NCF On The Trail: Marcus Griffin

Signing day wrap: Pac-12

February, 5, 2014
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While it was a terrific day for the Pac-12 overall, USC stole the signing day spotlight on Wednesday, hitting for the cycle in landing its top four targets.

The day began well for new coach Steve Sarkisian, as three-star cornerback Lamont Simmons (Jacksonville, Fla./Raines) faxed over his signature, but that was only an appetizer for the Trojans. With 19 scholarships available this year -- NCAA sanctions limited the Trojans to just 15 scholarships in this class and USC was able to roll four unused rides over from the 2013 class -- Simmons took the class to 16. Left on the board were a trio of Southern California ESPN 300 prospects in No. 9 overall prospect, cornerback Adoree' Jackson (Gardena, Calif./Serra), No. 24 overall prospect, athlete John "JuJu" Smith (Long Beach, Calif./Poly) and No. 67 overall prospect, offensive guard Damien Mama (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco).

[+] EnlargeJohn
Kelvin Kuo/USA TODAY SportsJohn "JuJu" Smith was part of a huge signing day for USC.
Sarkisian and the Trojans were able to land all three, giving USC one of the best signing days of any program in the country. The signings give USC 19 additions in the 2014 class, including nine ESPN 300 pledges, one ESPN JC 50 prospect and impact players on both sides of the ball. There is really no way to overstate how well Sarkisian and the Trojans closed on signing day, posting what amounted to a perfect day.

The Trojans wound up with the No. 1 class in the Pac-12, but the rankings in the conference were bunched at the top.

Stanford made a huge run late, landing commitments from all six recruits it targeted over the past two months. The Cardinal added signatures from ESPN 300 defensive end Solomon Thomas (Coppell, Tex./Coppell) -- at No. 25 overall, the highest rated Stanford addition since ESPN began its rankings in 2006 -- and three-star cornerback Terrence Alexander (River Ridge, La./John Curtis Christian). Though the Cardinal lost a late commitment from defensive end Uriah Leiataua (Compton, Calif./Dominguez), it was a very strong visit and a terrific class headed to the Farm.

Alexander wasn't the only recruit from John Curtis Christian to commit to the Pac-12, as Oregon and UCLA took their biggest commitments of the day from that program. The Ducks landed ESPN 300 safety Mattrell McGraw, while UCLA picked up its lone signing day commit in Kenny Young.

Oregon missed out on Smith and defensive tackle Trey Lealaimatafao (San Antonio/Earl Warren) but was able to land safety Khalil Oliver (Meridian, Id./Rocky Mountain) in a battle against Washington.

UCLA coaches will likely be disappointed with the day. Although the Bruins did reel in Young, UCLA missed on Thomas, No. 1 overall wide receiver Malachi Dupre (River Ridge, La./John Curtis Christian) and the Southern California trio, which made matters worse for Jim Mora & Co. by committing to the Trojans. UCLA brought a very good recruiting class into signing day and did a good job of holding onto everybody, but the Bruins took some big swings at some big prospects across the country and didn't get the results they were hoping for.

Arizona State slid a few spots in the national rankings, but the Sun Devils did everything they could on signing day. Todd Graham brought a relatively full class into the day and was able to add two huge signatures in ESPN JC 50 prospects defensive tackle Dalvon Stuckey (De Funiak Springs, Fla./Pearl River CC) and cornerback Kweishi Brown (El Cajon, Calif./Grossmont). The Sun Devils were also able to hold onto another junior college standout in wide receiver Eric Lauderdale (Fayetteville, Ga./Saddleback College), who received a significant late push from Florida.

Arizona was relatively quiet. The Wildcats brought in a huge list of verbal commitments and didn't lose anybody off the top of the class, landing five ESPN 300 prospects. Defensive tackle Marcus Griffin (Bellevue, Wash./Bellevue) was the big addition, as the big lineman selected Arizona over Cal, Mississippi State and Washington State.

