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January 28, 2012

Leaders emerge in state battles for talent

MORE: Counting Down to NSD | Announcement Watch

Here's a closer look at which teams are winning the recruiting battles in Alabama, California, Florida, Ohio, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia - 11 key states for recruiting in the Class of 2012.

STATE RECRUITING BATTLES
Battle for Alabama
The Combatants: Alabama, Auburn, Florida State

The Winner: Alabama

Rivals.com postseason Alabama prospect rankings

All three programs have landed their fare share or talent inside the state, but the edge goes to the Crimson Tide. Alabama has secured seven top-20 in-state prospects and four in the top 10. Five-star running back T.J. Yeldon, a one-time Auburn commit who recently flipped to the Tide, is the headliner, but linebackers Reggie Ragland, Ryan Anderson and Tyler Hayes are also each Rivals250 prospects. Florida State has only three prospects committed from Alabama, but all three rank among the state's top-six recruits, including two of the top three - quarterback Jameis Winston (No. 1) and defensive end Chris Casher (No 1). Auburn has landed two players in the top 10 and four in the top 20. Its highest-ranked commit is No. 9 Cassanova McKinzy, a Rivals250 outside linebacker. - Keith Niebuhr
Battle for California
The Combatants: Stanford, Cal, USC, UCLA

The Winner: Stanford

Rivals.com postseason California prospect rankings

So far, the winner in California is Stanford especially after receiving the commitment of four-star offensive guard Joshua Garnett, the first prospect outside the five-star rankings. With nine other four-star commits and 18 total pledges the Cardinal is doing a great job on the recruiting trail. Also, five-star offensive tackles Kyle Murphy and Andrus Peat along with five-star defensive end Aziz Shittu are still on the board. Things could change, though, because four-star offensive guard Brandon Fanaika along with four-star receiver Kodi Whitfield are considering other options. Pac-12 recruiting is still so fluid that Stanford has the edge at this point but things change quickly. USC could pick up at least one, if not two or possibly even three-five star recruits on National Signing Day with Murphy, Peat, Shittu, offensive tackle Zach Banner and receiver Agholor still on board. Cal and UCLA also have impressive recruiting classes but Stanford and/or USC could land the real blockbuster class in the Pac-12. - Adam Gorney
Battle for Florida
The Combatants: Florida, Florida State, Miami, Alabama

The Winner: Undecided

Rivals.com postseason Florida prospect rankings

Heading into National Signing Day, it is tough to crown a champion of the Sunshine State. Miami holds the honor as of today, with Randy Johnson leading a group that includes nine of the top 50 in-state players but the Florida Gators may have the inside track to walk away with the Sunshine State Championship. Will Muschamp's group has eight of the top 50 but remains heavy contenders for the top two prospects - wide receiver Nelson Agholor and cornerback Tracy Howard. As for out-of-state schools, Alabama is the only school with multiple commitments from the top ten prospects in the state - wide receivers Chris Black and Amari Cooper. - Chris Nee
Battle for Ohio
The Combatants: Ohio State, Michigan, others

The Winner: Ohio State

Rivals.com postseason Ohio prospect rankings

For the first time since recruiting became everybody's business, the battle for the state of Ohio's talent was going to be won by a team not named the "Buckeyes." That was before Urban Meyer rode into town and righted Ohio State's recruiting ship, retaining the state's top running back, and flipping four-stars Se'von Pittman and Taylor Decker from fellow Midwest programs. The Buckeye's arch nemesis, Michigan, did its damage as well, grabbing Ohio's top prospect, five-star Kyle Kalis, and seven of the state's top 25 prospects, but on Signing Day the Buckeye's will reign supreme in their own state once again. - Josh Helmholdt
Battle for Michigan
The Combatants: Michigan, Michigan State

The Winner: Michigan

Rivals.com postseason Michigan prospect rankings

For the third year in a row, Michigan State will sign the state's top prospect, but Brady Hoke's emphasis on in-state recruiting paid off for Michigan in Hoke's first full class as head coach. The Wolverines grab six of the state's top 10 prospects and eight prospects from within their own borders in total. Out-of-state schools also made their mark, with Tennessee, Iowa, Syracuse, Missouri and Northwestern all pulling talent from the Great Lakes State. The out-of-state school that fared best, however, was Cincinnati, which has four-star running back Dennis Norfleet among three of the top 20 prospects from Michigan on its commitment list. - Josh Helmholdt
Battle for Mississippi
The Combatants: Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Southern Miss

The Winner: Mississippi State

Rivals.com postseason Mississippi prospect rankings

Thus far, Dan Mullen's Bulldogs have gotten verbals from nine of the Magnolia State's best prospects. That's six more than the Rebels have entering the homestretch. Mississippi State's top in-state commits are Rivals250 defensive tackle Quay Evans and defensive end A.J. Jefferson. The Bulldogs also are believed to be the front-runner for inside linebacker Richie Brown. If they land him, that would give Mississippi State two of the state's four four-star recruits. Ole Miss doesn't have the overall in-state numbers that Mississippi State has, however each of its home-grown commits is a pretty impressive recruit, namely Rivals100 defensive end Channing Ward. He is No. 1 in the state and could be an early impact player. Defensive tackle Issac Gross is the Rebels' other top pickup. The Southern Miss class is headlined by U.S. Army All-American quarterback Anthony Alford. - Keith Niebuhr
Battle for North Carolina
The Combatants: North Carolina, N.C. State, many others

