NCF On The Trail: ESPN 300

Recruiting picture a repeat: SEC rules

February, 3, 2015
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Miller Safrit/ESPNFive-star recruit Kendall Sheffield committed to Alabama last month.
National Signing Day is one day away, and the SEC looks poised for another dominant recruiting year.

The SEC has eight of the top 15 classes, according to ESPN’s RecruitingNation, and many of the top undecided recruits have at least one SEC school on their list of contenders.

Although top-notch recruiting does not always translate to on-field success, the SEC has recruited like no other conference in recent years.

Consider these numbers. From 2012 to 2014:


• Looking at the top five classes each of the three years, 10 of the 15 belong to the SEC.

• The SEC signed 302 players ranked in the ESPN 300, 181 more than any other conference.

• The SEC signed 21 five-star recruits; the rest of the country, 16.

No. 1 within Alabama's reach
The SEC’s recruiting dominance begins with the Alabama Crimson Tide. The Tide have signed a top-three class in each of the last seven seasons and are likely to sign an unprecedented fourth straight No. 1 class in 2015.

No other team this decade has come close to Alabama in terms of recruiting. Since ESPN started giving out five-star ratings in 2010, 77 players have earned that distinction. Alabama has signed an FBS-high 10 of the 77, with a commitment from another in 2015 (cornerback Kendall Sheffield).

In 2015, Alabama is set to sign another top class. Entering Signing Day, the Tide have 25 commitments, 18 from players in the ESPN 300. To add context, no other team has commitments from more than 14 ESPN 300 players, and the entire Big Ten has 31 ESPN 300 commitments (2.2 per school).

Alabama probably will lead the nation in ESPN 300 signees for a fourth-straight season. It’s not surprising that Alabama had nine more ESPN 300 players on its active roster last year than any other FBS team.

The SEC’s recruiting dominance begins with Alabama, but plenty of other teams are making an impact on the recruiting trails. Last season, in Butch Jones’ first full recruiting season, Tennessee signed a top-five class. The Volunteers, with 29 committed players, are likely to sign another top class in 2015. Georgia joins Tennessee with a projected top-five class, the Bulldogs’ first in the last three seasons.

As Ole Miss’ fifth-ranked class in 2013 showed, top-notch recruiting can have an impact on the field. SEC schools Ole Miss, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Texas A&M, LSU, Auburn and Mississippi State are all projected to sign a top-15 class. If those numbers hold, it will be the most top-15 classes (eight) for any conference in any year since 2006.

Those class rankings are likely to change on Wednesday, with six of the top 10 players set to announce their intentions on ESPNU. All six of those players have at least one SEC school on their shortlist, which means it could be another dominant Signing Day for the schools down south.
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SEFFNER, Fla. -- The new No. 1-ranked player in the ESPN 300, Byron Cowart, has had twists and turns throughout his recruitment. But with national signing day less than three weeks away, the five-star defensive end has narrowed his choices to three -- Auburn, Florida and Florida State -- and says he already has a destination in mind, but is not revealing it.

"Yes, sir, I just came up with it,” he said. "Me and my mom discussed it and we are good with our decision, so we know where we are going to go.”

ESPN 300: Five things to know in the SEC 

January, 15, 2015
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More than a third of the players in the final 2015 ESPN 300 rankings are committed to SEC schools. As for distribution of those 102 conference commitments, Alabama leads the way with 20, followed by Georgia with 10. Here is a closer look at five things to know in the SEC from the new recruiting rankings.


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ESPN 300 WR Lodge opens up recruiting 

September, 18, 2014
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Texas A&M took a rare blow in recruiting Thursday when ESPN 300 wide receiver DaMarkus Lodge announced he has decommitted from the Aggies.

Lodge, No. 70 in the ESPN 300 and the nation’s No. 9 receiver, verbally committed to the Aggies on June 19.


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5-star DE Jefferson out for season

September, 17, 2014
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Five-star defensive end CeCe Jefferson, the No. 7 player in the ESPN 300, will miss the remainder of his senior year after suffering a shoulder injury in a game on Friday night. Jefferson posted the news on his Facebook page and Twitter account and later confirmed the news with ESPN.com.

