NCF On The Trail: Kendall Sheffield

Big Ten's top recruiting visits 

September, 26, 2014
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The weather in the Midwest is providing for some good visit opportunities among Big Ten teams. Ohio State and Wisconsin are planning big recruiting weekends and will have temperatures around 80 degrees on Saturday.

It’s a good thing, too, because both programs are expecting visitors from Florida, and other areas outside the Midwest.

Here is a look at the biggest visitors for this weekend.

Florida Gators have talent to compete 

September, 18, 2014
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When Alabama and Florida square off on Saturday (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS), the two teams will display some of the top talent in the country. In fact, according to the expected two-deep depth charts, Alabama and Florida will showcase 56 players that were ranked in the ESPN 300 (changed from ESPN 150 to ESPN 300 in 2013) and the ESPN JC 300 coming out of high school or junior college.


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With over 150 of the best prospects in the 2015 class at The Opening, there is not a better chance to ask many of the best about a number of issues in sports.

While performance-enhancing drugs can be a touchy subject, some in the media have debated legalization of PEDs. For the future college football players, the answers left very little doubt what the overwhelming thought about its use in football.

ESPN 300 No. 15 Tim Settle: I did research on steroids for a school project. Steroids completely takes over your body. I don’t think it should be legal. Some people need steroids or HGH to live, but it shouldn’t be made legal in sports. It’s unfair.


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ESPN 300: SEC's must-get recruits 

July, 30, 2014
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The SEC already has commitments from 77 prospects in the ESPN 300, but there are still several key targets available. Whether it's a current commit, a position of need or just the best available player, here is a look at the top must-get recruits for each SEC team.


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Charlie Strong is closing in on the start of his first season in Austin, and that means his first full recruiting class as the head coach of the Longhorns. While Texas is positioned well in the RecruitingNation class rankings early on, as expected, Texas is fighting an uphill in-state battle against Texas A&M for the first time since the mid-to-late 1990’s.

Here's a look at five questions that must be answered for the Longhorns entering July.


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If you follow Texas A&M recruiting via social media, you've probably seen the hashtag by now.

#WRTS

Four letters that have become the rallying cry of Aggie recruits, coaches and fans alike. Their meaning? "We run this state."

That's the way the Aggies feel right now when it comes to the state of Texas A&M recruiting, and considering the recruiting prowess they've shown during the Kevin Sumlin era, and particularly this recruiting cycle, it's difficult to debate that point.

A state once ruled in recruiting by Texas and coach Mack Brown in the mid-2000s has seen the balance of power shift roughly 100 miles eastward to College Station, Texas. In the Longhorns' heyday, it seemed as if they could land any in-state prospect they wished and right now, it almost seems as if the Aggies are enjoying that fortune themselves.

This week has illustrated that to a certain extent. Thursday was a big day for the Aggies as they landed two prospects out of Texas high school football power Cedar Hill High School: ESPN 300 receiver DaMarkus Lodge and outside linebacker Richard Moore.

Earlier this week, the Aggies also scored pledges from four-star offensive tackle Keaton Sutherland and three-star linebacker Landis Durham. That's not to mention that earlier this month, they landed four-star defensive tackle Kingsley Keke and last month received a commitment from ESPN 300 WR Kemah Siverand and perhaps their most impactful recruit of the cycle, five-star quarterback Kyler Murray.

Texas A&M is on quite the recruiting roll.

The Aggies' class, which is ranked No. 3 in the ESPN Recruiting Nation class rankings, holds 17 commitments, nine of whom are in the ESPN 300, and the class has 13 prospects with four-star-or-higher ratings. The Aggies hold commitments from the Lone Star State's No. 1 quarterback (Murray), receiver (Lodge), tight end (Jordan Davis) and defensive tackle (five-star prospect Daylon Mack).

Two of the state's top three players are committed to the Aggies and three of the top eight. And when it's all said and done, the Aggies could finish with four of the top five and five of the top 10 in Texas if their pursuit of cornerback Kendall Sheffield and linebacker Malik Jefferson falls their way. Neither has plans to announce his destination anytime soon, but the Aggies are strong players for both, and if that were to happen, the Aggies would lay claim to the state's top player at six different positions.


That would be a rough fate for the Aggies' chief recruiting rival (though no longer on-field rival) Texas and new coach Charlie Strong, who is already feeling the effects of A&M's success. But in reality, this isn't about Texas for the Aggies. It's about building a team and program that can compete and succeed long term in what many consider to be the country's toughest conference, the SEC.

