Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Breaking down who won and lost in the Pac-12 on National Signing Day.
Stanford's future backfield. We don't want to say anyone could succeed at quarterback or tailback behind a line featuring Andrus Peat, Kyle Murphy, and John Garnett. Dame Helen Mirren would fail, probably. We wouldn't like Bill Nye, the Science Guy's odds. Most 12-year-olds would struggle.
But when we're talking about an offensive line class David Shaw said "could be one of the best in college football history" without hyperbole, it's hard to rule anyone out. And when it comes to players like potential 2012 quarterback starter Brett Nottingham or new running back signee Barry J. Sanders, we think the chances of success are so sky-high as to be nearly guaranteed. Jim Harbaugh and Andrew Luck might be gone, but if the results of National Signing Day are any indication, the Cardinal as a program aren't going anywhere.
The checkbooks of future Pac-12 assistants. The conversions of five-star Shaq Thompson (pictured) and receiver Jordan Payton to Washington from Cal (even if the latter was only temporary) were already evidence enough for the impact of ace recruiter Tosh Lupoi's move from Berkeley to Seattle. The Huskies capping their late surge by stealing away USC commitment Pio Vatuvei and fending off a late challenge from the Trojans for quarterback Cyler Miles was just beating a dead horse, really.
Which is why any coach with bona fide West Coast recruiting connections is likely about to find himself a much hotter commodity than they were before Signing Day began. The Huskies aggressively pursued Topoi, doubled his salary at Cal with their new conference media money, and saw immediate, dramatic dividends. Topoi might have been the first coach to have his wallet fattened overnight by Larry Scott's TV negotiations, but with results like these, he won't be the last.
Jim L. Mora. To silence the doubters for good, Mora will have to win on the field as well as the recruiting trail. But there's little doubt that Mora has at least done the latter. With another high-profile Cal exile safely in the fold in Ellis McCarthy, the Bruins spent Signing Day polishing up an already impressive haul with a pair of blue-chip receivers in Payton and Javon Williams--an area of sore need with Nelson Rosario gone.
The Bruin brass appeared to be aiming to hire the next Pete Carroll when they took a chance on Mora, and though there's still a long way to go before the comparison is valid at the collegiate as well as pro level, this class is a heck of a step in that direction.
Lane Kiffin's pied piper flute. Around mid-afternoon, this was shaping up to be a typical Signing Day for college football's most notorious late-game recruiter; sure, Vatuvei had gon to the Huskies, but Kiffin had also managed to pull both high-upside end Leonard Williams and No. 1 athlete Nelson Agholor (pictured) out of Florida despite each's various Sunshine State suitors. With Miles, Peat, Murphy, and Shittu all considering the Trojans and Murphy's late announcement rumored to be potentially affected by Peat's, another matching set of Signing Day coups appeared within reach.
Instead, the Cardinal swept the big linemen while Miles stuck with the Huskies. Those decisions didn't exactly make the Trojan class a disappointment--far from it, given that it finished 9th in the country while boasting just 16 (uniformly outstanding) recruits. But it does mark the first time that Kiffin wasn't able to simply snap his fingers on Signing Day and come away with a bushel of five-stars; it will be interesting to see if, in 2013, Kiffin doesn't leave things quite so late.
Cal. It's not that the Bears' class wasn't solid, maybe even better than solid; Tom Lemming ranked it 15th despite only having 17 signees, and the Bears did an excellent job of filling needs at both offensive line and wide receiver. It's that it was so close to being a game-changing, program-momentum-turning, spectacular class before Lupoi's defection took the air out of the sails.
Tedford is right that the commitments at the Army All-American game from Thompson, McCarthy, and Payton didn't mean anything on the Bears' bottom line, but it's silly to think they didn't mean the Bears had a clearcut opportunity to sign all three (and others) they couldn't take advantage of. It's debatable, too, when that kind of opportunity will come again for Tedford.
Oregon State's secondary. Want another example of the impact of position coaches on current Pac-12 recruiting? Look no further than the Beaver defensive backfield, which saw no less than four players decommit after OSU secondary coach Keith Heyward -- like Lupoi -- defected to Washington. (One of them was highly regarded corner Devian Shelton, who did get Kiffined away to USC.) The Beavers recovered to still sign four defensive backs, but when even Mike Riley was admitting there were holes at corner that went unfilled, it's safe to say things didn't go as planned.
Maxpreps photos by Gary Jones and Margaret Bowles.