Clemson has made a recent push from No. 8 to No. 4 in the class rankings and boasts the top prospect in the country. Bobby Bowden has the reputation for being the closer for Florida State. This year, the Seminoles started strong but have been stagnant since. First-year Boston College head coach Jeff Jagodzinski seems to have adopted his predecessor Tom O'Brien's recruiting philosophy of bringing in good football players with the mental and physical skills to develop into great football players by the time they graduate, but more importantly he is branching south for more speed and athleticism. Here's a look at each class:
Schools in order of 2007 finish
Signing day storylines: Despite a slide down the stretch, Boston College established itself as one of the premier teams in the country throughout most of the 2007 season and tallied its highest win total in more than 60 years. The popular question from BC fans since September has been whether its success and jump into elite status on the field would translate into a stellar recruiting class.
Unfortunately, it hasn't. The Eagles did not appear in the top 25 of our latest class rankings and do not look likely to climb in on February 6. With that said, programs tend to ride the buzz from a successful fall into the following spring's recruiting season and the subsequent year's recruiting class, particularly with the prevalence of early committing before a prospect's senior season.
It should also be noted that although the Eagles may not consistently land top-25 classes from our standards, it doesn't necessarily equate to non-perennial top-25 teams in the fall when it counts. First-year head coach Jeff Jagodzinski seems to have adopted his predecessor Tom O'Brien's recruiting philosophy of bringing in solid football players who are smart, coachable and mentally and physically tough. This year's class may not be filled with top-tier prospects, though we expect more 2009, but it is comprised of good quality that reflects a traditional Boston College class needed to compete for an ACC championship.
Top prospect: Running back Josh Haden (Fort Washington, Md./Friendly Senior) comes from good lineage -- his brother Joe signed in Florida 2007's class and played as a true freshman. While undersized in terms of height, ESPN's No. 34-rated running back prospect runs extremely hard with great quickness and burst through the hole. He can break the first wave of arm tackles with power or avoid the initial traffic with good shiftiness and cutback ability. Haden should be a great fit in offensive coordinator Steve Logan's spread system with his versatility, big-play ability and mismatch potential in space.
Class highlights: It's a deep class heading into signing day for the Eagles with 26 commitments and most positional needs being met. Running back will take a huge blow in production with the graduation of the L.V. Whitworth and Andre Callender, a very potent one-two punch for the Eagles the past few seasons. Haden could fill some of that void early in his career, and fellow pledge Isaac Johnson (Everett, Mass.) could develop into a serviceable back if he does not make the move to safety.
The program's most significant loss is at quarterback, as Matt Ryan carried the program on his back in 2007. Justin Tuggle (Duluth, Ga./Northview) is perhaps a better athlete at this time than a pure quarterback, but the powerful arm is present and he could develop into a playmaker with more reps and polish.
Defensively, cornerback DeJuan Tribble was playing in the Senior Bowl this past weekend and the quality of young depth at the position is weak. Ugo Okpara (Sugarland, Texas/John Foster Dulles) earned his No. 18 positional ranking with his rare size and speed combination at the position. Okechuckwu Okoroha (Greenbelt, Md./Eleanor Roosevelt) is one of the more well-balanced run and pass supporter in this 2008 defensive back class and despite being a bit raw, ESPN's No. 14 ranked safety should offer highly-regarded defensive coordinator Frank Spaziani great scheme versatility during his career in Chestnut Hill.
The wild card in this class is athlete Chris Pantale (Wayne N.J./Wayne Valley). A legit two-way prospect, Pantale currently offers the most upside at tight end with his soft hands, good athleticism and great size, but don't cancel out defensive end during his career.
Could see the field in 2008: Haden.
Signing day storylines: The Demon Deacons may not have finished with 11 wins in 2007 like in 2006, but the season was far from a disappointment. Jim Grobe has orchestrated one of the better transformations in college football with the help of increased talent, but like Boston College, Wake's classes are not usually comprised of multiple, if any, ESPN 150 prospects. Instead, Wake continues to go after program-fitting prospects both on the field and in the classroom. The fact that Grobe turned down offers to stay in Winston-Salem, presumably for a while, helped stabilize this 2008 class that is very top-heavy with talent.
