Posted on: April 18, 2011 11:40 pm
Edited on: April 19, 2011 10:58 am

Florida State Nike Camp Notebook

Posted by Bryan Fischer

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Perhaps it was no surprise but several Florida State commitments performed well during the latest stop in the Nike Football Training Camp tour just a few miles where they will one day play college football.

The camp was another opportunity for some of the South's best talent to showcase their skills and get discovered but it was Seminole commit Dante Fowler who ended up stealing the show - for the second year in a row.

"It was real good. I'm blessed to get MVP for the second year," Fowler said. "I'm working hard and making sure everybody still remembers who I am."

The St. Petersburg (Fla.) defensive end was not the tallest or biggest defensive lineman at the camp but he did have the best motor. Fowler never lost a rep and seemed to get to the quarterback in one-on-one drills quicker than just about anybody. Part of the reason Fowler did so well was the camp offering the opportunity to go full bore.

"I turn it up a lot," he said. "My offensive linemen in practice want a lot of work and everything but sometimes I just don't want to hurt them. There's a lot of stuff I do out here that I don't do school. But when we get in pads, I'm going to really show everyone what's up."

Fellow Florida State commit and defensive end Chis Casher was also impressive and was Fowler's closest competition for position group MVP. The talented duo of commitments ended up pushing each other to do better throughout the day.

"I think that's the reason neither of us didn't lose any battles," Fowler said. "It was a competition and we didn't want to lose. We were going to get the MVP award and see who the best is. Chris Casher, he's really good. I tip my hat to him."

The 6-foot-2, 230 pound Fowler says he is still committed to the Seminoles but is still picking up offers and being recruited by several schools across the country. His most recent offer is also the one that intrigues him the most.

"The newest offer that I got was USC," Fowler said. "Coach Monte Kiffin and Coach (EdOrgeron are real energetic. They really want me to come out and we'll see about doing that. They called me at 6:15 AM (Friday) and I was still asleep. I left the house around 6:45 and when I came home, I saw that the phone (caller ID) said USC. It shows that they're really interested in me even though I committed to a school. I'm going to show USC some respect."

The recruiting process will continue throughout the spring and summer for Fowler. The talented end is still planning on taking several unofficial visits but will likely save most of his long distance travel for official visits.

"If I do take any unofficials, I'm going to stay in Florida," he said. "Probably Florida and Miami and USF, I've got to show my hometown some love. If I take my official visits, it will be Florida State, USC, Miami and USF."

The weekend also offered the chance for Fowler to get a glimpse at what awaits him once he arrives as a full time student in Tallahassee. The Seminoles Garnet and Gold spring game was not the only thing he did on Saturday however.

"Florida State is a great school and I like what they're doing with their program," Fowler said. "I was at the Spring Game and it was good seeing a lot of people I'm going to be playing with. Seeing some of the recruits that might commit to Florida State, I tried doing a little bit of recruiting. It was nice."

Casher a close second but primed to dominate

One of the players who certainly passed the eye test this weekend was Mobile (Ala.) defensive end Chris Casher. Also a Florida State commitment, he came to this year's Nike Camp determined to use the techniques he learned last year to dominate the competition.

"I had fun. Last year when I went to the Nike Camp, the thing I wanted to work on was my hand technique in tight quarters," Casher said. "In one-on-ones today, I saw it pay off and I did real good at that."

The 6-foot-4, 240 pound end had no problem going up against the plethora of offensive linemen but it was his fellow FSU commit that was his toughest competition on the day. The friendly rivalry - coupled with a few laughs and a bit of boisterous applause - was one of the highlights for the future defensive line mates.

"I feel as though me and Dante were the two best as far as D-line," Casher said. "We're friends but we still compete against each other, he wants to beat me and I want to beat him."

Like Fowler, Casher is still receiving attention from college recruiters who feel they're not out of it yet. Despite the communication that goes on between him and colleges, Casher says he's still sold on Florida State being the place for him.

"Oh yeah," he said. "On Friday's my coach gives me a pile of letters. But I'm solid, I'm not going anywhere.

"I've always sort of been a fan and when I got on campus, it felt like family. I wanted to be a part of that. It was just a connection. I watched and rooted for them because my dad is a Florida State fan. When I got up in age and schools started recruiting me and when Dameyune Craig was going to talk to me, I jumped on it. When I wanted to commit my dad wanted to make sure that I wasn't doing it just because he was a fan and I told him no."

Like many other commitments, Casher attended the Seminoles' spring game and liked what he saw of his future battery-mates.

"The defense was solid, they were real solid," he said of the spring game. "I'm looking forward to being able to join the team and get that jersey. I was looking at (quarterback E.J. Manuel) and E.J. might be bigger than me. I talked with Coach (Jimbo) Fisher too."

