NCF On The Trail: Robert Nkemdiche

Mississippi State, Ole Miss making mark 

September, 5, 2014
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Ole Miss and Mississippi State go head-to-head for many prospects. From current Ole Miss safety Tony Conner to Mississippi State defensive end Chris Jones to Jamal Peters, the No. 2-ranked safety in the ESPN 300 who is committed to Mississippi State, there are epic recruiting battles in Mississippi every year.

The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today’s offerings: RecruitingNation released its latest edition of the class rankings on Wednesday and it was no surprise to see Alabama, Clemson, Texas A&M, Penn State and Auburn round out the top five. But who are a few teams to keep an eye on that are outside the top 15? How about Mississippi State, TCU and Arkansas? All three programs have gotten off to good starts and could surprise folks come signing day.

Mississippi State off to fast start


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SEC recruiting mailbag

August, 23, 2013
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It’s time to dip into the SEC recruiting mailbag and answer your questions. Because of the amount of questions we’ve received, we won’t be able to get to all of them today -- but we encourage you to ask again next week by tweeting your questions to @DerekTysonESPN.

@Watup_Haun: Who's going to land Clifton Garrett (Plainfield, Ill./Plainfield South)?

Derek Tyson: LSU appears to be the team to beat for the ESPN 300 linebacker and by a wide margin. Garrett will also take official visits to Ole Miss, Tennessee and Florida. LSU is shaping up to have a monster recruiting class, and right now I expect Garrett to be a part of it.

[+] EnlargeAdoree' Jackson
Jeff Barlis/ESPNESPN 300 athlete Adoree' Jackson likes Florida's football and track teams and met with both head coaches during his July visit.
@UltimateLemons: What's your gut tell you about Florida landing Adoree' [Jackson] and [Lorenzo] Carter? Do the Gators even contend realistically for Raekwon [McMillan]?

DT: Though Florida has made a big impression on the five-star prospects, Jackson and Carter, the Gators certainly have their work cut out for them. Florida's track program recently won a national championship, and track will be a key factor in Jackson's decision. USC, Michigan, Tennessee and LSU are a few other schools squarely in the mix for the talented athlete. Carter has Florida in the lead with Alabama and Georgia slightly trailing. At this point, Florida feels good about both prospects, but there is still a long way to go.

As for McMillan, the Gators are in his top five, but Ohio State is clearly the team to beat. Clemson and Georgia are also near the top of his list. He is talented enough for the Gators to continue to pursue him, but at this time, I don't think he will end up in Gainesville.

@UTSportsAction1: Do the SEC school's generally look for three-star athletes and above?

DT: If you ask coaches in college football if they only recruit players ranked three-stars or higher, you would probably get the same overwhelming response. "We don't look at stars," they would likely say, and probably in a stern voice. The truth is, a lot goes in to our recruiting rankings, and we don't just rate someone a four-star prospect for the fun of it. A lot of research goes in to every player we rank. I know for a fact that some college coaches do in fact look at rankings, but they wouldn't be doing their job if they didn't do their own evaluations. So to answer your question, I think college coaches use rankings as a general guide to see if they are missing out on certain prospects or to see which other schools have offered players, but they do their own evaluations and decide who they want to offer based on a number of factors.

Looking back at last year's SEC recruiting classes and excluding kickers, long snappers, punters and junior college, prep school and transfer players, SEC teams only signed seven players who were ranked two-star prospects or below:

2013: Alabama - 0, Auburn - 0, Arkansas - 1 (WR Drew Morgan), Florida - 0, Georgia - 0, LSU - 0, Kentucky - 2 (QB Reese Phillips and OT Justin Day), Mississippi State - 0, Ole Miss - 0, South Carolina - 1 (DE Kendal Vickers), Tennessee - 0, Missouri - 2 (OC Alec Abeln and DT DeQuinton Osborne), Texas A&M - 0, Vanderbilt - 1 (ATH C.J. Duncan)

The numbers speak for themselves. Though it's uncommon, the SEC does generally recruit prospects ranked three-star prospects or higher.

