NCF On The Trail: Rod Taylor

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.

Recruiting hits and misses: SEC West

February, 6, 2014
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Now that the fax machines are quiet, the 2014 signing classes have been announced and before we start looking ahead to 2015, let's take a moment to examine how each of the SEC schools did in filling immediate needs via recruiting.

We're checking out what all 14 teams did to fill holes, and we're looking at which holes still remain. We'll start with the SEC West (click here for the SEC East):

ALABAMA

Needs filled: It was obvious Alabama needed help at cornerback, and the Crimson Tide went out and got two of the best in the country in five-star prospects Tony Brown and Marlon Humphrey. Pass rushers were also a priority, which makes five-star defensive end Da'Shawn Hand and four-star outside linebackers Rashaan Evans and Christian Miller key pickups. Cameron Robinson, yet another five-star prospect, could end up starting at left tackle next season on the offensive line.

Holes remaining: The Crimson Tide could have used another marquee receiver and lost out on No. 1 wideout Malachi Dupre to LSU. With Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Vinnie Sunseri both heading early to the NFL, the Tide also might have come up short at safety.

ARKANSAS

Needs filled: The Hogs’ passing game was in need of a jump-start, and getting an ESPN 300 player out of Miami the caliber of JoJo Robinson adds another playmaker to the equation. Arkansas’ offensive line class is equally impressive with four-star prospects Brian Wallace and Frank Ragnow and three-star prospect Jovan Pruitt joining Denver Kirkland and Dan Skipper from last year’s class.

Holes remaining: The highest-ranked player in the Hogs’ class was defensive tackle Bijhon Jackson of El Dorado, Ark., which was big considering they need help everywhere on defense. But they missed out on a pair of highly ranked defensive ends in Solomon Thomas and Demetrius Jackson.

AUBURN

Needs filled: Gus Malzahn called ESPN 300 prospect Tre' Williams the key to the class, and he should provide an immediate boost at linebacker. With Chris Davis departing, the Tigers also needed to replenish at cornerback, which is where four-star prospects Kalvaraz Bessent and Stephen Roberts come in. Both were ranked in the top 10 nationally at their position. With Greg Robinson leaving early for the NFL draft, it was good to add muscle on the offensive line with ESPN 300 prospect Braden Smith, who could play guard or tackle.

Holes remaining: The sting of losing Evans, who’s from Auburn, to Alabama could be felt for a while. He's the kind of explosive athlete who would fit on any defense, and the Tigers need more of those guys, particularly at linebacker.

LSU

Needs filled: The loss of running back Jeremy Hill early to the NFL draft was lessened by landing Leonard Fournette, the No. 1 overall prospect in this class. It only got better for the Tigers’ offense on signing day when the country’s No. 1 receiver, Dupre, said he would play his college football on the Bayou. Safety was a real sore spot on defense last season, so getting ESPN 300 prospect Jamal Adams was a major pickup. Adams is rated by ESPN RecruitingNation as the No. 2 safety in the 2014 class.

Holes remaining: Robinson would have been a nice centerpiece on that LSU offensive line, but Alabama came into West Monroe, La., and swiped the five-star prospect. The Tigers also lost five-star athlete Speedy Noil of New Orleans to Texas A&M.

MISSISSIPPI STATE

Needs filled: Junior college signee Jocquell Johnson is already on campus and will battle for a starting job next season on an offensive line that’s losing two starters, including All-SEC guard Gabe Jackson. The Bulldogs also added a pair of playmakers at receiver in ESPN 300 prospects Jamoral Graham and Jesse Jackson. Flipping 6-foot-6, 265-pound defensive lineman Cory Thomas from Tennessee on signing day added some more punch to an already deep and talented defensive line in Starkville.

Holes remaining: More secondary help would have been nice, which is why losing cornerback Tee Shepard to Ole Miss on signing day was a downer. A couple of the offensive linemen the Bulldogs wanted, Jordan Sims and Sean Rawlings, also opted for Ole Miss.

OLE MISS

Needs filled: The Rebels wanted to continue to stockpile talent on the offensive line after reeling in Laremy Tunsil and Austin Golson a year ago and did that with four-star prospects Rod Taylor, Tyler Putman and Sims. Upgrading the defense was also a priority, which is why beating Alabama for ESPN 300 safety C.J. Hampton was so important along with getting ESPN 300 defensive end Garrald McDowell out of Louisiana. Flipping junior college cornerback Shepard from Mississippi State was a nice signing day coup.

Holes remaining: You can never have enough defensive linemen in the SEC, so losing defensive tackle Michael Sawyers to Tennessee was a blow. The same goes for ESPN 300 defensive end Davon Godchaux, who stuck with his commitment and signed with LSU.

TEXAS A&M

Needs filled: With Johnny Manziel taking his show to the NFL, Texas A&M has to find a quarterback. Early enrollee Kyle Allen is an ESPN 300 prospect and ranked as the No. 1 pocket passer in this class. Noil, another early enrollee, should help fill a void with big-play receiver Mike Evans headed to the NFL, and the Aggies also loaded up on offensive linemen, including a pair of junior college signees. Any help on defense was a priority, which makes five-star defensive end Myles Garrett one of the keys to the class.