Hicks impresses at end but could see future on offense

One of the more intriguing prospects at the camp was Blackshear (Ga.) athlete Quayvon Hicks. A compact but explosive player, Hicks was one of the tougher match ups during one-on-one drills thanks to a quick first step and the ability to bull rush using his tremendous upper body strength.

"I think I did pretty good today," Hicks said of his day. "I wanted to learn how to use my hands better against the offensive line."

As one of over 30 players from the state of Georgia who will be heading to a FBS school, Hicks was determined to not only get better but also prove himself against some of the best in the region.

"I think it makes me better as an athlete to come out here and compete against some of the best athletes in my class and even other classes," he said. "Dante Fowler and an FSU commit (Casher) in my class were out here and we're all going at it. I went at both inside and outside and was just trying to do my thing."

Already holding offers from Georgia, Georgia Tech, Miami and Tennessee, more than one school is close to offering according to Hicks.

"A lot of SEC schools are evaluating film and what position I'll play at the next level," he said. "I think some will come through in the spring and see me."

The schools that are close to offering are evaluating him at mainly at fullback and defensive end. The May Evaluation Period will be key for some of them to get a chance to see what skills he has and where he might fit in best. Despite not really knowing where he might play, Hicks is receiving plenty of attention from schools as his recruitment is starting to pick up.

"Auburn, Alabama, Florida State and Georgia," he said were his top schools. "I might play fullback or something until my body grows. So after the first year or second year, I think most of them are going to move me to defense."

Hicks is mainly looking at the school and not necessarily the position he will play in college. That said, he does have a position of preference and based on what he showed at the Nike Camp, it's easy to see why.

"I love to rush the quarterback, that's what I live for," he said. "But I wouldn't mind playing where I'm needed at."

The 6-foot-2, 255 pound bowling ball is planning on taking a few unofficial visits in the months leading up to when he can officially visit. Though he didn't have an exact date nailed down in terms of a commitment, he said he wanted to make sure he has seen several schools to get an understanding of everyone that is recruiting him. Alabama and Auburn are two schools who will be receiving a visit in the near future.

Laith more than impressive at tight end

It's often hard for a tight end to stand out at an event like the Nike Camp outside of his size given the abundance of wide receivers and other skill position talent. That said, it wasn't too surprising to see Tallahassee (Fla.) tight end Laith Harlow make play after play against competition he's generally not used to seeing.

"Coming out here meant a lot today because it's the top of the top of the top," Harlow said. "You want to come where you get the most experience and get shown the most. I had a lot of fun out here today and I felt like I got better and worked with the top and competed and overall today was a good day for me."

With well over 20 offers, Harlow is not quite ready to start narrowing down his list. Still open to just about everybody, expect schools to extend an offer if they haven't already done so once they size up Harlow when they stop by Godby High this spring.

"I've got quite a few offers already," he said. "I'm just focused on high school right now and I love every college right now and I'm taking everything into consideration. There's nobody who really stands out or is recruiting me harder than the other."

Because he's still open to just about everybody, Harlow is flexible as far as when he makes a verbal commitment. Right now he has it tentatively pegged for the first Wednesday in February but there's no timetable at the current moment.

"It doesn't really matter to me, I'm not set on Signing Day being the day, I may commit early," he said. "It's whenever you feel that home feeling, that, 'this is it' right now, that's when you commit."

The 6-foot-5, 240 pound tight end looked like he could be a major addition in any offense thanks to his size and flexibility as a blocker in addition to being able to flex out and run routes. Harlow is deceptively fast and runs crisp, precise routes. Although he hasn't started to really begin unofficially visiting schools, he did manage to make a trip all the way to Eugene to visit Oregon this past weekend.

"Oregon was a lot of fun, they showed me a lot of love up there," Harlow said. "It was a good time, the coaches were really nice, the players were really cool and down to earth. Real nice campus and I'm not really afraid of leaving home so that's not a problem for me."

Miller eyes a few SEC schools

It was a strong group of offensive linemen at the camp and the player with the best looking frame was Palm Beach (Fla.) tackle Patrick Miller. You can tell Miller used to play a bit at tight end not because of his height but due to the way he moves his feet. He held his own during limited reps during one-on-ones but didn't live up to his own high expectations for the day.

"Not as well as I wanted to," Miller said. "I just came out to show what I have to offer and check out what Florida State has to offer. I have some friends from here so it was kind of a little vacation too."

The Seminoles are one of several schools who have already offered and Miller used the day before the camp to check out the Garnet and Gold spring game and see just what the school has to offer despite them not recruiting him heavily.

"I went in at the beginning for the tour and then I left and watched the spring game with some of my friends," he said. "I have an offer from FSU but I think they're pretty good on lineman and need a left tackle as much as some other schools."