With the Lone Star State being such fertile recruiting ground, the competition for talent will always be fierce. Whether it's Texas, a surging Baylor program that is reaching unprecedented success under Art Briles, a young, energetic, charismatic staff led by Kliff Kingsbury at Texas Tech, TCU's presence in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex or staving off out-of-state schools such as Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and other national powers, it's impossible to get every prospect desired from the large pool of talent Texas provides. But snagging most of the desired prospects bodes well for the future.

Texas A&M must continue to produce on-field success this fall -- let's not forget, the Aggies' 20-6 run in their first two seasons as SEC members and the visibility provided by having a Heisman Trophy winner are significant factors why the Aggies are such an attractive option to recruits right now. And teenagers can be fickle, making recruiting an unpredictable roller coaster until pen meets paper on the first Wednesday in February.

But if the Aggies can hang on to the high-level prospects they've already gained pledges from and continue recruiting at their current pace, the effects could be felt well beyond the state's borders, throughout SEC country and across the nation in years to come.
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Charlie Strong has a Texas-sized problem on his hands.

When a new coach is hired, especially at a place like The University of Texas, it usually creates excitement with prospects and high school coaches on the recruiting trail. Unfortunately for the Longhorns, that buzz isn’t there. With the addition of ESPN 300 receiver DaMarkus Lodge on Thursday, Texas A&M further tightened its grip on the top talent in the Lone Star State.

[+] EnlargeCharlie Strong
AP Photo/Eric GayCharlie Strong still has nearly eight months to bolster his 2015 recruiting class.
Lodge’s pledge gives A&M three of the top eight players in Texas and positions the Aggies for a run that could include four of the top five and five of the top 10.

On the other hand, the Longhorns, whose 2015 class is ranked No. 11 in ESPN's rankings, are struggling within their home state. Texas has yet to gain a commit from a top-10 in-state player. To make matters worse, Strong’s staff is losing commits to conference rivals and SEC powers in Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, LSU and Oklahoma.

“In the state of Texas, A&M has taken over,” Cedar Hill (Texas) High School coach Joey McGuire said. “Through what coach [Kevin] Sumlin has done and then what Johnny Manziel did to help put that school in such a great position, it's helped them move to whole different level. They're the hot thing going right now. It's hard to beat, even for a program like Texas.”

As any Texas fan will tell you, there’s nothing worse than losing to the hated Aggies. The recruiting beatdown could continue as A&M is in good position with cornerback Kendall Sheffield, linebacker Malik Jefferson, defensive end James Lockhart and cornerback Kris Boyd -- all ESPN 300 prospects strongly considering playing in College Station.

A Big 12 assistant who recruits in the Lone Star State said he could see that Texas would have problems on the recruiting trail the minute Strong announced his staff. The assistant praised Strong for luring Joe Wickline away from Oklahoma State and believes his addition will help the Longhorns find some hidden gems along the offensive line. But after that, the assistant said it was hardly the all-star cast many thought Strong could assemble, given the school’s resources.

“I thought [Strong] needed to bring in guys that can stand toe-to-toe against A&M, LSU, Alabama, Oklahoma and all the other top teams that recruit in Texas,” the coach said. “He needed guys that had deep ties with the high school coaches in Texas. Instead, he got a lot of coaches that can win recruiting battles against Cincinnati, UCF and teams like that. This is the Big 12, not the AAC.”

In defense of the Longhorns, Strong did retain Bruce Chambers, who is entering his 17th season in Austin and has connections with high school football in the state. He also hired Les Koenning, a 1981 Texas graduate who is entering his 34th year of coaching after previous stops at Mississippi State, South Alabama, Texas A&M, Alabama, TCU, Houston, Duke, Rice and Louisiana-Lafayette.

Replacing Mack Brown wasn’t going to be easy. Replacing the relationships he so tirelessly built with Texas high school coaches will take some time.

All of this has made Strong’s job of recruiting local talent more difficult than most assumed it would be when he was first hired six months ago. But all is not lost. There has been no shortage of effort from the Longhorns’ staff, and Strong can sway some recruits with a simple formula this fall: winning.

“If Charlie Strong comes out and wins, there might be another flip,” McGuire said. “If they can come out and surprise some people this year and win games, then they’re going to be the hot team with recruits. Winning and losing is going to make a big part of those schools' recruiting classes.”
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With another 600-plus player evaluations now in the books, the second phase of the spring evaluation period is complete. Camps and combines across the country are now coming to a close, and on-campus college camps are in full swing. We’ve now had several months to evaluate and re-evaluate the 2015 class based off sophomore and junior film study, as well as in-person scouting to see how prospects pass the eye test.

