August 2010 Archives

Nation's best players -- by position

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If you watched Tampa Plant get crushed by Manatee Friday night on national television, you probably wonder why James Wilder is rated as the No. 1 player in the nation, even in the Tampa area. But, trust me, Wilder is the real deal.

The 6-2, 220-pounder with 4.5 speed is one of the three best running backs in the country and the best linebacker. He recently committed to Florida State, the school's biggest recruiting coup in years, the best since Urban Meyer arrived at Florida. He is a difference-maker on offense and defense. Whichever position he chooses to play in college, he will be a standout.

So who are the top players in the country by position?

Texas has best of both worlds

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For most colleges, this is a down period in the recruiting process. Coaches are preparing their teams for the 2010 season. For most, recruiting is on the back-burner until November or December. Everywhere, that is, except at Texas. It seems as though coach Mack Brown never sleeps, not if there still is a big-time prospect on his radar.

A few days ago, while rivals were getting ready for their season openers, Brown landed a commitment from one of the nation's leading running backs, Malcolm Brown of San Antonio, the best uncommitted player in Texas up to that point. He picked Texas over USC, Notre Dame, Florida, LSU and Texas A&M. I rate him as the No. 10 player in the nation, the second best running back behind LSU-bound Kenny Hilliard of Patterson, La.

Wilder makes his choice

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If you read USA Today the other day, you learned that James Wilder, the No. 1 player in the nation in my judgment, had committed to Florida State during a lengthy press conference that had all the trappings of a LeBron James/Jim Gray/ESPN extravaganza.

Wilder, from Tampa, Fla., and the son of a former player for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, chose Florida State over Florida and Georgia. In my view, he is the No. 1 player in the nation, the No. 1 linebacker and one of the top three running backs in the class of 2011.

He reminds me of Derrick Brooks, an All-NFL linebacker with the Buccaneers who once played at Florida State. He is Florida State's biggest catch since Urban Meyer became head coach at Florida, a difference-maker on offense or defense, wherever he chooses to play.

How good is Kyle Bosch?

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You may not have heard about him but you will. Kyle Bosch is the leading prospect in the class of 2013, the best sophomore football player in Illinois. The 6-5, 260-pound offensive lineman from Wheaton St. Francis is the best sophomore lineman I've seen since Chance Carter. He has a chance to be a great player in three years.

But there's the rub. Chance Carter was a great prospect when I saw him as a sophomore at Loyola Academy. But he leveled off. He earned a scholarship to Northwestern and is showing signs of playing up to his early expectations. But he wasn't the great one as a senior in high school that we thought he would be.

Will Bosch heed that message? Will he ignore the hype and continue to improve?

Too early to write Zook's epitaph

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The vultures are circling in Champaign-Urbana and Illinois coach Ron Zook is listed on nearly everybody's list of college coaches who are sitting on the proverbial "hot seat." He is expected to be fired after the 2010 season if he doesn't turn around the ill fortunes that have beset the Illini program in the last two years.

But it is too early to call for changes. The Illini must get off to a good start on the field, of course, because that always has an effect on recruiting. But Zook has taken some positive steps to retool his program and recruiting, which was hurt by poor performances in 2008 and 2009, is showing signs of bouncing back.

Lack of talent in the Chicago area has been a factor, forcing Zook and his staff to recruit nationally. If the Illini get off to a good start, they should benefit because they have a better recruiting staff than in recent years and should begin to sign some big-name prospects from the Midwest.

Wildcats on the prowl

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Several readers have asked why Northwestern is being described as a perennial bowl participant and consistent winner by national college football observers, why it appears that coach Pat Fitzgerald's program currently is rated well ahead of in-state rival Illinois by everybody who is evaluating the 2010 season in the Big Ten.

It all come down to recruiting. Academics is an excuse when you don't get the best players. But if you evaluate and recruit correctly, you can find them. Northwestern is doing it. The Wildcats have better recruiters now. Fitzgerald is the face of the program, young and energetic, but he has build a solid organization. They have a lot to sell at Northwestern.

And that isn't all. Athletic director Jim Phillips does a good job of promoting the school, as the Chicago Blackhawks hyped their team during the past two years to build interest.

Why the SEC tops the Big Ten

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Last fall, I attended a high school football game in Mississippi. Batesville Panola vs. Olive Branch, two small schools. But the game attracted 15,000 people. Hundreds of them tail-gated as if it was a college game, like Ole Miss vs. LSU.

Those kind of mini-college games occur every Friday night in the fall throughout the South, further evidence that football is King below the Mason-Dixon Line. If you need to know why the SEC is the most successful and dominant conference in college football, why it ranks ahead of the Big Ten and Big 12 and Pac-10 and ACC, you only have to visit small towns in Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida and Louisiana to get an education.

Football is big in the South because there isn't as much to do, not as many professional teams to draw fans away from the high school game. So high school football has a long-standing tradition in the South, ingrained in small towns for 80 years.

Who are All-America prospects?

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At the moment, going into the 2010 high school football season, there are only two Illinois products who are being considered as All-America prospects by any of the nation's leading evaluators and recruiting analysts.

They are running back/linebacker Rodney Coe of Edwardsville and wide receiver DaVaris Daniels of Vernon Hills.

Coe is an enormous talent who is being recruited by Alabama. Daniels is a 6-2, 180-pounder with a 41-inch vertical leap, 4.4 speed and a 6-10 high jump who should be in the NFL in four years.

When recruiting goes bad

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The recent cases of Seantrel Henderson and Bryce Brown, two of the most outstanding high school players in the nation in the last two years, demonstrate how the recruiting process can go bad and what happens when many kids, their parents and coaches are caught up in the hoopla instead of doing their homework.

Henderson was the nation's No. 1 player last season. The offensive lineman from St. Paul, Minn., announced his decision to attend USC on my recruiting show on CBS College Sports on signing day. But he wouldn't sign until he learned if the NCAA would impose harsh sanctions on USC for alleged recruiting violations.

So what happened? Ten days before the NCAA announced major penalties against USC, Henderson signed with the Trojans. Go figure.

Pick-a-hat is show business

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After I reported on Friday that linebacker Aaron Lynch of Cape Coral, Fla., would commit to Notre Dame on Saturday, I was criticized by a few readers who argued that I had "stolen the thunder" and "ruined his coming out party" and "trashed his big moment" by breaking the story before he made his formal announcement.

Horse feathers. Those critics are either too naive or too ignorant of the recruiting process to understand how the system works. In this case, they obviously weren't aware that Lynch already had made his decision known to many and there was no secret involved.

It didn't take a genius to know what Lynch was going to do. And I would have been derelict in my duty if I didn't report it as I saw it. Only naive and out-of-touch Notre Dame fans didn't know what was happening.

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

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