@madveal37: The SEC has widespread talent. What true freshmen are going to have a big impact in 2013?

DT: This is not really a recruiting question, but because I had an opportunity to see a lot of these players in high school and at all-star games over the last few years, I'll give my opinion on a few I think could make an early impact.

DE Robert Nkemdiche (Ole Miss): There is a reason he was the consensus No. 1-ranked player in the country. He will play early and often for the Rebels and should make a big impact.

WR Demarcus Robinson (Florida): Florida needs help at wide receiver, and Robinson has been a star in fall camp.

RB Alex Collins (Arkansas): Collins was a steal for the Razorbacks. His explosiveness will earn him carries early in his career.

DE Carl Lawson and DE Elijah Daniel (Auburn): With Auburn's top defensive lineman, Dee Ford, out for the opener, it should open the door for Lawson and Daniel to make their marks.

LB Reuben Foster (Alabama): It's not easy to get on the field early at Alabama, but head coach Nick Saban has specifically singled out Foster for having a strong camp. Look for him to see the field early.

@miketag98: Will UK lose a lot of recruits if [Mark] Stoops flops on the field? Like if they go 4-8?

DT: I really don't believe so. Obviously Kentucky hasn't had much success on the field over the past few years, and recruits understand that. What Stoops is selling to these recruits is an opportunity to help turn the football program around. The opportunity to play early is another key selling point. As long as Kentucky shows improvement and is at least competitive in most of their games, I don't see recruits bailing on this impressive recruiting class.

@bigjpl2: Does Georgia have a real shot at Elijah Hood (Charlotte, N.C./Charlotte Catholic)?

DT: Hood, the former Notre Dame commit, was considering North Carolina, Georgia and Virginia Tech before he originally committed to the Fighting Irish. Now that he has backed off his pledge, you would think Georgia might still be in the picture. However, Georgia has two stud running backs in Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley. The Bulldogs signed four-star running back A.J. Turman last year, and they have two ESPN 300 running backs (Sony Michel and Nick Chubb) committed this year. Chubb is very comparable to Hood as far as size, speed and build. At this point, Georgia doesn't have a pressing need at the position and could risk losing one of its other commits if the coaches put the full-court press on Hood. Though Hood might still show interest in Georgia, in my opinion, I don't believe he will end up in Athens.

@BlakeBoswell1: What are the odds [Leonard] Fournette stays in LA?

In my opinion, the odds are in LSU's favor to land Fournette -- but not by much. Alabama is certainly putting up a big fight. In fact, Fournette was in Tuscaloosa last weekend with Cameron Robinson and Laurence Jones to watch the Crimson Tide scrimmage. I think this will be a battle to the end, but Alabama has a lot of depth at running back, and LSU's proximity to home gives the Tigers the slight advantage.
Want to ask ESPN RecruitingNation senior analyst Tom Luginbill a question about your team? Tweet it to @TomLuginbill using the hashtag #AskLoogs.



If you are just basing your opinion on pure talent, rare skill and unique measurables then yes, Jadeveon Clowney is superior to all others over the past eight high school classes we have evaluated. I’m not convinced, though, that Clowney was the most polished or ready to play at the time. Keep in mind, when Clowney entered college he was about 240 pounds and, as incredibly talented as he was as a pass rusher, he could be neutralized fairly easily. Teams ran right at him during his freshman year, and he had a hard time anchoring at the point of attack. He was a technically raw player and while he has improved in this area, he still is inconsistent when it comes to using his hands and having a plan on every down with a counter to that plan as well.

I would argue that Robert Nkemdiche is much more polished and college ready at the same stage but isn’t blessed with the rare measurables and pure talent Clowney has, but it is really close. WR Julio Jones, WR A.J. Green and 2014 recruits RB Leonard Fournette and OT Cameron Robinson are up there with Clowney and Nkemdiche in my opinion as being among the best we have evaluated.

