Penn State Nittany Lions: Damien Mama


From commitments to big official visit weekends, it's been a busy week of recruiting in the Big Ten.

Conference recruiting writers Brad Bournival and Tom VanHaaren take a look back at the week that was and look ahead as teams build toward the future.

Boilermakers flip a commitment

Purdue picked up a pledge from safety Timothy Cason II (Clarkston, Mich./Clarkston) this week. Though unranked and a former Western Michigan commit, the Boilermakers were able to flip the switch on the 6-foot, 179-pound Cason and make him the ninth commitment of the 2014 class.

Big Ten class rankings analysis 

October, 9, 2013
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Each Wednesday, ESPN RecruitingNation updates its national class rankings. For an in-depth look at the Big Ten conference, check out our conference rankings:

1. Michigan, 15 commits: The Wolverines are No. 6 in the RecruitingNation class rankings, which includes nine ESPN300 prospects -- among them headliner and No. 2 overall Jabrill Peppers (Paramus, N.J./Paramus Catholic High). Michigan could make a move into the top-5 by winning the race for No. 4 Da’Shawn Hand (Woodbridge, Va./Woodbridge High). Defensive tackle and No. 67 Malik McDowell (Southfield, Mi./Southfield High) is another top target still in play. No. 41 overall John Smith (Long Beach, Calif./Polytechnic High) will visit Nov. 29, and is another top target remaining.

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There are still a ton of prospects on the board for Big Ten teams, so conference recruiting reporters Tom VanHaaren and Brad Bournival take a look at the best and worst case scenarios remaining for each team.

Illinois
Best-case scenario: Illinois picked up an offensive line commit on Monday with Peter Cvijanovic (Great Barrington, Mass./East Coast Prep), which gives the Illini two offensive line commits. Despite having four wide receiver commits on board, it looks like the staff would take another receiver in this class.

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There are still big holes to fill in recruiting for the 2014 class and top targets still on the board. A lot of position groups are being addressed in recruiting, but not many have been completely filled.

Big Ten recruiting writers Tom VanHaaren and Brad Bournival take a look at the most important position for each Big Ten team in the 2014 class.


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Big Ten class rankings analysis 

August, 28, 2013
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The latest version of the ESPN class rankings is out, and there are seven Big Ten teams within the top-40 classes.

With movement happening across the board, there are trends and stories developing, so Big Ten recruiting writers Tom VanHaaren and Brad Bournival give you a look at what to watch within the conference:

Trending up

Brad Bournival: Interest in Ohio State after Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer created his own Twitter account. At the urging of Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, @OSUCoachMeyer was created. In 12 hours, the account has three tweets -- one an introductory tweet and the other two a bible verse. In those 12 hours, the two-time national champion picked up over 24,000 followers. Incidentally, it looks like the first person Meyer followed drives the keys to the Buckeyes’ Mercedes (@BraxtonMiller5).


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Big Ten recruiting storylines: Aug. 22 

August, 22, 2013
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Big Ten fodder is never hard to find, especially in recruiting. Here’s a look at a few programs that highlighted a busy recruiting week:

Cotton getting close

Linebacker Micquell Cotton (O’Fallon, Ill./O’Fallon) has narrowed his list down to Indiana and Iowa State. The three-star back holds offers from both schools as well as Syracuse and Michigan State.

Cotton has visited both already and will take official visits this fall before making a pick.
The Cyclones have some appeal with a solid 2014 class that includes ESPN 300 wide receiver Allen Lazard (Urbandale, Iowa/Urbandale), running back Tommy Mister (Chicago/St. Rita) and a few other good looking commitments.

We’ll see where things stand after he takes his trips.

Iowa adds cornerback

Cornerback Josh Jackson (Corinth, Texas/Lake Dallas) committed to Iowa on Thursday. He confirmed his commitment in a text message.

