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By Billy Tucker, Scouts Inc.Offensive coordinator Tony Franklin was hired this past December to revive and improve an Auburn offense statistically ranked toward the bottom of the nation in 2007. Since his arrival, the former Troy offensive coordinator with a reputation as a spread offense guru presumably has spent a lot of his time acclimating the Auburn staff and current roster to his high-tempo version of the system.
This past week, Franklin put all his emphasis on evaluating future Auburn receivers at its rising senior camp.
The Tigers already were off to a fast start for 2009, landing system-fitting skill players with the attributes needed to create mismatches in space for Franklin's wide-open scheme. ESPN 150 Watch List receiver Brandon Heavens (Bessemer, Ala.), running back Rodney Scott (Cross City, Fla./Dixie County) and even pass-catching tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen (Marietta, Ga./Lassiter) all possess the physical skills to cause headaches for SEC defensive coordinators trying to fight the spread.
Following an impressive turnout and standout performances at the two-day camp, the collection of offensive firepower continued to grow; Auburn received commitments from two more ESPN 150 Watch List receivers, Travante Stallworth (Leesville, La.) and LaVoyd James (Mobile, Ala./Williamson). Versatile athlete LaDarius Perkins (Greenville, Miss./Saint Joseph), who also projects to be a future weapon on the offensive side of the ball for the Tigers, pledged to the Auburn coaching staff before the camp.
Interestingly, each of the three prospects came into the camp without a firm scholarship offer from Auburn or even steady recruitment from Franklin himself. Yet, it sounds like the Tigers' OC was the main evaluator and final decision-maker in The Plains.
"I attended their two-day senior camp and got offered at the end," Stallworth said. "I didn't talk to coach Franklin a lot, but he actually was the one who timed me in my 40s, and I ran routes for him during the camp."
Currently a quarterback in a similarly fast-paced, no-huddle offense, Stallworth projects to play receiver and possesses the great quickness needed to make defenders miss in space and the downfield speed required to help create mismatches for underneath receivers.
"Coach Franklin had me take reps at both receiver spots, and I think he likes my versatility to play inside or out," Stallworth said. "The Auburn coaches like my speed to stretch the field and open things up in this new offense."
One of the players Stallworth will be creating space for underneath is James, an explosive receiver with excellent movement skills in the open field as well as elite top-end speed. Like his future classmate, James said Franklin did not get intimately involved in his recruitment prior to the camp but quickly put him under a microscope upon his arrival.
"Coach Franklin came over and timed my 40 and told me to run certain routes during one-on-one drills," the big-play receiver said.
Although the two receivers are not exactly steals for Auburn -- James committed to Auburn over offers from just Ole Miss and Mississippi State, while Tulsa was the only other Division 1 program to make an offer to Stallworth -- both are excellent "space" players and perfect fits for this new open offense. Tommy Tuberville and his Auburn staff have done a great job of discovering and developing under-the-radar prospects over the years; the addition of Franklin, with his sharp eye and reputation, should only help find and attract more.
"I watched Auburn beat Clemson in its bowl game [Chick-fil-A Bowl] last year and liked coach Franklin's offense," Stallworth said. "They ran like 90 plays that game, and similar to our high school offense, coach Franklin tries to wear down a defense and get them tired."
James shared similar sentiments.
"I watched their bowl game and think I fit well with that offense," James said. "They use four wide receivers, and I just think I can catch a lot of balls in that offense."
If Auburn can keep luring playmaking weapons to The Plains, expect that stagnant Tigers offense to start lighting up the scoreboard in "The Jungle."
Virginia has failed to sign an ESPN 150 prospect in its past three classes but already has three 150 Watch List candidates headlining its current group of commitments. The top-to-bottom quality is perhaps most impressive, evidenced by a quality player plucked out of the state of Florida like Freedman sitting in the bottom half. However, it's in the Commonwealth of Virginia where Al Groh and his staff are making the most gains on the recruiting trail for '09. In a year filled with good in-state depth, Virginia already has received verbals from 10 in-state prospects, compared to last year's four.
It's easy to say a prospect would be more sought-after with increased size, but we actually think Lancaster could end up close to 6-foot-2 and 225 pounds in college while retaining his speed and fast-twitched athleticism. Just a pup, the Rice pledge has a long, rangy frame that appears to have a ton of physical development left.
"I was excited about the invitation. I watched the game on TV when it first came out last year and was thinking how I really want to play in it," McAllister said.
TCU nabs Watch List receiver Boyce
Josh Boyce has elected to play college ball for the Horned Frogs, the Austin American-Statesman reports.
ESPN's Tom Luginbill elaborated on the commitment. "This is a big pickup for the Horned Frogs because Boyce is a sleeper with great speed, quickness and acceleration, and TCU got a steal.
"Boyce has huge game-breaking skills in the return game. He has the skills of a WR and looks and runs like a running back, so his versatility in the spread is outstanding.
"Coach Patterson and his staff continue to enhance their presence within the state with this pickup, and it is this type of player that will continue to elevate their program on the national scene."
Signal-caller Karam to the Red Raiders
Jacob Karam, an ESPN 150 Watch List quarterback, has picked Texas Tech over scholarship offers from Stanford, Houston, Arizona, Rice, Missouri, Iowa State, Colorado State, Utah, Louisville, South Florida and Vanderbilt, the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal reports.
"I was very blessed. I had a lot of other scholarship offers. I visited a ton of schools," he said.
As a junior, Karam completed 120 of 221 attempts (54.3 percent) for 1,961 yards, 25 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, earning honorable mention all-state recognition.
Karam also was an honorable mention all-state performer as a sophomore, completing 150 of 254 passes (59.1 percent) for 2,003 yards, 21 touchdowns and eight interceptions.
Craig Haubert: Give it some time -- it's still only June. It took Colorado a while to get started last year. Hawkins is doing a good job, but kids want to see wins -- so if Colorado can do a better job on the field and show improvement this season, I think the Buffs can stay hot in recruiting, but it will likely take into the fall for them to get going.
Mike (Carbondale, Ill.): Is Rich Rod getting the guys he needs for his system?
Craig Haubert: At this point, I would say yes. The QBs on board better fit his system, plus he has the smaller speedy backs in Fitzgerald Toussaint and Teric Jones. Toussaint is a very good zone runner and could be a great fit there at Michigan. Rodriguez looks to be getting the pieces he needs.
Alabama recently landed a commitment from one of the top running backs in the country, Under Armour All-American Trent Richardson. Yet it's his equally impressive humility and drive that make him even more attractive, traits that separate Richardson from other elite prospects with similar physical talent.
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