We conclude our two-part recap of how the PAC 12 performed on National Signing Day with a look at the North Division.
Class Size: 26
247 Avg Blended Rating: 87.2
In-state Ratio: 12%
The Cardinal have the best recruiting class in the P12N per the consensus of all the major recruiting sites. They landed four of the nation's top 100 recruits and achieved a wide range of balance across both sides of the ball in what was a larger class overall.
The headliners for the Cardinal are, not surprisingly, a QB, a TE and a LB. KJ Costello is a top 5 incoming QB and coveted as 6-4" 210 lb pro style prospect. TE Kaden Smith from Texas is seen by many as the best such prospect in the nation. LB Curtis Robinson is an outstanding prospect that the Huskies were hot on early in the recruiting cycle. And, oh, did I mention top OT prospect Clark Yarbrough?
Interestingly, the Cardinal only landed three recruits among their 26 from in-state. Clearly, Stanford has emerged as a national destination based on the brand of football and the prestige of the school. However, the lack of development of "pipelines" in addition to some of the hardball antics that David Shaw is starting to display in the recruiting game could become a factor in future head-to-head battles with other P12 programs.
Don't Sleep On: WR Semi Fehoko --> Husky fans will recognize Fehoko as the first "big WR" that Chris Petersen missed out on in this year's recruiting cycle. Fehoko is a great-looking prospect at 6'4" and 185 lbs with good speed. While he may not be quite ready as a blocker, it is hard to imagine Fehoko not getting substantial playing time paired with QB Keller Chryst to help backfill a receiver roster that loses three regulars from 2015.
Gekko's Grade: ANOTHER FORMIDABLE CLASS ... AND THE BAND STILL SUCKS
Class Size: 17
247 Avg Blended Rating: 87.3
In-state Ratio: 29%
The Huskies join only USC, UCLA, and Stanford as PAC programs able to land a Scout Top 100 player in the nation. In fact, UW signed two of them. That along with the six other 4* players that the Huskies signed make them a fairly clear claimant of the #4 signing class in the conference.
Much has been made about the fact that, though a smaller class, this might represent the highest rated class on a "star per recruit" basis in program history. In typical Chris Petersen fashion, the concentration of established talent is found in the foundational elements of the program with OT Luke Wattenberg, LB Camilo Eifler, LB Brandon Wellington, RB Sean McGrew, DE Levi Onwuzurike and CB Byron Murphy showing up as the top-rated guys in the class.
Don't Sleep On: DB Isaiah Gilchrist --> Local recruits sometimes suffer from both a lack of promotion outside the state (despite the fact that Gilchrist was highly coveted by schools like USC and Oregon) and a lack of fanfare from the hometown fanbase due mostly to familiarity. But don't sleep in IG. The Bellevue DB is an extremely well put-together athlete who has a play-now mix of strength and speed. He's dynamic in the return game and his athletic versatility will allow him to flex between outside, slot and safety for coach Jimmy Lake.
Gekko's Grade: STEALTHY SWEET EVEN WITHOUT A BIG WR
3. Oregon Ducks
Class Size: 18
247 Avg Blended Rating: 87.7
In-state Ratio: 28%
"Death to Oregon"
"The End is Near"
"The Window is Closed"
We've heard the refrains sung all across the conference. But don't believe it, my friends. At least, don't leap to that conclusion based on the 2016 recruiting class. I know that Duck fans are by and large disappointed with this class, which is to be expected when you lose talents like WR Theo Howard and RB Vavae Maleapaei late in the process. But for the flips of those high-level 4* players, we might be talking about Oregon's class as one of the top 2 in the conference this year.
Especially impressive was the work that the Ducks did on the defensive side of the ball. LB Bryson Young is a long, fast outside backer that will likely grow into a DE in Brady Hoke's 4-3 system. A pair of Oregonians in LB Lamar Winston and S Brady Breeze look like serious contenders for early playing time. LB Keith Simms (of the Landon Schol in MD) also looks like an impact kind of player on a team desperate to replenish their LB corps. In all, 10 of Oregon's 18 signees project on the defensive side while another two of them could end up there.
The big critiques here for Oregon are that they failed to sign a single RB (unless flipped Ohio State ATH Tristen Wallace ends up there) which, for them, could create a gap. They are so deep, however, that they should be able to cover it. I'm also skeptical of their QB signees. Terry Wilson is a long and skinny dual threat prospect out of Oklahoma who has a frame similar to the chosen one's, but his tape shows a little rawness to his game. For a staff that has had such spectacular failures in developing 4* dual threat QBs not named Mariota, this seems like a big question mark to me. A second signee, Justin Herbert, was a "late-bloomer" as a pro style QB who will elicit Brady Leaf comparisons the moment he steps on the field.
Don't Sleep On: DT Wayne Kirby --> The 300 lb DT out of Idaho is going to need a year or two to get himself ready to play at a PAC 12 level. However, he has the frame to build upon and the Ducks are going to need him after having a difficult time stocking their shelves with interior linemen the past few years. Kirby saw his stock shoot up late in the cycle and could be a classic late-comer.
