National Recruiting Notebook
Rich Rodriguez
Rich Rodriguez
National Recruiting Editor
Posted Jan 28, 2009


Michigan stacks itself up against the rest of the recruiting world over several years as Rich Rodriquez tries to turn the Wolverines around … Pete Carroll has created a monster he needs to feed … A coaching switch sends a Texas quarterback to Auburn, where Gene Chizik may have found lightning in a bottle.

Michigan Men

Michigan stands out as a school that always recruits well. From the mid-1990s, the Wolverines have signed only one class not ranked in the top 10 by SuperPrep magazine. That was in 2000, when Lloyd Carr signed a No. 13 group. Notwithstanding that class, since 1995 the folks in Ann Arbor have reeled in signing efforts ranked exactly at 6.6 according to SuperPrep. For consistency and downright excellence, that’s really tough to beat. In fact, nobody beats it.

During the same 14-year period (long enough to cover lots of ups and downs), these are SuperPrep’s average yearly recruiting rankings for the 35 following teams:

You won’t find Utah or Boise State listed. The Utes and the Broncos rarely sign top-50 classes, yet Utah finished No. 2 in this year’s final AP poll and Boise State slotted in at No. 11. There’s always that argument about the importance of coaching versus talent. Regardless of which side of the fence you come down on there, we know that since the coaches do the signing, and then the developing, coaches come at a very high premium.

Terrelle Pryor spurned Michigan for its bitter rival. (Getty Images)
When Michigan bought out Rich Rodriguez’s contract last season, they didn’t envision that premium to include a three-win season with blowout losses thrown in for good measure. It’s doubtful Rodriguez saw anything that disastrous as well. But his first signing effort in 2008, No. 6 according to Scout.com, lacked the player Rodriguez needed by far the most: quarterback Terrelle Pryor, who twisted the sword in deeper by choosing the Buckeyes. Talk about a swing-vote player. Without Pryor and in view of Michigan’s dire signal-caller situation, that class really didn’t deserve a top-10 slot. No way.

Ol’ Blue typically recruits hard nationally and often doesn’t rely on Midwest talent to be the backbone of its roster. Rodriguez’s first class contained signees from Florida, Massachusetts, New Jersey, South Carolina and Texas. This year, in a class currently tabbed by Scout.com at No. 17, he’s again branched out to Colorado, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arizona, Florida, New Jersey and California.

With that QB problem in mind, Rodriguez already has a commitment from Tate Forcier, a four-star talent from San Diego who can run and throw. Some might consider it a bad sign that neither of Tate’s older brothers have shown they have what it takes to be the main man. Jason Forcier signed with Michigan in ’05, only to transfer to Stanford, stuck behind Tavita Pritchard. Chris Forcier signed with UCLA in ’07 and doesn’t yet come up in conversations as the future for the Bruins.

Rodriguez is also hot after four-star Florida QB Denard Robinson, who visions himself as the next Pat White. Robinson is also considering Kansas State, Florida, Georgia and UCF. The 10.7 100m speedster out of Deerfield Beach can always help out at corner or wide receiver if he doesn’t work out offensively. That kind of versatility is a great bonus nowadays. He wants to play early, so Tim Tebow and Florida might slow down Robinson more than he likes.

In any case, it looks like a signing day announcement for Robinson, with Kansas State the major competition for Michigan here. Teammate/defensive back Adrian Witty is supposedly a package deal and both visited Ann Arbor on Jan. 9. Deerfield Beach coach Art Taylor gives the Wolverines the slight edge but you never want to count out Bill Snyder and the magic he works for Kansas State in these situations.

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South Carolina defensive end Sam Montgomery is another big target of Rodriquez’s. Montgomery had a fantastic Jan. 9 trip to Michigan, giving both LSU and Tennessee a lot to worry about. He visited LSU last weekend and takes in Tennessee the final weekend before LOI Day. Working against Rodriguez here is the fact he already has commitments from two superlative defensive ends: Arizona’s Craig Roh and Anthony LaLota from New Jersey.

Michigan is also ahead of the game with a couple of fine offensive tackle commitments in Taylor Lewan, another impressive raw talent from Arizona, and Michael Schofield, an early June pledge from Illinois. Schofield’s stock has really moved up in the postseason. Rodriguez is also hoping to sign South Carolina 315-pounder Quinton Washington, who visited Ann Arbor during the season. With a final trip set for Miami, Washington is also considering Clemson, Tennessee and South Carolina.

Complicated Trojans

A lot of people are watching USC closely this year. They wonder about the Trojan de-commitments and those “soft commits” – something like committed with benefits (taking other trips).

Has Pete Carroll built a monster?(Getty Images)
Pete Carroll has averaged a 5.3 recruiting class rank and that includes his first class in ’01 when he jumped in with a 19 slot after taking over for Paul Hackett. Since that first year, Carroll’s average recruiting class is 3.4, with top-dog finishes in ’06, ’04 and ’03. From ’03 to ’07, he never finished lower than third.

Scout.com now ranks the Trojans at No. 5 with 18 commitments and plenty of room to stockpile a few more four- or five-star prospects if the cards fall right for Carroll. They just took the commitment of big-time Arizona defensive end Devon Kennard on Tuesday morning and await decisions from other rankings maximizers, including running back Bryce Brown, linebackers Manti Te’o and Jarvis Jones, tight end Orson Charles and offensive lineman Xavier Su’a-Filo, among others. Charles won’t even visit USC until after signing day, on Feb 13. It’s possible Brown won’t sign until March.

