Thought for the week: There are very few absolutes in any facet of life, including football. One can put too much stock into recruiting rankings, overlooking that this is just one slice from a much larger pie. Likewise, dismissing recruiting ratings is its own folly.
Recruiting success doesn't guarantee on-field success, but the latter is quite difficult to achieve without the former.
If you have questions for the Pac-12 mailbag, tweet @kensing45 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Your queries are appreciated. Now, onto this week's topics.
Josh from Irvine writes via email: What are your thoughts on national signing day, especially recruits doing something unusual to make their announcement?
I love it. This particularly pertains to the Pac-12, as high-profile prospects Solomon Thomas (Stanford) and Adoree' Jackson (USC) both used props during their ESPNU broadcasts. Apparently, there were some out there who took umbrage with these displays of youthful exuberance.
I can only assume said critics also set up chairs on their front porch to yell at neighborhood children about approaching their lawns.
National signing day isn't the end destination for these kids and their goals—and kids is an important word of emphasis to remember when discussing recruits. However, national signing day is a major milestone on the path to their ultimate end goals, whether that's to star on the college gridiron, make the NFL or earn an education for a different field.
These youngsters sacrifice many hours that some of their classmates spend. Reaching that milestone is something that recruits should be able to celebrate.
@kensing45 which recruit has the best Freshman year?— Chris Turner (@chris_turner24) February 6, 2014
Gauging which incoming prospect can make an immediate impact before practices begin is a challenge, since they all come from such different prep backgrounds. It's difficult to imagine USC's Jackson or John "JuJu" Smith not finding immediately roles, however.
Finding highly touted running back prospect Royce Freeman touches in a backfield that also returns Byron Marshall and last season's true-freshman breakout talent Thomas Tyner will prove difficult for Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich.
The key is to look at need versus ranking, and the past season is a great example, as it was outstanding for Pac-12 true freshmen. Obviously Myles Jack stole the show with his two-way play in the final month, but he was among the conference's most electrifying linebackers in the weeks preceding his move to running back.
Jack somewhat overshadowed a crop that also included Arizona wide receiver Nate Phillips and linebacker Scooby Wright, both who were crucial to the Wildcats' season. Su'a Cravens also proved to be as good as advertised at safety for USC. Even Cal quarterback Jared Goff had flashes of brilliance in the Golden Bears' dismal campaign.
All filled a significant need for his team, which is one reason Jackson and Smith are two to watch. USC had some holes in the secondary the duo can help fill. Elsewhere, wide receivers Erik Brown (Cal) and Datrin Guyton (Oregon State) are two 2014 signees worth keeping in mind for the next seven months until kickoff.
Cal's bear-raid offense needs as many playmakers as head coach Sonny Dykes can get on the field. Similarly, Oregon State attacked the air so ferociously in 2013 that quarterback Sean Mannion set the Pac-12 single-season passing record. With primary target Brandin Cooks gone, the Beavers need players to step up. Talented prospect Guyton probably won't be the guy to fill Cooks' gigantic shoes, but he could factor into the Beavers' offensive plans.
@kensing45 How does one actually attract recruits to Pullman, Washington?/— Kevin Bartner (@heshsson) February 7, 2014
This may be the eternal question of the Pac-12. Every campus is in or at least near a metropolitan center, but Washington State occupies its own rural corner of the world far from any of the Pac-12's recruiting hot spots.
For prospects seeking a true "college town" experience, Pullman fits the bill. Otherwise, since the Palouse itself is so unique, recruiting teenagers to it requires a unique personality. That's what made Mike Leach such a logical hire.
Leach thrived at Texas Tech, and while Lubbock, Texas is considerably larger than Pullman, the vast expanse of West Texas surrounding it is certainly more rural than locales around Tech's in-state rivals from Leach's tenure in the Big 12.
Leach has proven he can recruit off-the-beaten path before; it's just a little bit more difficult now since he's further away from Dillon, Texas.
Kyle Kensing is the Pac-12 Lead Writer. He hosts the Pac-12 mailbag every Friday. Submit your questions via Twitter @kensing45 or via email at email@example.com.