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October 7, 2012

Surprising freshmen, big hitters and more

ROUNDTABLES: Sept. 30 | Sept. 23 | Sept. 16 | Sept. 9 | Sept. 1

The Rivals.com analysts tackle current topics in the recruiting world in a roundtable format.

What current college freshman is surprising you so far this season, either for the good or the bad?

Mike Farrell, National: Maryland quarterback Perry Hills has been a big surprise. He wasn't expected to have to start this year and I thought he might not be physically ready to play when it was determined he would have to be the starter, but he has been impressive and has played beyond his years. Having Stefon Diggs in his offense helps and Diggs has certainly not been a surprise, we knew how amazing he'd be right away.

Rob Cassidy, West: Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel was expected to compete for early playing time, but the level at which he's played as a starter is a pleasant surprise. Manziel's athletic prowess has never been questioned, but there were doubts about his decision-making and throwing motion. Those doubts are quickly vanishing. On top of expectedly solid rushing numbers, the Aggie freshman has already thrown for 1,094 yards and 10 touchdowns this season. Most impressive, however, is that he's yet to toss an interception. His completion percentage is 70.2 is mind-blowing for a redshirt freshman that once considered playing baseball in college. Points for the nickname "Johnny Football," too.

Kynon Codrington, Southeast: Miami freshman running back Duke Johnson has surprised me the most with his big-play ability. I knew he had special play-making ability, but to lead the country in all-purpose yards through the first month of the season has been great for the 'Canes. Johnson has returned a kick-off for a score in addition to his rushing and receiving touchdowns. He is legit threat to score every time he touches the ball.

Adam Gorney, West: I'll go with the running back tandem of Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall at Georgia. With their success so far this season, the Bulldogs hardly miss Isaiah Crowell, who was dismissed form the team this off-season.

While they struggled Saturday night against South Carolina, Gurley has rushed for 575 yards and nine touchdowns and Marshall has 465 yards and five scores through six games.

Rivals.com rated Gurley as the fifth-best running back and Marshall the second-best all-purpose backin the class of 2012, so we were right on with their rankings, and they're backing it up together early on.

Josh Helmholdt, Midwest: It does not surprise me that Indiana's Jason Spriggs has locked up the starting left tackle spot for the Hoosiers, but I am surprised he locked it up so early in his career. This was a guy the Hoosiers initially recruited as a tight end prospect in the 2012 class, yet by week two he was essentially entrenched as the starter at the most important position on the line. Spriggs has the size and athleticism to be a Big Ten offensive tackle, but I expected it would take him a couple years to physically develop to the degree to play the position.

Jason Howell, Southwest: Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel has been a great surprise to me. He has picked right up where he left off at Kerrville Tivy, and new Aggies head coach Kevin Sumlin should feel great about what they have seen so far.

Manziel is far from textbook, but he is a true competitor. Many questioned whether or not he would be able to play quarterback on the college level, but so far he has not had any problems. He has completed 87 of 124 passes for 1,094 yards and 10 TDs and rushed 52 times for 366 yards and six TDs as the Aggies are off to a 4-1 start in 2012.

Woody Wommack, Southeast: After watching him shake a defender and go 80 yards for a touchdown against UCF last weekend, I was starting to get excited about Dorial Green-Beckham's potential to break out over the second half of the season. Unfortunately, that excitement was quickly quelled by his off the field troubles this week. I still think he'll be a terrific player, but it's clear he has some maturing to do in order to live up to his tremendous potential.

Which college assistant is really rolling right now in terms of recruiting?


Mike Farrell, National: Auburn's Mike Pelton gets overshadowed a bit by Trooper Taylor, Tommy Thigpen and others but he had landed two five star defensive lineman as well as a four-star and also one of the top in-state pure cover cornerbacks. Auburn is probably the one team in our national top 10 with the least coaching stability but these guys can recruit and Pelton is showing that he can reel them in. He's also the lead guy on Montravius Adams and Auburn is right in the mix.

Rob Cassidy, West: UCLA's crop of four four-star offensive linemen can be directly attributed to line coach Adrian Klemm, who is becoming quite a force on the recruiting trail. You don't have to strain to see why he's able to build a rapport with players. At age 35, Klemm is young enough to relate to high school prospects, and the three Super Bowl rings he won as an NFL lineman don't hurt things, either. When Klemm talks, prospective players listen. He's been in their shoes.

It's not all about offensive linemen. Kelmm hauled in five four-stars a year ago and has already become the Bruins' top recruiting gun. He's the go-to option when UCLA needs to win a battle regardless of position.

