Jersey trio generating much interest
JERSEY CITY, N.J. -- Saint Peter's Prep football has made a lot of headlines on the national recruiting scene in recent years. This coming recruiting cycle might be head coach Rich Hansen's best class yet.
The program, which is tucked beneath the skyscrapers of Jersey City, produced Florida safety Will Hill, who played in the first Under Armour All-American Game in 2008. For the 2011 recruiting cycle, the program has three top-of-the-line Division I prospects, led by elite running back Savon Huggins.
"I am grateful for having them, honestly, but I am proud of them," Hansen said. "You don't get to be a player at that level without a lot of hard work. They've certainly worked hard to put themselves in a good position. They have to go out and perform now senior year. We have to win 12 football games and it will be a perfect world, but the three of them have a world of talent, a ton of potential and a bright future."
Last season, the 6-foot, 210-pound Huggins rushed for 1,444 yards on 211 carries with 22 touchdowns.
"I think he has all of the great physical attributes that you would want in a running back," Hansen said. "He has balance and speed. He runs with power and has good strength. He knows what we are doing on offense, which is obviously very helpful. Any great back, though, is going to have those attributes. I think the thing that sets him apart is he has an unbelievable attitude and work ethic. The kid is a machine. He works harder than anyone we've had. There are no excuses or if, ands and buts -- he's going to be in the weight room, out on the field and doing the things we ask him to do."
Huggins has more than 40 scholarship offers, including from Alabama, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Michigan, Notre Dame, Penn State, Rutgers, South Florida, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, South Carolina, Stanford, Boston College, California and others. He's as wide-open as they come, but look out for schools on the West Coast (including USC and UCLA) as things start to heat up.
Huggins and his family will continue with unofficial visits this spring and summer.
"Academics are my No. 1 priority," Huggins said. "I also want a family atmosphere and a BCS program. I want to be on the big stage as well. I just want to play the best. The goal is to get to signing day, but who knows? I could fall in love with a school and do it sooner. I want to see what all schools come in the month of May. After that, then I could possibly start to narrow it down some."
Lumpkin is a 6-foot-8, 260-pound prototypical tackle.
"Obviously, he's got great potential," Hansen said. "You can't coach 6-foot-8, so that's a great place to start. He's so athletic, it sets him apart. The schools that are looking at him and the places that he wants to play, you'd better be able to block great athletes off the edge, so you better be a good athlete. He's probably a little over 280 and he's probably got room for 20 pounds and you wouldn't even notice, so he's got physical skills. The things he needs to work on are the mental competitiveness of the game at that position. He's kind of been a product of being the biggest guy on the field for so long, he's a gentle-giant type of kid. We've kind of gotten it out of him in the last year and a half or two, so I am really excited.
"I also think he could play with his hand down on the defensive side and be an impact player, but he's put in his time at offensive tackle."
Lumpkin holds scholarship offers from Rutgers, Pittsburgh, South Carolina and West Virginia, among others. He recently made an unofficial visit to Pitt.
Royster could be the sleeper of the bunch. Hansen backed up what several college coaches have said privately about Royster -- he could be the prospect with the most value at St. Peter's Prep, even with an elite running back and offensive tackle with great athleticism and size on the roster.
"[Royster] is probably the best athlete on the team," Hansen said. "We've used him all over the place. We've used him the slot. He's been an I-back, he's a starting free safety, he can play strong safety, he can play corner, he returns punts, he returns kicks. He's a scary, freaky athlete, and I think that's the thing that's going to make him so attractive to schools. He has a boatload of written offers already and that's great, but he's going to cap it off with a great senior year."
Hansen added that Royster will share time in the backfield this year with Huggins at running back.
"If Sheldon had been the primary back and gotten a lot of carries, people would be all over him and saying the same things they say about Savon," Hansen said.
Royster also has outstanding hands, which make him an asset on offense in the passing game, and the hips to play cornerback.
"When you can do that many things and you get recruited, there is less of a chance of a mistake occurring, and you become that much more valuable," Hansen said. "He needs to work on some things like any player, and he will and he has. I am really excited about what he's going to go this season, and we will go from there and have a great college career somewhere."
