West Coast recruiting thoughts: A Washington bump, concern at Colorado (still) and UCLA

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West Coast recruiting thoughts: A Washington bump, concern at Colorado (still) and UCLA

Schools on the West Coast are in an interesting position on the recruiting front. Four are headed to the Big Ten, another four are headed to the Big 12, two are off to the ACC, and Oregon State and Washington State are left with a scheduling agreement with the Mountain West.

Some programs are going portal-heavy and some are still operating with a continued emphasis on high school recruiting. Others are trying a combination of both. With that in mind, let’s evaluate where things stand out west with less than two weeks until the early signing period arrives.

Note: All rankings are from the 247Sports Composite.

1. Washington will be the Pac-12’s first College Football Playoff representative since the Huskies last made it in 2016. The on-field product has been great under Kalen DeBoer, who is 24-2 in two seasons at Washington.

The Huskies’ recruiting, however, has been far from flashy. Washington’s 2023 class, which was DeBoer’s first full cycle, ranked 26th nationally, and its 2024 class ranks 39th with no in-state commitments despite some tremendous on-field success.

So it’s been an interesting contrast.

“When (the staff) first got there, their ’23 class, which was the first real class they had the heavy lifting, they got a lot of high school players,” said Brandon Huffman, 247Sports’ national recruiting editor. “Then they had the success, and they found they were becoming very desirable by portal players so they’re kind of going heavy portal this year rather than high school.”

Washington’s used the portal well over the past two years and has landed key contributors such as Michael Penix Jr., Wayne Taulapapa, Dillon Johnson, Germie Bernard and Jabbar Muhammad. But the on-field success should make the Huskies a program to watch in the 2025 recruiting cycle.

“Where you always see the bump (is) the first class after a good season but still in a lot of those kids’ minds, (the Huskies) were 4-8 in 2021,” Huffman said. “Now, it’s two years in a row of all these wins. It’s playing for a national championship. I think Washington is going to get the best bump (on the West Coast).”

2. Arizona is another program worth watching. Jedd Fisch’s 2022 class ranked 22nd nationally and included several players who made up the core of the Wildcats’ impressive 9-3 season — receiver Tetairoa McMillan, quarterback Noah Fifita, running back Jonah Coleman, linebacker Jacob Manu and safety Ephesians Prysock, among others.

Last year’s class ranked just 40th nationally, and Arizona’s 2024 class ranks 47th — and, notably, does not include local five-star edge rusher Elijah Rushing, who flipped to Oregon after originally committing to the Wildcats.

And even though the recent rankings haven’t been as high as those of Fisch’s first class, Arizona has continued to evaluate well and has hit Southern California hard. That’s put the Wildcats in position to win 10 games for the first time since 2014 and only the second time since 1998.

A lot of this core group of players will be back when Arizona moves to the Big 12 in 2024. And this successful season will be something Fisch can sell on the recruiting trail next year as well.

3. Oregon is building quite an impressive defensive line class. Rushing and Aydin Breland are top-50 players nationally. The Ducks also hold a commitment from four-star prospect Xadavien Sims and are the favorites to land top-150 prospect Jericho Johnson, who is the highest-rated uncommitted prospect in California.

Having that sort of beef up front positions Oregon well for its upcoming move to the Big Ten.

4. The Ducks were among six finalists for five-star offensive lineman Jordan Seaton, who was the lone uncommitted five-star remaining. Seaton pulled off a stunner Thursday morning and committed to Colorado, which wasn’t even among his listed finalists.

Yes, we know, Deion Sanders will dip heavily into the portal to improve the roster. And based on the past two recruiting cycles, it was expected he’d pull off a surprise ahead of the early signing period. But there are still legitimate concerns about the Buffaloes’ recruiting at the moment. After Seaton’s commitment, Colorado’s class ranks just 52nd nationally. Even if Sanders pulls off a few more flips, Colorado’s class will likely be outside of the top 25 in this cycle.

“If they couldn’t capitalize on the buzz and the nine months of all the optimism and the 3-0 start, what are they going to do moving forward when they went 1-8 down the stretch?” Huffman said. “You know they’re going to get negative-recruited (during the next recruiting cycle) that Deion might not even be there in 2025.”

5. UCLA’s class is also particularly concerning. The Bruins have always been a heavy portal program under Chip Kelly, who is being retained after a disappointing 7-5 season. Still, they have only 11 commits and rank 60th nationally — 15th in the new 18-team Big Ten, ahead of only Indiana, Northwestern and Michigan State (three programs that have changed coaches).

“This has been kind of the standard with Chip Kelly — it’s been heavy portal emphasis,” Huffman said. “And for every Zach Charbonnet and Laiatu Latu that you get out of the portal, you’re going to get a Jake Wiley, who never played, or Khadere Kounta from Old Dominion, who doesn’t play. That’s the danger of relying on the portal. You bring them in, don’t develop your youngsters, and your offensive line chases off a Dante Moore (who is in the portal). Now, he essentially has lame-duck status. How is that going to help them?”

6. We’re a week into December, and 29 of the top 30 recruits in California are already committed. All five blue-chip prospects from the state of Washington are committed, and all 10 from Arizona as well. Nevada has only two blue-chippers, and both are committed. And three of the four blue-chip recruits in Utah are off the board.

USC’s recruiting has slowed considerably since the summer. Utah’s got a small class coming in. Cal has a heavy portal emphasis. Arizona State landed a really nice commitment from four-star running back Jason Brown this week but is still early in its building process. And Oregon State and Washington State are in limbo and without a true conference home.

All of those factors have led to an extreme lack of drama out west as the early signing period approaches.

“There’s more drama in the portal than there is anywhere near the drama in high school recruiting,” said Huffman, who expects this to become the norm. “It feels like schools are emphasizing even more (to) take your visits in May and June. These schools want to have 80 to 90 percent of their classes locked up by the summer, which is why I think there’s been such a move to get the signing period moved up earlier.

“They’ve already done the heavy lifting by June and July, and by fall it’s ‘Recruit my own roster and recruit the portal.’ So I think this is the standard moving forward. The senior year doesn’t matter anymore almost.”

(Photo of Kalen DeBoer: Stephen R. Sylvanie / USA Today)