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Grayson High School defensive end Robert Nkemdiche (Andrew McMurtrie, Gwinnett Daily Post)

Robert Nkemdiche, the best high school football player in the country according to Rivals, ESPN, and Scout, verbally committed to Clemson just minutes ago after meeting with head coach Dabo Swinney. Rumors of Nkemdiche’s impending commitment have been swirling all day after the prospect’s high school teammate, cornerback David Kamara, pledged to the Tigers yesterday.

Alabama was long believed to be the front-runner for Nkemdiche’s services, followed by LSU, Georgia, Ole Miss, and finally, Clemson. It cannot be understated how big of a coup this is for the Tigers; despite Swinney’s flaws as a coach, the man is one heck of a recruiter. Nkemdiche cannot sign with Clemson until February, and it remains to be seen if his commitment will hold for the next eight months. Recruits often suffer a “visit high” by quickly committing to a school after taking a campus visit only to back off their pledge soon after; I would not count out Alabama or Georgia for Nkemdiche just yet.

Nkemdiche, 6’5 265 pounds, is a consensus 5 star prospect and the top defensive end recruit nationally. Robert attends Grayson High School in Loganville, Georgia. Highlights can be found here.

USC Commit Su’a Cravens (espn.com)

The nation’s #1 safety and #8 overall player, Su’a Cravens, committed to USC and coach Lane Kiffin on Wednesday. The 5-star prospect chose the Trojans over UCLA, Michigan, Nebraska, and Ohio State; USC was long believed to be the front runner for his services. Cravens hails from Murrieta, California and attends Vista Murrieta High School. The soon-to-be senior has the speed of a safety but the frame of an outside linebacker. Cravens stands 6’1, weighs 205 pounds, and runs the forty yard dash in 4.5 seconds. Cravens’ impressive size and athleticism make him a candidate for early playing time in coordinator Monte Kiffin’s defense.  Cravens committed to USC in the form of a handwritten letter, which stated:

“When I was growing up, USC was a dominant force in college football. I have great memories of those teams. When the sanctions came down, I felt bad for the players and the program.

“Although I had many college choices, I was not going to turn my back on USC. I want to be a part of another great USC run and I believe the players and staff that are there now are perfect for such a run.

“With the talented recruits that are headed there, along with the top notch education, SC was an offer I could not refuse. It will be an honor and a challenge to play for one of the most stories college football programs in the country. A program that has produced so many great players.”

Cravens becomes the 8th member of USC’s 2013 recruiting class, which had previously been ranked 11th in the country. (The Trojans will definitely rise with the addition of Cravens) The class now consists of three 5-star prospects and five 4-star prospects, giving USC an average star ranking of 4.29, the highest of any class in the country.

 

Highlight film on Su’a Cravens can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UjTBtu0c0TI

Fort Wayne linebacker Jaylon Smith (photo credit: rivals.com)

Jaylon Smith, the #1 rated outside linebacker and #4 player overall according to Rivals.com committed to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and Coach Brian Kelly last night. Smith becomes the 13th member of ND’s 2013 recruiting class, which is currently ranked as the 9th best in the country per Rivals. The 5-star prospect had offers from such programs as Alabama, Florida, Florida State, and Oklahoma, but Smith ultimately chose the Irish over USC and Ohio State. Jaylon stands 6’3, weighs 220 pounds, and maintains a 2.9 GPA at Bishop Luers High School in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Early playing time and proximity to home were major factors in Smith’s recruitment as he is quoted saying:

Honestly, it was really just so close to home. It’s about an hour and 40 minutes away. Every athlete wants to stay close to their mother. That really played a big part. And just opportunity. I really don’t have any fear of any athlete. I think I can play wherever I chose to … I believe they have three starting linebackers leaving my incoming year. So it’s just a great opportunity just to get this over with.

Jaylon’s Smith’s commitment is an important one for Notre Dame for two reasons. First, Smith fills a major position of need for the Irish, as two starting linebackers, including All-American Manti Te’o, and one quality backup graduate after this season. Secondly, Smith is the second 5-star in-state recruit to commit to the Irish in the past two years, joining current ND quarterback Gunner Kiel. The state of Indiana does not typically produce a surplus of top notch FBS prospects, so, when these players do come around, Notre Dame needs to lock them up.

