Thursday, January 27, 2011
Pac-12 recruiting needs: South Division
By ESPN.com staff
National signing day is now less than a week away. Time to take a final look at recruiting needs for the Pac-12, starting with the South Division.
Defensive end: The Wildcats lost two All-Conference starters, Brooks Reed and Ricky Elmore, as well as No. 3 defensive end D'Aundre Reed. They have commitments from four players listed as DEs, but are any ready to play in 2011?
Linebacker: Last year, the Wildcats were replacing all three starters, so this was a dire need. And JC transfers Paul Vassallo and Derek Earls did a solid job stepping in. The issues here is depth and the future: Coach Mike Stoops doesn't want to be in the same position as 2010 when he had no experience at the position.
Running back: This position is mostly set for 2011, though an explosive newcomer could earn playing time because this has not proven to be a durable position for the Wildcats. Two of the top-four commitments so far are running backs.
Linebacker: The Sun Devils might have the best group of linebackers in the Pac-12 next fall, but Brandon Magee, Shelley Lyons, Oliver Aaron and Colin Parker are seniors and likely preseason All-American Vontaze Burfict is probably headed for the first round of the NFL draft in 2012. So the Sun Devils need young linebackers who can pick up some seasoning before getting thrown into action. They've gotten commitments from two so far and would like to add a third.
Quarterback: Steven Threet is a senior, Brock Osweiler a junior and Samson Szakacsy left the program. The Sun Devils want to sign two and have commitments from two, but Michael Eubank is exploring his options, with Utah, particularly, making a push.
Punter: It appears this need -- Trevor Hankins is gone -- will be filled by JC All-American Josh Hubner.
Speed: When new coach Jon Embree watched film of the Buffaloes, he found this lacking, regardless of position. And overall team speed will be more important in the Pac-10 than the Big 12. The Buffaloes were an elite team in terms of team speed during the glory years of 1988-96.
Cornerbacks: The Buffaloes not only lost two starting cornerbacks, they lost two guys -- Jimmy Smith and Jalil Brown -- who are expected to be early NFL draft picks. And six of the other seven CBs listed on the 2010 depth chart, which includes a nickelback, will be seniors next fall. Two of 13 commitments so far are corners.
Wide Receivers: The Buffaloes lose all-time receptions and touchdowns leader Scotty McKnight and at present have only three receivers on scholarship, one of whom is a senior. Only one commitment is from a receiver thus far.
Offensive line: Four starters from 2010 graduated as well as top backup Micah Kia (left tackle Sean Sheller is appealing to NCAA for sixth year of eligibility; center Kai Maiava miss 2010 with a fractured ankle). The Bruins would like to sign five and have commitments from three so far.
Quarterback: The Bruins have their man here: Brett Hundley is already enrolled in school, attending classes and participating in off-season workouts.
Defensive line: The Bruins want to sign three D-linemen. End Sam Tai is already enrolled in school, attending classes and participating in offseason workouts.
Linemen: The Trojans need to stock up on linemen on both sides of the ball; as we all know they are playing an interesting numbers games with NCAA sanctions. So far, so good, but not done. The Trojans have commitments (or have already signed) six defensive linemen (including five ends) and four offensive linemen.
Linebackers: It's odd that USC is weak at linebacker but it is, particularly in terms of depth. Four commitments are LBs and a few others could end up there.
Numbers: USC is stocking up for whatever the NCAA ultimately rules on the Trojans appeal of NCAA sanctions. That's why it used scholarships for a kicker, punter and long-snapper: Secure those positions for the longterm so limited scholarships going forward can be used for bigger needs. That also means athletes -- defensive backs, receivers and running backs -- who have options in terms of where they end up.
Running back: With two seniors who split the rushing load -- Eddie Wide and Matt Asiata -- gone, the Utes need running backs, and four of their 19 commitments are listed as such.
Pass catchers: The Utes must replace four of their top five receivers from 2010, which included Wide and Asiata. They've got commitments from three and are in the hunt for at least one more. Also, the class has no tight end as of yet.
Quarterback: The Utes had a commitment from quarterback Derrick Brown out of Murrieta, Calif., but he switched to Washington, so there are presently no QBs in the class. Jordan Wynn will be a junior next fall, but there is no experience behind him.