NCF On The Trail: Ross Pierschbacher



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.

Top position classes: OL 

February, 20, 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)
Not only did Alabama put together the best offensive line class in the 2014 cycle, but it's also one of the best in recent memory. The Crimson Tide inked early enrollee and five-star offensive tackle Cameron Robinson (Monroe, La./West Monroe) and also got top-ranked junior college offensive tackle Dominick Jackson (San Mateo, Calif./College of San Mateo). On the interior, the nation's top two centers, No. 168 overall Josh Casher (Mobile, Ala./Saint Paul’s Episcopal) and No. 190 J.C. Hassenauer (Woodbury, Minn./East Ridge) signed, as did No. 3 guard Ross Pierschbacher (Cedar Falls, Iowa/Cedar Falls). A second guard in the class is three-star Montel McBride (Plant City, Fla./Plant City), who could also play nose tackle at the next level.

The Crimson Tide had the nation’s best offensive line class; here’s which schools had the best in each of the remaining power conferences:


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Signing day: Big 12 wrapup

February, 5, 2014
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As hectic of a day as it was, national signing day was a success for all Big 12 programs. Coaches were up early manning their fax machines and showing excitement with every national letter of intent submitted via fax.

Nearly 250 football players signed letters of intent to play Big 12 football on Wednesday. Here are five of the biggest storylines -- and a bonus storyline that could have an ending Thursday -- from the conference.

Oklahoma takes over top spot in Big 12

In the past 48 hours, everything seemed to go Oklahoma’s way.

[+] EnlargeMichiah Quick
Courtesy of Nike ESPN 300 ATH Michiah Quick was a big part of Oklahoma's final rush, a rush that gave the Sooners the top class in the Big 12.
After getting a Tuesday commitment from ESPN 300 safety Steven Parker II (Jenks, Okla./Jenks), the Sooners got Wednesday pledges from ESPN 300 athlete Michiah Quick (Fresno, Calif./Central East) and high three-star offensive tackles Kenyon Frison (West Valley City, Utah/Granger) and Orlando Brown Jr. (Duluth, Ga./Peachtree Ridge).

All four players were a part of Oklahoma’s signing class of 26 on Wednesday -- helping the Sooners take over the top spot in the Big 12 class rankings. Oklahoma’s class is No. 13 nationally, three spots better than previous top dog Texas.

Oklahoma in previous years has been very good at finishing strong in recruiting. It managed to sign Frison, who committed to Utah last February before decommitting last month, as well as Brown, who had been committed to Tennessee since May before making an 11th-hour change.

Strong, Longhorns get their DTs

New Texas coach Charlie Strong wanted two players he recruited to play at Louisville, and by Wednesday afternoon, he had them.

ESPN 300 defensive tackle Poona Ford (Hilton Head, S.C./Hilton Head) and three-star defensive tackle Chris Nelson (Lakeland, Fla./Victory Christian Academy) signed with the Longhorns and were two of 23 to submit national letters of intent. They also helped erase the sting of the Longhorns losing three four-star defensive tackle commitments in LSU signee Trey Lealaimatafao (San Antonio/Warren), Oklahoma signee Courtney Garnett (New Orleans/St. Augustine) and Texas A&M signee Zaycoven Henderson (Longview, Texas/Longview) last month.

Collectively, Ford and Nelson recorded 235 tackles, 9.5 sacks, 35 quarterback pressures and four forced fumbles. The duo also had 37.5 tackles for loss.

Receivers ‘No. 1’ to Baylor coach

Baylor coach Art Briles made a bold statement about his new wide receivers -- one that might be challenged by some but co-signed by others.

“The thing that we feel really good about,” Briles said, “is that we've signed the No. 1 receiving class in America -- I don't think that's up for debate.”

Briles has an argument with four ESPN 300 receivers in K.D. Cannon (Mount Pleasant, Texas/Mount Pleasant), Davion Hall (Texarkana, Texas/Liberty-Eylau), Ishmael Zamora (Houston/Alief Elsik) and Chris Platt (Willis, Texas/Willis). The quartet helped to give Baylor a top-25 national recruiting class.

Rhoads fired up about lone in-state signee

To say Paul Rhoads is excited about his top-ranked signee, ESPN 300 wide receiver Allen Lazard (Urbandale, Iowa/Urbandale) is an understatement.

