LSU checks in at No. 1, but USC, others are on Tigers' heels
Posted: Friday December 19, 2003 12:15PM; Updated: Friday December 19, 2003 1:53PM
By Jamie Newberg, TheInsiders.com
Round up the usual suspects because it's that time of year again. It's time to start ranking the recruiting classes. Once again LSU finds itself atop the TheInsiders.com Top 25 with Signing Day seven weeks away. But, the Tigers from the Bayou will have to hold off charging USC and many others to hang on to No. 1 again.
The rankings go 25 teams deep and use the following criteria: number of commitments, total star rankings of the commitments, average star ranking of the commitments and the average player rank per class. If a team doesn't have at least 10 commitments, it's not considered.
If you look at the breakdown, LSU has the best blend of totals across the board, even though teams such as USC, Miami and Michigan have a higher star average and rank average. But LSU also has at least six or seven more commitments than those three. Again, it is subjective with a long way to go. One thing is certain -- everything will sort itself out over the next seven weeks.
LSU is once again putting together a stellar class from top to bottom. The Tigers are sitting on 18 commitments from such blue-chippers as defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey, safety Craig Steltz and center Ryan Miller. LSU pulled both linebacker Matt Stoltz and offensive lineman Brett Helms from Arkansas. The Tigers also went the junior college route with five-star commitments in defensive tackle Claude Wrotten and linebacker E.J. Kaule. Wide receiver Jerald Watson is the sleeper of the class. Look for LSU to finish very high once again.
Checking in at No. 2 are the Longhorns. How good would this class be had quarterback Rhett Bomar picked them instead of the Sooners? Texas is waiting on the state's top prospect in running back Adrian Peterson but he appears to be headed out of state. However, head coach Mack Brown is once again assembling another solid group, led by safety Andrew Kelson and a contingent of wide receivers like Jordan Shipley.
3. Penn State
Penn State started the football season with the top class in the country. Joe Paterno and company once again had a terrific spring and summer. The headliner here has to be linebacker/fullback Dan Connor, the No. 1 linebacker in the country. Penn State also has done a nice job of getting offensive linemen, led by five-star offensive tackle Greg Harrison. The Nittany Lions lost a big one, however, when quarterback Chad Henne committed to arch rival Michigan.
For the second consecutive year, the Men of Troy are rolling. Publicly, they are sitting on only a dozen commitments, so look for USC to clean up in January. The Trojans clearly are the team to beat for the coveted No. 1 ranking on Signing Day, despite their No. 4 ranking right now. In fact, if things fall as projected, this class could even be better than the one they had last season. Don't be surprised if Southern Cal gets linebacker Keith Rivers, wide receivers Dwayne Jarrett and Fred Davis, running back Adrian Peterson, offensive linemen Thomas Herring, and many other All-American type players when it is all said and done.
The Miami Hurricanes are dominating their backyard with commitments from running back standouts Charlie Jones and Bobby Washington and cornerback J.R. Bryant. They also went to Texas and landed a five-star QB in Kirby Freeman. The 'Canes have only 11 commitments and they check in at No. 5 right now. UM is just getting started, so let's just say there will be a Hurricane warning for the next seven weeks. Larry Coker and company should close strong. Look for the 'Canes to battle the Gators and Seminoles over prospects such as linebackers Willie Williams and Josh Johnson, defensive tackle Aaron Jones, safety Kenny Ingram, cornerback Dawayne Grace and many others.
Michigan has been somewhat quiet but consistent all season. Without question the Wolverines' headliner is Henne, the quarterback they stole out of Pennsylvania. Also impressive with this class is the balance. From quarterback to defensive back, the Wolverines are bringing in some athletes with size and speed in the likes of running backs Max Martin and Mike Hart, wide receiver Morgan Trent, offensive linemen Jeremy Ciulla and Alex Mitchell, defensive linemen Will Johnson, Mike Massey and Chris Rogers, linebackers Chris Graham and Roger Allison and defensive backs Charles Stewart and Jamar Adams.
Rhett Bomar, out of Texas, is the nation's No. 1 quarterback prospect and is headed to Norman. The nation's No. 1 running back, Adrian Peterson -- also a Texan -- will probably decide between the Sooners and Trojans. Once again, Bob Stoops is reeling in athletes like Ramarcus Brown, Lendy Holmes, Chris Patterson, Quentin Chaney and many others. The Sooners are now at the point where they just reload.
8. Ohio State
The Buckeyes should now be concerned about the state's top two prospects, cornerback Ted Ginn Jr. and wide receiver Fred Davis. At one time, they were considered locks to Ohio State but now USC is making a huge push. Ginn is the top defensive back in the nation and Davis is a five-star wide receiver. These two battles are too close to call. But Tressel and company have put together a very nice group led by a very good group of offensive linemen. Miles Williams and DaJaun Morgan will be two huge big-play guys at wide receiver.
The Dawgs are No. 9 right now, but they could challenge USC, LSU and others for No. 1 on Signing Day because they are awaiting word from a number of great prospects. Defensive end/outside linebacker Brandon Miller and defensive tackle Eric McLendon, both from the Peach State, are likely headed to Athens. Five-star wide receiver Calvin Johnson will decide between Georgia Tech and Georgia. Mark Richt is once again doing a super job of recruiting. Quarterbacks A.J. Bryant and Blake Barnes, running back Thomas Brown and defensive end Charles Johnson have already committed to UGA.
The Volunteers' biggest need this season was at quarterback, and they finally landed a big-name signal-caller in Erik Ainge from Oregon. Tennessee commitment Albert Toeina, from the juco ranks, is the best offensive tackle I have seen this season. Two five-star defensive tackles have also committed to the Vols: juco transfer Jesse Mahelona and Demonte Bolden from nearby Chattanooga. This should be a banner recruiting season for Phil Fulmer.
Beyond the top 10
The two big surprises in the top 25 are Alabama and Pittsburgh. The Crimson Tide has been on NCAA probation and went through a coaching change after spring football. Things have been very tough in Tuscaloosa for new head coach Mike Shula, the players and fans. But all is not lost. Despite the adversity, Shula has done a fine job of getting commitments from the state's top prospect in wide receiver Nikita Stover and the best OL in Alabama in B.J. Stabler.
Pittsburgh got off to a big start and was much higher in the ratings three months ago, but had few commitments during the season. The Panthers' headliners are quarterback Anthony Morelli and running back Andrew Johnson. They should climb higher in the rankings over the coming weeks if they land linebacker James Bryant and some others.
Two teams to really watch over the coming weeks are Florida State and Florida. Between them, they only have thirteen commitments -- but expect the Seminoles and Gators to make a big move next month.
Expect the rankings to be revised each Wednesday between now and Signing Day.