Articles By Braden Gall

Path: /college-football/2012-recruiting-rankings-no-21-washington-huskies
Body:

-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)

No. 21: Washington Huskies (25 total signees)

Pac-12 Rank: 5th
Athlon Consensus 100 Signees: 2
National Signees: 5

Where They Got 'Em:

The two most important states for talent for Washington will always be the home Evergreen State and the talent-rich state of California. Steve Sarkisian apparently agrees, as he signed 15 prospects from the Golden State — including the top player in the state and top safety in the nation — and five from Washington. These two states made up 80% of the 2012 Husky class.

Additionally, he went into Colorado to get his quarterback of the future, landing the top player in that state. Arizona (1) and Hawaii (3) supplied the rest of the class, as Coach Sark needed only five states to land a bulky 25-man class.

Areas of Focus:

Washington was having a solid class in 2012, but Husky Nation got a huge boost when Sarkisian started rebuilding his coaching staff. Stealing star recruiter and D-Line coach Tosh Lupoi from Pac-12 North rival Cal sent ripple effects up and down the West Coast. He was directly responsible for landing the top player in this class. New coordinators Justin Wilcox and Eric Kiesau, as well as developing star recruiter and new linebacker coach Peter Sirmon, clearly injected a new energy into Husky recruiting. Washington has made a big financial statement that it is committing to returning to national prominence.

The No. 4-rated quarterback in the nation spearheads a stellar offensive class for quarterback guru Sarkisian and new offensive coordinator Kiesau. Mullen High's Cyler Miles was arguably the best quarterback in San Antonio during the U.S. Army event — one that also featured Notre Dame's Gunner Kiel — and might be the most game-ready signal caller prospect in the nation. He was 7-of-8 passing for 155 yards and scored twice as he earned Co-MVP honors of the national showcase. Miles is a fantastic athlete who has a great arm and is clearly a winner — as his back-to-back state championships in 2009 and 2010 would indicate. He is the sure-fire heir to Keith Price.

But just to be sure Miles doesn't take anything for granted, Sarkisian also signed in-state dual-threat quarterback Jeff Lindquist. The 6-3, 234-pounder threw for 1,908 yards and 22 touchdowns while rushing for 826 yards and 12 scores on the ground. Lindquist is no slouch himself and will undoubtedly push Miles every step of the way.

Five stellar offensive linemen make up the bulk of the offensive signing class. Three of the best in-state blockers — Nathan Dean, Jake Eldrenkamp and Cory English — lead this deep group of future hog mollies. Eldrenkamp won four straight state championships with Bellevue, English claimed his league's Offensive Lineman of the Year honors (Class 4A) at Auburn High, and Dean might have the most raw talent and upside of the bunch.

Three talented wide receivers join the squad led by the nationally rated Jaydon Mickens. The 5-11, 175-pounder earned Co-MVP honors of the Semper Fidelis All-American Game following his third straight trip to the CIF playoffs. Mickens is also a sprinter and long jumper on the track team. The lone prospect from Arizona, Kendyl Taylor, comes to Seattle after catching 87 passes for 1,132 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2011. The do-everything athlete was also used in the ground game to the tune of 558 yards on only 68 attempts. Expect Coach Sark to have fun finding ways to use Taylor in the future. Dwayne Washington is the biggest of the trio at 6-1 and 205 pounds and is also a sprinter and long jumper. He posted a 66-reception, 1,338-yard, 15-TD season of his own in 2011.

Running back Erich Wilson II and fullback Psalm Wooching add some depth to a backfield that loses one of the greatest Huskies of all time in Chris Polk. Wilson II (6-1, 190) rushed for a Serra High school-record 2,106 yards and 33 touchdowns in 2011, while Wooching (6-3, 217) rushed for 250 yards and three scores in the BIIF state championship win for Kealakehe High.

On defense, the class begins and ends with Shaq Thompson and the secondary group. Thompson is the nation's No. 1 defensive back (safety) prospect and is the top prospect from the state of California. It took two plays in the U.S. Army All-American bowl for fans to realize that Thompson was absolutely the real deal. The younger brother of former Cal cornerback Syd'Quan Thompson and a former Cal commitment, Thompson enters college listed at a stout 6-2, 215 pounds. He could easily bulk up and be one of the best linebackers in the Pac-12 as well. He has a Sean Taylor-like combination of size and speed and will be the clear-cut best prospect in this class. There might not be another prospect in the nation with as little downside as Thompson.

Nationally ranked cornerback Brandon Beaver and the versatile Cleveland Wallace restock the outside of the secondary. Beaver is one of the West Coast's top covermen, and Wallace excelled at running back, wide receiver, return specialist and defensive back in San Jose. Darien Washington is listed at "DB" and could be used in a variety of spots in the defensive backfield.

Nationally rated defensive end Pio Vatuvei leads a small three-man defensive line class that heads to Washington. Yet, the defensive line could grow should some of the linebackers in this class grow themselves.

Cory Littleton (6-4, 218) and Kalei Auelua (6-1, 227) could each grow into defensive ends but will start as linebackers. Ryan McDaniel, the highest-rated of the bunch, was an excellent running back in high school. The hard-nosed Blake Rodgers rounds out the four-man group.

Overall, this is an extremely versatile group in which fans could see plenty of position switching. Landing Thompson is one of the biggest recruiting victories of the entire 2012 cycle, and Miles appears poised for great things in college.

Positional Breakdown:

Offense: QB: 2, RB: 2, WR: 3, TE: 0, OL: 5, ATH: 0
Defense: DE: 1, DT: 2, LB: 4, DB: 4, K/P/LS: 2

AC100 Recruits:

6. Shaq Thomspon, S (6-2, 215), Sacramento (Calif.) Grant
91. Cyler Miles, QB (6-4, 218), Centennial (Colo.) Mullen

Other National Signees:

257. Jaydon Mickens, WR (5-11, 175), Los Angeles (Calif.) Dorsey
260. Brandon Beaver, CB (6, 176), Long Beach (Calif.) Dominiquez
265. Pio Vatuvei, DE (6-3, 272), Patterson (Calif.) Patterson

Athlon Sports' Top 25 Classes of 2012:

1. Alabama Crimson Tide

2. Texas Longhorns
3. Florida Gators
4. Ohio State Buckeyes

5. Florida State Seminoles
6. Michigan Wolverines
7. Stanford Cardinal
8. Miami Hurricanes
9. Georgia Bulldogs
10. USC Trojans
11. Oklahoma Sooners
12. Auburn Tigers
13. LSU Tigers
14. Texas A&M Aggies
15. UCLA Bruins
16. Clemson Tigers
17. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
18. Oregon Ducks
19. South Carolina Gamecocks
20. Tennessee Volunteers
21. Washington Huskies
22. Fri., Mar. 2
23. Sat., Mar. 3
24. Sun., Mar. 4
25. Sun., Mar. 4

Teaser:
<p> The Washington Huskies landed the No. 21 recruiting class in the nation in 2012.</p>
Post date: Thursday, March 1, 2012 - 05:51
Path: /college-football/lsu-tigers-2012-spring-preview
Body:

By Braden Gall (@BradenGall on Twitter)

The journey to claim the 2012 national title begins in February, March and April, as 124 college football teams open up spring practice over the next three months. Athlon will preview some of the top teams and storylines across the nation, as the countdown to 2012 inches closer. 

LSU Tigers 2012 Spring Preview

2011 Record: 13-1, 8-0 SEC

Spring practice: Mar. 1-Mar 31

Returning Starters: Offense – 6, Defense – 5, K/P — 2

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Zach Mettenberger, 8 of 11, 92 yards, 1 TD
Rushing: Michael Ford, 127 att., 756 yards, 7 TDs
Receiving: Odell Beckham, 41 rec., 475 yards, 4 TDs
Tackles: Tyrann Mathieu and Eric Reid, 76
Sacks: Sam Montgomery, 9
Interceptions: Four tied with 2

Redshirts to watch: CB Jalen Collins, DT Mickey Johnson, DL Quentin Thomas, OL Jonah Austin, CB David Jenkins, DB Micah Eugene

2012 Schedule

SEC 2012 Schedule Analysis

Sept. 1 North Texas
Sept. 8 Washington
Sept. 15 Idaho
Sept. 22 at Auburn
Sept. 29 Towson University
Oct. 6 at Florida
Oct. 13 South Carolina
Oct. 20 at Texas A&M
Nov. 3 Alabama
Nov. 10 Mississippi State
Nov. 17 Ole Miss
Nov. 23 or 24 at Arkansas

Offensive Strength: LSU might possess the best combination of offensive line experience and running back depth/talent in the entire nation. This team has been built on a physical offensive presence up front and 2012 could feature the best power rushing attack in the nation.

Offensive Weakness: One doesn't have to search to hard to find the biggest question mark on offense. Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee were not championship quarterbacks and it was the primary reason LSU failed so miserably in the BCS title game. And entering 2012, one very large (try 6-5, 220 pounds) question mark still exists under center: Can former Georgia Bulldog Zach Mettenberger become the leader — and passer — that Les Miles needs to win his second championship?

Defensive Strength: Just like the offense, this unit starts with a dominate front line. The loss of Michael Brockers certainly hurts, but eight of the top ten defensive lineman return. This group includes the top two sack masters in Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo. Much like the offensive line, this has a chance to be the top unit in the nation.

Defensive Weakness: Replacing Morris Claiborne and Brandon Taylor will be much tougher than a team with a Heisman finalists returning to the secondary likely expects. That said, there is still loads of talent in the defensive backfield, so the biggest question mark has to fall to the linebackers. Kevin Minter is the only returning starter and is a solid player, but the star power on this defense is clearly up front and in the secondary. On a unit that really has no weaknesses, this group could be considered the biggest question mark.

Spring Storylines Facing the Bayou Bengals:

1. Coping with the pain. This team arogantly and prematurely used the words "greatest ever" to describe iteself entering its national title remmatch with Alabama. After one of the worst performances in BCS history, LSU is trying to regroup and refocus on winning a national championship — and it has as good a chance as any team in the nation to do so in 2012. Few 13-win coaches have ever been under as much scrutiny as Les Miles will face this fall, so simply getting back onto the field this spring will go along way to put January 9 in the rearview mirror. All of his doubters had been silenced by the 13-0 start, but after his team appeared woefully underprepared, all of the same questions about Miles' coaching ceiling have resurfaced. To quote The Hat himself, do the Bayou Bengals have the "chest" to rebound from their performance in New Orleans? Only time will tell, and time, like spring football, cures all.

2. Is Mettenberger the answer under center? Jefferson was downright atrocious in the title game and Lee never got a chance to spark the offense. On a team that has one of the best collection of running backs in the nation and returns four of five offensive lineman, the quarterback position is the glaring issue. If Mettenberger is that good, why didn't he push for playing time in 2011? The LSU coaches and players feel that without the competition, Mettenberger will be more comfortable in his role and should develop into the passer most expected from the highly-touted prep prospect. Make no mistake, Mettenberger and the Tigers can win most games by turning around and handing it off. But against that team from Tuscaloosa, or Los Angeles for that matter, the quarterback will have to make plays.

3. Just how good is the Honey Badger? Yes, he made the big plays. Yes, he was the Heisman finalist. Yes, he has the cool nickname. But many believe (correctly) that Morris Claiborne was the best cornerback on the team. With the additional loss of strong safety Brandon Taylor, more of the onus will fall to the Honey Badger to be a leader on and off the field. Without the Jim Thorpe winner on the other side, and with at least one suspension under his belt already, Tyrann Mathieu becomes the best and most important defensive back in Baton Rouge.

4. Miles plays a lot of names along the defensive line and in the linebacking collective, so replacing two starters at linebacker shouldn't be a huge stumbling block for LSU. Yet, Ryan Baker, Karnell Hatcher and Stefoin Francois have moved on and filling those gaps will be key this spring. Considering the amount of talent still on the roster — and a stellar five-man in-coming LB class as well — Miles shouldn't struggle to find playmakers. Tajh Jones, Lamin Barrow and Luke Muncie will get the first crack at earning a starting spot.

5. Sorting out the carries in the backfield. This is clearly an issue every team in the nation would like to have, but deciding who gets the bulk (if anyone) of the carries in 2012 could be a big part of the spring. Michael Ford led the team in rushing (756 yards), Spencer Ware got the most carries by a wide margin (177 to 127) and freshman Kenny Hilliard might have played the best down the stretch in 2011. Hilliard and Ware led the team with eight touchdowns. Toss in Alfred Blue, who rushed for 539 yards and seven scores of his own last fall, and Miles has a gluttonous collection of talent in the backfield. All of whom likely want the football.

Related Content Links

2012 Very Early SEC Predictions
Athlon's Very Early Top 25 for 2012

2012 Recruiting Rankings: No. 13 LSU Tigers

College Football's Top 10 Spring Storylines for 2012

Teaser:
<p> Athlon previews LSU's spring practice and some of the key questions facing the Tigers for 2012.</p>
Post date: Thursday, March 1, 2012 - 05:50
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy, MLB, Fantasy
Path: /mlb/fantasy-baseball-sleepers-and-busts-starting-pitching
Body:

— by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter), published on Mar. 1, 2012

Who are the biggest sleepers and busts to watch out for on the fantasy diamond?

Using Athlon Sports’ consensus Top 150 as the barometer, here are some potential sleepers to keep an eye on and some possible busts to be wary of when it comes to drafting your fantasy teams this season.

Note: Ranking in the Top 150 is listed, if applicable. UR means player was not ranked in the Top 150.

Athlon Sports Fantasy Rankings: Big Board | C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | OF | SP | RP

2012 Fantasy Baseball Starting Pitcher Sleepers:

Ricky Romero, Toronto (No. 99)
There were three lefties in all of the majors that produced a sub-3.00 ERA with at least 15 wins and at least 225 innings pitched last season. They were Clayton Kershaw, Cliff Lee and Romero. Over the last three years, he has started to develop into the ace Toronto needs. His innings, strikeouts and wins have all increased three years in a row while his ERA, WHIP and BAA has dropped in each of those seasons. He was the No. 13-rated starter in fantasy last year and should finish around there again — or 13 spots higher than his No. 26 positional ranking.

Jeremy Hellickson, Tampa Bay (unranked)
The AL Rookie of the Year needs no introduction but is getting overshadowed in the rankings by the darling of Game 1 of the ALDS Matt Moore. Moore is a stud in his own right, but is ranked much higher than his teammate. Both are proven commodities but can still be had on the cheap for one more draft. Hellickson isn’t ranked among the top 40 starters, coming in behind the likes of Cory Luebke, Johnny Cueto, Brandon Beachy and Gio Gonzalez. His 13-win, 117-K, 2.95-ERA, 1.15-WHIP season was good for 22nd in the final SP ranks last year and with a small innings jump from 189.0, Hellickson could creep into top-20 territory fairly easily.

Jordan Zimmerman, Washington (No. 131)
After Tommy John surgery in 2009, Zimmerman proved last season that the hype surrounding his MLB debut was no joke. He posted career bests in wins, innings, strikeouts, ERA and WHIP. His BAA has dropped in each of the last three seasons (albeit in a small sample size) and will be pitching for a team with a much improved offense. He should not have a problem outperforming his 34th ranking in the starting pitching pool.

Daniel Hudson, Arizona (No. 96 overall)
Everyone should know the story by now. Hudson posted a 6.32 ERA and 1.79 WHIP in 2010 before being traded to Arizona. He went 7-1 with a 1.69 ERA and 0.84 WHIP in nearly 80 innings to finish 2010. He finished his first complete season in 2011 with a tidy 16-12 record, 3.49 ERA and 1.20 WHIP. As long as the innings jump doesn’t effect him too much (at 6-3, 232 it shouldn’t), Kirk Gibson will undoubtedly rely on the young righty again. Arizona will contend again and plays in the offensively challenged NL West — both good things for the rising star. If there is a mid-level starter who has the talent and situation to vault himself into the “Ace” category, it might be Huddy #2.

Hiroki Kuroda, New York Yankees (unranked)
Quietly out there on the West Coast, Kuroda has developed into one of the more dependable, if uninspiring, starters. He was the No. 24-rated starter in the game last year and has never had an ERA over 3.76 or a WHIP over 1.22. For where he is going in drafts — he is the No. 48 starter in the rankings currently — his value is excellent. Yes, he just turned 37 last month. But he now pitchers for the Yankees and will likely see his win total increase while maintaining his above-average 7.2 K/9 rate of the last two seasons.

2012 Fantasy Baseball Starting Pitching Busts:

Mat Latos, Cincinnati (No. 91)
From 2010 to 2011, Latos regressed in almost every major fantasy category. With 10.1 more innings pitched, Latos won five fewer games, struck out four less batters and saw his ratios slip from 2.92/1.08 to 3.47/1.18 (both still useful). But now he moves from the fantasy friendly PETCO Park in San Diego to the hitterish Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati. And for a player who has dealt with injuries over his first two seasons, pitching for Dusty Baker could be the kiss of death. Don’t overpay (the word of the day).

Michael Pineda, New York Yankees (No. 85)
For a pitcher to post a .211 BAA and 1.10 WHIP in his first 171.0 innings pitched in the majors is remarkable. The massive righty also collected more than a strikeout-per-inning in his rookie year. Yet, Pineda deteriorated over the course of the year from a 2.01 April ERA to a 6.75 July and 4.70 August. He failed to win a game over his final seven starts as well. His win total (9) should easily go up in the Bronx, but expect his ratios to be closer to his final month (4.00, 1.17) than his stellar first three months. The move to the AL East and Yankee Stadium will act as the primary culprits. He will have a long career in pinstripes, but fantasy GMs will overpay in 2012.

Ian Kennedy, Arizona (No. 63)
Kennedy’s talent has never been the issue and his minor league track record suggests he has staying power. The question is cost with the D-Backs ace. The likelihood of him repeating a 21-win season are slim and none, so is using a top 5-7 round pick on him worth it? His career line before 2011 was 253.2 IP, 10-14, 4.33 ERA, 1.31 WHIP. I expect a much better line than that, of course, but he should return to earth this season and that screams over-valued to me.

Gio Gonzalez, Washington (No. 124)
His innings, strikeouts and wins have gone up every year for the last three seasons. And his ERA has dropped in three straight campaigns as well. However, he still puts entirely too many people on base to pitch in Washington as opposed to Oakland. His 1.41 career WHIP indicates as much. In fact, his BAA and WHIP both increased slightly in 2011 from 2010. He has a chance to be a dependable fourth fantasy starter but is likely going too high in drafts.

