NCF On The Trail: Austin Roberts

ESPN 300 DT commits to UCLA

December, 8, 2013
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It took UCLA until the beginning of December to land its first defensive line commit in the 2014 class, but the Bruins got a special one on Sunday, as ESPN 300 defensive tackle Ainuu Taua (Lompoc, Calif./Lompoc) made his commitment.

The 6-foot, 293-pound tackle is the nation's No. 216 prospect and No. 20 player in California. He held offers from a number of Pac-12 programs, but the Bruins were always going to be difficult to beat.

This past weekend, Taua took an official visit to UCLA -- his fourth visit, after trips to Washington State, Oklahoma and Mississippi -- and made his commitment. Taua is the third ESPN 300 prospect to commit to UCLA in this class, joining wide receiver Austin Roberts (Carmel, Ind./Carmel) and cornerback Adarius Pickett (El Cerrito, Calif./El Cerrito).

It's an intriguing pick up in two ways, as Taua has the ability to form a terrific team with 2013 defensive line signees Eddie Vanderdoes, Kylie Fitts and Kenneth Clark, adding to a dynamic group up front, but he is also part of a good group of big-man friends in Southern California, which includes USC commit Viane Talamaivao (Corona, Calif./Centennial), uncommitted ESPN 300 guard Damien Mama (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco) and uncommitted guard Kammy Delp (Pomona, Calif./Diamond Ranch). Delp doesn't hold a USC offer and looks to be a fairly solid UCLA lean, but Mama is one of the bigger Trojans-Bruins battles left on the board. Talamaivao's commitment to USC gives Steve Sarkisian's program plenty of pull with Mama, but Taua heading to UCLA swings some momentum toward Westwood.

As a senior, Taua recorded seven sacks and 36 total tackles, almost matching his junior year output, when he posted seven sacks, 49 stops and an interception.

UCLA now has verbal commitments from 13 prospects in the 2014 class, including four four-star recruits.

Pac-12 class rankings analysis 

October, 9, 2013
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Each Wednesday, ESPN RecruitingNation updates its national class rankings. For an in-depth look at the Pac-12, check out our conference rankings:

1. Arizona, 24 commits: The Wildcats check in at No. 23 in the RecruitingNation class rankings with a class that includes four ESPN300 commitments, including No. 120 overall Marquis Ware and No. 185 Jamardre Cobb of Salesian High in Los Angeles. Arizona will take its shot with No. 17 overall Jalen Tabor (Washington, D.C./Friendship Collegiate Academy), and teammate Dae'Juan Funderburk (Washington, D.C./Friendship Collegiate Academy) in December.

Top Pac-12 recruiting rivalries 

October, 1, 2013
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The Pac-12 is the only conference in the country with so many natural rivalries, as Arizona, California, Oregon and Washington are split in half -- or quarters in California's case -- when home state teams take the field. It's only natural those rivalries would spill over onto the recruiting trail, although there are some interstate battles as well that make this list of top recruiting rivalries in the Pac-12.


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Pac-12's 2014 impact freshmen 

September, 25, 2013
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We've barely hit the quarter pole of the 2013 season, but with true and redshirt freshmen making impacts all over the country, attention turns this week to those recruits in the 2014 class who could generate the same kind of press early in their careers and affect the conference.

Current 2014 QB prospect who could start immediately

Arizona and Washington are the only Pac-12 programs scheduled to lose their starting quarterbacks after this season, but with seven quarterbacks already slated to compete for the job next year, it's going to be extremely difficult for Brandon Dawkins (Westlake Village, Calif./Oaks Christian) to truly put himself in the mix. The same is true at Washington -- though the Huskies have yet to receive a commitment from a quarterback in the 2014 class -- as redshirt freshmen, who will then be redshirt sophomores, Jeff Lindquist and Cyler Miles will likely battle for the spot. So at this point -- leaving aside speculation on whether quarterbacks such as UCLA's Brett Hundley or Oregon's Marcus Marriota could make themselves available for the NFL draft -- this question becomes about the possibility of a true freshman supplanting a returning starter, and while it would be tough to bet on anybody actually getting it done, the easy answer is Keller Chryst (Palo Alto, Calif./Palo Alto) at Stanford. The No. 19 overall recruit is a polished pocket passer and seems to fit perfectly into the Stanford offense. If it clicks early for him, he could give Kevin Hogan a serious run next fall.

