Covering High School Sports in America
College football recruiting heated up in southwest Ohio last week as most remaining uncommitted players from the 2011 class announced verbal commitments in advance of Wednesday's National Signing Day.

There was none bigger than Winton Woods senior linebacker Antonio Poole, who announced Tuesday night that he verbally committed to Michigan. It is a significant commitment for the Wolverines and new head coach Brady Hoke.

Poole, who is 6-foot-1 and 215 pounds, is one of Ohio's top players in the 2011 class. He had 22 tackles for loss during the regular season in 2010 and helped Winton Woods be one of the top Division II teams in the state. Winton Woods won the state title in 2009.

"Antonio Poole is a speed linebacker with great range, meaning he can get to places on the field most other players can't," said Mark Porter, director of "At times he can dominate the game with unique play-making ability. With the speed and agility of a safety he is also very stout at the point of attack taking on blockers."

Porter said he could see Poole playing weakside or middle linebacker for the Wolverines.

Poole also considered Miami (Fla.), Pittsburgh and Kentucky among his final choices. He had offers from schools that included Cincinnati, Michigan State, Wake Forest and Minnesota.

In the end, Poole felt most comfortable with the Wolverines. Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison made a home visit on Monday.

Colerain senior linebacker Andrew Smith verbally committed to Northwestern the after he took an official visit to the program. Smith, who is 6-2 and 210 pounds, had been verbally committed to Cincinnati since Dec. 11. Smith, who led the Greater Miami Conference with 10 sacks during the regular season, was second-team all-district and all-conference last season.

Gary Croley has been named the new Princeton (Cincinnati) head football coach. Croley replaces Bill Leach, who was told he would not return for the 2011 season. The Princeton position was highly publicized – the school received 86 resumes for the position. In the end, the school hired from within with Croley, who coached linebackers and wide receivers for the Vikings.

Croley is a 1994 Princeton graduate and later played linebacker/tight end for the University of Louisville.

"I understand the long-lasting tradition of Princeton football being a product of this program myself," Croley said. "It has been a professional goal of mine to lead the Vikings since I played for Princeton and (former coach Pat Mancuso) in the early 90s."

Former Mason athletic director Rod Russell has been named the commissioner of the newly-formed Eastern Cincinnati Conference. Russell, who remains active in the Southwest Ohio Athletic Directors Association, is helping the conference write its constitution. The ECC was formed after Anderson, Glen Este, Kings, Loveland, Milford, Turpin and Walnut Hills announced last year they would be leaving the Fort Ancient Valley Conference after the 2011-12 school year.

The start of the NCAA signing period for football, field hockey, soccer, track and field, cross country and men's water polo is Wednesday. Several schools in the Cincinnati area have signing ceremonies scheduled for the morning or afternoon. The Greater Miami Conference will conduct its seventh annual football ceremony at 1 p.m. in West Chester.

Walnut Hills senior tight end Benson Browne verbally committed to North Carolina State on Tuesday. Browne, who is 6-foot-6 and 242 pounds, also had offers from West Virginia, Kansas, Marshall and others. … Bellbrook senior defensive end Bryan Baird (6-foot-4, 220 pounds) has reportedly made a verbal commitment to Bowling Green, according to Baird also reportedly had offers from Ball State, Akron, Air Force, Toledo, Ohio and Marshall. … Kings junior running back Jamire Westbrook could soon be hearing more interest from Oregon, reports the Enquirer. Westbrook has offers from Cincinnati and Ohio University. … Mason junior tackle Joseph Spencer (6-4, 275) was recently offered by Ohio University. It is his first offer.

Former Ohio State football coach John Cooper and former Cincinnati Bengals player David Fulcher will appear at a Milford High School Athletic Booster Club event March 10 in Loveland.