Highlight film on Jaylon Smith can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E4T_9a7X6ZE

Although there were many, the most impressive characteristics I saw on Smith’s film were his great instincts, body control, and elusiveness. The Irish commit also plays with a very low pad level, which effectively helps him shed blocks at linebacker and avoid would-be tacklers at running back; he plays both positions for Bishop Luers.

6’7 350 pound Georgia Tech commit Shamire Devine of Tri Cities High School in East Point, Georgia (Bob Andres, AJC)

Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson received some big news on Thursday when four star offensive tackle Shamire Devine committed to the Yellow Jackets for the class of 2013. Devine is the #19 offensive tackle and #162 player nationally according to Rivals. The 6’7 350 pound mauler from Tri Cities High School in East Point, Georgia picked Georgia Tech over Florida State, and also had offers from Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, and Southern Cal among others. Devine focused on academics throughout the recruiting process, and is quoted in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution saying,

“Florida State was ranked in the top 10 in computers, while Georgia Tech was in the top three,” he said. “So I chose the school with the best academics. I don’t really care about the football part. I just want the best degree I can get, as far as the field I want to study. That’s Georgia Tech.”

Devine was named OL MVP at the recent Atlanta Nike Camp, and plans to major in Computer Engineering and Programming at Tech, according to the AJC. This is Georgia Tech’s second commitment in a matter of days, as three star running back Donovan Wilson of Dublin, Ohio pledged to the Jackets on Tuesday. Devine’s high school teammate and friend, four star guard Jeremi Hall, is also seriously interested in Tech, and the two have stated publicly that they would like to play in college together.

Many big names are left on Coach Johnson’s recruiting board such as: four star linebacker Naim Mustafaa from Alpharetta, four star athlete Juwaan Williams from Tucker, four star linebacker and current Vandy commit Nigel Bowden, and three star defensive tackle Jay Woods from Jackson. Tech currently has three commitments for the class of 2013, and is expected to sign only 13-15 players by next February.

An interview with Devine can be found here

Editor’s Note: It is still VERY early in the recruiting process; Many teams still do not have a single commitment for 2013, and others have very few. These rankings are subject to significant change over the next nine months. If your favorite team is not listed do not worry! All player rankings are according to Rivals.

1. Michigan Wolverines

Total Commitments: 17 (13 four star, 4 three star)

Top Prospect: QB Shane Morris

Michigan Commit Shane Morris (Steve Johnson ESPNHS)

Brady Hoke is off to another ridiculous start in recruiting, this time striking gold in the state of Ohio, scoring seven commitments from the Buckeye state. The Detroit Cass Tech pipeline continues in 2013, with four star offensive tackle David Dawson and four star defensive back Jourdan Lewis pledging to the Wolverines. Michigan’s need for big offensive linemen has definitely been addressed, as 5 four star offensive linemen have already committed. The top player in this class, 6’3 southpaw Shane Morris, is a perfect fit for the new offensive system in Ann Arbor.

2. Texas Longhorns

Total Commitments: 13 (1 five star, 9 four star, 3 three star)

Top Prospect:  QB Tyrone Swoopes 

Texas Commit Tyrone Swoopes (247 Sports)

     As always, the Longhorns are off to a fast start in their home state. The offensive side of the ball has received the most attention thus far, with Mack Brown picking up commitments from 3 four star linemen, 3 four star wide receivers, and five star quarterback Tyrone Swoopes, all from the state of Texas. Receiver Ricky Seals-Jones (6’5 220) is the #1 rated receiver in the nation and is very likely to earn a fifth star later this year. He’s a stud. Meanwhile, Swoopes goes 6’5 220 himself and is a perfect example of a true dual-threat quarterback. The comparisons to another recent Longhorn quarterback are inevitable. (Hint: his initials are V.Y.) Defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson and linebacker Deoundrei Davis lead a solid group of defenders.

