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Devy Conference Preview: PAC-12 South

The PAC-12 brings back a significant amount of talent in 2020. Find out who you should be targeting in your devy and c2c drafts!

The 2019-2020 season provided few surprises in the PAC-12 South. Utah was the favorite to win the division at the beginning of the year, and they did so in resounding fashion. Likewise, most of the high-end devy prospects continued to perform at the expected level, with few exceptions. The conference lost some talent this offseason, but brings back a lot as well.

Below are the majority of the players that you should be aware of for the coming season, along with some that may not be relevant for a few years. The teams are listed in the order they finished in 2019, and the players are loosely placed in the order that you’ll see them go in a devy draft, if you were to do one now.

UTAH UTES

2019 Recap

Utah had a great season in 2019, dominating the regular season with ease before running into the buzzsaw that is Oregon in the conference championship game. They also played poorly in their bowl game against Texas, losing by multiple touchdowns. It’s too bad the season ended on such a bad note as the Utes were legitimately an exciting team.

Coaching

Kyle Whittingham is one of those coaches that consistently take unheralded recruits and puts together a winning team. 2020 will be his 16th season with the Utes. The stability he brings to the program is crucial to their success.

Vacated Positions

Utah loses a large portion of their major contributors on offense, including their star quarterback and running back. Zach Moss (Bills 3rd round pick) will be especially missed. The Utes also lose WR Demari Simpkins, who led the underwhelming receiving unit in catches, yardage, and receiving touchdowns.

Players to Watch

Brant Kuithe – (Nerds TE #10)(2021) Devywatch ADP- 120.9:

For the record, I have Kuithe ranked higher than the consensus at both Dynasty Nerds and Devywatch. More of an H-back than a traditional tight end, a la Trey Burton, Kuithe is probably a bit undersized to truly contribute without a creative offensive coordinator. However, he creates mismatches all over the field with his speed, and still has adequate size at 6’2, 235. Utah’s leading receiver in 2019, he likely will fill the same role in 2020.

Jake Bentley – QB (Unranked & no Devywatch ADP):

Although unranked by most outlets, or certainly outside the top 30 or so at the position, Bentley should be on radars. A former 4-star, dual-threat QB prospect that started his career at South Carolina, Bentley transferred to Utah this offseason and is in line to contribute right away. I’m not entirely sold on him as the starter moving forward, at least not without some competition, but he may put up some impressive tape in the Utah offense.

Freshmen/Deep Sleepers

Unfortunately, Utah never really brings in highly sought after recruits at the skill positions, and 2020 is no exception. One or two of their mid-3 stars should produce at some point, but not this year.

As for deep sleepers, QB Cameron Rising (‘21) is an intriguing prospect. The former 4-star originally attended Texas before transferring after his redshirt freshman year. Rising sat out 2019 and learned the playbook. Don’t be shocked to see him win the starting job over Bentley, who missed out on spring practices, tape sessions, etc. Rising is also a dual-threat with a strong arm, who will fit well into Utah’s offense. I am in several devy and campus to canton leagues, and he is only owned in two of them. I am the owner in both. He is completely off radars but should at least be on watchlists in deeper leagues.

USC TROJANS

2019 Recap

2019 was another underperforming year for USC, both on and off the field. The team itself has gone 13-12 over the past 2 seasons, which has had an undeniable effect on their recruiting. Luckily, they do return a large portion of their major contributors, on both sides of the ball.

Coaching

If you find a USC fan that says they are happy with the current coaching staff, you are either talking to Clay Helton’s family or they are lying to you. There isn’t a Power 5 coach in the country that has a hotter seat entering 2020 than Helton. He did hire Graham Harrell to help elevate an offense that has performed worse than the sum of its parts over the past few seasons. If USC does not have a strong season, expect Helton and much of the staff to be replaced.

Vacated Positions

USC’s only major loss for devy purposes is WR Michael Pittman, who was drafted early in the 2nd round by the Indianapolis Colts. Pittman led the receiving corps in targets, receptions, yardage, and touchdowns. Losing him will hurt, but USC has insane depth at the receiver position.

