Pac-12 recruiting: Assessing the impact of realignment on Cal, Oregon State and Washington State (so far, so good)

On-field momentum helping the Beavers and Cougars through uncertain times

The Pac-12 Hotline is excited to bring Pac-12 fans a regular look at the recruiting process through the eyes and ears of Brandon Huffman, the national recruiting editor for 247Sports based in Seattle. On September 14, he submitted the following report…

Cal knew it had a future in a Power Five conference by the time it took the field for its season opener against North Texas. The ACC had officially invited Cal, along with Stanford and SMU, to join in 2024 the day before.

So there was a lot of excitement when the Bears returned to Berkeley and started preparing for their home opener against Auburn. There were also a lot of recruits who were excited to see the Bears after their win over North Texas, to see them play an SEC program, and to know that Cal had a future in the power conferences.

While the Bears lost a late lead to Auburn, the fourth-quarter collapse did not derail their momentum.

Marco Jones, a linebacker from San Ramon Valley High School, is the top 2025 prospect in the Bay Area and the No. 2 prospect in Northern California in his class.

He went to the game and was encouraged by what he saw — and, more importantly, by the prospects for the future.

“I really like the coaching staff that they have there, and I feel like they’re building some big things for the future,” Jones, a four-star prospect according to 247Sports, said.

Quarterback EJ Caminong, a three-star prospect from Seattle’s Garfield High School, had previously committed to play at Washington before broadening his recruitment.

He took an official visit to Cal in June and committed to the Bears shortly after. The Pac-12 was on life support a few weeks later, and Cal’s future was uncertain. Caminong, on the other hand, welcomed the ACC move with open arms, as he is eager to see more of the country.

“Football-wise, I’m excited to see some of these bigger schools,” Caminong said. “It’s going to be a bigger stage, so I’m looking forward to it.” But I’m also looking forward to visiting new places across the country. That appeals to me as well.”

Caminong joined several other Cal commits in Strawberry Canyon last weekend and expressed excitement for the future.

“I think we were all relieved and excited when we talked to my guys,” Caminong said. “After talking with my guys, we all feel strong and satisfied with the realignment.”

Stanford will finally open its home schedule this weekend when it hosts Sacramento State, first-year coach Troy Taylor’s alma mater.

With its ACC invitation secured, the Cardinal opened the season against Hawaii later that day. A week later, Stanford suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of USC, the school that opened the floodgates for Pac-12 realignment by joining the Big Ten in the summer of 2022.

Despite losses in their second games, Cal and Stanford are optimistic about their futures.

In terms of conference location, things aren’t as clear for Oregon State and Washington State.

What is clear is that Washington State coach Jake Dickert and Oregon State coach Jonathan Smith are not letting their teams be distracted by the tumultuous backdrop.

Both won their road openers against Mountain West opponents (Colorado State and San Jose State, respectively), and both won their home openers the following week against ranked opponents. WSU defeated Wisconsin, while OSU defeated FCS-ranked UC Davis.

Despite their uncertain futures, the Cougars and Beavers drew a sizable number of prospects to their home openers.

Washington State’s group of visitors was heavy on in-state prospects, but it also included a Bay Area recruit: three-star cornerback Kamani Jackson of El Cerrito High School, who will announce his decision this weekend.

Jackson appeared to be set to stay in-state and sign with either San Diego State or San Jose State before the Cougars made an offer.

He has always wanted to play in the Pac-12 Conference. While the conference’s future is uncertain, WSU’s allure has not been diminished. The Cougars are the frontrunners to sign Jackson. He praised the coaches, fans, and energy at Martin Stadium.

Dickert, now in his second year as the permanent coach, isn’t acting worried; he’s coaching and recruiting with the same zeal that has endeared him to Cougars fans.

Meanwhile, Oregon State traveled to Silicon Valley and defeated San Jose State in its opener; the Beavers are now attempting to trade one of SJSU’s top commits.

Jabari Mann, a three-star recruit from San Mateo’s Serra High School, committed to the Spartans in February. Mann received a scholarship offer from the Beavers after his outstanding play early in the prep season.

The process is now moving quickly. Mann will pay an official visit to the Beavers this weekend when they host San Diego State. The uncertainty surrounding Oregon State’s future home isn’t an issue for him — or, it appears, for the Beavers’ overall recruiting efforts.

Last weekend, they welcomed the state’s top player (in the 2025 class), Baron Naone, a four-star athlete from West Linn High School, to campus. He is an OSU alum whose father, Charlie, was a Beaver.

And the No. 2 player in the state (in the 2025 class) will visit this weekend: Zhaiel Smith, a three-star receiver from Central Catholic.

Top players from all over the region are excited to watch the Beavers play. Smith and Cole Moore, director of player personnel, have not let the uncertainty of their future home deter their recruiting efforts.

John Wooden, perhaps the Pac-12’s greatest coach, once said, “Never mistake activity for achievement.”

In this case, the Beavers and Cougars are both staying active while attempting to achieve what Cal and Stanford have already accomplished.

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