It's tough to imagine a more exhausting and stressful conclusion to a recruiting process than the one Iman Marshall orchestrated. Over the past 10 days, Marshall has taken official visits to Florida State, LSU and Michigan, as well as hosted several coaches at his home and school. But just like on the football field, the nation's No. 4 overall prospect doesn't appear to be fazed at all by what's being thrown at him.
Here's a look at how programs in the Pac-12 are faring on the recruiting trail heading into national signing day on Feb. 4.
ESPN 300 commitments: 1
Who they have: The Wildcats hit it big with their top two commitments in ESPN 300 offensive tackle Keenan Walker and ESPN JC 50 defensive tackle Anthony Fotu. Arizona also will add four-star tackle Cody Creason, three-star tackle Harper Sherman and three-star guards Alex Kosinski and Nathan Eldrige to the offensive line. There are a number of skill players on both sides of the ball, including running backs Orlando Bradford and Darick Holmes Jr., cornerbacks Shun Brown, Anthony Mariscal, Samuel Morrison and Dane Cruikshank, wide receiver Cedric Peterson and athletes Antonio Parks and Brion Anduze.
Who they want: There aren't many spots left in this class for the Wildcats, but there are a few important names left on the board. The wide receiver spot could see another addition with Jaylinn Hawkins, though rival Arizona State will put up a fight there. Arizona also will look to continue its run of success in Louisiana, as teammates Arthur McGinnis and Darrell Clark (New Orleans/Warren Easton) are two of the top prospects left for the Wildcats, as well as teammates of Arizona commit Kendal Franklin.
To read the rest of our Pac-12 recruiting class breakdowns, click here .
In Southern California in particular, they just don't seem to grow behemoth high school defensive tackles with much quantity and quality. It's not to say that some of the defensive line prospects aren't good enough, but there just isn't an overabundance of them. The best of the best defensive linemen in SoCal can play for anybody, but there aren't enough of them to go around, especially when the country's best recruiters invade the SoCal looking for a stud or two.
That's what makes the recruiting of Gardena (Calif.) Serra High's Rasheem Green (6-foot-5, 290 pounds) such a high priority for the Trojans. Green stands alone as the best defensive line prospect in Southern California, and naturally everybody and anybody wants his services. Steve Sarkisian and staff are giving it their best shot to land the prep All-American.
Looking at past, heralded prep defensive linemen from SoCal, how many can you name that became major factors along the Trojans defensive line? Did you answer Chino High's Sedrick Ellis and/or Los Altos High's Shaun Cody? In their schoolboy days, they made everybody's recruiting list, and they lived up to the billing at USC.
Of course, there are always some lesser known prospects coming out of the local prep ranks that developed into Trojans All-America linemen like Los Alamitos High's Mike Patterson and Los Angeles Verbum Dei's Kenechi Udeze.
The point again is there are defensive linemen here but not like you see in the South, which seems to grow them like there is no tomorrow. Yet, every once in a great while, the Trojans can swoop into SEC country and extract a major D-line prospect. The Trojans seem to get their share of skill players from the South, but defensive linemen are another story.
The latest Trojans defensive tackle All-American, Leonard Williams, hails from Daytona Beach, Florida, and Mainland High School. It took a Herculean recruiting effort by the Trojans to sneak this major blue-chip prep tackle out SEC country.
For many in 2014, Williams was considered the premier defensive lineman in the country and deciding to forego his senior season, No. 94 is a possibility to be selected as the overall No. 1 pick in the 2015 NFL draft.
The Trojans' defensive line class of 2015 shows commitments from Jacob Daniel (Fresno, Ca./Clovis North), Noah Jefferson (Las Vegas, Nev./Liberty), and Christian Rector (Los Angeles Loyola). Currently, only Rector is from Southern California. While the Trojans are pleased with those commitments to be sure, it is Green that makes Sarkisian and defensive line coach Chris Wilson light up.
And while Green is considered the big fish amongst prep defensive tackles, there is also an under-the-radar prospect in rapidly rising Kevin Scott (6-4, 255) from Los Angeles Salesian. Scott could fall into the Mike Patterson/Kenechi Udeze category of the-best-is-yet-to-come.
