July 31, 2007

Atlantic East prospect breakdown

The recruiting race for many of the nation's top prospects is hitting full gear as we approach the season. Rivals.com recruiting analyst Mike Farrell brings you the latest on 25 of the Atlantic East region's best prospects, and gives you his thoughts on which teams he feels are in good position to land them at this point and which schools could surprise. Here's the breakdown.

Top 25 uncommitted in the Atlantic East

Terrelle Pryor, QB, Jeannette (Pa.)

Pryor in action

Preseason take: Ohio State has reportedly been his leader for quite some time, and a good visit to Columbus for camp in June didn't hurt things. He took an unofficial visit to West Virginia in July and came away impressed. Pryor hopes to narrow his list down to six schools soon. The Buckeyes are a sure-fire official visit destination, and his relationship with current Ohio State commitments only helps the cause.

Team to Beat: Ohio State

Darkhorse: West Virginia

Will Hill, ATH, Jersey City (N.J.) St. Peter's Prep

Hill in action

Preseason take: Hill has been very quiet about the recruiting process, but his recent visit to Florida for Friday Night Lights and subsequent comments from St. Peter's coach Rich Hansen make the Gators a near lock. Hill will visit Florida officially on the weekend of Sept. 14 when the Gators play host to Tennessee. A commitment should follow.

Team to Beat: Florida

Darkhorse: USC

Shayne Hale, LB, Monroeville (Pa.) Gateway

Hale in action

Preseason take: Hale is another quiet prospect when it comes to talking about recruiting, but the big linebacker has narrowed down his choices to four schools - Michigan, Ohio State, Virginia and West Virginia. There has been much talk about Hale and teammate Cameron Saddler picking a school as a package deal. If they do so, then Michigan is in good shape. However, Virginia and West Virginia have also offered both.

Team to Beat: Michigan

Darkhorse: West Virginia

Deion Walker, WR, Christchurch (Va.)

Walker in action

Preseason take: Walker has been to numerous schools this summer, with a few more trips scheduled before the summer ends. His best visit was to Florida State, and his relationship with Seminoles commitment E.J. Manuel could be a key factor. LSU, Michigan, Notre Dame, Nebraska and others have been good trips for Walker, and don't count out Penn State. However, most feel this will come down to FSU and USC.

Team to Beat: Florida State

Darkhorse: USC

Jonathan Baldwin, TE, Aliquippa (Pa.)

Baldwin in action

Preseason take: Baldwin's list has been trimmed to six solid contenders with local favorite Pitt trying to hold off programs like Miami, Michigan, Notre Dame, Florida and USC. There had been a few rumors of an early commitment to the Panthers, but Baldwin will most likely take some official visits and decide later in the fall.

Team to Beat: Pitt

Darkhorse: Notre Dame

Lamaar Thomas, ATH, Fort Washington (Md.) Friendly

Thomas in action

Preseason take: The Maryland speedster wants to make a decision in September if he can, and Ohio State is the clear favorite. Thomas loved his visit to Columbus and the comparisons to Ted Ginn. Florida was a worry for the Buckeyes, but Thomas didn't come away from Gainesville swayed off of OSU as his leader. Illinois and recruiting star Mike Locksley will push and make this interesting. Tennessee might still get a visit.

Team to Beat: Ohio State

Darkhorse: Illinois

Brendan Beal, LB, Bethlehem (Pa.) Liberty

Beal in action

Preseason take: Beal has two clear favorites heading into his official visits. Florida and USC are neck-and-neck for his services. Boston College, where his dad played football, will be a consideration as well. However, look for an October decision between the two mega-powers.

Team to Beat: USC

Darkhorse: Florida

Ryan Williams, RB, Manassas (Va.) Stonewall Jackson

Williams in action

Preseason take: Williams makes Will Hill and Shayne Hale look downright gabby when it comes to talking about recruiting. Williams has visited Virginia Tech, Rutgers, Pitt, UConn, North Carolina and N.C. State this summer. A trip to Notre Dame is also expected. The Hokies are the local power, and his coach (Loren Johnson) is a former player at Tech. Blacksburg could be the destination.

