Commentary

Strong spring helps Washington's stock

Originally Published: May 13, 2009
By Jc Shurburtt | Scouts Inc.

It's been a big spring for the big fella. Sparked by an outstanding showing at the Nike Football Training Camp in Fort Worth, Texas, Offensive lineman Evan Washington (DeSoto, Texas) is proving to be one of the top trenchmen in the Lone Star State's 2010 class.

Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, LSU, Alabama, Auburn, Ole Miss, Kansas State, Kansas and Baylor are among the schools that have made offers to the 6-foot-6, 286-pounder.

"I have worked real hard this spring," Washington said. "A lot of schools have been by to check up on me."

Washington also has been checking out some schools. He's visited Oklahoma State, LSU and Baylor unofficially.

[+] EnlargeEvan Washington
Scouts Inc.Evan Washington has taken several unofficial visits.

"The LSU trip was very nice," he said. "I got to meet [Tigers head coach] Les Miles and spend time with my recruiter, D.J. McCarthy. [McCarthy] is a cool dude. Oklahoma State was a real good trip, too. Coach Doug Meacham is recruiting me from there, and they are recruiting me the hardest right now."

Washington added that he is going to take a road trip to the state of Alabama to check out Auburn and the Crimson Tide this summer and will visit Oklahoma "in a couple of weeks."

"I have no preference between the SEC and the Big 12," he said. "It's a toss-up as to which conference is the best anyway."

While conference affiliation is not of the utmost importance, Washington said, playing time is going to be paramount in his decision.

"I am looking to play early," he said. "I really wouldn't mind redshirting necessarily, but I want to go to a place I can get on the field early. I also wouldn't want to go to a place where I just stick my hand in the dirt. I want to mix it up and use my athleticism to pull and things like that. It also has to be a school I can see myself playing at for four years."

The leaderboard

When you've won two out of the past three national championships, are a favorite to win a third and are located in one of the most talent-laden states in the country, chances are that you are going to recruit well. That's the case with the Florida Gators, who again project to sign one of the nation's top classes in 2010, something that has become the norm since Urban Meyer arrived in Gainesville. Here's a look at the status of five Under Armour All-Americans whom the Gators are in excellent position to ink on national signing day:

• Brent Benedict, OT, Jacksonville, Fla./Bolles
It's the Gators and Georgia right now.

• Kadron Boone, WR, Ocala, Fla./Trinity Catholic
Boone has an early offer, and UF has deep connections at the school.

• Corey Brown, RB/ATH, Springfield, Pa./Cardinal O' Hara
This speedy playmaker is intrigued by Florida's offense.

• Mack Brown, RB, Lithonia, Ga./Martin Luther King
Brown, an explosive back, is a great fit in the Gators' system and knows it.

• Chris Dunkley, WR, Pahokee, Fla.
Longtime lean may not announce for some time.

Granted there is a long way to go and there certainly is a chance some of these kids don't end up in orange and blue, but if the recruiting cycle came to an end today, you could expect these five to be in.

The hot sell

Here's a spotlight on a hot school in recruiting right now.

NC State

When Tom O'Brien and his staff arrived from Boston College the same year Butch Davis was hired at North Carolina, most believed that the Wolfpack would struggle to sign the talent needed to build their program back into a contender in the ACC, particularly in-state recruits. Well, nothing could be further from the truth. NC State has been highly competitive with the Heels and others in North Carolina and this cycle, players like Cary defensive lineman Fre'Shad Hunter favor the Pack over schools such as LSU and Tennessee.

"It's a great school, and it's close to home," Hunter said. State also has a commitment from Chapel Hill High offensive tackle Robert Crisp, one of the top prospects at his position in the country. Crisp has been working other prospects on behalf of NC State.

Also worth mentioning: Alabama, Auburn, Michigan, North Carolina, Ole Miss, Southern California, Florida, Ohio State, Stanford, Oregon, Oklahoma and Rutgers.

Recruiter to watch

Rod Smith, quarterbacks coach, Michigan

Smith

The Wolverines recruit nationally, and Smith is a true national recruiter. He is in on multiple prospects in Florida and California, arguably the two best states for talent production in the country.

"I would say that coach Smith is one of the best recruiters in the country," running back Brennan Clay (San Diego/Scripps Ranch) said. "I look at him more as a mentor and a friend. He's one of the most down-to-earth people I've ever met. He doesn't just recruit you because of your talent, but because of what you are made of, what's in your heart as a true person."

