Pac-12: Rob Gronkowski

Truly a sight to behold. A man beaten. The once great champ, now, a study in moppishness. No longer the victory hungry stallion we've raced so many times before, but a pathetic, washed up, aged ex-champion.
Rich Rodriguez has some work to do in his own backyard. That's the conclusion from ESPN The Magazine's LaRue Cook, who examined the worst in-state recruiters. Along with the RecruitingNation crew, ESPN The Magazine poured over the past five years of ESPNU 150 rankings, (750 total recruits) and found the worst 10 BCS programs at holding on to homegrown, elite talent.

Per the study, Arizona is 0-for-12 during that stretch at landing ESPNU 150 recruits while USC has been the top program in that state over that time.
Writes Cook:

Arizona has signed just two ESPNU 150 recruits over the past five years, and neither DE Apaiata Tuihalamaka (Gardena, Calif.) nor TE Rob Gronkowski (Pittsburgh) was a home-state product. While the Trojans have had the most success here, Arizona State was at least able to land two preps within its state borders. Last year, the state's top prospect (OT Christian Westerman of Chandler) signed with Auburn. In 2012, all eyes in Tucson are on the nation's top ATH Davonte Neal (Scottsdale), who's still considering the Wildcats and would certainly kick start Rich Rodriguez's tenure.

But Arizona isn't alone in the Top 5. Pac-12 brethren Stanford and Cal check in on the list at Nos. 3 and 4 respectively. Like Arizona, USC has been California's top recruiter during 2007-2011. Stanford has nabbed just 2-of-73 ESPNU recruits.
Cook on Stanford:

We gave Stanford props for its ability to go out of state to sign top prospects, but there's no ignoring the program's inability to create an elite pipeline in its state. (Meanwhile, UCLA has signed 12 in-state ESPNU 150 recruits over the last five years.) Sure, Cardinal fans can blame their program's struggles on academic constraints, but out of 73 players, surely more than two could qualify. In 2012, David Shaw doesn't have a single ESPNU 150 commit from California -- USC currently has four and UCLA has two -- but No. 4 OT Kyle Murphy (San Clemente) still has Stanford on his short list.

Cross-Bay rival Cal hasn't been much better. The Golden Bears have hauled in just 4-of-73 ESPNU 150 prospects during that time.
Cook on Cal:

We could make the same knock against the Golden Bears over the last five years, but Jeff Tedford has nearly matched his 2007-11 total in 2012. Cal is close to signing three of the state's top eight prospects, including the nation's No. 3 S Shaq Thompson (Sacramento).

You can cut Cal and Stanford a little slack, since California is a recruiting goldmine for the rest of the country -- not just USC. It isn't just the rest of the conference they are trying to fend off. And to compensate, both schools were praised by Cook as top five programs at recruiting out of state.

Arizona lands touted tight end

June, 7, 2011
6/07/11
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Is a Rob Gronkowski sequel coming to Tucson?

Tight end Taylor McNamara (San Diego, Calif./Westview) has committed to Arizona, ESPN's Greg Biggins reports.

A member of the ESPNU150, McNamara had offers from USC, Ohio State, Florida State, Michigan, Notre Dame, Washington, UCLA, California, Washington, Oregon State, Arizona State, Colorado, Utah, Miami, Maryland and Kentucky.

So this is a big get for the Wildcats.

"There were a lot of reasons why I liked Arizona. I'll have a chance to play early there, I'm comfortable with the school and the direction the program is going in, it's close enough to home for my parents and coaches to come and watch me and I like the players on the team and trust the coaching staff there," he told Biggins.

McNamara, 6-foot-5, 230 pounds, is the Wildcats' third commitment.

Looking back at 2007 recruiting

January, 31, 2011
1/31/11
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Recruiting is an inexact science -- just ask any coach. Recruiting rankings are the same.

ESPN Recruiting went back and reviewed its 2007 rankings and found it had plenty of hits and plenty of misses.

Right USC?

