Commentary

Finding sleepers in the '09 class

Originally Published: May 15, 2008
By Craig Haubert | Scouts Inc.

Malliciah GoodmanTom Hauck for ESPN.comMalliciah Goodman is one of five ESPN 150 Watch List defensive prospects committed to Clemson.
I am back folks as we tackle the 2009 edition of the mailbag. The price of stamps may have gone up, but Haubert's mailbag is still the same price. We start off talking some Clemson and possible 2009 sleepers. Also I answer the most asked question, so scroll down to get the answer many of you have been waiting for. Have a question? Please submit and I will do my best to answer in my next edition of the mailbag.

Eric in Clemson, S.C.: When do the player rankings come out? I also would like to get your insight on Clemson's 2009 Recruiting -- do you see another top-5 class in the making? Thanks.

Craig: Eric first off the ESPN 150 and the rest of the player rankings are scheduled to be released in early August. We are still evaluating film, and while there are no rankings yet you can still read player evaluations on ESPN.com.

One of the things that puzzled us some coming out of signing day 2008 was the lack of overall recognition for what we thought was an excellent Clemson recruiting class. Led by No. 1 overall prospect DaQuan Bowers, we felt Tommy Bowden and his staff put together one of the nation's elite classes.

It is way too early to speculate on where teams may finish and there are some good early classes assembled across the nation, but at this time you would have to say Clemson is making strides toward trying to once again finishing in the top five. It currently has eight verbal commitments; all are on the ESPN 150 Watch List (you will have to log on in August to see which ones made the cut) and four of those prospects have already been named to the Under Armour All-America Game.

[+] EnlargeDeVonte Holloman
Icon SMIA two-way star for Charlotte-Independence, Devonte Holloman projects as a college safety.
What has really helped Clemson make strides toward putting together another highly-ranked class is the recent addition of two top-ranked safeties. South Carolina has a strong level of talent and the state seems to be getting stronger every year so Clemson does not need to go very far to build a good class, but it impressed many when it landed Houston area talent Craig Loston (Aldine, Texas/Eisenhower). Then building on that it really bolstered its secondary by adding Devonte Holloman (Charlotte, N.C./Independence) this week. It's a duo reminiscent of when Florida signed the nation's two top 2008 safeties in Will Hill (West Orange, N.J./Saint Peter's) and Dee Finley (Auburn. Ala.).

The defense also has two other good additions in linebacker Eric Fields (Warner Robins, Ga./Northside) and the freakishly built defensive end Malliciah Goodman (Florence, S.C./West Florence).

On offense, big J.K. Jay (Greenville, S.C./Christ Church) leads the way. There is still a lot of time left until signing day and the competition will be fierce to land in the top five so Clemson still has a lot of work to do. With a good early class and prospects like athlete Stephon Gilmore (Rock Hill, S.C./South Point) and wide receiver Ricco Sanders (Duncan, S.C./Byrnes) among others strongly considering Clemson, it is not hard to believe it could be back in the mix among the top-rated classes again this year when class rankings come out.

William in Orlando: We hear a lot about the big name prospects and at times it seems we hear about the same guys over and over. With all the film you guys evaluate who are some lesser talked about guys maybe we should know about?

Craig: Great question William. One of the fun parts of our job is coming across those talented players who for one reason or another have flown under the radar. There are plenty of guys out there who probably deserve more attention, but I will give you three here.

First is running back Mike Gillislee out of Deland, Fla. College coaches know about this kid, but recruiting fans may not. He is a tall, athletic and a dangerous runner in the open field as he can run by, around or even through opponents. He is likely a little bit better of an overall athlete than he is as a true running back, but he has the tools to be a playmaker. He could also project to safety at the college level.

A second kid is from the recruiting hotbed of Delaware. He is actually one half of a talented brother duo attending Hodgson Vo-Tech High School. Again, college coaches are already aware of both Jamil Merrell and his brother Jamal, and while his brother is also very worthy, I am going to single out Jamil here as needing more national attention. He is an impressive-looking kid physically and possesses a great wingspan. He has good speed and is physical. He is a bit raw and the competition in Delaware does not match that of Florida or Texas, but this kid has excellent upside. Once he fills out his frame he could be a dangerous defensive end at the college level or even possibly an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme.

Finally is a young man who has been selected to play in Under Armour All-American game so it may be tough to call him a sleeper, but I feel strongly he does not get enough national recognition. He is tight end Barrett Matthews (Houston/North Shore) and Texas seems to agree he is a special talent as he is committed to the Longhorns. Overall, I don't think the 2009 class of tight ends is very strong at this point, but regardless of that, I think Matthews is clearly one of the best. The obvious knock is his height at about 6-foot-2, but while not ideal, it can be overcome. One can overlook his height because he has good bulk on his frame and speed. He has very good hands and can be a weapon in the passing game and is also a tenacious blocker. Sometimes you need to put ideals aside and recognize a kid can just play the game. Matthews has the tools to be an excellent tight end at the college level and fans of recruiting should be sure to check him out.

You can read more in-depth evaluations on all these players and go through Recruit Tracker to discover more sleepers.

Recruiting fan in Spanish Fork, Utah: What does ATH stand for?

Craig: When you see a prospect listed as ATH, that means we currently categorized him as an athlete prospect. What that means is the young man has a wealth of athletic ability and we are not sure yet where he may fit best at the college level. It also may mean that a young man could do several things at the college level and we do not want to try and fit him into one category.

A good example of this was 2008 Florida signee Will Hill. When we evaluated Hill we were blown away by his athleticism and were not sure where to put him because he was physical on defense but was also dangerous with the ball in his hands on offense. It was not stretch to think he could play receiver or running back at the college level, so we labeled him as an athlete. We eventually removed the athlete tag and moved him to safety when it became clear that was where he would play in college.

Just because a player is not listed as an athlete does not mean he is not a good athlete, but it may be pretty clear he fits best at a certain position. We added the athlete category last year and we are glad we did. Rosters do not have players listed at athlete so everyone needs to fit somewhere, but when evaluating and projecting high school prospects it is good to have a category like this.

Ricky in Corpus Christi, Texas: How can we get a video of a player graded? Is there a mailing address?

Craig: Without a doubt the most popular question I get asked. So folks, here it is the information you have been looking for. If you would like to send in tape to be evaluated, send it to:

ESPN
ATTN: 2009 FILM EVAL
2 Elm Square
Andover, MA 01810

Please make sure to give your jersey number and color -- the more information the better. Also please be patient as we have a lot of film to review. If you are a 2010 prospect, please note that on the package. Lastly, thanks for your interest and we look forward to seeing your film.

Craig Haubert is recruiting coordinator for Scouts Inc. Drop Craig a line in his mailbag.

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