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September 30, 2012

Roundtable: Who has impressed?

ROUNDTABLES: Sept. 23 | Sept. 16 | Sept. 9 | Sept. 1

The Rivals.com analysts tackle current topics in the recruiting world in a roundtable format.

Most high school seasons are crossing into the second half now. Who has impressed you the most?

Mike Farrell, National: I'd say I was most impressed with Jonathan Allen when I saw him in person, but I will say his teammate and another national top 50 player, Ryan Burns, also impressed. I think Burns has the best release and mechanics I have seen on any quarterback this season, he is big and can move and he has the look of a guy who could be playing on Sundays down the road. It will be a very tough transition from running a wing offense in high school to a pro-style offense at Stanford, but in a few years we could be talking about him as a first rounder if all works out.

Rob Cassidy, West: I've seen Phoenix Mountain Pointe receiver/safety Jalen Brown in person three times now. Each time, I leave more impressed with his skill set. As the sample size grows, I become more convinced that Brown is an elite-level prospect. He routinely makes plays on both sides of the ball and has a knack for the big moment. He always seems to be standing at the center of big moments and has the size and speed necessary for his game to translate to the next level. If Brown is not the top 2014 player in the Arizona, he's certainly No. 2.

Kynon Codrington, Southeast: I have to say Bradenton (Fla.) Manatee quarterback Cord Sandberg is the best player I've seen so far. Sandberg is natural winner and makes everyone around him better. His team beat a pair of formidable foes in Miramar (Fla.) and Miami (Fla.) Central this month and their schedule is one of the best in the nation. The Mississippi State commit has a good arm and nice touch. He is an ideal fit for the spread offense and I think he will be impact player when he arrives in Starkville.

Adam Gorney, West: When I saw him Friday night, West Hills (Calif.) Chaminade running back Terrell Newby proved with four touchdowns that he's one of the best backs in the West.

The four-star prospect is the second-best back in the state and he's definitely worthy of that recognition. He can run between the tackles but Newby is best when he escapes to the outside and then uses his outstanding burst to get to the second level.

Plus, Newby can come out of the backfield and catch the ball evidenced by a nice 50-plus yard gain down the seam against Sherman Oaks Notre Dame. Newby has all the skills to be special with the right blocking.

Josh Helmholdt, Midwest: The best player I have seen in 20-plus games covered this year has been Crete-Monee (Ill.) wide receiver Laquon Treadwell, already rated as the No. 1 wide receiver prospect in the nation. We loved what we saw out of Treadwell at events like the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge, The Opening and Gridiron Kings, but he may have been even more impressive the night I covered him and he caught seven passes for 181 yards and two touchdowns.

Jason Howell, Southwest: Without a doubt Shreveport (La.) Green Oaks cornerback Tre'Davious White put together the best night I have seen so far. He did it in so many ways too. He had some plays on defense, he put on a show with his play on special teams, and he controlled the field on offense. It did not just click into place right from the start, but when it did it was over. White got it done.

Woody Wommack, Southeast: It's hard to argue with what Thomas Tyner is doing out on the West Coast right now. There were a lot of questions surrounding his ability to stay healthy coming into the year, and he has responded with a dominant first half of the year. While the competition he's facing isn't exactly great, the numbers he's putting up and the way he's doing it is very impressive.

What do you think is the most overrated factor in recruiting -- something the outside world thinks matters to prospects when in reality it does not?

Mike Farrell, National: I'm going to be cynical here because it's in my nature and say academics. This doesn't mean across the board, but I think the majority of kids could care less about what academic reputation a school has, what major a school has that they are interested in and they have trouble thinking beyond football. That's what makes it great to cover kids who really take the academic part of things seriously and don't just pick a team based on the uniforms or facilities.

Rob Cassidy, West: This is the obvious response, and I'm not even sure if most fans are fooled into thinking it matters. Still, every time a top-level prospect tells me he's basing his decision primarily on "academics," my eyes automatically roll. It's a nice thing to say. I'm sure it makes mom and dad very proud of their child, but does anybody actually believe it? For better or worse, big-time players are going to college to major in football. USC could replace its teachers with hand-me-down Speak and Spells, and it would have next to no impact on the top of its recruiting class. Kids want to win games, work out in nice facilities with coaches they like, share a campus with pretty girls and get to the NFL. The end.

There are exceptions, sure, but believing most high school stars are breaking down course catalogues is naive. Now, let's talk about something important ... like uniforms.

Kynon Codrington, Southeast: I think if I team loses a game with official visitors on campus it's not as big of a deal as the outside world perceives. More and more recruits eye the depth chart and early playing time as the biggest factors in their recruitment. If they are on a visit and the team loses that doesn't effect what the program has to offer.

Adam Gorney, West: This might sound odd but promised early playing time is way overdone. These prospects are savvy enough to know nothing will be given away for free and when coaches talk about guarantees to see the field early on it could be seen as trite.

