Last year at this time, signing day was set up to be a huge day for both of the schools in Los Angeles. How they did the with recruits deciding that day was largely going to make or break how their respective recruiting classes were going to be viewed in the long run. Both USC and UCLA ended up winning the battles for a lot of elite recruits and both were considered winners.
It's a different year, but pretty much the same scenario in 2016. Not surprisingly, both teams came through again. The Trojans and the Bruins were the big winners on the day, but one other Pac-12 power was not quite as lucky.
If it wasn't enough that they already had the best defensive line prospect out west in Oluwole Betiku and the best wide receiver out west in Tyler Vaughns committed as well, they had to go and pile on by adding more riches from out of state.
One of the top offensive tackles in the nation, EJ Price, spurned Georgia to come across the country and play at USC. One of the top defensive ends left on the board looked to be headed to Michigan, but Connor Murphy ultimately decided to go further west than east. They kept wide receiver Velus Jones in the fold, managed to flip athlete Jamel Cook from Florida State, and then stole 4 star running back Vavae Malepeai right out from under the nose of Oregon.
Then they capped it all off with a commitment from 5 star cornerback Jack Jones, a player who is going to see the field immediately and make a good group of cornerbacks even better. If there was any question how Clay Helton could recruit as a head coach, it was answered today. It probably doesn't matter who is calling the shots for the Trojans, though. Kids still want to go to USC and that's why they finished with a flurry to reach the top of the team rankings in the conference.
There is no denying it was a bad day and bad couple of months for Oregon recruiting. They fizzled down the stretch and ended up finishing 27th in the nation, which is their worst finish since 2009. They lost Malepeai at the buzzer to USC, lost commitments from 4 star players like Jared Mayden, Troy Warner, and Theo Howard along the way and struck out at quarterback again by not landing an elite prospect at the position.
Was this because of the weak year in California? Was it the staff turnover? I'm not sure what the exact answer is, but I think it can be a blip on the radar in the long run. That's if Oregon plays more consistent this season than they did in 2015. We'll just have to wait and see whether that happens or not.
I'm not sure if any other program in the nation signed a better set of linebackers than the Bruins after 5 star Mique Juarez pledged this afternoon. The comparisons to Myles Jack are legit. He is that kind of athlete and could probably play both ways if needed. Adding him to a pass rusher with big upside in Breland Brandt and two very good inside linebackers in Lokeni Toailoa and Krys Barnes is beyond impressive. Throw in the best defensive tackle out west this cycle in Boss Tagaloa and the best safety in Brandon Burton and all of a sudden this signing day has set up Jim Mora's program to be great on defense at every level.
I wouldn't sleep on former Stanford running back commit Brandon Stephens either and he was a nice addition to their backfield as well. Why would Mora ever want to go to the NFL if he can keep recruiting like this?
This may seem like piling on and it was a good thing that they were able to land former Stanford running back commit Beau Bisharat today, but when it boils down to it, they still finished last in the conference again in recruiting for the fourth consecutive year. They have to climb out of the cellar if they ever want to compete in the Pac-12 South.
The top five prospects in the state all went elsewhere and they landed only one of the top 80 prospects in the state of California in what was a down year for the state. There only hope to start recruiting better is to win more and to do that they need better players. Hopefully Texas Tech transfer Davis Webb can jump start them at quarterback and get them to a bowl game because they need something to go right or they'll be stuck at the bottom for a lot longer.
Every year Stanford has the potential to limp to the finish because several commits can't get into school, but they are more prepared than ever to fill in the class. They convinced offensive lineman Devery Hamilton to flip from Michigan a couple of days ago and then did the same with Penn State legacy safety Andrew Pryts today. Holding off some challengers for long time commits wide receiver Simi Fehoko and defensive tackle Mike Williams was just an added bonus to the rest of what was a very strong class.
Whether it is quarterback of the future KJ Costello or a pair of stout defensive linemen in Thomas Schaffer and Jovan Swann, from top to bottom the class screams Stanford. A lot of tough, hard nosed kids mixed in with some very good talent.
I suppose I could have went with another loser, but all in all it was a good day for the conference and Washington was no exception. They didn't win any last minute decisions that boosted them up the rankings, but they continue to recruit really well under Chris Petersen.
They landed very good players in state (like linebacker Brandon Wellington and safety Taylor Rapp), won some battles for two high level defensive prospects from out of state (like cornerback Byron Murphy and linebacker Camilo Eifler), and continue to find players that many would consider to be better prospects than where they are ranked (like quarterback Daniel Bridge-Gadd and athlete Kamari Pleasant).
Petersen has something cooking up in Seattle with a lot of young talent and many of these players who signed with the Huskies today are likely going to be a big part of them getting back to contention to not just get to bowl games, but competing for conference titles.