We're continuing on with our look at which Pac-12 schools have recruited the best at each position with a look at running back today.
(You can find the quarterback post here)
Over the last five recruiting classes, one school is clearly at the top and it's not a surprise at all. There are some other more surprising results though that you'll see as we count down which schools have signed the most blue chip prospects (4 or 5 star recruits based on the 247Sports composite rankings) from most to least since 2011.
1. Oregon 8
I'm pretty sure this was obvious to anyone who has watched Pac-12 football the last five years and witnessed the Ducks run and run and run and run again. They have had a ton of big play backs and it's fitting that the blue chip list starts with DeAnthony Thomas in 2011 (who left to turn pro after three seasons).
They have recruited so well at running back that a really good back like Byron Marshall (2012) ended up moving to wide receiver. They now have Royce Freeman (2014) and Thomas Tyner (2013) carrying most of the load in the backfield and more help is on the way. Tony James (2014) redshirted last season and they signed three of the top all-purpose backs in the nation in Malik Lovette, Kirk Merritt, and Taj Griffin back in February. There aren't enough carries to go around so players like Lovette and Merritt may play more at receiver, but even without them, the Ducks are loaded in the backfield thanks to recruiting better than anyone else at the position in the Pac-12.
2. Stanford 6
It's easy to see why so many good backs would want to play in Stanford's ground and pound offense. That's why it's not a shock to see them right behind the Ducks in terms of blue chip talent at the position. The Cardinal brought in Remound Wright and Kelsey Young in 2011, Barry J. Sanders in 2012, and Christian McCaffrey in 2014. So far, the upperclassmen have not lived up to the hype and none of them have distinguished themselves as the lead back, but McCaffrey averaged 7.1 yards per carry as a true freshman last season. I wouldn't be surprised to see him become the main guy this fall.
3. USC 4
This, I was surprised by. Obviously the scholarship reductions played a part in this, but that didn't stop USC from landing big time prospects at other positions. Two of the four highly ranked running backs they landed are no longer even on their roster. Amir Carlisle (2011) is now a receiver at Notre Dame and Ty Isaac (2013) is getting ready for his first season at Michigan this fall. Justin Davis (2013) is the only one left that has played a snap for the Trojans, which is why 2015 signee Ronald Jones could play a big role for the Trojans this fall.
USC already has a 4 star running back in Melquise Stovall committed for 2016. I don't think we're going to see too many more recruiting classes go by without USC signing at least one top back in the next few years.
T-4. Arizona State 3
One of the three ASU signed was a junior college player and they couldn't have asked for anything more than they got from Marion Grice (2012). They also signed D.J. Foster that year, who has played well in the backfield for the Sun Devils, but is now transitioning to wide receiver this season. They were able to move Foster primarily because of what they saw from former 3 star recruit Demario Richard.
I included athlete Jaason Lewis in this group even though I think his future is brightest on defense. He is a talented prospect that could end up getting some carries and accumulating some catches this fall if he plays offense.
T-4. UCLA 3
This was by far the most mind boggling result when looking at how programs in the Pac-12 have recruited running backs. With the production UCLA has gotten at running back, I just assumed they would have recruited better. Paul Perkins was a 3 star though and he has proven a bunch of people wrong by becoming of the top backs in the nation.
While he was having a great 2014, former 4 star recruit Craig Lee (2013) has yet to see the field for the Bruins. True freshman Nate Starks (2014) saw limited carries as a backup last season. The other top back they have signed is 5 star Soso Jamabo (2015). Jamabo has a ton of talent, but already has racked up an off-season arrest before enrolling at UCLA.
Cal signed Brendan Bigelow in 2011 and he has moved on after declaring for the NFL Draft in 2014. The other blue chip back Cal signed in 2011 is still a Bear and is one of the top returning backs in the conference in 2015. Daniel Lasco rushed for over 1,110 yards last season and should again be highly productive in the Pac-12.
T-6. Arizona 2
Pierre Cormier was a highly touted running back that signed with Arizona in 2013, but unfortunately can no longer play football due to a medical condition. The other 4 star back that Arizona signed was Nick Wilson (2014) and he had a fantastic freshman season and should have a chance to break a ton of records during his career in Tucson.
T-8. Washington 1
If you were wondering why Washington felt the need to play Shaq Thompson at running back last season, it's because of this. The Huskies have not lured enough talent to carry the rock for them in the last five recruiting classes. In fact, the only 4 star or above back that they signed in the last five classes was Bishop Sankey (2011) and he had already left early for the NFL before 2014.
The Huskies have landed a commitment from a 4 star running back for 2016 in Sean McGrew.
T-8. Utah 1
I'm sure the assumption would be that the only blue chip back that Utah has signed would be Devontae Booker. That assumption would be wrong, He was rated as 3 star recruit out of junior college in 2013.
The only 4 star back that the Utes signed was Harvey Langi, who ironically never played a down for them. He went on a mission then came back before transferring to BYU.
T-10. Colorado, Oregon State, and Washington State 0
These three schools tend to be at the bottom of the pack for every position in terms of signing blue chip players and running back is no exception.