The 5-foot-11, 175-pound senior becomes Iowa's 13th commit and the unranked defensive back becomes the third player to be taken in the secondary in the Hawkeyes’ 2014 recruiting class. He joins cornerback Omar Truitt (Washington, D.C./St. John’s College) and safety Jyaz Jones (Dallas/South Oak). Jackson’s commitment continues the youth movement at Iowa, as six underclassmen will return next season from Iowa’s two-deep chart.

"I think it's going to be great," Jackson said. "With the guys coming in, we'll definitely make a big impact in the Big Ten and for the team."

Defensive end Torey Hendrick (Brooklyn, N.Y./ASA College) hasn’t broken down his top five yet, but the junior college sensation already knows one he’ll take a visit to Iowa.

The 6-foot-4, 225-pound Hendrick hasn’t set a date, but Iowa City be a destination. Expect Kansas to maybe earn a visit as well.

Hendrick currently has offers from Arizona State, Florida State, Kansas State, North Carolina State and Rutgers to go with Iowa and Kansas.

Lacrosse commit getting looks
Jason Alessi (Birmingham, Mich./Brother Rice) is committed to Michigan for lacrosse, but that might not be the sport he ends up playing in college as he is starting to get noticed for football as well.

Alessi is a 2014 defensive back who already holds football offers from Cornell and Air Force. He has heard from Yale, Harvard and most recently Michigan State.

The 6-foot, 170-pound safety took a visit to East Lansing last week and is now waiting for the Spartans to make a move. The coaching staff told him they want to watch film on his first few games this coming season and then make a decision.

If he has a good start to the season the Spartans might not be the only team to come calling.

Linebacker U looking again
Penn State has opened up its search to replace outside linebacker Jared Wangler (Warren, Mich./De La Salle), who decommitted from the Nittany Lions before pledging to Michigan.

With Syracuse commit Jason Cabinda (Flemington, N.J./Hunterdon Central) already in the mix of candidates, Penn State has offered outside backer Brandon Lee (Indianapolis/Lawrence Central). That means Northwestern has some company in landing the standout as Lee will travel to California on an official visit when the Golden Bears play the Wildcats on Aug. 31. Lee currently has a top five of Cal, Louisville, Northwestern, Oregon and Virginia Tech.

London a wanted man

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Big Ten recruiting mailbag

August, 9, 2013
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It’s time to dip into the Big Ten recruiting mailbag and answer some of your questions. We’ll try to give everyone a chance to get their questions answered. We encourage you to send your questions by Twitter to @bbournival or @TomVH. Feel free to email us as well at brad.bournival.espn@gmail.com or TomVHESPN@gmail.com.

@BeerTheDeer: What are Wisconsin’s chances with Joe Mixon and Damien Mama? If the Badgers can pull them both, does that do anything to raise Wisconsin’s recruiting pull?

Brad Bournival: Absolutely. You have to consider that seniors only get five official visits, so the Badgers are already way ahead of the game when it comes to landing the duo. Wisconsin’s offensive line legacy and strong education isn’t lost on Mama. The Badgers’ ability to turn running backs into stars isn’t lost on Mixon either. As far as what it would do to help Wisconsin in the recruiting scene, history shows that teams on a roll stay on a roll, especially on a year-to-year basis. Once a team gets hot with top recruits, others start taking a look.

@McArthurMatt: Will Michigan State start putting the pinch on Michigan’s Detroit Cass Tech pipeline with the commitment of Jayru Campbell?

Tom VanHaaren: It depends on what you mean by pinch. Campbell didn’t have a Michigan offer, so I don’t know if you can consider that in your question. I think Michigan will still land players from Cass Tech, but Michigan State hiring Curtis Blackwell will certainly make for more competition.

Blackwell was involved with a lot of prospects in Detroit, so his relationship with the prospects and their families is a big bonus. I do think Michigan State has a shot with Cass Tech defensive end Joshua Alabi, who does have an offer from the Wolverines.

