Pac-10 team recruiting needs for Class of 2009
Offensive tackle: Arizona bolstered its depth here by signing Phillip Garcia from Cerritos Junior College (Calif.) and also infused some youth when it signed Trace Biskin from Oaks Christian High School (Calif.), but it is critical the Wildcats continue to get younger here. Why? Starting LOT James Tretheway and backup ROT Bill Wacholz are seniors. Additionally, starting ROT Eben Britton and oft-injured backup LOT Adam Grant are juniors.
Outside linebacker: Arizona started to address this position when it signed R.J. Young from DeSoto HS (Texas). However, more work needs to be done here because SLB Adrian McCovy is a senior and backup SLB Vuna Tuihalamaka, starting WLB Xavier Kelley and Sterling Lewis are all juniors.
Running back: Arizona State did well to land Ryan Bass from Centennial HS (Calif.) last year, and Keelan Johnson from Mesa HS (Ariz.) could see time at running back; the versatile Johnson could also line up at wide receiver and/or quarterback. However, Bass and Johnson are the only two true freshmen running backs of note. Considering Keegan Herring is a senior and the next three backs on the depth chart are all juniors, the Sun Devils should be in the market for more running backs this year.
Inside linebacker: True freshman Shelly Lyons from Centennial HS (Calif.) has a great deal of upside, but three juniors and two seniors are currently listed on the Sun Devils' depth chart. In addition, Lyons may never realize his potential. While he has a great deal of upside, he may never realize he is a project because he isn't fundamentally sound. Keeping all of that in mind, adding a top-tier prospect capable of pushing for early playing time this year makes sense.
Safety: The starting tandem of Troy Nolan and Rodney Cox moves on at the end of the year as does senior reserve Angelo Fobbs-Valentino. And remember Jeremy Payton decided to forgo his final season and move on with his life after obtaining his undergraduate degree. So after doing a sound job of addressing the cornerback position last year, the Sun Devils need to turn their attention to the middle of the secondary this year.
Defensive end: The Bears added Aaron Tipoti from Word of Life Christian Academy (Hawaii) last year. However, it's important to note the decision to play true freshman Anthony Miller from Archbishop Mitty HS (Calif.) at tight end rather than defensive end when evaluating this position. With Rulon Davis, Tyson Alualu and Cody Jones all seniors, Cal should continue to get younger here.
Tight end: Cal added Spencer Ladner from Pembroke Hill HS (Mo.) last year and he has the frame to develop into an effective starter. In addition, playing Miller here should help. However, the top three tight ends on the depth chart are all seniors, so the Bears need to continue to infuse youth at this position as well.
Safety: The decision not to address this position last year is a little bit puzzling because Bernard Hicks is a senior and Marcus Ezeff, Brett Johnson and Jesse Brooks are all juniors. With that in mind, expect Cal to target the safety position this year.
Guard: Sophomore Jordan Holmes appears to have a bright future but three seniors round out the top four on the depth chart. Additionally, freshman Hamani Stevens from Hemet HS (Calif.) has been moved to defensive tackle.
Defensive tackle: Moving Stevens helps but the Ducks have far more work to do here. Of the eight defensive tackles listed on the roster other than Stevens, three are seniors and four are juniors. In addition, Oregon would do well to bolster a run defense that finished fifth in the Pac-10 last year.
Running back: Jeremiah Johnson is a senior and backups Andre Crenshaw and LeGarrette Blount are both juniors. Behind them, true freshman LaMichael James from Liberty-Eylau HS (Texas) and sophomore Remene Alston lack ideal size. And finally the Ducks used RB Malachi Lewis in an H-Back/Tight End role last year, raising doubts about his ability to be the primary ball carrier. With all of that in mind, look for Oregon to target big backs this year.
Quarterback: With four freshmen quarterbacks on the roster, it shouldn't matter that starter Lyle Moevao and backup Sean Canfield are both juniors, right? Wrong, and the reason is true freshman Ryan Katz from Santa Monica HS (Calif.) is the only one of the four on scholarship. In addition, Katz was a fringe Division I-A prospect in our opinion. So while one of these players could develop into an effective starter, banking on it would be far too great a risk.
Cornerback: Starters Keenan Lewis and Brandon Hughes are both seniors. Making matters worse, key reserves Tim Clark and Patrick Henderson are both juniors. So even though the Beavers added Keynan Parker from Thomas More Collegiate (B.C., Canada), they would be wise to continue to target the cornerback position.
Guard: Though the Beavers did well to land Colin Lyons from Del Campo HS (Calif.) last year, adding at least one more guard this year should be in the cards. Projected starters Adam Speer and Jeremy Perry are seniors and versatile backup Gregg Peat is a junior. Massive Brent McNeil, who is listed as a junior but has three years of eligibility left, could be the heir apparent on one side. However, sophomore Alex Linnenkohl projects better at long snapper than he does playing an every-down role on offense.
Outside linebacker: One look at the depth chart tells you getting help at outside linebacker has to be a priority this year. Of the six outside linebackers listed, five are seniors. Making matters far worse, Alex Debniak from Hudsonville HS (Mich.) is the only true freshman of note. If there's good news it's that Stanford has secured a verbal commitment from Shayne Skov from Trinity Pawling School (N.Y.). However, the Cardinal still need to add depth and talent here.
