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November 14, 2012

Mind of Mike: Wideouts wide open

MIND OF MIKE: Nov. 7 | Oct. 31 | Oct. 24 | Oct. 17

Mike Farrell is the National Football Recruiting Analyst for Rivals.com. Want more of what's on Mike's mind throughout the week? Follow him on Twitter @rivalsmike.

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 this 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.

Deep Thoughts

What's with wide receivers this year? Big name guys such as Laquon Treadwell, Marquez North, Robert Foster, Stacy Coley, Shelton Gibson, Tyler Boyd, Jordan Cunningham, James Quick, Taj Williams and Devon Allen are all uncommitted, the most at pretty much any position in the country.

It should make for an interesting finish for many of them, especially Quick, who has a top two of Louisville and Ohio State. With Charlie Strong the top target of some big programs and the Big East an afterthought in the new non-BCS playoff system, will Quick remain interested in Louisville if Strong leaves or will he head to Ohio State, where Urban Meyer isn't going anywhere?

Or will Quick follow Strong to Arkansas or wherever he ends up if he decides to leave?

Treadwell is also interesting because he changes schools of interest like he changes underwear. The latest info has Notre Dame and Florida rising and Michigan falling. I still think the Wolverines are a serious player here and part of me thinks Treadwell is playing everyone, but we shall see.

Finally, North is a tough read as well, with so many schools still in play. He's looking at Oregon now and also likes Clemson, Tennessee, Florida, Ohio State and North Carolina. With so many early commitments out there this year, thank goodness for the wideouts.

Seffner (Fla.) Armwood safety Leon McQuay III has now taken official visits to Vanderbilt, Michigan and Oregon. He also has Florida State coming up the weekend of Nov. 23 and USC on Dec. 7 depending on playoffs.

The tricky part here is that if McQuay makes it deep into the playoffs, the USC visit may never happen because he is an early enrollee, has finals right before the Under Armour practices start and he has to enroll in school right after that.

USC, the onetime leader, could be fading fast while Vanderbilt and Oregon could be the teams to beat followed by Michigan and FSU.

If James Franklin stays at Vanderbilt (and he will be on the short list for some big jobs), McQuay could very well end up with the Commodores. But watch out for Oregon even if Chip Kelly bolts for the NFL because many of the Ducks assistants are long-time guys and could stay.

I just don't think Kelly leaving will affect McQuay as much as it would another prospect. But time is running out quickly for L3 and he appears wide open a month or so before that decision needs to be made.

Last week I said Oregon could close very, very well this year as the Ducks are gaining momentum with a lot of prospects.

However, if they finish undefeated and play for a national title, Kelly could be gone and that could change things. While many of the assistant coaches such as Nick Aliotti, Gary Campbell, Steve Greatwood, Don Pellum, John Neal and Tom Osborne have all been at the school for more than a decade, losing Kelly will hurt even if he doesn't take most of the staff.

When former Oregon coach and athletic director Mike Bellotti said this past week it was "inevitable" that Kelly will leave for the NFL, that speaks volumes. And don't forget, the NCAA is still waiting to drop the hammer in regard to the Will Lyles recruiting fiasco. If Kelly leaves and the NCAA rules, what happens to the Ducks in recruiting?

No surprise about the news that Derek Dooley is done after this season. Lane Kiffin had as many SEC wins in one year as Dooley has had in three.

The Jon Gruden rumors are interesting, but Gruden could take an NFL job any year he wants for more money without having to recruit so the Dallas Cowboys or Philadelphia Eagles seem more likely than the Vols.

I still think the Phillip Fulmer firing was a joke and was a knee-jerk reaction after the 2008 season. It will take a big-time hire for the Vols to get back on track despite great facilities, an amazing tradition and great fans.

With the right hire, and Gruden would be that guy no doubt, recruiting could explode, but right now the top five recruits in the state of Tennessee are heading out of state and Vanderbilt is higher in the recruiting rankings. The last time that happened? How about never.

How about Georgia telling Reuben Foster that he can just wear long sleeves in Athens to cover that massive Auburn tattoo in case he wants to flip from the Tigers? I say forget the long sleeves for the Auburn, Ala., star if he decides to head elsewhere.

