NCF On The Trail: Penn State Nittany Lions

With a few weeks of senior film to evaluate, ESPN’s scouts have updated the ESPN 300. We are around the midpoint of the season as well, so teams are looking to finish off their classes and fill any remaining needs.

There is plenty to discuss at this point in the Big Ten. Here are five things to know within the conference:

Adam McLean picked Penn State in April, but Ole Miss, Tennessee and others haven't stopped recruiting him, and his high school coach knows exactly why. DeMatha Catholic's 2016 class is shaping up to be one of the best ever in school history, and that's saying a lot.

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A lot of talent has already come off the board, but there’s still quality at the top of the ESPN 300 that could give at least 10 teams a shot at the second-best class. Plus, Penn State's James Franklin continues to be the most talked about coach in the Washington D.C. metro area.

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Michigan commit Garrett Taylor will visit Ohio State, Penn State and Virginia Tech, but keep a close eye on the Buckeyes. Plus, LSU’s elite running back class is starting to fall apart.

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UA jersey tour: Garrett Taylor

October, 15, 2014
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RICHMOND, Va. -- Garrett Taylor looked out at the crowd in the chapel at St. Christopher’s High School before his Under Armour All-America Game jersey presentation ceremony. At first he let out a sigh of frustration and shook his head slightly, but eventually he started to smile.

For Taylor, Wednesday’s ceremony created some bittersweet emotions. Taylor, the nation’s No. 111 player and 10th-best cornerback prospect, suffered a season-ending knee injury in practice earlier this season. The follow up surgery is keeping him off the football field for another four or five months. And while the honor of being recognized as one of the best high school football players in America makes him “thank God every day,” he also admits he’s frustrated because the injury won’t allow him to play in the prestigious all-star game.

“It's been pretty tough,” said Taylor, a longtime Michigan commitment who continues to look at Ohio State, Penn State and Virginia Tech. “All you do over the summer is lifting, running and doing all that, being with the team and getting ready for the season. Then it's gone in a second. I've had my family there keep me in good spirits.

“But I'm looking at it in a good way now. I'm taking this as an opportunity to challenge myself. I have to do everything I can to overcome it. My goal is to come back even stronger and once I do step on the field I want to prove to people I haven't lost anything. It's a chance to prove myself again.”

Unfortunately Taylor knows that chance won’t come at the UA Game, though. He will travel to the event and get to spend some time at the practices leading up to the game, but he’s disappointed he won’t get the opportunity to work with high-level coaches and against the best receivers in the country.


“That’s something I’m going to really miss,” he said. “I knew in the past they had Deion Sanders coaching and some other great coaches. I’m still going to try to learn from those guys, but I’ll just have to do it off the field. I was also hoping to challenge myself and see how I can do against some good receivers. Guess, that’ll have to wait until I get to college.”

What uniform he’ll be wearing when he does that is something that is still up in the air.

Taylor still calls himself a Michigan commitment, but he admits Brady Hoke’s uncertain future in Ann Arbor has him looking at Ohio State, Penn State and Virginia Tech. He’ll take official visits to Blacksburg on Oct. 23, Columbus on Nov. 22, and Happy Valley on Nov. 29.

“It's a little shaky up in Ann Arbor,” said Taylor, who committed to the Wolverines in March. “The program isn't where Coach Hoke wants it to be. It's definitely not where the fans want it to be. There's definitely some pressure on him. For me and my family, I want to make sure we have other options, just in case Coach Hoke gets fired, in case something goes terribly wrong this season. We want to make sure we have other options, and that's why I'm taking my officials.”
The DMV (D.C./Maryland/Virginia) has developed into one of the most competitive areas in the country, so what recruiters do the best job in Washington D.C.? Plus, can Minnesota keep one of the top juniors in the country at home?


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Weekend recruiting wrap: Big Ten 

October, 14, 2014
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There weren't too many big games within the Big Ten this past weekend, but that doesn't mean there wasn't any recruiting news. Offers were extended, commitments were made and decommitments were contemplated.

We take a look at the week that was and what could happen in the future within the conference.


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Ole Miss, Tennessee, Texas and Texas A&M are trying, but it’s going to take a lot to get Penn State defensive tackle commit Adam McLean to change his mind. Plus, James Franklin's ability to spread the Penn State brand in Washington, D.C., was on full display Monday afternoon.

