Pac-12 Spotlight: Teams with most to gain in recruiting by playing in 2020
At long last, the Pac-12 was the final Power Five conference to finalize its plans to play football this season. Getting back on the field will definitely benefit some schools more than others, especially on the recruiting trail. Here is a look at five of them.
The Ducks don’t really need much help on the recruiting trail as coach Mario Cristobal and his staff have dominated the Pac-12 team recruiting rankings over the last few cycles but this could be a big one as well.
Oregon will be without star offensive lineman Penei Sewell and standout defensive backs Thomas Graham, Deommodore Lenoir and Jevon Holland as all four have opted out of this season to prepare for the NFL Draft. Young players will need to step up and contribute immediately.
Recruits could also see this as a massive opportunity. Spots will be open for competition after this season and more top prospects could be intrigued to go play at Oregon since so many star players have headed out early for the NFL. More should be on the way as former five-star defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux is almost definitely a three-and-out as well.
The Trojans had a disastrous 2020 recruiting class that ranked dead last in the Pac-12, the program's lowest-ranked class in the Rivals era dating back to 2002. But USC is back to where it’s used to being and that’s near the top of the Pac-12 rankings with the second-best class behind only Oregon.
A big season could be very important for recruiting since the Trojans and LSU are two front-runners in the recruitment of five-star defensive end Korey Foreman from Corona (Calif.) Centennial. Foreman is the No. 1 prospect in the class and he’s a game-changer who could immediately impact USC’s defense. Four-star defensive back Ceyair Wright from Los Angeles Loyola is also closely watching how the Trojans perform this season.
First-year coach Jimmy Lake has a huge opportunity at Washington - on the field and in recruiting as he has a talented team coming back and arguably the best group of in-state prospects in Rivals history. For the first time ever, there are three five-star prospects in the state of Washington and the Huskies have a shot at landing all of them, although it could be tough.
Five-star quarterback Sam Huard is already committed and then Ohio State would be the biggest competition for five-star receiver Emeka Egbuka and five-star defensive end J.T. Tuimoloau. The Huskies are involved with both Egbuka and Tuimoloau, though, and if visits continue to get pushed back that could be to Washington’s advantage. A big season on the field where Lake looks like he’s continuing to move the Huskies in the right direction could be a major selling point in recruiting, too.
4. ARIZONA STATE
One problem neither Arizona nor Arizona State has been able to figure out yet is in-state recruiting and the 2021 class is another example of that since none of the top 11 prospects there have committed to an in-state school. In the 2020 cycle, none of the top 18 prospects picked the Sun Devils or Wildcats.
Arizona State should be good this season led by star quarterback Jayden Daniels and maybe, just maybe, coach Herm Edwards and his outstanding and aggressive staff, many of whom have NFL experience, could start convincing local players to stay home. Three of the top four and five of the top eight 2022 prospects in Arizona remain uncommitted.
5. WASHINGTON STATE
New coach Nick Rolovich has a huge challenge ahead of him but also a major opportunity. Mike Leach only two seasons ago had the Cougars at 11 wins and he also twice won nine games in Pullman, so winning is possible there. Rolovich is charged with the responsibility of keeping those winning ways going and he has talent - especially with running back Max Borghi and other playmakers - to make it happen.
Rolovich was dealt a major blow though with no visits this offseason and now no official trips through Jan. 1. Getting prospects to Pullman is part of the recruiting experience and selling them on that vision is tough over Zoom calls and text messages. But now prospects from in-state or at least regionally, if not nationally, can see the product on the field and get a sense of playing for the program. The more exposure Wazzu gets, the better.