Pac-12 Spotlight: Wrapping up the Early Signing Period
It was an interesting early signing period in the Pac-12 as the usual dominant team in the conference (USC) did not have an exceptional run into late December, while Oregon put together an outstanding early class. Today we put a bow on the Early Signing Period storylines in the conference and take a look ahead to what the next six weeks will hold.
MORE PAC-12: Team recruiting rankings
STANDING OVATION: Oregon
Absolutely no question with this selection as the Ducks completely dominated recruiting in the Pac-12. The cherry on top was landing five-star defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux, the second-best player in the state of California, and someone who has incredible potential to be special in Eugene.
Thibodeaux’s pledge was hardly the only big-name commitment in the early period as the Ducks did exceptionally well in Southern California and at powerhouse programs such as Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei and Harbor City (Calif.) Narbonne, among others. Mario Cristobal has Oregon ranked seventh nationally and tops in the Pac-12 by far in the team recruiting rankings.
SURPRISE PARTY: Stanford
Last recruiting cycle, Stanford finished No. 11 in the Pac-12 as the coaching staff struck out on some big targets and just didn’t finish well. It was one of the lowest finishes for the Cardinal in Rivals.com history dating back to 2002.
But this cycle, coach David Shaw and his staff took a much more aggressive approach to landing top players and it paid off in a big way. Stanford signed four-star running back Austin Jones, it flipped four-star defensive end Stephon Herron and it went to Texas for four-star receiver Elijah Higgins. The Cardinal did well in the early period and their recruiting class is pretty much finished at this point.
WORK TO DO: Utah
The Utes have proven time and again that they perform better on the field than in the recruiting rankings. But Utah has the fewest commit/signees in the conference and missed out on the state’s top player as four-star DT Siaki Ika, who signed with LSU.
But Utah is trying to flip four-star WR Puka Nacua and it’s going after three-star in-state standouts Logan Sagapolu, Lolani Langi, Simote Pepa and others. It could be an impressive finish for the Utes.
RANKING THE PAC-12
The good: Oregon beat Alabama, Florida State and Florida for Thibodeaux, who could be the next special defensive end for the Ducks. The coaching staff also kept four-star DL Mase Funa after a late push from USC and Oregon did great on offense as well by landing playmakers Sean Dollars, Mycah Pittman, Josh Delgado and others.
The bad: Losing four-star Jeremiah Criddell after he had been committed for months was an unexpected bad surprise as the defensive back backed off his pledge and signed with Oklahoma. Other than that, the Ducks should have no regrets.
Top remaining target: Matthew Pola-Mao, DL
The good: If it wasn’t for Oregon’s exceptional class, we’d be talking a whole lot more about the Huskies because they did a terrific job as well. Chris Petersen and his staff landed three of the top five players from Hawaii, signed four-star DE Laiatu Latu and four-star ATH Trent McDuffie at the end of the early period and had little drama along the way.
The bad: If there could be one criticism, it seems like some momentum signing top prospects from Southern California stalled slightly as none of the top 19 prospects in the state of California picked the Huskies.
Top remaining target: Asa Turner, ATH
The good: Four-star DE Drake Jackson was torn between the Trojans and Arizona State. He picked USC and he could be a game-changer in the coming years. USC flipped DL De’Jon Benton from Washington State, four-star LB Ralen Goforth is very talented and a big February could be coming.
The bad: None of the top 18 players in the state signed with USC and that never happens. Oregon and others tapped usual recruiting strongholds of the Trojans and loaded up with top prospects. Landing five-star Bru McCoy, the state’s top prospect, is a necessity at this juncture.
Top remaining target: Bru McCoy, ATH
The bad: Stanford tried to get in late on some top prospects including four-star DE Ty Robinson among others but it didn’t work out and none of the top nine players in the state signed with the Cardinal.
Top remaining target: None
The bad: Cal did not land one four-star from the state of California although it was involved with many of them throughout the recruiting cycle and the Golden Bears lost a few pledges to Stanford late in the process.
Top remaining target: Henry To’oto’o, LB
6. ARIZONA STATE
The good: It was a huge finish for the Sun Devils especially in California by landing four-star DE Stephon Wright, four-star QB Jayden Daniels, who put up prolific numbers in his high school career, the Markham twins and others. Assistant coach Antonio Pierce flexed his recruiting muscle in California.
The bad: In-state recruiting remains a problem for both Arizona State and Arizona. None of the top-16 players from the state signed with the Sun Devils including some terrific top-end talent.
Top remaining target: Noa Pola-Gates, DB
The bad: Just like Arizona State, the Wildcats did not do a fantastic job with in-state recruiting as they didn’t land any of the top-20 players from the state.
Top remaining target: Carl Williams, DT
8. WASHINGTON STATE
The good: Mike Leach accomplished many of his goals for this recruiting class by loading up on the offensive line and at defensive back and the Cougars could have their quarterback of the future in Gunner Cruz.
The bad: It was not a loaded year in Washington but the Cougars didn’t land any of the top eight players from the state and they had no four-stars in this class.
The good: Landing four-star Sean Rhyan was a huge coup especially since he was such a top target for USC. Chip Kelly is smart and he knows what he wants to build his program - whether the kid is highly-ranked or not.
The bad: The Bruins signed only one of the top-55 players in the state since tight end Mike Martinez did not sign during the early period. Is UCLA getting any traction with high-end talent in the state?
Top remaining target: Mike Martinez, TE
The good: New coach Mel Tucker came in aggressively and kept a bunch of high-end talent like four-star Braedin Huffman-Dixon, three-star DB Mark Perry, who USC tried to flip late in the process, and others.
The bad: Losing top in-state prospect, three-star quarterback Ty Evans, to NC State really hurt right before the early period and the Buffaloes have to do much better in the state as only one of the top-10 players signed with them.
Top remaining target: La’Vontae Shenault, WR
11. OREGON STATE
The good: The Beavers did well in Southern California because Jojo Forest could be special, Taron Madison is a versatile running back and Evan Bennett is a tough, hard-nosed defensive lineman. Cory Stover could be a major sleeper.
The bad: Oregon State was 2-10 this season and got blown out in a lot of games as the defense struggled mightily. For any kind of quick fix, the Beavers need a high-level infusion of talent and this rebuild could take much longer.
Top remaining target: Ray Vohasek, DE
The good: The players that signed with Utah have lots of talent and three-star OL Sataoa Laumea could be a superstar waiting to happen. Lacarea Pleasant-Johnson could be the next big-time defensive back for the Utes.
Top remaining target: Jordan Wilmore, RB