NCF On The Trail: Dravon Henry

Signing day: Big 12 wrapup

February, 5, 2014
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As hectic of a day as it was, national signing day was a success for all Big 12 programs. Coaches were up early manning their fax machines and showing excitement with every national letter of intent submitted via fax.

Nearly 250 football players signed letters of intent to play Big 12 football on Wednesday. Here are five of the biggest storylines -- and a bonus storyline that could have an ending Thursday -- from the conference.

Oklahoma takes over top spot in Big 12

In the past 48 hours, everything seemed to go Oklahoma’s way.

[+] EnlargeMichiah Quick
Courtesy of Nike ESPN 300 ATH Michiah Quick was a big part of Oklahoma's final rush, a rush that gave the Sooners the top class in the Big 12.
After getting a Tuesday commitment from ESPN 300 safety Steven Parker II (Jenks, Okla./Jenks), the Sooners got Wednesday pledges from ESPN 300 athlete Michiah Quick (Fresno, Calif./Central East) and high three-star offensive tackles Kenyon Frison (West Valley City, Utah/Granger) and Orlando Brown Jr. (Duluth, Ga./Peachtree Ridge).

All four players were a part of Oklahoma’s signing class of 26 on Wednesday -- helping the Sooners take over the top spot in the Big 12 class rankings. Oklahoma’s class is No. 13 nationally, three spots better than previous top dog Texas.

Oklahoma in previous years has been very good at finishing strong in recruiting. It managed to sign Frison, who committed to Utah last February before decommitting last month, as well as Brown, who had been committed to Tennessee since May before making an 11th-hour change.

Strong, Longhorns get their DTs

New Texas coach Charlie Strong wanted two players he recruited to play at Louisville, and by Wednesday afternoon, he had them.

ESPN 300 defensive tackle Poona Ford (Hilton Head, S.C./Hilton Head) and three-star defensive tackle Chris Nelson (Lakeland, Fla./Victory Christian Academy) signed with the Longhorns and were two of 23 to submit national letters of intent. They also helped erase the sting of the Longhorns losing three four-star defensive tackle commitments in LSU signee Trey Lealaimatafao (San Antonio/Warren), Oklahoma signee Courtney Garnett (New Orleans/St. Augustine) and Texas A&M signee Zaycoven Henderson (Longview, Texas/Longview) last month.

Collectively, Ford and Nelson recorded 235 tackles, 9.5 sacks, 35 quarterback pressures and four forced fumbles. The duo also had 37.5 tackles for loss.

Receivers ‘No. 1’ to Baylor coach

Baylor coach Art Briles made a bold statement about his new wide receivers -- one that might be challenged by some but co-signed by others.

“The thing that we feel really good about,” Briles said, “is that we've signed the No. 1 receiving class in America -- I don't think that's up for debate.”

Briles has an argument with four ESPN 300 receivers in K.D. Cannon (Mount Pleasant, Texas/Mount Pleasant), Davion Hall (Texarkana, Texas/Liberty-Eylau), Ishmael Zamora (Houston/Alief Elsik) and Chris Platt (Willis, Texas/Willis). The quartet helped to give Baylor a top-25 national recruiting class.

Rhoads fired up about lone in-state signee

To say Paul Rhoads is excited about his top-ranked signee, ESPN 300 wide receiver Allen Lazard (Urbandale, Iowa/Urbandale) is an understatement.

While Rhoads is pumped about the entire class, there’s something special about Lazard, as he is this year’s only in-state signee. Lazard, No. 148 in the ESPN 300, had opportunities to sign with other programs, but he chose to honor his original commitment and also follow the footsteps of his father Kevin Lazard, who played in the secondary for the Cyclones in the early 1990s.

“This is a young man who has gotten phenomenal national attention and was recruited by the traditional historical programs in college football and kept on turning them away to stay true to his word to be an Iowa State Cyclone,” Rhoads said in a statement of Lazard, the No. 2 prospect out of the state of Iowa behind Alabama offensive lineman signee Ross Pierschbacher (Cedar Falls, Iowa/Cedar Falls).

West Virginia adds depth in class

Adding depth was the objective for West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen, as he signed 22 players on Wednesday. Holgorsen was fortunate to add depth from coast to coast.

Of the 22 commits, only one -- three-star offensive tackle Amanii Brown (Morgantown, W.Va./Morgantown) -- is an in-state signee. The Mountaineers hit points all over the Lower 48, from California to Texas to Florida, to get players who can be contributors early and help the program return to star status.