Holes remaining: The Aggies are still thin at safety after swinging and missing on several of their top targets in this class, including Adams, Steven Parker II and Mattrell McGraw. They also had ESPN 300 safety Dylan Sumner-Gardner committed but lost him to Boise State when Marcel Yates took the defensive coordinator job there.

Top five OG comparisons 

January, 21, 2014
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As each and every new evaluation period begins for our staff, we always try to use today’s college football stars and apply some of their best traits when describing the next generation of prospects. All prospects are different from one another, but many share similar characteristics that stand out in relation to their styles. In this edition of the series, we take a look at a group that often gets little fanfare but is still essential to an offense’s success. Here are the top five offensive guards in this class and who they remind us of in college football at this time.

Garrett Brumfield (Baton Rouge, La./University Laboratory) -- Oregon State’s Isaac Seumalo: The top-rated OG possesses a little better size and natural strength at this stage, while Seumalo was arguably a little sharper with his technique coming out. While they do have differences, these two also share some similarities. Both are physical and tenacious blockers as well as smart players. A coach’s son, Seumalo had a good feel for the game when he came out, and while he might not have that same background, Brumfield displays very good awareness as blocker. In pass protection, both set quickly, deliver a good punch and can slide and mirror rushers. In the run game, both can create push as well as be effective second-level blockers. Both were high school tackles projected as guards at the college level. Seumalo arrived at Oregon State and has started at center since his freshman year. We feel Brumfield will develop at OG at LSU, but he can also offer some versatility, which helped him rise to the top guard spot. With some added size, he could potentially contribute early in his career as well.


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Ole Miss scores big with DT McDowell

December, 20, 2013
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The Ole Miss Rebels continue to show they are here to stay under the direction of head coach Hugh Freeze. Already sitting at No. 15 in the RecruitingNation class rankings, the Rebels added to an impressive haul Friday, picking up a commitment from defensive tackle Garrald McDowell (Covington, La./Covington).

The 6-foot-1, 257-pound, athletic McDowell is the No. 110 prospect in the country, and becomes the fourth ESPN 300 prospect to pledge to Ole Miss following No. 49 Rod Taylor (Jackson, Miss./Callaway), No. 92 Markell Pack (Purvis, Miss./Purvis) and No. 134 C.J Hampton (Meridian, Miss./Meridian).
Defensive tackle is a key position of need for the Ole Miss staff in the 2014 class. McDowell becomes the fourth defensive tackle to commit to the Rebels, a group that includes four-star senior riser Breeland Speaks (Jackson, Miss./Callaway).

Earlier in the week, the Rebels signed three four-star junior college prospects in offensive tackle Fahn Cooper (Crystal Lake, Ill./College of Dupage), defensive lineman Jeremy Liggins (Oxford, Miss./Northwest Mississippi Community College) and inside linebacker Christian Russell (Raeford, N.C./East Mississippi Community College).

Ole Miss now has 26 commitments, including 13 four-star prospects. The Rebels remain in the hunt for No. 65 overall Nyles Morgan (Crete, Ill./Crete-Monee), No. 120 Wesley Green (Lithonia, Ga./Martin Luther King) and four-star offensive guard Jordan Sims (Birmingham, Ala./Homewood), among others.

Ole Miss signed the No. 5 class a year ago, which included 2013 SEC All-Freshman selections Laremy Tunsil (Lake City, Fla./Columbia), Laquon Treadwell (Crete, Ill./Crete-Monee), Robert Nkemdiche (Logansville, Ga./Grayson) and Antonio Conner (Batesville, Miss./South Panola).

McDowell will play in the 2014 Under Armour All-America Game on Jan. 2 at 4 p.m. EST on ESPN.

SEC recruiting storylines: Oct. 24 

October, 24, 2013
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Taking a look back at the week that was in the SEC recruiting and looking ahead as teams build toward signing day, here is a peek at some of the top SEC recruiting storylines.

Nation's No. 4 to see Tuscaloosa

The nation's No. 4 prospect overall, Da'Shawn Hand (Woodbridge, Va./Woodbridge High), will make his official visit to Alabama this weekend after tripping to favorite Michigan in September. The 6-foor-4, 262-pound five-star will also officially visit Florida on Nov. 8 before announcing his decision on Nov. 14 at his high school.

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UA game jersey tour: Rod Taylor

October, 23, 2013
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Senior offensive guard Rod Taylor (Jackson, Miss./Callaway High) was presented with his honorary game jersey on Tuesday during the American Family Insurance Selection Tour for the 2014 Under Armour All-America High School Game.

The event was part of the three-month selection tour.

Taylor, an Ole Miss commitment, is one of 90 players selected to compete in the seventh-annual UA All-America Game, a nationally-televised competition spotlighting the country’s top high school seniors. The 2014 game is set for 4 p.m. ET on Jan. 2 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., and will be on ESPN.

