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September 26, 2012

Mind of Mike: Henry making SEC choice

MIND OF MIKE: Sept. 19 | Sept. 12 | Sept. 6

Mike Farrell is the National Football Recruiting Analyst for Rivals.com. Want more of what's on Mike's mind throughout the week? Follow him on Twitter @rivalsmike.
Rivals.com national analyst Mike Farrell is never shy to express his opinion on everything from commitments to rankings to how on-field performance affects recruiting. In this weekly feature -- Inside the Mind of Mike -- the most experienced analyst in the industry gives some of his thoughts on the events of the past week.

Deep thoughts

What should Yulee (Fla.) running back/athlete Derrick Henry do? The nation's No. 3 athlete and No. 74 prospect overall will decide between Alabama and Tennessee on Friday and there are certainly two trains of thought, at least for me. Despite rushing for a state-record 502 yards this past weekend and pushing past Emmitt Smith as the No. 2 rusher in state history (Florida commitment Kelvin Taylor is No. 1), Henry is listed as an athlete for a reason.

We have some concerns about his ability at the next level as a tailback because of his 6-foot-3, 243-pound frame and upright style. However, there is clearly talent there and the clearest path to being a feature back is in Knoxville with T.J. Yeldon and Dee Hart already in Tuscaloosa and Altee Tenpenny and Tyren Jones already in this class. But if he chooses the Vols, can he be sure that Derek Dooley and his staff will still be there? Dooley is 0-11 in Tennessee against ranked teams and 0-18 in his career. With Georgia, Mississippi State, Alabama and South Carolina as the next four games on the schedule, this could be the stretch that ends his tenure.

It seems clear to most that Henry is leaning toward Alabama and, while he has a much better chance to make an impact with the Vols, it's hard to blame him based on the current coaching situation. I think it's safe to say Nick Saban will be around for awhile.

While Florida State is hotter than ever after the huge win against Clemson in front of a ton of recruiting talent, Florida is also finding it's way under Will Muschamp and both programs could reach that next level of recruiting if it continues. That seems odd to say, especially about the Gators after they finished No. 3 last year and are currently No. 5 this year, but it's still not quite at Urban Meyer's level. If Muschamp keeps winning, it will get there quickly.

As for FSU, they had a great class last year and finished No. 6, and were No. 2 the year before. But they are currently outside the national top 10 now. The Gators' success on the field is a big reason why FSU needs to not only win the ACC handily this year but also get into the national title game, as it's unlikely Florida is ready for that kind of finish with a tougher schedule. The huge win over Clemson could be a program-changer but it's all for naught if FSU isn't undefeated heading into the season finale against the Gators. That matchup looms as one that could affect the in-state recruiting efforts of both programs. Big win by Jimbo Fisher this past weekend, but the pressure is still on to be perfect.

Speaking of Meyer, Ohio State is sitting quietly at No. 9 in the team rankings with a talented class but no five-star. The last time Meyer didn't have a five-star in a full recruiting year he was coaching at Utah. His closest player right now is defensive end Joey Bosa, who certainly didn't scream five-star on national television last weekend against Don Bosco. However, two things have always been certain under Meyer in recent years. First, he will land a five-star somehow, some way and likely more than one. Secondly, he will flip some players from previous commitments prior to National Signing Day. Let's see if both hold true this year.

Thank goodness for Laquon Treadwell from Crete (Ill.) Monee or else 2013 would be quite boring. In years past, there have been many completely unpredictable prospects that have added and switched schools of interest weekly but this year not so much. Treadwell is certainly interesting to follow. Now Texas is in the mix, Missouri will get an official and Florida, Michigan, Ole Miss, Auburn, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State remain in the picture. Don't be surprised if a few more schools jump on this list and some drop off, and it wouldn't be a surprise to see Treadwell take this decision all the way to NSD. I still have a gut feeling that Michigan will be his choice, but he's certainly enjoying the process.

Notre Dame has a top five class so far in 2013 and I like this class quite a bit because it hits some key needs (linebacker, athletic playmakers on offense, offensive lineman). If the Irish close on two high-level defensive backs, this could be their best class in a long, long time. When I look up and down this class, I find it much harder to see kids that the Irish reached on than in recent years. Torii Hunter Jr. and William Fuller might not be the biggest or fastest guys, but trust me they will be one of the best 1-2 punches at wide receiver for Notre Dame since Michael Floyd and Golden Tate were making big plays.

I don't think the talk of USC commit Jalen Ramsey and his family being worried about distance from their home in Tennessee has legs. Ramsey just visited Florida on an official this past weekend with friend and teammate Max Staver, but my feeling is that Ramsey wants to stick with USC all things being equal and his family wants him where he fits best regardless of geography.

