USC, UCLA reign in Pac-12 recruiting battles
PHOENIX (AP) Southern California has again become the epicenter of Pac-12 recruiting.
USC and UCLA had the conference's top two recruiting classes on national signing day, putting them among the nation's best.
Helped by two players who made last-minute decisions, the Trojans had the nation's No. 9 recruiting class, based on a consensus of the top four most popular recruiting websites. The Bruins weren't far behind their SoCal rivals, checking in at No. 12.
USC had a solid class going under new coach Clay Helton and bolstered it by luring two players away from other schools: safety Jamel Cook from Florida State and running back Vavae Malepeai from Oregon. The Trojans also beat out Michigan for Arizona linebacker Connor Murphy, catapulting a strong recruiting class into a top-10.
''You have a lot of battles that last night and there were some nerves, but I'm glad it worked out,'' Helton said Wednesday.
UCLA also had a strong class heading into signing day and got a big boost with the addition of Mique Juarez, one of the nation's top outside linebackers who had considered Alabama and Ole Miss before heading to Westwood.
The Bruins also signed a strong group of receivers to play with sophomore quarterback Josh Rosen.
''We've filled some needs, we've added depth to our team with quality football players and quality young men, so we're pleased,'' UCLA coach Jim Mora said.
A few more things from around the Pac-12 on national signing day:
STANFORD'S HAUL: Stanford's return to prominence last season led to its best recruiting class in four years. The Cardinal already had commitments from K.J. Costello, one of the nation's top pocket passers, and added a big target with one of the nation's best tight ends, Kaden Smith. Coach David Shaw added another notch to his recruiting belt when safety Andrew Pryts de-committed from Penn State to help the Cardinal pull in the nation's No. 21 recruiting class.
GOFF'S SHOES: California has some big cleats to fill with quarterback Jared Goff headed to the NFL. The Bears took a couple of steps toward finding his replacement by signing a pair of midlevel recruits: Victor Viramontes from California and early enrollee Max Gilliam. Gillam might have an advantage because he's already been on campus, but Viramontes is big, athletic and has a strong arm. Cal has three other quarterbacks on its roster.
ASU'S BIG GET: Arizona State coaches were frustrated the past two years as the state's top recruit left for SEC schools. The Sun Devils reversed that trend by signing N'Keal Harry, a five-star receiver from nearby Chandler High School who committed to the Sun Devils in November. Another top in-state player spurned the Sun Devils, though; Scottsdale defensive back Byron Murphy left the desert to play at Washington.
AIR RAID FOUNDATION: Washington State has stocked up on the foundation of its Air Raid offense, signing six offensive linemen. The Cougars have record-setting quarterback Luke Falk coming back for his junior year and need players to help protect him – and whoever his replacement will be down the line.
DUCK FLIPS: Oregon has annually had one of the nation's best recruiting classes. A drop to No. 23 this year was precipitated by several players flipping their commitments and going to other schools, notably Vavae, who had verbally committed to the Ducks. Oregon still ended up with some quality players and a strong class, so coach Mark Helfrich didn't seem too concerned. ''Part of life in the big city,'' he said.
LEACH SURPRISED: Washington State coach Mike Leach was able to build upon the Cougars' success last season by bringing in a solid recruiting class. He also did it without a lot of hassle; no players who committed to Washington State switched to new schools on signing day. ''The most notable thing about this class is it went almost entirely as expected,'' he said. ''That'd be the first time in history that's ever happened, at least for me.''