NCF On The Trail: J.C. Hassenauer

When a football coaching staff signs one of the top few recruits at any position, it's cause for celebration. Therefore, grabbing two of the top three prospects at that position might warrant an Animal House-style party.

Between 2006, when ESPN began assembling recruit rankings, and 2013, individual programs managed to sign at least two of the top three players at a position 16 times. In many cases, one -- and sometimes both -- of those players became instant stars as true freshmen. Think Taylor Mays and Joe McKnight at USC, De'Anthony Thomas at Oregon, Laremy Tunsil at Ole Miss and Sean Spence at Miami.

This was a relatively unique occurrence up until 2014, when it happened five times -- with four of the five instances occurring in the SEC: twice at Alabama, which signed the top two players at both center (No. 1 Josh Casher and No. 2 J.C. Hassenauer) and outside linebacker (No. 1 Christian Miller and No. 2 Rashaan Evans), plus at LSU (with No. 1 and 3 wide receivers Malachi Dupre and Trey Quinn) and Florida (with No. 2 and 3 defensive tackles Gerald Willis and Thomas Holley).

Clemson was the other school to accomplish the feat in 2014, signing No. 2 and 3 receiving tight ends Milan Richard and Cannon Smith.

In some of these cases -- particularly at LSU, which lost the vast majority of its receiving production from 2013 -- expectations are high that the star signees can immediately become valuable contributors as true freshmen. The Tigers have multiple alternatives at receiver, including Travin Dural and John Diarse, but Dupre and Quinn might rank among the leading contenders for playing time.

Judging by the long list of Freshman All-America and freshman all-conference honors won by those who previously signed as part of such a dynamic duo, perhaps it's not such a long shot that at least one of the newcomers will make a similar instant impact.

2006

Safety | USC
No. 2 Taylor Mays, No. 3 Antwine Perez

Mays appeared in all 13 games -- starting the last 12 at free safety after Josh Pinkard suffered a season-ending injury in the opener -- in 2006 and led the Trojans with three interceptions. Mays was fifth on the team with 62 tackles and tied for second with six passes defended, ending the season as Pac-10 Co-Freshman of the Year and as a member of multiple Freshman All-America teams. Perez played in seven games and recorded three tackles.

2007

Center | Auburn
No. 1 Ryan Pugh, No. 3 Chaz Ramsey

Pugh started six of Auburn's final nine games at left tackle and appeared in eight games overall. He also backed up Jason Bosley at center and earned Coaches' All-SEC Freshman team honors after the season. Like Pugh, Ramsey appeared for the first time in Week 4 and went on to start nine of the Tigers' last 10 games at right guard. He also made the Coaches' All-SEC Freshman team.

Running back | USC
No. 1 Joe McKnight, No. 2 Marc Tyler

McKnight played in all 13 games in 2007, ranked third on the team with 540 rushing yards and scored three touchdowns. He also caught 23 passes for 203 yards and a touchdown and served as the Trojans' primary punt returner, with his 8.4 yards per return helping him earn a All-Pac-10 honorable mention nod. Tyler redshirted in 2007 while recuperating from a high school leg injury.

2008

Inside linebacker | Ohio State
No. 1 Etienne Sabino, No. 2 Andrew Sweat

Sabino played in all 13 games and notched six tackles. He notched the only touchdown in the Buckeyes' 16-3 win against Purdue by returning a blocked punt 20 yards for a score. Sweat appeared in the last nine games and recorded five tackles, also contributing mostly on special teams.

Outside linebacker | Miami
No. 1 Arthur Brown, No. 2 Sean Spence, No. 3 Ramon Buchanan

Not only did Miami sign ESPN's top three outside linebacker prospects in 2008, it also signed No. 5 Jordan Futch. That's an outstanding haul for one year. At any rate, Spence emerged as the key member of this group from the get-go, ranking third on the team with 65 tackles and leading the Hurricanes with 9.5 tackles for a loss in 2008. He was ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year and made multiple Freshman All-America teams. Brown (who later transferred to Kansas State) played in 11 games as a freshman, notching four tackles and shifting from outside to inside linebacker. Buchanan had six tackles in nine games, playing mostly on special teams and also contributing at safety and linebacker.