What is interesting is that Ramsey is very good friends with Leon McQuay III so much so that the latter visited Florida for the Kentucky game just to hang out with Ramsey. McQuay later visited Florida State for the 'Noles big win over Clemson and I think FSU has taken the edge away from USC now even with Ramsey apparently heading out west. What's puzzling is why Florida State never offered because that friendship could have the 'Noles in the thick of things right now if they had.

Rankings of Yore

Speaking of Golden Tate, he had a memorable and controversial night this past Monday on national television for the Seattle Seahawks. He was a running back in high school and there were many questions about whether he could adapt to being a wide receiver at Notre Dame and beyond. Because it was unclear what position he would play in college prior to his commitment to the Irish, he was listed as an athlete back in 2007 and was ranked No. 7 at his position.

However, the only athlete ranked ahead of him that has had similar success is Joe Haden, who was a star at Florida and a first-round NFL draft pick by the Cleveland Browns. He was a four-star player, but the questions about his move from running back held him back from a higher ranking. Clearly he answered everything and became a star.

[ Watch: Looking back at Golden Tate ]

It was a very emotional week for two former Rivals.com recruits. Manti Te'o had 12 tackles and collected two interceptions in a 13-6 win over Michigan just days after the passing of his grandmother and girlfriend. Torrey Smith caught two touchdown passes for the Baltimore Ravens in a Sunday night win over the New England Patriots less than 24 hours after his brother died in a tragic motorcycle accident. Te'o hailed from Laie (Hawaii) Punahou back in 2009 when he was ranked as the No. 2 inside linebacker and No. 12 prospect overall, behind only Vontaze Burfict at his position. Now he's a Heisman candidate and a potential first-round draft choice. In 2007, Smith signed with Maryland out of Stafford (Va.) after his home-state favorite, Virginia, felt he was not fast enough. He was ranked as the No. 28 dual-threat quarterback in the country and No. 29 in the state of Virginia but became a wide receiver upon his arrival in College Park.

FSU quarterback E.J. Manuel finished in 2008 ranked as the No. 2 dual-threat quarterback and No. 43 overall and that looks to be panning out. There was some discussion of Manuel being a five-star, but there were some decision-making concerns. Following a come-from-behind win over Clemson - in which he completed 27 of 35 passes for 380 yards and two scores while rushing for 102 yards as well - he is starting to come into his own. Manuel was ranked behind Terrelle Pryor, the nation's No. 1 overall player, at his position back in 2008 and was also behind Blaine Gabbert (NFL first rounder) and Dayne Crist (bust).

Quick Hitters

A little advice to recruits - always check with the school you're committing to before calling a press conference and inviting the media to watch you don a hat. Hoschton (Ga.) Mill Creek defensive tackle Kelsey Griffin committed to Georgia last week but apparently the Dawgs weren't on board with accepting his commitment. Reminds me of former five-star linebacker Kris Frost, who committed to Auburn on national TV at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl despite the Tigers coaches telling him not to do it. Auburn ended up taking Frost so we'll see if Georgia does the same with Griffin.

The Big Ten is simply awful, sorry fans. I know I said this couple of weeks ago, but it hasn't gotten any better. Illinois is not good (lost to Louisiana Tech by 28), Iowa is not good (loss to Central Michigan), Michigan scored six points against Notre Dame and Wisconsin, Ohio State and Michigan State all struggled against horrible football teams. How they have three teams ranked in the Top 25 is beyond me and this is turning out to be a nightmare year that could affect recruiting moving forward. Michigan and Ohio State have top 10 classes right now, but the next Big Ten program nationally is Illinois at No. 25. The league could end up with only two teams in the national top 25 by the end of the year, which is Big East recruiting territory.

After watching Oregon play again on offense in a 49-0 destruction of a pretty good Arizona team, it puzzles me that more four- and five-star offensive prospects don't flock to Eugene. I can't remember a team in recent memory that is more fun to watch offensively and the Ducks get everyone involved. They are currently behind USC, Washington, Arizona and UCLA and right now it's doubtful any of those teams can hold Oregon to less than 40 points. Tyree Robinson and Tyrell Robinson certainly understand as both committed following the rout.

Oh yeah, that Oregon State team isn't bad either, very impressive defense so far. Maybe more kids should look to that state to play football, just saying.

I know it's early, but Missouri appears to be a long way from competing in the SEC. The Tigers hung with Georgia for a little while but making Connor Shaw look like Tom Brady (20 completions in 21 attempts) doesn't bode well for the rest of the season. Recruiting better bigger and better pass rushers as well as faster defensive backs is crucial to hang.

Last week I talked about the Miami-area quarterbacks that got away from the 'Canes as part of the problem this season, but Stephen Morris might have salvaged the season for Miami and really pushed recruiting forward. The heart that Miami showed in coming back from a 36-19 deficit to pull out a 42-36 overtime win over a Georgia Tech team that just slammed Virginia the week before was impressive. Some local recruits, including Matthew Thomas and Denver Kirkland, certainly took notice.

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