NCAA Football News

Army Bowl Commit Further Supports Jim Harbaugh's Recruiting Power at Michigan

SAN ANTONIO — As the first of five commits at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, 4-star wide receiver Dylan Crawford committed to Michigan over offers from UCLA, Miami and Oregon.

Crawford's pledge put Michigan at No. 2 in the latest 247Sports composite team recruiting rankings behind LSU. His pledge also further proved what Michigan fans have been stressing for months.

Jim Harbaugh can recruit. Very well.

The well-known head coach for the Wolverines now has 24 commitments in the 2016 class. Of the 24, 14 are 4-star prospects. And of the 3-star players committed, one is the No. 2 player from Massachusetts in tight end Sean McKeon; one is the nation's top-ranked fullback in Kingston Davis; and one brings a solid resume to the table in running back Kiante Enis.

Since the summer, Harbaugh has made the commitment to recruiting the entire country a major priority. He made news when he and his staff were a part of a satellite-camp tour that included Texas, Indiana, Alabama, Florida, Pennsylvania and California.

Harbaugh showed all summer that he was likable and easygoing. He instantly became a favorite with many when he would participate in camp drills.

Harbaugh's personality, coupled with the anticipated future of the program, has equated to a class that could ultimately rival LSU by national signing day.

What may be even more impressive is the geographical range of recruiting with Michigan. The Wolverines have only one in-state pledge, 4-star lineman Michael Onwenu. Harbaugh and his coaching staff have ventured all over the country and have players committed from Massachusetts to Florida to California and all points in between.

New Jersey has been a major recruiting state for Harbaugh, as four players—running back Kareem Walker, defensive end Ron Johnson and wide receivers Ahmir Mitchell and Brad Hawkins—all hail from the Garden State. Michigan is hoping to get at least one more player from the state—the nation's top-ranked overall player, defensive tackle Rashan Gary.

As the Wolverines await Gary's much-anticipated commitment, they will relish on their newest pledge. Crawford is a big, athletic wide receiver who will bring speed, power and agility to Ann Arbor.

At The Opening this summer in Oregon, Crawford was a finalist in the Nike Football Rating Championship, recording impressive stats in the 40-yard dash (4.45 seconds), the vertical jump (40.1 inches), the 20-yard shuttle (4.01 seconds) and the power ball toss (44.5 feet).

"Football wise, they're definitely stable right now. They're on the rise," Crawford told 247Sports's Steve Wiltfong. "Networking wise, they're obviously one of the best in the nation. You're going to get your degree. [Harbaugh] is going to be on you to get your degree. I need someone that can push me like that."

The Wolverines have the kind of class that can help Michigan fans forget about previous subpar years. The future is bright; now, it's just a matter of coaching these athletes.

If the Wolverines end up getting some 11th-hour, elite-level commits on Feb. 3, coaching the athletes will get that much easier. Whether you admire or despise Harbaugh, you have to give him and his staff credit for their recruiting efforts.

 

Damon Sayles is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports.com's composite ratings. Follow Damon via Twitter: @DamonSayles

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Lane Kiffin Steals Nick Saban's Spotlight at National Championship

PHOENIX — The desert isn’t known for being particularly kind, and over the years it’s been doubly harsh to University of Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin.

The last time he was here, as Southern California’s head coach in 2013, not only did his team lose to Arizona State 62-41, but Kiffin was subsequently fired upon returning to Los Angeles.

The visit before that was for a hearing with the NCAA that didn’t go particularly well for the Trojans.

Perhaps the third time will be the charm, and Kiffin will finally have some fun in the Phoenix area.

“Fun? We don’t use that word around here,” he said.

Kiffin was only preaching Nick Saban’s message with that statement just two days before Alabama faces Clemson in the National Championship Game (7:30 p.m. CT, ESPN). The coaches have made it clear to the players that this isn’t the same as a bowl game but rather a business trip to procure Alabama’s 16th national title and Saban’s fifth.

