NCF On The Trail: Cory Thomas

Recruiting hits and misses: SEC West

February, 6, 2014
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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.

Signing day wrap: SEC

February, 5, 2014
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The Southeastern Conference had a strong finish the 2014 recruiting class. Alabama, which received a commitment from four-star outside linebacker Rashaan Evans (Auburn, Ala./Auburn) on Wednesday, finished with the top overall class by a landslide, and seven of the top 10 recruiting classes in the country are in the SEC. Here’s a closer look at some of the top news from around the SEC on national signing day.

Top class

[+] EnlargeRashaan Evans
AP Photo/Butch DillESPN 300 OLB Rashaan Evans, who chose Bama over Auburn, made a great class even better.
There is no question Alabama had the top overall class. The Crimson Tide finished with 27 signees, including 19 ranked in the ESPN 300 and five five-star prospects. In addition to the incredible class Alabama put together leading up to signing day, the Crimson Tide were also able to land Evans, the No. 52 player in the country. Evans chose Alabama over arch-rival and hometown Auburn Tigers.

The Alabama class was led by the No. 1 offensive tackle in the country, Cameron Robinson (West Monroe, La./West Monroe), the No. 2-ranked defensive end Da'Shawn Hand (Woodbridge, Va./Woodbridge) and the No. 2-ranked cornerback in the country Tony Brown (Beaumont, Texas/Ozen), who is already enrolled.

The SEC West alone had three schools, Alabama, LSU and Texas A&M, finish in the top five of the final recruiting team rankings. In all, 13 of the 14 SEC schools finished in the top 40 of the team recruiting rankings.

South Carolina, LSU and Georgia finish strong

South Carolina had arguably the best finish of any class in the SEC. The Gamecocks were able to flip ESPN 300 defensive end Dexter Wideman (Saluda, S.C./Saluda) from Florida State and defensive tackle Blake McClain (Jacksonville, Fla./Sandalwood) from Nebraska. They were also able to land ESPN 300 defensive backs Chris Lammons (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./Plantation) and Wesley Green (Lithonia, Ga./Martin Luther King) giving the Gamecocks a very athletic secondary.

If South Carolina was the best, LSU wasn’t far behind. The Tigers were able to land the No. 1 wide receiver in the country Malachi Dupre (River Ridge, La./John Curtis) and ESPN 300 defensive tackle Travonte Valentine (Hialeah, Fla./Champagnat Catholic). Dupre chose LSU over UCLA, Ole Miss, Alabama and FSU. Valentine had decommitted from three different schools – Louisville, Florida and Miami -- over the course of his recruitment before finally settling on LSU. The Tigers were also able to hang on to defensive end Davon Godchaux (Plaquemine, La./Plaquemine), who had been wavering on his commitment leading up to signing day.

Georgia, meanwhile, added five-star defensive end Lorenzo Carter (Norcross, Ga./Norcross), who chose the Bulldogs over LSU, FSU and Florida. They also added four-star wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie (Plantation, Fla./American Heritage). The ESPN 300 wide receiver wasn’t even considering Georgia until earlier this week, but a late offer from the Bulldogs was enough for McKenzie to pull the trigger and sign with Georgia.

Several schools lose commits

Signing day was full of surprises, including several prospects who backed off of their commitments and signed with a different school. Three-star defensive tackle Cory Thomas (McCalla, Ala./McAdory), a long-time Tennessee commit, spurned the Volunteers and signed with Mississippi State. But not all was good news for Mississippi State. Ole Miss was able to steal junior college defensive back Tee Shepard (Fresno, Calif./Holmes CC), the No. 22-ranked player in the ESPN JC 50. The Vols took another hit when three-star offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr. (Duluth, Ga./Peachtree Ridge) unexpectedly signed with Oklahoma. The Volunteers, however, were able to land four-star defensive tackle Michael Sawyers (Nashville/The Ensworth School), and had the No. 5 recruiting class in the country -- one that included 11 players ranked in the ESPN 300.

Quarterback Treon Harris (Miami/Booker T. Washington) backed off his pledge to FSU and signed with Florida. Offensive tackle Andrew Mike (Tucson, Ariz./Sabino) was only a part of Vanderbilt’s class for one short day, but the three-star tackle flipped on Tuesday night and signed with Florida on Wednesday. Four-star Alabama safety commit Chris Williams (Kingsland, Ga./Camden Co.) flipped and signed with UCF because of personal family reasons. Four-star wide receiver DeSean Blair (Jacksonville, Fla./Sandalwood) flipped his commitment from Louisville and signed with Missouri.

