NCF On The Trail: Jermaine Roberts

Top position classes: DB 

February, 18, 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)

The top class of defensive backs goes to Alabama, by a landslide. While the Crimson Tide have provided many recruiting firsts in recent years under coach Nick Saban, the 2014 class is the first to have two five-star cornerbacks in the same cycle in the years ESPN has been assigning star rankings. No. 8 overall Tony Brown (Beaumont, Texas/Ozen) and No. 15 Marlon Humphrey (Hoover, Ala./Hoover) have the size and speed that Saban and his staff made a must in 2014. Add in No. 3 safety and No. 27 overall Laurence Jones (Monroe, La./Neville) and Alabama signed three of the very best at defensive back. Factor in that No. 7 athlete Ronnie Clark (Calera, Ala./Calera) seems destined to begin his career at safety and the Crimson Tide dominate in the secondary despite having missed out on coveted safety target C.J. Hampton (Meridian, Miss./Meridian).

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


Charlie Strong has officially been named Mack Brown’s successor at Texas. It’s a move that appears to get thumbs up from many of his future athletes.

As 2014 Texas recruits waited to hear who would be their future head coach, many of them were hoping for the right fit. Strong’s résumé -- 23-3 in his past two seasons at Louisville, 3-1 in four bowl game appearances and an outstanding recruiting reputation -- says he fits the bill.

In short, Strong gets it, and while Texas commits had the utmost respect for Brown, they now feel they’re in good hands.

“I think he can do pretty good there,” four-star offensive lineman Terrell Cuney (Jasper, Texas/Jasper) said. “I don’t think anyone can live up to what Mack did, but he’ll come in and do big things.

"Bring it on, man! 'Hook ‘Em all day!'”


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UA Game notebook: First impressions

December, 29, 2013
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -– Team Nitro and Team Highlight took to the fields at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports on an overcast Sunday morning for Day 1 of practice for Thursday's Under Armour All-America Game (ESPN, 4 p.m. ET). There were several players who impressed, a top linebacker is feeling pressure to stay at home and the nation's No. 1-ranked player isn’t too concerned with his lack of touches on the first day.

ESPN 300 linebacker feeling the pressure


Four-star linebacker Rashaan Evans (Auburn, Ala./Auburn) was one of the most impressive-looking linebackers during individual drills. The No. 84-ranked player in the country continues to have four schools at the top of his list.

[+] EnlargeRashaan Evans
Miller Safrit/ESPNRashaan Evans is feeling the pressure from hometown fans off the field.
"I still have four schools -- Auburn, Georgia, Alabama and UCLA -- on top,” Evans said. “Those four schools, they are pretty even. I’m going to take this whole thing slow and pretty much I’m going to take it out to signing day.”

Evans already took an official visit to UCLA in September and is planning to take two other visits in January.

"I’ll take either Bama or Auburn on Jan. 17,” he said, "and then on the 24th maybe Georgia."

As a native of Auburn, Ala., Evans admits he feels constant pressure to stay at home.

"It’s pretty bad,” Evans said. "Most of the time my day consists of Auburn people telling me, ‘Hey, don’t go to Bama, go to Auburn.’ It’s pretty bad, because most of the people I’m around are Auburn alumni. So I hear about Auburn each and every day. So when I go on visits, everybody knows about it and they always shoot me messages about Auburn.

"I feel like I would disappoint people if I did go somewhere other than Auburn. I’m in Auburn, I love Auburn, I’ve lived in Auburn all my life. I have family at Auburn. Most of my family has graduated from Auburn. People would be curious as to why I would want to leave Auburn, but at the end of the day, I have to do what’s best for me."

Coaches impressed

Team Highlight quarterbacks coach Chris Weinke was impressed with his group of QBs during the first practice. LSU commit Brandon Harris (Bossier City, La./Parkway), Penn State commit Michael O’Connor (Bradenton, Fla./IMG) and Auburn commit Sean White (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./University School) all made nice throws during the course of the practice.

"I think the one thing is that is they have to understand, schematically, what they are doing right now,” Weinke said. "The first day always creates hesitation. I spent more time with Harris, White and O’Connor, but looking at all six guys, they all did a nice job on the first day.

"Brandon Harris spins the ball really well. The one thing with him is now he has to tie his feet in to what he’s doing. O’Connor did a nice job of being very accurate throwing the ball today. Sean White did a heck of a job making some throws in some tight spots.”



Defensively, Team Highlight linebackers coach LaVar Arrington already has a good feeling about his players, which he thinks are a special group.

