NCF On The Trail: Kyle Carta-Samuels

Now that the 2014 class is in the books it’s time to take a look at which teams need to make a big splash in recruiting for the 2015 class. Below are five teams we feel have to perform well in recruiting to move forward and re-establish their programs among the college football elite. There are always peaks and valleys in recruiting, but there’s also an expectation level that some programs no matter what will always perform to a high standard and that’s not always realistic.

For these programs, it won’t just be about how good the players are that they sign in 2015; it will also be about what type of person that player is to represent the program and establish a new chemistry. These programs are laying down a new foundation, and it will be this class that will be looked back upon as one that got the ball rolling. These programs need to make the Tennessee-type splash of 2014. Just ask Ole Miss about its 2013 class and what one recruiting cycle can do to reenergize a program. We’ve closed the door on the 2014 class now, here’s to opening the door for the 2015 class. Let’s get off to a fast start shall we?

Signing day wrap: SEC

February, 5, 2014

The Southeastern Conference had a strong finish the 2014 recruiting class. Alabama, which received a commitment from four-star outside linebacker Rashaan Evans (Auburn, Ala./Auburn) on Wednesday, finished with the top overall class by a landslide, and seven of the top 10 recruiting classes in the country are in the SEC. Here’s a closer look at some of the top news from around the SEC on national signing day.

Top class

[+] EnlargeRashaan Evans
AP Photo/Butch DillESPN 300 OLB Rashaan Evans, who chose Bama over Auburn, made a great class even better.
There is no question Alabama had the top overall class. The Crimson Tide finished with 27 signees, including 19 ranked in the ESPN 300 and five five-star prospects. In addition to the incredible class Alabama put together leading up to signing day, the Crimson Tide were also able to land Evans, the No. 52 player in the country. Evans chose Alabama over arch-rival and hometown Auburn Tigers.

The Alabama class was led by the No. 1 offensive tackle in the country, Cameron Robinson (West Monroe, La./West Monroe), the No. 2-ranked defensive end Da'Shawn Hand (Woodbridge, Va./Woodbridge) and the No. 2-ranked cornerback in the country Tony Brown (Beaumont, Texas/Ozen), who is already enrolled.

The SEC West alone had three schools, Alabama, LSU and Texas A&M, finish in the top five of the final recruiting team rankings. In all, 13 of the 14 SEC schools finished in the top 40 of the team recruiting rankings.

South Carolina, LSU and Georgia finish strong

South Carolina had arguably the best finish of any class in the SEC. The Gamecocks were able to flip ESPN 300 defensive end Dexter Wideman (Saluda, S.C./Saluda) from Florida State and defensive tackle Blake McClain (Jacksonville, Fla./Sandalwood) from Nebraska. They were also able to land ESPN 300 defensive backs Chris Lammons (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./Plantation) and Wesley Green (Lithonia, Ga./Martin Luther King) giving the Gamecocks a very athletic secondary.

If South Carolina was the best, LSU wasn’t far behind. The Tigers were able to land the No. 1 wide receiver in the country Malachi Dupre (River Ridge, La./John Curtis) and ESPN 300 defensive tackle Travonte Valentine (Hialeah, Fla./Champagnat Catholic). Dupre chose LSU over UCLA, Ole Miss, Alabama and FSU. Valentine had decommitted from three different schools – Louisville, Florida and Miami -- over the course of his recruitment before finally settling on LSU. The Tigers were also able to hang on to defensive end Davon Godchaux (Plaquemine, La./Plaquemine), who had been wavering on his commitment leading up to signing day.

Georgia, meanwhile, added five-star defensive end Lorenzo Carter (Norcross, Ga./Norcross), who chose the Bulldogs over LSU, FSU and Florida. They also added four-star wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie (Plantation, Fla./American Heritage). The ESPN 300 wide receiver wasn’t even considering Georgia until earlier this week, but a late offer from the Bulldogs was enough for McKenzie to pull the trigger and sign with Georgia.

