College football recruiting is a lot like planting a garden, you have to plant a large amount and wide variety of seeds in hopes that in the near future, these seeds will grow to produce a thriving harvest. However, a healthy garden and recruiting class requires a great deal of nourishment, attention and development to end up being fruitful, no matter how good the seeds are.
This is why it is always interesting to look back and see how the recruiting classes that are the foundation of the teams within the conference turned out. Most of a team's success, or failures, can be linked back to the level of the recruiting class they signed four or five years ago and the development of the players signed, and it doesn't always turn out how you would think. For example, a large number of recent classes signed by UCLA have been highly rated when they were signed, only to end up wallowing in mediocrity four to five years later, while much of the recent success of a program like Utah or Oregon State's towards the end of the last decade was built on developing classes that were less touted when they were signed.
With this in mind, I thought it would be interesting to go back and examine the success (or failure) of the classes that each Pac-12 school signed in 2008 and 2009 since these players (depending on if they redshirted or not) should represent the bulk of players that were seniors in 2011 or are seniors and juniors this upcoming season.
2008 - This class was so well regarded when it was being put together that some suggested that it might have saved Tyrone Willingham from being fired a year earlier than he ultimately was. Though a large number of the players fell by the wayside, including 5-star TE and centerpiece of the class Kavario Middleton, it produced most of the lynchpins of the Huskies reemergence under Steve Sarkisian including Chris Polk who was snagged away from USC.
Stars - RB Chris Polk, WR Jermaine Kearse, DT Alameda Ta'amu, T Senio Kelemete
Solid Players- DE Everette Thompson, T Drew Schaefer
2009 - This class was pieced together rather quickly when Sarkisian was hired after a catastrophic 0-12 season fielded by the Huskies and it really shows. Low on talent and numbers, the class was hurt by some JC players who failed to make it into school and a number of guys who weren't Pac-12 level athletes. There was little excitement about 3-star QB Keith Price on signing day, but he will likely end up being the only saving grace of this lost class.
Stars - QB Keith Price, CB Desmond Trufant
Solid Players - WR James Johnson, S Nathan Fellner
2008 - The first class signed by Paul Wulff, this group serves as a good example of Wulff's classes overall in that it is full of guys who played too early and never developed and guys from the state of Washington who probably weren't Pac-12 caliber players. However, this class does include some of the players who provided the rare highlights of the Wulff era on the Palouse including WR Jared Karstetter and LB Mike Ledgerwood.
Solid Players - WR Jared Karstetter, LB Mike Ledgerwood, LB Myron Beck, S Tyree Toomer, C Zack Williams, DE Bernard Wolfgramm, TE Andre Lintz
2009 - It's actually incredibly impressive that this class was fairly well rated when it was signed seeing as how it was signed coming off of the worst season in Cougar history. Unfortunately for the Cougs, the class hasn't completely panned out. That doesn't mean that aren't some bright spots in the class though, particularly QB Jeff Tuel and DE Travis Long.
Stars - QB Jeff Tuel, DE Travis Long
Solid Players - RB Carl Winston, DE Brandon Rankin
2008 - This might be the best class ever signed by Oregon and I actually ranked it second on my list of the 10 best recruiting classes of the last decade. This class was balanced, deep, full of superstars and a big reason why Oregon has won three straight conference titles. The class contains both of Oregon's recent All-Conference quarterbacks and running backs in Jeremiah Masoli, Darron Thomas, LaMichael James and LaGarrette Blount along with Kenjon Barner (Now that is a backfield). It doesn't end there either, with the class being filled out with too many great players to even list.
Stars - RB LaMichael James, QB Darron Thomas, QB Jeremiah Masoli, RB LaGarrette Blount, DE Dion Jordan, S John Boyett, RB Kenjon Barner
Solid Players - LB Dewitt Stuckey, LB Josh Kaddu, LB Kiko Alonso, T Nick Cody
2009 - This class isn't as impressive as it should be after taking a look at the monster classes Oregon signed in 2007 and 2008, but is solid none the less. It very much lacks stars other than the self destructing Cliff Harris, but it is full of solid starters and depth players who have been the glue in the Ducks recent championship seasons, particularly on defense.
