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September 19, 2012

Mind of Mike: Has Texas given up on RSJ too soon?

MORE: Around the Southwest

Rivals.com national analyst Mike Farrell is never shy to express his opinion on everything from commitments to rankings to how on-field performance affects recruiting. In this weekly feature -- Inside the Mind of Mike -- the most experienced analyst in the industry gives some of his thoughts on the events of the past week.

Deep thoughts

I really like the new approach to Texas recruiting by Mack Brown except for one thing: Don't give up on a player as talented as Ricky Seals-Jones in September. Seals-Jones, who is now down to LSU and Texas A&M it appears, was dropped by the Longhorns recently in what I feel are once again old-school recruiting tactics. Texas is now offering juniors earlier rather than waiting until after LOI Day, and the Longhorns aren't taking as many early commitments so they have room down the stretch for some key targets at must-have positions. All of that is great, and I know Brown has his reasons for the decision. But dropping RSJ rather than fighting the Tigers and Aggies down the stretch is not what big-time programs often do these days. Would any SEC team back off a kid this talented? Would USC?

There was a lot of talk and outrage about UCLA dropping Marietta (Ga.) Lassiter quarterback Eddie Printz last week, if indeed that is what happened. Maybe I'm in the minority here, but if UCLA actually did drop him I don't take issue with it. After a hot start to the season and especially after the win over Nebraska, UCLA was suddenly intriguing to local quarterbacks who are more coveted and talented and who began to show more interest. In this cutthroat world where coaches such as Jim Mora essentially get three years to prove they belong, you simply take the best players you can when the opportunity presents itself. I, for one, was puzzled why UCLA left the west coast for a quarterback in the first place and didn't push harder for Hayden Rettig, Troy Williams and others. And for those who say it's unethical to drop recruits, what about the obscene number of prospects who drop verbal commitments themselves -- including Printz who was committed to SMU before following Adrian Klemm to L.A.? Again it's unclear whether Printz was dropped or whether he de-committed, but either way that's life in recruiting these days. Both sides sound like they are better off now anyhow.

Speaking of UCLA, the Bruins are currently very hot on the recruiting trail, drawing more and more attention from some high-profile prospects. The trio from Fresno (Calif.) Central East could very well end up at UCLA if the team continues to win. While Hatari Byrd is committed to Oklahoma, it wouldn't stun me to see him de-commit for the Bruins if his teammates L.J. Moore and Johnny Johnson end up there.

Moore will be with fellow California standout Khalfani Muhammad on an official visit this weekend to Notre Dame when the Irish play host to Michigan and hope to go 4-0. But more importantly, Moore will be with fellow defensive back Cole Luke from Arizona. How scary will Notre Dame be if they can start recruiting defensive backs? This is the best and most athletic Irish defense in years, and the current front seven will allow them to easily lure defensive linemen and linebackers. But they need to break through at corner and safety soon. Moore and Luke would be a nice 1-2 punch and can play either position down the line.

Note to recruits out there if you're looking for a role model on how to handle yourself in regards to rankings: Take a look at Aloha, Ore., running back Thomas Tyner, who just rushed for 644 yards and 10 TDs in one game on 38 carries and now has 1,245 yards and 17 scores in three games this season. Tyner was once rated as the No. 1 running back in the country by Rivals.com, but after a track injury this spring that followed an injury-plagued junior year, he lost that title and his fifth star. Tyner, who was once No. 9 overall in the country, is now No. 51 overall and is No. 6 at his position. Did he complain on Facebook, send nasty e-mails or demand to have his profile removed from Rivals.com on Twitter? Nope. He didn't say a word. He just put his head down and worked harder. After his record-setting game I asked him if he was a man on a mission and he simply replied, "Got a chip on my shoulder!" When healthy, there is no running back in this class who has a better combination of size and speed, even if the competition level isn't great. Oregon is getting a potential home run here.

One reason Miami is not an impressive team this year? How about the fact that three of the top quarterbacks in the country hail from Miami and none of them play for The U? In 2009, Geno Smith (Eugene Smith back then) chose West Virginia after Miami never really showed as much interest as others; Teddy Bridgewater had committed to Miami but de-committed for Louisville in 2011; and Rakeem Cato flipped from FIU to Marshall in the same year after never getting a look from the 'Canes. Stephen Morris hasn't been nearly as much of a problem as the defense, but it would still be nice for Miami fans to see any of these three under center.

