Wednesday marks the start of the 2014 PAC-12 media days at Paramount Studios in Los Angeles. Yes, days. Unlike the rapid fire events of the past in which each team was ushered in and out in a formally chaotic, rapid fire, speed dating fashion, this year, the PAC-12 is following suit with some of the other power conferences in a multi-day function to help elevate their own stature.
Really, these events can be handled in one day. One day is good enough for both coaches, players and even the media to not have to deal with the monotony that is repetitive, drawn out, fill in the sound byte for my 500 word piece on who the favorite in the North Division is, or what’s the deal with DirectTV and the PAC-12 Networks, or why in the world does this event need to be two days…?
Still, the show must go on. The Oregon Ducks will send coach Mark Helfrich, Heisman hopeful quarterback Marcus Mariota, and linebacker Derrick Malone to the stage to answer a myriad of questions.
Topics for discussion:
Who are you looking to step up this season?
Where are the biggest opportunities for the team to grow?
The easy out:
How Don Pellum has adjusted to his new role as a defensive coordinator?
Recent defections from program and what that means for “xyz” player heading into fall camp
What did you learn from last year that you will try to implement this year heading into your second season as a head coach?
The questions without merit:
Why are you favored at home against Michigan State and a huge underdog to USC on the road when MSU is higher ranked and USC has a new coach and hasn’t proven anything in recent memory…?
How will Nick Aliotti do on TV?
The question that shouldn't get asked that will:
What kind of jerseys are you going to wear this season? (Or some form or fashion, no pun intended, regarding jersey talk. We get it, jerseys are cool, they bring in a lot of revenue and yes, they are a good recruiting tool. Let's move on.)
The question that should get asked that won't:
What is the identity of this football team and what sort of stamp will you put on this football team as expectations are high and anything less than a playoff appearance would be a disappointment?
After guiding the Oregon Ducks to an 11-2 season and an Alamo Bowl victory in his first season as head coach, Mark Helfrich looks to improve year over year and continue to implement his style and structure in practice and during games. While an 11 win season is nothing to be up in arms about, Oregon’s loss to Arizona at the end of last season in humiliating fashion will loom over DuckNation’s seemingly unshakable and invincible fanbase. That can quickly go away if Oregon can take care of business early in the season against Michigan State.
After a redshirt junior year in which he earned Pac-12 honorable mention all-conference honors while amassing 105 tackles in 13 games last season, Derrick Malone hits the stage on the watch list of the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, given annually to the top defensive player, the Dick Butkus Award, which honors the nation’s top linebacker, and the Rotary Lombardi Award, which recognizes the top linebacker or lineman. Surely, the latest loss of Rahim Cassell at the linebacker position will be a hot topic amongst reporters to direct towards Malone.
Marcus Mariota, a Heisman hopeful, will represent Oregon for the second year in a row after guiding the Ducks to a 11-2 record in which he completed 245 of 386 passes (65.8 percent) for 3,665 yards, 31 touchdowns and only four interceptions. Mariota also appears on a laundry list of watch lists, including the Walter Camp Trophy, which is awarded to the player of the year, the Maxwell Award, given to the top college football player, and the Davey O'Brien Award, which recognizes the nation’s top quarterback. Surely, questions regarding staying healthy, how Stanford has haunted him and what the backfield will look like will be points of discussion. Also, questions regarding the wide receiver position will be brought up. Mariota is a pro at these kinds of events. Don’t expect him to say anything shocking or off the university line of media training.
Oregon is slated to appear on stage for their press conference at 12:12pm after USC.