January 15, 2009

Ask Jamie: Reaching five-star status

Jamie Newberg is a football recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. He tackles your questions in his weekly mailbag feature.
Previous mailbags:
Dec 11: Can Shepard be LSU's QB?
Dec 25: Focus shifts for Seminole stars
Dec 18: Will Monte Kiffin recruit?
How good is West Virginia commitment Tavon Austin? How come Florida is losing commitments?

What four-star prospects could be dominant college players? And how did Ray Ray Armstrong get a fifth star?

We touch on those questions in this week's mailbag.

Jamie's Mailbag
A fine line

While I think Ray Ray Armstrong is a great talent, I don't think he's a five-star prospect. How did he get ranked so high and why ahead of Willie Downs?

-- Wayne from Ft. Walton Beach, Fla.
Wow, this particular ranking really stirred things up when the new Rivals100 was unveiled earlier this week. (Maybe it's because one of the players – Armstrong—has committed to Miami and the other to Florida State.)

Armstrong (6-4/218), from Sanford (Fla.) Seminole, reminds me of Jevon Kearse at the same stage, although he doesn't quite have Kearse's height. People forget that Kearse played safety and wide receiver/tight end in high school. Like Kearse, Armstrong has tremendous athletic ability, great speed and toughness. He wants to play free safety at Miami, but I could certainly see him growing into an outside linebacker or even putting his hand down and becoming a defensive end. To me, Armstrong has as much upside as any player in this class.

Downs (6-2/192), from Tallahassee (Fla.) Godby, is not too far behind. Like Armstrong, he's a terrific athlete. In my opinion, I think Downs is a five-star safety – and a four-star receiver. Down wants to play offense in college. I don't necessarily think that's a mistake on Downs' part because he could certainly turn into a big-time offensive weapon for Florida State. But I just feel he has more upside as a safety; Downs plays that position with great instincts and fearlessness.

Why now?

What's going on at Florida? The Gators won the national championship and lost three commitments?

-- Ray from Gainesville, Fla.
Technically, cornerback Greg Reid de-committed from Florida the week before the national championship game, running back Mike Gillislee de-committed the day before and defensive end Nick Kasa three days after. Reid, from Valdosta (Ga.) Lowndes County, was the Georgia Player of the Year, starring at running back, receiver, cornerback and punt returner. He was named MVP in the Georgia North-South game and the Under Armour All-American Game.

Reid came to the conclusion that he committed too early to Florida (back in the spring). He also said he was confused as to what position he would play at Florida. Reid wants to play cornerback in college. But Florida's starting corners this season were true freshman Janoris Jenkins and sophomore Joe Haden, and you wonder if the talent and youth at the position at Florida was a cause for concern for Reid.

Reid took an official visit to Florida State last weekend. He is scheduled to be in this weekend, with trips also planned for Alabama (Jan. 23) and Georgia (Jan. 30).

Gillislee, from DeLand (Fla.) High, wasn't getting the love and attention from Florida that other schools were giving him, so he decided he would check out Clemson and UCF. But he re-committed to Florida this week and plans to take his official visit to Gainesville this weekend.

Kasa, from Broomfield (Colo.) Legacy, committed to Florida during the season. But Kasa has changed his mind and now says he will stay closer to home and play at Colorado. He also said Colorado was a better opportunity for him.

It's strange that a team can win a national title and lose a few commitments. But this Gators team is young. There were no seniors on the two-deep defensive depth chart, and just three seniors started on offense in the title game.

I always have said every prospect is different and chooses a school to meet his requirements. But nine times out of 10, playing time plays a critical role in the decision. I think because of their youth, it could hurt the Gators with a player or two in this recruiting cycle.

Four-stars to watch

Who are some four-star prospects in the Rivals100 who could turn into dominant college players? Is there one guy to really watch for?

-- Eric from Raleigh, N.C.
There are several who come to mind, but I would say to watch out for two – Tampa Plant quarterback Aaron Murray and Danville (Va.) George Washington running back David Wilson.

Murray, who already is enrolled at Georgia, is a pure passer who can make all the throws. He broke his leg in October but still led Plant to the state title. While Murray wasn't the same quarterback as he was before the injury, he showed me how courageous and tough he is as a player.

Wilson, who has committed to Virginia Tech, has great speed and should be a big-time runner for the Hokies. He has a nice combination of size, power and speed, and I wouldn't be surprised if he turns into a franchise-type back in Blacksburg. He's also a terrific athlete who excels as a triple jumper in track.

Big talent

What do you think of running back Tavon Austin, the West Virginia commitment?

-- A WVU fan
I think he's one of the most underrated prospects in the entire country. Austin, from Baltimore Dunbar, will be a perfect fit in the Mountaineers' offense. He's small (5-8/156), but he can be electrifying with the ball in his hands. And he can catch, too.

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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