NCF Nation: Football Recruiting

Video: 2015 class rankings update

July, 23, 2014
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National recruiting analyst Craig Haubert joins ESPN's Phil Murphy to break down updates to the ESPN RecruitingNation class rankings for 2015 football recruiting. Nearly a dozen ranked prospects announced college decisions in the last week.
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HOOVER, Ala. -- For better or worse, Nick Saban has a reputation. And after four decades of coaching, it's not likely to change.

He's gruff. He's demanding. He's hard-nosed, unrelenting and oftentimes furious.

He is, according to a survey conducted by ESPN, the most-intimidating coach in college football. Of the 58 recruits who responded to a survey, 22 selected Saban as the most intimidating coach they've spoken with. The next-highest on the list was Urban Meyer, who was selected only seven times.

What's maybe more telling: Among the 58 recruits who answered the question, "Of all the head coaches you've spoken with, who was the easiest to talk with?" none said Saban.

To continue reading this story, click here.
GREENSBORO, N.C. -- The ongoing NCAA investigation into academic fraud at North Carolina hasn't been a focal point in the Tar Heels' locker room, coach Larry Fedora said at Monday's ACC Kickoff, but it's been an ever-present speed bump on the recruiting trail.

The NCAA last month reopened the investigation, which had been concluded in 2012 and which Fedora said he'd believed was closed for good, sparking another round of negative recruiting from competing schools.

"It's not really affecting our team," Fedora said. "The players, they're not concerned with it. They've been hearing about it for three years. It's just old news. The ones it affects is in recruiting. That's where it hits you the hardest. The other schools, that's what they're using when they're recruiting against you."

To continue reading this story, click here.
Maryland and Rutgers are entering their first season as members of the Big Ten Conference, and there are plenty of challenges ahead of both programs on the field. Joining the conference also means there will be new roadblocks on the recruiting trail.

Both programs have dealt with Big Ten schools invading their home states, but now that they are conference foes it becomes imperative they land their in-state recruiting targets.

Being able to fight off the competition means knowing who the competition is and the landscape for both programs. Here is a look at what Maryland and Rutgers are up against.

Video: Updated class rankings

June, 12, 2014
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National recruiting analyst Craig Haubert joins ESPN's Phil Murphy to discuss updates to the ESPN class rankings for 2015 football recruiting.
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As it becomes more and more apparent that some form of an early signing period has a good chance to work its way into college football, it’s time to caution against unintended consequences.

On the surface, an early period -- whether it's before the season, shortly after Thanksgiving, or at some other point -- has been billed as an opportunity for high school seniors to end their recruiting process so they can move on with their senior years. No more phone calls, no more text messages, no more distractions. And for some of these kids, it’ll work out just like that.

Just don’t confuse the notion that because it’ll help make the recruiting process better for some, that it’ll have that effect on a majority. That’s unfounded.

[+] EnlargeDavid Shaw
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsStanford coach David Shaw believes that an early signing period would create more problems than solutions for both players and programs.
Stanford coach David Shaw has been one of the most outspoken coaches in the country against implementing an early signing period for various reasons, but he’s particularly wary of how it’ll change recruiting practices.

"The reasoning behind it is really bad," he said. "I think we should let these young men take as much time as they need without coaches forcing them, because that’s what will happen. College coaches will be pressuring these guys to sign early, and I think that’s wrong."

The rebuttal to this concept seems to be something along the lines of "you can’t force a kid to sign."

For the four- and five-star recruits of the world -- the ones whose recruitments are more heavily publicized -- this is probably true. The player, in this case, holds the upper hand, and coaches will always be more willing to invest more time to land potential stars.

It won’t work that way for the less-heralded recruits, though. They’ll instantly become susceptible to conditional offers -- a program might extend an offer good only through the first signing day. Even if a recruit isn’t ready to make the final call, he could feel compelled to sign anyway out of fear he could miss out on what will ultimately be his best, or only, opportunity.

Not all programs will operate that way, but enough will to change the recruiting game.

The bottom-line result here is that more kids will inherently wind up at places that might not be the best fit. And because of that, it’s hard to envision a scenario in which it doesn’t lead to more transfers. Speculating on how widespread these potential pitfalls would be is nearly impossible to do, but they certainly need to be taken into account before the NCAA moves forward on the issue.

