On Wednesday, every media outlet that covers recruiting in college football, ESPN.com included, attempted to rank the incoming recruiting classes across the country. Much like preseason polls, there is a lot of guesswork and projecting involved, which means sometimes they can be accurate and other times they can be, well, not even close.
In 2014, ESPN ranked the Pac-12 recruiting classes like this: 1. USC (No. 14 overall); 2. Stanford (15); 3. Arizona State (21); 4. Arizona (23); 5. UCLA (26); 6. Oregon (27); 7. Washington (45); 8. Cal (46); 9. Washington State (61); 10. Utah (64); 11. Oregon State (67); 12. Colorado (71).
Enough time has passed to look back and see just how accurate those rankings were. There’s still time for things to change -- a significant number of the players have two seasons of eligibility remaining -- but here’s a look back at those classes and how they stack up now.
Here is a list of some major contributors to the Huskies’ College Football Playoff team: S Budda Baker, DL Vita Vea, WR Dante Pettis, CB Sidney Jones, S JoJo McIntosh, DL Greg Gaines. They were part of the same class and back then only Baker was considered a top-300 player. Safe to say this group turned out to be much, much better than No. 7 in the Pac-12 and No. 45 nationally. Baker and Jones declared for the NFL draft, while Vea and Pettis also had reason to consider an early jump. Full class.
Of the Trojans' top-six ranked players, five started the majority of their true freshman seasons and three of them -- CB Adoree’ Jackson, WR Juju Smith-Schuster and OG Damien Mama -- left early for the NFL draft. Safety John Plattenberg, one of the class’ lower-ranked players, also broke into the starting lineup in his first year on campus, and LB Uchenna Nwosu played an important role this past year. The group also includes some high-profile misses: TE Bryce Dixon was sentenced to six years in state prison in April and Don Hill was removed from the team after allegations of sexual assault. Full class.
It was a highly touted group then and has certainly lived up to expectations, maybe even exceeded them. On signing day, the star of the class was Solomon Thomas. He redshirted during his first year on campus, developed into one of the best pass rushers in the country and could be a top-10 pick in the upcoming NFL draft. Stanford’s more important signing, though, was Christian McCaffrey. ESPN ranked him as the No. 26 athlete in the country, but as a sophomore running back in 2015 he turned in one of the best seasons in college football history. Full class.
Since these classes were signed, Stanford is the only team with more wins than Utah. The Utes brought in some important junior college transfers (WR Kaelin Clay, S Tevin Carter, DL Pasoni Tasini) and talented kids from the high school ranks (DL Lowell Lotulelei, S Marcus Williams). Overall, this turned into a very strong group for the Utes. Full class.
Defensive backs Jaleel Wadood and Adarius Picket, defensive linemen Takkarist McKinley, Jacob Tuioti-Mariner and Matt Dickerson and linebacker Kenny Young all were key pieces on a very good UCLA defense this past season. Of those players, only Pickett and Wadood were considered ESPN 300 recruits. Offensively, the impact has been limited, though offensive tackle Kolton Miller looks to be a good one. Full class.
Running backs Royce Freeman and Tony Brooks-James definitely have lived up to their billing and offensive tackle Tyrell Crosby, the No. 118 OT, exceeded his. Defensively, though, it’s hard to give much credit despite notable contributors Arrion Springs, Jimme Swain and Johnny Ragin III. Bottom line: One of the reasons coach Mark Helfrich didn’t last was due to a perceived regression in recruiting and this class was right in the middle of it. Full class.
WR Shay Fields, LB Rick Gamboa, DB Ahkello Witherspoon and WR Jay MacIntyre all were important contributors on this year’s Pac-12 South title team. If we check back in a couple of years, this class could end up ranked even higher. There's already a strong case it should be higher now. Full class.
8. Arizona State
Some of ASU’s best players came from this highly ranked group (RBs Demario Richard and Kalen Ballage, LB D.J. Calhoun and DT Tashon Smallwood), but two junior college defensive linemen (Dalton Stuckey and Darrius Caldwell) didn’t make it to campus and some of the more high-profile players at the time have yet to make a meaningful impact. Full class.
Tre Watson (709) and Vic Enwere (336) combined for more than 1,000 yards rushing, Devante Downs led the team in tackles (84) this year and Luke Rubenzer has had his moments, but this class, as a whole, has contributed very little else. It was the first class coach Sonny Dykes had a full year to put together. Full class.
10. Washington State
A lot of people deserve credit for WSU's recent success, but not many from this class. Hercules Mata’afa came in as the No. 110 defensive end, but has since developed into one of the best defensive players in the Pac-12. He’s one of the few bright spots from a largely disappointing group. Six of the top seven players in this class, as ranked by ESPN.com, were not on the roster in 2016. Full class.
11. Oregon State
It was a large class and they haven’t been hit as hard by departures are some other schools, but outside of running back Ryan Nall (all-Pac-12 honorable mention) there's not much to show from it. Full class.
Only one player made at least 15 tackles this season (Jace Whittaker) and the highest-ranked player, Marquis Ware, played in only two career games (both in 2015) before retiring for medical reasons. QB Brandon Dawkins and RB Nick Wilson are notable signings, but it’s been all downhill since this class was signed. Full class.