Texas Longhorns: South Carolina Gamecocks

Programs off to fast start in 2015 

November, 19, 2013
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While recruiting is undoubtedly a marathon and not a sprint, that doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with a good start.

The key for any program is being able to sustain and finish strong, and only time will tell which programs will be able to do that, but what we do know is which teams are off to a fast start in the Class of 2015. Below are the five programs that are leading the pack early for 2015, as well as a few other notable fast starters:

#CampusConnection: Primetime Live

October, 26, 2013
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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.
The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today's offerings: The Red River Rivalry always has recruiting implications, and this year’s game is no exception; Texas’ loss could end up being Arkansas’ gain; and one of the nation’s best offensive tackles will take trips to Florida and Florida State.


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RecruitingNation released its first ever ESPN junior 300 in mid-July, and a slew of already committed prospects have put six programs off to an electric start in the 2015 recruiting cycle. With the college season just days away, here are the fast starters with future commitments on the horizon.


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The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's latest feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today's offerings: Why Rutgers should be more than able to hold its own recruiting in the Big Ten, how we should look for even more Class of 2016 commitments, and when one of the nation’s top running backs will make his selection.

Rutgers reeling them in
Rutgers likely won’t dethrone Michigan and Ohio State from the top of the Big Ten recruiting rankings when its move is official, but the way the Scarlet Knights have been recruiting for the Class of 2014 certainly has to give fans reason for excitement.


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Dillon Bates leaning on his family 

May, 29, 2013
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- ESPN 150 linebacker Dillon Bates (Ponte Vedra, Fla./Ponte Vedra) is no stranger to the game of football. His well-known father, Bill Bates, starred at Tennessee and had a 15-year NFL career with the Dallas Cowboys. His older brothers Graham and Hunter played college football at Arkansas State and Northwestern, respectively. But Dillon, a 6-foot-3, 215-pound outside linebacker, is working on making his own name.

Bates holds over 20 offers and has narrowed down his choices to a top five of Tennessee, Alabama, Florida, Texas and South Carolina, but recently added an offer from Florida State. The four-star Under Armour All-American, who will announce his decision at The Opening in July, admitted he was excited to learn of the Seminoles offer.

Bill Bates, Dillon Bates
Courtesy of Bates familyDillon Bates (right) has been able to rely on guidance from his famous father during his recruiting process.
"It's really intriguing and humbling to know that all the schools in Florida have offered me," Bates said. "Just the feeling that I can go anywhere in Florida and everything. Just the prestigious school like FSU and all the great players that have come from FSU -- it's just really great to know that I could be among them."

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ATHENS, Ga. -- The youngest student at Stephens County High School in Toccoa, Ga., also happens to be the school's largest student. Freshman offensive tackle Ben Cleveland is only 14 and claims to be the youngest student in the ninth grade. Despite his youth, he already stands 6 feet, 7 inches tall and weighs 315 pounds. Cleveland receives an abundance of slack-jawed stares when he is on the football field, but the real gawping comes when he steps onto the baseball diamond to man first base.

In fact, that was where a college football coach first spotted him.


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#BlueChipBattles: ESPN 150 release edition

April, 19, 2013
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Speedy Noil, Adoree Jackson, Da'Shawn HandStudent Sports, ESPN, ESPNSpeedy Noil, Adoree Jackson and Da'Shawn Hand are three of the most coveted recruits in the Class of 2014.
#BlueChipBattles Insider: RecruitingNation summoned its writers from around the country to outline the recruiting battles for the ESPN 150's top 10 prospects.

Plus, rank the battles in SportsNation.

#TopFBMixtapes: Athlete mixtapes are all the rage in this highlight-crazed era of sports. We reached out to our Twitter followers to find out which 2014 football stars had the best highlight reels on YouTube, then had our staff rank and comment on the top submissions.

Tom Luginbill writes Insider: After talking to many coaches across the country and hearing their frustrations, here are their five biggest complaints about homemade highlight videos.

Longhorns 11th in Way-Too-Early Top 25

January, 8, 2013
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Alabama CheerleadersStreeter Lecka/Getty ImagesAlabama, with three of the past four national titles, is No. 1 in the Way-Too-Early Top 25 for 2013.

There's still seven months before the start of the 2013 season, and the teams and their order figure to change frequently, but it's never too early to take a look at the Way-Too-Early Top 25 for 2013.

And with three national championships in the past four years, there's no reason to change the team that's on top. Texas, with plenty of talent returning, is 11th in the rankings.

Also see:
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- ESPN Watch List offensive tackle Braden Smith (Olathe, Kan./Olathe) has taken the last few weeks to sit back and relax.


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Sekou Clark talks OU-Texas experience 

October, 14, 2012
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The last time 2014 Sekou Clark (Denton, Texas/Ryan) was in attendance for the annual Red River Rivalry between Texas and Oklahoma, he was working a concession stand. Last year Clark helped his uncle, who was running one of the concessions for his track and field team.

