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January 29, 2011

Leaders emerge in state battles for talent

MORE: Counting Down to Signing Day | Announcement Watch | Team rankings Top 50

Here's a closer look at which teams are winning the recruiting battles in Alabama, California, Florida, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Texas - nine key states for recruiting in the Class of 2011.

STATE RECRUITING BATTLES
Battle For Alabama
The Combatants: Alabama, Auburn

The Winner: Auburn

Alabama currently has the country's top-rated recruiting class, but the Tide has done much of its best work out of state. Inside Alabama's borders, the national champion Tigers, who lose several starters, are faring exceptionally well. Yes, even better than the Tide. Auburn has commitments from three of the state's elite prospects - linebacker/running back Brent Calloway, center Reese Dismukes and safety Jonathan Rose, all four-star players and Rivals250 members. Calloway, by the way, recently flipped from the Tide to the Tigers. Alabama's top in-state commit, receiver Marvin Shinn, is the country's No. 78 overall prospect. Overall, Auburn has commits from eight of the top 20 from the state; Alabama has four. - Keith Niebuhr
Battle For California
The Combatants: USC, Cal and UCLA

The Winner: USC

Even with pending NCAA sanctions, USC still has landed some of the best talent in the state of California including five-star prospects George Farmer and De'Anthony Thomas. Four-star quarterbacks Cody Kessler and Max Wittek have enrolled early which will give them a jumpstart at spring practice. It's been a big few weeks for the Trojans because they flipped four-star recruits Amir Carlisle and Anthony Sarao from Stanford and just picked up a big commitment Friday from four-star offensive guard Cyrus Hobbi, who was also considering Arizona State and UCLA. In second place is Cal, who has done an outstanding job especially on the defensive line by getting Brennan Scarlett, Jason Gibson, Todd Barr, Viliami Moala and Mustafa Jalil, all four-star recruits. Flipping running back Brendon Bigelow from Washington was important. Stanford took some significant hits after Harbaugh left but there wasn't a mass exodus so the Cardinal should be fine. Keeping James Vaughters and Wayne Lyons was crucial to the recruiting class. UCLA continues to struggle on the recruiting trail. - Adam Gorney
Battle For Florida
The Combatants: Florida, Florida State and Miami

The Winner: Florida State

The State of Florida has once again been a battlefield with colleges from around the nation trying to raid it for great prospects but the team that is likely to earn the championship banner in the Sunshine State is Florida State. The Seminoles have 19 commitments from in-state talent led by five-star running back James Wilder Jr., five-star safety Karlos Williams, and four-star tight end Nick O'Leary. The Seminoles hope to close out by landing five-star linebacker Tony Steward and four-star defensive lineman Timmy Jernigan. Honorable mention goes to Alabama, who stole five-star safety Hasean Clinton-Dix from Florida, and Clemson, who snagged a pair of five-star prospects in wide receiver Sammy Watkins and running back Mike Bellamy. Florida has also done well landing the state's top quarterback, Jeff Driskel, and Louisville made its presence known, especially in South Florida. Miami is making a late charge. - Chris Nee
Battle For Michigan
The Combatants: Michigan and Michigan State

The Winner: Michigan

This has been an interesting battle since the beginning. At first it looked like Michigan State would run away with things landing the state's top player in Lawrence Thomas and leading early for DeAnthony Arnett while Michigan struggled. However, the Wolverines have done better in state overall despite the firing of Rich Rodriguez and the failed attempts to lure Jim Harbaugh and Les Miles before hiring Brady Hoke. Although they lost out on Anthony Zettel in a surprise (to Penn State), they swayed Justice Hayes away from Notre Dame, pulled Raymon Taylor from Indiana and landed Brennen Beyer. Meanwhile, Arnett bolted for Tennessee and the Spartans missed out on any other four-star prospects in state aside from Thomas. - Mike Farrell
Battle For Mississippi
The Combatants: Ole Miss, Mississippi State

