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Thursday, October 3, 2013
Pac-12 recruiting storylines: Oct. 3

By Erik McKinney

A change at the top in Troy, the Ducks making a recruiting push and a hot new look in the desert are just a few of the top storylines in the Pac-12 this week.

Trojans turnaround?

The biggest news in the Pac-12 came this past Sunday, when it was announced that Lane Kiffin was out as head coach of the USC Trojans. It's never good timing to lose your head coach during the season, but that blow might be softened a bit for the Trojans. Interim head coach Ed Orgeron will not only inherit a program looking to get back on track after a big loss, he'll get one on a bye week, which means recruiting can take a front seat until USC's home game next Thursday against Arizona. The Trojans extended three offers in Arizona this past Tuesday, and while they are very much on the outside looking in for all three of those prospects, it shows that USC is going to continue being aggressive on the recruiting trail. Wide receivers coach Tee Martin will be in attendance when Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco hosts Los Angeles Crenshaw on Friday night, as St. John Bosco has a large contingent of priority recruits for the Trojans. It will be fascinating to watch how recruits react to the dismissal of Kiffin and how USC will recruit without a permanent head coach for the time being.

Utah getting two

The Utes extended an offer to safety Darren Gardenhire (Long Beach, Calif./Cabrillo) on Wednesday, and the San Jose State verbal commitment wasted no time in setting up an official visit to Utah for the weekend of Oct. 11. He'll be joined on that trip by good friend and Arizona commit, cornerback Naijiel Hale (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco). While it's unlikely that the Utes will be able to flip Hale, they could find themselves in good position to land Gardenhire, a very talented safety, provided the trip goes well. Gardenhire is a recruit who could see his stock rise as the season progresses, so it could be big for the Utes to get in quickly on him.

Here come the Ducks

Oregon made a splash by grabbing a commitment from ESPN 300 running back Tony James (Gainesville, Fla./Gainesville) over the weekend, but the Ducks could be positioning themselves well for a terrific close to the 2014 recruiting class. The big push could start on the weekend of Oct. 25, which is setting up to include a number of high-profile visitors that will see a huge conference game against UCLA. John Smith (Long Beach, Calif./Poly) and Montae Nicholson (Monroeville, Pa./Gateway) are ESPN 300 athletes looking to get a taste of Eugene, while No. 4 athlete Michiah Quick (Fresno, Calif./Central East) could be there on an official visit after having to cancel a September trip. It also might be an opportunity for Oregon to make an impression on California commit Jaleel Wadood (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco), who recently scheduled an official visit for that weekend.

Another big stage for Washington

Much was made about the run of four games Arizona State is finishing this weekend, as the Sun Devils matched up with Wisconsin, Stanford, USC and Notre Dame, but Washington has a chance to make some serious noise over the next four weeks. The Huskies put up a 31-13 victory over Arizona last week, travel to Stanford this weekend, host Oregon the following week, then close the run by visiting Arizona State. There have been more than a few questions about Washington's class, which sits at just eight verbal commitments right now. But if the Huskies can put a 4-0 or even a 3-1 record together over those four games, the Washington coaches have the ability to turn that into commitments in a big way. Recruits have been looking for a sign that head coach Steve Sarkisian has made a jump from seven-win seasons in Seattle. This weekend could go a long way toward answering that question and, in the proceess, putting together a very impressive 2014 class.

Sun Devils strut their stuff

Arizona State will have a national stage this weekend, as the Sun Devils travel to Arlington, Texas, to take on Notre Dame at AT&T Stadium. Not only will Arizona State be looking to showcase the program to Texas recruits -- a priority recruiting area for Graham's staff -- they'll do it in uniforms they hope recruits across the country will notice. The reaction from committed players has been positive, but usually any off-the-wall uniform will be met with enthusiasm from that group. It will be interesting to see how much the uniforms affect the way recruits see the Arizona State program moving forward, but head coach Todd Graham seems to be at the head of the pack in trumpeting the arrival of the new hot look.