NCF On The Trail: Football recruiting

BUFORD, Ga. -- At 6-foot-4 and 235 pounds, ESPN Junior 300 linebacker Ben Davis certainly looks the part of a big-time college football linebacker. And at the Atlanta Nike regional camp on Sunday, Davis played like it, too. The Gordo (Ala.) High School product was one of the most impressive linebackers in attendance, which is why many schools around the country have made Davis a top priority. Prior to the camp, however, Davis took a short detour over to Athens, Georgia, to check out the Bulldogs on Saturday.
Altogether, the Big 12 signed 228 players Wednesday.

Where did those players come from? An examination of every class revealed the answer.

Not surprisingly, the state of Texas remains the backbone of Big 12 recruiting. Just over 50 percent of Big 12 signees came from the Lone Star State. But the data also showed that the Big 12 is expanding its recruiting footprint into other states.

Some more observations on the data:
  • Though it it continues to serve as the lifeblood of Big 12 programs, the competition for talent in Texas has intensified in recent years. Texas A&M, Alabama, UCLA, USC, Ole Miss, LSU and even Cal all swiped top-20 players from the state. Just five years ago, only a trio of top-20 Texas recruits bolted from the Big 12 (and one of those was to TCU). This year, 13 of the top 20 signed out of the Big 12.
  • Despite this trend, the majority of the Big 12 relied on Texas once again for the majority of its signing classes. Texans comprised at least 40 percent of the classes from Baylor, Kansas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, TCU, Texas and Texas Tech.
  • The rate of Texans headed to the Big 12 is actually up 4 percent from last year. Every Big 12 school signed at least three Texans, except for West Virginia, which for the second straight year didn't sign a Texas high schooler. (QB Skylar Howard was a native of White Settlement, Texas, but signed with the Mountaineers out of Riverside Community College in California.)
  • With Texas recruiting becoming more competitive, several Big 12 schools have had success opening pipelines elsewhere, including in SEC country. Iowa State and Kansas State nabbed a combined eight players from Georgia. After landing three players from Blue Springs, Missouri, last year, K-State picked up another three recruits from the same school, Tucker (Ga.) High, including linebacker Elijah Sullivan, whom the Wildcats flipped from Auburn on signing day. Oklahoma State and TCU continued to make inroads into Louisiana, each landing three players from the Pelican State.
  • Texas ended up with a top-10 class, but the Longhorns ventured outside their home state. A third of the class came from outside Texas, as Charlie Strong used his connections to add five players from Florida.
  • Oklahoma signed recruits from all over the map, as well, including Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Virginia, California, Illinois and Canada.
  • West Virginia, once again, had to show the most creativity, given the lack of in-state talent and its distance from Texas. The Mountaineers raided the East Coast, from New Jersey to Miami. West Virginia also did well adding depth to its class from just west, with four Ohioans in the class.
National signing day is almost nigh. A day for college football fans to get excited.

With that in mind, below is a breakdown of the most exciting piece of each Big 12 recruiting class heading into the big day:

Baylor

What to get excited about: A stud quarterback

The player: QB Jarrett Stidham

The skinny: Stidham is the No. 2 dual-threat quarterback in the country, who originally committed to Texas Tech before signing with the Bears. He is already on campus and primed to challenge Seth Russell for the starting job vacated by Bryce Petty. Either way, Art Briles has yet another quarterback prospect who could be special in time.

Iowa State

What to get excited about: Juco defensive reinforcements

The players: DT Demond Tucker, CB Jomal Wiltz, S Jarnor Jones, DT Bobby Leath

The skinny: After ranking 128th out of 128 teams this past season in total defense, the Cyclones went out and picked up a quartet of junior-college defenders who could step in and help right away. Tucker, an ESPN Junior College 50 prospect, and Wiltz are already on campus and could secure starting jobs before the end of the spring. Once he arrives, Leath could team with Tucker to solidfy a tackle rotation that was undermanned last season.

