August 1, 2007

Midwest uncommitted prospect breakdown

The race for many of the Midwest's top prospects is heating up as the season approaches. recruiting editor Jeremy Crabtree brings you the latest on 25 of the region's best prospects.

He offers up his insight on which teams he feels are in the driver's seat and which schools could sneak into the picture.

Here's the breakdown:

Top 25 uncommitted in the Midwest

Jonas Gray, RB, Detroit Country Day

Gray in action

Preseason take: We won't have to wait long for Gray's decision as he has scheduled a 10 a.m. ET press conference for Friday, August 3, to announce his college choice. He has gone from having Michigan State in the driver's seat to also seriously considering Nebraska and Louisville. This is a very tough race to call. Many think Nebraska has moved to the front, but it's also hard to underestimate how close he is with his mother. Will distance play a factor? In the end, don't count on it. With the momentum that Nebraska has, this one seems like a done deal for the Huskers.

Team to Beat: Nebraska

Darkhorse: Michigan State

Michael Floyd, WR, St. Paul (Minn.) Cretin-Derham Hall

Floyd in action

Preseason take: Floyd has remained out of the recruiting spotlight in July. He did visit several schools - including Wisconsin, Notre Dame, Michigan and Ohio State - in June. He has also been linked with Florida and Minnesota. This is a tough one to call because he's been very quiet about his feelings.

Team to Beat: Ohio State

Darkhorse: Minnesota

Cordale Scott, WR, Cleveland (Ohio) Glenville

Scott in action

Preseason take: Scott has also been playing it low-key this summer. While he does have an impressive offer list (Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin and others), he does admit that he was hoping for some other big-time schools like USC and Florida to enter the picture. With an offer on the table from the Buckeyes, he's Ohio State's to lose - like almost every other Glenville prospect.

Team to Beat: Ohio State

Darkhorse: Wisconsin

Brandon Green, WR, Chicago (Ill.) Robeson

Green in action

Preseason take: Green has been in no rush to make a decision, which is why his commitment is tough to call. Minnesota has done a tremendous job, and he likes the idea of playing in Tim Brewster's new offense. However, the local schools can't be counted out, which is why Illinois and Northwestern will be factors until the end.

Team to Beat: Minnesota

Darkhorse: Illinois or Northwestern

Willie Mobley, DE, Eden Prairie, Minn.

Mobley in action

Preseason take: Mobley has more than 20 offers, and at this point still hasn't narrowed things down at all. He said he's hoping to have the list pared to 10-15 schools soon. He did admit he grew up watching USC and Miami, but neither school seems interested. Ohio State, Iowa, UCLA and Colorado are schools he has checked out recently. With Ohio State limited on scholarships, will they have room for Mobley? Will Iowa beat them out regardless? Will UCLA or Colorado steal one from the Midwest? It's really tough to say at this point.

Team to Beat: Iowa

Darkhorse: UCLA

Nick Perry, DE, Detroit Martin Luther King

Perry in action

Preseason take: Perry is the best defensive player in the Midwest that nobody is talking about right now. He's explosive off the line of scrimmage, and he's so long that it's hard to block him. He does have a nice offer list: Michigan State, Iowa, Michigan, Indiana, Nebraska, West Virginia and Wisconsin, etc. Perry seemingly is leaning toward Michigan State, which shows the job that the Spartans have done in Detroit so far. Iowa has also done a great job recruiting Detroit, so watch out for the Hawkeyes, too.

Team to Beat: Michigan State

Darkhorse: Iowa

Zebrie Sanders, OL, Clayton (Ohio) Northmont

Sanders in action

Preseason take: Sanders has been a traveling man. In June he was out on the road hitting camps and taking unofficial visits. He has about as impressive an offer list as anyone in the Midwest, and a pair of SEC schools top the list for him right now. He really likes Florida and Georgia, but other schools like Michigan, UCLA and Clemson are right there, too. Sanders admits that he did have a fascination with the Bulldogs growing up, so I think that gives them the slight edge. He also has family ties to South Carolina, so don't be shocked if Clemson surprises here.

