Wild Ride Lands USC on Top

Over the past month, change has been a constant on the recruiting scene. Players have committed, de-committed, and re-committed. As signing day came and went, change continued to rule as USC edged out Florida to earn the top spot in Scout.com‘s team recruiting rankings.

The Trojans picked up commitments from five players on signing day giving them just enough steam to nose ahead of the Gators at the finish line. The player that put the Trojans over the top was four-star wide receiver Jamere Holland of Woodland Hills, Calif. Holland is a burner that will give Southern Cal another vertical threat. He selected the Trojans over Oregon. The other players to join the Trojans on signing day were three-star linebacker Alfred Rowe, four-star linebacker Mike Morgan, three-star quarterback Garrett Green, and three-star running back Kenny Ashley. Ashley signed with the Trojans despite committing to Mississippi State last April.

Earlier in the week, USC had received three other commitments with five-star running back Stafon Johnson being the big catch. The No. 2 ranked running back on Scout.com had long been a USC lean and he made it official on the 27th when he gave Pete Carroll his verbal commitment. Johnson is a big play back who joins Ashley, C.J. Gable, Emmanuel Moody, and Stanley Havili in the stable of USC running back recruits.

The Trojans, however, will have to wait on perhaps their top commitment. The No. 1-ranked wide receiver on Scout.com, Vidal Hazelton, sent his letter of intent to USC, but it does not contain his father‘s signature making it invalid. His father would prefer that his son attend Penn State, so Vidal and his family will discuss the issue over the next couple of days. No timetable has been given as to when an announcement on his decision will be made.

Hazelton's teammate at Hargrave Military Academy is in the midst of his own recruiting saga. Five-Star running back Keiland Williams committed to LSU last week, but is now having second thoughts and never sent his letter of intent to Baton Rouge. He is still considering the Tigers along with USC and Ole Miss. As noted previously, USC is stocked with running back recruits. Ole Miss has four backs in this class, though none as highly ranked as Williams, and has Nico McSwain coming off a successful freshman season. LSU loses Joseph Addai, has Justin Vincent entering his senior season, has just two other running backs in this class, and Williams is from Louisiana. So logic would seem to say LSU. But as we all know with recruiting, logic is irrelevant.

Despite the departures of cornerback Patrick Robinson and wide receivers Damian Williams and Damon McDaniel from this recruiting class, and the loss of five-star running back recruit C.J. Spiller to Clemson, Urban Meyer and his staff did enough to keep the Gators in the second spot. There were rumors that superstar wide out commit Percy Harvin from Virginia Beach was thinking of switching his allegiance to USC. But on Wednesday Harvin faxed his letter of intent to the 352 area code and officially became a Gator.

Harvin and five-star quarterback prospect Tim Tebow headline the Florida recruiting class. But with Damian Williams changing his commitment to Arkansas and Patrick Robinson inexplicably faxing his letter of intent to Florida State instead of Florida, some last minute work was needed. The Gators received a pledge from four-star running back Mon Williams of Mesquite, TX on signing day. Florida had been the favorite since last summer and many considered him a soft commit for several months. Also, Florida secured a commitment on Monday from Naples, Fla. native Wondy Pierre-Louis. Pierre-Louis, who had previously committed to West Virginia, is a cornerback and his decision may help soften the blow of Patrick Robinson's sudden change of heart.

Another school that finished in strong fashion was Georgia. The Bulldogs received a commitment from four-star safety Rashad Jones of Atlanta. Jones is 6-2 and just 180 pounds, so he will after add some size and strength before he makes an impact in the SEC. But he is an instinctive player with good speed. Miami and LSU were his other finalists. UGA also signed four-star running back Knowshon Moreno from Middletown, N.J., beating out Florida and Virginia Tech.

Three-star defensive tackle Geno Atkins also sent his letter of intent to Georgia on Wednesday. Atkins was a teammate of Irish recruits Sam Young and Dan Wenger at St. Thomas Aquinas in Fort Lauderdale, FL. These recruits solidified Georgia as the No. 4 team in the Scout.com recruiting rankings.

