The focus of the recruiting world shifts to the top undeclared prospects still on the board with signing day less than 24 hours away. The prevalence of early commitments leaves only 15 prospects currently undecided from the ESPN 150, but a large group of prospects remains in the 77-80 grade range who can greatly impact the final class rankings.
As usual, the elite, early impact caliber skill players carry the most weight and interest heading into national signing day. Two No. 1-rated prospects at their respective positions, quarterback Terrelle Pryor (Jeannette, Pa.) and receiver Julio Jones (Foley, Ala.), head the list of most-coveted prospects set to make announcements Wednesday.
Signing day coverage
Regardless of whether Pryor makes his decision known Wednesday, he still will keep his commitment to appear live on ESPNU's "National Signing Day Recruiting Insider Special" and either update his recruitment or proclaim his college of choice. Michigan, Ohio State, Oregon and now Penn State are all very much in the running for the No. 4 overall player in the country. If he does announce Wednesday, he will have canceled his trip to Oregon, which would presumably take it out of the running.
Jones has kept his recruitment close to the vest since day one; Alabama, Oklahoma, Florida, Florida State and Texas Tech are his final five. It may be difficult to snag this quiet and reserved superstar out of state, but if anyone could do it, Oklahoma and its national prominence could have the power.
In a running back class with parity between the top three spots, ESPN's Nos. 2 and 3 backs, Darrell Scott (Moorpark, Calif./Saint Bonaventure) and Jamie Harper (Jacksonville, Fla./Trinity Christian), are currently undecided. On defense the state of Florida boasts ESPN's Nos. 2 and 3 cornerback prospects in T.J. Bryant (Tallahassee, Fla./Lincoln) and Brandon Harris (Miami/Booker T. Washington), both of whom possess the required speed to play right away.
Scott and Harper also will announce on ESPNU Wednesday. Texas could be tough to beat for Scott with Jamaal Charles declaring for the draft, but Colorado does have family ties (his uncle, Josh Smith, is on the roster) and appears to still be in the running for ESPN's No. 9 overall player. We have raved about Harper's underrated skills since last spring, and heading into Wednesday it looks like Clemson may have the best shot despite the fact that running back James Davis is returning for his senior year.
Skilled, shutdown corners like Bryant and Harris are rare, which makes them so highly coveted. While both have been looking outside of Florida, we think it will be difficult to lure these fantastic athletes out of state.
There are a few prospects making announcements Wednesday who may not carry the same hype as the aforementioned athletes, but possess the skills to make just as big an impact, particularly if they land at schools in need of their talent. An offensive tackle who can anchor and pass block has become a commodity in recruiting. ESPN's No. 6-rated tackle prospect, Antoine McClain (Anniston, Ala.), is still available and very much open with Auburn, Tennessee, Clemson and LSU as his finalists when we spoke last week. Moving inside, guard Josh Jenkins (Vienna, W. Va./Parkerburg) combines great size with good feet and should continue to physically develop at either FSU, Ohio State or West Virginia. On the perimeter, wide receiver T.J. Lawrence (Lakeland, Fla./Kathleen) is an excellent athlete who could potentially help a team on either side of the ball. This underrated prospect will likely put a smile on either Steve Spurrier's or Urban Meyer's face Wednesday.
At outside linebacker, Jerrell Harris (Gadsden, Ala.) may be the next most-sought-after defensive player left on the board. The ESPN 150 prospect appears to have Alabama and USC at the top of his list. The Trojans are also in the hunt for another talented perimeter attacker, Nick Perry (Detroit/Mackenzie). Perry ranks No. 10 among defensive ends in this class, and although Michigan and Michigan State will try to retain him, we think USC is the front-runner for his talents. Staying in the Midwest, ESPN 150 outside linebacker Christian Wilson, who has been looking around since the coaching change in Ann Arbor, has de-committed from the Wolverines and will likely sign with either Boston College or North Carolina.
This 2008 class is no different than any other year's group with several prospects who could make or break a few teams' recruiting classes with the quality positional depth they will provide and their upside to develop into top-tier prospects with the coaching and physical maturation they will receive in college.
Looking at the offensive skill positions, a back like Anthony Bibbs (Houston/Jersey Village), who's looking hard at Nebraska and Oklahoma State, lacks elite speed but is a physical, high yards-after-contact back who could develop into a workhorse at the next level. The top-tier talent is deep in this 2008 receiver class (22 receivers are in the ESPN 150), but there are plenty of undecided prospects who reside just outside who are capable of great production on the college level. We were impressed with 6-foot-6 Tommy Streeter's (Miami/Northwestern) size and hands on film as a junior, and his stock rose more when we saw his smoothness in person against Southlake Carroll. Streeter is still looking hard at a number of schools, including Miami -- where a host of his Miami Northwestern teammates will be heading -- South Florida, South Carolina, Oregon and Boston College. Aaron Boyd (Lexington, Ky./Henry Clay) sits one receiver spot outside the ESPN 150. The top-rated Kentucky player possesses good top-end speed to go along with his 6-foot-4 frame. Boyd is far from polished and his best days as a receiver are definitely ahead of him at Kentucky, Arkansas, Missouri or Oregon. It's hard to talk about great frames and leave out 6-4 Darius Morgan (Citra, Fla.), a kid with red-zone ability early in his career who is being chased by FSU, UCF and Tennessee.
The depth and quality of undeclared prospects continues on defense. Up front, defensive end Robert Quinn (North Charleston, S.C./Fort Dorchester) has great size and is a well-balanced run and pass defender on the edge, something always coveted out of high school. Knocking on the door of the 150, Quinn has Alabama, Auburn and North Carolina as his finalists heading into signing day. On the interior, watch for Jamarcus Allen (Orlando. Fla./Boone) to be a disruptive force at the next level, particularly if he falls to a mid-major school; the only thing lacking with this kid is a few inches of height. Size is not an issue for big-bodied Dawan Whitner (Cleveland/Glenville), who flashes good get-off and explosiveness; Michigan State, Minnesota, Louisville, Maryland and Illinois all appear to be in the running.
E.J. Abrams-Ward (Thomasville, N.C.) is a hybrid outside linebacker with the size and first-step quickness to be a threat on the perimeter at end, and some of the better physical upside in this defensive class. Either North Carolina or Tennessee should be getting this amazing athlete. We feel Jordan Yarbrough (Memphis, Tenn./White Station) and Leandre Lance (Jacksonville, Fla./First Coast) are both sleepers on the outside with fewer BCS offers than some of the bigger names at the position, but are great football players who will be productive.
At defensive back, Tony Morgan looks to stay in the Carolinas (either South Carolina or East Carolina) and would be a great land at both because this hybrid corner/safety's great scheme versatility may have caused him to be overlooked. Charles Mitchell (Clarksdale, Miss.) projects at safety or basically any skill position on the field at the next level; Michigan, Mississippi State, Nebraska and Southern Miss look like his final schools heading into signing day. Like Mitchell, Kendall Wright (Pittsburg, Texas) is another ESPN 150 athlete and a bit lesser-known than some marquee true positional prospects, but carries just as much talent and has a host of Big 12 schools as his finalists.
Billy Tucker is a recruiting coordinator for Scouts Inc. and has close to a decade of coaching experience at the college and high school level. Tucker has served as a recruiting coordinator for two nationally ranked Division II colleges. Most recently, he was the associate head coach and defensive coordinator for Merrimack College, which advanced to the Sweet 16 in the 2006 NCAA Division II playoffs.