- Erik McKinney, ESPN Staff Writer
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).
Worst-case scenario: The Wildcats hold onto longtime commit Cameron Denson (Tuscon, Ariz./Salpointe Catholic), but the Golden State turns sour, as the recruiting rise of UCLA and USC -- not to mention vastly improved records from Arizona State and Washington -- poach a majority of the Wildcats' California talent, including ESPN 300 teammates Marquis Ware and Jamardre Cobb (Los Angeles/Salesian), running back Nick Wilson (Fresno, Calif./Central East) and cornerback Naijiel Hale (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco).
Best-case scenario: It starts with commitments from ESPN 300 teammates Casey Tucker and Qualen Cunningham (Chandler, Ariz./Hamilton), who jump on board with commitments earlier than expected in order to really get the class rolling before signing day. The Sun Devils then shore up the linebacker position by pulling D.J. Calhoun (El Cerrito, Calif./El Cerrito) away from his USC commitment and teaming him up with good friend Michael Lazarus (Berkeley, Calif./Berkeley). ESPN 300 defensive linemen Malik Dorton (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco) and Tashon Smallwood (Fresno, Calif./Central East) become two more former USC pledges to sign with Arizona State, while running back Demario Richard (Palmdale, Calif./Palmdale) gives the Sun Devils a big presence at tailback.
Worst-case scenario: Unthinkable at this time, but quarterback Manny Wilkins (Novato, Calif./San Marin) changes course and the Sun Devils lose their 2014 quarterback commit and best recruiter. Tucker and Cunningham both sign with Pac-12 South teams, ensuring they will go up against the Sun Devils for the next four years.
Best-case scenario: ESPN 300 running back Joe Mixon (Oakley, Calif./Freedom) decides he wants to stay home and help turn around the Cal program. That leads to good friends Calhoun and ESPN 300 cornerback Adarius Pickett (El Cerrito, Calif./El Cerrito) joining him in Berkeley. The prolific passing attack helps land commitments from ESPN 300 wide receiver Trevon Lee (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla./Cardinal Gibbons) and ESPN 300 athlete Michiah Quick (Fresno, Calif./Central East).
Worst-case scenario: Even with a high-powered offense and a coaching staff that connects well on the recruiting trail, the losses continue to pile up and recruits are turned off. Tre Watson (Corona, Calif./Centennial) is pulled away by UCLA, USC closes strong and plucks Jaleel Wadood (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco) out of the class, and Washington grabs ESPN 300 running back Devante Downs (Mountlake Terrace, Wash./Mountlake Terrace) away from the Golden Bears.
Best-case scenario: Improved play across the board makes Colorado the obvious option for in-state standouts Sam Jones (Highlands Ranch, Colo./ThunderRidge), Kalen Ballage (Peyton, Colo./Falcon) and Isaiah Holland (Highlands Ranch, Colo./Valor Christian). The Buffs continue to load up on the offensive line with a commitment from Alex Anderson (Scottsdale, Ariz./Saguaro) and fill out the class with prospects from California and Texas, strengthening the pipelines into both states.
Worst-case scenario: Losses continue to pile up and recruits don't see the improvement that has been evident in Mike MacIntyre's first year as head coach. Despite the Buffaloes beating them on the field, Colorado State wins several battles for in-state prospects and the Buffs lose out on quarterback commit Cade Apsay (Canyon Country, Calif./Canyon), who heads to a Pac-12 rivals after picking up a late offer.
Best-case scenario: On the strength of a national championship, Oregon closes the class on an absolute tear, signing No. 2 cornerback Adoree' Jackson (Gardena, Calif./Serra) and No. 1 athlete Speedy Noil (New Orleans/Edna Karr) to play wide receiver. ESPN 300 athletes John Smith (Long Beach, Calif./Poly) and Bishard Baker (Bellevue, Wash./Bellevue) give Oregon a terrific duo of players who could play safety or receiver, Mattrell McGraw (New Orleans/John Curtis) is a big addition at safety, and a combination of Sam Jones (Highlands Ranch, Colo./ThunderRidge), Kaleb McGary (Fife, Wash./Fife), Quinn Bailey (Gilbert, Ariz./Higley) and Layth Friekh (Peoria, Ariz./Centennial) gives the Ducks a big haul along the offensive line.
