June 17, 2011

Roundtable: Scheme matters to recruits

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Rivals.com football recruiting analysts weigh in on topics in a roundtable format.

Rivals.com did a story this week on new offensive and defensive schemes in college football - which of those will have the greatest impact in recruiting?

Mike Farrell: I'd say Florida's offense mainly because Charlie Weis is running it and he's such a good recruiter as well as a good offensive coach that it will help Florida recruit even more top end offensive talent. I think Michigan's offense is next, getting back to old school Michigan football will help them recruit at a new level rather than trying to make the changes it did under Rich Rodriguez.

Adam Gorney: Clemson should have a field day recruiting the Southeast now that it has someone similar to Gus Malzahn running its offense. It cannot hurt to go into homes and schools and tell kids especially in that part of the country that the coaching staff will maximize its athletic ability and rely on speed and playmaking ability. There are a few on that list that I predict will work out well. From a recruiting perspective, a lot of California kids are now more interested in Utah because of Norm Chow's reputation. Bryan Harsin might do a spectacular job at Texas although he might not work with as talented a quarterback as Kellen Moore. I shake my head though with Florida's move to pro-style. That looks like a situation where the coaching staff has ample opportunities to maximize athleticism and instead will move to pro-style. I don't see Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey doing much damage in that offense.

Chris Nee: I would say Florida's move from Urban Meyer's spread offense to Charlie Weis' pro-style offense will impact recruiting a good bit. It alters nearly every element of the Gator offense, but the biggest impact will be seen a quarterback and running back. In the 2012 class, Florida has already landed two talented backs and you regularly hear backs praising the change to an offense that emphasizes the use of big backs.

Keith Niebuhr: Out of that group, I think it's a tie between Florida and LSU. As good as LSU's record was last season, its offense was just miserable. I saw it. You saw it. And the kids out there saw it. New O.C. Steve Kragthorpe has his work cut out, particularly at the quarterback spot, but comes to town known as a strong offensive mind. At Florida, having Weis can only help. The truth is, Florida was already getting excellent offensive players under Meyer but after last season's offensive debacle, the infusion of Weis, who is not only known for his coaching but is an outstanding recruiter, came at just the right time.

Brian Perroni: It always seems to be about fast-paced offenses for recruits. New West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen has had high-powered offenses during previous stops at Texas Tech, Houston and Oklahoma State. His teams are always at or near the very top of the country in yards and scoring. The Mountaineers will likely see a drastic change in Year One and recruits are bound to notice. It could help the team win head-to-head battles with regional powers for East Coast kids, especially wide receivers.

What team's scheme hurts it with recruits - is there a school you hear prospects criticizing for the system it runs?

Mike Farrell: Prospects don't usually complain about an offensive or defensive system as a whole, but some schools have trouble attracting certain positions because of the scheme they run. The 3-4 defenses have trouble finding defensive ends but have great success with linebackers. Offenses that run option such as Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech can struggle attracting wide receivers while pass-happy offenses keep running backs at bay. But I don't have one specific example of a scheme keeping kids away in droves.

Adam Gorney: I'm not sure there is a specific school that comes to mind but I can tell you one thing that scares away recruits is when desperate coaches tinker with offenses or completely scrap one style for another. It is especially worrisome when big backs who want to play in a pro-style offense suddenly see their favorite program switch to a spread or vice versa. It makes players nervous that they're going to be put in a situation that messes with their abilities and they'll get lost in the shuffle.

Chris Nee: Georgia Tech's offense tends to turn off some recruits. I've had wide receivers in the past state that they felt the offense wasn't one where they could showcase their abilities. That being said, Paul Johnson and his staff do a good job of recruiting players that fit their scheme and are showcased in other ways, i.e. big wide receivers who are capable of blocking one-on-one.

Keith Niebuhr: From the recruits I've talked to, it has to be Georgia Tech. Is it fair? That's a good question. After all, Johnson, most would agree, has done an outstanding job in Atlanta. But it seems as though many offensive stars aren't crazy about the Jackets' run-oriented offense. To offset this, the Jackets likely will try to become a little more balanced moving forward. Some prospects are taking a wait-and-see approach.

Brian Perroni: A lot of times any team that runs a 3-4 defense will have trouble recruiting defensive linemen, especially tackles. High school kids who are used to making a ton of plays every game don't like to hear that they will have to keep offensive linemen away from the linebackers much of the time. Other than that I wouldn't say any particular scheme turns recruits off. It is just that many of the offensive skill position players might get more excited about a fast-paced offense. They won't necessarily rule out any other types of offense though.

At what position is ideal size most important?

Mike Farrell: Offensive tackle if you think about it. You'll never see a 6-3 offensive tackle in the NFL and rarely do you see it in college because you have to be long with a great wingspan to take on speedy and athletic defensive ends. Every other position you can have exceptions - small corners and wide receivers, short linebackers and ends, diminutive running backs and even 6-foot quarterbacks, but you need tall and big offensive tackles.

Adam Gorney: This question brings me back to the Arik Armstead debate that has honestly grown quite tiresome already this recruiting cycle. Armstead is a fantastic football player with NFL potential but we have chosen not to rank him as a five-star because he wants to play defensive end at USC. At 6-foot-8 and 280 pounds there is at least a question if he can succeed at that position with that size. If Armstead moved to left tackle and was determined to be the best offensive tackle in the country then there would be serious consideration for five-star status. What I'm saying is that prospects can really help themselves and maybe even their ranking if they aren't set on one position but rather look at what's best for them long term.

Chris Nee: The bigger, the better at defensive tackle. As long as you can be quick off the snap and utilize strength to displace offensive linemen, the bigger you are and the more space you consume at defensive tackle, the more appealing you are to college recruiters.

Keith Niebuhr: Defensive tackle. To play for a top-notch BCS league school, size is absolutely crucial at this position. No matter how quick, aggressive or fundamentally sound a player is at this spot, if he doesn't have the right frame/build, the chances are pretty good he'll get pushed around against elite teams. There are exceptions of course, but by and large, this is where you want a 300-pounder to clog things up and take on multiple blockers.

Brian Perroni: Offensive tackle would be the most obvious choice here. You see quarterbacks, running backs, receivers and defensive linemen that excel despite being smaller than average but offensive tackles need a wide base and long arms to keep the defenders from their quarterback. A lack of size can be hidden a lot easier at guard or center but coaches rarely play a tackle shorter than 6-5.



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