Originally Published: June 12, 2013

Auburn taking steps to bring excitement back

By Greg Ostendorf | ESPN RecruitingNation

AUBURN, Ala. -- "It's a new day."

You see it on billboards as you drive into Auburn University. You see it on posters hung up all over campus. You see it around the football complex, reminding not just the fans and the community, but the players, too. It's a new day for Auburn football.

Last season, the Tigers finished a woeful 3-9 and didn't win a single conference game for the first time in more than 20 years. There were off-the-field incidents and speculation that certain players gave up midway through the season. It came as no surprise when they let go of head coach Gene Chizik and his entire coaching staff just two years removed from a national championship.

Nicholas Ruffin
Miller Safrit/ESPNNicholas Ruffin is one of three ESPN 150 prospects who have committed to Auburn recently.

There are still remnants of that national championship all over campus, but new coach Gus Malzahn, who was a part of that 2010 team, wants to turn the page. He wants to change the culture at Auburn, bring the excitement back to a program that had dark clouds hovering over it for the majority of last season.

"I think they owe the fans a lot," 2014 recruit Rashaan Evans said. "With the tradition and stuff like that, they want to see Auburn doing well. The situation that happened last year, it was so bad to the point where they were losing games, players weren't coming to workouts, some of the players were quitting the team.

"They really just want to change everything, not only football but some of the players' lives and stuff like that. They just want to change everything."

For the full story, check out the Southeast region blog Insider.

Nathan Tilford takes the next step

By Erik McKinney | ESPN RecruitingNation

Nathan Tilford (Upland, Calif./Upland) wasn't looking to become the next football recruiting sensation; he just wanted to play tackle ball.

Nathan Tilford
Erik McKinney/ESPNNathan Tilford will try to be a normal high school freshman this fall, even with a USC scholarship offer.

Adopted when he was 5 years old by Brenda and Omer Tilford, Nathan always had an affinity for sports.

"From day one, sports was how we were able to relate with Nathan," Brenda Tilford said. "It was an avenue where he could build trust with him. Whether it was throwing a baseball or a football, sports allowed us to relate to him."

The Tilfords didn't need much time to study Nathan to come to that conclusion.

"The very first time we met Nathan, he threw a baseball over two fences in the backyard," Brenda Tilford said. "He could hit a baseball incredibly far. But football was always his love. He used to call it tackle ball, and he wanted anything that had to do with tackle ball."

Tilford was adopted along with his younger brother Jacob, who is 10-and-a-half months his junior. They shared commonalities with Brenda, who was also adopted, as well as their new older brother Preston, who was 12 at the time and another adoptee. Preston, now 22, has always been very close with Nathan and is now a professional motocross rider.

For the full story, check out the West region blog Insider.

Great Dane taking the states by storm

By Brad Bournival | ESPN BuckeyeNation

Defensive end Hjalte Froholdt (Warren, Ohio/Harding) -- pronounced "Yelda Fro-holt" -- isn't your typical high school defensive end, but then again, how many foreign exchange students are?

A fireplug of a sophomore last season at 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds, it was easy to see just how much he belonged the second he stepped on the field.

But even the 16-year-old Froholdt had no idea how good he was before he arrived in the blue-collar town of Warren, nestled in the Northeast corner of Ohio, 15 minutes north of Youngstown. It's the same high school that produced Korey Stringer and Maurice Clarett for the Ohio State Buckeyes and Mario Manningham for the Michigan Wolverines.

Before arriving, Froholdt was having fun playing 7-on-7 football in Svendborg, Denmark. He was dominant there and looking for more.

"Thinking about that little kid from Denmark and to have all these great things happen, I'm just grateful," Froholdt said. "I was on 7-on-7 and the U-19 team over there, but since the competition wasn't good enough I asked the manager of DAFF [Danish American Football Federation] if I could move up and play up with the seniors, grown men who were 20 to 40 years old. Before I came here I didn't know how good I was. I just hoped to get a start in a varsity or JV game."

Froholdt didn't just start, he dominated. Colleges noticed. He has offers from Arkansas, Cincinnati, Louisville, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State and Purdue.

For the full story, check out ESPN's BuckeyeNation Insider.

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