NCF On The Trail: Adarius Pickett

Shifting power: Los Angeles 

January, 23, 2014
Jan 23
8:00
AM ET
It's tough to imagine one college football player changing the fortunes of his program and its closest rival over the course of more than a decade.

But that might just be the case with Reggie Bush, whose on-field actions helped USC become the dominant recruiting force in Southern California between 2006 and 2012, and whose off-field actions largely led to the NCAA taking 30 scholarships away from USC for the 2012-2014 seasons and creating a hole in the Southern California recruiting scene large enough for UCLA to climb through.

When the heavy sanctions were brought down upon USC in the summer of 2010, it was thought to be a now-or-never situation for UCLA. The Trojans were 10-1 in the previous 11 games against the Bruins and had the virtual first pick of just about any recruit in the region.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

The dead period runs through Jan. 15, and some recruits have said they will use that to take a break from recruiting, but that doesn't mean it will shut down for everyone. Coaches are still able to contact recruits during the dead period -- just no in-person contact -- and a number of recruits will be making commitments during this time. Over the next few weeks and through the holidays, Pac-12 recruiting fans will have a number of things to keep an eye on, including these five topics.

Who sets January visits?

With the dead period wiping out an entire weekend normally dedicated to official visits, recruits will have just three January weekends available to take visits -- the 17th, 24th and 31st -- if they'd like to commit and sign on signing day. Every Pac-12 program is looking to load up on official visits during those weekends. Stanford and USC look as though they will be very busy on Jan. 17, and Oregon is always able to grab a few late official visitors -- ESPN JC 50 WR Eric Lauderdale (Fayetteville, Ga./Saddleback College) is scheduled for Jan. 31. There are plenty of Pac-12 targets saying they will likely set up January officials to various schools.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Weekend recruiting wrap: Pac-12 

December, 9, 2013
12/09/13
8:00
AM ET

The Pac-12 conference has seen a flurry of action recently, with coaching news and rumors keeping recruits on their toes. Following a week where Steve Sarkisian took over at USC and Chris Petersen moved from Boise State to Washington, this past weekend was tame by comparison. But UCLA made some significant noise with a big commitment, while Oregon extended two intriguing offers. CIF championship games provided backdrops for huge performances from Pac-12 recruits, while the conference title tilt was only the appetizer in the battle between Arizona State and Stanford.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

ESPN 300 DT commits to UCLA

December, 8, 2013
12/08/13
7:16
PM ET
It took UCLA until the beginning of December to land its first defensive line commit in the 2014 class, but the Bruins got a special one on Sunday, as ESPN 300 defensive tackle Ainuu Taua (Lompoc, Calif./Lompoc) made his commitment.

The 6-foot, 293-pound tackle is the nation's No. 216 prospect and No. 20 player in California. He held offers from a number of Pac-12 programs, but the Bruins were always going to be difficult to beat.

This past weekend, Taua took an official visit to UCLA -- his fourth visit, after trips to Washington State, Oklahoma and Mississippi -- and made his commitment. Taua is the third ESPN 300 prospect to commit to UCLA in this class, joining wide receiver Austin Roberts (Carmel, Ind./Carmel) and cornerback Adarius Pickett (El Cerrito, Calif./El Cerrito).

It's an intriguing pick up in two ways, as Taua has the ability to form a terrific team with 2013 defensive line signees Eddie Vanderdoes, Kylie Fitts and Kenneth Clark, adding to a dynamic group up front, but he is also part of a good group of big-man friends in Southern California, which includes USC commit Viane Talamaivao (Corona, Calif./Centennial), uncommitted ESPN 300 guard Damien Mama (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco) and uncommitted guard Kammy Delp (Pomona, Calif./Diamond Ranch). Delp doesn't hold a USC offer and looks to be a fairly solid UCLA lean, but Mama is one of the bigger Trojans-Bruins battles left on the board. Talamaivao's commitment to USC gives Steve Sarkisian's program plenty of pull with Mama, but Taua heading to UCLA swings some momentum toward Westwood.

As a senior, Taua recorded seven sacks and 36 total tackles, almost matching his junior year output, when he posted seven sacks, 49 stops and an interception.

UCLA now has verbal commitments from 13 prospects in the 2014 class, including four four-star recruits.

USC, UCLA differ in recruiting strategy 

November, 29, 2013
11/29/13
10:00
AM ET
When USC enters the Coliseum Saturday to take on crosstown rival UCLA, it will do so with some of the area’s top recruits looking intently from the stands, many of which hold scholarship offers from both schools.

