May 23, 2009

Recruiting roundtable: Who is impressing?

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 three of a three-part series; part one ran May 9 and part two ran May 16.


Question 1: Is there any prospect this year that you think is head-and-shoulders better than anybody at his position in past five years?

Jeremy Crabtree's answer: When I get asked this question, I always go back to when I watched Adrian Peterson play in high school in Palestine, Texas. With him, there was no question he was the best in the country and there was no doubt he was going to be a star in the NFL. I don't know if I've seen a kid like that out there in a while, even in the past few recruiting classes. There might be one in next year's class, though. Keep an eye on a guy nicknamed "Black Mamba." His name is De'Anthony Thomas, and he's a 2011 running back from Los Angeles Crenshaw.

Barry Every's answer: I would say no, and the only one that even has a chance is offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson. But offensive tackle is such a cerebral and physically demanding position that players usually take longer to reach their full potential, so we will have to wait and see.

Mike Farrell's answer: The obvious answer is offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson because he's the first offensive lineman we've ever ranked No. 1 overall, but I'll say Jeff Luc has a chance to be the best linebacker we've seen in four or five years if he continues to develop.

Jamie Newberg's answer: At this point I would say no. To me, the one guy that could be in that discussion is offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson. At this point, I think it would be safe to say he's in the same category as a D.J. Fluker (2009 signing class), Andre Smith (2006) and Eugene Monroe (2005), but he is not head and shoulders above that trio.

Barton Simmons' answer: He may not be the No. 1 player in the nation, but as far as a player who has a chance to be freakish at his position, linebacker Jeff Luc is a different species. Built like The Incredible Hulk, Luc is a devastating hitter, and his explosiveness and strength make him one of the more rare prospects we've seen in some time.


Question 2: With Utah coming off an unbeaten season, are the Utes getting a recruiting push? And with schools such as Boise State and TCU getting more national attention, are mid-major schools in general getting better reactions on the recruiting trail?

Jeremy Crabtree's answer: There is no question Utah is able to walk into more high schools and homes and get instant name recognition. When I talked with Kyle Whittingham last month, he said the type of reception they're receiving now is simply amazing. They can now beat out top-flight Pac-10 and Big 12 teams for top players. Last year's class was the top class from outside the "Big Six" conferences, and I don't expect that to change. I also fully expect TCU to remain up there with Utah because of the amazing natural recruiting base the Horned Frogs have in Texas. I also marvel at the job that Boise State does with their evaluations. Broncos coaches find prospects who just end up being great players three years later; that staff projects as well as any in the nation.

Barry Every's answer: TCU has been recruiting well for more than five years; it is not uncommon for the Horned Frogs to outrecruit Texas Tech or Texas A&M. They really put a lot of effort into identifying, then working kids in the state of Texas. Utah surprises people even though the state actually produces more top-level athletes than the general fan would think. Boise State is the school that has to really hit the recruiting trail hard because Idaho is basically void of D-I talent. I think Boise does a great job of identifying kids who may be a tad short or slow for "Big Six" schools to go after, but these same kids are legit, hard-nosed football players. A good football player with the desire to succeed will beat out a star athlete every time if the star athlete does not find the motivation to get better.

Mike Farrell's answer: I think the mid-majors are starting to get more attention and respect from players, but I don't see any of them cracking the top 25 in recruiting even though you could argue that some of them have as good or better a chance to play in a BCS bowl than many "Big Six" schools.

Jamie Newberg's answer: I think it's bigger than the three programs mentioned. The WAC and Mountain West, as a whole, are recruiting better, led by Utah, TCU and Boise State. League teams certainly are signing better prospects and playing better ball and gaining more and more traction each recruiting year.

Barton Simmons' answer: An undefeated season and a BCS bowl win over a program with the prestige of Alabama certainly is going to give Utah a recruiting boost, and players are taking notice. Programs such as Utah and TCU always seem to make the most of whatever advantages they have on the recruiting trail, but they're still going to do most of their damage getting the players who are a little bit under-recruited. Until the Mountain West is considered a "Big Six" conference, it will be hard to break through on the truly elite prospects.


Question 3: Any surprise teams thus far in recruiting?

Jeremy Crabtree's answer: I have to look at the job Jim Harbaugh has done at Stanford. It's still a building process there in Palo Alto, but the type of prospects that staff reeled in last year was amazing. They're off to an even better start this year. I think they could really position themselves to be a force to deal with in the Pac-10 in the next couple of years, and it all starts with Harbaugh's ability to recruit.

Barry Every's answer: Texas A&M is coming off its second-worst season since 1972, finishing 4-8; the season started with bad loss to Arkansas State and ended with a 40-point loss to in-state rival Texas. Still, the Aggies currently have 16 commitments, including 13 from Texas.

Mike Farrell's answer: Minnesota is off to a great start. Tim Brewster and his staff are recruiting at a high level and have a chance to make waves in the Big Ten this year. I also think North Carolina State will have a big recruiting year; the Wolfpack are in good position for a lot of top players.

Jamie Newberg's answer: In terms of commitments, there aren't too many surprises right now. But I think there could be quite a few come this fall and winter. My sleeper surprise is Syracuse. I think Doug Marrone was a great coaching hire. He is an outstanding recruiter, and he also assembled a good staff. I expect the Orange to finish in the top third of the Big East in recruiting, which should put them in the top 40 nationally. That would be huge for them and a big step in the right direction. Auburn is something of a surprise; the Tigers have made a lot of noise early. Out west, I like Washington to be the big surprise.

Barton Simmons' answer: I really like what Texas A&M has been able to do thus far. Mike Sherman and his staff have a big hill to climb in closing the talent gap between A&M and Texas, but things are off to a great start for 2010. The Aggies have secured a great group of offensive linemen and some good options at quarterback; they've really focused in on talent-rich but under-recruited Louisiana with some nice early pickups.




 

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