Commentary

Pac-10's growing on recruits

More players looking West, plus notes on Nick O'Leary and big decisions coming soon

Originally Published: July 28, 2010
By Jamie Newberg | ESPN Recruiting

There's no doubt the Pac-10 is moving and moving fast. Commissioner Larry Scott wants to reinvent the conference. It started with the addition of Colorado and Utah. Tuesday, the conference unveiled a sleeker logo in New York City and has another one -- Pac-12 -- ready for when the Buffs and Utes officially join the league. Pac-10 coaches and players will hit the ESPN campus this week and the conference is barnstorming the country, paying special attention to the East Coast.

[+] EnlargePac-10 logo
Pac-10The new Pac-10 logo teases with a mountain and an ocean wave, but one of the bigger designs of the conference is to get recruits to head West.
Scott wants to brand, brand and brand some more. He wants the Pac-10 to become national, like the SEC and Big Ten. The exposure would not only help the conference as a whole grow, it will also helps schools receive a rather big recruiting bump from prospects outside their region.

Currently, Oregon, Cal, Oregon State, Stanford, USC and Washington State have East Coast commitments for their respective 2011 recruiting classes. Quarterback Jerrard Randall (Hollywood, Fla.) has committed to the Ducks. The Beavers have committed three players from North Carolina in wide receivers Kenzel Doe and Chris Lampkins and cornerback Jeremy Reynolds.

As usual, Stanford loads up with players from all over the nation and this class is no different. Linebacker James Vaughters (Tucker, Ga.), defensive back Ra'Chard Pippens (McDonough, Ga.), quarterback Kevin Hogan (Washington, D.C.), tight end Devon Cajuste (Flushing, N.Y.), safety Shutang Mungwa (Oradell, N.J.) and offensive lineman Kevin Reihner (Scranton, Pa.) are all East Coast kids headed to Palo Alto.

Even Washington State has gotten into the act. After landing linebacker C.J. Mizell (Tallahassee, Fla.) via a transfer, the Cougars have hit Florida and pledged a trio of prospects from the Orlando area in wide receivers Henry Eaddy (Orlando, Fla.) and Isiah Myers (Orlando, Fla.) and cornerback Spencer Waseem (Apopka, Fla.).

USC always recruits the East Coast well and so far it has one commitment in linebacker Kent Turene (Lauderdale Lakes, Fla.).

Cal had a huge year last season, especially in the state of North Carolina, where it signed athlete Keenan Allen (Greensboro, N.C.), defensive end Chris McCain (Greensboro, N.C.), and defensive end Gabe King (originally from Greensboro, N.C.). The Bears also nabbed Nick Forbes (Frederick, Md.) and safety Michael Coley (Hyattsvile, Md.). This season Cal has landed another Greensboro standout in wide receiver Maurice Harris.

For some like Washington State, dipping into the Sunshine State is new. For others, like Oregon, going national is just part of the recruiting approach.

"At Oregon we always want to attract the best student-athletes," said Ducks coach Chip Kelly. "That's what we concentrate on. We also know that we already have a national brand. Certainly conference expansion and what we are doing right now as a conference will help us [recruit] down the line but it's really been too early to tell so far."

Cal did well in Texas and decided to expand its recruiting efforts after it hit recruiting paydirt in the Lone Star State. The Bears, though, want more than just a football player and they know expansion and more Pac-10 exposure will only help them.

"We knew that Texas kids go play everywhere in the country," Cal linebackers coach Kenwick Thompson said. "Then we decided to open it up even more. Now we are looking for kids that want it all -- great academics, to play football for a BCS school and play in great weather. We are pursuing the athlete that gets it. If you want to just play football, there are a ton of places between the East Coast and Cal you can go to. But if you want it all, come play for us because we have the whole package. That's what we are selling. The expansion and exposure we are getting will help us for sure."

For the players themselves from the Eastern seaboard, the Pac-10 offers a slightly different version of student-athlete. The Pac-10 is known for its wide open, pro-style offenses. The conference also has a good academic reputation. Those are just two important variables for recruits when making their college decision.

ESPNU 150 wide receiver Tacoi Sumler recently spent some time on the West Coast visiting USC, UCLA, Cal, Stanford and Oregon. The four-star prospect from Miami is leaning toward playing out west.

"For me, I love the Pac-10 offenses," said Sumler, who is leaning toward playing for the Ducks. "Those teams out there play wide open and get the ball to their playmakers. If I go to Oregon or Stanford I know I have a chance to score a lot. Plus the weather out there is second to none, and I will get a great education."

It's a new era in recruiting. Technology has brought everyone closer. Recruits no longer feel 3,000 miles away with e-mail and text messaging keeping family and friends close. While the fact remains most recruits generally stay within four to five hours of home, there are East Coasters heading West and vice versa. The Pac-10 is making its presence felt on the East Coast. While it's only been spot recruiting so far, it is making things more competitive deep in the enemy territories of the SEC, ACC and Big East.

"There is no question that you see the Pac-10 here in the Atlantic region more and more," said one ACC assistant coach. "I mean, Stanford and USC were always here. But now you see Oregon, Oregon State, Cal and UCLA as well in North Carolina, Maryland and Virginia. They have a presence here. While we know they are not recruiting that many players, it still makes things tougher on us."

