May 2010 Archives

Nation's best running backs

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From my initial evaluations, there is no doubt that the quality of running backs in the class of 2011 is much better than last year. There are several impact backs, including James Wilder Jr. of Tampa, Fla., whom I also will rank as the No. 1 linebacker in the nation.

In my view, Wilder had play either position in college. The 6-2, 225-pounder with 4.5 speed might be better at linebacker than at running back. He was All-State at both positions last year. He is the best running back in Florida, a superior athlete. He even played cover corner at the San Antonio combine and shut out some of the top wide receivers in the country.

Kenny Hilliard of Patterson, La., is a three-time All-Stater who was the state's offensive player of the year for the last two years. The 6-0, 230-pounder with 4.5 speed is committed to LSU.

Lean year in Illinois

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I have released my preseason list of the top 100 high school football players in the nation in the class of 2011 and, for the first time, the Chicago area isn't represented at all.

There is only one Illinois product on the list--6-3, 235-pound running back/linebacker Rodney Coe of Edwardsville. He is ranked No. 48 and is one of the top 10 running backs in the country. He has been offered by Alabama. Enough said.

But Coe is the only Illinois product on the preseason list. Nebraska-bound offensive lineman Ryan Klachko of Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin didn't make it. Neither did the leading players in the Chicago area, wide receiver DaVaris Daniels of Vernon Hills, defensive end James Adeyanju of Curie and offensive lineman Jordan Walsh of Glenbard West.

Nation's best quarterbacks

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It took five years from the time Urban Meyer moved from Utah to Florida but the college and high school games have changed to the point where a majority of the nation's leading quarterbacks have switched from the pro-style and are operating out of spread and shotgun formations, running and throwing as Meyer did with Tim Tebow.

The nation's No. 1 quarterback in the class of 2011 is 6-2, 195-pound Braxton Miller of Huber Heights, Ohio. He is a great athlete with 4.47 speed. He is big and faster but not as athletic as Terrelle Pryor. He also has a great arm. I predict he will commit to Ohio State and be groomed as Pryor's successor.

After Miller, the next best could be 6-2, 195-pound Kiehl Frazier of Springdale, Ark., and 6-5, 200-pound Bubba Starling of Gardner, Kan.

Who's the nation's No. 1 player?

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There are five leading candidates for the Player of the Year award in high school football in 2010. They compare favorably with the No. 1 players of recent years. Curiously, there isn't a quarterback in the mix, a rarity. But it offers an interesting diversity of offense and defense.

The front-runner, in my view, is 6-2, 225-pound running back/linebacker James Wilder Jr. of Plant High School in Tampa, Fla., son of the former All-NFL running back. Based on production, he is the best player in the nation. He was All-State at running back and linebacker last year and led his team to the state championship. He rushed for 1,500 yards and had 145 tackles and 19 sacks.

Personally, I like him as a linebacker in college. Why? Because great linebackers are harder to find. He has been offered by every big-time college, including Florida, USC, Florida State and Alabama. He has iffy grades but is expected to qualify.

Notre Dame: good news, bad news

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The good news at Notre Dame is new coach Brian Kelly is undefeated, appears to have a personality that impacts favorably on his players and has recruited a top 10 class to date by receiving commitments from kids who normally opt to attend Notre Dame, the kind of kids who didn't give former coach Charlie Weis the benefit of the doubt.

The bad news at Notre Dame is while Kelly has recruited some outstanding prospects to bolster his spread offense, including an athletic quarterback who can run and throw, he and his staff still must prove they can recruit impact players on defense, which the Irish haven't been able to do on a consistent basis for the last 20 years.

Sure, Notre Dame got widely heralded linebacker Manti Teo two years ago. But they have struggled since 1993 to put together a great defensive line that compares to Bryant Young, Brian Hamilton and Oliver Gibson.

Bright future at Illinois

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Illinois football coach Ron Zook is universally regarded as an outstanding recruiter and he has hired a superb staff of recruiters to inject a needed dose of adrenaline in his program. The Illini have become more of a national recruiter. They are better organized. And they are in the mix for some of the leading prospects in the Midwest and around the country.

But Illinois won't succeed in recruiting until it starts winning on the field. They have put themselves in good position to have success in the second half of the recruiting season but first they must have success on the field. At the moment, top prospects are concerned about how Illinois will do in the 2010 season before they make a commitment.

It's the way it is for every program that has experienced a few bad years in a row. If Illinois demonstrates early in the season that the players are developing and the program is on the rise, that it is once again competitive in the Big 10, prospects will be encouraged to make a commitment.

What's happening in Ohio?

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There aren't a lot of knockout players in Ohio, not as many as usual, but it is a strong year in the northeastern part of the state, including Cleveland, Canton and Akron. Cleveland's Glenville, coach Ted Ginn's school, once again is producing as much or more talent than any high school in the nation.

The best player in Ohio, as I've mentioned earlier, is quarterback Braxton Miller or Huber Heights, a 6-2, 200-pounder who is one of the leading three or four quarterbacks in the country.

Glenville has five big-time prospects--6-6, 340-pound offensive lineman Andrey Walker, 5-9, 160-pound wide receiver/cornerback Shane Wynn, 6-5, 227-pound quarterback Cordale Jones, 6-3, 260-pound defensive tackle Antwan Crutcher and 6-3, 260-pound defensive end Andre Sturdivant.

Michigan has some talent

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It is an above-average year for high school talent in Michigan. The class of 2011 doesn't feature a lot of great players but there are several who are being recruited by Big 10 schools. Two of the top six prospects already are committed and Michigan and Michigan State appear to be doing their best to keep the homegrown players at home.

Michigan's No. 1 player is 6-4, 240-pound inside linebacker Lawrence Thomas of Renaissance High School in Detroit. He committed to Michigan State after being offered by USC, Florida, Miami, Alabama, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Ohio State. He is a great catch for Michigan State. He had 19 sacks as a junior. He's a playmaker, the state's most highly recruited player, a difference-maker on defense.

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This page is an archive of entries from May 2010 listed from newest to oldest.

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