Wednesday, January 8, 2014
Most important targets: Pac-12
By Erik McKinney
The West region still has a chance to greatly impact the Pac-12, as five of the top six recruits in the region remain uncommitted. And while a few Pac-12 classes still have a ways to go and others are looking for the finishing touches, there is still a most important commit for each program still out there. Here, we take a look at the one "must-have" recruit for each conference program.
OT Nick Gates (Las Vegas/Bishop Gorman)
6-foot-4, 272 pounds
Gates has taken official visits to Nebraska, Oregon and Texas A&M, but he'll give Arizona a shot with an official visit on Jan. 17. The Wildcats have already done most of their damage in the 2014 class with 29 verbal commitments, including six ESPN 300 prospects, but would love to add another big body along the offensive line.
OT Casey Tucker (Chandler, Ariz./Hamilton)
6-6, 290 pounds
ESPN 300 rank: 46
The big tackle has done well to downplay his recruitment and quietly narrow things down to Arizona State and Stanford, but there would be some serious noise if Tucker eventually chooses the Sun Devils. Arizona State would make a statement by keeping the top-ranked player in the state at home and would add a player capable of stepping onto the field as a true freshman.
RB Joe Mixon (Oakley, Calif./Freedom)
6-1, 209 pounds
ESPN 300 rank: 72
There are other important recruits on the board, and the Golden Bears took a hit when Mixon committed to Oklahoma earlier this month, but no recruit is as important to Sonny Dykes' program as the talented tailback, and there is no chance that Cal will stop recruiting him before he signs that letter in early February. Stranger things have happened in recruiting, and the hometown team always has the advantage heading into the last few weeks.
WR Shay Fields (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco)
5-11, 160 pounds
There is an opportunity to step in for Paul Richardson, who declared for the NFL draft, and the Buffaloes have gone hard after Fields, a USC commit. The speedy receiver will take an official visit to Colorado in January and might jump at the chance to head to Colorado and make an early impact.
S Mattrell McGraw (River Ridge, La./John Curtis Christian)
5-10, 180 pounds
ESPN 300 rank: 194
McGraw was down to Oregon and UCLA, but things got interesting with a recent offer from Texas A&M. Now the Ducks will need to fight off two schools for McGraw, who visited Oregon officially in early December. If the Ducks can reel in McGraw, it will give them two extremely talented defensive back prospects, as McGraw joins cornerback Arrion Springs (San Antonio, Tex./Theodore Roosevelt). Although ESPN 300 safety Bishard Baker (Bellevue, Wash./Bellevue) joined Oregon's class already, McGraw's recruitment is even more important considering Baker is being brought in to play offense for the Ducks.
OT Kaleb McGary (Fife, Wash./Fife)
6-8, 284 pounds
The Beavers took just two offensive linemen in the 2013 class, with offensive tackle Sean Harlow jumping into the starting lineup as a true freshman, so adding depth and talent to that position is a must for Oregon State. McGary holds a number of impressive offers, and the Beavers were able to grab an official visit from the big tackle in late November. With offers from Arizona State, Oregon, USC, Washington and Wisconsin, McGary would represent an important recruiting win for the Beavers.
DE Solomon Thomas (Coppell, Tex./Coppell)
6-3, 256 pounds
ESPN 300 rank: 31
Stanford is still in on a number of impact prospects, but adding Thomas to the Cardinal front seven haul would put a significant cherry on top of the 2014 class. The Cardinal have grabbed high-profile offensive linemen away from national programs over the past few years, and doing the same thing with a defensive lineman would send yet another message that Stanford isn't going away on the recruiting trail anytime soon. Thomas would also likely immediately plug into a defensive front that has become one of the conference's best.
OG Damien Mama (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco)
6-4, 370 pounds
ESPN 300 rank: 54
Mama has been a longtime USC lean, but the Bruins haven't given up the chase behind offensive line coach Adrian Klemm. While UCLA signed a number of offensive linemen in the 2013 class, the Bruins will look to add a few this year as well, as Mama is likely the top big man on the board. Pulling him toward Westwood would also present another significant recruiting victory over USC.
ATH John Smith (Long Beach, Calif./Poly)
6-1, 206 pounds
ESPN 300 rank: 38
Smith is capable of playing safety or wide receiver at the next level, and the Trojans will likely be in need of both for the 2014 season. Smith has taken visits to Alabama, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Oregon, but will save his fifth for USC in late January. Adoree' Jackson (Gardena, Calif./Serra) and Mama also represent significant recruiting targets for the Trojans, but USC has always had strong ties to Long Beach Poly, and grabbing Smith could also help with 2015 ESPN 300 prospect and teammate Iman Marshall. It could be argued that Jackson is a bigger target, but if USC missed out on Jackson, he's likely headed to the SEC. If the Trojans miss on Smith, he's likely to wind up across town at UCLA.
TE Dalton Schultz (South Jordan, Utah/Bingham)
6-6, 235 pounds
ESPN 300 rank: 138
This will likely be an uphill battle for Utah against Notre Dame and Stanford, but the Utes are still in it for Schultz and will look to keep the dynamic tight end at home. Schultz would easily be the biggest recruiting victory for Utah in recent years and would add an extremely talented player to a position group that has been a strength for Utah in recent seasons.
DE Jaylen Johnson (Corona, Calif./Centennial)
6-foot-3, 232 pounds
There are plenty of spots left in Washington's class, so there are more than a few recruits who could be listed here. But the nod goes to Johnson, who was committed to Chris Petersen at Boise State. The rangy defensive end holds offers from Arizona State, Oregon, Oregon State and USC, so if Petersen can reel him into the Huskies' class, it will represent a big win for that staff.
DT Marcus Griffin (Bellevue, Wash./Bellevue)
6-2, 299 pounds
Griffin committed to Washington State earlier in the process, but backed away from that and is now looking at a number of programs including Arizona, California and Washington. While Washington State is in the mix for several impactful skill position prospects, pulling Griffin back into the mix would be huge because it would give the Cougars a talented recruit at a position where you can never have too much depth, and it would give Mike Leach another prospect from a state-power high school.