Who would you say is the sure thing prospect on the West Coast in the 2014 recruiting class?
I would go with Oakley (Calif.) Freedom five-star running back Joe Mixon. He's a 20-25 carry a game back who can also be used in the passing game and is a weapon anytime he's got the ball in his hands. Running backs have been miss more than hit lately out West, but Mixon's skill-set gives more confidence that he'll be a sure-thing at the collegiate level.
Who are the top three committed prospects to Pac-12 schools, and what do you see them bringing to each program?
It's been a slow start for the Pac-12 getting elite commits so far- most of the West's big fish are still wide open, but the Pac-12 has a couple of verbals that are giving their future head coaches a lot of peace. First is Keller Chryst, the No. 2 ranked quarterback in the country from Palo Alto (Calif.), who committed to Stanford. Chryst has an NFL arm, size and pedigree (his father being the QB coach for the San Francisco 49ers), and is going to the perfect system for his ability as a pocket-style passer.
Right behind him is Cameron Denson from Tucson (Ariz.) Salpointe Catholic, who like Chryst, is headed to the hometown school, this time Arizona. Denson could be a starter in the secondary for the Wildcats, but will play receiver there, and figures to thrive in RichRod's offense. The next top commit is another one heading to Stanford, Highlands Ranch (Colo.) Valor Christian running back Christian McCaffrey, who's committed to his father Ed's alma mater. McCaffrey is the top prospect in Colorado and will likely be utilized how Kelsey Young has been at Stanford on fly sweeps, wheel routes and reverses, but could be a multiple-carry a game back.
What are your thoughts on the committed Elite 11 quarterbacks, and what they bring to each Pac-12 program?
Obviously, Chryst brings a lot to the table for the Cardinal, being an ideal fit for their passing offense and being a very good game manager with a high football IQ. Luke Rubenzer will provide good depth and football smarts for the Bears, he just will be coming into a Cal program that will either have a RS sophomore or true sophomore as the starter, by the time he gets there, so it could be a while before he sees significant snaps.
Manny Wilkins is in a better situation on the other hand, with a chance to redshirt while Taylor Kelly would be a senior and Michael Eubank would be a RS junior, so it might not be until his RS sophomore season he'll be the starter, but he could very much challenge for the starting job at Arizona State in the fall of 2015. His upside is off the charts.
Morgan Mahalak will be an interesting player to watch this year- he's not started a game, and while he's looked terrific on the camp circuit this spring, there is still something to be said about actual real-life game experience. But Oregon has a decent quarterback taking snaps for them who traveled a similar career arc.
Which teams have been making the most buzz on the recruiting trail? Which teams have been disappointing so far?
Surprisingly, Arizona has been making a lot of buzz on the recruiting trail, not just in-state but in California too. They've done a great job in the early going of recruiting and with their new facilities opening later this month, will have another chance to wow elite prospects from the West that are making the trek to Tucson for the opening. Oregon is also getting more buzz, not just because of the sanctions not being as harsh as some speculated, but also because they're offering more players and getting a few more earlier commitments than they used to under Chip Kelly.
UCLA has been pretty disappointing in the early going, especially considering how they closed the last two years, with their best commitment flipping to Alabama just a couple of weeks after he initially verballed to the Bruins and their next best verbal openly talking about other schools. Arizona State is also off to a slow start, despite the much-needed commitment from Wilkins, and they're again struggling in-state.
Who do you predict will have the best recruiting class in the Pac-12 when all is said and done?
I think Oregon will end up with the best class in the Pac-12. They're already off to a good start and they have two things that had handcuffed them in the past couple of classes no longer to worry about 1- If Chip Kelly is leaving for the NFL and 2- what the sanctions will be. With Kelly gone and the sanctions being handed down, the Duck coaches, and their assistants are easily the class of the conference, can now recruit without answering those questions or dealing with negative recruiting. Couple that with a team that should be another top 5 program this fall and a very good candidate for a fifth-straight BCS bowl, the Ducks should line themselves up with a stellar class.