There are several schools that are looking for a top-flight offensive tackle among the double digit list of offers Miller has. Unlike many players who are just starting to look closely at the recruiting process, the 6-foot-7, 270 pound Miller is primarily looking at schools in the SEC.

"Florida, Auburn, LSU are the three that keep repeating, those are my top three" he said. "Who knows. I just got an offer from Alabama too. They offered me and my quarterback Faton Bauta."

The Florida State visit was not Miller's first nor was it his last. Although he won't travel extensively, he hopes to narrow things down before the season starts so he can take just a select few official visits.

"I've taken a few unofficial visits," he said. "Whenever the time comes around I'll take three officials and I'll just do the top three schools and keep it simple. I know all these schools can show you a good time and try to persuade you but you've got to be smart."

While being in the SEC seems to be requirement number one for the talented offensive lineman, there are a host of other qualities Miller is looking for before he eventually makes a verbal commitment later in the year.

"I'm looking for someone who needs a left tackle," he said of his preference for early playing time. "I'm looking for a good college town to have fun but also able to work hard. Playing time and other people at my position are factors. I want to see a bunch of offensive linemen who are just like me that like to work hard. I don't care where I go, I'll go wherever but I'm trying to stay in the SEC."

Competing is just the name of the game for Patti

If there's a football camp or competition in the South, the chances are good that Orlando (Fla.) quarterback Nick Patti will be there and ready to throw the ball to wherever an open receiver is.

"Coming in and measuring yourself going up against some of the best competition in the country," he said. "I always keep a chip on my shoulder because I'm always proving myself to people. But I love it and it's what I want to do."

Height is always an issue with Patti, who is about 5-foot-10. Despite his small stature, he can sling the football around with the best of them and was one of the most accurate quarterbacks at the event. It's clear that all Patti does is love to compete and he performed well enough in Tallahassee to be named position group MVP.

"It means a lot. Tyler Cameron was out here and I think a lot of him, he's good quarterback," Patti said. "It's good to come out on top every once and awhile."

There is budding interest in the Central Florida signal caller who currently holds offers from Louisiana Tech, Indiana and UCF. Patti expects USF to visit his school to see him on Thursday and has been told some 50 schools will stop by Dr. Phillips to see him and a host of other FBS-level recruits.

"I'm talking to a lot of people right now, pretty much it's UCF, Indiana, Boise State and USF," he said of schools standing out. "I'll be at Boise State on Tuesday and I just got back from Indiana last week. I loved Indiana, I was real surprised about it. It's a real college town, it's old and has a lot of history and you can just feel it. I loved the coaches, Coach (KevinWilson, you can just tell he has a good thing going there and he's going to do great things."

The trip up to Boise offers Patti a chance to see a school that, much like him, is all about playing against bigger competition and often coming out on top.

"They're a hidden gem," he said. "They're like me, they constantly want to prove people wrong and play the big dog and beat the big dog. That's what I want to do."

There's not a throw Patti cannot make and he was one of the most sound quarterbacks mechanically at the event. Although it seems as though his height is an issue, his grit and determination seem to make up for any shortcomings. As more and more schools start to jump in to the picture, Patti is comfortable in his own skin and just looking for a system that allows him to succeed.

"Somewhere where I can come in and play," he said. "I think I can play in any system, whether it's pro-style, spread, option, anything really. I think I can do it and I just want a system where the coach wants me the most."


- In addition to Patti and Fowler winning their respective position group MVPs, Citra (Fla.) running back Jamie Gilmore, Orlando (Fla.) receiver Drico Johnson, Lake City (Fla.) offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil, Fleming Island (Fla.) linebacker Cameron McCurry and Tallahassee (Fla.) defensive back Travis Blanks also took home an MVP award.

- In addition to Blanks, cornerback P.J. Williams was particularly impressive at defensive back and made several plays while never seeming to let his man get out of half an arm's reach. Williams sported a Florida State hat that he has frequently worn at events and didn't mind answering any questions fellow recruits had about the local team. Still, he was overshadowed by Blanks, who lived up to his billing as the Maxpreps' top ranked defensive back. Not only did he have an interception after savvily baiting a quarterback and dropping into his zone like a veteran, but Blanks rarely had any receiver even get a look from a quarterback just because he was on him.

- Although the sidelines at the event were quite crowded, there was one parent who stood out from the crowd and it wasn't just because he was taller than most in attendance. Ken Griffey Jr., yes that Ken Griffey Jr., came to support his son Trey, a 6-foot-3 wide receiver who impressed those at the camp regardless of his last name. He has a good frame and runs routes well. He has soft hands and they're so big, you'd think he has on one of his dad's mitts instead of receiver gloves. He recently transferred to Orlando powerhouse Dr. Phillips and if he has a big season, look for him to grab a few BCS offers. Several schools are already interested in him but he is staying grounded thanks to his father.

