Oregon Ducks: Notre Dame Fighting Irish

A wild week for the West's best 

January, 31, 2014
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Plenty of attention will be paid to the West on signing day, as four of the region's top eight recruits are set to announce their commitments on Wednesday. That number -- which includes the top-ranked uncommitted prospect in Adoree' Jackson (Gardena, Calif./Serra) -- dwarfs that of the top eight prospects in any of the other regions.

But before each makes a huge statement on signing day, all made some noise this week, as this region and the Pac-12 conference sets up for a very interesting day on Feb. 5.


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As an assistant coach and head coach at Long Beach (Calif.) Poly, Raul Lara has seen more than his share of talented football players. Willie McGinest, DeSean Jackson, Marcedes Lewis, Winston Justice, Jurrell Casey, Manuel Wright, Darnell Bing, Samie Parker, Kareem Kelly and Derrick Jones have all passed through the halls as Jackrabbits during Lara's tenure.

It's probably fitting that in Lara's final season as head coach of the Jackrabbits, he was able to go out with a player who has the potential to turn into the best that Poly has ever produced.

John Smith's game is as diverse and electric as his name isn't. Though, that was taken care of rather quickly, as Smith became JuJu at an early age -- a nickname bestowed upon him by his aunt after John John refused to take.

Now, Smith has accomplished enough at the high school level that JuJu has made its way into the lexicon of virtually every football fan in Southern California. And now college football fans are hoping that JuJu finds his way onto their school's roster this fall. The 6-foot-1, 206-pound athlete is the nation's No. 38 prospect overall and its No. 3 prospect in the athlete category, holding offers from Alabama, Michigan, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oregon, UCLA, USC and just about every school in between.


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Want to ask ESPN RecruitingNation senior analyst Tom Luginbill a question about your team? Tweet it to @TomLuginbill using the hashtag #AskLoogs.



Here’s are a few: WR Isaiah McKenzie is a bolt of lightning. He can really run, and while he may lack ideal measurables, he has some Tavon Austin qualities. RB Jeff Jones has flown way under the radar during the recruiting cycle and has been very impressive with his speed and explosiveness. We are still trying to figure out why no one is recruiting OC Jacob Bragg. We are hoping this week will open up some eyes. He has looked good. Considering four of our six original QBs have gone down to injuries and won’t be playing, we have been pleased with the likes of Rafe Peavey, Morgan Mahalak and Sean White as well. DT Garrald McDowell may be undersized, but he has been overlooked much in the same was as Isaac Gross was a couple years back down here for a lack of size.

Army Bowl notebook: Jan. 2 

January, 2, 2014
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SAN ANTONIO -- Thursday’s practice session for the U.S. Army All-American Bowl saw players in more of a rhythm on offense, but it also saw defensive players showing their skills. If Thursday is any indication, Saturday’s contest could be a low-scoring affair.

Here are a few notes:

Cannon reaffirms Baylor commitment … again.

For the Baylor fans who read the late-Wednesday tweet coming from ESPN 300 receiver K.D. Cannon (Mount Pleasant, Texas/Mount Pleasant), don’t read anything into it.


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Three days of practice are now in the books and overall execution was sharper as the players begin to move into final preparations for the Under Armour All-America Game on Thursday. The productivity of the players picked up as did the speed of the play, and they’re continuing to think less and display their natural ability more. It was a physical day, with the pads popping and some big hits throughout the practice. Here are some of the highlights.

Top performers


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As expected, Day 2 at the Under Armour All-America practices were smoother, more concise and much more productive. The players are now starting to think less and play more. Natural ability is starting to come to the forefront, which allows for them to be more productive. There have been fewer dropped passes, fewer misses by the QBs and the offensive lines are starting to jell quicker than expected. Perhaps the most impressive thing about this group is there have not been any true letdowns. They have stepped up and been as advertised almost top to bottom for both squads. Let’s hit the highlights of the day:

Top performers

WR Cameron Sims (Monroe, La./Ouachita Parish): Sims might not wow anyone with his 40-yard dash time, but it may not matter. Sims is so similar to Mike Evans at Texas A&M. He just makes plays. He has extremely long arms and is outstanding when in contested matchups. The ball will look like it is uncatchable and then next thing you know he jumps out of nowhere, extends and makes a play and the defender is left scratching his head. When it comes down to it, the QBs for Team Highlight can trust that if they need to throw it up, Sims will make a play. The most basic thing about the position is catching the football and Sims has no problem doing that.


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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- One thing is for sure for all the 2014 Under Armour All-Americans: This isn’t high school anymore. Day 1 is about gauging the competition. Some guys dive right in and some test the waters with their big toe, but by the end of the first day of practice, all those in attendance have a pretty good idea of where they stand and what they need to do to compete and get better.

