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National Notes: Fast Starters

Later this recruiting cycle, 247Sports will release its team football recruiting rankings for the Class of 2012, but here’s a quick look at the five schools off to the best starts for this particular cycle, plus several more that are close.

Kenyan Drake is one of several big pulls from Georgia in Alabama's 2012 class.

1. Alabama: The Crimson Tide probably has the nation’s top class at this point. Seven of Alabama’s 11 verbal commits are rated four-stars or higher with five-star athlete Eddie Williams (Panama City, Fla./Arnold) leading the way. Alabama has had great early success in the state of Georgia- landing four-star all-purpose running back Kenyan Drake (Powder Springs, Ga./Hillgrove), four-star defensive tackle Dakota Ball (Lindale, Ga./Pepperell), tackle Brandon Greene (Ellenwood, Ga./Cedar Grove), kicker Adam Griffith (Calhoun, Ga.) and big back Justin Taylor (Atlanta, Ga./Washington). In-state linebackers Reggie Ragland (Madison, Ala./Bob Jones) and Tyler Hayes (Thomasville, Ala.) are among the best in the country while athlete Justin Thomas (Prattville, Ala.) is a top 100 prospect. 

2. Florida State: Led by five-star defensive end Mario Edwards (Denton, Texas/Ryan), there isn’t a finer collection of defensive linemen on a commit list this early anywhere in the country. Four-star ends Dante Fowler (St. Petersburg, Fla./Lakewood) and Chris Casher (Mobile, Ala./Faith Academy) are both top 100 prospects and defensive tackle Dalvon Stuckey (Defuniak Springs, Fla./Walton) is a top 25 prospect at his position nationally. Defensive back P.J. Williams (Ocala, Fla./Vanguard), running back Mario Pender (Cape Coral, Fla./Island Coast) and kicker Robert Aguayo (Groveland, Fla./South Lake) all are difference-makers at their various positions.

3. Texas: The Longhorns, who hold 16 commits, are having another outstanding recruiting cycle and got a huge commitment last week when five-star running back Johnathan Gray (Aledo, Texas) committed to Texas. Defensive tackle Malcolm Brown (Brenham, Texas) is one of the state’s best at that position and quarterback Connor Brewer (Paradise Valley, Ariz./Chaparral) is an elite national-level signal caller. Receivers Thomas Johnson (Dallas, Texas/Skyline) and Cayleb Jones (Austin, Texas) give the Longhorns two outstanding prospects at that position.

4. Florida: Like Alabama, the Gators have had success in Georgia early, picking up four-star defensive linemen Quinteze Williams (Tyrone, Ga./Sandy Creek) and Jafar Mann (Stone Mountain, Ga./Stephenson) as well as Mann’s teammate, four-star running back Mike Davis. Offensive tackle Jessamen Dunker (Boynton Beach, Fla.), running back Matt Jones (Seffner, Fla./Armwood) and linebacker Jeremi Powell (Largo, Fla./Pinellas Park) all are big in-state grabs for Will Muschamp and staff.

5. USC: The Trojans could be limited in their numbers this cycle, but all five of their commitments are top-shelf, including offensive tackle/defensive end Arik Armstead (Elk Grove, Calif./Pleasant Grove), the No. 1 overall prospect in America. Outside linebacker Jabari Ruffin (Downey, Calif.) is the No. 2 outside linebacker prospect in the country. Darreus Rogers (Carson, Calif.) is a top five wide receiver prospect while Jordan Payton (Westlake Village, Calif./Oaks Christian) and Jaydon Mickens (Los Angeles, Calif./Dorsey) both are four-star receiver prospects.

[i]Those five programs aren’t the only ones having great early success. Here are five more that have stood out (alphabetical order).[/i] 

-Defending National Champion Auburn landed a commitment from five-star quarterback Zeke Pike (Fort Mitchell, Ky./Dixie Heights) last week and has four-star athlete Alex Taylor (Lester, Ala./West Limestone) and four-star linebacker Cassanova McKinzy (Birmingham, Ala./Woodlawn) committed.

-Five of the eight prospects committed to LSU are rated four stars or higher. Linebacker Torshiro Davis (Shreveport, La./Woodlawn) and tight end John Thomas (Bossier City, La./Airline) are the two highest-rated prospects in the class- both hail from northwest Louisiana. Four-star receiver Avery Johnson (Pompano Beach, Fla./Ely), the younger brother of former Tiger cornerback Patrick Peterson, was an early commit and has stuck thus far.

Five-star quarterback Zeke Pike was a big get for Auburn.

-Ohio State again is loading up on in-state talent. The Buckeyes have five pledges, all from Ohio, all rated four-stars or better. Offensive tackle Kyle Kalis (Lakewood, Ohio/St. Edward) and running back Brionte Dunn (Canton, Ohio/GlenOak) are the best of the bunch.

-Penn State is one of the big early storylines of the 2012 cycle. The Nittany Lions could finish with a monster class as four of their current six pledges are rated four-stars or higher, including five-star defensive tackle Jarron Jones (Rochester, N.Y./Aquinas). Four-star linebacker Camren Williams (West Roxbury, Mass./Catholic Memorial) and defensive tackle Jamil Pollard (Westville, N.J./West Deptford) also are highly-regarded early commits.

-Texas A&M has 18 verbal commitments including running back Trey Williams (Houston, Texas/Dekaney), the nation’s No. 3 prospect at his position and highly-regarded quarterback Matt Davis (Houston, Texas/Klein Forest). 

