NCF On The Trail: Noel Ellis

A&M finds success in Louisiana

November, 19, 2013
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COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- When it comes to the presence schools have in their respective home states, few are stronger than LSU in the state of Louisiana.

The Tigers' success, conference affiliation and game day atmosphere are just a few of the unique advantages for natives of the Pelican State.

[+] EnlargeDarian Claiborne
Michael Chang/Getty ImagesTexas A&M freshman Darian Claiborne (48) took over the middle linebacker job before the fourth game of the season.
Port Allen (Louisiana) High School head coach Guy Blanchard vividly remembers the emotions of one of his players, Darian Claiborne, when LSU took a tough loss early in 2012.

"When Darian was in January of his junior year (of high school) and LSU lost the national championship game to Alabama, you would have thought his best friend died the next day at school," Blanchard said. "He was a big LSU fan. You can't grow up in Southeast Louisiana and not have some kind of attachment or an eye on the prize, however you want to say it, [to LSU]."

Claiborne, a true freshman, is now the starting middle linebacker for No. 12 Texas A&M, which heads to Death Valley on Saturday to play No. 22 LSU. But Port Allen is fewer than seven miles from the LSU campus, so it's understandable how he could have envisioned a future with the Bayou Bengals.

But Texas A&M’s staff developed a strong relationship with Claiborne, a three-star prospect. Furthermore, the Aggies made a strong impression and made it clear they wanted him while LSU didn’t officially extend an offer. The Aggies’ diligence paid off because Claiborne has played a key part on the A&M defense.

In recent years, Texas A&M has had success recruiting the state of Louisiana. Texas is and will continue to be the home base for Texas A&M recruiting for good reason -- it's fertile recruiting ground that most colleges attempt to pick from, because of the vast number of players and caliber of talent the state produces. But Louisiana is also known for producing high-caliber recruits as well and head coach Kevin Sumlin has made sure to make "The Boot" part of his recruiting footprint.

Currently, the Aggies have nine players that are from Louisiana on the roster and all of them are on the Aggies' two deep. Some of them have been recruited by the current staff, others are holdovers from the previous staff, but all of them currently contribute on the field.

All nine are defensive players and five of them are regular starters: Claiborne, defensive back Deshazor Everett, defensive ends Julien Obioha, safety Floyd Raven and defensive end Gavin Stansbury. The others have played key roles: true freshman cornerback Noel Ellis has seen significant time in recent weeks and is the Aggies' future at the nickel cornerback position. Cornerback Tramain Jacobs started six games this season while the Aggies' dealt with injuries in the secondary and has been a reliable rotation player among the cornerbacks. True freshman linebacker Shaan Washington has found his way onto the field in a special teams capacity but also saw time at linebacker early in the year and defensive tackle Ivan Robinson has been a part of the rotation at his position when healthy.

[+] EnlargeDeshazor Everett
AP Photo/Bob LeveyDeshazor Everett, another Louisiana native, was recruited my Mike Sherman's staff but has been the Aggies' most reliable defensive back.
There's no doubt the Aggies have received bang for their buck with the "Louisianimals," the term former Texas A&M center Patrick Lewis coined for his fellow Louisiana products last season. Claiborne and Everett have been arguably the Aggies' best defensive players this season. Everett has done whatever the Texas A&M coaches have asked, whether it's playing safety while Raven was injured or going back to his traditional position of cornerback, while playing with a broken thumb early in the year. Claiborne got the starting job at middle linebacker -- which is not his traditional position -- before the fourth game of the season and hasn't let go of it.

Stansbury has emerged as a playmaker while Obioha and Raven have each been a steady presence at their respective positions.

Even when he was at Houston, where the Cougars put their primary focus on their own city, Sumlin's staff would travel across the border to recruit talent out of Louisiana. But in the SEC it's a different story, because the caliber of player Texas A&M is searching for is often the same that LSU is trying to keep in state.

With the Tigers being the signature program in Louisiana, it makes it all the more difficult to pull a kid out of the state when LSU wants him.

The Aggies are experiencing that in their early SEC years. In this recruiting cycle, the Aggies are going after some of Louisiana's finest, like ESPN 300 athlete Speedy Noil and ESPN 300 defensive end Gerald Willis III. The Aggies are also trying to make inroads with the top 2015 prospects from the state, like receiver Tyron Johnson.

All have LSU offers and the battle for Noil and Willis III has been hotly contested and will be until signing day approaches.

But the Aggies have found success in recruiting prospects from the state that might have been overlooked or not as heavily pursued. If those players continue to play like Claiborne, the in-state powerhouse will start taking notice.

"Yeah, we've run across them at times," said LSU coach Les Miles of seeing A&M recruiting in Louisiana. "We recognize some of the [players] that they have there, and we wish them the very best. It's an opportunity to play in this league, and we're for that."

