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October 24, 2012

Mind of Mike: Hands-down choice

MIND OF MIKE: Oct. 17 | Oct.10 | Oct. 3 | Sept. 26

Mike Farrell is the National Football Recruiting Analyst for Rivals.com. Want more of what's on Mike's mind throughout the week? Follow him on Twitter @rivalsmike.

Rivals.com national analyst Mike Farrell is never shy to express his opinion on everything from commitments to rankings to how on-field performance affects recruiting. In this weekly feature -- Inside the Mind of Mike -- the most experienced analyst in the industry gives some of his thoughts on the events of the past week.

Deep thoughts

Around last April, I tweeted that Woodbridge (Va.) Woodbridge Senior defensive end Da'Shawn Hand was my hands-down choice for the No. 1 player in the country for the class of 2014. Since then, numerous recruiting sites have tabbed Hand as their No. 1 guy, while our first 2014 five-stars will be released next month. We prefer to see some junior film (and do junior in-game scouting) before releasing rankings, but after seeing Hand at a few camps, it was clear how special he was compared to other top prospects in Rivals.com history.

However, if you go to see a Woodbridge Senior High School football game, you won't see a monster rush end working off the edge and stringing running plays to the outside. What you'll see is a 6-foot-4, 260-pounder playing out of position at defensive tackle where it's his job to hold up three blockers to free his teammates.

While Hand clearly has to be frustrated with such a role, you'd never know it when talking to him, which is a testament to his character and selflessness. Hand is also playing left tackle on offense and looks as good as most offensive tackles in the country for 2014. Despite all the attention (center and both guards on almost every play), Hand still had three tackles for a loss, a sack, a forced fumble and batted down a pass in a tough loss to Woodbridge (Va.) C.D. Hylton.

My point is this -- Hand is still No. 1 in the country in my eyes and while he won't be able to work on his pass-rushing skills in his current role, it has made him a more physical prospect and tougher against the run. When it comes to high character and work ethic, he's probably the rarest No. 1 in that category in many years.

Pennsylvania linebacker Alex Anzalone is going to become a Florida Gator, I feel very confident about that now. Anzalone, one of the top 50 prospects in the country, remains committed to Notre Dame.

However, after he took a visit to Gainesville for the Gators game against LSU, I think he's pretty much a done deal to play for Will Muschamp. Anzalone had previously committed to Ohio State but de-committed from the Buckeyes after an unofficial visit to Florida.

He then committed to Notre Dame, but took a visit to Gainesville for Friday Night Lights and then took the visit for the LSU game.

Rumor had it that there were two silent defensive commitments to come out of that game, that Anzalone had already filled out enrollment paperwork for Florida and when he cancelled his official visit to Notre Dame for the BYU game this past weekend, that pretty much sold me that this is over. Now, it's only a matter of Anzalone saying it out loud.

The whole thing is a bit crazy, of course, but the Gators were the early favorite for him. His father attended Florida and I think Muschamp and his staff was always going to be in this until the end. The good news is that this will likely be the last commitment for Anzalone.

Speaking of crazy, Oregon running back Thomas Tyner de-committed from the Oregon Ducks for less than 48 hours last week, and while no one is talking why, I'll take my best guess. Chip Kelly has a long-standing policy that committed players cannot take official visits to other schools and has even turned away players committed to other programs that want to visit Eugene. With schools in his ear, especially UCLA, and with Oregon still recruiting running back Derrick Green and possibly others, Tyner decided he wanted to take a look around at some other schools.

Kelly likely told him he's no longer a commitment if he does, a spat occurred between the two and then everyone came to their senses the next day.

Tyner loves Oregon, there was no way he was going to go far from home and he belongs with the Ducks' high-speed offense. UCLA, Oregon State and others won't stop recruiting him, but this one should be over.

Speaking of Green, the thought that he would end up in Oregon adds to the ridiculousness of the above story with Tyner.

Green has listed the Ducks as one of his finalists and liked his trip to the state when he was at The Opening, but Oregon has always been a long shot in my opinion, even for an official visit.

It's unclear if Oregon will back off as part of getting Tyner back in the fold or not, but it shouldn't matter -- Green isn't going there. I know I've said it before, but I'll say it again -- Green appears to be the perfect fit as a Big Ten running back and with his other two favorites, Auburn and Tennessee, having coaches on very hot seats, Michigan has to be the final destination, right? It makes sense, but as we know, sometimes recruiting makes no sense.

Texas A&M lost to LSU, but the Aggies are a fun team to watch and not only because of Johnny Football. The team has a lot of talent and with the SEC swagger they now possess, the Aggies will be a danger in recruiting not only in Texas but in SEC states as well. If a loss can help recruiting, this was one of them. Ricky Seals-Jones, Mike Mitchell and Justin Manning were all on hand and a case can be made that each had a different leader coming in. We'll see what happens coming out of that game.

