- Jeremy Crabtree, RecruitingNation
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TIGARD, Ore. -- Bri'onte Dunn knew the question was coming before it was asked.
"You're going to ask me if I'm committed to Ohio State or not," said Dunn -- the nation's No. 13 running back, from Canton (Ohio) GlenOak -- during registration Tuesday for The Opening. "Man, I'm getting sick of the questions, but I know why people are curious. It's something I think about all the time, too."
Dunn has become the center of one of the nation's most heated recruiting battles.
The 6-foot-1, 222-pound back originally committed to Ohio State in September, but with the departure of Jim Tressel, schools have continued to heavily recruit him. With offers from Ohio State, Michigan, Cincinnati, Illinois, Miami, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Penn State, Tennessee and others, Dunn says he's still with the Buckeyes -- for now.
"I'm 100 percent committed ... right now," said Dunn, who rushed for more than 2,000 yards and 22 touchdowns as a junior. "I went to Ohio State's camp and spent some time with the coaches. They were excited to see what's going to happen in September. They said everything should be back on track by the time I get there. I think coach [Luke] Fickell is a good coach."
But Dunn said he's still uncertain whether he wants Fickell to be his future coach.
"I think it's too early to tell whether or not he's the right coach for the job," Dunn said. "I just want a coach that can coach really well, has some good experience and a guy that can make a program great."
Recruiting fans assume that if Dunn were to change his mind, his future destination would be Ann Arbor, but he said people shouldn't believe everything they hear.
"It's Michigan, Miami and Penn State," Dunn said. "Those are the ones that are trying to get me to change my mind the most. I'm just looking around, so you can't just assume it's going to be Michigan or Ohio State. We don't know what's going to happen in August or even later on. I'm just taking things day by day."
Dunn hopes to use the experience at The Opening to get away from the countless questions about his status.
"It'll be good to just have fun, compete and play football again," Dunn said. "This will be a good escape."
Who is that guy?
While other players had reporters hovering around them peppering them with questions, Everett (Wash.) Mariner running back KeiVarae Russell stood alone by himself taking in the scene. Eventually he walked up to a reporter and introduced himself.
"I'm KeiVarae Russell, and I'm here to make a name for myself," said Russell, a 6-foot, 175-pound three-star recruit.
"I want to make it where everywhere I go, people know who I am," he said. "Coming from Washington, you tend to get overlooked, so I want to come here and prove I'm one of the best. I'm going to be going against the best linebackers, D-ends, defensive backs; whoever I go against, I want to show that I'm one of the best in the country.
"There is a difference between being cocky and being confident. I'm confident in what I can do. I love my ability, but I'm going to keep working hard to get even better with all I do."
Russell might not be as widely known nationally as some of the other players at The Opening, but plenty of schools are well aware of him. He has scholarship offers from every program in the Pac-12, except for USC and Oregon, and Notre Dame, Purdue, Vanderbilt, Idaho and Wyoming also have offered.
"The schools I want to take visits to for sure are Cal-Berkeley, U-Dub [Washington] and Notre Dame," Russell said. "The Notre Dame visit is already set for Oct. 22 when they play USC. I already told U-Dub it would get my last visit because of the hometown, and I told Cal they would get one as well.
"I already have an idea on those three, but the other two are still up in the air. That way I can still wait and see what other schools come hard at us, and then I might take some unofficials, too."
Murphy close to setting visits
San Clemente (Calif.) High School four-star offensive tackle Kyle Murphy arrived early at registration for The Opening, but don't expect him to make an early college decision. Murphy, 6-6 and 270 pounds, is one of the nation's most heavily recruited tackle prospects, and the battle to land him is far from over.
"I haven't really narrowed it down to a top few," said Murphy, who's No. 30 in the ESPNU 150. "I've visited USC, Stanford, Cal and Oregon. I've visited all those places and liked them a lot. I'm still in contact with Florida and talk to them quite a bit."
Murphy said he's still formulating his recruiting game plan.
"Within the next couple of weeks, I'm going to sit down and start to plan out my visits, where I want to go, when I want to go, before the season, during the season or after the season," he said. "It's going to be some tough decisions, but I have a good feeling about some of the schools I've visited and want to explore other options to be sure."
