Friday, January 30, 2009

Google surveys the recruits: Brandon Jacobs, Anthony Gulley

Because someone needs to do the work of plugging in a given Auburn commitment's name into Google and synthesizing the tidbits of information that trickle out. Previous entries in this series here.



Thanks to Ray Cotton and Aaron Moore ruining my efforts in the first two entries in this series, we've still got a ways to go to fulfill my goal of profiling the entire class. So we're going to start doubling up whenever I can find two recruits that have vaguely similar profiles.

"Vaguely similar" is about as alike as these two guys get, really--both are three-stars (more or less) who played running back in high school, but Jacobs has been committed last summer while Gulley got an offer just last week, Jacobs will definitely be playing RB at Auburn while Gulley is likely to move to wideout, and--as you'll see--while Jacobs isn't beloved by the gurus, he's better off than Gulley.

So these guys aren't nearly as similar as, say, the Lavoyd James-Brandon Heavens-Travante Stallworth slot receiver trio or a group of offensive linemen. But they do both play baseball and they're what you're getting today. Enjoy.

Basics: According to his Scout page, the 6-0, 230-pound Jacobs is "a tailback in a fullback's body," a bruiser who averaged better than 6.5 yards-a-carry his senior season for Parkview High in Lilburn, Ga. I don't buy his listed 40 time (in the 4.5 range), but it's fair to say Jacobs has some athletic ability: as we found out yesterday, he's a good enough baseball player to draw Auburn's interest in that sport as well and he's put together two very productive seasons on defense as well. Also, he is a running back named Brandon Jacobs, a coincidence that's sure to be pounded into the heads of Auburn followers for years if the kid ends up contributing.

Gulley is not a tailback in a fullback's body, to say the least: 5-11, 180 pounds, but with a listed 4.4 and eye-popping stats that suggest genuine breakaway speed, he's likely to wind up either battling the gaggle of incoming receivers for time in the slot or possibly moving to the secondary. Speaking of those stats, the smaller the school and the easier the competition the less high school statistics actually mean, but even at 1A Brantley 58 carries for 1,162 yards and 17 receptions for 543 yards is pretty staggering: that's an average of 22.7 yards every time he touched the ball. Also impressive regardless of level of competition: four touchdowns in 11 kick or punt returns. And for whatever it's worth, you're no doubt aware that he's interested in walking onto the baseball team as well.

Recruitnik hoo-ha: I'll be honest with you: it's not particularly pretty for either one of these guys.

Jacobs has it a little better, though, as a consensus middle-of-the-pack three-star. Rivals calls him the No. 60 running back, Scout has him at No. 74, and ESPN drops him to No. 80, but they all pretty have the same "OK, I guess" kind of read on him. ESPN's scouting report reads like so:
Jacobs is a physically impressive two-way standout at the high school level with the skills to develop on either side of the ball in college ... Consistently breaks through initial contact once he squares up out of his cuts and accelerates north-south. Runs low with good body-tilt, balance and great leg strength. Runs through and spins pout of lower arm-tackles effortlessly with his monster, powerful thighs. Shows good determination and keeps his legs churning on contact ... However, he lacks great burst and an extra gear when he gets an open seam. Not going to elude or separate from many D-I defensive backs. Struggles at times sidestepping initial trash and lacks great lateral quickness and perimeter speed.
They ultimately project him as a fullback or "change-of-pace" power back rather than an every-down back.

But hey, at least they project him to the major college level. Gulley's not so lucky. Rivals isn't so down on him, giving him three stars, a 5.6 rating (one tick above Stallworth's 5.5) and ranking him the No. 39 "all-purpose back" (just two spots below ex-Auburn commit LaDarius Perkins). Scout, however, gives him two stars and leaves him totally off their rankings of ... let me check ... 304 different wide receivers. ESPN's barely more enthusiastic, ranking him the No. 191 athlete and giving him a grade of 67, the lowest grade for an Auburn signee they've actually bothered to scout in the four years they've provided data. Yeesh. Their evaluation:
Runs with good shoulder lean as a back and flashes a sneaky extra gear when he finds an open seam. Adequate burst out of his cuts but is not real powerful or explosive. Better in space or on the perimeter than in-line ... struggles at times as a pick and slide zone runner. Lacks a great feel for the cutback and does not display natural vision through traffic. We would like to seem attack the hole and hit up hard inside more with his good blend of size and speed.
The report came before the 2008 season and does say that Gulley could be a "sleeper" or "a late bloomer," but this is still the same service that raved about the similar talents of Stallworth and LaVoyd James. That they nonetheless see Gulley as a decidedly mid-major level prospect is a pretty damning evaluation.