Offensive tackle: This is another senior-laden position with four players including starters Ben Muth and Chris Marinelli moving on at the end of the year. So while the Cardinals were able to land Jonathan Martin -- who decommitted from UCLA last year -- from Harvard Westlake HS (Calif.), there's plenty more work to do.
Cornerback: While corner isn't as big a need as the two mentioned above, it will be if Stanford fails to address it this year. Starters Kris Evans and Wopamo Osaisai are seniors and backups Mark Mueller and C.J. Easter are both juniors.
Center: Instead of addressing this position last year, UCLA moved junior Micah Reed from guard, sophomore Jake Dean from guard and junior Adam Heater from tight end. It could come back to haunt the Bruins as none of them fared particularly well during spring practices.
Defensive tackle: A Bruins' run defense that ranked third in the Pac-10 was arguably one of the most underrated in the nation last year, and it's anchored by sophomore DT Brian Price. But if the Bruins are going to continue to be stout against the run they would be wise to start addressing the defensive tackle position this year. The reason is the depth chart lists three seniors and two juniors in the top six at the position and UCLA failed to add a defensive tackle of note last year.
Wide receiver: Sophomore Dominique Johnson has the tools to be a difference maker and there's a lot to like about the upside of true freshman Taylor Embree from Blue Valley West HS (Kan.). In addition, the Bruins added two other true freshmen last year. The problem is depth because there are currently two seniors and five juniors on the roster.
Cornerback: True freshman T.J. Bryant from Lincoln HS (Fla.) was considered one of the top cornerback prospects in the nation. In addition, true freshman Brian Baucham from Torrance HS (Calif.) has the blend of quickness and athletic ability to develop into a substantial contributor at this level. On the other hand, Cary Harris and Josh Pinkard -- who can also line up at safety -- are both seniors. And Shareece Wright, Kevin Thomas and Matthew Jordan are all juniors.
Outside linebacker: The Trojans need to address this position after signee Maurice Simmons earlier this month was found guilty of two felonies and a misdemeanor for a street robbery. For those on the roster, Brian Cushing and Kaluka Maiava are seniors and Nick Garratt and Luthur Brown are juniors.
Safety: Senior Kevin Ellison moves on at the end of the year and junior Taylor Mays may not be far behind, as he could project as a first round pick at the end of the 2008 season. In addition, backups Justin Hart and Will Harris are both juniors and Pinkard, as mentioned above, is a senior. The good news for Trojans fans is USC added true freshman Drew McAllister from Monte Vista HS (Calif.) last year and its secured a verbal commitment from high school senior T.J. McDonald from Edison HS (Calif.).
Inside linebacker: Five-foot-11, 207-pound true freshman Bradly Roussel from Redemptorist HS (La.) could have problems holding his ground on the inside, so a move to the outside could be in his future. True freshman Kurt Mangum out of Hamilton HS (Ariz.) is considerably bigger than Roussel but may never develop into an every-down player at the collegiate level. That's reason for concern because Trenton Tuiasosopo is a senior and Donald Butler is a junior. And don't forget Washington must find ways to improve a run defense that finished last in the Pac-10 last year.
Safety: The future appears bright here, as sophomores Nate Williams and Victor Aiyewa both saw significant playing time during their true freshman seasons last year. The problem is playing them last year means both have just two years of eligibility left following the 2008 season. Further complicating matters here, Mesphin Forrester, Darin Harris and Jason Wells are seniors.
Tight end: This may not appear to be a pressing need with the Huskies landing Kavario Middleton from Lakes HS (Wash.). He was considered one of the top tight end prospects in the nation and has the skill set to quickly develop into a starter. In fact, Middleton could very well pair with red-shirt freshman Chris Izbicki to give the Huskies a formidable two-TE set. However, Izbicki is undersized so he may never develop into an effective in-line blocker or every-down tight end. It's also worth noting that Izbicki was arrested in late July on two misdemeanor charges. Keeping all of that in mind and the fact that there are three senior tight ends on the roster, adding at least one more makes sense.
Defensive tackle: Washington State is expected to play true freshman Anthony Laurenzi out of El Dorado HS (Calif.) at defensive tackle rather than defensive end. It may also have added JUCO transfer Josh Luapo, who has the size to help bolster the interior run defense. The reason we say "may have added" is it's unclear at this point whether or not Luapo will be academically eligible. Regardless of Luapo's situation, the Cougars' failure to make any other additions of note could come back to haunt them in a big way because four of the top six defensive tackles on the depth chart are seniors. Making matters worse, Luapo and vastly undersized Luke Hansell are juniors.
Defensive end: With Laurenzi lining up on the inside and fellow true freshman Dan Spitz out of Mead HS (Wash.) possibly lining up at tight end, the Cougars didn't make a big splash here last year. That's somewhat of a surprise because Cal is the only PAC 10 team to finish with fewer sacks last year. In addition, projected starters Kevin Kooyman and Andy Mattingly are juniors and backups Matt Mullennix and Mike Graise are juniors.
Outside linebacker: Not a tough need to recognize considering starters Cory Evans and Kendrick Dunn are seniors and top reserve Jason Stripling is a junior who missed the 2006 season with a shoulder injury and the 2007 season because of academic issues.
Steve Muench played four years of Division I-AA football before joining Scouts Inc. in 2002. He has evaluated both NFL and college players for Scouts Inc., but his current focus is on the NFL draft.