Jamie's Mailbag
Vince Young Mack Brown Big 12 Championship Game (Will Gallagher/Inside Texas)
National Recruiting Analyst
Posted Aug 7, 2006
Jamie Newberg, TheInsiders.com National Recruiting Analyst

Can the University of Texas repeat as National Champions with a young quarterback? Who has the toughest schedule in college football? Where will the nation's top cornerback sign? What's going on with Virginia Tech recruiting? I will answer these questions and more in this week's mailbag.

Can the Longhorns win the title again with a youngster at quarterback? Mike (Austin, Texas)
I think it’s safe to say that this preseason there is no collective favorite to win college football’s National Championship. There are probably close to twenty teams that could realistically win it all. Is Texas one of them? Yes indeed.

Redshirt freshman Colt McCoy and true freshman Jevan Snead will battle for the starting quarterback job and the race is very close as they enter camp. Texas Head Coach Mack Brown has to hope that one emerges over the other but chances are they both play, at least early this season, until one rises to the top. That could be a concern because the No. 1 rated Ohio State Buckeyes come to Austin in week two. The Longhorns are talented up front and have three returning starters back on their O-line. Their running game should be superb, led by super sophomore Jamaal Charles.

Jevan Snead (Texas Sports Photography)
Jevan Snead (photo) will battle Colt McCoy for the starting QB job
The support system offensively is there for McCoy and Snead. They just need to play the position as mistake free as possible and let others make the big plays. It’s important that others step up offensively because Superman (Vince Young) is now a Tennessee Titan. Countless times, when Texas needed to move the chains or just a big play, Vince Young came to their rescue. He’s gone and others must step up and the Longhorns young quarterbacks need to avoid the big mistake, especially in their big games.

The other thing to consider is how will the Longhorns handle success? They are the defending National Champions and everyone will be gunning for them. Each week, whether they are playing a team like Ohio State or a team like Baylor, they are going to be wearing that bull’s eye on their jersey and getting everyone’s best shot. The mental makeup of Texas will be critical to their success this season.

The Buckeyes come to town loaded on offense and are led by senior signal caller Troy Smith and the explosive Ted Ginn, Jr. Defensively, Ohio State only returns two starters. They lost their great linebacking corps and some talent in the secondary (Donte Whitner and Ashton Youboty).

Before Rhett Bomar’s dismissal the quarterback edge would have been given to the Sooners over the ‘Horns because Bomar gave them experience at that position. Now the quarterback position is likely a wash with Texas and Oklahoma. Both defenses and running games are stout so that game, at least looking on paper now, could go either way.

Sure the Longhorns play A&M, Texas Tech, Nebraska, Oklahoma State and others, and even though they are going to be very young at the game’s most important position (QB), Texas is so talented everywhere else the ultimate success of their season should come down to those two games. The Ohio State game will set the tone for the Longhorn season while the OU game will likely decide who wins the South Division. If Texas wins these two they will play for the Big 12 title and a likely shot at a second straight title.

Is there a tougher schedule in college football this year than the Gator's? If so, tell me who and why.
Eric (Palm Coast, Florida)
I think the Gators have arguably the toughest schedule on paper although you could make an argument for Oregon as well. The Gators have home dates with Alabama, LSU and South Carolina and they are on the road at Tennessee, Auburn, and Florida State. They play Georgia in Jacksonville. The Ducks host Oklahoma, Arizona, and UCLA and travel to Southern Cal, Oregon State, Arizona State, Fresno State, and Cal. Six of Florida's opponents appear in the USA Today/ Coach's Preseason Top 25 with Auburn, LSU and FSU in the top 10. Meanwhile, for Oregon, they face three teams in the top 25 including Oklahoma and USC in the top five.

Urban Meyer (AP / Ed Reinke)
Urban Meyer and the Gators have a tough road ahead.
There are high expectations in Gainesville this season and Urban Meyer just may have the team to get back to Atlanta and the SEC Championships. Florida’s defense should be very strong under Defensive Coordinator Charlie Strong. Offensively, it will be the second year of Meyer’s spread offense at UF and there should be vast improvement with a veteran quarterback and lots of playmakers. Chris Leak will be a senior and he wants to desperately win not only a conference championship but a national championship as well. But there are two concerns – the Gators offensive line and that schedule is murderous.

There are four teams that will battle for the East (everyone but Vandy and Kentucky) while LSU and Auburn both have enough talent to win the league and national title. Then of course the Gators close the regular season at FSU. If the Seminoles get by Miami in week one, they could be unbeaten when they host the Gators in late November. Does the University of Florida have enough to win the SEC? Absolutely, but it’s going to be awfully tough with that schedule.