Offensive tackle | Ohio State
No. 2 Michael Brewster, No. 3 J.B. Shugarts

Brewster played in 12 of the Buckeyes' 13 games in 2008 and started the last 10 at center, earning Freshman All-America honors in the process. Shugarts appeared in seven games at offensive tackle and missed six other games with a shoulder surgery that required offseason surgery.

Safety | Florida
No. 1 Will Hill, No. 2 Dee Finley

Hill played in 13 games and ranked sixth on the team with 48 tackles. He also picked off two passes and notched 1.5 sacks. He made the SEC All-Freshman team and led the Gators with 22 tackles on special teams. Finley did not qualify academically and spent the 2008 season at Milford Academy prep school. He eventually enrolled at Florida and shifted from safety to linebacker, but transferred away from Gainesville in 2011.

2009

Safety | South Carolina
No. 2 Stephon Gilmore, No. 3 DeVonte Holloman

Early enrollee Gilmore started all 13 games at cornerback, ranking fifth on the team with 56 tackles. He tied for the team lead with nine passes defended and ranked second with eight pass breakups, adding six tackles for a loss, three sacks, two fumble recoveries, two forced fumbles and an interception. The Freshman All-SEC and Freshman All-America honoree also averaged 10.1 yards per return as a punt return man. Another early enrollee, Hollomon also played in every game, notching 30 tackles, an interception (which he returned 54 yards against rival Clemson) and a tackle for a loss.

2010

Athlete | Florida
No. 1 Ronald Powell, No. 2 Matt Elam

Powell played in 13 games at strongside linebacker and recorded 25 tackles, three tackles for a loss and a sack en route to winning Freshman All-SEC honors. Elam also played in all 13 games, mostly on special teams and at defensive back, and notched 22 tackles, two tackles for a loss and a sack.

Defensive tackle | Florida
No. 1 Dominique Easley, No. 3 Sharrif Floyd

Easley recorded four tackles in six games. Floyd played in all 13 games, earning Coaches' Freshman All-SEC honors by making 23 tackles and 6.5 tackles for a loss.

Wide receiver | Texas
No. 2 Mike Davis, No. 3 Darius White

Davis ranked second on the team with 478 receiving yards and 47 receptions (a record for a Texas freshman). He became one of only three receivers in Longhorns history to post multiple 100-yard games as a freshman. White appeared in 10 games in 2010, but caught just one pass for 5 yards and eventually transferred to Missouri after two seasons, citing a need for a fresh start.

2011

Athlete | Oregon
No. 1 De'Anthony Thomas, No. 2 Devon Blackmon

The speedy Thomas earned Pac-12 Co-Offensive Freshman of the Year honors and was named an All-Pac-12 kick returner and a Freshman All-American. He was the only player in the nation to post at least 400 yards rushing, receiving and kick returning in 2011, ranking as the Ducks' second-leading receiver (595 yards on 46 catches) and third-leading rusher (608 yards and seven touchdowns). His 983 kickoff return yards ranked second in school history. Blackmon redshirted in 2011 and appeared in two games in 2012 before announcing his plan to transfer. He played at Riverside City College before signing with BYU as a juco transfer in 2014.

2012

Defensive end | Florida State
No. 1 Mario Edwards, No. 3 Chris Casher

Edwards became the only freshman to start all season for a loaded FSU defense when he replaced the injured Tank Carradine in the ACC Championship Game. He also started in the Orange Bowl win over Northern Illinois. In all, Edwards finished the season with 17 tackles, 2.5 tackles for a loss and 1.5 sacks. Casher played in two early games before suffering a season-ending injury and taking a redshirt in 2012.

2013

Offensive guard | Michigan
No. 2 David Dawson, No. 3 Patrick Kugler

Dawson and Kugler both redshirted in 2013. Dawson practiced during the spring at left guard and left tackle, while Kugler is among the candidates to start at center this fall.

Offensive tackle | Ole Miss
No. 1 Laremy Tunsil, No. 3 Austin Golson

Tunsil immediately became one of the better offensive tackles in the SEC, earning second-team All-SEC and Freshman All-America honors in 2013. He played in 12 games and started nine at left tackle, making him one of only two true full-time freshman starters at the position in the FBS. Tunsil allowed just one sack all season. Golson played in 12 games, mostly at guard, before missing the Rebels' bowl game because of shoulder surgery. He transferred to Auburn this summer, citing a family illness as the reason he wanted to move closer to his Alabama home.

