NCF On The Trail: todd kelly jr.

SEC signing day roundtable: Coach under pressure

February, 10, 2015
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There is only one new face among SEC head coaches this year -- Florida’s Jim McElwain -- but a number of the league’s head honchos face increased pressure to perform in 2015.

Continuing this week’s SEC series of post-signing day roundtable discussions, today we’ll examine the conference coaches who are under pressure to make something happen after signing their newest class of recruits.

Edward Aschoff: Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss
Year 4 of the Freeze era is beginning, and expectations are about to explode in Oxford. After being on the cusp of an SEC West title and a spot in the first College Football Playoff, Ole Miss now has to stay in the thick of the title hunts. While Freeze has been enormously successful during his time at Ole Miss, he has now signed three straight top-20 classes, and now the 2013 class (the crown jewel of Freeze’s tenure) will be all grown up. If the bulk of that class is going to bring a championship to Ole Miss, the time is now because the heavy hitters, like Robert Nkemdiche, Laquon Treadwell and Laremy Tunsil, will likely head to the NFL after this coming season. There’s too much talent in Oxford for Ole Miss not to compete for a spot in Atlanta, and anything else will be considered a failure.

David Ching: Derek Mason, Vanderbilt
I was tempted to focus on Mark Richt or Les Miles because the natives seem to be getting restless at Georgia and LSU, but let’s go in a different direction. Mason probably needs to get more out of this 2015 class immediately than those two SEC veterans. Last season was a mess at Vandy, with the Commodores failing to put up a good fight in most of their nine losses. Their three wins came against UMass (by three points), Charleston Southern (by one) and Old Dominion (by 14), and they lost by an average of 18 points per game in SEC play. Now Mason enters his second season with two new coordinators (actually he’ll be his own defensive coordinator) and a recruiting class that ESPN ranked No. 44 nationally, dead last in the SEC. Mason told reporters on signing day that he staked his reputation on the quality of this class, which is all well and good. But if the Commodores don’t start looking like a more competent team this fall, I’m not sure Mason’s reputation as a head coach will be too great.

Sam Khan Jr.: Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M
I think Travis Haney said it best Insider that Sumlin must begin to reap the fruits of the recruiting labor he and his staff have put in over the last three years. The Aggies' classes ranked eighth, fourth and 12th nationally in Sumlin's first three full recruiting cycles, and the team now enters its fourth year in the SEC. He made significant coaching staff changes (including paying a pretty penny for former LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis), and overall the Aggies have recruited better than any team in their own state -- which is talent-rich -- since Sumlin has been there. It's time for the recruiting hauls to translate to the standings.

Chris Low: Mark Stoops, Kentucky
As it turns out, the sky didn't fall at Kentucky after the Wildcats lost six commitments in a span of eight days leading up to signing day. Thanks to some hustle by Stoops and his staff, Kentucky was able to plug some of the gaps late and finish with the nation's 43rd-ranked class. The problem was that Stoops reeled in the 20th-ranked class the year before, so expectations were lofty. As Stoops enters his third season at Kentucky -- with a brand-new contract that will pay him an average of $3.57 million per year -- expectations will be equally high on the field. Kentucky will be aiming for its first winning season since 2009. The Wildcats looked like they were on their way in 2014 after starting out 5-1, but wound up losing their last six games.

Greg Ostendorf: Jim McElwain, Florida
All things considered, McElwain deserves credit for this class. He took over two months before signing day and closed with a top-20 class that included five-star prospects Martez Ivey and CeCe Jefferson. But this class had a chance to be more than solid. It had the potential to be great. Florida missed on a number of homegrown prospects, including Byron Cowart and Jeff Holland, who both decided to leave home to play at Auburn for the man McElwain replaced. The first-year coach deserves a pass for this class, but he can’t keep letting the top players out of the state. Losing battles to Florida State is one thing. Losing battles to Will Muschamp and Auburn is another.

Alex Scarborough: Steve Spurrier, South Carolina
The great thing about Steve Spurrier is that you can take him at his word. But this time I think his openness hurt him. By telling reporters he thought he'd stay at South Carolina 2-3 more years, he had to turn some recruits off. I mean, who would commit to a program knowing the head coach wouldn't be there the whole way through? Though his 31-man signing class was solid, coming in at No. 21 overall in the country, it was what was missing that Gamecocks fans should find troubling -- most notably, four-star defensive players Damon Arnette and Arden Key, who both decommitted heading down the stretch. While you have to appreciate Spurrier’s honest assessment of himself, reading a head coach say this has to be jarring: "I don't think I did a very good job of maybe going full-speed as much as we needed as it turned out."

