Funny thing happened along the way to USC falling apart after the disastrous (?) 9-4 2009 season and Pete Carroll finally heeding the call to the NFL—they haven't.
Many experts predicted the Trojans' recruiting demise in 2010, and we can safely say that does not appear to be happening.
Carroll disciples Lane Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian are going toe to toe for Pac-10 bragging rights in spite of the fact that Kiffin joined the fray about one week ago.
Additionally, Washington, according to Scout.com, holds a significant edge over the No. 2 Trojans only because they have more than twice as many commitments, 30-14.
However, if you prefer Rivals.com, it seems to be USC by a considerable margin with only half its class checking in.
Jim Harbaugh and the Stanford Cardinal are third in this 10-horse race coming off a rebound 2009 season, with Rick Neuheisel (the landscape is shifting in L.A.?) and the UCLA Bruins coming in fourth with the most important recruiting weeks to come.
According to Scout.com and Rivals.com, their recruiting rankings are based on the Talent, Need, and Balance of players committed to that school. They consider only players who have made a Verbal or Soft Verbal commitment to that school. High school, prep school, and junior college players are included in their analysis.
This writer has thoroughly researched these two excellent analyses to provide the basis for the current recruiting standing of the Pac-10 schools.
So, let's break it down...
Category No. 1: Top 100
In this category, it is all about overall skill. These are certifiable great players, but that doesn't always translate into the next level. A coach has to be able to mold this talent into the needs of each particular university. Pete Carroll was a master at making great high school players into superb college players, as evidenced by USC's success in the last decade.
No. 1 USC: Six Top 100 players
The Trojans are just plain reloading. Sorry Pac-10. The latest class is led by Kyle Prater, the No. 2-ranked (Country) wide receiver from Proviso West High School in Illinois, who has enrolled in school this week. Prater should help lengthen the defense, which should make the running game more effective.
Another Trojan sure bet appears to be 6'4", five-star defensive tackle George Uko from nearby Don Lugo High School in Chino, California. Uko should shore up a very glaring weakness in the Trojan defense (weak defensive line) that was exploited time and time again in the second half of the season.
Robert Woods, another solid five-star, comes in as the No. 1-ranked wide receiver in the country. He appears to be a solid verbal and should strengthen the Trojan receiver corps. Throw in High School Player of the Year Dillon Baxter, who should strengthen the Trojan backfield with his speed and versatility.
I like tight end Xavier Grimble, a four- or five-star recruit depending on who you like. He brings a big 6'5" body and 4.7 speed with good hands.
You have a veritable plethora of Trojan excellence entering the hallowed grounds of Heritage Hall. It will be up to Lane Kiffin and his staff to develop these players. Can he do it?
No. 2 UCLA: Three Top 100 players
Once again UCLA is No. 2 to USC, but this time they are encouraged. The class is led by five-star recruit Malcolm Jones from Oaks Christian High School, who should shore up the Bruin running attack and hopefully open up the passing game for UCLA, which might lead to an offense that can move the ball more efficiently than last year.
Four-star Anthony Barr, who is tall and athletic and ranked as the No. 10 outside linebacker, should shore up an inconsistent Bruin defense. These two excellent players are listed as solid for UCLA at this point.
Unfortunately for Rick Neuheisel, he is not closing the recruiting gap as fast as he would have hoped a week ago before Pete Carroll Jr., aka Lane Kiffin, shored up the USC 2010 efforts. The story is yet to completely be told on this one. Stay tuned!
No. 3 Washington, Oregon, and California with one top 100 recruit each
It looks to this writer that the truly great recruits are still enrolling at USC, with UCLA coming in a distant but impressive second. When it is all said and done, USC is simply reloading, while these other schools are scrambling to match USC in the top skill positions
However, top 100 players are great, but it is no guarantee of college success. There have been many five-star players who have never made it off the bench, so let's take a look at our next category.
Category No. 2 : Talent, Need, Balance
This category reflects the quality of players committed to that school. Teams must recruit difference-makers throughout their class to obtain a high ranking. It also looks at whether team needs are being met and the balance of the overall recruiting effort. This is where it stands as we head into the home stretch.
No. 1: Washington
Steve Sarkisian is putting together an impressive class with 30 commits to date, which puts the Huskies No. 1 so far, but to date they hold a slim lead over USC, which has commitments from 14 top players so far.
