Alabama Crimson Tide: Georgia Bulldogs

MARIETTA, Ga. -- The Nike SPARQ combines have grown with each passing year, and on Saturday there was a record turnout. If the 1,993 prospects who attended weren't impressive enough, the performances by several top prospects who came to compete certainly left spectators turning heads.

Here is a rundown of some of the event's top performers.
  • ESPN Junior 300 running back Taj Griffin posted one of the top SPARQ scores of the day. Griffin checked in at 5-foot-10, 174-pounds, ran a 4.41 40-yard dash and a 4.35 shuttle, had a 46-inch vertical leap and a 36-foot power ball toss for a combined score of 124.29. On the recruiting front, Oregon, Clemson, Florida State, Ohio State and Tennessee continue to stand out the most.

  • No. 3 junior offensive tackle Chuma Edoga posted an impressive score of 94.65. After measuring at 6-4 and weighing 276 pounds, Edoga ripped off a 5.01 40-yard dash, a terrific 4.69 shuttle and had a 33.8-inch vertical jump and 37-foot power ball throw. Following his impressive effort, he said his top four schools in order are Tennessee, Southern California, Georgia and Stanford with a decision likely on May 25, his birthday. The big news might have been that he currently prefers the Volunteers, but his mother is in the corner of the Bulldogs and Cardinal.
  • No. 252 prospect C.J. Sanders made the trip and did not disappoint. He checked in at 5-9 and 176 pounds, ran a 4.57 40-yard dash, had a blazing 4.09 shuttle run, leaped 36.5 inches and tossed the power ball 41 feet. On the recruiting front, USC, Notre Dame and Georgia are the latest to offer, joining Duke, Northwestern, Stanford, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Mississippi State and Ole Miss. He visited USC last week, and lists Reggie Bush as his childhood idol. Sanders is the son of former Ohio State and NFL wide receiver Chris Sanders. His mom played basketball at Michigan. He reports his family favors Duke and USC early on with a decision slated for the summer.
  • Class of 2016 prospect Ben Cleveland is already considered one of the top offensive line prospects in the country, and the 6-7, 317-pounder showed why Saturday. He clocked a very impressive 5.22 40-yard dash and 4.87 shuttle, and had a 25.8-inch vertical leap and 41.5-foot power ball throw for a score of 99.78. He has offers from Georgia, Clemson, Florida, South Carolina and Texas with Alabama expected in the near future. He made an unofficial visit to Clemson two weeks ago.
  • Class of 2015 running back Jaylen Burgess posted a 118.44. The 5-10, 214-pounder ran a 4.66 40-yard dash and a 4.38 shuttle, and had a 36.7-inch vertical leap and 42.5 power ball throw. He is receiving interest from Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Clemson, Duke and a number of other ACC schools. Duke and Tennessee are the coaching staffs Burgess talks to the most. He posted more than 1,500 all-purpose yards as a junior.
  • Class of 2016 linebacker and defensive end Charles Wiley checked in at 6-3, 203 pounds. He clocked a 4.68 40-yard dash and 4.45 shuttle, and also leaped 35 inches and threw the power ball 34.5 feet. He has an early offer from Virginia Tech.
  • Class of 2015 athlete Jeremiah Mercer is flying completely under the recruiting radar. While he had to sit out the 2013 season due to transfer rules, he made his mark Saturday posting a score of 97.47. The 5-11, 163-pound running back and wide receiver ripped off a 4.48 40-yard dash and 4.18 shuttle, and added a 36.2-vertical leap and 31-foot power ball toss. He is receiving interest from Vanderbilt and Mississippi State and lists Florida State as his dream school.
  • Class of 2016 inside linebacker Tyler Reed posted a very impressive score of 104.91. After measuring 6-2, 234 pounds, Reed ran a 4.96 40-yard dash and 4.59 shuttle, and had a 35.5-inch vertical leap and 41-foot power ball throw. He recorded 130 tackles as a sophomore.
  • Class of 2015 running back Eric Montgomery posted a 115.47, one of the day’s top scores. The tailback checked in at 5-11, 185 pounds, ran a 4.46 40-yard dash and a 4.19 shuttle, and jumped 36 inches and threw the power ball 38 feet. On the recruiting front, Kentucky, Cincinnati, Ole Miss and Mississippi State, among others, are showing interest.

