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Tuesday, August 20, 2013
The List: Most important Pac-12 recruits

By Erik McKinney

While all recruits have the same opportunity to make an impact after signing day, that’s not always the case in the days and months leading up to it. Some verbal commitments are bigger than others, whether it’s from a top target on the board, a nationally prominent standout who can shine a spotlight on the program or a local legend that continues a pipeline.

This week, we take a look through the Pac-12 at the most important verbal commitments in each class.

ATH Cameron Denson (Tucson, Ariz./Salpointe Catholic)
6-1, 175

ESPN 300 rank: 147

Denson hits every requirement for this list. He was the first commitment in Arizona’s 2014 class, the top-rated player in the class and a local standout that Rich Rodriguez had to have if he was going to build momentum for 2014.

Arizona State
CB Tyler Whiley (Scottsdale, Ariz./Chaparral)
6-0, 187

ESPN 300 rank: 71

Honorable mention goes to QB Manny Wilkins (Novato, Calif./San Marin), who is relentless on social media in trying to build the ASU recruiting class, but Whiley gets the nod here for some of the same reasons Denson got it for Arizona. Whiley is a local standout and his commitment gives validation to what Todd Graham is doing for the Sun Devils. He’s also a terrific playmaker on both sides of the ball.

ATH Jaleel Wadood (Bellflower, Calif./Saint John Bosco)
5-11, 165

Wadood represents a recruiting win over some Pac-12 heavyweights, including Oregon, UCLA, USC and Washington. He’s also plugged into the Southern California recruiting scene and will help Cal with other local targets. On the field, Wadood possesses the versatility to help at several of positions on both sides of the ball.

QB Cade Apsay (Canyon Country, Calif./Canyon)
6-1, 188

He isn’t the highest-rated recruit in the class, but Apsay will have an opportunity to turn heads with a big senior season, which would benefit the Colorado program. Apsay has the ability to play at several Pac-12 programs, and grabbing a verbal commitment from a quarterback of his caliber will help serve as a selling point to other Colorado recruits.

CB Arrion Springs (San Antonio/Theodore Roosevelt)
6-0, 195

ESPN 300 rank: 30

The No. 6 cornerback in the country was a big get for the Ducks, as they went into Texas and pulled a top player away from the Longhorns. Springs’ ability speaks for itself, but whenever Oregon is able to add out-of-state talent -- especially ESPN 300 talent -- it allows other top recruits to believe that the distance to the Pacific Northwest isn’t too much to overcome.

Oregon State
OG NaJee Toran (Houston/North Shore)
6-2, 242

The Beavers have found success in Texas, so anytime they can continue to make their presence felt in the area, it’s a positive. Toran is also an important recruiting victory as he held offers from Boise State, Houston and TCU, among others. While he is the only player from Texas in Oregon State’s 2014 class right now, it won’t be that way on signing day. The Beavers signed four players from Texas in 2013.

QB Keller Chryst (Palo Alto, Calif./Palo Alto)
6-4, 234

ESPN 300 rank: 19

Alabama, Pittsburgh and USC put up a fight, but Chryst was a recruit Stanford had to land. The Cardinal appeared to be in front from the beginning, and the fact that his commitment this summer seemed like such a formality shows where Stanford is in the recruiting landscape right now. Chryst isn’t overly demonstrative and doesn’t engage in social media, but other recruits know where the nation’s No. 1 QB is committed, which gives Stanford another edge across the country.

WR Austin Roberts (Carmel, Ind./Carmel)
6-2, 217

ESPN 300 rank: 173

A simple scan of Roberts’ offer sheet reveals what a big get this is for UCLA. Alabama, Florida, Florida State, Louisville, Miami, Ohio State, Stanford, Tennessee and USC were just some of the programs to offer Roberts. His commitment gives the Bruins a big body at receiver and further proof that this Bruins staff can recruit nationally against the top programs in the country.

OG Toa Lobendahn (La Habra, Calif./La Habra)
6-3, 293

ESPN 300 rank: 148

Lobendahn is rock solid in his commitment to the Trojans, which amounts to another recruiter on staff for head coach Lane Kiffin. The nation’s No. 9 offensive guard plays a position of need for USC and, as a local prospect, there is a good chance that he will be at every important recruiting function the Trojans hold.

OT Kenyon Frison (West Valley City, Utah/Granger)
6-5, 281

The No. 4 prospect in Utah, Frison is the highest-rated Utah commit. It shows that the Utes are still a big factor with in-state recruits. He is another prospect who could put together a big senior year and collect offers from some big programs -- Oklahoma has already offered the big tackle -- up until signing day.

WR Erik Brown (Fontana, Calif./Summit)
6-1, 172

ESPN 300 rank: 187

Washington signed a terrific group of wide receivers in 2013 and Brown will add to that group when he arrives on campus. Beyond that, the Huskies not only proved that they are still relevant in Southern California, but they can close on a recruit with offers from Cal, Notre Dame, UCLA and significant interest from USC.

Washington State
DT Marcus Griffin (Bellevue, Wash./Bellevue)
6-2, 299

Mike Leach is always going to get his share of offensive weapons, but landing a commitment from Griffin this early in the process is impressive. The Cougars will need big bodies on defense and Griffin -- who holds offers from Arizona, Cal and Washington, among others -- was impressive at offseason camps this spring and summer. Keeping him away from the Huskies will be a big victory for the Cougars as they look to shift the balance of power in Washington.