The newest edition of the Rivals.com Recruiting Round Table is the second for the class of 2005. The Rivals.com recruiting analysts were asked numerous questions over the past few weeks about breaking recruiting news, surprise teams and impacts key games have early in the season. Here are their answers.
Mike Farrell: With the addition of Elan Lewis to the Virginia Tech recruiting class, can we assume that the Hokies will be able to carry on their great running back tradition? And how good of a fit is Lewis for the Tech system?
The Hokies have done a great job recruiting running backs over the years under Frank Beamer and Lewis has the talent and ability to keep that going.
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He reminds me a bit of Priest Holmes in his build with those tree trunk legs and short stature. Lewis is a great fit for the Tech system because he's a powerful runner who can do the job between the tackles but also has the speed to get to the outside edge like both Kevin Jones and Lee Suggs. The Hokies need a running back who can jump into the mix right away next season and Lewis is the guy.
Bobby Burton: Players in states with smaller populations some times can get overlooked from a national ranking standpoint. From your film review of Marquis Wilson of Draper, Utah, he looks like he falls into that category. Talk about why you think he has the potential to be a four-star recruit and impact player for whichever team is lucky to land him.
I know the talk is always about the "big" receiver. But there are a lot of 6-3 receivers out there that can't catch a cold, that can't get open or create separation and that won't go up and get the ball.
I like Wilson because he's shifty and he can catch the ball away from his body, almost effortlessly.
And, he fights you for the football.
A lot of receivers are just too passive for my taste, but Wilson gets after it.
He's a player, period.
Bill Kurelic: How are the MAC teams able to win big games and compete head to head against many of the nation’s top teams? Are they doing a great job of evaluations, coaching or is there just enough talent in the Midwest that they’re going to get great players?
The MAC has certainly become competitive on the field with the bigger conferences. The biggest reason for that is scholarship limits which over time has definitely evened the playing field.
Every year there are many good prospects in the Midwest that either get overlooked by recruiters from the Big Ten and other major conferences, or simply are shut out by the bigger schools who reach their scholarship limits.
Also, with the rise of power in the MAC, more of the higher level prospects are taking a longer look at schools in the conference and finding that they have plenty to offer.
And one also shouldn't underestimate the job the MAC coaches are doing both in evaluating and then coaching players.
Rick Kimbrel: With Mike Stoops now at Arizona, there is a whole new dynamic there in Tucson. How has his influence changed things on the recruiting front and will the Wildcats be able to own the state of Arizona or do the Sun Devils still hold that title?
Arizona is now a player and is getting interest from players that wouldn't have considered the Wildcats before. It is all coming together for the Wildcats.
You see them mentioned with players in California and Texas as well as the home base of Arizona. The Wildcats, this season anyway, look like they are going to take the recruiting crown for the state of Arizona.
One of Arizona's recruiting goals was to recruit the local talent hard and they have thus far been very successful. Interesting to note, Arizona has received commitments from three four-star prospects.
When has Arizona done this well, this early. Also the three four-star come from three different states. Running back Terry Longbons comes from the home state of Arizona, quarterback Willie Tuitama and his golden arm come from the Golden State of California and tight end Jermichael Finley comes from Texas.
If you are able to recruit successfully in these three states you are going to be able to field a very good football team. This is Arizona's best start on the recruiting trail in awhile.
Brian Gates: The Big 12 North has taken its lumps early on the football field, but the good thing about recruiting is that you can always prepare for the future. What are the major needs that Nebraska, Kansas State and Missouri must address in this year’s class?
The Huskers will need to continue to recruit players to help the transition to the West Coast offense. They have a good start with the current commitments and Bill Callahan will continue to work the phones to get the players he thinks will help them complete that transition. The defense continues to be solid, but they will need to keep recruiting like they are with players like Phillip Dillard to keep the Blackshirts at the level they want.
Kansas State right now appears to lack linebackers and that will be a key area for them to hit this recruiting season. An area of concern for the Wildcats will also be quarterback in this recruiting class. With only three scholarship players at the position on the roster true freshman Allan Evridge will more than likely be forced into action this year. Look for that position to be a key area of attention in this class more so than other seasons.