Obviously out of necessity and the desire to recruit the best not only locally but nationally, the Trojans have not confined their defensive line search to Southern California. Sarkisian and his staff know to achieve expectations, defensive linemen are more valuable than ever.
However, it's not like the Trojans haven't been trying to lure stellar prep defensive linemen from out of the Southern California area. The USC staff put in yeomen efforts to persuade national recruits like Kahlil McKenzie (Clayton Valley, Calif./Charter HS), Trenton Thompson (Albany, Ga./Westover), and Canton Kaumatule (Honolulu, Ha/Punahou). McKenzie has since committed to Tennessee, Thompson to Georgia, and Kaumatule to Oregon.
So, as the Trojans streak toward signing day on Feb. 4, it appears USC will finish at the very least somewhere in the top 5 nationally and perhaps even No. 1. However, like all championships -- even in recruiting -- it starts with defense, especially along the defensive line.
It's a fairly unusual year for recruiting when it comes to the two Los Angeles programs. While this is usually a zero sum war with a clear winner and loser -- as was the case with the 2014 class, when the Trojans finished 3-for-3 on the final three huge uncommitted prospects in Southern California -- this signing day provides the opportunity for both programs to either finish strong or fizzle out, without one much affecting the other.
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The 2015 Senior Bowl has come and gone, and there were plenty of great showings from Pac-12 players. Here's a brief compilation of some of the content you can find regarding the event:
- CBSSports' Senior Bowl stock report of 10 players who looked good -- one Beaver shows up on this list and it's not the one you're thinking of ...
- FOX Sports made a list of guys who helped their NFL draft stock the most. On this listing you've got a Husky and a Ute (these are probably the ones you're thinking of).
- Sports Illustrated had some similar praise to that of FOX Sports. SI's Chris Burke writes that "[Danny] Shelton's showing for the North team solidified his status as a likely first-round pick."
- The Atlanta Journal Constitution put together a photo gallery of the weekend.
- Former Wazzu receiver Vince Mayle does a video interview for the Senior Bowl.
- Former UCLA defensive lineman Owamagbe Odighizuwa also did a video interview at the Senior Bowl.
- Catching up with Sean Mannion following the Senior Bowl.
- Henry Anderson wrote six "diary" entries from AL.com during Senior Bowl week. You can check all of them out right here.
- Nate Orchard picked up some MOP honors at the Senior Bowl.
- Arizona picked up a wide receiver commitment from a three-star player out of Louisiana.
- Redshirt freshman quarterback Manny Wilkins says ASU is ready to compete for a national title.
- Arizona wasn't the only Pac-12 school to get a commitment from the South this weekend. So did Cal.
- Colorado is finally putting some money into athletics, writes Kyle Ringo.
- Marcus Mariota isn't sure if he's going to throw at the NFL combine.
- Add UCLA to the list of Pac-12 programs that went South this weekend for verbal commitments.
- USC got a verbal commitment from a four-star linebacker, and his mom had some pretty clever shirts made.
- Washington picked up its 24th commitment for the 2015 class.
- Connor Halliday has signed with an agent an intends to start practicing sometime this week.
There was some #Pac12Trolling happening Sunday as former Arizona State defensive lineman Will Sutton decided to comment on Taylor Kelly and Jaelen Strong's autograph session. Always nice to see a few (fun) shots taken between teammates when it comes to this kind of stuff.
Also, if anyone has a chance, check out Sutton's photo at the top of his Twitter page. It's pretty fantastic. Especially if you're a fan of The Lion King ...
Follow me on Twitter.
To the notes!
Andrew from Phoenix writes: Can this post-season please put to bed this obsession with "ranking" conferences? Here we are, a week after the season is ended, and we're debating whether the Pac-12 or SEC is the best conference in college football. For what it's worth they are 1 and 2, yet, the representatives of those conferences went 1-5 in the big games. So, then what is it really worth? The Big XII took an absolute nosedive as a whole, yet TCU had the second best postseason of all teams, and will be ranked in the Top 5 to start the season. Florida St got ragged all season for being in the "weak" ACC, whose #2 and #3 teams put an absolute shellacking on comparable teams from "stronger" conferences. The Big 10 is allegedly "back" after going 5-5 in the bowl season, but they only have 3 teams in the whole conference (Ohio St, Michigan St, and Wisconsin) with a prayer of finishing above 5th in the Pac South. Didn't seem to hurt Ohio St much against Oregon, did it? So, please try to convince me why it matters that Wisconsin beat Auburn, Stanford smoked Maryland, and Clemson crushed Oklahoma.