If Michigan State lands Alabi, then this is an argument that can be talked about. That would be a big win for the Spartans if they were to land him, but that’s yet to be seen.

Michigan State will be a player for a lot of the local prospects now, but I don’t think it will have a huge impact overall on Michigan’s recruiting efforts.

@roberthendricks: What do you think about Damian Prince? Where is he headed?

Bournival: The three teams that look to be separating themselves are Florida State, Maryland and Ohio State, but I think this is a two-team battle between the Terrapins and Buckeyes. Maryland might be selling the in-state angle, but it’s more than that as the Terrapins wouldn’t mind having him be the face of the program. With 13 offensive linemen under scholarship next season and four starters leaving after this season, the Buckeyes can sell playing time and depth chart to the ESPN 300 offensive tackle. In the end, I think Prince stays home and becomes a part of Maryland’s 2014 class.

@Paul_Zinn24: Overall, how is the Big Ten stacking up in recruiting to other major conferences?

VanHaaren: Not great. Michigan and Ohio State are holding the fort down with the No. 6 and 12 ranked classes, respectively and Penn State (20) and Northwestern (24) are in the top 25.

Outside of those four teams it doesn’t look good. The Big Ten has 25 commitments in the ESPN 300 and 20 of those come from Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State and Northwestern. If you don’t feel like doing the math, that means that the other eight teams have five ESPN 300 commitments combined.

The SEC has 77 ESPN 300 commits and the ACC has 35, so the Big Ten is behind significantly.

With that being said, there is still plenty of time left and there are a lot of ESPN 300 prospects that could pick Big Ten schools. Northwestern, Michigan, Penn State and Ohio State are all in on some top targets, so that number could still go up.

@dcarey71: Is it true because of early enrollments that Penn State will be allowed to offer 17 scholarships instead of 15 this year?

Bournival: That is correct with a couple of stipulations. The Nittany Lions need to stay at 15 scholarships a year, but it can also count early enrollees toward the class before it. So, since there’s some wiggle room in the 2013 class, Penn State can sign 17 prospects in the 2014 class -- as long as two enroll early. Those numbers would meet the NCAA requirements under the sanctions, including the 65-maximum scholarship stipulation as well.

Incidentally, quarterback Michael O’Connor and defensive tackle Antoine White have both stated they want to enroll in January.

The latest version of the ESPN class rankings are out, and there are seven Big Ten teams within the top 40 classes.

With movement happening across the board, there are trends and stories developing, so Big Ten recruiting writers Brad Bournival and Tom VanHaaren give you a look at what to watch within the conference:

Trending up:

Tom VanHaaren: The number of ESPN 300 prospects committing to Big Ten schools. The number hasn’t started to increase yet, but there is a good chance it will. As it currently stands the Big Ten has 25 ESPN 300 commitments within its teams. That number is low compared to the 77 committed to SEC schools and 35 to ACC programs. However, there are roughly 18 ESPN 300 prospects still listing Big Ten programs, including No. 4 ranked Da’Shawn Hand (Woodbridge, Va./Woodbridge) with Michigan, No. 1 inside linebacker Raekwon McMillan (Hinesville, Ga./Liberty County), Malik McDowell (Southfield, Mich./Southfield), Montae Nicholson (Monroeville, Pa./Gateway) and more.


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The spotlight rarely shines on the big guys in the heart of the offensive trenches, but guards and centers play a key role in the success of an offense. The 2014 class offers a talentedand fairly deep group of interior offensive linemen and the most recent release of the updated ESPN 300 saw several move up in the rankings.

Offensive guard prospects like USC commit Toa Lobendahn and Florida State commit Corey Martinez were among those who made sizeable moves up in the latest rankings release. Center and Alabama commit J.C. Hassenauer moved into the 300.