Of Missouri's 11 current verbal commitments nine are from defensive players. That fact alone shows what the Tiger coaching staff has determined is a need area. The offense with Brad Smith and company is capable of moving the ball if they stick with the run and throw enough to keep teams honest. That probably won't change into next season. The defense gave up several big plays in their loss to Troy and the coaches are doing what they can to help strengthen that side of the ball for future seasons.
Tim O’Halloran: Glen Mason is doing it again – winning with talent from the Midwest and especially the state of Minnesota. Talk about what type of player is usually produced in Minnesota and do prospects up there tend to get under valued by national analysts?
No question the Golden Gophers and head coach Glen Mason has things rolling this season, and I have no doubts that the recent success on the field has worked hand in hand in allowing the Gophers to draw talent from within the state borders as well as allowing the U to attract prospects from power recruiting areas such as Ohio, Texas and beyond.
The state of Minnesota always has a good group of prospects year in and year out, yet also give the Minnesota coaching staff some serious credit for being able to scout and evaluate talent, especially within the state of Minnesota. The Class of 2005 might have one of its best recruiting years and could potentially have anywhere from 25-30 D-I signees in February. The Gophers have been able to find talent early in-state, giving them a serious leg up on other programs.
As far as the talent being undervalued in Minnesota, most college recruiters would basically check out about eight to 10 schools traditionally looking for prospects in the state. This has changed in Minnesota and elsewhere, with college programs starting to search high and low more now than ever before. Scholarship limitations have made most program search for a bigger talent pool to draw from now more than ever. I feel that Minnesota has always had players and prospects, but in my opinion the colleges are just looking harder than ever before at Minnesota kids.
Greg Biggins: One player that has been kind of an enigma on the recruiting front has been five-star running back Jonathan Stewart. Not a ton of people have been able to personally evaluate him on film or see him in person. You’re one of the lucky few that have been able to see him in person. What are his strengths and why do you think he is one of the nation’s best running backs?
I really don't see a weakness in Stewart. Physically, he's a thick kid, 5-10, 225 pounds, and runs with great power. He has a nice burst, is very quick hitting the hole and has the speed to take it the distance. He has a great straight arm, good vision and balance and also shows very good hands coming out of the backfield.
If I were to compare Stewart's running style to anyone, two names jump out. One would be Maurice Drew but with 25 more pounds and Maurice Clarett but with more speed. Like Drew, Stewart has a great burst through the hole and his compact frame allows him to deliver a blow rather than take a really hard shot. Like Clarett, he has just enough wiggle to make you miss and really finishes his runs well.
I think when you look at all the great backs in this year's class, Stewart probably has the fewest questions marks when you project him in college. He already has college size and strength and won't be overwhelmed by how physical the game is compared to some of the other top backs this year. He also has a great work ethic off the field and you'll never have to worry about grades or any off the field issues with Stewart – he's a salt of the earth kind of kid and just a great talent.
Jeremy Crabtree: If you had to name an early top five teams so far this recruiting year, what teams would you go with?
With 21, yes 21 commitments, UVA has gotten off to what is considered the best start in recent recruiting history. Granted there are still a few pieces of the puzzle to be put in place and the Cavaliers might not be in the top five come signing day, but the start Al Groh and his staff have done is nothing short of amazing. Landing the nation’s top offensive tackle, Eugene Monroe out of New Jersey, was a huge feather in UVA’s hat.
Any recruiting top five list would be incomplete without Nick Saban’s LSU Tigers. Saban and Co. have produced top 10 recruiting efforts every year he’s been there, and the co-national championship last season positioned the Tigers for an even better class this year. LSU has gotten back into Texas with commitments from offensive lineman Ciron Black of Tyler Lee, safety Clarence Ward of LaMarque and tight end Kyle Anderson of The Woodlands. But it’s still Louisiana stars like Antonio Robinson, Al Jones and Chris Hawkins that make this group truly elite.
The Michigan Wolverines’ 10 commitments truly represent a national recruiting effort. With a five-star commitment from the top player in Michigan, running back Kevin Grady, UM has also traveled to Ohio, Illinois, California, New York and Louisiana to land commitments. Receiver Mario Manningham of Warren, Ohio, could be the next great receiver to wear the maize and blue.
