NCF On The Trail: Darius Slade

Signing day wrap: Big Ten

February, 5, 2014
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Signing day certainly lived up to the hype. With commitments, decommitments and drama across the board, there was a ton of action throughout the day within the Big Ten.

The biggest news on the day was when ESPN 300 defensive lineman Malik McDowell (Southfield, Mich./Southfield) committed to Michigan State, but never sent in his national letter of intent. Before the announcement, McDowell's parents were open about the fact they did not want their son to pick the Spartans.

[+] EnlargeMalik McDowell
John Albright/Icon SMIESPN 300 DL Malik McDowell picked Michigan State, but his parents aren't happy with his decision.
When he did commit to Michigan State, the parents refused to sign the letter of intent. While that document isn't completely necessary for the No. 60 ranked prospect to attend Michigan State, he does need to sign his Big Ten tender. That document ensures his scholarship and also needs a parent's signature.

The Spartans' coaching staff has been working feverishly to get the parents on board, but it has been an uphill battle.

B1G surprises

Amidst the McDowell drama, Ohio State snuck in and was able to get three-star defensive end Darius Slade (Montclair, N.J./Montclair) to flip from Michigan State.

Slade initially said he wanted to wait on signing with the Spartans and visit the Buckeyes after signing day. The Michigan State staff spoke with Slade and decided to move on once Slade said he wanted to take the trip to Columbus.

The Buckeyes reaped the rewards as Slade then sent in his letter of intent to the Ohio State fax machine and is signed for the 2014 class.

There must have been something in the water with Big Ten defensive end commits as former Nebraska commit Blake McClain (Jacksonville, Fla./Sandalwood) flipped to South Carolina.

The three-star defensive end had been committed to Florida State at one point, then decommitted and chose the Cornhuskers. All seemed to be well until signing day when McClain flipped to the Gamecocks. It is a significant loss for Nebraska at an inconvenient time.

B1G movers

Michigan State saw a huge rise in the class rankings, moving up 10 spots to No. 29 overall. A big part of that increase was due to McDowell. If the Spartans can keep him on board it will be a huge coup.

Michigan State also landed three-star athlete T.J. Harrell (Tampa, Fla./Tampa Catholic), giving the coaching staff 14 three-star commits to go along with eight four-stars in this class. Defensive tackle Craig Evans (Sun Prairie, Wisc./Sun Prairie) didn't commit on signing day, but he was a late flip, switching from Wisconsin.

Northwestern dropped four spots, but that was essentially due to the lower numbers in the class and the fact that the Wildcats had closed out their class.

Future is bright at Penn State

The Nittany Lions picked up a commitment from linebacker Torrence Brown (Tuscaloosa, Ala./Tuscaloosa Academy) to cap off James Franklin's first class as Penn State's head coach.

Franklin was not only able to keep the class intact, but added some outstanding prospects.

ESPN 300 defensive tackle Thomas Holley (Brooklyn, N.Y./Lincoln) did decommit, but the addition of ESPN 300 wide receiver Saeed Blacknall (Manalapan, N.J./Manalapan) and three-star athlete Koa Farmer (Sherman Oaks, Calif./Notre Dame) helped Penn State finish No. 24 in the class rankings.

Franklin and his staff have already hit the ground running for the 2015 class as well and several junior prospects reported the Penn State coaches even spoke with them on signing day. There are apparently no brakes for this staff as they look to start building their first full class at Penn State.

Impact signings

Jabrill Peppers (Paramus, N.J./Paramus Catholic) faxed in his letter of intent to Michigan on signing day. On the surface that might not seem like much, but right up until the night before signing day Peppers had been contemplating holding off on putting ink to paper.

The nation’s No. 2 prospect had heard from a few other schools, but ultimately decided Tuesday night that he would sign with the Wolverines.

That was a crisis averted for Michigan coach Brady Hoke, who brought in the No. 18 class in the country. The Wolverines hadn't landed a commitment in the 2014 class since August and most recently fell from No. 12 overall. That is significant given the fact that Michigan at one point had the No. 1 ranked class for 2014.

Minnesota was also able to hang on to its biggest commitment with running back Jeff Jones (Minneapolis/Washburn). The ESPN 300 prospect had been wavering and hearing from a few schools, but announced he would stay committed with the Gophers during a ceremony at his school.

That is as good a commitment as coach Jerry Kill and his staff have landed. Jones is an explosive back.

