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January 30, 2010

Rivals.com Recruiting Roundtable, Part I

We're taking a break this week from the College Football Roundtable. Instead, with National Signing Day fast approaching, we asked our recruiting experts to fill in for the weekend.

We have three recruiting questions today, and will have three more Sunday in our special College Football Recruiting Roundtables.

1. WHICH NON-BIG SIX PROGRAM HAS SURPRISED YOU WITH ITS RECRUITING EFFORTS, EITHER GOOD OR BAD?

Jeremy Crabtree's answer:
I'm a big fan of what's going on in the state of Utah with BYU and Utah. The Cougars jumped out of the gate early with a lot of great commitments, including probably the most college-ready quarterback in this year's class in Jake Heaps. I also like what they did addressing their needs. It's no shock that they're going to finish in our top 40 in the team recruiting rankings. I also really like the Utes' class. They still have some pieces to add as we head down the stretch, and they could pass BYU as the top class in the Mountain West. The job they did in the state of Texas is quite impressive. Plus, the Utes are a threat now in California and often beat many Pac-10 programs for prospects.

Barry Every's answer:
The easy answer would be BYU because it is getting a nice haul with the likes of Jake Heaps, Ross Apo, Bronson Kaufusi, and Joshua Quezada -- and each is from a different state. But I am going to pick SMU. Ben Gottschalk, an offensive lineman out of California, had a great Nike camp in Los Angeles. I also like the potential of two kids from Tyler, Texas: Jeremy Johnson and Ricky Collins. Both are good athletes who are dangerous with the ball in their hands.

Mike Farrell's answer:
It's not really a surprise because it has such a great tradition and always does fairly well in recruiting, but BYU has killed it this year. "Jake Heaps to Ross Apo" is going to be something you hear a lot of when watching BYU games in the future. BYU's staff has done a much better job of recruiting than some schools that can sell an automatic BCS berth from its conference.

Greg Ladky's answer:
Toledo. BYU has the highest-ranked non-Big Six class, but that is nothing new. Toledo has 2009 four-star receiver James Green enrolled in classes this semester. Cleveland Glenville's James Gordon missed most of this season with an ACL injury, but could be a steal if he makes a full recovery. Toledo has a trio of mid-three star prospects in David Fluellen, Ross Madison and Quintin Robinson. Another three-star commitment, Elijah Jones, won the defensive line MVP at the 2009 Illinois NIKE camp over players such as five-star prospect William Gholston and top Illinois prospect Bruce Gaston Jr. Two-star commitment Zac Rosenbauer sat out most of his junior season with a broken collarbone and would have been a more heavily recruited prospect if not for the injury.

Jamie Newberg's answer:
The easy and obvious answer is BYU, and that's because the Cougars have landed a few big-name prospects such as quarterback Jake Heaps, wide receiver Ross Apo and defensive end Bronson Kaufusi. They have the best non-Big Six ranking nationally. But to me, the biggest surprise at this point is Marshall, with new coach Doc Holliday. Marshall had a great January and has really capitalized in Florida with pre-existing relationships with recruits formed when the staff was at their previous schools. Marshall has taken three recruits away from West Virginia and another from Wake Forest. The Thundering Herd have added speed and athleticism. To do what they have done given the short recruiting window is surprising to me.

Barton Simmons' answer:
I've been extremely impressed with what new coach Larry Porter has been able to do in just a matter of weeks at Memphis. He was able to spark interest from big-time recruits such as Lache Seastrunk and Barry Brunetti. Despite missing out on them in the end, Porter showed that the program can get elite players to listen. Porter and his staff have evaluated well, too. Memphis was the first school to offer defensive tackle Brandon Ivory, landing his commitment before he changed his mind and picked Alabama. Finally, the players that Memphis actually is bringing in are some of the best prospects in Louisiana and Memphis - two areas that likely will be crucial to Memphis' future success. Frankie Jackson was one of Louisiana's most productive backs in 2009, RobDonovan Lewis is a do-it-all athlete and Memphis city standouts Corey Jones and Fred Harvey were too good to let get away. All four have been brought into the fold since Porter's arrival.

