September 20, 2005

SEC Blitz: Harvin likes Gators

While the race for his services is far from being over, it is safe to say that Percy Harvin, the nation's top overall prospect, has a leader.

Harvin told that his official visit to Gainesville, Fla., during the weekend to watch the Gators defeat SEC East rival Tennessee, 16-7 would rate a "10" on a scale of 1-10.

It's no surprise that this happened as one could see the tremendous atmosphere, one that was sure to make an impression on any prospect, on television. The Gators had the first chance to give Harvin their best shot and knocked one out of the ballpark.

The question now is will it be enough? Will it be enough to hold off defending national champion Southern California and the bright lights of Los Angeles? Will it be enough to overcome the scenery and tradition of the University of Miami? Will family ties (Harvin's sister is a student at Eastern Michigan University) and 100,000-plus in the stand's every Saturday sway him to Michigan? And what about Florida State, Harvin's reported early favorite? The Seminoles are by far the strongest closers in college football recruiting and recently surprised most insiders when the nation's No. 3 prospect, Myron Rolle chose FSU ahead of Florida and Oklahoma when most felt that the Sooners and Gators were the teams to beat.

Time will tell.

With or without Harvin, the Gators have positioned themselves to potentially have the nation's top class. Most of the prospects that visited Florida, either officially or unofficially, during the weekend came away impressed. That's a real credit to how hard Urban Meyer and his staff have worked on the recruiting trail.

Tate still a Tiger

Though he took an official visit to Maryland and enjoyed it, running back Benjamin Tate of Newark (Md.) Snow Hill still is verbally committed to Auburn.

"They're just young and need a big-time running back to help the program," Tate told "The atmosphere was good, it's a little bit smaller of an audience, but it's still great."

But when asked where the Terps stood, he replied that he was still committed to Auburn. He will, however, continue to take visits and set up a new visit, to Florida, to check out the Gators' game with Vanderbilt the weekend of Nov. 4. He also plays to check out Penn State.

If recent history is any indication, Auburn fans should be more worried about the trip to Gainesville than any other. Last season, Pensacola (Fla.) four-star linebacker Jon Demps was close to naming the Tigers his leader on Jan. 16 following his official visit to the Plains and Jacksonville (Fla.) First Coast linebacker Ryan Stamper committed to Auburn on Nov. 29, 2004, before changing his mind and signing with Florida.

Unlike Demps and Stamper, however, Tate is not a Florida prospect. Going to one of the "big three" in-state schools is a drawing point for Sunshine State talent.

Cate still going to LSU

Salt Lake City (Utah) Cottonwood quarterback Alex Cate committed to LSU on June 12, but recent rumors surfaced saying that he may start taking a look around, particularly at Oklahoma State.

Cate, however, quickly denied any interest in changing schools when asked about the situation by

"Oklahoma State is still pushing and that's really been the only one," Cate said. "Those are great guys, but I told them I want to stick with my commitment. I guess you never know what could happen, but I'm solid on LSU and that's what I told them."

An interesting point to consider here is that Tigers head coach Les Miles was the coach at Oklahoma State last season. Current Cowboys head coach Mike Gundy was Miles' offensive coordinator and there are several coaches on both staffs this year that coached under Miles last season. Could the Oklahoma State coaching staff know something that causes them to continue to push for Cate?

Smelley a Rebel lock?

If no other school steps up to the plate with an offer, there is a strong possibility that Ole Miss will get its third quarterback commitment for the class of 2006 in Tuscaloosa (Ala.) American Christian signal caller Chris Smelley.

Smelley would be a good pick up for the Rebs, though there is no telling what it would do to the commitments Michael Herrick of Valencia, Calif., and Flower Mound, Texas signal caller Nick Stephens.

According to sources, Smelley really likes Clemson and Alabama, but neither school is in a position to offer him at this time. The Crimson Tide is in a good position with five-star quarterback Tim Tebow and the Tigers already have three-star Michael Wade top-notch class of 2007 prospect Willy Korn in the fold at Smelley's position.

Memphis, Oregon and Tulane are the other schools that have offered Smelley, a four-star rated prospect and Rivals250 selection.

Tide could roll in state

There is a chance that Alabama could sweep the top three in-state prospects this season as the Crimson Tide is in the mix for the services of offensive guard Andre Smith, wide receiver Tim Hawthorne and athlete Earl Alexander.

Should the Tide have a good season on the field this year, putting to rest any speculation about Mike Shula's future in Tuscaloosa and the overall direction of the program, there is a good chance that could happen. All three prospects either have been or are going to visit Bama unofficially during the season and if they start showing up week after week, it obviously is good sign for the Tide.

Big Peanut

Speaking of in-state recruits in Alabama, there is a good chance that defensive lineman Deantwan Whitehead will move up when the next set of rankings are released. The 6-foot-6, 245-pounder from Birmingham West End is starting to get attention from schools throughout the Southeast and is the type of prospect that will have pro scouts drooling in a few seasons if he can keep it together.

While Whitehead likes both in-state schools (he has unofficially visited Auburn twice so far this season), he doesn't appear to be leaning to any team at the moment. He actually committed to Clemson for a brief moment during the summer, but quickly opened his recruiting back up. Both Tigers (Auburn and Clemson), Louisville, Tennessee and Georgia all are in the picture.

Whichever school signs Whitehead from all accounts will be getting a prospect with unlimited upside.

Need linemen

Expect South Carolina's 2006 recruiting class to be heavy on players who can play on the offensive line. Not only have the Gamecocks struggled with line play in their first three games, but three of the current starters will have their eligibility expire after this season.

The Gamecocks played host to offensive tackle prospect Lou Eliades from Ocean (N.J.) on Saturday. Eliades, a four-star prospect, was on his official visit and was the first official visitor for South Carolina this year. Eliades is high on the Gamecocks, along with Virginia Tech.

South Carolina also is in the mix, though likely trailing, for Georgetown (S.C.) Carvers Bay offensive tackle Clifton Geathers. Geathers, a Rivals100 member, is the Palmetto State's top prospect.

More immediate help could come in the form of class of 2005 signee Jarriel King. The 6-foot-7, 300 pounder was a couple of points shy from qualifying academically for this season and has his eye on being in Columbia in time for 2006 spring practice. King projects as an offensive tackle, though he does have the athletic ability to play along the defensive line if need be. Still, given the Gamecocks' need on offense, it's hard to imagine him not playing there if he makes it into school.

The situation, however, appears to be such that South Carolina may go to the junior college route for a couple of offensive linemen that could make an immediate impact. Expect Georgia Military College standout Willie Barton to be one of those. The other JUCO targets are not known at this time.

More Recruiting Blitzes:
Pac-10: Bruins rolling along
Big Ten: Irish stockpiling talent

Coming tomorrow: ACC, Big 12 and Big East.

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