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December 5, 2012

Mind of Mike: Head-shaking decisions

MIND OF MIKE: Nov. 29 | Nov. 14 | Nov. 7 | Oct. 31

Mike Farrell is the National Football Recruiting Analyst for Rivals.com. Want more of what's on Mike's mind throughout the week? Follow him on Twitter @rivalsmike.

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

What the heck is going on with recruiting these days? Despite my decade-plus experience in the recruiting world and having seen almost everything, there are still a few things that surprise me, and many of them happened this past week. Here are a few things that have me baffled.

EXAMPLE NO. 1: Mission Viejo, Calif. safety Max Redfield was committed to USC, de-committed from the Trojans after a great visit to Notre Dame but has always been very high on Oregon and is always wearing Ducks gear or talking about how high he is on Chip Kelly's team.

Then, all of a sudden, Oregon drops Redfield, apparently because they think he's already a done deal for Notre Dame. While I disagree with simply giving up on a five-star prospect who has always shown great interest in your program and wants to take a visit, punting on this one is the Ducks' prerogative. Redfield has now decided to take a visit to USC this weekend, which clearly shows he's still open to the process. A good source told me last night that Redfield has essentially told the Irish coaches he is coming, but when did that ever stop someone from recruiting a player?

Either Kelly is mailing it in and is already counting his millions for whatever NFL job he takes, or there is more to the story here. Either way, things look even better for Notre Dame with Redfield, but why if he's a done deal to the Irish is he visiting USC? Why not just end the process and head to South Bend? Puzzling.

EXAMPLE NO. 2: Detroit (Mich.) Cass Tech offensive tackle David Dawson has me scratching my head. Despite being committed to Michigan, Dawson flirted with Florida quite openly and when he wanted to take a visit to Gainesville, Michigan yanked his offer and said it considered him no longer committed. Dawson goes to Florida, doesn't like it and comes home and names Michigan State, Ohio State and Wisconsin as his top three. Now he has official visits set with the Buckeyes, Alabama (out of the blue) and Michigan State and the Badgers are now out.

Then Dawson reaches out to the Michigan coaches and suddenly he has an official set for Ann Arbor for Dec. 14. Another former Michigan commitment, Gareon Conley, will be visiting Michigan that weekend, another example of how the rule coaches try to enforce to committed kids telling them they can't visit other schools doesn't work. Conley will probably end up at Ohio State, but it appears Dawson could end up back at Michigan and all this started because he wanted to see Gainesville, a place he ended up not liking. Huh?

EXAMPLE NO. 3: Ashburn (Va.) Briar Woods linebacker Matt Rolin was a kid I crossed off my "follow" list when he committed to South Carolina.

At the beginning of the process, I thought he might head to Virginia Tech, where his brother plays, but once he set his sights on the Gamecocks it was all over. After all, pretty much all of his family aside from his brother graduated from South Carolina and he was tweeting like he was already a member of the team.

So when he took a quiet official visit to Florida this past weekend, at first I didn't think much of it. Just a recruit having some fun, right? Rolin has since told me he is torn between South Carolina and Florida, it's "50-50" between the two and he will decide at the end of the week.

Why the delay? Rolin is having ACL surgery, which is being performed by the South Carolina team surgeon, this week. Huh? That's right, after they repair his knee he could flip to a hated rival. I'm not buying it. I think he sticks with the Gamecocks despite the temptation provided by Florida.

EXAMPLE NO. 4: Winter Park, Fla. dual-threat quarterback Asiantii Woulard, a four-star prospect whose season ended with a broken ankle and who doesn't have an offer list loaded with schools still looking for quarterbacks, de-committed from South Florida when Skip Holtz was fired.

It's one thing if schools are beating down your door and you ended the season on a high note, but it's another to de-commit from your top option with only N.C. State as a fallback with a new coach who has likely never heard of you from his time at Northern Illinois.

Maybe a BCS school steps up here and takes a kid with a ton of potential or maybe he re-commits to USF, but why de-commit in the first place if you don't have a ton of options?

EXAMPLE NO. 5: Arlington (Texas) Martin running back Kyle Hicks de-committed from Texas. OK, that's happened before. Not often, but it does happen. However, Hicks decided to flip to TCU. No offense to the Horned Frogs, but this doesn't happen and hasn't happened in my memory.

