12 Must-See College Football Recruits in the 2012 Recruiting Class
Even for our wildly successful B/R faceoff—which predicted the final destinations of 25 of the best 2011 recruits—recruiting writer Michael Pinto and I faced the "too soon" criticism.
I hope those critics don't notice this early primer on 12 top recruits from the 2012 class (with video!).
Written offers can't be made until September 1. But with verbal offers already going out to some of these kids, and some commitments already starting to pop up, it's about time you got up to speed on some of 2012's best. Nick Saban isn't waiting, so why should we?
In honor of the year of our predicted destruction, here are 12 of 2012's best.
Matt Jones, RB
Rivals lists the Dawgs in the lead for 2012 running back Matt Jones out of Seffner, Florida. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound back already holds verbal offers from Alabama, Notre Dame, Florida, USC, and North Carolina besides his favorite from UGA.
Jones is leaps and bounds ahead of his teammates and opponents physically. He lowers his shoulder well on impact and breaks tackles without giving up. His appearance at a Gainesville Nike camp brought about a favorable mention from JC Shurburtt.
He's so tall that it could be a handicap down the stretch, but once he fills out completely, he'll be a force between and around the tackles.
Kwon Alexander, LB
Oxford, Alabama linebacker Kwon Alexander has already earned his offers from Alabama, Auburn, and Florida, and could be in the conversation for a fifth star per Tide Sports.
The 6-foot-2, 200-pound outside linebacker plays a near-flawless game. He's good laterally and downhill, plays well in coverage, and has the upper body strength to pull down running backs and quarterbacks in space. And he's amazing on blitzes, too.
The Tide and Tigers should make it tough to pull him out of Alabama.
Connor Brewer, QB
Connor Brewer, a 6-foot-2, 185-pound QB out of Scottsdale, Arizona already holds verbal offers from Nebraska and the in-state Arizona Wildcats.
He led his Chaparral team to the state championship as a sophomore and will attend camps at Georgia, Tennessee, UCLA, and Stanford, which should give you an idea of his pedigree.
I interviewed Connor and feel his maturity befits a much older player.
His game will put him in the top five or top three conversation for dual-threat QBs. He has excellent feet and mobility, a good arm, and he throws well on the run.
Look for more offers to pour in as schools discover this state champion.
Davonte Neal, ATH
In my conversation with Connor Brewer, the subject of his Chaparral HS teammate, Davonte Neal, came up. Connor immediately said Neal, a transfer who will play his first season with Chaparral this fall, would be the team's best playmaker on offense and defense.
His film and offers suggest the same. Neal (5-foot-10, 170 pounds) already holds verbal offers from Arizona, UCLA, BYU, Oregon State, Boston College, and Arizona State, and is reporting interest from USC, Stanford, and Cal.
He was the MVP of a Nike Underclassmen Combine as a freshman and also plays free safety, punt returner and shutdown corner in addition to his duties as a receiver. Look for his name among the top five athletes in the 2012 class.
Eddie Williams, ATH
Eddie Williams of Panama City, Florida is an exciting athlete who could play safety or fill out into an outside linebacker at the next level.
Williams is a combine freak who holds verbal offers from Alabama, Florida, and Florida State, and could be one of the top athletes in the 2012 class.
At safety, his play is brutal and instinctual, but he's also a passable QB and wide receiver. Like Wilder, his decision could be influenced heavily by what position he wants to play most.
Andrus Peat, OT
The younger brother of four-star defensive tackle and 2011 standout Todd Peat, Andrus, an offensive tackle, holds verbal offers from Nebraska, Clemson, Stanford, and Washington.
The 6-foot-6, 280-pound tackle shows a great attitude in the run game, keeping a flat back and using his legs and hands to drive defenders back. He gets a good jump back in pass pro and has one of the most interesting hand gestures I've seen from a tackle, a kind of circling of the hands before contact. I can't comment on the feasibility of it, but it works.
With Arizona becoming the new battleground for top talent, expect more offers to roll in for the big man.
Jameis Winston, QB
Jameis Winston of Hueytown, Alabama is right in the heart of SEC country, and has verbal offers from Alabama, Auburn, Ole Miss, Miami, and (surprise) Ohio State to show for it.