Safety | USC
No. 1 Su'a Cravens, No. 3 Leon McQuay III

A 2013 early enrollee, Cravens started 13 games at strong safety, ranked eighth on the team with 52 tackles and tied for second with four interceptions. He made multiple Freshman All-America teams and earned an All-Pac-12 honorable mention nod after the season. McQuay played in all 14 games, picked off one pass and recorded 19 tackles.

Top overall position classes in 2014 

February, 21, 2014
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With national signing day in the books, RecruitingNation is looking at which programs compiled the nation's best overall position classes in 2014. For the full top position classes series, click here.

Quarterbacks: Florida
The Florida Gators had a major need at quarterback in the Class of 2014, and Will Muschamp and staff more than filled it, signing two of the nation’s top signal-callers. Third-ranked dual-threat prospect Will Grier (Davidson, N.C./Davidson Day School) is already on campus and preparing for spring practice, while No. 7 dual-threat prospect Treon Harris (Miami/Booker T. Washington) was a huge signing-day flip from Florida State. Both prospects are great athletes who are accustomed to operating up-tempo offenses. This should also help newly hired offensive coordinator Kurt Roper, who will install a similar scheme in Gainesville.

Top position classes: OL 

February, 20, 2014
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With national signing day in the books, RecruitingNation is looking at the top position classes. For the full series, click here.

Nationally (and SEC)
Not only did Alabama put together the best offensive line class in the 2014 cycle, but it's also one of the best in recent memory. The Crimson Tide inked early enrollee and five-star offensive tackle Cameron Robinson (Monroe, La./West Monroe) and also got top-ranked junior college offensive tackle Dominick Jackson (San Mateo, Calif./College of San Mateo). On the interior, the nation's top two centers, No. 168 overall Josh Casher (Mobile, Ala./Saint Paul’s Episcopal) and No. 190 J.C. Hassenauer (Woodbury, Minn./East Ridge) signed, as did No. 3 guard Ross Pierschbacher (Cedar Falls, Iowa/Cedar Falls). A second guard in the class is three-star Montel McBride (Plant City, Fla./Plant City), who could also play nose tackle at the next level.

The Crimson Tide had the nation’s best offensive line class; here’s which schools had the best in each of the remaining power conferences:


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Best SEC classes by position 

September, 10, 2013
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Top to bottom, the Southeastern Conference is recruiting better than any conference in the country. Thirteen of 14 SEC schools are ranked in the top 40 of the recruiting rankings, including six schools ranked in the top 10. Here's a closer look at which SEC school has the top recruiting classes at each position.

Quarterback
Strongest class: Alabama
This is the hardest position to determine who has the strongest class. Four of the top-five quarterbacks in the final Elite 11 rankings -- Sean White (Auburn), Kyle Allen (Texas A&M), Will Grier (Florida) and Jacob Park (Georgia) -- are committed to SEC schools. Alabama, however has the top-ranked quarterback, David Cornwell (Norman, Okla./Norman North) in the ESPN 300. The Under Armour All-American is the 32nd-ranked player in the nation. At 6-foot-5, 241-pounds, Cornwell has a big-time arm and ideal size for the position.

Running back

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Summer recruit wrap: Alabama 

July, 23, 2013
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The summer is almost over. The majority of camps are complete as schools have turned their focus to the beginning of the season. For Alabama, the camp season resulted in a handful of new commitments as well a plethora of new scholarship offers extended to 2014, 2015 and even some 2016 prospects.

This week, we take a look at the top 10 storylines and trends from the summer and look ahead to what’s next for the Crimson Tide.

[+] EnlargeCameron Robinson
Tom Hauck for Student SportsAlabama is battling for OT Cameron Robinson who put on a dominating performance at The Opening.
1. Camps focus on rebuilding the line

The camp season affects all positions, but the best evaluation comes from the 1-on-1 drills between the offensive and defensive linemen. Alabama used its camps to find talent up front as the staff looks to rebuild both lines. ESPN 300 offensive guard Viane Talamaivao (Corona, Calif./Centennial) committed to the Tide in late May before the camps began. Since that point, Alabama has added three more offensive linemen including center prospect J.C. Hassenauer (Woodbury, Minn./East Ridge), one of the stars of The Opening. On defense, Johnny Dwight (Rochelle, Ga./Wilcox County) was one of the top performers from the first camp. He earned an offer and committed on spot.


