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March 26, 2004

Don't overlook the Big Apple

New York State doesn't get the same respect as its neighbors, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, when it comes to producing college football prospects. However, the last few years have proven that, while New York might not be the place quantity when it comes to recruiting, it certainly produces quality. This year is no different.

The names are familiar to the diehard recruiting fans and even those who only follow the games on Saturday -- offensive standouts like Damien Rhodes (Syracuse), Mike Hart (Michigan), D'Brickashaw Ferguson (Virginia), Josh Beekman (Boston College), Brian Leonard (Rutgers), Ryan Poles (Boston College), Alex Fletcher (Stanford) and Matt Hahn (Penn State) were all heavily recruited out of the Big Apple.

In addition, defensive studs like Will Smith (Ohio State), Randy Earle (Maryland), Leon Williams (Miami), Kwakou Robinson (Virginia) and Kelvin Smith (Syracuse) all received multiple offers during their recruitment despite playing in a state often considered an afterthought by many big-time programs.

As good as the last few years have been in New York, especially 2004 and 2003 (both very strong years for the Empire State), 2005 looks to be an amazing year for college recruits. New York State will not be an afterthought this year.

After boasting just one Rivals100 member during the last three years (Poles was No. 47 in 2003), New York already has two players on our pre-evaluation Rivals100 list with four others set to make a strong case as the Summer and Fall pass.

Quarterback Greg Paulus could be the top quarterback prospect in the nation -- and he might never play a down of college football. The 6-foot-1, 180-pounder from Manlius (N.Y.) Christian Brothers Academy has already committed to play basketball at Duke, choosing to be the next Bobby Hurley instead of the next great college signal-caller.

Hopefully, for football fans, he'll change his mind. Schools like Notre Dame, Miami, Syracuse and Florida are keeping their fingers crossed and, until he signs to play hoops, he'll be one of the most heavily recruited players in the country on the gridiron. Paulus has arguably been the best football player in New York for the last two seasons, and that's saying quite a bit.

Joining Paulus on the Rivals100 is Webster (N.Y.) Schroeder offensive tackle Justin Schifano, a throwback, tough-guy type who plays with a nasty streak. Schifano, who committed to Michigan early in the process over offers from Miami, Penn State, Virginia Tech, Boston College and Syracuse, doesn't like any of the attention that comes with recruiting coverage.

"He's a quiet kid who just likes to keep to himself," said his head coach, Anthony Bianchi. "He doesn't even want his film uploaded on websites or his photo, he feels it takes away from the team aspect of things. He doesn't like any of the attention."

Fear not recruiting fans, we're still working on ways to get Schifano the attention he deserves and hope to get film uploaded so Michigan fans can see what the 6-foot-5, 300-pounder can do. Schifano is the best lineman New York has seen since Poles and will likely be a staple of the Rivals100 all season.

Two other players from New York came very close to making the Rivals100. Brooklyn (N.Y.) Lincoln wide receiver Nyan Boateng not only catches TD passes on the gridiron, but he also takes feeds from phenom hoopster Sebastian Telfair on the hardwood. Boateng, a 6-foot-2, 185-pounder with a 40-inch vertical, has basketball offers from Memphis and Florida and football offers from Southern Cal, Syracuse, Maryland, Penn State, Pitt and others.

Boateng has very good hands and is very quick, but his true strength is using his strength and jumping ability to make plays in traffic.

Another near miss was Long Island (N.Y.) North Babylon running back Jason Gwaltney, a man amongst boys in the talent challenged Long Island area. Gwaltney, a 6-foot-2, 220-pounder, committed early to West Virginia over offers from Syracuse, Boston College, Maryland, Penn State and others.

By rushing for 2,601 yards and 45 scores as a junior, Gwaltney was one of the most productive running backs in the country last season. His combination of size and speed will be a great fit for West Virginia's spread rushing attack.

Two other players will garner consideration for Rivals100 over the coming months. Brooklyn (N.Y.) Poly Prep athlete Paul Anderson is the best player at his school in a long, long time -- impressive stuff considering that Robinson was a four-star out of Poly back in 2002 and the program has produced more than 10 college prospects in the last decade. Anderson could be the best athlete overall in the state this year.

Athol Springs (N.Y.) St. Francis defensive end Doug Worthington might get the least pub of this group, but he could be the next Will Smith. The 6-foot-5, 255-pounder already has offers from Ohio State, Penn State, Pitt, Syracuse, Boston College and others. He's the best rush end the state has seen since the aforementioned Smith, who is a surefire first round pick choice next month in the NFL Draft.

Beyond these six standouts, players like linebacker Mike Stenclik (Syracuse commitment), Scooter Berry (West Virginia commitment), Raymell Rice (Syracuse and Michigan State offers), Arthur Jones (Syracuse offer), Leslie Jackman (Syracuse offer) and Irvan Jones (Pitt and Syracuse offers) are all surefire D-IA prospects.

To all college recruiters -- don't sleep on the Big Apple this year, it may come back to haunt you.


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