Ohio State Buckeyes: UCLA Bruins

Texas Relays recruiting notebook 

March, 30, 2014
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AUSTIN, Texas -- The state of Texas’ top track athletes descended on Austin this weekend to compete in the annual Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays on the campus of the University of Texas, and the field of competitors included several touted 2015 and 2016 recruits. Here’s an update on where a few of them stand in their recruitment.

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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video Throughout this recruiting cycle, Recruiting Nation will profile several ESPN 300 prospects in the 2015 class, including an inside look at the prospect, his recruitment, a scouting report and what college program could benefit when he ultimately makes his decision.

ROSWELL, Ga. -- One of the top juniors in the nation, Kevin Toliver II, made the trip from his hometown of Jacksonville, Fla., to Atlanta to compete against some of the best athletes in the country at the Atlanta Nike Football Training Camp this past Sunday.


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Meet No. 4 WR Christian Kirk 

March, 14, 2014
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video Throughout this recruiting cycle, RecruitingNation will profile a number of ESPN 300 prospects in the 2015 class, including an inside look at the prospect, his recruitment, a scouting report and what college program could benefit when he ultimately makes his decision.

Few high schools in the country could lose a player like D.J. Foster and have the excitement about the future not take a dip. In his senior season at Saguaro (Scottsdale, Ariz.), Foster broke the state record by scoring 60 touchdowns -- one defensively -- as he rushed for more than 3,000 yards for the Sabercats on their way to back-to-back state titles.


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REDONDO BEACH, Calif. -- Thirty athletes from the West region in the ESPN Junior 300 met at Redondo Union (Calif.) High School on Sunday morning for the first Nike Football Training Camp of the spring. With hundreds of recruits in attendance, it wasn't surprising that many of the top prospects coming into the event stood out.


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Top position classes: LB 

February, 17, 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 Alabama Crimson Tide’s 2014 class fill just about every need on the board, and that includes linebacker. With designs on addressing pass rushing and the ability to play in space on the edge at outside 'backer in Nick Saban’s 3-4 scheme, Alabama signed the Nos. 1 and No. 2 outside linebackers in the country in No. 48 overall Christian Miller (Columbia, S.C./Spring Valley) and No. 52 overall Rashaan Evans (Auburn, Ala./Auburn), who is pound for pound of the best pure athletes in the 2014 cycle. The Crimson Tide added two more talented linebackers in ESPN 300’s No. 102 Shaun Dion Hamilton (Montgomery, Ala./Carver) and No. 281 Keith Holcombe (Tuscaloosa, Ala./Hillcrest). Hamilton is an MLB.

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


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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: The Class of 2014 will go down as one of the wildest recruiting rides in recent memory. With so many players switching commitments and some elite prospects still left on the board, here are five things to keep an eye on heading into recruiting’s biggest day.

Does Bama have the best class ever?


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Top 5 now a top 3 for ESPN 300 DE 

January, 20, 2014
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The father of ESPN 300 defensive end Solomon Thomas (Coppell, Texas/Coppell) said two schools have been eliminated from contention as national signing day rapidly approaches.


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Well-rounded Thomas taking his time

January, 16, 2014
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video This is part of a series on the nation's top uncommitted recruits leading up to signing day. Click here for the full series.

Solomon Thomas (Coppell, Texas/Coppell) believes he’s found the formula for how to deal with college football recruiting.

Looking for the guy to stress about the process? Don’t look Thomas’ way. On Sunday, fresh off an official visit to Stanford, Thomas put priorities first.

He played a friendly game of 3-on-3 touch football with friends.

“I’m just doing my best not to let the process change me. I can’t let it define me,” said Thomas, a four-star defensive end with more than 30 offers. “I’m taking advantage of just being a kid right now.”

Thomas is the No. 25 player in the ESPN 300 and the nation’s fourth-ranked defensive end, but he’s also still an 18-year-old high school senior. He reminds himself of that as much as possible with games of touch football, a trip to the movies, a round or two of video games or an exciting game of "Fugitive," where he and friends literally make the entire city of Coppell the playing field with a lengthy game of tag.

For someone who is 6-foot-3 and 256 pounds, being labeled a “man-child” holds opposite-spectrum definitions. On the football field, he’s a man among boys. Away from the field, he’s a big kid -- and many times, the biggest kid.

“As a teen, he acts like he’s 18 going on 2,” said Chris Thomas, Solomon’s father. “And then there are some times where he’s 18 going on 65. He has an old soul about him.”

It’s that attitude that’s helped Thomas turn a potentially hectic recruiting process into one that hasn’t been completely bothersome. Rather than worrying about his future, Thomas lives for the now and enjoys life. Being a college athlete can wait, for the time being.

‘He’s doing it right’

[+] EnlargeSolomon Thomas
John Albright/Icon SMISolomon Thomas had three tackles for loss in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
At the U.S. Army All-American Bowl on Jan. 4, there were times when Thomas was poetry in motion. In practices, he seemed to be in on every play. In the game -- which his team won 28-6 in front of 40,017 fans -- he showed his ability off the end, finishing with three tackles for losses.

Nine players announced their college plans during the game. Thomas wasn’t one of them, as he said he wanted to take all of his official visits before making a decision. Thomas’ January itinerary included the visit to Stanford and will conclude with Arkansas the weekend of Jan. 24 and Ohio State the weekend of Jan. 31. Thomas visited UCLA last month.

Those four schools and Texas make up his top five, and all five mean something special to Thomas. Many believe Stanford is the team to beat, as Thomas has made several trips to Palo Alto. His official visit was highlighted by news that he was accepted into the university, news he had been patiently waiting to hear.

