NCF On The Trail: Ronnie Clark

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With national signing day in the books, RecruitingNation is looking at which programs compiled the nation's best overall position classes in 2014. For the full top position classes series, click here.

Quarterbacks: Florida
The Florida Gators had a major need at quarterback in the Class of 2014, and Will Muschamp and staff more than filled it, signing two of the nation’s top signal-callers. Third-ranked dual-threat prospect Will Grier (Davidson, N.C./Davidson Day School) is already on campus and preparing for spring practice, while No. 7 dual-threat prospect Treon Harris (Miami/Booker T. Washington) was a huge signing-day flip from Florida State. Both prospects are great athletes who are accustomed to operating up-tempo offenses. This should also help newly hired offensive coordinator Kurt Roper, who will install a similar scheme in Gainesville.


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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:


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Updated ESPN 300: SEC analysis 

January, 14, 2014
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The high school football season and postseason All-Star games have come to a close. With the official ending of the Class of 2014’s high school careers, it’s time for the final ESPN 300.

Here’s a look at the biggest movers from prospects committed to or considering SEC programs.

[+] EnlargeBo Scarbrough
Miller Safrit/ESPNAlabama commit Bo Scarbrough climbed nine spots and, more importantly, became a five-star prospect in the final ESPN 300.
ATH Bo Scarbrough (Tuscaloosa, Ala./IMG Academy)
School: Alabama

Scarbrough may have only moved up nine spots from No. 21 to 12, but the jump was actually a huge one considering the 6-foot-2, 215-pound went from being ranked as a four-star prospects to finishing as one of 15 five-star prospects in the class. Scarbrough remains committed to the Crimson Tide despite officially visiting Ole Miss, Notre Dame and UCLA, while Florida State and Florida continue to make a push. Scarbrough makes his official visit to Alabama on Jan. 17. He remains the No. 2 athlete overall behind Speedy Noil (New Orleans/Edna Karr High).


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As expected, Day 2 at the Under Armour All-America practices were smoother, more concise and much more productive. The players are now starting to think less and play more. Natural ability is starting to come to the forefront, which allows for them to be more productive. There have been fewer dropped passes, fewer misses by the QBs and the offensive lines are starting to jell quicker than expected. Perhaps the most impressive thing about this group is there have not been any true letdowns. They have stepped up and been as advertised almost top to bottom for both squads. Let’s hit the highlights of the day:

Top performers

WR Cameron Sims (Monroe, La./Ouachita Parish): Sims might not wow anyone with his 40-yard dash time, but it may not matter. Sims is so similar to Mike Evans at Texas A&M. He just makes plays. He has extremely long arms and is outstanding when in contested matchups. The ball will look like it is uncatchable and then next thing you know he jumps out of nowhere, extends and makes a play and the defender is left scratching his head. When it comes down to it, the QBs for Team Highlight can trust that if they need to throw it up, Sims will make a play. The most basic thing about the position is catching the football and Sims has no problem doing that.


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UA Game jersey tour: Ronnie Clark

November, 1, 2013
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Calera, Ala. -- Four-star athlete Ronnie Clark (Calera, Ala./Calera) was presented his honorary Under Armour All-America Game jersey Thursday.

Clark, an Alabama commit, is one of 90 players selected to compete in the seventh-annual Under Armour All-America Game on Jan. 2 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla.

“I want to thank all the support, the whole school, community and teachers who have been behind me,” Clark said. “I also want to thank my coaches, my family, my mom and dad who’ve always been there for me helping me with my college decision,”

Calera High head coach Wiley McKeller says there is no way to replace what his star player has brought to Calera, on and off the field.

“I get asked a lot because it’s funny because the seasons not over yet, but I get asked a lot by media people and people in the community … what are you going to do when Ronnie is gone? How do you replace Ronnie Clark? The short answer is, you don’t. I tell him all the time I appreciate everything you do for our program, the way you carry yourself and not just athletically, but for being a great young man. And I really do appreciate it.”

