Things "Just Starting to Heat Up"

USC recruiting

Last year Florida prospects Noel Devine and Chris Rainey showed the nation that a running back of smaller-stature with great speed, vision and moves could garner national attention and five-star status. In 2008, that tradition continues with Carlton Thomas, a talented running back prospect who has already been compared to Barry Sanders by some.

WeAreSC had the chance to catch up with the latest in the recruitment of this impressive player.

Frostproof Middle High School (FL) is home to one of the nation's most dynamic running back prospects, Carlton Thomas (5-8, 175, 4.5). Thomas rushed for 2,283 yards and 25 touchdowns as a junior, sporting a gaudy 13.5 yards-per-carry average and besting 2007's 5-star prospect Chris Rainey for the title of Polk County rushing leader. It is no wonder, then, that USC has Thomas on its radar screen as a top running back prospect for 2008.

When we caught up with Carlton, he had just finished his track season and was eagerly anticipating the start of Spring Football practice at Frostproof. "We're starting Spring Ball tomorrow, said Thomas. I'm very excited and can't wait to get out there."

The opportunity to expand his role on the team as a receiver in addition to being a standout tailback as desired by his coaching staff also brought a smile to Thomas' face, who sees himself as a playmaker. "It doesn't matter if I'm running back or wide receiver. Every chance I can get the ball in my hands—it doesn't matter, as long as I can make plays for the team."

Reflecting this team-oriented attitude, Thomas' personal goal for the upcoming senior campaign is simple: "Make the State title game and win it." After earning so many accolades as a junior but seeing his team miss the playoffs, Thomas would like to end his senior year on the highest note possible.

While focusing on this lofty goal in the fall, Thomas will also undergo a recruiting process that has brought scholarship offers from Arizona State, Arkansas, Auburn, Notre Dame, West Virginia—and most recently from USC. Thomas admitted that recruiting was "just starting to heat up right now," and that he anticipated several more scholarships being offered in the coming weeks.

Of the current list of schools that have offered Thomas, there was not a clear leader identified. According to Thomas, at this point in time, "they are all equal". The talented running back has not yet made final plans on where or when he will take his official visits, but that is not an issue because he plans to be patient and "wait it out until the end of the process" to make a commitment.

The first personal contact with recruiters started with a recent visit from the Auburn coaching staff and will continue with a visit from the Notre Dame staff on Thursday. USC has not yet set a visit date for Frostproof Middle High School, but Thomas looks forward to the opportunity to meet the USC coaches in person. Coach Pat Ruel, Thomas' recruiting contact for USC, has made a good impression on the prospect already. "He sounds like a good guy and I like that he's very excited about the game of football".

When asked if he had talked to Coach Pete Carroll yet, Thomas' voice grew very animated. "It was amazing just to talk to him, and at the same time he was so excited also," said Thomas. What impressed him the most about Coach Carroll was his enthusiasm and also his "love for the game."

Thomas commented on what he's looking for in his future college. "Education is the first priority with me. The tradition of the school is also important. The depth chart is a factor as well as how the team will use me in their offensive system," said Thomas.

Luckily, USC is viewed favorably by the gifted running back. When asked what was struck him about what USC has to offer, Thomas was quick to respond. "The tradition. They are going to be in the big game every year, get the best talent every year, and play in the BCS games every year."

After appearing in BCS bowls and bringing in top recruiting classes the past five years, USC more than validates Thomas' view of the Trojans, and will contend for this prospect's commitment.

WeAreSC will continue to bring you the latest on Carlton Thomas' recruitment.

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