NCF On The Trail: Chris Godwin
With national signing day in the books, RecruitingNation is looking at the top position classes. For the full series, click here.
Nationally (and SEC)
While the Baylor Bears had an exceptional wide receiver class, the nod here goes to LSU. Not only did the Tigers sign the nation's No. 1 receiver in Malachi Dupre (River Ridge, La./John Curtis Christian), but also the No. 3 ranked receiver in Trey Quinn (Lake Charles, La./Barbe) and ESPN 300 No. 271 D.J. Chark (Alexandria, La./Alexandria Senior) and No. 283 Tony Upchurch (Pearland, Texas/Dawson). In Dupre, LSU snagged the No. 17 prospect overall on signing day. He has a tall, lengthy frame with a near ideal size-and-speed combination and elite high-point ball skills. Quinn will enter LSU as an advanced route-runner with separation skills and the ability to pluck the ball outside of the framework of his body. Chark brings initial quickness and the vertical speed to take the top off a defense, and Upchurch is a big body who continues to add bulk and could eventually transition to a flex type of position.
The Tigers had the nation’s best wide receiver class; here’s which schools had the best in each of the remaining power conferences:
Senior national recruiting analyst Tom Luginbill and Big Ten recruiting reporter Tom VanHaaren spared time from their busy schedules to answer these questions:
Ohio State and Michigan again lead the way in the Big Ten recruiting rankings. How much late drama do you expect with those two programs?
He will take his decision out to signing day, so there is a battle going on there, but there's still a chance he ends up at Michigan State or Florida State. He has kept everything close to the vest and it's anyone's guess as to where he ends up. Ohio State could have a little drama, but that happens when you land top ranked prospects.
Tom Luginbill: I really just expect to see where McDowell falls.
What other Big Ten programs have impressed you?
TL: Penn State and Wisconsin. Badgers coach Gary Andersen is adding more speed and athleticism to this class, including QB D.J. Gillins (Jacksonville, Fla./Ribault). They would love to close with CB Chris Lammons (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./Plantation).
TVH: Michigan State has put together a good class. I really like ESPN 300 defensive back Montae Nicholson (Monroeville, Pa./Gateway) for the Spartans defense. I think Northwestern has put together a really good class as well with three ESPN 300 commitments. The Wildcats added in-state defensive back Parrker Westphal (Bolingbrook, Ill./Bolingbrook), which was a big get for them. Illinois did a lot to help fill immediate needs as well. The Illini lose four receivers and brought in some junior college prospects to compete right away.
How much impact has James Franklin made on Penn State's recruiting in a short time?
TVH: It seems to be all positive for now. It's not surprising that he has flipped so many Vanderbilt commitments to Penn State, because he was the coach who recruited them. The recruits, however, that have flipped will all tell you that he is the guy they want to play for. There is already some excitement in the 2015 class and in the Pennsylvania area, so I think Penn State fans are going to be very happy with what Franklin and his staff does in the near future.
TL: Significant, but it should be noted that Michael O'Connor (Bradenton, Fla./IMG Academy), De'Andre Thompkins (Swansboro, N.C./Swansboro) and Chris Godwin (Middletown, Del./Middletown) all enrolled early prior to his hire, but after Bill O’Brien departed, which tells you of their commitment to the program. Since his hiring, Penn State has added seven verbal commits, including flipping Rutgers commit WR Saeed Blacknall (Manalapan, N.J./Manalapan) this past week.
How much of an effect, if any, has Michigan State's on-field success had in its recruiting so far?
TL: Minimal. They do what they do. The biggest myth is that they are made up of 2- and 3-star players, which is not true. It has been 4- or 3- star players the past three to four classes The Spartans develop players as well as anyone. They don’t give in to external pressures to recruit anyone and they identify not only good players, but the right players for them.