Kansas

What to get excited about: The Lone Star State influx

The players: DE Dorance Armstrong, WR Jeremiah Booker, OG Aaron Garza, WR Emmanuel Moore, WR Steven Sims, CB Shaquille Richmond, RB Taylor Martin, WR Chase Harrell, CB Shola Ayinde, OLB Osaze Ogbebor

The skinny: The Jayhawks hired David Beaty in part because of his recruiting ties to the state of Texas. Beaty wasted no time putting those connections into play, giving the Jayhawks 10 commitments from high school Texans heading into signing day. Beaty also signed six more junior-college players from the Lone Star State. If he can keep those Texas waves coming, Kansas’ talent pool has a chance to rapidly improve.

Kansas State

What to get excited about: The potential backfield of the future

The players: RB Alex Barnes, QB Alex Delton

The skinny: Barnes, the No. 2 prospect from the Sunflower State, rushed for more than 2,300 rushing yards and 36 touchdowns as a high school senior. Delton, a three-star dual-threat quarterback, was the first to commit to this K-State class. The Wildcats have holes at both quarterback and running back heading into the spring, and the two are already on campus and set to participate. Even if they don’t contribute immediately, Delton and Barnes could become the heart and soul of the K-State backfield in time.

Oklahoma

What to get excited about: Wide receiver help

The players: WR John Humphrey Jr., WR DeDe Westbrook

The skinny: Oklahoma’s passing attack went downhill after Sterling Shepard suffered a groin injury that hampered him the second half of the season. Shepard could have more help in 2015 with the arrival of Humphrey and Westbrook, who are already in Norman. Westbrook, an ESPN JC 50 signee, is reportedly already turning heads. Humphrey is an ESPN 300 prospect who picked the Sooners over Notre Dame. Both receivers could elevate Oklahoma’s receiving corps and ease the pressure off Shepard as the Sooners transition into Lincoln Riley's air raid offense.

Oklahoma State

What to get excited about: The defensive linemen

The players: DE Louis Brown, DT Darrion Daniels, DT Motekiai Maile, DT Taaj Bakari

The skinny: Last year, the Cowboys loaded up with a strong linebacker class. This year, Oklahoma State successfully focused its efforts up front. Daniels, a four-star pickup, and Maile, an ESPN JC 50 prospect, offer immediate impact in the middle, which the Cowboys need with James Castleman and Ofa Hautau both graduating. Brown, an ESPN 300 commit, has the range and athleticism to develop into a playmaking end. The combination of the last two classes could translate into Oklahoma State becoming a load up front defensively for years to come.

TCU

What to get excited about: A shutdown corner

The player: CB DeShawn Raymond

The skinny: From Jason Verrett to Kevin White, the Horned Frogs have featured some of the best cornerbacks in the Big 12 since joining the conference. They could have another lock-down pass-defender on the way in Raymond, a four-star addition who had offers from Florida State, Georgia and LSU. TCU has other replacement options for White. But Raymond has the ability to be a factor for the Frogs in 2015, and certainly beyond.

Texas

What to get excited about: The defensive star power

The players: OLB Malik Jefferson, ILB Anthony Wheeler, S DeShon Elliott, CB Holton Hill, CB Kris Boyd, OLB Cameron Townsend, S Davante Davis

The skinny: Charlie Strong has put together one of the strongest defensive classes in the country with seven ESPN 300 recruits on that side of the ball alone. The Longhorns might not be done, either, with five-star defensive tackle Daylon Mack still strongly considering signing with Texas. This class could be the foundation of a future fearsome Texas defense.

Texas Tech

What to get excited about: A big-time defensive tackle

The player: DT Breiden Fehoko

The skinny: The Red Raiders had one of the worst run defenses in the country last year, but help is on the way in Fehoko, who as the No. 51 overall recruit in the country chose Tech over the likes of Oregon and Alabama. At 6-foot-3, 290 pounds, Fehoko has physical maturity already to impact the Red Raiders in 2015, and develop into a game-changing defensive lineman down the line.