Derek Tyson: Butch Jones, Tennessee
After two top-five recruiting classes in a row, Tennessee head coach Butch Jones now has the talent on his roster to make a move in the SEC East. With Josh Dobbs showing promise last season and several other freshmen having standout years, including Derek Barnett, Jalen Hurd and Todd Kelly Jr., the talent is in place to have a big season on the field this year. Another 7-6 season could have Tennessee fans getting a little restless.

Youth a recruiting pitch for Vols, Cats 

September, 25, 2014
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Either Tennessee hit a home run with its 2014 recruiting class or the Volunteers are playing with fire. Either way, the Volunteers are taking a big gamble with their freshmen.

Head coach Butch Jones has played 71 percent (22 of 29) of his true freshmen — an incredible stat that some coaches might be scared to advertise for fear that future opponents might try to take advantage of inexperienced players. Jones, however, has taken the opposite approach and is using the fact as a recruiting tool.



The official Tennessee football Twitter account has tweeted out several stats about how many freshmen have played, and behind the scenes, the Volunteers' staff is not shy about telling recruits they are young and need more talented prospects to play early and add depth to an improving roster.

Tennessee assistant athletic director Jason Yellin appeared almost proud to share how many freshmen have played this year.

"We have played the most in the nation, 22,” Yellin said in an email. "For comparison, last year’s high was 18 by UCLA. We have started seven so far and could potentially start two more on Saturday at Georgia."

ESPN 300 WR Malone picks Vols

December, 4, 2013
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Since arriving in Knoxville, Tennessee coach Butch Jones has focused intently on keeping the best prospects in the state at home. The Vols took another step toward that goal Wednesday after Josh Malone (Gallatin, Tenn./Station Camp), the top-rated player in the state, committed to Tennessee. Malone is the No. 48 overall prospect in the ESPN 300 and the No. 6 wide receiver.

The 6-foot-2, 191-pound Malone chose Tennessee over Clemson and Georgia in a recruitment that kept many on the edge of their seats.

The talented playmaker began his official visits on Sept. 27 with a trip to Athens to visit Georgia, which was once considered the favorite. Following the visit to Georgia, Malone made official visits to Tennessee on Oct. 5, Ohio State on Oct. 26, Florida State on Nov. 1 and Clemson on Nov. 22. Many thought the SEC would dominate Malone’s list, but Clemson proved to be the toughest competition for Tennessee.

The Vols now have four of the top six prospects in the state committed. In addition to Malone, Tennessee has reeled in ESPN 300 prospects No. 59 overall Todd Kelly Jr. (Knoxville, Tenn./Webb School of Knoxville), No. 62 Jalen Hurd (Hendersonville, Tenn./Beech Senior High) and No. 296 Derek Barnett (Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood Academy).

Currently ranked No. 2 in the RecruitingNation class rankings, the Vols have 33 commitments, including 11 ESPN 300 commitments and 17 four-star prospects. The Vols also boast five junior college transfers ranked in the recently released ESPN JC 50. The class features prospects from 11 states, plus the District of Columbia.

But Jones is not done yet. The Vols are still in the hunt for three-star lineman Charles Mosley (Brighton, Tenn./Brighton), with a decision likely at the end of this week, as well as No. 7-ranked Adoree' Jackson (Gardena, Calif./Junipero Serra), No. 37 Clifton Garrett (Plainfield, Ill./Plainfield South), No. 61 Travis Rudolph (West Palm Beach, Fla./Cardinal Newman) and No. 108 Derrell Scott (Havelock, N.C./Havelock), among others.

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 

September, 16, 2013
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The college season is three weeks in, and as expected the recruiting wheels are back in motion with official visits now taking center stage. From Alabama’s win in a showdown at Texas A&M with a slew of prospects on hand, to standout performances, here is the latest around the SEC.

Best weekend performances
QB Will Grier (Davidson, N.C./Day, Florida commit): The weekly Grier statistical dominant performance includes a 30-of-40 night for 422 yards and five touchdowns, along with 201 rushing yards and two touchdowns. In four games this season, Grier has 25 touchdown passes.

