NCF On The Trail: TCU Horned Frogs

Top sleeper commits: Big 12 

December, 16, 2014
Dec 16
Five-star and ESPN 300 prospects create the most buzz, but with more than 100 FBS programs competing for talent, it takes more than just those top-rated prospects. Rosters are built with mainly prospects who enter college with little fanfare, but their development and contributions are key to a program’s success. Every year we see prospects who flew under the radar in recruiting but developed into some of their conference's top players.

Throughout our evaluations we come across many players who show promise and based off their upside for development or scheme fit are great additions to their college programs. Here are five headed to the Big 12:

For the longest time it looked like Alabama was going to run away with the title for the top-ranked class, but here comes Florida State. Plus, why the hype around Josh Sweat?

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Class rankings: Dec. 10 update

December, 10, 2014
Dec 10

Alabama, which has already signed three consecutive No. 1 classes, has occupied the top spot in the 2015 rankings since its release. Knocking the Crimson Tide's class, which features 17 ESPN 300 prospects, from the top spot might not be impossible, but it remains a tough task. Despite recently losing a commitment from ESPN 300 WR Daylon Charlot, Bama quickly rebounded, adding a verbal from No. 5 OLB Adonis Thomas. The four-star is reminiscent of 2014 Crimson Tide signee Christian Miller, and possesses excellent size and speed measurables in a hybrid OLB/DE skillset and the versatile defender should fit very well in their base 3-4 defense.

The team that could eventually push Alabama for the top class is Florida State after five-star Josh Sweat picked the Seminoles. FSU, which has had some success recruiting defensive linemen in Virginia with Derrick Nnadi in 2014 and Darvin Taylor II in this class, landed a big commitment in the one-time No. 1 overall prospect Sweat. The No. 2 defensive end is an outstanding athlete with a wonderful combination of speed and power and he can be a versatile and disruptive defender in the Seminoles defense. The current No. 5 player overall in the ESPN 300 was sidelined with a knee injury during his senior season and that could slow initial contributions, but the talented defender is an early enrollee and still possesses great upside with the potential to be an impact player while Tallahassee. The addition of the five-star helped the Seminoles to move into the No. 2 spot in the class rankings.

Inside the rankings

The most difficult thing to do in recruiting is project what a player will be three to five years down the line and perhaps no coach in America does it better than TCU's Gary Patterson. The value of having coached at the mid-major level prior to making the jump to the Big 12 has provided this staff with valuable insight and evaluation tools when it comes to developing players who predominantly will be graded in the 77-82 range for just about all their classes. This was particularly true in the 2012-2014 classes.

This includes players like former WR Josh Boyce (who was lightly recruited) as well as freshman Emmanuel Porter just to name a couple. For TCU, it is about getting the right player -- does he work hard, will he compete and does he have upside in his physical development? Those are the three key things to each TCU class. The other undervalued area that has set the Horned Frogs apart is the staff's ability to project a player at a different position than the one he played in high school. Former TCU great Jerry Hughes was a running back, current safety Sam Carter was a quarterback, OC Joey Hunt was a DT and current starting QB Trevone Boykin was a wide receiver/QB athlete that had to transition to playing QB fulltime.

To see the full rankings, click here.
TCU appears on the way to the first ever College Football Playoff and are reaping the rewards on the recruiting trail in the Class of 2016. On Saturday, a second ESPN Junior 300 prospect joined No. 150 Brennan Wooten when athlete Christian Wallace picked the Horned Frogs.

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While the rest of college football’s Power 5 conferences prepare for conference championship games, three Big 12 teams will be hosting big conference games, and of course, recruits.

Kansas State visits Baylor, and TCU hosts Iowa State in two matchups with major College Football Playoff implications. Bedlam takes place in the Sooner State as Oklahoma hosts Oklahoma State.

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Weekend recruiting wrap: Big 12 

November, 18, 2014
Nov 18
The Big 12 had a relatively slow week, as three games were on tap. The result of the slow week, however, proved to be prosperous for Baylor, as the Bears landed a commit to increase its 2015 class to a baker's dozen.

