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January 31, 2011

College Football Report - Senior Bowl Stock Up and Stock Down:

The 2011 NFL Draft hype surrounding potential NFL prospects will soon make its transition from the Senior Bowl to the NFL Scouting Combine.

The NFL Combine, which begins Feb. 23 and last until March 1, 2011, has always seemed to be where scouts begin their new-found fondness of a prospect, as they drool over a player’s 40-time and bench repetitions. The Senior Bowl is no slouch to scouts keenness to continue their player evaluations, however.

Over the last five NFL drafts, averages of nearly 12 first round selections have taken place in the annual college Senior Bowl. Last season, 10 first round picks played in the game and improved their stocks, including Tim Tebow, Devin McCourty and Tyson Alualu.

The 2011 Senior Bowl wasn’t filled with quite the media hype and scout hungry grounds as the 2010 game – thanks most notably to the lack of Tebow – but the week and game did give an abundance of prospects a chance to improve their stock, particularly defensive stars. Like always, though, the week and game sometimes hurts a players overall grade, as well.

It’s time to run down who improved their draft position and who may have hurt their stock after a week in Mobile.

Stock Up:

Von Miller, Outside Linebacker, Texas A&M

The focus on Miller was in his pass drops. Scout’s wanted to see how fluid he was in his hips and the position and effort he needed in order to make a drop into coverage. Before the week, Miller was regarded as a strict 3-4 rush-outside linebacker. It’s safe to say now, wherever he lines up, and whatever system, Miller is going to make plays.

Leonard Hankerson, Wide Receiver, Miami (Fl)

Hank did nothing but impress from day one in Mobile. He quickly became the best wideout at the event and showed the hands, route running ability and vision to find space that being a No. 1 wideout in the NFL requires. He backed up a solid week with a solid game, bringing in five grabs for 100 yards and a score. Don’t be surprised if a team, potentially New England, takes a chance on Hankerson late in round one.

Brooks Reed, Defensive End, Arizona

Reed is a guy who came into the Mobile week with a few questions surrounding him, most notably ones concentrated on where he'll play. He’s a bit undersized as a four down end for the NFL and some questioned whether he would be athletic enough to work as a 3-4 outside linebacker. Reed answered those questions and more. He brought in a great deal of pressure in the game, including a sack, which he brought in from a standup rush position.

Cameron Jordan, Defensive End, California

Caught up in the shuffle of big defensive ends in the 2011 class alongside Cam Heyward, Allen Bailey and Adrian Clayborn, Jordan just might have solidified himself as the best of the four. He became a dominant presence all week long, showing good hand use and a strong bull-rush. He should find himself jump off the board early in the first round.

Danny Watkins, Offensive Line, Baylor

Watkins became an intriguing prospect this week. Few offensive linemen have solidified themselves as potential first round picks, but Watkins might have done just that. He played tackle for Baylor, but spent the week as a guard, where he excelled. Watkins was strong and held his ground in one-on-one drills with ease and looked just as good in the actual game.

Sam Acho, Defensive End, Texas

Few spoke of Acho before the Mobile week; as he's been buried by a deep and talented class of defensive lineman. He may not need to worry about that anymore, as defensive line might not even be his future position in the NFL. He measured in at just over 6-foot-1, 257-pounds, and showed the speed a rush specialist needs. Acho dominated the game, bringing in two tackles for a loss and a sack that included a forced fumble.

Colin McCarthy, Linebacker, Miami (Fl)

Considered a late round grab in a lot of scout’s minds, McCarthy forced a lot of people to take a second look. He doesn’t have the ideal measurables scout’s look for, but McCarthy continuously ended up in the right place on the field. He also showed good pursuit, bringing in three solo tackles in space in the game, including one behind the line.

Christian Ponder, Quarterback, Florida State

Numerous questions surrounded Mobile of which quarterback was going to walk away most impressive. Throughout the week, no individual particularly stood out. In actual game speed, Ponder excelled. He took away the game’s MVP honor and was clearly the most polished passer. He looked off coverages and threw with great accuracy. Ponder just may have moved himself up a couple rounds this week.

Ryan Kerrigan, Defensive End, Purdue

Another one of the players scouts feel could transition to outside linebacker, Kerrigan was a dominating presence all week. He was strong in rush drills and showed good ability to get off blocks in 11-on-11 action. In the game, Kerrigan brought in five tackles, three for a loss, with a sack. With such a performance, it may not be a done deal on moving to linebacker.

Others: Bilal Powell, Running Back, Louisville – Phil Taylor, Defensive Tackle, Baylor – Kendrick Burney, Cornerback, UNC – Vincent Brown, Wideout, SDSU – Mason Foster, Linebacker, Washington – Curtis Brown, Cornerback, Texas- Christian Ballard, Defensive Tackle, Iowa

Stock Down:

DeMarcus Love, Offensive Tackle, Arkansas

Love looked sluggish throughout the week, especially in the game. He rarely moved his feet quick enough to get into position on passing plays. Two of the three sacks given up by the south came through Love, and another would have, if not for a holding call. Senior Bowl week might have proved Love may need to move inside at the next level.

Noel Devine, Running Back, West Virginia

The shiftiness and agility Devine has always been known for was rarely seen this week. The speed was there for Devine, but he’ll need more at just 5-foot-7, 160-pounds. Although he shows toughness to run inside, he often bounced plays outside, when the defense already had stretched the field. Devine is going to need to show scout’s a bit more in-between now and the draft.

Greg Jones, Linebacker, Michigan State

Jones is a bruiser at 5-foot-11, 240-pounds, and it’s long been thought he has the speed to stay in coverage. That wasn’t the case this week in Mobile. Jones was often out of position in practices and the same went during game time. He struggled to fight off blocks in the game as well, getting bulled over on a couple of occasions.