TVH: It had some impact in the 2014 class, but because that class was already almost over by the time the Spartans won the Rose Bowl, the real affect will likely be on 2015 and 2016 prospects. Michigan State already has one of the top in-state prospects committed with Kyonta Stallworth (St. Clair Shores, Mich./South Lake) and there is a realistic chance the Spartans could land most of the top prospects from the state of Michigan. They have already heard from some prospects that they otherwise would have been out of the running for, so I think 2015 could be where you see some of those affects.
How have Maryland and Rutgers done in recruiting, and are their efforts up to Big Ten standards?
TVH: Rutgers has suffered a lot of decommitments in the 2014 class. It seems like this is a whole new class from what it used to be. The most recent was Blacknall, who flipped to Penn State. Maryland has had a better time recruiting in this class, but is still outside the top 40 in the class rankings. The Terrapins have had a lot of injuries to deal with, so I think once they get healthy and get back on track they will start to see a little more success. Now that they're in the Big Ten they can tell local recruits that they can stay close to home and still play in big stadiums and on national television, which will be a big draw.
TL: Rutgers is crumbling. At one time they had four ESPN 300 prospects and all have decommitted. This is not a good start for the Knights heading into the Big Ten. We very much like the top third of Maryland’s class, and the middle third has upside, but there is a significant drop off in talent in the bottom third, in our opinion.
What teams do you view as disappointing with this class?
TL: Rutgers. The rest have essentially been as expected for the most part.
TVH: Can I cop out and give everyone a trophy? I don't think anyone has a really disappointing class. I imagine Rutgers' coaches aren't thrilled with the way things have gone, but for the Big Ten teams from this season I think most of them have done a really nice job filling needs and getting a few big recruits in the class.
Finally, name a few players who we can expect to have an immediate impact in the 2014 season.
TVH: Jabrill Peppers (Paramus, N.J./Paramus Catholic) is probably the first name that sticks out. He is the No. 2-ranked prospect in the country for a reason and could end being an outstanding college football player once he's done. I expect him to play early in some capacity. Potentially, a guy like Dominique Booth (Indianapolis/Pike) at Indiana at receiver, running back Jeff Jones (Minneapolis/Washburn) if he sticks with Minnesota, Johnnie Dixon (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla./Dwyer) at Ohio State and maybe juco defensive lineman Joe Keels (Kenosha, Wisc./Highland (Kan.) Community College) at Nebraska.
TL: Peppers, (Ohio State LB) Raekwon McMillan (Hinesville, Ga./Liberty County) and Jones, if he sticks.
ESPN 300 wide receiver Saeed Blacknall (Manapalan, N.J./Manalapan) switched his commitment from Rutgers to Penn State. He gives the Nittany Lions three ESPN 300 receivers in the 2014 class.
I have officially committed to THE PENNSYLVANIA STATE UNIVERSITY #WeARE....— Saeed RaaShad (@RaaShad_TTG) January 27, 2014
The No. 118-ranked prospect took a visit to Penn State on Jan. 17 and had been thinking about making the switch ever since.
At 6-foot-3, 205 pounds, Blacknall will complement De’Andre Thompkins and Chris Godwin, the two other ESPN 300 receiver commitments in this class. Both Godwin and Blacknall are bigger, physical receivers whereas Thompkins is a more athletic player who could even be a wildcat quarterback in certain plays.
Blacknall hails from New Jersey, which is an area Franklin and his staff are going to make a priority. This was a good commitment to start with for the new staff as Blacknall is now the second highest ranked commit in the class.
The ESPN 300 receiver gives the Nittany Lions 23 commitments for 2014 and some outstanding options at receiver going forward.
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- ESPN 300 receiver De'Andre Thompkins didn't know whom his Penn State coach would be on Monday night. The Nittany Lions' commit only knew the coach he preferred.
"I really hope [James] Franklin takes it," he told ESPN.com, five days before the hire became official.
He wasn't the only one -- four-star wide receiver Chris Godwin felt similarly -- because Franklin's reputation precedes him. He's the gregarious coach who calls recruits "homeboy" and the tireless recruiter who clips two cell phones to his boxers when he's preparing for a night's rest.
