Blue-chip juniors are beginning to emerge across the land including several in the Midwest.
Top50 LB Clifton Garrett is high on Ohio State but that could change in the future with added interest from the SEC conference and or USC.
247Sports identifies class-of-2014 recruits from Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin that will be national names by this time next year.
Clifton Garrett, OLB, Joliet (Ill.) Plainfield South - The top prospect in the state according to 247Sports and the nation’s No. 2 outside linebacker according to the 247Composite, the 6-foot-2, 215-pound Garrett is a hard hitter that has already seen scholarship offers come in from Ohio State, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Michigan State, Ole Miss, Nebraska and Wisconsin among others. Garrett is looking forward to seeing more interest come from the SEC conference and would also like to add an offer from USC. The Buckeyes have impressed the most at this point in the process, but we’re not expecting a decision from Garrett until after his senior season.
Jamarco Jones, OT, Chicago (Ill.) De La Salle - A consensus Top100 player with a chance to be a consensus Top50 prospect, the 6-foot-6, 290-pound Jones could be a guard or tackle on the next level. The likes of Florida, Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Ole Miss, Vanderbilt and Wisconsin have already offered Jones, and when it’s all said and done, he’ll be one of the most highly recruited players at his position in the land. We like where Notre Dame and Ohio State stand, but Florida and Vanderbilt are two programs that will be in a position to grab some momentum when Jones visits in the spring.
Nyles Morgan, LB, Crete (Ill.) Monee - The 6-foot-2, 215-pound Morgan is right there in the debate for state’s top linebacker alongside Garrett. Florida, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Ole Miss, UCLA, Vanderbilt and Wisconsin are several of the many to already extend a scholarship. The Irish have perhaps shown Morgan the most at this point, but like Garrett, we expect Morgan to take his time and not make a decision until after his senior season. He’ll have many more offers to think about by that point.
Nic Weishar, TE, Chicago (Ill.) Marist – A big-play tight end that has caught 166 passes for 2,260 yards and 18 touchdowns over the last two seasons. The 6-foot-5, 215-pound Weishar is a talented athlete that is also a mid-major level basketball recruit. Notre Dame may be in the driver’s seat, but Weishar is also considering offers from several places including Boston College, Iowa, Michigan, Northwestern, Oklahoma, Ole Miss, Vanderbilt and Wisconsin.
Enoch Smith Jr., DT, Chicago (Ill.) Mount Carmel – Earned his offer from Notre Dame at camp and went out and backed it up this fall with 23 tackles for loss in a run to a state championship. Cincinnati, Illinois, Indiana, N.C. State and Purdue have also offered the 6-foot-3, 270-pound Smith with interest being generated from coast to coast. Notre Dame is the team to beat at this point.
Parrker Westphal, CB, Bolingbrook (Ill.)High – Has the size major college programs look for at the cornerback position, checking in at a well put together 6-foot, 190-pounds. Michigan has set the bar for Westphal early in the process, and he also has offers from the likes of Florida, Iowa, Michigan State, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Ole Miss and West Virginia.
O'Fallon (Ill.) High DE Dewayne Hendrix emerged as a prospect to watch with a strong junior season.
Dewayne Hendrix, DE, O’Fallon (Ill.) High – Hendrix is an intriguing defensive line prospect from the Southern part of the state. The 6-foot-5, 230-pound end had a big November in landing offers from Illinois, Ole Miss, Kansas State, South Florida, Michigan State and Missouri. As his junior tape makes the rounds, more scholarships should be on the way.
Others to keep an eye on includes RB Justin Jackson of Carol Stream (Ill.) Glenbard North, C Brian Allen from Hinsdale (Ill.) Central, QB Clayton Thorson of Wheaton (Ill.) North, RB Mikale Wilbon of Chicago (Ill.) De La Salle, ATH Tommy Mister of Oak Lawn (Ill.) Richards, TE Ian Bunting of Hinsdale (Ill.) Central, TE Daniel Helm of Chatham (Ill.) Glenwood, RB Chris James of Niles (Ill.) Notre Dame, LB Nile Sykes of Oak Park (Ill.) River Forest, OL Nick Allegretti from Frankford (Ill.) Lincoln-Way East and Michigan offensive tackle commit Denzel Ward of Chicago (Ill.) Hales Franciscan.
