Gold Nuggets: Huskies tearing up recruiting trail while OSU reels in a Swedish fish
Welcome to the first edition of Gold Nuggets, Saturday Out West columnist Jon Gold’s weekly trip around the Pac-12.
Read below for an update on Kalen DeBoer traipsing around the country while Oregon State goes international for a big recruit, and more…
When your football team goes 1-11, it is not a surprise that your punter gets a ton of work.
All that work last year for a reeling Arizona Wildcats squad helped Kyle Ostendorp land on the Sporting News preseason All-American team, securing a spot on the second team on Sunday.
— Arizona Football (@ArizonaFBall) July 16, 2022
Ostendorp led the Pac-12 in yards per punt last season (49.2) and with a league-leading 28 punts of 50-plus yards.
If gets that much work again this year for the Wildcats, something has gone terribly wrong.
Arizona State quarterbacks Paul Tyson and Trenton Bourguet battled throughout spring ball to secure pole position heading into the Sun Devils’ fall camp. Then former Florida quarterback Emory Jones transferred to the desert and added to the competition.
But did ASU offensive lineman Ben Scott let slip who the Sun Devils expect will line up behind center this season?
The Athlon Sports preseason third-team selection joined Arizona Sports 98.7 FM for an interview on Thursday, and he shed some light on Jones’ arrival.
“He is getting better and better every day,” Scott said. “He is coming in here to prove he is the starter. We didn’t bring him in here to be a backup.”
So much for a competition.
Just when Peter Sirmon gave up recruiting coordinator responsibilities for Cal, he reeled in his biggest recruit ever.
There may be no more impactful defensive transfer in the conference than the shuffling of stud linebacker Jackson Sirmon, who left Washington to rendezvous with dear old dad in Berkeley. The Huskies’ leading tackler a year ago was named to the Athlon Sports preseason All-Pac-12 first team last month.
The elder Sirmon has a history of producing NFL talent. Formerly defensive coordinator at Mississippi State (2016) and Louisville (2017) for one season each, Sirmon has worked with Cal head coach Justin Wilcox at several stops, including Tennessee (2010-11), Washington (2012-13) and USC (2014-15).
How’s the saying go? “If you have two quarterbacks, you have no quarterbacks?”
The Colorado Buffaloes are heading into fall camp with Brendon Lewis looking to fend off JT Shrout for the starting nod, based off Lewis’ status as starter last year. Colorado coach Karl Dorrell said that Lewis was in the driver’s seat this week, but Shrout was looking good in 2021 before suffering a torn ACL after transferring from Tennessee.
Shrout played for one of Southern California’s top high school football coaches in Hart’s Mike Herrington, and he blossomed his senior year when given the starting role. Dorrell doesn’t sound 100% sold on Lewis; this is the biggest QB battle to watch in the conference.
Former Oregon Duck Devon Allen had quite the tune-up for the Philadelphia Eagles’ preseason.
The Olympic hurdler qualified for the semifinals of the men’s 110-meter hurdles at the World Athletics Championships on Saturday at Hayward Field in Eugene. His time of 13.47 seconds gave him an automatic qualification for the semifinals. Last month, Allen recorded the 3rd-fastest time in history at 12.84 seconds as he won the New York Grand Prix.
Soon, though, he’ll shift his attention to the gridiron. A wideout for the Ducks from 2014-16, Allen signed with the Eagles in April.
There is something charming about a Swedish football player using a rap from a British MC to announce his college football commitment.
But Thomas Collins is no quaint recruit for the Oregon State Beavers. A 6-foot-1, 275-pound defensive lineman with a sturdy build, Collins spurned offers from Penn State, Texas A&M, Oregon and Texas, among others.
Jonathan Smith continues to put together a nice haul in Corvallis, landing his latest from RIG Academy in Sweden.
— Thomas Collins (@Collins_Thomas1) July 9, 2022
All eyes may be on USC’s Caleb Williams and Utah’s Cameron Rising, but at least a few NFL scouts will be wandering up to Palo Alto to check out the player who could end up drafted higher than both of them.
In June, Pro Football Focus ranked Stanford’s Tanner McKee the No. 3 2023 NFL Draft quarterback prospect, and the first month of the season will prove if he deserved that billing. With the Cardinal set to face USC, Washington and Oregon before the calendar hits October 2, McKee’s make-or-break month happens early.
If Stanford can shore up an offensive line that allowed 17 sacks in the second half of the season—heck, if McKee is still left standing after a September he hopefully remembers—then the Cardinal could be a surprise team in the conference.
No one is more plugged into Pac-12 recruiting than 247Sports’ Brandon Huffman, UCLA in particular.
So when he reached out to several of the West’s top recruits in the wake of the Bruins’ departure to the Big Ten, I kept a keen eye on what he pried out of the top prospects. One thing stood out.
