Just how good is 2011 Louisiana running back Kenny Hilliard? Where would he rank with this year's crop of backs?
How about Virginia Tech last week landing two dual-threat quarterbacks? What kind of impact will Mark Leal and Ricardo Young have in Blacksburg?
Larry Fedora has pulled some big-time recruits to Southern Miss. Can he do it again this season?
These questions are answered in this week's mailbag.
This time next year, where do you think Kenny Hilliard will stack up against this year's top running backs such as Michael Dyer and Marcus Lattimore? Is Hilliard the type of prospect that teams would skip recruiting running backs this year to entice him next year?
-- Joe from Melbourne, Fla.
Hey, it's never too early these days to sneak a peek at some of the elite underclassmen in the nation - especially in the state of Louisiana, where 2011 looks incredible. After viewing film of Patterson, La., rising junior Kenny Hilliard, I would have to imagine that he will be one of the most sought-after running back prospects next year.
The 6-foot, 217-pound Hilliard isn't the fastest back in the world, but he has everything else. He runs with tremendous power and strength and looks terrific between the tackles. Hilliard's a downhill guy who has very good balance and vision. At times he can just be plain nasty. Hilliard can also catch the ball out of the backfield and can change directions well for a bigger back. Last season he rushed for 2,377 yards and 34 scores while averaging more than 9 yards per carry.
So how would he stack up in this season's running back pool? To me, he would be right up there with the elite ones – Lache Seastrunk, Marcus Lattimore and Michael Dyer (I say that without having seen Hilliard in person). One SEC assistant coach who is recruiting Hilliard recently told me that this kid is "special." The thing is he's just a different kind of back from the trio above. Those guys are more electric and versatile whereas Hilliard is more of a lunch-pail type of player. Remember, Hilliard has two more years of high school football to play and develop. How much bigger, strong and faster will he be in the fall of 2010?
Where does Hilliard fit in the Bayou State among his peers? It's hard to say because it's so early, but he certainly will be at or near the top of the Louisiana recruiting rankings along with players like defensive tackle Anthony Johnson, defensive end Jermauria Rasco, athlete Bradley Sylve, offensive lineman La'El Collins and wide receiver Jarvis Landry. Landry has already made a huge name for himself and is a freakish athlete. Johnson recently committed to Tennessee, while Sylve won the state 100 meters (10.43) and 200 meters (21.3) titles. All these players look like sure-fire Rivals100 prospects at this time next year.
To address the second part of your question, I have always believed that if you have a chance to grab a prospect, especially a big-time prospect, you should do it. Why would you pass and hope on something that may happen the following season? If there is one thing I have learned in covering recruiting since 1992, it is to expect the unexpected.
Two new QBs
What do you think of the two quarterbacks, Mark Leal and Ricardo Young, who committed to Virginia Tech on the same day last week? Does one have an edge over the other and are they a good fit for Virginia Tech?
-- John from Richmond, Va.
The Hokies picked up two quarterback commitments last Thursday in Mark Leal from Delray Beach, Fla., and Ricardo Young from Washington, D.C. Quarterback is a huge position of need for Virginia Tech this recruiting season, and these two signal-callers are ideal fits in the Bryan Stinespring offense. They both have good arms and very good athletic ability. Young and Leal are quick in the pocket, show good escapability and have the ability to extend a play and create. They are both smart and love to compete.
I really believe that they will both have the same opportunities once they set foot on campus because Virginia Tech is in dire need of bodies at this position. In fact, the Hokies have only two scholarship quarterbacks on campus right now and one of those guys will be a junior this season. So they will have to be ready because you're always one play away. Will one redshirt and one not to create some separation between the two? It's hard to say and it all depends on them and how ready they are once they step on the college gridiron.
In the process of identifying and offering quarterbacks this season, the Hokies' staff spent a complete day in their Blacksburg football offices watching film of every quarterback on their board. They put an emphasis on this and made sure they found the right two guys for them. But are they done? Possibly not. If there's a quarterback that "wows" them this summer or fall, don't be surprised if they make a play for a third.
Not backing down
Can lighting strike three times? Can Larry Fedora continue to sign U.S. Army All-Americans to Southern Miss?
-- Jason from Sumrall, Miss.
I said it when Larry Fedora took the job at Southern Miss and I will say it again – he's quietly one of the better recruiters in the country. I also said he would be a pain in the you know what in the middle of the South for all the Southeastern Conference schools. Two years ago he landed All-American wide receiver DeAndre Brown. This past season it was running back Kendrick Hardy.
But I do think things got a little harder for Fedora and his Eagles because of Dan Mullen. His hire at Mississippi State will make it more difficult on Southern Miss because they run similar offenses.
Having said that, you know Fedora and company will make a big push for all the top prospects in Mississippi. They may not play in the SEC, but I would bet they will land a player or two most people wouldn't suspect.
Who will it be? Honestly, it's too early to say, but I do know that enough of the elite prospects are mentioning Southern Miss and the Eagles feel good about the position they are in right now.