NCF Nation: Football Recruiting
Leonard Williams, No. 50 in 2012 class
Williams was not a nationally talked about prospect through his junior season, but that all changed in the late spring of 2011 through his senior season. The Under Armour All-America Game alumni ended up signing with the USC, with the Trojans pulling the major upset over Florida, Florida State and Auburn for the Dayton Beach (Fla.) Mainland product. Williams was part of a Top 10 USC class that included Nelson Agholor, and offensive linemen Zach Banner, Max Tuerk, and Jordan Simmons.
Williams burst onto the scene as a freshman in Los Angeles. He not only appeared in all 13 games, but also started nine at defensive tackle. He had 64 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss and eight sacks. Following the season, he was named to various All-Pac 12 and Freshman All-American teams.
Williams moved to defensive end as a sophomore, and his dominance remained the same. In 13 starts, the 2013 All-Pac-12 first team selection recorded 74 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss, and six sacks.
In 2014, Williams' junior and likely final season at USC, he started 12 games making 71 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss and six sacks, again earning All-Pac-12 postseason honors. He was named AP All-American second team this week.
Should Williams forgo his final season of eligibility as expected, he is a near lock to be selected in the Top 10 picks of the 2015 NFL draft.
Honorable mention: LeSean McCoy, No. 50 in 2006 class. McCoy was originally headed to Miami (FL) out of high school, but the firing of Larry Coker led the explosive back to Pittsburgh to play for then head coach Dave Wannstedt after a year at prep school. He played only two years for the Panthers before heading to the NFL due to being three years removed from high school. After 3,365 all-purpose yards and 36 touchdowns in two seasons at Pittsburgh, McCoy was selected in the second round (No. 53 overall) by the Philadelphia Eagles. He has been selected to Pro Bowl’s following the 2011 and 2013 seasons. Two prospects ranked No. 50 that played at Florida -- Xavier Nixon (2009 class) and Jaylen Watkins (2010 class) -- currently play in the NFL. Ohio State sophomore safety Vonn Bell, No. 50 in 2013, is expected to be a high NFL draft choice in the next couple of years.
A flurry of commitments and decommitments has led to considerable movement in the latest class rankings update. Several top-10 programs added ESPN 300 prospects, including Tennessee, which picked up top-10 ILB Darrin Kirkland Jr. The Vols already have a class that features a talented group of defensive linemen, and have now added a big, powerful inside linebacker that can develop into a tough downhill run-stopper. Butch Jones now has Tennessee in contention for a second-straight top-five finish.
Outside the top 10, USC landed a verbal from in-state tight end Tyler Petite, a tall, lengthy prospect with the size, speed and leaping ability to potentially create mismatches as a receiving target at the position. After landing the former Duke commit, USC's class features eight ESPN 300 prospects.
Ole Miss also saw a move up in the rankings with a pair of additions. The Rebels landed ESPN Junior College 50 QB Chad Kelly, a player who is physically gifted enough to be a strong candidate to replace QB Bo Wallace, a one-time junior college transfer himself. Ole Miss, who not sits at No. 17, also landed ESPN 300 OT Michael Howard. He is a lean OL prospect that needs to fill out, but is an athletic and tenacious player and with development could end up being a real strong pick-up out of Florida for the Rebels.
Inside the rankings
Coach Art Briles has had two very distinct luxuries when it comes to recruiting in today's complicated landscape -- recruiting in the shadows and recruiting without pressure. Both are actually in many ways, one in the same. As Briles has built this program, he's been able to do it his way without public pressure or booster interference because early on, nobody thought it could be done and nobody cared.
This staff was able to go after who they wanted, on their own timetable and without much scrutiny. In today's recruiting world, that's a huge luxury. Players like Levi Norwood, Antwan Goodley or Tevin Reese, who was a late qualifier, were all bypassed by other Power 5 programs, but nobody even noticed Baylor signed them or griped, "who are these guys" on signing day.
