NCF On The Trail: Vonn Bell

In the coming days, I'll take a closer look at whether the Big Ten would benefit from having prospects take official visits earlier, such as at the end of their junior years in high school. It's an idea Big Ten Network analyst Gerry DiNardo has championed, and one that makes since because of the accelerated recruiting cycle and the far-flung locations of some Big Ten schools.

Some Big Ten teams might not benefit from earlier official visits. They have no trouble getting recruits to campus and piling up early commits. Others must play the waiting game and make strong pushes before national signing day. Coaching changes can make an impact when teams get verbal commits, as Penn State has learned in recent weeks. Recruits also have been more likely to flip pledges leading up to signing day, forcing some teams to scramble to fill spots.

We're a day away from the big day, and while there are a few key undecided recruits who will make their choices Wednesday, most of the hay is in the barn, so to speak.

When did Big Ten teams get their 2014 recruits to verbally commit? Here's a closer look (as of Monday night):

ILLINOIS

Total commits: 18 (four already have signed)

March-May 2013: 4
June-July: 8
August-September: 0
October: 1
November: 0
December: 4
January: 1
February: 0

INDIANA

Total commits: 25 (six have signed)

March-May 2013: 0
June: 5
July: 4
August: 0
September: 1
October: 3
November: 0
December: 2
January: 6
February: 4

IOWA

Total commits: 21

January-April 2013: 2
June: 5
July: 3
August: 2
September: 1
October: 1
November: 2
December: 1
January: 4

MICHIGAN

Total commits: 16 (seven have signed)

August 2012: 1
February 2013: 3
April-May: 7
June: 3
July: 1
August: 1
September-February: 0

MICHIGAN STATE

Total commits: 21 (two have signed)

August 2012: 1
September 2012: 1
April-May 2013: 5
June: 4
July: 1
August: 1
September: 2
October: 0
November: 1
December: 3
January: 1
February: 1

MINNESOTA

Total commits: 19 (two have signed)

February-April 2013: 3
May: 0
June-July: 3
August: 0
September: 1
October: 1
November: 2
December: 1
January: 6
February: 2

NEBRASKA

Total commits: 26 (two have signed)

March 2013: 1
April-May: 0
June: 7
July: 3
August: 1
September: 0
October: 1
November: 2
December: 2
January: 6
February: 3

NORTHWESTERN

Total commits: 16 (one has enrolled)

March-April 2013: 4
May: 5
June: 1
July-November: 0
December: 3
January: 1
February: 2

OHIO STATE

Total commits: 22 (seven have signed)

December 2012: 1
January-February 2013: 3
March-May: 4
June: 5
July: 2
August: 1
September: 1
October-November: 0
December: 2
January: 3
February: 0

PENN STATE

Total commits: 25 (five have enrolled)

October 2012: 1
February-April 2013: 5
May: 2
June-July: 3
August-September: 0
October: 3
November: 1
December: 1
January: 8
February: 1

PURDUE

Total commits: 20 (two have signed)

May 2013: 2
June: 3
July: 1
August-September: 0
October: 1
November: 1
December: 8
January: 3
February: 1

WISCONSIN

Total commits: 27 (four have signed)

April 2012: 1
August 2012: 1
September 2012: 1
May 2013: 2
June-July: 5
August: 0
September: 2
October: 3
November: 5
December: 3
January: 2
February: 2

Notes/comments
  • The James Franklin effect certainly can be seen in Penn State's class, as all nine recruits who committed in January or February did so after Franklin's hiring on Jan. 11. Franklin flipped several prospects from his former team, Vanderbilt, and also brought in some surprises during a furious push down the stretch.
  • Early recruiting has been a hallmark for Brady Hoke at Michigan, and it's no surprise to see the Wolverines basically done with their 2014 class before the season. Michigan had 21 of its 27 recruits in the 2013 class verbally commit before the 2012 season.
  • Iowa's commit pattern was the steadiest in the league, as the Hawkeyes received at least one pledge every month between June 2013 and January 2014.
  • Nebraska has accelerated its recruiting pace in each of the last two years. The Huskers had just five verbal commits before the season in the 2012 class but doubled that total in the 2013 class and have 12 in the 2014 crop. Nebraska is one of the Big Ten schools that seemingly could benefit from earlier official visits because of its location in relation to recruiting hotbeds.
  • Gary Andersen's first full recruiting class at Wisconsin is a huge one, and Andersen and his staff did much of their work both during and after the 2013 season. Seventeen of Wisconsin's 27 pledges came after the games began.
  • Northwestern stockpiled commits early on and would have been done in mid-December after Parrker Westphal's pledge, but two prospects (Noah Westerfield and Jordan Thomas) decommited last month, forcing the Wildcats to make some late additions.
  • Ohio State's recruiting is following a somewhat familiar pattern under Urban Meyer: strong winter and spring, a few summer pickups, relatively quiet during the season and then a nice push from mid-December to early January. The Buckeyes have landed some of their best prospects late in the process, from 2013 recruits Mike Mitchell and Vonn Bell to 2014 standout Raekwon McMillan.
  • Purdue and Minnesota tend to add the bulk of their commits later in the process. The Boilers added 12 commits in the 2013 class following Darrell Hazell's hiring in early December, and 12 of their 20 commits in this year's class came after Dec. 1. Minnesota picked up nine of its 19 commits in the current class after Dec. 1 -- a similar ratio as it had in the 2013 class.

