Lane and the Hendersons
USC is not a lock to land five-star OT Seantrel Henderson, despite his commitment
While most of the 2010 recruiting cycle has been put to bed, there is still one very big catch left because the nation's top offensive lineman, Seantrel Henderson (Saint Paul, Minn./Cretin Derham-Hall), has not yet signed a national letter-of-intent, though he has committed to Southern California.
Henderson and his father said during a television interview Sunday that they will not sign with USC until they get a better sense of the sanctions the Trojans may face from an ongoing NCAA investigation. The NCAA is investigating allegations that former football player Reggie Bush, now with the Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints, broke rules by accepting cash, a car and free housing from businessmen who hoped to profit from Bush after he went to the NFL.
USC officials will appear before an NCAA infractions committee later this month. It could be some time before the exact extent of the penalties against the Trojans, if any, are known.
As far as the NCAA recruiting calendar goes, it's now a quiet period, so schools can't have off-campus contact with the 6-foot-7, 295-pounder. There are still phone calls, though, and programs like Ohio State, Miami and others are still making their pitch.
The Henderson situation continues a trend over the past three recruiting cycles in which high-profile prospects have taken their recruitment well past national signing day. It's the second straight year that a Lane Kiffin-coached team has been strongly in the mix. Running back Bryce Brown (Wichita, Kan./East) took his recruitment past signing day last year before inking with Tennessee, where Kiffin was the coach. Terrelle Pryor (Jeanette, Pa./Jeanette) took his recruitment past national signing day in 2008 before finally picking Ohio State over Michigan and Penn State.
The Buckeyes were considered very strong players for Henderson before the Trojans made a move and snagged him. Could Ohio State again benefit from a lingering recruitment, or will Miami, his final official visit, be the beneficiary?
UCLA has something brewin'
Though USC and Kiffin made some noise on national signing day by nabbing Henderson's commit and others, it was quite a finish for crosstown rival UCLA.
The Bruins served notice that there is going to be more than one Los Angeles program that's signing the top West Coast prospects: Rick Neuheisel and his staff finished No. 10 in the final ESPN class rankings.
The Bruins were one of the bigger success stories on national signing day, when they landed four-star defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa (Portland, Ore./David Douglas), four-star safety Dietrich Riley (La Canada, Calif./Saint Francis), four-star linebacker Josh Shirley (Fontana, Calif./Kaiser), three-star linebacker Jordan Zumwalt (Huntingdon Beach, Calif./Edison) and three-star safety Anthony Jefferson (Los Angeles/Cathedral).
"We accomplished everything that we set out to do," Bruins director of on-campus recruiting Angus McClure said.
In addition to filling needs on both lines of scrimmage and signing two of the top running backs in the country in ESPNU 150 prospects Jordon James (Corona, Calif./Corona) and Malcolm Jones (Westlake Village, Calif./Oaks Christian), the Bruins added some versatile prospects to their roster. Four-star athlete Anthony Barr (Torrance, Calif./Loyola) could play outside linebacker or strong safety or even running back, while Riley could play in the secondary and take snaps in a Wildcat package on offense. Others are simply talented football players who can make an impact on special teams.
"The first guy that was happy when we signed this class was [UCLA special teams coach] Frank Gansz Jr. We look at that -- how a prospect can come in and add depth to our special teams and help our program right away."
The Bruins also did a good job of extending their reach nationally. Linebacker Aramide Olaniyan (Woodberry Forest, Va./Woodberry Forest) and defensive end Derrick Bryant (Columbus, Ohio/Brookhaven) both were excellent national pickups.
"We sell the weather," McClure quipped.
There are the programs which may or may not get the headlines on national signing day for signing ESPNU 150-rated talent, but which have proven year after year that they know how to evaluate talent and build winning football teams with the talent they sign. They may not get the credit (or the hype), but most who know football are believers.
Huskies head coach Randy Edsall should be upset about the lack of respect his recruiting efforts get (he made some very pointed comments about recruiting rankings on national signing day). All he does is sign players he can coach up and develop. There isn't a team that plays harder that UConn. The school had four players drafted in the first two rounds of last year's NFL draft, yet they returned enough talent to beat Notre Dame in South Bend, lose to Cincinnati by two points and beat South Carolina in a bowl game. He's also doing it in a state that produces more talent than one would think but isn't going to be mistaken for a top talent producer. That means he and his staff have to go to places like New Jersey and Florida to find players. Evaluation is paramount at this program, and Edsall and staff do it year after year.
Virginia Tech Hokies
The Hokies rarely sign a top-10 recruiting class, yet they typically are in the top 10 and winning conference championships. They hit the Tidewater and the rest of Virginia hard and then evaluate players to fit their needs. Frank Beamer & Co. have followed this proven system for years, and it continues to bring winning football to Blacksburg.
