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March 25, 2011

Roundtable: Focus on spring football

MORE ROUNDTABLES: | March 11 | March 5 | Feb. 25

Rivals.com football recruiting analysts weigh in on topics in a roundtable format.

Is there a certain college head coach that is under the microscope by recruits this spring?

Barry Every: I would think high-profile schools that have new coaches may be the ones being scrutinized the most by recruits. So I would say kids in South Florida are watching Al Golden at Miami closely and the prospects in the Midwest are watching Brady Hoke at Michigan very closely. They want to know what kind of coaches they are and if they can lead these two prominent programs back to the top.

Mike Farrell: Will Muschamp at Florida is to me and to a lot of recruits. Replacing a legend who won a couple national titles and brought the Florida program to the highest level its been in history is a big deal. Southeast recruits don't know much about Muschamp because he made his name mainly at Texas. If the Gators struggle on the field in the 2011 season, many will point to Urban Meyer leaving and his replacement not getting the job done. That's unfair, of course, but it's reality so recruits will be watching the new Gators.

Adam Gorney: Out on the West Coast, I think a lot of prospects are really interested to see how USC handles its limited scholarship situation and how coach Lane Kiffin is going to go about recruiting the top kids in California. The Trojans already have five commitments in athletes Darreus Rogers and Jaydon Mickens, wide receiver Jordan Payton, defensive tackle Arik Armstead and linebacker Jabari Ruffin, which means USC probably has about 10 spots left. There are a ton of players hoping to get recruiting by the Trojans but they have to be particularly picky moving forward.

Chris Nee: I think recruits are very interested to see what Muschamp is going to do at Florida. With almost an entirely new staff and major changes coming to the style of play on both sides of the ball, the spring will provide a sort of sneak preview of what is to come in Gainesville.

Keith Niebuhr: The obvious choices in the South would be Golden at Miami and Muschamp at Florida. As first-year coaches, these two are being closely watched by prospects curious to see what each is bringing to the table. Can Golden resurrect the Hurricanes? Can Muschamp sustain what his predecessor built? We won't know the answers to those questions for a while. But this spring, recruits attending practices and making unofficial visits to these schools are getting to know a little bit about two men they didn't know at all just a few months ago. Practices are perfect for this because they allow recruits to witness firsthand what kind of energy and organization each coach has.

Brian Perroni: I would say Al Golden at Miami. The U is trying to lock down South Florida again but nobody really knows what to expect from a coach that wasn't very well known to most of these prospects when he was hired after the season. You can bet that players from Miami-Dade and Broward counties are watching closely to see what system he implements and if he can bring the swagger back to a Hurricane program that has been struggling. Miami needs to make a big splash in this recruiting class to keep up with in-state foes Florida and Florida State.

How important are college spring games in impressing recruits?

Barry Every: It's a great venue for college coaches to interact with recruits. Why? Because most spring games are scripted and the coaches are more relaxed, unlike a real game. That gives them more time before, during and after the scrimmage to interact with recruits and their parents. I don't think the game itself has much of an impact, but the atmosphere, the crowd, and the quality interaction is very important.

Mike Farrell: The actual gathering of recruits together for the game is more important than what happens on the field. In this day and age, recruiters want to get kids on campus together, have them form a bond and then hope that if one commits he will start working his new friends to join him. The spring game is essentially a glorified scrimmage so I don't think it has much to do with recruiting other than allowing the coaches to point out areas where the team lacks depth or needs immediate help to a recruit.

Adam Gorney: At a lot of places spring games are very important because recruiting is so competitive for many prospects that any edge is a big deal. They also can establish a good - or sometimes bad - rapport with recruits early in the process while they're still impressionable. It allows coaches to talk with prospects while they're on campus to soak up the atmosphere and if they're at a place like Alabama or Florida or many other elite programs and the fans are filling up stadiums for the spring game, which is usually a dreadfully boring and unimportant scrimmage, then how can kids not be impressed?