“We’re here for the game and nothing else matters,” Kiffin said. “We’re here to win.” 

Meanwhile, across the room Saban was answering questions about Kiffin.

“Lane has done a good job with us, and I think the big thing that every coach that comes into our sort of organization sort of grows and develops into is—there's a certain way that we do things, and it really doesn't matter how you've done them before.

"This is how we do them. We want your input, and we want your ideas, and you can implement certain things in what you do relative to the personnel that we have, which we all make those decisions as a staff, but we also have sort of a process of how we do things, and everybody has got to buy into that.

“I think that him having been a head coach, that was something that he's done a really good job of over time, of sort of doing things the way we want and understanding the importance of that in this organization.”

But with each Kiffin answer the tweets were flying, and before long there were almost as many reporters surrounding him as those standing before Saban’s designated interview station.

Defensive coordinator Kirby Smart was working the room in part to promote his next job as Georgia’s head coach, but it was Kiffin whom ESPN/SEC Network made a point to talk to on air and promote online.

On a day in which just about the only real news was Clemson All-American defensive end Shaq Lawson giving himself about a 60 percent chance of playing due to a sprained knee, Kiffin ended up stealing the spotlight.

For those who don’t know, Alabama’s assistant coaches and coordinators are considered off-limits to reporters with two exceptions: the coordinators participate in a short press conference at the start of training camp and its bowl/playoff media day requirements.

Consequently, with the Cotton Bowl also having a media day and Alabama recently hosting one on-campus, Kiffin has been more available these past couple of weeks than the rest of the entire year.

Moreover, with Alabama having played no closer than Texas during the past two seasons this was the first time since USC that Kiffin was available to a lot of West Coast reporters.

Kiffin poked a little fun at it, joking that he was "A good 20 yards off the tarmac" when he was fired at the airport, and he admitted that he told USC athletic director Pat Haden “At least we found our quarterback,” without realizing that he was being fired. 

Kiffin also remains close to former USC head coach Steve Sarkisian and said his friend texted him some plays at halftime of the 38-0 victory over Michigan State (but didn’t disclose if he used any).

Regarding former Oregon and Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly visiting the Crimson Tide this past week, Kiffin said: “It was good to spend some time with him, to bring him in and get some different ideas.”

Kiffin had served as an Alabama analyst for bowl practices in 2013 before becoming the offensive coordinator. It’s the same job that Saban offered him after first arriving in 2007, but after thinking it over for a couple of days Kiffin decided to stay at USC.

Now he’s finally back in Pac-12 territory, while Clemson is a formidable opponent that will require a completely different approach from Michigan State in the semifinals. For that Kiffin said he scripted the first 22 plays but kept a close eye on how comfortable Jake Coker looked in the pocket.

With the Spartans determined to stop Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry, the senior quarterback ended up completing 25 of 30 passes for 286 yards and two touchdowns, with no interceptions.

“A lot of times we’d read one guy, however he played [that would] determine what my move would be,” Coker said. “It’s a lot of simplified things that Coach Kiffin made and he did a real good job of helping us out.

"He's a football genius.” 

 

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Christopher Walsh is a lead SEC college football writer. Follow Christopher on Twitter @WritingWalsh.

 

 

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Army All-American Bowl 2016: Complete Box Score and Analysis

The 2016 Army All-American Bowl took place on Saturday, and with it the recruiting cycle moved one step closer to completion.

With the Army Bowl, the Under Armour All-America Game and the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl all completed, we've officially reached the stretch run before national signing day on Feb. 3.

While much of the day concerned who committed where, there was also, well, a game to be played. Even in a mostly relaxed exhibition setting, there was plenty to learn on the field.

Let's take a look at who did what.

 

Line Score

Scoring Summary

The West started fast and took a 13-0 lead. Failing the second PAT stunted its momentum, but despite a wild scoring sequence in the second quarter, it actually extended that lead to 30-9 before halftime.

Things settled down in the third quarter, when both teams failed to score. The West added a final touchdown in the fourth quarter and capped a dominant performance with a fitting 37-9 scoreline. 

