Jim Mora (USA Today)

How Will the Pac-12 Finish in Recruiting?

Jan. 25 -- It's another year, and the Pac-12 recruiting elite will finish in the top tier of the conference recruiting rankings again. UCLA and USC are a cut above, while many Pac-12 programs just can't make a significant move in recruiting, despite good seasons...

There are some very interesting developments in 2017 Pac-12 football recruiting – some things that are eyebrow raising, and some others that have been proven over and over that are happening yet again as we approach National Signing Day for the 2017 cycle.

The overall themes:

• USC is finishing strong, like it does just about every year. Even with a seemingly less aggressive recruiter as a head coach in Clay Helton, compared to his predecessors, USC is still closing out pretty well.  USC has a knack for bringing in some top-flight talent right around National Signing Day, regardless of who is the coach.

• Pac-12 champion and College Football Playoff finalist Washington is not going to finish like you might have expected, given its season.

• UCLA, once again, proves it’s a recruiting juggernaut that can attract some top talent regardless of its performance on the field.

• There are some programs that, no matter how well they over-perform on the field, just can’t crack the top tier of the conference in recruiting. 

So, as it currently stands, here’s the Pac-12 team recruiting rankings.

Pac-12 Rank
School
Commits
National Rankings
Star Average

1

USC

18

12

3.50

2

UCLA

17

17

3.59

3

Washington

16

20

3.56

4

Colorado

24

27

3.00

5

Stanford

12

28

3.83

6

Oregon

16

31

3.38

7

Arizona

24

36

2.96

8

Arizona State

15

39

3.40

9

Washington St.

21

42

3.0

10

Oregon State

21

45

2.9

11

Utah

12

53

3.42

12

California

11

65

3.0

For the actual page for the dynamic, live Scout National Team Recruiting Rankings: go here. 

The top one-third of the conference will likely end up being USC, UCLA, Washington and Stanford.   

It’s not surprising, by any means, if you go by the last five years, and which programs should be at the top of the rankings given their advantages.

Here’s how the programs stack up in recruiting combined for the last five years.

Overall Recruiting Class Ranking

1) UCLA

2) USC

3) Oregon

4) Stanford

5) Washington

6) Arizona State

7) Cal

8) Arizona

9) Utah

10) Oregon State

11) Washington State

12) Colorado

Overall Star Average Ranking

1) USC

2) UCLA

3) Oregon

4) Stanford

5) Washington

6) Arizona State

7) Cal

8) Arizona

9) Utah

10) Washington State

11t) Colorado

11t) Oregon State

Those are pretty telling rankings.   The recruiting elite of the conference are clearly UCLA and USC, with Oregon and Stanford completing the top tier at No. 3 and No. 4.  But the two L.A. schools are practically in another sub-tier above Oregon and Stanford. Over the last five years, UCLA has averaged 2 and 2.2 in overall rankings and Star Average. USC has averaged a 2.4 and 1.2. And then there’s a big drop-off to Oregon, which averages 3.8/3.8, and Stanford averaging 4.6/4.0. This year, Oregon will almost certainly be supplanted by Washington in the top third.

The middle tier is Washington/Oregon, Arizona State, Cal and Arizona.  And historically, the bottom third is Utah, Oregon State, Washington State and Colorado.

It’s pretty much how you would expect the Pac-12 World Order to be.

So how will it finish by Wednesday?

UCLA

While rumors have been flying that UCLA could finish with a five-star flip, we don’t see any big bangs to end the recruiting cycle – a mix of maybe one or two four-stars and a handful of high three-stars being likely.  But it will be enough for UCLA and coach Jim Mora to hold on to its second place standing in the Pac-12 on National Signing Day.   It is an amazing testament to and example of what we’ve been saying for years about UCLA football being a Sleeping Giant. Coming off a 4-8 season, following a disappointing one the previous year, it still will finish with probably a top-20 national recruiting class both overall and in Star Average, signing the No. 1 defensive end and cornerback in the country. 

USC

The Trojans have already started their end-of-the-cycle flourish, coming on the coattails of their Rose Bowl win. They already flipped four-star DT Marlon Tuipulotu from Washington, and they’ll probably close out with five-star WR Joseph Lewis and five-star OL Austin Jackson, and probably four-star DB Greg Johnson.  If they actually get five-star DT Jay Tufele and/or five-star DT Aubrey Solomon, it would again be a last-minute, almost miraculous finish for USC. 

