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March 24, 2009

National Notebook: Indiana talent on the rise

Indiana always has been known as a "basketball state," but the amount of talent in the Class of 2010 is making the state a must-stop spot for recruiters. More than 10 Indiana players already have earned scholarship offers, and it's the home to five-star offensive tackle James Hurst of Indianapolis Plainfield and four-star prospects Dyjuan Lewis, a wide receiver from Indianapolis Pike, and Blake Lueders, a defensive end from Zionsville High.

Another prospect might be joining them at the top of the ranking charts.

Fort Wayne Harding running back Roderick Smith (6 feet 3/215 pounds) grabbed headlines last week when he picked up a scholarship offer from Ohio State. Along with the Buckeyes, Smith also has an offer from Iowa and is getting attention from schools such as Oklahoma, Purdue, Texas, Arkansas, Michigan State and Notre Dame.

"Ohio State said he's the best running back in the nation," Harding coach Sherwood Haydock said. "Rod is a big back, but runs like he is 5-10. He is very elusive, can spin in traffic and has quick feet. I think once people see his film, they'll believe he's a top-100 prospect and one of the best athletes in the nation."

You can't argue with Smith's production. He has rushed for about 4,800 yards in his high school career and averages more than 7.0 yards a carry. Haydock said Smith has been legitimately timed at 4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash.

"He has great speed and power," Haydock said. "He is a great athlete. He reads his blocking very well and can catch the ball very well. I have had three Big Ten receivers and he is just as good as them if he were a receiver."

Along with his football accolades, Smith was a first-team all-conference selection in basketball. His coach said he's famous at his school for his "massive dunks." He also has a long jump of around 23 feet and a bench press of 300 pounds.

"I think once the secret gets out on Rod, then people will understand what I'm talking about," Haydock said. "We've got some special talent in Indiana this year, and Rod is definitely one of the best of the best. We think he's at the top of the charts."

VALENCIA HAS TALENT

The 2008 season was supposed to be a rebuilding year for Valencia (Calif.) High, but the Vikings finished 10-3 and went deep in the CIF playoffs thanks to a loaded group of underclassmen. Coach Larry Muir is especially excited about wide receiver Zach Tartabull and cornerback Brock Vereen.

Both players have last names that ought to be familiar. Tartabull, a 6-0, 185-pound receiver, is the son of former major league outfielder Danny Tartabull, and Vereen is the younger brother of former four-star recruit Shane Vereen, who now is a backup tailback at California.

Vereen (5-11/175) already has an offer from Stanford and is getting heavy interest from the rest of the Pac-10. Muir said he thinks Vereen is going to be a special player at the next level.

"I just think he's a terrific corner," Muir said. "He's a very good special teams player, and we're looking for him to have more of an impact over there this season. He's the most instinctual corner we've had here. He positions himself really well, is a smart player and he breaks terrific on the ball. He's also physical and tackles really well.

"He's not afraid to come up on run support. He obviously has a terrific older brother that is a special player, but we feel Brock is definitely something special, too."

Tartabull also has the talent to be a heavily recruited prospect. Early on, schools such as Arizona, Oregon, USC, UCLA, UNLV and Washington have shown interest.

"He is a tremendous route runner," Muir said. "He's got great, great hands. If the ball is remotely near him, he catches it. He has a great feel for the game. He caught over 100 balls over the last two years. He's just consistent."

Tartabull also put up big numbers as a safety, recording 34 tackles and two interceptions to go along with his 1,118 receiving yards. Some schools might be interested in him as a safety, but Muir said he thinks Tartabull is best-suited for receiver.

"I think it'll be interesting to see how some people project him," Muir said. "I think he'd rather play receiver."

ETC.

Tulsa (Okla.) Booker T. Washington defensive tackle Calvin Barnett (6-3/305) picked up two major offers this week. Monday, he received an offer from Oklahoma; Tuesday, he received one from LSU. Barnett currently is ranked 139th in the nation.

Four-star wide receiver Tai-ler Jones of Gainesville (Ga.) High has narrowed his list to seven schools Georgia, Notre Dame, Ohio State, North Carolina, UCLA, California and Stanford. Jones (6-0/174) caught 81 passes for 1,000 yards and 13 touchdowns last season.

Missouri added its fourth commitment from the Dallas Metroplex on Monday, from Coppell High linebacker Jared Parham (6-2/ 220). Parham played seven games as a junior with a cast on his hand and forearm.

Georgia received its first commitment over the weekend, from defensive end Jalen Fields (6-5/250) of Dalton (Ga.) High. He also had offers from Ole Miss, Tennessee, West Virginia and Florida State.



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