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March 17, 2012

Roundtable: March Madness stars in football

MORE ROUNDTABLES: March 10 | M3 | F25 | F17 | F5

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

What current March Madness college hoops star can you envision on a college football field?

Mike Farrell: Creighton's big man Gregory Echenique is a monster - he's 6-9 and 270 pounds with a huge frame and long, long arms. He isn't a superior athlete, but he's a very physical kid and I could see him being a nasty right tackle in college football. He likes to hit everything around him and does a very good job of getting in the way even when he doesn't mean to, and his aggressive nature is made for football. Put him on a BCS team and run behind him.

Adam Gorney: Kyle O'Quinn has become a national name after No. 15 Norfolk State shocked second-seeded Missouri on Friday and the 6-foot-10, 240-pounder finished with 26 points and 14 rebounds. He was a former football player and he definitely showed it against the Tigers banging inside, being physical, being tough and dominating more talented players. With his height, it might have been tough to continue his football career. He only had one basketball offer coming out of high school but he performed on the national stage in one of the biggest upsets in recent NCAA tournament history.

Josh Helmholdt: I'm embarrassed to say that for the first time since I could sit upright in front of the television I have watched less than an hour of the NCAA tournament thus far. However, one guy who definitely caught my attention was Iowa State forward Royce White. That is a man right there. Throw him out at left tackle and I have no doubts he can handle both the speed rushers and the power rushers. He's obviously got a nice nasty streak about him too, which is always valued at the tackle position.

Chris Nee: Iowa State's Royce White and Marquette's Davante Gardner are two guys I could see strapping on a helmet and getting out on the football field. White is an extremely athletic player at 6-foot-8, 270 pounds, and could probably be a well-balanced tight end who would be a threat down the field. Marquette's Gardner is a 6-foot-8, 290-pound big man with good feet. He probably could line up at offensive tackle or offensive guard and make some things happen.

Keith Niebuhr: Wow, tough question. Hard to say. Guess I'll go with USF forward Toarlyn Fitzpatrick. He averages 8.0 points and 6.6 rebounds a game, and is a solid bench player for the Bulls. I saw him play basketball in high school a couple times and always thought, at 6-feet-7-ish and in the 240-pound range he'd make a good tight end. Basketball has always been his sport, but maybe if hoops don't work out in the long run he may give football a shot. But this is really just a shot in the dark on my behalf. I just don't follow college basketball all that closely these days.

Brian Perroni: With the trend in the NFL being former college basketball forwards playing the tight end position, I think a perfect guy that would be able to make that transition is Kentucky freshman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. At 6-foot-7, 235 pounds, he is in the same mold as Jimmy Graham of the Saints and he would be fun to watch in the red zone as small defensive backs tried to cover him.

What do you think is the hardest transition for early enrollees who are participating in a big-time program's spring practice right now instead of, say, going to prom?

Mike Farrell: I think it will be balancing everything with academics and football. It can get overwhelming very quickly and is nothing like high school. Football has now become a full-time job for these players and they have to balance that with school and a social life. It's essentially giving up the somewhat carefree existence of a high school kid and heading off to work.

Adam Gorney: I don't think it has much to do with on-the-field things really. Freshmen are transitioned into the football program and often at big-time programs aren't called on to be immediate starters. What I've found with freshmen football players is living on your own for the first time. Making the smart decision on when to go out with friends, when to stay in, how much studying of the playbook is needed, how much schoolwork needs to be done and all those expectations. Life changes in a big way off-the-field for these guys and there is a lot to deal with at times.

Josh Helmholdt: I believe the most difficult part is time management and self-discipline, not only with the football aspects but also the academic and social aspects of college life. College coaches cannot micromanage the details of these kids' lives as their parents and teachers have been doing for the past 18 years. They largely have to manage their own time, and are seeing increased responsibilities. It's the process every post-graduate goes through, but these guys also have to factor in performing in a big-time college football program.

Chris Nee: Simply getting down the system and all of the nuances of different play calls and situations. Some high schools have very simplistic playbooks while others are more complex, but very few come close to comparing to the depth of a college scheme. While you may adjust quickly to the speed and physicality of the game at the next level it is simply a matter of needing study time and reps to get down everything that is asked of you by position coaches, coordinators and head coaches with regards to being in the right position to make a play on every snap.