Here's an in-depth look at how the weekend fared from a recruiting perspective:

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UA jersey tour: Daylon Mack

November, 14, 2014
Nov 14
Picture a 6-foot-1, 330-pound athlete running full speed to make a play -- as a defensive tackle and a short-yard running back.

That’s Daylon Mack, an ESPN 300 defensive tackle who also sees time in the backfield on offensive plays.

Now picture the guy lined up against Mack, who has run the 40-yard dash in 4.8 seconds. Imagine that guy’s thoughts.

“No chance,” said Mack, the Gladewater (Texas) High School standout.

To say Mack has been dominant at the high school level is an understatement. As the nation’s No. 3 defensive tackle, Mack has five sacks on the year and has been a problem for offensive lineman throughout his high school career. He was rewarded for his play Friday during an Under Armour All-America Game jersey ceremony sponsored by American Family Insurance.

But as good as he is on the defensive line, Mack has been a solid ground-game option on offense. As a burly fullback, Mack has scored eight touchdowns this season.

Let Mack tell it, it’s all about being a well-balanced football player and a respected athlete on the field.

“That’s real important to me. I think I learned a lot of that just going through camps,” Mack said. “I have to know technique, and I learned that you’re always going to see someone as athletic as you. I think because of camps, I’m 1,000 times better than I was last year.”

Mack is hoping that athleticism will allow him to see immediate playing time as a freshman in college. Mack is committed to Texas A&M and has been committed since October 2013. Mack, however, added that he still wants to take an official visit to LSU, and he was at TCU on an official visit when the Horned Frogs beat Texas Tech, 82-27, last month.

Mack also will take an official visit to Texas A&M. No dates have been set for the LSU and Texas A&M visits as of yet. Mack’s current priority is to help to advance his team as far in the postseason as possible.

As for being an Under Armour All-American, consider it a bucket-list item happening in roughly six weeks.

“It feels great,” Mack said. “It’s something I’ve been looking at for the longest. Since the seventh grade, I’ve wanted to play in this. I have a chance of a real dream coming true.”

Quick hits on Daylon Mack

Best UA Game player ever: “Myles Garrett. I saw him destroy it last year.”

Better feeling: Scoring TDs or getting sacks? “I’d have to say getting touchdowns. It’s something a defensive lineman doesn’t feel. Sacks are great, too. Whichever changes the game, I guess.”

Why do you wear your number? “I wear 34, but I really want to wear No. 5 in college. I want to wear a single-digit number.”

Favorite football memory: “Last year, I ran a 3-yard touchdown against Henderson (Texas) to get us in the playoffs. Then I ran a 67-yard touchdown at Atlanta (Texas) to get us to the third round.”

What Texas A&M’s #WRTS [We Run The State] hashtag means to you: “It’s just really a hashtag. I feel like it’s a true hashtag with Texas teams, but it’s just a hashtag. It’s helped us bring players in, though.”

Did you know … “I’m a big fan of SpongeBob.”

Weekend recruiting wrap: Big 12 

November, 11, 2014
Nov 11
For Texas, it was lose a player, gain a player. For Texas Tech, it was all about gaining a potential sleeper -- even though it didn’t have the luxury of having the game-day experience as support.

For Oklahoma, it was about impressing the future stars in attendance despite a lackluster performance on the field. For TCU, the concept was simple: Earn a quality win, impress the visitors in attendance and keep the College Football Playoff committee interested.

It was a good weekend for Big 12 recruiting. Here is an in-depth look at how the weekend concluded:

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Big 12 recruiting scorecard

November, 10, 2014
Nov 10
Here is what's happening on the recruiting trail around the Big 12 this week:

Total commits: 12
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: Waco (Texas) Midway four-star safety Kahlil Haughton was on hand to see Baylor embarrass Oklahoma, 48-14, on the Sooners' home field. Both schools are recruiting the elite safety prospect so the Bears undoubtedly made a strong impression on the Class of 2015 prospect.

