Thousands of prospects have signed their letters of intent and schools have celebrated their 2011 hauls. Naturally, the focus now turns toward the next class and uncovering the top prospects who will headline of the first Wednesday in February 2012.
As the spring evaluation period approaches, Rivals.com unveils its early list of top names to watch with the Rivals250 Watch List.
No prospects for the 2012 class have been given a star rating at this point because of the need to further evaluate over the next few months. Rivals.com will utilize events such as camps and combines, as well as video, to help discover even more top prospects who will become pivotal down the road on fall Saturdays.
Keep an eye on
In Texas, some of the top prospects to watch include Denton (Texas) Ryan defensive end Mario Edwards, Aledo (Texas) running back Johnathan Gray, Spring (Texas) Dekaney running back Trey Williams and Rockdale (Texas) inside linebacker Derek David.
In Florida, keep a close eye on Jacksonville (Fla.) Bolles offensive tackle John Theus, St. Petersburg (Fla.) Lakewood defensive end Dante Fowler Jr., Miramar (Fla.) defensive back Tracey Howard and Panama City (Fla.) Arnold athlete Eddie Williams.
Some of California's best will include Elk Grove (Calif.) Pleasant Grove defensive tackle Arik Armstead, Westlake Villages (Calif.) Oaks Christian wide receiver Jordan Payton, Encino (Calif.) Crespi offensive tackle Jordan Simmons, Monrovia (Calif.) defensive tackle Ellis McCarthy and Sacramento (Calif.) Grant safety Shaq Thompson.
Outside the top three states, there is plenty of talent to go around.
Some of the top names to keep on the offensive side include Olney (Md.) Our Lady of Good Counsel wide receiver Stefon Diggs, Raleigh (N.C.) Millbrook all-purpose back Keith Marshall, Charlotte (N.C.) Mallard Creek offensive tackle D.J. Humphries, Lakewood (Wash.) Lakes offensive tackle Zach Banner, Scottsdale (Ariz.) Chaparral quarterback Connor Brewer and wide receiver Davonte Neal, and Springfield (Mo.) Hillcrest wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham.
On defense, among those to watch is Washington (D.C.) Friendship Collegiate Academy defensive tackle Eddie Goldman, Millen (Ga.) Jenkins County defensive tackle Jonathan Taylor, Harrisburg (Pa.) Bishop McDevitt defensive end Noah Spence and Oxford (Ala.) linebacker Kwon Alexander.
Strength in numbers
The Rivals250 Watch List consists of players from around the nation, but 99 of the initial 250 prospects hail from three states - Texas, Florida, and California.
The Lone Star State leads the way with 35 prospects. The Sunshine State checks in just behind with 33 prospects and the Golden State comes in as a close third with 31 prospects.
Checking in at fourth on the list is Georgia. The Peach State has 15 prospects on the initial watch list.
A number of the prospects on the initial watch list are familiar last names to football. A number of the prospects have had siblings who have made a name for themselves on the collegiate and professional levels.
Perhaps the prospect who needs no introduction is Oklahoma City (Okla.) Heritage Hall running back Barry Sanders. Sanders' father, of the same name, played at Oklahoma State before spending 10 Pro Bowl seasons with the Detroit Lions. The elder Sanders is a member of both the Collegiate and Professional Football Hall of Fames.
Austin (Texas) wide receiver Cayleb Jones is the son of former Dallas Cowboys linebacker Robert Jones. He is also the nephew of former NFL quarterback Jeff Blake, who is best known for his stint with the Cincinnati Bengals.
Land O'Lakes (Fla.) tight end Kent Taylor is a jumbo athlete much like his father, Rob Taylor. Taylor's father played eight seasons for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as an offensive tackle.
Ramsey (N.J.) Don Bosco Prep defensive end Darius Hamilton is following in the footsteps of his father, Keith Hamilton. Hamilton's father played 12 seasons for the New York Giants as a defensive tackle.
Another defensive end with a familiar name to the college football landscape if Mario Edwards from Denton (Texas) Ryan. Edwards' father, also named Mario, spent five seasons in the NFL with the Dallas Cowboys and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Another Lone Star State prospect with family ties on the football field is Buda (Texas) Hays offensive center Boone Feldt. His brother is current Arkansas offensive guard Cam Feldt.
A pair of Florida prospects have brothers making an impact at college programs currently. Pompano Beach (Fla.) Ely wide receiver Avery Johnson is the younger brother of LSU defensive back Patrick Peterson. Miami (Fla.) Columbus defensive back Deon Bush is the younger brother of Purdue wide receiver Gary Bush.
Early USC commitment, defensive tackle Arik Armstead from Elk Grove (Calif.) Pleasant Grove, is the younger brother of current Trojan Armond Armstead.
Safety Shaq Thompson from Sacramento (Calif.) Grant is the younger brother of former California and current Denver Bronco defensive back Syd'Quan Thompson. Tempe (Ariz.) Corona Del Sol offensive tackle Andrus Peat is the younger brother of Todd Peat Jr., who signed with Nebraska last week.