Posted on: December 1, 2011 10:29 pm
Edited on: December 1, 2011 10:32 pm

Texas A&M class could fall but maybe not by much

Posted by Bryan Fischer

Following a heart-breaking loss to rival Texas that seemed to sum up a season of frustrations, many following Texas A&M football thought it was only a matter of time before head coach Mike Sherman would be let go by the school. They didn't have to wait long, as it was announced Thursday night that he was being let go by the school.

Though it was a rough first few years in College Station, the former NFL coach seemed to hit his stride with the program in the second half of 2010 and the Aggies came into the season ranked in the top 10 with hopes of competing for a Big 12 title and BCS bowl. Several second half implosions later and Sherman is gone and the once promising A&M recruiting class for 2012 might be picked apart.

While former coach Dennis Franchione had recruited well if you go by the rankings, coaching was an issue. It took awhile for Sherman clean up and get up to speed on the recruiting front but appeared to be making significant progress. With the success of last season, 2012 and 2013 especially, appeared to breakthrough classes as the Aggies also gained the additional advantage of being able to pitch playing in the SEC to Texas players.

As with all firings, things are too early to tell with a recruiting class right now but it would surprise no one if A&M's currently 8th-ranked class of 2012 slipped a little. Currently sitting at 24 members almost two months from Signing Day, the group has top 100 players such as running back Trey Williams and a strong offensive lean to the group. With a contact period underway and plenty of coaches doing home visits, you can bet that schools have contacted Aggie commits to gauge their interest. Missouri and Oklahoma Statein particular could be someone to watch out for in terms of stealing a few commitments.

Because Sherman was an offensive coach, it possible several players will look elsewhere. Based on comments from many of the commitments however, it's clear there is a strong bond among the Aggies' class of 2012. The current staff has done a great job selling the school and despite the firing, most of the players should stick around on Signing Day. The key to keeping a top 15 (or higher) class will be on the administration and how quickly they can bring in a new head coach.

If anything, the departure of Mike Sherman will set Texas A&M back with the class of 2013 as the new coach comes in and has to quickly establish the lay of the land while maintaining what is already a very good group of players in 2012. The Aggies should be fine if they find the right guy but then again, that's been said time and time before.

Posted on: November 23, 2011 12:55 pm
Edited on: November 23, 2011 1:05 pm

Meyer hiring would heat up Midwest recruiting

Posted by Bryan Fischer

In such an unstable business, it sometimes is still stunning to see how quickly the recruiting landscape can change.

As news circulated Wednesday morning that Ohio State would (finally) hire former Florida and Utah head coach Urban Meyer, it's clear that the though the toughest recruiting battles lie in SEC country, the Midwest is about to become a battleground for some of the top players in the region and elsewhere.

Meyer's recruiting prowess is unmatched, unless your name is Pete Carroll or Nick Saban and want to make an argument. He won two national championships at Florida, took Utah to a 10-2 season in his first year and an undefeated season and BCS bowl in 2003. He knows the Midwest and Ohio State in particular after serving as a graduate assistant under Earle Bruce and head coach at Bowling Green. An Ohio native, he knows how to go into powerhouses such as Glenville High and get some of the best the region has to offer. Connections to the state of Florida and the rest of the Northeast will prove fruitful as well as he transitions the Buckeyes to his spread offense. Meyer recruited NFL players by the dozen to Gainesville and should have no problem doing so to Columbus.

Even rumors of the hire has had an impact on the Buckeyes current recruiting class.

“I believe Urban Meyer,” defensive end Adolphus Washington told the Columbus Dispatch after committing to Ohio State. “I hope so.”

Meyer's hire is the latest move that has quickly turned the Midwest into an SEC-esque recruiting area. Brian Kelly has gone after defensive linemen and some of the nation's best to help put together a top 10 class last year for Notre Dame. The Irish are the favorite to land the top quarterback in 2012 and appear likely to grab another highly regarded class in 2012. Rival Michigan hired Brady Hoke and he has put together the country's best class that will sign this February. His defensive coordinator, Greg Mattison, coached with Meyer at Florida and knows him well - an interesting subplot. All three head coaches should also find plenty of success getting recruits from across the country.

Ohio State has always recruited well. Despite likely NCAA sanctions coming, Meyer should be able to do even better than Jim Tressel did given his legendary relentlessness on the recruiting trail. With three big names in the Midwest, numerous issues at Penn State and the NCAA easing up on rules regarding communication with recruits, Meyer should be a big splash that causes little drop off for the Buckeyes when the team rankings are announced after Signing Day.

