Brian Cushing (Oradell, N.J.) is Scout.com's No. 3-rated linebacker prospect. He still mentions several teams, but there is speculation that his decision will come down to Southern Cal and Miami. USC has been a recent favorite of Cushing's, but will distance play a factor? Coral Gables is much closer to Oradell than is Los Angeles. If distance is not a factor, then he's a Trojan -- and if it is, then this could get interesting.
Over the past two weekends, Cushing has visited Boston College, Florida and Miami. He says each of those schools is still in the mix, with Southern Cal holding a slight edge. Penn State could be a dark horse in this race, but the team to watch out for is Boston College. The Eagles signed standout linebacker Brian Toal last season and they may land Cushing as well on Signing Day.
Defensive lineman Callahan Bright (Bryn Mawr, Pa.) is an amazing football talent who may be the top defensive prospect among the Class of 2005. He has taken official visits to Florida State and Texas A&M, and it looks like his decision will come down to the Seminoles and Aggies. Bright loves Bobby Bowden and had a great visit to Tallahassee. Bright has a great relationship with the Aggies' staff, and they have been one of his favorites since the beginning. Where will he end up? Word on the street is he will pick the Seminoles.
Will safety Reggie Smith (Edmond, Okla.) stay home and play for the Sooners, or pick the Cornhuskers? Or, will he leave the Big 12 altogether and go to USC? There is speculation that Smith is delaying his decision because he intends to end up at Nebraska and wants to avoid the in-state pressure. He has a great relationship with the Huskers' staff and Nebraska is having a great recruiting season. But so is Oklahoma -- and the pressure to stay home is substantial. The feeling is that it's down to these two schools, but you can never count out the Trojans. OU doesn't lose many in-state prospects, but it looks like they could lose Smith to the Big Red Machine.
Wide receiver DeSean Jackson (Long Beach, Calif.) is down to USC and Cal. Playing time will likely play a role in Jackson's commitment, and he could potentially see the field earlier at Cal than he would at USC. However, Jackson has many former high school teammates at Southern Cal. He is also an outstanding baseball player who wants to play both sports in college, and USC has a great baseball program. Look for the Trojans to land him.
Linebacker Luther Brown (Lakewood, Calif.) is down to Arizona and USC. The Trojans have already landed a couple of linebacker standouts and they really want to add Brown to the mix. Scout.com's Allen Wallace says that USC is the team to beat here.
"USC is the hot team and the darling of the college football world," Wallace said. "At Arizona, Brown can be in on the ground floor, and he likes [Mike] Stoops, but look for Brown to pick USC."
Defensive tackle Jerrell Powe (Waynesboro, Miss.) committed to LSU during the U.S. Army All-American Bowl but then backed off that decision. Ed Orgeron and Ole Miss are gaining ground in this race. Powe and Orgeron have really hit it off, especially on Powe's official visit. He likes how Orgeron interacts with his players and the atmosphere the new staff has established thus far in Oxford. Look for the Rebels to land this elite DT.
Ole Miss is also the front-runner for cornerback Derek Pegues (Batesville, Miss.). Pegues says he is down to Ole Miss, Mississippi State and LSU, but there is a strong feeling in the recruiting community that Pegues will become a Rebel.
Running back Jason Gwaltney (North Babylon, N.Y.) made an early commitment to West Virginia, but then backed off the verbal and made official visits to Southern Cal and Ohio State. The hot rumor in San Antonio during the U.S. Army All-American Bowl was that Gwaltney was headed to USC.
Gwaltney knows that the Trojans are loaded at running back with LenDale White and Reggie Bush. He likes the fact that he could learn from them, and knows that they may jump to the NFL after next season, leaving the job to him.
In regards to Ohio State, Gwaltney loves the fact that the Buckeyes are a big-time program short on running backs, especially backs with his size and power. West Virginia is a place where he felt very comfortable with the players and coaches. What will he do? The consensus here is that Southern Cal is the team to beat, but a case could be made for either the Buckeyes or the Mountaineers.
Cornerback Cary Harris (Sherman Oaks, Calif.) will likely pick between Oregon and Southern Cal and Cal. Right now, he says the Ducks have a slight lead. Eugene was his favorite official visit, and Oregon needs defensive help. Harris loves the facilities and academic support at UO and there are not the distractions in Eugene like one finds in L.A. Having said that, he feels comfortable at Southern Cal and like many other recruits loves the family atmosphere that Pete Carroll has instilled on the Trojan program. This race is too close to call -- a toss up between Oregon and USC.
Linebacker Eugene Hayes (Madison, Fla.) has been wavering for the past last six months. At one point he listed USC, Auburn, N.C. State, Georgia and Clemson as the leaders for his services. Then, after visiting Tennessee a few weeks ago, he committed to the Vols. Shortly after his Tennessee decision he backed off and visited Clemson, after which he was a Tiger lean. Last week he visited Florida State. So what will he do? Is it Tennessee, Clemson or FSU? At this point, FSU looks tough to beat, but with Hayes one never knows.
Wideout O.J. Murdock (Tampa, Fla.) was headed to Florida -- until the Gators dismissed Ron Zook. He has since entertained a number of other schools, including Miami and Tennessee. South Carolina has made the late push for Murdock and he could sign with the Gamecocks tomorrow.
Matt Hardrick (Orlando, Fla.) is a mammoth OL prospect who has visited Florida State, Florida and Ole Miss, and it's down to those three schools. FSU certainly has the edge but Florida and Ole Miss made a late-January run. Hardrick has been leaning to the Seminoles for some time, and two of his former high school teammates, Aaron Jones and Kenny Ingram, signed with FSU last season. But the impressive new coaching staffs in Gainesville and Oxford have made him re-think his decision. Still, it will be an upset if it's not Florida State on Signing Day for Hardrick.
Linebacker Jerome Hayes (Bayonne, N.J.) had things narrowed down to Miami and Florida a few weeks ago. Then he made a late official visit to Penn State -- and the Nittany Lions are now the team to beat. Both the Gators and 'Canes are in desperate need of LBs, but Hayes may shy away from the Sunshine State. Rutgers is making a late push but look for Joe Paterno to have the Signing Day edge.
Nic Harris (Alexandria, La.) is a safety/linebacker prospect who is deciding between Michigan, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Texas A&M and LSU. As of late last week, Harris said LSU was out. But that could change. There seems to be some sentiment that Michigan is the team to beat here, but don't discount the Sooners.
Defensive lineman James McKinnley (Louisville, Ky.) committed to Michigan more than a year ago, but at the urging of his mother started looking around ... and then backed off his Wolverine commitment. He certainly likes Clemson, but the Maize and Blue should ink this DL when it's all said and done on Signing Day.