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December 13, 2012

Mind of Mike: Maize and blue for Green?

MIND OF MIKE: Dec. 5 | Nov. 29 | Nov. 14 | Nov. 7

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

A lot has happened since my last column, which ran last Wednesday. Since then there have been coaching hires, de-commitments, huge commitments and a ton of intrigue surrounding many of the top prospects in the country.

I'll try to touch on as much of it as I can this week in Mind of Mike, which is quickly becoming the most popular recruiting feature on the Internet.

Let's start with this question that many are asking -- will Green go Blue? Richmond (Va.) Hermitage running back Derrick Green is the nation's top player at his position and has had his list of schools narrowed to Michigan, Auburn, Tennessee, Miami, Oregon and Ole Miss for quite some time.

This week, while on the U.S. Army All-American Bowl Player of the Year Tour, Green went on the record saying that Michigan has the edge, especially with coaching changes at Auburn and Tennessee, the two teams thought to be the biggest threat.

While at one point I thought the Wolverines were fading following his official visit for the Michigan State game, that is no longer the case.

However, this is far from a slam dunk for Michigan fans and numerous fanbases will be sweating this one out for a while.

I'm not sure where the early enrollment rumors started, but Green isn't enrolling anyplace early. That means he can and will take official visits in January and his decision could come down to Signing Day. The original plan was to decide in December or at the Army Bowl, but that doesn't appear likely. Why? Because some new schools could be jumping into the mix.

I think Auburn is pretty much on its way out of the picture because the entire staff, including running backs coach Curtis Luper, was dismissed and he will have to start all over again with the Tigers. Tennessee is still in the mix because running backs coach Jay Graham is still on board and I know he really wants to visit Miami if he can. Ole Miss and Oregon are on the outside looking in, at least in my opinion, but we'll see if he visits either school. So essentially that leaves Michigan, Tennessee and Miami as the three biggest contenders right now.

However, keep an eye on new schools, especially USC. USC? Why USC with running back commitments from Ty Isaac and Justin Davis already? Green and fellow POY candidate Su'a Cravens bonded during the three-day tour and Cravens put a bug in the ear of USC running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu. Polamalu has since reached out to Green to gauge interest in a visit.

Green is certainly interested and is not concerned about competition, but we will see if this is just a fleeting notion or has some legs soon enough.

Back to Michigan, where Green has become very good friends with former Wolverines commitment David Dawson. When Dawson de-committed from Michigan, the duo talked about potentially taking some visits to Tennessee and Auburn. Dawson is once again in the good graces of the Michigan staff and I think he ends up back in Ann Arbor when all is said and done. Green would love to play with Dawson, so that also bodes well for the Wolverines if they can reel in Dawson.

Heading into the POY Tour, I was skeptical about Green's interest in Michigan. In fact I thought the Wolverines might be on the outside looking in despite the coaching issues at Auburn and Tennessee. Now I feel they are squarely in the driver's seat, but will have to hold off many schools down the stretch.

Speaking of Cravens, the Murrieta (Calif.) Vista Murrieta safety is a breath of fresh air and will be a great representative of USC football. Cravens said he would never de-commit -- that's not his nature -- so it doesn't matter that Monte Kiffin is gone or who'll be the next defensive coordinator.

Cravens feels that Texas commitment A'Shawn Robinson will flip to USC because he had a good time on his visit and clicked very well with the staff. The rumor out of Fort Worth (Texas) Arlington Heights is that Robinson would prefer to find a new home and is no longer enamored with Texas.

However, it is common knowledge that his mom wants him close to home and has been in the Longhorns corner for a long time. The Robinson situation is becoming an interesting one. Anyone who has interacted with the five-star defensive tackle for more than an hour knows that he is a very low-key kid who doesn't open up easily and rarely smiles.

In fact, Cravens said that at first Robinson was hard to read on his visit to USC, but by the end he was all smiles. That description speaks volumes about the job the USC coaches did. Is his flip as imminent as some close to the USC program think?

That may be a bit premature unless mom buys in, but those Texas fans not worrying about this situation as recently as a week ago can now start stressing.

Cravens also feels that Max Redfield has a tough decision to make, but that USC made up a lot of ground this past weekend on his visit. Cravens said he has a hunch Redfield will choose USC at the Under Armour Game, but that's clearly sprinkled with some wishful thinking. Cravens and Redfield have known each other for a while and there are many people trying to pull Redfield back into the Trojans family.

All things being equal, I think he still prefers Notre Dame. The big question will be whether he's willing to leave the West Coast and friends to play in South Bend.

If anyone is foolish enough to think weather is a factor, forget about it. Redfield grew up in Connecticut, so he's not concerned about the cold.

As for what happened with Oregon, that's anyone's guess but if the Ducks gave up on him because they thought he was a lock for Notre Dame (as Redfield has said) and he ends up back with USC, that falls on the Ducks staff. No need to punt on third down.

Yulee, Fla. athlete/running back Derrick Henry is also a great kid. In fact, all three on the POY tour are very high-character prospects. Henry is friendly with five-star offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil and has been working on him for Alabama, but he feels it's a dead heat between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Crimson Tide right now. Florida State has a chance to pull a big upset with Tunsil getting his last official visit Feb. 1.

