NCF On The Trail: Texas Tech Red Raiders

Dec. 19, 2014. Consider it one of the biggest days for Big 12 recruiting in a long time.

On a day already anticipated as one to watch with the morning announcements of ESPN 300 linebacker Malik Jefferson and four-star athlete DeAndre McNeal, the Big 12 got its own version of a Christmas bonus with five major commitments by the end of the afternoon.

Jefferson and McNeal committed to Texas. ESPN 300 quarterback Jarrett Stidham committed to Baylor after recently decommitting from Texas Tech. ESPN 300 defensive end Ricky DeBerry and four-star safety Kahlil Haughton chose Oklahoma.

And better believe, it’s not over for the conference.

There are several players who could be additions to the growing number of Big 12 commitments. Here are five names to watch from now until national signing day in early February.

Early Offer: Hokies score super sleeper 

December, 16, 2014
Dec 16
Once again, Frank Beamer has landed an under-recruited prospect with “unlimited potential.” Plus, how much progress has been made by the committee looking into whether or not there should be an early-signing period?

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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:

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Early Offer: The dead period is here 

December, 14, 2014
Dec 14
What is the dead period and why is it an important time in football recruiting? Plus, Texas Tech’s loss at quarterback could be Baylor’s gain.

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Go ahead and debate who should have been in the inaugural College Football Playoff, but there’s no debating Bama, Oregon, FSU and OSU dominate in recruiting.

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Early Offer: Malik Jefferson's final 7 

November, 24, 2014
Nov 24
Malik Jefferson reduced his list to seven schools on Monday, and though the list is hardly a surprise, recruiters think there are still some in store with the No. 35 player in the country.

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UA jersey tour: Fred Ulu-Perry Jr.

November, 20, 2014
Nov 20
The Under Armour All-America Game jersey presentation tour hit the Aloha State for the third day in a row, as ESPN 300 offensive guard Fred Ulu-Perry Jr. was awarded his jersey in front of friends and family in a ceremony sponsored by American Family Insurance.

Ulu-Perry Jr. joins good friends and fellow ESPN 300 prospects Canton Kaumatule and Breiden Fehoko as participants in the game and players to have been honored this week.

"It was great," Ulu-Perry Jr. said of the presentation. "It was great to have all my family here and all my brothers from St. Louis [School]. It was pretty cool and something I'll always remember."

The 6-foot-3, 307-pound Ulu-Perry Jr., the nation's No. 4 guard, committed to UCLA over the summer, but his recruitment rolls on. He will use all five of his official visits and has already gone to UCLA and Texas Tech. He'll visit Oregon State for the Civil War on Nov. 29 and will visit Colorado and Texas A&M in January.

"When I go on trips, I want to take everything," Ulu-Perry Jr. said. "It's supposed to be fun, but it's a business trip. I'm really evaluating the coaches, players the area and how the program is run."

Ulu-Perry Jr. said he'll ultimately have a final decision in late January or early February, whether to stick with his UCLA commitment or flip elsewhere.

Six questions with Fred Ulu-Perry Jr.

If you could start a team with any other player in your class, who would it be?

"There are so many people I would take. Definitely Canton and Breiden. I would take Kanawai Noa from Punahou and Salanoa-alo Wily from Kahuku. There are too many."

What was your earliest football memory?

"I started playing football in sixth grade. I remember I was just a young kid running around trying to learn the game. I got the hang of it my first year and from there it's been fun. My goal from the start was to dominate everyone."

Which football player did you idolize or want to be like when you were a kid?

"I really look up to Olin Kreutz and Samson Satele. Those were the best centers out here and Kreutz is probably going to the Hall of Fame."

If you could take on any pro in their sport, who would it be?

"I'd want to take on Haloti Ngata. He's probably the nastiest defensive tackle I've seen."

Why do you wear your number?

"I wear No. 64 because my favorite car is a 1964 Impala."

What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?

"I'm a pretty basic person. I just love working hard, dedicating myself to the lord, my family, school and football. I think everybody pretty much knows everything about me."
A few weeks ago, Adam McLean was asked what it would take to back away from his Penn State pledge, and he said “nothing can change my mind.” Well, something happened and the ESPN 300 prospect is back on the market. Plus, Zach Gentry has been committed to Texas since May, but rumors sprouted Tuesday he was considering taking other official visits.