Franklin's impact on the Nittany Lions' future recruiting classes -- and on overall recruiting in the Big Ten -- should be instant and far-reaching. An ACC coach told CBS' Bruce Feldman that, if Franklin wound up at Penn State, "He'd kill it in recruiting around here."
"He's very different because he's so approachable," said Ricky Bowers, a high school coach at The Ensworth School in Nashville, Tenn., whose team won four consecutive state titles. "He's just different. He's friendly, likable and passionate.
"The only way you wouldn't like him is if you were jealous of him."
Franklin drove to Ensworth before the state title game just to wish Bowers luck. And Bowers said Franklin is that rare type of coach with whom he can just shoot the breeze on the occasional lazy day.
Franklin was characterized by others as an energetic recruiter with an infectious personality -- so Bowers wasn't surprised much by all the NFL attention. After all, Nashville-area recruits looked at Franklin as the man who built up the local college program out of the ashes. Lest you think that's an exaggeration, consider this: Before Franklin arrived in the Music City, the Commodores last boasted a nine-win season in 1915, a full decade before Joe Paterno was born. In the past two years, Vanderbilt has recorded back-to-back nine-win seasons.
"Good gracious, he's got everybody fired up about football," said Marty Euverard, the high school coach at Montgomery Bell Academy in Nashville. "He just knows how to build relationships, and I think that's a key component. Some people have a gift; some don't. He's got it."
Penn State's old coaching staff tried to construct new recruiting pipelines. Former defensive coordinator Ted Roof attempted to circle back to his recruiting roads around Georgia and, when he left, safeties coach Anthony Midget focused on his old stomping grounds in Florida. Their spoils? Roof helped reel in two 2013 commits who remain on the roster, defensive back Kasey Gaines and defensive tackle Parker Cothren, from Georgia and Alabama, respectively. Midget didn't grab any in the most recent class.
Compare that untapped territory with Vanderbilt. The Commodores signed three players from California -- and that was just in the last class alone. Vanderbilt's current roster includes players from 21 states. No recruiting area has really been off-limits to the bald coach with the trademark frames.
"He's been able to cast a wide recruiting net at Vanderbilt, one that's broader than any net I've seen cast," Bowers told ESPN.com. "He's honed in on schools that Vanderbilt has not traditionally been in on. When you first see him, he just has this personality, where you like him right away. He's just a nice guy and, yeah, he's a really good recruiter."
Franklin was able to attract top recruits to a cellar-dwelling program and turn it into something special. It's unknown what he can do with a former powerhouse -- whose fans once showed up in the thousands for a 7 a.m. pep rally, and showed up by the handful Wednesday night in snowy, below-freezing temperatures at the airport just to catch a glimpse of Franklin.
Nobody can say for sure the heights that Franklin can take this program, recruiting-wise. But Thompkins and Godwin aren't the only ones who are excited -- and Big Ten newcomers Maryland and Rutgers, two teams in PSU's recruiting footprint, shouldn't be the only ones who are worried.
Neither disappointed as a freshman this past fall. Hargreaves was named first-team All-SEC and Taylor showed promise after taking over as Florida's primary ball-carrier just before midseason.
After going 4-8 in 2013, Florida needs impact freshmen more than ever. Here's a look at what to watch for in Thursday's UA Game (4 p.m., ESPN, complete roster).
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On Saturday, upon checking in for the prestigious game, a number of prospects weighed in on a hot topic involving Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel and Florida State's Jameis Winston.
If they had to choose between the two, who would the players take as their college quarterback? Here are their responses:
Florida commit and No. 20-ranked Dalvin Cook (Miami/Central High): I would say Jameis Winston. He’s really a pure quarterback, and I think he sets up things more for a running back than Johnny Manziel does.
Auburn running back commit Racean Thomas (Oxford, Al./Oxford High): I would probably pick Jameis Winston. The reason behind that is because he is more of a leader for a young quarterback, and I think he can make his team a more mature team. I really think he would be a great quarterback to play with.
