Hank and I are ranking the 2003 recruiting classes without consideration for still unresolved academic issues, injuries, or depth charts. Ours is an "on the surface" analysis only.
Hank Ives Breaks it Down
In previous years if Temple recruited a JC prospect, it was considered an surprise. On the 5th of February 2003, the Owls announced the signing of no less than 22 JC recruits. We're not just talking 22 bodies. These are guys who should help the Owls become respectable in their final days in the Big East Conference.
Not to say there is no baggage involved. Perhaps half of the 22 are questionable in the "grades department." But if even half make it to the opening game in the Fall, the Owls will have surpassed their finest expectations.
Temple landed the likes of All-American WR Phil Goodman; Glendale (Ariz.) DBs, Eric Wright and Carl Marshall along with teammate DE J.C. Braker; Pasadena RB Jeremy Hartsfield, who may also play WR; Nassau OT Stan Primus; and Hudson Valley TE Tony Martinez. Those guys should be more than helpful. The biggest prize is the man who will be throwing to Goodman and Hartsfield, Walter Washington, a strong-armed but somewhat raw QB from Dodge City.
California gets my pick as having the second best JC recruiting class. The Golden Bears picked up Butte phenom frosh QB Aaron Rodgers, Butte TE Garrett Cross, Fresno DB Matt Giordano, Foothill LB Joe Maningo, Canyons RB JJ Arrington, and El Camino DE Ryan Riddle among a super quality group of eight.
Third choice has to be Texas Tech. The Red Raiders gobbled up a talented group of eight, including three from San Francisco (DE Chauncey Clark, OT Dan Christian, and DE Tommie Pratt), DB Jamaal Jackson from Northwest Miss, and FB/OLB Sione Havili from El Camino.
Florida came back into the JC recruiting picture in a big way and earned my pick in the number four slot. Six JC guys and everyone looks like a potential starter. Two Grid-Wire All-American first-teamers, OL Tavares Washington (Miss. Delta) and OG nthony Guererro (Cerritos), head the list.
Rounding out our top-five we would have to give the nod to Auburn. The Tigers have picked up quality JCs yearly and didn't miss the boat with the likes of Coffeyville standouts RB Brandon Jacobs and DE Tony McClain. Plus, they landed DE Doug Langenfield from the national champion Reedley Tigers.
Arizona State had a fine year picking LB Justin Burks (Cerritos), CBs Chris McKenzie (Glendale, Az.) and Chijioke Onyenegecha (CCSF), DT Gabe Reininger (Moorpark), and reloaded TE Aaron Austin (Fresno) who sat out 2001.
Kansas hopes to get back on the winning ledger by taking 15 JCs. Illinois showed that quantity isn't the only thing that counts, picking All-Americans WR Kelvin Hayden from Joliet and RB Gerard Jackson from Dodge City. San Jose State totaled 13 JCs and many of them will help immediately.
San Diego State will replace some of their graduating WRs with Devin Pitts from El Camino via USC and Willie Dixon from CCSF. Oregon's five choices are solid. UNLV helped themselves with Alvin Marshall and John Andrews from Compton and a couple of Palomar standouts, DT Brian Nicholson and S Willie Tagoai. Utah got some solid picks. Kansas State took their lowest number of JCs in years, but LBs Ben Henderson (Joliet) and Marvin Simmons (Compton) should stand out among the six.
There are some outstanding prospects still out there, but for the time being, it looks to me like Temple took the JC recruiting title.
1. Arizona State - Although the Sun Devils only signed five JCs, most were midyear transfers and two were considered by many to be tops at their positions nationally. ILB Justin Burks (Cerritos) has a chance to be special right away. CB Chijioke Onyenegecha (CCSF) has freakish height (6-3) and speed (10.3 hundred meters). But is he faster than fellow CB Chris McKenzie (Glendale, Ariz.)? They're both lightening fast. McKenzie should be great on special teams and in coverage. Those three players are terrific prospects while DT Gabe Reininger (Moorpark) is darned good and could develop into a leader by his senior year. TE Aaron Austin (Fresno) is a wildcard. He was a top-flight prospect in 2001 who didn't qualify academically until December of 2002. So he took a year off and it might take a while to shake the rust.
2. Auburn - Four blue-chip JC signees. It would be a shock if each and every one of them didn't contribute in a big way next fall. We had Coffeyville RB Brandon Jacobs as our #1 JC prospect overall. At 6-4, 250 pounds, he will be a real load. Should be interesting to see how many carries he gets behind returning starter and future NFL'er, Cadillac Williams. Reedley DE Doug Langenfeld has sub-4.5 speed to go with his 6-3, 245-pound body. Coffeyville coaches spoke glowingly of DE Tony McLean and his NFL potential. And former Butler Co. DB David Irons re-signed with Auburn, the team with whom he inked out of HS.
