Tag Archives: Football recruiting

Spring Comes to Virginia Football

Spring has sprung for Virginia football, which means that spring practice has ended and the spring game…spring scrimmage…football festival (whatever) has mercifully passed. Now recruiting season kicks into high gear.

With all due respect to the 90,000 Alabama fans that pack Bryant-Denny stadium for the Red & White game, spring football is boring. It is a zero-sum game. If a great performance by your redshirt freshman running back is an indication that he is the next Heisman hopeful it also likely means that your run defense stinks. Many players sit out the spring healing from off-season surgery, quarterbacks wear red jerseys so no one hits them, and the new freshman class has yet to arrive. If you can find the fun in spring football, let me know. I’ve been to far too many spring games when I could have spent the day pulling weeds or stripping wall paper.

The importance, and the fun, of spring and summer for college football fans is recruiting season. For Virginia fans though, I think the fun of this year’s recruiting is going restrained. It might even be a little boring.

When Al Groh and Mike London arrived in Charlottesville, they each won big recruiting battles in their early years with the program. Al Groh brought consensus high school All-Americans Ahmad Brooks and Kai Parham to Charlottesville. Mike London landed 5-star super stars Andrew Brown and Quinn Blanding. These recruiting wins, among others, brought excitement, optimism, and paper victories to Charlottesville. The thing about paper victories is they don’t always translate into on-field victories. At least they don’t for Virginia.

It is no secret that Bronco Mendenhall is facing strong recruiting headwinds. The program has been in a funk for the past 10 years. It hasn’t beaten Virginia Tech in over 10 years. Then there is Bronco’s coaching philosophy. Bronco is all about earned not given, running a hyper-disciplined program, and success in the class room in addition to the playing field. If you were a 5-star recruit with Alabama & LSU wooing you daily, telling you that you will be their next future first-round draft pick who cashes-in after 3 years in “college”, would you return a call from Bronco Mendenhall?

Therefore, the fun of recruiting under Bronco will not compare with the fun we had under Al Groh and Mike London. Bronco is going to recruit over-achieving 2 and 3 star kids who want to play in Bronco’s system and go to class at UVa. A scan of BYU’s recruiting classes under Bronco shows long lists of kids that weren’t recruited very hard by Southern Cal, Oregon, and UCLA. Virginia generally had higher ranked recruiting classes than BYU during Bronco’s tenure with the Cougars. The happy news for Virginia fans who worry about Bronco’s lack of recruiting star power is that Bronco won a lot more football games in the fall than recruiting battles in the spring. He certainly won a lot more football games than his two predecessors at UVa.

A glance at the offers out to the high school seniors in Virginia’s 2018 recruiting class is a manifestation of things most fans already know. Virginia is woefully under-staffed on the offensive line. The defensive line is in better shape, but only marginally so. Bronco has over 60 active offers out to shore up his depth and talent in the trenches. Virginia also needs to upgrade it’s team speed. Virginia needs playmakers who can turn a short 4-yard slant into a long TD run.

A little deeper analysis of the current commit and offer lists shows that Bronco and staff are looking for kids they can develop, that might be a bit under the radar, and can survive the rigors of Bronco’s system and UVa’s classroom. Bronco is not recruiting a lot of kids with offers from the top of the Big 10 or SEC. Bottom line, there aren’t many 4-star and 5-star recruits on the 2018 offer list and there aren’t any on the commit list.

The glass half-full reality for Virginia fans is that UVa is not going to have to beat Clemson and Florida State for any of their recruits this summer. There are no Terry Kirby’s or Chris Slade’s committing to Virginia this summer that will make Virginia fans giddy and Hokie fans jealous. Bronco is recruiting kids that seem to align with the mold of players he recruited at BYU. The great news for Virginia is that Bronco won a lot of games with those kids. The sour pill for Virginia fans is that this requires still more patience. Instead of high-fiving big recruiting wins, Virginia fans are going to have to trust that Bronco and staff know what kind of kids thrive in their program and can win games of Saturdays.

Spring practices and spring games are inherently boring. Spring & summer recruiting is not. While the path that Bronco demands for his program might make for a subdued recruiting season, if Bronco gets the kids he wants, the fall should be a lot more exciting than the spring…and much more successful than the past several falls.

National Signing Day Isn’t Worth The Hype

Every sport has basically three major events that all fans celebrate. The first is the first game of the season for obvious reasons. The second is the championship game, even if your team isn’t playing in it. The third is the draft with the exception of college sports. The players get a little choicer in where they get to go, so instead of Draft Day, we have National Signing Day.

And I hate it.

I hate everything about it.

High school kids are followed and filmed for ESPN and other sports outlets, all just waiting to see what school they’re going to declare for. These are kids that have been told they’re special their whole lives and now they get a TV special so they can put on a hat. No wonder athletes think they can get away with anything but that’s another discussion.

Now I’m not some old curmudgeon that sits on his porch, yelling at kids to get off his lawn (usually). There’s some reason to why I hate Signing Day. I hate it because we’re celebrating and exalting kids as gods and future gods despite the fact that they have yet to achieve anything yet. Playing in high school is different than playing in college. For example, I’m not sure if my high school team actually cut players so you’re not necessarily playing with the cream of the crop. John Doe could be churning out thousand yard seasons but doing it against kids that will never see the football field again after high school. For all we know, these kids are going to turn out to be giant busts.

So let’s find out.

