THE PAC-12's geography makes it an outlier on the national scene in more ways than one. The conference has dramatically fewer verbal commits at this stage of the 2014 recruiting cycle than any major conference in the country, Scout.com's database shows. The trend toward earlier and earlier verbals has swept the country in recent years, but the pace in the West appears to be more modest.
Right now, only one Pac-12 school (Arizona, with 11) is in double-digit verbal commitments. By contrast, 27 of the 38 teams in the SEC, ACC and Big East currently stand between 10 and 20 verbals each. And of the 22 teams in the Big Ten and Big 12, ten are in double digits, with another three standing at nine verbals.
The Pac-12's pace isn't just different, it's WAY different. Half of the conference's teams currently have five or fewer verbals. The next-closest schools to Arizona are Washington State and Cal, with seven verbal commitments each.
The Pac-12 is averaging 5.5 verbals per school, while the SEC is averaging 12.2, the ACC 11.6, the Big 12 11.0, the Big Ten 9.3, and the Big East 8.8.
So why the big difference with the Pac-12?
A little bit of culture and geography, explains Scout.com national analyst Brandon Huffman, who specializes in Western states recruiting.
West Coast schools take a little longer in making offers and West Coast kids tend to take more time deciding..
"With so many schools in the Southeast and Midwest in driving distance to each other, guys can see schools earlier and easier in those regions, whereas in the West, it's more of a haul to see schools. So guys take more visits in the summer, unofficially, and then the dominoes start to fall in committing," he recently told Cougfan.com editors.
"But I think it more or less has to do with how much slower Pac-12 schools are in offering -- and that's largely because there aren't as many schools out West, so there is less posturing for those guys as there would be in other regions."
Interesting to note that the three schools in the Pac-12 with the most verbals at this stage are all coached by guys whose roots are in other parts of the country: Rich Rodriguez, Mike Leach and Sonny Dykes.
North Carolina State has the most verbals in the nation right now, with 20. The Wolfpack is followed by Texas, Baylor and Kentucky with 19 each. Miami and Rutgers, at 18 each, round out the top six early haulers.
Speaking of Texas, being faster and bigger isn't always better when it comes to recruiting. In this era of the early verbal, Mack Brown and the Longhorns traditionally have been among the schools with the most early commits, and they've always been highly rated groups. But Texas has gone a combined 22-16 over the last three seasons.
In Scout.com's quality ratings of the 2014 class so far, Texas A&M, Alabama, Notre Dame, Texas and Ohio State are ranked first through fifth, respectively. Stanford, at No. 34, is the top-rated Pac-12 school, followed by Arizona (37), USC (39), Oregon (42), Utah (49), Cal (50), Washington (56), Washington State (57), UCLA (61), ASU (63), Colorado (79) and Oregon State (80). Mind you, every Pac-12 school except Arizona is still in single-digits with their verbals.