Now that national signing day has come and gone, Pac-12 rosters are starting to take shape. Spring practice is just around the corner, so we are trying our hand at another batch of power rankings before the 2016 season.
Note: This is not a predicted order of finish, but a (very subjective) gauge of where teams are heading into next season. Here are our way-too-early 2016 Power Rankings, released about a month ago.
1. Stanford: David Shaw's program was on top of the first 2016 version of these rankings, and there's no reason to unseat them after another successful signing day. Stanford's class finished ranked second in the Pac-12 and No. 13 in the nation. The addition of K.J. Costello gives them a succession plan at quarterback, and this haul takes a stab at the team's most glaring need: defensive line depth.
2. Oregon: The Ducks didn't light many fireworks with their No. 32-ranked recruiting class, but they did address critical needs -- including quarterback. It's scary to think how far this team would have fallen in 2016 without the transfer of Vernon Adams, Jr. Dakota Prukop may provide another short-term Bandaid for a program that still features enough speed to score plentifully. Now, it's time for that defense to improve.
3. Washington: Yes, we're starting to buy that Husky hype, and that's more because of this team's trajectory to end 2015 than because of a solid recruiting class that finished ranked No. 29 nationally. The pieces for Washington's 2016 run were already in place before signing day. Jake Browning, Myles Gaskin, an emerging offensive line, and the Pac-12's top defense combine to make Chris Petersen's squad a real threat now -- especially since the league's top dogs must replace players at key positions.
4. Washington State: Luke Falk will enjoy the returns of receivers Gabe Marks and River Cracraft in 2016, and he should also be excited about the addition of four-star Isaiah Johnson during this recruiting cycle. Incoming running back Romello Harris will throw his name into a crowded backfield mix. The Cougars' class ranked No. 56 nationally, but this team's immediate needs -- especially on offense -- are already set by a veteran roster, so optimism flows as we head into 2016.
5. UCLA: The Bruins finished with a muscle-flexing signing day -- they sport the third-ranked class in the Pac-12 and No. 15 in the nation. The big question: Can Jim Mora's haul of 13 four-star and 14 three-star recruits immediately toughen up a defense that leaked oil against the run in 2015? UCLA signed elite front seven talent -- Lokeni Toailoa, Boss Tagaloa, Mique Juarez, and Krystopher Barnes -- to complement returning quarterback Josh Rosen.
6. USC: Clay Helton finished strong on his first signing day as head coach, flipping the commitment of ESPN 300 safety Jamel Cook from Florida State and finishing with the Pac-12's top-ranked class -- No. 11 in the nation. Now, we wait to see if the Trojans can finally turn a recruiting championship into an actual championship. With a new quarterback in 2016, that won't be easy -- especially since the USC defense still has much work to do.
7. Arizona: The Wildcats didn't generate any headlines on signing day -- they finished with the No. 47-ranked class in the country -- but this team's immediate prospects hinge more on some established returning veterans anyway. Quarterback Anu Solomon and running back Nick Wilson both return. Perhaps most importantly, the injury bug can't bite Arizona as hard as it did last year, can it?
8. Utah: The most obvious need here was at quarterback, and the Utes addressed that through the state of Florida and through the junior college route on the recruiting trail. Tyler Huntley, the Florida Gatorade Player of the Year, will try to learn the offense this spring. Kyle Whittingham also signed ESPN JC50 prospect Troy Williams, a dual threat prospect from southern California. We expect the Utes' defense to remain solid; it's vital that their passing attack complements it.
9. California: How much did Jared Goff mean to the Golden Bears' ascension? We'll find out if the quality of play elsewhere has also been improving in 2016, since the star quarterback will no longer be around to mask gaffes. On paper, the defense did improve last year, but there's still much work to be done there. And along those lines, Cal's recruiting efforts did well to land cornerbacks Nygel Edmonds, Camryn Bynum, and Marloshawn Franklin.
10. Arizona State: There are signs that point to this being a rebuilding year for the Sun Devils. They did lose quarterback Mike Bercovici and that secondary really struggled in 2015, after all. But Todd Graham continues to recruit well in the desert -- this 2016 class finished ranked No. 25 nationally -- so there's hope that ASU can hop right back on the horse immediately. N'keal Harry, the nation's top-ranked wide receiver, highlighted the haul.
11. Colorado: The Buffs' class was ranked last in the Pac-12. That's the bad news. The good news is that analysts say Colorado is now netting legitimately competitive Pac-12 talent, and they beat out conference competition for running back Beau Bisharat, linebacker Pookie Maka, and cornerback Trey Udoffia. The Buffs made at least one tangible stride in 2015 -- they no longer finished in the league cellar -- so it's time to turn more close losses into wins.
12. Oregon State: The Beavers' 24-player class should make an instant impact on a team that suffered through a winless season in conference play, particularly because it is loaded with a crew of junior college prospects. Defensive end Phillip Napoleon can immediately help shore up a rushing defense that finished ranked last in the Pac-12, while four stars Shurod Thompson, Christian Wallace, and Isaac Garcia all give Oregon State renewed hope moving forward.