Monday, December 31, 2007

Athlon Consensus 100: 91-100

The first release of the AC100 went live this morning...

91. Justin Johnson - RB - Gilmer, TX (Okla)
92. Charles Whitlock - CB - Chester, SC (S. Car)
93. Andrew Sweat - LB - Washington, PA (OSU)
94. Brandon Smith - ATH - New Brunswick, NJ (und.)
95. A.J. Harmon - OG - Louisville, GA (Clem)
96t. Toby Jackson - DE - Griffin, GA (UGA)
97t. Aaron Hester - CB - Compton, CA (UCLA)
98. Tavarres King - WR - Mt. Airy, GA (UGA)
99. Anthony Dye - CB - Corona, CA (UCLA)
100. Trevor Robinson - OG - Elkhorn, NE (ND)

Right off the bat, Georgia and California take an early lead in state race, with Ga, already with three prospects.

Two corners and two offensive guards are in this first ten as well. Do not expect too many more guards. Corners there will be plenty of.

UCLA and UGA each have two kids committed. The UCLA ones we will have to wait and see about. Now that they finally have a new coach.

The SEC jumps out ahead of the other big leagues with three commits already. The Pac-10 and Big Ten/ND both have two each.

Three names really stand out to me. Tavarres King, Aaron Hester and Andrew Sweat. But not all for the same reason.

Andrew Sweat is limited in his top end speed and can be too aggressive. He needs to work on his control and discipline. He will be a solid player but should not be in the top-100.

King and Hester are much different. Tavarres King will be a star. In the open field, he is unstoppable. He will need to get stronger and thicker but has a chance to be great. Aaron Hester is just a really smooth defensive back. He plays wonderful trail technique and shows a burst when the ball is in the air. Both of these kids should be ranked in the 50-60 range.

Athlon Consensus 100

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Athlon Consensus 100

If you have read this blog at all on a regular basis, you know that I am the Athlon Sports Recruiting Editor. We have developed a recruiting ranking that will be the first of its kind.

The Athlon Consensus 100 begins its release tomorrow morning at

Every Monday and Thursday leading up until Signing Day, Athlon Sports will release ten names. Monday December 31st will be the first release. 91-100 will be published.


I have compiled the rankings of four expert recruiting rankings (Rivals, Scout, ESPN, PrepStar) and input them into a very simple computer program and the result is the Athlon Consensus 100. All rankings are considered equally. The top 150 prospects are analyzed mathematically and then spit out into a ranking based on points. It will be the BCS of recruiting rankings. I know what you are thinking, the BCS is terrible. True. BUT...

How much better is the BCS than the original bowl system? Was it improved 10-fold? Twenty?

That is what we are doing at Athlon Sports. We have taken the experts ranks and improved on them.


Thursday, December 27, 2007

USA Today All-American 1st Team

The first team looks pretty predictable. Offense:

QB - Terrelle Pryor
RB - Darrell Scott
RB - Bryce Brown (2009 class)
WR - Julio Jones
WR - Michael Floyd
TE - Kyle Rudolph
OL - Matt Patchan
OL - Mike Adams
OL - Michael Brewster
OL - Trevor Robinson
OL - Josh Jenkins
K - Blair Walsh

Not to many surprises here. I would have liked to see Kavario Middleton (Wash.) as the first team TE. I think he is just a touch better than Rudolph. But that is splitting hairs, Rudolph is deserving also. One call that I love is Mike Floyd over A.J. Green. Green is not the second best WR in this class. A top-25 player? Yes. Not top five. I actually like D.J. Shoemate and Jameel Owens more. The Trevor Robinson pick in interesting. Matt Kalil, Tyler Love and Tyron Smith are names that are better prospects. Kalil obviously not deserving due to his season.

Bryce Brown will be sick. He is the only 2009 prospect on the first team.

Notre Dame landed three of these first teamers (Floyd, Robinson, Rudolph). OSU would get three with Terrelle Pryor and two first team hog-mollies in Brewster and Adams.

The Defense:

DL - Nick Perry
DL - Marcus Fortson
DL - DeAngelo Tyson
LB - Shayne Hale
LB - Nigel Bradham
LB - Arthur Brown
LB - Brendan Beal
DB - Patrick Johnson
DB - Nolan Brewster
DB - TJ Bryant
DB - Will Hill

Again, not many surprises. I have only been covering recruiting since about 2000 but I cannot remember two brothers on the either side of the ball on the USA Today AA First Team. Bryce is Arthur's little brother. The Perry and Brewster picks are interesting. I would have liked to see E.J. Woods or maybe Rahim Moore in there instead. Maybe DaQuan Bowers on the line.

Miami has three of these defensive AA's (Fortson, Johnson, Brown). Who knows, it could be more.

All in all, two pretty predictable teams. Can you imagine the the speed of this linebacker group with Shayne Hale bringing pressure? What about Scott, Pryor and Brown out of the back field? Its spelled S.P.R.E.A.D.

USA Today...Today...Today Today Today

Offensive/Defensive Players's of the Year along with the annual USA Today High SChool All-American Teams were released today.

Shocking. Terrelle Pryor was named Off. POY while current Miami-FL commit and Florida Gator lean Patrick Johnson was given Def. POY honors.

They interviewed both. Pryor's best answer was to the question, 'Who is in your five?' He responded with "Mom, Dad, friends Jason and Ted, coach Ray Reitz and coach Roy Hall."

1, 2, 3, 4...yeah that is definitely six people. For Pyror's academic tutor's sake, I hope someone is sharing a line.

He also said "Someone tried to land a helicopter on our field."

Hmmmm? Jim Tressel and his championship teams and his fancy sweater vest? Maybe. How about the guy who jet-sets in the offseason with Bill Belichick? Nah, not Urban Meyer. There are just so many logical candidates: Steve Spurrier, Nick Saban, Pete Carroll, Bobby Petrino. Who is my guess though?

Rich Rodriguez. He has not only got the clout but also the balls to do it. The brashness helps too.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

FSU-Mia: The Battle Continues

JUCO signing day began last Wednesday, December 19th. Florida St has arguably the best JUCO class in the nation. With names like Tavares Pressley and Corey Surrency, FSU will be bringing in a solid core of skill position players next season. Pressley is the real deal and might compete for playing time immediately in the backfield. He is very similar to Darren McFadden, 6'1" - 215 with blinding speed.

On Dec. 19th, however, FSU lost one of its prized JUCO recruits. LaGarrett Blount signed instead with Oregon. The East Miss CC prospect would have been a nice compliment to the speedy Pressley. Blount is roughly 6'2" - 230 lbs. He would have been the thunder to Pressley's lightning. Now he is headed to Oregon. A nice pick-up for the Ducks as Blount is much in the mold of Jonathan Stewart, although not quite as fast.

Late last week FSU took another hit. And I don't mean of the peace pipe. That was the 34 suspended players. Actually it was academics not drugs that got them suspended, but they had to have been smoking something...I digress...

Crawfordville defensive back C.J. Holton decommitted from the local Seminoles and instead pledged to play for Miami.

Holton is much in the mold of a Miami safety. Names like Brandon Merriweather, Kenny Phillips and the late Sean Taylor have made The-U an attractive place for safeties to come. Holton has a very similar game to that of Merriweather and Phillips. Holton possesses the speed and agility to cover like Merriweather and Phillips but can also come up and fill lanes against the run.

Holton is comfortable in all situations making him a very versatile player for coordinators. Randy Shannon will be able to drop him into the box when needed, play him in a 2-deep zone or blitz everyone and stick him in a man-to-man situation on the outside. The 6-2, 200 lb safety will be a solid player for Miami.

To a defensive class that might already be the best in the nation, Miami added another stud. Arthur Brown and Co. make the LB class tops in the nation. Now with Holton and Patrick Johnson (at least for now), the DB class is up there as well.

If Miami can add Tommy Streeter, Ben Jones, Brandon Harris and Matt Patchan they will be pushing for the top class in the nation. They would need to keep Johnson as well but that looks like a long shot. (FLA Gators)

How he ranks:

Rivals: #6 safety, #124 overall
Scout: #11 safety, #153 overall
ESPN: #6 safety, #104 overall

Monday, December 24, 2007

Joe Montana QB Finalists

The first annual Joe Montana Quarterback of the Year Award has its seven finalists. Hall of Famer Joe Montana and QB coaching expert Steve Clarkson, along with the DeBartolo Sports University, will be giving this award to "the nation's best quarterback."

