NCF On The Trail: Poona Ford

Top position classes: DL 

February, 14, 2014
Feb 14
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With national signing day in the books, RecruitingNation is looking at the top position classes. For the full series, click here.

Nationally (and SEC)
Texas A&M went into the 2014 class knowing that size and athleticism was an absolute must on its defensive front. And Kevin Sumlin and staff delivered on those glaring needs. Leading the way is No. 1 defensive end and five-star player Myles Garrett (Arlington, Texas/James Martin), who has the size, speed and power combination to be a difference-maker early on next fall. The 6-foot-5, 247-pound Garrett is joined at defensive end by ESPN 300 No. 203 Qualen Cunningham (Chandler, Ariz./Hamilton), and high three-star Jarrett Johnson (Katy, Texas/Seven Lakes), who has a nonstop motor. While the Aggies have some talented young defensive tackles, continuing to add size and athleticism to the interior was a must. No. 150 DeShawn Washington (Nederland, Texas/Nederland) and four-star early enrollee Zaycoven Henderson (Longview, Texas/Longview) add disruptive explosiveness and athleticism.

The Aggies had the nation’s best defensive line class; here’s which schools had the best in each of the remaining power conferences:

Signing day: Big 12 wrapup

February, 5, 2014
Feb 5
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As hectic of a day as it was, national signing day was a success for all Big 12 programs. Coaches were up early manning their fax machines and showing excitement with every national letter of intent submitted via fax.

Nearly 250 football players signed letters of intent to play Big 12 football on Wednesday. Here are five of the biggest storylines -- and a bonus storyline that could have an ending Thursday -- from the conference.

Oklahoma takes over top spot in Big 12

In the past 48 hours, everything seemed to go Oklahoma’s way.

[+] EnlargeMichiah Quick
Courtesy of Nike ESPN 300 ATH Michiah Quick was a big part of Oklahoma's final rush, a rush that gave the Sooners the top class in the Big 12.
After getting a Tuesday commitment from ESPN 300 safety Steven Parker II (Jenks, Okla./Jenks), the Sooners got Wednesday pledges from ESPN 300 athlete Michiah Quick (Fresno, Calif./Central East) and high three-star offensive tackles Kenyon Frison (West Valley City, Utah/Granger) and Orlando Brown Jr. (Duluth, Ga./Peachtree Ridge).

All four players were a part of Oklahoma’s signing class of 26 on Wednesday -- helping the Sooners take over the top spot in the Big 12 class rankings. Oklahoma’s class is No. 13 nationally, three spots better than previous top dog Texas.

Oklahoma in previous years has been very good at finishing strong in recruiting. It managed to sign Frison, who committed to Utah last February before decommitting last month, as well as Brown, who had been committed to Tennessee since May before making an 11th-hour change.

Strong, Longhorns get their DTs

New Texas coach Charlie Strong wanted two players he recruited to play at Louisville, and by Wednesday afternoon, he had them.

ESPN 300 defensive tackle Poona Ford (Hilton Head, S.C./Hilton Head) and three-star defensive tackle Chris Nelson (Lakeland, Fla./Victory Christian Academy) signed with the Longhorns and were two of 23 to submit national letters of intent. They also helped erase the sting of the Longhorns losing three four-star defensive tackle commitments in LSU signee Trey Lealaimatafao (San Antonio/Warren), Oklahoma signee Courtney Garnett (New Orleans/St. Augustine) and Texas A&M signee Zaycoven Henderson (Longview, Texas/Longview) last month.

Collectively, Ford and Nelson recorded 235 tackles, 9.5 sacks, 35 quarterback pressures and four forced fumbles. The duo also had 37.5 tackles for loss.

Receivers ‘No. 1’ to Baylor coach

Baylor coach Art Briles made a bold statement about his new wide receivers -- one that might be challenged by some but co-signed by others.

“The thing that we feel really good about,” Briles said, “is that we've signed the No. 1 receiving class in America -- I don't think that's up for debate.”

Briles has an argument with four ESPN 300 receivers in K.D. Cannon (Mount Pleasant, Texas/Mount Pleasant), Davion Hall (Texarkana, Texas/Liberty-Eylau), Ishmael Zamora (Houston/Alief Elsik) and Chris Platt (Willis, Texas/Willis). The quartet helped to give Baylor a top-25 national recruiting class.