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BEAVERTON, Ore. -- The Opening has concluded and it did not disappoint. The top prospects in the nation were invited to Nike headquarters to display their ability and compete against the best of the best.

RecruitingNation was on hand for every event to take in the happenings throughout the week. Here are a few storylines:

Who committed

Florida State landed two in-state prospects during the final day of The Opening on Wednesday: four-star offensive tackle Corey Martinez (Tampa, Fla./Tampa Catholic) and three-star safety Trey Marshall (Lake City, Fla./Columbia). Marshall was a finalist for the SPARQ national championships where he posted a 40-yard-dash time of 4.34 seconds. ESPN 300 linebacker Dillon Bates (Ponte Vedra, Fla./Ponte Vedra), son of former Tennessee Volunteers and Dallas Cowboys safety Bill Bates, verbally committed to the Vols. Four-star linebacker D.J. Calhoun (El Cerrito, Calif./El Cerrito) verbally committed to USC over UCLA.


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BEAVERTON, Ore. -- With the battle for his high school eligibility won, quarterback David Cornwell (Norman, Okla./North) has turned his attention to aiding Alabama in its quest to again sign the nation's top recruiting class.


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The Opening: Alabama storylines 

June, 27, 2013
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There are 162 recruits nationwide who will venture to Oregon next week for The Opening, the nation’s premier camp event. The group includes three Alabama commitments and several Crimson Tide targets who will compete against the best of the best.

Here are five storylines for Alabama fans to keep an eye during the camp:

New recruiter

When ESPN 150 quarterback David Cornwell (Norman, Okla./Norman North) committed to Alabama, he immediately reached out to five-star offensive tackle Cameron Robinson (West Monroe, La./West Monroe). He wanted his blind side protected for the next four years. Ever since his commitment, Cornwell has taken an active role recruiting for the Tide, doing his part to put together a special recruiting class. What better place to recruit than in Oregon at The Opening? Cornwell won’t find out what team he’ll be playing for until Sunday, but it’s safe to assume he’ll be chatting it up with several Alabama targets and commitments throughout the week as he hopes to bring a third consecutive No. 1 class to Tuscaloosa.


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Lessons Learned: Columbus NFTC 

June, 2, 2013
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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The 2013 Nike Football Training Camp tour continued Sunday as several top players from the Midwest showcased their skills on Ohio State’s practice fields. The competitors didn’t disappoint, either, as some hard hits, great runs and incredible one-on-one drills showed just how strong this group was.

Here is what we learned:


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Lessons Learned: Memphis NFTC 

April, 14, 2013
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- The Nike Football Training Camp circuit stayed in the southeast on Sunday, stopping at the Memphis University School for an event that, to the surprise of no one, featured solid line play. No doubt, it’s a staple in this part of the country. In fact, coaches praised the participants for play as strong in the trenches as they’ve seen at any Nike camp this spring.

Mitch Sherman of Recruiting Nation attended the event. Here’s what he learned:

Youth has been served

While a strong contingent of upperclassmen dominated the positional MVP honors, a few 14- and 15-year-old prospects shared time in the spotlight. Notably, linebacker Dylan Moses of Baton Rouge, La., showed no hesitation in facing players four years his senior. Moses, an eighth-grader set to begin high school at LSU Laboratory School in the fall, added an offer on Saturday from Ole Miss to a list that already featured Alabama and LSU. Running back Gabe Angel, a freshman at Lebanon (Tenn.) Wilson Central, performed well on Sunday after recently adding Ole Miss, Vanderbilt and Tennessee to a Mississippi State offer he received last year. Another 2016 prospect, receiver Harry Ballard of Florissant (Mo.) McCluer North, showed well, too.

Ole Miss is surging


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Tales From the Road: Midwest 

April, 3, 2013
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Tales From the Road spotlights players who stand out to RecruitingNation writers at camps, combines and various events. Here is a look at a few Midwest prospects who recently performed at a high level:

DE Jashon Cornell
Vital stats: (2015 / Saint Paul Cretin-Derham Hall / 6-foot-4, 225 pounds
Considering: Offers from Iowa, Minnesota and Rutgers

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