While Rhoads is pumped about the entire class, there’s something special about Lazard, as he is this year’s only in-state signee. Lazard, No. 148 in the ESPN 300, had opportunities to sign with other programs, but he chose to honor his original commitment and also follow the footsteps of his father Kevin Lazard, who played in the secondary for the Cyclones in the early 1990s.

“This is a young man who has gotten phenomenal national attention and was recruited by the traditional historical programs in college football and kept on turning them away to stay true to his word to be an Iowa State Cyclone,” Rhoads said in a statement of Lazard, the No. 2 prospect out of the state of Iowa behind Alabama offensive lineman signee Ross Pierschbacher (Cedar Falls, Iowa/Cedar Falls).

West Virginia adds depth in class

Adding depth was the objective for West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen, as he signed 22 players on Wednesday. Holgorsen was fortunate to add depth from coast to coast.

Of the 22 commits, only one -- three-star offensive tackle Amanii Brown (Morgantown, W.Va./Morgantown) -- is an in-state signee. The Mountaineers hit points all over the Lower 48, from California to Texas to Florida, to get players who can be contributors early and help the program return to star status.

West Virginia’s class is led by five ESPN 300 players. Running back Donte Thomas-Williams (Durham, N.C./Hillside), the class’ top-ranked player, was the last to commit early Wednesday afternoon. He joins defensive back Dravon Henry (Aliquippa, Pa./Aliquippa), linebacker Davonte James (Springfield, Ohio/Springfield) and receivers Lamar Parker (Miami/Booker T. Washington) and Jake McCrary (Miami/Coral Reef) in the class.

Bonus: Could the Sooners add one more?

LSU signed 22 players on Wednesday. The Tigers were hoping to sign 23.

Deondre Clark (Oklahoma City/Douglass) has been verbally committed to LSU since July, but the ESPN 300 defensive end also has high interest in Oklahoma. There were conflicting reports on Wednesday regarding whether Clark actually signed and submitted his letter of intent to LSU.

ESPN’s David Ching said an LSU spokesperson confirmed the letter of intent was at LSU and cleared compliance. Outside reports, however, say Clark did not submit the letter of intent, and a tweet from Clark's Twitter account said that “nothing is final.” His mother Dorshell also told The Oklahoman that her son “has not signed with LSU.”

Oklahoma City schools were closed on Wednesday because of bad weather, so Clark didn’t fax anything by way of Douglass High School. He is expected to announce his final decision on Thursday.

If it's true that Clark has not signed with LSU, look for Oklahoma to be a key player in his final decision. Ranked No. 273 in the ESPN 300, Clark has built a great relationship with the Sooners' coaching staff, particularly defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery.

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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Alabama’s season might not have ended the way the Crimson Tide wanted -- and let’s face it, anything short of a national championship was going to be disappointing -- but they still finished 11-2.

Off the field, Alabama has continued its recruiting dominance in the 2014 cycle. The Crimson Tide currently have the No. 1 class and still have a chance to have a strong finish. With signing a month away, here’s a closer look where the Tide stand in recruiting.


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The practices are in the books and now is the time for the nation’s top prospects to showcase their skills under the bright lights of the Under Armour All-America game (4 p.m. Thursday, ESPN). With an outstanding collection of talent taking the field, it can be easy to feel a football sensory overload. No matter where you look, you will see a promising prospect in action, but to help guide your focus, we put together a few viewing tips. You can’t go wrong wherever your eyes take you on the field, but the following could be a good place to start.

If you want to know where next year's top college freshmen will play …


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The 2014 Under Armour All-America game week has arrived, and the collection of talent is outstanding, with a roster that consists of nearly 90 ESPN 300 prospects, including 13 five-star recruits.

Throughout the week there will be plenty of electrifying plays and great battles. Below are some of the matchups to keep an eye on during the practices and the game (Jan. 2, ESPN, 4 p.m. ET).

OT Cameron Robinson (West Monroe, La.) vs. DE Myles Garrett (Arlington, Texas/James Martin)
Robinson and Garrett are the top-rated players at their respective positions and among the top five nationally, setting the stage for some great battles throughout the week of practice. With both possessing prototypical measurables for their positions, the tale of the tape portrays a heavyweight-like showdown.