What I’ve done is taken the top five recruits from 2010 to 2013 and taken a good look at what they turned into. Sometimes success can be debated so the only fair way I could think to qualify how good each player was is their NFL draft position. If you’re a really good player, you should make it to the pros, right? I’ve also gathered some stats from their best years to give us an idea of how good each player was.

Just to save us all some time, all player statistics were found at Sports Reference and recruiting class rankings were found at ESPN. Let’s get started.

2010

Player School Drafted? Best Season
Ronald Powell Florida 5th round 2011: 9 TFL, 6 sacks
Jackson Jeffcoat Texas Undrafted 2013: 19.5 TFL, 13 sacks
Dominique Easley Florida 1st round 2012: 8.5 TFL, 4 sacks
Jordan Hicks Texas 3rd round 2014: 13 TFL, 3.5 sacks
Michael Dyer Auburn Undrafted 2011: 1242 yards, 10 TD

I won’t lie to you, I thought I’d pretty much already proven my case when I pulled up this year. Dominique Easley, the only first round pick despite missing most of his senior season, is the only name on there that I actually knew at first glance. Jackson Jeffcoat actually was a pretty good player in my opinion, though. He did finish with 26 career sacks and was the Big in 2013. Ultimately, only three of five were drafted and only one in the first round. Not a good start so far. If you’re getting your own TV segment on National Signing Day, you’d better be better than this.

2011

Player School Drafted? Best Season
Jadeveon Clowney South Carolina 1st round 2012: 23.5 TFL, 13 sacks
Anthony Johnson LSU Undrafted 2013: 9 TFL, 3 sacks
Cyrus Kouandjio Alabama 2nd round No data
Isaiah Crowell Georgia Undrafted 2013: 1121 yards, 15 TD at Alabama State
Karlos Williams Florida State 5th round 2013: 730 yards, 11 TD

Ok, fair enough.

Jadeveon Clowney was the number one recruit in the country and was drafted first overall by the Texans in 2014. I’ll always remember him for nearly killing a Michigan running back and it’s even better when spliced with a professional wrestling call.

Sports Reference didn’t provide any data for the other high round pick, Kouandjio, due to him being an offensive lineman. Not a lot of stats kept for them but he played at Alabama and was drafted in the second round so he was probably pretty good.

Interestingly enough, we’ve got two more undrafted players. Crowell did eventually find his way to the NFL but still, not drafted most likely because his production was at Alabama State instead of Georgia. Either way, that’s still two first round picks versus four undrafted players.

2012

Player School Drafted? Best Season
Mario Edwards Florida State 2nd round 2014: 11 TFL, 3 sacks
Johnathan Gray Texas Undrafted 2014: 636 yards, 7 TD
Dorial Green-Beckham Missouri 2nd round 2013: 833 yards, 12 TD
Noah Spence Ohio State 2nd round 2013: 14 TFL, 7.5 sacks
Keith Marshall Georgia 7th round 2012: 759 yards, 8 TD

Collectively, 2013 might actually be the best year so far. Three second round picks and a seventh isn’t too shabby. Johnathan Gray is the one unfortunate standout and I do actually mean unfortunate. Gray tore his right Achilles tendon while preparing for the 2016 NFL draft after tearing his left in 2013. I know I’m trying to prove a point but I’m willing to give him a pass.

Green-Beckham was the sixth receiver taken in a wide receiver heavy draft but when you’re the best receiver in your class, you shouldn’t be drafted on the second day. This class is better but still not what you’d normally expect from top recruits.

2013

Player School Drafted? Best Season
Robert Nkemdiche Ole Miss 1st round 2015: 7 TFL, 3 sacks
Carl Lawson Auburn Still in school 2016: 14 TFL, 9.5 sacks
Vernon Hargreaves III Florida 1st round 2015: 4 interceptions
Mackensie Alexander Clemson 2nd round 2015: 23 tackles, 2 TFL
Laremy Tunsil Ole Miss 1st round Offensive lineman

 

Well if any class is going to put my hate to the test, it’s this class from 2013. Carl Lawson can be considered a wash since he’s still in school but isn’t projected to be in the first round of the 2017 draft. Even if Lawson goes in the second, or even slips to the third round, this is what we’d expect. Here is a group of players that lived up to the hype that they got before they even arrived on campus.

So what did we learn?

That’s five players drafted in the first round of the NFL draft in four seasons. It’s also five players undrafted and three taken in the fifth round or later. Weigh that against five players in the second round and half of the top five recruits in these four years turned out pretty good. You can say that’s not bad but it should be better.

Keep this in mind next February when you’re getting all hyped up for your school’s big recruit on National Signing Day. Maybe they’ll be the next superstar but there’s almost a 50% chance they’ll just be kind of average. Guys like Ndamukong SuhLamar Jackson, and Dede Westbrook were “merely” four-star recruits and Marcus Mariota was a three-star.

So maybe just reign it in a little until they’re on the field and remember to appreciate those guys without the fanfare too.

E-mail Tim at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @Tbach84.

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2017 Ohio State Signees That Could Make an Instant Impact

For Ohio State under Urban Meyer, a consensus top-five ranked recruiting classes is something you come to expect. With National Signing Day 2017 officially in the books, the Buckeyes once again bring in a loaded group of prospects with limitless talent and NFL futures ahead of them.