Program-changing 2014 recruiting class: USC

This could be a make-or-break recruiting class for the Trojans. When USC begins practices next spring, just 26 players on the roster will come from the 2012 and 2013 recruiting classes, combined. That means tons of opportunity for what could be 19 signees in a class still limited by NCAA sanctions. Right now, recruits want a clear picture of what will happen going forward at USC. If the Trojans make a decisive move at the top -- either with Lane Kiffin finishing the season in a strong manner and earning the full trust of the fans and his bosses, or with athletics director Pat Haden moving swiftly to replace Kiffin with an impressive hire -- USC could close with a monster class, as a number of high-profile prospects are intrigued by the idea of playing for USC and understand the playing time situation. If things break well for the Trojans, it's not impossible to think this class could be the best group in the Pac-12 and eventually form some of the nucleus that takes USC back to the top of the conference.

Current 2014 prospect with Heisman potential

Since the Heisman Trophy has become about quarterbacks and running backs, that narrows this category a bit. Again, Chryst is the easy answer because he'll likely put up good numbers for a national power. But a bit farther down the West region prospects list sits tailback Joe Mixon (Oakley, Calif./Freedom), who possesses just about everything you look for in a potential Heisman contender. He'll likely be suiting up for a national power -- Florida, Oklahoma and Oregon are three of his finalists -- a running back's dream -- Wisconsin is another finalists -- or a program in Cal where he'd have the ability to put up silly numbers both rushing and receiving. Mixon has also said UCLA is still in the running, which would put him in a major media market. His ability to catch out of the backfield and perhaps even return kicks will help his statistics, and the fact that he brings some personality to the table -- nearly 6,500 twitter followers at last count -- helps his cause as well.


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While all recruits have the same opportunity to make an impact after signing day, that’s not always the case in the days and months leading up to it. Some verbal commitments are bigger than others, whether it’s from a top target on the board, a nationally prominent standout who can shine a spotlight on the program or a local legend that continues a pipeline.

This week, we take a look through the Pac-12 at the most important verbal commitments in each class.

Arizona
ATH Cameron Denson (Tucson, Ariz./Salpointe Catholic)
6-1, 175

ESPN 300 rank: 147

Denson hits every requirement for this list. He was the first commitment in Arizona’s 2014 class, the top-rated player in the class and a local standout that Rich Rodriguez had to have if he was going to build momentum for 2014.


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The receiver talent in Miami has been well documented. The same goes for Dallas and Los Angeles.

But Indianapolis is not typically known for producing stars out wide. The ones with the potential to be elite BCS-level receivers end up tossing a ball into a hoop rather than spiking it into the end zone. That changed with the 2014 class, though.

Four receivers from the Indianapolis area are going to nationally known programs. Justin Brent (Speedway, Ind./Speedway) committed to Notre Dame more than a year ago. Fellow ESPN 300 receivers Dominique Booth (Indianapolis/Pike) and Austin Roberts (Carmel, Ind./Carmel) just committed this week to Tennessee and UCLA, respectively. And Indianapolis Cathedral receiver Terry McLaurin worked out for Ohio State twice and gave Urban Meyer little choice but to offer him. He committed days later.


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Another passing tournament in Huntington Beach, the Bruins landing a big target and recruits heading out of area highlight the week's news in the West.

Battle at the Beach: Part 2

Last Saturday saw the official Battle at the Beach passing tournament at Huntington Beach (Calif.) Edison, but plenty of talent will be back in the area tomorrow, as Huntington Beach High School hosts another event. All eyes will be on the underclass talent on hand, as quarterback Josh Rosen (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco) will have an opportunity to back up his newly minted No. 1 ranking among quarterbacks in the 2015 class. He'll be joined by 2015 ESPN 300 recruits Keisean Lucier-South (Orange, Calif./Lutheran) and Equanimeous St. Brown (Anaheim, Calif./Servite), as well as 2015 standout receiver Jaylinn Hawkins (Buena Park, Calif./Buena Park) and 2016 quarterback K.J. Costello (Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif./Santa Margarita).


