Top-flight Texas wideout spurns Oklahoma for Tech

Updated: January 16, 2006

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More than 100 players committed to a school this week. Two of the biggest developments: Ryne Giddins (above) picked USF, and Eric Ward is going to Texas Tech.

Texas Tech's Persistence Attracted Wideout Ward

Despite his strong verbal commitment to Oklahoma dating back to last spring, highly touted receiver Eric Ward (Wichita Falls, Texas/Rider) agreed to visit Texas Tech last weekend, essentially to appease a Red Raiders assistant coach who had been pleasantly persistent throughout his recruitment.

The determination from special-teams coach Clay McGuire certainly paid off.

Ward didn't just decommit from OU on his visit, but ESPN's No. 33-ranked receiver gave a subsequent verbal commitment to the Red Raiders and is already enrolled in classes in Lubbock -- less than 48 hours after his commitment.

With that action, Ward has officially ended his recruitment, and there will be no second-guessing now.

"Coach McGuire just kept calling me even though I told him I was still strong with Oklahoma," Ward said. "It came to the point where he just asked me to take one visit there for him, and I finally said OK."

It's a good thing he did. Ward said he got a strong gut feeling the moment he stepped on campus that Texas Tech was the right school for him.

"I just felt like I was at home," Ward said. "All the players and coaches are one big family; it felt like my high school."

Of course, his future role as a Texas Tech football player also influenced his decision. On Ward's visit, the coaches had a chance to sit down face-to-face and discuss how his skills would fit into Tech's Air Raid passing attack. The No. 3 receiver in Texas quickly saw similarities to his high school offense, in which he hauled in more than 2,000 receiving yards during his outstanding prep career.

"I knew I could be an impact player wherever I went, but thought it would be better if I could continue to do what we did in high school and stay in an offense I have already learned," Ward said.

The sure-handed wideout said the Tech coaches envision him playing some slot but also motioning a lot into the backfield and creating mismatches in an H-back-type role.

We agree with Mike Leach & Co. on their initial assessment for Ward's employment in Lubbock. Aside from his strong frame, big hands and good speed, he is just a savvy athlete with a natural feel for the game. He doesn't yet have real polish as a receiver, but the physical tools are there to develop, and he has all the other intangibles to allow him to adapt to several different positions. Ward may start out at receiver but could quickly fill some of the void left by graduating senior Eric Morris at the H position.

It's been a crazy week for Eric Ward. His father rushed him home Sunday to grab extra clothing and essential items for the semester. He also spent a good amount of time meeting with his academic adviser to have his classes and schedule finalized so he could start school Tuesday.

In the end, Ward had nothing but good things to say about Oklahoma, but that probably doesn't ease the loss any in Norman. Coach Bob Stoops lost a high-caliber prospect at a much-needed position down the stretch.

This is arguably one of the year's biggest surprises on the recruiting trail and proof that timing can be everything in recruiting.

USF Creating A 'Big Four' On The Recruiting Trail

When Ryne Giddins (Seffner, Fla./Armwood), ESPN's No. 5-rated defensive end prospect, stood up and proclaimed he was going to Florida during his official visit to USF this past weekend, there was dead silence and shocked faces on the chosen setting of his college announcement.

However, the dining hall erupted when Giddins remained standing and quickly added a "South" after Florida and stated emphatically that he was going to "South Florida" to become a Bull.

With his elite ESPNU 150 status and offers from the big three in-state programs under his belt, it may have seemed unlikely that the less-prominent program in Tampa would ever have a shot. The recently crowned BCS champion Gators seemed like a more fitting choice.

Yet in Giddins' case, there has always been a lot to like about the rising USF program, including its proximity to home and the chance to make an immediate impact on the field. The sincerity of the coaching staff may have actually had the biggest influence.

"The relationship with the coaches really sold me," Giddins said. "It was way stronger with them than anyone else. They recruited me as an individual and sold me on what the program can do for me; it was not just about playing time."

One of the components that sold Giddins on his recent visit was USF's academics. A professor from the criminal justice department was on hand to meet with him about his potential course of study and answer questions about his work outside football.