Urban Meyer has had a number of great players come in over his five seasons as head coach in Columbus, with a number of very talented signing classes. The 2013 class comes to mind first as undoubtedly the best class Meyer has assembled to date, with players like Ezekiel Elliott, Joey Bosa, Eli Apple, and Vonn Bell to name a few.

With as good as that class was, the 2017 signees come in with the most hype of any class Meyer has had. The 2017 class saw Ohio State bring in nearly as many five-star players in this one class than all of Meyer’s previous classes at Ohio State combined.

The Buckeyes suffered more early departures this off-season, with six players from the 2016 team deciding to forgo their remaining eligibility at Ohio State to enter the NFL draft. With those players leaving, and the Buckeyes suffering even more early departures from the 2015 team, it was very important to sign a class like this in 2017.

With some openings for playing time available for the upcoming season due to those early departures, or simply a lack of production from current starters, the extremely talented 2017 class will have its opportunities to prove its worth early.

Ohio State’s secondary took the worst hit when it comes to depth and experience for the upcoming season. Early departures from Marshon Lattimore, Gareon Conely, and Malik Hooker leave Damon Webb as the lone returning starter in the defensive backfield.

With those openings available, look for 2017 signees and five-star players Shaun Wade (ESPN No. 1 ranked corner), and Jeffrey Okudah (ESPN No. 1 ranked safety) to have a say in filling that void. Wade (Jacksonville, Florida), and Okudah (Grand Prairie, Texas) come from powerhouse football states and have the ability to play right away as both have enrolled early to get a head start of the college learning curve.

Okudah may have the better chance at playing due to his ideal size and Wade still needed to add some muscle, but both players will have a shot come fall. Kendall Sheffield, (ESPN No. 1 ranked JuCo corner) a former five-star prospect and Alabama signee will also get a crack at playing time after spending a season at Blinn College. Sheffield is known for his blazing speed and has the ability to get on the field right away if he can catch on quickly in Columbus.

After losing center and team captain Pat Elflein to graduation, the Buckeyes will move Billy Price from his right guard spot over to center next season. That leaves a hole at guard for mauling 6’3′, 319-pound incoming freshman Wyatt Davis from Bellflower, California. Davis is one the top ranked guards in the 2017 class and has a college ready (some could argue even NFL) body coming in. Davis could be in line to earn a starting spot as a true freshman. Josh Meyers, a 6’6′, 310-pound tackle/guard from Miamisburg, Ohio and another one of the nation’s top offensive line recruits in the 2017 class will also get his shot to earn early playing time this season.

Ohio State is loaded at defensive end with names like Sam Hubbard, Tyquan Lewis, and Nick Bosa. But what Ohio State doesn’t have is a household name at defensive tackle. Season-ending injury to game one start Tracy Sprinkle saw the Buckeyes playing with a number of inexperienced defensive tackles during the 2016 season.

Dre’Mont Jones and Michael Hill stepped up for the most part, but the Buckeyes could use some more talent at the position. Enter incoming freshman and four-star prospect Haskell Garrett, who ESPN ranks as the No. 7 Defensive tackle in the nation in the 2017 class. Garrett comes in as a winner, playing at powerhouse program Bishop Gorman high school in Las Vegas, Nevada. He is a very well coached player and is stout against the run and pass, and should give the defensive line group some much-needed bulk weighing in at just under 300 pounds.

Urban Meyer is in very good hands with this incoming recruiting class, it has the potential to be the best Meyer has ever brought in when it’s all said and done. With a class this good, the Buckeyes should see a few if not a number of true freshman see the field in 2017.

E-mail Derek at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @D_Woods21.

Photo Credit: Flickr

Football Recruiting Changes and So Does Virginia’s Recruiting Strategy

College football recruiting has changed dramatically over the years. Its coverage has changed. How teams recruit has changed. Many years ago, back when UVa was a good football program, each year’s recruiting class was announced with a small-font list of high school players’ no one had heard of in the Sunday sports page. Only George Welsh and recruiting coordinator Danny Wilmer really knew anything about the incoming recruits.

Technology changed all that. With the advent of the all-knowing, all-seeing internet, subscription-based recruiting services like rivals.com & scout.com emerged. Suddenly there was a plethora of recruiting information about 16 & 17-year-old kids who happened to be very good high school football players. Every college fan with an internet connection & $10/month became a recruiting expert. The “star system” of ranking high school players made off-season recruiting battles with your in-state rival a great way to pass the time between the end of bowl season and the first kickoff of the coming year. Beating your rival for a local 5-star recruit was almost as much fun as beating them in November.

The recruiting landscape for college teams has evolved as well. In 2017, there are “haves” and then there is everyone else. We can all name the “haves”. There are about a dozen or so. ‘Bama, LSU, Georgia and the rest of the SEC traditional powers. Ohio St, Michigan, Southern Cal, Notre Dame, Texas, FSU, & Clemson round out the list of big dawgs. The rest of the college football world are also-rans.

The vast majority of the most coveted 4 & 5-star recruits go to the haves. The have-nots fight over the scraps. A handful of the big recruits will eschew the big time programs, but not many. If one were counting recruiting stars the Alabama class looks like a clear autumn sky at midnight in the country. By contrast, the Virginia class looks more like a foggy sky after a rain shower in Seattle.

This does not mean that the also-ran community won’t muster a competitive sacrificial lamb from time-to-time to smack the big boys in the mouth on the playing field. Louisville was one of this year’s shooting starts we thought could run with the big dawgs, but they couldn’t. Over the long term, thanks to the new playoff system which exacerbates the recruiting bifurcation, we all know who has a chance to win a national championship. We also know who doesn’t. Virginia falls in the latter category. To the dismay of the HokieNation, so does Virginia Tech.

