NCF On The Trail: Texas Longhorns

Big 12's top recruiting visits 

January, 30, 2015
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It's not a huge visit weekend in the Big 12 with most programs having the bulk of their class locked in and most recruits already committed to the school of their choice.

Yet Kansas State, Oklahoma and Texas are among the Big 12 schools that will be hosting prospects that could end up filling a need or stand as one of the top signees in their Class of 2015.

Weekend recruiting wrap: Big 12 

January, 27, 2015
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Oklahoma State landed an ESPN 300 prospect, questions arose for Texas, and Kansas continues making inroads in Texas.

These, and more, in this week's Big 12 recruiting weekend recap:


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Big 12 tipping point classes 

January, 27, 2015
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Signing day is just around the corner and several Big 12 teams have the opportunity to put their stamp on their recruiting class by landing one of the nation’s top players in the final days of this recruiting cycle.


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Big 12 recruiting scorecard

January, 26, 2015
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It's the most wonderful time of the year! Signing day is less than 10 days away. The second-to-last official visit weekend is in the books. Here's where the Big 12 recruiting classes stand entering the final stretch:

BAYLOR
Total commits: 18
ESPN 300 commits: 3
ESPN JC50 commits: 1
Class rank: 27th
The latest: The Bears added a fourth offensive lineman to their class on Sunday in the form of Ringling, Oklahoma, guard Riley Daniel. He chose Baylor after an official visit this weekend and a trip to Texas Tech last weekend. Baylor is also battling the Red Raiders for three-star Louisiana cornerback Henry Black, who visited Waco over the weekend.

IOWA STATE
Total commits: 18
ESPN 300 commits: 0
ESPN JC50 commits: 1
Class rank: Not ranked
The latest: Iowa State is searching for a running back to replace Devine Ozigbo, who flipped to Nebraska earlier this month. Might the answer be Joshua Thomas? The three-star back from Buford, Georgia, appears to be down to Iowa State and Wisconsin. A decision is expected soon. Thomas visited the Badgers this weekend. Another recruit to keep an eye on: Julian Good-Jones, the Cyclones' tackle commit who visited Louisville this weekend.

KANSAS
Total commits: 24
ESPN 300 commits: 0
ESPN JC50 commits: 0
Class rank: Not ranked
The latest: Kansas picked up five intriguing pledges from the state of Texas in the last week -- DE Dorance Armstrong, WR Jeremiah Booker, WR Steven Sims, LB Osaze Ogbebor and former Tulsa CB commit Shola Ayinde -- but also lost two significant commits over the weekend. On Sunday, three-star receiver Kevin Thomas flipped to SMU and three-star athlete Arico Evans made his flip to TCU.

KANSAS STATE
Total commits: 17
ESPN 300 commits: 0
ESPN JC50 commits: 0
Class rank: Not ranked
The latest: Kansas State will be a finalist for one Georgia prospect on signing day and will have to do some work to ensure another stays in the fold. Three-star defensive end G.G. Robinson, a Louisville commit, visited K-State over the weekend and hails from Lilburn, Georgia. Meanwhile, three-star OLB commit Mohamed Barry took an official visit to Nebraska and will make his final decision between KSU, Nebraska and Miami on Thursday.

OKLAHOMA
Total commits: 20
ESPN 300 commits: 8
ESPN JC50 commits: 3
Class rank: 17th
The latest: The Sooners are likely going to part ways with ESPN 300 defensive tackle Marquise Overton, whose ACT score has the OU staff concerned he won't qualify. A key target to take his place in the OU class is four-star Darrion Daniels. The Dallas defensive tackle visited Iowa this weekend and is expected to decide this week, though Texas Tech might be the favorite at the moment.

OKLAHOMA STATE
Total commits: 18
ESPN 300 commits: 3
ESPN JC50 commits: 1
Class rank: 35th
The latest: The Cowboys moved quickly to land ESPN 300 athlete Louis Brown after he parted ways with Texas last weekend. Brown took an official visit to OSU and made his commitment on Saturday night. The Burton, Texas, native will likely play defensive end. OSU also held its first junior day for the 2016 class this weekend.

