West spotlight: What if stars picked different schools?
With the hectic camp season upon us, it’s always fun to take a look back at some of today’s stars, where they could have ended up and what kind of ripples they would have sent throughout the recruiting world.
Here are four “what-ifs” that would’ve sent shockwaves through the Pac-12.
What-if school: Michigan
Rosen was a five-star quarterback out of Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco, but he had significant family ties to the East Coast and was serious about Michigan throughout his recruitment. He was definitely not just a California kid who was going to end up at a Pac-12 school. The Wolverines were always a top contender for Rosen even as Michigan crashed and burned during the Brady Hoke era. I do wonder if that administration made a move earlier and landed Jim Harbaugh sooner, would Rosen have still picked UCLA? That relationship between Rosen and Harbaugh would have been incredibly interesting to watch and with Rosen’s abilities as a quarterback, it’s hard to believe the Wolverines would not have been in the College Football Playoff this past season. The former five-star ended up playing only six games this season because of injury and the Bruins finished 4-8. If he picked Michigan, or flipped late after Harbaugh was hired in December, would he have led the Wolverines to the national title?
What-if school: Florida
There was some serious thinking late in Jackson’s recruitment that he was going to pick Florida because of the opportunity to play football for the Gators and run for a tremendous track program. Training as a potential Olympic long jumper, Florida was under serious consideration and it would have been really interesting to see him in Gainesville. If he played receiver – which I always thought was his better position because he’s so incredibly dynamic – Jackson would have given Florida an offensive weapon it so desperately needed in recent years. If he flipped to cornerback, would he have even seen the field with Teez Tabor and Quincy Wilson locking down the corner spots? My guess is yes, but it would have been more of a challenge because Tabor and Wilson were so terrific in their college careers.
What-if school: Arizona State
Keeping Arizona talent home has been a major focus for both Arizona and Arizona State, but one player that got away, and an especially big loss for the Sun Devils, was Kirk. Despite late pushes from Arizona State and Auburn, Kirk chose Texas A&M, where he caught 83 passes for 928 yards and eight touchdowns this past season. Just imagine a scenario where Kirk would have been paired with ASU receivers Tim White and especially N’Keal Harry this past season. The Sun Devils’ defense was atrocious and ASU lost its last six games, but if Kirk was on the field with those other two receivers who had huge seasons then maybe the Sun Devils could have outscored a few other teams. Kirk and Harry, the top-ranked Arizona prospect in the 2016 class, would have been a lethal duo in the Pac-12, but the former five-star chose the SEC.
What-if school: Oregon
When we met with Barnett at the Rivals Five-Star Challenge, it was clear to us he was about to commit to Oregon. That would have made a whole lot of sense. Barnett, from Corona (Calif.) Santiago, was a West Coast kid who fit the Ducks’ offense really well. He was super talented as a dual-threat to prolong plays and make things happen with his feet. It seemed to all fit together. There was one caveat: Barnett was taking a last-second visit to Alabama before making his commitment. He ended up committing to Alabama and getting the starting nod for the season-opener this past season before Jalen Hurts took over. Barnett transferred to Arizona State, where he will try to resurrect his career. But it still makes me wonder if Oregon was the best fit for him out of high school, especially since the offense seemed to favor him so much.