NCF On The Trail: Jalen Brown

Midyear signings: Oregon

December, 18, 2013
12/18/13
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According to ESPN's Erik McKinney, the following players have signed with Oregon:

Jalen Brown WR Phoenix/Mountain Pointe
HT: 6-2 WT: 185
Positional Rank: No. 43 WR
Stars: 4
ESPN 300 (#293)

Tui Talia DE Pleasant Hill, Calif./Diablo Valley
HT: 6-4 WT: 265
Positional Rank: No. 1 DE Juco
Stars: 4
ESPN JC50 (#12)

Haniteli Lousi OG Fremont, Calif./College of San Mateo
HT: 6-5 WT: 295
Positional Rank: No. 4 OG Juco
Stars: 3

Dominique Harrison CB Tracy, Calif./Contra Costa College
HT: 5-10 WT: 160
Positional Rank: No. 12 CB Juco
Stars: 3


It has been a wild week of recruiting in the Pac-12, with ups and downs for over half the programs in the conference. There have been six commitments and four decommitments since Monday afternoon, with one prospect decommitting and committing to the same school. And with this kind of momentum generated early in the week, there's a good chance it could continue through Sunday, with several programs hosting big recruiting weekends.

Washington and Cal post up and down weeks

Pac-12 ESPN 300 analysis 

October, 29, 2013
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The newest version of the ESPN 300 was good to a number of Pac-12 targets, as a majority of recruits heading to conference programs saw a bump in their ranking. Cornerback Adoree' Jackson (Gardena, Calif./Serra) is still top dog in the West and the region's lone five-star prospect, but both Oregon and Cal added to their ESPN 300 haul with new entrants and a tailback committed to the Ducks saw a meteoric rise.

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It has been well documented over the past few years that programs have little choice when it comes to some aspects of the college football recruiting process.

Whether it is extending offers to juniors, sophomores, freshmen and eighth-graders, or the first 100-piece bundle of mail that chokes a prospect's mailbox, coaches across the country have rushed to catch up and join the race.

[+] EnlargeDavid Shaw
Ron Chenoy/US PresswireCoach David Shaw and Stanford have limited in-season official visits and have a "Big Visit" weekend in January for recruits.
But while the unofficial visit and recruiting mailings become more and more important to the process, the official visit remains a significant tool, and one of the few remaining recruiting tactics that can be wholly personal to a coaching staff and program.

When most recruits begin thinking about what official visits they want to take, the first thing they discuss is what big games they'll be able to attend. In the Pac-12 this season, there won't be any official visitors for two of the biggest games recruits will be watching -- when Oregon visits Stanford and USC hosts UCLA -- because the Cardinal and Trojans have decreased in-season official visits.

"For a long time, there was kind of a lore that the official visit is about getting to see a game -- a notion that has been in movies, on television, in books and magazines," said Mike Eubanks, Stanford Assistant Athletic Director and Director of Football Administration. "The official visit is about going to see a game, see what the campus is like afterward and then sitting down in the coach's office."

But as Pac-12 coaching staffs dissect exactly what they want to showcase during an official visit, several schools are continuing to focus visits around a game weekend, while others have targeted the offseason as the best time to bring in official visitors.

Oregon, Utah and Washington State have combined to host 33 official visitors this season, compared to 27 for the rest of the conference combined.

It's not surprising to see those three programs hosting visitors during the fall. Not only could weather concerns in late January put a damper on bringing a majority of recruits in then, but Oregon specifically can take advantage of its game-day atmosphere.

"They're really cool either way and encourage you to go up and see a game," said Oregon quarterback commit Morgan Mahalak (Kentfield, Calif./Marin Catholic) of the Ducks' coaches and visits. "It's a pretty fun game-day atmosphere to experience."

Mahalak said the policy has paid dividends already this season, as Oregon grabbed verbal commitments from ESPN 300 running back Tony James (Gainesville, Fla./Gainesville) and four-star receiver Jalen Brown (Phoenix/Mountain Pointe) after official visits.

"[Brown] had a great visit for the Tennessee game," Mahalak said. "I think that was huge for him to see what it'd be like to play there. You definitely leave Oregon after a visit with a better sense of the program."

Last weekend, Arizona had its first opportunity to host official visitors. The Wildcats went two-for-two with their uncommitted targets, grabbing commitments from offensive linemen Layth Friekh (Peoria, Ariz./Centennial) and Levi Walton (Cape Coral, Fla./Ida Baker).

