The college football world learned last week that the NCAA is sniffing around the University of North Carolina program. Certainly there is smoke rising in Chapel Hill, but to what extent remains to be seen.
Tar Heels athletic director Dick Baddour confirmed that representatives of the NCAA have been to UNC to interview a number of student-athletes, including some of UNC's NFL draft prospects. The NCAA is looking into possible rules violations regarding improper benefits provided by outside influences that included travel, rent and jewelry.
With lofty expectations on-the-field expectations and another strong recruiting class in the works, it's unknown how this investigation will impact coach Butch Davis' recruiting.
In 2010, UNC had the 24th-best recruiting class according to ESPNU's class rankings; currently, Tar Heels have 15 commitments to date and are putting together another good class. The class is led by two ESPNU 150 members -- athlete Everett Golson (Myrtle Beach, S.C./Myrtle Beach) and guard Kiaro Holts (Indianapolis/Warren Central). In all, Davis and his staff have reeled in six four-star and seven three-star prospects.
At this point, it doesn't look like the investigation will have a major affect on the Tar Heels' 2011 recruiting class.
"It doesn't bother me," Holts said. "They won't take any bowl games away. I guess if it became more severe then I might think about [looking elsewhere]. Right now I am rock-solid with North Carolina."
Four-star quarterback Marquise Williams (Charlotte, N.C./ Mallard Creek) says he's also still headed to Chapel Hill, but wants to see where things stand once this investigation is resolved.
"Right now I am a Tar Heel," Williams said. "At the same time I am trying to see what is going on. I want to wait and see what they uncover. If it's bad then I will reassess. But I am headed to North Carolina and very happy about it."
It also appears the investigation isn't affecting uncommitted recruits who have UNC in the running, like three-star running back Romar Morris (Salisbury, N.C./Salisbury).
"It's not affecting me at all, at least not now," Morris said. "I have talked with [North Carolina] coaches and all is good. I hope to make my decision in the next few weeks and North Carolina is right there with [Georgia Tech] and Tennessee."
Clowney narrowing it down
The nation's top prospect, defensive end Jadeveon Clowney (Rock Hill, S.C./South Pointe), is now favoring two schools -- the home-state South Carolina Gamecocks and the national-champion Alabama Crimson Tide.
"I went to Alabama with him recently and of course that place just mesmerized him," South Pointe coach Bobby Carroll said. "Then last Friday he went to South Carolina with his mom. Those are his favorites right now but I think he will be the type that always likes what he sees last ... I do believe in the end he will stay in the South because I know he wants to play in the warm weather."
Clowney plans on taking all five of his official visits and announcing his college destination at the Under Armour All-America Game in Jan. 2011.
Strong July for Rebels
One of the hottest teams in July when it comes to recruiting has been Mississippi. Just this month alone, coach Houston Nutt has landed six commitments -- quarterback Maikhail Miller (Fulton, Miss./ Itawamba Agri), wide receiver Donte Moncrief (Raleigh, N.C./ Raleigh), outside linebackers Marcus Mayers (Taylorsville, Miss./ Taylorsville) and Serderius Bryant (Sanford, Fla./ Seminole), cornerback Andrew Johnson (Miami/Miami Southridge) and safety Gerrod Holliman (Miami/Miami Southridge).
Alabama looking out of region
Last season, Alabama inked several out-of-region prospects in quarterback Phillip Sims (Chesapeake, Va./Oscar Frommel), Arie Kouandjio (Hyattsville, Md./DeMatha), guard Chad Lindsay (The Woodlands, Texas/ The Woodlands), wide receiver DeAndrew White (Houston, Texas/ North Shore) and kicker Cade Foster (Southlake, Texas/Carroll). Sims and Lindsay were the top-rated prospects in the country at their respective positions.
On Monday, the Crimson Tide landed the nation's No. 4-rated center prospect in Ryan Kelly (West Chester, Ohio/Lakota West). Alabama already has a commitment from Isaac Luatua (La Mirada, Calif./La Mirada), a three-star guard prospect from La Mirada, Calif. Plus, the Crimson Tide are the team to beat for five-star offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio (Hyattsville, Md./DeMatha) and are in the mix for running back Malcolm Brown (Cibolo, Texas/ Byron M. Steele) as well as linebackers Curtis Grant (Richmond, Va./Hermitage) and Trey DePriest (Springfield, Ohio/Springfield South).
Duke becoming QB-U?
Duke's David Cutcliffe has coached Peyton Manning and Eli Manning and says that quarterback prospects would be fools not to consider Duke.
"We will get them ready for the NFL," Cutcliffe said.
It looks like he may have landed another gem in Brandon Connette (Corona, Calif./ Santiago), who graduated early and participated in spring practices.
"I am telling you right now that Connette has a chance to be special. I mean very special," Cutcliffe said. "He will play in the NFL."
Ironically, the Blue Devils will likely not sign a signal-caller in this year's class, unless a great one falls their way. They have four young quarterbacks on their roster, including Connette and last year's backup, Sean Renfree.
Sunshine State to Purdue pipeline
Purdue has recently made a major push in the South, particularly in Florida. Since 2009, the Boilermakers have signed 22 prospects (out of 46 inked to Purdue) from the Sunshine State.
The Boilermakers have continued the trend in the 2011 class by landing cornerback Taylor Richards (Lake Mary, Fla./Lake Mary).
Hawkeyes land Massachusetts teammates
Offensive tackles off the board
Some quality offensive tackles have made their commitments over the past week. FSU landed ESPNU 150 prospect Bobby Hart (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla./Saint Thomas Aquinas), Georgia pulled Zach DeBell (Tarpon Springs, Fla./Tarpon Springs) from the Sunshine State, Baylor landed four-star prospect Spencer Drango (Cedar Park, Texas/Cedar Park), Ryan Mack (Memphis, Tenn./Wooddale) committed to Louisville and Michigan got Jacob Fisher (Traverse City, Mich./Traverse City West).
Jamie Newberg has been covering recruiting both in the Southeast and nationally for 19 years. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.