NCF On The Trail: Keller Chryst

For USC head coach Steve Sarkisian, this weekend was supposed to be about sealing the deal with some top targets who were officially visiting campus, but it quickly transformed into so much more.

Most of the focus centered on a group of highly touted prospects from the 2014 class, including John Smith (Long Beach, Calif./Poly) and Damien Mama (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco), as the Trojans hosted a large group of recruits with less than two weeks remaining until national signing day. Yet, the buzz shifted toward the future as Sarkisian reached into the 2015 class to make perhaps his biggest splash since arriving from Washington, securing a verbal commitment from Ricky Town (Ventura, Calif./St. Bonaventure), the No. 2-rated pocket passer who decommitted from Alabama earlier in the day.

Consider it a major coup for USC, which made Town its top priority at quarterback and managed to flip him in a short period of time.

Though the season ended on a sour note, with a 24-20 loss to Michigan State in the Rose Bowl presented by VIZIO, 2013 was another tremendously successful season for the Cardinal. Stanford posted an 11-win season and defended its Pac-12 crown. Heading toward signing day, it's doubtful this loss will damage any of the momentum the Cardinal have built on the recruiting trail. On the heels of a small recruiting class in 2013 -- Stanford signed just a dozen prospects -- Shaw and his assistants will be able to go after more recruits in the 2014 class, though this group still likely won't approach the maximum allowable limit of 25. At this point, Stanford's 2014 class ranks No. 28 in the nation and No. 4 in the Pac-12.


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Under Armour Game predictions 

December, 27, 2013
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- If past Under Armour All-America Games have taught us anything, it's that we should expect the unexpected. Yes, there are some announcements where there’s not a lot of drama and it’s just a case of a player going public with a decision that everybody has already known about for months. There will be others where there is plenty of suspense throughout the week of practices and the pick will cause controversy in the end. Heck, this is the same game that we saw Landon Collins’ mom become a YouTube sensation when she disagreed with her son’s decision to commit to Alabama and spurn LSU. It’s what makes the Under Armour Game special, and ESPN RecruitingNation’s Jeremy Crabtree has some predictions on what we’ll see over the next seven days.

Fournette won’t be bothered by attention
When you’re the nation’s No. 1 player, you’re already used to the spotlight and never-ending attention from fans and media. But at the UA Game, No. 1-ranked Leonard Fournette (New Orleans/St. Augustine) is going to be in a fishbowl even more than before. Everything he does this week will be documented for the whole world to see. Every rep in practice. Every interview after. Even when he’s hanging out in the hotel, there will likely be somebody there to tweet or discuss it. That will put a tremendous amount of pressure on Fournette, but those expecting him to fall at some point this week will be sorely disappointed. Fournette will prove once again on and off the field why he’s the best in the country and serve as an example of how other elite prospects should handle the recruiting process for years to come.


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How pocket passers compare 

December, 24, 2013
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It is becoming more and more difficult to find favorable comparisons for true pocket passers because the definition of the quintessential pocket passer has changed so much.

Even dropback guys now seem to have enough athleticism to make things happen with their feet. Offensive schemes almost always feature some form of the spread offense, even if it’s just a wrinkle.

Our top five pocket passers in this class all possess enough athleticism to be effective or make second reaction throws, but are at their best moving the ball with their arm, not their legs.


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Pac-12 weekend recruiting wrap 

December, 23, 2013
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All eyes were on the California state bowl games this past weekend, as five contests pitted teams from Southern California against Northern California. And although recruiting took something of a backseat to the final games of the season, there was some noise made in the Pac-12 conference, including a quarterback shakeup that could continue to play out down the line.


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Early Offer: UA Game around corner 

December, 20, 2013
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The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting in the mornings. Friday's offerings: We’re getting closer and closer to the start of festivities for the Under Armour All-America Game, and there are plenty of major questions heading in; Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio has to be happy with class he’s assembling; and we’re going to take a break next week because of the holidays.

