January 29, 2010
Quick and dirty cram sessions for the non-recruiting-obsessed as signing day approaches on Feb. 3.
Not all the new faces are freshman -- many, in fact, did the "hyped freshman" thing a year or two ago, took a mulligan, and are taking another swing at it after a year or two in junior college. Count on a few of the more season rookies to enter the conversation right away:
• QB Cam Newton. A huge, athletic, five-star recruit out of Atlanta in 2007, Newton was greeted at Florida as the heir apparent to Tim Tebow in Urban Meyer's spread scheme until he was charged with stealing a laptop and tossing it out of a dorm window in November 2008. Charges were eventually dropped in exchange for probation, but Newton was quickly bound for Blinn College in Texas, where he led the Buccaneers to a junior college national championship and emerged again as a highly-sought scout's dream.
Newton is the most immediately promising of several gems in Auburn's surprisingly strong incoming crop, a JaMarcus Russell-sized behemoth (6'6", 247) with the straight-ahead speed of a running back and two full seasons at an elite I-A power already under his belt. The question as he competes with another hyped athlete with flaky tendencies, redshirt freshman Tyrik Rollison, for the Tigers' starting job this fall is whether Newton comes closer to dominant LSU JaMarcus or bloated NFL JaMarcus.
• DT James Carmon. Colossal Baltimore native failed to qualify out of high school and landed at Mississippi Gulf Coast C.C., where he filled the enormous void left by Alabama-bound Terrence Cody in the middle of the MGCCC defensive line -- literally, Carmon filled every inch of it, matching Cody for mass at 370 pounds, on a much taller (6'7") frame, and emerged as a higher-rated prospect than Cody was when the future All-American was airlifted out of Perkinston two years ago. Carmon's already enrolled for spring practice at Mississippi State and could easily have an instant, Cody-like impact on one of the worst defenses in the SEC if he can keep himself from ballooning above 400 pounds.
• DB Jakar Hamilton. Originally a middling prospect from South Carolina who didn't make the grades to catch on with the Gamecocks, Hamilton blossomed immediately at Georgia Military College and committed to Georgia after an All-American freshman season; he eventually landed as Rivals' No. 2 JUCO prospect after his sophomore campaign. Hamilton is enrolled for spring practice, and with Reshad Jones and Bryan Evans both en route to the NFL, "Hit Man" should have a starting safety job waiting for him right away alongside Bacarri Rambo.
• DL Scott Smith. Initially a three-star California commit out of Hawaii in 2007, Smith wound up at Butler College in Kansas, where he was the conference Defensive Player of the Year as a sophomore and the top-rated JUCO pass rusher in this year's class. The hitch: Since faxing his letter of intent to Texas Tech just days before the Mike Leach Ultimatum broke out in Lubbock last month, message board rumors have swirled that Smith wants out of his commitment to the Raiders, and he hasn't enrolled at Tech for the spring semester as expected. Arkansas would love to snatch him away.
• QB/Athlete Randall Mackey. Ole Miss lost its starting quarterback (Jevan Snead) and most electric playmaker (Dexter McCluster) to the draft, but has a chance to replace both in Mackey, a prolific passer who last year accounted for 600 total yards and seven touchdowns in one game to lead East Mississippi C.C. to a ridiculous 75-71 win over Gulf Coast C.C. for the Mississippi JUCO title. The Louisiana native will get a shot to replace Snead in the fall, but at his size (6'0", 190) will probably be restricted to taking over McCluster's role in the Wildcat if he lines up in the backfield at all. More likely, Mackey's a receiver who may turn some heads on the side as a return man.
• LB Lavonte David. One of the less hyped members of the celebrated Northwestern (Miami) High senior class that stocked the hometown Hurricanes with eight signees in 2008, David committed to Middle Tennessee State instead before bouncing to Fort Scott C.C. in Kansas. If he catches on Nebraska, the detour was a smart one: David added 25 pounds to his undersized prep frame in Kansas and drew the attention of most of the Midwest as the top JUCO linebacker in the country. He'll be in Lincoln in the fall with an equally hyped Fort Scott teammate, hulking offensive tackle Jermarcus Hardrick, who's already enrolled for the spring.
• CB Mike Harris. Another Miami native comes home to Florida State after two years in California, picking the 'Noles over offers from a slew of powerhouses -- most notably Florida, Alabama and Michigan -- that have no reason to dip into junior colleges unless they see a talent big enough to move into their blue-chip lineups right away. Harris fits that bill, although given FSU's wretched secondary last year, locking down a position from day one shouldn't be that tough.
• QB Matt Simms. Best known as the 420-friendly son of Hall of Famer Phil and younger brother of former Texas starter Chris, Simms the Younger bailed from Louisville last January when it was clear he wasn't in line to become the Cardinals' starter in the spring, opting for a stopover at El Camino (Calif.) College instead.
Vol fans are more excited about El Camino teammate Kenbrell Thompkins at receiver, and Simms is rated about where you'd expect for a guy headed for career backup status at Louisville -- as a nondescript three-star -- but Li'l Phil is already enrolled at Tennessee with a legitimate shot at competing with returnee Nick Stephens and incoming freshman Tyler Bray for the Vols' starting job this spring, a fact that probably says more about the ugly quarterback situation new coach Derek Dooley inherits in Knoxville than it does about Simms' chances of emerging as a viable SEC starter.