Team to Beat: Georgia

Darkhorse: Clemson

Michael Shaw, RB, Trotwood (Ohio) Madison

Shaw in action

Preseason take: Shaw is flying a bit under the radar right now with recruiting fans. He's a special player. With an offer list of Cincinnati, Clemson, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Nebraska, Penn State, Tennessee and West Virginia, it's easy to see that college coaches covet him. It might be hard for Shaw to end up at Penn State with Brandon Beachum there now. If Nebraska gets Gray, that might mark him off the list for the Huskers, too. With Sam McGuffie going to Michigan, where does that put the Wolverines? This is a tough one to call. He could buck the trend and end up some place that doesn't have a running back committed - or pick a school regardless of the depth chart.

Team to Beat: Tennessee

Darkhorse: Clemson

Fred Smith, WR, Detroit Southeastern

Smith in action

Preseason take: Just like Gray, the wait won't be long for Smith. He's also scheduled to make an announcement this Sunday between Michigan and Michigan State. Smith has admitted that he grew up a huge Michigan fan and dreamed about someday wearing the Maize and Blue. But with a teammate heading to Michigan State and the Spartans making a big-time push into Detroit under new coach Mark Dantonio, this one is about as close as it gets.

Team to Beat: Michigan

Darkhorse: Michigan State

Darius Ashley, RB, Cincinnati St. Xavier

Tate in action

Preseason take: Ashley is one of the top players in Ohio. He can be very effective in a number of different ways, but he's a very solid rusher regardless of how he's used. He's talked recently about having a list of about nine or 10 teams, with Louisville being a team that's moved up the list quite a bit lately. He also likes the running back tradition at Tennessee, but other schools like Virginia, Boston College or Northwestern could surprise.

Team to Beat: Louisville

Darkhorse: Virginia

Nick Clancy, LB, Joliet (Ill.) Catholic

Clancy in action

Preseason take: Playing for one of the best programs in Illinois, Clancy has received plenty of attention - and for good reason. Boston College has done a tremendous job early. The Eagles are selling the academics of the school and playing in the ACC. Purdue has also done a great job staying in it with him. The Boilermakers could pull a surprise here.

Team to Beat: Boston College

Darkhorse: Purdue

London Davis, TE, Cahokia, Ill.

Preseason take: Davis is a big, strong and physical playmaker that has done quite well in 7-on-7 passing tournaments this summer. He does have some smaller schools that are very interested in him, and he's showing some interest in them because he can get on the field from Day One. However, many people see him ending up at Illinois. He was also rumored to be a Northern Illinois commit early in the process, so don't count them out either.

Team to Beat: Illinois

Darkhorse: Northern Illinois

Kenny Demens, LB, Detroit Country Day

Demens in action

Preseason take: Demens says he still plans on being part of a package deal with Gray, and that's why this week's unofficial visit to Nebraska was such an important trip. Things could still turn interesting for Demens now that he is holding an offer from Michigan. The Spartans were in the driver's seat, and then Nebraska came on strong. If the Wolverines push, this could be their race to lose. At this point, it looks like this is Michigan State or Nebraska's battle to lose. The edge here goes to Nebraska, the school that made the recent push for him.

Team to Beat: Nebraska

Darkhorse: Michigan State

Donnie Fletcher, CB, Cleveland Glenville

Fletcher in action

Preseason take: Fletcher has some really impressive scholarship offers and has narrowed his list down to five schools - Boston College, Nebraska, N.C. State, Iowa and Michigan State. He said he plans to make several official visits before he makes any kind of decision. Iowa has done well at Glenville before, but watch out for Boston College because of the Eagles' academics.

Team to Beat: Iowa

Darkhorse: Boston College

MarQueis Gray, QB, Indianapolis Ben Davis

Gray in action

Preseason take: Gray would have been a member of the EA Sports Elite 11 Quarterback Camp, but a state association rule kept him out of the event. Regardless, Gray is one of the fastest rising quarterbacks in the nation. It looks like three teams - Michigan State, Minnesota and Oregon - are in very good shape to land him. This looks to be a Big Ten battle, and it could go either way. Oregon could be an interesting choice.

Team to Beat: Minnesota

Darkhorse: Oregon

Mark Ingram, ATH, Flint (Mich.) Southwestern Academy

Preseason take: He's another one that has been tough to read. Ingram, one of Michigan's most dynamic athletes, has offers from programs like Cincinnati, Michigan State, Washington and Wisconsin. His father was a Spartan, and most assume that Michigan State is clearly in the driver's seat here. That's probably a safe bet, but Washington could also be a factor.