Rhoads fired up about lone in-state signee

To say Paul Rhoads is excited about his top-ranked signee, ESPN 300 wide receiver Allen Lazard (Urbandale, Iowa/Urbandale) is an understatement.

While Rhoads is pumped about the entire class, there’s something special about Lazard, as he is this year’s only in-state signee. Lazard, No. 148 in the ESPN 300, had opportunities to sign with other programs, but he chose to honor his original commitment and also follow the footsteps of his father Kevin Lazard, who played in the secondary for the Cyclones in the early 1990s.

“This is a young man who has gotten phenomenal national attention and was recruited by the traditional historical programs in college football and kept on turning them away to stay true to his word to be an Iowa State Cyclone,” Rhoads said in a statement of Lazard, the No. 2 prospect out of the state of Iowa behind Alabama offensive lineman signee Ross Pierschbacher (Cedar Falls, Iowa/Cedar Falls).

West Virginia adds depth in class

Adding depth was the objective for West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen, as he signed 22 players on Wednesday. Holgorsen was fortunate to add depth from coast to coast.

Of the 22 commits, only one -- three-star offensive tackle Amanii Brown (Morgantown, W.Va./Morgantown) -- is an in-state signee. The Mountaineers hit points all over the Lower 48, from California to Texas to Florida, to get players who can be contributors early and help the program return to star status.

West Virginia’s class is led by five ESPN 300 players. Running back Donte Thomas-Williams (Durham, N.C./Hillside), the class’ top-ranked player, was the last to commit early Wednesday afternoon. He joins defensive back Dravon Henry (Aliquippa, Pa./Aliquippa), linebacker Davonte James (Springfield, Ohio/Springfield) and receivers Lamar Parker (Miami/Booker T. Washington) and Jake McCrary (Miami/Coral Reef) in the class.

Bonus: Could the Sooners add one more?

LSU signed 22 players on Wednesday. The Tigers were hoping to sign 23.

Deondre Clark (Oklahoma City/Douglass) has been verbally committed to LSU since July, but the ESPN 300 defensive end also has high interest in Oklahoma. There were conflicting reports on Wednesday regarding whether Clark actually signed and submitted his letter of intent to LSU.

ESPN’s David Ching said an LSU spokesperson confirmed the letter of intent was at LSU and cleared compliance. Outside reports, however, say Clark did not submit the letter of intent, and a tweet from Clark's Twitter account said that “nothing is final.” His mother Dorshell also told The Oklahoman that her son “has not signed with LSU.”

Oklahoma City schools were closed on Wednesday because of bad weather, so Clark didn’t fax anything by way of Douglass High School. He is expected to announce his final decision on Thursday.

If it's true that Clark has not signed with LSU, look for Oklahoma to be a key player in his final decision. Ranked No. 273 in the ESPN 300, Clark has built a great relationship with the Sooners' coaching staff, particularly defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery.

ESPN 300 players announce decisions

February, 5, 2014
Feb 5
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The nation's top players announced their college decisions Wednesday. Here's a look at where the ESPN 300 committed:

No. 9 Adoree' Jackson: USC
No. 14 Lorenzo Carter: Georgia
No. 17 Malachi Dupre: LSU
No. 22 Ermon Lane: Florida State
No. 24 John "Juju" Smith: USC
No. 25 Solomon Thomas: Stanford
No. 26 Damian Prince: Maryland
No. 52 Rashaan Evans: Alabama
No. 60 Malik McDowell: Michigan State
No. 67 Damien Mama: USC
No. 75 Michiah Quick: Oklahoma
No. 87 Chris Lammons: South Carolina
No. 120 Wesley Green: South Carolina
No. 127 Braden Smith: Auburn
No. 138 Donte Thomas-Williams: West Virginia
No. 158 Roderick Johnson: Florida State
No. 163 Treon Harris: Florida
No. 164 Travonte Valentine: LSU
No. 174 Andrew Williams: Auburn
No. 179 Dexter Wideman: South Carolina
No. 194 Mattrell McGraw: Oregon
No. 243 Nifae Lealao: Vanderbilt
No. 249 Myles Autry: Georgia Tech
No. 253 Derrick Nnadi: Florida State
No. 264 Poona Ford: Texas
No. 286 Isaiah McKenzie: Georgia

You can watch ESPNU online via WatchESPN.

To see where we think these guys will go, check out the predictions on our Hot Board.

ESPN 300 defensive tackle Poona Ford (Hilton Head Island, S.C./Hilton Head) was a fan of Charlie Strong and his staff at Louisville -- so much so that he decided to follow them to the Big 12.

