LAS VEGAS — The Pac-12 likes to bill itself as the “Conference of Champions,” and this season, it might be the Conference of Quarterbacks as well.
USC's Caleb Williams is the reigning Heisman Trophy winner.
Washington's Michael Penix Jr. made the preseason all-conference second team after throwing for 4,641 yards and 31 touchdowns last season. Oregon's Bo Nix was an honorable mention after also posting outstanding numbers.
Not making any of the teams were such notable QBs as Utah's Cam Rising, who comes off back-to-back Pac-12 championships.
Underscoring the depth at the position, seven quarterbacks attended Pac-12 media day on Friday.
“I can’t remember a year that it’s this high level of quarterbacks,” Oregon State coach Jonathan Smith said. “I think we’re going to be a part of that. I just go back to you get that many quarterbacks that good, you got to score enough points to win games.”
Nix knows something about competing against other high-level quarterbacks. He was at Auburn in the Southeastern Conference before transferring in December 2021.
“I think it’s great for the conference to have so many elite players in the position," Nix said. "It’s great exposure, great hype. I’m excited to be one of those guys.”
RISING NEARS RETURN
Rising's availability for Utah's Aug. 31 season opener against visiting Florida is in question because of the ACL he tore in the Rose Bowl against Penn State.
“Cam is going to come right down to the wire,” Utes coach Kyle Whittingham said. “Will he be ready for the opener? We'll have to find that out.”
Rising, who last season threw for 3,034 yards and 26 touchdowns, sounded optimistic about his return.
“I'm doing great,” Rising said. “Excited to be out here. Been focused on my rehab. Everything is going the way it's supposed to be.”
Penix, a sixth-year senior, finished second in the all-conference voting to Williams, and the Huskies finished second in the standings behind USC. But he demurred when asked whether he was the best QB in the league or Washington was the team to beat.
“I always make sure that I’m putting my team first, I’m doing whatever I can to help my team win football games,” Penix said. “All the outside noise, if it’s good or bad, I never get too high or too low in moments like that. I always stay levelheaded. I feel like my faith keeps me humble and keeps me grounded as well.
“We had a lot more goals that we wanted to accomplish that we didn’t accomplish. That’s one of the reasons why I came back, just another opportunity to be able to achieve those goals that we had."
COACH PRIME ON THE MEND
First-year Colorado coach Deion Sanders did not attend media day after having surgery to remove a blood clot from his right leg and another to straighten toes on his left foot.
“He's doing great,” said Buffaloes defensive coordinator Charles Kelly, who took Sanders' place at media day. “He's doing his thing. So we’re here, but he’s doing great.”
Sanders, a Pro Football Hall of Fame cornerback, is trying to turn around a program that went 1-11 last season. Before being hired at Colorado, he rejuvenated Jackson State, leading the historically Black college to consecutive Southwestern Athletic Conference championships.
Sanders has overhauled the Buffaloes' roster, with 10 of 51 scholarship players from spring practices remaining. USC coach Lincoln Riley remade his roster last year, but not to that extent.
“Our job is to build the best teams that we can,” Riley said. “There are no excuses. There needed to be a roster transformation in Coach Sanders' opinion, and they've gone about it aggressively. Obviously, the success of that, just like with us or anybody else, will be determined on the field.”
UCLA football coach Chip Kelly and Bruins basketball coach Mick Cronin are co-owners of a racehorse with St. John's basketball coach Rick Pitino.
Henry Q finished third in the Sunland Derby in March. A victory would have given him a spot in the Kentucky Derby.
“Mick asked me to get involved,” Kelly said. “I didn't know anything about it. Mick is the brains of the operation, so I'm just along for the ride. But we have a couple of horses that are pretty good.”
AP freelancer W.G. Ramirez contributed to this report.