NCF On The Trail: LSU Tigers

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Despite being overcast and rainy, the Orlando Nike regional camp had an incredible turnout of some of the top prospects in the ESPN Junior 300.

The impressive list of prospects in attendance was led by the 30th-ranked player in the ESPN Junior 300, No. 30 Isaac Nauta, No. 32 Feliepe Franks, No. 42 Demetris Robertson, No. 66 Rahshaun Smith and No. 92 Shaq Quarterman. The 10th-ranked player in the country, Nate Craig-Myers, was also in attendance but did not participate due to an injury.

While Saturday’s camp in Miami showcased many defensive top defensive back prospects, the offensive line was dominant on Sunday in Orlando.

No. 14 Trayvon Mullen names a leader 

February, 28, 2015
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PLANTATION, Fla. -- The 14th-ranked player in the ESPN Junior 300, Trayvon Mullen, was one of only four players to get invited to The Opening at the conclusion of the Nike regional football camp on Saturday afternoon.

The 6-foot-2, 170-pound athlete from Coconut Creek (Florida) High School was impressive and won several one-on-one battles against an extremely deep and talented group of receivers at the Nike Football The Opening Miami Regional.

Mullen arrived to the camp decked out in an LSU back pack, jacket and gloves. So is it safe to assume that the No. 1-ranked cornerback in the country has the Tigers on top?

“Right now, yes LSU is my leader,” Mullen said. “I just like the people, coaches and just the atmosphere there. Coach [Corey] Raymond is a great dude. I talk to him everyday actually. He’s just a great guy. We just talk about everything; we barely talk about football. Mostly we just talk about life and things like that.”

PLANTATION, Fla. -- The Nike football camp in Miami is generally regarded as one of the top camps, talent-wise, in the country every year and this year’s camp held at American Heritage School didn’t disappoint.


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After LSU went to Jacksonville, Florida and plucked five-star cornerback Kevin Toliver II for the 2015 class, the Tigers have struck again for 2016. LSU has landed ESPN Junior 300 cornerback prospect Saivion Smith in its 2016 class, making him the Tigers' fifth ESPN Junior 300 verbal, which includes Sunshine State quarterback Feleipe’ Franks.


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On The Trail Show: Saivion Smith commitment

February, 24, 2015
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Top-ranked athlete Saivion Smith, the No. 19 overall player in the ESPN Junior 300, joined RecruitingNation to announce his decision.

Ultimate ESPN 300: Who's next? 

February, 20, 2015
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It’s never too early to look ahead to next year. Here are seven prospects in the 2015 class who could make their mark in future editions of the Ultimate ESPN 300.

DT Daylon Mack (Texas A&M): Last year it was DE Myles Garrett who made a splash for the Aggies, and Mack is expected to do the same in 2015. While Texas A&M returns some quality young defensive tackles, none has Mack's combination of explosive power and quickness plus the ability to be a disruptive force in the backfield.

S Derwin James (FSU):

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Some players flipped their commitments while other’s had memorable signing-day moments. Here is a closer look at the five most intriguing recruitments from the SEC.


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SEC 2015 recruiting in review 

February, 13, 2015
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It was another incredible year of recruiting in the SEC. More than one-third (117 prospects) of the ESPN 300 signed with SEC schools. The conference also signed 12 of the 20 five-star prospects, and 218 four-star prospects. All but two of the 14 SEC schools finished in the top 40 of the final ESPN class rankings. Here is a closer look at the 2015 recruiting cycle in review.


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The days of waiting for youngsters to make impact in college football are over. If you're a top freshman prospect, you're expected to come in and contribute.

So much for slacking on your training before prom.

But more and more, freshmen are proving to be up for the task of immediate playing time and immediate pressure. Coaches aren't afraid to throw these guys into the fire, and it's working out all around the country.

So who are some freshmen to keep an eye on in the SEC from the 2015 class?