Stars - CB Cliff Harris, LB Michael Clay
Solid Players - DT Taylor Hart, P Jackson Rice, CB Avery Patterson, WR Lavasier Tuinei, LB Boseko Lokombo, DE Zac Clark, DT Wade Keliikipi
2008 -A typical Oregon State Mike Riley class, loaded with under the radar player that were lightly recruited by other BCS level schools, with the exception of Jacquizz Rodgers who followed his lesser heralded brother James to Corvalis. Unfortunately for the Beavers, very few of the guys in this class ended up being diamonds in the rough. A few of the players signed in 08 have carved out a name for themselves, but the overall lack of talent signed in this class makes the Beavers recent struggles make more sense.
Stars - RB Jacquizz Rodgers, DT Stephen Paea
Solid Players - T Colin Kelly, RB Jovan Stevenson
2009 - Another class of primarily unheralded guys who Riley hasn't been able to mold into the kind of overachieving bunches that he produced on the field in the late 2000's. This class is peppered with some sleepers in players like CB Jordan Poyer and WR Markus Wheaton and some solid starters, but there simply aren't enough of them to make it a good class.
Stars - CB Jordan Poyer
Solid Players - WR Markus Wheaton, T Michael Philipp, LB Rueben Robinson, LB Michael Doctor, CD Rashaad Reynolds
2008 - While this class does have good depth, it has failed to produce much star power, which falls into line with the recent mediocrity of the program. The class stacks up well defensively with LB Mychal Kendricks leading the way, but strikes out offensively with five receivers signed, none of whom ever really panned out, a quarterback who ended up transferring and a few linemen who have never stood out.
Stars - LB Mychal Kendricks
Solid Players - DT Trevor Guyton, WR Marvin Jones, DT Aaron Tipoti, T Tyler Rigsbee, WR Verran Tucker, TE Anthony Miller, LS Matt Rios, CB Marc Anthony, CB Josh Hill
2009 - Another underwhelming class for Tedford that seemed strong when it was signed but has failed to produce much at all. Much like the Class of 08 before it, 09 has a good collection of solid players but contains a quarterback that never panned out and is light on playmakers and standout offensive linemen while being very heavy on guys who left the program.
Stars - RB Isi Sofele
Solid Players - G Brian Schwenke, DT Deandre Coleman
2008 - The base of some of the best Stanford teams ever is headlined by Mr. Everything Andrew Luck and anchored by two of the conference's most dominant offensive linemen in recent years in David DeCastro and Jonathan Martin. Not only does the class have major star power with the three aforementioned All-Americans, it is deep and balanced, a testament to the abilities of Jim Harbaugh, who with this class, turned around what was a sluggish program that many thought would never be able to reach the heights that they did in the last two seasons. I chose this class as #3 on my list of the 10 best recruiting classes signed within in the conference in the last decade.
Stars - QB Andrew Luc,k C David DeCastro, T Jonathan Martin, LB Chase Thomas
2009 -This class built on the amazing foundation that Harbaugh constructed in 2008 and filled some of the holes the Cardinal had with less superstars but more solid role players. While most of the 08 class is gone, David Evans will have to rely heavily on this class to keep the ship steered in the right direction and it looks good for him as the Class of 2009 is very balanced and filled with guys who have already established themselves as solid players.
Stars - RB Stepfan Taylor LB Shayne Skov
Solid Players - DE Ben Gardner, TE LeVine Toilolo, TE Zach Ertz, RB Tyler Gaffney, G Kevin Danser, LB Jarek Lancaster, FB Geoff Meinken, DT Terrence Stephens, LB Trent Murphy
2008 - After looking at this class, it seems strange that UCLA has struggled in recent years, but when held up against their other classes, it makes it clear that the problem was that Rick Neuheisel struggled to find quality players outside of this class. Other classes aside, this one lives up to Neuheisel's supposed recruiting skills as it is very heavy on quality players that UCLA has utilized to be perpetually average to below average in recent seasons. One problem though is that like many classes that Neuheisel has recruited, it is light on linemen on both sides of the ball.
Stars - S Rahim Moore, RB Johnathan Franklin
Solid Players - DE Datone Jones, QB Kevin Prince, WR Nelson Rosario, LB Sean Westgate, P Jeff Locke, TE Cory Harkey, RB Derrick Coleman, G Jeff Baca, LB Patrick Larimore, DE Damien Holmes, S Tony Dye, CB Aaron Hester
2009 - This is clearly where Neuheisel slipped up as it has about ten times less stars and solid players than the class of 2008 and is once again light on linemen on both sides. A number of the players have yet to establish themselves, have dealt with injuries or left the program. This is definitely a big part of why the Bruins were never able to get over the hump of mediocrity with Neuheisel.