“It was relieving to hear that,” Thomas said. “I felt like all my hard work in the classroom had paid off. Taking four AP classes and taking the SAT six or seven times, [academics] is a grind, just like football is. But it made me a better student and made me challenge myself.”

Thomas, however, is adamant about keeping the other four schools at the forefront of his decision. Thomas won’t declare a favorite and is expected to have all five hats on a table for his announcement on national signing day Feb. 5.

Coppell coach Joe McBride said Thomas has kept his opinions about the schools relatively quiet. Rarely does Thomas comment on the schools by way of social media, as he understands that every word said can be featured on a message board.

“He doesn’t talk about it a lot, but I think he’s doing it right,” McBride said. “He’s doing his own research and at times will come to talk to me about my opinion on a couple of things. He’s done a really good job in asking coaches how they want to use him. He’s just a smart kid who is taking his time and asking all the right questions.”

Four pieces of recruiting advice

McBride said he gave Thomas four tidbits of recruiting advice when schools first began to reach out. He wanted Thomas to look for a program’s stability in a head coach; build a solid relationship with a position coach; ask about a program’s depth chart; and find out how he’ll be used in that program’s package.

[+] EnlargeSolomon Thomas
Tom Hauck for Student SportsThomas is ranked No. 25 in the final ESPN 300.
“His coaches have been great with everything,” Chris Thomas said. “Solomon’s so grounded and focused on what his final goal is, and he’s been really organized in his decision-making. He’s listed key elements and other criteria for making a decision. He’s looking at location, the coaches, trainers, education . . . I’m not surprised he’s able to do it and be so levelheaded. That’s his personality.”

Thomas is a role model by nature, one who understands and appreciates hard work and its rewards. He’s a model student who also happens to play several sports recreationally -- basketball, tennis and sand volleyball -- because he doesn’t want to be pigeonholed as just another football player.

And when it comes to good manners, it's almost always “Yes, sir” or “Yes, ma’am." He’s a person who thinks about others first. One reason he chose to play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl was to entertain the soldiers.

“It was a grind, but it was an honor and a blessing to be there,” Thomas said. “There’s so much tradition there, and I just wanted to go out and play as hard as I could for them. Overall, it made me better.”

In three weeks, Thomas will announce his verbal commitment, and one school will have a well-rounded individual who also happens to be a defensive juggernaut. It’s a decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly and one that should be treated with the utmost care. Thomas gets it, even when in the recruiting world, taking your time often can be considered a bad idea.

“I want to be in a different category and do things my own way sometimes,” he said. “I just want to enjoy being a kid now. This is a big decision for me, so I know I need to take my time.

“I don’t want to rush it. I want to do it the right way.”
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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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Army Bowl notebook: Dec. 31 

December, 31, 2013
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SAN ANTONIO -- The second day of practice for the U.S. Army All-American Bowl -- on the last day of 2013 -- has come to a conclusion. Here is Tuesday’s notebook featuring some of the nation’s elite athletes:

LB Williams: Law and order equals '98 percent'


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Army Bowl notebook: Decision time 

December, 30, 2013
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SAN ANTONIO -- Day 1 is in the books for the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. Here is Monday’s notebook featuring some of the nation’s top players:

Elam in his element; ready to choose UK or Bama

At 6-foot-6 and more than 350 pounds, ESPN 300 defensive tackle Matt Elam (Elizabethtown, Ky./John Hardin) is a big man, and he’s used to being the bully on the football field.

Being at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, however, has made him appreciate football at the next level. What he’s heard all his life is true: The players are bigger, faster, stronger.

Or, as he was able to see firsthand during Monday’s first day of practice, a combination of all three.


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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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Early Offer: The battle for Budda 

December, 18, 2013
12/18/13
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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: Bishard "Budda" Baker is at the center of one of the most intense recruiting battles in the West; after Ohio State and Penn State landed big commitments this week, the Big Ten is on a roll; and Washington and Washington State are battling again on the recruiting trail.

Baker’s recruitment heats up

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Early Offer: Mixon all mixed up 

November, 7, 2013
11/07/13
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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: Just when it seemed clear on what four-star running back Joe Mixon was thinking, an official visit to Florida State has seemingly brought his decision back to square one; two of the top recruits in Ohio were hoping to make a decision in early January, but the success of their high school teams might change those plans; Missouri and Tennessee made nice climbs in the latest RecruitingNation class rankings.

Mixon mixed up

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#CampusConnection: Primetime Live

October, 26, 2013
10/26/13
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Will UCLA score enough points to somehow beat Oregon? Will Missouri all but clinch the SEC East against South Carolina? Will Ohio State remain unbeaten against the rival Nittany Lions? Head on over to Campus Connection at 7 ET and follow the evening action along with 10 of our reporters, including Mark Schlabach at UCLA-UO, Chris Low at SC-Mizzou, Max Olson at Texas-TCU, Greg Ostendorf at FAU-Auburn and Austin Ward at PSU-OSU.

Post your comments and questions and we’ll include as many of them as possible.

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Scene and Heard: Top 10 Predictions
In a conversation with ESPN's Antonietta Collins, national recruiting reporter Gerry Hamilton breaks down the recruiting momentum building at Auburn and offers predictions for where the top 10 recruits will commit.Tags: Trenton Thompson, Kerryon Johnson, Jeffery Holland, Martez Ivey, Torrance Gibson, Cece Jefferson, ESPN 300, RecruitingNation, high school football recruiting, Gerry Hamilton
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