BATON ROUGE, La. – They like their food and football spicy in Louisiana, and the fourth Rivals.com Junior Day at Louisiana State University had plenty of extra flavor as around 25 major Division I recruits and 15 of the Louisiana top 30 prospects for the class of 2006 were on hand Saturday afternoon.
Arguably the best player at the event was Elton, La., defensive tackle Al Woods. The pre-evaluation period Rivals100 member measured in at 6-foot-3 ½ and 329 pounds. He said the event gave him a good idea on what to expect the next 11 months as he goes through the recruiting process.
"I already have some early offers, and I didn't know that there was so much that I didn't know," said Woods, who does have offers from LSU, USC and Clemson and listed Oklahoma, UCLA, Nebraska and Miami among his favories. "Now, I think I truly understand the importance of the recruiting process."
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Rivals.com's keynote speaker is Joe Hornback of Des Moines (Iowa) Roosevelt. Hornback was a three-year letter winner from the University of Kansas and has established himself as one of the best in the state of Iowa and previous to that in Missouri at Grandview High School.
Hornback has spoke at the Rivals.com Junior Days for six years and this year's program stressed even heavier than before on academics. That part of the program was especially vital because the NCAA has focused so much in the past year on graduation rates and tougher academic standards.
"The talk about the academics impressed me," Lafayette (La.) Acadiana linebacker Jacob Cutrera, who measured in at an impressive looking 6-foot-4 and 224.5 pounds. "It's always good to get a reminder that we're student athletes and that we're going to be going to college for a reason that isn't just to play football."
Hornback also guided the players through the entire recruiting process, starting with talking to the players about how to fill out questionnaires and letters that they are receiving now, to how to handle summer camps, telephone calls and unofficial visits.
Several recruits, though, said the best advice that they got from Hornback came when he talked to them about what questions they should be asking when they meet a coach for the first time or talk to them on the one when they can make that initial call in May.
"I didn't know what we would talk about," said Baton Rouge (La.) Tara linebacker Brian Duncan, who measured in at 6-foot-1 ½ and 228 pounds and listed LSU, Oklahoma, Texas, Florida, Miami and Auburn as the top teams actively recruiting him.
"I know what type of questions I can ask them, and will feel much more comfortable about talking to them that first time. I was going to be really nervous, but now I know what I can do to make a great first impression and really help me."
Mandeville (La.) Fontainebleau offensive lineman Cameron Zipp said the program also helped him realize what type of player college coaches will be looking for and that some times there is a difference between being a Division I prospect and being a Division I player.
"I definitely know now the right things that I need to do to get noticed in the right way," Zipp said.
"This really helped me because I know now what type of information the college coaches want to know about me, and that some times it's good to let your recruiting video speak for you just as much as how you look to the coaches with the eyeball test."
Speaking of the eyeball test, Rivals.com will provide continued coverage of the Louisiana Junior Day throughout the weekend and early next week as it profiles and breaks down some of the top prospects that were on hand Saturday.