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Thursday, August 22, 2013
Pac-12 recruiting storylines: Aug. 22

By Erik McKinney

The Pac-12 saw an ESPN 300 running back alter an official visit and could be adding an ESPN 300 defensive end on Friday. Also, several recruiting battles could be on tap once official visits get underway, and Oregon State has its sights set on hopefully landing a two-towers addition at receiver.

California closing in on big-time talent?

Early on, it appeared as though ESPN 300 running back Joe Mixon (Oakley, Calif./Freedom) has his sights firmly set on leaving the area for college. A number of high-profile programs caught his attention, including Florida, Oregon, Texas, Texas A&M and Tennessee, among others. But as time goes on, it appears that a local school is putting itself in good position for the nation’s No. 100 prospect. Not only did Mixon take a recent unofficial visit to Cal, he will now visit the Golden Bears for their biggest non-conference game of the year, a Sept. 14 battle against Ohio State. Mixon’s tweet announcing the move specifically mentioned that he had to do what is best for himself and his family, which gives credence to the thought that Mixon is serious about possibly staying close to home. That would be a huge get for Cal, which could pair Mixon with Devante Downs (Mountlake Terrace, Wash./Mountlake Terrace) for what would likely be the top tailback tandem any conference school signs for the 2014 class.

Dorton to decide on Friday

ESPN 300 defensive end Malik Dorton (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco) will announce his college decision on Friday, and all signs are pointing toward USC adding another defensive lineman to its class. The Trojans have done well at defensive tackle, with commitments from ESPN 300 defender Tashon Smallwood (Fresno, Calif./Central East), Michael Wyche (Monterey Park, Calif./East Los Angeles College) and Austin Maloata (Corona, Calif./Centennial). USC’s new 5-2 alignment allows for the Trojans to go after a broad range of defensive linemen, and Dorton would fit well as a stand-up rush end. Dorton has said on a number of occasions that he feels comfortable with USC’s system because it is so near to what he does at St. John Bosco. Arizona State and UCLA are two of the other options for the defensive end.

One visit set for Van Dyke

Three-star wide receiver Alex Van Dyke more than 20 offers, including from a majority of the Pac-12. The 6-foot-4, 200-pound receiver said he would like to take at least four and possibly all five of his official visits and he is on his way toward doing so. Van Dyke has one official visit scheduled -- to Oregon State on Sept. 6 -- and is working on setting up trips to Cal, Oregon and UCLA. That weekend could turn out to be a big one for the Beavers, as they host Hawaii, as well as Van Dyke and fellow physically impressive receiver Jalen Brown (Phoenix, Ariz./Mountain Pointe). Expect some other names to be added to the official visit list as the weekend gets closer, as an Oregon State visit during the first two weeks of the season looks to be a hot ticket.

Running backs cutting their lists

In addition to Mixon narrowing his list to five in the coming days, fellow California running back Demario Richard (Palmdale, Calif./Palmdale) will trim his list to 10 on Friday. Richard is the No. 5 running back in the West and will likely have a number of Pac-12 programs on his list. Arizona State appears to be the leader at this point, but every Pac-12 team aside from Stanford and USC has offered Richard. It wouldn’t be surprising to see a large majority of his final 10 schools made up of Pac-12 programs. Washington is another school to keep an eye on with Richard.

Recruiting about to ramp up

While each class has only one signing day, early verbal commitments have created two recruiting seasons. The first takes place during the spring and summer, when unofficial visits and last year’s results carry plenty of weight and recruits want to get through the process in order to focus on their senior seasons. But coaches understand that early commitments mean very little, and we are about to get into the real recruiting season. Players who were once thought to be locked into a school will suddenly have official visits scheduled elsewhere and the direction a program takes on the field this season means much more than what happened in 2012. Much of the talk so far has been around uncommitted players setting official visits, but it’s only a matter of time before committed players begin exploring their options and making sure they made the best choice for themselves. The Pacific Northwest schools are some of the best at getting players in on visits to experience the game day atmosphere, so we’ll keep an eye on those schools once the season kicks off.

Bear Down is still trending up

Arizona continued its summer recruiting rampage by adding commitments from two ESPN 300 members in teammates Marquis Ware and Jamardre Cobb (Los Angeles/Salesian) on Wednesday night. They now give Arizona three ESPN 300 commitments and six four-star recruits, surpassing last year's totals of one and three, respectively. It also continues the Wildcats' success in California. Of Arizona's 24 commitments, 14 are from California, including eight of the Wildcats' top 10 verbals. Arizona has added 13 commitments since the start of July and hopes to continue its hot streak on the recruiting trail into the season.