Pac-12 Spotlight: Grading the Early Signing Period
National/West analyst Adam Gorney is handing out grades to Pac-12 recruiting classes following the Early Signing Period for the class of 2021. Considering the challenges all coaches had to deal with while recruiting during a pandemic there is plenty of praise to go around for teams throughout the conference.
ARIZONA (11th Pac-12, 65th nationally)
Analysis: The firing of Kevin Sumlin did not completely erode Arizona’s recruiting class as many of the commits stayed, but some important pieces like Tyrese Johnson and Montrell Johnson did leave the class. Three-star quarterback commit Clay Millen and a few others did not sign. Two of the higher-rated prospects - RB Stevie Rocker Jr. and tight end Colby Powers - did stick with the Wildcats, but this was not a class even with Sumlin still as coach that was loaded with tons of firepower.
ARIZONA STATE (10th Pac-12, 59th nationally)
Analysis: For all the discussion about how much NFL experience is on Arizona State’s staff and how that would continue to help recruiting, the Sun Devils’ class is rather muted with elite talent, although they did have success going to different parts of the country - and ASU might not be done just yet. Four-star receiver Lonyatta Alexander is very talented and the Sun Devils did nice work loading up on the offensive line. But four-star DB Isaiah Johnson not signing will be something to watch heading into February, and ASU is still gunning for elite talents like five-star Korey Foreman, four-star LB Raesjon Davis and others.
CAL (6th Pac-12, 42nd nationally)
Analysis: This class has a lot of talent across the board and might even have some players who could outplay their ranking in the coming years. There were plenty of rumors that four-star TE Jermaine Terry would flip to Arizona State, but the Golden Bears kept him. QB Kai Millner is a talented prospect with dual-threat capabilities. Coach Justin Wilcox and his staff did particularly well recruiting Northern California with Terry, DEs Akili Calhoun Jr. and Kaleb Elarms-Orr, LB Moses Oladejo and others leading the way.
COLORADO (9th Pac-12, 55th nationally)
Analysis: Coach Karl Dorrell and his staff landed a local four-star in TE Erik Olsen, maneuvered around the West region for some talented players and had some success in the Southeast as well as Dorrell looked to build out his first full class as coach. WR Chase Penry is someone who could catch a lot of passes in Colorado’s offense, DL Tyas Martin was a former Virginia Tech commit, and guys like Zion Magalei and Zephaniah Maea could be hard-hitters in Boulder in the coming years.
OREGON (1st Pac-12, 5th nationally)
Analysis: Once again, Oregon loaded up as the Ducks continue atop the Pac-12 rankings with one of the best classes in the nation, led by five-star quarterback Ty Thompson and five-star OL Kingsley Suamataia. There is not much fall-off from there as coach Mario Cristobal and his staff went to Baltimore for high four-star receiver Dont’e Thornton Jr. Four-star ATH Seven McGee is just waiting to break out and Oregon did well all over the West region for top players.
The Ducks are the only Pac-12 team with multiple five-star signees. Not many complaints at all - again - in Oregon’s class.
OREGON STATE (9th, outside Top 100 nationally)
Analysis: The Beavers have the lowest-ranked class in the Pac-12, and it’s the only school in the Power Five other than South Carolina with fewer than 10 pledges heading into the holidays. Still, there is some talent being compiled in Corvallis as three-star linebacker Easton Mascarenas makes a lot of plays, three-star RB Damir Collins is similar to Jermar Jefferson in some ways and QB Sam Vidlak is an intriguing player who could be perfect in the Beavers’ system.
STANFORD (8th Pac-12, 54th nationally)
Analysis: The Cardinal finished in the lower part of the middle pack in the Pac-12 and they had only one four-star commitment, but he’s a major one: DE Aaron Armitage out of New Jersey. There were plenty of high-level three-stars in the class that fit what Stanford is trying to do on both sides of the ball as well, like QB Ari Patu, DBs Mitch Leigber, Jimmy Wyrick and Jaden Slocum and closing out with Powder Springs (Ga.) McEachern LB Ese Dubre was also a positive. There’s not a lot of star power in this class, but there are many solid players.
UCLA (4th Pac-12, 37th overall)
Analysis: The Bruins have the fourth-best class in the Pac-12 and they did exceptionally well leading into the Early Signing Period as they flipped some top players and kept others. Coach Chip Kelly and his staff have to be happy with this group.
UCLA beat out Penn State to get three-star RB Deshun Murrell back in the fold after an earlier de-commitment. Four-star DE Quintin Somerville flipped from Michigan. Three-star WR Joshua Moore had been committed to Stanford. Three-star DE Christian Burkhalter was an Oregon pledge. And there were a lot of rumors that four-star DB Devin Kirkwood was about to flip to USC, but the Bruins kept him and he’s uber-talented.
USC (2nd Pac-12, 12th nationally)
Analysis: After a dismal 2020 recruiting class in which the Trojans had their worst finish in Rivals history, USC rebounded in a big way in 2021 - and it’s not done yet. USC currently has the second-best class in the conference with 14 four-stars, but no five-stars, led by QBs Jaxson Dart and Miller Moss, an outstanding haul of defensive backs and the Trojans also did well in the state of Texas with four commitments.
Five-star defensive end Korey Foreman announces Jan. 2 with USC, Clemson and others high on the list, four-star linebacker Raesjon Davis just de-committed from LSU with USC very much in play and four-star DB Ceyair Wright and others also remain in play.
UTAH (3rd Pac-12, 36th nationally)
Analysis: The Utes are currently in third place in the Pac-12 rankings and if they end up there it would be the best finish for Utah since joining the conference. It was an excellent haul for Utah, which went into California for four-star linebacker Ethan Calvert and quarterback Peter Costelli and to Florida for four-star RB Ricky Parks. Four-star JUCO DT Tevita Fotu could be the next star on the defensive line. Three-star linebacker Trey Reynolds from Queen Creek, Ariz., could be a real sleeper since he was really productive in high school.
WASHINGTON (5th Pac-12, 38th nationally)
Analysis: Burien (Wash.) Kennedy Catholic quarterback Sam Huard was Washington’s first commit and the lone five-star in the class. He’s phenomenal and could be a superstar if surrounded with talented playmakers on the outside. The Huskies loaded up elsewhere, too, with five other four-stars, although that number is down from previous years. Both lines loaded up, with Owen Prentice leading the way on offense and Voi Tunuufi and Kuao Peihopa - two excellent defensive linemen - joining the team.
WASHINGTON STATE (7th Pac-12, 50th nationally)
Analysis: Right in the middle of the pack, Washington State added some nice pieces, including four-star JUCO WR C.J. Moore, who could excel in the Cougars’ offense. Three-star quarterback Xavier Ward has been really good in his high school career and has been busy training even without a senior season so far. He could be a major sleeper in this group. Washington State dealt with some significant de-commitments leading into signing day, but it rebounded well and there’s talent in this class. Coach Nick Rolovich can build upon this group.