 

Passing Stats

Shea Patterson became the story early, leading Team West to a pair of touchdowns on its first two drives. The coaching staff elected to air things out, and Patterson was best equipped to handle it, posting better numbers than Michigan commit Brandon Peters and Stanford commit K.J. Costello, although Costello also played well.

East star Jacob Eason, who ranks one spot higher than Patterson on the 247Sports composite rankings, had an up-and-down performance. His huge, Matt Stafford-like arm was on display, but he also missed some throws and lost a fumble on a botched shotgun snap.

Florida commit Feleipe Franks, whose development is crucial to the Gators' future, struggled with a pair of interceptions.

 

Rushing Stats

Oregon commit Vavae Malepeai looks like another great Ducks running back and led the game with 74 yards on eight carries. His long of 25 was also the longest run of the game.

Across the line, future Ohio State Buckeye Demario McCall carried the load. Despite an offense that struggled to get going, he ran hard and finished with 38 yards on nine carries.

The highest-ranked running back in the game, 5-star Clemson commit Tavien Feaster, left with a first-quarter injury and did not return. His loss was unfortunate, but the injury did not appear serious.

 

Receiving Stats 

Team West aired things out and spread the wealth, and as a result five players recorded 25-50 receiving yards.

Simi Fehoko caught Patterson's 35-yard flea-flicker in the first quarter, staking the West to a lead it would never relinquish;Trevor Sikkema provided highlights:

That stood as the longest offensive play of the game until Donnie Corley, fresh off committing to Michigan State, caught a 39-yarder in the second half.

Corley's future teammate, Michigan State commit Cameron Chambers, led Team East with 39 yards on five receptions. Only four East players caught passes, which underscores the way its offense struggled. 

 

Notable Defensive Stats

Cornerback Jack Jones, a top-50 overall recruit who also plays receiver, had the best defensive performance of the day. He led the game with eight tackles and also recorded an interception.

The Team East highlight was inside linebacker Shaq Quarterman, who recorded six tackles. He should follow a nice lineage of inside linebackers at Miami, where he's headed to play next season.

 

Note: All recruiting info refers to 247Sports' composite rankings.

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Following Army All-American Bowl, Who Is Real 2016 No. 1 QB Recruit?

SAN ANTONIO — It took only one drive early in the first quarter for quarterback Shea Patterson to introduce himself to the casual fan.

Patterson's first pass: A screen pass to new Michigan Wolverines receiver Dylan Crawford. The second pass: A dart to Stanford Cardinal-bound receiver Simi Fehoko for 15 yards.

After an incompletion where Miami Hurricanes pledge Tyler Byrd made a great defensive play, Patterson connected again with Fehoko for a 35-yard touchdown pass.

That pretty much summed up the day for Patterson, an Ole Miss Rebels pledge who made a strong case to be the nation's top-ranked quarterback. In a game where he split time with Stanford commit K.J. Costello and Michigan commit Brandon Peters, Patterson completed six of nine passes for 90 yards and two touchdowns for the game and also walked away with the Pete Dawkins Trophy, which is awarded to the game's most valuable player.

"I came here to compete," Patterson said. "This was a dream of mine."

To the casual fan, Patterson was impressive. And what's not to like? He throws an accurate ball deep, intermediate and short. His footwork and accuracy run neck and neck for his best assets. And when it comes to pressure situations, Patterson rarely panics.

Saturday was proof of that.

To those who have followed Patterson's recruiting process since his freshman year, his performance Saturday was par for the course. Every game, the 5-star quarterback plays as if he's on a mission to show everyone he's the best of a talented quarterback class.

It looked that way on Saturday—and the majority of his efforts came in the first half. He completed five of seven passes and accounted for both touchdowns in the first 21 minutes of play.

"I've dreamed about this since I was a little kid," he said. "I remember watching Cody Kessler and Bubba Starling play in this game maybe four or five years ago. It's just a childhood dream of mine come true. This is awesome."