What also needs to get ironed out is how strictly the NCAA will enforce those early letters of intent.

The way Shaw sees it, those kids that get pressured into signing before they’re ready won’t ultimately be held to those commitments if they change their minds down the road.

"There will still be guys that sign in that early signing period that will want to change. Whether it’s because of a coaching change or something else happens," he said. "They’re going to want to change, and [the NCAA] is going to let them out of it."

If that’s the case, then what’s the point?

Shaw’s words have always rung sincere, but it should also be noted that a change to the current system would likely affect Stanford more negatively than other schools because of the emphasis the school places on its academic admission standards. Often times, even with some of the most high-profile recruits, the football coaching staff doesn’t get the green light from the admissions office on specific kids until days before the February signing day.

Those in the Stanford football program aren’t confident that process would change with an earlier signing day, and most hold the opinion that it shouldn’t have to.

Then again, this is the NCAA we’re talking about. Why would academics play a role?

Early signing period FAQ

June, 4, 2014
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College coaches and administrators have debated for years the merits of introducing an early signing period for football. Basketball has long used a system that allows recruits to sign their national letters of intent in the fall and spring, easing the pressure on prospects who wish to end the recruiting process early in their senior years of high school.

Momentum for widespread legislative overhaul -- recruiting rules included -- has again opened serious discussion about an early signing period. In step with the NCAA, the Conference Commissioners Association will consider options for an early date when they meet on June 16.

Many questions remain about how it might work. Here are some of the most frequently asked:

What would an early signing period allow?

Simply, it would provide an option for recruits to sign binding agreements months or weeks in advance of the traditional signing period, which opens on the first Wednesday in February. Prospects who sign early would be subject to the same rules as their peers who sign in February.

When would an early signing period occur?

[+] EnlargeNCAA logo
Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY SportsCould the NCAA soon adopt an early signing period for football?
Proposals have suggested dates from late spring (at the end of prospects’ junior years) to mid-December (at the outset of the current dead period as bowl season opens). Recently, the Atlantic Coast Conference announced that its schools support an Aug. 1 date. The Southeastern Conference offered a recommendation for the Monday after Thanksgiving. Big Ten schools would likely align more closely with the ACC. If an early signing period passes, the most significant legislative hurdle likely involves its placement on the calendar.

Who can make it happen?

The 32-member panel of Division I conference commissioners. The group, which meets annually in June to discuss various topics, operates the letter-of-intent program. According to Susan Peal, NCAA associate director of operations who serves as liaison between the collegiate governing body and the commissioners, an early signing period was added this spring to the commissioners’ agenda after it had not been discussed in such a forum for several years.

Why now?

Because the recruiting process is not slowing down. Just the opposite, in fact. Many prospects make nonbinding pledges to college programs months, even years, in advance of the February signing period. Schools, in turn, continue to exhaust expenses to recruit on these committed prospects. Decommitments have grown into an epidemic that negatively impact college programs and prospects. Additionally, the NCAA clarified legislation last year that allows early enrolling seniors to sign scholarship papers -- different from a letter of intent in that it obligates the school but not the prospect -- on or after Aug. 1. It is commonly believed that an early signing period could alleviate many of the problems associated with each of these issues and the continued acceleration of recruiting.

What year would it go into effect?

This is open for discussion between the NCAA and the conference commissioners. From a logistical standpoint, though, it’s unlikely to affect the Class of 2015. If the conference commissioners reach a decision on change this summer, it’s reasonable to expect it could go into effect next year for the 2016 class.

How would it impact the timing of official visits and other aspects of the recruiting calendar?

Expect significant changes. If the commissioners institute an early signing period, the NCAA-organized recruiting calendar would adjust accordingly. Most importantly, official visits (paid by college programs) would begin earlier -- a development, alone, that would serve as a source of celebration on many campuses. Current rules allow prospects to take official visits no earlier than the start of their senior years of high school. Depending on the date of an early signing period, it’s expected that the NCAA would allow official visits in the previous spring or summer. In turn, the spring evaluation period, which runs April 15 to May 31 of a prospect’s junior year, may also require an adjustment.

What happens at schools that endure postseason coaching changes?

