Though not the substitute for religion that it is in the SEC, recruiting in the Pac-10 is almost as competitive.
This year, teams are taking the fight to beleagured USC like never before, grabbing as many coveted recruits as they can before order is fully reestablished in the universe.
But even before Pete Carroll left, Pac-10 coaches were doing a great job responding to the deficiencies of their team and grabbing the right players to fit their system.
I've reranked the top recruiting classes in the Pac-10 according to what I perceive are a team's most pressing needs. I've given special weight to larger classes to account for losses by attrition, transfer, decommitment and academic disqualification. These things happen, people.
Should be a few surprises in here. Take a look.
Who do you recruit when you have the second worst offense in college football and the third worst defense?
Anybody and everybody, including Deone Bucannon (pictured), a high three-star safety, and Wade Jacobson, a JUCO transfer at left tackle.
This is actually not a bad class number- and talent-wise, particularly considering the dire circumstances for Wazzu and coach Paul Wulff.
But when you're as bad as the Cougs are, I believe you need to build from the lines back. In that sense, this class falls short.
The Beavs are at an anemic 10 recruits as of the date of this publication.
Their two best players currently are QB Sean Mannion and DT Happy Iona.
Mannion, the no. 16 pro-style passer in the class, provides good depth to the quarterback position. Both Lyle Moevao and starter Sean Canfield graduate this year, and their backup is untested, so he could compete for playing time if the situation grows dire in camp.
Iona is the no. 14 DT to Rivals. He flows down the line well and is already at ideal weight, so he could get plugged into the middle quickly.
The Beavers are in the top four for five-star DE Owamagbe Odighizuwa, but haven't scheduled a visit as of yet.
I know Mike Riley does a lot with a little, but you can't do anything with nothing. OSU needs some warm bodies in here—last year they signed 24 guys!
Arizona State's sound defense, led by stud MLB recruit Vontaze Burfict, was the showcase of the Sun Devils.
Its offense, on the other hand, was a liability.
Thus, the recruitment of four great skill position players should be welcome news for ASU fans hoping for an immediate facelift.
Four-star RB Deantre Lewis is a sleeper recruit who rushed for 2600 yards and 33 touchdowns his senior year. At 5'10", 189 lbs, he's undersized, but he can cut-and-go and reaches top speed quickly. Should be able to battle for some carries immediately.
WR George Bell and TE Josh Fulton are the passing threats for Brock Osweiler to throw ponderously to. Bell is a JUCO transfer and a solid possession receiver, while Fulton reminds me of Arizona's Rob Gronkowski—good hands, great athletic presence, not exceptional speed but good enough for a tight end.
Defensively, the Sun Devils welcome Nduka Onyeali to the outside linebacker position and Jordan McDonald at strongside end.
A good class so far, but it lacks a headliner like Burfict to make it great. Hey, Jackson Jeffcoat is still undecided...
I like what Mike Stoops has done holding onto the prime defensive recruits, and even adding one in hometown hero Marquis Flowers, who committed to the Wildcats at the Army All-American Bowl.
DT Willie Mobley (pictured), a transfer from Ohio State by way of Gulf Coast CC, will help plug up the middle. Trust me, OSU doesn't recruit bad tackles.
And five signees on the offensive line is great—I'm a big fan of depth on the OL, and four-star Trent Spurgeon is an anchor at left tackle.
But it's good to have at least ONE big-name recruit at the skill positions every year.
At the same time, Zona returns three of its top four receivers next year as well as its top running back, so its not time to panic yet.
Garic Warfin and Austin Hill are your top WRs, and the QB signee is no. 11 dual-threat QB Matt Brown.
ESPN likes Brown's polish at the QB position (he's a dual-threat scrambler, not a runner), and thinks he can make all the short-to-intermediate throws. But his size (6'1") is throwing scouts off, and explains the low rankings.
The winner of the 2014 Heisman trophy is...Matt Brown! I guess it doesn't sound out of the question.
Holding onto those defensive recruits until signing day will be more than sufficient for this class. They're going to need and help they can get on defense with Mark Stoops in Tallahassee.