Vanderbilt able to rebound

The Vanderbilt class may not be filled with four- and five-star prospects, but the job new head coach Derek Mason did to rebuild the Commodores’ class is nothing short of amazing. After James Franklin left to take the head coaching job at Penn State and a string of decommitments followed, Vanderbilt was down to eight verbal commitments. After an impressive few weeks of recruiting the Commodores finished with 22 signees, including 17 prospects ranked three stars or higher.

The class is led by ESPN 300 defensive tackle Nifae Lealao (Sacramento, Calif./Capital Christian) and four-star running back Dallas Rivers (Stone Mountain, Ga./Stephenson). After losing ESPN 300 quarterback Kyle Carta-Samuels to Washington, Vanderbilt was able to flip Pitt quarterback commit Wade Freebeck (Fort Lauderdale, Fla/St. Thomas Aquinas) and former ECU commit Shawn Stankavage (Raleigh, N.C./Cardinal Gibbons).

Key recruiting visits -- ACC 

January, 17, 2014
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The dead period has finally come to an end, and coaches are itching to get back on the road. The NCAA extended the dead period an additional week this January, so coaches have been quarantined in their football offices longer than they have ever been before with signing day just three weeks away.

With signing day quickly approaching, each official visit weekend becomes exponentially more important. This is the first of three official visit weekends in January. Here are this weekend’s 10 biggest visits in the ACC:

1. CB Marlon Humphrey (Hoover, Ala./Hoover): Florida State
The five-star cornerback was down to Alabama and Florida State, but there is some talk that Georgia could get in late with defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt now with the Bulldogs. Although most project Humphrey to Alabama, the Seminoles were keeping it very close when Pruitt was their defensive coordinator and recruiting the No. 15 player in the ESPN 300. Maybe the Noles will impress Humphrey enough this weekend to remain a finalist, but, without Pruitt, it seems unlikely FSU will land him.

National signing day is approaching quickly. With three official visit weekends remaining before Feb. 5, here is a look at a number of prospects who could flip to and/or from SEC schools in the coming weeks.

Florida commit Ermon Lane (Homestead, Fla./Homestead): Lane, No. 28 in the ESPN 300, is scheduled to officially visit national champion Florida State with the Gators fighting hard to keep the uber-talented wide receiver. The flip from Florida to the Seminoles by Dalvin Cook (Miami/Central High), the nation’s No. 20 prospect, makes the chore even tougher for the Gators


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Weekly Commitment Roundup

November, 15, 2013
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AAC
Louisville
Lukayus McNeil OT Indianapolis/Decatur Central
HT: 6-6 WT: 260
Positional Rank: No. 123 OT
Stars: 3

Rutgers
Jordan Fuchs TE-Y Middle Village, N.Y./Milford Academy
HT: 6-6 WT: 235
Positional Rank: N/A Post-Grad
Stars: 3

ACC
Miami (Fla.)
Anthony Moten DT Ft. Lauderdale, Fla./St. Thomas Aquinas
HT: 6-4 WT: 292
Positional Rank: No. 11 DT
Stars: 4
ESPN 300 (No. 176)

Virginia
Donovan Dowling WR Richmond, Va./Varina
HT: 6-1 WT: 200
Positional Rank: N/A
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Big 12
Kansas
Damani Mosby DE Mesa, Ariz./Mesa CC
HT: 6-3 WT: 235
Positional Rank: N/A
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Kansas State
Tramal Ivy DE Muskogee, Okla./Muskogee
HT: 6-4 WT: 230
Positional Rank: N/A
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Big Ten
Wisconsin
Caleb Kinlaw RB Goose Creek, S.C./Goose Creek
HT: 5-11 WT: 184
Positional Rank: No. 106 RB
Stars: 3

Pac-12
UCLA
Cameron Griffin OLB Los Angeles/View Park
HT: 6-3 WT: 210
Positional Rank: No. 116 OLB
Stars: 3

SEC
Alabama
Da'Shawn Hand DE Woodbridge, Va./Woodbridge
HT: 6-4 WT: 262
Positional Rank: No. 2 DE
Stars: 5
ESPN 300 (No. 6)
Under Armour All-American

