Pac-12: Solomon Thomas

STANFORD, Calif. -- Stanford coach David Shaw knew for two days that four-star defensive end Solomon Thomas would give a pledge to Stanford on ESPNU to open national signing day coverage.

He didn't know Thomas, the No. 4-ranked defensive end in the country, would do it by pulling a tree out from under a table and then conduct the rest of the interview in nerd glasses. It was a pleasant surprise and a fitting start to a day in which the Cardinal signed the country's No. 15 class, which ranked only behind USC in the Pac-12.

"The fact that nerd is not necessarily a negative word anymore," Shaw said. "It says a lot about our kids that are bright, that our kids are smart. Our kids want to accomplish something also in the classroom and beyond Stanford and beyond football. It says a lot about who those guys are and what they want to accomplish."

[+] EnlargeSolomon Thomas
ESPNSolomon Thomas brought some style to his Stanford announcement.
In Thomas' opening statement there was no mention of spending the next three, four or five years on the Farm. Instead, he chose to focus on what Shaw and his staff have made a priority.

"I'll be playing college football and I'll be graduating from Stanford University," Thomas said.

Key word: graduating.

Of Stanford's 20 commits, seven were ranked in the ESPN 300 and 11 were given four-star grades. Quarterback Keller Chryst, offensive tackle Casey Tucker, tight end Dalton Schultz and Thomas were the headliners, while running back Christian McCaffrey, offensive tackle Reilly Gibbons and safety Brandon Simmons were also in the ESPN 300.

Shaw wouldn't specify which players had the best chances to earn early playing time, but Schultz, the nation's top-ranked tight end, figures to be the best bet. After sending four tight ends to the NFL over the previous three seasons, the Cardinal were largely without a tight end in the receiving game this past season.

“[Schultz] is a kid that all the recruiting services had as the No. 1 tight end in America,” offensive coordinator Mike Bloomgren said. “When we evaluate kids and put them on our board, we are going to agree with them and sometimes we are not. In Dalton’s case, we absolutely did.”

Stanford's recruiting efforts took a big hit in late December when it was announced recruiting coordinator Mike Sanford would leave to become the offensive coordinator at Boise State following the Rose Bowl. A few weeks later, defensive coordinator Derek Mason took over at Vanderbilt and inside linebackers coach David Kotulski went with him to become the defensive coordinator.

"We talk about being a national recruiter," Shaw said. "Well, we felt it after those guys left because you're starting with 10 and you're busy then you have seven guys to canvas the nation. It was taxing.

"It was for the first time really in my career here at Stanford that I was gone for eight days straight. We all had to cover a lot of ground."

The class is made up of players from 12 states, with California (5), Arizona (3), Florida (2) and Texas (2) providing multiple players.

However, not everyone required a plane trip. In fact, in the case of Chryst, there was no need for a vehicle at all. The son of 49ers quarterback coach Geep Chryst literally has the arm strength to throw a football from his Palo Alto High campus to the Stanford campus, which are located across the street from each other.

Chryst's addition should make for an interesting competition down the line. Starter Kevin Hogan still has two years left of eligibility and Ryan Burns was one of the prizes of Stanford's recruiting class a year ago.

On Chryst's ability, Shaw said: "There are things you can teach playing the quarterback position and things you can't. You can't teach 6-4, 235 and athleticism that can throw the ball 70 yards. You just can't teach that stuff. You see a young man with ability and physical tools and toughness. Best thing for us is that we don't feel the need to rush his development."

Shaw said he had met the elder Chryst a few times while coaching in the NFL, but didn't develop a real relationship with him until the recruiting process began.

Signing day wrap: Pac-12

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While it was a terrific day for the Pac-12 overall, USC stole the signing day spotlight on Wednesday, hitting for the cycle in landing its top four targets.