Florida wide receiver commit and No. 28 Ermon Lane (Homestead, Fla./Homestead Senior High): Whew, I don’t know. I think Jameis Winston. I look at how both of them played as a freshman, and I like how Jameis Winston leads his team. He is also more pro-ready than Manziel.
Texas defensive end commit and No. 78-overall Derick Roberson (San Antonio, Texas/William J. Brennan High): I guess I would say Johnny Manziel. I like how he plays with his swagger and confidence the most, so I would probably say him.
Notre Dame commit and No. 76-ranked Tyler Luatua (la Mirada, Calif./La Mirada High): I would take Manziel just because of the way he plays. If he doesn’t have a wide receiver open, he can make plays himself. He can get the ball to his players if and when he wants to, but can also do it on his own when he needs to.
No. 38 overall John Smith (Long Beach, Calif./Long Beach Polytechnic High School): That’s a hard one. As of right now, I would go with Jameis Winston. Overall, he’s a great player. I think Winston has an awesome football IQ. Johnny had his year too, but I think Winston is just a great player. Outstanding.
Dylan Sumner-Gardner: Jameis Winston, man. I feel comfortable with Jameis Winston as my quarterback because he’s smart and accurate. Johnny is accurate too, but Johnny is Johnny. How he runs around, people may get nervous. I would just feel more comfortable with Jameis as my quarterback.
No. 22 overall Laurence Jones (Monroe, La./Neville High): That’s a hard one right there. Let me think ... maybe Johnny Manziel because I don’t think I’ve ever seen a white boy get down like that. It would have to be Johnny Manziel.
Penn State wide receiver commit Chris Godwin (Middletown, De./Middletown High): I think Jameis Winston. I think overall he’s a better passer. I want a quarterback back there that can get me the ball on a consistent basis, but Johnny Manziel is a great player, too. I’m actually a big fan of both of them.
Five-star and Virginia defensive tackle commit Andrew Brown (Chesapeake, VA
Oscar Frommel Smith High): Dang, that’s a good question, man. I would go with Jameis Winston. His leadership qualities, coming in as a freshman and doing the things he is doing is definitely uncommon. It just foreshadows what he is going to do in the future, too. He’s already established a great foundation for himself, and I would definitely take him in the future.
Maryland commit Will Ulmer (Washington, D.C./Saint John’s High): I’m going with Johnny Manziel. I think he’s more dynamic, and more of a game-changer. Jameis Winston is a great quarterback too, but you have to think about all the dudes he has around him at FSU -- all the great receivers and good running backs. I would go with Manziel because if you put him on the Florida State team, or a stacked team like that, it would be a scary sight.
As the calendar year winds down, there is still plenty to talk about within recruiting. Big Ten teams have been on a roll on the recruiting trail as of late, and each program is hoping that continues into signing day.
Here are five things for fans to watch as we head into the holiday season.
Under Armour Game
There are six Big Ten teams represented in the Under Armour All-America game this year with Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio State and Penn State all having commitments scheduled to play in the game.
The game will be played Jan. 2 in St. Petersburg, Fla., but there will be plenty to watch before the big game. The participants will go through tough practices and skill competitions leading up to the event, which always has some interesting storylines.
The practices put the best players in the country against each other, so it’s a good measuring stick of top prospects.
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Defensive tackle Thomas Holley (Brooklyn, N.Y./Lincoln) has committed to Penn State according to his head coach. Holley, No. 87 in the ESPN 300, chose the Nittany Lions over Florida on Monday.
Holley, the No. 7 ranked defensive tackle in the class, is a huge addition to Penn State’s 2014 class. At 6-foot-4, 303 pounds, he is third defensive tackle commit for coach Bill O’Brien.
Holley took his official visit to Penn State in October and took a trip out to Florida in late November. He also received in-home visits from both coaching staffs, but ultimately chose the Nittany Lions.
The middle of the line was important to build depth as senior DaQuan Jones is graduating and Kyle Baublitz will not be returning next season. Jones, 6-3 and 318 pounds, was awarded as Penn State’s most outstanding senior player at the annual end of the year banquet.
