From USC and UCLA to Washington and Oregon, Pac-10 football teams surprised recruiting experts by signing some highly rated classes.
As bad as Pac-10 football might have been in postseason — stumbling to a 2-5 record — it was all good on signing day.
“The Pac-10 in general was the surprise of the year,” said Allen Wallace, the national recruiting editor for Scout.com, as letter-of-intent day drew to a close Wednesday. “After the way they played in their bowl games, it really did itself proud in today’s recruiting wars.”
Indeed, with what seemed like a record number of recruits waiting until Wednesday to make up their minds, the Pac-10 cleaned up. Washington stole safety Sean Parker away from Michigan and USC, and USC grabbed the top recruit in the country left on the board in offensive lineman Seantrel Henderson of Cretin-Derham High School , in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Scout.com had five Pac-10 schools ranked in its top 24 led by USC (six), UCLA (seven) and Washington (11).
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And Rivals.com, which has a reputation for sometimes favoring schools in the South, also had the Pac-10 ranked highly, with four in its top 13 — USC (2), UCLA (8), California (11) and Oregon (13).
Here’s a brief look at each class with a ranking from The Seattle Times.
1, USC: Not huge numbers, just 19. But Lane Kiffin kept most of the guys that he wanted and inherited from Pete Carroll. He also won some key battles on signing day, notably for Henderson, the Parade Magazine Player of the Year whom some thought was headed to Ohio State.
Late Wednesday — in a New York Times report — his father, Sean Henderson said Seantrel is not signing his letter of intent until USC appears before an NCAA infractions committee later this month apparently to get a feeling for where the investigation is headed. He has until April 1 to sign.
USC also signed three of the top wide receivers in the country to shore up that position.
2, UCLA: Former UW coach Rick Neuheisel made a splash, winning some big signing-day battles, including one of the major surprises of the day in luring defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa of Portland, who many figured was headed to Nebraska. UCLA also lured LB Josh Shirley away from USC (where conventional wisdom had him headed) and Washington. A solid 25-man class.
3, Washington: Huskies signed 30 players, all high-schoolers, in what was the first full recruiting class for Steve Sarkisian. Signing-day surprise Sean Parker may be the best safety in the state of California, and UW appeared to upgrade at just about every spot.
4, Oregon: The Ducks closed fast to turn this into another top-flight class, and got three big-time players on signing day, including one of the other major surprises in DT Ricky Heimuli, who visited UW last weekend. Many figured he was headed to Utah or UCLA. Highlight player may be RB Lache Seastrunk of Texas, one of the best runners in the nation.
5, Cal: Bears’ class also got a major upgrade on signing day, by luring safety Keenan Allen away from Alabama. He was called by Scout.com the best at his position in the country. Cal also got highly rated defensive end Gabe King of Eugene, Ore., away from the Ducks.
6, Stanford: One of the better classes in the school’s recent history and another step in the right direction for coach Jim Harbaugh, But it ranked a little higher earlier in the year before some recent defections, including one on signing day when LB Jordan Zumwalt instead went to UCLA. But Stanford won an earlier battle with UCLA by luring QB Brett Notthingham away from a commitment to the Bruins.
7, Arizona State: The No. 7 ranking in the conference may not do the Sun Devils justice because most think this is still a pretty good class. Arizona State is one of the few to really benefit from the USC coaching change after mammoth JC OT Brice Schwab instead signed with the Devils. He was one of six three- or four-star JC recruits who will be called on to help immediately.
8, Arizona: This is another class that may turn out better than its ranking, helped by a couple of signing-day wins, including getting athlete Jonathan McKnight, younger brother of former Trojan Joe McKnight. Arizona signed players from nine different states.
9, Washington State: A weird signing day for the Cougars who lost two of their better-known recruits. DE Maxx Forde of Woodinville surprisingly committed to Idaho, apparently at his own behest, and TE Asante Cleveland of Sacramento headed instead to Miami. But the Cougars also landed an intriguing prospect in LB C.J. Mizell of Florida. And almost all are high-school kids as Paul Wulff continues to rebuild from the ground floor.
10, Oregon State: Never seems to matter that the Beavers’ classes get low ratings as they always end up winning in the fall. But recruiting analysts say Oregon State could have done better, given its recent success on the field. One standout is QB Sean Mannion of Pleasanton, Calif., whom OSU jumped on early and whose stock rose markedly through a standout senior season.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org.