Pac-12 title game: Key players and how they were ranked in HS
Mark Pszonak contributed to this report.
The Pac-12 title game is a clash between two programs with difficult recruiting territories. Here are key players from each team and how we liked them in high school.
The skinny: Herbert held offers from Montana State, Northern Arizona and Portland State before Oregon finally offered during his senior season. He quickly ended his recruitment with a commitment.
After surprising some by deciding to return to Eugene for his senior season, Herbert has once again proven himself as the unquestioned leader of the Ducks’ offense in 2019. Currently with 3,140 yards, 31 touchdowns and only five interceptions, plenty will be on his shoulders against an impressive Utah defense.
Farrell’s take: Herbert is another great find by Oregon as his only other offers were FCS schools, and last year some were talking about him as the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft if he decided to come out. He was a big, raw, dual-threat coming out of high school who could sling it, but had some accuracy issues and some mechanical problems. He also looked skinny despite being 210 pounds or so. He’s filled out, has improved his accuracy greatly and is making good decisions. He’s big, he can move, he has a strong arm and he has all the intangibles NFL scouts love.
The skinny: Staying relatively quiet throughout his recruiting process, Sewell’s destination became more of a guessing game. Oregon, Alabama, Utah and USC all seemed confident at different points, but it was the Ducks that picked up his commitment on National Signing Day.
His true freshman season was off to a fantastic start last fall until a serious ankle injury cut his season short in October. Fully healthy this fall, Sewell has firmly established himself as one of the elite offensive linemen in the country. Possessing a unique combination of strength and athleticism, he already has NFL scouts dreaming of his future in the pros.
Farrell’s take: It’s not a surprise as he was ranked in the top 60 coming out of high school. We at one point had a five-star debate about him, but wondered if he’d move inside to guard at the next level and be devalued a bit. He was tall, very filled out and agile, but he wasn’t as dominating as we wanted him to be. Then he hits college and becomes a beast and is now the best offensive lineman in college football in my book.
The skinny: McKinley committed to Oregon during the summer prior to his senior season over Washington, UCLA, Penn State and Nebraska. There was a bit of concern in Eugene after the departure of coach Willie Taggart, but his official visit to Eugene ended any doubts.
McKinley has flourished this fall as a redshirt freshman. Quickly becoming an important part of the Ducks’ secondary, he impressed while totaling 45 tackles, four interceptions and two pass breakups.
Farrell’s take: McKinley was an interesting evaluation because he wasn’t very big, but he had good speed and looked great at times in coverage. However, he also lost focus at times and was beaten in camp settings. We had him as a four-star outside the Rivals250 and so far he’s playing up to that ranking. He’s a key to the Oregon defense.
Dye has been a steady contributor since jumping on the field as a true freshman in 2016. Now in his final season in Eugene, he has continued to lead by example while totaling 67 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, one interception and a forced fumble.
Farrell’s take: Dye was ranked as a safety coming out of high school, but he has emerged as a linebacker who can make any play. He’s also very smart and clearly the leader of the defense.
The skinny: Holland trimmed his list of top schools down to Oregon, UCLA, Washington and Notre Dame before committing to the Ducks in early May.
Holland jumped onto the scene in 2018 and has continued to play at an extremely high level this fall. One of the leaders in the secondary, he comes into the game with 54 tackles, three tackles for loss and four interceptions, which gives him a total of nine in his two seasons.
Farrell’s take: Holland was a talented defensive back with good speed and excellent instincts who had a solid frame to fill out. But his ball skills stood out the most, so it’s not surprising that he had five picks as a freshman and has become a Pac-12 ball hawk.
The skinny: Huntley initially committed to Florida Atlantic, but re-opened his process after taking an unofficial visit to Utah, which eventually landed his commitment.
Huntley has engineered the Utes’ offense for three seasons, with his final one being his most productive. Having passed for 2,773 yards, 16 touchdowns and only two interceptions while rushing for 255 yards and five touchdowns, he is one of the top senior quarterbacks in the country.
Farrell’s take: Huntley was a high three-star quarterback coming out of high school with a live arm and solid athleticism. He was a bit erratic as a passer, but he’s really worked on his mechanics and has become a very good decision maker.
The skinny: Moss initially committed to Miami, but after re-opening his process he committed to Utah in late November along with two of his high school teammates. While he did take an official visit to Tennessee in the weeks leading up to National Signing Day, in the end he stuck with the Utes.
As with Huntley, Moss has been a mainstay in the Utah offense for the three seasons. Enjoying his best statistical season to date, he enters the game with 1,246 yards and 15 touchdowns on the ground and 317 yards and one touchdown through the air.
Farrell’s take: I remember seeing Moss at one of our camps in Florida and coming away impressed, which is why he was a mid-level three-star, but I didn’t see this level of dominance ahead of him in college football. He’s been a workhorse and has shown more speed than we thought he had at the college level. We underestimated him.
When Huntley is looking for dependable hands on a big play, there is a solid chance that Kuithe will be his target. This fall he has proven to be extremely reliable, while also adding a big-play element to his game, with 25 receptions for 501 yards and six touchdowns.
Farrell’s take: Kuithe was a big athlete coming out of high school who could have played many positions but found his home on offense. He’s a big target and really bails out Huntley at times.
Anae has proven himself to be one of the more productive defensive ends in the Pac-12 over the last three seasons. He continued his impressive collegiate career this fall with 33 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss and 12.5 sacks.
Farrell’s take: While Anae hasn’t played like a four-star over his entire career he has played better than the low three-star we ranked him out of Hawaii in 2016. A tall, rangy - yet skinny - end out of high school, he wasn’t heavily recruited because of a perceived lack of explosion. He’s added that to his game and has become one of the Pac-12’s most disruptive players and is having a career year.
The skinny: Johnson took official visits to Utah and Nebraska, which led to his commitment to the Utes in late October. However, he then took additional official visits to Oklahoma and Arizona State before solidifying with Utah.
Considered by many to be one of the top cornerbacks in the Pac-12 entering the 2019 season, Johnson has not disappointed with 33 tackles and two interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown.
Farrell’s take: Johnson was a Rivals100 talent out of high school and the rare four-star commit to Utah. He’s a lockdown with great size and ball skills and he can shut down one side of the field.