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The Opening provided prospects with the opportunity to showcase their skills against the best in the nation. It also gave them the chance to see where they stacked up and provided a good recruiting tool as well, if prospects perform well and improve their stock.

Here is a look at four Ohio State pledges and six targets that helped themselves at the three-day camp:

1. WR Terry McLaurin (Indianapolis/Cathedral)
6-0, 181
Unranked


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BEAVERTON, Ore. -- The Opening has concluded and it did not disappoint. The top prospects in the nation were invited to Nike headquarters to display their ability and compete against the best of the best.

RecruitingNation was on hand for every event to take in the happenings throughout the week. Here are a few storylines:

Who committed

Florida State landed two in-state prospects during the final day of The Opening on Wednesday: four-star offensive tackle Corey Martinez (Tampa, Fla./Tampa Catholic) and three-star safety Trey Marshall (Lake City, Fla./Columbia). Marshall was a finalist for the SPARQ national championships where he posted a 40-yard-dash time of 4.34 seconds. ESPN 300 linebacker Dillon Bates (Ponte Vedra, Fla./Ponte Vedra), son of former Tennessee Volunteers and Dallas Cowboys safety Bill Bates, verbally committed to the Vols. Four-star linebacker D.J. Calhoun (El Cerrito, Calif./El Cerrito) verbally committed to USC over UCLA.


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OSU recruiting: Positions of need 

July, 2, 2013
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Ohio State had several areas of need in the 2014 class, chief among them being the offensive line and linebacker. Here’s a look at their top five areas of need and what they’ve done to address them so far.


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WR McLaurin has something to prove 

July, 1, 2013
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LAKE OSWEGO, Ore. -- One of the biggest surprises of the Nike camp circuit was wide receiver Terry McLaurin (Indianapolis/Cathedral). The new Ohio State commit came away with the highest SPARQ rating for all wide receivers in the SPARQ testing and is hoping to come out on top on Monday at The Opening when the SPARQ Rating National Championship takes place.


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Ohio State instant impact recruits 

June, 25, 2013
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With the 2014 recruiting class filling up, which committed and uncommitted prospects would likely make the earliest impact? Here are the 10 most likely candidates:

1. Damon Webb (Detroit/Cass Tech)
5-foot-10/174 pounds
ESPN 300 rank: 57

The top commitment in the Buckeyes’ class and the No. 57 player in the country, it is no surprise Webb has the potential to make an early impact for Ohio State. Urban Meyer is not afraid to play freshmen, especially at the skill positions. The defensive back recruiting at Ohio State has been strong under Meyer, but Webb will come in with an opportunity to compete for a spot in the nickel and dime packages.

2. Lorenzo Carter (Norcross, Ga./Norcross)
6-5/228
ESPN 300 rank: 10

The five-star defensive end visited Ohio State this past weekend, and while the Buckeyes have a lot of catching up to do in Carter’s recruitment, a visit to Columbus is a start. The top player in Georgia and the No. 3 defensive end nationally, Carter has the pedigree to be a player who sees the field often as a freshman. And Meyer showed in 2012 that he is willing to play his young guys along the defensive line as Noah Spence (also a former five-star recruit) and Adolphus Washington played extensively as freshmen.

3. Jalyn Holmes (Norfolk, Va./Lake Taylor)
6-5/219
ESPN 300 rank: 293

One of the Buckeyes’ most recent commitments, the ESPN 300 recruit is in the same boat as Carter as a potential candidate to play as a freshman along the defensive line. While Holmes is one of the best tight ends in the country, the Buckeyes have him pegged as a defensive end in Columbus.

4. Kyle Berger (Cleveland/St. Ignatius)
6-2/220
ESPN 300 rank: 299

The Ohio State coaches were not able to see it, but some of his future teammates -- and opponents -- saw Berger dominate at the Columbus NFTC earlier this month. Ohio State had some attrition this offseason at the position, so there is an opportunity for Berger to earn a spot in the rotation once he makes it back to Ohio State’s facilities, but as a member of the team this time.

