Tuesday, September 3, 2013
Critical positions in Pac-12 recruiting
By Erik McKinney
Recruiting for the 2014 class bumped up another notch this past Sunday, when college coaches could begin making their one phone call per week to high school seniors. Today, we take a look at what position group those Pac-12 coaches might consider their most important position to add talent with this class.
The Wildcats added several freshman along the line in the 2013 class, but will lose seniors Sione Tuihalamaka, Justin Washington and Tevin Hood after this season. Wide receiver will also be important in this class -- and every class under Rich Rodriguez -- but the Wildcats will need to play defense if they are to have sustained success in the Pac-12. Talent up front is the first step.
Most important position: Quarterback
Who they have: Manny Wilkins (Novato, Calif./San Marin)
Who they want: Wilkins
The quarterback depth chart looks good at the moment, with Taylor Kelly leading the way and redshirt sophomores Michael Eubank and Mike Bercovici backing him up. But the Sun Devils didn’t bring in a quarterback in the 2013 class and can’t afford to skip another year or miss at the position in the 2014 class. Wilkins is a big talent and has become one of the leading recruiters for his future program of any West region prospect.
Most important position: Defensive line
Who they have: Isadore Outing (Houston/Andy Dekaney)
Who they want: Dewayne Hendrix (O’Fallon, Ill./O’Fallon Township), Kennedy Emesibe (Hesperia, Calif./Oak Hills), Vic Vernon (Chicago/De Anza College), Ainuu Taua (Lompoc, Calif./Lompoc) Nifae Lealao (Sacramento, Calif./Capital Christian)
The switch from a 3-4 to a 4-3 defensive front might take some time to adjust, as recruiting catches up to the position needs. It can be difficult to make outside linebackers drop down and put their hands in the ground, which is why true defensive ends will be important needs for the next several classes.
Most important position: Running back/wide receiver
Who they have: None
Who they want: Kalen Ballage (Peyton, Colo./Falcon), Tre Hartley (Milpitas, Calif./Milpitas), Jomon Dotson (American Canyon, Calif./American Canyon), David Williams (Los Angeles/Dorsey)
Paul Richardson has been phenomenal when healthy for the Buffs. But there is no guarantee that he’ll be back for his senior season and there doesn’t appear to be a true big-play threat behind him quite yet. Colorado needs to find playmakers on offense, and if the 2014 haul can match what head coach Mike MacIntyre brought in with the 2013 class, the Buffs will be on the right track.
The Oregon secondary is loaded this year, but it’s important that the Ducks coaches keep it that way. They will lose senior safeties Avery Patterson and Brian Jackson after the season, and will likely say goodbye to Ifo Ekpre-Olomu after his junior year. Backups Dior Mathis, Erick Dargan, Terrance Mitchell and Troy Hill will all be seniors next year, which means it’s time to stock up again, even after adding three impressive freshmen in the 2013 class.
If Scott Crichton returns for his senior season, the Beavers could bring back all four defensive linemen -- though they would all be seniors in 2014. Oregon State added just one high school defensive lineman in the 2013 class, so picking up more than a few in 2014 to give depth to the line and begin prepping for life without the upperclassmen will be big.
Stanford wanted to load up on linebackers in this class and it has already put together the best group in the Pac-12, and perhaps the nation. There is some depth with three freshman linebackers added in the 2013 class, but Trent Murphy and Shane Skov will be gone after this year and depth is needed behind future stars Noor Davis and Peter Kalambayi. An argument could be made for safety here, as Ed Reynolds and Jordan Richards will be gone in the next year or two, but Stanford has already loaded up there as well, with four commitments at the position in the 2014 class.
Most important position: Defensive back
Who they have: Antreal Allen (Auburn, Ala./Auburn), Ron Robinson (Corona, Calif./Santiago), JoJo McIntosh (West Hills, Calif./Chaminade)
Who they want: Adoree’ Jackson (Gardena, Calif./Serra), John Smith (Long Beach, Calif./Long Beach Poly), Nick Watkins (Dallas/Bishop Dunne), Budda Baker (Bellevue, Wash./Bellevue), Adarius Pickett (El Cerrito, Calif./El Cerrito), Mattrell McGraw (River Ridge, La./John Curtis Christian), Kendall Randolph (Tallahassee, Fla./Lincoln), Nick Glass (Suwanee, Ga./Peachtree Ridge), Glen Ihenacho (Gardena, Calif./Serra), Denzel Fisher (Compton, Calif./Centennial)
The Bruins had a terrific haul at cornerback and safety in the 2013 class, but many of those players -- Priest Willis, John Johnson, Tahaan Goodman, Tyler Foreman -- could be called upon to play early in their careers, leaving little depth at the position even if all four pan out and stay healthy. Putting another impressive secondary class together should keep the defensive backfield strong for the foreseeable future.
This position would have been way down on the list had the 2013 recruiting class finished the way it started. But with Eddie Vanderdoes, Torrodney Prevot, Kylie Fitts and Jason Hatcher all heading elsewhere after verbally committing to USC, the Trojans signed just one defensive lineman -- Kenny Bigelow -- this past February. USC has done a very good job correcting that, with four commitments along the line, but now Lane Kiffin and staff need to make sure they hold onto them, and possibly add one of their big-name targets to go along with the group.
Since making the move to the Pac-12, Utah has shown it has the skill position players who can make an impact in the conference. But have had difficulty putting together the kind of depth along both lines to sustain a full season. The Utes have taken steps forward with each class since switching conferences, but both lines will be important to add to with both the 2014 and 2015 classes.
The Huskies needed bodies along the offensive line in the 2013 class and finished the class with a couple of additions that might take a few years to pan out. The Huskies could welcome back all five starters for the 2014 season, so an immediate impact from the 2014 group might not be necessary. An infusion of depth and talent up front would be a very welcome addition with this class.
Most important position: Wide receiver
Who they have: Zaire Andre (Inglewood, Calif./Inglewood)
Who they want: Tre Hartley (Milpitas, Calif./Milpitas), Sam Boyd (Riverside, Calif./Riverside Community College), Alex Van Dyke (Elk Grove, Calif./Cosumnes Oaks), Keyan Williams (New Orleans/Lusher Charter School)
Wide receiver doesn’t jump out as a huge need when looking at the roster -- linebacker might be the biggest need for this class in terms of numbers and playing time -- but as long as Mike Leach is the head coach, the Cougars are going to need to pull in receiving talent every year. Gabe Marks began scratching the surface last season and led the Cougars with nine catches in the season opener, but Washington State doesn’t yet have a player who can replicate what Marquess Wilson did for them. It’s a fairly young group overall at the position, but playmakers on the outside are a premium in Leach’s offense, which is why Washington State will look to add a few gems in this class.