NCF On The Trail: Christian Kirk

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Nearly 90 recruits -- including 10 ESPN 300 prospects -- made commitments to the Pac-12 since the start of June, as the conference recruiting race heated up alongside the weather this summer. Not surpisingly, even with the boon over the past two and a half months, the Pac-12 still lags behind other conferences when it comes to sheer commitment numbers. Many Pac-12 programs have become content to wait until the season, or after the season, to put an emphasis on official visits and commitments. At this point, 35 programs hold commitments from 16 or more recruits, and only one of those -- Arizona -- resides in the Pac-12.

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BEAVERTON, Ore. -- The Opening presented by Nike Football took place July 7-10 at Nike World Headquarters, with 162 of the nation's top high school football prospects competing. With four days of dynamic training, coaching and competition, The Opening was the perfect chance for recruits in the Class of 2015 to make big jumps and shine on the national stage.

As expected, a number of prospects stood out among the best of the best. Here are the five recruits who helped their stock the most during The Opening.


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Nearly a year after getting officially offered by Texas A&M, ESPN 300 quarterback Kyler Murray sent Aggies everywhere into a frenzy when he ended much anticipation and gave the Aggies his pledge last week.

[+] EnlargeKyler Murray
Max Olson/ESPNKyler Murray's commitment could have sparked what could be a big 2015 class for Texas A&M.
If the events that followed are any indication, it will have been well worth the wait for the Aggies, who last week turned in a huge recruiting week.

Not only did they land Murray, the nation's No. 1 dual-threat quarterback and the second five-star prospect in the Texas A&M class, but it was followed the next day with a pledge from ESPN 300 receiver Kemah Siverand, a four-star player who had several other attractive options, including LSU, Ohio State and Texas just to name a few.

Murray's pledge could begin a domino effect that leads to the Aggies continuing to pick up steam in the form of commitments from other elite prospects.

ESPN 300 receiver DaMarkus Lodge and Cedar Hill (Texas) High teammate outside linebacker Richard Moore both indicated just hours after Murray's pledge that they'll announce their commitments on July 1. Texas A&M is in a good position to land both, so that will be worth keeping an eye on.

Five-star defensive tackle Daylon Mack, who had planned summer visits to Alabama and LSU, canceled those plans after Murray's pledge. The longtime Texas A&M commitment also showed up on Twitter in a maroon shirt with the hashtag "#WRTS", which Aggies have been using since the Murray pledge (the acronym stands for "We run this state").

Other ESPN 300 recruits, like linebacker Malik Jefferson and receiver Christian Kirk, no doubt took notice of Murray's pledge. Both have myriad elite options, and neither is likely to end the recruiting process soon. Having someone like Murray on board -- who is widely respected by his peers after winning two state championships at the highest classification of Texas high school football -- certainly can't hurt Texas A&M's chances.

But it's more than just about Murray's pledge for Texas A&M. In a grander scheme, the Aggies continue to recruit at a high level under coach Kevin Sumlin and his staff. The Aggies are now No. 2 in the ESPN RecruitingNation class rankings, behind only Alabama. The Aggies are on pace for their second consecutive top-five recruiting class and third consecutive top-10 recruiting class.

While recruiting is often an inexact science, if a program consistently recruits at a high level and stockpiles talent, it seems to be only a matter of time until it leads to on-field results, and the Aggies have already gotten off to a solid 20-6 start in their first two SEC seasons.

There's still a long way to go until national signing day arrives for the 2015 class and much can change, but right now, the Aggies are sitting pretty and doing a solid job of keeping pace with their SEC brethren on the recruiting trail.
When recruiting in the SEC, schools do everything they can to remind prospects of major victories over rivals on the field. At Auburn, the Tigers are literally reminding prospects of their Kick Six victory over Alabama “on the field.”

In preparation for the Tigers’ annual elite recruiting weekend known as “Big Cat Weekend,” the Auburn grounds crew painted an orange circle on the Jordan-Hare Stadium turf where Chris Davis fielded the Crimson Tide’s missed field goal in the end zone with one second left. The crew took it another step further and tracked Davis’ path from one end zone to another for the game-winning touchdown against the Tide.



“We can show the recruits this is where history was made, and you can also be a part of history too if you come here,” an Auburn assistant said.

The Tigers expect to host 25 to 30 of their biggest 2015 and 2016 targets this weekend, including ESPN 300 prospects like quarterback/athlete Torrance Gibson, linebacker Jeffery Holland and receiver Christian Kirk.

Tale of the tape: UCLA vs. USC 

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There have been some significant pendulum swings in the rivalry between UCLA and USC since 1991.

That was the year in which the Bruins embarked on an eight-game winning streak against USC, which was countered by the Trojans winning 12 of the next 13 meetings -- though two were later vacated because of NCAA sanctions. Now, UCLA and head coach Jim Mora are riding high after two wins in a row in the rivalry, and things have gotten very interesting on the recruiting trail.


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Meet No. 4 WR Christian Kirk 

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Throughout this recruiting cycle, RecruitingNation will profile a number of ESPN 300 prospects in the 2015 class, including an inside look at the prospect, his recruitment, a scouting report and what college program could benefit when he ultimately makes his decision.

