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September 23, 2011

Roundtable: Realignment impacts recruits

MORE ROUNDTABLES: Sept. 2 | Aug. 29

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

How important in terms of recruiting is it for Baylor, Kansas, Kansas State and Iowa State to keep the Big 12 intact, considering some if not all of them could be outside a BCS league without it?

Mike Farrell: It's obviously imperative and it has to be a helpless feeling because they know they have zero power in this shell game and they are simply waiting and watching. They could end up in the new Big East, which seems like the most likely scenario. But there's no guarantee that the Big East will be a BCS conference down the line, especially without any true marquee teams aside from West Virginia now, and that would obviously hurt recruiting a great deal. Essentially these programs have to hope that Texas and Oklahoma decide they want to keep the Big 12 alive and add some valuable teams such as TCU and perhaps BYU. But right now Baylor, Kansas, Kansas State and Iowa State are in big trouble it appears and they don't have any sort of stability to sell to recruits at all.

Adam Gorney: It's absolutely crucial especially if those teams would have to step down a serious notch to a non-BCS league. That would kill a lot of their recruiting efforts and totally change the caliber of prospect those schools could recruit. The good news for Big 12 fans is that after all the hullabaloo in recent weeks about teams changing conferences, conference disintegration, expansion and whatever else - including commissioner Dan Beebe losing his job - it doesn't seem like all that much is significantly changing.

Josh Helmholdt: What is at play here from the recruiting angle is program prestige - or more accurately, the perception of your program's prestige to recruits. I have a hard time seeing any of these schools upping the perception of their program to recruits by being an independent or joining a non-BCS conference. If any or all of these schools were to join the Big Ten, Pac-12 or SEC, the change probably would be negligible from a perception standpoint, but then you start looking at the impact to their recruiting bases. Would the regions from which they traditionally pull talent have to change? If they are not on television consistently and not being discussed in those areas, it may serve them to start drawing from other talent pools and asserting yourself in a new region does not happen overnight. Any change likely has a short-term recruiting impact on each of these programs, and could have long-term repercussions as well.

Chris Nee: Stability is always better than the alternative, especially when it comes to recruiting. A school being part of a specific conference, with specific opponents, and specific bowl ties provides a prospective student-athlete with some knowledge of opponents and locations they'll play during their collegiate career. That is good for peace of mind. As for remaining in a BCS league, that is essential with the current bowl system and the desire to have automatic bowl tie-ins and being part of that discussion into December and January.

Keith Niebuhr: Hugely important. Like early playing time and a school's track record for getting players to the NFL, being in a BCS conference is one of a program's biggest sells. Take it away and none of them would be nearly as attractive to prospects. There is a flip side to this, however. If these schools weren't in the Big 12, and instead were in an easier league, their records might be better year in and year out. The problem is, I don't believe the revenue would be high enough.

Brian Perroni: With it looking as if the Big 12 was about to collapse late last week there was already talk among some players in Texas that it could change the way they look at their commitments to those programs. The chance to play in a BCS game is a big deal to a lot of recruits but so is the fact that they get to play Texas and Oklahoma year in and year out. Without those assurances, the remaining current Big 12 schools could definitely suffer from a recruiting standpoint.

What does the move of Syracuse and Pittsburgh to the ACC do for recruiting overall - both for those programs and for the entire ACC?

Mike Farrell: It makes the ACC one of the more stable conferences and it is now the biggest football conference out there. That doesn't mean it's the best, but it is the biggest and one of the most stable and both of those things are huge for Syracuse and Pitt, which have watched the Big East slowly fade away since Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College left. Being able to sell that stability is huge for all the middling ACC teams and Syracuse especially will reap the benefits of playing teams further south as it recruits many Southern states. Overall it's a great deal for every ACC member because it was going to be either the ACC or Big East that got raided and now ACC teams are in a position of power when selling their programs to recruits.

Adam Gorney: I honestly don't think it really does that much at all. It's not as if Syracuse and Pitt have been recruiting juggernauts in the Big East and I think they'll continue to recruit the same areas and get many of the same caliber players. I doubt, unless either team wins big, that they'll be able to make a serious dent in traditional ACC recruiting areas. It makes a dramatic difference in basketball, where the ACC gets even better which is hard to believe, but from a football perspective I don't really see much of a difference.

Josh Helmholdt: Conferences should be considering what talent pools they are opening up by adding particular schools. If your local team is playing in a particular conference, you are going to have a greater level of recognition for the teams in that conference and I'm a big believer in familiarity being a key component in college selection by recruits. Western Pennsylvania is a nice area for the ACC to move into, though Upstate New York produces very few Division I prospects each year. Overall, it gives the ACC a slightly larger recruiting footprint, but will not make a big difference in the recruiting clout of their member institutions. On the flipside, this is a great move for Pitt and Syracuse from a recruiting standpoint. Few Big East schools are located in prime recruiting territory, but the ACC is in regions such Atlanta, the Carolinas, Florida and Virginia - huge talent pools. Pitt and Syracuse are now going to be playing on television in those regions, and that will help get in the door at different high schools loaded with talent.

