What position will J.R. Ferguson play and what team may have the edge?
What's up with the quarterback position this recruiting season?
We answer those questions in this week's recruiting mailbag.
USF goes for two
How good is quarterback Brion Carnes of Bradenton (Fla.) Manatee, and can USF also land his teammate Ace Sanders?
-- Paul from Tarpon Springs, Fla.
I was at the Bradenton Manatee-Tampa Plant game on Friday. I saw Manatee destroy Largo 56-0 in their spring game back in May, and the Hurricanes put up 49 points in their 16-point victory over Plant, the defending Class 5A state champion.
Manatee's offensive catalyst is Carnes (6 feet/181 pounds). He had a sensational game against Plant, going 18-of-22 passing for 304 yards and four touchdowns, and he also rushed for a score. Carnes was throwing darts for four quarters and was on the money on just about every pass. He has great velocity on his throws and can make all the passes. And for a young quarterback with a strong arm, he also can throw with touch.
What's also enticing about Carnes is his ability to make something happen when things break down in the pocket. He's athletic, quick and can run; he also can throw on the run and beat a defense with his legs. Still, he's a pocket passer first.
There is no doubt he's really flying under the radar when it comes to the better quarterback prospects in the state, region and even the country. I believe he's a four-star guy all the way. If he keeps this up, Carnes could emerge as the top quarterback prospect in Florida.
Carnes has a lot of talent around him. He's flanked by outstanding wide receiver prospects in Ace Sanders and Quenton Brundrage. Then, there is talented running back Mike Blakely. Brundrage and Blakely are juniors and will be considered two of the better prospects at their respective positions in the Class of 2011.
Sanders (5-9/165) is a senior, and he had a great game against Plant. On the game's first play, he caught a short pass over the middle. On the next play, he took a pass on the perimeter at the line of scrimmage, cut to the outside and blew past everyone for a 64-yard, catch-and-run score. Sanders later scored on 26- and 20-yard touchdown receptions. Late in the game, he almost scored on long pass from Blakely and was pushed out on the 1. Sanders finished with seven receptions for 183 yards and three scores. Like Carnes, Sanders is a four-star prospect in my eyes.
Carnes is committed to USF, and Bulls coaches would love nothing more than to sign Sanders as well. They have offered and currently are in the thick of it with South Carolina, Texas Tech, Miami and others. I would suspect that programs such as Florida, Georgia and Florida State will take another look at Sanders. My guess is that he will get more scholarship offers. While USF is in the hunt, programs to keep a close eye on with Sanders are Florida and Georgia.
Where do you think defensive end J.R. Ferguson ends up and what do you think of him as a prospect? Can Notre Dame land him?
-- Matt from Aurora, Ill.
I had the chance to visit Chatham (Va.) Hargrave Military Academy last week. I met numerous players at their "media day" and had an opportunity to watch a scrimmage in the afternoon.
I must say Ferguson was impressive. To me, he was the best prospect at Hargrave. He's 6-3 and 272 pounds and carries it well.
There are some who think he will grow into a tackle. That could happen. But he also could be a 290-pound strongside defensive end. In fact, he may be best-suited to play end in a 3-4 defense. Ferguson is rangy with long arms. Although he's not blindingly quick off the ball, he's quick enough. Ferguson has the speed to beat a tackle or tight end on the edge, and he also has a few inside moves. At one point during the scrimmage, he got to the quarterback seven times in an eight-play stretch, doing a variety of things off the edge.
I did notice that whenever Hargrave went to a five-man front, Ferguson moved inside. In this alignment, he appeared to be tentative. Maybe that's because Ferguson usually is the end rushing the quarterback and many times he's standing up.
Regardless, this five-star defensive end looks the part. Where will he play? There is some speculation out there that he already knows where he wants to go - Miami - but that's pure speculation. If you talk with Ferguson or his father, they say they are open and need to see some more schools and take some official visits. Ferguson says he will trip to Oklahoma, LSU and Notre Dame this fall.
Those aren't necessarily his three favorites. The Fergusons have been extremely busy over the past two years, seeing USC, California, North Carolina, Wake Forest, Duke, Miami, Florida State, Florida, Tennessee, Georgia, Clemson, North Carolina, South Carolina, UCLA, Pittsburgh, Illinois, Maryland and North Carolina State.
Not so bad?
What's up with this quarterback class? How would you compare it with some recent groups?
-- Billy from Dallas
I have thought for some time that this is a weak quarterback class. In fact, I can't recall a year where it has been like this, and I have been covering recruiting for almost 20 years.
Devin Gardner of Inkster (Mich.) High is the highest-ranked quarterback, at No. 53, and there are only three quarterbacks in the Rivals100 and 16 in the Rivals250.
But Barry Every, our national recruiting analyst, spent four days at the Elite 11 this summer and was surprised at the quarterback play; he believes the position isn't as "down" as people think.