2015 ESPN 300 targets: Georgia 

July, 16, 2013
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Football offers and commitments are occurring earlier and earlier. To keep in line with this new world of accelerated recruiting, ESPN announced its release of the initial ESPN 300 for the 2015 class on Tuesday.

The list is once again loaded with targets for Georgia. DawgNation takes a look at 10 targets to keep an eye on for 2015, in order of their ranking in the ESPN 300.

1. OL Mitch Hyatt (Suwanee, Ga./North Gwinnett)
6-foot-6, 270 pounds
ESPN 300 rank:
4


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ESPN 300 offensive lineman Rod Taylor (Jackson, Miss./Calloway) received his first offer from the University of Alabama the summer after his freshman year. On Wednesday, he turned down the Crimson Tide and committed to the in-state school, Ole Miss.

“It was coaches,” Taylor said. “Coach [Hugh] Freeze is real cool. He’s a real man. He keeps it 100 percent with you. I like the facilities and the coaches. The players are cool, too.”

Calloway High School head coach Daryl Jones knew he had something special with Taylor early on. He was the first one to introduce his star lineman to the UA coaching staff, and once Alabama offered, the recruiting process took off.

For Ole Miss, Freeze gets most of the credit for the Rebels’ success, but it was assistant coach Derrick Nix who made the biggest impact on Taylor.

“To be honest, I just think it was Coach Nix, his recruiting coach,” Jones said. "The personality that he has, and the relationships that he builds with the kids, I think that’s the No. 1 thing. They understand him. They feel him. They field a relationship, and it seems real to him.

“When they go up there, they’re treated like rock stars. It makes anybody feel wanted.”

Taylor becomes the 18th commitment for Ole Miss and the fourth ranked in the ESPN 300. He also joins his Calloway teammates, wide receiver Dayall Harris and outside linebacker Ronald Walker, who already have given their verbal pledge to the Rebels.

The success in Oxford comes on the heels of last year’s class, which finished No. 5 nationally in the ESPN class rankings. Even Taylor was surprised with how well Ole Miss finished.

“To be honest, I knew about Robert Nkemdiche,” he said. “I didn’t know about anybody else. I was surprised, but Ole Miss is just doing their job.”

Although Alabama and Ole Miss were at the top of his list throughout the process, Taylor also considered the likes of Florida State, Georgia and UCLA before making his decision.

Recruiting pitches: SEC

May, 10, 2013
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Inspired by Florida's "#ComePlayWRFortheJoker" campaign, our recruiting writers looked at other ways schools can sell themselves on the trail. Here's a look at recruiting pitches for the SEC:

Alabama Crimson Tide
What they are selling:
What's not to sell? Alabama is coming off back-to-back national championships, and the Crimson Tide had nine players taken in April's NFL draft, including three in the first round. For the critics who say you won't play early at UA, ask T.J. Yeldon and Amari Cooper how much they contributed as freshmen.

What they are missing: Although they won a national championship, the Tide didn't generate much pass rush last fall, and they had trouble containing freshman sensation Johnny Manziel. Also, they need to rebuild the offensive line, a unit that anchored the offense last year.

Arkansas Razorbacks
What they are selling:
New head coach Bret Bielema runs a completely different offensive system than the previous two Arkansas coaches. The Razorbacks are selling an opportunity for freshmen to come in and earn playing time early in their careers.

What they are missing: The Razorbacks signed only one offensive lineman, Denver Kirkland, who was rated a four-star prospect or higher last year. In this run-heavy system, look for Arkansas to focus on landing talented players along the offensive line.

Auburn Tigers
What they are selling:
It's a new regime for Auburn, but there's a familiar face running the show. New head coach Gus Malzahn knows the program from his days as offensive coordinator. He's already shown the ability to recruit, stealing ESPN 150 linebacker Tre Williams away from the Tide. There's a sense of excitement on The Plains again.

