College Football Recruiting Roundup: 5-26-15

College Football Recruiting

The college football recruiting roundup gives you the day’s most important college football recruiting news and links.

Here are today’s most important college football recruiting stories.

Tom Herman’s “Houston Takeover” Has Officially Begun

College Football

Tom Herman’s first ever recruiting class as head coach at Houston was a rather underwhelming haul of talent. The Cougars landed just 21 signees for a 2015 class which ranked just 91st overall in the nation in 247Sports’ composite class power ranking.

The fact that Herman was unable to put together a highly ranked 2015 class isn’t surprising, considering he had just a little over two months between the time he was hired and National Signing Day.

Fortunately for new coaches, the pressure to produce a great recruiting class doesn’t come until after they’ve spent a full year in the recruiting cycle at their new school. Cougars fans will be expecting Herman to deliver a much more heralded class in 2016, especially given the former Ohio State offensive coordinator’s reputation for being an ace recruiter during his days in Columbus.

Though National Signing Day isn’t for another eight months, the new Cougars coaching staff has already begun assembling its 2016 class. Houston currently has commitments from five 2016 prospects but there are two players in particular who stand out not just because of their talent, but because of what they represent.

5-star DT Ed Oliver and 4-star DT Jordan Elliott are the latest additions to the team’s 2016 class. The highly touted tackles are two of the most lauded high school players to ever commit to the Cougars. They also both happen to be Houston natives. Oliver plays for Westfield High School, while Elliott suits up for Westside High School.

Their commitments to the program aren’t set in stone just yet. With so much time left in the recruiting process before players sign a letter of intent, big-name programs will surely continue trying to poach both of them before National Signing Day. Still, their current pledges represent a culture shift as well as a change in attitude for a team that has been mired in mediocrity since the departure of Kevin Sumlin after the 2011 season.

Both Oliver and Elliott chose Houston over offers from much more prestigious programs such as Alabama, LSU, Oklahoma and Texas. That shows that Herman and his staff are prepared to go toe-to-toe with power programs in recruiting battles for top-tier talent. More importantly, though, it shows that the new staff realizes that keeping homegrown talent in Houston is a key factor to the program’s overall recruiting success.

Houston is a true hotbed for outstanding high school football talent. In 247Sports’ composite prospect rankings for the 2015 class, 13 of the top 100 prospects from the state of Texas were Houston natives.

The Cougars were able to convince only one of those 13 prospects: 3-Star RB Tyreik Gray from Lamar High School, to stay in Houston. The rest all passed on the opportunity to play their college ball in their hometown, choosing instead to go play for a bigger program.

With Herman now at the helm, that looks like it’s about to change soon.

If you check the coach’s official Twitter page, you’ll see plenty of posts with the hashtag #HTownTakeover. In the broad sense, it’s a viral campaign used to publicize the goal of growing the program for the future, but it’s also a phrase that’s applicable to one of the team’s most important recruiting strategies.

One of Herman’s main focuses in recruiting is to build a mythical wall around Houston and get many of the plethora of talented prospects in the area to stay home. At this point, the Cougars simply don’t have the type of resources needed to compete with the big-name schools in the region for the elite blue-chip talent in the state of Texas. But what they do have is the ability to sell local talent on the idea of staying home and building something special in H-Town.

Herman expressed the importance of that strategy in a recent interview with Cleveland.com.

“Everything we do, every picture we put on the wall, every piece of carpet we put down, everything you do has to be through the lens of a 17- or 18-year old kid and make sure the University of Houston is as appealing as it can be for local prospects.”

Oliver, Elliott and fellow Houston native Dixie Wooten III—a 3-star OG from Lamar HS who also recently committed to the Cougars—have all bought into the “Takeover” mantra. Now Herman can turn his attention to some of the many other big-name prospects in the 2016 class who also call the talent-stocked city home.

USC Football: Ranking the Top 10 Trojans for 2015

College Football

The bad news for Steve Sarkisian and the rest of the USC coaching staff is that they’re going to have to figure out how to replace three highly productive underclassmen: DE Leonard Williams, WR Nelson Agholor and RB Buck Allen, as all three made the decision to leave school early for the 2015 NFL draft.

The good news for Sarkisian is that the Trojans are welcoming back plenty of potential difference-makers on both sides of the ball. In fact, you could easily make the argument that the 2015 squad will be one of the most talented overall teams in all of college football.

QB Cody Kessler is the big star and the unquestionable face of the program. Kessler is a top Heisman contender, an All-American candidate and he’s well on his way to becoming an early pick in the 2016 NFL draft.

