Rivals.com football recruiting analysts weigh in on topics in a roundtable format.
What is the toughest BCS coaching job in terms of recruiting?
Mike Farrell: I'll go with Vanderbilt for a few reasons. First the Commodores are in the cutthroat recruiting world of the SEC, battling teams in the Southeast for recruits. On the field, they are unable to compete at the same level as the other 11 programs in the conference consistently. Add in some academic standards that others in their conference don't have and you have a tough recruiting job. That's what makes the job James Franklin is doing this year so impressive as he and his staff are killing it.
Adam Gorney:Tennessee. There is so much pressure to win immediately in the SEC and the Volunteers have a light in-state recruiting base. The coaching staff has to have a national approach - or at least an extended regional recruiting plan - to get enough top-notch players to Knoxville. None of Tennessee's three current commits and only seven of 27 players from the 2011 recruiting cycle come from in-state. Florida, Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina and other SEC schools have a much easier time recruiting local players. Tennessee has played a national schedule to get more exposure with recruits and at times it's paid off. To consistently recruit and win, though, the Volunteers have to really work hard to get players from the Southeast.
Chris Nee: Vanderbilt is fighting an uphill battle in the SEC. The school has had a major lack of success in conference play as a member of the SEC over a majority of its history. While the school can promote playing in the SEC and having outstanding academics, the lack of success in conference is tough to ignore.
Keith Niebuhr: Until recently I probably would have said Vanderbilt. But right now, the Commodores are actually doing quite well on the recruiting front, proving it can be done in Nashville. Still, it's no easy task given the competitiveness of the SEC. Nonetheless, for argument's sake I'll go with Washington State. For starters, there isn't a ton of homegrown talent in that state. Then, of course, it probably doesn't help that Pullman is so far off the beaten path. It can't be easy getting high-quality players there.
Brian Perroni:Syracuse has a lot of disadvantages when it comes to recruiting. The school is not in or near very fertile recruiting ground so the staff has to travel far and wide to find prospects. It can also be a very tough sell to players from the South when they travel to Syracuse on official visits during the season and find very cold temperatures. The Orange spend time recruiting in both Texas and Florida but they have to convince players to go far from home and live in the cold. That's not an easy job.
What is the easiest BCS coaching job in terms of recruiting?
Mike Farrell:Texas by far. Mack Brown simply chooses who he wants in-state for the most part and the Longhorns really have only a few serious recruiting battles that head down the stretch run. By June, most of the Texas recruiting class for that year is done and loaded with five- and four-stars, and I think it's the easiest recruiting job in the country.
Adam Gorney: Texas. In one weekend in the spring, the Longhorns basically wrap up most of their recruiting class after a junior day. Probably the toughest part for the following months is to make sure other Big 12 or national teams aren't trying to steal one of the commits. Texas kids in general dream of playing for the Longhorns and once they get an offer they usually commit sometime around that junior day.
Chris Nee: Texas is a pretty great gig. It is a great school with great tradition on the football field. Terrific facilities and deep pockets. Also, it is a top school in a state known for producing talent.
Keith Niebuhr: Clearly, it's Texas. As the longtime top dog in one of the top-producing states for talent, the Longhorns get whomever they want. That is a nice luxury.
Brian Perroni: Many of the "big name" programs such as Texas and USC sort of sell themselves to an extent. Mack Brown has a solid staff in place but the Longhorns have advantages such as program prestige and being in the middle of the most fertile recruiting area in the country. USC has the same advantages but the NCAA probation is a bit of a hurdle so I will go with Texas.
If you were at Ohio State right now, what pitch would you be giving to recruits?
Mike Farrell: That we're still OSU, we'll always be at the top of the Big Ten and that moving forward we've learned from the past and won't repeat it. The tradition of Ohio State and the consistent winning sells itself even with all that's going on, but I would certainly admit the errors that have occurred and discuss how they won't happen again under the new regime.
Adam Gorney: Maybe that the quarterback job is up for grabs? Or that there's a really good tattoo parlor in Columbus? What can really be said? Ohio State is probably in lots of trouble and the NCAA could bring the hammer down anytime. It definitely doesn't look good. There is coaching instability after this season and no matter how well Luke Fickell does, it's hard to believe there won't be a national search for the next coach. The program has been sullied in a serious way. At least at USC, the Trojans now know what they're facing and what they're dealing with. At Ohio State, those things are still not determined. That is tough to handle.
Chris Nee: The Buckeyes have to sell their history and tradition, and hope that any sanctions or punishments that come down are not harsh to the point they diminish the program's capability to compete at a high level. Sell the program as it is, not as what may happen to it.
Keith Niebuhr: Ohio State is Ohio State is Ohio State. Last time I checked, the Buckeyes have been pretty good since, well, just about the beginning of time. I'd be telling prospects this is just a minor bump in the road, and at the end of the day Ohio State will be a significant player on the national level.
Brian Perroni: Ohio State can point to other schools that have gone through troubles as a measuring stick. Even if it gets the same bowl ban as USC, it would likely only affect the true freshman season of current recruits. I would sell the prospects on being the ones who have a chance to "bring back" the Buckeyes to glory.
What is the toughest position to get a true read on during camps/combines?
Mike Farrell: Linebacker with running back a close second. At camps you can tell how a linebacker drops and covers and how quickly he accelerates, but you can't tell how physical he is and what kind of tackler he is. That's what you look for in linebackers. Running backs show the ability to cut, get open and catch passes but they can't show how they can break tackles and take on contact.
Adam Gorney: We usually don't get to see much from the running backs and linebackers during camps so I would say those are the toughest positions to get a true read on. It's hard to judge a running back's toughness or vision or ability to see holes during one-on-one drills at camp. Footwork can be seen during SPARQ drills but with no pads and taking no hits it's hard to judge. It's the same with linebackers. Are they good defending running backs or tight ends? How is their vision? Are they relentless when they blitz? All of those things aren't really gauged well during camps.
Chris Nee: It is tough to get a good feel for offensive linemen in a camp setting. For many offensive linemen, a camp is about learning different techniques and approaches that may not be employed by their high school team, and at times that leads to a player looking lost in drills and competition.
Keith Niebuhr: I'll say quarterback. Because no matter how good a kid looks in drills and during seven-on-seven, you can't truly gauge a quarterback's ability until you've seen what he does under duress. Does it help if he can spin it well? Yes. Is it significant that he makes strong progressions in passing drills? You bet. Is it important he can make any throw? Absolutely. But what I want to see is how he throws when people are coming at him and also how he manages a game.
Brian Perroni: Running backs are generally limited to going one-on-one with linebackers in passing drills at camps. With their speed, they beat the linebackers most of the time. While I like to see a well-rounded back I also want to see a prospect's vision and his ability to run downhill. Without pads or offensive linemen leading the way, running backs only get to show a very small portion of their skillset at camps.