Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Class of 2008 Top Rated Recruiting Classes: Revenge of the Second Bananas

Since our last update the biggest moves have been made by UCLA and Ohio State. The Bruins picked up an amazing ten verbals (they actually received 11 but one player reneged a couple of days later) during their recent junior day weekend. Meanwhile, Ohio State has picked up some serious in-state talent led by Dublin Coffman teammates Mike Adams and Jake Stoneburner.

Texas, USC, Georgia and Oklahoma have continued their fine recruiting efforts by each picking up at least one additional national top 100 caliber prospect since our last update.

Miami makes its first appearance in the rankings after picking up a couple of highly touted linemen at their recent junior day. It will be interesting to follow the recruiting battles among the Florida big three now that Miami has a new coach. Interestingly, defending national champ Florida has yet to receive its first verbal.

One interesting trend this year is what I call the "Second Banana" strategy that is being followed by Texas A&M and UCLA in putting together relatively large and talented early commitment listings.

What do I mean by the "Second Banana" strategy? What I mean is that in their respective home states Texas A&M and UCLA have been playing second banana to local rivals and national superpowers Texas and USC. This means that when it comes to recruiting it is very, very hard for them to win head-to-head battles. So they have decided to push for early verbals from prospects who have yet to be offered by their powerful rivals and lock them in at an early date. It also helps them when their rivals already have several verbals (or, in the case of Texas, more than several) as they then become the "top banana" for many of these prospects, some of whom may have received offers down the road from Texas or USC.

The advantage of this "Second Banana" strategy is three-fold: 1) Texas A&M and UCLA lock into several Texas or USC caliber prospects early before Texas or USC have the chance to offer (e.g. Damien Holmes, Dravantti Johnson, Roderick Davis); 2) They build recruiting momentum which will even result in some of the elite local talent choosing them over Texas or USC (e.g. Damian Square, Rahim Moore, Daton Jones); 3 ) By being the second choice for many local prospects they benefit from the domino effect of having Texas and USC land top-tier talent early. They become the school of choice for the remaining uncommitted talent vis-a-vis the rest of the conference/in-state schools (although A&M, of course, also has to deal with the likes of Oklahoma).

Below are my latest rankings. You should note that the rankings are only based on actual high school verbals and do not reflect the status schools may have with uncomitted prospects. Moreover, I do not include junior college prospects in my rankings (I know that Arkansas already has a JUCO commitment):

1. Texas

The Longhorns just keep on rolling and have added two verbals since our last update. Jarvis Humphrey is this year's top prospect out of talent-laden Cedar Hill and among the better DL prospects in the nation. Nolan Brewster is the first out-of-state verbal and possibly the top prospect in Colorado. His dad is the new head coach at Minnesota and is a close friend of Mack Brown. Brewster may have been the first prospect in the nation offered by the Longhorns this year.

Southlake Carroll products Tre' Newton and Riley Dodge are two of the most high profile verbals. They have helped lead their team to consecutive state 5A titles and have great bloodlines with Dodge's father being a former Texas QB (Todd Dodge) who just accepted the head coaching job at North Texas and Newton's dad being former NFL player Nate Newton. Dodge is perhaps the most impressive prep QB in the nation and if he were a couple of inches taller he would have had the entire universe after him. Even with his lack of stature he could still wind up starring at the position in college, he's that good. And if things don't work out at QB he has the athleticism and quicks to play another position, such as WR.

Antoine Hicks and Kheeston Randall are the other two underrated verbals. They aren't as highly touted as most of the other signees but Texas does a great job of evaluating top in-state talent before everyopne else and both of these kids have great feet for their size and fine athleticism. Randall plays fo a small private school so has been under the radar. Hicks is a prep QB but will likely move to another position in college.

Snow is one of three national elite offensive linemen in the state. Buckner is probably the state's top WR and among the nation's best. Monroe is a national-caliber DB. Hills is the RB they wanted and the younger brother of Longhorn Tony Hills. Buchanan has been quickly moving up the charts and ranks just below the elite 3 OLs in the state. Tucker is arguably the nation's top kicker. The others are also all very good, Acho being a small school star and the younger brother of Longhorn signee Sam Acho and Williams looking very, very good at the U.S. Army Combine in San Antonio. Fitzhenry is a star prep QB who will play DB in college.

