- Jc Shurburtt
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Memphis' Barry Brunetti will not leave anyone with an appreciation for good quarterback play singing the blues.
Brunetti is one of the fastest-rising signal-callers in the nation and has the attention of multiple major programs after a stellar junior season and a solid spring showing.
The 6-foot, 205-pounder had nearly 2,000 yards of total offense last season at University School (1,251 passing and 704 rushing) and 36 total touchdowns (18 rushing and 18 passing), which, along with impressive film, got him on the radar of several programs, including Mississippi State and new head coach Dan Mullen, who knows a little something about top QBs. Mullen coached a No. 1 draft pick and quarterback of an undefeated team (Alex Smith of Utah), a Heisman Trophy winner (Tim Tebow at Florida) and two national championship quarterbacks (Tebow and Chris Leak at Florida).
Then Brunetti was one of the top quarterbacks at the Elite 11 regional workout in Athens on April 24 and was the top quarterback at the Athens Nike Football Training Camp the following day.
"As far as this class of quarterbacks is concerned, [Brunetti] would be receiving a lot more attention if he were a few inches taller," Scouts Inc.'s Tom Luginbill said. "Nevertheless, this smooth, athletic passer possesses a live arm, quick release and just enough athleticism to beat you with his legs. Of all the kids we have seen this spring, he possesses some of the best RPMs of any passer in this class."
Though he does not have the lengthy offer list that many quarterbacks possess, he has gotten more attention since that weekend in Georgia. That, along with schools coming to the River City to check him out, has made for more offers, including ones from Penn State and West Virginia.
"I was very excited about getting the offer from Penn State and Joe Paterno," Brunetti said. "I haven't decided when I am going to go up there and visit, but he's one of the best coaches in the history of college football.
"With West Virginia, I like what they did with Pat White. I also like their coaches. I am looking forward to getting up there for a visit. They came by my school recently."
The lone Southeastern Conference program to make Brunetti an offer has his attention.
"Mississippi State has had an offer on the table for me for a while," Brunetti said. "I love coach Mullen, and I talk to him all the time. I think what he is doing there is exciting."
He added that he believes Oregon and Ole Miss are close to offering. The Rebels' proximity to Memphis and Houston Nutt's success at the school during his first year would make them an attractive choice, he said. But right now, Brunetti said, he's focused on Penn State, Mississippi State and West Virginia.
Here is a program from each BCS conference that has the least amount of built-in recruiting advantages yet whose coaching staff is making it work well.
Everyone knows about the academic requirements, some sparse crowds at Wallace Wade Stadium and the struggles most coaches have had there. North Carolina produces talent, but not enough for four major programs, and UNC, NC State and Wake Forest aren't quitting football anytime soon. Head coach David Cutcliffe and his staff, however, are doing an outstanding job corralling talent to compete, especially within North Carolina. Highly regarded in-state running back Josh Snead talked about the Blue Devils' being a program on the rise after he committed earlier this week.
The Huskies obviously don't have the national recognition for their football program that they do for their basketball programs and the state is not a fertile recruiting ground. But while UConn just transitioned from FCS football during the last decade, it has had success recently getting to bowl games and contending in the Big East. Also, Randy Edsall & Co. evaluate as well as anybody. One look at the recent NFL draft (the Huskies had four players selected in the first two rounds) will tell you that.
Indiana does not produce very many high-level prospects, and outside of Chicago, West Lafayette is not located near many dense talent bases. Still, the Boilermakers have good facilities and do an excellent job of evaluating and landing many of the prospects they like. Purdue has also spot-recruited Texas and the Southeast quite well. It sells an exciting offense and nearly a decade of being one of the better teams in their league. And it is close to landing former Miami quarterback Robert Marve, who is expected to announce later this week that he will play for the Boilermakers.
The Cowboys have an outstanding coaching staff, big funding for facilities and are a program on the rise, so it's not as though they are hurting. But Mike Gundy's staff recruits their tails off because considering whom they are battling for players, they have to. With the Sooners in the same state and lots of competition for Texas talent, Oklahoma State overcomes a lot of obstacles just in terms of recognition. Gundy is a rising star in coaching thanks in part to his -- and his staff's -- ability to get out there and battle for players.
It's not that the Cardinal don't have a lot to sell. The campus is beautiful, the coaching staff is top-notch, and there is tradition there. (Bill Walsh coached in Palo Alto, John Elway played there, etc.) But in the cyclical Pac-10, the Cardinal were down before the arrival of Jim Harbaugh, and that coincided with Southern California's rise to juggernaut status and the rise of Cal under Jeff Tedford. This made the job on the recruiting trail for Harbaugh and staff that much tougher, but they have been able to recruit nationally quite well, as evidenced by the commitment from Under Armour All-America WR Tai-ler Jones (Gainesville, Ga.).
