The biggest news from the early signing window is the way Oregon closed.
Even though the Ducks lost five-star safety Peyton Bowen, who had been committed to Notre Dame, then flipped to Oregon on Wednesday morning, then flipped to Oklahoma on Thursday, they still had a tremendous week.
Where Oregon impressed the most was the 32 commitments. And of those, two were five-stars and 19 were four-stars — so 66 percent of the signees are blue-chip prospects.
But all anybody wants to talk about is the signing of five-star edge rusher Matayo Uiagalelei.
*** Landing five-star receiver Jurrion Dickey a long time ago sure helped, and losing five-star quarterback Dante Moore recently (to UCLA) sure hurt. But the Ducks closed with a lot of strength.
Behind the scenes, they knew Moore was de-committing, and they prepared for it. They had four-star quarterback Austin Novosad, who’s from Dripping Springs, Texas, take an official visit last weekend.
What’s key about Novosad is that he committed to Baylor but was offered a scholarship by Ohio State, Notre Dame, LSU and Texas A&M. But new Ducks offensive coordinator Will Stein used his connections in Texas to land Novosad.
*** Anyone who was worried about Oregon coach Dan Lanning after losing two of his last three games and after losing Moore, I think they should worry no more.
There’s some saltiness on social media about how Oregon got to this point, but it really doesn’t matter. The Ducks outworked everybody.
And the icing on the cake was flipping four-star tailback Jayden Limar (from Notre Dame), then holding on to four-star edge Blake Purchase, the top player in Colorado. When Purchase didn’t sign on Wednesday, there was a lot of talk that maybe Deion Sanders got to him. But instead, he’s signing with the Ducks.
*** Let’s spend a moment on the two-time defending conference champions.
What Utah did this year is exactly what fans had hoped for when the Utes moved into the Pac-12 a decade ago.
The first goal was to compete for division titles, and they have done that.
Then it was to win conference championships, and they have done that.
Now, it’s to recruit at a top-25 level, and they did that with the No. 22 class in the 247Sports composite rankings.
They are out-recruiting and out-evaluating and outworking schools and were able to flip a couple of commitments: four-star tight end Hunter Clegg from Stanford and four-star offensive tackle Spencer Fano from BYU.
This is what fans had dreamed of — and what Pac-12 coaches had always feared:
What would happen if Kyle Whittingham started to get elite talent?
*** We thought new Sanders would make a splash at Colorado but not necessarily in recruiting — we figured it would be in the transfer portal.
And on Wednesday night, after all the excitement had died down from signing day, Sanders added Jackson State cornerback Travis Hunter, the former No. 1 recruit in the country.
And he added his son, quarterback Shedeur Sanders, as everyone expected.
And he added Savion Washington, the mammoth offensive tackle who followed new offensive coordinator Sean Lewis from Kent State to Boulder. Washington will be a plug-and-play lineman.
The Buffaloes only have eight commitments from the transfer portal, but I anticipate a big number coming in the next few weeks. With so many Power Five teams playing in their bowls, there will be another wave. That’s where Sanders will really capitalize, just like USC coach Lincoln Riley did last year.
Don’t be surprised to see Colorado’s count go from eight transfers to 20 or more.
The Buffaloes have had success in the high school ranks — for example, flipping four-star tailback Dylan Edwards (from Notre Dame) a couple of weeks ago. That was big. But this class will make its money in the portal.
*** It was unusual to see UCLA close the way it did, with coach Chip Kelly getting the highest-rated recruit of his tenure in five-star quarterback Dante Moore.
So you think, “Maybe Kelly isn’t just relying on the portal” — except for the fact that the Bruins have six commitments from the portal.
That group includes Collin Schlee, the quarterback from Kent State. Does that mean Schlee is insurance in case Moore doesn’t win the job? We don’t know.
*** Lastly, we should note that if USC’s five-star signees (quarterback Malachi Nelson, receiver Zachariah Branch and athlete Makai Lemon) had all announced their decisions in Dec. ’22, instead of Dec. ’21, there would have been a lot more buzz around the Trojans on signing day.
It’s a top-15 class that didn’t get top-15 buzz because there was so little drama.
But losing Uiagalelei was a blow — they would have loved to keep an elite defender in SoCal — and, honestly, I think this class left a little meat on the bone.