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December 19, 2012

Mind of Mike: Christmas wrap? Not for these guys


MIND OF MIKE: Dec. 13 |Dec. 5 | Nov. 29 | Nov. 14

Mike Farrell is the National Football Recruiting Analyst for Rivals.com. Want more of what's on Mike's mind throughout the week? Follow him on Twitter @rivalsmike.

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 this 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.

Deep Thoughts

Looking now at five of the biggest names in the Southeast, I would have thought we'd be close to done with most of them as far as their recruiting is concerned.

After all, Loganville (Ga.) Grayson defensive end Robert Nkemdiche was committed to Clemson and has been essentially committed to Ole Miss for weeks. Alpharetta (Ga.) Milton defensive end Carl Lawson, Auburn, Ala., linebacker Reuben Foster and Muscle Shoals, Ala., defensive end Dee Liner were all happily committed to Auburn and it wouldn't have been a shock if Vienna (Ga.) Dooly County defensive tackle Montravius Adams had picked his school by now. However, when you look next to their names in our Rivals100, you see "list" next to Nkemdiche, Foster and Adams (which means not committed) and Auburn next to Lawson and Liner, so essentially each is still wide open.

For Nkemdiche, the nation's No. 1 player, it appears to be only a matter of time before he announces for Ole Miss to play with his brother Denzel. However, the longer this goes without a commitment, the more you scratch your head. Wouldn't it be smart for the nation's No. 1 player to scream "Rebels" from the rafters to help this class? Is he waiting for something else? Time will tell.

For Lawson, the nation's No. 2 prospect, it appears to be a waiting game to see how long it takes for him to de-commit from Auburn. Multiple sources are saying it's more "when" than "if" and that Clemson and Ole Miss are lurking. However, a great defensive line hire by Auburn could change all of that.

The same could be said about Liner, who I think will remain committed until Signing Day but still decide among Auburn, Alabama and perhaps a few other schools. Liner is very likely to flip to Alabama, but again a great defensive line hire by new Auburn coach Gus Malzahn could change things.

When it comes down to Foster and Adams, I think both are wide open. Georgia is seriously in the mix for both. Auburn is still alive for both and you can't count out Alabama, either. Clemson is very much in the race for Adams and some think the Tigers are the outright leader.

Florida lurks as well, Texas A&M and Washington are long-shot destinations, and you can't count out LSU, Miami and Georgia Tech.

With all the early commitments this year, more than ever before, I expected a lot of them to fall apart. But with these five guys, I don't think anyone could have predicted these twists and turns.

Just when you thought recruiting for the class of 2013 was getting weird, it gets more strange each day. Just a couple of weeks ago, I ran through seven head-shaking decisions and now with Fort Valley (Ga.) Peach County wide receiver DeMarcus Robinson flipping between Florida and Clemson, I think we're gearing up for one of the most bizarre finishes in recruiting history.

We've seen some quick de-commitments and re-commitments over the years, the most notable in recent memory being Notre Dame star Stephon Tuitt in the 2011 class who de-committed from the Irish for Georgia Tech only to flip back to the Irish less than two days later.

So Robinson's de-commitment from Clemson to choose Florida and then his flip back five days later isn't unprecedented, nor is it a record. But it is weird. The very good news for Clemson is that the flip comes at the start of the dead period so no coaches from Florida can visit him and Robinson is an early enrollee so this should be his third and final commitment.

Now for an update on a few of those previous head-shakers

Mission Viejo, Calif. safety Max Redfield was dropped by Oregon because the Ducks thought he was a done deal for Notre Dame. But he took an official visit to USC, the team he had previously been committed to, so the Trojans gave it the old college try. However, despite some optimism from some USC commits on the visit with him, all signs are pointing toward Redfield choosing Notre Dame at the Under Armour Game on Jan. 4.

Detroit (Mich.) Cass Tech offensive lineman David Dawson did indeed re-commit to Michigan despite having his offer pulled because of a visit to Florida. Two thoughts here: First, Dawson's commitment will be big with Richmond (Va.) Hermitage running back Derrick Green because the two have become good friends and text daily. Secondly, can coaches just stop posturing about pulling scholarships if committed players take visits elsewhere? It is just making them look silly.

Dabo Swinney should have ended the recruitment of Robert Nkemdiche at least five or six times and he would have face-palmed DeMarcus Robinson if he held true to his word; Michigan would have told Dawson to take a hike if the Wolverines held firm. Oregon says it won't allow committed players to visit, but last I checked USC commitment Nico Falah was on campus in November, Cal commitment Cameron Hunt is taking a visit and we can't forget how the Ducks flipped USC commitment De'Anthony Thomas.

