The talent in New England is improving every recruiting season with the expectation that the "Patriots effect" still won't be seen for another three or four years. This year the emphasis seems to be on the state of Massachusetts fittingly with 7 of the top 10 players in New England hailing from the land of clam chowder. However, the headliner is from Central Connecticut and happens to be the highest ranked New Englander in many years.
Bristol (Conn.) Bristol Central tight end Aaron Hernandez is ranked as the No. 1 player at his position and a national top 35 player with the potential to end up as a five-star prospect. Hernandez set a state record with 67 catches as a junior and will bring his versatile game to Gainesville, Fla. to play in the Gators offense. Hernandez has good size and great hands and is a matchup problem for linebackers and safeties.
Although not as well known, Mansfield, Mass. defensive end Corey Eason could have as much upside as anyone in New England. Eason has a great frame, long arms and a superb first step. He'll end up as a 270-pound pass rusher from someone.
Teammates and Boston College commitments, wide receiver Corey Gatewood and Dan Williams from Roslindale (Mass.) The Belmont School are both solid college prospects. Gatewood found the end zone 12 times as a junior and Williams is a hard-hitting tackling machine.
The run on offensive linemen begins at No. 5 as Nashua (N.H.) Bishop Guertin guard Mark Spinney checks in. Spinney is an athletic big man who could also play defensive end. He's followed by tackles Nathan Richman and Chris Shannon. Richman, from Braintree (Mass.) Thayer Academy, posted two sub 5.0-second 40-yard dash times at summer camps recently at 6-foot-7 and 271 pounds. Shannon, from Andover (Mass.) Phillips Academy, earned offers from Duke and Maryland with his impressive size and work ethic. Tackle Jonathan Needham from Melrose, Mass. checks in at No. 10.
The biggest surprise on this list is Waterbury (Conn.) Holy Cross safety Dan Mulrooney. The 6-foot-1, 190-pounder ran two sub 4.5-second 40-yard dashes this summer and flashed excellent coverage ability and strength. He earned offers from Boston College and UConn and recently committed to the Eagles.
Westwood (Mass.) Xaverian Brothers defensive end Eriks Reks checks in at No. 9 and is committed to Duke.