NCF On The Trail: Arizona Wildcats

The linebacker position doesn't often receive much attention during 7-on-7 events, where quarterbacks, wide receivers and defensive backs dominate headlines. But with hundreds of players descending upon Las Vegas for the Pylon Elite 7v7 event this weekend, Caleb Kelly and Lokeni Toailoa -- the top outside and inside linebackers in the West region -- were among several must-see prospects on hand.

Signing day has come and gone and with it an entirely new batch of Pac-12 players is joining the conference (269 players, to be exact).

With the Pac-12 gaining more national recognition, it’s no surprise to see the recruiting trends heading further outside of what was typically considered “Pac-12 territory.”

For example, the most heavily recruited area was -- unsurprisingly -- the West Coast and states that are the home to one or more Pac-12 programs. But right after that, the next-biggest target was the South and Southeast: SEC territory. The Pac-12 signed the same number of recruits from Texas as it did Arizona. Louisiana was a big state for the conference as well -- Pac-12 schools signed 13 players from the Bayou State.

Here’s a closer look at where exactly the conference picked up its Class of 2015 talent:
Observations:

  • One obvious note is the number of players from California -- players from the Golden State account for 48 percent of Pac-12 signees in 2015. That’s not too surprising, considering how large and talent-rich the state is. Of the top 25 players in California, 21 signed with Pac-12 schools. The other four signed with Alabama, Tennessee, Notre Dame and San Jose State.
  • Each Pac-12 program signed at least one player from California in the 2015 class (that’s the only state with which that’s true this season). On average, there are 11 signees from California in each recruiting class this season. Though it’s USC who leads the way with 17 signees from California, Washington State was right on the Trojans’ heels with 16 signees from Cali.
  • The state of Washington showed out pretty well in the conference. While there was only one player from Washington in the ESPN 300, there were 16 signees from the state who landed with Pac-12 programs.
  • The only program to not sign a player from the program’s home state was Oregon. However, there were five players from Oregon that did sign with Pac-12 programs. Those players ended up at Arizona (1), Oregon State (2), Stanford (1) and Washington (1).
  • Players staying home: Arizona and Arizona State signed seven players from Arizona; California, Stanford, UCLA and USC signed 48 players from California; Colorado signed four players from Colorado; Oregon State signed two players from Oregon; Utah signed three players from Utah; and Washington and Wazzu signed a total of nine players from Washington.
  • The most national class (meaning the team that signed the players from the most number of states) was Stanford, which signed players from 13 states. The least national class was USC, which signed players from just six states.

But what about the concentration of top talent in the 2015 class?

Again, unsurprisingly, California leads the way. The Golden State makes up half of the four-star and five-star players in the 2015 Pac-12 class. USC snagged five-star cornerback Iman Marshall, who hails from Long Beach, California, and 33 of the 66 four-stars in the 2015 class are also from California.

But this is where there’s a bit of a changeup. Of the 14 players from Texas that signed in the 2015 class, five (36 percent) are four-star players who landed at Pac-12 programs. After that -- with the exception of three four-star players from Georgia -- the majority of the top talent, again, hails from the traditional Pac-12 region.

[+] EnlargeChris Clark
Joe Faraoni/ESPN ImagesIt's not often that the Pac-12 pulls top prospects from Connecticut, such as UCLA-bound tight end Chris Clark.
Five-stars:

  • Hawaii: 1
  • California: 1
Four-stars:

  • California: 33
  • Texas: 5
  • Washington: 4
  • Arizona: 3
  • Georgia: 3
  • Utah: 3
  • Two four-star signees: Louisiana, North Carolina, Nevada, Oklahoma
  • One four-star signee: South Carolina, Colorado, Missouri, Tennessee, Florida, Connecticut, Hawaii

More notes:

  • Notably, the conference signed a four-star and five-star player from Hawaii. There were only four players in the state that were four- or five-star players. The two players who didn’t sign with a Pac-12 team went to Texas Tech and BYU. Both had Pac-12 offers.
  • The conference also cleaned up -- in regard to snagging the limited top talent out of state -- in Nevada. There were only three four-star players in Nevada and two ended up in the Pac-12 (UCLA and USC). The other player signed with Notre Dame.
  • More impressively, the conference was able to sign one of two four-star players out of Connecticut (TE Chris Clark, UCLA). When considering the distance between Nevada and the Pac-12 and Connecticut and the Pac-12, this is quite a recruiting feat.