The day began well for new coach Steve Sarkisian, as three-star cornerback Lamont Simmons (Jacksonville, Fla./Raines) faxed over his signature, but that was only an appetizer for the Trojans. With 19 scholarships available this year -- NCAA sanctions limited the Trojans to just 15 scholarships in this class and USC was able to roll four unused rides over from the 2013 class -- Simmons took the class to 16. Left on the board were a trio of Southern California ESPN 300 prospects in No. 9 overall prospect, cornerback Adoree' Jackson (Gardena, Calif./Serra), No. 24 overall prospect, athlete John "JuJu" Smith (Long Beach, Calif./Poly) and No. 67 overall prospect, offensive guard Damien Mama (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco).

[+] EnlargeJohn
Kelvin Kuo/USA TODAY SportsJohn "JuJu" Smith was part of a huge signing day for USC.
Sarkisian and the Trojans were able to land all three, giving USC one of the best signing days of any program in the country. The signings give USC 19 additions in the 2014 class, including nine ESPN 300 pledges, one ESPN JC 50 prospect and impact players on both sides of the ball. There is really no way to overstate how well Sarkisian and the Trojans closed on signing day, posting what amounted to a perfect day.

The Trojans wound up with the No. 1 class in the Pac-12, but the rankings in the conference were bunched at the top.

Stanford made a huge run late, landing commitments from all six recruits it targeted over the past two months. The Cardinal added signatures from ESPN 300 defensive end Solomon Thomas (Coppell, Tex./Coppell) -- at No. 25 overall, the highest rated Stanford addition since ESPN began its rankings in 2006 -- and three-star cornerback Terrence Alexander (River Ridge, La./John Curtis Christian). Though the Cardinal lost a late commitment from defensive end Uriah Leiataua (Compton, Calif./Dominguez), it was a very strong visit and a terrific class headed to the Farm.

Alexander wasn't the only recruit from John Curtis Christian to commit to the Pac-12, as Oregon and UCLA took their biggest commitments of the day from that program. The Ducks landed ESPN 300 safety Mattrell McGraw, while UCLA picked up its lone signing day commit in Kenny Young.

Oregon missed out on Smith and defensive tackle Trey Lealaimatafao (San Antonio/Earl Warren) but was able to land safety Khalil Oliver (Meridian, Id./Rocky Mountain) in a battle against Washington.

UCLA coaches will likely be disappointed with the day. Although the Bruins did reel in Young, UCLA missed on Thomas, No. 1 overall wide receiver Malachi Dupre (River Ridge, La./John Curtis Christian) and the Southern California trio, which made matters worse for Jim Mora & Co. by committing to the Trojans. UCLA brought a very good recruiting class into signing day and did a good job of holding onto everybody, but the Bruins took some big swings at some big prospects across the country and didn't get the results they were hoping for.

Arizona State slid a few spots in the national rankings, but the Sun Devils did everything they could on signing day. Todd Graham brought a relatively full class into the day and was able to add two huge signatures in ESPN JC 50 prospects defensive tackle Dalvon Stuckey (De Funiak Springs, Fla./Pearl River CC) and cornerback Kweishi Brown (El Cajon, Calif./Grossmont). The Sun Devils were also able to hold onto another junior college standout in wide receiver Eric Lauderdale (Fayetteville, Ga./Saddleback College), who received a significant late push from Florida.

Arizona was relatively quiet. The Wildcats brought in a huge list of verbal commitments and didn't lose anybody off the top of the class, landing five ESPN 300 prospects. Defensive tackle Marcus Griffin (Bellevue, Wash./Bellevue) was the big addition, as the big lineman selected Arizona over Cal, Mississippi State and Washington State.

Oregon State grabbed a signature from offensive guard Kammy Delp (Pomona, Calif./Diamond Ranch), who will play defensive tackle for the Beavers. Utah announced defensive tackle Lowell Lotulelei (South Jordan, Utah/Bingham) as a part of this class after he attempted to sign with the Utes in 2013.

