Texas Longhorns: Ohio State Buckeyes

Getting to know DaMarkus Lodge 

April, 17, 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.

DESOTO, Texas -- With all the multiple camps, combines and special events happening each spring, DaMarkus Lodge chooses not to be a regular on the circuit.

It’s not that Lodge is against them, or that he thinks he’s above them. The ESPN 300 receiver has simply prioritized his life as a student-athlete. The camp circuit happens to be a middle-of-the-pack priority.


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Birmingham NFTC notebook 

March, 30, 2014
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HOOVER, Ala. -- The state of Alabama is home to four of the last five national championships, and there was no shortage of talent on hand Sunday as the Nike Football Training Camp made a stop in the Yellowhammer State. By the end of the day, seven players from four different states earned their invite to The Opening.

New offers pique Payne’s interest

The top-ranked player at the event was defensive tackle Daron Payne, a local product, ranked No. 23 overall in the ESPN 300. He didn’t make the list of players invited to The Opening, but based on the media coverage, he was still the center of attention, both on and off the field.


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The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today’s offerings: As the center of an intense recruiting battle between Florida, Georgia, Ohio State, Texas and Texas A&M, a four-star linebacker will lean on those close to him when it comes time to make a decision; and two future SEC opponents took turns testing each other at Sunday’s Atlanta Nike Training Camp.


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Altanta Elite 11 regional camp notebook 

March, 21, 2014
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SUGAR HILL, Ga. -- Several talented quarterbacks took the field at the Atlanta Elite 11 regional camp on Friday. Though no official invites for the Elite 11 finals, held in Beaverton, Ore. in July, were extended, there were five finalists with potential to eventually earn an invite. The finalists included Anthony Ratliff, Austin King, Kendall Hinton, Ross Trail and Alex Malzone. Four of the five finalists were from out-of-state. King is from Alpharetta, Ga.


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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: 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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Top position classes: LB 

February, 17, 2014
Feb 17
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video
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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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.”
ORLANDO, Fla. -- There will be three five-star prospects committing during the 2014 Under Armour All-America Game. One of those is No. 11 overall Tony Brown (Beaumont, Texas/Ozen).

This week, the two-sport star, who will run track and play football on the next level, talked about the ins and outs of his recruitment as decision day nears.

Gerry Hamilton: What age were you when you first started paying attention to college football?

Tony Brown: As soon as I saw a TV. I think I watched a Texas Tech game because both of my parents went to Texas Tech. My uncle also went to Texas Tech. I had to be five years old when I actually remember watching a game.


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Under Armour Early Offer 

December, 30, 2013
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily morning dose of recruiting.

Today’s Early Offering is coming to you from the Under Armour All-America Game. Here’s a sample of some of the top news from the event, including a look at who stood out on the first day of practices and a quarterback who hopes to make a big impression.

No. 1 preps for announcement
Seven of the nation’s top prospects will commit live during the Under Armour All-America Game on Jan. 2 (ESPN, at 4 p.m. ET), including the No. 1 player in the country, running back Leonard Fournette (New Orleans/Saint Augustine). Fournette has stuck with his top two of Alabama and LSU and said both school’s hats will be in front of him when he announces. A Texas hat will be there too, but it’s down to the Tigers and Tide. Fournette said he’s tired of getting asked where he’s going to end up, but that thankfully will end in a few days. “It is just something I want to get off my shoulders,” he said. “Everybody has been nagging me about a thousand times. At the end of the day, it’s where I’m going to be most successful and most comfortable at.”


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Texas commit taking visits 

December, 28, 2013
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Orlando -- ESPN 300 defensive back Jermaine Roberts (New Orleans/St. Augustine) is still committed to Texas, but is keeping his options open. The No. 197-ranked prospect, who is participating at the Under Armour All-America Game this week, has already set up a visit and has been in contact with a few schools.


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Video: 2015 WR Lodge on title, recruiting

December, 22, 2013
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Big 12 recruiting reporter Damon Sayles interviews ESPN Junior 300 wide receiver DaMarkus Lodge after Cedar Hill beat Katy to win the Texas 5A Division 2 state championship.
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The rumors, conversation and speculation might ultimately include his name, but Urban Meyer has preemptively doused the flame.

The Ohio State coach is happy where he is, and if Texas comes calling, he doesn't appear to have any interest.

Surrounded by the media after practice on Wednesday for the Discover Orange Bowl, Meyer quickly dismissed any potential link between him and the job his friend Mack Brown just stepped down from with the Longhorns, making it clear his focus is on the elite job he already has with the No. 7 Buckeyes and not the one that just came open.

"There’s no take," Meyer said. "I’m here. I’m the coach at Ohio State."

That simple, strong message still might not be enough to silence whispers that Meyer could be a target for the Longhorns given how high they are likely to be aiming to replace Brown. Their sights were obviously on guys already at the top of the profession to begin with based on the reported pursuit of Alabama's Nick Saban, which is barely in the rearview mirror now and started well before the gig was even officially available.

If Texas does wind up chasing decorated coaches with experience at marquee programs, Meyer would clearly fit the bill and would almost certainly appear on a short-list of candidates for a school with deep pockets and sky-high expectations given his reputation as a motivator and proven winner with a pair of national titles on his resume.

But Ohio State has a strong recruiting base and Meyer is already having success expanding it nationally. The Big Ten might have been relatively down the last couple years, but the competition is still strong enough to keep the Buckeyes in position to qualify for the upcoming College Football Playoff. And, perhaps most important, Meyer has relished the opportunity to return to his home state and build the Buckeyes back into annual contenders for the national title, and he's also already quite well compensated for that work.

Those factors are likely enough on their own to keep Meyer from having much interest in any potential opening, even one that comes with as much prestige as Texas. But like Saban, he also considers Brown a close friend, and that might provide yet another discouragement from even thinking about leaving Ohio State after two seasons.

"Really good friends -- [but] we don’t talk much about jobs," Meyer said. "I’m very close with his wife, Sally, and they’re great friends with Shelley, so it’s more about our children, lives, wives -- we don’t talk much about [jobs]. ... I care about Mack. I don’t look at Mack as a football coach, I look at him as a friend."

"I really love the guy, he’s a great friend of mine and we’ll talk in the offseason a little bit."

That conversation won't be between the former coach at Texas and the next one. Meyer already had a cold bucket of water ready to pour out on that flame even before there was smoke.
Jashon Cornell (St. Paul, Minn./Cretin Derham-Hall), the No. 1 prospect in the Class of 2015, has narrowed his top list. After much deliberation, Cornell has cut the list of schools in the running down to 15.

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Strong on Impact of David Ash's Injury
Ash suffered a fracture in his left foot during spring practice and will undergo surgery. With Ash out, Texas is left with three passers for its Saturday scrimmage: sophomore Tyrone Swoopes, walk-on Trey Holtz and converted tight end Miles Onyegbule.Tags: Charlie Strong, David Ash, Tyrone Swoopes, Orange-White Game, spring practice
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