Commentary

Texas boasts best early recruiting haul for 2009

Originally Published: June 6, 2008
By Tom Luginbill | Scouts Inc.

Garrett GilbertGilbert familyESPN 150 Watch List QB Garrett Gilbert highlights Texas' already stellar 2009 class.
With May and early June continuing the rash of early verbal commitments, including running back Trent Richardson to Alabama and quarterbacks Richard Brehaut (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif./Los Osos) to UCLA and Jon Budmayr (Woodstock, Ill./Marion Central Catholic) to Wisconsin, now is as good a time as any to look at what schools are making the biggest splash just four months into the unofficial 2009 recruiting calendar year. With this many early verbal commitments and the increased talk of an early signing period, you can bet these programs would love to have these kids locked up sooner rather than later so they could focus their efforts on filling the rest of the holes in their rosters.

Nonetheless, it doesn't look as though an early period will be coming anytime soon, thus the recruiting battles will wage on for committed and uncommitted players alike. The following 10 teams seem to be on the verge of a great class in 2009. For some it's the same old, same old, and for others a change in a program's forecast could come from posting another quality class to build on a promising 2008 group.

Obviously it is extremely early in the process and many of these teams will rise and fall, but these programs definitely have a leg up as we head into the summer.

Top 2009 recruiting classes (June 2008)
(verbal commitments as of June 6, 2008)

19 verbal commitments
What else is new? If ever there was a proponent for an early signing period, it would be Mack Brown's Texas program. Most importantly, it has hit the marks at quarterback in Garrett Gilbert (Austin, Texas/Lake Travis) and on the offensive line. Cornerback Marcus Davis (League City, Texas/Cleer Creek) is very talented and physical. Why no one is talking about TE Barrett Matthews (Houston/North Shore), we have no idea. If RB Chris Whaley (Madisonville, Texas) pans out, then Texas may have filled its running back need, but we feel Whaley could still end up at another position.

12 verbal commitments
[+] EnlargeRussell Shepard
Tom Hauck for ESPN.comLSU commit Russell Shepard can do it all from the quarterback position.
Funny how winning national titles always seems to bolster the following year's recruiting class. Les Miles and his staff have a verbal commitment from arguably this class' best all-around athlete in ATH/QB Russell Shepard (Houston/Cy-Ridge), an absolute nightmare with the ball in his hands. Cornerback Janzen Jackson (Lake Charles, La./Barbe) is very talented and a great tackler. If DT/OG Josh Downs (Bastrop, La.) were two inches taller, he would be much more widely coveted. Excellent overall speed in this class.

11 verbal commitments
The team expected to win the SEC and compete for a national title is recruiting like it. Quarterbacks Aaron Murray (Tampa, Fla./Plant Senior) and Zach Mettenberger (Watkinsville, Ga./Oconee County) are a good problem to have for Mark Richt -- both are outstanding. RB Washaun Ealey (Twin City, Ga./Emanuel County Institute) does not get the notoriety he deserves. Ealey's teammate Dexter Moody can run on defense and OG Chris Burnette (LaGrange, Ga./Troupe County Institute) adds depth and talent to the offensive line as one of the best guards in this class.

16 verbal commitments
[+] EnlargeDorian Bell
Tom Hauck for ESPN.comLinebacker Dorian Bell is one of 10 ESPN 150 Watch List prospects committed to Ohio State.
Yes, the Buckeyes have 16 commitments and this class is very strong, but we cannot put Ohio State ahead of LSU and Georgia until these prospects prove their worth on the field. Outside linebacker Dorian Bell (Monroeville, Pa./Gateway) is a special talent and will fill needed depth once he arrives. Center Jack Mewhort (Toledo, Ohio/St. John) is very underrated and talented. Defensive front help is a need and DE Melvin Fellows (Garfield Heights, Ohio) and DT John Simon (Youngstown, Ohio/Cardinal Mooney) are both excellent additions. Wide receiver Chris Fields (Painesville, Ohio/Thomas W. Harvey) can run and has return abilities as well.

11 verbal commitments
We think the Trojans will have a better class this year than they did last year and are adding needed depth on the offensive line led by OT Kevin Graf and at linebacker with ILB Vontaze Burfict (Corona, Calif./Centennial). Much-needed speed is on the way at wide receiver with Randall Carroll (Los Angeles/Cathedral) and De'von Flournoy (Van Nuys, Calif./Birmingham). In a couple of years, USC may have college football's best tight end tandem in Morrell Presley (Los Angeles/Carson) and Blake Ayles. And let's not forget the highlight of the class, talented and polished QB Matt Barkley (Santa Ana, Calif./Mater Dei).

Eight verbal commitments
There is something in the water in Clemson, S.C., because it is on the verge -- if it continues this pace -- of having another stellar recruiting class in 2009. Luring safety Craig Loston (Aldine, Texas/Eisenhower) out of Texas as well as Devonte Holloman (Charlotte, N.C./Independence) when last year's class featured excellent defensive backs is impressive. Linebacker Eric Fields (Warner Robins, Ga./Northside) may be another Sean Spence (2008 Miami signee).

12 verbal commitments
[+] EnlargeJustin Chaisson
Greg Cava/Bishop Gorman athleticsJustin Chaisson is one of the top prospects from Nevada in the '09 class.
The Sooners are doing an excellent job filling needs in the secondary with CB Steve Williams (Dallas/Skyline) and two safeties. They also have a potent group of front seven stalwarts led by DE Justin Chaisson (Las Vegas/Bishop Gorman). It is obvious Oklahoma is recruiting defense, and underrated tackling machine Tom Wort (New Braunfels, Texas) fits the Oklahoma linebacker mold.

11 verbal commitments
Head coach-in-waiting Jimbo Fisher seems to be paying dividends as far as the future of this program is concerned as prospects are joining up with the Seminoles earlier than ever before. Defensive tackle Jacobbi McDaniel (Madison, Fla./Madison County) headlines this speedy, athletic group. Despite signing QB E.J. Manuel in the 2008 class, the Seminoles still need another topflight signal-caller in our opinion. Normally a closer near signing day, FSU is off to a hot start.

Eight verbal commitments
Michigan is here at No. 9 because recruiting is not only about getting the best players, but also about the right ones. You can already see the transformation taking shape in terms of where this roster is headed. The one question is which athlete/quarterback will be moved to another position -- Shavodrick Beaver (Wichita Falls, Texas/Rider) or Kevin Newsome (Chesapeake, Va./Western Branch)? The addition of WR Bryce McNeal (Minneapolis/Breck School) is huge.

11 verbal commitments
Joe Pa continues to lure talent to State College and is off to a fast start, rare for this program as we sit here in June. Cornerback Darrell Givens (Indian Head, Md./Lackey) can really run and OT Eric Shrive (Scranton, Pa./West Scranton) is a workhorse on both sides of the ball. Cornerback Stephon Morris (Greenbelt, Md./Eleanor Roosevelt) had a nice showing at the Penn State Nike camp.

On the cusp: UCLA, Alabama, Auburn, North Carolina, West Virginia.

Bill Conley, Craig Haubert and Billy Tucker contributed to this story.

Tom Luginbill is the national director of recruiting for Scouts Inc. Luginbill is a college football and recruiting studio analyst for ESPNU.

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