Recall that the Trojans had the nation's No. 1 class, featuring four top-20 players and eight in the top-50. Some of the names will inspire a "who?" from those who don't follow recruiting closely.

Oregon and Stanford, which earned the Pac-10's two BCS bowl berths this season, only had one player on the 2007 ESPNU 150: Oregon's Kenny Rowe. Rowe was also the only member of the ESPNU 150 from 2007 to earn first- or second-team All-Pac-10 honors this year, though a couple, such as Arizona TE Rob Gronkowski, are already in the NFL.

You can start your review of the ESPNU 150 from 2007 here.

Here's a re-ranking of the top-10 of the recruiting rankings.

And here's a "best of" from the ESPNU 150.

For quick reference, here are the Pac-12 players who made the list.

Top 25
1. Joe McKnight, RB, USC
2. Chris Galippo, LB, USC
3. Marc Tyler, RB, USC
18. Marshall Jones, S, USC

25-50
31. Everson Griffen, DE, USC
33. Aaron Corp, QB, USC
43. Dominique Herald, S, USC
47. Ronald Johnson, WR, USC

51-75
68. Martin Coleman, OT, USC
70. Apaiata Tuihalamaka, DE, Arizona
71. Ryan Miller, OT, Colorado

76-100
None

101-125
104. Conrad Obi, DE, Colorado
107. DaJohn Harris, DT, USC
111. Kenny Rowe, DE, Oregon
116. Rob Gronkowski, TE, Arizona
122. Kristofer O'Dowd, C, USC

126-150
133. Chris Forcier, QB, UCLA
135. Raymond Carter, RB, UCLA

Pac-10 presence on All-NFL team

January, 19, 2011
1/19/11
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Pro Football Weekly and the Professional Football Writers of America have announced their 2010 All-NFL team, and there's plenty of Pac-10 presence.

Former USC linebacker Clay Matthews was named Defensive MVP, and he led three Pac-10 defenders on the team:

Haloti Ngata, DT, Baltimore (Oregon)
Clay Matthews, LB, Green Bay (USC)
Troy Polamalu, S, Pittsburgh (USC)

Further, an All-Rookie team was announced, and four from the Pac-10 made the team.

LeGarrette Blount, RB, Tampa Bay (Oregon)
Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England (Arizona)
Tyson Alualu, DE, Jacksonville (California)
*T.J. Ward, S, Cleveland (Oregon)

*Ward also was honored for special teams.

It's fair to say that Blount's fortunes have taken a positive turn since Sept. 3, 2009.

Preseason position reviews: tight end

July, 28, 2010
7/28/10
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Welcome to the review of the weakest position in the Pac-10. And that was going to be the case even before Washington gave Kavario Middleton the boot.

Middleton, by the way, was named preseason first-team All-Pac-10 by Phil Steele, even though he only caught 26 passes last year and was being challenged for the starting job by Chris Izbicki.

Only four teams welcome back their starting tight end, and only one -- California's Anthony Miller -- even earned honorable mention all-conference honors.

Why is the position down? Attrition after an "up" season. Consider the departed: Arizona's Rob Gronkowski, Oregon's Ed Dickson, Stanford's Jim Dray, UCLA's Logan Paulsen and Ryan Moya and USC's Anthony McCoy. Those guys are now stocking NFL rosters.

So where do things stand? Well, you might say we graded the position on a curve, though there is plenty of potential here.

