2015 National Signing Day preview: Pac-12 football's biggest recruiting storylines
The college football season might have ended with Oregon's loss to Ohio State in the CFP National Championshp, but coaches don't get much of a rest this time of year. 2015 National Signing Day is coming up on Wednesday, marking the first day for prep stars to ink their National Letters of Intent with their respective dream schools. There are still plenty of uncommitted, blue-chip recruits to be swayed at the 11th hour, but we have a good idea of what the 2015 Pac-12 football recruiting class will bring to the table.
Pac-12 Networks and Pac-12.com will keep you updated throughout the day on all of the latest signings and surprises, while Mike Yam, Rick Neuheisel and Yogi Roth will break down the busy day at 5:30 p.m. PT on "Pac-12 Football Weekly: Signing Day Special" with a special 2.5-hour live show. Here's a preview of what to expect before Wednesday's flurry of signatures and faxes across the country.
Quarterback Anu Solomon has to be happy with what coach Rich Rodriguez and his staff have been able to accomplish on the recruiting trail for the upcoming class. It looks like Solomon and the Wildcats will be getting some in-state help to anchor the offensive line, while the defensive front is expected to beef up as well. Once again, the team figures to have a haul of athletes hailing from Southern California.
It looks like this Wildcats class is top-heavy based on projections from recruiting services, but the coaching staff has found diamonds in the rough before. After all, 2014 Defensive Player of the Year Scooby Wright was just a two-star recruit coming out of high school. He even refers to himself as @TwoStarScoob on Twitter.
The early enrolling period, which allows eligible prep and junior college players to begin school during the spring semester, has made a bigger impact on college football in recent years. The Pac-12 might be feeling it in 2015 with the arrival of Davon Durant, who signed with ASU in December and is widely regarded as the top junior college linebacer in the nation.
As far as Signing Day goes, coach Todd Graham and his staff have put together a strong recruiting class once again full of four-star commitments. Sun Devil fans have to be happy with the momentum that the program is sustaining in recruiting the past few years with Graham at the helm. Mike Bercovici is set to take over at quarterback now that Taylor Kelly's career has ended, but the Sun Devils are expected to sign a couple of talented signal-callers to the fold.
The Cal football program took a big leap forward in 2014 under second-year coach Sonny Dykes, but the Bears aren't quite a powerhouse when it comes to recruiting right now. Still, two more seasons with quarterback Jared Goff under center running that prolific offense has a lot of prep players excited.
The Bears are expected to add some instant impact players to the offense next year, keeping up the tradition of talent at wide receiver and running back at the school in recent years. But the defense needs help and Cal doesn't look like it will be getting many blue-chippers on that side of the ball.
It's been a while since Colorado was a football school, and the Buffs' recruiting prospects reflect that. Colorado is expected to sign some top in-state commits, but overall the Buffs don't look like they'll be adding a bunch of prime time prep players for 2015. But the school has been able to attract commitments from throughout the Pac-12 footprint and even Texas, so coach Mike MacIntyre and his staff have to be happy with the progress they've made in his two-plus years on the job.
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When you're the defending national runner-up, you run an offense like Oregon's and you play at raucous Autzen Stadium, it's no wonder why so many top-shelf recruits are lined up to go to Eugene. Oh, and those crazy cool uniforms from Nike every week don't hurt, either.
The big question on everyone's mind: who's going to play quarterback now that Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota is NFL-bound? Backup Jeff Lockie will get a good shot during spring ball, but the team is also expected to sign some talent at the position and may attract a transfer to jump into the competition as well. The Ducks have already got a boost from early enrollee and consensus five-star defensive end Canton Kaumatule, who is expected to be in the mix for a starting job.
Mike Riley's unexpected departure from Corvallis came on Dec. 4, leaving new coach Gary Andersen less than two months to try and build his own recruiting class while holding on to top OSU commits. It's a tall order for any program to juggle, so don't expect the Beavers to add many primetime players with this year's freshman class.
But Oregon State fans should be excited for the future now that Andersen has lured Kalani Sitake from Utah to be his defensive coordinator. Aside from his acumen as a coach, Sitake is also renowned for his abilities as a recruiter, something that should help bring players to Corvallis in the coming years.
The Cardinal took a step back in 2014 with an 8-5 final record following four straight seasons of at least 11 wins. But with its blend of top-notch academics and athletics, Stanford usually casts a nationwide net when it comes to targeting prep stars and this year was no different.
Tackle Andrus Peat and cornerback Alex Carter might have left campus a year early to pursue NFL careers, but the Stanford secondary and offensive line should be getting some reinforcements come signing day. Losing Ty Montgomery to graduation was also a big hit for the offense, but some playmakers are expected to sign with Stanford to help quarterback Kevin Hogan.
The Brett Hundley era is over at the Rose Bowl, but many are already looking forward to the "Chosen Rosen." Of all the early enrollees across the Pac-12, perhaps none have garnered as much fanfare as Josh Rosen. The traditional dropback quarterback from Bellflower, California, signed with the school in September and started classes in early January. Rosen is expected to compete with Jerry Neuheisel for the starting gig during spring ball and heading into the fall.
Rosen might not be the only five-star recruit that coach Jim Mora and his staff signs during this cycle, as the Bruins are expected to have one of the strongest classes in the Pac-12. The offensive line struggled mightily in 2014, but some heralded big fellas are committed to the team for next year.
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When it comes to the Pac-12, no one is expected to have a better recruiting class than the USC Trojans, who should rank right up there with the nation's best. Coach Steve Sarkisian has done a fine job directing his staff in his first full recruiting cycle, with former Washington quarterback Marques Tuiasosopo proving to be a key contributor to the program's efforts.
Elite recruits like offensive guard Chuma Edoga and quarterback Ricky Town have already enrolled and are getting ready for spring ball, but it's the defensive player commitments that has everyone raving about USC's recruiting class. With quarterback Cody Kessler returning alongside some more talented playmakers on offense, the Trojans should be a major force in the Pac-12 South next season.
The Utes are expected to dip heavy into the junior college ranks when they assemble their recruiting class this year. Coach Kyle Whittingham's staff took a big hit when defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake left for the similar role with Oregon State, but that should be more of a long-term problem to solve. Utah had a great season on the field in 2014 and finished the year ranked No. 21 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll, but it remains to be seen if that will pay dividends in with this year's class.
Chris Petersen has had a full year to establish his presence in the Pacific Northwest after building Boise State's program from the ground up. With this recruiting class, Petersen has a solid mix of potential playmakers on both sides of the ball, including under center.
In a conference full of quality quarterbacks, Cyler Miles' struggles during 2014 for Washington were noted by many. But promising quarterback recruit Jake Browning has already enrolled for classes and is getting a head start on his college career. Don't be surprised if he's handed the keys for the team's season opener in the fall.
Trying to get recruits to Pullman after eight straight losing seasons is a tough proposition for any coach, but Mike Leach has still put together a pretty solid list of commitments throughout this cycle. The Cougars are expected to get some much needed help on the defensive ball after giving up nearly 39 points per game last season. It also appears that the Cougars will be finding Connor Halliday's replacement in-house, as no top-tier quarterback recruits are expected to sign with Washington State.