NCF On The Trail: Damarkus Lodge

USC recruiting is in need of a significant shot in the arm after the Trojans’ performance at the Rose Bowl this past weekend. But the good news for USC fans is that the Trojans are in position to do just that, thanks to a handful of significant visitors who will be in town to watch USC host Notre Dame.

This weekend presents a slight departure from USC’s official visit plans for the past few years. In fact, the five official visitors scheduled this weekend appear to be more than USC hosted on in-season official visits during the 2012, 2013 and 2014 recruiting classes combined.

Around this time last year, TCU was near the bottom of the Big 12 barrel. The Horned Frogs were fresh off an overtime loss to West Virginia, which ultimately meant being in the middle of losing five of their last six games.

In short, the Horned Frogs weren’t taken seriously. Not by opponents. Not by analysts. Not by many of their fans.

And especially, not by star recruits.

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SEC's top recruiting visits 

October, 24, 2014
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There are again some big games around the SEC this weekend. The Ole Miss at LSU game looks to be loaded with big-time visitors. Tennessee is sure to bring in several high-profile recruits for its game against rival Alabama and Auburn is hoping to reel in a few top prospects for its game against South Carolina. Here’s a closer look at some of the top visitors in the SEC this weekend.

Alabama at Tennessee


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UA jersey tour: DaMarkus Lodge

October, 22, 2014
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CEDAR HILL, Texas -- It's been said that imitation is the most sincere form of flattery. For ESPN 300 wide receiver DaMarkus Lodge, watching his favorite athlete has taught him plenty about the values of hard work en route to success.

"I'm a huge Kobe fan, so I've read a lot about what he does," said Lodge, referring to Kobe Bryant, considered one of the hardest-working athletes in all of sports. "He's working hours before practice starts and hours after practice ends. He does what he has to do to win, and with him being so competitive, that's everything you can teach a young man to be a great athlete."

Lodge received his Under Armour jersey Wednesday afternoon at Cedar Hill High School. It was one of the many rewards he's received by attempting to follow Bryant's work ethic. When he isn't sleeping or working on something academic, Lodge is using his time getting better as a football player -- whether that's running routes with his teammate, quarterback and LSU commit Justin McMillan, or looking at film, or watching a receiver on TV.

Need proof of Lodge's drive? Last summer, Lodge had a chance to attend several combines, but instead of attending, he chose to stay home and work on improving his skills with his trainers.

The sacrifices have led to more than 30 offers, a state football championship and a No. 47 ranking in the latest ESPN 300. Lodge, the nation's fifth-ranked receiver, now can add the Under Armour game to his growing list of achievements.

"It means a lot to me," Lodge said. "Growing up and watching the guys before me get their jerseys presented to them and knowing I had a chance to be them inspired me. Playing in the game really means a lot."



A former Texas A&M commitment, Lodge decommitted in September to explore other options. He took an official visit to USC last month and will take an official to LSU with McMillan this weekend. Lodge also visited Ole Miss unofficially earlier this month. Big 12 schools Oklahoma, Baylor and TCU are three schools that Lodge also is very interested in.

Random thoughts with DaMarkus Lodge

Why do you wear your number? Every good receiver that's come through Cedar Hill -- except Dezmon Briscoe -- has worn 18. It started with Lovett [Gibson], then Quincy [Adeboyejo]. Then Quincy handed it down to me. It says a lot if you wear 18 at Cedar Hill."

Favorite football memory: "It was last year, Nov. 31, the first round of the playoffs. We were facing Temple, and in the first half, we were down 28 points. Coming out of halftime, I was tight in the first half and wasn't playing my game. In the second half, my coaches told me to just be me and play my game. I came out and scored two touchdowns and had nine receptions for 247 yards. We ended up winning."

Looking forward to seeing at the UA game: "One of the biggest guys I want face is [cornerback] Kevin Toliver II. He's one of the better DBs around, and I'm up for any challenge. He's big and physical, and he can open up and run with you. That's what I'll be looking at when I get to the next level."

Best player in UA game history: "I'm going to say A.J. Green … because I'm a big A.J. Green fan."

