NCF On The Trail: Kris Boyd

"College GameDay" will be at Michigan State this weekend, and so will a lot of high-profile recruits such as Ricky DeBerry and Quarte Sapp. Plus, Michigan running back commit Mike Weber is getting closer to lining up his official visits, including trips to the Wolverines' biggest rivals.
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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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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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Here's the latest in recruiting around the Big 12 with summer camps in full swing:

Baylor
Total commits: 10
ESPN 300 commits: 5
The latest: Baylor added a commitment with the pledge of linebacker Clay Johnston of Abilene, Texas, last week. Johnston picked the Bears over offers from Texas Tech, Tulsa, Duke and others. It wasn’t all good news for the Bears as the No. 246 player in the ESPN 300, athlete Louis Brown from Burton, Texas, elected to decommit from Baylor and reopen the recruiting process.

Iowa State
Total commits: 2
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Cyclones reeled in their second commitment in the Class of 2015 with Bryce Meeker’s pledge. The three-star offensive tackle from Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Prairie picked ISU over offers from Illinois State and Northern Iowa. ISU also held a summer camp over the weekend including an appearance from Billy Bahl, a 6-foot-4, 213-pound quarterback from Woodstock (Illinois) Marian Catholic.

Kansas
Total commits: 1
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Jayhawks looked east to make one of their latest reported offers, putting their name in the mix for Pawling (N.Y) Trinity Pawling defensive end Austrian Robinson. The Class of 2015 prospect also has offers from Boston College, Maryland, Rutgers and others.

Kansas State
Total commits: 2
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Wildcats dipped into SEC country for their second commit for the Class of 2015. Stone Mountain (Ga.) Stephenson receiver Isaiah Zuber picked KSU last week, spurning offers from Boston College, Virginia Tech, Purdue, Illinois, Iowa State and others. Zuber is a quick receiver who could excel as a slot possession receiver.

Oklahoma
Total commits: 6
ESPN 300 commits: 5
The latest: It was a huge week for the Sooners as they continued to add quality recruits to their commit list. Running back Rodney Anderson picked the Sooners after attending OU’s camp over the weekend. The Katy, Texas, standout is No. 263 in the ESPN 300. Cornerback P.J. Mbanasor, the No. 84 player in the ESPN 300, also chose OU last week. The Pflugerville (Texas) Hendrickson turned down offers from LSU, Ohio State, Florida and others.

Oklahoma State
Total commits: 5
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: Much like the rest of the Big 12, the Cowboys are actively involved in summer camps, including a satellite camp in Rockwall, Texas, on Sunday. Oklahoma State also reportedly offered a scholarship to ESPN 300 cornerback Kris Boyd of Gilmer, Texas, who also holds offers from Alabama, Baylor, Florida State, Texas, TCU, Oklahoma and others.

TCU
Total commits: 13
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: TCU’s class is shaping up nicely with New Boston (Texas) athlete Jeff Gladney and Houston Westfield guard Cordel Iwuagwu joining the Horned Frogs’ commit list in the past week. Gladney will likely play cornerback for Gary Patterson’s team. TCU also held a summer camp over the weekend that featured several standouts including KeShawn Somerville, who reportedly ran a 4.37 in the 40 at the camp.

Texas
Total commits: 10
ESPN 300 commits: 6
The latest: The Longhorns held a camp on Sunday with several elite prospects, including cornerback Jared Mayden, a Class of 2016 recruit, in attendance. Mayden, from Sachse, Texas, already holds offers from Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Baylor, TCU, Texas A&M and others.

Texas Tech
Total commits: 7
ESPN 300 commits: 2
The latest: This week should be big for the Red Raiders as they participate in satellite camps across the state, including one on Sunday at Euless (Texas) Trinity. But the biggest recruit the Red Raiders landed in the past week was quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who decided to turn down professional baseball to join Kliff Kingsbury’s program after going undrafted in the first two days of the MLB Draft. Joining Davis Webb as the Red Raiders’ lone scholarship quarterbacks, Mahomes should be Texas Tech’s No. 2 quarterback this fall.