Currently, Patterson is ranked the No. 2 pro-style quarterback in the 2016 class behind Georgia Bulldogs-bound Jacob Eason. Of the quarterbacks at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, five of the top six pro-style quarterbacks were in San Antonio.

Eason, the top-ranked pro-style quarterback, has all the measurables coaches want, and he showed his arm strength on a few of his passes. However, Eason had troubles fielding the snap early, and he finished completing six of 13 passes for 71 yards an interception. Feleipe Franks, a Florida Gators commit, threw two interceptions and completed only one pass.

Costello had a decent day, completing six of 10 passes for 76 yards and two touchdowns, but he also threw a pick early. Peters had the game's longest completion of 39 yards, but he only completed four of 16 passes for the day. Jawon Pass, the nation's No. 6 dual-threat quarterback, rushed for a score and completed five of nine passes for 47 yards for the day.

In short, Patterson displayed everything necessary to put himself in position to take over the top quarterback spot. And he did it against 5-star stud defensive tackles like Dexter Lawrence and Derrick Brown.

And now, Patterson focuses on life at Ole Miss, a place where many feel he'll challenge for the starting position early in his career. If he plays at Ole Miss anywhere close to how he played Saturday, Rebels fans should be excited for what's expected to be a fantastic career.

 

Damon Sayles is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports.com's composite ratings. Follow Damon via Twitter: @DamonSayles

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Army All-American Bowl 2016: Score, Recruit Commitments and Twitter Reaction

The West team came out on top in the premier college recruit all-star game Saturday, as it easily defeated the East 37-9 in the 2016 Army All-American Bowl at the Alamodome in San Antonio.

Ole Miss quarterback recruit Shea Patterson took home MVP honors for the West, according to Yancy Porter of Scout, as he completed six of his 10 passes for 90 yards and two touchdowns in an extremely efficient performance:

Here is an in-depth look at how the 2016 Army All-American Bowl played out, along with a breakdown of the five recruits who announced their collegiate commitments Saturday.

 

Game Recap

The West came out of the gates firing thanks to the play of Patterson and his wide array of offensive weapons.

Following a 55-yard kickoff return, Patterson took advantage of the East's lax coverage in the secondary by finding Stanford wide receiver commit Simi Fehoko for a 35-yard touchdown.

According to Keith Niebuhr of 247Sports, Patterson's strong opening performance was quite consistent with what he brought to the table at the high school level:

While Patterson certainly has a lot of work to do before assuming the starting quarterback job with the Rebels, Chad Simmons of Scout firmly believes he will develop into one of the best signal-callers and players in the nation:

The East had a chance to answer on the ensuing drive with Georgia commit and No. 1-ranked quarterback Jacob Eason at the helm.

Eason fumbled a snap deep in his own territory, though, and then fumbled again after recovering it and getting hit. That allowed TCU running back commit Sewo Olonilua to punch the ball in from one yard out to give the West a 13-0 lead. A missed extra point followed.

As Mike Farrell of Rivals pointed out, Eason didn't look particularly comfortable on what turned out to be a disastrous opening drive for the East:

Scoring stalled out for a while after that, but there were some spectacular defensive plays sprinkled in, including Miami (Fla.) cornerback commit Tyler Byrd picking off Stanford recruit KJ Costello.

While Byrd showed excellent ball skills on the play, Bleacher Report's David Kenyon pointed out that he was helped out by a less-than-stellar Costello throw:

The West extended its lead with less than nine minutes remaining in the first half when Patterson threw his second touchdown of the day to Javon McKinley, who announced his college decision later in the game.

After Patterson found pay dirt on the play, Farrell pointed out that he was establishing himself as the game's top passer:

That score put the West up 19-0, but the East finally got on the board when Byrd blocked an extra-point attempt and returned it all the way to make it 19-2.

