With Signing Day fast approaching, LSU and USC -- which split the national title in January -- are also battling for the mythical "recruiting national title." Nick Saban, whose Tigers finished No. 1 in the 2003 rankings, is putting together a stellar class and holds the top spot, but could lose that honor to Pete Carroll and the Trojans.
This may be a better haul than last season for Nick Saban and LSU and last year they were No. 1 on Signing Day. It's balanced with players at every position. Do you want speed? How about wide receivers Early Doucet and Xavier Carter, ranked No. 1 and No. 4 nationally. They are both athletic and game breakers. The Tigers loaded up in the trenches with some super OLs like Herman Johnson and Ryan Miller and big-time defensive tackle prospects like Claude Wrotten, Marlon Favorite and Glenn Dorsey. Linebackers E.J. Kaule, Matt Stoltz, and Luke Sanders could have played just about anywhere. Craig Steltz is one of the top safeties in the nation and he leads a talented secondary headed to the Bayou. From top to bottom, this is the deepest and most talented class in the country.
The only difference between LSU and Southern Cal is the numbers. The Trojans are led by five-star high school prospects Jeff Byers (OL), Keith Rivers (LB), Fred Davis (WR), Jeff Schweiger (DE) and five-star Junior College players Scott Ware (S), Ryan Powdrell (LB), and Taitusi Lutui (OL). Dale Thompson leads a very good TE group and Byers and Thomas Herring lead a terrific OL group. USC doesn't have to bring in a QB because John David Booty counted towards last year's class. RB wasn't a need after last season's incredible haul. All other positions will be fulfilled by Wednesday.
Like LSU and Southern Cal, Michigan's class is very talented, very deep and well balanced. The headliner has to be quarterback Chad Henne, the No. 4 rated signal caller in the land. Running backs Max Martin and Mike Mart and receivers Doug Dutch, Morgan Trent, and Adrian Arrington are all super skilled athletes that all bring something a little to the table. The maize and blue scored big on both lines of scrimmage with OLs Brett Gallimore, Alex Mitchell and Jeremy Ciulla and DLs Tim Jamison, Will Johnson and Alan Branch. The linebacker corps is very athletic as his the secondary.
No one has had a better two weeks than Florida State. This is yet another amazing late January run from Bobby Bowden and staff. The ‘Noles are set at quarterback with Xavier Lee and Drew Weatherford, two of the nation's top ten quarterbacks. Running back Jamaal Edwards is a gem from North Carolina and wide receivers Kenny O'Neal, Greg Carr, and Carl Grimes are game breakers. FSU loaded up on the OL with some huge offensive line prospects like Courtney Abbott (6-9, 330). Defensively, Aaron Jones is the top defensive line prospect from Florida and he's headed to Tallahassee. So are safeties Kenny Ingram and Jonathan Warren and cornerback Trevor Ford. Florida State stole linebackers Lawrence Timmons from the Palmetto State and Jae Thaxton from Georgia and landed local product Rodney Gallon.
Head Coach Mark Richt and his Georgia Bulldogs are once again putting together a super recruiting class. Quarterbacks A.J. Bryant and Blake Barnes are already on campus after graduating high school. Running back Thomas Brown is a smaller, quick back with home run ability. The Dawgs needed receivers and they landed some talented ones in Demiko Goodman, Kenneth Harris and Jamar Bryant. OL wasn't a need but you have to love both Seth Watts and Chester Adams. Defensively, two big names come to mind for UGA – Charles Johnson (DE) and Josh Johnson (LB). Both should have very bright futures in Athens. Cornerback Michael Grant is one of the fastest prospects in America.
So far Oklahoma has been on the offensive with their commitments. The Sooners landed the nation's best quarterback and running back in Rhett Bomar and Adrian Peterson. And both prospects are from Texas. Another running back, D.J. Wolfe should fit perfectly into the Oklahoma offense because of his versatility. The Sooners missed out on some of the elite wide receivers but they are still brining in talented athletes like Fred Strong, Quentin Chaney and Lendy Holmes. On the offensive front, the Sooners landed four big men. Marcus Walker (CB), Chris Patterson (LB) and Alan Davis (DL) lead the way defensively for Bob Stoops.