Chris Nee: For Syracuse and Pitt, it makes them part of a league that is commonly considered stronger than the Big East and also gives them more of a presence in the Southeast, a very fertile recruiting area. For the entire ACC, it won't have a massive impact as the New York-area is generally mediocre for talent and while Pennsylvania produces some great talent the elite prospects of that area were already nationally recruited. It improves the presence of other schools, but nothing drastic.

Keith Niebuhr: I guess the obvious answer is they're now part of a much more powerful football conference. The ACC on the other hand, seems to be a little stronger as a power conference and now has an even greater footprint in the Northeast, which has a great TV market. Football-wise, I don't think it makes the ACC a whole lot better. Yet. This should help Syracuse and Pitt recruit in the South and mid-Atlantic, but right now neither is a program that scares an FSU or Virginia Tech. Of course, that eventually could change.

Brian Perroni: I'm not sure how much it really affects the rest of the ACC. Neither program is necessarily a powerhouse on the field or in recruiting. It will help those two schools but I'm honestly not sure what the benefit to the rest of the ACC is. Upstate New York is not a hotbed for recruiting and, while Pennsylvania is, I don't see the ACC overtaking the Big Ten in that part of the country.

What's been the biggest surprise to you among elite prospects during this first month of the high school season?

Mike Farrell: For me it would be how impressive Cyrus Jones from Baltimore (Md.) Gilman has been early in the season. I saw Jones in one game live last year against Don Bosco and he was essentially invisible in that game, but his film was still good enough to put him in our Rivals250. After a strong summer at The Opening and Gridiron Kings, he moved up to No. 173 in our latest round of rankings and after seeing him live against Good Counsel a few weeks ago, he will be moving up even more. He could play wide receiver or cornerback as well as safety or even running back in college as he's very versatile.

Adam Gorney: The biggest surprise to me is that Long Beach (Calif.) Poly remains undefeated. It's not because the Jackrabbits aren't talented but because their schedule has been absolute murder through three weeks - and it gets no easier Friday night. Poly has defeated Sacramento (Calif.) Grant, Carson and Harbor City (Calif.) Narbonne in its first three games. On those teams included five-star Shaq Thompson, four-star Darreus Rogers, 2013 quarterback Troy Williams and many other top players. It hasn't been easy and this week Poly visits Mission Viejo, another California powerhouse. Arizona State commits Josiah Blandin, Richard Smith, Randall Goforth, Matthew Rowe and Salamo Fiso along Texas A&M pledge Alonzo Williams and 2013 safety David Price are leading the way and doing it in a big way.

Josh Helmholdt: Most of the top prospects I have seen already this fall are playing at the level we expected out of them, with a few slight surprises. I guess most surprising would be Detroit Cass Tech four-star linebacker Royce Jenkins-Stone having a slow start to his season. We went into Jenkins-Stone's junior season wondering if the 6-2, 215-pound prospect could translate his outstanding physical tools to the field, and were impressed with how he was making plays all over the field. Last year he played as if he had something to prove, but so far this year he been playing tight. We have seen Jenkins-Stone twice this fall, and he has been very quiet in those two games.

Chris Nee: There was a rush of commitments in August in Florida, but September has been relatively quiet. Some have gone ahead and pulled the trigger, such as Rivals100 wide receiver Amari Cooper from Miami (Fla.) Northwestern who pledged to Alabama this week, but others such as Tampa (Fla.) Berkeley Prep five-star athlete Nelson Agholor, Miramar (Fla.) five-star cornerback Tracy Howard, and Miami (Fla.) Columbus four-star defensive back Deon Bush are moving along at a snail's pace. Looks like there will be some intrigue in Florida as the calendar turns over to 2012 at this rate.

Keith Niebuhr: I'd say Brian Kimbrow of Memphis East. Even though he's a Rivals100 kid, it's hard not to have a few doubts. I mean, the kid is 5-foot-nothing and a hundred-and-nothing pounds. Yet, after five games we're talking about someone who already has about 1,500 rushing yards. In his most recent game, he topped 400. I've said it before, this kid has guts. And this kid has heart.

Brian Perroni: When I saw Brenham, Texas play Houston Lamar I expected Brenham's defense to be flatout dominant. The Cubs have two Texas commits in Malcom Brown and Timothy Cole as well as a Texas A&M commit in Troy Green on that side of the ball. However, none of the three was truly dominant in the game at all. We will have a chance to see both Brown and Cole again in the Under Armour and Army games, respectively, but it was certainly disappointing this time around.

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