ESPN.com - RECRUITING - Lemming: Arms race winding down


 
Wednesday, February 7
Lemming: Arms race winding down

If you're a college program that desperately needs to sign a top QB prospect this season, you'd better hurry, 'cause they're going fast. With the announcement this week by No. 1-rated signal-caller Brock Berlin (Shreveport, La.) that he's committing to Steve Spurrier's Florida Gators, nearly all the elite quarterback recruits in the class of 2000 have made their pledges.

In an Oct. 19 chat with users, ESPN.com's college football recruiting analyst, Tom Lemming, offered his evaluation of Berlin, along with fellow star QBs Brandon Hance (Purdue commitment) and Jason Campbell (still deciding).

Here's an edited transcript of the chat:

WopGator: Tom, how big of a pickup was it for the Gators to land Brock Berlin this week?

Tom Lemming:
I think it was a huge pickup. He's the No. 1-rated QB in the country by my estimation. He may not be the prototypical QB in terms of height and arm strength, but he has all the intangibles. He's a precision passer, a good all-around athlete and a good leader who fits perfectly into Steve Spurrier's offense because of his intelligence and ability to pick up an offense quickly. He's just what the doctor ordered for the Gators.

Boilerjb: How highly ranked is Brandon Hance, the QB out of California and future Boilermaker? I've heard a lot of comparisons to Drew Brees already.

ABOUT TOM LEMMING
Tom Lemming is editor of Prep Football Report. For information on how to subscribe to Prep Football Report's magazine, newsletters and website, log on to www.prepfootballreport.com. For year-round recruiting updates, call Tom Lemming's Prep Football Hotline at 900-860-9888. Calls are $1.79 per minute, and callers must be 18 years old or have parents' permission.
Tom Lemming:
I think he's one of the very best QBs in the country. He's on the cover of my magazine. He may be the shortest of the top-rated QBs, but he may be the best passer of the bunch. In three or four years, he could be a Heisman candidate. His only drawback is lack of height, but he has as much potential as any QB in the country and is a great early catch for the Boilermakers. I would have had him as the No. 1 QB in the nation if he were three inches taller. I didn't see a better passer in the nation this year.

jheilig: Are recruits shying away from the Pac-10 in favor of other conferences this year?

Tom Lemming:
I don't think so. You're always going to have a lot of competition for the superstars on the West Coast, such as D.J. Williams, Amon Gordon, Teyo Johnson, and Tab Perry. Those type of players are always going to look around nationally. The Pac-10 has to become more national in recruiting themselves. Right now UCLA, USC, Arizona, Washington and Cal all appear in line to have outstanding years. I don't think there's going to be any marked drop-off in recruiting classes this year in the Pac-10.

Aron: Where would you rank Penn State's class so far?

Tom Lemming:
They've got 26 commitments this year already. It looks like a solid class, but PSU probably won't finish with a top 10 class or they may end up at the No. 10 spot. It's a solid class, but they're missing out on the super players who will be committing in December and January.

Hakamaj: Has Michigan landed any recruits that can help them next year?

Tom Lemming
: At this stage, no. They have eight commitments. Generally the skill-position players will make early statements as freshmen, but I don't see any impact players among their current commitments at skill positions.

DustyT: Who are the top recruits in the state of Texas? Do you think they will stay in the state?

Tom Lemming:
The top players are two receivers: B.J. Johnson from South Grand Prairie, who is leaning toward FSU and Texas over Tennessee and UCLA at this stage; and Roy Williams from Odessa Permian, who is also leaning to Texas over Tennessee and UCLA. The third great player in the state is DB Adrian Mayes from Houston. He appears at this stage to be headed out of state, and is looking at Tennessee, Michigan State, Notre Dame, FSU, and Arizona, among others. Two more great players are Brock Edwards from Ft. Worth, a prep fullback who is ranked as one of the top TE prospects (he's looking at Texas A&M, Texas and FSU) and Derick Arnold of Houston, who is looking to go out of state and is considering Arizona, Nebraska and Michigan.

Danny: How good a QB is Jason Campbell?

Tom Lemming:
Jason ranks even with Brock Berlin as the top QB in the nation. Brock may be more productive at this stage, but Jason has a higher ceiling because of his height, arm strength and all-around athletic ability (he's also a big-time basketball recruit). He's considering Georgia, LSU, Florida and Auburn along with Ole Miss. During my visit to Taylorsville, Miss., in March, Jason was adamant about staying close to home.

Jcashin101: How good is Charles Rogers from Saginaw, Mich.?

Tom Lemming:
I have him ranked as the nation's top prospect, so he'd better be pretty good. He's the closest player I've seen in ability to Randy Moss in the last five years. He's not in Randy's class at this stage, but he's a remarkably gifted athlete with the ability to be an All-Pro someday. He has it down to five schools: FSU, Tennessee, UCLA, Michigan State and Michigan. He's a difference-maker.

