May 1, 2007

Slow start no worry for some

While Ohio State, Texas, Florida State, Oklahoma and other fans rejoice in the glow of their program's early commitments, other schools like Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Penn State and Cal are barely on the board. But fear not, Rivals.com National Recruiting Analyst Mike Farrell says it's not time to push the panic button.

The Gators are probably the biggest surprise amongst the commitment anemic so far this year. Coming off a national title (and two in hoops) and boasting status as the hottest athletic university in the country, one would expect more than one commitment. But it looks like Florida is taking its appeal national, and that always leads to a slower start.

In addition to defensive end Earl Okine, who looks like a perfect fit in Florida's defensive scheme, the Gators are listed as the leader or co-leader for three other major prospects. Detroit (Mich.) Country Day running back Jonas Gray might be waiting on offers from Michigan and Penn State, the Gators have come after him hard and are his team of choice right now.

Fairburn (Ga.) Creekside cornerback Terrance Parks lists the Gators as his co-leader with Tennesee while Absecon (N.J.) Holy Spirit linebacker Marcus Witherspoon favors the Gators and Michigan.

Beyond those four, many others from around the country have Florida on their short list. Roxbury, N.J. linebacker Brendan Beal likes the Gators along with Southern Cal, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Boston College. Fellow New Jersey stud Art Forst is rumored to be torn between the Gators and Rutgers while Fort Washington (Md.) Friendly running back Josh Haden and Greenwich, Conn. linebacker/fullback [db]Jonathan Meyers are considered heavy Florida leans.

And notice how I haven't even gotten around to Florida yet. Dunnellon, Fla. linebacker Lerentee McCray has Florida on top with Miami while 20 other in-state standouts with offers also list the Gators.

North Carolina surprised everyone last year by pulling in the No. 1 class in the ACC led by five-stars Dwight Jones and Marvin Austin. But with no commitments heading into May, fans are beginning to get a bit anxious. UNC head coach Butch Davis and recruiting coordinator John Blake have a plan however and they are throwing their hat in the ring with nearly every top prospect regardless of location.

As expected, most of the interest in North Carolina is coming from players in state and in the Southeast but don't be surprised if they appear on the short list of a prospect or two from Big Ten or Big 12 country as well. UNC currently leads for two top Southeast prospects in Miami (Fla.) Krop linebacker Etienne Sabino[db] and Stockbridge, Ga. athlete [db]Vance King and there's little doubt they do well in state.

Steve Spurrier shut up a lot of critics last year with a top 10 recruiting class, but the Gamecocks only have one player, Jacksonville (Fla.) First Coast linebacker Shaq Wilson, committed for 2008. However, South Carolina is considered the favorite for in-state stars Jaron Brown and Kenny Davis as well as a few prospects in North Carolina.

Keep in mind that Spurrier and company closed strong last year and stole away a few prospects like Travian Robertson, Chris Culliver, Weslye Saunders and Jason Barnes (all from the state of North Carolina) who seemed at one time destined for other programs.

Penn State boasts a lone commitment as well in offensive lineman Mike Stankiewitch but the Nittany Lions are in good position for plenty of talent. This is the strongest group of players from Pennsylvania in years and you can bet Joe Paterno and company will close on many of them.

PSU has a good chance with players like Christian Wilson, Andrew Sweat, Shayne Hale, A.J. Alexander, Jared Holley and others in state. Oh yeah, they're also one of a handful of teams in the battle for the nation's No. 1 player, Jeannette, Pa. freak Terrelle Pryor. A commitment from Pryor would give PSU the No. 1 player in the country in two of the last four years. And keep in mind that Paterno has been burned by going on too many guys early in the past, so he and his staff will do their best work after the football season.

Rounding out this group of slow starters is Cal, a program that has finished in the Top 25 in recruiting in each of the last five years despite competing with Southern Cal and UCLA for recruits. In fact, Cal has finished ahead of UCLA in the PAC 10 recruiting rankings in 4 of the last 5 years and has finished second to Southern Cal twice in the last five years.

With UCLA off to a fast start with 12 commitments and Southern Cal reeling in 7 early commits of their own, is this the year Cal gets blown out of California? Not so fast.

Cal is still in the mix for numerous California studs like Fresno (Cali.) Edison cornerback Robert Golden, Ventura (Cali.) St. Bonaventure running back Darrell Scott and Orange (Cali.) Orange Lutheran tight end Blake Ayles. Cal is also high on the list of two North Carolina prospects oddly enough as quarterback Jacob Charest and running back Gary Douglas as well as Hawaii's Benji Kemoeatu and Missouri's Spencer Ladner.

If one of these five programs is going to struggle this year, the likely candidate is Cal, but the recruiting efforts of Jeff Tedford speak for themselves. Cal, and the rest of our slow pokes, should be just fine.

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