Of course, fans will come rushing to the defense of their coaches, saying things like "it's only if they are being dishonest" or "unofficial visits don't count" or whatever else you want to say, but let's all be honest here -- kids will take visits when committed and coaches will still take them in the end. Sheesh.

Ashburn (Va.) Briar Woods linebacker Matt Rolin did in fact de-commit from the Gamecocks despite all the family connections AND having surgery a few days before his flip by the Gamecocks team surgeon. This one goes down in history.

Arlington (Texas) Martin running back Kyle Hicks, who de-committed from Texas to TCU, is joined by Belton, Texas, tight end Durham Smythe, who is now looking at Stanford and others. While neither player was a Rivals250 member, it's an alarming sign for the Longhorns, and if Fort Worth (Texas) Arlington Heights five-star defensive tackle A'Shawn Robinson flips to USC, there will be real trouble in Mack Brown land.

In my opinion, I think Robinson stays at Texas because of his mom, but sources tell me he really wants to go to USC. No matter what happens with him, it's becoming clear that Texas is starting to be looked at by recruits as a bit old and weathered while Texas A&M, Kevin Sumlin and Johnny Football are the hot program in the state.

Meanwhile, A&M was OK with sending defensive tackle Kerrick Huggins to OU and the Sooners are having enough trouble in state without worrying about the Longhorn State. While they were able to flip Ogbonnia Okoronkwo from Oklahoma State, they lost out to the Cowboys for 2014 running back Devon Thomas and lost an in-state commitment to Tulsa.

Texas is still ranked No. 13 in Rivals team rankings with only 13 commitments while Oklahoma is No. 20 with 15. The Aggies are No. 7 with 33 commitments (many of whom won't be making the grade) and it just seems like the gap between the new SEC power and the old guard in the Big 12 is widening.

Speaking of the Sooners, it's good news they got the nation's No. 1 wide receiver Laquon Treadwell to visit, but it's bad news that his mom didn't come with him. His mom is a huge part of this process and a big reason why Ole Miss has the edge. I'm a bit surprised however that the Crete (Ill.) Crete Monee wideout dropped Michigan altogether. I know the Wolverines were fading, but I really thought the Wolverines would still be a player until the end. Now it seems Ole Miss will be hard to beat with Oklahoma State left in his final three. If mom doesn't make that trip, the nation's No. 1 receiver could join the nation's No. 1 overall player in Oxford.

So how about Bret Bielema's change of heart the second he hits SEC country? After complaining about the tactics of Urban Meyer stealing away commitments when the latter arrived in the Big Ten, Bielema is getting the hang of things at Arkansas very quickly. Bielema and his staff have been very aggressive going after players committed to other schools, mainly Altee Tenpenny, who is committed to Alabama but will visit the Hawgs in January. Tenpenny will obviously be intrigued with Bielema's run-first offense and it is a crowded backfield in this class at running back in Tuscaloosa. Tyren Jones and Derrick Henry are already on board, but Tenpenny has been solid for the most part throughout the process. Arkansas is also after Knoxville (Tenn.) Christian Academy of Knoxville teammates Brett Kendrick and Josh Smith, who are both committed to Tennessee. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

Monaca (Pa.) Central Valley wide receiver Robert Foster makes his announcement on Friday, with little drama involved. Foster is down to Alabama and Pitt, but if he chooses the Tide, it'll be stunning. Since day one, Foster was one of those prospects who was clearly not going to leave home. He has been linked to Pitt from the start, despite the Panthers' recent coaching issues. He enjoyed his Alabama visit quite a bit and rumor has it he was tempted to commit to recruiting coach Mike Groh, but his family wants him close and I think he becomes a huge part of Pitt's class. If Alabama pulls an upset here, the Tide will vault ahead of Notre Dame and USC into the No. 1 slot in the national team rankings. If Pitt lands Foster, it will push past Rutgers for No. 1 in the Big East and would be No. 5 in the ACC, for comparison sake.

A big week for Kansas State and the 'Cats are deserving after a terrific season. They added a four-star out of high school (a rarity for K-State) in Nick Ramirez, they roared back and beat Penn State at the last second for the quarterback of the future in Jake Waters and they added three-star defensive end Jamone Boyd, who could eventually be a home run if he gets his academics together and his head on straight.

Throw in linebacker Dakorey Johnson and defensive end Devon Nash and that's quite a week. Kansas State usually won't finish that high in the national recruiting rankings, but they get kids and develop them and that's all that matters.

Quick Hitters

Desperate times call for desperate measures, I suppose.

