Pac-12: Priest Willis

Pac-12 recruiting wrap: South Divison

February, 7, 2013
We're reviewing hits and misses in Pac-12 recruiting, starting with the South Divison.


Needs filled: The Wildcats have two incoming quarterbacks -- USC transfer Jesse Scroggins, who's already in school, and Anu Solomon -- who will be in competition to replace the departing Matt Scott. The class includes five linebackers, a need position. Don't be surprised if running back Pierre Cormier gets touches behind Ka'Deem Carey. It seems that coach Rich Rodriguez stocked up on athletes -- receivers and defensive backs.

Holes remaining: The Wildcats' biggest weakness in 2012 was the defensive line -- they ranked last in the Pac-12 in sacks and gave up more than 200 yards rushing per game -- and this class of 23 includes just two defensive linemen. Who's going to rush the passer in 2013?


Needs filled: The Sun Devils needed receivers and defensive backs. They signed five receivers and and five defensive backs -- and one athlete, who could play either. Defensive tackle Marcus Hardison, the nation's No. 5 junior college player, should help bolster a poor run defense.

Holes remaining: The Sun Devils lost QB Joshua Dobbs to Tennessee on signing day, which means they haven't signed a quarterback in two consecutive classes. Nine JC transfers means the Sun Devils are counting on immediate impact rather than long-term development. That approach can be a gamble, though four of the juco recruits have three years of eligibility instead of two.


Needs filled: The Buffs have a lot of needs, as they were last in the Pac-12 in scoring offense and scoring defense in 2012. The class includes six offensive linemen, and quarterback Sefo Liufau, 6-foot-4, 215-pound product of Bellarmine Prep in Tacoma, Wash., is a guy Buffs fans should be excited about. Considering the poor production at the position last season and the fact that there's a new scheme, he might get into the mix this fall.

Holes remaining: This is a fairly balanced class but there isn't a single interior defensive lineman. The Buffs gave up 226 yards rushing per game last season. The Buffs did, however, sign nine defensive linemen last year. While Liufau is the star of the class, this crew is lacking pizzazz and will rank last in the Pac-12, which is not surprising for a 1-11 team that fired its coach.


Needs filled: Jim Mora said his top needs were offensive line, defensive back and linebacker. He signed seven offensive linemen, four defensive backs -- highly rated safety Priest Willis is still pending -- and three linebackers. As for the offensive line, two are ESPN 300 prospects and a third is a four-star lineman. Including Willis, who is expected to sign with the Bruins, two defensive backs are ESPN 150 players, a third is an ESPN 300 recruit and the fourth is rated with four stars. As for linebacker, two are ESPN 150 players.

Holes remaining: The Bruins signed the Pac-12's top-rated class and had a great final week. There is little not to celebrate, other than defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes picking Notre Dame. The most obvious hole is running back, where there's no obvious replacement for Johnathan Franklin. Craig Lee had committed to the Bruins but hasn't signed, so there's no true RB in this class.


Needs filled: USC lost three of four starters from a secondary that underperformed last year, so signing two of the top three safeties in the nation -- Su’a Cravens and Leon McQuay -- as well as the No. 11 cornerback in Chris Hawkins is a pretty nice haul. The Trojans also added a pair of elite running backs in Ty Isaac and Justin Davis, the nation's No. 3 DT in Kenny Bigelow and the No. 2 quarterback in Max Browne. All three spots were need areas.

Holes remaining: The story of this class, as good as it is, is the handful of decommitments. In November, this was the No. 1 class but fell out of the top 10. Bigelow is the only defensive lineman; there are only two offensive linemen. In November, the question was how was USC going to finagle its way to just 75 scholarships, per NCAA sanctions. That's no longer an issue.


Needs filled: With the graduation of RB John White and three voids on the defensive line, those were two need spots addressed by this class of 23. The Utes signed five defensive linemen, including three defensive tackles. They also signed four running backs, including JC transfer Devontae Booker.

Holes remaining: One bit of bad news for the defensive line is that DT Lowell Lotulelei, younger brother of Star and the Utes' highest-rated player, didn't sign because he's going on a Mormon mission right out of high school. This is a balanced class but it includes just two offensive linemen. The Utes also didn't get great linebacker play last season and this class only includes one, Uaea Masina.

Take 2: Recruiting surprises

February, 1, 2013
With National Signing Day coming up next week, your Pac-12 bloggers are looking at what's surprised them so far in the recruiting season.

Ted Miller: It's too early to pass ultimate judgment on a recruiting class because we really don't know what that class is until the ink is dry on all the letters of intent, confirming the names and numbers. That said, I am a bit surprised that Stanford is lagging in recruiting.

The Cardinal currently ranks 38th in the rankings with just 12 commitments. That's seventh in the Pac-12 for a team that's played in three consecutive BCS bowl games.

Sure, Stanford will sign a small class because it doesn't have that many available roster spots. And there are some names out there that still might send this class into the top 25. A strong close, not unlike coach David Shaw produced last year, is still possible.

But Stanford made a recruiting surge last year that suggested it might be poised to take that next step as a perennial top 15 or so team in the recruiting rankings. It seemed that Shaw had found the formula: Within the pool of elite athletes who also are elite academically, Stanford would get first pick. Particularly among those who appreciated Stanford's smashmouth style on both sides of the ball.

