July 16, 2009

Ask Jamie: Brewster building at Minnesota

Jamie Newberg is a football recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. He tackles your questions in his weekly mailbag feature.
Previous mailbags:
July 9: Can Texas land top class?
July 2: Top-notch talent at DE
June 25: Slow start for the Seminoles?
How's Tim Brewster doing at Minnesota and can he continue to elevate the Gophers' program?

Can Georgia Tech make a dent in the Georgia recruiting machine in the Peach State?

Ray Ray Armstrong last year and Anthony Barr this year who's the better prospect?

When will Delvin Jones make his decision? Will Jesse Scroggins choose USC or Tennessee?

We delve into those questions in this week's recruiting mailbag.

Jamie's Mailbag
Building in the Big Ten

I am interested to see what you think about Minnesota. Tim Brewster seems to be finding some recruiting success that Minnesota has not seen in quite some time. Do you think the Gophers can make a dent this year in the Big Ten?

-- David from Atlanta
Since Tim Brewster was hired at Minnesota after the 2006 season, I have believed that the Gophers were on their way up because he will go out and recruit.

Slowly, he has built up the player pool. This year, Minnesota is off to a nice start, with two four-star commitments in offensive tackle Jimmy Gjere and athlete Lamonte Edwards. That's a good sign because both are in-state prospects. Running back Donnell Kirkwood is a steal from Florida. So far this year, the staff has done well.

The ultimate key for this class is the offensive front. There are four offensive line commitments, but Brewster and his staff have to close with the nation's top prospect, Seantrel Henderson from St. Paul (Minn.) Cretin-Derham Hall. He is a must-get for Minnesota because he's local and landing the nation's top prospect will give the program more legitimacy, which would help future recruiting immensely.

It hurts a rebuilding program when it can't land big-time, in-state prospects. Last year, the Gophers signed seven of the state's top 10 players, but the top in-state prospect, wide receiver Bryce McNeal, signed with Clemson. That can't happen this year with Henderson.

The Gophers have finished No. 39 and No. 17, respectively, the past two years in the team recruiting rankings. Another top-30 class will give Brewster three solid classes. We saw some improvement last season on the field, especially on defense, and now it's up to the staff and the players to continue that upward swing.

Peach State competition

How did the success enjoyed by Georgia Tech in Paul Johnson's first season affect the recruiting battles with Georgia for in-state players?

-- Michael from Los Angeles
Tech's 2009 class, which came after Johnson and his staff had a full year to recruit, had 14 in-state players, to 10 for Georgia. That's the first time that has happened in recent memory, and it shows Johnson has put a huge emphasis on in-state recruiting.

In this recruiting cycle, defensive backs Isaiah Johnson and Ryan Ayers were offered by Georgia but committed to Tech. On the flipside, Georgia beat Georgia Tech on two in-state prospects: safety Alec Ogletree and guard Kolton Houston.

The Peach State always is loaded with blue-chip talent, and they all can't play in Athens. Georgia is the ahem top dog in the state, but the Bulldogs are spending more time out of state than ever before. Just look at this current class: The Bulldogs have 15 commitments, with only eight from Georgia. Georgia having more success outside the state should help Georgia Tech and everyone else that recruits the Peach State.

I believe that the Yellow Jackets are gaining in-state momentum. Johnson had great success at Georgia Southern and has plenty of in-state connections. He also has a top-notch staff that puts the utmost priority on in-state recruiting. Many people have said Tech couldn't find enough players from Georgia because of academics, especially going against Georgia and everyone else for the prospects who had the grades. Johnson and his staff have proven that is false.

It also helps that Johnson had great success in his first season. Expectations are high for this season, and that definitely will help Tech against Georgia and anyone else looking for Peach State players.

Tech has eight commitments and each is from Georgia.

Unique talents

Ray Ray Armstrong and Anthony Barr are jack-of-all-trades players in their respective recruiting classes and could be great at a number of positions in college. So, who do you think is better as a prospect?

-- Ryan from St. George, Utah
That's hard for me to answer. I had the chance to watch Armstrong a Miami signee from Sanford (Fla.) Seminole last season in Florida's Class 6A state title game as well as for a full week at an all-star game (the UnderArmour event). I have yet to see Barr from Los Angeles Loyola other than on film, and that film was him playing running back.

In terms of ability, both are outstanding. Armstrong played quarterback and in the secondary last year and led Seminole to a state championship over Miami Northwestern. Armstrong (6-4/220) wants to play safety but likely will grow into an outside linebacker at Miami; he may even grow into a defensive end. Armstrong's athleticism and upside made him the No. 13 prospect in the country last season.

Barr (6-4/230) powered his way to 1,890 rushing yards and 20 scores in 2009. You don't see many, if any, high school backs at that size do the things he does on the field. He likely will end up at defensive end in college, but don't tell that to Barr, who wants to run the ball at the next level. Right now, I believe Barr is the No. 2 prospect in California, behind Ronald Powell.

How does Barr stack up against Armstrong? Right now, I would give the edge to Armstrong simply because I have seen him in person and saw his versatility. I hope to see Barr in person during the all-star "season."

What now?

Jesse Scroggins seems like Tennessee's only hope of signing a top-notch quarterback. What are the chances of him signing with the Vols?

-- Daniel from Nashville
Right now, it doesn't look good. It's basically down to USC and Tennessee, but all sources are saying it's the Trojans at this point for Scroggins, who's from Lakewood (Calif.) High.

Where do the Vols go from here at quarterback? I think they put a full-court press on West Virginia commitment Barry Brunetti, who's from Memphis. Actually, the Tennessee staff could actively recruit all the quarterbacks they offered who have committed to other schools, hoping to turn one. Tennessee also could go the junior college route.

Lane Kiffin and his staff probably are second-guessing themselves for cutting loose Tajh Boyd in the last recruiting cycle. Boyd had committed to Tennessee before the coaching change, then was cut loose by Kiffin. He ended up signing with Clemson.

Quarterback is one of the Vols' glaring needs the other is linemen, on both sides of the ball and it was expected they would sign two in this class. The staff now has six months to make something happen at quarterback.

No hurry

Does Rivals250 athlete Delvin Jones of Miami Palmetto have a timeline for making a decision?

-- Zac from Knoxville, Tenn.
I had a chance to speak with Jones earlier this week and got the impression he won't commit anytime soon. Jones (6-6/230), a defensive end/tight end prospect, told me he wants to take his visits before his decision.

Previously, Jones said Tennessee and USC were his leaders; now you can add Alabama and Ole Miss to his list. Jones says he wants to visit all four of those schools. Unless something drastic happens, I wouldn't expect a decision until post-Thanksgiving. He may be one of the few prospects who wait until closer to National Signing Day.

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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