The unfortunate reality for Virginia is that it is one of the neediest of the have-nots. Clemson and Alabama each won 14 games last season. Over the past 4 seasons combined, Virginia has won 13 games. Most of the “have” programs won twice as many games in September as Virginia won all year in 2016. I continue to believe however, that Bronco Mendenhall can bring this program back to life and Virginia can be one of the taller dwarves in college football’s division of have-nots. Bronco has to be smart in his recruiting and play a different game than the rest of the wannabe programs.

Bronco had a tough sell this recruiting season. Five losing seasons in a row and the second 2-win season in the past four is not a strong hand when wooing 17-year-old kids. Despite his gale-force head winds, Bronco did a remarkable job. His class of high school recruits is ranked 56th in the nation and 11th in the ACC. For those keeping score at home, this is a pretty typical Bronco class. At BYU the national ranking of his recruiting classes ranged anywhere from 42nd to 71st. He won a lot of football games with recruiting classes that the “experts” viewed as middle of the road.

Bronco recruits “his” kind of kids. A third of last years recruiting class, with whom Bronco spent very little recruiting time, never matriculated to UVa or have left the program. That’s a big hole to fill. That doesn’t happen at LSU or Ohio St. The ’16 kids were not Bronco’s recruits. They were Mike London’s kids that Bronco tried his best to hold on to so he would have enough warm bodies to field a team in the fall. As we are all too aware, the gaps in the program were wide and many opposing running backs darted through them for touchdowns.

Bronco is not standing still however, pinning his plans exclusively on the talents of the high school players who were not recruited by Clemson and FSU. Thanks to Russell Wilson, a new recruiting phenomenon has emerged in the past few years. The graduate transfer. These are players who have their undergraduate degrees in hand (so they can play immediately) but still have eligibility remaining. Some have one year left due to a redshirt year and some have two because they red-shirted and graduated in 3 years. These are the kind of kids Virginia covets, at least in the short term, and Bronco has made good use of this opportunity. He signed two graduate transfers last season in QB Kurt Benkert and DL Jack Powers. Both played extensively.

Virginia signed 25 high school recruits last week that comprise the incoming first year class. As noted this group is ranked 56th nationally by rivals.com – right in the meaty part of the Mendenhall recruiting curve. However, Bronco has already signed 2 graduate transfers (Dual-threat QB Marvin Zanders from Mizzou & OL Colin McGovern from Notre Dame) and has 2 more offensive linemen (another from ND and one from Oklahoma St) very likely on the way. Barring injury or a massive surprise, as Bronco noted in his signing day press conference, he only brings in graduate transfers who can start the following season. For any fan who watched Virginia’s offensive line last year, 3 new, experienced starters next year is not good news. It’s great news.

I applaud Bronco for his graduate transfer strategy. He has to fill holes and can buy time with proven players until he can stock the program with his recruits. The players he is bringing in are a great fit for UVa – they have proven they can succeed in the classroom and most have started at their previous schools. Some had injuries and lost starting jobs, others were recruited over and wanted a clear path to playing time. Lord knows, Virginia has playing time to offer.

I think this is Bronco’s version of “Moneyball” for Virginia football. He cannot go toe-toe with the national programs and expect to compete for national recruits. Given Virginia’s record the past 5 years, he has a hard enough time recruiting regionally in the shallower end of the recruiting pool. So Bronco is going to get high school kids he believes can win at Virginia over time, and he is going to buy time for them to develop and continue to plug holes as needed with graduate transfers who can contribute right away.

The world of recruiting has indeed changed over time. It has changed for both fans and coaches. I applaud the Virginia fans for not losing their minds because UVa does not have a top ranked in-coming freshman class. I also applaud the coaching staff for recognizing the opportunity to upgrade talent with graduate transfers and for selling the broader value of UVa to high school kids. Bronco doesn’t hold a lot of aces in his hand right now. Coaches have to play the cards they hold the best they can, not spend time wishing for a better hand. I think Bronco has done a nice job this recruiting season playing the cards he had. I expect to see the results in the fall.

E-mail David at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @dmrayner.

Two Losers and Two Winners from National Signing Day

Well, that’s all she wrote, folks. Another National Signing Day has come and gone, so now there is only one thing left to do: judge the programs commitment hauls before the players even take the field. We will be taking a look at the two biggest respective winners and losers from NSD, and what the future may hold for each.

Loser: The Texas Longhorns

What a start to the Tom Herman era at UT, huh? The Longhorns found themselves outside the top 10 in the 24/7 rankings for the first time since 2014. However, signing day was much worse than that. Texas wound up finishing ranked No. 26, far from where the boosters hope the team to be under the coach they fought so hard to get. Texas lost out on several top targets on NSD, including 5 star K’Lavon Chaisson amongst others. This is a tough start for the Herman era, one not too unfamiliar for Texas fans, as they went through a similar experience with Charlie Strong.

