Oregon Ducks: Alabama Crimson Tide

Atlanta NFTC notebook 

March, 23, 2014
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ROSWELL, Ga. -- The Atlanta Nike Football Training Camp is generally one of the most impressive groups of high school football players you will find in the country. This year’s camp didn’t disappoint. Eight invites were handed out to The Opening, a prestigious invite-only camp held in Beaverton, Ore., in July.


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Top position classes: DB 

February, 18, 2014
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With national signing day in the books, RecruitingNation is looking at the top position classes. For the full series, click here.

Nationally (and SEC)

The top class of defensive backs goes to Alabama, by a landslide. While the Crimson Tide have provided many recruiting firsts in recent years under coach Nick Saban, the 2014 class is the first to have two five-star cornerbacks in the same cycle in the years ESPN has been assigning star rankings. No. 8 overall Tony Brown (Beaumont, Texas/Ozen) and No. 15 Marlon Humphrey (Hoover, Ala./Hoover) have the size and speed that Saban and his staff made a must in 2014. Add in No. 3 safety and No. 27 overall Laurence Jones (Monroe, La./Neville) and Alabama signed three of the very best at defensive back. Factor in that No. 7 athlete Ronnie Clark (Calera, Ala./Calera) seems destined to begin his career at safety and the Crimson Tide dominate in the secondary despite having missed out on coveted safety target C.J. Hampton (Meridian, Miss./Meridian).

The Crimson Tide had the nation’s best defensive back class; here’s which schools had the best in each of the remaining power conferences:


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The nation’s top-ranked dual-threat quarterback in the Class of 2015 has a top 10.

ESPN Junior 300 quarterback Jarrett Stidham (Stephenville, Texas/Stephenville) announced his early list via Twitter and confirmed the list via phone. Stidham’s list includes Texas A&M, Auburn, Alabama, Oregon, Michigan, Ohio State, Tennessee and Big 12 schools Baylor, Oklahoma and Texas Tech.

Ranked No. 24 in the ESPN Junior 300 and the No. 3 player in the state of Texas, Stidham said all 10 of the schools have a lot in common, but he is hoping to make spring visits to separate them.


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HAVELOCK, N.C. – Senior running back Derrell Scott (Havelock, N.C./Havelock) committed to Tennessee in front of a packed auditorium on Monday.
For some programs, losing a record-setting player could make the following season a tough one.

At Havelock, however, the future remains bright for the three-time defending 3A state champions.

Not only does the winner of 47 of the last 48 games return Michael Bowman, ranked No. 146 in the ESPN Junior 300, but also two of the top sophomores in the country.


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The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today’s offerings: If USC is going to close strong, landing some of this weekend’s 11 official visitors are key; even though neither are going to land him, Alabama and Oregon earned high praise for their recruiting efforts with offensive lineman Braden Smith’s coach; and Lorenzo Carter has become priority No. 1 for several of the Southeast's top teams.

11 recruits set to visit USC


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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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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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The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today's offerings: With the newest edition of the BCS rankings released, we take a look at the biggest headlines of the top five teams from the recruiting trail.


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3-point stance: Losing parallels

November, 7, 2013
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1. History provides parallels of sort to the possible demise of No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Oregon in their big games this week. No. 2 Oregon, with a quarterback who was the Heisman favorite, lost on the road in November 2007. But that was at Arizona, not Stanford, and quarterback Dennis Dixon had a torn ACL when the game began (the knee gave out in the first half). The last time the No. 1 Crimson Tide was a two-time defending national champion, 1980, the Tide made it into November with ranking intact before losing an SEC game, 6-3. But that was at Mississippi State, not home against LSU.

2. A Georgia Tech fan on my chat Wednesday asked if the Yellow Jackets had hit a ceiling with Paul Johnson and his option offense. Georgia Tech is 6-3 as it prepares to play No. 7 Clemson. But no one wants to play an option team -- ever. A week after Pitt lost to Georgia Tech, 21-10, and Notre Dame edged Navy and its option, 38-34, the Panthers and Fighting Irish play. The first thing Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said at his press conference Tuesday? “I know for both teams, we're excited about getting away from the option offense that we have both seen over the last couple of weeks.” Exactly.