Few high schools in the country could lose a player like D.J. Foster and have the excitement about the future not take a dip. In his senior season at Saguaro (Scottsdale, Ariz.), Foster broke the state record by scoring 60 touchdowns -- one defensively -- as he rushed for more than 3,000 yards for the Sabercats on their way to back-to-back state titles.


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USC commit Ricky Town is labeled as a key building block for new head coach Steve Sarkisian.

However, Town would like to be known as an active builder, too.


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Highlights from the L.A. NFTC 

March, 10, 2014
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REDONDO BEACH, Calif. -- A new season of the Nike Football Training Camp circuit got kicked off this past weekend in Los Angeles with a strong showing. It was a large turnout and had some good prospects, including several in the ESPN Junior 300. It is a strong year for quarterbacks out West, and that was on display at Redondo Union High School. The wide receivers and linemen also featured a good deal of talent. Here are the Recruiting Nation NFTC Awards, highlighting the top performers.


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REDONDO BEACH, Calif. -- Thirty athletes from the West region in the ESPN Junior 300 met at Redondo Union (Calif.) High School on Sunday morning for the first Nike Football Training Camp of the spring. With hundreds of recruits in attendance, it wasn't surprising that many of the top prospects coming into the event stood out.


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REDONDO BEACH, Calif. -- Thoughts on USC prospects at the Los Angeles Nike Football Training Camp held Sunday at Redondo Union High School:

Ricky Town (Ventura, Calif./St. Bonaventure) came out and was one of the elite players in a very good group of quarterbacks. His delivery is so smooth and he had the added advantage of throwing the majority of reps to one of his favorite receivers, teammate, Lavan Alston (Ventura, Calif./St. Bonaventure). When the QBs gathered for early drills, Town quickly took the first spot in line, something that any coach will appreciate to see from the QB position. The Trojans got a good one.


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USC targets expected at L.A. NFTC 

March, 6, 2014
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Preliminary recruiting rankings have been out for months but some of the re-shuffling and separation could begin this upcoming weekend, when many of Southern California’s top prospects descend on Redondo (Calif.) Union High School.

The Nike Football Training Camp tour will make its annual stop in the Los Angeles area on Sunday, and a bevy of USC targets are expected to be among the participants, including quarterback commit Ricky Town (Ventura, Calif./St. Bonaventure). The No. 2-rated pocket passer in the 2015 class will compete against a strong field that also features No. 1-rated passer Josh Rosen (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco) and Notre Dame commit Blake Barnett (Corona, Calif./Santiago).


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A top objective for the USC Trojans in the 2015 recruiting class undoubtedly is to build a strong group of receivers around quarterback commit Ricky Town (Ventura, Calif./St. Bonaventure), the No. 2-rated pocket passer in the ESPN Junior 300.

Head coach Steve Sarkisian took a productive step in that direction Saturday, hosting ESPN 300 receiver Christian Kirk (Scottsdale, Ariz./Saguaro) on an unofficial visit. Kirk, the No. 4 receiver in the class and top-ranked player in Arizona, dropped by campus with his family and met with the new coaching staff for the first time.


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Fifteen for '15: Look ahead at USC 

February, 6, 2014
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For the first time in what might seem like an eternity to USC fans, the Trojans will be able to sign a full, 25-member recruiting class next February as the scholarship limitations come to a close. That means more possibilities and, perhaps, less of a numbers crunch in the weeks leading up to next year’s national signing day.

With that in mind, here’s a list of 15 uncommitted recruits the Trojans could have near the top of their board to highlight the 2015 group:

[+] EnlargeIman Marshall
Tom Hauck for Student SportsDefensive back Iman Marshall is high on USC's 2015 wish list at a position the Trojans need.
DB Iman Marshall (Long Beach, Calif./Poly): The shutdown corner they call “Biggie” would be a great get for the Trojans, if only because he plays a position of major need. USC managed to land Poly teammate John “Juju” Smith in the 2014 class and would like nothing more than to re-establish a pipeline at the Southern California powerhouse.


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Top 2015 targets: Pac-12 

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After several of the top 10 West region recruits from the Class of 2014 got away from Pac-12 teams, the conference will look to clean that up with the 2015 group. It's off to a strong start, as the only two committed prospects among the top 10 are headed to UCLA and USC. The 2015 class in the West region is loaded and there will be huge commitments from any of the 52 ESPN Junior 300 prospects in the West, but there's no surprise that the top five Pac-12 targets are the top five uncommitted prospects in the region.


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USC, UCLA differ in recruiting strategy 

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When USC enters the Coliseum Saturday to take on crosstown rival UCLA, it will do so with some of the area’s top recruits looking intently from the stands, many of which hold scholarship offers from both schools.

Some had to wait longer than others for the option to attend college nearby. More often than not in recent years, UCLA has been quicker than USC in sending out offers to mutual targets. In fact, of the 12 in-state prospects from the 2015 class that the Trojans have already offered, only four-star offensive tackle Zach Robertson (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco) added USC to his list of suitors before the Bruins joined the chase.

Yet USC’s recruiting efforts are not necessarily harmed by this seemingly cautious approach. UCLA beat USC in offering the likes of Viane Talamaivao (Corona, Calif./Centennial), Malik Dorton (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco) and Toa Lobendahn (La Habra, Calif./La Habra), but the Trojans added them to their recruiting class nonetheless.

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