I have just completed a six-day trip that included stops in Nashville, Tenn., Alabama, New Orleans, La., Mississippi, Memphis and St. Louis. New Orleans coach Sean Peyton, the former Naperville Central quarterback, and Saints special teams coach Greg McMahon, who was an assistant at Eastern Illinois and Illinois, opened up their training facility to allow me to interview the top 20 prospects in Louisiana.
It is a great year in southern Louisiana and LSU seems to be getting all of the top players. At this point, I have to believe that LSU and Texas are leading the country in recruiting for the class of 2011. For example, LSU already has commitments from one of the leading candidates for Player of the Year, two of the best running backs in the nation and two of the best offensive linemen in the country--and they're all from Louisiana.
LSU has commitments from running back Kenny Hilliard of Patterson, a Player of the Year candidate; running back Jeremy Hill of Baton Rouge; 6-5, 290-pound offensive lineman La'El Collins of Baton Rouge; 6-5, 315-pound offensive lineman Corey White of Baton Rouge; 6-2, 185-pound wide receiver Jarvis Landry of Lutcher, who accounted for more than 1,100 yards in pass receptions last year; and 6-3, 300-pound two-way lineman Anthony Johnson of New Orleans.
Other standouts in the area are 6-4, 235-pound defensive end Jermauria Rasco of Shreveport, who has offers from LSU, Notre Dame, USC and Florida; 6-4, 280-pound defensive lineman Quentin Thomas of Breaux Bridge; 6-2, 295-pound defensive lineman Mickey Johnson of Covington; 6-2, 175-pound wide receiver Ryan Byrd of Greensburg, who averaged 25 yards per catch last season; 6-3, 210-pound safety Renaldo Thomas of New Orleans; 5-11, 170-pound wide receiver Bradley Sylve of Port Sulpher, who has been timed in 10.4 seconds for 100 meters; and 5-10, 170-pound wide receiver/cornerback Odell Beckham of New Orleans.
Elsewhere, Illinois and Notre Dame seem to be picking up their recruiting with new staffs in place. At Illinois, coach Ron Zook is getting a much-needed infusion of enthusiasm and aggressiveness from new assistants Greg Nord, Paul Petrino and Jeff Brohm, who were outstanding recruiters at Louisville.
I see Illinois' name popping up in a lot of places, much more now than was the case in January. For example, TayTay Gibson of Memphis, the best running back in Tennessee, lists Illinois as one of his five top schools.
Notre Dame landed its first commitment from 6-6, 270-pound defensive lineman Brad Carrico of Dublin, Ohio. He is a very good catch, one of the best linemen in Ohio, very athletic, a good student. He could be a tackle in college. He comes from the same high school that sent Brady Quinn to Notre Dame.
New Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly hosted the first Junior Day under his regime. He invited over 50 players, including most of the top prospects from the Chicago area--tackle Patrick Flavin of Benet, linebacker Nick Lifka of Naperville North, wide receivers DaVaris Daniels and Evan Spencer of Vernon Hills, tackle Jordan Walsh of Glenbard West and linebacker James Adeyanju of Curie. Kelly also lured the top prospects in New England, Colorado and New Mexico.