NCF On The Trail: ESPN Watch List

After offering RB Demario Richard (Palmdale, Calif./Palmdale) earlier this week, the Oregon Ducks pulled the trigger on an offer to a second West Coast junior running back when ESPN Watch List prospect Royce Freeman (Imperial, Calif./Imperial) was issued what he calls a "big" offer by Oregon running backs coach Gary Campbell on Thursday.

Oregon: 2014 prospects to watch 

February, 7, 2013
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With signing day 2013 having come and gone, it's time to turn our attention to 2014 recruits. Here are five players that the Ducks will be targeting for next year's class:

DL Nifae Lealao
Sacramento (Calif.) Capital Christian

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Watch List safety talks TAMU offer 

January, 16, 2013
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For all of his life, ESPN Watch List safety Dylan Sumner-Gardner (Mesquite, Texas/West Mesquite) knew what he wanted to do. He wanted to play college football for Clemson and follow in the footsteps of his all-time favorite football player, Brian Dawkins.

When Sumner-Gardner picked up the offer in June, he immediately gave Clemson his verbal commitment. Sumner-Gardner never expected to get an offer that could look Clemson in the eye. On Wednesday, the 6-foot-1, 190-pound safety picked up an offer from Texas A&M, a program that has been phenomenal with recruiting its 2013 class and is off to a very impressive start in 2014.

While he’s still committed to the Tigers, Sumner-Gardner now has something to think about.

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Tide shine in state on ESPN Watch List 

September, 27, 2012
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Since before Nick Saban arrived, the University of Alabama has always had the same philosophy in recruiting. Make the in-state players a priority and keep the top talent close to home. That idea hasn’t changed under Saban’s regime.


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LSU shows its reach on 2014 Watch List 

September, 27, 2012
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National signing day for the class of 2014 seems like a distant speck on the map, but this is already shaping up to be a textbook recruiting effort from LSU.

There's a pretty basic formula the Tigers have followed to recruiting success during the Les Miles era: Lock up the lion's share of the top talent in Louisiana, then grab a few quality prospects from talent-rich states nearby -- Texas, Mississippi, Florida or Georgia.


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UGA fills 2014 ESPN Watch List 

September, 27, 2012
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Mark Richt is in the midst of his 12th season at the University of Georgia, and the SEC’s longest-tenured head coach has consistently brought in top-ten recruiting classes every year. It helps to be in the backyard of one of the deepest talent pools of any state in the country.

While it might be hard to match this year’s depth of top-tier prospects -– Georgia has 31 prospects in the ESPN 300 for the 2013 class –- there is no shortage of talented in-state juniors either. Twenty-five recruits from Georgia are in the initial ESPN Watch List, including three already committed to the Bulldogs in running back Stanley Williams (Monroe, Ga./George Walton Academy), wide receiver Demarre Kitt (Tyrone, Ga./Sandy Creek) and defensive back Nick Glass (Atlanta/St. Pius X).


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Gators get jump on 2014 ESPN Watch List 

September, 27, 2012
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The Gators are currently holding down the No. 3-ranked recruiting class in the country for the 2013 class and have just a handful of spots remaining. Florida has also given its attention to a loaded 2014 class. With the talent in Florida next year, there will be plenty of prospects to chose from.

The state of Florida has an impressive 53 players on the ESPN Watch List. The Gators already have commitments from two players, defensive tackle Travonte Valentine (Palm Bay, Fla./Bayside) and wide receiver Ryeshene Bronson (Ft. Myers, Fla./Dunbar), and are heavily involved with several other top in-state prospects.

In addition to Bronson, the Gators are hoping to add a few more wide receivers from this list, and there are several good ones to chose from. Artavis Scott (Tarpon Springs, Fla./East Lake) and Johnnie Dixon (Palm Beach, Fla./Dwyer) are two of the top prospects on Florida's wide receiver board, but Corey Holmes (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla./St. Thomas Aquinas), FSU commit Jake McCary (Miami/Coral Reef) and Trevion Thompson (Durham, N.C./Hillside) are also in the mix.

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U-M targets litter ESPN Watch List 

September, 27, 2012
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Much like every other program in the country, Michigan has already started to focus on the 2014 recruiting class. The Wolverines have sent out approximately 49 offers to 2014 prospects, and 41 of those offered recruits are part of the first ESPN Watch List for 2014.

The Watch List includes seven prospects from the state of Michigan, including defensive back Damon Webb (Detroit/Cass Tech), defensive end Malik McDowell (Detroit/Loyola) and offensive lineman Jordan Van Dort (Zeeland, Mich./Zeeland West).

The state of Ohio is also well represented with 11 prospects on the Watch List. Michigan's only 2014 commitment, linebacker Michael Ferns (St. Clairsville, Ohio/St. Clairsville), makes up part of the Ohio section, along with offered targets Joe Henderson (Shaker Heights, Ohio/Shaker Heights) and Dante Booker (Akron, Ohio/St. Vincent-St. Mary).