Ted Miller: To your first question, the answer is no. No, we can not put to bed this "obsession with 'ranking" conferences."
For one, it's necessary in college football, because we have to make subjective distinctions between teams that don't play each other. Whether it's the traditional national polls, the BCS system, or our new College Football Playoff, we have to rank teams, and how the conferences perform is one of the best ways -- the best way? -- we can do that.
Is it an exact science? No. Is it a way of conducting business that is laden with potential for bias and agenda? Absolutely.
Some, by the way, might argue that very subjectivity, an inescapable historical fact of college football, is one of the reasons the sport is so popular with its fans. Without an objective system -- such as large-scale playoffs used in pro sports -- a cherished U.S. institution therefore flourishes in college football: Endless, blathering debate, fueled by paranoia and manufactured offenses and cherry-picked "facts!"
It's a beautiful thing.
Another cherished institution is part of this: Regionalism. Due to the serendipity of a fan's or, often, a media member's birth location, that region becomes the source of all that is good and accomplished, and every other region is inferior, no matter how informed said fan or media member is on said other region. We all know from our present political reality that actually knowing stuff no longer matters and, in fact, can be a burden when debating with a louder and more pithy interlocutor.
But, hey, I'm not a scientist!
So the SEC fan thinks the Pac-12 is soft, and the Pac-12 fan thinks the Big Ten is slow, and the Big Ten fan things the Big 12 is finesse, and the Big 12 fan thinks the ACC is a basketball league, and the ACC fan thinks the SEC is overrated, etc., etc.
It. Will. Never. End.
And for that I am thankful.
Robert from New York writes: I've seen a lot of hype around USC for next season, and I'm not really sold on why. USC had a losing record against the Pac-12 South in 2014, including a blowout loss to UCLA. They're losing key players on both sides of the ball, and have a coach who has never won more than eight regular season games. Are sportswriters getting excited because they want a brand-name school to be elite, or am I missing something?
Ted Miller: Robert, you sound like some of my Pac-12 blogmates, so you are not alone in voicing some skepticism with the Trojans.
My case leads with this: Among its 16 returning position-player starters, USC welcomes back the most experienced, accomplished quarterback in the conference, Cody Kessler, and he will be playing behind an offensive line that will be the best in the Pac-12 (And USC fans should take heart for that 2016 opener against Alabama, because that should be an epic battle at the line of scrimmage between the Trojans and Crimson Tide). That offensive line welcomes back all five starters, led by senior, first-team-All-Pac-12 center Max Tuerk, as well has a good crew of backups.
Sure, there are some big hits, particularly with early departures, such as defensive end Leonard Williams, receiver Nelson Agholor, and runing back Javorius Allen. USC is going to need some young guys to step up. But finding ready-to-play youngsters is rarely a problem for USC, and, oh by the way, Steve Sarkisian is well on his way to signing what could end up a top-five class.
It will also help that Trojans should be well into the 70s in terms of scholarship players next fall. Though they won't get close to the maximum 85 scholarship players permitted by NCAA rules in their first post-sanctions season, they will be far above the 60 or so they played with in 2014. This will be a much deeper team in Sarkisian's second season.
As for doubting Sark, that's not unreasonable. No, he hasn't won a national title or a conference title, or even 10 games in a season. Yes, there were some times during his first season in which the Trojans seemed poorly prepared, poorly motivated, and poorly coached. You, by the way, could also say the same about Oregon. And Ohio State and Alabama, which went 7-6 and lost to UL Monroe in Nick Saban's first year in Tuscaloosa.
But, from today's vantage point, USC looks like the team with the fewest big questions in the Pac-12, though UCLA and Oregon could quickly counter with impressive clarity at quarterback.
I wouldn't be surprised if the Trojans are in the CFP discussion late into the 2015 season.