Four of the top five OG prospects are already off the board, as well as nine of the top 10 centers. But if your team is still looking for talent, here are five to keep an eye on:


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video
BEAVERTON, Ore. -- The Opening has concluded and it did not disappoint. The top prospects in the nation were invited to Nike headquarters to display their ability and compete against the best of the best.

RecruitingNation was on hand for every event to take in the happenings throughout the week. Here are a few storylines:

Who committed

Florida State landed two in-state prospects during the final day of The Opening on Wednesday: four-star offensive tackle Corey Martinez (Tampa, Fla./Tampa Catholic) and three-star safety Trey Marshall (Lake City, Fla./Columbia). Marshall was a finalist for the SPARQ national championships where he posted a 40-yard-dash time of 4.34 seconds. ESPN 300 linebacker Dillon Bates (Ponte Vedra, Fla./Ponte Vedra), son of former Tennessee Volunteers and Dallas Cowboys safety Bill Bates, verbally committed to the Vols. Four-star linebacker D.J. Calhoun (El Cerrito, Calif./El Cerrito) verbally committed to USC over UCLA.


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RN Top 10: The Opening, Day 2 

July, 3, 2013
7/03/13
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video The RN Top 10 will appear throughout the camp and combine season and rank prospects based strictly on their on-field performance at that particular event. It does not reflect their overall prospect rankings.

BEAVERTON, Ore. -- After Monday's SPARQ testing, the nation's top players were ready for some actual football Tuesday. With a lineman challenge in the morning and seven-on-seven games throughout the afternoon, each player got a chance to see what he could do against top-notch competition. Many of the usual suspects thrived, but there were also some surprises.

10. Brad Kaaya
Chaminade (Calif.) College Prep | QB | 6-4, 213

Consistency is Kaaya’s game. He bolted out of the gate with a strong performance Saturday at the Elite 11 and then showed throughout Sunday's practice why Miami ventured all the way across the country to snag his commitment. He was almost flawless again Monday and then lit up pool play Tuesday. He drew rave reviews with a throw for a two-point conversion on which he lowered his arm to place the ball in a tight space. "He makes the extremely difficult look really easy," coach and ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer said. -- Jeremy Crabtree


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The Opening, presented by Nike, will feature 162 of the best high school football players in the country. The event, which will include linemen, 7-on-7 and SPARQ testing competitions, is set to run from June 30 to July 3 at the Nike headquarters in Beaverton, Ore.

The following events from The Opening will be televised on ESPNU:

July 1: SPARQ Rating National Championship, 7 p.m.-8:30 p.m. ET

July 2: 7-on-7 Pool Play, 9 p.m.-11:30 p.m. ET

July 3: Linemen Challenge Finals and 7-on-7 semifinal and championship games, 9 p.m.-midnight ET

The players will be divided in to six teams -- Alpha Pro, Apocalypse, Field Generals, Land Sharks, Super Bad and Vapor Carbon. Here is a closer look at how the teams match up.

Team: Alpha Pro
Coaches: Offensive coordinator Jordan Palmer, defensive coordinator Hardy Nickerson

The Alpha Pro team will have plenty of targets to spread the ball around. Ermon Lane and Tyler Luatua, the No. 1-ranked receiver and tight end in the country respectively, bring size and playmaking ability to the passing game. ESPN 300 athletes Corey Holmes, Jalen Hurd, John "JuJu" Smith, Ja'Von Harrison, and Derrell Scott are all explosive offensive weapons.

Defensively Alpha Pro is led by Andrew Brown, the No. 1-ranked defensive tackle in the country, ESPN 150 cornerback Damon Webb, defensive end Andrew Williams, Ohio State linebacker commit Dante Booker and LSU cornerback commit Chris Hardeman.

Complete Alpha Pro roster.

