Texas an early battleground for Class of '08
If you thought the new text message ban would slow down the recruiting process, think again. Miraculously, college coaches have somehow still managed to communicate with Class of 2008 prospects, to the tune of 25 schools already with at least five verbal commitments.
So while there will be plenty of changes of hearts, plans and coaches before national signing day, these schools are making the most noise so far:
19 commits, 12 ESPN 150 watch list
Early word: As usual, Texas attacked the '08 class early and effectively. WR Dan Buckner (Allen, Texas) is among the best players in the country and will be a star, and ATH Antoine Hicks (Arlington, Texas/Timberview), a high school quarterback, brings explosive athleticism and can play wherever needed in college. Outside linebacker seems to be a position of emphasis, with already three verbals at that position.
Work to do: Class of '07 signee John Chiles was at quarterback in Texas' spring game, a clear sign that Texas needs to continue to add quarterback depth. Cornerback could also be addressed.
Luginbill says: Texas takes great pride with its in-state recruiting, and it shows. Even with competition from Oklahoma and Texas A&M, the state is so deep with talent -- and Texas is such a destination for those prospects -- that it is a perennial fixture among the top classes.
17 commits, nine ESPN 150 watch list
Early word: Taking a page out of its in-state rival's book, the Aggies also have hit the ground running with the '08 class. The secondary looks like a strong point, with three ESPN 150 watch list verbal commitments. At only 5-11, 180 pounds, CB Jordan Fields (Paris, Texas) isn't big yet, but he plays the run physically -- a huge asset for any defensive coordinator.
Work to do: The Aggies may not need a big-time running back in this class. They signed three top-25 running backs in the '06 class and ESPN 150 running back Bradley Stephens last year, though as USC has proven, you can never have enough talent in the backfield. It can use a playmaker at wide receiver that makes opposing defensive coordinators take notice.
Luginbill says: An impressive on-field performance in 2006 upped its exposure and made kids pay attention. Continued success will make future in-state prospects face a tougher decision. QB Tommy Dorman (North Richland, Texas/Birdville), much like Class of '07 QB Robert Marve (Miami-FL signee), has tremendous upside.
13 commits, nine ESPN 150 watch list
Early word: UCLA has made an early statement this year that California's top prospects are not just USC's for the taking -- of its 13 commits, 12 are in-state. Karl Dorrell made it a point to get back to recruiting Los Angeles, and after signing four L.A. prospects last year, he already has three L.A. verbals this year. Texan RB Aundre Dean (Katy) was a nice steal from Big 12 country.
Work to do: UCLA needs to address the offensive line. It signed only one O-lineman last year and has no verbals so far there this year. If it doesn't, it will need to either sign a kid to step right in next year or go the junior college route.
Luginbill says: UCLA is taking advantage of more scholarships to work with. QB Nick Crissman is a name you'll hear a lot over the summer and through his senior season -- he'll be a hot commodity and someone UCLA will want to hold on to.
12 commits, nine ESPN 150 watch list
Early word: Safe to say Charlie Weis has gotten the hang of this recruiting thing. With so many outstanding skill players in tow after the last two classes, depth and toughness on the defensive line and with the linebacking corps is the probable emphasis of this class. Writers and broadcasters armed with one-liners will pray QB commit Dayne Crist (Canoga Park, Calif./Notre Dame) thrives in the land of Touchdown Jesus.
Work to do: Defense, defense, defense. The Irish's best bet is to get as much defensive depth as possible to start turning around their much-maligned unit. Also, after losing out on ESPN 150 WR Arrelious Benn (Illinois signee) last year, they could use another big-time wideout.
Luginbill says: New defensive coordinator Corwin Brown brings the 3-4 defense, so the Irish need to recruit to it. Lucky for them, Class of '07 DE Kerry Neal is an outstanding fit for that scheme.
Eight commits, eight ESPN 150 watch list
Early word: The border war is back on. Not to be outdone by Texas and Texas A&M, Oklahoma has staked its own claim in Texas, snagging six commits. Running back Jermie Calhoun (Van, Texas) is the best of bunch, a 6-0, 210 pound freight train who should continue the excellent Sooner lineage at that position.
Work to do: Could use a playmaker at wide receiver and some linebacker help on the outside.
Luginbill says: There's a huge void at quarterback right now, so QB commit Landry Jones (Artesia, N.M) is an important verbal. If Oklahoma has an answer at quarterback this year and next year, it could be a national title contender.
10 commits, seven ESPN 150 watch list
Early word: This class is already scary good at the skill positions. 6-4 WR A.J. Green's (Ridgeville, S.C./Summerville) speed and athleticism for his size already has Bulldog fans salivating. With two talented running backs -- Richard Samuel (Cartersville, Ga./Cass), who will only be 17 when he enrolls next fall, and Martin Ward (Jonesboro, Ga./Mount Zion) -- and ATH Bacarri Rambo (Donalsonville, Ga./Seminole County) verbally committed, Georgia is set there. Seven of its ten commits are in-state.
Work to do: It could use some depth on defense, particularly along the line and at linebacker.
Luginbill says: If Georgia goes after a quarterback this year, it may be a depth guy instead of a big-time guy. With Matthew Stafford getting playing time last year and Logan Gray signed in the Class of '07, it won't look for another premier signal caller until next year. Plenty of SEC teams will get their share of ESPN 150 prospects, but it's good for Georgia that it got a head start.
Henry Gola is the recruiting editor for ESPN.com.
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