Keith Niebuhr: There are a few things, and I believe they're football-related. For starters, it's having to practice at a high level - all the time. In high school, the top players can pretty much coast if they want and still dominate the kid on the other side of the ball at practice. But in college, the intensity level goes up several notches, and if one of these early enrollees isn't completely focused on each and every play he runs the risk of getting embarrassed a lot. Also, for some, this period becomes the first time they aren't the best player on the field in their lives. That can be quite a mental adjustment. There's no mom or dad to console them, either. It's a tough few months for a kid who is used to being a superstar.

Brian Perroni: I think coming in the middle of a school year is tough in that the players do not have thousands of other students going through the same experience. The other freshmen all have a semester under their belts and have made a lot of friends whereas the early enrollees are sort of on their own in making that transition.

How do some of the star 2014 and 2015 QBs compare with the top 2013 QBs?

Mike Farrell: It's a little early for 2014 but it doesn't look like a stellar year so far and I really like the quarterback crop for 2013 at the top and throughout with depth. I think David Sills from the class of 2015 could be in the Rivals250 this year. He's that advanced and I think he certainly has a chance to be a five-star by the time we rank his class and push for the top player in the country.

Adam Gorney: There are definitely some intriguing names in the 2014 class that already have impressive offer lists such as Tifton (Ga.) Tift County's Tadric Jackson, Baltimore (Md.) Dunbar's William Crest and others, and Chandler Kincade (Pittsburgh) and DeShaun Watson (Clemson) are already committed. In the 2015 class, USC commit David Sills and La Mirada (Calif.) recruit Kevin Dillman have already developed strong reputations. I'm not sure any of those players are as polished as five-star Max Browne or athletic and versatile as five-star Tyrone Swoopes but they will all certainly have a chance. There is without question some talented quarterbacks in the coming classes.

Josh Helmholdt: In the Midwest, I'm seeing more of the same in the 2014 and 2015 classes as I am in 2013. Sturgis (Mich.) has a 6-6, 205-pound sophomore by the name of Chance Stewart, who is developing into a big-time pro-style passer. Toledo (Ohio) Central Catholic sophomore DeShone Kizer is 6-4, 205 and already holds four scholarship offers. He is more of a dual-threat and a great playmaker. Then, freshman Jayru Campbell stepped in at Detroit Cass Tech this past fall and led the Technicians to their first state title. He showed a lot of poise for a youngster and puts the ball on the money with great frequency. But the 2013 class of quarterbacks in the Midwest is also a very special group.

Chris Nee: It appears that the 2014 class may be equal or stronger to the 2013 class at the quarterback position. Early indications of some of the top signal-callers to keep an eye on are Pitt commitment Chandler Kincade of Beaver Falls (Pa.) Blackhawk and Clemson commitment DeShaun Watson of Gainesville (Ga.) dual-threat quarterback as well as Denton (Texas) Guyer quarterback Jerrod Heard, Edmond (Okla.) Santa Fe quarterback Justice Hansen, and Baltimore (Md.) Dunbar quarterback William Crest have all emerged early on. With 2015, a trio of quarterbacks grabbed early headlines, led by USC commitment David Sills of Bear (Del.) Red Lion Christian Academy. Others include La Mirada (Calif.) quarterback Kevin Dillman and Jacksonville (Fla.) First Coast quarterback De'Andre Johnson.

Keith Niebuhr: It's too soon to say. The 2014 and 2015 kids will look completely different by the time they're seniors. One guy I really like, though, is Clemson commit DeShaun Watson of Gainesville (Ga.). Although he's a bit thin and needs to tighten up his throwing motion, this is a fantastic young dual-threat prospect that is a true gamer. I can't wait to see him develop over the next couple of seasons.

Brian Perroni: At least in my region, the class of 2013 is incredibly deep with top quarterbacks. From the state of Texas alone, five are in the Rivals250. Oklahoma's Brayden Scott and Arkansas' Austin Allen have also received a ton of attention. So far, only Denton (Texas) Guyer's Jerrod Heard and Edmond (Texas) Santa Fe's Justice Hansen have truly put themselves on the map as elite prospects to watch in the class of 2014 and I think it will be tough for that class to end up matching this one.



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