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Pac-12 Football Media Days: What we learned about the South division

Arizona, UCLA and Colorado highlighted Wednesday morning’s schedule

Pac-12 Football Media Days began at the Hollywood & Highland Entertainment Center in Los Angeles, California on Wednesday morning with representatives from Arizona, California, UCLA, Oregon, Colorado and Washington taking to the podium.

Over the next couple days, House of Sparky will recap what we learned about ASU’s opponents in the South, so let’s dive in to day one’s participants:

Arizona Wildcats

Last Season: 3-9 overall, (1-8 Pac-12)

Preseason Pac-12 Media Poll: Sixth place

Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez was the first coach to take to the podium on Wednesday morning just hours after the Wildcats had been picked to finish last in the 2017 Pac-12 Preseason Media Poll.

Other than a victory in the Territorial Cup to close out the season for Arizona, last year’s campaign was a massive dissapointment for the Arizona football program. They finished with only two other victories on the season, escaping with a ten-point victory over Grambling State and comfortably beating Hawaii.

Rodriguez was asked about the Wildcat’s recruiting presence in the Phoenix area, and focused on their recent success with walk-ons joining the program.

“I think we have the best walk-on program in the country,” Rodriguez said.

He also communicated the fact that while UA has recruited well in Phoenix, they’ve also attempted to reach out to new regions.

“The first place we start is the state of Arizona. There’s good football in the state. It’s just spread out,” Rodriguez said. “We’re expanding now a little bit too, we’ve hired some new coaches that know Texas and that know Florida.”

Both ASU and Arizona have focused on the Southern California and Texas pipelines, but Rodriguez’s confidence that the Wildcats can try sending representatives to Florida is a fairly new idea. We’ll see how that works out.

While the prediction that Arizona will finish last was (at-least in part) based on last season, it could also have a lot to do with their roster for the 2017-18 campaign. As Rodriguez explained, there will be a lot of new faces in Tucson this season come fall.

“This is the (highest) number of new players I’ve ever had in thirty years of coaching,” Rodriguez said. “It’s kind of exciting but it’s also a bit of nervousness too.”

UCLA Bruins

Last Season: 4-8 overall, (2-7 Pac-12)

Preseason Pac-12 Media Poll: Third place

The UCLA Bruins media coverage was dominant on day one, as nearly a hundred local media members flooded the stage to speak to head coach Jim Mora.

UCLA dealt with their fair share of injuries last season - including one to quarterback Josh Rosen suffered in ASU’s 23-20 victory over the Bruins last October - and limped to a 4-8 finish, winning just one of their final seven contests. Still, they were predicted to finish third in the south, edging a 10-win Colorado team and falling just 11 votes short of Utah.

As expected, UCLA’s star quarterback Josh Rosen was a hot topic of conversation Wednesday morning. Although there has been a tremendous amount of turnover in terms of the Bruins offensive coaching staff - three coordinators in three years - Mora remained confident in Rosen’s ability to adapt quickly and progress in his understanding of his new system.

“For some it would be hurtful but for Josh it’s helpful” Mora said. “He loves information, he absorbs it all.”

Mora also stated that Rosen’s injury had a profound impact on his mindset regarding being coached.

“Certainly being injured and having football being removed from his life as a player for the time that he did affected him,” Mora said. “(It) humbled himself to a certain degree (and allowed him to) accept coaching.”

He fielded many questions about Rosen, but Mora’s primary focus was on keeping the offensive line intact, a major issue for the Bruins last season.

“You’d like to be able to go through the season with your starting five intact,” Mora said. “That’s not always realistic, so we need to do a really good job in the next three or four weeks to develop some depth.”

Colorado Buffaloes

Last Season: 10-4 overall, (8-1 Pac-12)

Preseason Pac-12 Media Poll: Fourth place

Colorado was one of the biggest surprises of last season, winning ten games for the first time since 2001 and cruising to a nearly-flawless record in conference play.

Buffaloes starting quarterback Sefo Liufau has made the next step to the NFL, but some key offensive weapons are returning to Boulder for next season. Running back Phillip Lindsay and receivers Bryce Bobo and Devin Ross return alongside four of five starters on the offensive line. Still, the Buffaloes were overlooked by the likes of Utah, UCLA and USC in the preseason poll.

Head coach Mike MacIntyre understands that his program has a lot to prove after their breakout campaign in 2016-17, which is something he addressed in front of the media in Hollywood.

“We have a lot to prove, we’re still a team that people don’t believe in,” MacIntyre said. “We want people to believe in us and the only way to do that is to put back-to-back-to-back things together and that’s what we plan on doing. We want to be (back) in the Pac-12 Championship Game and not get our brains beat in last year against Washington.”

Pac-12 Football Media Days continues Thursday morning with Oregon head coach Willie Taggart being the first to speak at 9:40 a.m. He will be followed by Arizona State, Stanford, Washington State, USC and Utah.