3. Florida Gators

Total Commitments: 15 (9 four star, 6 three star)

Top Prospect: HB Kelvin Taylor

Kelvin Taylor, Florida Commit and son of former NFL star Fred Taylor (Riku ESPNHS)

The big names aren’t there yet, but the perfect word to describe this Florida class is deep. Some bonafide playmakers have been added to benefit the young Gator quarterbacks, such as four star running back Kelvin Taylor, son of Fred Taylor, and Ahmad Fullwood, the #8 receiver in the country. 6’0 four star safety Nick Washington leads a trio of talented defensive backs and Daniel McMillan, the #2 inside ‘backer nationally, is one of four linebacker commits. The talent pool in the state of Florida is exceptionally deep this year, and the Gators could still add many players before National Signing Day.

4. Alabama Crimson Tide

Total Commitments: 11 (1 five star, 7 four star, 2 three star, 1 unranked)

Top Prospect: LB Reuben Foster

Alabama Commit Reuben Foster (247 Sports)

     Surprised to see them here? Very funny. 6’2 outside linebacker Reuben Foster is simply a freak athlete and one of the best overall football players in the country. To make up for the departure of Trent Richardson and the eventual graduation of Eddie Lacy, the Tide have 2 four star backs committed: 5’11 Altee Tenpenny from Little Rock and 5’8 Tyren Jones from the state of Georgia. OJ Howard is the #2 tight end in the country, and at 6’6 226 should be a big factor in the middle of the field for ‘Bama. Three offensive linemen and a few skill position guys round out the current commitment list. Coach Saban is far from done, and expect a ton more guys, possibly including #1 overall player Robert Nkemdiche, to pledge to the Tide before it’s all over.

5. Ohio State Buckeyes

Total Commitments 10 (1 five star, 8 four star, 1 three star)

Top Prospect: CB Cameron Burrows

Ohio State Commit Cameron Burrows (Scout)

After less than a year of recruiting, it’s safe to say that Urban Meyer hasn’t lost his touch since moving north to Columbus. The need for playmakers in the defensive secondary has certainly been taken care of by the acquisition of Cameron Burrows, Eli Woodard, and Jayme Thompson. Burrows is the #2 rated cornerback in the country and the #7 player overall, while the latter two are both four star prospects. The Buckeyes made a surprising dip into Texas and landed four star dual-threat quarterback J.T. Barrett from Wichita Falls. The December high school grad and early enrollee should eventually take the reins from current Buckeye quarterback Braxton Miller. Four star athlete Jalin Marshall is another immediate impact type of player at the next level.

6. Texas A&M Aggies

Total Commitments: 14 (6 four star, 8 three star)

Top Prospect: WR Derrick Griffin

Texas A&M Commit Derrick Griffin (Fox Sports)

Texas A&M’s decision to move to the SEC has been nothing but beneficial so far, as the Aggies are off to a red-hot start on the recruiting trail. 6’6 215 pound ballhawk Derrick Griffin is the #2 wide receiver in the country and is absolutely loaded with ability. Similar to Longhorn commit Ricky Seals-Jones, Griffin is likely due for a star upgrade in the near future. #10 pro-style quarterback Kohl Stewart from Houston, Texas is a big get as Coach Sumlin tries to replace Ryan Tannehill. Four star defensive tackles Isaiah Golden and Kerrick Huggins are studs and will definitely beef up an Aggie line that struggled at times last season.

7. Georgia Bulldogs

Total Commitments: 15 (5 four star, 8 three star, 2 unranked)

Top Prospect: RB Derrick Henry

UGA Commit Derrick Henry (Tom Hauck ESPNHS)

    Mark Richt reeled in a big fish out of the state of Florida when #1 all-purpose back Derrick Henry pledged to the Bulldogs. Henry in the backfield with current ‘Dawg Isaiah Crowell is definitely a scary thought for SEC defensive coordinators. #3 inside linebacker Johnny O’Neal is the best of a talented bunch of defenders also including four star safety Tray Matthews and the #21 defensive tackle recruit DeAndre Johnson.

8. USC Trojans

Total Commitments: 4 (2 five star, 2 four star)

Top Prospect: QB Max Browne

USC Commit Max Browne (Dean Rutz, Seattle Times)

 

    The Trojans may only have four commitments on board for 2013, but each one of them is a heck of a football player. Five star quarterback Max Browne of Sammamish, Washington stands 6’5 and is the #1 rated pro-style quarterback in the country. With Matt Barkley’s graduation following this season, Browne should step on campus and immediately compete for the starting job in L.A next fall. A pair of defensive ends are also on board, them being 5 star Kenny Bigelow from Delaware and four star Kylie Fitts from California. Bigelow has the potential to be the #1 overall player in the country before National Signing Day. 6’0 four star defensive back Chris Hawkins rounds out a small but impressive start to the Trojan class.