Arkansas
Santos Ramirez S Shreveport, La./Evangel Christian
HT: 6-1 WT: 170
Positional Rank: No. 120 S
Stars: 3

Florida
DeAndre Goolsby TE-H Derby, Kan./Derby
HT: 6-4 WT: 225
Positional Rank: No. 9 TE-H
Stars: 3

Kentucky
Montrell Custis CB Lovejoy, Ga./Lovejoy
HT: 5-11 WT: 168
Positional Rank: N/A
Stars: 3
Class of 2015

Missouri
Brandon Lee OLB Indianapolis/Lawrence Central
HT: 6-2 WT: 210
Positional Rank: No. 16 OLB
Stars: 4
ESPN 300 (No. 239)

Tennessee
Dimarya Mixon DE Mesquite, Texas/West
HT: 6-4 WT: 263
Positional Rank: N/A (late qualifier)
Stars: 3

Cory Thomas DT McCalla, Ala./McAdory
HT: 6-6 WT: 265
Positional Rank: #47 DT
Stars: 3

Texas A&M
Justin Dunning S Whitehouse, Texas/Whitehouse
HT: 6-3 WT: 190
Positional Rank: No. 10 S in 2015 class
Stars: 4
ESPN Junior 300 (No. 127)

C-USA
Florida Atlantic
Jewison Dawkins WR Ft. Lauderdale, Fla./Plantation
HT: 6-0 WT: 153

North Texas
Jalen Adams WR Moore, Okla./Southmoore
HT: 5-10 WT: 161
Positional Rank: No. 162 WR
Stars: 3

Tulane
Robert Kennedy ILB Belle Chasse, La./Belle Chasse
HT: 6-0 WT: 225

Tulsa
Michael Rios DT Fort Worth, Texas/Amon Carter-Riverside
HT: 6-3 WT: 280

Mid-American
Buffalo
Myles Nicholas OLB Rochester, N.Y./Irondequoit
HT: 6-2 WT: 220

Kevin Rogers QB-PP Cincinnati/Anderson
HT: 6-3 WT: 195

Toledo
Mykale Rogers WR Lima, Ohio/Central
HT: 6-1 WT: 175

Mountain West
Air Force
Nick Colson TE-Y Gilbert, Ariz./Higley
HT: 6-4 WT: 223

Boise State
Kekoa Nawahine S Meridian, Idaho/Rocky Mountain
HT: 6-2 WT: 190
Positional Rank: N/A
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Hawaii
Nick Nelson WR Forestville, Md./Suitland
HT: 5-10 WT: 180
Positional Rank: #209 WR
Stars: 3

Devan Stubblefield WR Honolulu/St. Louis
HT: 6-0 WT: 185
Positional Rank: No. 133 WR
Stars: 3

Sun Belt
Louisiana-Monroe
Benjamin Luckett RB Palestine, Texas/Palestine
HT: 6-0 WT: 193

Recruits will be watching: Tide-Vols 

October, 24, 2013
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Though Alabama will have several top visitors in attendance for its game against LSU on Nov. 9, there are still plenty of recruiting storylines to follow when the Crimson Tide host long-time rival Tennessee this weekend.

Da'Shawn Hand
Scott Fink for ESPNNo. 4 overall prospect Da'Shawn Hand will be in Tuscaloosa this weekend for his second of three official visits.
Both teams have top-five recruiting classes, and the game will draw plenty of recruits from all over the Southeast. Here's a closer look at which recruits will be focused on this game Saturday.

DE Da'Shawn Hand (Woodbridge, Va./Woodbridge): The No. 4-ranked player in the country will be in Tuscaloosa for his second of three official visits. It appears that Michigan has the advantage for this five-star prospect, but Nick Saban is one of the best recruiters in the country, and Bama will pull out all the stops to impress Hand and his family. Hand is also planning to visit Florida in early November before making a decision on Nov. 14. This visit will go a long way in determining where the No. 1-ranked defensive end will play college football next season.


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Most important targets: SEC 

October, 22, 2013
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The Southeastern Conference already has two commitments from a top-10 player (Cameron Robinson to Alabama and Myles Garrett to Texas A&M), but the SEC has a real possibility of landing the final six uncommitted top-10 prospects in the country. Here is a closer look at the top remaining recruiting targets in the SEC.

