USC Trojans: Kentucky Wildcats

Signing day winners and losers

February, 5, 2014
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The ceremonies have concluded, the ink has dried and the fax machines have been turned off once again. And with that, the Class of 2014 is mostly in the books. As is the case annually, there were a number of winners but also some losers on national signing day. Here is a look at a few schools that excelled -- and a couple others that didn't.

THE WINNERS

LSU: The Tigers began the day at No. 3 in the RecruitingNation class rankings and ended with 2014's No. 2 class. The reason is simple: Les Miles and staff got the prospect they had to have in the nation's No. 1 wide receiver, Malachi Dupre (River Ridge, La./John Curtis Christian). The Tigers lost both Anthony Johnson and Ego Ferguson to the NFL, making defensive tackle a key position of need, and they inked a pair of talented tackles in ESPN 300 Travonte Valentine (Hialeah, Fla./Champagnant Catholic) and four-star Trey Lealaimatafao (San Antonio, Texas/Earl Warren). Under the radar but significant is three-star defensive end Sione Teuhema (Keller, Texas/Keller), who flipped from Texas to LSU. Teuhema’s younger brother Maea Teuhema (Keller, Texas/Keller) is the No. 38 junior in the ESPN Junior 300 and has pledged to LSU as well. Holding off Auburn and UCLA to keep ESPN 300 defensive end Davon Godchaux (Plaquemine, La./Plaquemine) was another win on Wednesday.

Florida State: The Seminoles entered signing day with the No. 4-ranked class but were poised to close with a vengeance, and Jimbo Fisher and staff did just that. While the Seminoles moved up only one spot to No. 3, the hits on Wednesday are significant. Leading the way was No. 2-ranked wide receiver Ermon Lane (Homestead, Fla./Homestead). The Noles weren’t done at receiver either, as Fisher and staff flipped Virginia Tech commit and No. 117 overall Ja'Von Harrison (Lakeland, Fla./Kathleen). No. 158 Roderick Johnson (Saint Louis, Mo./Hazelwood Central) and No. 253 Derrick Nnadi (Virginia Beach, Va./Ocean Lakes) were key gets at offensive tackle and defensive tackle, respectively. Three-star offensive tackle Derrick Kelly Jr. (Quincy, Fla./East Gadsden) was another key win over rival Florida.

USC: The Trojans stood to have a big signing day, and Steve Sarkisian and staff certainly delivered. Not only did USC win the hotly contested battle for five-star athlete Adoree' Jackson (Gardena, Calif./Junipero Serra), but the Trojans won the race for ESPN 300 No. 24 Juju Smith (Long Beach, Calif./Poly) and signed No. 67 overall Damien Mama (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco) as expected. More than the names and rankings, Wednesday was a huge perception win for the Trojans and Sarkisian. USC jumped to No. 14 from No. 24 in the RecruitingNation class rankings.

Georgia: The Bulldogs didn’t have a big day in terms of number of commits, but quality ruled the day. Mark Richt and staff signed the player they had to have in five-star outside linebacker/defensive end Lorenzo Carter (Norcross, Ga./Norcross). While Carter’s announcement was the big one Wednesday afternoon, the morning started off with a bang for Georgia with the signing of No. 286 overall Isaiah McKenzie (Plantation, Fla./American Heritage), who was first offered on Monday and never even visited Athens. Those two big signings kept the Bulldogs in the top 10 at No. 9.

South Carolina: One of the big movers in the class rankings on Wednesday was the Gamecocks. Not only did South Carolina make a jump from No. 27 to No. 19 throughout the day, but the Gamecocks also addressed major areas of need. Steve Spurrier and staff had key areas of need at cornerback and along the defensive front, and they delivered by picking up a pair of ESPN 300 corners in No. 87 overall Chris Lammons (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./Plantation) and No. 120 Wesley Green (Lithonia, Ga./Martin Luther King), as well as flipping ESPN 300 defensive tackle Dexter Wideman (Saluda, S.C./Saluda) from Florida State and three-star defensive end Blake McClain (Jacksonville, Fla./Sandalwood) from Nebraska. Fighting off the late January runs by Alabama and Georgia for ESPN 300 linebacker commit Bryson Allen-Williams (Ellenwood, Ga./Cedar Grove) has to be included in the huge wins in recent days.