"He teaches me what i need to do and what I should and shouldn't say," the younger Griffey said. "He wants me to take the SAT and that's the one thing he puts emphasis on. SAT and the ACT and always try your hardest, never give half effort."

- Jupiter (Fla.) quarterback Tyler Cameron was one of the other standouts in the quarterback group that was much better overall than at the Athens Nike Camp (which Cameron also attended). Cameron is getting looks from several quality programs and already holds offers from Boston College, Illinois, Louisville and Rutgers among others. He has the size you look for and was pretty accurate, spinning the ball well throughout the camp. Florida isn't known for producing a ton of great quarterbacks but Cameron could fight to have his name be under consideration as the top guy in-state. He needs to work on getting his arm angle up however because at times he'd get a little lazy and drop it on short to intermediate routes.

- It wasn't a huge surprise to see Jamie Gilmore perform well at this event given it really suits his skillet. He once again showed off quick feet and really seemed to keep his center of gravity low while exploding in and out of breaks. He holds a few offers from Big East and ACC programs but given his production, it might be just a matter of time before teams overlook his height and realize he's a playmaker.

- Although Chris Casher was impressive physically, Yulee (Fla.) 2013 running back Derrick Henry gave him a run for his money. Muscular for someone his age, the 6-foot-3, 230 pound Henry was the SPARQ MVP award winner after putting up eye-popping numbers, including a 4.53 40-yard dash. He looked a little bit stiff as a running back and ran a bit upright but several programs have extended offers, including most of the in-state schools. You could end up seeing Henry as an H-back or on defense as a linebacker or defensive end.

- Several of the local recruits had a good day but Lincoln High teammates Raphael Andrades and Ronald Butler were particularly impressive. Andrades is a 6-foot, 200 pound wide receiver who is well built and is a sleeper prospect as a slot guy. He runs crisp routes and has great hand. The best thing about Andrades is he's pretty polished, looking the ball in at all times, tucking it away quickly and knowing just how to run his routes. He holds offers from Illinois and Stanford at the moment but he should see his list start to grow quickly. Butler performed well at quarterback and was very sharp in all phases. He had a quick drop back and threw a very nice deep ball, turning over a sweet spiral.

- Lake City (Fla.) offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil is an up-and-comer but looked good doing drills and in one-on-ones. He has the requisite size and a great frame to add weight. He is just a sophomore so his impressive showing means he's one to watch once the season rolls around. Several schools have already taken notice as he claimed offers from USC, USF, Florida and Arkansas.

- Others who impressed were Orlando (Fla.) offensive lineman Duaron Williams, Jacksonville (Fla.) quarterback Nathan Peterman, Gainesville (Fla.) cornerback Chris Bivins, Tampa (Fla.) quarterback Greg Windham, Birmingham (Ala.) tight end Canon Smith, Southlake (Fla.) receiver James Brooks and Palm Beach (Fla.) defensive tackle Mike Minns among others.

Posted on: April 12, 2011 8:22 pm

Penn State adds five-star defensive tackle

Posted by Bryan Fischer

Penn State is on a recruiting roll. 

Just a few days after landing defensive tackle Jamil Pollard, the Nittany Lions added another top player at the position with a soft verbal commitment from Rochester (N.Y.) defensive tackle Jarron Jones.

“I committed to Penn State just like that, but I will take officials to five other schools,” Jones told Scout.com. “My top five is in order are as follows: Penn State, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Rutgers and North Carolina.”

A five-star tackle, Jones is the 13th ranked player in Tom Lemming's Top 100 for 2012. Despite the commitment to Penn State, it appears Jones is still very much open to other schools and will continue to be recruited.

“I have high interest in my top five and also Notre Dame, Boston College and Connecticut," he told the website. "I have low interest in South Florida, Miami and Buffalo."

The 6-foot-7, 310 pound Jones had 68 tackles, 14 of which went for a loss, 10 sacks and an interception as a junior. He is the sixth commitment for the Nittany Lions' class of 2012 and the fourth player in the class that can play on the defensive line.

Posted on: April 12, 2011 4:27 pm

USF adds Pensacola athlete

Posted by Bryan Fischer

USF added another talented athlete to their class of 2012 in Pensacola (Fla.) quarterback Jalen Spencer Tuesday afternoon.

The 5-foot-11, 175 pound Spencer will likely end up playing defensive back for the Bulls once he enrolls in college and was sold on the direction of the program under head coach Skip Holtz.

“I said, well, they’re on the up-rise, and I might as well take a chance on them,” Spencer told Tampa Bay Online.

Spencer recently ran a 4.7 40-yard dash at the Jacksonville Under Armour Combine. He held offers from Southern Miss, UAB and South Alabama and was getting looks from other local schools as a defensive back as well.

