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October 28, 2011

Roundtable: Programs find stability

MORE ROUNDTABLES: Oct.21 | O14 | S30 | S23

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

What coach previously on the hot seat has been able to convince recruits he's safe now because of his team's play this year?

Mike Farrell: First one that comes to mind for me is Ron Zook at Illinois. He was supposed to be a lame duck coach this year but his team's 6-0 start put him in the Top 25 and has helped sell more stability with recruits. The Illini didn't really beat anyone really good aside from Arizona State and have lost back-to-back games, but if he wins two more games there's little doubt he should be safe. The problem is the schedule gets harder from here on out, but Zook went from a dead man walking to the Top 25.

Adam Gorney: Georgia's Mark Richt would be my guess unless things implode down the stretch for the Bulldogs. Let's take a look: Georgia is ranked again, favored against Florida this week and then the Bulldogs have New Mexico State, Auburn and Kentucky at home before wrapping up the regular season against Georgia Tech. Could Georgia really finish the regular season 10-2, ripping off 10 straight wins after losing to Boise State and South Carolina to start the season? I say chances are favorable and that has to take Richt off the hot seat. Doesn't it?

Josh Helmholdt: I have mentioned Ron Zook several times in these roundtables already because he was a coach who came into the season on the hot seat, and responded with his Illinois team reeling off six straight wins. The Illini, however, have since dropped back-to-back games to Ohio State and Purdue, but that hot start and the fact his team is already bowl eligible should be enough to cool Zook's chair and give recruits confidence in the future of his tenure with the program. One other notable development on this topic this week was Minnesota giving Jerry Kill a seven-year contract, retroactive to when he took over the program last December. When I heard of the contract, my thoughts immediately went to recruiting and how this will help instill confidence in Gopher recruits after Kill's health scare earlier this season and the 1-6 record.

Chris Nee: I don't think Clemson's Dabo Swinney was on a very hot seat, but I do believe this season had major implications for him and his future at Clemson. The results are staggering with a great start, a prolific offense and a defense that shows flashes of real promise among some young stars. Clemson is in the driver's seat for the ACC championship game and while not heavily talked about as a national championship contender, remains in that picture as well. The season, to this point, has definitely calmed any concerns regarding Swinney's future.

Keith Niebuhr: It has to be Mark Richt of Georgia. Personally, I always thought it was kind of ridiculous he was even considered to be on the hot seat, especially considering his entire body of work. However, during the offseason, people were calling for him to be removed should the Bulldogs have another rocky season. Then, they started 0-2. Today, Georgia is 5-2 and a win over Florida this weekend would make a 10-win season very possible. The truth is, Georgia caught an enormous break with the schedule. But give Richt credit for righting the ship. For now, I believe he's quite safe (unless the team falls apart down the stretch).

Brian Perroni: Coming into the year there was a lot of talk about Mark Richt at Georgia. I think a lot of the pressure seems to be off of him and the Bulldogs have recruited very well. If Richt were still on the hot seat I think a lot of those guys would be looking elsewhere.

Is there a certain individual matchup in either the U.S. Army All-American Bowl or the Under Armour Game that you're most looking forward to watching?

Mike Farrell: I want to see Dorial Green-Beckham go up against Tracy Howard in the Army Bowl. The top player in the country and No. 1 wide receiver against the top cornerback in the country is always a great matchup to see and hopefully they go against each other a few times.

Adam Gorney: There are two that particularly interest me. The first is whether anyone can defend top-rated Dorial Green-Beckham and how he handles physical, more talented receivers. Dominating the competition in Springfield, Mo., is nice but let's see how he deals with some of the best cornerbacks and safeties in the country. It could really be a defining moment in his No. 1 ranking and I believe he should be just fine. The second one is how the West offensive linemen will fare - in the game for sure but especially in practice. Going up against five-star defensive tackles Ellis McCarthy and Aziz Shittu will be no easy task and then two-way standout Arik Armstead will be playing on the defensive line as well. The offensive line group is incredibly talented but will definitely have its hands full.

