- Craig Haubert, ESPN Staff Writer
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We are sitting here just days away from the start of the college football season and life is good! Official visits will be starting soon and the real countdown to national signing day begins. Before the 2008 season kicks off lets dip into the mailbag and answer a few questions. We will discuss the little talked about Beavers of Oregon State as well as look at Florida State's class and how it fares in late summer.
Jason in Corvallis, Ore.: Hey Craig! Please answer an Oregon State question for me! What can Oregon State do to bring in some bigger recruits? It has been third in the Pac 10 the last two years but still struggles to bring in top talent. What can Coach Riley and Co. do to change that? Will the new state-of-the-art weight room help? Thanks!
Craig: Jason, thanks for the question and it is good to hear from a fan of the Beavers as we don't get many questions about the Oregon State program. It finished strong the last two years, winning 10 games in 2006 and nine in 2007, a key element to recruiting well. Winning helps and quietly the Beavers have been winning, but the quiet part is part of the problem.
Usually two good seasons combined with two consecutive bowl wins would equal a nice little pay day in terms of recruiting, but in the case of Oregon State it has not really shaken out that way. A big problem is exposure. I truly believe if you polled most prospects and even college football fans outside of the Pacific Northwest or even just outside of Oregon, they would be surprised to hear the Beavers have been that successful the past two years. So when you are winning, but not getting much publicity for it, it is tough to lure recruits. Also Corvallis is a bit out of the way and in a conference with programs like USC, UCLA and Oregon, it can be easy to get lost in the shuffle.
Oregon State has and will continue to have trouble luring high-level prospects away from some of the other PAC-10 teams. In the history of the ESPNU 150, the highest graded player it has landed was 77. If the Beavers keep winning, it may help to land a ESPNU 150-caliber prospect here and there and any upgrade to facilities helps, but it is tough to compete with in-state rival Oregon and its facilities.
The bottom line is do not expect Oregon State to put together a string of top-25 classes. The time may come when they can put together one or two here and there, but it will be tough to consistently beat programs like USC and Oregon for players due to a lack of exposure, history and a less then ideal location.
One thing to remember though is it is about coaching, too. The Beavers have not landed many great classes but have still been competitive because Mike Riley and his staff have done a good job recognizing talent and recruiting to fit their needs. They have also done a solid job of dipping into the junior-college ranks just enough to supplement their holes in recruiting.
Preston in O'Fallon, Ill.: How is Florida State's class shaping up? It doesn't seem like Scouts Inc. likes their class as much as some of the other recruiting sites.
Craig: The Seminoles are piecing together a nice class, recognized at No. 7 in the latest team rankings and working for a top-five spot. They have three ESPNU 150 prospects on board in defensive tackle Jacobbi McDaniel (Greenville, Fla./Madison County), defensive end Demonte McAllister (Tampa, Fla./Alonso), and safety Gerald Demps (Valdosta, Ga./Lowndes) and also boast five Under Armour All-Americans. If you look at the rankings, it is hard to say they belong ahead of any of the teams ranked ahead of them, but they are not that far out.
The first striking trait about this class is how good it is at this point. Florida State has been known as the team that closes well, but since some staff changes prior to the 2007 season, it seems like the Seminoles have been much more active in the early going.
Another thing we like is the talent along the defensive line. McDaniel is the No. 1 rated defensive tackle in the country and has the tools be a disruptive force for defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews. A key for making a surge forward toward the top five will be holding onto McAllister. The Tampa native is a versatile, explosive defender, but it is a bit cloudy at this point whether he is fully on board. He committed to the Seminoles immediately following their Showtime camp, but it looks like he is still keeping his options open and wants to take visits. I think they will hold on to him, but he could be a pivotal figure in whether this class is able to make another push up the charts.
Florida State has also done a good job of addressing some offensive needs, like at wide receiver with players like Rodney Smith (Miami/Archbishop Carroll) and Willie Downs (Tallahassee, Fla./Godby). We would like to see it improve the offensive line with some more additions there.
Florida State currently has a top-10 class, and that is good any way you shake it. How it finishes remains to be seen, and looking ahead, I think it may be tough for them to crack the top five when it is all said and done. Even if it just adds a few more players it will have done a good job with their 2009 class.
Chris in Dallas: I see from the articles on the positions you have been posting that you show what criteria you use to evaluate prospects, but I was curious: How much does a prospects potential to be a pro player affect how you rank and evaluate him?
Craig: Thanks for the question Chris; it is a good one. We look at many factors when evaluating and ranking prospects, general traits like how quickly they can contribute, their physical upside and motor and specific positional traits. Take defensive ends, for example. We look at things like get-off, how they use their hands and how they rush the passer -- are they just trying to run by blockers or do they show a command of pass-rush moves and display a plan of attack to defeat the blocker?
Many things shape our evaluations all in the hopes of giving fans a good feel of how a certain prospect may fit and fare at the college level. That is where it ends. Trying to project how a 16-, 17- or 18-year-old kid may do as a pro is out of our scope. Usually if a player has the tools to be projected as a top college prospect, those traits will carry on to being able to develop into a NFL-caliber player.
Overall though, the NFL has no bearing on our rankings. We only are looking to see how a high school prospect may fare as a college player, and that is all that is important at this phase. College coaches don't recruit kids to be NFL players but rather to help them win games in college. Would you consider Danny Wuerffel a bad recruit for Florida because he did not pan out in the NFL? How about former Tennessee quarterback Andy Kelly or Wisconsin running back Ron Dayne? Those guys were great players for their colleges and what happened after is not important when judging whether a player was a good recruit.
Now if you recruit enough highly-rated prospects with great physical tools, odds are several will develop into NFL players. I think having NFL players come out of a program is more a result of good recruiting than trying to target who may be a good NFL player.
Basically Chris it comes down to one step at a time. We evaluate how a high school kid fits at the college level and let the Scouts Inc. staff like Todd McShay determine which college players will make good professionals.
Have two straight winning seasons turned Oregon State's recruiting fortunes? How good is Florida State's class? Craig Haubert goes into his mailbag to answer those questions and more.