Recruiting in college football is downright nasty. It is a cutthroat, cannibalistic big business that is microscopically analyzed by fans, administrators and media members alike. The Pac-12 has watched its league and programs grow substantially in the past few years. Commissioner Larry Scott, the Pac-12 Network, a new media rights contract, six new coaches in the last two seasons and a variety of major facilities upgrades give Pac-12 schools plenty to sell to recruits.
Same Ol' Bruins
UCLA has never had an issue with recruiting. Under Rick Neuheisel, the Bruins were a national power on the trail, landing the No. 13- (2008), No. 14- (2009), No. 8- (2010) and No. 13-rated (2012) classes in the nation over the last five years. So a top-ten class following a Pac-12 South Division crown shouldn't come as a surprise. That said, USC has won the league's recruiting championship in every one of those cycles. So Jim Mora clearly capitalized on a Pac-12 South Division title and the Trojans' late struggles to claim the best class in the conference.
Don't be too concerned for USC
Yes, Lane Kiffin struggled on the field in 2012. Yes, he had to make coaching changes. Yes, he is entering a key season as the head coach in Los Angeles. Yes, USC limped to the finish on the recruiting trail and had the worst National Signing Day in the school's recent memory. However, in the face of 10 fewer scholarships than everyone else, Kiffin signed four more Athlon Consensus 100 prospects (9) than the rest of the Pac-12 combined (5). This group includes the nation's No. 1 QB, No. 1 safety and No. 2 defensive tackle. USC's nine AC100 signees trailed only Alabama (15) and Ohio State (10) nationally.
Mark Helfrich saved the day
When Chip Kelly pulled his own flip-flop and took the Eagles job, many were concerned with the continuity of the Ducks' 2013 signing class. Oregon did lose AC100 running back Dontre Wilson to Ohio State but the rest of the cycle ended well. Mark Helfrich kept twins Tyrell and Tyree Robinson in the fold and also lured Torrodney Prevot from a host of Pac-12 rivals. This group wasn't extremely deep but it could have been much worse than 20th nationally. The new head coach passed his first test as the head coach of the Nike Empire.
Best Supporting Cast
Steve Sarkisian has revamped his coaching staff significantly since taking over in Seattle. The moves he made on defense following the 2011 season (Justin Wilcox, Peter Sirmon, Tosh Lupoi) not only buoyed the Huskies' brand on the recruiting trail immediately but also worked wonders on the field during the 2012 campaign. This group once again excelled at landing elite talent by claiming the Pac-12's second-rated class. This was a top-15 group and features deep talent at wide receiver and defensive line — where Lupoi likely deserves a lot of credit.
What happened to Stanford?
This wasn't going to be a large class for David Shaw's bunch in Palo Alto, but barely cracking the top 50 has to be disappointing. Rivals and 247 both ranked the class 61st nationally while Scout had the Cardinal's class at 59th in the nation. Only ESPN's ranking (40th) kept this group inside the top 50 nationally. After four straight top 25 classes, including the fifth-ranked class last year, finishing 11th in the Pac-12 is not what fans expected. Next year's class will either return Stanford to recruiting relevance after what was simply a small class or could indicate a concerning developing trend.
Mike Leach turning things around?
In-fighting and one of the worst rushing offenses in the history of the sport wasn't exactly what Mike Leach planned in his first year at Washington State. Yet, there might be a hint of optimism in Pullman following signing day. The Cougars have averaged a 79.6 national recruiting ranking over the last five cycles, ranking ahead of only UConn and Temple among BCS teams (73rd). Therefore a national ranking of 47th should be something to be celebrated. One would think that Leach's high-flying offensive scheme will once again be attractive to West Coast prospects.
2013 Athlon Sports Pac-12 Team Recruiting Rankings: