National Outlook

Wide receiver Eric Ward of Rider High School in Wichita Falls, Texas committed to Oklahoma last March. His plan all along was to graduate early and begin classes at Oklahoma in January. That continued to be the plan right up until he enrolled at Texas Tech early this week.

5-foot-11, 190-pound Eric Ward is rated as this year's No. 17 wide receiver by Scout.com, which places him at No. 161 on their Top 300 list.

When discussing who should represent the Big Xll South in the conference title game, Texas Tech coach Mike Leach said that the tie-breaker should be graduation rate, noting how Tech graduated players at a higher clip than either Oklahoma or Texas. While he was kidding (maybe), that line may have had an impact on Ward's decision. Ward told the Wichita Falls Times Record News that Oklahoma's 46% graduation rate was the key factor in his change of heart. Needless to say, Sooner players and coaches will be aware of Ward during their conference battles over the next four years.

Ward is the third player from Rider to switch commitments this season. Shavodrick Beaver de-commmitted from Michigan and is now ready to sign with Tulsa in February. Markelle Martin had committed to Texas A&M, switched his commitment to Oklahoma, and is now on board with Oklahoma State.

Two Scout.com five-stars gave commitments this week and, continuing the Rider High trend, one is a commitment switch. Nick Kasa, a 6-foot-7, 235-pound defensive end from Broomfield, Colo., was a future Florida Gator before changing his commitment to Colorado this week. Kasa called Florida coach Urban Meyer this past weekend to inform him of his decision. After winning the national championship last Thursday, Meyer had to have been shocked to learn that Kasa was switching his commitment. Kasa is Scout.com's No. 4 defensive end and the No. 48 player overall in the class of 2009.

Like Kasa, five-star defensive tackle Corey Adams from Scottsdale, Ariz. decided to stay close to home for college, as he committed to Arizona State this week. Adams is the No. 7 defensive tackle according to Scout.com and comes in one spot ahead of Kasa on their Top 100, sitting at No. 47. The 6-foot-3, 288-pounder helped Saguaro High School to its third straight state title this past fall. He had originally planned to announce his college destination at the Under Armour All-Star game in Orlando, Fla. on January 4th, but he decided to ponder his decision for another week before selecting the Sun Devils. He picked them over Ohio State and USC.

Brigham Young is in the hunt to land superstar linebacker Manti Te'o. Should they fall short in their efforts to land the Hawaii native, their situation at linebacker is hardly dire. Reno, Nev. product Kyle Van Noy gave his word to the Cougars this past weekend, solidifying a commitment that had been made in November. The 6-foot-4, 205-pound Van Noy still visited Arizona State and Boise State after that November pledge and also considered Colorado and UCLA. He led McQueen High School to a 4A state title in 2008, making 79 tackles and 14 sacks from his weak side linebacker position. On offense, 18 of his 35 receptions went for touchdowns. The four-star prospect is the only high school linebacker commit for BYU, meaning there is still plenty of room for Te'o.

Since the firing of head coach Tommy Tuberville, Auburn has lost several committed recruits. However, they kept a big one in the fold when defensive tackle Terrence Coleman made his commitment solid after a visit to the Plains this past weekend, though he says that he will still visit Arkansas, Southern Miss, and Tennessee. The 6-foot-1, 251-pound Mobile native was Auburn's first 2009 commitment way back in February and began to look at other schools in March, long before Tuberville was shown the door. The four-star prospect has a three-star teammate at Lillie B. Williamson High School that is also a soft commitment to the Tigers. 5-foot-10, 180-pound wide receiver LaVoy James went up to visit Auburn with Coleman and said that his commitment is now more firm, but it is not firm enough to prohibit him from going to Mississippi State on January 30th.

Arkansas picked up two players that will make an offensive impact in the SEC. But the big news is the re-commitment of four-star running back Kniles Davis of Missouri City, Texas. Davis committed to the Hogs in September but visited Houston with a couple of friends last weekend. After returning home, he once again committed to Arkansas. The 6-foot-1, 210-pound Davis played only four games his junior season before breaking his collarbone. 2008 offered him a similar fate, as he broke an ankle in Marshall High School's second game of the season. Davis has graduated from high school and will be an early enrollee at Arkansas.

The two new Razorback commitments are offensive guard Shauntez Bruce from Tallahassee, Fla, who picked Arkansas over Florida State and South Carolina, and Amite, La. quarterback Brandon Mitchell, who turned down football scholarship offers from Michigan and Tulsa and a basketball offer from LSU when he committed to Arkansas.

Also, Notre Dame lost committed cornerback Marlon Pollard to UCLA. The four-star San Bernardino, Calif. prospect is back with UCLA for the second time after originally committing to the Bruins in July of 2007. He committed to Notre Dame in July of '08 before going back to the Bruins this week. UCLA also got Coeur d'Alene, Idaho athlete Billy Sanders to switch to them from Miami. The Bruins recruited Sanders as a defensive end while Miami wanted him as a tight end. Finally, UCLA took in a commitment from Irvine, Calif. native Nik Abele. While most schools were recruiting the 6-foot-6, 255-pounder as an offensive tackle, UCLA will give him a chance to play the position that he prefers: defensive end. California, Washington, Colorado, and Arizona State were also involved.


IrishIllustrated.com Top Stories