Recruiting aficionados are always working well in advance of the average fan, poring over grainy videos and dubious message board threads for the drop on still-developing teenagers who are two or three years away from paying off as college players – by which time, of course, the boards will already be on to the next crop. So while sane adults may still be waiting to see how the class of 2010 pans out beginning this fall, the hype is already in full swing for the class of 2011.
The countdown to next February began in earnest today with the ceremonial release of Rivals' annual list of the top 100 prospects in the country, its first, oft-revised attempt to judge soon-to-be high school seniors as ruthlessly as possible. For the non-recruiting obsessed, a short primer:
Your "unanimous" No. 1 prospect is lanky Rock Hill, S.C., defensive end Jadeveon Clowney (right), already being compared favorably to Julius Peppers and Jevon Kearse; for now, I think he'd settle for being the next Ronald Powell, sought after by every major program in the country. The inevitable buzz word here is "long" – at 225 pounds, Clowney still has plenty of room to add more bulk on a 6'5" frame. Requisite highlight clips are here.
Early assumptions have Clowney following former South Pointe High teammates Stephon Gilmore and DeVonte Holloman to South Carolina, but top-of-the-list stars rarely seem to go quietly these days.
It's another thin year for quarterbacks. Not as bad as last year, when only one quarterback (Alabama signee Phillip Sims at No. 67) made the cut for the final top 100. But one again there are no five-star passers (or scramblers), and the six QBs that make the list are clustered toward the bottom half; only Florida commit Jeff Driskel, at No. 31, comes in among the top 50. Compare that to the classes of 2002-09, which all included multiple five-star quarterbacks, at least one of whom ranked among the top 10 overall, and three of whom (Vince Young, Jimmy Clausen and Terrelle Pryor) ranked No. 1. Maybe all the overhyped young quarterbacks these days are in junior high?
Initial five-star status was afforded to just 11 players, a number that will certainly grow to the usual group of 25-30 as a glut of summer camps and later actual games add to the scouting reports. Among that group, four – Los Angeles running back De'Anthony Thomas (USC), Baton Rouge lineman La'El Collins (LSU), northern Alabama linebacker Tyler Russell (Alabama) and Detroit linebacker Lawrence Thomas (Michigan State) – have already given verbal commitments to a local powerhouse. In addition to Collins, LSU has commitments from two other Louisiana prospects ranked in the top 20 (running back Kenny Hilliard and receiver Jarvis Landry); Texas has a pair of verbals (offensive lineman Christian Westerman, linebacker Steve Edmond) from guys right on the edge of five-star status.
The most jaw-dropping highlight reel clearly belongs to Florida linebacker/defensive end James Wilder Jr., 6'2"/219-pound son of the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers workhorse. Junior is impressive enough on defense but has built a small YouTube following by being nearly impossible to bring down as a running back:
That 11-yard run against Armwood High might be the greatest run of all-time. I dunno, I thought this one was pretty good myself.
All-Name Team candidates in the top 100 include: South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney; humongous Maryland lineman Cyrus Kouandijo; Florida athlete/mohawk'ed Alabama commitment Hasean Clinton-Dix; Washington tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins; Texas "athlete" Quandre Diggs; Brooklyn, N.Y., defensive end Ishaq Williams; Arizona lineman Andre Yruretagoyena; and Kansas quarterback Bubba Starling. But there can be only one nickname, when that name is "Black Mamba."
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.