In Robinson, you have a nimble big man capable of protecting the edge. The Alabama verbal can set quickly with knee bend, get hands on and mirror rushers. He also displays some nastiness and a competitive nature. In Garrett, you have a defender with an impressive combination of size, initial quickness and athleticism. As a pass-rusher, the Texas A&M verbal possesses the ability to attack blockers in multiple ways and keep them guessing. When these two line up across from each other, neither will be able to rely on his size and natural ability alone. Robinson will need to be sound in technique, and Garrett will need to have a plan. Both will need to bring their A-games.

WR Ermon Lane (Miami/Homestead) vs. CB Tony Brown (Beaumont, Texas/Ozen)
Players at these two positions often are challenged the least during their high school careers; they are often the best skilled athlete on the field and can get away with being undisciplined or taking chances because they compensate by being athletically superior. Brown and Lane are going to find out what they are made of in one-on-one situations, because the defenses will be in man coverage the entire week. In 2008, Janoris Jenkins and Julio Jones matched up on the first day of practice, and Jones got stunned for the first few reps. That relationship created an incredibly competitive environment.

When I think of competitive, Tony Brown comes to mind. He also will be confident. Lane must bring his best stuff and use his size and strength to make plays in tight quarters. It is always fun to see who sinks and who swims. When you get beat, do you sulk and go in the tank or do you rise up and play the next down? Something tells me these two will battle in quite a few contested matchups during the week.

OG Ross Pierschbacher (Cedar Falls, Iowa/Cedar Falls) vs. DT Andrew Brown (Chesapeake, Va./Frommel Smith)
With a wealth of talent along the offensive and defensive lines, the trenches will provide some great matchups all week. A great battle to watch inside will be between No. 1 defensive tackle Brown and top-rated guard Pierschbacher. Brown, who is committed to Virginia, is an explosive player capable of being a handful as a pass-rusher, while Alabama verbal Pierschbacher can be a tenacious blocker. Working around Pierschbacher could be tough, as he can set quickly and move easily laterally, though with a nice combination of size and power, Brown could challenge Pierschbacher with his bull rush.

DE Chad Thomas (Miami/Booker T. Washington) vs. OT Jamarco Jones (Chicago/De La Salle Institute
In a class that features very few true pass-rushers but several topflight run-stoppers, DE Chad Thomas likely will stand out in one-on-one situations. He will be one of the best natural pass-rushers in the 2014 Under Armour All-America game. Conversely, Jamarco Jones is one of the more athletic big men in attendance, but as with most young offensive tackles, he can be raw and technically unrefined. This is where the offense is at a distinct disadvantage. Thomas will be able to pin his ears back and go with an athletic edge between the two. Jones will have to pay close attention to his feet, balance, bend and lateral agility to hold up against Thomas' speed and explosive first step. However, where Jones can shut down Thomas is by using his strength and getting his hands on Thomas quickly. Thomas is undersized and lacks lower-body strength, which Jones must take advantage of to try to frustrate Thomas off the edge.

ATH Speedy Noil (New Orleans/Edna Karr) vs. CB Jabrill Peppers (Paramus, N.J./Paramus Catholic)
When the paths of these two five-stars cross at the UA game, it will be a meeting of players with outstanding athleticism. Both could line up at multiple positions and have an impact, but No. 1 CB Peppers will be roaming the secondary, while top-rated athlete Noil will be lining up at receiver. Peppers is a fluid athlete with good size and great speed and can be a lockdown corner.

With Noil, the name Speedy pretty much sums it up, as the kid can fly. He fills multiple roles for his high school and thus is still a bit limited in experience at receiver, but he possesses soft hands and is a talented athlete with a bit of a natural feel for the position. If he isn't sharp in his route running, creating separation against Peppers could be tough, but if Noil can get his hands on the ball, he can be very dangerous in the open field. These are two playmakers capable of bringing out the best in each other and providing an exciting matchup.

QB-PP Morgan Mahalak (Kentfield, Calif./Marin Catholic) vs. Defensive secondary
Unfortunately, we have had four of our six Under Armour All-America game quarterbacks go down with injuries this fall. The bright side is that this provides opportunities for other worthy signal-callers, including Mahalak. We chose Mahalak vs. the entire secondary because this is going to be a significant jump in talent and speed for him when it comes to timing, anticipation and accuracy. In fact, this will be the biggest adjustment for all the quarterbacks.