Does the USC "brand" play a role in that perception? Probably. But brand names have been pretty good bets over the long haul in college football.
Michael from Corvallis, Ore., writes: With Gary Andersen's staff poaching several assistants and recruits from Utah, not to mention two consecutive games going into OT, is there a chance Utah-Oregon State becomes an actual rivalry?
Ted Miller: Maybe, but it won't be because of any ill-will between the coaching staffs. Andersen and Utah coach Kyle Whittingham are extremely close -- both have said that to me within the past calendar year, Whittingham just a few weeks ago.
Whittingham also doesn't begrudge defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake jumping to Oregon State, because he knows it was a wise move professionally in the short and long term, particularly if Sitaki wants to be a head coach, which he does. Sitake needs to spread his wings outside of what had become a comfort zone in Salt Lake.
Further, being in different divisions, the Utes and Beavers will have a two-year hiatus coming up as the schedule rotates in 2017-2018.
Utah's chief rival remains BYU. Hard to believe that will change anytime soon, and it will be good to see the renewal of the Holy War in 2016. The Utes will develop Pac-12 rivalries, particularly in the South Division. But it will take time for ill-will and turf-wars to develop.
But Michael, if Utah/Oregon State is particularly annoying you, have at those dastardly Utes/Beavers (don't want to assume your preference just because you live in Corvallis).
Wayne from Mesa, Ariz., writes: With the 2014-15 Bowl Season all wrapped up, I was wondering what your thoughts were and what feedback you may have heard with regard to the new bowl lineup for the PAC-12. Granted, it was more of a tweak over the previous 4 years, but still featured new venues (Santa Clara and Tempe), new opponents (2 Big Ten teams), a slight change in the pecking order (Sun Bowl moved down, Foster Farms up), and of course, altered timing to allow for the New Year's Six. I attended the Sun Bowl, cheering on the Sun Devils. The local fan turnout and community support for that game in El Paso was very impressive! I am a bit concerned about the on-going PAC-12 fan support and enthusiasm for the Cactus Bowl. One wonders if this looks like just a late season PAC-12 road game. Local Phoenix news featured mostly Oklahoma State stories, and thank goodness the Big 12 team once again brought a big group of fans and much excitement to Tempe.
Ted Miller: The Pac-12 bowl lineup is about as good as it can be. Pretty nice mix of games against the ACC, Big Ten, and Big 12. Certainly the Pac-12 bowls have upgraded under commissioner Larry Scott.
I know some grumble about the bowl lineup. They want a matchup with an SEC team or a bowl game in Florida, but the SEC has a great bowl lineup, and Florida doesn't have much interest in bringing a Pac-12 team across the country. It's a choice of the marketplace, not due to managerial incompetence with the Pac-12 or some conspiracy of forces to keep the Pac-12 down.
Of course, if there's a business person on the West Coast who wants to offer up a $5 million per-team payout to lure a top SEC team across the country for a new bowl game against a Pac-12 team, I'm sure the SEC and Pac-12 would listen.
To check out the rest of the list, click here.
No. 1: Oregon QB Marcus Mariota
Statistics: 304-445, 4,454 passing yards, 42 passing touchdowns, 4 interceptions
It should come as no surprise that the Heisman Trophy winner (Maxwell Award winner, Davey O'Brien Award winner, Walter Camp Award winner, etc.) is the No. 1 player in the Pac-12 this season. He led the nation with an adjusted QBR of 90.8 (and was the only signal-caller to have better than an 86). His TD:INT ratio of 21:2 also was an FBS-best this season, as was his passer efficiency rating of 181.7. Behind a depleted and constantly adjusting offensive line, he was cool and collected and made use of a group of playmakers that really didn't have a ton of experience. On the ground, he added 135 carries for 770 yards and 15 rushing touchdowns.
No. 2: Arizona LB Scooby Wright
Statistics: 163 total tackles, 29 TFL, 14 sacks, 6 forced fumbles
Wright -- the Bronko Nagurski Award winner and the Lombardi Award winner -- led the conference with 163 total tackles (99 solo, 64 assisted) while averaging a sack per game. He also forced a Pac-12-best six fumbles. Wright is the only member of this season's top five who will return in 2015, making him the early front-runner for the No. 1 spot after the 2015 season.