All in all it was an exciting day for the future of the Big Ten. The conference ended with 34 ESPN 300 prospects and three teams -- Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State -- ranked in the top 25 of the class rankings.

Big Ten class rankings analysis 

January, 22, 2014
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There have been commitments and decommitments across the board in the Big Ten, which means there has been movement among the class rankings.

As signing day approaches, teams will be looking to fill the final spots in their class. Here is a look at trends and a few items to watch within the conference:

Trending up: No Big Ten teams moved up in the class rankings for this week, but that doesn’t mean schools aren’t improving.

Penn State has been on a tear recently with James Franklin and his staff on board. Despite losing ESPN 300 defensive tackle Thomas Holley (Brooklyn, N.Y./Lincoln) to Florida and defensive back Troy Vincent Jr. (Baltimore/Gilman) to NC State, the Nittany Lions have added some big pieces as well.

The most recent was three-star athlete Trace McSorley (Ashburn, Va./Briar Woods), who flipped his commitment from Vanderbilt to Penn State. McSorley was originally recruited as a defensive back by Franklin at Vanderbilt, but then the offer was switched to quarterback while he was committed to the Commodores.

McSorley will add some depth and competition at the quarterback spot for Penn State, as Christian Hackenberg and early enrollee Michael O’Connor are the only other quarterbacks on the roster.

Indiana has also been on a nice run, picking up five commitments in the past week, from linebacker Tegray Scales (Cincinnati/Colerain), running back Tommy Mister (Chicago/St. Rita), athlete Waynedriko Smith (Orlando, Fla./Orangewood Christian) and defensive backs Zeke Walker (Cayce, S.C./Brookland-Cayce) and Tony Fields (Tallahassee, Fla./Godby).

Trending down: Michigan hasn’t lost any commitments in the 2014 class, but the Wolverines lost ESPN Junior 300 running back Damien Harris (Berea, Ky./Madison Southern) over the weekend.

Harris is the No. 1-ranked running back and No. 17 overall in the 2015 class. Losing Harris and fellow ESPN Junior 300 member George Campbell (Tarpon Springs, Fla./East Lake) is a big blow to the 2015 class.

Add in the fact that Michigan’s main remaining target for the 2014 class, Malik McDowell (Southfield, Mich./Southfield) could end up not picking Michigan and could end up at rival Michigan State or Ohio State, that’s more bad news for Michigan.

The Wolverines haven’t landed a commitment since August and steadily have been moving down the class rankings. If the coaches miss on McDowell, that would mean they missed on three major targets: McDowell, five-star defensive end Da’Shawn Hand (Woodbridge, Va./Woodbridge) to Alabama and in-state defensive end Jhonathon Williams (Berrien Springs, Mich./Berrien Springs) to Notre Dame.

Weekend recruiting wrap: Big Ten 

January, 20, 2014
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As usual there is a ton of action happening around signing day. The Big Ten has had commitments, decommitments, offers and everything in between.

Here is a look at what took place within the conference on the recruiting trail this past week:


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Early Offer: Wooing Dupre 

January, 20, 2014
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The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting in the mornings. Monday's offerings: The nation’s No. 1 receiver visited LSU over the weekend, but it’s just the first part of his tour throughout the Southeast this week; Derrick Griffin is back in Texas after a short stint at a prep school, and it will help him get back on the recruiting map; and Nebraska’s loss is Kansas State’s gain.


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Nebraska loses another DL commit 

January, 19, 2014
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Junior college defensive tackle Terrell Clinkscales (Dodge City, Kan./Dodge City Community College) tweeted Sunday that he has decommitted from Nebraska. This is the second defensive line decommit this week for the Cornhuskers after defensive end Darius Slade (Montclair, N.J./Montclair) flipped to Michigan State on Friday.


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Nebraska loses three-star DE 

January, 16, 2014
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A three-star defensive end has had a change of heart with his commitment to Nebraska.


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Weekend recruiting wrap: Big Ten 

December, 16, 2013
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The evaluation period is over and we have moved into a dead period on the recruiting calendar. That means that there is no more in-person contact with coaches and prospective student athletes until the dead period ends on Jan. 16.

Coaches utilize the evaluation period to get targets on campus one last time, or to make in-home visits to give one last pitch before decisions are made.

The Big Ten coaches were out across the country and hosting several important targets in the past few weeks. Here is a look at some of the more important conference visits.

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Big Ten class rankings analysis 

December, 11, 2013
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There has been quite a bit of movement on the recruiting trail within the Big Ten. A few commits, decommits and decisions nearing which means it's time to take a look at the latest class rankings and trends for the conference for the Class of 2014.