The chance to play and practice against the best in the country is an honor Clark knows many would love to have, and he is taking advantage of it.

“I mean, you are on ESPN. You’re getting a chance to play against the top guys in the country,” Clark said. “Going down there, just competing and having fun. It’s a one time thing, a lot of kids don’t get to do and they would die to have the situation I’m in, and I’m blessed.”

The 6-foot-3, 210-pound Clark is the No. 100 ranked prospect overall, and the No. 12 athlete in the class. He committed to Alabama over Auburn, Clemson, LSU, USC, Tennessee and a number of others.

Weekly Commitment Roundup

October, 11, 2013
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AAC
Houston
Carter Wall OT Richmond, Texas/Navarro College
HT: 6-5 WT: 290
Positional Rank: N/A
Stars: Junior College Watch List

Rutgers
Taariq Cole OG Lido Beach, N.Y./Long Beach
HT: 6-6 WT: 370
Positional Rank: no. 63 OG
Stars: 3

Lamont Simmons CB Jacksonville, Fla./Raines
HT: 6-2 WT: 180
Positional Rank: No. 64 CB
Stars: 3

South Florida
Kendall Sawyer ATH Lehigh Acres, Fla./East Lee County
HT: 6-0 WT: 179
Positional Rank: No. 81 ATH
Stars: 3

ACC
Syracuse
Beau Benzschawel TE-Y Grafton, Wis./Grafton
HT: 6-5 WT: 250
Positional Rank: N/A
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Aaron Roberts OG Chicago/De La Salle
HT: 6-4 WT: 295
Positional Rank: #80 OG
Stars: 3

Virginia Tech
Ricky Walker DT Hampton, Va./Bethel
HT: 6-2 WT: 270
Positional Rank: No. 25 DT
Stars: 4

Big 12
Oklahoma State
Devante Averette ILB Iowa Falls, Iowa/Ellsworth CC
HT: 6-0 WT: 230
Positional Rank: N/A
Stars: Junior College Watch List

Big Ten
Illinois
Peter Cvijanovic OT Cleveland, Ohio/East Coast Prep
HT: 6-5 WT: 260
Positional Rank: N/A Post-Grad
Stars: 3

Iowa
Jalen Embry ATH Detroit/King
HT: 5-11 WT: 180
Positional Rank: No. 174 ATH
Stars: 3

Purdue
Timothy Cason II S Clarkston, Mich./Clarkston
HT: 6-0 WT: 179
Positional Rank: No. 80 S
Stars: 3

Wisconsin
Krenwick Sanders WR Jesup, Ga./Wayne County
HT: 6-2 WT: 185
Positional Rank: No. 74 WR
Stars: 3

Pac-12
Colorado
Jomon Dotson RB American Canyon, Calif./American Canyon
HT: 5-10 WT: 160
Positional Rank: No. 110 RB
Stars: 3

Oregon State
Drew Clarkson OG Camas, Wash./Camas
HT: 6-4 WT: 275
Positional Rank: No. 30 OG
Stars: 3

Jonathan Willis OLB Tulsa, Okla./Washington
HT: 6-1 WT: 210
Positional Rank: No. 108 OLB
Stars: 3

USC
Uchenna Nwosu OLB Harbor City, Calif./Narbonne
HT: 6-2 WT: 195
Positional Rank: No. 76 OLB
Stars: 3

Washington
Natrell Curtis OG Phoenix/Mountain Pointe
HT: 6-2 WT: 304
Positional Rank: No. 21 OG
Stars: 4

SEC
Alabama
Ronnie Clark ATH Calera, Ala./Calera
HT: 6-3 WT: 210
Positional Rank: No. 12 ATH
Stars: 4
ESPN 300 (No. 96)
Under Armour All-American

Auburn
Xavier Dampeer OG Mendenhall, Miss./Copiah-Lincoln CC
HT: 6-3 WT: 300
Positional Rank: N/A
Stars: Junior College Watch List