Former NFL quarterback and current Yahoo analyst Shaun King was among those who loved what they saw out of Byrd:

Byrd's big play gave the East the momentum it needed, as the team's ensuing drive ended in its first touchdown of the day when Louisville quarterback commit Jawon Pass ran for a short touchdown to pull to within 10 points of the lead:

Despite Pass sparking the East on offense, Woody Wommack of Rivals believes he has a lot of developing to do in comparison to the game's other quarterbacks:

The West bounced back, as it added 11 more points to its total in the final few minutes of the opening half.

Costello connected with USC commit Tyler Vaughns for a 19-yard touchdown before finding Olonilua for a two-point conversion to make the score 27-9:

After watching Vaughns' TD, Greg Biggins of Fox Sports lauded the pass-catcher for his skills as a receiver:

BYU kicker commit Skyler Southam had a rough first half, but he atoned for it just prior to halftime by knocking a 28-yard field goal through the uprights to put the West ahead 30-9 after 24 minutes.

Following a scoreless third quarter, the West continued to pour it on early in the fourth when Costello threw his second touchdown of the day, this time to uncommitted California tight end and defensive end Devin Asiasi to make it 37-9.

The 4-star Asiasi is ranked as the No. 4 athlete in the class, and Jason Howell of Rivals loved what he saw out of him on the play at the tight end position:

Eason's struggles continued for the East on the next drive, as he was intercepted by undecided cornerback Jack Jones. That prompted ESPN.com's Max Olson to observe that Eason may have been dealing with a thumb injury, although nothing was confirmed on that front.

The East team didn't take any chances, holding him out for the remainder of the game. Neither team was able to add to its respective scoring totals.

While there was a major disparity on the scoreboard, both the East and West showcased a ton of talent in the 2016 Army All-American Bowl.

If Saturday's game was any indication, then college football is in for a major infusion of talent.

 

Recruit Commitments

The first of five live college commitments during the 2016 Army All-American Bowl occurred during the first quarter when wide receiver Dylan Crawford made his choice.

The Rancho Santa Margarita, California, native ranks as the No. 20 wide receiver in his class, and he will attempt to live up to that billing at the University of Michigan, according to the Army All-American Bowl's official Twitter account:

Per Nick Baumgardner of MLive, Crawford pointed toward Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh's presence as one of the defining factors in his decision to make the move to Ann Arbor during the game's broadcast.

"I just felt it was the all-around best fit for me," Crawford said. "They've got a good network there, I can go in there and try and compete from the beginning. Coach Harbaugh's going to get you right."

After Michigan secured Crawford, 247Sports pointed out the Wolverines have the best recruiting class in the Big Ten and the second-best in the nation:

In the second quarter, defensive tackle Ross Blacklock chose between TCU, Houston and Texas A&M.

The Missouri City, Texas, native ultimately decided to join Gary Patterson's Horned Frogs in the Big 12 Conference:

At 314 pounds, Blacklock rates as the No. 28 defensive tackle and No. 271 overall prospect in the 2016 recruiting class.

Fellow TCU commit and 4-star defensive end Isaiah Chambers was excited after hearing that he will play alongside Blacklock at the collegiate level:

Donnie Corley is an impressive wide receiver and cornerback recruit, and he declared his college choice in the third quarter.

Big Ten powers Michigan State, Michigan and Ohio State were in the running, but the No. 2 player from the state of Michigan decided to remain close to home by committing to play for the Spartans:

While Corley is a 4-star wide receiver and the No. 19 wideout in his class, he is certainly talented enough to play on both sides of the ball.

According to Steve Wiltfong of 247Sports, Corley said during the Army All-American Bowl broadcast that his dual-threat ability played into his decision.

"They've just been real with me since the beginning," Corley said. "It was one of my first offers. I just love what Coach [Mark] Dantonio is doing up there. They've been winning the last couple years. They're in need of a lot of receivers and I got a chance to play both ways."

The third and final wide receiver to commit on the day did so in the fourth quarter, as Javon McKinley considered finalists Notre Dame, Oregon and Washington.