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UA jersey tour: Adam McLean

October, 13, 2014
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Adam McLean was presented with his Under Armour All America jersey on Monday in front of his classmates and teammates. The Penn State commit has been waiting for this day to come for quite some time, saying it’s an honor to be recognized as a player in the game.

There typically isn’t much news around a committed player when they receive their honorary jersey, but McLean said recently that he could have something new to report in the near future.

“I’ve been thinking about taking visits for a couple months now. I sat down with my athletic director and parents and I’m still committed to Penn State, but we think it’s best that I see what else is out there,” he said. “I’ve been committed for six months, so a lot of schools haven’t been talking to me, but I want to get back in touch with some coaches and just make sure my choice was right.”

Ole Miss and Texas A&M are schools McLean says he knows he would like to visit. Ole Miss recently jumped to the No. 3 spot in the AP poll, so there’s no surprise to see some interest, but the Rebels were also a part of McLean’s original top three.

He likely won’t take any visits until after his season, but schools including Michigan State, Florida State, Alabama and Miami also could be in consideration.

The Under Armour All-American has plenty of time to figure things out, so he isn’t in a rush. He also isn’t abandoning his commitment, but is looking to ensure he made the right choice the first time around.

What one player are you looking forward to competing against?: Whoever. I’m just excited to get up there and compete with the best.

If you could start a team with any other player in your class who would it be?: I would pick Taj Griffin. He has some speed. Get him on the outside and it’s a wrap. Speed kills, so I would go with him.

What was your earliest football memory?: I remember I had just turned 6, and I was playing for the ankle biters team. I was playing tailback and I scored four touchdowns in one game. Three different touchdowns I hit people with a stiff arm. I remember it like it was yesterday. After I got past that league I was always playing with guys older than me, so that was a good memory.

Which football player did you idolize or want to be like when you were a kid?: I wanted to be like Michael Strahan. I wanted to play defense like Strahan and I wanted to play offense like Mike Alstott. Freshman year I played linebacker, sophomore year I was a running back and defensive end, so it was around my sophomore or junior year that I got comfortable playing defense.

If you could take on any pro player in their sport who would it be?: Mike Tyson. I used to box, and it’s always been a passion of mine. I still do boxing training to work on my hands. When I was 12 I was going to fight in the 2012 junior Olympics on HBO. I was hardcore boxing, training with world champions. It got to where I needed to get serious about boxing or play football and I chose football. I dropped boxing and went to football full time.

Why do you wear your number?: I wear 42. No real reason, I just love the 40 numbers.

What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?: I’m a really good dancer. Hip hop, all kinds of dance. I can salsa. I think I just got it from my parents, they’re always dancing. As a kid I would always dance with my family and every school dance we would have I would always be the guy in the middle of the circle dancing. I was in a dance group for a little bit in middle school. Me and my friends started a dance group and we joined the talent show.

Big Ten's top recruiting visits 

October, 10, 2014
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Week six is here with recruiting presents for everyone. Unless you aren’t a fan of decommitments, prospects looking around, official visitors and surprise visits. In which case, there are no presents for you.

The Big Ten has all of those storylines wrapped up in one weekend, so here is a look at the most intriguing and important visitors within the conference.

Michigan vs. Penn State:

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Before the season started, the Penn State game was supposed to be the marquee event for Michigan. Its annual night game at home, alternate uniforms and a big list of recruiting visitors was the expectation.

Fast forward to current time and you have a whole different outlook on this game. Fans have talked about boycotting the opening kickoff in protest of athletic director Dave Brandon. The team is 2-4 and rumors are swirling of potential coaching changes at the end of the season.

On top of that, and likely because of that, the visitor list is not what it was expected to be.


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With Brandon Wimbush switching to Notre Dame, where does Penn State turn to fill its need at quarterback? Plus, why should Washington State feel like it has a shot with an ESPN 300 prospect from Washington, D.C.?


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Want to impress a star recruit? Make an entrance at his game like Kevin Sumlin does in the Swagcopter or James Franklin in The Flyin' Lion. Plus, this year’s Red River Rivalry has lost some of its luster with recruits.


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Weekend recruiting wrap: Big Ten 

October, 7, 2014
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We are in the thick of the college football season and recruiting has started to heat up. With commits taking visits, offers going out and prospects committing, there is plenty to talk about within the Big Ten.


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Vols RB commit Alvin Kamara is drawing comparisons to a former four-time Pro-Bowl selection after his fast start. Plus, Michigan seemed to be in great shape for ESPN 300 DE Keisean Lucier-South, but now the Wolverines’ chances are fading quickly.

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