It's still very, very early in the recruiting process but in the modern day of recruiting, we already know who the top-rated players for the Class of 2014 are and Pac-12 coaches and their staffs assuredly do too. It will still be a little while before recruiting really ramps up, but right now is really the time where you can look at teams, what their weaknesses are and what top-rated players they are going to make big runs at.
Taking into account who teams have offered and whether or not they can realistic sign a player, here are who I think the top three targets are for each Pac-12 team this Spring.
Note: Tried to avoid overlapping players as much as possible, but in some circumstances it is simply impossible not to.
RB Nathan Starks 6'0 190 Las Vegas, NV (Bishop Gorman)
This is going to be a very hard fish for the Wildcats to land, but they will likely need a new starting running back if Ka'Deem Carey has another year like he had in 2012 Rodriguez could sell Starks on immediate playing time and the chance to duplicate the success he had with Carey. Starks' all-around skills have schools like Alabama, Oklahoma, Texas and Notre Dame already fighting over him, but he could excel in Rodriguez' system and the Wildcats could be a dark horse candidate to land him.
T Andrew Mike 6'7 270 Tucson, AZ (Sabino)
A guy as big and talented and Mike is a must have when he is in your backyard and it won't be an easy fight with the national schools that are descending upon Mike and Tucson, but you have to like the Wildcats' chances since he calls Tucson home. Mike is a unique athlete that also excels in basketball and track that could be the left tackle of the future for whichever team lands him.
WR Cameron Denson 6'1 170 Tucson, AZ (Salpointe Catholic)
Denson combined with Mike means that the Wildcats have a couple of great prospects in their backyard that can be the stars of their 2014 class. The good news about Denson is that he has already committed to the Wildcats despite being one of the best receiver prospects in the country with offers from schools like Notre Dame, Oklahoma and UCLA. It will of course to be a challenge to hang onto him, but the intriguing athlete who actually played quarterback, ran the ball and caught passes as a junior has to be a top priority for the Wildcats.
QB Kyle Allen 6'3 195 Scottsdale, AZ (Desert Mountain)
Allen arguably might be the top quarterback in the Class of 2014, so it might be Todd Graham's biggest victory as Sun Devils coach if he can somehow get Allen to stay home. A prolific, drop-back passer, Allen could step in after Taylor Kelly graduates in 2015 and he has to be at the top of every Sun Devils fan's wish list.
WR Jalen Brown 6'2 185 Phoenix, AZ (Mountain Pointe)
The Sun Devils' current weakness is at receiver and even though he wouldn't show up until 2015, a playermaker like Brown at the position would be an instant shot in the arm. The local prospect is one of the top-rated receivers in the nation early in the game and though they haven't done exceptionally well in keeping local talent home, you have to think that the local factor and the chance for an immediate impact will help the Sun Devils with Brown.
G Natrell Curtis 6'2 300 Phoenix, AZ (Mountain Pointe)
Much like his teammate Brown, Curtis is coveted by just about every major program in the country, but the Sun Devils will most likely be angling the two to stay at home together as a package deal when maybe other schools couldn't do that. A strong and nasty road-grater, Curtis might be the best guard out West and could be a huge score for the Sun Devils.
LB Michael Lazarus 6'2 215 Berkeley, CA
Talents like Lazarus just don't come out of the city of Berkeley often so the Bears get a rare top prospect that they can try to keep in their backyard. Lazarus already looks like a Pac-12 linebacker with his size and strength but it could be a battle for Sonny Dykes to keep him home as Lazarus has already had a lot of good things to say about Oregon.
RB Joe Mixon 6'0 195 Oakley, CA (Freedom)
Mixon looks to be the best running back out West early on and he is just a stone's throw away from Berkeley so expect Dykes to give him the full court press to stay home and become the next great Cal running back. Mixon is a big, versatile back who already has great ball skills for a high school running back and could step in right away to balance Brendon Bigelow in 2015.
QB Manny Wilkins 6'3 185 Novato, CA (San Marin)
It seems like signing a highly-rated quarterback that doesn't really pan out every year has become a tradition at Cal, and though he isn't a five-star-level guy, Wilkins is the best quarterback prospect in the Northern Bay Area this year and will likely be the top QB that Dykes targets. He isn't one of the very top guys out West, so the Bears might have a good chance to lock him up early if they push him hard enough.
