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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Tuesday's NFL Mock Draft Board - Ohio State Spring Game 2012 Thoughts -

Here is a look at 10 Things We Learned during Meyer’s first spring game at Ohio State. Brandon Castel theozone.net
1. Meyer is a little bit nuts. Before things even officially got started Saturday, Meyer put some of his top players to the test in front of thousands of Ohio State fans. The Buckeyes came together at midfield for what they call the “Circle Drill,” which pits two players against each other in a battle of strength…and will. That’s hardly an entirely new concept. The Buckeyes used to have a “Hoot-n-Holler” drill that was somewhat similar, but I’m not sure how many times Jim Tressel ever had his quarterbacks get in the ring like Meyer did Saturday with Braxton Miller and Kenny Guiton. Braxton Miller Photo by Dan Harker 2. Braxton Miller is a little bit good. One of the most interesting aspects of Saturday’s Spring Game was the fact Braxton Miller couldn’t use his legs to make plays. That is hardly unique to these type of scrimmages, but we have seen have much that can mentally change the way a quarterback plays. Much like Terrelle Pryor, Miller’s most dangerous weapon is his legs, but we saw him throw the ball with confidence Saturday. He went 4-4 on the opening drive before Carlos Hyde walked into the end zone, and Miller connected on his first six passes, and seven of his first eight to start the game. He threw the ball with confidence and he found the open man. Even his interception to Adam Griffin was a ball that got away from him and sailed over the head of tight end Nick Vannett. 3. Playmakers are starting to emerge. At the start of spring, I wasn’t really sure who was going to make plays for this offense in the passing game. Neither was Urban Meyer. No one had more than 14 catches a year ago, which is even worse than it sounds. I thought Jake Stoneburner would be pretty good in this offense, but I wasn’t sure what to make of the guys around him. I’m starting to get sure. I really like what we have seen from guys like Philly Brown and Devin Smith this spring. Meyer seems to falling hard for Jordan Hall, and Carlos Hyde is a guy who could have a big year in Ohio State’s tight zone-read running game. Add in guys like Chris Fields, who actually had a nice day Saturday with five catches for 72 yards, and Mike Thomas, and this team might actually have some guys who can play on offense. Michael Thomas Photo by Jim Davidson 4. Thomas is going to get a chance. It’s the spring game, so let’s keep that in mind when talking about freshman wideout Mike Thomas. He would hardly be the first player to have a monster performance in the spring before fading in the fall. Bam Childress and Taurian Washington co-authored the book on it, but Thomas is going to get a real chance to make an impact. He looks like a kid who has all the tools to play receiver, and they were on display Saturday. Not only did he catch 12 passes for 131 yards, but they were not all easy catches. He does know how to get open, but he also has the ability to go up and get the ball at its highest point. He has developed an obvious relationship with Braxton Miller, and Thomas is a big, quick receiver who could blossom as a freshman at Ohio State. Keep in mind he is actually a year removed from his senior year of high school. 5. This was not the real Urban Meyer offense. Just the fact Meyer planned to throw the ball 75 percent of the time on Saturday meant that we were not going to get a true glimpse of what this offense is going to look like in the fall. Meyer and his offensive staff have emphasized that this is going to be a run-first offense with a lot of power football. We didn’t see much of that Saturday. We also didn’t see much of the perimeter running game, or the quick passing game that Miller has been working on in practice. We didn’t get to see Miller work with Jake Stoneburner or Philly Brown, and of course Jordan Hall was held out with a sprained foot. Things are going to look a lot different in the fall, but it was cool for fans to get a glimpse of some the players who will be on the field this fall, even if they didn’t get to see many of the plays. John Simon Photo by Dan Harker 6. John Simon is going to have a monster year. Watching John Simon pace up and down the sidelines Saturday was like watching a caged lion at the zoo. The fact Luke Fickell didn’t have to tackle him to keep him off the field is almost a victory in itself. Simon is clearly the best player on this team, and all indications are that he is actually a much better player than he was even last fall. Meyer was asked why Simon didn’t play much in the Spring Game, and his response was that he doesn’t need to. They have also taken that approach on a number of winner-loser days in order to give the offense a chance. 