Pac-12 spotlight: Which school is recruiting king at each position?
Pac-12 schools are highly competitive with each other but also with top national programs who dip into the region for talented prospects. Here is a look at Pac-12 programs who have dominated recruiting at a specific position over the years:
Cal recently had a No. 1 pick in Jared Goff and Stanford has had Andrew Luck, among other talented quarterbacks, but USC is still the top spot for quarterbacks, especially in the West region. The Trojans have a Heisman Trophy contender in Sam Darnold, who could be one of the top picks in the 2018 NFL Draft. USC is a top contender (along with Stanford) for 2019 five-star quarterback JT Daniels, who could be one of the top quarterbacks in the West in many years. Then there is the history at the position that helps in recruiting with Mark Sanchez, Matt Barkley, Cody Kessler and others. There is definitely a thought that if a quarterback in the West wants to be groomed for the NFL, they will go to USC.
RUNNING BACK: Stanford
There are a lot of Pac-12 programs that have had great running backs over the years and one is definitely USC – led by former five-star Reggie Bush – but there has also been a major bust factor at that position with the Trojans. So we’re going with Stanford, which recently had do-it-all Christian McCaffrey, who set all kinds of records en route to being a first-round draft pick. Next in line is former four-star Bryce Love, who has tremendous speed and playmaking ability coming out of the backfield. The list of outstanding running backs at Stanford is long – and getting even more extensive. Playing in a pro-style offense behind a massive offensive line has to be appealing to a lot of top running backs nationally.
WIDE RECEIVER: USC
Throughout the years, top playmakers at wide receiver have flocked to USC. Recently, there has been another pickup at the position. A few years ago, five-stars Robert Woods and Nelson Agholor and four-star athlete Marqise Lee starred for the Trojans. Then five-star JuJu Smith-Schuster dominated. Next in line is an impressive group of players led by Michael Pittman, Tyler Vaughns, Joseph Lewis and possibly others. There is a connection here since so many top quarterbacks want to play with the best receivers and vice versa. USC has been that place in recent years and while there have been some players who have not translated to the NFL – and that could be a concern – it certainly has not slowed the recruitment of top receivers to USC. Cal was also very much in the running here and is really a sleeper-type school for outstanding receivers.
It’s going to be incredibly interesting if Utah can parlay Garett Bolles’ success within the program and then being a first-round draft pick into more recruiting success along the offensive line. Bolles was a JUCO transfer, too, so the Utes can use that on the trail, especially among junior college players looking to make an immediate impact in the Pac-12. Bolles is hardly the only one who’s made an impact at Utah, as it has put a bunch of interior offensive linemen and defensive linemen across the board into the NFL. There is a talented crop of in-state recruits as well looking at the Utes including OL Penei Sewell, the top player in the state, along with OL/DL Junior Angilau, who has star potential, OL Sam Vakalahi and Utah pledge Hunter Lotulelei, the third Lotulelei brother who could play for the Utes. Oregon was also under serious consideration here since the Ducks have recently pumped out so many outstanding defensive linemen.
The Bruins have been doing a fantastic job recruiting linebackers, developing them and then putting them in the NFL, which should help recruiting at the position especially if UCLA can figure out a way to be a top Pac-12 team. The list is impressive and extensive: Anthony Barr, Myles Jack, Takkarist McKinley, Akeem Ayers, Eric Kendricks, Deon Hollins and more. There are plenty of other Pac-12 programs that pump out linebackers – including Arizona State with some marquee names – but UCLA has done a great job recruiting the position and then making those players better. The Bruins did an especially good job landing top-end talent in the 2016 recruiting class, although five-star Mique Juarez, the top player in California that cycle, has not panned out yet.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: Washington
It’s hard not to notice what Washington has done with its defensive backs and how well the Huskies have recruited those positions in recent years. Kevin King was a second-round pick in the NFL Draft and fellow cornerback Sidney Jones would’ve probably been a first-rounder if not for an injury. He went in the second round as well. So did former four-star Budda Baker, an undersized safety who is a ball hawk and had an excellent career at Washington. Then there was Marcus Peters, one of the best corners in the league the last couple seasons. He was a first-round draft pick. It’s almost like if you want to play in the NFL and you’re a defensive back, Washington is as solid a pick as any school in the Pac-12. In this recruiting class, defensive back has not been a focus, but last cycle the Huskies loaded up with four-stars Keith Taylor, Brandon McKinney, Elijah Molden and others who could star at those positions.