Mahalak is a wonderful athlete and an instinctive player who spent time as a wide receiver and kick returner before becoming a full-time quarterback as a senior. But he actually hasn't played all that much, since he played on a dominant team that rarely gave him many snaps after halftime of games. The likes of J.C. Jackson (Immokalee, Fla./Immokalee), Tony Brown (Beaumont, Texas/Ozen) and S Jamal Adams (Lewisville, Texas/Hebron), among others, will provide a great measuring stick for Mahalak and all the quarterbacks.

TE Jeb Blazevich (Charlotte, N.C./Charlotte Christian) vs. S Jamal Adams (Lewisville, Texas/Hebron)
Both rated No. 3 at their respective positions, these two could make for some hard-fought battles in practice. Adams plays smart, fast and physical, and making plays against this top-25 prospect can be tough for any target, including Blazevich. While getting open against the talented safety will be challenging, Blazevich still can present a tough matchup. The Georgia commit has the size advantage, which can allow him to make the play in jump-ball situations. He has strong hands and good body control to adjust to passes, and even when covered he still can make the grab. Lastly, while he might not be able to run away from Adams, he displays some savvy as a route runner that could help him to create separation at times.

WR Travis Rudolph (West Palm Beach, Fla./Cardinal Newman) vs. CB Adoree' Jackson (Gardena, Calif./Serra)
This is a matchup of perhaps the best route runner and set of ball skills (Rudolph) against the best pure cover corner when it comes to explosive quickness (Jackson) this game has to offer. Rudolph is a technician when it comes to route running. He consistently understands leverage, attacks alignment, eats up cushion, stays low and perhaps most important snaps his head around to be prepared for the football. As expected, this will force Jackson to employ the same level of discipline in man coverage, as he will not be able to rely solely on his superior skill set. Rudolph is really skilled at creating separation, and Jackson has proved he can close the gap. Something has to give. One thing is for sure, Jackson's coverage likely will be in place, but can he make plays on the ball against a player who relishes contested matchups? This is going to be a fun one-on-one to watch.

Bama adds No. 1-ranked C Casher

October, 29, 2013
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Alabama continued to strengthen its No. 1-ranked recruiting class on Tuesday night by adding a commitment from Under Armour All-American Josh Casher (Mobile, Ala./Saint Paul’s Episcopal), the No. 1-ranked center in the country.

The No. 183 player in the ESPN 300, in somewhat of a surprise, chose Alabama over Florida State and Auburn. His commitment was first reported by Rivals.com and several other media outlets.

Auburn was thought to have the inside track for the four-star offensive lineman. The Tigers' co-offensive coordinator, Dameyune Craig, recruited Casher’s older brother Chris while Craig was an assistant at Florida State and knows the Casher family well. Josh Casher was even previously committed to Auburn before backing off his pledge in July. Casher also has a high school teammate, Tre' Williams, that committed to Auburn.

But it wasn't meant to be for the Tigers.

For Alabama, the rich get richer. The offensive line class the Crimson Tide is putting together is arguably the best position group in the country.

The Tide have commitments from Cameron Robinson (Monroe, La./West Monroe), the No. 1-ranked offensive tackle in the country, Ross Pierschbacher (Cedar Falls, Iowa/Cedar Falls), the No. 1-ranked guard, and now the top two centers in Casher and J.C. Hassenauer (Woodbury, Minn./East Ridge).

With Casher and Hassenauer now in the fold, Alabama could move one of the two prospects to guard.

Alabama now has 22 commitments, including an impressive 17 that are ranked in the ESPN 300. The Tide have six offensive line commitments and could sign as many as eight OL in this class.

Casher is one of only five in-state commitments for the Crimson Tide.


There are still a ton of prospects on the board for Big Ten teams, so conference recruiting reporters Tom VanHaaren and Brad Bournival take a look at the best and worst case scenarios remaining for each team.

Illinois
Best-case scenario: Illinois picked up an offensive line commit on Monday with Peter Cvijanovic (Great Barrington, Mass./East Coast Prep), which gives the Illini two offensive line commits. Despite having four wide receiver commits on board, it looks like the staff would take another receiver in this class.

