Florida State Seminoles: Ole Miss Rebels
When it comes to running backs, the state of Texas is loaded. Ten running backs represent the Lone Star State in the ESPN 300. Of those 10, five are committed. A total of seven running backs in the state have reported FBS commitments.
ESPN 300 RBs from the state:
No. 50 Ronald Jones II: Ranked the nation’s No. 3 running back, Jones is an explosive, game-changing back who -- as scary as it might sound -- will only get better. Jones committed to Oklahoma State on April 6 and finished his junior season with more than 2,400 rushing yards and 39 touchdowns.
RB Jones wants to travel
The battle for Ronald Jones II, one of the state’s top running back recruits out of McKinney North, rages on as he should be hitting the road in the next few months.
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The ceremonies have concluded, the ink has dried and the fax machines have been turned off once again. And with that, the Class of 2014 is mostly in the books. As is the case annually, there were a number of winners but also some losers on national signing day. Here is a look at a few schools that excelled -- and a couple others that didn't.
LSU: The Tigers began the day at No. 3 in the RecruitingNation class rankings and ended with 2014's No. 2 class. The reason is simple: Les Miles and staff got the prospect they had to have in the nation's No. 1 wide receiver, Malachi Dupre (River Ridge, La./John Curtis Christian). The Tigers lost both Anthony Johnson and Ego Ferguson to the NFL, making defensive tackle a key position of need, and they inked a pair of talented tackles in ESPN 300 Travonte Valentine (Hialeah, Fla./Champagnant Catholic) and four-star Trey Lealaimatafao (San Antonio, Texas/Earl Warren). Under the radar but significant is three-star defensive end Sione Teuhema (Keller, Texas/Keller), who flipped from Texas to LSU. Teuhema’s younger brother Maea Teuhema (Keller, Texas/Keller) is the No. 38 junior in the ESPN Junior 300 and has pledged to LSU as well. Holding off Auburn and UCLA to keep ESPN 300 defensive end Davon Godchaux (Plaquemine, La./Plaquemine) was another win on Wednesday.
Florida State: The Seminoles entered signing day with the No. 4-ranked class but were poised to close with a vengeance, and Jimbo Fisher and staff did just that. While the Seminoles moved up only one spot to No. 3, the hits on Wednesday are significant. Leading the way was No. 2-ranked wide receiver Ermon Lane (Homestead, Fla./Homestead). The Noles weren’t done at receiver either, as Fisher and staff flipped Virginia Tech commit and No. 117 overall Ja'Von Harrison (Lakeland, Fla./Kathleen). No. 158 Roderick Johnson (Saint Louis, Mo./Hazelwood Central) and No. 253 Derrick Nnadi (Virginia Beach, Va./Ocean Lakes) were key gets at offensive tackle and defensive tackle, respectively. Three-star offensive tackle Derrick Kelly Jr. (Quincy, Fla./East Gadsden) was another key win over rival Florida.
USC: The Trojans stood to have a big signing day, and Steve Sarkisian and staff certainly delivered. Not only did USC win the hotly contested battle for five-star athlete Adoree' Jackson (Gardena, Calif./Junipero Serra), but the Trojans won the race for ESPN 300 No. 24 Juju Smith (Long Beach, Calif./Poly) and signed No. 67 overall Damien Mama (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco) as expected. More than the names and rankings, Wednesday was a huge perception win for the Trojans and Sarkisian. USC jumped to No. 14 from No. 24 in the RecruitingNation class rankings.
Georgia: The Bulldogs didn’t have a big day in terms of number of commits, but quality ruled the day. Mark Richt and staff signed the player they had to have in five-star outside linebacker/defensive end Lorenzo Carter (Norcross, Ga./Norcross). While Carter’s announcement was the big one Wednesday afternoon, the morning started off with a bang for Georgia with the signing of No. 286 overall Isaiah McKenzie (Plantation, Fla./American Heritage), who was first offered on Monday and never even visited Athens. Those two big signings kept the Bulldogs in the top 10 at No. 9.
South Carolina: One of the big movers in the class rankings on Wednesday was the Gamecocks. Not only did South Carolina make a jump from No. 27 to No. 19 throughout the day, but the Gamecocks also addressed major areas of need. Steve Spurrier and staff had key areas of need at cornerback and along the defensive front, and they delivered by picking up a pair of ESPN 300 corners in No. 87 overall Chris Lammons (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./Plantation) and No. 120 Wesley Green (Lithonia, Ga./Martin Luther King), as well as flipping ESPN 300 defensive tackle Dexter Wideman (Saluda, S.C./Saluda) from Florida State and three-star defensive end Blake McClain (Jacksonville, Fla./Sandalwood) from Nebraska. Fighting off the late January runs by Alabama and Georgia for ESPN 300 linebacker commit Bryson Allen-Williams (Ellenwood, Ga./Cedar Grove) has to be included in the huge wins in recent days.