Ronald Johnson, Wide Receiver, USC

While multiple wideouts – Hankerson, Brown, Sanzenbacher and Young – considerably helped their draft stock this week, Johnson wasn’t one of the few. He didn’t do much to hurt his stock, but in a chance to stand out, Johnson didn’t. He adds the extra benefit of returning kicks, but even there he wasn’t special.

Jake Locker, Quarterback, Washington

Locker might have been the most watched player of the Senior Bowl practices and apart from some athletic plays, he didn’t do much to impress his viewing gallery. Locker is a great athlete with a good arm, but he’s been inconsistent over his college career and was the same throughout Senior Bowl week. In the last day of practice, Locker threw two interceptions and fumbled once. In the game, Locker struggled with accuracy and fumbled twice. A team may take a chance on him in the first round because of his potential, but he’ll need to show more before then.

Others: Chris White, Linebacker, Mississippi State – Da’Norris Searcy, Safety, UNC – Colin Kaepernick, Quarterback, Nevada – Roy Helu, Running Back, Nebraska – Lee Ziemba, Offensive Tackle, Auburn

Photo Credit:

Hankerson – AP Photo

Locker – Dave Martin/AP

January 27, 2011

College Football Report - 2011 NFL Draft Stacked With Potential 3-4 Defensive Talent:

There is a growing trend in the NFL. It's supplied by college misfit players of the past and prototypical athletes of the present, one that’s been gaining in popularity for 37 years: the 3-4 defensive scheme.

In the 1940s Oklahoma Head Coach Bud Wilkinson developed the 3-4 defensive front. The scheme’s numbers refer to the three down lineman and four standing linebackers, as opposed to the typical 4-3 defensive formation.

The 3-4 didn’t hit the NFL until 1973, though, brought in by former Oklahoma coach, Chuck Fairbanks. Fairbanks learned the defense while serving under Wilkinson at Oklahoma, and was the first to bring the formation to the league when he accepted the New England Patriots head coaching job.

Since installed in the NFL, the defense has had its up and down years. As of late, however, the defense has caught on like a wild fire.

During the 2010 season, 15 of the 32 NFL teams ran a base 3-4 defense. Many additional teams implemented some form of the 3-4 into their base 4-3 schemes. Of the 12 teams that made the NFL playoffs this season, half ran 3-4 defenses. The two Super Bowl teams – Pittsburgh and Green Bay – are both 3-4 defensive teams.

Defensive coordinators Dick LeBeau of Pittsburgh and Dom Capers of Green Bay have been two of the better defensive minds in the game and their versions of the 3-4 can be credited to their success.

Six of the last 10 Super Bowl Champions have run 3-4 schemes and this season, a seventh will make the list.

There is one challenge to running the defense, though, a team must have a strict set of players to run the defense effectively. When a defense has the right players in place it works with great success like in the Steelers, Packers, Patriots, Ravens and Jets case.

In other circumstances, like in the case of the Broncos, Redskins and Cardinals, who ranked 32, 31 and 29 respectively in total defense this season, the 3-4 can be a burn.

Unlike other defenses, the 3-4 requires untraditional skill-sets from players.

It starts along the defensive line, where a massive nose tackle and two above average size defensive ends line the front.

Nose tackles like the Patriots Vince Wilfork (6-2, 340) and the Packers B.J. Raji (6-2, 337) are a must. Ends with size such as the Steelers Brett Keisel (6-5, 290) and the Ravens Haloti Ngata (6-4, 350) are just as important.

A solid duo of outside linebackers who can rush the passer, defend the run and drop into coverage all with ease are also a must. A lot of times, under-sized, athletic defensive ends from college are brought in to make the transition to outside linebacker in 3-4 schemes.

The Ravens Terrell Suggs (6-3, 260), Steelers Lamarr Woodley (6-2, 265), Cowboys Demarcus Ware (6-4, 262) and Chiefs Tamba Hali (6-3. 275) all made the transition from defensive end in college to outside linebacker in the NFL and all are among the best in the league.

Two of the other best, in the Steelers James Harrison (6-0, 242) and Packers Clay Matthews (6-3, 255), are just athletic marvels who have excelled at rushing the passer.

Recent drafts have been littered with teams making moves and taking risks on potential 3-4 players. In 2009, eight teams spent their first round pick on a defensive players, either outside linebacker or defensive lineman.

In the case of the Packers, who drafted Raji and Matthews, Steelers, who drafted end Ziggy Hood and Redskins, who drafted outside linebacker Brian Orakpo, great success has followed.

The Chiefs spent the No. 3 overall pick on defensive end Tyson Jackson. Bills grabbed outside linebacker Aaron Maybin with the No. 11 pick. The Chargers drafted outside linebacker Larry English with pick No. 16 and Broncos took outside linebacker Robert Ayers at pick No. 18. All have struggled tremendously to fit into their new positions and defensive schemes.

The 2011 draft is completely stacked with potential first round defensive draft picks, many of whom will find themselves in new places in 3-4 schemes.

From defensive ends moving to outside linebacker, to traditional 4-3 ends moving to 3-4 ends, day one of the 2011 NFL Draft could host up to 18 players making the cut. Here are some to keep an eye on:

Outside Linebacker:

Ryan Kerrigan: 6-4, 255 – Purdue

Projection: Rd 1 – Fit: New England, San Diego, NY Jets

Kerrigan was a traditional end at Purdue, but has displayed tremendous athletic ability in Senior Bowl practices. He has a knack for getting after the passer and could absolutely excel as a standup linebacker.

Von Miller: 6-2, 237 – Texas A&M

Projection: Top 10 – Fit: Arizona, San Fran, Cleveland

A bit undersized, Miller has the ability to overpower bigger offensive lineman with his speed. He’s capable of fitting into a 4-3 or 3-4, but with such great pass rushing moves, expect a 3-4.

Ryan Houston: 6-3, 260 – Georgia

Projection: Rd 1 – Fit: New England, San Diego, Miami

One of the lone players who played in a base 3-4 in college, Houston is a exceptional pass rusher, but has the athleticism to drop into coverage with ease.

