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May 27, 2011

Roundtable: Stanford goes nationwide

MORE ROUNDTABLES: May 13 | May 6 | April 29 | April 22

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

Which new coaching staff continues to impress you this spring?

Mike Farrell: I'll say Stanford by far. The Cardinal have only three commitments so far, but all three of them are in the national top 75 and all three of them have potential to be much higher by the end. They kept Aziz Shittu home, they stole Alex Carter out of Virginia and swiped Noor Davis away from the Florida Gators which shocked everyone. David Shaw has kept things rolling at Stanford and you won't find a better recruiting coordinator than Brian Polian. Stanford is one of the hardest recruiting jobs in the country with the academic restrictions but it hasn't slowed down Shaw and his group.

Adam Gorney: Let's look at the job first-year coach David Shaw is doing at Stanford. Although the Cardinal only have three commits one is five-star defensive tackle Aziz Shittu and two are four-star recruits in defensive back Alex Carter and linebacker Noor Davis. What's also impressive is that Stanford continues to have national reach with Davis coming from The Villages, Fla., and Carter out of Ashburn (Va.) Briar Woods. Look for Shaw and his staff to continue to pull top talent because Stanford sells itself and Shaw has done a good job maintaining the program after Jim Harbaugh left.

Keith Niebuhr: Honestly, I can't name just one. I really like what the staffs at Florida, Michigan and Vanderbilt have done. And also, I think it's time I gave some credit to the group at Miami. The Gators, Hurricanes and Wolverines have landed several four-star players each. Meantime, the Commodores have gone into Georgia and gotten some nice early commits from players who turned down offers from bigger-name programs.

Brian Perroni: Though the head coach is the same, mostly new faces comprise the staff at Texas. In the past, Mack Brown seemed to have wanted to fill up the class early and not wait on top prospects. This year the Longhorns are being more patient and it should help with prospects such as Rivals100 offensive tackle Kennedy Estelle. It also allows the Longhorns to be able to get in on late bloomers such as cornerback Colin Blake. Texas has also been extending quite a few national offers this year and, while most are long shots at best, I think it is a good thing to see the Horns getting involved. In years past, the offers likely would have never been extended. I think the new assistant coaches helped bring a new philosophy with Brown.

Chris Nee: Despite a few setbacks with regards to linebacker recruiting, the staff at Florida continues to work towards assembling a very good 2012 class. Florida has positioned themselves well with a number of top-ranked prospects such as offensive tackles D.J. Humphries and Avery Young as well as defensive back Tracy Howard. From talking to high school coaches throughout the state of Florida, the new coaches at Florida have impressed when on campus and appear to be putting in the necessary work to put themselves in the thick of things with some of the nation's best prospects.

Does trash-talking among prospects at camps excite or turn off coaches/scouts?

Mike Farrell: I'm not a fan of it at all. I've always been a guy who thinks your play should do the talking. For some kids the talk gets them going and they become much better players once they are in that mode or playing angry, but overall I don't like to see it that much and I especially hate it if it's from a kid who isn't very good trying to make his name.

Adam Gorney: It's fine to a point but I saw one prospect yapping so much at a recent Nike camp that it was a complete turnoff. I like the guys who act like they've been there before and there's a certain confidence and toughness to that way of acting. It gets tiresome when prospects are yelling back and forth or just shouting every time they make a nice play. I've seen a lot of great plays made by a lot of great players that didn't need to yell every time they did something well. How prospects carry themselves is an important part of the evaluation process.

Keith Niebuhr: I can only speak for myself. To be honest, it doesn't bother me much. When the competitive juices are flowing, things are said. And from what I've seen this spring, most of the trash talking has been pretty innocent stuff. To me, a bigger issue is when a player either pouts about something or looks disinterested. When you're competing against the best, we want to see your best.

Brian Perroni: As long as the trash-talking is not completely out of control or just plain obnoxious cockiness, I think it is a good thing to see. It shows a player's competitive fire. Much of the game of football is mental and I don't think coaches want to see a kid that simply goes through the routine on every play. That's not to say a player cannot be intense while being relatively quiet but I think a prospect that shows intensity verbally is going to get noticed by coaches and usually in a positive way.

