- Erik McKinney, ESPN Staff Writer
Half of the Pac-12 remains among the top 40 recruiting classes in the newly-released ESPN recruiting rankings. In order, Arizona, Arizona State, Oregon, USC, Stanford and UCLA represent the conference after a big week on the recruiting trail for virtually all of those programs.
Trending up: Just about the entire Pac-12 gets a mention here, as Arizona State, Oregon, USC and UCLA all moved up in the team rankings. While Arizona still sits at No. 15, the Wildcats added two very important pieces in No. 15 overall prospect Jalen Tabor (Washington, D.C./Friendship Collegiate Academy) and ESPN offensive tackle Jordan Poland (La Jolla, Calif./La Jolla Country Day). Arizona State moved from No. 18 to No. 17, while Oregon jumped from No. 27 to No. 25 and USC moved from No. 31 to No. 27. Stanford held at No. 28, while UCLA used several commitments to climb one spot from No. 34 to No. 33 overall. Other Pac-12 programs, including Cal, Washington and Washington State, added recent commitments as well.
Trending down: The Pac-12's chance at a top-five recruiting class.
While six Pac-12 programs are just about guaranteed to finish among the top 40 classes on signing day, barring a collapse down the stretch, the chances that one of them pushes its way into the top five is shrinking and that can be blamed on how successful the head coaches in the conference have been as a whole. No program is running away with the recruiting title right now, and there is still a chance that any of the six ranked teams could wind up with the top spot in the conference. While Arizona's class looks full at this point, with 29 commitments, the Wildcats coaches will find a way to create space if more uncommitted recruits want to jump on board. Arizona State and Stanford are still chasing ESPN 300 offensive tackle Casey Tucker (Chandler, Ariz./Hamilton), while the Cardinal and Bruins are in it for ESPN 300 defensive end Solomon Thomas (Coppell, Tex./Coppell). Also, ESPN 300 prospects Adoree' Jackson (Gardena, Calif./Serra), John Smith (Long Beach, Calif./Poly) and Damien Mama (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco) could all shape the classes at UCLA or USC. But because there is no dominant recruiting force in the conference this year, it's likely that multiple teams could wind up among the top 15 overall and be extremely happy with their signings, but it looks unlikely -- at this point, at least -- that one will push to be among the nation's elite on signing day.
One to watch: The weekend of Jan. 17.
It's a huge official visit weekend for the conference, as it's the first weekend following the dead period and virtually every Pac-12 program will have a long list of official visitors. Just about every school is using that weekend to host their committed recruits, so all eyes will be on the uncommitted prospects who join them because it will be one of the strongest recruiting pushes any program will be able to make between now and signing day. Though there are still a handful of in-home visit opportunities remaining, few recruiting pitches are stronger than spending a weekend on campus surrounded by committed recruits.
Bold prediction: The Pac-12 will keep the top West recruits at home.
It started out a little shaky, as top West region recruits committed to schools outside of the area. And even now, of the five committed recruits among the top 10 prospects in the west, three are headed out of the conference. But the Pac-12 will close strong, landing commitments from Jackson, Smith, Tucker, Mama, Michiah Quick (Fresno, Calif./Central East) and Dalton Schultz (South Jordan, Utah/Bingham), giving the conference 15 of the top 20 West region prospects.