Aldon Smith: 6-5, 262 – Missouri

Projection: Top 20 – Fit: New England, Kansas City

Smith is a player whose stock has sky rocketed because of his versatility. A bit undersized for defensive end, more teams have been viewing Smith as a rush outside ‘backer.

Brooks Reed: (right) 6-3, 260 – Arizona

Projection: Rd 2 – Fit: San Diego, Baltimore, NY Jets, Green Bay

Reed has been standing out among defensive players at the Senior Bowl right now. He says 80 percent of teams want him as a linebacker and has shown the athleticism and dropping ability to make the move.

Akeem Ayers: 6-4, 255 – UCLA

Projection: Top 20 – Fit: Washington, Houston, Detroit, San Diego

Ayers projects more as a 4-3 outside linebacker at the next level as his pass rushing skills are less refined than the above, but he’s athletic and powerful enough to make the switch.

Defensive Line:

Cameron Jordon: 6-4, 290 – California

Projection: Top 15 – Fit: Washington, New England, San Diego, NY Jets

Jordon played most of his career as a 4-3 end, but has played some tackle. He could wind up as a 3-4 end (5 tech.) at the next level because of his size. He’s been unstoppable in Senior Bowl practices.

Marcell Dareus: 6-4, 310 – Alabama

Projection: Top 10 – Fit: Buffalo, Arizona, Cleveland, San Fran

Dareus is an absolute power along the defensive front. Used as a 5-technique at Alabama, Dareus should fit as a 3-4 end or even a nose, if he grows, with little transition time in the NFL.

Cameron Heyward: 6-5, 288 – Ohio State

Projection: Rd 1 – Fit: Jacksonville, San Diego, New England

Heyward opted not to attend the Senior Bowl, which may hurt him in the long run. He’s got tremendous power and size, which leads some to believe he may work more in a 3-4 scheme.

J.J. Watt: 6-6, 295: Wisconsin

Projection: Rd 1 – Fit: New England, San Diego, Tampa Bay

Watt came on this season, becoming an above average pass rusher, but he also uses his big body to eat up space as a run defender very well. The Chargers may be an ideal fit for Watt in the middle of the first round.

Allen Bailey: (right) 6-4, 280 – Miami (Fl)

Projection: Rd 1 – Fit: San Diego, Baltimore, Oakland, Atlanta

Bailey has had an up and down Senior Bowl week thus far. He wooed scouts at the weigh in and in 11-on-11 work, but has struggled in 1-on-1 bouts. His phenomenal inside strength may suit him better in a 3-4.

Christian Ballard: 6-4, 290 – Iowa

Projection: Late Rd 1- Rd 2 – Fit: San Fran, NY Jets, Green Bay

Ballard is a fine example of a player using the Senior Bowl week to greatly improve their draft stock. He’s moved into the late first round in some scouts minds. Played mostly tackle in college, but should make the switch to 3-4 end in the NFL.

Photo Credit: Bailey - Alix Drawec/AP Photo

Photo Credit: Reed - Mark Evans/Tucson Citizen

January 26, 2011

College Football Report - Oversinging Continues to be Growing Problem in Recruiting:

Ever wonder how the Southeastern Conference continues to be college football’s most dominant league year in, year out? You shouldn’t, the evidence of why is written in plain ink.

Come Feb. 2, more evidence will flow through fax machines all across the country, particularly in SEC country.

Every year Alabama, LSU, Florida and Auburn walk through their schedules and continue their dominance against out of conference teams. There’s a reason the schools don’t rebuild, but instead reload.

It’s called oversigning. Few notice, but the SEC has gotten rich on it. Here’s how it works:

Schools are allowed 85 scholarship players on their team’s roster. They’re allowed more players, but only 85 can be on a scholarship. In yearly recruiting, only 25 future student athletes can be signed to a scholarship by fall practices.

Coaches try to sign players to a National Letter of Intent (LOI), which then binds the recruit to their school. The LOI cannot be signed, however, until signing day, Feb. 2. What a LOI does is claim that school has a scholarship and available space on the roster for them.

If a school has 85 players on scholarship, but they lose 20 to graduation, the NFL Draft or transferring following the season, then that school has room to sign 20 recruits to a LOI, which leads to a scholarship.

Oversigning happens when a school only has room for 20 additional signings, but signs more than that 20 to LOI. The school then has to find room for the players it’s oversigned. Whether it be cutting players already on scholarship, sending recruits to junior college or a prep school, or even not adhering to the promise of a scholarship, room must be made.

There have been no NCAA rules or regulations against oversigning. There is, however, an NCAA bylaw which will now prohibit a Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) team to 28 signings from Feb. 2 to May 31.

The rule is far from a solution, though. Its spilled milk compared to the tidal wave hitting the recruiting world.

The culprits of oversigning are clear: Nick Saban of Alabama (above), Houston Nutt of Ole Miss, Les Miles of LSU and Larry Blankley of Troy have all been problem coaches of oversigning throughout their careers.

In 2008, Alabama signed 32 players. In 2009, Nutt signed 37 players to a LOI. Last season, LSU brought in 29 recruits. Troy has signed 32 or more players in every class since 2007. In 2009, they signed 40 recruits. In all the above classes, not all recruits made it in to their schools. SI’s Any Staples breaks down schools five year totals.

What coaches hope for or bank on, is that not all their recruits will qualify academically. In turn the players will be sent to a junior college or prep school for however long, where a coach may or may not extend the scholarship offer in the future.

The problem comes when all players do qualify or when teams sign players after National Signing Day with full classes. Coaches are then left with a decision.

Miami (FL) ran into that problem last season, when the Hurricanes brought in two five-star recruits after signing day, on an already full roster. Seantrel Henderson and Latwan Anderson both signed well after the February signing day.