“I feel like I can make that jump because I’m athletic,” Spencer said. “I love playing quarterback. I’ve been playing it my whole life, but if I’ve got to switch it up I’ll switch it up.”

Spencer is the third commitment for USF's class of 2012.

Posted on: April 9, 2011 10:56 am

Top 100 Offers and Leaders: 11-20

Posted by Bryan Fischer

Tom Lemming's Top 100 for 2012 List was released this week and it has some of the most talented recruits in the country for the upcoming class. In an ongoing series, we'll take a look at who they have offers from and who might be the leader for their commitment.

11. Running back Rushel Shell (Aliquippa, Pa.)

Offers: Alabama, Auburn, Cincinnati, Colorado, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, North Carolina, Ohio State, Penn State, Pitt, Tennessee, UCLA, Virginia, West Virginia.

Possible leader: Pitt.

12. Offensive lineman Zach Banner (Lakewood, Wash.)

Offers: Alabama, Arizona, Arizona State, Arkansas, Boise State, Cal, Florida State, Georgia Tech, LSU, Miami, Michigan, Mississippi State, Missouri, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Oregon, Oregon State, Penn State, Stanford, Tennessee, Texas A&M, UCLA, USC, Utah, Washington, Washington State, Wisconsin.

Possible leader: Washington.

13. DT Jarron Jones (Rochester, N.Y.)

Offers: Alabama, Boston College, UConn, Florida, Florida State, Iowa, Louisville, Maryland, Michigan, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Penn State, Pitt, Rutgers, USF, Syracuse, Tennessee.

Possible leader: Notre Dame.

14. Athlete Stefon Diggs (Olney, Md.)

Offers: Alabama, Cal, Cincinnati, Colorado, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Illinois, Maryland, Miami, Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Pitt, Rutgers, South Carolina, Vanderbilt, Virginia Tech, West Virginia.

Possible leader: Florida State.

15. Offensive tackle D.J. Humphries (Charlotte, N.C.)

Offers: Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Duke, East Carolina, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Georgia Tech, LSU, Maryland, Michigan, North Carolina, N.C. State, Notre Dame, Ohio State, South Carolina, USF, Tennessee, Texas, UCF, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest.

Possible leader: Tennessee.

16. DB Travis Blanks (Tallahassee, Fla.)

Offers: Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Louisville, LSU, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Ohio State, South Carolina, USF, Southern Miss, Stanford, Syracuse, Tennessee, USC, Vanderbilt, West Virginia.

Possible leader: Alabama.

17. OT Andrus Peat (Tempe, Ariz.)

Offers: Alabama, Arizona, Arizona State, Arkansas, Auburn, Cal, Clemson, Colorado, Duke, Florida, Florida State, Kansas, Miami, Michigan, Nebraska, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Oregon, Oregon State, San Diego State, Stanford, Texas, UCLA, USC, Wake Forest, Washington.

Possible leader: USC.

18. DT Eddie Goldman (Washington, D.C.)

Offers: Alabama, Auburn, Cal, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Iowa, LSU, Miami, Nebraska, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Oregon, Penn State, Rutgers, South Carolina, Stanford, Tennessee, Texas, UCLA, Virginia Tech, West Virginia.

Possible leader: Alabama.

19. DB Geno Smith (Atlanta, Ga.)

Offers: Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Illinois, Louisville, LSU, Memphis, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, North Carolina, N.C. State, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Purdue, South Carolina, Stanford, Tennessee, UCLA, USC, Vanderbilt, Virginia, Virginia Tech.

Possible leader: Georgia.

20. WR Shaq Roland (Lexington, S.C.)

Offers: Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Florida, Georgia, Georgia Tech, LSU, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina. 

Possible leader: Clemson.

Posted on: April 5, 2011 11:52 am

2012 Athletes to Watch

Posted by Bryan Fischer

Olney (Md.) star Stefon Diggs is the top athlete in the nation according to CBS Sports/MaxPreps Recruiting Analyst Tom Lemming but there's a lot of football to be played between now and Signing Day. Here's five other players - in alphabetical order - who you need to keep an eye out for this year. Each of them has a chance to move Diggs off the top spot and become the top athlete for the class of 2012.

Nelson Agholor (Berkeley Prep, Tampa, Fla.) 

Height: 6-foot-1 
Weight: 185 pounds 
Offers from: Auburn, Florida, Georgia, LSU, Notre Dame, USF, Tennessee, USC, Vanderbilt

What's to like: Agholor is an exceptional athlete and does so well at both defensive back and wide receiver, it's hard to figure out which position he actually would be better at in college. He's a big play receiver and has a tremendous leaping ability to go up and snatch the ball out of the air. He's fluid running routes and can sit down, catch a pass and then take off. Defensively, he plays press coverage very well and can turn and run like the best of them.

