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October 17, 2012

Mind of Mike: Irish getting defensive

MIND OF MIKE: Oct.10 | Oct. 3 | Sept. 26 | Sept. 19

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

Just last week, I spoke highly of the job Will Muschamp has been doing at Florida and how he could take the Gators' recruiting back to Urban Meyer levels if he keeps winning. But what about Brian Kelly at Notre Dame? While the Irish face academic restrictions that neither Meyer nor Muschamp could even dream about, Notre Dame could be a recruiting juggernaut if Kelly keeps rolling. Notre Dame is currently No. 4 overall in the country, ahead of Muschamp's Gators and Meyer's Buckeyes and are squarely in the national title picture. Sure, we've seen hot starts like this before under Tyrone Willingham and Charlie Weis only to watch those two tenures crash and burn, but there is one big difference - the defense. Kelly is recruiting better defensively than anyone in recent memory at Notre Dame -- landing recruits such as five-star linebacker Jaylon Smith -- and once defensive backs start falling into place, the Irish should be set for years to come on that side of the ball. USC commitments Max Redfield and Chris Hawkins are now seriously interested in the Irish after a great visit for the Stanford win and they are still in the hunt with Mackensie Alexander and L.J. Moore as well. The SEC wins national titles with serviceable offense and a defensive mentality that quarterback pressure and athletic defensive backs allow you to take many chances. With continued recruiting on that side of the ball, Notre Dame's defense could start to look more and more SEC-like, and that's never a bad thing.

How long will it be before Texas head coach Mack Brown isn't on "eventual retirement watch" and gets on the "hot seat" list? The answer is after this past weekend. Texas was 5-7 in 2010, but that was blamed on poor quarterback play. In 2011, Brown led his team to an 8-5 record and with a new influx of coaches after the 2010 disaster, fans expected a move forward this year. Instead, they have been treated to back-to-back losses, a 1-2 record in conference and an embarrassing loss to Oklahoma by six touchdowns. That loss came in front of a ton of recruits either watching in person or on television. The passing game was supposed to develop with David Ash, the running game was supposed to be strong behind two five-star running backs and the defense was supposed to be one of the best in the conference. This Texas team has given up 30-or-more points in 12 of 32 games since (and including) the national title game in 2009. There will come a time, and that time is very soon, where Texas will not be able to simply pick and choose the best players in state if they aren't a legitimate contender for a BCS game or national title every year. Watch for Oklahoma, Texas A&M and, perhaps even more concerning, some SEC schools to start marching into the state and begin pulling players out if things don't turn around. Brown has six games left this season to right the ship before things aren't as easy anymore.

The de-commitment of 2014 wide receiver Demarre Kitt shouldn't be too concerning for Georgia fans. Kitt has long thought he made a decision too early and was discussing such as far back as June, just two months after his initial decision. Clemson and USC are the two big threats here, but there's a chance Kitt ends up back at Georgia and this is more to slow things down than any panic regarding Georgia's loss to South Carolina.

Speaking of de-commitments, I don't think Reuben Foster is close to doing so with Auburn just yet, but anyone who thinks a tattoo is going to keep him in the fold is delusional. Tattoos can be erased or altered and I think Foster's will be if Auburn fires Gene Chizik. The nation's No. 2 player just took a visit to LSU and the spin on it was that he was there to see a former teammate, but there's no way he wasn't impressed with what he saw from the Tigers. The more Auburn loses and the hotter the seat becomes for Chizik, the more Foster will be taking visits.

