The Main 2014 College Football Recruiting Target for Each Top 25 Team
Formulating a workable plan is the foundation of every team's effort on the recruiting trail.
Coaches watch a ton of tape, work their connections in the high school ranks and see a ton of names come across their desk. They then whittle their lists down and make a plan as to how they will go about luring their top targets to their campus.
Each team has a main target, a No. 1 must-have guy on their recruiting list every year. Today, by using the final AP Poll for the 2012 season, we're going to give you the top target for each top-25 team.
The target for each team is a guy who they figure to go after hard, because he's either a top prospect at his position, a legacy recruit, fills a need or simply because they don't want their rival to obtain him.
Here's the top target for 2014 recruiting for each top-25 team.
Top Target: Braden Smith, OT
Smith is a Midwestern guy, hailing from Kansas, so he's familiar with Big Red football.
The 6'6", 282-pounder is a physical specimen and just has the feel of a classic Cornhusker offensive lineman.
Bo Pelini and his staff have to be drooling over Smith, and I expect them to be all over him.
Top Target: Da'Shawn Hand, DE
Hand is the top player for 2014, and Michigan is one of his top five schools, says 247Sports.
He's a 6'5", 247-pounder from Virginia who has outstanding athleticism for a DE.
Brady Hoke took Taco Charlton, but Hand is already a superior prospect right now.
Top Target: Jalen Hurd, RB
Hurd is being recruiting by rival Tennessee, according to Scout.com but Vandy also wants him to check them out.
He's a huge 6'3", 225-pound RB who can chug the rock, bully defenses and wear people down.
Hurd could be this year's Derrick Henry.
22. Northern Illinois
Top Target: Enoch Smith Jr., DT
Smith is a 6'3", 270-pound DT from the Chicago-area who NIU wants, per Scout.com.
He has bigger offers, so his interest may be low right now.
However, he'd be a hallmark recruit for NIU and would open up the Huskies to aggressively recruit more higher-rated prospects.
21. San Jose State
Top Target: Michiah Quick, WR/ATH
It's early, so SJSU technically is still in the Quick sweepstakes.
Sure, he has BCS-school offers and likely won't land in San Jose, but the Spartans should take a page out of the Ole Miss recruiting book and aim big.
Quick is a 6'0", 170-pound ATH prospect who has the potential to being a dynamic WR one day.
20. Oregon State
Top Target: Kyle Allen, QB
Personally, I think it could be tough to score Allen from Arizona State, but Mike Riley is game for the challenge.
The Beavers would love to add a smart QB to come toss the rock in Corvallis, and Allen fits the bill.
They probably will throw everything but the kitchen sink at him until they're told "no."
Top Target: Tony Brown, CB
Many have Brown as the top player in Texas this year, and you know how the Longhorns gobble up most of the elite talent in the Lone Star State year-in and year-out.
The 6'0", 185-pound Brown is a great press-corner prospect who has good strength and athleticism, and could grow into a safety one day.
18. Boise State
Top Target: Kalen Ballage, RB
The Broncos are being pretty selective with their offers this year, but Ballage is a guy who fits the mold of a BSU player. He's a 6'2", 215-pound RB from Colorado.
Scout.com lists Ballage as a 4.39 40-yard-dash guy. He can play RB, WR or even LB, and that versatility has to be attractive to Chris Petersen and his staff.
Top Target: Nyles Morgan, LB
Morgan would be a perfect fit for Northwestern. He's a 6'2", 228-pound LB who is a leader on the field and off.
He's a high-character guy and thinks the game along with playing it. Morgan studies tape, plays smart and is a physical 'backer whom Pat Fitzgerald would love.
16. Utah State
Top Target: Jordan Hoiem, LB
Hoiem is from Hawaii and plays the LB position at 6'4" and 207 pounds. His frame is impressive, and he has good athleticism, length to stay clean from blockers and flashes good pass-rushing ability.
Hoiem can play DE in sub-packages while also operating as a standup rush-end as a 3-4 OLB.
Top Target: Braden Smith, OT
Oklahoma didn't have an ideal recruiting year in 2013, so look for the Sooners to make a mean comeback like the return of the Sith.
Bob Stoops will be looking to take an elite player at every crucial position, and Smith is one of the top OLs in the country.
From Kansas, Smith is in the region that Oklahoma makes hay in, so I think they will pursue him hard.
Top Target: Leonard Fournette, RB
The Tigers didn't sign any RBs in 2013, and that wasn't by mistake.
It's no secret they want Fournette and no one blames them: This guy is special.
He's 6'0" tall and 215 pounds, and he has a unique blend of speed, power, instincts and ball skills.
He's their top target, and there's no debating that claim whatsoever.
Top Target: Reggie Bonnafon, QB
Bonnafon is a 6'2", 195-pound dual-threat QB with a strong arm and quick feet.