Also keep an eye on …

Steve Addazio, Florida: The Gators' offensive coordinator has several major targets in the Northeast and already has two of Florida's best in Ian Silberman and Jonathan Dowling wrapped up.

David Beaty, Kansas: It's important for the Jayhawks to recruit the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex well, and Beaty has been working it hard during the spring evaluation period.

Tosh Lupoi, California: This Cal alum continues to recruit California and the nation well for Jeff Tedford's squad.

Curtis Luper, Auburn: The Tigers' recruiting coordinator has helped mastermind a lot of the current momentum on the Plains.

Don Horton, NC State: The Pack's offensive-line coach does not have a ton of individual targets, but those he has are aware of his sterling reputation, and he's a huge factor with them.

Around the country

Jersey sleeper

College coaches have been flocking to Paterson, N.J., for the past two weeks to check up on jumbo athlete T.J. Clemmings of Paterson Catholic. The raw, 6-foot-6, 260-pounder is a tremendous athlete who, up until this past season, played basketball exclusively.

He gave football a try this year and has quickly developed into a wanted man for schools that recruit the Garden State. Coaches love his upside and his high character.

In recent weeks, coaches from Notre Dame, Miami (Fla.), Florida, Penn State, Pitt, Ohio State, South Carolina, Maryland, Michigan State and others have come through the school.

"There are a lot of coaches coming in and a lot of coaches coming in at once," he said. "This whole process has been great. I just have to thank my high school coaches for pushing me and continuing to push me."

His ability to play basketball (he broke a backboard playing that sport earlier in his high school career) has translated to the gridiron.

"It pretty much has helped me learn how to move," he said. "I can move on the court, and now I can move on the field."

Clemmings says that he will definitely take unofficial visits to Maryland and Pittsburgh this summer. The Terps and Panthers were among the earliest schools to offer. He is not concerned about distance from home at this point and trips to more schools (possibly down South or out West) are possible, depending on who offers.

Sanders looks to stay close

Although his hometown is 91 miles from Tuscaloosa, Ala., and 38 miles from Starkville, Miss., proximity isn't the only reason that receiver Vincent Sanders (Macon, Miss./Noxubee County) is favoring Alabama and Mississippi State.

"You could say they are out in front because they both have a lot to offer," Sanders said. "Mississippi State is rebuilding [under new head coach Dan Mullen], and it would be exciting to be a part of that. Alabama has one of the best coaches in the history of college football coaching it [Nick Saban]."

The 6-foot-3, 190-pounder says he could play receiver or free safety in college. He plans on visiting Tuscaloosa again later this month with his sister.

Two trips West

Under Armour All-American receiver Markeith Ambles (McDonough, Ga./Henry County) currently plans to take two trips to Los Angeles this month. Ambles will make an unofficial visit to USC on June 3 then plans to return for the USC Rising Stars Camp later in the month. The Trojans signed Brice Butler out of the Atlanta area a couple of recruiting cycles ago, so there is a track record for heading into the Peach State and plucking a prospect at what in many ways is one of the glamour positions in Pete Carroll's program.

Rumblings from Miami

Former Miami wide receiver commitment Quinton Dunbar (Miami/Booker T. Washington) has said Florida is out in front for his signature at the moment. The Gators are also believed to be in a strong position for his teammate, defensive end Lynden Trail, who has an unofficial top 2 of Florida and USC.

Short stuff

Class of 2011 running back Savon Huggins (Jersey City, N.J./St. Peter's Prep) already has picked up multiple verbal Division I scholarship offers. … Cornerback Tony Grimes (Hollywood, Fla./Hollywood Hills) picked up offers from Oklahoma State, Florida International and Southern Mississippi this past week. … Thus far, despite scholarship offers from Florida State and others, Duke is holding on to linebacker Aramidie Olaniyan (Woodberry Forest, Va.). … Miami and Illinois were the two most recent teams by First Coast High in Jacksonville, Fla., on Tuesday to watch defensive lineman Tavares Barnes. … Defensive end Steve Miller (Canton, Ohio/McKinley) has five or so scholarship offers from BCS schools, including Florida, UCLA, Michigan State and Purdue. … Tight end Ben Koyack (Oil City, Pa.) has over a dozen BCS offers, including offers from Penn State, Pitt, Florida, West Virginia, Virginia Tech and Maryland.

JC Shurburtt covers recruiting for ESPN.com. He can be reached at jcsespn@aol.com.

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