Chris Nee: College spring games are more about showing an atmosphere to prospective student-athletes than actually showing a product on the field. It is a great opportunity to show the approach to a practice and a bit of what a team will do on each side of the ball. Fans in the stands and the excitement that comes with spring can play a major role in impressing a recruit.

Keith Niebuhr: I don't think they're overly important. Having been to more than a dozen spring games, I can tell you all they really are a glorified practice. It's pretty obvious. The biggest thing, I think, is simply getting a kid on campus who hasn't been there for a game yet and give them a small taste of what gameday might be like. Also, because it's a relatively stress-free day, the head coach has more time than he would before and after a big game to spend with a team's top targets.

Brian Perroni: Spring games have become huge events in recent years. Some of them attract more than 30,000 fans - the biggest, in places such as Ohio State, Alabama and Nebraska, attendance will top 80,000 - and many have only a slightly watered down gameday feel to them. Because of that it is the best way in the offseason for recruits to get a true sense of the atmosphere surrounding football games at the school. Pretty much every program tries to get as many recruits in as possible and many of them end up committing. Attending a spring practice may actually be more beneficial for the player as he is able to see how he would fit into the team's scheme better but it is not nearly as easy to get caught up in the excitement at a practice as opposed to a spring game.

What will be the toughest position to rank in the 2012 class?

Barry Every: Quarterbacks are usually the hardest position to predict future success followed by offensive lineman. The QB position is the most cerebral position on the football field. And it's more about making good decisions than how athletic or strong an arm one has. Offensive linemen are hard to predict future success because they are the least athletic players on the field yet play the second most cerebral position. The key for offensive linemen is sheer toughness, and becoming a better athlete.

Mike Farrell: Quarterback, I think, and that would likely be my answer every year because they are so hard to analyze and project. So much of it is mental as far as success at the position. Aside from quarterback, I'd say offensive tackle because it looks like a really strong year at the position and it will be tough to put them in order.

Adam Gorney: I think defensive tackle is a particularly interesting position. The only five-star so far is Eddie Goldman but I think Arik Armstead, Ellis McCarthy and some other players will have a chance to get that five-star status. Tommy Schutt and Aziz Shittu are two prospects I'm going to follow throughout the year. There are also a bunch of committed prospects who could move up the rankings with impressive spring and summer performances. I want to keep a close eye especially on Paul Boyette Jr., Dalvon Stuckey and Dante Phillips.

Chris Nee: I think defensive ends will be tough to rank simply because there seems to be an abundance of prospects at the position and not a great deal of separation among the group.

Keith Niebuhr: To me, it's quarterback. But I feel that way every year. Because high school players are still growing, both physically and mentally, there typically is a tremendous maturation between their junior and senior seasons. And thus, for even the cream of the crop, we still haven't truly seen what they're entirely capable of doing. A perfect example of this might be Zeke Pike. Although he has numerous offers, Pike has only started one season at quarterback. And he played his best football toward season's end. How much bigger and stronger will he get this offseason? How much more knowledge will he take to the field in 2011? As Pike grows, will his arm get even stronger? You could really say this about kids playing every position, but since the quarterback position revolves so much around decision making, experience there matters more than anywhere else.

Brian Perroni: I think defensive end may be the toughest because the position is not as deep as in year's past and there are many players that are hybrid defensive line/linebacker types. A big guy like Mario Edwards at 6-foot-4, 287 pounds is a five-star prospect but how do you compare him to Devonte Fields, Torshiro Davis, Denzel Devall and Troy Hinds, who are all in the 220-230 range? Then you have the opposite with bigger ends that could end up playing inside such as Javonte Magee, Ryan Watson and Dalvin Tomlinson. Some of these players are a lot more valuable in a 3-4 front than a 4-3 or vice versa. It's really hard to figure out exactly how each should be ranked when they bring so many different skills to the table.



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