NCF On The Trail: Kalen Ballage

Pac-12 class rankings analysis 

January, 29, 2014
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In the final updated ESPN recruiting class rankings before national signing day, six Pac-12 schools remain among the top 40 classes in the country, and all are within striking distance of claiming the top spot in the conference. Arizona State remains No. 1 in the conference and No. 17 in the nation, and Stanford made a big jump for the second straight week, moving to No. 2 in the Pac-12 and No. 19 overall. Arizona slid one spot with Stanford's move, checking in at No. 21, and USC and Oregon remain tightly bunched at Nos. 24 and 25, respectively. UCLA rounds out the group from the Pac-12 at No. 28.

ASU grabs another ESPN 300 recruit

December, 13, 2013
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Arizona State continued its march toward the top of the Pac-12 recruiting rankings, landing ESPN 300 defensive tackle Tashon Smallwood (Fresno, Calif./Central East).

Smallwood gave his verbal commitment to the Arizona State coaches during an in-home visit Wednesday.

Smallwood, the nation's No. 240 overall prospect, gives Arizona State six ESPN 300 prospects and is the second former USC commit to pledge to the Sun Devils, joining ESPN 300 linebacker D.J. Calhoun (El Cerrito, Calif./El Cerrito).

After decommitting from USC earlier this fall, there was little doubt Smallwood would wind up in Tempe, though he also looked at Alabama and Oklahoma -- and took an official visit to see the Sooners. Smallwood and his father consistently mentioned Arizona State's standout defensive tackle Will Sutton and believed the 6-foot, 290-pound Smallwood could replicate Sutton's production in the desert.

The Sun Devils now have 21 commitments in the 2014 class, and have put together some significant momentum in December. Smallwood's commitment came just one day after a pledge from three-star athlete Kalen Ballage (Peyton, Colo./Falcon). Four-star running back Demario Richard (Palmdale, Calif./Palmdale) and three-star juco defensive end Jonathon Johnson (Woodland Hills, Calif./Pierce College) also committed to Arizona State earlier this month.

While plenty of credit for Smallwood's commitment goes to the Arizona State coaches, a hat tip must again be given to quarterback commit Manny Wilkins (Novato, Calif./San Marin), who has established himself as one of the top recruiters in this class.

Pac-12 recruiting storylines: Dec. 12 

December, 12, 2013
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Last week saw a coaching shakeup in the Pac-12, as USC hired Steve Sarkisian away from Washington and the Huskies countered by luring Chris Petersen away from Boise State after making a run at UCLA's Jim Mora. This week, nearly every Pac-12 staff has been busy hitting the recruiting trail and setting up important visit weekends as a number of ESPN 300 prospects will be on conference campuses.

[+] EnlargeSolomon Thomas
Tom Hauck for Student SportsSolomon Thomas is still considering UCLA and Stanford, among others.
UCLA's big visitor

For the second weekend in a row, UCLA will have an ESPN 300 prospect on campus. Last week, the Bruins hosted Alabama linebacker commit Zach Whitley Jr (Houston/North Shore). This weekend, ESPN 300 defensive end Solomon Thomas (Coppell, Texas/Coppell) will make the trip. Thomas, the No. 31 overall prospect and No. 5 defensive end, would be a huge addition for UCLA, which has done very well in Texas recently, led by assistant coach Adrian Klemm. Thomas still has a number of suitors, but UCLA has maintained a consistent presence in his recruitment -- along with Pac-12 rival Stanford -- and has a chance to make a statement this weekend.

USC's weekend intrigue


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Here are the top performances by Big Ten commits and targets from the weekend.


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Weekend recruiting wrap: Big Ten 

October, 21, 2013
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Plenty of news and notes on the recruiting trail from the Big Ten Conference this weekend. Here is a look at some of the biggest news, performances and questions for the future.

Biggest commitment:

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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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There are still a ton of prospects on the board for Big Ten teams, so conference recruiting reporters Tom VanHaaren and Brad Bournival take a look at the best and worst case scenarios remaining for each team.

Illinois
Best-case scenario: Illinois picked up an offensive line commit on Monday with Peter Cvijanovic (Great Barrington, Mass./East Coast Prep), which gives the Illini two offensive line commits. Despite having four wide receiver commits on board, it looks like the staff would take another receiver in this class.

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Critical positions in Pac-12 recruiting 

September, 3, 2013
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Recruiting for the 2014 class bumped up another notch this past Sunday, when college coaches could begin making their one phone call per week to high school seniors. Today, we take a look at what position group those Pac-12 coaches might consider their most important position to add talent with this class.


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When Isaac Miller (Longmont, Colo./Silver Creek) committed to Colorado on Friday, he was focused on what made him comfortable. His decision involved proximity to home, coaching staff likeability and future playing time.


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