Analysis of Pac 10 recruiting classes

Although every team in the Pac brought in solid recruits, it appears that two teams took control of their recruiting destines. Through this piece we'll rate the classes not only by numbers, but in how the recruits helped fill their new teams' needs, put coaches on the hot seat, and talk about expectations for the 2002 season.

RANKING THE CLASSES

The ranking of the recruiting classes is not based solely on the number of five star recruits, but really on the strength of each team's class and how those players will impact their teams.

FIRST PLACE

USC and UCLA have tied for first place in the Pac. In reviewing all the recruiting services and player rankings, the top fifteen classes, are separated by hundredths of a point. Therefore, based upon immediate impact, the Trojans and Bruins come up on top.

USC

The needs were plentiful for the Trojans this recruiting season and Coach Carroll's staff answered with an impressive class. Like Ucla, USC had areas to fill at the linebacking and secondary units. The principal difference between the two classes is that the Trojans have brought in players for those areas who have the ability to start immediately. At linebacker, SC got their dream player in Danny Urquhart. The 6'4" 250lb middle linebacker is rated among the top JC players in the nation. And it is no surprise that the coaches feel he could move into the starting middle slot. If that occurs then current MLB starter, Mike Pollard could be moved to the outside truly shoring up this area of need. The other player coaches feel could see playing time this year is heralded high school linebacker Oscar Lua. Lua was a sleeper that came on so strong that on their first visit to his school coaches offered him immediately. The top ranked USC secondary got hit hard this year with the graduation of three starters. USC had a solid rotation of players through 2001, but needed to maintain that units strength. They did so with the signing of JC All American Ronnie Nunn. Nunn was signed with the idea that he would immediately move in to the starting rotation because of his Top 100 performance at the JC level. From the high school ranks the Trojans brought in two players for the secondary that could compete for playing time in Justin Wyatt and the top safety on the West Coast Darnell Bing. The Trojans also improved their status on the defensive line with the acquisition of Manuel Wright, Van Brown, Fred Matua Lajuan Ramsey. All four of these men will be in the rotation for the 2002 season. Finally on the offensive side of the ball SC bookends their line with two of the top linemen in the nation in five star player and class linchpin Winston Justice and his counterpart Kyle Williams. Because of unit depth, expect to see at least one of these two in the trenches early. The Trojans went big with receivers and a nationally ranked TE, and brought in the top running back on their wish list in Hershel Dennis. Dennis will be the star running back going into the 2003 season. With all the above, the one player that SC fans and coaches are most excited about is P/K Tom Malone. Ranked by some as the nation's top punter, Malone should move into the starting slot immediately. All in all, looking at needs and immediate impact, the USC Trojans are hard to beat when it comes to ranking their class at the head of the Pac.

IMMEDIATE IMPACT PLAYER

P/K Tom Malone

UCLA most immediate needs for the 2002 season would be in the secondary and linebacking units. The Bruins did an excellent job bringing in top national talent. At Linebacker, Xavier Burgess, Wesley Walker and Justin London will all be future stars. Their immediate impact, however might be tempered by players already on the team. The desire to move Matt Ware back to Safety is key, but Ucla has brought in some solid safeties that might force Ware to remain at the corner position. However, they've also filled major needs at the corner position with Garcia and Page. The secondary slot is where Ucla has really created it's greatest strength in this recruiting class. The last and most glaring place of need for the Bruins is at Quarterback. Obviously with the struggles of Cory Paus last year and losing Ryan McCann, the only true backup is journeyman John Sciarra so the two quarterbacks, Drew Olsen and Matt Moore brought in this class might be called upon early to shore up that position. Ucla got a great class that encompasses nearly one third their total squad.

IMMEDIATE IMPACT PLAYER

TE Marcedes Lewis

From these top two classes, we move into the second tier of the 2002 recruiting season:

WASHINGTON

Rick Neuheisel is proving he is the man to beat in the world of college football, both on and off the field. The Huskies were in on some of the nation's top players and although they didn't bring in the size of class that the Bruins and Trojans managed, they did bring in the quality.