Ohio State grabs commitment No. 16 

July, 29, 2013
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Ohio State certainly is doing its part to shore up positions of need in the 2014 recruiting class.

After landing ESPN 300 offensive guard Demetrius Knox (Fort Worth, Texas/All Saints Episcopal) on Sunday, the Buckeyes hauled in four-star athlete Malik Hooker (New Castle, Pa./New Castle) on Monday. He is their 16th pledge in 2014 and picked Ohio State over Pittsburgh and Penn State.

This month is very important for Ohio State, as the staff is set to host its senior advanced camp on Sunday. Hundreds of prospects will be in attendance, including several top targets. Here are five storylines to watch this week:


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Ohio State’s defense is based on speed, and the Buckeyes will go anywhere to find it.

And that includes Oklahoma, a state Ohio State rarely recruits.


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C.J. Reavis (Chester, Va./Thomas Dale) got a sneak peak at The Horseshoe seven and half months ago when he participated in Ohio State’s Friday Night Lights camp.


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NSD TV announcement schedule

January, 31, 2013
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National signing day is just around the corner on Feb. 6. That day, a number of the nation’s top football recruits will announce their college destinations and 18 ESPN 300 prospects are scheduled to do so on ESPNU.

Below is the full schedule of announcements on ESPNU, which kicks off with the nation’s No. 1 overall prospect, Robert Nkemdiche, making his long-awaited decision at 7:30 a.m. ET.

Note: All times are Eastern

DB Bell excited about Vols under Jones 

January, 30, 2013
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The official visits and in-home visits are over for ESPN 150 safety Vonn Bell (Rossville, Ga./Ridgeland). Ohio State was thought to have an early lead for the 6-foot, 190-pound defensive back, then Alabama surged ahead last fall. Over the last week however, a new frontrunner might have emerged.


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Vonn Bell sets announcement time 

January, 29, 2013
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After taking his official visits to Alabama, Ohio State and Tennessee, ESPN 150 safety Vonn Bell (Rossville, Ga./Ridgeland) is getting closer to choosing his future home. The 6-foot, 190-pound defensive back was thought to be leaning toward the Crimson Tide before taking his last official visit to see Tennessee, whom he has been a longtime fan of.


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WR commit could pay dividends for OSU 

January, 25, 2013
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Two weekends ago, it looked like Ohio State might get the chance to lock up a wide receiver.

Corey Smith (Akron, Ohio/East Mississippi CC), Cornelius Elder (Nashville, Tenn./Ensworth) and Shelton Gibson (Cleveland Heights, Ohio/Cleveland Heights) were on campus on official visits.


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A WR could go a long way for OSU

January, 23, 2013
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Two weekends ago, it looked like Ohio State might get the chance to lock up a wide receiver.

Corey Smith (Akron, Ohio/East Mississippi CC), Cornelius Elder (Nashville, Tenn./Ensworth) and Shelton Gibson (Cleveland Heights, Ohio/Cleveland Heights) were on campus on official visits.

Ryan Timmons (Frankfort, Ky./Franklin County) was scheduled to come as well, but backed out at the last moment. Incidentally, Timmons picked up an offer from the Buckeyes on Tuesday night so that could change things again.

Smith is a Mississippi State commitment, but still loves the Ohio State. Elder has the Buckeyes and UCLA in his final two. Gibson has committed to West Virginia.

[+] EnlargeDontre Wilson
Travis L. Brown/ESPNDallas.com Getting Dontre Wilson to flip his commitment from Oregon to OSU could pay dividends for other recruits on the Buckeyes' board.
While Timmons is still in play -- Ohio State visited him Tuesday -- Oregon commit Dontre Wilson (DeSoto, Texas/DeSoto) is scheduled to come to town this weekend.

Incidentally, James Clark (New Smyrna Beach, Fla./New Smyrna Beach) could be a late add to this weekend’s official visit list as well. He has an in-home visit with the Buckeyes tonight.

The following weekend another Duck, this one -- Darren Carrington (San Diego/Horizon) -- has an official visit lined up as well.

