NCF On The Trail: Royce Freeman

Top position classes: RBs 

February, 11, 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)
Tennessee went into the 2014 class with a gigantic future need at running back, and coach Butch Jones and staff delivered for Volunteers fans in a big way. The Vols' running back haul includes not only ESPN 300 backs Jalen Hurd (Hendersonville, Tenn./Beech) and Derrell Scott (Havelock, N.C./Havelock) but also four-star Treyvon Paulk (Alpharetta, Ga./Milton). With different body types, styles and strengths, Tennessee added talent and depth for years to come as well as many different skill sets within the position. Hurd is tall, lean and chock-full of speed, athleticism and versatility, and Scott is a slasher with excellent ball skills out of the backfield. Paulk is a compact, downhill back with leg drive and power.

The Volunteers had the nation's best RB class; here's which schools had the best in each of the remaining power conferences:

Want to ask ESPN RecruitingNation senior analyst Tom Luginbill a question about your team? Tweet it to @TomLuginbill using the hashtag #AskLoogs.




It is a bit too early to tell or give specifics on who will drop or rise in their star status. This is still being calculated but here are some names that we feel will climb. As always, when some guys rise, others may drop due to no fault of their own.

It’s just the nature of rankings. As you know we are very cautious about assigning five stars as there aren’t as many out there as some services would lead you to believe. If there were there would be 30-40 true freshman making an impact every year and there aren't.

CB Tony Brown (Beaumont, Texas/Ozen)- Possible top 10 and 5th star
ATH Bo Scarborough (Bradenton, Fla./IMG)- Possible top 10 and 5th star
TE Bryce Dixon (Ventura, Calif./St. Bonaventure)
ATH JuJu Smith (Long Beach, Calif./Poly)
QB-DT Brandon Harris (Bossier City, La./Parkway)
RB Joe Mixon (Oakley, Calif./Freedom)
RB Royce Freeman (Imperial, Calif.)
QB Sean White (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./University School of Nova South)

Weekend recruiting wrap: Pac-12 

January, 6, 2014
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It was a very busy weekend in the Pac-12, as several programs picked up recruits during the various All-American games across the country.

Biggest commitment: Five conference teams added commitments since last Thursday, and all will likely play a big role in shaping classes on signing day.

Arizona got an early start on the weekend, as the Wildcats grabbed two huge commitments this past Thursday with ESPN 300 cornerback Jalen Tabor (Washington, D.C./Friendship Collegiate Academy) -- the No. 15 overall prospect in the nation -- and former USC commit and ESPN 300 offensive tackle Jordan Poland (La Jolla, Calif./La Jolla Country Day).

Arizona State landed a commitment from two-way lineman Kammy Delp (Pomona, Calif./Diamond Ranch) during the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl on Sunday. Delp will still visit other programs, but if he sticks with Arizona State, he'll provide a boost at defensive tackle.


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Movers, shakers in updated ESPN 300

October, 29, 2013
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The Class of 2014 has had two months to show what it’s made of on the field. How are the nation’s elite prospects faring as we approach signing day? Here’s a look at the biggest names and notes from the most recent update of the ESPN 300:

The Big Movers

No. 37 Clifton Garrett (Plainfield, Ill./Plainfield South), ILB
Prior ranking: No. 59
The 6-foot-2, 224-pound Garrett jumped more than 20 spots in the rankings as he has added bulk to his frame, and at the same time retaining quickness and his fast-filling, downhill ability. Garrett has impact-type ability with a blend of lateral quickness, discipline and a nose for the ball.

Davion Hall
Max Olson/ESPNAthlete Davion Hall, who is committed to Baylor, jumped 30 spots in the latest update of the ESPN 300.
No. 45 Davion Hall (Texarkana, Texas/Liberty-Eylau), ATH
Prior ranking: No. 75
The 6-2, 194-pound Hall is one of the most impressive athletes in the class. He has a long, stoutly-built frame, is explosive, has physicality filling the alley at safety and very good ball skills at receiver. When he settles into one position at the next level, his upside is very high.

No. 64 Nick Chubb (Cedartown, Ga./Cedartown), RB
Prior ranking: No. 106
The Georgia commit is putting together a sensational senior campaign with more than 2,000 yards and 29 touchdowns through eight games. The 5-11, 217-pound tailback continues to add strength to his compact body structure while maintaining his speed, overall athleticism and ability to bend.

No. 70 Chad Thomas (Miami/Booker T. Washington), DE
Prior ranking: No. 125
The Miami commit has flashed his high-ceiling ability, even though he is playing inside more than half the snaps as a senior. His combination of first-step quickness, arm length and the ability to play with low pad level sets him apart from most ends in the class.

