In every successful recruiting class, there is typically one committed recruit (sometimes more) that is the lynchpin for the class, be it for football/need reasons, perception that helps build momentum for the rest of the recruiting cycle, or an “extra recruiter” that helps the coaching staff build relationships with and achieve comfort level with further targets.
So with that, 247Sports National Recruiting Analysts Gerry Hamilton and JC Shurburtt weigh in on who the current “most important” commitments are for each of the current top 10 classes in the 247Sports team football recruiting rankings for the Class of 2013.
Hamilton- "A tough call between signal caller Max Browne and defensive prospects Su'a Cravens and Eddie Vanderdoes, but I'm going with the defensive front. The Trojans will recruit some of the top quarterback prospects as long as Lane Kiffin is the head coach, but it's on the defensive side of the ball where USC has to ascend the most, and in short order. In the 6-foot-3, 305-pound Vanderdoes, the Trojans are getting a five-star caliber prospect that has the chance to make an instant impact up the middle for a USC defense that has struggled nightly at times of late. A program can never have enough difference-making talented on a defensive front, and that is exactly the shot in the arm Kiffin and staff need."
Shurburtt- Quarterback Max Browne to me is the most important recruit in the Trojans’ outstanding class. The nation’s top quarterback prospect is an excellent fit in USC’s offensive system and he helped to establish momentum early as Lane Kiffin and company landed him on April 4. Browne plans to enroll at USC in the spring semester, 2013, so he will get the chance to compete with Max Wittek and Cody Kessler to replace Matt Barkley as the Trojans’ starter. Simply throwing another talented player into that mix will make the competition tougher and the overall position on the roster better, regardless of who wins the job.
Hamilton- "Jonathan Allen is the pick here when looking at Alabama. One, he's got difference maker ability defensively and near perfect fit for Alabama's 3-4 scheme. While Alabama continues to recruit a number of talented linebackers for their vaunted defensive scheme, Allen could prove to be a difference maker rushing the passer that the Crimson Tide are seemingly lacking this season - or against the top tier of competition. Another angle to Allen signing with Alabama is the state of Virginia. While Allen is a 2013 prospect, Nick Saban and staff inking one of the state's best for the second consecutive cycle (Korren Kirven in 2012) can do nothing but help with a loaded 2014 class in Virginia"
Shurburtt- Landing Derrick Henry out of the state of Florida was huge for the Crimson Tide from a momentum standpoint. The 6-foot-4, 240-pound jumbo athlete was committed to Georgia, which is perhaps Alabama’s biggest recruiting rival in talent-rich southern states like Florida, for nearly a year. Henry’s de-commitment from the Bulldogs was a direct result of a push by Alabama and ace recruiter Jeremy Pruitt. Pruitt also is the recruiter-of-record for five-star offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil, who has UGA and Bama at the top.
Hamilton- "Got to go with Shane Morris here. With Morris, like other signal callers, it's as much of the fact that he committed early to start class momentum building, has a recruiters personality so-to-speak, and has been key in helping form relationships and build the Wolverines class. He has been very visible for nearly two years now wearing Michigan gear, and flashing his immense talent around the country at various events. Then you get to the prospect, and the future of the Michigan quarterback position; and his commitment, signing and future performance are going to be very key in the success of the Michigan team."
Shurburtt- Without a doubt, quarterback Shane Morris is the most important commitment in this Wolverines class and may be the single most important commitment during the Brady Hoke era to date. Morris, a strong-armed five-star prospect who committed to Michigan on May 5, 2011, has been a key recruiter for Michigan with other prospects. Morris also is one of the more active recruits in the country on social media and has become sort of an unofficial spokesperson for this class. Because he’s very smart and well-spoken, that has resonated well with fans, media and other prospects.
4- Ohio State
Hamilton- "I'm going on a little different path with the Ohio State class. I believe the commitment of cornerback Eli Woodard is key for Urban Meyer and staff. Not only is Woodard one of the top corners in the country and potential difference-makers at that position are few and far between, but he is a prospect out of New Jersey. Ohio State will get the lion's share in-state, dabble in other states and nationally including Florida, but New Jersey is an underrated state in terms of annual talent production nationally and Meyer's ability to go into the state and pull one of the best is not only key in the 2013 class, but helps set up future success there. While at Florida, he and his staff became adept at recruiting the Northeast as is evidenced by Sharrif Floyd (Philadelphia) and Dominique Easley (Staten Island, N.Y.) starring for the Gators this season. "
Shurburtt- If you’ve watched the Buckeyes’ offense this year and seen Braxton Miller thrive, if you watched the difference between Florida’s 2009 offense with Tim Tebow and its 2010 offense with a less-mobile quarterback in John Brantley, you know how important great quarterback play is for Urban Meyer and company. That’s why J.T. Barrett, the nation’s top dual-threat quarterback for the 2013 class, is the most important recruit. Signal callers with Barrett’s skill set are the straw that stirs the drink in that system and if he gets healthy and becomes the Buckeyes’ starter eventually, he can put up big numbers.
Hamilton- "Hard to go against running back Kelvin Taylor when looking at the Florida class. One, he is the son of Florida legend Fred Taylor, so the record breaking runner from Glades Day signing with anyone other than the Gators would have been a perception hit. Two, Taylor is a very talented natural and instinctive back that fits the Gators offensive scheme and running game very well. With Michael Gillislee graduating, the Gators are in need of key depth at the position with a possible starters job up for grabs. Lastly, Taylor has been a key recruiter for the Gators in the 2013 class whether with the use of social media or by picking up the phone."
