Posted on: February 21, 2012 1:01 pm
Edited on: February 21, 2012 1:14 pm
Posted by Bryan Fischer
The class of 2012 is, with one notable exception, signed and done with. That means it is time to turn everybody's attention to the class of 2013 and keep it there. Here are a few storylines to follow on the road to the first Wednesday in February next year - in no particular order.
1. Will Nick Saban be able to close on the country's top prospect?
Nick Saban has certainly earned the title of the country's top recruiter after pulling in the top overall class (or close to it) since arriving in Tuscaloosa. The one thing he hasn't done, however, is land the nation's top recruit. In the class of 2012, he went after Dorial Green-Beckham but couldn't make the final cut. A year before Saban narrowly lost out on Jadeveon Clowney to South Carolina. Is the third time the charm in Grayson (Ga.) defensive end Robert Nkemdiche?
One of the top athletes to play the position coming out of high school, Nkemdiche can play multiple positions in college and has something that you rarely see in some recruits - the drive to be great. At this point, most expect him to sign with the Crimson Tide but in recruiting, as in life, things sometimes have a way of making an unexpected turn. His high school head coach played on an Alabama national championship squad and Nkemdiche has gotten the full court press from the staff for a while. Still, he's listed other schools, taken visits to some like Georgia and has his brother at Ole Miss. It looks good for Saban but we won't find out for sure until next February.
2. Who wins the battle of the Midwest behemoths?
The past year has seen Midwest recruiting go from some yawns and a few eyebrow raises to must-read headlines on a daily basis thanks to Brady Hoke and Urban Meyer recruiting like mad. Hoke had the country's top recruiting class before ever coaching a game and Meyer was able to land an impressive class doing the same. It's been an interesting transformation in the Big Ten over the past few months and turned the conference into two programs and a cloud of dust.
Both are off to a very solid start with the class of 2013 with plenty of momentum from signing top five classes earlier this month. The Buckeyes have landed elite guys like Trotwood (Ohio) linebacker Cam Burrows and are certainly in the mix for plenty of top 100 players. The Wolverines had a monster recruiting weekend to power them to a total of 11 commits, and have a headliner (and one of the top quarterbacks in the country) in Shane Morris. Should be a fun few months as each program jockey's to out do the other on the recruiting trail.
3. Is this the class where being in the SEC really comes into play for Missouri and Texas A&M?
There's no doubt the move to the SEC played a role in the Aggies landing a top 15 class and the Tigers getting a commitment from the number one player in the country but the class of 2013 can really be a selling point for both staffs. More than anything, it gives recruits a chance to watch A&M play Alabama and Florida, see how their fans travel, what the coverage of the team is like and if Mizzou's James Franklin can top Vanderbilt's James Franklin.
Already Kevin Sumlin has jumped out to a big start and has more commitments than anybody in the country right now. He's gotten quality as well as quantity to boot. What remains to be seen is what happens if things take a turn for the worse this season on the field. Will doubts creep into recruits' minds if either school has issues and struggles to get wins? It's something to keep an eye on but, for the moment, things are looking good as each joins the best conference in the country.
4. How will realignment help/hurt West Virginia?
Realignment has made the Mountaineers very interesting on the recruiting trail. There was a lot to like about Dana Holgorsen's first year, capped off with a blowout win in the Orange Bowl and Geno Smith likely entering 2012 as a legitimate Heisman candidate. The staff had a solid effort in recruiting and really got some speedsters out of Florida and from close by (such as Deontay McManus to the right) to sign up for the ride to the Big 12. Yet it's clear that there will be a emphasis on recruiting Texas and the South more with the change in conferences.
As my colleague Bruce Feldman pointed out to me yesterday, all but one of the assistants on staff has ties to the Big 12 footprint and several know the back roads in Oklahoma and Arkansas very well too. Holgorsen's wide open offense will no doubt be a good selling points for kids running the spread across the South and maybe, by hiring defensive staff members with area ties the recruits on the other side of the ball will take a look at the Mountaineers in this cycle as well. Should be an interesting look at how the program handles playing in the Big 12 this year and going forward and whether that translates in terms of recruiting as well.
5. How many does USC sign in year two of scholarship cuts?
If you doubted Lane Kiffin's ability to recruit, well, you must not pay a ton of attention. Despite getting slapped with deep scholarship cuts, the oft-bashed head coach enters 2012 with a preseason top two team and just signed a top 10 class with some elite talent. A pair of All-Americans at wide out were no deterrent to Nelson Agholor, who was lured to USC from Florida. There were a few offensive line targets that the Trojans missed out on late - they still signed a great class at the position - but that might turn out to be a blessing in disguise because they can take a few early enrollees to boost numbers.
