Predicting the future success of 17-year-old high school football prospects is an inexact science, but that doesn't mean it can't be done. Here, in no particular order, are nine fearless recruiting predictions for 2009.
1. After landing ESPN's top-rated recruiting class in 2008 -- and with another very good class on the way in 2009, led by RB Bryce Brown (Wichita, Kan./East) -- the Miami Hurricanes will win the ACC in 2009 and go to a BCS bowl.
2. Athlete Russell Shepard (Houston/Cy-Ridge) will start multiple games for LSU as a true freshman, but maybe not at QB. Look for him to play all over the place.
3. Alabama commit OT/DT D.J. Fluker (Foley, Ala.) will become a first-round NFL draft pick. Consider it an Alabama thing, as he's following the footsteps of fellow Alabama native OT Andre Smith, who will be a first-rounder this year.
4. Combined with 2008 QB signee Justin Feagin, the Michigan Wolverines will play a true freshmen in the QB rotation until one player comes to the forefront and takes the reigns of Rich Rodriguez's spread offense. QB's Steven Threet and Nick Sheridan are not the answer at QB. While Feagin may see time at slot, don't count him out at QB. Tate Forcier (San Diego/Scripps Ranch) has a good chance to play early and take over the role on a full-time basis.
5. North Carolina QB commit Bryn Renner (Lorton, Va./West Springfield) will lead the Tar Heels to the ACC championship game by 2011. Renner is the most capable under-the-radar prospect in this class of QBs, and has Colt McCoy-type intangibles.
6. Texas commit QB Garrett Gilbert (Austin, Texas/Lake Travis) will win the Heisman Trophy … before his senior year.
7. Thanks to the recruiting classes landed in 2008 and 2009, USC will win the national championship by 2011. The Pac-10 championship is nearly a foregone conclusion since they play in a down Pac-10. If they don't, either the coaches aren't coaching or the players have dramatically underachieved.
8. Rutgers' 2009 recruiting class will help lead the Scarlet Knights to a Big East championship by 2011. This class has more speed and athleticism than any of Greg Schiano's previous classes. QB Tom Savage (Philadelphia/Cardinal O'Hara) and DT Antwan Lowery (Miami/Columbus) lead the way.
9. CB Dre Kirkpatrick (Gadsden, Ala.) will sign with Alabama, start as a true freshman and develop into an NFL first-round draft choice. Shutdown corners don't grow on trees.
Tom Luginbill is the National Recruiting Director for ESPN's Scouts Inc. He has an extensive background in professional football talent evaluation and coaching. He played quarterback at Georgia Tech (1994) and Eastern Kentucky (1995).