Without a doubt, Coach Neuheisel knows how to evaluate talent. He also knows how to make that talent feel at home and the key recruits to respond DE Donnie Mateaki, OL Nathan Rhodes, QB Isiah Stanbak and RB Kenny James. Like Ucla, Washington took two quarterbacks in this class and according to Rick Neuheisel he got this year's top player in Isiah Stanback. Unlike the Bruin quarterbacks, however, Stanback is a player that will not be needed for a good two years. The Huskies do need depth on the DL and they got that in spades with Donnie Mateaki. Mateaki might already be in the rotation, as this was one of the Huskies greatest areas of need. The other, as was witnessed by number one football player Lorenzo Booker, was running back. UW answered that rejection by signing a top flight tailback out of California named Kenny James. James is a game breaker and could see immediate time on the offense as well as special teams. Both he and fellow recruit Nate Robinson are the return men of the future for the Washington Huskies. Of greatest note for the purple and gold in this recruiting class, however, has to be the DL. Neuheisel kept the Island connection that UW has so enjoyed over the years by signing Brandon Ala and Donnie Mateaki on the DL. He also brought in Stanley Daniels, the top DT out of San Diego and homestate product Daniel Misten, making this one of the top DL classes in the Pac. On the Offensive line, UW brought in one of the top rated men in Nathan Rhodes as well as some solid receivers. Look for Eddie "Action" Jackson to break the starting lineup immediately, as depth at the WR position became and area of concern this off season. The Huskies continued the tradition of great classes and will be the team to beat in 2002.

IMMEDIATE IMPACT PLAYER

DL Donnie Mateaki

ASU

There's a new head coach in town and he put his thumb print on the Arizona Sun Devils with this first recruiting class. Dirk Koetter is a respected coach and by the job he did with this ASU class, considering their season, he will now be known as a top notch recruiter. The Pac ten got a facelift in the coaching department over the last few years and there is not a team that can be overlooked when it comes to recruiting prowess. ASU might be at the head of that pack sooner than later. Skill positions and team speed were the areas of concern for the Sun Devils and they answered that need with a slew of demons. Leading the way is WR Terry Richardson. Out of Centennial High, Richardson tore up his senior season with receptions and more importantly, yards after catch. He will be a starter come game one for the Sun Devils. Joining him on the offensive side of the ball are running back Loren Wade, who is just a superb ball carrier and big WR Blake Mackey. All three of these boys will be in the rotation and add serious dimension to the skill positions for Koetter. On the defensive side, the Devils had to bring in a secondary and they got a fantastic start with Safeties Robert James and Andre Bailey. These two are the cornerstones to an All American secondary for the Sun Devils. All that speed does not mean Koetter ignored the trenches. He dug deep and pulled up outstanding talent on both sides of the ball. The jewel of ASU's crown, however, and the area that appears to be of greatest need is the signal caller. Coach Koetter went to the JC ranks and found a winner in QB Andy Goodenough. Andy will prove to be more than his last name and could contend for league honors by the end of his campaign. ASU has built a solid future with this 2002 class.

IMMEDIATE IMPACT PLAYER

QB Andy Goodenough

ARIZONA

Anyone who saw the ESPN special on Coach Mack might be wondering why any recruit would sign with the Cats' leading man, but sign they did. Size matters to this coach and so he went to the trenches to stock the players he wants for his system. The Wildcats suffered some off season losses and some recruiting defections but overall brought in a very solid class. Mack is a task master and disciplinarian. If these kids can march to his drum, they might soon become the De La Salle of college football. We'll wait and see where UofA is at once this class has a chance to matriculate. This is by far the beefiest class recruited for the Cats in quite some time and should be considered one of the top classes based just upon the offensive and defensive line recruits. It is also a mature class. The coaching staff went right to the JC ranks to stock this big line, so their impact should be felt immediately on the Wildcat team. As the saying goes: football is a game of inches and it is won in the trenches. So hats off to Mack and staff.