Kentucky: Sure, Kentucky plucked only one key target on Wednesday in three-star former Vanderbilt and Penn State defensive end commit Lloyd Tubman (Louisville, Ky./Seneca), but it was still a huge day at the finish line for the Wildcats. The 2014 class marks the first time in the nine years that ESPN has ranked recruiting classes that the Wildcats have finished with a top 25 class, and that includes a big win over Alabama for in-state four-star defensive tackle Matt Elam (Elizabethtown, Ky./John Hardin). Signing six defensive backs fills a huge need as well.

Michigan State: The Spartans had a near dream season on the field, and followed it up by closing strong in recruiting. Not only did Michigan State jump nine spots in the class rankings from No. 38 to No. 29 on Wednesday, but it did so while filling a big need on the defensive front with big-time talent. ESPN 300 defensive end Malik McDowell (Southfield, Mich./Southfield) was a big win over Ohio State, Florida State and Michigan, while flipping four-star defensive tackle Craig Evans (Sun Prairie, Wis./Sun Prairie) from Wisconsin earlier in the week was another huge win for the Spartans.

Pac-12: The conference as a whole was quite possibly the big winner on signing day. Of the 13 live commitments on ESPNU throughout the morning and afternoon, seven committed and signed with Pac-12 programs. The winner within the Pac-12 was USC, but Stanford also enjoyed a big day with No. 25 overall Solomon Thomas (Coppell, Texas/Coppell) and three-star corner Terrence Alexander (River Ridge, La./John Curtis Christian).

THE LOSERS

UCLA: Along with USC and South Carolina, the UCLA Bruins came into today with the most to gain. While Jim Mora and staff scored with four-star linebacker Kenny Young (River Ridge, La./John Curtis Christian), it was mostly misses throughout the day. Jackson and Smith picked crosstown rival USC, while Dupre opted for home-state LSU. At defensive end, the Bruins missed out twice on Wednesday with Thomas selecting Stanford and Godchaux sticking with LSU. And finally, No. 52 overall Rashaan Evans (Auburn, Ala./Auburn) stayed in state by picking Alabama over Auburn.

Ole Miss: It’s difficult to place the Rebels' No. 17 class with the losers on signing day, but that was the case in Oxford, Miss. Not only did Ole Miss drop a spot in the class rankings, but it also came up dry with explosive ESPN 300 receiver and return man Isaiah McKenzie (Plantation, Fla./American Heritage), after Hugh Freeze and staff worked the Under Armour All-America Game standout all the way up until Wednesday morning before McKenzie announced for Georgia. While Dupre was a long shot, he was yet another prospect who went elsewhere. The Rebels also lost out on Alexander, who selected Stanford over Notre Dame. The bright spot for the Rebels on Wednesday was signing former Notre Dame transfer and No. 22 in the ESPN JC 50, Tee Shepard

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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Coveted OLB names a top five 

March, 14, 2013
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ATHENS, Ga. -- Outside linebacker Jacob Pugh (Tallahassee, Fla./Godby) isn’t exactly sure of how many offers he has. The 6-foot-3, 220-pound junior has not counted them. Once he had received over 30 offers to the top programs in the nation, there really seemed no point in doing so. Pugh is more concerned about the five that he has on top.


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If the recruitment of ESPN 300 defensive end Jason Hatcher (Louisville, Ky./Trinity) is any indication, hanging onto longtime commits for six months is no easy task.

Just ask USC.

There aren’t any guarantees in recruiting -- especially with out-of-state prospects -- until the fax machine cranks out signed letters. The risk is often times greater than the payoff.

