November 4, 2009

Ask Jamie: Irish chasing top talent

Jamie Newberg is a football recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. He tackles your questions in his weekly mailbag feature.
Previous mailbags:
Oct 29: Race for top class heats up
Oct 21: Luc to leave the state?
Oct 14: FSU falling out of favor?

One team making a major move in recruiting is Notre Dame. How do the Irish sit with prospects such as Seantrel Henderson, Anthony Barr, Kyle Prater and Brandon Linder?

What's the latest with South Carolina and defensive linemen J.R. Ferguson and Sharrif Floyd, running back Marcus Lattimore and cornerback John Fulton?

How has Miami done at key need positions such as offensive line, linebacker and defensive back?

What's with Purdue and recruiting the state of Florida?

Find out in this week's mailbag.

Jamie's Mailbag
Top targets

I have a question on five recruits Notre Dame is after: Seantrel Henderson, Anthony Barr, Sean Parker, Kyle Prater, Brandon Linder and/or Matt James. What are the Irish's chances with those players?

-- Jim from Los Angeles
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Going into the season I thought Notre Dame had a chance for a big-time recruiting class - if the Irish played really well on the field. Quarterback Jimmy Clausen has lived up to his high school hype, and wide receiver Golden Tate has been absolutely spectacular. Those two have led the Irish's resurgence, and that alone has really given Notre Dame a huge recruiting boost with many prospects.

I think the $1 million question is what will the nation's top prospect do? That prospect is mammoth offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson from St. Paul, Minn. The Irish have always been a team in play with Henderson. It wasn't until lately, however, that Notre Dame really made a move. Henderson officially visited South Bend last month. That trip greatly enhanced Charlie Weis' chances with Henderson. The Irish went from the outside looking in to being among the leaders with Henderson. They now have a great shot with him.

I still believe hometown Minnesota has a chance here as well, but Notre Dame's biggest challenge could come from either Ohio State or USC - and possibly Florida and/or Oklahoma if he decides to visit the Gators or Sooners. Henderson will visit USC later this month. With Ohio State and Notre Dame trips already in the books, Oklahoma, Florida and Minnesota will fight for his last two visits.

It appears more and more that Henderson's family would prefer he stay closer to home. That only helps Notre Dame, Ohio State and Minnesota. Then again, you can never count out USC. I think OU and Florida are long shots at this point.

Obviously, Henderson would be a huge coup for the Irish. But if they fail to land him, they are still in good position for Matt James and Brandon Linder.

James, from Cincinnati, is a mystery in terms of what he's really thinking at this point. It is believed that Notre Dame has as good a chance as any along with Cincinnati and Ohio State. The thing is no one really knows what James is truly thinking. Don't just assume it's between Notre Dame and Ohio State because it's the Irish and Buckeyes. Cincinnati has a real good shot of keeping him home.

One player Notre Dame is in very good shape with is Linder from south Florida. Linder, an offensive line prospect who can play anywhere on the line of scrimmage, likely will choose between Notre Dame and Miami. The Irish were in great shape early because Linder felt comfortable with former offensive line coach John Latina. Latina left the program and Linder and the Irish drifted apart. That was until recently. He visited South Bend a few weeks ago, and it appears as if Notre Dame has pulled even with the Hurricanes.

Corey Cooper is a big recruit in more ways than one. Cooper, a safety from Maywood, Ill., is committed to Ron Zook and Illinois. Notre Dame has a great shot at turning him, though. That's big because he would fill a position of need. It's also big because his longtime close friend is Kyle Prater. The Irish have made a big move over recent weeks with the nation's top receiver, and it looks like he will come to South Bend for his official for the UConn game at the end of the month. If Cooper commits to Weis and Co. before that visit, look for Notre Dame to possibly steer Prater away from the Trojans. You can't count out Illinois and Zook yet, either.

Speaking of the Trojans, Notre Dame is also battling USC for Sean Parker. Parker, another safety prospect, could end up landing in South Bend, especially with USC hot after Demetrius Wright and Dietrich Riley.

Then you have one of the top prospects out west in athlete Anthony Barr. Barr, from Los Angeles, is pretty much down to Notre Dame and UCLA. I would give the Irish the edge here, but I think it's closer than people think at this point.

Big gets for the Gamecocks?

Of some of the five-star and four-star players that South Carolina has offered, who do you feel will ultimately end up with the Gamecocks, specifically Sharrif Floyd, Marcus Lattimore, J.R. Ferguson and John Fulton?

-- Travis from Fort Worth, Texas
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Well, right now, I think South Carolina is in pretty good shape with two of those prospects - five-star running back Marcus Lattimore and four-star cornerback John Fulton.