Ford signed with Texas and gave the Longhorns their eighth ESPN 300 player in the 2014 class. The 6-foot, 285-pound defensive tackle chose Texas over Missouri and Purdue.

Ranked No. 266, Ford visited Texas the weekend of Jan. 17. The Longhorns will get the No. 22 defensive tackle in the country and a player who can see valuable playing time early.


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Want the lowdown on what the top prospects are thinking heading into signing day? Check out where the top 100 stand here. Here’s a look at the rest of the uncommitted ESPN 300:

CB Wesley Green (Lithonia, Ga./Martin Luther King)
Ranking:
No. 120 in ESPN 300
The decision: The former South Carolina commit officially visited Columbia Jan. 17. The Gamecocks are trying to hold off the late charge by Georgia.

[+] EnlargeBraden Smith
Miller Safrit/ESPNAuburn, TCU and Texas A&M are the finalists for OT Braden Smith, the No. 127-ranked prospect in the ESPN 300.
OT Braden Smith (Olathe, Kan./Olathe South)
Ranking:
No. 127 in ESPN 300
Announcement: 8:50am ET on ESPNU
The skinny: The No. 9-ranked guard prospect visited TCU this past weekend and will pick between Auburn, Texas A&M and TCU. Smith’s sister is a member of the TCU track and field team.

RB Donte Thomas-Williams (Durham, N.C./Hillside)
Ranking:
No. 138 in ESPN 300
The decision: West Virginia is considered the heavy favorite for the big back, with NC State fighting hard to keep Thomas-Williams home.

OT Roderick Johnson (Florissant, Mo./Hazelwood Central)
Ranking:
No. 158 in ESPN 300
The decision: Florida State and Ohio State are the final two, with the Seminoles having long been considered the favorite.

DT Travonte Valentine (Hialeah, Fla./Champagnat Catholic)
Ranking:
No. 164 in ESPN 300
The decision: The former Louisville, Florida and Miami commit is down to LSU and the Hurricanes.

DE Andrew Williams (McDonough, Ga./Eagles Landing Christian)
Ranking:
No. 174 in ESPN 300
Announcement: 2pm ET on ESPNU
The decision: What looked like an Auburn-Clemson battle has turned into a three-team race after this past weekend’s visit to Georgia.

S Mattrell McGraw (River Ridge, La./John Curtis Christian)
Ranking:
No. 194 in ESPN 300
Announcement: 10:45am ET on ESPNU
The skinny: McGraw is set to announce between Oregon and Texas A&M. The Ducks are considered the longtime favorite, but the Aggies have made a strong push.

ATH Myles Autry (Norcross, Ga./Norcross)
Ranking:
No. 249 in ESPN 300
Announcement: 3:50pm ET on ESPNU
The skinny: The versatile athlete Autry made official visits to Georgia Tech on Jan. 24 and Florida State this past weekend and will decide between the two. The Yellow Jackets are the favorite unless the Seminoles made a strong push.

DT Derrick Nnadi (Virginia Beach, Va./Ocean Lakes)
Ranking:
No. 253 in ESPN 300
The decision: Virginia Tech and Florida State have been thrown about as the favorites, but Nnadi did visit Virginia this past weekend. Penn State and Ohio State also received official visits.

DT Poona Ford (Hilton Head, S.C./Hilton Head)
Ranking:
No. 266 in ESPN 300
Announcement: 12:15 p.m. ET on Twitter (#WhereWillPoonaGo) and on ESPNU
The skinny: The former Louisville commit has officially visited Texas and Purdue and was at Missouri this past weekend. The Longhorns were considered the favorite headed into the trip to Missouri, due to the athletic defensive tackle’s relationship with former Louisville and current Longhorns coach Charlie Strong.

ATH Isaiah McKenzie (Plantation, Fla./American Heritage)
Ranking:
No. 286 in ESPN 300
The decision: The Under Armour All-America Game standout visited Virginia Tech this past weekend, and it looks like it will be a decision between Ole Miss and the Hokies. Florida remains in the mix.

LB Kenny Young (River Ridge, La./John Curtis Christian)
Ranking:
No. 16 ILB
Announcement: 10:39 a.m. ET on ESPNU
The skinny: The inside linebacker made January officials to Texas A&M, Arkansas, Oklahoma State, LSU and UCLA. The Bruins, whom he visited this past weekend, have been the favorite for weeks, but the hometown Tigers and the Aggies have made strong pushes recently.

