Commentary

As signing day approaches, Pryor mulls options

Originally Published: February 1, 2008
By Billy Tucker | Scouts Inc.

Jeannette (Pa.) High School head coach Ray Reitz informed us this week his star quarterback Terrelle Pryor is still contemplating his decision and may not be ready by Wednesday to make a sound commitment, but as of now plans to sign on Wednesday.

[+] EnlargeTerrelle Pryor
AP Photo/Darren AbateTerrelle Pryor's decision could be on hold pending a post-signing day visit to Oregon.
Reitz, who also coached in the Under Armour All-American game, said it is very much up in the air at this point, but did say Pryor would be maintaining his commitment to appear live on our national signing day show and either update his recruitment or proclaim his college of choice, neither of which will be made public until he sits down at the microphone.

Michigan, Ohio State, Oregon and now Penn State are all very much in the running for the No. 4 overall player in the country. The delayed announcement may stem from Pryor's desire to visit Oregon sometime after signing day. The school has come on strong down the stretch, presumably pitching its explosive spread offense would highlight the dual-threat QB's skills more than any other program. His busy basketball schedule as well as a flurry of attention as of late has really created a difficult situation for this young man.

It should be noted that the current two-sport athlete has not ruled out playing basketball at the next level as well; Jim Tressel and Rich Rodriguez are both supposed to be in attendance at Pryor's basketball game this weekend and presumably hoping to make one last impression by Wednesday.

Southern Miss hits the trail

Southern Miss head coach Larry Fedora and his staff have been hitting the recruiting trail hard since his December hiring in hopes of improving the overall talent of a Golden Eagles' program that finished 7-6 last season but did not meet expectations. Southern Miss recently snagged talented cornerback Marcal Robinson (Prichard, Ala./Vigor) from Arkansas and this week landed another skill player with comparable BCS talent.

Running back Desmond Johnson (Yazoo City, Miss.) chose Southern Miss over Michigan, and we feel the No. 33-rated back in the country possesses the speed that may have been overlooked by a host of other national programs. Johnson has suffered through a rash of injuries, breaking his leg during freshmen and senior seasons, at Yazoo City but showed when healthy he might be one of the more productive backs in the country.

When talking with Yazoo City head coach Tony Woolfolk this week, he outlined the details leading up to his commitment and explained how the movement of two former in-state assistant coaches may have had the biggest impact on his star running back's decision.

"Coach (Tony) Hughes was on him real hard when he was (coaching) at Ole Miss and Jay Hopson was on him real hard when he was at Southern Miss. So he was hearing from Ole Miss and Southern a lot and probably from those two more than anybody when he got hurt," said Woolfolk.

The ever prevalent coaching turnover in college football then began to stir things up. "Recruiting really started to pick up when Tony Hughes moved from Ole Miss to Southern Miss and Hopson went to Michigan. Desmond was hearing from Southern that whole time with Hopson there and was already comfortable with Hughes as a coach, so he was really familiar with Southern and its coaches." Hopson continued to recruit Johnson hard when he left for Michigan, but the distance from home and cold weather deterred the explosive back who rushed for 2,509 yards and a state-leading 33 touchdowns as junior.

If Johnson can stay healthy, we feel this kid possesses the top-end speed and acceleration to be a gamebreaker in Conference USA.

Page drops Ducks for Ball State

Early last fall we were wrote about the significance under-the-radar quarterback prospect Kelly Page's (Sunnyvale, Texas/Mesquite) commitment could have on the Oregon football program. The No. 12-rated prospect at the position showed the dual-threat tools on film to excel in the Ducks' explosive version of the spread offense that was just starting to catch fire.

Fast forward five months and the explosive spread offense that almost had Dennis Dixon walking away with the Heisman Trophy has now attracted some of the top dual-threat athletes across the country. The Ducks picked up a commitment from Darron Thomas (Aldine, Texas) in December, and although his throwing polish might not be up to par with Page's yet, ESPN's No. 17 ranked overall athlete is one of the more creative playmakers in the country with the ball in his hands, a key component in offensive coordinator Chip Kelly's offense.

The Ducks saw their offense implode right with their national title hopes when Dixon went down last season, and non-athletic quarterback Brady Leaf was left to run the offense. System-fitting quarterback depth was presumably a hot topic in Mike Bellotti's first postseason recruiting meeting in Eugene, so the hot pursuit and commitment from Chris Harper (Wichita, Kan./Northwest) should also come as no surprise. Harper is one of the better natural athletes in the country and combines great size with rare speed and quickness. The top-100 prospect in the ESPN 150 played quarterback in high school to get him the ball as much as possible, but we don't count this kid out of the Oregon quarterback race and presumably neither did Page. Not to mention Terrelle Pryor is still considering signing with Oregon.

Page committed to Ball State this week, and considering the talent heading to Eugene coupled with the disappointing senior season Page had at Mesquite High School, this might be the best move for both parties.

Maryland keeps much needed prospect in-state

[+] EnlargeKenny Tate
John Albright / Icon SMIDespite strong pushes from Illinois and Penn State, Kenny Tate opted for Maryland.
ESPN 150 receiver Kenny Tate (Forestville, Md./DeMatha) presumably made Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen smile and breathe a sigh of relief last night with his commitment to the Terps. The 6-foot-3 wide out possesses all the physical tools to succeed at the next level, but most importantly gives Friedgen a commitment from the state's top prospect; the Terps had lost out on four of the top five prior to Tate's pledge last night.

Tate, who chose Maryland over Illinois and Penn State, may not have refined his receiving skills during his senior campaign like we had hoped but certainly brings great natural tools to the table for the Terps' coaching staff to mold at the next level. The No. 19 ranked receiver in the country may possess some of the best overall physical intangibles. He is tall, well-built and possesses a wide wingspan with big hands. While the eye-popping physical features are there, Tate also knows how to employ them on the football field. He is ahead of the curve on knowing how to shield defenders, utilize a subtle push-off and win the jump ball matchup.

If Tate can become smoother and more precise as a route runner while polishing up his overall receiving skills, he has a chance to see the field early, particularly with a coach like Friedgen grooming him.

Etc.

• Tim Brewster continues to establish a great recruiting class in his first-year at Minnesota despite his program's abysmal showing in the fall of 2007. The former recruiting coordinator under Mack Brown at North Carolina and Texas has recreated a great buzz around the program and has not only laid groundwork in Minnesota but has impressively sprinkled in players from 12 other states in his first recruiting class.

The latest import came this week in Virginia running back Kevin Whaley (Virginia Beach, Va./Salem), and he could be one of the program's biggest overall steals.

Whaley's size could have deterred some national recruitment, but even at 5-foot-9 and 170 pounds, this decisive and explosive runner still collected scholarship offers from programs such as West Virginia, Virginia Tech, Penn State and Connecticut. The two-time first team all-state and all-district player of the year finished his storied prep career with more than 6,300 rushing yards.

• If anyone is keeping track at home, the commitment of defensive end William Green (Birmingham Ala./Spain Park) this week now gives the Florida Gators a leading 12 ESPN 150 prospects heading into signing day. What may be even more impressive is the fact that the Gators only have 20 total prep commitments, showing the premium and selective quality in this class.

• From the committed A&M prospects we spoke with, like ESPN 150 defensive tackle Rodrick Davis (Houston/Dwight D. Eisenhower), the consensus was that Mike Sherman was doing a great job retaining this strong Aggies class. It now appears he is doing an equally impressive job infusing new prospects with the commitment this week from ESPN 150 running back Cyrus Gray (Dallas/DeSoto), A&M's highest-rated prospect heading into signing day.

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.