TCU
Total commits: 24
ESPN 300 commits: 0
ESPN JC50 commits: 0
Class rank: 37th
The latest: The Horned Frogs loaded up on speed this weekend. First they secured a commitment from Kavontae Turpin, an electric receiver and returner from Monroe, Louisiana. Then came the commitment from Arico Evans, who'd pledged to Kansas earlier this month. He accounted for 34 total touchdowns as a quarterback at Dallas Hillcrest this season.

TEXAS
Total commits: 23
ESPN 300 commits: 9
ESPN JC50 commits: 1
Class rank: 9th
The latest: Texas had a big-time weekend with five-star DT Daylon Mack, ESPN 300 running back Soso Jamabo and ESPN 300 athlete Kai Locksley in town for official visits. Mack and Jamabo will announce their decisions on signing day. Locksley, an important QB target for Texas after losing Zach Gentry to Michigan, will go home and mull over whether he should flip from Florida State. The Horns also brought in Georgia DB commit Deandre Baker and Dominique Reed, the nation's No. 4 juco receiver. Texas also picked up a re-commitment on Monday from ESPN 300 wide receiver John Burt, who'd backed out earlier this month to reconsider Auburn.

TEXAS TECH
Total commits: 16
ESPN 300 commits: 3
ESPN JC50 commits: 0
Class rank: 33rd
The latest: The Red Raiders picked up a commitment last week from three-star offensive lineman Cody Wheeler of powerhouse Allen High School in Texas. He was one of the many official visitors in Lubbock over the weekend, a list headlined by ESPN 300 running back Chris Warren III. Three-star defensive end pledge Lonzell Gilmore visited Baylor over the weekend.

WEST VIRGINIA
Total commits: 24
ESPN 300 commits: 3
ESPN JC50 commits: 1
Class rank: 25th
The latest: In addition to landing a commitment from three-star lineman Rob Dowdy, West Virginia had a big-time weekend with three Florida studs visiting Morgantown: four-star Miami pledge RB Mark Walton, four-star Georgia commit WR Shaquery Wilson and ESPN 300 receiver Antonio Callaway. Another Florida native, four-star athlete Jordan Cronkrite, will decide between WVU and Florida on signing day.

Best of the visits: Big 12

January, 25, 2015
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Another busy weekend on the recruiting trail as visits and commitments are starting to give shape to each school’s recruiting class. The second-to-last weekend before signing day brought plenty of intrigue and some consternation (particularly in Austin, Texas).

Oklahoma State landed a commitment from ESPN300 athlete Louis Brown during his visit to Stillwater, Oklahoma, over the weekend. The Burton (Texas) prospect boasts offers from Texas, Baylor, Oklahoma, Oregon and others. A 6-foot-5, 210 pounds, Brown is a raw talent with extremely high upside and should be a good fit in OSU’s defense. The No. 267 player in the ESPN 300, Brown was a long-time UT commit who parted ways with the Longhorns during his official visit last weekend.
The Cowboys weren't the only team having success on the trail this past weekend, with TCU landing a pledge from Monroe (Louisiana) Neville's Kavontae Turpin. The receiver prospect picked the Horned Frogs during his visit to Fort Worth. At 5-foot-8, 145 pounds, Turpin could be a good fit for TCU's slot receiver role in its high-scoring attack. Three-star cornerback Henry Black spent his weekend in Waco, Texas, checking out Art Briles' program. A recent Bears offer, the Shreveport (Louisiana) Woodlawn prospect is a relatively raw talent with good size at 6-foot, 182 pounds. Iowa State is searching for help along its defensive line so seeing Jacksonville (Florida) Christian defensive lineman Josh Coleman in cardinal and gold is a good step forward. The Cyclones are hoping Coleman is a hidden gem that picks ISU in the end. Coleman is expected to visit Fresno State on Jan. 30. Texas hosted several top recruits over the weekend including ESPN 300 athletes Soso Jamabo (Plano, Texas/West) and Kai Locksley (Baltimore, Maryland/Gilman). Jamabo is the No. 28 player in the ESPN 300 and could kick start UT's offense by providing an immediate big play threat. Locksley, a Florida State commit, is the No. 289 player in the ESPN 300 and could project to several different positions in college including quarterback. West Virginia has its eye on rounding out its recruiting class with three-star prospect Gary Jennings. The Stafford (Virginia) Colonial Forge athlete spent the weekend in Morgantown, West Virginia, and could be a good fit at receiver in Dana Holgorsen's offense. Jennings, who boasts offers from Wisconsin, Notre Dame and others, is a prospect to keep on eye on during the home stretch of this recruiting cycle.
Art Briles' brash statements can ruffle some feathers, but tend to come with a dose of truth. The Baylor coach’s declaration that the Bears are one of the best programs in college football is backed by his program’s back-to-back Big 12 titles.

