NCAA Football

A.J. Brown to Ole Miss: Rebels Land 4-Star WR Prospect

Class of 2016 4-star wide receiver recruit A.J. Brown committed to the Ole Miss Rebels on Wednesday, according to Robby Donoho of WCBI-TV:

The Mississippi native was a top-three prospect in his state and listed as the fifth-best wide receiver in the nation, according to 247Sports' composite rankings. 

At 6'1", 220 pounds, he is a well-built receiver who is strong enough to overpower defenders while possessing the agility to get around them as well. That alone is going to make him a tough target to stop. 

He drew some impressive comparisons early on, including from Fantasy Insiders' Ben Pritchett:

Brown also has a strong, quick set of hands that can snatch the ball out of the air. It's a skill that can bail out quarterbacks who try to thread the needle into tough situations.

Take a look at some of his moves from The Opening:

The receiver got plenty of attention from the biggest personalities on the collegiate level too, as his Twitter shows:

As evidenced by The Opening footage above, Brown isn't afraid to get in his opponent's face in an attempt to play mind games with him. While unnerving your opponent is an important trait to have, Ole Miss should monitor the trash-talking, as it could get Brown into trouble with officials at some inopportune times. 

That should be the least of the Rebels' worries, though, as they have acquired one of the best young receivers in the nation. He'll be lighting up the stat sheets on Saturdays in the fall soon enough. 

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Tramonda Moore to Oklahoma State: Cowboys Land 4-Star OT Prospect

Tramonda Moore made a name for himself as one of the most physically imposing offensive tackles in the country at John Marshall High School in Oklahoma City. Now, following months of deliberation, he's headed to Oklahoma State. 

Moore finished his senior season year at John Marshall ranked just outside the top 100 players in 247Sports' composite rankings but graded out as the top-ranked player in Oklahoma among 2016 recruits.

The 6'6'', 330-pound force had offers from approximately 15 schools but narrowed his list down to Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Alabama early in 2016, according to Bleacher Report's Damon Sayles

"I grew up an Oklahoma and Oklahoma State fan," Moore said, via Sayles. "They are my in-states, but all three schools are powerhouse universities."

Oklahoma was the odds-on favorite to land Moore, according to 247Sports, so his decision to shun the Sooners in favor of the Cowboys was a surprise. 

Shock aside, Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy has to be thrilled that his program landed a player of Moore's caliber. In fact, Moore is so physically gifted that he played on both sides of the ball at John Marshall High School. 

"Moore was unblockable by 3A linemen, and he was an equally imposing force as an offensive tackle, which is most likely to be his position at the college level," the Oklahoman's Scott Wright wrote. 

"I know at defensive tackle, I can move around and make a lot of plays, but a lot of coaches say my career is at left tackle. I want to play left tackle at the next level," Moore said, via Sayles.

A prospective cornerstone and bookend on Oklahoma State's offensive line, Moore should make a name for himself as he seeks to solidify his place as one of the nation's most physically imposing linemen. 

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Carlos Becker to FSU: Seminoles Land 4-Star CB Prospect

Florida State landed 4-star cornerback Carlos Becker on Wednesday, according to Alicia Rose DelGallo of the Orlando Sentinel

"The entire ceremony is being translated in sign language so [Becker's] mother, who is deaf, can enjoy entire ceremony," noted DelGallo.

Becker, a 6'2" and 185-pound corner from Osceola High in Kissimmee, Florida, is considered 247Sports' No. 15-ranked cornerback, the 24th-best prospect in the state of Florida and the No. 153-ranked prospect overall, according to the site's composite rankings.

Becker is a tall, rangy cornerback whose excellent length and leaping ability will serve him well, especially against bigger receivers.

Becker notched five interceptions during his senior season and finished with 10 overall in his time at Osceola. Though he couldn't lead his school to a state championship, he still acknowledged his own development as a player during his time in high school.

"I felt like I grew a lot since freshman year, just trying to lead the team to the state championship," he told Chris Hays of the Orlando Sentinel. "It didn't come out like how I wanted it to, but I just gotta deal with that."

Becker's signing rounds out an excellent class of cornerbacks for Florida State that also includes 5-star Levonta Taylor—one of the top recruits in the nation, who could start immediately—and 4-star Kyle Meyers, per 247Sports.

It also rounds out another excellent recruiting class across the board for head coach Jimbo Fisher and company.

 

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Erick Fowler to Texas: Longhorns Land 4-Star OLB Prospect

Edge player Erick Fowler, a 4-star recruit from the class of 2016, announced Wednesday that he'll play college football for the Texas Longhorns, per Brian Davis of the Austin American-Statesman.

Fowler is a product of Manor High School in Texas. The composite rankings from 247Sports have him as the 75th-best prospect in the country and the No. 7 outside linebacker.

Measuring at 6'1" and weighing 226 pounds, there's room for Fowler to add bulk to his frame as a means of becoming an even greater edge-rushing force, though he already does have adequate size for a rising freshman.