“I know they’re good when I remember their names, and I remember all my guy’s names,” he said. “They have nicknames. They were balling so hard I nicknamed them. You have Jacob Pugh, so I call him J.P., Kain Daub is K.D. and Tre’ [Williams] is a nickname in itself.

“Then Rashaan [Evans], I grew up being called Shad, so he’s Shad.”

Fournette not worried about carries


Running back Leonard Fournette (New Orleans/Saint Augustine), the nation’s top prospect, handled the football only a few times during nearly three hours of practice.

[+] EnlargeLeonard Fournette
Miller Safrit/ESPNLeonard Fournette likely will have a much busier day Monday than he did on Sunday.
On one of the opportunities designed for him to get the ball, White kept the ball on an option play when Fournette clearly had an open lane. It resulted in one of the funnier moments of the day: One of the Team Highlight assistants pointed over to Fournette and asked White, "You see him? That's the No. 1 running back in the country. You are to get the ball to him and he's supposed to run around and over people. You can't do that."

For his part, Fournette said he’s not concerned. It's not the focus of his trip to Florida.

“It’s about the decisions we have to make,” said Fournette, one of seven players who will announce their commitments during Thursday's game. “We have to focus on the decisions at the end of the day.”

Fournette slimmed his options early in the season to LSU and Alabama. Recently, he added Texas to the list of finalists at the urging of Saint Augustine teammate Jermaine Roberts, a receiver committed to the Longhorns.

Texas is considered a significant darkhorse for Fournette, who did not take an official visit to the school but made it to Austin, Texas, for an unofficial trip last summer.

Still, Fournette said, he’s not penalizing UT for its lack of a head coach as Mack Brown steps aside after the Valero Alamo Bowl on Monday against Oregon.

“Doesn’t concern me at all,” Fournette said.

He also won’t be swayed by the advice of fellow prospects here.

“Everybody’s going to go on their own path, do their own thing,” Fournette said.

Fournette said he would settle on a school after speaking with his parents, who arrive in Orlando on Tuesday.

Top social media posts


There were some great one-on-one battles Sunday. Here are some highlights:

Miami-bound offensive lineman Trevor Darling (Miami/Central), who usually plays left tackle, lined up at left guard during the one-on-one portion and more than held his own. Here’s a look at Darling winning a matchup against Georgia-bound defensive tackle Lamont Gaillard (Fayetteville, N.C./Pine Forest).



Five-star defensive end Lorenzo Carter (Norcross, Ga./Norcross) also impressed on the first day of practices. Here’s Carter getting the better of Michigan commit Juwann Bushell-Beatty (Paramus, N.J./Paramus Catholic).



Uncommitted Laurence Jones (Monroe, La./Neville), the No. 2-ranked safety in the country, had a tremendous pass breakup on the goal line during the team portion of practice.

Speedy Noil, the No. 8-ranked prospect in the country, put on a show the first day of practice. He hauled in pass after pass and did it all while wearing a gold watch on his wrist. The five-star receiver even had an impressive one-handed catch.



Michigan-bound defensive back Jabrill Peppers (Paramus, N.J./Paramus Catholic), the nation's No. 2-ranked prospect, took on Florida-bound receiver Ermon Lane (Homestead, Fla./Homestead Senior), the nation's No. 28-ranked recruit, in one-on-ones. Lane got the better of Peppers the first two reps, but the two will have plenty of time to battle it out leading up to the game.

Qualifiers for the American Family Insurance Skills Challenge


After practice concluded Sunday, several players competed for spots in the finals of the American Family Insurance Skills challenge. The finals will air on Jan. 1 (ESPN2, 9 p.m. ET). Here’s a look at who has qualified for the finals so far:

Running backs/linebackers
RB Racean Thomas (Oxford, Ala./Oxford) -- Auburn commit
LB Rashaan Evans (Auburn, Ala./Auburn) -- uncommitted
LB Melvin Keihn (Baltimore, Md./Gilman School) -- Virginia Tech commit

Wide receiver/defensive backs
TE Jacory Washington (Westlake, La./Westlake) -- LSU commit
CB Adoree' Jackson (Gardena, Calif./Junipero Serra) -- uncommitted
CB Marlon Humphrey (Hoover, Ala./Hoover) -- uncommitted

Jeremy Crabtree, Mitch Sherman and Tom VanHaaren contributed to this report.

Texas commit taking visits 

December, 28, 2013
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Orlando -- ESPN 300 defensive back Jermaine Roberts (New Orleans/St. Augustine) is still committed to Texas, but is keeping his options open. The No. 197-ranked prospect, who is participating at the Under Armour All-America Game this week, has already set up a visit and has been in contact with a few schools.