Lonnie Johnson, WR/CB, Gary (Ind.) West Side - Was expected to commit to Ohio State on Friday before postponing his announcement, the 6-foot-3, 190-pound Johnson worked to improve his academic standing this semester or the offers would have likely come pouring in sooner. Illinois and Bowling Green have also offered Johnson who has the size and athleticism to be a special defensive back but wants first crack at receiver.
Dominique Booth, WR, Indianapolis (Ind.) Pike - The 6-foot-1, 195-pound Booth has 13 BCS offers from the likes of California, Iowa, Michigan State, Mississippi State, Missouri, Ole Miss and Wisconsin. The Tigers were the program to impress the most during the fall. Tennessee could be the next school to offer and the Vols may be tough to beat if they jump in the mix.
Austin Roberts, WR/TE, Carmel (Ind.) High - With scholarships from Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Miami, Northwestern, Ohio State and Stanford, the 6-foot-2, 210-pound Roberts is already on the national radar. The transfer from Tampa (Fla.) Plant does not have any favorites at this point in the process, but there is no question both Ohio State and Stanford gave Roberts a lot to think about after past visits to each school.
Brandon Lee, LB, Indianapolis (Ind.) Lawrence Central - A 6-foot-3, 215-pound linebacker that can play sideline to sideline and has the ability to cover. Is also a big-play guy which was evident in the state tournament in helping lead his team to an undefeated season and championship in Indiana’s largest class. Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky and Purdue have already offered but we expect Lee to have over 20 scholarships when it’s all said and done.
Justin Brent, WR, Indianapolis (Ind.) Speedway - The Notre Dame commit has racked up 2,355 yards receiving and 32 touchdowns in three seasons, and is also a mid-major basketball talent, averaging over 27 points per game this year. Had the 6-foot-3, 190-pound Brent not committed to the Irish so early, he would have certainly emerged as one of the most sought after prospects in the state.
Michigan and Notre Dame have impressed the nation's No. 2 SDE Malik McDowell early in the process.
Others to keep an eye on includes Fishers (Ind.) Hamilton Southeastern WR Cameron Polk and his Fishers (Ind.) Hamilton Southeastern teammate ATH Jamitreus Crockham (injured as a junior, perhaps the state’s top athlete).
Malik McDowell, DL, Detroit (Mich.) Loyola – One of the nation’s top defensive linemen, McDowell can play across the line of scrimmage. The state’s top player and the country’s No. 2 strong-side defensive end according to the 247Composite, McDowell has seen early offers come in from Florida, Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oregon, Stanford and Wisconsin. The Irish and Wolverines appear to be at the top of the list at this point.
Drake Harris, WR, Grand Rapids (Mich.) Christian – The Michigan State commit had one of the most prolific seasons in history, catching 91 passes for 2,015 yards and 25 touchdowns en route to a state championship. Also had offers from Florida, Michigan and Notre Dame. Harris is also a standout basketball player and will play both sports for the Spartans.
Damon Webb, CB, Detroit (Mich.) Cass Tech – A true playmaker at the cornerback position, the 5-foot-11, 180-pound Webb forced 11 turnovers this year (seven interceptions, four forced fumbles). Michigan is in the pole position with offers from LSU, Michigan State and Ohio State rounding out Webb’s top four.
Others to keep an eye on includes Wisconsin QB commit Chance Stewart of Sturgis (Mich.) High, Michigan State LB commits Deon Drake of Detroit (Mich.) Cass Tech and Byron Bullough of Traverse City (Mich.) St. Francis, DE Lawrence Marshall of Southfield (Mich.) High, OT Tommy Doles of Grand Rapids (Mich.) Christian,LB Carl Fuller of Detroit (Mich.) King and LBs William White and Gary Hosey of Detroit Cass Tech.
Jeff Jones, RB, Minneapolis (Minn.) Washburn - The Top100 running back also has the skill set to play cornerback. Jones has early offers from Iowa, Iowa State, Michigan State, Minnesota, Illinois, Syracuse and Wisconsin, with the Hawkeyes likely being the team to beat at this point. A Notre Dame offer could change everything.