The academic rigors and Grobe's reputation for not playing true freshmen, quite possibly the key factor for today's prospects, may have deterred a few players and precipitated a less than spectacular class a few weeks out from signing day. However, the development of these players will get over five years in Wake's system is invaluable, and it did a good job emphasizing areas of need, most notably wide receiver.
Top prospect: Riley Haynes (Ponte Verda, Fla./Nease) may lack some size, but he plays harder and more physical than his listed measurable and consistently made plays close to the line of scrimmage during his high school career at one of the better programs in Florida. His best attribute is his ability to sift through the lateral traffic, avoid the cutoff block and burst through the inside run seam. Haynes' overall range on run and pass support is good, and he fits the Demon Deacons' style of smaller, faster attacking outside linebackers. Diagnosing skills and physical development are areas in need of improvement, but both should come in a beneficial red-shirt season.
Class highlights: Wake needed to find its next Kenny Moore while also infusing some young depth at the receiver position. Committed athlete Terence Davis (Snellville, Ga./Brookwood) possesses the size and natural gifts to develop into a good deep ball threat with some polish. However, it's undecided prospect Terrence Robinson (Klein, Texas/Oak) who possesses the dual-threat skills similar to Moore; the Texas native may be smaller but is just as quick and elusive. The problem is the once Demon Deacon lean is now being courted hard by Michigan.
Wake also needed to a land a talented young tight end with the graduations of John Tereshinski and Zac Selmon, and it found one in Andrew Parker (Jacksonville, Fla./Bartram Trail). The No. 26 prospect at the position displays solid blocking skills while flashing the speed needed to pose a vertical threat in the passing game.
Defensively, Haynes will head into Winston-Salem with Scott Betros (Jacksonville, Fla./Bolles), another talented inside linebacker with some of the better run stacking skills in this class. Ramon Booi (Ponte Vedra, Fla./Nease), a massive and disruptive defensive tackle who played with Haynes at Nease, will continue covering him up in the ACC.
Could see the field in 2008: Probably none since Grobe avoids playing true freshmen.
Signing day storylines: One of the biggest movers in our recent class rankings as we head into signing day, Clemson has made an impressive push down the stretch to land quality prospects and elevate the status of an already impressive 2008 class. As ESPN's No. 1-rated overall prospect DaQuan Bowers (Bamberg, S.C./Bamberg-Ehrhardt) was already hitting the books on Clemson's campus, Tommy Bowden and staff were still hitting the recruiting trail hard, closing on fellow Under Armour All-Americans like Brandon Thompson (Thomasville, Ga.) and Kenneth Page (Columbia, S.C./A.C. Flora).
Recruits have always been attracted to Clemson's amazing game-day atmosphere, but now they are being lured by a perennial bowl program and a head coach who appears to be locked in for the future. The only question mark at this point for its strong class is at running back. The one-two punch of James Davis and C.J. Spiller will be split in 2009 with Davis' graduation. Davis' decision to return for his senior season certainly adds production next fall but could have swayed away potential 2008 prospects, a concern particularly if Spiller decides to test the NFL waters as a junior.
Jamie Harper (Jacksonville, Fla./Trinity Christian), ESPN's No. 3-rated running back and No. 12 overall prospect, combines both thunder and lightning qualities in one package but wants to carry the rock early. We won't find out until signing day if Davis' decision influences the one-time Clemson lean to remain in-state at Florida, Florida State or Miami. Andre Ellington (Moncks Corner, S.C./Berkeley) is a top-10 running back prospect in his own right with great versatility and playmaking potential, so losing Harper wouldn't be so drastic to the program.
Top prospect: Bowers is a rare prospect who had many of the former NFL coaches at the Under Armour All-America Game already talking about Sundays as he blew past most of country's top offensive tackle prospects in Orlando. At 6-foot-4 and a chiseled 265 pounds, the No. 1 overall player possesses a rare blend of size, speed and quickness off the edge. Far from just an explosive pass rusher, Bowers can be disruptive and physical at the point of attack against the run with his raw strength and power. His upside is exciting when you look at his frame and the potential for physical growth once he attacks a full-time college weight training program. Doubling as a 1,000-yard rusher in high school, Bowers is a "once every four years" type athlete.