As these players get more into the programs and possibly become big Pac-12 contributors, it will only open up these national pipelines more, making the conference’s footprint even bigger.
Not all recruitments are created equal, as some see prospects commit to their dream school early and never waver, while others have more twists and turns than a Formula 1 race. Taking a look through the recently released 2015 Ultimate 300, we spotlight five of the more interesting recruitments in the Pac-12, alphabetically by prospect.


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A quick check of the recently released Ultimate ESPN 300 reveals a strong Pac-12 quarterback presence toward the top of the list. The three conference quarterbacks in the top 25 are tied for the most players at one position from one conference.

Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck leads the way for the Pac-12 at No. 9. He’s the No. 2 quarterback on the list and the top-10 player that made the biggest jump from his original ranking, moving all the way from No. 61 in the 2008 class. USC quarterback Matt Barkley checks in at No. 11, one of 15 current or former Trojans on the list. Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota is in at No. 25, as his Heisman Trophy-winning season resulted in a huge rise from last year, where he was No. 228. Mariota and fellow Heisman winner Johnny Manziel are the only two of the top 36 prospects that were not ranked in the ESPN 150 or 300 of their recruiting class.

With that group firmly established as the top three Pac-12 quarterbacks since ESPN rankings began with the 2006 class, we take a look at the present and future of the conference, with three quarterbacks in each of those groups that could eventually play their way into a future Ultimate ESPN 300.


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Pac-12 2015 recruiting in review 

February, 12, 2015
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The Pac-12 landed six top-30 recruiting classes and 47 ESPN 300 prospects as every program brought in potential immediate, impact players capable of making an impression on the 2015 season. Here, we take a look back at the recruiting cycle and signing day, and hand out some superlatives for the 2015 recruiting class.


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2016 recruits to watch in the Pac-12 

February, 6, 2015
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Signing day for the Class of 2015 just wrapped up, but coaches have been hard at work on the 2016 class for months. Oregon and USC each already have three ESPN Junior 300 prospects committed, and UCLA holds a commitment from the No. 53 overall prospect, tight end Breland Brandt.

Here are five uncommitted 2016 prospects to watch in the West region who will be of particular interest to Pac-12 programs.


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Weekend recruiting wrap: Pac-12 

January, 27, 2015
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It was a busy weekend in the conference, as 14 prospects made commitments between Friday and Monday night and several others backed out of Pac-12 recruiting classes. It looks as though this could be a sign of things to come, as the conference recruiting race is heating up with little more than a week until signing day.


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Pac-12 recruiting class breakdowns

January, 26, 2015
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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.

Arizona

Commitments: 28

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 Insider.

Best of the visits: Pac-12

January, 18, 2015
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The first weekend back from the recruiting dead period saw dozens of prospects taking official visits to Pac-12 campuses. While programs such as Arizona State, Oregon State, UCLA, USC, Washington and Washington State all put together solid weekends, no program’s recruits (and parents) were better about documenting the events than Stanford’s, where Big Visit Weekend seemed to go over extremely well with everybody in attendance.

Here is a look through the eyes of recruits on social media at this weekend’s Pac-12 recruiting visits.

Big visit weekend at Stanford

Everything is better when you start off with dessert, and defensive tackle Ross Donelly probably agrees with that sentiment after being welcomed to his visit by two Stanford cupcakes.


From there, the visit got a little more interesting for the recruits. The parents of offensive line commits Brian Chaffin and Nick Wilson snapped shots of their sons hitting the road.


Later, Chaffin summed up the first day of the visit, while fellow commit Mustafa Branch provided some visual proof.


