Thursday, February 27, 2014
Top position classes: Pac-12
By Gerry Hamilton
With national signing day in the books, RecruitingNation is looking at the top position classes in each conference. For the full series, click here.
Not only did the Arizona Wildcats sign a top-25 class in 2014, but did so while addressing several needs. Arizona signed a pair of quarterbacks in the class in four-star Brandon Dawkins (Westlake Village, Calif./Oaks Christian) and three-star junior college prospect Jerrard Randall (Hollywood, Fla./Northeast Mississippi Community College), with both being dual threats who fit Rich Rodriguez’s scheme. Randall, a former LSU recruit, is already on campus and is expected to challenge for the starting spot in the spring with a skill set that features a very strong arm and well-above-average athleticism for the position.
The Oregon Ducks signed some very talented backs in recent history, dating all the way back to Jonathan Stewart. In the 2014 class, the Ducks signed two of the best in the country in ESPN 300 No. 84 Royce Freeman (Imperial, Calif./Imperial) and No. 170 Tony James (Gainesville, Fla./Gainesville). The duo will bring completely different skill sets to Eugene, Ore., with Freeman being the big back with excellent feet and lateral ability for his size. James is in the mold of recent Oregon running backs with explosive speed and the ability to play in space at a high level.
Stanford also signed only one tight end prospect, but ESPN 300 No. 104 Dalton Schultz (South Jordan, Utah/Bingham) is a perfect fit within the Stanford scheme. The 6-foot-6, 235-pound Schultz is one of the top blocking tight ends in the 2014 class and has the frame to add more bulk. He is a solid route-runner and can snatch the ball outside his framework. Schultz could be an every-down player.
Arizona State might not have signed ESPN 300 wide receiver Nick Alexander (Lancaster, Texas/Lancaster), but the Sun Devils still signed the conference's best class. Leading the way is ESPN 300 No. 216 Jalen Harvey (El Cerrito, Calif./El Cerrito) and his elite ball skills, as well as four-star junior-college transfer Eric Lauderdale (Fayetteville, Ga./Saddleback College). The duo brings size and sure hands to Tempe, Ariz., with Lauderdale expected to make an instant impact.
While Alabama’s entire offensive line class was the best at the position, USC put together the best group of guards with ESPN 300 No. 67 overall Damien Mama (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco), No. 96 Viane Talamaivao (Corona, Calif./Centennial) and No. 116 Toa Lobendahn (La Habra, Calif./La Habra). Senior riser and ESPN 300 No. 272 Chris Brown (Los Angeles/Loyola) is a talented tackle with very impressive hip and ankle flexibility. The fifth OL prospect in the class is three-star tackle Jordan Austin (Claremont, Calif./Claremont).
Arizona State signed the Pac-12's best class, with a mix of high school and junior-college prospects. With immediate needs, the Sun Devils attacked the junior-college ranks and came away with four-star prospects in tackle Dalvin Stuckey (De Funiak Springs, Fla./Pearl River Community College), end Edmond Boateng (Wesley Chapel, Fla./New Mexico Military Institute) and high three-star end Darrius Caldwell (Atlanta/Pearl River Community College). No. 234 prospect Tashon Smallwood (Fresno, Calif./Central East) brings quickness and power to the interior, while No. 239 Connor Humphreys (Portland, Ore./Central Catholic) adds toughness and physicality to the end spot. Three-star Renell Wren (St. Louis/Lutheran) is the fourth end in the class.
We went with Oregon over USC here with the questions surrounding which side of the ball John Smith and Adoree' Jackson will potentially play for the Trojans. The Ducks not only signed the No. 6 corner and No. 47 overall player Arrion Springs (San Antonio/Theodore Roosevelt), but they also signed No. 194-ranked Mattrell McGraw (River Ridge, La./John Curtis Christian), the No. 13-ranked safety. Add in three-star safeties Glen Ihenacho (Gardena, Calif./Junipero Serra) and Khalil Oliver (Meridian, Idaho/Rocky Mountain) and Oregon signed a talented quartet of defensive backs. High three-star athlete Charles Nelson (Daytona Beach, Fla./Seabreeze) also could get a look at defensive back.
UCLA might not have had the national signing day returns the Bruins had wished for, but it did ink another talented class, including at linebacker. With the addition of four-star Kenny Young (River Ridge, La./John Curtis Christian) on Feb. 5, the Bruins took home honors in the Pac-12 with a linebacker class that includes ESPN 300’s No. 180 Dwight Williams (Gardena, Calif./Junipero Serra) and No. 192 Zach Whitley Jr. (Houston/North Shore), who is already enrolled. Three-star Cameron Griffin (Los Angeles/View Park) brings added size and range.
USC is the call here after landing five-star Adoree' Jackson (Gardena, Calif./Junipero Serra) and ESPN 300 No. 24 overall John "JuJu" Smith (Long Beach, Calif./Poly). Both can potentially play on either side of the ball. Another ESPN 300 prospect, No. 238 Rahshead Johnson (Long Beach, Calif./Cabrillo), is a third athlete in the class. Johnson could play receiver or cornerback, while Smith could play wide receiver, safety or even fill out into an outside linebacker at some point.