May 16, 2009

Rivals.com Recruiting Roundtable: Part II

Periodically, we ask our recruiting analysts to answer some questions that don't pertain to specific prospects. Instead, the questions are about broader recruiting issues.

Recruiting analysts Jeremy Crabtree, Barry Every, Mike Farrell, Jamie Newberg and Barton Simmons were asked 10 questions. This is part two of a three-part series, with part three on May 23. Part one ran May 9.

1. What's the best position nationally this year?

Jeremy Crabtree's answer:
I think because so many kids have the ability to play a number of skill positions in today's game, the "athlete" position has become more relevant and loaded with players. In the past, we seemingly would try to squeeze a player into a position, but now there's no negative stigma to being called an athlete. In fact, prospects actually covet the title now, while five years ago it's something many ran from.

Barry Every's answer:
On paper, it has to be athletes, which incorporates a bunch of different style of football players who have the ability to play several positions at the next level. I will give two examples. One, A.J. Derby is ranked 17th among athletes, yet is No. 145 overall. If he were to be ranked as a dual-threat quarterback, he would be either No. 2 or 3 at that position. Second, Spencer Ware is listed as the No. 11 ATH and No. 104 overall; if he were to be moved to running back, he most likely would be at No. 9.

Mike Farrell's answer:
I think it's running back. Franchise guys are out there, like Lache Seastrunk, Marcus Lattimore and Michael Dyer, and the depth is impressive with guys such as D.J. Morgan, Dillon Baxter, Brennan Clay, Roderick Smith, Mack Brown and so on.

Jamie Newberg's answer:
I don't know if there is a clear-cut "best position" this recruiting season because there are several that are strong at the top and with depth. That would be running back, athletes and defensive ends. These three positions comprise more than 30 percent of the Rivals250.

Barton Simmons' answer:
Maybe it is because there are a lot of players yet to be classified on one side of the ball or at one specific position, but if you take the athlete position at face value right now, there is some phenomenal depth and talent. One out of every 10 players ranked in the Rivals250 has the athlete label; there are probably at least six five-star candidates to go along with current five-star athlete Matt Elam.

2. What about the weakest position?

Jeremy Crabtree's answer:
Without question, it has to be quarterbacks. I don't know how the guys running the Elite 11 Camp are going to find 11 truly high-level guys to make it to the event. I really like Phillip Sims and think he's a solid player, but it does speak to something when you don't have a quarterback ranked until almost No. 60 in the Rivals100.

Barry Every's answer:
I would say inside linebacker or quarterback. I lean toward inside linebacker because there are less of them ranked as four-star prospects or higher and they have a smaller impact on the outcome of a game. Jeff Luc seems to be the only "freak" at the position we have come across; last year's group had several physical anomalies with Vontaze Burfict, Manti Te'o and Shayne Skov. All of them passed the eyeball test and would take your face off on the field.

Mike Farrell's answer:
Quarterback, by far. At first, I thought this was going to be a good year for quarterbacks, and I really think there are some guys who will emerge and others who will surprise. But so far, a franchise quarterback hasn't emerged and there's usually two or three each year. I think Phillip Sims is the closest right now, and he's not even in our national top 50.

Jamie Newberg's answer:
I think right now it has to be quarterbacks. New ones will emerge, but this crop isn't strong at the top and there isn't much depth. Another weak position is inside linebacker.

Barton Simmons' answer:
There is a hole at the top of the quarterback position; no player has asserted himself as a sure-fire blue-chip prospect. That makes this group a serious step down from years past at the position. The relative strength of the position compared to previous classes leaves a lot to be desired with this group.

3. Does any state have better-than-usual players?

Jeremy Crabtree's answer:
I think in pockets, the state of California is ripe for the picking this season. The Inland Empire, just east of Los Angeles, is absolutely loaded. There's not a day that goes by where we don't discover another prospect from the region who has multiple offers. I also think you have to look at the Pacific Northwest as another area that has more than its fair share of talent. One recruiter up there said it's the best year for talent in Washington in more than 20 years.

Barry Every's answer:
South Carolina currently has 12 players in the Top 250, which is almost as many as Georgia and more than North Carolina, two states that have much larger populations.

Mike Farrell's answer:
North Carolina is loaded, especially along the lines. Athlete Keenan Allen is the best player in the state, but after him, it's all about the big men. Robert Crisp and T.J. Leifheit are massive offensive linemen with good feet, and defensive linemen Gabe King, Alfy Hill and Fre'Shad Hunter have the potential to be great. North Carolina usually produces players, but this year it's as good as it has been in years.

Jamie Newberg's answer:
Indiana. You have some very good players, led by five-star tackle James Hurst and four-star running back Roderick Smith; both are inside the top 50 nationally. Wide receiver Dyjuan Lewis and defensive end Blake Lueders are four-star prospects who made the Rivals250. The two previous classes from Indiana had only four four-star recruits combined. This year isn't bad for a state that's known more for its basketball prospects.

Barton Simmons' answer:
The state of Tennessee has seen a steadily improving talent pool over the past few years and the 2010 class is continuing that upward trend, thanks in large part to the talent level in the Memphis area. With the emergence of players such as Keiwone Malone, O.C. Brown, Justin Maclin and Barry Brunetti, Memphis has become a hotbed for talent. Rivals100 prospects James Stone and Jacques Smith add to the list of players who would be near the top in any state in the country.

4. The flipside: Is there a "good" state that doesn't have as many good players as usual?

Jeremy Crabtree's answer:
Early on, a lot of people were really excited about the crop of players coming out of Ohio, but further analysis reveals that while it's a good year, it's not quite the great year everybody was clamoring about months ago.

Barry Every's answer:
The state of Alabama has had back-to-back banner years for talent. But there is no D.J. Fluker, Nico Johnson or Julio Jones in this year's class. Look for Auburn and Alabama to go out of state more than usual in recruiting this year.

Mike Farrell's answer:
New Jersey is down, way down. After having seven players who played their high school ball in Jersey go in the first round of the NFL draft this year, there are only two New Jersey prospects in our national top 250 right now. That's way down from usual.

Jamie Newberg's answer:
Alabama has produced a lot of talent the last two years, but this is more of an average year in Alabama. It's significant simply because the past two in-state classes were outstanding.

Barton Simmons' answer:
The state of Alabama has been a great talent well over the past three years, with blue-chip talent at the top and depth to boot. This year, though there is still solid depth, the nationally recruited types have yet to emerge.




 

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