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July 15, 2010

Whispers: Leaders emerge for top prospects

Mike Farrell talks recruiting on Rivals Radio

With most college coaches taking some well-deserved time off, things are slow when it comes to recruiting rumors.

That makes it a perfect time to take a look at some of the top uncommitted prospects in the country and share some inside info as to where they could be leaning.

While the top four prospects are uncommitted, Tampa Plant athlete James Wilder Jr. could be the closest to a decision and is the subject of many rumors.

A few things have become clear when it comes to Wilder Jr., a 6-foot-2, 219-pounder who is the son of former NFL running back James Wilder, a Missouri alum. First, Wilder Jr. will be a running back at the next level. While there had been rumors of a potential switch to linebacker, he has made it clearer than ever that he wants to carry the ball and that schools looking at him as a linebacker can stop wasting their time.

Second, a team has emerged as a favorite for his signature. Early in the process, Wilder seemed to be favoring Florida State, Miami and Georgia and was looking at Florida only if he decided to play linebacker. But a lot has changed.

Sources say Florida now is the team to beat. Alabama, Georgia, Georgia Tech and possibly USC have a chance to supplant Florida, but it will take something special. Miami and Florida State have fallen back and aren't really contenders right now. Wilder has been to Alabama twice, so a return trip before his decision isn't expected. He will be at Georgia at the end of this week and will follow that with a visit to Georgia Tech, but sources say it's more to confirm his choice of Florida than anything else. A visit to USC is possible for next week, but barring something strange, he's not expected to head that far away to play football.

Why Florida? After all, the Gators haven't had a power running back since Urban Meyer arrived and many running backs have been scared away because of Meyer's spread offense. But Florida has had a power running game; it's just that it was a quarterback (Tim Tebow) and not a running back getting the carries.

Sources say Wilder Jr. is enthused that Florida looks to be moving to a more traditional power running game and is recruiting fullbacks; Tampa Catholic's Hunter Joyer, the nation's No. 1 fullback, is a Florida commitment. Florida is expected to still feature the dive play and many inside and off-tackle running plays, but instead of Tebow carrying the ball, Wilder would be the guy. Throw in his comfort level at Florida as well as that of his family, and the Gators will be tough to beat.

Things could change; there's Georgia's running back tradition and pro-style offense and the attraction of being the next "B back" at Georgia Tech, a la Jonathan Dwyer. Alabama can't be discounted, either, although the Tide came on a bit later than others as far as Wilder's interest.

More five-star talk

There are six other five-star prospects who remain uncommitted, with Alabama in the mix for four of them. The biggest rumor this past week is in regard to the nation's No. 1 player, Rock Hill (S.C.) South Pointe defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.

Clowney long has been considered a strong South Carolina lean, and while the Gamecocks are in the hunt, two other teams have emerged as serious threats - with Alabama leading the way.

A good source says Alabama has become the team to beat for Clowney following a recent visit. In fact, sources from the Rock Hill area say that all he talks about is the Tide, which is worrisome to South Carolina and North Carolina, the other school that has emerged as a true threat. While some of this could be post-visit enthusiasm, Alabama is here to stay in this battle. North Carolina is as well, selling to Clowney how he could become the next Robert Quinn, the big defensive end who is expected to be a high first-rounder in next year's NFL draft.

If Clowney were to decide today, it would be Alabama despite former teammates Stephon Gilmore and Devonte Holloman currently playing at South Carolina and the proximity to home.

Alabama also is about to enter the Tony Steward sweepstakes. Steward, the nation's No. 2 player, is a linebacker from St. Augustine (Fla.) Pedro Menendez. He currently lists Clemson No. 1 and Florida State No. 2, with Florida and Alabama just behind. But most feel he is the Seminoles' to lose.

Steward is scheduled to be at Alabama next week for camp, and you can bet a huge push will be made by the Tide.

Alabama also involved with two other five-star prospects - offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio of Hyattsville (Md.) DeMatha and linebacker Curtis Grant of Richmond (Va.) Hermitage.