To make room, Miami coaches released two current players on their 85 man active roster in defensive end Steven Wesley (90, right) and wideout Thearon Collier, both of whom were regular contributors for the Hurricanes the previous season. The University issued a statement that Collier had been released for “violating team rules.” Which rules, were never released. Wesley, who claims he was in good academic standing, was released for “academic issues.” It came as a surprise to both players.

Henderson signed with Miami in June, while Anderson had been brought in a month earlier, only on a track scholarship. As soon as Anderson did anything with the football team, the scholarship would be moved over to a football scholarship, though.

Where Wesley and Collier come in, was to make room. Both were released just before summer camp. Wesley moved on to North Alabama, while Collier transferred to USC.

LSU hadn’t expected all of their 29 recruits from their 2010 class to qualify, when more did than Miles thought would, a decision had to be made.

Elliott Porter and Cameron Fordham were informed there wouldn’t be room for them on the LSU roster. Porter and Fordham had turned down many others schools to attend LSU, with Porter even being enrolled in classes. Still, there wasn’t room.

Since then, Fordham accepted a walk-on position, while Porter has since headed back to LSU to do the same after a stint at Kentucky.

This season, oversigning continues to grow, even before Feb. 2. According to (who has the best tag line of any website – where 30 + 29 + 28 + 32= 85) the biggest culprits are sticking to the trend.

Of the nine programs that are currently exceeding the number of scholarships they can give for their 2011 classes, six of the wrongdoer’s are SEC schools. Ole Miss leads the show with 14 recruits over the limit. Alabama is at +10, while LSU and Arkansas are at +9 and +8 respectively.

USC and Lane Kiffin, who has 10 less scholarships to give out because of NCAA sanctions, is currently in pursuit of oversigning by 10 players.

Oversigning is picking up headlines nationwide and gaining interest from the NCAA more now than ever because of the bad exposure it has brought in. Rightfully so, though. It gives teams a competitive advantage of having only the best players on their rosters and weeding out players who have yet to reach their potential. Most of all, it’s just wrong.

Until a rule or regulation is put in place, future and current players will wonder if they actually do have a spot on the team that was promised to them.

January 25, 2011

College Football Report - Mike Leach's Head Coaching Job Search Continues:

The head coaching hiring mess has come and gone on the 2010 season. In all, twenty-one schools made coaching changes. For the second year in a row, though, former Texas Tech Head Coach Mike Leach wasn’t a part of those moves.

Leach, who led Texas Tech to 84 wins in 10 seasons as the Red Raiders head coach, has been out of a job since events at Tech that led to his firing and two separate lawsuits filed by Leach against Texas Tech and ESPN back in 2009.

To review the incident: Leach was thrown in front of a speeding train, more so than under the bus, by Tech wideout Adam James, after James was placed in a dark equipment shed near the practice field. Leach states that he told a trainer to place James, who previously sustained a concussion, in a dark place because of concussion symptoms and sensitivity to light. James then wound up in the equipment shed.

The incident grew from there, as James’ ESPN analyst dad, Craig James, became involved after being distraught with the treatment of his son. Leach, however, claims the incident stemmed from playing time, as James was a little used wideout for the Red Raiders.

Leach also claimed that Craig James had called him in the past, arguing for more playing time for his son. The media ran with the giant cloud that covered the small Texas town of Lubbock, especially ESPN, who claimed the James incident was a way of getting back at the family.

There was also speculation that Leach was fired so that the University didn’t have to pay him the $800,000 he would be owed in January of 2010.

Whatever the case is, the man who embodied a pirate like attitude and littered past offices with pirate paraphernalia, is now being treated just like a pirate to the college football world.

Leach led the Red Raiders to more wins than anyone in school history, placed a small, unknown Texas town on the map and became one of the top offensive minds in the game.

In 2008, Leach brought Tech to an 11-2 season, including an upset of No. 1 Texas on national TV. He walked away with a winning season in all 10 years as Tech’s coach, and his team graduation rate of 79 percent in 2009 was tops among Big Twelve schools.

Still, it wasn’t enough to dock his talents with another team.

Passed over by the likes of Pittsburgh, Miami (FL), Indiana and Minnesota for lesser know candidates, Leach could barely get an interview at most places. Not even Maryland, the school that had given him the most consideration and looked like a lock to hire him, passed, instead opting for UConn’s Randy Edsall.

Not even Donald Trump, a friend of Leach’s, could seem to get him some consideration. Trump sent University of Miami president Donna Shalala a personalized message, pleading to hire Leach. The message was written over a newspaper clipping covering the firing of Randy Shannon (left):

“Dear Donna, you made a big mistake when you did not take my advice and hire Mike Leach of Texas Tech. Look what’s happened to them since he left?? Hire Coach Leach and you will be #1. Best wishes. Donald.”

“P.S. And you can now get him for the right price. Best wishes. Donald.”

Shalala didn’t bite on Donald’s hook, however.

The Texas Tech incident drew headlines and national exposure like something more than it really was, though. Was it really enough to sink the man’s ship yet another season?

Both UNC’s Butch Davis and USC’s Lane Kiffin have been surrounded by NCAA allegations.

Davis lost nearly half of his defensive starters and top offensive playmakers this season in player benefit and agent allegations.

Kiffin was involved in six separate NCAA violations, including many in recruiting, in his lowly stint as Tennessee’s head coach that lasted just barely over a year.

Still, it wasn’t enough for the two to find themselves packing. Kiffin left on his own terms.

The problem with Leach, who now resides in a town fit for a pirate in Key West, is that the Tech incident was blown so far out of proportion that most schools simply want to avoid the baggage and questions that would follow a hiring.

One has to wonder how long it'll be before he’s back? How long before a school gets over the past drama? There is a reason his name is brought up for nearly every hire. Outside of the James family and stingy Texas Tech money hounds, the rest of the country knows Leach is plenty capable of leading a turnaround at another University.

For now, Leach will continue to live a pirate's life. Soaking up the casual life as a radio host of a XM Sirius radio show, while taking dips in his pool or riding his lone source of transportation - his bike - around tiny Key West.