The Hurricanes have an advantage of over team in the country because of their location. All they have to do is recruit their backyard of Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties and hit their pockets throughout the country and they're set and ready to roll. Locally, they hit the jackpot with running back recruits Charlie Jones, and Bobby Washington. Other local recruits staying home for the ‘Canes are safety Anthony Reddick, offensive tackle Chris Rutledge, wide receiver Khalil Jones, and defensive tackle Antonio Dixon. Miami went to Texas to land quarterback Kirby Freeman, Louisiana to get running back Derron Thomas, Colorado to nab defensive end Calais Campbell and New Jersey to get defensive lineman Dwayne Hendicks. The point is this, once again Miami has done well in-state, especially locally and went out of state to land All-American type recruits.
The Vols big need this season was quarterback and they wanted two. So far they have only landed one but it's a good one in Eric Ainge. And he may get a chance to play as a true freshman next season. At running back and fullback Tennessee landed the elusive Ja'Kouri Williams and the powerful David Holbert. Albert Toeaina, a Junior College prospect, may be the best offensive tackle in the entire country. He is big and he is unbelievably powerful and he's the most impressive OT I have seen this season. High schoolers Ramon Foster, Cameron Mayo and Anthony Parker should shine on the OL in Neyland Stadium. On the defensive front the Voluneteers landed five-star JC tackle Jesse Mahelona, five-star tackle Demonte Bolden and four-star defensive end Xavier Mitchell. Antonio Reynolds is a beast at linebacker from the prep school ranks. Linebacker Demarcus Stevens and safety Ellix Wilson are two in-state sleepers while they got a big pickup in Jerod Mayo on Monday.
The Buckeyes have done extremely well once again this season. They may have lost wide receiver Fred Davis but they have gotten just about everyone else. Albert Dukes, like current Buckeye receiver Santonio Holmes, could be a steal from the Sunshine State. Rory Nicol and Chad Hoobler are two of the nation's finest tight end prospects. Ohio State will sign one of the top offensive line classes in the nation with Kyle Mitchum, Ben Person, Steve Rehring and Jon Skinner. Ohio State has some gems defensively in defensive end Vernon Gholston, defensive tackle Nader Abdullah, linebacker Marcus Freeman, cornerback Brandon Underwood and safety Sirjo Welch. The headliner has to be Ted Ginn, Jr., one of the nation's top overall (No. 4 overall) prospects, fastest recruits and the No. 1 cornerback prospect. The Buckeyes landed a super athlete in Devon Lyons from Pennsylvania on Monday night.
Texas missed on two big ones in-state in quarterback Rhett Bomar and running back Adrian Peterson. Those are two big losses. Aside from that, this is another talented group headed to Austin. The receiver corps is very talented and deep. Nathan Jones, Georgia Walker, Jordan Shipley, Myron Hardy and Chris Ogbonnaya may be the best haul of any team in the country at this position. The Longhorns are bringing in two tight ends and three OLs lead by tackles Greg Dolan and Adam Ulatoski. Andrew Kelson is the top safety prospect in America and he leads their defensive group. Bobby Tatum and Ramonce Taylor are two talented corners.
Despite their great class last season, the Gators had needs at all positions but running back and receiver. Two big need areas, offensive line and the secondary, were addressed thus far. Drew Miller, Jason Watkins, Phil Trautwein and Jim Tartt are one of the top offensive line classes. Safeties Kyle Jackson and Tony Joiner and cornerbacks McIntosh Nicolas and Dawaye Grace are talented enough to all see time next year as freshman. Brandon Siler is their lone linebacker right now while Derrick Harvey and Mike Mangold are two big-time defensive end prospects that have committed to Florida. The Gators hopes to hang onto running back Markus Manson, a native of Tuscaloosa, Ala. Tight ends Markell Thompson and Tate Casey fill a big need for the Gators as well.
When we initially did the rankings midway through the football season Penn State had the top class in the land. But, they committed 18 or so before the season even started and that was a very impressive group. The Nittany Lions really did well at certain positions. You have to love the OL class led by Greg Harrison, Gerald Cadagon, Trent Verva and Wyatt Bowman. On the other side of the ball defensive tackle A.Q. Shipley is one of the best in the country. Linebacker Dan Connor is a throwback and one of the top two-way standouts in the nation. He's also a super fullback. Because of Connor and James Bryant, linebacker Tyrell Sales didn't get the pub he deserved. The one area where Penn State missed the boat on was at quarterback. There were three big-timers in Pennsylvania and they all went elsewhere.