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UA jersey tour: Breiden Fehoko

November, 19, 2014
Nov 19
Breiden Fehoko received his Under Armour All-America Game jersey on Wednesday during a ceremony sponsored by American Family Insurance and attended by Fehoko’s friends, family, coaches and teammates in Honolulu.

“It was a surreal experience,” Fehoko said. “As a kid watching all the guys go through this and finally to have my dreams come true, it was such an awesome experience.”

The fact that several of Fehoko’s family members were in attendance is little surprise, as the 6-foot-3, 290-pound, ESPN 300 defensive tackle has always placed a high priority on family -- it’s a significant reason he ultimately made the decision to commit to Texas Tech.

Fehoko’s oldest brother, Sam, played football for the Red Raiders and his other brother, V.J., is a linebacker at Texas Tech now. The Fehokos have spent plenty of time at Texas Tech during the past few years and V.J.’s decision to transfer there from Utah certainly helped the Red Raiders eventually land a commitment from the younger Fehoko, the nation’s No. 53 overall prospect.

“For V.J., he really sets the tone for me,” Fehoko said. “Being that older brother above me, he molded me into what I am by showing me what I need to be to accomplish what I want to do.”

Though Texas Tech is 3-7 and the defense has given up 35 points or more in seven games, Fehoko said he has no thoughts of looking elsewhere.

“I’m done with this,” Fehoko said of his recruitment. “I’ve already signed my financial aid agreement and I’m confident in my decision.”

Eight questions with Breiden Fehoko

What players are you looking forward to competing with or against at the UA Game?

Fehoko: I’m looking forward to playing with Jarrett Stidham, as well as Fred Ulu-Perry and Canton Kaumatule.

If you could start a team with any player in your class, who would it be?

Fehoko: I’d probably go with Jarrett [Stidham]. He’s a dual threat and it’s not just the fact that he’s committed to my school. You see what he did with Stephenville (Texas) this year. Dude’s a player, and you always want to build your team around a quarterback.

Who is the best player to ever play in the UA Game?

Fehoko: Guys like Jadeveon Clowney and Manti Te’o. They really set the tone and were guys that balled out in this game. They didn’t just go there to experience the atmosphere. Those are guys I looked up to and I want to go fill those shoes.

What is your earliest football memory?

Fehoko: I was about 4 or 5 years old and my dad made me suit up with my older brothers in the back yard. Boy did I get tossed around. I’m thankful for it now, but that was real backyard football.

Which football player do you idolize or model your game after?

Fehoko: A whole bunch of guys, but one guy I like to model my game after is Aaron Donald. I like the way he’s so explosive and has great hands. Another guy is John Randle, the legend. His motor is as fast as mine.

If you could take on any pro player in their sport, who would it be?

Fehoko: Christiano Ronaldo, hands down. That guy is probably one of the most hated and respected athletes in the world. Hopefully I could get some of the women he gets as well.

Why do you wear your number?

Fehoko: No. 1 represents my older sister, Brittany. She passed on, and every time I take the field, I’m proud to wear it.

What is one thing people would be surprised to learn about you?

Fehoko: I’m kind of a genius with computers. On the field I’m smashmouth and talk a bunch of crap, but off the field my hobby is working with computers.

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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Duke has upped its recruiting efforts in ACC territory and that has helped reel in talented recruits such as ESPN Junior 300 TE Mark Birmingham. Plus, Arizona State already has three pledges from Louisiana thanks largely to the recruiting efforts of offensive coordinator Mike Norvell.

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ESPN 300 receiver Tyron Johnson said he’s “80 percent” sure of where he’s going but things could change dramatically if LSU steps up its pursuit. The battle to land Nick Brossette will be one of the biggest storylines heading into the final months of recruiting.

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Best of the visits: Big 12

November, 16, 2014
Nov 16
When Texas needed to produce, it responded in huge fashion and earned bowl eligibility. TCU did just enough to win, but it may have damaged its College Football Playoff hopes. And when Texas Tech thought it was in the driver's seat for a win, Oklahoma used a big fourth quarter to pull away and earn an important road win.

There were only three Big 12 games on tap Saturday, but each game had its own major storyline. Additionally, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State both hosted a handful of visitors over the weekend. Here are some highlights from recruiting visits around the conference.