“First of all, I want to thank God,” Taylor said. “I want to thank my family, thank Callaway, thank my community, and I will represent well in Florida."

Callaway High head coach Daryl Jones says you would never know his star player has received so many accolades because of his humility.
“We are definitely proud of Rod. The most important thing about Rod is humility. He’s very humble. You would never know the rewards he’s received ... he walks around the hall and is just a student at Callaway High School. He never says look at me, I’m this, I’m that. I’ve learned that from him ... his humility, and he continues to work hard.”

For Taylor, playing in the Under Armour All-America Game is going to feel just like college.
“It’s going to be a good thing ... it’s going to be a lot of competition, meeting the players and coaches and learning new stuff. Somebody I look up to is Robert Nkemdiche. I watch him ... he’s a good player to me. It’s going to be like college because you are playing against people [who] can play like you so you have to come with your “A” game.”

The 6-foot-3, 323-pound Taylor is the No. 50 prospect overall and the No. 2 offensive guard in the class. He committed to Ole Miss over offers from Alabama, Florida, Florida State, Mississippi State, LSU, Georgia and many others.

Best SEC recruiters 

October, 15, 2013
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Editor's note: For a look at the national recruiter power rankings based only on Class of 2014 success, click here.

It's no secret that Southeastern Conference has been the top conference in the country as far as recruiting over the last several years. The league currently has six teams ranked in the top 11 of the team recruiting rankings. Here's a look at the top 10 recruiters around the ultra-competitive conference.

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SEC class rankings analysis 

October, 9, 2013
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Each Wednesday, ESPN RecruitingNation updates its national class rankings. For an in-depth look at the SEC, check out our conference rankings:

1. Alabama, 21 commits: The Crimson Tide sit atop the RecruitingNation class rankings with a class that features 15 ESPN 300 prospects, including most recent commitment Ronnie Clark (Calera, Ala./Calera), the No. 96 overall prospect. Alabama remains in the hunt for several five-star prospects, including No. 1 overall Leonard Fournette (New Orleans/Saint Augustine) and No. 9 Marlon Humphrey (Hoover, Ala./Hoover).


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SEC recruiting storylines: Aug. 22 

August, 22, 2013
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The college football season is only seven days away, but there is still a lot of recruiting action happening around the SEC. Here is a closer look at some of the hot topics throughout the conference:


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Wednesday, Ole Miss picked up a commitment from guard Rod Taylor (Jackson, Miss./Callaway). Read below to see how our scouts feel the Under Armour All-American will perform in the SEC:


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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.
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BEAVERTON, Ore. -- The Opening has concluded and it did not disappoint. The top prospects in the nation were invited to Nike headquarters to display their ability and compete against the best of the best.

RecruitingNation was on hand for every event to take in the happenings throughout the week. Here are a few storylines:

Who committed

Florida State landed two in-state prospects during the final day of The Opening on Wednesday: four-star offensive tackle Corey Martinez (Tampa, Fla./Tampa Catholic) and three-star safety Trey Marshall (Lake City, Fla./Columbia). Marshall was a finalist for the SPARQ national championships where he posted a 40-yard-dash time of 4.34 seconds. ESPN 300 linebacker Dillon Bates (Ponte Vedra, Fla./Ponte Vedra), son of former Tennessee Volunteers and Dallas Cowboys safety Bill Bates, verbally committed to the Vols. Four-star linebacker D.J. Calhoun (El Cerrito, Calif./El Cerrito) verbally committed to USC over UCLA.


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Thursday’s commitments from ESPN 300 wide receiver Armanti Foreman (Texas City, Texas/Texas High) and brother D'Onta Foreman gave the Longhorns 21 commitments in 2014, leaving them just a few more spots to fill.
Here are a look at five positions of need that could help Texas put a bow on this class.


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ESPN 150 OG Taylor talks Bama camp 

June, 18, 2013
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JACKSON, Miss. -- ESPN 150 offensive lineman Rod Taylor (Jackson, Miss./Calloway) has been camping at Alabama for years. He made a name for himself in Tuscaloosa when he was a freshman. Over the weekend, it didn’t matter that he was the nation’s No. 2 guard. He still went out and competed at the Crimson Tide’s OL/DL camp.

“It was good,” he said. “There was some good competition up there. It wasn’t like a normal camp. It was players who really can play.”


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Junior WR follows pal to Ole Miss 

February, 26, 2013
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Ole Miss has secured a pledge from 2014 wide receiver Dayall Harris (Jackson, Miss./Callaway), multiple sources report. His high school teammate, safety Ronald Walker, announced for the Rebels in December.

“I decided to commit because Ron had committed earlier,” Harris told the Jackson (Miss.) Clarion-Ledger. “We always talked about going to school together.”

Ole Miss was the first school to offer the 6-foot-3, 185-pound prospect. Mississippi State and Southern Miss were among the other programs expressing interest.

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