In years past, the 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 battle for the top spot in the conference.
While USC still appears to be the top dog, there's a ton of parity from Nos. 2-9 in the conference.
California's Inland Empire was kind again to the Devils; they landed a commitment over the weekend from two-way lineman Calvin Tonga of Riverside (Calif.) Arlington. "I committed on my trip," Tonga said. "I made the decision to commit to ASU because of the fact that they want me to play defense. I like to play defensive tackle more than offense." Tonga was a two-way standout for the last two years. He shined for three seasons as a nose tackle in a 3-4 defense. As a senior, Tonga racked up 40 tackles and six sacks and was named first-team all-league and was named to the Riverside Press Enterprise's all-area team. ASU also landed a commitment from sleeper athlete Alden Darby of Long Beach (Calif.) Millikan. The 5-11, 170-pounder was recruited by Eric Yarber.
The Bears hosted one of their biggest recruiting weekends of the year this past weekend. While it was small on numbers, it was large on talent. Leading the way was five-star linebacker/defensive end commitment Chris Martin, who put on his recruiting hat to help the Bears make up ground on five-star safety Keenan Allen, four-star defensive end Gabe King and quarterback Zach Maynard. "We were just hanging out," Martin told BearTerritory.net. "I showed (King) around San Leandro, the Oakland area. We were just hanging out with people I was with at school, so he was just hanging out with me. We went out with some of the football players at night." As for the future of the two blue-chippers, Martin was guardedly optimistic. "It's pretty much still up in the air," Martin said. "I'd like to say I'm confident, but I can never be sure. There's a lot of factors in their decisions, so I can't really say for sure whether it's 'Yes' or 'No.' I'd like to say that I hope that I can call them teammates."
Kicker Alejandro Maldonado of Colton, Calif., committed to Washington in late June, but was a surprise official visitor this past weekend at Oregon. The result of the visit caused him to switch from one Pac-10 program to another. "I took a visit to Oregon on Friday," Maldonado said. "It was really good. I didn't expect it to be that different from Washington, but it was pretty cool. I'm glad I took the trip. I measured Oregon with Washington to see where I'm going to be for the next four or five years and find where I'm really comfortable at." In the end, that was Oregon. The Ducks are also still waiting on final word from four-star linebacker Chris McCain. He said on Saturday he remains committed to Oregon, but said he's still thinking about Cal, too.
It's going to be a long two-day wait for Beavers fans. OSU is waiting to find out word on what could be their biggest recruit ever. On Wednesday, five-star defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa will announce his decision between Oregon State, Nebraska and UCLA. "I feel like I pretty much know," Odighizuwa said. "But I'm probably just going to wait until Signing Day because you never know - things can change. I'm not letting anyone know where I'm leaning towards. People are going to take it as that's where I'm going. I've got my mind made up to wait until Signing Day. At this point, I don't want to call schools and eliminate them because eventually it will get out." Odighizuwa says he plans to let the coaches know of his decision at the earliest on Tuesday evening. He said it also could be on Signing Day as well.
Cardinal fans have to be a little frustrated after other schools have come chipping away at their commitment list the past few weeks. Over the weekend four-star running back Brandon Bourbon changed his commitment from Stanford to Kansas, saying he wanted to stay closer to his Potosi, Mo., home. "I could come out of the locker room and see players hugging their family and friends," Bourbon said. Stanford is also sweating out the final decision of Jordan Zumwalt, the four-star linebacker from Huntington Beach (Calif.) Edison. Zumwalt, who visited USC this past weekend, said he won't have a ton of hoopla around his commitment and will simply fax his letter of intent, ending the recruiting process Feb. 3 without any notification to the media. "I'll discuss the information I've gathered from each school with my parents," said Zumwalt. "I still plan on committing by Signing Day, but I'll keep the decision to myself."
The Bruins need help at defensive tackle, which is why landing Sealii Epenesa to go along with Cassius Marsh was key. The 6-foot-2, 305-pound three-star prospect committed to the Bruins over the weekend. Epenesa picked the Bruins over Colorado, Oregon State, Texas Tech and Washington. "I just like L.A.," Epenesa said. "The coaches are great, and I met a lot of players that I'm going to be playing with that are cool. I just like UCLA." The Bruins also had to sweat out Marquis Jackson's official visit to cross-town rival USC over the weekend. But after he returned from the visit, Jackson said he was sticking with UCLA. The Bruins also did everything they could to impress Giovanni Di Poalo over the weekend. After officially visiting UCLA this weekend, rumors were circulating that Di Poalo was ready to commit to the Bruins. "That's not true," Di Poalo said. "I'm not committed at all. I hope to be decided by Signing Day. It's between USC and UCLA. I'm really torn between the two and sorting it all out. I don't want any regrets, so that's why it's so hard to decide right now."
What a few days it has been for USC. The Trojans had their biggest recruiting weekend of the year with four-star offensive lineman Chaz Green, four-star cornerback Nickell Robey, four-star safety Demar Dorsey, four-star offensive lineman Arie Kouandjio, four-star tight end Christian Thomas, four-star fullback Soma Vainuku, four-star safety Dietrich Riley, four-star linebacker Jordan Zumwalt, four-star linebacker Glen Stanley and four-star defensive end Marquis Jackson all taking official visits to Los Angeles. The results of the weekend were quite positive, and the Trojans look to be in great positions with those prospects. That said, USC will have to sweat out the next 48 hours until decisions are made. Not all the news was good. Four-star offensive lineman Giovanni Di Poalo took an official visit to UCLA this weekend, and there's a lot speculation that he could end up a Bruin. At this point he's definitely not committed to USC, which dropped the Trojans out of the top 10 nationally - for now.
Washington has talked with 6-foot-7, 323-pound offensive tackle James Atoe about a greyshirt scholarship offer. Atoe has offers from Portland State, Weber State and Eastern Washington. The Huskies head toward Signing Day with a legit 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. He 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 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 definitely looking up with this class. There is a definite improvement in the type of talent and prospect looking at Wazzu, and the overall numbers say that's true. The Cougars have already landed 14 three-star prospects - its 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 WSU rank in the state's top 20.