Dark-Horse Schools for the Top 25 Uncommitted 2014 College Football Recruits

Edwin WeathersbyAnalyst ISeptember 11, 2013

Dark-Horse Schools for the Top 25 Uncommitted 2014 College Football Recruits

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    Many of the the top 25 uncommitted recruits have narrowed their lists, as certain schools have emerged as contenders for them. However, with recruiting being full of surprises, dark-horse schools are lurking and could be real threats to favorites.

    Recruiting is entering a crucial stage since football season has started and official visits are being set up. This will be a telling time for 2014 college football recruits, as where they choose to visit will reveal which schools are under serious consideration.

    A Big Ten team is looking to take a running back from under the noses of two SEC powers. A receiver from Louisiana could be thinking about a Pac-12 school, plus a cornerback could have four programs attempt to sway him from following in his father's footsteps.

    Player evaluations are based on review of tape at Scout.comRivals247Sports and ESPNU.

25. Nyles Morgan, LB

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    A physical 4-star linebacker, Nyles Morgan has the tools to be a good starter in college. The Illinois native plays big at the point of attack, strikes offensive linemen with power to shed their blocks and hits with good force.

    Morgan, who is 6'2" and nearly 230 pounds, has re-opened his recruitment per Beth Long of Scout.com (subscription required). Vanderbilt and Ole Miss are felt to be the favorites by 247Sports, but with Morgan announcing he is once again wide open, everyone must be considered a dark horse.

24. Braden Smith, OL

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    Braden Smith is a 6'6", 290-pound offensive lineman who takes excellent care of his body. The Kansas native stays in peak condition, plays with great toughness and has the versatility to play guard and tackle for an offensive front.

    TCU and Texas A&M are the leading schools, according to the experts at 247Sports. However, it appears Alabama must not be counted out just yet. All three schools will fight for the talented 4-star blocker until the very end. 

23. Michiah Quick, ATH

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    An elite prospect in California, Michiah Quick is a 4-star recruit who can do many things for an offense.

    He can line up at running back and make dazzling plays from the backfield, or he can split to the perimeter and menace a secondary as a receiver.

    Quick, who is 6'0" and 170 pounds, also has the athleticism to be a great cornerback, plus the speed of a good returner on special teams. USC and Notre Dame are expected to be his main contenders, says 247Sports, but UCLA and Washington are also thick in the race. 

22. Malik McDowell, DL

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    Malik McDowell is a 6'7", 290-pound prospect who is listed as a defensive end, but will likely be moved to defensive tackle in college. The Michigan native is one of the more physically imposing prospects in the nation.

    McDowell, who has a 4-star rating, has solid quickness at the snap, plays to his size at the point of attack and flashes good athleticism in pursuit. He is expected to sign with Michigan, according to 247Sports, but Michigan State is lurking around. 

21. Marshon Lattimore, CB/ATH

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    Perhaps the best athlete in Ohio, Marshon Lattimore is a 4-star prospect who plays for Ohio State pipeline Glenville High School in Cleveland.

    The 6'0", 175-pounder has cornerback skills, but could develop into an even better safety. Lattimore has smooth athleticism, solid speed and plays with great instincts. He can cover receivers in man coverage, but also has the awareness and range to factor into zone schemes.

    Glenville's top prospects usually end up in Columbus, and Lattimore is expected to follow suit, says 247Sports. However, it appears Kentucky will not concede him without resistance. 

20. Clifton Garrett, LB

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    Clifton Garrett is one of hardest-hitting defensive players in the country. He is a load at the point of attack, loves contact and intimidates running backs and quarterbacks as the game wears on.

    Garrett, who is 6'2" and 228 pounds, hails from Illinois. He could be physically ready to contribute as a true freshman next season.

    LSU is the favorite, according to 247Sports, but Tennessee, Ole Miss, Florida and Alabama will try to beat out the Tigers for the the 5-star 'backer.

19. Gerald Willis, DT

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    Although he plays defensive end right now, Gerald Willis is a 5-star prospect due to his potential to become a good 3-technique defensive tackle in college. He helps anchor a talented defense for Edna Karr High School in Louisiana.

    The New Orleans prospect has good quickness at the snap, is athletic in pursuit and displays good strength.

    Willis, who is 6'3" and 275 pounds, can penetrate gaps and slip pass blockers. LSU is expected sign him, per 247Sports, but keep an eye on Texas A&M and even Florida. 

18. Damien Mama, OG

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    Damien Mama is a 5-star guard who is a "first off the bus" player. When his team travels on the road, he is a player the coaches should want to be first off the bus to help intimidate the other team due to him being 6'4" and 370 pounds.

