Feb. 7, 2001
By RICHARD ROSENBLATT
AP Football Writer
Florida State is No. 1 – in Recruiting Wars 2001, that is.
The Seminoles rebounded from their loss to Oklahoma in the national title
game with a recruiting haul that blew away the competition, Sooners included.
With coach Bobby Bowden calling signals, Florida State signed three high
school All-Americans in quarterback Joe Mauer, running back Eric Shelton and
linebacker Chauncey Davis on Wednesday, then rounded out its class of 2005 with
three other stars rated among the nation’s top 25 players.
“It’s a slam dunk for Florida State,” Allen Wallace of Laguna Beach,
Calif.-based SuperPrep Magazine said. “They completely dominated the state and
that means they completely dominated the nation. Nobody else comes close.”
“Bobby Bowden is the ultimate closer,” Bobby Burton of the Austin,
Texas-based National Recruiting Advisor added. “They may not win the national
title every year, but they certainly have the talent to get to the big game
Mauer, from the same high school in St. Paul, Minn., as departed Heisman
Trophy winner Chris Weinke, threw for 5,528 yards and 73 touchdowns in two
years. He also is a star catcher and could be a first-round pick in June’s
Shelton, from Lexington, Ky., ran for 1,400 yards and 12 TDs last season.
In addition, the ‘Noles signed nine of the top 13 players in Florida,
according to SuperPrep’s ratings – Davis (Auburndale), defensive backs Jerome
Carter (Lake City) and Gerard Ross (Jacksonville), quarterback Adrian McPherson
(Bradenton), linebacker Willie Jones (Miami), offensive linemen Andrew
Henry-Kenon (Tallahassee), Ron Lunford (Jacksonville) and Matt Meinrod (Tarpon
Springs) and wide receiver Craphonso Thorpe (Tallahassee).
“Regardless of who the assistant coaches are, Bobby is the man and he still
gets the great players,” Tom Lemming of Schaumburg, Ill.-based Prep Football
Report said. “By far, they have the most talented class in the country.”
The Seminoles weren’t alone in striking recruiting gold on the first day
players were able to sign letters of intent.
LSU, Michigan, Oklahoma and Texas also can celebrate, with the Tigers making
a surprisingly strong run to the top of the class. In fact, LSU’s class was
rated No. 1 ahead of Florida State by Max Emfinger of National Blue Chips based
in Covington, La.
LSU coach Nick Saban, who turned the Tigers’ fortunes around with an 8-4
record in his first season, saw nine of Louisiana’s top 10 players sign on.
“Recruiting is not an exact science,” Saban said. “Football is different
from any other sport – it is almost like picking puppy dogs. When you take the
pick of the litter, it will always take two or three years to know what that
dog is supposed to be like.”
Among the new Tigers are four All-Americans: tight end Michael Clayton and
wide receiver Marcus Spears, who attended different schools in Baton Rouge,
defensive end Marquise Hill from New Orleans, and offensive lineman Andrew
Whitworth from West Monroe. Also signing on was quarterback Rick Clausen,
younger brother of Tennessee quarterback Casey Clausen.
“LSU cleaned up the state, got a bunch of All-Americans, went to California
and got Clausen and went to Texas and got two good players” Emfinger said.
Wide receivers Bennie Brazell and Ryan Gilbert are the Texas standouts.
In addition to Emfinger’s top rating, LSU was ranked second by Wallace and
third by Burton and Lemming, Michigan had a second, third, fourth and
seventh-place finish, the Longhorns had three fourths and a fifth, and the
national champion Sooners had a second, a fifth and two sixths.
Among 25 schools with new coaches, Ohio State drew mixed reviews with Jim
Tressel replacing John Cooper and Miami had a decent class despite Butch Davis
departing last week and assistant Larry Coker replacing him.
The Buckeyes kept several top recruits at home, including Parade
All-American running back Maurice Hall, and they also signed running back
Lydell Ross from Tampa, Fla., who was leaning toward Notre Dame.
Miami, which returned to the national title picture this past season, hung
on to some previous commitments in signing linebacker Leon Williams from
Brooklyn, N.Y., and local running back Frank Gore. The Hurricanes also won out
over Clemson in signing linebacker Roger McIntosh from Gaffney, S.C.
Florida, which won the recruiting battle last year, was not among the top 10
due to a limited amount of scholarships available. “They’ll be back next
year,” Lemming said.
Also faring well was the Pacific-10 Conference, led by Washington and UCLA,
with a strong showing from Oregon State, Stanford and USC under new coach Pete
Among the Pac-10’s scores – Shaun Cody, USA Today’s defensive player of the
year, chose USC over Notre Dame.
The Irish, meanwhile, did not sign many high-profile players and managed a
No. 13 rating from Lemming, who said higher academic standards was the reason.
“They finished 13th and that’s good for anyone else but Notre Dame,”
Lemming said. “But they were competing with the Stanfords and Northwesterns
rather than the Florida States, Tennessee and Michigans. That’s an indication
of raised academic standards rather than a lack of effort.”
The Sooners’ prize recruit could turn out to be defensive lineman Tommie
Harris, a 6-foot-3, 275-pounder from Killeen, Texas, a player the Longhorns
coveted. Winning a national title has a way of helping, too.
“The exposure’s been great and it’s helped us in recruiting,” Oklahoma
coach Bob Stoops said. “All these young men want to win championship and they
realize here at Oklahoma they’re going to have that opportunity.”
Michigan signed three USA Today All-Americans – running back Kelly Baraka of
Portage, Mich., and defensive backs Marlin Jackson of Sharon, Pa., and Ernest
Shazor of Detroit.
“It’s easier to get them, than it is to build them into a team,”
Wolverines coach Lloyd Carr said. “That’s really the greatest challenge.”
Penn State, after a 5-7 season, was missing from most Top 10 lists. The
Nittany Lions’ biggest failure was losing Kevin Jones of Chester, Pa., one of
the nation’s top-rated running backs who signed with Virginia Tech. Jones ran
for 1,606 yards and 18 TDs in his senior season.
They beat out the Hokies for quarterback Michael Robinson, from Richmond,
Va. The 6-3, 210-pound Robinson, viewed by Tech as a replacement for Michael
Vick, passed for 1,281 yards and 15 TDs and ran for 1,056 yards and 12 TDs as a
senior. But the Hokies signed another top quarterback in Bryan Randall, who
threw for 1,301 yards and 14 TDs and ran for 1,012 yards and another 14 TDs.