I started my 31st annual national tour on Christmas Day. The temperature was zero when I left Chicago. It was 71 degrees when I arrived in Little Rock, Arkansas, the next day.
In the next five months, I will personally meet, interview and evaluate the films of 1,500 prospects in 48 states. I will see 700 of them on this trip, including 500 at the U.S. Army Combine next week in San Antonio, Texas. Fifty of the top 100 players in the class of 2010 will be there.
I went from Chicago to Little Rock to Warren, Junction City and Lonoke in Arkansas, then to Monroe, Louisiana, then to Lufkin, Texas, then to College Station, on to Dallas, Temple, Austin, then to San Antonio for seven days before stopping in Arkansas and Iowa on the way back to Chicago.
In Little Rock, I met the No. 1 player in Arkansas, 5-8, 190-pound running back Michael Dyer. He is a high school version of Barry Sanders because of his size. He already has received 20 scholarship offers, including Arkansas.
When I got to Lufkin, JaMarkus McFarland, a 6-3, 290-pounder who is the top-rated defensive tackle in the country, announced that was committing to Oklahoma over LSU and Texas. It was a bit of a surprise--he earlier said he would commit at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl on Saturday--but it certainly bolstered Oklahoma's incoming class, which is one of the top 10 in the nation.
I also was impressed by defensive back Carrington Byndom of Lufkin, 6-4, 275-pound defensive lineman DeAries Cotton of Alief, 6-1, 210-pound wide receiver Quentin Parks of Humboldt, 6-2, 200-pound wide receiver Jordan Leslie of Tomball, 6-2, 200-pound linebacker Shaun Lewis of Missouri City, 6-4, 260-pound guard Trey Hopkins of Galena Park, 6-7, 330-pound offensive tackle Aleon Calhoun of Navasota, quarterback Case McCoy of Graham and 6-4, 230-pound defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat of Plano.
McCoy is the brother of Texas quarterback Colt McCoy. Jeffcoat is the No. 1 player in Texas. His father Jim was an All-NFL player with the Dallas Cowboys.
It is too early to tell, of course, but the recruiting sweepstakes for 2009 appear to be the closest I have seen in a long time. There is no solid No. 1 choice as there has been in recent years. USC, Ohio State, Florida, Oklahoma, LSU, Alabama, Texas and Georgia are in the hunt.
USC is always a darkhorse. If they have enough scholarships to offer, they will be No. 1. But the SEC is the best bet because they have more scholarships to offer. That is a major advantage. They sometimes sign as many as 35 players while other conferences can sign only 19 or 20.
Ohio States leads in the Big 10 but the No. 2 spot is up for grabs between Illinois, Penn State and Michigan. Ohio State figures to be the only Big 10 school that will rank among the top 10 nationally. Notre Dame could crash the top 10 but it isn't likely.