NCF On The Trail: Clemson Tigers

Numbers tell us it’s USC that rules the roost over the years with the top-ranked prospects in California. Plus, UCLA has officially signed Josh Rosen, the Bruins’ most important recruit in years, to a financial aid agreement.

1. Since ESPN started ranking players in 2006, only four different schools have signed the top player in California. Those four schools are USC, Colorado, Washington and Notre Dame. You could say five if you count Eddie Vanderdoes as a Bruin signee in the 2013 class, but he did ink with Notre Dame on signing day and later transferred to UCLA. During that timeframe, though, USC has signed the top California player in the 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2014 classes. The Trojans have a good shot at doing it again in 2015 as many insiders believe five-star cornerback Iman Marshall is USC’s to lose.

[+] EnlargeDeon Cain
Tom Hauck for Student SportsClemson commit Deon Cain has 184 yards passing yards and 197 yards rushing in two games.
2. There was never, ever any doubt about how solid No. 1 ranked pocket-passing quarterback Josh Rosen was to UCLA. But Rosen, the No. 19 player in the country, took his commitment to the next level on Monday when he signed a financial aid agreement with the Bruins. Rosen remains the top-ranked prospect to commit to a Pac 12 program, and in my opinion, he is also the most important recruit in the conference with the Bruins’ quarterback race next season expected to be wide open since most UCLA observers believe Brett Hundley will depart for the NFL after his junior season.

3. How good has Clemson commit Deon Cain been in Tampa Bay (Florida) Tech’s first two games of the season? Cain, the nation’s No. 25 player, has been so good that Tech coach Jayson Roberts said he’s going to have to find somebody else to help do something on offense because he’s afraid he’s going to “break Deon’s back” from carrying the load. “Deon has been about 90 percent of our offense,” Roberts said. “The good thing is that he’s doing exactly what we want him to do, but the bad thing is that somebody else on the team is going to have to step up to help him out. But he’s been doing a tremendous job for us.” So far, Cain has 184 yards passing and 197 yards rushing in two games. He’s also caught a few passes and is returning punts and kickoffs. “He’s doing everything but driving the bus for us,” Roberts said.

Social Studies
There’s little doubt as to which school ESPN 300 quarterback Sheriron Jones is committed to. Check out the picture he posted Tuesday on his birthday.



Schools tweet posts like this one sent out by Baylor Tuesday and fans think they’re meant for them. Wrong. Tweets like these are meant to impress recruits and what’s scary is that the Bears have another good receiver in the 2015 class heading to Waco. Don’t forget about ESPN 300 receiver longtime Baylor commit Devontre Stricklin. He’s got the talent to be a huge impact player for the Bears.



The Under Armour All-America jersey tour continued on Tuesday with Auburn offensive line commitment Bailey Sharp receiving his jersey on Tuesday. To read more about the tour check out RecruitingNation’s coverage.

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The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting news across the country. Today's offerings: James Franklin and Penn State was already building one of the best classes in the country, and Monday's news that the Nittany Lions were eligible for postseason play will help them build an even better class. Plus, recruits across the country agreed with the NFL and the Ravens' decision to distance themselves from Ray Rice, and we continue our tour of the top recruiting happenings on social media.


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The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting news across the country. Today’s offerings: A lot of eyebrows were raised when class of 2017 quarterback Tate Martell committed to Washington, but he proved this past Friday night he’s the real deal. Plus, Oklahoma won’t only be hosting Tennessee next weekend, but the Sooners are also expected to bring in more than 13 impact recruits on official visits. We also continue our tour of the top recruiting happenings on social media.

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The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting news across the country. Today's offerings: Notre Dame has the No. 15 class in the country, but the Irish could quickly climb into the top 10 with a monster recruiting weekend on the horizon. Plus, after Georgia landed star junior quarterback Jacob Eason, the Dawgs have been on a recruiting run at receiver, and we continue our tour of the top recruiting happenings on social media.


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The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting news across the country. Today's offerings: Five-star defensive end Byron Cowart is closing ranks and instead of focusing on the more than 50 schools that have offered him scholarships, he's zeroing in on four schools leading up to his late September decision. Plus, Oregon fans can rest a little easier knowing the Ducks' star running back recruit didn't suffer major damage in his first game of the season, and we continue our tour of the top recruiting happenings on social media.


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Early Offer: The chase for Campbell 

August, 20, 2014
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The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting news across the country. Today’s offerings: Five-star George Campbell has committed and decommitted from Michigan and listed Florida and LSU as teams he’s really high on. But as he gets closer to his decision, don’t be surprised if another team emerges. Plus, ESPN Grade could be a positive recruiting tool for Alabama, UCLA, Ohio State and Stanford, and we continue our tour of the top recruiting happenings on social media.


