Jamie's Mailbag

National Recruiting Analyst
Posted Aug 14, 2006
Jamie Newberg, TheInsiders.com National Recruiting Analyst

What team besides Louisville could get the "monkey" of their back this season? What college football program has produced the most NFL players? Who is the best recruiter among college football head coaches? How are LSU and Notre Dame doing in recruiting? I will answer these questions and more in this week's mailbag.

Since the University of Texas finally got the monkey off of its back after 35+ years without a national championship in football (and Ohio St. several years ago), which other perrenial power houses are now on the clock and long over due for a big trophy of their own?
Steve (Houston, Texas)

I believe that there 18-20 teams that could win the National Championship this season. While looking at everyone and researching the college football teams across the board, there seems to be many very good teams this season. But are there any dominant teams that could run the table and play for it all? This could be the season when no one goes unbeaten and there are a bunch of one loss teams vieing for a chance at the championship. Or someone could sneak in unexpectantly.

Here are five teams that have a chance to get the monkey off their back this season like Texas did last year and Ohio State did a few seasons ago. Auburn, Cal, Clemson, Iowa, and the winner of West Virginia and Louisville. To put your question in perspective my only criteria was that these programs have not won a national championship yet or it has been at least 25 years.

Tommy Tuberville
Tuberville's Tigers could win it all this season
1) Auburn
The Tigers have not won a national title since 1957. Head Coach Tommy Tuberville had his Tigers banging on the door two seasons ago. All Auburn did was go 13-0 and they still got left out of the big dance. Here we are in '06 and they have a chance to make another title run. First things first, they have to win the brutually tough SEC. Auburn gets LSU, Florida, Arkansas and Georgia at home. The Tigers should have a powerful running game and Brandon Cox could emerge as one of the best signal callers in the SEC. Auburn must replace some receivers and both their starters at o-tackle. Regardless, these two units still have a chance to be very, very good. The Auburn defense will be suffocating once again. This could be their year.

2) Cal.
Cal has not won it all since 1922. For the Bears it's simple, the key to their ultimate success or lack of this season will come down to their quarterback play. Nate Longshore missed most of last season with a broken ankle. All he has to do is get the ball to his playmakers like wide receiver DeSean Jackson. Cal has one of the top running backs in the nation in Marshawn Lynch. They have speed and are pretty talented up front. Defensively, the Bears could have the top unit in the Pac 10. Cal opens up on the road in the SEC against a mad Tennessee team. They also go on the road to play Arizona and Southern Cal back to back.

3) Clemson
Clemson's National Championship was 25 years ago. This Tiger team is going to be very good up front, where they return all five starters on their offensive line. The receviers are speedy and make plays and the running back position is deep and talented. Clemson's defense will be good and has a chance to be very good. The key, like Cal., will be the play of their new quarterback, senior Will Proctor. He has been an understudy to the departed Charlie Whitehurst. If he has a good season Clemson could very well play for the ACC Championship. The Tigers go on the road to play FSU early and Virginia Tech late.

4) Iowa (see question below)

5) West Virginia/Louisville winner
These two teams are good, just ask Georgia (West Virgina beat the Dawgs in the Sugar Bowl) and North Carolina and Oregon State (Louisville walloped both these teams). They face each other in Louisville on November 2nd in what could very well be one of the best games this college football season. Louisville will need star quarterback Brian Brohm back and healthy off of last year's knee injury. He is one of the country's best quarterbacks. Brohm is complimented by running back Michael Bush, one of the nation's most versatile and talented players. The Cardinals lost a lot of sacks when Elvis Dumervil graduated. Louisville needs good play in the trenches on both sides of the ball. Oh yea, they also host Miami in week three. The game against the 'Canes will set the tone for their season while the Mountaineer game will define their season.

Meanwhile, in Morgantown, Coach Rich Rodriguez has to be licking his chops at this season's possibilities. West Virginia is so dangerous offensively with super sophomores Patrick White (QB) and Steve Slaton (RB). White has to make improvements throwing the football and the Mountaineers must prove they can defend the pass after losing four starters in their secondary. The schedule is soft except for facing Maryland at home and an improving Mississippi State team on the road. Those two games are early.

The game of the year in the Big East is West Virginia/Louisville and the winner may have a chance to run the table and perhaps plays for the National Championship.