The other Trojans loss is QB JT Daniels, who transferred this offseason to Georgia. Daniels suffered an injury early in the season and was then usurped by standout freshman Kedon Slovis. Daniels should still be on devy radars, it just won’t be for his play at USC. Contrary to popular belief, it would not shock me to see him take the job over Newman this year.

Players to Watch

Kedon Slovis – (Nerds QB #6)(2022) Devywatch ADP – 34.91:

With the highly-rated recruits that USC typically brings in, no one would guess that the biggest breakout on the Trojans offense would be a mid-tier 3 star who was buried on the depth chart entering his freshman season. And yet, after the injury to the aforementioned Daniels and some subpar play from Matt Fink, Slovis stepped in without missing a beat. Extremely accurate and poised, Slovis will look to improve his ball security and passing ability outside the pocket to truly cement his status as a high-end quarterback prospect.

Amon-Ra St. Brown – (Nerds WR #9)(2021) Devywatch ADP – 14.74:

Bloodlines matter for athletes, and the St. Brown brothers are no exception. Their father, a former bodybuilder, worked extensively with his children to produce one current NFL receiver, and two more that are likely on their way. Most projections have St. Brown as a borderline 1st/2nd round pick in the upcoming NFL draft, and he should have similar status in devy drafts. He might be limited to the slot in the pros, but with the increase in value at that position it should not knock his value too much.

Drake London – (Nerds WR #25)(2021) Devywatch ADP – 86.13:

In addition to starring on the USC basketball team, London made a significant impact as a true freshman last year for the Trojans. At 6’5, he moves very well but is clearly more athlete than football player at his point. The good news for him? He has all the tools to be a better version of Pittman for USC.

Tyler Vaughns – (Nerds WR #39)(2021) Devywatch ADP – 100.87:

Vaughns and London tend to be virtually interchangeable in most devy drafts. Although Vaughns is not as tall as London (he’s “only” 6’2), his play strength and ability to win at the catch point are some of the best in his class. There are some concerns about his long speed, but he should put up big numbers this year.

Bru McCoy – (Nerds WR #44)(2022) Devywatch ADP – 106.57:

Many devy owners are familiar with McCoy because of his crazy recruitment. McCoy initially committed to USC, before switching allegiances to Texas. Shortly after, he realized he missed home and transferred back to USC, taking a redshirt year. He was a 5 star and the #1 athlete in his class, he just needs to get on the field and show his talents. He may need to wait a year to truly breakout with St. Brown, Vaughns, and London ahead of him on the depth chart but he’s a great stash at this point.

Kenan Christon – (Nerds RB #58)(2022) Devywatch ADP – N/A:

I am fairly surprised that Christon is rated so lowly on most ranking platforms. He put up the most impressive numbers on a per touch basis of any of the USC running backs in 2019. A bit undersized, but has blazing speed and competes on the USC track team as well. Buy him low now, because you may not be able to by this time next year.

Kyle Ford – (Nerds WR #64)(2022) Devywatch ADP – N/A:

One of the top rated WRs in the 2019 recruiting class, Ford will miss 2020 after tearing his ACL in January. It’s his second torn ACL, albeit once on each knee, so he may be someone to avoid for health reasons. He’s very talented though, so throwing a dart at him in a deeper devy league would not be the worst idea.

Freshmen/Deep Sleeper

Gary Bryant Jr. – (Nerds WR #N/A)(2023) Devywatch ADP – N/A:

A composite 4-star receiver, Bryant is stuck behind the logjam at WR listed above. He may take a year or two to breakout, but he is undeniably talented. At 5’10, he’s set to take over for St. Brown if he leaves after 2020.

ARIZONA STATE SUNDEVILS

2019 Recap

Arizona State struggled with consistency in conference last season, which ultimately derailed a promising start to the season. These issues were to be expected with a true freshman starting quarterback and an offensive line that had its ups and downs.