CB: Should Notre Dame fans be concerned that they only have one verbal at this stage of the game when other top programs have numerous commitments? Who are some of the big names that ND fans should keep their eyes on?

Tom Lemming:
Fans shouldn't be concerned. Everything to date has worked out well for N.D. They've lost very few of the players they've offered scholarships to, and 90 percent of the players they've offered are waiting to take December and January visits, but I do believe that the success of this campaign for N.D. will rely on the ability of the new members of the coaching staff to talk blue-chip athletes into official visits. The key states in N.D.'s recruiting this year are Florida, Texas, and California.

Josh: What are Tennessee's chances of landing the top recruiting class this year, and who are they in the running for now?

Tom Lemming:
Their chances are as good as anybody's. If I had to rank the schools right now in terms of potential classes, the Vols would be in the top 5. Among the top-rated recruits, they're in the running for Charlie Rogers, Michael Munoz, Teyo Johnson, Sean Tufts, Sean Young, and Ray Mann. Those are some of the big names, but there are many others.

Jason: Is anyone in the ACC keeping up with Florida State in recruiting?

Tom Lemming:
No. At this stage, everyone else is way behind. North Carolina, Clemson, Georgia Tech and N.C. State are doing a good job, but none can come close to FSU's recruiting.

Dreamland: Does 'Bama have a number of recruits coming to the Tennessee game?

Tom Lemming:
Since it's such a big game, I would assume that most of the major players in the state will be there, along with players from neighboring states who are not playing high school games on Saturday and are within driving distance.

Marvelos: What is the situation with Darrell Lee from St. Louis?

Tom Lemming:
Darrell, from Kirkwood, Mo., who is the No. 1 defensive player in the nation, has set up official visits to Florida, Missouri, Colorado, UCLA and Michigan. Right now he says all five are equal and that he won't make a decision until Christmas.

PSU Jason: What do you think of Kwame Harris from Delaware? Does PSU have a shot at landing him? He seems like a future pro.

Tom Lemming:
I think he's the No. 1 offensive lineman in the nation and, on film, the best OL I've seen in the nation in the past two or three years. At this stage, he's even ahead of Orlando Pace and Jon Ogden when they were high school seniors. Penn State is one of five schools that Kwame is still talking about, but PSU may run out of scholarships before he makes a decision, which should be in January.

Chauncey: How do you rank RB Marcus Houston (TJ in Denver)? He looks like he has the physical tools, but his numbers aren't great.

Tom Lemming:
I rank him as the No. 1 RB in the nation based on potential, not numbers. He had great numbers as a junior and has the prototypical height, speed, vision and strength that coaches are looking for. And he has one more important ingredient: super grades. Right now, his favorites are UCLA (where his brother is a sophomore DB), USC, Colorado, Miami, Ohio State, Georgia, Notre Dame, Michigan and Arizona State.

Hotlanta nole: How about D.J. Williams of California? Where do you think he will end up?

Tom Lemming:
D.J.'s top three schools right now are FSU, Texas and Cal, with Cal being the darkhorse in the race because they have D.J.'s best friend Atari Callan as a freshman tailback.

TheEXEC: How good is Teyo Johnson? Reports have him as possibly the best at his position. What is your opinion?

Tom Lemming:
No one knows what his position really is. He's played QB, WR, TE, DE and LB in high school, but he most certainly has to rank as one of the top five athletes in the nation. He would prefer to play both football and basketball in college and right now ranks Michigan, FSU, Tennessee, Ohio State, USC and UCLA as his top schools. He could be an All-American at TE or DE if he chooses football.

Christopher Frederick: How is the recruiting at Va. Tech going to be affected now that the Hokies have established themselves as a national contender?

Tom Lemming:
It'll probably go along about the same as normal. Va. Tech's staff has always been one of the better ones in terms of evaluating prospects. With their newfound success, it will make them an even tougher team to recruit against in-state, but will also help them recruit nationally in states like Florida, New Jersey and the Carolinas. They've had limited success in those states in the past.

Smythe: How does Sloan Thomas compare to B.J. Johnson and Roy Williams, and where is he probably headed?

Tom Lemming:
Sloan has already told Texas that he is going to commit to them. He ranks as one of the state's top receivers. He has similar size and speed to Williams and Johnson.

Stephanie: How is Nebraska's class shaping up?

Tom Lemming:
Nebraska is in line to have an outstanding year. Their staff is one of the nation's best in terms of evaluating early contacts. Among their commitments, TE Chris Septak from Millard, Neb., has All-American ability as does LB Jason Richenberger of Liberty, Mo., and CB Lornell McPherson of Omaha. Also, Nebraska is in on many of the nation's top players and should receive visits from blue-chippers from coast to coast. Frank Solich has proven to be an outstanding recruiting head coach, and I'd have to rank him as one of the best nationally after just two years on the job. He makes more personal calls than just about any coach in the nation.