The Winner: Florida

Rivals.com postseason North Carolina prospect rankings

With five D-I programs battling for the top talent in the state, it is amazing that the top eight players in North Carolina will be heading across the border, including the top two - five-stars D.J. Humphries and Jonathan Bullard - to Florida. North Carolina had to deal with the introduction of a new coach, Larry Fedora, late in the process, which is never a benefit to recruiting. Even with the coaching transition, the Tar Heels did win the biggest in-state battle of the year earlier this week by flipping four-star quarterback James Summers from NC State. However, overall this has been an extremely disappointing in-state recruiting season for every program in the state. With the remaining uncommitted prospects, the top battles will likely take place for three-star running back Jela Duncan and three-star defensive end Keilin Rayner. Duncan is likely down to East Carolina and Duke, while Rayner had been down to North Carolina and Duke, until recent interest from Ohio State muddled the situation. UNC gets the edge here with Summers and fellow four-star J.J. Patterson but Florida, Georgia and Clemson are the real winners here with commitments from six of the top eight players. - Mike Farrell
Battle for Pennsylvania
The Combatants: Penn State, Pittsburgh

The Winner: Pittsburgh

Rivals.com postseason Pennsylvania prospect rankings

In a recruiting year that saw the ongoing turmoil at Penn State and yet another coaching change at Pittsburgh, neither program achieved the in-state recruiting success that they were hoping for. The Panthers reeled in the No. 2, Rushel Shell, and No. 6, Adam Bisnowaty, prospects in the state, but overall only have commitments from five of the Top 40 to this point. Surprisingly, the Nittany Lions could not even match that as they only have commitments from four of the Top 40 prospects in the state, with the biggest addition being No. 4 Eugene Lewis. Much more will be expected from both coaching staffs next season once they are able to get more comfortable with their surroundings. If more recruiting success does not follow, look for coaches like Urban Meyer from Ohio State to take full advantage. Rutgers, a team without a head coach, has more top 10 players committed from Pennsylvania than either Penn State or Pitt. - Mike Farrell
Battle for South Carolina
The Combatants: Clemson, South Carolina

The Winner: Clemson

Rivals.com postseason South Carolina prospect rankings

To be perfectly honest, this isn't a banner year for talent in the Palmetto State. That said, Clemson has done the best job of keeping the top players at home. Five of the top-10 recruits in the state are committed to the Tigers. Meanwhile, South Carolina has landed two of the top 10. For the Tigers, the big pickups are defensive end Shaq Lawson, offensive tackle Javarius Leamon and safety Ronald Geohaghan, who rank third, fourth and fifth in the state. Defensive end Martin Aiken and safety Cordrea Tankersley also are significant verbals. South Carolina hasn't secured as many high-end in-state players, but is getting two of the most dangerous offense weapons. The No. 1 recruit in the state, Rivals100 receiver prospect Shaq Roland, is headed to Columbia. So is 6-foot-4, 206-pound receiver Kwinton Smith. It should be noted that the Gamecocks have done their best recruiting out of state, particularly in Georgia. - Keith Niebuhr
Battle for Texas
The Combatants: Oklahoma, Texas, Texas A&M

The Winner: Texas

Rivals.com postseason Texas prospect rankings

As has been the case the past several years, the Longhorns won most head-to-head battles against the rest of the schools recruiting the Lone Star State. However, the stranglehold on the state seems to be slipping a bit. Texas has five of the top 10 committed, led by five-star prospects Johnathan Gray and Malcom Brown but Texas A&M was able to land two in Trey Williams and DeVante Harris and looks to be in good shape to land a third, former Texas pledge Thomas Johnson. When expanded to the top 20, though, Texas has 10 with the Aggies coming in at five. Oklahoma has been a bit disappointing in the state this year with No. 20 John Michael McGee being the highest-ranked Texan on the Sooner commit list. - Brian Perroni
Battle for Virginia
The Combatants: Virginia, Virginia Tech

The Winner: Virginia Tech

Rivals.com postseason Virginia prospect rankings

While Virginia may have reeled in the top player in the state, Eli Harold, it is the Hokies that have enjoyed the majority of the recruiting success in the state. The Hokies already have commitments from seven of the top 15 players in the state, but almost as importantly they may add three more to that total on Signing Day. Joel Caleb, Korren Kirven and Ken Ekanem are all four-star prospects who are ranked in the top eight in the state and at this time each favors Virginia Tech. With their recruiting class basically complete, the Cavaliers are not a player for any of these three in-state prospects. Overall it was a successful in-state recruiting season for both programs, as only two of the top 21 players in the state are leaving Virginia, which is impressive. - Mike Farrell

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