The Hotline is delighted to provide Pac-12 fans with a weekly dive into the recruiting process through the eyes and ears of Brandon Huffman, the Seattle-based national recruiting editor for 247Sports.
The following report was provided to the Hotline on May 11 …
It has long been stated that the Pac-12 must retain the best high school players in its footprint. That necessity has never been more glaring than after the 2023 NFL Draft, when the top two picks were from Southern California but played for Alabama (Bryce Young) and Ohio State (CJ Stroud) instead of a Pac-12 school.
With the conference in transition — USC and UCLA are joining the Big Ten next summer — the following five offensive prospects in the high school class of 2024 are critically important to the Pac-12’s recruiting fortunes.
1. OT Brandon Baker (Santa Ana, Calif.)
High school: Mater Dei
247 Sports national rating: Five stars; No. 1 offensive tackle
Comment: Baker went on record last summer questioning USC and UCLA’s motives in leaving for the Big Ten, asking how they could call themselves hometown schools yet leaving the footprint for a new conference. He attends a prep powerhouse that has long been a pipeline to USC. But Baker’s older brother, Gary, played for the Ducks, which explains why he’s a serious Oregon target and the top lineman on coach Dan Lanning’s board. Plus, the Ducks have had plenty of success with Mater Dei prospects in the past few years.
2. QB Elijah Brown (Santa Ana, Calif.)
High school: Mater Dei
247 Sports national rating: Four stars; No. 3 quarterback
Comment: Speaking of the former Alabama quarterback who went No. 1 in the draft: Brown took over for Young at Mater Dei and didn’t lose a game as the starter his first two seasons, then went 12-1 as a junior. Stanford, UCLA and USC are the top pursuers, but the Bruins (Dante Moore) and Trojans (Malachi Nelson) signed five-star quarterbacks this year, which could be an obstacle. Brown would add instant credibility to Stanford coach Troy Taylor’s recruiting efforts in his first full class.
3. ATH Aaron Butler (Calabasas, Calif.)
High school: Calabasas
247 Sports national rating: Four stars; No. 5 athlete
Comment: A former USC commit, Butler opened up his recruitment over the winter. While his short list includes the past two schools to win national championships, Georgia and Alabama, the Ducks are also making a big push for him. But no school is pursuing Butler as relentlessly as Colorado. In fact, 247 Sports projections currently have CU coach Deion Sanders winning the Butler sweepstakes. The Buffaloes would love to snatch him out of Southern California but keep him out West.
4. OT Isaiah Garcia (Draper, Utah)
High school: Corner Canyon
247 Sports national rating: Four stars; No. 14 offensive tackle
Comment: The No. 1 prospect in Utah has stayed home in the past two recruiting cycles, and the Utes would love to keep that streak going with Garcia, an Under Armour All-American. After signing a stellar collection of offensive linemen in 2023 — it includes the state’s No. 1 player, Spencer Fano — the Utes are hoping to land Garcia and team him with Fano to create a formidable tackle combination. But Oregon, Stanford and USC all loom large. Can the Pac-12 schools keep him, or will the Big Ten-bound Trojans grab the prize?
5. TB Jason Brown (Seattle)
High school: O’Dea
247 Sports national rating: Four stars; No. 3 tailback
Comment: The top prospect in the Evergreen State hasn’t stayed home since 2018, when cornerback Kyler Gordon picked Washington. Brown has a lot of national attention, but Oregon, USC and the Huskies are all posturing for the All-American Bowl selection. Of note: The Ducks landed the No. 1 player in Washington in 2022 (tackle Josh Conerly), while the Trojans did the same in 2023 (interior lineman Micah Banuelos). The three-pronged pursuit of Brown has similar dynamics.
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