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How realignment impacted Cal, OSU and WSU

The Hotline is excited to offer Pac-12 fans a regular deep dive into the recruiting process through the eyes and ears of Brandon Huffman, the Seattle-based national recruiting editor for 247Sports. He submitted the following report on September 14…

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

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

Even though the Bears blew a late lead and fell to Auburn, the fourth-quarter collapse didn’t dampen their motivation.

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

He attended the game and was encouraged by what he saw – and, more importantly, by the future.

“I really like the coaching staff they have there, and I feel like they’re building big things in the future,” said Jones, rated four stars by 247Sports.

Quarterback EJ Caminong, a three-star prospect from Seattle’s Garfield High School, was initially committed to playing in his backyard in Washington before opening up his recruitment.

In June, he took an official visit to Cal and committed to the Bears shortly after. A few weeks later, the Pac-12 was on life support; Cal’s future was murky. But the ACC’s decision was warmly welcomed by Caminong, who was eager to discover a different side of the country.

“Football-wise, I’m looking forward to seeing some of these bigger schools,” Caminong said. “It will be a bigger step, so I’m excited to face it. But I’m also looking forward to discovering new places across the country. It’s cool for me too.

Caminong joined several other Cal commitments at Strawberry Canyon last weekend and said he and his colleagues are excited for the future.

“I think we were all very relieved and excited when we were talking with my guys,” Caminong said. “Talking with my guys, we all feel strong and are happy with the realignment.”

Stanford will finally open its slate this weekend when the Cardinal host Sacramento State, the former school of first-year coach Troy Taylor.

With their ACC invitation secure, the Cardinal opened the season later that day and defeated Hawaii. A week later, Stanford lost badly at USC – the school that opened the floodgates of Pac-12 realignment with its move to the Big Ten in the summer of 2022.

Although Cal and Stanford lost their second games, optimism is high that their destinations are safe.

Things aren’t as clear for Oregon State and Washington State when it comes to where their conference will go.

What’s clear is that Washington State coach Jake Dickert and Oregon State coach Jonathan Smith aren’t letting the tumultuous environment distract their teams.

Both won their first road games convincingly against Mountain West schools (Colorado State and San Jose State, respectively), and both won their first home games the following week against ranked teams. WSU handled Wisconsin and OSU beat FCS-ranked UC Davis.

Despite an uncertain future, the Cougars and Beavers had a significant number of prospects in attendance for their home openers.

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

Jackson appeared ready to stay in-state and sign with San Diego State or San Jose State before the Cougars stepped in with an offer.

He always wanted to play in the Pac-12. Even though the future of the conference is uncertain, WSU’s appeal has not been affected. The Cougars are the favorite to land Jackson. He has high praise for the coaches, the fans and the energy inside Martin Stadium.

Dickert, now in his second year as permanent coach, doesn’t act like things are scary — he coaches and recruits with the same energy that has endeared Cougars fans.

Meanwhile, Oregon State traveled to Silicon Valley and beat San Jose State in its first game; now the Beavers are trying to cancel one of SJSU’s top commits.

Athlete Jabari Mann, a three-star recruit from Serra High School in San Mateo, committed to the Spartans in February. But after his stellar play early in the preseason, Mann received a scholarship offer from the Beavers.


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