Worst-case scenario: The wins keep coming on the field, but the Ducks just can't get over the hump with their biggest targets. The New Orleans recruits all opt to remain in the SEC, while Jackson remains in Southern California at either UCLA or USC. Washington also gets the better of Oregon on several key battles, as the Ducks lose out on Baker, McGary and Friekh to their Pac-12 North rivals.
Best-case scenario: The Beavers completely erase the opening-day loss to Eastern Washington on their way to a successful season on the field, which helps them sneak in at the end and come away with several important recruiting victories. Not only does Oregon State flip Washington wide receiver commit Erik Brown (Fontana, Calif./Summit), it also lands Jalen Brown (Phoenix/Mountain Pointe) and Alex Van Dyke (Elk Grove, Calif./Cosumnes Oaks) to give the Beavers the best receiver class in the conference. The Beavers are also able to flip Cal commit Jaleel Wadood (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco) and land four-star running back Squally Canada (Milpitas, Calif./Milpitas).
Worst-case scenario: The Texas pipeline dries up, as NaJee Toran (Houston/North Shore) and Bright Ugwoegbu (Katy, Tex./Seven Lakes) elect to stay close to home and Oregon State doesn't sign a single player from the Lone Star State. The Beavers also don't find much success in the junior college ranks, one year after signing four ESPN JC 100 prospects.
Best-case scenario: The Cardinal keep on trucking, keeping all their commitments and closing with signatures from ESPN 300 prospects Solomon Thomas (Coppell, Tex./Coppell), Dalton Schultz (South Jordan, Utah/Bingham), Garrett Dickerson (Oradell, NJ/Bergen Catholic) and Casey Tucker (Chandler, Ariz./Hamilton). They also grab a commitment from new defensive end target Uriah-Dillon Leiataua (Copton, Calif./Dominguez).
Worst-case scenario: After being committed for seemingly forever, top-ranked pocket passer Keller Chryst (Palo Alto, Calif./Palo Alto) abruptly changes course and is swayed by the new hire at USC. Linebackers Joey Alfieri (Portland, Ore./Jesuit) and Bobby Okereke (Tustin, Calif./Foothill) eventually give in to a consistent and tough recruiting push from Oregon and sign with the Ducks. The Cardinal also miss out on the five targets mentioned in the previous section.
Best-case scenario: Somewhat off the radar now, the Bruins close stronger than any Pac-12 program and surge to the top of the conference rankings as they capitalize on the new USC head coaching hire's inability to make an instant recruiting impact. Not only does UCLA grab the teammate trio of Malachi Dupre, Mattrell McGraw and Kenny Young (River Ridge, La./John Curtis Christian), the Bruins clean up locally, signing John Smith (Long Beach, Calif./Poly), Michiah Quick (Fresno, Calif./Central East), Damien Mama (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco), Bryce Dixon (Ventura, Calif./St. Bonaventure) and Joe Mixon (Oakley, Calif./Freedom), as well as flip Viane Talamaivao (Corona, Calif./Centennial) away from his Alabama commitment.
Worst-case scenario: The USC coaching hire makes a splash and has an immediate effect on recruits. That, coupled with constant rumors about Jim Mora and his assistant possibly leaving for the NFL, weighs down UCLA's recruiting efforts. The Bruins are unable to hit the gas after a slow start and eventually miss out on the New Orleans trio, then watch as USC grabs commitment after commitment from Los Angeles area prospects.
Best-case scenario: Athletic director Pat Haden nails the coaching hire and the new Trojans coaches can simply show up on the recruiting trail and collect commitments. Damien Mama (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco) and John Smith (Long Beach, Calif./Poly) jump on board quickly, which paves the way for California standouts Michiah Quick (Fresno, Calif./Central East) and Bryce Dixon (Ventura, Calif./St. Bonaventure) to do the same. The class is capped off with a signing day commitment from Adoree' Jackson (Gardena, Calif./Serra).