West Virginia

What to get excited about: The Miramar trio

The players: WR Jovon Durante, CB Tyrek Cole, WR Kahlil Lewis

The skinny: Miramar (Fla.) High School is the West Virginia pipeline that keeps giving. The same school that sent Geno Smith and Stedman Bailey to West Virginia is sending three more blue-chippers to Morgantown. Durante and Cole are ESPN 300 prospects. Lewis was hotly pursued, too, with offers from Miami, Ohio State and Nebraska. All three have a chance to help the Mountaineers as soon as next season.

Five-star Byron Cowart changes visit plans 

November, 4, 2014
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SEFFNER, Fla. -- Five-star defensive end Byron Cowart has made some changes to his visit plans. The No. 2-ranked player in the country was scheduled to go to Florida for its game against South Carolina on Nov. 15, but Cowart will instead visit Alabama for its SEC West showdown against Mississippi State.

Cowart, who was presented with his Under Armour All-America replica jersey on Tuesday, has not rescheduled a visit to Florida.

"I go to Florida all the time," Cowart said. "I don't know. I know they want to treat me and all that stuff but I've been there a bunch, they really don't have to do all that."

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SEC's top recruiting visits 

September, 19, 2014
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There are once again some big games around the SEC this weekend. The Florida at Alabama game should draw many top recruits, as will the LSU-Mississippi State game. There will be many recruits taking unofficial visits and even a few taking official visits. Here is a closer look at some top expected visitors.


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Weekly commitment roundup 

August, 1, 2014
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The following is a list of commitments made to FBS schools from July 25 -- August 1:

ACC
Clemson
Ray-Ray McCloud III ATH

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Weekly Commitment Roundup

July, 18, 2014
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The following is a list of commitments made to FBS schools from July 11 -- July 18:

ACC
Georgia Tech
Dante Wigley CB
HT: 6-0 WT: 180
Positional Rank: #61 CB
Stars: 3

Louisville
Aaron Cochran DE
HT: 6-3 WT: 250
Positional Rank: #89 DE
Stars: 3

Pittsburgh
Tony Pilato OT
HT: 6-6 WT: 290
Positional Rank: N/A
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Syracuse
Troy Henderson Jr. OLB
HT: 6-0 WT: 205
Positional Rank: N/A
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Virginia Tech
Adonis Alexander S
HT: 6-3 WT: 200
Positional Rank: #85
Stars: 3

DeShawn McClease RB
HT: 5-9 WT: 173
Positional Rank: #38 RB
Stars: 3

American
Temple
Ahkema Evans CB
HT: 5-9 WT: 169

UCF
Titus Davis DE
HT: 6-3 WT: 228
Positional Rank: #53 DE
Stars: 3

Big 12
Kansas
Kevin Thomas WR
HT: 6-1 WT: 178
Positional Rank: #71 WR
Stars: 3

Kansas State
Josh Little DE
HT: 6-4 WT: 223
Positional Rank: #85 DE
Stars: 3

West Virginia
David Sills QB-PP
HT: 6-3 WT: 177
Positional Rank: #23 QB-PP
Stars: 3

Big Ten
Nebraska
Hunter Dale S
HT: 6-0 WT: 175
Positional Rank: #30 S
Stars: 3

Northwestern
Lloyd Yates QB-DT
HT: 6-1 WT: 180
Positional Rank: N/A
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Purdue
Markus Bailey OLB
HT: 6-1 WT: 215
Positional Rank: #37 OLB
Stars: 3

Conference USA
FIU
Terry Bennett RB
HT: 6-0 WT: 200

UTSA
Baylen Baker DE
HT: 6-5 WT: 240

JaColbie Butler RB
HT: 5-10 WT: 174

Independents
Army
Julian Meares DE
HT: 6-2 WT: 220

MAC
Bowling Green
Robert Jackson Jr. CB
HT: 5-10 WT: 161

J.C. Bartok OT
HT: 6-5 WT: 260

Mountain West
Wyoming
Kellen Overstreet RB
HT: 5-11 WT: 200

PAC-12
UCLA
Fred Ulu-Perry Jr. OG
HT: 6-3 WT: 307
Positional Rank: #5 OG
Stars: 4
ESPN 300 (#76)

