Rivals.com, Scout.com, ESPN and 247Sports.com are the four major recruiting services who all do an excellent job evaluating, tracking and ranking all things recruiting.
But they don't always agree and that is a great thing for fans. It also means the best way to rank the best classes in the nation is to average them all together and come to a consensus. One service may value quantity while another may value quality. One service may really love one prospect while another may not feel as strongly about him. Each site has its own metric for evaluating a class. Again, this is why Athlon Sports publishes its national team recruiting rankings as an average of the four big sites combined.
After another stellar National Signing Day of winners and losers, here are the consensus Pac-12 team rankings for 2014 — with a familiar name reasserting itself out on the trail.
• Steve Sarkisian did his best Pete Carroll impersonation on National Signing Day by closing with two five-star gets (Adoree’ Jackson, JuJu Smith) and a top-40 blocker (Damian Mama). It should remind fans out west of what Carroll use to do on the final day of the recruiting cycle when the Trojans consistently dominated NSD each year. Coach Sark, in only a couple of months, moved USC from fourth or fifth in the rankings to the No. 1 class in the league.
• Stanford and David Shaw also closed very well with a few big gets. This is now a national brand that is consistently located in the top 25 nationally in recruiting. Since Jim Harbaugh took over in Palo Alto, Calif., the Cardinal have been transformed on the trail and Shaw has continued that trend. The 2014 haul gives Stanford a class ranked in the top 26 in five of the last six years (2013).
• The state of Arizona made a strong statement this year by competing directly with traditional recruiting powers like Washington, Oregon and UCLA. Both Arizona schools landed top-30 classes and the Sun Devils claimed the No. 3 class in the league. Both Todd Graham and Rich Rodriguez have turned middling programs into winners in short order and that has clearly translated on the recruiting trail.
• UCLA didn’t have a good NSD as its crosstown rival snaked all of its targets. However, Jim Mora still signed an excellent class of talent despite being a smaller group. In fact, the 18 signees were the smallest haul by any team in the league but the Bruins tied for the Pac-12 lead with eight four-star signings. This isn’t an elite group nationally but it has plenty of big-time upside.
• The curious case of Chris Petersen on the recruiting trail at this level is still a big unknown. The Huskies landed a couple of names late in the process but couldn’t manage a top-35 class. Coach Sark had UW recruiting rolling and Petersen will now be asked to do something he has never done before. Which is consistently beat powerhouse programs (like Oregon and USC) for elite, five-star-type talents. Only time will tell if he is up to the task.
• While the top of the league did very well on National Signing Day and throughout the entire recruiting process, the bottom third of the conference left much to be desired. Four teams finished outside of the top 55 and Colorado trailed only Purdue among Big 5 teams nationally. Mike Riley and Mike Leach are accustomed to developing lower-tiered classes but it seems like the separation between the haves and have-nots in the Pac-12 is beginning to grow ever so slightly on the trail.