No. 84 Rashaan Evans (Auburn Ala./Auburn), OLB
Prior ranking: No. 150
The 6-3, 217-pound Evans has filled out physically, and displays the quick-twitch burst and speed combination to be a factor off the edge. Evans has been dominant off the edge as a senior with double-digit sacks.

No. 92 Markell Pack (Purvis, Miss./Purvis), WR
Prior ranking: No. 144
The Florida State commit continues to flash the initial quickness, ability to get to top-end speed quickly, ability to play the ball in the air and elusiveness that makes the 6-2, 180-pound wideout one of the top playmakers in the class.

No. 128 Brad Kaaya (Hollywood, Calif./Chaminade College Prep)
Prior ranking: No. 171
The 6-4, 213-pound Miami commit is one the fastest rising quarterbacks in the class. Has added bulk to his tall frame, and continues to show the foot quickness, foot work and quick release that will be demanded of him at the next level.

Other Big Movers

WR Josh Malone (Gallatin, Tenn./Station Camp): From No. 99 to 49.
Texas A&M ATH commit Nick Harvey (Richmond, Texas/William B. Travis): From No. 101 to 60.
RB Joe Mixon (Berkeley, Calif./Freedom): From No. 100 to 72.
Georgia QB-DT commit Jacob Park (Goose Creek, S.C./Stratford): From No. 157 to 94.
Oregon RB commit Royce Freeman (Imperial, Calif./Imperial): From No. 154 to 99.
RB Derrell Scott (Havelock, N.C./Havelock): From No. 176 to 108.
Ole Miss S commit C.J. Hampton (Meridian, Miss./Meridian): From No. 201 to 134.
Alabama C commit J.C. Hassenauer (Woodbury, Minn./East Ridge): From No. 246 to 188.
Georgia DT commit Dontavius Russell (Carrollton, Ga./Carrollton): From No. 266 to 201

ESPN 300 debuts
No. 89 Frank Iheanacho (Houston/Westbury), WR
The 6-6, 215-pound pass catcher returned to the football field as a senior after playing only basketball as a junior, and has quickly become one of the most coveted uncommitted prospects in the country featuring deceptive initial quickness, and the high-point timing and size to win 50-50 balls in the air.

No. 287 Darrion Owens (Orange Park, Fla./Oakleaf), OLB
The 6-3, 220-pound Owens has transitioned from safety to outside linebacker as a senior without skipping a beat. Long, rangy and with edge-rush ability, the Miami commit is a top senior riser.

No. 295 Shakenneth Williams (Macon, Ga./Rutland), WR
The 6-1, 196-pound Georgia commit was a standout at Mark Richt Camp in June. Williams is blessed with straight-line speed, change-of-direction ability, strong hands and the physicality and strength to play through contact.

[+] EnlargeJoe Mixon
Tom Hauck for Student SportsTailback Joe Mixon is ranked No. 72 in the latest update of the ESPN 300.
More Who Moved Into The ESPN 300

Ohio State ATH commit Curtis Samuel (Brooklyn, N.Y./Erasmus Hall): No. 148.
LSU DE commit Deondre Clark (Oklahoma City/Douglass): No. 298.
Baylor WR commit Ishmael Zamora (Alief, Texas/Elsik): No. 245
Alabama OLB commit Keith Holcombe (Tuscaloosa, Ala./Hillcrest): No. 284.
DT Derrick Nnadi (Virginia Beach, Va./Ocean Lakes): No. 257.
DT Matt Elam (Elizabethtown, Ky./John Hardin): No. 292.
Minnesota RB commit Jeff Jones (Minneapolis/Washburn): No. 181.
Virginia Tech DT commit Ricky Walker (Hampton, Va./Bethel): No. 299.

Injured Reserve

David Cornwell (Norman, Okla./Norman North), QB
The Alabama commit suffered a season-ending knee injury. The 6-5, 241-pound Under Armour All-American is No. 44 after being 32nd previously.

Jalen Hurd (Hendersonville, Tenn./Beech), RB
The Tennessee commit suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in the opener, requiring a second shoulder operation in less than a year. The 6-4, 222-pound Hurd is now No. 62 after being 39th.

Drake Harris (Grand Rapids, Mich./Grand Rapids Christian), WR
The 6-3, 172-pound Harris hasn't played this season due to a lingering hamstring issue. The Michigan commit checks in at No. 85 after previously being 72nd.

Elisha Shaw (Tucker, Ga./Tucker), DT
The 6-6, 295-pound Shaw has been sidelined with a neck injury this season. He checks in at No. 186 after a prior ranking of 82nd.

Sharieff Rhaheed (Fort Pierce, Fla./Fort Pierce Central), OLB
The 6-2, 202-pound Rhaheed missed the first six games of the season before returning to the field in late October. The former LSU commit is No. 260 after being ranked 133rd previously.

