7 Most Important College Football Recruiting Visits of Week 2
As summer seeps into fall, high school victories aren't the only thing on the mind of senior standouts. Several premier prospects remain in search of the right collegiate fit, packing their itineraries with campus visits in an effort to narrow things down.
Recruits and their families have another opportunity to explore programs' game-day atmosphere and team facilities this weekend, as the second slate of this college football season gets underway across the country. Players were busy traveling to thrilling matchups last week when the 2014 campaign kicked off, and some of those visits resulted in crucial commitments.
Here's a look at which coveted prospects are expected to attend games this time around, along with an examination of why they're so important to the host team's recruiting success.
Notre Dame: 4-Star LB Porter Gustin (Salem, Utah)
247Sports' Composite Ranking: No. 67 overall; No. 6 among outside linebackers
High School Success
The fast-rising defender wowed this summer at The Opening, an elite invite-only camp at Nike's world headquarters. The 6'5", 240-pound prospect exhibited elite athleticism, advancing to the SPARQ national finals, and presents possibilities at multiple positions along the defensive front seven.
Porter Gustin tallied 78 tackles in 2013, including 17 for loss. He appeared to make strides as a pass-rusher during the second half of his junior campaign and also flashed an ability to handle pass coverage in intermediate range.
Few prospects bring this level of range to the field, and Gustin will enable his collegiate defensive coordinator to create new wrinkles in blitz schemes.
Offers poured in for Gustin this summer, including scholarships from Miami, Arkansas and LSU. He is a crucial target for the Fighting Irish, who managed to flip fellow 4-star outside linebacker Josh Barajas from Penn State this summer.
Brian Kelly and his staff will have all weekend to lay out a plan for his career in South Bend, as Gustin won't depart until Monday, per Barton Simmons of 247Sports. This is his first official visit, while future trips could include Ohio State, USC, Arizona State and Florida State.
No longer a relative afterthought in the 2015 cycle, Gustin is primed for a frenzied final stretch toward national signing day. His process ranks among the most compelling in this class and could go down to the wire.
Ohio State: 5-Star RB Damien Harris (Berea, Kentucky)
247Sports' Composite Ranking: No. 27 overall, No. 1 among running backs
High School Success
Damien Harris is a four-year contributor at Madison South High School, where he surpassed 2,600 rushing yards as a junior. His senior season is off to a scintillating start, as the 5'11", 205-pound playmaker is averaging 19 yards per carry through two contests.
His 2014 efforts include 380 yards and four touchdowns. Harris has now rushed for 92 touchdowns in high school and should exceed 120 total scores by the end of the year if his track record is any indication.
Fresh off a visit to Kentucky, Harris is a prized playmaker who trimmed his list to five teams last month. Along with the in-state Wildcats and Ohio State, he is still considering Texas A&M, Florida and Alabama.
Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer has hosted him on campus before, but the stakes have never been higher. Harris enjoyed his time in Lexington last weekend, and many view Kentucky as Ohio State's top contender in this race.
"I always have a great time when I'm on campus at UK. It's always a great atmosphere," Harris told Bleacher Report's Kynon Codrington. "Especially being an in-state kid. They show me a lot of love from the fans, coaches and players. My favorite part other than the game is being with Coach (Mark) Stoops and Coach (Chad) Scott. I love trying to develop a closer relationship with them."
However, he hasn't been shy about the kind of clout Meyer carries in his recruitment.
"It's still kind of cool the way things go with Coach Meyer," Harris told told Doug Lesmerises of Cleveland.com. "As a kid growing up, I'd see him on TV and I was like, 'Man, he's the man.' And now I get to be real cool with him."
Nebraska: 4-Star ATH Jaason Lewis (Virginia Beach, Virginia)
247Sports' Composite Ranking: No. 205 overall; No. 17 among athletes
High School Success
The dynamic two-way standout starred during a 12-1 run at Ocean Lakes High School as a junior. He shines as a defensive back and versatile offensive weapon.
Jaason Lewis picked off four passes and showed effectiveness against the run with seven tackles for loss last fall. He possesses physicality and closing speed well-suited for safety, but there's plenty to like about his offensive promise.
He tallied 515 rushing yards, 498 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns while lining up all over the field in 2013. Lewis is off to a sensational start this season, scoring four times in an opening victory, per Rod Johnson of Rivals.com.
The 6'3", 233-pound prospect initially committed to UCLA in February following a campus visit with the Bruins. That verbal pact ultimately didn't last long, as Lewis reopened his recruitment this spring.
He spent time with a pair of SEC programs in July, journeying to Georgia and LSU. Nebraska was a bit late to the party, offering this summer shortly after Lewis announced a top five of Oregon, Arizona State, LSU, Ole Miss and Miami.
The Cornhuskers could certainly use an infusion of elite talent along the offensive perimeter, and Lewis is the kind of playmaker who can contribute immediately as a receiver and rushing threat. Given the fact he was willing to play in Los Angeles, proximity to his hometown doesn't appear to be a primary concern.
Arkansas: 4-Star TE Will Gragg
247Sports' Composite Ranking: No. 191 overall; No. 6 among tight ends
High School Success
The younger brother of former Arkansas standout and current Buffalo Bills tight end Chris Gragg, Will Gragg has made quite a name for himself. Like many high school tight ends, he doesn't see a ton of pass targets but still managed to lead Dumas High School in receiving last season.