Great shape
  • California: Miller was the Bears' third-leading receiver last year. Six-foot-7 sophomore backup Spencer Ladner saw action in seven games.
Good shape
  • UCLA: While the Bruins lost their top two TEs, they look solid here with Cory Harkey, Notre Dame transfer Joseph Fauria and hybrid TE-WR Morrell Presley.
  • Stanford: Even though the Cardinal lost Dray, Coby Fleener was their top pass-catcher at the position, and the depth is good with Konrad Reuland, Zach Ertz and 6-foot-8 Levine Toilolo.
  • Oregon State: The Beavers get credit here for H-back Joe Halahuni, who caught 35 passes for 486 yards and three TDs in 2009. Senior Brady Camp is a good blocker with 18 career starts.
  • Oregon: The Ducks lose Dickson, but David Paulson saw extensive action in 2009 and JC transfer Brandon Williams was impressive this spring.
  • Arizona: Gronkowski's back injury made A.J. Simmons the season-long starter, so the Wildcats are at least experienced. Redshirt freshman Jack Baucus is the backup.
  • Washington State: The Cougars' depth chart lists five TEs, with Skylar Stormo and Zach Tatman offering experience at the top.
We'll see
  • USC: Attrition and injuries make this a questionable position for the Trojans. If Blake Ayles and Rhett Ellison stay healthy, things should be OK. The incoming freshman class is strong, starting with Xavier Grimble, who ranked No. 1 at the position, according to ESPN Recruiting.
  • Washington: With Middleton, the Huskies would have been in great shape. Izbicki had a good spring, but he only caught three passes for 7 yards in 2009 and the depth is questionable.
  • Arizona State: Jovon Williams is gone and Dan Knapp is a tackle, but the Sun Devils could move up here just because the position figures to be more involved in the offense in 2010. Trevor Kohl and Christopher Coyle top the depth chart.

A look back at 2007 recruiting

July, 21, 2010
7/21/10
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The 2007 recruiting class members are either seniors or redshirt juniors this fall, so they should be the backbones of most Pac-10 team's starting lineups.

Therefore, it seems like a reasonable moment to look back and review some recruiting hits and misses. (And, yes, we did this last summer with the 2006 class, which you can review here -- Ducks fans should get a kick out of it).

As for the 2007 rankings, USC ranked No. 1 in the nation, according to ESPN.com's Scouts Inc. Oregon, at No. 23, was the only other Pac-10 team in the Scouts Inc., top-25.

Scout.com ranked USC No. 2 in the nation, Oregon ninth, and California 12th. The rest of the Pac-10 went, in order, Washington (29th in nation), UCLA (36th), Arizona State (38), Oregon State (40), Stanford (43), Arizona (49) and Washington State (54).

Here's an overview.

Arizona

Class: 17

ESPNU top 150 players: 2 (DE Apaiata Tuihalamaka, TE Rob Gronkowski)

How many are expected to start in 2010: Four (RB Nic Grigsby, CB Trevin Wade, WR William Wright, K Alex Zendejas)

Misses: Tuihalamaka, QB Bryson Beirne,

Verdict: Obviously, the biggest catch of this class, Gronkowski, is gone. Otherwise, a lot of these guys qualify for the "where are they now?" file.

Arizona State

Class: 24

ESPNU top 150 players: 0.

How many are expected to start in 2010: Five (C Garth Gerhart, WR Kerry Taylor, CB Omar Bolden, DE James Brooks, OG Matt Hustad)

Misses: OL Po'u Palelei, LB Oliver Aaron

Verdict: This is a decent class, particularly when you factor in the contribution of the since-departed JC signees, such as LB Morris Wooten and DE Luis Vasquez. And there are several non-starters who will contribute this year.

California

Class: 27

ESPNU top 150 players: 0

How many are expected to start in 2010: 10 (OT Matt Summers-Gavin, P Bryan Anger, LB D.J. Holt, WR Alex Lagemann, OT Mitchell Schwartz, S Sean Cattouse, S Chris Conte, OG Justin Cheadle, DE Cameron Jordan, RB Shane Vereen).

Misses: QB Brock Mansion, CB D.J. Campbell

Verdict: Obviously, ESPN.com's Scouts Inc., missed with its evaluation of this solid recruiting class, particularly when you consider RB Jahvid Best, WR Nyan Boateng and LB Devin Bishop were significant contributors before their tenures were done. Jordan and Vereen obviously were well underrated. And there were 21 running backs better than Best?