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Scouting Bates’ role at Tennessee 

July, 3, 2013
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ESPN 300 linebacker Dillon Bates committed to Tennessee on Wednesday at The Opening. Here's how RecruitingNation’s talent scouts think he’ll fit in Knoxville.


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BEAVERTON, Ore. -- With some players, there is some suspense on which school they will eventually pick. But with others such as Dillon Bates, the nation’s No. 92 player and No. 3 outside linebacker in the country, there really isn’t.

It was no shock that Bates, who is 6-foot-3 and 213 pounds, announced his commitment to the Tennessee Volunteers on Wednesday at The Opening. Bates’ father, Dallas Cowboys special-teams legend Bill Bates, played for the Volunteers in the early 1980s before a 15-year career with Dallas.


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Here are five storylines to watch on Sunday:

Looking out for No. 1

The Columbus Nike Football Training Camp will bring out the top defensive lineman in the country in Da'Shawn Hand (Woodbridge, Va./Woodbridge).


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Tales From the Road: Ohio State 

May, 29, 2013
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BuckeyeNation continues to hit the road in search of budding Division I talent that should catch the eyes of Ohio State fans. Here’s what we came up with this week:

This week’s targets: BuckeyeNation swung out to the Youngstown, Ohio, area and took a good look at Hubbard and Warren Harding high schools. While there, we talked to offensive guard Matt Jones and running back Larry “LJ” Scott of Hubbard. Both are Buckeyes targets as sophomores. Harding is the home of Denmark sensation Hjalte Froholdt and Ohio State legacy James Daniels, whose father LeShun Daniels Sr. played offensive guard for the Buckeyes in the 1990s. One other interesting note about Daniels is that his brother LeShun Daniels Jr. signed a letter of intent to play for Iowa this February.

Vividly Virginia: The Buckeyes made it abundantly clear last week that Virginia was fertile recruiting ground. Ohio State long has had offers out to Da’Shawn Hand (Woodbridge/Woodbridge), Andrew Brown (Chesapeake/Oscar Frommel Smith) and Quin Blanding (Virginia Beach/Bayside), but last Wednesday the Buckeyes offered five Virginians in rapid fashion. The offers went out to outside linebacker Ricky DeBerry (Richmond, St. Christophers), cornerback Garrett Taylor (Richmond, St. Christophers), wide receiver Scott Bracey (Richmond/Benedictine School), wide receiver Jaason Lewis (Virginia Beach/Ocean Lakes) and inside linebacker Jahvoni Simmons (Virginia Beach/Ocean Lakes).

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Vols get on the board for 2016

May, 21, 2013
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On Sunday, rising sophomore tight end Darel Middelton (Powell, Tenn./Powell) announced his commitment to Tennessee, according to multiple sources. Middleton, a 6-foot-5, 230-pound prospect, becomes the Vols' first pledge for 2016.

New head coach Butch Jones has been very busy on the trail this spring. His program currently holds 12 verbals for 2014, three early pledges for 2015 and now the first piece of its 2016 class in Middleton.

Additionally, much on Jones' focus has been on securing in-state talent. Three of his 2014 commits -- including ESPN 150 talents Jalen Hurd (Hendersonville, Tenn./Beech) and Todd Kelly Jr. (Knoxville, Tenn./Webb) -- all three 2015 recruits and Middleton are from inside state lines.

McDowell sees potential with SEC school 

March, 18, 2013
3/18/13
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Cortez McDowell thinks he would be a good fit at a certain SEC school.


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Rico McGraw talks two of his top schools 

March, 17, 2013
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Relationships will be key in Rico McGraw's recruitment. That could spice up a legendary rivalry.


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Weekly commitment roundup 

March, 15, 2013
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ACC
Georgia Tech
Miles Taylor S Washington/Gonzaga College
HT: 6-foot WT: 185 pounds

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RB Jalen Hurd commits to in-state Vols 

March, 14, 2013
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Running back Jalen Hurd committed to Tennessee on Thursday morning.


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Vols add second legacy commitment 

March, 11, 2013
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Another day, another legacy commitment for Tennessee.

The Volunteers added their fourth commitment when receiver Neiko Creamer from Elkton (Md.) Eastern Christian confirmed he had committed on Monday afternoon. Creamer's father, Andre, was a defensive back for Tennessee in the 1980s.


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