October 29, 2009

Ask Jamie: Race for top class heats up

Jamie Newberg is a football recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. He tackles your questions in his weekly mailbag feature.
Previous mailbags:
Oct 21: Luc to leave the state?
Oct 14: FSU falling out of favor?
Oct 7: Big win boosts USF recruiting

Just call it the "Amazing Race" the race for the coveted No. 1 recruiting class in the nation.

Over the next 10 weeks there are a half dozen college football programs that will battle it out for the top spot in the land. Just who are they and who's still on their respective recruiting boards?

There's a lot of speculation that Miramar wide receiver Ivan McCartney could leave the state of Florida. Will he or won't he?

Have you heard of 2011 standout Lawrence Thomas? If not, you will soon, as Thomas is the top junior from the state of Michigan and will be one of the nation's most coveted prospects next season.

These topics are some of the items addressed in this week's mailbag.

Jamie's Mailbag
Race for No. 1

Who finishes with the No. 1-ranked recruiting class?

-- Jeff from Dallas
Right now the top-ranked school is Texas. The Longhorns have gone wire to wire thus far, but I don't see how they can hang on to the No. 1 spot simply because they won't have the numbers.

Then you have one of the nation's big surprises in Penn State at No. 2. Who said Joe Paterno couldn't recruit? He's putting together a stellar class, and the Nittany Lions still have some giant recruits on the board like defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd and running back Marcus Lattimore that they could land. Will it be enough for Penn State to win the mythical recruiting national championship?


So who's in play for the top spot come National Signing Day 2010? I think the top class falls to USC, Florida, Tennessee, Alabama, LSU or Notre Dame. All have a chance to secure the nation's top recruiting class. Sure, that is a half dozen schools, and these six are fighting for many of the same elite prospects. But it's too hard to project at this time which school will finish on top.

It would surprise no one to see USC finish with the No. 1 class. Certainly there has been no team that has recruited like the Trojans since 2000. I have said it before and I will say it again, they dominated this decade in recruiting like Florida State did in the '90s.

Pete Carroll and his Trojans are in the hunt with so many elite players from all over the country. They may not be the leader in many of these cases, but you just can't dismiss Carroll and his program when they are involved. So be very aware of USC with running back Lache Seastrunk, wide receivers Chris Dunkley, Darius White and Christian Green, tight end Christian Thomas, offensive linemen Seantrel Henderson and Chaz Green, defensive linemen Jackson Jeffcoat, Ronald Powell, Ricky Heimuli, George Uko and Floyd, linebacker Jordan Hicks, Jeff Luc, Christian Jones and Josh Shirley, and defensive backs Dietrich Riley, Anthony Jefferson, Josh Shaw and Demetrius Wright and athlete Marquis Flowers. You just never know with USC.

If USC just lands its typical "share" from this group, look out.

I thought before this recruiting season that the Gators would have a shot at finishing No. 1. Florida is coming off a national title, it is ranked No. 1, there is so much talent in its home state and Urban Meyer and his staff want to certainly close better than they did this past February. Those are all ingredients for putting together an outstanding class.

The Gators' recruiting board is loaded with high caliber prospects like wide receivers Christian Green, Kenny Stills, Ivan McCartney and Dunkley, offensive tackle Chaz Green, defensive end Powell, Jeffcoat, Owamagbe Odighizuwa and Chris Martin, defensive tackle Floyd, linebackers Hicks, Christian Jones and Luc, defensive backs Shaw, Tony Jefferson, John Fulton, Cody Riggs and Lamarcus Joyner.

If the Gators get their share from the players listed above, they could prove tough to beat.

Alabama has proved it can recruit with anyone in the nation. After all, the Tide have finished with back-to-back top-ranked recruiting classes, and the future in Tuscaloosa looks bright under coach Nick Saban.

Once again the Tide should surge over the coming three-plus months, especially if they can close with big-time prospects like linebacker C.J. Mosley, cornerbacks Dequan Menzie, Mike Harris and Fulton, safety Keenan Allen, offensive linemen Arie Kouandjio, James Stone and Damien Robinson.