"We feel like we've established ourselves as somebody," Briles said shortly before the Cotton Bowl. "When you're looking at one of the better teams in the southwest part of the United States of America, Baylor is one of them."

[+] EnlargeCharlie Strong, Malcom Brown
AP Photo/Eric GayCoach Charlie Strong says finding players with strong character is the key to getting Texas back among the Big 12's elite teams.
That's right, parity has hit the Big 12. And it’s been around for a while.

Although it earned a Big 12 co-championship in 2012, Oklahoma hasn’t won an outright Big 12 title since 2010. Texas hasn’t won a conference title outright since 2009. Those two programs combined to win every Big 12 title from 2004 through 2010.

A conference that could point to Oklahoma and Texas as its standard bearers for the majority of the 2000s has seen five different teams win a share of the Big 12 title since 2010.

The immediate assumption is the problem can be found on the recruiting trail. As the Big 12’s most dominant performers slid down the standings, surely they slid down the recruiting rankings. After all, talent wins games.

The reality is different.

Oklahoma and Texas have finished 1-2 in the Big 12 in recruiting rankings every season since 2010. And each program finished among the top 20 nationally each season, including three top-five finishes by the Longhorns. According to ESPN recruiting analysts, here is a closer look at the top recruiting classes in the conference each year since 2010:

Class of 2014

  • Oklahoma No. 13 in nation, 1st in Big 12
  • Texas No. 16 in nation, 2nd in Big 12
  • Baylor No. 22 in nation, 3rd in Big 12
  • Oklahoma State No. 28 in nation, 4th in Big 12
Class of 2013

  • Texas No. 16 in nation, 1st in Big 12
  • Oklahoma No. 17 in nation, 2nd in Big 12
  • Oklahoma State No. 27 in nation, 3rd in Big 12
  • Baylor No. 28 in nation, 4th in Big 12
Class of 2012

  • Texas No. 3 in nation, 1st in Big 12
  • Oklahoma No. 11 in nation, 2nd in Big 12
  • Texas Tech No. 20 in nation, 3rd in Big 12
Class of 2011

  • Texas No. 5 in nation, 1st in Big 12
  • Oklahoma No. 11 in nation, 2nd in Big 12
  • Oklahoma State No. 23 in nation, 3rd in Big 12
Class of 2010

  • Texas No. 2 in nation, 1st in Big 12
  • Oklahoma No. 5 in nation, 2nd in Big 12
  • No other Big 12 team in top 25

Those recruiting rankings haven’t transferred to the field. Oklahoma has the best winning percentage during that span, with Oklahoma State and Baylor -- two programs lauded for their ability to develop and evaluate -- joining the Sooners in the top three. Texas is just eight games above .500 and in the bottom half of the conference.