Jonathan Stewart (28) eludes linebacker Blair Phillips (33) on his way to a 10 yard gain and a first down. (photo by Chris Wilson)
RB Jonathan Stewart should emerge as a Pac 10 star this season
Meanwhile, out west at Oregon, the Ducks have a brutal schedule as well. If they get through it unscathed or finish in the top 10 that will set up Oregon for next season because that’s the year everyone is looking for coach Mike Bellotti to make a major move for the Pac 10 title. They have perhaps the league’s best defense, a talented offensive line and young stars like running back Jonathan Stewart and safety Patrick Chung.

Florida’s 2006 Schedule
Sept. 2 Southern Miss
Sept. 9 UCF
Sept. 16 at Tennessee
Sept. 23 Kentucky
Sept. 30 Alabama
Oct. 7 LSU
Oct. 14 at Auburn
Oct. 28 vs. Georgia (Jacksonville)
Nov. 4 at Vanderbilt
Nov. 11 South Carolina
Nov. 18 Western Carolina
Nov. 25 at Florida State

Oregon 2006 Schedule
Sept. 2 Stanford
Sept. 9 at Fresno State
Sept. 16 Oklahoma
Sept. 30 at Arizona State
Oct. 7 at California
Oct. 14 UCLA
Oct. 21 at Washington State
Oct. 28 Portland State
Nov. 4 Washington
Nov. 11 at USC
Nov. 18 Arizona
Nov. 25 at Oregon State

Who is the better duo – West Virginia's Pat White and Steve Slaton or Louisville's Brian Brohm and Michael Bush? Ironic how these two pairs are from the “lowly” Big East Conference.
Vince (Cincinnati, Ohio)

Hey Vince, those are not kind words describing the Big East. I certainly wouldn’t use the word “lowly”. That conference is on the rise. Sure Louisville and West Virginia are the big dogs of the Big East but you need to look at what programs like Rutgers, UConn, Pittsburgh, and South Florida are doing. They are all getting better each season. And don’t forget that West Virginia beat Georgia, the SEC Champ, in the Sugar Bowl 38-35.

Steve Slaton scores in overtime vs. Louisville (2005)
West Virginia RB Steve Slaton
Now to your question… it is ironic that arguably the game’s top two duos are from the Big East and one word can describe all four players – dynamic. Quarterback Pat White (sophomore) and running back Steve Slaton (sophomore) are so explosive for the Mountaineers. White threw for over 800 yards and rushed for over 900 yards while accounting for 15 touchdowns while splitting time last season. He is the most dangerous on the move and has a lot of Vince Young and Michael Vick in him. Slaton wasn’t supposed to be the impact recruit at running back. It was supposed to be five-star running back recruit Jason Gwaltney from New York. Gwaltney was banged up and Slaton took over in week three and never looked back. He was, without question, one of the top true freshmen in the country after rushing for over 1,100 yards and 17 touchdowns.

West Virginia Head Coach Rich Rodriguez imposes a spread attack offensively and White and Slaton are a perfect fit. Add to that White’s ability to run and you have the making of an exceptionally explosive offense. Here is something to ponder, White and Slaton were only freshman last year and White split time at quarterback. Still, West Virginia averaged 32 points and almost 400 yards of offense per game.

RB Michael Bush is big and athletic
Louisville’s Brohm and Bush are just as good though they don’t play have the same explosiveness as their rivals at West Virginia. Brohm is your classic drop-back passer with a great and accurate arm. He’s smart and tough and was coming into his own last season before injuring his knee. He threw for over 2,800 yards, 19 touchdowns (5 INTs) and completed 69% of his passes. If he’s healthy or even close to 100% Brohm’s could battle Notre Dame’s Brady Quinn for the nation’s top quarterback honors in the throwing department. Yes he is that good and Brohm is surrounded by talent. Speaking of talent, Michael Bush has to be one of the best overall players in the nation. He has great size and athletic ability. Bush is a great runner and receiver at 250 pounds. Last season he rushed for over 1,100 yards and accounted for 24 TDs.

So what duo is better? Actually, it depends on the system you run and both dynamic pairs are in offensive systems that fit their styles. Over time, White and Slaton could be the better duo because they are younger. Also, we still don’t know how healthy Brohm’s knee will be this season but we do know that this will be Bush’s last as a Cardinal. If I had to pick, as much as I love Brohm and Bush, right now I would go with White and Slaton.

One thing is certain, both West Virginia and Louisville will have a chance to have special seasons this fall. Don’t be surprised that if the winner of this game on November 2 could run the table and actually play for the National Championship. Yes, a member of the lowly Big East could have a chance to play for it all.

Would love to hear your analysis of Virginia Tech's recruiting efforts so far.
Chris (Virginia)

Simply put, things have been explosive in terms of recruiting for the Hokies since the 4th of July. In case you have not noticed Coach Frank Beamer and Virginia Tech have received an astounding 21 commitments in the last month. That's unheard of especially before the season even starts.

