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Pac-12 breakdown: Recruiting storylines to follow for 2018 class

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College football recruiting is often about momentum, and the challenge for most programs is carrying that momentum over from class to class, even if the on-field results vary. Today we take a look at some notable recruiting streaks in the Pac-12 and analyze whether or not schools can extend them with their efforts in the 2018 class.

1. Will USC finish in the Pac-12's top two for the 17th straight year?

Only four times since the start of the Rivals.com era in 2002 has USC not ended atop the conference rankings, and all four were second-place finishes. After winning the Rose Bowl and turning a corner under coach Clay Helton, it looks as if the Trojans should be able to recruit well again.

There is significant reason for optimism. USC already has firm pledges from five-star quarterback Matt Corral of Long Beach (Calif.) Poly and five-star linebacker Palaie Gaoteote of Las Vegas Bishop Gorman.

Five-star receivers Jalen Hall and Amon-Ra St. Brown are both high on the Trojans early and both could be game-changers. Plenty of other top four-stars in the West region and across the country are also serious about USC; the 2017 Rose Bowl victory only further strengthened the Trojans’ brand.

2. Will top West talent leave?

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Five-star Najee Harris left California for Alabama in 2017

A disturbing trend, at least for Pac-12 programs, in recent years has been the prevalence of top-level players leaving the region for national powerhouses across the country. It could continue this recruiting cycle.

Last time, five-star Najee Harris, the top-rated player in the 2017 class, picked Alabama, and five-star offensive guard Wyatt Davis landed at Ohio State. Harris could be the next big-time back for the Crimson Tide and has already shown well in spring practice.

In the 2016 class, five-star linebacker Caleb Kelly picked Oklahoma, and five-star offensive tackle Jonah Williams selected Alabama as well. The Crimson Tide, Ohio State, Nebraska and many other programs continue to come West for talent, and it could be a problem for Pac-12 schools trying to land the best of the best.

The good news for the Pac-12? The top five prospects in the state of California could all very well stay close to home. The bad news for many of the conference's programs? All five could very well end up playing at USC.

3. Can Taggart repeat with another strong finish?

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2017 Oregon signee Deommodore Lenoir

Oregon finished second in the conference rankings last recruiting cycle when first-year coach Willie Taggart did a great job closing on a bunch of four-stars including Deommodore Lenoir, who has star quality.

The Ducks are off to a slow start with the 2018 group as only one prospect – three-star RB Travis Dye – is committed, but a bunch of top recruits are assuredly waiting to see how Taggart and his team performs on the field this season.

Oregon has not finished lower than fifth in the Pac-12 rankings dating back to 2010, and the Ducks had a top-two placing in 2011.

Maybe a quick start is not in the cards for this Oregon class, but the pressure will be on Taggart closer to National Signing Day to load up with another group of talented playmakers that Oregon has had over the years

4. Where will Washington finish?

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Four-star Washington commit Austin Osborne

Washington is cruising. The Huskies are coming off an appearance in the College Football Playoff, and they’re getting excellent press since Sidney Jones, Kevin King and others could be high NFL Draft picks.

With the current top-rated class in the Pac-12 and ninth nationally, coach Chris Petersen has a potential big-time threat stirring in the Pacific Northwest.

Last recruiting cycle, Washington didn’t finish all that well but still had a top-five class in the Pac-12. So far, the Huskies have dipped into California for four-star WRs Austin Osborne and Marquis Spiker, loaded up with two four-star QBs including in-state standout Jacob Sirmon. Washington has a lot of momentum going through this offseason.

5. Will UCLA continue to recruit at a high level?

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2017 five-star UCLA signee Jaelan Phillips

Regularly close to the top of the Pac-12 team rankings, UCLA has done an excellent job recruiting under coach Jim Mora.

Since 2012, the Bruins have finished in the top four among conference teams. They landed five-stars Jaelan Phillips and Darnay Holmes in this last recruiting class, and both have potential game-changing ability from early on in their careers.

The Bruins haven’t had a 10-win season in two campaigns, but with former five-star quarterback Josh Rosen back and healthy and a bunch of talented key players, UCLA could be in line for big things – on the field and in recruiting.

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