Florida State, Texas hold early edge in 2012 recruiting class battles
With high school football season kicking into high gear, college programs across the nation are revving up recruiting. Several schools are nearly set, laden with top prospects, while others have much work to do. One thing's for certain: There should be plenty of shuffling as the season progresses. Here's an early glimpse at the top recruiting classes in 2012, broken down by position.
Florida State is the clear frontrunner for the class of 2012's best quarterback haul. Not only has it locked up top-ranked dual threat Jameis Winston (Hueytown, Ala.), but it's also secured an impressive pocket passer in Seton Hall Prep's (N.J.) Sean Maguire. At 6-4, 190 with scrambling ability, the five-star Winston has more upside. But Maguire shouldn't be overlooked. He's a three-star recruit in his own right.
Indiana is the other big winner, and deserves praise for the commitment of Columbus East's (Ind.) Gunner Kiel. He's the nation's top-ranked pro-style quarterback, and one of the top dozen prospects at any position. He should see playing time from day one for Kevin Wilson's upstart Hoosiers.
There are a number of talented classes at running back, and each could make an impact upon its arrival to campus. Florida gets the nod: The Gators boast a pair of do-it-all backs in Stephenson's (Ga.) Mike Davis and Armwood's (Fla.) Matt Jones.
Oklahoma also has a pair of gifted runners, securing Jenks's (Okla.) Alex Ross and Calhoun's (Texas) Daniel Brooks. Ross is the nation's 25th ranked prospect, a 6-2, 213 pound speedster that's drawn comparisons to Adrian Peterson. Brooks is an exceptional all-around back that doubles as a track star: He's the defending Texas 3A 100 meter champion with a time of 10.61 seconds.
Expect Auburn and Texas to also figure into the mix. The Tigers have locked up Daphne's (Ala.) T.J. Yeldon and Woodale's (Tenn.) Jovon Robinson, while the Longhorns hold claim to Aledo's (Tex.) Johnathan Gray, potentially the nation's most dominant runner.
Plagued by questions about their passing game in 2010, the Longhorns seem set at receiver for years to come. Two of the nation's top wideouts, Skyline's (Texas) Thomas Johnson and Austin's Cayleb Jones, have already committed to Mack Brown's perennial powerhouse. The 5-11 Johnson wowed scouts at the Orlando's Gridiron Kings Championship, while the 6-3 Jones reeled in nearly 150 catches during his standout sophomore and junior seasons.
No stranger to star wideouts (see: Jeffery, Alshon), South Carolina also boasts an impressive class. Lexington's (S.C.) Shaq Roland is one of the nation's top 50 prospects, and Monroe's (N.C.) Jody Fuller and Dillon's (S.C.) Kwinton Smith also maintain four-star ratings. The trio should thrive in Steve Spurrier's high-powered attack.
The defending NCAA champs are stocked at tight end, as the Tigers have commitments from two of the nation's best. Callaway's (Ga.) Ricky Parks is a dangerous red zone threat, and Dadeville's (Ala.) Darrion Hutcherson (6-7, 247) is a physically imposing blocker. Both should see playing time early and often.
Michigan also deserves credit. The Wolverines could receive immediate contributions from both four-star recruit Devin Funchess (Harrison) and three-star recruit A.J. Williams (Sycamore).
Brady Hoke and Co. wasted no time bolstering their offensive line. Michigan has captured five commitments in the 2012 class, headlined by La Costa Canyon's (Calif.) Erik Magnuson and Lakewood's (Ohio) Kyle Kalis.
At 6-6, 275, Magnuson is a superb blocker with terrific technique. Kalis may be even better, a seemingly immovable force on the line. Kalis is also no stranger to national attention. He switched commitments from Ohio State to Michigan in July. Rounding out the Wolverines' class: Rockford's (Mich.) Ben Braden, Montgomery Bell Academy's (Tenn.) Blake Bars and Sycamore's (Ohio) Caleb Stacey.
Florida State has the top defensive end class by a landslide. Jimbo Fisher and staff have reeled in three of the nation's best in Denton's (Texas) Mario Edwards Jr., Davidson's (Ala.) Chris Casher and Lakewood's (Fla.) Dante Fowler, a threesome that could thrive alongside preseason All-America Brandon Jenkins. Edwards is the son of former NFL corner Mario Sr., while Casher and Fowler are pass rushing demons. The Seminoles are brimming with ferocious young talent.
Michigan also deserves mention. The Wolverines class boasts Whitmer's (Ohio) Chris Wormley and Mentor's (Ohio) Tom Strobel, both formidable forces on the line.
Five of the top six defensive tackles have yet to commit, leaving the position battle largely undecided. Texas seems the strongest: Five-star Malcom Brown (Brenham, Texas), four-star Alex Norman (Bishop Dunne, Texas) and three-star Paul Boyette (Humble, Texas) have all committed to the Longhorns.
Though Texas is leading, Florida State is close behind. The Seminoles have commitments from Justin Shanks (Prattville, Ala.) and Dalvon Stuckey (Walton, Fla.), each 6-3 and 300 pounds, and are also in the hunt for top-ranked tackle Eddie Goldman (Friendship Collegiate Academy). With his addition, the 'Noles could cement their 2012 class as one of the strongest in recent memory.
Headlined by Courtney Upshaw and Dont'a Hightower, Alabama has a dominant linebacking corps. It could be getting even better. Nick Saban and Co. have secured commitments from Bob Jones' (Ala.) Reggie Ragland, Buford's (Ga.) Dillon Lee and Thomasville's (Ala.) Tyler Hayes, a trio of top-ranked talent. Ragland is the nation's top-ranked inside linebacker, while Lee is the third-ranked outside one. Factor in Lee -- a 6-3, 215-pound speedster -- and the Crimson Tide seem poised to live up to their hard-hitting reputation long after this year's group graduates.
Michigan, Florida and USC also have strong classes, each with at least two four-star commitments.
The Gators are the pick here. Four of the country's top prep safeties -- Holy Trinity Episcopal's (Fla.) Marcus Maye, Southeast's (Fla.) Brian Poole, Crest's (N.C.) Rhaheim Ledbetter and Hallandale's (Fla.) Willie Bailey -- have committed to Gainesville, setting up a secondary that's loaded with potential. Maye, in particular, can seemingly do it all: He rushed for 164 yards, passed for 60 and two scores, and had nine tackles, an interception and a blocked kick in the Tigers' season-opening win against Heritage (Fla.)
Texas A&M has an impressive duo in Elkin's (Texas) Corey Thompson and South Houston's Kenneth Marshall, and Tennessee, Ohio State and Stanford also have noteworthy recruits. But the big fish at the position -- five-star Landon Collins (Dutchtown) -- remains undecided. His commitment will likely boil down to two SEC powers: Alabama and LSU.
Chalk this one up for the Irish. Notre Dame has a pair of lockdown defenders in Washington Union's (Calif.) Tee Shepard and Potomac's (Md.) Ronald Darby, both who project to leave their mark at the next level. Shepard is terrific in press coverage, and Darby, a sprinter, can seemingly track down anyone. The two should make a potent pair in South Bend.
Miami's corner class is also impressive. The Hurricanes have four quality commitments, spearheaded by A.J. Leggett, a standout at South Miami Senior High (Fla.).