Jim Tressel has owned the state of Ohio ever since he took over in Columbus, and with a great start this year it looks like the Buckeyes could be in line for a top 10 – possibly top five – class. The stars in OSU’s class include the nation’s No. 2 cornerback Jamario O’Neal of Cleveland Glenville and the No. 4 offensive tackle Alex Boone of Lakewood (Ohio) St. Edwards. Both are five-star prospects.
Last year the Oklahoma Sooners landed the top two players in Texas, so it’s going to be hard to match what OU did, but the class of 2005 is already shaping up as one of Bob Stoops’ best yet. OU has three four-star receiver commitments, including two national top 100 prospects in Malcolm Kelly of Longview, Texas, and Eric Huggins of Conway, S.C. OU also has landed one of the nation’s top junior college defensive back in Allan Patrick, a hard-hitting safety from Independence (Kan.) Community College.
Jeremy Patterson: The Florida-Tennessee game is always one of the most intense and heated battles in the SEC and the entire country. Phillip Fulmer has been known for quite some time as a great recruiter and Ron Zook has quickly built a reputation as one of the SEC’s best, too. What type of impact does a game like this have on recruits?
Coach Zook has burst onto the scene as one of the nation's top recruiters.
No matter what high school coach or prospect you talk to, they seem to talk about what a nice, genuine guy Ron Zook is and when you look at some of the players he has landed over the last three years, those claims certainly seem to be supported.
Phillip Fulmer and his staff are generally regarded as some of the best talent evaluaters in America. The amazing thing that Tennessee has managed to accomplish is the ability to pull players from every corner of the country and I think that is tribute to coach Fulmer and his staff in taking that program to elite status.
There is no question that the Vols’ win will have an impact on recruits. With big name blue-chippers like Chris Scott, J.B. Paxson, Toney Baker and others in the stands the dramatic win is sure to leave a lasting impression.
Brian Stumpf: Every year at the EA Sports Elite 11 Quarterback Camp, there are several underclassmen that get to come and be ball boys and get an early taste of what it’s like to be an elite quarterback. Who were those ball boys this year and what can we expect from them in the future?
Every year we get almost as many questions about the EA SPORTS Elite 11 ballboys as we do about the actual participants. I think that's because in the past, we've had players like John David Booty, JaMarcus Russell, Anthony Morelli, Tommy Grady, Matt Tuiasosopo and Jonathan Crompton serve as ballboys. This year's group was made up of three extremely hard-working and well-rounded individuals, and while they are talented players, being a ballboy at the EA SPORTS Elite 11 isn't all fun and games – there's a lot of manual labor and above all we look for kids that are going to come in and work hard.
The ballboys were Cody Hawkins out of Boise (Idaho) Bishop Kelly, Cody Kempt from Beaverton (Ore.) Westview and Greg McElroy, who backs up Chase Daniel at Southlake (Texas) Carroll. We couldn't have been happier with this group of guys, they came in with great attitudes, did the dirty work and I think enjoyed themselves as well.
As for what we can expect of them, I think all three have a bright future. McElroy isn't going to get a ton of experience on the field this fall, but he's 6-2, 190 pounds with a strong and accurate arm and will shine at camps next spring. Hawkins, the son of Boise State head coach Dan Hawkins, is the prototypical coach's son, very smart and also throws a nice ball. He's undersized right now, but all of the men in his family have had late growth spurts and Cody is due for his shortly. Kempt is a 6-2, 200 pound lefty, who was the quietest of the three, but his throwing did a lot of talking on the field. I think all three will be Division I recruits next year.
Jon Kirby: There is little doubt that Kansas has to be the early surprise in the Big 12. What recruiting technique has Mark Mangino subscribed to that has allowed him to have so much success in such a short amount of time there in Lawrence?
Recruiting is nothing new to Mark Mangino.
He was there on the ground floor when Bill Snyder was building a major program at Kansas State and the original staff with Bob Stoops when he took over at Oklahoma. So Mangino has a very good eye for what type of recruit it takes to win at the Big 12 level. He has seen several recruits come through on film over a decade and knows what to look for.
Plus Mangino has been there.
He's been part of two winning programs and seen the type of kids they won with. At Kansas State he evaluated the type of kids that could be considered sleepers that helped them turn the program around that other major division one programs decided to pass on. The bottom line is that when Mangino sees a recruit he believes can help Kansas win games he probably isn't wrong very often.