Coaching

Herm Edwards was a controversial hire two years ago, but the move has paid off for ASU as they’ve had back-to-back winning seasons and steadily improved the product on the field. The team did add a new offensive coordinator this offseason to help with Jayden Daniels development

Vacated Positions

ASU lost two major devy contributors following the 2019 season. Running back Eno Benjamin (Cardinals 7th round pick) handled most of the carries for the Sun Devils last season and one-hit wonder Brandon Aiyuk (49ers 1st round pick) was Daniels’ favorite weapon and was a special teams ace. Both players need to be replaced for ASU to have a successful season in 2020.

Players to Watch

Jayden Daniels – (Nerds QB #9)(2022) Devywatch ADP – 38.83:

Daniels is the new prototype quarterback with a strong arm and exceptional mobility. He also was accurate (60.7% as a true freshman) and limited turnovers (2 INTs) in 2019. As he grows, hopefully ASU will open up the playbook and let him work his magic. After the 2021 QBs come off the board, Daniels should be fair game in most drafts.

Frank Darby – (Nerds QB #N/A)(2021) Devywatch ADP – N/A:

There are only so many players you can rank, so I can forgive most websites for skipping over Frank Darby. If he steps into the void left by Aiyuk though, those rankers may look foolish in 6 months. He has a bit of a Juju Smith-Schuster/AJ Brown feel to his game, as he excels as a physical player after the catch. He’s going late in devy drafts now, and is probably not owned in shallower leagues, but if you have space to stash him he offers tons of upside.

Freshmen/Deep Sleepers

Daniyel Ngata – (Nerds RB #52)(2023) Devywatch ADP – 119.48:

ASU brought in two highly touted running backs this season. Ngata is a 4 star back and the #3 APB in the nation, but he is a bit undersized at the moment. He is very dynamic with the ball in his hands though, and should be owned in any semi-deep devy league

Deamonte Trayanum – (Nerds RB#57)(2023) Devywatch ADP – 117.61:

Trayanum was also a 4 star prospect but already has great size at 5’11, 220. I like Trayanum more, but this could turn into a 1a/1b situation for the Sun Devils.

UCLA BRUINS

2019 Recap

2019 was an underwhelming year for the Bruins, who never really took the step that many expected them to take under Chip Kelly. They haven’t recruited great the past few years either, leaving the pipeline thin for devy purposes.

Coaching

Fans were excited when Kelly was brought in two offseasons ago to right the ship, but he hasn’t brought about the results that were expected. They have not been able to replicate the success of Kelly’s Oregon teams, specifically on the ground where they ranked as one of the worst teams in the country. 

Vacated Positions

There aren’t any losses from a devy perspective that most would be concerned about, but from a production standpoint the loss of running back Joshua Kelley (Chargers 4th round draft pick) and tight end Devin Asiasi (Patriots 3rd round draft pick) will hurt.

Players to Watch

Dorian Thompson-Robinson – (Nerds QB #N/A)(2021) Devywatch ADP – N/A:

Thompson barely played in high school because he was stuck behind Tate Martell, who was the #2 QB in the country in the same class as DTR. He was a huge project when he entered UCLA, and he’s developed enough to be a decent starter. A dual-threat, he fits what the NFL wants now but needs to work on his accuracy and mechanics to move into Day 2 consideration. For now, he probably isn’t worth owning outside the deepest of devy leagues, or c2c.

Freshmen/Deep Sleepers

Kyle Philips – (Nerds WR #N/A)(2021) Devywatch ADP – N/A:

Philips emerged as the top receiver on the team last year, setting a UCLA freshman record with 60 catches. Mostly a slot guy, he shows an understanding of pacing on his routes and has good hands. He’s a solid punt returner as well, scoring a 69 yard touchdown against Washington State. There are a lot of receivers I’d rather own than Philips, but another productive season for the Bruins might make him a semi-intriguing option.

