Ask Farrell: Is Utah recruiting getting the respect it deserves?
MORE ASK FARRELL: What to make of Big 12's NFL Combine invites?
Prior to the 2020 recruiting class, USC has been such a staple at the top of Pac-12 recruiting classes, but it’s actually Utah - at least for this upcoming NFL Scouting Combine - that wears the conference crown.
The Utes lead the Pac-12 in combine invites with nine and eight of them are on the defensive side of the ball, with three defensive linemen (Bradlee Anae, Leki Fotu and John Penisini), four defensive backs, led by cornerback Jaylon Johnson and linebacker Francis Bernard. Running back Zack Moss is the lone offensive player from Utah invited to Indianapolis.
To put this in perspective, the players for this combine are almost exclusively from the recruiting classes of 2015, 2016 or 2017. In those three years, Utah finished 10th, 7th and 6th in the Pac-12, while USC finished first all three years.
Next up in the conference are two non-surprises, since Washington and Oregon are emerging not only in the Pac-12 but as serious national contenders as well. Both coaching staffs are recruiting extraordinarily well and sending seven players each to the combine should only help future recruiting efforts.
Quarterback Jacob Eason, tight end Hunter Bryant and offensive lineman Trey Adams lead the way for the Huskies. Oregon is led by quarterback Justin Herbert, who could be moving up draft boards quickly, along with three offensive linemen, linebacker Troy Dye and others.
Colorado has four players invited to the combine, headlined by receiver Laviska Shenault, while Arizona State, Cal and UCLA and sending three. Washington State, Oregon State, Stanford and USC have two invites each, and Arizona has only one in running back J.J. Taylor.
With the focus on the Pac-12, we ask Rivals National Recruiting Director Mike Farrell some questions: Have Utah’s recruiting classes gotten the respect they deserved in recent years, or is development just that good under coach Kyle Whittingham and his staff? Secondly, can USC turn this thing around under coach Clay Helton or will another regime be needed to get it done?
“I really think it’s a job of finding and developing for Utah. That doesn’t mean the players they recruit don’t have talent, but they aren’t always the most refined or heavily recruited kids out there. Whittingham and his staff do a great job going after kids they have a legit shot with and who will grow and develop in their program. As for USC, I think another regime will need to do it. Helton is a solid coach, but recruiting has been very puzzling lately at USC and it’s hard to overcome that, even with a big season.”