Let's end June on a high note with another edition of the mailbag.
Jonathan in Westerville, Ohio: Ohio State picked up five recruits from June 20-24. Have you seen anything similar in the recent past?
Craig: Jonathan, the Ohio State coaches can most definitely chalk that stretch up as a good one. The Buckeyes coming off their big Senior Advanced Camp scored six actual commitments if you count the addition of defensive end Jonathan Newsome (Cleveland/Glenville), which also happened this past week.
Ohio State got things kicked off with wide receiver Duron Carter committing at the camp (Fort Lauderdale, Fla. / Saint Thomas Aquinas) and from there landed several more. What also was huge about the week for Ohio State was not just the numbers they landed but the talent that jumped on board; big running back Carlos Hyde (Naples, Fla.) and athlete Justin Green (Louisville, Ky. / Male) were very good additions.
Although it was an impressive haul for the Buckeyes, I have seen something similar in recent past -- actually very recent past, as in this past week. While Ohio State was reeling in talent, South Florida was having likely the most important week in the recruiting history of its program. The Bulls coming off their Super Bull Camp landed seven prospects this past week, six of them in one day. Excellent prospects like Victor Marc (Hallandale, Fla.), Ricardo Dixon (Hallandale, Fla.) and Demi Thompson (Lake Mary, Fla.) jumped on board. In my opinion this was a little bigger of a week than that of the Buckeyes because they landed one more commitment and this was a much more monumental haul for South Florida than it was for Ohio State.
Other schools with big weeks were Cincinnati getting 10 verbal commitments, Kentucky getting six, Maryland landing five and Wisconsin hauling in four. It is not uncommon for this to happen around the time schools hold camps since they present a wonderful opportunity for coaches and prospects to really size one another up. Coaches get a chance to spend time with prospects and work with them on the football field. Prospects get a chance to actually experience a coach's style and the coaches get to see more closely what these kids have to offer as far as work ethic, ability and attitude. In addition, the kids get to feel a bit what it is like to attend school there -- eating and practicing at the facilities and also sleeping in the dorms if it is an overnight deal.
So camps are really a great springboard toward landing recruits. Not to mention, these camps also usually have a good amount of committed kids in attendance, and those kids act as recruiters; they also get a good amount of time to try to sell other campers.
Jim in Ocala, Fla.: Where's Jaamal Berry going to play college ball?
Craig: Well Jim, the state of Florida is very deep in running back talent this year, but arguably the best of the bunch is Jaamal Berry (Miami / Palmetto). Berry is one of the few remaining uncommitted Sunshine State backs, and he looks to be seriously considering two programs, Ohio State and Florida.
Billy Tucker was in contact with the Under Armour All-American late last week and he informed us that Ohio State is in the lead, but Buckeyes fans should not consider this a slam dunk. Berry was not at the Ohio State Senior Advanced Camp but told us he will be at the Florida Friday Nights Light camp in late July.
Berry has been on the Ohio State campus before, so it is far from a big deal that he was not at the camp, just a missed opportunity for both the Ohio State coaches and Berry to be around each other. If he does participate in Florida's one-day camp, it gets him on campus and allows the Florida coaches to try to close the gap some on their foes to the north.
If I was forced to give an answer right now going off of what Berry said, I would have to say he will play his ball at Ohio State. But, I also know this is not over yet because in recruiting anything can happen.
Both programs already have talented Florida backs on board with Mike Gillislee (Deland, Fla.) committed to Florida and Carlos Hyde (Naples, Fla.) committed to the Buckeyes, so in either case Berry would just be the ultimate icing on the cake. As far as styles go, Berry, who possesses elite acceleration and speed, may be a slightly better fit in Florida's offense and could be the big-time back Florida has been searching for in recent years. That being said, with Hyde, a powerful yet deceptively fluid running back, the addition of Berry in Columbus could form a "thunder and lighting" combination. Also Ohio State has bit more of a running back history to sell.
In the end, both are legit contenders and offer sound reasons why he could pick their school. It is possible Berry could decide by summer's end, but it could go into the season.
John in Athens, Ga.: Is there a reason that you at ESPN had Aaron Murray ranked as the No. 1 QB in the nation until he didn't commit to Florida? What is up with ESPN's love-fest with the Gators? He would have been the next big thing had he went to Florida? Is the bias that bad that you guys have to change his ranking because he commits to a team that averages 10 wins a season under its current head coach and has the No. 1 2009 QB draft pick currently playing for it? I don't understand how this happened. Please enlighten me.
Craig: John, thanks for the question. I wanted to answer it because you seem a little miffed over a situation that did not happen, so I wanted to just set the record straight. We have not released our rankings yet, either the ESPN 150 or position rankings. The ESPN 150 and the subsequent position rankings are slated to be released Aug. 5, so until then it is not possible for a player to be dropped or bumped up in the ratings, not Aaron Murray (Tampa, Fla. / Plant) or anybody.
Trust me when we say that we have no bias toward any one program, and we truly just call it as we see it. Sports fans are super passionate, and if you ask me, nothing gets people more riled up and defensive than talk of politics, religion and college football. So at some point, every fan feels their team is getting slighted in some way. We do not favor Florida over Georgia -- heck a year and a half ago Gators fans were none to happy with us when we rated USC No. 1 ahead of Florida in the final top 25 class rankings.
You will have to wait like everyone else to see where we rank Murray, but believe me we think he is awesome and is unquestionably one of the three best quarterbacks in this class. I would not be surprised if we have him ranked a little higher than others.
So trust me when I say the school of choice will have no bearing on Murray's or any prospect's rating. Thanks again for the question and I love the passion.