While the Corona, California, native is far closer to Pac-12 country, he decided to make the long trip to South Bend, Indiana, to play for Brian Kelly and the Fighting Irish:

The 4-star wideout ranks as the No. 18 receiver in the class of 2016, and, according to Wiltfong, he gave a number of reasons for his desire to be a Golden Domer on the broadcast.

"One of the best degree schools you could get," McKinley said. "I connected with the coaching staff really well. The whole tradition of Notre Dame is something to really look into. I just like Notre Dame."

The biggest announcement of the day was saved for last when 5-star No. 1-ranked tight end Isaac Nauta ended his recruiting process.

While Michigan made a late push to land him in addition to Crawford, Nauta's preference to remain close to home won out, as the Buford, Georgia, native committed to play for the Georgia Bulldogs, according to Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports.

Even though the Wolverines came up short in the their pursuit of Nauta, Steve Lorenz of 247Sports still felt as though it was a significant step for Michigan in its quest to become a recruiting power once again:

Nauta will combine with Eason to create one of the most exciting, young offensive combinations in college football.

One can only assume that Nauta will be huge for Eason's development as a passer since he is among the highest-rated tight ends to enter the college ranks over the past several years, per Paul Maharry of UGASports.com:

Georgia may have scored the biggest coup of the day by getting its quarterback an elite weapon, but a number of schools significantly improved.

All five of the prospects who committed during the 2016 Army All-American Bowl have a chance to be NFL players, while several others who put forth strong on-field performances during the contest will have that opportunity as well.

 

*All recruit information and rankings courtesy of 247Sports.

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Winners and Losers of the 2016 Army All-American Bowl

The 2016 edition of the U.S. Army All-American Bowl is in the books as the West squad defeated the East 37-9 at the Alamodome in San Antonio. 

While fans across the country got to see recruits who could make an impact for their favorite schools as soon as this fall, there’s still plenty of work to do for those players who have still yet to make a decision on where they will commit. 

However, some teams got some good news, as five players announced their commitments during the game while others are left to regroup after missing out on them.

Additionally, some committed players backed up their lofty prep accolades and displayed why fans should be anxious in anticipating their arrival on campus. 

Who makes up the winners and losers from the 2016 Army All-American Bowl?

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Isaac Nauta to Georgia: Bulldogs Land 5-Star TE Prospect

When 5-star tight end Isaac Nauta decided to decommit from Florida State, he dealt the Seminoles a major blow. But he will drastically improve Georgia's 2016 recruiting class, as he ultimately decided to commit to the Bulldogs.

According to Jeff Sentell of Dawg Nation, Nauta officially committed to Georgia on Saturday and "has already applied for admission at UGA and will enroll early on Jan. 11."

The 6'3" and 244-pound tight end from IMG Academy is the No. 1-ranked tight end, the third-best prospect from the state of Georgia and the No. 9 overall prospect in the 2016 class, according to 247Sports' composite rankings.

Nauta's size and athleticism make him an exciting prospect. He'll high-point the ball in the air, and he has soft hands for a man his size, but he's also physical in the running game and attacks his blocking assignment.

It's a huge boon to Georgia's already-impressive recruiting class for 2016, with Radi Nabulsi of UGASports.com noting his commitment gives the Bulldogs the top tight end and top-ranked pro-style quarterback in Jacob Eason. 

Nauta looks as though he'll be a very versatile tight end who can stay on the field in all situations. 

He looks like a special prospect at the tight end position and is the sort of talent an offensive coordinator can utilize in a number of ways. 

Georgia's 2016 recruiting class before he committed was ranked 11th overall by 247Sports. New head coach Kirby Smart is making a profound impact on the program already. 

Florida State's loss, then, certainly is Georgia's massive gain.  

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No. 1 TE Isaac Nauta Will Provide Immediate Impact for Georgia

The momentum for Georgia and new head coach Kirby Smart is continuing to build. The Bulldogs landed a major piece to their 2016 class when 5-star tight end Isaac Nauta announced his commitment to Georgia during the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.

