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June 9, 2009

National Notes: Coker back on recruiting trail

There are going to be plenty of firsts for new UT-San Antonio coach Larry Coker over the next few months.

Coker is building the program from scratch and just recently hired his first three assistants. He's also going to hold the school's first football camp June 18-20. Later, the school is going to break ground on its stadium. And Coker, who won a national title as coach at Miami, recently received his first four commitments from running back Chris Johnson of San Antonio East Central, defensive end Chris Dorsey of Altair (Texas) Rice Consolidated, and San Antonio Brackenridge teammates Earon Holmes, a receiver, and Malcolm Greer, a defensive back.

UTSA will sign its first recruiting class in February and is scheduled to compete as a Football Championship Subdivision (i.e., Division I-AA) member beginning in 2011. From there, UTSA's goal is to eventually become part of Conference USA.

All four prospects are excited about being the first to join the program.

"It's about coming there and getting a dynasty started," Dorsey said. "If you're ready to play ball, come up there. It's pretty tight. They've got some good coaches. Coach Coker is a good coach and has won some championships."

Holmes said he thinks the school will be a good fit for a lot of Texas high school prospects because of its location and the new facilities.

Johnson's commitment was a nice recruiting victory for Coker. The 5-foot-9, 182-pound Johnson who has rushed for more than 3,200 yards and 34 touchdowns the past two seasons also had scholarship offers from Colorado and Iowa State.

Greer said he's been a big fan of Coker since he watched him coach at Miami.

"I heard a lot about him when he was at the University of Miami," Greer said. "He's got experience and knows what it takes to take a team to a championship. He told us that we're going to start off as an independent and then we should, in a couple years, be a D-I program playing big schools. He's been talking about getting people from the area and building a better team so we can challenge all the schools around us.

"I like that challenge of starting something from scratch. It's going to allow us to be part of something special."

Out-of-state QB gets UCLA offer

Several of the best quarterbacks in the west were on hand at UCLA's camp over the weekend, including highly regarded California passers Brett Nottingham and Nick Hirschman. But it was an out-of-state quarterback, Taylor Graham of Wheaton (Ill.) Wheaton North, who walked away with a scholarship offer from coach Rick Neuheisel.

Graham has been flying under the radar through the spring evaluation process because he broke his ankle midway through last season and missed much of the rest of the season. But once coaches started to do their homework, the offers started to pour in from schools such as Iowa, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Colorado, Arkansas and Duke. He wowed coaches Saturday in Westwood, and the Bruins jumped in the hunt.

All of this is making Graham think twice about how he's going to approach the recruiting process.

"I believe the last week in April was when I got my first offer," Graham said. "Up until maybe the past week or so, I haven't really thought I had the luxury of waiting that long to make a decision. I felt like I would have to take my spot as soon as I could before someone else took it, and I would be out of offers.

"Now I have collected more offers and I feel I can wait a little bit longer. Most of the schools have said they will give me time to think about it. They told me that they want me to make the right decision and they are leaving it open to me to ask them as many questions as I can so I can feel comfortable."

Recruiter of the week: Missouri's Cornell Ford

Ford, who is Missouri's cornerback coach, got four-star wide receiver Jimmie Hunt of Cahokia (Ill.) High to commit to the Tigers over the weekend. Cahokia coach Antwyne Golliday said Ford is a big reason Hunt committed to the Tigers.

"Coach Ford did a tremendous job recruiting Jimmie," Golliday said. "He made sure to put their academics on top, which was an important factor for Jimmie. Coach Ford made it clear that a really high percentage of football players get their degrees, and that was something that Jimmie really liked to hear about.

"It also doesn't hurt that they've had some great receivers the past few years, and the way that Coach Ford and the offensive coaches showed Jimmie how he could be used in their system proved to be a great fit."

Ford also has recruited another one of Missouri's top commitments in the 2010 class in three-star athlete Marquise Hill of St. Louis Trinity Catholic. Ford is also heavily involved in the Tigers' efforts to reel in blue-chip offensive linemen Nick Demien of Wentzville (Mo.) Timberland.

Who's that guy?

At Saturday's NIKE Training Camp in Champaign, Ill., a lot of the attention was focused on star prospects such as defensive end William Gholston of Detroit Southeastern. But after the one-on-ones started, the attention quickly turned to the guy who was dominating Gholston in those battles offensive lineman Connor Kruse of Lowell (Mich.) High.

Not much was known about Kruse heading into the camp he wasn't even in the Rivals.com recruiting database until just recently but after handling Gholston in one-on-ones and looking solid in drill work, he's a name to remember.

"I have one offer from Western Michigan," said Kruse, who is 6-4 and 280 pounds. "I'm hoping a camp like this will help get me on the map even more. I wanted to test myself against the best, and [Gholston] was supposed to be the best. I think I handled him quite well. You saw he didn't want anything to do with me when it was time again. He backed away from me."

Etc.

Three-star wide receiver Joshua Harper of Stockton (Calif.) St. Mary's earned a Cal offer after a strong showing over the weekend at the Bears' camp. "I felt like I did a pretty good job out there," Harper said. "They have a great offense, and this is an offer I've been wanting for a while now. I'm definitely excited about it."

LSU has been busy the past few days, picking up commitments from Cameron Fordham, Sam Gibson, Ronnie Vinson and Justin Maclin. Gibson is a three-star linebacker from Prattville (Ala.) High, Vinson is a four-star athlete from New Orleans Isidore Newman School and Maclin is a four-star linebacker from Memphis (Tenn.) Ridgeway. Vinson and Maclin are ranked in the Rivals250.

Detroit Southeastern defensive tackle Johnathon Hankins added an offer from Ohio State recently. He said Ohio State has leapfrogged into the No. 1 spot on his list after the offer. "I have been waiting for Ohio State to offer me," Hankins said. "Now that I have heard from them, I am really, really interested in them."



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