The Garden State always produces D-IA talent, as evidenced by the 50+ players who signed with schools this past February for the 2004 recruiting year. As we look ahead to 2005, here are some of the names to remember who will evenutally sign with big-time programs...
OL Eugene Monroe -- "Mean Gene" is 6-foot-7 and 330 pounds and moves very well for a massive tackle. He's a Bryant McKinnie (former New Jersey standout) clone and already has more then 20 written offers. Monroe is still a work in progress and needs to improve his technique and get more physical, but you can't teach his size and quickness. One example of Monroe's athletic ability -- he's a top handball player. Who's his early favorite? Right now he's not sure, although watch out for Virginia. New UVA assistant coach Mark D'Onofrio is very friendly with Monroe and was the first coach to offer him when he was at Rutgers.
LB Jerome Hayes -- Hayes is a fine physical specimen at 6-foot-2 and 225 pounds with speed in the 4.6-second 40-yard dash range. The question is -- will he be a big, bruising running back or a sideline to sideline linebacker? Most schools like him as the latter, including Miami who offered him very early and need a stud linebacker like Hayes to replace Willie Williams. The 'Canes have some stiff competition from Michigan State, Iowa, Rutgers and others early.
DT Kade Weston -- One look at Weston and you instantly think he's a prototypical offensive tackle with his 6-foot-6, 290-pound frame. However, Weston has been strictly a defensive player in high school and doesn't want to think about offense. He plays very low and with great leverage for a tall, big defensive tackle and is a one-man wrecking crew against the run. Boston College and Rutgers were the first to offer Weston, but many others will be coming.
ATH Kitt Pommells -- Paterson Catholic head coach Benjie Wimberly says that Pommells is the best player he's coached -- strong words from a man who sent players like Lorenzo Crawford (Notre Dame), Shadu Moore (Boston College) and Davon Clark (Rutgers) off to college. Pommells can do it all at the high school level -- he plays defensive back, wideout, returns kicks and punts, long snaps, punts and is the backup kicker. He also played defensive end as a freshman and led the team in sacks. At 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds, Pommells will likely play safety or wideout in college. Boston College, Rutgers, Syracuse, Notre Dame, Virginia and many others are showing early interest for good reason.
WR Michael Ray Garvin -- You thought the days of the 5-foot-8 wideout/cornerback were over with guys like Mike Williams, Larry Fitzgerald and Roy Williams changing the passing game in college, right? Wrong. Garvin may not be very tall, but he's super fast and very strong. The 170-pounder can bench press nearly 300 pounds and squats 380, making him arguably the strongest player in New Jersey pound-for-pound this year. However, it's his speed that is attracting so much interest. At the U.S. Army All American Bowl junior combine, Garvin ran a 4.27-second 40-yard dash. Not believing their eyes, the testers made him run it again. On his second attempt he slowed down -- to 4.34-seconds. The fastest player in New Jersey likes Rutgers, Boston College, Maryland, Michigan and others early.
RB/ATH Rashawn Jackson -- Where do you play a guy who stands 6-foot-2, weighs 250 pounds and runs a 4.56-second 40-yard dash? The answer? Anywhere he wants. Kidding aside, Jackson is a physical freak with great size, speed and power. He could be a big running back in a single-back offense, an outside or inside linebacker or even a defensive end. Miami and Florida are already showing interest and all the locals want a piece of him as well.
LB Brian Cushing -- When you're compared to 2004 five-star stud linebacker Brian Toal, you have to be a player. That's exactly what Cushing is. At 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds, Cushing runs a 4.5-second 40-yard dash and loves to run down plays. He showed his ability in Bergen Catholic's narrow 14-13 loss to Toal's Don Bosco team in the state championship by registering double-digit tackles on a bad leg. Michigan is at the top of his list (he's visiting Ann Arbor this weekend on an unofficial visit) and he has offers from Stanford, Boston College, Syracuse and Rutgers already.