2. DO YOU FORESEE MORE AND MORE EARLY ENROLLEES IN THE FUTURE?

Jeremy Crabtree's answer:
It makes sense on a number of different levels for a kid to get a jump-start on college career, especially if he's in a situation where he's expected to play right away. I also think it's wise if you're a skill-position player, like a quarterback, to get a chance to learn as much as you can through spring practices. You will miss some important events in high school by enrolling early -- things like prom and senior events -- but the payoff in the long run is probably greater, especially if you're serious about football.

Barry Every's answer:
A lot of high schools do not allow their kids to graduate early, so, no, I don't see the trend increasing. It will probably stay about the same unless the NCAA feels it needs to govern this.

Mike Farrell's answer:
I do. I think the lure of playing early in college as well as the dream of being a three-and-out NFL prospect is too much for some kids to pass up. It makes the prom, graduating with your senior class and all of those things you'd miss by staying in school secondary. There are some states that make it much more difficult to enroll early and some colleges frown upon it, so that will keep it in check a little bit. But I expect the numbers to continue to increase.

Greg Ladky's answer:
If high school prospects continue to have the freedom to enroll early, I see this happening more and more. I am not sure if enrolling early is in the best interest of a young athlete, and I could see the NCAA limiting these opportunities sometime in the future. Enrolling early helps a player get settled into a college program as far as football is concerned, and gives the individual a better chance of earning playing time as a freshman. But four years down the road, does enrolling early ultimately make a big difference? Students ought to go to prom and prepare themselves better for the academic side of being a college student by staying in high school instead of taking on the tough transition to college a half-year before the system says they should. Then again, some kids are not challenged by the high schools they attend, and leaving for college midway through the senior year of high school could be a good idea. So, yes, more and more kids will enroll early, but I think it is worth at least questioning whether that is a healthy option.

Jamie Newberg's answer:
Yes. This is a trend that we really started to see with certain types of players, mainly quarterbacks, a few years ago. Now, it seems as if it doesn't matter what position a prospects plays. If a prospect can graduate early to get a head-start on his college career, he will do it. The numbers seem to be getting higher and higher every recruiting season.

Barton Simmons' answer:
The recruiting process continues to accelerate every year, and that acceleration encompasses everything - including the readiness of high school prospects. It's all about finding an edge. College coaches are looking to get a jump on each other by getting involved with a recruit early on, and high school players are looking to get a jump on their position battles by taking part in spring drills. With the way the process is moving, I could see early enrollees being the norm in a matter of years.

3. WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE NO. 1 REASON A TYPICAL RECRUIT PICKS A SCHOOL?

Jeremy Crabtree's answer:
Location, location, location. While you'd like to think prospects would pick schools based on important things, such as academics or the social setting, I've still found that location remains the most vital factor in a decision. Some other factors, such as relationships with coaches, also are important.

Barry Every's answer:
I think the opportunity to play at the highest level without putting a burden on your family to come see the games. The other big factor in choosing a school is the opportunity to play early, whether it is realistic or not.

Mike Farrell's answer:
I would have to say winning is the ultimate lure. Look at the top teams last year; they all win consistently, they have all been at least in the mix for a national title recently and they can all promise at least an eight- or nine-win season even in a down year. That's why it's usually the same teams each year that finish in the top 10 in recruiting -- because they traditionally are winners.

Greg Ladky's answer:
No. 1 is winning. Kids want to win more than anything else.

Jamie Newberg's answer:
I think playing time has to be right up there. Nowadays in college football, more true freshmen are playing earlier and earlier, whether they are ready or not. They all think they are ready, so they believe they can step right in and contribute. Of course, on the other side, college coaches will promise that opportunity. No matter the school, early playing time is a critical factor.

Barton Simmons' answer:
Prospects continue to get more savvy about the recruiting game and the decision-making process. Offensive or defensive schemes, coaching staff, NFL productivity, location, academics and a multitude of other factors come into play for 17- and 18-year-olds. But in the end, the toughest factor to beat is the simplest one: Who did he cheer for as a kid? Whether he chose his childhood favorite based on proximity, family members or color scheme, when a kid gets the opportunity to play in the uniform that he always has envisioned himself in while playing in the backyard -- that is an opportunity that is tough to beat.



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