College Football Recruiting: Predictions on Top Undecided Players at Each Spot
With the spring evaluation period kicking in this week, college coaching staffs across the nation are out in full force on the recruiting trail trying to lock up their premier targets before the 2012 season starts.
A handful of names have already burst onto the national scene as being the top recruits at their respective positions for the 2013 freshman class.
A few elite prep talents have already made their college destinations known—guys like quarterback Max Browne (USC), linebacker Reuben Foster (Alabama) and running back Kelvin Taylor (Florida) are considered to be at the top of their position lists.
However, with summer visits and camps on tap, a number of top-rated recruits may decide before their senior seasons begin, while others will contribute to the spectacle that has become National Signing Day.
With nine months between now and the day that 2013 recruits can sign on the dotted line, here’s an early look at where the top uncommitted prospect at each position could land by next February.
QB: Kevin Olsen
The younger brother of Panthers tight end Greg Olsen, the Wayne (NJ) native is considered a top-100 prospect by ESPN and 247 Sports—with the latter listing him as the nation’s top uncommitted signal caller.
After claiming MVP honors in the recent New York Elite 11 regional workout, Olsen received a prized invite to the Elite 11 finals later this summer.
Olsen has made spring visits to Auburn, South Carolina, Miami (where his brother attended school) and Wisconsin.
This figures to be a battle between the Hurricanes and the pair of SEC powers, with the Hurricanes holding the edge currently.
RB: Ty Isaac
Isaac is one of the most in-demand recruits in the country—as evidenced by his lengthy offer list consisting of powerhouses from nearly every BCS conference plus Notre Dame.
Michigan, Notre Dame, USC and Auburn are the programs he’s visited most recently—with the Wolverines and Fighting Irish consistently being mentioned as prime suitors for the ESPN Chicago and Chicago Sun Times 2011 Player of the Year.
While Isaac will be heavily pursued until signing day, this will likely come down to a fight between rivals Michigan and Notre Dame—with the slight edge leaning to Brady Hoke keeping the Wolverines momentum going on the recruiting trail.
TE: DeSean Smith
With Smith being one of the top prospects in Louisiana, the home-standing LSU Tigers figure to be a major player in his recruitment—which will end when he announces his decision at the U.S. Army All-American game next January.
The Lake Charles (LA) native lists schools such as Alabama, Miami, Florida and Florida State as other programs that are on his radar for visits over the summer, but this looks like a comfortable lean towards the home-state school unless he’s blown away by another school during his visits.
WR: Robert Foster
With new coaching staffs at both Penn State and Pittsburgh, the door may be open for the out-of-state schools that he has visited to make a strong push for the Monaca (PA) native.
Alabama and Ohio State appear to be the biggest threats to lure Foster away from his home state at this point, but getting an elite talent like Foster—and pairing him with quarterback commit Christian Hackenburg—would give new Nittany Lions coach Bill O’Brien a strong foundation to build his offense around in Happy Valley.
Prediction: Penn State
OL: Laremy Tunsil
The Lake City (FL) product is simply a man among boys at the prep level, as evidenced by his recent invitation to “The Opening,"a camp held on Nike’s company campus in Oregon that attracts the top recruits in the nation.
Tunsil recently named a top five in an interview with ESPN—consisting of Oklahoma, Alabama, LSU, Georgia and Florida.
The latter two are expected to battle it out for Tunsil, with the edge going to the home-standing Gators.
DE: Robert Nkemdiche
Perhaps the only other topic the four major recruiting services are in agreement on is the fact that Loganville (GA) defensive end Robert Nkemdiche is the nation’s top prospect for the 2013 recruiting class.
Nkemdiche is tentatively scheduled to announce his decision on May 18, with Clemson, LSU, Ole Miss, Georgia and Alabama making up his top five.
All five schools have viable reasons to think he’s headed their way—Clemson received a commitment from teammate Wayne Gallman; he rated his LSU visit a “10"; Georgia is the home-state school and is only an hour away from his current hometown; his brother Denzel is a redshirt freshman defensive back at Ole Miss; and Alabama has been believed to be his leader throughout most of the process.
While he has done a good job of playing things close to the vest, it’s hard to go against Nick Saban in a spot like this.
DT: Montravius Adams
Another dominating defensive line prospect resides in the state of Georgia, with Adams rated as the country’s top defensive tackle by 247 Sports.
The 6’3”, 290-pounder has offers from powerhouses across the nation, but a few lucky schools were able to get him on their campuses in the spring.
Adams has made visits to Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Auburn, Michigan State and Clemson.
Clemson was the first school make an offer to Adams and could be the biggest threat to take him away from Georgia—but the Bulldogs will fight tooth and nail to keep him closer to home.
However, give me Clemson in a mild upset.
LB: Jaylon Smith
Smith is considered the top outside linebacker in the country according to 247 Sports, and the Fort Wayne (IN) product will be one of the most sought after talents in the Midwest for this cycle.
While his offer list is quite extensive, most observers believe his decision will come down to powers Ohio State and Notre Dame.
Smith noted in an interview with B/R’s Full Ride that he will make his choice before his senior season begins.
Considering that his brother, Rod Smith, is a running back at Ohio State, I'm lead to believe that Urban Meyer will continue the surge of momentum for the Buckeyes on the recruiting trail.
Prediction: Ohio State
CB: Vernon Hargreaves III
The son of South Florida special teams coordinator and defensive ends coach Vernon Hargreaves, the younger Hargreaves is considered a top-10 recruit nationally by the four major recruiting sites—with 247 Sports and ESPN tabbing him the nation’s top corner prospect.
247 Sports analyst JC Shurburtt offered a glimpse of what makes the Tampa product one of the elite prospects in the nation in a feature with B/R’s Full Ride.
A 5’10”, 180-pounder with legit 4.3 speed, Hargreaves has offers from powers like Florida, Florida State, LSU and Ohio State amongst others.
However, with his father on the sidelines at a BCS program in his hometown, it’s hard to see him turning down the Bulls.
Prediction: South Florida
S: Su'a Cravens
Like Nkemdiche and Tunsil, the major recruiting sites are all in agreement that Cravens is the top safety prospect available for the incoming class of 2013.
As noted by Shurburtt in this B/R Full Ride spotlight, what makes Cravens a special athlete is his ability to be play multiple positions on the college level.
With Cravens recently announcing his intention to declare his commitment next month, the race to land the Murrieta (CA) native will likely come down to in-state rivals USC and UCLA.
Expect Lane Kiffin and the Trojans to nab another 5-star talent to build their 2013 class around.