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January 16, 2004
On The Recruiting Trail
This week's edition of On The Recruiting Trail tackles the following hot topics:
1. Déjà vu for Gators?
2. A productive week for Clemson
3. The Trojans' triumph
4. GT strikes again
5. Big visit weekend on tap
Gators love January:
Here they come again.
Just as they did a year ago, Ron Zook & Co. have caught fire in the new year and are reeling in one major commitment after another.
This week has seen a trio of four-star in-state prospects give their verbals to Florida, including offensive tackle Drew Miller, cornerback Dawayne Grace and fellow defensive back McIntosh Nicolas.
All three players are rated among the nation's top 15 prospects at their respective positions, and were key battles between the Zook's staff and their rivals at Florida State and Miami. They also helped ease the sting left by five-star wideout Lance Leggett, who reversed field on his commitment to the Gators and cast his lot with the Hurricanes instead.
The Gators also drew commitments from three-star Florida offensive lineman Jim Tartt and three-star Texas tight end Tate Casey.
The big haul helped vault Florida from the mid-40s to No. 13 in the national team rankings. With several major prospects still listing high interest in the Gators, they stand a chance to crack the Top 10 once again this year. They closed at No. 2 in 2003.
Zook has one of the best and hardest-working staffs in the nation, and they're proving it again this year.
Clemson on a roll:
Coming on the heels of its 9-4 season and Peach Bowl victory over Tennessee, Clemson is starting to reap the benefits on the recruiting trail.
This past week saw the Tigers land four major commitments, two coming from a pair of the state's top-rated defensive linemen in the rival Gamecocks' backyard - Columbia Ridge View defensive tackle Dorrel Scott and Spring Valley defensive end Anthony Davis.
The other two emanated from the Sunshine State - four-star wide receiver Mike McIntosh and three-star athlete Chris Clemons. Both are tremendous pick-ups for the Tigers. McIntosh (6-2, 180, 4.4) is rated the No. 12 wideout in the nation by Rivals.com. He should make an immediate impact in Tommy Bowden's offensive attack.
Clemson's haul helped boost its commitment total to 19 and currently places them No. 36 nationally in the team rankings. The Tigers are hoping to close strong again this year and crack the Top 25 for the second straight season.
Glee at USC:
In what was probably the least suspenseful recruiting battle for a five-star player this year, the nation's top-rated linebacker ended his recruitment with a commitment to Southern Cal that had been rumored for weeks.
Lake Mary (Fla.) standout Keith Rivers, who is rated the nation's No. 5 prospect overall, picked the Trojans over Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Miami and Oklahoma.
"The tradition at USC was really important," he said, "but really, I think that fitting in was the biggest factor. More than anything, I am a California guy. I saw that on my visit
"During my visit, they took us to the Coliseum and let us come out of the tunnel with 'Salute to Troy' playing and out name on the big screen. I got so excited because I though about a great history they have there. Running out of that tunnel with the fight song playing is what college football is all about."
Rivers (6-3, 215, 4.5) hopes to become the latest player to wear the coveted No. 55 jersey for the Trojans. The number is traditionally reserved for USC's top defensive player and has been worn by Junior Seau, Willie McGinest and Chris Claiborne in the recent past.
Jackets score another big one:
In December, Georgia Tech pulled a shocker of sorts by going into Alabama and landing a commitment from four-star defensive lineman David Brown, beating the likes of Alabama, Georgia and Notre Dame for the elite prospect.
The Jackets scored big again this past week, getting a huge commitment from four-star in-state wide receiver Calvin Johnson. The Sandy Creek playmaker chose Tech over rival Georgia, breaking the hearts of many Bulldog fans who longed to see the 6-4, 210-pound wideout carve up defenses in the SEC.
Tech fans now wait and hope that a second blockbuster commitment will help them close strong on the Class of 2004. Their 17 current commitments rate a modest No. 53 nationally. A couple more pleasant surprises could help raise that figure.
Weekend hot spots:
The first of the final three major recruiting weekends begins today, and several schools are rolling out the red carpet for a number of their top prospects.
One of the biggest slates will be down on the plains, where 20 prospects are scheduled to be on hand at Auburn. Several of those are already pledged to the Tigers, but among the top undecided players they'll be trying to persuade is a veritable Who's Who of Florida prep football: five-star linebacker Willie Williams, four-star quarterback Brent Schaeffer, four-star defensive tackle Pat Sims and four-star linebacker Rodney Gallon. Three other four-star prospects will also be in the spotlight: in-state safety Tony Bell, Georgia wideout Ramarcus Brown and South Carolina offensive lineman Leon Hart.
It's an especially festive weekend in the SEC, where Florida and LSU has 12 and 10 players, respectively, rated four stars or better coming to campus. Arkansas will play host to 18 players, while Alabama plans to entertain 15.
By contrast, it's a relatively quiet weekend in the Big Ten as a whole. But Purdue has two of the biggest visitors from Virginia in four-star defensive end Olu Hall and four-star wide receiver Dorien Bryant, who the Boilermakers will try to sway from his Boston College verbal.
Oklahoma slipped a bit in the national rankings this past week, but could be poised to jump back into the fray with a trio of four-star prospects coming to town. They are Florida defensive end Emmanuel Dunbar, and Illinois offensive lineman Roland Martin.
Rivals of USC will be holding their breath as the Trojans play host to two of California's highest-rated prospects - five-star wideout Cameron Colvin and four-star defensive end Eugene Germany -- in search of adding to their top-rated national class.