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Pac-12 Spotlight: Winners and losers from the 2019 cycle

CLASS OF 2019 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | State | Position | Team

CLASS OF 2020 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | State | Position

Kayvon Thibodeaux
Kayvon Thibodeaux (Rivals.com)

MORE WINNERS AND LOSERS: Big Ten | SEC | ACC

National Signing Day is in the books and while every coach in the Pac-12 came out praising their efforts on the trail in the 2019 recruiting cycle, not every school was a winner. Today we take a look at the winners and losers from the conference.

WINNERS

OREGON

No doubt about this one. The Ducks won their first Pac-12 team recruiting title in the history of Rivals.com dating back to 2002 and it was not even that close. Mario Cristobal and his staff used an aggressive and relentless recruiting approach to get into powerhouse high school programs in Southern California to land defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux, the only five-star to sign in the entire conference, along with numerous four-star standouts from Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei.

Oregon capped off its class on signing day by landing massive interior offensive lineman Logan Sagapolu from Utah and landing three-star defensive tackle Kristian Williams from Memphis. The Ducks could not have done much better this recruiting cycle.

CHRIS PETERSEN’S STYLE

Washington coach Chris Petersen does not like to play games when it comes to recruitment, instead taking a business-like approach that has absolutely worked during his time with the Huskies. The same could be said for this recruiting class which finished second in the Pac-12 and No. 15 nationally.

A good chunk of Washington’s recruiting class was wrapped up before this past season without much drama at all like players flipping commitments or taking any other visits. Notre Dame tried to steal four-star athlete Asa Turner late, which seemed to draw a rebuke from Petersen. On Signing Day, the Huskies landed four-star linebacker Daniel Heimuli and then earlier this week, four-star receiver Puka Nacua flipped to Washington from USC. It was another phenomenal class put together by a phenomenal coach.

JOE SALAVE’A

The entire Oregon coaching staff deserves an immense amount of credit for this recruiting class as Cristobal did a fantastic job closing on a lot of top prospects but it was the relationship the assistants build with those players that really sold a lot of players. Donte Williams has phenomenal connections. Keith Heyward can go anywhere to get anybody. It goes on and on.

But Thibodeaux admitted before his Oregon trip that he wasn’t really even thinking much about the Ducks but after really developing a quick bond with Joe Salave’a, Oregon’s defensive line coach among other titles, and seeing how he would be utilized on the defensive line, the Ducks moved right to the top of his list along with Alabama. Oregon beat out the Crimson Tide for Thibodeaux and Salave’a is a big reason why that happened.

ARIZONA STATE'S QUARTERBACK FUTURE

The starting quarterback job at Arizona State seems wide open after Manny Wilkins exhausted his eligibility and Herm Edwards addressed that situation by loading up on quarterbacks in this recruiting cycle.

The Sun Devils signed three quarterbacks in this class led by high four-star Jayden Daniels, who put up more than 6,000 yards of total offense and 76 total touchdowns in his senior season at San Bernardino (Calif.) Cajon. He could very well be Arizona State’s starting quarterback come the season-opener.

But Joey Yellen had nice numbers in his senior season as well and Ethan Long seems to be the sleeper in this class. Will all three still be on the roster in four years? Probably unlikely, but Arizona State’s quarterback situation seems to be in good hands.

LOSERS

USC

Coming off its first losing season since 2000, with Clay Helton on a pretty serious hot seat, USC did not deliver in this recruiting class finishing third in the Pac-12 and No. 19 nationally, both the worst numbers in the history of Rivals.com.

The class never seemed to gain real traction. For one reason or another, Thibodeaux was not recruited all that hard for long stretches. Five-star cornerback Chris Steele had been committed but ended up at Florida. There was the Bru McCoy saga where he signed with USC, was enrolled, and then decided to transfer to Texas.

USC couldn’t land five-star quarterback Spencer Rattler from Phoenix (Ariz.) Pinnacle (he ended up at Oklahoma) and couldn’t flip Ryan Hilinski from South Carolina late in the process. It was a rough year for the Trojans.

CHIP KELLY

When Chip Kelly landed the UCLA job there was some thinking that with his huge success at Oregon and his NFL coaching experience that the Bruins would excel at recruiting Los Angeles, Southern California and his staff would be able to pull in some national recruits. That has not happened yet as UCLA finished ninth in the Pac-12 rankings as Kelly employs a different approach to recruiting.

That style is to not throw offers out to many prospects, and many of those seem to come much too late in the recruiting process. Then he’s has to rush to recruit high-end players after they’ve already had long-standing relationships with other programs. After a 3-9 season and a below-average first full recruiting class, it will be interesting to see if Kelly changes his approach with a loaded 2020 class.

KEVIN SUMLIN

The state of Arizona had one of its best recruiting classes in recent memory - maybe in a very long time - and Arizona missed a huge opportunity by not signing any of the top-20 players from there. Arizona State didn’t do much better which continues to be a major problem with in-state recruiting for the Wildcats and the Sun Devils but Kevin Sumlin was brought in partly because of his recruiting prowess and the class didn’t really shape up.

Arizona finished No. 10 in the Pac-12 rankings ahead of only Washington State and Oregon State and the Wildcats signed only one four-star prospect - receiver Jalen Curry. Sumlin and his staff did a nice job recruiting the state of Texas with Curry, quarterback Grant Gunnell, defensive back Bobby Wolfe and others, but this was not a fantastic class for someone with Sumlin’s reputation.

PROGRAMS TRYING TO KEEP LOCAL TALENT

Part of the discussion on why the Pac-12 is slipping as an elite conference in the national landscape is that too many players from the region are leaving the area. That was certainly the case again this recruiting cycle in talent-rich areas.

In Arizona, the top five players -- Rattler, athlete Jake Smith, tight end Brayden Liebrock, defensive end Ty Robinson and defensive back Noa Pola-Gates -- went to Oklahoma, Texas and Nebraska. Bru McCoy went to Texas, Chris Steele is off to Florida, Joe Ngata picked Clemson and Ryan Hilinski is at South Carolina. The top player in Nevada, quarterback Cade McNamara, picked Michigan.

That is just a sampling of the players leaving the conference - and a big reason why the Pac-12 could struggle even more reaching the College Football Playoff in the coming years.