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Friday, September 13, 2013
Big recruiting weekend for Pac-12

By Erik McKinney

Outside of the December conference title tilt or a potential berth in the national championship game, no day this year will mean more to the Pac-12 as a whole than this Saturday.

All 12 programs will be on display with a slate of games that stretches from 9:00 a.m. PT to 7:30 p.m. PT.

No. 16 UCLA travels to No. 23 Nebraska, while California hosts No. 4 Ohio State and Arizona State welcomes No. 20 Wisconsin. No. 19 Washington visits Chicago for a neutral-site game against Illinois. Oregon will receive a visit from Tennessee, while Colorado can prove itself with a home game against Fresno State and USC hopes to right the ship against Boston College.

But as much as public perception of the Pac-12 will increase with a strong showing, the real prize for a number of conference programs could come on the recruiting trail.

Big weekend at Cal
The biggest noise could come from Cal, as head coach Sonny Dykes said earlier this week that he expects there could be as many as 150 recruits visiting on Saturday.

At the top of the list is ESPN 300 running back Joe Mixon (Oakley, Calif./Freedom), the nation's No. 100 prospect. It already says something about Mixon's interest in the Golden Bears that he was originally scheduled to take an official visit to Texas A&M this weekend for the Aggies’ game against Alabama. Mixon still has a number of out-of-state programs high on his list, but his first official visit this weekend will give Cal an opportunity to make a big impression.

There will be at least three other official visitors at Cal this weekend, as ESPN 300 wide receiver Trevon Lee (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./Cardinal Gibbons), offensive guard Drew Clarkson (Camas, Wash./Camas) and cornerback Jeremy Winchester (Klein, Tex./Klein Collins) are all scheduled to attend. But that's just the tip of the iceberg, as four-star, ESPN 300 teammates Michiah Quick and Tashon Smallwood (Fresno, Calif./Central East) plan to make the trip north, while defensive tackle Marcus Griffin (Bellevue, Wash./Bellevue) -- a Washington State commit -- will head south for a much-anticipated visit.

"I'm very excited about this trip," Griffin said. "The main thing that sticks out about them right now is the academics. ... But at game time, I want to see how far they've come from last year to this year."

Despite something of a slow start overall -- a 14-point loss to Northwestern and a close, seven-point win over FCS program Portland State -- recruits are still paying plenty of attention to the Golden Bears, which comes down to two major points.

"That coaching staff is one of my favorite ones to talk to," Griffin said. "They're real honest and tell you where you stand. And also, a lot of guys were turned on to them by the decision to start a true freshman quarterback and play a lot of freshmen on offense and defense.

"I think even if they can keep it within 10 points, it shows a lot because Ohio State has some great recruiting classes and a great coach. If you can keep it close with them in your first year, it says something about what you can accomplish in the future. And if they do win this game, I expect a ton of recruits to go from medium to high on Cal."

Ducks expect top prospects
But Cal isn't the only Pac-12 home team hoping to put on a show for official visitors.

Oregon will host at least a trio of talented high school prospects, as safety John Plattenburg (Houston/Lamar), defensive end Jaylen Johnson (Corona, Calif./Centennial) and wide receiver Jalen Brown (Phoenix/Mountain Pointe) will be on hand. Johnson would be a very intriguing prospect in the Oregon defense, while Plattenburg is slated to play cornerback at the next level and will likely be impressed with the collection of talent in the secondary the Ducks have right now.

"I want to experience the atmosphere and talk to a few players -- see how the coaches are, especially during the game," Plattenburg said. "I also really want to go talk about academics and see what they have there as far as graduation rates. And I want to look around at the town and see if I can see myself there for four or five years, because some places just aren't those types of towns."

Plattenburg added that he will also have his eyes on how UCLA, USC and Washington perform, as well as several teams outside of the Pac-12.

Prospects expect big weekend at Utah
At Utah, six prospects are scheduled to take official visits, including a late addition in ESPN 300 athlete and Virginia commit Jeff Farrar (Upland, Calif./Upland). He'll be joined by junior college wide receiver Brandon Snell (Garden City, Kan./Garden City) and four Florida standouts, including a trio of teammates in ESPN 300 cornerback Nigel Bethel, ESPN 300 wide receiver Lamar Parker and athlete Deltron Hopkins (Miami/Booker T. Washington), as well as cornerback Juwan Dowels (Davie, Fla./Western).

"It's good to see everybody play good competition," Farrar said of the weekend for the conference. "The reason I'm taking this trip is because it's homecoming and a big game and I want to see the atmosphere. I've seen their games on TV, so I know there will be a lot of red in the stadium. I guess they're going to reveal some new uniforms, so it's going to be a fun night in that stadium."

For others, one weekend won't decide things
The games won't be make-or-break for every recruit in the region. Both three-star offensive lineman Kammy Delp (Pomona, Calif./Diamond Ranch) said he's aware of several of the marquee showdowns involving Pac-12 programs this weekend, but he's far more concerned with the offensive schemes of the programs in which he is interested than the results of any one weekend.

ESPN junior 300 defensive tackle Jacob Daniel (Fresno, Calif./Clovis North) echoed that sentiment.

"It's more about how I fit in and how comfortable I am with the coaches and the program," Daniel said, though he added that he very much enjoyed his unofficial visit to Cal for the season-opener several weeks ago.

One recruit who won't be on a Pac-12 campus this weekend is ESPN 300 athlete Budda Baker (Bellevue, Wash./Bellevue), who originally thought he would visit Oregon, but had to cancel those plans.

Instead, the four-star, two-way standout said he is very much looking forward to seeing how UCLA and Washington handle themselves in big games on the road. But his final thought about the weekend shows where the Pac-12 still stands in the minds of many West region recruits, and what this weekend is all about fixing on the field.

"This weekend, I'm looking forward to the Texas A&M - Alabama game," Baker said. "Of course, those games (the Pac-12 slate) too, but I just want to see that game."