Chris Nee: I welcome a little trash talk between prospects at a camp, but if you are going to run your mouth you better be able to back it up. Also, there is a way to dish it with competitors while keeping it classy, but that is a line that is easily crossed. At the end of the day though, your play should do the talking.

Who is the toughest player physically that you've seen in person this spring?

Mike Farrell: This answer might sound odd because he's not a very big guy, but I'd say Stefon Diggs from Maryland because every cornerback or safety goes after him hard and tries to rough him up and it just doesn't work. He's only 6-foot and 178 pounds, but he can take abuse and it just makes him stronger and harder to check. At the Badger 7-on-7 everyone tried to rough him up and he still dominated. At the VTO camp in April the same thing happened and it actually got him on track. He's one guy who gets better the more you try to be physical with him.

Adam Gorney: On the offensive side I think Erik Magnuson is pretty tough. He just embraces the physical side of being an offensive tackle and he's not afraid to compete in a really tough way. On defense, tackles Ellis McCarthy and Aziz Shittu aren't afraid to get nasty. I just wish Shittu made it to the Stanford Nike camp because I would've loved to see him go against Magnuson and Kyle Murphy, another tough and athletic offensive tackle. The West is loaded with some big-time physical players this cycle.

Keith Niebuhr: This is a difficult one to answer because there isn't any hitting allowed in camps. However, hands usage is okay during one-on-ones. And in those sessions, I came away incredibly impressed with the strength of Bamberg-Ehrhardt (S.C.) defensive end Martin Aiken. In a nutshell, he's a bull. And I love his mean streak.

Brian Perroni: It would probably be Kansas City (Mo.) Park Hill defensive tackle Ondre Pipkins. He reminds me of a bull in a ring when he is at camps in one-on-one pass-rushing drills. He uses his brute strength to manhandle opposing offensive linemen.

Chris Nee: Bradenton (Fla.) Southeast defensive back Brian Poole is incredibly physical as a defensive back. At cornerback, he can throw you around in press coverage or separate you from the ball down the field. As a safety, if he lines you up across the middle, he can turn your lights off real quick.

Would you rather take a guy with ideal size but somewhat soft, or a guy who is too small but tough as heck?

Mike Farrell: I bet everyone is going to answer small but tough. Not me. I certainly don't like soft football players, but there are just some things you can't do without the right size. If you're 5-10 and 250 pounds and tough as nails, you're still not going to be successful as an offensive or defensive lineman so I'll take a 6-6, 300-pounder who needs to get more physical and light a fire under him. There's a lot to be said for small and scrappy, but toughness can only take you so far. There are very few guys like Wes Welker and Sam Mills out there.

Adam Gorney: This is an easy one for me - I'd much rather take the player who is tough as nails. I really like players who have confidence to know they're really talented and then want to back it up against other top prospects on the field. If those players are undersized that's fine as long as they play with a lot of toughness. I've seen a ton of players who have spectacular size and look like a million bucks and then get pushed around by guys with two-star bodies. Playing with hunger and toughness matter most to me; guys who worry too much about rankings should worry more about just dominating on the field.

Keith Niebuhr: How small are we talking about? If a kid is tiny, I'm not sure I'd risk it. But if he's a linebacker that's 5-11 but tough as nails, I'd probably rather have him over someone with better measurables but lacking heart, energy and emotion. It's easy to fall in love with a player's frame, but if a prospect is soft at 17 or 18 you can't just assume the light switch will turn on. I don't mind somewhat undersized. Just not too much because, as we all know, size/build counts for something. For proof, look at an NFL roster.

Brian Perroni: There is the old saying, "Looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane" to describe the former prospect on the list. That's never a good thing. I would much rather have the overachieving, tough-as-nails kid on my team. A player can usually make up for lack of size, at least to an extent, with toughness. But a lack of heart is a deal-breaker.

Chris Nee: Give me the tough guy. If you are soft, it shows mental weakness and that tends to be a crack in the foundation of a player. Obviously, at some spots size is essential while at other spots it isn't as much of a necessity.



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