Other Fantasy Baseball Content:

2012 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: The Big Board
2012 Fantasy Baseball: First Base Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Second Base Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Shortstop Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Third Base Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Outfield Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Catcher Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Starting Pitcher Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Relief Pitcher Rankings
2012 MLB Fantasy Closer Grid
2012 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Infield
2012 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Outfield
2012 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Closers
Fantasy Baseball Studs to Avoid in 2012
2012 Fantasy Baseball Deep Sleepers

Teaser:
<p> Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Starting Pitching</p>
Post date: Thursday, March 1, 2012 - 05:40
Path: /college-football/2012-recruiting-rankings-no-20-tennessee-volunteers
Body:

-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)

No. 20: Tennessee Volunteers (22 total signees)

SEC Rank: 8th
Athlon Consensus 100 Signees: 0
National Signees: 4

Where They Got 'Em:

The state-by-state breakdown of this Tennessee class is exactly what a quality Volunteer class should look like. Derek Dooley used a heavy Southeastern focus mixed with talent-rich states like Ohio (2), Texas and Michigan to round out his class. Tennessee (4), Florida (5), Georgia (4), Louisiana (2), South Carolina (2) and North Carolina (1) provided the bulk of this haul. Without an elite naturally talented in-state recruiting base, the Vols have to be competitive in the thoroughly combed SEC states.

With a loaded (relatively speaking) in-state year in 2013 looming, new defensive coordinator and ace recruiter Sal Sunseri should make his presence felt more in the next cycle than in 2012.

Areas of Focus:

2012 will be a make or break season for Dooley, and all of Vol Nation knows it. Landing a top 25 class was imperative to keep the barking dogs at bay, and Dooley was able to accomplish that. And he did so in the face of massive coaching turnover. Dooley used elite level junior college talent — which can be a double-edged sword — and excellent coaching hires to ink the No. 20 recruiting class in the nation.

The hiring of Sunseri and former Vol Jay Graham have brought some excellent rising clout to the Big Orange recruiting trail. While a few names defected from this class following the coaching departures, undoubtedly these two deserve a lot of credit for not only holding the class together but also landing some big names down the stretch.

The biggest, both literally and figuratively, names to commit to Tennessee come from the JUCO ranks with the 6-6, 380-pound defensive tackle Daniel McCullers and five-star wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson. A two-time NJCAA All-American, Patterson excelled as a wideout (61 rec., 924 yards, 15 TD), a return man (48.2 yards per kick return on 10 attempts) and in the ground game (32 att., 379 yards, 6 TD). These two are joined by former Alabama Crimson Tider Darrington Sentimore — who played 11 games as a freshman for Nick Saban back in 2010. McCullers and Sentimore are high-quality prospects who can contribute immediately to a D-Line that needs help.

Patterson leads a wide receiving class that is one of the best in the nation, and combined with Justin Hunter and Da'Rick Rogers, will form arguably the deepest receiving corps in the nation. Three of the four nationally ranked players in this class are headed to the WR position and each brings a different skillset to the offense. Alton "Pig" Howard is a smallish speedster who can be used in a variety of unique ways. He posted 2,630 yards receiving and a 1,000-yard season (2010) as a wideout with 2,147 yards rushing and a 1,000-yard season (2009) over his final three prep campaigns. He scored 48 times over that span. The 6-5, 220-pound Jason Croom brings a long frame and big-time deep threat ability. He also ran track and played basketball and should be a fantastic vertical threat. In-stater Drae Bowles is the highest-rated of the bunch and might be the most complete. He finished his high school career with 171 receptions, 2,569 yards and 23 touchdowns — all while playing linebacker and defensive back on the other side of the ball. Add in tight end Justin Meredith to the mix, a guy who averaged 25 yards per catch as a junior, and the Vols boast the top pass-catching unit in the SEC.

With Tauren Poole graduating, the Vols needed to replenish their backfield, and three new faces come to campus in this class. Louisiana tailback Davante Bourque is the highest-rated of the bunch after rushing for 3,368 yards (8.4 ypc) and 57 touchdowns over his final two seasons at Crowley. Bourque has the most upside as a true three-down back, but smaller back Qeunshaun Watson and bruiser Alden Hill offer excellent complimentary pieces. Hill, who is already enrolled in class, finished as his school's all-time leading rusher (4,745 yards, Marlington, Alliance, Ohio) while Watson posted his own school record with a 1,790-yard senior year (Clarke Central, Athens, Ga.).

The big JUCO talents along the defensive line are joined by two true freshmen — 310-pound Michigan product Danny O'Brien and Lakeland, Fla., talent Trent Taylor. But make no mistake — Sentimore and McCullers are the likeliest to contribute early on the D-line.

Three linebackers signed with the Vols in this class with an oustide chance of a few other converts. The lengthy tandem of Justin King and LaTroy Lewis add tremendous athletic ability to the middle level of the Tennessee defense. Lewis, at 6-4 and 235 pounds, has some serious upside as an edge rusher but missed most of his senior season with a broken bone in his foot. If he fully recovers, he could easily outperform his recruiting rankings. King, who played quarterback and running back on offense as well as LB, brings a serious speed-size combination. Additionally, the Vols signed Florida linebacker Kenneth Bynum two weeks after National Signing Day. The 6-3, 213-pounder was formerly committed to Cincinnati, and Dooley's patience with him further indicates the issues at linebacker for Tennessee. Where and how these three end up will be key to how Dooley and Sunseri attack the potentially loaded 2013 class to fill a major area of need.

The defensive backfield got an excellent boost as well from a four-man defensive back class. Future safety LaDarrell McNeil is the top-rated player in this class and was once an AC100 talent. He led his team in tackles with 124 stops in 2011 and will likely make an immediate impact in the secondary. Cornerback Deion Bonner is the top coverman of the bunch after back-to-back all-state selections at Georgia powerhouse Columbus-Carver. He was named 2011 Co-MVP of the Georgia All-Star game. Bonner is joined on the outside by Sunshine State speedster Daniel Gray.

Even though quarterback is the least of Dooley's concerns at the moment, the Vols still landed a good one in Florida product Nathan Peterman. Offense-Defense named the Florida 6A first-teamer as the National Scholar-Athlete of the Year. His 36 passing touchdowns in 2011 rank second all-time in St. Johns County to that guy who wore No. 15 for the Gators.

Positional Breakdown:

Offense: QB: 1, RB: 3, WR: 4, TE: 1, OL: 0, ATH: 1
Defense: DL: 4, LB: 3, DB: 4, K/P/LS: 1

AC100 Recruits:

None

Other National Signees:

112. LaDarrell McNeil, DB (6-1, 195), Dallas (Texas) Wilmer-Hutchins
180. Drae Bowles, WR (6-1, 198), Jackon (Tenn.) Christian
219. Alton Howard, WR (5-9, 180), Orlando (Fla.) Edgewater
240. Jason Croom, WR (6-5, 200), Norcross (Ga.) High

Early Enrollees:

Cody Blanc, ATH (6-1, 200), Knoxville (Tenn.) Central
Alden Hill, RB (5-11, 180), Alliance (Ohio) Marlington
Justin Meredith, TE (6-5, 225), Anderson (S.C.) T.L. Hanna
Nathan Peterman, QB (6-3, 210), Fruit Cove (Fla.) Bartram Trail
Darrington Sentimore, DL (6-2, 273), Norco (La.) Destrehan (Gulf Coast C.C.)
Trent Taylor, DL (6-2, 271), Lakeland (Fla.) Lake Gibson
Tino Thomas, DB (5-11, 195), Memphis (Tenn.) Melrose

Athlon Sports' Top 25 Classes of 2012:

1. Alabama Crimson Tide

2. Texas Longhorns
3. Florida Gators
4. Ohio State Buckeyes

5. Florida State Seminoles
6. Michigan Wolverines
7. Stanford Cardinal
8. Miami Hurricanes
9. Georgia Bulldogs
10. USC Trojans
11. Oklahoma Sooners
12. Auburn Tigers
13. LSU Tigers
14. Texas A&M Aggies
15. UCLA Bruins
16. Clemson Tigers
17. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
18. Oregn Ducks
19. South Carolina Gamecocks
20. Tennessee Volunteers
21. Thur., Mar. 1
22. Fri., Mar. 2
23. Sat., Mar. 3
24. Sun., Mar. 4
25. Sun., Mar. 4

Teaser:
<p> The Tennessee Volunteers landed the No. 20 recruiting class in the nation in 2012.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, February 29, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/2012-recruiting-rankings-no-19-south-carolina-gamecocks
Body:

-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)

No. 19: South Carolina Gamecocks (25 total signees)

SEC Rank: 7th
Athlon Consensus 100 Signees: 2
National Signees: 5

Where They Got 'Em:

If South Carolina could use only three states to recruit talent, it would probably survive just fine. Florida, Georgia and the home Palmetto State have supplied the majority of the roster for most of the Steve Spurrier era in Columbia. While inking only five in-state prospects in 2012 — the fewest since the 2007 class — Spurrier absolutely dominated in the state of Georgia. With 12 signees from the Peach State this cycle, South Carolina has landed a total of 23 prospects from the neighboring state over the last two years — and has signed a total of 42 Georgians over the last five years. Florida supplied a solid trio of talents this year as well.

North Carolina added three prospects, including a pair of already enrolled blocking brothers, while New Jersey and Pennsylvania added one apiece to the Carolina class.

Areas of Focus:

Spurrier has to like this skill class. The best tailback in the nation, Marcus Lattimore, doesn't count, but his return to the lineup and the arrival of seven stellar offensive skill freshman should more than make up for the loss of Alshon Jeffery. Shaq Roland is the top prospect in this class and is the nation's No. 3 overall wide receiver. He led his squad to an unblemished regular season and claimed South Carolina Mr. Football honors with nearly 2,000 yards and 24 touchdowns in 2011. He also earned Offensive MVP of the Shrine Bowl.

Roland is joined in the receiving corps by nationally rated Kwinton Smith and Jody Fuller. Smith has a massive frame (6-4, 206) and was also a baseball star in high school while Fuller also earned a Shrine Bowl invitation after 68 receptions and 11 touchdowns as a senior. Two tight ends, early enrollee Kelvin Rainey and prep schooler Jerell Adams, completely restock the pass-catching depth chart for the Gamecocks.

In the backfield, AC100 prospect Mike Davis might turn out to be the gem of this class. The bowling ball of a tailback rushed for 1,923 yards on 213 carries — yes, that is over 9.0 yards per carry — and 21 touchdowns in 2011 for Stephenson. He was a rapid riser in the rankings as the season wound down and excelled at the U.S. Army All-American event in San Antonio. He is the No. 8-rated running back in the nation in what turned out to be a loaded year for RBs. In-stater Kendric Salley rushed for over 5,000 yards and 90 touchdowns in his prep career and gives South Carolina one of the deepest backfields in the SEC.

Brendan Nosovitch is the lone quarterback in this class. He comes to South Carolina from Pennsylvania as the state's all-time record holder for total yards with 12,877 and second all-time in passing yards with 9,249. The football in the Keystone State certainly isn't what it used to be 30 years ago, but I shouldn't have to remind South Carolina fans of who dots the PA prep quarterback record books. Try Joe Namath, Joe Montana, Johnny Unitas, Dan Marino, Jim Kelly, George Blanda, Rich Gannon and Johnny Lujack. Nosovitch isn't a five-star talent, but he was incredibly productive and won a state title as a junior. He should easily outperform his middling recruiting ranking.

Five stellar offensive line prospects signed with South Carolina this cycle. A pair of brothers, Clayton and the nationally ranked Brock Stadnik, are already enrolled and will participate in spring ball. Clayton is slotted to play center, while Brock and the 6-foot-9 Mason Zandi bolster the tackle position. Joe Harris and Cody Waldrop both tip the scales at over 300 pounds and will both play guard.

The secondary got the most attention on the defense as Spurrier lost plenty of talent to graduation and early NFL entries. Nationally rated Chaz Elder leads half a dozen defensive back prospects headed to South Carolina. The versatile coverman could end up as one of the biggest cornerbacks in the league at 6-2 and 190 pounds, but also excelled as a safety. Jordan Diggs is slated to play the hybrid 'Spur' position for the Gamecocks, while T.J. Gurley and Kyle Fleetwood are expected to play safety. Chris Moody and Rico McWilliams add tremendous depth to the outside, as they should land at cornerback. This is a deep, versatile and complete defensive back class that should outperform its recruiting rankings as well.

The front seven, which should be dominant once again in 2012, didn't need too much attention. Spurrier added five names to this group with end Darius English heading the defensive line class and Kaiwan Lewis topping the linebackers. Lewis helped lead St. Joseph's to an unbeaten state championship season in the Garden State, while the 6-6, 215-pound English claimed Georgia's 5A Defensive Player of the Year honors after 21 sacks in 2011. End Jhaustin Thomas and tackle Carlos Hood will team with English to add depth to an already stacked front line for South Carolina.

Positional Breakdown:

Offense: QB: 1, RB: 2, WR: 3, TE: 2, OL: 5, ATH: 2
Defense: DL: 3, LB: 2, Spur: 1, DB: 5, K/P/LS: 1

AC100 Recruits:

41. Shaq Roland, WR (6-1, 173), Lexington (S.C.) High
54. Mike Davis, RB (5-9, 216), Lithonia (Ga.) Stephenson

Other National Signees:

221. Brock Stadnik, OL (6-5, 287), Greensboro (N.C.) Western Guilford
222. Chaz Elder, CB (6-2, 187), Union City (Ga.) Banneker
235. Kwinton Smith, WR (6-4, 206), Hamer (S.C.) Dillon

Early Enrollees:

Kelvin Rainey, TE (6-3, 216), Yulee (Fla.) High
Brock Stadnik, OL (6-5, 287), Greensboro (N.C.) Western Guilford
Clayton Stadnik, OC (6-2, 265), Greensboro (N.C.) Western Guilford

Athlon Sports' Top 25 Classes of 2012:

1. Alabama Crimson Tide

2. Texas Longhorns
3. Florida Gators
4. Ohio State Buckeyes

5. Florida State Seminoles
6. Michigan Wolverines
7. Stanford Cardinal
8. Miami Hurricanes
9. Georgia Bulldogs
10. USC Trojans
11. Oklahoma Sooners
12. Auburn Tigers
13. LSU Tigers
14. Texas A&M Aggies
15. UCLA Bruins
16. Clemson Tigers
17. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
18. Oregn Ducks
19. South Carolina Gamecocks
20. Wed., Feb. 29
21. Thur., Mar. 1
22. Fri., Mar. 2
23. Sat., Mar. 3
24. Sun., Mar. 4
25. Sun., Mar. 4

Teaser:
<p> The South Carolina Gamecocks landed the No. 19 recruiting class in the nation in 2012.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, February 28, 2012 - 05:56
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Baseball, MLB, Fantasy
Path: /mlb/fantasy-baseball-sleepers-and-busts-infield
Body:

— by Mark Ross, published on Feb. 28, 2012

Using Athlon Sports’ consensus Top 150 as the barometer, here are some potential sleepers to keep an eye on and some possible busts to be wary of when it comes to drafting your fantasy teams this season.

Note: Infield includes all players who have C, 1B, 2B, SS and/or 3B eligibility. Ranking in the Top 150 is listed, if applicable. UR means player was not ranked in the Top 150.

Athlon Sports Fantasy Rankings: Big Board | C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | OF | SP | RP

2012 Fantasy Baseball Infield Sleepers:

Michael Cuddyer, COL, 1B/2B/OF (No. 120 overall)
His versatility alone increases his value, especially if you play him at second. Cuddyer’s numbers (.284, 20 HR, 70 RBI, 11 SB) weren’t horrible last year and should be even better this year, his first with Colorado. Besides the home park advantage (switching from Target Field to Coors Field), the Rockies line up packs more offensive punch than the Twins. Colorado finished tied for seventh in the majors in runs last season, while Minnesota was 25th.

Ike Davis, NYM, 1B (No. 137 overall)
For Davis, it’s all about health and if he’s fully recovered from the ankle injury that limited him to just 36 games last year. He was off to a great start in 2011, hitting .302 with seven home runs and 25 RBIs, which translates into a .302-31-112 line when prorated to a full (162 games) season. The Mets moving the fences in at Citi Field certainly won’t hurt either.

Danny Espinosa, WAS, 2B (UR)
The batting average (.236) is a bit of a problem; but Espinosa still posted a near 20-20 campaign (21 HR, 17 SB) in his first full season in the majors. If he’s able to improve his contact rate (166 strikeouts), he could be in for a big 2012.

J.J. Hardy, BAL, SS (No. 141 overall)
Only two shortstops hit 30 home runs last season – Troy Tulowitzki and Hardy. When healthy, Hardy has hit for power, hitting a combined 50 home runs from 2007-08, and his overall numbers from 2011 (.269, 76 R, 27 2B, 80 RBI) are pretty solid. Shortstops that hit for power are few and far between, especially ones that figure to be available in the later rounds.

Adam LaRoche, WAS, 1B (UR)
His first season in Washington was a disaster (.172, 3 HR, 15 RBI in 43 games) that can be largely attributed to an injured shoulder. From 2006-2010, LaRoche’s seasonal average looked like this: .272, 26 HR, 89 RBI. You could do worse on a late-round filer, no?

Kendrys Morales, LAA 1B/OF (UR)
If healthy, and that’s a rather large “if,” Morales could put up huge numbers in an Angels lineup that now includes Albert Pujols. In 2009, Morales broke out in a big way with a .306-34-108 season and was on pace for similar numbers in 2010 (.290-11-39 in 51 games) before breaking his ankle celebrating a walk-off home run. He hasn’t played in a game since May 29, 2010, but if he’s able to prove he’s ready during spring training, he could pick up where he left off almost two years ago.

2012 Fantasy Baseball Infield Busts:

Asdrubal Cabrera, CLE, SS (No. 66 overall)
Before last season Cabrera had hit a grand total of 18 home runs in four major league seasons. In 2011, he had nearly that many (14) before the All-Star break and finished the season with 25. He also struck out 119 times and cooled off quite a bit (.244, 10 2B, 11 HR, 41 RBI, 5 SB) after an incredible first half (.293, 22 2B, 14 HR, 51 RBI, 12 SB). Cabrera still offers production at shortstop, which is somewhat shallow, but I would be wary of drafting him based on a repeat of last season.

Alex Rodriguez, NYY, 3B (No. 61 overall)
Even though injuries plagued Rodriguez throughout last season, you can’t ignore his numbers either. A-Rod hit .276 with just 16 home runs and 62 RBIs in 99 games, his lowest run-producing totals since 1995. He was 19 that season and will turn 37 this July. It’s been an incredible run, but I think his days as a consummate fantasy producer are past him. His current consensus ranking puts him around the 6th round, but I won’t be the one taking him there.

Michael Morse, WAS, 1B/OF (No. 79 overall)
First, let’s give credit where credit is due: Morse clubbed 31 home runs, drove in 95 and hit .303 in his first full season. So by calling him a “bust,” I’m not saying he’s going to pull an Adam Dunn this season and bottom out, but I am concerned that he won’t put up similar across-the-board numbers. You can’t ignore his low OBP (.360) and ugly walk-to-strikeout ratio (36:126). The power, which is something you want from your first baseman, will probably still be there, but don’t be surprised if the average dips and he profiles more along the lines of a Mark Reynolds (No. 113) when looking at the complete package.

