The Pac-10 showed well in bowl season, going an impressive 5-0. With attention now being paid to national signing day, the Pac-10 does not have as much to brag about -- the conference boasts only three teams in the top 25 of the class rankings. Only one, USC, is in the top 20. Everyone else in the conference is once again working to assemble a class that can topple the Trojans. The five bowl teams hope to bring in talent that can keep them bowling next year and keep them in the conference title race. For the other five teams that finished with losing records, this process is a chance for a fresh start, as the future is now.
It is possible that Arizona turned a corner in 2008; the Wildcats notched their first winning season under Mike Stoops and went to and won a bowl game. Now with a successful season under their belt, they are trying to land talent that can keep them on the winning path. The Wildcats have not been very successful in-state; only three of their 16 prep commitments hail from Arizona. However, they have been very busy in California and Texas, with 11 commitments hailing from those two states. The class lacks any ESPNU 150 talent, but this group addresses some needs with solid prospects. Taimi Tutogi (Chula Vista, Calif.) could help them at defensive end or fullback and Jackson Powell (Newbury Park, Calif.) is an end prospect with good upside. The addition of offensive tackle Jake Baratz (Naperville, Ill./North) is a solid pickup, especially with the early departure of Eben Britton. The class also includes five junior-college additions and a quarterback transfer.
Top prospect: Arizona has a need at linebacker and has worked to fill it in this class. The Wildcats have four linebackers on board, including one junior-college transfer and Trevor Erno (Lakewood, Calif.), their top overall prospect. Erno is a top-10 prospect at the inside linebacker position. He is a tough and physical linebacker. Erno may have some limitations in his range, but he should provide Arizona with a good downhill run-stopper and should be able to contribute early on.
Don't be surprised if Arizona lands the state's sixth-rated prospect -- Adam Hall (Tucson, Ariz./Palo Verde) -- who could help the Wildcats at several positions, including wide receiver. The Wildcats have not been very productive in-state, especially not with Arizona's top-rated talent, so this would be a major get.
The Sun Devils had a disappointing season in 2008, and that could cause them to take a slight step back on the recruiting trail. They have seen some top in-state prospects spurn them for programs outside Arizona, but it was not a total loss. They were still very active in-state with 10 current commitments who hail from Arizona. One program that Arizona State has had much success with was Saguaro High School, which is the three-time defending state champion. ASU landed three prospects from that school including the top two in this class. Although outside programs have had success in Arizona State's backyard, the Sun Devils have also done well in other areas. Corner Osahon Irabor (Upland, Calif.) is a good pickup out of California, as is tight end Chris Coyle (Westlake Village, Calif./Oaks Christian).
Top prospect: Arizona had some excellent defensive-line talent this year, and the Sun Devils were able to snare one of the state's top prospects in Corey Adams (Scottsdale, Ariz./Saguaro). The No. 5-rated defensive tackle is a player who should be able to contribute to the Sun Devils defense early on. He has good natural size and athleticism. He is also a smart player who uses good technique to help squeeze the most out of his ability.
Don't be surprised if The Sun Devils -- who have had problems protecting the quarterback -- try to get guard Kody Koebensky (Scottsdale, Ariz./Saguaro) involved early in competition for playing time along the offensive line.
The Golden Bears are proving that recruiting is a marathon, not a sprint. Cal's recruiting got off to a slow start, but it is putting together a strong class that currently sits within the top 25. The Bears have only one ESPNU 150 prospect, but boast many prospects on the fringe; six others rank among the top 20 at their respective positions. One is Allan Bridgford (Mission Viejo, Calif.), a fine quarterback prospect for Jeff Tedford to work with. The offensive line has been given special attention, with five prospects on board along the front, including No. 9-ranked guard Brian Schwenke (Oceanside, Calif.). The Golden Bears have also been very successful in selling prospects who were once committed to other programs, including former Rutgers commit Mark Brazinski (Baskin Ridge, N.J./Immaculata), former Washington commit Deandre Coleman (Seattle/Garfield) and former UCLA commit Stan Hasiak (Kapolei, Hawaii).