What they are missing: Malzahn filled out his first recruiting class with playmakers, but Auburn needs to build up front on the offensive and defensive lines. No matter what offense you run, if you want to win in the SEC, you need to be able to compete up in the trenches.

Florida Gators
What they are selling:
With no proven wide receivers on the perimeter, Florida is attempting to sell early playing time at the position. A chance to play for one of the best defensive minds in college football in Will Muschamp is another selling point to defensive prospects.

What they are missing: Production on offense. After finishing 114th nationally in passing offense, it will be hard to sell playing time to wide receivers without an explosive passing game in place.

Georgia Bulldogs
What they are selling:
Freshmen, if they're good enough, play early at Georgia. From running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall to offensive tackle John Theus to defensive end Jordan Jenkins, several freshmen Bulldogs made major contributions on a team that was a few yards away from making the national championship game.

What they are missing: Georgia has brought in four top-12 recruiting classes in the last four years. Depth might become an issue for some recruits, but Georgia has certainly shown a willingness to play younger players.

Kentucky Wildcats
What they are selling:
After finishing 2-10, Kentucky fired coach Joker Phillips. New head coach Mark Stoops is offering a fresh start and a chance to help build Kentucky in to a contender in the SEC East.

What they are missing: Plain and simple -- tradition. Sure, Kentucky is full of basketball tradition, but the success on the hardwood completely overshadows the football program. A record 50,831 fans attended the Wildcats' spring game, so the interest level is certainly headed in the right direction.

LSU Tigers
What they are selling:
An unprecedented 10 underclassmen declared for the NFL draft. LSU is selling the opportunity, not only for early playing time because of the departures, but a chance to make it to the NFL in three years.

What they are missing: Because of all the departures, there are some holes on both sides of the ball. Depth is now an issue at running back and LSU will need to replace Eric Reid, Kevin Minter, defensive ends Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo, defensive tackle Bennie Logan and linebacker Kevin Minter.

Ole Miss Rebels
What they are selling:
Ole Miss landed the No. 5-ranked class in the country, including No. 1 overall player Robert Nkemdiche and No. 1 offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil. Look for Ole Miss to sell recruits on the opportunity to help build something special under head coach Hugh Freeze.

What they are missing: Freeze brought a creative and innovative offense to the SEC, but the defense is still a work in progress. Ole Miss finished 12th in the SEC in pass defense and will need to continue to build depth in order to compete for the SEC West championship.

Mississippi State Bulldogs
What they are selling:
Only 11 of 22 starters return for a team that finished 8-5 last year. The Bulldogs offer recruits a chance to play early and play in the best division in college football.

What they are missing: Mississippi State returns its starting quarterback Tyler Russell, but who will he be throwing to? Last year's four leading receivers, including Chad Bumphis, are gone. Look for the Bulldogs to focus on offensive weapons in this recruiting class.

Missouri Tigers
What they are selling:
The Tigers return 14 of 22 starters on a team that went 5-7 in its first year in the SEC East. Missouri runs a fun and innovative offense that is sure to attract recruits, and there is certainly an opportunity to play early.

What they are missing: The defensive line is probably the most critical area on any defense in the SEC, and the Tigers lost their best lineman in Sheldon Richardson. Mizzou must find a viable replacement for Richardson and linebackers Zaviar Gooden and Will Ebner.

South Carolina Gamecocks
What they are selling:
The Gamecocks have been dominant on defense over the last few years, and a strong line is a big part of their success. South Carolina is selling an opportunity to be the next Jadeveon Clowney and be a part of one of the top defenses in the SEC.

What they are missing: Hard to believe, but head coach Steve Spurrier needs help at wide receiver. The Gamecocks signed only one wide receiver in their 2013 class. They have young bodies, but not much depth or production from the returning group.

