Signing Day Blitz: Ranking the Pac-12
The USC-Oregon rivalry is heating up, both on the field and the recruiting trail. National Signing Day ended with some drama on Wednesday night, as De'Anthony Thomas flipped from USC to Oregon, costing the Trojans the No. 1 spot nationally. But USC still won the Pac-12 title.
Check out the breakdown of National Signing Day in a special edition of the Pac-12 Blitz.
Headliner: There isn't one headliner in this class - there are two. Picking up five-star athlete De'Anthony Thomas late on National Signing Day from USC was a blockbuster move, one of the biggest switches in recent memory. He's a perfect fit for Oregon's offense at running back. The other is five-star linebacker Colt Lyerla, a Brian Urlacher clone who could get on the field from Day One.
Sleeper: Three-star dual-threat quarterback Marcus Mariota threw for 2,597 yards with 39 touchdowns and four interceptions while leading Honolulu (Hawaii) St. Louis to its first state championship since 2002. With his playmaking ability, Mariota is a perfect fit in Oregon's spread attack and could be a big addition to the class.
Overview: Oregon fans should be thrilled with this class. Thomas and Lyerla are without the headliners but the Ducks loaded up with four-star recruits wide receiver Devon Blackmon, defensive tackle Jared Ebert, defensive back Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, athlete Christian French and many others. Coach Chip Kelly and his staff loaded up after its national championship run and things should continue to get better moving to 2012.
Headliner: A lot of signees could have landed in this spot but the highest-rated by Rivals.com is Sacramento (Calif.) Grant defensive tackle Viliami Moala, a massive prospect who can plug the middle and make a lot of plays in the backfield by using his strength to break through the offensive line. Rivals.com rates Moala, a 6-foot-2, 326-pound prospect as the eighth-best defensive tackle and No. 99 prospect nationally.
Sleeper: C.J. Anderson was a late addition to Cal's class but the Oakland (Calif.) Laney College running back could be a nice piece to the Golden Bears' offensive puzzle. With Brendon Bigelow still recuperating from two knee injuries, Anderson knows the reputation of former Cal backs and said he wants to be the next big name in that special fraternity.
Overview: Coach Jeff Tedford and his staff couldn't be much happier with the recruiting class. Ten of 22 signees are four-star recruits and the Golden Bears did an absolutely outstanding job on the defensive line with Moala and Mustafa Jalil at defensive tackle and Jason Gibson, Brennan Scarlett and Todd Barr at defensive end. Landing four-star cornerback Stefan McClure late in the process was a big pickup.
Headliner: James Vaughters could have gone to pretty much any team in the SEC but the Tucker (Ga.) inside linebacker was seriously about his education, too, and fell in love with Stanford. Even after coach Jim Harbaugh left, the four-star prospect never wavered and it's a huge get for the Cardinal. Rivals.com rates him fourth at his position and No. 54 overall.
Sleeper: Devon Cajuste could be a really nice fit for the Cardinal. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound target has a lot of potential and is definitely a big target in Stanford's offense. He was another prospect that never seriously considered other programs once Harbaugh left and is definitely sold on the future success of the program.
Overview: There were some big departures, namely four-star running back Amir Carlisle and four-star linebacker Anthony Sarao, after Harbaugh went to the San Francisco 49ers. But a lot of top prospects stayed in Stanford's class and that was important. The Cardinal avoided a meltdown.
Headliner: Four-star tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins could have gone to Texas and no one would have blamed him because not many prospects turn down the Longhorns. But the Gig Harbor (Wash.) standout wanted to stay home and make a difference for the Huskies. It's big because Seferian-Jenkins is big and athletic, and could be a game-changer at tight end early on.
Sleeper: Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman defensive back Evan Zeger was really impressive when we saw him earlier this season against Concord (Calif.) De La Salle. Zeger is aggressive, physical, athletic and competitive - he sounds like a perfect fit for coach Steve Sarkisian's style of play.
Overview: The Huskies loaded up with in-state talent from Seferian-Jenkins to wide receiver Kasen Williams to defensive tackle Danny Shelton to running back Bishop Sankey, who switched late from Washington State. Then getting four-star safety James Sample out of Sacramento (Calif.) Grant and a bunch of other top California standouts was impressive for the Huskies.
Headliner: Harvey Langi was seriously considering Stanford and other programs but the four-star running back from South Jordon (Utah) Bingham decided to stay home and it's a huge pickup for the Utes. At 6-feet-1 and 220 pounds, Langi is a big back who has the potential to contribute early.
Sleeper: Three-star running back John White from Wilmington (Calif.) Los Angeles Harbor C.C. could be a nice sleeper in this class. Not many people are talking about him even though the junior college back had offers from Cincinnati, Kentucky, Ole Miss, Purdue, Washington State and others.
Overview: Langi and Norwalk (Calif.) Cerritos College defensive back Keith McGill are the two four-star prospects in the class that is also loaded with a bunch of three-star recruits. The Utes did well in-state and should be able to compete for more California stars now that they've joined the Pac-12. Losing quarterback commit Derrick Brown to Washington and not getting another QB in the class does hurt.
Headliner: Four-star quarterback Brett Hundley has been called the "savior" of UCLA's program but the Chandler (Ariz.) prospect doesn't want that pressure and it might be a stretch to put that on a freshman quarterback. Hundley could get a chance early on to play, though, and with a new offensive coordinator, positive-thinking UCLA fans could see it as a fresh start for an offense that struggled last season.
