NCF On The Trail: Taj Griffin

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While one recruit will never truly make or break a recruiting class, some come closer than others. Every Pac-12 program has a must-get recruit in mind, whether it's a national standout whose commitment would rock the recruiting landscape, a star at a position where that program simply cannot miss, or a local prospect who can't be allowed to leave the area.

BEAVERTON, Ore. -- Pac-12 programs hold commitments from 13 prospects who participated in Nike's The Opening this week, including four quarterbacks who finished in the final Elite 11 quarterback ranking and two offensive linemen who were named to the Final Five on that side of the ball. Though the conference will undoubtedly finish with commitments from many more of the recruits in attendance, we take a look at how the 13 commitments fared over the four days.


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The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today's offerings: Make no mistake about it, Oregon's bread and butter is the West Coast, but the Ducks' brand is so strong on the national level that they can go into virtually anybody's backyard and secure top talent. And No. 42 Alex Ofodile is the latest example of that. Plus, Auburn is putting together one of the nation's best offensive line classes.

Oregon a true national recruiting program


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ESPN 300 prospect Taj Griffin committed to Oregon on Thursday night, and he could continue the Ducks' recent tradition of explosive running back talent. Read on to see Tom Luginbill's take on the news:


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Sometimes perception can top reality in recruiting.

No. 8 running back Taj Griffin announced Thursday night he committed to Oregon over a final group of Clemson, Florida State, Georgia and USC. The pickup was significant for the Ducks, and Oregon assistants Gary Campbell and Scott Frost should be commended for their ability to swoop into the Southeast and snag the nation’s No. 89 player and Georgia’s 14th-best prospect. For the Ducks, this recruiting victory is about as big as it gets. Griffin is a perfect fit for the Oregon spread offense.



What will likely cause the most discussion among fans, however, is the perception that Georgia lost another quality in-state recruit to a Pac-12 program.

Technically, it’s true.


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ESPN 300: Top Pac-12 targets 

April, 16, 2014
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This recruiting cycle represents a huge year for talent in California, which means the Pac-12 should be able to put together some very healthy recruiting classes. In looking at the top five targets for the conference in the 2015 ESPN 300, it's no surprise that three come from Southern California. But if the Pac-12 wants to have a better overall finish in the recruiting rankings next year -- USC at No. 14 overall was the highest finish in 2014 -- the conference will need to reel in several out-of-area standouts, which is why the first two names on the list are here.


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Getting to know Taj Griffin 

March, 27, 2014
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ROSWELL, Ga. -- When listing the most explosive prospects in the Class of 2015, it does not take long to call on Taj Griffin.

The 5-foot-10, 174-pound, versatile running back was one of the standouts at last weekend's Atlanta Nike Nike Football Training Camp and SPARQ combine, earning an invitation to the The Opening in early July.


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Atlanta NFTC awards 

March, 24, 2014
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The NFTC tour continued to roll on with a stop in Atlanta this past weekend. The event featured a very strong roster of talent, including a pair of top-five prospects in the ESPN Junior 300. No group was lean on talent, with plenty of promising 2015 and even 2016 prospects to evaluate. It's tough to name everyone who competed and did well. Below are some of the event's top and most notable performers in the latest addition of the Recruiting Nation NFTC Awards.


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Atlanta NFTC notebook 

March, 23, 2014
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ROSWELL, Ga. -- The Atlanta Nike Football Training Camp is generally one of the most impressive groups of high school football players you will find in the country. This year’s camp didn’t disappoint. Eight invites were handed out to The Opening, a prestigious invite-only camp held in Beaverton, Ore., in July.


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MARIETTA, Ga. -- The Nike SPARQ combines have grown with each passing year, and on Saturday there was a record turnout. If the 1,993 prospects who attended weren't impressive enough, the performances by several top prospects who came to compete certainly left spectators turning heads.

Here is a rundown of some of the event's top performers.
  • ESPN Junior 300 running back Taj Griffin posted one of the top SPARQ scores of the day. Griffin checked in at 5-foot-10, 174-pounds, ran a 4.41 40-yard dash and a 4.35 shuttle, had a 46-inch vertical leap and a 36-foot power ball toss for a combined score of 124.29. On the recruiting front, Oregon, Clemson, Florida State, Ohio State and Tennessee continue to stand out the most.