Tennessee Volunteers
What they are selling:
A fresh start under new head coach Butch Jones. Since 2011, Tennessee has finished with the No. 13, 21 and 29 recruiting classes in the country. There plenty of holes to fill, and any incoming freshman will have plenty of opportunities to earn a starting spot.

What they are missing: Tennessee lost wide receivers Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson to the NFL draft and must replace their production on the outside. The Volunteers are also thin in the secondary and will look to recruiting to plug some key holes on defense.

Texas A&M Aggies
What they are selling:
There is a lot to sell a recruit on at Texas A&M right now. An explosive offense which led the SEC in total offense by more than 100 yards a game, Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel and a team that went into Tuscaloosa and handed Alabama its only loss last season.

What they are missing: There are still some holes to fill on defense. The Aggies finished with the No. 8-ranked defense in the SEC and the No. 10-ranked pass defense in the league. They also need to replace talented defensive end Damontre Moore, who is now in the NFL.

Vanderbilt Commodores
What they are selling:
Head coach James Franklin has taken Vanderbilt to a bowl in two consecutive years, and the Commodores are bringing in a solid recruiting class. Selling recruits on an opportunity to play at Vanderbilt during one of the best eras in the school's football history is enticing to high school recruits.

What they are missing: Vanderbilt is not yet on par with other SEC schools as far as facilities. The Commodores, though, are certainly headed in the right direction. A new indoor practice facility is being constructed, and stadium renovations are in the planning stages.
OXFORD, Miss. -- Ole Miss continues to capitalize on the momentum produced in February by a No. 5-rated signing class that turned heads in the Southeastern Conference and nationally.

The Rebels drew a crowd at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on Saturday estimated at 28,000 by the school for its final spring practice, the Grove Bowl, despite a scaled-down event that included minimal game-like activity after injuries hit hard in practice.


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Will Carter continue Alabama pipeline? 

March, 11, 2013
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SUWANEE, Ga. – There is never a shortage of highly coveted football prospects in the state of Georgia. While it remains to be seen if anyone in the 2014 class will be rated as highly as 2013 standouts Robert Nkemdiche or Montravius Adams, there are already a couple defensive recruits that can stake claim to being recruited by just about every prominent program in the country. Raekwon McMillan is one, and Lorenzo Carter is the other.


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Watch List DT Taua a disruptive force 

March, 11, 2013
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LOS ANGELES -- Before stepping onto the field for the Nike Football Training Camp on Sunday, highly touted defensive tackle Ainuu Taua (Lompoc, Calif./Lompoc) calmly sat on the track surface that surrounds the turf at Redondo Union High School. He was at ease, showing no sign of nerves as he laced up his cleats.

Taua was anything but serene during the event, though, turning in a disruptive performance that earned him defensive line MVP honors. The 6-foot, 281-pound tackle also received one of the four invites handed out for The Opening.


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Florida: 2014 prospects to watch 

February, 7, 2013
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- With signing day 2013 having wrapped up, it's time to turn our attention to 2014 recruits. Here are five players Florida will be targeting for next year's class:


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No. 1 OT Tunsil chooses Ole Miss 

February, 6, 2013
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LAKE CITY, Fla. -- Five-star tackle Laremy Tunsil (Lake City, Fla./Columbia) has signed his letter of intent to play for the Ole Miss Rebels.

The 6-foot-6, 295-pound athlete announced his decision live on ESPNU on Wednesday morning.

"I'm just trying to start special," Tunsil said. "You know, do something different besides go to Georgia or Alabama."

The No. 5-ranked prospect in the country chose Ole Miss over Georgia and Alabama.

He joins the nation's No. 1 overall prospect, defensive end Robert Nkemdiche, among additions to Ole Miss' class that have helped it move into the top 10.

Tunsil said Ole Miss was a factor long before his official visit to Oxford, Miss.

"It really wasn't the official visit to be honest with you," Tunsil said. "Me and Chris Kiffin had a relationship for about a year. He never gave up, he never gave up. I told him that Alabama was on top then I told him that Georgia was on top and he still didn't give up."