Many questions entering UA Game week
Next Friday the first batch of players will begin to arrive in Orlando for the Under Armour All-America Game. Official player registration begins on the 28th and RecruitingNation will have coverage of all the arrivals and practices, leading up to the game on Jan. 2. There are some tremendous story lines heading to the week I’m excited to learn more about. How solid is Jabrill Peppers with the Wolverines? What’s Marlon Humphrey thinking, and is there a good chance he could truly end up at FSU? What does Keller Chryst think of Stanford offensive coordinator Mike Sanford’s expected departure to Boise State? And what’s going to happen with Dalvin Cook and Laurence Jones?

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Top 5 under-the-radar quarterbacks 

October, 16, 2013
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Everyone knows about top-ranked quarterbacks such as Deshaun Watson and Keller Chryst. But those aren't the only ones with a chance to make an impact in college. The following five players may have flown under the radar -- for reasons ranging from injury to playing in a non-traditional football area -- but four seem to have found the right college fit and therefore could excel at the next level.


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UA Game jersey tour: Keller Chryst

October, 11, 2013
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Senior quarterback Keller Chryst (Palo Alto, Calif./Palo Alto High) was presented his honorary game jersey on Thursday at his high school in Palo Alto, Calif. during the American Family Insurance Selection Tour for the 2014 Under Armour All-America High School Football Game. The event was part of the three-month tour.

Chryst, a Stanford commitment, is one of 90 players selected to compete in the seventh-annual Under Armour All-America Game presented by American Family Insurance, a nationally televised competition spotlighting the country’s top high school seniors. The 2014 Under Armour All-America Game is set for 4 p.m. ET on Jan. 2 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., and will be televised on ESPN.

"I would just like to thank a couple of people," Chryst said. "I would like to thank God, my family, friends ... especially coaches and teammates and teachers as well, and definitely the Under Armour and American Family Insurance for this award."

Palo Alto head coach Earl Hansen says this selection is a huge achievement for his star quarterback.

"This is the first team a Paly athlete been presented with this kind of an honor," he said. "We are very proud of what Keller has done here, and how hard he has worked to get to this position. So congratulations, we are very happy you are one of us Vikings and will be forever."

Chryst chose the Under Armour All-America game because of the chance to work with ex-NFL coaches, and the level of talent in the game.

"I chose the Under Armour All-America Game because it's newer that the U.S. Army one," he said. "I saw that there are more SEC guys, and also I thought it was a little more talent and I liked the coaches too. ESPN's recruiting just shows that they have the ability to pick talent out early. It's just humbling, and I'm honored."

The 6-foot-4, 234-pound Chryst is the No. 19-ranked prospect overall, and the No. 1 pocket passer in the class.

Pac-12 class rankings analysis 

October, 9, 2013
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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
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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).

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Top Pac-12 recruiting rivalries 

October, 1, 2013
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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.


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Pac-12's 2014 impact freshmen 

September, 25, 2013
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We've barely hit the quarter pole of the 2013 season, but with true and redshirt freshmen making impacts all over the country, attention turns this week to those recruits in the 2014 class who could generate the same kind of press early in their careers and affect the conference.

Current 2014 QB prospect who could start immediately

Arizona and Washington are the only Pac-12 programs scheduled to lose their starting quarterbacks after this season, but with seven quarterbacks already slated to compete for the job next year, it's going to be extremely difficult for Brandon Dawkins (Westlake Village, Calif./Oaks Christian) to truly put himself in the mix. The same is true at Washington -- though the Huskies have yet to receive a commitment from a quarterback in the 2014 class -- as redshirt freshmen, who will then be redshirt sophomores, Jeff Lindquist and Cyler Miles will likely battle for the spot. So at this point -- leaving aside speculation on whether quarterbacks such as UCLA's Brett Hundley or Oregon's Marcus Marriota could make themselves available for the NFL draft -- this question becomes about the possibility of a true freshman supplanting a returning starter, and while it would be tough to bet on anybody actually getting it done, the easy answer is Keller Chryst (Palo Alto, Calif./Palo Alto) at Stanford. The No. 19 overall recruit is a polished pocket passer and seems to fit perfectly into the Stanford offense. If it clicks early for him, he could give Kevin Hogan a serious run next fall.