Friekh, like more than a few recruits, said taking an official visit at this stage was a priority for him.

"Since I was planning on committing early, they said to come in whenever I wanted," Friekh said of the Arizona coaches. "It was really important for me to take an official visit now because I wanted to see if the school is behind the team and if all the fans are behind the team. I didn't want to go to a school where nobody supports the team, so that was cool to see."

While Friekh said he felt he had enough time with the Arizona coaches, that seems to be the biggest worry among schools -- Arizona included -- looking to push visits into the offseason.

"You want to be able to spend the whole 48 hours with them," said Matt Dudek, Arizona's Director of On-Campus Recruiting and Player Personnel. "You don't want to be worrying about a football game and you don't want to waste it, because we believe that you'll fall in love with our coaches when you get some extended time hanging out with them. That's our No. 1 selling point."

Dudek said an official visit on a game-day weekend is "more hectic than crazy or difficult," but they will always try to get official visitors to come after the season in order to spend more time with them.

"Every kid is different and we're never going to say no if a guy wants to come on an official during the season," Dudek said. "Some want to come on a game day, and if that's your deal breaker, you come on game day. There's a little less time to hang out and ask a bunch of questions at each stop. Out of season, it's no big deal to be five or 10 minutes behind schedule, but if there is a game scheduled for 7 p.m., that's not going to change."

For USC, Dec. 13 seems to be the first big recruiting weekend -- though what happens with the coaching staff could determine the true schedule of events. In the 2013 class, USC didn't host a visitor before Dec. 7, which was the big weekend for early enrollees. But the Trojans also found out the hard way this season that having a plan for official visits and carrying it out successfully can be two different things.

Enter the somewhat strange case of ESPN 300 cornerback Adarius Pickett (El Cerrito, Calif./El Cerrito). Early in the process, it looked as though USC had the inside track for a commitment from Pickett, and the four-star cornerback alerted all his potential choices in the spring that he would take his official visits in the first four weeks of his season, then announce his decision the following week.

UCLA, going with the growing trend in the conference, suggested that Pickett wait to take his visit after the season.

"I explained to them what I was trying to do and they said it was fine with them," Pickett said of the Bruins' coaches allowing him to take an official visit for the first game of the season. "I told [USC coach Clay Helton] during the spring that I was going to UCLA first week and that I wanted to try to set up a visit to come down after my fourth game."

That visit to USC wasn't allowed to happen. Pickett said the decision to deny him an opportunity to take an official visit during the season ultimately came from coach Lane Kiffin and was delivered through Helton, but it didn't come as much of a surprise when Pickett announced his commitment to the Bruins following that conversation and his UCLA visit.

In large part though, USC's shift over the past few years to a January-centric visit schedule has paid dividends, and it's something Stanford has found success with as well.

In the 2013 class, 13 of the Cardinal's 14 eventual signees took their official visits during the "Big Visit" weekend in January. It's a success rate that is helped both by the number of already-committed prospects in attendance, as well as a clear message from the beginning about the official visit policy.

"By the time we get far enough into the process and building relationships, if somebody has this interest in Stanford and we're still with them because they've met all the academic challenges we've given them, then the recruit who has met us that far along in the journey tends to have the perspective and values that wants their official visit to be the same thing we want their official visit to be," Eubanks said.

That includes having the Big Visit begin on a Friday morning in the offseason, which allows Stanford to give its visitors an extensive look at a full day on campus during the school year -- something that is virtually impossible to do with an in-season visit, as recruits either have school or football responsibility on Friday and often can't arrive on campus until Saturday.

"To have somebody come here and not see a class is really shortchanging a good look at what Stanford should be," Eubanks said. "If it's just Saturday and Sunday, you've not done anything to address the academic question, which is maybe one of the biggest questions in the mind of these young scholar-athletes. That's pretty important for us."

While prospects will almost always hold the cards when it comes to their recruitment, it's easy to notice a fairly sizeable shift in the visit schedules for Pac-12 programs. While schools such as Oregon, Utah and Washington -- among others -- will almost always look to take advantage of nationally-recognized game-day atmospheres, Eubanks was careful to point out that it's important to note the decision to move away from in-season visits -- for Stanford and the other conference schools -- can't be seen as hiding from that experience.

"Especially as a national recruiter, going up against these giant stadiums with highly-regarded game day atmospheres, you don't want to make it look like you're hiding," Eubanks said. "If you argue against the importance of the game or the game day atmosphere to a young man who thinks the most exciting experience is to be on the big stage that he's dreamed of since he was little... If at any point you are dictating how things should be done, or talking instead of listening, you can lose them. And if you do, then that's rightfully so."


