Huffman on Pac-12 recruiting: The top defensive prospects in the West in the class of 2024 Here’s a surprise: One of the most coveted players in the country lives in Tucson

Arizona Sports News online

Story by Brandon Huffman

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 June 7 …

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 Pac-12 schools.

With the conference in transition — USC and UCLA are joining the Big Ten next summer — the following five defensive prospects in the high school class of 2024 are critically important to the Pac-12’s recruiting fortunes.

(For the top offensive recruits in the class, go here.)

1. DL Aydin Breland (Santa Ana, Calif.)
High school: Mater Dei
247 Sports national rating: Five stars; No. 2 defensive lineman
Comment: Breland is the top defensive lineman out West and the No. 1 prospect in California at any position. The West Coast usually has a few elite interior linemen, but they often leave the footprint for powerhouses in other conferences. Oregon and USC — the two programs best positioned to keep Breland in his home region — are all on his short list. So, too, is Colorado.

2. EDGE Elijah Rushing (Tucson)
High school: Salpointe Catholic
247 Sports national rating: Five stars; No. 1 edge rusher
Comment: Rushing attends high school in the shadows of Arizona Stadium, and the Wildcats have a real chance to land him. (He took an official visit last weekend.) UCLA also has welcomed Rushing onto campus, while Oregon is expected to have its version, as well. That means three of his five visits are to current Pac-12 schools. Now they need to close.

3. CB Zabien Brown (Santa Ana, Calif.)
High school: Mater Dei
247 Sports national rating: Four stars; No. 5 cornerback
Comment: Brown is the top cover cornerback in the West and has two national heavyweights in hot pursuit, Alabama and Ohio State, along with two schools out west, Oregon and USC. The latest buzz indicates he plans to stay home and sign with USC, but the Trojans have to withstand his scheduled official visits to Tuscaloosa and Columbus.

4. CB Marcelles Williams (Bellflower, Calif.)
High school: St. John Bosco
247 Sports national rating: Four stars; No. 7 cornerback
Comment: Williams has strong Pac-12 ties: His oldest brother, Max, plays at USC while another brother, Macen, plays at Arizona State. If history is an indicator, he’ll stay in the Pac-12 footprint. He visited UCLA, but our view is that a decision to play close to home would mean signing with USC, not the Bruins. A visit to Oklahoma this weekend looms large.

5. LB Brayden Platt (Yelm, Wash.)
High school: Yelm
247 Sports national rating: Four stars; No. 8 linebacker
Comment: The No. 1 overall prospect in Washington, Platt toured UCLA last month for his first official visit. Soon after, the Bruins received a commitment from his teammate, Isaiah Patterson — they would love to make it a package deal. But Oregon may be the more likely candidate for Platt, who is one of the premier throwers in the country (shot put and javelin) and plans to pursue both football and track in college. Oklahoma is the other school in the mix.