Mike Napoli, TEX, C/1B (No. 38 overall)
Napoli hit four more home runs and drove in seven more last season compared to 2010, and he accomplished this in 27 less games and 84 fewer at bats. He also increased his batting average by 82 points (.238 to .320) and his OPS went from .784 to 1.046. Even with 2011’s incredible season included, Napoli is just a .264 career hitter, so don’t be surprised to see the average dip this season. He’s also not a full-time player (113 GP in 2011) and is still recovering from an ankle injury he suffered during last year’s World Series. So despite his catcher-eligibility and appealing power potential, I think there are too many question marks to draft him in Round 4, which is where his current consensus ranking places him.

Chase Utley, PHI, 2B (No. 83 overall)
Injuries have had a lot to do with it, but you can’t help but notice the decline over the past three seasons in Utley’s numbers. Home runs have dropped from 31 in 2009 to 16 in 2010 to just 11 last season. His batting average has gone from .282 in ’09 to .259 last year and both runs and RBIs have decreased by more than 50 percent over the past three seasons. There are guys like Dustin Ackley, Jason Kipnis and Neil Walker, to name a few, that offer more upside than a 33-year-old Utley does at this point in his career.

Kevin Youkilis, BOS, 1B/3B (No. 72)
The last time Youkilis played in at least 145 games was 2008, which also was the last season he drove in more than 100 runs (115). In 2008-09 Youkilis averaged 28 home runs per season. He hit a total of 36 the past two seasons combined. A career .289 hitter, Youkilis should still hit for average, but probably shouldn’t be drafted as the run producer he was just three seasons ago.

Other Fantasy Baseball Content:

2012 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: The Big Board
2012 Fantasy Baseball: First Base Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Second Base Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Shortstop Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Third Base Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Outfield Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Catcher Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Starting Pitcher Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Relief Pitcher Rankings
2012 MLB Fantasy Closer Grid
2012 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Outfield
2012 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Starting Pitching
2012 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Closers
Fantasy Baseball Studs to Avoid in 2012
2012 Fantasy Baseball Deep Sleepers

Teaser:
<p> Who are the biggest sleepers and busts to watch out for on the fantasy diamond?</p>
Post date: Tuesday, February 28, 2012 - 05:50
Path: /college-football/2012-recruiting-rankings-no-18-oregon-ducks
Body:

-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)

No. 18: Oregon Ducks (21 total signees)

Pac-12 Rank: 4th
Athlon Consensus 100 Signees: 1
National Signees: 7

Where They Got 'Em:

There might not be another team in the nation that has elevated it's national recruiting stock in the last decade more than the Oregon Ducks. The Nike money certainly helps, but winning three straight Pac-12 titles does too. Chip Kelly has been able to sell his brand nationally and his 2012 class was no different.

He used 10 different states covering six time zones to land his newest collection of athletes. The bulk of the class, however, comes from talent-rich states California (6) and Texas (4). Ohio sent two prospects while Arizona, Montana, Idaho, Virginia, Colorado and Hawaii delivered one each. The home state of Oregon also sent three talented athletes to Eugene.

The biggest story to watch, however, is the developing NCAA situation with Willie Lyles. The Texas-based scout has delivered more than a few stellar Lone Star prospects to Eugene and it could cost the Ducks in some fashion. Oregon officially recognized the investigation late last week and could be facing sanctions or probation — and frankly, who knows what the wildly inconsistent and completely opaque NCAA will do these days.

Areas of Focus:

This class starts up front on the defensive side of the ball with the No. 2 player in the state of California Arik Armstead. The 6-8 280-pound athlete is also a basketball star and could easily end up back on the offensive side of the ball. For now, he will have his hand in the dirt rushing the passer and leading the Ducks defensive line. He is joined on the D-line by four more stellar prospects who would make most college basketball teams feel small. Stetzon Bair stands 6-9, nationally-ranked lineman DeForest Buckner goes 6-7 and Cody Carriger is listed at 6-6. Last but not least, nationally-ranked Alex Balducci is merely 6-4 and 262 pounds. This group has three natioanl prospects and is easily the tallest defensive line class in the nation.

The secondary also got a nice boost with four talented prospects signing with the Ducks. None of the quartet is ranked nationally, but safety Reggie Daniels has loads of experience at a high level of success. He posted 90 tackles at Arizona powerhouse Hamilton High and led his squad to two state championships in three years. He is joined by a pair of brothers from Texas, Eric and Stephen Amoako, and in-state do-everything athlete Oshay Dunmore.

In-state talent Brett Bafaro, who was the top linebacker in the state of Oregon this cycle, is the lone backer in this class.

Kelly lost Darron Thomas prematurely, in this writer's opinion, and was looking to rebuild the depth under center. With California products Jeff Lockie and Jake Rodrigues, the Ducks should be fine at quarterback. Lockie is more of a pure passer as he threw for 3,278 yards and 31 touchdowns as a senior while Rodrigues exhibits more traits essential to Kelly's offense. The 6-3, 210-pound dual-threat rushed for 684 yards and 15 scores on the ground to go with his 2,036 yards and 26 passing touchdowns, earning CAL MVP honors. If 'athlete,' and No. 2-rated player in this class, Bralon Addison lands at quarterback, Kelly is all of the sudden looking at a glutton of riches at the position. Addision was a first-team all-state quarterback as a senior in Texas after rushing for 1,625 yards to go with this 2,158 yards through the air.

Four pass-catchers should help whoever ends up taking snaps — and should Addison end up catching passes this group gets even deeper. Chance Allen excelled at the highest level in the Lone Star State, finishing with 126 receptions, 1,920 yards and 22 scores in his prep career. His 6-3, 190-pound frame will play well in Eugene. The nationally rated Dwayne Stanford checks in at 6-5 and 185 pounds after averaging 22.5 yards per catch at Ohio powerhouse Taft High. He earned CMAC Offensive Player of the Year honors as a junior. Toss in one of the nation's top tight end prospect in 6-6, 220-pound Pharaoh Brown as well as Evan Baylis, and Kelly should have a completely restocked cupboard of receivers.

Top 150 running back Byron Marshall only adds quality depth to the already supremely talented Ducks backfield.

Offensive skill and defensive line appeared to be the top priorities for Kelly and he accomplished his goals with flying colors. His brief flirtation with the NFL had little to no effect on the Ducks recruiting efforts as Oregon remains one of the most powerful national brands in the sport today.

Positional Breakdown:

Offense: QB: 2, RB: 1, WR: 2, TE: 2, OL: 1, ATH: 2
Defense: DL: 5, LB: 1, DB: 4, K/P/LS: 1

AC100 Recruits:

8. Arik Armstead, DL (6-8, 280), Elk Grove (Calif.) Pleasant Grove

Other National Signees:

111. Bralon Addison, ATH (5-10, 185), Missouri City (Texas) Hightower
148. Byron Marshall, RB (5-10, 195), San Jose (Calif.) Valley Christian
164. Alex Balducci, DL (6-4, 262), Portland (Ore.) Central Catholic
168. Pharaoh Brown, TE (6-6, 220), Lyndhurst (Ohio) Brush
213. Dwayne Stanford, WR (6-5, 185) Cincinnati (Ohio) Taft
224. DeForest Buckner, DL (6-7, 230), Honolulu (Hawaii) Punahou

Athlon Sports' Top 25 Classes of 2012:

1. Alabama Crimson Tide

2. Texas Longhorns
3. Florida Gators
4. Ohio State Buckeyes

5. Florida State Seminoles
6. Michigan Wolverines
7. Stanford Cardinal
8. Miami Hurricanes
9. Georgia Bulldogs
10. USC Trojans
11. Oklahoma Sooners
12. Auburn Tigers
13. LSU Tigers
14. Texas A&M Aggies
15. UCLA Bruins
16. Clemson Tigers
17. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
18. Oregn Ducks
19. Tues., Feb. 28
20. Wed., Feb. 29
21. Thur., Mar. 1
22. Fri., Mar. 2
23. Sat., Mar. 3
24. Sun., Mar. 4
25. Sun., Mar. 4

Teaser:
<p> The Oregon Ducks landed the No. 18 recruiting class in the nation in 2012.</p>
Post date: Monday, February 27, 2012 - 07:00
Path: /college-football/2012-recruiting-rankings-no-17-notre-dame-fighting-irish
Body:

-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)

No. 17: Notre Dame Fighting Irish (17 total signees)

Athlon Consensus 100 Signees: 3
National Signees: 9

Where They Got 'Em:

The Fighting Irish have offered a national brand on the recruiting trail for the entirety of their football playing existence, and that is no more apparent than in the 2012 signing class. It took 14 different states to fill out a modest 17-man class as Brian Kelly pulled exactly one prospect from 12 different states. Only two states — Indiana (3) and North Carolina (2), which had talented senior classes — sent more than one player to South Bend.

Uncharacteristically, Indiana served up the nation's No. 2 quarterback as well as a near top-100 defensive lineman. Otherwise, Kelly attacked every region of the country. California, Washington, Arizona and Nevada sent players to South Bend from the West, while Illinois and Ohio delivered one Midwest prospect each. He went into South Carolina, Florida and Virginia in the Southeast as well as New York and New Jersey in the Northeast to get talent. Texas also sent one recruit to Notre Dame as well.

Areas of Focus:

This class, just like the 2012 Notre Dame football season, all begins with the quarterback position. Brian Kelly pulled quite an upset when former Indiana and LSU commitment Gunner Kiel enrolled in classes at Notre Dame. The nation's No. 2 quarterback in the nation has all the physical tools to compete for playing time right away but will have to overcome the stigma that comes along with committing to three different teams. Analysts across the country will be tougher on Kiel due to his lack of decisiveness throughout the recruitment process. Irish fans certainly know what Les Miles thinks of the young signal- caller from Indiana. He finished with 7,175 yards in his Columbus East career.

A pair apiece of running backs, wide receivers and offensive linemen round out a smallish offensive class. Kei'Varae Russell leads the the running game after three straight 1,000-yard seasons at Mariner High. He scored 48 times on the ground over that span. Justin Ferguson is the top-rated pass-catcher and brings the Florida speed to South Bend. The interesting development will be where AC100 talent Davonte Neal lands. The uber-talented but much-maligned athlete could play a variety of positions on the next level and would boost either the running or passing game should he land on offense.

Nationally ranked Ronnie Stanley is the top blocker in this class and comes to South Bend from power program Bishop Gorman.

If Neal lands on defense, as a cornerback, this would be one of the deepest and most talented secondary classes in the nation. Without Neal, this is a five-man group that features AC100 talent Tee Shepard and nationally rated star safety Elijah Shumate. Shepard has enrolled early and needs to get up to speed quickly as he sat out his senior season after transferring, but he was on the roster for Washington Union's third straight state title. Shumate played at prep powerhouse Don Bosco Prep in the Garden State and excelled at both running back (14 touchdowns on 60 carries) and safety.

Kelly recruited one of the best defensive lines in the nation last season and it showed in the bowl game. Jarron Jones and Sheldon Day, both of whom were at one point in the AC100, only add depth to an already stellar defensive front. Jones checks in at 6-6 and 298 pounds but has some work to develop after playing in the not-so-difficult New York prep ranks. Day is a 6-2, 275-pound tweener who was the runner-up for Indiana's Mr. Football award in 2011.

This is not a deep class, but with the amount of talent returning to South Bend, Kelly didn't need one. The secondary and quarterback positions were totally stabilized, while the defensive line got even deeper. Look for offensive line and linebacker to be a big area of focus next cycle.

Positional Breakdown:

Offense: QB: 1, RB: 2, WR: 2, TE: 0, OL: 2, ATH: 1
Defense: DL: 2, LB: 1, DB: 5, K/P/LS: 1

AC100 Recruits:

24. Gunner Kiel, QB (6-4, 220), Columbus (Ohio) East
43. Tee Shepard, DB (6-1, 175), Fresno (Calif.) Washington Union
56. Davonte Neal, ATH (5-9, 175), Scottsdale (Ariz.) Chaparral

Other National Signees:

101. Jarron Jones, DL (6-6, 298), Rochester (N.Y.) Aquinas Institute
116. Sheldon Day, DL (6-2, 275), Indianapolis (Ind.) Warren Central
117. Elijah Shumate, DB (6-1, 205), East Orange (N.J.) Don Bosco
167. Kei'Varae Russell, RB (6, 177), Everett (Wash.) Mariner
172. Ronnie Stanley, OL (6-6, 285), Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman
186. Justin Ferguson, WR (6-2, 205), Pembroke Pines (Fla.) Flanagan

Early Enrollees:

Gunner Kiel, QB (6-4, 220), Columbus (Ohio) East
Sheldon Day, DL (6-2, 275), Indianapolis (Ind.) Warren Central
Tee Shepard, DB (6-1, 175), Fresno (Calif.) Washington Union

Athlon Sports' Top 25 Classes of 2012:

1. Alabama Crimson Tide

2. Texas Longhorns
3. Florida Gators
4. Ohio State Buckeyes

5. Florida State Seminoles
6. Michigan Wolverines
7. Stanford Cardinal
8. Miami Hurricanes
9. Georgia Bulldogs
10. USC Trojans
11. Oklahoma Sooners
12. Auburn Tigers
13. LSU Tigers
14. Texas A&M Aggies
15. UCLA Bruins
16. Clemson Tigers
17. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
18. Mon., Feb. 27
19. Tues., Feb. 28
20. Wed., Feb. 29
21. Thur., Mar. 1
22. Fri., Mar. 2
23. Sat., Mar. 3
24. Sun., Mar. 4
25. Sun., Mar. 4

Teaser:
<p> The Notre Dame Fighting Irish landed the No. 17 recruiting class in the nation in 2012.</p>
Post date: Friday, February 24, 2012 - 07:14
Path: /college-football/2012-recruiting-rankings-no-16-clemson-tigers
Body:

-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)

No. 16: Clemson Tigers (20 total signees)

ACC Rank: 3rd
Athlon Consensus 100 Signees: 3
National Signees: 7

Where They Got 'Em:

The Palmetto State is extremely territorial. There are South Carolina areas and Clemson areas that normally follow party lines when it comes to recruiting. The Gameocks have shaken that standard up with the likes of Marcus Lattimore of late. However, the Tigers have countered with a tremendous influence in the state of Florida.

That said, the Carolinas will always be key for Clemson recruiting, and that is obviously not lost on Dabo Swinney. The Tigers signed 15 players (11 from South Carolina, four from North Carolina) from the two states, including two of the top six in each state. There were 13 nationally rated prospects from the Carolinas this cycle and Clemson inked four of them.

The top-rated player in this class, Travis Blanks, comes to Clemson from the Sunshine State and only further indicates the Tigers' power in the talent-rich state of Florida. Swinney also signed two from New York, including the top player in the state (quarterback Chad Kelly). One each from Tennessee and Arkansas round out the 20-man haul.

Areas of Focus:

First and foremost, Swinney did an outstanding job of getting nearly half of his class to enroll early. Missing the senior prom or graduation might be a tough pill to swallow for 17-year-olds and parents, but for football fans, having nearly half of a top-20 recruiting class participate in spring practice is invaluable. The Tigers enrolled eight prospects in January, and by the time summer camp opens, they will be nearly sophomores.

More importantly was who enrolled. The offensive line class for Clemson was outstanding as Swinney focused on restocking his offensive front. Four of his five OL signees are already on campus, working in the weight room and learning the play calls, including both nationally rated prospects Jay Guillermo and Patrick DeStefano. DeStefano has the bloodlines to be a great ACC player as his father played at Duke in the late '70s, while Guillermo is listed as the No. 1 center prospect in the nation by the mothership. Prep school tackle Isaiah Battle should be prepared to contribute early on as well after a year at Blue Ridge School.

Additionally, the top-rated player in this class, defensive back Travis Blanks, is also already enrolled in class. One of the top defensive backs in the state of Florida leads a deep secondary class that could feature four safeties. Blanks missed some time due to injury as a senior but proved he could be a playmaker all over the field with 104 tackles on defense to go with 35 receptions and eight touchdowns on offense as a junior. This is an incredibly versatile group, so don't be surprised if one or more end up at linebacker or even wide receiver.

Speaking of wide receiver, the No. 2-rated player in this class is wideout Germone Hopper. The dynamic all-purpose player rushed for over 4,000 yards and 50 scores in his prep career — finishing as Philip O. Berry's all-time leading rusher. He also could make a big impact on special teams as a kick and punt return specialist.

Getting him — and all of those other stellar current Clemson wideouts — the ball will be the nephew of a Hall of Famer. The No. 6-rated quarterback in the entire nation, Chad Kelly, has former Buffalo Bills' four-time Super Bowl starter Jim Kelly as an uncle. The dual-threat tore up the Empire State to the tune of 3,050 yards passing, 991 yards rushing and 41 total touchdowns. He led his team to back-to-back state championships and will be a perfect fit for coordinator Chad Morris' spread scheme.

New defensive coordinator Brent Venables should also be exicted about the incoming defensive line class. Big nose tackle Carlos Watkins, after 29 sacks over his final two prep seasons, spearheads a solid five-man D-Line group. Nationally rated end Shaq Lawson is the top edge rusher after 199 tackles — including 23 tackles for a loss in 2011 — and 22 sacks over his final two high school seasons. Massive early enrollee Kevin Dodd (6-5, 280) adds immediate depth. This is a powerful fivesome that should help rebuild the Tigers defensive line in short order.

Running back Zac Brooks, who played all over the offense at Jonesboro High, is listed as the lone running back in this class.

Positional Breakdown:

Offense: QB: 1, RB: 1, WR: 1, TE: 1, OL: 5, ATH: 0
Defense: DE: 2, DT: 3, LB: 1, DB: 4, K/P/LS: 1

AC100 Recruits:

62. Travis Blanks, DB (6-1, 195), Tallahassee (Fla.) North Fla. Christian
81. Germone Hopper, WR (6, 170), Charlotte (N.C.) Philip O. Berry
89. Carlos Watkins, DT (6-4, 275), Forest City (N.C.) Chase

Other National Signees:

115. Chad Kelly, QB (6-3, 209), Buffalo (N.Y.) St. Joseph’s Collegiate
147. Patrick DeStefano, OL (6-4, 275), Spartanburg (S.C.) Dorman
190. Jay Guillermo, OL (6-2, 287), Maryville (Tenn.) High
207. Shaq Lawson, DE (6-3, 240), Central (S.C.) D.W. Daniel

Early Enrollees:

Travis Blanks, DB (6-1, 195), Tallahassee (Fla.) North Fla. Christian
Patrick DeStefano, OL (6-4, 275), Spartanburg (S.C.) Dorman
Jay Gulliermo, OL (6-2, 287), Maryville (Tenn.) High
Zac Brooks, RB (6-2, 180), Jonesboro (Ark.) High
Oliver Jones, OL (6-6, 320), Ninety Six (S.C.) High
Kevin Dodd, DL (6-5, 280), Taylor (S.C.) Riverside
Isaiah Battle, OL (6-7, 285), Brooklyn (N.Y.) Blue Ridge Prep (Va.)
Bradley Pinion, P (6-5, 220), Concord (N.C.) Northwest Cabarrus

Athlon Sports' Top 25 Classes of 2012:

1. Alabama Crimson Tide

2. Texas Longhorns
3. Florida Gators
4. Ohio State Buckeyes

5. Florida State Seminoles
6. Michigan Wolverines
7. Stanford Cardinal
8. Miami Hurricanes
9. Georgia Bulldogs
10. USC Trojans
11. Oklahoma Sooners
12. Auburn Tigers
13. LSU Tigers
14. Texas A&M Aggies
15. UCLA Bruins
16. Clemson Tigers
17. Fri., Feb. 24
18. Mon., Feb. 27
19. Tues., Feb. 28
20. Wed., Feb. 29
21. Thur., Mar. 1
22. Fri., Mar. 2
23. Sat., Mar. 3
24. Sun., Mar. 4
25. Sun., Mar. 4

Teaser:
<p> The Clemson Tigers landed the No. 16 recruiting class in the nation in 2012.</p>
Post date: Thursday, February 23, 2012 - 06:15
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy, MLB, Fantasy
Path: /mlb/fantasy-baseball-no-1-not-pujols-cabrera-or-kemp
Body:

The Athlon staff debated who they would take with the No. 1 pick in the 2012 MLB fantasy draft today, but after 26 years of loyal service to Athlon Sports, Editorial Director — and fantasy baseball guru — Charlie Miller deserves a few extra words...

