Pac-12 recruiting: UW shines in the spotlight; Oregon’s big prize; transfer trouble for USC and UCLA

Heavy reliance on transfer linemen can create cohesion issues

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 October 19, he submitted the following report…

UW’s big moment

With all eyes on Husky Stadium, Washington couldn’t have made a bigger statement than it did against Oregon.

With elite recruits from all over the region in attendance, including the top uncommitted players from California and Washington, a second consecutive win over the Ducks was sure to ring true.

The Huskies are locked in a battle with Oregon for two 2024 recruits: Fairfield (Calif.) defensive lineman Jericho Johnson and Seattle running back Jason Brown.

Johnson’s final four includes Oregon, USC, Utah, and Washington, while Brown’s final three includes Michigan State, Oregon, and the hometown Huskies.

Johnson, a four-star recruit, raved about his trip to Montlake.

He had previously paid an official visit to campus in June, and the Huskies were able to bring him back for the Oregon game.

They must now wait for his official visits to USC (he plans to watch the Trojans play Washington in November) and Utah, which is set for next weekend when the Utes host Oregon.

He will still pay an official visit to Oregon.

Brown, on the other hand, has not made an official visit to either Oregon or Washington. While he has been leaning toward the Ducks, his hometown school has made an impression on him. Brown was on the field when fans stormed it after the game.

More importantly, several key 2025 targets attended the game, including Danville (Calif.) edge rusher Marco Jones, the No. 2 prospect in Northern California; Spanaway (Wash.) linebacker Zaydrius Rainey-Sale, the No. 1 recruit in the state according to the 247Sports Composite; and UW’s top 2025 quarterback targets, Jackson Kollock of Laguna Beach (Calif.) and Husan Longstreet of Corona (Calif.).

Sammamish tackle Kodi Greene, the state’s top prospect in the 2026 class, was also in attendance for the Huskies’ victory.

Given the recruiting adage that juniors and sophomores have the greatest in-season impact, the Huskies appear to have hit their target.

Not all lost for the Ducks

It was a long day for defensive lineman Aydin Breland, the state’s top recruit in the class of 2024.

Breland and his unbeaten Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei Monarchs were defeated by their archrival, Bellflower St. John Bosco, on Friday night.

The next day, about an hour before kickoff in Seattle, Breland announced his decision to play for Oregon, over Georgia and Miami.

Of course, the Huskies promptly ruined the Ducks’ Saturday.

However, Breland’s commitment bolstered coach Dan Lanning’s emphasis on developing a strong defensive line.

And Oregon is still a strong contender for both Johnson and Elijah Rushing, a sought-after edge rusher from Tucson.

Portal issues

Colorado and USC are two Western teams that have used the NCAA transfer portal in the last two years. And few teams have used it as consistently as UCLA has.

After all three teams lost over the weekend, the common question was, “Are teams putting too much emphasis on the portal?”

Colorado’s answer is emphatically no. The portal made perfect sense. The Buffaloes needed a roster reset, which they got with new coach Deion Sanders and more than 40 transfers.

What about USC and UCLA, though?

The schools had tremendous success with transfers a year ago — Trojans quarterback Caleb Williams won the Heisman Trophy after transferring from Oklahoma, and Bruins tailback Zach Charbonnet excelled after starting out at Michigan — but they are having problems this fall because of their reliance on the portal.

Just because you hit the jackpot with a few transfers does not guarantee that every transfer will be successful.

There is a Phil Jurkovec or J.T. Daniels for every Michael Penix Jr. and Bo Nix.

For every dynamic UCLA pass rusher like Laiatu Latu, there is an edge player who underperforms despite a change of scenery.

In other words, high school recruiting and traditional player development remain critical.

Consider Oregon State’s Taliese Fuaga, the Pac-12’s Offensive Lineman of the Week. The Beavers’ veteran offensive line coach, Jim Michalczik, knew Fuaga was a project when he signed him in the class of 2020. Fuiaga is now one of the conference’s stars.

Both UCLA and USC have tried the plug-and-play approach, which results in a lack of cohesiveness on the offensive lines and intense pressure on quarterbacks.

When they’re mobile and experienced, like USC’s Williams, that can work, but when they’re young and inexperienced, like UCLA freshman Dante Moore, it can be a huge issue.

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