As a result, prospects like these were brought along at a normal pace and developed properly by the coaching staff. Redshirting the bulk of the classes for the first few years has also been huge for the Bears. The challenge going forward will be dealing with increased program exposure and expectation level which almost always brings with it increased recruiting scrutiny from boosters and fans alike. But the Bears don??t need to change a thing.
To see the full class rankings, click here.
EJ Manuel, No. 51 in 2008 class
Manuel was a highly coveted quarterback coming out of Bayside high in Virginia Beach, Virginia. In what wasn't a close recruitment, Manuel chose Florida State over LSU and others in June 2007 due in large part to his relationship with Jimbo Fisher, and the positive vibe he got around Florida State players and commitments. Manuel was part of a 2008 class that included Nigel Bradham and Nigel Carr, among many others.
After redshirting in 2008, Manuel served as the backup in 2009 to future NFL first-round selection Christian Ponder before an injury to Ponder forced Manuel into the starting lineup. Manuel responded going 3-1 to end the season and keeping Bobby Bowden from leaving his final season in Tallahassee with a losing record. Manuel earned Gator Bowl MVP honors after leading the Seminoles to a win against West Virginia.
Manuel was again the backup in 2010 for the most part, making two starts against Clemson and Virginia Tech after an injury to Ponder. He came in for the injured Ponder in the second quarter of the Chick-fil-A Bowl and led the Noles to a 26-17 win against South Carolina. He threw for 861 yards and four touchdowns in 2010.
Manuel became a full-time starter in 2011, passing for 2,666 yards and 18 touchdowns, which included a third straight bowl win, this time a victory over Notre Dame in the Champs Sports Bowl in which Manuel threw for 249 yards and two scores.
As a fifth-year senior, Manuel led Florida State to a 12-2 record and a BCS Orange Bowl win against Northern Illinois, the Seminoles' first BCS Bowl win since 2000. On the season, the 6-foot-5, 240-pound Manuel passed for 3,392 yards and 23 touchdowns earning All-ACC honors.
Manuel was the 16th overall selection in the 2013 NFL draft by the Buffalo Bills.
Honorable mention: Damore'ea Stringfellow, No. 51 in 2013 class. Stringfellow chose Washington over USC and others. After a 20-reception, 259 yards freshman season at Washington, Stringfellow was dismissed from the program. Now at Ole Miss, the former Under Armour All-America Game selection will be eligible in 2015 and is expected to become a starter with high-ceiling potential.
Chaz Green, No. 52 in 2010 class
Green came out of Tampa Catholic High as a nationally coveted offensive tackle prospect. It looked like Green would end up at Tennessee until head coach Lane Kiffin left Knoxville for USC. Green ultimately chose Florida over USC capping a terrific class for the Gators that included Matt Elam, Sharrif Floyd, Ronald Powell and Dominique Easley.
Green redshirted his first year in Gainesville in 2010 before appearing in nine games in 2011, earning SEC All-Freshman team honors despite missing four games due to injury.
Green again was a key starter on the Gators offensive line in 2012, playing in 11 games and starting 10. Like the 2011 season, Green again missed time due to injury. Green was bitten by the injury bug again in 2013, but this time the entire season was lost due to an injury in August camp.
Green enjoyed a fully healthy season as a redshirt senior in 2014, making 11 starts while playing both right and left tackle, setting himself up to possibly being selected in the 2015 NFL draft.
Honorable mention: Gunner Kiel, No. 52 in the 2012 class. Kiel signed with Notre Dame out of high school, but transferred to Cincinnati after redshirting in 2012. Kiel started 12 games for the Bearcats this season, throwing for 3,010 yards and 30 touchdowns.
Jake Locker, No. 53 in 2006 class
Locker picked Washington over Oregon State out of Ferndale (Wash.) in a recruitment that wasn’t close due to staying close to home and having a number of friends that attended the University of Washington. Locker also had a strong relationship with then Huskies head coach Tyrone Willingham.