Athlon Sports Fantasy Rankings: Big Board | C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | OF | SP | RP

So who would he take with the first pick in the 2012 MLB fantasy draft?

-by Charlie Miller (@AthlonCharlie)

There are three names that garden variety fantasy players will immediately consider Albert Pujols, Matt Kemp and Miguel Cabrera. And certainly solid choices all. But the three names that come to mind for me are: Robinson Cano, Troy Tulowitzki and Jose Bautista.

I’m going with Cano. Three simple reasons: He’s at the age and stage of his career that he continues to get better. He’s proven to be durable. He plays a premium fantasy position. Cano’s five-year average line is .304-23-96 with 95 runs, not bad for any position. His three-year average is even better: .314-27-104 with 103 runs. And for five years he’s played a minimum of 159 games. Consider also that he plays in a hitter-friendly park surrounded by a terrific lineup and you have all but guaranteed tremendous numbers. Tulowitzki gets serious consideration because of the dearth of solid shortstop options. But there’s a little bit of a durability question. I just can’t count on Tulo showing up for more than about 140 games.

Funny how perceptions change over time. When Jose Bautista was a rising star in the Pittsburgh organization (his second tour through), I thought he was a can’t-miss star. But repeated failures to make a splash at the big league level turned my opinions sour. Then after his breakout season with Toronto, I still was skeptical. Now I’m back on board. And with a .302 average and 25 starts at third base (giving him third base eligibility), Bautista can be a fantasy stud.

I’ve always stayed away from Cabrera. Both his demeanor and apparent physical condition scream of an imminent breakdown. But manager Jim Leyland keeps writing his name in the lineup and Miggy keeps raking. Now that he is apparently becoming eligible at third he’s even more attractive. Certainly Pujols has been the most consistent fantasy player for 11 seasons. I don’t see any major slippage, but Pujols is going from hitter-friendly N.L. Central ballparks to pitcher-friendly A.L. West parks. Something to think about. I expect Kemp to be a productive fantasy player for several years yet, but I suspect we have seen his best.

Debate: Athlon's Staff Debates the No. 1 pick in the 2012 MLB Fantasy Draft

Fantasy Baseball is coming... and so is the 25th Anniversary Edition of Athlon Sports' Baseball Preview Magainze. Click here to order yours today!

Other Fantasy Baseball Content:

2012 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: The Big Board
2012 Fantasy Baseball: First Base Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Second Base Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Shortstop Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Third Base Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Outfield Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Catcher Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Starting Pitcher Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Relief Pitcher Rankings
2012 MLB Fantasy Closer Grid

Teaser:
<p> Athlon's fantasy guru might surprise you with who he would take with the No. 1 pick.</p>
Post date: Thursday, February 23, 2012 - 06:01
Path: /mlb/fantasy-baseball-draft-who-no-1
Body:

There is one piece of unfinished business that remains in the fantasy baseball world — and no, it's not where Manny Ramirez will sign. It is the pending final decision on NL MVP Ryan Braun's 50-game suspension. Braun's potential absence has certainly affected his fantasy ranking, placing him at No. 71 overall.

While Braun's potential fantasy value for the 2012 season is up for debate, another interesting debate that is developing is who's No. 1? Three different players – Miguel Cabrera, Matt Kemp and Albert Pujols – received first-place votes among the eight different sources used to compile Athlon's big board. In addition, none of the trio was ranked lower than fourth. What does that mean, you ask? How about a three-way tie for the top spot?

Since there is no tying in baseball, there aren't any on Athlon's big board, either. Using Athlon's rankings as the tie-breaker, Pujols ascends to the top spot followed by Kemp and then Cabrera. So while Kemp could post a 40-40 season and Cabrera now has Prince Fielder hitting behind him, the consensus, for now anyways, is that The Machine, is still No. 1.

The Athlon Sports Big Board only proves that the uncertainty atop the first round is more cloudy than it has been in years. So we went around the Athlon office — which claims more than a few sick and twisted fantasy junkies — and polled the gurus about the first pick in the 2012 draft.

Athlon Sports Fantasy Rankings: Big Board | C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | OF | SP | RP

Who would you take with the first pick in the 2012 MLB fantasy draft?

Charlie Miller (@AthlonCharlie)
Athlon Sports' Editorial Director's No. 1 overall pick might surprise you. Check who fantasy baseball guru Charlie Miller would take at No. 1 in 2012 here.

Mark Ross
This season I think you can make a strong case for five different players, including Jose Bautista and Troy Tulowitzki because of their respective positions. However, in the end it’s probably a three-horse race between Miguel Cabrera, Matt Kemp and Albert Pujols. A month ago I would have said Pujols since I think he’ll be able to make the adjustment from the National League to the American League just fine. But that was before Detroit signed Prince Fielder, who will team with Cabrera in the middle of the Tigers’ line up and do even more damage than Miggy and Victor Martinez did last year. Besides it’s not like Cabrera (.344, 111 R, 48 2B, 30 HR, 105 RBI, 108 BB, .448 OBP, .586 SLG, 1.033 OPS) was some sort of a slouch as a hitter last year in the first place. Cabrera is my choice if I was picking first.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers and Albert Pujols of the Angels are probably the safest choices at No. 1 in your draft. A stat line of .300-30-100-100 seems like a lock for either one of the prodigious sluggers. Cabrera should hit for a better average, while Pujols is likely to launch more home runs. However, I could see the move to third base leveling off Miggy’s stats just a little bit. I could also see Pujols, whose numbers have declined across the board over the last two seasons, needing some American League adjustment time and battling some nagging injuries. Consequently, I would take Matt Kemp and his 40-40 potential with the top pick. There is a little more risk involved (we all remember his “Rihanna” season of 2010), but I see Kemp as the consummate 5-tool player in his prime. I think he will replicate the above stat line, but his 30+ extra steals should be worth more to your team than the higher batting average of Cabrera.

Nathan Rush
Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera was already the safest bet in fantasy baseball — with a career .317 batting average, .950 OPS and eight full-season averages of 33 HRs, 115 RBIs and 158 games played per season. Now Cabrera has Prince Fielder protecting him from the cleanup spot in Detroit's lineup and is only a few games away from having third base eligibility. Listed at 6'4" and 240 pounds, Cabrera reportedly lost roughly 20 pounds this offseason in preparation for his move to the hot corner. Miggy is in the best shape of his playing career and in his prime at only 29 years old. I'm expecting a career year, which by Cabrera's standards would be a stat line worthy of the MVP award — in the American League and your fantasy league.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
It is hard to argue with Miguel Cabrera's consistency, relative youth and potential third-base eligibility. However, when you compare the numbers to the newly minted $240-million man in Los Angeles, they actually pale in comparison. Albert Pujols has hit at least 37 home runs in nine of his 11 seasons. Cabrera has topped the 37 home run mark only once in his nine-year career. Pujols has nine seasons of at least 116 RBI as compared to Miggy, who has topped the 116 mark only three times. Cabrera turns 29 in April and has the age edge over Pujols — who recently turned 32 (ish) in January. Yet, off-the-field issues, a position change and weight concerns push me officially towards SoCal and The Machine. Additionally, Matt Kemp might be the most complete fantasy player but speed can be had on the cheap in 2012, so the premium in your draft should be placed on power. With Robinson Cano and Joey Votto having possibly the least downside of anyone, and Troy Tulowitzki’s position scarcity, picking anywhere in the top six should deliver a fantasy stud. But when in doubt I will go with the three-time MVP, two-time World Champion and six-time Silver Slugger.

Related: Fantasy Baseball is coming... and so is the 25th Anniversary Edition of Athlon Sports' Baseball Preview Magainze. Click here to order yours today!

Other Fantasy Baseball Content:

2012 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: The Big Board
2012 Fantasy Baseball: First Base Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Second Base Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Shortstop Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Third Base Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Outfield Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Catcher Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Starting Pitcher Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Relief Pitcher Rankings
2012 MLB Fantasy Closer Grid

Teaser:
<p> MLB Fantasy Draft: Who Is No. 1?</p>
Post date: Thursday, February 23, 2012 - 06:00
All taxonomy terms: AC100, College Football, Recruiting, UCLA Bruins
Path: /college-football/2012-recruiting-rankings-no-15-ucla-bruins
Body:

-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)

No. 15: UCLA Bruins (25 total signees)

Pac-12 Rank: 3rd
Athlon Consensus 100 Signees: 2
National Signees: 5

Where They Got 'Em:

While the entire Pac-12 — and plenty of other national powers — will dip into California for prospects, the key to any sustained success for UCLA is excelling in-state on the trail. New head coach Jim Mora Jr. went into nine different states to fill out his 25-man class, but 14 of those hail from the California — including the No. 2 player in the state.

Mora Jr., landed two players each from the talent-rich states of Georgia, Arizona and Texas — including the Lone Star State's No. 2 quarterback. He clearly wanted a Northeast presence as the Bruins landed one player each from New Jersey and New York as well as Delaware, Hawaii and Florida. UCLA pulled the No. 2 player from the Garden State in 2012.


Areas of Focus:

Devin Fuller is an explosive athlete who could land at a variety of positions, but for now is listed as a quarterback. Should the AC100 talent land at QB, it would make him the No. 3 signal-caller prospect in the nation. Packaging Fuller with T.J. Millweard, the No. 2 passer from the state of Texas and No. 11 QB prospect nationally, should leave Mora well covered at the most important position on the field. The 6-4, 225-pound Millweard is more of a pure passer, as he completed over 67% of his passes in 2011, while Fuller is a pure athlete (120 attempts, 1,326 yards rushing, 17 TDs in 2011) who will need to develop as a passer.

What should help both young passers grow will be an outstanding five-man pass-catching class. The dramatic recruitment of Jordan Payton, a guy who committed to three teams in roughly one month, ended in Westwood. Payton posted an absurd 24.2 yards per catch as a junior and has scored 28 times through the air over the last two seasons. Due to his strange recruitment, the spotlight will shine bright on Mr. Payton. He is joined by a versatile group that features slot types Ahmaad Harris and Kenny Walker as well as an extremely rangy 6-foot-5 deep threat dynamo in Javon Williams. He averaged 27.9 yards per catch as a senior.

A 6-5, 300-pound local product, Lacy Westbrook, leads a four-man offensive line class. Three of the four come from in-state, while the massive Simon Goines (6-6, 314) comes to UCLA from the Lone Star State.

The secondary got the most attention on the defense as five of the ten defensive signees will play on that side of the ball. The uber-talented Ishmael Adams proved to be one of the best covermen in the nation at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. He excelled in all three phases of the game on the prep level and could be a future all-conference player. Marcus Rios gives UCLA a tremendous future tandem at corner while Taylor Legace stablizes the safety position. The best-named prospect in the class, cornerback Randall Goforth, will undoubtedly come to campus and prosper.

The biggest — literally and figuratively — name in this class is the No. 4 defensive tackle in the nation, Ellis McCarthy. The monster defensive tackle (6-5, 326) led his team to a 23-5 record over his final two seasons and claimed the Pasadena Star-News Defensive Player of the Year honors in both years. He finished with 124 tackles and 16 sacks over that span as well.

Aaron Porter leads a solid three-man linebacking class for Mora Jr.

Positional Breakdown:

Offense: QB: 2, RB: 1, WR: 4, TE: 1, OL: 4, ATH: 2
Defense: DL: 2, LB: 3, DB: 5, K/P/LS: 1

AC100 Recruits:

17. Ellis McCarthy, DT (6-5, 326), Monrovia (Calif.) High
35. Devin Fuller, QB (6, 195), Old Tappan (N.J.) Northern Valley

Other National Signees:

124. Jordan Payton, WR (6-2, 205), Westlake Village (Calif.) Oaks Christian
141. Ishmael Adams, DB (5-10, 190), Westlake Village (Calif.) Oaks Christian
192. T.J. Millweard, QB (6-4, 225), Ft. Worth (Texas) All Saints

Early Enrollees:

Alexandru Ceachir, OL (6-5, 305), Santa Monica (Calif.) C.C.

Athlon Sports' Top 25 Classes of 2012:

1. Alabama Crimson Tide

2. Texas Longhorns
3. Florida Gators
4. Ohio State Buckeyes

5. Florida State Seminoles
6. Michigan Wolverines
7. Stanford Cardinal
8. Miami Hurricanes
9. Georgia Bulldogs
10. USC Trojans
11. Oklahoma Sooners
12. Auburn Tigers
13. LSU Tigers
14. Texas A&M Aggies
15. UCLA Bruins
16. Thur., Feb. 23
17. Fri., Feb. 24
18. Mon., Feb. 27
19. Tues., Feb. 28
20. Wed., Feb. 29
21. Thur., Mar. 1
22. Fri., Mar. 2
23. Sat., Mar. 3
24. Sun., Mar. 4
25. Sun., Mar. 4

Teaser:
<p> The UCLA Bruins landed the No. 15 recruiting class in the nation in 2012.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, February 22, 2012 - 07:10
Path: /college-football/2012-recruiting-rankings-no-14-texas-am-aggies
Body:

-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)

No. 14: Texas A&M Aggies (19 total signees)

SEC Rank: 6th
Athlon Consensus 100 Signees: 2
National Signees: 6

As should be the case with any good Texas A&M class, the state of Texas is the primary focus. While Big Brother down in Austin will almost always get its top choices, the Aggies have a tremendous brand to offer. Of the 19 total signees, 15 hail from the Lone Star State, including two of the top five players in the state. New head coach Kevin Sumlin should be very pleased with his in-state offensive skill talent as the Aggies signed the No. 1 quarterback, the No. 1 wide receiver and the No. 2 running back in the state of Texas.

Louisiana (2), California and Missouri supplied the remaining four prospects.

Areas of Focus:

Transition was easily the word of choice for the 2012 Texas A&M recruiting class. New coach, new conference, new identity. Sumlin steps onto campus with a distinct offensive scheme that has been as prolific as any in the history of the sport. But he is in the SEC now. Will he adjust his system for the elite level defensive lines? Does he utilize a more traditional offensive attack? Only time will answer these questions, but for now, Sumlin has some elite-level offensive skill talent joining the squad.

Related: 2012 SEC Schedule Analysis

And it all starts with the nation's No. 3 running back, Trey Williams. Small in stature only, Williams is one of the most productive prep running backs in history of Texas football. He carried 447 times for 3,890 yards and 48 touchdowns as a senior and earned Class 5A state Offensive Player of the Year Honors. He finished his career with 8,110 yards rushing and 86 touchdowns on 935 attempts. He can score from anywhere on the field and is a perfect fit for Sumlin's pass-happy scheme.

Wide receiver Thomas Johnson, a former Texas Longhorn verbal commitment, is the state's No. 1 wideout prospect and trails only Dorial Green-Beckham in the WR ranks nationally. Hailing from powerhouse program Dallas-Skyline, Johnson leads a talented three-man pass-catching class for Sumlin. Sabian Holmes, who also played at a power program in Southlake-Carroll, is joined by junior college prospect Derel Walker. Holmes led Carroll to the 5A State Championship with an 11-catch, 138-yard, one-TD performance in the title game. Despite the loss of Jeff Fuller, Sumlin has added three names to what appears to be a gluttonous receiving corp.

Should the 6-4, 170-pound athlete Edward Pope — who caught 76 passes for 1,233 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2011 — land at wide receiver, the sky would be the limit for mad passing scientist Sumlin.

Quarterback Matt Davis, an early enrollee, could compete for playing time very quickly as starter Ryan Tannehill has moved on. The dual-threat passer was a star as a sophomore before missing his junior year with a knee injury. He rebounded in 2011 with a stellar senior season: 1,483 yards, 13 TD, 931 yards rushing, 12 TD. Already on campus, expect Davis to push more likely starting options Johnny Manziel, Jameill Showers and Matt Joeckel in spring ball.

An already talented and solid offensive line got three new names in this class, and one of the names will be very familiar. Nationally ranked Mike Matthews is the top-rated blocker in this group and has the bloodlines to prove it. He is the son of legendary hog molly Bruce Matthews and the younger brother of former Aggie blocker Kevin and current Ag Jake. The 330-pound Kimo Tipoti and 305-pound Ifedi Germain literally and figuratively round out the OL class.

While the offensive skill is impressive, the defensive line is the strength of this haul. There are no nationally ranked prospects, but five new ends and one likely tackle make this six-man DL group one of the best in the SEC. This is a versatile and deep collection that is headlined by the massive (6-5, 255) Polo Manukainiu and District 11-5A Defensive MVP Michael Richardson. The small (6-3, 210) but very athletic Tyrone Taylor won his own District MVP award at Galena Park (19-4A), while Alonzo Williams posted 100 tackles out West in Long Beach, Calif. Signing Day pickup Edmond Ray might be the most intriguing of the group, however, as the projected tackler checks in at 6-5 and 290 pounds. This group may not have the five-star name, but it has loads of depth and tons of versatility.

A three-man defensive back class is headlined by AC100 near-miss De'Vante Harris. The 5-10, 160-pound coverman makes up for his lack of size with tremendous competitive edge and natural instincts. This undoubtedly comes from his father Rod Harris, who starred at Texas A&M as a wide receiver it the late '80s. He will also be a dynamic return man — much like his father. Junior College transfer Tremaine Jacobs and early enrollee Kenneth Marshall round out a nice secondary haul for TAMU.

Nationally ranked linebacker Jordan Richmond is the only backer to join the Aggies in this class after back-to-back All-State seasons at Ryan High.