1 David Snow OL 6'4 280 5.10 Gilmer Texas
2 Dan Buckner WR 6'5 200 4.47 Allen Texas
3 Nolan Brewster DB 6'2 195 4.60 Denver Mullen Colorado
4 D.J. Monroe DB/WR/RB 5'10 160 4.40 Angleton Texas
5 Jeremy Hills RB 6'0 186 4.40 Alief Elsik Texas
6 Jarvis Humphrey DL 6'2 290 5.00 Cedar Hill Texas
7 Riley Dodge QB/WR/DB 5'11 170 4.59 Southlake Carroll Texas
8 Tre' Newton RB 6'0 194 4.60 Southlake Carroll Texas
9 Aaron Williams DB 6'0 175 4.40 Round Rock McNeil Texas
10 Mark Buchanan OL 6'5 265 4.90 Austin High Texas
11 Ryan Roberson LB/RB 5'10 210 4.52 Brenham Texas
12 Justin Tucker PK 6'0 165 4.65 Austin Westlake Texas
13 Brock Fitzhenry DB/RB/QB/ATH 5'10 180 4.42 Giddings Texas
14 Luke Poehlmann OL 6'7 260 4.98 Brenham Texas
15 Emmanuel Acho LB 6'2 210 4.60 Dallas St. Mark's Texas
16 Antoine Hicks WR/QB/ATH 6'2 190 4.50 Mansfield Timberview Texas
17 Kheeston Randall DL 6'4 270 4.97 Beaumont Monsignor Kelly Texas

2. Texas A&M

Remarkable early numbers for the Aggies. They are holding steady since our last update at 19 verbals .

Make no mistake, this class lacks the elite top talent of Texas and it will drop down in the rankings once other programs such as USC and Oklahoma start to catch up in numbers, but for the time being with the great quantity in early verbals coupled with several very fine prospects they most definitely merit the number two spot.

The most recent ten commitments include several of the very best prospects in the class. Aundre Dean is one of the better backs in Texas and played for one of the state's top teams. Lamar Harris is another talented prospect from Gilmer who could play on either side of the ball. The three top Gilmer kids have decided to go their separate ways with Justin Johnson headed to Oklahoma and David Snow to Texas.

Keon Furtch and Derrick Hall (one of the fastest players in the state) were being heavily recruited by such programs as LSU and Nebraska and are real good gets. Tony Jerod is another highly regarded verbal. Tommy Dorman was the QB they wanted.

Of the earlier verbals, Square and Johnson could play for anybody and are potential national top 100 types (not quite there yet). Chevalier and Davis are two very athletic and huge linemen who I really like. These are "high ceiling" types who could really surprise. Hyde is almost as good. Lots of very good linemen.

1 Damian Square LB/DL 6'3 230 4.74 Houston Yates Texas
2 Dravannti Johnson LB/DL 6'2 218 4.68 Nederland Texas
3 Lamar Harris DB/WR 6'1 180 4.60 Gilmer Texas
4 Derrick Hall WR/DB/RB 5'11 190 4.30 Beaumont Central Texas
5 Keon Furtch WR/DB 6'2 190 4.50 Paris Texas
6 Tony Jerod DL/TE 6'5 252 4.60 De Soto Texas
7 Leroy Chevalier OL 6'5 315 5.40 Houston Yates Texas
8 Roderick Davis DL 6'4 307 4.95 Aldine Eisenhower Texas
9 Aundre Dean RB 6'1 190 4.48 Katy Texas
10 Jeffrey Hyde OL 6'4 270 4.90 Colleyville Covenant Christian Texas
11 Tommy Dorman QB 6'3 204 4.80 North Richland Hills Birdville Texas
12 Markell Martin DB/WR 6'3 180 4.50 Wichita Falls Rider Texas
13 Kendall Wright WR/DB/ATH 6'0 170 4.40 Pittsburg Texas
14 Blake Chavis DL 6'5 240 Beaumont West Brook Texas
15 Kyle Mangan LB 6'2 225 4.85 Brenham Texas
16 Jordan Fields DB/WR 6'0 185 4.55 Paris Texas
17 Brian Thomas OL 6'4 270 5.00 Pearland Texas
18 Joe Villavisencio OL 6'5 310 5.20 Jacksonville Texas
19 Josh Ayers OL 6'5 282 5.00 Euless Trinity Texas

