- Billy Tucker, Scouts, Football Recruiting
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The state of Delaware and the New England region are not typically known for producing upper-echelon football prospects, particularly compared to other areas across the country. College recruiters who pass through New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont and even Massachusetts typically look for athletes on the ice, not the gridiron.
In 2010, the upper-tier talent is down, and the midrange, three-star depth in this region has seen better years. Connecticut still appears to be the strongest state in the region and continues to prove it can compete on a national level. The Constitution State boasts three prospects rated in the top 20 at their respective positions in this class. Stout inside run-stopper Khairi Fortt (Stamford, Conn./Stamford), speedy running back Silas Redd (Stamford, Conn./The King and Low Heywood Thomas) and explosive outside linebacker Kevin Pierre-Lewis (Stamford, Conn./The King and Low Heywood Thomas) are all regarded nationally. Fortt actually checks in as the No. 2 inside linebacker and No. 67 overall prospect in the ESPNU 150.
Pierre-Lewis and Redd are teammates at a small private school in Connecticut, which appears to be the theme for New England's top prospects in 2010. Schools with strong academic reputations are producing some of the better talent this year. Unfortunately, with smaller enrollment comes a lower tier of competition -- an inherited red flag that will accompany these prospects to the major college level.
To learn who is the top player in the New England area, a name to remember who might not be the highest-rated prospect and which programs are doing the best job of recruiting this year, become an ESPN Insider.
We have had a chance to scout Fortt extensively (on film and in person) and feel his No. 2 inside linebacker rating is justified, even though he plays in a nonfootball hotbed. The Connecticut native is extremely well built and physically ready to make the jump to the FBS level. The recent Penn State commit can stack and shed between the tackles and has good range and burst needed to support the outside run. With his compact body structure and strong downhill run support skills, he likely will be used inside during his career in Happy Valley but is capable of playing a Sam (strongside) position with his athleticism and competent pass-coverage skills. Fortt has bounced back from an early-season knee injury with steady linebacker play for his Stamford squad.
Remember this name
Jordan Johnson (Springfield, Mass./Brooks)
Brigham Young is putting together one of its better recruiting classes in recent memory, and the Cougars have scoured the entire country, including Massachusetts, in doing so. With the help of a BYU basketball alumnus, Celtics GM Danny Ainge, three-star athlete Johnson was introduced to Cougars football, and it appears both parties were equally impressed with each other. Although his prep school competition might be marginal, it's still clear Johnson is a dynamic athlete who could help coach Bronco Mendenhall with his versatility at the skill positions. We project him to start off his career in Provo at corner, and he displays good natural ability at the position on film. The No. 3-rated player in Massachusetts breaks quickly on the underneath pass and has the speed to match up vertically. He will need some bulk and technique polish, but Johnson is an under-the-radar prospect who should help the Cougars remain productive on the national level.
Looking to the future
Brian Miller (Andover, Mass./Andover)
Although it's early in the recruiting process, Massachusetts has a rising junior on the 2011 ESPNU 150 Watch List worth keeping your eye on. Miller already looks the part on the hoof with his tall, chiseled frame and displays equally impressive hands and pass-catching skills. He draws similar comparisons to Under Armour All-American, Stanford commit tight end Blake Barker (Wellesley, Mass./Buckingham Browne and Nichols), Massachusetts' premier prospect in 2010. Both will enter college as more polished and accomplished receivers than blockers but possess great athleticism for their larger frames. Boston College, Stanford and Northwestern have already have offered Miller.
Taking up residence
The Eagles suffered through some disappointing recruiting classes during the Jeff Jagodzinski era, but first-year coach Frank Spaziani already seems to have enhanced the recruiting efforts in Chestnut Hill, Mass. BC has flexed its national muscle on a few prospects such as No. 11 quarterback Chase Rettig (Sierra Madre, Calif./San Clemente) and a few coveted New England prospects such as linebacker Pierre-Lewis and potential playmaker C.J. Jones (Wilmington, Del./Alexis I. duPont) out of Delaware. In-state, BC has landed a commitment from two-star offensive tackle Robert Vardaro (Andover, Mass./Phillips Academy), a lineman with raw size and power but in need of development. It should be noted that the Eagles still have lost out on some homegrown talent such as Barker (Stanford), once a rarity at The Heights.
Huskies coach Randy Edsall has brought UConn national recognition in large part thanks to his ability to develop under-the-radar talent in Storrs. It appears 2010 is no different. UConn let some top New England talent slip out of its grasp, particularly in-state, but we like the committed prospects it has to develop and the local ones still targeted on its board. Outside linebacker Yawin Smallwood (Worcester, Mass./Doherty Memorial) is a three-star sleeper out of Massachusetts with good range, vertical attacking skills and upside. Tebucky Jones Jr. (New Britain, Conn./New Britain), namesake and son of a former first-round NFL draft pick, lacks impressive measurables but is a savvy, sure-handed receiver with good production.
UConn has been making national strides as of late, but it must be frustrating for Edsall when the Nittany Lions come poaching. Penn State has used its close proximity and storied tradition to pluck the No. 1- and No. 3-rated prospects in Connecticut this year in Fortt and Redd. Joe Paterno still appears to have some recruiting steam and pull left in the Northeast.
Billy Tucker is a recruiting coordinator for Scouts Inc. and has close to a decade of coaching experience at the college and high school level.