The Winner: Ole Miss

Both programs have commitments from eight of the state's 20 best prospects, but the difference is that Ole Miss, despite coming off a disappointing season, is on track to land the greater number of top-end players. And that program has done quite well head to head against Mississippi State. Linebacker C.J. Johnson, the state's lone five-star recruit, is a Rebels commit (he previously was committed to the Bulldogs). So are four four-star players, including standout receivers Donte Moncrief and Tobias Singleton, both of whom made the final Rivals250. Ole Miss also has a chance of landing touted four-star receiver Nickolas Brassell. Mississippi State's top in-state get is Rivals250 defensive tackle P.J. Jones. - Keith Niebuhr
Battle For North Carolina
The Combatants: North Carolina, NC State, Wake Forest, Duke

The Winner: North Carolina

This one is no contest. Last year Tom O'Brien and his staff took the crown but this year it is clearly Butch Davis and company that dominated the competition. While the top six players in the state appear to be heading outside the borders - certainly a concerning statistic for all the in-state programs - after that it's all North Carolina. Four-stars T.J. Thorpe, Jarrod James, Norkeithus Otis, Devonte Brown and Marquise Williams all decided to head to Chapel Hill forming the foundation of one of the ACC's best classes. All of this was done with the NCAA breathing down the neck of UNC in regards to player contact with agents and academic issues. The best non-UNC commitment for NC State, Wake Forest or Duke is Sherman Ragland who is barely inside the state top 30 and schools like Maryland, Georgia Tech, South Carolina, Clemson and Cal have higher-ranked commitments from North Carolina than the Wolfpack, Demon Deacons and Blue Devils. - Mike Farrell
Battle For Pennsylvania
The Combatants: Penn State and Pitt

The Winner: Penn State

Penn State wins this one by default in a way. Pitt was running away with this battle with commitments from top prospects such as Kyshoen Jarrett, Terrell Chestnut and Jameel Poteat in state but when Dave Wannstedt was fired and the disastrous tenure of Mike Haywood came and went, it all fell apart. In the meantime, Penn State had a strong finish to a class that started off poorly. While most of Penn State's top prospects hail from outside the state of Pennsylvania, they still boast top talent in defensive end Deion Barnes, Shawn Oakman and former Pitt commitment Ben Kline. The best Pitt commitment in state is offensive lineman Artie Rowell who is barely in the top 30. In a weak year for talent in the Keystone State, the Nittany Lions have the edge. - Mike Farrell
Battle For South Carolina
The Combatants: Clemson, South Carolina

The Winner: Undecided

Picking a winner right now in South Carolina isn't easy. Here's why: While Clemson has more of the state's top 20 players and four-star recruits committed than its archrival, two of the state's four best prospects are still uncommitted and many believe South Carolina is the front-runner for both. The first is defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, the country's No. 1 overall recruit. He's expected to choose between Alabama and the Gamecocks. The other is four-star defensive tackle Phillip Dukes, believed to be a South Carolina lean. If the Gamecocks land both or even just Clowney, you'd have to give them a slight edge. If they only get Dukes or neither, Clemson would get the nod. The Tigers currently have commitments from eight top- 20 in-state players, most notably Rivals100 receiver Charone Peake and four-star linebacker Lateek Townsend. - Keith Niebuhr
Battle For Texas
The Combatants: Texas, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Texas A&M

The Winner: Texas

Oklahoma has two five-star prospects from the state of Texas in Trey Metoyer and Brandon Williams and did a great job landing defensive linemen Marquis Anderson, Jordan Wade and Nathan Hughes but the Longhorns once again won the majority of battles in Texas. They landed the top player in running back Malcolm Brown, who should contribute immediately plus prospects such as Quandre Diggs, Steve Edmond, Jaxon Shipley, Desmond Jackson and Sedrick Flowers. Texas Tech will sign its best class ever and landed top in-state stars such as Jace Amaro and Kenny Williams but their Red Raiders still aren't quite on the same level as the other two yet. - Brian Perroni



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