Recruiting Q&A: A Look at the West with Rob Cassidy and Adam Gorney
With National Signing Day less than a month away, SI exchanged emails with the seven Rivals.com regional recruiting analysts to get their perspectives on the major storylines between now and February. West analysts Adam Gorney and Rob Cassidy break down the current regional recruiting landscape:
SI: Name your top three "sleepers," either committed or uncommitted, and explain why you think they will impact the next level?
Adam Gorney: Quarterback Johnny Stanton, tight end John Mundt and running back Pierre Cormier. Stanton injured his knee and he's a running quarterback, so that's a concern. However, he's a winner on the high school level, he's an excellent runner, can throw the ball well and could fit in nicely in Nebraska's offense. With coach Chip Kelly coming back to Oregon, Mundt could see the ball a lot. He's an athletic tight end who can get open. Cormier is going to an explosive Arizona offense, and if there is any space he can make something happen.
Rob Cassidy: Phoenix (Ariz.) Brophy Prep quarterback Tyler Bruggman could be that guy. He doesn't have a giant arm, but that's fine. Bruggman won't need to be a cannon-armed show stealer in Mike Leach's offense at Washington State. He's accurate and coachable. He's capable of doing everything Leach will ask of him.
Another could be Washington wide receiver commit John Ross. Ross is a little undersized, but he is speedy. He's always impressive in camp settings and is a handful for defensive backs who are not ready for his sudden change of pace and physicality. He could surprise some people before he's done in college.
A deep sleeper is Tanner Wood. Wood spent his high school career playing against Charmin-soft competition in small-town Kansas, so he went mostly overlooked. That said, he dominated in the manner you'd expect. He rushed for 659 yards -- that's not a typo -- in a single game this season. He'll play defensive end at Kansas State, and the athleticism is certainly there. Plus, Bill Snyder has a history of making these position changes work.
SI: Which recent coaching departure (or new hire) will have the most influence on your region's recruiting landscape
AG: Kelly flirting with the NFL and then deciding to stay at Oregon should have the biggest impact. There was some talk that Thomas Tyner would consider other programs if Kelly left, but that won't happen now. Plus, Kelly can go after some USC targets and other top California prospects because he will be back in Eugene. That is bad news for the rest of the conference because the Ducks are expected to continue their winning ways.
RC: Out here, it's obviously the situation at Cal. The reasons for that are probably obvious. The Golden Bears replaced Jeff Tedford with Sonny Dykes, a proven recruiter. Dykes has been honored for his recruiting prowess in the past and was the guy who lured Michael Crabtree to Texas Tech. His arrival in a talent-rich state like California could shake things up for everyone.
SI: Name three teams whose stock is rising and three others whose is falling.
AG: Risers are UCLA, Washington and Oregon. The coaches are outstanding, the recruiting is going well and there is upward momentum. The sliders are USC, Cal and Colorado. USC was such a disappointment this season that Lane Kiffin is on the hot seat, but a big-time recruiting class could save him.
RC: My three risers are Texas A&M, Oregon State and Washington. A&M just produced a Heisman winner, beat the eventual national champion and is thriving in college football's strongest conference. A few years ago, Oregon State had nowhere to go up, and here we are. The perception of the Beavers program is changing, and recruits out west are taking notice. Washington is taking high-level players out of California thanks in part to a young and energetic coaching staff. It's not a top-level destination school and it won't steal many players from USC, but Seattle is transitioning into a "cool" place to play.
My three sliders are Texas, Oklahoma and Nebraska. The rise of A&M with its position in the SEC has the potential to hurt Texas. Couple that with the fact that Mack Brown's extended future is uncertain, and you have the recipe for a decline on the recruiting trail. Like Brown's tenure in Austin, it feels like Bob Stoops regime at OU has become a bit stale. Something is afoot in Norman and it shows in their recruiting. The Sooners have lost out on some top targets to less heralded schools. I don't think it's panic time by any means. Players are always going to want to play for the Sooners, but there has been a backward step.
Lastly, Nebraska sits outside Rivals' top-25 recruiting rankings and, for some reason, is having trouble recruiting junior colleges at the same level as it has in recent years. There have been notable misses this season, and it's why the Huskers have continued to slowly slide backward since they finished 15th in the rankings in 2011.
SI: Who is the best remaining uncommitted player in the region?
AG: Auburn (Calif.) Placer defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes is a four-star who is pushing for a fifth star after his outstanding performance at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. He was committed to USC but recently de-committed. Vanderdoes is still looking at the Trojans and will visit them this month, but he also is expected to see Alabama and Notre Dame. He has taken trips to UCLA and Washington.
RC: Now that's he's back on the market, it's Placer, Calif., defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes. Vanderdoes is a bona fide recruiting commodity and is capable of making a difference wherever he lands.
SI: Which player in your region will have the best opportunity to contribute immediately?
AG: Five-star quarterback Max Browne has a chance. The USC quarterback situation is in flux because Matt Barkley is leaving and Max Wittek did not blow anybody away in his two starts -- losses to Notre Dame and Georgia Tech. Browne will be on campus for spring practice and has been assured by the coaching staff that he will have a shot at the starting job.
RC: Max Browne is going to get his shot in camp. The departure of Matt Barkley leaves USC in need of a starting quarterback. Browne is the No. 3-ranked prospect overall for a reason, and he is a serious threat to grab the starting job right away. If he doesn't see the field, he'll have nobody to blame but himself. There aren't many better situations for a freshman as talented as Browne.
SI: Which player in your region impresses you so much that you'd be willing to guarantee success on the next level?
AG: That is a risky statement because so many factors go into a scenario like that, but Su'a Cravens appears to have all the tools to succed at the next level. He has such outstanding skills, he's so smart, always makes the right play and seems more advanced than anybody on the high school level. Given a shot, I think Cravens could be special.
RC: Murrieta, Calif., safety Su'a Cravens is one of those can't-miss players. He's been successful in every setting; camps, games, combines, he's looked fantastic in them all. He's one of those rare blends of size and speed who enters every situation with a built-in advantage. Everything they say you "can't coach" is present in Cravens in spades. Any improvement he makes on technique at USC is simply a bonus.