In this two-part breakdown, we take a way-too-early look at the state of every football team in the Pac-12, highlighting each program's key losses, returning players and which games we're circling on their schedule ahead of the 2016 season. This post is dedicated to breaking down the six teams that make up the South division.
Arizona Wildcats (7-6, 3-6 in Pac-12)
Key Losses: Cayleb Jones (WR), Will Parks (DB), Reggie Gilbert (DL), Scooby Wright III (LB), Johnny Jackson (WR)
The Wildcats lose one of the most productive receivers in college in Jones, while having to watch Wright III move on to the NFL, too.
Key Returners: Anu Solomon (QB), Nick Wilson (RB), Cam Denson (DB)
Health will be of key importance (particularly at the quarterback position), as Arizona struggled to stay healthy over the course of the season. Meanwhile, the backfield returns its No. 1 rusher and the secondary gets one of its more promising players in Denson.
Three Games to Anticipate: vs BYU (Sep. 3 -- Glendale), @ Utah (Oct. 8), vs USC (Oct. 15)
Arizona State Sun Devils (6-7, 4-5)
Key Losses: Devin Lucien (WR), Antonio Longino (LB), Lloyd Carrington (CB), Christian Westerman (OL), Vi Teofilo (OL), D.J. Foster (WR), Mike Bercovici (QB)
The Sun Devils will lose two of their best receivers, along with two key offensive linemen. Defensively, ASU loses one of it's most dynamic linebackers and one of the better performers out of the secondary.
Key Returners: Tim White (WR), Tashon Smallwood (DL), Salamo Fiso (LB), JoJo Wicker (DL), Kareem Orr (DB), Demario Richard (RB), Kalen Ballage (RB)
Arizona State gets one of the most explosive playmakers in the country back in White, while also returning one of the more intriguing backfield tandems in the nation. Defensively, the program gets its nucleus of two improving defensive linemen, while also returning a hyper-productive linebacker and secondary man.
Three Games to Anticipate: vs Texas Tech (Sep. 10), @ USC (Oct. 1), @ Oregon (Oct. 29)
Colorado Buffaloes (4-9, 1-8)
Key Losses: Nelson Spruce (WR), Stephane Nembot (OL), Kenneth Crawley (DB)
The Buffs will advance into next season without arguably the best receiver in school history, as well as two other underrated players.
Key Returners: Chidobe Awuzie (DB), Phillip Lindsay (RB), Shay Fields (WR), Tedric Thompson (DB)
Awuzie was quietly one of the Pac-12 leaders in tackles (84), tackles for loss (12) and passes defended (9). Lindsay will return to an expected full role as the No. 1 tailback on the offensive side of the ball.
Three Games to Anticipate: @ Colorado State (Sep. 2), @ Michigan (Sep. 17), @ Oregon (Sep. 24)
UCLA Bruins (8-5, 5-4)
Key Losses: Myles Jack (LB), Paul Perkins (RB), Kenny Clark (DL), Jake Brendel (OL), Thomas Duarte (WR), Jordan Payton (WR)
The Bruins lose plenty of talent on both sides of the ball. Their defensive front-seven loses the über-talented and highly touted Jack and Clark. Meanwhile, two of their most consistent and explosive receivers move on, along with their No. 1 ball-carrier and leader along the offensive line.
Key Returners: Josh Rosen (QB), Jaleel Wadood (DB), Jayon Brown (LB), Deon Hills (LB), Ishmael Adams (DB)
Rosen headlines the returners on offense. Meanwhile, the defense returns the promising Brown alongside the productive pass rusher Hollins, including two of the best defensive backs in the conference.
Three Games to Anticipate: @ Texas A&M (Sep. 3), vs Stanford (Sep. 24), vs. Utah (Oct. 22)
USC Trojans (8-6, 6-4)
Key Losses: Su'a Cravens (LB), Delvon Simmons (DL), Antwaun Woods (DL), Cody Kessler (QB), Kevon Seymour (DB), Max Tuerk (OL)
Cravens, the Trojans' defensive anchor, takes his talents to the league, as well as its best interior players. Kessler finally takes the next step in his career, as will his best offensive lineman.
Key Returners: JuJu Smith-Schuster (WR), Ronald Jones II (RB), Adoree Jackson (DB/WR), Iman Marshall (DB), Steven Mitchell (WR)
Jackson, Smith-Schuster and Jones' return give the Trojans offense the potential to be one of the top in the country. Marshall has already proven to be a strong contributor on the defensive side of the ball.
Three Games to Anticipate: vs Alabama (Sep. 3 -- Arlington), @ Stanford (Sep. 17), @ UCLA (Nov. 19)
Utah Utes (10-3, 6-3)
Key Losses: Devontae Booker (RB), Gionni Paul (LB), Jared Norris (LB), Tevin Carter (DB), Jason Fanaika (DL), Travis Wilson (QB), Kenneth Scott (WR), Tom Hackett (P)
The Utes will look to find a replacement for Booker, whose worth to the team's success couldn't be understated. Paul, Norris, and Fanaika leave holes of production to fill within Utah's front-seven.
Key Returners: Marcus Williams (DB), Lowell Lotulelei (DL), Isaac Asiata (OL), Dominique Hatfield (DB), Andy Phillips (K)
The Utes' defense returns two of the top interceptors in the nation (Williams - 5, Hatfield - 4), along with the promising Lotulelei.
Three Games to Anticipate: vs BYU (Sep. 10), vs USC (Sep. 23), @ UCLA (Oct. 22)