Size, skills make Benjamin a top target
TAMPA, Fla. -- One of the most intriguing prospects at last weekend's Badger Sport Elite 7-on-7 at the University of South Florida was towering receiver Kelvin Benjamin (Belle Glade, Fla./Glades Central).
The 6-foot-6, 215-pound Benjamin is a typical "big" receiver who displayed his ability to leap over the top of defensive backs and come down with jump balls at the tournament.
Some scouts have noted that Benajmin could end up growing out of wide receiver and play a tight end/split tight end or H-back role in college or the NFL.
"I can run fast for a player my size," Benjamin said. "I am also very physical, so I can get position against defensive players."
His stock has been on the rise for some time and his offer list reflects that.
"It feels real good," Benjamin said. "I had a real good year this past year and it seems like offers are coming in every day. I have offers from all of the big schools in Florida [Florida, Florida State and Miami] and also Notre Dame, Tennessee, West Virginia and Alabama. So it's been going real good. I am just trying to stay focused."
Benjamin added that he was excited about getting offers from the Gators, Seminoles and Hurricanes.
"It was a really good experience that all three of those offers happened," Benjamin said. "It pushes me."
Early in the process, Benjamin noted that Florida State was the team to beat. Now, Florida and Miami have to be considered strong players, as well as several of the out-of-state schools. Benjamin added that he plans to visit all three in-state programs and some out-of-state programs this spring and summer.
Mater Dei-USC QB pipeline?
Will USC sign its second quarterback in three recruiting cycles from powerhouse Mater Dei High (Santa Ana, Calif.)? It could happen. The Trojans offered fast riser Max Wittek last week. Wittek took the reins of the Mater Dei offense last season, replacing USC starter and 2009 Under Armour All-American Matt Barkley.
"I am real excited about getting the offer," Wittek said. "They know what they are doing with quarterbacks. The practice intensity was way up the entire time they were practicing and never died. I am really excited about it and looking forward to speaking with them in the future."
The 6-foot-3, 200-pounder also holds offers from Arizona, California, Clemson, Duke, Florida, Florida State, Illinois, Nebraska, North Carolina, Oregon State, South Carolina and UCLA.
Talk in Los Angeles recruiting circles is that Wittek is good friends with elite running back prospect De'Anthony Thomas (Los Angeles/Crenshaw). Wittek and his talented teammate, ESPNU 150 Watch List receiver Victor Blackwell, have also reportedly talked about playing at the same school.
Thomas has an offer from USC at this point but Blackwell, one of several talented receivers in California this year (it's loaded at that position), does not.
More USC movement
Southern California got on the board for the next recruiting cycle early when the Trojans received a verbal last week from Class of 2012 receiver Jordan Payton (Westlake Village, Calif./Oaks Christian).
The 6-foot-2, 195-pounder has been projected to be a star since his freshman season and though statistically he did not have his best game, it was obvious that he was a special talent on the field in Sammamish, Wash., in September in a 28-25 win against Skyline.
Payton has been compared to another Los Angeles native who was also making waves at a young age -- Steve Smith, who graduated from Taft High in Woodland Hills, then went to USC and now is with the New York Giants.
Starling the latest from Kansas
Tennessee tailback Bryce Brown was one of the top prospects in the country in 2009 out of East High in Wichita, Kan. In the Class of 2010, quarterback Blake Bell (Wichita, Kan./Bishop Carroll) was the state's top recruit; he signed with Oklahoma.
The latest elite prospect to come out of the Sunflower State is Bubba Starling (Gardner, Kan./Gardner Edgerton). Alabama, Baylor, Kansas, Kansas State, Nebraska and Notre Dame have offered Starling. Several other programs could be on the way.
Last year, the 6-foot-5, 200-pounder rushed for 1,381 yards and 19 touchdowns and passed for 1,433 yards and 18 touchdowns.
Bell has been described as a more athletic version of Arkansas quarterback and current NFL receiver Matt Jones. That's quite a compliment, considering Jones' athleticism.
Tide in Florida
Chatting with several of the coaches at the Badger Sport Elite 7-on-7 last Saturday and Sunday, most were impressed with the job Alabama has done recruiting central Florida during the early stages of the 2011 recruiting cycle.