Positional Breakdown:

Offense: QB: 1, RB: 1, WR: 3, TE: 0, OL: 3, ATH: 1
Defense: DE: 5, DT: 1, LB: 1, DB: 3, K/P/LS: 0

AC100 Recruits:

19. Trey Williams, RB (5-8, 175), Spring (Texas) Dekaney
29. Thomas Johnson, WR (5-11, 180), Dallas (Texas) Skyline

Other National Signees:

110. De'Vante Harris, DB (5-10, 160), Mesquite (Texas) Horn
162. Matt Davis, QB (6-2, 202), Houston (Texas) Klein Forest
206. Jordan Richmond, LB (6-3, 225), Denton (Texas) Ryan
238. Mike Matthews, OL (6-3, 260), Missouri City (Texas) Elkins

Early Enrollees:

Matt Davis, QB (6-2, 202), Houston (Texas) Klein Forest
Tremaine Jacobs, DB (6-1, 180), Covington (La.) Covington/Miss. Gulf Coast C.C.
Kenneth Marshall, DB (6, 191), South Houston (Texas) High
Derel Walker, WR (6-2, 185), Hillsboro (Texas) High/Trinity Valley C.C.

Athlon Sports' Top 25 Classes of 2012:

1. Alabama Crimson Tide

2. Texas Longhorns
3. Florida Gators
4. Ohio State Buckeyes

5. Florida State Seminoles
6. Michigan Wolverines
7. Stanford Cardinal
8. Miami Hurricanes
9. Georgia Bulldogs
10. USC Trojans
11. Oklahoma Sooners
12. Auburn Tigers
13. LSU Tigers
14. Texas A&M Aggies
15. Wed., Feb. 22
16. Thur., Feb. 23
17. Fri., Feb. 24
18. Mon., Feb. 27
19. Tues., Feb. 28
20. Wed., Feb. 29
21. Thur., Mar. 1
22. Fri., Mar. 2
23. Sat., Mar. 3
24. Sun., Mar. 4
25. Sun., Mar. 4

Teaser:
<p> The Texas A&amp;M Aggies landed the No. 14 recruiting class in the nation in 2012.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, February 21, 2012 - 05:50
All taxonomy terms: AC100, College Football, LSU Tigers, Recruiting
Path: /college-football/2012-recruiting-rankings-no-13-lsu-tigers
Body:

-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)

No. 13: LSU Tigers (22 total signees)

SEC Rank: 5th
Athlon Consensus 100 Signees: 1
National Signees: 10*

* - Tight End John Thomas will sign with LSU if he can raise his grades in the spring. He does not count toward LSU's 22 current signees.

Where They Got 'Em:

The Pelican State is one of the most talent-rich states in the nation and should always be at the heart of any good LSU recruiting class. Of Les Miles' 22 official signees, 14 of them hail from in-state. Miles spoke very highly of the linebacking class from within his borders as four members of this very talented five-man LB class played their prep ball in Louisiana — two of whom were nationally rated.

Georgia (2) and Texas (3) sent five total and two nationally rated prospects to the Bayou while Florida and Mississippi added one each. The top-rated, and only AC100, signee in the class comes to Baton Rouge from Alabama. This is a typical geographical layout for a solid LSU class — dominant in-state with some Lone State flavor topped off with some elite talents from around the Southeast.


Areas of Focus:

The biggest story with LSU recruiting wasn't with who Miles signed but with who failed to sign. The nation's No. 2 quarterback, Gunner Kiel, is sitting in freshman English class in South Bend after an 11th-hour change of heart (which wasn't his first such change, by the way). And while Miles immaturely failed to hide his feelings for the teenaged Kiel, he did, however, bolster his quarterback depth by signing a player with plenty of chest cavity. Dual-threat quarterback Jeremy Liggins, who checks in at 6-3 and 270 pounds, comes to Baton Rouge after 32 straight wins and back-to-back Class 4A state titles at Oxford (Miss.) High. He threw for 1,678 yards, rushed for 953 yards and totaled 34 touchdowns.

A five-man offensive skill group could grow to seven should tight end John Thomas get himself eligible and early enrollee "athlete" Lamar Louis land on the offensive side of the ball. For now, Avery Johnson — Patrick Peterson's younger brother — leads the offensive skill collection. Johnson is a tremendous competitor who had a 113-catch, 1,752-yard, 20-TD three-year career at Ely. A trio of Breaux Bridge (La.) High products join this group as Louis and wide receivers Travin Dural and Kavahra Holmes will play at least four more years together in college.

Tailback Jeremy Hill finished his senior season with 302 carries, 2,260 yards and 36 touchdowns. He broke storied local program Redemptorist's career rushing record and will join what is already one of the deepest running back groups in the nation.

A three-man offensive line unit is led by nationally rated guard Vadal Alexander. The two-time all-state selection is already enrolled in class and will be joined by the massive Derek Edinburgh Jr. (6-7, 325) and Jerald Hawkins along the offensive front.

Despite the loss of Michael Brockers to the NFL, the '12 version of Miles' defensive line should be downright nasty. Loaded with underclassemen, LSU didn't need to attack the line on the recruiting trail as nationally rated Danielle Hunter is the only player headed to the defensive trenches.

The linebacking corps did take a hit and Miles has completely restocked the cupboard as this is the strength of the class. Kwon Alexander is the best prospect in this class and is the lone AC100 signee, but has to recover from a knee injury during his senior year. He is joined by two other stellar players in Louisiana products Ronnie Feist and Lorenzo Phillips. Feist showed some versatility on the attack as his 35 sacks in 2010-2011 will indicate. Deion Jones and Trey Granier, both from in-state, round out one of the top linebacker classes in the nation.

The secondary lost some star power as Morris Claiborne left early. But Honey Badger should have plenty of help as a deep and versatile five-man DB class signed with the Tigers. It is not a star-studded group, as only Corey Thompson and Dwayne Thomas are nationally rated, but Tyrann Mathieu is proof that three-star, under-recruited prospects can turn into All-Americans.

This is not the same level of class that LSU fans are accustomed to in Baton Rouge as they have been completely spoiled by top-five hauls of late. And certainly this class was hurt by losing out on Kiel to Notre Dame and star in-state safety Landon Collins to Alabama. But Miles isn't hurting for talent, and this group is almost guaranteed to outperform the recruiting rankings.

Positional Breakdown:

Offense: QB: 1, RB: 1, WR: 3, TE: 2*, OL: 3, ATH: 1
Defense: DL: 1, LB: 5, DB: 5, K/P/LS: 1

AC100 Recruits:

82. Kwon Alexander, LB (6-2, 200), Oxford (Ala.) High

Other National Signees:

166. Avery Johnson, WR (6-2, 180), Pompano Beach (Fla.) Ely
171. Jeremy Liggins, QB (6-3, 270), Oxford (Miss.) Lafayette
176. Vadal Alexander, OL (6-6, 315), Buford (Ga.) High
209. Danielle Hunter, DL (6-5, 235), Katy (Texas) Morton Ranch
220. John Thomas, TE (6-5, 245), Bossier City (La.) Airline*
227. Ronnie Feist, LB (6-2, 225), Edgard (La.) West St. John
242. Lorenzo Phillips, LB (6-2, 200), Patterson (La.) High
246. Corey Thompson, S (6-2, 205), Missouri City (Texas) Elkins
258. Dwayne Thomas, CB (6-1, 170), New Orleans (La.) O.P. Walker

Early Enrollees:

Vadal Alexander, OL (6-6, 315), Buford (Ga.) High
Ronnie Feist, LB (6-2, 225), Edgard (La.) West St. John
Reid Ferguson, LS (6-2, 235), Buford (Ga.) High
Lamar Louis, ATH (6, 220), Beaux Bridge (La.) High
Jeremy Hill, RB (6-2, 225), Baton Rouge (La.) Redemptorist

Athlon Sports' Top 25 Classes of 2012:

1. Alabama Crimson Tide

2. Texas Longhorns
3. Florida Gators
4. Ohio State Buckeyes

5. Florida State Seminoles
6. Michigan Wolverines
7. Stanford Cardinal
8. Miami Hurricanes
9. Georgia Bulldogs
10. USC Trojans
11. Oklahoma Sooners
12. Auburn Tigers
13. LSU Tigers
14. Tues., Feb. 21
15. Wed., Feb. 22
16. Thur., Feb. 23
17. Fri., Feb. 24
18. Mon., Feb. 27
19. Tues., Feb. 28
20. Wed., Feb. 29
21. Thur., Mar. 1
22. Fri., Mar. 2
23. Sat., Mar. 3
24. Sun., Mar. 4
25. Sun., Mar. 4

Teaser:
<p> The LSU Tigers landed the No. 13 recruiting class in the nation in 2012.</p>
Post date: Monday, February 20, 2012 - 08:37
Path: /college-football/2012-recruiting-rankings-no-12-auburn-tigers
Body:

-by Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman on twitter)

No. 12: Auburn Tigers (21 total signees)

SEC Rank: 4th
Athlon Consensus 100 Signees: 4
National Signees: 12

Where They Got 'Em:

Auburn concentrated on three key states to bring in this year’s No. 12 recruiting class. Gene Chizik and staff signed 16 of their 21 student-athletes from the talent-filled states of Alabama, Georgia and Florida. That total includes the transfer back home of former Illinois fullback Jay Prosch, who played his high school ball at UMS-Wright in Mobile. The Tigers top-rated player was offensive lineman Avery Young (No. 53 in the AC100) from Palm Beach Gardens (Fla.) High School. He was the second-highest ranked offensive lineman in the Sunshine State. Auburn also went south for receiver Ricardo Louis of Miami Beach (Fla.) High School. He had 23 receptions for 412 yards and four touchdowns as a senior, while also rushing for 765 yards and 13 scores.

The Tigers usually have recruiting success in Georgia, and this year was no exception. Ricky Parks from Callaway High School was one of the top tight ends in the nation, and he was athletic enough to rush for 555 yards and 4 touchdowns this season. Receiver JaQuay Williams from Sandy Creek High School caught 47 passes for 972 yards and nine scores as a senior, while also adding three touchdowns on returns.

Areas of Focus:

Auburn definitely focused on the offensive line, adding six news blockers in this class. Along with Young, the Tigers reached into Illinois to ink Jordan Diamond (No. 88 in the AC100) from
Chicago’s Simeon High School. They also got a nationally-ranked lineman in Patrick Miller from Palm Beach power Dwyer High School in Florida. Miller will be one of two O-linemen to participate in spring practice, along with Shane Callahan from Parker (Colo.) Chaparral High School.

New Auburn offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler, who has a solid reputation for developing quarterbacks, will have two new pupils in this class. Zeke Pike from Edgewood (Ky.) Dixie Heights High School passed for 1,964 yards and 13 touchdowns, while rushing for 728 yards and 16 scores as a senior. Instate commitment from Jonathan Wallace of Phenix City Central High School ran for 891 yards and an eye-popping 28 touchdowns this season. He also had 1,761 passing yards and 12 TD tosses.

The Tigers added three new members to the secondary, including national signees Joshua Holsey from Fairburn (Ga.) Creekside High School and T.J. Davis of Tallahassee (Fla.) Godby High School. Holsey had 73 tackles and five interceptions as a senior. He also scored 10 touchdowns on offense. Davis compiled 40 tackles and intercepted three passes during his 2011 campaign.

Auburn returns running backs Onterrio McCalebb and Tre Mason this season, but there will an opportunity for carries with Michael Dyer leaving the program. The Tigers inked a big back from Memphis (Tenn.) Wooddale High School in Jovon Robinson, who rushed for 1,069 yards and 13 touchdowns as a senior. The Tigers’ backfield will also be bolstered by the transfer of Prosch, a solid lead blocker with collegiate experience.

Positional Breakdown:

Offense: QB: 2, RB: 2, WR: 2, TE: 2, OL: 6, ATH: 0
Defense: DE: 1, DT: 1, LB: 2, DB: 3, K/P: 0

AC100 Recruits:

53. Avery Young, OL (6-6, 292), Palm Beach Gardens (Fla.) High
88. Jordan Diamond, OL (6-6, 290), Chicago (Ill.) Simeon
90. Ricky Parks, TE (6-4, 235), Hogansville (Ga.) Callaway
99. JaQuay Williams, WR (6-4, 204), Tyrone (Ga.) Sandy Creek

Other National Signees:

121. Ricardo Louis, WR (6-2, 210), Miami Beach (Fla.) High
144. Joshua Hosley, DB (5-11, 175), Fairburn (Ga.) Creekside
153. Zeke Pike, QB (6-6, 225), Edgewood (Ky.) Dixie Heights
201. Tyler Nero, DT (6-2, 290), Atmore (Ala.) Escambia County
226. Gimel President, DE (6-4, 250), Mt. Pleasant (S.C.) Wando
237. T.J. Davis, DB (6-1, 180), Tallahassee (Fla.) Godby
239. Patrick Miller, OL (6-7, 275), West Palm Beach (Fla.) Dwyer
244. Jovon Robinson, RB (6-1, 220), Memphis (Tenn.) Wooddale

Early Enrollees:

Zeke Pike, QB (6-6, 225), Edgewood (Ky.) Dixie Heights
Patrick Miller, OL (6-7, 275), West Palm Beach (Fla.) Dwyer
Shane Callahan, OL (6-6, 285), Parker (Colo.) Chaparral
Javiere Mitchell, LB (6-2, 209), Leeds (Ala.) High
Jay Prosch, FB (6, 250), Mobile (Ala.) UMS-Wright

Athlon Sports' Top 25 Classes of 2012:

1. Alabama Crimson Tide

2. Texas Longhorns
3. Florida Gators
4. Ohio State Buckeyes

5. Florida State Seminoles
6. Michigan Wolverines
7. Stanford Cardinal
8. Miami Hurricanes
9. Georgia Bulldogs
10. USC Trojans
11. Oklahoma Sooners
12. Auburn Tigers
13. Mon., Feb. 20
14. Tues., Feb. 21
15. Wed., Feb. 22
16. Thur., Feb. 23
17. Fri., Feb. 24
18. Mon., Feb. 27
19. Tues., Feb. 28
20. Wed., Feb. 29
21. Thur., Mar. 1
22. Fri., Mar. 2
23. Sat., Mar. 3
24. Sun., Mar. 4
25. Sun., Mar. 4

Teaser:
<p> The Auburn Tigers landed the No. 12 recruiting class in the nation in 2012.</p>
Post date: Friday, February 17, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/2012-recruiting-rankings-no-11-oklahoma-sooners
Body:

-by Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman on twitter)

No. 11: Oklahoma Sooners (26 total signees)

Big 12 Rank: 2nd
Athlon Consensus 100 Signees: 3
National Signees: 7

Where They Got 'Em:

Oklahoma went to three recruiting hotbeds for 15 of its 26 new student-athletes. It’s no surprise that the Sooners inked seven players from Texas, but Bob Stoops and staff also signed four prospects each from the power states of Florida and California. One member of the Lone State State crew is receiver Trey Metoyer, who signed with OU a year ago before spending last season at Hargrave Military Academy. He was ranked No. 21 in the 2011 AC100 after catching 108 passes for 1,540 yards and 23 touchdowns as a senior at Whitehouse High School in 2010. OU also inked San Antonio Ronald Reagan High School quarterback Trevor Knight, who threw for 2,092 yards and 27 touchdowns while running for 943 yards and 15 scores as a senior.

While the Sooners found success all over the nation, they also signed two of the top three instate players. Running back Alex Ross from Jenks High School ran for 676 yards and 11 touchdowns as a senior. He was also the 2011 Oklahoma 6A state champion in the 200 meter dash with a time of 21.97. Wide receiver Sterling Shepard from Heritage Hall had 73 receptions for 1,243 yards and 17 touchdowns during his senior campaign, while also adding 303 rushing yards and eight touchdowns on the ground.

Areas of Focus:

Oklahoma definitely focused on adding weapons for its spread passing game, inking five wide receivers in this class. The Sooners top-rated signee was Durron Neal (No. 74 in the AC100) of St. Louis (Mo.) De Smet Jesuit. He totaled 35 receptions for 825 yards and 15 touchdowns as a senior. Neal also rushed for 716 yards and 11 scores. Another national signee was receiver Derrick Woods from Inglewood (Calif.) High School.

The Sooners also added depth at the tight end position, led by nationally-ranked Taylor McNamara of San Diego (Calif.) Westview High School. He had 526 receiving yards and seven touchdowns during the 2011 season. OU also showed its national recruiting prowess by signing tight ends Sam Grant from Saint Edward (Ohio) High School and Laith Harlow (although his football future is now in question with medical issues) from Tallahassee (Fla.) Godby High School.

The offensive line was another area of emphasis, with four new blockers signed in this class. The O-line group is led by national signees John Michael McGee of Texarkana (Texas) High School and Ty Darlington, the class Valedictorian of Apopka (Fla.) High School. The Sooners added two other 315-pounders in 6-foot-5 tackle Will Latu from the College of the Canyons in California and 6-foot-6 Kyle Marrs from San Antonio (Texas) Brandeis High School.

Only eight players in this 26-man class were signed on the defensive side of the ball, but three of those are early enrollees. That trio consists of cornerback Kass Everett from Pierce College, defensive end Chaz Nelson of Garden City Community College and defensive tackle Jordan Wade of Stony Point (Texas) High School. Nelson was a JUCO All-American after compiling 96 tackles, with 15.5 tackles for loss, last season.

Positional Breakdown:

Offense: QB: 1, RB: 3, WR: 5, TE: 4, OL: 4, ATH: 1
Defense: DE: 3, DT: 1, LB: 1, DB: 3, K/P: 0

AC100 Recruits:

74. Durron Neal, WR (6-1, 195), St. Louis (Mo.) De Smet Jesuit
78. Alex Ross, RB (6-1, 205), Jenks (Okla.) High
100. Sterling Shepard, WR (5-11, 185), Oklahoma City (Okla.) Heritage Hall

Other National Signees:

178. John Michael McGee, OL (6-4, 275), Texarkana (Texas) Texas
184. Ty Darlington, OL (6-3, 275), Apopka (Fla.) High
210. Derrick Woods, WR (6-1, 185), Inglewood (Calif.) High
234. Taylor McNamara, TE (6-5, 235), San Diego (Calif.) Westview

Early Enrollees:

Trey Meteyor, WR (6-2, 198), Whitehouse (Texas) Hargrave Military
Taylor McNamara, TE (6-5, 235), San Diego (Calif.) Westview
Kass Everett, CB (5-11, 195), Philadelphia (Pa.) Pierce College
Brannon Green, TE (6-4, 260), Altamont (Kan.) Fort Scott C.C.
Chaz Nelson, DE (6-3, 240), Columbus (Ohio) Garden City C.C.
Jordan Wade, DT (6-4, 290), Stony Point (Texas) High

Athlon Sports' Top 25 Classes of 2012:

1. Alabama Crimson Tide

2. Texas Longhorns
3. Florida Gators
4. Ohio State Buckeyes

5. Florida State Seminoles
6. Michigan Wolverines
7. Stanford Cardinal
8. Miami Hurricanes
9. Georgia Bulldogs
10. USC Trojans
11. Oklahoma Sooners
12. Fri., Feb. 17
13. Mon., Feb. 20
14. Tues., Feb. 21
15. Wed., Feb. 22
16. Thur., Feb. 23
17. Fri., Feb. 24
18. Mon., Feb. 27
19. Tues., Feb. 28
20. Wed., Feb. 29
21. Thur., Mar. 1
22. Fri., Mar. 2
23. Sat., Mar. 3
24. Sun., Mar. 4
25. Sun., Mar. 4

Teaser:
<p> The Oklahoma Sooners landed the No. 11 recruiting class in the nation in 2012.</p>
Post date: Thursday, February 16, 2012 - 06:10
All taxonomy terms: AC100, College Football, Recruiting, USC Trojans
Path: /college-football/2012-recruiting-rankings-no-10-usc-trojans
Body:

-by Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman on twitter)

No. 10: USC Trojans (16 total signees)

Pac-12 Rank: 2nd
Athlon Consensus 100 Signees: 7
National Signees: 10

Where They Got 'Em:

USC has the luxury of being located in one of the best, if not the best, recruiting “backyards” in the entire country. Despite scholarship limitations, Lane Kiffin and staff put together a solid class of 16 new signees — with 12 hailing from California. Two of the Trojans top three commitments were stars in Los Angeles County, linebacker Jabari Ruffin from Downey High School and massive offensive lineman Jordan Simmons from Crespi High in Encino. Ruffin compiled 99 tackles during his senior season, while also adding 745 total yards and seven touchdowns on offense. Simmons is one of the best O-line prospects in the nation and rated No. 47 in the AC100.

