Small Schools Produce Big Talent

Barrett Jones signed with Alabama

When two small private schools in Tennessee played, it probably didn't garner much national attention. But college recruiters took notice as the game produced two Alabama signees, and a Notre Dame commitment. Here's taking a look back and a look forward at their evaluations.

Featured Players:
Name Class Choice ScoutTV*
Chris Jordan 2008 Alabama
Barrett Jones 2008 Alabama  
Alex Bullard 2009 Notre Dame
Thad McHaney 2009 Open

*ScoutTV is included with your Subscription to

When one thinks of key games to attend in the south, big powerhouses like Hoover (Ala.), Miami Northwestern, South Panola (Miss.), and Stephenson (Ga.) come to mind. But last year's Brentwood Academy vs. Evangel Christian game in Tennessee featured two small private schools with big time talent.

Alabama got the lion's share of talent from the class of 2008, inking seniors Chris Jordan, running back for Brentwood, and Barrett Jones, offensive/defensive lineman for Evangel. Notre Dame got key Brentwood junior Alex Bullard who starred at right tackle in this game, and Brentwood defensive end Thad McHaney is still in play.

Going back to re-evaluate seniors (Jordan/Jones) while evaluating juniors is one of my favorite parts of this job as game film arrives daily at I get the question from main-stream media types constantly about the changing rankings of players that haven't played a down of football in months. They ask me "what changed to make his ranking change."

There are two common answers to that question as to possible changes. With one million high school football players in the country, the information isn't always available all at once. As more information comes in on players, things change. For example, Jordan and Jones played this game seven months ago, but I am just getting a chance to watch it today while evaluating Alex Bullard and Thad McHaney. 

The second answer to the question is, the players change. Take Corey Liuget for example. Corey came to the Scout Elite Camp in May of '07 as a 229 pound defensive end. The next time I saw him with pads on, he was a 270 pound monster. 

But back to the evaluations, we constantly evaluate players well into their college and pro careers. The player rankings are locked down right before signing day, but there's really no limit to how often we could tweak our own rankings to adjust for hits and misses as players develop.

So taking a look back at Chris Jordan and Barrett Jones how do I feel about their rankings in hindsight?

Chris Jordan

First, I'll start with Jordan. The first time I saw Jordan was when he was a sophomore at Norcross High School in Georgia. He came to the Kennedy/CES Combine, and was one of the most physically impressive performers there as a sophomore. Already being over six feet tall with terrific speed, there was a natural wonder to what position would he end up playing, running back or linebacker.

In hindsight, I think this question of position is probably what held back his ranking some. I made the same mistake with Darren McFadden in the Class of 2004. Believe it or not, there were a lot of people talking about McFadden possible playing safety when he got to Arkansas, and while he was still ranked high, I'm convinced that Adrian Peterson and Darren McFadden were the Herschel and Bo of this generation. We may not see players like them again for a long time.

I'm not saying Jordan is McFadden by any stretch, just that at the No. 26 running back in the country, he was under-rated. He may end up at linebacker one day, but he sure looks like a running back all the way to me. I looked back through his recruitment to see what he was being told, and was glad to see this quote from Jordan in an article by Scout's Andrew Bone, "The coaches want me to come in and play tailback," Jordan said. "I have a deep passion for playing offense. I told them my heart wasn't going to be in defense, and I didn't want to play it half-hearted. I feel great and confident about playing running back at Alabama."

I don't see any reason for him to have to worry about playing anything other than running back in his career at Alabama. He has excellent vision, balance and size. He breaks tackles and has more than enough speed to break a long one. He sets up his blocks well and always seems to be falling forward. Like previous Tide standout Shaun Alexander, he never seems to be working harder than he has to; he just gets by the defense and makes it look easy.

Chris Jordan #1 RB

Barrett Jones played defensive end and left tackle for Evangel. He was rated 4 Stars and ranked the No. 18 offensive tackle in the country by Scout. Jones started his senior season ranked a little higher than this, but players such as Tyler Love and Antoine McClain moved ahead of them in the south. I think Jones settled in to about the right spot.

He has a great frame and a good first step. He puts forth good effort, but he'll need to work on his leverage and strength a bit before he's ready to suit up for Alabama. He moved his feet and used his hands well, but sometimes had trouble with bull rushes. His lateral mobility was advanced for a high school tackle as shown by his ability to pass block and play defensive end. He's farther ahead in the passing game than he is the running game. That's a positive for Tide fans. It's a whole lot easier to teach leverage than it is quick feet.

Barrett Jones #75 DE/LT

Notre Dame made its presence felt in Tennessee by obtaining a commitment from Brentwood's highly recruited left tackle Alex Bullard. Bullard is currently rated 4 Stars by Scout and the 27th best offensive tackle in the country. Bullard chose the Irish over a host of offers including the home state Volunteers, Florida, Alabama, Michigan, and more.

It doesn't take long to spot why Bullard was in such high demand as soon as the game starts.

Bullard has a lightning quick first step off the line. He is a tenacious blocker that locks on to the defender, and uses his ands and leverage to control a would be tackler. His agility is terrific and it allows him to get to the linebackers and even safeties on blocks. On one play he follows Jordan roughly 40 yards downfield to keep making blocks. Most big men run out of gas after 10 yards.

Alex Bullard

At offensive tackle, I think No. 27 is about right for his ranking. However, I feel he is generally underrated there. Why? I feel he is a more natural guard. Based on his height (listed at 6-4), excellent mobility, and drive blocking skills, Bullard has the look of a terrific pulling guard on the next level. If he's moved to guard, he should be moved up in the rankings. I think it's a better position for him in the long run.

Alex Bullard #72 LT

The fourth highly recruited player in this game is Brentwood's Thad McHaney. Listed at 6-2, but roughly the same height as Bullard, McHaney is rated as a 3 Star tight end by Scout. However, McHaney does the bulk of his damage on the defensive side of the ball. Likely a strong side defensive end, McHaney plays with good strength, and he is a long strider capable of making up ground in pursuit. He needs to work on his anticipation and first step to get off the ball a little quicker.

McHaney had a very productive game against Evangel including matching up well with Barrett Jones, and I'd be surprised if he weren't being recruited for defense first.

McHaney is sorting through a handful of offers including Tennessee, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Vanderbilt, South Carolina, Oregon, and more.

Thad McHaney #99 DE/TE

I look forward to revisiting these evaluations as each player begins to make his impact as seniors in high school or freshmen in college. With 12 more months of information, any one of the four if not all of them could look vastly over or underrated. That's the beauty of trying to predict the future, right now, there is no right or wrong... only hope that each of them turns out to be stars.

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