NCF On The Trail: Mattrell McGraw

Top position classes: DB 

February, 18, 2014
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With national signing day in the books, RecruitingNation is looking at the top position classes. For the full series, click here.

Nationally (and SEC)

The top class of defensive backs goes to Alabama, by a landslide. While the Crimson Tide have provided many recruiting firsts in recent years under coach Nick Saban, the 2014 class is the first to have two five-star cornerbacks in the same cycle in the years ESPN has been assigning star rankings. No. 8 overall Tony Brown (Beaumont, Texas/Ozen) and No. 15 Marlon Humphrey (Hoover, Ala./Hoover) have the size and speed that Saban and his staff made a must in 2014. Add in No. 3 safety and No. 27 overall Laurence Jones (Monroe, La./Neville) and Alabama signed three of the very best at defensive back. Factor in that No. 7 athlete Ronnie Clark (Calera, Ala./Calera) seems destined to begin his career at safety and the Crimson Tide dominate in the secondary despite having missed out on coveted safety target C.J. Hampton (Meridian, Miss./Meridian).

The Crimson Tide had the nation’s best defensive back class; here’s which schools had the best in each of the remaining power conferences:

Signing day wrap: Pac-12

February, 5, 2014
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While it was a terrific day for the Pac-12 overall, USC stole the signing day spotlight on Wednesday, hitting for the cycle in landing its top four targets.

The day began well for new coach Steve Sarkisian, as three-star cornerback Lamont Simmons (Jacksonville, Fla./Raines) faxed over his signature, but that was only an appetizer for the Trojans. With 19 scholarships available this year -- NCAA sanctions limited the Trojans to just 15 scholarships in this class and USC was able to roll four unused rides over from the 2013 class -- Simmons took the class to 16. Left on the board were a trio of Southern California ESPN 300 prospects in No. 9 overall prospect, cornerback Adoree' Jackson (Gardena, Calif./Serra), No. 24 overall prospect, athlete John "JuJu" Smith (Long Beach, Calif./Poly) and No. 67 overall prospect, offensive guard Damien Mama (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco).

[+] EnlargeJohn
Kelvin Kuo/USA TODAY SportsJohn "JuJu" Smith was part of a huge signing day for USC.
Sarkisian and the Trojans were able to land all three, giving USC one of the best signing days of any program in the country. The signings give USC 19 additions in the 2014 class, including nine ESPN 300 pledges, one ESPN JC 50 prospect and impact players on both sides of the ball. There is really no way to overstate how well Sarkisian and the Trojans closed on signing day, posting what amounted to a perfect day.

The Trojans wound up with the No. 1 class in the Pac-12, but the rankings in the conference were bunched at the top.

Stanford made a huge run late, landing commitments from all six recruits it targeted over the past two months. The Cardinal added signatures from ESPN 300 defensive end Solomon Thomas (Coppell, Tex./Coppell) -- at No. 25 overall, the highest rated Stanford addition since ESPN began its rankings in 2006 -- and three-star cornerback Terrence Alexander (River Ridge, La./John Curtis Christian). Though the Cardinal lost a late commitment from defensive end Uriah Leiataua (Compton, Calif./Dominguez), it was a very strong visit and a terrific class headed to the Farm.

Alexander wasn't the only recruit from John Curtis Christian to commit to the Pac-12, as Oregon and UCLA took their biggest commitments of the day from that program. The Ducks landed ESPN 300 safety Mattrell McGraw, while UCLA picked up its lone signing day commit in Kenny Young.

Oregon missed out on Smith and defensive tackle Trey Lealaimatafao (San Antonio/Earl Warren) but was able to land safety Khalil Oliver (Meridian, Id./Rocky Mountain) in a battle against Washington.

UCLA coaches will likely be disappointed with the day. Although the Bruins did reel in Young, UCLA missed on Thomas, No. 1 overall wide receiver Malachi Dupre (River Ridge, La./John Curtis Christian) and the Southern California trio, which made matters worse for Jim Mora & Co. by committing to the Trojans. UCLA brought a very good recruiting class into signing day and did a good job of holding onto everybody, but the Bruins took some big swings at some big prospects across the country and didn't get the results they were hoping for.

Arizona State slid a few spots in the national rankings, but the Sun Devils did everything they could on signing day. Todd Graham brought a relatively full class into the day and was able to add two huge signatures in ESPN JC 50 prospects defensive tackle Dalvon Stuckey (De Funiak Springs, Fla./Pearl River CC) and cornerback Kweishi Brown (El Cajon, Calif./Grossmont). The Sun Devils were also able to hold onto another junior college standout in wide receiver Eric Lauderdale (Fayetteville, Ga./Saddleback College), who received a significant late push from Florida.