West Virginia’s class is led by five ESPN 300 players. Running back Donte Thomas-Williams (Durham, N.C./Hillside), the class’ top-ranked player, was the last to commit early Wednesday afternoon. He joins defensive back Dravon Henry (Aliquippa, Pa./Aliquippa), linebacker Davonte James (Springfield, Ohio/Springfield) and receivers Lamar Parker (Miami/Booker T. Washington) and Jake McCrary (Miami/Coral Reef) in the class.

Bonus: Could the Sooners add one more?

LSU signed 22 players on Wednesday. The Tigers were hoping to sign 23.

Deondre Clark (Oklahoma City/Douglass) has been verbally committed to LSU since July, but the ESPN 300 defensive end also has high interest in Oklahoma. There were conflicting reports on Wednesday regarding whether Clark actually signed and submitted his letter of intent to LSU.

ESPN’s David Ching said an LSU spokesperson confirmed the letter of intent was at LSU and cleared compliance. Outside reports, however, say Clark did not submit the letter of intent, and a tweet from Clark's Twitter account said that “nothing is final.” His mother Dorshell also told The Oklahoman that her son “has not signed with LSU.”

Oklahoma City schools were closed on Wednesday because of bad weather, so Clark didn’t fax anything by way of Douglass High School. He is expected to announce his final decision on Thursday.

If it's true that Clark has not signed with LSU, look for Oklahoma to be a key player in his final decision. Ranked No. 273 in the ESPN 300, Clark has built a great relationship with the Sooners' coaching staff, particularly defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery.

Big 12 recruiting roundtable 

February, 4, 2014
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National signing day is now just 24 hours away. To get you ready, we checked in with our ESPN.com recruiting experts for their takes on the major storylines in the Big 12.

Senior national recruiting writer Jeremy Crabtree and Big 12 recruiting reporter Damon Sayles took time from their extremely busy schedules this week to address a few questions:

Oklahoma is closing strong here. With a few blue-chip players still in play, could the Sooners end up with the top class in the Big 12

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- James Franklin hasn't even spent one night in Happy Valley, but Penn State's new head coach has already thrown down the recruiting gauntlet against Pittsburgh and other teams in the northeast.

"Our recruiting philosophy," Franklin said Saturday afternoon during his introductory press conference, "we are going to dominate the state. We are going to dominate the region.

"I'm going to call all the high school coaches. I'm calling all the people in the state that we need to come together like never before."

[+] EnlargeJames Franklin
Matthew O'Haren/USA TODAY SportsJames Franklin didn't mince words when talking about recruiting, say that it's his mission for the Nittany Lions to dominate within the state of Pennsylvania.
Franklin emphasized every line about recruiting and spoke passionately during his first-ever news conference as the Penn State head coach. He's been widely regarded as an incredible recruiter -- he reeled in 22 four-star commits during his time at Vanderbilt -- and he didn't hesitate when asked about his high recruiting hopes.

The new coach's bold statement comes after years of PSU routinely losing out in western Pennsylvania. Sure, Penn State has earned commitments of some prospects such as wideout Troy Apke, but it's missed more than it's hit. PSU fell out of favor with ESPN 300 targets such as WR Tyler Boyd (2013 commit; Pitt), ATH Dravon Henry (2014 commit; West Virginia) and DB Montae Nicholson (2014 commit; Michigan State).

Beating Pitt out for recruits in its own backyard is a daring statement. So, a few minutes after answering his first recruiting question, Franklin was given a chance to soften his words. This time, he was asked where his recruiting focus lay -- but he again wasted no time in reinforcing his original point.

"I don't know if I mentioned this before, but we're going to dominate the state," he said matter-of-factly. "That's the first thing we're going to do."

And after that? Well, Franklin said next comes the region, in such states and areas as New Jersey, New York, New England, Virginia and Delaware. And, then, comes the nation.

"I think you sell yourself short when you don't do that," said the coach who got three commitments from California in Vanderbilt's last class.

Of course, Franklin never specifically mentioned Pitt at that point in the press conference. Maybe he'd back down if that was spelled out to him, maybe he'd try to soften up all this talk of dominating and controlling. It was an interesting thing to say, after all, for his first day on the job.

But Franklin just doubled-down on those statements when Pitt was specifically mentioned in one reporter's question.

"When I say Pennsylvania, when I say Penn State, that's the whole state," he said. "That is the whole state. We will recruit every corner of this state, every school of this state, every neighborhood of this state.

"And when I say recruit, not only just the student-athletes. I mean the people of the great state of Pennsylvania. We will recruit everybody, and that is with tremendous respect for the University of Pittsburgh. But we are ... Penn State."

ACC signing day storylines 

December, 17, 2013
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Signing day and Feb. 5 still might feel far away (50 days away to be exact), but for coaches the sense of urgency has officially set in. The offseason dead period was extended and began Sunday. It will last a month into mid-January, leaving coaches with only a few weekends left to host recruits on campus visits and meet prospects and their families inside their homes.

So with signing day closer than it appears in college football’s mirrors, here are 10 storylines in the ACC to watch between now and Feb. 5.

1. Who will sign the ACC’s top class?


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Big 12 recruiting storylines: Dec. 12 

December, 12, 2013
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With the high school playoffs coming to an end and junior college bowl games behind us, it’s time for many athletes to put recruiting back in the forefront. Several athletes are either in the middle of finishing up their official visit schedules, or they’re in the right mindset to make the big announcement that will shape their lives for the next few years.

Here are some attractive storylines in the Big 12:

Four-star DT still tight with Texas?

This weekend marks the big banquet weekend for Texas, an important event when many commits come to Austin and several targets look to take official visit. With Mack Brown expected to announce his resignation very soon, this weekend could also serve as a time to keep an eye out for Texas commits who choose to reopen their recruiting because of Brown’s departure.


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Big 12 class rankings analysis 

December, 11, 2013
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Two Big 12 teams made positive moves in the latest ESPN class rankings. West Virginia cracked the top 40, coming in at No. 39, and Oklahoma State continued its ascension, climbing from No. 24 to No. 22.

Texas still holds the No. 8 spot, while Baylor remains at No. 16. Oklahoma fell one spot from No. 23 to No. 24, and Texas Tech remained in the top 40 at No. 36.

Here is a more in-depth look at the Big 12 class rankings:

Trending up: West Virginia and Iowa State both saw spikes in their 2014 recruiting, but the Mountaineers are the hottest of the two, particularly after picking up ESPN 300 athlete Dravon Henry (Aliquippa, Pa./Aliquippa), the top-ranked recruit in the state of Pennsylvania. West Virginia also landed junior college quarterback Skyler Howard (White Settlement, Texas/Riverside Community College), who threw for more than 3,100 yards and 33 touchdowns this season. Let’s also give credit to Iowa State, who scored five commitments in the first 10 days of the month, the latest being junior college defenders Jordan Harris (Wesson, Miss./Copiah-Lincoln Community College), an inside linebacker, and Gabe Luna (Garden City, Kan./Butler Community College), a defensive end.


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On Monday, the Keystone State's No. 1-rated prospect, Dravon Henry (Aliquippa, Pa./Aliquippa), committed to West Virginia and is now the Mountaineers' top pledge. Read below to see how the four-star athlete fits in at WVU:

What he brings: Henry is a versatile athlete with playmaking ability. The ESPN 300 prospect could contribute at running back or in the defensive secondary. We feel his better fit leans more toward defense, where he has good speed and range and is a true ballhawk. A smooth athlete, he can matchup with receivers in man-to-man coverage, though he is at his best in zone coverage where he displays good recognition skills. Once around the football he can make a play, demonstrating good ball skills and body control. A solid run supporter, though he can improve as a tackler.

How he fits: It could certainly be tempting to utilize Henry on offense where the Mountaineers are capable of being explosive, but if you go by the philosophy that you put your best athletes on defense he should land on that side of the ball where there is a bigger need. Henry is an athlete with the tools to be productive cornerback as well also potentially develop into a safety and can offer versatility to their secondary in time.

Prediction for performance: West Virginia is coming off a rough season when they notched only four wins and were near the bottom of the country in several defensive categories. The Mountaineers do return several players to that unit and were fairly young this season, but Henry is a good athlete who could be expected to step in and begin contributing even in a limited role. One area where they were solid in was takeaways, and Henry can bring some playmaker qualities to that secondary unit. In time with development, he has the tools to develop into a good starter whether at cornerback or safety and should quickly begin to contribute on special teams.

How the class is shaping up: This is a big pickup for WVU, who were able to beat hometown Pitt and land the four-star athlete. Henry is the Mountaineers' fourth ESPN 300 commitment and now becomes their highest-rated prospect. The strength of the class is on offense where 11 prospects are projected, like ESPN 300 wide receiver Lamar Parker (Miami/Booker T. Washington), but Henry, likely to be utilized on defense, strengthens this class on that side of the ball.

