior quarterback Justin Herbert said.
"Our guys immediately saw the benefits. They saw the challenges, and felt the challenge of it, but they immediately saw the benefits of having such a program and that's going to be the investment required to have success when it counts," Cristobal said.
3. There's no replacing Royce Freeman, but Tony Brooks-James is ready to be the team's featured back.
"Tony Brooks-James has had an unbelievable spring. He has pushed himself to be a big weight room guy, so he’s changed his body," Cristobal said.
"Tony is a really athletic guy. He's put on a ton of weight this offseason and he looks really good. I can't wait to see what he does this season," Herbert said.
1. There wasn't one "root" problem that led to last year's 1-11 finish and the team is trying to press the reset button.
“We haven’t had a ton of focus on last year. Obviously, we weren’t here, those reasons that took place and things that went on, that was so out of the ordinary," head coach Jonathan Smith said.
“We haven’t really talked a lot about last year, because we’re focused on this year," senior offensive lineman Blake Brandel said.
2. New head coach Jonathan Smith's experience as the Beavers' quarterback during their most recent successful stretch gives him instant credibility in the locker room.
“It makes it a lot easier that he’s a former Beaver, he’s been in our shoes, and he’s played on the same football field we’ve played on," junior linebacker Kee Whetzel said.
“Having Coach Smith around is really cool, because he’s been at Oregon State before as a player. He knows Corvallis really well and he knows how to win. It’s a big deal," Brandel said.
1. Cota has a leg up on other freshman and has a very real chance to play in his first season with UCLA.
“He picked things up really quickly, so you could tell he’s a really smart football player. He’s obviously very well coached from where he played in high school. The good part for him I think he’ll realize next Friday is that he won’t really be a freshman. He’ll have a leg up on some of the other freshman that just came in. They’ll be all starry-eyed trying to figure out where to go in practice and even though he has nine practices under his belt, he’ll be a wily veteran," UCLA head coach Chip Kelly said.
“He did a great job in the spring coming straight out of high school. He’s a bigger, taller receiver, but he has great hands, he runs good routes, and he’s fast. His dad also has a history of playing football, so I’m sure he’s going to do just fine," UCLA junior wide receiver Theo Howard said.
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