3. Oklahoma

The Sooners are back with a roar. They don't have the quantity of early verbals that Texas and A&M have received, but their top quality is as good as anybody. In fact, some feel that they may have landed four of the top seven prospects in Texas in Washington, Good, Calhoun and Johnson. One UT service had Good as the states top prospect. I wonder if that will hold?

The most recent additioins include stud RB Jermie Calhoun, giving the Sooners possibly the top two backs in Texas in Calhoun and Johnson, and big OT Britt Mitchell, who committed to Oklahom soon afer decommitting from A&M.

1 Stephen Good OL 6'5 265 5.06 Paris Texas
2 R.J. Washington DL/LB 6'3 234 4.62 Keller Fossil Ridge Texas
3 Jermie Calhoun RB/DB 6'0 195 4.49 Van Texas
4 Justin Johnson RB/LB 6'3 210 4.50 Gilmer Texas
5 Daniel Franklin LB 6'3 215 4.60 Mount Airy Habersham Central Georgia
6 Britt Mitchell OL/DL 6'8 300 5.05 Roscoe Texas

4. USC

The Trojans continue to roll along, as the recruiting juggernaut has picked up an additional two verbals since our last update. The most recent additions include stud LB/SS Maurice Simmons, likely the top 'backer in California and an elite national recruit, and RB Curtis McNeal, an undersized back who will likely specialize as a return man for the Trojans.

Their first two verbals, Shoemate and Kalil, are national top 100 types and among the nation's best at their respective positions. They also happen to be from the same school! Other verbals are headed by talented DE Wes Horton, a high-ceiling type with a great frame. Chris Polk and Matt Meyer are both solid gets and similar in ways to Shoemate and Kalil, respectively, although not quite at their elite level. The beat goes on......

1 Dennis "D.J." Shoemate WR/DB 6'1 212 4.50 Anaheim Servite California
2 Matt Kalil OL 6'7 262 5.34 Anaheim Servite California
3 Maurice Simmons LB/DB 6'1 202 4.66 Compton Dominguez California
4 Wes Horton DL/TE 6'6 230 4.80 Sherman Oaks Notre Dame California
5 Chris Polk WR/RB/DB 5'11 191 4.50 Redlands East Valley California
6 Matt Meyer OL 6'8 285 Stockton Lincoln California
7 Curtis McNeal RB/WR/DB 5'6 171 4.62 Los Angeles Venice California

5. Georgia

Two more additions for the Bulldogs, who are putting togethr th top class in the SEC. DeAngelo Tyson is a national top 100-type and one of the nation's top DT prospects. He's a huge get for Georgia. Boykin is a quick CB and th cousin of fellow Georgia verbal Martin Ward. He's a bit more of a sleeper type.

Blair Walsh is probably the top kicker in Florida. . Green is a super, arguably the top WR in the nation in a year absolutely loaded at the position. RB will be a position of strength in the future with Samuel and Ward on board. Many feel that Samuel is the top back in the state while Ward looked very good at the U.S. Army combine. Washington is a terror off the edge who has run the 100-meters in the 10.7s (electronic). Once he fills out he could be scary. Allen is a fine TE prospect.