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FSU's six 2014 pledges all on Watch List 

September, 27, 2012
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Earning and accepting commitments of underclassmen comes with a certain degree of risk.

Coaches know more often than not how they will fill out, where they can project and what to expect of these prospects by the time they are seniors. But still, a lot can happen in a year.

Florida State has six commitments in the 2014 class. And they all come from the state of Florida.


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Focusing on out-of-state talent in 2014 

September, 27, 2012
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Where would the Nittany Lions be without their Pennsylvania commits?

Well, they might find out with the 2014 class.

[+] EnlargeMyles Autry
Radi Nabulsi/ESPN.comRB Myles Autry from Norcross, Ga., has an offer from PSU.
Bill O'Brien and his coaching staff are venturing farther south than ever before, and they feel no obligation to focus on the Keystone state. O'Brien has offered just one in-state prospect on the ESPN Watch List, while he's targeted five players on the list from Georgia and another four from Virginia.

This might be the fewest scholarships offered to in-state players since Joe Paterno first tried on glasses. Safety Montae Nicholson (Monroeville, Pa./Gateway) is the lone ESPN Watch List player in Pennsylvania to grab an offer, while 14 other offers were delivered to out-of-state athletes.

Before O'Brien arrived on campus, between 2006 and 2011, about 85 percent of recruits hailed from Maryland, New York, New Jersey, Virginia, Delaware, Connecticut, Pennsylvania or Ohio. And only one Georgian, Steven Bench, currently finds himself on Penn State's roster.

So it's no coincidence this new emphasis on Georgia recruits comes with defensive coordinator Ted Roof on staff. A former Auburn assistant, Roof boasts an impressive list of Southern connections and toured Alabama and Georgia for hidden gems in the 2013 class.


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East Region looks loaded in 2014 

September, 27, 2012
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New Jersey once again has several prospects with national appeal such as Kiy Hester (Wayne, N.J./De Paul Catholic), Gerald Owens (Westville, N.J./West Deptford) and Andrew Trumbetti (Demarest, N.J./Demarest). None is more coveted though than cornerback Jabrill Peppers (Paramus, N.J./Paramus Catholic).


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Watch List recruits high on the Ducks 

September, 27, 2012
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It has become customary for the Oregon Ducks to take their time in evaluating junior prospects, and it is much of the same with the class of 2014.
[+] EnlargeTony Brown
Tom Hauck for ESPN.comWhile Oregon hasn't offered any 2014 players yet, Watch List member Tony Brown has interest in the Ducks.

Another yearly occurrence is that a number of elite prospects from around the country that have their eyes on the Ducks early on. In typical Oregon fashion, the Ducks have yet to extend any offers for the class of 2014.

While they have no commits, the Ducks are listed among the early favorites for a large number of players in the 2014 ESPN Watch List.

In each of the last two recruiting cycles, the Ducks had an early commitment from one of the top in-state recruits. 2013 running back Thomas Tyner (Aloha, Ore./Aloha) has been committed to the Ducks for almost a year.

There is no Thomas Tyner in the class of 2014. There is also no Colt Lyerla. In fact, there are no Oregon high school prospects on the 2014 ESPN Watch List.

There might not be any elite talent from the state next year but the Ducks have made it very clear that they can compete for elite talent from all over the country.

ESPN Watch List members Tony Brown (Beaumont, Texas/Ozen), Malik McDowell (Detroit, Mich./Loyola) Raekwon McMillan (Hinesville, GA/Liberty County), Jordan Hoiem (Wailuku, HI/Baldwin), Dionte Sykes (Chandler, AZ/Chandler) and Marlon Humphrey (Hoover, Ala./Hoover) are just some of the big names outside of California, the Ducks' most fertile recruiting territory -- that have expressed interest in the Ducks early on in the process.

There are 22 players on the Watch List from the state of California, including a large group of prospects who will likely earn an offer from the Ducks down the line.


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West well represented on 2014 Watch List 

September, 27, 2012
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The West is again loaded with prospects for the 2014 class, and while California will always be the major supplier of recruits in the area, Arizona will receive its share of college coaches making visits next year.


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Three USC commits on ESPN Watch List 

September, 27, 2012
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The three early commitments USC has locked up for the 2014 recruiting class figure to get their share of recognition the next two years, and their inclusion in the initial Class of 2014 ESPN Watch List on Thursday promised to be only the beginning.

Offensive linemen Toa Lobendahn (Lakewood, Calif./Lakewood), Jordan Poland (La Jolla, Calif./Country Day School) and Casey Tucker (Chandler, Ariz./Hamilton) -- whom all verbally committed to the Trojans before the start of their junior seasons -- represent USC in the first installment of next year's list.


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UW competes for nation's best 2014 talent 

September, 27, 2012
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It is no secret Washington covets explosive playmakers.

The top of the Huskies’ 2013 recruiting class is dominated by talented skill position players, featuring a pair of receivers -- Damore’ea Stringfellow and Darrell Daniels -- in the ESPN 150 and a quarterback -- Troy Williams -- in the ESPN 300.


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