Even as a sophomore at Manor, Fowler was producing at a mind-boggling level, racking up 21 sacks, 73 tackles and two interceptions in 2013. Although Fowler's sack total dropped to 12.5 as a junior, the versatility and raw talent he brings to the gridiron is tantalizing.

The quickness Fowler flashes off of the ball allows him to effectively speed rush, though he could use additional, functional upper-body strength to better hand fight and disengage blockers on a consistent basis.

Until that area of his game improves, he will be hard-pressed to be a legitimate star in the trenches at the college level if Texas asks him to put his hand in the dirt. What may be better for Fowler is to be a playmaking linebacker, which would suit his skill set as it stands.

Wherever Fowler ultimately lines up, he has the skills to be a special player. A lot of that hinges on development and how he progresses through the Longhorns' program, which may test his patience if he doesn't see the field often early as he tries to settle into his proper position.

Fowler's collegiate career would benefit most from easing his way into the lineup. Should he sharpen up his technique, add to his pass-rushing arsenal and thus become craftier at shedding blocks, Texas ought to eventually see Fowler blossom into a strong starter.

 

Recruit star ratings and information via 247Sports, unless otherwise noted.

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Mykel Jones to Oklahoma: Sooners Land 4-Star WR Prospect

Mykel Jones, a 4-star wide receiver prospect from Patterson, Louisiana, announced his commitment to play college football with the Oklahoma Sooners on Wednesday.

"When I took the trip (to OU last weekend), I couldn't turn it down," Jones said, via Eric Bailey of the Tulsa World.

247Sports' composite rankings have Jones rated as the 48th-best receiver in the Class of 2016 and the No. 15 prospect overall out of Louisiana.

Jones flashes the ability to high-point the football, run solid routes underneath and make people miss with fluid jukes and lateral quickness.

The film of Jones' highlights shows him capable of turning on the jets and running away from defenders. The speed of the college game will be faster, but Jones seems capable of translating to the college level well in that regard.

Although he does have natural explosiveness and quick-twitch movement that make him slippery in the open field, Jones has to work on his functional strength to succeed in college.

Listed at 6'0" and 180 pounds by 247Sports, he is a bit undersized to be a threat on the outside at the moment. However, Jones could be a mismatch in the slot as a slightly taller version than most dynamic inside targets.

If Jones manages to bulk up by about 15 or 20 pounds, keeps his natural strengths intact and develops a more diverse route tree, he will likely blossom into a dependable starter for multiple years. 

The Sooners will be experiencing a lot of turnover on offense in 2016. Gone are stud signal-caller Baker Mayfield and dynamic leading receiver Sterling Shepard. Backup quarterback and former starter Trevor Knight also transferred to Texas A&M.

With uncertainty under center and the clear top target out of Norman, the opportunity may present itself for Jones to contribute right away. Oklahoma's spread system will also make the college transition easier in terms of picking up the playbook.

What may suit Jones best is to sit for his first year, focusing on adding weight and honing his craft, and then prepare to roll full-go for the 2017 campaign as a redshirt freshman. On the other hand, he may have too much raw playmaking potential to be standing on the sidelines for a whole season.

The tools are there for Jones to be a lethal option capable of lining up inside and outside. He may not be as touted as other pass-catchers in his class, but there's plenty of reason to be intrigued by Jones' upside and unique skill set.

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Jared Mayden to Alabama: Crimson Tide Land 4-Star CB Prospect

Alabama swooped in and signed the nation's No. 13 cornerback, Jared Mayden, on Wednesday, nearly one month after he decommitted from Oregon, according to Adam Friedman of Rivals.com. 

Mayden affirmed his commitment midway through his senior season but backed off on Jan. 6 via Twitter, citing his need to find the "right fit." He followed up on Jan. 24, announcing he would make his commitment on national signing day and listing Alabama and Oklahoma as finalists:

A day later, Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban made an in-house visit to Mayden and showed off his dance moves to woo the top recruit, as Mayden showed in a Snapchat he tweeted:

The 6'1", 190-pound Texas native developed into one of the top prospects in the country with a knack for physicality against opposing receivers at the line of scrimmage. He has great closing speed and thrives in open space with finesse.

Alabama’s 30th-ranked pass defense lost Cyrus Jones and Bradley Sylve to graduation and returns four cornerbacks—Maurice Smith, Marlon Humphrey, Tony Brown and Minkah Fitzpatrick—but all have limited experience. 

Mayden maintained a relationship with new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt while Pruitt held the same position at Georgia.

If he improves his catching ability during fall camp, Mayden could move up the depth chart early in the season. 

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Tyrie Cleveland to Florida: 4-Star WR Decommits from Houston, Joins Gators

Wide receiver and potential special teams ace Tyrie Cleveland flipped his commitment from Houston to Florida during national signing day on Wednesday.

Derek Tyson of ESPN passed along the news, which gives the Gators an even more outstanding group of incoming wideouts.  