All until the next time he’s able to set his sails towards college football treasures, yet again.

January 21, 2011

College Football Report - Jadeveon Clowney May Be Latest to Delay College Decision:

If the name Jadeveon Clowney doesn’t ring a bell yet, get ready. It will.

Clowney, a defensive end from South Pointe high in Rock Hill, SC, is the consensus No. 1 high school football recruit in the nation, and will soon become a household name, even to the casual fan.

In a long line and continuing trend of the nation’s top recruit delaying their announcements, Clowney may be the latest.

College football’s National Signing Day is set for Feb. 2, when high school recruits can officially sign their letters of intent with a college.

The past three years, however, three No. 1 players have delayed their decisions until well after signing day. According to Clowney’s high school athletic director Michael Drummond, Clowney intends to do the same this season, waiting until at least Feb. 14, his birthday.

What it creates, besides a longer time to make a decision, is a media storm. The recruiting world immediately shifts to speculation and sole concentration towards just one player. So a reasonable thought is that the kids do it to get even more attention. national analyst Mike Farrell insists that isn’t the case with Clowney.

“In a lot of these situations, it comes down to a difference in opinion between the parents and kids,” Farrell told USA Today. “A lot of these kids wait for the attention, but Clowney isn’t one of them.”

Last year, USA Today Offensive Player of the Year Seantrel Henderson, moved his announcement and signing back to March 23. The offensive lineman from St. Paul chose USC, but when sanctions were given to the Trojans in June, Henderson backed out, was released by USC and signed with Miami (FL).

In 2009, it was Wichita running back Bryce Brown delaying his signing. Brown was a longtime verbal commitment to Miami (FL), but on March 16 signed with Tennessee. Brown has now since transferred to Kansas State where his brother plays linebacker.

Current Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor waited until March 19 when he signed with the Buckeyes in 2008. Pryor was again the USA Today Offensive Player of the Year.

The media frenzies and reality drama created by both Pryor and Brown was overwhelming to say the least.

In lies a question, in all the mess that comes with being the nation’s top recruit, though. What makes these players decisions more important, tougher or more significant than the countless number of other high school recruits who will sign Feb. 2?

One of the main reasons these recruits are able to wait is because they know the schools that are after them will surely hold a scholarship. The same should be true for Clowney.

“Everybody will wait on him,” Farrell said.

While that may be true in some cases, in the case of Brown and Miami (FL), the Miami Herald reported that the Hurricanes staff had become impatient and lost interest in the prima donna, removing Brown’s scholarship from the table.

A source close to the University told the paper – “No one player is bigger than the University of Miami.”

The leaders for Clowney appear to be Alabama and home-state South Carolina. The 6-foot-6, 240-pound “freak,” has taken official visits to both schools, but may schedule visits to others, including Auburn, Florida State and LSU following the signing period. A Jan. 28 weekend visit to Clemson is already set for Clowney.

Although a Feb. 14 signing date isn’t as strung out as the past players who’ve done the same, anyone affiliated with college football and high school recruiting can only hope that delayed signings don’t become an even bigger trend than it already is.

January 20, 2011

College Football Report - The Departing Underclassmen Effect:

When college underclassmen leave early for the NFL, there are without a doubt consequences a team must overcome.

Seniors are expected to leave, in fact, they can’t stay. So that’s something coaches have planned for. Last season, when Tim Tebow was set to leave Florida, Urban Meyer and staff had that covered. It was supposed to be Cam Newton waiting in the wake; he left, so they had the Florida High School Player of the Year in John Brantley, to plug in at quarterback. No problem.

What Florida coaches hadn’t planned for was the five key underclassmen who would denounce their senior seasons. Defensive end Carlos Dunlap, cornerback Joe Haden, offensive lineman Maurkice Pouncey, safety Major Wright and tight end Aaron Hernandez would all be leaving. It’s the departing underclassmen effect.

Did it have an effect on the Gators 2010 team? If dropping from a 13-1 record in 2009, to an 8-5 record this year is a problem, then yes, it did. A big reason the Gators dropped so far from one year to the next could also be the fact that they lost one of college football’s greatest players ever in Tebow, but the other five certainly played a role.

From week-to-week, the Gators were continuously placing one of the youngest teams’ together on Saturdays. From freshman and redshirt freshman alone the Gators had a combined 37 starts. Three other true freshmen were consistent contributors on defense.

The loss of Tebow surely had an effect, but the youth and inexperience might have played a larger role than most think.

Florida wasn’t the only team affected by the 2010 Draft early entrees. Georgia Tech lost wideout Demaryius Thomas, defensive end Derrick Morgan, running back Jonathan Dwyer and safety Morgan Burnett. Apart from quarterback Joshua Nesbitt, the four lost players can be argued as the best the Rambling Wreck had to offer, as they led Tech to an ACC Championship and 11-3 season.

This season, Georgia Tech struggled mightily on defense and lacked fluidity on offense, on their way to a 6-7 year.

Notre Dame improved from a 6-6 season in 2009 to an 8-5 record in 2010. Even with the early departures of quarterback Jimmy Clauson and wideout Golden Tate, the two biggest offensive weapons for the Irish. The Irish may have been better with Clauson and Tate still around, though.

Notre Dame’s defense, which had been its achilles heal for the last decade, had finally become the focal point and key contributor to Notre Dame wins in 2010. The offense, without Clauson and Tate, dropped from No. 24 in total offense, to No. 61 this season. In some cases, Clauson and Tate could have helped the Irish to an even better 2010 record.

In other cases, it gets hard to point at underclassmen leaving contributing to holding a program back. Without the departure of Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford last season, Landry Jones doesn’t have a breakout season. If Dez Bryant were still around at Oklahoma State, we would not have gotten to marvel in the play of wideout Justin Blackmon.