USC
Desean Holmes WR
HT: 5-10 WT: 170
Positional Rank: #34 WR
Stars: 4

Utah
George Wilson WR
HT: 6-2 WT: 180
Positional Rank: #131 WR
Stars: 3

SEC
Florida
Jerome Baker OLB
HT: 6-1 WT: 202
Positional Rank: #8 OLB
Stars: 4
ESPN 300 (#68)

Ole Miss
Zedrick Woods OLB
HT: 5-11 WT: 196
Positional Rank: #77 OLB
Stars: 3

Sun Belt
Appalachian State
Collin Reed TE-Y
HT: 6-3 WT: 220

Louisiana-Lafayette
Carlos Robinson TE-Y
HT: 6-3 WT: 210

Irish TE commit Luatua wants to see USC 

December, 28, 2013
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ORLANDO -- Let the season of indecision begin.

Tyler Luatua (La Mirada, Calif./La Mirada), the No. 1-rated tight end nationally who committed to Notre Dame on Dec. 16, said he’s interested in looking more closely at hometown USC.


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Leonard Fournette to visit Texas A&M 

September, 12, 2013
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NEW ORLEANS -- Running back Leonard Fournette (New Orleans/Saint Augustine), the No. 1-rated prospect in the Class of 2014, has planned a surprise recruiting visit to Texas A&M on Saturday for the Aggies’ meeting with Alabama, according to another top player.

No. 1-rated athlete Speedy Noil (New Orleans/Edna Karr) said he was informed by A&M coaches that Fournette would attend the big game. Noil is visiting the College Station, Texas, campus with teammate Gerald Willis III, No. 29 in the ESPN 300 and the third-ranked defensive end.


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2015 ESPN 300 release chat

July, 16, 2013
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If you’re looking for the elite football prospects in the Class of 2015, there’s no need to wait until next year, RecruitingNation has you covered.

We unveiled the ESPN 300 player rankings for the rising junior class earlier today, marking the first time we have compiled a top-300 list for underclassmen. There’s still much for fans to digest with the release, so we’ve recruited our scouts and reporters for a Tuesday chat (beginning at 2 p.m. ET) to shed some light on the list and to make sure fans are familiar with this talented cast of stars.

In addition to participating here, you can follow along on Facebook or tweet us your questions using #ESPNJr300.

Marrow key in UK's No. 11 2014 class 

June, 19, 2013
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LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Vince Marrow kicks his Nikes up on his desk. He leans back in his chair, sitting comfortably in a black Kentucky long-sleeve shirt and UK shorts. He speaks with an unmistakable confidence. He is remarkably relaxed for someone who is saddled with much of the responsibility of turning around a perennial loser in the country’s toughest conference.

“I’m going to go after the No. 1 guy in Ohio. I’m going after the top 30 guys in Ohio, and let’s roll up our sleeves and see what happens,” Marrow said. “We might shock the world. I made it very clear that we’re not taking a backseat to nobody.”

The Wildcats are already flooring much of the college football world with their fast start to the 2014 recruiting class. Kentucky is ranked No. 11 in the country, and this class of 18 commitments is already considered the best in school history. Eight of those commitments -- including four of the top eight -- are from Ohio, a top-five state in producing Division I talent. It’s also Marrow’s home state and a Marrow strongehold.

[+] EnlargeVince Marrow
AP Photo/NFL PhotosCan Vince Marrow help make Kentucky a contender? Locking down Ohio is a start.
Few, if any, coaches in the country recruit the Buckeye State as well as Marrow. And Ohio has been key to the turnaround going on at Kentucky, where the belief that the Wildcats can compete for an SEC title -- an SEC football title -- has never been higher. Expectations in Lexington have reached new heights, and new coach Mark Stoops and Marrow are using Ohio to help them reach it. Both look at Ohio, a little more than an hour drive from Kentucky’s campus, the same way Ohio State does: a recruit committing to Kentucky is committing to an in-state program.