Oregon

Class: 29

ESPNU top 150 players: 1 (DE Kenny Rowe)

How many are expected to start in 2010: 10 (Rowe, WR D.J. Davis, LB Casey Matthews, CB Talmadge Jackson, OG Carson York, TE David Paulson, OG Mark Asper, WR Jeff Maehl, S Eddie Pleasant, DE Terrell Turner).

Misses: DT Myles Wade, S Malachi Lewis

Verdict: When you toss in DE Will Tukuafu, WR Aaron Pflugrad (a starter who transferred to Arizona State) and WR Terence Scott, this is a good, if not great, class. Three or four of these guys should be All-Conference players.

Oregon State

Class: 35

ESPNU top 150 players: 0

How many are expected to start in 2010: Eight (HB Joe Halahuni, S Cameron Collins, WR Darrell Catchings, CB Brandon Hardin, FB Will Darkins, DE Taylor Henry, LB Keith Pankey, WR James Rodgers)

Misses: CB David Ross, RB Reggie Dunn

Verdict: We don't have the time to go back and retrace the maneuvers that are part of managing a 35-man recruiting class (each class can only include a maximum of 25 members, but there are lots of ways to fudge numbers). Obviously, there are the Beavers typical crew of so-called diamonds in the rough -- hello, James Rodgers -- but here's a guess that coach Mike Riley winces over some of these names. Certainly not a lot of production from the six JC guys.

Stanford

Class: 19

ESPNU top 150 players: 0.

How many are expected to start in 2010: Six (P David Green, CB Corey Gatewood, LB/FB Owen Marecic, TE Coby Fleenor, DE Thomas Keiser, DE Matt Masifilo)

Misses: QB L. D. Crow, S Sean Wiser

Verdict: An interesting class considering that six of the eight lowest rated players are on the Cardinal's preseason two-deep depth chart, including three starters. In terms of skill positions -- see the two QBs -- this class doesn't measure up.

UCLA

Class: 11

ESPNU top 150 players: 2 (QB Chris Forcier, RB Raymond Carter)

How many are expected to start in 2010: Five (LB Akeem Ayers, LB Glenn Love, LB Steve Sloan, DT Nate Chandler, OT Mike Harris)

Misses: Forcier, Carter

Verdict: This is a very small but highly productive class collected by former coach Karl Dorrell -- note that it includes DT Brian Price, who bolted early for the NFL. The only busts were the two highest rated players, Forcier and Carter, and JC LB Mike Schmitt. The other eight members are either on the two-deep or, in Price's case, already in the NFL.

USC

Class: 20

ESPNU top 150 players: 10 (RB Joe McKnight, LB Chris Galippo, RB Marc Tyler, S Marshall Jones, DE Everson Griffen, QB Aaron Corp, WR Ronald Johnson, OT Martin Coleman, DT DaJohn Harris, C Kris O'Dowd)

How many are expected to start in 2010: Four (LB Chris Galippo, WR Ronald Johnson, C Kristofer O'Dowd, LB Malcolm Smith)

Misses: S Marshall Jones, OT Martin Coleman

Verdict: Obviously, this class, ranked No. 1 in the nation, was overrated, even when you factor in that McKnight, Griffen and Damian Williams already are in the NFL, and NT Christian Tupou would be a second-year starter if he didn't blow out his knee this spring. Lots of guys who never contributed or left the program.

Washington

Class: 27

ESPNU top 150 players: 0

How many are expected to start in 2010: Eight (WR Devin Aguilar, LB Alvin Logan, LB Cort Dennison, SS Nate Williams, LB Mason Foster, CB Quinton Richardson, DE Kalani Aldrich, K Erik Folk)

Misses: DE Emeka Iweka, DT Nick Wood

Verdict: You read the names of the seven highest-rated players in this class and you have one reaction: Terrible. But then you see six defensive starters among the lower rated guys. Still, the Huskies defense is a huge question mark. How it performs this year will tell you how this class should be rated.