Posted on: November 15, 2011 12:56 pm
Edited on: November 15, 2011 12:56 pm

Williams commits to Hogs after dropping Tigers

Posted by Bryan Fischer

A few days after decommitting from Missouri, Allen (Texas) running back Jonathan Williams committed to Arkansas last Friday - flipping from a future SEC school to a current one.

"[Visiting] was something I wanted to do and something I felt like I needed to do to see if I'm making the right decision for college," Williams told HawgSports.com. "I've never seen fans like Arkansas fans before; everybody in the whole state goes up there for Arkansas. I got to walk around campus and see the dorms and stuff. I got to see different frat houses that people go to so it was a good experience."

The 6-foot, 195-pounder is ranked as the sixth best tailback in the country by Maxpreps and second best in the state of Texas. He held a double-digit number of offers but settled on the Hogs thanks in large part to a coaching staff that didn't stop recruiting him despite an early commitment to the Tigers.

"Coach Tim Horton is a good guy and I got to meet Coach [Bobby] Petrino, so I really liked the coaching staff as well," he said. "Their offense, I like it because it's a pro-style offense and it gets you ready for the NFL. They run the ball and pass the ball so you know it's going to be a balanced offense and that's what stands out to me."

Williams has been limited by various injuries his senior season but is expected to be a key component in the Eagles playoff run as a nationally ranked high school team. His commitment is Arkansas' 20th for the class of 2012 and the second at the running back position.

Posted on: November 14, 2011 8:19 pm
Edited on: November 14, 2011 8:28 pm

National Notes: Houston, Hutchings & De La Salle

Posted by Bryan Fischer

Had a chance to go out to see San Francisco Bay Area powerhouse De La Salle play California High last Friday. The Spartans have been one of the most successful programs in the country this decade and have sent plenty of players to Division I schools and eventually the NFL.

This year's squad has three seniors already committed to FBS schools and two juniors drawing plenty of attention as well. The headliner is four-star quarterback and Wisconsin commitment Bart Houston, who is every bit of his 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame. Houston had a very good summer on the camp circuit and parlayed that into a solid season with the Spartans, leading them to a 9-1 record heading into the playoffs. If there's one thing you'll hear about him, it's that he's the perfect fit for the Badgers offensive system with a quick release, some mobility, good decision-making and the arm to get the ball downfield on post and fade routes.

Houston ended up 13-of-20 for 220 yards against California in a 24-3 win that didn't have the De La Salle ground game looking as sharp as it normally is. The signal-caller showed flashes of what makes him a top 100 player according to Maxpreps however, displaying nice touch on intermediate routes and spinning the ball well on short routes. There was only one or two decisions Houston would have liked back but was efficient the entire night and even added a short touchdown run. In short, you can understand why the Badgers went out of their normal recruiting areas to heavily recruit Houston because he certainly fits the mold of their previous quarterbacks to a T.

"Bart really impressed me with his accuracy, poise, leadership skills, pocket presence, and arm strength," analyst Tom Lemming says of Houston. "His accuracy is uncanny and he seems to put the ball on the money just about every time even when under pressure."

The best player on the field however was junior linebacker Michael Hutchings, who is also the top defensive player in the Bay Area and top underclass linebacker on the West Coast. At 6-foot-2, 210-pounds or so, Hutchings moves well in space and covers a whole lot of ground in the passing game. He likely will end up as an outside linebacker but it's not hard to see him bulking up and being able to play inside in a 3-4 scheme. Physically he has a big upper body and reminds some of former USC linebacker Keith Rivers. He got lost on a few plays but for the most part read his keys very well and you can tell he'll head to college with a plenty of experience.

"Last year we had a tough game against Cal High when I was on the field as a sophomore," Hutchings said. "It was definitely a grind, something we wanted to come back and get. I still say it was a sub par performance this game but they're a heck of a team."

The De La Salle linebacking corps is one of the best units in the country and also features California commit Michael Barton. The pair is close on and off the field and continue to develop into better players with the senior mentoring the younger linebacker.

"Barton is such a hard worker," Hutchings said. "Him and (Boise State commit Blake) Renaud guided me last year and now Barton has taken over this year. I just want to follow in their footsteps and keep the tradition going."