Washington's big addition came Tuesday night in the form of ESPN 300 safety Bishard "Budda" Baker (Bellevue, Wash./Bellevue), but Chris Petersen and the Huskies also received a signing day commitment from intriguing 6-foot-5 receiver Brayden Lenius (West Hills, Calif./Chaminade). The Washington State Cougars closed with their second four-star commitment in this class, safety Deion Singleton (Paco, Wash./Chiawana).

But the day in the West belonged to USC, which jumped from No. 4 in the conference to landing the Pac-12's top 2014 recruiting class. Nationally, the Trojans moved from No. 24 to No. 15 overall.

Stanford (15th), Arizona State (21st) and Arizona (23rd) all finished among the top 25 recruiting classes in the nation.

Good early news for UW, USC, Stanford

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Washington and new coach Chris Petersen started the thrills and chills of national signing day early with a commitment Tuesday evening from ESPN 300 safety Bishard "Budda" Baker (Bellevue, Wash./Bellevue), and Stanford and USC got things going early on Wednesday.

ESPN 300 defensive end Solomon Thomas (Coppell, Texas/Coppell) produced a Tree and donned nerd glasses as visual aids for his commitment to Stanford. The nation's No. 4 defensive end and No. 25 overall player picked the Cardinal over Arkansas and UCLA.

Finally, USC signed three-star cornerback Lamont Simmons (Jacksonville, Fla./Raines). He picked the Trojans over Auburn, Penn State and Arkansas.

Of course, the big battles today will involve USC and UCLA, most notably over five-star cornerback Adoree' Jackson (Gardena, Calif./Serra). He will announce his decision on ESPNU today at 2 p.m. ET.

Stay tuned. National signing day is just beginning, and much of today's intrigue is about the West Coast.

ESPN 300 defensive end Solomon Thomas (Coppell, Texas/Coppell) ended his recruiting process with a tree, glasses taped in the middle and a big smile while sitting with his family.

Thomas, the No. 4 defensive end in the country and No. 25 player in the ESPN 300, verbally committed to Stanford. A 6-foot-3, 256-pound athlete, Thomas chose the Cardinal over Arkansas and UCLA.


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Bold predictions: Pac-12 

February, 4, 2014
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If the past several years are any indication, it's always fairly safe to expect something unexpected on signing day. From supposed locks signing elsewhere to supposed flips staying put, signing day wouldn't be signing day without the accompanying element of surprise.

With that being said, we look ahead to Wednesday and offer five predictions as to how the Pac-12 will fare.


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The countdown is on, as the final weekend before signing day comes to a conclusion. Monday begins the dead period before signing day, so phones will likely be ringing off the hook between now and Wednesday -- phone contact is allowed during a dead period, in-person contact is not -- as Pac-12 coaches look to finalize the 2014 class.


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Pac-12 class rankings analysis 

January, 29, 2014
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In the final updated ESPN recruiting class rankings before national signing day, six Pac-12 schools remain among the top 40 classes in the country, and all are within striking distance of claiming the top spot in the conference. Arizona State remains No. 1 in the conference and No. 17 in the nation, and Stanford made a big jump for the second straight week, moving to No. 2 in the Pac-12 and No. 19 overall. Arizona slid one spot with Stanford's move, checking in at No. 21, and USC and Oregon remain tightly bunched at Nos. 24 and 25, respectively. UCLA rounds out the group from the Pac-12 at No. 28.


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Most important targets: Pac-12 

January, 28, 2014
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With only eight days before national signing day, it truly is crunch time for coaches and recruits alike for the 2014 class. In the Pac-12 especially, a number of spots remain available in a majority of classes. This week, we take a look at the most important uncommitted target for each conference program.

Arizona: DT Marcus Griffin (Bellevue, Wash./Bellevue)
6-2, 299 pounds
Three-star prospect

The Wildcats jumped into the process late for Griffin but made enough of an impression that the big lineman took an official visit to Tucson last weekend. Griffin will announce on signing day from a group that consists of Arizona, Cal, Mississippi State and Washington State. While the Wildcats have a full class at this point, it looks as though they'd like to add one more big body along the defensive line and Griffin is one of the top defensive tackles in the region, regardless of commitment status.