1 A.J. Green WR 6'4 184 4.56 Summerville South Carolina
2 Richard Samuel RB 6'0 197 4.47 Cartersville Cass Georgia
3 Cornelius Washington DL/LB 6'4 220 4.51 Waynesboro Burke County Georgia
4 DeAngelo Tyson DL 6'2 276 5.10 Statesboro Georgia
5 Martin Ward RB 5'9 188 4.65 Jonesboro Mt. Zion Georgia
6 Dwayne Allen TE/DL 6'3 217 4.92 Fayetteville Terry Sanford North Carolina
7 B.J. Brand OL 6'4 324 5.47 Douglas Coffee County Georgia
8 Blair Walsh PK 5'10 170 Fort Lauderdale Cardinal Gibbons Florida
9 Brandon Boykin DB 5'11 171 4.45 Fayetteville Fayette County Georgia


The Bruins enjoyed a Texas-calibver junior day a few weeks ago, landing about ten prospects in just a coupe of days. This is a talented group. They won't challenge USC for Pac-10 recruiting supremacy this year, but there is a good chance they wil finish number two.

Rahim Moore is the class headliner and among the top DBs in the nation. He and rising bullet Datone Jones had also received offers from USC, and it hasn't been too often in recent history that the Bruins have been able to out recruit the Trojans for a prospect.

Holmes is another DL I like a lot and he, along with a couple of others, may have eventually received Trojan offers. Note that all the verbals are from Southern California, especially urban areas such as L.A. and Compton.

1 Rahim Moore DB 6'2 190 4.45 Los Angeles Dorsey California
2 Datone Jones DL/OL 6'4 235 4.80 Compton California
3 Damien Holmes DL/TE/RB 6'3 245 4.94 Colton California
4 Kemonte Bateman WR 6'0 175 4.40 Los Angeles Crenshaw California
5 Uonga Kaveinga LB 6'0 228 4.76 Lawndale Leuzinger California
6 Antwon Moutra WR/DB 6'2 175 4.45 Culver City California
7 Johnathan Franklin RB/LB 5'11 185 4.40 Los Angeles Dorsey California
8 Jerry Johnson WR 6'2 186 4.60 Los Angeles Venice California
9 Anthony Dye DB 5'11 182 4.48 Corona Santiago California
10 Aaron Hester DB/WR 6'0 180 4.79 Compton Dominguez California

7. Ohio State

The Big Ten recently had a down year in recruiting, but the Buckeyes are doing more than their fair share in ensuring there won't be a repeat. It'a good year for talent in Ohio and a great year for TEs. Since our last update the Buckeyes have pulled in five verbals, with suburban Columbus teammates Adams and Stoneburner leading the way. Adams has drawn comparisons to the late Korey Stringer and is near the top of the list of a strong group of OLs in the nation this year. Stoneburner has the speed to split wide and frame to become an exceptional receiving TE.

Torrence has the skills to play on either side of the ball but will probably be a LB in Columbus. He's also a standout prospect and possibly even more talented than his older brother Devon, who signed with Ohio State in February. Posey may be a bit under the radar at WR as it's such a great year nationally, but the Buckeyes offered early and really, really like him. They do a great job of evaluating in-state WR talent (think Anthony Gonzales) so don't be surprised to see DeVier develop in to an elite Big Ten receiver.

It's a great year for kickers in the state, and Buchanan probably has the strongest leg and definitely is the most versatile as both a kicker and punter.

The Buckeyes have taken an early lead in the Big Ten recruiting race.

1 Mike Adams OL 6'7 300 5.47 Dublin Coffman Ohio
2 Jake Stoneburner TE/WR 6'5 218 4.54 Dublin Coffman Ohio
3 Devoe Torrence LB/RB 6'2 215 4.50 Canton South Ohio
4 DeVier Posey WR 6'1 179 4.65 Cincinnati La Salle Ohio
5 Ben Buchanan P/PK/WR 6'0 185 Westerville Central Ohio

8. Notre Dame

Notre Dame picked up a huge verbal the other day in talented TE Kyle Rudolph, perhaps the nation's best at his position. He has a high ceiling. The other four verbals are all prospects with "high floors" and decent ceilings, typical Notre Dame Catholic school kids. The only non-Catholic school prospect, Cave, plays just down the road for state power Penn (same program as Mike Rosenthal a few years back).