New additions to the ESPN 300 are well into the double digits, which resulted in several changes throughout the rankings. As usual, some prospects will move up or down relative to the movement from other prospects and the new entries. Here’s a look at the big movers in the updated ESPN 300:


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Whether or not it’s fair to say ESPN 300 quarterback and Texas A&M commit Kyler Murray is a pied piper is still to be determined. As good as he has been in high school -- two state championship rings, invitations to the Elite 11 finals and The Opening and nearly two dozen scholarship offers -- he has yet to play a down of college football.

But for an athlete who turns 17 in August, the expectations are incredible for Murray, who is the nation's top-ranked quarterback in the 2015 class. Watch him play and it makes sense. His drive to be the best is infectious, and his refuse-to-lose attitude has not only attracted coaches from coast to coast but also made them look past his 5-foot-11, 180-pound frame.

More important, Murray has other recruits -- on offense and defense -- wanting to be his future teammate.

The Kyler Murray effect is real, and it’s something the Aggies hope to benefit from this summer.


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Tale of the tape: Texas-Texas A&M 

May, 23, 2014
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There are those who believe the rivalry between Texas and Texas A&M is dead because the two programs are no longer in the same conference.

[+] EnlargeKendall Sheffield
Sam Khan Jr./ESPNTexas and Texas A&M are both after Kendall Sheffield, the No. 2 CB in the nation.
Those people are misguided. And emphatically incorrect.

Two words in February by new Texas head coach Charlie Strong helped light a new spark in the rivalry between two of the most respected programs in the Lone Star State. When asked about A&M’s recruiting methods -- which includes coach Kevin Sumlin making player visits in a helicopter dubbed the “Swagcopter” -- Strong said the Longhorns didn’t need to be a “gadget program,” as the university and its prestige still was enough to attract recruits.

The rest of the spring and the upcoming summer will be perfect opportunities to gauge where both programs stand among some of the elite athletes who are still uncommitted. Which school will dominate in recruiting the 2015 class?


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Days after the NFL draft, some Texas Longhorns fans still scratch their heads in disbelief. How a celebrated college football program -- one with decorated, award-winning athletes -- have zero players drafted into the NFL?

For the first time since before World War II, a Longhorn wasn’t selected in the draft. It became national news, and it’s news that no program wants to have attached to it, let alone one of the nation’s most established programs. When Memphis safety Lonnie Ballentine was selected by the Houston Texans as the 256th pick -- the last pick of the seven-round draft -- it opened the floodgates for barbs thrown by Texas antagonists.

What the draft ineffectiveness failed to do, however, was steer recruits -- committed and uncommitted -- away from the program’s future. If anything, it’s drawn some closer to the vision of new coach Charlie Strong and his staff.

“Some people are taking it all over the top,” uncommitted ESPN 300 linebacker Malik Jefferson said. “Those weren’t Charlie’s people; he didn’t develop any of those kids. Why would people want to change their minds off going to a great school like Texas because of something they couldn’t control?”

[+] EnlargeKendall Sheffield
Sam Khan Jr./ESPNKendall Sheffield, the top-ranked player in Texas, said the fact the Longhorns had no draft picks has no bearing on his recruitment.
The draft has forced recruits to answer questions some might feel are slightly unnecessary:

“Will the draft affect your thoughts on Texas?”

“Can you trust the Longhorns to groom you into a pro-ready athlete after college?”

“Do you want to be a part of the laughingstock of college football?”

ESPN 300 cornerback Kendall Sheffield has had to answer some of these questions this week. The top-ranked player in Texas, Sheffield said he still has the Longhorns high on a list of several schools, a list that includes Texas A&M, Alabama, Baylor, Florida State, LSU, Oklahoma, Oregon and USC.

Sheffield admitted to being shocked that the Longhorns didn’t have a draft pick, but to look at the program with a side eye -- particularly with a new coach in charge -- is something that never crossed his mind.

“I don’t know if it plays a role in recruiting. I mean, they’ve still got to rebuild,” Sheffield said. “I know they’re going to still get some big recruits in. For me, I’m going to find the school that’s the best fit for me and the place I feel has the best position coach. The draft won’t have nothing to do with it.”

