- Henry Gola
The air was crisp around New England this week. Summer, at least in the Northeast, is gone, replaced by the unmistakable smell of Fall.
Fall means football, and for recruits, it means high school games and official visits. In-season official visits are almost always scheduled during a college's home game, so the recruits can experience a game-day atmosphere.
When South Carolina plays host to Georgia this weekend, ESPN 150 tight end/defensive tackle D'Angelo McCray (Jacksonville, Fla./Jackson) is supposed to be on hand.
Notre Dame will entertain already committed wide receiver Duval Kumara (Hoboken, N.J.) and undecided offensive tackle Chris Little (Jeffersonville, Ga./Twiggs County) when it takes on Penn State.
Staying close in these games -- not necessarily winning them -- is important. No recruit wants to see a school they're committed to or considering get blown out.
That puts some pressure on Colorado, which last week lost 19-10 to D-1AA Montana State. This week, the Buffs play Colorado State in Denver, and recruits Toney Clemons (New Kensington, Pa./Valley) and Devan Johnson (Pittsburgh, Pa./Woodland Hills) are expected to trek across the country to visit. Another loss to a non-BCS team could put a damper on Dan Hawkins' recruiting efforts.
There's a flip side too. If a top recruit sees deficiency at his position, he might commit with the opportunity to play right away next year.
Ahmad Paige a Nole... for now
Speaking of official visits, Ahmad Paige (Monroe, La./Sterlington) still plans on taking all of his -- to USC, LSU, Miami and Tennessee -- despite his verbal commitment to Florida State.
"It's gonna have to be a big 'wow' to come get me," Paige said on ESPNU during his announcement Thursday.
Though his verbal to Florida State looks more like a bargaining chip, you can't blame Paige for being savvy.
Downsizing at running back
No. 2 overall running back Noel Devine (North Fort Myers, Fla.) is the top undersized back in the country this year at 5-foot-8, 180 pounds, but there are others getting plenty of recruiting attention.
Chris Rainey (Lakeland, Fla.), an ESPN 150 running back who stands 5-8, 165 pounds has committed to Florida, where he has a chance to play right away next year.
This week, 5-9, 170 pound Jock Sanders (Saint Petersburg, Fla./Catholic) gave a verbal commitment to West Virginia, and 5-9, 180-pound Brandon Pendergrass (Royal Palm Beach, Fla.) gave a verbal commitment to Wake Forest.
All these guys have one thing in common -- speed and elusiveness. But don't tell them they can't be every-down backs at the next level.
And even if they don't run between the tackles in college, coaches know that their potential as kick returners and third-down backs makes them worthy of scholarships.
• Hard to believe it took this long for Ohio State to get its first ESPN 150 verbal commitment. Running back/safety prospect Devon Torrence (Canton, Ohio/South) chose the Buckeyes last weekend over Michigan, Penn State, Georgia Tech and Arizona State, among others.
With top in-state prospects linebacker Dewey Elliot (Fairfield), defensive end Ben Martin (Cincinnati/La Salle) and safety Eugene Clifford (Cincinnati/Colerain) still uncommitted and all considering Ohio State, there certainly will be more to come.
• ESPN 150 defensive end Richetti Jones (Dallas/Lincoln) made his long delayed announcement this week with a verbal commitment to Oklahoma State.
Jones and 2006 ESPN 150 defensive end Derek Burton could make for a great bookend combination on the Cowboys' defensive line over the next few years.
Henry Gola is recruiting editor for ESPN.com and Scouts Inc.
Host teams have extra pressure to perform well during marquee official visits, writes Henry Gola.