Rivals.com football recruiting analysts weigh in on topics in a roundtable format.
If you had one wish for one prospect this fall season, what would it be?
Mike Farrell: My wish would be for former Kent (Ohio) Theodore Kent Roosevelt offensive lineman Ryan Anderson to continue his battle against rare bone cancer found in his right leg and continue working to become cancer free. Anderson has already gone through two rounds of chemo and had surgery to remove a cancerous tumor in his leg. He has 26 more weeks of chemo ahead of him, but so far so good according to a recent article on recordpub.com. I don't know Anderson personally, but I have seen Mark Herzlich, someone I do know personally a bit, go through a similar fight that inspired the college football world. I hope Anderson kicks cancer in the butt the same way. His football career is over (when removing the tumor they also had to remove 14 centimeters of bone in his leg) and he had a promising career on the gridiron with early offers from Indiana, Pitt, Cincinnati and Boston College before the diagnosis.
Chris Nee: I hope that whatever issue is preventing Belle Glade (Fla.) Glades Central wide receiver Jaime Wilson from being more heavily recruited is resolved. Wilson is an incredibly talented wide receiver who is as consistent as they come at the position. He can make things happen in the open field, but where he has a chance to make a team better is as a balanced wideout who is going to find a way to get open and get one more yard than you need for that first down on third-and-long.
Keith Niebuhr: The best for Dalvin Tomlinson. The Rivals250 DT from Henry County (Ga.) recently lost his mother. I know this has been a tough time for Tomlinson, so the hope is the support system around him will assist him in this tough time. He's an incredibly nice, likeable young guy. He's also pretty darn intelligent. I'm hopeful he can keep his focus on and off the field this fall.
Brian Perroni: I would love to see five-star Aledo (Texas) running back Johnathan Gray surpass his numbers from a year ago. Despite being the focus of every opposing defense, the Texas commit rushed for 3,221 yards and scored a single-season state record 59 touchdowns. He is only 12 touchdowns shy of breaking the state career mark held by Texas running back Traylon Shead. If Gray can lead Aledo to its third straight state championship while continuing to put up ridiculous numbers he will go down as one of the top two high school running backs ever to come through the Lone Star State.
Can a strong fall high school season redeem a senior-to-be coming off a poor summer camp circuit, or is the damage irreparable?
Mike Farrell: Football is football so what really matters is what he does with the pads on. That being said, sometimes you can see a kid at a camp and he's just not big enough nor will he ever be big enough to be a special prospect at his position or he might just be a step slow to be special. Sometimes that just can't be overcome when it comes to evaluation and ranking even if he has a monster senior season. Over the years I've seen kids put up amazing numbers but knew they wouldn't be able to budge their ranking much because they had a physical limitation that would likely hold them back in college or beyond. Productivity is one thing, but for college and especially the NFL you need be very, very rare if you don't "fit into the box" of size, speed, etc., at a certain position.
Chris Nee: When it comes to evaluating a player, I think game film conquers all. Some players aren't great in camps for whatever reason, but if they make plays and play at a high-level while wearing pads, then that can definitely be a source of redemption. Games are won when the shoulder pads and helmets are on, not in shorts.
Keith Niebuhr: A lot of kids look great in camps, but when the pads come on and the horn blows they're different players. On the flip side, some kids perform better during the pressure of the game. Camps are great for evaluation purposes, but how someone rises to the challenge during the fall season is No. 1 in my book.
Brian Perroni: The game is played in pads on Saturdays at the next level so seeing a prospect in that element is obviously the most important way to evaluate a player. While summer camps can give you an idea of their abilities, the games are what really matters. Is he able to produce against top-flight competition? If so that definitely outweighs a subpar summer showing.
What is one early-season matchup - player vs. player - that is a can't-miss showdown this fall?
Mike Farrell: I'm very interested in seeing Good Counsel's Stefon Diggs go against Gilman's Cyrus Jones on Sept. 10. Both should be playing offense obviously but I think both will also be playing defense at times so it will be interesting to see if they match up against each other as wideout vs. cornerback. But beyond that I want to see which player takes over the game and dominates. Diggs is a national top 10 player and clearly the top skill position player in his state, but many feel Jones is underrated and isn't that far behind. We'll see.
Chris Nee: Jupiter versus Dwyer on Sept. 9 is a battle between two talented athletes at quarterback in the Sunshine State. Recent USF quarterback commitment Tyler Cameron will try to lead Jupiter to an upset of the very talented Dwyer squad led by quarterback Faton Bauta. This marks Bauta's first season with the perennial state powerhouse program.
Keith Niebuhr: On Aug. 27 in Alabama, Prattville faces Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas. In that meeting, we should see defensive end Jelani Hamilton, a Miami commit from STA, go toe to toe with Prattville junior offensive tackle Austin Golson, who is headed to Florida State. To me, that would be a big-time battle. This might not be the last time we see them face each other.
Brian Perroni: When Lee's Summit (Mo.) West plays Kansas City (Mo.) Park Hill it will feature a matchup of two of the most impressive linemen from the camp circuit. Rivals250 offensive guard Evan Boehm of Lee's Summit West showed the ability to be an elite pass blocker at the U.S. Army All-American combine in January while Park Hill defensive tackle Ondre Pipkins was unstoppable in one-on-one drills at the Columbus NIKE Camp. With the two going against each other, somebody has to end up on the losing end.
Do you prefer evaluating elite prospects in a camp setting or Friday nights under the lights?
Mike Farrell: At camps you can see numerous prospects at once which makes them so valuable and you can see kids match up against each other from different states, so it's better for eyeballing them physically to see how big they are. But in a perfect world, evaluation would always been done with pads on and in real game situations. However, I think they really go hand in hand and getting out to as many camps as possible while attending as many games as you can (or getting as much film as you can) allows you to do the best job of evaluating. For certain positions such as linebackers and running backs, film and game situations are crucial because they are the hardest players to evaluate in a non-contact setting.
Chris Nee: Under the lights. I want to see how a wide receiver reacts and plays after a cornerback or safety unleashes a big hit on them downfield. I want to see the battle in the trenches. I want to see if a quarterback can read the field when he is facing a heavy pass rush. A running back may look big and mean, but does he play up to how he looks. The list of examples of what is proven in pads on the field under the lights goes on and on. Also, film doesn't lie.
Keith Niebuhr: Both have their advantages. At camps, we get player rosters. Some of these events have 200 or more kids. It sure helps when you have help spotting someone. Overall, they're great because they primarily consist of top-tier talent.
Brian Perroni: Camps are great tools to see different aspects of a player's game as well as seeing a bunch of guys at the same time, but there is no substitute for seeing a prospect live on a Friday night in the fall.