Pac-12 Spotlight: Five big late signing period questions
While the early signing period dominates the late signing period from an action and drama standpoint now, there are still plenty of questions that need to be answered heading into the late signing period, which kicks off Feb. 6. Here are five big questions to answer out of the Pac-12.
CAN USC CATCH OREGON?
Oregon had such a phenomenal run early in this recruiting cycle that it looked like the Ducks could not be caught and they would win their first Pac-12 team recruiting title in the Rivals.com era. But the lead has closed and USC is charging hard.
Mario Cristobal and his staff have to like their chances to stay at No. 1 especially if they polish off this class with a couple more high-end prospects, but the additions of five-star Bru McCoy and four-star wide receiver Kyle Ford at the All-American Bowl helps the Trojans’ chances. Plus, four-star defensive end Drake Jackson saw a huge jump in the final rankings for the 2019 class, so that’s important as well.
USC could still finish strong if it can flip TCU running back commit Darwin Barlow, land four-star offensive lineman Enokk Vimahi, somehow get four-star Arkansas pledge Adonis Otey in this class or land some other top-notch prospects. But the Trojans also have some serious work to do without an offensive coordinator, like keeping Ford in the mix and convincing four-star wide receiver Puka Nacua not to flip as well.
CAN NEBRASKA TIE CAL IN ARIZONA?
The knock on Arizona and Arizona State for years was that those coaching staffs suffered because they didn’t do a good enough job keeping top in-state talent home. In a recruiting class absolutely loaded with elite players, it was another miss for the Wildcats under coach Kevin Sumlin and the Sun Devils with Herm Edwards in charge.
None of the top 17 players in the state picked Arizona or Arizona State as Oklahoma got five-star quarterback Spencer Rattler, Texas dipped in for four-star offensive threats Jake Smith and Brayden Liebrock and then Cal and Nebraska did an excellent job there as well.
Among the state’s top 14 players, Cal has signed defensive tackle Brett Johnson, quarterback Spencer Brasch, running back DeCarlos Brooks and defensive end Braxton Croteau. For Nebraska to tie the Golden Bears with the most signees out of that group, the Huskers will have to sign defensive lineman Matthew Pola-Mao, who could visit Lincoln in the coming weeks. Nebraska has already landed cornerbacks Javin Wright, defensive end Ty Robinson and at the Polynesian Bowl it landed the commitment of four-star defensive back Noa Pola-Gates.
WHERE DOES TO’OTO’O END UP?
Four-star linebacker Henry To’oto’o has been quiet throughout his recruitment but at the All-American Bowl he laid out exactly where things stand and it looks like a Tennessee/Alabama battle to the end for his services with Washington sticking around as well.
After that event, the Concord (Calif.) De La Salle hard-hitting linebacker took his visit to Knoxville and he absolutely loved it. The Vols could have further moved up his list after Alabama defensive coordinator Tosh Lupoi left to take a job with the Cleveland Browns.
To’oto’o is still a top priority for Alabama’s recruiting class and coach Nick Saban remains involved in his recruitment. He will still visit Tuscaloosa and that could be huge because it’s always tough to beat Alabama, but To’oto’o did have a great trip to Tennessee and that coaching staff has made him a priority.
WHAT DOES HEIMULI DO AFTER VISITS?
After a week at the Polynesian Bowl, four-star linebacker Daniel Heimuli has once again turned his focus to recruiting with a bunch of visits being planned for the weekends before National Signing Day.
The Atherton (Calif.) Menlo-Atherton standout has been pegged to Washington for a long time and the Huskies, along with Alabama, Oregon, Utah and UCLA, round out his top five. If the feeling is that To’oto’o is leaning toward Tennessee, then the Crimson Tide might even make Heimuli more of a priority in the weeks leading up to his decision in early February.
Washington still looks tough to beat. But, again, Alabama is tough to turn down and the Crimson Tide have done a great job recruiting in Northern California in recent years.
NOTRE DAME OR UDUB FOR TURNER?
As the early signing period approached, four-star athlete Asa Turner, who could play safety or linebacker in college, was unsure about signing with Washington. It was a stressful time. So the Carlsbad, Calif., standout decided to back off his pledge, re-evaluate the Huskies and his other favorite - Notre Dame - and then make a decision later on.
With only weeks before National Signing Day, both teams are making their final pushes at Turner, but it sure does seem the Irish have taken the lead in his recruitment. The coaching staff has been aggressive recently, they’re going to have important in-homes and Turner basically held off on Washington because of how Notre Dame was coming after him.
The Huskies and all their success in the West can never be counted out but Notre Dame has to like its chances with one of the final pieces in its 2019 recruiting class.