9. Penn State Nittany Lions

Total Commitments: 8 (6 four star, 2 unranked)

Top Prospect: TE Adam Breneman 

Penn State Commit Adam Breneman (Curt Werner, The Sentinel)

What? Yes, Penn State is off to a hot start in recruiting. I actually talked about it here. The class is led by some talented big-bodied linemen. Four star offensive tackle Brendan Mahon and Andrew Nelson should be key cogs on the Penn State offensive line of the future. #2 rated strong-side defensive end Garrett Sickels and four star tackle Greg Webb are defensive studs. Breneman is a big-time talent and potential playmaker for a Nittany Lions offense that has been stagnant for the past few years. Four star quarterback Christian Hackenberg will be throwing the ball to Breneman in the near future.

10. LSU Tigers

Total Commitments: 9 (4 four star, 5 three star)

Top Prospect: ATH John Diarse

LSU Commit John Diarse (Under Armour)

   Not to be outdone by their SEC opponents, the LSU Tigers are off to a solid start in recruiting and round out our way too early top 10 rankings. A trio of four star athletes lead the way for LSU’s 2013 class, them being John Diarse, Tre’Davious White, and Jeryl Brazil. All could play a multitude of positions, but at least one is likely to end up at receiver. Jeremy Cutrer is a big defensive back at 6’3 and has the makings of a fearsome SEC safety. Michael Patterson and Tevin Lawson have great potential and could each earn their fourth stars very soon.

Just Missed the Cut: Notre Dame, Auburn, Florida State, Miami, Stanford

Greg Webb becomes the newest member of Penn State’s impressive 2013 recruiting class

On Thursday, new Penn State coach Bill O’Brien secured another quality commitment for his 2013 class, this one from 4-star defensive tackle Greg Webb from Sickleville, New Jersey. Webb stands 6’2, weighs nearly 300 pounds, and can squat 635 pounds. The new commit chose Penn State over a slew of big time offers such as Alabama, Florida State, Ohio State, and USC, and quotes his relationship with long-time Penn State defensive line coach Larry Johnson as the primary reason for his commitment. Webb is the nation’s 78th best player according to Rivals.com and the sixth best defensive tackle.

Highlights of Webb can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ctm-pNG4Xuk

Penn State now has seven commitments for 2013, and six of them have been given a 4-star rating by Rivals. In the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal and the tragic death of former coach Joe Paterno, the Nittany Lions were expected to take a dramatic tumble to the bottom of the Big 10 conference. Instead, Bill O’Brien has quietly assembled one of the best recruiting classes in the nation, and the Nittany Lions are still in great shape with a number of talented east coast prospects.

 

                                                                How are they doing it???

1. Penn State is still Penn State

    Despite all the controversy that has taken place in Happy Valley over the past 8 months, Penn State is still a big time program. The world class athletic facilities are still there, and one of the world’s largest stadiums is still there with fans to fill it. The tradition of “Linebacker U” is still there, along with the famed rivalries, two national championships, and membership in the Big 10 conference. High schools football players in Pennsylvania grew up cheering for Penn State with dreams of eventually donning the famed blue and white on game days. With all the elite resources and recruiting tools that Bill O’Brien has at his disposal, walking into a player’s living room and convincing him to be a Nittany Lion is still as seamless as ever. The idea that families won’t be comfortable sending their kids to Penn State because of the Sandusky scandal is entirely media-driven and has already proven to be untrue.

