Monday February 25th, 2008

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- For Mark Nugent, the football recruiting process began in earnest for the third time on Saturday. Nugent, a pest control sales rep from Davenport, Fla., rode the recruiting rollercoaster with stepsons Jonnie (Tuskegee, 2004) and Vincent Williams (Florida State, 2008). On Saturday, Nugent came to the Orlando-area Nike Combine with his youngest son, Karlos, to begin what might be the wildest ride yet.

But even before colleges begin deluging Karlos, a rising sophomore receiver/defensive back from Ridge Community School, with mail, Nugent wants to help fellow parents navigate the recruiting process. Two weeks ago, he launched a blog that he hopes will help explain the rules -- written and unwritten -- and quirks of the process.

Nugent has covered game film (if your son's school still films with an 8 mm camera, film it yourself), and last Friday he wrote about combines. He explained how the Nike and Scout combines -- both of which are free and open to all players in grades 9-11 -- can help the stock of an unknown player by earning him some much-needed exposure. He also explained that a heavily recruited player might want to avoid such combines to keep a bad 40-yard dash or shuttle time from hurting his stock.

Nugent hopes the blog can help parents give their sons the best chance at earning a football scholarship. He also hopes the information can keep parents from getting ripped off by scam artists.

"A lot of people come to these combines, and they don't know what testing is going to be done. As far as academics, they don't know what [players] need to be qualified," Nugent said. "I just figured I could do something that would be a one-stop shop -- for free -- where parents could go and just learn about the process. So many people are just trying to make a buck off of these kids."

Nugent also hopes other parents can learn from some of the mistakes he made during the recruitment of his older sons. Shortly after Vincent committed to FSU, Nugent started a blog featuring inside information about Seminoles recruiting. The blog didn't sit well with FSU's compliance department, and Nugent shut it down to avoid potential problems for his son.

Nugent will need all he has learned as the family prepares for the recruitment of young Karlos. Vincent, a linebacker who enrolled at FSU in January, said Karlos is "a thousand times better than me." At Saturday's Nike Combine, Karlos gave college coaches some measurables to drool about. He posted a Sparq Rating (a combination of 40-yard dash, shuttle run, vertical jump and power ball toss) of 81, which, according to the Sparq Web site, puts him in the upper echelon of players nationwide. That number should climb, especially considering Karlos Williams won't sign until 2011.

Judging by the contents of my e-mail box, a lot of you are sick of hearing about the recruitment of Jeannette, Pa., quarterback Terrelle Pryor. Still, I understand a lot of you are Michigan, Ohio State, Oregon and Penn State fans, so I'll keep writing about Pryor.

Pryor took an unofficial visit Sunday to Ohio State, where he was spotted in the second row at the Buckeyes' basketball game against Wisconsin. Ohio State is considered the favorite to land Pryor, but Pryor has said he intends to visit Oregon and Penn State before he chooses a school. Pryor also has said he will wait until after Jeannette's basketball season ends before he makes a decision.

Ohio State has long been considered the frontrunner for Pryor. The interesting part is that Ohio State is the only school in Pryor's finalists that returns an established starting quarterback (Todd Boeckman). Even more interesting, the Buckeyes have lost the past two national title games to teams that occasionally spelled a pro-style quarterback with a dual-threat player who could run or throw.

Those two teams (Florida and LSU), used the spot duty to groom the dual-threat player into a starting quarterback. It worked for Tim Tebow at Florida. We'll have to wait to see what happens with Ryan Perrilloux, who is indefinitely suspended at LSU.

Chris Thompson, a star rising senior RB at Madison County (Fla.), said Saturday that he still doesn't remember all the details of the January crash that could have killed or critically injured him, teammate Jacobbi McDaniel and Madison County assistants Mike Coe, Travis Hodge and Jeremy Carroll.

The Madison County contingent was returning from San Antonio on Jan. 4 when they were involved in the accident. Thompson, who has offers from Clemson, FSU and others, and McDaniel, a highly rated defensive tackle who committed to Florida State this month, had taken part in a combine at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. As the players and coaches headed east on Interstate 10 in a school-owned Chevrolet minivan, a car driving in the next lane blew a tire and smashed into the van. Thompson, who was asleep, awoke on the shoulder of Interstate 10 in Crowley, La., and didn't know how he got there.

"I was standing on the side of the road," Thompson said Saturday at the Nike Combine. "I looked down and I saw the van in a ditch."

Coe said the van flipped several times before hitting a tree. He said he still doesn't know how Thompson wound up on the shoulder. Thompson said he suffered no serious injuries. McDaniel was knocked out and received a cut to the head that required 15 stitches. Coe and Carroll were treated and released that night. Hodge's injuries required surgery, but Thompson said Hodges is expected to return to work this week.

Thompson, meanwhile, is trying to decide on a school. He said he has been talking mainly to FSU in recent weeks, but he isn't quite ready to announce a commitment.

One of the top receivers in the Class of 2009 probably won't catch a pass this season unless his team runs a trick play.

Reuben Randle from Bastrop, La., has switched to quarterback to replace Ole Miss signee Randall Mackey as Bastrop High tries go undefeated for a fourth consecutive season. Bastrop has won three straight state titles, though the Rams were stripped of their 2005 crown after their coaches were accused of recruiting several hurricane Katrina refugees, including Mackey.

Randle played on the 2006 and 2007 teams, and he caught four passes for 135 yards in the 2007 Class 4A final. He has offers from Alabama, LSU, Miami, Oklahoma, Tennessee and others, and he said last week that he intends to take all five of his official visits before he chooses a college. Bastrop coach Brad Bradshaw said most schools are recruiting Randle as a receiver. Bradshaw said that while colleges won't see Randle catch many passes this season, they'll find out exactly how well he moves with the ball in his hands.

"We'll probably run the ball more because he's not playing wide receiver," Bradshaw said. "We'll probably run a lot from the quarterback position."

Randi Vines, a tight end/defensive end from Oxnard (Calif.) Santa Clara High, learned the hard way these past few months that a scholarship offer is just like a verbal commitment -- non-binding until a Letter of Intent is signed. Vines said he received written scholarship offers in the fall from Wake Forest, Utah and San Diego State, but Santa Clara athletic director Mike Schabert said the schools moved on to other players when Vines delayed his final choice to take more visits.

"It's kind of like Lucy with the football," Schabert said, comparing Vines to Charlie Brown. Now, almost three weeks after Signing Day, Schabert is still searching for a school for the 6-foot-4, 225-pound Vines. Schabert said Vines has an offer from I-AA New Hampshire, but he said Vines still wants to play in Div. I-A.

Part of the problem, Schabert said, is Vines' own selflessness. Vines moved from tight end to quarterback before his senior season to help his team, so he had no senior film of himself as a tight end. Instead, most of Santa Clara's game tape shows Vines handing off to Cierre Wood, the nation's top-ranked tailback in the Class of 2009. Still, Vines said he isn't married to the tight end position. If a I-A team has a scholarship to spare and wants him to rush the passer, he's still interested.

"I want to play tight end," Vines said, "but if a school is looking at me to play defensive end, I'm willing to make that transition."

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