The Finalist:

Dayne Crist - Sherman Oaks, CA (Notre Dame)
EJ Manuel - Bayside, VA (Florida St)
Matt Scott - Corona, CA (Arizona)
Braden Hansen - Charlotte, NC (North Carolina)
Landry Jones - Artesia, NM (Oklahoma)
John Wienke - Tuscola, IL (Iowa)
Matt Barkley - Santa Ana, CA (USC lean-2009)

Matt Barkley is arguably the best prospect in the entire nation next season. USC should have him wrapped-up soon.

E.J. Manuel is the best prospect of the group. He is the most mentally ready quarterback of the group. He is already a leader. Crist and Barkley are the next best prospects not only on this list but in the entire nation.

Landry Jones is a great looking player but when will he get to play?

The interesting thing is that all of these kids are dramatically better passers than Terrelle Pryor. Is that why Pryor does not show up on this list?

If it is about who throws the ball better then sure leave Pryor off, but if the claim is "the nation's best quarterback," how is Pryor not on this list? He is not only the best prospect but also the best athlete and he led his team to a state title breaking records along the way. What does he need to do to get on this list?

With all due respect to Hall of Famers and gurus, Pryor belongs on this list.

The award will be announced on January 1, 2008 during the first half of the Outback Bowl in Tampa, Fla.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Alabama v. LSU: Heavyweight Bout

LSU-Bama. Nick Saban v. Louisiana. Les Miles v. Himself. Aside from the national historic traditional rivalries (OSU-MICH, USC-ND, Ala-Aub etc), I am willing to argue that LSU-ALA is the best current rivalry in NCAA football, at least in the south.

Let's put the fact the game was a solid game to fans not wearing crimson or purple aside. The rivalry runs so much deeper than that.

Les Miles drops F-bombs about Alabama and Nick Saban openly laughs at the Cajun culture. Both of these incidents were way overblown, but it still does indicate the true feelings of these two fan bases. On the field it should be a battle every year. Off the field, its only beginning.

Nick Saban went into Louisiana and John Curtis HS to snag an explosive little cornerback named Robby Green a short time ago. If the verbal sparrings were the warm-up jabs, LSU's win in Tusky was a right hand to the body and Mr. Green was a left hook to Mike The Tiger's right eye.

LSU's counter punch was Chris Tolliver. The highly sought after Rayville, LA wide receiver shunned Alabama and stayed home with the Tigers.

In a year loaded with pass-catchers, Tolliver's acceleration and explosion stand out. His separation speed combined with the ability to get vertical very quickly is a dangerous weapon. He also plays very well in small spaces. He has a knack for making people miss and then exploding up field. Give Chris Tolliver a crease on a slant route and he is gone.

Alabama is not hurting by any means for wideouts however. The Tide poached a bit on Georgia Tech's class and yanked Chris Jackson away. It came as no surprise as the GT coaching turmoil obviously was the reason. Throw in Devonta Bolton, Melvin Ray, Destin Hood and Burton Scott and maybe a dash of Julio Jones (sources say they would be shocked if he goes anywhere but Alabama).

Seeing as how Alabama has a much deeper class with more high level prospects at the bottom as compared with LSU, you can expect the retaliatory blow sometime around...let's say...February 6th when Alabama has the top class in the SEC and maybe the nation.

My vote in this showdown goes to LSU based strickly on quantity. Alabama will be back to fight another day, I promise.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Three Shades of Orange

Miami is looking at maybe its best recruiting class of all-time. That is a quote from Gery Ferman of Some things will have to fall the Canes' way but it is possible. Rumors are that Patrick Johnson will not be a Cane. Most likely ending up a Gator. But Arthur Brown and now local speedster Travis Benjamin is on board. Throw in a Matt Patchan, Tommy Streeter and Ben Jones and Randy Shannon has a top-5 class. It will be interesting to see if Benjamin gets moved to defense with the loss of Johnson. Look for Sean Speance to move back to safety as well.

Illinois continues its excellent work on the recruiting trail. After landing the top player from D.C., Reggie Ellis, snagging Corey Luiget from FLA, The Zooker has stolen a top-flight wide receiver from right under Jim Tressell and OSU's nose. Glenville's Cordale Scott committed to Illinois over OSU. Illinois is the fifth team to come into the state of Ohio this season and pull a top-10 prospect (Mich, ND, ILL, PSU and UGA/FL for Zebrie Sanders). Illinois is once again having a great class.

The Cuse landed a future play-maker on Friday. Syracuse might be considered a bit of a surprise as Averin Collier committed to the Orange over the Pitt Panthers. Collier's older borhter plays for Pittsburgh. Any good news is welcomed news to the limping Syracuse program. The Churchville RB is arguably the best player in the state of New York and will enroll early.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Fantasy Bowl League

Recruiting has taken over right now so I felt compelled to switch to some NCAA Fantasy football. has joined with and my very own to put together the 2007 Bowl Fantasy Challenge. Good friends Alex Esselink represents and Steve Lassen represent and I am holding down the Athlon fort.

Here is what my team ended up looking like (11 teams, no bench players):

RD1 (5th pick): Kevin Smith, RB UCF
RD2: James Hardy, WR Indiana
RD3: Rodney Ferguson, RB New Mexico (Joseph Turner, RB TCU)
RD4: Colin Kapernick, QB Nevada
RD5: Jeremy Childs, WR Boise (Bryan Anderson, WR CMU)
RD6: Fred Davis, TE USC
RD7: Steve Slaton, RB WVU
RD8: South Florida DEF
RD9: John David Booty, QB USC
R10: Keenan Burton, WR KY (where I picked my subs)
R11: Taylor Melhalf, K Wisc

Since Childs and Ferguson decided not to go to class at all and were deemed ineligible for the bowl game I was allowed to pick replacements. The news broke after my selections.

Here is how the first round looked. There are a lot of names that will be top picks in next year's draft...

1-1: Tim Tebow
1-2: Graham Harrell
1-3: Paul Smith (Senior)
1-4: Darren McFadden (NFL Draft)
1-5: Kevin Smith (will return for SR year)
1-6: Mike Crabtree
1-7: Colt Brennan (Senior)
1-8: Ray Rice (could be back)
1-9: Chase Daniel
1-10: Dan LeFevour
1-11: Kellen Lewis

8 of those top 11 picked could be back next year. I cannot is a look at the top-5 at some positions for next season fantasy drafts:

1. Graham Harrell, TTU
2. Tim Tebow, FLA
3. Chase Daniel, Mizz
4. Dan LeFevour, CMU
5. Pat White, WVU

1. Kevin Smith, UCF
2. Chris Wells, OSU
3. Ian Johnson, Boise
4. Jamaal Charles, Texas
5. PJ Hill, Wisc
Assuming that Run-DMC, Rice, JStewart, Reshard Mendenhall, Slaton and Marlon Lucky all go pro.

1. Mike Crabtree, TTU
2. Davone Bess, Haw
3. Jeremy Maclin, Mizz
4. Jarrett Dillard, Rice
5. Percy Harvin, FLA
Assuming that James Hardy and Mario Manningham bolt for the league.

Special thanks go out to for hosting our league.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Nebraska Class Falling Apart?

Since rumors began swirling about Bill Callahan being let go after the season, the Nebraska Cornhuskers have been grasping to commitments with nervous hands with no avail.

The decommitments of highly ranked kids like Blaine Gabbert and Jonas Gray are well documented. Gabbert is the top player in the state of Missouri and Gray is tops in Michigan.

Nebraska also lost a big time in-state prospect Trevor Robinson. Gabbert is headed to Missouri while Gray and Robinson are both headed to South Bend.

But it did not stop there. West Virginia snagged WR D.J. Woods.

Then Dan Hawkins and Colorado came calling. Colorado, arguably the hottest team in the nation when it comes to recruiting, stole a mit-ful of future Huskers. It hurts even worse that these kids are heading to Boulder seeing as how these two fan bases have had such cordial interactions in the part. An entire student section was forced to leave during the 2005 match-up.