The Tide has to be considered the leader for Kouandjio, whose brother, Arie, signed with Alabama in February. Cyrus will be visiting Alabama early next week to visit his brother and check things out. Cyrus hopes to visit UCLA, California and USC this summer, but isn't sure if he will be able to make that trip. He has been to New Mexico (twice), Penn State, Pitt, Maryland, Virginia Tech and Virginia this spring and summer, and hopes to narrow his list to 15 schools by the end of July.

Grant has been to Alabama and sources say he came away impressed and that the Tide are high on his list. But most sources say Florida has emerged as the team to beat. Virginia Tech, Virginia, North Carolina, Clemson, Georgia and Georgia Tech are also in the mix, and Grant currently is visiting USC and UCLA. He hopes to see Michigan and Ohio State in early August and cut his list, possibly to five for official visits, during August.

The two remaining uncommitted five-star prospects are Gardena (Calif.) Junipero Serra wide receiver George Farmer and Cibolo (Texas) Steele running back Malcolm Brown. Farmer is considered a near-lock for USC, with Oregon, Florida, Miami and Alabama rounding out his top five. Brown is a huge Texas lean, followed by Florida State, Oklahoma and the Tide.

Alabama has little to no shot at either prospect, but it is impressive that the Tide is involved with every uncommitted five-star player left on the board.

If Farmer and Brown end up at schools other than USC and Texas, respectively, it will be stunning.

More Plant decisions

In addition to Wilder's decision, two other highly recruited players from Tampa Plant will be making their decisions at the end of July or in early August.

Leaders have emerged for quarterback Phillip Ely and offensive tackle Tony Posada.

Posada is expected to commit to Michigan unless Florida comes in with an offer, which could happen. Florida has offers out to double-digit offensive linemen, but only lead for Dover (Del.) High's Trip Thurman, who also likes Boston College and South Carolina. Florida already has a commitment from Tommy Jordan of Ridgefield (Conn.) High and wants to sign three or four linemen in this class, so it's possible the Gators could offer Posada. If they don't, it likely will be Michigan for Posada.

As for Ely, his situation is harder to read. Ely's top offer is from LSU, and the quarterback situation with the Tigers likely is the most attractive. LSU wants two quarterbacks in this class, one a pure passer and one athlete; Ely would be the pure passer. In a perfect world, LSU would land Ely and fellow Florida quarterback Jacoby Brissett of Palm Beach Gardens Dwyer, but there is serious competition for Brissett.

Suwanee (Ga.) North Gwinnett athlete C.J. Uzomah has narrowed his list to Auburn and LSU, and sources say he prefers LSU. Thus, it will be interesting to see if the Tigers hold out for Brissett or push on Uzomah.

If Ely doesn't end up at LSU, keep an eye on Clemson, Wake Forest and Ole Miss unless a school such as Florida, Notre Dame or Alabama offers.

Best guess right now is that Wilder ends up at Florida, Posada at Michigan and Ely at LSU.

SMU stunner

Four-star defensive end Davon Moreland's commitment to SMU last week can be considered one of the biggest surprises in recent recruiting memory, not just for this year but for the past decade or so.

Moreland is from Los Angeles Salesian, and his commitments makes sense in that he has family in Texas and has been sold on the idea of early playing time with the Mustangs. But Moreland is talented enough to get early playing time in the Pac-10 or another power conference.

This move - and its timing - is interesting. Moreland had offers from Arizona, Arizona State, Oregon State, San Diego State, Texas A&M, UCLA, USC and Washington. Many thought UCLA was his leader, and you can bet Rick Neuheisel and others will not give up on this one.

Big names at 'Dawg Night'

The Georgia Bulldogs coaching staff is gearing up for Friday's "Dawg Night," a one-night camp where numerous top prospects, both in-state and out, are invited.

Wilder will be there, and he will have plenty of company, especially from prospects who have Georgia higher on their list.

Perhaps the biggest target for Georgia who will attend is Columbus (Ga.) Carver running back Isaiah Crowell, the nation's No. 17 player. He has been to Georgia recently, but "Dawg Night" holds a great deal of significance for Crowell and Carver defensive tackle Gabriel Wright. At last year's "Dawg Night," Georgia coach Mark Richt invited Carver athlete Devin Burns to the event with the promise of an offer, only to send Burns and his family away disappointed.

