In my new mailbag column I will answer your questions concerning college football and recruiting. Each Monday this column will come out and if you would like to ask anything on college football or college football recruiting, please click here – Ask Question For Jamie's Mailbag.
So here goes the first edition...
Can anyone really challenge U.S.C. for the Pac 10 title?
Steve (San Jose, Calif.)
Well, for this season two teams come to mind that have a chance to upend Southern Cal for the top spot in the Pac 10 – Cal. and Oregon. But the Trojans get the Bears and Ducks on back to back weekends at home in mid-November. By then USC's 14 new starters will have eight more games of experience and should prove tough to beat.
Are the Trojans untouchable? No, but they have assembled more talent than anyone in the country let alone their conference. The Trojans open up on the road against an Arkansas team that is tough at home. In week three they travel to Arizona to take on the improving Wildcats. USC closes at home with Notre Dame and then on the road at UCLA. Their schedule is certainly tougher than in the previous seasons and gone are Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush and a host of others, who have all made their way to the NFL. On top of that there has been some off the field issues there. During their unbelievable run with Leinhart and company USC Head Coach Pete Carroll created an unbelievable “atmosphere” both on and off the field there. How will these distractions and departures effect the balance that coach Carroll has created?
Cal will be a top 10 team, especially if they get good quarterback play. They have one of the best front seven's in the league, they have tons of speed at the skill positions and have a great running back in Marshawn Lynch. Meanwhile, Oregon may have a better chance at the Pac 10 title in '07 not this season. They are young in areas but have talent and experience in others. Running back Jonathan Stewart should be the key to their offense this season while their defense should be one of the conference's best.
Still, Southern Cal is the king of the mountain in the Pac 10. Teams like Cal and Oregon are almost there and teams like Arizona are certainly on the rise big time. One thing is certain, it's no longer going to be USC and everyone else. The Pac 10 is getting better from top to bottom. But, until someone in the conference takes them out, Southern Cal is still the team to beat and could still play for yet another National Champhionship.
Georgia Tech seems to be on a little recruiting roll right now. What are the Jackets doing differently? How do you see them doing this season? What are your thoughts on Calvin Johnson?
Billy (Atlanta, Ga.)
The Yellow Jackets are off to their best start in recruiting in quite some time. Giff Smith (Defensive Line Coach) is now their Recruiting Coordinator and he has changed up things a little bit at Georgia Tech. They revamped their marketing approach of the program and they managed their spring Junior Days differently. Little things like this don't go unnoticed by the prospects. More importantly it's a very good year prospect wise in the state of Georgia, especially with kids that have the academic background to get in to Georgia Tech. Also, some of their big name commitments like linebacker Brad Jefferson (Wrightsville, Ga.) and Kyle Jackson (McDonough, Ga.) and wide receiver Willie White (Kingsland, Ga.) have turned into recruiters themselves. So far the biggest coup for the Yellow Jackets was landing one of the nation's top defensive tackles in Jacoby Monroe (Orlando, Fla.). But there is a chance he could sign with someone else when the time comes and does he really have the grades to get into Tech? This one will be close. Look for GT to sign between 17-20 prospects and this should be their best recruiting class in some time.
As far as on the field the Yellow Jackets could be one of the surprise teams in the ACC. Defenisvely, their front seven is as good as anyone's in the conference. The key to their success is simple, their quarterback play with Reggie Ball. He is now a senior and the Jackets will go as far as he takes them. Ball has no excuses because he will have a very solid offensive line in front of him and running backs like Tashard Choice and RaShaun Grant to carry the load and establish a consistent running game.
And lets not forget that the country's best wide receiver plays in Atlanta. With all due respect to Dwayne Jarrett (U.S.C.), Sidney Rice (the other USC), and the other great college wideouts out there, Calvin Johnson enters this season as the top receiver in America and arguably the top college player in the country. Only know one really knows about him outside the Atlantic Coast Conference because Tech has been mediocre at best offensively in the two years Johnson has been there. He is 6-5 and 238 pounds. Johnson is a true 4.4 forty guy and he recently vertical jumped an astounding 45 inches. At this level he's a mis-match for every defense and if you double him or roll coverage to his side it will be up to Ball to find the open receiver or make something happen.
What has led to UNC's early recruiting success, especially pertaining to the strong possibility that (John) Bunting and company will land five or more of N.C.'s Top-10 players this season, continuing their dominance of North Carolina recruiting?
Jack (Raleigh, N.C.)
You can look at many things to their early recruiting success this season. First, this is the University of North Carolina, a great schools academically with super facilities. Second, it's a school in the new ACC. Head Coach John Bunting has now been there five seasons and that means stability in a great conference. On top of that he is a super recruiter and the kids love him. He also has an aggressive staff when it comes to recruiting led by Recruiting Coordinator Dave Brock and Linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen. Bringing in new Offensive Coordinator Frank Cignetti also has helped, especially with quarterback Mike Paulus. And it just so happens to be a very good year for in-state prospects.
