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June 10, 2011

Roundtable: Stoops among best

MORE ROUNDTABLES: June 3 | May 27 | May 13 | May 6

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

Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops pulled off another big surprise in getting Durron Neal's pledge. Where does Stoops rank among head coaches in terms of his impact on recruits?

Mike Farrell: He is one of the better ones, but I think he has a great staff around him as well. Jay Norvell is a terrific recruiter and has been for years, and will likely be a head coach very soon. But as far as closers, Stoops is up there with Mack Brown, Mark Richt, Jimbo Fisher and others as head coaches who can get the job done on campus and in living rooms. It also doesn't hurt at all that Stoops is one of the longest-tenured coaches in the country and has turned down numerous NFL and college opportunities so he can sell stability and trust.

Adam Gorney: Stoops is at or near the top of the list especially since Urban Meyer and Jim Tressel are out of college football for now. The Oklahoma coach is still young and vibrant, and is selling a winning program that puts players in the NFL. His job security is absolutely solid and he's turned down other offers to stay in Norman. Half of Oklahoma's recruiting class is four-stars and getting Neal was another big pickup. The Sooners have done a good job recruiting Florida and California and because Oklahoma isn't always loaded with talent - as Texas, California and Florida are - Stoops has to sell his program across the country.

Chris Nee: In my opinion, Alabama's Nick Saban and Texas' Mack Brown probably have the top impact on recruits but Stoops is not far behind that duo. Stoops has a great personality and he knows how to coach, as he has proven consistently. Kids notice that and he does a great job of handling youngsters on and off the field.

Keith Niebuhr: If he isn't at the top, he's definitely in the conversation. Stoops is a confident guy. Always has been. His program is a perennial title contender. And, don't forget, the Sooners are sending guys to the NFL left and right. Put all those things together and it's not difficult to see why recruits flock to Norman.

Brian Perroni: Stoops has certainly swayed his fair share of top recruits over the years with the big one coming early in his career by luring Adrian Peterson out of state when most thought he would be headed to Texas or Texas A&M. Oklahoma has started to recruit a bit more nationally the past few years and it takes a very good recruiter to do that. I'm not sure he is quite on the same level as Mack Brown at Texas yet, though, because Stoops has not won many of those head-to-head battles in recent years.

What school do you think has the greatest national appeal?

Mike Farrell: Nationally I'll say it's still Notre Dame. The Irish can recruit in any state in the country and the appeal of the brand is very strong even without recent national titles or consistent success. Look at ND's 2011 recruiting class and you will see players from California, Texas, Florida, North Carolina, Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, South Carolina, Connecticut, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Georgia and New York. That's national appeal.

Adam Gorney: I believe Texas and USC have the greatest regional appeal - in that any kid the Longhorns recruit from that state usually play for them and the same can be said for Southern California prospects with USC - but from a national perspective I still think it's Notre Dame Recruits from all over the country go play at Notre Dame and it's not because it's in a beautiful area or that the team has had much recent success. It still holds a lot of tradition and prestige to be a part of that program and school. Nine states are represented in Notre Dame's 2012 recruiting class and most of them are not in the Midwest. Not many kids from Pennsylvania dream of playing for Texas. Not many Texas kids dream of playing at Penn State. But lots of kids from everywhere still dream of playing at Notre Dame.

Chris Nee: Tough to argue against Notre Dame. The school has a strong religious background, outstanding academics, great tradition on the field and a national television contract. Even when the Irish have been mediocre in recent years, they have provided mass appeal to recruits for a variety of reasons.

Keith Niebuhr: That's a difficult question to answer. Right now, I'm not sure one school in particular stands out. Instead I'd lump Alabama, Florida, Southern California and Texas into the top group. Six months ago, Ohio State would have been in that group, too. These are the schools that, from my experiences dealing with recruits, seem to get them the most excited. Of course, nothing is permanent. Ten years ago, Florida State, Miami, Nebraska and Michigan probably would have been at the top.

Brian Perroni: It would have definitely been USC until the recent sanctions as well as head coach Pete Carroll leaving for the NFL. I guess I would have to say Notre Dame right now. The Irish are seen with a sort of mystique by recruits and college football fans alike and it allows them to recruit all corners of the country. Whereas Ohio State and Michigan are largely comprised of prospects from the Midwest, Notre Dame has a much more national feel to its roster.

