NCF On The Trail: Thomas Holley

Bold predictions: Big Ten 

February, 4, 2014
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National signing day is less than 24 hours away and there's still plenty of recruiting action that could take place in the final hours. The Big Ten still has some big questions and storylines leading up to the big day.

College decisions are often unpredictable, but here are five signing day predictions for the Big Ten.


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Biggest flips: SEC 

February, 3, 2014
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As expected, with the plethora of commitments followed by decommitments and second and third verbal pledges, it's no surprise that the hotly contested Southeast and SEC feature a number of impactful flips in 2014.


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Big Ten class rankings analysis 

January, 22, 2014
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There have been commitments and decommitments across the board in the Big Ten, which means there has been movement among the class rankings.

As signing day approaches, teams will be looking to fill the final spots in their class. Here is a look at trends and a few items to watch within the conference:

Trending up: No Big Ten teams moved up in the class rankings for this week, but that doesn’t mean schools aren’t improving.

Penn State has been on a tear recently with James Franklin and his staff on board. Despite losing ESPN 300 defensive tackle Thomas Holley (Brooklyn, N.Y./Lincoln) to Florida and defensive back Troy Vincent Jr. (Baltimore/Gilman) to NC State, the Nittany Lions have added some big pieces as well.

The most recent was three-star athlete Trace McSorley (Ashburn, Va./Briar Woods), who flipped his commitment from Vanderbilt to Penn State. McSorley was originally recruited as a defensive back by Franklin at Vanderbilt, but then the offer was switched to quarterback while he was committed to the Commodores.

McSorley will add some depth and competition at the quarterback spot for Penn State, as Christian Hackenberg and early enrollee Michael O’Connor are the only other quarterbacks on the roster.

Indiana has also been on a nice run, picking up five commitments in the past week, from linebacker Tegray Scales (Cincinnati/Colerain), running back Tommy Mister (Chicago/St. Rita), athlete Waynedriko Smith (Orlando, Fla./Orangewood Christian) and defensive backs Zeke Walker (Cayce, S.C./Brookland-Cayce) and Tony Fields (Tallahassee, Fla./Godby).

Trending down: Michigan hasn’t lost any commitments in the 2014 class, but the Wolverines lost ESPN Junior 300 running back Damien Harris (Berea, Ky./Madison Southern) over the weekend.

Harris is the No. 1-ranked running back and No. 17 overall in the 2015 class. Losing Harris and fellow ESPN Junior 300 member George Campbell (Tarpon Springs, Fla./East Lake) is a big blow to the 2015 class.

Add in the fact that Michigan’s main remaining target for the 2014 class, Malik McDowell (Southfield, Mich./Southfield) could end up not picking Michigan and could end up at rival Michigan State or Ohio State, that’s more bad news for Michigan.

The Wolverines haven’t landed a commitment since August and steadily have been moving down the class rankings. If the coaches miss on McDowell, that would mean they missed on three major targets: McDowell, five-star defensive end Da’Shawn Hand (Woodbridge, Va./Woodbridge) to Alabama and in-state defensive end Jhonathon Williams (Berrien Springs, Mich./Berrien Springs) to Notre Dame.


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Four-star DB flips from Penn State

January, 16, 2014
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Only a few days after ESPN 300 defensive tackle Thomas Holley (Brooklyn, N.Y./Lincoln) decommitted from Penn State, the Nittany Lions have lost another commitment.

Defensive back Troy Vincent Jr. (Baltimore, Md./Gilman) switched his commitment from Penn State to N.C. State on Thursday according to multiple reports.

The four-star prospect was the fifth highest-ranked commit for Penn State in the 2014 class and one of three defensive backs committed. Vincent Jr.’s decision leaves coach James Franklin with 20 commits and, despite not having a ton of time until signing day, there might still be plenty of options to fill that spot.

Defensive back Trent Sherfield (Danville, Ill./Danville) was a Vanderbilt commit under Franklin, decommitted after Franklin left for PSU, and now is expecting an in-school visit from the Penn State coaches on Friday.

Sherfield is already familiar with the coaching staff, and the three-star prospect would help fill the hole left by Vincent Jr.

Franklin has already flipped three Vanderbilt commits to Penn State in Chance Sorrell (Middletown, Ohio/Middletown), Lloyd Tubman (Louisville, Ky./Seneca) and Brendan Brosnan (Park Ridge, Ill./Maine Township South), so there might also be some familiarity for Sherfield with the recruits in Happy Valley.

The departure of Vincent Jr. is a big hit to the class, but it looks as though there will be options for Penn State.
The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today’s offerings: Michigan State has never recruited top-10 classes but has produced on the field, but now more doors might open for it with the Rose Bowl victory; Kansas State’s loss is about to be UCLA’s gain; and it’s been a good few days for the Florida Gators’ 2014 class.