Off of a 26-man class last year that stocked the shelves, the Ducks are fielding a smaller class in pursuit of high-quality athletes.
The Ducks landed Dior Mathis (pictured), a cornerback out of Michigan's Cass Tech, at the Army All-American game. He's undersized, but can blanket himself on taller receivers and makes up for his stature with technique and aggression.
Three other scholarships in the 16-man class are devoted to DB, so it's obviously an area of concern with the departure of Walter Thurmond III and the relative youth at corner. Troy Hill, Derrick Malone and James Scales join Mathis in the secondary.
Bryan Bennett is listed as a pro-style quarterback, but he shows good athleticism and runs a decent 40. I doubt Kelly is changing up his system any time soon, so Bennett will be expected to be a runner. He'll compete with redshirt sophomore Darron Thomas for the starting job once Jeremiah Masoli leaves next year.
Another good get is tight end Curtis White, the no. 4 TE to Rivals. A two-way player whom Rivals projects could be a great receiving TE, White should compete to get snaps if that's what position he takes now that Ed Dickson is graduating.
RB Dontae Williams, though quick, is a bigger back in Oregon's spread n' shred system—think Brandon Minor. He could step into the buster role vacated by LeGarrette Blount if he can add some weight to his frame in a college lifting program.
This is very much an incomplete class, but the Ducks are still in the running for five-star RB Marcus Lattimore, who will be visiting Eugene later this month and has kept Oregon on his list through a multitude of cuts.
Prospects are usually very impressed after visiting Oregon—you can imagine the sophistication of their facilities, etc.—so there's a chance he leaves South Carolina for the West Coast.
The other major target is weakside DE Owamagbe Odighizuwa. He's scheduled a visit to Oregon and has the Ducks in his final four.
Either or both of those guys would give the class a punch it's lacking so far. I have it on good authority that the Ducks usually finish strong; if so, they'll surely be bumped up a few grades.
Rick Neuheisel is finally getting some recruiting momentum for the Bruins. The last two classes were rich in defensive back and WR talent, while this year, Neuheisel is rebuilding at the skill positions and along the offensive line.
The Bruins will welcome Kody Innes and Chris Ward at guard and tackle, respectively, and back those two up with Wade Yandall, a three-star early enrollee at tackle.
The Bruins were unable to hold onto QB Brett Nottingham, who defected to Stanford. Nottingham provided good depth at the position for the Bruins, so they'll need to reload to give Kevin Prince a reliable backup.
Malcolm Jones (pictured) and Jordan James are the two standout prospects at running back. Jones is a taller, smoother RB, while Jordan James is the tenacious runner, reminding Rivals of Auburn's Kenny Irons.
JUCO DE Marquis Jackson will assist UCLA immediately in their pass rush. A strong finish with maybe one or two more defensive linemen would make this one of the most complete classes in the conference.
Stanford convinced UCLA commit Brett Nottingham, the no. 4 pro-style QB, to visit the Cardinal campus, then succeeded in grabbing his verbal commitment over the weekend.
This despite the Bruins keeping quarterback guru and OC Norm Chow o staff. An unbelievable effort considering that Stanford's depth chart doesn't favor Nottingham getting any immediate playing time with Andrew Luck entering his redshirt sophomore season. Though UCLA depth chart doesn't favor early playing time either with Kevin Prince entering his sophomore season, there was probably a better chance of Prince getting beat out than Luck.
Though they couldn't hold on to the surprise commitment of four-star OL Torrian Wilson, four-star OT Dillon Bonnell is a functional replacement.
Jim Harbaugh needed to address losing Toby Gerhart, whose power-running style arguably defined Stanford's season.
On this, he's done a good job, gaining commitments from two four-star running backs, Brandon Bourbon and Anthony Wilkerson (pictured). They blend size and speed and will provide competition and depth at a fluctuating position next year.
ESPN also liked TE David Dudchock, the no. 11 player at his position. He's an adequate receiver with great size who will need to add some bulk, but he's one of the purer and more balanced tight ends in the class.