Tyree Robinson (San Diego/Lincoln) and his twin brother Tyrell Robinson were scheduled to make an official visit this weekend, but have parted ways with Ohio State.

If they can lock up Wilson it might push things along in the process with others.

Wilson likes Oregon’s promotion of former offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich, but still wants to look around. He has always liked the Buckeyes, so a complete sell job could be the difference.

A wide receiver commitment could also hurry the process along a bit for other targets.

With Urban Meyer and Co. filling up another spot in a class with so few precious ones remaining, a commitment from a lineman like Dan Skipper (Arvada, Col./Ralston Valley) or Cameron Hunt (Corona, Calif./Centennial) could come sooner rather than later.

It won’t likely affect ESPN 150 safety Vonn Bell (Rossville, Ga./Ridgeland), who will wait until signing day, but maybe it brings one of the aforementioned receivers to Columbus, Ohio.

Either way, a pledge this weekend should get the ball rolling. Otherwise, expect an insanely hectic final week for the Buckeyes as they wrap up their 2013 recruiting class.

Signing day primer: Alabama 

January, 23, 2013
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A little behind on the recruiting trail? Worry not -- TideNation has you covered. To catch you up on where the Alabama recruiting class of 2013 stands, we'll take you through the high points, including how the coaching staff has addressed certain needs and set the team up for seasons to come.

Team needs: With three of five starting offensive linemen and two of three defensive lineman starters off to the NFL draft, Alabama was forced to focus on finding help in the trenches. Nick Saban and the rest of the UA coaching staff had success filling those needs with the 2013 class, particularly along the offensive line. The Crimson Tide secured the commitments of four offensive linemen, one coming by way of a junior college in New York. Leon Brown, who was ranked in the top 20 of all junior college prospects by ESPN, could find himself competing for the starting right tackle job vacated by D.J. Fluker.

Derrick Henry
Derek Tyson/ESPN.comDerrick Henry is the only five-star commitment Alabama has and can fit at a variety of position.
Help is on the way: Outside of the lines, Alabama was once again in search of talented athletes to continue bringing potency to an offense that's been on a steady rise the past few years. Amari Cooper and T.J. Yeldon were difference makers in 2012 and there could be one or two who do the same this year. Derrick Henry, the No. 1 athlete in the country and Alabama's lone five-star commitment, could be the biggest wild card of the class. At 6-foot-3 and 243 pounds, he's an option at tailback, H-back and possibly linebacker. He'll begin at running back, where he set a national career rushing yards record at Yulee High in Florida.

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Vonn Bell spends time with finalists 

January, 15, 2013
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In a span of fewer than 72 hours, ESPN 150 safety Vonn Bell (Rossville, Ga./Ridgeland) spent time with coaches from each of his three finalists. First was on his first official visit, to Ohio State.


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Is Ohio State still in the mix for ESPN 150 safety Vonn Bell (Rossville, Ga./Ridgeland)?

His high school coach Mark Mariakas wasted no time at all in answering that question after talking to Bell’s father, Vincent, following the four-star senior’s official visit.


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When Vonn Bell (Rossville, Ga./Ridgeland) announced he was planning to take official visits to Alabama, Ohio State and Tennessee shortly after his team’s state runner-up finish, BuckeyeNation said the trip to Ohio would be important.

Developments since then prove just how vital this weekend will be for the Buckeyes as they try to round out an already stellar defensive recruiting class by adding the ESPN 150 safety.


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LB Trey Johnson chooses Ohio State

January, 4, 2013
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- For months, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer and his staff have made the No. 2 inside linebacker prospect in the country a recruiting priority.

Their patience paid off tonight when Trey Johnson (Lawrenceville, Ga./Central Gwinnett) committed to Ohio State during the Under Armour All-America Game, live on ESPN.

Johnson chose Ohio State over Florida and Tennessee.

A longtime Auburn Tigers commitment, Johnson happened to be returning from his official visit to Ohio State on Nov. 25 when Auburn fired coach Gene Chizik. That time on the Columbus, Ohio, campus helped the No. 2 inside linebacker get a better feel for the Buckeyes.

“When I took a visit up there it was different,” said Johnson, a starter in the UA Game. “I kind of like the feel up there, the depth chart. And there are many factors that make it a good fit there.”

The addition of Johnson gives Ohio State 20 commitments, nine of those being members of the ESPN 150, and boosts what is already the No. 4 recruiting class in the ESPN rankings.

Johnson, who made 140 tackles, three sacks, and one interception as a senior, is the first linebacker commitment for the Buckeyes in the 2013 class. They are still working to add linebacker and ESPN 150 prospect Mike Mitchell (Plano, Texas/Prestonwood Christian Academy), and are in the mix for another standout in the Peach State, Under Armour All-American safety Vonn Bell (Rossville, Ga./Ridgeland).

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