NCF On The Trail: Football recruiting

BRADENTON, Fla. -- There were several ESPN Junior 300 members on hand at the IMG7v7 Southeast Regional Championship this weekend on the campus of IMG Academy. The event was headlined by prospects such as quarterbacks Dwayne Haskins and Jack Allison, wide receivers Sam Bruce, Trevon Diggs, Demetris Robertson, Eli Stove and Dionte Mullins, and defensive backs Jamel Cook, K.J. Sails and Tyreke Johnson. Bruce was one of several Miami commits in attendance and has been committed to the Hurricanes since last July. The 5-foot-8, 178-pound playmaker from Fort Lauderdale (Florida) St. Thomas Aquinas said his commitment to the Canes isn’t very solid.

With spring practices under way, it was a big visit weekend in the Big Ten. A number of programs within the conference had some big visitors on hand, so here is a look at some of the top prospects who were on campus and what a few had to say about the visits.

PENN STATE

The Nittany Lions had a ton of big visitors on campus and that included quite a few 2017 prospects.

Lineman Robert Hainsey was one of those recruits on hand, and Hainsey tweeted a picture of the visit.

Cam Spence was another 2017 target in Happy Valley and he too took to Twitter to show off his experience.

The Nittany Lions also had some 2016 prospects, including Damar Hamlin, Michal Menet and Khaleke Hudson to name a few.

NEBRASKA

The Cornhuskers also had some big visitors on campus in Lincoln. Offensive lineman Nathan Smith was one of the bigger targets on hand and Smith tweeted his thoughts on his time on campus.

OHIO STATE

The Buckeyes picked up a huge commitment in 2016 running back Demario McCall, but the coaches had quite a few other big visitors on hand outside of McCall.

ESPN Jr. 300 tight end Luke Farrell was one of those visitors and Farrell currently holds Ohio State very high on his list.

"It went well," he said. "I liked getting to see practice and I liked how they run the position meetings."

Farrell is still planning some other visits, but wants to decide before his season starts.

One of the more important prospects visiting was Texas quarterback Tristen Wallace, who tweeted out quite a few pictures of the visit and time spent with current Buckeyes quarterback Braxton Miller.

MICHIGAN STATE

The Spartans were yet another Big Ten program with a lot of traffic on campus, including Georgia prospects Isaiah Pryor, Russell Halimon, Korey Banks and Jamyest Williams.

Their time spent with the coaching staff was memorable, especially for Williams, who is a defensive back.

"I was just thinking while Coach [Mark] Dantonio was talking, that he can turn two stars into first-round draft picks, imagine when he gets a four-star athlete and what he could do for me," he said.

Michigan State also had ESPN Jr. 300 receiver Justin Layne in for a visit, and Layne tweeted about his time with the coaches.

Layne got a chance to hang out with ESPN Jr. 300 quarterback Messiah DeWeaver, who took a return trip to see Michigan State. DeWeaver will be deciding at the end of April, so this could be an important visit for Michigan State in that race.

"I was there for a couple days," he said. "I saw the ins and outs of practice and had a great time with the coaches and players."

South Carolina was also well represented in East Lansing with Nick McCloud, Josh Wilkes, Greg Ruff, Quay Brown, Jamari Curren and a few others taking the trip.

MICHIGAN

The Wolverines and Buckeyes had the chance to host one of the biggest visitors of the weekend in ESPN Jr. 300 defensive lineman Rashan Gary as well as a few other New Jersey prospects.

ESPN Jr. 300 receiver Ahmir Mitchell was among that group and tweeted out some pictures from their time at Michigan, including one picture at breakfast with Jim Harbaugh.

Michigan coaches offered 2017 defensive lineman Corey Bolds on the visit, who happens to be teammates with Gary.

Athlete Korey Banks received an offer on his visit to Michigan this weekend, and the Georgia prospect came away very impressed with what the Wolverines have to offer.

"It's a Michigan offer. It's always exciting to get a Michigan offer, especially from coach Jim Harbaugh," Banks said. "Of course I'm going to keep them in the running, they pack 118,000 fans in the Big House. What kid wouldn't love that offer, that's a big achievement for me."