Likely, nothing. A great strength of the letter of intent is its binding power. Though an appeal process exists to nullify the document, such waivers are rarely granted based on a coaching change. Of course, coaching changes would come into play much more often for early signees. Regardless, recruits, as usual, would be advised to pick a college program for reasons other than its coaches. And despite the convenience of signing early, the long list of coaching moves in December and January might serve as a reminder for prospects of the benefit to bypass the early period.

Why do some programs oppose an early signing period?

For a variety of reasons. At Stanford, where coach David Shaw is an outspoken opponent, stringent entrance requirements limit the school’s ability to identify academic-worthy prospects until much later than many of its recruiting rivals. Many schools, primarily in the SEC, have feasted under the current recruiting structure; no need to change it, they figure. Despite the resistance, a majority of college programs favor a refined system. That’s the easy part. We'll soon learn if they can agree on how and when to implement change.
Have you heard the one about the SEC coaches being upset at a former comrade because of his latest recruiting technique? Because those same coaches probably aren't too pleased with a certain independent school from South Bend, Ind., either.

Penn State coach James Franklin, formerly of Vanderbilt, will guest coach next week at a Georgia State camp. So long as the visiting coach isn't running the camp, this is permissible by NCAA guidelines, which bars programs from running prep camps more than 50 miles from campus. The SEC, however, does not allow its coaches to work at camps more than 50 miles from their campuses.

As you can imagine, SEC coaches are crying foul. And in doing so, they are hilarious, as my colleague Adam Rittenberg brilliantly described in a column last week.

News surfaced shortly afterward that Notre Dame was planning to do the same thing next summer at Georgia State, with Panthers coach and former Fighting Irish assistant Trent Miles telling the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the decision was mutual.

“It’s great for us getting the exposure and getting some kids on our campus that Notre Dame will bring because of their name," Miles told the AJC. "I think it will be great for Notre Dame because they have a national presence, and I’m very close to those guys.”

The move makes plenty of sense from Notre Dame's standpoint. The Irish have made no secret about their recruiting desires in the Peach State, having hauled in recent NFL draftees like Stephon Tuitt and TJ Jones from there. Their ACC deal will already give them more exposure in the region and a potential upcoming series with Georgia would only add to that.

Notre Dame's staff also gets the chance to work closely with a bunch of local and regional talent, who won't have to worry about travel and the finances that accompany it.

“I’m hearing that the SEC isn’t really happy but I’m worried about us at Georgia State,” Miles said with a chuckle, according to the AJC. “I’m only concerned about Georgia State, and I have close ties to Notre Dame. If I can do something to help Notre Dame, I will.”

This isn't all entirely new or exclusive to Franklin, Miles and Brian Kelly. Look around the national landscape: Oklahoma State and New Mexico are working camps this summer in Texas. BYU, another independent, is heading West near Los Angeles to guest-coach a camp at the University of Redlands, with coach Bronco Mendenhall tweeting: "Show your skills in front of our coaches in Southern California!"

So long as the rules allow it, satellite camps are no-brainers for programs looking to cast wider nets. Few cast them wider than Notre Dame.
When looking at the top recruiting jobs in college football, it’s not always about looking at final poll rankings or teams that have recently won the most games.

Yes, winning matters, but there are other factors. Location, region and in-state talent are major contributors. Revenues build facilities and pay for the modern-day arms race. National appeal, identifiable former players and recent NFL draft success also have a hand in making an impression on high school athletes.

Here’s a look at the top five recruiting jobs in the country:

SportsNation

Which is the best recruiting job in college football?

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1. Florida Gators

Proximity to out-of-state talent: The state of Florida probably has the most talent in the country, and the Gators also sit five hours from the Atlanta area, with talent bases from South Georgia into Atlanta. The states of Florida and Georgia combined to produce 60 NFL draft picks in the 2014 draft, one more than the states of California and Texas combined (while having less than half the combined population). Gainesville is also relatively close to three other out-of-state hotbeds: Charlotte, North Carolina; Mobile, Alabama; and New Orleans.

Dollars and cents: Florida reported total football expenses of $23,045,846 and total football revenue of $74,117,435 in 2011-12. Florida will benefit greatly from the launch of the SEC Network in August, which is a 20-year agreement between the SEC and ESPN.


