Friday, September 14, 2007

Battle of the Recruitng Network Superstars | by Pat

With the Irish and the Wolverines stuck at 0-2, it seems like some fans of both teams are already looking ahead to seasons of future hope. And as fate would have it, this Saturday's game provides the first matchup of the two players considered to be the respective faces of those futures. It's a fabulous frosh showdown...

Pedigree versus Potential
Poise versus Power
Accuracy versus Distance
California Cool versus Arkansas Brawn
Surgeon versus Lumberjack
Freshman versus Freshman

Yes, it's Clausen-Mallet Bowl I, starring two of the most talked-about quarterback recruits in recent memory. It wasn't supposed to happen until next year (at the earliest), but a few fumbles here, and leg injury there, and all of a sudden the two diaper dandies find themselves atop the depth chart and breaking the huddle tomorrow afternoon. What was supposed to be the undercard is now top billing on the marquee.

If you follow recruiting, you'e well aware of the battles of opinion waged over the the California kid and the Texarkana gunslinger. Mallett vs. Clausen has been an ongoing debate among recruitniks for a few years now, approaching the level of Sparta vs. Athens, the Stones vs. the Beatles, or maybe Russell vs. Quinn (if you really want to stretch it).

The hubbub all started when Clausen's personal quarterbacking tutor (that's right, I said personal quarterbacking tutor), Steve Clarkson, dubbed Jimmy the "LeBron James of High School Football" before he even threw a single high school pass. Mallet jumped onto the national recruiting stage with a strong showing at a Nebraska QB camp after his freshman year in high school. A whirlwind of wins and broken records and honors and ever-increasing hype for the two precocious signalcallers soon followed. Some said Clausen was the most polished passer ever to come out of high school, while Mallett's legend grew when a major Michigan recruiting evaluator claimed that the youngster had not only a stronger arm than most NFL quarterbacks, but that he would be the first quarterback taken in the NFL draft after his junior year. Clausen eventually became the #1 recruit in the nation, according to most services, with Mallet right behind him.

But all that hullabaloo is behind us. Throw out the star rankings, and the Elite 11 accolades, and the high school records, and the all-star games. Forget the stories of Clausen and his signing day limousine, and the stories of Mallett considering a transfer back to Arkansas due to homesickness. The past is prologue, and it's time to face off.

Who's got the upper hand? Well, both Jimmy and Ryan enrolled early, and both spent a semester learning the play book in the spring...Jimmy has a full game on the road as the starter under his belt...Ryan has the advantage of a veteran OL to protect him, and a more dependable running game, and more experienced receivers...Jimmy has more mobility, enabling him to move around and buy some time...Ryan is 6'7", which renders the Loeffler Low Release Point nearly meaningless...Jimmy will be taking snaps from a center with 35 career starts at center, as compared to 2 for Ryan...Ryan will have his blindside protected by a left tackle with 29 career starts, as compared to 2 for Jimmy...Jimmy has Charlie Weis calling plays for him...Ryan plays for an offense that has actually already scored an offensive touchdown this season...and so on...and so on...

We could keep going, but thankfully, an honest-to-God football game intrudes. Finally, we can quit relying on self-styled recruiting gurus to tell us who's better, who's best. After a nearly four-year jury deliberation, Clausen v. Mallett will announce a verdict tomorrow. (And quite possibly the first of several verdicts.)

Late News: Meanwhile, as the fresh frosh get set to go, Demetrius Jones decides to leave the team. It was a rumor all day on the boards, and it's finally confirmed. Here's the story, including this brief statement from Charlie:
A Notre Dame official said Jones was included on the travel roster in advance of the team's trip to Michigan, a list set Thursday. However, on Friday Weis learned that Jones would not join the Irish in Ann Arbor and issued the following statement.

"At 2:30 today while boarding the bus to Michigan I was notified that Demetrius Jones has decided not to make the trip," Weis said. "I have not spoken to Demetrius and can only say that he missed the team bus. Any additional comment would be without all the facts."

As of late Friday afternoon Weis had not spoken to Jones.
Further update: According to Mike from Red and Black Attack, Demetrius Jones is now enrolled at the University of Northern Illinois.