Needs to work on: There's not a lot that Agholor can't do. It would be nice to see him improve his tackling and aggressiveness.

Arik Armstead (Pleasant Grove High, Elk Grove, Calif.) 

Height: 6-foot-7 
Weight: 280 pounds 
Committed to USC

What's to like: The argument could be made that Armstead is the top player in the country and top offensive tackle. He also plays along the defensive line as a mammoth defensive tackle who can really fill two gaps and explode off the line. At this point however, he seems best suited as a left tackle at the next level. His size and strength allow him to simply overpower most of the competition and he has surprising quickness and speed to boot.

Needs to work on: Because most feel he's best suited to be a tackle, staying at the position and working on pass protection would be the one thing Armstead could do to really prepare himself for college.

Ronald Darby (Potomac High, Oxon Hill, Md.) 

Height: 5-foot-11 
Weight: 180 pounds 
Offers from: Alabama, Florida, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Maryland, Michigan, North Carolina, N.C. State, Notre Dame, Penn State, Rutgers, Tennessee, USC, Virginia, West Virginia

What's to like: Darby is one of the fastest players in this class and he can turn on the jets on offense and dart his way past defenders. He's very quick as well and closes on the ball as a defensive back like few others. He could fill a variety of roles on offense but might be best suited for safety in college.

Needs to work on: He still needs to learn the nuances of the safety position and could also work on his tackling if he ends up on defense.

Davonte Neal (Chaparral High, Scottsdale, Ariz.) 

Height: 5-foot-9 
Weight: 175 pounds 
Offers from: Arizona, Arizona State, Arkansas, Auburn, LSU, Miami, North Carolina, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Oregon State, Penn State, Texas A&M, UCLA, USC

What's to like: Neal is a firecracker on offense and a dynamic threat that can take it to the house at anytime. He is a good kick/punt returner who is shifty enough to make defenders miss. On defense, he's a solid corner who is a real ball hawk.

Needs to work on: He's a bit stiff in the hips to play corner and is so good on offense he'll likely end up on that side of the ball in college. Neal should continue to work on his speed and quickness as well.

Justin Thomas (Prattville High, Prattville, Ala.) 

Height: 5-foot-11 
Weight: 185 pounds 
Committed to Alabama

What's to like: Thomas is one of the fastest players in the state and is a legitimate threat to score because of his ability to shift into that top gear. He plays quarterback in high school mostly because he is the best player on his team but he won't be playing that position in college. His quickness and ability to make people miss is something that is pretty special.

Needs to work on: He will be raw wherever he starts out in college so trying to get some work in at receiver (likely in the slot) or at defensive back will help him adjust to his future role. Learning the little things will be his biggest challenge but he's smart enough to adjust.

Posted on: April 5, 2011 10:12 am
Edited on: April 5, 2011 10:18 am

2012 Defensive Backs to Watch

Posted by Bryan Fischer

Geismar (La.) star Landon Collins is the top defensive back in the nation according to CBS Sports/MaxPreps Recruiting Analyst Tom Lemming but there's a lot of football to be played between now and Signing Day. Here's five other players - in alphabetical order - who you need to keep an eye out for this year. Each of them has a chance to move Collins off the top spot and become the top defensive back for the class of 2012.

Travis Blanks (North Florida Christian, Tallahassee, Fla.)

Height: 6-foot-2 
Weight: 200 pounds 
Offers from Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Louisville, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Ohio State, South Carolina, USF, Tennessee, USC, Vanderbilt

What's to like: Blanks has good height and projects best at safety but can play nickel corner or on the outside. He can turn his hips very quickly and can overpower smaller receivers at the line of scrimmage.

Needs to work on: Blanks is athletic but we're unsure of the competition he is going against. We'd like to see him against some top flight receivers and see how he does. He needs to get stronger as well.

Jordan Diggs (Bishop Verot High, Fort Meyers, Fla.) 

Height: 6-foot-1 
Weight: 195 pounds 
Offers from Auburn, Boston College, UConn, Florida State, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisville, Maryland, Ole Miss, Nebraska, Ohio State, Purdue, South Carolina, USF, Tennessee, UCF, Vanderbilt, West Virginia

What's to like: Diggs certainly looks the part of a Division-I safety with or without the pads. He has a physical upper body and can come in and lay a big hit. He closes on the ball quickly and is quite cerebral on the field, directing teammates to where they need to be. The best part about Diggs is his passion for the game and willingness to learn about the position.

Needs to work on: Diggs still needs to work on his quickness and at times seems a bit stiff in his hips.

Tee Shepard (Central East High, Fresno, Calif.)