Bottom line, who and how many Kiffin's staff sign will be a storyline worth following on the West Coast.
6. Who emerges during the spring and summer camp circuit?
One of the reasons why recruiting evaluation have tended to improve over recent years is the rise in getting a look at top players competing against other top players on the offseason camp circuit. It's also allowed those in the industry to discover more guys who don't back down from a challenge and have the speed and skills to be FBS-caliber talent. Because recruits are not in pads, we don't get a complete picture of a player but we can find out even more about how they play and how their recruitment is going. In many ways, the camps and combines that happen across the country from late February through early July will allow everybody to see who's an elite recruit and who we need to keep an eye on when the pads come on during the fall.
7. What impact will social media have on the class of 2013?
Ask any of the class of 2012 about Twitter and Facebook and they'll say it's changed recruiting. Players from across the country are getting to know each other more and more, going beyond just texting back and forth to DMing and Wall posting as early commitments explain to others why their school is the place to be. Recruiting is becoming more and more interconnected and there is no doubt that the 2013 group will be at the forfront of the new wave of change.
Forget hat dances, keep an eye on how many top 100 guys commit via Twitter. Should be a lot more than last year.
8. Who is the top quarterback nationally?
Upside, production, measurables, arm strength... there are plenty of things that go into deciding who the top quarterback in the country is. The candidates are out there and it will likely boil down to one of Max Browne, Tyrone Swoopes, Shane Morris, Ryan Brurns, Kevin Olsen and a handful of others competing to be the top signal-caller in the final rankings. It's important to keep in mind that quarterback is one position that should see plenty of movement as players go through spring ball, camps, 7-on-7, Elite 11 competitions and finally their senior season.
Olsen, Burns and Browne are your typical pro-style quarterbacks with the size coaches look for and big arms to boot. Swoopes is a dual-threat who some have compared to Robert Griffin III or Vince Young because of how electric he is with the ball in his hands. Morris is the rare lefty that is vying for top billing. Several others are hot on their heels in order to be considered part of the elite QB group in 2013 and will be interesting to see how each does as the pressure mounts each passing week.
9. Can Stanford keep things going?
When was the last time you talked about Stanford recruiting? Prior to the class of 2012: rarely if ever (provided you are not the type that tailgates with wine). All the Cardinal did this year was snag a top 10 class and land one of the best group of offensive line recruits in the modern recruiting era. But can the program keep the momentum going with out Andrew Luck leading the charge on the field? That's a question everybody is asking and at first glance, the answer appears to be yes.
Since David Shaw, a former Stanford player himself, returned to Palo Alto as an assistant under Jim Harbaugh, the program has had a remarkably high success rate when recruiting. If an offer goes out and that player qualifies, there's a very good chance that player will end up signing. The hit rate for Stanford the past few years has been nothing short of remarkable considering the restrictions the staff is under but there's no doubt the education, new stadium, major league and BCS-level success that has happened in the Bay Area has turned the program from doormat to door opener. Should be fun to follow over the next few years.
10. Does somebody finish their class before the season?
Michigan, Texas A&M, Florida and Texas are off to hot starts. The Longhorns are taking a very small class this year so they could wind up filling up with only limited room for recruits based on who leaves for the NFL early. The other schools are recruiting at a pace that will have local analysts taking a vacation much earlier than normal. So, we're left to wonder, could somebody actually get 90% or more of their commitments before the season starts?
Tags: Alabama, Andrew Luck, Big 12, Brady Hoke, Bruce Feldman, Bryan Fischer, Cam Burrows, Dana Holgorsen, David Shaw, Deontay McManus, Dorial Green-Beckham, Elite 11, Florida, Geno Smith, Jadeveon Clowney, James Franklin, Jim Harbaugh, Kevin Olsen, Kevin Sumlin, Lane Kiffin, Max Browne, Michigan, Missouri, Nelson Agholor, NFL, Nick Saban, Ohio State, Orange Bowl, Robert Griffin III, Robert Nkemdiche, Ryan Burns, SEC, Shane Morris, South Carolina, Stanford, Texas, Texas A&M, Tyrone Swoopes, Urban Meyer, USC, Vince Young, West Virginia
Posted on: February 20, 2012 5:12 pm
Edited on: February 20, 2012 5:39 pm
Posted by Bryan Fischer
Starting a new feature on the blog as the recruiting season picks up and spring ball starts across the country: The Monday Mailbag. My colleague Bruce Feldman runs a similar feature on Friday that is a must-read but there are plenty of questions out there that need answering and, well, I'm here to answer them since college football is very much a 24/7/365 sport nowadays. So without further ado, let the smorgasbord of questions commence.
Great start to the mailbag because it's a chance to bring up Dennis Dodd and Brett McMurphy's early top 25 ballots. I'm sure there's some griping from plenty of fans about how both have the order but I pretty much see eye-to-eye on most of the picks. To answer the question, I see a few teams that are a tad over-hyped going into next year, starting with Oklahoma, especially at number three overall. Are they top-10 worthy? Absolutely with 15 starters coming back and quarterback Landry Jones among them. But the way they struggled down the stretch last season was worrisome, especially with the injuries to Dominique Whaley and Ryan Broyles and how the offense just wasn't the same. I'm guessing the coaching staff will put more emphasis on spreading the ball around and hope for a boost in the run game with all of the tailbacks healthy to provide more consistency. Don't discount the loss of defensive coordinator Brent Venables either, the guys were not around for when Mike Stoops was and he didn't recruit them so it will take a little time to develop some chemistry. With plenty of time to study it, I don't think the 'Belldozer' package will be as effective as it was in 2011 unless there's more passing to keep defenses honest.
One other factor that should be noted is it'll be a tough Big 12 this year with newcomers TCU and West Virginia both having good teams on top of rival Texas taking what should be a step forward this year. It's possible the Sooners have a better team than last year but doesn't mean they'll be able to take advantage. I also expect several of the incoming recruits to see extended playing time, especially among the tight ends and receivers (I'd guess Taylor McNamara and Durron Neal for sure) Stoops signed.
A few others that are a tad over-hyped: Wisconsin, Florida, Oklahoma State and Notre Dame. Under appreciated? You're looking at TCU, Kansas State, Nebraska and South Carolina.
Great timing for this question considering what the Aggies did on the recruiting trail over the weekend. Seven commitments is an impressive number and pushes the program to a nation's best 13 total commitments for the class of 2013. After already grabbing a top 15 class with the group they just signed, Kevin Sumlin and his staff have certainly hit the ground running. It helps tremendously that several of the coaches came over from Houston and had already been evaluating some of these recruits and developed a prior relationship. One of the things that I got when talking with Sumlin last month was that he certainly would make it a point to sell the fact that A&M was the only SEC program in the state. While Texas will almost always have the pick of the litter when it comes to in-state guys, you can tell recruits going forward will give a longer look at playing in College Station because of that. With the 2013 class, they have two excellent offensive linemen who are two of the top five or ten guys along the line in the state and they have a handful of speedy playmakers on both sides of the ball committed as well. Bottom line is that the program has jumped out to a big start and probably should be able to hold on and better what they did on Signing Day in 2012.
Darrell, surely you know by now not to go against the great Les Miles. The Mad Hatter had a great team last year that went through a lot off the field that some people forget. I think the national title game helped, in some respects, prepare this team for 2012 because it tempered expectations a little and also gave them a reason for the team to think, 'it's us vs. them,' in some respect.
I'm like most writers and have LSU #1 based on what they return and disagree that they lose "key" players so that prohibits them from taking the top spot in the preseason. It could be, for example, a positive that the rotation of Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson is over and the Tigers stick with talented transfer Zach Mettenberger, who many expect to grab hold of the job this spring.
LSU returns only five starters on defense but they rotated so many players in last season that I don't think it will be an issue for them as younger players like Anthony Johnson get more snaps. Incoming freshmen like Avery Johnson - Patrick Peterson's younger brother mind you - should be able to contribute early on special teams and offense to complement the strong run game the team should have. The national championship game really colored a lot of people's opinion of LSU the wrong way and it's sometimes good to remember that there's a lot of talent on this squad.
Neal is referring to Scottsdale (Ariz.) athlete Davonte Neal, who will be committing to a school Tuesday morning. His recruitment has been an interesting one, not only waiting nearly a month after Signing Day to pick but because of all the twists and turns he's taken. First off, he's a dynamic playmaker who is built to be a slot guy in a spread offense and get the ball in space. He's also a solid cornerback and should play early on special teams no matter what - there's a reason he's a top 100 player in the class of 2012.