The 6-foot-4, 191-pound dual-threat QB shows excellent mobility in the pocket to go with a huge arm in his film. Those opening throws under extreme duress are uncanny from a sophomore player.
His mechanics looked solid in brief snippets from an Elite 11 interview, and the mere fact that he's making the rounds of the camps so early speaks to his dedication. He'll easily be a four-star when the rankings are unveiled.
James Ross, LB
Orchard Lake, Michigan linebacker James Ross is generating the same kind of buzz Lawrence Thomas was generating as an elite linebacker angling for the best of the Midwest.
The 6-foot, 209-pound OLB earned early offers from Michigan and Michigan State and hails from the same school as 2010 Penn State signee Robert Bolden, so the Nittany Lions (and Buckeyes) could come forth with offers at any time.
He runs a sub-4.9 40-yard dash and shows good vision despite a stature on the shorter side. His tackling is very natural too; he plants his feet well and drives his shoulder through the ball carrier. Five stars may be asking a lot, but he'll be one of the better linebackers in the Midwest, and a growth spurt could change things
Arik Armstead, OT/DT (USC)
Elk Grove, California recruit Arik Armstead was one of the players putting USC's predicted trouble on the recruiting trail to bed. Armstead pledged to the Trojans on June 19, a week after the sanctions were handed down.
It's worth mentioning that the 6-foot-7, 265-pound tackle is the younger brother of current USC defensive lineman Armond Armstead. But the Trojans weren't his only offer—Rivals also reports offers from Oregon State, Washington, UCLA, and both Arizona schools.
Armstead's athleticism is outstanding. He's tall, very mobile and strong, but he moves like a much shorter and lighter player. At 6-foot-7, I think he projects best as an offensive tackle (you don't see many 6-foot-7 defensive tackles getting lower than their opponent).
With more weight and another great season starting at the left tackle spot, I think he could be in the top five, maybe top three conversation among tackles.
Jordan Jenkins, DE
It's a shame I couldn't track down film of Hamilton, Georgia's Jordan Jenkins, a 6-foot-3, 233-pound strong-side defensive end. I wanted to see how he put that funny pre-snap stance to good use.
Working without film, we know Jenkins was MVP of an Underclassmen Combine in Atlanta and that he holds offers from Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Georgia Tech, and Tennessee, among others.
His reported combine numbers of a 4.67 40-yard dash and a 35-inch vertical definitely put him among the more impressive members of the 2012 class at defensive end and beyond. NUC writer Coach Magoo called him the total package, and without knowing Coach Magoo personally, I'm inclined to agree.
Zach Banner, OT
Monster offensive tackle Zach Banner stands a whopping 6-foot-9 and weighs 310 pounds.
He holds offers from UCLA, Oregon, Washington, Cal, and Notre Dame, and reports interest from USC, Alabama, Nebraska, and Florida State.
Banner moves amazingly well for a player his size. His film is loaded with plays of him making downfield blocks and pull blocks for the Lakes HS running game. He's conscious of the flexibility necessary for an elite offensive tackle to succeed and he sounds very coachable. Pair that with an outstanding GPA and you have a blue-chip player.
USC was a childhood favorite, but as of now, Banner claims no leaders. He could be the Cyrus Kouandjio of the 2012 class, a mammoth tackle prospect who flashes the agility and attitude of an underdog.
Vincent Valentine, DT
Aside from being an early leader for 2012's suavest name, Vincent Valentine could be one of the country's best defensive tackles.
I loved Valentine's speed and mobility in chasing down running backs half his size. The 6-foot-3, 300-pound defensive tackle has an outstanding first step that catches slower interior guards off balance and opens up rushing lanes to the ball carrier.
Valentine plays on the same team as elite 2011 linebacker/running back Rodney Coe (pictured, since pictures of Vincent were hard to come by). Coe holds offers from a ton of schools and has changed favorites at least a few times throughout his recruitment.
Valentine, too, has verbal offers from Oklahoma, Arkansas, Auburn, Michigan, Iowa, and Wisconsin, among others. Where Coe goes could provide an insight for where Valentine goes, so I'll wait on that decision before predicting a final destination.