NCF On The Trail: Kyler Murray

The chess-like nature of recruiting forces coaches to look years into the future, both to fill their own roster as well as take advantage of strengths and weaknesses of the upcoming high school classes. Despite the 2014 football season not kicking off for another few weeks, the 2015 Pac-12 recruiting classes are already filling up, which gives us the opportunity to look ahead and name the 2015 recruit who fills the biggest need for each program.

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After reviewing performances at The Opening last week, here are a few quick hits on how each Elite 11 quarterback performed:


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BEAVERTON, Ore. -- The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today's offerings: Five-star offensive tackle Tim Settle hasn't narrowed his list down yet, but he's not afraid to admit favorites when asked which school has the best food and the best looking girls. Plus, the final Elite 11 rankings featured quarterbacks going to Alabama, Oregon, Texas A&M, USC, Penn State and UCLA, but it also included some surprises.


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Elite 11: Day 1 notebook 

July, 6, 2014
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ESPN.com RecruitingNation reporters Jeremy Crabtree, Gerry Hamilton, Erik McKinney, Mitch Sherman and Tom VanHaaren are at Nike Headquarters this week for the Elite 11 finals. After Day 1 of the event, here are their impressions.

BEAVERTON, Ore. -- Day 1 of the Elite 11 Finals didn't appear to do much in terms of creating separation between many of the 19 quarterbacks, as all are vying for MVP honors. Despite being put through several grueling military exercises the previous afternoon and well into the early morning hours, all of the quarterbacks came out firing during the Sunday morning session and, for the most part, carried it over throughout the afternoon session.

This group of finalists appears more athletic than ever. And it’s not just the dual-threat guys.

Pocket passers such as Josh Rosen, Ricky Town and Alex Malzone are by no means statues in the backfield. In many cases, they’re agile, reflecting the state of the college game, which has trended toward the dual-threat players.

This event has always showcased the classic quarterbacks, and no longer are the dual-threats subject to the run-first stereotype.

With nine in each category, this year might mark the first time the dual-threat quarterbacks actually enter with more star value than their pocket-passer counterparts.


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Manziel meets A&M's future QB

July, 6, 2014
Jul 6
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BEAVERTON, Ore. -- Texas A&M's past and future quarterbacks got together Sunday, as Heisman winner Johnny Manziel stopped by Elite 11 practices and posed for a picture with Kyler Murray, an Aggies commit and the nation's No. 1 signal-caller in the 2015 class.

 

Elite 11 Day One: Takeaways 

July, 6, 2014
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BEAVERTON, Ore. -- The 2014 Elite 11 officially got underway Sunday morning with a fast-paced two-hour workout split into three groups that included the 19 prospects and six camp counselors. The counselors included Baylor's Bryce Petty, Utah's Travis Wilson and Notre Dame's Everett Golson.

Here are 10 takeaways from the opening session.

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The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today's offerings: Just when it looked like Oregon's efforts to land a quarterback for the 2015 class were lost, the Ducks rallied to land ESPN 300 prospect Travis Waller on Tuesday. The decision was a surprise to some, but Waller called Oregon his "dream school."

So what does Waller's decision do to fast-rising Sam Darnold, and what should Notre Dame do now after missing on Waller and others top 2015 quarterbacks?


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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.

Ducks renew hunt for future QB 

June, 20, 2014
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Signing a top quarterback remains at the top of the list for the Oregon Ducks.

After first losing out to Texas A&M on five-star Kyler Murray, the top quarterback on the board, the Ducks went after former Notre Dame commit Blake Barnett. While it appeared as if Oregon had a very good chance to land the Under Armour All-America selection, Barnett committed to Alabama on Wednesday in what was another hit at the position for the Ducks.

The Ducks, however, wasted little time moving on to the next quarterback on the board.


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video Sam Darnold needs to send Kyler Murray a thank-you note.

When Murray committed to Texas A&M on May 28, it set off a recruiting ripple effect that has touched some of the top teams in the country. The moves and countermoves from other programs have suddenly made Darnold the hottest quarterback prospect in the country.

It’s could also lead to him eventually becoming a Duck.


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The 2015 edition of the ESPN 300 debuts today. Uncommitted defensive tackle Trenton Thompson tops the first batch of rankings. Here are 10 things to know about the initial 2015 ESPN 300:

[+] EnlargeTrenton Thompson
Gerry Hamilton/ESPNTrenton Thompson is the top-ranked player in the ESPN 300.
1. Top spot still up for grabs: While Thompson remains atop the rankings, there is no guarantee he stays there. The Opening, where linemen will compete in pads against each other, is right around the corner, and prospects like Martez Ivey, Josh Sweat and Byron Cowart have the opportunity make a push for the top spot. Defensive linemen have been ranked No. 1 by ESPN three of the past four years, and the 2015 group is trying to make it four out of five.

