Pac-12 Spotlight: Highlights, predictions for 2023 class
As recruiting classes begin to take shape across the country ahead of a busy summer of official visits, now is a great time to take a look at how the Pac-12 is faring heading into the thick of the cycle. Take a look at some of the highlights and a few predictions for the Pac-12's 2023 recruiting rankings.
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SURPRISE SO FAR: Colorado
Colorado is second in the Pac-12 rankings, aided by 10 early commitments. That’s really the biggest surprise so far for the Buffaloes, that they’ve been so aggressive taking pledges this early in the recruiting cycle and getting a jumpstart on the competition.
There are commitments from six states, led by four-star athlete CJ Turner out of Star City, Ark., not traditionally a hot spot for Colorado recruiting. Then coach Karl Dorrell and his staff have had success in both Texas and California this recruiting cycle.
MOST IMPORTANT COMMIT SO FAR: Malachi Nelson
If Lincoln Riley had stayed at Oklahoma, there was a very good chance Malachi Nelson was going to play for the Sooners. The five-star quarterback from Los Alamitos, Calif., committed to the Big 12 power, but when Riley surprisingly left for USC, Nelson quickly backed off that pledge and picked the Trojans.
There have been a lot of high-level quarterbacks – and some five-stars – at USC in recent years playing that position with mixed results. But Nelson is a perfect fit for Riley’s offense. He had a solid junior season at Los Al last year throwing to fellow USC commit Makai Lemon and four-star receiver Deandre Moore, who has Louisville, USC and others high on the list.
Nelson has a low-key demeanor, but he’s focused on building an elite recruiting class around him. Having him on board should help USC get skill players in this class, just the type Riley needs to succeed with the Trojans.
KEEP AN EYE ON: Oregon
The Ducks only have three commitments so far, but coach Dan Lanning and his excellent staff of recruiters might only be getting going. There are a ton of prospects that could end up in Oregon’s class – some local, some regional and some national prospects – as Lanning looks to build his first full recruiting class in Eugene.
The biggest fish is five-star defensive end Jayden Wayne from Tacoma (Wash.) Lincoln, who has Oregon after him hard but SEC schools seem to have most of his focus right now. Four-star quarterback Jaden Rashada, four-star cornerback Caleb Presley and four-star tight end Riley Williams are some others to watch. Three-star DE Collins Acheampong from Anaheim (Calif.) Fairmont Prep is an intriguing prospect who will visit Eugene this weekend.
NEED TO STEP IT UP: Arizona State
The amount of bad publicity coming out of Arizona State is striking, from NCAA issues to coaches and players leaving to the fate of Herm Edwards over the long term. All of those negative headlines have impacted recruiting. The Sun Devils finished last in the Pac-12 team rankings in 2022 and now they have only one commitment heading into the summer, from three-star quarterback Israel Carter out of Corona (Calif.) Centennial.
Arizona has much more traction despite a far worse season. Getting in-state kids is always tough and there are issues within the Sun Devils' program that need to be figured out while also putting together a class.
MY PREDICTION FOR TOP THREE PAC-12 CLASSES
USC is expected to load up. So many Southern California prospects – especially elite prospects – just needed a reason to be interested in the Trojans again, and Riley should be the answer. Will it be an immediate turnaround back to national prominence? Probably not. But top prospects and fans are excited about the program’s direction once again, and Riley should be able to win big in the Pac-12.
There is a lot of potential for Oregon to score big on the recruiting trail since Lanning and defensive coordinator Tosh Lupoi can use their SEC and NFL chops in recruiting. Offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham is well-connected and then Demetrice Martin and the rest of the staff can close as well. There is a possibility Oregon could surprise with how it loads up in this class.
Utah will be an interesting one. The Utes have only two commits so far in four-star quarterback Mack Howard and three-star linebacker Mateaki Helu, who cleared up some recent confusion and is sticking with the in-state school. But the Utes have a lot of opportunity with local kids. OL Spencer Fano and DE Hunter Clegg are very much in the picture, and stealing four-star TE Walker Lyons would be huge.