Top prospect: Cal has had some good corners in its program recently, including Daymeion Hughes and Syd'Quan Thompson. Now the Golden Bears may have found another star at the position in Steve Williams (Dallas, Texas/Skyline). The No. 7-rated corner was a big get for Cal -- he switched his commitment from Oklahoma to join the Golden Bears. Williams lacks ideal size, but plays big and will throw his body around in run support. He is strong in both man and zone coverage. Williams has smooth hips and can turn with receivers on vertical routes, and he reads the quarterback's eyes well and has good ball skills. Cal was strong against the pass in 2008, and Williams is a player who can help the Bears remain strong in that area
Don't be surprised if The Golden Bears, who currently rank 25th in the nation and third in conference, end up higher in the final recruiting class rankings and second in the conference behind USC.
Much of the buzz around Oregon recruiting has less to do with the Ducks' current class and more with what may still be out there. They are in the running for prospects such as quarterback Tajh Boyd (Hampton, Va./Phoebus) and are at the top of the list of No. 2 running back and Miami commit Bryce Brown (Wichita, Kan./East), who has said he's keeping his options open. While there are some talented prospects out there whom the Ducks could add, the current class is not overly strong. Much emphasis has been placed on trying to get some quick help; the Ducks have seven juco prospects on board, including six on the defensive side of the ball. Although Oregon's prep class is fairly small, it does have some good talent. Defensive end Taylor Hart (Tualatin, Ore.) is a promising prospect from in-state and offensive tackle Everett Benyard (San Diego, Calif./Cathedral Catholic) is a good addition at an area of need. The Ducks have also gone north to add a raw but good linebacker prospect in Boseko Lokombo (Abbotsford, British Columbia/W.J. Mouat Secondary School).
Top prospect: It does not elicit much excitement when the top two prospects in a class are kickers, but the Ducks have a need and are filling it. With both of Oregon's specialists having graduated, Oregon has landed two top kicking prospects. Mike Bowlin (Aliso Viejo, Calif.) is a good place-kicking prospect and Jackson Rice (Moraga, Calif./Campolindo) a good punting prospect.
Don't be surprised if The Ducks add some good talent by signing day, but end up missing out on both Boyd and Brown. Also, don't be surprised if the Ducks utilize some of that junior-college defensive-line help this fall as well as the kickers they are bringing on board.
It was a big year for the Beavers. Mike Riley continues to prove that he can keep his program competitive without highly ranked recruiting classes. The Beavers currently have 20 prep commitments. Although the class lacks big names, there is some solid talent on board. Athlete Kyrell Hudson (Vancouver, Wash./Evergreen) could help the Beavers as a wide receiver, safety or return man. With an offensive-line unit that sported several upperclassmen, Riley has focused on bringing in young talent in the trenches. The Beavers have six linemen committed, including guard Josh Andrews (Ontario, Calif./Colony). The class also has a pair of quarterback commits, including Jack Lomax (Lake Oswego, Ore.), the son of former NFL quarterback Neil Lomax.
Top prospect: The Beavers landed a big win on the recruiting trail with the recent addition of guard Michael Philipp (San Bernardino, Calif./Arroyo). Oregon State beat fellow Pac-10 programs Cal, Oregon, UCLA and Stanford for Philipp, who fills a need. He is a big, physical lineman who can help open running lanes for Jacquizz Rodgers. The addition of Philipp down the stretch is big for Oregon State, and he could see early playing time.
Don't be surprised if The Beavers once again make little noise with their recruiting class, but still stay competitive in the Pac-10 and go bowling in 2009.
Despite only generating a one-win improvement from his first year as coach at Stanford, Jim Harbaugh is building a top-25 caliber class. Harbaugh's enthusiasm and national recruiting scope looks to be paying dividends; the Cardinal currently sit with the conference's second-rated class. Offense is the theme of this 2009 class, as 12 of Stanford's 19 commitments play on that side of the ball. It is not a big surprise that Harbaugh, an old quarterback himself, is bringing another signal-caller into the mix, with Josh Nunes (Upland, Calif.). The second-year coach also put a big emphasis on the tight end position, landing commitments from four prospects at that position, including top-10 tight end prospect Zach Ertz (Danville, Calif./Monte Vista). Four may seem like a lot, but each player brings something different to the table. The class is not all offense; Harbaugh did pluck some good defenders, including two from the East Coast. Top-20 outside linebacker prospect Shayne Skov (Pawling, N.Y./Trinity Pawling) and defensive tackle Terrence Stephens (Gaithersburg, Md./Quince Orchard) headline the defensive additions.