Mark Berman of Fox 26 provided comments from Cleveland about the choice:

Berman also highlighted some further insight into the decision from one of the receiver's family members:

Cleveland is a 4-star recruit who rates as the No. 33 overall prospect in the 2016 class and also checks in as the No. 2 receiver in the group, according to 247Sports' composite rankings. Losing a player of that caliber is a major setback for Houston.

Zach Abolverdi of SEC Country passed along comments from the coveted playmaker over the weekend about his visit to Florida. He said he felt comfortable with how the coaching staff treated him and came away confident he can make a quick impact.

"It's just the mental part of the game coming from high school to college that I have to get used to," Cleveland said. "They need to get me to know the plays and understand everything with the offense. Then I’ll be good to go."

Cleveland is a dynamic threat capable of making a multifaceted impact for the Gators.

His first involvement may come on special teams as a returner. He possesses tremendous acceleration and breakaway speed that makes him a threat every time he catches a kickoff or punt. The transition is a bit easier in that role, too.

That said, it probably won't be long before he starts seeing some snaps on offense. And once he becomes completely comfort with the Gators' system, he should develop into one of the team's most important players.

With the addition of Cleveland, it's shaping up to become a terrific day for Florida, which 247Sports currently ranks as the No. 6 class for 2016.

 

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Lavert Hill to Michigan: Wolverines Land 4-Star CB Prospect

Lavert Hill, the No. 12 cornerback in the 2016 class, per 247Sports, committed to the Michigan Wolverines on Wednesday, according to Joe Rexrode of the Detroit Free Press.

The Detroit native is the fifth-best player in Michigan and the No. 135 overall prospect in the country, according to 247Sports, which has him rated as a 4-star prospect.

Hill, who is 5'10" and 172 pounds, showed some versatility in high school, catching two touchdowns in the final game of his career—a state championship victory. He was highly sought after by teams on both coasts, but he canceled a Jan. 13 visit to USC and another, presumably to Clemson, in late January, whittling his list down to three, per his Twitter account:

Michigan eventually won the battle for his services. Head coach Jim Harbaugh has quickly established himself as one of the game's most successful recruiters, landing the Wolverines the fifth-ranked recruiting class after just one season in Ann Arbor. He won the battle with Michigan State and Penn State for Hill, who ran a 4.41, 40-yard dash, per ESPN.com.

The cornerback recently talked about different coaches he met along the recruiting trail, including Harbaugh, per Jared Purcell of MLive.com. "Harbaugh, he's pretty good too. He was a pro coach so he knows what you need to get to the NFL. They can teach you that. He's very outgoing and energetic and stuff like that."

The Wolverines may have had the upper hand because Hill's older brother just finished his senior season with Michigan, but about a week before signing, Hill said his brother, Delano Hill, tried not to influence him too much, per Purcell: "He's just been telling me that it's my decision, really. He would like me to go to Michigan though because it's his school."

That's exactly what happened, and now Hill will join a Wolverines defense that finished third in the Big Ten last year, allowing just 16.4 points per game.

PrepForce.com shared a highlight video of the recently named Lockheed Martin Air Defender of the Year: 

It won't be easy for Hill to jump right into the starting lineup, but his versatility and athleticism should allow for him to at least compete for a spot on the Wolverines defense.

 

All recruiting rankings per 247Sports unless otherwise noted.

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Brandon Jones to Texas: Longhorns Land 4-Star Safety Prospect

Brandon Jones, one of the nation's best defensive players, has boosted the 2016 recruiting class for Texas after reportedly committing to play football there.  

According to William Wilkerson of Scout.com, Jones made his decision official on Wednesday, even though it has been expected for a long time. 

Jones, the nation's top-ranked safety and 40th-ranked player overall by 247Sports, has been connected to Texas A&M throughout the recruiting process. He tweeted out the top 10 schools on his list with one of the best graphics for a high school player you will see:

On the 247Sports site, the Aggies were the only program to receive votes in the Crystal Ball predictions. Jones has drawn rave reviews for his ability in pass coverage, which you can see in this Vine video from the Rivals Camp Series:

When you combine that anticipation with elite athleticism and plenty of room to fill out his frame, Jones has all the makings of an impact talent at the college level. ESPN.com's Recruiting Nation noted in a scouting report that his only weakness is a lack of experience in man-to-man coverage. 

Fortunately, Jones will have plenty of time to work on that early in his college career. High school safeties aren't often tasked with playing in single coverage, so it's not a substantial problem right now. Safeties continue to take on an increased role because of how the position can be used in run and pass defense. 

Stealing Jones away from rival Texas A&M is a huge coup for Texas and head coach Charlie Strong. The Longhorns are continuing to struggle in recruiting, owning the 19th-ranked class by 247Sports.

It's understandable why Texas is going through a down period. The program hasn't been in the national title conversation since 2009 and has lost seven games in three of the last seven seasons. 

Getting a stud prospect like Jones allows Strong to build his recruiting class around him, both this year and for the future. Texas needs to show progress this season after going 11-14 under Strong the past two seasons. 