I grew up near Iowa City, and although I didn't attend the University of Iowa, I am a huge fan. Do you think Iowa will (soon) be able to break through and win the Big Ten? Do they have what it takes to reach another January Bowl and win? Chris (Boston, Massachusetts)
Absolutely yes. Iowa certainly has the makeup and ingredients to win the Big 10 title and do great things this season. The question is will they? For some unknown reason they have stumbled out of the blocks and then the Hawkeyes come on late. But this season the schedule is favorable for Kirk Ferentz's team to at least go unbeaten into the Ohio State game. They host the No. 1 ranked Buckeyes in week five. They go to Michigan in October. Every other game they will be favored to win.

Senior QB Drew Tate
Over the past three seasons Iowa has lost their conference opener. This season they open up at Illinois the week before they play the No. 1 ranked team in the nation, Ohio State. Iowa is much better than Ron Zook's Illini but they can't look ahead to the Buckeyes or it could be four conference openers in a row that they come away defeated. Iowa must be unbeaten and win their first four and that includes beating their arch-rvial Iowa State, who they lost to last season.

The Hawkeyes are led by quarterback Drew Tate. Last season he completed 62% of his passes for 2,828 yards, 22 touchdowns and only seven interceptions. Tate is tough and poised and has made great improvement in Iowa City and is one of the top signal callers in the conference. Tate is complimented by a solid running game led by junior Albert Young, who rushed for 1,334 yards and eight touchdowns. Iowa is inexperienced at receiver but they are speedy and talented while tight end is one of the deepest positions on the team. The key to the Hawkeye offense is their line, where they have a chance to be very good and deep.

Defensively, the line is solid with ends Ken Iwebema and Bryan Mattison. They combined for 95 tackles, 11 sacks and 19.5 tackles for losses last season. They are both juniors. The linebacking corps took a hit losing Abdul Hodge and Chad Greenway. This is the unit with the biggest question mark going into the fall. The secondary had a few losses as well but the Iowa defense should be strong in the middle of the secondary. The key defensively will be the play of the Iowa d-line. Good defensive line play will mask problems in the back seven to some degree and give the new starters some help.

Overall, this Hawkeye team has a chance for a special season. Nine wins is there for the easy taking but that is not good enough for Iowa. The two key games will be Ohio State and Michigan (they do not play Penn State this year) and taken care of the opponents that they are better than. Ten or eleven wins means they play in January. Dare we say unbeaten and what that means? The ingredients are there for many teams this season to be magical. Why not Iowa?

What college football program has produced the most NFL players? I would think it is Miami (Fla.)???
Paul (Detroit, Michigan)
Paul, you were close and only off by one as the Hurricanes have produced the second most current NFL players behind arch-rival Florida State.

Below is a current top 25 of the college programs that have currently the most players on NFL rosters. Remember, these current rosters are expanded and I will reexamine this question when the rosters of each NFL team are finalized next month when training camp ends and the season begins.

1) Florida State (54 players)
2) Miami (53)
3) Ohio State (47)
4) Florida (46)
4) Georgia (46)
4) Michigan (46)
7) LSU (43)
7) Tennessee (43)
9) Nebraska (40)
10) Nortre Dame (39)
11) USC (38)
12) Penn State (37)
13) Wisconsin (36)
13) Virginia Tech (36)
15) Auburn (33)
15) Oklahoma (33)
17) Purdue (31)
17) Stanford (31)
19) Alabama (30)
19) Cal. (30)
19) North Carolina (30)
19) Syracuse (30)
19) UCLA (30)
19) Virginia (30)
25) Texas A&M (29)

28 (Texas), 27 (Colorado, Maryland, Michigan State, South Carolina), 26 (Washington), 25 (Arizona State), 24 (Clemson), 23 (San Diego State, West Virginia), 21 (Boston College, Georgia Tech, N.C. State, Pittsburgh), 20 (Arkansas, Ole Miss)

Arizona State has two dynamic quarterbacks in Sam Keller and Rudy Carpenter and a rising star at runningback with sophomore Keegan Herring. With such an explosive offense and an improved defense, do you think the Devils have the tools necessary to win the Pac-10?
Isaiah (Phoenix, Arizona)

Arizona State has talent on both sides of the ball, especially offensively. So why can’t the Sun Devils really challenge USC for the Pac 10 title? It’s a mystery because most of the pieces are in place but for some reason something bad happens each season. Last year it the 4th quarter lapse against LSU.