Kids flip from TCU to Texas when the Longhorns want them (see Daje Johnson last year) but not the other way. I know TCU is closer to home, the offense is a slightly better fit for him and the Texas depth chart at running back is a bit intimidating, but still. This is more of an indictment of Mack Brown and what has happened at Texas in recent years than anything else.

EXAMPLE NO. 6: Iowa State became a recruiting power, at least for a week. First it was offensive lineman Jake Campos de-committing from Missouri to head to Iowa State, and then it was 2014 Iowa wide receiver star Allen Lazard following in his brother and father's footsteps to commit to the Cyclones.

Campos is proof positive that the move to the SEC has not helped Missouri nearly as much as it has Texas A&M. Lazard still only has offers from Iowa and Nebraska, but he will be a 30-offer kid before all is said and done.

At least for one week, Iowa State is having a better recruiting week than the school that essentially runs the Big 12, those Longhorns.

EXAMPLE NO. 7: Marion (Mass.) Tabor Academy defensive tackle Tevin Montgomery was meticulous about the recruiting process, doing careful research on schools, meeting with coaches and academic advisers and taking his visits. So how does he end the process? He commits to a school, Boston College, after the Eagles fired their head coach Frank Spaziani -- and before they hired Steve Addazio -- and with the rest of the coaching staff in flux. Is BC, a team that went 2-10 this season with wins over Maine and Maryland, more attractive without a head coach? Could be.

Since my last column, there has been quite a bit of movement when it comes to BCS hires. Here's a brief breakdown of the hires and how they will impact recruiting at their schools.
AUBURN: Gus Malzahn is a solid hire, he essentially won the national title for Auburn with Cam Newton, he knows the lay of the land and he is a good fit. However, if he doesn't retain Trooper Taylor and Tommy Thigpen, this will not be a boost for recruiting.

ARKANSAS: Bret Bielema makes no sense, no sense at all. He's a very good coach, but his no-nonsense approach to recruiting won't fly in the SEC. If he thinks Urban Meyer was too aggressive in the Big Ten, wait until he has to deal with the entire SEC. Ouch.

N.C. STATE: Dave Doeren is a good coach, and he will bring excitement to the Wolfpack. However, it all depends on how he surrounds himself. The state of North Carolina has been low-hanging fruit for bigger programs south of the state, and key assistant coaching hires are crucial. Guys like Thigpen, who killed it at UNC before heading to Auburn, are needed.

BOSTON COLLEGE: Steve Addazio is a ramped-up version of Frank Spaziani and that's not a great thing. He's a solid coach, but this wasn't the sexy hire BC wanted or needed to boost recruiting, especially coming off a 2-10 season.

KENTUCKY: Mark Stoops is a very good coach and a solid recruiter, but this is mission impossible in the SEC. Kentucky is a hoops school with no winning football tradition trying to recruit down South against stronger SEC teams and up north against Meyer and company. Not a recipe for success.

PURDUE: Darrell Hazell is a good get for the Boilermakers because he has experience recruiting at a high level from Ohio State and he is adept at recruiting the Midwest.

What's out there, aside from Tennessee, isn't all that attractive. Here's what each BCS school without a coach must do to hit a home run.

TENNESSEE: Get Charlie Strong now, have him lure Taylor from Auburn and watch the recruits flock to Knoxville. Anything less will be a disappointment at this stage.

CALIFORNIA: Get Chris Petersen as a splashy hire and show you can lure him away from Boise. The guy can coach, he is a great talent evaluator, and he would be dangerous in the BCS and in California.

COLORADO: Get Butch Jones as a must-hire, make a splash and land the guy turning down jobs left and right. Allow him to continue as one of the better talent evaluators in the country, and have him hire some coaches who can recruit the West Coast.

SOUTH FLORIDA: Get Houston Nutt, a multiple winner of SEC Coach of the Year honors, and let him recruit the state and neighboring states selling his resume at Ole Miss and Arkansas.

TEMPLE: Hire Matt Rhule from the New York Giants and hope he can keep the recruiting momentum started by Al Golden and continued by Addazio in a dying conference.

Quick Hitters

When multiple changes are made on your coaching staff, as they were at Virginia this week, two things are certain. First, the coach is on the hot seat, and Mike London will have to have a big year next season, or his tenure in Charlottesville could come to an end.