He caught 31 passes for 321 yards and five touchdowns, per Hootens.com. The 6'4", 245-pound prospect displays impressive burst off the ball and already runs routes with solid precision for a player his size.
Gragg brings field-stretching abilities to the position and looked extremely smooth in the open field while competing at The Opening this summer. He is a multidimensional talent who would instantly upgrade the position at multiple schools.
"I want to be a balanced tight end who can make big plays at different parts of the field," Gragg said this summer. "I've been working on my game to get ready for what's coming. I think there's been a lot of improvement."
The Razorbacks have been all over Gragg since the start of his recruitment process due to regional proximity and his family ties to Fayetteville. He was supposed to visit Texas this weekend but rescheduled that trip for October and will instead spend Saturday at Arkansas, giving the coaching staff another opportunity to apply full-court-press recruitment.
The goal at Arkansas is to pair him with 4-star wide receiver K.J. Hill, another in-state standout who pledged last week.
Gragg, who recently narrowed his options to the Razorbacks, Texas, LSU, Ole Miss, Alabama and Mississippi State, is expected to announce a decision on Sept. 23, according to Otis Kirk of 247Sports. Arkansas should have a sense of confidence at this stage, but there's still a long way to go and Saturday presents another chance to seal the deal.
Oregon: 4-Star CB Micah Abernathy (Norcross, Georgia)
247Sports' Composite Ranking: No. 184 overall; No. 21 among cornerbacks
High School Success
Micah Abernathy earned all-county honors from the Gwinnett Daily Post last season after a productive campaign in all three phases of the game. He rushed for 1,664 yards and 20 touchdowns, spearheading the offensive attack at Greater Atlanta Christian High School.
In addition to providing stout defensive coverage in the secondary, Abernathy was a key commodity on special teams. He returned two kickoffs for touchdowns.
His ability to create plays when he gains possession sets the stage for a collegiate career as a ball hawk in the defensive backfield.
Abernathy enjoyed a busy summer, traveling to Tennessee, Ohio State and Georgia. He holds offers from each of those teams, and they appeared on his top-five list in July, along with Oregon and Penn State.
The Ducks extended an offer in May and are currently the only program scheduled to host the 6'1", 187-pound prospect for an official visit this season.
"Right now, I only have one," he told Andrew Nemec of OregonLive.com. "That's to Oregon."
A quality experience could ensure he ends up in Eugene next year.
The Ducks already cashed in on a valued campus visitor this season, securing a commitment from 4-star California running back Malik Lovette last weekend. Now the team turns its attention to an intriguing East Coast defensive back, providing further evidence of Oregon's rapidly expanding national recruiting reach.
Stanford: 4-Star WR Trent Irwin (Newhall, California)
247Sports' Composite Ranking: No. 101 overall; No. 10 among wide receivers
High School Success
Trent Irwin has created quite a tandem with Hart High School quarterback and Arizona State commit Brady White. During the past two seasons, they hooked up for 2,500 yards and 27 touchdowns through the air.
Irwin opened the 2014 season in familiar fashion, catching 10 passes for 238 yards and a score. White set a single-game school passing record in the process, per the Los Angeles Daily News.
The 6'2", 190-pound pass-catcher was one of the top wide receiver standouts at The Opening this summer. He's a fearless target who provides a consistent receiving presence across the middle and converts key third downs.
Irwin is likely to land in the Pac-12 with Stanford and Arizona State emerging as prime landing spots. His quarterback is attempting to bring him down to the desert.
"Of course I'd love for Trent to join me at Arizona State," White said this summer. "It's ultimately his decision, but I think we could do some big things if that happens."
Stanford is the Sun Devils' biggest competition. The team has a chance to make a strong impression while hosting USC this Saturday with Irwin expected to attend, per Scout.com.
Ohio State: 5-Star DE Josh Sweat (Chesapeake, Virginia)
247Sports' Composite Ranking: No. 1 overall; No. 1 among weak-side defensive ends
High School Success
Josh Sweat emerged as the nation's most feared pass-rusher during his junior season, securing 22 sacks and 94 tackles. The 6'5", 240-pound specimen ran a 4.46 in the 40-yard dash this summer and must be considered one of the rarest athletes we've witnessed on a high school field this decade.
"You have to be perfect against Sweat," 5-star Clemson offensive tackle commit Mitch Hyatt said after working against him in one-on-one drills at The Opening. "Otherwise you're done."
He lines up at wide receiver on offense and also takes handoffs. Sweat compiled 90 total yards and a rushing touchdown in his season opener, per Craig Haubert of ESPN.
Sweat seems to be getting along fine without former Oscar Smith High School teammate Andrew Brown, the top-rated 2014 defensive tackle who now attends Virginia. His season-opening effort featured three tackles for loss and two sacks despite dealing with relentless multi-player blocking schemes.
Though his recruitment largely remained a mystery during early stages of the 2015 cycle, this process is beginning to look much more clear five months away from national signing day. Sweat shared his official visit schedule in August.
Things begin this weekend with his trip to Columbus, where the Buckeyes host Virginia Tech, another one of his favorites. Sweat is also set to visit the Hokies, Florida State, Oregon and Georgia.
At this point, it's fair to label this highly publicized recruitment "wide open".
Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.