It’s back. The AJC Recruiting Mailbag has made its triumphant return! OK, so maybe it’s not so triumphant, but it’s here and it’s something to read. At least I hope you do. Anyway, the plan is to run The Mailbag as a regular feature every Friday from now until, well, you guys quit sending me sensible questions to answer.
On that note, thanks to the many of you who sent in queries this week. I tried to answer all of them but I wasn’t able to. Some of the leftovers I’ll include next week and some, well, I’m sorry, but they just didn’t make the cut. Of course, for this to be a successful endeavor I need readership participation. So if you ever think of a recruiting situation you wish I’d address in The Blog, just jot it down in the form of a question and email it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And remember, your questions do not always have to be limited to college recruiting. I’m open to any topics. Last year, for instance The Mailbag became an impromptu forum for critiquing the HBO show Entourage (and its inexplicable failure to utilize the talents of Emmanuelle Chriqui, aka “Sloan”). FYI, other shows I watch include Modern Family, The Office, 30 Rock, Survivor and Episodes. I tried to get into the new Showtime joint called Shameless but that one kind of lost me quick. As always, I’m open to your suggestions.
So without any further ado, I give you The Mailbag. Now where’s that little thingamajig that opens envelopes? . . .
Tim from Smyrna asks: I know everyone is harping on Isaiah Crowell being the next “big thing” at running back this coming year, sort of like Marcus Lattimore was for South Carolina. I certainly hope it works out that way. However, I’m curious about Isaiah’s durability. Coming out of high school I don’t recall much about Lattimore missing high school games due to injuries, etc. That’s not necessarily the case for Crowell, at least from what I remember reading. To me, durability is vital to a running back’s early success, aside from his ability to understand and implement the system. What has been the general inside consensus on Isaiah’s ability to withstand the prolonged hits high-level running backs take at the college level?
Chip: Durability and the ability withstand the punishment of playing in the SEC is always a question for running backs coming into the league. Obviously, Lattimore passed that test with flying colors as he had 249 carries for 1,197 yards and 17 touchdowns as a freshman at South Carolina. But even he was unable to negotiate the season without being sidelined with injuries. He was knocked out of the Chick-fil-A Bowl early with a concussion, did not play against Vanderbilt and was limited to only 11 carries against Arkansas.
And while Lattimore and Crowell are similar in terms of high school production and notoriety, they’re different backs in terms of both style and physical stature. Lattimore is 6-foot, 230 pounds. Crowell is generously listed at 5-11, 210. Lattimore grinded it out in both high school and college. He had 284 carries for 1,836 yards as a high school sophomore, 305 for 2,314 as a junior and 260 for 1,898 as a senior. He had 37 carries in one game against Georgia and 40 against Florida. Crowell had 1,915 yards on only 175 carries as a junior and 1,721 on 147 carries as a senior.
Georgia coach Mark Richt has never asked a player to carry the load like Lattimore did. It’s likely that carries will be fairly evenly distributed between Crowell, Ealey and King, especially during the early going. And while Crowell missed four games his senior season with foot and ankle injuries, that was as much a product of Carver-Columbus being much better than anybody else in their region as it did with Crowell being hurt. Coach Dell McGee maintains that Crowell could have played in any of those games if needed.
The bottom line is this: More than 50 schools thought enough of Crowell to offer him a scholarship and at least one recruiting service ranked him No. 1 in the nation at his position. So Georgia is glad it got him. But you never know how a prospect is going to perform until he suits up at the next level.
John Nott of Atlanta asks: (1) The rumor mill is in full swing with who will be Georgia Tech’s next basketball coach. Surprisingly, many of the rumored candidates signed big-time Georgia players in their 2011 class. Chris Mooney (Richmond) signed Alonzo Nelson-Ododa, Anthony Grant (Alabama) signed Nick Jacobs and I have even heard one fan rumor GT may try to pursue Kevin Stallings (Vanderbilt), who signed Dai-Jon Parker. If GT lands one of these coaches, would these recruits be loyal to the school (like Julian Royal is with Georgia Tech) or could their follow the HC to GT. (2) I heard a rumor Jerrard Randall was not going to be able to clear the Hill at GT, and has dropped them from contention. What have you heard from your end?