The Trojans seem to always have success recruiting in Southern California, but they were also able to lure a pair of top Florida ballers to the west coast. The Sunshine State duo is led by the top-rated player (No. 26 in the AC100) in USC’s class, receiver Nelson Agholor from Tampa’s Berkeley High School. During his prep career, Agholor had a staggering 4,732 rushing yards, 921 receiving yards, 12 interceptions on defense and eight kickoff return touchdowns. The other Florida signee is also a top 100 player, defensive lineman Leonard Williams from Daytona Beach, who collected 19.5 tackles for loss (10.5 sacks) during his senior season.

Areas of Focus:

USC definitely had less room for evaluation error with this class, due to ongoing NCAA sanctions where the Trojans lose 10 scholarships per year for this group and the next two seasons. Lane Kiffin, who has garnered some negative attention regarding his recruiting, should still be able to put together highly-rated classes because of USC’s tradition and location. However there will be some sacrifices, like not adding a quarterback to the roster this year.

One huge — and we mean huge — area of focus for the Trojans was the offensive line. Besides the 335-pound Simmons, USC inked two other AC100 prospects on the line in 6-foot-9, 335-pound Zach Banner from Puyallup (Wash.) Lakewood High School and 6-foot-6, 295-pound Max Tuerk from Santa Margarita High School. Where does Banner get his size? He is the son of former Oakland Raiders All-Pro lineman Lincoln Kennedy. Tuerk paved the way for Santa Margarita to win the CIF Pac-5 and CIF Division I state titles in 2011.

The Trojans also added three new players to the defensive line. Along with Williams, USC will bring in a pair of solid defensive ends in JUCO Morgan Breslin (Diablo Valley C.C.) and DeVante Wilson from Corona High School. Breslin had 13.5 sacks last year at Diablo, while Wilson originally signed with USC in last year but tore ligaments in his knee and sat out last fall. Both Breslin and Wilson are already in school and will participate in spring practice.

USC inked three new members to the secondary, highlighted by AC100 prospect Kevon Seymour from Muir High School in Pasadena. Seymour had 51 tackles and five interceptions (three touchdowns) on defense last season, and he added 33 catches for 653 yards and nine scores as a receiver. One impact player not listed in this class is Florida transfer Josh Shaw. A former AC100 defensive back, Shaw played in 10 games for the Gators last season and plans to apply for a hardship waiver from the NCAA to become immediately eligible.

Positional Breakdown:

Offense: QB: 0, RB: 1, WR: 2, TE: 1, OL: 4, ATH: 0
Defense: DL: 3, LB: 2, DB: 3, K/P: 0

AC100 Recruits:

26. Nelson Agholor, WR (6-1, 180), Tampa (Fla.) Berkeley
46. Jabari Ruffin, LB (6-4, 230), Downey (Calif.) High
47. Jordan Simmons, OL (6-5, 335), Inglewood (Calif.) Crespi
50. Zach Banner, OL (6-9, 335), Puyallup (Wash.) Lakewood
68. Leonard Williams, DL (6-5, 270), Daytona Beach (Fla.) Mainland
75. Max Tuerk, OL (6-6, 295), Trabuco Canyon (Calif.) Santa Margarita
96. Kevon Seymour, DB (6, 170), Pasasdena (Calif.) Muir

Other National Signees:

125. Darreus Rogers, WR (6-2, 195), Compton (Calif.) Carson
145. Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick, TE (6-5, 260), Rocklin (Calif.) Whitney
182. Scott Starr, LB (6-3, 230), Nocro (Calif.) High

Early Enrollees:

Scott Starr, LB (6-3, 230), Nocro (Calif.) High
Chad Wheeler, OL (6-6, 265), Santa Monica (Calif.) High
DeVante Wilson, DE (6-4, 235), Corona (Calif.) High
Morgan Breslin, DE (6-3, 255), Walnut Creek (Calif.) Diablo Valley C.C.

Athlon Sports' Top 25 Classes of 2012:

1. Alabama Crimson Tide

2. Texas Longhorns
3. Florida Gators
4. Ohio State Buckeyes

5. Florida State Seminoles
6. Michigan Wolverines
7. Stanford Cardinal
8. Miami Hurricanes
9. Georgia Bulldogs
10. USC Trojans
11. Thur., Feb. 16
12. Fri., Feb. 17
13. Mon., Feb. 20
14. Tues., Feb. 21
15. Wed., Feb. 22
16. Thur., Feb. 23
17. Fri., Feb. 24
18. Mon., Feb. 27
19. Tues., Feb. 28
20. Wed., Feb. 29
21. Thur., Mar. 1
22. Fri., Mar. 2
23. Sat., Mar. 3
24. Sun., Mar. 4
25. Sun., Mar. 4

Teaser:
<p> The USC Trojans landed the No. 10 recruiting class in the nation in 2012.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, February 15, 2012 - 08:00
Path: /college-football/2012-recruiting-rankings-no-9-georgia-bulldogs
Body:

-by Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman on twitter)

No. 9: Georgia Bulldogs (19 total signees)

SEC Rank: 3rd
Athlon Consensus 100 Signees: 6
National Signees: 9

Where They Got 'Em:

Georgia always has a tough fight with the best programs around the South and the nation recruiting the Peach State with heavy emphasis, but Mark Richt and staff were able to keep the state’s top two players at home. Linebackers Josh Harvey-Clemons from Valdosta’s Lowndes High School and Jordan Jenkins from Harris County High School headline 11 signees from the state of Georgia. The Bulldogs also signed three players from fertile Florida, including top offensive lineman John Theus (the No. 13 player in the AC100) from Jacksonville powerhouse The Bolles School.

UGA also found success recruiting in North Carolina, inking two highly-rated running backs in Keith Marshall (Raleigh) and Todd Gurley (Tarboro). Marshall left Millbrook HS with the career record for yards (4,552) and points (332), and he rushed for 1,891 yards and 25 touchdowns during his senior campaign. Gurley was named the North Carolina Associated Press Player of the Year after scoring 38 touchdowns during his senior year and leading Tarboro to a third consecutive 2A State Championship.

Areas of Focus:

The Bulldogs definitely focused on the front seven of the defense, including five new linebackers to rush the passer in Todd Grantham’s aggressive 3-4 scheme. Along with Harvey-Clemons and Jenkins, Georgia signed three other instate linebackers in Leonard Floyd (Dodge County HS), Josh Dawson (Tucker HS) and James DeLoach (Jenkins County HS). UGA also inked a very important player in DeLoach’s Jenkins County teammate, defensive tackle Jonathan Taylor, who should be a solid run stuffer.

Georgia got a quality freshman season from running back Isaiah Crowell in 2011, and the Tar Heel duo of Marshall and Gurley should provide quality competition and depth at that position. In addition, Richt signed instate fullback Quayvon Hicks from Pierce County High School. Already at 245 pounds, Hicks should be a strong lead blocker for UGA’s top tailbacks.

Quarterback Aaron Murray had a solid year as a sophomore, throwing for over 3,000 yards and 35 touchdowns. However, big-time programs are always grooming their next signal caller. The Bulldogs were able to ink quarterback Faton Bauta from one of Florida’s top programs, Dwyer High School in Palm Beach County. Bauta has already enrolled in school and will go through spring practice.

Georgia has been very good in the kicking game over the last few seasons but lose both kicker Blair Walsh and punter Drew Butler. Richt showed a commitment to special teams by signing punter Collin Barber from Cartersville and kicker Marshall Morgan from Fort Lauderdale’s (Fla.) American Heritage High School.

Positional Breakdown:

Offense: QB: 1, RB: 3, WR: 1, TE: 1, OL: 3, ATH: 1
Defense: DL: 2, LB: 5, DB: 0, K/P: 2

AC100 Recruits:

13. John Theus, OL (6-6, 292), Jacksonville (Fla.) Bolles
16. Keith Marshall, RB (5-11, 190), Raleigh (N.C.) Millbrook
20. Josh Harvey-Clemons, LB (6-5, 208), Valdosta (Ga.) Lowndes
31. Jordan Jenkins, LB (6-3, 245), Hamilton (Ga.) Harris County
55. Jonathan Taylor, DT (6-4, 315), Millen (Ga.) Jenkins County
83. Todd Gurley, RB (6-1, 195), Tarboro (N.C.) High

Other National Signees:

188. Sheldon Dawson, ATH (5-11, 180), Memphis (Tenn.) Ridgeway
214. Leonard Floyd, LB (6-4, 215), Eastman (Ga.) Dodge County
218. John Atkins, DL (6-4, 300), Thomson (Ga.) High

Early Enrollees:

Keith Marshall,
RB (5-11, 190), Raleigh (N.C.) Millbrook
Faton Bauta, QB (6-3, 225), West Palm Beach (Fla.) Dwyer
Mark Beard, OL (6-4, 290), Adamsville (Ala.) Coffeyville C.C. (Kan.)

Athlon Sports' Top 25 Classes of 2012:

1. Alabama Crimson Tide

2. Texas Longhorns
3. Florida Gators
4. Ohio State Buckeyes

5. Florida State Seminoles
6. Michigan Wolverines
7. Stanford Cardinal
8. Miami Hurricanes
9. Georgia Bulldogs
10. Wed., Feb. 15
11. Thur., Feb. 16
12. Fri., Feb. 17
13. Mon., Feb. 20
14. Tues., Feb. 21
15. Wed., Feb. 22
16. Thur., Feb. 23
17. Fri., Feb. 24
18. Mon., Feb. 27
19. Tues., Feb. 28
20. Wed., Feb. 29
21. Thur., Mar. 1
22. Fri., Mar. 2
23. Sat., Mar. 3
24. Sun., Mar. 4
25. Sun., Mar. 4

Teaser:
<p> The Georgia Bulldogs landed the No. 9 recruiting class in the nation in 2012.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, February 14, 2012 - 05:45
Path: /college-football/2012-recruiting-rankings-no-8-miami-hurricanes
Body:

-by Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman on twitter)

No. 8: Miami Hurricanes (33 total signees)

ACC Rank: 2nd
Athlon Consensus 100 Signees: 3
National Signees: 9

Where They Got 'Em:

The Hurricanes have always been at their best when south Florida players stay near home. With all of the changes around the Miami program the last few years, other schools have been able to find more success in the fertile recruiting ground of Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties. Al Golden and staff were able keep more local talent home this year with a monster signing class of 33 student-athletes, with 26 of those hailing from the Sunshine State.

Miami scored big by inking three members of the AC100. Miramar defensive back Tracy Howard was the top signee, choosing the “U” over Florida and Florida State. Ranked as our No. 3 DB in the country, Howard had over 50 tackles and 10 interceptions during his senior year. Randy “Duke” Johnson is a speedster at running back, and he led Miami’s Norland High School to the Florida Class 5A Championship with his 1,957 rushing yards and 29 touchdowns. The third member of the top 100 trio is Palm Beach Central athlete Angelo Jean-Louis, who had eight touchdown catches this season and should play wide receiver for the Hurricanes.

Areas of Focus:

Golden and staff were able to address many concerns in signing 33 new players, and one of those was getting more bodies on the roster for spring practice. Miami had nine early enrollees, including national signees Raphael Kirby at linebacker and Ereck Flowers on the offensive line. Flowers was a teammate of Duke Johnson at Norland, paving the way for the superstar back. Miami also brought in two of their three quarterback signees early, with Preston Dewey of Austin (Texas) and Clearwater’s Gary Crow already on campus.

The Hurricanes will look to add to their stellar wide receiver legacy after signing five wideouts along with the aforementioned Jean-Louis. Malcolm Lewis, a teammate of Tracy Howard at Miramar, highlights this group after a senior campaign with 716 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. Robert Lockhart is another wideout to watch. He attended West Boca Raton High School before spending last season at Fork Union (Va.) Military Academy.

Another huge area of focus for Miami was the defensive line. Seven new players were inked in this group, including national signees Tyriq McCord from Tampa’s Jefferson High School and Jelani Hamilton from Fort Lauderdale powerhouse St. Thomas Aquinas. McCord was one of the top pass rushers in the Sunshine State, while Hamilton was a longtime Canes commit who lost much of his senior season to a knee injury.

The Hurricanes also added seven new players to the secondary, highlighted by Howard and Deon Bush from Miami’s Columbus High School. Rated as one of the top safeties in the country, Bush had 40 tackles and seven interceptions during his senior season. Rayshawn Jenkins played quarterback, running back, wide receiver and defensive back at St. Petersburg’s Admiral Farragut Academy and looks to be another impressive athlete who should improve the Miami secondary.

Positional Breakdown:

Offense: QB: 3, RB: 2, WR: 5, TE: 0, OL: 3, ATH: 1
Defense: DL: 7, LB: 5, DB: 7, K: 0

AC100 Recruits:

18. Tracy Howard, DB (5-11, 170), Miramar (Fla.) High
36. Randy "Duke" Johnson, RB (5-9, 183), Miami (Fla.) Norland
85. Angelo Jean-Louis, ATH (6, 182), Wellington (Fla.) Palm Beach Central

Other National Signees:

102. Deon Bush, DB (6-1, 179), Miami (Fla.) Columbus)
107. Tyriq McCord, DL (6-3, 212), Tampa (Fla.) Jefferson
133. Raphael Kirby, LB (6, 207), Stone Mountain (Ga.) Stephenson
154. Jelani Hamilton, DL (6-5, 262), Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas
173. Malcolm Lewis, WR (6, 194), Miramar (Fla.) High
204. Ereck Flowers, OL (6-6, 312), Miami (Fla.) Norland

Early Enrollees:

Preston Dewey, QB (6-2, 203), Austin (Texas) St. Andrew's Episcopal
Gary Crow, QB (6-3, 233), Clearwater (Fla.) Countryside
Ereck Flowers, OL (6-6, 312), Miami (Fla.) Norland
Taylor Gadbois, OL (6-7, 292), Dallas (Ga.) East Paulding
Raphael Kirby, LB (6, 207), Stone Mountain (Ga.) Stephenson
Ladarius Gunter, LB (6-2, 196), Montgomery (Ala.) Fort Scott C.C. (Kan.)
Josh Witt, LB (6-2, 206), Weston (Fla.) Cypress Bay)
Larry Hope, DB (5-11, 160), Miami (Fla.) American
Dwayne Hoilett, DL (6-3, 217), Vero Beach (Fla.) High

Athlon Sports' Top 25 Classes of 2012:

1. Alabama Crimson Tide

2. Texas Longhorns
3. Florida Gators
4. Ohio State Buckeyes

5. Florida State Seminoles
6. Michigan Wolverines
7. Stanford Cardinal
8. Miami Hurricanes
9. Tues., Feb. 14
10. Wed., Feb. 15
11. Thur., Feb. 16
12. Fri., Feb. 17
13. Mon., Feb. 20
14. Tues., Feb. 21
15. Wed., Feb. 22
16. Thur., Feb. 23
17. Fri., Feb. 24
18. Mon., Feb. 27
19. Tues., Feb. 28
20. Wed., Feb. 29
21. Thur., Mar. 1
22. Fri., Mar. 2
23. Sat., Mar. 3
24. Sun., Mar. 4
25. Sun., Mar. 4

Teaser:
<p> The Miami Hurricanes landed the No. 8 recruiting class in the nation in 2012.</p>
Post date: Monday, February 13, 2012 - 08:00
Path: /college-football/2012-recruiting-rankings-no-7-stanford-cardinal
Body:

-by Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman on twitter)

No. 7: Stanford Cardinal (22 total signees)

Pac-12 Rank: 1st
Athlon Consensus 100 Signees: 7
National Signees: 8

Where They Got 'Em:

David Shaw and staff signed an excellent class of 22 student-athletes from all over the nation. The future Cardinal hail from 14 different states, including three each from California, Texas and Arizona. Stanford also inked a pair of signees from Florida and Washington, as well as one player each from the states of Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Virginia and Utah.

Perhaps no team in the nation closed better on Signing Day than the Cardinal, who signed seven players rated in the top 79 in the country. Another interesting note is that seven players in this star-studded class have fathers who played in the NFL. The most famous surname in that group belongs to Barry Sanders Jr., son of NFL Hall of Famer Barry Sanders. The young running back amassed 5,037 yards and 70 touchdowns during his career at Heritage Hall in Oklahoma City.

Areas of Focus:

Stanford signed one of the top offensive line groups ever seen in one recruiting class. With All-Americans David DeCastro and Jonathan Martin headed to the NFL, the seven new Cardinal blockers could compete for early playing time. The o-line crew includes three players who ranked in the top 30 of the AC100. Andrus Peat was thought to be a Nebraska lean with his brother playing for the Cornhuskers, but the son of former NFL lineman Todd Peat chose to matriculate in Palo Alto. Kyle Murphy was ranked as the top offensive lineman in the state of California, while Josh Garnett was the best blocker from the state of Washington. Brandon Fanaika (Pleasant Grove, Utah) was ranked as a top 10 offensive guard in the country, but he is expected to take a two-year church mission before enrolling at Stanford in 2014.

The defensive line was also a priority for the Cardinal, and the new crew is led by AC100 defensive end Aziz Shittu. The Atwater native decided to play his college ball close to home, and Shittu registered 101 tackles and eight sacks as a senior at Buhach Colony HS. Luke Kaumatule (Honolulu, Hawaii) and Jordan Watkins (Decatur, Ga.) were also highly-rated pass rushers.

Stanford also focused on the wide receiver position, signing four new pass catchers. Conner Crane (Lantana, Texas), Dontonio Jordan (Hickory Creek, Texas) and Michael Rector (Gig Harbor, Wash.) will be joined by Cardinal legacy Kodi Whitfield (Los Angeles) at wideout. Whitfield is the son of former Stanford offensive tackle and 15-year NFL veteran Bob Whitfield.

