Commentary

Dan O'Brien names two favorites

Who the three-star DT likes, plus Miami's moves and more notes from The Opening

Updated: July 6, 2011, 10:36 PM ET
By Dave Hooker and Corey Long | ESPN Recruiting

BEAVERTON, Ore. -- Dan O'Brien isn't sure which schools will make the cut, except for two.

"Michigan and Tennessee will definitely be in there for sure," the three-star defensive tackle said Wednesday between events at The Opening at Nike World Headquarters.

The 6-foot-2, 285-pounder has 16 scholarship offers, including Alabama, Florida, Michigan, Michigan State, Iowa, Syracuse, Cincinnati, Illinois, Indiana and, of course, Michigan and Tennessee.

The hometown Wolverines have obvious appeal for the Flint (Mich.) L.M. Powers standout. There's proximity, a great relationship with Michigan's coaching staff and a memorable visit last month that was highlighted by a long chat with first-year coach Brady Hoke.

Tennessee, however, had a head start.

"Tennessee has been with me since the first step," O'Brien said. "That's the first school to offer me and the first school to recruit me."

O'Brien said he has a great relationship with four or five coaches on UT's staff, including linebacker coach Peter Sirmon. O'Brien has been so drawn to Knoxville that he's visited UT's campus three times.

One in the hand?
Deon Bush knows what most are thinking: that he's a lock to play for his hometown Miami Hurricanes.

Yet, the Miami (Fla.) Christoper Columbus star maintains he's still considering Florida State (his favorite childhood team), Auburn, LSU, Alabama and possibly even Purdue, where his brother plays.

But when he talks about Miami, it's easy to see why many think he'll be a Hurricane.

"That's a great school," the four-star athlete said. "It's close to home. That's probably the best situation as far as finding [early] playing time. It's a great place."

So does Miami lead for Bush's services?

"I wouldn't say it's a lead yet," said Bush, the No. 5 safety in the country. "That's great what they offer me, but I want to look at other places, too."

Bush said he likes LSU because former Tigers cornerback Patrick Peterson caught his eye.

As for Auburn, Bush said, "I like their coaching staff. Coach [Gene] Chizik is a real cool person, a family man. It's like a family atmosphere around there. They just won a national championship. That's another good thing."

Bush, who says he doesn't know when he'll make his decision, also has grown fond of his Auburn recruiter, Trooper Taylor, who has had success for various teams while recruiting in South Florida.

"That's got to be one of the best guys," he said. "I've never met a coach like Trooper."

Another coach, Alabama's Nick Saban, offers a great chance for improvement with his hands-on coaching style in the secondary.

"He gets a lot of people in the NFL," Bush said. "He's great at what he does."

Bush has family in Tallahassee and has been impressed with the talent Florida State is amassing.

"I want to play with the best and I want to play against the best," he said.

Purdue has his brother and a familiar feel but seems to be a bit of a dark horse. All other schools might be as well if it's too tough for Bush to leave Miami.

"I won't say 'tough,'" said Bush, who said he plans to take all five of his official visits this fall. "I'm just going to go to the best place for me."

Miami man
One player who will admit to leaning toward the Hurricanes is Lucas Thompson.

"I think Miami is the spot," said Thompson, the No. 11 safety in the country.

Thompson said he might commit to the Canes in August but also is interested in exploring other options. He already has visited Miami and South Carolina, and would like to return to those schools on official trips. He's also planning official visits to Louisville and West Virginia.

The four-star Winter Garden (Fla.) West Orange athlete said he plans to take his five official visits even if he commits this summer.

Dunn likes Fickell
Running back Bri'onte Dunn (Canton, Ohio/Glenoak) is a fan of interim Ohio State coach Luke Fickell.

"I would like to play for coach Fickell," Dunn said. "I think he's a good coach and he loves Ohio State. I have built up a good relationship with him."

The 6-foot, 220-pounder is an Ohio State commit but could prove to be a tough one to hold on to if the NCAA decides to punish the program.

"I'm going to wait until August to see what happens with Ohio State; hopefully nothing will happen, but that's why I'm keeping my options open," Dunn said.

Those options are Michigan, Penn State and Miami. Dunn already has been to Michigan.

"The Michigan coaching staff is great. I liked everything there and my parents liked everything," Dunn said. "I'm planning on visiting Penn State and Miami."

Dunn says the shock of Jim Tressel's resignation has worn off a little.

"I was surprised, I was hurt, but you have to move on," Dunn said. "I'm here to play for Ohio State."

Russell ready to represent Washington
Three-star running back KeiVarae Russell (Everett, Wash./Mariner) is ready to prove the Northwest has a strong talent base.

"I've been hearing about players from Washington so much from reporters and everyone, and they just don't seem to respect us as much as the players from the South and the East," Russell said. "I think recently with guys like Kasen Williams, this state has gotten on the map a little bit. This year me, Zach Banner, Josh Garnett, we are showing everyone that the Northwest does [have] players."

There is much interest in the 5-11, 172-pound athlete, and although he says he has no leaders, he seems to be leaning toward three programs.

"The top three, if I had to chose, it would be Washington, Notre Dame and California," Russell said. "I have an official already set for Notre Dame when they play USC.

"Washington will be the final visit, and I haven't set up Cal yet. I plan on taking all five official visits."

Although it's natural to think that the hometown school has an advantage by hosting Russell last, he says that's not necessarily the case.

"I am going to Washington last because they are the hometown team but I don't think it's an advantage," Russell said. "To be honest, I'm all about the first impressions, so the first school I visit is going to set the pace and if they make a strong impression, it's going to be tough for the other schools."

Some schools are recruiting Russell as a running back and others as more of a slot player -- a position at which he believes he can excel.

"Washington wants me as more of a slot guy and a return specialist; Cal wants me to be a running back," Russell said. "I think I'm going to play the slot because that's the position these days. The Percy Harvin type of guy that can just make plays."

Regardless of which school he goes to and which position he's asked to play, Russell is aiming high in the classroom and expects his future school to fill his needs academically as well.

"It's all about academics for me," Russell said. "If you get a degree from Cal or Notre Dame, you are set for life, and Washington's academics are getting stronger each year.

"They are on the rise on the field as well. Notre Dame never really fell down, at least not as much as people think."

Banner says size doesn't matter
Coming in at around 6-foot-9, offensive lineman Zach Banner (Puyallup, Wash./Puyallup) isn't worried about getting taller.

"I might get taller, I understand that, but to be honest, our workouts are so intense, I feel like I could be the NFL's first 6-foot-11 lineman," Banner said.

The height issue forces Banner to be even sharper on technique and fundamentals.

"I have to do a lot of different things than most other linemen," Banner said. "I have to sit down more on my pass blocking and on run block I have to get my hips lower, but I'm not going to use that as an excuse. I'm going to do whatever it takes to succeed."

Banner also is no stranger to the basketball court and is willing to take on all detractors.

"I can't believe some of these guys think I can't dunk; I find that disrespectful," Banner said. "I don't know what all this hype is about that Zach Banner can't dunk, but if we have to get on this basketball court back here where LeBron [James] plays, let's do it."

Dave Hooker covers recruiting in the Southeast and Atlantic Coast for ESPN.com. He can be reached at davehookerespn@gmail.com. Corey Long covers recruiting in Florida for ESPN.com. He can be reached at coreyespn@gmail.com.

Dave Hooker

Reporter, RecruitingNation

Corey Long

Reporter, RecruitingNation