North Carolina's Top 10 Prospects
1) Greg Little (LB)
2) Trinton Sturdivant (OL) Georgia
3) Dwight Jones (WR) North Carolina
4) Marcus Gilchrist (CB) Clemson
5) Tydreke Powell (DT)
6) Travian Robertson (DE) South Carolina
7) Ryan Houston (DE) North Carolina
8) Albert Craddock (LB) North Carolina
9)Wesley Saunders (DT)
10)Kerry Neal (LB) Notre Dame
The top ten prospects from North Carolina are listed above and as you can see UNC has three of the top ten committed so far. They should land Powell and Saunders and have a good shot at Little. That would give them at least half the top ten in the Tar Heel State come Signing Day and that's to shabby considering they have to fight N.C. State, Duke, Wake Forest and East Carolina in-state and Clemson, South Carolina and everyone else out of state. Last season North Carolina signed four of the state's top ten prospects and nine of the top twenty. Recruiting has never been a big issue with the Tar Heels.
WR Dwight Jones
What do you think the Tide's chances are to land Allen Bailey? He has us as the favorite at the moment? Thanks and Roll Tide!
Dee (Birmingham, Ala.)
Allen Bailey (Darien, Ga.) is a five-star defensive end/linebacker prospect from Georgia. Bailey, 6-3 and 245 pounds, has narrowed things down to four schools – Georgia, Alabama, Florida and Miami. Bailey would like to stay close to home so friends and family can come see him play. All four schools are relatively close and believe it or not Gainesville (2.5 hours away) is the closest followed by Athens (4 hours), Coral Gables (6.5 hours) and then Tuscaloosa (7.5 hours).
In regards to Alabama Bailey loves their defense. “They have a defensive team and their linebackers control the middle of the field," said Bailey. "Linebacker coach, (Joe) Kines, knows what he’s looking for in a linebacker for his team. He used to coach for the NFL, and his knowledge might give me a better chance of getting there.”
Allen Bailey likes Alabama, Florida, Georgia & Miami
Bailey says he will make a decision after he makes his official visits in December and January. That way he can wait and take his visits after the season and the season will show who did well, especially defensively among these four schools. In addition, he wants to see what each school is bringing in with this class. This one is open right now and could likely come down to Georgia and Florida but I would not rule out Alabama or Miami.
In reality, do you think Ronald Johnson is seriously considering heading west or is this just speculation? He does have an offer from U.S.C.
Georgia Joan (Marietta, Ga.)
In reality I think five-star defensive back Ronald Johnson is very serious about heading out west. But it's July and not the first Wednesday in Febuary. When reality sets in later in the process about how far Los Angeles, California is from Muskegon, Michigan he will likely stay in the Midwest. This is a similar situation to Ted Ginn, Jr. Ohio State fans won't like this but he would have been a Trojan if Southern Cal were closer (Adrian Peterson would have as well). But in the end, it was too far from home so he stayed home to play for the Buckeyes. I think Michigan is the team to beat for Johnson but there are certainly some great programs (Michigan State, Ohio State, Notre Dame and Tennessee) from the Big 10 region after him. He says he is open and USC and UCLA could both get a visit from him.
Will Texas A&M be searching for a new Head Coach after this season? Coach (Dennis) Fran has not lived up to expectations and there seems to be programs like Texas Tech and even Kansas passing the Aggies by.
Aaron (El Paso, Texas)
I have to admit that when Dennis Franchione left Alabama to become the new Head Coach at Texas A&M I thought the Aggies would make a big and quick jump into the elite of college football. I believed that he was one of the top head coaches around after the job he did at TCU and his short lived stay at Alabama. I have also been shocked at the lack of progress in the win column for A&M since Coach Fran took over three seasons ago, especially with the talent there. This program will be under the microscope this season and they must be successful this year or perhaps the hierarchy in College Station will be searching for a staff once again. But I don’t think that will happen, at least not this season for three reasons.
First, they have a very favorable schedule. Their first five games are at home and the first four are all winnable against teams like The Citadel and Louisiana Lafayette. The fifth game could be the one that defines their ’06 season as they host Texas Tech. Then they go to Kansas and face the improving Jayhawks. They then face Missouri at home before going on the road to Oklahoma State and Baylor before closing the season with home dates versus Oklahoma and Nebraska before taking on Texas. So eight wins is certainly attainable.
Secondly, they have a new defensive coordinator in Gary Darnell. Their defense will be much improved, especially against the pass and they have a good d-line to work with.
Third, Stephen McGee takes over at quarterback and he will show leadership and show much improvement, especially with their cake schedule for the first half of the season. Their easy schedule should allow McGee to gain confidence and they should also have a favorable run game to compliment their passing attack.
So if A&M fails to achieve eight or even seven wins maybe there will be a coaching change. But I don’t think that’s going to happen and I think the Aggies will be in good standing with coach Fran this season.
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