Commentary

Early NFL Draft entries affecting decisions

Originally Published: January 18, 2008
By Billy Tucker | ESPN.com

Andrew Sweat and James Laurinaitis(l): Tom Hauck for ESPN.com, (r) David Maxwell/Getty ImagesOhio State pledge Andrew Sweat has a chance to learn under James Laurinaitis next season.
Early playing time may be the most influential factor for today's top prospects around the country. With information now readily available on the internet, prospects are more apt to be looking at the two-deep, player bios and now draft analysis than what a given school's Sociology department has to offer freshmen semester.

To most, the departure of a key player at their respective positions adds up to more immediate playing time. Could be coincidence, but talented running back Dennis Johnson (Texarkana, Ark./Arkansas) committed to Arkansas on Monday the same day backs Darren McFadden and Felix Jones announced they were forgoing their senior seasons for the NFL. In related news, ESPN's No. 2-rated running back Darrell Scott now has Texas strongly in the mix with 1,000 rusher Jamaal Charles opting to leave early.

However, there are exceptions. ESPN 150 wide receiver Jamaal Owens (Muskogee, Okla.) committed to Oklahoma this week and has stated that Malcolm Kelly's early exit did not play out in his decision, and he will have to compete wherever he goes to win a job.

While at the Under Armour All-America Game, Ohio State-bound linebacker Andrew Sweat (Washington, Pa./Trinity) said he actually hoped Butkus Award-winning linebacker James Laurinaitis would return for his senior season in Columbus.

"Although my chances of playing time could be less, I am kind of hoping he stays. He was a big part of my recruitment and could be a great mentor and a good guy to learn the system under," said ESPN's No. 2-rated inside linebacker.

Sweat's aspiration came true, as Laurinaitis announced Monday he would be returning for his senior year despite a first-round NFL projection.

Kaveinga headed to BYU over USC and UCLA

[+] EnlargeUona Kavienga
Gary Bogdon for ESPN.comUona Kavienga turned his back on the big boys like UCLA and USC for opportunities both on and off the field at Brigham Young.
In unforeseen recruiting news, ESPN 150 linebacker Uona Kaveinga (Lawndale, Calif./ Leuzinger) dropped his commitment from UCLA this past weekend in favor of BYU after his official visit in Utah. Kaveinga, ESPN's No. 6-ranked inside linebacker and one of the most fierce hitters in this entire class, recently saw his stock soar following his impressive performance as an Under Amour All-American.

Still being pressed by prominent programs like USC, Kaveinga remains firm in his decision to play football at Brigham Young and carry on a very important mission off the field.

"USC and UCLA are good programs, but the best fit for Uona Kaveinga was BYU," he said. "The morals and standards set for its players fit my Mormon religion, and I like they way head coach Bronco Mendenhall runs his program. He stressed to me that the young players who come through BYU and follow the honor code leave as better people while still having fun playing football."

The intense competitor between the white lines did state that he was also excited to complete his Mormon mission next year starting in his second semester.

"I plan on playing or possibly red-shirting next fall as a freshman then leaving for my two-year mission where I will represent my church in teaching people about our religion and providing service around the world," explained the California native.

Kaveinga will still return with three years of eligibility remaining after his mission and we expect this kid to rack up a ton of tackles during his four years on the gridiron.

Bass swaps Wildcats for the Sun Devils

First-year Arizona State head coach Dennis Erickson has already resurrected a struggling Sun Devils program on the field and his recruiting touch is also now showing. ASU landed a big commitment this week from Ryan Bass (Corona, Calif./Centennial), ESPN's No. 22-rated running back, and is starting to shape together an impressive class.

"I saw Coach Erickson as a guy I could grow close to for the next four to five years. I really like him a lot," said Bass Thursday night.

Bass rushed for over 2,000 yards last fall while accumulating an impressive 48 touchdowns. The on-the-cusp ESPN 150 back runs stronger than his listed measurables would indicate between the tackles but also shows a burst to get the corner and can be dangerous on the perimeter with his good speed. Bass' overall multi-purpose skills could lead to immediate reps in Tempe.

"The coaches said I have a chance to come in and compete for early playing time as long as I keep working hard," said the No. 15 player out of California.

Bass is the Sun Devils' 21st commitment for 2008 and the 11th pledge with a Scouts Inc. grade of 77 or higher -- they combined for seven in 2006 and 2007.