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Boston College coach Steve Addazio remembers an era when players wanted to redshirt as true freshmen to better prepare them for the final four years of their college career.

"Now it's 'I want to play,' " Addazio, 55, said. "If you're talking about not playing them early, the majority are like 'What do you mean?'"

So, the ability to play or possibly even start as a true freshman has become a regular sales pitch for coaches from the Power Five to the Group of Five. It's certainly a tool in the belt for Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher. Last week, Fisher alluded to the number of freshmen All-Americans he's coached the last four seasons. Twenty-four hours later, it was on the program's official recruiting Twitter page.

"The last [four] years we've had 14 freshmen All-Americans," said Fisher, condensing multiple outlets' freshmen award teams into one, concise Florida State propaganda poster. "If you come in ready to play, we're willing to put you on the field. It's critical for guys to come in saying 'When I'm the best, I'll play.'"

Fisher has the goods to back up his claims, even if the numbers are obviously skewed to best represent his program. But how does his résumé compare to those coaching some of the country's other top programs?

I tried to come up with a way to accurately discern which schools play the most freshmen and decided true freshmen letterwinners was the simplest and most effective way to crunch the numbers. To earn a letter, a player has to actually play consistently through the season. The disclaimer is each program can use different benchmarks when awarding letters, but there is never going to be a perfect way.

I began with Florida State's, looking back at the 2011-2013 classes. To properly quantify the data from Florida State, I decided I'd look at the five schools ranked highest in the preseason polls that have had its coach in place at least five seasons. Oregon's Mark Helfrich was offered an exemption because he was promoted from within and is in his sixth season with the Ducks. Coaches in place at least five years was the stipulation since an incoming coach might be susceptible to playing the prospects he recruited or having a number of transfers that could open up starting or rotational spots.

The criteria: Each class was looked at and the total number of signees was pared down to just those who enrolled as members of the football team in the fall. Junior college signees were excluded, as were any recruits who were academically or medically disqualified before playing a game. That explains why the total number of freshmen for our purposes might look different than what might be seen on RecruitingNation. Any true freshmen who spent a year at a post-graduate or prep school was also excluded. Redshirt freshmen were disqualified, too.

Bottom line is if the player was not a part of the football team the fall following his high school graduation, he was excluded.

Nearly all of the data was collected after poring through media guides and archives, although the communications departments at some of the schools were also helpful providing numbers and deserve recognition.

So, here is the actual data:

 

It is hardly a coincidence that Fisher and Alabama's Nick Saban, who mentored Fisher at LSU, have identical percentages of true freshmen earning a letter. Fisher and Saban arguably have been the two best recruiters over the last few cycles, and, the data shows those two are not going to keep young talent off the field simply because of age. Nearly half of the true freshmen at Alabama and Florida State lettered over the last three seasons.

Mark Dantonio has built Michigan State into a national title contender in a different manor, relying on experience. Only 12 percent of true freshmen lettered over the last three seasons. Recruiting to Michigan State is not the easy task it is at some other top-10 programs, and the Spartans are not recruiting as many ESPN 300-level players as the likes of Alabama and Florida State.

It should be noted Michigan State, Oklahoma and Oregon don't have quite the recruiting base Alabama and Florida State do.

Inquiring minds want to see how that 45 percent stacks up to some of the other top programs in the country, so even though they did not fit the criteria I looked at a few other schools with coaches in place at least five seasons and lately in the top half of the rankings. LSU was worth a look considering it's Les Miles' 10th season in Baton Rouge and, like Fisher and Saban, has recruited exceptionally well for a long period of time. Mark Richt is in his 14th season at Georgia and, like Miles, usually has a highly-regarded recruiting class. Steve Spurrier is in his 10th season at South Carolina and has steadily improved the Gamecocks' class to the point that the 2015 class is No. 5 nationally. Dabo Swinney has turned Clemson from a perennial disappointment into a two-time BCS bowl participant. And Ohio State and Texas A&M, mainly because it's worth seeing how third-year Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer fares considering he frequently voices his preference to avoid redshirting. Kevin Sumlin is also in the process of trying to build an SEC power that can compete with Alabama and LSU in the SEC West.

 

For the Buckeyes, out of the 69 true freshmen to land in Columbus, Ohio, from 2011-2013, 31 lettered -- the same 45 percent. Looking at just Meyer's two seasons, however, he is decimals ahead of Fisher and Saban at 46 percent (21 out of 46), thanks in large part to 14 freshmen letterwinners in his first season.

