By almost any measure, last year’s senior class of Middle Tennessee high school football players was virtually unprecedented.
More than 20 signed scholarships with Football Bowl Subdivision programs — 13 of those with Southeastern Conference schools, 10 with either Tennessee or Vanderbilt.
Setting the tone for those impressive numbers was The Tennessean’s 2013 Dandy Dozen. Prior to the start of the season, all but two of the Midstate’s top 12 players had announced their intentions to sign FBS scholarships. Of those 10, eight were headed to the SEC – three each to Vanderbilt and UT.
RELATED: Class AA football preview
Comparatively, this year’s seniors are thought to be as talented, but the process has been a bit slower.
The 2014 Dandy Dozen currently features just seven commitments. Tennessee and Vanderbilt and each have pledges from a pair of local athletes, with others committed to Alabama, Georgia and Ole Miss.
While those numbers will obviously change, there’s still enough uncertainty to ask: Does the local 2015 recruiting class stack up to the collection from a year ago?
RELATED: Phillips tops Dandy Dozen list
“I think they’ve very similar,” 247sports.com national recruiting analyst Barton Simmons said. “In ’14, you may have had two guys at the top in (Jalen) Hurd and (Josh) Malone that are probably going to be as good as any freshmen in the country. In ’15, this group may be as talented and may be deeper.”
To illustrate that depth, Simmons referred to Oakland tight end Kyle Oliver, Christ Presbyterian Academy lineman Parker Howell and Hillsboro running back/receiver Vincent Perry – all of whom are drawing SEC recruiting interest, none of whom were listed on the Dandy Dozen.
“During most years, they’d end up in your top 12,” Simmons said. “This year, those guys are probably right outside that group, but they’re really good players.”
Phillips was injured for much of his junior season, so from a performance standpoint, he isn’t the proven on-field commodity that Hurd was in 2013 – when he was coming off a 3,357-yard, 43-touchdown junior year. And Jennings, while compiling nearly 2,300 offensive yards, is still a question mark in terms of where he projects position-wise at the next level.
“You don’t have the real big-time five-star guy like Malone or Hurd, but you’ve got more quality ‘fours’,” said Jesse Johnson, VandySports.com publisher and recruiting editor. “You’ve got other guys that are high ‘threes’ that could end up ‘fours’.”
The depth that Johnson and Simmons refer to doesn’t include former Brentwood Academy receiver C.J. Sanders. A Notre Dame commitment, Sanders will play his senior season in California.
“I think the quality of the top guys, the top 15, is maybe a little better (this year),” Johnson said. “Last year, the quality was more in the top 10.
“This class is deeper than last year’s class, and it would be even deeper if C.J. hadn’t transferred out.”
Reach Maurice Patton at 615-259-8018 and on Twitter @mopatton_sports.
The Tennessean’s 2014 Dandy Dozen
Middle Tennessee’s top college prospects, selected by staff writer Maurice Patton with input from area high school coaches and recruiting services.
1. Kyle Phillips, DL, Hillsboro/uncommitted
2. Jauan Jennings, QB, Blackman/Tennessee
3. Van Jefferson, WR, Ravenwood/uncommitted
4. Donovan Sheffield, CB, Ensworth/Vanderbilt
5. Josh Smith, LB, Oakland/Vanderbilt
6. Cameron Ordway, CB, Giles Co./uncommitted
7. Jack Jones, OL, Oakland/Tennessee
8. Rico McGraw, CB, Ensworth/Alabama
9. Jackson Harris, TE, Columbia/Georgia
10. Alex Givens, OL, Nashville Chr./uncommitted
11. Ugo Amadi, CB, Overton/Ole Miss
12. KeShawn Vaughn, RB, Pearl-Cohn/uncommitted