Isaiah Pryor isn’t your typical recruit. He is 6-foot-2 and has offers from some of the biggest programs in the country, but there’s something even more unique about the 2017 Georgia prospect. Pryor doesn’t have a Twitter account. He decided that he didn’t have time for it, so he deleted his account. A decision that is rare among kids his age. “I was a little kid and everyone had one, so I created one. I just didn’t use it, so there’s no point in having it,” he said. “Apparently coaches like that, because I’m staying off social media.” That’s not the only unique aspect about Pryor, though. He used to play the saxophone, but had to stop because football prevented him from being in the marching band. He also understands that football allows him an opportunity to get the education he desires. “I want to major in psychology because I’m interested in the human mind and helping people with mental disorders. My mom and dad are nurses and they help people every day, so I just want to be in that field,” he said. “If I have the opportunity to make it to the NFL, I’m definitely going to take it, but I feel like the reason we’re doing all of this is to get an education. After football is over, all you have is your education.” Pryor has already started to do some research on programs and says Ohio State is a school that has stood out for his major. With so many offers already, he is going to have a big decision ahead of him. He and a few fellow Georgia recruits took a few visits over the weekend before heading to the Adidas showcase at the EFT football academy in Illinois.

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Thomas Schaffer didn’t just have to convince his mother to let him play football like most kids; he had to convince her to let him play football half way around the world.

Schaffer and his family live in Vienna, Austria, but the 2016 lineman got a taste for what American football is like in 2012 when he traveled to Texas with the Under 19 Austrian team.

“I was 15 and we played against Panama, Team USA and Japan. When we played I just loved playing, even though I was the youngest guy there,” he said. “It was just a great feeling and I decided then that I wanted to do this on a higher level.”

So Schaffer went back to Austria and told his mother he would travel to America for one year to pursue his new dream. Because academics are very important to the family, and because Shaffer would be traveling alone, he needed to find the right school.

The family found Lake Forest Academy in Illinois, which ranks highly on the academic side and also has a dormitory for its students to live. The only problem was once Shaffer got to his new home, he didn’t want to leave.

“I told my mom that I was going for one year and then it worked out that I said it was really good here and I asked if I could stay longer,” he said. “So it’s turned out to be three years. Next year will be my third year and it’s been very productive so far.”

Productive to say the least. Schaffer, who is not just new to the game, but new to the country, currently holds 18 scholarship offers from some of the biggest schools around the country including Cal, Nebraska, Oregon, Stanford, Vanderbilt and Wisconsin.

The first offer came from Illinois in June 2014. His head coach didn’t tell him until his junior year, though, and the news came as a huge shock. When he told his mother and sent her a link to all his recruiting profile pages, she didn’t really understand what it meant.

When he sent the links and news to his friends back home, who also played football, they were just as shocked as he was.

The offer from the Illini was a big deal, but there was one offer in particular that still stands out to the 6-foot-6, 245-pound lineman.

“There are three big schools in Austria: LSU, Alabama and Oregon. Nick Saban at Alabama and Oregon just because they have swag,” he said. “Oregon was the first team I’ve known about and the coach said they wanted to get in front of me, but I was in Austria for the winter. I sent him some mail and then I called him and they offered me as soon as I got back. It was amazing.”

While his mother is now a little more familiar with the recruiting process, it’s still all very new to the family. The decision to let their son travel alone to a new country was difficult, but one thing is for sure: Schaffer won’t have to do any more convincing for his mother to let him play football in America.

There is little doubt Ohio State will ink a top-10 class in February 2016. Judging by the start to the class and the perfect ending to last season, a top-five finish is a high-percentage bet. The Buckeyes' class added another key and impactful piece on Saturday in the form of running back Demario McCall, giving Urban Meyer five ESPN Junior 300 verbals.

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The Adidas football showcase on Saturday had plenty of talent from all over the country. The prospects competed throughout the day in various drills and one-on-ones while honing their craft with some top-notch training. Here is a look at the camp and some of the prospects through the eyes of social media.

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NEW ORLEANS -- When you have some of the best defensive linemen in the nation in attendance at an event like the New Orleans Opening regional, you expect a lot of great one-on-one battles. And nothing makes for better footage than watching a dominating defensive lineman go to work. Fortunately, high profile prospects like Alabama commitment Raekwon Davis and Edward Oliver did not disappoint at Saturday’s camp.

