NCF On The Trail: Ohio State Buckeyes

Weekend recruiting wrap: Big Ten 

September, 16, 2014
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Penn State picked up some good news from the NCAA, which resulted in more positive news on the recruiting trail this weekend. Ohio State solidified its spot in a top target's list, and a few new offers were extended this week.

Here is a look at the latest happenings on the recruiting trail within the Big Ten.

UA jersey tour: Terry Beckner Jr.

September, 13, 2014
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He’s ranked as the No. 4 player in the country, the No. 1 player in Illinois and the top overall prospect in the Midwest. But there is one honor that five-star defensive end Terry Beckner Jr. said he is most proud of -- being an Under Armour All-American.

Beckner was presented with his Under Armour All-America jersey Saturday in a ceremony sponsored by American Family Insurance at halftime of his football game at East St. Louis (Illinois) High School. Beckner, who has more than 40 scholarships from schools coast-to-coast, said this was a special moment he would never forget.



“This is a big deal,” Beckner said.

Darren Sunkett is one of the longest tenured coaches in the St. Louis area and has coached hundreds of players that have gone on to play college football, but he said Beckner is one of his best ever.

"He has great athleticism for his size,” Sunkett said. “At 6-foot-4 and 300 pounds, he can actually move like he's 6-foot-1 and 185. He's a very athletic kid. We move him around inside and outside depending on the team and scheme we are facing."

Beckner is the first to admit, he is a man of few words, both on and off the field, but Sunkett said to not be fooled by his star defensive lineman’s quiet demeanor.

"Terry is real quiet, not a rah-rah guy, not very vocal and is short on words,” Sunkett said. “But his actions on field speak for themselves. He leads by example. He will meet every challenge he is faced with. He steps up to meet challenges. Terry never misses a weight room session, even during basketball. He is in the weight room after and leading by his efforts as a captain."

As far as recruiting goes, Beckner said he is adamant on waiting until his senior season is over before focusing too much on favorites. At one point he said Missouri was the team to beat for him, but he’s backed off that some and says he’s now “wide open.”

“My focus is on my season now,” he said. “I won’t worry about recruiting until it’s over. I’m an East St. Louis Flyer now and that is what’s important.”

Beckner said his mind is so focused on his senior season that he couldn’t even name which five schools would get an official visit at this point. When asked if Missouri would get one for sure, he said the Tigers “maybe” would. Sunkett said Beckner would likely wait until his season is over before he takes any official visits and with four of his high school games on Saturdays, Beckner is going to have a very limited window for unofficial visits to college games.

"I think Terry wants to play in the SEC, though,” Sunkett said. “He is taking it slow and is more in a wait and see situation. FSU in the ACC is a school he is interested in, too."

LSU, Ohio State and Oregon have been other schools Beckner has talked highly about in the past.

Early Offer: OU's big chance to impress 

September, 11, 2014
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Oklahoma is the place to be this weekend as the Sooners are bringing in a number of elite recruits for what is shaping up to be the biggest recruiting weekend by any program so far, and despite losing last week to Virginia Tech it looks like Ohio State is still in good shape with prospects.


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UA jersey tour: Jashon Cornell

September, 10, 2014
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video Jashon Cornell, a five-star defensive end from Minnesota, took a different route with his recruitment and his all-star game selection than his former teammates.

Cornell hails from Cretin-Derham Hall, which has tradition, history, and has sent plenty of recruits on to the next level. The Under Armour All-American wanted to blaze his own path, which is partially why he chose to play in the Under Armour game.

“At my school it’s a tradition where everybody goes to Notre Dame or Miami and I wanted to start new traditions at my school,” he said. “This was different for me and that’s part of why I’m going to Ohio Sate as well. The Under Armour game is more exciting and it’s out there now.”

Cornell is excited to get to the game, especially after seeing the notable past players, including former No. 1 NFL draft pick Jadeveon Clowney. The ESPN 300 prospect opened up about who he wants to go against in the prestigious game, and a little about himself on and off the field.

Q&A with Jashon Cornell:

What is one player are you looking forward to competing against?: Lester Cotton. I beat him one time before and then the second time he caught me.

If you could start a team with any other player in your class who would it be?: Byron Cowart. I think me and him at defensive end, he just knows the game really well. He’s a great defensive end.

What was your earliest football memory?: It was actually kindergarten. I was playing with third and fourth graders and I started crying. They told me to grow up and this was big boy ball now. I got hit really hard in the Oklahoma drill. I was little and one guy just smacked me.

Which football player did you idolize or want to be like when you were a kid?: My cousin Terrell Suggs. I think that’s one of the people I look up to because he made it out of Minnesota and became successful. He became one of the bset defensive ends and outside linebackers in the game.

If you could take on any pro player in their sport who would it be?: Lebron James. Just to play against him. I know I’m not going to win, but just for the chance to play against Lebron James.

