December 17, 2009

Ask Jamie: How well will Kelly recruit?

Jamie Newberg is a football recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. He tackles your questions in his weekly mailbag feature.
Previous mailbags:
Dec 9: Florida State back on track?
Dec 2: Is Big Ten falling behind?
Nov 25: Leader emerging for Green?

How will new Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly do with his first recruiting class for the Fighting Irish? Speaking of coaching change, will the loss of Larry Porter hurt LSU in the recruiting battles?

Cal just landed five-star defensive end Chris Martin. Can the Bears also land Gabe King and Owamagbe Odighizuwa?

Does being the top prospect in the land guarantee early playing time at the next level?

These questions and more are addressed in this week's mailbag.

Jamie's Mailbag
First class

I am a huge Irish fan and was wondering if Brian Kelly is going to make an immediate impact and end recruiting strong for Notre Dame this year? Any big names left that he might be able to get?

-- Dave from Walla Walla, Wash.
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It's really hard to get a read on whether Kelly will kill it in recruiting or not. I don't expect the wheels to fall off the Fighting Irish recruiting machine, but I don't see him hitting a grand slam either - at least not right away. I think Notre Dame recruiting will fall somewhere in the middle and fans should be pretty happy on National Signing Day considering there's another coaching transition in South Bend.

So far, things have been pretty positive. While Kelly may not be that blockbuster big name many Irish fans were hoping for, what he did at Cincinnati was pretty darn impressive. Most prospects know this and are intrigued by Kelly. Many say they want to hear what he says, how he says it and what he plans to do in South Bend. Kelly has talked with most of the committed prospects. It looks as if these players are sticking, at least at this point. That's certainly a very good sign, especially in today's recruiting.

But Kelly hasn't talked to many players yet who are on the fence. The Irish still have a chance to land some big-time players like offensive linemen Seantrel Henderson and Matt James, athlete Anthony Barr, defensive backs Sean Parker and Dietrich Riley and defensive tackle Bruce Gaston Jr., just to name a few.

First, Kelly needs to evaluate what's already on campus and put together a coaching staff. Once he does, we all should have a better idea of the direction of the program (schemes, etc.) and just how well they will finish off this recruiting class.

Missing Porter?

Larry Porter and D.J. McCarthy were very good recruiters for LSU. With them gone, do you think the Tigers will continue to pick up the top-notch classes they have done for the past 10 years or will there be a drop-off? Also, do you think Les Miles is a good enough coach to win some more SEC titles?

-- Earle from Colorado Springs, Colo.
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While Porter and McCarthy were two very good recruiters for LSU, I would suspect all will be fine in Baton Rouge. LSU still has a team of very good recruiters. And, let's be honest, it's still LSU, so the Tigers will always be a power when it comes to recruiting, especially with kids from the Bayou State.

Something else to note is the coaching replacements of Porter and McCarthy; Frank Wilson and Billy Gonzales. Wilson was a terrific recruiter with Ed Orgeron at Ole Miss and did very well with Larry Fedora at Southern Miss. This past year Wilson was one of many great recruiters on Lane Kiffin's staff at Tennessee. Now that he's back in his home state of Louisiana, look for him to finally gain the national recognition he deserves as one of the country's finest recruiters.

A good gauge for this Tigers staff will be what happens next season with their Class of 2011. Why? It's looking like a fantastic year for prospects in Louisiana. Typically, when this happens, most of these prospects sign with LSU. Look for Miles and Co. to land one of the nation's top classes next season as their recruiting should be just fine with the new coaches in place.

The Martin effect

How do you think Chris Martin signing with Cal will affect Owamagbe Odighizuwa and Gabe King? Does this hurt Cal's chances and help the Ducks or not change a thing?

-- D.W. from Portland, Ore.
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I think the dynamics have changed a little bit out west. First, if you were to land Martin, you had to recruit him as a linebacker first. Of all the schools that made his final cut, only Oklahoma told him he would be a defensive end. The Sooners and everyone else lost out to Cal for Martin, a five-star recruit, earlier this week.

What does this mean for Odighizuwa and King for Cal? It's hard to say at this point. Odighizuwa was scheduled to announce at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, but it looks like he will now wait at least for a while. Odighizuwa doesn't want to make a game of the decision on national TV and disrespect all the coaches who have been recruiting him.

So now that he has likely pushed things back, it looks as if this will be a big-time battle between Cal and Oregon, with Nebraska sitting there as a dark-horse candidate. I think Cal is in good position to land Odighizuwa. I still wouldn't count out the Ducks, and this one could get very tight.

Then you have King, who moved to South Eugene High School in Oregon this fall to play his high school football. While many say Cal is the front-runner at this point, some sources close to King now say he could end up signing with the Ducks. Again, this could be a huge battle between Cal and Oregon with USC sitting there at No. 3.

How is it that Cal is in the hunt with these prime-time defensive end prospects? It's mainly due to defensive line coach Tosh Lupoi. Lupoi, who played and graduated from Cal back in 2005, is not really perceived as a coach for the Bears but more like a big brother. That alone has been a huge attraction for these prospects.

Immediate impact

For a player like Seantrel Henderson or any No. 1 national prospect, does starting right away as a true freshman need to be guaranteed or implied for a commitment? For example, the Rivals No. 1 recruit for maybe the past six years has played significantly as true freshmen.

-- Vince from Lewis Center, Ohio
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Honestly, I don't think it's either. First, Henderson and those previously ahead of him were No. 1 for a reason.

Running back Bryce Brown (2009), quarterbacks Terrelle Pryor (2008) and Jimmy Clausen (2007), receiver Percy Harvin (2006), athlete Derrick Williams (2005) and running back Adrian Peterson (2004) all earned their playing time at their respective schools. And I don't think you can make an argument that any of them were given playing time as respective true freshmen. They were talented and deserving of what playing time they earned.

In addition, I don't think there are many coaches out there who are going to promise a starting position to Henderson or even a certain amount of playing time. I do believe, though, that every coach out there would give Henderson every opportunity to earn a spot in the rotation and playing time. Where in the rotation and how much time depends on how quickly he makes the transition.

I do believe Henderson will be good enough to play anywhere he chooses. This kid is that good - just like the other No. 1s ahead of him.

Success in the Sunshine State

How did Texas Tech pull those two juniors from the state of Florida? And just how good are they?

-- Steve from San Antonio
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Congrats to the Red Raiders, once again, for going into the state of Florida and landing two more skilled players. This recruiting season Texas Tech has already landed wide receivers Shawn Corker and Kadron Boone. Then, earlier this week, they landed two more Sunshine State standouts in Benjamin McRoy (class of 2010) and his younger brother Javares McRoy (2011).

What was the key to landing the McRoy brothers? It's simple; they wanted to play together. Only USF, FIU and UCF offered both of them from the in-state schools in Florida. Obviously, if that's to change it has to happen rather quickly, but that doesn't look like it will happen.

Another major reason they are headed to Lubbock is the opportunity to play in Mike Leach's high-octane offense. While Benjamin is a very good athlete with terrific speed, Javares has a chance to be one of the top offensive prospects in Florida among the Class of 2011 and he will certainly push for Rivals100 honors.

It's interesting to think that in a couple of seasons the Red Raiders' offense could potentially start four receivers from the state of Florida, with Corker and Boone on the outside and the McRoy brothers each playing on the inside.

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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