Jul. 30—In a year of uncertainty for the Pac-12, many questions at Friday's conference media day swirled around the recent news of Southern Cal and UCLA leaving the league for the Big Ten in 2024.
But coaches and players tried to sway the focus to the upcoming 2022 season, in which the media recently picked Utah as the early favorites to win the conference.
Washington State was voted seventh in the preseason poll and landed eight players on the preseason All-Pac-12 team, each of which were released leading up to the media day in Los Angeles.
WSU's two first-team honorees were edge-rusher Ron Stone Jr. and kicker Dean Janikowski.
Stone Jr. earned All-Pac-12 first-team honors last season after making 11.5 tackles for loss, tied for fourth in the conference, and tied for eighth in the league with five sacks.
Janikowski also was a first-team selection in the fall after connecting on 14-of-17 field goal attempts en route to the best field-goal percentage in the conference.
Six other Cougs were picked as preseason honorable mentions: receiver De'Zhaun Stribling, edge Brennan Jackson, linebacker Daiyan Henley, defensive back Armani Marsh, defensive back Derrick Langford Jr. and punter Nick Haberer.
Five of the eight came on defense side — not a big surprise considering coach Jake Dickert's history on that side of the ball. Dickert enters his first full season as WSU boss after being named interim coach and eventually the new head coach during the 2021 season, after the dismissal of then-head coach Nick Rolovich.
"I'm excited to be part of my first Pac-12 Media Day," Dickert said. "It means college football and the pageantry and traditions of college football is right around the corner."
The defending champion Utes were tabbed to repeat, garnering 26 of the 33 first-place votes.
Utah last season topped Oregon 38-10 in the Pac-12 championship before narrowly falling to Ohio State 48-45 in the Rose Bowl. The Utes finished 10-4 on the season.
Utah features a few former Vandals and Moscow ties on its roster and coaching staff. Moscow High School graduate Jonah Elliss is in his second season with the Utes, moving from linebacker to defensive end. Joining him this year are his dad and former Vandal defensive line coach, Luther Elliss, as defensive tackles coach, as well as former UI captain and fullback/tight end Logan Kendall.
Oregon was No. 2 in the poll with two first-place votes followed by USC, which got five first-place nods.
The rest, in order, were UCLA, Oregon State, Washington, WSU, Stanford, California, Arizona State, Arizona and Colorado.
The Cougars landed one spot behind their rivals despite beating the Huskies in the Apple Cup last season, 40-13 in Seattle.
Wiebe may be contacted at (208) 848-2260, email@example.com or on Twitter @StephanSports.
Preseason media poll
5. Oregon State
7. Washington State
10. Arizona State
QB — Caleb Williams (USC). RB — Zach Charbonnet (UCLA), Tavion Thomas (Utah). WR: Jordan Addison (USC), Mario Williams (USC); TE — Brant Kuithe (Utah). OL — Jaxson Kirkland (Washington), Braeden Daniels (Utah), Alex Forsyth (Oregon), T.J. Bass (Oregon), Andrew Vorhees (USC).
DL — Tuli Tuipulotu (USC), Brandon Dorlus (Oregon), Ron Stone Jr. (WSU), Van Fillinger (Utah). LB — Noah Sewell (Oregon), Omar Speights (Oregon State), Jackson Sirmon (California). DB — Clark Phillips III (Utah), Kyu Blu Kelly (Stanford), Cole Bishop (Utah), Daniel Scott (California).
K — Dean Janikowski (WSU). P — Kyle Ostendorp (Arizona). All-purpose — Travis Dye (USC). Return specialist — D.J. Taylor (Arizona State).
QB — Cameron Rising (Utah). RB — Travis Dye (USC), Byron Cardwell (Oregon). WR — Jacob Cowing (Arizona), Jake Bobo (UCLA). TE — Benjamin Yurosek (Stanford). OL — Joshua Gray (Oregon State), Brett Neilon (USC), Sataoa Laumea (Utah), Brandon Kipper (Oregon State), LaDarius Henderson (Arizona State).
DL — Zion Tupuola-Fetui (Washington), Junior Tafuna (Utah), Kyon Barrs (Arizona), Brett Johnson. LB — Merlin Robertson (Arizona State), Justin Flowe (Oregon), Darius Muasau (UCLA). DB — Christian Gonzalez (Oregon), Jaydon Grant (Oregon State), Rejzhon Wright (Oregon State), Mekhi Blackmon (USC).
K — Camden Lewis (Oregon). P — Luke Loecher (Oregon State). All-purpose: Jack Colletto (Oregon State). Return specialist — Gary Bryant, Jr. (USC).
WSU HONORABLE MENTION SELECTIONS
WR De'Zhaun Stribling, EDGE Brennan Jackson, LB Daiyan Henley, DB Armani Marsh, DB Derrick Langford Jr., p Nick Haberer.