Several Pac-12 programs have an opportunity to make statements on the recruiting trail this weekend, headlined by Arizona State hosting Washington, and including USC's trip to Notre Dame and the biggest clash in the conference -- UCLA visiting Stanford. The following day, the B2G West Coast Bowl will draw plenty of interest, as Pac-12 commits and targets are separated into two teams for the late January all-star game.

Manny being Manny

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WR Jalen Brown goes green and yellow

October, 14, 2013
10/14/13
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Four-star wide receiver Jalen Brown (Phoenix/Mountain Pointe) did a good job of keeping his recruitment quiet throughout the process, but the 6-foot-2, 185-pound athlete spoke loudly on Monday evening, as he announced his commitment with a resounding, "QUACK QUACK," on his twitter account.



Brown, the No. 1 wide receiver in Arizona and the No. 7 overall player in the state, is a big addition for the Ducks, as he was a target for a number of programs, including Arizona, Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oregon State, Stanford, UCLA, USC, Vanderbilt, Washington and Wisconsin. Brown took official visits to see the Badgers, Beavers, Commodores and Ducks before announcing his decision.

Early in the process, it looked as though Brown was leaning toward the pro-style offensive systems of Vanderbilt and Oregon State, which highlight specific receivers and allowed the top two pass catchers in those offense to put up impressive numbers last year. But Brown raved about his visit to Oregon, which might have begun as an excuse to check out the Ducks' football facilities and watch a game in Autzen Stadium but ultimately allowed head coach Mark Helfrich and his staff to make a big impression on the receiver.

While Arizona looked to make a late charge for Brown, his commitment to Oregon pokes another hole in the fence the Wildcats and Sun Devils were hoping to put around the state. As the region seemingly produces more and more high-quality recruits each year, programs from across the country continue to export them. Seven of the top 10 recruits in the state of Arizona now have made their commitments, and only two of those seven will stay home.

Oregon also continues to flex its muscle in the Grand Canyon State, as Brown joins defensive tackle Jalen Jelks (Phoenix/Desert Vista) as Oregon commitments in the 2014 class. The Ducks signed wide receiver Devon Allen (Phoenix/Brophy Prep) in the 2013 class, Reggie Daniels (Chandler, Ariz./Hamilton) in 2012 and the trio of Andre Yruretagoyena (Scottsdale, Ariz./Chaparral), Tyler Johnstone (Chandler, Ariz./Hamilton) and Sam Kamp (Mesa, Ariz./Mountain View) in the 2011 class.

Brown is commitment No. 10 for Oregon and the fourth four-star commitment in this class. He is also the first wide receiver commitment for the Ducks in this class.

Pac-12 class rankings analysis 

October, 9, 2013
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Each Wednesday, ESPN RecruitingNation updates its national class rankings. For an in-depth look at the Pac-12, check out our conference rankings:

1. Arizona, 24 commits: The Wildcats check in at No. 23 in the RecruitingNation class rankings with a class that includes four ESPN300 commitments, including No. 120 overall Marquis Ware and No. 185 Jamardre Cobb of Salesian High in Los Angeles. Arizona will take its shot with No. 17 overall Jalen Tabor (Washington, D.C./Friendship Collegiate Academy), and teammate Dae'Juan Funderburk (Washington, D.C./Friendship Collegiate Academy) in December.


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SEC class rankings analysis 

October, 9, 2013
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Each Wednesday, ESPN RecruitingNation updates its national class rankings. For an in-depth look at the SEC, check out our conference rankings:

1. Alabama, 21 commits: The Crimson Tide sit atop the RecruitingNation class rankings with a class that features 15 ESPN 300 prospects, including most recent commitment Ronnie Clark (Calera, Ala./Calera), the No. 96 overall prospect. Alabama remains in the hunt for several five-star prospects, including No. 1 overall Leonard Fournette (New Orleans/Saint Augustine) and No. 9 Marlon Humphrey (Hoover, Ala./Hoover).


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Pac-12 2014 recruiting scenarios 

October, 8, 2013
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This week's list offers a look through the Pac-12 at the potential best-case and worst-case scenarios that the 2014 recruiting cycle could bring for various programs. While a few of the best-case scenarios might be close to within reach for some programs, many of the worst-case scenarios would take a special brand of bad luck.