2. Defensive line dominates: Six of the top 10 2015 prospects and eight of the 16 five-star prospects are defensive linemen. There are 22 defensive linemen in the top 100 and 48 in the top 300. When looking for the states to find the top DL prospects, Georgia tops the list with eight, followed by Virginia with five and South Carolina and North Carolina with four each.

3. O Canada: Jumping into the ESPN 300 at No. 186 is Canadian defensive tackle prospect Neville Gallimore. The 6-foot-3, 280-pound stand-up defensive end projects as a defensive tackle and has offers from Oklahoma, Florida, Michigan State, Ohio State and others. He is the first prospect who is playing high school football in Canada at the time of his ranking to be listed in the ESPN 300. Michael O’Connor, No. 132 in the 2014 rankings, is from Canada but played his final two years of high school in the U.S.

4. Players off the board quickly: To date, 152 prospects in the ESPN 300 have committed. As expected, the SEC leads the way with 65 ESPN 300 prospects, led by Alabama’s 15. The SEC West has 40 of the pledges.

5. Sunshine statement: The state of Florida leads the way with 52 prospects in the ESPN 300, including six five-star prospects. Dade and Broward counties combine to claim 16 of the 52 players. This number further illustrates the continuing importance of the state to recruiting, as does the fact that 44 former Florida high school players were taken in the 2014 NFL draft.

6. Tidal wave: With 15 ESPN 300 prospects committed, Alabama currently has 52 ESPN 300-ranked players in the past three classes, following 19 in 2014 and 18 in 2013. Including ESPN 150 players in 2011 and 2012, the Crimson Tide have 76 prospects in the 300 and 150 combined in the past five years.

7. Peach State trending: There are 34 prospects from Georgia in the 2015 ESPN 300. That number is up from 27 in the final 2014 rankings and 30 in 2013. Only Florida and Texas (42 ESPN 300 players) have more prospects in the 2015 300. The strength of the state is on the lines, with 18 of the 34 being offensive and defensive linemen.

8. Familiar last names: Vanderbilt quarterback commit Kyle Shurmur is the son of Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur. No. 1 quarterback and five-star QB Kyler Murray is the son of former Texas A&M quarterback Kevin Murray. No. 22 Shy Tuttle is the nephew of former Clemson standout and first-round NFL draft pick Perry Tuttle. No. 95 Kahlil McKenzie is the son of former Tennessee standout and current Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie.

9. California QBs: The state’s nine ranked signal-callers are by far the most from one state in the three years since the rankings were expanded to 300. In the 2013 class, the state of California had six QBs in the 300.

10. Remember the name: Quarterback Sam Darnold is the highest-ranked newcomer to the 300 at No. 89. The 6-foot-4, 210-pound Darnold missed the majority of his junior season with a fractured foot and just began popping onto the national recruiting radar during the spring evaluation period. He has offers from Northwestern, Utah, Wake Forest and Duke, among others.
Recruiting the right quarterback means a tremendous amount to every college football program.

In the Class of 2015, the race has been on for months for programs in need of signal-callers.

With the calendar having turned to June, there are more than 55 quarterbacks who have given verbal commitments to FBS programs.

Most recently, Florida snagged West Coast prospect Sheriron Jones over the weekend. In all, 39 of 62 programs in the Power Five conferences have QB commitments, and more are on the way.


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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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SEC recruiting scorecard

June, 6, 2014
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College football doesn't have an early signing period, yet, but that doesn't mean we can't get an early start on some recruiting news.

As of Friday, the SEC has seven teams ranking within the top 15 of the ESPN's RecruitingNation team rankings. Five of those teams -- Alabama, Texas A&M, Auburn, LSU and Tennessee -- are ranked inside the top 10. Alabama, which has 18 verbal commitments (16 ESPN 300 members), is No. 1, while Texas A&M (13 verbal commits/nine ESPN 300 members) is ranked second.

Here's a complete look at how the SEC is faring on the recruiting front, as we enter the month of June:

ALABAMA

2015 verbal commitments: 18

Spotlight: You know that Nick Saban loves collecting gems in the secondary, and that's exactly what he has in four-star cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick of Jersey City, N.J. He's a very smart corner who has good size -- with room to grow -- to compete with bigger receivers.