Logan Loya – (Nerds WR #N/A)(2023) Devywatch ADP – N/A:

Loya is a 4-star receiver in the 2020 recruiting class. A slot guy with quick feet and sticky hands, he may be one to watch for the future, but likely won’t be relevant until 2021 at the earliest, and maybe after that. It is a shame that he profiles similarly to the Bruins best returning target, creating overlap.

COLORADO BUFFALOES

2019 Recap

2019 was extremely disappointing for most Colorado fans. After the breakout of Laviska Shenault in 2018, he was expected to cement his status as the top receiver in his draft class. Instead, he dealt with injury through much of the year and the offense sputtered without his game-breaking presence.

Coaching

The coaching carousel hit Colorado hard this year, with the departure of Mel Tucker to Michigan State in a saga that left most fans angry. With most vacancies already filled for the year, they went with Karl Dorrell, who previously coached the Buffaloes in the 90s. It is unclear exactly how the offense will look in 2020, although the appointment of Colorado’s former WR coach to offensive coordinator suggests that the team wants to keep a similar scheme to last year.

Vacated Positions

The big devy loss for Colorado is WR Laviska Shenault, the YAC master who was drafted in the 2nd round by Jacksonville. Shenault was essentially a “get out of jail free” card for the Buffaloes the past few seasons. When the offense stalled, they’d look to Shenault to pick up the tough yardage. It should be interesting to see how he is replaced.

Colorado also loses starting QB Steven Montez. He put up decent numbers in school but was never considered a serious NFL prospect. Montez signed with Washington as an UDFA following the draft.

Players to Watch

Alex Fontenot/Jaren Mangham – (Nerds RB# N/A)(‘21 Fontenot, ‘22 Mangham) No Devywatch ADP –

I’m grouping these two together for the sake of simplicity, but either could emerge as a draftable target in 2020. Mangham was the higher rated recruit of the two (4-star in 2019) and was named to the conference all-freshman team last season. With the loss of Montez, the team may rely on both of them this season. Neither should be owned in anything but the deepest devy leagues, but be aware they exist.

Freshmen/Deep Sleepers

Ashaad Clayton – (Nerds RB #N/A)(2023) Devywatch ADP – N/A:

Clayton is a guy that I am high on entering the 2020 season. He was originally committed to LSU before a knee injury limited his final season of high school football. LSU then declined his commitment, and suddenly all of his offers, of which there were many, evaporated. Clayton has great size at 6’0, 200 with the frame to put on more weight. He also has a 4.42 20 under his belt. He could get touches as early as this year and should be cheap to acquire, if he is even owned at all.

ARIZONA WILDCATS

2019 Recap

Arizona was just not a good football team in 2019, finishing the season on a seven game losing streak. They were neither strong on offense (77th in points for), nor defense (118th in points against). Arizona did not bring in a particularly exciting class in 2020. The group is ranked 60th in the country and does not contain a single 4-star recruit. 

Coaching

Kevin Sumlin has struggled to get anything positive going since arriving in Arizona in 2018 and is likely on the hotseat entering 2020. He really has not shown much since leaving Houston for Texas A&M, so maybe a coordinator role is better for him.

Vacated Positions

Although none of the departures were particularly interesting for devy purposes, QB Khalil Tate (FA) and RB JJ Taylor (Patriots UDFA signee) both left for the NFL last year. Taylor’s best comp is Tarik Cohen, so he may have some value in the NFL, but Tate has already signed as an UDFA and then subsequently been cut by the Eagles.

Players to Watch

Grant Gunnell – (Nerds QB #26)(2022) Devywatch ADP – N/A:

Gunnell is a tall, strong-armed quarterback who performed admirably last season on a weak Wildcats roster. He has not been much of a runner, but he made sound decisions last year in an offense that was a bit more conservative than you’d expect for his profile. He was accurate (65.2%), only threw one INT, but was middle of the road in advanced metrics that measure things like depth of target. An intriguing prospect with Tate out of the way, he is one to keep an eye on.

Freshmen/Deep Sleepers

Unfortuntately, Arizona does not have any incoming freshmen that are enticing for devy purposes, at least not now, nor do they have anyone I would classify as a deep sleeper.

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