Is the talent in New Jersey, led by Darius Hamilton and Devin Fuller, as good as it was last year in the Garden State?
Can Pitt rebound quickly from a rough start to the offseason?
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These questions and more are addressed by Rivals.com analyst Mike Farrell in this Mid-Atlantic region recruiting mailbag.
Growing talent in the Garden State
Is the talent level in New Jersey as good as it was last year?
- John from Wayne, N.J.
I think it's going to be more talented at the top but maybe not quite as deep as last year. The 2011 class in Jersey was very deep with guys such as Savon Huggins, Anthony Sarao, Miles Shuler, Marquise Wright, Damiere Byrd, Sheldon Royster, Bill Belton, Connor Wujciak, Josue Matias and others. All of those guys ended up in the Rivals250 which is impressive and there might not be as many four stars this year but I think there are more high-end prospects.
Darius Hamilton and Devin Fuller are both absolute studs and guys like Elijah Shumate, Leonte Carroo, Yuri Wright, Quanzell Lambert and others are not that far behind. I think you'll see as many if not more guys in major all-star games and I can say with near certainty that the highest-ranked player in Jersey should be in the national top 30 rather than outside the top 50 like 2011.
Can the new coaching staff at Pitt make up for the botched way the firing of Dave Wannstedt went and the hiring and then firing of Mike Haywood a few months back?
- Jonathan from Cleveland, Ohio
I think it's going to take some major work from coach Todd Graham to overcome what happened at the end of last season and the national embarrassment that occurred. First off, I don't think Wannstedt should have been fired, I think Pitt was recruiting very well, had a great staff and were on the cusp of something very special.
High school coaches in Western Pennsylvania were less than thrilled that Wannstedt was fired and the hiring of Haywood and firing him weeks later due to a very public arrest just made things worse. Graham is a good coach, clearly a hard worker on the recruiting trail and he has put together a good staff, but it will be tough.
I think they closed as well as they could have in 2011 but they don't have a ton of momentum heading into 2012 and you can bet everyone will be hitting Western Pa. and their other recruiting areas hard. The Sports Illustrated article regarding player arrests won't help much either, so Pitt really needs to land a stud like Rushel Shell or Deaysean Rippy to make a splash early, although I don't know if either will want to make an early decision.
Promising start for State
Will NC State bounce back from a rough 2010 recruiting year?
- Will from Durham, N.C.
I think they will. Last year was an odd year for the Wolfpack in state, it just seemed like every kid who didn't want to leave the state wanted to go to North Carolina despite the NCAA investigations in Chapel Hill. The year before, in 2010, it was much more balanced and I think 2012 will be as well.
NC State will be able to recruit following a very good season on the field and that's as important as anything. UNC will still be tough to beat in state, especially after all the top draft picks they will have churned out in this April's NFL draft, but this year already appears to be a stronger year for Tom O'Brien and his staff.
The early commitment of Josh Sessoms in state is a nice start because he was really coveted by Virginia Tech and will surely get more offers. NC State is also in very good shape for defensive tackle K'Hadree Hooker who has been on campus many times and for tight end Daniel Beilinson. Kevin Jones is also high on the Wolfpack and they are in play for Todd Gurley, J.J. Patterson, D.J. Reader, Mark Harrell, Nick Davidson and others. It's another strong year in North Carolina but not quite as deep as 2011 so it will be more important for NC State to get off to a good start.
Which state looks to be the strongest in the Big East/ACC areas?
- Jasper from Greenbelt, Md.
It may not be the strongest because it's too early to tell, but let's at least welcome Pennsylvania back to the party shall we? With no five-star prospects and only two players in the Rivals100, 2011 was a really down year in the Keystone State. I can assure you that this year is much better and, more importantly, deeper in Pa.
Noah Spence and Rushel Shell are both national stud recruits and guys like Deaysean Rippy, Colin Thompson, Chris Muller, J.J. Denman, Nyeem Wartman, Adam Bisnowaty, Greg Garmon, Eugene Lewis and Drew Harris are all drawing big offers. Time will tell which state is the deepest in the Mid-Atlantic area but right now Pennsylvania is looking much, much better and deeper than it was last year.
- Greg from Frederick, Md.
Each is getting offers so quickly it's hard to tell to be honest. Both Diggs and Goldman said they grew up big Miami fans but have since said that they have so many options right now that they have to consider all of them and can't simply pick their dream school because they grew up a fan.
That being said, I think the Hurricanes will be in it for both of them for quite some time and possibly until the end and it wouldn't surprise me if one of them ended up playing for Al Golden. I think Diggs also likes Florida State and Florida quite a bit and don't count out South Carolina and Clemson (if they offer).
I can tell you one thing; I think Diggs heads south to play his football. Goldman is a bit harder to read, but keep an eye out for Alabama, Auburn, LSU and some other SEC schools in addition to his interest in Miami. I think the SEC is intriguing to him with its defensive tackle tradition and putting a couple of guys like Marcell Dareus and Nick Fairley won't hurt the Tide, Tigers or the rest of the conference as far as reputation.