Why do you wear your number?: I wear 9 now. I wore 16 the past two years, but growing up as a kid, from kindergarten to my freshman year I wore the number 9. My sophomore and junior year there were upperclassmen wearing it, so I couldn’t. But now I brought back the number 9. I already requested it at Ohio State, too. They said no one is going to be wearing it so I might be able to.

Weekend recruiting wrap: Big Ten 

September, 9, 2014
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It was an interesting weekend for the Big Ten on the field to say the least. The play on the field has raised a few questions in terms of recruiting, but there were plenty of positives for the conference as a whole.

Because of that, we are here to give you a recap of what took place and what to watch in the future.

Biggest news:


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Early Offer: B1G's losses will hurt 

September, 7, 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: Ohio State and Michigan State likely won’t see any effects of their defeat’s this weekend, but two Big Ten recruiting coordinators believe others like Michigan, Purdue and Northwestern could be hurt by the non-conference losses. Plus, USC should be able to gain some momentum against Stanford after beating the Cardinal. We also continue our tour of the top recruiting happenings on social media.


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Best of the visits: Big Ten

September, 7, 2014
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With all the high profile visitors throughout the Big Ten this weekend, plenty of those prospects took to social media to document their trips.

Here is a look at some of the best posts from the weeekend.

Penn State vs. Akron:

ESPN Jr. 300 Penn State commit Shane Simmons had the chance to show a few fellow recruits why he chose the Nittany Lions. Simmons hung out with receiver Trevon Diggs and teammate J.P. Urquidez.
Notre Dame vs. Michigan:

The Fighting Irish hosted a ton of big visitors themselves. None may have been bigger than ESPN Jr. 300 quarterback Malik Henry, No. 2 ranked prospect in his class.

Henry has Notre Dame very high on his list, as does ESPN Jr. 300 offensive lineman Tommy Kraemer, who also took in the night game.

Fellow ESPN Jr. 300 tight end Jake Hausmann was also in attendance and tweeted out a few pics of his trip as well.
Ohio State vs. Virginia Tech:

The Buckeyes had the biggest visitor list than any other team in the conference. Despite the loss it was still a big night for Ohio State, and an incredible atmosphere for the visiting prospects.

While he isn't a recruit, Lebron James was on hand and on the sideline, which certainly helps the Buckeyes' recruiting efforts.

Ohio State commits Justin Hilliard and Jashon Cornell were doing their best to recruit as many visiting prospects as they could. The two five-stars were with No. 1 ranked prospect Josh Sweat and fellow ESPN 300 prospects Jordan Whitehead and Matt Burrell for a good part of the night.

The Buckeyes certainly were hoping for a win, but the crowd and experience will assuredly carry more weight than the outcome.

Big Ten's top recruiting visits 

September, 5, 2014
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There are plenty of big games within the Big Ten this weekend, but none will have as many high-profile prospects as Ohio State’s night game against Virginia Tech.

[+] EnlargeJosh Sweat
Tom Hauck for Student SportsTop recruit Josh Sweat is visiting Columbus this weekend.
Ohio State has a ton of talent scheduled to be on campus, and this weekend could have a huge impact on future recruiting efforts in Columbus. The Buckeyes aren’t the only team playing in a meaningful game, though, so here is a look at the three biggest recruiting events for this weekend.

Ohio State vs. Virginia Tech:

There is no bigger visitor in the entire country than No. 1 prospect Josh Sweat, who will be at the Ohio State game this weekend. Sweat is taking his first of five official visits and if all goes well, this trip could boost the Buckeyes on his list.

The night game should provide for an outstanding atmosphere, and Sweat will take that in with fellow ESPN 300 prospects Damien Harris, Matt Burrell Jr., Kevin Toliver II and Jordan Whitehead -- among others. Toliver is committed to LSU but just getting him on campus is a win, since he is the No. 5-ranked prospect in the country.

It’s also a big deal to get Whitehead and Harris on campus as Harris recently took a visit to Kentucky, one of the top schools on his list.

This will be a huge weekend for Ohio State with not just the prospects listed above, but even recruits watching at home on their television. No matter the outcome this is a big win for the Buckeyes and future recruiting.


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#SceneAndHeard Lunch Break: Sept. 3 

September, 3, 2014
Sep 3
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ESPN 300 Hines to cut list today

ESPN 300 No. 149 Nyheim Hines will announce his Top 7 at 7 ET tonight. While he's not technically cutting schools from consideration, programs that don't make the Top 7 are essentially out of contention at this point. Among those that are near locks to make the seven are NC State and Duke with North Carolina, West Virginia and Ohio State also good bets. Also in serious contention are Vanderbilt, Georgia, Florida, Virginia Tech and Virginia. The major factor in the speedster's recruitment is his twin sister, Nyah. Nyah has been offered by NC State as a hurdler. Duke was considered the favorite last spring, but things are certainly pointing to the Wolfpack as the current team to beat with the track offer resting with Nyah.


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Recruiting news from the road trip 

August, 29, 2014
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The 10-day road trip is coming to a close with 2,000 miles driven, 20 schools visited and a lot of news from the top players in the Sunshine State.

