The Dark Horse for Top 25 Uncommitted 2014 Recruits
Some recruits are more open about their recruitment than others. These recruits are not shy to talk and tell people who their favorite schools are, who's standing out to them, where they will be visiting and some even reveal who's their leader.
Other recruits prefer to play things close to the vest and are not as open about their recruitment. These recruits are considerably tougher to get a read on and we're mainly left making educated guesses about where things stand with their recruitment.
Whether a recruit is on the former end of the spectrum or the latter, if you follow closely enough after awhile you'll start to see how things are shaping up. You may not be able to figure out who's the leader for the more clandestine recruits, but out of the true group of suitors you can definitely see who the dark horses are.
So, looking at the nation's best 25 uncommitted prospects right now, we're going to see who's a dark-horse school to watch in each prospect's recruitment.
25. Racean Thomas, RB
Thomas is a 5'11", 196-pound RB prospect from Alabama who is among the top RB recruits in the nation this year. He can move inside or outside, flashes power and speed and has bell-cow RB potential.
Right now, based on how I see things, Auburn is the school to watch for Thomas. Alabama also could get in the picture.
I would list Georgia and Tennessee as dark horses for Thomas.
24. Solomon Thomas, DE
A classic strong-side DE prospect, Thomas has a strong upper-body and excels at setting edges and stopping running plays.
He's 6'3", weighs 251 pounds and has solid snap quickness. He's from Texas and the Longhorns could have the inside track to land him. However, since this is a piece regarding dark horses, look out for Oklahoma and Texas A&M.
23. John Smith, S/WR
Some may like Smith as a safety while others may feel he's best suited as a full-time WR. He stands 6'1", weighs around 190-200 pounds and is a very good football player.
A great athlete, Smith always makes hit his business to be around the ball. He has good speed, shows a solid burst and good agility. From Los Angeles, Smith could come down to deciding between USC and UCLA.
However, Michigan and Ohio State could be two strong dark horses for him.
22. Nathan Starks, RB
Starks is a RB that can work well in a downhill, power running offense due to his style. He attacks out of his stance, opens up his basket and slams into alleys with power.
The 5'11", 200-pounder ran for over 1,800 yards as a junior in Las Vegas and could join Steven Jackson and DeMarco Murray as the best RBs to ever come out of Sin City.
Alabama and USC could be two dark horses for him right now.
21. Keller Chryst, QB
Chryst is the top pocket-passing QB prospect for 2014 right now. He's 6'3", 215 pounds and has good fundamentals, field vision and a strong arm.
Stanford and USC are probably in for showdown for Chryst, as both schools are solid choices for a young QB. Pitt could enter the race as a dark horse at some point.
20. Laurence Jones, S
Offenses can ignore where Jones is on the field for a down if they want to, but he'll make them pay. This is a 6'2", 200-pound safety who can work on all three levels effectively.
Jones can roam on the back end to pick off passes, squeeze in the box to help run fits and also go down to the edges of the front to blitz. His size, speed, ball skills and athleticism are impressive.
I like LSU's chances, but Alabama and Ohio State are in it, according to 247Sports.
19. KD Cannon, WR
From Texas, Cannon is one of the top players both in the Lone Star State and in the country this year. He's a highly productive 6'0", 160-pound WR with good speed and great hands.
Cannon can snatch a ball out of the air with ease and has good concentration. He stretches the field for his offense and also uncovers well.
Baylor would classify as a dark horse for Cannon at the moment.
18. KC McDermott, OT
The 6'6", 285-pound McDermott is a top-tier OT prospect from Florida who mixes good technical skills with nastiness in the trenches.
He's got good set quickness, stays balanced and plays with solid knee bend. McDermott uses his hands well and constantly hits his marks with punches, stabs and grabs.
Miami and Notre Dame are the two favorites, says 247Sports, but Alabama and Florida are good dark horses.
17. Ermon Lane, WR
Lane is a 6'2", 195-pound WR prospect who hails from Florida. I really like his size, straight-line speed and ball skills.
He shows above-average ability to release off the line quickly and separation quickness out of his breaks. This is WR who has a high ceiling and once he refines his route running, he could become a pretty dangerous offensive weapon in college.
It could be tough to get him out of the Sunshine State, so the big three Florida schools will be in play. But watch out for Alabama.
16. Raekwon McMillan, LB
From Georgia, McMillan has a chance to be an immediate impact player when he arrives in college. For starters, he's got good size at 6'3" and 236 pounds.
Next, he's quick to locate the football, has good short area quickness and solid long speed to chase ball-carriers. He's a solid wrap-tackler and has good thumping ability.
Ohio State really could have the inside track, but McMiIlan is a good friend of Reuben Foster so 'Bama will be in play.
15. Malik McDowell, DE
McDowell's going to grow into a DT in college, as he's already 290 pounds while standing 6'6". He's got average agility for a big man and could play a little DE in a 3-4 style defense.
From Michigan, McDowell had 15 sacks as a junior and has a rep for bullying his opponents. Michigan, Notre Dame and Michigan State are the top three per 247Sports, but I'd list Florida as a good dark horse.
14. Damian Prince, OT
Prince may not be as physical as you'd want a 6'7", 300-pound OT but he has good athleticism and flashes strong play at times. He has the capability to perform several types of blocks and the agility to pull well too.
Based on his 247Sports list of standouts, it seems he wants to stay on the East Coast. He has an offer from USC and is getting recruited by Tee Martin, so the Trojans could be a real dark horse for Prince.
13. Khairi Clark, DT
From the greater Miami area, Clark could easily wind up as a Hurricane. He's a 6'2", 325-pound DT who can be a real handful in the trenches.
