USC Trojans: Penn State Nittany Lions

1. Reading USC’s spring prospectus, this nugget stopped me: In six games last season, the Trojans used a total of 14 or fewer players on defense. That’s a stark illustration of the effect of the NCAA scholarship penalties. USC has eight starters returning on each side of the ball. But of the 49 returning lettermen, 18 were either walk-ons, injured or scholarship guys who just didn’t play. That’s a reminder of the work that Steve Sarkisian has cut out for him, and of how well the Trojans did to go 10-4 last season.

2. Former Penn State assistant coach Jay Paterno entered the race for the Democratic nomination for Pennsylvania lieutenant governor late, and now he has withdrawn early. Another candidate challenged the legitimacy of the signatures on Paterno’s nomination petitions. The legal battle would have consumed considerable time and money leading up to the May 20 primary. Too bad, because as news stories go, it would have been interesting to see if Paterno could use his name recognition to make voters take him seriously. He seemed to be making headway.

3. If you love writing and you love college football history, make sure you read “His Ownself,” the just-published autobiography of legendary sportswriter Dan Jenkins. He saw TCU play for the 1936 Rose Bowl, and he saw TCU play in the 2011 Rose Bowl. No one covered the 1960s, the decade of Bear Bryant, John McKay and Darrell Royal, better. You also get Jenkins on the last 60 years of golf, from Hogan to Woods. It’s like standing in the corner of a bar with Jenkins holding court. It is great, great fun.

Ultimate ESPN 300: The underachievers 

January, 29, 2014
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The Ultimate ESPN 300 is RecruitingNation's ranking of the best prospects since we began evaluating high school athletes in 2006. Here's a look at five players who underachieved:


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Three days of practice are now in the books and overall execution was sharper as the players begin to move into final preparations for the Under Armour All-America Game on Thursday. The productivity of the players picked up as did the speed of the play, and they’re continuing to think less and display their natural ability more. It was a physical day, with the pads popping and some big hits throughout the practice. Here are some of the highlights.

Top performers


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As expected, Day 2 at the Under Armour All-America practices were smoother, more concise and much more productive. The players are now starting to think less and play more. Natural ability is starting to come to the forefront, which allows for them to be more productive. There have been fewer dropped passes, fewer misses by the QBs and the offensive lines are starting to jell quicker than expected. Perhaps the most impressive thing about this group is there have not been any true letdowns. They have stepped up and been as advertised almost top to bottom for both squads. Let’s hit the highlights of the day:

Top performers

WR Cameron Sims (Monroe, La./Ouachita Parish): Sims might not wow anyone with his 40-yard dash time, but it may not matter. Sims is so similar to Mike Evans at Texas A&M. He just makes plays. He has extremely long arms and is outstanding when in contested matchups. The ball will look like it is uncatchable and then next thing you know he jumps out of nowhere, extends and makes a play and the defender is left scratching his head. When it comes down to it, the QBs for Team Highlight can trust that if they need to throw it up, Sims will make a play. The most basic thing about the position is catching the football and Sims has no problem doing that.


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Early Offer: The battle for Budda 

December, 18, 2013
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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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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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The Early Offer is a RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today's offerings: The news that Penn State is having scholarships restored by the NCAA will give Nittany Lion coach Bill O’Brien even more opportunities to showcase recruiting skills; Highland CC DE Joe Keels is quickly climbing the charts, just like his team; and FSU addressed a need at TE thanks in part to star quarterback Jameis Winston.

Big opportunity for O’Brien
Penn State coach Bill O’Brien had already proven he was one of the nation’s best recruiters when the Nittany Lions’ 2013 class finished at No. 24 in the class rankings and followed it up this year with a class that ranks at No. 25. The ability to attract talent like he has with all of the restrictions placed on his staff was impressive. But when the news broke Tuesday that the NCAA will reduce its sanctions against Penn State by gradually restoring scholarships starting next season, Happy Valley certainly became a lot happier. The news gives O’Brien an immediate opportunity to build an even better 2014 class, and I fully expect him to make the most out of it. One Big Ten assistant told me that this “makes Penn State relevant again with some of the Midwest’s top uncommitted players.”

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2013 freshman All-American candidates

August, 16, 2013
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Projecting the eventual success level of high school prospects is difficult in its own right, but forecasting which ones will play right away and make a big splash in college can be even more difficult. Sometimes, however, there are no-brainers such as South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney and USC's Leonard Williams. But more often than not, there is no guarantee when it comes to freshmen making instant impacts. So many factors, from team needs to injuries to maturity, will determine who makes the biggest splash.

Headlined by Ole Miss DE Robert Nkemdiche and Penn State QB Christian Hackenberg, RecruitingNation takes a look at the Class of 2013 members who can make the biggest impact as freshmen.

To take a look at the team, click here Insider.
Being the champs has its benefits, especially when it comes to impressing recruits.

One of the country’s top junior college offensive tackles, Jermaine Eluemunor (Scranton, Pa./Lackawanna College) was planning several trips and set official visits to Ohio State and Texas A&M, but now the only trip for certain is a visit to Alabama in mid-July.


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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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With more than two dozen offers, Jonathan Hilliman (Jersey City, N.J./St. Peter’s Prep) has the attention of schools all over the country. He knows some point over these next few months he will have to begin whittling his list down.


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Malik McDowellTom Hauck for ESPN.comClass of 2014 DE prospect Malik McDowell is attracting more and more attention nationwide.
Penn State assistant Larry Johnson usually doesn't usually travel to Michigan high schools to offer juniors. But then again, he doesn't often come across defensive ends like the recruit he saw Thursday either.


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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- ESPN Watch List wide receiver Thaddeus Snodgrass (Springfield, Ohio/Springfield) was set to make his final decision between Michigan State, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin in November, but that didn't happen.

The 6-foot-1, 175-pound athlete decided to postpone his announcement. He felt it wasn't the right time.


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SAN ANTONIO -- ESPN 150 outside linebacker Mike Mitchell (Plano, Texas/Prestonwood Christian) isn’t big on speaking publicly. He’d rather let his game do the talking -- and it speaks volumes.

On Monday, the 6-foot-5, 222-pound linebacker officially confirmed that he will announce his college plans during Saturday’s U.S. Army All-American Bowl. Oregon, Texas A&M and Ohio State are his three finalists.


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#BlueChipBattles: Dec. 21

December, 21, 2012
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Dee Liner, Reuben Foster, Tray MatthewsESPN.comReuben Foster (center) is torn between good friends Dee Liner (left) and Tray Matthews (right).

No. 1 ILB Reuben Foster has voiced his desire to play with at least one of his SEC-bound friends next season. But will he follow Tray Matthews to Georgia or hook up with Dee Liner wherever the ESPN 150 DL settles? It remains to be seen, but the mystery surrounding his recruitment keeps Foster at the top of our #BlueChipBattles.

Each week, RecruitingNation summons its writers from around the country to compile a list of the top 10 battles for elite football recruits leading up to February's signing day.

Here are this week's top battles Insider, and you can take a shot at ranking the top 10 recruiting battles on SportsNation.

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