Pac-12 spotlight: Stacking up the starting lineups by star ranking
The college football season is right around the corner, so Rivals national recruiting director Adam Gorney took the lists of projected starters for each Power Five conference from the Lindy’s preseason magazine and broke them down by star ranking coming out of high school.
Today, we move on to the Pac-12.
Note: Five-star players are allotted five points, four-stars get four points and so on for each of the 22 starters on every team.
Total points: 84
Overview: Based on star rankings for the projected starters, Oregon should be loaded on both sides of the football. The Ducks could have been even higher, but Ryan Walk was not ranked out of high school. Five-star Auburn QB transfer Bo Nix is the lone five-star on offense but every other player (besides Walk) was a four-star prospect. On defense, five-star linebackers Noah Sewell and Justin Flowe could be outstanding. There are new faces in the secondary but all four of them - Dontae Manning, Christian Gonzalez, Trikweze Bridges and Bennett Williams - were also all four-stars.
Total points: 78
Overview: There are significant chunks of the team remade through transfers as five-star quarterback Caleb Williams (Oklahoma) could be handing off to three-star Oregon RB transfer Travis Dye or throwing to five-star former Sooners teammate Mario Williams or former four-star Colorado WR Brenden Rice. Four-star Gary Bryant has breakaway potential as well in coach Lincoln Riley’s offense. CB Domani Jackson is the lone five-star projected starter on defense but three-star JUCO product Nick Figueroa could break out, and then SEC transfers Romello Height (Auburn) and Shane Lee (Alabama) could be very nice additions.
Total points: 72
Overview: On paper, there is a ton of talent across the skill positions led by four-star quarterback Tanner McKee, four-star running back E.J. Smith and four-star receivers Michael Wilson and Elijah Higgins. Plus it could be argued three-star TE Benjamin Yurosek was under-ranked as well. Five-star Myles Hinton leads the offensive line that needs to be better. On defense, the bookends of four-stars Stephen Herron and Aaron Armitage could be compelling for a team that is looking to bounce back from a poor season.
Total points: 72
Overview: The skill positions are loaded among the projected starters as four-star QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson is surrounded by four-star RB Zach Charbonnet and then speedy four-star receivers Titus Mokiao-Atimalala and Kazmeir Allen. The offensive line has three three-stars and then two two-stars on the right side in Jon Gaines and Josh Carlin. The defense is a diverse group as Gabriel and Grayson Murphy are three-star NorthTexas transfers and DT Jacob Sykes is a three-star transfer from Harvard. The back end has a lot of local talent with four-star safety Stephan Blaylock and 2021 four-star Devin Kirkwood at corner.
Total points: 68
Overview: The Golden Bears did not even average 24 points per game last season but three-star Purdue QB transfer Jack Plummer could help, plus they have two very talented four-star receivers in Jeremiah Hunter and J. Michael Sturdivant to boost the offense, along with four-star TE Jermaine Terry. Brent Johnson is back along the defensive line, but he’s the only four-star on that side of the ball, although two-star safety Daniel Scott was under-ranked coming out of high school.
Total points: 66
Overview: This is the setup every year for Utah - under-ranked players and those who excel in the system proving people wrong and winning more games than expected all while developing many of those players for the NFL. On offense, four-star quarterback Cam Rising leads the way and four-star Solomon Enis should be a top target but the only other four-star in that group is OL Sataoa Laumea. Projected starting receiver Devaughn Vele was a walk-on who earned no stars in high school. On the other side, four-star DE Van Fillinger, four-star Florida LB transfer Mohamoud Diabate and four-star CB Clark Phillips lead the way, but many three-stars will outplay their rankings.
Total points: 64
Overview: The total points for the projected starters would be significantly higher but LB Edefuan Ulofoshio and cornerbacks Jordan Perryman (UC Davis transfer) and Mishael Powell were all unranked coming out of high school. Still, the defensive line is absolutely loaded with four-stars Kuao Peihopa, Tuli Letuligasenoa and Bralen Trice and the best of the bunch - Zion Tupuola-Fetui - was a three-star coming out of high school. Four-star Indiana QB transfer Michael Penix, along with four-star receivers Rome Odunze and Jalen McMillan, should be threats. Top offensive lineman Jaxson Kirkland was under-ranked in high school coming out as a three-star.
8. Arizona State
Total points: 63
Overview: Four-star Florida transfer QB Emory Jones could be handing it off to two-star Wyoming RB transfer Xazavian Valladay or throwing to four-star Utah WR transfer Bryan Thompson, three-star Missouri TE transfer Messiah Swinson or unranked WR Giovanni Sanders, who played at Dixie State and then Riverside City College before coming to Tempe. On defense, there is a lot of talent, whether it’s four-star DL Omarr Norman-Lott, four-star LSU DE transfer Travez Moore or four-star tackling machine Merlin Robertson.
Total points: 58
Overview: Like many teams, the transfer portal should spark Colorado’s offense, with three-star Tennessee QB transfer JT Shrout, three-star Baylor WR transfer RJ Sneed and others coming in, along with the lone four-star projected starter on offense in Alabama OL transfer Tommy Brown. The Buffaloes would have a higher number, but RB Ramon Jefferson, a Sam Houston State transfer, and TE Brady Russell were not ranked in high school. Four-star LB and Oklahoma transfer Robert Barnes leads the way on defense and is the only four-star on that side of the ball.
10. Oregon State
Total points: 58
Overview: Quarterback Chance Nolan was a four-star and there should be some serious firepower at the skill positions as three-star running back Deshaun Fenwick transferred from South Carolina and then four-star receivers Tre’Shaun Harrison (Florida State) and Tyjon Lindsey (Nebraska) were Power Five transfers as well. Based on star rankings, there are some holes on defense and no four-stars, but the Beavers’ number would actually be higher if not for DL Cody Anderson and DB Jaydon Grant going unranked coming out of high school.
Total points: 57
Overview: On paper, Arizona’s offense should be potent not only with four-star quarterback Jayden de Laura running the show, but the addition of five-star receiver Tetairoa McMillan, who had been committed to Oregon but flipped to Arizona when coach Mario Cristobal left for Miami. McMillan has the skillset to be one of the best receivers in the conference. On the offensive line, three-star Jonah Savaiinaea is a standout. Arizona’s total score would be higher but DL Kyon Barrs and DBs Christian Roland-Wallace and Treydan Stukes were not ranked coming out of high school. Among the projected starters, the only four-star is USC DE transfer Hunter Echols.
12. Washington State
Total points: 46
Overview: The low point total for Washington State based on projected starters is for numerous reasons but mainly because QB Cameron Ward was not ranked at Incarnate Word before transferring to Pullman, and neither was Northern Colorado OL transfer Grant Stephens. On defense, DL Antonio Pule and DB Jordan Lee were unranked coming out of high school as well. That significantly skews the score, but the Cougars also have no four-stars on either side of the ball that are projected to start, which is a concern.