August 20, 2009

Ask Jamie: Can Mullen recruit at MSU?

Jamie Newberg is a football recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. He tackles your questions in his weekly mailbag feature.
Previous mailbags:
Aug 13: A&M class attracts attention
Aug 6: 'Canes losing ground in backyard?
July 30: What's left for the Wolverines?
What teams outside the "Big Six" conferences are recruiting well? Can Dan Mullen get it done on the recruiting front for Mississippi State? Will Cody Riggs and Chris Dunkley land in Gainesville or elsewhere - and what's the latest with Jeff Luc and Ronald Powell? And just how good is Clemson commitment Victor Beasley?

Find out the answers in this week's mailbag.

Jamie's Mailbag
Closing the talent gap

Can you tell me which non-"Big Six" conference teams are attracting the best talent? Anybody in Conference USA stand out so far?

-- Jim from Waxahachie, Texas
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There's no question that two programs in Utah are attracting top talent. Two Mountain West programs - BYU and Utah - currently sit inside the Rivals.com top 30 team rankings.

BYU is No. 14 overall, ahead of such teams as Ohio State, Florida State, Miami and California. Will things stay that way? Likely not. But you still have to admire what BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall and his staff have done thus far with their 24 commitments.

This group is led by Rivals100 quarterback Jake Heaps, who turned down his home-state Washington Huskies, as well as Tennessee and others. Other four-star prospects committed to BYU are wide receiver Ross Apo and defensive ends Bronson Kaufusi and Kona Schwenke. Defensive tackle Jordan Afo and Graham Rowley, running back Algrenon Brown, defensive end Alani Fua and linebacker Zac Stout are three-star prospects. This big start also will help the Cougars with their 2011 class because BYU can begin to focus on that group now rather than later.

The Utes check in at No. 29 overall. Utah has 15 commitments, led by running back Josh Huff and wide receiver Kenneth Scott. Both are four-star prospects. Meanwhile, wide receiver Dres Anderson, quarterback Brian Blechen, running back Princeton Collins, linebacker Jacoby Hale, defensive end Joe Kruger, offensive lineman Archie Muniz, defensive backs Damian Payne and Terrell Reese and athletes Joseph Smith and Darian Lazard are three-star prospects.

In terms of Conference USA, the highest-rated team is Houston. The Cougars check in at No. 32, and have 22 commitments. Four-star quarterback Terrance Broadway is the headliner. Rodney Williams is one of the better defensive tackles from the Lone Star State, while tight end Kenneth Bibbins, defensive backs Zach McMillian and Alton Demby, linebacker Clarence Lee and Efrem Oliphant, wide receiver DeAndre Perry and quarterback David Piland are other top commitments.

There are a few teams lurking outside the top 50 that likely will move up this fall. Keep a close eye on TCU, UCF, Southern Miss and New Mexico.

We are currently meeting about rankings revisions, and there are some prospects on the commitment lists of teams mentioned above that haven't been assigned a ranking yet but will with the next release in early September.

Getting it done in Starkville

Do you think Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen and his staff can recruit well enough to get the athletes necessary to eventually compete for an SEC title? He's stated a desire to go after Mississippi athletes in particular. Can this strategy work?

-- Kelly in Oakland
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I don't care where you are, you have to have the ability to recruit your backyard. Sure, it's tough in the Magnolia State simply because you also have Ole Miss, but both schools should get their share. Then you have an up-and-coming program like Southern Miss, which will surprise some folks. You also have to take into consideration schools such as LSU, Alabama, Auburn, Tennessee and others are going to recruit the state.

Even so, there certainly should be plenty of athletes for Mullen. He needs to go out and find some weapons for his spread offense. There is a great amount of excitement surrounding the program because of the coaching change, and I would imagine that numerous prospects could be enticed to play there, especially in that offensive system. Mullen was offensive coordinator for two national title teams at Florida and has coached Tim Tebow and Alex Smith. That's an impressive résumé.

Having said that, archrival Ole Miss could have its best team in years and likely will steal some of Mullen's thunder this fall.

I think Mullen will do well in recruiting, and I would expect his staff to have a nice blend of in-state and out-of-state prospects to fill out their class.

Mississippi State is off to a nice start with 10 commitments, including seven in-state prospects. Defensive end Kaleb Eulls, the Bulldogs' lone four-star commitment, leads the way. Six of the pledges are athletes/wide receivers.

Florida's chances

Do you see Florida landing Cody Riggs, Chris Dunkley, Ronald Powell and Jeff Luc in this class?

-- Chris from Des Moines, Wash.
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As things stand right now, I think the Gators are the team to beat for Cody Riggs, a cornerback from Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas. He will visit Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Notre Dame and Tennessee.

Some believe Pahokee (Fla.) High wide receiver Chris Dunkley is headed to Florida. But I would watch for Tennessee. Could this be Nu'Keese Richardson all over again?

I think Florida has a realistic shot at defensive end Ronald Powell, from Moreno Valley (Calif.) Rancho Verde. He has been to Gainesville twice, and I think it's 50-50 with Florida and USC. I still would favor the Trojans, simply because Powell is from the Trojans' backyard.

I feel as if I am addressing the recruitment of Jeff Luc, a linebacker from Port St. Lucie (Fla.) Treasure Coast, almost each week. I really believe Florida State is the team to beat at this time. A hot rumor a few days ago had Luc committing to FSU. He denies it, and I wouldn't expect a public commitment from him until he takes his visits. Florida and Miami will fight to the end for him, and Alabama and LSU could be two out-of-state teams to watch. But I don't see him leaving the state, at least not right now. Luc wants to graduate early, so we should know his decision sometime in December.

Beasley's ranking

Why is Victor Beasley only a three-star prospect? Will he move up to four-star status?

-- Josh from Cullman, Ala.
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Victor Beasley of Adairsville, Ga., is a nice-looking athlete on film.

Beasley could play on either side of the ball, at receiver, tight end, outside linebacker or defensive end. It's really hard to project where he will play at the next level; it will depend on how big he gets because he could certainly grow into an H-back/tight end or put his hand down and be a defensive end.

In terms of his ranking, he's right on the cutoff as a four star and certainly could get there with a good senior season.

Beasley has committed to Clemson, and it looks like the Tigers are getting themselves a good athlete who potentially could help them out in many areas.

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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