By Tony Softli and John Gerding
The 2012 college signing day is in the books, so let’s take a look at where some of the top-ranked players will enroll in the fall. In fact, some of these prospects may graduate high school early and enroll in the spring and give up the ceremony of receiving their diploma with their high school classmates.
Several have announced their intentions and celebrated it with family and friends, while others are multiple letter award winners and are slow to submit their decisions. Keep in mind that colleges still in the hunt will keep one spot open for a chance at a prize football player that will bring a major impact to their college.
Here’s a look at the top 10 and the schools they signed with. These descriptions are according to ESPN Recruiting Nation and Yahoo Sports/Rivals. The order of the players represented are based off the average of the two ratings. Statistics based on Rivals.com and/or ESPN.go.com).
*Indicates players that have not selected a college.
DORIAL GREEN-BECKHAM, Wide receiver; Missouri
Hillcrest High School; Springfield, Missouri
6-6, 220. 40: 4.43. Bench Max: 295, Squat Max: 385
Green-Beckham committed to Missouri on signing day and shocked a good portion of the nation in doing so. He will bring a deep threat and big receiver ability to the Tigers. During his high school years he continued to improve and eventually took the nationwide record for receiving yards in a career. In his senior season he had career bests in the major statistics: 119 receptions, 2,233 yards, and 24 touchdowns. They improved on his previous bests (through different stages of his high school career) by 41 receptions, 530 yards, and one touchdown. After seeing him in person this year at a game, I can state that the measureables were not inflated. I would say he chose Mizzou over others due to their proximity, quarterback presence, conference, and better odds of starting. No. 3 in nation ESPN; No. 1 in nation Rivals.
MARIO EDWARDS, Defensive end; Florida State
Billy Ryan High School; Denton, Texas
6-4, 297. 40: 4.8. Bench Max: 340; Squat Max: 500
Edwards will attend Florida State and be a force of outside pressure. He has quick lateral movement to move around the tackle if need be. Most of his “highlights” showcased his bull-rush capability as he plowed through the tackle to the quarterback. His tendency to take outside pressure could leave a hole in between the tackle and guard. A smart coach can use a draw against this outside pressure, or a savvy quarterback can step up into the hole giving himself an open throwing lane (if the guard keeps the defensive tackle at bay). Edwards posted impressive numbers as a junior with 127 tackles, 18 sacks, and 50 tackles for a loss. These numbers substantially decreased in his senior season: 72 tackles, 11 sacks, and 32 tackles for loss. No. 1 in nation ESPN; No. 3 in nation Rivals.
JOHNATHAN GRAY, Running back; Texas
Aledo High School; Aledo, Texas
5-11 190. 40: 4.4.
Gray continued to improve his skills as he went from freshman to senior. He could take the Big 12 by storm as he scored over 50 touchdowns his sophomore and junior seasons at Aledo. He topped these marks with a 65-touchdown season as a senior. He averaged 11.2 yards per carry in his senior season with 3,891 yards. He had five less carries in his senior season than his junior season and raced down field for 768 more yards. Of his highlights where usually he had a couple good blocks and shot down field using his speed to score, the most impressive was a goal-line dive. Two linebackers that each must have been at least 20 pounds bigger were not able to stop his second effort as he plowed into the end zone. Gray will only continue to get bigger at the strength facilities of Texas. No. 2 in nation ESPN; No. 5 in nation Rivals.
D.J. HUMPHRIES, Offensive line; Florida
Mallard Creek High School; Charlotteville, North Carolina
6-5 265. 40: 4.92.
The first clip I saw of Humphries was him pulling from a guard position and imposing his will upon the linebacker. He created a giant hole that opened the way for a first down. The next play I saw he quickly pancaked the defensive end from the tackle position. Perhaps the most encouraging trait of Humphries is he continued knocking heads until the whistle. No. 7 in nation ESPN; No. 2 in nation Rivals.
NOAH SPENCE, Defensive end; Ohio State
Bishop McDevitt High School; Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
In back-to-back years, Spence displayed defensive dominance with over 100 tackles and double-digit sacks. He exhibits severe explosion from the line of scrimmage. He’ll head-slap the lineman and go in or outside to the quarterback. Perhaps the best part of Spence is he is not a one-trick pony. A coach can chip at him with a tight end because of his smaller size, but he is relentless and runs through the ball carriers the moment they’re in his path. He also can break away from the edge double-team to continue to pressure or sack the quarterback. In his junior year, he finished with 22 sacks, 34 tackles for loss and last season had 13 sacks and 28 tackles for loss. There was a slight decline in plays that resulted for a loss but he continued to generate more tackles. No. 4 in nation ESPN; No. 9 in nation Rivals.