7. The three freshmen LB’s are going to have opportunities in the fall. It was almost crazy to see how little depth Ohio State had at linebacker Saturday. With Curtis Grant and Storm Klein both sidelined by injury, the Buckeyes barely had enough guys to put a defense on the field. They had to move quarterback Ross Oltorik to linebacker just to give them enough bodies. Grant, Ryan Shazier and Etienne Sabino are penciled in to start the season, but it will be interesting to see what happens when the freshmen hit the field in the fall. Luke Roberts is already in the two-deep, but David Perkins, Camren Williams and Jamal Marcus will all have a chance to compete for playing time. It is the one position where Ohio State absolutely cannot afford an injury in the fall unless one or two of those freshmen is ready to play. Urban Meyer participates in the singing of Carmen Ohio Photo by Dan Harker 8. Meyer is going to embrace Ohio State traditions. And why wouldn’t he? It only makes sense, but it was good to see Meyer singing Carmen Ohio with the players in the south end zone Saturday. He talked about hearing Hang On Sloopy and how he wants to embrace Ohio State traditions. That is music to the ears for Buckeye fans everywhere. 9. Meyer isn’t afraid to put his kicker on the spot. One of the more unique moments in Saturday’s Spring Game was the moment where Meyer stopped practice to put the pressure on kicker Drew Basil in front of 80,000 fans at Ohio Stadium. Basil had nailed a 41-yard field goal in the north end zone when Meyer made him line it up again. Basil connected on the second 41-yard kick, so Meyer moved him back four yards to set up a 45-yard try. Basil had that kick blocked by either Adam Bellamy or Garrett Goebel, so Meyer made him kick it again. Basil came through, hitting a 45-yard field goal, but Meyer wasn’t done with him. He moved it back again, to 53 yards, and after Basil hit monstrous kick from that distance, Meyer made him try a pair from 58 yards. Basil missed both, but it was a great opportunity for him to kick with the pressure on. Urban Meyer puts a little added pressure on Drew Basil in front of over 80,000 in Ohio Stadium Photo by Jim Davidson 10. This spring was a big success for Meyer and his staff. He may never admit it, because Meyer is a perfectionist, but this spring—and off-season really—had to go about as well as he could have hoped. Not only did the players buy in to Mickey Marotti’s off-season workout program, but they were able to pick up enough of the offense in 14 practices to make Saturday’s Spring Game look respectable. They obviously still have a long ways to go, but if Meyer felt confident enough in his running game that he wanted to focus on the passing game, that bodes well for Ohio State. This program will always hang its hat on the running game. They still need some playmakers to emerge, but guys are starting to show some promise, and that’s really all Meyer could have hoped for this spring. 5 Thoughts From Spring Game 11 Warriors.com the new culture We've seen and heard enough during Urban's short tenure to know things are significantly different compared to the previous regime but how impressive was it to finally see so much of those difference on display yesterday? A few things in particular about UFM's leadership that blew me away included: •Starting the event with the old Hoot and Holler drill was a stroke of genius. Clearly, UFM is hell bent on creating constant intensity on the field and apparently, even in the stands. I guess it shouldn't have been too shocking to see this since practice often starts with the same drill but to pull that out to ignite the fans (and players) was fun to watch. And how about those matchups? Simon vs. Mewhort, Shazier owning Sabino, Stoney vs. Boren, then when you think you've had your fill coach pits Braxton against Kenny G? If Tress were running that drill, he'd wrap Braxton in bubble wrap and ship him to Dayton first (not hatin', just sayin'). Also, that drill alone showed why Coombs was an insanely awesome hire. •Another move I liked occurred when UFM interrupted the action early in the 2nd quarter to stage a quick pressure FG session. The crowd really got into it and Basil, who we thought might not play, got to get some legit long FG practice in the 'Shoe. Basil made 4/7 connecting from 41, 45, 45 and 53 while getting one blocked (45) and missing two from 58 yards (H/T: Svo-bro-da). Just a subtle little snippet but I really liked how Urban orchestrated the action, even standing right behind the holder for each quick to examine the speed/location of the snaps, the placement and