What kind of player is Ole Miss getting?

"A hard-working player, who's down and dirty," he said. "But I have to get adjusted to the spread offense."

And how did Rebels coach Hugh Freeze react when he learned what Tunsil's decision would be?

"I told him I wanted to be a Rebel," Tunsil laughed. "He started kissing me."

What is the impact of Tunsil's decision?

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Ole Miss lands Robert Nkemdiche 

February, 6, 2013
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videoLOGANVILLE, Ga. -- Robert Nkemdiche, the nation’s No. 1 overall recruit in the ESPN 150, kicked off national signing day on Wednesday by announcing his intention to sign with Ole Miss on ESPNU. The Loganville (Ga.) Grayson defensive end chose the Rebels over LSU and Florida.

Nkemdiche marks a signature addition to what is shaping up to be one of the top recruiting classes in the country. He had offers from coast to coast and took official visits to Florida, Ole Miss and LSU before deciding to join his brother Denzel Nkemdiche in Oxford, Miss.

The rumors of Ole Miss landing the five-star prospect began almost two years ago, when the Rebels signed Denzel Nkemdiche in May 2011 after the lightly recruited 5-foot-11, 200-pound defensive back was able to qualify a few months after signing day. At the time, it was believed that Alabama had the best chance to land the younger, more highly regarded Robert Nkemdiche, with Ole Miss considered only a dark-horse possibility due to his brother's enrollment at the school.

Nkemdiche, who originally committed to Clemson in June, watched Ole Miss play Georgia in Athens, Ga., on Nov. 3 and reportedly called Clemson to decommit a day later.

With the family ties pulling Nkemdiche to Oxford, Ole Miss became the consensus leader to land the nation’s top recruit at any moment. But even with recruiter of record Wesley McGriff and defensive line coach Chris Kiffin taking in Grayson games seemingly every week during the fall evaluation period, no such commitment to Ole Miss came, as Nkemdiche decided to focus on his senior season.

As Clemson fell from contention, programs such as LSU and Florida threw their names into the mix. Nkemdiche took official visits to Florida on Jan. 18, Ole Miss on Jan. 25 and LSU on Feb. 2, giving all three trips high marks.

But once it came time to make a decision, it all came back to family, and Ole Miss won out for Nkemdiche.

His addition gives the Rebels 24 commitments for the 2013 class and their first from a five-star recruit. Ole Miss, which has a commitment from the nation’s No. 1 receiver in Laquon Treadwell, is also heavily favored to land No. 1 offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil (Lake City, Fla./Columbia) and has a chance to add ESPN 150 defensive end Chris Jones, ESPN 150 safety Antonio Conner, ESPN 150 offensive lineman Austin Golson and Nkemdiche’s teammate David Kamara.

What is the impact of Robert Nkemdiche’s decision?

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Robert Nkemdiche TweetChat 

February, 5, 2013
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No. 1 prospect Robert Nkemdiche (Loganville, Ga./Grayson) is one day away from announcing his college decision live on ESPNU at 7:35 a.m ET. Nkemdiche took an official visit to LSU last weekend, after previous officials to Florida and Ole Miss. Nkemdiche says all schools are even. On Monday night, we solicited questions on Twitter using #AskNkemdiche, and the nation's top player answered a bunch of them for us. You can follow him at @Aceboogie_001.

@RebCody: #AskNkemdiche How fun and stressful has the recruiting process been?
Robert Nkemdiche: Everybody knows it has been stressful. Everybody knows. The part that was fun is the fans, going on visits and just experiencing new and different things.

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For LSU, recruiting ends with ends 

February, 5, 2013
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BATON ROUGE, La. -- It's the end of the line for the recruiting season as signing day looms.

Key word, ‘end.’

On the eve of national signing day, defensive ends are the talk of LSU recruiting. On Monday, long-time commit Frank Herron re-affirmed his commitment to LSU after making a surprise visit to Texas.


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