The Tide have an outright lead for elite safety Hasean Clinton-Dix (Orlando, Fla./Dr. Phillips) and are a strong player for electric running back Mike Bellamy (Punta Gorda, Fla./Charlotte) and athlete James Wilder Jr. (Tampa, Fla./Plant), along with numerous other prospects from the area.
This is to be expected. The Crimson Tide are coming off their first national championship since 1992 and coach Nick Saban and his staff enjoy immense popularity among recruits throughout the Southeast. It would not be a surprise at all to see Alabama end up with several of the top prospects from the Sunshine State -- the middle of the state in particular -- in the 2011 class.
Plenty of attention for McReynolds
One of the first defensive tackles named to the 2011 Under Armour All-American game was Kevin McReynolds (Washington, D.C./Saint John's College). He holds multiple scholarship offers. Recently, USC, Auburn and Ohio State have jumped in. Vanderbilt also is close.
The offer from the Tigers was the first from a Southeastern Conference program for the 6-3, 274-pounder.
"I've really just been trying to work hard and just continue to get better," he said. "I think these offers are a testament to how hard I keep working. I like to compete and getting an offer from the SEC, it's the top conference in the country. It's a place I can compete to be the best."
McReynolds will hit the road soon. March 26-28 he will visit East Carolina, Duke, North Carolina and North Carolina State. He also plans to visit Los Angeles and check out USC, but does not have a date set yet. There are no leaders and he plans to get a close look at multiple schools before making a decision.
Roberson on the rise
Word around the state of Florida is that Fort Lauderdale cornerback Marcus Roberson is the next big-time defensive back out of Saint Thomas Aquinas. He may end up being better than some of the more highly touted defensive backs from the area in last year's class.
Stokes finds a home
Class of 2010 quarterback Malik Stokes (Philadelphia/Northeast) will play at Taft Prep in Connecticut this fall and will be part of the Class of 2011.
"I visited a lot of prep schools," he said. "I was put on to Taft by a friend of mine. I believe it's an environment that will help me make my transition to college. [Coach Panos Voulgaris] wants to throw the ball 40 times a game. He allows me the opportunity to transition into college academically and be able to take the SAT again. [I'm interested in] Stanford, Virginia, Northwestern -- schools like that. All-around, I think the fit for me was best."
The 6-1, 180-pound Stokes is the younger brother of Michigan receiver Je'Ron Stokes.
Koyack is in
Another one of the country's top tight end prospects, Ben Koyack (Oil City, Pa./Oil City), has accepted an invitation to the 2011 Under Armour All-American Game.
The 6-5, 230-pounder caught 48 passes for 800 yards and eight touchdowns last season and holds scholarship offers from Penn State, Pittsburgh, Ohio State, LSU, Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Rutgers, West Virginia, Maryland and others.
Ohio State is red hot on the recruiting trail. The Buckeyes received four commitments in two days, including three from offensive linemen and in-state prospects. Brian Bobek (Palatine, Ill./Fremd) is the lone out-of-stater. The Buckeyes beat Michigan State and Purdue for him. ESPNU 150 Watch List running back Savon Huggins (Jersey City, N.J./St. Peter's Prep) is planning to visit several schools in the southeast in April. Offensive tackle Jordan Prestwood (Plant City, Fla./Plant City) is one of the fastest-rising prospects in the country at this point. USC and Tennessee are two of his most recent offers. Recruiting insiders in Arizona like the upside of tight end R.J. Rickert (Gilbert, Ariz./Mesquite). The buzz among high school coaches in Las Vegas last week was that they were really high on new UNLV head coach Bobby Hauck and staff. They believe that Hauck has the right approach to landing some of the top talent in the city and that the former Montana head coach will be able to recruit/evaluate well there. Georgia Tech landing defensive end Chaz Cheeks (Gainesville, Ga./East Hall) could potentially help the team with ESPNU 150 Watch List defensive end Sterling Bailey down the road, but right now there are other programs that have a better shot, namely Florida. Tech, Georgia, Florida, USC, Tennessee, South Carolina and others have offered Bailey, who was one of the top overall prospects at the Under Armour National Combine on New Year's Day at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
J.C. Shurburtt covers recruiting for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.