Total commits: 14
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: ISU’s week on the recruiting trail was a reminder how quickly things can change. The Cyclones landed Navarro Junior College tackle Tristan Nickelson early in the week, only to see him flip his commitment to Texas on Saturday. Rough week in Ames.

Total commits: 14
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: Class of 2016 quarterback Dagan Haehn of Corinth, Texas/Lake Travis was on hand to see the Jayhawks capture their first Big 12 win over the season with a 34-14 triumph over Iowa State. The Jayhawks also offered Shawnee Mission (Kansas) East defensive tackle Kyle Ball.

Total commits: 13
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: It was a rough weekend for the Wildcats on the field, but Bill Snyder’s program is looking at a good “case of the Mondays” after Loganville (Georgia) Grayson linebacker Mohamed Barry committed to KSU Monday morning. The three-star prospect also reports offers from Wisconsin, South Florida, NC State and others. He continues the Wildcats' trend of looking for hidden gems in Georgia as the fourth 2015 KSU commit from The Peach State.

Total commits: 14
ESPN 300 commits: 6
The latest: Along with Haughton, the Sooners had several visitors for the game against Baylor including UCLA commit Will Lockett (Manvel, Texas/Manvel) and current commit Kenneth Mann (Burleson, Texas/Burleson).

Total commits: 15
ESPN 300 commits: 4
The latest: Several Cowboys coaches hit the recruiting trail with OSU on a bye week. The Cowboys also offered junior college offensive lineman Tyler Howell (Butler C.C.), who has offers from Arkansas, Ohio State, Missouri and others.

Total commits: 17
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Horned Frogs hosted several recruits for their game against Kansas State including Class of 2016 prospect Kaleb McNac (Garland, Texas/Lakeview Centennial) and Keion Sutton (Midlothian, Texas/Midlothian).

Total commits: 18
ESPN 300 commits: 9
The latest: The Longhorns flipped Navarro Junior College offensive tackle Tristan Nickelson, who was previously committed to Iowa State. Meanwhile UT lost a commitment when Converse, Texas/Judson safety Keivon Ramsey decided to re-open his recruiting process.

Total commits: 14
ESPN 300 commits: 5
The latest: The Red Raiders added a commitment from Humble (Texas) Atascocita receiver Quan Shorts. The three-star prospect flipped from Texas San Antonio to pledge to Kliff Kingsbury’s program.

Total commits: 21
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: The Mountaineers offered Coconut Creek (Florida) Monarch receiver Cavin Ridley, the No. 264 player in the ESPN Junior 300. Miami (Fla.) and Temple have also offered Ridley, who is the younger brother of Alabama commitment Calvin Ridley, the No. 23 player in the ESPN 300.

Best of the visits: Big 12

November, 9, 2014
Nov 9
It was a big recruiting weekend for Texas and Oklahoma. While the Longhorns impressed on the field, the Sooners had their troubles but still managed to keep their official visitors interested.

In Fort Worth, TCU didn’t have any official visitors, but when building for the future, unofficial visits -- particularly this time of year -- are huge.

Here are some highlights from recruiting visits in the Big 12:

TCU shines in quest for College Football Playoff

In what was arguably its biggest win of the season, TCU dominated Kansas State and helped its chances of a College Football Playoff berth. The Horned Frogs’ 41-20 win was enjoyed by several unofficial visitors.

Before the game, however, high three-star WR commit Jaelan Austin had a premonition about how things would turn out.

Three-star DB Niko Small was in attendance, and he enjoyed his time watching his future team shine. Of the 17 TCU pledges for the 2015 class, Small is the only safety commitment thus far.

TCU's performance put smiles on the faces of several commits, including high three-star CB DeShawn Raymond. TCU’s newest commit paid attention to his future team, and as the game went on, he got more and more antsy about calling Fort Worth home.

The Horned Frogs are looking good for the 2015 class, but they are always keeping their eyes open to find talent in future classes -- particularly after a performance like Saturday. One player on TCU’s radar is 2017 WR Kadarrian Nixon, who leads DeSoto (Texas) High School with 38 receptions -- two more than Kansas commit Kevin Thomas and 10 more than BYU commit Akile Davis.

