I’ve had nine days to get excited about Larry Porter’s first recruiting class and — nothing against Coach Porter — I’m not there. I haven’t seen any of the signees play, mind you, beyond the clips most of you have seen. And measuring a football player’s college potential on a high-school gridiron is far more art than science. I’m not going to try and take any scout’s job here today. Rivals.com ranks the class 60th in the country.
The fact is, a football recruiting class requires a kind of simmering that most other college athletes don’t. Tiger basketball fans are already counting the points Will Barton will score as a freshman next season at FedExForum. But shall we try and guess the number of yards Andy Summerlin or Ryan Williams passes for this fall? (The most intelligent guess would be zero.)
Among the 15 players Tommy West signed in February 2006, exactly three of them exhausted their eligibility in four years and played their senior season last fall: Duke Calhoun, Matt Reagan, and Josh Weaver. Eight others have been redshirted and will be on the field in 2010 (including linebacker Winston Bowens and offensive lineman Dominik Riley). Four of those 2006 recruits are no longer with the team.
The skill positions are where jewels are found, and Porter has signed five wide receivers, two running backs, and two players classified as “athletes.” Will Reggie Travis or Bakari Trotter be on the receiving end of touchdown passes from Summerlin or Williams? If so, it will likely be around 2012, when they’d only be redshirt sophomores. The lone four-star recruit in the class — Sean Farr of Baltimore City, Maryland — should be in the mix from the get-go. Same for tight end Justin Henderson from North Little Rock.
The defensive side of the ball is where Porter will distinguish himself in the coming years, as Tommy West’s last two teams were lacking in the only two variables that matter in stopping an offense: strength and speed. If I have a concern with this year’s class, it’s that there aren’t enough linebackers (three). Speedy defensive backs can prevent a big play, and pass-rushing linemen can make a big play behind the line of scrimmage. But over the course of a football game (or season), it’s linebacker play that will determine the winner. Their impact is “big picture,” if you will. Pay attention to Khiry Battle, Alphonso Bruton, and Fred Harvey. If they earn playing time as freshmen, it could earn a passing grade for Larry Porter’s inaugural class of recruits.