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Thursday, August 22, 2013
Top programs start fast for 2015 class

By Gerry Hamilton

RecruitingNation released its first ever ESPN junior 300 in mid-July, and a slew of already committed prospects have put six programs off to an electric start in the 2015 recruiting cycle. With the college season just days away, here are the fast starters with future commitments on the horizon.

Alabama: Total 2015 Commits: 5; ESPN 300 commits: 5 -- Alabama sits atop the 2014 class rankings headed into the 2013 season, and the class of 2015 is already shaping up as more of the same. The Crimson Tide have already secured a quarterback in the class with the early August commitment of Ricky Town (Ventura, Calif./Saint Bonaventure). The 6-foot-4 Town is the No. 2 ranked pocket passer in the junior class and has polished mechanics and the ability to excel in multiple sets. Running back DeSherrius Flowers (Prichard, Al./Vigor High) is a physical runner who racks up yards after contact. Offensive guard Dallas Warmack (Atlanta, Ga./Benjamin E. Mays High) is the brother of former All-American guard Chance Warmack. Defensively, Mekhi Brown (Columbus, Ga./Carver High) is one of the top DE/OLB hybrids in the junior class with a quickly developing frame. Safety Deionte Thompson (Orange, Texas/West Orange Stark) is a fast closer with range and ball skill.

Florida State: 2015 commits: 3; ESPN 300: 3 -- Jimbo Fisher added Tim Brewster and Jeremy Pruitt to the coaching staff after the 2012 season, and the pair of hires continue to provide big dividends on the trail. Derwin James Jr. (Auburndale, Fla./Auburndale) is one of the top defensive backs in the junior class with a blend of size, strength, quickness and athleticism. ESPN 300 defensive end Marlon Gonzalez (Cape Coral, Fla./Island Coast) will bring pass rush ability off the edge. Dual-threat quarterback De’Andre Johnson (Jacksonville, Fla./First Coast) is a talented runner with toughness and poise.

Michigan: 2015 commits: 5; ESPN 300: 2 -- Brady Hoke and Michigan have flexed their national recruiting muscles in the junior class gaining commitments from the states of Florida, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Ohio. The Wolverines scored huge in late July picking up a commitment from the nation’s No. 3 ranked junior, George Campbell (Tarpon Springs, Fla./East Lake High). The 6-foot-4, 185-pound ultra-versatile and uber athletic prospect is a legitimate vertical threat as a receiver, and a rangy safety with closing burst and high-point ability. ESPN 300 running back Damien Harris (Berea, Ky./Madison Southern High) joins Campbell as fast and athletic playmakers in the class. The 5-foot-11, 190-pound Harris possesses quick feet and the ability to make plays out of the backfield. Three-star offensive tackle Jon Runyan Jr. (Philadelphia, Pa./St. Joesph’s Prep) is the son of a former Michigan and NFL lineman now serving in Congress.

South Carolina: 2015 commits: 5; ESPN 300: 5 -- Not only have the Gamecocks won 11 games in back-to-back seasons, but they also have the top defensive player in college football in Jadeveon Clowney. With momentum on South Carolina’s side, Steve Spurrier and staff have struck quickly in 2015 with an emphasis on the defensive line. Defensive end Shameik Blackshear (Bluffton, S.C./Bluffton) is 6-foot-5, 235 pounds and was a big in-state get early. The Atlanta area is always a key target, and the fast start includes a trio from the fertile recruiting grounds. Defensive end Arden Key (Lithonia, Ga./Martin Luther King) is blessed with big upside and athleticism, while Chauncey Rivers (Stone Mountain, Ga./Stephenson High) is a third defensive end and ESPN 300 commit. Joining Rivers from Stephenson High on the commit list is ESPN 300 wide receiver Dexter Neal, a 6-foot-2, 195-pound prospect with good size, strength and the ability to track and high-point the ball. ESPN 300 outside linebacker Sherrod Pittman rounds out the impressive handful of commits. The latest First Coast prospect to pick the Gamecocks features impressive game speed, short space quickness and the ability to strike.

Tennessee: 2015 commits: 5; ESPN 300: 4 -- Not only does Butch Jones have Tennessee off to a top-10 start in the class of 2014, but he is also carrying over the momentum to 2015. Not only have the Volunteers continued their run inside the state lines with three commitments, including key offensive line pledges from Zach Stewart (Coalfield, Tenn./Coalfield) and Jack Jones (Murfreesboro, Tenn./Oakland), but have also enjoyed continued positive returns in the Atlanta area with a commitment from active and relentless defensive end Andrew Butcher (Alpharetta, Ga,./Alpharetta High). The Vols have also picked up a verbal from ESPN 300 inside linebacker Cecil Cherry (Frostproof, Fla./Frostproof High). The 6-foot-1, 221-pound Cherry not only possesses great size, but a quick first step downhill and the ability to pursue.

Texas: 2015 commits: 8, ESPN 300: 8 -- Mack Brown made the early commitment both popular and expected during his time in Austin, and the Longhorns have seemingly taken it to another level. Not only does Texas have 23 commitments in the class of 2014 before the ball is in the air this season, but also have eight commitments in the junior class. As has been the case since assistant coach Stacy Searels arrived in Austin, the building of the offensive line is a focal point. In fact, four of the eight commitments in the junior class are on the offensive front and all members of the ESPN 300. Leading the way is the massive powerful tackle with a quick first step, Maea Teuhema (Keller, Texas/Keller High). The younger brother of Texas 2014 defensive end commitment Sione Teuhema (Keller, Texas/Keller High) is joined by guard Patrick Vahe (Euless, Texas/Trinity High), who will bring physicality and high effort combined with quick feet and reactions to the interior. Guard Aaron Garza (Sherman, Texas/Sherman High) and tackle Connor Lanfear (Buda, Texas/Hays High) round out the impressive quartet. In the secondary the Longhorns have secured pledges from physical and instinctive safety Johnny Shaw (Orange, Texas/West Orange Stark) and fluid playmaking corner Jalen Campbell (Corpus Christi, Texas/Flour Bluff High), who is rehabbing a knee injury suffered in the spring. Quick and elusive wide receiver Keke Coutee (Lufkin, Texas/Lufkin High) and defensive tackle Bryce English (DeSoto, Texas/DeSoto High) round out the impressive start.

Other programs off to notable starts
Arkansas (4): 2 ESPN 300 and 2 three-star commits
Baylor (2): 1 ESPN 300 commit
Oklahoma (2): 2 ESPN 300 commits
Stanford (2): 1 ESPN 300 and 1 three-star commit
Texas A&M (3): 3 ESPN 300 commits after the Wednesday's commitment of running back Jay Bradford (Splendora, Texas/Splendora High).
Vanderbilt (2): 2 ESPN 300 commits
West Virginia (2): 1 ESPN 300 and 1 three-star commit