Sam Keller (Getty Images)
Senior QB Sam Keller
ASU has perhaps the best quarterback duo in the nation with senior Sam Keller and sophomore Rudy Carpenter. Last year Keller went down with a thumb injury midway through the year and Carpenter stepped in and led the nation in passing efficiency. Together, they combined for 311/492 (63%) for 4,438 yards, 37 touchdown passes and only 11 interceptions. Those are absolutely huge numbers. The Sun Devil offense rolled up 504.5 yards of offense per game and 36 points in ’05.

The running game is young and in good hands with sophomores Keegan Herring and Shaun DeWitty. Keegan is speedy and shifty and led the Sun Devils in rushing with 870 yards while DeWitty has nice size and was the star of their spring. Zach Miller is one of the nation’s finest tight ends and Arizona State has a very good and productive receiving corps. So the ingredients are there once again for ASU to put up huge numbers and light up every scoreboard in the Pac 10. The scary thing is that they return 10 starters on offense.

Defensively, this unit has to get better after giving up 469 yards per game as well 29 points per game. They only return five starters and if they improve upfront on the defensive line it will certainly help their linebacker corps and definitely the secondary.

Can Arizona State challenge USC, Oregon, and Cal for the Pac 10 title this season? It’s going to be tough but if their defense improves and the offense picks up where they left off last season ASU certainly should make things interesting and they should be in every game. One thing is certain, they are better than the record from last season and they must play up to their abilities this year. The key is a three game stretch starting on September 23 when they travel to Cal. Then they face Oregon at home and USC on the road.

Who in your opinion is the best recruiter among the head coaches?
Scott (Las Vegas, Nevada)

Wow. That’s an awfully tough question and a loaded question. I don’t mean to sound like I am kissing butt here but there are a lot of great recruiters out there, head coaches that have been around the block a few times and know their way around a living room. The easy answer is USC’s Pete Carroll because of what his program has done in the recruiting wars over the past few seasons. And lets face it, they are the recruiting power in the country. Of course there are other names like Mack Brown (Texas), Urban Meyer (Florida), Phillip Fulmer (Tennessee), Bob Stoops (Oklahoma), and Ron Zook (Illinois) to just name a few. Then you have Bobby Bowden (FSU) and Joe Paterno (Penn State) that still carry so much clout.

Ole Miss Head Coach Ed Orgeron brings intensity and enthusiasm
But based on what they have to work with and where there program is at this time, Ole Miss Head Coach Ed Orgeron would have been my “Recruiter of the Year” last season. Orgeron was tireless and efficient and the Rebels finished with the No. 15 rated recruiting class in the nation last year. That’s unchartered waters in Oxford but something that the college football world better get used to because you better believe that Ed Orgeron is going to go out and sign great prospects.

Orgeron came from USC where he was the recruiting coordinator under Carroll. There he orchestrated the Trojan magic before he took over at Ole Miss. He sports four national championship rings (two with Miami and two with USC) and has coached guys like Warren Sapp, Cortez Kennedy and Russell Maryland. Orgeron has the coaching experience and he really knows how to work the mojo with the kids, coaches and their families. But to make it all work you have to work. And to be at a school like Ole Miss, you have to outwork everyone else in the most vicious league (SEC) in terms of recruiting. You also have to understand the significance of recruiting and what it means to really building your program. Orgeron gets “it” and he has the unique ability to make everyone else (his staff and everyone in the program) believe. The bottom line is that Ole Miss has given him resources, facilities, and a very good staff. Orgeron is a leader and he has all the intangibles for being a great recruiter and motivator. With this combination he becomes a tough foe for anyone and Ole Miss is working just as hard or harder at recruiting than any team in the nation.

The Rebels are yelling once again this recruiting season and are off to a super start. Fans are giddy about the talent he’s bringing to Oxford. But with great recruiting classes come great expectations and Orgeron will have to live up to all the hype he’s bringing to the Ole Miss Rebels. Just ask Ron Zook.

It appears Les Miles has fit in well at LSU and is off to a great start in recruiting. How do you rate his performance so far when it comes to recruiting?
Mike (Lafaeyette, Lousiana.)
Nick Saban and his staff did an incredible job on the recruiting front while at LSU. For five seasons LSU recruited as well as anyone in the country. Saban bolted Baton Rouge for Miami and Les Miles took over Tigers. Saban set the bar high both on and off the field. Miles has had an opportunity now to sign two recruiting classes and he has picked up the baton very nicely from Saban. In his first class, LSU only had 13 scholarships to give yet Miles and LSU finished with the No. 19 rated recruiting class and also landed quarterback Ryan Perrilloux. Last season LSU finished tied for seventh (with Oklahoma).

