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Recruiting 2009 - What You Need To Know
New West Virginia recruit Tavon Austin
New West Virginia recruit Tavon Austin
Posted Feb 3, 2009

Who are the top prospects who'll make the biggest impact this recruiting season? Is USC still the top dog? How are the teams in turmoil, like Michigan, Auburn and Tennessee, doing.'s Scott Kennedy answers the big recruiting questions in the What You Need To Know going into the 2009 Signing Day.

Recruiting 2009

Q&A With's Scott Kennedy

By Pete Fiutak   

The 20 Big Questions of the Recruiting Season
No. 1 to 4 | No. 5 to 8 | No. 9 to 12 | No. 13 to 16 | No. 17 to 20

What's happening in the recruiting world? What do you really need to know? Here to answer some key questions is Scott Kennedy, one of's recruiting gods/national scouts to make sense of it all.

1.     1. Who are the major make-or-break recruits the average fan should care about?

I’ve never believed in the term make or break when it comes to recruiting. I use the player I consider the greatest in my collegiate lifetime as an example, Herschel Walker. Georgia got him, Clemson didn’t. Georgia won a National Title in 1980. Clemson won it in 1981. Losing Herschel Walker certainly didn’t break Clemson. Football is the ultimate team game, and there’s no such thing as a make or break commitment.

That being said, I also think that running backs are not only the easiest position to project, they’re also the position that has the quickest ability to make an impact. If you can find an extremely talented player  and couple that with a thin depth chart, those are the guys that have the chance to be breakout stars early in their careers. Little big man Tavon Austin at 5-8 and 175 pounds could be lighting in a bottle for West Virginia next year. Trent Richardson, should he end up at Alabama, could see a good bit of action teamed with Mark Ingram. The nation’s No. 1 quarterback Matt Barkley has the makings of a first round draft pick one day, but he’ll still have to wait his turn at USC.

2. What superstar recruits are expected to shine in 2009?

Playing early is more a function of depth than it is talent, but it’s nice to fill a need on the depth chart with a talented prospect. Teams don’t want to have a quarterback starting as a true freshman, but the player I see as most likely to make a big impact would probably be Richard Brehaut who’s headed to UCLA. The quarterback play last year for the Bruins was dreadful, and Brehaut is a big, strong kid that is physically more advanced than a lot of his peers.

Defensive end Donte Moss is a player that could see immediate time at North Carolina. He’ll be a speed rusher off the edge early in his career, but as he fills out his frame, he’ll be a three down force for North Carolina.

Shayne Skov is a five-star middle linebacker that has the physical tools to play early at Stanford. He’s lived in the weight room, and doesn’t need to fill out before he’s ready to go. If he can grasp the schemes at Stanford, he could be an immediate starter.

3. Does a one-year boom really help recruiting in the long run? 

This can actually be a double edge sword. The best recruiter in the world is winning. If a class is strong enough to elevate a team on the field, then in the long run, winning will help elevate the recruiting off the field. But on the flip side, teams can sometimes have trouble recruiting against themselves. Say a team signs a high profile quarterback; it’s going to be hard to get a quarterback in the next class as opposing recruiters will be saying “you don’t want to go there and sit behind… for 4 years.” Should that quarterback not pan out, a team could set itself back a couple of years at a key position. So, there’s risk involved when signing a high profile player.

Teams that get a one year spike in recruiting are typically selling early playing time, and coaches can only play that card once or twice before they need to start winning on the field.

4. Is USC still considered the top dog in the recruiting world, at least on a national scale?

I don’t know if they’re considered THE top dog, but I’d definitely consider them A top dog. With Florida coming off two BCS titles in three years, I consider the Gators to be the most dangerous team in recruiting. Both the Trojans and the Gators have the recruiting ability to go into any state against any team and be a factor for a recruit. I think USC is finally finding some competition on the west coast though. USC has actually lost some players in California to some of its Pac-10 rivals. That hasn’t happened much over the last five years.