Winning percentage since 2010

  1. Oklahoma 77.3 percent (51-15 overall)
  2. Oklahoma State 73.8 percent (48-17)
  3. Baylor 72.3 percent (47-18)
  4. Kansas State 69.2 percent (45-20)
  5. TCU 60.5 percent (23-15 in 38 games as Big 12 member)
  6. Texas 56.3 percent (36-28)
  7. Texas Tech 52.4 percent (33-30)
  8. West Virginia 47.4 percent (18-20 in 38 games)
  9. Iowa State 35.5 percent (22-40)
  10. Kansas 20 percent (12-40)
Development has been key as Oklahoma has been the Big 12’s best at developing its recruits into NFL draftees, followed by Baylor and Texas. The Sooners have the ability to attract elite talent and turn them into NFL players, and the Bears have excelled at evaluation and development, gradually rising up the recruiting rankings. Texas' individual talent has been evident on the field, but it hasn’t turned into great teams on the field.

NFL Draftees since 2010

  1. Oklahoma 28
  2. Baylor 17
  3. Texas 16
  4. TCU 13
  5. West Virginia 13
  6. Oklahoma State 10
  7. Kansas State 7
  8. Iowa State 5
  9. Kansas 4
  10. Texas Tech 4

What does it all mean?

Texas, under Mack Brown, was struggling to transform its talented signees into wins as a combination of poor evaluation and development hampered the Longhorns. First-year coach Charlie Strong has an eye on changing that trend.

"It's all about character, young men who want to change their lives," Strong said during his debut season. "The thing about it, I'm not looking for players who want to be mediocre. We don't need to be mediocre. That's not who we are. We need to recruit players who love football and want to do something special."

The Longhorns have made terrific inroads with their first full class under Strong, sitting atop the Big 12 and ranking No. 9 nationally in the Class of 2015.

The Sooners’ recruiting problems and lack of talent are grossly overstated. Bob Stoops' program is looking down at everyone in the Big 12 with the highest number of NFL draftees and best winning percentage since 2010, with only Texas consistently landing higher-ranked recruiting classes. Oklahoma isn’t as dominant as it was during the 2000s, but that has everything to do with the improved overall depth of the Big 12 more than the Sooners’ struggles. And Oklahoma looks poised to land another quality class, ranking second in the Big 12 and 17th nationally.

The foundation of Baylor’s rise is found in that program’s ability to turn overlooked recruits into stars. Turning two-star receiver Tevin Reese into an NFL draft pick is just one example of how Briles' program has risen to national prominence.

"You want to find the lifeline of our business, it's all about recruiting and getting the players that you need on campus and giving you a chance to sustain," Briles said. "We’ve proved we have substance as a football program. We have other things we need to prove at a very high level, and that to me is what it's all about. You know, that night will pass, there will be another night. We're not a one-night wonder."

Weekend recruiting wrap: Big 12 

January, 20, 2015
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Oklahoma landed much-needed secondary help, Oklahoma State hosted a ESPN300 running back and Texas put its hat in the ring for a fast-rising Californian.

These, and more, in this week's Big 12 recruiting weekend recap:

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Top recruiting targets in the Big 12 

January, 16, 2015
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Here's a team-by-team look at some remaining targets for Big 12 teams.


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Big 12's top recruiting visits 

January, 16, 2015
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The third weekend in January is annually the biggest official visit weekend of the recruiting cycle and that’s definitely true for 2015 and in Big 12 territory. All but a few conference schools are expected to host prospects on campus this weekend and there will be plenty of major news to come following these trips, especially at places like Texas, Oklahoma and Iowa State.

[+] EnlargeNick Brossette
Gerry Hamilton/ESPNTexas is looking to flip Nick Brossette's commitment to LSU.
Texas to host around eight visitors
The Horns will have a solid group of visitors in Austin this weekend, including a number of touted commitments like ESPN 300 prospects Louis Brown and DeShon Elliott. But what makes the weekend significant is three visitors that have yet to make up their minds. LSU commitment and No. 12 running back Nick Brossette is coming to town, along with ESPN 300 defensive backs Kris Boyd and Holton Hill. Brossette is giving Texas a serious look despite his pledge to the Tigers, and he’s built a great relationship with Charlie Strong. Boyd and Hill are two key defensive back targets the Horns would love to reel in.


