Monday, December 16, 2013
Weekend recruiting wrap: Pac-12
By Erik McKinney
Pac-12 recruiting hit warp speed this past week, as recruits and coaches alike took advantage of the final week of in-home visits and final weekend of official visits before the winter dead period begins on Monday and the junior college mid-year signing day hits on Wednesday. Just about every conference program hosted official visitors this past weekend, and more than a few earned significant commitments.
Colorado's huge weekend
The Buffaloes hosted at least nine official visitors over the weekend, finishing with three new commitments and plenty of positive recruiting momentum. Wide receiver Lawrence Walker (San Diego/Madison) and teammates Josh Kaiser and Michael Mathewes (Mission Viejo, Calif./Mission Viejo) all committed to Colorado over the weekend and Walker -- who signed with Arizona in 2013 and will enroll at Colorado in time for spring ball -- said he picked up on some significant positivity coming from the Buffaloes.
"Colorado did a good job," Walker said of the weekend. "These coaches know what to say. Everything was right on the money. There's something there that I just can't put my finger on and can't say it the right way, but by my sophomore year -- even maybe by next year -- we should be looking at going to a bowl game. Guys there are so hungry to get it done."
Walker said his initial plan was to take the visit and return home, sleep on his final options -- Colorado and San Jose State -- and make a decision. But he couldn't wait.
"After seeing the facilities and the academic stuff, it just spilled out," Walker said of his commitment. "But I didn't regret what I said. I felt good about it. It was a no-brainer after this visit."
California coaches got an in-home visit with Joe Mixon on Sunday, and the Golden Bears could be a sleeper in his recruitment.
California adds juco help
The Golden Bears' big visit weekend was highlighted by junior college prospects, including big-time talent Tee Shepard (Fresno, Calif./Holmes CC). While Cal didn't earn a commitment from Shepard, it did get two players who could provide immediate help next year in teammates Trevor Kelly and Sam Atoe (San Mateo, Calif./College of San Mateo).
But the Bears could be in line to add an even bigger piece, as Cal coaches will get an in-home visit with ESPN 300 running back Joe Mixon (Oakley, Calif./Freedom) on Sunday night -- just before the dead period begins. It's a big visit because Mixon is going to announce his decision at the U.S. Army Bowl and other coaching staff won't have much of an opportunity to recruit Mixon between now and then. While Mixon raved about visits to Oklahoma and Wisconsin, rumblings of late indicate that in-state schools shouldn't be ruled out. In fact, this could come down to Cal or UCLA in the end.
UCLA pushing for Pac-12's top class
The Bruins have been on a recruiting roll of late and had a huge official visitor on campus in the form of No. 31 overall prospect Solomon Thomas (Coppell, Texas/Coppell). Bringing in Thomas would be huge news for the Bruins, who need to beat out a number of programs, including conference rival Stanford as well as programs closer to home.
But UCLA is in great shape for a local defensive lineman, as Jacob Tuioti-Mariner (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco) recently picked up an offer from the Bruins and has them squarely in the lead.
"Everybody knows it, but that's a big one for me," Tuioti-Mariner said. "It's definitely my top school right now."
Tuioti-Mariner said he will take official visits to UCLA and Washington State in January, but it would be surprising if anybody was able to catch the Bruins in this race.
New Washington coaches making impact
It didn't take long for new head coach Chris Petersen and his staff to make an impact at Washington. The Huskies hosted quarterback Jalen Greene (Gardena, Calif./Serra) -- a Boise State commitment -- over the weekend, and it appears to be only a matter of time before Greene follows Petersen to Seattle. The Huskies also look to be in good position for former Boise State linebacker commit Jaylen Johnson (Corona, Calif./Centennial). Johnson will take his official visit to Washington on January 17.
"They're a big choice," Johnson said of Washington. "They're up there in my top choices right now, but I'm going to take it one step at a time."
Johnson said Arizona State, Cal, Colorado and Washington State are also pursuing him, and he'll take an official visit to Cal.
"I didn't want to be the guy to make his choice on signing day, but that's what it looks like it's going to be," he said.
ESPN 300 safety Bishard Baker (Bellevue, Wash./Bellevue) has said that the Huskies will be his final official visit after getting a good vibe from the new staff. Baker has gotten two visits from Oregon and two from USC, as the former and new staffs of the Trojans have been by. Baker will visit UCLA officially Jan. 24, sandwiched between trips to USC and Washington.
Like California and Colorado, Washington State brought in a big group of official visitors and was rewarded for its effort. The Cougars landed a commitment from four-star running back Squally Canada (Milpitas, Calif./Milpitas) and defensive end Kingston Fernandez (Honolulu/Kamehameha Schools).
Canada is now Washington State's highest-rated recruit and adds to the Cougars' haul at the position, along with Calvin Green (Sacramento, Calif./Luther Burbank) and Keith Harrington (St. Petersburg, Fla./Northeast).
The two commitments continue a run of recruiting success for Washington State, as the Cougars now have six commitments in the month of December. Washington State also made a positive impression on two-way target Kammy Delp (Pomona, Calif./Diamond Ranch). Though Delp holds an offer from UCLA and significant interest from USC, he took an official visit to Washington State earlier this year and hosted the Cougars coaches on an in-home visit last week.
"It was pretty crazy," Delp said of in-home visits by Washington State and Oregon State. "Being up front and close was different than being on the phone. Everything is more realistic. I had a lot of family around to witness what it will be like in college."
Delp said UCLA and Washington will visit in January and he will take official visits to Oregon State, Washington and Illinois next month. While the Bruins likely lead, the Trojans are keeping things interesting, as Sarkisian and assistant coach Johnny Nansen are still in contact.