"I must say, I've had a pretty good career as a Wildcat over the past three years. Unfortunately things happen to the best of us, lol,” his Facebook post read. "But all jokes aside, for those of you who weren't at the game last Friday, I was injured on the fourth play which resulted in my senior season coming to an end a little bit early."



Jefferson continued on Facebook: "I just want to say thank you to the community and wildcat nation for being there for me over my high school tenure, I love y'all. I guess I can get an early start on my coaching career haha, btw all district games, lets encourage our boys to bring it home -- CJ7 wildcat for life.”

The talented athlete has visited Florida for the first three weeks of the year, including this past Saturday after he had already suffered the injury. Jefferson will take an unofficial visit to Florida State this weekend when the Seminoles take on the Hurricanes.

Jefferson is planning to visit UCLA and Alabama but is unsure of the dates for those visits. He is the No. 4 defensive end in the country behind Josh Sweat, Byron Cowart and Terry Beckner Jr.

#ESPN300 chat with Josh Sweat (noon ET)

July, 31, 2014
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ESPN 300Getty Images, AP Photo, USA TODAY Sports


Recruiting Nation's experts join to chat with top recruit Josh Sweat, and answer all of your #ESPN300 questions.

Aggies get ESPN 300 DE Lockhart 

July, 25, 2014
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ENNIS, Texas -- Texas A&M's red-hot recruiting streak continued Friday with the addition of an ESPN 300 player at an always-needed position.

James Lockhart IV announced in front of family, classmates and educators at Ennis High School that he was going to College Station and joining Kevin Sumlin's growing 2015 class. Lockhart, the top-ranked defensive end in Texas, chose the Texas A&M Aggies over the Alabama Crimson Tide.

Video: Grading No. 1 ATH Gibson

April, 17, 2014
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National recruiting analysts Tom Luginbill, Craig Haubert and Gerry Hamilton break down the good and the bad for every ranked prospect. Go behind the scenes as they grade Torrance Gibson, the No. 1 ATH in the newly updated 2015 ESPN 300, who wants to play quarterback in college.

Video: Toliver climbs new ESPN 300

April, 16, 2014
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Under Armour All-American and LSU commit Kevin Toliver II, the nation's top cornerback, joins ESPN's Matt Schick to discuss the new ESPN 300, keys to managing success and the rising senior's plan to visit other colleges.

Video: ESPN 300 rank motivates Cowart

April, 16, 2014
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After a recent rise into the top 10 overall, defensive end Byron Cowart joins ESPN's Matt Schick to discuss recruiting and the new ESPN 300.

Video: New ESPN 300 top 10 revealed

April, 16, 2014
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National recruiting analysts Tom Luginbill and Craig Haubert count down the top 10 recruits in the latest ESPN 300 player rankings update.

Updated 2015 ESPN 300 released

April, 16, 2014
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On Wednesday, the new 2015 ESPN 300 player rankings were released, with defensive tackle and Georgia native Trenton Thompson taking the top spot. But the actual rankings are just the start. To dig even deeper, check out RecruitingNation's complete analysis of the updated ESPN 300:

Video: 2015 class rankings debut

April, 16, 2014
4/16/14
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With the release of the updated 2015 ESPN 300, national recruiting analyst Craig Haubert joins Phil Murphy to discuss the first ESPN class rankings for 2015 football recruiting.

ATH McKenzie recaps Ole Miss visit 

January, 26, 2014
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Three programs remain in the hunt for one of the nation's top senior risers, ESPN 300 wide receiver and returner Isaiah McKenzie (Plantation, Fla./American Heritage).

The nation's No. 286-ranked prospect took an official visit to Florida last weekend, and this weekend visited Oxford, Miss., to take in Ole Miss.


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ESPN 300 DE Thomas talks Arkansas visit 

January, 26, 2014
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One of the biggest highlights for athletes who take official visits to Arkansas is Catfish Hole, a nationally known restaurant with the reputation of showing the utmost level of hospitality to recruits.

For ESPN 300 defensive end Solomon Thomas (Coppell, Texas/Coppell), the experience could be described with one word.


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