April 23, 2009

Ask Jamie: Michigan making noise

Jamie Newberg is a football recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. He tackles your questions in his weekly mailbag feature.
Previous mailbags:
Apr 16: Top RB taking hard look at Auburn
Apr 9: BC's new approach to recruiting
Apr 2: Oregon's talent search heads south
How will the Orangemen of Syracuse do under the leadership of new head coach Doug Marrone and his staff? Michigan is off to a quick start. How will the Maize and Blue finish up?

What's up with the middle linebackers in the 2010 class? Is it Jeff Luc and everyone else?

And I have been bombarded about the Auburn running back situation with Lache Seastrunk, Michael Dyer and Marcus Lattimore…so let's address it (again).

Jamie's Mailbag
Orange improvement

How do you see Syracuse doing in recruiting this season?

-- Robert from Albany, N.Y.
At the end of the day I see the Orange doing well and finishing in the top third of the Big East - somewhere around top 40 overall. You should see a drastic improvement in their product on the field. New coach Doug Marrone is a terrific recruiter and has assembled a very good recruiting (and coaching) staff. The Orange have great academics to offer as well.

At this time I would expect Syracuse to sign 22-25 prospects with the emphasis on quarterbacks (want to sign two), wide receiver and defense. The Orange want to sign an additional three to four prospects that they deem "best available players" after meeting their needs.

Syracuse is off to a nice start so far with commitments from a sleeper in John Kinder and an outside linebacker prospect in Myles Davis from Pittsburgh. Kinder is a dual-threat quarterback with a nice arm and good quickness from Cedarhurst, N.Y.

At this time there are some college football programs out there that have offered more than 100 prospects. The Orange have offered around five dozen or so at this time. They will concentrate their recruiting efforts obviously in New York and the northeast as well as Pennsylvania, Florida and Georgia.

Dream backfield

Do you think Auburn has a chance with any of the three running backs who have visited?

-- Randy from Huntsville, Ala.
I have been absolutely bombarded with some variation of this same question over the past week regarding the Auburn running back situation. The Tigers are recruiting the nation's top three backs in Lache Seastrunk from Temple, Texas, Marcus Lattimore from Duncan, S.C., and Michael Dyer from Little Rock, Ark., who all happen to be ranked among the country's top 10 prospects.

They have all recently visited Auburn and were wowed by the experience. Seastrunk said it was the best trip he has had, Lattimore now says the Tigers are his early leader and Dyer said Auburn is among his favorites.

So if you are the Tigers you are sitting pretty, knowing that you have a very good chance to land one and maybe even two of these big-time backs.

How are they doing it?

It's a new coaching staff that's changing things up offensively. They are looking for pieces to plug into their offense. They are also feeding off previous experiences both at Auburn and at past coaching destinations. The Tigers' staff is selling these three backs to come to Auburn and be the next great tandem, a la Ronnie Brown and Cadillac Williams. They are also using what Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn did while he was at Arkansas with Darren McFadden and Felix Jones.

So it's quite possible to see Auburn land two of these players. But I must caution that it's very early in the recruiting process. A lot can happen before National Signing Day.

Michigan making a move

With the addition of Marvin Robinson, is Michigan's class one to watch this year? They always seem to pull in a decent class, but it seems like Rich Rodriguez has them headed in an even better direction. The Wolverines still have a good number of top-250 guys heavily interested in them.

-- Nick from Royal Oak, Mich.
Michigan is a team to watch closely this season. They should recruit very well and land somewhere in the top 10 or so when it's all said and done. Overall, Michigan's primary needs with this class are quarterback (again), receiver, defensive line and cornerback.

I certainly believe that Michigan is headed in the right direction under Rodriguez, but time and patience will be needed. After all, the Wolverines completely threw out their old offense in favor of the Rodriguez spread. Now they just need the pieces, and that's done through recruiting. More specifically, Michigan really needs weapons. They need more playmakers to fit this scheme.

So far they have commitments from an athletic quarterback in Devin Gardner as well as wide receivers Ricardo Miller, Jeremy Jackson, Jerald Robinson and D.J. Williamson and running backs Tony Drake and Stephen Hopkins. Of their nine commitments to date, seven are on the offensive side of the ball.

The Maize and Blue are still actively recruiting many more weapons like quarterback Jeffrey Godfrey and running backs Brandon Gainer, Cassius McDowell, Brennan Clay and others. Certainly they may get another receiver or two.

Defensively, Marvin Robinson is their key recruit thus far. He's one of the top prospects from Florida and a member of the Rivals100. This kid is a difference-maker in the secondary and he may very well grow into a linebacker. The Wolverines should do well on defense, and Robinson should help attract other kids to Ann Arbor.

Lean at inside linebacker

Does there appear to be a shortage of top-end, four- or five-star inside linebackers nationally? It seems like there is Jeff Luc and a handful of others, and then it drops off some.

-- Jake from Algonquin, Ill.
Right now I would say yes, there is not much at the top for this position. Last season you had a very good group at middle linebacker, led by Vontaze Burfict, Manti Te'o, Shayne Skov, Jon Bostic, Tana Patrick, Jerod Askew and others. Like you said, this season it's Luc and everyone else … at least at this point.

After our initial rankings, we have only ranked seven players at this position. Luc is a beast and was assigned a five-star rating. He would have certainly belonged with the high-end names from last season. This kid is that good. After him you have six more. Of those six, Gerald Christian could end up playing outside linebacker, defensive end or even tight end. I don't think he will be a MIKE in Gainesville. Then you have Aaron Benson, who is committed to Texas. He may actually play outside linebacker for the Longhorns.

With further ranking additions and revisions just ahead, I am sure we will go much deeper at this position.

Revising the rankings

When will the first Rivals position rankings be released for the Class of 2010?

-- Josh from Tallahassee, Fla.
It will be sometime in early May, and we will meet next week for a Rivals100 and Rivals250 revision. We will also begin to rank each position deeper.

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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