In advance of the early-signing window (Wednesday through Friday), the Hotline checked in with one of the most knowledgeable recruiting analysts on the west coast, particularly when it comes to the Southern California scene, which, for the Pac-12, is the scene.
That would be Greg Biggins of 247sports, formerly of Scout and ESPN, formerly formerly of Rivals and formerly formerly formerly (back when I first got to know him) of Student Sports magazine.
My question to Biggins: What are the top three or four topics you’ll be watching this week? He had plenty of insight, which is summarized below.
Biggins expects 70 to 75 percent of the top prospects to sign in the coming 72-hour window, by the way.
1. A primer, by the numbers.
If you haven’t been tracking commitments daily, or even weekly, and are just now focusing on recruiting, know this …
Pac-12 teams in the 247Sports composite top-25 rankings:
And know this …
Pac-12 rankings per 247Sports:
5. Arizona State
7. Washington State
11. Oregon State
And know this …
Pac-12 rankings per Rivals:
6. Arizona State
7. Washington State
11. Oregon State
(Note: Rankings are based on a combination of quantity and quality of prospects.)
To the details …
2. UCLA’s different, although not unexpected, approach.
Biggins indicated that with two exceptions, Bruins coach Chip Kelly is not recruiting the best of the best in Southern California.
UCLA has secured a commitment from San Juan Capistrano’s Sean Rhyan, one of the top offensive line recruits in school history, and is pursuing Mater Dei athlete Bru McCoy.
Otherwise, the Bruins are “barely involved with the elite kids, and that seems to be by design,” Biggins explained.
“They’re going after the mid-level guys and figure they can coach ’em up and development them better … They are staying away from the kids who love themselves.”
Kelly didn’t chase the 4- and 5-stars during his tenure at Oregon, either. He wants deeply-committed, low-maintenance, coachable players who fit his system.
“They’re really low in the rankings because of his philosophy,” Biggins said. “It’s strange to me, but to him, it makes perfect sense. They are actively avoiding highly-rated guys.”
3. Will Oregon, Arizona State and Washington close?
All three programs should be thrilled with their position 48 hours from signing day.
* The Ducks landed the top prospect in the west on Saturday when defensive end Kavyon Thibodeaux (Oaks Christian/Westlake) committed to Oregon over Alabama.
Coach Mario Cristobal also has verbals from 11 players with 4-star ratings from 247.
“It could be their first top-five class ever,” Biggins said. “It’s a credit to how hard the staff has worked. Cristobal is the most hands-on recruiter of all the head coaches in the Pac-12.”
* The Huskies are, in typical Chris Petersen fashion, assembling an elite class without much fanfare.
It’s worth noting, however, that UW has corralled the top-two defensive tackles in the west in Hawaii’s Faatui Tuitele and Jacob Bandes from the Bay Area.
No program in the conference has done a better job recruiting and developing interior defensive linemen — arguably the toughest position to fill with elite players — in the past few years.
The results speak for themselves.
* The Sun Devils, meanwhile, are on the brink of their best class in eons.
That’s a credit to Herm Edwards and the staff he assembled, particularly Antonio Pierce, the former Long Beach Poly coach who has strengthened ASU’s foothold in Southern California.
The Devils just landed dual-threat quarterback Jayden Daniels from San Bernardino. He’s one of three incoming quarterbacks, along with two Pro Style passers, Joey Yellen and Ethan Long.
(Given the realities of the QB transfer market, it’s a good bet that two of them won’t stick around long.)
“They’re going head-to-head with USC and UCLA more than they have in a while,” Biggins said.
4. USC’s staff shakeup.
It’s unusual to see the Trojans with the fourth-ranked class in the conference, but that will likely change by the close of the February signing window.
Biggins said he hasn’t noticed an impact from coach Clay Helton’s staff changes and noted that the Trojans “will get some (elite) players no matter what, because they’re USC.”
But will the Trojans close like they have in the past? (Which is to say: As well as any program in the country.)
Once we see the decisions from defensive end Drake Jackson, outside linebacker Ralen Goforth and McCoy, a top-10 player nationally, we’ll have an accurate assessment of the impact of the wayward 2018 season.
“If the Trojans get Bru,” Biggins note, “then you’d have to think it’s business as usual.”
5. Home turf protection.
From the Hotline’s vantage point, this is issue No. 1 for the Pac-12 this week and in early February. How many of the top 20 or 25 players in the west will stay home?
The more success the conference has fending off raids by blue bloods in the other Power Fives, the better chance it has to beat those blue bloods in coming years.
Of the top-100 prospects in the 247Sports rankings, 20 are from the Pac-12 footprint and Hawaii.
Of those 20, half have committed to Pac-12 programs, seven are bound for other Power Fives and three have yet to announce.
Those three are: McCoy, who’s expected to choose USC in January; Orange Lutheran receiver Kyle Ford, who seems bound for the Pac-12 (we just don’t know where); and St. John Bosco cornerback Chris Steele, who’s believed to be headed to either USC or Florida.
It appears, in other words, that the conference will land either 12 or 13 of the top-20 players in the west.
“They’ve done a pretty decent job,” Biggins said.
Feels like that number needs to be higher, and higher over a sustained period.
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