Oklahoma State falls, but recruits enjoy Stillwater

Texas earned bowl eligibility in defeating Oklahoma State, 28-7. While it was the third consecutive win for the Longhorns, it also was the Cowboys' fourth straight loss. Fortunately for Oklahoma State, recruits on official visits said they still had a great time in Stillwater. One of the biggest targets in attendance was four-star DT Darrion Daniels, who also is considering Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Baylor, Texas and several other schools -- including his father's alma mater, Texas Tech. Darrion's father is former Red Raiders DE Tony Daniels, but don't expect the younger Daniels to make any decisions without making his own judgments.

High three-star LB Christian Folau made Stillwater his first official visit over the weekend. Wisconsin is believed to be high on the Utah prospect's recruiting list, but Oklahoma State may have shot up the charts after what was a productive trip.

California high three-star OL Vaimoe Sekona committed to Oklahoma State on Oct. 27, and he was excited about his official visit. Although the team didn't get the win, Sekona had a chance to spend time with his future unit.

Part of an official visit for some schools involves getting the opportunity to spend time with the coaching staff off campus. Junior college WR Dede Westbrook may have been most impressed with the home of Mike Gundy.

High three-star DB Montrel Wilson has offers from Baylor, Arkansas and a few other schools, but he made the trip to Stillwater with high school teammate Randall Friday to take in the environment.
Texas Tech hosts ESPN 300 OL among others

For 2 1/2 quarters, it looked as though Texas Tech would get a big home win against Oklahoma. The Sooners, however, turned up their game in the second half and left Lubbock with a 42-30 victory. ESPN 300 OL Fred Ulu-Perry Jr., the nation's fourth-ranked offensive guard, was in Lubbock on an official visit. It was a huge opportunity for the Red Raiders, as Ulu-Perry has been a UCLA commit since July. Ulu-Perry, from Honolulu, is good friends with fellow Honolulu prospect and ESPN 300 athlete -- and Texas Tech commit -- Breiden Fehoko.

Another big visitor in town was Kahlil Haughton. The four-star safety had taken official visitors to Oklahoma, Nebraska, Arkansas and Baylor. Texas Tech was his final official visit. The Red Raiders are hoping Haughton's last visit made the biggest impact.

ESPN Junior 300 DT Mike Williams continues to make trips to various locations. A rising name in the 2016 class, Williams said he was impressed with what the Red Raiders had to offer on and off the field, regardless of the outcome of the game.

You can bet that Kliff Kingsbury & Co. are always looking to recruit for the future. 2017 OL Jack Anderson is expected to be one of the nation's top-ranked recruits when he is a senior. Anderson has visited Lubbock before, and there's a reason why he comes back.
Kansas loses, but impresses against TCU

Many dislike giving credit to moral victories, but after watching Kansas play TCU, a moral victory for the Jayhawks is warranted. Kansas fell, 34-30, to the No. 4 team in the College Football Playoff rankings, and it showed for the second consecutive week that it is playing a new level of confidence under interim coach Clint Bowen. One player in Lawrence was 2016 Jack Domandle, a 6-foot-4, 270-pound interior offensive lineman who made the unofficial visit from Nebraska. The two-year starter is looking to become a household name in the spring. He not only enjoyed his trip to Kansas but also nearly watched one of the biggest college football upsets of the year.

While he was unable to make the trip to Lawrence, RB Aubrey White, the Jayhawks' lone 2016 pledge, made sure he was keeping his eyes and ears on the game. Although the Jayhawks couldn't score the win, he's still excited about the future.

UA jersey tour: Tyron Johnson

November, 13, 2014
Nov 13
NEW ORLEANS -- Tyron Johnson remembers watching the Under Armour All-America Game in 2013 like it was yesterday, when No. 1 prospect Robert Nkemdiche dominated. Johnson thought to himself at the time that it would be amazing to play in the prestigious all-star game, but he also never dreamed he would actually get that chance.

But Johnson’s dream has come true.

Now a senior, Johnson is the nation’s 25th-ranked prospect and the second-best receiver. He’s got schools from coast-to-coast recruiting him, and Thursday he was officially recognized as an Under Armour All-American at a ceremony in front of his classmates, family, friends and teammates.

“My first time watching the game, Robert Nkemdiche was the No. 1 player in the country,” Johnson, a 6-foot-1, 185-pound four-star prospect, said. “Boy, he was fun to watch. I plan on going into the game and doing a lot of big things like he did. I saw what he did, and I was like 'Man, I want to play in that game.' I never thought it would happen, but I worked hard and now I have the opportunity.”