The 6’3”, 244-pounder, who is originally from Buford, Georgia, will now head to Athens after choosing the Bulldogs over finalists Alabama and Michigan.

That proximity to home certainly didn’t hurt the Bulldogs' chances, but his bond with Smart also helped Georgia’s push to land him in the end.

"It's close to home and there's always a chance to win the SEC East with all the talent around the area," Nauta told Bleacher Report’s Tyler Donohue earlier this week. "I have a good relationship with Kirby Smart."

Nauta is the No. 9 overall prospect in the 2016 class and the nation’s top tight end prospect. As an added bonus, he will be on campus later this month as an early enrollee.

But there are many layers to his pledge that make it even more significant for the Bulldogs.

For starters, he’s an elite tight end who gives the Bulldogs a pass-catching threat and poses instant mismatch problems for defenses as soon as he steps foot on the field.

He also possesses the physical toughness necessary to step into the SEC and immediately be a factor. 

Nauta was dominant at The Opening over the summer, and he continued to flash his abilities both as a receiver and as a physical blocker in the run game during practices in San Antonio this week, as detailed by Steve Wiltfong of 247Sports.

Given the fact that he will get a chance to go through spring drills, he’ll have a shot to master the playbook of new offensive coordinator Jim Chaney by the time fall rolls around—which is his main goal now that his recruitment is finished.

"I want to get with coaches every day and learn the offense so by the time spring ball rolls around I'll be ready to go. I want to play right away as a freshman," Nauta told Donohue. 

With fellow 5-star recruit and early enrollee Jacob Eason a threat to be the Bulldogs starting quarterback this fall, pairing him with a battery mate such as Nauta would give him a safety net when things break down.

Another benefit of Nauta’s pledge is the boost it could give the Bulldogs down the stretch.

Smart and his staff have a handful of elite prospects, such as 5-star defensive tackle Derrick Brown and 5-star athletes Mecole Hardman Jr. and Demetris Robertson, who are all heavily considering staying in-state and choosing Georgia.

Regardless of who joins him in Athens, Nauta is the type of weapon who can make an immediate impact next season—which makes his commitment one worth celebrating for Bulldogs fans.

 

Sanjay Kirpalani is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. Information from Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analyst Tyler Donohue was used in this story. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand and all recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

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Javon McKinley to Notre Dame: Fighting Irish Land 4-Star WR Prospect

One of the best playmakers in 2016's recruiting class is off the board, as wide receiver Javon McKinley has committed to Notre Dame.

Mike Farrell of Rivals.com reported McKinley's decision.

A four-star prospect out of Corona, California, McKinley is ranked as the No. 18 wide receiver in his class by 247 Sports. He's got a college-ready frame at 6'2" and 203 pounds, so it wouldn't be a surprise to see him on the field as a freshman. 

During The Opening event in July, McKinley showcased his ability to snatch a ball out of the air and run past defensive backs:

Every coach in the country loves to see what a player will do surrounded by traffic. McKinley has the chops to go over the middle and make plays because of his size and strength, making up for some deficiencies he has in other areas. 

That brief video does highlight some of those concerns scouts have with McKinley at this point in his development. He's not afraid to play physical with opposing cornerbacks, but lacks the ability to get away from them.

Here's ESPN.com's scouting report on McKinley's weaknesses: 

Needs to come off the ball with more purpose, explosion. Runs to just try and get open, not a lot of precision or reason for his methods. Muscles his way through tight coverage and needs technical polish and coaching as a route runner. Is more of a run and catch guy right now that is difficult to tackle. Needs to learn nuance and coverage.

This is hardly a crippling flaw in McKinley's game as he prepares to enter college. It's rare to find a wide receiver who knows how to run routes. These players spend four years in high school knowing they can just jump over cornerbacks to make big plays. 

Moving into college is the true test of a player's ability. McKinley has the raw physical package to be a superstar at the next level and will do well to start working with a college coaching staff as soon as possible to work out some kinks. 

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