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Thursday, September 12, 2013
Pac-12 recruiting storylines: Sept. 12

By Erik McKinney

The Pac-12 is featured in a number of big games this weekend, and a strong result -- especially in several home games -- will have a very positive effect on the recruits in attendance. While Cal is expecting a huge crop of visitors, Oregon and Arizona State will have their share, as well. Meanwhile, it's another day and another story at USC, where a story concerning the team was overshadowed by another concerning several local recruits.

Trojans still generating wrong kind of attention

The circus atmosphere at USC was extended on Wednesday as news of a players-only meeting came to light, then was refuted, then was altered to a "get together with a few players." On the recruiting trail, Wednesday brought additional intrigue, as a tweet from four-star running back Demario Richard (Palmdale, Calif./Palmdale) caught plenty of attention. The tweet, retweeted by WeAreSC's Blair Angulo and illustrated below, led to Richard suspending his account due to the backlash he received from USC fans.

Four-star running back --> RT @TheFaceOfCali: If Kiffin Leaves USC might have a shot at gettin me

— Blair Angulo (@bangulo) September 11, 2013

What made this tweet particularly interesting is that while that sentiment has been shared off the record by a number of recruits in the past few months, Richard was the first to state it publicly. Beyond that, a subsequent tweet from cornerback Naijiel Hale (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco) seemed to add to what USC is going through on the recruiting trail at this time. Hale, who received early interest from USC before committing to Arizona, is again hearing from the Trojans after several cornerback targets committed to other schools.

I love #USC and #USC football, don't ever get me wrong, that's my hometown school. Just not what I remember growing up watching.

— Naijiel Hale #7 (@YoungNateDogg) September 11, 2013

Again, this was a virtually unanimous sentiment from recruits following USC's loss against Washington State last Saturday, but it can't be a good sign for head coach Lane Kiffin that recruits are becoming more and more vocal in their disappointment with the early part of the season.

Weekend at Sonny's

Earlier this week, Cal head coach Sonny Dykes said he expects around 150 recruits on hand for the Golden Bears' game against Ohio State on Saturday. While several committed prospects such as Devante Downs (Mountlake Terrace, Wash./Mountlake Terrace) and Luke Rubenzer (Scottsdale, Ariz./Saguaro) won't be able to make the trip, at least three big, uncommitted prospects are expected in attendance.

ESPN 300 running back Joe Mixon (Oakley, Calif./Freedom) scheduled an official visit, while ESPN 300 teammates Michiah Quick (Fresno, Calif./Central) and Tashon Smallwood (Fresno, Calif./Central East) could be there on unofficial trips.

The Golden Bears are just 1-1 this season and escaped with a win over Portland State last weekend, but there is plenty of positive buzz from recruits about Cal's coaching staff, the direction of the program, and the offensive showing thus far.

Smallwood's new list

Speaking of Smallwood, the nation's No. 222 prospect announced his decommitment from the Trojans this past weekend, though the decision came several days before USC's game on Saturday. Smallwood is now looking hard at five schools, including three from the Pac-12. Arizona State likely holds the early lead in his second round of recruiting, while Cal and UCLA are in the mix, as well. Smallwood has a younger brother, which makes staying close to home one of his priorities, but he also very much likes what Will Sutton was able to accomplish at Arizona State and the new 4-3 defense being implemented at Cal. Out of the conference, Alabama and Oklahoma remain options, as Smallwood likely will schedule visits with all or most of his top five. A visit to Oklahoma in early October is in the works.

Ducks hosting Volunteer visitors

Cal isn't the only conference team welcoming a big visitor this weekend. Oregon has Tennessee in town, as well as at least three official visitors. Four-star wide receiver Jalen Brown (Phoenix, Ariz./Mountain Pointe) will make the trip one week after traveling to Oregon State for an official visit. Also on hand will be defensive end Jaylen Johnson (Corona, Calif./Centennial) and safety John Plattenburg (Houston/Lamar). Johnson and Plattenburg were teammates at Centennial before Plattenburg moved back to Texas this past summer. All three plan to take more official visits during the recruiting period, so a commitment from any would be a surprise. But there's no telling what an official visit to Oregon, complete with a riled up Autzen Stadium, can do for a recruit.

Arizona State begins statement run

There are more statement games for the Pac-12 this weekend, as UCLA travels to Nebraska and Arizona State hosts Wisconsin. The Sun Devils have scheduled it to be a blackout game -- fans dressed in all black -- and will hope to make an impact on what should be a large number of unofficial visitors. Safety Jamal Scott (Anaheim, Calif./Magnolia) is just one of several committed Sun Devils who plan to make the trip to the game, which serves as step one of a four-week stretch that sees Arizona State play games against Wisconsin, Stanford, USC and Notre Dame. A 4-0 or 3-1 record in those games could mean big things for the Sun Devils on the recruiting trail.