ESPN 300 members: 16 (Fitzpatrick; WR Calvin Ridley of Coconut Creek, Fla.; WR Daylon Charlot of Patterson, La.; DT Jonathan Ledbetter of Tucker, Ga.; TE Hale Hentest of Jefferson City, Mo.; OLB Mekhi Brown of Columbus, Ga.; OG Lester Cotton of Tuscaloosa, Ala.; S Deionte Thompson of Orange, Texas; S Shawn Burgess-Becker of Coconut Creek, Fla.; RB DeSherrius Flowers of Prichard, Ala.; OG Richie Petitbon of Washington, D.C.; DE Christian Bell of Birmingham, Ala.; DT T.D. Moton of Shreveport, La.; OG Dallas Warmack of Atlanta)

ARKANSAS

2015 verbal commitments: 8

Spotlight: Defensive tackle Hjalte Froholdt of Warren, Ohio, is exactly what Bret Bielema wants and needs along his defensive line. The ESPN 300 member could add some weight, but has nice strength and quickness to make him a valuable get for the Razorbacks.

ESPN 300 members: 2 (Froholdt; DE Jamario Bell of Junction City, Ark.)

AUBURN

2015 verbal commitments: 15

Spotlight: Athlete Kerryon Johnson of Madison, Ala., is not only the third-ranked athlete in this class, he's the No. 1-ranked player in the state of Alabama. With his combination of size, speed and strength, Johnson could line up all over. He could be a running back or safety for the Tigers.

ESPN 300 members: 6 (Johnson; OLB Jordan Colbert of Griffin, Ga.; S Ben Edwards of Jacksonville, Fla.; OG Kaleb Kim of Hoschton, Ga.; ATH D'Anfernee McGriff of Tallahassee, Fla.; OG Marquel Harrell of Fairburn, Ga.)

FLORIDA

2015 verbal commitments: 8

Spotlight: The Gators need to upgrade in the offensive playmaking department and athlete Derrick Dillon of Franklington, La., has made a lot of noise as a quarterback, but will likely play receiver at the next level. With his speed and explosiveness, he'll fit right in with Kurt Roper's up-tempo, spread offense.

ESPN 300 members: 4 (Dillon; OG Tyler Jordan of Jacksonville, Fla.; WR Tristan Payton of Jacksonville, Fla.; S Deontai Williams of Jacksonville, Fla.)

GEORGIA

2015 verbal commitments: 9

Spotlight: Athlete Terry Godwin of Hogansville, Ga., could hit a couple positions of need for the Bulldogs. He has excellent ball skills to be a cornerback and his hands yell wide receiver. His speed and athleticism should only get better as the year progresses.

ESPN 300 members: 4 (Godwin; DE Chauncey Rivers of Stone Mountain, Ga.; DE Natrez Patrick of Atlanta; S Rico McGraw of Nashville)

KENTUCKY

2015 verbal commitments: 9

Spotlight: As the Wildcats look to enhance their defensive talent, outside linebacker Eli Brown of Bowling Green, Ky., is exactly what Mark Stoops needs. With questions and depth issues at linebacker, Stoops needs top-flight players to come in at that position, and Brown could be a great pass rusher for the Wildcats in the future.

ESPN 300 members: 1 (Brown)

LSU

2015 verbal commitments: 12

Spotlight: Cornerback Kevin Toliver II of Jacksonville, Fla., is the nation's top-rated corner prospect and has the build of that prototypical, elite LSU corner. He has great size and instincts, and excels in man coverage.

ESPN 300 members: 5 (Toliver; OG Maea Teuhema of Keller, Texas; RB Nick Brossette of Baton Rouge, La; RB Derrius Guice of Baton Rouge; S Kevin Henry of Baton Rouge)

MISSISSIPPI STATE

2015 verbal commitments: 16

Spotlight: Outside linebacker Timothy Washington of Yazoo City, Miss., could provide some very good depth if junior linebacker Benardrick McKinney decides to leave early for the NFL. He's still a little raw, but has the speed and quickness to be a real threat off the edge.

ESPN 300 members: 1 (Washington)

MISSOURI

2015 verbal commitments: 7

Spotlight: Quarterback Drew Lock of Lee's Summit, Mo., could come in handy for the Tigers in the future. This is Maty Mauk's team, but once he's gone, let the battle begin. Lock is more of a drop-back passer than Mauk, but knows how to buy himself time in the pocket.

ESPN 300 members: 1 (Lock)


OLE MISS

2015 verbal commitments: 6

Spotlight: The Rebels will have to help their depth at running back, and Eric Swinney of Tyrone, Ga., is a quick, strong, explosive back who has the ability to hit the home-run ball at any moment. Swinney's natural talent and upside could give him the opportunity to compete for playing time early.

ESPN 300 members: 2 (Swinney; ATH Willie Hibbler of Sardis, Miss.)