Every season Maryland and Ralph Freidgen recruit better and better. They held the top class in the ACC until this week when FSU shot right by them. Still, this is a very solid group headed to Maryland. Friedgen just may have found his quarterback of the future in Jordan Steffy. The kid is smart, can throw and run and will be a perfect fit for that Terrapin offense. Their OL class is impressive with Jamie Thomas, Carlos Feliciano and Scott Burley. Defensive tackle Jared Gaither could be the biggest diamond in the rough on the entire Atlantic coast. Defensive end Mack Frost is a steal from South Carolina and linebacker Georgia Covington is a beast from their backyard. Safety Kent Hicks and cornerback Christian Varner lead a talented incoming secondary.
A&M scored big at some positions like defensive tackle, linebacker, cornerback and quarterback. Stephen McGee is a great get a QB and could be the franchise quarterback of the future for Coach Dennis Franchione. Chris Smith and William Morrisey are two big-time defensive tackles from the Lone Star State. At LB, they went the JUCO route with Lee Foliaki and Terrence Smith and they should be able to step in right away. D.J. Davis, Danny Gorrer and Kerry Franks are speedy cover corners.
Other quarterbacks like Chad Henne (Michigan) and Anthony Morelli (Pittsburgh) got more press in the Big 10 region but I love Brian Hoyer's game and what he brings to the table. He's a steal from the Buckeye State. So is wide receiver Miles Williams who flew under the recruiting radar screen. The Spartans also landed five other wide receivers and four tight ends for Head Coach John L. Smith's offense. Leon Pennington is a big back that could also find his way to the linebacker position. Defensively, Michigan State got some JUCO help on the D-line and loaded up in the secondary. Keep a close eye on SirDarean Adams, a super athlete from the state of Florida. He's another steal. Linebackers Tyrone McKenzie and Huge D'Imperio were late gets by the Spartans.
The key ingredient to Red Raider football is finding the right trigger-man for their pass happy wide open offense. Well, Texas Tech landed two big-time quarterbacks in Graham Harrell and JUCO transfer Robert Johnson. Wide receivers Anthony Jenkins and Danny Amendola should shine in Lubbock. Texas Tech should get some immediate help on the other side of the ball from the JC ranks from players like defensive tackle Marcus Campbell, defensive ends Charlie Glover, Brett Bischofberger, and Deke Bake, linebacker Sylvester Brinkley and safety Dwayne Slay. Cornerback Darcel McBath and tight end Shae Reagan are two sleepers in this fine class.
UNC Head Coach got defensive with this class and the Tar Heels should get a much needed boost on that side of the ball next season. North Carolina will re-sign defensive line standouts Marcus Hands, Terry Hunter, Khalif Mitchell, and Kenny Price. They all attended prep school in Virginia this past season. The secondary will get a big boost as well from cornerback Trimane Goddard and safeties Stephen Green and Martel Thatch. At running back, UNC missed out on in-state stars Jamaal Edwards (FSU), Andre Brown (NC State) and George Bell (VT) but they did land a speedster from Virginia in Antwain Carey. At wide receiver the Tar Heels may have found a gem from the Sunshine State in Del Roberts. He is small but very explosive. Speaking of the state of Florida, UNC stole the top OL in that state in Calvin Darity.
The biggest surprise of this recruiting campaign is without question the Alabama Crimson Tide. After a number of coaching changes since 2000, NCAA probation, scholarship reductions and a 4-9 football campaign this past season, the Tide has been rolling in recruiting. They have dominated in-state recruiting and really taken advantage of the problems at Auburn. They need wide receiver help and will sign a slew of them. Nikita Stover, Keith Brown, and D.J. Hall all have the ability to contribute as true freshman. Alabama also loaded up in the trenches on both sides of the ball led by OLs B.J. Stabler, Justin Britt, and Antoine Caldwell and DLs Lorenzo Washington and Kevin Hamilton. Super safety Simeon Castille will join his brother Tim at Alabama.