Arizona was relatively quiet. The Wildcats brought in a huge list of verbal commitments and didn't lose anybody off the top of the class, landing five ESPN 300 prospects. Defensive tackle Marcus Griffin (Bellevue, Wash./Bellevue) was the big addition, as the big lineman selected Arizona over Cal, Mississippi State and Washington State.

Oregon State grabbed a signature from offensive guard Kammy Delp (Pomona, Calif./Diamond Ranch), who will play defensive tackle for the Beavers. Utah announced defensive tackle Lowell Lotulelei (South Jordan, Utah/Bingham) as a part of this class after he attempted to sign with the Utes in 2013.

Washington's big addition came Tuesday night in the form of ESPN 300 safety Bishard "Budda" Baker (Bellevue, Wash./Bellevue), but Chris Petersen and the Huskies also received a signing day commitment from intriguing 6-foot-5 receiver Brayden Lenius (West Hills, Calif./Chaminade). The Washington State Cougars closed with their second four-star commitment in this class, safety Deion Singleton (Paco, Wash./Chiawana).

But the day in the West belonged to USC, which jumped from No. 4 in the conference to landing the Pac-12's top 2014 recruiting class. Nationally, the Trojans moved from No. 24 to No. 15 overall.

Stanford (15th), Arizona State (21st) and Arizona (23rd) all finished among the top 25 recruiting classes in the nation.

ESPN 300 players announce decisions

February, 5, 2014
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The nation's top players announced their college decisions Wednesday. Here's a look at where the ESPN 300 committed:

No. 9 Adoree' Jackson: USC
No. 14 Lorenzo Carter: Georgia
No. 17 Malachi Dupre: LSU
No. 22 Ermon Lane: Florida State
No. 24 John "Juju" Smith: USC
No. 25 Solomon Thomas: Stanford
No. 26 Damian Prince: Maryland
No. 52 Rashaan Evans: Alabama
No. 60 Malik McDowell: Michigan State
No. 67 Damien Mama: USC
No. 75 Michiah Quick: Oklahoma
No. 87 Chris Lammons: South Carolina
No. 120 Wesley Green: South Carolina
No. 127 Braden Smith: Auburn
No. 138 Donte Thomas-Williams: West Virginia
No. 158 Roderick Johnson: Florida State
No. 163 Treon Harris: Florida
No. 164 Travonte Valentine: LSU
No. 174 Andrew Williams: Auburn
No. 179 Dexter Wideman: South Carolina
No. 194 Mattrell McGraw: Oregon
No. 243 Nifae Lealao: Vanderbilt
No. 249 Myles Autry: Georgia Tech
No. 253 Derrick Nnadi: Florida State
No. 264 Poona Ford: Texas
No. 286 Isaiah McKenzie: Georgia

You can watch ESPNU online via WatchESPN.

To see where we think these guys will go, check out the predictions on our Hot Board.

The Oregon staff held its collective breath as four-star safety Mattrell McGraw (River Ridge, La./John Curtis) contemplated a second January visit to Texas A&M. McGraw, ranked No. 194 overall in the ESPN 300, looked back on his December official visit to Oregon, however, and decided a trip to College Station was unnecessary. On Wednesday, he committed to the Ducks on ESPNU.


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Want the lowdown on what the top prospects are thinking heading into signing day? Check out where the top 100 stand here. Here’s a look at the rest of the uncommitted ESPN 300:

CB Wesley Green (Lithonia, Ga./Martin Luther King)
Ranking:
No. 120 in ESPN 300
The decision: The former South Carolina commit officially visited Columbia Jan. 17. The Gamecocks are trying to hold off the late charge by Georgia.

[+] EnlargeBraden Smith
Miller Safrit/ESPNAuburn, TCU and Texas A&M are the finalists for OT Braden Smith, the No. 127-ranked prospect in the ESPN 300.
OT Braden Smith (Olathe, Kan./Olathe South)
Ranking:
No. 127 in ESPN 300
Announcement: 8:50am ET on ESPNU
The skinny: The No. 9-ranked guard prospect visited TCU this past weekend and will pick between Auburn, Texas A&M and TCU. Smith’s sister is a member of the TCU track and field team.

RB Donte Thomas-Williams (Durham, N.C./Hillside)
Ranking:
No. 138 in ESPN 300
The decision: West Virginia is considered the heavy favorite for the big back, with NC State fighting hard to keep Thomas-Williams home.

