Looking Ahead to 2007

It is always fun to talk about the quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers and tight ends when talking about a new recruiting season. 2007 will feature several elite skill players in the top 100, a handful of which would possibly be ranked amongst the top 25 recruits if they were included into the class of 2006.

The following list of recruits will be amongst the most highly recruited players in the nation next year. This list is not necessarily indicative of whom Notre Dame will recruit, but rather a list of top-notch recruits in general. Keep in mind that it is only November, and junior recruiting is a work in progress for every Division I program at this time.

Moving forward to the class of 2007 it would be hard for any true recruiting fan to not know the name Jimmy Clausen, QB, 6-3, 200 pounds, Westlake Village, Calif., (Oaks Christian). For what it's worth, and probably not much, I think Clausen is the best player regardless of class. Internet film can be sketchy at times, but his skills are just mind-boggling. If you haven't watched his film to date, do so; it will be more than worth your time. Clausen is an incredible talent.

Although Clausen is only a junior his recruitment is already well underway. He has sojourned with different members of his family to Louisiana State, Tennessee, Notre Dame and Southern California to watch games this fall. The oldest of the Clausen brothers, Casey, played quarterback for the Volunteers and the middle brother, Rick, is now a senior quarterback for Tennessee after transferring from Louisiana State. Jimmy's recruitment appears to be a two-team race between Southern California and Notre Dame despite so many other schools giving serious chase. I like Notre Dame's chances a lot.

An added bonus for the lucky school that lands Clausen will be his ability to enroll during January of 2007 so he can participate during spring practice.

Clausen is certainly not alone when talking about top signal callers for the class of 2007. Ryan Mallett, QB, 6-6, 235 pounds, Texarkana, Texas is the second-most widely known quarterback next to Clausen. He has a cannon for an arm and his size speaks for itself. Depending upon whom one talks to, Mallett is looking hard at Texas, Arkansas and Michigan among others. He attended Michigan's camp last summer.

Some people may not know about John Brantley, QB, 6-2, 190-pounds, Ocala, Fla., (Trinity Catholic) just yet, but they soon will. Brantley is advanced with his mechanics and plays within a pro-style offense that Trinity Catholic employs. Brantley is the classic drop-back quarterback and will be recruited nationally if he is open to leaving the state borders of Florida.

The running backs are a collection of many different running styles – speed, power, pass catching ability and lateral quickness – every one of the following running backs has at least a couple of these trademarks within his repertoire.

If there is a better pure running back than Chris Rainey, 5-10, 180 pounds, Lakeland, Fla. I have not seen him – and that is based of watching him play as a mere sophomore against St. Thomas Aquinas during the state championship game during which Rainey dominated. As the saying goes, he's just sick. Do not let Rainey's size fool you; he has great strength and the speed to take it the distance. National recruit, five-star, bling-bling; you name the catch phrase of your liking and it fits Rainey. Notre Dame is just one of many top programs that is reportedly very interested in Rainey's talents.

Speaking of a running back that can take it the distance, Bradley Stephens, TB, 5-10, 190 pounds, McAllen, Texas, (Memorial) is capable of scoring during any play that he possesses the football. He is an electric player that has the physical tools to play tailback, wide receiver, cornerback or safety. It would be hard to imagine a player this talented not staying put at tailback once he reaches college, but the options are great regardless of which position Stephens plays.

There are a ton of schools contacting Stephens already. Ohio State, Texas A&M (offer), Iowa State (offer), Notre Dame, Michigan and Texas just to name a few. The good news with Stephens in addition to his athleticism would be his grades: 4.0 GPA.

The state of Illinois has traditionally been a pipeline to Notre Dame. The biggest name within the Chicago area next season will be Dale Martin, TB, 5-11, 190 pounds, Bolingbrook, Ill. Much like Stephens, Martin has the reputation as a player who can score any time he has the ball. A high school coach at another Chicago high school told me recently "He's the real deal. I'd say he's the best (running) back in Chicago right now." In short, Martin is the type of talent that will see the Miami's and Southern California's come calling next spring if not before. And yes, Notre Dame is well aware of Martin's presence.

Part II will feature the remainder of the running backs and take a closer look at some of the best wide receivers for the class of 2007.

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