IMMEDIATE IMPACT PLAYER

DT Carl Tuitavuki

WASHINGTON STATE

How Mike Price gets players to Pullman, year in and year out, is a miracle and guess what, he's done it again. By the numbers, this is a huge class for WSU. Coach Price is already returning the most starters to a Pac Ten team that beat up opponents in 2001 and has added to that depth by going strong at the JC route. He succeeded, landing six, four of which are four star players. Price thinks that JC running back Jermaine Green could be the best tailback in the 2002 class, but he's not complaining about the other JC talent he brought in with RB Jonathan Smith, LB Kevin Sperry and WR Sammy Moore. All of these players will shore up any needs the Cougars might have going in to the 2002/03 season. Freshmen to watch are QB Carl Bonnell, TE Cody Byrd and TE Jesse Taylor. Bonnell will hopefully redshirt, but he has the poise to play now. Both TE's could see immediate playing time for WSU either at their natural positions or as Special Teams players where they stood out in high school. The Cougars should contend for the Pac Ten crown and this class will do nothing less than support that effort.

IMMEDIATE IMPACT PLAYER

RB Jermaine Green

OREGON STATE

Coach Erickson is a spectacular football coach and recruiter. He has, in one season, brought the Beavers to national prominence with their trouncing of Notre Dame at the end of the 2000/01 season. Because of that showing and the money poured in to the new facilities, Oregon State is no longer the whipping boy of the Pac Ten, either on the field or in the world of recruiting. They have a beautiful campus and strong family environment, which Erickson is taking full advantage of during his recruiting efforts. The Beavers lost a fair amount of talent, most noticeably their starting QB and RB - really the leaders of this team. It is not difficult to look at Erickson's 2002 class and immediately see how they might immediately effect the team. WR James Finley, a kid who didn't get the press he deserves will be a huge player for the Beavers this coming season. He is big, fast and smart and will work well within OSU's offensive scheme. Another top pass catcher is TE Joe Newton. Newton is a hometown product and Erickson deserves kudos for keeping him in state. One highly anticipated player is CB Lawrence Turner. He is a JC transfer and ready to start now. Although this is a good class for coach Erickson, it is not what many might have expected from a program on the rise.

IMMEDIATE IMPACT PLAYER

WR James Finley

OREGON

If any program's recruiting this season was a disappointment, it was that of the Ducks. Oregon is the hottest team in the Pac Ten but got a recruiting class that resembled something out of their recent past. Perhaps Coach Belotti is looking ahead to "greener" pastures or perhaps he just didn't feel he had that many needs to fill. Whatever the case, this is not a class that reflects the Ducks' on field success from 2001. One great player in Haloti Ngata, a solid DB in Marques Binns and a lot of others that probably four years from now everyone in the Pac is going to be asking why they hadn't recruited them.

IMMEDIATE IMPACT PLAYER

DT Haloti Ngata

STANFORD

Another new coach on the Pac Ten block got tested this year in recruiting and seemed to acclimate just fine. With the departure of Ty Willingham, it was expected that the Cardinal might slow down with its ability to nab top notch recruits; that appeared to be the case. That is not to say that this is a particularly small class, but the quality depth one might expect is not there. However, count on the Cardinal to always bring in one or two top calibre athletes and this season was no exception. Stanford graduated an entire defense in 2001/02 and has some holes to fill. They managed one key area with the signing of five star DE Julian Jenkins. If any player was the key to the recruiting class, Jenkins is that to the Cardinal's. However, after Jenkins, Stanford's only other top recruit is QB Trent Edwards and with the solid play of current QB, Chris Lewis it might be a while before Edwards' effect is felt on the Farm. DE Matt Traverso and CB Marcus McCutcheon both highlight an above average 2002 recruiting class for the Cardinal.

IMMEDIATE IMPACT PLAYER

DE Julian Jenkins

CAL

Last and arguably least, is the recruiting class for the Cal Bears. Offensive genius Tedford took over the reigns for the Bears at the end of 2001. It will only be a matter of time before recruits are begging to play for him. It's a beautiful campus and a solid education in an exciting part of California. There is no reason they cannot quickly regain their status as a solid football program. Tedford is the man to do it. In fact, it might be his departure from Oregon that slowed down the Ducks recruiting. He is a great coach and a welcome change to Bear's program.

IMMEDIATE IMPACT PLAYER

K Kevin Johnson

 


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