Second, recruiting will take a hit. I think Virginia will keep many of this year's recruits, but there will be some casualties and next year's potential recruiting haul, with players such as Quin Blanding, Derrick Nnadi, Jamil Kamara and possibly Andrew Brown, could be in jeopardy if they don't start winning some games.

Florida has a chance to really become the dominant force in the Sunshine State with Miami awaiting sanctions and head coach Al Golden being mentioned for other jobs. Meanwhile, FSU is stuck playing NIU in the Orange Bowl.

Sure the Gators drew a short straw as well, playing Louisville in their BCS game, but if the 'Noles struggle with or lose to Northern Illinois, a MAC team whose biggest win was over Kent State, then that will be a big blow to recruiting.

If Florida and FSU take care of business, you still have to give the Gators the edge because of the power of the SEC and all the hits the ACC has been taking on the recruiting trail from other schools as a league that is about to become as irrelevant as the Big East.

Oddly enough, I heard rumors about Jimbo Fisher and Will Muschamp being mentioned for other jobs, with the Fisher talk surrounding Tennessee and Muschamp talk around Texas if Mack Brown steps down. That's how crazy these coaching rumors have become.

Despite flirting with UCLA, I don't think Placer, Calif., defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes flips from USC as long as Ed Orgeron stays on board. But scheduling his last official visit with Notre Dame is a bit odd. Lane Kiffin had told recruits they can visit elsewhere if they want (he probably regrets that now after a 7-5 season) as long as they make their last official to USC. This appears odd as his USC visit is supposed to be Jan. 18.

Random recruiting guess of the week (not a prediction), a fun new tradition here at Mind of Mike. Tempe (Ariz.) Marcos De Niza cornerback Priest Willis chooses UCLA. Don't ask me why, that's part of the fun new tradition.

While Alabama is located in a talent-rich area of the country, an interesting development is taking place with its recruitment of offensive linemen. The Crimson Tide have made a noticeable move toward the Midwest when looking for top talent at that position and will have success. There is little doubt about that. Braden Smith of Kansas, Ross Pierschbacher of Iowa and Andy Bauer of Missouri are all four-star prospects in the Class of 2014 who have returned from unofficial visits to Tuscaloosa with great things to say about the program, coaching staff and environment, and why not?

If Alabama hasn't become O-Line U lately, who has? Another four-star, Jamarco Jones of Illinois, has yet to visit but also holds the Crimson Tide in very high regard. This has to be making a number of Big 12 and Big Ten schools uneasy.

Quick note to Robert Nkemdiche. If you're going to commit to Ole Miss, and we all think you are, you might want to do it sooner than later. There are guys like Antonio Conner and Laquon Treadwell who might be influenced a bit by your decision. If not, start taking those visits.

Speaking of one player influencing recruits, has anyone seen an impact since Tim Tebow like the one Johnny Manziel is having on recruits?

Just wait until he becomes the first freshman Heisman winner this weekend. Georgia was thought to be a lock for JaQuay Williams, a former Auburn commitment, but Texas A&M came swooping in, selling Johnny Football.

After Williams, it was thought that A&M would try to close the class at wide receiver only with Ricky Seals-Jones. However, former FSU commitment Tony Stevens is now interested as well. The Aggies already have one of their best wide receiver classes ever and much of it can be attributed to Manziel.

If Tennessee hires Strong, stars such as E.J. Levenberry (FSU), Jalen Ramsey (USC) and others will have a renewed interest in the Vols. In fact, Tennessee could be one of the most exciting programs to watch down the stretch if this happens.

Tahaan Goodman will continue to flirt with some SEC schools, but I think he stays out West and heads to USC or UCLA (watch out for the Bruins here). Meanwhile, Leon McQuay III is leaning to Vanderbilt, I think with USC looming this weekend or next.

Back in my first-ever Mind of Mike in September, I mentioned how it simply made sense for Goodman to stay West and for McQuay to stay East and that might very well happen. However, I think McQuay is higher on the pecking list than Goodman and that USC visit looms large.

Mike Mitchell will finally be at Ohio State this weekend, but does that mean the commitment that was supposed to happen in July without a visit will now happen on a visit? Not so sure, he seems to want to take a few other visits, but you know it will be hard to say no to Meyer.




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