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September 12, 2012
Mind of Mike: Nkemdiche drama likely to play on
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 a new 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.
There seems to be something new with Robert Nkemdiche every day, Last week it was his mother, Beverly, who resides in Nigeria, telling ESPN The Magazine that her son was pressured into his decision and she was unhappy with Clemson. She also said Robert's decision was not final. Nkemdiche, the nation's No. 1 overall prospect, is committed to Clemson but his older brother, Denzel Nkemdiche, is at Ole Miss, where many think he will eventually end up. However, Nkemdiche maintains that he is solid to Clemson and he has two teammates, Wayne Gallman and best friend David Kamara, also committed to the Tigers. Then a couple of innocent tweets from Daquan Bowers to Nkemdiche, not one of which pushed him toward Clemson at all, have made a big stir. Ole Miss is lurking, we all know that, but betting against Clemson with five-stars recently has not been wise. It's only September, but I think he sticks with the Tigers. The question is, how much more drama will there be? My guess? A whole lot.
The Big Ten certainly didn't help itself this past weekend when it comes to attracting national recruits and trying to prove that it is the No. 2 conference behind the SEC. Wisconsin gets beaten by Oregon State, Nebraska gets taken down by UCLA, Iowa loses to rival Iowa State, Purdue falls short against Notre Dame, Illinois gets whipped by Arizona State, Penn State chokes against Virginia and Michigan struggled with Air Force. Right now, the conference is closer to the Big East than the Pac-12, Big 12 and even the ACC, and league perception is crucial when recruiting prospects, especially the younger ones. Sorry Michigan State and Ohio State, your brothers-in-arms are dragging you down.
Speaking of Michigan State, can someone please tell me why four- and five-star running backs aren't lining up to play there? Was Javon Ringer getting a million carries a game not enough? And now that Le'Veon Bell is being fed the rock as much as possible when needed to win games, it's clear that if you're good enough, you'll tote the rock a ton in East Lansing. It always puzzles me that recruits rarely look at things like this, especially when they say they want to go someplace where they can get a ton of carries, but Michigan State is rarely mentioned by the Rivals100 studs at running back. It's head-scratching stuff.
Marcell Harris from Orlando (Fla.) Dr. Phillips took a visit to Texas recently and raved about it, and really, what's not to like? Texas has an amazing fan base, great facilities and is the kingpin of the Big 12. Heck, don't they even have their own network? I thought I heard that somewhere. But if he ends up as a Texas commitment, I will be beyond stunned. First off, name the last Florida prospect to sign with Texas. Go ahead, I'll give you time. John Brantley, the quarterback who verbally committed to Texas in 2006, doesn't count as he eventually flipped and signed with the Gators. Since we have been ranking prospects, there has never been a Florida prospect sign with the Longhorns and I doubt Harris will be the first. Throw in the fact that his dad, Mike Harris, was a safety for the Gators from 1994-1997 and most everyone thinks Florida will reel this one in eventually.
Rankings of Yore
We received a ton of grief, and I mean a ton, from Notre Dame and FSU fans in 2011 for ranking Notre Dame defensive end signee Stephon Tuitt higher than fellow Irish signee (and former FSU verbal) Aaron Lynch and not giving Lynch that fifth star. Now we are feeling better about that decision. Tuitt, who outraced the entire Navy team for a 77-yard fumble recovery in the season opener despite checking in at 6-foot-6 and more than 300 pounds, has NFL scouts drooling over his athleticism, discipline and character. Meanwhile, scouts are scratching their collective heads at Lynch, who transferred to South Florida after a great start to his Notre Dame career. The difference between No. 22 overall in the country (Tuitt) and No. 28 (Lynch) is minuscule, but not to Irish and FSU fans in 2011. And the fact that Tuitt was a five-star and Lynch didn't get his after what appeared to be a more dominant U.S. Army Bowl performance didn't sit well. When Lynch was committed to Notre Dame, we got grief from the ND faithful. When he flipped to Florida State, the 'Noles fans clamored for that fifth star, and when he flipped back to the Irish in the end, most Notre Dame fans felt Lynch was clearly more talented than Tuitt. And let's not forget the Miami fans. Fellow defensive end Anthony Chickillo, the Under Armour Game Overall MVP, didn't get his fifth star either and was ranked No. 44 overall. He was another player that fans insisted was better than Tuitt. All three are impressive talents, but right now Tuitt has emerged as a three-and-out kind of talent while Lynch looks to rebuild his career in Tampa and Chickillo has bulked way up and appears to have lost that suddenness off the edge he had in high school.
FSU fans can gripe about this ranking - defensive tackle Bjoern Werner being ranked as a three-star and the No. 65 player in the country at his position in 2010. Now the nation's leader in sacks, Werner is projected by some to be a first-round draft pick next year. Honestly, we were hesitant about Werner because he came to the United States from Germany to play football, went back because he was homesick as a junior and then returned, so his desire for football was questions. He has certainly proved us wrong.
UCLA running back Johnathan Franklin, who leads the nation in rushing after back-to-back stellar performances against Rice and Nebraska, was a guy we liked quite a bit out of high school, a lot better than most actually. We had him as a Rivals250 prospect, ranked No. 185 overall in the country and a sure-fire, four-star recruit while others slept on him a bit. Now he's a huge part of the impressive resurgence under Jim Mora.
Denard Robinson is a terrific athlete, we all know that, but is he just a terrific athlete because he plays in the Big Ten and not in the SEC? Robinson almost committed to Urban Meyer and the Florida Gators early in his recruiting process years ago and he'd be playing wide receiver in the SEC now if he went in that direction. Robinson doesn't look nearly as fast against speedier defenses like Alabama, Virginia Tech and Mississippi State as he does against the Big Ten. Brady Hoke's offense needs a pro-style quarterback who can thrive off play action and the running game if they are to compete for a national title and Shane Morris needs to be that guy sooner than later. No pressure.
I know Wisconsin only tallied 35 net rushing yards in a 10-7 loss to Oregon State, but firing offensive line coach Mike Markuson after the game? That's ridiculous and would make me wonder as an offensive line recruit or perhaps any Wisconsin target if my coach will be around with Bret Bielema showing off such a quick trigger finger.
It looks like Auburn's chances to become one of the few teams in Rivals.com history to reel in five or more five-star prospects could be heading out the window with an 0-2 start.
Arkansas has always wanted to recruit on a bigger stage and that window is quickly closing. After back-to-back double digit win seasons that led to recruiting classes ranked near the bottom half of the SEC, what happens now?
Don't think one game can lead to a commitment? Ask Arizona four-star offensive lineman Kenny Lacy, who insisted he wasn't committing to the Bruins before his visit this weekend. But after watching three freshmen offensive lineman dominate Nebraska in the trenches, Lacy was a Bruin and UCLA is now one of the hottest teams out there for uncommitted prospects on the west coast. Adrian Klemm is the next superstar recruiter in the Pac-12, bottom line.