SOUTH CAROLINA

2015 verbal commitments: 11

Spotlight: Defensive end Arden Key of Lithonia, Ga., has great size at 6 feet 5 inches, and has plenty of room to grow with his 210-pound frame. He also has solid speed to cause trouble as a pass rusher and has the patience/strength to play well against the run.

ESPN 300 members: 5 (Key; ILB Sherrod Pittman of Jacksonville, Fla.; CB Mark Fields II of Cornelius N.C.; DE Shameik Blackshear of Bluffton, S.C.; WR Jalen Christian of Damascus, Md.)

TENNESSEE

2015 verbal commitments: 11

Spotlight: Preston Williams of Lovejoy, Ga., is the prize of the class, as the nation's No. 2-ranked wide receiver. The Vols might have signed a couple of impressive receiving talents in the last couple of classes, but getting a big, physical and fast player like Williams on campus would be extra icing on the cake.

ESPN 300 members: 4 (Williams; DE Andrew Butcher of Alpharetta, Ga.; OG Jack Jones of Murfreesboro, Tenn.; ATH Jauan Jennings of Murfreesboro)

TEXAS A&M

2015 verbal commitments: 13

Spotlight: Don't be surprised by all the foaming at the mouth from Aggies fans after the commitment of quarterback Kyler Murray of Allen, Texas. He's the nation's No. 1 dual-threat QB for a reason. He isn't the biggest player at 5-11, 170 pounds, but he has tremendous speed and athleticism and delivers a beautiful ball inside and outside of the pocket.

ESPN 300 members: 9 (Murray; DT Daylon Mack of Gladewater, Texas; S Larry Pryor Jr. of Sulphur Springs, Texas; WR Kemah Siverand of Houston; OT Trevor Elbert of Heath, Texas; TE Jordan Davis of Houston; OT Connor Lanfear of Buda, Texas; RB Jay Bradford of Splendora, Texas; S Justin Dunning of Whitehouse, Texas)

VANDERBILT

2015 verbal commitments: 3

Spotlight: Cornerback Donovan Sheffield of Nashville would fill a hole at a position of need once on campus. He's a very patient and smart player, who has exceptional coverage skills.

ESPN 300 members: 1 (Sheffield)
Nearly a year after getting officially offered by Texas A&M, ESPN 300 quarterback Kyler Murray sent Aggies everywhere into a frenzy when he ended much anticipation and gave the Aggies his pledge last week.

[+] EnlargeKyler Murray
Max Olson/ESPNKyler Murray's commitment could have sparked what could be a big 2015 class for Texas A&M.
If the events that followed are any indication, it will have been well worth the wait for the Aggies, who last week turned in a huge recruiting week.

Not only did they land Murray, the nation's No. 1 dual-threat quarterback and the second five-star prospect in the Texas A&M class, but it was followed the next day with a pledge from ESPN 300 receiver Kemah Siverand, a four-star player who had several other attractive options, including LSU, Ohio State and Texas just to name a few.

Murray's pledge could begin a domino effect that leads to the Aggies continuing to pick up steam in the form of commitments from other elite prospects.

ESPN 300 receiver DaMarkus Lodge and Cedar Hill (Texas) High teammate outside linebacker Richard Moore both indicated just hours after Murray's pledge that they'll announce their commitments on July 1. Texas A&M is in a good position to land both, so that will be worth keeping an eye on.

Five-star defensive tackle Daylon Mack, who had planned summer visits to Alabama and LSU, canceled those plans after Murray's pledge. The longtime Texas A&M commitment also showed up on Twitter in a maroon shirt with the hashtag "#WRTS", which Aggies have been using since the Murray pledge (the acronym stands for "We run this state").

Other ESPN 300 recruits, like linebacker Malik Jefferson and receiver Christian Kirk, no doubt took notice of Murray's pledge. Both have myriad elite options, and neither is likely to end the recruiting process soon. Having someone like Murray on board -- who is widely respected by his peers after winning two state championships at the highest classification of Texas high school football -- certainly can't hurt Texas A&M's chances.

But it's more than just about Murray's pledge for Texas A&M. In a grander scheme, the Aggies continue to recruit at a high level under coach Kevin Sumlin and his staff. The Aggies are now No. 2 in the ESPN RecruitingNation class rankings, behind only Alabama. The Aggies are on pace for their second consecutive top-five recruiting class and third consecutive top-10 recruiting class.

While recruiting is often an inexact science, if a program consistently recruits at a high level and stockpiles talent, it seems to be only a matter of time until it leads to on-field results, and the Aggies have already gotten off to a solid 20-6 start in their first two SEC seasons.

There's still a long way to go until national signing day arrives for the 2015 class and much can change, but right now, the Aggies are sitting pretty and doing a solid job of keeping pace with their SEC brethren on the recruiting trail.

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