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June 30, 2009

National Notes: Wood working to be elite

Connor Wood has nothing to prove.

Wood, a 6-foot-4, 210-pound quarterback from Houston Second Baptist, is already ranked as the nation's No. 7 pro-style passer and had scholarship offers from coast to coast before committing to Texas in February. But there he was Saturday, firing passes all over the practice field at UNLV and sweating in 105-degree heat at the Elite 11 Regional in Las Vegas.

For all his accolades and scholarship offers, Wood still had one major goal he wanted to add to his résumé – an invitation to the prestigious Elite 11 Quarterback Camp.

"This is a long-term goal for me," said Wood, who was one of the top passers in the event that was loaded with blue-chip quarterbacks from all over the nation. "As a high school athlete when I was a freshman, I looked on Rivals.com and saw all the Elite 11 guys compete on those videos. I made that as my goal. I told myself I wanted … to come here to Vegas, compete and hopefully get the invite and play in California."

Time will tell if Wood will earn an invitation, but he did everything in his power to impress at the event. Overall, Wood was a little inconsistent and not as sharp as anticipated. But with his size, footwork and pocket presence, there's still plenty to work with for the future Longhorn.

Wood – along with other talented passers such as Brett Nottingham, Garrett Grayson, Tyler Shreve, Tyler Bray, Nick Hirschman, Stephen Kaiser, Stephen Morris and Chase Rettig – definitely caught the eye of the event instructors with a solid all-around effort.

"I thought I had a great day," Wood said. "I didn't get to warm up since I got here a little late. I quickly got into it and all the drills. The receivers were great, and there were some great quarterbacks here."

Regardless of whether he gets invited to the Elite 11, Wood knows it's an honor just to be in his position. So few players get a scholarship offer at all, but Wood had the opportunity to pick among offers from Texas, Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Alabama, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Stanford, TCU and a handful of other elite programs.

"I'm pretty relieved the process is over, and I'm committed to Texas," Wood said. "But it was a big blessing to have, to have that process come to you. So many guys dream and just die to just have an offer. I didn't take it as a burden on me. Sometimes it was a burden, calling coaches and talking to everybody, but looking back on it there are thousands of kids that would love to be in my position. I have to take that into account.

"I'm relieved it's over, and I can focus on my senior season, but also I feel very blessed that I can go through that process."

Wood doesn't have any second thoughts about his decision. In fact, he has a hard time putting into words how thrilled he is to get a shot to play on the Forty Acres with a talented class that's full of four-star recruits.

"I checked on the commitment list on Rivals and most of the guys are four-stars," Wood said. "I'm very excited to get a chance to work with those guys. I went to the Texas Camp on June 7 with those guys, and I threw with the receivers, John Harris, Chris Jones and Darius Terrell. They're great. I'm very excited to work with those guys because they're so talented. They're great receivers and even better people."

RECRUITER OF THE WEEK: Notre Dame defensive line coach Randy Hart

A few days ago, Notre Dame fans were frustrated to find out that blue-chip five-star defensive end Chris Martin was thinking hard about taking official visits. But after Martin, the nation's No. 1 defensive end, had a heart-to-heart talk with Hart, it helped convince him he needed to stick with his commitment to the Irish.

"Coach Hart and Coach [Corwin] Brown were honest with me," Martin said. "They told me they were building their entire class around me, and I appreciate all the work that Coach Hart has done with me since day one."

Hart wasn't done there, though.

After building a strong relationship throughout the spring and summer, Hart convinced Stanford three-star safety commit Chris Badger to take an unofficial visit to South Bend. Badger made the trip to Notre Dame this past weekend and was "blown away" by what he saw. In a matter of hours, Badger was no longer a Stanford commitment.

Decision Looming

Milledgeville (Ga.) Georgia Military College safety Jakar Hamilton will announce his decision on July 11 at a news conference in Atlanta.

Hamilton, who is 6 feet 2 and 196 pounds, is one of the most heavily recruited junior college prospects in the nation with scholarship offers from Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, Kentucky, Illinois, NC State and West Virginia.

Hamilton told Rivals.com on Monday that his top two teams are Alabama and Georgia.

"Coach Nick Saban is a great coach who knows a lot about the NFL and what goes into that," Hamilton said. "Georgia's academic situation really blew it out of the water. They'll pay for my master's. Say if I went to the [NFL] and decided to come back to school, they'll pay for me to get my master's no matter what."

Five-star could take visits

Five-star athlete Matt Elam of West Palm Beach (Fla.) Dwyer told Rivals.com on Monday he is still committed to Florida, but he plans to take official visits. Elam said Georgia, Alabama, West Virginia and Virginia Tech are possible destinations.

"I'm still committed to Florida," Elam said. "I'm just looking around to see something different in case something goes down and I can't go to Florida anymore. I've heard a lot about coaching changes and things like that, and I haven't visited any other places but Florida. I want to look at other places and give other people a chance."

Florida coach Urban Meyer has a long-standing relationship with the Elam family. Meyer recruited Elam's older brother, Abram, to Notre Dame. Elam cited his relationship with Meyer as one of the reasons he picked the Gators originally.

Etc.

• Jalen Grimble continues to impress everywhere he goes this summer. The 6-3, 250-pound 2011 prospect from Las Vegas Bishop Gorman definitely has seen his stock shoot through the roof. He walked away with a scholarship offer from USC's Rising Star Camp by showing a good motor and amazing use of his hands in pass-rushing drills. Keep in mind, he's just 15 years old and he already has scholarship offers from LSU, USC, Texas Tech, UCLA, UNLV and Utah, and more will surely come.

• Indiana scored a big commitment from Cincinnati Wyoming three-star strongside defensive end Jibreel Black. The 6-2, 253-pounder turned down offers from Cincinnati, Kentucky, Michigan State, Michigan and many others to play for the Hoosiers.

• Things weren't all negative for Stanford on Monday. Even though the Cardinal lost out on Badger, Stanford did pick up major commitments from Chandler (Ariz.) Hamilton safety Devon Carrington and Gainesville, Ga., safety Daunte Carr. Both prospects rate as two of the top prospects in the nation at the safety spot. "I always knew that I wanted to go to Stanford, but I also knew that I wanted to see some other schools," Carrington said. "I was starting to notice that the spots were filling up in the Stanford class and I didn't want to lose my spot in the class, so I decided to commit."



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