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Thursday, July 31, 2014
Best cross-conference recruiting battles

By RecruitingNation staff

Some recruits get attention from all over the country. Whether it’s their prowess or proximity to multiple teams, top prospects will have schools from multiple conferences pursuing them. ESPN.com’s conference recruiting reporters look at five players in the recently updated ESPN 300 who have different conferences after them and have recruiting battles that could carry throughout the fall.

NOTE: For battles with multiple teams, reporters chose reported leaders or best fits.

Showdown No. 1 ... OT Matt Burrell Jr., ESPN 300 rank: 61

Who is battling: Ohio State, Alabama, Florida and Penn State

What is Urban Meyer selling?: Ohio State is on a mission to win the Big Ten and national championship. Meyer has this team rolling, but offensive line depth is one of the few concerns in recruiting. Burrell could play at right tackle or even move inside, so Ohio State has the opportunity to contribute early and for a winning program. That’s a pretty good combination for a big-time recruit.

What is Nick Saban selling?: What is there not to like about Alabama if you’re a recruit? Saban has had five offensive linemen drafted to the NFL since 2011, something that has to be attractive to potential prospects. And the Crimson Tide are always in the SEC and national title picture. There is a lot of positive reasons for this type of prospect to pick Alabama.

Big Ten's final take: The Big Ten might win out with this conference battle. Ohio State and Penn State are both firmly in the running for Burrell, and the Buckeyes have been gaining momentum. Meyer and his staff could really use the offensive line depth and Burrell knows that. This would be a huge recruit for the Big Ten to win on, and there is a good chance it will happen.

SEC’s final take: Burrell recently took a trip to Florida and came away impressed with the visit. There are draws to the SEC teams in this battle, but it might be too difficult to overcome the Big Ten competition. Alabama or Florida seem to be the most likely destinations if he were to leave the region, but his list changes frequently, so this could still go either way.

-- Tom VanHaaren

Showdown No. 2 … ATH Torrance Gibson, ESPN 300 rank: 12

Who is battling: Ohio State, Tennessee and Miami

What’s Urban Meyer selling?: A dynamic offense and a winning team. It takes a lot to get prospects from the South to travel North, but Meyer has a lot going for him with this kind of prospect. Gibson could be dynamic in Meyer's offense and the history of quarterback production speaks for itself.

What’s Butch Jones selling?: Jones is selling the opportunity for this five-star athlete to play quarterback. Most schools are looking at Gibson as a wide receiver, but Jones sees potential in Gibson as a signal-caller. With Gibson’s playmaking ability, he could be a perfect fit in Jones' spread offense.

What’s Al Golden selling?: This one is simple. When Gibson speaks with the Hurricanes head coach, the message is consistent -- Gibson is the key to the 2015 class and a big part of the future, and they want him at Miami badly.

Final Big Ten take: Ohio State could be in good position here because of fit and what the Buckeyes have to offer Gibson. He wants to play quarterback in college, and the Ohio State offense would be a good place for him to try it out. He recently took a visit to Columbus and moved the Buckeyes back up his list. -- Tom VanHaaren

Final SEC take: For some time it appeared Tennessee was in the lead for Gibson, but recently he tweeted that the Buckeyes had taken over the top spot. The Vols are still very much in contention, and a good season on the field and a positive official visit could sway things in UT's direction. -- Derek Tyson

Final ACC take: While Ohio State and Tennessee have been named the leaders at different points this summer, the Hurricanes have worked to get back into the picture and are now chipping away. Gibson knows he is coveted in Coral Gables, but Miami’s chances come down to if Gibson believes he has a legitimate shot to play quarterback there. If he does, then staying home is certainly not out of the question with a decision expected Oct. 20. -- Gerry Hamilton

Showdown No. 3 … Malik Jefferson, ESPN 300 rank: 39

Who is battling: Texas A&M, Texas and Baylor … with Ohio State, Stanford and Alabama also in the mix.

