NSD 2020: The biggest question for each Pac-12 team
The Late Signing Period is becoming less eventful every year since the advent of the Early Signing Period in December, but most programs still have a few questions to answer heading into February. Today, we go around the Pac-12 and identify each program’s biggest question heading into next week.
ARIZONA: WILL THE WILDCATS ADD ENOUGH LB AND PASS-RUSHING HELP?
New defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads is working a 3-4 defense for the Wildcats but there’s one problem with that scenario: Arizona needs more help at linebacker and among its pass rushers, targeting those players down the stretch is going to be crucial. Some names to watch out for - and big targets in the closing days - include three-star defensive end Eddie Watkins, three-star linebacker Jamari Stewart and three-star defensive end TJ Davis, all three coming from the Southeast.
ARIZONA STATE: WILL THE SUN DEVILS SIGN A 2020 QB AFTER LOSING TWO?
Jayden Daniels is the present and future at quarterback for Arizona State, but a situation only a few months ago that looked well-handled has now changed with the departures of backup quarterbacks Dillon Sterling-Cole and Joey Yellen. Depth is suddenly an issue in the Sun Devils’ quarterback room and targeting a QB in the 2020 class looks to be a priority. San Mateo (Calif.) Serra’s Daylin McLemore looks to be the top priority to fill that need.
CAL: WHO BREAKS THE SEAL FOR THE 2021 CLASS?
The 2020 class is done for the Golden Bears. All the concern and drama happened in December and there’s nothing else to be done in Berkeley for this class. So the focus turns to an important junior day weekend to see if any top recruits become Cal’s first commits for the 2021 class. Two top prospects that are on the Golden Bears’ radar are four-star quarterback Miller Moss and four-star tight end Jermaine Terry, who’s been a regular on campus.
COLORADO: CAN THE BUFFS KEEP CLAYTON?
Four-star running back Ashaad Clayton committed to Colorado in November and it was a major recruiting coup as coach Mel Tucker and his staff dipped into Louisiana for a talented prospect that numerous SEC programs wanted. Ranked as the No. 12 running back nationally, Clayton has the ability to come to Boulder and see immediate playing time. But his recruitment is not over. Florida is doing everything possible to convince him to play there and he recently took a visit to Gainesville. The Gators could put on the full-court press in the closing days although Colorado has to like where it stands with him.
OREGON: WHICH QB WILL GET EARLY PLAYING TIME?
Oregon still might be in the market for a wide receiver or a defensive lineman down the stretch but the Ducks are going to be picky and plan to only go after elite players to see if they can hit a home run. The only other real question is whether four-star Jay Butterfield or three-star Robby Ashford will have a better shot at early playing time at quarterback. Butterfield seems like the odds-on favorite but Ashford has a big arm and dual-threat capabilities so it could get interesting.
OREGON STATE: CAN HARRISON BE NEXT STAR RECEIVER?
Shoring up the offensive line was a tremendous focus in this Oregon State recruiting class and almost all that work was accomplished in the early signing period. Big news also came in the last couple days when former Florida State receiver Tre’Shaun Harrison announced he would be transferring to Corvallis. With star receiver Isaiah Hodgins off to the pros, Harrison has the chance to step in immediately and be that next big-time weapon in the Beavers’ offense. The signing class is an important part for Oregon State, but the transfer market could prove to be as well.
STANFORD: IS MCKEE THE NEXT STAR QUARTERBACK?
This is not exactly a question for February but for this recruiting class, as Tanner McKee is expected to be a part of this group since he’s coming off a two-year Mission. The former four-star quarterback who was ranked behind only Trevor Lawrence, JT Daniels and Matt Corral in high school is going to have a huge opportunity to step in and get immediate playing time with the Cardinal. McKee is a huge talent so we will see in the coming months if he’s ready to step in right away and help make this Stanford offense more potent.
UCLA: WILL FINAL PLAYERS SIGN?
The Bruins did an excellent job loading up in the early signing period and almost everybody signed but that does not mean this second signing day won’t be drama-free. That’s because three important pieces to UCLA’s recruiting class opted not to sign in December in four-star defensive back Jonathan Vaughns, JUCO running back Rachaad White and three-star defensive back Jake Newman. A lot of effort will go into getting those players to stay in the fold and getting their signatures after having them committed for so long.
USC: WILL TROJANS GET SOME FINAL 2020 PIECES OR POINT TO 2021?
USC’s struggles this recruiting cycle are well-documented, but they’re also ongoing as the Trojans don’t seem to have a lot of momentum carrying into the final days before the second signing period. There is a good chance USC will land quarterback Blake Shapen to shore up some quarterback depth and then a running back also looks to be targeted along with three-star tight end Jack Yary, a USC legacy. With the second-to-last class in the Pac-12, there just aren’t many available players left on the board for USC to steal late in the game.
UTAH: CAN UTES GET DEPTH ON DEFENSE?
Depth at linebacker and cornerback is going to be the focus for the Utes in the late signing period and some of it has already been addressed. On Wednesday, three-star cornerback Faybian Marks picked the Utes and that’s going to help. Some junior college assistance at linebacker is also expected in the coming days as Utah closes out its strong class. The recent commitment of three-star defensive tackle Keanu Tanuvasa could be huge in the coming years as he has the potential to be special.
WASHINGTON: WILL HUSKIES SIGN A THIRD TIGHT END?
The Huskies are pretty much done - doing a lot of its work in the Early Signing Period and once again avoiding a lot of drama around the recruiting process - but tight end and the defensive line are still two areas of focus. Even with four-star tight end Mark Redman and three-star Mason West already signed at tight end, the Huskies still seem to be showing a lot of interest in three-stars Jack Yary and Nic Sani.
WASHINGTON STATE: IS JAYDEN DE LAURA GOING TO START?
There is a lot of excitement that Nick Rolovich is now the Cougars’ head coach and really the most thrilling thing for Washington State is whether four-star Jayden De Laura will start at quarterback next season. There are some final pieces coming together in February, but a lot of work was already done in Pullman. Rolovich plans to operate the Run-N-Shoot offense at Washington State and that’s what De Laura ran in high school. It could work perfectly.