Kessler isn’t going to enter the upcoming season with the same level of fanfare that Matt Barkley had surrounding him in 2012. However, the Trojans’ talented signal-caller should end up developing into an even better all around pro prospect than his predecessor.

The early loss of Williams, Agholor and Allen is a tough blow, but USC has enough talent to still recover and thrive.

Here’s a look at the team’s top 10 overall players for the 2015 season.

LSU Football: Ranking the Top 10 Tigers For 2015

College Football

It’s pretty easy to figure out the reason why LSU never materialized into a true bona fide contender in the SEC in 2015. It’s obvious which side of the ball simply didn’t live up to its end of the bargain.

The Tigers defense was one of the most stout units in the country last year, ranking in the top 10 nationally in both scoring defense and total defense. Unfortunately, the offense turned out to be just as bad as the defense was good. The meager attack averaged just 27 points and 387 yards per game in 2014 and it failed to generate much of an exciting spark.

Luckily, the offense is shaping up to be one of the most improved units in the SEC this fall. The Tigers are welcoming back a host of key starters, none more important than budding star sophomore RB Leonard Fournette.

Fournette will be the focal point on offense once again in his second season carrying the rushing load. However, the former blue-chip recruit isn’t the only Tiger who will play a key role in the team’s quest to get back to the top of the SEC ladder.

Here’s a look at LSU’s top 10 players for the 2015 season.

Ole Miss Football: Ranking The Top 10 Rebels For 2015

College Football 2015

Incremental improvement has been the main storyline of Hugh Freeze’s three-year tenure as head coach at Ole Miss. Freeze’s squad has managed to continually get a little bit stronger and a little bit better in each of the past three seasons, going from seven wins in 2012, to eight wins in 2013, and then to nine wins in 2014.

The next logical step for the Rebels is to become a true championship contender in 2015.

This is the year many fans have been pointing to ever since Freeze and his staff assembled a widely praised a top-5 recruiting class back in the winter of 2013.

Many of the high-profile names from that group such as WR Laquon Treadwell, DT Robert Nkemdiche and OT Laremy Tunsil have emerged as standout starters who are on the verge of becoming true superstars in the third year of their collegiate careers.

Treadwell, Nkemdiche and Tunsil are the three Rebels that will surely garner the most praise and attention this offseason. However, Freeze has built a roster that features plenty of other top-tier talent as well.

Here’s a look at the Mississippi’s top 10 players for 2015.

Western Kentucky’s High-Powered Offense Is One Of College Football’s Hidden Gems

College Football

Western Kentucky’s average attendance dropped 11 percent from 2013 to 2014. The Hilltoppers averaged just 16,306 fans per home game, which was better than just 16 other teams at the FBS level.

The departure of big-name head coach Bobby Petrino, who left the program at the conclusion of the 2013 season to return to the University Louisville, obviously had a lot to do with waning interest in the team. The lack of support on a local level combined with the absolutely nonexistent intrigue on the national level was truly a shame considering just how efficient and exciting the Hilltoppers offense actually was last fall.

With first-year head coach Jeff Brohm at the helm, Western Kentucky’s offense proved to be one of the most lethal attacks in all of college football.

The Hilltoppers averaged 44 points and 534 total yards per game. They finished the season ranked in the top 10 nationally in six major offensive categories—second overall in passing offense, fourth in total offense, fifth in average first downs per game, sixth in scoring offense and sixth in total touchdowns scored.

The focal point of a largely pass-driven attack was QB Brandon Doughty, who turned in a masterful performance in his second year as a starter. Doughty attempted 552 pass attempts, which was the second most of any quarterback in the country, yet remarkably, he still managed to complete 68 percent of his throws and average 8.8 yards per attempt.

Doughty’s 4,830 passing yards and 49 total touchdown passes were each the highest total of any quarterback in the country. His 161.1 total passer rating was the third best in the nation behind only Heisman-winner Marcus Mariota and freshman phenom J.T. Barrett.

It was a performance that earned the former overlooked 3-star recruit from Southeast Florida numerous accolades and awards, most notably the Conference-USA Most Valuable Player.

The good news is that the 6’3’’, 210-pound senior was granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA, so he’ll be back to lead the attack in 2015. The even better news is that he’ll be joined by nearly every key member of the high-powered 2014 offense.

The team’s leading rusher, RB Leon Allen, will enter his senior year with plenty of momentum following a breakout junior campaign. Last season, Allen proved to be a more than capable replacement for Antonio Andrews as well as a perfect complement to Doughty.

The 6’0’’, 235-pound multi-faceted playmaker proved his worth as both a rusher and a receiver, as he totaled over 1,500 yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground while adding 51 catches for 476 yards and three receiving touchdowns. Allen’s 64 total plays of 10 yards or more from scrimmage was tied for the sixth highest total in the nation in 2014.  It was a showing that earned him a spot on Conference USA’s second-team All-Conference offense.