It’s an opportunity he plans on making the most out of.

“My expectations are to do in Florida what I do in New Orleans,” Johnson said. “I'm great at working hard and doing my job making a big play on the field. When it's the fourth quarter and we need something big with only 1 second left in the game, I tell coach, 'Throw the ball to me.'

“I also want to put my city on my back and show that I can be a great receiver on the national level. I want to show for everybody here in New Orleans that we have great football players.”

Johnson said he’s looking forward to testing himself against the talented cornerbacks in the game, especially LSU commit Kevin Toliver II. Fans are looking forward to getting a clearer picture on when he’s going to pick a college. Last week, Johnson told that Auburn had passed Texas Tech as the top team on his list. He made an official visit to Texas Tech on Oct. 10, is slated to visit Auburn on Nov. 21 if his team isn’t still in the playoffs and hopes to also visit Oklahoma State before making a choice.

“It's been very tough to stay focused on school and my team,” Johnson said. “When that phone rings all the time, people are like, 'You have to make a decision. You have to make a decision.' And in the back of my head, I know I have to make a decision, but I'm just not ready yet. I still want to focus on my team and my grades, too. It's really hard. I don't want to rush it.

“I want to be 100 percent. I'm about 80 percent sure of what I want to do. I'm almost ready.”

UA jersey tour: Jarrett Stidham

November, 13, 2014
Nov 13
STEPHENVILLE, Texas -- At about this time two years ago, Texas Tech-bound Jarrett Stidham was one of the most dynamic sophomore football players in Texas.

As a wide receiver. Not as a quarterback.

Before Stidham was one of the nation’s best dual-threat quarterbacks, he was a reliable pass-catching option for Tyler Jones, who now is a sophomore and the starting quarterback at Texas State. Stidham won a state championship as a receiver, but playing quarterback was his goal.

And once he achieved that goal, he delivered success to Stephenville High School. On Thursday, Stidham was rewarded for his play during an Under Armour All-America Game jersey ceremony, sponsored by American Family Insurance.

“I’m very blessed to be in this position. I was telling my buddy earlier that this is one of my biggest dreams come true,” said Stidham, the No. 3-ranked dual-threat quarterback. “As a kid growing up, you always watch these high school guys in All-American games, and you want to be one of those guys. I’m fortunate to be one now, and I couldn’t be happier.”

As a player with more than 20 offers, Stidham has signed a financial aid agreement with Texas Tech, and he’s planning to graduate early and joining the Red Raiders for spring practices. Stidham currently is recovering from a broken right hand last month, but there’s a good chance he can return this season if Stephenville advances deep in the playoffs.

But before he makes it to Lubbock, look for Stidham to enjoy his time in Florida and be a contributor in the all-star game. Also, look for him to simply live the moment -- a moment that at one time, he was unsure would come because of his position change.

“Looking back on everything, I didn’t know what to think. I was always the guy who got the ball every snap,” Stidham said. “But Tyler did his thing, and he set us up to win a state championship. I just rolled with it, and it ended up being a good thing. I’m very thankful where I am now.”

Quick hits on Jarrett Stidham

Best UA Game player ever: “I’d probably have to go with [Jadeveon] Clowney. He’s a man-child.”

Player you look up to: “I really like Marcus Mariota. I love the way he plays and how he handles the offense, gets out in space to tuck and run and make plays with his arm.”

Why do you wear your number? “I wear No. 1. I think I picked it mostly to be different. A lot of quarterbacks are wearing 7 or 10 or 4. Cam Newton wears No. 1, but you usually don’t see quarterbacks wearing it.”

Who wins a QB contest: You or Kliff Kingsbury? “I’m going to go out on a limb and say I can beat Coach Kliff. If he wants to go, I’ll go.”

Favorite football memory: “Other than winning state, I’d probably have to go with our third-round [playoff] game last year against Big Spring. We were down four with 35 seconds left, and we drove down 65 yards to score. I threw a touchdown with about four seconds left to win.”

Favorite sport that’s not football: “I’ve always liked basketball, but I like international soccer. The World Cup, I can watch it all day.”

Did you know … “I enjoy hunting. I’ve always been kind of a city boy, but I just got into it this fall. I like getting all camo’d up. It’s one of the most relaxing times that I have. It’s a thrill if a big buck comes out. A lot of people don’t expect me to be a hunter, but I enjoy the heck out of it.”