In most instances, however, the underclassmen effect still holds true. Next season may be no different for a few notable teams from the 2010 season:

Alabama: 2010 -10-3

Head Coach Nick Saban has almost seemed to plan for early departures while at Alabama. In his numerous over signed classes and continuing success, early departures haven’t seemed to hurt the Tide, yet. Two of ‘Bama’s biggest offensive weapons depart in running back Mark Ingram and wideout Julio Jones. While some may argue that backup running back Trent Richardson is just as good as Ingram, replacing a Heisman winner will still have an effect. On the defensive side of the ball, Marcell Dareus will be a much larger loss than most expect. Not only did Dareus disrupt a countless number of plays, but he took up space and blockers along the defensive front better than anyone.

Georgia: 2010 - 6-7

Past drafts and early departures have taken a toll on the Bulldogs. Next season may be no different, with the early departure of star wideout A.J. Green. Georgia’s offensive production dropped mightily when Green was serving a suspension, and if no one steps up in Greens absence, next season may be no different. Not only has Georgia lost their best offensive player, but they also lose their best defender, in linebacker Justin Houston. A pass rushing demon, Houston was a key part to the Bulldogs 3-4 defense.

Auburn: 2010 -14-0

The Tigers lose just three players, but it hits Auburn hard, most notably at quarterback where Cameron Newton will depart. Newton certainly contributed to a few of the Tigers wins this season by himself and the quarterbacks behind Newton are an inexperienced group. Consensus All-American and Lombardi winner Nick Fairley also departs. A disruptor on nearly every defensive play, Fairley may be even harder to replace than Newton. The last is wideout Darvin Adams, who led the team in receiving this season. The departure of Adams leaves the Tigers with just one experienced wideout in Emory Blake.

Illinois: 2010 -7-6

In a team not built for early departures, the Illini should take this season’s three with a grain of salt. Running back Mikel Leshoure broke-out this season, rushing for nearly 1,700 yards and will be a heavy piece of the offensive puzzle to replace. Linebacker Martez Wilson and defensive tackle Corey Liuget were the Illini’s top two defensive playmakers and should leave the defense behind, for at least next season. Liuget went often unnoticed, but became a key part to the success Illinois enjoyed down the stretch this season.

Missouri: 2010 -10-3

Like Georgia, Missouri loses just two players early to the NFL Draft. Also like Georgia, though, those two players happen to be the Tigers two biggest playmakers on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. Quarterback Blaine Gabbert became the pride of Gary Pinkel and a key piece to the success of a 7-0 start this season. Gabbert is considered by some, the draft’s top quarterback, and definitely would have helped the Tigers to a great 2011 season. On defense they lose defensive end Aldon Smith. Smith built on his Freshman Defensive Player of the Year honor, bringing in 11 sacks in 2010.

January 18, 2011

College Football Report - Recruits Switching Their Commitment is Just Part of the Process:

Where is theft permitted? Well, in college football, of course.

Not only is it legal, it’s widely practiced. OK, sure, it’s not technically theft, but to coaches, fans and university boosters, college football recruiting feels like a shootout of Wild West measures.

Taking one’s word, or pledge, in college football recruiting has become as dependable as listening to the weatherman when you leave the house. It’s not taking just anyone’s word, though. It’s a 17 or 18 year old who's just been promised a shot at luxury and an NFL future by one coach, then perhaps something more, or better, from another.

The recruiting process can go on for months, a year, even longer for some. The urge and pressures to slow it down, or end the process all together by making a verbal commitment to a school, happens now more than ever. In the new age media world and 24-hour online coverage of recruiting, recruits nationwide are hard pressed to give fans and the non-stop phone calls something to hang on.

Recruits can’t officially sign their letters of intent with a school until the first week of February, come National Signing Day. They can, however, give their verbal commitment. With just two-weeks to go, the 2011 National Signing Day (Feb. 2) is fast approaching, and recruits are becoming quick to change their minds.

It happens everywhere, too. A change can be affected by anything. A girlfriend, a teammate, playing time, a coach fired, a coach hired, weather, parents, a duffle bag of money, a gut feeling and a change of heart.

In 2009, the biggest change came from the nation’s No. 1 recruit in Miami (FL) verbal and Kansas native, Bryce Brown (above). Brown, a two-time USA Today All-American running back, was a yearlong commit to the ‘Canes. His brother, Arthur, was a freshman linebacker for the Hurricanes. So Bryce appeared to be a lock.

Then came National Signing Day. Brown didn’t sign. He didn’t sign a week later, either. He didn’t sign a month later. Brown dragged him commitment out to March 16, when he announced on national TV he would be signing with Tennessee. He’s now at Kansas State, where his brother transferred. Don’t even try to figure it out, though.

Last season, two of the nation’s top recruits changed their minds. One before signing day, another long after. North Carolina native Keenan Allen, one of the top athletes in the country, changed from Alabama to California. Offensive lineman Seantrel Henderson, considered by some the nation’s No. 1 recruit, changed his recruitment from USC to Miami (FL), even after signing his national letter of intent. Henderson was granted a release from USC and allowed to leave and play without sitting out, due to the heavy sanctions handed down by the NCAA to the Trojans.

This season, in the 2011 class, altered decisions can be found everywhere. Major coaching changes seem to be the main factor at major programs this year. Running back Dee Hart, a USA Today All-American, switched from Michigan to Alabama following the Rich Rodriguez firing in Ann Arbor. All-American quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (below), a Miami (FL) commit, switched from the Hurricanes to Louisville, following the Randy Shannon firing. Linebacker and Florida native, Ryan Shazier, switched from the Gators to Ohio State after the retirement of Urban Meyer. And finally, after John Harbaugh announced his intentions to leave Stanford, running back Amir Carlisle announced his intentions to switch from the Cardinal to the Trojans, just down the road at USC.

There’s more, though. Some switch multiple times. Like Cape Coral Florida defensive end, Aaron Lynch. Lynch, an Army All-American, has gone from a Notre Dame commit, to a Florida State commit, then most recently, back to an Irish commit. There will be more too, as National Signing Day is traditionally filled with switch surprises. Lynch appears set with the Irish, however.

