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November 21, 2003

On The Recruiting Trail

This week's edition of On The Recruiting Trail tackles the following hot topics:

1. The Service Academies (editorial)
2. Rivalry Week
3. Oklahoma on a roll
4. Quarterback trio visit UCLA
5. Special Announcements (please read)

Serving the nation:
I've written on the topic of football recruiting for more than 10 years now, and I can tell you that I've never really focused much on the football recruiting efforts of the Army, Navy and Air Force.

The service academies just don't regsiter on the national recruiting scene too often.

But with Veteran's Day passing last week and the nationally-televised Army-Navy game on the horizon, I thought it would be a good time to give the guys who give it up for their teams and for their country more credit.

When it comes to priorities, few student-athletes have them in order like the players who go on to suit up for the nation's service academies.

With no athletic-only scholarships to issue, the staffs at Army, Navy and Air Force must rely on players who are "committed" on a whole different level than what we typically associate with recruiting.

But that doesn't mean they don't compete for some of the nation's top talent. Minnesota's Jerod Arlich, the No. 9 fullback in the nation, is considering Navy and has an official visit set up for January.

Rising New Jersey linebacker Bo Olsen has Army listed among his favorites and an official visit slated for the big Army-Navy weekend Dec. 5.

Air Force has its eye on California offensive tackle Steve Gatena, Texas center John Walden and Texas safety Bug Aymond.

Georgia sleeper wideout Nelson Faerber is considering all three service academies.

Let's be clear, the academies will never return to their glory days of the 40s, 50s and 60s.

But it's important to mention these players and these great institutions. Their place, not only in our country, but in college football as a whole, should be rightly etched in our minds forever.

For those veterans reading this or for the many of you who are still in the service, I'd like to say thank you from the rest of us.


Huge weekend on tap:
There are big weekends, and then there are big weekends.

None come any more grand than Saturday's edition, a.k.a. "Rivalry Week."

Bragging rights and recruiting wars alike can be settled as some of the nation's most heated rivalries are on tap.

Ohio State at Michigan; Alabama at Auburn; UCLA at USC; Clemson at South Carolina; Oregon State at Oregon and Washington State at Washington.

Just typing in these games gives me an old-fashioned case of goose bumps that only the excitement of fall Saturdays can produce.

Here's a closer look at three of the marquee matchups and the possible recruiting implications:

From the standpoint of the BCS, the Buckeyes and Wolverines represent the game of the week. Both teams still have a legit shot at playing for the national title if they win the Battle of the Big House on Saturday and if things break their way. They'll also have a handful of the nation's elite prospects getting a close look at them as five-star cornerback Theodore Ginn Jr., four-star wide receiver Adrian Arrington, four-star offensive lineman Brett Gallimore and four-star offensive lineman Brandon Braxton take in the game at the Big House.

Many consider Ginn, the nation's top-rated corner, to be an Ohio State lean at this point, but don't underestimate what a decisive Wolverine victory could do to swing things in the other direction.

From the standpoint of sheer intensity, it won't get any hotter than Alabama and Auburn. There aren't any major bowl aspirations at stake but there are coaching rumors swirling and there will be a definite impact in recruiting.

One homegrown playerwho will be keeping a close eye on what happens down on the Plains will be Marcus Carter, who gave an early verbal to Auburn, but may now be considering a jump to Bama.

Meanwhile, at USC, the Trojans are hoping to keep their national title hopes alive against a UCLA team chomping at the bit to wreck their season. The Bruins are also looking to salvage a seventh win and a bowl berth, not to mention sticking close to the red-hot Trojans in the Rivals100 team rankings.

USC currently ranks No. 3 behind only Texas and Oklahoma, while UCLA has been surprisingly good at No. 11 thus far.

The teams are going head-to-head for such California stars as quarterback Rocky Hinds and offensive lineman Thomas Herring.

Adrian Peterson, the nation's No. 1 prospect, is one of three star players scheduled to make an official visit to USC this weekend. The other two are Florida safety Kenny Ingram and New Jersey athlete Dwayne Jarrett.


Sooner or later:
It may only be a matter of time before Oklahoma puts together a formidable recruiting class to rival its on-field domination this season.

The Sooners have climbed to No. 2 in the Rivals100 team rankings and are poised to overtake Texas in the not-so-distant future, aided by the recent addition of four-star Georgia athlete Ramarcus Brown. He gave his verbal to Bob Stoops & Co. after visiting Norman for last weekend's game against Baylor, picking Oklahoma over home state Georgia. That shows you just how strong the Sooners' visibility and attraction is at this point, to pluck such a highly-touted player out of the Peach State at this stage in the game.

Oklahoma already has the nation's top pro-style quarterback, Rhett Bomar, on board. Now it turns attention to adding premier running back and No. 1 overall player Adrian Peterson and top tight end Zach Miller, among a slew of other standouts.

As Keith Jackson would say, "Whooooa Nellie!"

By the way, Keith will be in Ann Arbor calling the Michigan-Ohio State game tomorrow.


Quarterbacks 'R' Us:
Last week saw an unusual convergence of top quarterbacks visiting one school on the same day as Washington's Matt Tuiasosopo, Missouri's Chase Patton and Oregon's Erik Ainge each took in UCLA's game against Oregon.

All three players are four-star prospects, which likely led to some interesting conversation and evaluation of each other during the weekend.

"I thought that would be a weird situation to be in with them there," Patton said. "But when I was there, it turned out to be alright."

Ironically, Ainge and Patton are scheduled to cross paths again this weekend as they visit Tennessee. Which begs the question: Will one try to beat the other to the punch on his school of choice?

"He and I are staying in touch," Patton said. "We are not trying to keep it a secret as to where we are going. We'll keep each other informed."

The Bruins, who are also in on four-star California product Rocky Hinds, appear to be in a decent position to land at least one of the nation's top signal callers.


Special Announcement:
As many of you that follow recruiting closely are aware, Student Sports has long been a name associated with quality coverage of high school athletics and recruiting. I'm personally very happy to be working with Greg Biggins again, as well as with other members of the Student Sports staff, including president Andy Bark.

Suffice to say, we think the addition of Student Sports and the people that make their company go is good for the readers of the Rivals.com network and will only make the product you receive better.

Additionally, we're very proud that Rivals.com's own Mike Farrell has become a fixture as a recruiting expert on ESPN News' college football show. Mike provides analysis and commentary for the program.

Mike's recent article on a Pennsylvania sophomore shows just how committed he is to providing the best product he can for readers everywhere.

And one final note...

We have a new feature debuting on Sunday night. We're going to start having chats with our experts and with recruits as recruiting season winds. On tap on Sunday night at 8 p.m. central is Rivals100 lineman Cedric Dockery, who has commited to play for the Texas Longhorns.

For those of you interested, Rivals100.com editor Jeremy Crabtree will be announcing a full chat schedule early next week.


EDITOR'S NOTE: On The Recruiting Trail will not appear next Friday because of the Thanksgiving Holiday. It will resume in December.



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