Mississippi State
Jesse Jackson WR Petal, Miss./Petal
HT: 6-1 WT: 195
Positional Rank: No. 11 WR
Stars: 4
ESPN 300 (No. 93)
Under Armour All-American

C-USA
Marshall
Tomell One DT Palm Bay, Fla./Bayside
HT: 6-3 WT: 278

Mountain West
Colorado State
Demontrie Taylor OLB Denton, Texas/Guyer
HT: 5-11 WT: 185

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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Weekend recruiting wrap: SEC 

October, 7, 2013
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There was plenty of recruiting news in the Southeastern Conference over the weekend. Tennessee hosted several visitors for its exciting game against Georgia, and there were some impressive high school performances as well. Here is the latest news around the SEC.

Biggest commitment: Alabama beat out rival Auburn for Ronnie Clark, the No. 12 athlete and No. 96 overall prospect in the Class of 2014. The Tide continue to have a stronghold on the No. 1-ranked recruiting class in the country. Alabama now has 21 verbal commitments, including 15 who are ranked in the ESPN 300.


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In the class of 2014, the beat definitely goes on for Alabama. Already out to sizeable lead in the ESPN RecruitingNation class rankings, the Crimson Tide added yet another ESPN 300 prospect in Ronnie Clark (Calera, Al./Calera High) on Friday.

Ronnie Clark
Greg Ostendorf/ESPNRonnie Clark chose Alabama over in-state rival Auburn.
In the 6-foot-3, 210-pound Clark, Alabama is getting the No. 96 overall and the No. 12 athlete in the ESPN 300, who projects as an outside linebacker in Alabama’s 3-4 scheme.

While Clark entertained offers from the likes of Georgia, Clemson, LSU, Southern California, South Carolina, Tennessee and others, this was an in-state recruiting victory for Nick Saban and staff, who beat out in-state rival Auburn for the Under Armour All-America selection.

Clark is one of the most versatile players in the class at the high school level, having played significant time on both sides of the ball as a sophomore, junior and now senior.

The commitment is Alabama's 21st in the 2014 class, including the 15th ESPN 300 pledge, and the Crimson Tide are not done. Five-star prospects Leonard Fournette (New Orleans, La./Saint Augustine High), No. 4 Da’Shawn Hand (Woodbridge, Va./Woodbridge High), No. 7 Myles Garrett (Arlington, Texas/James Martin High), No. 9 Marlon Humphrey (Hoover, Al./Hoover High), No. 11 Lorenzo Carter (Norcross, Ga./Norcross High), No. 13 Tony Brown (Beaumont, Texas/Ozen High) and no. 14 Raekwon McMillan (Hinesville, Ga./Liberty County High) are all scheduled or expected to make official visits to Tuscaloosa before making decisions.

As usual, the Crimson Tide get it done on the recruiting trail both in-state and nationally. The class is currently made up of commitments from 12 states.

ESPN 300 prospects committed to Alabama
No. 3 Cameron Robinson (Monroe, La./West Monroe High), the No. 1 ranked offensive tackle
No. 20 Bo Scarbrough (Bradenton, Fla./IMG Acadmy), No. 2 athlete
No. 32 David Cornwell (Norman, Ok./Norman North High), No. 2 pocket passer
No. 44 Kalvaraz Bessent (Kingsland, Ga./Camden County High), No. 7 cornerback
No. 48 Ross Pierschbacher (Cedar Falls, Ia./Cedar Falls High), No. 1 offensive guard
No. 61 Christian Miller (Columbia, S.C./Spring Vallery High), No. 1 outside linebacker
No. 63 Cameron Sims (Monroe, La./Ouachita Parish High), No. 6 wide receiver
No. 83 Stephen Roberts (Opelika, Al./Opelika High), No. 11 cornerback
No. 96 Ronnie Clark (Calera, Al./Calera High), No. 8 athlete
No. 98 Shaun Dion Hamilton (Montgomery, Al./Carver High), No. 6 inside linebacker
No. 117 Viane Talamaivao (Corona, Calif./Centennial High), No. 6 offensive guard
No. 202 Derek Kief (Cincinnati, Oh./La Salle High), No. 20 wide receiver
No. 217 Zach Whitley (Houston/North Shore High), No. 9 inside linebacker
No. 218 O.J. Smith (Bossier, La./Airline High), No. 18 defensive tackle
No. 246 J.C. Hassenauer (Woodbury, Mn./East Ridge High), No. 2 center
The Crimson Tide won an in-state recruiting battle Friday, securing the pledge of Under Armour All-American athlete Ronnie Clark (Calera, Ala./Calera). Read below to see how our scouts feel Clark will fit into Alabama's plans.