A "did you know" fact: "Before every game, I always get from Starbucks a Vanilla Bean Frappuccino with an extra shot of Espresso. It all started in the first round of the playoffs last year. I was really sleepy; I had only two hours of sleep the night before. My dad stopped at Starbucks and got it for me. I've done it ever since."

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The Texas A&M-Alabama game on Saturday is sure to be one of the top games in the country this weekend. The teams have had much success on the field since the Aggies joined the SEC, and that success has led to tremendous success in recruiting. This year is no different as both teams rank in the top four of the RecruitingNation class rankings. Here’s a closer look at how the schools match up in recruiting and who some of their remaining targets are.

Instant Impact recruit


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SEC's top recruiting visits 

October, 3, 2014
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There are once again some big games around the Southeastern Conference this weekend. The Alabama at Ole Miss game looks to be loaded with big-time visitors. Auburn will also host some key targets as it faces SEC West rival LSU. Mississippi State will hope to build on its momentum with a big game against Texas A&M this weekend. Here's a closer look at some of the top visitors in the SEC this weekend.


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Weekend recruiting wrap: Pac-12 

September, 30, 2014
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USC's impact visitor list, Stanford's statement in the Evergreen State, UCLA's major opportunity and a sophomore quarterback at his best under the bright lights are a few of the highlights from the recruiting weekend in the Pac-12 conference.


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Best of the visits: Pac-12

September, 28, 2014
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Pac-12 programs loaded up on visitors this weekend and the conference delivered three thrilling finishes on Saturday. The only weekend game in the conference decided by more than one score was USC's blowout win against Oregon State, which came at a perfect time for the Trojans, as they were able to bounce back in front of a number of important recruits.

Stars are out at USC

The USC Trojans put more than a few eggs into Saturday night's basket, bringing committed recruits Chuma Edoga and Aca'Cedric Ware, along with ESPN 300 wide receiver DaMarkus Lodge in on official visits, and also loading up on unofficial visitors. With a convincing 35-10 victory, the strategy appeared to pay off.

Cedar Hill (Texas) High School was very well represented, as 2016 women's basketball prospect Joyner Holmes made the trip alongside Ware and Lodge.
Five-star cornerback Iman Marshall, the No. 8 overall prospect in the nation, made his way to the game and took a photo alongside Edoga and quarterback Caleb Wilson, the son of USC defensive line coach Chris Wilson. Quarterback K.J. Costello, the No. 61 prospect in the 2016 ESPN 300, snapped a shot of the pregame from the sideline. Utes host big weekend despite loss

Like USC, Utah put plenty of effort into bringing in a number of recruits this weekend. Despite the loss to Washington State, the Utes were able to feature wide receiver Kaelin Clay, a junior college receiver, which might have been the perfect recruiting pitch considering they were hosting a trio of junior college receivers in Dede Westbrook, Kyle Fulks and Kinte Hatton. Recruits see power of Bear Raid

Prospects in Berkeley were treated to an offensive explosion between Cal and Colorado, where the Golden Bears were able to put on an offensive show in front of official visitor, junior college wide receiver Isaac Whitney. It was also an intriguing game for local 2016 prospect Camilo Eifler, who holds early offers from both Cal and Colorado, and caught up with former Bishop O'Dowd receiver De'Zhon Grace. Huskies on hand

Washington hung tough with Stanford for four quarters and did so in front of several committed recruits, including wide receiver Isaiah Renfro and 2016 ESPN 300 athlete Brandon Wellington.

Renfro gave future Washington official visitors a glimpse of what they can expect upon arrival to Seattle. Wellington, meanwhile, looked to get a hashtag going, likely on the heels of linebacker Shaq Thompson's third defensive touchdown of the season.

Pac-12's top recruiting visits 

September, 26, 2014
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The biggest game of the weekend in the Pac-12 -- and perhaps the country -- took place Thursday night between UCLA and Arizona State, but that won't stop the conference from putting together a truly remarkable visit weekend. There are four Pac-12 games on Saturday's docket and, though this is normally a top-three list, this week all four are deserving of mention when it comes to important weekend visitors.

1. USC

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A rival recruiter believes Kevin Sumlin’s not-so-subtle message to former Texas A&M pledge DaMarkus Lodge could come back to haunt the Aggies. Plus, one of Florida’s top defensive commitments appears to be looking around.