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Pac-12 class rankings analysis 

January, 22, 2014
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With just two weeks until signing day, this week's updated class rankings illustrate just how close the gap is between the top teams in the Pac-12. Arizona State again checks in at No. 1 in the conference and now sits at No. 17 in the nation. Behind the Sun Devils, five more Pac-12 teams are within 10 places, as Arizona is No. 20, USC is No. 22, Stanford is No. 23, Oregon is No. 24 and UCLA rounds out the Pac-12 entrants at No. 27.

Trending up: Stanford


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Signing day could unfold in a number of ways where the Pac-12 is concerned, as six programs still have a legitimate chance to land the conference's No. 1 class and five of the top eight West region prospects are still uncommitted with legitimate interest in Pac-12 programs. Closing in on two weeks until the first Wednesday in February, here are five Pac-12 storylines to keep an eye on for signing day:


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Weekend recruiting wrap: Pac-12 

January, 13, 2014
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Stanford put its best foot forward with its Big Visit Weekend, while a number of other Pac-12 programs positioned themselves for big recruiting weekends throughout the month of January. California was able to lock in a familiar face on the recruiting trail, while Oregon was able to the same on the coaching staff, in this week's recruiting wrap.


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The West region still has a chance to greatly impact the Pac-12, as five of the top six recruits in the region remain uncommitted. And while a few Pac-12 classes still have a ways to go and others are looking for the finishing touches, there is still a most important commit for each program still out there. Here, we take a look at the one "must-have" recruit for each conference program.


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Though the season ended on a sour note, with a 24-20 loss to Michigan State in the Rose Bowl presented by VIZIO, 2013 was another tremendously successful season for the Cardinal. Stanford posted an 11-win season and defended its Pac-12 crown. Heading toward signing day, it's doubtful this loss will damage any of the momentum the Cardinal have built on the recruiting trail. On the heels of a small recruiting class in 2013 -- Stanford signed just a dozen prospects -- Shaw and his assistants will be able to go after more recruits in the 2014 class, though this group still likely won't approach the maximum allowable limit of 25. At this point, Stanford's 2014 class ranks No. 28 in the nation and No. 4 in the Pac-12.


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Pac-12 signing day storylines 

December, 17, 2013
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With 50 days until national signing day, there is still plenty left undecided in the Pac-12. Five of the top six West region prospects -- as well as seven more ESPN 300 prospects -- remain uncommitted and have significant Pac-12 interest. There also figures to be a battle for the top class in the conference, as at least six schools will jostle for position.

Here are 10 Pac-12 storylines that could help shape signing day for the conference.

1. Who are USC's assistant coaches?

At this point, very few questions about USC's coaching staff are answered. Steve Sarkisian is in place as the head coach and has retained wide receivers coach and ace recruiter Tee Martin. Making the trip down from Washington with Sarkisian are linebackers coach and recruiting coordinator Peter Sirmon, defensive backs coach Keith Heyward and assistant coach Johnny Nansen, whose position hasn't been determined. USC assistants Clancy Pendergast, Clay Helton, Mike Summers and John Baxter are among the candidates to stay at the school, but nothing is likely to be announced until after USC's bowl game. Who winds up filling out that staff will be on the minds of a number of top prospects, especially if the coaches come from other Pac-12 programs.


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Weekend recruiting wrap: Pac-12 

December, 16, 2013
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Pac-12 recruiting hit warp speed this past week, as recruits and coaches alike took advantage of the final week of in-home visits and final weekend of official visits before the winter dead period begins on Monday and the junior college mid-year signing day hits on Wednesday. Just about every conference program hosted official visitors this past weekend, and more than a few earned significant commitments.


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