LSU Head Coach Les Miles
The bottom line is that there has been no drop off from Saban to Miles in terms of recruiting. Granted there’s only been two classes to compare but if this season is any further indication then Miles should come up all aces.

LSU is off to a very nice start with commitments from tight ends Mitch Joseph (New Iberia, La.) and Jordan Hammond (Lakeland, Fla.), cornerback John Williams (Breaux Bridge, La.), quarterback Jarrett Lee (Brenham, Texas), and wide receiver DeAngelo Benton (Bastrop, La.). They are leading for all world wide receiver Terrence Toliver (Hempstead, Texas), wide receiver Dez Bryant (Lufkin, Texas), defensive tackle Rolando Melancon (Lutcher, La.), and running back Sam Proctor (Pearland, Texas). They are also in the hunt for many other elite prospects like running back Joe McKnight (River Ridge, La.), wide receiver Ahmad Paige (Sterlington, La.), safety Stefoin Francois (Reserve, La.), safety Chad Jones (Baton Rouge, La.), and defensive end Luther Davis (West Mornoe, La.).

The difference from LSU having an incredible class to having another very good class could be what they do on the field. LSU and Auburn appear to be the teams to beat not only in the SEC West but also for the conference title and perhaps a run at the National Championship. LSU must play well in the trenches with many new starters. If those players play well the sky is the limit for LSU all the way around and Head Coach Les Miles will begin to make his own mark in Baton Rouge. So far after two plus classes I would rated Les Miles a B+.

I keep seeing all these recruits bypassing Notre Dame this year.  I would think Notre Dame would be much further along with this class?  Are we seeing negative recruiting here or is Notre Dame just not an attractive university to this group of recruits?

I really believe that Notre Dame is off to a good start in recruiting and should finish with a very good class. Every school gets negative recruited but to varying degress depending on who you are battling for a particular player and the time of the year. When it's crunch time teams and coaches are up against the wall and this is when most of the negative recruiting occurs. However, I don't see that as being a problem for Notre Dame. The Irish are just knocking heads with more of the college football powers now than lets say they were a few seasons ago. Under the old regime or two they would go after all the All-American types but because they were down on the field they didn't get too many looks, or at least like the are getting now.

Charlie Weis has taken over and Notre Dame shocked the college football world last season with how they played. To me and fans that have been watching the game for some time say Notre Dame is back. It's obviously great for the game. But for high school football recruits, they don't know this about the Irish because they were too young or not born yet the last time Notre Dame won a National Championship (1988). These prospects have to be educated on the tradition of Notre Dame football and whether you love or hate the Irish and what this program has done over all these years is so impressive. Once these kids learn about the tradition in South Bend it will grab their attention.

Then it is up to Weis and company to battle the Southern Cal's and Ohio State's of the world. The bottom line is that they will win some and lose some.

Jimmy Clausen
Jimmy Clausen
The Fighting Irish have landed quarterback Jimmy Clausen (Westlake Village, Calif.), wide receiver Duval Kamara (Hoboken, N.J.) tight end Mike Ragine (Cherry Hill, N.J.), and defensive end Justin Trattou (Ramsey, N.J.). Notre Dame has lost offensive guard James Wilson (St. Augustine, Fla.) to USC, running back Marc Tyler (Westlake Village, Calif.) to Southern Cal, offensive tackle Josh Ogelsby (St. Francis, Wi.) to Wisconsin, and Nick Sukay (Greensburg, Pa.) to Penn State to name a few.

Notre Dame just has to keep working hard. With a good season they should close well in recruiting as the Irish have a great shot to land defensive end Martez Wilson (Chicago, Ill.), running back Robert Hughes (Chicago, Ill.), wide receiver Arrelious Benn (Washington D.C.), safety/linebacker Lorenzo Edwards (Orlando, Fla.), cornerback Michael Williams (Ventura, Calif.), cornerback Gary Gray (Columbia, S.C.), defensive end Ben Martin (Cincinnati, Ohio), and linebacker Chris Donald (Huntingdon, Tenn.). There are other big names as well. The point is Notre Dame is back and their recruiting will be just fine this season and it should get better and better each year as long as they are making strides on the field.

If you would like to ask questions for an upcoming mailbag installment please email jamienewberg@scout.com

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