It’s time we take a look at recruiting post-Signing Day, conference by conference. First up? The Pac-12.
Best Class: UCLA Bruins
After a nine-win season, UCLA managed to capitalize on the clout the program has built in one short year and earned itself a top-10 recruiting class and the consensus No. 1 recruiting class in the Pac-12, according to recruiting services.
No, it’s not hard at all to recruit at UCLA, given the academics, the location and a tradition-rich football program. But this is UCLA’s best class in awhile, and likely their best one in a decade. Every position of need has been filled for these Bruins, and every deficiency that became so salient in a slightly-rocky nine-win campaign was addressed. While the offensive line and secondary were obvious weak points on the field in 2012, the new signees at both position groups highlight the class.
Credit to Jim Mora, for putting this staff together last year (another successful year recruiting-wise, given they resuscitated a class ranked in the 40s and wound up with a top-15 class in 2012) and for carrying the momentum from a good season onto the recruiting trail. Credit to Adrian Klemm, the offensive line coach, for his ridiculous prowess in bringing top-flight talent. And credit Angus McClure, UCLA’s recruiting coordinator, for making the recruiting staff so cohesive while picking up solid defensive linemen along the way.
The UCLA Bruins are a-comin’, and it showed on Wednesday.
Worst Class: Colorado Buffaloes
While UCLA is the consensus, clear-cut top-ranked recruiting class in the conference, Colorado lays claim to the consensus, clear-cut worst class in the Pac-12.
The new staff, led by ex-San Jose State coach Mike McIntyre, failed to earn the commitment of a four-star recruit, with ten of their 19 signees are rated three-star recruits by Scout and Rivals, the rest earning two stars on both services. It’s also really hard to determine what is a position of need considering Colorado was beaten nearly every week last year at every phase of the game. An offensive line sure would help the Buffs’ case, and though they added five offensive linemen on the recruiting trail, none were very highly-touted.
This is what happens when a program becomes the whipping boy of any conference, and this is what happens when that program fired its head coach after just two seasons. Boulder, CO, is a mess right now, and much like most coaches wouldn’t touch the football program when Jon Embree was let go, recruit seem to avoid it just as easily.
McIntyre won at San Jose State, one of the toughest places to win games in all of college football, so it’s not like we can count him out just yet. But the signs of a new coach succeeding early on normally include a good, initial recruiting class to re-energize recruits about the program’s new philosophy.
That didn’t happen this year, and as a result, the Buffs will remain relatively talentless.
Most Surprising: UCLA Bruins
OK, this is incredibly cheap, picking the best team as the most surprising. Oregon was considered, but it wasn’t as if they weren’t battling with Washington for third place in the recruiting rankings for much of the way, and depending on who you ask, they didn’t even win that battle. I almost considered UW, but they were vying for second-place for much of the way behind USC and wound up finishing third. I almost went with Cal, but they haven’t picked up any top-tier recruits since November, when Khalfani Muhammad jumped aboard Sonny Dykes’ program. I considered Arizona State, but while they finished with a nice class, any class that’s below the middle mark of the conference rankings probably shouldn’t ever be shocking.
So I went with UCLA, because while they were vying for second-place much of the time, no one — absolutely no one — predicted they’d finish ahead of USC in the recruiting rankings, and they did so convincingly enough to the point where there’s no inconsistencies among the recruiting services. UCLA won the recruiting battle of Los Angeles, and earned the commitment six four-star recruits in the span of about two weeks en route to their recruiting win over the Trojans.
Of course, UCLA did beat USC both because they out-recruited Kiffin’s staff and because Kiffin and his crew saw the class fall apart rather quickly. Which brings us to our next category…
Most Disappointing Class: USC Trojans
This one’s almost too easy, and you could argue that USC had the most disappointing class in the country despite earning more five-star signees than any other program in the country.
But these Trojans were poised to earn the No. 1 class in the country for about six months or more. They fell out of the top-10 in most recruiting services’ team rankings, a steep drop that came ridiculously fast, with decommitments piling up in the final weeks leading up to Signing Day.
The Trojans are finally feeling the effects of the sanctions too, and only have a 13-man class. Could this be the signaling of a change in the guard in the Los Angeles rivalry with UCLA?
Top Prospect: Su’a Cravens, USC
One of the top defensive recruits in the nation, defensive back Su’a Cravens was absolutely dominant in high school all-star games and was consistently elite his entire high school career.
USC has never really been great at producing defensive backs — amazingly, Nickell Robey might be their best DB in years — but Cravens is almost a surefire, bonafide star. And considering this Trojan team struggled mightily against the pass in 2012, Cravens could step in and make an immediate impact, especially with Robey leaving for the NFL draft.
Some Names You Should Know
1. UCLA. Kylie Fitts, Priest Willis, Caleb Benenoch
2. USC. Max Browne, Su’a Cravens, Kenny Bigelow
3. Washington. Troy Williams, Jermaine Kelly, Damore’ea Stringfellow
4. Oregon. Torrodney Prevot, Thomas Tyner, Cameron Hunt
5. Arizona. Anu Solomon, Devin Holiday, Pierre Cormier
6. California. Jared Goff, Erik Bunte, Cameron Walker
7. Arizona State. Chans Cox, Marcus Ball, Viliami Latu
8. Washington State. Tyler Bruggman, Cole Madison, Matt Meyer
9. Oregon State. Dashon Hunt, Kyle Kempt, Terin Solomon.
10. Utah. Conner Manning, Brandon Cox, Xavier Shepherd
11. Stanford. Kevin Palma, Peter Kalambayi, Greg Taboada
12. Colorado. Devin Ross, George Frazier, Sefo Liufau