Arizona
Best-case scenario: Arizona doesn't hold onto all of its 24 verbal commits, but keeps all of its priority recruits in the fold. In exchange for some of the decommitments, the Wildcats are rewarded with a big splash from either ESPN 300 prospect John Smith (Long Beach, Calif./Poly) or Bryce Dixon (Ventura, Calif./St. Bonaventure). A strong finish to the season also helps Arizona clean up in its home state, landing commitments from offensive linemen Natrell Curtis (Phoenix/Mountain Pointe), Andrew Mike (Tucson, Ariz./Sabino), Layth Friekh (Peoria, Ariz./Centennial) and junior college defensive lineman Claudeson Pelon (Mesa, Ariz./Mesa College).

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SEC 2014 recruiting scenarios 

October, 8, 2013
10/08/13
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With signing day still several months away, schools will add and in some cases lose committed prospects. Here is a look at the best and worst case scenario for each SEC school.


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Two Arizona showdowns, two impressive visitors to the Pacific Northwest and recent recruiting attention for two standout juniors highlight this week's top storylines in the Pac-12 conference.


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Pac-12 class rankings analysis 

September, 25, 2013
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It was a relatively quiet recruiting week in the Pac-12, which seemed to mirror the rest of the country. There was no movement in the newly released team recruiting rankings. The Pac-12 held steady with three teams listed, led by Arizona and Stanford -- at No. 23 and 24 respectively -- followed by Arizona State, at No. 35. The conference did land two commitments, as Arizona State and Washington State added recruits, while a desert showdown awaits Pac-12 fans on Friday night.


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ASU game could boost USC recruiting 

September, 25, 2013
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This weekend’s battle in the desert between USC and Arizona State will not only carry massive implications in the Pac-12 South, but it might also serve as a grand opportunity for the Trojans to boost their recruiting efforts there.

One prospect who will be watching USC with “very high” interest is ESPN 300 outside linebacker D.J. Calhoun (El Cerrito, Calif./El Cerrito), who committed to the Trojans at The Opening in July but has since scheduled an official visit to Arizona State for the weekend of Oct. 18. The outcome of Saturday night’s duel will not be an ultimate deciding factor, though a good showing is important nonetheless.

“It’s about the school,” said Calhoun’s father, Derik. “ASU has been on him daily.”

Many other recruits will be watching the primetime showdown, including ESPN 300 offensive tackle Casey Tucker (Chandler, Ariz./Hamilton), a former USC commit who re-opened his recruitment in April. Tucker will not be in Tempe but will be paying close attention as two of his top schools go head to head.

The final score will carry little importance in his overall thought process, yet Tucker will be analyzing what in-game adjustments are made and how depth charts compare.

“It really depends on the coaching, school and opportunity,” said Tucker, the No. 1-rated player in the state and No. 38 overall in the nation.

Tucker’s high school teammate, ESPN 300 defensive end Qualen Cunningham (Chandler, Ariz./Hamilton), also has the Trojans and Sun Devils in his top five. He unofficially visited Texas A&M, where his father played football, for the Aggies’ game against Alabama earlier this month and intends to take a trip to USC after the season.

The game might also affect how some Class of 2015 prospects view both programs as the recruiting process unfolds. ESPN Junior 300 receiver Christian Kirk (Scottsdale, Ariz./Saguaro), who is rated No. 1 in the state for the 2015 class and was one of only five underclassmen to attend The Opening, will keep a close eye on the game even though he will not be at Sun Devil Stadium.


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Just a few days after stubbing its toe on the field, the Big Ten conference will try to right the ship in the recruiting world.

Larry Scott
Brad Bournival/ESPNESPN Junior 300 running back Larry Scott will make an unofficial visit to the Horseshoe this weekend.
From official visits to commitments, here’s a look at a few programs that highlight a busy time in this week’s Big Ten storylines.

Buckeye leafs

The fact Ohio State opened as 57-point favorites against Florida A&M didn’t scare off some big unofficial visitors, as ESPN Junior 300 running back Larry Scott -- L.J. for short -- out of Hubbard (Ohio) High School will lead a group of three big names with unofficial visits to the Horseshoe.


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As the regular season heats up on the field, so too does the action on the recruiting trail, as prospects are setting official visits, trimming final lists and setting their sights on February's signing day. With a number of targets still on the board for every coach in the conference, this list illustrates the biggest name still out there for each Pac-12 program.

Arizona
OT Layth Friekh (Peoria, Ariz./Centennial)
6-foot-6, 251 pounds


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