In this week’s recruiting focus, OKTC takes a look at some of the top remaining uncommitted prospects in the South as well as a few from other regions who are strongly considering SEC schools.
A number of big names have been taken off the board in the last three weeks, and with each commitment the list of can’t-miss prospects in the region who are still available grows smaller and smaller. Here’s a recap of 10 prospects to watch, along with our projections on where they might land.
1. Dorial Green-Beckham, WR (Springfield, MO) – The nation’s top uncommitted prospect is also the top player overall for the class of 2012. Green-Beckham has it all, including the size to make difficult catches between the hashes and the speed to pose a legitimate vertical threat. He also has the versatility to be moved around the field – or even in a flex/tight end role in a spread offense – making him an even more difficult cover. He’s bigger than Julio Jones or AJ Green, so it’s difficult to make those comparisons (and unfair to DGB to put him in that class of player yet.) Think a mix between Calvin Johnson and Kellen Winslow as they were coming out of high school and you have a good idea of the talent level here.
Projection: With offers from basically every major program in the country, DGB can name his destination. He’s been quiet throughout the process and hasn’t made many recent appearances on the camp circuit, so this could go in any number of directions at any time. Right now, despite his offers from and interest in multiple SEC schools, I’d lean to him going outside the conference. This is subject to change, but at the moment we’d pick Oklahoma or Missouri as a likely destination. An SEC darkhorse candidate is Arkansas. Again, though, this is like drawing a name out of a hat because of his silence.
2. Eddie Goldman, DT (Washington, D.C.) – At 6’4, 307, Goldman is literally one of the biggest recruits left on the board for a number of SEC and ACC schools. Despite being in the DC area, expect him to give programs in the Deep South the closest look with nearby Maryland still an option. Goldman possesses a rare mix of brute size/strength and quickness/finesse. He’s an elite prospect on the interior defensive line. At one point, it was thought that Florida State held a lead for Goldman, but a couple of other schools have narrowed the gap in recent weeks.
Projection: We’ll still project him to Florida State, but other schools like Georgia, Florida and Alabama have gotten in on him recently. The Noles’ recruiting machine has been strong as of late, so it’s hard to bet against Jimbo Fisher’s staff right now. The commitment of Justin Shanks a few weeks ago did throw an interesting hook into this story. Would both Shanks and Goldman both want to compete for playing time? Was Shanks’ decision an acceptance by FSU that Goldman was heading elsewhere? Florida State would most certainly take both, but this may be a situation where Florida State and Alabama split between the two players, with Shanks perhaps decommitting and falling back to the home-state Tide if Goldman pulls the trigger for FSU.
3. Nelson Agholor, WR/DB (Tampa, FL) – A potential two-way athlete, Agholor has the frame to project as either an elite WR prospect or a lock-down cover corner. The 6’2 athlete has a big personality and has enjoyed the recruiting process to this point. He has the kind of mentality and approach that could cause him to look outside the state of Florida for his final destination, and there are a couple of SEC schools that could prove to be likely finalists for his signature.
Projection: With a list of offers from schools like Southern Cal, Florida, Florida State, Auburn and Georgia, this one is really tough to call. Agholor has made his intention to play on both sides of the ball clear to the coaches who are recruiting him. It’s impossible to predict a winner here, and this one will probably go all the way to signing day. Right now, we expect Auburn, Georgia and Florida to be the trio of finalists for his signature.
4. Landon Collins, DB (Geismar, LA) – Collins is a speedy DB out of Dutchtown High School who is being sought after by a number of regional and national powers. He’s not the biggest safety prospect in the country, but he’s got a nice combination of size, explosiveness and instincts. The fact that he’s not already committed to LSU indicates that a couple of other programs in the SEC may have a legitimate opportunity here.
Projection: It’s a rarity for a high-level prospect to get out of the state of Louisiana if the Bengal Tigers want him, and they’re still very much a player here, but right now look for Alabama to get a serious shot at Collins. He fits the mold of a Nick Saban safety, and Saban has shown the ability to go into Louisiana to find talent. Current Tide RB Eddie Lacy attended Dutchtown, so Alabama already has a relationship there. Auburn and Tennessee could also be possible destinations.