The nation's top OLB Dante Booker has the Buckeyes on top.
Others to keep an eye on includes QB Reid Travis of Minneapolis (Minn.) De La Salle (also a basketball standout) OL Frank Ragnow of Chanhassen (Minn.) High and DE/OT Andrew Stelter of Owatonna (Minn.) Senior.
Marshon Lattimore, CB/WR, Cleveland (Ohio) Glenville – A five-star talent that will definitely have his pick of the litter, the 6-foot, 175-pound Lattimore already has scholarships from Ohio State, Georgia Tech, Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State and USC. The Buckeyes have the early lead but we don’t expect Lattimore to make a decision until after his senior season.
Dante Booker, LB, Akron (Ohio) St. Vincent-St. Mary – The nation’s top outside linebacker according to 247Sports, the 6-foot-3, 210 Booker holds early offers from Ohio State, Michigan, Notre Dame, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Penn State among others. The Buckeyes have the advantage at this point.
Michael Ferns, LB, Saint Clairesville (Ohio) High – The 6-foot-3, 238-pound Ferns was the state’s most sought after junior before committing to Michigan back in August. Ferns will play linebacker for the Wolverines, but a couple other schools including Penn State recruited Ferns as a tight end.
Kyle Berger, LB, Cleveland (Ohio) St. Ignatius – Racked up a whopping 44 tackles for loss and 10 sacks as a junior, earning his first offer from Ohio State just before Thanksgiving. Cincinnati, Illinois, Michigan State and West Virginia have since extended a scholarship and more and more schools are beginning to show interest.
Derek Kief, WR, Cincinnati (Ohio) LaSalle – Cincinnati, Illinois, Indiana and Iowa have already offered the 6-foot-5, 185-pound Kief, who at 6-foot-5, 185-pounds has the size and ability to become a nationally recruited receiver. Michigan is the team to watch for Kief as he is high on the Wolverines.
Kyle Trout, OT, Lancaster (Ohio) High – After National Signing Day, the 6-foot-6, 285-pound Trout will likely see another surge in his recruitment. Michigan State, Illinois, Indiana, Pittsburgh and West Virginia have extended scholarships with several national powers showing interest.
DeShone Kizer, QB, Toledo (Ohio) Central Catholic – The 6-foot-5, 207-pound Kizer led his team to a state championship this fall. The sky is the limit for the athletically gifted three-sport athlete that holds early offers from Michigan State, Penn State, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisville, Nebraska and Syracuse among others. Currently, the Spartans may be in the best shape with the Nittany Lions right there.
Jimmy Byrne, OL, Cleveland (Ohio) St. Ignatius – Committed to Notre Dame last week over his other finalist Ohio State. The 6-foot-4, 275-pound Byrne also had scholarships from Illinois, Michigan State and West Virginia.
Others to keep an eye on includes Cincinnati (Ohio) Winton Woods DL Daniel Cage, Cleveland (Ohio) Glenville OL Marcelys Jones, Trotwood (Ohio) Madison DE Verondtae Wilkinson, Springfield (Ohio) High teammates WR Thaddeus Snodgrass and LB Davonte James, Galion (Ohio) High ATH Dareian Watkins, Westerville (Ohio) Central OT Nick Richardson, Massillon (Ohio) Washington OL Nathaniel Devers, Lima (Ohio) Central Catholic S Darius West, Cleveland (Ohio) Shaker Heights DE Joe Henderson, Columbus (Ohio) Bishop Hartley CB Alonzo Saxton, Hamler (Ohio) Patrick Henry OL Colt Pettit, Sylvania (Ohio) Southview ATH Nathan Hall, West Chester (Ohio) Lakota West RB Mikel Horton, Trotwood (Ohio) Madison RB Ashton Jackson and Minster (Ohio) High TE Ethan Wolf.
Craig Evans, DT, Sun Prairie (Wis.) High – The Top100 defensive tackle is a soft commit to Wisconsin in light of the recent developments with the coaching staff. Michigan State, Nebraska and Pittsburgh also had early offers out to the 6-foot-3, 305-pound Evans, who is beginning to receive interest from several national heavy hitters.
Steve Wiltfong is a National Writer for 247Sports. Follow him on Twitter @swiltfong247