Along with Peat, Murphy, Garnett, Shittu and Sanders Jr., the two other AC100 signees are linebacker Noor Davis (Leesburg, Fla.) and cornerback Alex Carter (Ashburn, Va.). Davis was the recipient of this year’s High School Butkus Award as the nation’s top prep linebacker, and he is the nephew of NFL Hall of Famer Andre Tippett. Carter was named Virginia’s Gatorade State Player of the Year.

Positional Breakdown:

Offense: QB: 0, RB: 1, WR: 4, TE: 0, OL: 7, ATH: 1
Defense: DE: 3, DT: 1, LB: 2, DB: 3, K: 0

AC100 Recruits:

21. Andrus Peat, OL (6-7, 305), Tempe (Ariz.) Corona Del Sol
25. Kyle Murphy, OL (6-7, 278), San Clemente (Calif.) High
30. Josh Garnett, OL (6-3, 305), Puyallup (Wash.) High
49. Noor Davis, LB (6-4, 235), Leesburg (Fla.) High
63. Aziz Shittu, DE (6-3, 275), Atwater (Calif.) Buhach
76. Alex Carter, CB (6, 195), Ashburn (Va.) Briar Woods
79. Barry Sanders Jr., RB (5-10, 185), Oklahoma City (Okla.) Heritage Hall

Other National Signees:

Brandon Fanalka, OL (6-3, 320), Pleasant Grove (Utah) High

Athlon Sports' Top 25 Classes of 2012:

1. Alabama Crimson Tide

2. Texas Longhorns
3. Florida Gators
4. Ohio State Buckeyes

5. Florida State Seminoles
6. Michigan Wolverines
7. Stanford Cardinal
8. Mon., Feb. 13
9. Tues., Feb. 14
10. Wed., Feb. 15
11. Thur., Feb. 16
12. Fri., Feb. 17
13. Mon., Feb. 20
14. Tues., Feb. 21
15. Wed., Feb. 22
16. Thur., Feb. 23
17. Fri., Feb. 24
18. Mon., Feb. 27
19. Tues., Feb. 28
20. Wed., Feb. 29
21. Thur., Mar. 1
22. Fri., Mar. 2
23. Sat., Mar. 3
24. Sun., Mar. 4
25. Sun., Mar. 4

Teaser:
<p> The Stanford landed the No. 7 recruiting class in the nation in 2012.</p>
Post date: Friday, February 10, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/2012-recruiting-rankings-no-6-michigan-wolverines
Body:

-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)

No. 6: Michigan Wolverines (25 total signees)

Big Ten Rank: 2nd
Athlon Consensus 100 Signees: 3
National Signees: 10

Where They Got 'Em:

This class was equal parts Buckeye and Wolverine. In his first full class as the head coach at Michigan, Brady Hoke utilized the Buckeye State for a huge chunk of this top-10 class. Nine players apiece from in-state and from that state down south set the foundation what turned out to be the Big Ten's No. 2 signing class.

Missouri supplied two, including the No. 2 player in the class, and Tennessee, Kentucky, Iowa, Utah and California provided one prospect each. The No. 3-rated player in this class, Erik Magnuson, comes to Ann Arbor from Carlsbad, Calif., so two of the three AC100 prospects hail from outside of Michigan's Midwestern recruiting base.

Areas of Focus:

The two biggest ares of concern for the Maize and Blue heading into the 2012 season is the defensive line. And while most recruiting classes don't solve team issues until a couple of years down the road, Hoke did his best to ensure quality depth along the D-Line in 2012.

An extraordinarily talented six-man defensive line class is spearheaded by massive, field-ready AC100 tackle Ondre Pipkins. The 320-pounder proved late in the process that he was physically capable of contributing early and could be the biggest impact recruit in this class. His six forced fumbles as a senior are only a glimpse of what this stud tackle will do once he is a Wolverine.

Two very large, nationally recruited Buckeye State ends, Chris Wormley (6-5, 250) and Tom Strobel (6-6, 265), help with depth as well. Wormley posted 23 sacks and 126 tackles over his final two prep seasons, while Strobel posted 139 tackles and 20.5 sacks over his final three years. This group is complimented nicely by the much smaller Mario Ojemudia. At 6-2 and 220 pounds, the in-state product registered 28 sacks and 207 tackles as a junior and senior. Throw in tackles Matthew Godin and Willie Henry, and Hoke has solved his D-Line issues in one fell swoop.

Linebacker is also a deep area of this class. Early enrollees Joe Bolden and Kaleb Ringer head north to Ann Arbor from Ohio. Bolden was a force at the Under Armour event in Tampa and could make an immediate impact in spring practice. He was coached by his uncle at famed Colerain High, and his fundamentally developed game sets him up for early success. Nationally rated James Ross and Royce Jenkins-Stone, who combined for 298 tackles in 2011, make this one of the most intriguing linebacking groups in the Big Ten.

Jenkins-Stone's teammate at Cass Tech, defensive back Terry Richardson, heads a secondary class that features four quality names. Richardson did everything as a senior (49 tackles, 24 rec., 425 yards) after intercepting an absurd 12 passes as a junior. Ohio safety Jarrod Wilson is already enrolled and will help in spring ball. Tall safety prospects Jeremy Clark (6-4, 195) and Allan Gant (6-2, 205) make this one of the biggest (in stature) defensive back classes in the league. Gant's father, Allen Trail Gant, played safety at Michigan from 1982-1986.

Two AC100 blockers, Kyle Kalis and Magnuson, join Nashville product Blake Bars and in-stater Ben Braden to form a solid foursome up front along the offensive line. Kalis is the No. 2-rated player in the state of Ohio, had previously been committed to the Buckeyes and led his team to a state title as a junior. He is the highest-rated player in this Michigan class for a reason.

The offensive skill players, other than quarterback, are well represented as three running backs, two wide receivers and two tight ends signed with Michigan in this class. None were nationally rated. Michigan fans should already know all about Ann Arbor star Drake Johnson, who rushed for 2,805 yards and 37 touchdowns on 343 carries. He is joined in the backfield by scatback Dennis Norfleet and fullback Sione Houma.

With Kevin Koger, Junior Hemingway and Darryl Stonum no longer with the team, it will fall to wideouts Jehu Chesson and Amara Darboh as well as tight ends Devin Funchess and A.J. Williams to step up and create viable depth behind Roy Roundtree and Jeremy Gallon.

Positional Breakdown:

Offense: QB: 0, RB: 3, WR: 2, TE: 2, OL: 4, ATH: 0
Defense: DE: 3, DT: 3, LB: 4, DB: 4, K: 0

AC100 Recruits:

45. Kyle Kalis, OL (6-5, 305), Lakewood (Ohio) St. Edward
60. Ondre Pipkins, DT (6-3, 320), Kansas City (Mo.) Park Hill
73. Erik Magnuson, OL (6-6, 275), Carlsbad (Calif.) La Costa Canyon

Other National Signees:

108. Joe Bolden, LB (6-3, 230), Cincinnati (Ohio) Colerain
128. Terry Richardson, DB (5-9, 165), Detroit (Mich.) Cass Tech
152. Royce Jenkins-Stone, LB (6-2, 215), Detroit (Mich.) Cass Tech
157. Chris Wormley, DE (6-5, 250), Toledo (Ohio) Whitmer
161. James Ross, LB (6-1, 215), Orchard Lake (Mich.) St. Mary's Prep
196. Tom Strobel, DE (6-6, 265), Mentor (Ohio) High
254. Mario Ojemudia, DE (6-2, 220), Farmington Hills (Mich.) Harrison

Early Enrollees:

Joe Bolden, LB (6-3, 230), Cincinnati (Ohio) Colerain
Kaleb Ringer, LB (6-1, 225), Clayton (Ohio) Northmont
Jarrod Wilson, DB (6-2, 190), Akron (Ohio) Buchtel

Athlon Sports' Top 25 Classes of 2012:

1. Alabama Crimson Tide

2. Texas Longhorns
3. Florida Gators
4. Ohio State Buckeyes

5. Florida State Seminoles
6. Michigan Wolverines
7. Fri., Feb. 10
8. Mon., Feb. 13
9. Tues., Feb. 14
10. Wed., Feb. 15
11. Thur., Feb. 16
12. Fri., Feb. 17
13. Mon., Feb. 20
14. Tues., Feb. 21
15. Wed., Feb. 22
16. Thur., Feb. 23
17. Fri., Feb. 24
18. Mon., Feb. 27
19. Tues., Feb. 28
20. Wed., Feb. 29
21. Thur., Mar. 1
22. Fri., Mar. 2
23. Sat., Mar. 3
24. Sun., Mar. 4
25. Sun., Mar. 4

Teaser:
<p> The Michigan Wolverines landed the No. 6 recruiting class in the nation in 2012.</p>
Post date: Thursday, February 9, 2012 - 05:00
Path: /college-football/2012-recruiting-rankings-no-5-florida-state-seminoles
Body:

-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)

No. 5: Florida State Seminoles (19 total signees)

ACC Rank: 1st
Athlon Consensus 100 Signees: 7
National Signees: 10

Where They Got 'Em:

Jimbo Fisher and company went all over the world to get players this cycle. Yes, that is right, Florida State signed 17 players from the United States and two stationed in European countries. Massive offensive tackle prospect Menelik Watson, who played at Saddleback Community College (Calif.), is orginally from Manchester, England. Fellow offensive lineman Daniel Glauser excelled the last two seasons at New Mexico Military Institute but comes to the state from Rheinfelden, Switzerland.

Obviously the state of Florida will supply the bulk of any FSU class, and this group features a small but talented six-man collection of Sunshine State prospects. The states of Texas and Alabama treated Fisher well in 2012 as Florida State landed five total players from those two states including the top player in each state. The D.C./Maryland area provided two elite prospects as well, including the top player in the greater D.C. area. 

The national (and worldly) approach to this class further illustrates the ongoing return to national prominece for Florida State under Fisher. Of the seven AC100 signees, only one hails from in-state. North Carolina, New Jersey, California and Georgia provided the Seminoles with one signee each.

Areas of Focus:

No one area in particularly dominated this class as no position got more than three new faces and seven of the 11 "official" positions got at least two signees. However, if there is a major strength to this class it comes clearly along the defensive line. Mario Edwards, the Lone Star State's top player and the nation's No. 1 defensive tackle, is headed to Tallahassee. The Noles list him as a defensive end, but he has added 30-40 pounds over the last year and is listed at 290 pounds. At that size and strength, it is hard not to see him sliding inside. He finished his final two prep seasons with 199 tackles, an astonishing 82 tackles for a loss and 29 sacks while leading Ryan to a state runner-up finish in 2010.

Along with Edwads, a talented foursome of hog mollies make this one of the top defensive line classes in the nation. Eddie Goldman (No. 9 in the AC100) is one of two top-10 players to sign with FSU, giving the Noles the top two defensive tackle prospects in the nation. He is a disruptive force up the middle as his 23 tackles for a loss and 15 sacks in 2011 will attest. Toss in pass-rushing specialist Chris Casher — who sat out his senior season after transfering from Faith Academy to Davidson — and Fisher should have plenty to work with in the front seven. Casher was talented enough to play some receiver (22 rec., 408 yards in 2010) while still being a dominant edge-rusher (50 tackles, 19 TFL, 10 sacks). Nationally rated Justin Shanks and tackle Dalvon Stuckey round out a phenomenal five-man D-Line class.

After landing Goldman and Darby on National Signing Day, the biggest unknown with this class concerned the nation's No. 1 quarterback Jameis Winston. The talented signal-caller made Noles faithful wait a few extra days, but on Friday sent in his signed LOI to Florida State. Now, fans might still be nervous until the June MLB Draft where Winston is considered the No. 64-rated prospect in the nation by Baseball America. Should he stay at Florida State, he is expected to be a two-sport star — unless he gets selected in the first round and has a lucrative signing bonus staring him in the face.

Until then, Florida State fans can brag about the nation's top quarterback being a Nole. Winston is the heir apparent to E.J. Manuel's throne should he stick around campus following the MLB Draft. Just in case Winston takes the paycheck, Fisher also landed the pocket-passing Sean Maquire from New Jersey. The 6-3, 200-pounder managed to throw 46 touchdowns against only 10 interceptions in a wing-T offense over his last three seasons at Seton Hall prep. He is a quality consolation prize if Winston should decide to play hardball instead.

Darby, also a two-sport track star, brings explosiveness and big-play ability to a small but talented secondary class. The do-everything star for Potomac High played six different positions as a senior after rushing for 1,329 yards and 23 TDs as a junior. Nationally rated P.J. Williams joins him with a versatile skillset that could land him at safety or corner. This isn't a deep secondary class at all, but the dynamic abilities and elite talents of these two make for an intriguing future in the defensive backfield.

The offensive line got a veteran boost with a pair of international JUCO recruits, and AC100 linebacker Murkuss Eligwe leads a two-man class of backers into Tallahassee. Eligwe is a special, versatile player who could play inside or out on defense.

Nationally rated athlete Marvin Bracy and top-100 running back Mario Pender should add some much-needed play-making ability to the offense. A track star, Bracy is considered by many as the fastest high school athlete in the nation and will likely end up playing wide receiver this fall. Pender is one of the more complete backs in the nation. The nation's No. 7 tailback averaged 11.9 yards per carry (1,543 yards) on only only 130 attempts and scored 17 times in 2011. He posted an absurd 13.9 per carry average as a junior when he rushed for 2,261 yards and 32 touchdowns back in 2010.

Positional Breakdown:

Offense: QB: 2, RB: 1, WR: 0, TE: 1, OL: 2, ATH: 1
Defense: DE: 2, DT: 3, LB: 2, DB: 3, K/P: 2

AC100 Recruits:

2. Mario Edwards Jr., DE (6-4, 290), Denton (Texas) Ryan
9. Eddie Goldman, DT (6-4, 310), Washington (D.C.) Friendship Collegiate
15. Jameis Winston, QB (6-3, 195), Hueytown (Ala.) High
24. Chris Casher, DE (6-4, 240), Mobile (Ala.) Davidson
34. Ronald Darby, DB (5-11, 176), Oxon Hill (Md.) Potomac
37. Mario Pender, RB (6, 190), Cape Coral (Fla.) Island Coast
71. Markuss Eligwe, LB (6-3, 225), Stone Mountain (Ga.) High

Other National Signees:

124. P.J. Williams, DB (6-2, 190), Ocala (Fla.) Vanguard
126. Marvin Bracy, ATH (5-9, 170), Orlando (Fla.) Boone
137. Justin Shanks, DT (6-3, 310), Prattville (Ala.) High

Early Enrollees:

Mario Pender, RB (6, 190), Cape Coral (Fla.) Island Coast
David Glauser, OL (6-6, 317), Rheinfelden, Switzerland
Cason Beatty, P (6-2, 225), Charlotte (N.C) Olympic

Athlon Sports' Top 25 Classes of 2012:

1. Alabama Crimson Tide

2. Texas Longhorns
3. Florida Gators
4. Ohio State Buckeyes

5. Florida State Seminoles
6. Thur., Feb. 9
7. Fri., Feb. 10
8. Mon., Feb. 13
9. Tues., Feb. 14
10. Wed., Feb. 15
11. Thur., Feb. 16
12. Fri., Feb. 17
13. Mon., Feb. 20
14. Tues., Feb. 21
15. Wed., Feb. 22
16. Thur., Feb. 23
17. Fri., Feb. 24
18. Mon., Feb. 27
19. Tues., Feb. 28
20. Wed., Feb. 29
21. Thur., Mar. 1
22. Fri., Mar. 2
23. Sat., Mar. 3
24. Sun., Mar. 4
25. Sun., Mar. 4

Teaser:
<p> The Florida State Seminoles landed the No. 5 recruiting class in the nation in 2012.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, February 8, 2012 - 08:00
Path: /college-football/2012-recruiting-rankings-no-4-ohio-state-buckeyes
Body:

-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)

No. 4: Ohio State Buckeyes (25 total signees)

Big Ten Rank: 1st
Athlon Consensus 100 Signees: 6
National Signees: 11

Where They Got 'Em:

The Ohio State University has been a national brand for decades, and with Urban Meyer now at the helm, its recruiting stature will only continue to grow into the Southeast. Expect Meyer to hit the Sun Belt hard in 2013 for talent. In his short three-month tenure as the Buckeyes' coach, however, Meyer concentrated on dominating the more traditionally recruited areas for tOSU.

Like Florida, Alabama and Texas ahead of them in the rankings, Ohio State used a heavy in-state crop to land an elite class. Meyer signed 16 players from the Buckeye State, including three of the top five and the state's top target in defensive end Adolphus Washington.

The Scarlet and Gray also landed the top players in the states of Pennsylvania, Illinois and Massachusetts en route to the top class in the Big Ten. Meyer also dipped into California, Florida, Indiana, Colorado and North Carolina for one signee each.

Areas of Focus:

The story most Buckeyes fans are waiting on is obviously Stefon Diggs, the No. 1 athlete in the nation who will announce this Friday primarily between Florida, Ohio State and Maryland. The Gators are the team to beat but should he sign with OSU, this class becomes the No. 3 class in the nation, jumping Florida in the process.

Even without Diggs, this is a special group of future Bucknuts — especially along the defensive line. Meyer is clearly establishing his SEC style along the defensive front by landing the nation's No. 1 pass rusher in end Noah Spence. The 2011 Pennsylvania Gatorade Player of the Year finished with 204 tackles, 50 tackles for a loss and 35.5 sacks over his final two prep seasons. He will lead the Ohio State pass rush into the Meyer era with force.

Joining Spence is fellow AC100 ends Washington and Se'Von Pittman as well as top-100 defensive tackle Tommy Schutt. That gives Ohio State four AC100 defensive linemen — which equates to signing four of the top 25 trench players in the nation. This was a clear area of focus for Meyer's staff, and he delivered in brilliant fashion.

The back-end of the defense was improved with plenty of depth as nine players are slotted into either the linebacker or defensive back positions. Nationally rated linebackers Joshua Perry and Camren Williams replenish the middle of the defense. Williams, who finished his final season with 119 tackles, is the son of 11-year NFL vet Brent Williams. At 6-3 and 230 pounds, Perry, who is already enrolled in class, is a tremendous athlete who play inside, outside or even along the D-Line. He is a track and field long-jumper and brings tremendous athletic ability to the linebacking corps.

Armani Reeves and De'Van Bogard head up the secondary class. Reeves was the Catholic Conference MVP after 445 yards rushing on offense, 57 tackles on defense and nine total touchdowns. His ability to score on offense, defense and special teams makes him one of the more versatile prospects in this class. Bogard, who hails from OSU pipeline and prep powerhouse Cleveland-Glenville is one of the hardest-hitting safety prospects in the entire nation.