Team: Apocalypse
Coaches: Offensive coordinator Adam Tafralis, defensive coordinator Donovin Darius

The first thing that jumps out about team Apocalypse is the talent in the defensive front seven. Team Apocalypse will be led by five-star defensive end Da'Shawn Hand and inside linebacker Raekwon McMillan. Hand, from Woodbridge, Va., is the No. 4-ranked player in the country, while McMillan was recently bumped up to a five-star linebacker. Joining Hand and McMillan along the front seven are ESPN 300 defensive linemen Anthony Moten and Ainuu Taua, and linebackers D.J. Calhoun and Rashaan Evans.

Offensively, team Apocalypse has no shortage of playmakers. ESPN 300 wide receivers Artavis Scott, K.D. Cannon and Michiah Quick will provide explosiveness in the passing game, while athletic running backs Joe Mixon and Royce Freeman will provide athletic and reliable targets out of the backfield.

Complete Apocalypse roster.

Team: Field Generals
Coaches: Offensive coordinator Charlie Frye, defensive coordinator Michael Fletcher

Seven-on-seven events are always geared towards the offense, but with five-star defensive back Adoree' Jackson, No. 3-ranked safety Jamal Adams, and ESPN 300 cornerback Adarius Pickett in the secondary, the Field Generals should more than hold their own. New Ohio State defensive end commit Jalyn Holmes and the No. 6-ranked defensive end in the country, Solomon Thomas, will be two to watch along the defensive line.

Offensively, the Field Generals are led by ESPN 300 offensive guard Damien Mama, ESPN 300 wide receivers Austin Roberts and Thaddeus Snodgrass and explosive Notre Dame running back commit Elijah Hood.

Complete Field Generals roster.

Team: Landsharks
Coaches: Offensive coordinator Craig Nall, defensive coordinator Keith Bulluck

The Landsharks have some big-time talent along each line of scrimmage. Led by five-star offensive tackle Cameron Robinson, the Landsharks also feature ESPN 300 offensive guard Corey Martinez. ESPN 300 defensive linemen Gerald Willis III and Thomas Holley, as well as ESPN 300 defensive end Chad Thomas, will form a very physical and athletic defensive line.

In the secondary, the Landsharks will have three defensive backs -- Arrion Springs, Chris Lammons and Tony Brown -- that are ranked among the top 85 players in the country. The defense also features ESPN 150 linebacker Nyles Morgan.

Offensively, explosive running backs Dalvin Cook, a Florida commit, and Racean Thomas form a dangerous tandem out of the backfield, and wide receivers Travis Rudolph and Jalen Harvey are solid receiving threats.

Complete Landsharks roster.

Team: Superbad
Coaches: Offensive coordinator Dennis Gile, defensive coordinator Harold Nash Jr.

The Superbad defense line is led by five-star defensive end Lorenzo Carter and ESPN 150 defensive tackle Bijhon Jackson. The linebacking corp is stacked with three ESPN 300 members, including Clifton Garrett, Christian Miller and Edwin Freeman. Cornerback Jalen Tabor is the No. 19-ranked player in the country.

Offensively, Superbad has a huge advantage with the No. 1-ranked prospect in the country, running back Leonard Fournette. This team is loaded on offense, with wide receivers Drake Harris, Josh Malone and Speedy Noil all in the mix.

Complete Superbad roster.

Team: Vapor Carbon
Coaches: Offensive coordinator George Whitfield, defensive coordinator Chris Gizzi.

Vapor Carbon will be tough to throw against with defensive backs Quin Blanding, Naijiel Hale and Ed Paris roaming the field. The linebacker group is just as impressive, with Ohio State commit Kyle Berger, Kain Daub and Dillon Bates all leading the way.

The offense for Vapor Carbon could be lethal with running back Joseph Yearby and Nick Chubb in the backfield. Spreading out wide receivers T.V. Williams, Justin Brent and tight end Ian Bunting on the outside could prove to be an awesome combination for this squad.

Team Vapor Carbon has a lot of pieces to make a long run in the 7-on-7 tournament, but then again, every team is stacked in this competition.

Complete Vapor Carbon roster.

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