NCF On The Trail: Demario Richard

A recent string of commitments heading into the dead period has left USC with only five remaining slots in its 2014 recruiting class. The Trojans have 19 total spots to use, as long as four of them are mid-year enrollees.

Here's a position-by-position look at how USC could allocate those empty spots, with a projection of how many players at each position the Trojans will try to sign:

Offensive line: 6

The Trojans hold five commitments on the offensive line, two of those from mid-year enrollees who already have signed financial aid agreements. They might not be done, though, as a big fish is still out there and possibly leaning toward signing with his childhood favorite. If the coaching staff decides a scholarship would be more important at another position, the Trojans might have to part ways with a prospect from this bunch.

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.

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ASU grabs another ESPN 300 recruit

December, 13, 2013
Arizona State continued its march toward the top of the Pac-12 recruiting rankings, landing ESPN 300 defensive tackle Tashon Smallwood (Fresno, Calif./Central East).

Smallwood gave his verbal commitment to the Arizona State coaches during an in-home visit Wednesday.

Smallwood, the nation's No. 240 overall prospect, gives Arizona State six ESPN 300 prospects and is the second former USC commit to pledge to the Sun Devils, joining ESPN 300 linebacker D.J. Calhoun (El Cerrito, Calif./El Cerrito).

After decommitting from USC earlier this fall, there was little doubt Smallwood would wind up in Tempe, though he also looked at Alabama and Oklahoma -- and took an official visit to see the Sooners. Smallwood and his father consistently mentioned Arizona State's standout defensive tackle Will Sutton and believed the 6-foot, 290-pound Smallwood could replicate Sutton's production in the desert.

The Sun Devils now have 21 commitments in the 2014 class, and have put together some significant momentum in December. Smallwood's commitment came just one day after a pledge from three-star athlete Kalen Ballage (Peyton, Colo./Falcon). Four-star running back Demario Richard (Palmdale, Calif./Palmdale) and three-star juco defensive end Jonathon Johnson (Woodland Hills, Calif./Pierce College) also committed to Arizona State earlier this month.

While plenty of credit for Smallwood's commitment goes to the Arizona State coaches, a hat tip must again be given to quarterback commit Manny Wilkins (Novato, Calif./San Marin), who has established himself as one of the top recruiters in this class.

Pac-12 class rankings analysis 

December, 4, 2013

There was some good news for the Pac-12 in the updated class rankings released on Wednesday as Arizona, Arizona State and Oregon all moved up. The Wildcats maintained their grip on the top class in the conference and now sit at No. 18 overall. The Sun Devils jumped two places -- from No. 24 to No. 22 -- largely on the strength of a commitment from four-star running back Demario Richard (Palmdale, Calif./Palmdale), and in doing so, leapt Stanford for the No. 2 spot in the Pac-12. The Cardinal slid two spots, down to No. 25 overall, while Oregon remains the fourth conference team among the top 40, up to places to No. 30 overall. Here's a look at the conference's rankings. Insider

Trending up: In the 2013 class, Arizona State didn't sign and enroll a single four-star high school prospect. With Richard's commitment on Monday, the Sun Devils now have eight in their 2014 class. While Richard is the first commitment since mid-November, Arizona State's on-field performance has recruits buzzing about the future of the Sun Devils and with a win this weekend, coach Todd Graham will have an opportunity to close out this class in a big way.

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The Pac-12 South title is on the line at the Rose Bowl this weekend as Arizona State travels to UCLA. With USC out of town, the Bruins have the city to themselves for recruiting purposes on Saturday and will welcome in several official visitors, including some standout unofficial visitors from the 2014 and 2015 classes. With both programs looking to fill and solidify impressive recruiting classes this year, this will be a significant opportunity to make an on-field statement. While dozens of recruits will likely be in attendance or watching on television, here are 10 who will be paying close attention to the game.

OT Chris Brown (Los Angeles/Loyola): The four-star offensive tackle has come on strong during his senior season and will be taking an official visit to UCLA, his third official after trips to Texas A&M and Oregon. Brown also holds an offer from USC and his recruitment could come down to the two local programs. It's an interesting situation for Brown. The Trojans' 2014 class already has four offensive linemen in it, while the Bruins have six true freshmen linemen that came in with the 2013 class. He'll get a good look at several of those this weekend as UCLA continues to showcase its true freshmen, which has been scoring big with the 2014 class.

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Notebook: Marshall on USC experience 

November, 18, 2013
When the final second ticked off the clock and USC completed its upset of Stanford on Saturday night at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, ESPN Junior 300 cornerback Iman Marshall (Long Beach, Calif./Poly) was so excited that he nearly stormed the field along with thousands of fans.

His father, Tony, was there to hold him back.

“I didn’t think it was safe so I pulled him back along with a couple of other recruits,” Tony said. “We took pictures and just looked out onto the field. It was something we have never seen or experienced before. It was something you see in March Madness. The energy level was crazy; it felt like a championship fight in Las Vegas.”

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The game of the year in the Pac-12 is finally here, as recruits will tune in Thursday night to watch Stanford host Oregon (ESPN, 9 p.m. ET). The UCLA Bruins proved that the offensive line recruiting magic from last year's class is still alive and well. Official visitors will be on hand at Utah and Cal. And fans of Arizona State and Oregon could get a glimpse of the future during a high-stakes high school clash on Saturday.

