Commentary

Florida lands a super sleeper

Originally Published: November 30, 2007
By Billy Tucker | ESPN.com

Florida added two future weapons this week to offensive coordinator Dan Mullen's potent spread offense with commitments from a duo of on-the-cusp ESPN 150 receivers in Omarius Hines (Corsicana, Texas) and hidden gem Frankie Hammond Jr. (Hallandale, Fla.). Hammond is an exciting in-state talent with perhaps some of the best upside in this year's entire offensive class.

A product of an anemic passing attack in 2006, Hammond's seven total grabs last fall did not garner much recruiting attention at Hallandale High School. Enter first-year head coach Dameon Jones, a new passing offense, a strong-armed quarterback in Alex Bailey, and Hammond's skills were quickly unleashed.

"I brought in a pro-style offense with a three wide receiver set. They did not throw the ball a lot last year, and Frankie's skills at receiver were not really used," said Jones.

Hammond has flourished, with 47 catches for 890 yards (18.9 average) and 12 touchdowns. The silky-smooth prospect made a number of eye-popping, acrobatic grabs that looked like he belonged on the same list with some of the more prolific pass catchers in this year's class.

Urban Meyer
Doug Benc/Getty ImagesUrban Meyer didn't have Frankie Hammond Jr. on his radar until this season.
While it is uncharacteristic to see programs such as Boston College, Miami and the defending National Champion Florida Gators pull out scholarship offers for a kid who was not even on their respective recruiting boards to start the season, Hammond suddenly became one of the most sought-after prospects in south Florida.

"Besides not catching a lot of balls last year, most kids get seen by schools at camps and combines. Frankie is one of the better high jumpers in the country and spent most of his summer on the Team USA Youth Track Championship Team. Colleges really didn't know about him until his senior season," said Jones.

However, despite being a late bloomer, Hammond's natural receiving skills and gifts at the position are hard to ignore on the football field, particularly for a kid lacking a ton of receiving experience. The Sunshine State prospect displays big-play and big-possession receiver skills all wrapped up in the same package and should continue to blossom with more reps and college coaching.

While Hammond might be a bit of a sleeper, Hines, his future teammate in Gainesville, has been on the national scene since the fall of 2006, when he hauled in 62 passes for 1,282 yards and an impressive 23 touchdowns. The Texas native held over 20 scholarship offers entering his senior season and has been a consistent deep threat and go-to receiver throughout his high school career.

Despite the contrast in their recruiting paths, the Gators landed two quality receiver prospects in Hines and Hammond this week and continue fill up the slots in a smaller 2008 recruiting class with quality talent.

Jones passes on big boys to remain on offense

It's unusual to hear about a prospect passing up ACC programs such as Clemson, N.C. State and North Carolina for East Carolina, a non-BCS program in college football's weaker Conference USA. However, that is just what multi-purpose running back Adrian Jones (Laurinburg, N.C./Scotland) did this week when he committed to the Pirates.

[+] EnlargeSkip Holtz
AP Photo/Gerry BroomeIf Skip Holtz can sign Adrian Jones, he will have a top-25 running back prospect.
It appears Jones' desire to carry the rock outweighed the prestige that accompanied the other programs. Recruited by most to play corner, ECU promised the quick-footed athlete he could play wide receiver, or maybe anywhere he wanted, to land a verbal.

Jones is a burner with legit track speed, and we agree with his own assessment that the offensive side of the ball might be the best spot to showcase his talents. We actually have Jones rated as the No. 25 running back prospect in the country and feel he can excel at that position in college if he can pack on some much needed bulk. The ball skills, elusiveness and initial burst in space could also make him very dangerous in the slot.

With that said, Jones is an athlete, and we can easily see why some of the bigger programs like his versatility and skills at corner. Nevertheless, sometimes you need to tell recruits what they want to hear, particularly if you are the underdog. This is a major steal for Skip Holtz and the ECU football program.

Nutt and Sherman hires should keep classes intact

The fact that Houston Nutt and Mike Sherman were hired quickly might do more to secure their respective recruiting classes at Ole Miss and Texas A&M than their actual coaching credentials.

Naming a figurehead without allowing the time and window for a committed prospect to sit and contemplate the program's stability is vital. A new coach can quickly create reassurance surrounding the program's uncertainty and ward off poaching coaches who are quick to lure prospects away at susceptible times.

In the case at Ole Miss, Ed Orgeron had built a solid class with a good mix of JUCO and prep talent, but Nutt's name, reputation for running an exciting offense and perhaps a future Heisman Trophy winner on his resume could help the Rebels land a handful of top-tier prospects by February.

Sherman's main goal for the next month might be to work on retaining ESPN 150 members Derrick Hall (Beaumont, Texas/Central), Jordan Fields (Paris, Texas) and the rest of the Aggies' 22 committed prospects. Markelle Martin (Wichita Falls, Texas/Rider), our No. 11-rated safety prospect with all the physical tools to excel at the next level, already de-committed this week, presumably before Sherman could re-recruit him. Martin gave a subsequent verbal to Big 12 power Oklahoma -- only adding salt to the wound for A&M fans.

Willingham cleaning up in-state

The results may not be evident on the field yet, but Tyrone Willingham and the Washington Huskies continue to land top in-state prospects, a key attribute when trying to rebuild a struggling program.

In 2006 it was quarterback Jake Locker, and this year the prized, in-state blue-chipper is tight end Kavario Middleton (Lakewood, Wash./Lakes). Perhaps the most dominant two-way athlete in this year's class, our No. 3-rated tight end prospect and No. 65 overall rated player is a rare blend of outstanding size and great speed. With talent to play on both sides of the ball at the next level, his coach told us earlier this fall that coaches were basically telling Middleton he could play where ever he wanted in an effort just to land him.

We project he will start his career off at tight end with his tremendous upside, mismatch potential and overall natural skills at the position. Lakes head coach Dave Miller agreed earlier this fall when we last spoke with him.

"Kavario's versatility and athleticism are just so rare on offense. We will actually split him out off the line at times in trips sets -- remember, he runs a 4.7 at 250-pounds and is very athletic. He is such a big target and a mismatch on linebackers; we really try to get him involved in the passing game," said Miller.

Middleton told us at the time that he liked UW's proximity to home and thought they were a rising program under Willingham.

Middleton was not the only in-state pledge for the Huskies this week; his teammate at Lakes, receiver Jermaine Kearse (Lakewood, Wash./Lakes), also gave a verbal on Thursday.

However, it was Cody Bruns (Prosser, Wash.), a 5-foot-11, 170-pound receiver prospect, who may have garnered the most recognition this year in the state of Washington. Bruns has caught a national record 304 passes for 5,080 yards (16.7 average) and 72 touchdowns in his remarkable career. Despite lacking the ideal size and speed measurables at the position, he is a fierce competitor with great hands and a natural feel for the position.

Bruns is a great pickup for the Huskies and should combine with Middleton to give Locker some future firepower on offense.

Billy Tucker is a recruiting coordinator for Scouts Inc. and has close to a decade of coaching experience at the college and high school level. Tucker has served as a recruiting coordinator for two nationally ranked Division II colleges. Most recently, he was the associate head coach and defensive coordinator for Merrimack College, which advanced to the Sweet 16 in the 2006 NCAA Division II playoffs.

Billy Tucker

Scouts, Football Recruiting
• Recruiting coordinator for ESPN RecruitingNation.
• Nearly a decade of college coaching experience.
• Was recruiting coordinator at nationally-ranked Division II colleges.

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