Some had to wait longer than others for the option to attend college nearby. More often than not in recent years, UCLA has been quicker than USC in sending out offers to mutual targets. In fact, of the 12 in-state prospects from the 2015 class that the Trojans have already offered, only four-star offensive tackle Zach Robertson (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco) added USC to his list of suitors before the Bruins joined the chase.

Yet USC’s recruiting efforts are not necessarily harmed by this seemingly cautious approach. UCLA beat USC in offering the likes of Viane Talamaivao (Corona, Calif./Centennial), Malik Dorton (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco) and Toa Lobendahn (La Habra, Calif./La Habra), but the Trojans added them to their recruiting class nonetheless.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Weekend recruiting wrap: Pac-12 

November, 25, 2013
11/25/13
8:00
AM ET
video
The weekend didn't offer as much recruiting action in the Pac-12 as the hectic days of early last week, but there were still several commitments in the conference and a number of big performance's from Pac-12 programs and recruits. Despite Arizona State grabbing the most important win and sending a message to recruits across the region, UCLA was a big winner on the recruiting trail, getting a number of top prospects to the Rose Bowl and reeling in a commitment from a 2015 standout that ranks No. 1 at his position.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Myles Jack scores with UCLA recruits 

November, 18, 2013
11/18/13
1:00
PM ET
The USC Trojans stole the Pac-12 spotlight on Saturday evening, wrestling away a 20-17 victory over the Stanford Cardinal. Lost somewhat in those national headlines and slightly buried by the fact it had to go up against recruits' own games on Friday night was a solid 41-31 victory by UCLA against Washington.

But as the weekend played out and recruits were able to look back at the Bruins' effort through watching the recorded game or multiple viewings of highlights, the big home win resonated more and more with UCLA commits and targets. The Bruins have already established themselves with recruits as a potential top-10 team with plenty of forward momentum, so while the win was nice, it was a particular aspect of it that grabbed the most attention.

UCLA played at least 13 true freshmen against Washington, continuing a season-long trend of putting first-year players on the field in important games and for important plays. That strategy's most obvious reward has come in the form of Myles Jack, a true freshman linebacker who rushed for more than 100 yards against Arizona, then followed that performance with a four-touchdown showing against the Huskies.

His performance -- and that of other freshmen -- has not been lost on 2014 recruits.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider


It has been well documented over the past few years that programs have little choice when it comes to some aspects of the college football recruiting process.

Whether it is extending offers to juniors, sophomores, freshmen and eighth-graders, or the first 100-piece bundle of mail that chokes a prospect's mailbox, coaches across the country have rushed to catch up and join the race.

[+] EnlargeDavid Shaw
Ron Chenoy/US PresswireCoach David Shaw and Stanford have limited in-season official visits and have a "Big Visit" weekend in January for recruits.
But while the unofficial visit and recruiting mailings become more and more important to the process, the official visit remains a significant tool, and one of the few remaining recruiting tactics that can be wholly personal to a coaching staff and program.

When most recruits begin thinking about what official visits they want to take, the first thing they discuss is what big games they'll be able to attend. In the Pac-12 this season, there won't be any official visitors for two of the biggest games recruits will be watching -- when Oregon visits Stanford and USC hosts UCLA -- because the Cardinal and Trojans have decreased in-season official visits.

"For a long time, there was kind of a lore that the official visit is about getting to see a game -- a notion that has been in movies, on television, in books and magazines," said Mike Eubanks, Stanford Assistant Athletic Director and Director of Football Administration. "The official visit is about going to see a game, see what the campus is like afterward and then sitting down in the coach's office."

But as Pac-12 coaching staffs dissect exactly what they want to showcase during an official visit, several schools are continuing to focus visits around a game weekend, while others have targeted the offseason as the best time to bring in official visitors.

Oregon, Utah and Washington State have combined to host 33 official visitors this season, compared to 27 for the rest of the conference combined.

It's not surprising to see those three programs hosting visitors during the fall. Not only could weather concerns in late January put a damper on bringing a majority of recruits in then, but Oregon specifically can take advantage of its game-day atmosphere.

"They're really cool either way and encourage you to go up and see a game," said Oregon quarterback commit Morgan Mahalak (Kentfield, Calif./Marin Catholic) of the Ducks' coaches and visits. "It's a pretty fun game-day atmosphere to experience."

Mahalak said the policy has paid dividends already this season, as Oregon grabbed verbal commitments from ESPN 300 running back Tony James (Gainesville, Fla./Gainesville) and four-star receiver Jalen Brown (Phoenix/Mountain Pointe) after official visits.