West Virginia
Total commits: 11
ESPN 300 commits: 2
The latest: The Mountaineers held a summer camp on Sunday with several targets participating, including Clairton, Pa., 2017 target Lamont Wade, who can play multiple positions, and 2016 target Aaron Mathews, a receiver.

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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Editor's note: This week we're taking a closer look at five key takeaways from Texas' spring practices and what they mean for the summer and beyond.

AUSTIN, Texas -- High school kids like new. In hindsight, we really shouldn’t have underestimated that.

New uniforms, new helmets, new stadiums. All critical assets in recruiting. Just ask Kevin Sumlin, who, seemingly overnight, changed the perception of Texas A&M.

[+] EnlargeToby Weathersby
Max Olson/ESPNToby Weathersby is one of six four-star commits in Texas' 2015 class.
Texas isn’t changing its uniform or its helmets this year. Its stadium isn’t expanding just yet. But the Longhorns have a brand new coach, and that has made a world of difference on the trail this spring.

For all the disadvantages Charlie Strong and his staff faced when they first arrived, it’s hard to call the early results anything other than impressive. Texas’ staff has assembled the No. 11 recruiting class in the nation and is well on its way to transforming the way recruits look at the Longhorns.

Defensive end Charles Omenihu, one of nine verbal commits in the class, was hooked from the very beginning of his junior day visit. New Texas defensive coordinator Vance Bedford’s pitch was simple and compelling: “Why not Texas?”

“He was right. Why would you not want to go to Texas if you live in the state of Texas?” Omenihu said. “Why wouldn’t you want to play big ball at a place with a tradition for winning? That really stayed in my mind.”

The three-star defensive end from Rowlett, Texas, committed two days later and has become one of the leaders of the class, constantly staying in touch with his fellow commits and countless blue-chip targets.

He didn’t think much of Texas in recent years. The new staff got his attention, however, and convinced him that the Longhorns’ glory days are coming again, and soon.

“I remember visibly when they won it all in 2006 and them guys were flying around and looked good doing it, too,” Omenihu said. “They looked good, played hard and beat people up. You could see that in practice this spring. You could just tell.”

For the new staff, that rebranding of Texas football in the spring helped make up for a lot of lost time. Keep in mind, Strong, Bedford and several other assistants hardly recruited the Lone Star State at Louisville and they risked falling behind with the 2015 class with all the time they expended to secure the glass that inked in Februarby.

While Texas scrambled to close out that group, Texas A&M and other in-state foes were already hosting early junior days. Everyone else had a head start.

But the Longhorn staff had their house and their recruiting board in order by the time they hosted that first junior day on Feb. 23. The event led to commitments from Omenihu, Ronnie Major and DeShon Elliott, and also ensured Patrick Vahe would stay on board. That’s when the #letsride momentum starting rolling.

Since that first event, Texas has secured eight new verbal commitments and completed a major overhaul of the class Strong inherited. Only two of the nine verbal commitments Mack Brown landed for 2015 are still on the commit list.

Five of those early pledges elected to decommit. The other two, defensive backs Jalen Campbell and Johnny Shaw, will continue to be evaluated by the new staff this spring and summer.

As it stands today, the revamped class has pledges from five ESPN 300 prospects. Offensive tackle Toby Weathersby, the nation’s No. 138 recruit, bought in one month after his junior day trip.

“It’s just the way they go about doing things,” Weathersby said. “They get to the point. Real demanding. Coach Strong wants them to get back to a winning tradition and he’s doing everything the way he wants it to go. Let’s get it done.”

The intensity was just what he was looking for, he said, because he plays on a tight ship at Houston Westfield. And how did Strong take it when Weathersby declared he was ready to commit?

“Well, I had to catch him,” Weathersby said. “He jumped in my arms.”

