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Thursday, December 12, 2013
Pac-12 recruiting storylines: Dec. 12

By Erik McKinney

Last week saw a coaching shakeup in the Pac-12, as USC hired Steve Sarkisian away from Washington and the Huskies countered by luring Chris Petersen away from Boise State after making a run at UCLA's Jim Mora. This week, nearly every Pac-12 staff has been busy hitting the recruiting trail and setting up important visit weekends as a number of ESPN 300 prospects will be on conference campuses.

Solomon Thomas
Solomon Thomas is still considering UCLA and Stanford, among others.
UCLA's big visitor

For the second weekend in a row, UCLA will have an ESPN 300 prospect on campus. Last week, the Bruins hosted Alabama linebacker commit Zach Whitley Jr (Houston/North Shore). This weekend, ESPN 300 defensive end Solomon Thomas (Coppell, Texas/Coppell) will make the trip. Thomas, the No. 31 overall prospect and No. 5 defensive end, would be a huge addition for UCLA, which has done very well in Texas recently, led by assistant coach Adrian Klemm. Thomas still has a number of suitors, but UCLA has maintained a consistent presence in his recruitment -- along with Pac-12 rival Stanford -- and has a chance to make a statement this weekend.

USC's weekend intrigue

The USC Trojans have four spots for early enrollees that they can count against last year's NCAA-sanction-reduced limit of 15. There is still plenty of intrigue surrounding those four spots.

It appeared that USC would host a handful of official visitors this weekend -- all possible early enrollees -- but that number is shrinking. ESPN 300 offensive guard Toa Lobendahn (La Habra, Calif./La Habra) and three-star offensive tackle Jordan Austin (Claremont, Calif./Claremont) are virtual locks to take their visits this weekend and enroll early at USC. It appeared that ESPN 300 offensive tackle Jordan Poland (La Jolla, Calif./La Jolla Country Day) would join them, but Poland told ESPN.com's Blair Angulo that he will take his official visit in January and enroll at USC after the spring semester.

Junior college wide receiver Nick Kurtz (El Cajon, Calif./Grossmont College) had an official visit set for this weekend but canceled it on Wednesday before an in-home visit with BYU coaches -- to whom he is verbally committed. But huge news came late Wednesday night when ESPN JC 50 defensive tackle Claudeson Pelon (Orlando, Fla./Mesa Community College) announced his commitment to USC following an in-home visit from coaches. It's big for the Trojans in that the commitment comes from an early enrollee who can contribute immediately at a position of need. Still USC, has one early enrollee spot to fill and if it doesn't, the roster will be down an additional player during the final year of scholarship reductions. The roster can return to 85 players for the 2015 season.

ESPN 300 prospects taking visits

Colorado is scheduled to host its biggest visitor of the year, as ESPN 300 wide receiver Rahshead Johnson (Long Beach, Calif./Cabrillo) plans to be on campus this weekend. Johnson was committed to Washington, but backed away from the commitment after Sarkisian moved to USC. Johnson would be a huge addition for the Buffaloes, who will be looking for another playmaker who can step right in and take over some of the production they'll be losing with Paul Richardson off to the NFL.

Also on the road this weekend will be ESPN 300 athlete and Cal commit Devante Downs (Mountlake Terrace, Wash./Mountlake Terrace), who will take an official visit to Washington State. He'll be joined by former Cougars commitment Marcus Griffin (Bellevue, Wash./Bellevue) and four-star running back Squally Canada (Milpitas, Calif./Milpitas) in what could be a very productive recruiting weekend for Washington State.

Oregon's big weekend

The Ducks have an interesting weekend on tap, as uncommitted prospects from four states are scheduled to take official visits. Safety Mattrell McGraw (New Orleans/John Curtis Christian), offensive tackles Nick Gates (Las Vegas/Bishop Gorman) and Quinn Bailey (Gilbert, Ariz./Higley) and wide receiver Frank Iheanacho (Houston/Westside) are all scheduled to attend. Oregon and UCLA are finalists for McGraw, who will make his announcement on signing day. But it wouldn't be shocking if the Ducks got a commitment from any of the other three, considering how quickly an official visit to Oregon can have an effect on a recruit.

Three-star standouts to the Pac-12

Before the big visit weekends begin, Arizona State and USC added important pieces to their 2014 recruiting classes on Wednesday night. The Sun Devils nabbed a commitment from three-star athlete Kalen Ballage (Peyton, Colo./Falcon), who will play running back and pair with Demario Richard (Palmdale, Calif./Palmdale) to form a physical duo. He is commitment No. 20 for Arizona State, which seems certain to post one of the top three recruiting classes in the conference.

The Trojans added an important piece of their own on Wednesday, as cornerback Jonathan Lockett (Santa Ana, Calif./Mater Dei) became commitment No. 11 for USC. The Trojans are in desperate need of cornerbacks in this class, after signing just one in 2013 and two in 2012. Lockett is a terrific start at the position, having been named co-MVP of the toughest high school league in California earlier this week.