What's Kevin Sumlin selling?: The opportunity to be a part of one of the best recruiting classes in Texas A&M history. While Johnny Manziel helped the Aggies' offense become one of the country's best, the defense ranked last in the SEC in scoring and total defense. There is plenty of opportunity for early playing time.

What's Charlie Strong selling?: Opportunity to be part of the new era. Strong’s pitching a chance to be a part of what some of his athletes are calling “New Texas.” There’s a new attitude among the Forty Acres, and it’s one where Strong is looking for results early and often.

What’s Art Briles selling?: As Briles mentioned during Big 12 media days, the idea of a family environment is one of the most important assets to the program. Briles not only wants Jefferson to feel at home but also his parents -- who are fans of what the school has to offer.

Final SEC take: Playing time and a chance to play in arguably the toughest conference in the country might be too much for any other school to overcome. By adding players such as Myles Garrett last year and Jefferson this year, the Aggie defense will have the talent in place to be one of the best in the conference. -- Derek Tyson

Final Big 12 take: Texas fans are hoping that Jefferson is noticing how Strong's presence has the current roster excited about the upcoming season -- particularly the defensive players. "Toughness" is the word of the year for the Longhorns. Baylor fans are hoping Jefferson will choose to continue the rise of Baylor football, as the program is fresh off a Big 12 championship. -- Damon Sayles

Showdown No. 4 ... Canton Kaumatule, ESPN 300 rank: 48

Who is battling: Oklahoma and Stanford

What’s Bob Stoops selling?: A chance to play for a team that will compete for a Big 12 championship each year. The Sooners are always in the running, and as long as Stoops is head coach, nothing is expected to change. The Sooners have nine regular-season conference titles since 1996.

What's David Shaw selling?: A chance to follow in the footsteps of his older brother, who signed with the Cardinal in the 2012 class, as well as compete for Pac-12 titles and perhaps a spot in the playoffs.

Big 12 final take: The Sooners would love to have Hawaii’s top-ranked player, and defensively, Kaumatule would be a force on Oklahoma’s defensive line. His size makes him a candidate to be a nice pass-rushing option in a conference loaded with pass-happy teams. He can be a problem off the end for opposing offenses. -- Damon Sayles

Pac-12 final take: Kaumatule has said that if he clears Stanford admissions, that's more than likely where he is headed, though other Pac-12 programs such as Oregon, UCLA, USC and Washington continue to push and have his attention. Several Hawaiian big men have gotten away from the Pac-12 recently, including Scott Pagano and Breiden Fehoko, but that isn't likely to happen with Kaumatule. -- Erik McKinney

Showdown No. 5 … Equanimeous St. Brown, ESPN 300 rank: 51

Who is battling: Notre Dame, Stanford, UCLA, USC

What’s David Shaw selling?: Shaw has taken what former Stanford head coach Jim Harbaugh started and is running with it. Under Shaw, the Cardinal have become arguably the top program when it comes to recruiting nationally, and the ability to have the best combination of football and academics in the country.

What’s Brian Kelly selling?: Notre Dame has had success with California prospects in the past, and while it might be far from home, Kelly can promise St. Brown will make it back to California when Notre Dame travels to USC. Kelly can pitch a similar blend of academics and football that Stanford can and the history surrounding the Notre Dame program is pretty impressive in its own right. The Irish can also point to the fact that the offense is typically pass heavy, which should appeal to St. Brown.

Pac-12 final take: While St. Brown has shown interest in several Big Ten programs, visiting the area already, the Pac-12 is too dynamic offensively for St. Brown to pass up the opportunity to join one of its offenses. If the Bruins, Cardinal and Trojans perform as well on the field this season as many people believe they will, it should be very difficult for any ESPN 300 prospect in California to leave the state. -- Erik McKinney

Notre Dame final take: Kelly has been known for explosive offenses and St. Brown would be a nice fit in South Bend. The problem might be that the Irish have pretty good depth at receiver right now with some underclassmen and a few juniors looking to take the starting roles. The Irish have had success in California, though, and the university can provide everything from a football and academic standpoint that St. Brown is looking for. -- Tom VanHaaren