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December 18, 2004

Shrine Bowl’s uncommitted tipping their hands?

SPARTANBURG, S.C. - This time of year a large percentage of the top players have already committed to their school of choice, but not quite all of them, which is why things have been interesting to follow on the recruiting front at practices for the North Carolina-South Carolina Shrine Bowl which is being played today.

There is the old saying "the big dogs walk late," and that certainly does hold a certain amount of truth this week at the Shrine Bowl.

While some of the games top prospects like Mohamed Massaquoi, Johnathan Crompton, Rendrick Taylor, C.J. Byrd and Eric Huggins have already made their choices there are still a number of prospects who have yet to make their decision and all eyes will be on those guys Saturday. Here is a breakdown of prospects that have not extended a commitment and the schools with the best chance to land them:

Jamestown (N.C.) Ragsdale running back Toney Baker is the lone five star taking part in the game this week and also just happens to be committed. While Baker has been hesitant to tip his hand in any kind of way up to this point, in an interview with Rivals.com Thursday he stated that NC State, Tennessee and Virginia Tech are his top three, but North Carolina is also still very much in the mix. The 5-foot-10, 218-pound Baker has lived up to the hype all week and along with Mohamed Massaquoi has been the star of the North Carolina squad all week long.

Hope Mills (N.C.) South View tight end/offensive lineman Jonathan Hannah has certainly looked the part of a top recruit this week.

The 6-foot-4, 251-pound Hannah, who is a four star prospect, the nation's No. 4 tight end and a member of the Rivals 100 squad, added a new team to his list this week in the Georgia Bulldogs. It appears the Dawgs have stepped up their efforts in recruiting Hannah and Georgia commits Joe Cox and Massaquoi have talked him into taking an official visit on the same weekend that they will be in Athens in January.

NC State and North Carolina appear to have the inside track on Hannah at this point, but it will be interesting to see how things develop with Georgia.

Perhaps the biggest man on either team is Fayetteville (N.C.) E.E. Smith offensive tackle Curtis Crouch. The 6-foot-6, 305-pound behemoth appears to be holding true to his top four of Clemson, NC State, Oklahoma and Virginia Tech. While he would not tip his hand to a leader Crouch really lit up when talking about the Sooners of Oklahoma and his time on his official visit.

However, he went on to mention how he had been homesick this week being away from his family and may not want to go too far from home. It looks as though the Sooners and Wolfpack could be fighting it out in the end.

Wilson (N.C.) Beddingfield defensive end Everette Brown has been shy to hint at any leaders and has kept a pretty big list, until this week when he had this to say. "I'm down to North Carolina, Florida State and Virginia Tech," said Brown.

"I would really like to stay close to home, but I would leave home for Florida State because I like them that much. Going to North Carolina or Virginia Tech would be real convenient because it is closer to home. I have already visited Florida State, but I have visits scheduled for the other two in January and I'll decide after that."

Winston-Salem (N.C.) Mt. Tabor linebacker Derek Nicholson is a guy that nothing has changed with. He still maintains all of his top schools and won't tip his hand at all.

He stated that he would not announce until the day before signing day or on signing day. He has already visited North Carolina and Virginia Tech and will visit Florida State at the end of January.

It appears as though Miami and Tennessee will get his last two visits and round out his top five. One interesting note on Nicholson is that he has been listed in the 6-foot-2, 225-pound range, but was weighed in this week at 6-foot, 200 pounds.

New Bern (N.C.) running back Montario Hardesty is another major uncommitted prospect to watch for the North Carolina squad.

Tennessee seems to be hanging onto the lead for him at this point, but keep an eye on the Irish, Tar Heels and Wolfpack. When Charlie Wiess got the Notre Dame job the first prospect that the called was Haredesty.

He had only been at the Shrine Bowl around 24 hours or so before his cell phone rang and Wiess was on the other end. Hardesty stated that he has re-opened things up to the Irish and that they are very much back in the mix for his signature.

Columbia (S.C.) running back Mike Davis has one of the best poker faces your ever going to find when he talks about recruiting. He still claims that he has a top seven and has not narrowed it down to a top five, but does hint at one. Kentucky and North Carolina have already received official visits and he stated that Clemson, Alabama and Auburn would be the remaining three visits, which may be a sneak preview of his top five.

Though Davis will not tip his hand to a leader Clemson is believed to have the inside track at this point. There are a number of Clemson commits taking part in the Shrine Bowl, all of which have been in the ear of Davis this week. One Clemson commit said this about Davis Thursday afternoon, "We have been working on trying to get him to come to Clemson with us and I think we will probably get him. Right now I think he likes Clemson the best, but Alabama is probably his second favorite. He really won't even tell us that much, but from talking to him that's what it seems like."

Duncan (N.C.) Byrnes wide receiver Reynaldo Hunter has looked good this week in practice and may be a ticking time bomb waiting to commit to North Carolina.

The Tar Heels have held the inside track over the last few weeks and could be filling up at the wide receiver position. Since Hunter won't want to be left out of the mix and seems to have been set on the Heels for several weeks an announcement could be forthcoming sooner rather than later.

Conway (S.C.) Hivera Green is another prospect that your not going to drag much info out of, however, Rivals.com spoke with Green's mother Friday night at the Shrine Bowl awards banquet at length and she stated that it would likely come down to Clemson and Virginia Tech for his signature.

She stated that he felt very comfortable with both schools and that he was really wrestling with the decision. Clemson could have a slight over the Hokies at this point, but this one looks to be a very close race.

Rock Hill (S.C.) Northwestern defensive back Jamie Robinson has been the talk of the South Carolina squad this week. He has cut his list down to three schools and will visit them in three consecutive weeks in January, Florida State, Virginia Tech and Clemson.

Robinson won't come out and say who his leader his, but acknowledges that he has one. He stated to Rivals.com earlier in the week that he may not make all of his visits before he commits. If that turns out to be the case then it is very good for Seminole fans as they get the first visit and have been considered to be the leader for sometime.

This race basically comes down to the Noles and Tigers, but at this point it appears that the Seminoles have a good chance to land his commitment on his official visit. However, if Robinson makes it through his official visit to Tallahassee without committing then the favor could turn in the direction of Clemson.

Sumter (S.C.) Lakewood athlete J.C. Neal will sure be hard to beat out for the Mr. Personality award this week and will be a fan favorite no matter where he goes.

Rivals.com has talked with Neal numerous times this week and he seems to keep us in stitches every time with his hilarious stories and way of putting things. In terms of recruitment Neal has flat out said that he would like to leave the state.

He said that a part of him does want to stay in-state and he hasn't ruled out the possibility, but stated that Virginia Tech and NC State are his leaders with the Wolfpack holding the slight edge.


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