January 28, 2008

Rivals5: State battles

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There are a few states that you can count on to consistently produce top football talent on a yearly basis. The competition for that talent is heated and the top programs in them have to not only battle each other, but also raiders from outside the state to secure commitments from the top prospects. Rivals.com's experts declare the winners of five of the best state battles in this feature.

Rivals5: State battles
The Combatants: California, UCLA, USC

The Winner: USC

Been there, done that. That should be the motto for the USC Trojans as they came out ahead once again when it comes to the top talent in the Golden State. While the competition was much tougher as UCLA, Cal and even Arizona State made things interesting this recruiting season, the Trojans are still top dogs. Looking at the top 25 in California, the Trojans secured commitments from five of the top seven players and seven of the top 14. USC is going to miss on the top prize in the state running back Darrell Scott but it did pull in stud linemen Matt Kalil and Tyron Smith and tight end Blake Ayles should be a big-time weapon for the Trojans. UCLA was in line to definitely make things a lot more interesting in state this season, but with the departure of Karl Dorrell the Bruins lost some top kids to de-commitments. Still there is some good talent heading to Westwood. - Jeremy Crabtree

The Combatants: Florida, Florida State, Miami

The Winner: Miami

Florida may be sitting atop the national team recruiting rankings but the Gators will have to settle for second place within their own state. Though the University of Miami may not be quite the Miami of old on the field, The U is still the team to beat when it comes to south Florida talent. Marcus Forston is the jewel of the class and he is joined by five past and future teammates that composed high school football's most talented team at Miami Northwestern. The class also consists of two teammates from Miami's Booker T. Washington High School in Thearon Collier and Davon Johnson. The cherry on top for Miami would be the potential addition of a third Booker T. Washington standout: four-star cornerback Brandon Harris. - Barton Simmons

The Combatants: North Carolina, N.C. State, Wake Forest, Duke, East Carolina

The Winner: NC State

This is an easy call. NC State coach Tom O'Brien did a fine job his first year in state, hauling in numerous players who can make an early impact. Linebacker Terrell Manning, offensive tackle R.J. Mattes and athlete Brandon Barnes are all headliners and offensive lineman Andrew Wallace and linebacker Dwayne Maddox add depth to the in-state class. Athlete E.J. Abrams-Ward hasn't decided as of this writing and he could be a great addition to UNC's class if they land him and the Heels will sign linebacker Kevin Reddick and quarterback Braden Hanson but it's not enough. East Carolina did some nice work in state while Wake Forest and Duke focused more out of state. - Mike Farrell

The Combatants: Penn State, Pittsburgh

The Winner: Pitt

With Western Pennsylvania so loaded this recruiting year, Pitt had the early advantage. However, it didn't look like they'd be able to take advantage beyond Lucas Nix and some lesser players. But with late commitments from Jonathan Baldwin, Shayne Hale, Cameron Saddler and Jarred Holley, the Panthers hit a home run. Throw in four-star running back Chris Burns and this is a great in-state class. Penn State did land linebacker Mike Yancich, tight end Mark Wedderburn and Matt Stankiewitch, all top-20 players in the state, but it's not enough to overcome Pitt's haul. - Mike Farrell

The Combatants: Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma

The Winner: Texas

The battle for Texas this season was won once again by the Texas Longhorns, as UT managed to snag seven of the top 25 players in the Lone Star State. But the competition was extremely tough this season and some could even make a solid argument that Oklahoma was top dog in state as the Sooners landed six of the top 25 players, including the top three five-star prospects in the state. But what gives Texas the nod is the depth in this class in-state. Not only did UT land top-ranked stars like Aaron Williams and D.J. Monroe, they were able to land state top 100 prospects like Kheeston Randall and D.J. Grant. A&M also did a nice job considering the Aggies went through a coaching change, as guys like running back Cyrus Gray and Jeff Fuller have shots at being stars. - Jeremy Crabtree

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