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May 6, 2011

Roundtable: Impact of character

MORE ROUNDTABLES: April 29 | April 22 | April 8 | April 1

Rivals.com football recruiting analysts weigh in on topics in a roundtable format.

If a player is intelligent, respectful, mature and insightful in interviews, how much impact does that have on how you project their future?

Barry Every: I personally think those characteristics are very important and should be considered in the rankings, but first and foremost the player still has to be able to play the game. If they are really nice and just not that good at football, then it will not help them.

Mike Farrell: It's pretty easy to tell the character and intelligence of a prospect after you have met him or talked to him numerous times by the way he handles himself and how much thought he puts into his answers. But that alone is not enough, you have to check with high school and college coaches to see if there are any red flags as far as academics or character to assess. It is more important than ever to avoid ranking players of poor character high in our rankings. The class of 2005 really hammered this home to us with many five-stars from that class running into major problems that derailed their careers.

Adam Gorney: It certainly plays a factor because these recruits have to handle so many off-the-field situations during their college career. I've seen many players who had all the talent in the world mess things up because of bad grades or bad decisions and it's really a shame. On-field performance definitely comes first but if we are certain a prospect has issues that will be a clear negative throughout his playing career, we definitely take that under strong consideration.

Chris Nee: It doesn't impact my projections a great deal. Don't get me wrong, I think it benefits a player to possess those traits as they are less likely to put themselves in a bad situation or flame out during their career, but ultimately football is about talent and ability, combined with effort. You can be rude and immature, and still excel on the field.

Keith Niebuhr: I actually think it helps. A kid with these attributes typically comes across as someone who understands what an incredible opportunity he has through football. In other words, he gets it. That type of player will be grateful to earn a scholarship and therefore give all he can to the school with which he signs. On the flip side, a lot of the kids who don't display these features often come across as arrogant. And while many are extremely talented, prima-donnas often fail to meet the hype. The best of the best probably can get away with it. But the average Division I player cannot.

Brian Perroni: While it may not necessarily mean that the kid will be a star at the next level, a prospect that acts the opposite way has a much greater chance to fail. So many players have all the ability in the world and yet they never end up making an impact on the field because they get in trouble or just plain quit. There is a lot of wasted talent for sure. I've interviewed prospects before that I've had a feeling could end up as cautionary tale and, unfortunately, many of them did.

What prospect that you met this spring fits the above description the best?

Barry Every: Chad Voytik has all those characteristics on top of having a very live arm and one of the best performances at an Elite11 this year. Those are all very important characteristics for the quarterback position.

Mike Farrell: I'll go with cornerback Alex Carter from Virginia, who is a 4.1 GPA student, only considered high academic schools, committed to Stanford so he could pursue engineering and always handles himself with quiet class. There are many others as well so I don't want to slight anyone, but college coaches have had glowing things to say about Carter and I've seen it in person. Geno Smith from Georgia is another one as well.

Adam Gorney: Aziz Shittu has really impressed me. He is well-spoken, thoughtful and also grounded, even though he's one of the nation's best defensive tackles. It's really nice and refreshing to talk with prospects such as Shittu, who is already committed to Stanford. So many recruits tell us how great they are and it gets tiring. Shittu never acts like that, is a respectable person and is likeable. Plus, he's a tough, mean football player, too.

Chris Nee: Tampa (Fla.) Berkeley Prep athlete Nelson Agholor is an impressive young man. While he is guarded in his interviews, he gives very well thought out responses. When you talk with him about individual schools, you can tell he is looking at them in-depth and not simply window shopping. He is also just a well-rounded young man who excels on the field.

Keith Niebuhr: I've got two: defensive back Chris Bivins of Gainesville (Fla.) and defensive end Jarontay Jones of Stone Mountain (Ga.) Stephenson. Bivins, a solid cornerback who has a handful of offers, recently asked me what star ranking he was likely to get. When I told him he'd probably earn three stars, he didn't pout or complain as some kids do. It was clear Bivins understood that ranking is pretty darn good. He also talked about being extra motivated to get a fourth star. That impressed me. Jones, meanwhile, continually is a player who is courteous and generous with his time despite the constant demands from media. He has repeatedly told me how fortunate he is to be in his position and sounds sincere when doing so. Jones seems to realize he's one of the lucky ones.

Brian Perroni: A player that has really impressed me is Missouri City (Texas) Fort Bend Marshall linebacker Ryan Flannigan. The Baylor commit is not the biggest player for his position but he has already added quite a few offers this spring. He is a "Yes sir, no sir," player and I'm guessing that plays into things whenever college coaches are evaluating several other players with the same measurables as him.

Based on their recruiting base and success, which team has a better chance of succeeding in the Pac-12: Colorado or Utah?

Barry Every: Wow, that's a tough one, both places are beautiful. But since Utah seems to be further along on the football field (with an established coaching staff) I would say the Utes will have the earliest impact in the Pac-12.

Mike Farrell: Utah is recruiting at a higher level overall and I think it will succeed initially but in the long run I think this will help Colorado more. When Colorado was a top program, it did a lot of its recruiting work in California and I think joining the Pac-12 will help re-establish in that area.

Adam Gorney: Both have things going for them and both have challenges. Colorado's new coaching staff is making serious in-roads with a lot of players especially in California and Texas. Utah has a solid in-state recruiting base and the Utes' coaching staff knows how to get it done. I think, though, in the short term, Colorado has a little advantage because coming from the Big 12 the Buffaloes have played in incredibly tough stadiums against serious competition each week. I'm not sure Utah has played at that level every week but the Utes are gearing up to surprise people in the new Pac-12.

Chris Nee: The move benefits Utah a great deal. Utah recruits heavily in its home state as well as California, so I think the move to the Pac-12 will benefit it even more with regards to those two areas. Kyle Whittingham also has a very good eye for finding the talent he needs to succeed and raising that school's profile with the move should be a feather in his hat he can use in his recruiting pitch.

Keith Niebuhr: Had this move happened 10 or even five years ago, I would have said Colorado. But not anymore. The Buffs have been mediocre for years and I'm not sure switching conferences will help. The last time they were truly good, today's high school juniors (the Class of 2012) were in elementary school. Utah, on the other hand, has been a winner and part of the national conversation for nearly a decade. To kids, that matters. To them, Utah is a big-time, successful program that has played in some meaningful games. Who can even recall Colorado's last big game? I think that matters. I don't doubt Utah will find the going much tougher in the Pac-12, but I believe that program is the better-equipped of the two to make an impact in the league.

Brian Perroni: Even being in a non-BCS conference, I think Utah has done a tremendous job on the recruiting trail. Now that the Utes have a big conference with a lucrative television deal to sell to recruits, I can see a lot more players looking their way. With USC relatively down, I think it is a good time for Utah to enter the conference and if it can do well the first couple years, it could easily become one of the top Pac-12 teams overall as recruits flock there. The move will give Colorado a more natural "in" to recruit the state of California but it had the same thing with the state of Texas in the Big 12 yet it didn't seem to matter.



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