Carver coach Dell McGee was outraged at what was deemed a miscommunication between Georgia and Burns (who signed with Maryland in the end) and banned Bulldogs coaches from his school. But fences have been mended, and Georgia once again is welcome at Carver.

Georgia is considered the leader for Crowell, followed closely by Alabama; Auburn leads for Wright, with the Bulldogs No. 2. Carver also will be sending 2012 standouts Artimas Samuel and Deion Bonner to "Dawg Night." Both are strong Georgia leans. Georgia recently added USC transfer Jarvis Jones, a 2009 Rivals100 member from Carver.

Other big names expected include Wadesboro (N.C.) Anson linebacker Stephone Anthony (a Florida lean), Tarpon Springs (Fla.) High offensive tackle Zach Debell (heavy Georgia lean) and Folkston (Ga.) Charlton County athlete Chris Milton (no offer but would commit if he received one). Those on the fence about attending for different reasons include defensive end Xzavier Dickson from Griffin (Ga.) High, Atlanta Grady athlete Damian Swann, Valdosta (Ga.) High safety Malcolm Mitchell and Fort Pierce (Fla.) Central defensive end Giorgio Newberry.

While Newberry is wide open, Georgia will be battling hard with Alabama for Dickson, Mitchell and Swann, so a good time at "Dawg Night" would help.

Seffner (Fla.) Armwood running back Matt Jones, a top 2012 prospect, will be on hand; he is a Georgia lean. Other 2012 prospects with an early Georgia offer expected to attend include Hamilton (Ga.) Harris County defensive end Jordan Jenkins and Jacksonville Bolles brothers Nathan Theus (2011 long snapper) and John Theus (2012 tackle prospect).

It wouldn't be a stunner to see Debell and the Theus brothers pull the trigger if things go well.

Cal picking up steam

There is a lot of recruiting news at Cal these days and it's all good for the Golden Bears, who are looking to build on last year's stellar recruiting class.

One rumor that continues to gain traction is that four-star running back Brendon Bigelow of Fresno (Calif.) Central East will end up in Berkeley even though he remains committed to Washington. A switch could be kept private just so numerous schools don't hound Bigelow, a source said, and it could happen months before it becomes public. Bigelow would be a top-five national prospect had he not injured his knee last year.

There also is talk that four-star defensive end Jason Gibson of Gardena (Calif.) Junipero Serra continues to like Cal more than others; Oregon and UCLA also are in his top group.

As with the last recruiting cycle, Cal's recruiting reach is stretching across the country. A source says four-star safety Avery Walls of McDonough (Ga.) Union Grove has been in close contact with Cal's coaching staff in recent weeks, and Cal now is in the top group for Matthews (N.C.) Butler athlete Kris Frost. California signed North Carolina natives Keenan Allen, Gabe King and Chris McCain in February.

Four-star cornerback Charles Jackson of Klein (Texas) Collins has been reaching out to Cal defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast, and there is a rumor that recent USC commitment Kent Turene wants to take an official visit to Berkeley. Turene, a linebacker from Lauderdale Lakes (Fla.) Boyd Anderson, is a four-star recruit.

The battle for Louisville

The recruiting battle in the city of Louisville escalated to a new level Tuesday when Kentucky coachJoker Phillips hired former Louisville recruiting coordinator Greg Nord.

Nord, a Kentucky grad and Louisville native, was on Louisville's staff for 15 years and was in charge of recruiting the city of Louisville for quite a few years before he and the rest of the staff was dismissed with Steve Kragthorpe in December. Nord had been hired as Illinois' tight ends coach in January and will be Kentucky's tight end coach and special teams coordinator.

Nord's hiring was a shot across the bow from Phillips to the new Louisville staff. UK has had success landing some of the top players in Louisville in recent years, but that seemed to change in December. New Louisville coach Charlie Strong got a commitment from Louisville Pleasure Ridge Park defensive tackle Brandon Dunn, held onto a commitment from receiver Stephan Robinson from Louisville Central and nearly reversed UK's huge lead for linebacker Tim Patterson from Louisville Central.

Strong and Louisville are dominating the city in 2011, having already landed commitments from defensive tackle Jamon Brown, safety Jalen Harrington and running back Jerrell Moore from Louisville Fern Creek, quarterback DaMarcus Smith from Louisville Seneca and wide receiver DeVante Parker from Louisville Ballard.