There's not a lot of encouragement from either's offer list, unfortunately. Jacobs claims a Florida offer but neither major service reports one better than Wake Forest. Gulley had to decide between Auburn and Troy, as any Alabama fan will be happy to tell you.

Links of Potential Interest: Sorry, no free video. Both of the ESPN evaluations above have clips, though, if you have Insider. I'm not sure I'd really recommend watching Gulley's, to be honest: it's shoddily put together and he just doesn't look as dominant as you'd expect at that level of competition. Fortunately, I'm going to believe it was shot his junior year, and highlight videos are poor evaluation tools anyway, right?

If you're looking for Jacobs links, his presence in the Atlanta metro area means there's a ton of them out there. He made the AJC's Georgia 150; he's from the same high school as Brad Lester; he made 5A GSWA All-State honorable mention; the Touchdown Club of Gwinnett named him Athlete of the Year; he was surprised by the choice of Chizik but gave him the benefit of the doubt, etc.

A few links that actually sort of matter: between his coach's insistence that Jacobs could play either way in college and his willingness to at least consider signing on as a linebacker entering his senior season, Jacobs might end up amenable to a position switch somewhere down the road. Or possibly even a sports switch--he said he was "disappointed" to skip a year of baseball at Chizik's request to focus on his football duties. In that same link comes the information that Eddie Gran checked back in with Jacobs after going to Knoxville, so I think it's safe to say he must see some bona fide potential there. Lastly, I doubt very seriously Jacobs is the next Bo or Herschel, but at least he's picking the right idols.

Now, I know this will shock you, but the guy from the 1A middle-of-nowhere school from Alabama hasn't had quite as much ink as the starting RB from one of metro Atlanta's traditional powerhouses. But I can tell you Gulley was first-team 1A all-state at "Athlete," used his senior season to move from outside Andrew Bone's top-50 all the way to ... 44th, and had himself quite the game against local rival J.U. Blacksher ... twice.

What conclusions we can draw, if any: Might as well be upfront about this: both these guys face pretty steep climbs towards becoming major contributors. Running back and slot receiver are going to be two of the most hotly contested positions on the two-deep this fall and in the years to come, and both will be battling against very similar players with considerably more guru approval. As always, Auburn could get big things from either one, but it doesn't seem wise to expect them.

Strange at it might seem, I think Gulley's actually got the better odds of the two to stick at his current position. Why? There's more reason to think the services might be wrong about him: he plays at a tiny, rural school tiny and rural even by Alabama standards, he made a huge leap forward his senior season after the gurus had already done most of their evaluating, and Malzahn's offense puts premium on the same skills (speed, open-field ability) that Gulley brings to the table. (It's probably not a coincidence that Malzahn is listed as Gulley's recruiter by Rivals.) By contrast, Jacobs plays for one of the highest-visibility teams in Georgia--a few of his ESPN highlights were filmed at the Georgia Dome--and all three services reached the exact same conclusion about him. That says to me they've got a pretty accurate read on him, and that read is fullback-type plowhorse in an offense that only very rarely makes use of fullback-type plowhorses. Honestly? Particularly as long as Eric Smith is around to be the designated heir to Ben Tate's powerback-throne, and as much success as Roof has traditionally had molding big athletic linebackers into run-crushing studs, I'd be more excited to see what Jacobs could bring to the table on defense.

Then again:

1. I don't really know what the hell I'm talking about
2. Eddie Gran thought Jacobs could hack it in Tony Franklin's offense

so feel free to ignore me.

Enjoy your weekend.

1 comment:

sw-al guy said...

You're right, figuring out who's really a stud or not at the 1A level and be very difficult. We might be able to glean a little bit about Gulley and Moseley from their respective performances against 1A Colossus Sweet Water:

Gulley was the lone bright spot for Brantley this year in Sweet Water's 47-7 thrashing with a long punt return and a 60-yard touchdown catch. Also seemed to play well on D against the run.

Moseley was as cool as a mason jar of ice water in the shade while under heavy heavy pressure from Sweet Water during their tilt this year. I'm told he actually completed the pass he was attempting in the photo of the linked story. Moseley also looked very good against three 4A schools, two of which made the playoffs this year. Nothing to sneeze at.
Exhibit B: