NCF On The Trail: TCU Horned Frogs

Getting to know DaMarkus Lodge 

April, 17, 2014
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video Throughout this recruiting cycle, RecruitingNation will profile a number of ESPN 300 prospects in the 2015 class, including an inside look at the prospect, his recruitment, a scouting report and what college program could benefit when he ultimately makes his decision.

DESOTO, Texas -- With all the multiple camps, combines and special events happening each spring, DaMarkus Lodge chooses not to be a regular on the circuit.

It’s not that Lodge is against them, or that he thinks he’s above them. The ESPN 300 receiver has simply prioritized his life as a student-athlete. The camp circuit happens to be a middle-of-the-pack priority.


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Even though almost 10 months remain until the next national singing day, teams across the Big 12 have jumped off to fast starts in putting together their 2015 classes.

To catch you up on all the recruiting storylines that have developed so far, we checked in with ESPN.com senior national recruiting writer Jeremy Crabtree and Big 12 recruiting reporter Damon Sayles for their takes:

Which team has impressed you the most with its 2015 recruiting?

Crabtree: With all of the questions West Virginia faced in the offseason and the product the Mountaineers put on the field in 2013, you would think they would be struggling out of the gate with the 2015 class. But it has been the exact opposite. WVU has 10 commitments, including from one of the best receivers in the country, Jovon Durante. West Virginia is selling kids on an opportunity to play early and make a big difference in getting the program back on track. Plus, it has gone back to its roots and mined the very familiar recruiting territory of Florida for some of its best pledges.

Sayles: As much as I like what Texas Tech and TCU have done so far, I have to tip my hat to what West Virginia has accomplished. The Mountaineers have a pair of ESPN Junior 300 players in safety Kendrell McFadden and Durante. The Mountaineers are recruiting the state of Florida well; five of the 10 pledges are from the Sunshine State. West Virginia is off to a fast start, and with the program fresh off a successful spring game, more big-time commits could be coming soon.

Who has disappointed?


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The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today’s offerings: One of the best 2015 prospects in Kansas City learned a lesson about how to handle the recruiting process by watching his teammate go through it this past fall; Iowa picked up commitments earlier this week from twin offensive linemen, helping the Hawkeyes make recruiting waves in the Big Ten; and a West Coast running back is starting to move up the charts with coaches.

Moore savvy about process


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Top position classes: Big 12 

February, 24, 2014
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With national signing day in the books, RecruitingNation is looking at the top position classes in each conference. For the full series, click here.

Quarterback
The TCU Horned Frogs signed two of the Lone Star State’s top 2014 QBs in four-star Foster Sawyer (Fort Worth, Texas/All Saints Episcopal) and three-star Grayson Muehlstein (Decatur, Texas/Decatur). While the question remains about what TCU’s newly revamped scheme will look like under new coaches Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie, both Sawyer and Muehlstein have great size with the desired arm strength and playmaking ability.


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All told, Big 12 schools signed 187 high school players last week.

Where are the Big 12 schools getting their players? I examined every conference class to determine that answer.

The state of Texas, as expected, dominated the yield. But Big 12 schools mined talent from 23 different states and the District of Columbia.