However, with almost every top program in the Southeast chasing this coveted prospect, Giddins wanted to feel assured that the relatively young Bulls program was going to continue building a strong foundation.

"I met with all the recruits when we first got there," Giddins said. "I shook their hands and wanted to know how they felt about the program."

The state's No. 2 defensive end was excited by the enthusiasm he felt and was equally impressed by the football talent already pledged to the Bulls' 2009 class.

"I think South Florida should definitely be counted now as one of the top programs in Florida -- and we're going to prove it next year when we play Florida State [for the first time]," Giddins said.

Recruiting Hardship At The Heights

There has certainly been drama surrounding the Boston College football program in recent weeks, and recruiting may be the root of the problem. Jeff Jagodzinski was fired by athletic director Gene DeFilippo last week for interviewing with the New York Jets for seeking a long-shot NFL head coaching position without his AD's knowledge or consent. But there might be more to the story.

Was the second-year Eagles coach, who has an NFL background, just looking for a paid way out of his contract and the world of college football? After going 20-8 with a roster he basically inherited from current NC State coach Tom O'Brien, perhaps Jagodzinski finally came to the realization that recruiting, a major component to achieving future success at his job, was not his cup of tea.

Although some may question the assessment, the numbers don't lie, and the timing seems calculated. Less than a month away from signing day, Boston College has one of the worst recruiting classes in the ACC and one of the weaker 2009 groups of any BCS program that finished with a winning record last fall.

The Eagles claim a paltry 12 prep commitments at this time, including just one prospect who ranks in the top 50 at his position. What may be even more alarming is that BC didn't have to win many head-to-head battles between other major BCS programs for its current commitments. Boston College has not been in serious contention for many upper-echelon players who have committed elsewhere, either. The Eagles couldn't even hold on to the top Massachusetts prospect in recent years in tight end Arthur Lynch (Dartmouth, Mass.); the Under Armour All-American will be suiting up for Georgia next fall.

It's surprising, considering what BC has to offer in terms of facilities, academics, NFL placement and national success (particularly in 2007). In Jagodzinski's defense, the New England area is not the most fertile for top-tier football talent, and the college's academic standards are stricter than some of its competitors. Still, there is no denying the astute X's-and-O's head coach has underachieved on the recruiting trail.

The question now becomes whether recently promoted defensive coordinator Frank Spaziani can hit the trail hard for 2010; he can only hope now to salvage a very poor (in our eyes) 2009 class. While he's loyal, steady and one of the better defensive coaches in the country, the reserved Spaziani does not have a reputation as an energetic recruiter.

DeFilippo said hiring within will allow the program to hit the ground running; we hope he was referring to a resurgence in recruiting.



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Sleeper Commits Of The Week

There were more than 100 commitments this week, including several big names coming off the board. We feel the following two prospects were overlooked because they lack an inch or two of height or a 10th off their 40 time.

USF coach Jim Leavitt and the Bulls stayed true to their roots this week by gaining a pledge from a lesser-profiled athlete in Lindsey Lamar (Tampa, Fla./Hillsborough). Lamar is a prospect without a lot of hype because of his lack of great size. A 5-foot-9 combination running back, slot receiver and return specialist, he has great quickness in space, acceleration and body control. A mismatch waiting to happen in USF's offense, Lamar will bring great versatility to that roster.

Despite a tough '09 season, Washington State certainly snagged a promising prospect this week. Asi Hosea (Murray, Utah/Cottonwood) may have slid under the radar with his marginal size measurables, but it's hard to find a harder hitter, pound-for-pound, than this Utah native. He covers a ton of ground quickly with direct angles and little wasted motion. Hosea generates striking velocity closing in space and consistently runs through his tackles. A projected free safety at the next level, it's hard to fathom how Hosea was passed over by local Utah and BYU.
-- Billy Tucker