The new College Football Playoff is supposed to encourage schools to schedule better nonconference games, as teams try to beef up their schedule strength to earn one of the playoff’s coveted four spots at season’s end.

On Thursday, Texas A&M and UCLA announced that they’ll play each other during the 2016 and 2017 seasons.

Other schools have announced future marquee nonconference opponents, including Texas A&M vs. USC, Notre Dame vs. Texas, Alabama vs. Michigan State and LSU vs. Oklahoma.

Here are five other nonconference games I’d like to see in the future:

[+] EnlargeNick Saban, Urban Meyer
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesUrban Meyer and Nick Saban have faced off for SEC titles, but their current teams, Ohio State and Alabama, have played only three times in history.
1. Alabama vs. Ohio State: Alabama’s Nick Saban and OSU’s Urban Meyer dominated the SEC when Meyer was coaching at Florida, combining to win five BCS national championships from 2006 to 2012.

When Meyer was still coaching at Florida, the Crimson Tide and Gators played in two of the most anticipated SEC championship games. The No. 2 Gators beat the No. 1 Tide 31-20 in 2008, and then the Tide turned the tables on No. 1 UF with a 32-13 win in 2009.

Alabama and Ohio State have played only three times in history, with the Tide winning each time, most recently in a 24-17 victory in the 1995 Citrus Bowl.

2. Texas vs. Texas A&M: Perhaps the biggest casualty in conference realignment, Texas and Texas A&M haven’t played each other since the Aggies bolted the Big 12 for the SEC after the 2011 season. Sadly, there are no plans for the in-state rivals to play again in future regular seasons.

The Aggies and Longhorns played each other 118 times from 1894 to 2011, with their annual meeting traditionally being played on Thanksgiving Day. UT won nearly twice as many games as the Aggies (76-37-5), including nine of the last 12 meetings.

With former Louisville coach Charlie Strong taking over at Texas, and Kevin Sumlin building the Aggies into an SEC powerhouse, the game would also pit two of the sport’s best African-American coaches against each other.

3. Oregon vs. Baylor: Two of the game’s most explosive offenses -- and two of its best-dressed teams -- would undoubtedly light up the scoreboard if they ever played. In fact, the contest would probably look more like a track meet.

Under coach Art Briles, the Bears have become the Ducks of the Southwest, with their hurry-up, spread offense and myriad flashy uniforms closely resembling what Chip Kelly and then Mark Helfrich built at Oregon. The Bears and Ducks follow the same blueprint on offense: play fast and score fast.

We hoped to see this matchup in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl last season, but alas, it didn’t happen. Oregon and Baylor have never met on the gridiron.

4. Michigan vs. USC: Two of the sport’s traditional heavyweights have faced each other eight times in the Rose Bowl Game Presented by Vizio, but only twice during the regular season -- in 1957 and 1958.

The Trojans won the last three meetings in the Rose Bowl, 32-18 in 2007, 28-14 in 2004 and 17-10 in 1990. USC has won six of the past seven meetings overall and holds a 6-4 advantage all-time.

We might have seen this matchup during the regular season if a Big Ten/Pac-12 scheduling partnership hadn’t fallen apart in 2012.

5. Georgia vs. Florida State: UGA coach Mark Richt was a longtime assistant under legendary FSU coach Bobby Bowden before taking over the Bulldogs, and he recently poached defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt off the Seminoles’ staff.

The Bulldogs and Seminoles go head-to-head for a lot of recruits every year, and Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher upgraded his roster by effectively recruiting South Georgia and Atlanta.

The Bulldogs and Seminoles have played 11 times and only once since 1984 -- UGA defeated FSU 26-13 in the 2003 Sugar Bowl. Georgia leads the all-time series, 6-4-1.

Best SEC classes by position 

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Top to bottom, the Southeastern Conference is recruiting better than any conference in the country. Thirteen of 14 SEC schools are ranked in the top 40 of the recruiting rankings, including six schools ranked in the top 10. Here's a closer look at which SEC school has the top recruiting classes at each position.