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Early Offer: Best recruiting jobs

May, 21, 2014
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National recruiting reporter Jeremy Crabtree breaks down the easiest conferences in which to recruit in college football.
During the ACC spring meetings last week, commissioner John Swofford announced that league coaches are in favor of an early signing period. The topic has long been debated and is up for discussion next month at a meeting of the College Commissioners Association, which governs the national letter of intent program.

So is it a good idea for the ACC to be in favor of an early signing period? Andrea Adelson and Matt Fortuna debate.

Adelson: An early signing period makes sense.

Coaches begin recruiting players earlier and earlier. Players begin making verbal commitments earlier and earlier. They begin enrolling in college earlier and earlier, too. So explain why an early signing period is not in place yet?

[+] EnlargeDave Doeren
Lance King/Getty ImagesDave Doeren is one of the ACC coaches in favor of an early signing period.
Early is the name of the game these days, therefore an early signing period makes sense. There is no reason to prolong an already arduous process unnecessarily. If a player has made up his mind on a school, let him sign early. Makes life much simpler not only for the player, but for the schools that are doing the recruiting, too.

Six of the 14 ACC schools already have seven or more commitments for the Class of 2015. Rather than having an early signing period, the powers-that-be believe it is best for these players to continue to be recruited for nine more months; and for schools to continue to spend money and resources “recruiting” these players. More like baby-sitting.

As NC State coach Dave Doeren told me last week: “There's a lot of young men that commit early that would like to get it over. This is where they’ve wanted to go, have no need to drag it out or have distractions in their life and for us, just a way to know who's coming for sure and where we could use our resources to go recruit other players.”

Yes, there are concerns, especially from schools with higher academic standards. There are concerns about allowing players to sign before their senior seasons. There are concerns about players signing early and then wholesale coaching changes wiping out the staff that did the recruiting. There are concerns that recruiting will turn into a year-round event. But these concerns should not deal breakers.

No school waits until a player's senior year to offer scholarships anymore. Hence all the early commits. Players should be fully aware that coaching staffs can change before they sign on the dotted line. If a player wants to go to a prestigious academic school, then they don’t have to sign early if there is uncertainty about admissions.

Basketball has two signing periods. But the argument is that football is “different.” There are differences, yes, but not enough to keep an outdated model as the norm. Recruiting has changed drastically in the last 10 years. The rules have to change, too. And there are models that could work, even if it means moving the second signing period later than February. Approving an early signing period does not mean every player must sign before they are ready.

But it does gives players and schools more options than they have now.

Fortuna: Keep signing period where it is

All of the points that Andrea makes about everything within the recruiting calendar seemingly being accelerated has plenty of merit. But, to borrow a phrase used oh-so-often last week from officials at ACC and Big Ten spring meetings, the devil is in the details.

SportsNation

Are you in favor of an early signing period for football?

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Coaches recruit earlier, yes. Players verbally commit earlier, sure. But what would happen to the important opportunities that high school kids receive to actually evaluate their options up-close and in-person? This would require many changes to the recruiting calendar rules, perhaps none bigger than the official visit date, which currently prohibits anyone from making an official visit to a school until Sept. 1 of his senior year.

What's more, the date of this early signing period remains very much up in the air. Early summer? Late summer? Sometime in the fall? Good luck trying to gain a consensus on that, as a series by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution showed just how many different ideas are flowing through the minds of head coaches.

And while high school recruits should be more cognizant of who and where they are committing to -- as the possibility for a coach being fired or jumping to another job is always there -- let's not pretend that, as non-noble as it may sound, the fact of the matter is that the majority of recruiting is based on relationships between players, their families and their coaches. Though many schools have their own selling points and will march on regardless of who is in charge, most players are committing to their coaches, not to the logo on their future helmets.

The academic component is an impediment as well, as some schools with higher standards in the classroom don't admit their incoming football players into school until much later in the recruiting process, sometimes as late as right before national signing day. That could create more pressure on prospects from other schools, as those schools could guarantee them entry earlier than the kids' first choices could.

Recruiting has its flaws and is a machine that needs to be tamed in some capacity. But forcing already-confused teenagers to sign away their futures earlier than they currently are is not the answer.
There's a reason you eat breakfast every morning, people. It's the most important meal of the day, as it boosts your metabolism and gives you the added energy to get through the day.

