Monday, December 2, 2013
Weekend recruiting wrap: Pac-12
By Blair Angulo
Rivalry weekend brought plenty of excitement to the Pac-12, but it didn’t produce much recruiting activity aside from a few official visits. There were plenty of interested eyes across the West region, though, as UCLA knocked off USC for the second consecutive season, Arizona State reclaimed the Territorial Cup, and Oregon and Washington held off their in-state rivals.
Biggest decommitment: Cal couldn’t even catch a break while on a bye week. Sonny Dykes had a rough first season as head coach of the Golden Bears, and the bumpy stretch continued on the recruiting trail Sunday when three-star cornerback Jeremy Winchester (Klein, Texas/Collins) decided to decommit. Making matters worse were reports that former Elite 11 quarterback Zach Kline and offensive lineman Freddie Tagaloa intend to transfer from the program, leaving Cal potentially without two of its major components from the 2012 recruiting class. The apparent exodus and string of decommitments have only accentuated Cal’s season-ending 10-game losing streak, and that uncertainty might be a factor with national signing day only two months away.
Best performance by a commit/target: Cal fans did have something to smile about on Friday night when three-star running back commit Tre Watson (Corona, Calif./Centennial) rushed for 519 yards and six touchdowns on 40 carries to guide his team to an 86-56 victory against Upland (Calif.) in the CIF Southern Section Inland Division semifinals.
Oregon quarterback commit Morgan Mahalak (Kentfield, Calif./Marin Catholic) continued his stellar season, completing 23 of 32 passes for 293 yards and four touchdowns and rushing for 121 yards and another score.
Most important visit: After signing only one cornerback in 2013, USC undoubtedly will look to make the position a priority in this class. The Trojans are trying, as they hosted an important visitor over the weekend: five-star cornerback Tony Brown (Beaumont, Texas/Ozen), who also has interest in the USC track team. Losing to rival UCLA might not have helped much with Brown or even five-star prospect Adoree’ Jackson (Gardena, Calif./Serra), who was also in attendance, but fans can take solace in knowing the staff is drawing looks from potential difference-makers. Elsewhere, ESPN 300 tight end Bryce Dixon (Ventura, Calif./St. Bonaventure) passed on the USC-UCLA battle and made an official visit to Arizona State, whose staff hopes turn a solid campaign into a fulfilling February. Also noteworthy were the in-home visits that ESPN 300 running back Joe Mixon (Oakley, Calif./Freedom) had with Cal and Oklahoma on Sunday to kick off the contact period.
Biggest answer: Arizona State defeated rival Arizona in impressive fashion, Oregon narrowly edged Oregon State and Washington took back the Apple Cup, but the Bruins provided the most important answer by beating the Trojans at the Coliseum for the first time since 1997. The impressive 35-14 victory Saturday should give head coach Jim Mora and his staff plenty of momentum heading into their bowl game. No. 3 athlete John "JuJu" Smith (Long Beach, Calif./Poly), No. 3 offensive guard Damien Mama (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco) and No. 1 tight end Tyler Luatua (La Mirada, Calif./La Mirada) were some of the marquee recruits in attendance, and they were joined by a bevy of top-flight prospects from the 2015 class, including No. 1 quarterback Josh Rosen (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco).
Biggest question: Where does USC recruiting go from here?
Interim head coach Ed Orgeron certainly didn’t help his case for the full-time gig with the 21-point loss to UCLA, and reports surfaced quickly Sunday that Boise State’s Chris Petersen and Vanderbilt’s James Franklin had emerged as USC athletic director Pat Haden’s top two candidates. If the Trojans hope to assemble another star-studded class, a new coach might have to be in place sooner rather than later. USC’s immediate recruiting success might also hinge on Orgeron’s role. If he were to leave for another head coaching job, the Trojans would lose their ace recruiter and a person who is very popular with local high school coaches. The Trojans would likely benefit most in recruiting by retaining the fiery coach.