 Winner: The Florida Gators

The Gators, as little as a week ago, were ranked No. 31 in 24/7 Sports‘ recruitment ranking. However, the man who “cannot close”, Jim McElwain, shocked everybody by running the table of Signing Day. The Gators held on to the players that had been leaning its way, like top recruit Tedarrell Slaton, but also had some surprising landings as well. Brian Edwards decision to attend Florida over Miami of Florida wasn’t the biggest news of the day, but it was a player the staff was happily surprised to have fall their way. However, the biggest shock (at least in my mind) of National Signing Day came around 3:30 eastern, when it was announced that James Robinson out of Lakeland, Florida would be signing with the Gators. Robinson recently had his dreams seemingly derailed after an “incident” during his official visit to Ohio State caused many teams, including the Gators to rescind their scholarship offers. Even moments before the signing was announced it seemed as if Robinson would have to wait to sign (and most likely with a smaller school), but McElwain pulled a rabbit out of his hat by somehow convincing the administration to take a chance on Robinson. Florida was by far the biggest riser on National Signing Day.

Loser: Jarez Parks

You hate seeing this happen, and it seems to every year. A young recruit announces his signing only to have his “dream school” tell him that he either doesn’t have a scholarship offer or that they don’t have the space for him. This year’s train wreck was especially hard to watch. Parks, through an elaborate video, filmed in Paris, that he put on twitter, announced his signing to Alabama fairly early in the day. However, turned out that the Crimson Tide didn’t have the “space” for the top 60 prospect, so he was forced to go in front of his school and, instead of signing his letter of intent, tell everyone that his decision was being delayed. It hurt to watch. Parks ended up signing as a grayshirt with ‘Bama, but to see a day that should be the best of someone’s life fall apart like it did for Parks is terrible.

Winner: Kobe Buffalomeat

The biggest signing of the day went to Illinois State. That’s right, I said Illinois State, an FCS team. However, it was unsurprising to see why it was the best signing of the day, as the recruit they got was named Kobe Buffalomeat. Social media (namely Twittergot in on the action, and by the end of the day the commitment had shaken the college football world. Eat your heart out, Hingle McCringleberry.

Email Cooper at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @uf_goetz.
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Who Will be the 2017 National Signing Day Diamonds in the Rough?

It’s all about the stars, baby! It’s all about those 4 and 5-star future All-Americans who will catapult your favorite college football team to a national championship. Collecting a stable of primetime players may be easy for coaches like Urban Meyer and Nick Saban but that kind of success on the recruiting trail just isn’t the reality of the situation for the majority of coaches. If your team isn’t considered to be a football blue-blood, success is going to be a process that is built upon 2 and 3-star recruits who will need time to be developed.

But success can be achieved with these so-called “diamonds in the rough.” It’s not an easy path to success, but it can and has been done. Rivals and 247 don’t have crystal balls that will clue us into who these diamonds in the rough will be. Even the most experienced coaching staffs can’t predict which of their less heralded recruits will lead their teams to divisional and conference championships.

With today being National Signing Day, let’s take a look back and some 2 and 3-star recruits from the past who proved to have significant impacts on the field.

Marcus Mariota was barely recruited before signing with Oregon. He was a 3-star recruit with two scholarship offers. Oregon and Memphis. That was it. All Mariota did was lead Oregon to an appearance in the 2015 National Championship game and he won the 2014 Heisman Trophy. Not bad for a recruit who struggled to receive offers.

I can’t imagine Michigan State fans were waiting with eager anticipation for the day a 2-star running back recruit with offers from Bowling Green, Eastern Michigan, and Marshall would step on the field for them. All Le’Veon Bell did in his Spartan career was rush for 3,346 yards and 33 touchdowns. In his junior season, before leaving early for the NFL, Bell rushed for 1,793 yards and 12 touchdowns. He proved to be more talented than a 2-star recruit with mid-major offers.

Missouri’s Charles Harris makes Bell look like a highly sought after recruit. Harris excelled on the high school basketball court and had barely played any football prior to Missouri offering him a scholarship. His options were Northern Iowa, Missouri Western and Pittsburg State. In his three-year career, Harris recorded 18 sacks, 34.5 tackles-for-loss and forced 5 fumbles.

Jordy Nelson committed to Kansas State as a 2-star safety prospect. His options were Kansas State and Kansas but even those weren’t legitimate options. Neither coaching staff was willing to provide a scholarship offer to Nelson so he attended Kansas State as a walk-on. Nelson holds the Kansas State record for most receiving yards in a single season and is 2nd all-time in career receiving yardage. Not bad for a high school player that nobody wanted.

Gaines Adams was a 3-star tight end recruit who chose Clemson over Michigan State, North Carolina, Virginia, and Virginia Tech. Compared to the others on this list, Adams offer list made him look like a blue-chip recruit. Not only was he not a blue-chip recruit, tight end wasn’t even his ultimate position. Adams became a first team All-American and ACC Defensive Player of the Year in 2006.

As fans, we like to get all worked up over National Signing Day. How many 4 and 5-star recruits has our team collected? Which kids pulled a signing day surprise and left our team at the alter? Which players did our team’s coaching staff manage to flip? It can be an entertaining soap opera to follow, but none of us have a clue as to how the story will unfold.

My advice to you is this – Have fun with recruiting, but don’t become so invested in it that a signing class ruins your day. None of us will know the verifiable quality of this recruiting class for another few years. Enjoy the ride, because who knows, maybe your team has a diamond-in-the-rough buried in this recruiting class.

E-mail Seth at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom.

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Recruiting: Signing on the Dotted Line Earlier

Recruiting is a cutthroat business. Yes, to me it’s a business. Coaches and alumni want the best talent they can get and the best talent that will be able to get into their particular school. We all know that the better talent usually wins out in the end, so that is why recruiting is tough road for schools. Well, signing day for those college football recruits is currently in February and there is a lot of talk about moving that date to December, possibly even August.