Recruits know how things work. They might not know everything but when they're told that they'll definitely see the field right when they get on campus it's almost like a "yeah, sure" response and it could turn some prospects off.

Josh Helmholdt, Midwest: The outcome of a particular game -- even if it is one a prospect is attending. Atmosphere of that game matters. The vibe a player gets while on campus matters, but if the team wins big, or loses, the outcome does not matter. Prospects factor the future of a program into their college decisions, not the present, so the final score of a big rivalry game or a game the recruit is in the stands for has little to no effect on their final decision. Recruits commit after seeing a team lose all the time.

Jason Howell, Southwest: After last week's loss to Kansas State there were a lot of questions about how recruits in for Oklahoma's big visit weekend react. Truth is most of the recruits did not mind. I'm going to say a loss on a visit weekend does not matter as much to recruits as some think. If it is a program on the rise, maybe it means more, but when you are talking about Oklahoma, Florida State, Texas, USC, Ohio State or a program that has shown in one way or another they are moving in the right direction prospects are going to overlook it

Woody Wommack, Southeast: Uniforms. While most recruits and players enjoy sporting new unis, I don't think there's ever going to be a top recruit who commits to a school just because they have cool uniforms. Fans get excited every time their school gets new uniforms and assume it's going to have an instant impact on recruiting. But if every school has 4-5 variations that they break out every season, does anyone really have an advantage?

Looking ahead to October, what's the best one-on-one prospect battle looming in a future game?

Mike Farrell, National: I am looking forward to seeing four-star linebacker Yannick Ngakoue from Washington (D.C.) Friendship Collegiate Academy try to handle Paramus (N.J.) Paramus Catholic 2014 star Jabrill Peppers who plays running back and defensive back for his team. Peppers is a top five or 10 player nationally next year and Ngakoue is a heckuva athlete so it should be a good matchup.

Rob Cassidy, West: They play very different positions, but it will be interesting to watch Las Vegas Bishop Gorman, led by Arizona quarterback commit Anu Solomon, take on a Centennial High defense anchored by BYU-bound linebacker Trajan Pili, who is making a push toward four-star status. The game itself probably won't be close. Gorman is the much better team. Pill and Soloman will come face to face on a number of occasions, though. Those moments will bring plenty of excitement regardless of the score. The game will take place at Centennial on Oct. 19.

Kynon Codrington, Southeast: I'm looking forward to the October 10 match-up between Oakland Park (Fla.) Northeast wide receiver Stacy Coley against Pompano Beach (Fla.) Ely defensive back Rashard Robinson. Both players are ranked in the Rivals250 and this should be a great battle. Robinson is the faster of the two, but Coley is a difference maker on offense, defense and special teams.

Adam Gorney, West: Gardena Serra visits Los Angeles Cathedral in mid-October and I'm really looking forward to that one.

LSU quarterback commit Hayden Rettig has a lot of weapons especially at wide receiver but Gardena Serra is loaded at cornerback especially with 2014 stud Adoree' Jackson. Plus, linebacker Dwight Williams is aggressive and tough and Serra's defense is active and pursues the ball well.

It could be a real test for Rettig and his team that have put up huge numbers this season.

Josh Helmholdt, Midwest: There is going to be an interesting prospect vs. prospect matchup on Oct. 12 when Rivals100 wide receiver Shelton Gibson and his Cleveland Heights team takes on Warren (Ohio) Harding and Michigan State commit Jalyn Powell. The 6-foot-1, 185-pound Powell lines up all over the field for Harding, but I expect him to see plenty of man coverage on the 6-foot-1, 175-pound Gibson because you need your best athlete to stop Gibson from the big plays he has shown many times over the course of this season.

Jason Howell, Southwest: This are some really good ones out there. Ranthony Texada vs. Torii Hunter Jr. should be as fun as any match-up out there, and Matt Dimon against Caleb Benenoch is a battle of friends who are gridiron foes. J.T. Barrett and Jerrod Heard should provide plenty of fireworks, and Solomon Thomas battling Zach Rogers is going to be can't miss trench work by a couple of top underclassmen.

However the match-up that has me most pumped is Deoundrei Davis vs. Keith Ford. It's going to be future Longhorn linebacker trying to stop future Sooner running back in a district match-up. I think we will see plenty of head-to-head meetings between these two this year and in years to come.

Woody Wommack, Southeast: When Fort Valley (Ga.) Peach County and Macon (Ga.) Central meet on Oct. 19, two of Georgia's best prospects will square off. Clemson wide reciever commit Demarcus Robinson (Peach County) and Vanderbilt linebacker commit Nigel Bowden (Central) figure to see plenty of each other, especially when Robinson goes over the middle. Both players are the only real prospects on their team and, even though they won't be going head-to-head the whole game, they're each the leaders of their respective squads.

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