CB Terrence Alexander (River Ridge, La./John Curtis Christian)
Ranking:
No. 35 CB
Announcement: 10:35 a.m. ET on ESPNU
The skinny: The three-star corner visited Stanford, Notre Dame and Ole Miss in January and will pick between the trio of programs, with Ole Miss and Notre Dame both trending in recent weeks.

Bold predictions: Big 12 

February, 4, 2014
Feb 4
10:30
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One of the best things about national signing day is that, every year, it provides a last-minute surprise. Whether it involves a solid commit with an 11th-hour flip or an uncommitted player choosing a school to shock the masses, the day is good for full-fledged entertainment.

As we prepare for Wednesday, here are five bold predictions that we might see happen within the Big 12:


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Big 12 recruiting roundtable 

February, 4, 2014
Feb 4
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National signing day is now just 24 hours away. To get you ready, we checked in with our ESPN.com recruiting experts for their takes on the major storylines in the Big 12.

Senior national recruiting writer Jeremy Crabtree and Big 12 recruiting reporter Damon Sayles took time from their extremely busy schedules this week to address a few questions:

Oklahoma is closing strong here. With a few blue-chip players still in play, could the Sooners end up with the top class in the Big 12


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Oregon coaches have spent the last several weeks doing everything they can to add defensive tackles to their 2014 recruiting class. On Saturday, the Ducks tallied a commitment at the position, landing a verbal pledge from Austin Maloata (Corona, Calif./Centennial) during an official visit.


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Key recruiting visits -- SEC 

January, 31, 2014
Jan 31
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The last official visit weekend is here. While the majority of prospects have committed and are set for national signing day, there are still several uncommitted ESPN 300 prospects for whom SEC programs are battling down to the wire.

Here is a look at 10 key visits this weekend. Numbers indicate ranking in the ESPN 300.


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Big 12 class rankings analysis 

January, 29, 2014
Jan 29
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With a week left until national signing day, Texas Tech climbed one spot, and Texas and West Virginia each fell a spot in the latest ESPN class rankings.

Clemson and Texas flipped spots, putting the Tigers at No. 13 and the Longhorns at No. 14. Oklahoma remained at No. 16, Baylor stayed at No. 18 and Oklahoma State remained at No. 26.

Texas Tech switched places with Northwestern, moving up a spot to No. 34. West Virginia, however, traded with North Carolina State and moved down to No. 38. Here is an in-depth look at the Big 12 class rankings:


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Most important targets: Big Ten 

January, 28, 2014
Jan 28
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There is limited time left for programs to secure their top targets before signing day. With last efforts being finalized, Big Ten teams are still scrambling to finish out the classes.

Here is a look at some of the most important targets remaining within the conference.


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Most important targets: Big 12 

January, 28, 2014
Jan 28
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In eight days, many of the nation’s top athletes will seal their college futures with a signature. Between now and Feb. 5, college programs will look to do one of two things, either use a final official visit to sway an uncommitted target or do all it can to flip an already-committed player.

In the last week of recruiting, here is a look at some of the most important remaining targets who could find a home in the Big 12.


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Weekend recruiting wrap: Big 12 

January, 27, 2014
Jan 27
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As expected, this was one of the busiest weeks in the Big 12 from a recruiting standpoint. Teams were looking to fill in last-minute vacancies, and players were looking to finalize their college plans. TCU proved to be the big winner in the conference, landing six 2014 commits and two more commits from the 2015 class. Kansas wasn’t far behind, as the Jayhawks got verbal commitments from five three-star players for the 2014 class.

Here are some of this past week’s highlights:


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SEC class rankings analysis 

January, 22, 2014
Jan 22
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The SEC continues to dominate the Recruiting Nation class rankings nationally, with 13 of the 14 programs in the conference ranked in the top 40. That includes four of the top five, seven of the top 10 and 10 of the top 30. As expected, Alabama continues to lead the pack, and the Crimson Tide has a large lead coming down the stretch.


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5 to watch: Big 12 signing day preview 

January, 21, 2014
Jan 21
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National signing day is in 15 days, and while many athletes have finalized their college plans, several questions remain. Will the committed players stay committed? Will the Big 12 programs steal away some of the top players? Will the world be surprised by last-minute changes?

There will be several storylines to watch from now until signing day, but here are five to definitely keep your eyes on:


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