The Pac 10 closed strongly on signing day collectively bringing in one of the better recruiting hauls in the country. Scout rates the Pac only behind the SEC in recruiting this season.
As usual USC lead the pack but they have some serious competition in Los Angeles now and into the future. Rick Neuheisel put together a monster class but the question is can he develop them over time and did he get enough balance?
Washington was impressive in its first full recruiting season under Steve Sarkisian. The Huskies are going to be force to be reckoned with going forward. Sark is following the DJ mantra...keep the best at home and steal a few from LA.
Oregon is thinking national. The Ducks made serious progress in that regard this season but they also lost some key recruits in state which was interesting to watch. The state of Oregon doesn't produce a lot of talent but when you lose three highly rated in state players to other Pac 10 schools it raises a bit of a flag.
1. Southern California
Lane Kiffin didn't have much time to assemble this class but his main job was holding on to what Pete Carrol left him and adding half a dozen or so players to finish it off. Kiffin finished with a bang signing OT Seantrel Henderson, LB Soma Vainuku, (JC) DE Marquis Jackson, TE Christian Thomas, WR Markeith Ambles, LB Hayes Pullard, OLB Nick Stanley, CB Nickell Robey, and C Giovanni Di Paulo during the final two days.
All toll the Trojans signed 20 players yesterday with an eye popping combined star rating of 4.15! As Pete Carroll once said the difference between the college and the pro's is you can sign as many first round draft choices as you want. Lane Kiffin continues that tradition.
USC will continue to put strong recruiting classes together under Kiffin but this was a year when UCLA and Washington let it be known that they were not going to let the Trojans grab every single player they want. Expect some epic recruiting battles in future years over LA talent. Also keep in mind that the Trojans are headed for probation this spring which will provide plenty of opportunity for competitors over the next couple of years.
(Late Wednesday — in a New York Times report — his father, Sean Henderson said Seantrel is not signing his letter of intent until USC appears before an NCAA infractions committee later this month apparently to get a feeling for where the investigation is headed. He has until April 1 to sign.)
Rick Neuheisel put together one of his most higly rated classed as a college coach this season. Rick has always recruited well and closed strong but the exit of Pete Carroll helped in the building of this top ten class. The Bruins started the day in the mid 20's nationally and closed strong on signing day with CB Anthony Jefferson, LB Josh Shirley, S Dietrich Riley, DE Owamagbe Odidhizuwa, and MLB Jordan Zumwalt. All five of those players were headed in different directions last week so it is a testament to Neuheisel that he was able to steal them away from other schools at the last minute.
This class does have a serious weakness. If you are a Husky fan it is pretty easy to guess. The 24 man class lacks balance. Neuheisel only signed two offensive linemen. If you witnessed the struggle of the UCLA offense the last couple of years it all starts on the offensive line. The failure to address that in a year when you have 24 scholarships available is a major blunder.
Another problem spot on offense is at QB. The Bruins struck out at QB late when they lost Nottingham to Stanford. Rick had two big areas that needed to be addressed this season and they were not. That is going to hurt down the road. Lack of balance in recruiting takes years to correct. Just ask a Washington Husky fan.
This class may not have the overall star quality of UCLA and USC but it addresses almost every single need currently on the roster. As Nick Daschel of Buster Sports says this is a class that would make Don James proud. Washington brings in 30 athletes in a class that is the definition of balance.
The biggest need on a roster that has a lot of serious needs was on the offensive line. The Huskies signed seven offensive lineman who will be the cornerstone of this program over the next five years. Erik Kohler, Micah Hatchie and Colin Porter all received four stars from most of the recruiting services. Kohler was rated as the best OL in California by most of the services. You could see Porter and Kohler in the starting lineup as early as 2010.
This was the first time in almost a decade that Washington was in on some of the top athletes in the country going into signing day. S Sean Parker became the first Washington recruit to ever pick the school on a national TV show on signing day. Parker is a major get and will compete for a starting job starting next fall. The top safety in California was coveted by USC and Michigan.
The Ducks pulled off a couple of surprises on signing day to help temper the losses of athletes to UCLA and Cal. Most thought DT Ricky Heimuli was headed to Utah or UCLA so when he picked Oregon it was a pleasant surpise for the Duck faithful. S Erik Dargan was another solid addition to the class. Most thought the four star athlete was headed to WSU.
Oregon was tenacious on the recruiting trail this season. They stole two players late from Washington to keep the fires stoked in the rivarly with no name. They also landed two of the top RB's in Texas in Lache Seastrunk and Deontae Williams. The Ducks have been trying to go national for the last few years and while they didn't get every target they aimed for overall it was a commendable haul.
There are some holes in this class. Like UCLA they only landed two offensive lineman. That being said the two they did land are potential starters next year if there is the need. The Ducks only were able to land one DT and two DE's. Striking out on local talent like Owa and King hurts. the lack of linemen in the class is what swayed Heimuli to sign with Oregon. He craves immediate playing time since he plans to go on a mission. He will get that type of shot at Oregon.
Jim Harbaugh put together another succesful class that was highlighted by stealing QB Brett Nottingham from UCLA during the final couple weeks of the recruiting season. The Cardinal recruits differently than the other Pac 10 schools because of high academic standards. Most of their class is usually put together before the holidays because of the application progress.
