tampabay.com

'Big Three' take unusual path

By JAMIE NEWBERG
Published September 13, 2005


If you follow college football recruiting in the Sunshine State, you know one thing: Florida, Florida State and Miami close like no one else in the country.

Recruiting is a marathon, not a sprint, but when it comes to the "Big Three," it's always a race to the finish line come national signing day on the first Wednesday of February.

Usually, the strategy of Florida, FSU and Miami is to collect a few commitments during the spring, summer and fall and when the season ends get the blue-chip recruits from around the state and country.

But this season is different. The three are sitting on a combined 27 commitments. Last season at this time, they had seven. The year before it was five.

Is this a trend or aberration? It's difficult to say, and we might not know until this time next year. Some programs, such as Penn State and Texas, love early commitments.

In the past 20 years or so, no one has recruited as consistently well as FSU. It is sitting on 11 commitments, including three who failed to qualify academically, recommitted and will spend this fall at a prep school.

Two weeks ago, it landed the nation's top recruit, according to scout.com, safety Myron Rolle of Princeton, N.J. The Seminoles also have pledges from tight ends Brandon Warren of Alcoa, Tenn., (No.14 among tight ends in the nation, according to Scout.com) and Caz Piurowski of Land O'Lakes (No.8), quarterbacks Christian Ponder (Colleyville, Texas) and D'Vontrey Richardson (Leesburg, Ga.), offensive linemen Evan Bellamy (Miami) and Chad Roark (Ada, Okla.) and defensive tackle Ryan McMahon (Rome, Ga.).

The Gators have been a surprise because they received all of their commitments before Urban Meyer coached his first game. Yet among their nine commitments are Jevan Snead of Stephenville, Texas, No.9 among quarterbacks in the nation, according to scout.com, and tackle Carl Johnson of Durham, N.C., No.7 among offensive linemen in the nation, according to scout.com.

Other top prospects include running back Chevon Walker (Fort Myers), receiver Damien Williams (Springdale, Ark.), tight end Ben Cleveland (Springdale, Ark.), defensive tackles Terron Sanders (Bradenton) and Corey Hobbs (Oviedo), linebacker Dustin Doe (Jasper) and cornerback Markihe Anderson (Fort Myers).

Miami's focus will depend on how many players leave early for the NFL draft. So far, it has seven commitments, including Pat Devlin of Downington, Pa., the No.8 quarterback in the nation, according to scout.com, and Javarris James of (Immokalee), among the top 40 running backs, according to scout.com. James is a cousin of former Hurricane and current NFL star Edgerrin James.

Other top prospects are receiver Sam Shields (Sarasota), tight end Derrick Epps (Richmond, Va.), defensive tackle Josh Holmes (San Diego) and kicker Matt Bosher (Jupiter).

--Jamie Newberg is the national recruiting analyst for scout.com.