OT Roderick Johnson (Florissant, Mo./Hazelwood Central)
Ranking:
No. 158 in ESPN 300
The decision: Florida State and Ohio State are the final two, with the Seminoles having long been considered the favorite.

DT Travonte Valentine (Hialeah, Fla./Champagnat Catholic)
Ranking:
No. 164 in ESPN 300
The decision: The former Louisville, Florida and Miami commit is down to LSU and the Hurricanes.

DE Andrew Williams (McDonough, Ga./Eagles Landing Christian)
Ranking:
No. 174 in ESPN 300
Announcement: 2pm ET on ESPNU
The decision: What looked like an Auburn-Clemson battle has turned into a three-team race after this past weekend’s visit to Georgia.

S Mattrell McGraw (River Ridge, La./John Curtis Christian)
Ranking:
No. 194 in ESPN 300
Announcement: 10:45am ET on ESPNU
The skinny: McGraw is set to announce between Oregon and Texas A&M. The Ducks are considered the longtime favorite, but the Aggies have made a strong push.

ATH Myles Autry (Norcross, Ga./Norcross)
Ranking:
No. 249 in ESPN 300
Announcement: 3:50pm ET on ESPNU
The skinny: The versatile athlete Autry made official visits to Georgia Tech on Jan. 24 and Florida State this past weekend and will decide between the two. The Yellow Jackets are the favorite unless the Seminoles made a strong push.

DT Derrick Nnadi (Virginia Beach, Va./Ocean Lakes)
Ranking:
No. 253 in ESPN 300
The decision: Virginia Tech and Florida State have been thrown about as the favorites, but Nnadi did visit Virginia this past weekend. Penn State and Ohio State also received official visits.

DT Poona Ford (Hilton Head, S.C./Hilton Head)
Ranking:
No. 266 in ESPN 300
Announcement: 12:15 p.m. ET on Twitter (#WhereWillPoonaGo) and on ESPNU
The skinny: The former Louisville commit has officially visited Texas and Purdue and was at Missouri this past weekend. The Longhorns were considered the favorite headed into the trip to Missouri, due to the athletic defensive tackle’s relationship with former Louisville and current Longhorns coach Charlie Strong.

ATH Isaiah McKenzie (Plantation, Fla./American Heritage)
Ranking:
No. 286 in ESPN 300
The decision: The Under Armour All-America Game standout visited Virginia Tech this past weekend, and it looks like it will be a decision between Ole Miss and the Hokies. Florida remains in the mix.

LB Kenny Young (River Ridge, La./John Curtis Christian)
Ranking:
No. 16 ILB
Announcement: 10:39 a.m. ET on ESPNU
The skinny: The inside linebacker made January officials to Texas A&M, Arkansas, Oklahoma State, LSU and UCLA. The Bruins, whom he visited this past weekend, have been the favorite for weeks, but the hometown Tigers and the Aggies have made strong pushes recently.

CB Terrence Alexander (River Ridge, La./John Curtis Christian)
Ranking:
No. 35 CB
Announcement: 10:35 a.m. ET on ESPNU
The skinny: The three-star corner visited Stanford, Notre Dame and Ole Miss in January and will pick between the trio of programs, with Ole Miss and Notre Dame both trending in recent weeks.

Weekend recruiting wrap: Pac-12 

February, 3, 2014
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The countdown is on, as the final weekend before signing day comes to a conclusion. Monday begins the dead period before signing day, so phones will likely be ringing off the hook between now and Wednesday -- phone contact is allowed during a dead period, in-person contact is not -- as Pac-12 coaches look to finalize the 2014 class.


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Weekend recruiting wrap: SEC 

January, 20, 2014
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The dead period is over, and this was the first of three official visit weekends remaining before national signing day on Feb. 5. Several top prospects visited SEC schools, there were some commits, and there will be a few announcements this week. Here’s a closer look at the latest recruiting news from around the SEC:

Biggest commits: Georgia is already feeling the effects of new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt on the recruiting trail. The Bulldogs were able to land two ESPN Junior 300 commitments, Rico McGraw (Nashville, Tenn./The Ensworth School) and Terry Godwin (Hogansville, Ga./Callaway), over the weekend.


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video This is part of a series on the nation's top uncommitted recruits leading up to signing day. Click here for the full series.

Wherever, he lands, John "JuJu" Smith (Long Beach, Calif./Polytechnic) will bring positional versatility.