So if Scott's plan takes hold and the Pac-10 (and soon to be Pac-12) grows stronger and stronger, the conference will become even more of a factor in recruiting in the eastern part of the country. More national exposure likely means more national recruiting classes for the teams in the conference.

O'Leary stands out
One of the most impressive prospects I have seen this spring and summer is tight end Nick O'Leary. His performance at the Gridiron Kings was extraordinary. O'Leary was easily the most dominant recruit at the event and was named the Gridiron Kings offensive MVP.

[+] EnlargeNick O'Leary
Gerry HamiltonFive-star TE Nick O'Leary is considering Miami, FSU, Florida, Georgia and Alabama, among others.
"I had a good day and just got open," O'Leary said. "I am a big target and [Tony McNeal] just threw me the ball and I caught it."

This five-star recruit from West Palm Beach (Fla.) Dwyer High School has all the tools to be an outstanding tight end at the next level and beyond. O'Leary, who is No. 12 in the ESPNU 150, is 6-foot-4, 230 pounds and is deceptively athletic. He's strong, physical and, perhaps best of all, just plain nasty and mean. O'Leary runs well and has soft hands. He also punts and returns punts. What does that tell you about him?

"Nick can do everything," Dwyer coach Jack Daniels said. "We are going to put in a few packages for him to run at tailback for us this fall. I have had a lot of great players through here over the years, athletes like Matt Elam and Gerald Christian. Nick O'Leary is the best of them."

In a year of great prospects from Florida, O'Leary is in the discussion as to who is the best player in the state. He rates third among prospects in the ESPNU 150, behind five-star linebacker Tony Steward (St. Augustine, Fla.) and five-star quarterback Jeff Driskel (Oviedo, Fla.). It's a tough call because O'Leary plays tight end and all things being equal, that position will likely never get the benefit of the doubt over linebacker or quarterback, but O'Leary is making it tough to count him out as the state's top player.

"Nick O'Leary is an absolute freak," said one ACC assistant coach. "You are dead on when you say he's the best football player in the state of Florida. And he just may be the top overall prospect. The kid is a beast."

So who will land the nation's top tight end? That's even a tougher call at this point. Some feel he could end up at FSU or Miami. Others think it could be Georgia. You can't sleep on Florida and even Alabama. Certainly O'Leary has the skill set to fit any offense, but he will be best served in more of a traditional football scheme.

"Yeah, he probably would fit in best in a pro-style offense," Daniels said. "But honestly, he could play in any offense. Nick could flex out wide or be an H-back. He can do it all."

Big announcements coming soon

Hayes
Hayes
DePriest
DePriest
There will be two big announcements Friday as Springfield (Ohio) South linebacker Trey DePriest and Grand Blanc (Mich.) running back Justice Hayes will make their decisions. DePriest, a four-star prospect and No. 34 in the ESPNU 150, will decide between Ohio State, Alabama and Florida. Hayes, also a four-star prospect, could be heading to Notre Dame but also likes Tennessee, Michigan, Michigan State and Iowa.

Leeds (Ala.) four-star defensive back Jonathan Rose is expected to announce Sunday. Auburn has been Rose's leader for some time but Alabama, Tennessee and others are still fighting to land him.

UNC is doing OK
There is no evidence whatsoever that the recent NCAA investigation is having any affect in North Carolina recruiting. The commitments are holding and the Tar Heels have even picked up another in the last week. Tim Scott, a four-star safety from Stafford (Va.) Colonial Forge, pledged to North Carolina. The Heels have 16 commitments.

De-commitments
Maryland's objective with its 2011 recruiting class was to get fast across the board, but the Terps recently lost arguably their two fastest defensive prospects as three-stars Shaun Ward (Lauderdale Lakes, Fla./Boyd Anderson) and Allen Ramsey (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla./Dillard) have de-committed. Ward, a quick defensive end, is headed to Texas A&M. Ramsey, a playmaking cornerback, is committed to Wake Forest.

Speaking of de-commitments, Duke lost out on three-star Tennessee commitment Brendan Downs (Bristol, Tenn./Tennessee). He has decided to stay home and play for the Vols. Nebraska lost offensive lineman Dylan Admire (Overland Park, Kan./Blue Valley West). He will reopen his recruitment. Wide receiver Junior Pomee (Moreno Valley, Calif./Rancho Verde) says he's no longer committed to UCLA and is considering Arizona and Florida as well as the Bruins.

Drastic recruiting change in San Diego?
The San Diego Union-Tribune reported Monday that San Diego State is considering eliminating out-of-state recruiting for all sports. The reasons are two fold -- cutting costs and rising tuition.

Scholarships for out-of-state students are close to $30,000 per year compared to $17,491 for in-state student-athletes. It's an interesting concept in regards to trying to save money for the school and within the athletic department itself. But how much of a competitive disadvantage does it bring to the school in all its sports? The football team has only 16 out-of-state players.

Jamie Newberg has been covering recruiting both in the Southeast and nationally for 19 years. He can be reached at jamienewbergbw@yahoo.com.

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