No. 3: Utah DE Nate Orchard
Statistics: 84 tackles, 21 TFL, 18.5 sacks, 2 QBH
There might not be another player in the Pac-12 who made as big of a jump on defense as Orchard did. As a junior he registered 50 total tackles, including nine tackles for a loss and 3.5 sacks. His tackles for loss and sack numbers more than doubled over the past season as he faced even stiffer competition. The Utah defense became one of the biggest storylines of the season, thanks in large part to Orchard and his pass-rushing ability. With the Utes offense struggling and becoming more one-dimensional (due to injury) as the season went on, the defense became even more important and Orchard continued to step up. His presence will be sorely missed by Kyle Whittingham, but his mark on the Utah program is one that will last a very long time.
No. 4: USC DE Leonard Williams
Statistics: 80 tackles, 9.5 TFL, 7 sacks, 1 interception, 1 QBH
Williams, one of the nation's top NFL draft prospects, had a terrific junior season at USC. He missed some time due to injury but was still one of the most feared defensive players in a league stocked full of quarterback talent. He has the talent to play anywhere on the defensive line, which will make his pro career an interesting one, but his college career was one that won't be forgotten soon. Williams tallied 218 tackles, including 36.5 for loss, with 21 sacks.
No. 5: Washington LB Shaq Thompson
Statistics: 61 carries, 456 rushing yards, 2 rushing touchdowns | 81 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 1 sack, 1 interception
This winter, Thompson won the Paul Hornung Award, given to the nation's most versatile player, and rightfully so. He was a playmaker on both the offensive and the defensive side of the ball for the Huskies. He scored six touchdowns -- two rushing, one interception return and three fumble returns. Thompson finished the year as a first-team All-American, as well as becoming the first player to become a double honoree as a first-team All-Pac-12 player on both defense and special teams. Filling Thompson's shoes is going to be one tough task for Chris Petersen. It's pretty rare that one player can fill so many needs, but Petersen will now have to look for someone (or, to be realistic, two to three someones) to do the work that Thompson did alone.
Call it, Friendo.
Two quotes today... because Happy Friday.
In case you suffer from football withdrawals at any point this weekend, take solace in the fact that plenty of elite college talent will be suiting up for the Reese's Senior Bowl this Saturday. The Pac-12 is sending an entire gaggle of representatives to this game. Most will be representing the North team, but UCLA's Anthony Jefferson and Owamagbe Odighizuwa will play for the South.
There'll be a nasty collection of defensive line talent on the North team: Think Danny Shelton, Henry Anderson, Hau'oli Kikaha, and Nate Orchard -- all on the same unit. Seeing that group play together should create a fun dynamic for avid Pac-12 fans who have watched those players terrorize quarterbacks over the past few seasons.
On the other side of the ball, Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion may have a chance to throw to receivers from Stanford (Ty Montgomery) and Washington State (Vince Mayle).
Other Pac-12 representatives: Hayes Pullard and Josh Shaw (USC), Eric Rowe (Utah), Damarious Randle and Jamil Douglas (ASU)
This one will feature plenty of hustle, as it's the final live game opportunity for these seniors to raise their NFL Draft stock.
- Let's check in on former Arizona star Rob Gronkowski in the buildup to the Super Bowl. Seahawks cornerback Jeremy Lane doesn't think he's that good. #BulletinBoard
- Building smarter stadiums is a goal of the future, and ASU is part of the effort.
- There's a smattering of not-so-good Cal recruiting news here, including word of Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh taking a look at a current Golden Bear commit.
- Colorado's season will begin two days earlier than planned -- at Hawaii on Thursday, September 3.
- FishDuck.com delivers a nice Oregon recruiting update regarding official visits.
- New Oregon State coach Gary Andersen told Sports Illustrated that he left Wisconsin because of his frustrations with that university's admissions standards.
- Stanford basketball added backup Stanford football offensive tackle Nick Davidson to its roster. The 6-foot-7, 288-pounder did not see action in Thursday's game against Arizona.
- Who'll replace Brett Hundley as UCLA's starting quarterback? A true freshman named Josh Rosen is one option. There's more here.