JUCO linebacker Sean Mohler 4-star (Costa Mesa, FL)
Defensive end Josh Williams 3-star (Denton, TX)
Offensive lineman Bryce Givens 4-star (Denver, CO)
Linebacker Doug Rippy 3-star (Trotwood, OH)

The Zen Master has also recently added Max Mariner, Lynn Katoa, Jon Major, Ryan Deehan and silently...SHHH....Darrell Scott.

But the bleeding in Lincoln gives the term "Big Red" new meaning. It could not be stopped. The #1 ranked JUCO player in the nation, Simi Kuli, has decommitted. Oregon St is looking to swoop in and snag him. Top linebacker prospect Will Compton has also decommitted and has narrowed his choices to Illinois and Missouri.

That is 10 decommitments. I have seen classes take hits with coaching changes, 3-4 kids leave, but 10? Never.

Lets hope that Bo Pelini can get the Huskers back to the old style of football with big uglies, power fullbacks and lots of yards on the ground. That is what I enjoyed watching.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

National Recruiting Blitz: 12.18.07

This week's national recruiting blitz is up on the site.

This week I am joined by Gary Ferman of

Ferman breaks down the Arthur Brown commitment. Tells us where Patrick Johnson and Matt Patchan will be headed. And dissects the Northwestern-7.

The Shrine Bowl, Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Classic, Trevor Robinson and much more!!

Athlon Sports Recruiting Blitz 12.18.07

D.J. Grant Dissention

There is a vast difference in opinion about D.J. Grant.

ESPN: #16 player in the nation, #4 wide receiver
Scout: not-ranked as a a defensive end
Rivals: #63 wide receiver
PrepStar: not ranked

As I am currently building the Athlon Consensus 100, which will be a compilation of all four of those sites put into a mathematical formula, Grant has easily the highest discrepancy of evaluation. Grant committed to Texas over the weekend.

After evaluating game film of Grant, I realized that the 6-3, 200 lb LBJ (Austin, TX) product is dramatically underrated. Do I think he is the #16 prospect in all of high school football? No. But he is a 4-star type player.

Because this wide receiver class is so deep its hard to put him ahead of names like Jameel Owens and Brice Butler. But can Grant hang with names like Omarius Hines, Frankie Hammonds or Dan Buckner? Probably.

Grant has excellent speed. When the ball is in the air, he drops the clutch and accelerates away from defenders. His separation speed is great. He also has good ball skills. He gives great effort to make the catch.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Big Monday in Wichita, KS

Two huge commitments came from the heart of Kansas on Monday. Top-flight linebacker prospect from Wichita East Arthur Brown and athlete/quarterback Chris Harper from Wichita Northwest both committed Monday. Harper is headed to the Little Apple and Kansas St while Brown is headed to South Beach and the Miami Hurricanes.

I will start with Harper. Chris Harper is a very fluid smooth athlete who palys quarterback for his high school squad. He will not be a quarterback in college. He is the definition of 'athlete.' He has so many possibilities. He could bulk up and play tight end or H-back. He could stay where he is at size and play wideout. He might even be able to play safety or weakside linebacker. I do not see him on defense though.

He is a gifted, pure athlete with the ball in his hands. He would be very raw at wide receiver but will be best suited in that position. He is just too athletic to move to tight end. He would be solid after the catch as he is comfortable running with the ball. Kansas St got a great prospect. KSU just needs to figure out where to play him.

The big fish of the day is easily Arthur Brown though. I have been calling for Brown to go to a big city all along, USC or Miami. Turns out he is an East coast kind of guy. He also is added to probably the best linebacking class in the nation. And that is even with the decommitment of Lerentee McCray, which makes a lot more sense obviously.

Brown flies to the football and he lets you know that he has arrived. He is an absolute rock when he shuffles through traffic. His explosiveness is his most appealing attribute. Brown's short range burst is incredible and not just straight ahead but laterally as well.

Once he decides to go he explodes but his reads, can at times, be slow and incorrect. He can take himself out of the play because he is SO explosive. These issues, and a needed improvement in technique, can be improved through solid coaching.

He may be able to play inside at Miami but with the talent Randy Shannon has coming in, Brown should be put at weakside backer. This would allow him to fly around and make plays.

Photo by Larry W. Smith/The New York Times

Terrelle Pryor Update and more...

I just got off the phone with my contacts in Ann Arbor and he gave me his thoughts on the new hire and Michigan's chances at Terrelle Pryor.

My unnamed source at first told me that there is more energy around the Michigan program in one day under Rich Rod than in the past five years combined. This is not shocking.

First things first, Terrelle Pryor has officially added Michigan to his list of schools. And they move right to the top. My contact tells me that the % chance Terrelle Pryor goes to Michigan is at 50%. West Virginia, Tennessee and Texas have all bit the dust in the last few weeks. Florida is on its death bed. That leaves Michigan, Ohio St and Oregon.

So, hypothetically, if Pryor goes to Michigan that raises intersting questions about the current depth chart. Pryor has told Michigan that he does not have to play right away. Redshirting is an option or use him like Florida used Timmy Teabags when he was behind Chris Leak on the depth chart: get some time under center in special circumstances.

So this leaves me with one burning question. What happens to Ryan Mallet? Well, apparently he is a jerk. That is a quote that has been cleaned up for children. Will he transfer? Will he stick it out? What about Ga. Tech transfer/recruit Steve Threet? Only time will tell.

The 50% number would mean that Michigan is leading and I do not believe that...yet. I would guess its closer to...

Michigan 40%
Ohio St 40%
Oregon 20%

We shall see what happens.

Also, huge commitments coming today from Arthur Brown and Chris Harper today from Wichita, KS. I have been saying Brown to USC but rumors are swirling about North Carolina.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Championship Weekend

Its championship weekend. At least in some states. Ohio crowned their title winners last weekend with an upset by Coldwater over Youngstown Cardinal Mooney despite PSU commit Brandon Beachum's 191 yards. The biggest star of the Ohio state title weekend was running back Darius Ashley, a running back headed to Louisville. Ashley set an Ohio record for rushing in a title game rushing for 271 yards and two scores in the 27-0 Class-1 victory. Ashley is DRAMATICALLY underrated.

The nation's top player, Terrelle Pryor, had another game for the ages in his title game this weekend. Jeannette HS beat Dunmore in the Class-AA PIAA title game this weekend 49-21. Jeannette was not really tested at all in their run to the title. Pryor threw for 83 yards, one touchdown, rushed for 209 yards and three scores and to top it all off he caught a 28 yard touchdown pass. Run, pass and catch. This kid just about does it all. (He had a 100-yard INT return for touchdown last week)

With the move David Cutcliffe makes, Tennessee has been eliminated by Pryor. That leaves FLA, PSU, OSU, WVU and Oregon. PSU and FLA seem to trailing the other three. With rumors swirling about Rich Rodriguez heading to Michigan, WVU might be on tenuous ground. The Oregon Ducks are slowly moving up the list.

The nation's top running back lived up to his hype as well. St. Bonnie's Darrell Scott rushed for 150 yards on 17 carries (8.8 ypc) and two scores with only one leg. Scott played the entire CIF State Division III Bowl Championship win over Central Catholic (35-21) with a badly injured ankle.

South Carolina posted a 31-24 victory over North Carolina Saturday in the 71st annual Shrine Bowl. I will be speaking with Tony Morrell of on Monday so look for more Shrine Bowl coverage. Many players raised their stock significantly, linebacker Sterling Lucas for one.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Not Pryor, Next Best Thing for Oregon

Oregon Duck fans have been captivated by the recruiting world since top prospect Terrelle Pryor added Oregon to his list of suitors. Pryor has not committed but I believe Oregon got the next best thing.

A few weeks ago I did a story about Aldine, TX duel-threat quarterback Darron Thomas decommiting from LSU and most likely heading to Oregon.

Thomas committed this week to Oregon.

I have been infatuated with Darron Thomas. Thomas, other than maybe Will HIll up in Jersey, has the quickest feet in the nation. His acceleration and explosion is unreal. He goes from standing in the pocket to full speed as fast as anyone I have seen in years. 6-3, 190 pounds, can run like crazy, going to Oregon. Sound familiar Dennis Dixon fans? Unlike Dixon, Thomas has the frame to put weight on. Dixon was incredibly wiry and I think it cost him with the injury. Thomas is much thicker.