Top recruit in Pa. picks WVU over Pitt 

December, 9, 2013
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ALIQUIPPA, Pa. -- Dravon Henry sat back in his seat inside the Aliquippa Municipal Building. Flanked on each side was his father and mother, who was celebrating her birthday with a surprise college decision from her son, the No. 1 player in Pennsylvania. Henry (Aliquippa, Pa./Aliquippa) reflected on the last 24 hours and then tried to forecast the next four years.

“I plan on attending ...” Henry started. He paused. He cried. He put his head in his hands and then wiped away his tears.


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Weekend impacts future of ACC schools 

December, 8, 2013
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Saturday was a big day for the ACC. Florida State will play for the national championship, marking the first time that will happen for a league school since 2000. This weekend was also a big one for the future of the conference, too, as recruiting is kicking into gear now that the regular season is over.

Noles assistant coach Tim Brewster, considered one of the nation’s best recruiters, immediately took to Twitter following the win and let recruits know the coaches are hitting the road upon returning to Tallahassee. With the coaches focusing on the ACC title game, the FSU staff missed a week to be in the home and schools of recruits. Now, they have a week to work on closing out the 2014 class and gaining momentum in 2015 before the dead period, which begins next week.


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Big 12 class rankings analysis 

December, 4, 2013
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Oklahoma State, on the field, is one of the hottest teams in the country. From a recruiting standpoint, the Cowboys also have been making waves and this week managed to crack the top 25 of the RecruitingNation class rankings. Oklahoma State, with some assistance from the release of the ESPN Junior College 50, moved up to No. 24.

Aside from Oklahoma State, there wasn’t much movement from Big 12 schools. Texas held on to the No. 8 spot, and Baylor remained at No. 16. Oklahoma slipped a spot, from No. 22 to No. 23, and Texas Tech stayed at No. 36. Here's a look at the conference's rankings Insider.

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Early Offer: Malone’s big day 

December, 4, 2013
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The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today's offerings: Josh Malone, one of the nation’s best receivers, will announce his decision today, so will he be singing Rocky Top, calling the Dawgs or heading to Clemson? In-home visits are taking place all over the country and social media is providing us with an inside look at life on the trail; and we’re less than a week away from finding out where the top player in Pennsylvania will end up.

Will Rocky Top be home sweet home?
Four-star receiver Josh Malone, the nation’s No. 48 player out of Gallatin (Tenn.) Station Camp, has already signed financial aid agreements with Tennessee, Georgia, Clemson and Florida State, but he will announce his decision at noon ET Wednesday on NBC Sports Network. The RecruitingNation Hot Board has Malone projected to select Tennessee. The Volunteers were smart and were the first to use the signing of the financial aid paperwork as a tool in the recruiting process. Because he was technically “signed” UT coaches were able to have regular contact with him. Shortly after, the three other schools followed suit.

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Henry, No. 1 in Pennsylvania, sets date 

December, 3, 2013
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Can you keep a secret? Dravon Henry is committing to a school Dec. 9.

“It’s my wife’s birthday,” Henry’s father, Roland, said. “She’s the only one who doesn’t know.”


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Rivalry weekend in the ACC did not receive the same attention as it did elsewhere, but several recruits took some time on their Thanksgiving weekend to either check out or tune in to games involving conference schools.

The most important visit probably happened on Friday at Heinz Field as Dravon Henry (Aliquippa, Pa./Aliquippa), the top player in Pennsylvania, drove down Interstate 376 to visit Pittsburgh. Henry lists a top five of Louisville, Maryland, Miami, Pittsburgh and West Virginia, so he had a chance to see two of his top schools.


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Big 12 recruiting storylines: Nov. 21 

November, 21, 2013
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The beginning of the month didn't start out so hot for Oklahoma, who was routed in a highly-anticipated game at Baylor on Nov. 7. But the Sooners have rebounded well on the recruiting trail with a handful of commitments since the calendar turned.

We'll take a look at who exactly those recruits are as well as talk about the big weekend ahead in Stillwater in this week's edition of Big 12 recruiting storylines.

OU on a roll


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Questions for signing day: Big 12 

November, 12, 2013
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The countdown is on.

With signing day less than three months away, many questions are being answered early with Big 12 targets and with players in the Midlands Region. While the list of uncommitted players gets smaller each day, there are still a few players looking to solidify their college futures. Some may decide soon; others will make coaches sweat a little longer.

Here are 10 questions as we inch closer to the big day, Feb. 5.


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