the protection up front. The guy thinks of everything. •A small nugget but again showing what a thinker he is, I found it interesting that UFM dictated that all the QB's wear a knee brace on their lead leg since that is the one most susceptible to getting injured when stepping into a throw as defenders approach low. •I also appreciated his willingness to let his star QB play in an effort to develop. Sure, the QB's were heavily protected by the pressure/sack rules but he let Miller run the show for a lot longer than maybe some other coaches would've. ISO: Playmakers Meyer has said all spring that he's still in search of some playmakers. He listed Philly Brown and Jordan Hall as his players closest to earning that status but is still begging for skill players to step up as major homerun threats. While he wasn't really involved in any big gainers, Thomas was sensational hauling in 12 passes for 131 yards. It would've been nice to see him chew up more YAC with some broken tackles but there's no question he's got game as Meyer said he and Philly Brown are the top two receivers currently. He did have a nice run after catching a sideline route from Braxton on the 2nd Scarlet possession of the 2nd half. Seems like this kid will see plenty of action come fall. He almost had a spectacular TD catch late as he snared a Miller throw on the right side of the endzone but came down with his right foot about 10 inches out of bounds. He also had Bradley Roby beat late and Roby was forced to take a PI to avoid a nice gain. At 6'2", 200 lbs, I got a Michael Jenkins vibe from Thomas. I'll take that. Philly Brown was the guy Meyer had been praising this spring though I personally am a bit reluctant to believe the hype. Playing with Guiton the Gray unit, Philly came on late and finished with seven catches for 90 yards. Similar to Thomas, I just didn't see the shake I typically think a true game breaking receiver should have especially for his size. I don't mean to imply he doesn't add value, I'm just not sure he'll emerge as a game breaking player this fall. One of the few disappoints related to the spring game came, for me, when the draft was held because I really wanted to see Devin Smith on the same team as Miller. Smith didn't make a lot of noise today with Guiton but he did have a nice 28 yard TD catch on a crossing route cutting the Scarlet lead to 10-7. I expect this kid to be one of the top three in receiving yards by the time the horn sounds on the 2012 campaign but the WR corps seems so wide open it's hard to gauge what will happen. Chris Fields had some grabs and Evan Spencer didn't play due to injury and he's another guy that Meyer has spoken highly of at times. All in all, Thomas was the kid who made the strongest impression today but this unit must continue to evolve and is need of some guys creating more separation from the rest of the pack so Miller can work on timing and cohesion to build a trust he could never find last year with so few opportunities. braxton continues to grow Miller is going to be a beast in this offense. Finally taking advantage of his strengths, the hybrid offense of UFM and Herman employed an uptempo pace, roving pockets and a short passing game to put Braxton in position to succeed - and that was without the kid being able to use his legs to make defenders look drunj in space. Going exclusively no-huddle, Miller was on fire early connecting on seven of his first eight attempts including two decent gainers to Fields. While I'll never profess to being a QB coach (though my credentials might rival Siciliano's) I tried to focus on Miller's lower half and it appeared that he was a little more stable at his base and subsequently more proficient at stepping into his throws. He did have a couple poor throws including one to Fields on 3rd and 24 setting up a FG and a 10-0 lead, a high throw on the run over the head of Vannett for an INT and his worst attempt of the day occurred when he tried to force a ball through double coverage near the goal line when he was already late in deciding on that particular receiver. Still, there's so much to be excited about as Miller finally looked comfortable running an offense suited to his emerging skill set. He finished 24/31 for 258 yards and one INT. He was also victimized by three drops. How dangerous is this kid going to be when he can actually use his legs in addition to his arm? I think all Buckeye fans are foaming at the mouth pondering that question. philosophical viagra I've already touched on a few items UFM has installed that has the players and fanbase feeling frisky but the number one win in nabbing Meyer is the installation of an offense that wants to put pressure on the defense. The no-huddle was so quick that it cut down OSU fan/writer