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SEC recruiting mailbag

October, 4, 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 or @HamiltonESPN and use the hashtag #SECRecruiting.

@superBowl: Where do you think Josh Malone (Gallatin, Tenn./Station Camp) goes? Vols, Dawgs, someone else?

Derek Tyson: I believe this will be a great recruiting battle between the two schools you mentioned. He visited Georgia last weekend and by all accounts really was impressed with the the Bulldogs had to offer. Now it will be Tennessee's turn to impress the ESPN 300 wide receiver. Florida State is still in the mix and he will officially visit the Noles on Nov. 2, but at this point I believe this will be a Georgia-Tennessee battle. In my opinion I believe Georgia has a slight advantage, but if the Vols can impress him this weekend, then things could swing in their direction.


@chadhoward0808: Where do you think Lorenzo Featherston is going?

DT: I feel like Clemson is probably the team to beat right now. He will officially visit Florida this weekend, and his parents are torn between North Carolina and NC State. Georgia is another team that is in the mix, but when all is said and done, I think the 6-foot-7, 203-pound defensive end will end up at Clemson.


@nathan0223: What's the story with Jamal Adams (Lewisville, Texas/Hebron)

DT: Adams, the 25th-ranked player in the country, has already visited Texas A&M and Florida and those two schools appear to be out front of everyone else -- though he doesn't come out and say that publicly. He will visit Ole Miss on Oct. 18, Ohio State on Oct. 25 and his final visit will be to Texas on Nov. 15. As we all know, things can change on a dime in recruiting, but at this point I think the Gators are the team to beat, with A&M right there as well.


@Ctomemobile: It seems like there hasn't been any recruiting buzz coming from the plains in East Alabama. Any news?

DT: Auburn has put together a solid class, but yes, things have slowed down a bit on the plains. The Tigers, however, offered wide receiver three-star wide receiver Myron Burton Jr. (Suwanee, Ga./Peachtree Ridge) earlier this week and Auburn appears to be high on his list, especially considering his father Myron Sr. played at Auburn. The Tigers will also have a big visitor in ESPN 300 wide receiver Jesse Jackson (Petal, Miss./Petal) this weekend. Auburn is in a battle with Mississippi State and Ole Miss for Jackson. ESPN 300 athlete Ronnie Clark (Calera, Ala./Calera) is set to make his decision sometime on Friday and it will likely come down to Auburn or Alabama.


@catorano: Do you see that A&M joining the SEC has helped other schools come into Texas to recruit?

DT: Maybe to an extent. It certainly hasn't hurt, but SEC schools have always tried come in to Texas and pull some of the top players, with limited success. Two big Texas prospects -- Jamal Adams (Lewisville, Texas/Hebron) and Tony Brown (Beaumont, Texas/Ozen) -- have some ties to SEC schools, which is maybe why they are looking harder at some SEC schools.. LSU has always been able to recruit well in the Longhorn State because of proximity. I do think that the longer Texas A&M is in the SEC, the more it will help, just because recruits will get to see these big SEC games that involve the Aggies and will be exposed to other schools and SEC venues.
The athlete category can be very tricky to project as so many prospects now are playing as Wildcat QB’s with the majority moving to either the secondary, wide receiver or running back. Players in this category likely play on both sides of the ball on a consistent basis with the upside to play on either at the next level which gives them excellent value, but also can hinder their developmental progress because they have not focused all their time at one position heading into college. Below are five athletes that we feel confident will end up on defense.