Kyle Berger (Cleveland/Saint Ignatius), OLB
The Ohio State commit was sidelined his senior season with an ACL tear. He dropped out of the ESPN 300 after being ranked No. 281.

Treyvon Paulk (Milton, Ga./Milton High), RB
The Tennessee running back commitment recently suffered a season-ending knee injury. He dropped out of the ESPN 300 after previously being ranked No. 294.

Pac-12 ESPN 300 analysis 

October, 29, 2013
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The newest version of the ESPN 300 was good to a number of Pac-12 targets, as a majority of recruits heading to conference programs saw a bump in their ranking. Cornerback Adoree' Jackson (Gardena, Calif./Serra) is still top dog in the West and the region's lone five-star prospect, but both Oregon and Cal added to their ESPN 300 haul with new entrants and a tailback committed to the Ducks saw a meteoric rise.

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Weekend recruiting wrap: Pac-12 

October, 28, 2013
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Arizona State went back to El Cerrito (Calif.) High School to add another verbal commitment from an ESPN 300 prospect, several big visitors took in Oregon's win over UCLA, and career rushing records fell in San Diego and at a Northern California high school in this week's Pac-12 weekend recruiting wrap.

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Pac-12 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 Pac-12, check out our conference rankings:

1. Arizona, 24 commits: The Wildcats check in at No. 23 in the RecruitingNation class rankings with a class that includes four ESPN300 commitments, including No. 120 overall Marquis Ware and No. 185 Jamardre Cobb of Salesian High in Los Angeles. Arizona will take its shot with No. 17 overall Jalen Tabor (Washington, D.C./Friendship Collegiate Academy), and teammate Dae'Juan Funderburk (Washington, D.C./Friendship Collegiate Academy) in December.


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Notebook: WeAreSC recruiting roundup 

September, 30, 2013
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It took USC interim head coach Ed Orgeron less than a minute and a half to utter the word “recruits” during his news conference Sunday following the firing of Lane Kiffin. Given how important recruiting will be for the Trojans the next two years, nobody would have been surprised if Orgeron blurted that word even more quickly.

[+] EnlargeEd Orgeron
Cal Sport Media via AP ImagesEd Orgeron will try to build some recruiting momentum as USC's interim head coach.
Known as one of the nation’s top recruiters, Orgeron figures to play an integral role leading up to national signing day in February. In fact, the energetic, 52-year-old coach had already contacted some top targets Sunday morning.

“We’ve already spoken to our recruits about the value of USC and what’s going on at USC,” Orgeron told reporters Sunday. “Recruiting has been one of our strengths here and it will continue to be one of our strengths. We expect to have a great recruiting class and continue to bring some of the best recruits across the country to USC.”

Orgeron’s pitch, despite his interim status and uncertainty surrounding the coaching situation, will be simple. He will touch on the education, prestige, opportunity and past glory.

“There’s a lot of great things about USC still here,” Orgeron said. “Nothing has changed about USC.”

In this week’s WeAreSC recruiting notebook, we touch on the impact Kiffin’s dismissal could have on USC recruiting and more:

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Weekend recruiting wrap: Pac-12 

September, 30, 2013
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There was plenty of news on and off the field in the Pac-12 this past weekend, as several conference teams separated themselves with huge wins, Oregon landed a big verbal commitment, and USC made a head coaching change.


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Pac-12's 2014 impact freshmen 

September, 25, 2013
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We've barely hit the quarter pole of the 2013 season, but with true and redshirt freshmen making impacts all over the country, attention turns this week to those recruits in the 2014 class who could generate the same kind of press early in their careers and affect the conference.

Current 2014 QB prospect who could start immediately

Arizona and Washington are the only Pac-12 programs scheduled to lose their starting quarterbacks after this season, but with seven quarterbacks already slated to compete for the job next year, it's going to be extremely difficult for Brandon Dawkins (Westlake Village, Calif./Oaks Christian) to truly put himself in the mix. The same is true at Washington -- though the Huskies have yet to receive a commitment from a quarterback in the 2014 class -- as redshirt freshmen, who will then be redshirt sophomores, Jeff Lindquist and Cyler Miles will likely battle for the spot. So at this point -- leaving aside speculation on whether quarterbacks such as UCLA's Brett Hundley or Oregon's Marcus Marriota could make themselves available for the NFL draft -- this question becomes about the possibility of a true freshman supplanting a returning starter, and while it would be tough to bet on anybody actually getting it done, the easy answer is Keller Chryst (Palo Alto, Calif./Palo Alto) at Stanford. The No. 19 overall recruit is a polished pocket passer and seems to fit perfectly into the Stanford offense. If it clicks early for him, he could give Kevin Hogan a serious run next fall.