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NEW ORLEANS -- At 6-foot-7 and 314 pounds, Alabama defensive tackle commitment Raekwon Davis towered over the competition at Saturday's Opening Regional at Joe Brown Park in New Orleans. He also loomed large over his peers with his play. Davis, who is from Meridian (Mississippi) High School and ranks as the nation's No. 243 player, earned an invitation to The Opening finals, which will be held from July 5-10 at Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon. Davis took a little while to get going during drills, but by the time the one-on-ones arrived, he performed admirably, winning repetitions at defensive tackle, defensive end and even offensive tackle.

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Weekly Commitment Roundup

March, 27, 2015
Mar 27
12:53
PM ET

The following is a list of commitments made to FBS programs from March 20-26:

ACC
Boston College
Bryce Morais DE
HT: 6-4 WT: 245
Positional Rank: N/A
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Clemson
Rahshaun Smith OLB
HT: 6-3 WT: 229
Positional Rank: #5 OLB
Stars: 4
ESPN Jr300 (#54)

Duke
Brandon Hill OLB
HT: 6-2 WT: 215
Positional Rank: N/A
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Miami-FL
Jaquwan Nelson DE
HT: 6-4 WT: 230
Positional Rank: N/A
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Pittsburgh
Tony Butler CB
HT: 6-2 WT: 181
Positional Rank: N/A
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Brandon Ford OT
HT: 6-5 WT: 295
Positional Rank: N/A
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Thomas MacVittie QB-PP
HT: 6-4 WT: 205
Positional Rank: N/A
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Virginia Tech
Clay Dean DE
HT: 6-2 WT: 240
Positional Rank: N/A
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Victor Greene OLB
HT: 6-0 WT: 200
Positional Rank: N/A
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Big 12
Texas Tech
Donte Coleman TE-H
HT: 6-4 WT: 220
Positional Rank: N/A
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Big Ten
Penn State
Connor McGovern OC
HT: 6-3 WT: 290
Positional Rank: N/A
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Pac-12
Arizona
Sean Riley RB
HT: 5-9 WT: 165
Positional Rank: N/A
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Oregon State
Devon Clarke S
HT: 6-1 WT: 180
Positional Rank: N/A
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Stanford
K.J. Costello QB-PP
HT: 6-4 WT: 216
Positional Rank: #4 QB-PP
Stars: 4
ESPN Jr300 (#40)

UCLA
Demetric Felton ATH
HT: 5-9 WT: 178
Positional Rank: N/A
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Lokeni Toailoa ILB
HT: 6-1 WT: 212
Positional Rank: #1 ILB
Stars: 4
ESPN Jr300 (#87)

USC
Stephen Carr RB
HT: 6-0 WT: 194
Positional Rank: N/A (2017)
Stars: Evaluation Pending

SEC
Florida
Isaiah Johnson WR
HT: 6-3 WT: 204
Positional Rank: N/A
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Spencer Perry S
HT: 6-3 WT: 205
Positional Rank: N/A
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Independents
Notre Dame
Tony Jones Jr. RB
HT: 5-11 WT: 206
Positional Rank: N/A
Stars: 3

Julian Love RB
HT: 5-11 WT: 175
Positional Rank: N/A
Stars: 3

John Shannon LS
HT: 6-2 WT: 230
Positional Rank: N/A
Stars: Evaluation Pending

American
UCF
Phil Benker WR
HT: 6-1 WT: 190

Malik Mbodji WR
HT: 6-4 WT: 185

C-USA
Southern Miss
Warwick Marsh DT
HT: 5-11 WT: 310

Mid-American
Miami-OH
Stori Emerson WR
HT: 6-2 WT: 190

Toledo
Alonzo McCoy CB
HT: 5-10 WT: 170

Mountain West
Nevada

Alec Simpson OLB
HT: 6-3 WT: 205

San Jose State
Leni Toailoa CB
HT: 6-1 WT: 175

Sun Belt
Texas State
Devin Williams QB-DT
HT: 5-10 WT: 166

Troy
Oshea Grant ATH
HT: 6-0 WT: 180

IMG Academy will play host to the loaded Southeast Regional 7-on-7 this weekend. Top 7-on-7 teams such as the South Florida Express, Florida Fire and Pro Impact will field teams that feature some of the top prospects in the region, including more than two dozen ESPN Junior 300 prospects. Here are five things to watch headed into the weekend.