tweets by roughly 40% (not verified). Seriously, the offensive tempo was so electric that the two offenses combined to run 27 plays in the 600 seconds of 1st quarter action. Or basically, one play every 22 seconds. Schematically, Ross has been training our brains for weeks on what to expect but to physically see all those five wide sets, unique formations and shot gun looks (which we admittedly saw a bunch last year) was fun. Above those developments, what really caught my eye was all the short crossing routes to both receivers and tight ends. Those are the types of plays that create mismatches and get burners in space not to mention keep a defense honest in the middle of the field, hopefully freeing up the deep ball after enough success underneath. Vannett, despite some early drops, had a field day in the middle of the defense while Thomas and Fields also found room between the line and linebackers. Miller looked very confident with those throws and didn't telegraph them as to keep the DL from batting down balls. Again, I can't wait to see how those plays are enhanced when the attack can also add the wrinkle of Miller's legs. don't forget about the bullets Today was really about continuing the development of what was an abysmal offense a season ago but even while featuring mostly basic sets and playing without Simon, Hankins, C. Grant and Barnett, among others, the Bullets still had their moments. Specifically, Ryan Damn Shazier (7 tkls) is on his way to being the breakout player in the conference. He was all over the field and brought wood on more than a few occassions, most notably when he lit up Bri'onte Dunn on 4th and 1 to halt the Gray's first possession of the 2nd half. Two plays earlier, he had pasted Dunn (I think?) in the hole to wow the crowd. Adam Bellamy was a factor early on with a sack, a near sack before Miller juked him hard, and a blocked FG during the Basil marathon. I've always liked the kid's motor and he's one of many guys Fickell can rotate up front to wear down opposing offensive lines. Roby got beat by Thomas once leading to a PI but he also brought lumber on a few occassions showing again he's the best all-around corner on the team. Bottom line, the Bullets may not have grabbed the headlines today but UFM has plenty of confidence this unit will, come fall, be playing at a level miles above what fans were forced to watch a season ago. That's good enough for me. How top 2012 NFL Draft prospects ranked as high school recruits Andy Staples si.com 1. Indianapolis: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford Hometown: Houston Class: 2008 Rivals.com rank: Four-star In June 2007, the Houston Stratford High star narrowed his choices to Purdue, Northwestern, Stanford, Virginia and Rice. Sound as if Luck was under-recruited? He wasn't. Nebraska, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M wanted him, too. He just happened to be an Elite 11 quarterback who wanted to play at an elite academic school. Luck's commitment legitimized the recruiting chops of then-Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh, who at the time had yet to coach a game on The Farm. Of course, Harbaugh had to first be talked out of chasing Terrelle Pryor and Landry Jones before turning his attention to Luck and one other Texas quarterback. 2. Washington: Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor Hometown: Copperas Cove, Texas Class: 2008 Rivals.com rank: Four-star Meet the other quarterback Harbaugh ultimately considered for the 2008 class. (Think the coach knew what he was doing?) But another rising star coach already had Griffin in his sights. In September 2007, Griffin committed to Houston coach Art Briles. After Briles left the Cougars a few months later to take over at Baylor, Griffin followed, committing in December 2007. Tennessee also recruited Griffin, and that sound you hear is palms slapping foreheads across the Volunteer State as fans imagine what might have happened had RG3 gone to Knoxville. Here's an even more interesting alternate history: Griffin had some contact with LSU, but the Tigers backed off after taking a commitment from Aldine, Texas, quarterback Darron Thomas. Thomas wound up going to Oregon -- which had also recruited Griffin -- after LSU decided to take Jordan Jefferson. Imagine Griffin at either place. He might have matched up with Cam Newton in the BCS title game after the 2010 season, or he might have given LSU a far more dynamic offense against Alabama in the BCS title game after the 2011 season. 