Tuesday, January 21, 2014
5 to watch: Pac-12 signing day preview
By Erik McKinney
Signing day could unfold in a number of ways where the Pac-12 is concerned, as six programs still have a legitimate chance to land the conference's No. 1 class and five of the top eight West region prospects are still uncommitted with legitimate interest in Pac-12 programs. Closing in on two weeks until the first Wednesday in February, here are five Pac-12 storylines to keep an eye on for signing day:
USC and UCLA will have to fend off Oklahoma and Notre Dame for Michiah Quick.
Jackson moved to California following his freshman year in Illinois, and now the nation's No. 9 overall prospect will announce his college commitment on signing day. UCLA and USC are the two Pac-12 programs remaining in Jackson's final six -- Florida, LSU, Oklahoma and Tennessee are the other four. It appears that UCLA is on the outside looking in, so it could be up to USC to prevent another talented California high school product from heading across the country.
2. Big decisions coming on signing day.
Jackson isn't the only marquee prospect planning to announce his intentions on signing day. Fellow ESPN 300 prospects John "JuJu" Smith (Long Beach, Calif./Poly), Damien Mama (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco) and Michiah Quick (Fresno, Calif./Central East) will all likely wait until signing day to declare their commitments. Depending on how they go, the Pac-12 could feel significant repercussions. Smith has Notre Dame, Oregon, UCLA and USC as his finalists, though it would be a shock if he went out of the Pac-12. His decision could be a true indication of where the three programs stand right now. USC hopes Steve Sarkisian has the Trojans heading in the right direction, while UCLA's momentum under Jim Mora is keeping the Bruins in the game for the longtime USC fan and Oregon is hanging around ready to show how much pull it still has over Southern California athletes.
Quick is looking at the same three schools from the Pac-12, although he is definitely intrigued by Notre Dame and Oklahoma, as well. Mama is down to UCLA and USC among Pac-12 schools, but BYU is putting together a significant push and will get an official visit on Jan. 31.
3. Will Stanford's tough admissions process hurt the recruiting class?
There is already some good news on this front, as Stanford's top two targets left on the board -- ESPN 300 defensive end Solomon Thomas (Coppell, Texas/Coppell) and ESPN 300 offensive tackle Casey Tucker (Chandler, Ariz./Hamilton) -- have been admitted to the school. Now, the Cardinal just have to win tough recruiting battles -- against Arkansas and UCLA for Thomas, and Arizona State for Tucker -- to land the two dominant linemen. Several committed prospects have already been admitted, as well, but Stanford coaches are still waiting on a few others, and depending on how those go -- the Cardinal already lost one prospect in safety Kirk Tucker (Tucker, Ga./Tucker) -- it could mean the difference of a few spots in the Pac-12 class rankings for Stanford.
4. Can Arizona State hold onto the conference's top spot?
Arizona State overtook rival Arizona for the top spot in the conference a short time ago and has held onto its No. 1 ranking since. Several impact prospects remain on the board for the Sun Devils, and if they can reel in junior college standouts Eric Lauderdale (Fayetteville, Ga./Saddleback College) and Kweishi Brown (El Cajon, Calif./Grossmont College) to go along with offensive tackles Kenyon Frison (West Valley City, Utah/Granger) and Ty Barrett (Dallas/Skyline), it will be tough for another program to knock Arizona State from the top spot.
5. Any signing day surprises?
The staffs at Oregon and UCLA have turned those two programs into ones to watch on signing day, as both are capable of landing a big fish from out of state or flipping one from somewhere else. In 2013, UCLA landed Isaac Savaiinaea and Asiantii Woulard on signing day, while Oregon reeled in Torrodney Prevot. USC will likely be the program capable of making the biggest signing day splash if it can grab signatures from Jackson, Smith, Mama and Quick, but the Bruins and Ducks will have their chances to make statements, as well.