The Pac-12 recruiting pipeline faces a surprising new threat

Commentary on Pac-12 developments on and off the field, and on the field…

Rising: Recruitment Threats

A new Marauder has appeared on the Recruitment Track, ready to deal additional damage to the Pac-12 talent pipeline.

It’s not a blue blood or even a newly spawned powerhouse.

It’s a basketball school, actually.

Don’t look now, but Louisville has become a problem for the Pac-12.

The Cardinals currently hold commitments from four Southern California prospects in the Class of 2023 — each of them carrying a four-star rating by 247Sports.

A conference struggling to fend off the likes of Alabama, Ohio State, LSU, Clemson and Georgia must now face a program that has no national titles (in football) and has no posted a 10-win season for nearly a decade.

What’s going on in the name of Derby City?

Key to Louisville’s sudden success in the heart of Pac-12 country is Pierce Clarkson, a four-star quarterback for prep powerhouse St. John Bosco and the son of famed California-based quarterback coach Steve Clarkson.

Once the Cardinals landed Clarkson earlier this year, they became a destination for blue-chipers who wanted to join him.

But how did the Cardinals land Clarkson in the first place?

Perhaps he was intrigued by those six wins last season. Or the four wins the previous season.

Or maybe, just maybe, it’s all about name and image and likeness.

The Louisville metro area is home to 1.4 million people and no professional teams. There are unlimited private sector endorsement opportunities for college athletes – especially quarterbacks with four-star ratings and the potential to become the face of a football program.

That said, the Hotline would be remiss if we didn’t make one final point:

Louisville is an Adidas school, and Steve Clarkson’s quarterback camps are sponsored by…Adidas.

The company logo can be found on Clarkson’s website.

His Twitter profile page includes the hashtag #teamadidas.

Now, it’s worth noting that after Pierce Clarkson’s commitment to Louisville in January, Steve Clarkson told ESPN that dealings with Adidas didn’t impact his son’s decision.

(We’ll pause here for laughter and general merriment.)

The Cardinals aren’t the only non-blue blood program that could leverage NIL opportunities as a way to lure West Coast prospects out of the Pac-12 footprint.

As we’ve written before, recruiting success in the age of NIL depends to a large extent on the passion of your donors and the depth of their pockets.

The Pac-12 needs its boosters to keep up with the moment.

Downfall: NBA Draft prospects

With the deadline for stay or departure having come and gone, the hotline reviewed the latest draft projections.

What we saw opened our eyes.

Only one Pac-12 player, Arizona winger Bennedict Mathurin, is considered a first-round lock.

Granted, fictional drafts are inherently flawed (for the NBA and NFL). But they’re not always wrong about every player.

From there, it looks like Arizona’s Dalen Terry and Christian Koloko have the best chance of joining Mathurin in the first round — much better than, say, UCLA’s Johnny Juzang or USC’s Isaiah Mobley.

But there’s no reason to consider Terry or Koloko a lock.

If June 23 comes and goes with Mathurin alone, it would be the first time since 2010 that the Pac-12 has produced a single first-round pick.

At the time, it was Quincy Pondexter from Washington.

Rise: The pressure of USC football

It’s become apparent to the Hotline that a Pac-12 football coach deserves next-level attention in 2022, and it’s not USC’s Lincoln Riley or Oregon’s Dan Lanning or any of the coaches. chief.

Alex Grinch, welcome to the spotlight.

The extent to which USC’s freshman defensive coordinator can squeeze the maximum performance out of a flawed unit could determine not just the Pac-12 championship, but also college football’s playoff race.

With the recent addition of receiver Jordan Addison, the Trojans are more than loaded on offense.

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And they bolstered the linebacking squad with Shane Lee (Alabama), Eric Gentry (Arizona State) and Romello Height (Auburn).

But we remain skeptical about the secondary and, above all, on the defensive front.

They could definitely use Mike Patterson and Shaun Cody right now – in their 40-year-old bodies.

Even for casual fans, the rising expectations for USC have been impossible to miss.

Recently, the Trojans moved up eight spots, to No. 4, in ESPN’s updated Top 25 rankings, and they will undoubtedly land in the top 10 when the AP preseason poll is released in August.

But let’s not forget that the Trojans were No. 112 nationally last season in yards per play allowed (6.37), perhaps the best measure of defensive performance as it accounts for pace disparities.

Meanwhile, the four college football playoff teams (Georgia, Alabama, Cincinnati and Michigan) were all in the top 15 in that category.

For Grinch and Co., the climb is akin to climbing the face of El Capitan.

Downfall: Pac-12 schedule pressure

Many Pac-12 fans and campus officials have pointed to the conference’s nine-game schedule as a major factor in the scarcity of playoff spots for the conference over the years.

The data supports the idea that fewer league games is an advantage:

The vast majority of CFP slots have been taken by the two Power Five conferences (SEC and ACC) which only play eight.

But the dynamic could change in a way that (believe it or not) benefits the Pac-12.

The SEC is considering a change to its schedule model that would result in teams playing nine conference games instead of eight once Texas and Oklahoma arrive (presumably in 2025).

From there, it’s clear:

You simply cannot play eight games in a 16-team league and maintain the required levels of competitive balance and inter-conference exposure.

Both models are supported in the SEC’s footprint, but we believe the conference will ultimately settle for nine.

And if that happens, the ACC will stand alone – good luck with that – while the public pressure on the Pac-12 to initiate change fades away.


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James T. Quintero