After a redshirt year in 2006, Locker took over as the starting quarterback for the Huskies in 2007, completing 155 of 328 passes for 2,062 yards and 14 touchdowns against 15 interceptions. He also had 987 yards rushing earning Pac-10 Freshman of the Year and honorable mention All-Pac-10 honors.
The 2008 season was one to forget for the dual-threat signal caller. He completed 50 of 93 passes for 512 yards and a TD in four games before a thumb injury against Stanford ended his season.
Locker began to realize his potential in 2009 as a redshirt junior. He hit on 230 of 395 passes for 2,800 yards and 21 touchdowns, and added 387 rushing yards picking up a second honorable mention All-Pac-10 honor following the season.
As a fifth year senior, Locker threw for 2,265 yards and 17 touchdowns, and rushed for 385 yards in 12 games earning a third honorable mention All-Pac-10 award.
Locker left Washington as the school's second all-time passing and quarterback rushing leader with 7,639 passing and 1,939 rushing yards.
Locker was selected No. 8 overall in the 2011 NFL Draft by the Tennessee Titans, where he is currently the backup.
Honorable mention: Jeoffrey Pagan, No. 53 in 2011 class, and Demarcus Robinson, No. 53 in 2013 class. Pagan signed with Alabama out of Asheville High (N.C.) and went on to appear in 32 games in three seasons with 12 starts. After 61 career tackles and 3.5 sacks for the Crimson Tide, Pagan chose to forgo his final year of eligibility in Tuscaloosa. Pagan was selected in the sixth round, No. 177 overall, in the 2014 NFL Draft by the Houston Texans. Robinson was a back-and-forth recruitment between Clemson and Florida before deciding on the Gators. After an underwhelming freshman season in 2013, the Peach State native became one of the top receivers in the SEC in 2014 hauling in 47 passes for 774 yards earning All-SEC honors.
What is the dead period and why is it an important time in football recruiting? Plus, Texas Tech’s loss at quarterback could be Baylor’s gain.
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Adrian Hubbard, No. 54 in 2010 class
Hubbard was one of the most interesting prospects in the 2010 class out of Norcross High in Georiga. The 6-foot-7, 227-pound defensive end was basketball focused until his senior season, but once the word got out, the colleges evaluated the senior riser and began offering. Alabama would eventually win out in early December of 2009 over South Carolina and Florida State. Hubbard was a member of the Crimson Tide’s No. 1-ranked 2010 class that included C.J. Mosley, DeMarcus Milliner and Blake Sims.
Hubbard came to Tuscaloosa as a very raw prospect, and redshirted in 2010. He hit the field in 2011 in a reserve role as an outside linebacker in the Alabama 3-4 finishing the season with nine tackles in nine games.
Hubbard began to realize his potential as a redshirt sophomore starting 12 games at strongside linebacker. In 13 games, the 250-pound pass-rusher totaled 39 tackles, 10 tackles for loss and six sacks for the national champion Crimson Tide.
Hubbard was expected to take his game to the next level as a redshirt junior, but that didn’t happen. After a so-so 2013 season that featured three sacks in the last three games to go with 33 tackles, Hubbard decided to forgo his final season in Tuscaloosa and enter the draft after playing on back-to-back BCS national championship teams of 2012 and 2013.
Hubbard went undrafted in the 2014 NFL draft, but signed a free-agent contract with the Green Bay Packers where he is on the active roster.
Honorable mention: Thomas Tyner, No. 54 in 2013 class. Tyner was a record-setting running back and state champion sprinter coming out of Aloha High in Oregon. As a freshman at Oregon, Tyner flashed his one-cut vertical speed for the Ducks, rushing for 711 yards and nine touchdowns. He has battled injury the last part of 2014 and lost the battle for the No. 1 back to freshman Royce Freeman. He's managed to rush for 387 yards this season, though, for a team heading to the College Football Playoff.