Team to Beat: Virginia Tech

Darkhorse: Pitt

Brandon Smith, ATH, New Brunswick (N.J.)

Smith in action

Preseason take: Smith has a top five of Michigan, Wisconsin, South Carolina, Rutgers and N.C. State heading into the season and hopes to take official visits to all of them. Michigan is high on his short list, and Wisconsin also stands out a bit. He won't make a decision anytime soon, and everyone has a shot. This could end up being a Big Ten showdown.

Team to Beat: Michigan

Darkhorse: Wisconsin

Kenny Tate, WR, Hyattsville (Md.) DeMatha

Tate in action

Preseason take: Tate is another player who likes to play things low-key when it comes to recruiting attention. Tate visited Florida for Friday Night Lights and came away impressed, but he's not close to narrowing his list. Ohio State, Notre Dame, Illinois and Maryland will all likely stay in the mix, with the Terps having a good shot at keeping him home.

Team to Beat: Maryland

Darkhorse: Notre Dame

Vinston Painter, OT, Norfolk (Va.) Maury

Painter in action

Preseason take: Painter has listed Virginia Tech and Florida at the top of his list for a long time. However, Georgia, Penn State and others will also get looks. The Gators are tempting, but this one seems to have little drama. It would be stunning if the Hokies didn't keep Painter home.

Team to Beat: Virginia Tech

Darkhorse: Florida

Terrell Manning, LB, Laurinburg (N.C.) Scotland County

Manning in action

Preseason take: Manning could make his decision as early as this week, and N.C. State is the team to beat. However, he also likes Clemson and Virginia Tech. Manning has been in contact with Dwayne Maddox and Brandon Barnes, both N.C. State commitments, and it would be a surprise if the Wolfpack fell short.

Team to Beat: N.C. State

Darkhorse: Clemson

Averin Collier, WR, Churchville (N.Y.) Churchville-Chili

Collier in action

Preseason take: Collier's brother, Kevin, is a running back at Pitt, and Averin is expected to commit to the Panthers before the season starts. Others like Rutgers and Syracuse are in the mix as well, but the family connection and his relationship with the coaches and current players should be too strong to beat.

Team to Beat: Pitt

Darkhorse: Syracuse

J.B. Fitzgerald, LB, Princeton Junction (N.J.) West

Fitzgerald in action

Preseason take: Fitzgerald is down to five schools - Florida, Michigan, Iowa, Rutgers and Georgia Tech - and has visited all of them unofficially. He wants to make a decision on his birthday, Nov. 13, so official visits could be doubtful. Right now the favorites are Michigan and Florida, with Rutgers also in the mix.

Team to Beat: Michigan

Darkhorse: Florida

Masengo Kabongo, DT, Fairfield (Conn.) Fairfield College Prep

Kabongo in action

Preseason take: Kabongo has had three schools on top - Maryland, Florida and Notre Dame - for quite some time. He's been hoping for an offer from the Irish. However, with their early success and a class that's almost full, an offer from Notre Dame doesn't seem likely. Kabongo didn't make it down to Friday Night Lights at Florida, so it looks like Maryland is comfortably in the driver's seat.

Team to Beat: Maryland

Darkhorse: NC State

Spencer Adams, S, Matthews (N.C.) Butler

Adams in action

Preseason take: Adams appears headed out of state, with Florida and Clemson the likely destination. Miami, Michigan and in-state schools North Carolina and N.C. State are also in the mix, but Adams has long favored the Gators and Tigers. His teammate and friend Eddie Whitley recently committed to Virginia Tech, so the Hokies could make a move - but it's unlikely.