He's from Louisville, and the Cardinals have already locked him up with a commitment.
He may already be a better athlete than Teddy Bridgewater is now, and Richard Benjamin and James Quick will love him.
12. Kansas State
Top Target: Blake Blackmar, OG
Blackmar is a 6'5", 309-pound OL from Texas who fits like fingers in a glove at the OG position.
He's rugged, rough and tough in the trenches.
Blackmar fights everyone who comes across his face, looks to finish and is the kind of hardworking player Bill Snyder likes.
Top Target: Deshaun Watson, QB
Watson is perhaps the best dual-threat QB in the country in 2014, and his numbers are ridiculous.
As a junior last season in Georgia, he threw for 4,024 yards, 50 TDs and just eight interceptions. He also rushed for 1,441 yards and 24 TDs.
He's committed to Clemson right now, but Dabo Swinney must stay on Watson, because 247Sports says Auburn and Ohio State are hot on his case.
10. Florida State
Top Target: Quin Blanding, S
Blanding is a 6'2", 200-pound safety from Virginia and is one of the best overall players for 2014 recruiting.
He has excellent instincts, awareness, athletic ability and range.
The Seminoles put a lot of pride in producing good defensive backs, so landing Blanding would help continue that in Tallahassee.
Top Target: Da'Shawn Hand, DE
I could go with Lorenzo Carter, but I'll go with Hand, the top overall 2014 prospect.
Ronald Powell hasn't made the impact he was billed to make in Gainesville yet, but there's still time.
Hand is similar to Powell, but may be a little thicker and stronger at this stage than Powell was.
Hand also can move inside and rush against OGs on passing downs.
8. South Carolina
Top Target: Da'Shawn Hand, DE
I'm not being lazy, I promise. Hand is just South Carolina's top recruiting target, and he has the Gamecocks in his top five, per 247Sports.
Jadeveon Clowney is gone after this season, by all accounts and purposes, so why not replace him with a guy who many feel is the next Jadeveon Clowney?
Top Target: Jabrill Peppers, ATH
Peppers is from New Jersey and ranks as a top-10 player on my board right now.
He can play CB, RB, S and WR, due to his 6'1", 205-pound frame, speed, awareness and athleticism.
247Sports shows Stanford as one of his top two schools. David Shaw will definitely emphasize Stanford's quality academics along with top-notch football as his main selling points to Peppers.
5(t). Texas A&M
Top Target: Edward Paris, S
The Aggies have many targets who could be here, but I'm going with Paris.
The Texan is a 6'1". 190-pound DB who can play both CB and safety for a defense. Paris is athletic, speedy and can play physically to defend the run.
The Aggies would like to team Paris up with Kameron Miles as a potential future safety tandem.
Top Target: Lorenzo Carter, DE/OLB
Carter is probably the top player in Georgia this year.
He stands 6'6", weighs 232 pounds and can play the DE position in a 4-3 scheme or stand up as an OLB in a 3-4.
An athletic and long prospect, Carter has a high ceiling and could do some serious damage for Todd Grantham's unit if he picks UGA.
4. Notre Dame
Top Target: Sony Michel, RB
Last year, Notre Dame signed an RB out of Florida who stood almost 5'11" and weighed 205 pounds.
This year, the Irish want to another back who fits the same profile.
Greg Bryant signed with Brian Kelly in 2013, and now Kelly is back in Florida trying to get Sony Michel.
The tandem these two backs would make is scary to think about.
3. Ohio State
Top Target: Christian McCaffrey, RB
The Ducks aren't likely to change much, even though Chip Kelly has left.
So that means they will continue to try to outscore people, and that is why it's no shock they like the 6'0", 195-pound McCaffrey.
From Colorado, McCaffrey can do a little bit of everything from the RB position. He can catch the football out of the backfield, run inside the box with strength and has good speed.
Top Target: Marlon Humphrey, CB
Leonard Fournette, Da'Shawn Hand, Cameron Robinson and Andrew Brown can easily be placed here too.
I'm just going to go with Humphrey because he's an in-state guy, and it's crucial to lock up local prospects before you spread your wings in recruiting.
Alabama, with Nick Saban being a DB coach at heart, is awesome at molding young secondary defenders and Humphrey could be the best CB in the country this year.
He's a true must-get for the Tide in 2014.
Edwin Weathersby is the College Football Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. He has worked in scouting/player personnel departments for three professional football teams, including the New York Giants, Cleveland Browns and the Las Vegas Gladiators of the Arena League. He spent a year evaluating prep prospects and writing specific recruiting and scouting content articles for Student Sports Football (formerly ESPN Rise-HS). A syndicated scout and writer, he's also contributed to WeAreSC.com, GatorBait.net and Diamonds in the Rough Inc., a College Football and NFL Draft magazine.