At UK, Nord will be tasked with keeping commitments from two Louisville players - athlete Jon Davis from Louisville Eastern and defensive back Daylen Hall from Louisville St. Xavier.


Roanoke (Va.) Cave Spring safety Michael Cole is expected to decide within the next few weeks. Before a recent visit to Virginia Tech, most expected Penn State to win this battle, but now it's too close to call. One would assume the Hokies would have the edge for an in-state prospect, but Cole is really high on Penn State.

Springfield (Ohio) High linebacker Trey DePriest is close to making a decision, and Alabama looks like his destination. DePriest has cancelled a trip to Florida for "Friday Night Lights" and never made an expected trip to Ohio State. Alabama linebacker coach Sal Sunseri is recruited DePriest and has done an amazing job with the out-of-state prospect.

Virginia Beach (Va.) Ocean Lakes quarterback/athlete Lafonte Thourogood is considered a strong Virginia Tech lean, especially with Hampton (Va.) High quarterback David Watford committing to Virginia last week. But Thourogood wants to visit Blacksburg and West Virginia again before deciding. He is expected to make his decision in August, if not sooner.

Athlete Quan Bray has transferred to LaGrange (Ga.) Troup from Hogansville (Ga.) Callaway, and that could have an impact on his decision. Georgia now is back in the picture after trailing Alabama, Auburn and Clemson, among others, when he was at Callaway. The staff at Troup is Georgia-friendly. Georgia is recruiting him as a slot receiver, while Clemson and Auburn are mentioning running back, the position he favors. Alabama wants him as a defensive back, but he prefers some offensive role. Auburn is thought to be his leader.

Austin (Texas) High wide receiver Cayleb Jones, a 2012 prospects, took recent visits to Miami and North Carolina, and was blown away by the Hurricanes. One of the top prospects for his class in Texas, Jones does not have any connection to the Texas Longhorns, so he isn't a lock to stay home. Texas is among his favorites, but he lives in Austin mainly because his father, former NFL linebacker Robert Jones, played for the Cowboys for many years. Jones' dad was coached by Miami head man Randy Shannon as well as North Carolina's Butch Davis, so a connection is in place at both schools. Jones is hoping to make an early decision.

Etiwanda (Calif.) High offensive tackle Jamal Prater is close to committing to Oregon, and all that needs to be done now is for him to visit Eugene. Prater, a three-star prospect, wanted to commit to the Ducks in recent weeks, but coach Chip Kelly has a visit-first policy. Washington State also was in the running.

Auburn, Alabama and Michigan are the final three for Orlando (Fla.) Dr. Phillips all-purpose back Demetrius Hart, with the Tigers and Wolverines as his top two and the Crimson Tide fading a little bit. In June, he was expected to commit to Michigan. But the longer this goes, the better it appears to be for Auburn.

Arizona State, Michigan and San Jose State have offered Gardena (Calif.) Junipero Serra linebacker Woodson Greer, but sources say he's more interested in Arizona and UCLA. Neither the Wildcats nor the Bruins have offered, but that means Greer might hold off on making a decision until he sees what those two schools will do.

Penn State and Ohio State are the favorites for Cleveland Glenville three-star inside linebacker Andre Sturdivant. Sources say Sturdivant definitely is interested in Penn State. The big questions are about academics and what position Sturdivant would play in college; some see him as a potential defensive tackle. Ohio State clearly has to be considered the team to beat, but will the Buckeyes have room?

Reserve (La.) East St. John cornerback Floyd Raven loved his recent visit to Texas A&M, and the Aggies now could be the team to beat over Ole Miss. If LSU offers, though, Raven likely goes there. Speaking of LSU and cornerbacks, Carrollton (Texas) Hebron's David Jenkins could commit to LSU next week at camp.

Dallas Smith tight end Chris Barnett has Arkansas and Oklahoma high on his list, but the Sooners aren't really recruiting him that hard. Barnett apparently is interested in Miami now after playing against a lot of south Florida prospects at the Badger Sports 7-on-7 who were talking up the 'Canes. He could take an official visit to Miami sometime during or after the season, and he likes the tight end tradition in Coral Gables.

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