December 29, 2011

Five thoughts on the latest college football recruiting developments.

1. LSU is making a late surge. The Tigers jumped from ninth to fourth in the latest team recruiting rankings after the commitment of Gunner Kiel, the nation's top-ranked pro-style quarterback, on Tuesday. Les Miles and Co. aren't done yet. LSU is also in position to land Dutchtown (La.) standout Landon Collins, as the country's top safety will decide between the Tigers and Alabama at the Under Armour All-America Game on Jan. 5. LSU currently has 22 commits in the class of 2012 -- 13 that are ranked four-stars or higher.

2. Christmas came early and often for Alabama. Nick Saban and staff landed five commits during a sensational December, locking up running back T.J. Yeldon, linebacker Denzel Devall, defensive lineman Alphonse Taylor, JUCO cornerback Travell Dixon and tight end Kurt Freitag. 'Bama currently holds a slight edge over Texas for the top 2012 class, and will look to finish strong heading into National Signing Day. Potential additions: Collins, Eddie Goldman, Cyrus Jones and local five-star quarterback Jameis Winston, a current soft commit to Florida State.

3. Charlie Weis continues to land big-time quarterbacks. Hired as the new Kansas coach three weeks ago, Charlie Weis looks to rebuild the Jayhawks by righting the careers of two touted high school signal-callers: Dayne Crist and Jake Heaps. Crist was a backup for Weis at Notre Dame, and transfers to Lawrence for his final year of eligibility. The 6-foot-4 passer started 10 games for the Irish in '10 and '11 and -- since he earned his degree in South Bend -- is allowed to play immediately via NCAA transfer rules.

As a prep, Heaps spurned an offer from Weis and Notre Dame in favor of BYU, where he enrolled early and set freshman records in passing yards (2,316), attempts (383) and touchdowns (15). After losing the starting gig to Riley Nelson, however, he decided to leave the pass-happy Cougars. Heaps will sit out next year per NCAA regulations, and should have the inside track to replace Crist in 2013.

4. Prospects are staying strong in Happy Valley. Most of Penn State's recruiting class continues to hold firm, as the program's 13 incoming recruits -- headlined by cornerback Armani Reeves -- continue to wait patiently for the announcement of Joe Paterno's replacement. Only three prospects have decommitted since his firing, including four-star defensive tackle Tommy Schutt, now bound for conference rival Ohio State. The Buckeyes also gained the commitment of defensive end Noah Spence, a former Penn State lean who experienced a change of heart following the Jerry Sandusky scandal. Reeves, for his part, hopes to stick with the school until he can determine if he's a good fit with the new coach's system.

5. Missouri recaptured a star offensive stalwart. Destined for the SEC next season, the Tigers desperately need difference-makers in the trenches. To that end, securing local four-star offensive guard Evan Boehm was a major triumph for Gary Pinkel and Co. An Under Armour All-American, the 6-foot-4, 317-pounder originally committed to Missouri in June, but reneged on his pledge after second-guessing himself in November. He took an official to Auburn and considered Kansas State before re-offering his verbal to the Tigers on Dec. 9. Boehm becomes the top-ranked prospect in Missouri's 17-player haul.

• Cal may be the frontrunner for Grant (Calif.) safety Shaq Thompson, but the 6-foot-2, 210-pounder says he's still considering Washington, USC, Notre Dame and Oregon. Thompson is the younger brother of Syd'Quan Thompson, a Golden Bears standout from 2006-09.

• Old Tappan (N.J.) five-star athlete Devin Fuller has taken officials to Nebraska and TCU, the latter his father's alma mater. He also has a visit scheduled to Rutgers for Jan. 13 and plans to decide between Arizona, Notre Dame and UCLA for his final two trips. After collecting 2,247 passing yards, 1,326 rushing yards and 37 total touchdowns as a senior, Fuller looks to play quarterback at the next level.

• Harris County (Ga.) four-star defensive end Jordan Jenkins will announce his college decision on Jan. 9, selecting between SEC rivals Alabama, Auburn, Florida and Georgia. The Crimson Tide -- a program he visited on Nov. 4 -- appear to be the favorite.

• Mariner (Wash.) back KeiVarae Russell will decide between Notre Dame and Washington on Thursday afternoon. California, Oregon, Stanford and USC were among other schools that offered the explosive 6-foot, 170-pound playmaker.

• The nation's top two prospects in the class of 2013 both hail from Georgia. Grayson defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche remains uncommitted, while Troup County linebacker Reuben Foster gave his verbal to Alabama in July.

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