December 23, 2009

Ask Jamie: Strong gets started at Louisville

Jamie Newberg is a football recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. He tackles your questions in his weekly mailbag feature.
Previous mailbags:
Dec 17: How well will Kelly recruit?
Dec 9: Florida State back on track?
Dec 2: Is Big Ten falling behind?

Is Charlie Strong the right man for the job in Louisville? Just how well can he recruit?

Sticking in the state of Kentucky, is Rich Brooks overachieving with the talent he has attracted to Lexington?

Iowa State was one of the big surprises this year on the field. Is that success carrying over on the recruiting trail?

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

Jamie's Mailbag
Strong start

How do you see Charlie Strong? Can he get the recruits to make Louisville a BCS contender?

-- Jay from Memphis, Tenn.
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This is long overdue for Charlie Strong, who finally gets his shot at being a head coach. I think he gets the Cardinals back on track soon to challenge for the Big East title once again.

It was just a few seasons ago that Bobby Petrino seemingly had Louisville on the fast track to becoming a national power. But Petrino bolted for the NFL, and the Cardinals hired Steve Kragthorpe.

After a 15-21 record in three seasons under Kragthorpe, Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich decided to make a move. He made a good one in Strong, a career assistant and coordinator at Florida, South Carolina and Notre Dame.

So why is Strong the right guy for this job? First, he is an outstanding recruiter with strong ties to the state of Florida and other parts of the south. Strong has always been known as a big-time recruiter and was one of Florida's best for Steve Spurrier, Ron Zook and Urban Meyer. Strong has a strong pedigree, learning from the coaches mentioned above as well as serving as an assistant under Lou Holtz at Notre Dame and South Carolina. Strong has also won two national championships while the defensive coordinator at Florida.

He's going to do very well at Louisville, and it all starts with what he will do in recruiting. So far, he's off to a very good start with the Cardinals. Strong wants to sign speed, speed and more speed, especially at the skill positions. Miami Northwestern standout Corvin Lamb gave Strong his pledge last week. Lamb, a running back/kick returner from south Florida, is one of the state's fastest prospects.

So here you have someone getting his first shot as a head coach who also happens to be an outstanding defensive coach and a wonderful recruiter. There will be a handful of programs kicking themselves for passing on him.

Impressive run

When is Kentucky coach Rich Brooks going to get credit for doing more with less?

-- Walter from Louisville, Ky.
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I can't answer a Louisville question without answering a Kentucky question. I believe Brooks and his staff have done a great job in Lexington. Why has it gone practically unnoticed outside the SEC? I think the answer is pretty simple; it's because they are in the SEC, and many of the other programs in the league grab most of the attention.

Kentucky is a school more known for basketball than football. Still, despite only two SEC titles since 1932, the Wildcats are a football program that is better than .500 (555-546-4). Kentucky has had four consecutive winning seasons under Brooks - the best run in Lexington in nearly 60 years - and has won three consecutive bowl games. The Wildcats play Clemson in this year's Music City Bowl.

Again, why has this gone so unnoticed to most of the college football world? During the same time frame Florida has won two national titles, LSU has won one and Alabama plays for the national championship next month. If the Crimson Tide were to beat Texas that would make four national championships in a row for the SEC. Also, you also have a big-time program in Georgia. Steve Spurrier has brought a lot of attention to South Carolina. There has been a high-profile coaching change at Tennessee, while teams such as Auburn, Ole Miss and Arkansas are certainly on the rise.

So how have Brooks and his staff accomplished this? Kentucky has done a very good job of evaluating prospects and developing players. There's no magic formula, just hard work and patience.

Brooks will not remain the Wildcats' coach forever. Offensive coordinator Joker Phillips has already been named "coach-in-waiting," and that could materialize sooner rather than later. When it does, UK football will be in good hands as stability will be the key element in continuing the ascension as a football program.

Cyclone success

What did you think of the job Paul Rhoads did this season and how [is Iowa State] doing in recruiting?

-- Bobby from Dallas
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Iowa State finished the regular season at 6-6 and will play Minnesota in the Insight Bowl on New Year's Eve. That's quite an accomplishment for Rhodes, in his first season as coach of the Cyclones. It's also a huge improvement in Ames over last year's 2-10 club under Gene Chizik. Rhoads has to be considered one of the coaches of the year.

If the first year is any indication, things are looking up for this program. This unexpected season is being followed by an unexpected recruiting campaign. Maybe the Cyclones aren't ready to challenge Mack Brown and Texas or Bob Stoops and Oklahoma for the Big 12 recruiting title, but they are serving notice to this league that this program is on the upswing both on and off the field.

Iowa State has 24 commitments to date. It's a fairly balanced class, and there are some fine athletes headed to Ames. Quarterback Jared Barnett, wide receiver Chris Young, tight end Pierce Richardson, linebacker Cqulin Hubert and safety Durrell Givens lead the way. This is a strong class on the offensive front and at linebacker. Iowa State has hit Florida especially hard and has secured pledges from two very speedy prospects in linebacker Jeremiah George and wide receiver Jarvis West. The Cyclones are also hot after wide receiver Ace Sanders and running back Adrian Golden.

Breaking down the rankings

Is there a limited amount of five-star high schoolers set before the season or is there an athletic distinction between a four star and a five star in your opinion? It seems like some years there could be 40-50 and other years there could be only 10-20.

-- BG from Gardendale
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Over the years, Rivals.com typically assigns five-stars to 25-30 players. There were two years where there were more than 30 players: 38 in 2002 and 33 in 2009. For the Class of 2010 we are currently sitting at 22 five-star recruits.

Here is the explanation on our website:

Players are also ranked on their quality with a star ranking. A five-star prospect is considered to be one of the nation's top 25-30 players, four star is a top 250-300 or so player, three stars is a top 750 level player, two stars means the player is a mid-major prospect and one star means the player is not ranked.

The ranking system ranks prospects on a numerical scale from 6.1-4.9.

6.1 Franchise Player; considered one of the elite prospects in the country, generally among the nation's top 25 players overall; deemed to have excellent pro potential; high-major prospect

6.0-5.8 All-American Candidate; high-major prospect; considered one of the nation's top 300 prospects; deemed to have pro potential and ability to make an impact on college team

5.7-5.5 All-Region Selection; considered among the region's top prospects and among the top 750 or so prospects in the country; high-to-mid-major prospect; deemed to have pro potential and ability to make an impact on college team

5.4-5.0 Division I prospect; considered a mid-major prospect; deemed to have limited pro potential but definite Division I prospect; may be more of a role player

4.9 Sleeper; no Rivals.com expert knew much, if anything, about this player; a prospect that only a college coach really knew about

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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