Edward Aschoff: DT Trenton Thompson, Georgia
What the Bulldogs needed in this class were hefty, intimidating, athletic defensive linemen. Georgia got all of that in Thompson, a 6-foot-4, 311-pound behemoth who could see immediate playing time for a Bulldogs team in need of help at the defensive tackle spot. With only five scholarship defensive linemen returning, Thompson will have every opportunity to compete for a starting spot. The five-star was the No. 2-rated defensive tackle nationally, according to ESPN’s RecruitingNation, and was named the 2014 Maxwell Football Club’s National High School Player of the Year. Georgia needs a quality plug in the middle who can stop the run and harass quarterbacks. Thompson has everything needed to be that in 2015.

David Ching: DE Arden Key, LSU
I touched on this subject from an LSU perspective earlier this week. The first player I listed in that post was Key, ESPN’s No. 24 overall prospect and No. 6 defensive end, because he can help address an immediate need. LSU must replace starting defensive ends Danielle Hunter and Jermauria Rasco. There is some talent returning – Tashawn Bower seems to be a leading candidate to take over one of the starting spots – but nobody has proven himself as a college player yet. LSU struggled to generate sacks last season, finishing 102nd nationally with just 19. Les Miles and his assistants believe Key can help address that issue right away.

Sam Khan Jr.: S Deionte Thompson, Alabama
The ESPN 300 prospect has good size (6-2, 180) and speed and the advantage of being an early enrollee. Thompson, the nation's No. 3 safety and the No. 65 player overall in the ESPN 300, is a versatile athlete (he was a talented high school track and field athlete) and given the departures at safety for Alabama (two graduated plus Landon Collins declared for the draft) there will be spots available. Don't be shocked if Thompson works his way into one of them and plays well.

Greg Ostendorf: S Jamal Peters, Mississippi State
Peters, ranked No. 40 in the ESPN 300, is the highest-ranked player to sign at Mississippi State since Dan Mullen took over, slightly surpassing current defensive lineman Chris Jones (No. 46). Last week, Mullen was already raving about his new toy at his signing day news conference. With Jay Hughes graduating, there’s an opening at the strong safety spot that’s perfect for Peters to come in and play right away. It’s not an easy position to play early, but Peters has the size and athletic ability to do it. The rest he can learn along the way.

Alex Scarborough: RB Damien Harris, Alabama
I'm tempted to go with Kyler Murray here because I believe he could win the job outright, but the QB position is just too hard to predict. So instead I'll turn to a position that does lend itself to making an impact early: running back. I'm going way down the list of the top players in the country to No. 36 Harris. The nation's No. 2 running back has a chance to make a significant impact from Day 1 with Alabama. T.J. Yeldon and Jalston Fowler off to the NFL, remember, and Kenyan Drake is coming off an injury, Altee Tenpenny has transferred out and Tyren Jones has a history of ending up in the doghouse. If Harris, a well-rounded back, can grasp the offense, he could be a dangerous change of pace to the bruising Derrick Henry.

Derek Tyson: DE Byron Cowart, Auburn
The Auburn defense was tied for 92nd in the FBS in sacks by getting to the quarterback only 21 times last season. That was a point of emphasis for new defensive coordinator Will Muschamp, and no player was bigger than the No. 1 defensive end and No. 1 player overall, Cowart. The five-star prospect was absolutely dominant during the Under Armour All-America game week of practice. At 6-3, 258 pounds, he is already big and athletic enough to see the field early on in his career at Auburn.
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Across the SEC and the Power 5 conferences as a whole, there were several coaching changes made after national signing day.

Once a recruit has signed his letter of intent, he is bound to the school he signed with. It seems unfair to the recruits, who have built relationships with coaches over the past two years just to see them leave for another job as soon as the player signs.

Every high school football recruit, at one time or another, has been told by a coach, parent or mentor to "choose a school not a coach."


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2016 recruits to watch in the SEC 

February, 6, 2015
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With national signing day 2015 complete, attention will now turn to the Class of 2016. There are 33 prospects in the ESPN Junior 300 already committed to SEC schools. Here's a closer look at five players who could be grabbing headlines a year from now.


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BATON ROUGE, La. -- LSU's coaching staff had not fully completed its 2015 signing class before 2016 was already front-and-center in the coaches' minds.

