NCF On The Trail: Pac-12

Duke now has the ability to sell a winning program and new facilities to recruits, and prospects like what they're seeing. Plus, the nation's top 2016 quarterback was slated to be at Florida State for the Notre Dame game, but he wasn't able to make it and now is looking for a return date.
video Dwayne Haskins is the second-ranked QB in the 2016 class, but he's not letting the pressure of recruiting get to him. Don't sleep on Arizona State with ESPN 300 linebacker Osa Masina.

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Several Pac-12 commitments and prospects saw some significant movement in the updated ESPN 300 rankings released Wednesday. Overall, the conference holds commitments from two of the top 22 prospects in the country and 26 of the top 300. With fewer than four months until signing day, let's take a look at where the Pac-12 stands in the ESPN 300.

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video Adam McLean picked Penn State in April, but Ole Miss, Tennessee and others haven't stopped recruiting him, and his high school coach knows exactly why. DeMatha Catholic's 2016 class is shaping up to be one of the best ever in school history, and that's saying a lot.

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A lot of talent has already come off the board, but there’s still quality at the top of the ESPN 300 that could give at least 10 teams a shot at the second-best class. Plus, Penn State's James Franklin continues to be the most talked about coach in the Washington D.C. metro area.

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The Big 12 was turned upside down by West Virginia and Kansas State, and both are being led by former juco recruits. Plus, it was no surprise that many of the nation's best recruits walked away impressed with Florida State following Saturday's victory over Notre Dame.

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Best of the visits: Pac-12

October, 19, 2014
Oct 19
Another weekend of Pac-12 games meant another weekend of Pac-12 visitors, as multiple conference programs hosted important official and unofficial visitors. Those recruits took to twitter to share their experiences, as Arizona State, Cal, USC and Oregon all put together significant performances -- including three home victories -- in front of recruits.

Cal hosts big weekend

The Golden Bears had a number of official visitors on hand -- including ESPN 300 wide receiver Carlos Strickland -- and almost pulled off the upset against UCLA. As always, the Cal passing game was on display, and this time it came in front of Strickland and three-star receiver Lavan Alston. Class of 2016 standout running back Sean McGrew, who holds a number of Pac-12 offers, was also on hand on an unofficial visit.

Oregon's ESPN 300 visitors

Perhaps no Pac-12 program hosted a more potent one-two punch than the Ducks, as Oregon brought in ESPN 300 teammates John Houston Jr. and Rasheem Green on official visits.

The two hold significant interest in UCLA, USC and other programs, but the Ducks picked a great weekend to bring in the talented defenders on official visits. Neither is expected to make a decision before signing day, but Oregon could be in the mix for both until the end.

Masina's second Pac-12 trip

ESPN 300 outside linebacker Osa Masina has three Pac-12 programs among his final schools, and the nation's No. 124 overall prospect was on an official visit to Arizona State this weekend. Masina went to UCLA earlier this month and will visit USC at the end of November.

Recruits see big USC win

While the Trojans didn't host any official visitors, being the only game in Los Angeles brought out some important local prospects.

ESPN 300 athlete Ykili Ross attended several USC games this season and was at the Coliseum again on Saturday.

The Trojans also received an unofficial visit from 2016 ESPN 300 safety C.J. Pollard, who picked up an offer from USC last week. Pollard is another in a long line of Gardena (Calif.) Serra standouts and his father, Marvin, is a former USC cornerback.

Pac-12's top recruiting visits 

October, 17, 2014
Oct 17
As the schedule flips to the second half of the season, recruits will witness some important games in the Pac-12 this weekend. The three biggest recruiting weekends in the conference all feature ESPN 300 prospects, as programs look to positions themselves to close their recruiting classes with marquee prospects.

1. Oregon

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Michigan commit Garrett Taylor will visit Ohio State, Penn State and Virginia Tech, but keep a close eye on the Buckeyes. Plus, LSU’s elite running back class is starting to fall apart.

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The DMV (D.C./Maryland/Virginia) has developed into one of the most competitive areas in the country, so what recruiters do the best job in Washington D.C.? Plus, can Minnesota keep one of the top juniors in the country at home?

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UA jersey tour: Keenan Walker

October, 10, 2014
Oct 10
At his Under Armour All America jersey presentation, offensive lineman Keenan Walker posed for a picture in front of a backdrop with the words "Long Live Dreams" perfectly placed above his head.

His long arms stretched out, holding two helmets, his bright Under Armour jersey on his chest and a huge smile on his face. Walker, a University of Arizona commit, was living his dream.

It wasn't easy, though, as he took a path that most of his classmates in Scottsdale, Arizona, only read about in the news.

Growing up in Fort Wayne, Indiana, Walker and his parents lived in a rough neighborhood. His mother and father argued regularly about whether Walker should even be allowed to play basketball in their local park because of the danger in their area.

Walker wasn’t involved yet in sports, wasn’t doing well in school and didn’t have a lot of positivity surrounding him. As a child, his cousin, Stanford Walker, was killed, which prompted the family to make the move to Arizona when Walker was in seventh grade.