Don't believe me? Well, then just take a look at Georgia running back signee Nick Chubb:

Yeah, that's just his normal, pre-race routine. The four-star prospect and ESPN 300 member was competing in this past week's Georgia state track meet when this awesome picture was snapped. What was supposed to be move to loosen up those legs and joints, turned into a freak show before our very eyes. Chubb had a time of 10.79 in the preliminaries of the Class AAAA 100-meter dash.

Chubb is supposed to have a 40-inch vertical, but that jump right there easily cleared 3.33 feet. I'm pretty sure he could have cleared me and my towering 5-foot-8 frame.

But there's a lot more Chubb could have done with that leap of ... freak:

1. Showing he could hurdle Jadeveon Clowney: Yeah, Clowney's lucky he got out of the SEC when he did, or he'd be subjected to many hurdles from Mr. Chubb. Clowney was a superior athlete when he was on the field, but a jump like that makes you wonder what would have happened when these two met. Chubb might not blow by Clowney, but who needs to run fast when you can just jump over your competition? SEC defensive ends/linebackers beware.

2. Showing Blake Griffin how it's really done: Remember when Los Angeles Clippers star Blake Griffin tried to wow everyone at the NBA Dunk Contest by "jumping" over a car? Well, he didn't. He jumped over part of the hood, leaving so much to be desired in his championship-swindling dunk. Griffin could learn a lot from Chubb, who by my calculations, just cleared that Kia Griffin couldn't with ease.

3. Proving to be a valuable one-two punch with Gurley: We still don't know how healthy Keith Marshall will be, and I haven't seen any freaky photos of other freshman running back Sony Michel, so we're still looking for someone to consistently help Todd Gurley out. But let's forget about learning plays and development. Here's the perfect play for Georgia: Chubb takes the hand off, Gurley runs in front, as they get closer to the end zone, Chubb leaps onto Gurley's shoulders and jumps over the goal line. Best touchdown ever! And don't tell me Gurley couldn't handle it.

4. Showing he could be handy around the football facility: Need a light fixed, but don't have a ladder? Call Chubb. Need to paint the ceiling? Call Chubb. Need to get a ball out of the rafters? Call Chubb. Need someone to jump one of the walls at Foley Field right next to the football complex because Hutson Mason got a little careless with one of his throws? Call Chubb.

5. Bringing the country a real touchdown celebration: For some reason, when New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham dunks a football through goal posts after a touchdown, people get all giddy. OK, he can jump high and has long arms. But Chubb is bringing something way more exciting to the touchdown celebration: He's jumping through the goal posts. Get on Chubb's level, Jimmy!
Spring football, for obvious reasons, is a chance to start fresh. But it’s all a matter of degrees. Auburn, coming off a trip to the BCS National Championship Game, doesn’t need a full-blow makeover with Nick Marshall back under center and seven other returning starters on offense. South Carolina, Mississippi State and Ole Miss, which bring back a healthy amount of experience, are all in similar boats, building upon last year’s success rather than rebuilding entirely.

And then there’s Tennessee.

[+] EnlargeJalen Hurd
AP Photo/Wade PayneRB Jalen Hurd is one of many new faces making an impact for the Vols, and there are more on the way.
Common sense dictates that every year roughly 25 percent of any given roster turns over as the senior class departs and a new freshman class steps in. Throw in a few underclassmen leaving early for the draft and that number can swell to anywhere from 30-35 percent. But Butch Jones isn’t dealing with a normal situation at Tennessee. Since taking over the Vols late in 2012, he has hit the recruiting trail hard in an effort to rework the roster in a hurry. His first full signing class in February featured a jaw-dropping 35 prospects, 14 of which made their way to campus early to participate in spring practice.

“Fifty percent of our players were going through spring practice for the first time,” Jones said on a conference call earlier this month. “We’re still dealing with the realities of building a football program in an elite conference, but I thought out players were very focused. As we continue to move forward, this summer is going to be very big for our overall development in all phases.

“I thought our program benefited from 14 newcomers. I thought they brought a whole other level of energy and competition and that competitive culture that we speak about each and every day. I thought we took tremendous strides improving as a football team and as a football program.”