Hutchings is approaching the 15 offer mark and figures to see plenty more college coaches contact him in the coming months as the recruiting cycle shifts over to the class of 2013 on a full-time basis. Most of the Pac-12 has been in touch or extended an offer but even with plenty of time until Signing Day, Hutchings is already starting to develop a short list of schools.

"I have a group of favorites, USC, Cal, UCLA, Washington," he said. "And Oklahoma also.

"I was at Cal last week for the Washington State game. I looked at AT&T Park a little bit and got to be around the team. I probably won't take any other visits in the next couple of weeks but after the season in December I will."

Don't be surprised if this comes down to a USC/Cal battle with Hutchings committing some time over the summer following visits to both schools. Academics seem to be a big part of each school's pitch and the Bears have De La Salle alum and ace recruiter Tosh Lupoi assigned to the impressive linebacker. Though he's already successfully recruited Barton, it might be a little tougher for Lupoi to land Hutchings as USC is just one of several schools who are also making the future top 100 player a priority.

For now though, recruiting is being pushed aside as the Spartans turn their attention to the playoffs. With a title in hand thanks to a perfect 7-0 mark in the East Bay Athletic League and likely number one seed headed into the North Coast Section playoffs, another state championship is out there for the taking.

"We don't want to have any regrets," Hutchings said. "We want to go into every game, hit hard, don't make mistakes and have no regrets. We want to go into the playoffs and finish the season off right. As a junior, I just want to lead the junior and help the seniors win their state championship just like they did last year."

Georgia adds versatile quarterback

There weren't a ton of commitments this weekend but the most notable was Palm Beach (Fla.) quarterback Faton Bauta. A transfer from New York, he came in and won the quarterback spot at one of the big local programs - Palm Beach Dwyer - and has been dead set at playing the position in college, which Georgia appeared to recruit him at.

"My goal is set on being a quarterback at the next level and beyond. I am going to do whatever it takes and work hard every day like I do to get that goal I have set," he told UGASports.com. "My goal is still growing, to be an elite quarterback. I am going to keep working hard on my skills to do everything to make myself a better quarterback."

The 6-foot-4, 225-pounder is a versatile athlete and could play multiple positions in college such as linebacker or an H-back type. Bauta does have a strong-arm and is a hard-nosed runner who has passed for 1,006 yards on the season with 13 touchdowns and just four interceptions. Though he still has to learn some of the subtleties of being a quarterback, that's the position he'll start off at in college.

"What Aaron Murray does, I know he's a dual threat as well; he runs the ball well, and throws the ball well. For me, I'm going to strive to be the best quarterback I can be. And in my eyes, I know I can be Aaron Murray and more," Bauta said.

Georgia now has 14 commitments for the class of 2012 and though it is not as stacked as last year's 'Dream Team' was, adds the talented Bauta to a group that includes five-star offensive tackle John Theus and impressive defensive tackle Jonathan Taylor. The Bulldogs did take a quarterback with last year's class and have also received a pledge from 2013 signal-caller Brice Ramsey.

Video of the week

This week was a big one for Belle Glade (Fla.) running back Kelvin Taylor, who broke Emmitt Smith's (yes, that Emmitt Smith) all-time rushing record in the state of Florida on a 388 yard, six touchdown night Friday. The 5-foot-11, 210-pounder now has 8,975 yards and 141 touchdowns for his career and amazingly he's just a junior. He is the son of former NFL and Florida Gators running back Fred Taylor. It appears to be a Florida-Alabama battle for his commitment at this point with the Gators having a bit of an edge obviously.

Below is video of Taylor's run to break the record, a 34 yard scamper for a touchdown followed by him giving his mother the ball. He briefly discussed the record-setting performance here.

Recruiting Roundup

  Pitt commit Rushel Shell also set a record over the weekend, rushing for more than 100 yards in his 39th consecutive game.

  Auburn commit Zeke Pike will enroll early.

  A few notes and some analysis of Oregon recruiting.

  Texas commit Johnathan Gray is getting close to some very impressive records himself.

  Adolphus Washington's visit to Cincinnati went very well.

  Georgia is gaining ground with defensive end Jordan Jenkins after he visited for the Auburn game. The program also recently offered DeVondre Seymour, son of former All-Pro defensive tackle Richard Seymour.

