The lifeblood of college football revolves around middle-aged men convincing 17 year-old kids to join their team; we just happen to call it recruitment. The biggest recruiting holiday of the year, National Signing Day, just occurred on Wednesday. Nearly every player in the Top 100 signs their letters of intent (essentially, their pledges) on this day and people can understand how the recruiting classes will look.
Let’s take a look at the Pac-12 South in inverse rankings (according to 247.com composite rankings).
South: 6th | Pac-12: 10th
Arizona came off of a dismal 3-9 season in 2016. Two seasons ago, the Wildcats went 10-4, appeared in the Pac-12 Championship Game, and narrowly lost in the Fiesta Bowl. Despite that, they finished 9th in the Pac-12 and 5th in the South. In 2015-2016, they finished 9th and 5th respectively, again. Arizona has been known to have successful seasons, is located close to the West Coast cradle of recruiting (Los Angeles), and have a well known coach, but still cannot put together highly competitive recruiting classes.
Nathan Tillford, Running Back, Four Stars
On the plus-side, Arizona was able to pick up a Top 20 running back to headline their recruiting class. On the downside, Nathan Tillford is their only four star recruit. Rich Rodriguez can never have enough running backs, though, so it helps to have a high-quality athlete here.
Arizona was on the warpath to pick up as many serviceable linebackers as possible. Arizona circles cite Tony Fields (3* Athlete), Josh Brown (3* Inside Linebacker), Anthony Pandy (3* Weak D. End), and Colin Schooler (3* Inside Linebacker) as incoming freshmen who could see playing time early and often.
South: 5th | Pac-12: 8th
Akin to Arizona, 2014 was very kind to Arizona State. They won ten games and were ranked #7 at one point in the season. In 2015, they started at #15 and proceeded to waste the ranking away, going 6-7. 2016 saw them going 5-7. With that being said, unlike Arizona, this is the first season that Arizona State has fallen outside of the Pac-12’s Top 5 recruiting classes since 2012 (7th). Tempe remains crucially close to Los Angeles and has a reputation as a very exciting place to be an 18-to-22 year-old.
Alex Perry, Cornerback, Four Stars
Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas, NV) produced a lot of talent for this year’s class. Tate Martell and Tyjon Lindsey were the most noted as a top quarterback and wide receiver. Alex Perry is heading to Arizona State from Bishop Gorman as the nation’s 21st best corner to help a defense in dire need of help. Arizona State finished 124th in the country in points allowed per game and a four-star talent is always welcome in those situations.
Blake Barnett, Quarterback, Four Stars
Blake Barnett decided to transfer from Alabama to Arizona State over the offseason after being beaten out by the freshman phenom, Jalen Hurts. Interestingly, the NCAA allowed Barnett to transfer without sitting out a year; presumably because he quit the Alabama team after the first few weeks of the season. This ruling was a huge boon for Arizona State and could very well lead to Blake Barnett, a former five-star and #1 QB, to take the opening day snaps for the Sun Devils.
South: 4th | Pac-12: 7th
Colorado experienced quite the Cinderella story this year going from perennial doormat of the Pac-12 to a Pac-12 Championship runner-up. They were sufficiently manhandled in the Pac-12 Championship but were still able to make an impression on the college football landscape. Despite setting the world abuzz, they were not able to crack the top half of Pac-12 recruiting rankings. That being said, there were still quite a few solid catches.
Jake Moretti, Offensive Tackle, Four Stars
The key to a successful offense starts with the five up front. Anyone who watches football with regularity will notice how an extra second or two can mean worlds of difference for offensive production. Moretti hails from Colorado and it would have been a sincere disappointment if the Buffs couldn’t have landed him. They did, however, secure his commitment and they fully expect him to be a pillar to protect the quarterback for the next four seasons.
Javier Edwards (JuCo), Defensive Tackle, Three Stars
Admittedly, picking a JuCo recruit as an instant impact player is a bit of a cop-out. Junior College recruits come in with only two or three years of eligibility remaining and are largely recruited for plug-and-play-ability. Colorado returns a lot of experienced players next year who saw playing time on both sides of the ball. The one sector of the team that does not have this luxury is defensive line. Expect Edwards to compete right away for a now-vacant nose tackle spot on the line.
