It is officially football season! It’s been way too long. This kind of torture is just too much for me. This week also marked the beginning of the calling period for college coaches, which means high school prospects’ phones are blowing up all over the country. Cell phone plans are being changed as we speak. Things will start to really heat up as far as recruiting goes now that official visits will start to take place.
On to the questions!
Hey Ed, I really value the insight you have on recruiting. Any word on what school (Florida maybe) TE Jay Rome and DE Ishaq Wiliams maybe leaning towards or when they may make a decision?
First off, both are exceptional players and have been targeted by every top program in the country this year. I’ll start with Rome (Valdosta, Ga.), who is arguably the top tight end in the country. He’s a guy who could play the traditional tight end spot or move out to a hybrid position, kind of like what Aaron Hernandez did at Florida. He’s 240 pounds right now, so I’m sure he’ll be used as more of a traditional tight end in college. Regardless, he’d fit almost any system at the next level. As far as recruiting, he was pretty quiet for most of the summer but recently told Scout.com that Alabama and Georgia are his top schools. Florida is a school that is definitely getting involved, and while Florida might have the numbers at the position in Gainesville, Rome is a guy who could come in and really battle for time next year. Rome is expected to take all five of his officials this fall and all indications are that Florida will get one. Georgia has been my favorite to land him for some time, but we all know how things can change with an official. Plus, anything can happen as far as roster slots go. Things will only get better for the Gators if he gets on campus for a visit this fall.
Williams (Brooklyn, N.Y., Abraham Lincoln) was supposed to visit Florida in July, but never made it. It looked like the journey to the South was probably too much for him over the summer. That was, until he visited Alabama earlier this month. Besides Alabama, Williams has visited Rutgers (a few times), Pittsburgh, Penn State, Syracuse, Notre Dame and Maryland. He seems to be pretty high on staying closer to home, but Alabama is definitely in the mix. He’s expected to come up with a top five soon, and I’m not sure if Florida will make that list. The feeling is that Rutgers holds the advantage because of how close it is to his home. He’s been there multiple times in the last year. If Florida does make his top five and he visits, Florida will be a major player, but at this point I see the Gators being left out for Williams.
Edward, what are your predictions on A.J. Johnson out of Gainesville, Ga., and Anthony Chickillo out of Tampa? Thanks and keep up the good work.
— Ken Frier
There’s no doubt that Johnson can play. He’s a big guy. He’s intimidating to look at and he’s fast. Florida, Tennessee and Clemson are his top schools and I don’t really see that changing right now. He’ll visit all three this fall and make a decision after. Johnson originally committed to Tennessee, but reneged after the coaching change. I still think Tennessee has a great chance of landing him because he’s developed a strong relationship with new coach Derek Dooley. After his visit to Florida’s Friday Night Lights camp in July, Florida shot up to the No. 1 spot. He loved everything about the school and the coaches, and so did his family. The Gators enter the fall as his top school.
Clemson won’t go away. The Tigers are battling all the top schools this year and I don’t anticipate them leaving. Depending on which direction Florida wants to go in, this one could drag on a bit. There are other linebacker prospects ahead of Johnson on Florida’s board, but he’s definitely getting attention. If Florida is where he wants to go, then he’ll have to be patient and see how the Gators’ board fills up.
Tampa Alonso defensive end Anthony Chickillo is set to announce his college choice on Sept. 9. Miami and Florida appear to be his final two, but Florida State and South Florida have also made strides. His father went to Miami and I’ve been told that Miami will probably have the edge until the end. There has been recent discussion about Florida making some last-minute moves, but from all accounts, Miami appears to be the school to beat. I’ve got my money on Miami at this point.
Edward, overall nationally it seems that this year’s recruiting class as a whole is down from last year. Rivals doesn’t have nearly as many 5-star guys and there aren’t a ton of big names. Is that really the case or is it simply perception?
I’ve had a few discussions with people about the talent level this year compared to the last few. I don’t think this year is as strong from top to bottom as some of the previous classes, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad by any means. One problem is it is going to get overshadowed by the 2010 class, which I think is comparable to the 2006 class that featured Percy Harvin, Tim Tebow, Andre Smith, Matthew Stafford and C.J. Spiller. There are some solid defensive players in this class, but I don’t see a great number of home run-hitting playmakers, and the quarterbacks are lacking as a whole.
Linebackers like James Wilder Jr., Tony Steward and Curtis Grant are all guys who would be top-10 players most years. Rock Hill, S.C., South Pointe defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, who most consider to be the top player in the country, is a great prospect and draws comparisons to last year’s top prospect, Ronald Powell. He’s got great speed off the line and hits with the best of them.
Then, you have Los Angeles Crensaw athlete De’Anthony Thomas, who is one of the best athletes I’ve seen on film in a while. I’d love to see him play running back at the next level, but he could be an even better cornerback.
There’s definitely talent, but as a whole, it’s not as strong as last year and I think that’s because there isn’t that big-name playmaker or a top-flight defender out there.
As far as stars are concerned, they really don’t mean all that much unless you are trying to rank classes. They are fun to talk about and fun to look at, but they really don’t make a player better.
Hey Edward, any word on Cary White out of Sickles High in Tampa? He led Hillsborough County in rushing last year and had 208 yards on nine carries with 3 TDs last Friday. Since Wilder flaked, this guy could be the RB gem of Tampa, since he does his thing on a team that won eight games last year but took over a decade to get to a winning season. White, of course, is a big reason why they won eight.
I’ve seen a little of him on film and he’s definitely got some moves and decent speed. He’s a shifty running back with offers from Western Kentucky, Florida International and Towson. No major D-I schools have come after him, but it’s still early. There are a few more running backs prospects that Florida is interested in and I’m not sure if the coaches would extend an offer to him unless none of those other prospects work out.
The top running back prospects on Florida’s board remain Mike Blakely (Bradenton Manatee), Savon Huggins (Jersey City, N.J., St. Peter’s Prep) and Mike Bellamy (Punta Gorda Charlotte). Plus, there are still a handful of other prospects Florida is looking at around the state that are rated much higher than White.