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Ranking Pac-12 recruiting over the past decade

Clay Helton
Clay Helton (AP Images)

With the 2020 class wrapping up in February, we thought it would be interesting to see which programs in each Power Five conference have done the best job of recruiting over the last decade. We continue with the Pac-12.

RELATED: Ranking the Big Ten's past decade | SEC | ACC

CLASS OF 2020 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | Position | Team | State

CLASS OF 2021 RANKINGS: Rivals100 | Position | Team | State

1. USC

Average national ranking: 7.5

The skinny: The Trojans continue the lead the pack in the Pac-12, while also being one of the top recruiting programs in the country. This included two No. 1 classes during the decade, 2010 and 2015. Despite an average finish in the top 10, the Trojans landed in the final top 10 of the AP poll only twice in the decade. With a decade’s worse No. 19 recruiting finish in 2019, there is a bit of anxiety surrounding the program for the first time in awhile. Even with this anxiety, the Trojans’ elite recruits have continued to produce, such as JuJu Smith, Robert Woods and Nelson Agholor.

Farrell’s take: USC is still the class of the Pac-12 and that won’t change anytime soon, even with questions about Clay Helton and recent decommitments like Bryce Young. They will always attract top talent from the West Coast and from around the country. However, 2019 was disturbing and 2020 has been as well so far because elite talent from California appear to be leaning elsewhere. If Helton is replaced or has a good season, that should change.

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2. OREGON

Average national ranking: 16.6

The skinny: While USC had its worst recruiting class of the decade in 2019, the Ducks enjoyed their best at No. 7. Overall it was a very productive decade, with another top 10 finish in 2011 and no class being ranked worse than No. 26. Along the way, top-level recruits such as DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead, and now Penei Sewell have excelled.

Farrell’s take: Mario Cristobal does a great job recruiting wherever he goes and he’s taking Oregon to the next level, which is giving USC fits at least in 2019 and this year. Can he maintain this success? He sure can if he continues to win on the field and takes the next step toward a Pac-12 title. Oregon has always been a cool destination for prospects and winning always makes things cooler. Chip Kelly had them at their height on the field and Cristobal has them at their height in recruiting.

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3. UCLA

Average national ranking: 20.1

The skinny: With eight of their 10 classes finishing in the top 21, overall it was a very successful recruiting decade for the Bruins. However, the issue is that one of the two outside of the top 21 happened in 2019, at No. 44. While the Bruins struggled in 2019, their solid work throughout the decade helped top recruits like Josh Rosen, Anthony Barr and Myles Jack to continue to excel in the NFL.

Farrell’s take: Recruiting wasn’t an issue under Jim Mora Jr. but player development sure was. Now under Chip Kelly recruiting is a major question mark. UCLA is taking some head-scratchers in its classes under Kelly and the program isn't in the mix for many of the bigger names in California. Overall a top 25 average ranking is solid but the Bruins are trending down.

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4. WASHINGTON

Average national ranking: 24.7

The skinny: In what was a very solid recruiting decade, the Huskies quietly put together their two best classes in 2018 and 2019. Chris Petersen has the program on extremely solid ground, and with that has comes improved recruiting. Budda Baker, Byron Murphy, Kaleb McGary and Shaq Thompson are just a few of the elite recruits who excelled in Seattle and beyond.

Farrell’s take: Petersen not only does a very good job recruiting but he develops players very well also. Washington is in a poor geographical area for recruiting so the program has to win a lot of road battles and that’s hard, but the Huskies have won their share. They won’t be a national top-10 recruiting power anytime soon, but they have done a solid job.

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5. STANFORD

Average national ranking: 26.6

The skinny: Due to their strict recruiting standards and difficult admissions policy, the Cardinal are sometimes working with a disadvantage. This was proven with their No. 63 and No. 57 finishes in 2013 and 2018, which were also partially due to smaller classes. However, if you average out the remaining eight classes, the Cardinal finished at 18.3. Elite recruits such as Christian McCaffrey, Solomon Thomas and Andrus Peat have helped make Palo Alto a destination spot for top talent.

Farrell’s take: Academics hurt Stanford more than any program in the country, but they still lure their share of elite talent. David Shaw does a good job navigating the academic issues and finding players that are good fits and his national recruiting is excellent. Stanford will always be in the top 25 unless they take a small class as long as Shaw is there.

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6. CAL

Average national ranking: 34.1

The skinny: With their top three recruiting classes of the decade coming in the first three years, it has become more of a struggle for the Golden Bears recently. This includes a No. 75 finish in 2017, followed by No. 44 and No. 37 the last two years. During the last decade, elite recruits like Jared Goff and Keenan Allen have made their way through Berkeley.