Nixon made the trip to Fort Worth and checked off a major item on his fledgling recruiting to-do list.

Longhorns impressive in upset win

Texas picked the right time to grab a huge win, downing No. 23 West Virginia 33-16 in Austin. The Longhorns needed a victory to keep their chances of being bowl eligible alive.

In front of a host of official visitors, the Longhorns scored their signature win under Charlie Strong, taking out a ranked West Virginia team that was playing with a lot of confidence. One of the official visitors on hand was ESPN 300 TE Devonaire Clarington, one of five prospects in town from Florida.

Four-star ATH DeAndre McNeal, an in-state prospect, had a chance to pose with Strong before the game. McNeal will make his college decision next month, and the Longhorns are in the hunt, as are Texas A&M, UCLA, Alabama and Miami.

Tim Irvin, another four-star athlete, not only made an official visit to Austin, but he also made sure his attire was proper. Note the coordination with the shorts in this picture.

ESPN 300 CB Kris Boyd was in attendance on an unofficial visit with his younger brother, 2016 LB Demarco Boyd. Texas is battling with Texas A&M for Kris Boyd, a defensive back who could come in and be serviceable immediately in Strong’s defense.

Wins like Saturday’s keep Texas relevant. They also keep the younger recruits interested. ESPN Junior 300 WR Collin Johnson, a Texas commit, made the unofficial visit from California to watch his future squad.

Recruits watch Sooners fall

High three-star DE Kenneth Mann was one of several recruits in Norman to watch Oklahoma take on Baylor. Mann committed to the Sooners in July.

Rarely do we see Oklahoma manhandled. Even more rare is watching the Sooners get manhandled at home. No. 12 Baylor routed No. 15 Oklahoma 48-14 in front of several official visitors, but don’t think one bad loss will be the defining moment for many recruits.

A trio of ESPN 300 athletes, OT Drew Richmond, WR Ryan Newsome and LB Darrin Kirkland Jr., took time out for a photo during the game. Kirkland then tweeted a message that caught the attention of fans all over the country.

Big 12's top recruiting visits 

November, 7, 2014
Nov 7
With the month of November upon us, games are beginning to matter more. Even more so, recruiting visits are becoming more and more important.

There are four games on Saturday’s Big 12 schedule, and while the biggest game of the weekend won't host any official visits, look for two traditional powers to have huge official visit weekends. Additionally, be on the lookout for a couple of standout players giving coaches their verbal commitments.

Baylor at Oklahoma

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Around this time last year, TCU was near the bottom of the Big 12 barrel. The Horned Frogs were fresh off an overtime loss to West Virginia, which ultimately meant being in the middle of losing five of their last six games.

In short, the Horned Frogs weren’t taken seriously. Not by opponents. Not by analysts. Not by many of their fans.

And especially, not by star recruits.

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UA jersey tour: Malik Jefferson

November, 4, 2014
Nov 4
MESQUITE, Texas -- As he sat with his family and his head coach during the Under Armour All-America Game jersey ceremony Tuesday morning, ESPN 300 linebacker Malik Jefferson thought about the road traveled to get to where he is as a football player.

In short, he described it as “a blessing,” and he thought about the people in his life who may have indirectly affected his football career. He thought about his older brother, Tarik Jefferson, a senior linebacker at North Texas.

To be an Under Armour All-American takes sacrifice -- and sacrifice is something Malik said he learned mostly from his big brother. On and off the field.

“He gave me the motivation to work hard,” said Jefferson, the nation’s No. 3 outside linebacker and No. 35 player overall in the 2015 ESPN 300. “I work hard on my own because he wanted to work hard by myself. I remember he would ask me to sit on his back while he did push-ups. He instilled hard work in me and showed me the way. I took notes from Day One. He’s quiet but a hard worker.”

