NCF On The Trail: Mike Gundy

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The list of reasons why the Florida head coaching job is so attractive is awfully long, but the biggest reason is recruiting.

Texas might produce more Division I prospects, and you can find high concentrations of talent in California, but if you want to find difference-makers -- the kind you need to win the SEC and the national championship -- you head to the Sunshine State. The University of Florida sits in the heart of the highest quality and quantity of high school football talent in America, and to win big the Gators must hire somebody who can tap into that local pipeline. Will Muschamp’s replacement must beat Florida State and Miami regularly for these players and also keep Nick Saban, Gus Malzahn, Les Miles, Urban Meyer and others from poaching players away.

It’s a tall task indeed, but here are top 10 candidates who would make sense at Florida because they have the recruiting chops to be successful.

[+] EnlargeHugh Freeze
Brendan Maloney/USA TODAY SportsHugh Freeze has proven he can win recruiting battles against the SEC heavyweights.
1. Hugh Freeze
Head coach, Ole Miss

Freeze might be tough to pry away from Oxford because of his close ties to the state of Mississippi and the fact that he still has more time left with the vaunted 2013 top-five recruiting class he brought in to Ole Miss. But from a recruiting standpoint, it’s hard to think of somebody who would be in a better position to lure talent to Gainesville. Freeze already knows how to recruit in the cutthroat SEC and has recruited against the big dogs with a lot of success in Florida since he arrived at Ole Miss.
ESPN 300 receiver Tyron Johnson said he’s “80 percent” sure of where he’s going but things could change dramatically if LSU steps up its pursuit. The battle to land Nick Brossette will be one of the biggest storylines heading into the final months of recruiting.

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The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting news across the country. Today's offerings: Oklahoma State's class isn't ranked as the best in the Big 12, but keen observers know Mike Gundy is able to get a lot of talent out of the Lone Star State. Plus, Louisville makes a move with one of the best quarterbacks in the 2016 class, and we continue our tour of the top recruiting happenings on social media.

1. Through the years, few out-of-state programs have recruited as well in Texas as the Oklahoma State Cowboys. Under Mike Gundy, the Cowboys have made a living recruiting in Texas, and the same is true with the 2015 class that ranks as the 23rd best in the county. Eight of OSU's 10 commitments are from Texans, including No. 5 running back Ronald Jones II. Expect more of the same through February, and don't be surprised if OSU is a factor for highly-regarded Texans like receiver Carlos Strickland, defensive tackle Darrion Daniels, offensive tackle Erik McCoy and many others.

[+] EnlargeCameron Scarlett
Tom Hauck for Student SportsCameron Scarlett is one of the up and coming players out of Oregon.
2. There have been plenty of people that have questioned -- including yours truly -- whether or not Bobby Petrino will rebound on the recruiting trail the second time around at Louisville. High school coaches and recruits' parents still have plenty of tough questions for Petrino about his off-the-field incident at Arkansas. But Petrino's offense has always garnered interest from high-profile offensive players. One player that is really interested in the Cards now is ESPN Junior 300 quarterback Keaton Torre. The 6-foot-3, 182-pounder ranks as the top player in Oklahoma and a recent unofficial visit to Louisville pushed the Cards to No. 1 on his list. Landing a quality quarterback like Torre could go a long way toward answering some of those questions.

3. The state of Oregon doesn't have a lot of top-end talent in the 2015 class, but there are several players on the rise. One of those is three-star running back Cameron Scarlett of Portland Central Catholic. Scarlett, who is the No. 2 player in Oregon, set up an official visit to Notre Dame for Oct. 10 and has a final five of Notre Dame, Oregon, Stanford, UCLA and Washington. Scarlett's older brother, Brennan Scarlett, is a defensive end at Cal, but Cameron didn't include the Bears in his final group. The Irish have only one running back committed in this recruiting cycle and Scarlett has been high on Notre Dame for quite some time.

What I'm reading
Here's a look at some of the stories that have caught my attention over the past few days that impact the world of recruiting:

St. Louis is a town that is under-rated nationally for the talent it produces, but recruiters from the SEC, B1G and Big 12 know there's always talent in The Lou. STLhighschoolSPORTS.com gives readers a baseball card style presentation to preview their top 30 ranked prospects in the city, and it works very well. I'm a big fan of the card for Northern Illinois running back commitment Sutton Smith.

ESPN.com's Florida State/ACC reporter Jared Shanker has a fascinating look at the impact the college graduation transfer rule has had on college football and how it could someday impact elite 2015 quarterbacks like Blake Barnett and Ricky Town.

Tom Wharton of The Salt Lake Tribune has a great look at how Dave Peck at South Jordan (Utah) Bingham has built his program into one of the best in the country and a top spot for recruiters.

Social Studies
ESPN 300 offensive tackle Joshua Wariboko took to Twitter on Monday to announce his top eight schools. He tweeted that UCLA, Texas A&M, USC, Oklahoma, Ohio State, Oklahoma State, Louisville and Cal were in his top eight and he had no leader. Wariboko is a former Oklahoma commitment, but UCLA has been trending with him lately.



Four-star quarterback Ben Hicks wowed at the Elite 11 and many people wondered if a bigger school might be able to come along and sway him from his long-time Houston commitment. Well, don't wonder about it anymore because as Hicks tweeted on Monday that he's signed a financial aid agreement with the Cougs and looks locked in.

DALLAS -- Winning football games holds top billing in most cases, but when discussing the most important objective to college football coaches, a great recruiting class is always high on the totem pole.