T.J. Yeldon, No. 55 in 2012 class
Yeldon was a heated recruitment between Auburn and Alabama coming out of Daphne High. Yeldon originally committed to Auburn in June of 2011, but had a change of heart in December flipping to hated-rival Alabama. After initially being recruited as a safety by the Alabama staff, the Crimson Tide changed their tune and Yeldon sided with Alabama, where teammate Ryan Anderson was already committed. Yeldon enrolled at Alabama in January a month after flipping and went through spring practice. Yeldon was a member of Alabama’s No. 1 ranked class that included Landon Collins, Amari Cooper, Cyrus Jones, Eddie Williams, Reggie Ragland and Denzell Devall.
Yeldon burst onto the college football scene as a true freshman, topping the 100-yard mark in his first collegiate game. He finished his freshman campaign with 1,108 yards and 12 touchdowns on 175 carries earning SEC All-Freshman team and numerous Freshman All-American teams honors.
Yeldon again topped the 1,000-yard mark as a sophomore after becoming the Crimson Tide’s No. 1 back. He finished the 2013 season with 1,235 yards and 14 touchdowns, and was named first team All-SEC by the leagues coaches.
Yeldon, knocking on the door of a third consecutive 1,000-yard season with Alabama, is set to take on Ohio State in the College Football Playoff semifinals. The 6-foot-2, 220-pound back with excellent feet in the hole has 932 yards and 10 scores in 12 games.
Yeldon is expected to forgo his final season of eligibility in Tuscaloosa and enter the 2015 NFL draft, and be selected in the first three rounds.
Honorable mention: Sam Shields, No. 55 in 2006 class. Shields selected Miami (FL) coming out of Booker High in Sarasota, Florida, in 2006. After playing wide receiver his first three years in Coral Gables, he made the move to cornerback his senior year and quickly found his way to NFL draft board, but went undrafted in 2010 after being arrested for possession of marijuana. He signed a free agent contract with the Green Bay Packers, and is currently in his fifth season with the Packers.
With every passing second, Michigan is falling further and further behind in the recruiting battles for the Class of 2015.
Every other school that has not been touched by college football’s silly season will spend the next three days making in-home visits with recruits’ moms and dads, hosting prospects on official visits or dropping by high schools checking on junior and sophomore targets. Plus, on average most recruits take only two or three visits and for many this weekend puts them at that magic point in their decision-making process and now they’ll be able to hash out a choice with family and friends over the holidays.
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Joey Bosa, No. 56 in 2013 class
Bosa was one of the most heavily recruited defensive line prospects in the 2013 class with offers from many of the nation's top programs. The Under Armour All-America Game selection chose Ohio State in April 2012 over Alabama, Florida State, Florida and Michigan in a recruitment that was essentially over following an unofficial visit to Ohio State in early April. Bosa had family ties to Ohio State; his mom and uncle, former Buckeyes star linebacker Eric Kumerow, attended college in Columbus. Bosa was a member of the Buckeyes 2013 star-studded class that included Vonn Bell, J.T. Barrett, Ezekiel Elliott, Jalin Marshall, Eli Apple and Dontre Wilson.
Bosa made an immediate impact for the Buckeyes. He started 10 games as a true freshman in 2013, collecting 44 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks, earning Freshman All-American team honors from several publications. He was also named honorable mention All-Big Ten by the league's coaches.
Bosa has followed up on the impressive freshman campaign and become one of college football’s top defensive players in 2014. He was recently named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year after recording 20 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks, which both led the conference. Bosa also made a tackle for loss in 14 straight games dating to last season and has a TFL in 17 of the last 18 contests.
Honorable mention: Reese Dismukes, No. 56 in 2011 class. Dismukes picked Auburn over early favorite Alabama out of Spanish Fort High in April 2010. Dismukes is finishing up his fourth year as the starting center for Auburn and this week took home the Rimington Trophy as the top center in college football after a second straight All-SEC first-team selection. The Auburn 2011 recruiting class included offensive tackle Greg Robinson and running back Tre Mason along with Dismukes.
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