Thomas has one major flaw. He does not have a strong arm. He does, however, have great touch. Many people think that this kid will not be a quarterback and that may be true but I want to see him run the Chip Kelly spread. Pat White, Charlie Ward, Tommie Frazier, Eric Crouch. The list of running quarterbacks that didn't have strong arms that went on to be incredibly successful is long.

Put Thomas at QB!

Oregon also added a big-time JUCO defensive tackle Justin Thompson. The 6-5, 280 lb DT ranks as the #5 JUCO prospect in the nation by

Photo by Sarah Toor/Portland Tribune

Friday, December 14, 2007

Trouble in Paradise?

The USC Trojans have dominated the recruiting world for nearly half of a decade. Is their grasp slipping?

Recently, East Valley all-purpose standout Chris Polk (Redlands, CA) switched to Washington this week. A Washington program that is flying high on the recruiting trail right now with names like Kavario Middleton and Jermaine Kearse as well as national record setting wide receiver Cody Bruns.

Although USC is not at a loss for superior game-breakers, losing Polk will hurt. It obviously means much more to a very unpopular Ty Willingham than Petey The Poodle but it still stings to lose a top target to a conference foe.

To compound that, stellar do-it-all athlete from Little Rock (Ark.) Joe Adams has stated that he loves the Bobby Petrino hire and is very interested in Arkansas. This would again be much more important to Arky than USC. Arkansas is a state that USC has done very well in with Mitch Mustain, Damien Williams, Broderick Green and now Adams. Keep an eye on Adams who is still technically committed to USC

So, is USC's grasp on recruiting slipping?

The answer is a resounding NO.

Pete Carroll is on the verge of stealing the hard working Derrick Coleman, a big running back from Fullerton, CA, away from crosstown rival UCLA. Top linebacker prospect Arthur Brown is set to announce in a week or so and USC got the last visit. I personally believe its down to Miami and USC. Brown wants to be in a big city. My money is on USC.

Also, if UCLA does not make a coaching hire soon, expecially if that hire does not involve Dwayne Walker, UCLA will lose a large number of their top recruits. Aundre Dean, E.J. Woods, Coleman and others have stated that they would leave if Walker is not some sort of hold over. Petey will be waiting with open arms.

Wait there is more. The Rivals100 has already been released for 2009 and there are eight kids committed nationally. USC has FOUR of them. USC landed #96 prospect T.J. McDonald a week ago to go along with Randall Carroll (#65-WR), Morrell Presley (#78-TE) and Kevin Graf (#88-OL).

I think USC is doing just fine.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Max Tuioti-Mariner and Darrell Scott to CU?

Jon Major, Sean Mohler, Ryan Deehan, Lynn Katoa and now Max Tuioti-Mariner. I just wanted to refresh everyone's memory of the past few weeks in Boulder. Despite 20 degree weather and snow, the Colorado Buffaloes are smoldering hot on the recruiting trail. (Even though there are rumors that Katoa has cold feet)

Corona, CA offensive guard Max Tuioti-Mariner committed to Colorado despite the rumors that the finalist were Oregon and Cal. The Hawk has a knack for closing the deal. How the 6-4, 300 pounder ranks:

Rivals: #10 offensive guard
Scout: #23 offensive guard
ESPN: #7 offensive guard, #149 overall
PrepStar: #12 offensive lineman, #82 overall

Mariner is NASTY. Coaches want their offensive lineman to finish plays and Max is great at that. He has a mean streak that demoralizes defesnive lineman and wears them down over the course of a game. A very strong kid - nearly 400 lb bench - that once he gets his hands on defenders its tough to get disengaged. At 6-4, 300 lbs he still has room to add bulk which would make him an impossible match-up. Slide inside at guard and stick him next to Ryan Miller and the gameplan becomes 'run left.'

Especially if Darrell Scott is the one getting the ball for Colorado.

The most intriguing piece of news about Mariner is he told Rivals that "I am also looking forward to blocking for Darrell Scott, I hear he's going there and it will be fun to block for the No. 1 back in the nation."

Hmmm, rumors last week were that Darrell Scott was a silent commit to Colorado. After speaking with Adam Munstertieger of I felt even more confident about that. This is just a recruit but these kids talk to each other and they know what is going on. Gotta love 17 year old kids dropping scoop!

Scott can play from day one, his uncle Josh Smith is there, Scott's mom has supposedly been given a job and now big Mariner says he going. I would bet he ends up at Colorado.

Photo by Heston Quan

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Decommitment Party Coming to a Town Near You

Working for, one realizes that a 'verbal commitment' is just that. A spoken agreement between two parties. In the past a 'commitment' meant more. Realistically, roughly 90% of commitments stick and hold true.

Its seems recently that with all the major coaching moves, the word 'decommitted' has come up more and more often....

It all started with Nebraska and Bill Callahan getting axed...
Blaine Gabbert - QB (Ballwin, MO) Nebraska --> Missouri
Jonas Gray - RB (Detroit, MI) Nebraska --> Notre Dame
Trevor Robinson - OL (Elkhorn, NE) Nebraska --> ???
Sean Mohler - LB (Newport Beach, CA) Nebraska --> Colorado
D.J. Woods - WR (Strongville, OH) Nebraska --> West Virginia

This, on the same day that WVU lands another wide receiver named J.D. Woods from Naples, FL. So DJ Woods and JD Woods both wideouts, both commit to same school on the same day? Am I the only one who finds that weird?

Nebraska stopped the bleeding a bit when Bo Pelini hired Barney Cotton...
Ben Cotton - TE (Ames, IA) Louisville --> Nebraska

Then Dennis Franchione got lopped and Oklahoma got lucky...
Markelle Martin - S (Wichita Falls, TX) Texas A&M --> Oklahoma

But then Mike Sherman and the Aggies returned the favor...
Jeff Fuller - WR (McKinney, TX) Oklahoma --> Texas A&M

UCLA, Arkansas, and Georgia Tech have removed their HC's and it cost them...
Kemonte Bateman - WR (Los Angeles, CA) UCLA --> Arizona St
Sean Renfree - QB (Scottsdale, AZ) Georgia Tech --> ???
Jarius Wright - WR (Warren, AR) Arkansas --> ???

Keep an eye on E.J. Woods and Aundre Dean as well as their commitments to UCLA still hang in the balance.

Miami recently lost one of its fine linebacker commits...
Lerentee McCray - LB (Dunnellon, FL) Miami --> ???

This makes the tenuous commitment of Patrick Johnson even that more fragile.

Bret Bielema and Wisconsin have been poaching a bit...
Brandon Kelly - DE (Eden Prairie, MN) Minnesota --> Wisconsin
Anthony Mains - DE (Naples, FL) South Florida --> Wisconsin

A 6-6, 250 lb quarterback was not satisfied with one decommitment, he had to go for two...
D.C. Jefferson - QB (Winterhaven, FL) Rutgers --> LSU --> Rutgers

LSU has lost two QB commits in the last two weeks (Darron Thomas).

Now there is a rumor that Lynn Katoa is uneasy with his commitment to Colorado. Oklahoma looks to be a player.

Just a few more...
London Davis - TE (Cahokia, IL) Missouri --> Illinois
D.J. Marshall - DE (Mesquite, TX) Iowa State --> Kansas
Blair Irvin - DB (Patterson, LA) Auburn --> West Virginia

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Tide Continues to Roll: Robby Green

Nick Saban and Alabama are as hot as it gets right now on the recruiting trail. Bama took three of the top-7 from the state of Tennessee - Donta Hightower, Barrett Jones, Chris Jordan - landed a 400 lb JUCO D-lineman and to top it of Saban got a commitment from D.J. Fluker, who is considered by many one of the top defensive tackles for 2009 (#35 overall).

River Ridge, LA native Robby Green committed to Alabama at a press conference at his high school Tuesday afternoon over USC, Penn St, Michigan, Florida and Arizona St to name a few.

According to Rivals, he does not currently hold an LSU offer.

