Friday, August 07, 2009

The not-so-Little Prince | by Pat

An instant member of the All-Name team, North Carolina linebacker/defensive end Prince Shembo decided to end his recruitment and announced his plan to play football for Notre Dame.

"I like the feeling up there, being with the boys and everything," Shembo said. "The guys made it easy for me, the academics, and being Catholic just made it great ? And the facilities, to be honest, were the nicest I've seen out of any of the schools."
On the recruiting sites, the 6'2" 232 pound Shembo's ranking is all over the place. Rivals gave Shembo four stars and tabbed him as the #16 overall defensive end. ESPN gave him a 78, three stars (yes, ESPN is doing stars now...more on that later) and has him as the #44 defensive end. Scout was the least impressed, giving Shembo three stars and listing him as the #68th best defensive end in the country. Offers-wise, he had a solid collection of scholarship opportunities from east coast schools like Virginia Tech, North Carolina, NC State, Virginia, as well as Tennessee, Wake Forest, and West Virginia.

It's pretty common to see the rankings depressed for a player that is a bit of a tweener like Shembo. When the scouts don't know where a guy will play in college, then tend to drop him. How much more will he grow? Will he develop into an every down defensive end in college? Is he quick enough to stay at linebacker? Many fans are drawing comparisons to Mo Richardson, Kerry Neal, and Darius Fleming and that might not be far off.

With football season officially starting today (woo!), recruiting will slow down for a bit. With that in mind, it's a good thing that ND has 14 commits. That provides a solid foundation for a class that is expected to wind up between 20-25. Obviously some fans might not like the number of three star types in the class, but given the uncertainty surrounding the program right now, it's good to have a base of recruits already in the fold to join the undecided on official visits and help sell them on the program. The next step will be for the coaches to close the class out with some of the top four and five star prospects still considering ND. We'll just have to wait and see how that plan plays out.

Depending on how you look at it, Shembo is the fourth defensive end in the current recruiting class. However, Utupo and maybe even Lueders could grow into tackle types. And Chris Martin keeps getting bigger as well. Assuming Martin shows up to campus a ready-made strongside defensive end, that leaves Shembo as the pass-rushing weakside DE in the class. Given the uncertain position futures of the recent crop of DL recruits, I'm going to change things up a bit and list the entire DL depth chart for 2010. This gives a better overview of the mix-and-match possibilities.

Fifth Year
Senior Junior Sophomore Freshman
Kallen Wade
Kerry Neal
Ethan Johnson
Tyler Stockton
Chris Martin
Paddy Mullen
Emeka Nwankwo*
K. Lewis-Moore*

Blake Lueders

Ian Williams Brandon Newman*

Justin Utupo

Hafis Williams*

Prince Shembo

Sean Cwynar*

Now, back to that ESPN star business. Yep, ESPN caved to peer pressure and are following the lead of Rivals and Scout and using a star system in addition to their 0-100 scale. It won't be a direct match to the other sites though, as ESPN currently claims they will be a bit more stingy handing out five and four stars.
"If you look around college football, there just aren't that many elite players on a yearly basis," Luginbill said. "For the last four years or so, there are not as many impact players who were ranked as a four-star or five-star as people think, so our numbers will be tapered back and reflect that. The reality is that most college football rosters are made up of three-star prospects."
Regardless of how they justify their rankings, here is where all of the previous ND commits fall, now that ESPN has revealed their first Top 150 rankings list. Warning, it isn't very pretty.
Chris Martin - 4 stars, 80 grade, #16 DE, #144 overall in the nation
Andrew Hendrix - 4 stars, 80 grade, #11 QB
Blake Leuders - 4 stars, 80 grade, #20 DE
Christian Lombard - 3 stars, 79 grade, #21 OT
Alex Welch - 3 stars, 79 grade, #12 TE
Chris Badger - 3 stars, 79 grade, #18 S
Spencer Boyd - 3 stars, 79 grade, #30 ATH
Lo Wood - 3 stars, 78 grade, #26 CB
Daniel Smith - 3 stars, 78 grade, #70 WR
Tommy Rees - 3 stars, 78 grade, #39 QB
Kendall Moore - 3 stars, 77 grade, #17 ILB
Bennett Jackson - 3 stars, 77 grade, #82 WR
Justin Utupo - 3 stars, 77 grade, #68 DE
The Chris Martin drop is the obvious outlier compared to Rivals and Scout, who both list Martin as the #1 DE in the class. And while ESPN may have tweaked how they grade over the past few years, it is still a bit odd that they gave Chris Martin the same grade of 80 that they gave to Ryan Burkhart and John Ryan back in 2006. It's also odd that the 17th best inside linebacker in the country (Kendall Moore) has the same grade as the 82nd best WR (Bennett Jackson). I suppose ESPN is just high on receivers this year. It will be interesting to see if and how any of these rankings change by February.