Pac-12 Spotlight: Five coaches that need a strong close to 2024 cycle
Rivals.com national recruiting director Adam Gorney highlights five Pac-12 coaches that need a strong close to the 2024 recruiting cycle with the Early Signing Period just a few short weeks away.
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DEION SANDERS, Colorado
Everything was looking so wonderful for Colorado early on in the season. The Buffaloes started 3-0 and it appeared as if a storybook season was about to unfold but then it turned into a horror flick as they dropped eight of their last night games. First-year coach Deion Sanders called it the toughest stretch of his life.
In recent weeks, Colorado has also dealt with a wave of decommitments from Talan Chandler (who flipped to Missouri) and quarterbacks Danny O’Neil, who could follow demoted offensive coordinator Sean Lewis as he got the San Diego State head coaching job and 2025 four-star quarterback Antwann Hill.
The Buffaloes are down to nine total commitments - the fewest in the Pac-12 - and now it looks like Sanders has decided to return to the transfer portal for quick fixes along the offensive line and elsewhere. That’s perfectly fine but he needs a big finish there as well to shore up issues that popped up throughout the season.
CHIP KELLY, UCLA
If the narrative that coach Chip Kelly doesn’t like to recruit then that has to change for him to have any long-term success at UCLA because many were surprised that he wasn’t fired after this season as Kelly, once the wonderment of college football, is now 34-34 with the Bruins.
Head coaches that don’t take to recruiting don’t last very long in today’s college football where recruiting is now coupled with NIL deals and transfer portal machinations. It’s not all just Xs and Os and some fear that’s what Kelly cares about to the detriment of the program.
The Bruins are No. 57 nationally and seventh in the Pac-12 with just 12 commitments but four-star receiver Kwazi Gilmer is an outside threat that could be utilized quickly in Westwood. The loss of former five-star quarterback Dante Moore to the transfer portal on Thursday hurts as recruiting your own roster is now a reality in college football as well.
LINCOLN RILEY, USC
After a dismal and disappointing season, coach Lincoln Riley has been called every name in the book from a total fraud to so many others but the only way to rebound after blowing it in 2023 is to build for the future.
USC’s class is already strong being second in the Pac-12 behind Oregon with the same average star ranking as the Ducks but a strong finish in recruiting - whether from the high school ranks or the transfer portal again - will be a crucial important step for Riley to have some momentum heading into the offseason.
There are some players other schools are trying to poach - whether it’s four-star receiver Xavier Jordan, four-star defensive end Kameryn Fountain or others - so Riley has some work to do to finish off this class, get the portal right and then move on from a bad season.
KYLE WHITTINGHAM, Utah
Utah has the second-fewest commits in the Pac-12 with 10 total pledges. The Utes sit No. 74 nationally in the team recruiting rankings between Ball State and Marshall. And there doesn’t seem to be a major rush to load up on official visit weekends through December to round out the class.
There won’t be a ton of graduating players so Utah’s class could be smaller - and there is a firm belief that coach Kyle Whittingham and his staff know what they’re doing maybe better than any program in the conference - but this feels very much like the Utes are looking to fill holes with the transfer portal. Four-star USC receiver commit Xavier Jordan is still very much looking at the Utes as well.
There will be plenty of players available with hundreds already announcing even before the transfer window opens on Monday but this Utah high school class has been lackluster so far.
KALEN DEBOER, Washington
The Huskies are going through their greatest two-year run of victories in program history and coach Kalen DeBoer is now seen as a homerun hire so a big finish down the stretch would only be more icing on the cake.
Four-star defensive tackle Jericho Johnson could decide any day and while Oregon might have the edge over Washington, both programs remain involved. Four-star running back Jason Brown from Seattle (Wash.) O’Dea has re-engaged with Washington and a visit could be coming up.
For all its success, Washington is sitting No. 48 nationally between West Virginia and Kansas in the team rankings with only 15 commitments. More could be on the way, the portal could be busy and whatever DeBoer is doing, he’s doing it right.