Kentucky: Sure, Kentucky plucked only one key target on Wednesday in three-star former Vanderbilt and Penn State defensive end commit Lloyd Tubman (Louisville, Ky./Seneca), but it was still a huge day at the finish line for the Wildcats. The 2014 class marks the first time in the nine years that ESPN has ranked recruiting classes that the Wildcats have finished with a top 25 class, and that includes a big win over Alabama for in-state four-star defensive tackle Matt Elam (Elizabethtown, Ky./John Hardin). Signing six defensive backs fills a huge need as well.
Michigan State: The Spartans had a near dream season on the field, and followed it up by closing strong in recruiting. Not only did Michigan State jump nine spots in the class rankings from No. 38 to No. 29 on Wednesday, but it did so while filling a big need on the defensive front with big-time talent. ESPN 300 defensive end Malik McDowell (Southfield, Mich./Southfield) was a big win over Ohio State, Florida State and Michigan, while flipping four-star defensive tackle Craig Evans (Sun Prairie, Wis./Sun Prairie) from Wisconsin earlier in the week was another huge win for the Spartans.
Pac-12: The conference as a whole was quite possibly the big winner on signing day. Of the 13 live commitments on ESPNU throughout the morning and afternoon, seven committed and signed with Pac-12 programs. The winner within the Pac-12 was USC, but Stanford also enjoyed a big day with No. 25 overall Solomon Thomas (Coppell, Texas/Coppell) and three-star corner Terrence Alexander (River Ridge, La./John Curtis Christian).
UCLA: Along with USC and South Carolina, the UCLA Bruins came into today with the most to gain. While Jim Mora and staff scored with four-star linebacker Kenny Young (River Ridge, La./John Curtis Christian), it was mostly misses throughout the day. Jackson and Smith picked crosstown rival USC, while Dupre opted for home-state LSU. At defensive end, the Bruins missed out twice on Wednesday with Thomas selecting Stanford and Godchaux sticking with LSU. And finally, No. 52 overall Rashaan Evans (Auburn, Ala./Auburn) stayed in state by picking Alabama over Auburn.
Ole Miss: It’s difficult to place the Rebels' No. 17 class with the losers on signing day, but that was the case in Oxford, Miss. Not only did Ole Miss drop a spot in the class rankings, but it also came up dry with explosive ESPN 300 receiver and return man Isaiah McKenzie (Plantation, Fla./American Heritage), after Hugh Freeze and staff worked the Under Armour All-America Game standout all the way up until Wednesday morning before McKenzie announced for Georgia. While Dupre was a long shot, he was yet another prospect who went elsewhere. The Rebels also lost out on Alexander, who selected Stanford over Notre Dame. The bright spot for the Rebels on Wednesday was signing former Notre Dame transfer and No. 22 in the ESPN JC 50, Tee Shepard
Overlooked part of evaluation
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The 6-foot-4, 310-pound interior defensive lineman, who had been committed to Mississippi State since November, later sent out a Tweet regarding his decision.
I have decommited from MSU .. I have to evaluate my options ..— TD Moton (@tdmoton_) January 10, 2014
Moton, the No. 50-ranked player in 2015, said he is now considering Alabama, LSU, Florida State, Ole Miss and Florida and has no time frame to narrow down his choices.
As for Mississippi State, the Bulldogs are still off to a good start for their 2015 class. They have five commitments including a commitment from ESPN Junior 300 outside linebacker Timothy Washington (Yazoo City, Miss./Yazoo City).
The basketball game featured Malik Newman, the nation’s No. 1 hoops prospect for the class of 2015, but all eyes were still on Hampton. It’s been that way all week for the ESPN 300 safety.
“I can’t really say it’s been a hard because at the end of the day, it’s an honor,” Hampton said. “People calling, just wanting to contact you. [They] want to talk to talk to you about playing at their school. It gets stressful at times, but I look at it more like there’s a lot of guys that want to be in this position. I just take it all in.”
Hampton, one of the more coveted football prospects in the Southeast, will make his college decision Friday at 5:30 p.m. CT, choosing between Alabama, Arkansas, Florida State and Ole Miss.