Saturday gave Clark a different kind of game experience at the Cotton Bowl. As a guest of Oklahoma, the 6-foot-4, 225-pound defensive end sat on the home side and watched Sooners fans celebrate a 63-21 rout over the Longhorns.

“It was crazy how the entire stadium was so loud. It was never quiet at any point,” Clark said. “No one was sitting down. Everyone was into the game. It was a lot of fun.”

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AUSTIN, Texas -- ESPN 300 Watch List member Tony Brown (Beaumont, Texas/Ozen) came away from his unofficial visit to Texas equally impressed with the crowd he witnessed and the team it was cheering on.

Brown, one of the top junior defensive backs in the country, knew it was going to be a difficult job for Texas to slow down West Virginia’s offense, and thought it did an admirable job despite the loss.

[+] EnlargeTony Brown
Tom Hauck for ESPN.comClass of 2014 cornerback Tony Brown visited Texas for its game against West Virginia.
“I was real wired up for the game,” said Brown, who has a Longhorns offer. “There were a lot of Texas fans and a lot of West Virginia fans too. I feel like it wouldn’t have been that good of a game but Texas fans showed up and really helped them out. It was a close one. Geno Smith is a real good quarterback. I feel like he is going to win the Heisman. He throws a lot of really good balls.”

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Texas offers 2014 OT Braden Smith 

August, 30, 2012
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Add offensive tackle Braden Smith (Olathe, Kan./Olathe South) to the list of 2014 recruits with official offers from Texas.

Olathe South head coach Jeff Gourley told HornsNation on Thursday that his talented prospect, who is already a known commodity throughout the nation, was offered by Longhorns offensive line coach Stacy Searels.


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Marcell Harris (Orlando, Fla./Dr. Phillips) has been to Texas twice. He can’t wait to find out what trip No. 3 has in store for him.

The four-star ESPN 150 safety is excited to take his first official visit this weekend, a three-day stay in Austin, Texas, for the Longhorns’ season opener against Wyoming.

“I’m pretty sure it’s going to be off the chain,” Harris said. “I’ve heard the fans are crazy and the stadium is going to be rocking and rolling. Being out there and sitting in the stands is going to feel pretty good. That’s something I’ve always looked forward to.”

Marcell Harris
Derek Tyson/ESPN.comMarcell Harris' official visit to Texas this weekend will be his third visit to see the Longhorns.
The nation’s No. 7 safety prospect is still strongly considering six schools: Texas, Florida, Florida State, Oklahoma, Clemson and South Carolina. He has yet to make any other official visits plans for after his trip to UT.

The Longhorns are in good shape going into the weekend. Harris grew up watching Texas games on TV, and he says there are aspects of his game he has tried to emulate from watching Michael Huff and Earl Thomas during their Texas heydays.

He likes the guy responsible for their success, too. Harris said he speaks with UT secondary coach Duane Akina every other week.

“Coach Akina is real cool, and he has a nice résumé of people he’s coached,” Harris said. “He’s a real cool, laid-back guy. He’s there to coach you and get 100 percent out of you. That’s the type of coach you’d want to be taught by.”

The 6-foot-1, 209-pound defensive back attended Texas’ summer camp in June 2011. In January, he drove up from San Antonio after participating in the U.S. Army Underclassmen Combine for a night of watching film of Texas’ defense.

He has seen the football offices and facilities. Now Harris wants to see everything else.

“I’m really looking to see what their campus is really like,” he said. “This will be my first time of actually seeing the campus and everything. It’s going to be a good one. It’s Labor Day weekend and people are going to be acting crazy.”

Harris is bringing his mother and father with him. He wants them to feel comfortable with Austin in case he ends up playing college ball away from Florida.

That’s why he’ll take most and perhaps all of his official visits to out-of-state schools. He’s not certain he’ll use officials visits on Florida and Florida State.

“I’m not in any rush. I could always go up there,” he said. “With the official visits, I’m looking for something that’s going to be different in my opinion.”

Harris said he’s “pretty sure” he’ll make plans to visit Oklahoma. Sooners defensive coordinator Mike Stoops has been selling the safety on what OU has to offer.

“They’ve always been one of the top schools that competes every year,” Harris said. “You never see Oklahoma not doing good each season. They’ve always had a good defense and offense and everything. They’re a consistent program.”


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The days of the Rose Bowl being the bowl of bowls could soon be coming to an end now that the SEC and the Big 12 have agreed on a five-year bowl partnership.

The new deal, announced Friday, will have the champions of the Big 12 and SEC meet in a New Year's Day bowl game annually beginning with the 2014 season. So while it won’t have the tradition of the Rose Bowl, it’ll have the viewers and it’ll have the popularity.

We’re seeing more and more how power is truly the most important component in college football, and this is a great example. Soon, we’ll have the two best BCS conferences going at it in their own special bowl competing with the beloved Rose Bowl.

