In the states of New York and New Jersey high school football is not back-page news. With some exceptions, towns do not rally around their local high schools to pack the stands every Friday night and talk about the high school team on the local sports radio shows. No one would ever think "Friday Night Lights" is a story set in either one of these states.
That being said, the football can be good and talent can be found in New York and New Jersey. Current college football stars such as Georgia's Knowshon Moreno, Florida State's Myron Rolle and Penn State's Maurice Evans all hail from these two states. These two states have produced three players who have ranked No. 1 at their respective position, and Rolle was the nation's overall top prospect in 2006. Not even Florida or Texas can boast about finishing with the No. 1 overall player -- at least not since ESPN started ranking high school players.
Talent is a little more scarce in the Empire State; New Jersey has long been known to have some elite national prospects. Programs such as USC, Florida, Georgia, Oklahoma, Miami and Florida State have come into these areas to recruit and land talent. For the most part, this is the recruiting ground for programs like Rutgers, which currently has 11 prospects in its class from these two states, Penn State, Boston College, the Virginia schools and Notre Dame, which has been very active and successful in New Jersey. Of the top five players in New Jersey two are committed to Rutgers, one to Michigan and one Notre Dame. Of the top five players in New York, two are committed to Rutgers, one to Penn State and one to Stanford. There are also some good prospects still available like New York's Oday Aboushi (New York/ Xaverian) -- the No. 25-rated offensive tackle -- New Jersey's Mark Brazinski (Somerville, N.J./Immaculata) -- the No. 2-rated center -- and Isaac Holmes (Hoboken, N.J.) -- the nation's No. 25 defensive tackle.
Tyler Stockton, Defensive tackle
The Hun School of Princeton (Princeton, N.J.)
Verbal Commitment: Notre Dame
The Fighting Irish suffered a minor setback to their top-10 recruiting class last year, when 2008 recruit Omar Hunter spurned Notre Dame for Florida. Their 2009 class features a defensive tackle prospect who reminds us in many ways of Hunter. Tyler Stockton, the nation's No. 2-rated defensive tackle prospect, is a menacing presence in the trenches. Like Hunter, Stockton lacks ideal height. But he is a thickly built kid who can be explosive. Stockton shows that he can consistently get off the ball, shoot his hands and knock blockers back on their heels. At times, he comes off the ball so quickly and jars blockers so much that you can see their heads snap back. He is a stout presence versus the run and will stay square. Although he may not be a big guy, he plays with a good motor, and his ability to quickly get off the ball and use his hands makes him a productive pass-rusher from the interior of the defensive line. Irish fans had to wait a year longer to get the type of guy they need in the interior of that line, but they may see that sometimes patience is a virtue. Overall, Irish boosters have to be excited about having this New Jersey native in their class; he could in the future help improve a defense that currently ranks 60th in rush defense and 100th in sacks. He could also be fun to play golf with down the road -- this big man is not too shabby on the links either.
Recruit under the radar
Robert Joseph, Fullback
Poly Prep Country Day School (New York)
Verbal Commitment: Rutgers
Well, it is not hard to fly under the radar when you are projected as a college fullback. The position is slowly fading away with the prevalence of spread attacks and discussions about fullbacks are becoming less and less frequent. Although it is not a high-profile position, some programs do still use fullbacks and the ability to find good players at the position is still a need. One player who can be considered a sleeper at this position is the big and hard-running Joseph. He is a one-back at the high school level, but lacks the top-end speed and elusiveness to be a pure running back in college. His skills could translate nicely into a change-of-pace power back. He quickly hits the hole and has surprising shiftiness to initially avoid traffic. His vision and body control are good, and he can be tough to tackle. To be a modern-day fullback and really help an offense, he needs to continue to develop his blocking and receiving skills. All in all, he has good tools for a college coach to work with; he could be a nice pickup for a program that stills uses a fullback like Rutgers. Scarlet Knights fans remember what a key element Brian Leonard was to that offense and another player like him would be a welcome addition. Can Joseph be as good as Leonard? Those are big shoes to fill, but in a time when fullbacks can be tough to come by, Rutgers may have found someone with the ceiling to be a productive member of its offense.
On the Trail
height="50" align="right" border="0">Rutgers, 21 commits (Oct. 20)
Thus far the 2008 season has not unfolded as Rutgers fans had hoped. Despite the 2-5 start, it is obvious that Greg Schiano overall has elevated the profile of this program. The Scarlet Knights have recruited well, doing a little better along the way and now they are working toward their possible first Scouts Inc. top-25 recruiting class. They have suffered some tough de-commitments, but the class boasts prospects like No. 8-rated quarterback Tom Savage (Philadelphia, Pa./Cardinal O'Hara). Rutgers is still losing some good New Jersey talent to outside schools such as Notre Dame, but there has been a marked improvement under Schiano of keeping good players from New Jersey and neighboring New York. Of their top 10 high school recruits seven hail from either New Jersey or New York. Those elite prospects include top-15 corner Logan Ryan (Voorhees, N.J./Eastern) and top-20 safeties Gerald Hodges (Paulsboro, N.J.) and Mohamed Sanu (South Brunswick, N.J.). A top-25 finish in the polls may not be possible this year, but Rutgers fans can keep an eye on whether the Scarlet Knights' 2009 recruiting class can finish in the top 25.
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Syracuse, four commits (Oct. 20)
Recruiting is naturally not going very well for the Orange at this time. In addition to their struggles on the field, head coach Greg Robinson is one of those on the coaching hot seat. A lack of wins and possible instability make it tough to build a class, which explains why Syracuse has only four commitments at this time. The Orange have been busy in the Maryland and D.C. area with three of their four commitments from there. While it is a frustrating time for Orange fans, a small bright spot is that wide receiver Derrell Person (Washington, D.C./Coolidge) is a good prospect who ranks among the top 40 receivers in the 2009 class.
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Buffalo, three commits (Oct. 20)
There is a sense that Buffalo is headed in the right direction under the guidance of Turner Gill. Despite that this program still has an uphill battle on the recruiting trail. It is not located in a very strong recruiting base and it is a program that still does not have a very high profile. At this time Buffalo has only three commitments so a lot of work still needs to be done between now and national signing day. Of the Bulls' prospects, two are offensive linemen including offensive tackle Jeremy Johnson (Springfield, Ohio/South).
ESPNRISE.com New Jersey Game of the Week
Bergen Catholic-Oradell (5-0) at Paramus Catholic (3-2), Saturday, 1 p.m.:
This is an intriguing matchup between Bergen County rivals from the Northern New Jersey Interscholastic League C Division. The Bergen Catholic Crusaders, regionally ranked by ESPN Rise, have ripped off five wins to the open the slate but now ter the meat of the schedule starting with the upstart PC Paladins. The Crusaders operate from the spread-gun offense, with quarterback Rob Eckrote and running back Nick Gerst as principal players. Eckrote completed all seven passes for 144 yards and three touchdowns (six for the season) as BC routed Paramus 56-14 Saturday in a "mercy rule" game. Gerst contributed five TDs, including three on the ground, pushing his Bergen County-leading rushing total to 15.
PC Coach Gabe Infante was the defensive coordinator for the Crusaders last season. The Paladins opened with three wins but have dropped their last two to Nutley and St. Joseph Regional-Montvale. -- Christopher Lawlor
Craig Haubert is the recruiting coordinator for Scouts Inc. and has more than a decade of coaching experience. Haubert was an assistant at the University of Nebraska-Omaha and also served as the FB/LB coach and director of football operations for the Detroit Fury of the Arena Football League.