Height: 6-foot-1 
Weight: 175 pounds 
Committed to Notre Dame

What's to like: Shepard will be a bigger corner at the next level and his length will give opposing receivers issues. He is one of the best in terms of covering a player one-on-one and does a good job of knowing where the ball is at all times. He also has surprisingly good hands for a defensive back.

Needs to work on: Thompson is not one to lay a huge hit on an opponent and real seems to hang out on the outside. He'll pursue players but really won't attack them at the line of scrimmage.

Geno Smith (St. Pius X School, Atlanta, Ga.)

Height: 6-foot 
Weight: 170 
Offers from Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Louisville, Ole Miss, Notre Dame, Ohio State, South Carolina, Stanford, Tennessee, USC, Vanderbilt, Virginia Tech

What's to like: Smith can turn and run with the best of the wide receivers out there and he sticks to them closely. He plays the ball in the air well and is a surprisingly willing and able tackler. He closes on the ball well and could play early on at the nickel corner spot.

Needs to work on: He needs to get stronger and could also work on his press in Cover-2.

Shaquille Thompson (Grant Union High, Sacramento, Calif.) 

Height: 6-foot-1 
Weight: 195 pounds 
Offers from Auburn, Cal, Oregon, UCLA, UNLV, USC

What's to like: Thompson is the younger brother of former All-American corner Syd'Quan Thompson and you can tell that the family knows how to play the defensive back position. The younger Thompson is a terrific athlete and one of the better tacklers in this class. He closes extremely quickly and does well when in press coverage as well. He will likely play safety but he as the ability to play corner as well.

Needs to work on: Thompson still needs to beef up a little as he would be a bit thin at safety in college. There are times when he seems a bit unsure of what he's doing and just reacts but playing a single position in college will help him focus on getting better.

Posted on: April 4, 2011 2:12 pm

2012 Linebackers to Watch

Posted by Bryan Fischer

Oxford (Ala.) star Kwon Alexander is the top linebacker in the nation according to CBS Sports/MaxPreps Recruiting Analyst Tom Lemming but there's a lot of football to be played between now and Signing Day. Here's five other linebackers - in no particular order - who you need to keep an eye out for this year. Each of them has a chance to move Alexander off the top spot and become the top linebacker for the class of 2012.

Deaysean Rippy (Sto-Rox High, McKees Rocks, Pa.) 
Height: 6-foot-2 
Weight: 210 pounds 
Offers from Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Clemson, Colorado, UConn, Florida, Florida State, Iowa, LSU, Maryland, Miami, Michigan, Michigan State, North Carolina, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oregon, Penn State, Pitt, South Carolina, Syracuse, Temple, Texas A&M, UCLA, USC, Wisconsin

What's to like: It's no surprise to see Rippy become one of the most recruited athletes in the country after watching his film. He has been on the radar since his sophomore year and is a really versatile player as an outside linebacker. His pass rush skills are exceptional and he is fast enough to even be a safety at the next level. Rippy is one of the best players in coverage among this group of linebackers.

Needs to work on: Rippy is still a bit undersized if he wants to play outside linebacker in a 4-3 and could add a bit of weight.

Noor Davis (The Villages High, The Villages, Fla.) 
Height: 6-foot-4 
Weight: 225 pounds 
Offers from: Alabama, Boston College, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Louisville, Miami, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Pitt, Purdue, USF, Stanford, Syracuse, Tennessee, UCF, UCLA, USC, Virginia

What's to like: Davis is an exceptional prospect at the outside linebacker position and it's hard not to like what you see when you see him in person or on film. He is a smart player on the field who reads the play quickly and almost always takes a good angle to make the tackle. It's almost funny to see him standout on the field due to his size and the way he hits.

Needs to work on: Davis needs to learn some of the nuances of playing outside linebacker and move beyond a pass rusher from the outside.

Jabari Ruffin (Downey High, Downey, Calif.) 
Height: 6-foot-3 
Weight: 245 pounds 
Committed to USC

What's to like: Ruffin certainly looks the part and is probably the best linebacker west of the Mississippi. He looked sharp at the recent LA Nike Camp and his athleticism jumps out at you when you realize he played offense last season. Not only does he have speed to burn but his explosiveness is really apparent when you see him get ready to deliver a big hit.

Needs to work on: There's not a whole lot more that Ruffin needs to do to be successful but he should benefit from playing only linebacker in college. Becoming a read and react player instead of relying mostly on his athleticism to make plays is the next step for him to become a great player.

Reggie Ragland (Bob Jones High, Madison, Ala.) 
Height: 6-foot-4 
Weight: 235 pounds 
Committed to Alabama

What's to like: Ragland's size and speed make him a very, very good prospect manning the middle linebacker position. He's instinctive and when he reads his keys is one of the best in the country. He fills gaps very well and usually ends up blowing people up rather than just tackling them. He also does a good job of engaging a defender and then getting said defender out of his way.