“I’ve been to all four of them,” he said. “Every time I go, there’s a lot of love shown there. They’re all top programs, and they’re surrounded by good people, great athletes and a great coaching staff.”
It’s not an easy decision, but it’s a decision that he’s made before. He originally committed to Ole Miss during the summer before his junior year.
At the time, it seemed like a no-brainer. The Rebels were the first to offer, and he had already built a strong relationship with the new coaching staff.
“Ole Miss was his favorite school,” said Hampton’s father, Calvin Hampton Sr. “Even when he was younger, he said he wanted to play baseball at Ole Miss. It was just always his favorite.”
Once Hampton was committed, the recruitment process began to take off. He started receiving offers from Auburn, Georgia, Tennessee and even Stanford, but it was an offer from Alabama, the two-time defending national champion, that made him question his initial pledge.
When he visited Tuscaloosa for camp in June, the UA staff made it clear that he was the No. 1 safety on their board.
“With C.J., they were like a bunch of wolves on a piece of meat,” Hampton Sr. said. “They were on him, and it was very sincere.”
Hampton never made it public, but he said it wasn’t long after his trip to Alabama that summer that he decided to reopen his recruitment.
“It always felt like you’re letting somebody down, but at the end of the day, you’ve got to do what’s best for you and your family for the next couple of years,” Hampton said.
Now it’s once again time to make a commitment to the school of his choice, but this time it’s final. He plans to enroll in two weeks, so there’s no going back now. Alabama and Ole Miss are both very much in the mix along with Arkansas and Florida State.
On Tuesday, the ESPN 300 star watched the basketball game with his Florida State hat on and a matching Seminoles’ lanyard hanging out of his pocket. It would seem as though he’s leaning towards the ACC champion if it wasn’t the fourth school he had represented that week.
“It matched the shoes," he said.
Hampton likes to keep people guessing, but the world will know his decision come Friday.
“I’m just ready for everything to be settled, for everyone to know what it is and to just chill out some," he said.
Fournette set to announce
The nation’s top ranked prospect, running back Leonard Fournette (New Orleans/Saint Augustine), is scheduled to announce his decision during the Under Armour All-America Game Jan. 2, which will be on ESPN at 4 p.m. ET. Fournette has made official visits to Texas, LSU and Alabama.
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- Boston College has made an effort to push Andre Williams nationally, ESPNBoston.com's Jack McCluskey writes.
- Count AthlonSports among the group that is looking forward to Clemson-Ohio State more than any other non-title-game bowl.
- It sure sounds like Duke will be Johnny Manziel's last college opponent. (Clemson's Sammy Watkins sounds like a man gone in that same story by NFL.com's Mike Huguenin as well.)
- Florida State leads the nation with five USA Today All-America picks. (And the ACC leads all conferences with 13.)
- Georgia Tech's opponent in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl, Ole Miss, is upping the ante after giving coach Hugh Freeze a $1 million raise, Hugh Kellenberger writes in the (Jackson) Clarion-Ledger.
- The freedom of bowl week could be a distraction for Maryland players, Alex Prewitt writes in the Washington Post. (Also of note: New Albany head coach Greg Gattuso will still coach the Terrapins' defensive line in the Military Bowl.)
- CBSSports.com's Bruce Feldman catches up with former Miami and North Carolina coach Butch Davis, who is still waiting for another shot.
- Another day, another award for Pitt's Aaron Donald, Sam Werner writes in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
- The (Syracuse) Post-Standard's Nate Mink looks at Orange underclassmen who could be playing their final college game this month.
- Is this an early look at Virginia Tech's bowl uniform?
- Andre Williams is blown away by being a Heisman finalist, Jack McCluskey writes on ESPNBoston.com.
- Tickets for the bowl games featuring Clemson and Duke are among the highest bowl prices out there.
- AthlonSports' Steven Lassan looks at five reasons why Florida State will win it all.
- The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Ken Sugiura offers seven facts about Georgia Tech's appearance in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl against Ole Miss.
- Maryland defensive line coach and assistant head coach Greg Gattuso has left the Terrapins to become Albany's new head coach, Alex Prewitt writes in the Washington Post.
- Miami athletic directors Blake James and coach Al Golden are excited about the Russell Athletic Bowl against Louisville, and about all of the connections this game brings, Matt Porter writes in the Palm Beach Post.
- The Daily Tar Heel's Brooke Pryor previews the Belk Bowl between North Carolina and Cincinnati.