Rankings of Yore

It was said on television and in print after this past weekend's game against Ohio State -- that not many people knew about California running back Brendan Bigelow. However, we did. In fact, Bigelow had some of the best junior film we've ever seen at Rivals.com coming out of Fresno (Calif.) Central East. And then the first ACL tear occurred after he rushed for 1,327 yards and 17 scores. Even still, the debate regarding five stars raged on because he was that good. After arduous rehab, Bigelow was ready for a breakout senior season, and that's when his second ACL tear occurred in a scrimmage. That's right, the same ACL he had previously torn. Bigelow had surgery again and most, including us, thought he'd never have the same speed again.

Bigelow, who originally committed to Washington only to flip to Cal, ended up ranked No. 11 running back and No. 176 overall in the 2011 class after initially pushing players like Malcolm Brown (Texas), Brandon Williams (Oklahoma) and Isaiah Crowell (Georgia) for the top spot in initial meetings. While he may never be an every-down back at Cal, his four carries for 160 yards against Ohio State certainly showed everyone that even after blowing out the same ACL two years in a row, speed is not an issue.

Another running back playing in the Pac-12, Stanford's Stepfan Taylor from Mansfield, Texas, had a nice weekend and was highly regarding coming out of high school. Taylor rushed 27 times for 153 yards and a score and caught 5 passes for 60 yards and another score in a 21-14 upset win over No. 1 USC. Taylor was ranked as the No. 20 running back in the country and No. 220 overall in 2009, a running back class that included five-stars Bryce Brown (now with the Philadelphia Eagles), Trent Richardson (Cleveland Browns) and Christine Michael (Texas A&M).

It doesn't really need to be said, but I'll say it anyhow: Former Sherman Oaks (Calif.) Notre Dame five-star quarterback Dayne Crist is a major bust. At first I gave him the benefit of the doubt because of his injuries (torn ACL and ruptured patella tendon at Notre Dame) but now that's no longer an excuse. He had his moments in South Bend under Charlie Weis and showed some promise, but now that he's with Weis at Kansas, he's brutal. This shows how interesting it is to rank quarterbacks. In 2008, the top nine pro-style quarterbacks were Blaine Gabbert (stud), Crist (dud), Mike Glennon (more stud than dud), Andrew Luck (stud), Star Jackson (dud), Landry Jones (stud), Jacory Harris (dud), Jordan Jefferson (dud) and Tyler Wilson (stud).

Quick Hitters

Talk about blowing your chance to impress arguably the top recruit on your board. North Little Rock, Ark. running back Altee Tenpenny is clearly the No. 1 prospect in state and, despite being committed to Alabama, has been a top priority for Arkansas all along. So what does he get to see when he takes an unofficial to Fayetteville to watch the Hawgs battle the Crimson Tide? A 52-0 drubbing where the Hawgs rushed for 58 yards on 37 carries while 'Bama put up 225. At least Arkansas can sell immediate playing time, right?

I know Baton Rouge (La.) University Lab defensive end Tim Williams recently said that Miami has a small lead over Florida State, Alabama and LSU right now, but if he ends up playing for anyone aside from the Tigers I would be stunned. He plans on being at every home game for LSU this season.

Is Colorado the worst BCS team in college football now? Very likely. Four-star tight end commitment Mitchell Parsons is looking around now because the Buffs are so horrid, and other uncommitted targets are dropping them from their lists as well.

Tennessee has a lot of recruiting momentum right now. Players such as safety Vonn Bell and offensive lineman Reeve Koehler are strong leans to the Vols, and stars Jalen Ramsey, Derrick Green, Marquez North, Derrick Henry, David Williams and many, many others showing increased interest.

However, Derek Dooley is now 0-11 in Knoxville against ranked teams and 0-18 all-time. That doesn't fly at Tennessee, and the Vols have a stretch of four straight games against ranked teams starting Sept. 29. If the trend continues, Dooley's seat will continue to heat up, and that will make recruiting interesting down the stretch.

There's going to be a whole lot of talent in Tallahassee this weekend when the 'Noles take on Clemson in arguably the most important game for FSU in ages. A win gives the Seminoles a clear path to the ACC title game with no one from the Coastal Division looking like much of a threat at all to hold them back from a BCS game. It will also send a message to remaining 2013 recruits, as well as big-name 2014 recruits expected to attend, that FSU is back. A loss? Recruiting will still go well, but they could start to lose ground on some difference-makers, especially with the team in Gainesville starting to thrive again and Clemson a danger to everyone on the recruiting trail.



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