5. Tracy Howard, DB (Miramar, FL) – Another fantastic corner prospect out of Florida, Howard is a solid option for any defensive backfield. He can cover taller wide outs or play over the slot, and as you’d expect from a corner his size his run support is more than adequate. He’s not afraid to lock up with another team’s No. 1 target, and he keeps good balance and pad level during coverage.
Projection: This is an all-Florida battle with Miami, Florida State and Florida all competing for Howard. Right now, there may be a slight lean to the Seminoles, with the Gators a close second. It could ultimately go either way, but we’d say it’s FSU for now.
6. Avery Young, OT (Palm Beach Gardens, FL) – Young is an interesting prospect because unlike most offensive tackles, he doesn’t need to shed any bad weight before he enrolls somewhere. He actually needs to gain it. At 6’6 273 he’s among the most athletic and lean OLs in this class, and he’ll probably need to find a program where he can have time to learn the system and get into a D-I training program. He’s not a project by any means. He’s too talented to be listed as such. He just needs time to fine-tune his game and bulk up. With his height, it’s hard to imagine him winding up anywhere other than OT.
Projection: A number of top schools are in on him, but right now, we think he’s Florida’s to lose. Auburn and Georgia are also schools to watch out for.
7. Geno Smith, DB (Atlanta, GA) – Here’s another solid DB in the 2012 class who will likely play his college ball in the SEC. Smith has thoroughly enjoyed the process, even taking to Twitter to bait adoring fans into the guessing game regarding his final decision, but the journey is coming to a close as Smith will announce on Aug. 17.
Projection: A number of schools in the South were in on Smith, but this became an Alabama/Auburn battle a couple of months ago. Smith loves the reputation Alabama has for developing DBs, so the Tide appear to be the likely choice in the end. With a recruit like Smith, though, things can change quickly. Don’t bet against him keeping us guessing with some more drama between now and his decision date.
8. Keith Marshall, RB (Raleigh, NC) – A quick, reliable back out of North Carolina, Marshall carries legit 4.4 speed on a 190-pound frame. He’s got impressive ability as a downhill runner and can hit a second gear to reach the second level of a defense very quickly. He’s almost reminds us of a bigger version of Florida’s Jeff Demps. He runs well and there’s not a lot of wasted motion on his film.
Projection: With an impressive list and a humble, mature approach to the recruiting process, Marshall doesn’t seem to be in any hurry to make a final decision. There are a number of teams still in the hunt, but look for Georgia to be a player here. The Bulldogs’ recent issues and lack of depth at RB may be an attention-grabber for Marshall. Florida is also a serious contender.
9. Kwon Alexander, LB (Oxford, AL) – Alexander is one of the top remaining LBs in the class of 2012, and his offer list reflects that talent. His build and speed make him a perfect fit as a weakside LB at the college level. A number of schools have been after him, but this should be an in-state battle until the end.
Projection: Alabama and Auburn are the likely finalists here. Many thought him to be an Alabama lean early, but his lack of a commitment so far to the Tide and the glut of LBs already committed to Alabama make this battle more interesting. It could go either way, but we have a hunch he becomes an Auburn Tiger in the end. If Alabama does land him, he could be the final jewel in one of UA’s best LB classes ever. He just seems to be a more natural fit for a 4-3 defense at the moment, so Auburn is very much a player.
10. Jordan Jenkins, DE/LB (Hamilton, GA) – A hybrid DL/LB prospect out of Harris County, Jordan Jenkins has the build to be a stellar pass-rusher and run-stopper at the collegiate level. Many SEC schools have been in on him from the start, and he’s taken a patient approach as he narrows down his list.
Projection: For all intents and purposes, this has become a two-team race with the Gators and Tide both well out in front and pulling away. Both programs feel confident about landing Jenkins, and he’d fit in well with either team’s defensive philosophy. Right now, we’d give a slight edge to Alabama, but it could really go either way. With a post-season commitment expected, there’s still plenty of time for Kirby Smart and Will Muschamp, who both have strong connections to the Peach State, to battle this one out. There’s a slight chance a team like Tennessee or homestanding Georgia could sneak in, but it’s highly doubtful.