Only three days after national signing day, LSU will stage its "Boys From the Boot" recruiting weekend where it will host many of the state's up-and-coming prospects -- so getting the state's top talent on campus this weekend became an immediate top priority.

"We'll have guys from 2016, 2017 from the state of Louisiana here on our campus," LSU recruiting coordinator Frank Wilson said Wednesday afternoon, "and so we've got Thursday, Friday, we're fighting like hell to get those guys here on campus, and Saturday it's showtime."

This is a good time to make an impression on the prospects who visit Baton Rouge this weekend. Much like 2014, when in-state recruits like Leonard Fournette, Cameron Robinson, Speedy Noil, Malachi Dupre, Trey Quinn and Hootie Jones made Louisiana one of the most competitive recruiting battlegrounds in the country, 2016 is shaping up as another year where the state is loaded with high-end talent.

Five of the top 29 players in the ESPN Junior 300 -- defensive tackles Edwin Alexander, Rashard Lawrence, athlete Shyheim Carter, quarterback Shea Patterson and offensive tackle Willie Allen -- and 12 of the top 105 hail from the Tigers' home state.

Allen was among the players who received a scholarship offer from LSU at the event last year, and there will likely be a number of offers going out this weekend, as well.

"We've done all the communication by way of email, by way of correspondence and literature, camp brochures -- all the things that lead up to this point," Wilson said. "It would be the first time on campus that we describe to them the expectations from our staff, and what we expect from them to be recruitable athletes for us at LSU."

Two priority positions in the 2016 class will be linebacker and defensive tackle -- both spots where LSU did not sign a player in 2015. The Tigers would hit a home run at one of those positions -- defensive tackle -- just by taking care of business in state.

They already have a commitment from 6-foot-4, 349-pound Donavaughn Campbell, but tackles Alexander (No. 7 on ESPN 300 and No. 1 tackle) and Lawrence (No. 16 overall and No. 3 tackle) are the two most coveted prospects from within the state. ESPN's No. 13 defensive tackle Glen Logan also hails from Louisiana.

"You can probably imagine 2016 will be a big year for us defensively, as we return several guys this year and our numbers are probably minus-2 where we would like them to be, but we'll get it with no problem next year at the linebacker position, at the defensive tackle position," Wilson said. "As those guys -- [starting defensive tackles] Christian LaCouture, Davon Godchaux -- as they get older, we'll look to have some parity in the distinction between our sophomores and juniors and the freshman class that will come in.

"So I think we'll have a heavy emphasis on our defensive line, our linebacker position and kind of take the rest of them in stride based on graduation and guys that may opt to go the National Football League."

Junior LaCouture and sophomore Godchaux return as starters, and new defensive line coach Ed Orgeron will also have a number of third-year sophomores (Maquedius Bain, Greg Gilmore and Frank Herron) and redshirt freshmen (Travonte Valentine and Trey Lealaimatafao) at his disposal in 2015. Recruiting the 2016 tackle standouts will not only be about bolstering depth, but solidifying the interior line for several years to come.

"We're very deep, but we have some young players that played very well last year. We have some guys that we redshirted here that we think are going to be great players," Orgeron told ESPN's Niki Noto Palmer on Wednesday. "Obviously we always want to get the best defensive tackle in the country here at LSU. That wasn't available to us this year, but it's a great year for defensive tackles in the state of Louisiana and across the country and we look to sign a bunch next year."

LSU struck out with inside linebacker Leo Lewis on Wednesday, making the position even more of a concern for new defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Kevin Steele over the next year. Only half of the six linebackers LSU signed in 2012 (Lamar Louis, Deion Jones and Ronnie Feist) remain on the roster, and the Tigers signed just two linebackers in 2013 (Kendell Beckwith and Duke Riley) and 2014 (Clifton Garrett and Donnie Alexander) before landing none this year.

Noted recruiters Steele and Orgeron only joined Les Miles' coaching staff three weeks before signing day. That was certainly not enough time for them to make a huge impact in this recruiting cycle, although Wilson said "we couldn't have gotten" Arden Key (ESPN's No. 24 overall prospect and No. 6 defensive end for 2015) without the two new coaches.