Several schools lose commits

Signing day was full of surprises, including several prospects who backed off of their commitments and signed with a different school. Three-star defensive tackle Cory Thomas (McCalla, Ala./McAdory), a long-time Tennessee commit, spurned the Volunteers and signed with Mississippi State. But not all was good news for Mississippi State. Ole Miss was able to steal junior college defensive back Tee Shepard (Fresno, Calif./Holmes CC), the No. 22-ranked player in the ESPN JC 50. The Vols took another hit when three-star offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr. (Duluth, Ga./Peachtree Ridge) unexpectedly signed with Oklahoma. The Volunteers, however, were able to land four-star defensive tackle Michael Sawyers (Nashville/The Ensworth School), and had the No. 5 recruiting class in the country -- one that included 11 players ranked in the ESPN 300.

Quarterback Treon Harris (Miami/Booker T. Washington) backed off his pledge to FSU and signed with Florida. Offensive tackle Andrew Mike (Tucson, Ariz./Sabino) was only a part of Vanderbilt’s class for one short day, but the three-star tackle flipped on Tuesday night and signed with Florida on Wednesday. Four-star Alabama safety commit Chris Williams (Kingsland, Ga./Camden Co.) flipped and signed with UCF because of personal family reasons. Four-star wide receiver DeSean Blair (Jacksonville, Fla./Sandalwood) flipped his commitment from Louisville and signed with Missouri.

Vanderbilt able to rebound

The Vanderbilt class may not be filled with four- and five-star prospects, but the job new head coach Derek Mason did to rebuild the Commodores’ class is nothing short of amazing. After James Franklin left to take the head coaching job at Penn State and a string of decommitments followed, Vanderbilt was down to eight verbal commitments. After an impressive few weeks of recruiting the Commodores finished with 22 signees, including 17 prospects ranked three stars or higher.

The class is led by ESPN 300 defensive tackle Nifae Lealao (Sacramento, Calif./Capital Christian) and four-star running back Dallas Rivers (Stone Mountain, Ga./Stephenson). After losing ESPN 300 quarterback Kyle Carta-Samuels to Washington, Vanderbilt was able to flip Pitt quarterback commit Wade Freebeck (Fort Lauderdale, Fla/St. Thomas Aquinas) and former ECU commit Shawn Stankavage (Raleigh, N.C./Cardinal Gibbons).

Recruits rarely fazed by coaches who flip 

February, 3, 2014
Whether it was Todd Graham leaving Pittsburgh a few years ago or James Franklin leaving Vanderbilt last month, reaction from fans, players and media in those areas was visceral. For Graham especially, considering Arizona State became his third head coaching gig in three years, questions naturally followed as to how he would ever be able to convince recruits to trust him.

But what has become increasingly clear in the wake of Graham joining Arizona State and Franklin heading to Penn State after three years at Vanderbilt is that college football recruits don't appear all that bothered by a nomadic track record from a head coach.

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Biggest flips: Pac-12 

February, 3, 2014
Many of the biggest flips relating to Pac-12 teams came fairly early in the process, which means there might not be much chaos on signing day when it comes to recruits flipping commitments. However, as with every year, flips will help and hurt a number of conference programs come Wednesday, and we take a look at the five biggest in the Pac-12 during this recruiting cycle.

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Early Offer: Tough sledding in Utah 

January, 23, 2014
The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today’s offerings: With Kenyon Frison's decision to decommit from Utah, it likely means three of the top five players in state are going end up at programs other than BYU or Utah; Nick Saban headed West Wednesday to visit the high schools of the top two quarterbacks in the 2015 class; and Washington filled a major hole in its recruiting class Wednesday by landing quarterback Kyle Carta-Samuels.

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Scouts' Take: Petersen lands his QB 

January, 22, 2014
Chris Petersen secured his first ESPN 300 commit as Washington's head coach on Wednesday when quarterback Kyle Carta-Samuels (San Jose, Calif./Bellarmine) jumped on board with the Huskies. Read on to see what our scouts expect from him in Seattle.

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ESPN 300 QB Carta-Samuels picks UW

January, 22, 2014

It's not often that a recruit goes through the recruiting process two separate times without a stop at a junior college in between, but that was the case for ESPN 300 quarterback Kyle Carta-Samuels (San Jose, Calif./Bellarmine Prep). He was one of the first 2014 recruits to make a verbal commitment when he pledged to Vanderbilt in the summer of 2012, then became likely the last quarterback domino to fall in the Pac-12 conference when he committed to Washington on Wednesday.