Jones is the kind of rare talent Texas needs to establish its defensive identity again. 

Jones is an elite player who has the ability to remake a defense on his own. He's going to be an integral part of the future for his new school. Every coach dreams of having a ball hawk who isn't afraid to attack the offense. 

 

Recruit star ratings and rankings via 247Sports, unless otherwise noted.

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Shyheim Carter to Alabama: 4-Star CB Prospect Recommits to Crimson Tide

Shyheim Carter recommitted to playing college football at Alabama on Wednesday. His pledge provided a nice boost to the Crimson Tide's 2016 recruiting class. 

Ben Garrett of Scout.com confirmed the defensive back's decision on Wednesday, noting it was a "blow" for Ole Miss.

Carter is a 4-star prospect who ranks as the No. 71 overall player in the 2016 class, according to 247Sports' composite rankings. The Kentwood High School (Louisiana) star also ranks as the No. 9 cornerback in the incoming group.

The speedster originally committed to Alabama before his junior season, but he decided to reopen his recruitment in August, stating he wanted another opportunity to see what was available but never ruling out the Crimson Tide, as USA Today noted.

"I just wanted to open my options up," Carter said. "It gives more teams a chance to see me and for me to get out in the world and see if I like other schools."

It's common for recruits to take a second look at what's available, especially those who rank inside the top 100. Getting the choice right is crucial, so it doesn't hurt to reconsider all avenues.

Now that Carter has settled on a school, he can focus on developing his skill set to make a quick impact at the collegiate level.

He possesses the quickness and playmaking ability to shine at the next level. There are concerns about his size (6'0'', 190 pounds), particularly when it comes to locking down bigger wideouts, and his technique needs a lot of polish, though that's the case for most freshmen.

In the end, Carter decided Alabama was still the best fit for him. Of course, that doesn't come as a surprise, given the amount of talent that's gone through Tuscaloosa in recent years and the consistent opportunities to battle for a national title.

It's a marquee addition for the reigning champions, and he could make a quick impact depending on how well he handles the transition. The Tide are losing two cornerbacks in Cyrus Jones and Bradley Sylve, which leaves a void in the secondary.

While Carter probably won't play an extensive role out of the gate, he could join the rotation and steadily see his involvement increase over time. 

All told, Carter has an intriguing skill set. Now it comes down to turning that potential into production. It's not going to happen overnight, but his long-term outlook is promising.

 

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The Commitment: Watch 4-Star Deontay Anderson's Insane Skydiving Announcement

Deontay Anderson, a 4-star safety from Manvel, Texas, has finally made his announcement on where he'll play college football next year. Watch him reveal that decision in his incredible skydiving video above.

 

Personalized Song by Ghetty 

Music Courtesy of Entertainment One Music
Artist: Moosh & Twist
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Deontay went to Skydive Spaceland Houston just 25 minutes south of downtown Houston. Its proprietary Skydiver Training Program helps jumpers achieve their basic skydiving licenses in as little as a week, helping make this center the busiest civilian skydiving training facility in the country. Spaceland also operates similar skydiving operations near Atlanta and Miami.

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Trayvon Mullen to Clemson: Tigers Land 4-Star CB Prospect

Trayvon Mullen is one of the top cornerbacks in the 2016 recruiting class and will be taking his immense talents to the Clemson Tigers.

According to Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports, Mullen chose Clemson from a slew of top programs that had been pursuing the Florida native. 

In an era with more high-powered offenses, a top-flight cornerback has more value than ever. Mullen is one of the most valuable assets in this year's recruiting class, with 247 Sports listing him as a 4-star prospect and the No. 6 cornerback overall. 

The thing that immediately stands out about Mullen is his size. He's listed at 6'1", which is not typical for a defensive back unless you play for the Seattle Seahawks. He's long and rangy, and capable of recovering quickly because his arms and legs can eat up a lot of space. 

As so many young athletes do, Mullen took to Twitter in April to list his top 10 schools and others that were still in the mix:

When discussing that list with Gerry Hamilton of ESPN, Mullen said he put Florida State at the top because he felt it provided him the best opportunity to make an immediate impact.

"FSU is my leader. It’s just the opportunity at FSU," Mullen said. "The opportunity to play right away, maybe start and be a standout in the secondary early."

With a list of contenders that included the likes of Florida State, LSU and Ohio State, Mullen wasn't going to waste this chance to hear the best pitch from everyone. These programs are the most powerful in all of college football, brimming with talent on both sides of the ball, and the 17-year-old wants to be part of the mix.  

Things continue to look up for Clemson after the program's most successful season since winning the 1981 national championship. Head coach Dabo Swinney continues to stockpile elite talent every year, with the Tigers ranking sixth in 247Sports' national recruiting rankings for 2016. 

The Tigers' 2015 season ended in heartbreak against Alabama in the College Football Playoff National Championship, but that was just the beginning of what appears to be a long, sustained run of success for this program. 

Mullen doesn't have to come into Clemson as the program's savior, but he can be a key piece to a puzzle that the Tigers believe will result in a national championship very soon. 