Stanford also made sure to introduce prospects to former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who has become a recruiting staple for the Cardinal. After his cupcakes, Donelly, a four-star uncommitted prospect, made sure to snap a quick photo.


Of course, no official visit anywhere would be complete without the gear, shown here by defensive tackle commit Wes Annan ...


Or the bling, worn here by ESPN 300 running back target Bryce Love.


And at least one Stanford commit received some especially good news during the trip, as wide receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside announced.


And Nick Wilson’s father provided one final look at the committed prospects who took their official visits to Stanford over the weekend.

Utah lands another juco prospect

The Utes had several intriguing visitors on campus for official visits and came away with another junior college wide receiver commitment, bringing their total to three juco receivers in this class. Deniko Carter made the call during this visit, and he joins Kyle Fulks and Brandon Snell.

Arizona’s final push

There aren’t many spots left in Arizona’s recruiting class, but the Wildcats are hoping they can finish things off with a couple of teammates in three-star outside linebacker Arthur McGinnis and wide receiver Darrell Clark.

Trojans host stars

USC was scheduled to have nearly every one of its commitments on hand this weekend, as five early enrollees are already there and 10 commitments were taking official visits. But three huge uncommitted prospects were slated to be in attendance as well, in defensive tackle Rasheem Green, inside linebacker John Houston and athlete Porter Gustin. Here is Green, along with defensive line coach Chris Wilson and his son, Caleb Wilson.

Visitors to Oregon State

Oregon State coaches have been furiously trying to rebuild the Beavers class after several formerly committed prospects flipped following the departure of Mike Riley. This weekend, Oregon State welcomed a number of visitors, including some position help in the secondary, in cornerback Jay Irvine and safety Treston Decoud.

Future Dawgs

Washington had several official visitors on campus, including wide receiver commit Andre Baccellia and tight end Ricky McCoy, who apparently hit it off with big-time Washington target Benning Potoa’e, who is down to the Huskies and UCLA, and will likely make his decision shortly following this trip.

UCLA looks at 2016

The Bruins had a number of 2016 prospects on campus, as UCLA coaches look to get a head start on next year’s class while finishing this one off strong. One of those in attendance was Camilo Eifler, an outside linebacker who already holds Pac-12 offers from Cal, Colorado, Oregon State, UCLA and Washington.

ASU’s sweet finish

It only makes sense to bookend this post with dessert, and uncommitted safety Kareem Orr provided a shot of his welcome gift from Arizona State. The Sun Devils will need to fend off Clemson, Oklahoma and others to land Orr, but they hope he is part of what could be a huge finish to this class for Arizona State.

Top recruiting targets in the Pac-12 

January, 16, 2015
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With a little more than two weeks before signing day, a number of uncommitted prospects remain who could greatly alter both the college football landscape as well as the way recruiting classes are perceived on Feb. 4. Remaining “must get” recruits don’t check all the same boxes for every program, as some schools already have commitments from their must gets (for example, Arizona with Keenan Walker, or UCLA with Josh Rosen) and some of these prospects won’t exactly break a class if they don’t wind up there. But whether it’s keeping a local prospect at home, landing a five-star standout or filling a position of need, these are the uncommitted must-get recruits for every Pac-12 program between now and signing day.


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The tug of war for supremacy in the state of Arizona continues, as it was the Arizona Wildcats' turn this year to supplant the Arizona State Sun Devils as participants from the Pac-12 South in the conference title game. With so much attention being paid to the quick turnaround Todd Graham has been able to perform in Tempe, Rich Rodriguez’s accomplishments in Tucson have flown under the radar. After already securing the program's third 10-win season, Rodriguez and the Wildcats have an opportunity to make another statement against Boise State in the VIZIO Fiesta Bowl on Wednesday before looking to replace some impact seniors with an already strong 2015 recruiting class.


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Another wild week in Pac-12 

December, 19, 2014
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The Pac-12 and the West region are capable of producing some wild weeks during the lead-up to signing day, with so many prospects in the area waiting until that day to make their commitment and rivals going after so many of the same prospects.