Remember when the Longhorn Network was thought to be too much of an advantage for Texas in recruiting and was one of the main reasons the Aggies bolted? Now it's a detriment to the program under Mack Brown, at least according to him. But let's not make excuses Mack, you're just not getting the job done coaching up top-five recruiting classes. You think Urban Meyer, Lane Kiffin or Jimbo Fisher, all amazing head coach recruiters and guys who welcome the recruiting limelight, would be complaining about too much coverage if they sat in the big seat at Texas?

Exposure for recruiting is more important than worrying about who's watching the first few periods of each practice, just ask guys like Chip Kelly and Bill Snyder, who would kill for the exposure yet still go out and win. Brown will need that exposure if things continue to get worse in Austin.

A few years ago, offensive lineman Caleb Benenoch would already be committed to Texas by now. But even with their own network, the Longhorns are struggling to reel in some guys that would have been easy before.

Every week I get asked, "what would a win over Alabama do for such-and-such a program in recruiting?" Every week my answer is -- it's not going to happen, so don't worry about it. Last week it was Tennessee and the Vols got pasted, 44-13. Before that it was Missouri and at the beginning of the season it was Michigan. Now, some are wondering what would happen if Dan Mullen beat Nick Saban this weekend. I don't think it would help recruiting that much as Mississippi State is not a sexy destination and its succeeds mainly with locals or guys under-recruited elsewhere.

But what it would do is assure Mullen of getting offered a major job or two at the end of the season, if that isn't already the case. But again, an upset is not going to happen. LSU and Oregon are the only two teams with a shot at beating Alabama, in my opinion. Yes, that includes Optimus Klein and company.

The only thing more impressive that wide receiver LaQuon Treadwell's ability on the field (and he has been playing like a five-star this season) is his consistency when it comes to not taking visits. Treadwell has now set up visits with Missouri, Ole Miss, Michigan and Oklahoma this month alone and won't make any of them.

The passing of his uncle this past weekend kept him from a big visit weekend in Ann Arbor, but I still think the Wolverines are his future home until he actually takes one of the two trips he wants to take to OU and Oklahoma State.

Quick Hitters

It looks like Hawaii linebacker Isaac Savaiinaea won't end up at Notre Dame, even if Anzalone departs. Savaiinaea is committed to Stanford, but the Irish, Texas A&M and UCLA are all getting looks and Savaiinaea was personally recruited by Manti Te'o, who also attended Punahou High School.

If Savaiinaea decided to follow Te'o from Punahou to South Bend, the comparisons would be inevitable and the talent level of the two is vastly different. There is no way he could live up to the legend of Te'o.

I think USC put the smackdown on cornerback Chris Hawkins. Hawkins is now 100-percent committed to USC again and won't take any other visits. It sounds like Lane Kiffin, who is actually encouraging many recruits to take visits, finally said enough is enough with Hawkins, who is a key part of the class at corner.

It will be interesting to see if Kiffin puts the smackdown on some others he truly wants to keep in this class, while allowing a few others to find new homes if they want in an effort to free up room.

Oregon State is undefeated, in the top 10 in the BCS standings and the Beavers will get a bit of a recruiting push as a result. One such example is the visit this past weekend by quarterback Luke Del Rio, who is already committed to Oklahoma State.

There is no way Del Rio looks at the Beavers without Mike Riley and his team getting off to such an amazing start. In mid-June, I was very critical as the Beavers were the only BCS school without a commitment, but now that might play to the coach's advantage.

I think Peter Kalambayi sticks with Stanford in the end, despite his recent interest in Oregon. Most Stanford commits make plans to look around in case they don't clear admissions, one of the big disadvantages the Cardinal have in recruiting. Most hear around late November or early December at the latest if they are in, and I think that's when you'll start to see Stanford make a recruiting push.

Why do I suddenly get the feeling that the nation's top offensive tackle, Laremy Tunsil, will end up at Alabama when all is said and done. My first hunch when his recruitment started to pick up was Florida, and I still think the Gators can surprise people here, but it has to be hard to say no to Alabama these days.

His official visit on Nov. 10 will be with two fellow Florida prospects, Derrick Henry and DeMarcus Walker, both of who are already committed to the Tide.

Gators fans are excited that the nation's No. 5 prospect, tight end O.J. Howard, was in Gainesville for the win over South Carolina. However, Gators fans shouldn't get their hopes up too high. Howard seems very solid to Alabama by all accounts and strikes me as the kind of kid that will stick to his word in the end.

Alabama is going to make a strong run at Pennsylvania wide receiver Robert Foster as he takes his official visit this weekend and will obviously be impressed with the atmosphere, especially compared to the smaller crowds at Pitt. However, even before the visit, I just don't see him taking the chance to leave home.

Ohio State could be interesting if they jump back in here, but it's unclear if Foster's interest in the Buckeyes is one-sided after a visit this past spring that sources say turned off the OSU coaches.

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