September 30, 2009

Ask Jamie: Longhorns missing on in-state stars?

Jamie Newberg is a football recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. He tackles your questions in his weekly mailbag feature.
Previous mailbags:
Sept 23: What's left for Florida State?
Sept 16: Big week boosts Vols class
Sept 9: Coming after Moore

What's going on with the University of Texas and the highly ranked prospects from the Lone Star State like running back Lache Seastrunk, defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat, wide receiver Darius White and offensive tackle Jake Matthews? Should there be some cause for concern in Austin?

Should we expect a crazy recruiting season, and will there be lots of de-commitments?

How do you figure out how many scholarships a team has?

Find out in this week's mailbag.

Jamie's Mailbag
Big misses?

There are four top-flight prospects in the state of Texas this year - wide receiver Darius White, running back Lache Seastrunk, defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat and offensive tackle Jake Matthews. Texas is on the verge of not landing any of them. Even though the Longhorns have and will have an impressive haul, should this be alarming?

-- Gary from Houston
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Texas is going to have an impressive haul. Mack Brown and his Longhorns are sitting on 19 commitments and they currently have the No. 1-rated recruiting class in the nation. However, the names you mentioned are missing from the burnt orange commit list. Seastrunk, Jeffcoat and White are the state's top three prospects (in order), while Matthews is No. 7. Of that quartet, only Matthews has committed (to Texas A&M).

Meanwhile, of the other three, it looks like Texas has the best shot at Jeffcoat. While USC could be the team to beat for him at this time, there is a long way to go. Houston could be a BCS-buster and his father, Jim, is an assistant coach with Kevin Sumlin and the Cougars. But if Houston continues its winning ways this fall, Sumlin could be headed for greener pastures before it's all said and done. Certainly there could be coaching changes within the Big 12, where Sumlin could land. If he goes, so could Jeffcoat's father. That means there's a potential wild-card team down the line with this five-star defensive end. But right now, I think the top two teams are USC and Texas.

Everyone just assumes that Seastrunk is leaning to either LSU or Auburn. Any way you look at it, he appears to be a Tiger at this point.

Right?

I wouldn't exactly rule out Texas just yet. There are some who feel if Seastrunk and "his camp" play ball with Brown and the Longhorns, they can certainly make a big push and have a great shot to land this thoroughbred from Temple.

So what does that mean? It means Seastrunk needs to show interest in Texas, meet with Brown in Austin and show the Longhorns' staff that he wants to be a part of the Texas program.

How did it get to this point for a player of Seastrunk's ability who happens to play his high school ball less than 70 miles from the Austin campus? It goes back to a kind of policy change with Brown and his staff in how they recruit players, specifically high-end players.

First, the University of Texas doesn't typically offer any recruit a scholarship until it hosts its first junior day of the new recruiting season; that's usually the first Saturday or Sunday following National Signing Day. It's here when Brown will initially offer a prospect in his office (with a follow-up written offer). Because the Longhorns are typically done with recruiting sometime during the May evaluation period, it allows them to look ahead to the next class. It has been this kind of cycle for Texas.

But what happens to the recruits who receive early Texas offers but are inclined to ride it out, visit other schools and play the recruiting game? Unless they are of the elite variety, Texas now typically will stop recruiting them and move on to the next one. But that's not set in stone; it depends on the prospect and how well they play along with Brown and his staff.

Over the recent months, Seastrunk has gotten caught up in this - and this is why he needs to be proactive with the Longhorns if he wants to be courted by them. Some feel Brown and his staff don't want to deal with what could potentially be a circus in the recruitment of Seastrunk, especially the closer we get to Signing Day.

Here's an example of why the Longhorns have cooled on Seastrunk and why they are not afraid to walk away.

The Texas summer camp in June is a big deal. Texas wants all its commitments - as well as the prospects the Longhorns are still hot after - to come to this camp. All recruits are asked to do this. The week before the summer camp, Seastrunk flew to Auburn for a second time. When it came time to drive to Austin for the camp, Seastrunk declined to make the short trip.

Sure, this tactic by Brown and his staff could cost them Seastrunk, but who's going to guarantee them they will even get him in the end? Texas and Brown played this game with both Ryan Perrilloux and Fred Rouse and they lost out on both players in the end. Big picture, though, did they really lose?

Then you have White, the top receiver in the state in a year when Texas does need some help at the position. He looks like he's headed out of state and could end up at Oklahoma. Again, this is a prospect with an early Texas offer who decided not to commit early to the Longhorns.

Matthews was one of the few recruits from Texas who received an early offer and decided to wait and go through the process, and the Longhorns continued to recruit him. They just lost out to Texas A&M, which has a dire need on the offensive front.

So should Texas be alarmed that it could only land five of the state's top 10 players? Should there be a cause of concern to lose the most electrifying prospect in this year's class (Seastrunk) and a potential franchise defensive end (Jeffcoat)? Meanwhile, the state's top receiver (White) and tackle (Matthews) sign elsewhere?

Sure, when you are the flagship school in the state that produces more FBS talent than any other, this should raise some red flags. But at the same time, Texas does produce so many recruits and the Longhorns are so far ahead of the game in regards to the evaluation process that it should even out somewhat.

The bottom line is this: When you are a school like Texas, you have to set some parameters and guidelines in how you do things with recruiting. At the same time, you have to pick the battles to fight and fight to the bitter end because it's some of those guys like Seastrunk and Jeffcoat who can be the real difference-makers.

Decommitment craziness?

Do you anticipate it being a crazy fall/winter in terms of committed players visiting other schools as well as these committed players de-committing? In other words, will it be a crazy end to this recruiting season?

-- Shawn from Albany, Ga.
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Absolutely. I think it will be a nutty final four-plus months between now and Signing Day. And wait until December/January when you have the coaching changes and moves. Recruiting at those schools will be turned upside down.

Remember, no one is immune to losing recruits/commitments. Not USC. Not Florida. Not Alabama. No one. Heck, the Crimson Tide just lost offensive tackle Jawuan James. The Trojans lost commitments last season and so did the Gators fresh off a national championship.

Sure times have changed and recruiting has become so accelerated. College football programs are offering scholarships earlier and these same recruits are committing earlier. Some have second thoughts, some want to take visits and some just decide to back off. Regardless of why, many committed prospects look elsewhere. It's as if it's almost become the norm and part of the recruiting process itself.

Just fasten your seat belt because it's going to be a wild ride.

Numbers game

Is there some place where I can see how many scholarships a team is able to offer? I notice, for example, that USC doesn't have many seniors, so how many spots do the Trojans really have that they can offer?

-- Pat from San Pedro, Calif.
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I don't know of any Web site that tracks the scholarship numbers of college football programs. Typically you count the number of seniors, try and gauge who may declare early for the NFL draft and try to project attrition. That's how you can come close to the scholarship number and be within one or maybe two.

By my count USC has 19 seniors and I would expect their final total scholarship number this season to be 20-22, depending on attrition.

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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