No news on Neal
Good luck trying to get a read on Scottsdale (Ariz.) Chaparral four-star athlete Davonte Neal. The 5-10, 175-pound Neal said he's not even thinking about the recruiting process, despite having offers from programs from coast to coast.
"I'm not even close to making a list," said Neal, the nation's No. 28 player. "I don't have a clue who my top five, top 10 or even top 20 would be. I'm not even close. I'm just trying to stay focused on what I'm doing -- school, football and academics. When the time comes to think about college football, I'll think about it, but that time isn't now."
Neal has offers from national programs such as Clemson, Florida State, LSU, Notre Dame, Miami, Penn State, Texas A&M and most of the Pac-12.
McCarthy thinking about trips
Monrovia (Calif.) High School four-star defensive tackle Ellis McCarthy has a list that rivals that of any other player in the country with offers from almost the entire Pac-12 and national powers such as Florida, Oklahoma and Tennessee. McCarthy, No. 53 in the ESPNU 150, said he's not ready to officially narrow his list to five but several schools are in good shape.
"I know where I'm taking trips," he said. "I'm visiting Florida. I'm coming here to Oregon, maybe to Washington and definitely Cal. I don't really have to go to USC because it's real close, so that will give me a chance to visit another place."
The relationships he's built with coaches at each of those schools were key factors in helping them move to the top of McCarthy's list.
"I talk to the coaches at those schools all the time," he said. "I'm comfortable with them. When it comes to decide, education and where I feel most comfortable are going to be the biggest keys. I want to major in business, and the coaches at those schools all say they have excellent business programs."
Staying out west?
Honolulu Punahou School defensive end DeForest Buckner has offers from eight Pac-12 schools and has been linked to Notre Dame and Texas A&M, but three schools have already made the cut for official visits.
"Three that I know of are Oregon, UCLA and Cal-Berkeley," Buckner said. "I met coaches at all three schools, and they're really nice. Coach Tosh [Lupoi] at Cal is cool. He stayed and watched me work out at a practice for almost five hours in the spring. He was telling me, 'I know your mom is worried about academics, and if you are, then Cal is the place.'
"I also like coach Jerry Azzinaro at Oregon. He's really cool as well. He was telling me that some schools will try to recruit me at a certain position, and then when you get there, they will move you to a different position. If I were to commit to Oregon, they would only look at me at defensive end or drop linebacker."
A promise to not move Buckner -- who has the frame for offensive line at 6-7 and 230 pounds -- from defensive end might be the biggest key in landing his commitment.
"I'm a defensive guy," he said. "I like to get after it."
Maye has Gators out front
Defensive back Marcus Maye (Melbourne, Fla./Holy Trinity Episcopal) has been balancing between Florida and FSU for a while, but now there's a leader for the 6-1, 185-pounder.
"Florida is definitely the team to beat right now," Maye said. "FSU and Alabama are still in there, but Florida is the school that I see myself at."
Maye is looking to make a decision before his senior season begins.
"I want to get things done so I can focus on my schoolwork and put the recruiting behind me," Maye added.
UM commit Brown now recruiting for Canes
Linebacker Keith Brown (Miami, Fla./Norland) and teammate Randy "Duke" Johnson admitted to working on ESPNU 150 defensive back Deon Bush (Miami, Fla./Columbus) during the flight to Oregon, and Brown thinks it's a done deal.
"Oh yeah, Deon wants to be at Miami but he's just not going to say it yet," Brown said. "You know how those big-time prospects are. They want to wait until the last minute."
"I don't think Tracy is coming, to be honest," Brown said. "And last time I saw Ricardo, he was busy trying to get me to go to Auburn with him."
Tunsil ready for all comers
As one of three Class of 2013 prospects here, offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil (Lake City, Fla./Columbia) expects to be a target. But don't be surprised if he does a little hunting of his own.
"I know they want to beat up on the young guy a bit but I'm looking forward to the challenge and I'm going to be ready to compete," Tunsil said.
The 6-6, 280-pounder has offers from FSU, Florida, USC, South Florida, Georgia, Notre Dame and Arkansas. He recently spent time participating in the South Florida SuperBull showcase with teammate De'quan Ivery and had a chance to take coaching from the Bulls' staff at Raymond James Stadium.
"It was a nice experience, and the coaches took a lot of time to work with me," Tunsil said. "I learned a lot from them."