5. Are there any concerns from recruits thinking about Florida about Urban Meyer leaving within the next four years?

None that I can tell.

6. How are these key programs in turmoil doing?

... Michigan

Michigan has a solid nucleus of commitments that includes players that can excel in its spread option system like 5-9/175 pound slot receiver Jeremy Gallon, as well as players that can excel in any system like defensive stalwarts William Campbell, J.T. Turner, and Craig Roh.

... Notre Dame
Notre Dame’s No. 2 ranked class in 2008 was a remarkable job of recruiting by Charlie Weis and staff, and it looks like the Irish is going to bring in another Top 20 haul despite constant rumors and doubt swirling in South Bend. It might not be as exciting as a flashy quarterback, but offensive linemen Chris Watt and Alex Bullard are big time talents on the offensive line. I think Notre Dame has the talent on the roster to take it to the next level and win 9+ games next season.

... Auburn

Auburn is turning towards the junior college ranks in hopes of getting back on track after a disappointing 2008 season. Demond Washington is a five-star cornerback that may get his first crack at running back at Auburn, and El Toro Freeman should see the field early and often at linebacker. Gene Chizik and the new staff already made a big splash with four-star quarterback Tyrik Rollison, and have shown that they’re willing to go head to head with any team for a recruit.

 ,,, Tennessee
The Vols made the most headlines with their coaching change in bringing in Lane Kiffen and a host of solid recruiters including Ed Orgeron, former Ole Miss Head Coach, and Eddie Gran, former running backs coach at Auburn. Kiffen’s first big move was telling five-star commitment Tajh Boyd “thanks, but no thanks” and Boyd ended up committing to Clemson. Tennessee is bringing in a solid class, but with a year under their belts, I expect the Vols to be pushing for the No. 1 spot in 2010.

... Washington
Most teams had their classes fairly well filled out before the football season even started last year. Washington took a different approach; one commitment before the season. Anything Steve Sarkasian did on the recruiting front was going to be an improvement, and Washington is putting together a respectable class all things considered. A key for the new coach will be keeping an eye on the nation’s No. 1 quarterback for 2010. Jake Heaps is a local product, and if Washington is going to be taken seriously in the near future, can’t lose a player like this from its own back yard.

7. Are good recruits really starting to think more about the non-BCS stars like Boise State, TCU and Utah?

My question might be, does it matter? These teams have proven that they can take the players that you (BCS Schools) didn’t want, and beat you with them. But in all honesty, yes, parity is not only going to the lower level BCS schools, but to the non-BCS schools. These teams are on TV more than ever, playing in bigger bowls more than ever, so players are realizing there is a lot of reason to play at some of these non-traditional powers.

8. Who are the biggest surprise programs so far this recruiting season? Who are the bigger disappointments (at least at the moment)?

Stanford and North Carolina are the two teams that stand out the most to me as recruiting at a higher level than what is expected. Iowa is the team that strikes me as a former player for more highly regarded players that doesn’t seem to be involved in any recruiting battles this year.

9. How much do you, and the Scout analysts, put stock in the recruiting rankings in regard to teams that recruit to type (West Virginia, Wisconsin) as opposed to simply getting the top players?

It’s hard to project for different systems. We have to scout guys in a vacuum, in that we can’t readjust the rankings based on which team a player picks, but we try and look at all of the options a player might have and rank him appropriately. That’s why it’s always good to ask us questions about players, rather than just look blankly at a star. We’ll be able to give more insight as to how a player might fit a particular system, when a ranking is just that, a ranking.

10. Which schools have the best reputation for developing talent as opposed to, say, USC, which gets the ready-made stars?

I think Jim Grobe and Wake Forest do the best job of building football teams based on their available players and needs. Recruiting rankings are based on the compilation of individual rankings; the best team is the one that wins on Saturdays.