Miami is Alabama’s threat for No. 1 WR
There has been talk recently of Miami and Florida State’s chances of flipping ESPN 300 No. 21 and Alabama commitment Calvin Ridley. After visiting Ridley, it appears the Hurricanes are the lone true threat to the Crimson Tide. It now appears that Ridley’s recruitment will come down to family and staying close to home vs. the top recruiting power in college football.

Ridley’s teammate and good friend, No. 129 Shawn Burgess-Becker, could be less likely to flip according to a person with knowledge of the situation. While Burgess-Becker’s family very much likes the Alabama staff, expect both Ridley and Burgess-Becker to take in a Hurricanes game or two this season. The duo mentioned Florida and Auburn as Alabama home games they plan to attend this season.


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The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting news from across the country. Today's offerings: UCLA quarterback commitment Josh Rosen is off to a strong start in Week 1, showcasing why he will be a valuable recruiting tool for the Bruins this season. Plus, most of the Pac-12 attention has been on UCLA, USC and Oregon, but don't forget about the quality classes at UofA and ASU, 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: To win at the highest level, Arkansas has to keep the elite local recruits at home. Bret Bielema has done a so-so job of that so far, but if he can land K.J. Hill this week that might help give the Razorbacks some much needed recruiting momentum. Plus, five-star Torrance Gibson put on a show on national television Sunday and potentially gave fans a glimpse as to where he’s leaning, 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.
The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting news across the country. Today’s offerings: Michigan fans have had to stomach some serious ups and downs with the 2015 recruiting cycle, but Wolverine fans looking for positive news can look at the job they've done locally. Plus, Oklahoma is looking to load up at running back and our daily tour of the top recruiting happenings on social media.

[+] EnlargeMike Weber
Tom Hauck for Student SportsRunning back Mike Weber was a big in-state commitment for Michigan.
1. Michigan fans have had to endure an up-and-down recruiting cycle so far in 2015. Early on it looked like the Wolverines were in position to pass Ohio State as the best class in the B1G. But when elite prospects such as running back Damien Harris and athlete George Campbell decommitted, Michigan slid to around the No. 20 range in the class rankings. There’s a chance Michigan could stay there if things don’t go well on the field this season, but if you’re looking for a positive spin on things, take a look at how the Wolverines have done in state in 2015. When ESPN 300 running back Mike Weber committed late last week, it gave Michigan pledges from three of the top four players in-state. Included in that list is Michigan’s top-ranked player, ESPN 300 athlete Brian Cole.

2. Few schools can match the running back tradition Oklahoma has, and with the question marks surrounding Joe Mixon’s future in Norman, the Sooners have made landing multiple running backs a priority in the 2015 class. The good news is that ESPN 300 rusher Rodney Anderson is already on board, and he should fit the Sooners' offense well with his ability to make big plays in the passing game and on the ground. But also keep an eye on OU with ESPN 300 running backs Tyreik Gray and Soso Jamabo. Both are expected to take official visits and could be excellent complements to Anderson in the class.

3. One of the best prospects in the 2016 class has made a commitment to play in the Under Armour All-America Game. Quarterback Malik Henry, the No. 2 player in the ESPN Junior 300 and the top-passer in the 2016 class, announced via Twitter he’s playing in the annual all-star game. Henry recently listed a final four of Notre Dame, UCLA, Ohio State and Florida State.

#FlashbackFriday
Ten years ago today, highly coveted receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey out of Silver Springs (Maryland) McDonogh went public with his commitment to Maryland. The Terps beat out Alabama and North Carolina for his commitment, and even back then in high school he was known as a speedster. He was timed by his high school coach at 4.38 seconds in the 40-yard dash. At Maryland, he improved his speed -- including a school-reported 4.23-second time in the 40 -- and become one of the ACC's best receivers. He finished his career second in school history in career receiving yards, third in receptions and tied for third in touchdown catches. After running a 4.3 40-time at the NFL combine, Heyward-Bey was selected by the Oakland Raiders as the seventh overall pick in the 2009 draft. He spent four years with the Raiders, one year with the Indianapolis Colts and is now with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Social Studies
Social media continues to be one of the most amazing windows into how a school recruits. More and more of those involved with the recruiting process are posting the mailings they receive from schools for the entire world to see. And the mailing from Florida State that was posted on Facebook by Butler (Kansas) Community College coach Troy Morrell caught my attention. For all of the success the Noles have had with high school targets, it’s easy to forget they’ve had plenty of success with two-year prospects also. This mailer highlights some of those success stories, including Tank Carradine and Markus White, who played for Morrell at Butler.

 
ESPN 300 safety Cameron Ordway surprised some observers when he tweeted Thursday he was going to stretch the recruiting process out some. In July, he tweeted he was going to announce his decision in mid-August between Tennessee, Ole Miss, Alabama, Auburn, Florida State, LSU, Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Penn State. The Vols are still projected as the team to beat with Ordway.

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