Now the real test for Mullen begins. He's gotten a lot of hype coming out of high school, and deservedly so. Taking the leap to one of the best programs in the country brings with it a lot of pressure, but the physical attributes are all in place for this young man to emerge as a superstar before his college career is done.

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Michail Carter to Georgia: Bulldogs Land 4-Star DT Prospect

Class of 2016 defensive tackle prospect Michail Carter committed to the Georgia Bulldogs on Wednesday.

Kim Smith of 11 Alive's shared a picture of Carter with a bulldog at his announcement:

Carter is ranked as the No. 14 prospect in his home state of Georgia and the No. 15 defensive tackle in the nation, according to 247Sports

He was getting pressure from friends and family to stay close to home, per UGASports.com's Radi Nabulsi:

The high school senior is already a full-grown man at 6'4", 302 pounds. Usually a player that size is looked upon to plug holes along the trenches and stop the run. 

However, Carter is so athletic for a young man of his size that he is a legitimate threat to disrupt plays in the backfield time and time again. 

He's also strong enough to simply overpower offensive linemen. In the video above, Carter is taking on some of the best offensive line prospects in the nation at the 2016 Nike Camp. He simply breezes by them at times using just his arms. 

Just wait until he uses all 302 pounds of his frame to get after a quarterback or running back. He'll be a tough man to stop in a few seasons.

Per 247Sports, Carter is the third defensive tackle of the 2016 class to commit to Georgia. 

Having lost Sterling Bailey, Josh Dawson, James DeLoach and Chris Mayes, there will be spots open on the defensive line for Carter, who will have some competition with the newest commits along with returnees John Atkins, Jonathan Ledbetter, DaQuan Hawkins and Michael Barnett. 

Georgia's defense allowed 149.5 rushing yards per game in 2015, so Carter has an opportunity to provide an interior run-stopping presence that could give Georgia a boost. 

He could also help the Bulldogs' pressure game, as they were ranked 97th in the nation in sacks. If he's able to show early that he can excel defending both the run and pass, then Carter is going to have a place on Goergia's defensive line for the next few years. 

 

Stats courtesy of NCAA.com

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Boston College Coaches Celebrate Landing Recruit by Running Off on the Plug

When a college team lands a recruit, the coaching staff can't help but celebrate.

That celebrating gets taken to another level on national signing day.

After landing a recruit Wednesday, the Boston College Eagles coaching staff took a minute to do a little dancing. Because a moment like that is the perfect time to run off on the plug.

Perhaps it's that type of charisma that helped land the recruit in the first place.

[BC Football Video]

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Prince Sammons to Auburn: Tigers Land 4-Star DE Prospect

The Auburn Tigers football team just got a little more regal, as defensive end Prince Sammons has committed to the school.  

Sammons is a 6'8" and 280-pound strong-side defensive end from Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy in Cincinnati. He's considered a 4-star prospect by 247Sports' composite rankings as well as the No. 210 player in the country, the No. 11 strong-side defensive end in the country and the No. 10 player from the state of Ohio. 

He was named the Division V state co-defensive player of the year, per Mike Dyer of the Cincinnati Enquirer, after accumulating 69 tackles and five sacks as a junior. 

Sammons' story is a fascinating one. He grew up in Nigeria and dreamed of being a basketball player, per Gerry Hamilton of ESPN.com, who noted that in 2011, a program in Maryland expressed interest. But he had to delay his trip after the death of his mother, and the school couldn't hold his spot. 

So Sammons moved in with the scout in Wisconsin who had first connected him with the Maryland program, only to find out after he traveled abroad that his father had died as well, leaving his nine siblings in Nigeria without a parent. Eventually, the freshman basketball coach at Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy, Brandon Sammons, and his wife legally adopted Sammons and gave him a home. 

Not surprisingly, the football coaches at the school took one look at him and decided to recruit him to their sport. Despite knowing little about football, Sammons eventually found a home at defensive end, and the rest is history. 

Still, he was unaffected by the famous coaches recruiting him, as Brandon Sammons told Hamilton: 

He's about as naive as it comes for a kid that everyone calls a high-profile recruit; he has no clue. We had a chance to go down South and meet Coach Saban, [Gus] Malzahn and [Mark] Richt, and Prince couldn't have picked any of the three out of a lineup. You say to him, hey, Coach Saban wants to talk to you and he's like, "I have no clue who Coach Saban is." That's part of what I like about it, though; he doesn't have any preconceived notions about it.

He has great size for the position, and his versatility is impressive, as he also played right tackle this past season. Sammons may not have been familiar with Malzahn before his recruiting process began, but you can bet Malzahn and the Tigers are glad he ultimately chose them.

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Chris Daniels to Texas: Longhorns Land 4-Star DT Prospect

Chris Daniels will hope the second time is the charm after he committed to the Texas Longhorns on Wednesday, per Jason Howell of Rivals.com.