- An interview with USC athletic director Pat Haden, who says the arrow is pointing up for Trojan football.
- A column that will make Ute fans smile: BYU football falling behind Utah.
- Chris Petersen is having some success on the recruiting trail. He tweeted the signature #Woof after the Huskies netted a four-star commitment.
- Did Washington State defensive lineman Xavier Cooper leave for the NFL draft too soon? Cougfan.com has its take.
Did you know Ronnie Lott played basketball at USC? That guy needs to be on the football team. Sign him up!
UTSA at Arizona
Michigan at Utah
Arizona State vs. Texas A&M (NRG Stadium, Houston)
Arkansas State at USC
Virginia at UCLA
Colorado at Hawaii
Weekend take: There's some early action to salivate over here. Jim Harbaugh will make his Michigan coaching debut on a Thursday night at Utah. It's hard not to love that: The Utes have developed into the same type of physical team that Harbaugh molded at Stanford and likely intends to create in Ann Arbor. Plus, that Rice-Eccles Stadium atmosphere is electric. Now just imagine it at night in front of a football-starved crowd against a traditional college football power. Yum.
With a maturing defense and plenty of experienced, explosive pieces returning on the offensive end, there's a feeling that ASU can do some more damage in 2015. They'll have an early chance to prove that on the massive stage that is Houston's Reliant Stadium against Texas A&M. A Pac-12-SEC matchup is a relative rarity. Think of the last one we had at a gigantic "neutral" site: Oregon-LSU in 2011. This game won't generate the same massive level of hype as that one did, but it's sure to drum up its share of buzz.
The UTSA-Arizona and Virginia-UCLA matchups have a key connecting thread: Those two opponents made the Wildcats and the Bruins sweat last year. There's not a single gimme on this opening weekend slate for the Pac-12 South.
Arizona at Nevada
Cal Poly at Arizona State
Idaho at USC
UCLA at UNLV
UMass at Colorado
Utah State at Utah
Weekend take: Nevada pushed Arizona deep into their meeting this past season, and that was in Tucson. The Wildcats must be wary entering Reno -- elevation can make for an unpleasant playing experience. Otherwise, the most notable Week 2 nonconference game for the Pac-12 South is the battle of the Beehive State: Utah State has seen plenty of success over the past few seasons, and they'll take their shot at the Utes very seriously. In-state rivalries are fun.
Outside of that, there's not much intrigue here. UCLA fans will get to make the weekend trip up I-15 through the desert to Las Vegas, though. There's some fun in the schedule for the Bruins there.
Northern Arizona at Arizona
New Mexico at Arizona State
BYU at UCLA
Colorado vs. Colorado State (Sports Authority Field at Mile High Stadium, Denver)
Utah at Fresno State
Weekend take: They might have tried to purge this from their memory, but there are certainly some UCLA fans who remember the last time the Bruins played BYU. The year was 2008, and the Cougars walloped UCLA 59-0. Any player connections from that shellacking are long gone by now, but BYU's visit to the Rose Bowl will be a key early-season game for both programs. Taysom Hill should be back under center for the Cougars while the Bruins will be adapting to life after Brett Hundley.
Following a winless Pac-12 campaign, Mike MacIntyre faces a massive season in Boulder, and it would behoove the Buffs to win the Rocky Mountain Showdown this time around. The game against Colorado State is played at a neutral site in Denver and promises to be an important early tone-setter for both programs.
Meanwhile, Utah has assembled quite the satisfying nonconference slate. The Utes follow those aforementioned exciting match-ups against Michigan and Utah State with a road trip to Fresno State that shouldn't be taken likely. The Bulldogs are known to circle the wagons and put up vicious fights against Power 5 opponents in their home fortress, so Kyle Whittingham's team will be tested.
Nicholls State at Colorado
Weekend take: It would be disingenuous to pretend that this game is intriguing. Colorado finished winless in Pac-12 play last season while Nicholls State ended 0-12.
USC at Notre Dame
Weekend take: Now we're talking. The Trojans embarrassed Notre Dame 49-14 to close the 2014 regular season. That sets up a revenge factor here -- though motivation should never be an issue in this storied rivalry. Both teams harbor high hopes for 2015, so this mid-October tilt is showing plenty of promise.