Chip: First, Mr. Nott, let me confess that I’m not privy to any inside scoop on who Tech is pursuing for its head coaching job. I will say that it should come as no surprise that some of the candidates might have signed players out of Atlanta recently. Having a good relationship with local high school and AAU coaches should be an important criteria for anyone the Yellow Jackets hire, in my opinion. As for players following any of these coaches to The Flats, that’s a little more troublesome. NCAA rules are explicit about signing with a school and not with a coach. And while they can get out of a scholarship obligation if a coach leaves, getting cleared to follow a coach somewhere is not likely to happen. . . .
As for Randall, I’ll just say it has been my understanding from the beginning that academics could be an issue with the dual-threat quarterback from Hollywood, Fla. But I don’t have access to his academic record and am hesitant to discuss that. But I think the Jackets are set at quarterback whether he comes or not. I’ve said before, I’m very impressed with both Synjyn Days and Vad Lee.
SUhatter94 asks: I always hear about all these great football players leaving the state to play elsewhere and how UGA and Tech can’t keep the homegrown talent. But isn’t it true that Georgia has way more high school football talent than the surrounding states (Florida excluded) and that on a percentage basis, UGA and Tech do a good job of recruiting the state? (By the way, Stetson is starting a football team. Look for the hatters on the gridiron in 2013).
Chip: Ding, ding, ding! You’re right on the money, Hatter. It’s a matter of numbers. There are more people living in the 20 counties that make up Metro Atlanta (5.5 million) than there are in the entire states of Alabama (4.7 million) and South Carolina (4.6 million). Georgia’s overall population currently is approaching 10 million. According to Steve Slay, who tracks such things for the AJC, approximately 800 high school seniors in Georgia are going to play college football in 2011. Out of those, about 180 signed FBS (formerly Division I) scholarships.
I don’t have the corresponding numbers for other states but, other than Florida, you can be sure it is considerably less. Meanwhile, Georgia and Georgia Tech can sign only 25 players apiece per year at the most, and at least a small portion of those are going to come from out of state as well. So, as you can see, there is a whole lot of left-over talent for the taking.
The numbers are even more amazing in Florida, where the state’s population is about 19 million.
Crowned Royal asks: My question centers around Georgia and the seniors holding down the spots along the offensive line. Any news on whether Georgia leads for any quality 5- or 4-star recruits to help fill the void when they leave after this season? What about OT John Theus of Jacksonville, Fla.; Vadal Alexander of Buford High; or Joe Harris of Lithonia High?
Chip: The Bulldogs are definitely going to be young on the offensive line after this season as they’ll lose center Ben Jones and tackles Cordy Glenn and Trinton Sturdivant to graduation. But they’ve actually stockpiled a lot of linemen the last couple of seasons. By my count, 13 scholarship offensive linemen will return for 2012 season, including former five-star prospects Brent Benedict and Austin Long.
That said, you’re going to recruit offensive linemen every year and this year will be no different. The Bulldogs do currently lead for Theus, whose younger brother Nathan Theus signed with them in the 2011 class. I believe they have a decent shot for Harris, who likes both UGA and Tech, and a not-so-good shot at Alexander, a Louisiana native who favors LSU over Alabama and Auburn.
Meanwhile, the Bulldogs also have offers extended to tackle Jessamen Dunker of Boynton Beach, Fla., who was supposed to be visiting this week; D.J. Humphries of Charlotte; Avery Young of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.; Jordan Simmons of Encino, Calif.; and Patrick Destefano of Spartanburg, S.C., among others.
S. Moore asks: I’m a fan of North Springs High School and we played McNair last fall and went against a junior running back who was a stud. I don’t remember his name but he was a Noel Devine type of back but ran with more power. He broke some long runs and even though he got hit in the backfield a lot, he broke a lot of tackles. I haven’t heard anything recruiting wise about him. Can you investigate what his story is? He’s a diamond in the rough.
