Commentary

Does Kiffin have a 2009 QB surprise up his sleeve?

What's going on with Tennessee's quarterback situation, and will Bama land any more marquee recruits? Craig Haubert goes into his mailbag to answer those questions and more.

Originally Published: December 9, 2008
By Craig Haubert | Scouts Inc.

It is that time of year when the mail system starts to get flooded with holiday cards and letters to Santa, but do not fear, recruiting mail always makes it to me special delivery. Before the holidays officially arrive, we dig into the mailbag one more time for the 2008 calendar year. We talk about the Tennessee quarterback situation and what possibilities may be available to new head coach Lane Kiffin out on the recruiting trail. We also talk Alabama recruiting and whether Nick Saban still has a chance to stuff the stockings with some big-time prospects. Lastly, we look at the possibility of a talented trio of prospects from Seminole High School landing at the same college. As always, thanks for your questions and have a safe and happy holiday season.

Payton (Parts Unknown) Do you think Tennessee can get a highly rated pro-style quarterback? If they can who do you think they might get?

Tennessee has spent much time in the news recently with the dismissal of Phillip Fulmer and the subsequent hiring of Lane Kiffin. With a new head coach there comes a sense of renewal and hope that things will change for the better. So, with the hiring of the highly sought-after Kiffin there is a positive buzz surrounding the Volunteers' program. Kiffin has a strong background as a recruiter from his days at USC, and he already has former South Carolina recruiting coordinator David Reaves on staff. Word is he will also add into the mix uber-recruiter and former Ole Miss coach Ed Oregon. Those could be pieces that lead to big recruiting success for Tennessee under Kiffin's tenure.

In the immediate future, though, Kiffin needs to deal with the 2009 class. Naturally, having just been hired, he is getting a late jump on recruiting, but Kiffin still has about two months to work with and is in a good position. The class he inherited is fairly strong; Phil Fulmer and his staff had assembled a top-15 class despite their on-field troubles. With what he has and the time remaining, there is no reason to believe Kiffin can't land a good class in his first few months on the job.

The big question is the quarterback position. This has been an interesting situation for the Volunteers. At one point, things looked good for Tennessee; the Vols landed a verbal commitment from promising quarterback prospect Josh Nunes (Upland, Calif.). However, he subsequently decommitted citing distance and then committed to Stanford, which is closer to his home. Nunes actually would have been a good fit as far as being that pro-style pocket-passer quarterback you referred to in your question, Payton. Although he would be a good fit, Nunes seems settled in as a future Cardinal; neither Fulmer nor Kiffin can do much about the distance between Tennessee and California. After Nunes, the Vols rebounded well, landing Elite 11 quarterback Tajh Boyd (Hampton, Va. / Phoebus), but after Kiffin was hired both parties felt it was best to part ways.

With two top-15 quarterbacks in then out of the mix, Tennessee is left still searching for a quarterback. It is tough to see the Vols landing someone highly rated at this point, and Tennessee fans may need to turn their focus to 2010. Highly rated quarterbacks are usually among the first to commit and of our top 30 rated quarterbacks only two remain uncommitted -- and one is Boyd, who we all know is not an option. The other, Tyrik Rollison (Sulphur Springs, Texas), is not an ideal fit either. Although Kiffin has a lot to sell having worked with Heisman Trophy winners at USC, it will be tough to sway a top-ranked pro-style quarterback at this time. The Vols do have one quarterback still on board in Bryce Petty (Midlothian, Texas). He is not a big name, but Petty could develop into a good quarterback for the Vols and fit that system, but it will likely take time and work. I am sure the Vols will try to steal a QB down the stretch, but your best bet is to direct your attention to the next class for your quarterback needs.

Brandon (Huntsville, Ala.)
Which top recruits do you see Bama getting by the end of the recruiting process and where would Bama's class rank? Thanks!