3. Minnesota: Matt Kalil, OT, USC Hometown: Corona, Calif. Class: 2008 Rivals.com rank: Five-star Any school in the nation would have loved to take Kalil, but only one school had a chance. After watching his older brother, Ryan, dominate at USC, Kalil planned to be a Trojan as soon as coach Pete Carroll offered. Carroll offered in October of Kalil's junior year, and Kalil committed on the spot. 4. Cleveland: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama Hometown: Pensacola, Fla. Class: 2009 Rivals.com rank: Five-star Then-Florida coach Urban Meyer -- whose team had just won a national title -- spent six hours at Richardson's home the week before National Signing Day in an attempt to sway the Sunshine State's top-rated player to flip from Alabama. But despite the best efforts of Meyer and LSU's Les Miles, Richardson donned a houndstooth hat on Signing Day and pledged to roll with the Tide. Two national titles later, he's the most coveted back in the NFL draft. (Crazy side note: Richardson was the No. 2 back in the 2009 class behind Bryce Brown, who left Tennessee and then Kansas State and who will spend the weekend hoping to hear his name called in any round.) 5. Tampa Bay: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU Hometown: Shreveport, La. Class: 2009 Rivals.com rank: Three-star The man with a Quiet Storm DJ's name wasn't a big name in recruiting circles. A high school option quarterback who thought he'd play receiver in college, Claiborne didn't have a lot of schools projecting him as a cornerback. Not that he would have minded; Claiborne didn't really care what position he played if it got him to one of the schools he liked. Nebraska and Texas A&M joined the ranks of Arkansas State and Louisiana Tech in pursuit of Claiborne, but Claiborne committed quickly when LSU offered in November of his senior season. 6. St. Louis: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State Hometown: Ardmore, Okla. Class: 2008 Rivals.com rank: Three-star Blackmon grew up a Texas fan, but he probably had no chance to play at Texas. The Longhorns know most of their targets by February of a prospect's junior year, and Blackmon didn't turn heads until his senior season. That year, Blackmon caught 14 touchdown passes and also scored six special teams touchdowns and four touchdowns on interceptions. That piqued the interest of a few Big 12 schools. In the end, Blackmon chose Oklahoma State over Missouri and Colorado. 7. Jacksonville: Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina Hometown: Rock Hill, S.C. Class: 2009 Rivals.com ranking: Four-star Gilmore's commitment on Oct. 14, 2008 marked a turning point for the Gamecocks. They had struggled to land the Palmetto State's best prospects, who tended to go either to Clemson or outside the state's borders. When Gilmore picked South Carolina over Alabama, it signaled the start of a new era in South Carolina recruiting. A few months later, the Gamecocks would turn receiver Alshon Jeffery. In 2010, they grabbed tailback Marcus Lattimore, the state's top prospect. In 2011, Gilmore helped South Carolina recruit former South Pointe High teammate Jadeveon Clowney. Clowney was the nation's top-ranked recruit. 8. Miami: Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M Hometown: Big Spring, Texas Class: 2007 Rivals.com ranking: Three-star Tannehill's father, Tim, played at Texas Tech, but the Red Raiders didn't recruit the 6-foot-4 quarterback out of Big Spring High. Instead, Tannehill decided between TCU and Texas A&M. Once he got to College Station, he played receiver until the middle of the 2011 season, when coach Mike Sherman benched Jerrod Johnson in favor of Tannehill. Even if he had never moved back to quarterback, Tannehill probably would have his name called in this draft. But that call might not have come so early. 9. Carolina: Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State Hometown: Yazoo City, Miss. Class: 2009 Rivals.com ranking: Four-star Three years and 50 pounds ago, Cox ran the anchor leg of the 4 X 100 relay for Yazoo City High. That's not so out-of-the-ordinary in SEC country. Some of the league's best defensive tackles left high school as tall, lean athletes. What made them special is that they didn't lose speed as they put on weight. Mississippi State coaches projected Cox correctly, but so did another staff known for putting defenders in the NFL. After Sylvester Croom and his staff were fired in Starkville, Cox gave serious thought to flipping on his commitment. Alabama coaches had never stopped recruiting Cox, and they convinced him to make an official visit to Tuscaloosa in January 2009. The visit didn't sway Cox, and he opted to stick with Mississippi State. Once in Starkville, the 245-pounder began eating. Hamburger steak smothered in gravy was his favorite. "I would load it down a little bit," Cox said in a 2010 interview. "Then I'd go back, get some more, load it down a little bit. In between, I would drink some milk." The gravy-soaked hamburger and milk did Cox's body good enough to become a first-rounder. 