So which prospects were impressive during the May evaluation period in the Tampa Bay area? You may be a little surprised at who Jamie Newberg thinks should catapult up the Rivals100.
What 2006 Rivals five-star prospects started for their respective college teams last season? What's up with Ohio State and its slow start (commitment-wise) with its 2010 recruiting class?
We answer those questions in this week's recruiting mailbag.
Who were some prospects you saw during the May evaluation process that impressed you?
-- Jim from Tampa
I did have a chance to see some spring games and practices in the Tampa Bay area, and I saw some super-looking prospects as well as some sleepers and a few football studs for the Class of 2011.
Perhaps the biggest surprise was Florida commitment Leon Orr, of New Port Richey Gulf. I already knew Orr was quite a talent after viewing film and seeing him in a 7-on-7 in Tampa in March. But after watching him in pads and play on both sides of the ball, I now am a firm believer that he is one of the best big men in the nation. Orr reminds me of Glenn "Big Baby" Davis (Boston Celtics) at the same stage.
Orr (6 feet 6/310 pounds) played tight end and strongside linebacker during his intrasquad spring game. He has amazing athleticism, speed and agility for a player his size. Offensively, Orr was running long patterns, such as post and corner routes, and getting open. He also ran short patterns, showed soft hands and the ability to make something happen with the ball in his hands. On the game's first play, he caught a short dig over the middle and made a spin move in the open field (though he fumbled when being tackled). To see a player at his size move the way he does is unbelievable. They even ran a shovel pass to Orr.
As a blocker, Orr was dominant. He is quick off the ball and is an excellent run-blocker. Orr has terrific footwork and can move side to side as well as anyone I have seen in this class. He has a great frame, long arms, good balance and great hips. In fact, Orr would make one heck of an offensive tackle prospect at the next level.
What I really wanted to see was Orr on the defensive side of the ball. Although I was disappointed he didn't put his hand down and play defensive tackle, Orr didn't disappoint at linebacker. On one play, he shot around the edge, blew up a would-be blocker and sacked the quarterback. During the game, Orr showed he can take on blockers, then go find the ball. He showed aggressiveness and played physical at times.
The bottom line is that Orr has freakish physical tools. I still don't know what he's like in the trenches battling players of somewhat equal size and abilities. But everything else is top-notch.
A running back flying below the radar is Adrian Golden, a teammate of Orr's at Gulf. Golden broke the Pasco County rushing record with more than 2,500 yards and 35 scores last season. Golden (5-10/185) has great vision, balance and an explosive first step. He can run with power and also can make you miss. If he gets his academics straightened out, he will be one of the most sought-after backs in the state.
There's a trio of other prospects at Gulf who will play at the next level in quarterback Madison Burr, fullback Will Burbridge and safety Darryl Cooper. Burr is a dual-threat quarterback with a South Alabama offer, while Cooper has been offered by Florida A&M. Meanwhile, if you are looking for a true fullback who can run, block and catch, Burbridge is your man.
Two other impressive performers came from the Bradenton Manatee-Largo game Friday night. Manatee looks loaded and they are led by quarterback Brion Carnes. He has committed to USF and remains steadfast he will play for the Bulls despite scholarship offers from Georgia, Louisville and West Virginia. He really had a nice game, and I was impressed with his accuracy and arm strength throwing a variety of passes. Carnes (6-0/181) has a good frame and he should continue to get bigger and stronger as he matures. I have seen just about all the quarterbacks in that area of the state, and I would rate him as the best right now.
Mike Douglas (6-2/225) was impressive for Largo. He is a defensive end prospect who has speed off the edge and a frame to get much bigger at the next level.
Manatee had a few other stars, such as small-but-quick receiver Ace Sanders and an impressive rising junior running back in Mike Blakely (5-9/180). Blakely should be one of the top running backs in the state next season.
Four Tampa players who didn't disappoint were Christian Green, Chaz Green, Tarean Austin and Terrence Mitchell. I saw the two Greens, who play at Tampa Catholic, in a spring game two weeks ago. Christian looks much improved at quarterback and was throwing the ball with much more accuracy than last season, while Chaz looks steady and dominating at offensive tackle.
I went out to Tampa Hillsborough to watch Austin and Mitchell practice. At times, Austin threw the ball amazingly well, then he would miss easy targets. He just needs to work on consistency. Mitchell was playing receiver. Although he had a few drops, he also made some beautiful catches and runs. I didn't get a chance to see him play cornerback. Hillsborough also has a big transfer in Eric Hammond, who left Tampa Chamberlain. Once he gets in playing shape, he could emerge as a prospect on the rise this fall.
Five-star ups and downs
Of the 2006 five-star recruits, what percentage started for their teams in 2008?
Other five-star prospects from that class haven't panned out quite as well. Quarterback Mitch Mustain is a backup at USC. Wide receiver Vidal Hazelton left USC in December and is now at Cincinnati. Running back Allen Bradford was a key backup in 2008 for USC, playing behind C.J. Gable and Stafon Johnson, who split starting time.
LSU defensive tackle Al Woods had two starts, and Texas defensive end Eddie Jones and Notre Dame running back James Aldridge appeared in all 13 games in 2008. Brandon Warren was a freshman All-America at Florida State, then transferred to Tennessee, where he didn't do much last season.
Is the recruiting calendar so pushed up that a team such as Ohio State, with limited scholarships, can be regarded as "behind" with five commitments in May?
-- Vincent from New Albany, Ohio
I don't think so. Despite the low number of commitments for the Buckeyes, we have learned in the Jim Tressel era that Ohio State is not behind when it comes to recruiting. Sure, they are lower on numbers this season. Depending on attrition, Ohio State should sign 18-20 in this class.
Remember, the state is down by Ohio standards; therefore, the Buckeyes haven't offered as many in-state prospects. It's these prospects who would normally jump all over a Buckeyes offer. Second, they are offering more out-of-state prospects; these prospects tend to wait a bit before making a decision, especially to an out-of-state school. I think there are also some bigger-name guys like Lamarcus Joyner and Jordan Hicks who could play this thing out, perhaps for a while.
Because Ohio State has fewer scholarships than usual, the Buckeyes likely will be more selective. When it's all said and done, they will be just fine.
Aid for athletes
Does Princeton give football scholarships? If not, what do they do?
-- Teejay from Pittsburgh
Ivy League schools don't have athletic scholarships. Once an applicant is admitted, they can receive financial aid based on individual need.