Class highlights: With some polishThompson is capable of being just as disruptive in the trenches as Bowers. The No. 3-rated defensive tackle is massive yet explosive and extremely quick off the ball for 291 pounds. Youth and size on the interior of the defensive line was a major need and the potential penetration and havoc fromThompson and Bowers should have Clemson fans salivating.
The talent on defense continues in this class at linebacker and defensive back. ESPN 150 OLB Tarik Rollins (Hollywood, Fla. Chaminade-Madonna) combines rare fast-twitched athleticism and great range on the perimeter and is a potential defensive playmaker when he fills out at the next level. Jonathan Willard (Loris, S.C.) possess a similar frame and is just as explosive in space.
The great range continues behind the two talented 'backers at defensive back. Spencer Adams (Matthews, N.C./Butler), ESPN's No. 3 ranked safety prospect, utilizes his elite track speed to chase down ball carriers sideline-to-sideline versus the run and covering the hashes defending the pass. Talented corner Xavier Brewer (Jacksonville, Fla./Bartram Trail) gives the Tigers its fifth ESPN 150 member on defense alone.
The talent on offense isn't lacking either. Quarterback Kyle Parker (Jacksonville, Fla./Bartram Trail), Brewer's high school teammate, may lack some size but is mechanically sound, possesses good arm strength and has a certain moxie about him needed to be winner at the next level. He will have some weapons to hand off to in Ellington and to throw to in Marquan Jones (Blythewood, S.C.), a speedy wideout with game-breaker potential at a position lacking young depth.
Could see the field in 2008: Bowers.
Signing day storylines: Known as the closer, Bobby Bowden actually started out hot in 2008, particularly on defense, but the class as a whole has been stagnant for the most part since. The academic scandal and subsequent bowl loss probably did not help matters down the stretch, and like Penn State, the Seminoles could be at a crossroad with program. Bobby Bowden's age and future coaching uncertainty could be deterring prospects from the once national power. Naming Jimbo Fisher as his successor could help with future stability and his offensive pedigree seems to have attracted top offensive skill to Tallahassee; the same can be said defensively with the addition of Chuck Amato.
The Seminoles still have a top-15 class at this point and Bobby Bowden could work his magic down the stretch and land a few more top prospects like recently committed offensive tackle Zebrie Sanders (Clayton, Ohio/Northmont). FSU currently has four top-50 overall prospects, including highly-coveted receiver Julio Jones (Foley, Ala.), still interested.
Top prospect: While Terrance Parks (Fairburn, Ga./Creekside) was battling through an injury-plagued junior season, Creekside High School head coach Kevin Whitley called and said he had a player with abilities on par with Eric Berry, last year's No. 1-ranked corner and No. 4-rated overall prospect. From the limited clips we saw, his assessment was right and firmly backed up during a healthy senior season and excellent performance as an Under Armour All-American. Parks possesses excellent size, strength and pressing technique to match up against today's taller college wide outs and the speed and transitional quickness to turn and run with the faster ones. ESPN's No. 5-rated corner fits perfect in legendary defensive coordinator Mickey Andrew's 4-3/cover 2 scheme and could challenge for early playing time as he is already acclimating to campus this spring.
Class highlights: Parks teams up with inside linebacker Nigel Bradham (Crawfordville, Fla./Wakulla) and outside 'backer Nigel Carr (Jacksonville, First Coast) to give FSU three top-five positional prospects on defense, all with the skills and physical development to contribute early.
However, FSU's defense has traditionally been a power; it's the offense that coordinator Jimbo Fisher needs to ignite in Tallahassee. E.J. Manuel (Virginia Beach, Va./Bayside) held onto our No. 1 quarterback spot for a good portion of this recruiting season, and despite dropping down to No. 6 heading into signing day, this kid possesses the size and arm strength that may have Fisher thinking back to his days of grooming JaMarcus Russell.
Jermaine Thomas (Jacksonville, First Coast), Carr's teammate at First Coast and the No. 47 overall prospect in this class, is a rare blend of size, speed and athleticism. Expect the vastly underrated prospect to be used all over the field as an offensive skill player to create mismatches in space for Fisher. A late push by LSU does have Seminole fans holding their breath down the stretch.
Could see the field in 2008: Thomas, Parks, Bradham, Carr.
Signing day storylines: Although they remained competitive and actually knocked off two top-10 teams during different points of the season, last fall was a disappointment for the Terps. Unfortunately, recruiting is not faring much better.