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Top early enrollees: Big 12 

January, 14, 2015
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Big 12 programs have always been big believers of using players that can enroll at midterm and can make a big impact in their program, starting in spring practices. Whether it be through the junior-college ranks or through high school players that are ready to step on the field from Day 1, there will be plenty of fresh faces that do big things in the league early on. Here is a look at five Big 12 early enrollees:


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LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- At the American Football Coaches Association convention, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer's ability on the recruiting trail was the talk of high school coaches from all over the country.


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Q&A: Texas LB commit Cecil Cherry

January, 7, 2015
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The much-hyped "Florida Five" is now fully on board at Texas, and their ringleader calls it "a dream come true."

[+] EnlargeCecil Cherry
Tom Hauck for Student SportsThree-star linebacker Cecil Cherry says he's hyped to play with fellow Floridians at Texas.
Three-star linebacker Cecil Cherry of Victory Christian Academy in Lakeland, Florida, was the first to commit. Defensive backs Davante Davis and Tim Irvin, tight end Devonaire Clarington and receiver Gilbert Johnson have all joined the class since Jan. 1.

All five visited in November and bought into joining Charlie Strong's class and giving the Longhorns an injection of Florida talent like they've never before seen. Cherry discussed each member of the "Five" and their plans to bring a national title back to Austin in a chat with ESPN.com on Tuesday.

What was it about your official visit weekend in Austin that sold you guys on Texas?

Cecil Cherry: That weekend was great. We bonded together, had fun and talked together about making history and coming to Texas and taking over. We had fun as brothers and I believe the three or four years we spend together are going to be more fun. We want to bring our talents to Texas to take the program to the college playoff and play for a national championship.

What's going to surprise Texas fans about the way Florida kids play?

Cherry: Well first of all, we're going to bring back how 'The U' was, but we're going to do it the professional way. That's being generals with it, not wild how they were but still having fun and going around with a chip. We've got to be good players on and off the field: have fun, be all about ball, get your education, be a team leader. It's going to feel like, 'Man, we've got Florida boys on the team.'

How excited were you to learn you'll get to play with Malik Jefferson?

Cherry: Oh I was hyped. I like that Malik and [Anthony] Wheeler joined because it's not just about me making tackles. They can help me and I can help them. We can help each other get rings in college and try to get to the NFL. They'll be calling that the next 'Linebacker U.' We can all help each other out. It starts with the linebackers, the quarterbacks of the defense.

Tell me about Tim Irvin. What do you like about his game?

Cherry: Tim plays fast, he's undersized and he gets to the ball and takes control of the field. I want him to play safety behind me. He's so small that everybody has overlooked him, but he plays with that chest and has that dog in him.

What should we expect from Davante Davis?

Cherry: Oh, he's a lockdown corner. I like how he talks. He'll tell you what it is, tell you what he'll do. He's not scared to hit nobody. I want players like that, who go out with a chip on the shoulder. You do your job and go 100 percent at what you do. It's just like the Spurs -- everybody handles their position and goes 100 and they all bond together and win. That's what we've got to bring to Texas. All of us go 110 at our position and we make stuff happen and get in the college playoff and win a national championship.

What about Devonaire Clarington?

Cherry: Big body frame, physical, good route-runner. He's a special tight end, not your ordinary tight end. He can do a lot from the slot and bring some diversity to moving the ball on offense. I saw him at a couple camps and we started talking and relating during our weekend at Texas. It felt like we grew up with each other.

I know he's a year older than the other four, so have you seen Gilbert Johnson play much? What do you know about him?

Cherry: He's smooth, calm, collected. Good receiver. I think he'll tear it up. He's crisp with his routes and pass-catching. He's not a talker. One thing I noticed about these boys from going out with them, we had a really great time. We really look out for each other.

You know people are doubting Texas after how this season finished. What does this opportunity to help turn a program around mean to you?

