2018 National Signing Day storylines: Year of the quarterback continues
Timed appropriately to fall the week after the Super Bowl, college football's National Signing Day essentially sets the gears in motion for the 2018 season. Once the Letters of Intent come through the proverbial fax line, it's time to think about spring football. Pac-12 football truly never leaves us.
This offseason we were treated to twice the fun with the introduction of December's early signing period, when Pac-12 schools signed 165 student-athletes. They'll welcome dozens more on Wednesday. Watch Pac-12 Networks' "Inside Pac-12 Football National Signing Day Special" at 3 p.m. PT / 4 p.m. MT to hear Mike Yam, Yogi Roth and Anthony Herron interview coaches and break down the recruiting classes for each school in the Conference of Champions.
Here are five storylines to watch for on Wednesday:
1. How much better will this quarterback class get?
The Pac-12 already has secured an elite crop of signal-callers for the 2018 cycle, prompting Roth to call it the best class of Pac-12 quarterbacks we've seen in the last decade. But the talent still is coming. USC, UCLA, Stanford and Arizona are all are poised to sign quarterbacks Wednesday.
Also, look for this group of QBs to continue the trend of competing for playing time right away, joining the likes of Like Khalil Tate, Justin Herbert and Jake Browning. Gone are the days of waiting until your junior or senior year to trot out with the first team.
"I think the rapid growth is dramatic and I've never seen it this evident," Roth says.
2. Chip Kelly makes immediate impact
The early signing period — combined with the hiring of five new coaches in the Pac-12 — made for some chaos on the recruiting trail. Look for new UCLA coach Chip Kelly to hit the ground running on Wednesday.
Kelly & Co. signed just eight student-athletes in December, so they had plenty of roster space to maneuver. A quarterback, wide receivers and talent in the secondary should highlight the Bruins' Wednesday haul, which could total roughly 15 prospects. Of the five programs with new leadership, the Bruins are expected to sign a group of prospects most able to step in and play significant minutes as true freshmen.
3. Race to the top
Washington signed 18 student-athletes in December and was considered the Conference's unofficial recruiting champion from Roth's perspective. On the eve of National Signing Day, the Huskies maintain a leg up on Oregon and USC for the top Pac-12 class thanks to some late shuffling.
"Washington, they're finishing with dudes," Roth says. "Just three guys, I think, could elevate them up to the top class in the Pac-12."
Entering Tuesday, UW is ranked No. 11 nationally with a 259.58 composite mark by 247Sports. Oregon (246.01) and USC (243.36) are clustered within striking distance. It's sure to be a scramble to the finish as all three schools have the chance to bolster their class come Wednesday.
4. Big climb for the Cougars
Washington State's strong 2017 season netted a breakout year on the recruiting trail. The Cougars sit at No. 5 in the Conference by 247Sports entering Wednesday. The Cougars have 19 signees already — headlined by wide receiver product Rodrick Fisher from Spokane — with a few more standouts to come. Mike Leach's entertaining brand of football is attracting weapons on both sides of the ball.
5. Recruits as brands
Top-flight recruits are garnering enough of a following on social media to become famous before ever setting foot on campus. The trend is destined to grow as we now have two signing periods instead of one. It's a topic Roth plans to bring up with several Pac-12 coaches during Wednesday's 3 p.m. PT / 4 p.m. MT show.