Washington State

Class: 26

ESPNU top 150 players: 0

How many are expected to start in 2010: Five (CB Aire Justin, WR Daniel Blackledge, C Andrew Roxas, OG B.J. Guerra, SS Chima Nwachukwu)

Misses: WR Deon Ford

Verdict: Not much should be expected from Bill Doba's final recruiting class, and this one doesn't deliver much sizzle. A couple of solid hits, though, including a couple of departed JC transfers.

Pac-10 deep & thin: Stocked and depleted positions

June, 1, 2010
6/01/10
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At what position is the Pac-10 deep? At what position in the Pac-10 thin? Here's the first of three parts taking a look at just that.

Deep: Center

Why is it deep? Start with the fact that nine starting centers are back from 2009, though Washington's Ryan Tolar has moved to guard and former starting tackle Drew Schaefer has moved inside to center. Then consider that of those nine, six earned a spot on the 37-man watch list for the Rimington Trophy, which is given annually to the nation's best center. Even Washington State, which lost Kenny Alfred, probably feels pretty good about Andrew Roxas, who's started nine career games.

The big names: Six players are legitimate all-conference candidates: USC's Kristofer O'Dowd (he could be the top center in the 2011 NFL draft), Arizona's Colin Baxter and Stanford's Chase Beeler (both were second-team All-Pac-10 in 2010), Oregon State's Alex Linnenkohl (who has 26 career starts), Oregon's Jordan Holmes and UCLA's Kai Maiava.

Thin: Tight end

Why is it thin? Only four teams welcome back a starting tight end, none of whom earned all-conference honors. In fact, only one returning tight end, California's Anthony Miller, earned honorable mention. And consider the list of departed players from 2009: Arizona's Rob Gronkowski, Oregon's Ed Dickson, Stanford's Jim Dray, UCLA's Logan Paulsen and Ryan Moya and USC's Anthony McCoy. Phil Steele recently named his four All-Pac-10 teams, and he made Washington's Kavario Middleton the first-team tight end. Middleton caught 26 passes last year and he's fighting with Chris Izbicki for the starting job.

Fill the void? Miller and Middleton (Izbicki?) could be breakthrough players. UCLA is excited about the Joseph Fauria-Cory Harkey combination. Joe Halahuni, though a hybrid, H-back sort, is a threat for Oregon State. Stanford's Konrad Reuland, a Notre Dame transfer, is promising. It appears that David Paulson, Dickson's backup last year, and JC transfer Brandon Williams will be solid for Oregon. Perhaps Blake Ayles finally stays healthy for USC.

Taylor Mays hurting after draft tumble

April, 24, 2010
4/24/10
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The NFL draft teaches hard lessons. Two USC players are learning that now: Taylor Mays and Everson Griffen.

Mays would have been a first-round pick last year. I know folks believe his perceived weaknesses would have revealed themselves on film Insider then just as they did this season. But the 2008 USC pass defense was simply extraordinary in large part because of Mays playing an intimidating and impenetrable center field.

So Mays blew it by coming back for his senior season. And he now knows this.

As for you, San Francisco 49ers fans: Didn't you guys do fairly well a few years back with another hard-hitting former USC safety? I got a $5 bill right here that says Mays is going to become an outstanding NFL safety.

Griffen is another story: First-round talent with questions about his attitude and work ethic. (Keep this in mind about Mays: his work ethic couldn't be any better).

Who would have thought that Washington's Daniel Te'o-Nesheim would go before Griffen? Te'o-Nesheim is superior to Griffen in only one way but its a critical one: motor. Griffen's is questionable, Te'o-Nesheim's is not.

The lesson here is that being good isn't enough. The NFL cares about the entire package. And NFL teams don't want players who aren't self-starters, who don't motivate themselves.

Take note incoming five-star recruits.

Here are the Pac-10 picks to this point (11:15 a.m. ET ).