At present, however, the Cardinal's class is solid but unspectacular. It features just one member of the ESPN 150, though half of the committed players have earned four stars. Recently Stanford lost out on receiver Devon Allen to Oregon. Receiver continues to be a need position for the program.

Stanford will be ranked in the preseason top 5 again next preseason. It, the premier academic institution playing FBS football, has the pieces in place for a national title run in 2013.

From the perspective of this humble scribe, that should be alluring to a number of top recruits -- regionally and nationally -- who apparently are looking elsewhere.

Perhaps the Cardinal will make a strong close. If it doesn't, it would be fair to term this recruiting class as fairly disappointing.

Kevin Gemmell: Of all the sticks and stones hurled at new UCLA coach Jim Mora when he was first hired -- he doesn't know the college game, he doesn't have the experience working with young players etc., etc. -- the stickiest stick and the rockiest rock was that he'd struggle in recruiting -- at least early on.

So staring down at a potential recruiting class that currently ranks 12th nationally and second in the Pac-12 has to be awfully satisfying for Mora and Co., which has assembled a very good group of (so far) 23 players. Among that group are 11 four-star players, three from the ESPN 150 list and seven from the ESPN 300 list.

As Ted says, we have to wait to see if there will be any last minute high jinks or switcharoos -- not totally uncommon in the days and hours leading up to National Signing Day. But if the class holds strong, it's a diverse group of seven offensive lineman , talented offensive skill players like Eldridge Massington and three defensive backs who could potentially contribute immediately.

Given the questions surrounding Mora when he took the job, yes, this comes as a bit of a surprise. He's surrounded himself with a great staff that knows how to recruit. But the head coach is usually the one who has to close the deal. Surely, it would have taken him a few recruiting cycles to get his in-home stump speech down. But it didn't, and now the Bruins are looking at quite the recruiting coup.

Of those 23 who have given verbal commitments, 14 come from California -- which is to be expected. But two of the three ESPN 150 players -- safety Priest Willis and outside linebacker Deon Hollins Jr. -- come from out of state. Willis is from Arizona. Hollins and Massington are from Texas. That means that Mora is not only expanding his reach as a recruiter, he's getting A-list players from other states.

One season a dynasty does not make. One division title (without an asterisk) doesn't officially constitute a power shift in Los Angles, nor does one very good recruiting class signify the arrival of a new sheriff. Because USC's recruiting class -- if you haven't noticed -- is ridiculously loaded with talent. Every player is either on the ESPN 150 or ESPN 300 lists. UCLA isn't there yet. But recruiting is just the first step. It takes time. It takes coaching and player development and it takes outstanding strength and conditioning to turn the stars on paper into stars on the field.

And the more high-profile players who don the Bruins' hat on signing day, the closer they inch toward re-taking Los Angeles. The fact that it's happened so quickly is somewhat surprising. And it's only going to make the South Division and the Pac-12 that much more exciting in years to come.

UCLA lands elite safety pair

January, 24, 2013
UCLA needs to replace three of four starters in its secondary heading into 2013, but it appears that's being addressed well on the recruiting trail.

The resurgent Bruins received commitments Wednesday from two safeties ranked in the ESPN 150: Priest Willis and Tahaan Goodman. They are the No. 5 and 9 safeties in the nation, according to ESPN.

Willis, 6-2, 199 pounds, is the nation's No. 59 overall recruit. He chose UCLA over Arizona State and LSU. Goodman is ranked 109th overall. He picked the Bruins over Arizona State, LSU, Nebraska and Oklahoma.

UCLA’s commitment list now stands at 23, including seven ESPN 300 prospects. It's presently ranked 21st in the nation and third in the Pac-12 behind USC (No. 6) and Washington (No. 17) by ESPN, but it likely will bump up a few notches.

New coach Jim Mora made a notable mark last winter when, in his first experience recruiting college players, he led the Bruins to a strong close on signing day. Perhaps we're about to see UCLA recruiting take another step forward, where it might challenge USC for Pac-12 supremacy?

WeAreSC links: Recruiting Friday

April, 27, 2012
Greg Katz writes Insider: While 10 Trojans were selected in the 2008 draft, walk-on receiver Brad Walker saw his career, which was highlighted by being the intended receiver on Reggie Bush's ill-fated lateral against Texas, end.

WeAreSC recruiting mailbag Insider: Erik McKinney fields questions from readers about recruiting in the Southeast, defensive back recruiting, and possible near-future commitments.

Garry Paskwietz writes: With the selections of Matt Kalil by the Minnesota Vikings with the No. 4 pick, and Nick Perry by the Green Bay Packers at No. 28, USC adds to its NCAA-best number of all-time first-round draft picks.

Erik McKinney writes Insider: Tempe, Ariz., defensive back Priest Willis is the inspiration for a feeding frenzy, as schools from all over the country lobby for his services.

McKinney writes Insider: Pinetop, Ariz., fullback Chans Cox is being looked at as both an offensive and defensive player in recruiting.

More McKinney Insider: Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif., offensive lineman Dane Crane has seen his recruiting increase in recent weeks.