South: 3rd | Pac-12: 6th
Utah had a very Jekyll-and-Hyde season in 2016. They beat USC and BYU early, but lost to Cal, Oregon, and Colorado later in the year, damning their chances at a Pac-12 Championship appearance. Despite the bumps in the road, Utah was able to wrangle in their best class in the Pac-12 since 2011.
Jaylon Johnson, Cornerback, Four Stars
Ever since joining the Pac-12, Utah has been known for an exceptional defense. 2016 was no exception with the Utes holding the 33rd best scoring defense. While Jaylon Johnson might not get immediate playing time, he will certainly be competing for snaps with four of Utah’s cornerbacks graduating this year.
Pick a Defensive Back
Similar to Arizona’s linebacker issue, Utah saw many players leaving their secondary this offseason. Jaylon Johnson (above), Tareke Lewis (3* Cornerback, JuCo), Javelin Guidry (3* Cornerback), and Corrion Ballard (4* Safety, JuCo) will all compete for playing time this fall. While it is not the best situation to have so many new faces in a pass-happy Pac-12, Utah certainly did what they could to restock the openings with top talent.
South: 2nd | Pac-12: 4th
One of the benefits of being located in Los Angeles is being able to recruit premier talent even after going 4-8. Do not let the 4th place ranking in the Pac-12 fool you, either. The Bruins were able to pick up two consensus five-star recruits along with five consensus four star recruits.
Top Recruits & Instant Impact
Unless you’re Alabama, it’s tough to recruit five-star players and not have them be both your best recruits and have the potential to contribute right away.
Jaelan Phillips, Defensive End, Five Stars
Jaelan Phillips became quite the story over the course of recruitment. At the beginning of his junior year, Phillips was rated #375 in the 24/7 Composite ranking. He is now the #3 player and was #1 at one point this offseason. Measuring nearly 6’6″ and weight in at 253 lbs., he will prove to be a nightmare for opposing offensive coordinators and quarterbacks alike.
Darnay Holmes, Cornerback, Five Stars
Holmes was somewhat of a mystery right up until his commitment. He joins Jaelan Phillips on defense to bolster a UCLA squad that could use a bit of help having given up the 59th most points last year.
South: 1st | Pac-12: 1st
After the fifty point evisceration by Alabama, it would have been tough to predict USC winning double digit games and clinching a Rose Bowl victory in what was perhaps the best game objectively of the 2016-2017 season. Just like UCLA, a benefit of being located in Los Angeles is the ability to attract premier talent to your school. With a young Sam Darnold at QB, there’s a lot to attract recruits with.
Stephen Carr, Running Back, Five Stars
To pin down one position that Southern California is known for cultivating is difficult. With names like O.J. Simpson, Marcus Allen, and Reggie Bush, running back certainly has a case to be made. Stephen Carr commits to USC as the #3 player in his position and the #20 player in the country. While there is quite a stable of runners at USC, there is no doubt that Carr can make an impact sooner than later.
Joseph Lewis, Wide Receiver, Five Stars
Aside from running back, Trojan wide receivers are nothing to overlook, either. Standing 6’2″ tall and sporting a 200 lb. frame, Lewis has as good a chance as any to make an instant impact in a young, yet very strong, USC offense in 2017. If Lewis clicks early, the combination with Darnold might be one that runs the Pac-12 for years.
Final Rankings (South)
School – Total Class Points – Average Player Rating
- Southern California – 295.55 pts – 91.84/100 avg rating
- UCLA – 227.52 pts – 88.17/100 avg rating
- Utah – 202.37 pts – 86.35/100 avg rating
- Colorado – 202.32 pts – 85.01/100 avg rating
- Arizona State – 199.75 pts – 86.02/100 avg rating
- Arizona – 184.96 pts – 83.56/100 avg rating