Doughty will surely be happy to have a weapon like Allen at his disposal once again, and he’ll also be glad to have three of his four most productive receivers—Jared Dangerfield, Taywan Taylor and Antwane Grant—back as well. Last season, the trio of pass-catchers combined to haul in 155 receptions for over 2,100 yards and 24 touchdowns.

As if those three proven veterans weren’t enough, big things are also expected from sophomore Nacarius Fant, a local product who earned 2013 Kentucky Mr. Football honors after a record-setting senior season at nearby Bowling Green High School.

Up front, the offensive line welcomes back four starters: left tackle Forrest Lamp, left guard Brandon Ray, right guard Darrell Williams and center Max Halpin. Lamp, a 6’4’’, 296-pound junior who earned honorable mention All-Conference honors last season, and Ray, a 6’3’’, 285-pound sophomore who earned a spot on the FWAA first-team Freshman All-American team during his debut campaign, will be the leaders of a unit that allowed just 19 total sacks in 2014.

“Loaded” is a term that truly suits Western Kentucky’s 2015 offense well.

Unfortunately, in this day and age when the main focus of the college football world is on the big-name money-making schools in the Power-5 conferences, the rest of the smaller brand names seemingly get lost in the shuffle. For example, last season, Western Kentucky didn’t have a single regular season game broadcast on any of ESPN’s channels.

Luckily, though, they did have an appearance on the worldwide leader in the inaugural Bahamas Bowl. True to form, in front of a national audience, the Hilltoppers offense shined, building up a 49-14 lead over Central Michigan before a fourth-quarter defensive meltdown resulted in a little-too-close-for-comfort 49-48 victory.

If anything, that game was a reflection on how a team could be so tremendous on the offensive side of the ball, yet still finish a season with a respectable yet rather ho-hum 8-5 overall record. As good as the offense was, the defense seemed to be just as disastrous, ranking 123rd nationally in total defense and 124th in scoring defense.

The Hilltoppers offense should once again be one of the most potent and powerful attacks in all of college football in 2015. With Doughty, Allen and company leading the charge, it’s a unit that has consistently shown that it can score when it wants, how it wants and how often it wants, and there’s no reason that shouldn’t continue.

If Brohm and his staff can correct the woes on the other side of the ball, Western Kentucky—which is a program that has only been a full-time FBS member since 2009—appears like it’s ready to take the next step in its evolution this fall.

Nebraska Football: Cornhuskers Receive Commitment From 3-Star QB Terry Wilson

College Football Recruiting

3-Star QB Terry Wilson from Del City, Oklahoma officially announced his commitment to Nebraska through Twitter on Tuesday night.

https://twitter.com/GLAProdigy/status/595764054725132290

Wilson, who through for over 2,800 yards and accounted for 28 total touchdowns as a junior in 2014, becomes Nebraska’s fifth commitment of the 2016 recruiting class. The Oklahoma native chose the Cornhuskers over offers from schools such as Arizona State, Colorado, Indiana and Texas Tech.

Which States Produced the Most 2015 NFL Draft Picks?

2015 NFL Draft

There’s a long-held belief that there are three states in America that are in a special class of their own when it comes to producing great football players: California, Florida and Texas.

Judging by the 2015 NFL draft, however, it looks like “the big three” may have to soon be changed to the big four, since the state of Georgia proved it deserves the same heavyweight status as California, Florida and Texas with a huge showing in this year’s draft.

31 of the players selected in the 2015 draft are natives of the Peach State. Only Florida—which led the way with 38 total players selected, including three of the top six picks (Dante Fowler Jr., Amari Cooper and Leonard Williams)—had more players selected. That means Georgia eclipsed two of the big three states: Texas and California, which had 27 draftees and 26 draftees respectively.

In recent years, recruiting experts have pointed to Georgia as the most talent-stocked state outside of the big three. This year’s showing in the NFL draft should only help boost the state’s reputation as a prospect-producing powerhouse and further the argument that the state belongs on the same esteemed tier as California, Florida and Texas.

Overall, 37 different states had a player selected in the 256-player 2015 NFL draft class, as well as two different foreign countries: Canada and Germany.

*Note: The data collected for this study was based off of where a player played his high school football, instead of his actual birthplace. For example, Chicago Bears WR Kevin White was born in Plainfield, New Jersey, but he played his high school football in Emmaus, Pennsylvania, so he counts for Pennsylvania.

Here’s a look at how the states stacked up in the 2015 draft.