All the services are in agreement: Rivals-#16 CB, Scout-#13 CB, ESPN-#14 CB

The 6-foot, 180 lb has very few physical flaws. He has good enough size and once he puts on 10-15 pounds he will be big enough to compete with most wideouts. He has great hip-turn and a very quick back pedal. His plant and reaction speed out of his pedal to underneath routes, particularly in zone schemes, is incredibly fast and explosive. He has great all-around athleticism playing very smoothly in open-field situations.

He also plays the run very well. He is not afraid of contact and brings his legs when he tackles. This makes him a great fit for a 'Tampa-2' zone, where the scheme calls for the cornerback to be the main run stopper on the outside gaps.

Fundamentally, he could use some work on his line-of-scrimmage jam technique. Adding some weight and having a defensive backs coach as his HC (Saban) will obviously help that. Also, his pure recovery speed on deep routes against speedy wide receivers is still a question mark as well as his lateral quickness when matched-up in man-to-man situations. Sitting back in coverage and tracking the deep ball is where he is more comfortable.

Green went to John Curtis High School, that name might sound familiar to Alabama fans as Saban was unable to land high school superstar Joe McKnight last season. The efforts on McKnight and of course coaching at LSU, undoubtedly aided in the relationship between Saban and the John Curtis coaching staff. If Bama were to nab more of Louisiana's top-10 - Chris Tolliver, Tyler Edwards, Jerico Nelson - it would be safe to say it did not take long for Saban's influence in that state to become VERY apparent.

National Recruiting Blitz: 12.11.07

My weekly recruiting podcast for Athlon Sports is up on the site.

This week I speak with Rick Kimbrel of, the officially licensed site of the Rivals network covering all things UCLA.

I asked him about the coaching search and the status of some of the big names on a really solid class. Aundre Dean, EJ Woods and Derick Coleman's name all came up.

Other topics on the show:

The Pittsburgh Panthers' recent run on the recruiting trail, the Florida Gator's recent wide receiver commits, LSU and Alabama got big time commits and Texas A&M stole one from Oklahoma.

All the decommitments, the Shrine Bowl and the future of Athlon Sports recruiting coverage all came up.

You can check it out on Athlon Sports Podcasts or just click on the link below...

Athlon Sports Recruiting Blitz 12.11.07

Jonathan Baldwin is Pitt's 12th Verbal

Despite never having a winning record in any of his first three seasons as head coach at Pitt, Dave Wannstedt continues to kill on the recruiting trail. With true freshman LeSean McCoy and Pat Bostick looking the part of four-year starters, The Stache added another play-maker to his offense.

6-6, 240 lb Jonathan Baldwin of Aliquippa High (Aliquippa, PA) gave his verbal pledge to Pittsburgh Monday. Wannstedt - ironically born in Baldwin, PA - gets the tight end to commit over other powerhouses like USC, Michigan, Florida, Miami and Notre Dame. How he ranks:

Rivals: #34 overall, #3 tight end
Scout: #138 overall, #11 wide receiver
ESPN: #24 overall, #1 tight end
PrepStar: #38 overall, #3 tight end

Although some people feel that he is a WR prospect, Baldwin should be a tight end. Two reasons. First he is a phenomenal blocker and if The Stache were to move him split out wide, he would lose the in-line blocking ability of this young talent. He has great initial burst off the line generally locking up his assignment. He is a great seal blocker.

Second, Baldwin lacks top end speed and open field elusiveness. His speed and athleticism, for a tight end though, are perfectly adequate.

As a pass catcher is well above average. He has nice ball skills as he is at his strength when the pass is a jump ball. Smaller defensive backs will not out climb Baldwin for the ball. He will be a great red zone target as his leaping ability and timing are solid also.

Wanny has been a huge roll the last week landing commitments from 4-star RB Cameron Saddler (Monroeville, PA), 3-star WR Mike Shanahan (North Hundington, PA), JUCO QB Greg Cross and 3-star QB Zach Stroudt (Dublin, OH). Now if he can learn to coach they might win a game or two.

Photo by Pittsburgh Post Gazette

Monday, December 10, 2007

Jeff Fuller: Turn-a-bout is Fair Play

Shortly after Texas A&M announced that Dennis Franchione would not be retained as head coach, top flight safety prospect Markelle Martin decommitted and pledged to Oklahoma.

What goes around, comes around.

Mike Sherman was named the next head coach at Texas A&M. Offensively this means the Aggies will go from a hybrid wishbone option attack to a pure West Coast game plan. That was exactly what McKinney, TX wide receiver Jeff Fuller needed to hear. The 6-4, 210 lb Boyd High standout switched his commitment from Oklahoma to Texas A&M.

Fuller's father, Jeff Fuller Sr, was a defensive back at Texas A&M in the early 80's and Pro Bowl player for the 49ers. Jeff Sr. had been worried about his son playing wideout in an offensive system like Franchione's. No worries now. How he ranks:

Rivals: #92 overall, #15 wide receiver
Scout: #35 wide receiver
ESPN: #25 wide receiver
Prepstar: #62 overall, #11 wide receiver

Fuller has ideal size for a pass catcher. The great thing about his size is that he is much faster than he seems. He is deceptively fast with better straight line speed and open field agility that perceived. He is good at getting off the line-of-scrimmage and will not get jammed easily. Shows flashes of being a go-to red zone target. He also has the potential to return kicks.

He will need work on his route running and mental acumen. He is great on deep routes and underneath stuff but needs to learn how to work zones and manipulate defenders. That will come with sound coaching.

Being the son of a pro or college athlete can never be underestimated. Just like coaches' sons, players' kids have been around the game of football for most of their lives.

How many team meetings will it take before young Jeff Fuller will have to reenact his father's sweet jam?

Chris Jordan heads to Alabama

Alabama is pushing Georgia for the top recruiting class in the SEC for 2008. The race got very interesting this weekend as Brentwood, TN athlete Chris Jordan committed to Alabama.

The Brentwood Academy running back (6-1, 210) chose Alabama over Clemson. Those two schools had been his finalist because they told Jordan that he could play running back. We will see if that is true but he certainly wants to play RB. How he ranks:

Rivals: #24 athlete
Scout: #30 running back
ESPN: #19 outside linebacker

Clearly, there is dissension about where young Chris Jordan will be playing.

The transfer from Norcross, GA plays his high school ball not even three miles from my house. I have watched him in person twice this season play against the very powerful Montgomery Bell Academy, including the state championship game.

Jordan is as naturally a gifted athlete I have ever seen in the state of Tennessee. His blend of size, speed and fluidity is startling. He is a very gifted runner for his size. There is no wasted movement as he picks his whole and he hits it. Coaches love that. He throws his body around as he will always fall forward.

Even as gifted as Jordan is at running the ball, he is just as solid at outside linebacker. He has great range and can really run sideline-to-sideline. He is not a huge speciman at OLB but with solid play in front of him he can be a monster. He flies to the football with solid instincts and good overall feel for the game of football.

One of the really impressive things about his defensive game is his pass coverage. He is very mature in his technique when it comes to getting his drops in zone schemes. His football IQ is great in coverage, something that most kids just do not have coming out of high school. He also has the speed to match-up with any tight end and a lot of running backs in man-to-man action.

Since he is so set on playing running back it will be interesting to see where he ends up. I can see Nick Saban salivating about him playing a rover type weakside linebacker in that 3-4 scheme he runs.

Georgia beware, if Alabama lands Julio Jones, Jerrell Harris or William Green they will likely take the 2008 SEC recruiting crown.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Auburn Commit Shines in Georgia Dome

Carver High (Columbus, GA) wide receiver/athlete Jarmon Fortson committed to the Auburn Tigers in late September. Friday, Auburn fans got a taste of what to expect from the big 6-3, 220 playmaker.

Fortson put on a show in Atlanta during a Class-AAA state semifinal match between Carver and Chamblee.

Jarmon Fortson and Carver scored 20 unanswered points in the final six minutes of play to pull off an unimaginable comeback victory 26-24. Fortson caught two touchdowns, recovered an key onside kick and hauled in a bomb on the final drive setting up the game-winning touchdown.