Georgia's Mark Richt has a percentage of nearly 50 percent, but the Bulldogs' numbers might be the most skewed. Along with South Carolina, the Bulldogs had several recruits that either did not qualify or spent time at a prep school or junior college. Also, Georgia's long list of dismissals and transfers is well documented, and all of the departures has opened up spots for freshmen to earn immediate playing time.

It is Miles, though, who plays a higher percentage of freshmen than all of the others. Twelve true freshmen lettered for LSU in both 2012 and 2013, and another nine earned a letter in 2011. There were a total of 65 applicable freshmen to enter LSU during that span and 33 of them lettered. That's a percentage of 51 percent.

Certainly the numbers will fluctuate year to year, and coaches at every single program are playing freshmen more frequently than ever before. When taking into account the timeline is over three years, LSU averages just one more freshman letterwinner per season than Alabama and Florida State. For our intents and purposes, though, the data shows which top programs consistently play the most freshmen in this new era of freshmen phenoms.

And, uh, FYI, Alabama has 19 ESPN 300 players prepping for their freshmen season this fall. LSU has 16, and Florida State isn't far off with 13 of their own.

ACC recruits who fill biggest needs 

August, 12, 2014
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RecruitingNation takes a look at the 2015 recruits who most fill the needs of each of the ACC schools.


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Clemson has the No. 3-ranked recruiting class for 2015, and more than half of its commitments, including a five-star lineman, signed financial-aid agreements with the Tigers on Friday, six months before signing day.

Five-star offensive tackle Mitch Hyatt (Suwanee, Georgia/North Gwinnett) headlines a group of 13 commitments in Clemson’s 2015 class, which has 21 total pledges, that signed financial-aid agreements with the school on the first day prospects entering their senior year are allowed. All 13 are expected to enroll at Clemson in January.

"We're signing 13 guys to financial aid before we have even played a game,” Tigers coach Dabo Swinney said Friday. “We're excited to have them join the Clemson family."

The NCAA clarified a rule last year that allows for senior recruits planning to enroll in the midyear to sign financial-aid agreements with schools beginning Aug. 1, the same day schools can officially give a recruit a written offer. The financial-aid agreements do not bind the player to the school, but the school is locked into the player unless he is no longer eligible for midyear enrollment. For the recruits, it guarantees their scholarship in Clemson’s 2015 class.

The recruits did not sign national letters of intent and are free to sign financial-aid agreements with multiple schools, but only the school they signed with first receives the contact benefits. With the clarified rule, however, once a prospect signs a financial-aid agreement the school can publicly mention the recruit and is no longer limited to contact restrictions with that recruit. The Clemson coaches are not limited to calling those 13 prospects once a week during the season anymore. Before last year it was taboo for schools to mention a recruit by name before signing a letter of intent, but the Tigers updated its official Twitter account throughout the day Friday welcoming the 13 recruits and sent out a press release announcing the soon-to-be additions.

There is a minor risk in Clemson publicly announcing the 13 recruits, and Swinney said Friday it’s still uncomfortable to be speaking about high school players before they are locked in to Clemson. If any of the 13 players enrolls at a school outside of Clemson, it could be perceived as a recruiting violation for mentioning a prospective student-athlete by name. The NCAA told ESPN.com reporter Mitch Sherman in January one conference office requested it be a violation. Any violation, if the NCAA deemed it as such, would likely be minor in nature.

There is an upward trend with recruits graduating high school a semester early and enrolling in January, and Clemson is taking full advantage. Deshaun Watson, the No. 1 quarterback in the 2014 class, enrolled in January and went through spring practice, and now the Tigers will likely bring in 13 recruits from the 2015 class for the spring semester. The extra semester on campus coupled with the 15 spring practices allows those freshmen to potentially make a greater impact during the season. The Tigers had five early enrollees in the 2014 class.

Six ESPN 300 recruits were among the 13 who signed for Clemson. Hyatt (No. 17) was joined by Jake Fruhmorgen (No. 95), Garrett Williams (114), Ray-Ray McCloud III (150), Noah Green (181) and Shadell Bell (262). Kelly Bryant, Kaleb Chalmers, Zach Giella, Tucker Israel, Tanner Muse, Chad Smith and Van Smith were the remaining recruits to sign financial-aid agreements.

Elsewhere in the ACC, North Carolina announced that two 2015 recruits, Carl Tucker and Anthony Ratliff, signed agreements.
In every class there are must-get recruits for schools. They can be a top uncommitted prospect or even a pledge who is essential to keep in the fold.

Here are the picks for the teams in the ACC, with the prospect's overall ranking.


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Scout's Take: McCloud to Clemson 

July, 29, 2014
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The Clemson Tigers' latest addition, Ray-Ray McCloud III, is an explosive player who has the potential to make highlight-reel plays in all three phases of the game.