JD: Is South Carolina experiencing greater interest due to Holtz's presence?

Tom Lemming:
Without a doubt. Despite not having a win this season, they could wind up with one of the top three or four classes in the SEC. They're getting a lot of interest in Florida and the Carolinas and many of the Eastern states, most of it due to assistant coach Dave Roberts, who's arguably the nation's top recruiter. He's a whirlwind, and when all is said and done, I think that he and Holtz will be the main reasons that the Gamecocks will be going to a major bowl in two to three years. S.C. fans have to understand that the talent level was almost down to zero when Holtz took over and that it will take at least three years for them to be able to compete in the conference that has the nation's top talent.

orange and blue: What can you say about Sam Maldonado of Harrison, N.Y.? He looks like he has the skills to be a great back.

Tom Lemming:
When I saw him this spring, I thought he had blue-chip potential at both a LB and a RB, and he hasn't disappointed. He's off to a great start this season and has heard from about every big school in the East and some Western schools including Arizona and UCLA. Right now he favors FSU over Colorado, Ohio State, Arizona, Syracuse and UCLA.

Peter: What is the early buzz for John Cooper and the Buckeyes?

Tom Lemming:
Once again, they're doing a tremendous job nationally. For them to have a top 5 class, they have to sign a lot of national prospects. It's a good, but not great, year for talent in Ohio, so they have to recruit nationally more than they have in past years. At this early stage, they appear to be doing that.

Josh: How good is Karlton Neal?

Tom Lemming:
Karlton has potential to be one of the best LBs in the nation. However, he's been inconsistent as a senior with hot and cold spells. I think committing early has not helped his game.

Jim (MSU student): Michigan State's recruiting class? How does it look for the future?

Tom Lemming:
If I had to pick one school nationally that could be the surprise of the 1999-2000 recruiting season, it would be MSU. They're off to their best start recruiting-wise in 30 years. Their class so far is led by Jeff Smoker, one of the nation's top six QBs. They're one of the leaders for Charlie Rogers and also are in on at least half of the nation's top 100 players -- a remarkable feat for a school that had trouble taking any players away from Michigan and Notre Dame in the past. Their recruiting has been turned around by coach Nick Saban and recruiting coordinator Brad Lawing.

Miguel Olano: As a USC fan, I like our receivers but am not so crazy about our offensive line. Is USC in line to get some big offensive linemen?

Tom Lemming:
Right now they have a commitment from one of the nation's premier offensive linemen, Joe McGuire, and are also chasing other super linemen such as Paul Mociler, Shannon Snell from Tampa, Max Starks from Orlando, Blair Jones, and Eric O'Brien from Reno.

Ali: Who are the top players in South Florida and where are they going? Also, is S. Florida the most fertile recruiting area in the country?

Tom Lemming:
South Florida at this stage ranks as the No. 3 recruiting area behind L.A. and Chicago, based on number of players in the NFL. The top players this year are RB Willis McGahee of Miami, who's looking at OSU, Tennessee, Miami, Auburn and Florida; DB Bryant McFadden of Hollywood, Fla., who's looking at FSU, Miami and Michigan; and TE Willie Roberts of Miami, who's looking at OSU, Ga. Tech, Auburn, Florida and Miami.

Pat: Will Auburn's class improve over the last few years?

Tom Lemming:
I believe so. They're doing a great job in the South, particularly Alabama, Georgia and Florida, and QB Derrick Crudup of Deerfield Beach, Fla., is a great recent catch. The key is for Auburn to start luring more in-state prospects away from the Crimson Tide, which they haven't been doing the last couple of years.

Dan: Who are your top juniors this year?

Tom Lemming:
One of them would have to be Kwame Harris' younger brother, Orien, a DL from Newark, Del. Others include Casey Clausen's younger brother, Rick, from Mission Hills, Calif.; RB Kevin Jones of Springfield, Pa.; LB Chauncey Davis of Auburndale, Fla.; WR Montrell Jones of Louisville, Ky.; RB Carnell Williams of Attalla, Ala.; DB Fred Lee of Harrisburg, Pa.; and QB Justin Holland of Lakewood, Colo.

Badger Booster: Do you think Barry Alvarez can take the Wisconsin Badgers to national prominence year in and year out?

Tom Lemming:
He's doing it right now, so I think he most definitely can. The Badgers' recruiting has been on a national scale for a few years now, and as long as Alvarez is coaching there, I don't see them dropping too far from their present position.

Thanks to everyone for all the great questions. I'm planning to be back to chat again at 3 p.m. ET on Tuesday, Nov. 2.

 




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