Shurburtt- To me if you are the Gators and have the son of one of your all-time greats down in Palm Beach County, and he’s the country’s top running back prospect, then it’s a must-get, so to me the most important commit Florida has right now is Kelvin Taylor. Like Morris, Taylor also is active on social media and has served as an ambassador for the Florida program during this recruiting cycle.
6- Notre Dame
Hamilton- "This pick is an easy one even with the news of Alex Anzalone sticking with the Fighting Irish after strongly considering Florida. Outside linebacker and borderline special athlete Jaylon Smith is a rare prospect and one that Notre Dame simply had to have to continue on the track of developing into one of the nation's top defensive programs under Brian Kelly. Smith is fluid, fast and reactive with the type of playmaking and ball skills 6-foot-3, 225-pounders rarely possess. Throw in the fact that he is a known and followed big time prospect from the Midwest, and he's a no- brainer as the biggest recruit in the 2013 class for Notre Dame."
Shurburtt- Besides being one of the most athletic linebacker prospects in the last few recruiting cycles, there are recruiting perception and momentum reasons why I think Jaylon Smith is the most important commit for the Irish. First, Smith’s older brother plays at Ohio State, which is an annual recruiting rival of Notre Dame’s. Second, Smith is a state of Indiana prospect and if you’re the Fighting Irish, you always want to sign a special prospect if he’s within the borders of your state, despite that fact that fundamentally Notre Dame is a national recruiting program.
Hamilton- "This is a tough one. Rueben Foster is obviously a potential difference maker at inside linebacker, but it's the defensive line that is the pick for Auburn. Defensive end Carl Lawson is an exceptional edge rush prospect, and when you combine that with the likely departure to the NFL of Corey Lemonier, defensive end is an imperative position for the Tigers in 2013. In Lawson, Auburn is getting an end with an elite first step and the ability to disrupt timing in the passing game and sack the quarterback. Combine that with being an Atlanta area prospect and the 6-foot-2, 245-pounder is the pick to click for the Tigers in the 2013 class."
Shurburtt- Without a doubt, linebacker Reuben Foster, the nation’s No. 2 overall prospect in the 247Composite, is the most important commit for AU. Not only does Foster have a ton of natural football playing talent, he was committed to Auburn’s hated rival Alabama from July 18, 2011 until July 12, when he switched to the Tigers. While there has been little to cheer about on the field for Auburn this year, scoring major recruiting victories like Foster gives fans hope for the future.
Hamilton- "The Texas class is tough as you have a guy like Jake Raulerson who has been very key in helping recruit and build relationships, as well as Jake Oliver who has done the same. With that said, one has to go with A'Shawn Robinson. One, he's the most physically gifted prospect and one with everything physically and body type wise a college coach covets; and he has the ability to start his career on either side of the ball from a need filling standpoint. Two, he pulled the trigger for Texas much earlier than expected, and helped get the momentum rolling for Mack Brown and staff when it looked like he would be one to wait. Now, Texas just has to hold onto him as he will visit Alabama this weekend and USC in December."
Shurburtt- To me, Texas needs more players in the trenches (on either side of the ball) that have superior size and athleticism, but who also love competing and playing football. Robinson is that prospect to me. He could play offensive line (where we project him) or potentially on the defensive line (where he worked out and shined at The Opening this summer) and immediately gives Texas a player that can compete, and thus inspire, his teammates. Call him a breathe of fresh air type of addition to a talented, but underachieving, roster. The Longhorns need to hold onto him, though, as he’s left the door slightly ajar for other suitors.
Hamilton- "This one is easy, Brice Ramsey. Not only does Ramsey have the talent and tools to be the signal caller of the future for the Bulldogs, he has been very key in helping recruit the 2013 class and continues to do so. This was a key momentum-builder for Mark Richt and staff, as Ramsey could have left the state to go to Florida or Alabama. While the state is too big to keep all of the top prospects at home, Georgia keeping their top target at quarterback at home and having him commit very early and help recruit a class has been key. Another thing to keep in mind with Ramsey is that he will get a very valuable redshirt season in a day and age where more true freshmen signal callers are playing. Ramsey will be in a near perfect position for early success at Georgia."
Shurburtt- Quarterback Brice Ramsey committed to Georgia before even starting a game at the high school level and has been instrumental in working other prospects behind the scenes. He was a factor when Henry jumped on board early and also was key in the commitment to the Bulldogs by Tramel Terry, the top overall prospect in South Carolina this cycle. Ramsey also has the skill set to have an excellent career at Georgia at the most critical of positions.
Hamilton- "This is a no brainer - Robert Nkemdiche. The 6-foot-4, 285-pound defensive lineman is an instant impact prospect as a player at a position of real need, but is more than that. As the No. 1 prospect in the class of 2013, the school he eventually signs with will have instant momentum in future recruiting classes with more eyes on a program by more prospects than normal. For Clemson, it would continue the trend of the Tigers being a destination for some of the top prospects in the country from around the Southeast Region."
Shurburtt- Clemson is going to have to fight tooth and tail (with Ole Miss, where his brother goes) to keep the nation’s top overall prospect, defensive end Robert Nkemdiche from Grayson (Ga.), who surprisingly committed to the Tigers on June 14 and remains pledged to Clemson. When a program has the top prospect in the country committed, it certainly helps them have a better story to tell when going out-of-state to try to land prospects. Of all the recruiting victories Dabo Swinney has enjoyed (when he was an assistant under Tommy Bowden, he was the recruiter-of-record for C.J. Spiller, among others) during his college coaching career. If the Tigers hold on here, it could also set them up to land many of their top targets in the 2014 cycle.
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