Farrell’s take: Cal is up against it in California with USC, UCLA and Stanford all having more attractive programs for different reasons, but the strong start this season will help. The Bears get their share of elite players but they really do a good job of coaching up the three-stars. They’ll always be in this range when it comes to recruiting, so player development is key.

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7. ARIZONA STATE

Average national ranking: 36.0

The skinny: With on-field success being inconsistent since 2010, recruiting has basically followed the same pattern. With a best class of No. 20 in 2015 and worst of No. 57 in 2011, the Sun Devils hope that coach Herm Edwards can change things for the better. The Sun Devils have brought in a good number of top-level recruits to Tempe over the last decade, however, only a few like Kalen Ballage, N’Keal Harry and D.J. Foster have truly met expectations.

Farrell’s take: Edwards was a big question mark in the recruiting department but he’s done a solid job so far and the on-field product is good. With more success the Sun Devils could push for a top=25 class here and there but they will mostly be in the 30-40 range. In-state recruiting is hard because the elite prospects tend to look elsewhere, but if Arizona State can change that, it would be a big help.

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8. UTAH

Average national ranking: 39.8

The skinny: The Utes have quietly established themselves as one of the more consistent winners in the country, but their recruiting success has not matched up to the same level. While three of their last four classes were better than their average for the decade, the Utes have mostly relied on their impressive ability to find and develop lesser ranked recruits who fit their system.

Farrell’s take: Utah isn’t a sexy destination for recruits and in-state talent is not great, so the Utes will always be in this range and will have to rely upon player development more than most. Winning on the field always helps, but they won’t win many big battles for the four-stars.

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9. ARIZONA

Average national ranking: 44.4

The skinny: In what was a lackluster recruiting decade, the Wildcats have seen their last three classes get progressively worse (37, 55, 57). The No. 57 finish in 2019 was also their worst of the decade, which has fans of the program wondering what the future holds. With the lackluster recruiting has also come a minimal flow of Wildcats making their way to the next level. Dane Cruikshank and William Parks, who were both three-stars, are two former Wildcats trying to make their mark in the NFL.

Farrell’s take: Kevin Sumlin was supposed to change this but he hasn’t so far, and Rich Rodriguez did an average job at best. Arizona did land a few difference-makers here and there but Arizona State has become a more attractive spot for in-state prospects the last couple of years and stealing kids from California hasn’t been consistent.

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10. OREGON STATE

Average national ranking: 51.9

The skinny: The bright side included three classes in the top 40, while the negatives saw a No. 70 class in 2015 and the last two classes of the decade finish at a disappointing No. 67 and No. 66. While the Beavers haven’t developed a great deal of elite recruits, Brandin Cooks and Isaac Seumalo continue to make Oregon State proud.

Farrell’s take: Oregon State is one of the toughest places to recruit to in the nation based on location and Oregon and Washington garnering much of the local attention. So for the Beavers to be No. 10 here isn’t so bad. But still, an average ranking around 52 is not going to get the job done and only winning on the field will change it.

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11. COLORADO

Average national ranking: 56.9

The skinny: Officially leaving the Big 12 during the summer of 2011, the Buffaloes spend most of the last decade in the Pac-12. While the on-field product and recruiting has struggled since the move, there is a glimmer of hope in Boulder. Colorado’s average class the last three years has been an improved 42.7, including a decades best No. 32 finish in 2017.

Farrell’s take: Getting into the Pac-12 title game a couple of years ago helped a bit and head coach Mel Tucker is a solid recruiter and will bring more kids from the Southeast, so they could push this number higher. However, this is a ranking that falls behind some Group of Five teams and that’s not good.

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12. WASHINGTON STATE

Average national ranking: 60.7

The skinny: Considering the Cougars’ finished the decade with four-consecutive winning seasons, it is somewhat odd that their recruiting has not seen much of a bump. The decade also began with the worst recruiting class of the decade in the conference, at No. 90. While the Cougars only signed nine four-stars during the decade, the talk of the NFL is that two former quarterbacks, Gardner Minshew (a transfer) and Luke Falk, are currently starters.

Farrell’s take: This speaks to the genius of Mike Leach who can get the most out of the least when it comes to recruiting and does a great job coaching prospects up. Washington State is a tough place to recruit, so player evaluation and development is so key and he does a really good job of it. However, recruiting at this level won’t get you very far in the end.

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