Monday, January 20, 2014
Weekend recruiting wrap: Pac-12
By Erik McKinney
The first big official weekend of crunch time for the 2014 recruiting class came and went, and if the past 48 hours are any indication of what's to come in the Pac-12, this will be a very interesting ride to signing day.
Biggest commitment: Washington's 2014 class received a much-needed boost with a commitment from defensive tackle Greg Gaines (La Habra, Calif./La Habra). The high three-star defensive tackle had been committed to Chris Petersen at Boise State and decided during his official visit to complete the move with him to Washington. Gaines is now the highest-ranked recruit in the class and the only defensive lineman. It was a big visit weekend for the Huskies, who hope that Gaines' commitment is the start of something good for Washington, as Petersen looks to load up before signing day.
Honorable mention goes to Oregon State and Washington State, for adding potential impact transfers. The Beavers announced the arrival of quarterback Luke Del Rio, who transferred from Alabama, while former ESPN 300 wide receiver Sebastian LaRue said he will make the move to Washington State from Texas A&M.
Biggest decommitment: Special circumstances led to the creation of this category this week, as the decommitments outweighed the commitments for much of the conference. The huge news came Friday, as ESPN 300 safety Bishard "Budda" Baker backed away from his pledge to Oregon. Baker said he is now down to UCLA and Washington. On Saturday, defensive tackle Austin Maloata (Corona, Calif./Centennial) said he was no longer committed to USC, and will visit Arizona State at the end of the month. On Sunday, Utah took a hit, as three-star offensive tackle Kenyon Frison (West Valley City, Utah/Granger) decommitted from the Utes, following an official visit to Arizona State.
Best performance by a commit/target: The annual Polynesian All American Bowl was held at Tustin (Calif.) High School on Saturday, and the talent level was impressive all around. But few players on the field -- and truly, in the country -- could match up against ESPN 300 athlete John "Juju" Smith (Long Beach, Calif./Poly). Smith caught two touchdowns, including one where he went high over a cornerback to come down with the catch in the back of the end zone.
Most important visit: Baker definitely moved the needle with his official visit to Washington over the weekend, but there were a number of quarterbacks on the move for Pac-12 programs. Arizona State hosted a huge weekend, and had Manny Wilkins (Novato, Calif./San Marin) on hand, which basically gave the Sun Devils a second recruiting coordinator.
Washington received an official visit from Kyle Carta-Samuels (San Jose, Calif./Bellarmine Prep), whose recruitment was thrown upside down by former Vanderbilt coach James Franklin moving to Penn State. It remains to be seen if Pac-12 teams will go all in on Carta-Samuels, but it's not often that an ESPN 300 quarterback is this wide open at this point in the process.
UCLA received an official visit from Kansas State commit Aaron Sharp (Houston/Summer Creek), and it appears that the Bruins will work hard to land the 6-foot-3, 188-pound signal-caller, as former target Brad Kaaya (West Hills, Calif./Chaminade) looks locked into Miami.
Dipping into the 2015 class, USC had Ricky Town (Ventura, Calif./St. Bonaventure) on campus, as the Alabama commitment took an unofficial visit to see Steve Sarkisian and company. The Trojans have made Town a priority for next year's class, though the Crimson Tide certainly won't give up without a fight.
Biggest answer: There were some questions as to whether ESPN 300 offensive guard Damien Mama (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco) would take his official visit to USC. On Saturday, when the nation's No. 67 prospect confirmed that he will be a guest of the Trojans this Friday, it cemented what should be a phenomenal list of talent visiting USC. In addition to ESPN 300 commits Viane Talamaivao (Corona, Calif./Centennial) and Bryce Dixon (Ventura, Calif./St. Bonaventure), the Trojans will get Mama and Smith on campus, as well as potential visits from ESPN 300 cornerback and Oregon commit Arrion Springs (San Antonio/Roosevelt), BYU commit Fred Warner (San Marcos, Calif./Mission Hills) and cornerback Lamont Simmons (Jacksonville, Fla./Raines).
A number of other Pac-12 programs will have terrific official visitor lists as well, but USC has a chance to cement much of its 2014 class with positive impacts on Mama and Smith.
Biggest question: Where does Budda Baker land?
One of the region's most dynamic athletes, Baker's decision to decommit from Oregon caught many by surprise. Now back on the board, Baker's ultimate decision could shape a number of classes. If he stays home and goes to Washington, Chris Petersen will have his first huge recruiting win. If Baker heads south and signs with UCLA, it will be another statement from Jim Mora and his staff that they can go toe to toe in recruiting with any staff in the conference.