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November 22, 2012

Around the Mid-Atlantic: Big weekend for Pitt

REGION REPORTS: Midwest | Southwest | Southeast

Each Thursday throughout the fall, Rivals.com is breaking down the Mid-Atlantic Region recruiting scene with news, notes and analysis. Here is the latest from Rivals.com Mid-Atlantic recruiting analyst Adam Friedman.

News and Notes

Last weekend was a huge recruiting weekend for Pittsburgh. The Panthers hosted three of the top prospects in all of Pennsylvania, offensive lineman Dorian Johnson and wide receivers Robert Foster and Tyler Boyd. By the end of the weekend, they picked up a big commitment from Johnson, who was also considering Ohio State and Virginia Tech. This gives Pitt its first Rivals250 recruit this year and its second four-star player, the first being quarterback Tra'von Chapman. Johnson's commitment and Chapman's effort in recruiting Foster and Boyd could go a long way for Pitt's chances with the two touted wide receivers.

The move to the Big Ten wasn't the only big news for Rutgers this week. On the same day Rutgers announced the "B1G" move, offensive lineman Dorian Miller, from Metuchen (N.J.), publicly announced his commitment to the Scarlet Knights. The significance of Miller's pledge cannot be overstated. In the Big Ten, games are won in the trenches and Miller is the only offensive lineman Rutgers has in the 2013 class. The Scarlet Knights will need Miller to come through in a big way if they hope to compete with the big, strong linemen of the Big Ten.

When Stafford (Va.) Mountain View won its second-round playoff game last week, its lost its best player to injury. DaeSean Hamilton went down with a broken collarbone and, because of the injury, was not able to make it to Penn State. He has already taken an official visit to Wake Forest and Virginia Tech. Virginia, Miami, Illinois all have a shot with the 6-foot, 182-pound Hamilton.

Rivalry Week is always a big time for players to go on visits. The schools try to schedule visits for this weekend's game because a win over their rival looks great to potential recruits and there are always more festivities around the game.

Prospects from the Mid-Atlantic are traveling to games across the country, most notably Michigan at Ohio State, Virginia at Virginia Tech and Rutgers at Pittsburgh.

Tarboro (N.C.) defensive end Tyquan Lewis and Voorhees (N.J.) Eastern cornerback Eli Woodard, both of whom are already committed to the Buckeyes, will be in Columbus for the game.

The Buckeyes will also host plenty of athletes from the 2014 class including Woodbridge (Va.) Woodbridge Senior defensive end Da'Shawn Hand, Aliquppa (Pa.) defensive back Dravon Henry, Washington (D.C.) St. John's College High quarterback William Ulmer, Aliquppa (Pa.) defensive tackle Jaleel Fields, Woodbridge (Va.) Woodbridge Senior running back Marcus Boone, Sparta (N.J.) Pope John XXIII athlete Noah Brown, Bethlehem (Pa.) wide receiver K.J. Williams and possibly Forestville (Md.) Bishop McNamara offensive tackle Damian Prince, Chesapeake (Va.) Oscar Smith defensive tackle Andrew Brown and Virginia Beach (Va.)Bayside safety Quin Blanding.

Virginia and Virginia Tech will play the annual Commonwealth Cup in Blacksburg this year. Committed Hokies from the 2013 class who will be in attendance include Virginia Beach (Va.) Salem linebacker Andrew Motuapuaka, Virginia Beach (Va.) Salem quarterback Bucky Hodges, Bealeton (Va.) Liberty defensive end Wyatt Teller, Hampton (Va.) athlete Deon Newsome, Lynchburg (Va.) offensive lineman Braxton Pfaff, Williamsburg (Va.) Warhill offensive lineman Parker Osterloh, Roanoke (Va.) Patrick Henry athlete David Prince and possibly Elizabeth City (N.C.) Northeastern linebacker Jamieon Moss.

Committed 2014 players Fredericksburg (Va.) Massaponax defensive end Vincent Mihota, Hampton (Va.) running back Marshawn Williams and Lawrenceville (Va.) Brunswick tight end Xavier Burke will also be on campus. Uncommitted prospects in the 2014 class who are going to be in Blacksburg are Hampton (Va.) Bethel defensive tackle Ricky Walker, Norfolk (Va.) Lake Taylor defensive end Jalyn Holmes, Fredericksburg (Va.) Chancellor offensive lineman Steven Moss and Chester (Va.) Thomas Dale defensive back C.J. Reavis.

Rutgers travels to Pittsburgh this weekend and, though it may not be as storied a rivalry, it still carries a lot of importance. Recruits from the 2014 class who will be at the game are Jersey City (N.J.) St. Anthony defensive tackle Courtel Jenkins, Beaver Falls (Pa.) defensive tackle Brock Boxen, Bethel Park (Pa.) offensive lineman Mike Grimm, Wexford (Pa.) North Allegheny defensive back Elijah Zeise and Cleveland (Oh.) Cleveland Heights wide receiver Dorian Baker.

Underclassmen to Watch

Here are some top underclassmen to keep an eye on from around the region:

WR Cameron Phillips, Hyattsville (Md.) DeMatha (2014): Though he plays a little on the defensive side of the ball, Phillips is good as a receiver as well. He is very explosive, gets off the line well and runs good routes which allow him to get good separation from the defender. Philips has good hands, is a tough competitor and is not afraid to go over the middle. He is also a very good athlete, able to make acrobatic plays and get into the open field. Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Penn State and Virginia have already extended offers to the 6-foot-1, 170-pound Phillips. He is from the Raleigh (N.C.) area, so that might be an advantage to the North Carolina schools.