Who do you think is benefitting in recruiting more from its title game appearance last season - Auburn or Oregon?

Mike Farrell: Auburn without a doubt. It has a great recruiting advantage being in the Southeast and playing in the SEC, and a much stronger recruiting base to pull from. Auburn killed it down the stretch last season and is off to a very strong start for 2012, while Oregon has struggled a little bit out the gate. Both teams will end up in the national top 10 or 15 when all is said and done, but Auburn has taken things to a different level under Gene Chizik, something that started before it won the national title and continues now.

Adam Gorney: Auburn is doing a better job so far in its 2012 recruiting class with five of seven commits rated as four-stars but I come back to the question: Would De'Anthony Thomas even have considered Oregon if the Ducks didn't make that run last year? Getting Thomas to campus shortly before National Signing Day and convincing him he could be part of that winning tradition - and not just an also-ran in the Pac-10 - was probably one of the factors in him switching from USC. Oregon coach Chip Kelly is a methodical recruiter, doesn't offer many players early but closes strong. Right now for the 2012 class, Auburn has the edge. That may not be the case come February.

Chris Nee: Chizik's Tigers won the national championship and subsequently put an exclamation point on an outstanding recruiting class during the 2011 cycle. Now, they are amassing great talent for their 2012 haul and the crystal trophy at Auburn is one of their top selling points. Oregon has also seen a benefit, but an offer from the national champions stands out to nearly each and every youngster who has landed one.

Keith Niebuhr: With Oregon's recent success, the Ducks, once basically just a regional program, have gone national. In fact, they've hit the South pretty hard this year with offers, and prospects seem interested. But I'll go with Auburn. The Tigers have gained some major traction, not only in the South but nationally. Winning it all wasn't the only thing that helped. So did having superstar quarterback Cam Newton, a player a lot of high school kids worship because of his skills.

Brian Perroni: To be honest, both Auburn and Oregon have recruited very well for some time now. That is a big reason both played in the national championship game in the first place. I'm not sure either one of them has necessarily seen a huge windfall since then though.

What position have you seen become more important to colleges in the last five or 10 years?

Mike Farrell: Defensive tackle because it's so hard to find big, athletic bodies who can be stout against the run as well as collapse the pocket. And with more teams going to 3-4 defenses whether full time or part time, I think finding players such as Sharrif Floyd, Dominique Easley and Anthony Johnson became tougher. Luckily this year is loaded at defensive tackle but it's a rare year at the position, which is why the battles for Eddie Goldman, Ellis McCarthy and Aziz Shittu will be nasty.

Adam Gorney: Before I became the West recruiting analyst I covered Florida football for three years and I can say the position that has become so much more important in the last decade is the all-purpose running back or better said - a running back who can catch the ball in space and make defenders miss. Jeff Demps has made a football career out of that position and Chris Rainey has done similar things in that regard. Coaches are always looking for superior athletes who can also catch the ball and not fumble it. So many more teams are foregoing grinding it out up the middle and instead exploiting their athletes to gain yards.

Chris Nee: The h-back has become a popular position that is changing how jumbo athletes are used on offense. With the fullback becoming less common in college offenses, an h-back has emerged as the hybrid fullback/tight end who is capable of blocking for a running back, providing an extra body in pass pro, or being an offensive weapon in the passing game.

Keith Niebuhr: Defensive tackle. It doesn't matter what type of defense a team runs, this spot is more crucial than ever to recruit. The last five national champions, as you know, came from the SEC, and each of those squads had game-changers at tackle. Dominant tackles aren't easy to find, so when they emerge it's usually a feeding frenzy for college coaches.

Brian Perroni: College coaches and fans have become much more enamored with offensive tackles for sure. With the advent of the spread offense, having a very good pass-protecting left tackle on the line is a must. Fans used to seem rather apathetic, even when a big-name offensive tackle committed, but now the commitments from such prospects as Cyrus Kouandjio or D.J. Humphries bring as much or more excitement as a big-name quarterback or running back. That was unheard of 10 years ago.



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