3. One of the most intriguing stories this month will be whether Duke -- yes, Duke -- can win the ACC Coastal. The Blue Devils are 6-2, 2-2 in the league, and with their victory over Virginia Tech, in the thick of the division race. A year ago, Duke started the season 6-2 – and finished 6-7. Unlike last year, the Blue Devils enjoyed an off week before they hit November. “It gave us time to talk about what lies in front of us,” head coach David Cutcliffe said. “Everybody’s aware on this team of what happened a year ago. We didn’t win. We had all the losses, but it’s easy to forget that we played good football in November.”
The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today's offerings: With the newest edition of the BCS rankings released, we take a look at the biggest headlines of the top five teams from the recruiting trail.


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November never easy for contenders

November, 1, 2013
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Legendary Arkansas coach Frank Broyles, in his famed genteel drawl, was fond of saying, "They always remember what you do in November."

Collin Klein
Bo Rader/Wichita Eagle/MCT via Getty ImagesCollin Klein and Kansas State were shocked by Baylor, 52-24, late last season.
Indeed they do, and with the calendar flipping to November in this final year of the BCS, it's also worth remembering that the only sure thing going forward is that nothing's for sure.

This is when it gets good, when upsets become the norm, when the ranks of the unbeaten start to dwindle and when the players and coaches on those teams at the top of the BCS standings start to hear the "Twilight Zone" theme in their sleep.

Weird things just seem to invariably happen once we get to November and beyond in the college football season, and it would probably only be fitting if the BCS' last hurrah provided us with some of the most compelling drama yet.

So what can we expect?

For starters, the six unbeaten teams from BCS conferences aren't all going to stay unbeaten. In fact, No. 3 Florida State and No. 7 Miami square off this weekend in Tallahassee.

The fact that we have a Florida State-Miami game that carries national championship implications only adds to the intrigue. It's the first time since 2004 that the two heated rivals have met as top-10 opponents.

It's also the first time they've both entered the game unbeaten (with each having at least seven wins) since 1991. That was the famed Wide Right I game, when No. 2 Miami beat No. 1 Florida State 17-16 after the Seminoles' Gerry Thomas missed a 34-yard field-goal attempt in the final seconds.

Of course, the next year, the Seminoles had to deal with Wide Right II when Dan Mowrey's 39-yard attempt to tie the game was no good, preserving Miami's 19-16 win.

It's difficult to see Saturday's game coming down to a field goal. Florida State is a huge favorite at home and has won six of its seven games this season by at least 28 points, while Miami had to scratch and claw just to get past Wake Forest and North Carolina the last two weeks.

But, remember, this is November. There are no gimmes.
It's like trying to get those final three outs in a tight baseball game. The ninth inning takes on a whole new life.

That's where we are right now in the college football season. Every snap, every decision, every turnover, every missed tackle and every injury are magnified.

"I think the cumulative effect of the season probably affects every team to some degree," Alabama coach Nick Saban said.

The same goes for being at the top of your game each week.

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Does the eye test deceive us?

October, 30, 2013
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Jimbo Fisher hates the computers.

The Florida State coach doesn't claim to have much understanding of the formulas the BCS computers use, but he knows enough not to trust them. They're faceless, emotionless automatons programmed to chew up data and spit out rankings without much logic mixed into the recipe along the way.

Football, he believes, requires instincts and passion and perspective.

Sure, Fisher backtracked a tad when the first BCS standings of 2013 had his team at No. 2, but that was short-lived. Florida State dipped to third this week, and Fisher was back on the human-voter bandwagon.

"You have to come back to the eye test," Fisher said. "People are so important in this poll. People watch teams."

Fisher has watched his BCS competition, and the eye test tells him Florida State is not No. 1 -- at least not yet. He has a vote in the USA Today coaches' poll, and while he declined to reveal the entirety of his ballot, he strongly hinted that Alabama owned the top spot.

The Crimson Tide, Fisher said, pass the eye test.

"Alabama's playing great defense, they've got playmakers that can run the football, they're very physical," Fisher said.

He's right on all counts, but Fisher's take on Alabama -- his eye test -- is as much about the perception of the program as it is about the reality of how the Tide have played this season.

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