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NEW ORLEANS -- Many said the absolutely loaded 2014 recruiting class in Louisiana would never be matched. Somebody forgot to tell that to the players in 2016 class. The Bayou State is again stacked, and many of those national recruits will be on display at Saturday’s Nike Opening regional at Joe Brown Park. More than 20 players ranked in the ESPN Junior 300 will be in attendance, including nine of the top 20 players in Louisiana.

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When it comes to quarterback recruiting for the Pac-12, things have changed dramatically from last year. In the 2015 class, ESPN 300 quarterbacks littered the California landscape and few Pac-12 programs even thought about venturing outside of the West region for their quarterback targets. This year, the region hasn’t been especially kind to the conference at the quarterback position in the early going, despite No. 40 overall prospect K.J. Costello announcing his commitment to Stanford on Thursday afternoon.
[+] EnlargeK.J. Costello
Scott Fink/Student SportsWith K.J. Costello headed to Stanford, the quarterback ranks out west are getting thin.
Malik Henry finished his junior season as the top prospect in the West but committed to Florida State then transferred to a high school in Florida. That left quarterback Jacob Eason as the top West prospect, but he removed his name from the uncommitted list very early on, announcing his pledge to Georgia last July. Keaton Torre is the region’s No. 3 quarterback and just recently opened his recruitment back up after committing to Louisville. That leaves Torre and Ian Book as the lone uncommitted ESPN Junior 300 quarterbacks in the West, two of several signal-callers in the region who could see their recruitment pick up with attention now fully shifted away from Costello. Book holds a Pac-12 offer from Washington State and appears to be just behind fellow California quarterbacks Matt Fink and Devon Modster in terms of sought-after signal-callers in the area. Programs that fell out of the Costello sweepstakes moved quickly on either Fink or Modster -- or sometimes both -- and that could also be the case with USC after missing out on Costello. Fink’s Pac-12 offers came from Cal, Colorado, Oregon State, Utah, Washington and Washington State, while Modster holds offers from Arizona, Arizona State, Cal, UCLA, Utah and Washington State. There likely won’t be much urgency at the position for a number of teams in the conference, as many likely believe their 2015 addition can cover up for a somewhat down year in the region at the position in 2016. Arizona, Cal and Oregon are the three Pac-12 programs that appear set at quarterback for the 2016 class, and Stanford can now be added to that list with Costello’s commitment. The Ducks landed their top target in ESPN Junior 300 quarterback Seth Green, while the Wildcats gained a pledge from Khalil Tate as a quarterback when other programs recruited him as an athlete. Cal has a commitment from dual-threat Armani Rogers. Utah does have a commitment from Kahi Neves, though he could play a number of positions for the Utes. USC could go after the aforementioned California quarterbacks, or the Trojans could elect to stand pat at the position, leaving a gap between the two ESPN 300 quarterbacks they signed in the 2015 class and what should be a very good crop of 2017 quarterbacks in the region. Stanford coaches surely were breathing a sigh of relief Thursday afternoon, as they won't have to go through a repeat of what happened in 2015. They went hard after their top -- and only -- target at quarterback and reeled him in.

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video Stanford needed to win the recruitment of ESPN Junior 300 quarterback K.J. Costello on Thursday. The reason is simple: The Cardinal did not sign a quarterback in the 2015 class. David Shaw and his staff placed a huge checkmark next to the quarterback position Thursday when Costello committed to Stanford in front of teammates and media at Santa Margarita Catholic (Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.).

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video The Clemson Tigers continue to prove to be one of the top recruiting staffs in the country. After signing the No. 4-ranked class in February, Dabo Swinney and his staff are at it again. With three ESPN Junior 300 prospects already committed, including, No. 12 Tavien Feaster, the Tigers added another huge pledge Thursday in Rahshaun Smith. Smith joins No. 135 Tavares Chase as Tigers commits from IMG Academy.

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CommitCast: No. 54 Rahshaun Smith replay

March, 26, 2015
Mar 26
8:30
AM ET

OLB Rahshaun Smith, No. 54 in the ESPN Junior 300, announced his commitment to Clemson. Watch the replay and hear why he chose the Tigers.

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