DE Jesse Aniebonam, Olney (Md.) Our Lady of Good Counsel (2014): It is tough to find a 6-foot-4, 225-pound athlete as naturally talented and explosive as Aniebonam. He plays defensive end right now but he has the speed, agility and athleticism to become a linebacker. Aniebonam is strong enough and his technique is good enough to hold up against the run and he can rush the passer pretty well. Aniebonam is very raw and that's the only thing holding him back. He's only played football for a few years and is still learning his responsibilities and how to play with discipline. He already has offers from Auburn, Hawaii and Maryland, but once he gets his film out and people see him at camps, expect the offers to roll in.

DT Courtel Jenkins, Jersey City (N.J.) St. Anthony (2014): At 6-foot-2, 323 pounds, Jenkins has surprising quickness off the line to go along with his pretty good strength. He's had great battles with Khaliel Rodgers at camps this past offseason. Jenkins' quick, violent hands and aggressive mentality are some of his best assets. He is relentless in pursuit and holds up well against the run, and is able to shed blockers regularly. Jenkins has an offer from Pittsburgh and has gained a lot of interest from schools across the country.

What I'm Thinking

When Derek Dooley was fired, reaction poured in from across the college football world and from potential recruits. Some players have already de-committed but most are holding their breath to see who will take the helm in Knoxville.

The nation's top-rated running back, Derrick Green, has had the Volunteers in his top five for a long time now and just recently responded to questions about the Tennessee head coaching situation.

"I'm not picking a school (based) on a coaching staff. I'm picking a school (based) on early playing time, academics and the school's atmosphere."

Most of which is very true but, from what I've heard, I find it hard to believe he isn't thinking about what coaching staff is in place and the offensive system of each team. Even though a team like Oregon is in his top five, Green's skillset best fits a pro-style system with a big offensive line and a downhill, zone-running scheme. In any event, it doesn't seem like Green will be making his decision anytime soon.

If four-star linebacker Ebenezer Ogundeko was already in love with Florida, this visit may have sealed the deal. The Brooklyn (N.Y.) Thomas Jefferson product spent last weekend in Gainesville and it sounds like he could not have had a better experience.

The Gators are competing with Arizona State, Clemson, Mississippi and Syracuse. Ogundeko has already visited Tempe to see the Sun Devils and he is planning on going to Clemson, Ole Miss and Syracuse over the next three weekends.

Notre Dame is also in play for Ogundeko and he wants to take a visit to South Bend. The Fighting Irish want Ogundeko to play defensive end but he sees himself being able to rush the quarterback and drop back in coverage.

I think he will listen to what the Notre Dame staff has to say but when it comes down to it, he won't like the position the Irish want him to play and the responsibilities associated with it. In the end, Florida will likely win out.

A lot has been said about Maryland's and Rutgers' move to the Big Ten. There have been positive and negative reactions, both with legitimate reasons as to why the schools should stay put or venture to greener pastures.

The opposition cites tradition, cost of travel for fans, travel distance and ability to compete, all of which are valid arguments. The long-standing relationships between Rutgers and the Big East and Maryland with the ACC have provided countless unforgettable moments, rivalries and historical performances that will not be easily duplicated. Geographically, the former conferences made sense for the teams and fans and each team had carved out its own niche within the conference.

The proponents of moving to the Big Ten are dazzled with enormous increases in funds from the TV deals and are excited to be in a more of a well-rounded athletic conference.

As for travel, it is not known for sure which teams will be in Maryland's and Rutgers' division, but it is rumored that they will be part of the Leaders Division with Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin, Purdue and Indiana. Wisconsin would be the farthest division opponent and Nebraska the farthest conference opponent. The distances to both aren't very different from their current opponents in the ACC and Big East.

It will be tough for Maryland and Rutgers to compete at first. Once the schools and staff become better known in Big Ten country, they will be able to recruit the bigger, stronger linemen they will need if they want beat their new opponents. Also, playing better competition will attract better players.

Uncommitted 2013 offensive line recruit Na'Ty Rodgers confirmed this idea when I asked him what he thought of Maryland moving to the Big Ten.

"Maryland making that move to the Big Ten showed me that they want to play better competition," said the 6-foot-5, 278-pound Rodgers. "Obviously, it's not the SEC but it's a lot better competition. The big worry with Maryland was that I wasn't going to be playing against the best of the best. Now that they've moved to the Big Ten, it's definitely a step up from the ACC."

With the new money each school will get, it can recruit on more of a national level and, if the schools win the Big Ten championship, they can play in the Rose Bowl, further expanding their audience. Maryland might, eventually, be able to bring back many of the sports that the university had to cut because of lack of funding.

There are people worried about Maryland not being able to recruit the Southern states as well as it had previously. Athletes from that region have had a major impact on the Terrapins program in the past. Coach Edsall would do well to bring up how Denard Robinson is from southern Florida and went to Michigan instead of Florida or Georgia and became a national college football icon and Heisman contender.

It would make sense that Southern players would want to go to the Big Ten if they don't go to an SEC team because of the recognition Robinson has received.



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