Quarterback
Strongest class: Alabama
This is the hardest position to determine who has the strongest class. Four of the top-five quarterbacks in the final Elite 11 rankings -- Sean White (Auburn), Kyle Allen (Texas A&M), Will Grier (Florida) and Jacob Park (Georgia) -- are committed to SEC schools. Alabama, however has the top-ranked quarterback, David Cornwell (Norman, Okla./Norman North) in the ESPN 300. The Under Armour All-American is the 32nd-ranked player in the nation. At 6-foot-5, 241-pounds, Cornwell has a big-time arm and ideal size for the position.

Running back

RN Top 10: D.C. NFTC 

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The RN Top 10 will appear throughout the camp and combine season and rank prospects based strictly on their on-field performance at that particular event. It does not reflect their overall prospect ranking.

ASHBURN, Va. – The East Coast and mid-Atlantic states represented well on Sunday as eight players earned invites to The Opening at the Nike Football Training Camp outside of Washington, D.C. Defense ruled the day, led by two five-star prospects from Virginia.

10. Nick Scott
Fairfax (Va.) Fairfax |RB| 5-11, 180

Scott stood out among a field of backs who were overshadowed by the prospects at nearly every other position. He earned the attention of coaches for his strong play and versatility but missed the MVP award, which went to Vincent Lowe (Chesapeake, Va./Grassfield), who also posted the top SPARQ score.

Scott committed to Penn State in February over an offer from Boston College.

ESPN national recruiting analyst Craig Haubert’s take: “He’s got a great frame, and what I like about him as a Penn State verbal, he’s a versatile player. He may not run by you, but he does a good job in route-running.”


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DBs from SEC blanket combine

February, 22, 2013
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Several of RecruitingNation's SEC sites took a look this week at the players headed to the NFL combine, which begins today in Indianapolis, and other predraft camps. Click here to read the entire predraft series. Today: Defensive backs and special teams.

Alabama Crimson Tide


It's hard to imagine that the Alabama secondary in 2011 yielded five NFL prospects. Mark Barron, Dre Kirkpatrick and De'Quan Menzie were all drafted a year ago. Dee Milliner and Robert Lester stuck around and won one more ring before hanging it up in 2013.

(Read full post)

Five storylines: Alabama vs. Georgia 

November, 29, 2012
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- In advance of Saturday's SEC Championship Game played between No. 2 Alabama and No. 3 Georgia, let's look at five key storylines for the Crimson Tide.

1. A return to the Georgia Dome with everything on the line: It's hard to believe it's been three years since Alabama was last in the Georgia Dome competing for the SEC title. It went well in 2009, and the hope around Tuscaloosa is history repeats itself. "It's a real opportunity, I think, for our players," UA coach Nick Saban said on Monday. "The SEC championship game is a great competitive venue." How Alabama handles the environment will be important. The Tide have played in big games like this before, but not one that so directly affects the rest of the season. Win and they're off to Miami for the BCS National Championship Game. Lose and kiss any BCS bowl goodbye.

2. Getting to Murray: Give Aaron Murray time to pass and he'll pick you apart. "If we let him sit back in the pocket, he can hurt you," UA linebacker Nico Johnson explained. "It has shown all year." The senior has struggled in big games (see Florida and South Carolina this year, LSU in 2011) but his career numbers are undeniable. He's never thrown for fewer than 3,000 yards and has averaged more than 30 touchdowns a season. Getting in his face and disrupting his timing will be a monumental task for Alabama's front seven, something it has struggled to do consistently this season.

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Alabama freshman wideout Chris Black will be on the sidelines and ready to play Saturday afternoon when the No. 2-ranked Crimson Tide face No. 3 Georgia in the SEC Championship Game, according to coach Nick Saban.

The staff had been weighing whether or not to burn the speedy receiver's redshirt before this week. A number of injuries at the position, most notably the loss of DeAndrew White and Kenny Bell for the season, forced the staff's hand.

"The decision was made with him and his family, not just by me," Saban said on Wednesday. "Chris wants to play and can help the team by playing."

Black, who was expected to contribute this season before injuring his shoulder during fall camp, has practiced in contact drills all week in preparation of the conference title game. The 5-foot-11, 178-pound product of Jacksonville, Fla., was an early enrollee and completed spring camp.