Holley will eventually help fill that void, as he has similar size and a similar build as Jones.
He also adds to a growing class already ranked No. 26 in the ESPN class rankings. His commitment gives the Nittany Lions eight commitments ranked as four-stars and nine three-star commitments.
Holley joins De'Andre Thompkins (Swansboro, N.C./Swansboro), Michael O'Connor (Bradenton, Fla./IMG Academy) and Chris Godwin (Middletown, Del./Middletown) as the four ESPN 300 commits in this class.
The Big Ten has quite a few of those recruits in the game, so here is a look at five of the bigger storylines heading into the prestigious game.
Will Jabrill Peppers take visits?
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Mike Dudek: Dudek helped Neuqua Valley (Naperville, Ill.) beat O’Fallon 38-7 with three touchdown catches on the night.
Julian Hylton: The three-star running back had 159 yards on 30 carries with four touchdowns in his game. He helped lead Lincoln-Way North (Frankfort, Ill.) to a 41-6 win over Thornton Fractional South.
Coray Keel: The Indiana commit and Snellville (Ga.) South Gwinnett wide receiver registered five catches for 108 yards and scored a 70-yard touchdown in a 30-28 win over Snellville Brookwood.
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“First off, I would like to thank God because without him none of this would be possible,” Godwin said. “I have been blessed with so many people around me that have taught me so many great things, and have helped me develop into the great person and player that I am today. And for that, I want to thank my family and friends, all the people at Premier Physical Training and the entire Middletown football family. ... If it wasn’t for you all, I would not be in this great position I am today. Lastly, I would like to thank Under Armour and American Family Insurance for this great honor,”
Middletown head coach Mark Delpercio says his star player's versatility and leadership are special qualities.
“Chris is a great teammate. To his teammates, he’s never anybody that has separated himself. But he is also somebody who is special offensively, defensively and on special teams. Here’s a young man that was a three-way all-state player ... offense, defense and special teams. That doesn’t happen that often in any state. His uniqueness is just how he is able to play the game, his work ethic and what he does with his teammates to make them better. A true leader will bring everybody up with him, and he does that with his teammates.”
Godwin accepted as the opportunity to play in the game almost immediately.
"I decided to accept the invitation to the Under Armour All-America Game because I've watched it since I was young, and it has always been a dream of mine to play in it. Now that it is a reality, it's definitely very humbling and great for me. To be invited to this game is just a great honor, especially knowing that players like Julio Jones and A.J. Green have gone through it. It just lets you know that if your dream is to make it to the NFL, then it's possible to make it through this game. To play on ESPN will be a great experience. I’m really excited about the game. It’s a great honor and I’m looking forward to getting down to Florida and meeting some of the guys and doing what we love to do.”
The 6-foot-2, 203-pound Godwin is the No. 152 prospect overall and the No. 21 wide receiver in the class. He committed to Penn State over Boston College, Maryland, Rutgers, Northwestern, Vanderbilt and others.
Editor's note: For a look at the national recruiter power rankings based only on Class of 2014 success, click here.
Michigan and Ohio State both sit in the top 10 recruiting rankings this year after each landed top 10 classes in 2013 -- the Buckeyes were third, while the Wolverines were sixth.
That's why it should come as no surprise that the two schools have the top four recruiters in the Big Ten Conference for the Class of 2014 so far.
Here's a look at the top 10 recruiters in the Big Ten and why they deserve such high praise:
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@buckeyefan686: With so many wide receiver/athlete commitments in the last two years, where does Braxton Berrios stand with Ohio State and vice versa?
Brad Bournival: More than likely, the four-star wide receiver is on the outside looking in. The fact the Buckeyes have so many players who can play the slot position leaves Berrios in a tight situation. The four-star wide receiver has been on official visits to Oregon, Miami and South Carolina already. He’s got one more lined up for Tennessee on Oct. 4 and wants to make his decision a few weeks after that.
