WIR: All eyes on Ohio

As if MTV's "Two-A-Days" and NBC's upcoming "Friday Night Lights" weren't enough, here's more proof of how big high school football has become on a national scale:

The organizers of the second annual Kirk Herbstreit Challenge, which pits some of the best teams in Ohio vs. some of the best from other parts of the country, secured a private jet for the Lakeland High School football team to fly from Tampa to Cincinnati, where it will take on reigning Ohio Division I state champion St. Xavier on Saturday afternoon.

"This game means everything," Lakeland running back Chris Rainey told the Tampa Tribune. "It gives me a chance to show people how good I am and how good our team is. This game will put Lakeland on the map."

The event features nine games, played Friday and Saturday in Cincinnati and Massillon, and several ESPN 150 prospects, including safety Eugene Clifford (Cincinnati/Colerain), quarterback Willy Korn (Duncan, S.C./Byrnes), quarterback Ryan Mallett (Texarkana, Texas/Texas) and defensive end Justin Trattou (Ramsey, N.J./Don Bosco).

Automation domination

Scouts Inc.'s new automated team rankings for the '07 class are up and running. The system ranks teams based solely on prospects who have committed and been evaluated and graded.

USC tops the list, with six of the Trojans' nine verbal commitments so far listed in the ESPN 150. Texas, which when all is said and done will have another top-five class, has 12 of 23 verbal commitments in the ESPN 150, currently good enough for sixth in the automated rankings.

Seventy-three ESPN 150 prospects remain undecided, so the rankings will definitely see some fluctuation as national signing day gets closer.


With high school seasons across the country in full swing, the summer's torrid pace of commitments has slowed considerably. Since last weekend, only ten known verbal commitments were made -- and two of those were from kickers.

Texas A&M did score a big commit from running back Shawnbrey McNeal (Dallas/Madison), who made his announcement Thursday on ESPNU.

McNeal has blazing speed -- he's won two state track championships in the 100 meters -- and could be a game breaker for the Aggies.

Toledo picked up its first verbal commitment of the '07 class from tight end/defensive lineman Marlin Parker (Warren, Ohio/Harding), who chose the Rockets over two BCS conference schools, Boston College and Indiana.

The top MAC recruit so far is outside linebacker Michael Baker (St. Louis/Cardinal Ritter), who has verbally committed to Miami-Ohio.

Henry Gola is recruiting editor for ESPN.com and Scouts Inc.