Alabama

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Despite loss, Vols impress recruits 

October, 7, 2013
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Tennessee hosted several visitors for its hard-fought 34-31 overtime loss to Georgia on Saturday. The Vols fell to 3-3 on the season and have a tough stretch of games against ranked opponents South Carolina, at Alabama and at Missouri, then face 4-1 Auburn.

The Vols have the No. 3-ranked recruiting class in the country, but will the mounting losses and tough stretch of games affect Tennessee's recruiting momentum?


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Weekend recruiting wrap: SEC 

October, 7, 2013
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There was plenty of recruiting news in the Southeastern Conference over the weekend. Tennessee hosted several visitors for its exciting game against Georgia, and there were some impressive high school performances as well. Here is the latest news around the SEC.

Biggest commitment: Alabama beat out rival Auburn for Ronnie Clark, the No. 12 athlete and No. 96 overall prospect in the Class of 2014. The Tide continue to have a stronghold on the No. 1-ranked recruiting class in the country. Alabama now has 21 verbal commitments, including 15 who are ranked in the ESPN 300.


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SEC recruiting storylines: Sept. 19 

September, 19, 2013
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Fans in the SEC are still trying to catch their breath after a wildly entertaining game between Alabama and Texas A&M. With that said, there are plenty of hot topics on the recruiting front throughout the SEC.

[+] EnlargeLaurence Jones
Greg Ostendorf/ESPNLaurence Jones will be one of the big names in attendance when LSU opens SEC play with Auburn on Saturday.
Impressive visitor list for Florida
Last week it was Texas A&M hosting a star-studded group of visitors. This week, it will be Florida when the Gators play host to Tennessee. On the official visitor list are the No. 11-ranked prospect overall Lorenzo Carter (Norcross, Ga./Norcross), who has a top three of Alabama, Georgia and Florida; No. 25 Jamal Adams (Lewisville, Texas/Hebron), No. 59 Clifton Garrett (Plainfield, Ill./Plainfield South) and three-star tight end DeAndre Goolsby (Derby, Kan./Derby), who had an official visit to Oklahoma on Sept. 6. Among the uncommitted unofficial visitors in the 2014 class are three-star defensive tackle Cory Thomas (McCalla, Ala./McAdory) and No. 257 overall Jordan Sims (Birmingham, Ala./Homewood). The class of 2015 list of unofficial visitors scheduled to be in attendance includes No. 2 overall and LSU commitment Kevin Toliver II (Jacksonville, Fla./Trinity Christian Academy), No. 6 Martez Ivey (Apopka, Fla./Apopka), No. 13 Jeffery Holland (Jacksonville, Fla./Trinity Christian Academy), No. 48 CeCe Jefferson (Glen Saint Mary, Fla./Baker County), No. 77 Kendrick Norton (Jacksonville, Fla./Trinity Christian Academy) and No. 158 Jake Fruhmorgen (Tampa, Fla./Plant), among many others.

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Critical positions in SEC recruiting 

September, 3, 2013
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Each year college coaches prioritize their recruiting needs. Whether it's offensive or defensive linemen or skilled positions, there always seems to be an area that needs more attention than others. Here's a closer look at the most important position for each SEC team in recruiting this year.


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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Alabama was one of the first schools to begin recruiting defensive tackle/end Cory Thomas (McCalla, Ala./McAdory). He lives just an hour up the road. However, the Crimson Tide had yet to offer the local prospect because the coaches hadn’t seen enough.


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Each week, Tales From The Road will provide news and updates about where Florida's coaches are recruiting and the prospects making headlines.

This week’s targets: For the fourth straight week, Florida coaches were on the road recruiting. This week a Florida coach headed to Orlando to check in on defensive end Trent Harris, who recently decided to postpone his May 23 commitment date. Florida also checked in on 2015 Orlando (Fla.) Timber Creek running back Jacques Patrick.

Running backs coach Brian White headed to Alabama to check out defensive tackle Cory Thomas, running back Bo Scarbrough and outside linebacker Torrence Brown. Linebacker Dillon Bates had Florida coaches visit him at his practice on Tuesday.

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McCALLA, Ala. -- Clemson defensive line coach Marion Hobby attended the Class 5A state championship game in Alabama last fall. The headliner was Spanish Fort cornerback and University of Alabama signee Jonathan Cook, but Hobby came to see McAdory High School defensive lineman Cory Thomas.

On Thursday, Clemson offered Thomas a scholarship.


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