5. Chad Mavety (Garden City, N.Y./Nassau Community College)
6-6/320
ESPN 300 rank: Not ranked

Meyer did not recruit the juco ranks heavily while he was at Florida, but a few junior college linemen sparked his interest in this 2014 class. The Buckeyes have an offer to Mavety, who some believe is a Buckeyes lean. As a juco player, the expectation is for him to have an immediate impact, possibly as a backup in 2014 with an opportunity to earn a starting role.

6. Sean Nuernberger (Buckner, Ky./Oldham County)
6-2/220
ESPN 300 rank: Not ranked

Special teams will also be an area of emphasis on a Meyer-coached team, so it is not a surprise he is giving a scholarship to a specialist. Nuernberger had other BCS interest, but Meyer gave him an offer after watching him kick in person. Nuernberger could become a valuable piece to the Buckeyes’ 2014 season as a kicker, and when he committed, Nuernberger said he does not like watching other players do his job.

7. Raekwon McMillan (Hinesville, Ga./Liberty County)
6-2/249
ESPN 300 rank: 13

The Buckeyes’ class will not hinge on McMillan’s recruitment, but it will be a tough blow if the nation’s No. 1 inside linebacker does not land in Columbus. There is sense the Buckeyes lead for McMillan, and the five-star prospect would provide an immediate presence at linebacker in 2014. The 6-foot-2, 249-pound linebacker is a strong run defender, a necessity when playing in the Big Ten. He also has the speed to remain on the field when opponents try to stretch the field horizontally.

8. Saeed Blacknall (Manalapan, N.J./Manalapan)
6-3/205
ESPN 300 rank: 111

The ESPN 150 receiver is a physically imposing threat at 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds. Blacknall has the body to defeat defenders for contested throws, but he also has the speed to beat defensive backs vertically. Freshmen receivers make an impact annually in college football, and at the very least Blacknall could be a red-zone threat to begin his career.

9. Austin Roberts (Carmel, Ind./Carmel)
6-2/217
ESPN 300 rank: 166


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The Opening, presented by Nike, will feature 162 of the best high school football players in the country. The event, which will include linemen, 7-on-7 and SPARQ testing competitions, is set to run from June 30 to July 3 at the Nike headquarters in Beaverton, Ore.

The following events from The Opening will be televised on ESPNU:

July 1: SPARQ Rating National Championship, 7 p.m.-8:30 p.m. ET

July 2: 7-on-7 Pool Play, 9 p.m.-11:30 p.m. ET

July 3: Linemen Challenge Finals and 7-on-7 semifinal and championship games, 9 p.m.-midnight ET

The players will be divided in to six teams -- Alpha Pro, Apocalypse, Field Generals, Land Sharks, Super Bad and Vapor Carbon. Here is a closer look at how the teams match up.

Team: Alpha Pro
Coaches: Offensive coordinator Jordan Palmer, defensive coordinator Hardy Nickerson

The Alpha Pro team will have plenty of targets to spread the ball around. Ermon Lane and Tyler Luatua, the No. 1-ranked receiver and tight end in the country respectively, bring size and playmaking ability to the passing game. ESPN 300 athletes Corey Holmes, Jalen Hurd, John "JuJu" Smith, Ja'Von Harrison, and Derrell Scott are all explosive offensive weapons.

Defensively Alpha Pro is led by Andrew Brown, the No. 1-ranked defensive tackle in the country, ESPN 150 cornerback Damon Webb, defensive end Andrew Williams, Ohio State linebacker commit Dante Booker and LSU cornerback commit Chris Hardeman.

Complete Alpha Pro roster.

Team: Apocalypse
Coaches: Offensive coordinator Adam Tafralis, defensive coordinator Donovin Darius

The first thing that jumps out about team Apocalypse is the talent in the defensive front seven. Team Apocalypse will be led by five-star defensive end Da'Shawn Hand and inside linebacker Raekwon McMillan. Hand, from Woodbridge, Va., is the No. 4-ranked player in the country, while McMillan was recently bumped up to a five-star linebacker. Joining Hand and McMillan along the front seven are ESPN 300 defensive linemen Anthony Moten and Ainuu Taua, and linebackers D.J. Calhoun and Rashaan Evans.

Offensively, team Apocalypse has no shortage of playmakers. ESPN 300 wide receivers Artavis Scott, K.D. Cannon and Michiah Quick will provide explosiveness in the passing game, while athletic running backs Joe Mixon and Royce Freeman will provide athletic and reliable targets out of the backfield.