Currently, the big signing day is in early February, however, it’s almost treated like a national holiday by many people that are fans of college football. To me, it’s a little interesting, but I think it’s turned into something that is overblown by WAY to many people. I understand the curiosity of who your school gets in this whole process, but you don’t really know what you have until a year, maybe two years down the road. It’s a total crap shoot and it’s a young man’s life we are dealing with here. Now they (NCAA) want to push this craziness up to an earlier date. As stated earlier, the NCAA is talking about December or even as early as August.

College coaches seem about evenly divided about this change, but they do agree on one aspect of this, and that is, it’s going to happen sooner, rather than later. They seemed resigned to the fact they will have to change up their recruiting plans due to this change.

Being a Pac-12 “guy”, I follow what these coaches in this conference say in terms of all things related to football. Most Pac-12 coaches seem to want the change to the December date, one coach, Gary Andersen, the Head Coach at Oregon State likes the idea of moving the recruiting signing date to August. I don’t like that idea. Most schools have to see some sort of progress with the athletes grades during their senior year in high school and most schools don’t give out the letters of admission until that signing date in February. Each academic institution has its own way of handling scholarships to athletes. Here’s where David Shaw, Head Coach of Stanford comes in with his thoughts.

Stanford, more than most other Pac-12 schools has an admission process that takes a bit longer and the school needs to see that high school seniors are not taking the “year off”. The Cardinal needs to see the student-athlete continue with their academics during their school year. Without changing their admission structure as of yet, people at Stanford have voiced the concern that the football program may lose out on kids that they could land for their football team. Obviously, Coach Shaw has some concern. “I understand if it moves forward a little bit. I think if it goes too far forward—you lose your argument that your recruiting student-athletes because you have no senior year progress as far as academics are concerned.”

Larry Scott, Pac-12 commissioner, told the media that he does support the December time line, but is not in favor of the August signing period. His opinion is that the Pac-12 has schools such as Stanford or California that need to see the academic progress during the student-athletes senior year in high school. He wants the athletes to have as much of track record with their academics as possible, so that they get into the college/university of their choosing. He feels that the compromise of going from February to the December date is enough to satisfy everybody in the conference. By going to December timeline it’ll bring the Pac-12 in line with most of the rest of the country.

Newly minted Oregon State Head Coach Gary Andersen is in favor of allowing the signing date to go to August. Andersen sees many benefits to it. He says that you can a real idea about the recruit’s commitment to the program. “It makes the kid play their hand. It makes the coaches to play their hand. If a kid said yes, then he said yes. It makes for a clean process.” Says Coach Andersen. “If he supposedly committed to somewhere and he doesn’t sign that piece of paper in December, then to me he’s not committed.” Andersen added.

I understand where Coach Andersen is coming from, but an August signing date would be too early in my estimation. Young student-athletes need at least a little bit of time to weed through all offers from schools and try to find the best fit for them as a student and as a football player, plus the schools need time to see the academics of the kid and that the student will be handle the rigors of a college education and lifestyle. Football is not like basketball where these student-athletes leave after a year. These kids are around for a few years and have to have the mentality and maturity to handle college life.

Sonny Dykes, Head Coach at California sees a time where the whole recruiting process gets a complete facelift. “The recruiting calendar is constructed based on how people recruited 30, 20, 15 years ago. That’s not how it works anymore. You know who you’re recruiting. You’ve known for a year. What they need to do is to just look at the recruiting calendar and just start over.” One change Dykes would like to see is letting kids take official visits much earlier, such as spring of their junior year. Right now, kids must wait until their senior year so the universities/colleges can be allowed to pay for the visit.

Dykes also wondered if teams would just try and load up on verbal commitments. He added that there was an unnamed ACC team that has this recruiting class full, another one almost full, and the one after that just about half full. “Do they really think that they will sign those players?” Dykes recently said. He also mentioned that doing something such as that is done as a signal to other players, schools. It’s a “look at us, look how cool we are” mentality with schools that would do that. That would be a dangerous thing for a school to do. If they don’t sign those players, it would leave that school behind the eight ball in terms of filling out their recruiting class with players that the school would want to have on their team.

At the end of the day, the Pac-12 will have a recruiting date that falls somewhere in December. They won’t go to the August date. For them, that is just way too early for the student-athlete and way too early for the school. The school is investing in the kid with a scholarship and the kid is investing in the school to help prepare them for life. With the change that will be coming, schools like Stanford or California will figure out how to adjust their admissions for players and the subject matter will disappear into the back of the endzone.

2016 Prospectus: Defensive Ends

Defensive ends get the most attention of any lineman, offensive or defensive. But maybe they deserve it, considering they line up against the offenses’ best blocker, the tackle. One thing is for sure, the 2016 defensive ends are itching to get to college.

 Shavar Manuel (5*) IMG Academy, Bradenton, Florida

Status: Uncommitted   Height: 6-5   Weight: 260 lbs.

Shavar Manuel is our highest rated defensive end for three main reasons. First, his frame has the potential to be massively muscular. Secondly, he is one of those players that is an athlete in anything he does. Lastly, but most importantly, his closing speed is deadly. Before you can see him bull rushing you, Manuel has you on the ground. He has 0-100 speed while being 6-5 and 260 lbs, and that makes him the most dangerous defensive end recruit in the 2016 class. Manuel is not without his disadvantages though, like his overvalued hands, and mistaken dominance in the trenches. Shavar Manuel holds the potential to be a star in college once he gets some correct fundamental teaching at DE. Shavar Manuel is wanted most by Alabama and Florida State, but University of Miami is on his radar too.