"We're trying to get Chris ready to play and he's had good carry over from what he knew before," Saban said.

If Black plays, he would be the fourth freshman receiver in the rotation, joining Amari Cooper, Cyrus Jones and Marvin Shinn. Cooper, another top-10 receiver in the 2012 signing class, has become a starter alongside junior Kevin Norwood and sophomore Christion Jones. Cooper leads all receivers in catches (45), yards (767) and touchdowns (eight) this season.

Black's addition would make up for the loss of Bell, who went down with a broken leg against Auburn last week. Bell filled in at multiple positions for the Crimson Tide, coming in to spell Norwood on the outside and Jones in the slot.

"Oh, great player for us," cornerback Dee Milliner said of Black, as the Tide's top defensive back has gone against Black often in practice. "Wish he could have played for us this season. He could’ve been another receiver we could have used very much. … He’s been practicing against us for, like, the last three weeks -- doing things, giving us a great look of different receivers from different teams. He does a great job with that. Hopefully, if he can play he’ll be a big step for us."

Norwood said Black coming back this late in the season would be "very difficult" because he hasn't practiced with the team as much as others. Still, he remained optimistic Black could make a contribution.

"With his mentality, I'm pretty sure he can come away with something," Norwood said.

Dawgs, Tide out in front for Laremy Tunsil 

October, 19, 2012
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MIDDLEBURG, Fla. -- Five-star offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil (Lake City, Fla./Columbia) will take an unofficial visit to Florida for its game against South Carolina on Saturday. For the 6-foot-6, 295-pound No. 1-ranked offensive lineman in the country, this will be his second visit to Gainesville in the last three weeks.

Tunsil, who visited Florida for its game against LSU, said he enjoyed his trip to the Swamp.

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Derrick Henry sets decision date 

August, 31, 2012
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- On a record-breaking night, ESPN 150 athlete Derrick Henry (Yulee, Fla./Yulee) has set his announcement date to choose between Alabama, Tennessee and Georgia.

Derrick Henry
Derek Tyson/ESPN.comDerrick Henry will announce his college decision on Sept. 28 and one team still remains out in front.
In a 51-28 loss to Gainesville High School Thursday night, Henry rushed for 336 yards and three touchdowns on 31 carries. Henry broke former Jacksonville (Fla.) University Christian star Willie McClendon's streak of 33 consecutive 100-yard rushing games from 1985-87. Henry has still never rushed for under the century mark in his high school career.

At 8,200 career rushing yards, Henry moves in to third place on the state of Florida's all-time career rushing list, trailing only Emmitt Smith and Florida running back commit Kelvin Taylor (Belle Glades, Fla./Glades Day).

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[+] EnlargeLaremy Tunsil
Derek Tyson/ESPN.comFive-star offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil now has a top three of Florida, Georgia and Alabama.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Five-star offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil (Lake City, Fla./Columbia) visited Alabama, Georgia and Florida over the last week. The 6-foot-6, 295-pound tackle named a top three after his visit to Florida on Sunday.

"I would say they are my top three," Tunsil said of the three schools he visited. "It's a tie right now with all of them."

Tunsil, who camped at Alabama last weekend, visited Georgia on Friday and Saturday before heading to Gainesville on Sunday. The No. 3-ranked player in the country said he was impressed by what Georgia had to offer.

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Five-star WR likely headed out of state 

February, 13, 2012
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Five-star wide receiver prospect Ahmad Fulwood (Jacksonville, Fla./Bishop Kenny) will be one of the most highly recruited prospects in the state of Florida for the 2013 class, but he is likely headed out of state to play college football.

Fulwood lists Clemson, Alabama, USC, Arkansas, Georgia, Ohio State and Notre Dame as schools that he is most interested. The 6-foot-4, 200-pound receiver said that out of those schools, he likely will visit Georgia, Clemson, Ohio State and possibly USC this spring.

Noticeably missing are in-state schools Florida, Florida State and Miami. Fulwood said he is likely to leave the state to attend college. Fulwood, who is from New Jersey, said there is no particular reason he wants to leave the state.

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