The first Wednesday in February doesn’t carry the same weight it once did in college football’s roster-building process.
With the early-signing window for high school seniors and the all-the-time signing window for transfer portal occupants, the traditional date has taken on secondary — if not tertiary — importance.
But it still matters. It matters to some programs more than others, depending on the year and the prospects available.
Here are five storylines to watch across the Pac-12 as (the second) National Signing Day arrives.
*** Rankings reality
Stanford currently owns the top-rated class in the Pac-12, which is unusual but not unprecedented.
Not so unusual: None of the Pac-12 classes are ranked in the top 10 nationally in the 247Sports database.
After No. 15 Stanford comes 22nd-ranked Arizona, perhaps the biggest surprise in the country during this recruiting cycle.
To find the Pac-12 programs that typically hold down the top spots in the conference, you must scroll down to the 43rd position (Oregon) and then No. 65 (USC).
All the way down at No. 108, between Wyoming and Old Dominion, we find Washington.
The Huskies were hit hard by the chaos under Jimmy Lake and subsequent transition to the Kalen DeBoer era.
Both USC and Washington could make modest progress on Wednesday but are relying heavily on the transfer portal to retool.
In fact, when transfers are included in the 247Sports rankings, USC’s incoming class zooms to No. 9 nationally — tops in the conference. The crown jewel arrived Tuesday, in the form of Oklahoma quarterback Caleb Williams.
Washington doesn’t get nearly the same boost from its transfers, rising to a mere 81st nationally when all newcomers are considered.
*** Oregon’s close
No program is better positioned for a furious finish than the Ducks, who signed a light class in December shortly after hiring new coach Dan Lanning.
The Ducks must hold onto four-star cornerback Jahlil Florence and Portland safety Trejon Williams.
They are also attempting to ward off ex-coach Mario Cristobal (now at Miami) for four-star linebacker Dave Iuli from the Seattle area; they’re competing with Clemson for four-star linebacker TJ Dudley from Alabama, and they’re dueling Oklahoma for four-star defensive lineman Gracen Halton from San Diego.
If things break right for the Ducks, they could finish the day with a top-20 class.
*** The big holdout
The top unsigned player in the Pac-12 footprint is Josh Conerly Jr., a five-star offensive tackle from Seattle — exactly the type of potentially dominant lineman the conference desperately needs.
But according to 247Sports projections, Conerly is as likely to sign with Michigan as with Washington.
Could Wolverines coach Jim Harbaugh’s interest in the Minnesota Vikings vacancy change that calculation? Perhaps. Don’t be surprised if Conerly ends up at Miami — the Cristobal connection — or perhaps Oregon.
And there’s a dark horse in the Conerly sweepstakes: USC.
*** ASU’s plight
The NCAA investigation has exacted a massive toll on recruiting efforts in Tempe.
The Sun Devils have a nine-player class that’s ranked No. 94 and features just one four-star prospect. Once again, they struggled to sign the top local players in a state with an ever-expanding talent pool.
To counter the difficulty with high school seniors, coach Herm Edwards has made deft use of the transfer portal and recently landed an impact defensive lineman, Nesta Jade Silvera, from Miami.
Look for a slew of players to be added to the roster, either Wednesday or in the coming months, as ASU works to limit the damage from the investigation.
*** QBs, or no QBs
As it stands, Pac-12 teams have signed just five of the top 50 high school quarterback prospects in the country.
The top-rated passer of the group is Nate Johnson, a four-star talent from California’s Central Valley who’s headed to Utah. Then comes Justyn Martin of Inglewood; he’s bound for UCLA.
There are no five-star quarterbacks in the Pac-12’s home region this year, but the footprint is loaded in the 2022-23 recruiting cycle.
Six of the top 13 quarterback prospects in the prep class of ’23 are from the conference’s six states.
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