"All I've got to say is that if you don't want to go to Texas, don't let him get on your couch," Daniels said of Texas head coach Charlie Strong, per Corbett Smith of the Dallas Morning News.

According to 247Sports' composite ranking, Daniels is the No. 20 defensive tackle and No. 183 overall in the 2016 recruiting class. The Euless, Texas, native is also the 27th-best player in his state.

Daniels originally committed to Oklahoma but had a change of heart on Jan. 20:

The Longhorns quickly emerged as the favorites to land Daniels once he opened back up his recruitment. Strong wasted little time visiting the 4-star recruit, per Twitter user SuperK_TFB:

Prior to Daniels' commitment, Gerald Wilbon was the best defensive tackle in Texas' incoming 2016 class. A 3-star recruit, he sits 47th among fellow defensive tackles in 247Sports' composite ranking. Adding Daniels undoubtedly strengthens the interior of the Longhorns defensive line for the next few years.

While Daniels is unlikely to play a starring role in his freshman season, his arrival will help address one of the team's biggest issues in 2015. Texas ranked 111th in rushing defense, allowing an average of 219.2 yards a game on the ground. Football Outsiders also placed the Longhorns 116th in stuff rate, which measures a percentage of carries that end at or before the line of scrimmage.

Bleacher Report's Zach Shelton explained how the defensive tackle position has been a problem spot for Texas going back a few years:

We're cheating here, but Texas isn't about to get picky about which of its six remaining defensive tackle targets decide to join the program. The way the depth chart looks, the Longhorns will take as many as they can get.

Over the last three recruiting cycles, Poona Ford, Chris Nelson and Jake McMillon, all from the 2014 class, are the only tackles the Horns have been able to add to the roster. Even with Paul Boyette and Alex Norman holding over from 2012, that's created a major depth problem now that Hassan Ridgeway has declared for the draft.

Over the last two years, Daniels has recorded 106 tackles, nine tackles for loss and seven sacks, per 247Sports.

The beauty of Daniels is he could fill a variety of needs on the line for Texas. He's listed at 6'3 ½", 299 pounds, which allows him some wiggle room whether he lines up on the outside or the inside. Once the coaching staff identifies his position, he'll be able to start tailoring his conditioning in order to best fit his role in the defense.

Last October, Daniels told Bleacher Report's Damon Sayles he's more than happy to play wherever his coaches tell him.

"I feel like I can play any position on the line," Daniels said. "I'm trying to get a little more leaned out just so I can get some more of that speed back. If I can go 100 miles an hour, I'm good."

Given both his frame and his position specialty, Daniels will provide more value immediately as a defensive tackle. He's extremely strong, and he can use that along with his quickness off the snap to gain the upper hand on his blocker.

Over time, though, he could undoubtedly grow into being a productive defensive end. That same quickness off the snap can get him around the edge on offensive tackles. Technique will be an immediate issue—one only helped by getting steady repetitions in practice.

In terms of potential, Daniels' ceiling doesn't look to be as high as that of Rashan Gary or Dexter Lawrence, two of the best defensive tackles in the country.

As long as he puts in the time on the practice field, he should still become one of the more consistent defensive linemen from this year's recruiting class.

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Mecole Hardman Jr. Commits to Georgia: No. 1 ATH Can Make Instant Impact

Georgia head coach Kirby Smart and his staff scored a huge victory when 5-star athlete Mecole Hardman Jr. announced his commitment to the Bulldogs.

The 5'10", 169-pounder rates as the nation’s top athlete and the No. 2 prospect from the Peach State in the 2016 cycle. 

The Bulldogs were able to fend off powers such as Alabama, Michigan, Ohio State and Tennessee for his pledge.

Now that Hardman is headed to Athens, what can Bulldogs fans expect from the dynamic playmaker? 

That depends partly on where Smart and his staff decide to play the U.S. Army All-American—who could play either receiver or corner at the next level.

As Kipp Adams of Dawgs247 noted, Hardman admitted he’s leaning toward playing defense in college, but he didn’t completely rule out playing both ways.

"Probably corner," Hardman told Adams when discussing his position preference. "I think long-term DB, but I would also like to try offense and get the ball in my hands."

At corner, Hardman is a sticky cover man who is athletic enough to cover smaller, speedy targets and physical enough to match up with bigger pass-catchers.

He proved his effectiveness in the secondary with a strong showing at The Opening in helping lead Team Lunar Beast to the seven-on-seven tournament championship.

"[Position] doesn't matter," Hardman said to Bleacher Report in Oregon. "I can do whatever you want me to do. If it's defense, I'm going to lock you down. If it's receiver, I will produce and make big plays. Different schools like me at different positions."

As illustrated by Ourlads, Georgia will lose leading receiver Malcolm Mitchell. But, the Bulldogs return several contributors from last year’s squad at receiver and corner.

Still, Hardman’s versatility is something that can help him find the field sooner than later in Athens. 

Hardman is a threat to score anytime he touches the ball on offense, which he showed last fall during his senior year at Elbert County High School in Elberton, Georgia. 