Hatcher will sign with Kentucky on Wednesday, his mother, Donna, told ESPN.com on Tuesday afternoon. Not long ago, Kentucky seemed to be looking up at USC and hometown Louisville for Hatcher’s signature. But the No. 3-rated player in Kentucky is staying close to home, forcing USC to shake off yet another decommitment in an offseason that has been nothing short of discouraging.


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After weeks of speculation involving USC, Louisville and Kentucky, ESPN 300 defensive end Jason Hatcher has made up his mind heading into signing day.


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Reports: Hatcher recommits to USC

January, 30, 2013
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The recruitment of ESPN 300 defensive end Jason Hatcher (Louisville, Ky./Trinity) took another twist on Tuesday night when he reportedly recommitted to USC following an in-home visit from the coaching staff.

On Monday night, Hatcher wrote “Fight on world” on the same Twitter account where he “officially” decommitted a week prior. The latter message has since been deleted.

Hatcher could not be reached for comment.

The No. 14 defensive end officially visited USC on the weekend of Jan. 18 but re-opened his recruitment upon returning home, with in-state schools Kentucky and Louisville the primary candidates.

Hatcher officially visited Kentucky on Jan. 11 and had been scheduled to visit Louisville this coming weekend.

With Hatcher in tow, USC’s recruiting class would have 14 commitments, six of whom are already enrolled and on campus. All members of the class are ranked in the ESPN 300.
Kyle Bolin has helped land one Louisville commitment. He's now after another.

Four-star receiver Charles Williams from Hialeah (Fla.) Champagnat committed to Louisville earlier this month, in part, at Bolin's behest. Bolin, a Cardinals commitment from Lexington (Ky.) Lexington Catholic, was often extolling the virtues of Louisville to Williams. The two took their official visits to Louisville on Jan. 18.

"It was a blast," Bolin said of the visit. "The coaches put together a great schedule for us and it was nice being able to meet with most of the commits and their families, along with some other great targets."

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It seems that every summer one under-the-radar prospect emerges and grabs the attention of college coaches and basketball analysts alike. This year it appears to be Kentan Facey.

The native of Jamaica, who came to the United States a couple of years ago, is 6-foot-8, 190 pounds and has a 7-1 wingspan. In 2011, he enrolled with Upper Room Christian in Long Island before transferring after the season to his new school, Long Island Lutheran. This time one year ago he was playing AAU basketball for the New Heights Program, but wasn't really a factor. He was trying acclimate to the culture. To say he was raw would be an understatement

Facey
Courtesy of Long Island Lutheran.Kentan Facey has seen his stock soar in the span of a year.
"When I came to the States I had no idea what to expect," Facey said. "The speed of the game was at another level. It was a huge adjustment. I had a hard time just catching the ball."

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Defensive end Carl Lawson of Alpharetta (Ga.) Milton High School wants to make one thing clear: He isn't just a hand-on-the-ground player.

The 6-foot-3, 240-pound junior has been working on dropping into coverage and rushing the passer from an outside linebacker spot, and he said it's something he's eager to prove he's capable of doing in summer camps and throughout his upcoming senior season.

"I know people have misconceptions about me whether or not I can stand up or possibly play that outside linebacker position," Lawson said after participating in Florida's junior day. "I've been practicing."

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Trojans win big with Tee Martin hire 

February, 16, 2012
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With Lane Kiffin serving as the head coach, the USC Trojans didn't need to make a splashy wide receivers coach hire. Kiffin keeps a close watch over the position during practices and has more experience coaching that particular position than any other.

With Ed Orgeron and Monte Kiffin on the staff, the USC Trojans didn't need to add a dynamic recruiting personality that could tap into the rich Southeast recruiting ground. Orgeron has roots in Louisiana and Mississippi, and Kiffin is still a big brand name in Florida.

But the USC Trojans found a way to do both on Wednesday night, hiring former Kentucky passing game coordinator/wide receivers coach Tee Martin as the new wide receivers coach.

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