Lattimore may take his visits and mention six or seven schools, but I honestly see it as a two-team race between South Carolina and Auburn. At this point, I would give a slight nod to the Gamecocks.

Fulton has been to several games this season in Columbia and will come back next week for his official when Steve Spurrier hosts his alma mater. Florida's also in the mix for Fulton, as are Georgia and possibly Tennessee. But in the end this could come down to South Carolina and Alabama. Again, I would favor the Gamecocks at this time.

You know South Carolina would love to close with two five-star defensive line prospects in Sharrif Floyd and J.R. Ferguson. At one time, the Gamecocks were considered a major player for Floyd. Columbia was one of his many stops on his summer southern tour of schools and he absolutely loved it. But it seems as though South Carolina has slipped with Floyd over the past few weeks. Penn State and USC could be fading as well, and it looks like Ohio State could be the team to beat right now, especially coming off his official visit to Columbus last month. The Gators are in the mix as well; he liked his trip to Gainesville earlier this fall.

If you are South Carolina all you can ask for at this point is for Floyd to set and make an official visit. Get him back to Columbia and maybe that Gamecock vibe will resurface once again. He's already visited Florida, Ohio State and USC and has a trip scheduled for North Carolina this weekend. That means South Carolina is fighting Penn State and everyone else for his fifth and final official visit.

I heard from two good sources last week that the Buckeyes were a slight favorite over the Gators. I find it very hard to believe the Nittany Lions have fallen with him, especially after the season they are having both on and off the field. In my opinion, this one is far from over.

Then there is Ferguson. Of the four, he seems the most unlikely to sign with South Carolina right now. But there is a chance he visits the Gamecocks for his official next weekend when they host the top-ranked Gators. So maybe they are a long shot today, but you never know what can happen once a prospect visits.

Filling needs

Forget its current team ranking. Miami needed lineman, linebackers and secondary help. How are the Hurricanes doing based on need(s)?

-- LaBrentt from Fort Worth, Texas
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So far so good on fulfilling needs, and that's the bottom line with recruiting. It's about replenishing the attrition.

With these three positions I think Miami has done pretty well. Across the offensive front the Hurricanes have secured commitments from Malcolm Bunche, Johnathan Feliciano and Shane McDermott. Miami would love to close with another offensive tackle, especially Brandon Linder. Linder will likely decide between Miami and Notre Dame.

It's not a particularly deep year for linebackers in the Sunshine State, and the Hurricanes have four headed their way - three from out of state. They went to Gainesville, Fla., to land Kevin Nelson, Stone Mountain, Ga., for Tyrone Cornelius, Washington, D.C., for Javarie Johnson and Norfolk, Va., for Travis Williams.

Nelson is a good player who can man the middle, while the other three can really run and fly to the football. Remember, Miami has recently made a big-time move for Orlando, Fla., linebacker Christian Jones. It's yet to be determined if the Hurricanes can land him.

Of the three positions the secondary still could be shored up. Devont'a Davis, Raheam Buxton and Kacy Rodgers are all committed to Miami. They have one thing in common, they are all versatile athletes. The Hurricanes should also land cornerback Keion Payne from nearby St. Thomas Aquinas.

Success in Florida

What's with Purdue? The Boilermakers seem to be really recruiting the state of Florida very hard and they are seeing a lot of success.

-- Dale from Chicago
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You can say that again. Purdue made a conscious effort with last year's class to bring in kids with speed and athleticism. Its strategy was to shift its recruiting efforts and hit the Sunshine State very hard.

And the Boilermakers did, getting an influx of talent with speed.

Last year the Boilermakers signed 14 prospects from the state of Florida, more than any out-of-state team. In fact, they signed more from Florida then Florida State (13), Miami (11) and Florida (eight).

They are off to another big start this season, with seven of their 20 commitments from Florida. Purdue just received two big ones in speedy wide receiver O.J. Ross and talented cornerback Ricardo Allen. Ross and Allen are teammates from Daytona Beach Mainland, and a third member of their team, wide receiver Chevin Davis, is also headed to Purdue. Also committing to the Boilermakers from Florida are defensive backs Jhony Faustin (Naples) and E.J. Johnson (Cocoa), athlete Isaiah Williams (Miami) and linebacker Will Lucas (Lakeland).

Will the sudden shift in recruiting strategy pay off? One would think it would eventually, once these prospects mature. Hats off to Purdue coach Danny Hope for making this recruiting change and then going out and beating teams for these players.

Jamie Newberg is a recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. Click here to send him a question or comment for his mailbag.




 

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