How interesting would it be to see Foster making tackles in the SEC for the Dawgs or LSU or whoever else (except for Alabama) with that massive tattoo on his arm?

Personally I think Foster sticks with Auburn as long as the Tigers retain Trooper Taylor, his primary recruiter, but has there ever been a situation where such a high-level recruit had such a massive advertisement for one program on his arm while playing for another? That would be yet another first in recruiting, at least at the five-star level.

Foster, as you may remember, got his tattoo after he flipped from Alabama to Auburn in July and there's no way a tattoo should even be discussed when it comes to a decision this big.

If Loganville (Ga.) Grayson defensive end Robert Nkemdiche, the nation's No. 1 player for 2013, is going to commit to Ole Miss per his mother's wishes to join his brother on the team, he should do it sooner than later if he wants to attract talent.

Waiting until Signing Day will certainly bring more attention to the program, but it won't help recruiting for this year and the Rebels need to strike while the iron is hot. If Nkemdiche commits to Ole Miss in early December as has been rumored now, it will help with wide receiver Treadwell and possibly Ebenezer Ogundeko and running back Derrick Green.

Green might be a bit of a longshot, but you can bet Treadwell will show even more interest than he's already showing (and he's showing a bit) and Ogundeko told me back at The Opening that he was related to Nkemdiche (cousins) and that he was a lock for Ole Miss despite his commitment to Clemson. This was well before all the recent craziness occurred. I don't know if Ogundeko and Nkemdiche are actually related (my Ancestry.com subscription ran out) but word on the street in Oxford is that a Nkemdiche flip could send tremors all the way to Brooklyn.

Speaking of Ogundeko, the standout defensive end from Brooklyn (N.Y.) Thomas Jefferson now has Notre Dame back on his list after the Irish started recruiting him again.

Notre Dame originally backed off during the summer when it became clear they were filling up at linebackers and there was thought to be no chance of the Irish moving back in on him after Doug Randolph committed. However, Ogundeko has had a very good senior year, he reached out to Notre Dame again and now the Irish are an option as a defensive end. That's what happens when you go undefeated and play great defense on a national stage, kids start recruiting you.

And speaking of Green, he is in an interesting situation when it comes to his top choices. He has taken official visits to two schools with lame duck coaches (Tennessee and Auburn) and he used the dreaded "nice" word when talking about his visit to Michigan.

That leaves visits left to Miami, the newest school on his list, and either Ole Miss or Oregon. Derrick and his family have been very smart about this process by being methodical and patient, and it will pay off in the end. A lot depends on which coaches are retained, if any, at Tennessee and Auburn and who the next head coach is, as well as how the remaining visits go.

I can't see him going as far away from home as Oregon and I think Miami might be a little too new to his favorites list to be a huge factor here, but anything can happen. Confidence isn't high at Ole Miss, either, so this will likely come down to the staff changes in Knoxville and Auburn and whether he wants to head north to play football at Michigan.

I have said in the past that Michigan seems like the best fit for his running style, but I get the feeling he wants to play football down South.

Woodbridge (Va.) Woodbridge Senior defensive end Da'Shawn Hand, one of our first 2014 five-stars and the leader in the clubhouse for the No. 1 player in the country, decided to head on an unofficial visit to Ohio State on Nov. 24 for when the Buckeyes play against Michigan. Why is this important? Because the other option was the Iron Bowl to watch Alabama host Auburn.

Hand is interested in the Buckeyes and Wolverines, so the game itself will make an impression on him, but everyone knows Meyer will likely handle Hand's recruitment himself down the stretch and he will roll out the red carpet for him.

Virginia Tech is still the team to beat due to his relationship with Bud Foster and North Carolina has impressed as well as has Alabama. If Hand is going to head far from home and up north, this visit could have a lot to do with it.