LSU had No. 1 all locked up this past season until it lost a couple of key recruits late in cornerback Janzen Jackson (Tennessee) and wide receiver DeAngelo Benton (Auburn). The Tigers finished No. 2 behind the Crimson Tide.

Once again, finishing atop the recruiting rankings could hinge on a couple of key recruits like running back Seastrunk and wide receiver Trovon Reed. Other key prospects on the Tigers' board are defensive end J.R. Ferguson, running backs Jakhari Gore and Alfred Blue and wide receiver James Wright.

My sleeper here is Tennessee. Last season, the Vols proved rather quickly they are a coaching staff to be reckoned with in recruiting after they came out of nowhere to land running back Bryce Brown and wide receivers Nu'Keese Richardson and Marsalis Teague.

The Volunteers are currently in striking distance of the top spot, and all of a sudden find themselves near the top with such prospects as linebacker Luc and offensive tackles and Jawuan James and Chaz Green. They are also working blue-chip recruits like wide receiver Dunkley, running backs Michael Dyer and Seastrunk, linebacker Jones, cornerbacks Terrence Mitchell and Menzie. Then, you have to worry about some committed prospects that Lane Kiffin and his staff will put the full-court press on like quarterback Jesse Scroggins, offensive lineman Shon Coleman, linebacker LaDarius Owens and safety Matt Elam.

Really, there's no prospect you can sleep on with Tennessee. This staff is that good. They are relentless.

I thought there was one team out there this year that would benefit more than any other in recruiting with a good season on the field and that team is Notre Dame. The Irish have done just that and find themselves sitting with quite a few big-time blue-chip prospects like offensive linemen Henderson, Matt James, James Stone and Brandon Linder, defensive linemen Louis Nix and Ferguson, athlete Anthony Barr, defensive backs Joyner and Riggs and others. A few key recruits should fall to Notre Dame, and the Irish will certainly find themselves in the mix for No. 1.

So will it be USC or Florida at the top spot? Can Alabama three-peat? Will LSU get the key recruits to claim No. 1? Will Kiffin and Tennessee shock the recruiting world once again? Can Notre Dame sneak by everyone? Regardless of what happens over the next 70 days, it should be the wildest recruiting ride ever, as what these six teams do between now and National Signing Day will likely dictate which gets that coveted top spot in the land.

McCartney a Mountaineer?

Can West Virginia pull wide receiver Ivan McCartney?

-- Billy from Cincinnati
Yes, I think the Mountaineers can. McCartney, 6-3 and 180 pounds, is from Miramar High School in south Florida. Last year two of his teammates, quarterback Eugene Smith and wide receiver Stedman Bailey, both signed with the Mountaineers. His relationship with those two and his connection with the West Virginia coaches certainly make them tough to beat. Then again, this Rivals100 member could decide to stay home and play for the Hurricanes.

Though I wouldn't exactly rule out Florida or Oregon, I think this is a West Virginia/Miami battle, and I like the Mountaineers' chances.

Future five-star?

How would you rank the two top juniors in Michigan, Lawrence Thomas and DeAnthony Arnett? Both are getting early offers and are having tremendous years.

-- Scott from Detroit
All I can say is, "Wow." Detroit Renaissance star Lawrence Thomas is just that, a star. I would bet he's going to have quite a few stars next to his name when he gets ranked and rated very soon. As a matter of fact, he could have five stars before it's all said and done.

I do believe that he will be the No. 1-ranked prospect in Michigan, or at least it appears so today. I also believe that Thomas, 6-4 and 232 pounds, will be one of the most sought-after defensive prospects in the country for the Class of 2011. Thomas is a freak, and I mean that in a good way. He's a terrific athlete that looks great on film. Thomas has a great frame and can really run. I am eager to see him in comparison to the other top prospects in the '11 class.

Meanwhile, who's No. 2 in Michigan? Who rounds out the top five? It's too early to tell and names like wide receiver DeAnthony Arnett, running back Justice Hayes, and cornerback Delonte Hollowell are a few to watch out for early.

Right now it appears that it's Thomas as the headliner for sure. After that it may not be a deep year in the state. It's early, and certainly new names will emerge.

Jamie Newberg is a recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. Click here to send him a question or comment for his mailbag.

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