Led by a plethora of elite offensive linemen, the class of 2012 has a unique makeup at the top.
The first full five-star release of the recruiting cycle features three offensive linemen from western states, three players from New Jersey (including two from the same high school), eight players from the "big three" states of California, Florida and Texas and a handful of players from traditional basketball powers Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina and New York. Though it's a good, deep year in Georgia, Louisiana and Ohio, there are no five-star prospects from those states.
Overall, it's a great year for offensive linemen on the West Coast, even beyond the five-stars.
One Pac-12 head coach remarked that "there usually aren't the linemen" in the region that there are in this recruiting cycle and that he was excited about the potential of that position in this class.
Another member of a Pac-12 staff also raved about the group. "Any other year, guys like Max Tuerk, Lacy Westbrook and Cedrick Poutasi would be the top guys in the West," he said. "There are so many talented guys this year that you feel comfortable with your school getting any one of these guys."
Though USC commit Arik Armstead (Elk Grove, Calif.) is currently slated to play defensive end for the Trojans, his highest ceiling is at offensive tackle, where we project him to play. He could play either position, but playing on offense could be the difference between being really good and being special. Of course, that's for Armstead, his family and the USC coaches to decide.
Here is a look at Armstead and the 20 other prospects who have earned five-star status.
Scouting report: On the hoof there's probably not a better looking lineman in the country. Armstead is every bit of 6-foot-7 and can play either side of the ball. Though he's ranked as an offensive tackle, Armstead is projected to play defensive line at USC, which shows his remarkable versatility.
Recruiting buzz: Armstead has been committed to USC since his sophomore year and is firm in that commitment, but does plan to make fall visits to Miami, Alabama and Auburn.
Scouting report: There isn't an offensive skill player in the country as physically gifted as the 6-6, 221-pound Green-Beckham. A big, physical player, Green-Beckham runs well, gets high in the air and is dangerous as both a possession receiver and a deep threat. He's also a multisport athlete who is a standout in track and field and basketball.
Recruiting buzz: Green-Beckham's camp has kept his recruitment close to the vest. Many of the SEC schools figure to be in the hunt. Look for places like Missouri, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Oklahoma to possibly be players as well.
Scouting report: Goldman is a powerful defensive tackle with quick hands and excellent agility for a 300-plus pounder. He's dominant at his current level of play, but his ceiling remains high as he is not a finished product by any stretch. Goldman has been on the radar since his sophomore year and there's a reason nearly 50 college programs have offered.
Recruiting buzz: Goldman's recruitment is wide-open. There is some Miami talk and he could visit North Carolina soon. The Heels signed defensive tackle Marvin Austin out of D.C. in the 2007 class.
Scouting report: Peat has the ideal body and frame to be a franchise left tackle. He is a lean 6-7 and 280 pounds with long arms and he lacks bad weight. Between the whistles, Peat is very powerful through the hips. When he locks onto a defender, he isn't content just getting a body on a body; he runs his feet, drives his hips and finishes his blocks with a defender's mentality. As a pass blocker, Peat has a textbook pass set, showing a flat back, great knee bend and the foot quickness to combat elite edge speed.
Recruiting buzz: Brother Todd Peat signed with Nebraska in the class of 2011, so the Huskers will be a factor. But the younger Peat looks to be wide open at the moment with offers from around the country.
Scouting report: At an athletic 6-1, Thompson has a great safety physique. He's got the length to give him a centerfielder's range and the strength to come up and play in the box. On the high school level, Thompson has demonstrated some terrific versatility as an elite running back. Athletically, Thompson has the capability to play running back, receiver, safety or cornerback at the next level. As a defensive back he is advanced in his ability to backpedal and turn-and-run and he has very strong ball skills. He also has speed, having been clocked at under 11 seconds in the 100 and under 22 seconds in the 200 in high school.
Recruiting buzz: Thompson recently de-committed from Jeff Tedford's program, but most expect he'll end up at Cal when all is said and done.
Scouting report: Theus has everything teams look for in an offensive tackle. The 6-6, 295-pounder has the height, weight distribution, natural strength and foot quickness to translate to the next level. He not only has a quick first step and quickness in his pass set, but the body and reactionary quickness to react to defenders in front of him or after redirecting an initial pass rush move. He is as adept of a run blocker as pass blocker. His initial punch is powerful and he is a finisher in the run game.