Auburn fans will be very happy when this kid gets to campus. Fortson is as natural a pass-catcher as I have seen in this class. He makes spectacular catch after spectacular catch. Get the ball near him and there is a good chance he will come down with it. He is a big, physical speciman that loves playing in traffic. Although not a game breaker in the open field with the ball in his hands, he is very hard to bring down. He will fight all the way to the ground.

This kid will be a steal for Auburn. He has a very rare blend of speed, size, strength and fluidity.

Another Auburn commit, 6-2 210 lb quarterback at Carver Deron Furr is probably the main reason that Fortson is so underrated. Furr is an incredibly gifted athlete, especially in the open field. A quarterback he is not. Fortson's numbers and recruitment would have been off the charts if he had a QB that could throw him the ball in stride more consistently.

Photo by Atlanta Journal Constitution

The Other Chase Clement

Rice fans know who Chase Clement is. He threw for 3,377 yards and 29 touchdowns for the Owls this season, including a 498 total yard (103 rush), 8 touchdown (2 rush) performance against UTEP earlier this season. E.D. White High School's Chase Clement will likely never throw a touchdown in college. He might catch a few though.

LSU's version of Chase Clement, who many people believe is the top prospect in the state of Louisiana, committed to LSU Saturday night on his visit to Baton Rouge. How he ranks:

Rivals: #5 strongside defensive end, #100 overall
Scout: #10 defensive end, #130 overall
ESPN: #9 tight end, #150 overall

The 6-5, 250 lb athlete is incredibly versatile. Clement's combination of size, strength and athleticism make him a very intriguing prospect. On offense, Clement is used in a lot of ways. He has the speed and feet to be a deep threat in the passing game but is big and strong enough to be a solid blocker. I have seen him take end arounds as he was even used in the run game. How many tight ends in college can do that? Travis Beckum? Martin Rucker? It is a rare skill set.

Clement shows nice ball skills as he uses his hands to catch the ball at its highest point. His route running ability will need some work but he does have good instincts. He is not a threat after the catch in open field as he lacks top end speed and small space agility.

If he wants to play on the defensive line he will need to put on 15-20 pounds. He shows nice burst but can be a bit stiff when rushing off the end. He will never be a speed rusher so he will need to utilize that great strength he already has and get bigger and stronger if he wants to be a defensive end.

Clement had three uncles that played football at LSU.

Photo by Houston Chronicle

Saturday, December 8, 2007

JUCO Report: Florida, FSU and Wisconsin

The Gators, Seminoles and Badgers all picked up JUCO commits this week.

The biggest of these names is a huge wide receiver (6-4, 220) from Sierra C.C. in Roseville, CA. Carl Moore, ranked the #2 JUCO prospect in the nation by, committed to the Florida Gators.

Arguably the most coveted offensive JUCO player in the nation, Moore has put up big numbers in two season at Sierra. 134 receptions, 2,028 yards and 23 touchdowns in two seasons. All that production while being double and triple teamed constantly.

This week's commitments from wide receivers Carl Moore, Omarius Hines and Frankie Hammond Jr. have really bumped Florida's class into the top-10.

Florida St. dipped into the JUCO cookie jar again this week. East Mississippi C.C. (Scooba, MS) running back LaGarrett Blount has committed to the Seminoles. Blount is listed at 6-2, 235 lbs. There is no way he is that big. 6-1, 225 maybe. But that size is still big for a running back Blount's speed and big play ability. Tennessee running back Arian Foster is a good comparison. Both have deceptive speed and big play potential.

Even though this is once again a nice pick-up for FSU, using a JUCO strategy too heavily can really create problems with depth down the road. Blount is the #12 by

Wisconsin picked-up some o-line help with the commitment of Joliet College's (ILL.) Dan Moore. The All-Midwest Conference performer is listed at 6-2, 295 lbs.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Iowa Picks-up Sleeper QB Commit

The Iowa Hawkeye's current recruiting class is probably the worst class in the Big Ten. It is a far cry from the top-10 class Kirk Ferentz put together a few years back.

If Iowa expects to contend for a Big Ten title anytime soon a lot of these kids will have to be big sleepers. The newest addition, James Vandenberg, looks to be one of them.

The 6-2, 190 lb quarterback from Keokuk High (Keokuk, IA) will join the Hawkeyes after winning the 3-A state championship in his senior campaign. He is a winner.

Vandenberg leaves high school with essentially ownership of the state passing record book. He set the single season passing yards and single season touchdown records this season (3729, 49). He also owns the career passing yards record (7,677) and career touchdowns mark (93). He is productive.

The most impressive thing about young Vandenberg is his footwork and technique. He rarely throws from his back foot. His feet are quick enough for him to get set properly on boot-legs and role outs. He is very accurate throwing the deep ball and his fade pass is as pretty as any will ever look.

He is a winner, he is productive and his is technically sound. I like the chances of this kid out performing his recruiting rankings (Rivals-UR, Scout-UR, ESPN-#55 QB).

He is not a huge specimen at quarterback and he will need to add weight. I also wonder about his arm strength. Can he throw an 18-yard out route from the opposite hash on a rope?

Iowa High School Athletic Association

Terrelle Pryor headed to Oregon?

Good friend Mike Farrell of, is reporting that Terrelle Pryor has added the Oregon Ducks to his list of suitors. Apparently Mike Bellotti and Dennis Dixon paid him a bit of a visit when traveling to New York for an awards ceremony.

I have been saying since day one that his decision will come down to what type of offense he will be running. West Virginia and Florida would fit his desired style the best. However, no matter how good Terrelle Pryor is, he will never be more popular than Timmy Teabags in Gainesville.

Ohio State has proven that it can adapt. But is Tressell to conservative?

Was Michael Robinson's season enough for Penn St to prove that JoePa has not let the game pass him by?

Tennessee. Manning? Claussen? Ainge? That is twelve years of no chance.

With Dennis Dixon's play this season and no quarterback in sight on that campus, Eugene becomes an interesting option for Mr. Pryor. If it is the system he wants, there might be no better option than Oregon and Chip Kelly's offense.

Prior to Dixon's injury, West Virginia and Oregon were the two most explosive and most difficult to stop offenses of the 2007 season. Would love to see him go to Oregon.

Additionally, Pryor eliminated Texas. Shocking. They were never a serious player.

Photo by Pittsburgh Post Gazette

Vinston Painter stays at home

The massive Maury High (Norfolk, VA) offensive tackle, Vinston Painter, committed to the Hokies.

The 6-6, 320 picked Virginia Tech over Florida, Georgia, Miami, Penn St, UVa and many others. How he ranks:

Rivals: #15 offensive tackle nationally
Scout: #5 offensive guard nationally
ESPN: #34 offensive tackle
PrepStar: #106 nationally, #15 offensive lineman

With his size, Painter does project as a tackle in college. He is huge and can wall defenders off. He has great power at initial contact and is great at sealing the end on outside running plays. He dominates smaller players because of his raw size and strength.

He will need a lot of work on his technique when it comes to using his hands and footwork. He will need to better his balance as well as at times he can play to high. Keeping his pad level low will be a very important skill the coaching staff will have to instill. He has good explosion at the onset of plays but needs to develop that killer instinct in order to finish plays.

Painter is a bit of a project but because of his massive frame and natural strength, he clearly has tons of upside.

Another great prospect from The 757.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

US Army AA Player of the Year Finalist

The US Army All-American Bowl is easily the best national "all-star" event for high school prospects each season. In conjunction with that game, finalist for National Player of the Year have been announced. This list is not necessarily the best six players.

Nigel Bradham LB 6-2, 225 (Wakulla High School, Crawford, Fla.)
Arthur Brown LB 6-1, 215 (East High School, Wichita, Kan.)
Dayne Crist QB 6-4, 225 (Notre Dame High School, Sherman Oaks, Calif.)
Patrick Johnson DB 6-1, 190 (Blanche Ely High School, Pompano Beach, Fla.)
Terrelle Pryor QB 6-5, 230 (Jeanette High School, Jeanette, Pa.)
Darrell Scott RB 6-0, 205 (St. Bonaventure High School, Ventura, Calif.

Technically Patrick Johnson is committed to Miami...technically. He has a wandering eye. Dayne Crist is committed to Notre Dame. I wonder if Charlie Weis pulls a Joe Theismann and adds an H? Nigel Bradham is headed to Florida State. Darrell Scott is supposedly silently committed to Colorado.

