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The Pac 12 Races To Close Out 2015 Recruiting Classes

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With just a week to go before National Signing Day, the programs of the Pac 12 are duking it out in a veritable "cage match" over the last few elite recruits left on their boards.

Life is good when you are reeling in 5-star recruits by the boatload.
Life is good when you are reeling in 5-star recruits by the boatload.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

In one week, the fate of the world will be resolved as that last five star Cornerback makes his choice of college known to the world.  In a bitter and surprising twist of irony the future of said program will be revealed via one of the remaining relics of modern information technology:  the fax machine.

I know that you are with me on this.  The world may literally stop spinning on its axis if for some unknown reason the great Sosa Jamabo actually does pick ITT Technical Institute over UCLA or Texas.

Or if Iman Marshall chooses not to go to Oregon.  Or if --- gasp --- yet one more recruit flips his commitment away from WSU.  This point isn't even debatable.  The world could quite literally stop functioning based on the choices made by a select few 18 year old boys.

Or, maybe it won't.

Either way, there is no arguing the fact that many, many fans care greatly about this little thing known as college football recruiting.  A decade ago, a cottage industry grew up by simply providing coverage on the ebbs and flows of the recruiting process for local area recruits.  Today, that cottage industry has exploded into a national phenomenon.

"Recruitniks" are no longer just Russian agents who recruit would be cosmonauts.  Entourages are no longer a privilege reserved for the illuminati of professional sports and entertainment.  Following kids half (or more) your age on Facebook so that you can get the latest scoop is deemed acceptable.  Hell, even stalking a kid who happens to run a 4.3 while he's out shopping for a new lid is no longer considered creepy.

Well, actually, yes it still is.  But, you get my point.

Recruiting is indeed a national phenomenon and it isn't surprising to see that three major "services" have emerged (Economists who specialize in Industry Organization have studied "the rule of three" extensively).  As I prepare for the impending Revelation (or Apocalypse depending on what team you root for), I thought I'd peruse each of the Big Three to see how their rankings of the various Pac 12 teams ranked (as of today).  Here is a summary of where the classes stand with a week to go:

P12 Scout Rivals 247 Sports
1 5. USC 2. USC 3. USC
2 12. UCLA 15. Oregon 16. Oregon
3 19. Washington 19. UCLA 18. UCLA
4 23. Oregon 24. Arizona State 22. Arizona State
5 24. Washington State 25. Washington 23. Washington
6 25. Arizona State 29. Washington State 31. Washington State
7 32. Arizona 32. Stanford 37. Stanford
8 41. Stanford 35. Cal 38. Arizona
9 50. Cal 37. Arizona 49. Cal
10 56. Utah 39. Utah 50. Utah
11 69. Colorado 61. Colorado 70. Colorado
12 81. Oregon State 84. Oregon State 77. Oregon State

Clearly, there is a strong consensus on the top spot in the Pac 12 this year.  Things start to get a little mixed up in slots 2-6 while it seems like spots 7-12 are pretty consistent from service to service.

If you are a Husky fan who has ever had to engage in the debate as to whether or not Chris Petersen "can recruit in the Pac 12", I think you'll have to agree that the first full-year class he's assembled shows that - at the very least - he can be competent in that regard.  If Scout.com is to be believed, then the answer may well just be an emphatic "YES".

Below are some thoughts and observations for each team in the Pac 12.

1. USC (20 commits, 5 signed)

Recruiting was never a problem with Steve Sarkisian at Washington. Now that his skll is amplified by the USC brand, he is just plain crushing it out on the trail.  Whether it is plucking the nation's top RB prospect, Ronald Jones II, out of Texas, pulling a top 5 OT in Chuma Edoga out of Georgia, or simply going into his own backyard to get the top JC WR prospect in De'Quan Hampton, Sark is pretty much getting whomever he wants whenever he wants him.  In fact, he's now having to let commits go in order to make room for all the other 5-stars that want to join him.  The past two recruiting cycles have been a boon for USC and will drive a rebalance of power in the PAC no matter what you think of Sark's abilities as a gameday coach.

2. Oregon (26 commits, 5 signed)

This is a bit of a weird cycle for Oregon.  On one hand, the Ducks are still reaching wide and far to lever their national brand and land elite skill position recruits. RB Taj Griffin out of Georgia is the latest example. In fact, nine of Oregon's commits are out of non-traditional western recruiting areas. On the other hand, Oregon seems to be losing a disproportionate number of head to head battles leaving them in the unusual position of having to pull plan B levers like Bryce Sterk and Fotu Leitao ... and even having to suffer the indignity of losing out on some of those guys.  This isn't to say that Oregon won't haul in a great class - everything is relative when discussing Oregon. To the contrary, landing studs like Griffin, OL Zach Okun, DE Canton Kamatule, WR Alex Ofodile and QB Travis Waller suggest otherwise. Still, the resurgence of the SoCal schools and the flexing of Chris Petersen's muscle in Washington seems to be having a little ripple effect on Oregon.  It'll be interesting to see if Oregon continues to go national following this recruiting cycle or if they put their attention more squarely back on west coast pipelines.

3.  UCLA (17 commits, 2 signed)

While not exactly landing the kind of national talent that USC is reeling in, UCLA is having more than their share of success with top talent this year. This class promises to deliver plenty of "ready to start" talents like QB Josh Rosen, man-mountain JC OT Zach Bateman, and big WR prospect LJ Reed. What is really interesting about this class is the amount of beef - especially offensive linemen - that Jim Mora is signing up on both sides of the line of scrimmage.  Give Mora credit - he's taking his shots at big time talents like TE Chris Clark and CB Iman Marshall, but he's investing heavily in his big uglies.  This is the kind of class that pays dividends three years out.