First round
DE Tyson Alualu, California, Jacksonville (10)
RB Jahvid Best, California, Detroit (30)

Second round
DT Brian Price, UCLA, Tampa (35)
S T.J. Ward, Oregon, Cleveland (38)
TE Rob Gronkowski, Arizona, New England (42)
S Taylor Mays, USC, San Francisco (49)
RB Toby Gerhart, Stanford, Minnesota (51)
OT Charles Brown, USC, New Orleans (64)

Third round
TE Ed Dickson, Oregon, Baltimore (70)
WR Damian Williams, USC, Tennessee (77)
LB Donald Butler, Washington, San Diego (79)
DT Earl Mitchell, Arizona, Houston (81)
DE Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, Washington, Philadelphia (86)
OG Shawn Lauvao, Arizona State, Cleveland (92)
CB Kevin Thomas, USC, Indianapolis (94)

Fourth round
DE Everson Griffin, USC, Minnesota (100)
CB Alterraun Verner, UCLA, Tennessee (104)
CB Walter Thurmond, Oregon, Seattle (111)
RB Joe McKnight, USC, New York Jets (112)

Pac-10 lunch links: USC's Johnson likely out the rest of spring

April, 23, 2010
4/23/10
2:30
PM ET
Happy Friday.

Pac-10 lunch links: Stanford asks, 'What's your deal?'

April, 22, 2010
4/22/10
2:33
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The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.

Nine Pac-10 players rank on Kiper's top-five list by position

April, 1, 2010
4/01/10
9:21
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A bevy of Pac-10 players may not be selected in the first round of the NFL draft on April 22, but the second and third rounds will feature plenty of West Coast flavor, at least according to Mel Kiper.

Kiper ranks nine conference players among the top-five at their respective positions.
Notice that seven different schools have players ranked. While no Oregon State or Stanford players were ranked, both schools are certain to produce draft picks: quarterback Sean Canfield and linebacker Keaton Kristick for the Beavers and running back Toby Gerhart and offensive lineman Chris Marinelli for the Cardinal.

That leaves out only Washington State, and center Kenny Alfred might just get picked late in the draft -- he's not off the radar.

Not since 2007 have all 10 conference teams had at least one player drafted -- see some lean years for Stanford, Washington and Arizona.

Pac-10 lunch links: Katz is ready for his close-up

March, 29, 2010
3/29/10
2:30
PM ET
Well they said you was high-classed
Well, that was just a lie
Yeah they said you was high-classed
Well, that was just a lie
Well, you ain't never caught a rabbit
And you ain't no friend of mine.

Pac-10 lunch links: Public sentiment a factor for USC with NCAA?

March, 2, 2010
3/02/10
2:30
PM ET
We've got the whole wide world in our yard to explore.
We always find things we've never seen before.
That's why every day we're back for more
With your friends, the Backyardigans.

Strong & weak: Arizona

March, 2, 2010
3/02/10
9:00
AM ET
The second of a 10-part series that looks at where Pac-10 teams are strongest and weakest as they begin spring practices.

Arizona.

Strong: Offensive skill positions.

Why it's a strength: The Wildcats welcome back just about all their top skill guys -- their top-two quarterbacks (Nick Foles and Matt Scott), top three rushers (Nic Grigsby, Keola Antolin and Greg Nwoko) and five of their top six receivers (Juron Criner, Delashaun Dean, Bug Wright, David Douglas and David Roberts). The only loss is 2009's leading receiver Terrell Turner. Even the early departure of TE Rob Gronkowski is eased by the fact that he didn't play in a single game last year.

Weak: Up the middle defense.

Why it's a weakness: It's a weakness because the Wildcats must replace both defensive tackles, all three linebackers and free safety Cam Nelson. Moreover, they head into spring without a lot of obvious answers at those position, seeing that the defense's top four tacklers and five of the top six are all gone. Lolomana Mikaele was listed as the backup at both DTs positions at the end of last year, but he finished with just 12 tackles. Two junior college transfers, linebackers Derek Earls and Paul Vassallo, are expected to earn starting positions. Toss in new co-coordinators -- though Tim Kish was promoted from linebackers coach -- and there are a lot of questions on this side of the ball.

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