However, just wait until this time next year, Miles said, once Steele and Orgeron have had adequate time to connect with recruits.

"In a year you're going to see how good they recruit because they will have relationships that they will carry over for a solid year and then they will have an opportunity to have those men sign with us, first and foremost," Miles said. "But both of those guys know the brand at LSU. Both of those guys played against us. Both of those guys had an opportunity to grow up around this program.

"Ed Orgeron is having a blast being an LSU Tiger and coaching for us and Kevin Steele is, as well. Really it was a natural fit in recruiting. Both guys are professional and know how to do it"
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Stop, for a moment, at the close of another wild and unpredictable signing day, and remember these eight therapeutic words: Not a single football game was played Wednesday.

Now, proceed to lose your mind.

In possibly the final signing day of its kind, college football grabbed the spotlight for its annual, offseason showcase of the bizarre. Winners and losers emerged. Mostly, though, it went off about as scripted -- and by that, we mean totally, beautifully unscripted.

[+] EnlargeSoso Jamabo
Matt Garnett/Icon SportswireSoso Jamabo helped start signing day, and UCLA's run, with his commitment to the Bruins.
Wednesday out West, signs pointed to a raising of the stakes in the Pac-12.

UCLA won the morning with big scores over Michigan for tight end Chris Clark, Texas for athlete Soso Jamabo, Georgia for No. 2 outside linebacker Roquan Smith -- more on Smith later -- and Oklahoma for offensive guard Joshua Wariboko.

The Bruins later snagged receiver Cordell Broadus, son of Snoop Dogg, but by mid-afternoon, the fireworks shifted to the USC Trojans' side of town.

USC won out for top-ranked inside linebacker John Houston Jr., No. 1 cornerback Iman Marshall and defensive tackle Rasheem Green Wednesday, along with athlete Porter Gustin, linebacker Osa Masina and defensive tackle Kevin Scott earlier in January. The Trojans' late rush helped their class finish No. 3 overall.

National champion Ohio State of the Big Ten made a morning splash by retaining the commitment of quarterback Torrance Gibson, who gave late consideration to Auburn and LSU. The Buckeyes flipped offensive tackle Isaiah Prince from Alabama's No. 1 class, which was otherwise largely put to bed weeks ago.

Texas flipped safety P.J. Locke from Oregon to punctuate Charlie Strong's 29-man, No. 9-ranked class that might signal the return to prominence of the Longhorns.

And the SEC added its share of drama, starting with the Auburn-Florida battles, in which former Gators coach Will Muschamp loomed large.

Muschamp's new program beat his old one for linebacker Jeffery Holland and the nation’s No. 1 overall prospect, defensive end Byron Cowart of Seffner (Florida) Armwood.

Cowart, though, failed to fax his signed letter of intent to Auburn for some seven hours while reports bounced back and forth about his eventual decision.

Clearly, he was torn, feeling compelled to consider Florida coach Jim McElwain and his staff, on the job for two months.

"It's not their fault they're new," Cowart said. "In the recruiting process, [coaches] tell you what you want to hear, and when you get there, everything switches."

So ultimately, Cowart went with Auburn -- and the coach he trusted.

The Tigers, after the great start, lost No. 1 offensive tackle Martez Ivey and second-rated defensive end CeCe Jefferson to Florida and top-ranked defensive tackle Terry Beckner Jr. to Missouri.

Tennessee claimed victory with the signing of elite defensive tackle Kahlil McKenzie, a longtime commitment out of California, and the late flip of offensive tackle Drew Richmond from Ole Miss to secure the nation's fifth-rated class -- No. 2 in the SEC.

Ranked No. 1 nationally, for the fourth straight year, was the Crimson Tide.

"One of the very good things about this class is we didn't have a lot of drama today," Alabama coach Nick Saban said. "These guys have been committed to us for a while.
"That's not the way to get the most attention from the media, but that certainly speaks highly of what a commitment means."