Oregon State grabbed a signature from offensive guard Kammy Delp (Pomona, Calif./Diamond Ranch), who will play defensive tackle for the Beavers. Utah announced defensive tackle Lowell Lotulelei (South Jordan, Utah/Bingham) as a part of this class after he attempted to sign with the Utes in 2013.

Washington's big addition came Tuesday night in the form of ESPN 300 safety Bishard "Budda" Baker (Bellevue, Wash./Bellevue), but Chris Petersen and the Huskies also received a signing day commitment from intriguing 6-foot-5 receiver Brayden Lenius (West Hills, Calif./Chaminade). The Washington State Cougars closed with their second four-star commitment in this class, safety Deion Singleton (Paco, Wash./Chiawana).

But the day in the West belonged to USC, which jumped from No. 4 in the conference to landing the Pac-12's top 2014 recruiting class. Nationally, the Trojans moved from No. 24 to No. 15 overall.

Stanford (15th), Arizona State (21st) and Arizona (23rd) all finished among the top 25 recruiting classes in the nation.

Most important targets: Pac-12 

January, 28, 2014
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With only eight days before national signing day, it truly is crunch time for coaches and recruits alike for the 2014 class. In the Pac-12 especially, a number of spots remain available in a majority of classes. This week, we take a look at the most important uncommitted target for each conference program.

Arizona: DT Marcus Griffin (Bellevue, Wash./Bellevue)
6-2, 299 pounds
Three-star prospect

The Wildcats jumped into the process late for Griffin but made enough of an impression that the big lineman took an official visit to Tucson last weekend. Griffin will announce on signing day from a group that consists of Arizona, Cal, Mississippi State and Washington State. While the Wildcats have a full class at this point, it looks as though they'd like to add one more big body along the defensive line and Griffin is one of the top defensive tackles in the region, regardless of commitment status.

Key recruiting visits -- Pac-12 

January, 24, 2014
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Just two weekends of official visits remain before signing day, so it's no surprise that just about every Pac-12 program will have visitors on campus this weekend. It's a huge opportunity for USC, which will have arguably it's most important host weekend of the recruiting calendar. Other programs will have a few recruits on hand in hopes of making a big splash the following weekend. While every visit is big at this stage of the game, here are a look at 10 of the most important for the Jan. 24 weekend:

1. ATH John "JuJu" Smith (Long Beach, Calif./Poly)
Visiting: USC


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Pac-12 class rankings analysis 

January, 22, 2014
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With just two weeks until signing day, this week's updated class rankings illustrate just how close the gap is between the top teams in the Pac-12. Arizona State again checks in at No. 1 in the conference and now sits at No. 17 in the nation. Behind the Sun Devils, five more Pac-12 teams are within 10 places, as Arizona is No. 20, USC is No. 22, Stanford is No. 23, Oregon is No. 24 and UCLA rounds out the Pac-12 entrants at No. 27.

Trending up: Stanford


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Key recruiting visits -- Pac-12 

January, 17, 2014
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The recruiting dead period is over, and it's full speed ahead for a number of Pac-12 programs as coaches look to load up on official visitors over the next three weekends. A list of important official visitors for Pac-12 programs this weekend could easily extend to two or even three dozen names, so limiting it to just the top 10 was challenging -- though likely not as difficult as the task facing conference coaches looking to wrap up their recruiting classes as national signing day approaches.

1. CB Kweishi Brown (El Cajon, Calif./Grossmont College) visiting Arizona State. The ESPN Junior College 50 cornerback made an early commitment to Arkansas but pulled away from that as more Pac-12 programs expressed interest. Brown, the nation's No. 3 juco cornerback, will be at Arizona State as part of a huge group of official visitors and will be one of the main targets committed quarterback Manny Wilkins (Novato, Calif./San Marin) sets his sights on this weekend.


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Most important targets: Pac-12 

January, 8, 2014
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The West region still has a chance to greatly impact the Pac-12, as five of the top six recruits in the region remain uncommitted. And while a few Pac-12 classes still have a ways to go and others are looking for the finishing touches, there is still a most important commit for each program still out there. Here, we take a look at the one "must-have" recruit for each conference program.


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Semper Fi bowl notebook: Day 2 

January, 2, 2014
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Some news and notes from Day 2 at the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl.