People who don't follow recruiting always love to point out how recruiting rankings sometimes don't match up with the BCS rankings. Those same people will certainly point to Kansas State, Oregon State and even Oregon in the first BCS top 10 as an indicator. But while those three programs, who all have poor natural recruiting territories, certainly overachieve based on our recent recruiting rankings, Alabama, Florida, Notre Dame, LSU, Oklahoma, USC, South Carolina and Ohio State all prove that recruiting rankings mean something. Kansas State, currently No. 86 in the country (No. 58 last year), is by far the biggest overachiever right now and the biggest underachiever is clearly Auburn. The Tigers have put together several exceptional recruiting classes over recent years so there is no excuse for a 1-5 record highlighted by an overtime win against Louisiana-Monroe. By the way, the Warhawks are currently ranked No. 99 in the country in recruiting compared to Auburn's No. 8 ranking (No. 10 last year and No. 7 in 2011). There shouldn't be a talent problem in Auburn, Ala. no matter how things are spun.

I get the feeling that UCLA might finish very strong in recruiting. Despite a bad loss to Cal, the Bruins seem to be in much better shape for a lot of recruits than the Golden Bears and even the Stanford Cardinal down the stretch. A lot will depend on how they finish the season at home against USC and Stanford, but I see the Bruins moving up from their current No. 21 ranking and possibly finishing second in the PAC-12 behind USC.

Michigan quarterback commitment Shane Morris is a tough kid and it's clear he loves football. After a poor start to his football season and a diagnosis of mono that was supposed to sideline him for the season, Morris was back on the field this past weekend after missing just a few games. Morris completed 17-of-22 passes for 180 yards and two scores after an ultrasound revealed that his spleen had returned to normal size. Morris could have sat out the rest of the year and played it safe, but he didn't want to let down his teammates. We knew Michigan was getting a verbal leader in the charismatic Morris, but they are also getting a guy who leads by example.

Quick Hitters

Let's take a look at this column years from now and see if I'm smart or an idiot, but I think Missouri reached on Eddie Printz following his de-commitment from UCLA. I know he has the same star ranking as Maty Mauk from last year, but I think Mauk is a much better fit for the offense. I didn't expect Printz to land in the SEC after being dropped by the Bruins.

Speaking of Missouri, the move to the SEC won't help recruiting like it will for Texas A&M for two reasons. First, they have no geographical border to an SEC state with any talent, and secondly, you need to win. A 3-4 start and an 0-4 record so far in the SEC doesn't make for better recruiting. That season finale against Texas A&M will be big for the Tigers. Missouri is a respectable 25th in the nation in recruiting, but Texas A&M is No. 10, ahead of Texas. Missouri is currently 11th in the SEC in recruiting. They would be No. 4 in the Big 12 (if A&M stayed as well). "Old Man Football" might have been a mistake.

Former Michigan commitment David Dawson was mentioned last week in this column as a guy that Muschamp could flip. Now, Dawson is de-committed and considered a strong Gators lean. While the Gators won't get all of them, there's a real chance that all of the commitments mentioned - Dawson, Jalen Ramsey, Demarcus Robinson, Alex Anzalone, Ira Denson and Elijah Daniel - could all end up at different schools. Anzalone is more likely now to end up in Gainesville than South Bend, Denson could flip if the Gators offer and Ramsey has his choice of closer options. Robinson is hard to read and Daniel could end up as a sign-and-place for someone.

With Kitt, Dawson and Darius Latham all de-committing in the same week, this is likely just the start to a year that I think will have more flips than a Cirque Du Soleil tryout. With so many early commitments, some of them ridiculously early, this winter will be as interesting as it's ever been in recruiting.

Everything I said about West Virginia locking up a few big commitments in Texas next year could go out the window if the 'Neers don't recover quickly from that beatdown by Texas Tech. A win over Kansas State this weekend and everyone forgets the stumble, but another bad loss and all the momentum Dana Holgerson and company built with their first five wins is gone.

Despite a very good official visit at Florida State and an impressive visit to Texas in early September, I still think Florida safety Marcell Harris might be the one kid in the National Top 50 who is the most predictable when it comes to where he will end up. Already a Gators lean heading into the process, this weekend's official visit has a chance to seal the deal for him. If Harris winds up any place but Gainesville, I think it will be one of the biggest recruiting upsets of the year. Tim Williams to LSU is a close second.




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