Tennessee will need to make improvements in leaps and bounds if it wants to stay competitive in the SEC. While the rest of the East lost its fair share of starters (Aaron Murray and Jadeveon Clowney, among others), the Vols were hit where it hurts most as a grand total of zero starters return on either the offensive or defensive lines. Without a true incumbent at quarterback, look for a real youth movement in Knoxville this season, maybe more so than we saw in Year 1 under Jones.

Jones called spring practice “extremely productive” and said that “great progress” was made in terms of developing an identity and style of play. But what had him “very excited” were all the new faces he saw for the 14 practices and spring game.

Jalen Hurd, the No. 8 running back in the ESPN 300, and wide receiver Josh Malone, a fellow four-star prospect who was No. 43 overall in the ESPN 300, made a positive impression on the staff since arriving on campus, and the two were the first to score touchdowns in Tennessee's spring game. Defensive back Emmanuel Moseley, a candidate to start at cornerback, and linebacker Jakob Johnson, whom Jones called an "alpha male," also stood out. Junior college wideout LaVon Pearson, who is 6-foot-3 and was the No. 2 player at his position in ESPN’s Junior College 50, is expected to make a contribution, along with junior college transfer Dontavius Blair, an offensive tackle.

All told, six of the 14 early enrollees were offensive or defensive linemen.

“I thought our older players did a great job of teaching the 14 newcomers our culture, our standard of excellence, our expectations, our mindset, really what it means to play here,” Jones said. “I think it was a big, not a wake-up call, but I think it was great that for the spring game we had almost 69,000 people, and we needed that to happen because we needed to see those youngsters in that type of environment and see how they could compete individually.”

Moving ahead, Tennessee should benefit substantially from a new NCAA rule that allows for more contact between players and coaches during these summer. As Jones said, “the rule change is coming at the right time for us.”

It will be a balancing act, however, because whatever time coaches spend with players will be deducted from the strength and conditioning room. Not only does Jones want his guys getting physical reps, he wants “mental reps in a classroom setting.”

“Being a player-led football team is critical,” he said. “The leadership, and everything that goes along with it, the team chemistry, that’s necessary to win. To be able to have two hours in a classroom setting will prove to be extremely beneficial to us because of the influx of newcomers that we have in our program.”

Don’t look now, but even more rookies are on the way. Safety Todd Kelly Jr. and linebacker Dillon Bates, both top-five prospects at their respective positions, are among the remaining signees to get to school this summer.

“Most of our signees were early enrollees,” Jones said. “Now we get the infusion of the depth and competition with the 18 newcomers coming in. I believe, 16 are on the defensive side of the ball, so we should be a different defensive football team.”


COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Urban Meyer is always trying to find new ways to motivate his players.

Last spring, he had a banner put up in the Ohio State field house reading “The Chase …” in reference to the Buckeyes’ championship pursuits. Meyer said he thought about changing the display for the 2014 offseason. In the end, though, he stuck with the same one.

“We didn’t accomplish it,” Meyer told ESPN.com. “We chased it but didn’t catch it. So the chase is still on.”

Ohio State, of course, nearly made it to its desired finish line. After going 12-0 for the second straight season under Meyer, the Buckeyes just needed to beat Michigan State in the Big Ten championship game to clinch a date with Florida State for the BCS national title. Instead, they fell 34-24 to the Spartans and closed the year on a two-game losing streak with a 40-35 setback against Clemson in the Discover Orange Bowl.

[+] EnlargeUrban Meyer
AP Photo/Jay LaPreteUrban Meyer says Ohio State is still trying to finish "The Chase."
So the chase continues, albeit with a much different-looking team in the 2014 starting gate. Gone is four-fifths of the offensive line that formed the backbone of the Big Ten’s top-scoring offense the past two seasons. Also gone are reigning Big Ten running back of the year Carlos Hyde and top receiver Corey “Philly” Brown, as well as the two biggest stars on defense -- linebacker Ryan Shazier and cornerback Bradley Roby -- who opted to enter the NFL draft.

Experience is lacking in many key areas, but Meyer is ready to let some talented youngsters loose, including true freshmen. In retrospect, he wishes he had done so last year, when defensive end Joey Bosa and receiver Dontre Wilson were the only first-year players to make a big impact until safety Vonn Bell started in the Orange Bowl.