LSU, with its new all-star cast of recruiters headlined by Ed Orgeron, finished with good news early in the week on defensive end Arden Key, followed by the Wednesday addition of guard Toby Weathersby -- a former Texas pledge -- and the flip of receiver Brandon Martin from Missouri.

Martin punctuated his change of heart with this hashtag on Twitter.



And then there was the case of Smith, the linebacker out of Macon County High School in Montezuma, Georgia, who announced his choice of UCLA over Georgia on ESPNU but never faxed his letter of intent.

Why? Because in the moments after signing, Smith learned from reporters at his school -- as Georgia coaches furiously called with the same news -- that UCLA defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich was up for a job as the Atlanta Falcons' linebackers coach.

Ulbrich recruited Smith, who plans to wait "a couple days to figure things out," Macon County coach Larry Harold told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Ah, there's nothing quite like signing day, which could change considerably for the next class of recruits if a proposal is approved this spring by the Division I conference commissioners to add a three-day early signing period in December.

So, if this was the last of its kind -- with the full-on drama and star power that only a once-a-year event can provide -- then signing day as we know it went out in style.
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BATON ROUGE, La. -- Based upon his good fortune over the past few weeks, Jeff Grimes should consider buying lottery tickets.

Three weeks after learning that draft-eligible starters Vadal Alexander and Jerald Hawkins would return for another season, LSU’s offensive line coach cleaned up on national signing day -- effectively addressing the Tigers’ biggest area of need for this 25-man recruiting class.

“We signed five offensive linemen and Grimes was a point guy on all of them,” LSU coach Les Miles said. “He just really did a great job.”

LSU’s coaching staff closed out this class of linemen with a flourish. Within the past week, Grimes added a pair of ESPN 300 offensive linemen -- Chidi Valentine-Okeke and Toby Weathersby, a onetime Texas commitment who announced his decision on Wednesday -- to go along with previous commitments from guard Maea Teuhema and tackles Adrian Magee and George Brown Jr.

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Max Olson/ESPNLSU's 10th-ranked recruiting class by ESPN includes standout offensive lineman Toby Weathersby.
Teuhema -- ESPN’s No. 71 overall prospect and No. 2 guard -- is arguably the star of the group. ESPN rated Teuhema as the top offensive line prospect in Texas and Weathersby -- No. 149 overall and No. 9 at guard -- as No. 2.

“The biggest need in this class of course was offensive line, not only because of the guys that graduated in Elliott Porter and La’el Collins and Evan Washington and all those guys, but also because of what we have departing next year,” LSU recruiting coordinator Frank Wilson said. “So we lost several guys and then we have a senior-driven class next year with Jerald Hawkins, with Vadal Alexander and some of those guys who will be draft eligible.

“So we wanted to make sure that we had quality depth in a year where offensive line was heavy, especially from a national perspective. So it was our greatest emphasis in this class.”

Highlighted by their recruiting hauls at offensive line and in the secondary, the Tigers wrapped up national signing day with the nation’s No. 10 class in the ESPN RecruitingNation class rankings.

It was a relatively quiet day at LSU compared to the soap operas that developed at some other programs, but it was not without some drama.

The Tigers landed a signature from Weathersby early Wednesday morning, flipped ESPN 300 athlete Derrick Dillon from Florida, ESPN 300 receiver Brandon Martin from Missouri and closed with Arden Key -- ESPN’s No. 24 overall prospect and No. 6 defensive end -- who committed to LSU late Monday night. They also added late signatures from tight end Foster Moreau and Australian punter Josh Growden while holding on to commitments from running backs Nick Brossette and Derrius Guice.

Conversely, LSU did not sign linebacker Leo Lewis (Mississippi State), receiver Daylon Charlot (Alabama), quarterback Torrance Gibson (Ohio State) and defensive back Justin Reid (Stanford), all of whom had considered the Tigers at some point.

Lewis is probably the most painful miss out of the bunch, as the Tigers failed to sign a single linebacker in this class once former defensive coordinator/linebackers coach John Chavis split for Texas A&M after the season. That will be a key position for LSU’s staff to address in its 2016 class, as the Tigers will also lose several veterans after this fall.