The Cardinal also bolstered their defensive backfield with Ed Reynolds, Devon Carrington, Deunta Carr and Louis Young, four athletic DBs in the fringe four-star range. A wealth of DBs is never a bad thing, particularly in a conference with arguably the most talented quarterbacks in the country week in and week out.
It's not setting my hair on fire, but at 22 commits, it's a pretty large class, and Harbaugh should pick up a few more warm (and intelligent) bodies before National Signing Day. Compared to the classes Stanford's fielded in the past, it's downright exemplary.
I've waited as long as possible to examine USC's class, but it looks like the dust has settled and the Trojans are going to be
penalized heavily fine.
Five-star WR Kyle Prater has already indicated he is excited to play for new coach Lane Kiffin and will honor his commitment to the Trojans, and the indication is that DB Dion Bailey will do the same.
QB Jesse Scroggins is comfortable with Kiffin as coach, and TE recruit Randall Telfer is even using a Facebook page to try and keep the class together.
Buried in an LA Times article is the news that five-star all-purpose back Dillon Baxter is also excited about his new coach.
DJ Morgan, another highly-touted APB, has yet to voice his support of Kiffin and will probably reopen his recruitmen.
Who knows how many of Kiffin's recruits for Tennessee will follow him West? Ahmad Dixon, Markeith Ambles, and Marques Dixon all mentioned the possibility of that happening, and Kiffin, in spite of everything, remains one of the most effective recruiters in the business.
Until this class settles its current commits and adds a few more players, I can't, in good conscience, list it anywhere near the best. Too many early exits to the draft, coupled with the less-than-stellar play on the field this year, raise concerns that USC needs both quality AND quantity at this crucial juncture.
It's not close to a full class, but it probably will be by signing day. Then, and only then, will I consider it top-shelf.
P.S. Ed Orgeron just called and told me to let my readers know that you each have scholarships available at USC if you'd like them.
Cal landed one of their biggest defensive recruits ever in Chris Martin (pictured), the nation's top DE and a top five player to ESPN who decommitted from Notre Dame in the wake of Charlie Weis' firing and immediately committed to the Golden Bears.
Three other top defensive recruits made the list: linebackers Nick Forbes, Cecil Whiteside and David Wilkerson.
Let's hope they're good in coverage—Utah torched Cal's secondary, and the Bears lose their top DB in Syd'Quan Thompson, an NFL talent.
On the offense, Cal landed an elite QB in Austin Hinder and a great tackle in Alex Crosthwaite. Wide receiver Tevin Carter is a 6'3 monster, but at 185 pounds, he'll need time to become the red-zone target Jeff Tedford surely envisions him to be. He's no. 15 overall to Rivals.
This class is still small and not too well-balanced (only one defensive back, and that a mid-range three-star?). But the Bears are in the mix for safety prospects like Sean Parker and Dietrich Riley. If they can land either, they'll be in great shape.
Before anyone knew the name Steve Sarkisian, the former USC offensive coordinator and Washington coach had inked a QB succession plan by landing touted QB Nick Montana over offers from his father's alma mater, Notre Dame, Ohio State, LSU, Stanford and Alabama.
As one B/R friend put it, Montana could teach Jake Locker a thing or two about mechanics. He's a sound passer already, and will just need to add weight and durability at the college level. Surely Locker can introduce him to his favorite Arby's.
Sark has also landed some real athletes. Keanon Lowe, Kevin Smith, Melvin Davis and WR Jevon Kearse will all be dangerous on the outside and in the slot, while Deontae Cooper, a running back, is a threat to take screens the distance and will be an every-down back once he adds bulk to his six-foot frame.
The defensive recruiting is a little light, and Sark would be wise to learn from the example of Rich Rodriguez—namely, an offense only works if your defense can get the other team off the field. Defensive tackle Sione Potoa'e has developed technique to go with his size, and Victor Burnett could be sleeper at the inside linebacker position.
This is a huge, 28-man class full of a lot of raw talent—something I wasn't expecting to see from a USC man. All the same, Sark will target the breakouts in practice and plug in the rest where depth is necessary. A fine class overall; one or two more defenders and it will cement its lead as the best in the Pac-10.