NCF On The Trail: Braden Smith

Atlanta NFTC awards 

March, 24, 2014
Mar 24
11:15
AM ET
The NFTC tour continued to roll on with a stop in Atlanta this past weekend. The event featured a very strong roster of talent, including a pair of top-five prospects in the ESPN Junior 300. No group was lean on talent, with plenty of promising 2015 and even 2016 prospects to evaluate. It's tough to name everyone who competed and did well. Below are some of the event's top and most notable performers in the latest addition of the Recruiting Nation NFTC Awards.

Recruiting hits and misses: SEC West

February, 6, 2014
Feb 6
11:10
AM ET

Now that the fax machines are quiet, the 2014 signing classes have been announced and before we start looking ahead to 2015, let's take a moment to examine how each of the SEC schools did in filling immediate needs via recruiting.

We're checking out what all 14 teams did to fill holes, and we're looking at which holes still remain. We'll start with the SEC West (click here for the SEC East):

ALABAMA

Needs filled: It was obvious Alabama needed help at cornerback, and the Crimson Tide went out and got two of the best in the country in five-star prospects Tony Brown and Marlon Humphrey. Pass rushers were also a priority, which makes five-star defensive end Da'Shawn Hand and four-star outside linebackers Rashaan Evans and Christian Miller key pickups. Cameron Robinson, yet another five-star prospect, could end up starting at left tackle next season on the offensive line.

Holes remaining: The Crimson Tide could have used another marquee receiver and lost out on No. 1 wideout Malachi Dupre to LSU. With Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Vinnie Sunseri both heading early to the NFL, the Tide also might have come up short at safety.

ARKANSAS

Needs filled: The Hogs’ passing game was in need of a jump-start, and getting an ESPN 300 player out of Miami the caliber of JoJo Robinson adds another playmaker to the equation. Arkansas’ offensive line class is equally impressive with four-star prospects Brian Wallace and Frank Ragnow and three-star prospect Jovan Pruitt joining Denver Kirkland and Dan Skipper from last year’s class.

Holes remaining: The highest-ranked player in the Hogs’ class was defensive tackle Bijhon Jackson of El Dorado, Ark., which was big considering they need help everywhere on defense. But they missed out on a pair of highly ranked defensive ends in Solomon Thomas and Demetrius Jackson.

AUBURN

Needs filled: Gus Malzahn called ESPN 300 prospect Tre' Williams the key to the class, and he should provide an immediate boost at linebacker. With Chris Davis departing, the Tigers also needed to replenish at cornerback, which is where four-star prospects Kalvaraz Bessent and Stephen Roberts come in. Both were ranked in the top 10 nationally at their position. With Greg Robinson leaving early for the NFL draft, it was good to add muscle on the offensive line with ESPN 300 prospect Braden Smith, who could play guard or tackle.

Holes remaining: The sting of losing Evans, who’s from Auburn, to Alabama could be felt for a while. He's the kind of explosive athlete who would fit on any defense, and the Tigers need more of those guys, particularly at linebacker.

LSU

Needs filled: The loss of running back Jeremy Hill early to the NFL draft was lessened by landing Leonard Fournette, the No. 1 overall prospect in this class. It only got better for the Tigers’ offense on signing day when the country’s No. 1 receiver, Dupre, said he would play his college football on the Bayou. Safety was a real sore spot on defense last season, so getting ESPN 300 prospect Jamal Adams was a major pickup. Adams is rated by ESPN RecruitingNation as the No. 2 safety in the 2014 class.

Holes remaining: Robinson would have been a nice centerpiece on that LSU offensive line, but Alabama came into West Monroe, La., and swiped the five-star prospect. The Tigers also lost five-star athlete Speedy Noil of New Orleans to Texas A&M.