The team that had the best finish numbers wise was clearly Florida State. The Seminoles received twelve commitments between January 29 and February 1. Five of the twelve are four-star prospects, and they have helped to put Florida State in the No. 12 spot in the Scout.com rankings. As stated earlier, four-star cornerback Patrick Robinson and wide receiver Damon McDaniel reneged on their Florida commitments and signed with FSU. Marcus Sims, a linebacker from Tallahassee, is the brother of former Seminole star Ernie Sims and could play running back if needed. The other four-star players that pledged to the Noles this week were offensive lineman Daron Rose and linebacker Marcus Ball, who is rated as the No. 10 player at his position by Scout.com.

Notre Dame fans dreamed of having five-star defensive tackle Gerald McCoy put on a gold helmet next fall. When he dropped Notre Dame from consideration a couple of weeks ago, all signs pointed to him staying home and suiting up for Oklahoma. Those signs were correct. McCoy signed on with the Sooners on Wednesday. Joining McCoy in Norman will be four-star prospect Jermaine Gresham, the No. 4-ranked tight end on Scout.com, who selected Oklahoma over Miami and USC.

The team from Ann Arbor had an eventful final week to the recruiting season. It started with a commitment from five-star offensive lineman Steve Schilling of Bellevue, Wash. Schilling had been heavily pursued by USC, but in the end chose the Wolverines over Cal and Washington. As excited as Michigan fans must have been over that news, they must have been equally as disappointed when Scout.com's No. 1 cornerback prospect, Jai Eugene, backed out of his commitment and chose to stay close to home at LSU. Michigan closed hard, though, landing four-star defensive tackle Adam Patterson of Columbia, SC on Tuesday and five-star safety Jonas Mouton on Wednesday. Mouton is the fifth five-star recruit in the Michigan class joining Schilling, linebacker Brandon Graham, offensive lineman Justin Boren, and defensive tackle Marcus Slocum.

Also signing with Michigan on Wednesday was 320-pound defensive tackle Jason Kates. Irish fans are well aware of Kates as he received early interest from Notre Dame as well as Penn State. In the end he chose the maize and blue over the orange of Syracuse.

Andre Smith was Scout.com's highest ranked uncommitted player going into signing day. The Birmingham, Ala. resident surprised few when he selected the Crimson Tide. The No. 2 overall prospect on Scout.com's Hot 100, Smith will probably end up playing tackle at Alabama and he turned down LSU, Florida, and USC.

While Smith's announcement was expected, there were several surprises leading up to and on signing day. Louisville convinced four-star wide out Josh Chichester to switch his commitment from Ohio State to the Cardinals. Then they wrestled five-star prospect Deantwan Whitehead out of the state of Alabama. Scout.com's No. 3-ranked defensive end from Birmingham was considered a lock to go to either Auburn or Alabama.

Five-star running back LeSean McCoy signed a letter of intent with Miami on Wednesday. Virginia Tech and Penn State were thought to be his favorites, but his signature may not matter. It is believed that McCoy will not qualify academically and may end up going to prep school for a post graduate year.

Miami also picked up four-star prospects this week in humongous (6-9, 330-pounds) offensive lineman Ian Symonette of Houston and running back Kylan Robinson from Tampa. Perhaps the most bizarre recruiting story of the final week concerned Robinson's mother. His signing had to be delayed on Wednesday because his mother could not get to Florida from their native Alaska as scheduled because of a volcano eruption. She arrived and co-signed his letter of intent later in the day.

Despite offers from Michigan, Ohio State, and Auburn, Chris Peters of Louisville decided to stay in state and signed with Kentucky. The three-star defensive tackle will team with superstar middle linebacker recruit Micah Johnson in an effort to sure up the middle of the Wildcat defense.

Finally, kudos to Houston Nutt at Arkansas. Just six weeks ago when Mitch Mustain re-opened his recruiting, it appeared possible that Arkansas would get just one of the famed Springdale five: wide receiver Andrew Norman. But Nutt, along with former Springdale head coach and new Arkansas offensive coordinator, Gus Malzahn, was able to get Mustain back in the fold. For good measure, he also convinced wide receiver Damian Williams and tight end Ben Cleveland to recant their Florida commitments and got them to sign with the Hogs. So in the end, four of the five will stay in Arkansas. The fifth Springdale star, Bartley Webb, will of course be playing his home games at Notre Dame Stadium next season.


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