Maryland is struggling to land top-tier prospects and at the same time losing the best players out of their own backyard, some to fellow ACC foes, which is never a good sign.
Ralph Friedgen is still regarded as a great offensive mind and has lured in some talent in the passing game to help move the chains, particularly at receiver and tight end. Maryland is still putting the full-court press on uncommitted ESPN 150 wide out and instate talent Kenny Tate (Forestville, Md./DeMatha Catholic), who could make his decision this week.
Top prospect: If prospects were rated on pure upside, wide receiver Kerry Boykins (Chesapeake, Va./Oscar Frommel Smith) would be much further up on the ESPN 150. This kid has playmaker written all over him with his great hands and supreme blend of size and athleticism at the position. The great burst and speed needed to create space as a route runner are there, but he will need to become more crisp and polished at the position -- both should come with the great offensive coaching he will receive at Maryland.
Class highlights: Boykins and the top half of this Maryland class, comprised of three top-20 positional prospects, is solid. Defensive tackle Masengo Kabongo (Fairfield, Conn.) can be explosive off the ball and disruptive down the line of scrimmage; he possesses the tools to blossom at the next level. Stacking behind him at inside linebacker is Demetrius Hartsfield (Raleigh, N.C./Southeast), a potential sleeper if he can fill out his frame and retain his quickness and fast-twitched athleticism between the tackles. The secondary also got a boost with a pledge from Cameron Chism (Forestville, Md./Bishop McNamara). The 6-foot-1 corner has the size highly coveted on the college level and zone and man skills to go with it.
Tight end Devonte Cambell is currently prepping at Hargrave Military Academy and is a well-balanced prospect with the skills to contribute early.
Could see the field in 2008: Boykins.
Signing day storylines: Tom O'Brien probably did not achieve the success he desired in his first-year at NC State, but off the field, the former Boston College head coach is building a quality recruiting class like he did for many years at Chestnut Hill. We actually expect even better classes down the road as O'Brien becomes accustomed with a recruiting area far more fertile than New England and with an admissions department presumably far less rigorous than BC's. This current 2008 class may reflect the changes already taking place, as the Wolfpack currently have the No. 20 class heading into signing day and perhaps have O'Brien's next Matt Ryan at quarterback.
Top prospect: Mike Glennon (Centreville, Va./ Westfield) possesses the size, arm strength and quick release to excel as a college quarterback and the intangibles to lead a rebuilding program. We were impressed with his talents on film but even more in person when evaluating him live as an Under Armour All-American. Glennon can make all the college throws with accuracy and knows how to add zip or touch when needed. He will need to add bulk to withstand the hits and stay in the pocket, but his drop-back style fits right into offensive coordinator Dana Bible's system that molded Matt Ryan for three years in Boston.
Class highlights: Glennon will have a great weapon heading into Raleigh with him on offense in ESPN's No. 8-rated athlete Brandon Barnes. This kid should be able to create mismatches all over the field for Bible with his quickness and is a legit dual-threat as a runner and receiver. Tight end Mario Carter has receiver skills in a 6-foot-5, 231-pound tight end body. He will need to recover from a season-ending knee injury, but his upside and physical tools at the position are excellent and earned him a top-10 ranking. The Boston College traits continue on the offensive line with R.J. Mattes (Concord, N.C./J.M. Robinson), a taller, leaner tackle prospect with good feet and the frame to get much bigger.
The Wolfpack also landed one of the top in-state defensive prospects in Terrell Manning (Laurinburg, N.C./Scotland). Hard to find many physical flaws in this kid's game, he is one of the better vertical attacking players in this class but will need to refine his coverage skills and continue physically developing to become a complete player.
The wild card in this class is Tobias Palmer (Pittsboro, N.C./Northwood), an excellent athlete with the quickness and speed to join Manning on defense as a shutdown corner or give NC State a home-run threat out of the backfield on offense.
Could see the field in 2008: Glennon, Barnes.
Billy Tucker is a recruiting coordinator for Scouts Inc. and has close to a decade of coaching experience at the college and high school level. Tucker has served as a recruiting coordinator for two nationally ranked Division II colleges. Most recently, he was the associate head coach and defensive coordinator for Merrimack College, which advanced to the Sweet 16 in the 2006 NCAA Division II playoffs.