MISSISSIPPI STATE

Needs filled: Junior college signee Jocquell Johnson is already on campus and will battle for a starting job next season on an offensive line that’s losing two starters, including All-SEC guard Gabe Jackson. The Bulldogs also added a pair of playmakers at receiver in ESPN 300 prospects Jamoral Graham and Jesse Jackson. Flipping 6-foot-6, 265-pound defensive lineman Cory Thomas from Tennessee on signing day added some more punch to an already deep and talented defensive line in Starkville.

Holes remaining: More secondary help would have been nice, which is why losing cornerback Tee Shepard to Ole Miss on signing day was a downer. A couple of the offensive linemen the Bulldogs wanted, Jordan Sims and Sean Rawlings, also opted for Ole Miss.

OLE MISS

Needs filled: The Rebels wanted to continue to stockpile talent on the offensive line after reeling in Laremy Tunsil and Austin Golson a year ago and did that with four-star prospects Rod Taylor, Tyler Putman and Sims. Upgrading the defense was also a priority, which is why beating Alabama for ESPN 300 safety C.J. Hampton was so important along with getting ESPN 300 defensive end Garrald McDowell out of Louisiana. Flipping junior college cornerback Shepard from Mississippi State was a nice signing day coup.

Holes remaining: You can never have enough defensive linemen in the SEC, so losing defensive tackle Michael Sawyers to Tennessee was a blow. The same goes for ESPN 300 defensive end Davon Godchaux, who stuck with his commitment and signed with LSU.

TEXAS A&M

Needs filled: With Johnny Manziel taking his show to the NFL, Texas A&M has to find a quarterback. Early enrollee Kyle Allen is an ESPN 300 prospect and ranked as the No. 1 pocket passer in this class. Noil, another early enrollee, should help fill a void with big-play receiver Mike Evans headed to the NFL, and the Aggies also loaded up on offensive linemen, including a pair of junior college signees. Any help on defense was a priority, which makes five-star defensive end Myles Garrett one of the keys to the class.

Holes remaining: The Aggies are still thin at safety after swinging and missing on several of their top targets in this class, including Adams, Steven Parker II and Mattrell McGraw. They also had ESPN 300 safety Dylan Sumner-Gardner committed but lost him to Boise State when Marcel Yates took the defensive coordinator job there.

ESPN 300 players announce decisions

February, 5, 2014
Feb 5
7:30
PM ET
The nation's top players announced their college decisions Wednesday. Here's a look at where the ESPN 300 committed:

No. 9 Adoree' Jackson: USC
No. 14 Lorenzo Carter: Georgia
No. 17 Malachi Dupre: LSU
No. 22 Ermon Lane: Florida State
No. 24 John "Juju" Smith: USC
No. 25 Solomon Thomas: Stanford
No. 26 Damian Prince: Maryland
No. 52 Rashaan Evans: Alabama
No. 60 Malik McDowell: Michigan State
No. 67 Damien Mama: USC
No. 75 Michiah Quick: Oklahoma
No. 87 Chris Lammons: South Carolina
No. 120 Wesley Green: South Carolina
No. 127 Braden Smith: Auburn
No. 138 Donte Thomas-Williams: West Virginia
No. 158 Roderick Johnson: Florida State
No. 163 Treon Harris: Florida
No. 164 Travonte Valentine: LSU
No. 174 Andrew Williams: Auburn
No. 179 Dexter Wideman: South Carolina
No. 194 Mattrell McGraw: Oregon
No. 243 Nifae Lealao: Vanderbilt
No. 249 Myles Autry: Georgia Tech
No. 253 Derrick Nnadi: Florida State
No. 264 Poona Ford: Texas
No. 286 Isaiah McKenzie: Georgia

You can watch ESPNU online via WatchESPN.

To see where we think these guys will go, check out the predictions on our Hot Board.
Braden Smith (Olathe, Kan./Olathe South) has been a recruiting enigma, keeping his favorite teams close to the chest. On Wednesday, the ESPN 300 offensive lineman gave Auburn his verbal pledge on ESPNU.