  • No. 3 junior offensive tackle Chuma Edoga posted an impressive score of 94.65. After measuring at 6-4 and weighing 276 pounds, Edoga ripped off a 5.01 40-yard dash, a terrific 4.69 shuttle and had a 33.8-inch vertical jump and 37-foot power ball throw. Following his impressive effort, he said his top four schools in order are Tennessee, Southern California, Georgia and Stanford with a decision likely on May 25, his birthday. The big news might have been that he currently prefers the Volunteers, but his mother is in the corner of the Bulldogs and Cardinal.
  • No. 252 prospect C.J. Sanders made the trip and did not disappoint. He checked in at 5-9 and 176 pounds, ran a 4.57 40-yard dash, had a blazing 4.09 shuttle run, leaped 36.5 inches and tossed the power ball 41 feet. On the recruiting front, USC, Notre Dame and Georgia are the latest to offer, joining Duke, Northwestern, Stanford, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Mississippi State and Ole Miss. He visited USC last week, and lists Reggie Bush as his childhood idol. Sanders is the son of former Ohio State and NFL wide receiver Chris Sanders. His mom played basketball at Michigan. He reports his family favors Duke and USC early on with a decision slated for the summer.
  • Class of 2016 prospect Ben Cleveland is already considered one of the top offensive line prospects in the country, and the 6-7, 317-pounder showed why Saturday. He clocked a very impressive 5.22 40-yard dash and 4.87 shuttle, and had a 25.8-inch vertical leap and 41.5-foot power ball throw for a score of 99.78. He has offers from Georgia, Clemson, Florida, South Carolina and Texas with Alabama expected in the near future. He made an unofficial visit to Clemson two weeks ago.
  • Class of 2015 running back Jaylen Burgess posted a 118.44. The 5-10, 214-pounder ran a 4.66 40-yard dash and a 4.38 shuttle, and had a 36.7-inch vertical leap and 42.5 power ball throw. He is receiving interest from Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Clemson, Duke and a number of other ACC schools. Duke and Tennessee are the coaching staffs Burgess talks to the most. He posted more than 1,500 all-purpose yards as a junior.
  • Class of 2016 linebacker and defensive end Charles Wiley checked in at 6-3, 203 pounds. He clocked a 4.68 40-yard dash and 4.45 shuttle, and also leaped 35 inches and threw the power ball 34.5 feet. He has an early offer from Virginia Tech.
  • Class of 2015 athlete Jeremiah Mercer is flying completely under the recruiting radar. While he had to sit out the 2013 season due to transfer rules, he made his mark Saturday posting a score of 97.47. The 5-11, 163-pound running back and wide receiver ripped off a 4.48 40-yard dash and 4.18 shuttle, and added a 36.2-vertical leap and 31-foot power ball toss. He is receiving interest from Vanderbilt and Mississippi State and lists Florida State as his dream school.
  • Class of 2016 inside linebacker Tyler Reed posted a very impressive score of 104.91. After measuring 6-2, 234 pounds, Reed ran a 4.96 40-yard dash and 4.59 shuttle, and had a 35.5-inch vertical leap and 41-foot power ball throw. He recorded 130 tackles as a sophomore.
  • Class of 2015 running back Eric Montgomery posted a 115.47, one of the day’s top scores. The tailback checked in at 5-11, 185 pounds, ran a 4.46 40-yard dash and a 4.19 shuttle, and jumped 36 inches and threw the power ball 38 feet. On the recruiting front, Kentucky, Cincinnati, Ole Miss and Mississippi State, among others, are showing interest.

Recruits will be watching Alabama-Auburn 

November, 27, 2013
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This season's Iron Bowl has reached epic proportions in both hype and importance as both Alabama and Auburn are top-five teams for the showdown for only the second time in the history of the series. With an SEC title game appearance hanging in the balance, the list of expected visitors on hand Saturday is huge, especially for recruits in the 2015 class.

D'haquille Williams (Reserve, La./Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College): The Auburn commitment and one of the top junior-college prospects in the class will likely attend the Iron Bowl on Saturday. Can Auburn hold off the surging LSU Tigers for Williams?


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ESPN Junior 300 analysis: SEC 

November, 19, 2013
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With so many top prospects in the Southeast region there was plenty of movement in the latest ESPN Junior 300 rankings.


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ACC recruiting storylines: Oct. 17 

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The third-ranked Clemson Tigers will welcome plenty of national recruits this weekend as they host No. 5 Florida State on Saturday night.

Elsewhere, North Carolina and Wake Forest add commitments from the state of Florida, and Maryland might be out in front for Adam McLean .

Clemson hosting a top group

While the country's eyes will be on the top-five matchup between Clemson and Florida State Saturday night, a group of elite national prospects will be on hand to see it in person.

Five-star linebacker Raekwon McMillan (Hinesville, Ga./Liberty County) headlines the group. He's a guy Clemson has work to do in order to get, but a big win during his official visit could propel the Tigers forward.

Other big names expected to attend include D.J. Smith, Trevion Thompson, Mitch Hyatt, Taj Griffin and possibly Andrew Williams.

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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.

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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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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Running back commit Dalvin Cook (Miami/Central) has a message for any Gators fans who might be worried about his visit to Texas today -- follow the lead of Florida head coach Will Muschamp.


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