Sleeper: Ever since Aaron Wallace Jr. committed to the Bruins in July there hasn't been a whole lot of talk about him. But the San Diego (Calif.) Rancho Bernardo was outstanding at the Los Angeles NIKE Camp and could be a nice addition to UCLA's defense. The 6-foot-4, 215-pound, three-star certainly looks the part and now he'll get his chance to contribute.
Overview: Many called UCLA's class leading up to National Signing Day one of the most disappointing nationally and while the Bruins didn't sign a blockbuster class - like they did with their 2010 class - there are some decent pieces to work with. Still, it's not a great class. Getting four-star wide receiver Devin Lucien and four-star defensive tackle Kevin McReynolds, while keeping three-star offensive lineman Torian White was important.
Headliner: Four-star running back Ka'Deem Carey had been committed to Arizona for months but he made the coaching staff sweat looking at in-state rival Arizona State all the way until the end. But the Oro Valley (Ariz.) Canyon Del Oro standout stuck with the Wildcats. Losing Carey would have hurt. He rushed for nearly 4,500 yards and 69 touchdowns in the last two seasons.
Sleeper: Addison Bachman played at Glendora (Calif.) Citrus C.C. this past season so he's mature and developed to play early for the Wildcats. In fact, that was one of the big reasons he liked Arizona so much - because he can come in early and make an impact playing center. Memphis, Houston, USC and others showed interest in Bachman but he felt his best chance to play early was at Arizona and it could be a nice pickup.
Overview: Both Arizona and Arizona State struggled to keep the top in-state talent home. There is only one four-star, so this isn't an outstanding class but it fills some needs. Coach Mike Stoops and his staff did a good job landing numerous junior college prospects who could contribute early and a nice mix of prep standouts at the skill positions who can grow into their roles.
Headliner: Brandin Cooks emerged on the national scene at the Palo Alto NIKE Camp and then committed to UCLA. But after visiting Oregon State he knew that Corvallis was the right place for him. It's a big pickup. Cooks is fast and elusive, and had a big senior season with 66 catches for 1,125 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Sleeper: Tyler Trosin just earned his third star but for most of his recruitment the Folsom (Calif.) wide receiver was a two-star prospect and definitely undervalued. Arizona State, Iowa State and Washington State had also offered Trosin, who finished with 70 catches for 1,303 yards and 27 touchdowns in his senior year.
Overview: Oregon State compiled a nice class - a bunch of blue-collar guys who fit in well with coach Mike Riley's system. Defensive end Dylan Wynn is an outstanding prospect who could make a difference early. The Beavers addressed numerous needs and although it's not the highest-rated class in the conference it's a good group moving forward.
Headliner: Michael Eubank has star potential. The four-star dual-threat quarterback has been described as a poor man's Cameron Newton and while he's not as polished yet, the Corona (Calif.) Centennial standout can run and throw the ball with some of the best quarterbacks in the country. He had an outstanding senior season and after looking at Utah and Pittsburgh, Eubank stuck with the Sun Devils.
Sleeper: Two-star Gary Chambers could develop into a nice Pac-12 wide receiver. The 6-foot-3, 195-pound prospect from Glendale (Ariz.) Ironwood put up nice numbers in his junior and senior seasons so he's shown consistency and a lot of talent on the high school level. Last season, Chambers had 38 catches for 655 yards and seven scores.
Overview: Arizona State won out for local prospect Mo Latu, the nation's second-best center by Rivals.com, but missed out on many top recruits such as Cyrus Hobbi, Tood Peat and many others, who very easily could have picked the Sun Devils. It was a difficult recruiting cycle in many ways for coach Dennis Erickson and his staff but the bright spot was at quarterback by signing Eubank and three-star Michael Bercovici.
Headliner: Juda Parker was surprisingly good at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl and he fell in love with Colorado and its coaching staff during his visit. The top player in Hawaii is the Buffaloes' biggest pickup. Parker is a 6-foot-2, 245-pound defensive end who also considered Oregon State, Hawaii and many others.
Sleeper: Nelson Spruce is a three-star wide receiver so he's not necessarily under the radar but after the statistics he put up in his senior season it was a bit of a surprise that he wasn't more heavily recruited. The Westlake Village (Calif.) Westlake finished with 73 receptions for 1,292 yards and 18 touchdowns last season.
Overview: Coach Jon Embree and his coaching staff came into a difficult situation and had a commendable finish. Three-star defensive end Stephan Nembot settled on the Buffaloes after being committed to Washington State and then Washington. Running back Malcolm Creer picked Colorado over Washington. Things have settled now and the 2012 class could be even better.
Headliner: Rahmel Dockery came in late but Washington State will take the undersized athlete. The University Place (Wash.) Curtis standout could be a nice addition on either offense or defense. Oregon State, Hawaii and others were involved with Dockery, a 5-foot-10 recruit.
Sleeper: Marcus Mason is a tough running back who was undervalued in Southern California but was impressive at camps. Mason runs as if he's never going to get tackled and tries to explode through defensive players.
Overview: Washington State signed some nice players but losing Sankey and Nembot really could hurt in the long run. Dockery is a nice pickup as are Max Gama, Max Hersey, Rico Forbes, Mansel Simmons and some other three-stars could help the Cougars.