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Tuesday, September 17, 2013
Most important Pac-12 recruiting targets

By Erik McKinney

As the regular season heats up on the field, so too does the action on the recruiting trail, as prospects are setting official visits, trimming final lists and setting their sights on February's signing day. With a number of targets still on the board for every coach in the conference, this list illustrates the biggest name still out there for each Pac-12 program.

OT Layth Friekh (Peoria, Ariz./Centennial)
6-foot-6, 251 pounds

It'd be easy to go outside the state and say Arizona would hugely benefit from signing a big-time prospect such as Michiah Quick (Fresno, Calif./Central East) or John Smith (Long Beach, Calif./Poly), but we'll stay in state with Friekh. The Wildcats have done a fantastic job early with the 2014 class, but of their 24 verbal commitments, just one is an offensive linemen. While it's true that head coach Rich Rodriguez always will look to infuse skill position talent into his roster, there has to be some beef brought to the table, as well. Friekh, a three-star tackle, is a big target for Pac-12 rivals Oregon and Washington, so keeping him home will be a priority for Arizona.

Arizona State
OT Casey Tucker (Chandler, Ariz./Hamilton)
6-foot-6, 290 pounds
ESPN 300 rank: 38

It's going to be very difficult to keep Tucker away from Stanford, but he would be a huge addition for the Sun Devils. A local star, Tucker's commitment likely would give Arizona State a true freshman starter on the offensive line and a big chip to play with in-state recruits. On the other side of the ball, Tucker's teammate and fellow ESPN 300 prospect, defensive end Qualen Cunningham, would be another big get for Todd Graham's program.

RB Joe Mixon (Oakley, Calif./Freedom)
6-foot-1, 209 pounds
ESPN 300 rank: 100

Head coach Sonny Dykes has found terrific success on the recruiting trail in his first season at Cal, but things would go to a new level if he is able to bring Mixon into the fold. A dynamic offensive prospect, Mixon would give the Golden Bears an elite running back, and he is also a very capable receiver out of the backfield or in the slot. Not only is Mixon a local prospect, he's the type of recruit who would attract other talented recruits looking to play with him in Berkeley.

OT Sam Jones (Highlands Ranch, Colo./ThunderRidge)
6-foot-5, 275 pounds

If Colorado is going to turn its program around and put itself in the  mix in the Pac-12, the Buffaloes need to start keeping some of the in-state talent home. Already, two of the top five prospect in the state of Colorado have committed to other programs. Jones took an official visit to Oregon earlier this month, and the Ducks could be tough to beat, while several other Pac-12 programs are in the mix, as well. But if the Buffaloes continue to take steps forward this season, they'll be able to make a much stronger pitch to local recruits, including Jones.

S Bishard "Budda" Baker (Bellevue, Wash./Bellevue)
5-foot-9, 174 pounds
ESPN 300 rank: 141

The top recruit in the Northwest is a target for a number of programs, including Notre Dame, Texas A&M, UCLA and Washington. Oregon has spoken to Baker about playing some wide receiver in the Ducks' offense, which made an impression on the ESPN 300 prospect. He is a unique talent, capable of becoming a star on either side of the ball and with the athletic ability to fit right in at Oregon. He also would give the Ducks a big recruiting win over Pac-12 rival Washington.

Oregon State
WR Jalen Brown (Phoenix, Ariz./Mountain Pointe)
6-foot-2, 185 pounds

The Beavers made the final cut for Brown, who took an official visit to Oregon State two weeks ago. Now, the Beavers will need to keep the press on the early enrollee as he takes the rest of his visits. Oregon had Brown on campus last weekend, while Vanderbilt and Wisconsin will host the four-star receiver at later dates. The Beavers have found tremendous success with pro-style wide receivers in recent years, and Brown would fit right into the Oregon State offense.

DE Solomon Thomas (Coppell, Texas/Coppell)
6-foot-3, 256 pounds
ESPN 300 rank: 31

Reeling in the aforementioned Tucker is important and would add to the Cardinal's growing legacy of offensive line recruiting, but picking up a commitment from Thomas would be huge. A national prospect, Thomas is the No. 5 defensive end in the nation and would be a big boost from a perception standpoint as well as adding another talented player to the Cardinal front seven.

CB Adoree' Jackson (Gardena, Calif./Serra)
5-foot-10, 182 pounds
ESPN 300 rank: 6

The Bruins might have their sights set on recruits across the country, but there is nothing more important for a Los Angeles program than locking down the local area. The Bruins already have a terrific defensive backfield haul in their 2014 class, but adding Jackson to the group would help UCLA make a statement that they are the recruiting kings of the conference. A phenomenal talent as a cornerback, running back, wide receiver and special teams returner, Jackson would give the Bruins a true talent on the field, as well as someone who would draw prospects to Westwood in order to play alongside the five-star recruit.

CB Adoree' Jackson
5-foot-10, 182 pounds
ESPN 300 rank: 6

With so much negativity surrounding USC's start to the season, the Trojans still have a chance to get things back to normal before signing day 2014. Because Jackson won't announce his commitment until signing day, he should have all the answers to the questions facing USC and head coach Lane Kiffin by then. Jackson has said that USC is the only school where he would play wide receiver, and the fact that the Trojans have only four healthy receivers on scholarship right now could be a factor for a recruit looking to get on the field early. Jackson is also a must-get for USC as the Trojans look to keep their pipeline into Serra open, with Robert Woods, Marqise Lee and George Farmer three former Cavaliers who signed with USC.

TE Dalton Schultz (South Jordan, Utah/Bingham)
6-foot-6, 235 pounds
ESPN 300 rank: 153

As is the case with Colorado, keeping in-state talent home will be big for Utah as Kyle Wittingham's program looks to make its presence felt in the Pac-12. Schultz has his sights set on several Pac-12 programs, including Stanford and Washington, but the big tight end will give the hometown Utes a long look. This is a relationship between a recruit and program similar to a number of them on this list, as Schultz would serve as a recruiting victory over rival programs, as well as serve notice to local recruits in the 2015 and 2016 classes that there is no need to look out of state for a future home.

S Budda Baker (Bellevue, Wash./Bellevue)
5-foot-9, 174
ESPN 300 rank: 141

Another local prospect on the list, Baker has said in the past that he isn't looking to go far for college, but he also has said that Notre Dame and Texas A&M have his interest, in addition to Oregon and UCLA. Keeping Baker in state would be a huge recruiting victory for the Huskies and head coach Steve Sarkisian, who signed just two of the state's top 10 recruits in the 2013 class.

Washington State
CB Denzel Fisher (Compton, Calif./Centennial)
6-foot-2, 165 pounds

The Cougars need playmakers on both sides of the ball, so a number of recruits can be considered "must get," but Fisher fits the bill as a talented cornerback who made plenty of noise this offseason. This looked to be a battle between Washington State and Utah, but UCLA entered the mix with a scholarship offer, which means the Cougars would be able to post a big recruiting victory over the Bruins if they can land Fisher. Washington State's pass defense has put together a terrific start to the season, which hasn't gone unnoticed by the talented cornerback. It's likely that offensive skill players will be drawn automatically to head coach Mike Leach, but talented cornerbacks with Fisher's frame don't come along often.