Welcome to a special edition of the stock report: We’re wrapping up the 2020-21 recruiting cycle, even though – as we’ll explain below – there is a gigantic fish still swimming.
Rising: Pac-12. For the first time since 2012, the conference placed two teams in the top-10 of the 247sports composite rankings (No. 6 Oregon and No. 8 USC). Equally significant, the California exodus slowed: Six of the state’s top-10 recruits signed with Pac-12 teams. If either Washington, Oregon or USC is able to land five-star defensive lineman J.T. Tuimoloau – the Seattle-area prospect hasn’t signed – then the 2020-21 recruiting season just might be remembered as a victory for the conference.
Falling: Pac-12. The news wasn’t all positive, however. For all the success at the top with Oregon and USC, there was a noticeable absence of quality depth: The third highest-ranked class in the conference was merely No. 27 nationally (Cal). This marks the first time in the 20-year history of the 247sports database that the Pac-12 did not place a third team in the top 25.
Rising: UCLA. The modest but noticeable uptick in performance on the field was accompanied by improved showing on the recruiting trail. The No. 29 national ranking is solid, but we’re struck by the presence of two four-star defensive ends (Quintin Somerville and Tiaoalii Savea). And don’t forget about transfers who should help instantly: tailback Zach Charbonnet (Michigan) and receiver Kam Brown (Texas A&M).
Falling: Oregon State. We mention the Beavers here not because they have the lowest-rated class in the conference but to explain why they have the lowest-rated class; the answer provides context for so much of what’s referenced below: The 247sports and Rivals team rankings are based on both the quality and quantity of signed prospects. OSU doesn’t have many scholarships available this year and is, once again, devoting numerous roster slots to players in the transfer portal. The result is a 10-player class (the smallest in the conference) that’s actually better, on a ratings-per-player basis, than several ranked above it.
Rising: Arizona. Granted, the bar was low – and we’re not even sure the Wildcats cleared it: The class is ranked No. 11 in the conference and No. 76 nationally. (There are only 65 teams in the Power Five). But if our evaluation takes into account the full sweep of newcomers, then Arizona’s desperate efforts were successful relative to what we expected. First-year coach Jedd Fisch managed to restock the roster with transfers, landing three quarterbacks and a slew of Power Five veterans.
Falling: Washington. To be fair, the Huskies probably deserve an incomplete grade: If they land Tuimoloau, then everything changes. But we expect the uber-prospect to sign elsewhere – hello, Ohio State – and that outcome would leave UW with a disappointing haul (No. 6 in the conference) in Jimmy Lake’s first full recruiting cycle. From the greatest prep class in the region’s history, the Huskies likely will sign just two of the top-six players: quarterback Sam Huard and guard Owen Prentice.
Rising: Cal. The fourth time was the charm for coach Justin Wilcox, whose class is currently rated No. 3 in the conference – the first time Cal has reached the top tier since the Jeff Tedford era. The incoming group includes five players with four-star ratings, a jackpot for Cal compared to recent years. And for an offense that struggles to generate big plays, it’s worth noting that four of the top-rated signees play skill positions.
Falling: Offensive linemen. The Pac-12 landed just two of the top-25 offensive linemen in the country – both signed with Oregon – and a mere six of the top 50. (Last year, it signed eight of the top 50.) The dearth of elite tackles and guards on the West Coast, in comparison to other regions, doesn’t make for catchy headlines or gripping message-board material, but it’s a red-alert issue for the conference.
Rising: Utah. The Utes did Ute things, compiling a class that won’t generate much attention but ranks No. 5 in the conference. Including a four-star quarterback (Peter Costelli), the class is heavy on linebackers and features players from nine states. And add Utah to the list of teams leaning into the transfer portal for quick fixes, especially in the offensive backfield.
Falling: Colorado. Coach Karl Dorrell and his staff got a late start on the ’21 class, then had their best-laid plans derailed by the pandemic. The Buffaloes lost the top in-state players, and they are not considered a frontrunner for the No. 1 prospect in the Colorado prep class of 2022: five-star tailback Gavin Sawchuk, from Christian McCaffrey’s alma mater (Valor Christian). CU is a tough gig under normal circumstances. Dorrell needs non-pandemic time to set a foundation and generate momentum.
Rising: USC. The 2021 class was a resounding success based on USC’s feeble performance a year ago but in line with what we typically expect from the Trojans. (At its best, USC closes like nobody else; that was the case this year, as well.) The collection of signees features four of the top-eight players in California and was particularly strong on defense, where the Trojans landed a bevy of four-star prospects and the nation’s No. 1 overall recruit, end Korey Foreman. Oh, and they have already secured the No. 1 cornerback in the class of 2022.
Falling: Class rankings. The recruiting of high school players remains the lifeblood of any program, but the ever-expanding use of the transfer portal to fill immediate needs with veteran players has served to muddle conclusions about the December and February signing windows. Corral three or four impact transfers, and what appears to be an average recruiting class by traditional standards is actually far more accomplished.
Rising: Washington State. Nick Rolovich’s first full recruiting class was impressive compared to WSU’s historical standards and features four-star receiver C.J. Moore. Rivals was particularly bullish, slotting the class No. 7 in the conference – WSU’s highest placement since 2004. That’s partly due to having one of the largest classes (21 signees). In contrast to Oregon State, the Cougars were the beneficiary of a ratings system that values quantity.
Falling: Arizona State. Partly because of class size, the Sun Devils failed to match their success of the past two years (conference ranking: No. 8). But it’s equally clear that they were unable to make significant inroads locally. The highest-rated player from Arizona to sign with the Sun Devils, offensive tackle Isaia Glass, is ranked 15th in the state. The class has as many players from New York and Pennsylvania as it does from Arizona (one).
Rising: Oregon. The Ducks are No. 6 nationally in the 247sports composite and even better, No. 3, in the Rivals rankings. Bottom line: It was a stellar class for Mario Cristobal, who loaded up on offensive linemen, grabbed a five-star quarterback (Ty Thompson) and signed the top-rated player in three Pac-12 states (Utah, Colorado and Arizona). The Ducks have produced four consecutive top-15 classes – the depth chart in Eugene should ooze talent at every position next fall.
Falling: Stanford. After two highly-rated classes, the Cardinal lost momentum. Although the relatively small size played a role in the No. 8 ranking, so, too, did the overall lack of quality: Stanford signed only one four-star recruit. (Last year, it signed five; the year before, it signed seven.) There was a small victory buried within the signatures, as two players will be allowed to enroll early – a step the university had previously refused to allow.
Rising: The California junior class. The Pac-12’s primary talent pipeline is well stocked for the 2021-22 recruiting cycle, with four rising seniors who have been assigned five stars by 247sports. (This year, there was only one: USC-bound Korey Foreman.) It’s a prime opportunity for the conference to build on the incremental progress made this year. But how sturdy is the fence around Southern California?
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