The 6-foot, 200-pound Royster holds offers from Rutgers, Pittsburgh, South Carolina, Louisville, Illinois, Syracuse and West Virginia.
Praise for Schiano, Rutgers
I spent the better part of last week on the road in New Jersey, Philadelphia and Eastern Pennsylvania and New York, and one of the things that stood out was the amount of praise Rutgers coach Greg Schiano got from recruits and high school coaches in all of the areas.
New Jersey is an excellent state for talent, probably the best on the Atlantic Coast north of the Mason-Dixon Line. So obviously, the key to the success of the State University of New Jersey is warding off programs that pick up local prospects and landing players from major metropolitan areas such as Philadelphia and New York.
"[Schiano] is a great guy," said ESPNU 150 watch list defensive end Ishaq Williams of Abraham Lincoln High in New York. "I felt like he told the truth. He's straightforward. I had a long talk with him when I went up there for junior day."
Offensive lineman Angelo Mangiro (Succasunna, N.J./Roxbury) said Rutgers is recruiting him harder than anyone. The elite lineman has the Scarlet Knights under serious consideration and says Schiano and staff have been recruiting him since he was a freshman. Mangiro now has more than 20 offers, including Florida, USC and others.
Defensive tackle Al Page (New York/Christopher Columbus), made an early pledge to Rutgers because of his relationship with Schiano.
"I just liked the way he came after me and built a relationship with me," Page said. "As soon as he saw my tape, he came to my school. He couldn't talk to me; he just shook my hand. Later, he said he didn't talk to me because he didn't want to break the rules. The guy is straightforward and knows what he is talking about."
Driskel fits at UF
Florida had a big need at quarterback in the 2011 class and has filled it with the commitment of Jeff Driskel (Oviedo, Fla./Hagerty). The 6-4, 220-pounder committed to the Gators over Auburn, Alabama, Tennessee and LSU on Monday afternoon.
There perhaps isn't a better quarterback in the country that fits the mold of what Gators head coach Urban Meyer and offensive coordinator Steve Addazio want in a signal-caller. Driskel has a big arm and is fast enough -- he has been timed multiple times at 4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash -- to be a threat running the football when he has to. That translates into him having the potential to be the next great quarterback to come out of the system -- in the tradition of Tim Tebow and Alex Smith.
"I've been to a lot of places, and the atmosphere [at Florida] just felt right," Driskel said. "I have built great relationships with members of that coaching staff. They are always going to be competing in the best conference in the nation on a weekly basis."
All of college football will be watching this season when John Brantley, a drop-back-style passer, quarterbacks the Gators. There has been talk of more drop-back passing and pro sets. That's something that actually helped sell Driskel.
"I believe I will fit in because they are implementing more passes and drop-back-type plays," Driskel said. "But I still have the ability to make plays with my legs."
Driskel was the top target for the Gators at quarterback and announced Sunday, after the Nike Football Training Camp on the UF campus in Gainesville, that he was narrowing his list to Florida, Alabama, Auburn, Tennessee and LSU. Less than 24 hours later, he was committed to the Orange and Blue.
It will be interesting to see whether Florida ends up pursuing a second quarterback in this class. It's tough to sign more than one quality quarterback in a class, but their depth chart sets so that the Gators could realistically pull it off, just like they did with the 2007 class when they signed Brantley, Auburn quarterback Cameron Newton and junior college signal-caller Bryan Waggener -- who, like Newton, left the program.
Offensive lineman Austin Blythe (Williamsburg, Iowa) says he recently picked up new offers from Kansas and Wisconsin and is in the process of narrowing his list. Iowa is believed to be the team to beat for the two-sport star, who also is an all-state wrestler. Offensive lineman Antonio Cooksey (North Little Rock, Ark.) made an unofficial visit to Ole Miss recently and says the Rebels plan to come by and check on him during the evaluation period. Defensive tackle Kevin McReynolds (Washington, D.C./St. John's College) plans to make unofficial visits to both Ohio State and West Virginia this coming weekend.
J.C. Shurburtt covers recruiting for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.