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Top ranked offensive guard Ross Pierschbacher (Cedar Falls, Ia./Cedar Falls High) was presented his honorary game jersey during the American Family Insurance Selection Tour for the 2014 Under Armour All-America High School Football Game at Cedar Falls High School in Cedar Falls, Iowa, on Friday.

“I would to thank, first of all, God,” Pierschbacher said. “My family, friends, teammates, coaches, and this community and also Under Armour for letting me be in this event, so thank you,”

A true competitor, playing against the best of the best is what Pierschbacher is looking forward to the most.

“The daily challenges, the grind, just being around those guys is what I’m most looking forward to. You know, just being around the best players in the country … nothing like it. The competition will be very high, and it will be a lot of fun,” he said.

Pierschbacher is the No. 48 ranked prospect overall, and the No. 1 offensive guard. He committed to Alabama on Aug. 11 after decommiting from Iowa.

Pierschbacher is one of 90 players selected to compete in the seventh-annual Under Armour All-America Game presented by American Family Insurance, a nationally televised competition spotlighting the country’s top high school seniors. The 2014 Under Armour All-America Game is set for 4 p.m. ET Jan. 2 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., and will be televised on ESPN.

Best SEC classes by position 

September, 10, 2013
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Top to bottom, the Southeastern Conference is recruiting better than any conference in the country. Thirteen of 14 SEC schools are ranked in the top 40 of the recruiting rankings, including six schools ranked in the top 10. Here's a closer look at which SEC school has the top recruiting classes at each position.

Quarterback
Strongest class: Alabama
This is the hardest position to determine who has the strongest class. Four of the top-five quarterbacks in the final Elite 11 rankings -- Sean White (Auburn), Kyle Allen (Texas A&M), Will Grier (Florida) and Jacob Park (Georgia) -- are committed to SEC schools. Alabama, however has the top-ranked quarterback, David Cornwell (Norman, Okla./Norman North) in the ESPN 300. The Under Armour All-American is the 32nd-ranked player in the nation. At 6-foot-5, 241-pounds, Cornwell has a big-time arm and ideal size for the position.

Running back

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We’re moving into Week 2 of the college football season and there wasn’t much movement in terms of recruiting. Here is a look at some trends and questions going into the weekend for the Big Ten conference.

Trending up:

Brad Bournival: Michigan State. Even though the Spartans didn’t move up in the rankings, the green-and-white have plenty of big-time visitors slated to attend this weekend’s game against South Florida. ESPN 300 athlete Montae Nicholson (Monroeville, Pa./Gateway) is the biggest of the bunch, but he’ll be joined by ESPN Junior 300 running back Larry Scott (Hubbard, Ohio/Hubbard), 2015 cornerback Tyson Smith (Bloomfield, Mich./St. Mary’s Prep) and 2016 offensive tackle Thiyo Lukusa (Traverse City, Mich./Traverse City West), as well as 2014 commits Matt Sokol (Rochester Hills, Mich./Adams), Deon Drake Jr. (Detroit/Cass Tech), Jalen Watts-Jackson (Orchard Lake, Mich./St. Mary’s Prep) and David Beedle (Clarkston, Mich./Clarkston).

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SEC class rankings analysis 

August, 14, 2013
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This was another big recruiting week in the Southeastern Conference. One school, Florida, moved up in to the top 10 while another, LSU, barely dropped out. Alabama is back a familiar spot in the rankings and the SEC 13-out-of-14 teams ranked in the top 40 of the rankings. Here's a closer look at the updated rankings.


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Big Ten class rankings analysis 

August, 14, 2013
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The latest ESPN recruiting class rankings are out, and seven Big Ten teams are ranked among the top 40 classes.

With movement happening across the board, trends and stories are developing. Big Ten recruiting writers Brad Bournival and Tom VanHaaren give you a look at what to watch within the conference:


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video
Some big-name schools got some great news on Sunday when Damien Mama (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco) broke down his favorites.

The No. 3 offensive guard in the nation and 56th overall player in the ESPN 300, Mama has already scheduled two official visits and has Alabama, BYU, Florida, Notre Dame, Ohio State, UCLA, USC and Wisconsin among his top eight.

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