Cherry: It's wonderful to me. Everybody might talk and say this and that, but Coach Strong didn't recruit those boys when he came in. Coach Strong has to get his talent in. It starts off with the Florida boys. If you want players, you're going to come down south to Polk County and all the way up. Everybody wants to play with dogs. Coach Strong recruits to win, pay bills and feed his family. Coach Mack Brown was there to recruit nice players. You've gotta look at Florida State. They've got all these Polk County, Florida, boys in there and they win a national championship because Jimbo [Fisher] recruited in Florida where the players are. Coach Strong knows where to get 'em to change the program around.
OU coach Bob Stoops fired co-offensive coordinators Josh Heupel and Jay Norvell on Tuesday, and the moves might help the Sooners get new life on the recruiting trial.


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Three reasons why Texas has disappointed 

December, 10, 2014
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The University of Texas has the best tradition in the most talent-rich state but has not won 10 games since 2009 and parted ways with head coach Mack Brown after 16 years in 2013. What went wrong?


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Big 12 recruiting scorecard

December, 1, 2014
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Here's what's been cooking on the recruiting trail in the past week around the Big 12:

BAYLOR
Total commits: 13
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: It looks like Art Briles could have another explosive playmaker in his arsenal. Class of 2016 commit and ESPNJr300 member Tren'Davian Dickson broke the single-season state record with 34 touchdowns for Navasota (Texas) this season, including a four-touchdown performance over the weekend. Navasota’s playoff run continues this weekend, meaning Dickson could add to his record-breaking total before his junior season ends.

IOWA STATE
Total commits: 11
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Cyclones became the first out-of-state school to offer Class of 2016 Edmond (Oklahoma) Santa Fe linebacker Calvin Bundage last week, joining Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Tulsa. Bundrage could project to linebacker or safety in college.

KANSAS
Total commits: 13
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Jayhawks are looking for immediate help with seven of their 13 commitments from the junior college ranks, but Kansas has a solid class considering the uncertainty without a head coach. It’s important the Jayhawks get someone hired quickly to avoid seeing this class fall apart and set the program back even further heading into 2015.

KANSAS STATE
Total commits: 13
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: Saturday was the Wildcats’ final opportunity to host recruits during a game weekend, including Mustang (Oklahoma) tight end Blake Williams. The Class of 2016 prospect was on hand to see Kansas State’s 51-13 thrashing of Kansas.

OKLAHOMA
Total commits: 16
ESPN 300 commits: 6
The latest: Oklahoma added a potential receiving target to the offense with a commitment from Blinn (Texas) Junior College receiver DeDe Westbrook. The Sooners also took advantage of their bye week by starting to make in-home visits with signing day quickly approaching. Four-star safety Kahlil Haughton tweeted a photo of himself alongside Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops on Sunday.

OKLAHOMA STATE
Total commits: 14
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: Cowboys commitment Ronald Jones helped McKinney (Texas) North advance deeper into the playoffs with three touchdown runs in his team’s win over the weekend. Dealing with an ankle injury, Jones finished with 33 carries for 92 yards.

TCU
Total commits: 17
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: TCU became the first program to offer Class of 2016 running back Sewo Olonilua. The Kingwood (Texas) running back has terrific size at 6-foot-2, 212 pounds, and could be a name to keep an eye on in the future.

TEXAS
Total commits: 19
ESPN 300 commits: 9
The latest: The Longhorns threw their name in the mix for Orlando (Florida) Bishop Moore tackle Parker Boudreaux. A member of the ESPNJr300, Boudreaux’s lengthy offer list reads more like a database with Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Auburn and others among his suitors. He is the No. 222 player in the ESPNJr300.

TEXAS TECH
Total commits: 14
ESPN 300 commits: 5
The latest: The Red Raiders are hoping to flip an Oregon commitment with their recent offer to Class of 2015 Beaumont (Texas) Central safety P.J. Locke. The three-star prospect is committed to the Ducks and has offers from TCU, Oklahoma State, Alabama, and others.

WEST VIRGINIA
Total commits: 23
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: Last week we noted junior college standout Larry Jefferson could be on the cusp of committing to WVU. The Itawamba Community College defensive end pulled the trigger last week, joining teammate Xavier Pegues on the Mountaineers’ pledge list. WVU is in terrific shape heading into the home stretch of this recruiting cycle with the ability to focus on hidden gems and Class of 2016 prospects thanks to its 23 current commitments.

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