Recruiting experts and fans spend hours upon hours debating which schools pulled in the best recruiting class each year after national signing day, but very rarely do we go back and take a look at how these classes stacked up against each other once the signees have gotten a chance to show what they can do in college. Since the major recruiting services have started tracking the top classes online since 2002, a number of Pac-10/12 schools have pulled in classes worthy of the Top 10, with USC even pulling in the nation's most highly rated class more than once.
With 2002 a ways in the rear view mirror, it is now easy to go back and look at each class signed by every conference school for the last ten years and fully gauge how big of an impact each made for their program. After taking a look at each class signed by a Pac-10/12 school since 2002 I put together a Top 10 ranking of which classes end up featuring the best collection of players who pledged their signature to the same school on national signing day in a given year.
I was hesitant to put together this list at first, worried that it would simply be a ranking of the Top 10 classes that USC has signed since 2002, but when compiling my rankings, I was thoroughly impressed with some of the classes put together by other schools in the conference.
*Note - Obviously this list is going to favor classes less recent classes as recent classes haven't had the chance to fully establish themselves. I also decided to consider class from Utah and Colorado dating back to 2002 as opposed to only considering those that played in the Pac-10.
1. USC Class of 2003
Top Players - Reggie Bush, Ryan Kalil, Lawrence Jackson, LenDale White, Sedrick Ellis, Sam Baker, Steve Smith, John David Booty
Five first team All-American's, four first round draft picks, three second round draft picks and a Heisman, this might be the most impressive class in the history of the conference. Accurately rated by Scout as the top class in the nation for the year, it didn't take long for these guys to establish themselves and become a big part of why USC was so dominate for the next five to six years. Bush is the superstar of the class, but an offensive line of Baker and Kalil is incredibly impressive along with a defensive line that includes Jackson and Ellis - both first round picks.
2. Oregon Class of 2008
Top Players - LaMichael James, Darron Thomas, LaGarrette Blount, Jeremiah Masoli, Dion Jordan, Kenjon Barner, John Boyett, Josh Kaddu, Dewitt Stuckey, Kiko Alonso
Wow, this is like an all-star team of the recent Oregon teams that have taken the conference title home and it was not a highly regarded class when it was signed. James and Thomas have been the best QB/RB combo in team history and despite their troubles, Blount and Masoli aren't far behind on that list. Pretty amazing that all four of them were in the same class. The rest of the class is impressively rounded out by all-conference anointed standouts.
3. Stanford Class of 2008
Top Players - Andrew Luck, David DeCastro, Jonathan Martin, Chase Thomas, Delano Howell, Sam Schwartzstein, Michael Thomas, Chris Owusu, Konrad Reuland
It's not surprising that the Cardinal started their run of recent success immediately after signing this class. The signing of Luck out of Texas was an immediate sign that Jim Harbaugh knew how to recruit and meant business. Teamed with an offensive line led by the NFL bound DeCastro and Martin, Luck and the class of 2008 will go down as one of the best in Stanford history.
4. Oregon Class of 2007
Top Players - Casey Matthews, Jeff Maehl, Will Tukuafu, Kenny Rowe, David Paulson, Mark Asper, Terrell Turner, Eddie Pleasant, Carson York, Anthony Gildon, Talmadge Jackson, Darrion Weems
Another phenomenal class signed by Oregon that wasn't high regarded at the time. The defensive players in this draft have anchored Oregon in their recent success and Maehl and Paulson have been go to pass catchers for the last two seasons.
5. Cal Class of 2005
Top Players - DeSean Jackson, Tyson Alualu, Syd'Quan Thompson, Zack Follett, Desmond Bishop, Cameron Morrah, Anthony Felder, LaValle Hawkins
Cal has earned a reputation for bringing in top talent but never really being able to win with it and the fact that they didn't win more games with this huge haul that they brought in with the 2005 class is very supportive evidence for that argument. Jackson was one of the most explosive players in recent conference history and Alualu, Thompson, Follett and Bishop were All-Conference stalwarts.
6. USC Class of 2008
Top Players - Matt Kalil, Tyron Smith, Jurrell Casey, Nick Perry, Curtis McNeal, Khaled Holmes, T.J. Bryant, Wes Horton
You can't get much of a better offensive tackle combo than Kalil and Smith along with a defensive line that features Casey and Perry. Unfortunately for the Trojans, I feel like because of redshirts, these guys' career have been spaced out and they were never able to get on the same page. However, a few of the guys still have a chance to improve the legacy of the class even more as they are still on the team.
7. Cal Class of 2007
Top Players - Jahvid Best, Cameron Jordan, Mitchell Schwartz, Shane Vereen, Bryan Anger, D.J. Holt, Chris Conte, Sean Cattouse, Matt Summers-Gavin, Justin Cheadle
More confusing evidence as to how Cal brings in NFL talented guys and yet cannot seem to ever win as much as they should. With two running backs who went in the first two rounds of the draft and a bevy of offensive linemen, including second round pick Schwartz, this class also featured Anger who just went in the third round of the draft and Jordan who was a first rounder.
8. USC Class of 2004
Top Players - Dwayne Jarrett, Fred Davis, Keith Rivers, Deuce Lutui, Chilo Rachal, Jeff Byers
This is where the classes start to fall off a bit, but Jarrett was a two time All-American and Davis was the best tight end at USC for the last decade. Lutui and Rachal were All-Conference linemen and Rivers was an All-American despite not being as well known as some of the other USC linebackers of the era.
9. USC Class of 2007
Top Players - Kristofer O'Dowd, Joe McKnight, Ronald Johnson, Everson Griffen, Da'John Harris, Chris Galippo, Marc Tyler, Rhett Ellison
Each of these guys seemed to fall a little short of their sky high expectations coming out of high school, but nonetheless each made their mark as Trojans. McKnight and Johnson were two of the better playmakers on USC squads that were lacking big play guys, O'Dowd was one of the better centers in the country during his junior and senior season and Griffen, Harris and Galippo were solid players on defense.
10. Utah Class of 2005
Top Players - Zane Beadles, Sean Smith, Koa Misi, Brice McClain, Tony Bergstrom
Some of the key pieces of the Utah team that beat Alabama in the 2009 Sugar Bowl and brought the program's success to the eyes of the national media and fans a few years before they joined the conference.