The Irish have done a good job in locking-up local talent, landing two of the top three prospects in Indiana along with Cwymar, who is one of the top top linemen in the midwest. Golic, the son of the former ND star and current ESPN broadcaster of the same name, called in from his vacation in Italy to commit to the Irish. He is one of the top linemen in the east. By the way, he has a younger brother to keep an eye out for next year! Goodman will remind Irish fans of Jeff Smardzja.

1 Kyle Rudolph TE 6'7 220 4.70 Cincinnati Elder Ohio
2 Sean Cwynar DL/OL 6'4 280 Woodstock Marian Central Catholic Illinois
3 John Goodman WR/QB/ATH 6'3 187 4.71 Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger Indiana
4 Mike Golic OL 6'5 260 5.10 West Hartford Northwest Catholic Connecticut
5 Braxston Cave OL 6'3 292 5.38 Mishawaka Penn Indiana

9. Tennessee

The Vols is looking to put together back-to-back outstanding classes and are on the road to succeeding in so doing. They have not received any new commitments since our last update. Douglas has great bloodlines and leads a talented early group. Adding Bartholomew gives them a nice start in wrapping up in-state talent. They are also doing a nice job of raiding neighboring states early for blue-chip talent. Johnson, Poole (a soft verbal) and Floyd would have all been very heavily recruited.

1 Aaron Douglas TE 6'7 240 4.90 Maryville Tennessee
2 Austin Johnson LB 6'3 235 4.65 Hickory North Carolina
3 Tauren Poole RB 5'10 194 4.65 Toccoa Stephens County Georgia
4 J.T. Floyd DB 5'11 176 4.73 Greenville J.L. Mann South Carolina
5 Ben Bartholomew LB/TE/P 6'3 225 Nashville Montgomery Bell Academy Tennessee

10. Nebraska

Steinkuhler is the top prospect in the state (a good year in Nebraska) and among the nation's top linemen. Hoch is probably the top prospect in Iowa and a great early get away from the Hawkeyes. Nebraska jumped on first-year player Okafor as soon as he started to make a name for himself and before other programs could get wind of this fine talent. Watch for talented in-state lineman Trevor Robinson to be the next prospect to fall the Cornhuskers way.

1 Baker Steinkuhler OL/DL 6'6 270 4.93 Lincoln Southwest Nebraska
2 Dan Hoch OL 6'7 273 Harlan Iowa
3 Collins Okafor RB 6'1 205 4.50 Omaha Westside Nebraska

11. Clemson

There are no new verbals for Clemson since our last update.

Bowers is an elite national prospect and a huge get for the Tigers. They are already set at QB with ahtletic Kyle Parker and Jon Richt, the son of Georgia head coach Mark Richt. Jones is a nice receiver and Skinner a fine long-snapper.

1 DaQuan Bowers DL/TE 6'6 265 4.70 Bamberg-Ehrhardt South Carolina
2 Kyle Parker QB 6'0 190 4.55 Jacksonville Bartram Trail Florida
3 Marquan Jones WR 6'0 175 Blythewood South Carolina
4 Matt Skinner OL/LSN 6'6 220 Jacksonville Bolles Florida
5 Jon Richt QB 6'1 185 5.48 Athens Prince Avenue Christian Georgia

12. Michigan

Cissiko is probably the best pure cover corner in the class and was the overall MVP at the U.S. Army Combine. He helps alleviate the sting of losing RoJo to USC.

O'Neill verballed just recently and is the top lineman int he state. He helps fill a crucial need as the Wolverines will be recruiting the OL hard this year.

1 Boubacar Cissoko DB/WR 5'9 175 4.40 Detroit Cass Tech Michigan
2 Dan O'Neill OL/DL 6'7 295 Grand Haven Michigan

13. Miami

The Hurricanes need to have a huge recruiting year in 2007-2008 after the recent coaching changover. They have gotten off to a very good start by pickingup two verbals at their recent junioir day from two of the state's elite linemen. Both Regis and Washington have the size and athleticism that one associates with Miami linemen of years past who went on to play on Sundays. Also, there are rumors that stud DB Patrick Johnson is a silent verbal to Miami.