We’re joined on the SEC blog by Big 12 blogger David Ubben to get his thoughts on what this means for the Big 12. We’re gentlemen down here in SEC country, so we’ll let him go first:

David Ubben: Rose Bowl, we love you. Not as much as Jim Delany does, but I'm not sure anyone can stake that claim. Anyway, it's time to face an unfortunate truth: You've been one-upped. The unnamed, unplaced bowl partnership between the Big 12 and SEC won't have the same level of tradition, but it will feature better teams. That's a powerful draw.
The BCS has played 14 national title games since its birth. The Big 12 or SEC have participated in 12 of them. Teams from the league have met in the game twice.

Now, they'll have another big stage to showcase their top teams. If a Big 12 or SEC champion is in the four-team playoff that will likely begin in the 2014 season, the next-best team will fill their place in the annual game. Deciding who plays in that game is up to each conference. The nation's two best conferences will get a much-needed opportunity to face one another on the field and test the hotly debated offense vs. defense theories on the field annually. The nation's college football fans were robbed of that when Oklahoma State was squeezed out of the national title game for SEC West second-place finisher Alabama. This year, the SEC and Big 12 only play once, when eight-win Texas travels to face two-win Ole Miss in September. Not exactly must-see TV.

This will be.

It assures the Big 12 a place at the adults' table of college football, further extending the distance between college football's top four leagues -- the SEC, Big 12, Pac-12 and Big Ten, in that order -- and the ACC and Big East. The ACC and Big East have the Orange Bowl, but any game like the SEC and Big 12 put together will pale in comparison when it comes to TV ratings and more importantly, TV money.

Only a few months ago, the Big 12 had eight teams, with half the league considering a move to the Pac-12 and the conference on life support. Things are looking very different now. It's about to sign a giant television deal, likely extending the grant of rights into the next decade and assuring stability at least through then, and probably beyond.

Tired of getting stuck playing Boise State and UConn in everything to lose, nothing to gain BCS bowl matchups? Seven-time Big 12 champion Oklahoma won't have to worry about that anymore, and even if the Sooners are in the forthcoming national championship playoff, the next-best Big 12 team will have a quality opponent to prove itself against.

Another plus for the Big 12? The Cotton Bowl's odds of getting into the BCS as it stood were minimal. Now? It's still in flux, but does anyone want to bet against Jerry Jones and his wallet to get this game in his Dallas palace at some point? That's a big game in the Big 12 footprint, something that's never happened on the BCS bowl stage.

How will this affect Florida State, too? News has surely reached Tallahassee by now, and the Florida State spear-toting brass have to be wondering how much this factors into their wandering eye toward the Big 12. Is the ACC the place to be?

We'll find out soon, but on Jan. 1, 2015, there will be only one place to be.

This game.

Edward Aschoff: I couldn’t agree more with pretty much everything you said. There’s no question that both of these leagues have dominated the BCS since its first year in 1998. The conferences have been left out of the national championship just twice in the last 14 years and the SEC has participated in -- and won -- eight. The Big 12 has won two of its seven appearances.

SEC commissioner Mike Slive has just about everything he wants in his conference, but he hasn’t had the Rose Bowl. Sure, all those national championship trophies are nice, but an annual game like the Rose Bowl commands respect. The game that the Big Ten and Pac-12 covet so much, and is watched by millions annually, will now get a major run for its money. While they’ll be played in different time slots, there’s no question that this will turn into the ultimate popularity contest. If you could sense that Big Ten-SEC tension before, just wait. Now, the SEC will be looking down on the Big Ten and picking at the game it holds so dear. Don’t think that didn’t cross the commissioner’s mind when he was thinking about this deal.

The SEC has truly been front and center in the college football world for the past six years with its 6-0 record in BCS championships, and now it will pursue a game it thinks can have the gusto of the Rose. This is a great opportunity for the SEC to build another fine tradition for the country’s top college football conference. And fans/the media want to see more of these matchups. For the most part, we're all deprived of them during the regular season, so here's a chance for us to win something as well. These two conferences need to play more. The best should always play the best, and as David said, we can finally settle the whole offense-defense debate.

This also means that more SEC teams have the chance to play in a primetime, marquee matchup in January. If this had been in place last season, Arkansas, which certainly had a BCS-caliber team, would have played in a BCS-like bowl, since Alabama and LSU met in the title game. The Cotton Bowl got the matchup this game would have received, but it would have been on a much grander scale and much more attention would have been paid to it. Oh, and much more money would have come out of it.

It would likely help the SEC this year too, as there could be as many as five teams jockeying for BCS position. Imagine if the four-team playoff took place this season? You might have two more SEC teams fighting for a chance at a national championship, meaning this game would give No. 3 a chance strut its stuff in front of its own grand audience.

There’s no question that with a four-team playoff, the SEC will have more opportunities to put teams in the national championship, continuing its dominance. Now, Slive has helped to ensure that a high-caliber team left out of the championship hunt will still play in a game that will command the type of attention that comes with a BCS bowl.

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