Arch-rival USC has been getting all the recruiting headlines on the west coast but UCLA has quietly put together a nice recruiting class. It's a blend of Junior College transfers like quarterback David Koral, tight end Matt Raney, offensive lineman Marc Villafuerte, defensive ends Kyle Morgan and Justin Hickman, and linebacker Dan Nelson and high school standouts like cornerback Rodney Vann, and wide receiver Marcus Everett and Ryan Graves. Running back Chris Markey from Louisiana could be a steal and the sleeper of the class.
The Ducks have made a lot of noise over the past few weeks. Oregon went South to California to nab some very good prospects like running back Terrell Jackson, tight end Jaison Williams, cornerbacks Willie Glasper and Jackie Bates, safety prospects Terrence Kelly and Jerome Boyd and linebacker Ryan Phillips. Offensive tackle Aaron Klovas is the second highest rated OL prospect from the west coast and the Ducks got him from Washington. Oregon has only three in-state commitments and two of them are from defensive line standouts David Faaeteete and Cole Linehan.
Quarterback Matt Tuiasosopo headlines this Huskies class. He can run and throw and he has a great future ahead of him. Daniel Howell is a bruising back that could also play linebacker. Caesar Rayford is one of the top tight ends from the PAC 10 region and Washington loaded up on the offensive line with five commits. UW also went heavy on the DL, especially at defensive end. This group is led by JUCO transfer Rashaad Goodrum. The Huskies also went heavy on safety prospects and two are standouts - Keauntea Bankhead and junior college signee Dashon Goldson.
The headliner of this class is tight end Zach Miller, the nation's top prospect at that position. Miller turned down Miami, Tennessee, Oklahoma and others to stay home. Rudy Carpenter and Max Hall are two quarterback prospects in TheInsiders.com PAC 10 Hot 100. Wide receiver Nathan Kimbrough is an underrated talent as are offensive linemen Leo Talavou and Brandis McGriff. The Sun Devils got some JUCO help on defense from defensive tackle Quency Darley, defensive end Dewayne Hollyfield, linebacker Dale Robinson and safety Maurice London. Cornerback Uriah Marshall and safety Myrio Davis are two top prospects from Arizona.
Randy Estes could be the steal of the year in the region if he gets everything squared away off the field. He is a potential five-star talent at the safety position at Washington State could be the perfect fit for him. But one man doesn't make or break a class. The Cougars have a solid quarterback in Gary Rogers and one of the top Junior College running backs in Jerome Harrison. Washington State loaded up defensively on the defensive line, linebacker and defensive back positions.
Virginia has loaded on defense. First of all, the Cavs will re-sign five-star cornerback prospect Phillip Brown who spent the last season at Hargrave Military Academy. Other cornerbacks coming to Charlottesville are Nate Lyles, Theirrien Davis, Ahmad Bradshaw and Chris Gorham. Virginia picked up at defensive ends with Olu Hall and Clint Sintim and Clint Long and Jon Kirchner at defensive tackle. Those are four are very good prospects. On the other side of the ball, tight end Tom Santi should be a perfect fit for the Cavalier offense.
Cal has been red-hot over the last week or so getting commitments from very good four-star prospects like Sekeli Faaeteete and Phillip Mbakogu. Faaeteete had been committed to Southern Cal while the Bears won big with DL phenom Mbakogu. Other big-name commits are linebackers Worrell Williams and Marlin Simmons, cornerbacks Virdell Larkins and Bernard Hicks, defensive tackle and Norris Malele. Offensively they have to be happy getting quarterback Nate Longshore and running back Marshawn Lynch, both four-star prospects from the Golden State.
Guide to Symbols
Recruiting Class Headliner: Top Verbal Commitment
The one that got away: Top ranked player that did not verbally commit
TheInsiders.com Star Ratings: (Class Total/Cumulative Average) = Total number of stars for verbal commitments, Non-Ranked Players were estimd / Average stars per player committed
TheInsiders.com Class Rankings: Average player rank for each player at each position. Non Ranked players were estimd. Kickers and Punters were not included because the small number of players at the positions skews the rankings.
TheInsiders.com Hot 100 commits: Total number of commitments on TheInsiders.com Hot 100 Team