July 30, 2009

Ask Jamie: What's left for the Wolverines?

Jamie Newberg is a football recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. He tackles your questions in his weekly mailbag feature.
Previous mailbags:
July 24: WVU class best in the Big East?
July 16: Brewster building at Minnesota
July 9: Can Texas land top class?
Let's take a look at Michigan and how the Wolverines are doing right now. Can they land any five-star prospects? Just how high will quarterback Devin Gardner land when the new rankings come out? What's up with all the three-star commitments headed to Ann Arbor? Should the Michigan faithful be concerned?

One of the biggest surprises in all of college football recruiting is Vanderbilt. The Commodores have 20 commitments, including 14 three-star prospects. How are they putting together their best class in recent memory?

Also, what's the take on Louisville commitment Quan Weaver?

These questions are answered in this week's mailbag.

Jamie's Mailbag
Michigan's moves

I am a Michigan fan (aka, a sometimes delusional person who thinks Michigan has a god-given right to only four- and five-star recruits). While I realize that many great players have been "only three-star recruits" - and I am sure the coaching staff knows more about these players than any of us - does Michigan seem to be "settling" for three-star recruits more so this year? If so, could this be due to the numerous decommitments suffered by the program last year?

-- Hashard from Atlanta
All right, I have been waiting to dedicate a mailbag column to the maize and blue faithful, and it's going to be this one. Why? Because without question it seems as if this fan base has a thirst for high-end prospects more so than any other. Michigan fans kill my mailbag inbox each week with, "Is Devin Gardner going to land in the top 100 and if so, how high?" "Can Michigan land any five-star recruits?" "Will Michigan sign Seantrel Henderson?" Etc., etc., etc.

First, Gardner's performance at the Elite 11 earlier this month likely pushed him atop the dual-threat quarterback rankings. Sorry West Virginia fans, it appears that he will leapfrog Mountaineers commitment Barry Brunetti, who currently holds the top spot. (Please go easy on the arguing on the various message boards. Like we need more controversy among those two fan bases.)

Barry Every, our national recruiting analyst in charge of our player rankings, was in attendance for each session in California. Every actually graded Gardner out at No. 1 overall, ahead of Phillip Sims, Jake Heaps, Robert Bolden, Brunetti and all the others. So, at this point, is appears that you will see Gardner in our next revised top 100. Where? I don't know. You will have to wait until the next rankings are released.


The way things stand now I think Michigan and everyone else is trailing Minnesota for Henderson, the nation's top prospect. Now it's just a hunch, but I would give the home-state Gophers the edge with Henderson. He's from nearby Cretin-Durham High School in St. Paul. Sure, the Wolverines, Buckeyes, Fighting Irish and others are all jockeying for the nation's top prospect. And yes, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Michigan, USC, Florida, etc., all have more tradition then Minnesota.

This will be a real test for Minnesota coach Tim Brewster. But I believe that this guy is a very good recruiter. With Henderson saying very little about the entire process, it's just speculation on everyone's part on what he will ultimately do. I like Minnesota here, at least for now, but don't hold my feet to the fire, especially with these other teams involved.

Other five-star prospects who are showing interest in Michigan are wide receiver Kyle Prater and defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd. At this time I would favor Illinois (first) and Oklahoma (second) for Prater, while I think right now Michigan has an outside shot at Floyd, the nation's top defensive tackle. Penn State could be the play here.

While in years past Rivals.com usually had around 25-30 five-star prospects, we are currently sitting on only 17. Yeah, we have a lot of wiggle room to assign an additional star to a few more. But right now I am not sure just how many more will be given a fifth star. It seems as though "five-star" talent is a tad down with this class. Then again, we have an entire season ahead of us, so let's all see what happens this fall.

Now, to answer Hashard's actual question from above, fan bases shouldn't be worried that their team is committing three-star prospects. Heck, three-star prospects are good players with lots of upside. Sure, that upside is part of the recruiting equation but you also have to factor in other issues like getting into school, staying in school, character and player development. The other caveat that's needed is coaching. Sure coaches downplay that all the time, saying it's about the players. You here coaches say all the time, "It's about the Jimmys and Joes, not the Xs and Os."

To me, that's a bunch of bull. Coaches have to develop their players and put them in position(s) to make plays and win football games. And you can certainly do that with a lot of three-star prospects. Just look at Frank Beamer at Virginia Tech. Has anyone in the country done more with good, solid three-star recruits than Beamer? On the flip side, how many programs out there sign their share of five-star prospects and haven't won squat? Plenty.

There are 16 current Michigan commitments, 11 of which are three-star prospects. The others are four-star recruits. You have your quarterback of the future (Gardner) for the Rich Rodriguez offense. You are landing some playmakers at wide receiver and other need areas. Coach Rod and his staff completely overhauled the Michigan offense and defense. It's going to take time and patience as the ingredients are all put into place for this program.

Commodores coming on

What's up with Vanderbilt? They seem to be really recruiting well, especially in the state of Georgia.

-- Lucas from Smyrna, Tenn.
How about them Commodores! Vanderbilt is off to a very good start in recruiting with 20 commitments - including 14 three-star prospects - and the No. 42 overall team ranking. As things stand now this could be the best Vandy class in recent memory.

What's going on in Nashville? Hats off to coach Bobby Johnson and his staff. They are working hard to slowly build up the Vandy program. The hard work is paying off as the Commodores are beating some good teams for prospects. I also think that we have seen a better Vandy team on the field, and because of that they have earned a lot of respect in recruiting, especially with the kids.

The Commodores also took a page out of the Auburn recruiting playbook and had a barbecue last month, inviting some of the top prospects on their board. Their scaled-down version of Big Cat weekend was a success, as the Commodores netted a few commitments out of it.

Vandy has also put a lot of time and effort into recruiting the state of Georgia, and that is paying huge dividends. Right now nine of the Commodores' commitments are from the Peach State, including four wide receivers, which happened to be a need area. Other Georgia gems are defensive back Sharrod Golightly and offensive lineman Grant Ramsay. They also went to Louisiana and landed a couple of defensive backs, Mississippi to land defensive tackle Vince Taylor and South Carolina for athlete Jerrell Priester, who is a burner and a steal from the state.

So what's left for Johnson? They will look to sign a full class and names to watch for are offensive lineman James Stone, running back Rajaan Bennett, defensive back Rashad Knight and defensive end Carlos Thompson.

Best back in the Bluegrass?

What do you think of Louisville commitment Quan Weaver?

-- James from Louisville, Ky.
I tell you what, Weaver is a real playmaker from the running back position. Weaver, from Frankfurt, Ky., is the Class A track champion in the 100 meters (11.12 seconds) and 200 meters (22.33). Nicknamed the "Human Bullet," this kid can fly. Last season as a junior he rushed for 2,092 yards and 24 touchdowns. Defensively, he recorded 111 tackles, three sacks and two interceptions.

Certainly his best attribute is his speed. He has pretty good size at 5-11 and 180 pounds. Weaver, a three-star prospect, runs with excellent vision and balance. He also has quickness and shows the ability to stop and start and hit another gear. He's good in space and runs with high effort.

It will be real interesting to see who emerges as the top back in the state of Kentucky between Weaver and Miles Simpson from Independence.

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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