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Big Ten class rankings analysis 

January, 15, 2014
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With the final update to the ESPN 300, there has been movement within the class rankings as well. Big Ten teams have added to their classes and are looking for last minute prospects.

Here is a look at the latest within the Big Ten.

Trending up


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videoOn Wednesday, Under Armour All-American defensive tackle Thomas Holley (Brooklyn, N.Y./Lincoln) switched his commitment from Penn State to Florida. Read below to see how our scouts feel Holley fits into the Gators' plans:


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The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today’s offerings: Numerous coaches at the American Football Coaches Association convention agree negative recruiting happens more than most people think and some of the stories are too good to be true; NC State has a top-40 class, but Wolfpack coach Dave Doeren is working to ensure they finish strong; and Larry Johnson recruiting for Ohio State could only mean big things for the Buckeyes.

Negative recruiting at its finest
There are numerous tales about negative recruiting tactics on the recruiting trail. So while at the AFCA convention, I asked coaches how much really does happen. The answer: a lot. A Utah assistant coach said rival Pac-12 schools do all they can to convince prospects Salt Lake City is a desolate place and try to confuse the Utes in-state rival BYU. “We get recruits that ask all the time about the Honor Code,” the coach said. “We have to constantly tell them ‘That’s BYU. That’s not our school.’ We also have had some kids tell us other schools said we don’t even have TVs in Utah.” Yes, it does get that bad when trying to sell a prospect during the final few weeks of recruiting.

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The ESPN 300 has been updated and the Big Ten saw plenty of movement for its commits, both up and down the list. Here is a look at the five biggest movers within the ESPN 300.

Smith shoots up the rankings
Defensive back Erick Smith (Cleveland, Ohio/Glenville) recently committed to Ohio State to join teammates Marcelys Jones and Marshon Lattimore as future Buckeyes. Previously ranked No. 228 overall, Smith moved up 45 spots to 183 in the new rankings. He is a big safety who will add a lot to the Ohio State defense in the future. Smith was an Army All-American and had an outstanding week of practice. His rise in the rankings was earned on the field and should make Buckeyes fans happy he will be in Columbus next season.


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Weekend recruiting wrap: Big Ten 

January, 13, 2014
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We are almost out of the dead period, which ends on Jan. 15. That means things are starting to heat up for Big Ten teams on the recruiting trail. Here is a look at what happened throughout the conference this past week.


Biggest commitment:
Indiana landed ESPN 300 receiver Dominique Booth (Indianapolis/Pike), when he announced his decision on Jan. 7. Booth had been committed to Tennessee, but he decommitted and will now enroll early for the Hoosiers.

He is a big pickup for the Indiana offense and is a high ranking in-state prospect who coach Kevin Wilson and his staff are keeping home.

Nebraska also secured a wide receiver with Jariah Tolbert (New Orleans/Edna Karr) on Thursday. Tolbert joined his teammate, athlete Jaevon Walton, in Nebraska’s 2014 class.


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Penn State has hired former Vanderbilt coach James Franklin to take over the vacant head-coaching position in Happy Valley. With a coaching change coming so close to signing da, there are always recruiting implications, and this one seems to be positive for Penn State.

Reactions from the Nittany Lions’ commitments in the 2014 class have been overwhelmingly positive, including comments from some of the commits set to enroll early.


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Ohio State has been on a roll on the recruiting trail in the past few weeks. The commitments the Buckeyes have landed, along with a few other happenings in the Big Ten, have impacted the class rankings.

Here is a look at the most recent trends within the Big Ten.


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As we approach signing day, there are plenty of big targets left on the board for Big Ten teams.

Here is a look at some of the most important prospects left for each program.

Illinois
DL Daniel Cage (Cincinnati, Ohio/Winton Woods)
6-foot-3, 290 pounds
Four-star
Cage is a bit of a long shot for Illinois, but he would be a big get if the Illini can get him. Louisville was very much in the picture for Cage, but with coach Charlie Strong taking the Texas job, there might be opportunity to move in. Illinois will have to fight off Michigan State for the defensive tackle.


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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- A year ago in the Under Armour All-America Game, Florida fans were treated to a satisfying showcase of their top two recruits -- cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III and running back Kelvin Taylor.

Neither disappointed as a freshman this past fall. Hargreaves was named first-team All-SEC and Taylor showed promise after taking over as Florida's primary ball-carrier just before midseason.

After going 4-8 in 2013, Florida needs impact freshmen more than ever. Here's a look at what to watch for in Thursday's UA Game (4 p.m., ESPN, complete roster).


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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Michael O'Connor will never forget New Year’s Eve 2013. It was the day his life was turned upside down.


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