Given that it is Day 1, the playbook is introduced (Team Nitro is going no huddle with wrist bands and limited plays), and there can be sloppy moments of indecision and uncertainty. With each rep, most, if not all, prospects began to get a better feel for what is expected. Most importantly, the center-quarterback exchanges were very good for the most part, which is generally the biggest worry. Upon completion of the first practice, here are some observations and things to look for over the week:

Top Performers


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ESPN 300 ATH Smith down to six 

December, 28, 2013
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ORLANDO -- One of the top prospects playing in the 2014 Under Armour All-America Game is athlete John Smith (Long Beach, Calif./Poly).

With his recruitment still in the balance, the No. 38-ranked prospect in the ESPN 300 has one official visit remaining, and continues to look at six schools.


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One visit remains for No. 7 Jackson 

November, 21, 2013
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With four visits under his belt, Adoree' Jackson (Gardena, Calif./Serra) has one remaining. But there is nothing clear about which school will receive that fifth trip.


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ESPN Junior 300 defensive tackle Daylon Mack (Gladewater, Texas/Gladewater) has a new top four.


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3-point stance: Seems like old times

September, 27, 2013
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1. At Utah State last season, with the running/passing threat of Chuckie Keeton at quarterback, Gary Andersen’s Aggies ran the ball on 53 percent of their plays. Now that Andersen is coaching Wisconsin, where he has three very good backs and a veteran line, the Badgers are running the ball on 63 percent of their plays. That nearly matches the 66 percent that Bret Bielema’s Badgers ran the ball last season. It’s official -- Andersen has gone native.

2. After weeks of practicing and playing, five Pac-12 schools on the quarter system are just now starting classes. It can be quite an adjustment, especially for freshmen, to become students and athletes. Oregon, which begins class on Monday, brought in a time management expert to talk to the Ducks. Added Stanford football ops director Matt Doyle, “When you constantly emphasize things like time management, responsibility and organization, the first week of school really isn’t that big of a deal.”

3. You don’t have to be Brian Kelly to figure out that Notre Dame is not playing as well as it did a year ago. During the 2012 regular season, the Irish allowed only eight touchdowns in their opponents’ 33 drives into the red zone. This season, in four games, Notre Dame has allowed nine touchdowns in 15 drives. That they are 3-1 as they welcome No. 14 Oklahoma shows the benefit of knowing how to win. But that only works in close games.
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DALLAS -- The idea of playing the recruiting game by ear seems to be coming to an end for ESPN 300 defensive back Nick Watkins (Dallas/Bishop Dunne).

Watkins has made it a priority to direct his undivided attention to being a leader for his team. The nation’s ninth-ranked cornerback and the No. 62 player overall is now ready to bring noticeable focus to his recruiting process -- and, ultimately, ending it. While he still hasn’t announced a favorite publicly, Watkins said he and his family have talked about narrowing down official visits -- and as many as nine teams have a shot at landing an official visit during the fall.


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ESPN.com's preseason power rankings

August, 9, 2013
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College Football Power Rankings illustrationESPN IllustrationTBD BY EDITORIAL


Not surprisingly, the back-to-back BCS champions are again preseason favorites and top ESPN's power rankings. But a number of elite programs are ready for their chance to dethrone the king.

Top 15 breakdown
No. 1 Alabama
No. 2 Ohio State
No. 3 Oregon
No. 4 Stanford
No. 5 Texas A&M
No. 6 (tie) Georgia
No. (tie) South Carolina
No. 8 Louisville
No. 9 Clemson
No. 10 Florida
No. 11 Florida State
No. 12 LSU
No. 13 Notre Dame
No. 14 (tie) Michigan
No. 14 (tie) Texas

Video: Uniforms/facilities help recruiting

August, 6, 2013
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Tom Luginbill discusses the impact of uniforms and facilities on recruiting, specifically those at Notre Dame and Oregon, respectively.
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Earlier this month, ESPN 150 wide receiver Cameron Sims (Monroe, La./Ouachita Parish) had what he called a quiet spring game, reeling in only four catches. But what Sims fails to mention is that he took those four completions for more than 160 yards and three touchdowns in front of several college coaches, including University of Georgia receivers’ coach Tony Ball, Billy Napier from Alabama and Cam Cameron from LSU.


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ESPN 300 Ranking Motivates Byron Cowart
After a recent rise into the top 10 overall, defensive end Byron Cowart of Armwood (Seffner, Fla.) joins ESPN's Matt Schick to discuss recruiting and the new ESPN 300.Tags: Byron Cowart, Armwood, ESPN 300, RecruitingNation, high school football recruiting, Matt Schick
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