Gekko's Grade: FLIPPIN' GOOD ENOUGH
Class Size: 25
247 Avg Blended Rating: 84.7
In-state Ratio: 48%
The Golden Bears had a bit of a frustrating recruiting cycle as they seemed to get in on and then fall out of the running for a number of quality in-state players. Watching players like Camilo Eifler, Boss Tagaloa and Devin Asiasi leave their backyard to go play at other programs is especially frustrating.
Still, its hard to look at what the Bears landed and conclude that it was a class full of consolation prizes. Dynamic athlete Melquise Stovall looks like a true homerun threat who will probably play right away as a flex/slot kind of guy in the Bear Raid. QB Max Gilliam was once a high priority for Chris Petersen and, in my opinion, is probably the best QB on the Bears roster right now (sorry Ross Bowers). In addition, I think Cal did well to address their needs at RB and WR.
The big complaint would be focused on how little Cal did to address their continuing needs along the offensive line and in the middle of the defensive front seven. By a pure numbers count, the balance isn't horrible. However, some of those bodies are guys who are going to take quite a while to develop into contributors (as an example, their two DT recruits both come in around the 260 lb mark). I get that Cal really needed to reload at WR (watch out for JC transfer Jordan Veasy) and CB, but I'm guessing that fans were hoping for some higher level recruits filling gaps in the linebacking corps and in the middle of the lines.
Don't Sleep On: DE Evan Weaver --> Weaver is a highly regarded Washington state recruit who didn't fit into Washington's numbers after Amandre Williams committed. In my view, he goes to Cal as the one guy most likely to start among true freshmen slotted for the defensive front seven. I'll be very interested to see how his development progresses.
Gekko's Grade: SOME NICE TALENT THERE, BUT I'M BEARISH OVERALL
Class Size: 28
247 Avg Blended Rating: 82.5
In-state Ratio: 14%
There are two ways to look at the Cougars 2016 class. On one hand, you could say that this might well be the brightest class that Mike Leach has brought into Pullman. On the other, even the best that WSU can do still leaves it in the bottom tiers of the PAC.
Once again, Coach Leach had to look long and far to attract a class that is 100% made up of 2* and 3* recruits. His footprint included just a few recruits from in-state and stretched out to California, Hawaii, Texas, Oklahoma and Florida. One might presume that this was the method of a mad man.
Well, it is Mike Leach.
In truth, there appears to be some really good finds in this class. It is one that is built around beef as 11 of the 28 signees project as either defensive or offensive linemen. Players such as OL Frederick Mauigoa, OLB/DE Suliasi Tamaivena, OL Keenen King and OL Christian Haangana (at 6'5" and 380 lbs!) are all players who bring something unique to the table.
A Leach class would not be complete without its fair share of pass catchers. Former Florida commit Isaiah Johnson (6'3" 215 lb) may be the star find in that regard, but he'll get competition for early playing time from 6'3" Desmon Patton and 6'2" Grant Porter. Of note here is that WSU failed to secure a pure QB commit for this class. Should we consider this the Connor Halliday effect?
Don't Sleep On: OLB Chima Onyeukwu --> I've seen some buzz around this 6'3" 225 lb JUCO transfer as an instant impact kind of player as a pass rusher. It'll be interesting to see what DC Alex Grinch decides to do with the WSU rush end position, but Onyeukwu certainly appears to be a contender.
Gekko's Grade: PRETTY DAMN GOOD ... FOR THE COUGS
Class Size: 26
247 Avg Blended Rating: 83.8
In-state Ratio: 3.8%
You never want to characterize a program as "desperate", but one can't help but to be inspired by that term when considering the situation that coach Gary Andersen finds himself in. The Beavers are in the midst of a full and massive rebuild situation. To stay somewhat competitive, Andersen elected to lean heavily on the JC ranks in this recruiting cycle. Eight recruits come from the JC ranks, tying Arizona State for the most in the PAC.
The good news for Beaver fans is that Andersen was still able to sign 18 high schoolers in the class. The JCs will give the younger players a chance to mature given that not many of them are going to be in a position to contribute to the team right away.
There is some talent here. 4* RB Christian Wallace was viewed widely as a favorite to land with the Longhorns while S Shurod Thompson was a one-time Cal commit. Northwest talents such as WR Tyson Penn, LB Andrzej Hughes-Murray, WR Trevon Bradford and LB/TE Isaac Garcia are all legit upside players who might require a few years before being field ready. Until then, the Beavers will keep taking their licks.
Don't Sleep on: DE Phillip Napoleon -->The Beavers look like they are going to need all hands on deck with the defensive line next season. Napolean looks like a real-deal kind of JC recruit who can make an impact for Gary Andersen.
Gekko's Grade: NOT SEXY, BUT IT'LL DO. KIND OF LIKE AMY SCHUMER AND BILL HADER