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Top 2015 juco classes 

December, 3, 2014
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National signing day is quickly approaching, but first up is the mid-year junior college signing period. The opportunity for junior college prospects to sign with FBS schools starts Dec. 17, and many prospects have already made commitments. With the release of the ESPN Junior College 50, let’s take a look at five programs (in alphabetical order) having success in the junior college ranks.


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Weekend recruiting wrap: Pac-12 

December, 2, 2014
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Rivalry weekend in the Pac-12 meant big official visit weekends for a number of conference teams, while two junior college prospects announced their commitments to Pac-12 programs on Sunday night. The Pac-12 will also witness more than a few assistant coaching changes this offseason -- no different than any other year, or any other conference -- and those moves could bring with them some significant movement among committed and uncommitted recruits.


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Best of the visits: Pac-12

November, 30, 2014
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From USC’s bounce-back win over Notre Dame, to a Territorial Cup victory, to a big visitor list on the Palouse, recruits were in attendance at the Pac-12’s rivalry games this past weekend and shared their experiences through social media.

Trojans' time to shine

After suffering a significant defeat at the Rose Bowl last weekend, as UCLA took control of Los Angeles in front of dozens of local recruits, USC needed a big performance against Notre Dame on Saturday. Five out-of-state official visitors were in attendance, along with a number of local unofficial visitors from the 2015 and 2016 classes.

Defensive tackle Tim Settle, the nation’s No. 17 prospect, made his way across the country and provided his view of the Staples Center from his hotel in downtown Los Angeles.
The Trojans also received official visits from No. 171 prospect Donte Jackson and No. 94 prospect Osa Masina, who arrived in Los Angeles along with his family. There was a strong Utah presence at the game, as ESPN 300 athlete Porter Gustin was scheduled to be in attendance on an unofficial visit, and 2016 wide receiver Simi Fehoko -- who already holds offers from Clemson and Utah and could wind up as one of the state's most highly recruited prospects next year -- tweeted that he was in attendance as well. Of course, it wouldn't be a USC game without ESPN 300 quarterback, and USC commit, Ricky Town on hand. Town was joined by fellow ESPN 300 prospect and Trojans commitment Chuma Edoga, along with 2016 ESPN 300 prospects Frank Martin II and Javon McKinley in this photo. Martin II and McKinley will be interesting prospects to keep an eye on for next season, as both put together tremendous junior seasons and have been reeling in offers. Martin already holds offers from Arkansas, LSU, Miami and Syracuse, nationally, along with several Pac-12 offers. McKinley is part of a terrific 2016 class of receivers in California, and holds offers from Arizona State, Cal, UCLA and Washington State. While an offer from USC might not finish the recruiting process for either, it could prove to be big down the line.

The Trojans also hosted ESPN 300 wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown on an unofficial visit. St. Brown is looking hard at Notre Dame and Utah, as well as USC. Cats get Territorial

Arizona will begin to put together more significant official visit weekends after the season, but the Wildcats had several unofficial visitors on hand for their biggest game of the season -- a rivalry game that clinched a spot in the conference championship game.

Offensive tackle Keenan Walker, the No. 48 prospect in the country and an Arizona commitment, was at the game and took a moment to send a simple message to the in-state rival.

Ducks win the war

Oregon walked away with a win in the Civil War, but Oregon State hopes it did enough during the weekend to sway several important official visitors. In addition to committed quarterback James Pensyl, the Beavers hosted four-star running back Paul Lucas, three-star defensive tackle Benning Potoae and three-star wide receiver Lavan Alston on official visits. All four, along with several other visitors are featured in this tweet from Pensyl. Cougars with another big visit weekend

Washington State's season hasn't gone exactly the way the Cougars envisioned at the beginning of the year, but that hasn't stopped them from bringing in some big name official visitors during the season.

This past weekend, the Cougars had another ESPN 300 prospect on campus, as defensive tackle Adam McLean, a former Penn State commitment and the nation's No. 90 overall prospect, took his official visit.

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