Just recruiting their fair share of the talent in southeastern Florida should be enough to return Miami to the elite echelon of college football.

1 Micanor Regis DL 6'3 310 5.19 Pahokee Florida
2 Brandon Washington OL 6'4 305 5.47 Miami Edison Florida

14. BYU

There are no new verbals for BYU since our last update. Holt, one of the nation's elite TE prospects, tops the list. The Sorensen cousins are also very good prospects.

1 Austin Holt TE/LB 6'6 220 4.90 South Jordan Bingham Utah
2 Daniel Sorensen DB/WR/PK 6'0 175 Colton California
3 Justin Sorensen PK/LB 6'2 215 South Jordan Bingham Utah
4 Cameron Comer DB/WR 6'1 170 4.56 Springville Utah

15. Alabama

Nick Saban is taking an interesting approach in his irst recruiting season at Alabama. It's similar to what new coaches at Nebraska and Mississippi have done in recent years. That is, sending out many early offers, some to not so-elite kids, in order o get the ball rolling and some momentum building.

The three DLs are all very athletic and quick (note that thy are all TEs on offense). I especially like Williams with his great frame and quickness. Smith is also an outstanding get as he is one of the top overall kickers in the nation.

1 Michael Williams DL/TE 6'6 240 4.70 Reform Pickens County Alabama
2 Undra Billingsley DL/TE 6'4 265 4.70 Birmingham Woodlawn Alabama
3 Brandon Lewis DL/TE 6'4 260 Pleasant Grove Alabama
4 Corey Smith PK/P 6'0 190 Bunker Hill Musselman West Virginia
5 Jermaine Preyear RB 5'11 198 4.40 Mobile Davidson Alabama

16. West Virginia

Jenkins is among the nation's elite prospects and Rich Rodriguez is going to have to hold off the rest of world in keeping him a Mountaineer.

1 Josh Jenkins OL/DL 6'3 282 5.20 Parkersburg West Virginia
2 Jeff Braun DL/OL 6'5 315 5.50 Winters Mill Maryland

17. Oklahoma State

Gillespie is a great pick-up from local power Jenks and i among the top DL prospects in the nation. Same goes with kicker Sharp. Spano ranks among the top QBs in Texas. Nice start for th Cowboys as they join th Big 12's early rush of verbals.

1 Tony Gillespie DL/RB/TE 6'2 295 4.90 Jenks Oklahoma Oklahoma State
2 Quinn Sharp PK/P 6'0 180 4.60 Mansfield Summit Texas Oklahoma State
3 Kody Spano QB 6'3 200 4.75 Stephenville Texas Oklahoma State

18. Virginia Tech

Taylor is a monster and among the nation's elite linebackers. McCoy is a nice-sized receiver with good ball skills. Fuller is another pretty decent possession receiver.

1 Bruce Taylor LB/DL 6'3 230 4.65 Myrtle Beach South Carolina
2 Derrick McCoy WR/LB/DB 6'3 210 4.55 Amherst County Virginia
3 Austin Fuller WR 6'3 200 4.69 Richlands Virginia

19. Arkansas

Hall is among the nation's largest prospects and is a true blue-chiipper. Still a bit raw as he grows into his body, but has a very, very high ceiling. Youngblood is the top QB in the state and was just starting to receive national attention when he committed to Arkansas.

1 Matt Hall OL 6'9 312 5.60 Dardanelle Arkansas
2 Jim Youngblood QB 6'3 212 4.69 Camden Fairview Arkansas

20. Missouri

Missouri landed one of the nation's top TE prospects in Andrew Jones, one of the top 3 prospects in the state. Ruth and Madison are more sleeper types. Madison plays for a small school but has a great frame that should fill out nicely in college.

1 Andrew Jones TE/DL 6'5 225 5.06 Smithville Missouri
2 Travis Ruth OL 6'3 280 Jefferson City Missouri
3 Brad Madison OL/DL 6'5 235 South Harrison Missouri