Friday, January 16, 2009

Google surveys the Recruits: Nick Fairley

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.

Of Auburn's three early signees, two are Eltoro Freeman and Onterio McCalebb, who both have a) some form of substantial guru approval b) serious expectations of contributing in major fashion in 2009 c) two of the better names in the Class of 2009. So it's not really surprising that fellow former academic casualty Nick Fairley's commitment and signing has been fairly (pun intended, oh gosh yes) anonymous.

Nonetheless, Fairley's in the fold as well and it's worth taking a look to see what else Auburn's landed out of this year's JUCO pool.

Basics: Fairley's a 6-4, 295-pound defensive tackle from Mobile's Williamson H.S. who arrives with three years of eligibility remaining after redshirting his freshman season at Copiah-Lincoln Counnity College in--you guessed it--Mississippi. (Unless, of course, you guessed Kansas, which also would have made sense.) Before focusing on defense at Copiah-Lincoln and racking up a sack-a-game average in 2008 on his way to JUCO All-Region honors (for whatever those happen to be worth), he played both ways for Williamson and was one of the higher-rated offensive line prospects--or prospects of any kind--in the state in the class of 2007. He even saw some time at tight end and was a stand-out on the basketball court, so there's obviously some athleticism and versatility underneath the tonnage.

Recruitnik hoo-ha: As you might expect for an Auburn JUCO--they were much higher on Raven Gray and continue to be substantially more bullish on Eltoro Freeman--Scout is the most optimistic service regarding Fairley. They give him a fourth star, up from three when he came out of high school, and rank him the No. 9 JUCO in the country. They ranked him the No. 27 guard in the country coming out of Williamson and had this to say:
One of the most impressive players at a Combine in Tuscaloosa last summer, Fairley measured 6-3.5, 256 pounds, ran a 4.81 second 40-yard dash on a slow track, recorded a vertical leap of 30.5 inches and a standing broad jump of eight feet, 10 inches. He earned MVP of the combine for his performance.
If Fairley has retained some of that athleticism despite adding nearly 40 pounds to his frame, that would definitely account for the uptick in his Scout stock.

Rivals sees things differently, though: three stars, an "eh" 5.6 grade, the No. 95 spot on their top 100 JUCOs ranking, 10 spots behind a Florida International commit and 15 behind a future New Mexico State Aggie. As with Freeman, they liked Fairley better as a high school player: 5.7 grade, a No. 28 ranking on the guards list. I guess they were less impressed with the move to DT.

ESPN hasn't re-evaluated Fairley since 2007; they ranked him the No. 32 OL and gave him a 77 that seems pretty well in line with the Rivals and Scout three-star takes:
Fairley is an athletic and versatile player. He is a high school tackler and has the skills to transition to that position in college. He could also project to guard and even with some work to the center position ... He delivers a good pop coming off the ball and gets good placement with his hands. He has the ability to get push off the line of scrimmage in the run game. He moves well and can get out and reach defenders ... He moves his feet well and can react to blisters. [giant SIC--ed.] He can be overaggressive at times and put himself in tough situations. Fairley has good upside. He could land at tight end but we feel he could very well eventually mature into a good center.
As you can see, ESPN thought Fairley was an athletic, versatile guy who could possibly outperform his grade ... but they still clearly saw him a guy who would do that outperforming somewhere along the offensive line. Ditto Rivals and Scout. So how accurate these ratings are depends largely on how well Fairley has actually made the transition to being a full-time DT--in theory, an athletic 6-4, 295-pound DT would seem to be an even better prospect than an athletic 6-4 260-pound offensive lineman, but there's always the possibility that Fairley could lose something in translation.

One positive in Fairley's favor: Auburn was far from the only school to show interest, as LSU and 'Bama both made overtures of some kind.

(One other thing while we're looking at all these recruiting pages: dude, Fairley has his recruiting-site mugshot expression down. Check out the pic at the top of this post vs. the three or four other mug shots out there. If there was an Auburn-centric YTMND out there, it would have kicked out "Nick Fairley doesn't change facial expressions" a long time ago.)

Links of Potential Interest: Not much free video of Fairley actually playing football out there, unfortunately, but there is his recommitment press conference at Williamson to look at:

Speak up, Nick! (Nice hat, though.) I can give you one play's worth of Fairley highlights; it's at this link to a Mississippi TV station, where you can see Fairley make a rodeo-type sack. And then hobble off the field, and then say something unintelligible to one of his coaches on the sideline. Another "Co-Lin" link: Fairley was the MACJC's Defensive Player of the Week after a particularly productive evening at end in a "Co-Lin" win. Yay.

Given how soft-spoken he seems to be, it's fortunate Fairley's answers for this interview are transcribed ... not that they shine any particularly revealing light into Fairley's character. (But what on earth is going with that "mailman" quote he offers? I've read it five times and I still don't know what it means.)

For whatever it's worth, Mr. SEC opined at the beginning of this month that Fairley could step into the hole vacated by Marks.

Lastly, we have to note in the interest of completeness that Fairley's failure to qualify academically was a little more noteworthy than most of Auburn's many, many 2007 academic casualties--he was the player who had seven grades changed in the Williamson/B.C. Rain academic scandal that spring.

What conclusions, if any, we can draw: The odds seem to be against Fairley becoming an out-and-out superstar--he's been evaluated five times by the gurus over the years, and four of those have come back "three stars." Doesn't mean it can't happen, of course, but it wouldn't play to the percentages.

However, there's a few reasons to be happy-bordering-on-excited about a recruit like Fairley anyway:

1) If Tubby's track record at unearthing lightly-regarded gems wasn't as strong at places like wideout or tight end, it was always pretty much impeccable along the defensive line, as Sen'Derrick Marks and Quentin Groves and Jay Ratliff will tell you.

2) If Fairley is as athletic as he appears to be, he'll have a higher ceiling than many similarly-rated players.

3) Most importantly, Fairley is a big, versatile body on a team that desperately needs big, versatile bodies. Even if he never becomes a stud, Fairley's ability to conceivably play either side of the line and multiple positions along those lines mean that it's only more likely that he finds some way of contributing.

Maybe those contributions won't come this year, but you have to think Fairley's size and adaptability mean they'll come eventually.


Grotus' Acorn said...

The mailman walks. Everybody else runs.

Jerry Hinnen said...

But when is the mailman ever on the field? That's the part that bugs me. Maybe he just added "on the field" accidentally.