Josh Helmholdt: I want to see how the East defensive backs handle Megatron clone Dorial Green-Beckham. This group of East cornerbacks - guys such as Travis Blanks, Yuri Wright and Alex Carter - have great size. It's not just their height, but these are also thick corners and that girth will be needed to handle the 6-6, 220-pound Green-Beckham, if that is possible. I have yet to see Green-Beckham in person, but cannot wait to catch him for the first time down in San Antonio.

Chris Nee: Nation's top wide receiver, Dorial Green-Beckham, against the nation's top defensive back, Tracy Howard. Howard is an ultra-competitive player and will have his hands full with Green-Beckham, who has a major height advantage on him combined with great athleticism.

Keith Niebuhr: Yes, there is Any defensive back vs. receiver Dorial Green-Beckham, the country's No. 1 overall prospect. I've heard some people say Green-Beckham might be overrated. Others claim his unbelievable stats are the product of incredibly weak competition. Well, in San Antonio there won't be any weak competition. Every cornerback he faces will be highly rated. And every safety he encounters over the middle will be headed to a BCS conference program. All of them will be looking to do something big.

Brian Perroni: Wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham is a special player and there is a good reason he is the No. 1 prospect in the country. However, he does not ever have the chance to go against D-I opponents and he has never been to a camp or combine. He will get to face off against Tracy Howard, the top cornerback in the country, at the Army game and it will be fun to watch.

As we creep into the final month of high school football, what prospect in your region do you expect to take over the spotlight games down the stretch?

Mike Farrell: I'll say Darius Hamilton from Don Bosco. The hard part of the Bosco schedule is over except for a possible playoff battle with Bergen Catholic so Hamilton will simply dominate the competition from here on out. I expect him to have a major impact on the playoffs as well.

Adam Gorney: I really think San Clemente four-star offensive tackle Kyle Murphy and three-star quarterback Travis Wilson, along with an accompaniment of players, have done a fantastic job navigating through this season and have a chance to finish really strong. San Clemente faces traditional power Mission Viejo, which is having another strong season, this weekend and then Tesoro in the regular-season finale. If Murphy's team can get past Mission Viejo it could be undefeated heading into the playoffs.

Josh Helmholdt: Farmington Hills Harrison is defending its Division 2 state title in Michigan and all three of its senior Big Ten-committed prospects are high impact players who start on both sides of the football. Michigan State wide receiver commit Aaron Burbridge is its highest-ranked prospect and he has had an outstanding senior campaign, but three-star Michigan commits Mario Ojemudia and Devin Funchess have also been dominant. Harrison is 9-0 on the season, winning by an average of 29 points per game and with Burbridge, Funchess and Ojemudia leading the charge it looks good for bringing home a state record 14th title this fall.

Chris Nee: Miami (Fla.) Norland's Randy Johnson. The Miami commitment has been a scoring machine for Norland on both offense and special teams. When the lights come on every week, he has been among the best players in the state from a production standpoint. With the playoffs three weeks away, I expect him to continue to be the engine for his team.

Keith Niebuhr: I'll go with 2013 defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche of Grayson (Ga.). Not only is he arguably the best player in Georgia regardless of class, he might end up being the top overall prospect next year. And his team is unbeaten. If anyone is capable of leading his squad to a title, it's this guy. Not only is he an exceptional defender, but he also carries the ball quite a bit on offense. Nkemdiche has plenty of talent around him, which also helps. I anticipate him elevating his play down the stretch, which is a scary thought.

Brian Perroni: Aledo (Texas) running back Johnathan Gray has been tearing it up all year and I don't expect it to stop anytime soon. If the Bearkats make another deep playoff run he could challenge former Michigan running back Mike Hart's all-time national high school career scoring record.



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