Neal is quiet and it was like pulling teeth for a while to get him to mention a school he had interest in before his senior season ended. He's taken a lot of recent official visits and most have him picking between Notre Dame, Arizona and Arkansas tomorrow. I've heard good things about Notre Dame in this case but I wouldn't be surprised if he ends up staying close to home and picking Arizona either. His high school head coach was recently hired there and family is very important to Neal so there are definite draws for the Wildcats. Old CBS Sports pal Rich Rodriguez no doubt told the 5-foot-9, 170-pounder how well he'd fit in the offense down in Tuscon too. I'll stick with a cautious prediction of Neal going to South Bend but I would be surprised for him to state in-state either.
That will wrap things up for the first Monday Mailbag, plenty of others to come in the weeks and months ahead. Tweet your questions to me at @BryanDFischer on Twitter and I'll try and answer as many as I can.
Tags: Anthony Johnson, Arizona, Arkansas, Avery Johnson, Big 12, Brent Venables, Brett McMurphy, Bruce Feldman, Bryan Fischer, Davonte Neal, Dennis Dodd, Dominique Whaley, Durron Neal, Florida, Houston, Jarrett Lee, Jordan Jefferson, Kansas State, Kevin Sumlin, Landry Jones, Les Miles, LSU, Mike Stoops, Monday Mailbag, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Patrick Peterson, Rich Rodriguez, Ryan Broyles, SEC, South Carolina, Taylor McNamara, TCU, Texas, Texas A&M, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Zach Mettenberger
Posted on: February 20, 2012 11:59 am
Posted by Bryan Fischer
Texas A&M is one of the major programs on a roll early in the recruiting process and kept up the momentum from a big weekend with a commitment from Dallas (Texas) offensive tackle J.J. Gustafson on Monday.
"I've been going to A&M games since I was one or two years old," Gustafson told Rivals. "I've always loved the atmosphere at Kyle Field. I've been to camps there too. I liked the coaching staff. I enjoy College Station too."
The 6-foot-6, 275-pound tackle held offers from schools such as Arkansas, Oklahoma, Stanford and Texas Tech. Gustafson was considered an A&M lean for most of the recruiting process with several family members having attended the school but waited to see what new coach Kevin Sumlin brought to the table before committing.
"I really like the A&M staff," Gustafson said. "I am getting a feel of the team and staff and where the depth chart is. I am discovering the A&M philosophy going forward and how they see their season is shaping up."
The pledge gives Texas A&M seven commitments in the past three days and give the program 12 total for the class of 2013. Gustafson is the second offensive lineman of the bunch.
Photo by Lonnie Erickson
Posted on: February 19, 2012 6:32 pm
Posted by Bryan Fischer
It was already a successful weekend for Texas A&M based on what the school did on the recruiting trail on Saturday but good news continued on Sunday as the Aggeis added two more commitments from Pearland (Texas) running back James White and Houston (Texas) defensive back Jonathan Wiggins, TexAgs.com reports.
The 6-foot-3, 190-pound Wiggins also held a scholarship offer from Utah and will line up at safety upon his arrival in College Station next fall. He was one of several players to make the journey down for the Aggies' Junior Day on Saturday, which is where he picked up his offer from A&M.
White is one of the top rushers in the state and held offers from Auburn, Baylor and Texas Tech on top of interest from several other major programs. He decided to end the process early however and will bring his 6-foot, 200-pound frame to Aggieland after rushing for over 1,800 yards as a junior.
The pair gives Texas A&M 12 commitments in the class of 2013, half of which pledged to the school this weekend. Kevin Sumlin and staff certainly have hit the ground running and added a few players who can do the same thing on the football field as well.
Posted on: February 19, 2012 11:58 am
Posted by Bryan Fischer
It was an important recruiting weekend across the country and new Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin was one of several coaches who went home happy after the Aggies picked up four commitments during their Junior Day activities on Saturday.
The headliner of the quartet is Dallas (Texas) offensive lineman Ishmael Wilson. A 6-foot-5, 300-pounder, he is one of the top linemen in the state and held offers from major programs such as Alabama, LSU and Texas. Joining him in A&M's class of 2013 along the line is Birdville (Texas) offensive lineman Joas Aguilar, right, who promptly committed to his only known offer while in College Station.
Among the skill position commits, talented Killeen (Texas) running back Johnny Jefferson was recruited by some of the staff members when they were at Houston and picked up an offer on the unofficial visit and promptly committed. The 5-foot-10, 200-pound back picked Texas A&M over Oklahoma State, TCU and others.