"I have talked to Gerell (Robinson) and a few of the other guys in this class, and we are excited about the good players coming in," concluded Bass.

After losing Bass this weekend, the Wildcats bounced back in a big way on Tuesday, literally. After a home visit from head coach Mike Stoops on Tuesday, ESPN's No. 10-rated offensive guard prospect Vaughn Dotsy (Ventura, Calif./Saint Bonaventure) announced he would be taking his 6-foot-4, 364-pound frame to Tucson and playing for the Wildcats.

While massive, Dotsy is deceptively quick and active in the trenches, garnering attention from some of the more prominent programs in the country like Florida, Michigan and national champion LSU.

"Arizona has always been in my top five. They are a school I have really liked and recruited me hard. The coaches and campus atmosphere were the main reasons why I chose to go to Arizona," said Dotsy on Thursday.

Dotsy is excited about the direction of the Wildcats program, which won three out of their last four games in 2007, and believes he has a chance to play early, a factor in his decision.

"They had a new spread offense this year that I think will only get better next year, it is similar to what we ran at Saint Bonaventure with a lot of zone running schemes, which I think I am good at. The coaches said if I come into camp healthy, I have a good chance at playing as a true freshman," he said.

Dotsy, who has a knack of drive-blocking opponents on their backs, has his own back issue to worry about at the moment. The Under Armour All-American was unable to participate in the game due to a ruptured disc suffered midway through his senior season and is currently going through rehabilitation.

Once healthy, Dotsy could get tested in practice by another freshman with great girth on the opposite side of ball. ESPN's No. 12-rated defensive tackle Solomon Koehler (Kaneohe, Hawaii/Castle) possesses similar upper-body strength and power as Dotsy and should develop into a disruptive force in the Pac-10.

Meyers chooses Princeton over Florida

Jonathan Meyers
Paul Silverfarb/Hersam Acorn NewspapersJonathan Meyers turned down bigger offers and pledged to Princeton.
You don't' often hear about a highly-touted prospect passing up the likes of Florida, Michigan and Virginia to play I-AA football, but for Jonathan Meyers (Greenwich, Conn.), ESPN's No. 11-rated inside linebacker, the chance to play both lacrosse and football at one of the finest schools in country was too hard to pass up.

"When it came down to it, Princeton just offered so much more besides football; it just fit really well with me. Its academics are number one, the football program is highly-respected (2006 Ivy League Champions) and I have a chance to play lacrosse as well," said Meyers.

Expect the polished Meyers to be a big fish in a small pond in New Jersey. The top-rated player in New England this year, Meyers dominated on both sides of the ball as an explosive linebacker and pile-moving running back. We would not be surprised if his rare blend of size, speed and athleticism lands him time on both sides of the ball for the prestigious Tigers and still opens some doors for playing on Sundays.

"I actually had a chance to speak with Princeton graduate and Washington Redskins lineman Ross Tucker about his experience and he gave me great advice," said Meyers Thursday night.

It is refreshing to see a highly-touted prospect choose a school for all the right reasons.

Cooper's versatility hurting his chances at Michigan?

When we placed a call to ESPN 150 prospect Keanon Cooper (Dallas/Skyline) this week to ask how his visit to Ann Arbor went, there was a bit of silence on the other end. "I actually didn't end up going. I tried getting a hold of the Michigan coaches to confirm my travel but never heard back until late," said ESPN's No. 12-rated outside linebacker.

Cooper's versatility as an athlete -- he played and excelled at almost every defensive position including end at 6-foot and 195 pounds -- may have lowered him a bit on the Wolverines' recruiting board.

"When I talked to their coaches while they were still at West Virginia the only question and concern they had with recruiting me was what position I was going to play," said Cooper Wednesday.

In the eyes of Scouts Inc., we feel that problem might actually be a good one for the college program that lands this kid. Cooper is one of the more athletically versed prospects in the 2008 class and could provide his future defensive coordinator with great scheme versatility, particularly in blitz packages with his explosive first step and great acceleration. Cooper plays bigger than his listed measurables would indicate and demonstrates excellent change-of-direction quickness and sideline-to-sideline range to make plays in space. We feel he could grow into an outside backer with his lean, rangy frame or make a great strong safety with his current physical skills.

Minnesota looks to be in lead for this Dallas native who produced 141 tackles, three blocked punts, three interceptions, four forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries at powerhouse Skyline High School last fall on the way to earning class 5A all-state honors.

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.