Program-changing 2014 recruiting class: USC

This could be a make-or-break recruiting class for the Trojans. When USC begins practices next spring, just 26 players on the roster will come from the 2012 and 2013 recruiting classes, combined. That means tons of opportunity for what could be 19 signees in a class still limited by NCAA sanctions. Right now, recruits want a clear picture of what will happen going forward at USC. If the Trojans make a decisive move at the top -- either with Lane Kiffin finishing the season in a strong manner and earning the full trust of the fans and his bosses, or with athletics director Pat Haden moving swiftly to replace Kiffin with an impressive hire -- USC could close with a monster class, as a number of high-profile prospects are intrigued by the idea of playing for USC and understand the playing time situation. If things break well for the Trojans, it's not impossible to think this class could be the best group in the Pac-12 and eventually form some of the nucleus that takes USC back to the top of the conference.

Current 2014 prospect with Heisman potential

Since the Heisman Trophy has become about quarterbacks and running backs, that narrows this category a bit. Again, Chryst is the easy answer because he'll likely put up good numbers for a national power. But a bit farther down the West region prospects list sits tailback Joe Mixon (Oakley, Calif./Freedom), who possesses just about everything you look for in a potential Heisman contender. He'll likely be suiting up for a national power -- Florida, Oklahoma and Oregon are three of his finalists -- a running back's dream -- Wisconsin is another finalists -- or a program in Cal where he'd have the ability to put up silly numbers both rushing and receiving. Mixon has also said UCLA is still in the running, which would put him in a major media market. His ability to catch out of the backfield and perhaps even return kicks will help his statistics, and the fact that he brings some personality to the table -- nearly 6,500 twitter followers at last count -- helps his cause as well.


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Best Pac-12 classes by position 

September, 10, 2013
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Arizona’s haul of 24 verbal commitments is nine more than any other Pac-12 team, while only one BCS program has fewer than USC’s seven -- Minnesota, with six. Oregon, UCLA, Utah and Washington have all yet to reach double digits. But this week, we take a look at which program has put together the best class at each position at this point in the recruiting process.

Quarterback
Strongest class: Stanford

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Two secondary additions were the primary reason UCLA was the talk of Pac-12 recruiting this week, though several programs will have opportunities to make a recruiting impact with important home games this weekend. Several more might have to wait a few weeks before they get the same chance.
Bruins pick up big commitments

ESPN 300 cornerback Adarius Pickett (El Cerrito, Calif./El Cerrito) looked ticketed for USC when good friend and teammate D.J. Calhoun committed to the Trojans over the summer and head coach Lane Kiffin and staff seemed to make him a priority at cornerback. But Pickett made a surprise announcement on Tuesday, when he committed to UCLA. Pickett said a big reason was the fact that he felt at home with the Bruins -- additionally, USC wouldn’t let him take an in-season official visit, which was something Pickett felt he needed to do. Whatever the reasons, Pickett’s commitment to UCLA sends a message that the Bruins will again be a program of strength during this recruiting season. UCLA backed up Pickett’s commitment by landing fellow cornerback Denzel Fisher (Compton, Calif./Centennial) later that evening. Now, at a position where USC is in desperate need of bodies in this recruiting class, the Bruins have three solid options, including two from in-state standouts.

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While all recruits have the same opportunity to make an impact after signing day, that’s not always the case in the days and months leading up to it. Some verbal commitments are bigger than others, whether it’s from a top target on the board, a nationally prominent standout who can shine a spotlight on the program or a local legend that continues a pipeline.

This week, we take a look through the Pac-12 at the most important verbal commitments in each class.

Arizona
ATH Cameron Denson (Tucson, Ariz./Salpointe Catholic)
6-1, 175

ESPN 300 rank: 147

Denson hits every requirement for this list. He was the first commitment in Arizona’s 2014 class, the top-rated player in the class and a local standout that Rich Rodriguez had to have if he was going to build momentum for 2014.


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