To date, Washington boasts eight four-star recruits, led by running back Deontae Cooper from Citrus Hill High in Perris, California. Cooper should help bring badly needed balance to the Huskies' running attack, which should open the vertical game with the addition of 4.45 speedster Kevin Smith.
This lays the groundwork for a Sarkisian offense that likes to spread the field while pounding the ball. The future looks bright for Pete Carroll Jr. No. 2, aka Steve Sarkisian.
No. 2: USC
This standing appears to be temporary, as the final results are not in and several top recruits will come in as a result of Ed Orgeron and Lane Kiffin's recruiting efforts. USC recruits strictly to need these days, as other schools have developed a successful strategy to recruit and rail against USC stacking their positions.
Sorry SEC haters and Pac-10 hopefuls, USC's demise has been greatly exaggerated. The Trojans are doing just fine, and we expect them to be the No. 1 Pac-10 team in this category on National Signing Day. According to Rivals.com, they have already won this race with only partial results reported.
No. 3: Stanford
Jim Harbaugh is another star rising in the Pac-10. He was rumored for several coaching positions but surprisingly decided to stay at Stanford. I applaud his loyalty to a program that has been used as a stepping stone to supposedly greater opportunities. This is nothing but a win for West Coast football and the Pac-10.
Harbaugh seems to be able to develop quarterbacks into effective college players, and that's why he landed Brett Nottingham out of Monte Vista High. When Stanford's defense is clicking, they attack, and that should be the case with CB Louis Young, all the way from Maryland. This is an example of the sudden national appeal of Coach Harbaugh and Stanford, and it obviously bodes well for the future.
Toby Gerhart cannot be replaced, but Anthony Wilkerson, a strong four-star recruit out of Tustin High in California, could help people forget sooner than later. Quarterback Dallas Lloyd should provide some healthy competition to Andrew Luck as the Cardinal continue to move upward.
No. 4: UCLA
The only guy in L.A. with more baggage than Lane Kiffin is Rick Neuheisel. The only coach in the Pac-10 that should concern USC fans is Rick Neuheisel.
While the Bruins' class is No. 4 right now, do not be a bit surprised to see the Bruins end up in second. Neuheisel and his staff are bringing in quality kids to shore up a team that needs help everywhere primarily because they were inconsistent all year both offensively and defensively.
The Bruins need help at linebacker and have landed a good one in Anthony Barr from Loyola High School from Los Angeles. The big issue over the years is that the Bruins are not a real presence in L.A. You can say bye-bye to those days. Just a few weeks ago, outgoing coach Pete Carroll ran into Neuheisel and commented that it was the first time he had seen a UCLA coach in those parts.
The Bruins need help on the corners as well and should get help from Tevin McDonald. Throw in the several additional four-stars coming UCLA's way, and the gap is narrowing in L.A. for sure.
The Rest of the Rest
Surprisingly Oregon stands at the middle of the pack so far, but look for them to make a run at several excellent players and shore things up.
Mike Stoops at Arizona is not enjoying the fruits of a second place finish in the 2009 Pac-10 standings as much as we thought he would. They have several four-star recruits in the heavy-laden three-star class. Stoops has his work cut out to be in the top half of the Pac-10 in 2010.
Washington State has filled several needs with solid three-star players, but it will not be enough to raise them out of the cellar for 2010.
Dennis Erickson has never come close to the glory days at Miami. His Arizona State Sun Devils are heavily influenced by three-star recruits. He will have to coach his way to the top of the Pac-10, and I don't think he is up to it.
The surprise of Pac-10 recruiting has to do with California's Jeff Tedford. I was convinced California was rising up under Tedford, but the three four-stars and just eight three-stars leave plenty of room for improvement between now and National Signing Day. It is put up or shut up for Tedford because he can't blame mediocre classes on Pete Carroll anymore.
It will be interesting to see if Cal can move into the top half of the conference in recruiting this year.
Finally, USC's No. 1 choice for a coach has a long way to go to be in the top half of the recruiting wars this spring. Mike Riley's work so far has commitments from nine three-stars and little else. I look for Riley to make an impressive move in the next few weeks and move the Oregon State Beavers to the top half of Pac-10 recruiting for this year.
Stay tuned, as there will be several in-depth follow-ups to come. Hey, if there was a playoff, we might have a real national championship and care as much about the bowls as we do recruiting. Help us Dump the BCS and Demand a College Football Playoff Now!