A 6-foot-6, 290-pound lineman and considered the top-ranked player in Kansas, Smith chose the Tigers over TCU and Texas A&M. He is ranked No. 127 in the ESPN 300 and is the No. 9 offensive guard in the country.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Want the lowdown on what the top prospects are thinking heading into signing day? Check out where the top 100 stand here. Here’s a look at the rest of the uncommitted ESPN 300:

CB Wesley Green (Lithonia, Ga./Martin Luther King)
Ranking:
No. 120 in ESPN 300
The decision: The former South Carolina commit officially visited Columbia Jan. 17. The Gamecocks are trying to hold off the late charge by Georgia.

[+] EnlargeBraden Smith
Miller Safrit/ESPNAuburn, TCU and Texas A&M are the finalists for OT Braden Smith, the No. 127-ranked prospect in the ESPN 300.
OT Braden Smith (Olathe, Kan./Olathe South)
Ranking:
No. 127 in ESPN 300
Announcement: 8:50am ET on ESPNU
The skinny: The No. 9-ranked guard prospect visited TCU this past weekend and will pick between Auburn, Texas A&M and TCU. Smith’s sister is a member of the TCU track and field team.

RB Donte Thomas-Williams (Durham, N.C./Hillside)
Ranking:
No. 138 in ESPN 300
The decision: West Virginia is considered the heavy favorite for the big back, with NC State fighting hard to keep Thomas-Williams home.

OT Roderick Johnson (Florissant, Mo./Hazelwood Central)
Ranking:
No. 158 in ESPN 300
The decision: Florida State and Ohio State are the final two, with the Seminoles having long been considered the favorite.

DT Travonte Valentine (Hialeah, Fla./Champagnat Catholic)
Ranking:
No. 164 in ESPN 300
The decision: The former Louisville, Florida and Miami commit is down to LSU and the Hurricanes.

DE Andrew Williams (McDonough, Ga./Eagles Landing Christian)
Ranking:
No. 174 in ESPN 300
Announcement: 2pm ET on ESPNU
The decision: What looked like an Auburn-Clemson battle has turned into a three-team race after this past weekend’s visit to Georgia.

S Mattrell McGraw (River Ridge, La./John Curtis Christian)
Ranking:
No. 194 in ESPN 300
Announcement: 10:45am ET on ESPNU
The skinny: McGraw is set to announce between Oregon and Texas A&M. The Ducks are considered the longtime favorite, but the Aggies have made a strong push.

ATH Myles Autry (Norcross, Ga./Norcross)
Ranking:
No. 249 in ESPN 300
Announcement: 3:50pm ET on ESPNU
The skinny: The versatile athlete Autry made official visits to Georgia Tech on Jan. 24 and Florida State this past weekend and will decide between the two. The Yellow Jackets are the favorite unless the Seminoles made a strong push.

DT Derrick Nnadi (Virginia Beach, Va./Ocean Lakes)
Ranking:
No. 253 in ESPN 300
The decision: Virginia Tech and Florida State have been thrown about as the favorites, but Nnadi did visit Virginia this past weekend. Penn State and Ohio State also received official visits.

DT Poona Ford (Hilton Head, S.C./Hilton Head)
Ranking:
No. 266 in ESPN 300
Announcement: 12:15 p.m. ET on Twitter (#WhereWillPoonaGo) and on ESPNU
The skinny: The former Louisville commit has officially visited Texas and Purdue and was at Missouri this past weekend. The Longhorns were considered the favorite headed into the trip to Missouri, due to the athletic defensive tackle’s relationship with former Louisville and current Longhorns coach Charlie Strong.

ATH Isaiah McKenzie (Plantation, Fla./American Heritage)
Ranking:
No. 286 in ESPN 300
The decision: The Under Armour All-America Game standout visited Virginia Tech this past weekend, and it looks like it will be a decision between Ole Miss and the Hokies. Florida remains in the mix.

