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February 28, 2013

Pac-12: Class of 2014 positions of need

MORE: ACC | Big 12 | Big Ten

Dallas Jackson is the National Columnist for Rivals.com. Email him your comments or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.
The recruiting cycle for the class of 2014 has begun.

With spring practice having already begun for some and just around the corner for most, coaches will begin to see where their recruiting efforts need to be focused, and the press on rising seniors will accelerate.

Rivals.com's team of local writers combined with our recruiting analysts to compile what are believed to be each team's needs and the chances that each program can fill them with this class.

Over six days, Rivals.com is breaking down the five major conferences, as well as select schools that do not play in conferences that automatically qualify for the BCS.

Today is a look at the Pac-12, and the programs are listed alphabetically.

PAC-12 TEAM ANALYSIS
What it needs in '14: At this point, the big areas of need will be along the offensive and defensive lines. Adding depth to those groups will be important. Digging deeper, the cornerback position is another spot where Arizona will be looking to add depth. It could take up to three players at that spot.
Can it be done? This is a really great year in Arizona from top to bottom and at many positions, and that puts the staff in a great position to land players of need. One of the brightest spots in the state is on the offensive line, and that means teams will be coming into Arizona to get linemen out. As far as the cornerbacks, there are a lot of players listed at athlete in Arizona who could play multiple spots -- many prefer to play offense, but that can change with playing time. There has been a recent trend for Tucson kids to head to Arizona, and that has already played out with four-star athlete Cameron Denson of Tucson (Ariz.) Salpointe committing to the Wildcats.
What it needs in '14: Arizona State didn't take a quarterback in the 2012 class and then lost Joshua Dobbs on a signing day flip in 2013, making that a position of dramatic need. The school might be forced to take a transfer or junior college player late if it strikes out again, but with only three scholarship quarterbacks on the roster in the spring and the possibility of a transfer always looming at the position, it needs to hit a home run in 2014. The program didn't take a true running back in the last class and is light on scholarship bodies at that position as well. If that wasn't enough, Arizona State will look to take three to four offensive linemen in this class.
Can it be done? The quarterback spot is a must and this is a very good year for the position -- relative to recent classes -- and there is a Rivals250 player in Kyle Allen right down the road at Scottsdale (Ariz.) Desert Mountain. The sales pitch needs to be carefully crafted and effective to get him. If the team misses on Allen, there are more local players who can be had and regionally there are a lot of quarterbacks. Running back is a little more difficult to fill in-state, but the SoCal area is well stocked this year and it is a natural recruiting area for the program. Offensive linemen in the state are good, but they are being raided on a regular basis so the program may need to look elsewhere.
What it needs in '14: Defensive back -- specifically safety -- will be the major need in this class. The team took only two defensive backs in 2013 after losing out on L.J. Moore and Patrick Enewally late, and the Golden Bears head into spring ball with just five safeties and four corners. Running back is a place where the program is extremely light. The coaches wanted to take a second running back in the last class but couldn't find anyone who was a talent and had the grades to fit. This year could bring a three-man class at the position. The class is likely to number around 20; there may not be a quarterback, but there is the possibility of three to four receivers and likely three offensive linemen.
Can it be done? The talent pool in California is always one of the deepest in the country, so the likelihood is that the program can get these spots filled. The bright spot is that defensive back and running back are two of the better positions in California, based on early evaluations. The SoCal group of defensive backs is stronger than the NorCal area's, but that is not a deal breaker. Running backs, from tip to tail, are strong in California this year, so making numbers as well as finding an impact back can happen. The team already has landed four-star athlete Koa Farmer from Sherman Oaks (Calif.) Notre Dame, and his position is still undefined. With his size (6-foot-2 and 207 pounds), he could play a couple of positions of need.
What it needs in '14: In terms of raw numbers, new head coach Mike MacIntyre did a good job of addressing a number of Colorado's depth issues with the class of 2013, especially on the offensive and defensive lines and at receiver. However, after not signing any tight ends and only one stout defensive tackle, both positions will be needs for the Buffaloes this cycle.
Can it be done? Colorado is not a deep state for talent and the program is hitting the bottom of a bad cycle, so there is work to do in becoming a major player for prospects. The new staff did well in limited time, but the program did not secure the top talents in the state and that needs to stop. This year, there is a true center in Windsor (Colo.) High who goes 6-foot-4 and 310 pounds named Trenton Noller. If Coach Mac can land him, that would be a boon. Name-brand players will be hard to come by, and the staff likely will load up on three-stars at positions of need.
What it needs in '14: The biggest priority will be defensive tackle because the Ducks will lose three starters and depth. It is fair to guess that there will be a minimum of three players in this class on the line, and there could be as many as six if the right players are interested. The class should be in the 21-man range, and there is room. Much of the need is on defense, where Oregon may add three linebackers and three in the secondary. If the class comes in under 20 players, look for 12 on defense and seven on offense, where the priorities are running back and interior offensive lineman.
Can it be done? Oregon has become a program that recruits nationally, and that is good. There are only two players in the state inside the Rivals250. Linebacker Joey Alfieri is ranked No. 221, and defensive end Connor Humphreys is No. 232. Look for each to be targeted, but from there it will be an outward search. The running back spot will likely be filled from Texas, where Oregon and Oregon State have done well.
What it needs in '14: There is a specific list of players whom Oregon State will look to have on its commitment list this year. Offensive linemen will be a priority for the staff, and the Beavers could take four players there. The team will also look for a quarterback and receivers. On defense, the targets at the linebacker position will likely be on the high school level while the staff will need to focus on prep or junior college players on the line to add immediate depth.