Arthur Brown narrowed his list to UNC, Fla, Mia, USC and LSU this week.

The man to beat is Terrell Pryor though. Whose 421 total yard, 7 td performance against Aliquippa a few weeks back was raising question amongst local coaches if he was better than Tony Dorsett. Dorsett is consider to be the best high school football player in the state of PA, ever.

I still say Pryor ends up in Columbus.

The US Army All-American Bowl is on NBC, Jan. 5th, 1 pm EST.

And Then There Were Five

High School All-American linebacker Arthur Brown has sent Kansas State to the chopping block.

The Wichita East star has eliminated Ron Prince and the Wildcats from contention. This leaves these five fan bases still teetering on the edge of their seats: LSU, USC, North Carolina, Miami and Florida.

Rivals: #24 overall, #2 inside LB
Scout: #11 overall, #1 strongside LB
ESPN: #6 overall, #1 outside LB

So, clearly even the experts cannot decide where 6-1, 214 pound prospect will end up. His long-term NFL ability is that of an outside linebacker, most likely at the weak side. He has great speed and in that league, the weak side backer is the guy making all the plays down the line-of-scrimmage.

However, in college he can play inside. He flies to the football and he lets you know that he has arrived. He is an absolute rock when he flies through traffic. His explosiveness is his most appealing attribute. Brown's short range burst is incredible and not just straight ahead but laterally as well.

Once he decides to go he explodes but his reads, can at times, be slow and incorrect. He can take himself out of the play because he is SO explosive. These issues, and a needed improvement in technique, can be improved through solid coaching.

Photo by Larry W. Smith/The New York Times

Charles Whitlock a Gamecock?

There has been a bit of dissension from all parties about whether or not Charles Whitlock has officially committed to South Carolina or not. is reporting the 5-11, 175 athlete from Chester, SC has indeed pledged to play ball for Steve Spurrier.

The Chester High School product is one of the top in-state targets as Whitlock goes with the Cocks over Alabama, Clemson, Kentucky, Florida and North Carolina.

How he ranks:

Rivals: #9 cornerback
Scout: #6 cornerback
ESPN: #4 cornerback, #35 overall

This is a huge pick-up for Spurrier and Cocky. Charles Whitlock is dynamic in the open field. Like most high level athletes they play quarterback in high school, he is no quarterback. Defensive back or wide receiver is where he will find a home. He also will be a game-breaking return man. He is incredibly elusive in the open field. His feet are comparable to Will Hill or Darron Thomas.

He plays a lot of zone coverages allowing him to play up top in the secondary, roam, and read the quarterback. He has great closing speed and his ability to break on the ball is solid. How will he do at his size jamming wide receivers at the line? Can he play bump-and-run coverage? The transition down to cover corner should not be a tough one because of his pure agility and natural athletic ability. He will need to get bigger but he has all the physical tools to be a standout cornerback.

He also works hard in the weight room (270 lb bench), making that transition to an high level collegiate weight program that much easier for him.

And as I have said before, South Carolina puts out NFL defensive backs as well as any team in the nation. He will be well coached. Great job by Spurrier to lock-up an in-state stud like Charles Whitlock.

Photo by

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Interview with Kirk Herbstreit

I had a chance to sit down with ESPN college football guru Kirk Herbstreit on Wednesday and he did not disappoint. The Gameday personality gave me all of his BCS bowl picks, his Heisman Trophy pick and much more on an Athlon Sports Radio Exclusive Bowl preview.

Friend and colleague, Athlon Sports Senior Editor Mitch Light joined us as we looked back over the 2007 season and looked forward to all the great bowl match-ups.

You can catch Athlon Sports Radio every week at, listed in the Audio section with all of the other podcasts.

Yours truly, Mitch Light and Kirk Herbstreit...

Athlon Sports Radio Exclusive Bowl Preview

Hanging out with my alma mater's cheerleaders. Ah, I trained him well.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Glutinous Florida Gators

Florida filled a huge position of need last week, since, you know, Florida has no speedy skill position players.

In a classic case of the rich getting richer, Urban Meyer has landed two game-breaking wide receiver prospects. Omarius Hines (Corsicana, TX) and Frankie Hammond Jr. (Hallandale, FL) both committed to the Gators last week.

How they rank:

Omarius Hines
Rivals: #21 wide receiver
Scout: #41 wide receiver
ESPN: #30 wide receiver

Frankie Hammond Jr
Rivals: #26 wide receiver
Scout: #68 wide receiver
ESPN: #27 wide receiver

Ranking in the 20's or 30's in this year's wide receiver class is much different than it would normally be. The 2008 wide receiver class might be the deepest, best and tallest group of pass catchers...ever. Both of these kids are underrated and both are big play threats down the field.

Omarius Hines is a 6-1, 185 lb star. After an incredibly productive junior season (62 rec. 1282 yds 23 tds), Hines has been a highly sought after young talent for a while. Hines is great at battling with physical corners using superior body positioning skills to give his quarterback a solid target to throw to. This illustrates strong route running acumen even though his technique needs some work as he shows a slight lack of fluidity in and out of breaks. Hines has strong ball skills going up and snagging passes out of the air at their highest point.

He will need to work on going over the middle and working underneath coverage as his vertical game is his strength. Learning how to settle within holes in the zone is something that can be taught relatively easily. He does not have blazing speed but plays faster than this combine times.

Frankie Hammond Jr. is a much lesser know prospect. After playing in a run oriented system his junior year where he caught seven passes, he flourished in a pro-style pass attack his senior year (47-890-12).

Hammond (5-11, 150) is an absolute burner. This kid will not get caught from behind. When he gets to the edge he is gone, period. He was also a member of Team USA Youth Track Championship team as one of the best high-jumpers in his state. He has decent hands and good ball tracking skills. He also is an incredibly dangerous return man.

At 150 pounds, however, he has some issues. He is not nearly as physical as Hines and Hammond's ability to go over the middle is a major question. He has the mentality but linebackers/safeties will break him in half. He has to put on weight.

Other than size, Frankie Hammond Jr is considered a super sleeper. The hidden gem has crazy speed and tons of upside. Hines is much more polished and physical.

Two great pick-ups for the Gators as these two kids really show just how deep this WR class really is.

The Gators also receive a verbal commitment from defensive tackle Bryan Jones.

Pelini/Osborne strike again: Ben Cotton

As Bo Pelini continues to put his staff together for his new gig at Nebraska, one such hire has paid off two fold. Pelini has hired Barney Cotton. The former Nebraska offensive coordinator, who most recently was the OC at Iowa St (2006), brings with him his talented son Ben Cotton. Ben Cotton had been committed to Louisville for some time now but switches to Big Red to be coached by his father.

How he ranks:

Rivals: #25 tight end
Scout: #18 tight end
ESPN: #30 tight end

The 6-6, 215 lb Ames High School (Ames, IA) product has nice pass-catching ability. He uses his hands well keeping the ball away from his body as catching the ball on the run is not a problem. He certainly understands the way to play offense due to the fact that his father has been an offensive coach at high level division-1 football programs. Mentally, he has a high football IQ.

The major issue is his strength and power. At 6-6, 215 his needs to put on 20-30 pounds before he will make a big impact in the run game. He also lacks power after the catch. He does show effort while blocking so the potential is there but he will have to get more powerful at the point of attack.

Ben Cotton is a solid pick-up. I have always been a huge fan of coach's kids.

Athlon Sports Recruiting Blitz 12.04.07

Every week I host a recruiting podcast for Athlon Sports. This week's edition is now up on the site.

Joining me this week was Michigan expert from Chris Balas. Is the Michigan class still standing strong? Chris Balas tells all.

Also joining me this week was Colorado guru from Adam Munstertieger. The Buffalos might be the hottest team in the nation on the recruiting trail.

FSU, Washington, Bama and many more got some time on the National Recruiting Blitz.

So without further ado...

The National Recruiting Blitz

1st Commitment of Bo Pelini Era

Technically, however, it was Tom Osborne that got the pledge. The former Nebraska head coach called young Mr. Micah Kreikemeier shortly after the press conference to announce Bo Pelini as the new coach. Orborne offered him a scholarship. I suppose if there is an Athletic Director out there that is qualified to evaluate talent its Tom Osborne.