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While Stanford made the most obvious noise on the field in the Pac-12 this weekend -- topping previously unbeated and No. 9-ranked UCLA, 24-10 -- Arizona State positioned itself to make the biggest statement on the recruiting trail.

The Sun Devils targeted their matchup with the Washington Huskies as the weekend to load up on visitors and that decision paid off handsomely, as Arizona State rolled to a 53-24 win.

Leading the recruiting charge was quarterback commit Manny Wilkins (Novato, Calif./San Marin), who has been as vocal a recruiter for his future program as any prospect in the country.

While one game won't carry as much influence in a recruits' decision as many fans believe, a blowout win such as that one is a great way to begin a weekend of recruiting for a coaching staff.

"It was a great game to have some of the top recruits in the nation in attendance," Wilkins said.

Wilkins certainly did his part in getting recruits to the game, as he helped talk Cal commit and ESPN 300 prospect Jalen Harvey (El Cerrito, Calif./El Cerrito) into taking an official visit this weekend. Harvey was joined on an official visit by his teammate, and USC commit, D.J. Calhoun (El Cerrito, Calif./El Cerrito). It was the first official visit for Calhoun and it paid off in a big way for the Sun Devils, as they are now firmly among his top three schools -- alongside UCLA and USC.

"The whole experience was nice, especially with the coaches, and the academic breakdown they did was great," Calhoun said. "Watching the game was nice, being able to see how the team operates with each other."

Calhoun, the nation's No. 226 prospect, said the Arizona State coaches see him stepping in for senior defensive end Junior Onyeali, an undersized defensive end who became a pass rushing force for the Sun Devils.

"They want me to rush the quarterback and take No. 5's position," Calhoun said. "I love it all."

The teammates were joined on official visits by four-star offensive tackle Sam Jones (Highlands Ranch, Colo./ThunderRidge), who tweeted a simple message toward the end of his visit.

It was the second official visit for Jones, who slid the Oregon Ducks toward the top of his list after visiting them in early September. Things could now get interesting for Jones, who holds offers from a majority of the conference.

But from the Sun Devils' perspective, the two biggest recruits in attendance were likely there on unofficial visits, as Arizona State coaches were able to put on a show in front of local ESPN 300 prospects and teammates Casey Tucker and Qualen Cunningham (Chandler, Ariz./Hamilton).

Both Tucker and Cunningham are very quiet when it comes to recruiting, as they have chosen to focus on their senior seasons first, but it's easy to notice that both have kept Arizona State among their final few schools. The Sun Devils will push hard for both, and while programs such as Oregon, Stanford and Texas A&M are in the mix, Arizona State will absolutely take advantage of getting those two recruits in front of the kind of scene that unfolded Saturday night.

Apparently the student section noticed Tucker, as the nation's No. 38 player retweeted a message directed at him by an Arizona State fan.

Recruits watching Washington at ASU 

October, 18, 2013
It won't have the national appeal of UCLA's trip to Stanford, or the history of USC visiting Notre Dame, but it's unlikely that any Pac-12 game will have more impact recruits in attendance this weekend than Washington at Arizona State. Here is a look at 10 of the dozens of recruits who will be paying close attention to the goings on in Tempe, Ariz., this weekend.

OL Quinn Bailey (Gilbert, Ariz./Higley): Bailey is a solid offensive lineman that both Arizona State and Washington targeted early in the process. Oregon and Arizona will have a say in what happens with Bailey's recruitment, but it's the Sun Devils and Huskies that have a chance to make a statement this weekend.

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Several Pac-12 programs have an opportunity to make statements on the recruiting trail this weekend, headlined by Arizona State hosting Washington, and including USC's trip to Notre Dame and the biggest clash in the conference -- UCLA visiting Stanford. The following day, the B2G West Coast Bowl will draw plenty of interest, as Pac-12 commits and targets are separated into two teams for the late January all-star game.

Manny being Manny

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Recruits will be among the many interested spectators at the Coliseum tonight when USC takes the field for the first time since the firing of Lane Kiffin.

ESPN 300 athlete and self-proclaimed Trojans supporter John "JuJu" Smith (Long Beach, Calif./Poly), one of the top targets on USC’s board, will be in attendance and paying close attention to how the team responds under interim head coach Ed Orgeron.

“Hopefully the USC program starts to improve,” Smith said. “This is the first game without Lane, so I’ll definitely be watching how they do.”

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Pac-12 class rankings analysis 

October, 9, 2013

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.

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Pac-12 2014 recruiting scenarios 

October, 8, 2013

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.

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).

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Pac-12 class rankings analysis 

September, 18, 2013

There was movement from only one program in the newly-released 2014 class recruiting rankings, and it was a big jump forward for a Pac-12 heavyweight. The Stanford Cardinal moved up four spots to No. 24 overall, just one behind Pac-12 leader Arizona at No. 23. The conference still has just three teams ranked in the top 40, with Arizona State coming in at No. 35.

Trending up: Stanford. The Cardinal added defensive tackle Nifae Lealao (Sacramento, Calif./Capital Christian) last Friday and were rewarded with a big move in the rankings.

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WeAreSC recruiting mailbag 

September, 13, 2013
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.

Dustin Perlberg, via @dustinperlberg: Is USC even recruiting Demario Richard?

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