The Big 12 media days on Monday and Tuesday gave coaches a chance to share their opinions on their teams, their competitors and the future of college football. It also allowed each coach to talk about the positives and negatives of recruiting.


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The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a dose of recruiting in the mornings.

Earlier this week, I wrote about how Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are facing tougher challenges recruiting against in-state programs such as Texas, Texas A&M and Baylor, but there are plenty close to the situation who still have big expectations for the Sooners and Cowboys in the Lone Star State.


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Early Offer: Bedlam takes Texas

April, 9, 2014
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National recruiting reporter Jeremy Crabtree breaks down how Bob Stoops and Mike Gundy have used Texas recruits to build programs at Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, respectively. For more on this, read Crabtree's story on Red River recruiting Insider.

Early Offer: Auburn has big day 

December, 19, 2013
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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: Is there anybody hotter on the recruiting trail than Auburn after its success with junior-college recruits?; Arkansas needs talent at receiver, and the Hogs received good news when one of its former commits returned to the fold; Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy can’t wait to get a juco playmaker in the lineup.

Auburn scores big with juco recruits
The junior college midterm signing period opened on Wednesday and Auburn came away the big winners. Despite relentless pursuit by LSU, Auburn signed receiver D'haquille Williams, the nation’s No. 1 player out of Mississippi Gulf Coast College. The Tigers also announced the signings of his teammate, four-star linebacker/safety Derrick Moncrief, defensive tackle DaVonte Lambert (Milledgeville, Ga./Georgia Military College), and offensive lineman Xavier Dampeer from Wesson (Miss.) Copiah-Lincoln Community College. Lambert, the No. 6 player in the ESPN JC 50, flipped from Tennessee to Auburn and gave the Tigers three of the top 14 players in the country. The Tigers are poised to crack the top 10 of the ESPN Class Rankings with more than a month left before signing day.

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Team in transition: Oklahoma State 

November, 26, 2013
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Editor's note: New coaches inherit a blank slate and often, an empty house. But new coaches who take positions at schools rocked by scandal face special challenges. Here's a look at how Oklahoma State is rebounding from that situation.

Potentially damaging controversy graced its presence on the campus of Oklahoma State in September after Sports Illustrated unveiled a five-part expose on the Cowboys and how they were able to quickly build success with the football program. The series included interviews with more than 60 former football players and staffers past and present.


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BU, OSU: Emerging stars among 2015s 

November, 21, 2013
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For many recruiting targets, particularly those in the 2015 class, Texas and Oklahoma represent the old guard. Undefeated Baylor and one-loss Oklahoma State are the next big thing.

The Bears and Cowboys, No. 4 and No. 10, respectively, in the BCS, are the hottest teams in the Big 12, and Baylor is in the running for a berth in the BCS national title game. Although Texas and Oklahoma are still the conference’s traditional powers, Art Briles and Mike Gundy have their teams making moves.


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Oklahoma State an uncelebrated success 

November, 14, 2013
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A potential conference champion is rarely considered an under-the-radar team. But in a Big 12 loaded with all kinds of attractive storylines, 8-1 Oklahoma State -- the team chosen as the preseason conference champion -- has taken a back seat to the other conference spectacles.

While the nation focuses on Baylor’s outstanding season, Oklahoma’s struggles and Texas’ resurgence from what once was called a tormented season, Oklahoma State plays the role of silent assassin.

The Cowboys might have been counted out after a loss to West Virginia, but they’ve won five straight and head into their game with Texas very much alive in the Big 12 race.

And recruits are noticing. Oklahoma State has a top-30 recruiting class for 2014, and it's hoping to land a couple more players to crack the top 25.


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Oklahoma State commits in full support 

September, 11, 2013
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Hours after Sports Illustrated released a report on Tuesday alleging that former Oklahoma State players received improper funding from coaches and boosters, ESPN 300 running back Devon Thomas (Broken Arrow, Okla./Broken Arrow) delivered welcome news to the Cowboys faithful.

“Pokes, ride or die,” Thomas said.


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Mabin gives Cowboys an aggressive ILB 

August, 21, 2013
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As the days go by, Oklahoma State’s 2014 defensive recruiting class has gotten better and better. In a conference where offense gets most of the ink, the Cowboys are looking for players to put offenses in check.

Four-star inside linebacker Josh Mabin (Spring, Texas/Klein Oak) is one of those players. Now at 6-foot-2 and 230 pounds, Mabin adds to a 2014 class that already features four-star defenders in cornerback Chris Hardeman (Houston/Alief Taylor) and outside linebacker Gyasi Akem (Broken Arrow, Okla./Broken Arrow), as well as high three-star defensive end Jordan Brailford (Tulsa, Okla./Booker T. Washington).


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Oklahoma State had 23 signees for its Class of 2013. As it got closer and closer to national signing day, it looked as if the Cowboys were going to have a whole class without an in-state player.

In the final days, OSU offered Tuttle (Okla.) High defensive end Dawson Bassett, the younger brother of former OSU defensive end Cooper Bassett. Dawson signed with the Cowboys.

We’re still eight months away from national signing day 2014, but OSU is putting in major work in trying to keep the top in-state names home this time around.

The Cowboys have three commits for the Class of 2014, and two of them are from the Sooner State. They’re not just two run-of-the-mill commits, either. Running back Devon Thomas and linebacker Gyasi Akem are four-star players and teammates at Broken Arrow High School.


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