EDDIE GOLDMAN, Defensive tackle; Florida State
Friendship Collegiate Academy; Washington D.C.
6-4 307. Squat Max: 500;Vertical: 26 inches
Through videos he shows a good nose for the ball, an ability to shed blocks and stop the tailback. He is quick to get by interior linemen and pressure, sack, or at least smack the quarterback. Size and height are great for his age. Some scouts are questioning his ability to play every down, not from a physical standpoint but whether he has the mental toughness to discipline himself into doing so. Through the videos he continued to the end of the whistle more often than not. No. 10 in nation ESPN; No. 7 in nation Rivals.
SHAQ THOMPSON, Safety/Athlete; California
Grant High School; Sacramento, California
6-2 210. 40: 4.57. Shuttle: 4.21; Vertical: 30 inches
Thompson was recruited by California as a safety. The Golden Bears will hope he intercepts Matt Barkley when they face up against Southern California as he shows the ability to make people miss in space. The first defensive highlight I saw was an interception he returned for a touchdown. Where many players would think to get as many yards as they can and hopefully score, Thompson displays the ability to follow blockers. He does that well because he played both sides of the ball as a running back. He also plays the ball in the air well using his vertical to tip or catch the ball at his highest point. Most of the tackles he makes are wrapped up around the knees hindering offensive playmakers’ ability to bust tackles. There is a strong chance he’ll make the starting roster in his freshman year. No. 16 in nation ESPN; No. 4 in nation Rivals.
*STEFON DIGGS, Wide receiver
Our Lady of Good Counsel; Olney, Maryland
6-0 185. 40: 4.43
The first thing to say about Diggs is he is not afraid to take a hit or dish one out. When he wasn’t running around, decreasing the number of defenders involved in the play as they attempted to touch him, he would smash through a pair of defenders for the extra yard. He is elusive to the point it’ll put nightmares in the defensive coordinator’s night. Diggs also displays a strong ability to read defenders in mid play with nothing more than a glance in their direction. During a number of these plays, he will move for a half second in a direction to pull the entire defense that way. Afterward, he jumps back the other way and uses his quick burst and speed to fly up field. When defenders are near, he’ll jump and catch the ball with his arms stretched to their full extent. He also proves to be a good special teams player and defensive back (if needed). Diggs still needs to decide on his college but schools will need to be pushing hard for him this week. No. 13 in nation ESPN; No. 8 in nation Rivals.
JONATHAN BULLARD, Defensive end; Florida
Crest High School; Shelby, North Carolina
Though his 40 is not listed, the best highlight I’ve seen is Bullard tearing down field after a running back. He caught up to the running back and the instant surplus of 255 pounds was too much for the running back. Most of his highlights, he would use a bull rush to push the blocker back. At the instant the quarterback or running back would attempt to run by, Bullard’s arms would thrust forward. He’d shed the block, shift into position, and make the tackle. He has been great against the run and pass. Florida will be able to shape Bullard and increase his weight to the level it needs to be before he hits the pros. No. 37 in nation ESPN; No. 6 in nation Rivals.
JAMEIS WINSTON, Quarterback; Florida State
Hueytown High School; Hueytown, Alabama
Winston can bounce off tackles at the high school level and use his 4.5 (40 time) speed to continue down the sideline. He’ll attempt to continue this at Florida State. He’s able to make the defensive line miss him if they break through the blockers, and he does not forget to set his feet before heaving a pass down field. He has great arm strength, but it’s a question on whether his ability to fit a pass in between double coverage at the high school level will translate to the faster college level. Before the pass, Winston holds the ball close, his release happens in a blink of an eye. He has good field awareness even when plays are breaking down, hitting targets right before taking a hit from the blitz. He displays clutch ability when scrambling and will throw on the run to receivers. Winston is a superb dual-threat quarterback and should keep Florida State powerful in the ACC from an offensive standpoint. No. 14 in nation ESPN; No. 10 in nation Rivals.