RB Christian McCaffrey 6'0 190 Highlands Ranch, CO (Valor Christian)
Ed McCaffrey's son, Christian is about as versatile as a running back as you will see in high school and with him being one of the top running backs out West, it won't be easy for the Buffs to keep him home, but it's possible that Mike McIntyre can sell him on being the face of the new direction of the program.
C Trenton Noller 6'3 311 Windsor, CO
Noller might be the best center out West and having him in their home state should get the Buffs in the game for the coveted prospect's signature. Early indicators have suggested that Noller might be most interested in playing for Stanford though, so the Buffs might have to hope that the Cardinal don't offer or he doesn't qualify.
T Sam Jones 6'5 275 Highlands Ranch, CO (Thunderridge)
Jones looks to a big, solid prospect at tackle and the good news for the Buffs is that it looks like he is going to be a coveted prospect, but not the kind that will have offers from everyone around the country, so they might have a real good shot.
RB Racean Thomas 5'11 194 Oxford, AL
When you're the Ducks, getting a top flight running back should be your top priority each year and Thomas looks to be the best guy that the Ducks have a realistic shot at getting this year. As one could imagine, it is hard to pull five-star running backs out of Alabama, but if there is any system that could, I would think that it is Oregon's.
QB Deshaun Watson 6'3 176 Gainesville, GA
I feel like the Ducks are fine with taking quarterbacks who more perfectly fit their system than supremely hyped guys, but Watson could finally be the guy who can be both. Watson is already committed to Clemson, but the Ducks will probably give him the full court press and pressure him to flip.
LB Kain Daub 6'3 230 Jacksonville, FL (Sandalwood)
Pulling a guy like Daub out of Florida is a big challenge, but the Ducks recruit nationally as well as any team in the country and have a number of players from Florida already on their roster.
DE Connor Humphreys 6'4 262 Portland, OR (Jesuit)
The Beavers don't recruit the hyped prospects and make a living off getting under-the-radar guys that Mike Riley and his staff polish into all-conference level guys, but Humphrey's and his two teammates that are included below will be recruited hard by the Beavers since they are in their home state. Humphrey's certainly isn't an elite guy, but that might be a good thing for the Beavers as they might not be in the game if he was.
TE Henry Mondeaux 6'4 224 Portland, OR (Jesuit)
The Beavers do a really good job with tight ends and don't have a young one on their roster that looks poised to take over for Connor Hamlett after he graduates so Mondeaux would be perfect. He's one of the best tight ends on the West Coast, but like Humphrey's isn't the kind of guy that the Beavers are likely going to have to fight off USC and Notre Dame for so they have a decent shot at getting him.
LB Joey Alfieri 6'3 210 Portland, OR (Jesuit)
The third part of the Jesuit trio, Alfieri fits the mold of the disciplined, hardworking linebackers that make Mike Riley's defenses in general. For the Jesuit trio, the Beavers need to watch out for Washington though, who has offered all three and Oregon if they decide to show interest.
QB Kelley Chryst 6'3 215 Palo Alto, CA
The Cardinal aren't in dire need of a blue chip quarterback with Kevin Hogan only being a sophomore next year, but they are trying to jump at the chance at locking up one of the nation's top quarterback prospect who happens to literally live in Palo Alto. The Cardinal are in a battle with USC for Chryst's signature and one would expect him to decide soon since most quarterbacks make their decisions very early in the process.
DE Nifae Lealao 6'5 270 Sacramento, CA (Capital Christian)
The Cardinal received some great news when Lealao recently named them as his leader as he is probably the best defensive linemen out West this year and could be a beast at either defensive end of defensive tackle in college. The Cardinal are losing a lot of their upfront talent next year, so having Lealao in the fold for 2015 would be huge for them.
TE Dalton Schultz 6'5 230 South Jordan, UT (Bingham)
The nation's top tight end and the Cardinal offense should be a perfect marriage so I would surprised if Stanford doesn't lock him in soon. The Cardinal suffered a huge blow after last season when Zach Ertz and Levine Toilolo declared early for the draft, so they could use Schultz as soon as possible.
QB Kyle Allen 6'3 195 Scottsdale, AZ (Desert Mountain)
Couldn't help but overlap with Allen here as he is the top quarterback on the Bruins' board and they have to be looking for a QB of Allen's caliber to step in after Brett Hundley leaves which could be as soon as after this season with him being a redshirt sophomore.