“We ripped him out of one environment and put him in another. You couldn’t think of anything more black and white opposite than Fort Wayne, Indiana. and Scottsdale, Arizona,” Jim said. “There were times when he felt out of place because he’s surrounded by a lot of kids that have been hand-fed their entire life, and he’s a guy who didn’t really have much growing up. It’s been an amazing transition for him.”

Walker was behind in English and math when they moved him to Arizona. Once he got acclimated and settled in, his grades and test scores began to rise. He was even awarded with a Presidential honor for having one of the biggest jumps in standard test scores for the year.

As his grades began to rise so to did his interest in sports. Walker and his dad checked out basketball and football practice to see which sport he would like to try. They chose basketball because he had a higher comfort level with the hardwood.

His basketball career was shortl-ived, though, as he and his dad laugh recalling the fact Walker would regularly foul out from being so aggressive.

“That was after his eighth grade year and we decided that he would play basketball,” Jim said. “Keenan here tends to foul out easily because he has that personality where you start bodying up on him and he will give it right back. He was a bruiser.”

After the basketball season Walker got a call from the club football coach, Matt Frazier, asking if he would like to try playing football as well. He and his father discussed it and decided it was worth trying.

“I remember we were in the parking lot, 20 minutes before his first game and I told the coach he hasn’t played football in four years, he has no idea what’s going on,” Jim said. “I asked if he could show him how to block and tackle before the game. He was trying to block kids and I just thought to myself, I hope this goes well because he doesn’t know what he’s doing.”

To say it went well is an understatement. Walker stuck with football and is now the No. 45 ranked prospect in the country.

At 6-foot-6, 282 pounds, Waker is one of the premier offensive tackles in the country and is a long ways away from the unmotivated kid in Fort Wayne.

At Walker’s jersey presentation, Jim stood up to say how proud he was of his son and who he has become. Emotions and the thoughts of how their lives could be so different flooded his eyes with tears. As he walked back to his seat, Jim put his hand on his son’s shoulder and thanked him.

Long Live Dreams was emblazoned above the family as they had all just experienced a dream of their own.

What one player are you looking forward to competing against?: Josh Sweat. They had us matched up at a few camps and I wasn’t able to do any one-on-ones with him. I haven’t gone against him at all. We want to go against each other, but they just haven’t matched us up yet. Hopefully when we get down there I can win the starting spot and we can go against each other.

If you could start a team with any other player in your class who would it be?: My boy Josh Sweat.

What was your earliest football memory?: When we were doing a hitting drill. I delivered a pretty powerful hit on a kid and I almost got in trouble by his parents. That was sixth grade. In Indiana we have a drill called hamburger drill. Two kids lay on their backs with their head together and the football by their heads. One kid has the football in their hands and then you get up and have to go after the kid with the football. He got it so I turned over and scooped him and kind of bodyslammed him. The next day I got pulled into my coaches office and they said that kid felt threatened by me. But I said it was just football.

Which football player did you idolize or want to be like when you were a kid?: I idolize right now, Richie Incognito because of how nasty he is. I got to watch Hard Knocks with him and ever since I saw him in practice and how he was beating everyone I just thought I want to do that.

If you could take on any pro player in their sport who would it be?: I never really played baseball that much, so I would like to get in there and swing the bat against someone. I just don’t know a lot of pitchers’ names, but I would like to do that.

Why do you wear your number?: I did wear No. 75 because that was cousin’s number and he passed away. I was just given my number, 63, my sophomore year and I told my coach that I’ll represent it no matter what the number is. It’s 66 right now, because one of my good friends moved here to play at Chaparral and he said how about you be No. 66 and I’ll be 6 and we’ll bring them hell. So when we run out of the tunnel together it says ‘666.’

What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?: I’m a pretty good artist. I like to draw in my spare time. I’ve been drawing since I was little and have always had the art itch. Every time I get a little upset I like to draw. Last year I got put into a drafting class, advanced art. I love drawing, just scratching stuff together and whatever I see with my eyes. When I was in Indiana I did graffiti in my garage. I designed my tattoo on my arm for my cousin, it’s a W for Walker and the year he was born.
Tim Beckman is 1-17 in Big Ten games and questions about his future has hindered the Illini's recruiting efforts. Plus, Georgia Tech has surprised both on the field and on the recruiting trial.

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With Brandon Wimbush switching to Notre Dame, where does Penn State turn to fill its need at quarterback? Plus, why should Washington State feel like it has a shot with an ESPN 300 prospect from Washington, D.C.?

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Help is on the way: Pac-12 

October, 8, 2014
Oct 8
Through six weeks of the 2014 season, every program has flashed at least one weakness or one position where depth is needed in a hurry. While the incoming batch of 2015 recruits won't help the prospects of the 2014 team, some will have an opportunity to make an immediate impact the following year, as they'll provide depth -- or perhaps jump into starting roles -- at positions of need. Here is a look through the Pac-12 at the biggest areas of need for each program, and the 2015 recruits on the way to provide help.

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Pac-12 coaches believe upsets by Arizona, Arizona State and Utah could also shake things up in recruiting. Mississippi Madness is in full effect, as both Ole Miss and Mississippi State receive recruiting boosts after big victories.

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