Jefferson, believed to have Texas high on his list along with Texas A&M, Baylor, Alabama and others, reminded people that while the Longhorns went without a drafted player, Strong's former team at Louisville had three first-round picks in safety Calvin Pryor (No. 18 overall to the Jets), defensive end Marcus Smith (No. 26, Eagles) and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (No. 32, Vikings).

“He knows what he’s doing,” Jefferson said of Strong.

During the Mack Brown era, 58 Longhorns were drafted. Safety Kenny Vaccaro was a first-round pick by the Saints last year. Receiver/return specialist Marquise Goodwin (Bills) and defensive end Alex Okafor (Cardinals) were selected in the third and fourth rounds in 2013.

This year’s crop of undrafted talent included defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat and receiver Mike Davis. Jeffcoat was the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and the Ted Hendricks Award recipient, recognizing the nation's top defensive end. Davis caught 200 passes in his college career and is one of only four players in school history with 200 or more receptions.

Jeffcoat and Davis, as well as other Longhorns, signed with NFL teams as undrafted free agents, which is another reason why recruits aren’t worried about the draft results. ESPN 300 offensive lineman Patrick Vahe -- who committed to Texas during the Brown era and chose to stay committed under Strong -- believes the draft is in full control of a player and not the coach.

Texas’ ability to produce NFL offensive linemen has been sliding in recent years. The Longhorns haven’t had an offensive lineman drafted since tackle Tony Hills in 2008. To assist in further developing linemen, Strong hired former Oklahoma State coach Joe Wickline, who coached NFL linemen Russell Okung, Corey Hilliard and Charlie Johnson at the college level. Okung is fresh off winning a Super Bowl with the Seahawks.

Vahe said he’ll worry about being a pro athlete when that time comes. Right now, he’s focused on being the best college athlete possible, and the 2014 draft isn’t weighing on his decision.

“I think I can learn a lot from [Wickline].” Vahe said. “We talked about his game plan, and I’m putting a lot of trust with him. The rest of it … I think people are just taking it over the top.”

Todd Dodge, head coach at Austin Westlake High School, former head coach at North Texas and a former quarterback for the Longhorns, said a draft should never have an effect on a recruit’s decision.

Dodge played at Texas from 1982-85. In that span, he saw several teammates drafted, including first-round cornerbacks Mossy Cade and Jerry Gray. The 1984 draft class featured 17 Longhorns.

Not having a draftee was an eye-opener, Dodge said, but it shouldn’t be a discussion piece in relation to Texas’ recruiting -- particularly with the changing of the guard at head coach.

“If Coach Strong and his staff are on the road making their rounds and people are using common sense, they’ll judge them by what they see,” Dodge said. “Texas has always been in the hunt for great players in the state of Texas. If there’s any doubt, you can always point to the players drafted from Louisville. Coach Strong has a track record that’s proven.”

As for the jokes from rival schools, Vahe understands that they come will with the territory, whether the program goes winless or earns a BCS championship. He also understands that the way to silence some of the jokes is by producing in practices and games and later during NFL combines and workouts. He believes a change for the better is near for the program.

“People love to talk, but it’s nothing big, really,” Vahe said. “I know [Strong] just got there, and they’re all going to start a new era. Hopefully I’ll be one of those who helps start the new era.”

Big 12 recruiting scorecard

May, 12, 2014
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Here's the latest in recruiting around the Big 12:

BAYLOR
Total commits: 9
ESPN 300 commits: 6
The latest: The Bears nabbed one of the state of Texas' better defensive backs this weekend when Missouri City Ridge Point three-star CB Jordan Tolbert announced his pledge on Friday. Tolbert, who reopened his recruitment after an early commitment to Houston, held offers from Texas, Oklahoma and several other big-time programs. He and top-rated BU pledge John Humphrey Jr. are working to get S P.J. Locke on board next.

IOWA STATE
Total commits: 1
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: One name to keep an eye on that's firmly on the Cyclones' radar is three-star Chicago Marist WR Flynn Nagel. In addition to ISU, he holds offers from several Big Ten schools including Illinois, Indiana and Purdue. Bobby McMillen, ISU's lone commitment so far, is working hard to get Nagle to join him in Ames.

KANSAS
Total commits: 1
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Jayhawks have landed three transfer quarterbacks since Charlie Weis took over. Could they get in the mix for another this spring? Redshirt freshman Trent Hosick is looking for his next school after electing to transfer from Missouri. No guarantee KU would go after him now, but he did have an offer from the program out of high school. Hosick does plan to take an official visit to BYU.