Program-changing 2014 recruiting class: USC

This could be a make-or-break recruiting class for the Trojans. When USC begins practices next spring, just 26 players on the roster will come from the 2012 and 2013 recruiting classes, combined. That means tons of opportunity for what could be 19 signees in a class still limited by NCAA sanctions. Right now, recruits want a clear picture of what will happen going forward at USC. If the Trojans make a decisive move at the top -- either with Lane Kiffin finishing the season in a strong manner and earning the full trust of the fans and his bosses, or with athletics director Pat Haden moving swiftly to replace Kiffin with an impressive hire -- USC could close with a monster class, as a number of high-profile prospects are intrigued by the idea of playing for USC and understand the playing time situation. If things break well for the Trojans, it's not impossible to think this class could be the best group in the Pac-12 and eventually form some of the nucleus that takes USC back to the top of the conference.

Current 2014 prospect with Heisman potential

Since the Heisman Trophy has become about quarterbacks and running backs, that narrows this category a bit. Again, Chryst is the easy answer because he'll likely put up good numbers for a national power. But a bit farther down the West region prospects list sits tailback Joe Mixon (Oakley, Calif./Freedom), who possesses just about everything you look for in a potential Heisman contender. He'll likely be suiting up for a national power -- Florida, Oklahoma and Oregon are three of his finalists -- a running back's dream -- Wisconsin is another finalists -- or a program in Cal where he'd have the ability to put up silly numbers both rushing and receiving. Mixon has also said UCLA is still in the running, which would put him in a major media market. His ability to catch out of the backfield and perhaps even return kicks will help his statistics, and the fact that he brings some personality to the table -- nearly 6,500 twitter followers at last count -- helps his cause as well.


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Weekend recruiting wrap: Pac-12 

September, 2, 2013
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There were some big positives from Pac-12 programs during college football’s opening weekend, as Arizona, Colorado, Oregon, UCLA, USC, Utah and Washington all posted victories. The wins from the Bruins, Ducks and Huskies came in front of a large number of recruits, and, while there were no visible results in the form of verbal commitments, they definitely made an impression with everybody in attendance.


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HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. -- For Class of 2015 quarterback Josh Rosen (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco), last month’s Rising Stars Camp served as an opportunity to measure himself against other highly-regarded prospects, including USC commit David Sills (Elkton, Md./Eastern Christian Academy) and fellow Southern California-based standout Ricky Town (Ventura, Calif./St. Bonaventure).

Rosen also chatted with quarterbacks coach Clay Helton about the possibility of a scholarship offer, which might arrive soon despite the fact that the Trojans already have Sills in the 2015 recruiting class. In the current recruiting cycle, Helton put all of his chips on No. 1-rated pocket passer Keller Chryst (Palo Alto, Calif./Palo Alto), who committed to Stanford just prior to the Elite 11 finals, and further options appear scarce as the high school football season approaches.


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ESPN 300 Cali RB commits to Oregon 

July, 12, 2013
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It doesn't appear the Oregon ground game will be slowing down anytime soon.

On Friday, the Ducks added a commitment from running back Royce Freeman (Imperial, Calif./Imperial), who becomes verbal commitment No. 8 in this class for Oregon and just the second offensive skill player, joining quarterback Morgan Mahalak (Kentfield, Calif./Marin Catholic).

Freeman admitted that the Ducks always held something of a lead in the race for his commitment.


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ESPN 300 RB Freeman talks top four 

June, 30, 2013
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LAKE OSWEGO, Ore. -- ESPN 300 running back Royce Freeman (Imperial, Calif./Imperial) is starting to narrow things down. The four-star running back announced schools that have started to stand out above the rest.

"I have four top schools," Freeman said. "I like USC, UCLA, Florida and Oregon."

[+] EnlargeRoyce Freeman
Tom Hauck for Student SportsESPN 300 RB Royce Freeman has USC, UCLA, Oregon and Florida at the top of his list for now.
Freeman talked about what he likes in each school.


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The Opening: Alabama storylines 

June, 27, 2013
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There are 162 recruits nationwide who will venture to Oregon next week for The Opening, the nation’s premier camp event. The group includes three Alabama commitments and several Crimson Tide targets who will compete against the best of the best.

Here are five storylines for Alabama fans to keep an eye during the camp:

New recruiter

When ESPN 150 quarterback David Cornwell (Norman, Okla./Norman North) committed to Alabama, he immediately reached out to five-star offensive tackle Cameron Robinson (West Monroe, La./West Monroe). He wanted his blind side protected for the next four years. Ever since his commitment, Cornwell has taken an active role recruiting for the Tide, doing his part to put together a special recruiting class. What better place to recruit than in Oregon at The Opening? Cornwell won’t find out what team he’ll be playing for until Sunday, but it’s safe to assume he’ll be chatting it up with several Alabama targets and commitments throughout the week as he hopes to bring a third consecutive No. 1 class to Tuscaloosa.


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