Recruiting buzz: Theus is considered a heavy Georgia lean with Florida running second. His brother, Nathan Theus, signed with Georgia in February.
Scouting report: Marshall is the most explosive back in the country. He runs wild through opposing defenses and has excellent balance, vision and feet. Give him a crease and he's gone. Marshall runs a legitimate 4.3-second 40-yard dash and is a standout in track. He's also a good student who plans to enroll at the college of his choice early.
Recruiting buzz: North Carolina and Georgia have long been considered the favorites, but Florida, Florida State, Auburn, Alabama, Clemson, South Carolina and others could get in the mix as well.
Scouting report: Diggs is a physical, fast gamer who could play either side of the ball at a high level in college. We like him slightly better as a cornerback because that's where he is more rare, but could just as easily see him being a high-end receiver at a BCS program. Diggs can redirect well and is deceptively quick in addition to having legitimate speed. He's a straight-up great football player.
Recruiting buzz: Nearly every school east of the Mississippi and many west of the Mississippi has offered. Diggs has given no hints about where he wants to go, except to say at one point he is interested in "Florida schools" Florida, Florida State and Miami.
Scouting report: Murphy is a slender 6-7, 275-pounds with plenty of room to add good weight. Already he is a powerful player at offensive tackle. Murphy shows terrific athleticism getting to the second level, locating defenders and being physical at the point of attack. When engaged he keeps a powerful wide base, keeps his legs running and drives through defenders. Athletically Murphy is elite at the offensive line position and that shows in the pass game as well, with a good quick pass set and flexibility through his ankles and hips. A cerebral prospect with a 3.9 GPA and a brother starting at Harvard, Murphy has a low bust quotient as well.
Recruiting buzz: Murphy is open in his recruitment, but has noted that Oregon, Cal, Stanford and USC stick out as he has visited all four.
Scouting report: The most polished signal-caller in the nation, the 6-4, 210-pound Kiel has great mechanics, a strong arm and is a physical runner who can make plays with his legs when needed. He displays excellent toughness on film and has other added intangibles that make him the best in the country at his position.
Recruiting buzz: Kiel hasn't narrowed down his lengthy list of scholarship offers, but Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Missouri, Notre Dame, Oklahoma and possibly USC appear to be in good shape early.
Scouting report: Williams is impressive at first glance before ever watching a play or game. He is a big safety at 6-3, 210-pounds who can run, has ideal quickness for his size, has shown timing for the ball in the air, is a hard hitter filling in the run game, eats up ground with a quickness and stride combination, pursues the ball with nasty intentions and intimidates receivers who challenge the middle of the field. His physicality and ability to take on would-be blockers and make the sure tackle sets him apart from many others. He possesses the body type to carry 230-pounds or more, which brings into question if he will stay at safety long term or grow into an outside linebacker. Wherever he ends up, he's going to be a playmaker.
Recruiting buzz: Williams committed to Alabama in August 2010 after considering offers from Florida State, Florida and many others.
Scouting report: Maybe the most natural cornerback in this year's class, Wright has rare instincts that allow him to play two steps faster than anyone else on the field. His transition out of a backpedal is smooth and fluid, he can run with any wide receiver and he has elite size when the ball arrives. Wright's athleticism and makeup speed allow him to be slow in his backpedal and trust his quick recognition skills to make big plays downhill in the quick game and the run game. He also brings special teams value as a player who blocks a lot of kicks off the edge, showing not only athleticism but a playmaking knack.
Recruiting buzz: With offers from around the country, Wright has listed Michigan, Notre Dame, Rutgers and Georgia as schools that stand out.
Scouting report: Humphries has a big frame and is flexible and strong. He's everything teams look for in a big-time offensive line prospect and has a great pass set for a high school trenchman. He gets good extension with his long arms and moves his feet well enough to make life tough for even the best high school defensive end. There's a reason why nearly 50 schools have offered.
Recruiting buzz: Humphries is an SEC lean with Florida, South Carolina, Tennessee and LSU high on his list. The Gators are the team to beat.
