Pac-12 preview: Assessing the impact newcomers (players and coaches) for the 2023 season

We dig into the quarterbacks and coordinators (and others) who could alter the season

The Pac-12’s final season will feature three new coaching staffs and hundreds of new players recruited through traditional recruiting and the transfer portal.

We can’t possibly evaluate every newcomer, but we’ve identified 15 who have the potential to significantly impact the course of the season for individual teams and the conference as a whole.

Please keep in mind that intra-conference transfers, head coaches, and assistants/coordinators who moved from one Pac-12 school to another are not included in this list.

Our season-preview series concludes with a look at the new names and faces.

  1. DJ Uiagalelei, Oregon State quarterback: Given the potential for both Uiagalelei and his team, the top spot is an easy call. If the Clemson transfer performs well, the Beavers will be in contention for the conference title until the final Saturday of the season. And we expect the same from coach Jonathan Smith and play caller Brian Lindgren, who are putting Uiagalelei in positions to thrive. A tremendous talent in the hands of a master.
  2. Sean Lewis, Colorado offensive coordinator: The Hotline usually focuses on the coordinator in charge of the unit that differs from the head coach’s background. Lewis is the coordinator in Boulder, where a Hall of Fame cornerback runs the show. The former Kent State coach is more than capable of handling the load and was one of the smartest offseason hires anywhere.
  3. USC defensive end Bear Alexander: The 325-pound former blue-chip recruit who only played one year at Georgia would be a valuable addition to any team. But when you combine Alexander’s talent with USC’s desperate need (fortifying the defensive front) and the Trojans’ desired destination (the playoffs), his potential impact grows exponentially.
  4. RB Washington Dillon Johnson: If this list had been released a week ago, Johnson, a Mississippi State transfer, would have been much lower (and possibly not included). The season-ending injury to starting tailback Cam Davis, however, has changed the equation. Johnson, who averaged more than five years per carry for MSU last season, is now expected to make an impact and provide balance in the pass-oriented offense for the Huskies.
  5. Will Stein, Oregon offensive coordinator: The Ducks have replaced one aggressive young coordinator (Kenny Dillingham) with another. Stein’s work at UTSA over the last three seasons has been nothing short of outstanding. But calling plays in Eugene for a defensive-minded head coach (Dan Lanning) means Stein will be under constant scrutiny. The presence of a veteran quarterback, Bo Nix, is extremely beneficial.
  6. Colorado quarterback Shedeur Sanders: No incoming player has generated more buzz, and few can match Sanders’ ability to influence the course of their team or conference. If Colorado rises from the cellar, becomes competitive, and upsets one or two contenders, Sanders, who followed his father from Jackson State, will undoubtedly play a key role.
  7. Cal offensive coordinator Jake Spavital: The former Texas State head coach (2019-22) returns to Berkeley, where he worked as Sonny Dykes’ offensive coordinator for one year (2016). Spavital, an Air Raid disciple, has been tasked with overhauling Cal’s dormant offense, maximizing the considerable talents of tailback Jaydn Ott, and possibly securing the future of coach Justin Wilcox.
  8. Arizona State quarterback Jaden Rashada: Rashada is currently the only quarterback from the prep class of 2023 set to start his team’s season opener. The former four-star recruit will face a steep learning curve and will have plenty to say about Arizona State’s first season under Kenny Dillingham. Rashada would be a few spots higher if not for the Sun Devils’ postseason ban.
  9. Utah receiver Mycah Pittman: Pittman is technically a newcomer, having caught 32 passes for Florida State last season. He had previously spent three years at Oregon. Given the loss of Dalton Kincaid and Jaylen Dixon (103 combined receptions), the Utes could use all of Pittman’s playmaking assistance.
  10. Jurrion Dickey, Oregon receiver: Quarterback Bo Nix needs a target to complement his top downfield threat, Troy Franklin, who is expected to draw a lot of attention after a breakout sophomore season. If Dickey, who was rated the No. 2 prep receiver in the country last year by 247Sports, can emerge as a consistent playmaker, Oregon’s passing game will be difficult to contain.
  11. Ryan Deatrick, strength coach at Stanford: According to our information, the Cardinal do not have any high-impact transfers or recruits. It does, however, have a new coaching staff, and Deatrick is a key member of the group, having followed coach Troy Taylor from Sacramento State. Anyone who has watched Stanford’s line of scrimmage play in recent years should understand Deatrick’s inclusion on this list.
  12. Washington State offensive coordinator Ben Arbuckle: After losing playcaller Eric Morris to North Texas, the Cougars hired Arbuckle, who spent the previous two seasons at Western Kentucky. Arbuckle, like Oregon’s Will Stein, would be a few spots higher if it weren’t for the presence of a veteran quarterback. Cam Ward will take the Cougars as far as he can.
  13. Defensive end for Arizona Bill Norton: The former Memphis blue-chip prospect spent four years playing behind Georgia’s parade of NFL draft picks, but that doesn’t mean he can’t help the Wildcats where they need it most. After facing Georgia’s starters in practice throughout his career, Norton will regard Pac-12 offensive linemen as weak sauce.
  14. USC receiver/returner Zachariah Branch: Meet the conference’s most gifted player (non-quarterback division) from the 2023 recruiting class. Branch, who scored two touchdowns against San Jose State on Saturday, provides quarterback Caleb Williams with yet another elite target. Woods, Lee, Smith-Schuster, Pittman, Addison, and others… Branch.
  15. UCLA quarterback Dante Moore: The five-star recruit will begin the season as a reserve after the Bruins named Ethan Garbers the starter in Week One. Moore, on the other hand, will have a chance to showcase his immense talent and is included here to cover our bases. He has the potential to have a significant impact on the season’s outcome.

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