“We redshirted too many last year, and that was our fault,” he said. “There was a misunderstanding, and we just didn’t do a good job, especially on defense. When they show up on campus, we need to get them ready to play.”

This spring, early enrollees Raekwon McMillan (linebacker), Curtis Samuel (tailback) and Johnnie Dixon (receiver) were all heavily involved and have secured roles in the fall. Redshirt freshman are also at or near the top of the depth chart at strongside linebacker (Darron Lee and Chris Worley) and cornerback (Gareon Conley and Eli Apple), while true sophomores like safety Cam Burrows and tailback Ezekiel Elliott could force their way into the starting lineup.

“When you talk about inexperience, that’s a good thing right now,” said Chris Ash, who was hired from Arkansas as co-defensive coordinator to help fix Ohio State’s pass defense. “There aren’t a lot of habits that we have to change to fit what we’re trying to do. We don’t have older guys that are comfortable with where they’re at in their careers.”

An already young offense became even greener this spring because of injuries to three senior leaders: tight end Jeff Heuerman, receiver Evan Spencer and quarterback Braxton Miller. The Buckeyes will no doubt look a lot different when Miller returns from shoulder surgery. During the 15 spring practices, the two-time defending Big Ten player of the year often stood behind the offense and wore a camera on his head so coaches could go over what he was seeing on the field.

“We're exhausting every avenue and even inventing different avenues to make sure he's engaged and getting mental reps,” offensive coordinator Tom Herman said. “We're doing the best we can with a bad situation. He has embraced it and is working his tail off, making sure he’s getting the most out of it.”

Herman says the Buckeyes should be more explosive on the perimeter this season, with guys like Wilson, Dixon, junior college transfer Corey Smith, sophomore Michael Thomas and freshman Jalin Marshall at receiver and a stable of athletic tailbacks. The safeties are longer and quicker than they have been in the past, and the defensive line -- which could be one of the nation’s best -- will have four starters who all used to be defensive ends.

The objective is clear: more speed. To that end, Meyer has hammered a new mantra in the players' heads: “4 to 6, A to B.” That means play hard for four to six seconds and get from point A to point B as quickly as possible. It's hard to interview an Ohio State player these days without hearing the phrase.

“That’s all he’s been preaching this spring.” defensive tackle Adolphus Washington said. “He said he’s not really worried about technique and all that stuff. It’s just about playing hard, because if you play hard, effort makes up for mistakes.”

Washington said the defense was greatly simplified this spring, with only about four or five different calls to learn. Aggressiveness trumped scheme.

“The culture of Ohio State is to go hard, not trick you,” Meyer said. “I just felt like there was too much stuff last year, instead of just going hard.”

By moving faster and playing harder, the Buckeyes hope to overcome their youth and track down what they've been hunting. They have been tantalizingly close.

“We’re still on a chase,” Washington said. “We’ve just got to finish it.”
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UCLA's biggest recruiting victory in 2013-14 didn't involve a high school player.

ESPN.com's recruiting guru Jeremy Crabtree has a nice story on how USC unsuccessfully tried to hire UCLA's ace recruiter and offensive line coach Adrian Klemm away from Westwood. It begins like this:
UCLA offensive line coach Adrian Klemm was returning from a recruiting trip this past December, when he received a call from new USC coach Steve Sarkisian with an offer that all but included the opportunity to use the Trojans' famed white horse, Traveler, any time he wanted to avoid traffic on the 405. But UCLA coach Jim Mora wasn't about to lose one of his top assistants to the school across town, so he did what any good coach would do. He made an in-home visit and left with a commitment.

Sark's a smart guy. He knows that Klemm is an elite coach and recruiter, and luring him away from a crosstown archrival would make the hiring a double-whammy.

And Mora is a smart guy, too.
"I was out of town recruiting, and I landed and drove right to his house at about 10 at night," Mora said. "I think I stayed until till or 1 or 2, until I was sure USC wasn't going to come by. ... Until he signed that contract, I wasn't leaving. I wasn't going to lose him."

It's an interesting story because it touches a lot of bases -- the recruiting process, a battle between rival coaches -- it's also notable that Sarkisian and Mora are (were?) friends -- and a rising coaching talent and how he became so coveted.

Definitely worth a read, even you're not a Bruin or Trojan.

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