ATH John “JuJu” Smith

Smith
Smith
Long Beach, Calif./Poly | Highlights Video | List of schools considering
6-1, 206 pounds | ESPN 300 Rank: 41 | ATH Rank: 3 | Stars: 4

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- When ESPN 300 safeties C.J. Hampton (Meridian, Miss./Meridian) and Laurence 'Hootie' Jones (Monroe, La./Neville) competed at Alabama’s camp last month, it was no accident that the two were placed on the same 7-on-7 team or that they worked out back-to-back in the same drills. They were around each other all week.

The UA staff strategically placed the two prospects together to form a bond that could potentially lead to a package deal for the Crimson Tide. And why not? The two are perfect complements to one another in the secondary.


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Summer recruit wrap: Alabama 

July, 23, 2013
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The summer is almost over. The majority of camps are complete as schools have turned their focus to the beginning of the season. For Alabama, the camp season resulted in a handful of new commitments as well a plethora of new scholarship offers extended to 2014, 2015 and even some 2016 prospects.

This week, we take a look at the top 10 storylines and trends from the summer and look ahead to what’s next for the Crimson Tide.

[+] EnlargeCameron Robinson
Tom Hauck for Student SportsAlabama is battling for OT Cameron Robinson who put on a dominating performance at The Opening.
1. Camps focus on rebuilding the line

The camp season affects all positions, but the best evaluation comes from the 1-on-1 drills between the offensive and defensive linemen. Alabama used its camps to find talent up front as the staff looks to rebuild both lines. ESPN 300 offensive guard Viane Talamaivao (Corona, Calif./Centennial) committed to the Tide in late May before the camps began. Since that point, Alabama has added three more offensive linemen including center prospect J.C. Hassenauer (Woodbury, Minn./East Ridge), one of the stars of The Opening. On defense, Johnny Dwight (Rochelle, Ga./Wilcox County) was one of the top performers from the first camp. He earned an offer and committed on spot.


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Alabama’s 2014 class is beginning to take shape. After a busy June, the class has moved up to No. 2 nationally in the latest class rankings. But the defending champs are not just bringing in talent; they’re also filling needs.

In the last month, they have added depth up front on both the offensive line and defensive line. They also found their quarterback in this class and a punter who will likely take over right away. Still, with more than 10 spots left in the class, there are needs to be addressed.

In this week’s top 10 list, we look at the top five positions of need for the Crimson Tide between now and signing day.

Offensive tackle

Alabama landed a potential instant impact player last week when junior college offensive lineman Dominick Jackson (San Mateo, Calif./College of San Mateo) committed to the Tide. The 6-foot-6, 310-pound prospect has the ability to play either tackle or guard when he gets to Tuscaloosa. However, the staff is still looking for that prototypical left tackle to replace current starter Cyrus Kouandjio if he decides to go to the NFL early. The top option is five-star Cameron Robinson (West Monroe, La./West Monroe), who has already narrowed his list to Alabama and LSU. If Robinson stays in state, the Tide could also look at ESPN 300 offensive tackles Damian Prince (Forestville, Md./Bishop McNamara) or Roderick Johnson (Florissant, Mo./Hazelwood).

Outside linebacker

It’s no secret that Alabama wants at least one impact pass rusher in this class. The Tide struggled to get to the quarteback at times last year, and they want to continue to address that need. Five-star defensive ends Lorenzo Carter (Norcross, Ga./Norcross) and Da’Shawn Hand (Woodbridge, Va./Woodbridge) currently top the list. Carter would play outside linebacker for Alabama; Hand could either play on the line or at the Jack linebacker position. The staff is also high on former Florida commitment Christian Miller (Columbia, S.C./Spring Valley) and ESPN 300 defensive end Solomon Thomas (Coppell, Texas/Coppell). The latter recently visited Tuscaloosa and put the Tide in his top eight.

Safety


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