NCF On The Trail: Houston Cougars

Brandon Martin surprised observers by coming out of nowhere to become one of the nation’s most highly-coveted prospects. He also surprised many when he made a commitment to Missouri last weekend. However, Martin showed us with his latest move, the surprises aren’t over yet.

It is easy to see why Oregon, Texas A&M and Auburn are working hard to land ESPN 300 athlete Kirk Merritt. He might be only a sophomore, but recruiting fans need to learn Joshua Paschal's name.

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A rival recruiter believes Kevin Sumlin’s not-so-subtle message to former Texas A&M pledge DaMarkus Lodge could come back to haunt the Aggies. Plus, one of Florida’s top defensive commitments appears to be looking around.

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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: Oklahoma State's class isn't ranked as the best in the Big 12, but keen observers know Mike Gundy is able to get a lot of talent out of the Lone Star State. Plus, Louisville makes a move with one of the best quarterbacks in the 2016 class, and we continue our tour of the top recruiting happenings on social media.

1. Through the years, few out-of-state programs have recruited as well in Texas as the Oklahoma State Cowboys. Under Mike Gundy, the Cowboys have made a living recruiting in Texas, and the same is true with the 2015 class that ranks as the 23rd best in the county. Eight of OSU's 10 commitments are from Texans, including No. 5 running back Ronald Jones II. Expect more of the same through February, and don't be surprised if OSU is a factor for highly-regarded Texans like receiver Carlos Strickland, defensive tackle Darrion Daniels, offensive tackle Erik McCoy and many others.

[+] EnlargeCameron Scarlett
Tom Hauck for Student SportsCameron Scarlett is one of the up and coming players out of Oregon.
2. There have been plenty of people that have questioned -- including yours truly -- whether or not Bobby Petrino will rebound on the recruiting trail the second time around at Louisville. High school coaches and recruits' parents still have plenty of tough questions for Petrino about his off-the-field incident at Arkansas. But Petrino's offense has always garnered interest from high-profile offensive players. One player that is really interested in the Cards now is ESPN Junior 300 quarterback Keaton Torre. The 6-foot-3, 182-pounder ranks as the top player in Oklahoma and a recent unofficial visit to Louisville pushed the Cards to No. 1 on his list. Landing a quality quarterback like Torre could go a long way toward answering some of those questions.

3. The state of Oregon doesn't have a lot of top-end talent in the 2015 class, but there are several players on the rise. One of those is three-star running back Cameron Scarlett of Portland Central Catholic. Scarlett, who is the No. 2 player in Oregon, set up an official visit to Notre Dame for Oct. 10 and has a final five of Notre Dame, Oregon, Stanford, UCLA and Washington. Scarlett's older brother, Brennan Scarlett, is a defensive end at Cal, but Cameron didn't include the Bears in his final group. The Irish have only one running back committed in this recruiting cycle and Scarlett has been high on Notre Dame for quite some time.

What I'm reading
Here's a look at some of the stories that have caught my attention over the past few days that impact the world of recruiting:

St. Louis is a town that is under-rated nationally for the talent it produces, but recruiters from the SEC, B1G and Big 12 know there's always talent in The Lou. gives readers a baseball card style presentation to preview their top 30 ranked prospects in the city, and it works very well. I'm a big fan of the card for Northern Illinois running back commitment Sutton Smith.'s Florida State/ACC reporter Jared Shanker has a fascinating look at the impact the college graduation transfer rule has had on college football and how it could someday impact elite 2015 quarterbacks like Blake Barnett and Ricky Town.

Tom Wharton of The Salt Lake Tribune has a great look at how Dave Peck at South Jordan (Utah) Bingham has built his program into one of the best in the country and a top spot for recruiters.

Social Studies
ESPN 300 offensive tackle Joshua Wariboko took to Twitter on Monday to announce his top eight schools. He tweeted that UCLA, Texas A&M, USC, Oklahoma, Ohio State, Oklahoma State, Louisville and Cal were in his top eight and he had no leader. Wariboko is a former Oklahoma commitment, but UCLA has been trending with him lately.

Four-star quarterback Ben Hicks wowed at the Elite 11 and many people wondered if a bigger school might be able to come along and sway him from his long-time Houston commitment. Well, don't wonder about it anymore because as Hicks tweeted on Monday that he's signed a financial aid agreement with the Cougs and looks locked in.

After reviewing performances at The Opening last week, here are a few quick hits on how each Elite 11 quarterback performed:

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BEAVERTON, Ore. -- The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today's offerings: Five-star offensive tackle Tim Settle hasn't narrowed his list down yet, but he's not afraid to admit favorites when asked which school has the best food and the best looking girls. Plus, the final Elite 11 rankings featured quarterbacks going to Alabama, Oregon, Texas A&M, USC, Penn State and UCLA, but it also included some surprises.

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The Opening presented by Nike Football will take place July 5-10 at Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon, with 162 of the nation's top high school football prospects set to compete. With four days of dynamic training, competition and recruits targeting uncommitted players to come to their chosen school, there's bound to be some players who see their stock improve and some wild recruiting news that comes out of left field.

Here are five bold predictions of what will happen at the prestigious event:

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States of strength: Texas RBs 

May, 15, 2014
When it comes to running backs, the state of Texas is loaded. Ten running backs represent the Lone Star State in the ESPN 300. Of those 10, five are committed. A total of seven running backs in the state have reported FBS commitments.