Why? I guess you could call it the snow ball effect. Over half of the Hokie commits participated in their summer camp. Summer camps across college campuses from coast to coast are becoming much more of a recruiting tool and teams are using them to their full benefit. This holds true in Blacksburg for sure. Once their camp got their commitment ball rolling Virginia Tech then went out and landed five-star quarterback prospect Tyrod Taylor on July 21.

Tyrod Taylor]
Tyrod Taylor is another athletic QB from Hampton, Va.
This is significant for a few reasons. First, he is after all a five-star player, the No. 7 rated quarterback prospect in the country (and moving up) and arguably the top athletic signal caller in the nation. Second, he is from Hampton, Virginia, the city that produced Michael Vick and Ronald Curry (Taylor happens to be from the same school as Curry, Hampton High School). Third, big-time, five-star quarterbacks attract recruits and that has happened for the Hokies. Since Taylor's decision they have landed 11 more prospects.

Other than Taylor, Tech has landed a top notch running back in Darren Evans (Indianapolis, In.) and a deep group of tight ends and offensive linemen, led by an imposing tackle, Will Alvarez (Woodbridge, Va.). Defensively VT has landed three defensive linemen, three linebackers and three safety prospects.

Right now the Hokies are sitting on 23 commitments and they will likely bring in 25 and are hoping they can convince some prospective recruits to grey-shirt (enroll in January rather than the fall). If not, they could fill up and possibly have to turn down some impressive prospects that they would normally land at a later point in the recruiting process.

Overall, this is a very good group of prospects headed to Virginia Tech. They just need to be picky with the final few scholarships and baby sit the prospects that are already committed to make sure they don't change their minds and sign with someone else.

Is Oklahoma in on any big time running backs to replace Adrian Peterson when he leaves for the NFL after this season? Is there a chance A.D. might stay?
Jason (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma)

First of all, I don’t see Adrian Peterson staying for his senior year unless he gets injured this season. There is just too much money out there to take a chance and he should have a monster year with some big numbers. Let’s face it, he saw the money Reggie Bush just got and he will command the same dollars. If Peterson has a good season and declares for the NFL draft next April he will be a sure fire top five pick, maybe even the top pick overall.

RB Adrian Peterson has to have a big year for the Sooners
Now, more than ever, Oklahoma needs Peterson to put that Sooner offense on his shoulders and carry the load. With their starting quarterback (Rhett Bomar) now dismissed from the team Peterson must step up and run like he did as a freshman. OU has talent every where, a tough defense and they still have a chance to make a championship run. They are just inexperienced at quarterback but have a senior in Paul Thompson that knows their system.

Peterson does have some good company at this position in Norman. Allen Patrick is a Junior College transfer that converted from a defensive back to running back and will emerge as Peterson’s likely backup. Last season the Sooners brought in one of the top running back classes with DeMarco Murray, Chris Brown and Mossis Madu. Murray and Madu were National Top 100 players. This season they are recruiting some more elite backs like Lennon Creer (Tatum, Texas) and Gerald Jones (Oklahoma City, Ok.) and they have a really good shot at landing Jones. Are any one of these backs Adrian Peterson? No, but there are not too many backs at the college level that are. What Oklahoma has to hope for is that they have recruited players at this position that can grow and develop into quality Big 12 backs.

Where do you see Eric Berry going?
Cody (Dallas, Georgia)

Eric Berry (Fairburn, Ga.) is Scout.com's No. 1 rated cornerback in the country. Berry, 6-0 and 194 pounds, has scholarship offers from Georgia, Tennessee, Florida, Southern Cal, Ohio State, Miami, Texas, Notre Dame, Alabama, LSU, Virginia Tech and many others. Right now Berry has no leader among the Dawgs, Vols, Trojans, 'Canes, and Longhorns.

Eric Berry
Eric Berry could be a future Volunteer
One would think that Georgia is the team to beat because they are the home-state school, they are one of college football's elite football powers and they recruit so well. But there are two things to consider here. First, his father James Berry, played running back at the University of Tennessee and the Volunteers recruit the Peach State very well. Secondly, there are some heavy hitters in terms of recruiting after Mr. Berry. Southern Cal can go anywhere and pull a prospect while Miami is still the “U” in prospect's eyes. Texas already has 22 commitments including three for cornerback prospects so the Longhorns are a long shot in my eyes at this time.

So that leaves Georgia, Tennessee, USC and Miami. As much “pull” that the Trojans and Hurricanes have I think it comes down to the Vols and Dawgs and I would give the edge at this time to Tennessee. But you just never know in recruiting and after all, it's only August and maybe a new team out of the blue emerges.

Do you want to get into next week's mailbag? Ask Question For Jamie's Mailbag by emailing jamienewberg@scout.com

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