Some thoughts on the data:
  • Even as the competition for talent has exploded there, the Lone Star State remains the lifeblood of the Big 12. There’s no question that Texas is being more nationally recruited than ever. Alabama, LSU, Stanford, Oregon, Notre Dame and even Boise State landed top-15 players from the state. That’s a huge change from just three years ago, when only one top-15 Texas player signed outside Big 12 country. But even as the demand of SEC, Pac-12 and Big Ten schools has expanded, the number of Texas players signing with Big 12 schools has remained consistent. I went back and added up the Texas players who signed with current Big 12 schools in 2009. The tally was 114, only six more than the 2014 total. The Big 12 is still building its class depth in Texas, even if the clash for the elite talents in the state has become even more fierce.
  • How important is Texas to the Big 12? Big 12 schools signed 108 players from the state and only 79 elsewhere.
  • Texas supplied players to every program in the Big 12 except West Virginia. Surprisingly, former Big 12 state Missouri was tied with Florida as the next state that's spreading out its talent, sending eight players to five Big 12 schools. Evidently, Big 12 schools have retained ties to the Show-Me State, even though the University of Missouri is now in the SEC.
  • Combined, Baylor, TCU, Texas and Texas Tech signed a total of 14 high school players from outside Texas.
  • With the SEC encroaching on Texas, several Big 12 schools returned the favor in SEC country. Last week, the Big 12 signed seven prospects from Louisiana, compared with just three in 2009. All told, the Big 12 plucked 29 players from the states of Louisiana, Florida, Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina and Mississippi, including five ESPN 300 prospects.
  • No school has shifted its recruiting focus in the last five years more than Oklahoma. Dating to the Bud Wilkinson era, the Sooners have always depended on Texas players. And while that still remains the case, the Sooners are opening another pipeline to California. OU landed four players from California and only seven from Texas.
  • While Oklahoma has focused west, its Bedlam rival has turned the other way. Oklahoma State has now landed a recruit from Georgia in each of the last four classes. Cowboys defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer grew up and went to college in Georgia, and that connection clearly is paying off on the recruiting trail.
  • With only one FBS prospect in state, West Virginia is the most creative Big 12 school when it comes to recruiting. The Mountaineers have yet to make any inroads into Texas, which could come as the school settles into the Big 12. In the meantime, West Virginia signed players from six different states, not including Washington, D.C. West Virginia had the most Florida players, with five.
  • The Big 12 didn’t get much out of the Kansas high schools this year. Only three players signed with Big 12 schools from the state. Kansas, however, is fertile ground for junior-college help, this year included.
  • The state of Wisconsin tied for ninth in Big 12 signees, thanks to Iowa State, which signed all three Big 12 players there.
  • West Virginia, Iowa State and Kansas State each signed just one in-state high school player.

Top position classes: QBs 

February, 10, 2014
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With national signing day in the books, RecruitingNation is looking at the top position classes. For the full series, click here.

Nationally (and SEC)
The Florida Gators had a major need at quarterback in the Class of 2014, and Will Muschamp and staff more than filled it, signing two of the nation’s top signal-callers. Third-ranked dual-threat prospect Will Grier (Davidson, N.C./Davidson Day School) is already on campus and preparing for spring practice, while No. 7 dual-threat prospect Treon Harris (Miami/Booker T. Washington) was a huge signing-day flip from Florida State. Both prospects are great athletes who are accustomed to operating uptempo offenses. This should also help newly hired offensive coordinator Kurt Roper, who will install a similar scheme in Gainesville.

The Gators had the nation's best QB class; here's which schools had the best in each of the remaining power conferences:


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Top 2015 targets: Big 12 

February, 6, 2014
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A very hectic national signing day has come and gone, but recruiting doesn’t stop after Feb. 5. College coaches now have quickly turned their focus away from the 2014 class and toward the 2015 class.

There are several players in the 2015 class with the potential of signing a national letter of intent to play in the Big 12 around this time next year. Here are five athletes to keep an eye on:


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TCU flips ESPN 300 RB Nixon

February, 4, 2014
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With the 2014 recruiting cycle nearing a close and national signing day less than 24 hours away, TCU secured a big-time late commitment on Tuesday.

The Horned Frogs are set to gain the services of ESPN 300 running back Shaun Nixon (Austin, Texas/Lake Travis), who confirmed to ESPN.com on Tuesday that he has decommitted from Texas A&M and will sign with the Horned Frogs on Wednesday.

Nixon, the No. 221 player in the ESPN 300, is the highest-ranked recruit on TCU's 23-man commitment list and the Horned Frogs' lone ESPN 300 prospect. The 5-foot-10, 180-pound four-star running back is ranked No. 18 nationally at his position and is the No. 24 player overall in Texas. He is the lone running back in TCU's 2014 recruiting class.