Oklahoma, Missouri standing out for McGee

John Michael McGee (Texarkana, Texas/Texas High) is one of a number of top line prospects in the state of Texas in the 2012 class. The laft tackle that projects to guard or center at the next level currently has 15 verbal offers.

“I have offers from Arkansas, Auburn, Baylor, Missouri, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, TCU, Stanford, Michigan, Michigan State, Clemson, Notre Dame, Kansas and Vanderbilt,” McGee said.

Missouri was by Texas High last week and are one of two programs standing out for the 6-foot-3, 260-pounder.

“Oklahoma and Missouri are my top schools.” he said.

Louisville and Vanderbilt are the most recent offers for offensive guard Germain Ifedi.

McGee says a number of college coaches are scheduled to come by the school the next couple of weeks.

Texas Quick Hitters

-Louisville and Vanderbilt are the latest to offer offensive guard Germain Ifedi (Houston, Texas/Westside). The 6-foot-5, 310-pounder with an incredible wingspan Also has verbal offers from Colorado, Missouri, Mississippi State, Baylor, Virginia, SMU, Iowa State, Memphis, Houston, Rice and Texas-San Antonio. Baylor, Colorado and Texas A&M made stops at Westside last week.

-Cornerback Will Hines (Waco, Texas/Waco High) has verbal offers from Notre Dame, Texas Tech, Baylor, Oklahoma State and North Texas. Notre Dame, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Oklahoma State and North Texas made stops by Waco High last week to see the 6-foot-1, 165-pounder. Hines reports Texas A&M is close to offering.

-Cornerback DeVante Harris (Mesquite, Texas/Horn) has verbal offers from SMU, Kansas State, Mississippi State, Virginia and North Texas. Texas Tech, North Texas, TCU and Baylor came by Harris’ school last week. TCU, Baylor and Texas Tech are close to offering according the 5-foot-11, 160-pounder.

-Pro-style quarterback Jeremiah Briscoe (Houston, Texas/Stratford) has a verbal offer from Baylor. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound signal caller reports that Arkansas could be the next to offer. Oklahoma State, Baylor and Arkansas made school visits to Stratford last week.

-Offensive tackle Aviante Collins (Missouri City, Texas/Willowridge) has verbal offers from Houston, Arizona State and Colorado. Nebraska, Texas A&M, Baylor and Oklahoma State were at Willowridge last week to take a look at Collins and other 2012 and 2013 prospects at the school. The 6-foot-5, 295-pounder with quick feet has thrown the shot put 59-feet this spring.

-Strong side defensive end Dutton Watson (Midland, Texas/Midland High) is receiving interest from Texas Tech, Baylor, TCU, Nebraska and Texas A&M. The 6-foot-2, 250-pounder reports the Red Raiders are the closest to offering.

Geno Smith, one of the top cornerbacks in the country, enjoyed his recent visit to Florida State.

-Defensive end Deonte McKinney (Marshall, Texas) is receiving interest from Missouri, Baylor and many others. Missouri and Baylor were among the handful of college programs by Marshall to see the 6-foot-2, 255-pounder and his teammates in the 2012 and 2013 classes last week.

Nuts and Bolts

-Corey Dowlar of Noles247 reports on four-star cornerback Geno Smith and his visit to Florida State. The Noles are in his top three.

-Cornerback prospect T.J. Davis (Tallahassee, Fla./Godby) has picked up recent verbal offers from Nebraska and Vanderbilt. 

-Charles Power of BamaOnline reports on Tennessee running back I’Tavius Mathers’ visit to Tuscaloosa.

-Linebacker Chris Santini (San Jose, Calif./Leland) visited Boise State recently and came away impressed. He said he spent time learning about his potential role in the Broncos‘ defense. Boise State has offered the 6-foot, 200-pounder.

-Nate Adelson of InsideTheU reports that a Miami offer could be on the way for four-star quarterback Chad Kelly, the nephew of former Cane Jim Kelly.

-Athlete Brandon Napoleon (Jersey City, N.J./St. Peter’s Prep) loved his visit to Virginia Tech for its spring game this past weekend, but says North Carolina still leads followed by Rutgers with the Hokies in third. 

-Top Class of 2013 offensive lineman D.J. Park (Dillon, S.C.) also was at Virginia Tech this past weekend as was his teammate, 2012 three-star receiver Kwinton Smith. Smith favors the Hokies and North Carolina State.

-While we’re on the subject of Virginia Tech, the Hokies had a good weekend overall-landing a verbal commitment from four-star running back J.C. Coleman and defensive back Der’Woun Greene- both from the Tidewater area of Virginia, a critical battleground in that state.

-Luke Stampini of SoFlaFootball reports that Fort Lauderdale receiver Jimmy Smith picked up his first scholarship offer.

-Inside linebacker Marc Robinson (Oklahoma City, Okla./Millwood) is receiving interest from Arizona, Nebraska, TCU, Texas A&M, Oklahoma State and others. He made an unofficial visit to TCU in early April. Robisnon, 5-11, 215-pounds with 4.65-speed, didn’t play varsity ball in 2010 due to transfer rules. His recruitment is expected to pick up in May.

-Sean Fitz of Lions247 breaks down five-star Jarron Jones’ “soft verbal” commitment to Penn State in an exclusive Q&A.

National Recruiting Analyst Gerry Hamilton contributed to this report

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