“It made sense to have the whole state be viewed as an in-state area to us,” said Stoops, who played with Marrow at Youngstown Cardinal Mooney. “We work extremely hard in Ohio.”

No one is working harder in Ohio than Marrow, who exclusively recruits the state.


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The first half of 2013, for the NCAA and president Mark Emmert, rates somewhere between debacle and disaster.

The collegiate governing body has come under fire for an array of topics, from its leadership practices to the mishandling of a high-profile investigation at Miami.

On Thursday, the NCAA cut its losses on another big issue: recruiting deregulation -- the much-publicized elimination of rules on staff sizes, mailing materials and most notably, the control of electronic communication from coaches to recruits.

In the process, the Division I Board of Directors, a group of 18 university presidents, essentially acknowledged its disconnect with the football coaching and administrative populations. If there’s any group with which the NCAA needs to forge a harmonious relationship, it’s football coaches and administrators.

Yet they too often fail to understand each other. Responsibility falls on both sides.

Football coaches, staffers and athletic directors had months to raise a stink over impending legislation that was set to change the face of football recruiting. Yet no one seemed to notice until the board passed the proposals in January.

By then, the presidents were backed into a corner.

They did the only thing they could on Thursday to save face. For that, the NCAA and the board deserve credit. It’s better to have tried and failed than to have continued to attempt to force legislation upon a group of coaches and athletes who want nothing to do with it.

Lost in the buzz over the demise of deregulation Thursday, the board also pulled the plug on controversial legislation -- in the works since October 2011 -- that would have instituted a more stringent sliding test score-to-GPA scale on incoming college freshmen in order to gain initial eligibility.

The board re-emphasized its commitment to academic progress by keeping in place the new 2016 standards that require a higher minimum GPA and core-course progression in high school.

It’s a compromise, a bright moment in these dark few months at the NCAA headquarters. A sign that Emmert and his lieutenants can listen to the membership, make changes and allow all parties to move forward with an understanding of the rules.

Here’s to a future in which recruiting deregulation follows a similar path.

RN Top 10: D.C. NFTC 

April, 22, 2013
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The RN Top 10 will appear throughout the camp and combine season and rank prospects based strictly on their on-field performance at that particular event. It does not reflect their overall prospect ranking.

ASHBURN, Va. – The East Coast and mid-Atlantic states represented well on Sunday as eight players earned invites to The Opening at the Nike Football Training Camp outside of Washington, D.C. Defense ruled the day, led by two five-star prospects from Virginia.

10. Nick Scott
Fairfax (Va.) Fairfax |RB| 5-11, 180

Scott stood out among a field of backs who were overshadowed by the prospects at nearly every other position. He earned the attention of coaches for his strong play and versatility but missed the MVP award, which went to Vincent Lowe (Chesapeake, Va./Grassfield), who also posted the top SPARQ score.

Scott committed to Penn State in February over an offer from Boston College.

ESPN national recruiting analyst Craig Haubert’s take: “He’s got a great frame, and what I like about him as a Penn State verbal, he’s a versatile player. He may not run by you, but he does a good job in route-running.”


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ESPN 150 player rankings chat

April, 19, 2013
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The ESPN 150 and the top 15 teams in the class rankings were released on Thursday. Senior national recruiting analyst Tom Luginbill and recruiting analyst Craig Haubert will be here to answer your questions about how the list was compiled. Also joining us will be RecruitingNation writers Jared Shanker, Derek Tyson, Damon Sayles and Erik McKinney.

Things get started at 11 a.m. ET Friday, so make sure to join us in breaking down the list.

Watch List QB Luke Ward stays patient 

April, 15, 2013
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. – ESPN Watch List quarterback Luke Ward (Decaturville, Tenn./Riverside) struggled with accuracy and interceptions as a junior, but took a step on Sunday toward improvement as a senior.

Ward said he threw the football well in his first such event since last summer on Sunday at the Nike Football Training Camp in Memphis. The 6-foot-3, 190-pound prospect for the Class of 2014 threw for 1,411 yards and 13 touchdowns in 10 games as a junior.

He awaits his first scholarship offer.

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