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June 2, 2009

National Notes: SEC puts a cap on signing classes

The SEC passed a rule last week limiting conference football teams to signing 28 players annually, so could oversigning be a thing of the past?

"Coaches have their own decisions for signing a player, but the chancellors believe this is an academic-educational decision when someone signs," commissioner Mike Slive said.

NCAA rules allow schools 25 scholarships per year, but there is no rule about how many letters of intent a school can send out to players. Programs across the nation generally oversign in anticipation that a few of the players they sign won't qualify academically.

Players who don't qualify are sent to prep schools or junior colleges. In numerous cases, a player returns to the school with which he originally signed. Those prep schools and junior colleges also feel comfortable sending their other top players to a four-year school because of the bond that was built.

Many coaches believe the rule was necessary after Ole Miss signed 37 players in February. The SEC joins the Big Ten as the only conferences in the nation to have a limit in place, but one Big 12 assistant who asked to remain anonymous said he hopes this will push the NCAA to make it a rule throughout Division I football.

"The Ole Miss situation was embarrassing for a lot of us coaches," he said. "I know Ole Miss' plan was to steer those non-qualifiers to the local JUCOs in Mississippi. But it left a sour taste in a lot of coaches' mouths that stress that these recruits are students first and athletes second.

"Generally when the SEC makes a push for changes in recruiting, things happen on the NCAA level. So there are a lot of us who believe that this will eventually become something everybody will have to follow, and I think that's a good thing."

A Pac-10 assistant who also wished to remain anonymous said if the NCAA decides to make a national rule, it would affect programs in Kansas and Mississippi the most because of the symbiotic relationships with in-state junior colleges. In return, it could help programs such as Northwestern, Vanderbilt, Notre Dame, Stanford and Rice because almost all of their players are qualifiers due to their tougher academic standards.

Tournament to feature California's best

You know it's officially summer when 7-on-7 passing tournaments get started, and one of the best in the nation is the 2009 Air Strike Tournament on June 13 at Dana Hills and San Clemente high schools in California.

The tournament features 16 total teams at the two sites and will include some of the nation's top quarterback prospects, such as Jesse Scroggins of Lakewood (Calif.) High and Nick Montana of Westlake Village (Calif.) Oaks Christian.

The teams in the tournament are Encino Crespi, Huntington Beach Edison, Lakewood, Long Beach Poly, Los Alamitos, Santa Ana Mater Dei, Harbor City Narbonne, Oaks Christian, San Clemente, Santa Margarita, Ventura St. Bonaventure, Anaheim Servite, Tesoro, Trabuco Hills, San Diego Westview and Dana Hills.

Mater Dei won the tournament last year. Poly was a CIF champion and state runner-up last season, Oaks Christian won its CIF division in 2008 and Tesoro won the extremely tough South Coast League and was a CIF runner-up. The field also includes perennial powers such as Crespi, Los Alamitos, St. Bonaventure and Servite.

Other highly regarded prospects expected to play are defensive back Sean Parker of Narbonne, Stanford linebacker commit Jordan Zumwalt of Edison, defensive back Dion Bailey of Lakewood, wide receiver Kevin Anderson of Lakewood, defensive back Troy Hill of St. Bonaventure and wide receiver Kaelin Clay of Long Beach Poly.

Recruiter of the week: Ed Orgeron, Tennessee

There is no question Tennessee is back on the national map, thanks to the exposure new coach Lane Kiffin has given the Vols. Behind the scenes working hard to make sure that the exposure is on the right prospects is Vols defensive line coach/recruiting coordinator Ed Orgeron.

Orgeron has come up big again this week, helping the Vols host a series of loaded summer camps on their campus.

Monday was the one-day "Big Man Camp," which featured, among others, Duncan (S.C.) Byrnes defensive line teammates Brandon Willis and Corey Miller, guard Zach Fulton of Homewood (Ill.) Homewood Flossmoor, offensive tackle James Stone of Nashville (Tenn.) Maplewood and Tennessee defensive end commitments J.C. Copeland of LaGrange (Ga.) Troup and Jacques Smith of Ooltewah (Tenn.) High.

The camps will continue throughout the week, and by the time Orgeron is done, there will have been more talent on campus for the Vols' summer camps than in the past five years combined.

Mission Viejo OL looking for more

Three-star offensive tackle Michael Criste of Mission Viejo (Calif.) High is one of the top offensive linemen in his state, but for whatever reason his name hasn't been mentioned as much as some of the others out West. That should change soon.

After dominating at the Palo Alto Nike Training Camp, Criste is getting serious interest from Notre Dame, Oregon, UCLA, UNLV, USC and Washington. He has an offer from the Huskies and hopes more will be coming soon.

"I've spoken with UNLV, Oregon and a couple more," Criste said. "I'd like to hear more from USC, obviously, and Notre Dame, and more of the well-known schools. I haven't looked at Washington myself, but I'm thinking about maybe taking a recruiting trip there as one of my first recruiting trips.

"I'm going to research it as much as I can. What my coach has told me is that it's a beautiful school with a great team mentality that you can't find at a lot of places. It's one of my top places because it has the [former] USC coaches there, so I think that would be beneficial."

Criste will attend camp this weekend at UCLA. He hopes to impress Bruins coaches enough to get an offer. He'd also like to get more offers soon because the process is something he'd like to have over with before the school year starts.

"I'd love to have my decision already made," he said. "That way, I can focus on the rest of my senior season and help our team win a CIF and a state championship. I think I'm a good offensive tackle because I'm willing to learn. I played right tackle last year, but I was kind of switching off between the tackle positions, so I'm open to any of the spots on the line."



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