Some schools take advantage of coaching changes more than others. Whipping out the BlackBerries in hopes of being the first to reach a recent coach-less commit. Miami (FL), who was coach-less themselves this offseason, attacked the Rich Rod firing at Michigan hard. By the looks of it, hard work has paid off. The Hurricanes new staff picked up three commitments from Michigan verbals in as many days, just a week after Rodriguez was out of the Maze and Blue. Cornerback Dallas Crawford, linebacker Antonio Kinard and kicker Matt Goudis all switched from U-of-M, to UM.

If it seems like there should be a regulation against it, there’s rational arguments on both sides. From the kid’s perspective, they’re making one of the biggest decisions they’ll ever have. Widening their options should be encouraged. If a coach they had a positive relationship with leaves the college they’ve committed to, why shouldn’t they have a chance to look elseware. Family problems? Maybe they’ll decide to stay closer to home.

From the coaches' and universities' perspectives, the ones who are getting burned by a recruit for another team, it’s a big blow. Coaches bank on recruits living up to their word. In some cases, like in the case of Bridgewater switching from Miami (FL) to Louisville, previous ‘Canes coaches promised the Miami Northwestern product they wouldn’t recruit another quarterback. Something Bridgewater looked for when giving his verbal to his hometown team.

When Hurricanes Head Coach Randy Shannon was fired, though, and after Bridgewater changed his commitment, Miami’s new staff, led by Al Golden, was left without not only a quarterback, but a quarterback who had even previously been targeted by the Hurricanes. They’ve had only a month to create a bond with a recruit who plays one of the more important positions in the game. A current problem for Golden and his staff, who are looking to bring in two quarterback commitments in the 2011 class.

As of right now, in the 1,000s of NCAA rules, there are no policies against ‘stealing’ recruits. Coaches and players will do what they have to, to change a young man’s mind. Recruits will also still be at fault of leading another program on. They’re both going to happen in college football recruiting. You’ve got my word on that.

Photo credit: Brown - Jamie Oppenheimer/Wichita Eagle

January 17, 2011

College Football Report - Good or Bad Move: Undercalssmen Declared For 2011 NFL Draft:

It’s too late to turn back now. The college prospects that have declared themselves eligable for the 2011 NFL Draft have dotted their i’s and crossed their t’s. For some, that’s a good thing, even a great thing. For others, not so much. In all, 56 college underclassmen will enter the draft, up from last year’s 49 players.

Although it wasn’t a large jump, an increase in numbers was expected due to the NFL labor talks and potential rookie cap in the future. Still, it wasn’t enough to keep sure-fire first rounder’s such as Stanford’s Andrew Luck, Florida’s Janoris Jenkins and Oklahoma State’s Justin Blackmon from turning down the money and head back to school.

It’s a risk leaving school early, no matter what the NFL Draft committee says. Of the 49 players who left early last season, seven went undrafted and are currently out of the NFL. Others, like Georgia Tech’s Jonathan Dwyer, who received a first round grade, fell to the sixth round. Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clauson, who received a high first round grade, fell to the late second.

Of the 54 players who left early this year, there’s going to be some who won’t get drafted. There’s going to be some who go higher than projected. Some lower. In the weeks and months leading up to the NFL Draft, there’s going to be a lot of talk and a lot of close watching.

Below is a list of 20 players - The players who made the right move, and the ones who didn’t make their best decision:

*A full list of underclassmen can be found on the far right side of the page.

Take the Money and Run: The Smart Move Players…

Blaine Gabbert (left), Quarterback – Missouri

Projection – Top Ten

Gabbert’s move to the NFL became a great one the day Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck announced he’d be staying in school. Gabbert has a big arm and good mechanics, but he still makes the errant throw on occasion, thinking he can squeeze it in. Still, his decision making is the best in the 2011 quarterback class.

Da’Quan Bowers, Defensive End – Clemson

Projection – Top Five

The stock in Bowers back pocket is never going to be higher than it is right now. Considered a possible No. 1 overall pick by some, Bowers is a rare talent when it comes to rushing the passer. Along the lines of Julius Peppers and Mario Williams, Bowers size and speed is off the charts, but there’s always room for improvement in his hand technique.

Nick Fairley, Defensive Tackle – Auburn

Projection – Top Five

Like Bowers, Fairley’s stock can’t get any higher. Another year of college, especially after winning a national title and Lombardi Award, could have really only hurt him. Fairley has the power and quickness scouts look for in a defensive tackle and actually better hand technique than Bowers.

Mark Ingram, Running Back – Alabama

Projection – Top 20

The 2011 class really isn’t a strong class of running backs. Ingram is the clear favorite to be the first drafted and looks to be the most NFL ready. His running style may need to be tweaked a little at the next level, as the physical pounding he took at Alabama won’t last as long in the NFL. Ingram’s straight-line speed is in question, but his burst and lateral quickness have always been superb.

Kyle Rudolph, Tight End – Notre Dame

Projection – 2nd round

Like Ingram, taking the leap because of a weak class around him, the move for Rudolph turns out to be a smart one. Before the hamstring injury that cost him a lot of the 2010 season, Rudolph was listed by some as a sure-fire first rounder. His size and pass catching ability alone, should be enough to get him into the second round, despite the injuries.

Tyron Smith, Offensive Tackle – USC

Projection – Top 20

Smith became part of the black hole effect going on at USC. Often forgot of stemming from the USC sanctions, Smith is a talented offensive lineman. A lot of where Smith goes in the Draft may depend on Wisconsin’s Gabe Carimi and Colorado’s Nate Solder, but Smith should hear his name called in the mid to late first round. His workouts could even push him higher.