10. Buffalo: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame Hometown: St. Paul, Minn. Class: 2008 Rivals.com ranking: Five-star College coaches flocked to Cretin-Derham Hall to see Floyd, then a 6-foot-3 star with room to grow. Floyd also checked out Florida, Michigan, Ohio State and Wisconsin before finally deciding on Notre Dame, where he thought he would rack up catches and yards in coach Charlie Weis' offense. He was half right. He spent his final two seasons playing for Brian Kelly. 11. Kansas City: Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College Hometown: Cincinnati Class: 2009 Rivals.com ranking: Three-star Like Luck, Kuechly chose his finalists based on U.S. News and World Report rankings instead of Associated Press poll rankings. Boston College, Duke, Stanford and Virginia got official visits. Boston College felt most comfortable to Kuechly, who attended St. Xavier, a Jesuit high school. There was a brief anxious moment when BC unexpectedly fired Jeff Jagodzinski, but when Kuechly found out defensive coordinator Frank Spaziani would be elevated to head coach, he kept the Eagles out front. Kuechly committed in January 2009. He began tackling everything in sight soon after. 12. Seattle: Melvin Ingram, DE/LB, South Carolina Hometown: Hamlet, N.C. Class: 2007 Rivals.com rank: Four-star The Butch Davis staff had just taken over at North Carolina in early 2007, and the Tar Heels made one last run at Ingram, then a 224-pound linebacker. Ingram took an official visit to Chapel Hill, but he remained solid to South Carolina. Fifty pounds later, Ingram turned into a stud defensive end/touchdown machine. 13. Arizona: David DeCastro, OG, Stanford Hometown: Bellevue, Wash. Class: 2008 Rivals.com rank: Three-star Oregon State, Washington and Washington State wanted DeCastro, but he committed to the Cardinal in May 2007. Still, he wanted to make sure he had made the correct choice. So he visited Washington in December 2007. The fact that the hometown team couldn't sway him only served to reinforce DeCastro's belief that something special was going on down at Stanford. He was correct. His class changed the program. 14. Dallas: Mark Barron, S, Alabama Hometown: Mobile, Ala. Class: 2008 Rivals.com rank: Four-star The biggest question surrounding Barron in high school was what position he would play in college. He starred at tailback at St. Paul's, but he also wowed recruiters as a receiver, safety and linebacker. LSU coaches told Barron to pick a position. Alabama coaches said they saw him as a safety. Ultimately, Barron chose Alabama. He took a late visit to Auburn, but the Tigers didn't really have a chance to flip Barron, who would be joined in Tuscaloosa a year later by St. Paul's quarterback AJ McCarron. 15. Philadelphia: Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina Hometown: Kinston, N.C. Class: 2008 Rivals.com rank: Four-star Coples enrolled at Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Va., for his senior year to help shore up his academics. The plan worked. Coples qualified, and he chose North Carolina over Florida State, N.C. State and Tennessee. 16. New York Jets: Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis Defensive tackle Dontari Poe was a two-star recruit whose only offer came from Memphis. Douglas Jones/US PRESSWIRE Hometown: Memphis, Tenn. Class: 2008 Rivals.com rank: Two-star Wooddale High coach Cedric Miller discovered Poe playing the bass drum in the school's band and asked the jumbo percussionist tojoin the football team. Though Poe developed into a dominant high school player, his grades scared off elite schools. His options were Memphis or ... Memphis. Now, Poe will have to prove he isn't just a combine wonder after failing to dominate in Conference USA. 17. Cincinnati: Courtney Upshaw, DE/LB, Alabama Hometown: Eufaula, Ala. Class: 2008 Rivals.com rank: Four-star Like Cox and Ingram, Upshaw is another weight-gainer who didn't lose a step. Upshaw left Eufaula High at 220 pounds and finished his college career as a 265-pound quarterback-seeking monster. Upshaw had offers from Auburn, Georgia, South Carolina and others, but he never seriously considered any school besides Alabama. 18. San Diego: Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa Hometown: Parkston, S.D. Class: 2008 Rivals.com rank: Three-star Iowa and Nebraska each wanted Reiff, and they both got him. But Iowa got him first and last. Reiff committed to the Hawkeyes in April 2007, but by the fall, he wondered if he had made his choice too early. So he visited Nebraska for the Cornhuskers' game against USC and decided he wanted to play in Lincoln. Nebraska fired Bill Callahan's staff six weeks later, and Reiff reconsidered. In December, he committed to Iowa again. 