Team to Beat: Clemson

Darkhorse: Florida

E.J. Abrams-Ward, ATH, Thomasville (N.C.)

Abrams-Ward in action

Preseason take: Try to get in touch with Abrams-Ward, we dare you. He's been ducking the recruiting attention for months, so it's hard to get a read on the big athlete. Clemson, South Carolina and Tennessee are out-of-state options, but North Carolina and N.C. State covet him big-time.

Team to Beat: North Carolina

Darkhorse: Clemson

Marcus Sales, WR, Syracuse (N.Y.) Christian Brothers

Sales in action

Preseason take: Sales didn't visit too many schools this summer, so his five official visits will determine where he ends up playing his college football. Louisville, Pitt, Syracuse, Virginia, Miami and North Carolina are all in the mix. His quarterback last year - Mike Paulus - is at North Carolina, so the Heels might have an edge. However, staying home in Syracuse is also a possibility.

Team to Beat: Pitt

Darkhorse: Syracuse

Jarred Holley, CB, Easton (Pa.)

Holley in action

Preseason take: Holley took an unofficial visit to West Virginia this summer, although the quiet cornerback hasn't commented on it much. Holley has more than 20 offers and hasn't publicly narrowed down his list, but look for Michigan, Stanford and a few others to get an official visit. West Virginia, Pitt and Penn State should all be in the mix if he wants to stay local.

Team to Beat: Michigan

Darkhorse: Stanford

Reggie Ellis, DT, Washington (D.C.) Dunbar

Ellis in action

Preseason take: Ellis is down to eight schools. He wants to visit all of them before making a decision, but it's doubtful he'll be able to do that. Alabama, Boston College, Maryland, Michigan, Penn State and Pitt all have a shot if he takes an official visit. Illinois is the leader, followed by Rutgers. Ellis' former teammates Vontae Davis and Arrelious Benn are already playing for Ron Zook.

Team to Beat: Illinois

Darkhorse: Rutgers

Christian Wilson, LB, McKees Rocks (Pa.) Montour

Wilson in action

Preseason take: Wilson seems to want to play running back at the next level, which gives a few teams a distinct advantage. Louisville has made a strong push of late, and Michigan, Rutgers, Clemson, North Carolina and others are also in the mix. Official visits will tell the tale.

Team to Beat: Michigan

Darkhorse: Louisville

Quinton Coples, DE, Kinston (N.C.)

Coples in action

Preseason take: Coples has the two big in-state offers from North Carolina and NC State. He also has out-of-state tenders from Florida, Florida State, Ohio State, Tennessee and others. He doesn't have a short list yet, but many feel that North Carolina is the team to beat.

Team to Beat: North Carolina

Darkhorse: Tennessee

A.J. Alexander, ATH, Altoona (Pa.)

Alexander in action

Preseason take: Alexander had been committed to Florida State but had a change of heart in July. He will take official visits to FSU, Penn State, Tennessee, Virginia Tech and West Virginia before deciding. The Seminoles still have a shot, but Penn State is now in the driver's seat.

Team to Beat: Penn State

Darkhorse: Florida State

Hubie Graham, TE, Scranton (Pa.) West Scranton

Graham in action

Preseason take: Graham has a long list of schools still under consideration. He wants to narrow things down and take official visits soon. Pitt, UCLA, Iowa, Oklahoma, Michigan, Rutgers, Syracuse, Clemson, Georgia Tech, Illinois and Minnesota have made the early cut. The Bruins are certain to get an official visit. It's hard to determine who wins this battle.

Team to Beat: Pitt

Darkhorse: Iowa

D.J. Coles, WR, Goochland (Va.)

Preseason take: Coles has been quiet about recruiting, but most expect him to make a commitment before the season starts. Many think he already knows his destination. Virginia Tech, Virginia and West Virginia are all local schools who have offered. The Hokies clearly expected to win this battle.

Team to Beat: Virginia Tech

Darkhorse: West Virginia

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