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Top Big 12 Under Armour Game targets 

December, 26, 2013
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The Under Armour All-America Game is a week away, and several players are preparing to prove themselves against equally talented athletes on one of high school football’s biggest stages.

Currently, four UA All-Americans -- Texas defensive end commit Derick Roberson (San Antonio/Brennan) and cornerback commit Jermaine Roberts (New Orleans/St. Augustine), Oklahoma dual-threat quarterback pledge Justice Hansen (Edmond, Okla./Santa Fe) and Kansas offensive lineman commit Jacob Bragg (Nacogdoches, Texas/Nacogdoches) -- are committed to Big 12 schools.

Here are five uncommitted players who are considered major targets within the Big 12:

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Weekend recruiting wrap: Big 12 

December, 16, 2013
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If all eyes weren’t on the Heisman Trophy race Saturday, then they were on Mack Brown's impending resignation as head coach of the Texas Longhorns. Add that in with the multiple junior college pledges to Big 12 programs, and you have a pretty solid weekend of recruiting as we approach the middle of the month.

Official visits and in-home visits were major topics of discussion last week. Here are some of the top storylines over the weekend:


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Under Armour game storylines: Big 12 

December, 5, 2013
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The Under Armour All-Americans have been announced; now, it’s a wait-and-see process for many of them. Will the committed players stay committed? Will the uncommitted make decisions soon? Can we see a major flip before national signing day?

This week’s recruiting storylines focuses on some of the Under Armour All-Americans being recruited by Big 12 programs.

Big 12 representation -- or lack thereof -- at the UA game. The Big 12 currently has four representatives who will compete in the Under Armour All-America Game -- Texas defensive end commit Derick Roberson (San Antonio/Brennan) and cornerback commit Jermaine Roberts (New Orleans/St. Augustine), Oklahoma quarterback pledge Justice Hansen (Edmond, Okla./Santa Fe) and Kansas offensive lineman pledge Jacob Bragg (Nacogdoches, Texas/Nacogdoches).

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Everything was set up so perfectly for the Longhorns prior to kickoff on Saturday afternoon.

They came in riding a six-game winning streak with a chance to make it seven against a marquee opponent in Oklahoma State, who was in search of its sixth straight victory.

The sidelines were littered with some of the top recruits in the country, including the nation’s top player in running back Leonard Fournette (New Orleans/Saint Augustine), ESPN 300 safety Jamal Adams (Lewisville, Texas/Hebron) and ESPN 300 cornerback Tony Brown (Beaumont, Texas/Ozen). The latter two were on official visits.

The sky was even painted a picturesque blend of blue, pink, orange and yellow.

But then kickoff came and with it went much of the momentum, both on the field and in recruiting, that Texas had built up over the last two months.

Oklahoma State manhandled the Longhorns. The final score was 38-13 but it could have been a lot worse. A mass exodus of a tired fan base began late in the third quarter.

It was the exact opposite of the environment Texas was hoping to create for the recruits in attendance. They witnessed Oklahoma State bask in glory from their seats directly behind the Cowboys’ bench.

Many of those were 2014 commits, as 12 of Texas' 24-member class were expected to be in Austin.

In addition to 2015 commit Jalen Campbell (Corpus Christi, Texas/Flour Bluff), the Longhorns were also expected to host several top junior prospects. They included athlete Louis Brown (Burton, Texas/Burton), running back Lanard Fournette (New Orleans/Saint Augustine), cornerback Holton Hill (Houston/Lamar), quarterback J.W. Ketchum (Missouri City, Texas/Thurgood Marshall), cornerback Keivon Ramsey (Converse, Texas/Judson), wide receiver Kemah Siverand (Houston/Cypress Ridge), linebacker Cameron Townsend (Missouri City, Texas/Ridge Point) and defensive back Jordan Tolbert (Missouri City, Texas/Ridge Point).

Texas also hosted its lone 2016 commit, receiver Reggie Hemphill, along with several 2016 teammates from Manvel, Texas, in safety Deontay Anderson, who has a Texas offer, linebacker Jordan Carmouche, and athlete D’Eriq King. Fort Worth (Texas) Southwest 2016 quarterback Devin Williams was also slated to be in attendance.

For as ugly as the loss was, and for as many questions as it has already brought about concerning the future of Texas coach Mack Brown, this defeat doesn’t seem like it will have that much of an affect on those already verbally pledged to Texas.

They’ve endured quite a bit already but have long maintained their desire to help turn this program around. Take this tweet from Cuney for example: “There they go on my Coach Brown! Get off his back man. He not the 1 playing. He can only do so much!”