S Juju Smith 6'2 185 Long Beach, CA (Poly)
The Bruins seems to be on a mission to claim the greater LA as their territory as opposed to LA, so mission number one this recruiting season has to be locking down the area's best prospect for the class in Smith. The Bruins aren't hurting for defensive backs with how many they have signed the past two seasons, but Smith is a guy that should be able to beat out whoever you signed before him.
CB Adoree Jackson 5'10 170 Gardena, CA (Junipero Serra)
This will be another LA dominance struggle between USC and UCLA as both have Jackson at the top of their boards. Once again, not a position of particularly need, but Jackson could also slide in at receiver and is a guy that could start as a true freshman.
WR Michiah Quick 5'11 170 Fresno, CA (Central East)
When you are the Trojans, your wish list kind of is your legitimate recruiting list as they go down the top prospects in the country and pick and choose who they truly want to recruit. Quick might be the best overall prospect on the West Coast for 2014, so there is a good chance he is the guy the Trojans want most, especially with Marqise Lee almost assuredly departing after next year.
S Juju Smith 6'2 185 Long Beach, CA (Poly)
The Trojans are hurting for top flight defensive backs so that may give them a leg up in the battle for Smith but either way it will be an interesting fight to see if one of the LA schools can keep Smith home.
CB Adoree Jackson 5'10 170 Gardena, CA (Juniperro Serra)
Another player that could end up being a mano-a-mano battle between the LA schools and like Smith, Jackson is at a huge position of need for the Trojans.
T Jackson Barton 6'7 275 Salt Lake City, UT (Brighton)
The Utes generally don't sign guys as highly-rated at Barton, but they scored big by having him in their back yard and securing an early commitment from him. Barton is simply a mountain of a young man that dominates the line of scrimmage. He is going to get pushed by some of the biggest programs in the country, so holding onto that commitment will be a huge task for the Utes.
DT Bryan Mone 6'4 316 Salt Lake City, UT (Highland)
Mone is maybe the best defensive tackle out West, but unfortunately for the Utes, he has already committed to Michigan. Mone looks a bit like just-graduated All-American Star Lotulelei and he would be one of the biggest recruits ever signed by the Utes, so they will likely be trying to sway him from his commitment throughout the recruiting season.
DT Allan Havili 6'4 270 Tooele, UT (Stansbury)
Havili is another big early commitment for the Utes and will assuredly command a lot of their efforts to hang onto. He isn't as big of a recruit as Barton or Mone, literally or figuratively, but he would be a massive victory for the Utes if they can hang onto him.
CB Budda Baker 5'10 177 Bellevue, WA
Steve Sarkisian has really struck out with the state of Washington's top high school talent the past two years, so Baker is almost a can't lose prospect for him this year if he wants to get any confidence back from Husky fans in regards to his in-state recruiting abilities. Baker is an electrifying plakmaker that could play a number of positions while also being a standout in the return game.
T Kaleb McGary 6'6 272 Tacoma, WA (Fife)
The Huskies are in the running for more highly-rated tackles than McGary, but as I mentioned with Baker, they desperately need to start hanging onto their top in-state talent and McGary is the next prospect in line after Baker. Not just an instate talent, McGary also fills one of the Huskies' biggest positions of need as they have struggled to sign tackles under Sarkisian.
DT Ainuu Taua 6'1 270 Lompoc, CA
The Huskies really need some quality defensive tackles, specifically nose guard types with Danny Shelton going to be a junior next season. The Huskies have an in with Taua in that they signed his 2012 teammate Lavon Coleman and that Lompoc is off the beaten path from where the LA schools generally dominate recruiting.
QB Peyton Bender 6'1 175 Fort Lauderdale, FL (Cardinal Gibbons)
The Cougars have already locked in their Class of 2014 quarterback in Bender, but if you remember last year's signing day drama with eventual quarterback signee Tyler Bruggman, they might have to fight to keep that commitment if any of the local schools step up into the picture later in the process.
S Drew Lewis 6'1 190 Redmond, WA (Eastlake)
The Cougars don't usually score the top-rated prospects from the state of Washington, so reeling in the second-level prospects from the state always is a priority and Lewis is probably the best of those players. Lewis is athletic and could be a future star in the Cougars secondary if they can get him.
DT Marcus Griffin 6'3 280 Bellevue, WA
Like Lewis, Griffin is one of those Washington state prospects who they hope slips under the radar of the Pac-12 powers and they can secure. Griffin is the best defensive linemen in the state in 2014 and would really bolster the Cougars defensive front down the road.