ESPN 300 RBs from the state:

No. 50 Ronald Jones II: Ranked the nation’s No. 3 running back, Jones is an explosive, game-changing back who -- as scary as it might sound -- will only get better. Jones committed to Oklahoma State on April 6 and finished his junior season with more than 2,400 rushing yards and 39 touchdowns.

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ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Dallas Elite 11 regional camp on Sunday was certainly one of the most well-attended camps of the season. And while the usual suspects of high-profile quarterbacks in the 2015 and 2016 classes were on hand, there were also many other fine prospects in attendance who are starting to garner more significant attention as college coaches get out on the road this spring.

If you are a follower of the recruiting world, names like Kyler Murray (uncommitted) and Jarrett Stidham (Texas Tech) are now commonplace, but this camp showcased many intriguing prospects who have been slipping under the radar to some degree and should see their stock rise as we head into the fall of their senior years.

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Dallas Elite 11 regional notebook 

May, 4, 2014
ARLINGTON, Texas -- ESPN 300 quarterback and Texas Tech commit Jarrett Stidham battled against roughly 70 quarterbacks from 12 states to win the Dallas Elite 11 regional competition on Sunday and earn an invitation to the Elite 11 nationals this summer.

That was the first part of good news for those who follow Texas Tech football. Having Stidham confirm after the event that he doesn’t plan on taking any outside visits to schools may have been the news that made Red Raiders fans even happier.

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Midyear signings: Houston

December, 19, 2013
According to, the following players have signed with Houston:

Carter Wall OG Richmond, Texas/Navarro College
HT: 6-5 WT: 290
Positional Rank: No. 7 juco OG
Stars: 3

Bear Fenimore QB-PP Austin, Texas/Westwood
HT: 6-3 WT: 234
Positional Rank: No. 63 QB-PP
Stars: 3

Emerald Faletuipapai OT Gardena, Calif./Serra
HT: 6-6 WT: 356
Positional Rank: N/A late-qualifier
Stars: 3

American recruiting class rankings 

October, 16, 2013
Each Wednesday, ESPN RecruitingNation updates its national class rankings and its conference class rankings.

The American is led by a pair of teams on their way out of the league. Rutgers, who will move to the Big Ten, leads the conference with a class that is headlined by four in-state ESPN 300 prospects. Louisville, who will leave for the ACC, is close behind the Scarlet Knights in both the top 40 and AAC ranks. The USF Bulls, who recently picked up three-star ATH Kendall Sawyer, are at No. 3.

1. Rutgers, 24 commits: The Scarlet Knights sit at No. 18 in the class rankings with a class that includes four ESPN 300 prospects. Rutgers is loading up at the skill positions with wide receivers No. 113 overall Saeed Blacknall (Manalapan, N.J./Manalapan) and No. 136 Adonis Jennings (Erial, N.J./Timber Creek Regional), along with running back and No. 286 Jonathan Hilliman (Jersey City, N.J./Saint Peter's Prep). Three-star playmaker Isaiah McKenzie (Plantation, Fla./American Heritage) and wide Kendrick Edwards (Miami/Norland) are two out of the Sunshine State the Scarlet Knights covet.

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Kansas gets combine standout Hartzog

September, 29, 2013
Three-star wide receiver Bobby Hartzog (Houston/Westside) committed Saturday to play in the Big 12 for Kansas, according to multiple reports.

Hartzog, who has an Oct. 18 official visit to Lawrence, Kan. scheduled, was recruited by Jayhawks defensive line coach Buddy Wyatt.

He originally committed to Houston in June, switched to Utah later that month but dropped the Utes in August.

Arkansas State, Iowa State, Lamar, McNeese State, Northwestern State, Texas State, Tulane and UTSA also extended scholarship offers to the 5-foot-11, 182-pound prospect.

Hartzog posted outstanding combine figures this spring on the Nike circuit. His marks included an electronically-timed 4.49 40-yard dash, 4.16 20-yard shuttle, 37.4-inch vertical, 37-foot power throw and 110.91 SPARQ.

The Jayhawks now have nine players on board for 2014. Their class includes two ESPN 300 recruits, one four-star and six three-stars.

Beavers add three-star DB Soesman

September, 27, 2013
Safety prospect Adam Soesman (Clovis, Calif./Buchanan) committed to play in the Pac-12 for Oregon State, according to multiple reports.

Arizona State, Fresno State, Houston, Northwestern, San Jose State and Washington State also extended scholarship offers to the 6-foot-2, 188-pound three-star safety. California showed interest.

This offseason, Soesman posted an electronically-timed 4.87 40-yard dash, 4.39 20-yard shuttle, 33.9-inch vertical, 31-foot power throw and 70.17 SPARQ at a Nike combine.

Oregon State has 13 commitments.

Beavers dip into Texas for Ugwoegbu

September, 16, 2013
Three-star safety Bright Ugwoegbu (Katy, Texas/Seven Lakes) is on board with Oregon State, according to multiple sources.

He made an official visit to Corvallis, Ore. on Sept. 7 for the Beavers' 33-14 victory over Hawaii.

Arkansas State, Fresno State, Houston and Illinois also extended scholarship offers to the 6-foot-2, 190-pound senior. Colorado showed interest.

Ugwoegbu is Oregon State's 11th pledge for 2014.