LB Kenny Young (River Ridge, La./John Curtis Christian)
Ranking:
No. 16 ILB
Announcement: 10:39 a.m. ET on ESPNU
The skinny: The inside linebacker made January officials to Texas A&M, Arkansas, Oklahoma State, LSU and UCLA. The Bruins, whom he visited this past weekend, have been the favorite for weeks, but the hometown Tigers and the Aggies have made strong pushes recently.

CB Terrence Alexander (River Ridge, La./John Curtis Christian)
Ranking:
No. 35 CB
Announcement: 10:35 a.m. ET on ESPNU
The skinny: The three-star corner visited Stanford, Notre Dame and Ole Miss in January and will pick between the trio of programs, with Ole Miss and Notre Dame both trending in recent weeks.
As Auburn prepares for national signing day, the program is in a very different place than it was a year ago. Gus Malzahn has been there a full year, and the Tigers are coming off a loss in the VIZIO BCS National Championship Game. Still, signing day is as important as ever, and Auburn is hoping to carry its momentum from the season to the recruiting trail.

Here are four uncommitted prospects to keep an eye on the next two days:


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Weekend recruiting wrap: Big 12 

February, 3, 2014
Feb 3
8:00
AM ET
video
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:


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Key recruiting visits -- Big 12 

January, 31, 2014
Jan 31
9:00
AM ET

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.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Key recruiting visits -- SEC 

January, 31, 2014
Jan 31
9:00
AM ET

The last official visit weekend is here. While the majority of prospects have committed and are set for national signing day, there are still several uncommitted ESPN 300 prospects for whom SEC programs are battling down to the wire.

Here is a look at 10 key visits this weekend. Numbers indicate ranking in the ESPN 300.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Most important targets: Big 12 

January, 28, 2014
Jan 28
8:00
AM ET
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.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Weekend recruiting wrap: Big 12 

January, 27, 2014
Jan 27
8:00
AM ET

As expected, this was one of the busiest weeks in the Big 12 from a recruiting standpoint. Teams were looking to fill in last-minute vacancies, and players were looking to finalize their college plans. TCU proved to be the big winner in the conference, landing six 2014 commits and two more commits from the 2015 class. Kansas wasn’t far behind, as the Jayhawks got verbal commitments from five three-star players for the 2014 class.

Here are some of this past week’s highlights:


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Key recruiting visits -- SEC 

January, 24, 2014
Jan 24
9:00
AM ET

The Class of 2014 is down to two official visit weekends remaining. As expected, there are several official visits that potentially impact the SEC this weekend, including visits by some of the top national prospects on the board.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Early Offer: Big weekend for USC 

January, 24, 2014
Jan 24
5:30
AM ET
The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today’s offerings: If USC is going to close strong, landing some of this weekend’s 11 official visitors are key; even though neither are going to land him, Alabama and Oregon earned high praise for their recruiting efforts with offensive lineman Braden Smith’s coach; and Lorenzo Carter has become priority No. 1 for several of the Southeast's top teams.

11 recruits set to visit USC


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

5 to watch: Big 12 signing day preview 

January, 21, 2014
Jan 21
8:00
AM ET
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:


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Key recruiting visits -- SEC 

January, 17, 2014
Jan 17
9:00
AM ET
The dead period is in the rearview mirror, coaches are back on the road and the last three official visit weekends are set to begin. That means the rush to national signing day is upon us, and the scratching and clawing to close with a bang begins on Friday.

As expected, nearly every SEC program is hosting key visitors with both committed and uncommitted prospects remaining in play. Here's a look at some of the top recruits who are taking visits this weekend:

1. No. 14 prospect Lorenzo Carter (Norcross, Ga./Norcross): One of the three uncommitted five-star prospects, the recruitment of Carter is down to LSU, Florida, Florida State and Georgia, with the Tigers getting an official visit this weekend. Trips to Florida State on Jan. 24 and Georgia on Jan. 31 remain on the schedule.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

SPONSORED HEADLINES