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Early Offer: Sumlin's message for Lodge 

September, 23, 2014
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Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin sent a not-so-subtle message to former commit DaMarkus Lodge at his Tuesday news conference. Plus, Mississippi State captured a monumental victory over LSU this past weekend, but the Bulldogs are also winning on the recruiting trail.


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Weekend recruiting wrap: SEC 

September, 23, 2014
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As always there was a ton of recruiting news from around the Southeastern Conference. There were several players who committed to SEC schools over the weekend, and Texas A&M lost a top commit. Here’s a closer look at the top recruiting news from around the conference.


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Early Offer: Hogs beef up defensive line 

September, 18, 2014
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Arkansas needs all the talent it can get at defensive tackle, and the Hogs landed a key defender Thursday. Chris Petersen continues to uncover sleepers at Washington, but can he attract enough talent to win in the Pac-12?


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A few years back, Mike Stoops told me being a college football recruiter was more complicated than being a politician trying to solve the Middle East crisis.

Stoops, the former Arizona head coach who is now the defensive coordinator at Oklahoma, wasn’t trying to make light of the situation in the Middle East. He was merely trying to express how exciting, frustrating, rewarding and agonizing the life of a recruiter is.

Being a recruiter means you’re often doing 25 things at the same time, and you’re doing them while dealing with high school juniors and seniors who change their minds more often than Taylor Swift changes genres.

Stoops recalled an hour period at Arizona when he landed a star quarterback; had to try to convince a key defensive tackle commitment not to visit a rival school while also thinking about what he was going to do when that defensive tackle ended up decommitting; and then also visited with a sophomore running back who showed up unexpectedly because he was the next big thing.

Oh yeah, it was also a game week.

Thursday’s news that ESPN 300 receiver DaMarkus Lodge backed away from his commitment to Texas A&M is another perfect example of the ups and downs college coaches face on the recruiting trail.

When Lodge committed to A&M June 19, it was a big, big deal. His decision cemented A&M’s claim as one of the top-five recruiting classes in the country and proved to Texas high school football observers that it was Kevin Sumlin, not Charlie Strong or Art Briles, who still ruled the roost in the Lone Star State.

But as we often see with recruiting -- too many times, if you ask coaches -- Lodge got cold feet for some reason.

He mentioned wanting to see other schools and that he committed too early. He also talked about concern that A&M has 17 receivers on its roster, that 16 players have caught passes this season and that he would not be a marquee receiver in College Station.

“As far as the receivers at A&M [go], they’re all good, and I know all will do good,” Lodge said. “Competition will be everywhere, and I am ready for it, but I need to make sure I can fit and be sure that I am happy as a player.”

Reading that, the Aggies coaches probably threw their hands up in frustration. Had Lodge not watched A&M under Sumlin? Surely, Lodge knew when he committed that the Aggies like to spread the ball around and have recruited well at the position the last three classes, with young stars like Speedy Noil and Ricky Seals-Jones already emerging.

None of that matter when Lodge committed to A&M in June.

“You don't want to be the only one who's at your level,” Lodge said back then. “You want to play with guys who will take you to that next level."

But competition matters now. Lodge honestly has every right to change his mind because he has not signed anything yet. He is making one of the biggest decisions he will make in his life. However, his reversal will be noticed by other recruits across the country and could continue to pile on to what coaches are calling the “decommitment epidemic.”

“As coaches, we can put a lot of heat on young guys,” Notre Dame recruiting coordinator Tony Alford said. “We can twist their minds a little bit with how we say things. But I'm also of the opinion, if you want me to sign on the line for you and hold true to that to our commitment to you, then there has to be some reciprocation there.

“I love being a coach, and there are so many wonderful things about recruiting young men that are going to be the foundation of your program’s future. But also at the same time, when you have decommitments and kids changing their minds more than they change a pair of shoes, it makes the job an absolute grind.”

Stoops would definitely agree.

ESPN 300 WR Lodge opens up recruiting 

September, 18, 2014
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Texas A&M took a rare blow in recruiting Thursday when ESPN 300 wide receiver DaMarkus Lodge announced he has decommitted from the Aggies.

Lodge, No. 70 in the ESPN 300 and the nation’s No. 9 receiver, verbally committed to the Aggies on June 19.


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