Conference breakdown: Va. Tech, Ole Miss make big recruiting strides

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After another week of 2013 recruiting happenings, Rivals recaps the top storylines from each BCS conference.

Virginia Tech made a lot of noise over the weekend with several big-name recruits opting to commit at the spring game. Four-star Salem quarterback Bucky Hodges may be the biggest name and no doubt, he's a huge pickup. His commitment didn't come as a surprise as he's been considered a Tech lean right from the start and recent events only served to push him closer to Blacksburg. As big as Hodges was, perhaps more important was the commitment of offensive linemen Parker Osterloh and Braxton Pfaff.

Both Pfaff and Osterloh had pretty much narrowed their options to Virginia and Virginia Tech. The Hokies needed to score big up front this year after a weak offensive line class last year. Defensive back Charles Clark and linebacker Andrew Motuapuaka, a teammate of Hodges, are quality players as well. Two days later the Hokies added North Carolina's Carlis Parker, one of the state's top talents.

What's next? The recent commitments guaranteed the Hokies would at least hold their own in Virginia in a year when many of the state's top talents were looking to leave. They might ride their in-state momentum with DaeSean Hamilton, an athlete who had been leaning more toward Virginia as of late. But the top remaining priority is obviously five-star cornerback Kendall Fuller.

After signing a very large class in February, Cincinnati seems to be taking a more conservative recruiting approach with the Class of 2013. This has resulted in a slow recruiting start, with only two commitments so far. The most recent commitment from three-star tight end A.J. Branisel of South Euclid (Ohio) Notre Dame Cathedral Latin was a nice addition for the Bearcats, but there are already rumors that the coaching staff will have to work overtime to keep him solid.

Within days of his commitment, Branisel received offers from Nebraska, Indiana, Louisville and, most recently, Tennessee. The Cornhuskers have made an immediate impression on Branisel, making them a player for the talented tight end. With college coaches coming in to visit him over the next month, expect things to get much more difficult for Cincinnati to keep his commitment.

In the meantime the coaching staff has hit the road hard in the last two weeks, handing out new in-state offers to players like offensive lineman Grant Lingafelter, cornerback Jaleel Hytchye and defensive end John Stepec. While the staff will try to make an impact in-state, look for even more time to be spent recruiting Indiana, Georgia and Florida, where the Bearcats have done very well in recent years.

The Hawkeyes were one of the last Big Ten teams to pick up their first commitment in the Class of 2013, but they have quickly played catch up, adding six prospects in less than three weeks. Their run of three commitments in as many days over the weekend started with a pledge from Naperville (Ill.) North three-star offensive guard Colin Goebel. Following the pickup of Goebel, Iowa grabbed three-star defensive tackles Nathan Bazata and Brant Gressel on successive days. Iowa has been telling prospects it plans to take three defensive tackles in the class. The Bazata and Gressel pickups could have an effect on players like Merrick Jackson or Sam Raridon. Both are defensive tackle prospects holding Iowa offers.

The most recent string of commitments did not stem from any particular event. The Hawkeyes had held their final spring scrimmage a week prior, but the afterglow from that event continues to linger. Detroit Cass Tech safety Delano Hill made his pledge to Iowa that weekend, and the Hawketes also positioned themselves for additional pickups down the road. They have made strong moves with Indianapolis-area prospects John Kenny and Antonio Allen, while having just one defensive tackle spot available could hasten the process for one of their targets at that position.

After a big weekend for West Virginia, Iowa State is now the lone Big 12 program without a football commitment for the class of 2013. The Mountaineers started off slowly, making Texas and Florida heavy priorities with their initial offers. However, it was two prospects from neither of those states that became the first pledges for Dana Holgorsen and company. On Saturday, Bloomfield (N.J.) offensive tackle Marcell Lazard chose West Virginia over numerous other offers.

Lazard did not have to wait long to find company on the commitment list. Later in the day, Hermitage (Pa.) Hickory running back DeShawn Coleman also committed to West Virginia, choosing the Mountaineers over offers from Penn State, Pittsburgh and Purdue. Spring games can be great opportunities for programs to build recruiting momentum and it should make it easier for the Mountaineer staff to sell the program to other recruits now that the first two pledges are on board.

Cal did an outstanding job of getting many top prospects to its spring game this past weekend and the reviews have been solid so far. There have been no blockbuster commitments -- and many of the prospects who attended might be leaning to other schools -- but the Golden Bears did a great job getting them on campus and that could go a long way.

Familiarity is an important part of the recruiting process and many of the top recruits in Berkeley last weekend have gotten to know each other well through camps, spring practices and even social media.

Concord (Calif.) De La Salle teammates Michael Hutchings and Austin Hooper, four-star defensive end Eddie Vanderdoes, four-star running back Justin Davis, four-star offensive tackle Nico Falah and many others were at Cal's spring game. The Golden Bears have done a nice job so far in the 2013 recruiting cycle with two commitments from California and two from Georgia, and they're on track to put together another solid class.

The folks in Oxford, Miss. seem pleased with how things unfolded over the weekend, when several prospects -- including No. 1 overall recruit Robert Nkemdiche -- were in town for the team's spring game.

On Sunday, the Rebels landed a commit from 6-foot-3, 305-pound defensive tackle Marquel Combs of Pierce (Calif.) Community College. Combs, a Memphis native with well over a dozen offers, should be able to contribute immediately up front, a place where Ole Miss has a great need.

Nkemdiche was interviewed during his visit and made it sound as though the Rebels had a fighting chance. His older brother, Denzel, is a defensive back with the Rebels and will certainly factor into his decision. Additionally, Ole Miss has offered up cornerback David Kamara, a teammate of Nkemdiche at Loganville (Ga.) Grayson and one of his closest friends. The trip was Nkemdiche's second to Oxford in the past few months. Next, two members of the Rebels' staff are expected to visit Nkemdiche at his school. The Rebels are battling Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, LSU and possibly even Texas for Nkemdiche. A decision could come in May.

Rivals100 defensive end Carl Lawson was another elite prospect in Oxford. While Lawson's visit went well, at this time he remains firm to Auburn, to which he recently committed. On the flip side, it appears the Rebels are in very good shape to land Rivals250 running back Mark Dodson Jr. of Memphis Whitehaven. Look for him to announce his decision in mid-May.

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