Solid Players - WR Randall Carroll, T Xavier Su'a-Filo, CB Sheldon Price
2008 - One of the best classes ever signed by Pete Carroll, and that is saying a lot. USC had a couple of years leading up to this class where they signed classes that were more highly touted but didn't pan out nearly as well and this class is a big part of why the Trojans have been able to stay afloat so well despite the sanctions surrounding the program. Though it isn't overly deep, it features about as many stars as you can possibly pack into a college class.
Solid Players - CB T.J. Bryant, DE Wes Horton
2009 - This class is incredibly thin for a USC class and is very light on standouts other than Matt Barkley. Not a large class when signed, it couldn't afford the attrition that it faced, including LB Jarvis Jones who has gone on to be a star at Georgia. However, the bulk of this class, particularly Barkley will have the chance this season to put their stamp on the program with a big year that they are very capable of having.
Stars - QB Matt Barkley, S T.J. McDonald
2008 - A very solid class for the Wildcats and a big reason why Arizona had some of their best seasons in recent history in 2009 and 2010. The class has a lot of solid starters and depth guys, but lacks the star power needed to compete with the elite teams in the conference which ultimately led to Mike Stoops losing his job.
Stars - WR Juron Criner
2009 - Something that has plagued a lot of the conference's teams during these years, a good class followed by a very weak class led to the demise of a head coach. Stoops built a decent squad with the Class of 2008 but was unable to keep it rolling in 2009 and ended up with a class that hasn't produced much with just a few guys who have even made solid contributions.
Solid Players - CB Adam Hall, T Jack Julsing, DT Sione Tuihalamaka, DT Justin Washington, T Jack Baucus
2008 - The Sun Devils were actually a pretty talented team in the last few seasons, which I imagine makes it very frustrating for their fans as they should have won a lot more games than they have. Regardless of wins, Arizona State has been fairly strong on defense and this class is a big reason for that, though injuries and discipline held it back quite a bit.
Stars - WR Gerrell Robinson
2009 - More of the same from Dennis Erickson and the Sun Devils here. A lot of talent, particularly on defense, but not much success produced and a lot of injuries combined with discipline problems. With classes like the ones that he signed in 2008 and 2009, Erickson should have had the Sun Devils as the clear cut second best team in the southern half of the conference, after USC, but clearly that didn't happen and he was dismissed.
Stars - LB Vontaze Burfict, RB Cameron Marshall, QB Brock Osweiler
Solid Players - T Evan Finkenberg, DT Will Sutton, DT Corey Adams, WR Jamal Miles, CB LeQuan Lewis, CB Osahon Irabor
2008 - The majority of the Utes best players on the next season's squad came from this class, and while they are more than solid, the lack of stars will likely keep the from truly competing with the elite in the conference. This is a balanced class of players that are exactly the kind of underrated guys that have fueled Utah for years have helped the Utes transition smoothly into BCS level football.
Stars - WR David Reed
2009 - More players will need to emerge from this class or the Utes could have some serious holes to fit after the mass graduation of the Class of 2008 following next season. There isn't much here and what is present isn't star worthy. QB Jordan Wynn has the chance to emerge as a playmaker and the leader of the early Pac-12 era Utes, but in a conference loaded with good QB's that will be easier said than done.
Solid Players - LB Trevor Reilly, QB Jordan Wynn, CB Conroy Black
2008 - I'm not sure if this class is better than I think it is or if it just didn't experience a lot of attrition and yet still failed miserably. Generally when a class doesn't produce on the field, it means that a lot of the class disappeared over the years, but this class mainly remained intact and features a few guys who have been all-conference type guys. While there is a decent number of solid players, I would also point out that a lot of the guys probably wouldn't have played much at other schools in the conference.
Stars - RB Rodney Stewart
2009 - This is more of what you would expect a recent Colorado class to be like. Full of attrition, completely lacking stars and not much depth. There is very, very little here and unless Jon Embree can reload and develop the recent classes he has signed the mass graduation of the Class of 2008 will give him a tough hill to climb.