PHILADELPHIA -- Defensive ends Deion Barnes (Philadelphia/North East) and Shawn Oakman (Landsdowne, Pa./Penn Wood) are the most recent major prospects in a two-year run of outstanding defensive linemen from the City of Brotherly Love.
Barnes and Oakman follow Class of 2010 defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd (Philadelphia/George Washington), who signed with Florida and was one of the top overall prospects in the country. Having two outstanding defensive line prospects in the same class and three (that we know about) over two years is tremendous, especially when you consider that defensive line is one of the hardest positions for college programs to fill.
William Penn School District athletic director Rap Curry, a former basketball star at St. Joseph's and a member of the "Big Five" basketball Hall of Fame, says there are reasons.
"I think we are getting back to No. 1, being recognized and No. 2, the training involved with it," Curry said. "I think that sometimes we haven't always had the facilities that some of the other schools upstate have, so therefore the training has not been there. We've made a commitment here to our training equipment. We've tried to re-establish our weight room, and I think the other city schools are doing something similar. It's not like the talent is not here."
North East coach Chris Riley runs a highly successful program that sent receiver Je'Ron Stokes to Michigan in the Class of 2009.
"It comes and goes," said Riley, a Philadelphia native who played football at North East in 1983 and has been in the area for 25 years. "One year it is running backs, and now it's defensive line. It goes like that. We've always had the talent here. Guys weren't doing the job in the classroom. Now, guys understand that you have to do the job in the classroom first. That's the first thing colleges talk about is a prospect's academics. How is his grade point average? How are his academics? I think attention to that detail has been a big help."
The 6-foot-4, 230-pound Barnes holds offers from Penn State, South Carolina, Pittsburgh, Maryland and Virginia, among others.
"He's a great worker," Riley said. "As far as leadership goes, he will probably be one of our captains this coming season. He's a hard worker who is always in the weight room. He works hard in the weight room and in the classroom, as he has a 2.83 grade point average. So whatever he's doing out on the field, he's also doing in the classroom."
Riley's phone has been ringing off the hook as more college coaches are starting to show interest. Notre Dame called last week. Michigan and Michigan State are looking hard at him. Florida and Georgia also are showing interest.
"I get at least one call every day," Riley said. "We just visited Penn State for an unofficial visit and they all loved him and said that he's a gentleman in and out of the classroom. His behavior is exemplary and he's just a really good kid."
Riley also uses Barnes at receiver some.
"The college coaches all love that because you have to be a tough kid to play defensive line and wideout," said Riley.
Penn State and South Carolina are the early front-runners, but Barnes is open to all offers. He's visited those two schools unofficially.
Oakman, a 6-8, 240-pound two-sport star, holds offers from Penn State, Connecticut, South Carolina, North Carolina State and others for football, which is likely the sport he will play in college primarily. With that, don't rule out Oakman getting a shot on the hardwood.
"What I like about [Oakman] is he is a throwback to our era," Curry said. "He comes from a good family that has taught him the value of hard work and work ethic and honesty and truth. Really, that's why he's special. He is going to be an asset to whatever campus he goes to."
Curry has had the opportunity to watch the emerging star on the gridiron in recent years.
"He's relentless," he said. "The hard work ethic transfers to the field. This year, we also let him play a little tight end and that added the finesse part to his game. Every week, somebody was game planning to stop him and tried to figure it out. He's just growing as an athlete."
In basketball, Oakman is coming around as a prospect. Recently, hoops programs have started showing interest.
"He's a bruiser," Curry said. "He's a phenomenal rebounder. Right now, his skills are starting to catch up with his size. The guys that are up for the McDonald's All-American Game, he can play against. He beats them up and is rough with them."
Curry plans to take some visits and decide, but Penn State is the clear leader at this point.
Thurman looks the part
Offensive tackle Trip Thurman (Dover, Del./Dover) is the top prospect from the First State in this year's class and very likely is the top prospect to come out of the state in years. The 6-6, 305-pounder looks the part and holds multiple scholarship offers.
Dover coach Carlton Brown, a Dover native who served in the Army before going into education/coaching, knows a thing or two about work ethic and thinks that is his star pupil's greatest trait.
"I've had him ever since he was in fifth grade and I was a counselor at his middle school," Brown said. "As a freshman, he was rail thin, but I had him up taking his lumps. His work ethic is great. He's a team captain and he leads by example. Everybody looks up to and admires him."
West Virginia, Vanderbilt, Cincinnati, Rutgers, Wisconsin, Maryland, Boston College, Virginia and South Carolina all have offered Thurman, with Florida and Tennessee, among others, showing interest.
Thurman's father was born in Knoxville, Tenn., and he's always been a fan of the Vols, who have not yet offered. The two will make an unofficial visit to Tennessee this weekend.
Brown also has quarterback Kamal Abrams, who holds offers from Connecticut and Delaware State and will attend camps at Georgia Tech and Cincinnati this summer.
Jackson is on the radar
Linebacker Myles Jackson (West Chester, Pa./Henderson) is still looking for his first scholarship offer, but he is getting attention from a number of programs and says Iowa is the closest to offering.
The 6-3, 220-pounder has excellent bloodlines. His father, Herb Jackson, played football at the University of Miami. His uncle is former Hurricanes and New York Giants running back Ottis Anderson and cousins Chevis Jackson (Atlanta Falcons) and JaMarcus Russell (Oakland Raiders) have played at the highest level.
This spring, Jackson, who had more than 50 tackles last season, has been busy running track (he runs the 100-meter dash and other events for his high school team) and getting ready for the 2010 football season.
More from North East
North East has another Class of 2011 prospect to keep an eye on in addition to Barnes. Rashaun Sligh, a 6-2, 210-pound receiver, had 20 receptions for 410 yards and eight touchdowns this past season and is getting attention from Louisville, Maryland, Vanderbilt, Penn State, Wake Forest and Michigan.
JC Shurburtt covers recruiting for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.