The Middle Tennessee area continues to be one of the nation's most underrated regions in producing high level college talent.
Last recruiting period, mid-state prospects such as Ensworth's Antonio Richardson and Warren County's Cody Robinson were ranked among the top talents at their respective positions and ultimately signed with BCS level programs. Other prospects such as Brentwood Academy's Derek King, Smyrna's Jeremiah Bryson, Hendersonville's Joe Townsend and Ensworth's Conor McDermott were among 10 prospects from Davidson, Williamson, Rutherford and Sumner County to sign with major conference college football programs while 10 more signed with Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division 1-A) programs. 61 prospects from the region have signed with FBS programs over the last three recruiting periods.
The 2012 class appears to be no different from last year's class. Headlined by another Rivals250 prospect in Blackman's I'Tavius Mathers, the class has already seen several prospects receive scholarship offers from major conference schools including some of the nation's most historical programs.
Mathers emerged from one of the state's most competitive region's last fall as a national prospect after rushing for nearly 2,700 yards. The Murfreesboro running back picked up his first SEC offer from Vanderbilt prior to the end of his junior season and now holds offers from programs like Alabama, Notre Dame, Clemson and several others from the SEC. Many believe he'll be the most sought after Rutherford County recruit since former Riverdale star Eric Locke in 1998. Current Warriors running back Adam Davenport and Smyrna safety Brandon Hathaway join Mathers as Rutherford prospects on the initial Top 15.
Tennessee is known for producing talented offensive linemen and three big men find themselves on the Top 15, led by Montgomery Bell Academy's Blake Bars. The 6-foot-5, 280-pound tackle prospect emerged as a starter for the Big Red in 2010 and has been one of the busiest recruits in the state since February, with nearly 15 BCS level offers coming his way. Brentwood Academy's Graham Shuler has also received several BCS offers during the spring and is considered one of the state's most versatile lineman. Hunters Lane two-way lineman Antonio Head rounds out the group and could have as much upside as any of them.
Brentwood Academy defensive lineman Woody Baron, Ensworth's Cory Batey and Battle Ground Academy's Blake Thomson join Bars and Shuler as private school standouts on the initial Top 15 while McGavock standout Caleb Azubike and Pearl-Cohn defensive back Darrius Darden-Box join Head as Nashville city school prospects on the list.
Sumner and Wilson County, two areas that sometimes get overlooked on the recruiting trail, are represented. Gallatin's Maurice Box is considered by some to be the state of Tennessee's top linebacker prospect while Mt.Juliet athlete Josh Shelton may be the state's top defensive back prospect after receiving two SEC scholarship offers this spring.
Columbia receiver Eric Belew represents Maury County after helping the Lions capture a state championship last November while Goodpasture quarterback Keenan Reynolds rounds out a group of seven prospects from Davidson County on the list.
The Mid-State Top 15 rankings are based upon in-person evaluations by VandySports.com during the high school season and summer camp period. Highlight videos are also used in the evaluation process. TNVarsity.com mid-state recruiting analyst Justin Angel also contributed to the ranking process this spring.
VandySports.com will update the Top 15 in October and present a final list in January prior to signing day.