2. Discontinuity on the East Coast

   To the west, Pittsburgh, Penn State’s sole in-state competition, will play next season with its FOURTH coach in THREE YEARS. Meanwhile, a quick drive to New Jersey reveals that Rutgers also has a new coach, after program savior Greg Schiano accepted the Tampa Bay Buccaneers job following last season. Taking this into consideration, it’s no surprise that Penn State recruiting has been as good as ever. None of State’s recruiting rivals can take advantage of the Sandusky scandal because they are experiencing their own program turmoil as well. Ohio State, who is recruiting at an incredibly high rate themselves, is dealing with a new coach, the aftermath of the “Tattoo Scandal”, and scholarship limitations, meaning they cannot offer scholarships to nearly as many players as they typically would. The Nittany Lions have taken advantage of these situations, scoring two in-state commitments, three commitments from New Jersey, one from Ohio, and one from Virginia.  (Quarterback Christian Hackenberg lived in Pennsylvania for seven years before moving to Virginia, and grew up a Penn State fan)

3. A New Direction

New Penn State coach Bill O’Brien

Bill O’Brien is only the second full-time head coach at Penn State in 46 years. So clearly, stability must have been a benchmark for this program, right? Eh, kind of. There’s no doubt that Joe Paterno did more for Penn State football than anyone else. However, many would argue that the program grew stale during his final few years on the job. Mainly, no one was sure when he would finally decide to retire. Also, Paterno’s age and health prevented him from taking many recruiting trips and the job was therefore delegated to his assistants. Therefore, the image of Penn State football could have been diluted in the eyes of recruits. It only makes sense that a high school player would be more inclined to attend a school where the head coach recruited him rather than a school where an assistant recruited him. Bill O’Brien enters the picture as an energetic, offensive-minded coach with NFL experience that is willing to fight tooth and nail for recruits. A new chapter is beginning at Penn State, and O’Brien is ready to put his own mark on it.

Note: This is not Russell Wilson

A city-wide sigh of relief took place in Madison, Wisconsin yesterday morning as former Maryland quarterback and 2010 ACC Freshman of the Year Danny O’Brien announced his intentions to transfer to Wisconsin. Due to some confusing NCAA rule that allows graduate students to transfer and play without sitting out a year, O’Brien will be eligible to play for the Badgers next season. For the second year in a row, Bret Bielema pulled off a recruiting coup by bringing in a talented transfer quarterback to lead his offense. Yes, the first guy was Russell Wilson. So the question is asked: What does this mean for the Badgers in 2013 and beyond?

The moment Danny O’Brien walks onto the Wisconsin campus, he will be the most talented quarterback on the team. This is a guy who threw for almost 2,500 yards and 22 touchdowns with a 57% completion percentage as a freshman. Despite finishing the year at 9-4 and earning ACC Coach of the Year honors, Maryland head coach Ralph Friedgen was fired. Randy Edsall was brought in and overhauled the entire offensive system; transitioning to a spread-style scheme. It was clear from the beginning that this was not the right system for O’Brien along with most of his teammates, and the Terrapins finished with a dismal 2-10 record, O’Brien threw for 1,648 yards with 7 touchdowns and 10 interceptions while only playing in 9 games, and 25 players have since transferred from Maryland. What can be seen from this information is that O’Brien is a great fit for a pro-style offensive scheme. What type of offense does Wisconsin run? You’re right. A pro-style scheme. O’Brien walks into a great situation at Wisconsin. He’s an intelligent, accurate quarterback with great instincts and underrated mobility in the pocket, and should flourish in Coach Bielema’s ground-oriented attack.

In 2010, Danny O’Brien had All-ACC wide receiver Torrey Smith at his disposal, and the two connected for a total of 12 touchdowns. The following year, Smith graduated and O’Brien was left with an entirely green group of receivers along with a new offense, and the results indicated this. Luckily for O’Brien, skill position talent is plentiful in Madison, led by running backs Montee Ball and James White, receiver Jared Abbrederis, and tight end Jacob Pedersen. O’Brien will not bear the responsibility of necessarily being a playmaker for the Badgers; he would merely need to spread the ball around to his supplied talent and limit his turnovers.

One fact that Wisconsin fans need to understand is that Danny O’Brien is not, and will not ever be, Russell Wilson. Russell Wilson was one of the most talented players in the country last year regardless of position. O’Brien possesses similar passing skills to Wilson, but does not have the same raw athleticism or playmaking ability.

Finally, O’Brien arrives in Madison as a true junior, meaning he has two years of eligibility left. This allows touted freshman Bart Houston a redshirt year and another season to learn the offense before getting a shot to lead the Badger offense in 2014/2015. This continuity is vital for a program gunning for sustained success in the Big 10 conference.