There are also rumors of secret surprises who will de-commit in favor of Troy on LOI day. Yet USC seems sure to lose four-star receiver Randall Carroll to UCLA, if not Arizona State, Cal or Oklahoma, where he’s supposed to visit on Jan. 30. “I committed so early in the process, so that’s the reason I’m still looking around, trying to find what interests me the best,” Carroll told Scout.com.

He later said during an Army All-America interview, “At USC, I’m not really trusting their coaches right now. They are telling me different things and they are too arrogant. I’m still committed but I’m looking around. At UCLA, my cousin’s (frosh defensive back Johnathan Franklin) already there. Everybody I know is there. They’ve got a great team. Neuheisel - he’s a winner, so you know he’s gonna end up taking over southern California sooner or later.” One can only wonder why Randall still calls himself a Trojan commitment, and if so, why is Carroll still recruiting him? The reason: Pete Carroll never gives up.

South Carolina receiver Alshon Jeffrey is another one of those early commitments for the Trojans, who compiled a lot of them. He’ll visit the Gamecock campus on Jan. 30 before deciding if his Trojan commit will stick. Four-star wide receiver Devon Flournoy has been also long been a soft Trojan commit and also visited Cal and UCLA. After his Jan. 16 visit to the campus, Flournoy confirmed to SCPlaybook.com that he was still committed to USC, adding “Everybody will find out where I am going on Feb. 4.”

Watching this Trojan class can become very confusing. Guys coming in, guys moving out, guys halfway in or out. There’s definitely more of this than usual, although in ’07, Carroll lost highly-regarded defensive back Donovan Warren to Michigan and offensive lineman James Wilson to Florida, along with quarterback Samson Szakacsy to Arizona State. That year USC still finished No. 2 to Florida. In ’08, the Trojans lost wide receiver Joe Adams to Arkansas and running back Chris Polk to Washington. They backed out of the top five.

We do know USC has lost valuable coordinators Steve Sarkisian and Nick Holt to Washington, a program which is now eagerly after some Trojan commits. What’s unclear is if the loss of those coaches has really affected Trojan recruiting. Sarkisian is known to be a good recruiter, but the answer is, probably not.

And there’s the underbelly of the Reggie Bush case looming inside every Trojan fan’s head. What’s the status of the investigation? How serious will any penalties be, if levied, and when will this happen? A month? A year? Is this uncertainty having any true impact on USC’s complicated recruiting scenario? Are opposing schools using the Bush scenario as a weapon to steer recruits away from Carroll? Do recruits honestly care and if so, do they care enough to literally change their choice?

Or has that Trojan talent stockpile simply become so filled to the brim with talent that inevitably, it becomes impossible to hold certain big-time recruits who know they can play much earlier somewhere else and become a bigger part of a rebuilding effort, assuming that effort ever really gets off the ground? Sometimes that’s a big assumption, as coaching turnover rates bear out.

In the end, it’s all business and it’s all complicated and uncertain, and if you’re a coach, you need a strong stomach. Two things are for sure. Carroll performs under pressure, and the Trojans will be one of the more entertaining programs to follow in the early morning hours of Feb. 4, when those fax machines will start squealing, spouting out decisions which will answer the mysterious question of how will this all end up for Troy.

Tyrik Rollison Sulphur Springs
Tyrik Rollison followed the path of Curtis Luper.

Tigers Rob Cowboys

There are usually many factors which affect a recruit’s ultimate decision about where to sign. Occasionally, it just comes down to the powerful impact a college assistant can have on a prospect.

Texas quarterback Tyrik Rollison said he had narrowed it down to Baylor, Kansas State and Oklahoma State. That was until Auburn hired away Cowboy assistant head coach Curtis Luper in early January. Luper coached Cowboy running backs in ’08 and Oklahoma State led the Big 12 and ranked eighth nationally in rushing with a 243 yards per game average.

Rollison was being recruited by Luper to Oklahoma State and the two forged a strong bond – before Auburn was ever in the picture. “We’ve built a solid relationship since he was at Oklahoma State,” Rollison said.

He credited his connection with Luper as being a major factor in his decision to commit to Auburn (which also managed to poach assistant Trooper Taylor from Oklahoma State). Rollison’s uncle was also coached in college by Luper, who’s been coaching since he was a grad assistant at Stephen F. Austin in ‘95.

SuperPrep mag ranked Rollison as the nation’s No. 12 signal-caller in the preseason. After his performance in the Army All-American game, where he clearly performed the best for the West, that ranking shot to No. 4 nationwide, primarily based on his electric running skills. Call it a calculated gamble. While he’ll need to work on his accuracy, Rollison’s the type of guy who could play early if he can mentally adjust to the speed of the college game quickly.

Rollison scored an otherworldly 109 touchdowns running and passing in two years at Sulphur Springs High School. As a senior, he threw for 4,728 yards and rushed for another 1,094. He looks like the type who may strike it big time or become just another hot shot who flames out. Judging from the amount he developed and improved just during his Army game practices, Gene Chizik may be about to sign lightning in a bottle.


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