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September 6, 2012

Mind of Mike: Farrell goes around the nation

MORE: Around the Midwest

Rivals.com national analyst Mike Farrell is never shy to express his opinion on everything from commitments to rankings to how on-field performance affects recruiting. In a new weekly feature - Inside the Mind of Mike - the most experienced analyst in the industry gives some of his thoughts on the events of the past week. This week the focus is on two players from Seffner (Fla.) Armwood that are in the news, led by five-star safety Leon McQuay III.

Deep thoughts

Seffner (Fla.) Armwood five-star defensive back Leon McQuay III made his trip to USC this weekend and told the staff he is going to wait on his decision, but we'll see if that actually happens. McQuay III has an amazing relationship with defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin and USC has his specific major (he wants to get into the music industry).

California's Tahaan Goodman is the other safety target and USC will likely take whomever jumps first. To me it makes a bit more sense for Goodman, a confident and USC-swagger kind of kid with a friend and teammate in Chris Hawkins already on the team, to stay close to home than it does for the very quiet McQuay to head across the country. But these two talented safeties could in fact cross each other geographically. Goodman is still very high on LSU and a few other SEC programs, and some think he could be worried about a crowded USC backfield that also has Su'a Cravens and Max Redfield. Right now it wouldn't be a shocker if either prospect popped for USC soon as it's a race for that last safety spot.

Speaking of Armwood, while he's not the highest-ranked prospect in the class wide receiver Alvin Bailey could be the most important one in 2013 for the Gators. Florida has been lacking big offensive playmakers at wide receiver that can not only stretch the field but also make people miss in the open field. Bailey is that guy and he will play early and often.

USC's Kiffin is either a genius or out of his mind when it comes to recruiting and based on his early results in L.A., I'm leaning toward the former. He told cornerback Jalen Ramsey, the nation's No. 3 cornerback and No. 11 overall from Nashville, that he could take officials to any other school as long as he makes USC his last one and other recruits are reporting the same attitude from Kiffin and staff regarding other visits. That's gutsy stuff and the kind of swagger that has USC set to run away with a record-setting No. 1 class in 2013.

The state of Pennsylvania could be absolutely raided over the next few years by out-of-state competition. Penn State's NCAA sanctions are bad enough, but a loss on the field to Ohio and a potential two- or three-win season will be damaging as well. I don't see many wins on the schedule this year if the Nittany Lions can't handle the Bobcats at home. And with Pittsburgh's embarrassing loss to Youngstown State, things don't look much better in Western Pennsylvania. This year PSU could hang onto Adam Breneman and Pitt could keep Robert Foster and Dorian Johnson home, but only if they do a better job on the football field.

No team helped themselves more this week in recruiting in my opinion than Tennessee did with its nationally televised win over an N.C. State team some had as a sleeper to push both Florida State and Clemson in the ACC Atlantic. The Derek Dooley hot seat talk won't stop with one win, but the Vols now look like a formidable foe for the Gators, Gamecocks and Bulldogs in an SEC East that didn't have an impressive start the first weekend of the year. If they can get past the Gators on Sept. 15, they should be 4-0 heading into the Georgia game and potential SEC title game contenders.

Rankings of yore

With Devin Gardner dropping to third on the Michigan depth chart behind a redshirt freshman and now being much more important as a wide receiver to the offense, can the big three Michigan quarterbacks from 2010 officially be called flops? That looks to be the case. Gardner, who was ranked the highest among the trio that also included Robert Bolden and Joe Boisture, seems unlikely to see any real time as the Michigan starter, especially with Russell Bellomy waiting in the wings and 2013 five star Shane Morris likely to play sooner than later.

Bolden, the first true freshman to start at Penn State in 100 years is now relegated to third string at LSU behind Zach Mettenberger and Stephen Rivers and with two four-star quarterbacks in this class. Boisture had to retire from football due to a serious back issue. Gardner was ranked No. 132 in the nation by Rivals.com in 2010 while Bolden was No. 136 and Boisture was a four-star outside the Rivals250. Each of our competitors at the time had Gardner ranked higher than Rivals.com did with one of them tabbing him as a five-star. Everyone seemed to agree on Bolden's range and we had Boisture higher than the rest.

It's not yore and it's only one game, but we feel pretty good already about being the only website to rank Georgia running back Todd Gurley ahead of fellow Georgia running back (and fellow North Carolina product) Keith Marshall. In fact, we were the lone holdout on Marshall being a five-star talent. However, one game doesn't mean a whole lot especially for two true freshmen, but we felt at the time that Gurley was bigger and more athletic. It will be interesting to see how their careers play out.

Quick hitters

The only reason I can think of that Alabama isn't higher on the list of top uncommitted prospects for the class of 2013 is because of the depth in Tuscaloosa. That team is the definition of "re-load" and a few top prospects might be scared away because early playing time doesn't seem to be there at many positions.

Maryland got the win over William & Mary but will need to play a lot better than that to keep together a pretty solid recruiting class so far and land some of the remaining big targets on the board such as Na'Ty Rodgers.

Notre Dame has been mentioned as the leader now for Florida cornerback Mackensie Alexander, who was once committed to Tennessee and has been linked to other schools as his leader in the past. If he committed to Notre Dame now, this could be a Ronald Darby or Deontay Greenberry de-commitment waiting to happen. Best case for Notre Dame is to recruit him hard, continue to recruit others at his position and hope to get Alexander and another closer to National Signing Day.

Am I the only one who thinks that after seeing Gurley at Georgia and T.J. Yeldon at Alabama last weekend that Derrick Henry's best chance to be a running back could be in Knoxville? Henry makes his decision Sept. 28 and will visit the Vols on Sept. 15. Alabama is still considered the team to beat and Georgia, where he originally committed, is still in the mix.



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