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Most important targets: Pac-12 

January, 8, 2014
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The West region still has a chance to greatly impact the Pac-12, as five of the top six recruits in the region remain uncommitted. And while a few Pac-12 classes still have a ways to go and others are looking for the finishing touches, there is still a most important commit for each program still out there. Here, we take a look at the one "must-have" recruit for each conference program.


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Semper Fi bowl notebook: Day 2 

January, 2, 2014
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Some news and notes from Day 2 at the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl.

Ducks and Bruins battle for McGraw

The fight for the nation's No. 194 prospect is down to Oregon and UCLA, as those two programs are the last standing for safety Mattrell McGraw (River Ridge, La./John Curtis Christian). And perhaps surprisingly, whoever wins this recruiting battle will have a former USC star to thank.


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Pac-12 recruiting storylines: Dec. 19 

December, 19, 2013
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The dead period runs through Jan. 15, and some recruits have said they will use that to take a break from recruiting, but that doesn't mean it will shut down for everyone. Coaches are still able to contact recruits during the dead period -- just no in-person contact -- and a number of recruits will be making commitments during this time. Over the next few weeks and through the holidays, Pac-12 recruiting fans will have a number of things to keep an eye on, including these five topics.

Who sets January visits?

With the dead period wiping out an entire weekend normally dedicated to official visits, recruits will have just three January weekends available to take visits -- the 17th, 24th and 31st -- if they'd like to commit and sign on signing day. Every Pac-12 program is looking to load up on official visits during those weekends. Stanford and USC look as though they will be very busy on Jan. 17, and Oregon is always able to grab a few late official visitors -- ESPN JC 50 WR Eric Lauderdale (Fayetteville, Ga./Saddleback College) is scheduled for Jan. 31. There are plenty of Pac-12 targets saying they will likely set up January officials to various schools.


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Pac-12 signing day storylines 

December, 17, 2013
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With 50 days until national signing day, there is still plenty left undecided in the Pac-12. Five of the top six West region prospects -- as well as seven more ESPN 300 prospects -- remain uncommitted and have significant Pac-12 interest. There also figures to be a battle for the top class in the conference, as at least six schools will jostle for position.

Here are 10 Pac-12 storylines that could help shape signing day for the conference.

1. Who are USC's assistant coaches?

At this point, very few questions about USC's coaching staff are answered. Steve Sarkisian is in place as the head coach and has retained wide receivers coach and ace recruiter Tee Martin. Making the trip down from Washington with Sarkisian are linebackers coach and recruiting coordinator Peter Sirmon, defensive backs coach Keith Heyward and assistant coach Johnny Nansen, whose position hasn't been determined. USC assistants Clancy Pendergast, Clay Helton, Mike Summers and John Baxter are among the candidates to stay at the school, but nothing is likely to be announced until after USC's bowl game. Who winds up filling out that staff will be on the minds of a number of top prospects, especially if the coaches come from other Pac-12 programs.


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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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Recruits watching Arizona State at UCLA 

November, 22, 2013
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The Pac-12 South title is on the line at the Rose Bowl this weekend as Arizona State travels to UCLA. With USC out of town, the Bruins have the city to themselves for recruiting purposes on Saturday and will welcome in several official visitors, including some standout unofficial visitors from the 2014 and 2015 classes. With both programs looking to fill and solidify impressive recruiting classes this year, this will be a significant opportunity to make an on-field statement. While dozens of recruits will likely be in attendance or watching on television, here are 10 who will be paying close attention to the game.

OT Chris Brown (Los Angeles/Loyola): The four-star offensive tackle has come on strong during his senior season and will be taking an official visit to UCLA, his third official after trips to Texas A&M and Oregon. Brown also holds an offer from USC and his recruitment could come down to the two local programs. It's an interesting situation for Brown. The Trojans' 2014 class already has four offensive linemen in it, while the Bruins have six true freshmen linemen that came in with the 2013 class. He'll get a good look at several of those this weekend as UCLA continues to showcase its true freshmen, which has been scoring big with the 2014 class.

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Notebook: Marshall on USC experience 

November, 18, 2013
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When the final second ticked off the clock and USC completed its upset of Stanford on Saturday night at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, ESPN Junior 300 cornerback Iman Marshall (Long Beach, Calif./Poly) was so excited that he nearly stormed the field along with thousands of fans.

His father, Tony, was there to hold him back.

“I didn’t think it was safe so I pulled him back along with a couple of other recruits,” Tony said. “We took pictures and just looked out onto the field. It was something we have never seen or experienced before. It was something you see in March Madness. The energy level was crazy; it felt like a championship fight in Las Vegas.”


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