Erik Magnuson isn't concerned about the commitment he made to Michigan last month just because the Wolverines have a new coach -- Brady Hoke.
"The big thing is the coaches," the offensive lineman from Carlsbad (Calif.) La Costa Canyon said. "I knew the coaches for awhile at San Diego State. I've known them for awhile and saw what they could do there. I have confidence in them and I think they're going in the right direction."
Now, he's ready to help.
Magnuson, who is the No. 24 offensive tackle in the nation, is starting by recruiting fellow linemen. His main targets are Zach Banner, the 6-8, 335-pound tackle from Washington, and Kyle Murphy, the 6-7, 270-pound tackle from California. Magnuson said he would focus on the two four-star prospects this week at The Opening.
At 6-3, Lakewood (Calif.) High School Malik Gilmore gives Oregon State a long, rangy receiver. Now, Gilmore is hoping to convince a smaller speedster to join him in Corvallis, Ore.
Gilmore said he's heavily recruiting 5-8, 165-pound Richard Smith, a shifty four-star receiver from Long Beach (Calif.) Poly, who ranks as the 34th-best wideout by ESPN.
Gilmore, however, knows other prospects will be trying to sway his commitment to Oregon State.
"I'm pretty sure they will but I'm pretty solid with my commitment so I'll try to do the same thing to other players and try to get them up there to Oregon State," he said.
Athlete David Perkins declined to declare he was totally done with the recruiting process despite being committed to Notre Dame.
"I kind of think it's a commitment, but you only get to do this once," said Perkins, who plays in Notre Dame's backyard at South Bend (Ind.) Washington.
Perkins, the 39th-best athlete prospect in the country, admitted he had strong interest in Michigan State, Tennessee, Oregon, Penn State and Syracuse before committing to the Fighting Irish last month.
One four-star, Jaydon Mickens, said he's still open despite being committed to Southern California. The 54th-rated athlete from Los Angeles Dorsey said he's still considering Washington, Arizona State and California.
"Washington is standing out a lot," the 5-9, 160-pounder said. "[And] Arizona State. USC, because I'm committed there. And Cal."
"I'm 100 percent [committed to USC] but if there's something better out there for me, I would like to pursue that," he said. "USC is perfect but my family might want me to do other things."
Three and growing
Vadal Alexander, the No. 5 offensive guard in the nation, said he's down to three schools, sort of. The four-star prospect is primarily considering Alabama, Auburn and LSU, but said he plans on visiting North Carolina and Miami before announcing his decision.
The standout from Buford (Ga.) High School knows he'll shake up the Yellowhammer State if he picks Bama or the Tigers.
"It's going to be hard," the 6-5, 330-pounder said with a chuckle. "It won't be easy. There will be a lot of pressure. Hopefully I can handle it. I think I can."
Alexander said he likes Bama's tradition, coach Nick Saban and the program's structure, while Auburn has a religious, family-like feel. LSU has plenty of direct family members still living there since Alexander is originally from Louisiana.
"I'm from Louisiana so it's like my home," Alexander said. "Coach [Les] Miles is crazy but he has a great personality."
Joe Harris from Lithonia (Ga.) High School said a recent trip to Columbia, S.C., could certainly help the Gamecocks, especially when it came to wooing his mother.
"She liked it and she said it's somewhere she would like to see me go," said Harris, a four-star prospect who is rated the 14th-best guard in the nation.
Harris, however, recently described Clemson as his dream school. With family in the state, it could get interesting to see the two battle it out along with Harris' other suitors.
Despite the growing trend to commit before one's senior season, several prospects said they were still wide open. Four-star prospect Sheldon Day from Indianapolis Warren Day, the 14th-best defensive tackle in the nation, said he's not even sure how many scholarship offers he has.
Fellow four-star prospect Patrick Miller said he's just focused on finishing his high school career. The 27th-rated offensive tackle prospect from Palm Beach Gardens Dwyer did say he liked Auburn and LSU and plans to visit North Carolina, Oklahoma, Florida State and Florida.
Jeremy Crabtree is the senior recruiting coordinator for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Corey Long and Dave Hooker contributed to this story.
From Bri'onte Dunn's future at Ohio State, to an unknown with a plan to make a name for himself, to recruiting updates on some of the nation's top players, ESPN Recruiting covers it all from The Opening.