Brandon Burton, Cornerback – Utah

Projection – 2nd –3rd round

Burton isn’t getting a whole lot of talk, but I still like the move. He’s not particularly big, at 6-foot-0, 185-pounds, but he’s got pretty decent technique. Burton is also a guy that if he runs well at the combine, he could push himself up even higher. I would have liked to see Burton play a year in the PAC-12, like he would have in 2011, but the move still feels like a good one.

Akeem Ayers (right), Outside Linebacker – UCLA

Projection – Top 15

Ayers may be the best pure outside linebacker in the 2011 class. He’s played in a 4-3 and a 3-4 while at UCLA and has the ability to play either at the next level. Ayers drops well into coverage, picking off six passes in his last two years, but at 6-foot-4, 250-pounds, he’s capable of getting after the quarterback; proof in his 14 collegiate sacks. He’ll most likely be the first linebacker taken.

Mikel Leshoure, Running Back – Illinois

Projection – 2nd round

Along with ESPNs Todd McShay, I seem to be the only one really liking the move by Leshoure. Built like a Sherman tank at 6-foot-0, 230-pounds, Leshoure is the inside runner NFL teams covet. He’s also got enough speed to take it outside once in a while, but the combine should show what he’s got. Along the lines of a Willis McGahee or Marshawn Lynch, but with an upside, Leshoure should drop off the board in the second. It’s a good move because the life of a power-back in the NFL isn’t a long one.

Justin Houston, Outside Linebacker – Georgia

Projection – 1st round

Unlike Ayers, Houston projects as a 3-4 rush outside linebacker in the NFL. He’s used to a 3-4 base defense, having played in it for two years at Georgia. In his two seasons as a rush linebacker, Houston brought in 33.5 tackles for loss and 17.5 sacks. His workout at the combine, particularly his 40-time, could boast him even higher into the first round.

One More Year! One More Year: The Should Have Stayed Players…

Darren Evans, Running Back – Virginia Tech

Projection – 4th–5th round

Following his sensational freshman season, injuries and durability problems have followed Evans around throughout his college career. He tore an ACL before his second season even got started, and he’s been running like it ever since. Another year, with Ryan Williams out of the way, to improve as a featured runner and prove the injury is behind him would have improved Evans stock by at least a couple rounds.

Lawrence Guy, Defensive Tackle – Arizona State

Projection –5th round

Guy is a player where teams will be trying to think where he can fit. He’s got pretty good size at 6-foot-5, 300-pounds, but it’s not particularly big for an NFL defensive tackle. I think Guy’s next move will be to a 3-4 defensive end, where he’ll be a space-eater. He’s got decent athleticism but he’s also an inexperienced player, and it shows at times. A transition to a 3-4 end will only push him lower.

Will Hill, Safety – Florida

Projection – 6th round

Every year there’s a move by an underclassmen to enter the draft that really leaves you scratching your head. Meet safety Will Hill, 2011’s version of that player. Hill has had just one year at Florida as a full-time starter, and it wasn’t all that great. He’s very athletic and hits with the best of them, but so is everyone who’ll be getting drafted in April. Another year would have worked wonders for the once five-star recruit.

Dion Lewis (left), Running Back – Pittsburgh

Projection – 4th–6th round

Workouts will write the story for Lewis. At 5-foot-7, he doesn’t appear to have the speed or quickness to be very successful at the next level. Only a redshirt sophomore, Lewis had a breakout freshman season, only to drop off the map early this year. Although he came on late, Lewis could have used another year, maybe two. The coaching change appears to be the reason behind the move.

DeAndre Brown, Wide Receiver – Southern Miss

Projection – 4th–6th round

If size and potential were enough to get Brown an early round paycheck, a team would have already started writing Brown’s name. It’s not, however. After a stellar freshman season at Southern Miss, when he brought in over 1,100 yards and 12 scores, Brown has regressed every year. Injuries stemming from a broken leg in the last game of the year his freshman season have contributed. Another leg injury held him from seven games this season.

Zane Parr, Defensive End –Virginia

Projection – 6th–undrafted

Of all the bad moves that were made, Parr might top the list. He’s not particularly gifted at any one thing and may have made the move for personal seasons, but it still doesn’t make it a good move. At 6-foot-6, 275-pounds, Parr has good size but he’ll need to prove, most likely as an undrafted rookie, that he can do something with it.

Aldon Smith, Defensive End – Missouri

Projection – 2nd round

Smith is an intriguing prospect. As he proved this season, he’s a pure pass-rusher with 11.5 sacks, but his size may steer some off. At just 260-pounds, Smith doesn’t have the athleticism to play as a 3-4 outside linebacker, but he also may not have the strength to be an every-down lineman. His potential will be enough to drop him off the board early, but another year of making a name for himself would have moved him higher.

Tori Gurley (right), Wide Receiver – South Carolina

Projection – 6th–undrafted

Only a redshirt sophomore, Gurley was stuck in the shadows of another sophomore at USC, in Alshon Jeffery. He’s got good size at 6-foot-5, 230-pounds, but his lack of production will hurt his chances in the draft. Big receivers are becoming more and more common. Apart from the Vanderbilt game, Gurley didn’t prove a whole lot this season.

Sealver Siliga, Defensive Tackle – Utah

Projection – 6th-7th round

Could Siliga be another player not wanting to play in the new PAC-12? He’s got the size and the nasty attitude to be successful at the next level. But it doesn’t appear that he’s ready along the same level as most around him. A year to prove he could play with the big teams every week could have moved Siliga into the mid-rounds.

Jacquizz Rodgers, Running Back – Oregon State

Projection –3rd round

Rodgers appeared to be a lock to head back to Oregon State, especially after his brother was granted another year of eligibility. Not the case, though. A team is going to take a chance on Rodgers, based solely on his athleticism and play-making potential. He’s a lightning bug player, a lot like Charger running back Darren Sproles. Another year, maybe a little more bulk to his frame, proving he can take the beating would have moved him up a round, maybe even more.

All writing and views subject to © Drew P. Kochanny, All Rights Reserved. Photo's credited to rights owner.