19. Chicago: Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor Hometown: Pittsburg, Texas Class: 2008 Rivals.com rank: Three-star Like most top prospects in Texas, Wright committed early. In March of his junior year, he chose Texas A&M. But that commitment wouldn't last. Wright, who played quarterback and starred on the basketball team at Pittsburg High, decommitted in May. He opened his options to schools that wanted him as a receiver, and despite interest from Oklahoma, Nebraska and Arkansas, his only official visit was to Baylor. 20. Tennessee: Whitney Mercilus, DE/LB, Illinois Hometown: Akron, Ohio Class: 2008 Rivals.com rank: Three-star Mercilus liked three schools: Illinois, Michigan and Ohio State. The problem? He only had an offer from one of them. After a December 2007 official visit to Champaign, Mercilus chose the Illini. At the time, Illinois was about to play in the Rose Bowl. Mercilus never got close to Pasadena, but his breakout season as a redshirt junior may have vaulted him into the first round. 21. Cincinnati: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama Hometown: Gadsden, Ala. Class: 2009 Rivals.com rank: Five-star Texas doesn't often venture outside the Lone Star State for players. Nor do the Longhorns typically leave scholarships open for anyone. But Texas wanted Kirkpatrick badly. That was a testament to how good the class of 2009's top-ranked cornerback was at Gadsden City High. Kirkpatrick took official visits to Texas and Florida, but in the end, he elected to stay close to home and win two national titles at Alabama. 22. Cleveland: Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford Hometown: Los Angeles Class: 2008 Rivals.com rank: Three-star Martin always wanted to go to Stanford, but he wasn't sure his grades and test scores would make the cut at the (academically) highest ranked school in the FBS. So Martin originally committed to another classroom powerhouse. In June 2007, he pledged to UCLA. But in January 2008, Stanford coaches informed Martin that he had made it through the admissions gauntlet. He immediately accepted their scholarship offer. 23. Baltimore: Dont'a Hightower, LB, Alabama * Projected trade with Detroit Hometown: Lewisburg, Tenn. Class: 2008 Rivals.com rank: Four-star The jumbo linebacker was a perfect fit for Nick Saban's defense, and Hightower committed to the Crimson Tide in November 2007. His other finalist? Vanderbilt. Still, Hightower's commitment didn't deter Tennessee from trying to convince him to remain in his home state. Unfortunately for the Volunteers, Hightower wasn't interested. 24. Pittsburgh: Kevin Zeitler, OG, Wisconsin Hometown: Waukesha, Wis. Class: 2008 Rivals.com rank: Three-star As a svelte -- for a Wisconsin offensive lineman -- 279-pound high school junior, Zeitler narrowed his options to two schools. He could stay close to home and play for the Badgers, or he could go to Michigan. Zeitler stayed in America's Dairy Land and won two Big Ten titles. 25. Denver: Michael Brockers, DT, LSU Hometown: Houston Class: 2009 Rivals.com rank: Four-star Even when Houston and Texas A&M were the main schools pursuing him before his junior season began, Brockers was hoping for an offer from LSU. He got it, and he jumped on it. Brockers committed to the Tigers in February of his junior year, becoming the first commitment in a class that included Claiborne, defensive end Sam Montgomery and receiver Rueben Randle. 26. Houston: Rueben Randle, WR, LSU Hometown: Bastrop, La. Class: 2009 Rivals.com rank: Five-star Randle didn't choose the Tigers nearly as early as future teammate Brockers. The nation's No. 2-rated prospect milked the recruiting process until the very end, choosing LSU on National Signing Day. Randle also took official visits to Alabama and Oklahoma and considered Tennessee and Auburn, but in the end, the pull of his home state team was too strong. 27. Cleveland: Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State * Projected trade with New England Hometown: Edmond, Okla. Class: 2002 Rivals.com rank: Zero stars Don't blame the recruitniks for this oversight. Star rankings were in their infancy when Weeden graduated from Santa Fe High. (For perspective: Facebook wouldn't launch for two more years.) Football coaches shied away from Weeden because of his success on the mound. The New York Yankees picked the right-handed pitcher in the second round of the 2002 draft. After an injury-plagued minor league career, Weeden decided to give football another shot. Now, he'll take the Chris Weinke career path and enter a league where most of the five-year veterans are younger than him.

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