West Spotlight: Programs poised to make some noise
As we head down the final stretch to December’s early signing period, Rivals.com takes a look at five schools set to make noise in the West when prospects begin signing letters of intent.
In the last few recruiting cycles, Alabama has made the West region an even bigger priority in its classes and the 2019 group is no exception. The Crimson Tide have come out West for running back Najee Harris, offensive lineman Jonah Williams and others and it’s paid off in a big way.
Four-star linebacker Henry To’oto’o from Concord (Calif.) De La Salle does not talk much about his recruitment, but it seems like Alabama and UCLA look best. The Crimson Tide could be difficult to beat, especially since defensive coordinator Tosh Lupoi has his connection to De La Salle.
Other top prospects still serious about Alabama include four-star defensive back Noa Pola-Gates, who is also looking at Penn State, Nebraska and possibly Arizona State, four-star defensive tackle Siaki Ika and five-star defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux, although that one might be a stretch at this point.
One source told me this week that a lot of top recruits are getting more and more interested in Arizona State because their dream is to play in the NFL and they are feeling confident that former pro coach Herm Edwards could help get him there. A cautious optimism was there early in the season, but more talented players are taking a serious look at the Sun Devils because of Edwards’ success this season and the aggressive recruiting style of assistant coach Antonio Pierce and others.
One of those players is four-star quarterback Jayden Daniels, who has thrown for 3,883 yards with 55 touchdowns and three interceptions this season. Utah and Cal are also really high on Daniels’ list, but after a recent visit to Tempe, there is no question Arizona State is right in the thick of things for the talented quarterback from San Bernardino (Calif.) Cajon.
Others to watch include four-star defensive linemen Stephon Wright and Matthew Pola-Mao. Four-star Noa Pola-Gates recently took a trip to Arizona State as well but that could still be a long-shot as Alabama and Penn State have held an edge there.
The Ducks have already done such an outstanding job in this recruiting class that they’re second nationally in the team recruiting rankings behind only Alabama - and coach Mario Cristobal and his staff might not be done yet.
Oregon seems to be surging for five-star defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux from Westlake Village (Calif.) Oaks Christian and that would be huge since the Ducks would be beating Florida State, Alabama, USC and Florida for his services. The Ducks are also seriously involved with four-star defensive tackle Siaki Ika, the top-ranked recruit in Utah, and they have an outside shot with Kyle Ford and others as well.
The Trojans find themselves in unfamiliar territory this late in the recruiting cycle - fourth in the Pac-12 team rankings. That probably won’t stay that way for very long even if prospects are keeping a close watch on the future of coach Clay Helton, who is officially in the hot-seat category after losing to Cal at home last weekend.
Still, five-star athlete Bru McCoy is a top priority and it seems like USC is in a good position to land his commitment. He has former Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei teammates playing a prominent role on the team and his 2020 quarterback, Bryce Young, is also committed to the Trojans.
Don’t count out five-star cornerback Chris Steele, who recently backed off his USC pledge, to re-commit to the Trojans. Florida probably has the edge but staying home could still be a possibility. Others high on the list include four-star receiver Kyle Ford, four-star defensive end Ty Robinson and four-star offensive lineman Sean Rhyan among others.
There has been so much discussion this recruiting cycle about Oregon’s fantastic class that maybe Washington’s group has been a little overlooked - and the Huskies could end with a bang as well if things fall the right way.
Four-star receiver Kyle Ford from Orange (Calif.) Lutheran had an excellent visit to Washington this fall and the Huskies might even hold a slight edge in his recruitment over USC. A bunch of other four-stars are also in play including linebacker Daniel Heimuli and defensive tackle Faatui Tuitele, the top-ranked player in Washington. Four-star defensive lineman Stephon Wright is planning to visit with the Huskies again this weekend. That cannot be a bad sign.
Washington is currently second in the Pac-12 rankings. If the Huskies finish in that spot, it would be their best finish in the Rivals.com era dating back to 2002.