Team to Beat: Michigan State

Darkhorse: Washington

Corey Johnson, WR, Muskegon, Mich.

Johnson in action

Preseason take: Johnson dominate at the West Lafayette (Ind.) NIKE Camp and walked away with MVP honors for the receivers. He still hasn't narrowed things down, though. With an offer list of teams like Florida, Minnesota, Nebraska, Virginia, Kansas State, Wisconsin, and Michigan State, he really can't go wrong. Will he leave home like his brother (five-star standout Ronald Johnson) did, or will Corey stay closer to home?

Team to Beat: Michigan State

Darkhorse: Minnesota

Whitney Mercilus, DE, Akron (Ohio) Garfield

Mercilus in action

Preseason take: Mercilus is another player that is much better than his offer list might dictate. It's not to say that scholarships to Boston College, Kansas, Cincinnati, Illinois and most of the MAC are bad, but he's a player that should have more BCS offers. Ron Zook has done a tremendous job of recruiting him and the Illini seemingly are in a good position to land him. If another school like Michigan were to offer, then it could get interesting. Watch out for Purdue, too.

Team to Beat: Illinois

Darkhorse: Purdue

Brett Nagel, LB, Lemont, Ill.

Preseason take: Nagle has a 4.25 grade point average and a 32 on his ACT, so we all know that academics are important. With that in mind, it might be tough to beat out local academic power Northwestern. He does like other schools' academic and athletic packages, but the best bet this early is to go with the Wildcats. Stanford, another great academic school, could also surprise. Purdue - with ace recruiter Mark Hagen involved - could be a dark horse, too.

Team to Beat: Northwestern

Darkhorse: Stanford, Purdue

Deon'tae Pannell, OL, Birmingham (Mich.) Groves

Preseason take: Pannell is another gem in Michigan that doesn't get as much national attention as he probably should. That's OK, Big Ten teams Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State are locked in a heated battle to land his commitment. He also has other solid Big Ten offers, but those three seem to stand out at this point. In the end, this one probably will boil down to an in-state battle between the Spartans and Wolverines. Since he talked most recently about his visit to Ann Arbor, it seems like Michigan holds a slight upper hand - for now.

Team to Beat: Michigan

Darkhorse: Michigan State

Isaiah Pead, RB, Columbus (Ohio) Eastmoor

Pead in action

Preseason take: Those hoping for an early decision from Pead better keep wishing - it's not going to happen. He's close to reducing his list of top schools, which might help get some insight. Pead has about 20 offers, but he claims to not be favoring anybody. This is probably the toughest kid to peg in the Midwest because he hasn't tipped his hand at all.

Team to Beat: Illinois

Darkhorse: Cincinnati

Suppo Sanni, WR, Homewood (Ill.) Homewood Flossmoor

Sanni in action

Preseason take: One of the state's best football and basketball players, Sanni hasn't really tipped his hand. The best bet remains the local school - Illinois - because ace recruiter Mike Locksley is involved. But watch out for Iowa in this race. Lester Erb has made a living out of taking kids from Illinois.

Team to Beat: Illinois

Darkhorse: Iowa

Tommie Thomas, DB, Oak Lawn (Ill.) Richards

Thomas in action

Preseason take: Thomas will play some quarterback this season, which might help generate more interest. Most people are betting on Illinois to win this race. Just like Sanni, Purdue is also very much involved here. If the Hawkeyes offer, this race could get interesting. At this point, go with Curt Mallory and Illinois as the team to beat.

Team to Beat: Illinois

Darkhorse: Purdue

Dawawn Whitner, DT, Cleveland Glenville

Whitner in action

Preseason take: Whitner is another talented player from Glenville. At this point it doesn't look like Ohio State will offer him, which opens the door for Illinois, West Virginia, Louisville, Michigan State, Maryland, Minnesota and Purdue. He has offers from those teams, but he lists Illinois as his top team - along with Ohio State. Minnesota is also working him really hard and could surprise here.

Team to Beat: Illinois

Darkhorse: Minnesota

Darius Willis, RB, Indianapolis (Ind.) Franklin Central

Preseason take: Willis has been very difficult to reach this summer, and that is by design. Most assume the three schools that have offered him locally - Indiana, Purdue and Illinois - have the best shots to land him. He would like Ohio State and Michigan to get involved, but it doesn't seem like either school has him high on their lists.

Team to Beat: Purdue

Darkhorse: Indiana

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