Alabama Crimson Tide
You don't normally equate schools that sign top-five classes with the ones that "evaluate well" simply because the higher-rated prospects are no-brainers, but watch closely during the coming years and note how many of Nick Saban and staff's signed players actually turn out to be players. You saw it at LSU and you are seeing it at Alabama. Saban & Co. rarely miss.
Oregon State Beavers
Even with the Pac-10 making a lot of noise on the national stage this year, you didn't hear much about the Beavers, who were one win from the Rose Bowl this past season. Mike Riley and staff are doing everything right when it comes to evaluation and development, and if you watch Oregon State play, you can see great call after great call from a personnel standpoint.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
The Yellow Jackets have to be talented on the offensive line, and when you look at who they signed this year, there are some incoming players who have a lot of upside. They also need playmakers, and you can take it to the bank that the backs and receivers they sign will know what to do with the ball in their hands.
The Wildcats employ a spread offense that they basically plug players into. Pat Fitzgerald and his staff can flat-out coach, using players they evaluate to run their system on both sides of the ball to perfection.
Super Bowl talent
Super Bowl hero Tracy Porter of the New Orleans Saints is a good example of why it's never a bad idea to recruit talent-rich states like Louisiana. Indiana signed Porter as a versatile athlete out of Port Allen (La.) High School in the Class of 2004 as he was overlooked by LSU and the rest of the SEC.
Or was he? The bottom line is that a good portion of the rest of the SEC does not recruit Louisiana, which ranks No. 6 in total number of players on NFL rosters behind the big three of Florida, Texas and California and then the next two of Georgia and Ohio.
Very few schools, save Miami and Florida State at different points during the past two decades, have had great success in the Pelican State.
Pierre Garcon of the Colts, who caught a touchdown in the game, also helped prove that recruiters should leave no stone unturned in a talent hotbed. He came out of John I. Leonard High in Greenacres, Fla., in Palm Beach County and ended up at Division III power Mount Union (Ohio) before emerging in the NFL. He's another case study why most schools should recruit Palm Beach, along with Dade and Broward Counties, hard.
Tight end Jay Rome (Valdosta, Ga./Valdosta) has been lighting it up on the basketball court this season. The 6-6, 240-pounder has averaged 27.5 points per game while leading his team to an 18-2 record. Rome is garnering interest from Division I schools in both sports.
In terms of football, his offer sheet reads like a who's who of college football programs in the Southeast. Alabama, Florida, Florida State, Miami, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Tennessee and others have offered. So has Clemson, where his father, Stan, played both football and basketball. Right now, the Tigers are the team to beat.
On Saturday, Rome and his teammate Malcolm Mitchell (who is a speedy 6-3, 190-pound athlete) will head to Gainesville, Fla., to take in the Gators' junior day.
"I would definitely have to say Florida is in my top five right now," Rome said. "They are a great program and are always in the hunt for winning championships."
Rome added he stays in touch with his Gators recruiter, Brian White.
Two big offers
LSU is the latest scholarship offer for ESPNU 150 Watch List defensive end Ray Drew (Thomasville, Ga./Thomas County Central).
"It's the SEC offer I've been waiting on," he said.
The Bayou Bengals are offer No. 18 for the 6-4, 250-pounder. Shortly after LSU pulled the trigger on offering Drew, he picked up a scholarship from USC.
"What can you say, it's USC," he said. "They have won a lot of championships and are a proven program."
The Tigers and Trojans join Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Tennessee and others in offering Drew.
It was good news for Kentucky fans to see Tee Martin named to coach Joker Phillips' staff. Martin has a bright future as a coach, but also will be a gifted recruiter for Kentucky. He relates well with young people and can sell the credibility of being a national-championship-winning quarterback. ... College coaches have been buzzing about safety Sheldon Royster (Jersey City, N.J./Saint Peter's Prep), who is one of three major prospects at Saint Peter's Prep for the 2011 class (running back Savon Huggins and tackle Keith Lumpkin are the others). Royster already holds offers from West Virginia and Rutgers and is getting attention from several other programs. ... Defensive tackle Kevin McReynolds (Washington, D.C./Saint John's College) says that LSU and Auburn are among the new programs that have been showing him early attention. McReynolds is an early addition to the roster of the 2011 Under Armour All-America Game. McReynolds also said earlier this week that he is using the snowstorms in the D.C. area to his advantage. "I have been using the snow to work out in," he said. ... Tight end Eric Ebron (Greensboro, N.C./Ben Smith) will be making an unofficial visit to North Carolina this coming weekend. The Tar Heels are one of several schools that have offered.
JC Shurburtt covers recruiting for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.