“It was pretty crazy to hear,” Orinda (Calif.) Miramonte quarterback and UCLA commit Luke Duncan told Huffman. “I’ve grown up watching Pac-12 football, so this change is big. I think it’s going to be a great thing. I’m looking at the bigger picture to where now many different fans can come watch UCLA football from all over. I couldn’t be more excited. Everyone needs to experience a packed stands, cold weather game, so I can’t wait to experience it. I hope west coast recruits will be able to realize all the benefits and exposure UCLA will get.”
One thing I’ve heard Pac-12 players and coaches lament for years is how similar the game-day experiences are for players in the conference. Even the noisiest of stadiums—Oregon’s Autzen, Washington’s Husky Stadium—are nothing like Ann Arbor in November, or Columbus, or Madison.
We worry about what this means for players who’ll now have to travel two or three time zones for a game. Well, top prospects want big-time football, and Big Ten football is big-time football. They don’t mind the travel.
The Los Angeles Times’ Ryan Kartje had a terrific feature on the budding empire of USC quarterback Caleb Williams, who has parlayed his move out west into bountiful opportunities. This is the Dust Bowl all over again, people ditching Oklahoma for California in search of a pot of gold.
A glance at Caleb Williams' portfolio:
-2nd CFB player w/ a Beats deal
-Long-term deal w/ real estate investment fund
-Helped launch AC+ION Water
-Equity stake in 3 brands (@facultyworld, @GOATS_hall and @futuremoodinc)
-Memorabilia licensed w/ @Fanatics, trading cards w/ Topps
— Ryan Kartje (@Ryan_Kartje) July 11, 2022
But color me a bit concerned.
College football quarterbacks have plenty of responsibilities, and while learning Lincoln Riley’s offense won’t be one of them for the former Sooners star, I’m worried Williams may be spreading himself too thin. I’m all for college athletes maximizing their value at all times, but this is a ton of pressure for a young transfer quarterback. Now’s not the time to bite off more than he can chew.
With a strong athletic department from top-to-bottom, the University of Utah has to be one of the most compelling programs for conferences looking to poach the Pac-12 when it’s down.
For now, though, president Taylor Randall is toeing the company line and holding firm to the conference’s remaining nine programs.
“Right now, the 10 schools that remain in the Pacific Athletic Conference are holding together,” Randall told KSL Radio’s Dave and Dujanovic on Thursday morning. “We still think we have a strong league. What we like is a shared sense of values to get students graduated. We actually think that we have a lot of options in front of us.
“People always ask me about every single rumor and ‘are you chasing down all these different opportunities?’ I would say they are probably all true. Everything is on the table. We’re looking for a strong position in athletics for years to come. Given the types of schools we still have in our conference, we feel really good about that.”
If Kalen DeBoer coaches for Washington anything like he’s been recruiting lately, the Huskies will be in good shape for years to come.
It’s one thing to just add numbers, and Curley Reed’s commitment to UDub on Thursday was indeed the program’s 18th commit for the 2023 class, now ranked 20th in the country. But Reed is also the best of Washington’s commits, a talented cornerback out of Lake Charles Prep in Louisiana. DeBoer and the Huskies beat out hometown LSU, Miami, USC, and Oregon for his services, among others.
Breaking: On300 CB Curley Reed commits to Washington
Seattle is “huge and full of opportunities” and it “instantly hit him” during his official visit
— Sam Spiegelman (@samspiegs) July 14, 2022
It says something that Washington’s reach has gone national—Reed would be just the third Husky from the Bayou State, according to The Athletic’s Christian Caple—and the Huskies now have reeled in recruits from 7 states.
To be fair, recruiting wasn’t really Jimmy Lake’s problem (keeping his hands off his players, on the other hand …), but after falling to 4-8 last season just a few years removed from the 3rd of 3 consecutive 10-win seasons, it’s clear the Huskies had fallen off a bit.
DeBoer appears to have them back on track.
Sticking with recruiting, Washington State filled one of the most important positions on its football staff Friday, naming Stacey Ford director of recruiting.
Boy does life come at you fast! GOD’s plan is always greater than our own plan and Promotion comes from the lord. I’ve poured my heart and soul into my family at Warren! EXCITED TO START MY NEW opportunity as the Director of Recruiting at Washington State University!! #GOCOUGS pic.twitter.com/SgKmlPTxvT
— Stacey Ford (@COACHSTACEDC) July 15, 2022
Ignore this news at your peril: Ford comes to Pullman from Warren High in Downey, Calif., located in Los Angeles County in incredibly fertile recruiting territory. Ford is a known commodity in the southland after helping guide the Bears to an 8-1 record while serving as defensive coordinator. Yes, his defense allowed under 100 points for the season, but the Cougars aren’t bringing him in for his coaching acumen.
Washington State already recruits the Golden State well, with 33 players on their roster hailing from California. With this hire, they only fortify those ties.