Losing MLB Jordan Zumwalt to UCLA was a major loss but as noted above stealing Nottingham was a more crushing blow for the Bruins. RB Rickey Seale was the only signing day surprise. The staff had been working on him for a long time but he waited to see where the chips were falling before signing with Stanford.
This class has decent balance but could have used a little more help in the interior of the defensive line. One thing that hurt the Cardinal this year was the loss of position coaches after the first of the year. Those losses made players such as Zumwalt start looking around. Harbaugh was able to preserve a good portion of the class but it had the potential to be better back in December before the vultures started circling.
The Bears went defensive this recruiting season and may have landed the best LB class in the country led by Cecil Whiteside, Dave Wilkerson, Chris Allen, and Nick Forbes. They also didn't forget the defensive line when signing such studs as Gabe King and Chris McCain.
This isn't a huge class for the Bears. They only signed 19 players so the lack of numbers held their ranking down a bit. Holes in the class are signing only two lightly regarded offensive lineman and striking out at DT. The Bears however are more LB oriented on defense so the lack of a true NT isn't probably that big of a deal.
Jeff Tedford is known in coaching circles as a QB guru but he didn't land one of the coveted gems this year. Austin Hinder is an athletic QB and was involved in the Elite 11 but he isn't the type of drop back passer that Tedford usually recruits. Maybe he is tired of having statues in the backfield. Hinder is kind of a project so it will be interesting to see how he develops under Tedford.
7. Washington State
Paul Wulff calls this the best class at WSU in the last 25 years so let the snickering begin. It is a step in the right direction for a coach on the hot seat. Like all WSU coaches he has to take some chances here and there so it will tough to really figure out the impact this class will have until we see how many of these kids actually qualify. Mike Price took plenty of chances and planted kids in JC programs. A couple of years later he would reap the benefits. Wulff doesn't have the luxury of having that much time.
OLB CJ Mizel was signing day surprise. The four star player fell to WSU after it became known that he was not going to qualify at Florida State or Miami. The trick now is getting him the help to get in at good old Wazzu. Aaron Dunn was the top rated TE in the state and the Coug's locked him up early. Jake Rodgers is another talented TE I like that WSU was able to sign. TE Asante Cleveland of Sacramento was a late defection to Miami.
QB Connor Holiday is going to be a good one. In fact he is probably better than anyone WSU has on the roster at QB right now. A huge area of need was on the offensive line and Wulff adressed it nicely by signing two big JC's who will be able to play right away and supplementing it with local boy John fullington from Belfair. One head scratcher on the final day was DE Max Forde defecting at the last minute to Idaho. You aren't supposed to lose people to Idaho.
In the end the Wildcats were able to convince top recruit DT Kerifi Taula that Arizona was the right place to be. Taula kept flip flopping between UW and Arizona for about a month. A final visit the weekend before signing day sealed the deal. S Marquis Flowers was the other big name in this class. Keeping a local kid home was a boost to this class.
Overall this class isn't impressive to the average recruitnick. Not a lot of star quality here so Arizona fans better hope that Stoops and company did a good job evaluating diamonds in the rough. Losing their offensive and defensive coordinators hurt recruiting this season. Not being able to keep in state talent home is another problem they need to overcome in the future.
CB Jonathan McKnight and DT Sani Fuimaono were the signing day surprises. Washington took a look at both of these kids but filled their needs elsewhere.
9. Oregon State
Mike Riley has proven himself to be one of the very best coaches in the country. In fact a few weeks ago he passed on the opportunity to become the new head coach at USC. Corvallis has its challenges when it comes to recruiting but the Beaver staff are keen evaluators of talent. They pick diamonds out of the rough every year and they have a knack of polishing them into a unit that keeps finishing near the top of the Pac 10 every season.
This was the smallest class in the Pac 10 this season. The Beavs are only bringing in 17 players. They finished second on a lot of top recruits from California at the end of the day. That being said S Shaydon Akuna from Hawaii wil be a name that will be on the lips of most Pac 10 fans in coming years. Akuna is a flat out player and he was a big signing day pick up for the orange and black.
DT Fred Thompson is another solid pick up that most of the Pac 10 had its eyes on. DE Happy Iona who was an early steal from Washington but did not sign a letter of intent and is not expected to qualify. Sean Mannion is the QB in this class and I think he is going to be a real solid player in the future. He may get a shot to compete for playing time right away.
10. Arizona State
Dennis Erickson really needed a good class and he had to rally late to get into the top 30 nationally. As anticipated he went hard and heavy into the JC ranks bringing in six highly rated JC players. The coup was stealing JC OL Brian Schwabe from USC. S Eddie Elder and WR George Bell were the other JC headliners. Erickson is on the hot seat and bringing six JC players at this stage of your tenure is a sign of desperation. It is building for right now to save your butt rather than building for the future.
ASU did land a nifty looking RB in Deantre Lewis which should provide immediate help to a stagnant offense. Taylor Kelly from Eagle River, Idaho is the QB of the future. He is described as a dual threat QB with a very average arm. Erickson needed a big name signal caller this season and he didn't get a sniff.
Scout ranks this class in the top 30 but I am not buying into it. As we know from past experience at UW JC players are very hit and miss. First they have to qualify...OK...that is easier to do at Arizona State. Second they need to mesh immediately with the team and win starting jobs immediately to make an impact. That is easier said than done. Finally they have to behave and stay eligible once they hit campus which has never been a big concern for Erickson.