Worst-case scenario: The slide continues for the Trojans, as the losses mount and the aura of the last decade fades completely. ESPN 300 prospects D.J. Calhoun (El Cerrito, Calif./El Cerrito), Malik Dorton (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco) and Toa Lobendahn (La Habra, Calif./La Habra) all decommit and sign with Pac-12 South programs, while the Trojans are left trying to fend off Mountain West programs for Los Angeles prospects on signing day.
Best-case scenario: It all starts by keeping ESPN 300 tight end Dalton Schultz (South Jordan, Utah/Bingham) at home, winning a huge recruiting battle over Stanford, Notre Dame, Washington and others. The Utes also find a way to flip BYU commit Isaiah Nacua (Provo, Utah/Timpview) and wow the defensive back trio of Denzel Fisher (Compton, Calif./Centennial), Naijiel Hale (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco) and Darren Gardenhire (Long Beach, Calif./Cabrillo) enough to sway them away from commitments to UCLA, Arizona and San Jose State, respectively.
Worst-case scenario: Not only does Schultz head to a Pac-12 rival, top commit Kenyon Frison (West Valley City, Utah/Granger) is pulled away by Oklahoma and three-star receiver Raelon Singleton (Crosby, Texas/Crosby) opts to stay closer to home. The Utes are also shut out of Los Angeles when receiver Jeremy McNichols (Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif./Santa Margarita) grabs a late offer from a program closer to home and opts to go there instead.
Best-case scenario: The Huskies lock up the state of Washington, grabbing signatures from ESPN 300 safety Bishard Baker (Bellevue, Wash./Bellevue), offensive tackle Kaleb McGary (Fife, Wash./Fife), defensive tackle Marcus Griffin (Bellevue, Wash./Bellevue) and offensive lineman Drew Clarkson (Camas, Wash./Camas). Washington also makes a huge splash by winning the recruiting battle for ESPN 300 running back Joe Mixon (Oakley, Calif./Freedom) and pairs him in the backfield with four-star back Demario Richard (Palmdale, Calif./Palmdale). The Huskies also sign one of the most highly sought-after players in the junior college ranks, defensive lineman Claudeson Pelon (Mesa, Ariz./Mesa College).
Worst-case scenario: Not only do the Huskies miss out on Baker, McGary, Griffin and Clarkson, they lose them to a combination of Oregon and Washington State. The 2014 class also takes a hit with the decommitments of Erik Brown (Fontana, Calif./Summit) and Jonathan Lockett (Santa Ana, Calif./Mater Dei), when the Los Angeles schools make them priorities heading into signing day.
Best-case scenario: The Cougars beat the Huskies for Clarkson and also hang onto Griffin in a publicized battle. ESPN 300 defensive tackle Ainuu Taua (Lompoc, Calif./Lompoc) and offensive guard Kammy Delp (Pomona, Calif./Diamond Ranch) enjoy their time in Pullman enough to make commitments, and Washington State is able to reach into Georgia for a commitment from running back Josh Boyd (Norcross, Ga./Norcross). Quarterback Peyton Bender (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla./Cardinal Gibbons) continues his torrid pace on the field and turns Sunshine State prospects onto the Cougars enough for Washington State to land a handful of Florida recruits. Mike Leach's program also finds continued success in the junior college ranks and bests last year's mark of three ESPN JC 100 prospects.
Worst-case scenario: Griffin flips to Washington and the Cougars swing and miss at the junior college level, unable to sign any prospects who can provide an immediate impact. Dynamic running back Calvin Green (Sacramento, Calif./Luther Burbank) spurns the Cougars for a Pac-12 rival and Washington State doesn't sign a prospect from Texas, as Leach is unable to find success this year in the state where he found so much success as a head coach.