Prediction: Florida State

 Nick Bosa (5*) St. Thomas Aquinas, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Status: Uncommitted   Height: 6-4   Weight: 265 lbs.

Nick Bosa is a monster; it’s as simple as that. One of the top recruits in the country, Bosa comes from a football family. His brother, Joey, plays for Ohio State, and won a national championship last year, while his father competed in the NFL. If there’s one thing we can extrapolate from Nick’s pedigree, it is that he knows how to play the game of football. He knows that it takes more mental toughness than it does physical toughness, and for that reason, Bosa is a highly coveted recruit. Bosa’s ability to get off the ball quickly, and use his hands to rip blocks are unrivaled by any recruit in the 2016 defensive end class. Alabama is pursuing the young defensive lineman with gusto, but Ohio State leads by a mile right now. I can’t see Bosa ending up anywhere but OSU.

Prediction: Ohio State

 Marlon Davidson (5*) Carver High School, Montgomery, Alabama

Status: Uncommitted   Height: 6-4   Weight: 260 lbs.

This guy is big in every sense of the word. He plays, tackles and looks big. Marlon Davidson has an edge about him that will translate well to the next level. He doesn’t have any particular skills that set him apart from the rest of the class, but he does everything consistently well. If I had to choose a best attribute, it would be his pursuit of the ball. No matter which side of the field the ball ends up on, Marlon isn’t far behind, and is usually making the tackle. Marlon’s offer list is about 20 schools long, while Alabama, Auburn, and Georgia are among the frontrunners. Because he hails from Montgomery, it’s hard to imagine that Davidson doesn’t end up playing college football for the Tide or Tigers.

Prediction: Auburn

 Janarius Robinson (4*) Bay High School, Panama City, Florida

Status: Committed to FSU   Height: 6-5   Weight: 250 lbs.

Janarius Robinson has the prototypical defensive end prospect body. A tall, muscular player already, Robinson has little weight to gain to reach Division I playing weight. Because of his size, he will have no problem finding a program to play for. On top of his frame, Robinson sports moderate speed, but a propensity for hitting quarterbacks. His ability to stay disciplined on options, read options, and reverses is encouraging for any college coach. If he had one weakness, it would be his strength the second the ball is snapped. Instead of maintaining a low center of gravity until the hit is made, Robinson has a tendency to come up too quick. In high school, staying low isn’t necessary (due to the talent constraints), but in college, Robinson would get put on his back if he doesn’t stay low. Good news is, it’s easy to fix. Janarius Robinson is currently committed to the Seminoles, but has recently taken an extra visit to Alabama, and will take an unofficial visit to Tennessee tomorrow, for their spring game.

 Breland Brandt (4*) Windward School, Los Angeles, California

Status: Committed to UCLA   Height: 6-4   Weight: 220 lbs.

 Breland is a guy that probably won’t end up at defensive end in college. Brandt has the body type to be a smaller, quicker defensive end, but if he moved to linebacker, he could really be a star. If it were my choice, I would look at him at linebacker. Although he has some quality D-end skills, Brandt has more potential at linebacker. I say he wouldn’t translate well at defensive end for two main reasons; his lackluster hands and he doesn’t get a good first hit in the trenches. Brandt has more trouble than the average end getting through blocks, due to his hands not being as quick as they should. He also doesn’t get a good push off the ball, which is essential to being a good defensive end. The positive grounds for a change to linebacker are his overall agility, and his quick first step off the ball. Those two skills are reactionary abilities that can’t be taught. Breland Brandt is committed to UCLA, and as a Los Angeles native, his commit looks set in stone.

2016 Prospectus: Quarterbacks

Malik Henry (5*) IMG Academy, Bradenton, Fl

Committed: FSU Height 6-2 Weight 185 lbs Dual Threat

Henry has a very long body. He is a dual threat QB, but is a pass first run second signal caller. He is excellent under pressure, and is able to salvage broken plays with his legs. Henry posses beautiful passing mechanics. He is praised for keeping his eyes downfield at all times, which is very difficult even for many current college Qbs. If he is going to fit into coach Fisher’s offense he needs to become more of a physical runner. With his good accuracy and velocity as a passer and the ability to stretch plays with his feet, Malik Henry should make one heck of a quarterback.

Shea Patterson (5*) Calvary Baptist Academy, Shreveport, La

Committed: Ole Miss Height 6-2 Weight 200 lbs Pocket Passer

Patterson is about as confident of a football player as you will find in the 2016 class. Overall this is an outstanding quality, but can get him into trouble trying to make big plays as a passer. Not much of a runner outside of the pocket, but has quick feet inside the tackles. He has the ability to play in just about any offense. Patterson is definitely not afraid to throw into coverage and is a very accurate passer.

Dwayne Haskins Jr. (4*) Bullis School, Potomac, Md

Uncommitted Height 6-2 Weight 190 Pocket Passer

Haskins is a lanky QB who will need to pack on muscle at the next level. He has a very quick relase that scouts love to see at such an early age. The young signal caller has great vision, especially when it comes to keeping his eyes down field. He needs to learn how to use his eyes and shoulders to fool defenders while making reeds. He has offers from most major programs including Maryland, LSU, UCLA and West Virginia. I feel that the spread offense is the best fit for his skill set.