Washington

The Huskies are ending with a whimper. It’s almost certainly going to lose long-time commit Connor Wedington to Stanford. It lost Tuipulotu to USC.  They don’t have really any big names on the hook, and will probably just end with a couple of three-stars.  There is a small glimmer that NorCal, four-star DE D.J. Johnson could flip from Miami. Washington looks like they’re throwing in the towel, though, having recently taken commitments from some two DEs and an OL that are stretches.   It perhaps is the most disappointing finish for 2017 recruiting in the Pac-12, given the Huskies made it to the College Football Playoff, sit on a fairly good recruiting base and have a quality coaching staff to sell. 

©M. Samek / SCOUT

Stanford

Stanford will finish in a very Stanford-esque way, with one of the smallest recruiting classes in the country in terms of numbers, but a top-ten class in terms of Star Average, with three five-star prospects on board.   The Cardinal will add four-star Weddington and then is pretty much done. They’ll probably hold on to the Pac-12 Star Average ranking title for 2017 over USC, unless the Trojans sweep the talent that we mentioned above. 

Colorado

Some teams from the bottom half of the Pac-12 will occasionally pop into the top half, mostly on the heels of a good season, and that’s what Colorado will do with its 2017 class.  But even so, it’s mostly based on Colorado signing a big number of recruits in the class, and possibly closing with four-star tight end Josh Falo.  But really, the Buffs’ Star Average is still pretty low at 3.0, not good enough to crack the top seven in the conference after their best season in years.

Oregon

The Ducks are probably going to end up locked out of its traditional conference top-tier finish, even if it closes well on NSD.  New head coach Willie Taggart has had a rough start to his tenure, with two scandals (workout injury issue and its co-offensive coordinator getting arrested for a DUI).  Even if Taggard is saying he's going to put a wall around the state of Oregon, he might not be able to build that wall just yet. The Ducks are getting plundered on in-state talent, with only one commitment among the top-ten-ranked prospects in the state of Oregon, and the top four prospects in the state currently headed to other Pac-12 programs. It was a big blow when it lost local, committed cornerback Demetrius Douglas to Minnesota.  The Ducks could pull out some respect if they close well, with four-star DB Deommodore Lenoir, and flip in-state UCLA-committed OL Jaxson Kirkland and USC-committed LB Daniel Green, but it needs to hold onto commitments like Jaylon Redd and C.J. Verdell.  Oregon traditionally doesn’t recruit to the level of its on-field performance and, as we’ve always suspected, if the novelty of its flashy uniforms and offense wore off, it would settle into the middle of the Pac-12 in recruiting, and that could be what’s happening here. Taggart has a big challenge ahead of him. 

Utah

Utah is going to sign a smallish class, but still be in the top half of the conference and ranked in the top 20 nationally for Star Average.  Their big fish right now is Jay Tufele, the five-star Utah defensive line prospect they really need to keep home and keep away from USC.   But man, what does Utah have to do on the field to get it to translate to recruiting?  It’s the program that has the most lopsided results-to-recruiting ratio, never able to get its winning seasons to significantly and consistently translate into a true recruiting boost (and you could make the case that it does the most with the talent it gets).  

Arizona State

ASU is averaging a pretty strong fifth in the conference behind the traditional big four, and it looks like that’s just about where it will land this cycle, too. ASU, though, still has the biggest chance to make a significant move among the second tier by next Wednesday, with just 14 commitments so far and a big number of undecided prospects still on their board. It really is an all-or-nothing situation for the Sun Devils, waiting on some big names like Austin Jackson and Isaiah Pola-Mao.  They took a step today by getting a commitment from four-star safety K.J. Jarrell, and they're hoping for some big flips from USC-committed Bubba Bolden and Utah-committed Jaylon Johnson, and hoping to hold on to some of its commitments.  At this point, we think they’ll hold on to their commitments, but we’re skeptical ASU will put out some of those big names, however. The Sun Devils will probably finish with a respectable Star Average, currently at 3.40 which is 19th in the nation.  

Cal, Arizona, WSU and OSU

The bottom third – Cal, Arizona, Washington State and Oregon State – just can’t improve their recruiting stock in life.  The Cal program is a bit of a mess with its late coaching change, and will close with probably the smallest class and a Star Average that gets it in the bottom third.  Washington State is just about done with its recruiting, standing at 22 commitments, and it has the second-worst Star Average in the conference, after posting winning seasons in two consecutive years for the first time since 2002-2003.   Arizona and Oregon State are just about done with their classes, too, having 24 and 20 commitments already, respectively, and they join Washington State in the bottom third for Star Average.

 


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