    Mama, a California prospect, plays tackle for most of his high school team's snaps, but has the classic skills of an interior-blocker. He has heavy hands, outstanding power and the leg drive to finish blocks.

    He is expected to sign with USC, per 247Sports, but Mama informed Greg Biggins of Scout.com (subscription required) that he will visit Notre Dame, Wisconsin and Alabama. 

17. Laurence Jones, S

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    A 5-star safety, Laurence Jones is a defensive back with the size of a linebacker at 6'2" and 214 pounds. He possesses great speed, tremendous range and has impressive ball skills in the secondary.

    Jones can swiftly shoot out of transition, insert himself in a passing lane and disrupt a quarterback's throw. He is from Louisiana, so LSU in the mix, per 247Sports

    However, Alabama is a serious contender, and a dark horse is Ohio State. 

16. Joe Mixon, RB

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    If Joe Mixon was not a 5-star running back, he would likely be a stud receiver prospect. The 6'2", 195-pound runner displays wonderful hands, natural ball skills and good athleticism in the passing game.

    Mixon has solid strength, makes good decisions behind and past the line of scrimmage and has above-average speed in the open field. He is from northern California, which is why Cal has a good shot, but Oklahoma also is heavy in the mix, according to 247Sports.

    However, keep an eye on Wisconsin. 

15. Speedy Noil, WR

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    Speedy Noil is a 5-star prospect who has spent much of his career playing quarterback. Yet, the 5'10.5", 176-pound athlete will play receiver in college.

    Noil, who is from New Orleans, has electric ability with the ball in his hands. He can dart past defenders with excellent speed, is shifty and elusive in the open field and can wiggle his way out of tight spaces. 

    LSU and Texas A&M are his top schools, says 247Sports, but Florida and USC should also be mentioned.

14. Jamal Adams, S

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    Jamal Adams is a 5-star safety who has a chance to be special in college. He is 6'0", 199 pounds and displays all of the physical—and most of the mental—tools to be an all-conference defender. 

    Adams, who is from Texas, has outstanding quickness in transition. He can explode off the hashes or sit on top of a defense as a single-high defender and still be a threat to both seams.

    Adams is not afraid to attack the line of scrimmage versus running plays, fills alleys when he can and will deliver a blow to running backs.

    He is expected to chose between Texas and Florida, but Texas A&M, Ohio State and Ole Miss will receive visits, according to Erin Hartigan of Scout.com (subscription required)

13. Solomon Thomas, DL

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    Listed as a defensive end, 5-star recruit Solomon Thomas looks like he will develop into a defensive tackle, or a technique defensive end in college.

    Thomas, a Texan, is 6'3" and appears to weigh more than his listed weight of 256 pounds. He has adequate quickness at the snap, but is better at punching a blocker and reading a play. Thomas can set the edge versus running plays, has good strength to anchor and flashes some explosiveness to finish plays.

    He is wide open in recruiting, but Stanford could be a leading program, according to 247Sports. However, keep an eye on schools such as Texas, Alabama and Ohio State, among a few others. 

12. Myles Garrett, DE

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    Blessed with a chiseled body, 5-star defensive end Myles Garrett leads the "All-Tarzan" team for the class of 2014. Garrett is 6'4", 240 pounds and does not play like Jane.

    He can fire upfield off the edge, attack offensive tackles with quick hands and fight to pressure passers with strength. Garrett has solid speed in pursuit, evidenced by his ability to chase running backs down from the backside.

    Texas A&M looks like the team to beat, per 247Sports, but schools such as TCU, Alabama, Texas, Ohio State and Florida State are not out of the mix yet.

11. Jalen Tabor, CB

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    Jalen Tabor is a 5-star cornerback with great size at 6'1" and 182 pounds. He has long arms to press receivers at the line, has adequate strength to re-route his targets and displays good quickness to turn and run.

    Tabor, who is from D.C., could be moved to safety if he doesn't pan out on the perimeter. Maryland is his leader, according to 247Sports, but Tabor also has schools such as Florida, Alabama and Vanderbilt hanging around. 

10. John Smith, ATH

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    John Smith is a 5-star athlete who could be a 5-star receiver or safety. He has explosive athleticism, fluid movement skills and also possesses good strength. 

    Smith, who is 6'1" and 200 pounds, has great ball skills. He can accelerate to go get the football on offense or defense, plus he does not back down from contact.

    The southern California native could wind up at USC, but schools such as UCLA, Notre Dame, Alabama, Michigan and Ohio State are also in the mix, per 247Sports

9. Malachi Dupre, WR

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    Although he plays in a run-first offense, Malachi Dupre has flashed enough potential to be considered a 5-star receiver. He is nearly 6'3", weighs 187 pounds and has good hands.