Prediction: West Virginia

K.J Costello (4*) Santa Margarita Catholic High School, Coto de Caza, Ca

Committed: Stanford Height 6-4 Weight 214 Pocket Passer

K.J is a very big boy. His build sets him apart from his peers in the 2016 class. He is a pure pocket passer, which seems to be something fans don’t see much of anymore. He has a beautiful deep ball. As a passer, Costello needs to polish his progressions while reading the defense. Although is is a big bodied passer, Costello has the ability to tuck the ball and run if the pocket collapses.

Feleipe’ Franks (4*) Wakulla County High School, Crawfordville, Fl

Committed: LSU Height 6-6 Weight 211 lbs Pocket Passer

Big build with lots of upside. Definitely can add bulk muscle when he gets to college. Franks has very smooth mechanics.  He can launch the deep ball and hit his short check down passes on a dime, but needs to work on confidence and accuracy with his intermediate tosses. He can play both under center and in the shotgun formation. Is athletic enough to take off and run to extend a play, but needs to work on ball control while on the move.

2016 Prospectus: Defensive Tackles

A position where frame is everything, defensive tackle prospects have to have a body that will support a lot of weight. That weight is vital in gaining the upper hand on the line of scrimmage. Defensive Tackle is another too often underestimated position because a couple good defensive tackles can win a championship, while it takes a slew of skill players to compensate for poor trench play. Without further ado, here are the top 2016 defensive tackles.

Rashan Gary (5*) Paramus Catholic High School, Paramus, New Jersey

Status: Uncommitted   Height: 6-4   Weight: 290 lbs.

Rashan Gary claims the top overall prospect qualifier, as he ranks first in most national recruiting services’ rankings. Rashan can play any position on the defensive line he desires. Rashan has a quickness that is rarely seen form guys on the line. Whether he is playing DE or DT, he always beats his guy out of pure speed. Yeah, he’s super strong, and super big, but his speed is unbelievable. His highlight tape at defensive end is hard to watch. Every time an o-lineman tries to get outside to block him, Rashan just runs around and hits the quarterback HARD. I can see why he is the top prospect in football for 2016. Rashan Gary is form New Jersey, and Alabama and Michigan are hot on his trail.

Prediction: Michigan

Derrick Brown (5*) Lanier High School, Buford, Georgia

Status: Uncommitted   Height: 6-4   Weight: 305 lbs.

Derrick Brown has talent, and a lot of it, but more importantly, he knows how to play on the defensive line. It’s not how big Derrick is (and he’s huge), but the way he uses his body on the field. The first thing that caught my attention on his tape was his knack for getting “skinny” to get through the line. For those who don’t know, I’m talking about twisting, turning, jumping, or spinning. Do whatever it takes to get past the offensive guy. That’s what Derrick Brown does best. Some call it athleticism, or body control, while others call it standard. Because Brown is athletic and explosive, he should have no problem being a big time player for most DI programs. Auburn, Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee are recruiting Derrick heavily, but all roads lead to Athens for Brown.

Prediction: Georgia

Edwin Alexander (4*) St. Thomas Aquinas, Hammond, Louisiana

Status: Committed to LSU   Height: 6-2   Weight: 310 lbs.

 Edwin Alexander isn’t quite up to par with the rest of these prospects from a skill perspective, but nonetheless, he is a high caliber tackle prospect. He blows up offensive backfields like it’s his job. Edwin is the type of player that does everything well, but doesn’t have one aspect of his game that is leaps and bound ahead of another. Edwin could move to the outside if he lost a little weight, which would be extra fascinating, especially if he came in on third & short situations. Alexander would be a strong presence on the line, and can move well at tackle. Currently, Edwin is committed to LSU, and I don’t see that changing. He is from Louisiana. LSU is making splashes around the defensive recruiting world right now, as they have five or six recruits primed to make an immediate impact in 2016.

Dexter Lawrence (5*) Wake Forest High School, Wake Forest, North Carolina

Status: Uncommitted   Height: 6-5   Weight: 290 lbs.

 Dexter is big, really big. So much so that he could be starting as a true freshmen. A defensive coordinator’s dream is a guy with a large frame, who is strong, but can move too. Dexter Lawrence fits that mold to a T. I imagine his future remains at defensive tackle, especially in run situations. If Dexter can continue to build his strength, put muscle on his body, and increase his agility, I see no reason why he can’t start making an impact the day he steps on campus. Florida State and Florida are in a tough recruiting battle for Dexter’s talents, but it seems like Florida is the leader right now.

Prediction: Florida

 Rashard Lawrence (5*) Neville High School, Monroe, Louisiana

Status: Uncommitted   Height: 6-3   Weight: 305 lbs.

 Rashard sports an average defensive tackles’ frame, as he is hovering around 300 lbs. and a fair bit over 6 foot tall. The most eye-popping skill this kid has is his drive. He gives 110% all of the time. Whether he gets stalled at the line, knocked down, or blocked out of the play, Rashard makes it a point to keep his motor running at breakneck speed to get to the ball carrier. Rashard can throw would-be blockers away, and get through the line using his agile hands to reach the ball. Rashard Lawrence is uncommitted at the moment, but LSU is the big frontrunner, and will most likely end up getting Lawrence’s commitment.

Prediction: LSU