He’s even a candidate to return kicks or punts on special teams.

Given Hardman’s current preference toward defense and Smart’s background with coaching defensive backs and as someone who lined up in the secondary during his playing career, the new Bulldogs head coach is the perfect coach to help develop a player with Hardman’s immense talents.

Regardless of where he lines up, Hardman’s arrival in Athens is one that could prove to pay immediate dividends in the upcoming season.

 

Sanjay Kirpalani is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand and all recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

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Mecole Hardman to Georgia: Bulldogs Land 5-Star Prospect

Mecole Hardman, one of the most dynamic athletes in the 2016 college football recruiting class, is heading to Georgia. It's a major pickup that creates a lot of exciting possibilities for the Bulldogs.

"It is time to get a national title back to Georgia," Hardman said, per Chad Simmons of Scout.com.

Rusty Mansell of 247Sports shared Hardman's unique way of supposedly showing how he intended to decide on a new school:


However, Logan Booker of Cox Media Group Athens showed how Hardman really made his decision to attend Georgia:

Hardman is a 5-star recruit who rates among the top 15 nationally and is considered the No. 1 athlete for the 2016 class, according to 247Sports' composite rankings. The outlet also notes he received over 30 offers, mostly from high-profile programs, before making his decision.

It's possible he could have been ranked even higher if he had a defined position. While he's gained experience on both sides of the ball, he's a raw talent who will need to work quite a bit on technique early in his collegiate career, regardless of position.

Hardman possesses blazing speed, which is probably his biggest asset at this point. So it wouldn't be a surprise if he made an impact on special teams as well—at least until he's ready to take on a full workload on one side of the ball.

Radi Nabulsi of UGASports.com highlighted some of the recruit's lightning-quick 40 times:

Speed is always a nice advantage to have because it translates well across various roles. It provides valuable built-in versatility for a young player who's still very much in the development process.

The concern when it comes to Hardman is his size (5'10", 169 pounds). While he's built well for a player with his frame, he's still on the small side, and that would probably limit his impact on offense. That's why defense seems like his best fit for the long haul.

Picking Georgia over the other contenders, including the reigning champions from Alabama, should give Hardman a quicker path to playing time.

The Bulldogs don't have nearly as much depth or experience in the secondary as the Crimson Tide do. In turn, Hardman should have reasonable opportunity to find himself playing meaningful snaps before the end of his freshman campaign.

Exactly how much that played into his decision is unclear, but at the very least, it's an added bonus that also allows him to stay closer to home.

All told, it's easy to get excited about Hardman because the raw talent is highly intriguing. Fans will need to have some patience, however. His involvement should grow steadily over time, though he'll probably make a few flashy plays as a freshman to showcase his upside.

Chalk it up as another promising addition to Georgia's 2016 recruiting class.


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Brian Burns to FSU: Seminoles Land 4-Star DE Prospect

The Florida State Seminoles secured their future off the edge by landing a commitment from 4-star defensive end prospect Brian Burns on Wednesday, according to 247 Sports' Josh Newberg.

The Fort Lauderdale, Florida, native is ranked 51st among all 2016 prospects and eighth in the state, according to 247Sports' composite rankings.

At 6'4 ½" and 209 pounds, Burns isn't the largest defensive end in terms of weight, but what he doesn't have in size he makes up for in athleticism. He has an explosive first step and speed that will constantly see him disrupting plays from the edge. 

Keith Niebuhr of 247Sports captured video of Burns before the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, and it provides a good look at his build:

His pairing of size and athletic ability will make him tough to stop in the ACC.

While participating in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, Burns impressed Rivals' Mike Farrell, who marveled at the young pass-rusher:

If Burns can manage to bulk up a little, he'll be a force along the defensive line in the future, given his athleticism. That's only going to help Florida State moving forward.

Burns will join a defense that was ranked 19th last season—one that's returning sack leader and fellow defensive end DeMarcus Walker. 

He'll also be joining fellow 4-star defensive end recruit Janarius Robinson, the seventh-ranked weak-side defensive end, per 247Sports

Walker, who will be a senior, added 56 total tackles, 14 tackles for loss and nine sacks in 2015. Having that kind of presence available and at the disposal of a developing defensive lineman like Burns could prove invaluable in the long run. 

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2016 NFL Draft: Illinois' Jihad Ward Poised to Continue His Rise Up Draft Boards

Throughout the draft season, there is much discussion over “winners” and “losers” throughout the process. While that’s generally overblown and not indicative of how NFL scouting departments function, there can at times be prospects who surprisingly rise in the minds of evaluators after a portion of the draft process.

Illinois' defensive lineman Jihad Ward certainly maximized his 2016 Senior Bowl opportunity, impressing physically at his weigh-in and throughout the week of practice. Entering the week with zero buzz, Ward left Mobile, Alabama, forcing scouts to re-evaluate his game film and see if his flashes at the Senior Bowl could be more than just flashes at the NFL level.

