The Pac-12 faces considerable changes in the immediate future, from coaches to shifting dynamics on the recruiting trail. Look no further than the fact that after landing two top-10 overall classes in 2021, the highest-ranked class in the conference this cycle checked in at No. 18 overall.
The Pac-12 has continued to slip in the Power 5 pecking order over the last few years as the conference has not had a representative in the playoff since the very first edition (2014-15 season, Oregon). How much of an impact this had on recruiting is debatable, but what's not is the fact that three of the marquee programs in the conference (USC, Oregon and Washington) changed coaches this offseason, which likewise opened the door for some other schools to take advantage, at least in this cycle.
Below are the national recruiting ranking averages for ACC schools over the last five (2018-22) classes, according to 247Sports' Composite Team Rankings, and each team's record over the last five (2017-21) seasons. Obviously, this doesn't take into account attrition, but, over time, this should be considered relatively even across the conference.
Ranking the Pac-12's College Football's Rosters in 2022
New head duck at Oregon but same results on the trail?
Master recruiter Mario Cristobal's exit after Oregon reached its third straight Pac-12 Championship Game, but then lost in particularly ugly fashion. Don't expect the Ducks to slump, though: Cristobal’s successor, Dan Lanning, brings a similar background and his own impressive recruiting chops.
Lanning was central to Georgia's national championship run, both as defensive coordinator and as a recruiter. Oregon will continue to thrive on the recruiting trail – but how much longer will the Ducks boast the Pac-12's best rosters?
Keep an eye on USC
Lincoln Riley's arrival at USC brings with it a groundswell of excitement and optimism, two things sorely lacking around Heritage Hall over recent years. Before the Trojans return to 2000s levels, however, they’ll need to see improvements in roster strength.
The Carroll-era championship teams combined innovative coaching with the most impressive collection of talent in college football – USC has ground to make up on that front. The Trojans head into 2022 trailing both Oregon and Stanford, which endured a rough 2021 but succeeded in recruiting.
Stanford and Arizona steal the spotlight
David Shaw and Co. signed a 2022 class comparable to the outstanding crops the Cardinal welcomed to the Farm in the early 2010s.
Stanford's top-20 class in 2022 isn't the most surprising development in the Pac-12, however. That distinction belongs to Arizona.
Rich Rodriguez long favored an approach of recruiting playmakers who fit the scheme, and oftentimes flew under the radar, instead of emphasizing star ratings. Kevin Sumlin's brief, disastrous tenure is crystallized by underwhelming recruiting classes.
But heading into his second year at the helm, Jedd Fisch is bringing in one of the most highly rated classes in Arizona history. The Wildcats' reversal of course marks a dramatic contrast to in-state rival Arizona State.
Trouble in Tempe extends to the trail
The Sun Devils welcomed plenty of talent in Herm Edwards' first few seasons. A deteriorating situation in Tempe, with an exodus of assistant coaches amid NCAA investigations, resulted in a staggering drop to No. 105 in the 2022 signing rankings. To make matters worse, quarterback Jayden Daniels just announced he is transferring.
Recruiting rankings don't always tell the whole story
Recruiting standing is a telling indicator of on-field success, though there are exceptions. Utah is one of them. The Utes linger around the top of the Pac-12 despite checking in at the middle of the pack in recruiting rankings. Kyle Whittingham and his staff have excelled at pinpointing potential difference-makers with minimal buzz, like possible first-round NFL draft pick Devin Lloyd.
Still, improved recruiting classes (even if not top 25) have been a key to Utah's rise to perennial contention according to Whittingham.
Podcast: Roster Rankings, Recapping NSD, Overachievers/Underachievers in Recruiting and Jim Harbaugh's Return to Michigan