Top prospect: As Stanford tries to aid its passing attack, which was second to last in the conference, it has added a trio of wide receivers, including Jamal Patterson (McDonough, Ga./Henry County), who is an ESPNU 150 prospect. The East Coast import has good size and a wide catch radius. He is a receiver who attacks the ball and can make the grab in traffic and will take a hit to make the catch. He does not display great natural speed and burst, but Patterson builds up to top speed and is a smooth athlete who can create some separation with his route-running. Patterson is a kid with the ability to make some big plays in the passing game and is a good addition for an attack for which no receiver in 2008 averaged more than four catches a game or averaged more than 45 yards receiving per game.
Don't be surprised if Stanford, which is currently in the top 25, has a tough time keeping its spot in the class rankings and suffers a loss before signing day.
Much of the on-field and recruiting spotlight in the city of Los Angeles is focused on USC, but Rick Neuheisel is working to change that. Although there is plenty of work to be done, the current class does have some strong points. The Bruins are hoping they found their quarterback of the future in ESPNU 150 prospect Richard Brehaut (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif./Los Osos). Working to leave no stone unturned, UCLA has been busy luring some talent away from other programs that can help them, such as one-time Miami commit Billy Sanders (Coeur D'Alene, Idaho/Lake City), who could help at tight end or defensive end, and former Arizona commit linebacker Taniela Maka (Long Beach, Calif./David Starr Jordan). The Bruins were also able to get back a prospect they lost in corner Marlon Pollard (San Bernardino, Calif./Cajon), who is one of three top-50 corners in the Bruins' class. On the offensive line, UCLA has a tackle commit with good upside in Nik Abele (Irvine, Calif.), who ironically started to make a name for himself at a USC camp over the summer.
Top prospect: While UCLA has had some success in luring committed prospects to its program, no score was bigger than landing former USC commit and No. 1-ranked tight end Morrell Presley (Carson, Calif.). Presley was a big get for the Bruins not only because they were able to get him away from a rival, but more importantly because he is a good player who can help the Bruins offense right away. Although he could use some more bulk, he is a good-sized kid with the frame to get bigger. Presley runs good routes and has good ball skills. His receiving skills can allow offensive coordinator Norm Chow to flex him out and use him as a weapon in the passing game. He is also a good blocker who could play in-line and aid the run game. Presley is already on campus and should be able to contribute this fall for UCLA as it tries to build a contender.
Don't be surprised if UCLA, which is on the cusp of the top-25 in our class rankings, isn't able to do enough between now and signing day to crack the rankings.
It is no surprise that USC once again sits at the top of the Pac-10 in the recruiting rankings. The Trojans under Pete Carroll have consistently been big-time recruiters, and they are working on their third top-two finish in the past four years. The Trojans currently have 15 prep commitments, and eight are in the ESPNU 150. The class includes three players who rank No. 1 at their positions -- including inside linebacker Vontaze Burfict (Corona, Calif./Centennial) and guard John Martinez (Salt Lake City, Utah/Cottonwood) -- as well as three more players who rank within the top five at their respective positions. The class also boasts two talented USC legacies in No. 10-rated safety T.J McDonald (Fresno, Calif./Edison) and No. 4-rated offensive tackle Kevin Graf (Agoura, Calif.). The fathers of both players were Trojans.
Top prospect: Many Trojans fans may be upset to see Mark Sanchez decide to leave early, but the future does not look bleak. Quarterback Matt Barkley (Santa Ana, Calif./Mater Dei) is the No. 1-ranked prospect in the nation and headlines a talented USC class. Barkley was a bona fide recruiting star coming out of his junior season. The talented signal-caller posted impressive numbers and racked up multiple awards. His senior year went a little rough; Barkley saw his touchdown numbers go down and his interceptions go up. He started out as the No. 1 player in the nation in the ESPNU 150, but dropped over the course of the fall. Given a national platform and surrounded by great players, Barkley proved at the Under Armour All-American game that he is the real deal and is worthy of the No. 1 overall spot. He has good natural skills and is also very poised and polished as a player. The Trojans have good talent on their roster at quarterback, but Barkley is already on campus and could seriously compete for the starting job. It is tough to step in as a quarterback as a true freshman, but he should get right into the mix. The addition of Barkley marks the second time in four years that USC has landed the No. 1 overall player.
Don't be surprised if The Trojans will most certainly land more ESPNU 150 talent. No. 1-rated defensive end Devon Kennard (Phoenix, Ariz./Desert Vista), No. 3-rated offensive tackle Xavier Su'a-Filo (Pleasant Grove, Utah/Timpview) and No. 1-rated linebacker Manti Te'o (Honolulu, Hawaii/Punahou) are all good possibilities. Don't be surprised though if the Trojans who just lost athlete Byron Moore Jr. (Harbor City, Calif. / Narbonne) lose at least one more prospect in their current class by signing day.
Washington suffered a winless season in 2008, making for a tough sell to recruits, but the Huskies are ushering in a new era with former USC assistant Steve Sarkisian. The new head coach will bring a winning attitude, but he will also find the task of luring talent to Seattle in a limited amount of time a difficult one. In-state recruiting seems a bit of a loss this season; the top five committed prospects in the state are heading elsewhere. In addition to the state of Washington, the Huskies also need to be active in California, and this class represents that to an extent. The Huskies' top four prospects all hail from California, including the athletic Nathan Fellner (Fresno, Calif./Clovis West). At this time, the Huskies have only 14 prep commitments, and fans will have to wait until their new leader has a full year to work before they can see what type of talent he can lure to Seattle.
Top prospect: Washington has many needs, so the addition of a prospect like James Johnson (Escondido, Calif./Valley Center) is a key. It is tough to project where he will best fit, but he is a good athlete and a good football player. He could help as a wide receiver -- he has good hands and can make some plays with the ball. He can also aid the Huskies on defense in the secondary. He has played both corner and safety and offers versatility. He needs to polish his game, but is a tough run-defender and has upside. We feel he may fit better on defense, but for a team that ranked near or at the bottom of the conference in most statistical categories, the Huskies will surely find a place for Johnson.
Don't be surprised if The Huskies get their current top two commits Johnson and Fellner to work quickly, as both are athletic and can at least help on special teams.
Recruiting to Washington State is not impossible, but it sure is tough. Coming of a 2-11 season, Paul Wulff has a tough task in trying to build the Cougars. Much recruiting emphasis has been put on attracting in-state talent -- the Cougars can boast being the current Apple Cup champs -- and in California. Of their 18 prep commitments, 14 hail from one of those two states. A solid get from outside those two areas is Darren Markle (Meridian, Idaho/Mountain View) an inside linebacker who is tough versus the run. Fans need to keep an eye on Chris Mastin (Spokane, Wash./Lewis & Clark), a high-motor defender who could land at end or outside linebacker. He is undersized but fun to watch and should be able to make some plays in Pullman.
Top prospect: The Cougars have only two offensive linemen in their class, but both are among their top four recruits, including top prospect Sebastian Valenzuela (Burbank, Calif./Burroughs). The guard lacks ideal height, but for a 300-pound lineman he carries his weight well. He moves well and can create some push in the run game. Valenzuela needs to be more consistent in areas of his play, but he has the tools to be a solid and productive lineman for the Cougars offense. This may not be a flashy pickup, but in time, hopefully he can help aid an offense that was 110th nationally in rushing and 116th in sacks allowed.
Don't be surprised if The Cougars have some sleepers in this class that can help this program, in both Mastin and undersized but hard-hitting safety Asi Hosea (Murray, Utah/Cottonwood).
Craig Haubert is the recruiting coordinator for Scouts Inc. and has more than a decade of coaching experience. Haubert was an assistant at the University of Nebraska-Omaha and also served as the fullbacks/linebackers coach and director of football operations for the Detroit Fury of the Arena Football League.