Over the weekend, Nixon took an official visit to TCU and seemed to be wavering on his longtime commitment to Texas A&M. He originally committed to the Aggies on Nov. 29, 2012.

The Aggies, who have the second-ranked class in the nation, are down to 22 commitments in their class while still in the running for a few players. They are finalists for three prospects who are announcing their destinations Wednesday on ESPNU: ESPN 300 guard Braden Smith (Olathe, Kan./Olathe South) and River Ridge (La.) John Curtis Christian teammates Mattrell McGraw (an ESPN 300 safety) and Kenny Young (a four-star linebacker).

Nixon was the lone running back in Texas A&M's class, leaving the Aggies with no running backs in the 2014 recruiting cycle. They do, however, already have commitments from a pair of 2015 ESPN Junior 300 running backs: Rodney Anderson (Katy, Texas/Katy) and Jay Bradford (Splendora, Texas/Splendora).

Bold predictions: Big 12 

February, 4, 2014
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One of the best things about national signing day is that, every year, it provides a last-minute surprise. Whether it involves a solid commit with an 11th-hour flip or an uncommitted player choosing a school to shock the masses, the day is good for full-fledged entertainment.

As we prepare for Wednesday, here are five bold predictions that we might see happen within the Big 12:


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Weekend recruiting wrap: Big 12 

February, 3, 2014
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The final week of official visits didn’t disappoint, as four Big 12 schools combined for eight commitments going into Wednesday’s signing day.

TCU was the big winner, landing four players in the 2014 class. Here are some of this past week’s highlights:


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Key recruiting visits -- Big 12 

January, 31, 2014
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It’s the last week of official visits, which means one last chance for coaches to make an impact before national signing day.

While many athletes have decided where they want to play college football, there are still a few players looking to use this final week as a measuring stick. Here are eight players to keep an eye on as they make an official visit. Also included are two 2015 players who will make junior-day appearances.


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Most important targets: Big 12 

January, 28, 2014
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In eight days, many of the nation’s top athletes will seal their college futures with a signature. Between now and Feb. 5, college programs will look to do one of two things, either use a final official visit to sway an uncommitted target or do all it can to flip an already-committed player.

In the last week of recruiting, here is a look at some of the most important remaining targets who could find a home in the Big 12.


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Key recruiting visits -- Big 12 

January, 24, 2014
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With less than two weeks remaining until national signing day, every official visit is huge -- for the athlete and for the program. Some schools are in need of elite athletes more than others.

Here are 10 names to keep an eye on as they take their official visits to Big 12 schools:

1. ATH Lorenzo Joe (Abilene, Texas/Cooper)
Visiting: TCU


A two-hour trek eastbound to Fort Worth is making some Longhorns fans wonder -- and, perhaps, worry. Joe, an ESPN 300 athlete, has been committed to Texas since August 2012, but with the coaching transition from Mack Brown to Charlie Strong, Joe has checked out other options just to make sure Texas is the place for him. Look for TCU to roll the red -- or purple -- carpet out for him.


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Big 12 class rankings analysis 

January, 22, 2014
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When it comes to Big 12 programs, Texas is still the top dog in the ESPN class rankings -- but for how long?

The Longhorns held on to the No. 13 spot nationally and the top spot in the conference, but Oklahoma is surging. The Sooners moved up to No. 16 and are hoping to gain more steam with two weeks remaining until national signing day.

Baylor remains in the top 20 at No. 18, and Oklahoma State dropped one spot, from No. 25 to No. 26. Texas Tech (No. 35) and West Virginia (No. 37) remain in the top 40. Here is a more in-depth look at the Big 12 class rankings:


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National signing day is in 15 days, and while many athletes have finalized their college plans, several questions remain. Will the committed players stay committed? Will the Big 12 programs steal away some of the top players? Will the world be surprised by last-minute changes?

There will be several storylines to watch from now until signing day, but here are five to definitely keep your eyes on:


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