- Erik McKinney, ESPN Staff Writer
When it comes to quarterback recruiting for the Pac-12, things have changed dramatically from last year.
In the 2015 class, ESPN 300 quarterbacks littered the California landscape and few Pac-12 programs even thought about venturing outside of the West region for their quarterback targets.
This year, the region hasn’t been especially kind to the conference at the quarterback position in the early going, despite No. 40 overall prospect K.J. Costello announcing his commitment to Stanford on Thursday afternoon.
Malik Henry finished his junior season as the top prospect in the West but committed to Florida State then transferred to a high school in Florida. That left quarterback Jacob Eason as the top West prospect, but he removed his name from the uncommitted list very early on, announcing his pledge to Georgia last July. Keaton Torre is the region’s No. 3 quarterback and just recently opened his recruitment back up after committing to Louisville.
That leaves Torre and Ian Book as the lone uncommitted ESPN Junior 300 quarterbacks in the West, two of several signal-callers in the region who could see their recruitment pick up with attention now fully shifted away from Costello.
Book holds a Pac-12 offer from Washington State and appears to be just behind fellow California quarterbacks Matt Fink and Devon Modster in terms of sought-after signal-callers in the area.
Programs that fell out of the Costello sweepstakes moved quickly on either Fink or Modster -- or sometimes both -- and that could also be the case with USC after missing out on Costello. Fink’s Pac-12 offers came from Cal, Colorado, Oregon State, Utah, Washington and Washington State, while Modster holds offers from Arizona, Arizona State, Cal, UCLA, Utah and Washington State.
There likely won’t be much urgency at the position for a number of teams in the conference, as many likely believe their 2015 addition can cover up for a somewhat down year in the region at the position in 2016.
Arizona, Cal and Oregon are the three Pac-12 programs that appear set at quarterback for the 2016 class, and Stanford can now be added to that list with Costello’s commitment. The Ducks landed their top target in ESPN Junior 300 quarterback Seth Green, while the Wildcats gained a pledge from Khalil Tate as a quarterback when other programs recruited him as an athlete. Cal has a commitment from dual-threat Armani Rogers. Utah does have a commitment from Kahi Neves, though he could play a number of positions for the Utes.
USC could go after the aforementioned California quarterbacks, or the Trojans could elect to stand pat at the position, leaving a gap between the two ESPN 300 quarterbacks they signed in the 2015 class and what should be a very good crop of 2017 quarterbacks in the region.
Stanford coaches surely were breathing a sigh of relief Thursday afternoon, as they won't have to go through a repeat of what happened in 2015. They went hard after their top -- and only -- target at quarterback and reeled him in.