Kansas under head coach Charlie Weis, has grabbed nine JUCO commitments over the last week or so, apparently trying to call on the magic rival coach Bill Snyder perfected at Kansas State. The haul puts Kansas up into the top half of the Big 12 team rankings, at least for now. Even more odd is Syracuse. Head coach Doug Marrone's past five commitments have come from the JUCO ranks, which is not very Syracuse-like. With Kansas, a 1-11 program and 0-9 in the Big 12 with little talent on the roster, I understand. It needed an immediate influx of experienced talent. But Syracuse? The Orange were 7-5 this season, are playing in a bowl game and are headed off to the ACC soon enough. This one puzzles me.

Lawrenceville (Ga.) Central Gwinnett linebacker Trey Johnson has now decided to announce his decision at the Under Armour Game on Jan. 4, and that makes Ohio State a near lock in my opinion. Florida filled its last linebacker position with another former Auburn commitment in Jarrad Davis, mainly because the Gators knew Johnson was heading up north to the Big Ten. Former Auburn coach Tommy Thigpen, who recruited Johnson and earned his commitment when he was with the Tigers, has thrown his hat in the ring with his new school Tennessee, but ever since Meyer visited Johnson in Lawrenceville before he took his official, this one has been over.

In a Big Ten battle, watch out for Michigan State stealing away three-star defensive back Joshua Jones from the Illini. He has suddenly become a hot commodity and is not close to being solid to Illinois.

Not really surprised that Louisville (Ken.) Trinity defensive end Jason Hatcher, a USC commitment since July, has decided to look around and take visits, especially to Louisville and Kentucky. His own head coach Bob Beatty said verbal commitments are "as trustworthy as a needle in a balloon," and he encourages his players to take officials. I have always had a gut feeling that Hatcher and teammate James Quick would end up at Louisville together if Charlie Strong stayed on as head coach.

Confidence is high out of Ohio State regarding Quick and he could commit to the Buckeyes before Hatcher's final visit to Louisville the weekend of Feb. 1. But Louisville will push hard to have both on campus that weekend even though Quick has already taken his official.

JUCO QB Tanner McEvoy is down to West Virginia and Oregon after a visit to Morgantown earlier this month. McEvoy originally committed to South Carolina out of high school, but transferred amid some problems on and off the field. Considering the two options, it will be surprising if he doesn't end up at West Virginia. Eugene Smith will be moving on to the NFL at Morgantown, while Marcus Mariota is firmly entrenched at Oregon after finishing his freshman season. If McEvoy is looking for the possibility of early playing time, West Virginia will be his choice.

Tommy Tuberville must have really hated it in Lubbock or he knew he was about to get fired because the way he left, and went to a program essentially in conference re-alignment purgatory, was very strange. Now he's trying to lure Texas Tech commitments to Cincinnati. Think there's bad blood there? Duh.

While Damon Mitchell has long been committed to Georgia Tech, rumors have long been swirling regarding a potential flip to either Wisconsin or Rutgers. Now it seems as though he will likely take an official visit on Jan. 25 to Rutgers, which can't make the Georgia Tech coaching staff feel very secure that close to National Signing Day.

An athletic dual-threat quarterback would obviously fit very well in Georgia Tech's offense, but supposedly the Rutgers coaching staff has also told him that he would at least get a shot at quarterback there.

While it will likely take a while to see how the move to the Big Ten truly helps Rutgers with recruiting, early reactions from recruits have been very positive. This was proven on Saturday, as the Scarlet Knights hosted a number of their top 2014 targets for a mini-junior day. The event, which also gave the recruits a chance to see the team practice in preparation for their bowl game against Virginia Tech, was very well-attended. Aside from many of their top instate targets, such as four-stars Quenton Nelson, Saeed Blacknall and Gerald Owens, making their way to campus, it was more impressive that a number of top out-of-state recruits made the trip. Headlining this group were Troy Vincent, Damian Prince, and Caleb Henderson, while getting Taiwan Deal from DeMatha and Bo Baldwin all the way from South Carolina to make the trip was also important for Rutgers.

After starting off the recruiting cycle as one of the most hyped prospects on the west coast, Upland, Calif., defensive end Joe Mathis will likely end up at either Utah or Washington. That's not as sexy as USC, Michigan, Alabama or Texas A&M -- some of the schools he visited or wanted to visit -- but it could be a great fit for him. Mathis is a bit of a hybrid between a linebacker and an end and might make an earlier impact at either school, rather than have to slim down or bulk up at some of the bigger programs.

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Mike Farrell is the national recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. Click here to follow him on Twitter.



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