Can it be done? Oregon State historically has gone under the radar and found system guys the staff likes -- that is not meant to be a slight but more of a commentary that regional depth or top-level talent often does not define what is brought in. The quarterback class may typify that this year. There are plenty of solid players on the West Coast, but many are looking east. A player who may fit perfectly into the Oregon State class is Morgan Mahalak from Kentfield (Calif.) Marin Catholic. Mahalak was the backup for four-star Jared Goff last year, but he is on the rise and may catch some eyes on the summer circuit.
What it needs in '14: The No. 1 need with a bullet is defensive back. Stanford didn't sign a true defensive back in the 2013 class -- although it seems like receiver Taijuan Thomas will at least begin his career on the defensive side -- leaving a significant need in the defensive backfield. Stanford has offered and is aggressively pursuing a number of top secondary targets. Additionally, look for the program to identify and pursue players at defensive tackle, offensive tackle, middle linebacker and wide receiver.
Can it be done? The program may fall into a very talented player on the defensive line. Four-star Nifae Lealao indicated that he loved the program and it was his top choice because of the athletics and academics. Lealao has been evaluated early as a kid who can play early and anywhere on the line. The same may be said at inside linebacker, where four-star Jamardre Cobb said he was interested in Stanford and could be brought north from Los Angeles. California has loads of defensive backs in all areas of the state. Stanford will have a harder time finding guys at the position who have the grades and who can play at the next level.
What it needs in '14: Even after a solid close to the last class at the position, UCLA figures to go after some speedy receivers. It probably will take a couple of running backs as well. Defensive line will probably be a heavily recruited position, too. Jim Mora is sending his assistants farther east and the program has hosted several players from traditional SEC country, so look for a wider net to be cast for the players than recent history suggests.
Can it be done? Receivers seem to be busting at the seams the last two years, no matter the territory, and if that is what UCLA wants to bring in then it will happen. The team hosted Rivals100 receiver Malachi Dupre on an unofficial visit in early February and has enough talent in the surrounding areas to fill the spot. Running back is absolutely loaded in California, but it is very top heavy with talent and there will be major battles for players developing. UCLA will need to be hot and heavy early.
What it needs in '14: Considering that USC signed only 13 guys in the last class, the needs are plenty. The biggest point of concern is defensive lineman. The program has signed only 2 1/2 defensive linemen the last two years -- the half is because Morgan Breslin is a JUCO transfer. The team will also need offensive linemen because the current roster has only 10, which barely fills a two-deep.
Can it be done? This could be a crossroads class for USC as it continues to recruit nationally but is on the heels of losing a few of its Eastern recruits last season. The results on the field have tarnished the luster for national prospects heading to USC, so the Trojans may cast their net a little closer to home. Right now, they are cleaning up on the offensive line. Three players rated as four-stars in the first Rivals250 have committed. Toa Lobendahn from La Habra (Calif.) High, Jordan Poland of La Jolla (Calif.) Country Day, and Casey Tucker of Chandler (Ariz.) Hamilton are great building blocks for a class that needs work in the trenches.
What it needs in '14: The biggest need for the program is on the offensive line. The secondary concern is defensive back -- especially safety. The odds are that the staff continues to look for ways to upgrade the speed and athleticism at the skill positions to compete in the Pac-12. The move to the league has expanded the footprint, but it has uncovered needs within the program.
Can it be done? The talent in Utah is often unearthed later in the evaluation process, so it is hard to say whether the local talent bed will be enough to build on this year. One analyst said that four-star offensive lineman Jackson Barton of Salt Lake City (Utah) Brighton will be the steal of the class if the Utes can keep him committed. The program could dip into Arizona because the talent in that state appears to be at an all-time high and kids have often looked to leave. Playing in the Pac-12 gives a major selling point to Utah for out-of-state kids who may not have otherwise considered the school.
What it needs in '14: This is in big bold text: Washington needs offensive linemen. The program missed on a couple of high targets last season, and seeing Sean Harlow flip to Oregon State at the end of the process stung. The players in the system have been OK but not spectacular, and the depth is limited in comparison with much of the Pac-12. If there is a spot that must be in focus, it is in the trenches.
Can it be done? Washington has sent out more offers in Arizona this year than it has in the last several, and that is smart. It is moving more into SoCal and trying to establish recruiting beds, but as yet that has borne little fruit. This could be a struggle for Washington to land players on the interior of the offensive line, but the program has to push for them if it is going to improve.
What it needs in '14: Mike Leach has been adamant about building the offensive line during his first two years in Pullman, and he has brought over 10 new linemen. Continuing to add on the offensive line will be a start, and then the Cougars need defensive depth, mainly in the secondary. With several key defensive backs nearing graduation, there could be an emphasis on bringing in four to six defensive backs. The theme with this staff has been significantly focused around finding athletes who are capable of playing multiple positions and distributing them once they get on campus. Don't expect that to change in 2014.
Can it be done? Offensive line is a little down in the Pacific Northwest, which will put Washington State in the same position as Washington in that respect. It could be adding bodies to have bodies when the chips are down. There are some high-profile defensive backs in the state and region, but guys like Budda Baker from Bellevue (Wash.) High are likely to be overlooking anything that is happening in Pullman and out-of-state options may be unearthed. The best thing that Leach and his staff are doing is finding athletes and getting them on the field. The blitz-happy defense uses undersized but rangy players all over the field to make up for what it lacks in size.



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