Between his two commitments was a long stretch of nothing -- Carta-Samuels followed his brother, Austyn, in committing to Vanderbilt and then took his name off the recruiting map -- followed by a whole lot of action when former Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin took over at Penn State, forcing Carta-Samuels to re-evaluate his options.

After Carta-Samuels backed away from his Vanderbilt pledge, Washington was one of the first schools to step forward, as new head coach Chris Petersen lost former quarterback commitment Jalen Greene (Gardena, Calif./Serra) to USC and was stranded without a commitment at the position. Carta-Samuels took an official visit to Washington this past weekend -- then went on an official visit to Boise State immediately following it -- as the two Pacific Northwest schools became the finalists for the No. 264 overall prospect and No. 14 pocket passer in the ESPN 300.

Originally, Carta-Samuels was scheduled to take an official visit to Vanderbilt on Jan. 24, but the 6-foot-2, 224-pound quarterback announced on Twitter that he would no longer be taking that trip. Shortly after that announcement, he declared his commitment to Washington -- signaling out ESPN 300 safety Bishard “Budda” Baker (Bellevue, Wash./Bellevue), another Washington target, in the process.

Landing Carta-Samuels is a huge recruiting victory for Washington, which is now generating some serious momentum under Petersen. The strong-armed quarterback is the first ESPN 300 and four-star prospect to join the Washington class since the Huskies lost receivers Rahshead Johnson (Long Beach, Calif./Cabrillo) and Erik Brown (Fontana, Calif./Summit) to USC and Cal, respectively.

Washington was the lone Pac-12 program without a quarterback in its 2014 class, so it won't be a shock to see Carta-Samuels quickly take the recruiting reins as the leader of the Huskies' class. He'd done a terrific job in the regard for Vanderbilt, which held a very solid class together until Franklin's departure. Washington now has 15 members in its 2014 class, with 11 of them joining since Petersen's arrival.

Weekend recruiting wrap: Pac-12 

January, 20, 2014
The first big official weekend of crunch time for the 2014 recruiting class came and went, and if the past 48 hours are any indication of what's to come in the Pac-12, this will be a very interesting ride to signing day.

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Key recruiting visits -- Pac-12 

January, 17, 2014
The recruiting dead period is over, and it's full speed ahead for a number of Pac-12 programs as coaches look to load up on official visitors over the next three weekends. A list of important official visitors for Pac-12 programs this weekend could easily extend to two or even three dozen names, so limiting it to just the top 10 was challenging -- though likely not as difficult as the task facing conference coaches looking to wrap up their recruiting classes as national signing day approaches.

1. CB Kweishi Brown (El Cajon, Calif./Grossmont College) visiting Arizona State. The ESPN Junior College 50 cornerback made an early commitment to Arkansas but pulled away from that as more Pac-12 programs expressed interest. Brown, the nation's No. 3 juco cornerback, will be at Arizona State as part of a huge group of official visitors and will be one of the main targets committed quarterback Manny Wilkins (Novato, Calif./San Marin) sets his sights on this weekend.

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While we'll have to wait to see how life on the field at Vanderbilt changes without James Franklin, we can immediately see a negative effect in recruiting for the Commodores in what was once another solid recruiting class.

Since Franklin left Vanderbilt to become Penn State's head coach last Saturday, the Commodores have lost seven commitments and are down to just 12 verbals in their 2014 class. On Jan. 9, Vandy ranked 29th in the ESPN RecruitingNation class rankings. As of Thursday, they are out of the rankings altogether.

"Losing seven commits, including ESPN 300 quarterback Kyle Carta-Samuels, right before signing day is devastating for Vanderbilt," ESPN recruiting analyst Derek Tyson said. "A lot of times, recruits will take the wait-and-see approach when a coach leaves, but it was obvious how important Franklin was to these recruits. Three former Vandy commits, Brendan Brosnan, Lloyd Tubman and Chance Sorrell, switched their commitments to Penn State almost immediately after Franklin left for Happy Valley."

