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Monday, September 30, 2013
Weekend recruiting wrap: Pac-12

By Erik McKinney

There was plenty of news on and off the field in the Pac-12 this past weekend, as several conference teams separated themselves with huge wins, Oregon landed a big verbal commitment, and USC made a head coaching change.

Biggest commitment: ESPN 300 running back Tony James (Gainesville, Fla./Gainesville) took an official visit to Oregon this past weekend and had a pretty good idea of what might happen. After being blown away by the school, the coaches, the offense and the atmosphere during his visit, the nation's No. 164 overall recruit made his commitment. It's a big get for the Ducks in the simple terms of landing an elite running back. But it also makes a statement for the Oregon program, as it was able to go clear across the country and grab a highly-recruited prospect who was previously giving long looks to Florida and Ohio State.

Biggest offer: Arizona State extended at least two offers over the weekend, as 2015 ESPN 300 prospects Kahlil McKenzie (Concord, Calif./De La Salle) and Stanley Norman (Culver City, Calif./Culver City) picked up scholarship offers from the Sun Devils. It's the second Pac-12 offers for McKenzie, who adds it to offers from Mississippi and Washington, while Norman adds it to Pac-12 offers from UCLA, USC, Utah and Washington State. Perhaps more importantly for Arizona State, Norman was in attendance on Saturday night watching the Sun Devils dismantle the Trojans. Norman is one of those Los Angeles-area recruits who will pay attention to what happens with the USC coaching situation, but he's also developed a good bond with the UCLA staff, so it was important for the Arizona State coaches to get in early with the talented cornerback.

Best performance by a commit/target: Always the toughest section to produce just one answer, there were a number of impressive Friday night performances again. Junior wide receiver Lavan Alston (Ventura, Calif./St. Bonaventure) had two touchdowns and 235 receiving yards against Mission Hills (Calif.) Alemany. Arizona quarterback commit Brandon Dawkins (Westlake Village, Calif./Oaks Christian) had another huge game, throwing for 454 yards and five touchdowns. In that same game, wide receiver/running back Chris Davis, who is still searching for his first offer, caught 11 passes for 225 yards and three scores. The West's top recruit, athlete Adoree' Jackson (Gardena, Calif./Serra), rushed for 78 yards and a touchdown, caught three passes and returned an interception 102 yards for a touchdown. And there's a record-watch situation outside San Diego, where Oregon commit and ESPN 300 running back Royce Freeman (Imperial, Calif./Imperial) is now 514 yards shy of the all-time CIF San Diego Section record of 6,684 career rushing yards. Freeman ran for 286 yards and scored five touchdowns on Friday, and in five games, his rushing totals have been 340, 194, 322, 256 and 291 yards, respectively. He could somehow stumble to 514 by Wednesday's lunch break.

Most important visit: Obviously the James visit to Oregon turned out to be pretty big, and a trip from Michiah Quick (Fresno, Calif./Central East) could have been listed here had the ESPN 300 athlete actually made the visit, but ESPN 300 running back Joe Mixon (Oakley, Calif./Freedom) scheduling a late official visit to Washington was huge. Not only did Mixon get to see a dominating win by the Huskies, he was able to watch as Washington running back Bishop Sankey set a school record for rushing attempts in a game, with 40. It's tough to believe head coach Steve Sarkisian would run that many times just to make a statement to Mixon, but it couldn't have worked out much better. With California faltering on the field and Oregon grabbing its second tailback in this class, it would appear that Washington could be in good position to make a real run at Mixon, and that might have started with the visit over the weekend.

Biggest answer: The biggest answer was delivered to the biggest question that had been hanging over the conference since the start of the season. After getting blown out by Arizona State, USC athletic director Pat Haden made the decision to dismiss Lane Kiffin. USC fans are undoubtedly pleased by the action, but no group of people is more relieved to have this answer than USC's recruits. It's not that the recruits were actively rooting for Kiffin to be fired; they just wanted a clear answer as to where the USC football program is headed. A majority of recruits have a much stronger relationship with interim head coach Ed Orgeron, which will give the Trojans a big boost on the recruiting trail.

Biggest question: Who will it be?

With apologies to the rest of the conference, the biggest news over the weekend was the firing of Kiffin, so USC is the topic for both the biggest answer and biggest question of the weekend. Naming Orgeron will give USC some immediately stability with recruits, but it does little in the long run. Recruits still want to know who will take over the job on a pernament basis, and that decision might still be months away. In the meantime, Pac-12 programs will try to work quickly to strengthen their relationships with many of the Trojans' top targets, so that when the new USC coach is named, it will be too late for him to get back in with the West's top recruits. But don't expect that to be easily done, as many of the top recruits in the region -- Jackson, John Smith (Long Beach, Calif./Poly) and Damien Mama (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco) just to name a few -- have made it very clear that they are more than comfortable waiting until they have a firm answer on the biggest question facing the Pac-12. Who will be the next head coach of USC?