Trending up:

Nebraska has been on a roll in recent weeks, picking up four commitments in December. Juco prospects Terrell Clinkscales (Dodge City, Kan./Dodge City Community College), Byerson Cockrell (Columbus, Miss./East Mississippi Community College) and Joe Keels (Kenosha, Wisc./Highland community college) will all add immediate depth and competition at their position.

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Nebraska adds three-star DE 

December, 11, 2013
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Visits can change everything for a recruit, and that holds true for Nebraska’s newest commitment, Darius Slade (Montclair, N.J./Montclair).

The three-star defensive end had the Cornhuskers dead last on his list of schools he was considering before his visit, but now he couldn’t be happier with his decision to join Nebraska.

“I didn’t think Nebraska would be a bad school, but I wasn’t expecting myself to like it so much. They were in last place before the visit, but it was just so unexpected,” he said. “I didn’t see myself liking Nebraska, but when I got out there it was unbelievable.”


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DE Slade ready to make a decision 

December, 10, 2013
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Three-star defensive end Darius Slade (Montclair, N.J./Montclair) has a top three and is nearing a final decision.


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Juco DB Cockrell picks Nebraska

December, 6, 2013
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If it wasn't evident the Nebraska coaching staff was concerned with the defense, just take a look at the 2014 recruiting class. With eight defensive commitments, the Cornhuskers added more help on Friday.

Junior college defensive back Byerson Cockrell (Columbus, Miss./East Mississippi Community College) committed to Nebraska, according to multiple reports, giving the team its third juco commmitment in the 2014 class.

Cockrell took a visit to Lincoln, Neb., for the game against Iowa on Nov. 29. Despite the loss, Cockrell seemingly saw enough to call Nebraska his future home. He will be able to enroll in January and could provide an immediate impact to the Nebraska defense.

At 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds, Cockrell is the fifth defensive back commit in this class alone for Nebraska to go along with Luke Gifford (Lincoln, Neb./Lincoln Southeast), Trai Mosley (Pflugerville, Texas/Hendrickson), Josh Kalu (Houston/Alief Taylor) and Chance Waz (Pflugerville, Texas/Hendrickson). Part of that is due to current defensive backs Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Andrew Green, Ciante Evans and Mohammed Seisay graduating after this season.

There will be big shoes to fill, but adding Cockrell into the mix could help ease those departures.

Nebraska has 18 commitments in the 2014 class and is likely not done on defense just yet. Defensive end Darius Slade (Montclair, N.J./Montclair) also recently took a visit and could be close to a decision.

Slade, a three-star prospect, has Nebraska, Michigan State and Penn State in his top three.

Weekend recruiting wrap: Big Ten 

December, 2, 2013
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This was the final week of regulation for Big Ten teams, so naturally it meant one last push with visiting prospects. A few teams hit big over the weekend and a few are still left with questions.

Here is a look at what happened over the weekend within the conference.


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From commitments to big official visit weekends, it's been a busy week of recruiting in the Big Ten.

Conference recruiting writers Brad Bournival and Tom VanHaaren take a look back at the week that was and look ahead as teams build toward the future.

Boilermakers flip a commitment

Purdue picked up a pledge from safety Timothy Cason II (Clarkston, Mich./Clarkston) this week. Though unranked and a former Western Michigan commit, the Boilermakers were able to flip the switch on the 6-foot, 179-pound Cason and make him the ninth commitment of the 2014 class.


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Big Ten 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 Big Ten conference, check out our conference rankings:

1. Michigan, 15 commits: The Wolverines are No. 6 in the RecruitingNation class rankings, which includes nine ESPN300 prospects -- among them headliner and No. 2 overall Jabrill Peppers (Paramus, N.J./Paramus Catholic High). Michigan could make a move into the top-5 by winning the race for No. 4 Da’Shawn Hand (Woodbridge, Va./Woodbridge High). Defensive tackle and No. 67 Malik McDowell (Southfield, Mi./Southfield High) is another top target still in play. No. 41 overall John Smith (Long Beach, Calif./Polytechnic High) will visit Nov. 29, and is another top target remaining.

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The recruitment of Darius Slade (Montclair, N.J./Montclair) could come down to the little things.

Slade, a 6-foot-3, 215-pound defensive end, has a top five of Michigan State, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Temple and West Virginia. And three of the schools -- well, their 2014 commitments -- are doing a good job with the small things in his recruitment.


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