Scouting report: Edwards is a unique prospect. He tips the scales at 280-pounds, but has the ability to play strong side defensive end due to his natural strength, understanding of leverage and the speed and desire to pursue the football. He is a powerful bull rusher who registered nearly 20 sacks in 2010 along with an eye-popping 50 tackles for loss. He doesn't stay blocked long and is very aggressive with the hands. His initial contact with high school offensive linemen normally ends with the opposition getting knocked backward, off balance or to the ground. He has the body type to weigh 300 pounds and be a terrific penetrating, pass rushing three-technique down the line. He is the son of former Florida State and NFL cornerback Mario Edwards, who is on the coaching staff at Denton Ryan.
Recruiting buzz: Edwards has verbal offers from the majority of the nation's top programs, but committed to Florida State over Texas on March 15.
Scouting report: Gray is a complete back. At 5-11 and 200-pounds, he has the rare ability to run the ball inside with vision, quick feet in the hole, subtle run maximizing power and the speed and quickness combination to get to the edge. He has the ability to score the ball on long runs or in the red zone. In the passing game, he has quality hands and doesn't waste any motion after the catch. He's also capable as a pass protector. Running back is in his bloodlines, as father James Gray played running back at Texas Tech. Gray will enter his senior season with more than 7,000 career-rushing yards.
Recruiting buzz: Gray is likely to announce his decision on his 18th birthday, April 22. Texas is considered the favorite over TCU and Texas A&M. He has been to each school at least twice since the beginning of February.
Scouting report: There aren't many concerns when it comes to Winston aside from his baseball ability. A possible early MLB draft pick, Winston's athleticism is evident. He is a prospect with good size who continues to add weight, and he has a big arm that he uses effectively both inside and outside of the pocket. Winston also has great big-play ability on the ground. He can use his speed and elusiveness not only to extend plays, but also to outrun opponents and make defenders miss downfield.
Recruiting buzz: Many consider Winston's recruitment to be a battle between Alabama and Florida State with the Tide on top. Auburn's recent push has made the Tigers a factor as well.
Scouting report: Fuller is an electric offensive football player with breakaway speed and excellent quickness and change of direction. As a quarterback, he's a good passer in addition to being able to consistently make the magic happen with his legs. If he moves to another position, many believe he could be a big-time cornerback at the college level. After watching him cover at a 7-on-7 event in February, we could see that as well.
Recruiting buzz: Fuller is legitimately wide open. There's some talk that Georgia Tech, Virginia and some other schools that have talked to Fuller about playing quarterback are the teams to watch, but Fuller is the type of prospect who will examine and consider every offer equally.
Scouting report: The 6-5, 220-pound Pike is a football player through and through. Watch his film and see him not only making outstanding throws and plays from the quarterback position, but wreaking havoc from his defensive end position and blocking field goals.
Recruiting buzz: Pike has yet to name favorites but said that when he narrows his list, Auburn, Arkansas, North Carolina, Purdue and Tennessee will likely make the first cut. Places like Florida, Florida State, LSU and Michigan could also make a strong push.
Scouting report: Black may not be the most physically imposing wide receiver in the 2012 class, but he is one of the best. The 5-11, 170-pounder is blessed with special quickness and playmaking ability. Black features electric feet, terrific hands, impeccable timing, ideal separation in and out of breaks, the ability to make multiple defenders miss in space and strength with the ball. His ability to snatch the ball out of the air in a crowd sets him apart, along with his ability after the catch. Black is a threat to score every time he touches the ball.
Recruiting buzz: Black has Florida State and Alabama as co-leaders with Florida and South Carolina running third and fourth.
Scouting report: The son of former New York Giant Keith Hamilton, Darius is an active defensive lineman with a quick first step and extremely quick hands. He lines up both on the inside and outside for his high school team and makes plays in both spots. His versatility, size, speed, athleticism and bloodlines make him a can't-miss type of prospect.
Recruiting buzz: Hamilton is wide open. He plans to make several unofficial visits before beginning to narrow his list. Rutgers would love to keep him and several of his teammates in state.
Scouting report: Jones is raw, but has great quickness and huge upside. Like Armstead, he could end up on the offensive side of the ball, but has an excellent ceiling on defense as well. Once word of his ability and his film started circulating, Jones' offer list shot into the double digits.
Recruiting buzz: Jones is wide-open, but Penn State, Rutgers and schools in the Northeast are all factors. He plans to visit State College in the near future.