The recruiting folks at ESPN.com have released their first-ever ESPN Junior 300, or the list of the 300 best prospects in the 2015 class. It's early to be talking about these guys -- these are, after all, players who only recently finished their sophomore years of high school -- but as Tom Luginbill writes, the recruiting process has become so accelerated that it's almost never too soon to discuss prospects. You'd better believe that college coaching staffs know all about them.
Not surprisingly, there are only a handful of players in the 2015 class who have already committed. The lone Big Ten representative so far on the list is Utah quarterback Austin Kafentzis, who has given his pledge to Wisconsin. Kafentzis is ranked No. 227 overall on the list and the No. 6 dual-threat quarterback.
It's also notable that the No. 1 prospect on the list, defensive end Jashon Cornell, hails from St. Paul, Minn. It's hard to get more Big Ten country than that, and you know that Minnesota is doing everything it can to get Cornell to stay at home in the Twin Cities. But Jerry Kill and the Gophers have all kinds of competition, including just about every other league school and many of the top programs in the nation. It's going to be tough for Minnesota to battle those teams, just as it was when Seantrel Henderson -- who went to the same high school as Cornell -- was considered the top recruit in the nation and ended up at Miami (via USC).
Other top prospects in the Big Ten footprint include defensive end Terry Beckner Jr. from East St. Louis, Ill. (No. 9), defensive tackle Hjalte Froholdt from Warren, Ohio (No. 14), athlete Eric Glover-Williams from Canton, Ohio (No. 29), athlete Shaun Crawford from Lakewood, Ohio (No. 49) and defensive tackle Joshua Alabi from Detroit (No. 50). We should also include cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick from Jersey City, N.J. (No. 38), since the addition of Rutgers makes that Big Ten country, too.
There's a long way to go before these guys step onto campus, and perhaps even longer before many contribute to a college team. The rankings will change a lot between now and then. But schools are already in hot pursuit.