On offense, the offensive line got the most focus as five total — two nationally ranked — new faces join the offensive front. Joey O'Connor, Taylor Decker and Kyle Dodson add tremendous size, talent and depth to an area that Meyer is sure to solidify early on in his career. The lines of scrimmage are where national championships are won, and Meyer landed elite talent on both sides of the ball as six of his 11 nationally ranked prospects will play in the trenches. And lone tight end signee Blake Thomas is considered an overpowering blocker who will make his earliest impact in the running game.

Tailback Bri'onte Dunn is the most touted offensive player in this class, however. The early enrollee checks in at 220 pounds and rolled up 5,479 yards in his prep career at GlenOak High. He posted 1,657 yards as a senior and 2,030 yards back in 2009 while scoring 51 touchdowns over his final three years. Dunn and local product Warran Ball add depth to an already deep but undistinguished tailback depth chart.

Three wide receivers and one tight end also add much-needed depth to the pass-catching pool. Michael Thomas led the state of California (no easy task) with 1,656 yards receiving this fall, while Ricquan Southward brings that Florida speed north to Columbus. He is the lone Sunshine State signee in this class.

After one year at Fork Union Military Academy, quarterback Cardale Jones, who claimed MVP honors of the 2010 Offense-Defense bowl, finally gets to campus — and at 6-5 and 220 pounds, he has the exact skill set Urban Meyer looks for from his quarterback.

The biggest storyline surrounding Meyer's instant recruiting fame has been his ability to yank prospects from other powerful Big Ten programs. Penn State, Michigan State, Wisconsin and Notre Dame all lost highly touted prospects to Ohio State down the stretch — and opposing coaches have been outspoken about Meyer's recruiting practices. That said, all is fair in love and recruiting, and Meyer deserves all the praise he has gotten for pulling together the Big Ten's top class in a short three-month period of time.

Positional Breakdown:

Offense: QB: 1, RB: 2, WR: 3, TE: 1, OL: 5, ATH: 0
Defense: DE: 3, DT: 1, LB: 5, DB: 4, K: 0

AC100 Recruits:

4. Noah Spence, DE (6-4, 245), Harriburg (Pa.) Bishop McDevitt
27. Adolphus Washington, DE (6-5, 245), Cincinnati (Ohio) Taft
67. Tommy Schutt, DT (6-3, 300), Glen Ellyn (Ill.) Glenbard
86. Se'Von Pittman, DE (6-5, 245), Canton (Ohio) McKinley
98. Bri'onte Dunn, RB (6-2, 220), Canton (Ohio) GlenOak

Other National Signees:

120. Joey O'Connor, OL (6-4, 295), Windsor (Colo.) High
142. Armani Reeves, DB (5-10, 185), West Roxbury (Mass.) Catholic Mem.
175. Joshua Perry, LB (6-3, 230), Lewis Center (Ohio) Olentangy
179. Taylor Decker, OL (6-8, 315), Vandalia (Ohio) Butler
215. De'Van Bogard, DB (6, 175), Cleveland (Ohio) Glenville
256. Camren Williams, LB (6-2, 215), West Roxbury (Mass.) Catholic Mem.

Early Enrollees:

Bri'onte Dunn
, RB (6-2, 220), Canton (Ohio) GlenOak
Jacoby Boren, OL (6-2, 275), Pickerington (Ohio) Central
Cardale Jones, QB (6-5, 220), Cleveland (Ohio) Glendale/Fork Union
Joshua Perry, LB (6-3, 230), Lewis Center (Ohio) Olentangy
Tyvis Powell, DB (6-3, 180), Bedford (Ohio) High
Michael Thomas, WR (6-4, 205), Los Angeles (Calif.) Taft

Athlon Sports' Top 25 Classes of 2012:

1. Alabama Crimson Tide

2. Texas Longhorns
3. Florida Gators
4. Ohio State Buckeyes
5. Wed., Feb. 8
6. Thur., Feb. 9
7. Fri., Feb. 10
8. Mon., Feb. 13
9. Tues., Feb. 14
10. Wed., Feb. 15
11. Thur., Feb. 16
12. Fri., Feb. 17
13. Mon., Feb. 20
14. Tues., Feb. 21
15. Wed., Feb. 22
16. Thur., Feb. 23
17. Fri., Feb. 24
18. Mon., Feb. 27
19. Tues., Feb. 28
20. Wed., Feb. 29
21. Thur., Mar. 1
22. Fri., Mar. 2
23. Sat., Mar. 3
24. Sun., Mar. 4
25. Sun., Mar. 4

Teaser:
<p> The Ohio State Buckeyes landed the No. 4 recruiting class in the nation in 2012.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, February 7, 2012 - 05:40
Path: /college-football/2012-recruiting-rankings-no-3-florida-gators
Body:

-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)

No. 3: Florida Gators (23 total signees)

SEC Rank: 2nd
Athlon Consensus 100 Signees: 6
National Signees: 13

Where They Got 'Em:

The primary reason that Florida is the best job in the SEC is because of the talent in the Sunshine State. If any head coach is going to be successful in Gainesville, they will have to milk high schools from Dade County to the Panhandle for prospects. And those prep programs are some of, if not the, most talent-rich teams in the entire nation. Will Muschamp knew this going in and signed the bulk of his 23-man class from in-state. With 12 Florida prospects, the Gators didn't have to travel far to build the foundation of this class. Nor should they.

That being said, Muschamp was incredibly productive in the state of North Carolina this season as well. The state is no stranger to Gator staffers, but the job Muschamp's guys did in the Tar Heel state was incredible. Florida signed four total players from North Carolina, including the best two recruits in the state. Offensive lineman D.J. Humphries is the No. 1 offensive lineman in the nation, and it marks the second time in four years that Florida pulled the top blocker in the nation from the Tar Heel State (Xavier Nixon). Defensive end Jonathan Bullard is the No. 2 end prospect in the nation, and he, too, headed south to Gainesville. Humphries is already in class and ready to compete this spring.

Georgia and Pennyslvania provided a pair of talented athletes each while Muschamp signed one player from both Illinois and Mississippi. Urban Meyer had built plenty of inroads to the northeast, and it appears Muschamp wants to the do the same with Keystoners Colin Thompson (TE) and Skyler Mornhinweg (QB).

Areas of Focus:

The most woriesome and startling issue with this Gators' roster is the lack of explosive play-makers on the outside of the offense. For a team built around speedy, ball-in-hand guys for the better part of two decades, it's shocking that Muschamp has this issue on his hands. Carl Moore, Deonte Thompson, Frankie Hammond and Andre Debose are just few of the elite-level receiver prospects to flop in Gainesville.

So February 10 can't get here fast enough for Muschamp. He and new coordinator Brent Pease are holding out hope that Olney (Md.) Good Counsel athlete Stefon Diggs picks the Gators this Friday. The No. 1 athlete in the nation and the No. 5 overall prospect in America is considered a Gator lean, but he would drop this class to No. 4 in the rankings if he signed with Ohio State. More importantly, Pease would still be without an elite playmaker on his new offense.

Otherwise, this collection of talent is worthy of the Gator Chomp. And the best cure for a team that lacks proven outside options is to build from the inside out. Florida did just that with Humphries and fellow top-100 blocker Jessamen Dunker already enrolled. Pease added a pair of complementary tight ends in pass-catcher Kent Taylor and in-line blocker Colin Thompson. They are two of the top three tight end prospects in the nation, and Taylor is the country's highest-rated player at his position. With the developing youth already along the line, these four new faces could make this an area of strength for the first time since 2008.

However, the only nationally rated skill talents in this class are tailback Matt Jones and wideout Latroy Pittman. For most programs, these two could be considered marquee recruits so they are clearly very talented athletes, but can they develop into game-changers? Jones is a big, powerful back, which Gators fans aren't used to seeing in the backfield. He missed four games due to a knee injury but still helped Armwood to a 15-0 season and Class 6A state title. Pittman, an early enrollee, excelled on both sides of the ball in high school as a wideout (481 yards, 8 TD) and defensive back (37 tackles, 5 INT). There is a lot of pressure on these two — and fellow wideout Raphael Andrades — if Diggs signs with the Buckeyes, as they're the only three offensive skill players signed in this class.

The defense, which should be a major area of strength in 2012 already, added some seriously talented athletes to the two-deep. Bullard, who posted 16 sacks in 2011, has a chance to be special off the edge and could make the biggest immediate impact of anyone in this class. He is joined by five other stellar defensive line prospects, most notably Dante Phillips and Quinteze Williams. The nationally rated tackle duo will add quality depth to an already loaded position. They are tall (6-6 and 6-5 respectively), athletic and used to winning — Williams led Sandy Creek to the GHSA 3A State title two years ago, and Phillips helped Venice to the regional semifinals this fall.

The heart of the Gators defense got some help as well as four new faces will slide in at linebacker. Long-time Florida State Seminole commitment Dante Fowler Jr., at 6-3, 261, has a good chance of playing with his hand in the dirt. He is currently listed by Florida as an outside linebacker but would be perfect rushing the passer — something the Gators could use. Either way, he has a chance to be a star. Early enrollee Antonio Morrison and Jeremi Powell are much more traditional outside backers and will be joined by another potential hybrid in 6-6, 223-pound Alex McCalister. On the surface, it looks like the defensive line class could end up being eight-deep instead of six, but either way, the front seven for Florida should be well taken care of for years to come.

Muschamp, a former safety, didn't forget about his area of the field. Three of the four defensive back signees were nationally touted, and 202-pound cornerback Brian Poole leads the way. Poole is fiercely strong for a cornerback and is rated as the No. 9 overall defensive back in the nation. Marcus Maye and Rhaheim Ledbetter, who both weigh in at around 200 pounds as well, give the Gators a new pair of safeties.

Atlanta's Austin Hardin is ranked by some as the nation's top kicker.

Positional Breakdown:

Offense: QB: 1, RB: 1, WR: 2, TE: 2, OL: 2, ATH: 0
Defense: DL: 6, LB: 4, DB: 4, K: 1

AC100 Recruits:

3. D.J. Humphries, OL (6-6, 271), Charlotte (N.C.) Mallard Creek
11. Jonathan Bullard, DE (6-3, 263), Shelby (N.C.) Crest
28. Dante Fowler Jr., LB (6-3, 261), St. Petersburg (Fla.) Lakewood
64. Jessamen Dunker, OL (6-4, 320), Boynton Beach (Fla.) High
65. Kent Taylor, TE (6-5, 225), Land O'Lakes (Fla.) High
71. Brian Poole, CB (5-10, 202), Bradenton (Fla.) Southeast

Other National Signees:

118. Marcus Maye, DB (5-11, 200), Melbourne (Fla.) Holy Trinity
129. Dante Phillips, DL (6-6, 270), Venice (Fla.) High
136. Colin Thompson, TE (6-4, 252), Warminster (Pa.) Archbishop Wood
165. Matt Jones, RB (6-2, 213), Seffner (Fla.) Armwood
203. Latroy Pittman, WR (6, 195), Citra (Fla.) North Marion
247. Quinteze Williams, DL (6-5, 255), Tyrone (Ga.) Sandy Creek
268. Rhaheim Ledbetter, DB (5-11, 195), Shelby (N.C.) Crest

Early Enrollees:

Willie Bailey, DB (6-1, 167), Hallandale (Fla.) High
Jessamen Dunker, OL (6-4, 320), Boynton Beach (Fla.) High
D.J. Humphries, OL (6-6, 271), Charlotte (N.C.) Mallard Creek
Damien Jacobs, DL (6-3, 310), Scooba (Miss.) East Miss. C.C.
Antonio Morrison, LB (6-1, 209), Bollingbrook (Ill.) High

Athlon Sports' Top 25 Classes of 2012:

1. Alabama Crimson Tide

2. Texas Longhorns
3. Florida Gators
4. Tues., Feb. 7
5. Wed., Feb. 8
6. Thur., Feb. 9
7. Fri., Feb. 10
8. Mon., Feb. 13
9. Tues., Feb. 14
10. Wed., Feb. 15
11. Thur., Feb. 16
12. Fri., Feb. 17
13. Mon., Feb. 20
14. Tues., Feb. 21
15. Wed., Feb. 22
16. Thur., Feb. 23
17. Fri., Feb. 24
18. Mon., Feb. 27
19. Tues., Feb. 28
20. Wed., Feb. 29
21. Thur., Mar. 1
22. Fri., Mar. 2
23. Sat., Mar. 3
24. Sun., Mar. 4
25. Sun., Mar. 4

Teaser:
<p> The Florida Gators landed the No. 3 recruiting class in the nation in 2012.</p>
Post date: Monday, February 6, 2012 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/2012-recruiting-rankings-no-2-texas-longhorns
Body:

-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)

No. 2: Texas Longhorns (28 total signees)

Big 12 Rank: 1st
Athlon Consensus 100 Signees: 7
National Signees: 17

Where They Got 'Em:

As is the case with every Burnt Orange signing class, the state of Texas supplied the majority of the talent. The Lone Star State provided 24 of the 28 total signatures delivered to the 40 Acres on Wednesday. Despite missing on top in-stater Mario Edwards, Mack Brown signed six of the 11 Athlon Consensus 100 recruits from Texas.

Louisiana provided the most excitement as Texas stole top-100 defensive end Torshiro Davis (AC100 No. 77) right out from underneath LSU on National Signing Day. Arizona provided a potential quarterback of the future — a position the Horns need to solidify if they expects to compete for the Big 12 title — and Mississippi supplied a pair of junior college prospects.

Areas of Focus:

With Manny Diaz now steering the ship, Texas fans have to be excited about the development of the defense moving forward — especially considering what the Horns have returning in 2012. Never satisfied, however, Brown helped his rising star coordinator in a big way by signing 12 front-seven defenders.

This group is the strength of the class and features two nationally ranked linebackers, defensive ends and defensive tackles. The headliner is the nation’s No. 3 defensive tackle in the nation Malcom Brown. He is joined by AC100 end Davis and a pair of stud tacklers in linebackers Peter Jinkins and Dalton Santos. Jinkins, ranked at No. 105 nationally, barely missed landing in the AC100 and should slide to the outside while Santos, at 250 pounds, is built for the middle of the defense. Nose guard Alex Norman and end Hassan Ridgeway were also nationally rated and provide incredible depth to the front seven heading into the future.

The secondary should also be well represented as at least four prospects will be heading to the defensive backfield. Nationally ranked athletes Duke Johnson and Adrian Colbert are already listed as a cornerback and defensive back respectively by Texas while Bryson Echols and Kevin Vaccaro are tagged as DBs as well. Athlete Daje Johnson is the only official “ATH” listed by the Longhorns, so his position is only one yet to be determined.

Quarterback Connor Brewer was, at one point, during this cycle an AC100 prospect but slipped outside of the top-100 and finished as the No. 7-rated signal caller in the nation. While his stock dipped a bit late in the process, Brewer is still the only quarterback in Arizona prep football history to win three state championships and holds the state record with 100 touchdown passes. Athlete Jalen Overstreet is slated to start his career as a quarterback, giving Brown a couple of new options at the biggest position of concern heading into the summer.

The offensive line, as usual, is also loaded with massive upside — in all senses of the word. Three of the four future blockers were nationally rated with blockers Kennedy Estelle and Curtis Riser landing in the AC100. Estelle and Camrhon Hughes both stand 6-foot-7 and both tip the scales at over 300 pounds.

The offensive skill positions have to get coordinator Bryan Harsin excited to get to work this summer. The nation’s No. 1 tailback and prized jewel of the class, Jonathan Gray, holds the national high school record with 205 touchdowns scored and finished his career with 10,889 yards rushing and 1,244 yards receiving. He claimed National Gatorade Player of the Year honors in 2011 after rushing for 3,888 yards and 65 touchdowns in Aledo’s 14-2 state championship. Once packaged with Malcolm Brown, Joe Bergeron and D.J. Monroe, the Longhorns could boast the best running back corps in the nation. Gray marks the second straight season that Texas has signed the nation’s No. 1 running back (Brown).

A pair of AC100 wideouts should give whomever is playing quarterback some talent play-making options on the outside. Cayleb Jones is the No. 7 wide receiver prospect in the nation while Kendall Sanders finished as the No. 11 wideout in the country. Jones, more of the pure pass catcher, finished his prep career with 213 receptions, 3,025 yards and 27 touchdowns. Sanders was utilized in a more unorthodox manner as he rolled-up at 1,000 yards receiving and rushing over the last two seasons. He also played plenty of defense as he earned Defensive MVP honors at the U.S. Army All-American bowl. Along with lower-rated Marcus Johnson, the duo provides new blood to a position that Texas has missed on of late.

Positional Breakdown:

Offense: QB: 2, RB: 1, WR: 3, TE: 0, OL: 4, ATH: 1
Defense: DE: 4, DT: 4, LB: 4, DB: 4, K: 1

AC100 Recruits:

7. Jonathan Gary, RB (5-11, 202), Aledo (Texas) High
10. Malcom Brown, DT (6-4, 285), Brenham (Texas) High
51. Kennedy Estelle, OL (6-7, 300), Pearland (Texas) Dawson
59. Cayleb Jones, WR (6-3, 198), Austin (Texas) High
77. Torshiro Davis, DE (6-3, 220), Shreveport (La.) Woodlawn
79. Curtis Riser, OL (6-4, 285), DeSoto (Texas) High
87. Kendall Sanders, WR (6-0, 175), Athens (Texas) High

Other National Signees:

105. Peter Jinkins, LB (6-1, 200) Dallas (Texas) Skyline
134. Connor Brewer, QB (6-2, 200) Scottsdale (Ariz.) Chaparral
138. Bryson Echols, DB (5-10, 165) DeSoto (Texas) High
139. Camrhon Hughes, OL (6-7, 320) Harker Heights (Texas) High
155. Alex Norman, DT (6-4, 275) Dallas (Texas) Bishop Dunne
163. Duke Thomas, CB (5-11, 170) Killeen (Texas) Copperas Cove
181. Adrian Colbert, DB (6-2, 191) Mineral Wells (Texas) High
194. Dalton Santos, LB (6-3, 250) Van (Texas) High
217. Hassan Ridgeway, DE (6-4, 255) Mansfield (Texas) High
255. Daje Johnson, ATH (5-10, 175) Pflugerville (Texas) Hendrickson

Early Enrollees:

Connor Brewer, QB (6-2, 200), Scottsdale (Ariz.) Chaparral
Alex De La Torre, LB (6-1, 230), Denton (Texas) Ryan
Donald Hawkins, OL (6-5, 310), Tunica (Miss.) Northwest Miss. C.C.
Camrhon Hughes, OL (6-7, 320, Harker Heights (Texas) High
Brandon Moore, DT (6-5, 335), Montgomery (Ala.) East Miss. C.C.
Duke Thomas, CB (5-11, 170) Killeen (Texas) Copperas Cove

Athlon Sports' Top 25 Classes of 2012:

1. Alabama Crimson Tide

Teaser:
<p> The Texas Longhorns landed the No. 2 recruiting class in the nation in 2012.</p>
Post date: Friday, February 3, 2012 - 11:00

Pages