- The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Sam Werner has reaction from Charlotte, N.C., where Aaron Donald was named the Bronko Nagurski Award winner on Monday night.
- The week-long process of finding Syracuse a bowl game was an "exhilarating" process for AD Daryl Gross, Nate Mink writes in the (Syracuse) Post-Standard.
- Virginia Tech linebacker Tariq Edwards will play in the College All Star Bowl, per the Washington Post's Mark Giannotto.
Pack also held offers from Clemson, Georgia, LSU and Mississippi State, among many others.
This comes as welcomed news for Ole Miss, as four-star offensive tackle Andy Bauer (St. Louis/De Smet Jesuit) recently flipped his commitment from Ole Miss to Missouri.
The Rebels' 2014 class is currently ranked 15th. They have 23 verbal commitments, including three who are ranked in the ESPN 300. Pack is the third wide receiver to commit to Ole Miss.
Florida State, meanwhile, still has 24 commitments, including nine ranked in the ESPN 300.
Ole Miss' Laquon Treadwell, the No. 1-ranked wide receiver in the country in the 2013 class, enters Saturday's game with 53 receptions for 477 yards and five touchdowns for the Rebels as a freshman.
The Class of 2014 has had two months to show what it’s made of on the field. How are the nation’s elite prospects faring as we approach signing day? Here’s a look at the biggest names and notes from the most recent update of the ESPN 300:
The Big Movers
No. 37 Clifton Garrett (Plainfield, Ill./Plainfield South), ILB
Prior ranking: No. 59
The 6-foot-2, 224-pound Garrett jumped more than 20 spots in the rankings as he has added bulk to his frame, and at the same time retaining quickness and his fast-filling, downhill ability. Garrett has impact-type ability with a blend of lateral quickness, discipline and a nose for the ball.
Prior ranking: No. 75
The 6-2, 194-pound Hall is one of the most impressive athletes in the class. He has a long, stoutly-built frame, is explosive, has physicality filling the alley at safety and very good ball skills at receiver. When he settles into one position at the next level, his upside is very high.
No. 64 Nick Chubb (Cedartown, Ga./Cedartown), RB
Prior ranking: No. 106
The Georgia commit is putting together a sensational senior campaign with more than 2,000 yards and 29 touchdowns through eight games. The 5-11, 217-pound tailback continues to add strength to his compact body structure while maintaining his speed, overall athleticism and ability to bend.
No. 70 Chad Thomas (Miami/Booker T. Washington), DE
Prior ranking: No. 125
The Miami commit has flashed his high-ceiling ability, even though he is playing inside more than half the snaps as a senior. His combination of first-step quickness, arm length and the ability to play with low pad level sets him apart from most ends in the class.
No. 84 Rashaan Evans (Auburn Ala./Auburn), OLB
Prior ranking: No. 150
The 6-3, 217-pound Evans has filled out physically, and displays the quick-twitch burst and speed combination to be a factor off the edge. Evans has been dominant off the edge as a senior with double-digit sacks.
No. 92 Markell Pack (Purvis, Miss./Purvis), WR
Prior ranking: No. 144
The Florida State commit continues to flash the initial quickness, ability to get to top-end speed quickly, ability to play the ball in the air and elusiveness that makes the 6-2, 180-pound wideout one of the top playmakers in the class.
No. 128 Brad Kaaya (Hollywood, Calif./Chaminade College Prep)
Prior ranking: No. 171
The 6-4, 213-pound Miami commit is one the fastest rising quarterbacks in the class. Has added bulk to his tall frame, and continues to show the foot quickness, foot work and quick release that will be demanded of him at the next level.
Other Big Movers
WR Josh Malone (Gallatin, Tenn./Station Camp): From No. 99 to 49.
Texas A&M ATH commit Nick Harvey (Richmond, Texas/William B. Travis): From No. 101 to 60.
RB Joe Mixon (Berkeley, Calif./Freedom): From No. 100 to 72.
Georgia QB-DT commit Jacob Park (Goose Creek, S.C./Stratford): From No. 157 to 94.
Oregon RB commit Royce Freeman (Imperial, Calif./Imperial): From No. 154 to 99.
RB Derrell Scott (Havelock, N.C./Havelock): From No. 176 to 108.
Ole Miss S commit C.J. Hampton (Meridian, Miss./Meridian): From No. 201 to 134.
Alabama C commit J.C. Hassenauer (Woodbury, Minn./East Ridge): From No. 246 to 188.