"I decided the night before," Jefferson told Scout. "I just had a gut feeling. As soon as we got there, head coach Sumlin and (running backs coach) Clarence McKinney put me a room and told me that they wanted to show me what the school and what Texas A&M could offer me. I went on my tour and I basically had my mind made up in the middle of it. We are going to offer you. I knew it was right for me, so I committed."
The final pledge of the day was Rosenberg (Texas) defensive back Victor Davis, who held offers from Oklahoma State and Tulsa. Sumlin and the Aggies now have 10 commitments in the upcoming class after signing a top 15 group earlier this month.
Photo by Kyle Dantzler
Posted on: February 12, 2012 2:51 pm
Edited on: February 12, 2012 3:02 pm
Posted by Bryan Fischer
Texas A&M had a very good haul on Signing Day with their 14th-ranked recruiting class and it looks like the Aggies might be able to best that effort based on their start with the 2013 class. Dallas (Texas) defensive tackle Kerrick Huggins was the latest to commitment to the SEC-bound program, picking A&M on Saturday.
"I like the tradition, the coaches, the academics, all of that," Huggins told AggieYell.com. "Really, I like everything."
A 6-foot-3, 280-pound interior presence also held offers from Colorado State, SMU and Texas Tech with plenty of others showing interest.
Huggins' Skyline High teammate, wide receiver Thomas Johnson, signed with Texas A&M and it looks like the Aggies are getting two impact players on both sides of the ball in consecutive years.
"I'm a straight defensive tackle," Huggins added. "I like to take on blockers and get in the backfield after whoever's got the ball."
The pledge gives new head coach Kevin Sumlin six commitments for 2013, three of whom play along the defensive line.
Photo by Lonnie Erickson
Posted on: February 1, 2012 1:04 pm
Edited on: February 1, 2012 1:08 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
Kevin Sumlin has seen some members of his first recruiting class leave for other schools on Wednesday, and he's helped flip some of his own, but the best news he received all day may have been when Trey Williams faxed in his letter of intent to play for the Aggies.
Williams' commitment to the Aggies hasn't really been in doubt since he verbally committed back in April, but given the nature of college football recruiting, and all the flips we've seen already today, Sumlin can move forward knowing he has his running back of the future.
Williams is ranked as the top wingback in the 2012 class by MaxPreps, and the five-star back is ranked #32 over all. He's the highest-rated running back the Aggies have signed since Christine Michael, who Williams could find himself splitting carries with in 2012.
Williams is 5-foot-10 and 176 pounds, but he also runs a 4.37 40-yard dash. Williams' signing combined with that of wide receiver Thomas Johnson give the Aggies a couple new offensive playmakers as they make the move to the SEC.
Tom Lemming called him "the most exciting player in south Texas." Though you don't have to take Lemming's word for it, you can just check out some of the highlight videos.
Keep up with all the latest from National Signing Day at CBSSports.com's National Signing Day Central.
Posted on: January 30, 2012 1:12 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Texas A&M will need plenty of solid defenders to match up against their new competition in the SEC West. Fortunately for Kevin Sumlin, the Aggies received pledges from two such defenders Sunday.
The first was Polo Manukainiu, a 6'5" 255-pound defensive end from Euless Trinity High School in the Dallas area. A former Oklahoma commitment whose senior season was delayed by a summer knee injury, Manukainiu chose the Aggies over offers from Arkansas, Baylor, Nebraska and UCLA.
"I love the tradition, the fans, everything," Manukainiu said of selecting the Aggies. "My mom likes it, and I like it."
But the news would get even better for the Aggies as they landed an even higher-profile commitment just minutes later: Edward Pope, a coveted athlete from Carthage, Texas who flipped to A&M from TCU. Though Pope played multiple positions for Carthage, he projects as a safety at the next level.
Pope also claimed offers from the Aggies' new SEC rivals at Arkansas and Missouri and ranks as the Maxpreps No. 14 safety in the class of 2012. Tom Lemming writes this in his preseason evaluation of Pope:
When I watched Edward on sophomore film I was convinced he would rank among the very best FS prospects in the country. As it is he still ranks among the very best and with a good 2011 season there could be no stopping him. Edward shows great range, instincts, vision, and ball-hawking skills. He breaks and closes on the ball as well as any FS prospect in the state, is smooth in transition, and shows natural movement skills. He rarely takes a missed step. A major talent with five-star potential.
With the additions of Manukainiu and Pope, the Aggies are up to 22 commitments and could be poised for a top-10 finish in the Maxpreps team recruiting rankings. Things are quite as rosy for TCU, who lost commitments from two key recruits in Pope and new Texas commitment Daje Johnson in the span of two days.