Chip: The player to whom you refer is Jeremiah Anderson, a 5-foot-8, 172-pound junior running back for the Mustangs. And he did have a big game against your North Spring Spartans. In that game, Anderson rushed for 201 yards on 18 carries and scored two touchdowns. It was his best game of the season. Anderson finished 11th among DeKalb County rushers with 777 yards and four touchdowns and is the sixth-leading returner for this season.
As for Anderson’s recruitment, he’s just starting to get a little attention. “He’s getting mail from quite a few colleges, some Division I and some Division I-AA,” McNair coach Tywanois Lockett said. “If he has the type of season I expect him to have he’ll be recruited even harder.” Lockett said the Spartans return four of five starters on the offensive line and that Anderson’s goal is to rush for at least 1,500 yards and 15 touchdowns this season.
In the meantime, HERE’S A LINK TO SOME HIGHLIGHT VIDEO of Anderson at hudl.com, much of it from that night against North Springs.
Tripp Cagle asks: Chip, do you have any update on the injury status of UGA’s T.J. Stripling? Will he be ready to play again in 2011?
Chip: Stripling suffered a ruptured patella tendon in his right knee covering a kickoff in the Colorado game last October and had to have season-ending surgery. He will not participate in spring practice but all indications are he will be cleared for preseason practices in early August, according to UGA spokesman Claude Felton.
MauiDawg asks: Which players do you predict being 5-star players in GA this year?
Chip: Actually, MauiDawg, there is no guarantee there will be even one 5-star prospect in any given year. Georgia produced two last year in Isaiah Crowell and Ray Drew and only one the year before that in Da’Rick Rogers. But I’ll give you five from the state that I believe have a chance of earning 5-star distinction this year. Listed alphabetically, they are Buford OL Vadal Alexander, Harris County DE/OLB Jordan Jenkins, St. Pius DB Geno Smith, Jenkins County DT Jonathan Taylor and Woodward Academy defensive end Jordan Watkins.
RAWDAWG ASKS: (1) Would you say the recent commitments of some of the state’s top running back prospects to other schools is a function of UGA landing Isaiah Crowell in this year’s class, or something else such as getting in on the action too late? (2) Does UGA have “all their eggs in one basket” with Keith Marshall as far as RB prospects go for 2012? Who else might they be looking at?
Chip: I would say a substantial part of it is the “Crowell Effect.” Richt has already said there’s a good chance Crowell will start when the Bulldogs open the season against Boise State in the Georgia Dome. These guys don’t want to go to Athens and sit behind Crowell for two years. I don’t think you can say Georgia was getting in on them late or that it has all its eggs in one basket with Marshall. It’s only March and, by my count, the Bulldogs have offered at least eight running backs, including Marshall, who is clearly their top target. Four of the players they’ve offered have committed elsewhere: Kenyan Drake (Alabama), Matt Jones (Florida), Kenno Loyal (Auburn) and Justin Taylor (Alabama). That leaves them with Marshall; Beniquez Brown of Florence, Ala.; Jovon Robinson of Memphis; and T.J. Yeldon of Daphne, Ala. And I’m sure there are several other prospects they’re eying.
Burnett Hull of Covington asks: (1) Chip, I sure would like you to discuss the role that the HOPE scholarship plays in athletic recruiting. Can a kid who is not quite good enough for an athletic scholarship take the HOPE and “walk on”? Seems to me, that would give colleges in Georgia a definite advantage in recruiting. (2) Here’s another one — I know that partial scholarships are possible (and often used) in minor sports like baseball and track. Are partial scholarships allowable in football and basketball?
Chip: They sure can and that’s extremely helpful for Georgia Tech and UGA in sports such as baseball, which operate on only 11.7 scholarships per year. Ron Polk used to complain about it when he was still baseball coach at Mississippi State and it was one of the reasons he went to UGA. But nowadays most states have some form of the HOPE scholarship which, as we all know, is becoming increasingly difficult to qualify for. . . . (2) Partials are not allowed in football and basketball.