Recruiting Buzz

Kudos to new Auburn head coach Gene Chizik for landing his first commitment, and a darn good football player in underrated in-state athlete Izauea Lanier (Gordo, Ala.). Lanier is an impressive skill player with coveted size, speed and hip fluidity. He was recruited as a safety to The Plains, but we love what this kid can do with the ball in hands. He rushed for 871 yards last season while picking up 870 yards through the air. Lanier is a weapon in the return game as well. Alabama's top-rated athlete this year chose the Tigers over offers from Mississippi State, Kentucky and Troy.
-- Billy Tucker

Texas Tech Commit Eric Ward

ACC Recruiting Breakdown

Remember the comments I made about quarterback play in the ACC? Well, UNC has addressed that issue with QB Bryn Renner (Lorton, Va./West Springfield). Renner is one of the more underpublicized prospects in this class; he's a terrific athlete who could easily become a dual-threat guy in Chapel Hill. However, the talent in this group does not stop there. If ATH Donavan Tate (Cartersville, Ga.) decides to play football along with baseball, he could give UNC a huge boost at the quarterback position and really upgrade the Heels' roster. DE Donte Moss (Jacksonville, N.C./Hillside) leads an impressive defense group.

Top Prospect: WR Jheranie Boyd (Gastonia, N.C./Ashbrook) is the highest-rated prospect in this class, but he is also a wide receiver, and wide receivers are everywhere. It's a boost for this class with Hakeem Nicks' opting for the NFL. In our opinion, the QBs are the headliners here.

Don't be surprised if … DE Sam Montgomery (Greenwood, S.C.) chooses the Tar Heels come signing day. This would be a huge haul for Butch Davis and crew when you consider the level of defensive interior personnel they have brought in over the last two classes -- including DE Robert Quinn and DTs Tydreke Powell and Marvin Austin. Montgomery would play opposite Moss.

• Click here for full coverage of the ACC Coastal

The Demon Deacons have proved they can win consistently under head coach Jim Grobe, and recruiting is picking up as a result. Wake Forest has 21 commitments and has shown a defensive theme at the top of the class in an effort to add to the 16th-ranked defensive unit in the country. The class also has strong Florida ties -- especially at the top. Of Wake's top seven commits, five are defensive prospects, four of whom hail from Florida. Top-40 corner Rishard Anderson (Plantation, Fla./American Heritage) has a nice blend of speed and physicality. The class also features good offensive talent such as athlete Michael Campanaro (Clarksville, Md./River Hill), who's a somewhat undersized but versatile all-purpose back.

Top prospect: Wake Forest has had good success recruiting at Nease High School in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., and for the second year in a row could have its top prospect hail from that program. The current top prospect for the Demon Deacons is defensive tackle Frank Souza (Nease), a smart, lunch-bucket type of player. He has good size and displays good quickness off the ball. Souza is not the greatest athlete among the top defensive tackle prospects, but he compensates for his liabilities by playing smart and using technique.

What to expect: Wake Forest might not add any other players between now and signing day. Also, this class may give the Demon Deacons their best finish in our conference recruiting rankings.

• Click here for full coverage of the ACC Atlantic

On The Trail

No. 1-rated RB Richardson still taking visits
Under Armour All-American Trent Richardson, stunned by former Tide assistant coach Lance Thompson's departure for Tennessee, is still taking visits and plans to make his final decision on national signing day, ESPN affiliate Web site reports.

He is expected to travel to Gainesville, Fla., this weekend; check out LSU on Jan. 23; and then head to Tennessee or Florida State on Jan. 30.

• Richardson's On the Trail archive

Brown in no rush to make a final decision

The nation's No. 2-rated running back, Bryce Brown, spoke with ESPN affiliate Web site about the current status of his recruitment.

Brown reaffirmed that despite his commitment to the Hurricanes, the Ducks are on top: "Oregon is still my leader."

Miami's vacancy at offensive coordinator also looks like it could cause Brown to remained unsigned as national signing day passes. "That's looking like the plan I will take," Brown said. "I don't have a date set, but it's looking like it will go past signing day."

• Brown's On the Trail archive
• Complete On The Trail updates

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