LSU gets commit from loaded HS

February, 24, 2013
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BATON ROUGE, La. -- Donnie Alexander is used to being surrounded by high-end college talent.

Playing for Louisiana Class 4A state champion New Orleans Edna Karr, Alexander played on the same team as 2013 ESPN 300 prospects Standish Dobard (Miami (Fla) signee) and Noel Ellis (Texas A&M) and 2014 watch list prospects Gerald Willis III and Speedy Noil.

Count Alexander among the high-end Karr prospects.

Donnie Alexander
Tom Hauck for ESPN.comNew Orleans linebacker Donnie Alexander committed to LSU on Sunday, becoming the fifth 2014 commit for the Tigers.
The 2014 linebacker was offered by LSU on a weekend trip to Baton Rouge. After returning home and talking it over with his mother, he decided to pull the trigger and commit.

"LSU's the school I always wanted to go to since I was small," he said. "I didn't really want to wait."

The name may be an unknown to fans, who were perhaps expecting one of the 12 Louisiana players on the ESPN Watch List to be the next to commit.

Truth be told, Alexander was surprised, too.

"I was (surprised)," he said. "I really wasn't expecting it. They like my speed. They like that I'm a good tackler. They like that I make plays."

In that regard, he is perhaps comparable to 2013 signee Duke Riley, who share's Alexander's smaller build, but speed that will allow him to be versatile in areas like pass coverage.

"I think I do have good coverage skills," he said. "I get good drops and I'll come up and stick a slot receiver."

And he knows how to win. Karr went unbeaten in 2014, beating a talented Monroe Neville team for the 4A title.

"At Karr, we strive toward winning and being successful young men," he said. "That's what our coaches preach to us. Now that we've won, we have to maintain, don't let it get to our head."

Signing day primer: Texas A&M 

January, 23, 2013
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Team needs: There are three key need areas for Texas A&M in this recruiting class: defensive tackles, linebackers and receivers. The defensive tackle need stems from the Aggies' scheme switch. The 2010 and 2011 seasons were spent in a 3-4 alignment, and recruiting was tailored to that. Once Kevin Sumlin arrived and hired Mark Snyder as his defensive coordinator, the Aggies switched to a 4-3, meaning another defensive tackle on the field, meaning more were needed. At linebacker, the Aggies say goodbye to a pair of senior leaders, Sean Porter and Jonathan Stewart, both of whom were starters. The other starting linebacker, Steven Jenkins, will be a senior this season. At receiver there are several contributors leaving as well. Ryan Swope, Uzoma Nwachukwu and Kenric McNeal were all seniors. Thomas Johnson, a true freshman who appeared in 10 games and was one of the gems of the 2012 recruiting class, withdrew from school and might not return. There's another scholarship spot at the position in the form of Brandal Jackson, who was on scholarship but not part of the 105-man roster at the start of fall camp.

Help is on the way: At defensive tackle, A&M scored commitments from ESPN 150 defensive tackle Justin Manning and ESPN 300 defensive tackle Isaiah Golden. Three-star prospect Hardreck Walker and three-star Jordan Points (who is already on campus) round out that group. There are six linebackers in the class, led by ESPN 300 ILB Jordan Mastrogiovanni. Three are already on campus and enrolled: Brett Wade, Reggie Chevis and Tommy Sanders. At receiver, the Aggies have plenty. Ricky Seals-Jones tops the list, prep school standout Ja'Quay Williams is already in school, and there's a pair of three-star receivers as well. Not to mention, No. 1 tight end prospect Derrick Griffin would be a receiver at A&M if he makes it in, and athlete LaQuvionte Gonzalez likely would be an inside receiver.

Other key commits: A pair of Under Armour All-Americans, guard Joas Aguilar and cornerback Noel Ellis, plus a U.S. Army All-American, safety Kameron Miles, round out a group 10 prospects that are among ESPN's top 300. Two quarterbacks are in the class (Kohl Stewart and Kenny Hill), but it's worth keeping an eye on them as Stewart is a potential high MLB draft pick and Hill took official visits to Baylor and Kansas State. Eight early enrollees in the class are already on campus (Chevis, Points, Sanders, Wade, Williams, Cameron Clear, Alex Sezer and Jeremiah Stuckey), and there are plenty of promising three-star commits, including guys like cornerback Tavares Garner and outside linebacker Darian Claiborne.

Other key targets: There aren't a ton of targets left for the Aggies at this point. Their focus is on a small handful of guys. Adding a defensive end would be ideal for the Aggies, and they're pursuing Washington commit Daeshon Hall and USC commit Torrodney Prevot in that regard. Hall visited recently, and Prevot could soon. They are also still looking at another receiver. Former USC commit Sebastian LaRue is one of those targets, and he was in on an official visit recently. They are also looking at Florida State commit Levonte Whitfield, who said he plans to officially visit Feb. 1.
The most notable movement in the ESPN 300 from a Texas A&M perspective is the entry of one of the Aggies' commits into the ESPN 300. Carthage (Texas) High School defensive tackle Isaiah Golden, the nation's 29th-ranked defensive tackle, moved up to No. 229 overall.