Go ahead and mark this down as the biggest recruiting weekend of the season for the Texas Longhorns.

Jamal Adams
Damon Sayles/ESPNESPN 300 safety Jamal Adams will be among the highly ranked visitors expected to be in attendance when Texas hosts Oklahoma State this weekend.
It would have been impossible to comprehend that statement in mid-September when turmoil was at an all-time high around the program following back-to-back demoralizing losses to BYU and Ole Miss.

But now the Longhorns (7-2) are in the midst of a six-game winning streak and are one of two teams unbeaten in the Big 12 play. They’ll host No. 12 Oklahoma State on Saturday.

The Cowboys, at 8-1 overall, are doing very well and the matchup will help Texas as it hopes to impress a high-profile group of recruits expected to attend one of the top games of the weekend.

Among those expected to take their official visits this weekend are ESPN 300 members Tony Brown (Beaumont, Texas/Ozen), Jamal Adams (Lewisville, Texas/Hebron) and Jerrod Heard (Denton, Texas/Guyer), a Texas commitment.

The only thing that could derail these plans is that this week also marks the first week of high school playoffs across the state. But the 2:30 p.m. start time should allow recruits enough time to make the trip to Austin.

ESPN 300 running back Leonard Fournette (New Orleans/Saint Augustine), the nation’s top player, also told RecruitingNation that he’ll be at the game on an official visit. Two of his teammates from New Orleans Saint Augustine are already committed to Texas in defensive back Jermaine Roberts and defensive tackle Courtney Garnett.


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Best Big 12 recruiters 

October, 15, 2013
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Editor's note: For a look at the national recruiter power rankings based only on Class of 2014 success, click here.

The best college football coaches will tell you that when it comes to recruiting, their business is an art. It’s a craft you must perfect if you want to have the best players commit and ultimately sign. Recruiting isn’t for everybody, but those who are good at it -- particularly for building the 2014 class -- should be recognized, as the business is extremely competitive.

Here are 10 of the top recruiters from the Big 12.


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UA Game jersey tour: Jermaine Roberts

October, 10, 2013
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Senior cornerback Jermaine Roberts (New Orleans, La./Saint Augustine High) was presented his honorary game jersey during the American Family Insurance Selection Tour for the 2014 Under Armour All-America High School Game at Saint Augustine High School in New Orleans on Friday.

Jermaine Roberts
Courtesy of IntersportCB Jermaine Roberts is one of 90 players selected to compete in the UA All-America Game.
The event was part of the three-month tour for the UA Game.

Roberts, a Texas commitment, is one of 90 players selected to compete in the seventh-annual UA All-America Game, a nationally-televised competition which spotlights the country’s top high school seniors. The 2014 game is set for 4 p.m. ET on Jan. 2 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., and will be televised on ESPN.

“First of all, I would like to thank God, my coaches and my family,” Roberts said. “And I’ll see y’all at the Under Armour All-American Game. Thanks y’all."

Saint Augustine head coach Cyril Crutchfield says his star corner is a man of high standards.
“Once again, he’s a person of high standards. A great student athlete [who] does the things he needs to do in the classroom. And he’s a tremendously hard worker on the field, and we expect big things out of him.”

For Roberts, being selected to the UA Game is a sign that good things happen when you work hard.
“It feels great knowing all the hard work pays off. I accepted this because I knew it was probably one of the last times [I'll be] playing with one of my brothers. I think I was selected because of my speed and my ball-hawking ability,” he said.

The 5-foot-9, 166-pound Roberts is the No. 172-ranked prospect overall, and the No. 15 cornerback in the class. He committed to Texas over offers from Ole Miss, TCU, UCLA, Oklahoma and a number of others.
When the Red River Rivalry is played, records are thrown out the window. When the game’s over, some love looking into the future to play “what if” with the next batch of talented college players.

While both teams have some room to land uncommitted recruits, both are pretty happy with where they are currently. Texas has 24 commits, and Oklahoma has 14, and when comparing ESPN 300 athletes, Texas only has a 7-5 lead.

Which team has the Red River Rivalry recruiting edge this year? Here’s a breakdown of eight positions and which team holds the edge for now.

Quarterback

Perhaps the most competitive comparison between the schools is at quarterback. ESPN 300s Justice Hansen (Edmond, Okla./Santa Fe) and Jerrod Heard (Denton, Texas/Guyer) are the nation’s No. 4 and No. 5 dual-threat quarterbacks. Hansen is the Sooners’ top-ranked commit and has proven himself a first-class leader of the class. Heard already has one state championship ring, and he’s hoping for a repeat performance in December before arriving at the Forty Acres.