"[Brown] had a great visit for the Tennessee game," Mahalak said. "I think that was huge for him to see what it'd be like to play there. You definitely leave Oregon after a visit with a better sense of the program."

Last weekend, Arizona had its first opportunity to host official visitors. The Wildcats went two-for-two with their uncommitted targets, grabbing commitments from offensive linemen Layth Friekh (Peoria, Ariz./Centennial) and Levi Walton (Cape Coral, Fla./Ida Baker).

Friekh, like more than a few recruits, said taking an official visit at this stage was a priority for him.

"Since I was planning on committing early, they said to come in whenever I wanted," Friekh said of the Arizona coaches. "It was really important for me to take an official visit now because I wanted to see if the school is behind the team and if all the fans are behind the team. I didn't want to go to a school where nobody supports the team, so that was cool to see."

While Friekh said he felt he had enough time with the Arizona coaches, that seems to be the biggest worry among schools -- Arizona included -- looking to push visits into the offseason.

"You want to be able to spend the whole 48 hours with them," said Matt Dudek, Arizona's Director of On-Campus Recruiting and Player Personnel. "You don't want to be worrying about a football game and you don't want to waste it, because we believe that you'll fall in love with our coaches when you get some extended time hanging out with them. That's our No. 1 selling point."

Dudek said an official visit on a game-day weekend is "more hectic than crazy or difficult," but they will always try to get official visitors to come after the season in order to spend more time with them.

"Every kid is different and we're never going to say no if a guy wants to come on an official during the season," Dudek said. "Some want to come on a game day, and if that's your deal breaker, you come on game day. There's a little less time to hang out and ask a bunch of questions at each stop. Out of season, it's no big deal to be five or 10 minutes behind schedule, but if there is a game scheduled for 7 p.m., that's not going to change."

For USC, Dec. 13 seems to be the first big recruiting weekend -- though what happens with the coaching staff could determine the true schedule of events. In the 2013 class, USC didn't host a visitor before Dec. 7, which was the big weekend for early enrollees. But the Trojans also found out the hard way this season that having a plan for official visits and carrying it out successfully can be two different things.

Enter the somewhat strange case of ESPN 300 cornerback Adarius Pickett (El Cerrito, Calif./El Cerrito). Early in the process, it looked as though USC had the inside track for a commitment from Pickett, and the four-star cornerback alerted all his potential choices in the spring that he would take his official visits in the first four weeks of his season, then announce his decision the following week.

UCLA, going with the growing trend in the conference, suggested that Pickett wait to take his visit after the season.

"I explained to them what I was trying to do and they said it was fine with them," Pickett said of the Bruins' coaches allowing him to take an official visit for the first game of the season. "I told [USC coach Clay Helton] during the spring that I was going to UCLA first week and that I wanted to try to set up a visit to come down after my fourth game."

That visit to USC wasn't allowed to happen. Pickett said the decision to deny him an opportunity to take an official visit during the season ultimately came from coach Lane Kiffin and was delivered through Helton, but it didn't come as much of a surprise when Pickett announced his commitment to the Bruins following that conversation and his UCLA visit.

In large part though, USC's shift over the past few years to a January-centric visit schedule has paid dividends, and it's something Stanford has found success with as well.

In the 2013 class, 13 of the Cardinal's 14 eventual signees took their official visits during the "Big Visit" weekend in January. It's a success rate that is helped both by the number of already-committed prospects in attendance, as well as a clear message from the beginning about the official visit policy.

"By the time we get far enough into the process and building relationships, if somebody has this interest in Stanford and we're still with them because they've met all the academic challenges we've given them, then the recruit who has met us that far along in the journey tends to have the perspective and values that wants their official visit to be the same thing we want their official visit to be," Eubanks said.

That includes having the Big Visit begin on a Friday morning in the offseason, which allows Stanford to give its visitors an extensive look at a full day on campus during the school year -- something that is virtually impossible to do with an in-season visit, as recruits either have school or football responsibility on Friday and often can't arrive on campus until Saturday.

"To have somebody come here and not see a class is really shortchanging a good look at what Stanford should be," Eubanks said. "If it's just Saturday and Sunday, you've not done anything to address the academic question, which is maybe one of the biggest questions in the mind of these young scholar-athletes. That's pretty important for us."

While prospects will almost always hold the cards when it comes to their recruitment, it's easy to notice a fairly sizeable shift in the visit schedules for Pac-12 programs. While schools such as Oregon, Utah and Washington -- among others -- will almost always look to take advantage of nationally-recognized game-day atmospheres, Eubanks was careful to point out that it's important to note the decision to move away from in-season visits -- for Stanford and the other conference schools -- can't be seen as hiding from that experience.