“Certainly we missed on a linebacker that we thought we had as we look into the end of recruiting,” Miles said. “But when you change staff, there’s a point in time where there’s some guys who’ve made relationships with some of our old coaches, and when they left, so did their interest in the school. So we went and made our case the best we could, but what will end up having to happen, certainly, is next year’s class will have to be a very, very heavy linebacker class.”

LSU landed one of the nation’s best groups of defensive back talent, led by five-star cornerback Kevin Toliver -- ESPN’s No. 10 overall prospect and one of four early enrollees along with quarterback Justin McMillan, tight end Hanner Shipley and fullback David Ducre.

Joining Toliver in the secondary will be cornerback Xavier Lewis, junior college safety Jeremy Cutrer and multi-talented athlete Donte Jackson, whom Miles said could get touches on offense and special teams in addition to playing cornerback.

“There’s no finer prospects in America than Toliver and Jackson,” Miles said.

Adding Ducre, Brossette and Guice was also key for a Tigers squad that lost two scholarship fullbacks and two scholarship tailbacks from the 2014 club.

“We didn’t have any scholarship fullbacks, so we needed to address that need at that position group. And then we have two sophomores and bring in two freshmen [at tailback],” Wilson said. “It gives us some leeway some next year where it’s not a position of demand in next year’s class.

“But we like where we’re at in that, only because it gives you quality depth and it’s not stacked. At times we’ve been as high as six, so four is a good number for us because the rotation becomes realistic.”

LSU signed five of ESPN’s top six prospects in Louisiana and seven of the top nine: No. 1 Tyron Johnson, No. 3 Guice, No. 4 Martin, No. 5 Dillon, No. 6 Brossette, No. 8 Lewis and No. 9 Jackson.

Overall, 15 signees will hail from LSU’s talent-rich home state, which Miles and Wilson both said remains their staff’s first priority in recruiting.

“It feels this way to me that there’s a certain style of man that grows up in Louisiana and says, ‘Are you kidding me? This is the only place I want to live,’” Miles said. “I think the degree that comes from LSU, the experience in that stadium of 102,000 that are wildly rabid and very faithful LSU fans, there are those men that just can’t have it any other way. So we present a tremendous opportunity for those people who want to stay in this state.”

Completed class: LSU Tigers

February, 4, 2015
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LSU has announced its 2015 class:

Five-star
Kevin Toliver II CB -- Trinity Christian Academy FL

ESPN 300
Arden Key DE -- Hapeville Charter High School, Georgia
Tyron Johnson WR -- Warren Easton High School, Louisiana
Maea Teuhema OG -- Keller High School, Texas
Chidi Valentine-Okeke OT -- Faith Baptist Christian Academy, Georgia
Derrius Guice RB -- Catholic High School, Louisiana
Brandon Martin WR -- Prime Prep Academy, Louisiana
Derrick Dillon ATH -- Pine High School, Louisiana
Nick Brossette RB -- University Laboratory School, Louisiana
Toby Weathersby OG -- Westfield High School, Texas
Xavier Lewis CB -- East Saint John High School, Louisiana
Donte Jackson ATH -- Riverdale High School, Louisiana

ESPN JC 50
Jeremy Cutrer S -- Mississippi Gulf Coast Comm College, Louisiana

Four-stars
David Ducre RB -- Lakeshore High School, Louisiana
Bry'Kiethon Mouton TE-H -- Acadiana High School, Louisiana
Jazz Ferguson WR -- West Feliciana High School, Louisiana
Adrian Magee OT -- Franklinton High School, Louisiana

Three-stars
George Brown Jr. OT -- Winton Woods High School, Ohio
Isaiah Washington DE -- Edna Karr High School, Louisiana
Justin McMillan QB-DT -- Cedar Hill High School, Texas
Lanard Fournette RB -- Saint Augustine High School, Louisiana
Hanner Shipley DE -- Faith Academy of Marble Falls, Texas

Two-star
Blake Ferguson LS -- Buford High School, Georgia

Ungraded
Foster Moreau TE-Y -- Jesuit High School, Louisiana
Josh Growden K -- Australia

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