From playing with a quick first step at the snap, to strength at the point of attack and also using lateral quickness in short areas to stop the run, Clark has an arsenal of ways to make plays.
Arkansas could be a sincere dark horse for Clark.
12. Jalen Hurd, RB
Hurd's a big RB at 6'3" and 225 pounds who comes from Tennessee. He's got solid speed and can be elusive at times, but make no mistake about it: He's a downhill runner.
Butch Jones probably has Hurd as his No. 1 recruiting target, but Florida and Ohio State are Hurd's top two according to 247Sports. Tennessee and also Vanderbilt should be considered dark-horse schools for Hurd.
11. Adoree' Jackson, CB
Jackson plays his high school ball in Southern California and works as a 5'10", 172-pound cover corner. He's a hard working and competitive guy who relishes any opportunity to showcase his skills on the field.
I have a hunch that LSU and USC could be the real top two choices for Jackson, but there are many other schools who have high on their boards. Michigan and Florida could develop into serious suitors.
10. Braden Smith, OG
Out of Kansas, Smith is a 6'6" OL prospect who weighs close to 285 pounds. He's very strong on his feet, can roll out of his stance to play big at the point of attack and is very strong.
Smith works well when engaged with a target and has the ability to be a very good short-setting pass-blocker. Smith has national offers, but the two Kansas schools could be real dark horses for him.
9. Marlon Humphrey, CB
If you want a tall and long cornerback on your roster then the 6'1", 175-pound Humphrey is a guy you should take a long look at.
From the state of Alabama, he can line up in press man coverage to jam receivers, has good flexibility in his hips and solid speed to carry pass-catchers downfield. Humphrey also flashes good ball skills.
Alabama is the solid favorite for him, but I'd keep an eye on Florida.
8. Jabrill Peppers, DB/ATH
Peppers is from New Jersey and has a thick 6'1", 205-pound frame. He's a very talented athlete who has speed, agility and quickness needed to play several position.
Peppers also is a very instinctive and stays locked in a ballgame all four quarters. He plays with a good head on his shoulders and that allows him to make a lot of plays all over the field.
Stanford and Ohio State strike me as his top two choices, 247Sports also list Michigan, Alabama and Notre Dame among his other options.
7. Sony Michel, RB
This guy's been productive since nearly the eighth grade and today is one of the top RB prospects in the nation. From Florida, Michel ran for 1,258 yards and 18 TDs in 2012.
He's a 5'11", 205-pounder who has a skill set that allows him to run with both power and speed. Michel can skate through alleys and break of long runs or chip away at a defense with a power style.
247Sports shows Georgia and Notre Dame as his top two, but he's a Florida kid so don't count of the big three Sunshine State schools.
6. Cameron Robinson, OT
Robinson needs to shore a couple fundamental elements to his game, but there's no denying the 6'6', 330-pounder's talent. He's a bigger and more powerful version of Laremy Tunsil.
Robinson is from Louisiana and it is expected LSU and Alabama will be his prime options. However, don't count out Texas and Arkansas.
5. Tony Brown, CB
Brown is a DB that I really like and I also believe that while he's a fine CB right now, he may leave college as a safety. He's a true 6'0", 185-pounder and is very instinctive, athletic and "wiry" strong.
Brown competes with any receiver who breaks the huddle and has good press/jam ability at the line of scrimmage. He can also help support the run off the perimeter too.
Texas A&M and LSU could have the pole position for him, but don't count out Texas or Alabama as dark horses.
4. Lorenzo Carter, DE
Carter is from Georgia and is one of the top pass-rushing prospects in this year's class. He's fantastic on the hoof, standing at a long and lean 6'6", 232 pounds.
The tall edge defender can put his hand in the dirt or rush from a two-point stance if asked. He fires out at the snap, has good strength and bends well during his dips.
Alabama, Florida and Georgia are three obvious choices for him, but Florida State and Auburn won't go down without a fight.
3. Andrew Brown, DT
Brown's probably the best interior DT prospect in the country for 2014 and is a player I really dig.
He's 6'4", weighs over 290 pounds and has very good strength, snap quickness and is a quick-scheme read guy.
From Virginia, he could be ready to contribute right off the bat as a true freshman in the fall of 2014. Brown could come down to his two in-state schools and Michigan, but Alabama and Florida will keep pace with him too.
2. Leonard Fournette, RB
Fournette's recruiting is LSU vs. Alabama and that's pretty much it. I guess you can call the Crimson Tide the dark horses since they are the out-of-state school.
The 6'1", 225-pound RB will weigh his options between both of the schools and likely sign with one of the two. A third school could enter the picture, but if that happens then they'd be a long shot at best.
1. Da'Shawn Hand, DE
Hand has a top five of Michigan, Virginia Tech, Alabama, Florida and South Carolina, says 247Sports. Michigan and Virginia Tech appear to be standing out at the moment.
So, based on that last statement, I guess you can call the other three dark horses.
Alabama can't be counted out, Florida is also a recruiting juggernaut and the Gamecocks aren't strangers when it comes to landing the nation's No. 1 prospect (Jadaveon Clowney).
Edwin Weathersby is the College Football Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. He has worked in scouting/player personnel departments for three professional football teams, including the New York Giants, Cleveland Browns and the Las Vegas Gladiators of the Arena League. He spent a year evaluating prep prospects and writing specific recruiting and scouting content articles for Student Sports Football (formerly ESPN Rise-HS). A syndicated scout and writer, he's also contributed to WeAreSC.com, GatorBait.net and Diamonds in the Rough Inc., a College Football and NFL Draft magazine.