[+] EnlargeDre Kirkpatrick
Tim Casey/Gator Country Dre Kirkpatrick's height and athleticism make him a rare cornerback prospect.
Brandon out of Huntsville, one of my many former stomping grounds as I moved around the country, wants to talk Alabama recruiting. Well Brandon, the Crimson Tide already have pieced together a pretty good class as they try to match or beat their No. 3 ranking of a year ago. While the class right now hovers around the top five, there are still some big fish out there whom the Tide are pursuing and could land. Let's start off with the most obvious. Now anything can happen in recruiting, but the chances look very good that Alabama will land No. 1-rated cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick (Gadsden, Ala.) and his teammate Kendall Kelly (Gadsden, Ala.), the No. 6-rated wide receiver. Now, you may have to wait to get these guys, but I think most people would be shocked if they did not eventually land in Tuscaloosa. While the probability is not as high as with the two previous prospects, the Tide are also in the hunt for in-state prospects linebacker Tana Patrick (Stevenson, Ala./North Jackson) and lineman Brandon Moore (Montgomery, Ala./Carver).

Outside of the state lines, Alabama is hot in the running for some prospects who could really boost this class. One is No. 1-rated wide receiver Rueben Randle (Bastrop, La.), who would be a great complement to freshman Julio Jones; both these guys are big, athletic receivers. It will be tough having to battle programs such as in-state LSU and Oklahoma, but the Tide look to be a serious contender for Randle's services. Speaking of wide receivers, Alabama is also in the mix for a trio of Mississippi prospects. It will be tough to land all three, but Alabama could come away with at least one from the pack of athlete Chad Bumphis (Tupelo, Miss.) and wide receivers Pat Patterson (Macon, Miss./Noxubee County) and Kevin Norwood (D'Iberville, Miss.).

Those are just a few guys Alabama may have a good shot at landing. The Tide also are pursuing prospects such as safety Darren Myles Jr. (Atlanta/Carver), so this class is far from done and still has potential to move up in the rankings. Barring any massive changes to the current class or the Tide missing on all these guys, this is a class with serious top-five potential and could rival last year's ranking if things break right.

Brian (New Iberia, La.)
Craig, do you believe the Miami Hurricanes will have a legit chance of landing the Sanford Trio (Dyron Dye, Ray Ray Armstrong and Andre Debose)?

Brian, every year there are talented teammates who aspire to go to the same college. Sometimes it happens -- look at the host of Miami Northwestern players who all ended up at Miami last year, but often it does not. It is understandable that high school teammates and buddies would dream about playing ball together in college, but that is not always ideal. Often when push comes to shove, teammates who talked about trying to play together part ways. Usually, prospects come to the realization that they need to do what is best for them. Not every program is right for every kid even if they are friends or from the same high school. Although it can be tough to land a group of good teammates, the Hurricanes may be able to cash in on a one-stop shopping deal like they did last year with the Miami Northwestern group.

The Hurricanes have a legitimate shot at landing Seminole High teammates Ray Ray Armstrong, Andre Debose and Dyron Dye. It will be tough, but all three prospects from Sanford, Fla., are considering Miami, which is a good start. Let's start off with promising defensive end Dye, who is down to Miami and LSU. He may be Miami's best shot of the three. Next is No. 2-rated athlete Armstrong, who looks to be down to Miami, LSU, Florida, Georgia and Florida State. They Hurricanes also have a good shot here, but they are competing against some good programs. The third member of the trio is No. 4-rated wide receiver Debose, who appears to be down to Miami, LSU, Florida, Georgia, Florida State and USC. He may be the longest shot of the three for the Hurricanes to land.

You may have noticed that LSU is also in the mix for all three players. So the Tigers could throw a wrench in Miami's hopes of landing all three and they could also pull off the "trifecta" here, though I think that is doubtful. Florida could also present a serious obstacle in Miami's bid to land the trio, especially in the case of Debose.

Although I think there is a remote possibility for Miami to go 3-for-3 here, it is more likely the Hurricanes will go 2-for-3 and at worst should walk way with at least one of the fine prospects from Seminole, which is not bad considering all three are ESPNU 150 prospects and Under Armour All-Americans. All three are slated to announce at the Under Armour game, so it should not be long before we find out how Miami fares with the Sanford Trio.

Craig Haubert is the recruiting coordinator for Scouts Inc. and has more than a decade of coaching experience.