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Tuesday, November 19, 2013
Programs off to fast start in 2015

By Craig Haubert

While recruiting is undoubtedly a marathon and not a sprint, that doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with a good start.

The key for any program is being able to sustain and finish strong, and only time will tell which programs will be able to do that, but what we do know is which teams are off to a fast start in the Class of 2015. Below are the five programs that are leading the pack early for 2015, as well as a few other notable fast starters:

Alabama
Total 2015 commits: 5; ESPN Junior 300 commits: 5

At this point, things seem to be clicking on all cylinders for Alabama. The Crimson Tide sit atop the BCS standings and remain undefeated in pursuit of a third straight national championship. On the recruiting trail, they are in possession of the top-rated class for 2014 as they pursue a third consecutive No. 1-ranked recruiting class. With the success on the field and in recruiting, it should come as no surprise that Alabama is off to a strong start for 2015 as well. Nick Saban has already secured five commitments, with all five verbals being ESPN Junior 300 prospects. Included in this class are quarterback Ricky Town (Ventura, Calif./Saint Bonaventure), the No. 2-ranked pocket passer, and promising defensive end/outside linebacker Mekhi Brown (Columbus, Ga./Carver), a top-25 prospect. Offensive guard Dallas Warmack (Atlanta/Benjamin E. Mays), who is the brother of former Alabama All-American guard Chance Warmack, is also among the Tide's early 2015 commitments.

South Carolina
2015 commits: 4; ESPN Junior 300: 4

The Gamecocks have already suffered a decommitment for 2015 in defensive end Arden Key (Lithonia, Ga./Martin Luther King), but despite that they are still off to a good start. South Carolina has four verbals, and all of them are ranked in the ESPN Junior 300. Three are projected to the defensive side of the ball, led by defensive end Shameik Blackshear (Bluffton, S.C./Bluffton), the top-rated in-state prospect. The lone offensive prospect at this time is wide receiver Dexter Neal (Stone Mountain, Ga./Stephenson), a 6-foot-2, 195-pounder with good size and speed and strong hands. Joining Neal in the Gamecocks' class is high school teammate Chauncey Rivers, a defensive end.

Tennessee
2015 commits: 6; ESPN Junior 300: 4

Butch Jones is making a statement in his first full year on the recruiting trail. The first-year Tennessee coach has not only assembled a strong class for 2014 that currently sits at No. 2 in the class rankings, but he is also off to a good start for 2015. Among the Vols' six 2015 commitments are four ESPN Junior 300 prospects, led by defensive end Andrew Butcher (Alpharetta, Ga./Alpharetta), a high-effort defender with a nose for the ball. Some of the key commitments in the Volunteers' highly rated 2014 class are from in state, and for 2015 they are continuing to do well with talent within their borders. Tennessee has three verbals from in-state 2015 prospects, including a pair offensive linemen in guard Zach Stewart (Coalfield, Tenn./Coalfield) and tackle Jack Jones (Murfreesboro, Tenn./Oakland.)

Texas
2015 commits: 9; ESPN Junior 300: 9

Under Mack Brown, Texas has built a reputation for getting off to fast starts on the recruiting trail, so it should come as no surprise that the Longhorns made this list. The Horns have secured more commitments than any other program at this stage for 2015, but what is most impressive is that all nine are ESPN Junior 300 prospects. The class is led by the big men, as four are offensive linemen and one is a defensive tackle prospect. The O-line group is led by Maea Teuhema (Keller, Texas/Keller), whose brother Sione Teuhema, a three-star defensive end, is a commit in the Longhorns' 2014 class. Defensive tackle Bryce English (DeSoto, Texas/DeSoto) lacks ideal height but is an explosive and strong presence in the trenches. The Longhorns' talented 2015 group also includes a pair of defensive backs in physical and instinctive safety Johnny Shaw (Orange, Texas/West Orange-Stark) and athletic cornerback Jalen Campbell (Corpus Christi, Texas/Flour Bluff).

Texas A&M
2015 commits: 5; ESPN Junior 300: 5

The Aggies' 2015 class has grown stronger since the last ESPN Junior 300 update, adding a pair of talented defenders in the past month. One of those more recent pickups was Daylon Mack (Gladewater, Texas/Gladewater), a disruptive defensive tackle who is among the top 20 prospects nationally. Texas A&M also has commitments from a pair of ESPN Junior 300 running backs in Rodney Anderson (Katy, Texas/Katy) and Jay Bradford (Splendora, Texas/Splendora). All five of the Aggies' 2015 verbals are ESPN Junior 300 prospects.

Other programs off to notable starts

Arkansas (4 total commits, 2 ESPN Junior 300 commits): Among the Razorbacks' 2015 commits is in-state quarterback Ty Storey (Charleston, Ark./Charleston), a top-100 prospect.

Florida State (3, 3): Among the Seminoles' early verbals is safety Derwin James Jr. (Haines City, Fla./Haines City), who is among the top 25 in the ESPN Junior 300.

LSU (4, 2): LSU, which has already landed a verbal for 2017, is also having some early success for 2015 with four commitments, including top-rated cornerback Kevin Toliver II (Jacksonville, Fla./Trinity Christian).

Michigan (6, 3): The Wolverines have already landed six verbals for 2015, and three, including No. 2 overall prospect George Campbell (Tarpon Springs, Fla./East Lake), are in the ESPN Junior 300.

Oklahoma (2, 2): The Sooners have commitments from a pair of ESPN Junior 300 prospects, including in-state offensive guard Joshua Wariboko (Oklahoma City/Casady).

Vanderbilt (2, 2): James Franklin continues to keep the Commodores competitive on the field and on the recruiting trail and has landed commitments from a pair of ESPN Junior 300 prospects.