At one point the nation's Nos. 1, 2, 6, 16, 21, 22 23 and 24 players, all five-stars, were solidly committed. Robert Nkemdiche was heading to Clemson (even though Ole Miss rumors swirled), Carl Lawson and Reuben Foster were solid to Auburn, as was Dee Liner (No. 22), while Greg Bryant was headed to Oklahoma; Thomas Tyner was a lock for Oregon; Robinson was all Texas and Redfield was USC bound.

Tyner de-committed for less than two days and is back in the fold at Oregon so we don't have to worry much about him, but Nkemdiche, Foster and Redfield are uncommitted now while Bryant has found a new home at Notre Dame.

As for Lawson, Liner and Robinson, their commitments to Auburn, Auburn and Texas, respectively, are tentative at best. I think Lawson wants to stick with Auburn all things being equal, but I feel that Liner is seriously considering a flip to Alabama and Robinson is considering a switch to USC.

So what about Nkemdiche, Foster and Redfield? Nkemdiche is all Ole Miss and the only curious thing here is why he's waiting so long to commit. He could help the Rebels recruit this class.

Foster is anyone's guess, with Georgia, LSU and Alabama considered the biggest threats, and Redfield is torn between USC and Notre Dame. This is the kind of stuff that makes coaches go gray early but also makes recruiting addicting to follow.

The recruiting process for four-star Texas linebacker Mike Mitchell continues to drag out, which has surprised a lot of people because he almost committed to Ohio State before taking a visit in July. He took his official this past weekend and heard Urban Meyer's best pitch. Mitchell doesn't like the recruiting process, so his decision not to commit is definitely not meant as a way to get more publicity. While a sudden commitment to Ohio State wouldn't be a shock, there is also a possibility that he may take a couple more official visits. Oklahoma and Texas A&M are definitely two likely candidates if he decides to take this route. I have always thought he was an Ohio State lean, but the longer this goes the more it makes me wonder what school out there is intriguing him enough to hold off.

Quick Hitters

Gutsy move by Ashburn (Va.) Briar Woods linebacker Matt Rolin to de-commitment from South Carolina, the school where pretty much his entire family graduated from and just days after the South Carolina team surgeon repaired his injured knee. This was one I never expected, even after Rolin insisted following his official visit to Florida that he was torn between the Gamecocks and Gators.

This one will go down in history as one of the most shocking and interesting flips in years. Now if former Florida linebacker commitment Quinton Powell ends up in South Carolina -- and he is looking at the Gamecocks -- the two will be compared for years.

Clairton, Pa., wide receiver Tyler Boyd has long been a top priority for the Pittsburgh coaching staff and now the Panthers seem very close to grabbing the prize.

After taking an official visit last month with Dorian Johnson, who committed to Pittsburgh shortly after, and Robert Foster, who is considered a Pittsburgh lean, Boyd has been considered a heavy Panther lean.

Since he has been saying that he is still considering other schools such as West Virginia, Arizona and Michigan State but has not scheduled visits, he could be a silent commitment. While Foster is also considered a heavy Pittsburgh lean at this time (he has set Dec. 21 for a decision), Boyd is the more important short-term recruit since it is likely that Foster will have to attend a year of prep school before starting his college career.

The Gators must have something against the Palmetto State and Will Muschamp has been flexing his recruiting muscles lately. First the Gators stole Rolin away from the Gamecocks and now they've taken wide receiver Demarcus Robinson away from Clemson.

While Rolin's situation was odd (see above) and it was likely more impressive to steal him away as a Gamecocks legacy, Robinson could be the most important commitment in the class.

The Gators need playmakers badly and Clemson felt that Robinson had Sammy Watkins-like potential when they saw him in camp. He replaced Alvin Bailey as the most crucial get this year and the duo will put the "skill" back in skill position for Florida.

Credit has to be given to the Penn State coaching staff for what they have accomplished since the sanctions were made public during this summer. Aside from keeping the meat of their recruiting class intact, which mainly refers to Adam Breneman, Christian Hackenberg, Garrett Sickels and Brendan Mahon, the staff also was able to add a few important additional pieces earlier this week.

Zayd Issah had long been identified as a priority for the staff, and three-star athlete DaeSean Hamilton, who chose the Penn State over in-state schools Virginia and Virginia Tech, was a huge get. I stated more than two months ago that it will be a long time before Bill O'Brien and company land a four- or five-star prospect (our rankings only, of course) after the sanctions but he is getting closer and he has proven to be a combination of perfect hire and miracle worker since that day in July when the NCAA hammer fell.

Texas A&M is a flat-out recruiting power and, in my opinion, a much hotter attraction than the Texas Longhorns and Oklahoma Sooners these days.

Whether it's the SEC, the Johnny Football impact of Kevin Sumlin being a genius, things have turned. Want examples? Try this past 10 days when JaQuay Williams face-palmed Georgia again, Justin Manning spurned his brother's Sooners to play for the Aggies, Ricky Seals-Jones picked A&M over a ton of other offers (I know, I know, Texas dropped him, whatever) and now 2014 linebacker Hoza Scott picked College Station over Austin and other places of interest. Stand back, things are finally getting interesting again in the Lone Star State.


Mike Farrell is the national recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. Click here to follow him on Twitter.


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