Bobby Johnson and his staff have the worst setup in the nation's best league. They have average facilities, tough academic requirements and a small fan base and are in a state that does not churn out a ton of SEC-level players every year. Yet they have turned the Commodores into an annual bowl contender by evaluating strongly and hitting Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama and Texas for players. Offensive lineman Max Garcia (Norcross, Ga.) currently favors the Dores over several other programs. "They are well-respected, and I like their academics," he said.
The Hot Sell
Here's a spotlight on a hot school in recruiting right now.
The Crimson Tide have been hot during the past 60 days, having claimed nine verbal commitments since April 1, including Under Armour All-America quarterback Phillip Sims (Chesapeake, Va./Oscar Smith) and tackle Jawuan James (Suwanee, Ga./North Gwinnett). On Tuesday night, they got a commitment from in-state defensive end Craig Sanders (Ariton, Ala.). Head coach Nick Saban has a reputation for developing defensive backs, and the Tide has the lead for three of the Southeast's best in Under Armour All-Americans Demarcus Milliner (Millbrook, Ala./Stanhope Elmore) and John Fulton (Manning, S.C.) and standout Garry Peters (Conyers, Ga./Heritage). "They just made me feel at home, and I really liked the coaching staff and coach Saban," Fulton said after naming Bama his leader.
Also worth mentioning: Duke, Florida, Southern California, Oklahoma, Florida State, Oregon
Recruiter To Watch
Tosh Lupoi, defensive line coach, Cal
Lupoi is a Berkeley man, having graduated from Cal and played football for the Golden Bears, so who better to take Jeff Tedford's program and attempt to sell it nationally? Lupoi is excellent at developing the all-important relationship with the prospects and their parents. "He's real cool, real down-to-earth," Class of 2009 signee Kenny Kafusi said. Kafusi's father, Steve Martinez, agreed, "I love him. He pledged to take care of my son for the next four years."
Also keep an eye on:
• John Blake, North Carolina: Blake appears here quite often. This past week, defensive lineman Tavaris Barnes (Jacksonville, Fla./First Coast) cited Blake as one of the major reasons he's high on the Heels. Blake is a true national recruiter, and most of the Heels' top targets are his responsibility.
• Larry Johnson, Penn State: Another repeat performer. Johnson recently made stops at several high schools across the Northeast and has started to build a relationship with many of the Nittany Lions' top prospects, including fast-rising defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd (Philadelphia/George Washington).
• Ken Norton Jr., USC: Has a slew of big-time targets both in California and beyond. Is one of the top recruiters on one of the top recruiting staffs in the country. The Trojans sell themselves in many ways, but the staff still gets after it like no other.
• Tony Hughes, Mississippi State: Former Ole Miss assistant has used his in-state ties to get the Bulldogs in the game with several of the Magnolia State's top prospects.
For offensive lineman Dan Foose (Paramus, N.J./Paramus Catholic), it's all about work ethic. The 6-6, 310-pounder is at school working out by 6:45 a.m. every day and has increased his bench-press max to 365 pounds and squats more than 500.
Rutgers, Boston College, Pittsburgh and others have made offers to Foose, and other programs should take notice during summer camps.
Soon to be a Trojan?
Los Angeles Nike Football Training Camp receiver Most Valuable Player Kenny Stills (Carlsbad, Calif./La Costa Canyon) recently picked up an offer from Southern California. Most believe it's only a matter of time before Stills commits to the Trojans -- USC is his dream school.
Many believe that Texas is still the team to beat for Under Armour All-America receiver Darius White (Fort Worth, Texas/Dunbar), but that Oklahoma has closed the gap considerably and the Sooners are very much in the thick of things. Georgia is the latest program to make an offer to cornerback Tony Grimes (Hollywood, Fla./Hollywood Hills). The Bulldogs join Alabama and Miami (Fla.) in recently offering to Grimes, whose stock has risen tremendously during the spring evaluation period. Oregon, Oklahoma, Southern California and others are among the schools showing early interest in Class of 2011 defensive tackle Jalen Grimble (Las Vegas/Bishop Gorman). Texas is still the team to beat for Under Armour All-America linebacker Jordan Hicks (West Chester, Ohio/Lakota West). Most believe that if he does not head to Texas, it will be somewhere in the Sun Belt (the region, not the conference). Expect Georgia to get a commitment from two-way lineman Kyle Woestmann (Marietta, Ga./Walton). The Bulldogs made him an offer as a defensive end.
JC Shurburtt covers recruiting for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.