Great prospects can still be swayed

Originally Published: January 13, 2006
By Tom Luginbill | Scouts Inc.

Eighteen of ESPN's top 25 recruits already have given their verbal commitments to the school where they plan to play their college football. The two biggest mysteries left right now are with two of ESPN's top five recruits -- QB Mitch Mustain (Springdale, Ark.) and OT Andre Smith (Huffman, Birmingham, Ala.).

ESPN.com's top QB Mitch Mustain has re-committed to Arkansas.
Mustain has all the accolades -- he won Parade Magazine's Player of the Year and Gatorade National Player of the Year awards among others -- but hasn't yet decided on a school. The onetime Arkansas verbal commit decided to reopen his commitment in November.

I believe Arkansas is still very much in the running since his high school head coach Gus Malzahn was hired as the new offensive coordinator. Tennessee and Alabama also have been in a fierce battle for his services. Tennessee hired David Cutcliffe, who coached Peyton and Eli Manning in their college careers. There have many comparisons made between Mustain and a young Eli Manning.

Although Notre Dame also has been mentioned as a possible choice, I believe one or more of the Irish's current commitments would have to make a change before National Signing Day for that to happen. Also, don't be surprised if Mustain names a school nobody has been talking about.

As for Smith, the big, ultratalented offensive linemen, he is keeping his choice very quiet, too. He's in a state where Alabama and Auburn, two very prominent programs, are involved in a heated rivalry. It's difficult for him to choose between those two schools let alone adding choices outside the state: Florida State, LSU and USC. Ultimately, he's going to have to tell four teams out of his top five that the answer is no; Smith is prolonging the inevitable. For the last 9-12 months, he has been considered to be a lock for Alabama, but if that were the case, why would he not have committed already?

Other prospects to keep an eye on

Marcus Ball is ESPN.com's second-rated outside linebacker.
RB Stafon Johnson (Los Angeles-Dorsey) has been considered to be committing to USC for the past couple of months. However, he has taken a drastic detour recently as far as the schools he is considering. He has set up three official visits in the SEC: at Tennessee, LSU and Georgia. Johnson has told me he wants to play running back and is not afraid to go to school across the country.

OLB Marcus Ball (Stephenson, Stone Mountain, Ga.) has visited Virginia Tech and Florida State. One reason things might be quiet down the stretch for Marcus could be that, according to one source, he might have to go the prep school or junior college route next season. Whenever Ball does enter college, he'll be a force to be reckoned with.

When I spoke to OT Sam Young (St. Thomas Aquinas, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) in San Antonio, he said he was down to four schools -- USC, Notre Dame, Penn State and Michigan. Young is a very talented tackle who, when he fills out, will be a beast at the next level.

J.B. Walton is ESPN.com's top-rated guard.
Gerald McCoy (Oklahoma City-Southeast) was the most physically impressive defensive tackle at the U.S. Army All-American Game. Six schools -- Oklahoma (which he didn't visit because it is in-state), USC, Notre Dame, LSU, Virginia Tech and Miami -- are vying for his talent.

Talented safety Reshad Jones (Booker T. Washington, Atlanta) has been keeping his decision quiet, as well. He is looking at schools all across the map: LSU, Florida, Michigan, Oklahoma and Miami.

Guard J.B. Walton (Lackey, Indian Head, Md.; No. 35 overall) will be announcing his commitment on ESPNU on Tuesday. Walton's good friend A.J. Wallace just committed to Penn State, so the Nittany Lions have a leg up on the competition for his services. Walton also is considering Nebraska, Florida State and West Virginia.

Tom Luginbill is the national director of recruiting for Scouts Inc. Tom will be a studio analyst on ESPNU every Thursday and Saturday, talking college football and giving updates on the latest recruiting news.

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