Ducks and Bruins battle for McGraw

The fight for the nation's No. 194 prospect is down to Oregon and UCLA, as those two programs are the last standing for safety Mattrell McGraw (River Ridge, La./John Curtis Christian). And perhaps surprisingly, whoever wins this recruiting battle will have a former USC star to thank.


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Pac-12 recruiting storylines: Dec. 19 

December, 19, 2013
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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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Pac-12 recruiting storylines: Dec. 12 

December, 12, 2013
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Last week saw a coaching shakeup in the Pac-12, as USC hired Steve Sarkisian away from Washington and the Huskies countered by luring Chris Petersen away from Boise State after making a run at UCLA's Jim Mora. This week, nearly every Pac-12 staff has been busy hitting the recruiting trail and setting up important visit weekends as a number of ESPN 300 prospects will be on conference campuses.

[+] EnlargeSolomon Thomas
Tom Hauck for Student SportsSolomon Thomas is still considering UCLA and Stanford, among others.
UCLA's big visitor

For the second weekend in a row, UCLA will have an ESPN 300 prospect on campus. Last week, the Bruins hosted Alabama linebacker commit Zach Whitley Jr (Houston/North Shore). This weekend, ESPN 300 defensive end Solomon Thomas (Coppell, Texas/Coppell) will make the trip. Thomas, the No. 31 overall prospect and No. 5 defensive end, would be a huge addition for UCLA, which has done very well in Texas recently, led by assistant coach Adrian Klemm. Thomas still has a number of suitors, but UCLA has maintained a consistent presence in his recruitment -- along with Pac-12 rival Stanford -- and has a chance to make a statement this weekend.

USC's weekend intrigue


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Most important targets: Pac-12 

December, 10, 2013
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There are a number of impact players in the 2014 recruiting class still uncommitted and looking hard at Pac-12 programs. While one commit won't likely make a break a class, there are prospects out there that are extremely important for each class, for reasons on and off the field. This week, we take a look at arguably the top uncommitted target for each program, and why the recruit would make such an impact for that school.

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Myles Jack scores with UCLA recruits 

November, 18, 2013
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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.


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Pac-12 recruiting storylines: Nov. 14 

November, 14, 2013
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A number of Pac-12 programs will have a chance to make statements this weekend that could help them greatly on the recruiting trail. The biggest game will take place at the Coliseum, as USC hosts Stanford, but both Washington programs will have a chance to make statements, while Oregon will have two important visitors on campus.

USC's second chance


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Pac-12 recruiting storylines: Oct. 31 

October, 31, 2013
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Arizona State and Oregon added to top-40 classes earlier this week, as the Sun Devils grabbed another ESPN 300 prospect and the Ducks flexed their muscles in Texas. USC softened its policy against in-season visitors, while UCLA will look to take advantage of hosting a committed visitor of its own this weekend.

Arizona State adds another

It didn't come as much of a surprise when ESPN 300 outside linebacker D.J. Calhoun (El Cerrito, Calif./El Cerrito) verbally committed to Arizona State this past Sunday, but that didn't make the commitment any less important for the Sun Devils. Head coach Todd Graham's program is picking up steam on the recruiting trail as it puts together wins on the field. Calhoun joins teammate Jalen Harvey and four-star tackle Sam Jones (Highlands Ranch, Colo./ThunderRidge) as recent commitments for Arizona State, while quarterback Manny Wilkins (Novato, Calif./San Marin) continues to do an excellent job in selling the program to recruits. It wouldn't be a surprise to see the Sun Devils eventually reel in California prospects Michael Lazarus (Berkeley, Calif./Berkeley), Kammy Delp (Pomona, Calif./Diamond Ranch) and Demario Richard (Palmdale, Calif./Palmdae), as the buzz -- especially in California -- continues to grow. Arizona State now has the nation's No. 25 recruiting class -- up three spots due to the updated ESPN 300 -- and sits just behind No. 24 Stanford and No. 20 Arizona as the third-best class in the Pac-12.

Hollins hollers for Oregon


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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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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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