Fullerized: USC Leads Recruiting Pack

Signing Day is always unpredictable, and 2004's go-round was no different. CU signed 19 when all was said and done, including three All-Americans, but one would be remised not to look at what took place out side of Boulder. Here's my top five classes around the country, and the players on them primed to make a difference in 2004.

1. USC
A 6-4, 290 pound center leads the nation's top recruiting class into Trojan red. Loveland native Jeff Byers may well be the most widely regarded soon-to-be freshman lineman in the last 20 years, and the hype's not without merit. Byers is remarkably light on his feet and possesses a 4.76 40-yard dash time. Not simply content with his play on offense, the All-American also totaled over 100 tackles with seven sacks and 20 tackles for losses at his defensive tackle and linebacker positions.

USC also beefed up its linebacking corps with the acquisition of a true defender; Keith Rivers out of Lake Mary, Florida. He totaled over 100 tackles, a pick, broke up two passes and was known as a wall against the run during his senior year.

The Trojan's picked up their third and fourth players on my top 25, inking Jeff Schweiger and Fred Davis.

Schweiger, a 6-4 defensive lineman out of San Jose, CA, is one of the best pure pass rushers in the country. He's exceptionally active and an agile pass rusher who is pretty near impossible to knock off his feet. He had 78 tackles and 17 sacks as a junior, and followed those numbers up with 14 sacks and an incredible 116 tackles this past season.

Davis, meanwhile, is nearly as intimidating as his classmen Schweiger, only at the wide receiver position. The 6-4, 210-pound wideout is regarded across the board as one of the best receivers in the country. He brought down 30 passes for 550 yards and 13 touchdowns for Rogers High School in Toledo, Ohio this past season.

2. Miami
The Hurricane's top recruit nearly had to sit out his senior season. Linebacker Willie Williams had to take advantage of a Florida loophole in order to suit up for Carol City High School after transferring from Pace High, and took advantage of the extra opportunity. Williams did have to sit for his team's opening three games, but totaled 85 tackles, 15 sacks, nine hurries, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries in the seven games he did play in. He's widely regarded as one of the most athletic linebackers in the country, and a natural nose for the ball combined with a 4.48 40-time could have the local product making a serious big for playing time in 2004.

In front of Williams, defensive lineman Rhyan Anderson has all the tools to become an anchor of the ‘Canes front lines as early as 2005. The Oak Creek High standout was heavily touted as one of best players to come out of Wisconsin, and earned first-team All-State defensive honors as a result. Anthony totaled 96 tackles, 24 sacks, a trio of picks, five knockdowns and was publicly feared by every offensive lineman who had the unenviable duty of looking across the ball at Anthony.

Further down the school's recruiting list, but just as intriguing to the Miami staff, is defensive lineman Calais Campbell. The 6-7 Denver native didn't even broach most experts' top 100 lists, but it is agreed that the much improved commit has unlimited potential. As a junior Campbell earned 109 tackles and 19 sacks, and this season he was credited with 118 tackles, 19 additional sacks, three knockdowns and even a pair of picks.

3. LSU
My, oh my does LSU's class look good. The Tigers learned just how much their program could benefit from this past season's BCS scandal when they received the signature of receiver Xavier Carter out of Melbourne, Florida. The 6-3 wideout was hands down the best high school receiver in the country last season. Carter averaged well over 20 yards per catch this season, proving that he can be the difference-maker every major program in the country craves. As a junior he caught 28 passes for 840 yards and 12 scores despite playing on a run-oriented team at Palm Bay High School. He is also a standout in basketball and track where's he's been electronically timed at 10.38 in the 100 meters. He returned three punts and one kickoff for scores this past season, and caught 28 passes for 840 yards and 12 touchdowns.

What's scary about the Tigers' second-most exciting recruit is that he's nearly as fast as Carter – and he's a defensive lineman. 6-2, 310-point Marlon Favorite has great strength and shows the kind of quick burst (I've seen reports of a 4.54-40) and body control to become a quarterback's nightmare in every conference in the country. He recorded 115 stops, nine sacks and 17 hurries despite constant double and regular triple teams by opponents of West Jefferson.

When Nick Saban was watching Glen Davis play tailback at University High School in Baton Rouge, LA on film I know the thought crossed his mind to put him in his own back field – if not for just a play. Davis, a 6-8, 325-pounder plays tailback now, but will wind up playing either offensive or defensive tackle with LSU. He can bench 125% of his body weight and runs exceptionally well for a triple-quarter pounder (4.99-40).

Rounding out another solid recruiting year for LSU is 5-11 receiver Lavelle Hawkins. The wideout with a 4.40-40 can single-handedly dominate a defense with no more than his pure speed, constantly making big plays. Any defensive coordinator worth his salt will have to respect his stocky frame whenever it's on the field.

4. Oklahoma
Whether he's the best player in the country is up for debate, but tailback Adrian Peterson will make a fine addition to a slipping OU backfield regardless. His season line score at Palestine High spoke well for the Texas-native's potential contribution to Bob Stoop's offensive attack – carrying the ball 259 times for 2,315 yards and 32 touchdowns last season. He's tough, always finishes a run, and looks to make sure opposing defenses aware of his presence. As a junior Adrian carried the ball 246 times for 2,057 yards and 22 scores.

Keeping up with its across-the-border recruiting traditions, Oklahoma wasted no time in picking up the most versatile high school player in the state of Texas. Lendy Holmes, listed defensive back, played four games at wide receiver this season but caught only a pair of passes for 27 yards and a score while also performing quarterbacking and defensive secondary duties for South Oak Cliff High. He shows tremendous football instincts, strong hands and great leaping ability.

5. Florida State
Quarterback Xavier Lee may be FSU's most talked-about incoming snap-taker since Chris Wenke. Voted Player of the Year in the Daytona Beach area by local media, Lee was named first-team all-state as a junior and was named 3A Player of the Year for the second straight year this past season. He's very accurate on the move and reads defenses well in the process. He's a serious threat to any set defense every time he decides to move outside of the pocket.

Lee's class competition at the quarterback position will be Drew Weatherford, a smooth, big-play local product from the Land O' Lakes area who has a similar inherent knowledge for the game. As a junior Weatherford earned all-state honors after completing 151 passes for 2,494 yards, 37 touchdowns, and just two picks. The two-time All-State winner is also a standout small forward in basketball and chose the Seminoles over Tennessee, South Carolina, North Carolina, and North Carolina State.

Bobby Bowden also took steps in improving his defensive line Wednesday, signing Orlando-native Aaron Jones. He put together a pretty good senior campaign despite battling a constant double-team after being labeled the best defensive lineman in the state prior to the start of the season. As a junior, Jones earned all-league, all-area and all-state honors, and added all-league, all-area and all-state honors once again while racking up 80 tackles and five sacks this past season. He's a very fluid 273-pounder who could play either anywhere on the defensive line for the ‘Noles.

Lister linebacker Lawrence Timmons rounds out the Florida State defensive class. One of the most recruited players in the state of South Carolina, Timmons totaled 98 tackles, six sacks and 20 tackles for losses this season playing every linebacking position possible for Wilson High School. He was selected to play in the 2003 Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas pitting North Carolina All-Stars against the South Carolina All-Stars, and picked Florida State over Florida, Tennessee, North Carolina and Georgia.


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