September 16, 2009

Ask Jamie: Big week boosts Vols class

Jamie Newberg is a football recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. He tackles your questions in his weekly mailbag feature.
Previous mailbags:
Sept 9: Coming after Moore
Sept 2: Carnes leads the way for Manatee
Aug 27: Favorite for Fulton?

The Tennessee Vols are the hottest team in recruiting right now. What's left on the board from Knoxville, and will they make a big push to No. 1?

What are the similarities and differences between former Miami Northwestern star quarterback Jacory Harris and current Bulls quarterback Teddy Bridgewater? Will Bridgewater be a five-star recruit? Do the Hurricanes have the inside track on landing him?

Find out answers to these questions and more in this week's mailbag.

Jamie's Mailbag
Tennessee class gets a boost

Tennessee has made its way up the recruiting rankings. Who else do you think may be interested in the Vols to help them reach the No. 1 class?

-- Aaron from Knoxville, Tenn.
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Wow, it has been a huge week for Tennessee in recruiting. First, the Tennessee class got a big boost from Ted Meline, who committed to Lane Kiffin and his Vols last Wednesday. Meline, another recruit headed to Knoxville from south Florida, is big receiver who can also play safety.

Then, over the weekend, Tennessee hit the trifecta, landing Duncan (S.C.) Byrnes defensive line teammates Corey Miller and Brandon Willis and the top prospect from the state of Oklahoma in DeMarco Cobbs. Miller and Willis are both Rivals100 members, while Cobbs and Meline are high-end Rivals250 prospects.

Why the big surge in the Big Orange recruiting, especially coming off the home loss to UCLA? Simple; the coaches are selling recruits on the idea of coming to Tennessee with the opportunity to earn early playing time while helping rebuild the Volunteers back into a college football power. That's a good pitch, and when you have a talented staff that can go out and recruit with anyone in the nation, it's going to be a big sell.

It also helps that Cobbs, Willis and Miller were all in attendance in Neyland Stadium on Saturday. One thing that will never change in Knoxville is the electric atmosphere on game day. This trio soaked it all in, and that helped seal the deal.

Where does Tennessee go from here? They are now sitting on 21 commitments, and the Vols have vaulted all the way to No. 4 overall. They currently trail Texas, LSU and Oklahoma. Between now and National Signing Day, it will be a fierce battle among these four schools as well as USC, Florida and Alabama for the "Mythical National Recruiting title." You can bet the house that Tennessee wants that top spot and all the attention that distinction would bring to the program.

If the Vols can close like they did last season, they will certainly have their shot. One thing I have learned with this Tennessee staff is that they are relentless in their approach - whether a player is committed to another school or not. If they want you, they are coming after you. Look at what they did last season, coming out of nowhere to land running back Bryce Brown, defensive back Janzen Jackson and wide receiver Nu'Keese Richardson.

Who is this staff putting the full-court press on? Tennessee has to finish addressing its needs across the offensive line. Offensive tackle Jawuan James is the hot name here, and Tennessee is desperately trying to play catch-up with Chaz Green. It's conceivable that the Volunteers sign as many as 14 linemen on both sides of the ball. Other big names to watch here are running backs Michael Dyer and Lache Seastrunk, wide receiver Chris Dunkley, linebackers Jeff Luc and Christian Jones and safeties Demetrius Wright and Keenan Allen.

Right now I believe Tennessee trails on most of the names mentioned above on its wish list. The point here is that these guys will be courted hard by the Tennessee staff. And if we have learned one thing in a short time with this coaching staff is that anything and anyone is possible. Did you honestly think Tennessee could land Brown, Richardson and Jackson last recruiting season?

The race for No. 1 will be as fun as ever to watch as it unfolds. Something tells me that the new regime in Knoxville will have a lot to say about the finish before it's all said and done.

The next great Northwestern QB?

Please compare the respective games of current Miami Northwestern quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and former Miami Northwestern quarterback Jacory Harris. At this point in the evaluation period, is Bridgewater likely to be a five-star recruit? Also, how do you feel about Miami's chances of landing him?

-- Kevin from Miami
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Good question, Kevin. First off, Northwestern has been blessed with two big-time quarterback prospects back to back. Well, sort of.

After Harris led the Bulls to a state and national title in 2007, the keys to their offense were handed over to Bridgewater, a sophomore. Sure, he has talent galore, but at the time he was young and inexperienced. Last season, in another state title run, Bridgewater shared the quarterback duties with Wayne Times (Times has since signed with Florida International as a wide receiver).

Still, the improvement Bridgewater made from their opening loss to Long Beach Poly to the state championship defeat to Sanford Seminole was scary. Since then, Bridgewater has really improved in throwing the football; his confidence has also really improved. But, he still has a lot of work to do and a maturation process to go through, just like most junior signal-callers.

The 6-foot-3, 170-pound Bridgewater is a Vince Young-type quarterback. He's extremely athletic, and at times he does things on the field that look effortless. Bridgewater is strong and agile, and he has the ability to extend plays or beat you running the football. There are many who say he has as much upside or more as a receiver. But I see a quarterback first, especially with the way the college game has evolved with the spread, etc. His game fits that style. To me, the big difference, especially at the same stage (with Young), is that Bridgewater has a better arm. Still, he needs to continue to put it all together and improve as a passer, work on his fundamentals, reading defenses, etc.

But to answer your question in regards to a comparison between Bridgewater and Harris, I think they are different quarterbacks. Bridgewater is more athletic and, to me, has a higher ceiling. What I love about Harris is that this kid is smart, savvy and plays with a ton of moxie. Did you see what he did against Florida State on Labor Day? He has good physical tools and a great head on his shoulders. Harris doesn't make many mistakes. The bottom line is that Harris makes plays and is a winner.

To me, Harris is more of the sure thing, while I think Bridgewater is more of a high risk/high reward type of player at this position.

But let's all remember something here; Bridgewater still has almost two high school seasons in front of him. That means he could potentially have as many as 28 more games (playoffs included) if Northwestern makes its usual title run, which it has a great shot at doing with Bridgewater at the helm. I expect to see continued growth and development from Bridgewater.

Right now Bridgewater looks like one of the top prospects from the Sunshine State for the Class of 2011 (along with James Wilder Jr., Timmy Jernigan and others). If that happens, Bridgewater could be a five-star prospect. We will certainly have a better feel for that sometime over the next few months.

In terms of Bridgewater and where he's going to play his college ball, there is a lot of speculation that despite the local pipeline from Northwestern to the University of Miami, many feel he could leave the area and the state. There is some sentiment out there that he may want to "do his own thing."

Folks, it's mighty early to put into stone Bridgewater's ranking and where he will go to college. But I think it's perfectly safe to say that he will be in the discussion for five-star status and that Miami will certainly be in the hunt for his signature come February 2011.

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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