Complete Apocalypse roster.

Team: Field Generals
Coaches: Offensive coordinator Charlie Frye, defensive coordinator Michael Fletcher

Seven-on-seven events are always geared towards the offense, but with five-star defensive back Adoree' Jackson, No. 3-ranked safety Jamal Adams, and ESPN 300 cornerback Adarius Pickett in the secondary, the Field Generals should more than hold their own. New Ohio State defensive end commit Jalyn Holmes and the No. 6-ranked defensive end in the country, Solomon Thomas, will be two to watch along the defensive line.

Offensively, the Field Generals are led by ESPN 300 offensive guard Damien Mama, ESPN 300 wide receivers Austin Roberts and Thaddeus Snodgrass and explosive Notre Dame running back commit Elijah Hood.

Complete Field Generals roster.

Team: Landsharks
Coaches: Offensive coordinator Craig Nall, defensive coordinator Keith Bulluck

The Landsharks have some big-time talent along each line of scrimmage. Led by five-star offensive tackle Cameron Robinson, the Landsharks also feature ESPN 300 offensive guard Corey Martinez. ESPN 300 defensive linemen Gerald Willis III and Thomas Holley, as well as ESPN 300 defensive end Chad Thomas, will form a very physical and athletic defensive line.

In the secondary, the Landsharks will have three defensive backs -- Arrion Springs, Chris Lammons and Tony Brown -- that are ranked among the top 85 players in the country. The defense also features ESPN 150 linebacker Nyles Morgan.

Offensively, explosive running backs Dalvin Cook, a Florida commit, and Racean Thomas form a dangerous tandem out of the backfield, and wide receivers Travis Rudolph and Jalen Harvey are solid receiving threats.

Complete Landsharks roster.

Team: Superbad
Coaches: Offensive coordinator Dennis Gile, defensive coordinator Harold Nash Jr.

The Superbad defense line is led by five-star defensive end Lorenzo Carter and ESPN 150 defensive tackle Bijhon Jackson. The linebacking corp is stacked with three ESPN 300 members, including Clifton Garrett, Christian Miller and Edwin Freeman. Cornerback Jalen Tabor is the No. 19-ranked player in the country.

Offensively, Superbad has a huge advantage with the No. 1-ranked prospect in the country, running back Leonard Fournette. This team is loaded on offense, with wide receivers Drake Harris, Josh Malone and Speedy Noil all in the mix.

Complete Superbad roster.

Team: Vapor Carbon
Coaches: Offensive coordinator George Whitfield, defensive coordinator Chris Gizzi.

Vapor Carbon will be tough to throw against with defensive backs Quin Blanding, Naijiel Hale and Ed Paris roaming the field. The linebacker group is just as impressive, with Ohio State commit Kyle Berger, Kain Daub and Dillon Bates all leading the way.

The offense for Vapor Carbon could be lethal with running back Joseph Yearby and Nick Chubb in the backfield. Spreading out wide receivers T.V. Williams, Justin Brent and tight end Ian Bunting on the outside could prove to be an awesome combination for this squad.

Team Vapor Carbon has a lot of pieces to make a long run in the 7-on-7 tournament, but then again, every team is stacked in this competition.

Complete Vapor Carbon roster.
Carmel (Ind.) High School receiver Austin Roberts has already been to USC. So when he visits in July, it will be a return trip.

The difference, though, is Roberts was a freshman when he first visited Los Angeles and was not being recruited by the Trojans. When he arrives July 5, he will do so with a USC offer.


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Illinois secures LB Austin Roberts

June, 14, 2013
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Class of 2014 inside linebacker Austin Roberts (Rice Lake, Wis./Rice Lake) committed Thursday to sign with the Illini, multiple sources report.

Roberts was heavily recruited by non-BCS, FCS and Ivy League schools. Air Force, Army, Central Michigan, Columbia, Harvard, Illinois State, North Dakota State, Pennsylvania, South Dakota State, Wyoming and Yale extended offers to the 6-foot-3, 230-pound prospect.

He registered 152 total tackles, seven sacks and an interception during his junior campaign.

Illinois now has six pledges.

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