Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Here's what you'll need to keep an eye on during the Pac-12's first Signing Day with newcomers Utah and Colorado on board:
Players to Watch
De'anthony Thomas , ATH, Crenshaw (Los Angeles): Maybe no player in the country has had their recruitment take a more intriguing turn in the past few days than Thomas, a USC commitment who surprised nearly everyone but Chip Kelly and his staff by taking a last-minute visit to Oregon. Now rumors are swirling about the "Black Mamba's" ultimate destination, and whether it's the Trojans or Ducks, someone's going to end up with quite the prize in the 5'9" 175-pound blazer; he's No. 15 in the Maxpreps top 100 and has All-American potential at either tailback or cornerback.
Marqise Lee , ATH, Juniper Serro (Gardena, Calif.): Another top California athlete, another battle between the Trojans and Ducks (though Miami could reportedly also sneak in here). A livewire 6'1" and 185 pounds, and the Maxpreps No. 16 athlete, Lee could play either offense and defense but is expected to find his highest ceiling as a playmaking safety. Lee is believed to be a lean to USC and will announce at 3 EST.
Christian Heyward , DT, Point Loma (San Diego): Not all of the nation's top defensive lineman are in the Southeast. Maxpreps' No. 9 defensive tackle, Heyward recently named a top three of USC, Oregon and San Diego State, though some feel even UCLA could be part of the conversation. An accomplished pass rusher, Heyward could be at home as an end in a three down linemen set--part of the reason the dark horse Aztecs (who run a base 3-3-5) could have a legitimate shot, even if Heyward is favored to wind up in the Pac-12.
Team to Watch
Oregon: Despite boasting every recruit's favorite set of uniforms, the Ducks have never been a major player on the national recruiting scene ... until now. Led by Maxpreps 100 tight end Colt Lyerla and top-shelf talent hailing from locales as diverse as Miami (receiver Tacoi Sumler), Iowa (linebacker Christian French) and Arizona (offensive linemen Tyler Johnstone and Andre Yruretagoyena), the Ducks have already built their strongest class in years, potentially ever. If they can close the deal with the California-based talent listed above, the foundation could be built for a USC-like deathgrip on the conference over the next few years.
USC: Of course, maybe we shouldn't start worrying about the next USC when the original isn't going anywhere. Lane Kiffin has continued to prove his mettle as arguably the nation's most dogged recruiter, The Trojans have worked around NCAA restirctions to pull in 26 commitments already, including four members of the Maxpreps top 100, including Thomas, 6'2" receiver George Farmer, and the latest West Coast quarterback blue-chipper, Cody Kessler. If the Trojans can fend off the Ducks for the likes of Thomas and Lee, they'll claim the best class in the Pac-12.
Stanford: The Cardinal class has suffered somewhat with the departure of Jim Harbaugh, but David Shaw is still sitting on one of the best classes in the league behind national-grade recruits like Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) five-star Wayne Lyons (the No. 45 recruit overall and No. 4 safety) and Tucker (Ga.) linebacker James Vaughters. If Shaw can simply keep all the current Cardinal commits in the fold and signed on the dotted line, this is a group that will do nothing to slow the momentum generated by Harbaugh's tenure in Palo Alto.
The Below-the-Radar Storyline You'll Need to Follow
Many are expecting Utah to come into the Pac-12 and immediately begin throwing its weight around, but if the Utes do, it might not be because of a mind-blowing recruiting haul tomorrow. The Utes have always done a nice job of locating underrated local talent and have several gems in their current class, including in-state running back Harvey Langi (No. 53 in the Maxpreps top 100) and Moreno Valley (Calif.) defensive back Ryan Anderson. But quarterback Derrick Brown recently decommitted to Washington, one of five Pac-12 teams that land in the Maxpreps top 25 classes that aren't Utah. Landing Anderson --a threat to sign elsewhere -- and his teammate, highly-regarded receiver Junior Pomee, would be a huge help, though. In the end, how will the Utes measure up to their new conference mates?
More Signing Day coverage is here at CBS.
Pac-12 Signing Day at a glance
Posted on: February 1, 2011 8:33 pm
Edited on: February 2, 2011 8:34 am
Tags: Andre Yruretagoyena, Chip Kelly, Christian French, Christian Heyward, Cody Kessler, Colt Lyerla, David Shaw, De'anthony Thomas, Derrick Brown, George Farmer, Harvey Langi, James Vaughters, Jim Harbaugh, Junior Pomee, Lane Kiffin, Marqise Lee, Oregon, Pac-12 Signing Day, Ryan Anderson, San Diego State, Stanford, Tacoi Sumler, Tyler Johnstone, UCLA, USC, Utah, Washington, Wayne Lyons