Jefferson the student is now Jefferson the teacher as he prepares for college. At 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds, Jefferson is an absolute playmaker on the field. Few linebackers his size run the 40-yard dash in less than 4.5 seconds. He clocked a 4.39 at The Opening this summer in Oregon.

With more than 30 offers to choose from, Jefferson, a three-year starter for Poteet High School in Mesquite, Texas, is looking at schools such as Texas, Texas A&M, TCU and Baylor, as well as out-of-state schools Alabama, Oregon and Stanford. Jefferson will announce his college plans Dec. 19.

Tuesday’s ceremony, sponsored by American Family Insurance, was icing on the cake for an outstanding high school career.

“I’m very appreciative of everything, and it’s a blessing to know that [Under Armour is] recognizing my true talents,” Jefferson said. “I can’t wait to get there, have fun and compete against the best of the best.”

He then added: “Oh, and to work my tail off.”

Quick hits on Malik Jefferson:

Why do you wear your football number? “I wear No. 46 because of my big brother (Tarik). He wore it in high school, so I took after him.”

Best UA game player:Jadeveon Clowney. Or Julio Jones. He’s an animal.”

Favorite football player:Von Miller. He follows me on Twitter. I was excited when I got that follow.”

In any sport, which celebrity would you challenge? “Drake in basketball. He doesn’t have a jump shot.”

Did you know ... Jefferson is very active with his church. He is a part of a miming group that does a form of interpretive dance.

Weekend recruiting wrap: Big 12 

November, 4, 2014
Nov 4
The month of October was a good one for the Big 12 on the recruiting trail. Expect November to be busier. TCU and Texas Tech both added pledges right before the start of the month, and West Virginia had a handful of recruits in Morgantown over the weekend.

Here’s a recap of what went down in the conference:

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Best of the visits: Big 12

November, 2, 2014
Nov 2
TCU continued to write its own ticket in its quest for a College Football Playoff berth, Kansas State hosted several players from the Peach State and Baylor won big during its homecoming weekend. These were a few of the highlights from a busy week in Big 12 football.

One of the best games in college football on Saturday was TCU’s last-second 31-30 win against West Virginia. While the Mountaineers didn’t win, they managed to impress the many recruits in attendance. Two primary targets in Morgantown were ESPN 300 ATH Jordan Cronkrite and four-star ATH Tim Irvin, who both made the trip from Florida for official visits.
Three-star CB Antonio Howard, another Florida talent, committed to West Virginia back in August. Howard also was in Morgantown, enjoying his official visit. Baylor didn't have any problems with Kansas, and it had a few recruits in town to watch the 60-14 rout. One player who is picking up recruiting steam is LB Trevis Gipson.

A big defender at 6-foot-5 and 200 pounds, Gipson -- the younger brother of Kansas State basketball standout Thomas Gipson -- has a Tulsa offer and Big 12 interest from Baylor, Kansas State, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Tech. ESPN Junior 300 QB commit Zach Smith was in Waco, Texas, as the Bears had several 2016s in attendance. Also in Waco was ESPN 300 OT J.P. Urquidez, who moved from Texas to Maryland but has always had a high interest in playing college football in Texas. It was a big weekend for Kansas State, as three commits and two targets were in Manhattan for official visits. One of those targets is LB Mohamed Barry, who recently decommitted from Wisconsin and set his first official with the Wildcats. Barry, a Georgia talent, also had the chance to hang out with other Georgia standouts in CB Duke Shelley, RB Kalin Heath and WR Isaiah Zuber. All three are Wildcat pledges, and you can bet they were in Barry's ear from the start of the trip. ESPN 300 QB Jarrett Stidham was in Lubbock for Texas Tech's matchup with Texas. Stidham was happy to hear his class added another offensive stud in ESPN 300 WR Carlos Strickland during the week. The Red Raiders lost, 34-13, to the Longhorns, but they're hoping that they can add some defensive help to the class. A huge get for Texas Tech would be four-star DT Darrion Daniels, who was in Lubbock for an official visit. Red Raiders fans are hoping Daniels will be a legacy, as he is the son of former Texas Tech DE standout Tony Daniels.