Posted on: November 11, 2011 11:36 am
Edited on: November 11, 2011 11:36 am

Crimson Tide add offensive tackle for 2012

Posted by Bryan Fischer

Though Alabama didn't win their 'Game of the Century' against fellow SEC West member LSU, the Crimson Tide did come out of it with a commitment from Collierville (Tenn.) offensive tackle Brandon Hill.

“I committed to Alabama three hours before the game on Saturday,” Hill told BamaOnLine.com. “I was talking to my mom and she always asks me what college I want to go to and that she wants me to be close. I’ve always been thinking to myself that I would get that feeling on what college to go to when I’m asking myself ‘why wouldn’t I go to that college?’ When I got to Alabama over the weekend and we were talking about academics and all that, I thought ‘Why wouldn’t I go to Alabama?’”

The 6-foot-6, 350-pounder also held offers from Georgia, Kentucky, Memphis and Ole Miss but picked Alabama due to a number of factors, including sending a good number of their players to the NFL.

“Most players that go to Alabama and do well go to the league and I want to make my dreams come true," he said. "Why wouldn’t I want to go to Alabama and go against the best of the best every day? The atmosphere, the academic plan, and the coaches all stood out."

Hill's commitment gives Nick Saban and staff an even 20 commitments - three of whom are offensive linemen - for the class of 2012 with a few months left until Signing Day.

Posted on: November 9, 2011 2:51 pm
Edited on: November 9, 2011 3:06 pm

SEC quarterback recruiting more misses than hits

Posted by Bryan Fischer

Look up and down the depth charts of NFL teams and you'll find five starting quarterbacks from SEC schools. 15% of the league seems like a good number but for a conference that has won five straight national championships and is widely considered to be home to the best football in the country, it's much smaller than you'd expect. After all, one school - USC - has three starting quarterbacks in the league and one was a career backup in college.

In light of the so-so quarterback play around the SEC this year (apart from Arkansas' Tyler Wilson and generally from Georgia's Aaron Murray), the question should be asked: Why can't SEC teams recruit great quarterbacks? There's not a single SEC quarterback in the top 20 in passing efficiency and a signal-caller has thrown for more than 350 yards in a game this season just twice. Twice. They play great defense in the league but that doesn't explain why Jarrett Lee throws up easy interceptions from time-to-time or the position is an open door at schools like Ole Miss.

One reason the league has struggled to churn out good quarterbacks is schools generally don't find many good ones in their own backyards. Tennessee feels great about their (now injured) quarterback Tyler Bray but remember he's from California. Of those starting quarterbacks in the NFL, Matthew Stafford is from Texas and Jay Cutler played high school football in Indiana. Both had solid careers in college but have blossomed at the next level while Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow has struggled to produce at the next level. Is it conservative coaching (or lack of any good QB coaching), systems, too much defense or something in the water? States like Florida have been known to produce a good quarterback from time-to-time but it's just not a strength of the region. In the end, it comes down to recruiting a quality player and there just haven't been enough of them headed down South.

This season for example, Alabama lost out on five-star quarterbacks Gunner Kiel and in-state prospect Jameis Winston. Sure a big time quarterback commits to an SEC school from time-to-time but generally, you don't have top high school players at the position flocking to play at schools in the league. Meanwhile, Pac-12 and Big 12 schools, among others, keep churning out great passers. Increasingly, it seems, the high-flying offenses elsewhere have attracted the good ones and resulted in diminished play at SEC schools. Even when they do grab a big name, such as Florida's John Brantley, things just haven't worked out. Russell Shepard went to LSU with great fanfare but is now a play-making wide receiver as another example.

In the class of 2012, Auburn has the highest rated prospect at the position in Zeke Pike but there are plenty of questions about his mechanics, arm strength and maturity. Newcomer Texas A&M might have the best recruit in dual-threat Matt Davis. In 2011 the Gators grabbed two of the best in the country but we'll see how they play down the road after being thrown to the wolves as freshmen. One of them, Jeff Driskel, is the first consensus top quarterback to go a league school in years. Recruiting is an inexact science - look at powers like Texas struggle to find "the guy" - but it seems like more schools have a QB lab with issues in the SEC.