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The ESPN 300 for the Class of 2015 has been updated with the 2014 season in clear sight. With the prestigious list updated and the helmets and pads just days away, RecruitingNation takes a look at five things to know for the ACC.


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5-star George Campbell narrows list 

July, 28, 2014
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Five-star athlete George Campbell, a former Michigan recruit, has seen his recruitment skyrocket after backing off his pledge to the Wolverines back in December. Now, the No. 10-ranked prospect has decided to narrow his choices of colleges to 10.


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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Though not as heavy on star-studded talent as in years past, there was still plenty of news at Florida’s Friday Night Lights camp. The day started with the Gators receiving a commitment from three-star offensive tackle George Brown Jr., and ended with some of the top prospects from the Southeast attending the one night camp. Here is a closer look at the top story lines from Friday evening.

ESPN 300 athlete set to decide

The 11th-ranked athlete and the No. 155-ranked player overall in the ESPN 300, Ray Ray McCloud III, will announce his college decision on Monday night.

McCloud didn’t participate at Friday Night Lights but did have a chance to spend some time with current Florida player and pre-season All-SEC selection Vernon Hargreaves III, who like McCloud is also a Tampa native.

"Vernon knows I’m coming from the same place he was a few years ago,” McCloud said. "He just told me to always keep my options open until signing day because you never know what could happen as far as coaching changes. He said to just take my time with the process.”

McCloud will choose between Florida, UCLA, Clemson and Maryland on Monday but his father, Ray McCloud Jr., also added that USF has recently made an impression on his son.

Florida head coach Will Muschamp had one last chance to speak with McCloud before he makes his big decision on Monday and his message was simple.

"He said he wants me to do what I do in my home state,” McCloud said. "He wants me to be a Gator."

Four-star running back remains committed to Miami

Despite Miami signing Joseph Yearby, the No. 4-ranked running back in the country last year, and having three running backs committed this year, ESPN 300 running back Dexter Williams said he remains strong in his commitment to the Hurricanes.

“It would be a good feeling to be in the backfield with them because all of them are great backs and they can do great things,” Williams said. "Wherever you go, there's competition. You've got to beat out your competitor.”

The Florida coaching staff was hoping to changes Williams’ mind on Friday but to no avail.

"They're just saying you can get on the field here," Williams said. "We're only going to take two [running backs]. They're taking four. Just think about it."

Williams admits his own father pushes him to switch his commitment to the Gators.

"He has loved the Gators since he was little, and he wants me to be a Gator a lot," Williams laughed. "So he tells me every morning, 'Be a Gator.' When I told him I was still thinking about it, he said, 'That's the way. That's where I want you to go.'"

Coney has leader, will decide soon

Four-star linebacker Te’Von Coney sent out a tweet recently that said he would be attending the same school as his friend George Brown Jr. On Friday, Brown committed to the Gators and Coney admitted that their packaged deal will likely still happen.

"It was, like, 85 percent true,” Coney said of his tweet. "Florida is my leader right now but I’m still checking out Auburn, Tennessee, Miami and other programs but Florida is still my leader. I’ll probably make my decision soon, like within the next month or so.”

Coney admitted his visit to Gainesville strengthened the Gators chances of landing him.

“I just think Florida’s a great school,” he said. "It’s the Harvard of the South. I can get a great education, they have a great business and engineering school which are two majors I’m thinking about majoring in.

"I think they have a great program and they need linebackers right now to come in and step up and I think Will Muschamp is a great defensive coach and they are always going to have a top defense and that’s what I want to play in."

Prince likes four

ESPN 300 offensive tackle Isaiah Prince was one of the most impressive linemen to attend FNL and received plenty of attention from the Florida coaching staff.

After the event concluded Prince said there are four schools that are standing out right now but he’s likely to add other schools as his recruitment continues.

"Right now, the schools that really stick out to me is Maryland, Alabama, Florida and Ohio State, but I’ll probably have more schools in the mix as I take more visits,” he said.

Though he has no set dates in mind, Prince knows of three schools he would like to visit in the fall.

“This visit helped Florida out a whole lot,” Prince said. "It’s a really nice campus, I want to study sports management and that building is right next to the stadium. I’ll most likely be back for a game in the fall as well as games at Alabama and Ohio State."

The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today's offerings: ESPN.com conducted a survey of the top 300 2015 football recruits, and throughout the week it's been exploring the results. This includes a look at how recruits are open to playing with gay teammates and how they would support unionization, stipends and an expanded College Football Playoff.

So which schools scored with recruits for the best food, top facilities, greatest campus atmosphere and coolest uniforms?


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