Decommitments are natural after a coaching change, but the ones who are leaving to join Franklin have Vandy's fans upset with their former coach. They view it as disrespectful and unethical, considering all the good Franklin did for the Commodores. You'll see the term "scorched earth" thrown around when it comes to the crippling effect Franklin's departure has had on this recruiting class.

The problem is that a lot of these recruits were and are invested in Franklin more than Vandy. They were heavily recruited by him and want to play for him, no matter where he is. Vandy was just a sweet incentive in the deal to some. Now, that's certainly not good news for the Commodores, and some people might even say it's unfair, but it's the nature of the business.

Some of the players who are currently committed to the Commodores are still looking around, and you can't blame them. Franklin meant a lot to that program. All the firsts in Vandy history and all the good fortune this program has had in the past three seasons can be heavily attributed to Franklin. He developed great relationships with these recruits, and he's now gone. Unfortunately for the Commodores, Vandy hasn't named a coach and national signing day is only a few weeks away.

These recruits have been put in a tough position, but the best way to put this class back together is to find the right coach and hit the recruiting trail, like, yesterday.

"At this point, the only way to really salvage this recruiting class will be to name a head coach and convince the current commits to stay in the class," Tyson said. "The Commodores will have a difficult time adding any big-name recruits this late in the process, but they may offer some two- and three-star prospects just for sheer numbers. Carta-Samuels is still considering Vanderbilt and he has family ties to the school, so if they can hold on to the four-star quarterback that will certainly help ease the pain."

It's going to take a special coach to keep Vandy's momentum going and help restore this class. There are plenty of worthy candidates popping up, and there's no question this is a more exciting job than it was before Franklin arrived. The first order of business is clearly getting the ball rolling with recruiting again.

Pac-12 class rankings analysis 

January, 15, 2014
Not only are there six Pac-12 programs in the updated class rankings, all six are among the top 30 in the country. Arizona State still has the conference's top class at No. 16 overall, while Arizona checks in at No. 20. Oregon and USC are back-to-back at Nos. 23 and 24, after the Ducks rose two places and the Trojans three. UCLA is a close No. 5 in the conference at No. 26 overall. The Bruins were the biggest risers among all schools this week, jumping seven places to overtake Stanford, which checks in at No. 6 in the Pac-12 and No. 29 overall.

Trending up: UCLA

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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: Kentucky coach Mark Stoops admitted his first season didn’t go like he had planned, but those struggles haven’t hurt the Wildcats on the recruiting trail; Vanderbilt is in a tough recruiting situation if it moves too fast or too slow with its coaching search; and Clemson coach Dabo Swinney thought of a different way recruiting classes should be evaluated.

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Weekend recruiting wrap: SEC 

January, 13, 2014

As the last weekend before the dead period comes to an end, there is still plenty of recruiting news throughout the Southeastern Conference. Vanderbilt suffered through a difficult weekend, there were a few important commitments and some key prospects backed off their pledges. Here’s a closer look at the top recruiting news around the SEC:

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SEC ESPN 300 analysis 

October, 29, 2013

Several SEC targets and commits made big moves in the updated ESPN 300 rankings. Georgia had two commits make big jumps, while Tennessee didn't fare as well. Could the SEC make a huge splash in the top 10 of the rankings? Here's a closer look at what the new ESPN 300 means in the SEC.

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Weekend recruiting wrap: SEC 

October, 21, 2013
On the field there was some huge upsets over the weekend in the Southeastern Conference and off the field there was a ton of recruiting news. Here's a closer look at the latest recruiting news in the SEC:

Biggest commitment: After watching Texas A&M's defensive performance on Saturday, there is no question five-star defensive end Myles Garrett's (Arlington, Texas/James Martin) commitment to the Aggies on Friday was the biggest recruiting news of the weekend. Garrett had been a long-time Aggie lean and finally decided to pull the trigger.

For the Aggies, Garrett becomes their 15th commitment including 10 that are ranked in the ESPN 300. Garrett is the No. 7-ranked player in the nation.

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