Our fearless forecast for the 2023-24 signing cycle
Three weeks remain in the 2022-23 college football recruiting season, but the framework for next year is already established.
The Hotline asked Brandon Huffman, the Washington-based national recruiting editor for 247 Sports, to offer a few projections for the Pac-12 with the high school juniors who will sign letters of intent in the winter of 2023-24.
Will the intra-conference dynamics change with USC and UCLA bound for the Big Ten?
Will resurgent Washington challenge Oregon for Pac-12 supremacy?
How will the Deion Sanders era at Colorado change the balance of power?
Huffman provided the following predictions …
1. Oregon reigns supreme
“Oregon will once again have the top recruiting class in the Pac-12.
“The Ducks are finishing with a top-10 class this year, in the first full cycle under coach Dan Lanning. And he’s going to secure another stellar group in 2023-24 given their ability to recruit nationally and, obviously, their ability to close with players on the West Coast and across the country. That will put them in a good position.
“They already have a top-10 class with the current high school juniors even though there are just four commitments. But all of them are four-star prospects, including top players in Oregon, Washington and Pennsylvania.”
2. USC flourishes
“That said, I think USC’s class will be rated higher than Oregon’s. But because the Trojans will be headed to the Big Ten in the summer of ‘24, they won’t have the highest-ranked class in the Pac-12. Instead, it will be absorbed by the Big Ten.
“The second full recruiting cycle for coach Lincoln Riley is expected to be strong. Why do I say that considering the Trojans just lost one of their top prospects? (Four-star athlete Aaron Butler, who’s from Southern California, has de-committed.)
“Well, they went into Oregon and landed the No. 1 player in the state in four-star tight end Joey Olsen, and they have a four-star receiver from Long Beach in Jason Robinson. That’s only two commitments, but there will be less reliance on the transfer portal.
“The big portal push from Riley might have scared off some recruits in the ’23 class. But the Trojans will revert to the mean with the number of high school recruits and end up with the highest-rated class on the West Coast, just as a member of the Big Ten.”
3. Utah’s rise continues
“Utah will sign an even better recruiting class in 2024 than it has in the current recruiting cycle with the 22nd-ranked class nationally.
“Obviously, the Utes do a great job recruiting within the state. But what helps them is with the consecutive Pac-12 championships and the consecutive Rose Bowl berths, they are going to become a bigger national brand than they have been in recent years.
“They have recruited Florida well, and they have been able to recruit Texas and, of course, the West Coast. Now, I think they have a better chance.
“An example is CJ Blocker, the four-star defensive back from Texas who committed to them, then de-committed and eventually circled back and stuck with them. You’ll see more recruiting wins like that, where they go into Power Five states outside the western footprint and get elite guys. The upward trajectory will continue.”
4. Here comes Colorado
“I anticipate that Colorado will have a top-five class in the Pac-12 in the 2023-24 cycle.
“The Buffaloes are already off to a strong start with three commitments — all of them since the hiring of Deion Sanders. Their class ranks No. 17 nationally right now.
Two of the three highly-rated guys are from Georgia, so it’s a matter of holding onto them. (Omar White is a four-star defensive lineman.) And let’s not forget that Sanders has ties to Georgia from his time with the Falcons and Braves.
“I anticipate the Buffaloes finishing with a top-five class whether you count USC as being in the Pac-12 or not.”
5. Status quo at UCLA
“In contrast to Colorado, UCLA won’t have a top-five recruiting class in the conference even though the Bruins have one ranked that high in the 2022-23 recruiting cycle.
“Why? They have offered the fewest number of scholarships in the Pac-12 to prospects in the class of ’24. And of the teams in the Big Ten, the only school that has offered nearly as few scholarships is Northwestern.
“UCLA will continue to rely on the transfer portal. In the 2023 class, the Bruins have nine transfers and 13 high school signees. They’ll go with something close to a 50-50 balance during their years in the Big Ten.”
6. Stanford will struggle
“Stanford has been one of the recruiting stalwarts in the Pac-12, even amid some bad years on the field. But I think there will be a rude awakening for coach Troy Taylor in Year One.
“It’s not that I don’t think Taylor can recruit, or don’t think his staff can recruit. It’s that there’s a new face of the program. There isn’t a David Shaw, who produced a No. 1 overall draft pick and Rose Bowl wins. Taylor is still a relatively unknown quantity among recruits.
“Stanford got a number of ’23 commitments even when it didn’t have a coach — in the days after Shaw announced his resignation. And the program has one commitment in the class of 2024 right now in three-star cornerback Jamir Benjamin.
“But the Cardinal has to find its footing, because the NIL (name, image and likeness) landscape has changed things.
“It may take a year or two for Taylor to prove it on the field. Even though Stanford recruits itself, the program still might need a little bit of a recalibration.”
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