It's tough to succeed with great defenses but you can't fault lack of skill position on offense for lack of production if look at the rosters and incoming classes. There are plenty of reasons why each school in the SEC has struggled with quarterback play over the years - from development to playing against tough defenses - but ultimately it comes down to recruiting the right guys. There is a secret to success and conference schools have seemingly found it at every position but one. We'll see if things improve going forward but for now, no one is confusing the SEC as the cradle of quarterbacks.
Posted on: November 1, 2011 6:32 pm
Edited on: November 1, 2011 6:38 pm

Examining LSU's recruiting class

Posted by Bryan Fischer

In case you haven't heard there is a, well, epic match up on CBS this week between Alabama and LSU in Tuscaloosa. As part of extensive coverage of both teams on CBSSports.com and CBS Sports Network, the Eye on Recruiting will be breaking down the biggest reason each team is thinking BCS national championship this year: the players they are recruiting.

Today we'll take a look at what Les Miles is doing on the trail. The Tigers currently have 20 commitments for the class of 2012.

Team Ranking: 6th overall, 3rd in the SEC
Number of recruits: 20
Number of five-stars: Zero. Three four-star recruits.
Best position:
Offensive line. Vadal Alexander, Derek Edinburgh, Reid Ferguson, Patrick Miller.
Weakest position:
Quarterback, zero commitments.
Top recruit:
#54 Vadal Alexander (left)
Defensive end Danielle Hunter.
Top target:
#9 overall recruit Landon Collins.

Under Nick Saban a few years ago and now under Miles, LSU has consistently been near the top of the SEC and overall team recruiting rankings. Though they have rarely landed the top overall class in the country, they have done a great job of locking up every good player in the state of Louisiana and then hand-picking talent from Texas and the rest of the South to put together a strong run on the recruiting trail. In fact, there may not be a more consistent program in the country than the Tigers over the past decade, thanks in large part to a great talent base that has consistently churned out quality SEC and eventual NFL players year after year.

This year's class is really build around both lines with a handful of skill position talent that should be able to redshirt and develop given the youth already present on the team. Alexander is the top player and could be either a guard or a tackle while Miller is a prototypical left tackle that only needs to pack on a few pounds before he can jump in and play. On the defensive side, Torshiro Davis is a lightning quick speed rusher at outside linebacker/defensive end while Hunter is someone who isn't a highly rated guy but can develop like so many great defensive linemen have in Baton Rouge. Others, such as corner Jalen Mills, could contribute early on special teams while learning from the veterans ahead of them.

The one glaring need for this class is probably at quarterback. Though two signal-callers signed last year, the Tigers will be losing two seniors in Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee. A lot of players have already committed so LSU might look at taking a chance on someone under-the-radar knowing they'll likely redshirt with two players in front of them. They will also target another couple of players on defense.

Two priorities for Miles' staff are first and foremost keeping their current group together through Signing Day and landing in-state defensive back Landon Collins. One player who is openly looking around is Avery Johnson, younger brother of LSU all-everything Patrick Peterson. It's no surprise that he has plenty of programs recruiting him given who he's related to but Johnson is a dynamic receiver who can fit in just about any offense and make plays. While it wouldn't be shocking if Johnson ended up closer to home, it would be big news if Collins went anywhere but up the road a few miles to Baton Rouge. The staff should be busy working on those two as they find another player or two to fill out their class between now and February.

When the purple and gold walk out onto the field in Tuscaloosa on Saturday, they won't be at a talent disadvantage with Miles' keen eye for recruiting and developing SEC players. He's got another great group coming his way in 2012 in what should continue to be one of the biggest games in the SEC West, SEC and nationally for years to come.

Posted on: November 1, 2011 12:33 am
Edited on: November 1, 2011 12:33 am

Wide receiver Michael Thomas commits to Ohio St

Posted by Bryan Fischer
Ohio State is turning their season around on the field and that's paying off elsewhere as well. Hours after the Buckeyes upset victory over Wisconsin, Woodland Hills (Calif.) receiver Michael Thomas committed to the program.

“The game was electrifying,” Thomas told the Columbus Dispatch. “The stadium was rocking. Who would not want to play in front of these great fans?”

Thomas did not sign out of high school and has spent the year at Fork Union Military Academy in Virginia. He is the nephew of NFL All-Pro receiver Keyshawn Johnson and held offers from Nebraska, Notre Dame and UCLA among others. Possible issues with the NCAA didn't deter him from committing to Ohio State over his other offers however.

“The future is very bright for the program, and I can come in early and contribute right away,” he said.

The 6-foot-3, 200-pound Thomas is the third wide receiver and 14th commitment for Ohio State.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com