Georgia DT commit Dontavius Russell (Carrollton, Ga./Carrollton): From No. 266 to 201
ESPN 300 debuts
No. 89 Frank Iheanacho (Houston/Westbury), WR
The 6-6, 215-pound pass catcher returned to the football field as a senior after playing only basketball as a junior, and has quickly become one of the most coveted uncommitted prospects in the country featuring deceptive initial quickness, and the high-point timing and size to win 50-50 balls in the air.
No. 287 Darrion Owens (Orange Park, Fla./Oakleaf), OLB
The 6-3, 220-pound Owens has transitioned from safety to outside linebacker as a senior without skipping a beat. Long, rangy and with edge-rush ability, the Miami commit is a top senior riser.
No. 295 Shakenneth Williams (Macon, Ga./Rutland), WR
The 6-1, 196-pound Georgia commit was a standout at Mark Richt Camp in June. Williams is blessed with straight-line speed, change-of-direction ability, strong hands and the physicality and strength to play through contact.
Ohio State ATH commit Curtis Samuel (Brooklyn, N.Y./Erasmus Hall): No. 148.
LSU DE commit Deondre Clark (Oklahoma City/Douglass): No. 298.
Baylor WR commit Ishmael Zamora (Alief, Texas/Elsik): No. 245
Alabama OLB commit Keith Holcombe (Tuscaloosa, Ala./Hillcrest): No. 284.
DT Derrick Nnadi (Virginia Beach, Va./Ocean Lakes): No. 257.
DT Matt Elam (Elizabethtown, Ky./John Hardin): No. 292.
Minnesota RB commit Jeff Jones (Minneapolis/Washburn): No. 181.
Virginia Tech DT commit Ricky Walker (Hampton, Va./Bethel): No. 299.
David Cornwell (Norman, Okla./Norman North), QB
The Alabama commit suffered a season-ending knee injury. The 6-5, 241-pound Under Armour All-American is No. 44 after being 32nd previously.
Jalen Hurd (Hendersonville, Tenn./Beech), RB
The Tennessee commit suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in the opener, requiring a second shoulder operation in less than a year. The 6-4, 222-pound Hurd is now No. 62 after being 39th.
Drake Harris (Grand Rapids, Mich./Grand Rapids Christian), WR
The 6-3, 172-pound Harris hasn't played this season due to a lingering hamstring issue. The Michigan commit checks in at No. 85 after previously being 72nd.
Elisha Shaw (Tucker, Ga./Tucker), DT
The 6-6, 295-pound Shaw has been sidelined with a neck injury this season. He checks in at No. 186 after a prior ranking of 82nd.
Sharieff Rhaheed (Fort Pierce, Fla./Fort Pierce Central), OLB
The 6-2, 202-pound Rhaheed missed the first six games of the season before returning to the field in late October. The former LSU commit is No. 260 after being ranked 133rd previously.
Kyle Berger (Cleveland/Saint Ignatius), OLB
The Ohio State commit was sidelined his senior season with an ACL tear. He dropped out of the ESPN 300 after being ranked No. 281.
Treyvon Paulk (Milton, Ga./Milton High), RB
The Tennessee running back commitment recently suffered a season-ending knee injury. He dropped out of the ESPN 300 after previously being ranked No. 294.
Oregon State coach Mike Riley has more than 18,900 followers and is great communicating with fans on Twitter. So it was no surprise to see him launch a campaign Tuesday called “Tweet Film Tuesday” where he asked recruits to send him links to their film, and he and his staffers will then select 10 recruits to evaluate each week. With only 140 characters to work with, Riley didn’t explain how he and his assistants would pick the 10 recruits to evaluate, but the idea is ingenious. Not only does it help Riley and the Beaver coaches communicate with prospects in a way they’re already familiar with, it also allows the OSU coaches to find prospects they might not have been familiar with who are truly interested in the program. Also with Riley’s track record of uncovering hidden talent, you can all but guarantee there will be a story a few years down the road where the Beavers found a sleeper through this approach.
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Drive Through: Projecting the Playoff Field
12:30 PM ET South Carolina State 16 Clemson 3:30 PM ET Richmond Virginia 4:00 PM ET Georgia Tech Tulane 6:00 PM ET Old Dominion North Carolina State 6:30 PM ET Gardner-Webb Wake Forest 7:00 PM ET Murray State Louisville 7:00 PM ET Florida A&M Miami (FL) 7:00 PM ET Duke Troy 7:30 PM ET Citadel 1 Florida State 8:00 PM ET San Diego State 23 North Carolina 8:00 PM ET Virginia Tech 5 Ohio State