Tuesday, February 4, 2014
Bold predictions: Pac-12
By Erik McKinney
If the past several years are any indication, it's always fairly safe to expect something unexpected on signing day. From supposed locks signing elsewhere to supposed flips staying put, signing day wouldn't be signing day without the accompanying element of surprise.
With that being said, we look ahead to Wednesday and offer five predictions as to how the Pac-12 will fare.
1. USC lands the SoCal trio
Which school will land ESPN 300 offensive lineman Damien Mama?
Adoree' Jackson (Gardena, Calif./Serra), John "JuJu" Smith (Long Beach, Calif./Poly) and Damien Mama (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco) are the top three uncommitted prospects in California and all three have USC among their final four schools. USC suffered a tough few days leading up to signing day in 2013, but new coach Steve Sarkisian appears to have developed some significant positive momentum around the Trojans, and he seems to have a legitimate opportunity to close this class by signing all three talented prospects. It would offer a huge boost to a program in its last year of scholarship restrictions, both to the roster and recruiting class.
2. Stanford goes five-for-five
Over the past month or so, the Cardinal have seemingly had six recruits on the target list, with few -- if any -- backup plans at any position. It was a bold strategy, as few schools ever hit on all of their final targets, but the Cardinal could get it done on Wednesday. Stanford already reeled in ESPN 300 offensive tackles Casey Tucker (Chandler, Ariz./Hamilton) and Reilly Gibbons (St. Petersburg, Fla./St. Petersburg Catholic), ESPN 300 tight end Dalton Schultz (South Jordan, Utah/Bingham), as well as four-star tackle Jesse Burkett (Jacksonville, Fla./Bartram Trail). Left on the board are ESPN 300 defensive end Solomon Thomas (Coppell, Tex./Coppell) and three-star cornerback Terrence Alexander (River Ridge, La./John Curtis Christian). Programs don't often pitch perfect games when it comes to closing on the recruiting trail, but it could happen for Stanford.
3. UCLA grabs at least one from SEC-land
The UCLA coaching staff has been a consistent presence in SEC country during this recruiting cycle and while the Bruins have commitments from four states -- including three potential signees from Texas -- Jim Mora and staff would love to land at least one signature from Louisiana on Wednesday. ESPN 300 defensive end Davon Godchaux (Plaquemine, La./Plaquemine) took an official visit to UCLA over the weekend and while he said he remains committed to LSU, he will still announce his final decision on signing day, which doesn't always bode well for the team holding the commitment. The Bruins would also love to snare the nation's top wide receiver, Malachi Dupre (River Ridge, La./John Curtis Christian), who also visited this week along with his teammate, four-star linebacker Kenny Young. At this point, Young looks like the safest bet to end up in Westwood, but with the way this UCLA staff can recruit, it wouldn't be a surprise if reeled in more than just one from the Southeast.
4. Oregon lands at least one surprise
It has happened each of the past three years, as Oregon coaches have swooped in late to flip ESPN 300 prospects. In 2011, De'Anthony Thomas switched late in the process from USC to Oregon. In 2012 and 2013, Oregon grabbed recruits from Texas A&M on signing day, as wide receiver Bralon Addison and defensive end Torrodney Prevot flipped to the Ducks. This year, chances are good Oregon will make at least one big addition on signing day, whether that's grabbing former Texas defensive tackle commit Trey Lealaimatafao (San Antonio, Texas/Earl Warren) or pulling of one of the biggest heists of the day by going into Southern California and getting a signature from JuJu Smith.
5. Pac-12 lands a top-10 class
The Pac-12 hasn't had a top-10 recruiting class since USC's No. 4 haul in 2011. Last year, UCLA topped the conference but finished No. 12 in the nation. This year, it appears as though the Pac-12 could be outside looking in at the top 10 again, as Arizona State leads the conference but checks in at No. 17 overall. But there are so many talented recruits out there looking at Pac-12 programs, it's hard to think that at least one program won't rise into the top 10 when it comes to final recruiting rankings on signing day. It actually wouldn't be much of a shock to see three Pac-12 programs finish among the top 15 teams, as several of them appear poised for strong closing statements this year.