Like Omenihu, Weathersby had his own beliefs about what was wrong with the Longhorns. He felt that in terms of intensity, Texas was “like a golf club” in Brown’s final years. Strong drastically flipped his perspective on the program’s future.

“I can’t really go into detail, because it would take me months and months,” Weathersby said with a laugh. “But the way he changed everything, I think it’s a more strict football program and, with his way of doing things, it’s for the better.”

Omenihu’s wish list for this Texas class is ambitious, and includes ESPN 300 recruits Malik Jefferson, Chris Warren III, Holton Hill, Kris Boyd, Ryan Newsome and Cameron Townsend. And he doesn’t intend to give up on five-star Texas A&M commit Daylon Mack.

“I wonder why great defensive players would choose to go to A&M,” Omenihu said. “It boggles my mind. They don’t really play defense. If I’m wrong, someone please tell me.”

Worse things were being said about the Longhorns before Strong showed up, that's for sure. This is a game of perception, and so far, Texas' head coach is already changing the game.

Texas spring game draws loaded list 

April, 18, 2014
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AUSTIN, Texas -- Charlie Strong’s #letsride movement is picking up momentum, and it’s going to the next level on Saturday at Texas’ Orange-White spring game.

Strong and his coaching staff already have picked up seven verbal commitments since taking over and could have a chance to lock up a few more at the annual spring game. As many as 100 prospects from the 2014, 2015, 2016 and even 2017 classes are expected to be on the sidelines and in the stands for the unofficial first game of the Strong era.

The highlight of that lengthy list? Texas is expected to receive unofficial visits from the following members of the newly released ESPN 300:

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Houston NFTC superlatives 

April, 6, 2014
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HOUSTON -- The Houston area was the second stop of the weekend in the Lone Star State for the 2014 Nike Football Training Camp tour. Like Dallas the day before, a strong turnout was led by an impressive group of skill players at defensive back and wide receiver, along with a deep group at linebacker.

Despite it raining off and on for the entire camp, which included ending the day nearly an hour early, the turnout was strong and the competitive spirit impressive. Here are some of the event’s most impressive performers:


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Strong, Texas hosting first junior day 

February, 22, 2014
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Texas takes its first big step toward building up its 2015 recruiting class under new coach Charlie Strong on Saturday, with the Longhorns’ first junior day of the year.

The Longhorns are reportedly bringing in as many as 70 prospects for unofficial campus visits this weekend, including six committed prospects and more than a dozen ranked in the ESPN 300.


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Summer Recruit Wrap: Texas 

July, 23, 2013
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Here is a look at five things we’ve learned about Longhorns recruiting this summer.

1. Suddes making big impact

Patrick Suddes, Texas’ Director of Player Personnel, could go down as one of coach Mack Brown’s best hires in his time at UT. All Suddes has done since coming on board in March is help make smart, innovative decisions that have helped the Longhorns appeal to recruits despite not winning like they’re used to on the field.


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McKINNEY, Texas -- The 2013 Nike Football Festival made a stop in north Texas, and 24 teams from the Dallas metroplex and east Texas showed their skills in 7-on-7 competition and individual skills challenges at Craig Ranch and the Michael Johnson Performance Center. Roughly 400 athletes were in attendance, some considered major FBS recruits.

Here is what we learned after the event:

2015 QB Murray wins ... twice

That sigh of relief you heard in McKinney? It’s still to be determined if it was from the Allen faithful or the Texas A&M faithful.

Saturday afternoon, Allen won the event's 7-on-7 tournament, and 2015 quarterback Kyler Murray looked phenomenal in competition. He made the same kind of plays in the air that allowed him to lead Allen to the Texas Class 5A Division-I state championship in December. In short, Murray was outstanding.

Shortly after, the 5-foot-11, 166-pound quarterback picked up the much-anticipated offer that made Aggies fans gush. Murray, the son of former Aggies quarterback Kevin Murray, finally got an offer from Texas A&M to join offers from Ohio State, Clemson, Texas Tech, Arkansas and Arizona State.

Life after Texas commit looks promising


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