KANSAS STATE
Total commits: 1
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: Kansas State recently extended an offer to RB Alec Murphy of Nixa, Mo., but it faces some stiff competition to keep him close to home. Michigan also offered, and Murphy is interested in Mississippi State and Iowa. Still, expect KSU to get a visit from Murphy in the near future.

OKLAHOMA
Total commits: 4
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: OU is back up to four commitments in the 2015 class with the addition of K/P Austin Seibert. High school kicker experts (yes, that's a thing) say the Belleville (Ill.) West senior-to-be is the nation's best placekicker and just as good a punter. Seibert had eight other offers, and it's a good get for the Sooners. He can help in whatever role needed when he gets on campus.

OKLAHOMA STATE
Total commits: 5
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: Oklahoma State made another big, big addition from the Lone Star State on Sunday when CB Jaylon Lane announced he'll be a Cowboy. The No. 73 player in the ESPN 300 from Nacogdoches, Texas, was absolutely coveted this spring, with more than 35 schools extending offers, but Lane thinks he has a chance to become the next Justin Gilbert when he arrives in Stillwater.

TCU
Total commits: 10
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: As the quarterback dominos start falling around the country, watch Quinten Dormady blow up. The Boerne, Texas, standout's recruitment is picking up steam after he missed his junior year with an injury, and he does hold a TCU offer. Oklahoma State entered the mix Sunday, and Texas could end up offering as well.

TEXAS
Total commits: 9
ESPN 300 commits: 5
The latest: No new commitments, but it was still a relatively big weekend for Texas recruiting. With the UIL state track meet just across the street from the Longhorns' football office, Charlie Strong's staff got a chance to host some big-time talent, including ESPN 300 recruits Kendall Sheffield, Kris Boyd and Ryan Newsome. Manvel 2016 safety Deontay Anderson, who already holds more than 15 offers, got one more from the Horns this weekend. He'd received one from the Mack Brown staff a year ago as well.

TEXAS TECH
Total commits: 7
ESPN 300 commits: 2
The latest: The Red Raiders landed a new pledge this weekend from Missouri City (Texas) Elkins ATH Jonathan Giles. TTU beat out Missouri and six other schools for Giles, who plays QB in high school and probably translates as a receiver in the Red Raiders' scheme. Even better news, Tech RB commit Corey Dauphine won a state title in the 200-meter dash Saturday with a blazing time of 20.76 seconds.

WEST VIRGINIA
Total commits: 11
ESPN 300 commits: 2
The latest: The Mountaineers joined the long, long list of schools pursuing ESPN 300 TE Will Gragg when they extended an offer on Sunday. The Pine Bluff, Ark., four-star talent is the top-rated prospect in his home state. You name 'em, they've offered Gragg. It won't be easy for WVU to get Gragg on campus, not when he has so many other suitors and Arkansas desperate to lock him up, but Gragg is definitely worth all the offers.

Getting to know Kendall Sheffield 

April, 25, 2014
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video Throughout this recruiting cycle, RecruitingNation will profile a number of ESPN 300 prospects in the 2015 class, including an inside look at the prospect, his recruitment, a scouting report and what college program could benefit when he ultimately makes his decision.

HOUSTON -- It says a lot when you can walk around various athletic events wearing a shirt that reads “Speed kills,” and nobody questions or contradicts you.

This is the fortunate life of ESPN 300 cornerback Kendall Sheffield. In his world, speed does kill. As does size. And physicality. And overall athleticism. When those individual skill sets work together for him on the football field, it usually isn’t good news for an opposing receiver.


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Former USC coach Pete Carroll had the Trojans recruiting better than anyone in the country during his tenure at the school. From 2000-09, Carroll consistently had five-star talent, including players such as Reggie Bush, Matt Leinart, Troy Polamalu, Everson Griffen and Joe McKnight, scattered all over the roster. Some thought Carroll's recruiting success would be hard to top.

Those doubters were wrong.

As the legend of Nick Saban continues to grow with his success on the field, the Alabama coach has become the most dominant recruiter in the modern era of college football.


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ESPN 300: Top Big 12 targets 

April, 16, 2014
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The spring evaluation period is upon us, and coaches are traveling and hosting spring games in an effort to evaluate and attract the nation’s elite prospects. Fortunately for coaches, roughly two-thirds of the players making up the 2015 ESPN 300 are still uncommitted. A large majority of those players are considering playing in the Big 12.

Here are five ESPN 300 players heavily targeted by Big 12 schools:


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