In years past, the recruiting battle in the Pac-10 was to see who could finish second behind USC.
But a coaching change in Los Angeles has opened up the race for the top spot in the conference.
While the Trojans still sit as top dog, there's a ton of parity from No. 2-9 in the conference.
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Coach Dennis Erickson knew he had some major holes to fill on his roster, so he attacked the junior college ranks and scored well at receiver and offensive line. Four-star offensive tackle Brice Schwab was USC-bound before the coaching change in LA, and he'll be an anchor for a depleted Sun Devils offensive line. Throw in four-star receiver George Bell, and the Devils could have some tremendous weapons to work with next season. The Devils also snuck into surrounding states to score major steals - defensive end Nduka Onyeali and running back Deantre Lewis. Onyeali arguably was the top player in Colorado this season, and Lewis got overshadowed by the other running backs in California. However, Lewis has the potential to be special.
It has been a roller-coaster ride the past few weeks for Bears fans, especially when it comes to recruiting receivers. After losing several of its best commits at the position, including two four-star prospects, the Bears rebounded by landing speedy Kaelin Clay, talented juco receiver Coleman Edmond and sleeper Terrance Montgomery. The Bears could also move up into the top-10 range if they land Gabe King, Keenan Allen, Arie Kouandjio and Chris McCain. Odds are they're going to get King and McClain, which could help reel in Allen. Kouandjio is the toughest sell, but don't count out the Bears just yet.
The Ducks made a splash again nationally when they reeled in five-star running back Lache Seastrunk, but this Oregon class is full of other potential stars. Curtis White, Keanon Lowe and Ryan Clanton are all major recruits that rank as four-star players. Oregon could move up a bit if things play out right. The Ducks still have Anthony Jefferson in the fold, but they also have to keep linebacker Chris McCain committed, too. The Ducks have one of the best offensive line classes in the conference - Nick Rowland and Hroniss Grasu could be stars in Eugene.
The Beavers are never going to win a beauty contest, but few staffs in the country can evaluate and find perfect fits like the staff at Oregon State. OSU's class was tight with numbers, so it won't have 20-plus kids like others in the league. However, there are some home runs in the group. Quarterback Sean Mannion should star in the OSU offense, and running back Malcolm Marable is the type of under-the-radar player that has excelled at OSU in recent years. The Beavers also have a few tricks up their sleeve late and remain heavily involved with Owamagbe Odighizuwa. If the Beavers land him, it should make this a class to remember. Even if they don't land Odighizuwa, there's still plenty to be excited about in Corvallis.
Maybe it's finally time to stop calling anything Jim Harbaugh accomplishes at Stanford a surprise. Not only can he and his staff coach, they can also recruit. Take this year's class for example. Some might call it surprising to see Stanford in the top 20. But those that follow what Harbaugh has done in California aren't surprised. Stanford's academic lure to national kids is helping things get even more exciting on The Farm. The Cardinal still has some work to do; keeping four-star running back Brandon Bourbon on board and away from Kansas and Notre Dame could be tough.
With all the attention that has been paid to the transition at USC, it's easy to overlook the tremendous job that has been done by UCLA's staff. The Bruins really hit some home runs on the offensive side of the ball by adding running threats Malcolm Jones and Jordon James. On defense, stealing four-star defensive tackle Cassius Marsh away from LSU was sweet for Bruins fans. Marsh is one of the nastiest players in the country, and his toughness could help him become the next in line behind Brian Price. UCLA always finishes with some surprises, so don't think it's done yet. The Bruins remain heavily involved with Ricky Heimuli, Dietrich Riley, Anthony Jefferson and others. They could easily climb into the top 10 in the national team recruiting rankings if things fall correctly.
If you're looking for one team that could move up into the top five nationally between now and Signing Day, the Trojans are your squad. Few teams have as much left on the board as the Trojans. They have only 14 commits at this point, but it's enough to have them at No. 7 in the team recruiting rankings. Just imagine what could happen if Seantrel Henderson, Latwan Anderson, Markeith Ambles, Chaz Green, Dietrich Riley, Nickell Robey, Christian Thomas, Arie Kouandjio, Ahmad Dixon, Josh Shirley, Demar Dorsey, Hayes Pullard and others come on board. Granted, they won't get all of those guys. But they'll get enough that USC could climb much higher. It looks like even with a coaching change, there's enough firepower in the class - and still enough on the board - for USC to finish No. 1 in the Pac 10 again.
The Huskies head toward Signing Day with a legitimate shot at finishing in the top 35, which would be another monster step forward for coach Steve Sarkisian. The Huskies were one of the most improved programs on the field last year, and the effort has helped reel in some of the best prospects in the West. Running back Deontae Cooper is an absolute stud and could be an immediate threat at the running back spot. Opening holes for Cooper will be one of the best offensive line classes in the Pac-10. UW also landed steals with Gregory Ducre and Garret Gilliland on the defensive side of the ball.
Washington State finds itself at the bottom of the Pac-10 rankings again, but things are looking up with this class. There is a definite improvement in the type of talent and prospects looking at Wazzu, and the overall numbers indicate as much. The Cougars have already landed 14 three-star prospects - their highest number in the last five years. Defensive back Deone Bucannon ranks in the California top 100, and WSU also did a nice job in-state. Five players that have committed to the Cougars rank in the state's top 20.