    Dupre, who is from Louisiana, has solid quickness to detach from coverage, a large strike zone and flashes the ability to run with power after the catch. LSU is expected to land him, but UCLA is surprising many people by holding its own in this race, according to 247Sports

8. Raekwon McMillan, LB

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    Big and physical linebackers are a dying breed, but 5-star recruit Raekwon McMillan is trying to keep hope alive. The Georgia defender has good instincts, locates the ball quickly and fits into holes with force.

    McMillan, who is 6'2" and 242 pounds, has great short-area quickness and solid range. He must improve his cover skills, but has the athleticism to eventually develop into an adequate player in that category.

    He is expected to sign with Ohio State, but Clemson and Alabama are also in the mix, says 247Sports. Another school to watch is Florida.

7. Damian Prince, OT

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    Damian Prince is an athletic offensive lineman who has the potential to play left tackle in college. The 6'6", 300-pounder can shadow rushers when setting up deep, has the quickness to cut off inside moves and can perform an array of blocks in the running game.

    Prince, who is from Maryland, could be a great fit in a zone-blocking scheme. He is not a mauling blocker, but his athleticism allows him to routinely get to linebackers on the second level.

    Florida State appears to be his leader, but Maryland, Ohio State, Rutgers and Alabama are threats, says 247Sports

6. Tony Brown, CB

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    An elite press-corner, Tony Brown is a 5-star cover man who can also be a factor in zone schemes. Brown has tremendous instincts, plays with good toughness and has the strength of a safety.

    The Texan stands 6'0", weighs 188 pounds and has outstanding athleticism. Brown displays great short-area quickness, has the speed to carry receivers deep downfield and will support the run off the edges.

    He is expected to sign with LSU by many of the analysts at 247Sports. However, Alabama, Stanford and Texas A&M are just a few notable schools to watch. 

5. Adoree' Jackson, CB

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    If a school is looking for players who play bigger than their listed size, Adoree' Jackson should be among the top names on its list.

    The 5'9.5", 182-pound 5-star cornerback plays like he is 6'0" and 200 pounds. Jackson has wiry strength, competes with good toughness and has impressive athleticism. He is not stiff in transition, has good quickness in his backpedal and shows flexible hips.

    Jackson is an instinctive player who could have an NFL future if he refines his technique. USC and Florida are his main leaders, per 247Sports, but Illinois, Tennessee, LSU, Michigan and Ohio State are serious dark horses.

4. Marlon Humphrey, CB

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    Marlon Humphrey is a 5-star cornerback who plays the game with poise and instincts. He has great awareness in zone coverage, good range and has a good feel for reading routes.

    Humphrey, who is 6'1" and 175 pounds, has a chance to develop into a complete player in the secondary. His father, Bobby, played running back for Alabama, and Marlon is expected to do the same, according 247Sports

    A prime dark horse for him is Florida State.

3. Lorenzo Carter, DE

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    At 6'5" and 232 pounds, Lorenzo Carter is a 5-star defensive end with excellent athletic ability for his position. He makes rare plays due to possessing great quickness, long arms, speed in pursuit and above-average strength.

    Carter can play with his hand down as a traditional 4-3 defensive end, but he also has the skills to stand up and play outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. 

    Georgia, Florida and Alabama are his core schools, per 247Sports, but Florida State and LSU, along with Notre Dame, should be considered dark horses.

2. Da'Shawn Hand, DE

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    Da'Shawn Hand, a 5-star defensive end from Virginia, does not really have any dark-horse schools.

    Sure, LSU and USC could fit the mold, but it's almost certain that he will commit to either Michigan, Alabama or Florida.

    Those schools are listed as Hand's leaders by 247Sports, as the 6'4", 254-pounder appears focused on the trio of powerhouses. Hand will be ready to play as a true freshman due to his good strength, solid quickness at the snap and ability to play against the run.

1. Leonard Fournette, RB

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    The top uncommitted prospect in the country is Leonard Fournette, a 5-star running back from New Orleans. Fournette, who is 6'1" and nearly 230 pounds, will be capable of starting as a featured back immediately as a true freshman.

    He is likely to sign with LSU or Alabama, according to 247Sports, but USC, Miami and Michigan were also mentioned in an August report by Kyle Bogenschutz of GoBlueWolverine.com.

    The Trojans, Hurricanes and Wolverines will do their best to try to sway the talented runner from the pair of SEC juggernauts, but in the end he will play in either Tuscaloosa or Baton Rouge.

2014 Bleacher Report College Football Recruiting Heat Map

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    The nation's best 25 uncommitted prospects can all be located on the 2014 Bleacher Report College Football Recruiting Heat Map!

    This is a great interactive tool for recruiting fans to use to locate their favorite recruits all across the country.

    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 and Cleveland Browns.