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By Bill Seals
Sports Reporter 

Pac-12 has become the top quarterback conference


February 2, 2023


Trojan quarterback Caleb Williams

Ever since the announcement that UCLA and USC were leaving for the Big Ten Conference, the rumors of the possible demise of the Pac-12 have swirled around the conference. Well, it appears that the reports of the death of the Pac-12 have been greatly exaggerated. The Pac-12 conference is very much alive and they are attracting some of the best quarterbacks in the nation.

According to the football recruiting rankings, the Pac-12 ended up with six of the top 30 football schools in the 2023 overall football recruiting rankings, which includes both recruits and transfers. The SEC led with 11 team in the top 30, followed by the Pac-12 with six, the Big Ten with five, the ACC with five, and the Big Ten with three teams in the top 30. Notre Dame was also in the top 30.

The Pac-12 ended the season with six of the top 18 teams in the nation in college football. Even after UCLA and USC leave, the Pac-12 will still have a solid power conference. These were the six Pac-12 schools in the top 30 and their ranking:

8. USC – Added 3 of the top 10 players in California, which includes five-star quarterback Malachi Nelson from Los Alamitos. The Trojans found some more speed in Nevada, adding Nevada five-star wide receiver Zachariah Branch, who has run a 10.33 in the 100 meters.

9. Oregon – Added 4 of the top 10 players in California. Oregon's recruiting class is impressive. They recruited well in Southern California, adding four-star edge rusher Matayo Uiagalelei, from St. John Bosco's, and a pair of four-star cornerbacks, Daylen Austin of Long Beach Poly and Rodrick Pleasant of Juniper Serra. Pleasant holds the state record in the 100 meters at 10.14. They also got the No. 1 player in both Colorado and Idaho, and 5 of the top 50 players in Texas.

21. Colorado- Colorado is the only school in the nation with both a five-star recruit and a five-star transfer. Coach Deion Sanders landed the top cornerback in the 2023 class in Cormani McClain of Lakeland, Florida and got last year's No. 1 ranked player in the nation, Travis Hunter, to transfer from Jackson State. Hunter was the top-rated cornerback in the nation in 2022.

24. UCLA – The Bruins landed the No. 1 ranked player in Michigan, five-star quarterback Dante Moore, who is the highest ranked recruit ever for head coach Chip Kelly. UCLA continues to do well in the transfer portal, with a transfer portal ranking of 6th in the country.

25. Utah – The Utes added nine 4-star players to their roster, which is not a good sign for the Pac-12, because these guys do a good job of developing talent. They added two 4-star offensive tackles, both ranked in the top 15 nationally at their position, then added a four-star running back out of Kansas.

30. Washington – The Huskies added six cornerbacks to their roster, with the highlight being cornerback Caleb Presley, the top ranked player in the state of Washington. They also found a four-star cornerback from Lake Charles, Louisiana. On the offensive side, the receiver rich Huskies added three 4-star wide receivers from California.

The Pac-12 has also accumulated the best group of quarterbacks in the nation for the 2023 season. Quarterback Caleb Williams of USC won the Heisman Trophy in 2022 as the top player in the nation and returns for his junior season. Williams ranked fourth in the nation with an average of 324 yards per game passing. Michael Penix Jr. of the Washington Huskies led the nation in passing yardage per game at 357 yards per game. He finished in eighth place in the Heisman Trophy voting. Arizona Wildcat quarterback Jayden de Laura was 8th in the nation in passing yardage with 307 yards per game.

Colorado will be led at quarterback by Shedeur Sanders, a transfer from Jackson State and the son of head coach Deion Sanders. Shedeur Sanders was the Offensive Player of the Year in the Southwestern Athletic Conference. Utah will be led once again by Cam Rising, who has led the Utes to two consecutive conference championships. Rising was first-team All-Pac-12 in 2021.

Arizona State has added Notre Dame transfer Drew Pyne at quarterback and four-star quarterback Jaden Rashada, a highly recruited prospect out of Pittsburgh, California. Pyne started ten games last season for Notre Dame. Rashada is the 3rd ranked quarterback prospect in the state of California.

Oregon returns former five-star quarterback Bo Nix. Oregon State has added Clemson transfer D.J. Uiagalelei, a former five-star quarterback from St. John Bosco's and four-star recruit Aidan Chiles from Downey, the 4th ranked quarterback prospect in California.

As mentioned earlier, UCLA is bringing in five-star quarterback Dante Moore, and is also adding a three-star transfer quarterback from Kent State, Collin Schlee. Washington State will return quarterback Cameron Ward for the 2023 season. Ward is a player that the NFL likes a lot, but coming back for another season is the better move for him.

Stanford and Cal lost their starting quarterbacks and are implementing new offensive systems, so they may not know who their starter at quarterback is until August. Quarterback Tanner McKee left Stanford for the NFL. He is considered a top 100 pick in the 2023 NFL draft this spring.

UCLA and USC will leave for the Big Ten on July 1, 2024. The Pac-12 is currently working on a new media deal beginning in 2024 and then the conference will address the need to replace UCLA and USC. San Diego State will likely be invited, keeping the Pac-12 presence in Southern California, the home of 24 million people and an important recruiting hotspot for the conference.


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