3. Temple - The Owls did a heck of a job recruiting the JC ranks. They landed NJCAA offensive POY Walter Washington (Dodge City), who is raw but cannon-armed. And they grabbed NorCal's top wide receiver Phillip Goodman (Sacramento). If Temple has a QB who can throw, then Goodman might break some records. A 'sleeper' pick up has to be RB Jamil Porter from New Mexico Military. He was on our JC Top 101 list in 2001 after rushing for a ton of yards. Porter signed with Tulsa but failed to qualify and became a recruitable athlete again, which is Temple's gain. The two DBs from Glendale CC in Arizona, Carl Marshall and Eric Wright, looked great at the JCFootball.com Combine in Arizona last spring. Both could be starters at Temple; hopefully they'll arrive on time. Another dynamite player is CCSF WR/PR Robert Johnson, a young man who missed pretty much all of 2002 with a foot injury. This kid is explosive! DE JC Braker (Glendale, Ariz.), OL Stanley Primus (Nassau), and WR Jeremy Hartsfield (Pasadena) are just a few others to keep an eye on. Lots of other good prospects...can't list 'em all.
4. South Carolina - The Gamecocks should be real excited about their incoming class of JCs. Potential 2003 JC Transfer All-Americans include DT Freddy Saint-Preux (Dodge City), DE Darrell Shropshire (Coffeyville), LB Marcus Lawrence (Butler Co.), and OL Woodly Telfort (Dodge City). The coaching staff thinks they've got a real gem in Saint-Preux! It's not easy for a first-year JC transfer QB to have an immediate impact, but it could happen for Mike Rathe (SD Mesa). He's got a strong arm and is very tough. There's no question that all three transfers from Georgia Military, each of whom signed with USC out of HS, can play football. LBs DeAdrian Coley and Ricky Grant are mirror images of one another while DE Charles Silas is a menacing presence coming off the edge. This is a great JC class.
5. Cal - Freshman transfer QB Aaron Rodgers (Butte) may have been the best JC QB in the land. I know at least one other Pac-10 school that wishes they would have found and recruited Rodgers earlier and harder. He will have a great chance to land the starting spot vacated by Kyle Boller. Coming with Rodgers from Butte College will be TE Garrett Cross, who is a tall target (6-5) with great hands. He just needs to add pounds to his 225-pound frame. Few other defensive players in NorCal last year elicited more positive remarks than LB Joe Maningo (oft referred to as: "That #9 from Foothill."). The kid's motor is nonstop and I suspect he'll sack many a Pac-10 QB over the next couple of years. With Joe Igber's graduation the Cal Bears need a running back. Hopefully, JJ Arrington (Canyons) will be their man. He runs with a low center of gravity and has wonderful hands; should be a good match for HC Jeff Tedford's one-back spread offense. Also, keep an eye on DE Ryan Riddle (El Camino), who was a tackling, pass-rushing machine in the oh-so-tough Mission Conference. LB Francis Blay-Miezah (Mt. SAC) could be the sleeper: fast, smart, and strong. The other signees are solid, too (never underestimate the importance of having a great punter; Bears signed Lucas Everett out of Sierra).
6. Florida - Everyone knows how important it is to have great players in the trenches. And the experts always emphasize the need for speed. Well, HC Ron Zook's Gators got some of both. Mostly they got lots of top-flight OLs. Ventura center Billy Griffin could be an instant-starter in Gainesville as could guard Anthony Guerrero (Cerritos) and OL Tavares Washington (Miss. Delta). I mean, all three of those guys are All-everything players. Then on the flip side of the line there's DT Robert Holcombe (NE Miss.), who was a real force in Mississippi last year. Look for speedy CB Reynaldo Hill (Dodge City) and mobile TE David Kenner (Lackawanna) to see some playing time too.
7. Kansas State - LB Marvin Simmons (Compton) is a sideline-to-sideline player who could play anywhere in the nation. The Wildcats grabbed two starting corners from Garden City -- Cedrick Williams and Corey Reddick -- who should find playing time with the departure of future top-five draft pick, Terrance Newman. Former USC Trojan DT Malcomb Woolridge (Wm. Rainey Harper) has prototypical size for the position and will undoubtedly work his way into the rotation. LB Ben Henderson (Joliet) and OT Travis Triplett (Dodge City) are two other solid pick ups.
8. Texas Tech - Should fill need at corner with four good ones signed. OL Dan Christian (CCSF) is probably an instant starter. DE Chauncey Clark (CCSF) won't be an every down guy but is an exciting pass rush specialist. DE Tommie Pratt (CCSF) could be the sleeper here!
9. UNLV - LB David Andrews (Compton), S Willie Tagoai (Palomar), and RB/KR Alvin Marshall are all super studs and should earn starting spots sooner rather than later.
10. Kansas - Look for ILB John McCoy (Victor Valley) to make an instant impact both on and off the field. He's all business and highly motivated. The Jayhawks picked up two good OL prospects in Richard Estrella (Cerritos) and Johnny Urritia (Mt. SAC); both should see the field early. It's a deep class! Sleeper could be DE Chuck Jones (Pasadena), an athletic basketball-playin' defensive end.
11. Oregon - TE Eddie Whitaker (LA Valley) has a shot to become starter right away.
The best two-man class is Oklahoma's. They signed All-American safety Donte Nicholson (Mt. SAC) and TE Willie Roberts (NEO). The latter hasn't really played that much football the past two years, which means he might take longer to develop.
Or is the best two-man class found in Champaign, Illinois? The Illini signed Joliet All-American WR Kelvin Hayden and bulldozing RB Gerard Jackson out of Dodge City. Both of these guys might step in and start immediately.
Who'd we miss? How would you rank the classes? Drop us a line.