Micah Kreikemeier accepted it immediately.

It's no surprise that the 6-4, 220 lb tight end/defensive end/linebacker/fullback from West Point Central HS (West Point, NE) committed to the legendary coach. Kreikemeier's father and high school head coach both walked-on and played for Osborne at Nebraska.

Bill Callahan only offered scholarships to two in-state players last season. It is the right move for Osborne and Pelini to refocus their energies inward first. Although not a loaded state for talent each season, there are certainly more than two players that can help maintain Big Red's dominance within the state of Nebraska.

Kreikemeier is not anyone. But he is a legacy of sorts, its a great PR move and certainly the young kid has the genes and up-bringing to be a sound football player. We'll see.

Photo by Brian Bahr

Monday, December 3, 2007

Darrell Simmons highlights big weekend for South Carolina

Banneker high (College Park, GA) safety Darrell Simmons joined five other prospects on campus at South Carolina this past weekend. Jay Spearman and Kenny Davis are both already committed. T’Sharvan Bell, Devin Taylor and Kenneth Page have yet to make their decisions but enjoyed their visits. Darrell Simmons loved it. The 6-1, 180 lb prospect goes with South Carolina over some other major offers from Tennessee, Miami, Ohio St, Michigan, Alabama, Auburn, Georgia and Oklahoma. That is an incredible offer sheet.

South Carolina has turned Banneker high school into a pipeline recently. Simmons joins three current players from the College park program. Carlos Thomas, Addison Williams, Ladi Ajiboye are all current Gamecocks.

How Simmons ranks:

Rivals: #35 safety
Scout: #26 safety
ESPN: #28 safety

Simmons is a phenomenal athlete. He plays a bit faster than his combine times, but his speed is not elite. Having said that, he is constantly around the ball. He simply makes plays. Although he does not possess that elite closing speed, he absolutely explodes when he gets to the ball. And he knows how to get to the ball, especially from the edge where he is more comfortable than inside the tackles. He relies heavily on great instincts. He plays the outside force very well.

Like most high school players his technique (back pedal, hip turn etc) in coverage needs work. Can he cover the sideline in a 2-deep set-up? He may have the ability but it is still a unknown. As is the case with most defensive backs, playing the pass is the biggest question mark.

South Carolina has been great at producing NFL defensive backs though with names like Dunta Robinson and Ko Simpson. This means he will get great coaching.

One major question mark. Where is his head? Kids get in trouble all the time and learn from it and grow up. Simmons was arrested this summer with three other kids for burglary. Will he?

The Army All-American Bowl Update

In a great move for both parties, the US Army All-American Bowl will partner with Rivals becomes a national sponsor and the official selection partner.

This is great news for recruiting fans. It is the single best All-American event each year coupling themselves with the top national media outlet for recruiting coverage.

The 2008 Players:
East Roster / West Roster

The US Army All-American Bowl will be held January 5th in San Antonio.

NBC will televise the 8th annual game at 1 pm EST.

RESULTS (West leads 4-3):

* 2007 - West 24, East 7
* 2006 - East 27, West 16
* 2005 - West 35, East 3
* 2004 - East 45, West 28
* 2003 - East 47, West 3
* 2002 - West 26, East 6
* 2000 - West 18, east 15

Photo by Daren Reehl.

The Zen Master Strikes Again: Lynn Katoa

Washington and Illinois are two of the hottest programs when it comes to recruiting. Colorado must be added to the list. Dan Hawkins added stud linebacker Jon Major last month, added big California tight end Ryan Deehan just a few days ago and now have landed another outstanding linebacker prospect in Cottonwood High's (Salt Lake City, UT) Lynn Katoa.

The 6-2, 225 lb Katoa committed to the Buffs this weekend. This was a huge victory for Dan Hawkins as Katoa picked Colorado over top-flight programs such as Texas, USC, Florida, LSU, Oklahoma and Miami. How he ranks:

Rivals: #62 prospect in the nation, #2 ILB nationally
Scout: #21 overall, #2 ILB
ESPN: #148 overall, #15 OLB

Landing Jon Major was imperitive as he had built up a relationship with Lynn Katoa and this undoubtedly impacted the talented linebacker's decision.

This kid is special. To start he has only played two years of organized football so at the moment he is getting by on pure athletic ability and raw instincts. Secondly, he will graduate this month and be enrolled for the Spring semester allowing him to go through spring practice and get acclimated to the campus prior to the fall. So clearly he is an intelligent kid.

He can really run when he needs to. Trailing a kick returner by seven yards, Katoa turned on the burners and not only caught up with his teammate but passed him by almost five yards in order to lead block down the sideline. Cottonwood scored. It was very impressive.

There are, of course, issues with having such limited playing experience. He does find himself lost at times, especially on play-action fakes. His fundamentals will need a lot of work as well. Tackling, coverage, blitzing etc.

He has all the natural ability to scrape through traffic and get to the ball carrier though. Getting to campus in the spring will help him tremendously as the CU staff will be able to instill some technique into his game prior to his freshman season.

If The Hawk can just get all these new stud recruits to call Darrell Scott, this could be one of the best recruiting hauls CU has ever had.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

No Shocker: Khaled Holmes to USC

Mater Dei high school in Santa Ana, CA is no stranger to talent. The football powerhouse has the Rivals #1 prospect in the nation for 2009 playing quarterback - Matt Barkley. Apparently they got some big uglies too. 6-5, 300 lb offensive guard Khaled Holmes has finally committed to USC. He picks the Trojans over the crosstown rival UCLA Bruins. How he ranks:

Rivals: #5 offensive guard in the nation
Scout: #15 offensive guard in the nation
ESPN: #5 offensive guard in the nation

Khaled Holmes' older brother Alex Holmes played at USC.

The commitment from the top flight offensive guard is the sixth O-line commit for the Trojans. This is the best offensive line class in the nation.

Matt Kalil 6-7, 281 Servite HS (Anaheim, CA)
Tyrone Smith 6-5, 270 Rancho Verde HS (Morreno Valley, CA)
Armond Armstead 6-4, 290 Pleasant Grove HS (Elk Grove, CA)
Matt Meyer 6-7, 295 Lincoln HS (Stockton, CA)
Daniel Campbell 6-5, 320 Aldine HS (Aldine, TX)
Khaled Holmes 6-5, 300 Mater Dei HS (Santa Ana, CA)

Aside from Daniel Campbell, all of these giants are from the state of California. All of them are ranked in the state's top-16. (2,3,9,11,16) This is California, not Wyoming.

It is absolutely sick what Pete Carroll has been able to accomplish.

Ryan Deehan to Colorado

Despite overtures from Eric Cartman, Dan Hawkins and the Colorado Buffs are very pleased to be practicing into the month of December.

Hawkins also seems to be doing the job off the field as well. The CU Zen-Master did a solid job last season of protecting his borders by landing kids like Ryan Miller (who was named to the Big-XII All-Freshman team). Now he is spreading his wings.

The Hawk has gone into California and landed a star tight end. Ryan Deehan, the 6-6, 230 lb Poway high (Poway, CA) product, committed to Colorado before his game Friday. He picks Colorado over Arizona St, UCLA, Washington, Cal and others. How he ranks:

Rivals: #11 tight end
Scout: #26 tight end
ESPN: #22 tight end

Deehan has a nice big frame. He uses his long arms well when catching the football as he plays comfortably in traffic. His hands are strong enough to get the job done on the next level. He is a bit of a project though.

He lacks ideal explosion off the line of scrimmage, whether it is drive blocking or stretching the defense by running down the hashes. He also lacks overall power. Both the explosion and the power issues can be addressed by getting into a strong division-1 weight program. He does have a great frame to bulk up and get stronger. Because he does not have great speed and athleticism, especially after the catch, route running will become a huge part of his game. It is already a strong part of his game but he will need to continue to develop because he will need it.

Overall, Deehan possess the necessary skills to be a very good tight end but he will need to grow up a bit before making a big impact. Overall, this is a very strong pick-up for The Hawk. Plus, it certainly helps Colorado's chances with Darrell Scott having California kids on board.