October 16, 2008

Ask Jamie: Who's the best back in 2010?

Jamie Newberg is a football recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. He tackles your questions in his weekly mailbag feature.
Previous mailbags:
Oct 9: Can 'Cane's keep all their backs?
Oct 2: Race for Giddins heats up
Sept 25: Who's the nation's top back?

How are Ron Zook and Illinois doing in recruiting? Why is quarterback Matt Barkley still the top prospect? Will running back Ben Axon stick with Clemson? Speaking of running backs, who's the top back in the class of 2010? And is Michigan done recruiting quarterbacks?

All of this and more in this week's Mailbag.

Jamie's Mailbag
Illini not letting up

Ron Zook and Illinois had great recruiting classes in 2007 and '08, but I haven't heard much about the '09 class. How is it both in quantity and quality thus far?

-- Ray from Springfield, Ill.
So far, so good for Zook and his Fighting Illini. Currently, they are sitting at No. 31 overall with 13 commitments. Headlining this group are quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase, running back Bud Golden, wide receiver Terry Hawthorne, offensive lineman Leon Hill and defensive tackle Lendell Buckner. Each is a four-star recruit.

Illinois also is in the hunt with some big-time prospects such as linebacker Jelani Jenkins, wide receivers Kraig Appleton and Jheranie Boyd, defensive linemen Michael Buchanan and Craig Drummond, running backs Tavon Austin and Ronnie Wingo Jr. and offensive tackle Marcus Hall.

The bottom line is that this is a young team that's getting better. Zook and his staff recruit as well as anyone in the country. They are roughly halfway done to this point, and I look for them to sign a full class in February. I expect Illinois to close well and that the Fighting Illini will land somewhere in the top 20.

Reason for the ranking

I still don't understand how you could have quarterback Matt Barkley the No. 1 overall prospect. What gives?

-- Steve from Dallas
There are a number of different factors that go into ranking prospects, but first and foremost are upside and potential. And to a man, everyone who has input in the Rivals.com rankings says Barkley has a higher ceiling than anyone else in the Rivals100.

I have said it before and I will say it again: I think Barkley is arguably the top pro-style quarterback prospect of this decade. We are not talking about who is playing the best right now or who has the best numbers; rather, we are projecting which players have the brightest futures.

Will Barkley win player of the year honors? No. We know about his struggles and his stats. That still doesn't change that Barkley has all the tools and physical attributes to be a dynamic quarterback at the next level and beyond.

Clemson getting the ax?

I read your update on running back Ben Axon this week. What are the chances he will stick with Clemson?

Jim from Atlanta
That's a difficult question to answer. Axon is going to base his decision on who gets the Clemson coaching job and the offense that will be run.

Axon, a four-star running back from Bradenton (Fla.) Manatee High, told me that he picked Clemson because of Clemson, not because of Tommy Bowden or any of the coaches. He also said that he likes their running backs and their running back tradition.

But Axon also said he will weigh all his options. This means he could visit schools such as West Virginia, Purdue and South Carolina.

Building for the future

Do you think Michigan still leads for William Campbell? Also, do you think Tate Forcier or Shavodrick Beaver can lead the Wolverines' spread offense to the Big Ten title?

-- Frank from Detroit
While Campbell, a standout defensive tackle at Detroit Cass Tech, may be looking around, I still expect him to sign with Rich Rodriguez and the Wolverines.

But if you are a fan of the maize and blue, there is cause for concern because Campbell plans on visiting some heavy hitters over the next few months. He has lined up one visit, to Miami (Dec. 14), and says he also wants to take trips to USC, LSU and Georgia as well at Michigan. If Campbell makes all five of those official visits, it could get interesting.

I think that Forcier and Beaver are good enough to lead the future Michigan offense. But it will take more than a spread quarterback to win that league.

Is Michigan done at quarterback with this recruiting class? I don't think so, and I am hearing that the Wolverines have an excellent chance at landing Miramar (Fla.) High standout Eugene Smith. USF is heavily in the mix, and some say Florida State has a shot at him as well.

Top back in 2010

Who looks to be the top running back for the 2010 class?

Curtis from Las Vegas
As always, there are a bunch of talented running backs. Who's the top dog? While it's still early, here's a group who will be near the top of the 2010 class: Lache Seastrunk (Temple, Texas); Michael Dyer (Little Rock, Ark.); Corey Brown (Springfield, Pa.); Tiger Powell (Lake City, Fla.); Eduardo Clements (Miami); Jakhari Gore (Miami); Marcus Lattimore (Duncan, S.C.); D.J. Morgan (Woodland Hills, Calif.); Joseph Randle (Wichita, Kan.); Malcolm Jones (Westlake Village, Calif.); Nick Hill (Chelsea, Mich.); Austin White (Livonia, Mich.); Stephen Nixon (Las Vegas); Anthony Barr (Torrance, Calif.); Dillon Baxter (San Diego); and Deonte Cooper (Perris, Calif.).

I love the versatility of Lattimore, the speed and home-run threat of Seastrunk, and the elusive and electric running of Dyer. I know it's early, but it's that trio I see battling for the No. 1 running back spot for the class of 2010.

But I haven't seen them all, and I am sure there will be many more worthy players who pop up soon.

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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