Advantage: Oklahoma

Dallis Todd
Erik McKinney/ESPNOklahoma will get 6-foot-5 playmaker Daliis Todd in its 2014 class.
Running back

There are high expectations for both ESPN 300 Samaje Perine (Pflugerville, Texas/Hendrickson) and Donald "Duke" Catalon (Houston/Eisenhower). Perine is a physical specimen with the combination of power and finesse at 6-foot and 213 pounds. Catalon, at 5-10 and 193 pounds, has the agility and overall balance to make him a potential every-down back. Texas also has three-star Kevin Shorter (Newton, Texas/Newton), a player who plays with a chip on his shoulder, looking to show that he should be mentioned with the elite talent.

Advantage: Texas

Wide receiver

Neither Texas nor Oklahoma will be complaining about their receiver crop. The Longhorns have an ESPN 300 player in Armanti Foreman (Texas City, Texas/Texas City), a rising star in Emanuel Porter (Dallas/Lincoln) and a player in Garrett Gray (Marble Falls, Texas/Marble Falls) who caught 13 passes for 293 yards and five touchdowns in a game last year. Oklahoma has size and athleticism in 6-5, 210-pound ESPN 300 receiver Dallis Todd (La Mirada, Calif./La Mirada) and a 6-7, 180-pound end zone threat in Jeffery Mead (Tulsa, Okla/Union)

Advantage: Texas

Tight end

Oklahoma has done well with recruiting tight ends and was able to land ESPN 300 players Carson Meier (Tulsa, Okla./Union) and Mark Andrews (Scottsdale, Ariz./Desert Mountain). Meier is the No. 5 Y-tight end in the country, while Andrews is the No. 8 H-tight end. Texas also has a good one in junior college pledge John Thomas (Bossier City, La./Trinity Valley Community College). At 6-6 and 255 pounds, Thomas can be used as both a reliable blocker and receiver.

Advantage: Oklahoma

Offensive line

It’s hard to believe that between the two schools, only three offensive linemen are committed.

Sooners commit Alex Dalton (Troy, Ohio/Troy) is considered one of the nation’s top centers, and guard Jonathan Alvarez (Mesquite, Texas/Horn), with his work ethic alone, will surprise a lot of people in a couple of years. Texas, like Oklahoma, has a four-star center committed in Terrell Cuney (Jasper, Texas/Jasper). Cuney is a player who might see immediate playing time as a freshman.

Advantage: Texas

Defensive line


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SEC class rankings analysis 

October, 2, 2013
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For the fifth straight week, there is very little change in Recruiting Nation's class rankings. Thirteen of the 14 SEC teams are ranked in the top 40, including nine of the top 16, and top-ranked Alabama is holding a big lead over any and all pursuers.

Trending up: There isn’t a team in the class rankings that has the ability to ascend as much as LSU in the coming months. That march towards a possible top-3 class began Monday with a commitment by No. 216 overall Davon Godchaux (Plaquemine, La./Plaquemine High).

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The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today's offerings: Oklahoma hopes its talent pipeline to California hasn’t dried up, ESPN 2 and ESPNU have Friday night broadcasts that feature around 10 ESPN 300 prospects; and even without a head coach USC remains active on the recruiting trail.

#WeekendoftheWest
Bob Stoops has never shied away from bringing in prospects for game weekends, and Saturday’s Big 12 Conference matchup against TCU is another opportunity for the Sooners to impress. Five-star cornerback Adoree' Jackson (Gardena, Calif./Serra), four-star running back Joe Mixon (Oakley, Calif./Freedom), four-star linebacker Dwight Williams (Gardena, Calif./Serra), four-star athlete Michiah Quick (Fresno, Calif./East), four-star receiver Dallis Todd and four-star defensive tackle Ainuu Taua (Lompoc, Calif./Lompoc) will be in town for official visits. The Sooners have had a lot of success out West in the past and hope to keep their Golden State pipeline open. “California is right there with Oklahoma and Texas as far as importance to us,” one Sooner insider said. “We believe we can go into California and compete with Pac-12 schools because we have a lot to offer, and we have been quite successful attracting talented players to come to OU.” The Sooners currently have nine California players on its roster, including impact players like running back Brennan Clay, receiver Jalen Saunders and running back Damien Williams.


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NEW ORLEANS -- Texas A&M, Alabama and LSU must wait until Saturday to learn if running back Leonard Fournette (New Orleans/St. Augustine) will visit College Station, Texas, for the Aggies’ clash with No. 1-ranked Alabama.

Fournette, the No. 1-rated prospect in the Class of 2014, said on Friday that he’s yet to reach a decision on the recruiting trip.


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