Needs to work on: Ragland is a bit of a lose cannon at times and sometimes tries to do too much. He'll need to improve his coverage skills as well, especially if he's to be a middle backer in a Cover-2 scheme that requires him to run down the field.

Cassanova McKinzy (Woodlawn High, Birmingham, Ala.) 
Height: 6-foot-2 
Weight: 230 pounds 
Committed to Auburn

What's to like: McKinzy's name first of all. Beyond that though, there's plenty of things that Auburn coaches saw in McKinzy, including great size and speed at outside linebacker. He's very athletic and could play running back at the next level if he wanted to. McKinzy wraps up very well when tackling and is very instinctive.

Needs to work on: McKinzy may have all the measurables but he is still a bit raw at linebacker. He'll need to refine his coverage skills and improve his ability to read and react.

Posted on: April 4, 2011 11:52 am

2012 Defensive Ends to Watch

Posted by Bryan Fischer

Harrisburg (Pa.) star Noah Spence is the top defensive end in the nation according to CBS Sports/MaxPreps Recruiting Analyst Tom Lemming but there's a lot of football to be played between now and Signing Day. Here's five other lineman - in no particular order - who you need to keep an eye out for this year. Each of them has a chance to move Spence off the top spot and become the top defensive end for the class of 2012.

Mario Edwards Jr. (Denton Ryan High, Denton, Texas) 
Height: 6-foot-4 
Weight: 260 pounds 
Committed to Florida State.

What's to like: Edwards is almost a defensive tackle rushing the quarterback from the outside. He plays just as well - if not better - against the urn as he does pass rushing. You can tell he's had some coaching (he's the son of former Florida State and NFL player of the same name) because he's quite polished as a defensive end. His massive size also makes him one of the strongest ends in the country.

Needs to work on: There's a lot to like about Edwards but like most ends in high school, he could work on staying low out of his stance and getting his hands in a better position against taller offensive tackles.

Adolphus Washington (Taft High, Cincinnati, Ohio) 
Height: 6-foot-6 
Weight: 240 pounds 
Offers from: Alabama, Boston College, Michigan State, Ohio State, Oregon, Texas, Texas A&M, USC

What's to like: Washington has great size, speed and, as a top basketball prospect as well, athleticism. It's simply hard to notice a player who just explodes out of his stance and can move around like a player much smaller than what he really is.

Needs to work on: Washington can get a scholarship in either football or basketball but if it is football, he needs to refine his moves because he is a bit raw. Right now he's a superb athlete but if he sticks with football and refines his technique, Washington might be scary good.

Darius Hamilton (Don Bosco Prep, Ramsey, N.J.) 
Height: 6-foot-4 
Weight: 245 pounds 
Offers from: Boston College, Cincinnati, Colorado, UConn, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, North Carolina, Penn State, Pitt, Rutgers, South Carolina, Syracuse, Tennessee, UCF, USC, Wisconsin

What's to like: Hamilton has great size and the long arms you look for in elite lineman. He's got a really good motor and is relentless in his pursuit of the ball. He sheds blocks well and gets to the quarterback quickly. Hamilton could also add some weight to his great frame and slide inside and be a defensive tackle. He also has a good pedigree being the son of former New York Giant Keith Hamilton.

Needs to work on: Hamilton really just needs to refine his techniques and learn the nuances of the position. Going up against some elite offensive tackles this summer might also be a good thing for him as he rarely is challenged in high school.

Jordan Jenkins (Harris Country High, Hamilton, Ga.) 
Height: 6-foot-3 
Weight: 225 pounds 
Offers from: Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Notre Dame, Purdue, South Carolina, USF, Tennessee, UCF, USC, Vanderbilt

What's to like: Several big-time defensive ends have come out of the state of Georgia the past few years and Jenkins appears to be the next in line. What jumps out is his explosion off the line and into the backfield. He's fast enough to run down ball carriers that run away from him and also makes life hard on the quarterback on a straight speed rush.

Needs to work on: Jenkins isn't the most creative at getting into the backfield and could stand to improve on his pass rush moves by mixing in some swim moves and an improved spin move. He can also improve his play recondition.

Jelani Hamilton (St. Thomas Aquinas High, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) 
Height: 6-foot-5 
Weight: 245 pounds 
Offers from: Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Illinois, LSU, Miami, Rutgers, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Texas Tech

What's to like: Hamilton certainly looks the part of a major prospect at the defensive end position. He displays surprising quickness and is quite athletic for his size. Hamilton ends up making plays wherever he is on the field and he should be coveted by some teams for his ability to add some weight and slide inside in some pass rushing situations.

Needs to work on: Hamilton still needs to learn to fire off the line lower and use his tremendous strength to create leverage.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com