I know the SEC is the SEC when it comes to recruiting, but it was a pretty good day for the Pac-12 overall on signing day. USC and UCLA made the big splashes nationally and there was plenty of other intrigue within the conference.
Most of the action happens before signing day though and, with that in mind, I thought it would be appropriate to go over some superlatives for the Pac-12 recruiting classes for the 2015 classes now that they are all essentially wrapped up. (Still waiting on you, Roquan Smith.)
Best overall class
I'll let the 247Sports composite rankings handle this one. The consensus is USC and I see no reason to argue with that consensus. They recruited at another level this season and came really close to catching Alabama in the national rankings.
Best offensive line class
When they say "it all starts up front", I agree with them. If programs don't recruit well on the offensive line, everything else can start to fall apart around it. Although USC brought in a great player in Chuma Edoga, I don't think they came close in having the best offensive line class in the conference.
That distinction goes to UCLA. Josh Wariboko, Tevita Halalio, and Fred Ulu-Perry as a group of interior line prospects are right up there with what Alabama brought in this year and Andre James was one of the best offensive tackle prospects in the west this cycle. When you include JC offensive tackle Zach Bateman, this group looks even better. Everyone knows the struggles the Bruins have had blocking up front. In a couple of years it shouldn't be a problem with this group of players being the core of their future offensive line.
Best running back class
This category was a tough one to decide, but I'm going to roll with Oregon over Stanford. Taj Griffin, Malik Lovette, and Kirk Merritt are all perfect fits for what the Ducks do on offense and could line up in the backfield or line up in the slot. They may be the most explosive trio of players any team signed in the nation.
Best quarterback class
The easy thing to do would be to give this to USC because they signed two blue chip talents at the position in Ricky Town and Sam Darnold. I'm going to say that signing one Josh Rosen outweighs those two though because of need at the position and because Rosen is just that good.
Best wide receiver/tight end class
It wasn't a great year for receivers on the west coast this cycle in recruiting (it's going to be a much better year in 2016) when compared to other regions so there were not a ton of outstanding choices because the top tier talent wasn't available for the most part. In other years, this is the kind of position group that USC usually cleans up at. This year though, the Bear Raid seemed to get the attention of pass catchers and Cal had the top receiver class in the conference.
Jaylinn Hawkins and Carlos Strickland are both going to be very good players for the Bears and they also are bringing in a couple of very talented sleepers in Greyson Bankhead and Brandon Singleton. They are going to continue to put up numbers if they keep bringing in this kind of talent.
Best defensive line class
USC wants to get back to what they were during the Carroll era and a defensive line class like this is going to help them get there. I don't think there is a better defensive tackle group in the nation than Rasheem Green, Jacob Daniel, and Kevin Scott. Everyone knows about Green and Daniel, but Scott could end up being on the same level as those two. He looked phenomenal during his senior year.
They grabbed a commitment from defensive end/tackle Noah Jefferson out of Nevada before he was getting much attention from anyone and now he looks like a massive steal. Christian Rector is another player who would be the prize jewel for most team's defensive line recruits this year. At USC, he's almost an afterthought in the class. He has the chance to become a good one. This group could be scary good in a few years.
Best linebacker class
ASU has a really good group of players this year, but USC signed the best group of linebackers in the nation. John Houston, Osa Masina, Porter Gustin, and Cameron Smith all have the talent to become high quality starters and possibly All-Americans. Gustin may even end up switching to defensive end and joining that stellar group. Even without Gustin, this is a special collection of talent for the Trojans.
Best defensive back class
This is why the Trojans had the second best class in the nation. They absolutely nailed it with their top targets on defense and the defensive back group is just about equal to what they did at linebacker and the defensive line. They have the top cornerback in the nation in Iman Marshall, the top safety on the west coast in Marvell Tell, and two more top ten corner prospects in Isaiah Langley and Ykili Ross. Stanford did a great job at safety this year and UCLA did an exceptional job of signing cornerbacks this year as well, but they both don't match up to what the Trojans did.
The USC defense is going to be one of the most talented groups in the nation in a couple of years.
Other post-signing day thoughts:
- Washington's position groups weren't mentioned once in any of these categories, but they really did a good job this year overall. I know Chris Petersen's focus is on development and I think he brought in a lot of prospects that are going to end up being really good college football players after a few years of being entrenched in the Husky program. I also liked that Petersen really did well with local players in this class.
- No one understands how to recruit to their scheme better than Stanford. Some of the guys they signed might not be great fits if they signed with other teams that ran a different type of defense or offense, but they fit just right with what Stanford will ask of them on the field. I don't think the Cardinal are going to be going away as a contender in the Pac-12 North as long as they continue to find the right players like they did this recruiting cycle.
- I like what Cal did at receiver and defensive back this year. They need more talent at offensive and defensive line if they are going to be a legitimate contender in the next few years though. They are a level below in recruiting at those positions compared to the teams they want to beat.
- Utah had a weird year in recruiting partly because of staff defections. The top players from the state chose to all go to other Pac-12 schools: USC (Gustin and Masina), UCLA (Andre James), and Oregon State (Christian Folau). Utah actually failed to sign any of the top eight recruits in the state (according to Rivals.com's state rankings).
It's great that Kyle Whittingham signed a contract extension, but there is some good talent in the state of Utah and they missed out on signing them. That can't happen if Utah wants to be more than a bowl eligible team on a year to year basis.
- Rich Rod won with lesser talent at West Virginia and he's going down that same path with Arizona. Despite the great season they had, they finished in the bottom tier of teams in the conference in recruiting with only one 4 star player signed. I actually think he prefers to do it with lower rated kids and his staff does a great job of identifying kids who can develop into much more than others think they can. Based on the talent recruited, his teams should have no business hanging in there with a team like USC, yet somehow, they always do.
I hope Arizona fans appreciate the kind of coach they have. I'm not sure if any other current coach is capable of doing what he can do for that program.