Quick Hitters

With the struggles Maryland has had on the field this season, it is normal for rumors to surface regarding committed players looking elsewhere. Three-star defensive tackle Kingsley Opara of Jacksonville (Fla.) Mandarin has confirmed his commitment to the Terps a few times, but watch out for Georgia Tech, N.C. State and Louisville. Opara seems like a prospect who has been looking for a different home ever since he committed to Maryland, so it looks like the one-time solid Terp commit could end up elsewhere.

Another commitment who may be looking around is three-star quarterback Joshua Dobbs of Alpharetta, Ga. The Elite 11 signal caller committed to Arizona State back in June, but he seems open to taking a few visits. The more interesting part here is that he may also be open to playing baseball, at which he also excels. A few SEC schools, mainly Mississippi State, are pushing for an official visit, as is one interesting Pac-12 school.

While Dan Mullen and his coaches want Dobbs as a quarterback, Stanford wants him as a baseball prospect. Dobbs has already taken a couple of visits to Stanford and is familiar with the campus and program, so this is a situation definitely worth keeping an eye on.

If he signs for baseball, he couldn't play football for two years but he could be a guy in the mix down the line because he's a talented quarterback.

The academics appeal to Dobbs especially because he is a 4.0 GPA student and has never missed a day of school in 12 grades.

However, if this is simply a sports decision, he can't really go wrong with Arizona State because it's an offense that fits his style and I've seen more kids sign for baseball and flame out and regret not playing football. I would assume ASU will allow him to play baseball as well, and the Sun Devils are one of the top programs in the country, same as Stanford.

While it seems like a majority of the biggest recruiting weekends happen in December and January, Pittsburgh has a huge one coming up this weekend. The quantity is not the impressive part, but the quality, as in-state four-star targets Robert Foster, Tyler Boyd and Dorian Johnson will be joined by four-star commitment Tra'von Chapman. It is no coincidence that Foster, Boyd and Johnson will be visiting the same weekend as Chapman, since the wide receivers and offensive lineman will have a chance to further develop their relationships with the future Pitt quarterback.

This is arguably the most important recruiting weekend of any Big East school all recruiting season and with Johnson now set to visit Ohio State not once but twice, with West Virginia seemingly the leader for Boyd for awhile and Alabama nearly getting a commitment from Foster off his visit, the Panthers need to impress. It wouldn't surprise me at all to see Foster, Johnson and now Boyd as part of this Pitt class.

And speaking of Boyd, I'm becoming more convinced than ever that he is a better prospect than Foster overall. He's certainly not as big or physical, but he's more versatile and is certainly a better player at the high school level. His versatility jumps off the page and I can see him being utilized in many ways on offense. He's the kind of athlete who would also be a great defender if needed.

It wouldn't surprise me at all now if defensive backs Priest Willis and Tahaan Goodman end up playing at the same school and that destination could be UCLA. The two have played together in the 7-on-7 circuit, the Bruins are a hot program now and playing together in college has to have been discussed since they have a few visits planned together.

Many felt Goodman would be committed to USC by now and that he's tighter with his teammate (and USC commitment) Chris Hawkins, but he and Willis will be at UCLA this weekend and both are expected to visit LSU together as well. With Max Redfield leaning toward Oregon slightly over Notre Dame, USC could use Goodman now and losing him to their cross-town rival would hurt. There's a long way to go here, however.

It's nothing new but it's becoming more and more prevalent and annoying. What am I talking about? Recruits pushing for their teammates to get offers in exchange for their commitment. The Nkemdiche situation got all the attention this year, but now it seems that others are doing the same thing, especially in the state of Florida. If you're a middling BCS team or a bottom dweller, it makes sense to perhaps reach on a teammate to get the better one. But it's happening now with conference title contenders and teams that have been to recent BCS bowl games. Why?

Five-star running back Greg Bryant is down to Auburn, Florida State and South Carolina. The Gamecocks seem to have the best path to playing time with the injury to Marcus Lattimore and run an offense more geared toward his talents.

With Auburn's coaching issues and FSU already having Ryan Green and being the front-runner for Alex Collins, South Carolina seems like the team to beat. We'll see who Auburn hires, where Collins lands and I have a hard time believing that Miami won't make a strong push down the stretch like they are for Green.


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