There are five other Texas A&M commits in the updated rankings.


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CB Noel Ellis proves to be playmaker 

October, 10, 2012
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Things are going well for New Orleans Edna Karr cornerback Noel Ellis these days.

[+] EnlargeNoel Ellis
Tom Hauck for ESPN.comESPN 150 defensive back Noel Ellis says he's solid with Texas A&M.
His team is No. 2 in the latest Louisiana Sports Writer Association's Class 4A state poll, with a win already notched against another top-five team, No. 4 Salmen. Ellis, a 2013 Texas A&M commitment, is making the most of his team's effort, contributing in several ways.

In Edna Karr's most recent victory, a 26-7 win over Helen Cox, Ellis returned an interception and a kickoff for a touchdown. In the key win over Salmen in late September, Ellis intercepted a pass and recovered two fumbles, including one that he took 59 yards for a touchdown.

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Weekend recruiting preview: Louisiana 

September, 14, 2012
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As you'd expect, dozens of LSU commits and targets will be in action across the state this weekend. As we move toward the second month of the high school season, here is a handful of games and players for LSU fans to keep an eye on:

Barbe vs. Evangel Christian -- Barbe, the No. 3 team in the most recent Class 5A power rankings, takes on the No. 3 team in Class 2A. Barbe has been considered a state championship contender since the end of last season, largely thanks to the contributions of tight end and LSU commit DeSean Smith. Smith combines with speedy wide receiver and 2014 LSU target Trey Quinn to make the Barbe offense tough to stop. But the Buccaneers have been unable to get over the hump against Evangel in recent seasons.

Neville vs. Ouachita Parish -- Defending Class 4A state champion Neville takes on a regional rival and the No. 2 team in Class 5A. ESPN 150 athlete and LSU commit John Diarse quarterbacks the Tigers, and Neville has other talent like 2014 cornerback target Laurence Jones. Top 2014 wide receiver prospect Cameron Sims lines up for Ouachita.

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It's a bit hard to believe, but things are finishing up for LSU's 2013 recruiting class as August approaches.

[+] EnlargePriest Willis
Tom Hauck/ESPNHSPriest Willis drew comparisons to Kansas City Chiefs safety Eric Berry with his play at the Los Angeles Nike Training Camp.
A team like the Tigers has the pick of the litter, for the most part, when it comes to recruiting. But with 21 current commitments and a dwindling pool of high profile targets, there likely won't be too much more activity in the coming months. The commitment of defensive tackle Scott Pagano (Honolulu, Hawaii/Moanalua) to Clemson on Tuesday night gives the Tigers one fewer prospect to chase, increasing the intrigue around fellow defensive tackle Greg Gilmore (Hope Mills, N.C./South View) and his approaching decision.

In the meantime there are only a few more chances to scout out talent this summer before the 2012 season begins. This weekend's 2012 Champion Gridiron Kings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., promises to be such an occasion.

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A&M dips into Louisiana for arguably the state’s top cover corner. Noel Ellis (New Orleans, La./Edna Karr) is not the biggest or fastest corner on paper but when it comes to coverage skills this young man has the skill-set and intangibles to play on an island in an SEC. He excels in tighter coverage, particularly press, where he can play aggressive with his hands and jam receivers off the line of scrimmage and stick to them hip-to-hip. This feisty corner masks his lack of ideal speed by transitioning smoothly without a lot of wasted motion. Ellis is able to overcome height with good jump-ball and high-point skills.

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Texas A&M entered the day with no cornerbacks in its 2013 class. Suddenly, that's no longer an issue.

Four-star cornerback Noel Ellis (New Orleans/Edna Karr) told HornsNation he has delivered his pledge to become the 20th member of A&M's recruiting class.

The Aggies also picked up a pledge from three-star corner Tavares Garner (Manvel, Texas/Manvel) on Wednesday morning.

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Texas has a new contender for an offer as it continues to address its secondary needs for the 2013 recruiting class.

[+] EnlargeNoel Ellis
Miller Safrit/ESPN.comNoel Ellis will attend Texas' June 3rd camp.
Four-star cornerback Noel Ellis (New Orleans/Edna Karr) received a visit from Texas assistants Bo Davis and Darrell Wyatt on Wednesday and plans to attend the Longhorns’ camp on June 3.

“Texas is an excellent program on a big stage,” his father, Noel Ellis Sr. said. “We’ve got our sights set on being on the big stage. Texas is definitely a school we’ll consider, especially if they show mutual interest. If Texas was to offer, that would definitely propel them into the top three.”

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