- Erik McKinney, ESPN Staff Writer
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.
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.
Trending down: This one comes with an asterisk, because there's a chance it could only be temporary, but as of now, the Washington Huskies are backsliding. Coach Steve Sarkisian's departure for USC immediately caused the Huskies' lone ESPN 300 prospect, Rahshead Johnson (Long Beach, Calif./Cabrillo), to decommit, and Washington could be barely hanging onto cornerback Jonathan Lockett (Santa Ana, Calif./Mater Dei), who might flip to USC if an offer from the Trojans is extended. As with any coaching change, the recruits are disappointed in what is going on, but that could -- and likely will -- change once a new coach is announced. Until that time, the Washington assistant coaches have their work cut out for them. As it stands now, the Huskies have just seven verbal commitments in the 2014 class.
One to watch: We'll make this two to watch. With coaches now in place for the long term, UCLA and USC have an opportunity to strongly close out this recruiting cycle and perhaps end up battling for the top spot in the conference. Sarkisian is an immediate hit with recruits -- though he will absolutely have to battle the incredible disappointment from local prospects at the Trojans losing Ed Orgeron -- and has an opportunity to continue the positive momentum built by Orgeron locally. For the Bruins, it's full speed ahead, having locked Jim Mora into a long-term deal. UCLA can use a blowout win over USC to recruit both locally and nationally, and if the Bruins are able to keep their top assistant coaches, this could turn into a phenomenal class.
Bold prediction: Of the top-10 uncommitted players in the West, all but one will play in the Pac-12. Though tight end Tyler Luatua (La Mirada, Calif./La Mirada) looks like a sure thing for either Alabama or Notre Dame, the Pac-12 will rebound in a big way from early in the process, when recruits such as Kyle Allen (Scottsdale, Ariz./Desert Mountain) and Bryan Mone (Salt Lake City/Highland) opted to head out of conference. Come signing day, the Pac-12 will be that much stronger by holding onto Adoree' Jackson (Gardena, Calif./Serra), John Smith (Long Beach, Calif./Poly), Michiah Quick (Fresno, Calif./Central East), Casey Tucker (Chandler, Ariz./Hamilton), Damien Mama (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco), Joe Mixon (Oakley, Calif./Freedom), Bryce Dixon (Ventura, Calif./St. Bonaventure) and Dalton Schultz (South Jordan, Utah/Bingham).