Upon reassessing Ward after his Senior Bowl impression, the position-versatile defensive lineman showcased plus-interior strength coupled with explosiveness on the perimeter to quietly emerge as one of the best top-100 upside talents in the 2016 NFL draft. And his rise may not be done yet.

A starting receiver and defensive end in high school, Ward went the junior college route before working his way to the FBS. He left the JUCO level as the sixth-best college prospect in the country, opting to sign with Illinois. Over his two-year career at Illinois, Ward never made an All-Big Ten team and finished with just 4.5 career sacks.

But Ward was destined to be a better professional than college player, offering Illinois' defensive line versatility it couldn’t maximize, core strength it didn’t entirely exploit and explosiveness off the edge it couldn’t develop. 

Despite a less-than-stellar college career, Ward’s Senior Bowl proved his flashes could be more than just that, and his potential was still remarkably untapped. 

 

Position Versatility: Tackle and End

Measuring in at the Senior Bowl at 6’5", 296 pounds with an 81 3/8" wingspan, Ward’s body type fits exactly what NFL teams covet for a developing defensive lineman. Looking the part of an NFL 5-technique, Ward’s experience in college at both defensive tackle and end aids in his transition to the pro level.

As a pass-rusher, Ward is both able to extend and drive on the interior against guards and inside-leveraged tackles, as well as bend around the perimeter when playing outside. That versatility both encourages teams about his NFL transition as well as highlights his still-untapped potential to do either on a consistent basis. 

On the interior, Ward (No. 17) extends in isolation with great initial and consistent push, transitioning his hand positioning at the start into a persistent pushback thanks to a powerful lower half and flexibility to bend at the knees and keep his power. Notice in the play below how Ward maintains leverage throughout his rush, yet his decision to stay linear forces the quarterback to remain in the pocket since Ward can adjust to either side of himself to finish the sack.

And when playing end, where Ward saw most of his college sacks, he displays the ability to sink, extend and bend around to attack the quarterback. While the Penn State left tackle was among the worst in the Big Ten last year, notice how quickly Ward attacks off the edge, adjusts his lower half as he bends and maintains speed in his quarterback pursuit.

The flip-side concern for Ward’s versatility, however, is his relative inexperience and technique refinement at either position. On the inside, Ward is erased by double-teams or trap blocks too easily to be reliable on run downs early in his career. And on the perimeter, outside of “running the arc” on the edge, Ward doesn’t offer much in terms of developed initial or counter-rushes.
 

Run Defense: Interior Strength

Despite possessing a “leggy” body type, Ward offers a sudden ability to sink low, generate force and maintain balance through his upper-half explosiveness on the interior. With his NFL future likely requiring at least part-time work inside the tackle box, Ward’s initial leverage win coupled with his wingspan will need to continue to win him battles on the inside.

Ward struggled with double-teams at times in college, exposing too much of his midsection and allowing combo blocks to force him off the initial holding point. But when he had the opportunity to work one-on-one on the inside, especially against zone-blocking schemes, Ward highlighted his leverage strengths. 

As in the play below, Ward repeatedly was able to hold his ground and keep his blocker at bay with his inside shoulder. He splits a subtle double-block and maintains vision on the ball-carrier, using his plus-wingspan to finish the tackle despite the run working away from his initial position. It’s flashes like this that, once he’s able to correct his combo-block woes, can allow him to emerge as a high-quality interior run defender. 

 

Pass Rush: Explosiveness on the Perimeter

As highlighted earlier, Ward is able to run the arc on left tackles with remarkable bend and quickness for a 6’5", nearly 300-pound defensive lineman. But for Ward’s future as a pass-rusher, his explosiveness will be more indicative of his production than his ability around the edge.

While he didn’t get the sack, his pursuit on the play below highlights his explosive potential when his motor is in full gear on the edge. His first two steps get him immediate and balanced penetration in pursuit of Christian Hackenberg. It requires three blockers to slow down his pursuit, and even then his length nearly allows him to reach through blockers to finish the sack.

One of the concerns that began to show through Ward’s film evaluation was a bit of an inconsistent motor throughout the game. As a pass-rusher, Ward seemed to labor a bit and take non-third-down passing downs off. And in the run game, Ward’s tendency to be erased by double-teams was partially due to a lack of effort in keeping his pad level low and working through blocks.

Underappreciated at Illinois, Ward’s Senior Bowl opened plenty of eyes for evaluators. His college film flashes first-round upside but highlights his concerns and staunch need for development.

But Ward’s rise from forgotten at Illinois to showing flashes in Mobile isn’t a finished story yet. The ideally-built, highly-athletic defensive lineman should certainly impress at the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine. And more importantly, as NFL teams bring him in for private workouts in March and April, his natural position across multiple schemes can finally be realized by individual teams. 

His sudden rise in the draft process has his value and intrigue at an all-time high, but NFL teams aren’t quite sure how they’ll use him yet. As the 2016 draft process continues and they begin to peg Ward’s position in their specific scheme, don’t be surprised if Ward begins to receive top-50 overall talk among evaluators.

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