March 2009 Archives

California cruising

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I have just completed my annual odyssey to California, up and down and criss-crossing the state for five days and 3,000 miles. Year in and year out, Los Angeles and southern California is the best area in the country for football talent. And the class of 2010 is better than normal.

Notre Dame is a major presence here with chief recruiter Brian Polian, who recruited the Irish's top three players in the class of 2009. Under coach Charlie Weis, Notre Dame is making its presence felt in Los Angeles as it did in the 1960s.

Michigan, Penn State, Minnesota and even Indiana are here. Northwestern is recruiting several top-flight academic players. But Illinois isn't visible. I'm surprised that the Big 10 isn't move visible in southern California but the conference appears to be concentrating more on Florida and Texas.

Hope has hopes for Chicago

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Purdue's football program wants to make an impact in Chicago under new coach Danny Hope as it once did under coach Jack Mollenkopf.

Under Mollenkopf, the Boilermakers recruited what arguably was one of the best classes in Big 10 history. In 1969, they signed five blue-chippers out of the Chicago area--Darryl Stingley of Marshall, Otis Armstrong of Farragut, Dave Butz of Maine South, Gregg Bingham of Gordon Tech and Pete Baumgartner of St. Patrick.

Purdue wasn't a major presence in Chicago under coach Joe Tiller but Hope, who recruited the city and suburbs when he was an assistant at Louisville, plans to make Chicago, Indiana and Florida his primary recruiting bases.

Who is a difference-maker?

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What is a difference-maker and who are the biggest difference-makers in the class of 2010?

A difference-maker is a guy who can come in as a freshman and make an immediate impact on any team he chooses, someone who has the ability to change the game around with his play.

He usually is a quarterback or running back or wide receiver or a defensive end who can change the course of a game with a sack or fumble.

In the class of 2010, Seantrel Henderson of St. Paul, Minn., is a difference-maker because he is a 6-7, 320-pounder who can dominate at left tackle on offense. He is the No. 1 player in the nation, according to my evaluations at this time.

What is Rivals thinking?

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Evaluating high school football players isn't a perfect science. There are a lot of recruiting services out there and everybody does it differently. For example, about the only thing Rivals and I agree on at the moment is that 6-8, 300-pound offensive lineman Seantrel Henderson of St. Paul, Minn., is the No. 1 player in the class of 2010.

I singled out Henderson last November, the first time I have ever rated an offensive lineman so highly. Rivals came to the same conclusion a week ago. Rivals doesn't agree with the way I conduct my business. I think it is curious that, with all of their vast resources, they usually come around to my way of thinking when the season is over.

Let's examine the class of 2010 as we look ahead to the May evaluation period:

Meet me in St. Louis, Louie

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I interviewed 22 players in St. Louis recently and was surprised to learn that Illinois, Northwestern and Notre Dame aren't much of a presence in the area, not as they have been in previous years. Instead, Iowa and Missouri have the most presence in the St. Louis area.

I think a lot of schools, including Illinois, Northwestern, Notre Dame and other Big 10 schools, are missing the boat in St. Louis. There aren't any super stars in the area but there are a lot of good prospects who can compete in the Big 10. I can only surmise that Illinois, Northwestern and Notre Dame are focusing on other areas.

For example, 6-3, 230-pound defensive end DeRon Flood of O'Fallon, Ill., just across the river from St. Louis, likes Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota. But he has no offers. I think he is Big 10 material.

NCSA for one-stop shopping

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I used to watch 50 films a day and college coaches, as many as 10 a day in the 1980s and 1990s, used to come to my house during the May evaluation period to watch as many prospects as they could in one sitting without a bag of popcorn. I don't think Roger Ebert ever watched as much film in one day.

But times have changed. NCAA rules have limited the time they can be on the road and I have to be on the road more than ever before, making trips from coast to coast to personally interview the top 1,500 seniors each year. There just isn't enough time to conduct the film sessions as we used to.

So National Collegiate Scouting Association (NCSA) is a natural progression. Chris Krause, who founded the Chicago-based in 2000 and has been in the recruiting business since 1989, has come up with a unique concept that will benefit college coaches and high school athletes.

Why Florida is so dominant

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If you are a tourist, you love Florida…the Gulf Coast beaches, Disney World, golf, South Beach, Palm Beach, Daytona Beach, fishing, shopping on St. Armand’s Circle or Worth Avenue, Key West, Cape Canaveral, the Grapefruit League.

But if you are a college football recruiter, you love Florida even more. Florida produces more college prospects than any state with the possible exception of Texas. The Chicago area produces as much talent as any city in Florida—Miami or Tampa or Jacksonville or Tallahassee or Orlando—but the rest of Illinois isn’t comparable.

In Florida, every small town—from Apopka to Senffner to Eagle Lake to Frostproof to Pahokee to Mount Dora to Deltona to Okeechobee to Cross City—has a big-time football player. Football is so important in the state that every community is galvanized around the high school coach and his program.

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