4.  Washington (25 commits, 3 signed)

The theme for Chris Petersen and this staff in their first full recruiting cycle has less to do with the old "OKG" tag line and a lot more to do with their accomplishment in flat-out locking down the talent in Washington state.  No doubt that landing a future transcendent QB like Jake Browning is a huge get.  But just as important is reversing the tide to land stud DE Benning Potoa'e, re-flipping the state's top playmaker in Austin Joyner and landing the state's top linemen in Henry Roberts and Trey Adams.  I could go on, but you get the point. Four of the six teams in the PAC 12 North need to have success in Washington state to build sustainable depth in their programs.  For UW to put a fence around its borders is a significant competitive advantage. 2015 is a huge step in that direction.

5.  Washington State (25 commits, 2 signed)

Raise your hand if you thought Mike Leach could land an upper tier class in the PAC. Anybody?  Well, welcome to the new world. By zigging where others are zagging, Leach is finding success.  25 commits including 5 JC transfers will boost the rankings for anybody.  But there is real talent here. 305 lb DT Thomas Toki is a monster. CB Taeon Mason was a USC commit until this past week.  JC DE (6'4" 260 lb) Jeremiah Mitchell looks like he could start next year.  6'5" WR Dahu Green is another classic Leach find. The Cougs may just end up with their best class ...ever.  Of course, that assumes that Leach can control the ridiculous amount of commit-flipping that seems to always plague this program.

6. Arizona State (19 commits, 6 signed)

If there has been one redeeming feature of Todd Graham's early classes at ASU, it's been the reliance on JCs to fill in gaps. This year, Graham seems willing to turn the corner for his program.  With only two JCs in this class to date, the Sun Devils seem focused on building out their depth with a strong focus on the line of scrimmage. Nearly half of the current commits are big men that will earn their marks in the trenches.  If you are more interested in the skill positions, pay attention to the two QBs coming in. Pocket passer Brady White and dual threat local boy Bryce Perkins are sure to engage in quite the competition over the next few years.

7.  Stanford (17 commits)

It wasn't but a few seasons ago that Stanford was the buzz of the recruiting world. The Cardinal could land any big man who could get a "B" from anywhere in the nation.  This year?  Not so much.  It's not that the guys currently committed are stiffs.  S prospect Ben Edwards and WR Trent Irvin are both legitimate studs. But of their 17 commits so far, none are a defensive lineman and only one, Portland standout Cameron Scarlett, is a tailback.  That seems very un-Stanford-like.

8.  Arizona (29 commits, 9 signed)

Arizona has 29 commits as of right now. 29.  Nine of them, including big time JC DT Anthony Fotu, are already enrolled. Apparently, having a pulse is all that is required to get an offer from the South's reigning champs.  Given how long Rich Rod has now been at Arizona, you would think that he wouldn't need to be restocking with such aggressive numbers. Still, here we are. OL and defensive secondary seem to be the focus areas - seven DBs are currently in this class. The headliners are Fotu, OT Keenan Walker (AZ), and stud JC TE Matt Morin (CA).

9.  Cal (22 commits, 3 signed)

There has been a lot of talk on our boards lately that Sonny Dykes "can't recruit". I don't know about that so much, but there is no doubt that Cal fans were probably looking for more splashes by year 3.  The red flags here are a) that the headliner is probably Bothell QB Ross Bowers and b) there appear to be a dearth of d-linemen committed so far.  This isn't to say that there isn't talent here.  CB Malik Psalms looks like the prototype big CB everyone wants. RB Lonny Powell has a ton of upside. Skyline DE Cameron Saffle may be undersized now, but I know that a lot of local fans think he could be a player down the line. We still a week to go, and Cal still has some work to do to close strong.

10.  Utah (23 commits)

The changing of three assistants, including both coordinators, has taken a chunk out of Utah's class so far.  But the new contract for Kyle Whittingham has stabilized the ship and left the Utes with 23 commits including one from UW target OL James Empey.  While there aren't a lot of highly ranked guys here, it feels like a classic Whittingham class - a lot of under the radar types - most of whom that have unique physical attributes long and big players. One guy who exemplifies that is 6'4" 220 lb QB Chad Hekking - a wing T QB out of Vacaville.  I have a feeling that we'll look back in a few years and ask again "How did Kyle do that?"

11.  Colorado (19 commits, 3 signed)

Like Utah, Colorado has some interesting pieces coming in even if they are not accompanied by the hype.  A good example of that is 6'5" 260 lb TE prospect Chris Bounds.  Not a ton of buzz around the guy, but a lot of physical tools to work with especially after having gone the prep school route.  Layer in a top end running back from Texas named Donald Gordon (5'11" 200 lbs) and a 6'5" QB prospect - also from Texas - named Steve Montez and it is hard to not come away feeling that Colorado might be building out some important depth in this class.

12.  Oregon State (20 commits; 4 signed)

The most disadvantaged situation in the PAC is that of Oregon State.  New coach Gary Andersen has done his best to cobble things together without the benefit of being able to get a bunch of guys from his Wisconsin class to flip (a la Chris Petersen last year).  It is somewhat fortunate for Andersen that he was able to hire away Kalani Sitake from Utah to be his DC.  That brought with it some instant flips and immediate credibility with the Polynesian segment of recruits.  6'3" 235 lb Hawaiian QB Tuli Wily-Matagi is a good example of such a flipped commit.  He's a gifted athlete who played QB in high school but projects as an H-back or TE type of guy in college.  The problem is that there aren't enough of those kinds of guys in this class as it stands now.