"Especially as a national recruiter, going up against these giant stadiums with highly-regarded game day atmospheres, you don't want to make it look like you're hiding," Eubanks said. "If you argue against the importance of the game or the game day atmosphere to a young man who thinks the most exciting experience is to be on the big stage that he's dreamed of since he was little... If at any point you are dictating how things should be done, or talking instead of listening, you can lose them. And if you do, then that's rightfully so."

Pac-12 battle for D.J. Calhoun? 

October, 21, 2013
10/21/13
3:38
PM ET
When ESPN 300 linebacker D.J. Calhoun (El Cerrito, Calif./El Cerrito) said on Sunday that Arizona State had firmly become one of his top three schools following an official visit to Tempe, Monday's news -- when Calhoun announced his decommitment from USC -- didn't come as much of a surprise.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

OLB Calhoun decommits from USC 

October, 21, 2013
10/21/13
10:29
AM ET
videoUSC had been on a mini-run of commitments since the firing of Lane Kiffin, but interim head coach Ed Orgeron’s recruiting efforts took a blow Monday when ESPN 300 outside linebacker D.J. Calhoun (El Cerrito, Calif./El Cerrito) decommitted from the Trojans.

The decision had been brewing for weeks. Calhoun made an official visit to Arizona State over the weekend, stayed in Tempe, Ariz., through Monday and opted to re-open his recruitment altogether.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Pac-12 class rankings analysis 

October, 9, 2013
10/09/13
2:00
PM ET

Each Wednesday, ESPN RecruitingNation updates its national class rankings. For an in-depth look at the Pac-12, check out our conference rankings:

1. Arizona, 24 commits: The Wildcats check in at No. 23 in the RecruitingNation class rankings with a class that includes four ESPN300 commitments, including No. 120 overall Marquis Ware and No. 185 Jamardre Cobb of Salesian High in Los Angeles. Arizona will take its shot with No. 17 overall Jalen Tabor (Washington, D.C./Friendship Collegiate Academy), and teammate Dae'Juan Funderburk (Washington, D.C./Friendship Collegiate Academy) in December.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Pac-12 2014 recruiting scenarios 

October, 8, 2013
10/08/13
8:00
AM ET


This week's list offers a look through the Pac-12 at the potential best-case and worst-case scenarios that the 2014 recruiting cycle could bring for various programs. While a few of the best-case scenarios might be close to within reach for some programs, many of the worst-case scenarios would take a special brand of bad luck.

Arizona
Best-case scenario: Arizona doesn't hold onto all of its 24 verbal commits, but keeps all of its priority recruits in the fold. In exchange for some of the decommitments, the Wildcats are rewarded with a big splash from either ESPN 300 prospect John Smith (Long Beach, Calif./Poly) or Bryce Dixon (Ventura, Calif./St. Bonaventure). A strong finish to the season also helps Arizona clean up in its home state, landing commitments from offensive linemen Natrell Curtis (Phoenix/Mountain Pointe), Andrew Mike (Tucson, Ariz./Sabino), Layth Friekh (Peoria, Ariz./Centennial) and junior college defensive lineman Claudeson Pelon (Mesa, Ariz./Mesa College).

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

WeAreSC recruiting mailbag 

October, 4, 2013
10/04/13
9:30
AM ET
WeAreSC recruiting reporter Blair Angulo answers reader questions in his mailbag every week. Have a USC recruiting question of your own? Submit it via Twitter @WeAreSCstaff or @bangulo.

@godsoldier2k3: Hey, guys. How are we looking at picking up defensive backs that cover. Seems that other than defensive tackles, we need some long, athletic corners.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Top Pac-12 recruiting rivalries 

October, 1, 2013
10/01/13
8:00
AM ET

The Pac-12 is the only conference in the country with so many natural rivalries, as Arizona, California, Oregon and Washington are split in half -- or quarters in California's case -- when home state teams take the field. It's only natural those rivalries would spill over onto the recruiting trail, although there are some interstate battles as well that make this list of top recruiting rivalries in the Pac-12.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

If the collective reaction from prospects who woke up Sunday to news of USC firing coach Lane Kiffin is any indication, the school’s recruiting efforts will likely benefit from the midseason dismissal.

In fact, ESPN 300 defensive end Malik Dorton (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco), who committed to the Trojans in late August, believes the firing might be exactly what USC needs.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

SPONSORED HEADLINES