At this point, I would scratch Ohio State off the list unless the Buckeyes can talk the 5-foot-9, 181-pound Berrios into taking a greyshirt year.
Tom VanHaaren: I think they need help along the defensive line, so if they miss on those two it would probably behoove them to look for help.
I don’t think your scenario is very likely. I think Michigan will land those two, but anything can happen in recruiting. Hand had to change his visit schedules, which I believe helps Michigan even more. He has never been out to Florida and won’t have much time to really digest his visit from that time until he decides.
If Hand were to choose a different school, Michigan is still technically in the top group with Garrett Dickerson (Oradell, N.J/Bergen Catholic). He has Stanford No. 1 and Northwestern in there, too, so he’s not likely. That late in the game the coaching staff would likely have to evaluate some prospects and reach out to prospects to gauge interest before figuring out who to target.
It just doesn’t seem likely, though, at this rate, that they will miss on those two.
@shermez07: Are the Penn State misses on potential pledges due to the sanctions or just normal recruiting reasons (playing time, coaching staff, etc.)?
Bournival: With only 65 scholarships things can be tough in the recruiting world and it would be silly not to think the sanctions haven’t played a role in the decision-making process.
Bowl games aren’t just big business for colleges, they’re a measuring stick for players as well. The fact the Nittany Lions are still dealing with that issue makes it a hard sell, although that part of the penalty becomes easier and easier with each class.
That said Bill O’Brien hasn’t completely whiffed with the two classes he’s been in charge of so far.
This year he grabbed ESPN 300 athlete De'Andre Thompkins (Swansboro, N.C./Swansboro), quarterback Michael O'Connor (Bradenton, Fla./IMG Academy) and wide receiver Chris Godwin (Middletown, Del./Middletown). In the 2013 class, quarterback Christian Hackenberg (Fork Union, Va./Fork Union Military Academy), tight end Adam Breneman (Camp Hill, Pa., Cedar Cliff) and offensive guard Brendan Mahon (Randolph, N.J./Randolph) were big gets.
@Cyan220 What is the feeling regarding Northwestern? Are they likely to get Parrker Westphal, Dickerson or Brandon Lee?
VanHaaren: Linebacker Brandon Lee (Indianapolis/Lawrence Central) cancelled his visit to Northwestern on Thursday night. He tweeted that he wouldn’t be taking any questions as to why he cancelled the visit either.
That’s rather strange since he had been planning to take that trip on Wednesday. There is obviously more to this story, so it will be interesting to see what ends up happening.
The Wildcats do have a shot with Westphal and Dickerson, but it might be safe to say that Stanford leads for Dickerson. He has ties to Northwestern, so there is still a chance.
Westphal is a closed book as far as what he’s thinking and what might be next. He and his family do that on purpose, so it’s a guess as to where he ends up. Northwestern and Vanderbilt were thought to be the leaders for Westphal, but Michigan State might sneak in there as well.
email@example.com: With the addition of Noah Brown to Ohio State’s 2014 class, do they still have room for Marshon Lattimore? I have been reading they only have 18 spots for 2014, they have interest/needs in the offensive and defensive line, and they now have 18 commits. Do you think this helps Michigan’s chances with Lattimore and do the Wolverines have room with the potential for Hand and McDowell added to this class?
Bournival: Ohio State’s max right now is 18, but remember that number is fluid and should the likes of Devin Smith, Bradley Roby and Ryan Shazier decide to go pro at the end of the season, numbers open back up. The number of scholarship athletes can change from one day to the next, so the Buckeyes would make room for someone like Lattimore.
While Ohio State does need offensive linemen, the Buckeyes are loaded at defensive line, so that part of the equation really doesn’t apply. Many insiders believe it’s only a matter of time before Lattimore says yes to Ohio State. Cleveland Glenville athletes are hard to pull away from the Buckeyes, so it would be an extreme uphill battle to land him. That could change if there’s an official visit lined up to Ann Arbor, but for right now things lean towards Ohio State.