- Erik McKinney, ESPN Staff Writer
Four Pac-12 schools find themselves in the top 40 this week, as Stanford and Arizona each pushed forward one space to land at 30 and 31, respectively, while USC and Washington round out the list, at 39 and 40. It's been a relatively slow start to the recruiting year for the Pac-12, as many of the top West region recruits continue to be intrigued by schools out of the area. But that didn't stop one Pac-12 program from going on a huge summer run of commitments.
Trending up: The Arizona Wildcats have been on fire this summer as Rich Rodriguez’s program has landed 19 verbal commitments between June 1 and Aug. 3. Commits say they love the Arizona coaching staff and how they relate to players. After adding a number of high school recruits on the offensive side of the ball, the Wildcats turned to the junior college ranks to tack on defensive players, including linebacker Antonio Smothers, defensive tackle Jeff Worthy and safety Jamie Byrd.
Trending down: USC will have an opportunity to right the ship once the season starts, but for right now, it’s easy to notice the momentum in Troy is not what it was at the end of last summer, when the Trojans held the No. 1 class in the country. Recently, running back Joe Mixon (Oakley, Calif./Freedom) left USC off his top 10 list and 2015 quarterback target Ricky Town (Ventura, Calif./St. Bonaventure), a local product for the Trojans, committed to Alabama.
One to watch: Three-star outside linebacker Bobby Okereke (Tustin, Calif./Foothill) will announce his commitment on Saturday. Okereke, 6-foot-1 and 213 pounds, had a phenomenal spring and summer and will now have his choice between every Pac-12 power program. His finalists include Cal, Northwestern, Oregon, Stanford, USC, Vanderbilt and Washington. Academics are obviously important to Okereke and Stanford appears to be the frontrunner at this point, but USC and Cal could be there in the end as well. Trojans fans will likely hope that Okereke’s sister, who attends USC, will give the local school an edge.
Bold prediction: More than half the conference will wind up in the final team rankings. There have been so many facility and stadium upgrades in this conference that once recruits begin taking their official visits in the fall, commitments are sure to follow. Additionally, the product on the field is going to impress recruits, as a number of Pac-12 coaches feel good about their chances this year. In addition to the four programs already ranked, Oregon is nearly a lock to put together a strong recruiting run and finish in the top 40. UCLA's staff has proven they have what it takes to hang with the best in the conference on the recruiting trail. And either Cal or Arizona State -- or perhaps both -- will wind up there, as the coaching staffs at those two schools have recruits' attention right now.