Kynon Codrington, Southeast: Adrian Klemm of UCLA is having a great couple of weeks on the recruiting trail. He picked up a commitment from four-star OL Kenny Lacy out of Arizona in addition to a pair of three-star offensive line prospects Scott Quessenberry and Poasi Moala. Klemm was one of head coach Jim Mora's biggest hires when he took over in Westwood, and now we are starting to see his approach paying off.

Adam Gorney, West: This seems really old hat but I have to go with Ed Orgeron. I know, I know, everyone is tired of hearing about USC, but its class is outstanding and Orgeron had a lot to do with it. Many other assistants did a great job as well, and USC basically speaks for itself but five five-stars and everyone else is a four-star recruit, that's just amazing.

There is also a chance Max Browne could be moving up in the next round of rankings along with some other commits, plus the Trojans are still recruiting Leon McQuay III, Tahaan Goodman and others. An outstanding job by that staff.

Josh Helmholdt, Midwest: Wisconsin has jumped out way ahead of their Big Ten competition with five early commits in the 2014 class, four of whom hail from within their home state borders. The assistant responsible for reeling in all that home state talent is defensive backs coach Ben Strickland, who played his college ball for the Badgers and prepped in the Madison area. With 2013 recruiting having slowed way down in the Midwest, Strickland's early success in the 2014 class makes him the hottest assistant in the region right now.

Jason Howell, Southwest: UCLA has really been hitting the ground hard and Adrian Klemm is a name who keeps coming up. The former Hawaii and NFL offensive lineman established himself as an up and comer both as a coach and a recruiter while at SMU. He has continued to pound the pavement and is getting similar results in the Pac-12. When the Bruins want a guy chances are Klemm is going to play a role in putting them in the mix.

Who's the best hitter you've seen so far this fall?


Mike Farrell, National: Baltimore (Md.) Gilman linebacker Micah Kiser is very physical and is a big, solid linebacker. He'll be a good fit at Virginia with his aggressive nature and the way he likes to hit. He's not afraid to take on blockers and he will give up his body to make a play.

Rob Cassidy, West: My region isn't especially stocked on defense right now, but 2014 defensive end Qualen Cunningham has flashed the potential of a wrecking ball. The Chandler (Ariz.) Hamilton junior has made his name as a pass rusher, but he's also laid his share of licks on running backs so far this season. Cunningham has been playing through minor injuries, but hasn't lost a shred of aggressiveness. He still looks like every bit the headhunter that turned the heads of college coaches to the tune of six early scholarship offers.

Kynon Codrington, Southeast: I really like the way Skai Moore plays and explodes through ball carriers. Moore brings a ton of energy and passion on every play. He is able to deliver big hits while being a sure tackler in space and along the perimeter. The three-star is a special teams standout as well. His stock is rising and there is no doubt he could play for almost any BCS program.

Adam Gorney, West: I really liked Dwight Williams' physical play when I saw his Gardena (Calif.) Serra team defeat Long Beach (Calif.) Poly.

There were some questions about the 2014 linebacker this summer because he's a little undersized, but he really brings it with pads on. He's not afraid to pop people coming across the middle, and he has the speed to come up and engage running backs. Really like what I've seen from Williams this season.

Josh Helmholdt, Midwest: I have not seen a Tim Kimbrough or Antonio Allen-type hitter out there this year, but Hamilton (Ohio) linebacker Marcus Oliver definitely knows how to deliver a blow and has been the most impressive tackler I have seen so far this year. Not only can the 6-foot-1, 225-pound Hamilton pack a punch, but he is also a very sure tackler who has put up ridiculous tackle stats this fall. He's going to be a nice late pickup for someone in the 2013 class.

Jason Howell, Southwest: I have seen a few this year but Lancaster (Texas) 2014 linebacker Derrick Leonard stands out in my mind. He is quite the striker on a defense that also includes Washington commit Daeshon Hall and 2014 standout athlete Nick Harvey. Leonard comes downhill in a hurry and was a collision waiting to happen when I saw the Tigers take on Justin Manning and Dallas Kimball earlier this year.

Woody Wommack, Southeast: Lawrence ville (Ga.) Central Gwinnett linebacker and Auburn commit Trey Johnson can really lay the wood on people in the open field, but he has to do a better job of getting off blocks in order to do it on a more consistent basis. Kingsland (Ga.) Camden County athlete J.J. Green is likely going to be a running back when he gets to Georgia next fall, but he can deliver quite the blow, both when he's playing defense and when a defender is trying to bring him down.



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