Florida Gators: Clemson Tigers

Getting to know DaMarkus Lodge 

April, 17, 2014
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video Throughout this recruiting cycle, RecruitingNation will profile a number of ESPN 300 prospects in the 2015 class, including an inside look at the prospect, his recruitment, a scouting report and what college program could benefit when he ultimately makes his decision.

DESOTO, Texas -- With all the multiple camps, combines and special events happening each spring, DaMarkus Lodge chooses not to be a regular on the circuit.

It’s not that Lodge is against them, or that he thinks he’s above them. The ESPN 300 receiver has simply prioritized his life as a student-athlete. The camp circuit happens to be a middle-of-the-pack priority.


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The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today’s offerings: Florida State already has one of the best 2015 classes in the nation, but after a key prospect says he's ready to commit, it's about to get even better. South Carolina quarterback prospect Kelly Bryant continues to be a hot target with recruiters this spring, but Bryant says only five schools are on the top of his list.


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Getting to know Shy Tuttle 

April, 3, 2014
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Throughout this recruiting cycle, RecruitingNation will profile a number of ESPN 300 prospects in the 2015 class, including an inside look at the prospect, his recruitment, a scouting report and what college program could benefit when he ultimately makes his decision.

LEXINGTON, N.C. -- When going down the list of the most productive players in the Class of 2015, defensive tackle Shy Tuttle might be at the top.

In three varsity seasons, Tuttle, No. 12 in the ESPN Junior 300, has more than 230 tackles, including over 50 tackles for loss and more than 30 sacks.
According to North Davidson head coach Mark Holcomb, there are more reasons for his success than just raw talent.

“He is stronger and quicker than the kids he’s lined up against, so he’s able to push kids on this level around,” Holcomb said. “But he plays hard, runs to the ball, and effort is something you can’t coach, and he came here with that. He plays hard, lifts hard and just does things the right way.”


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IMG Southeast Regional notebook 

March, 31, 2014
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BRADENTON, Fla. -- South Florida has always been known for producing top talent and elite seven-on-seven teams but it was two teams from Jacksonville (Fla.) that battled in the finals of the IMG 7v7 Southeast Regional Championships on Sunday.

The Pro Impact team, led by LSU commit and the No. 3-ranked player in the ESPN Junior 300 Kevin Toliver II and defensive back Derwin James Jr., a Florida State commit, upset River City, which featured FSU quarterback commit De’Andre Johnson and South Carolina commit Sherrod Pittman, 23-14.


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Atlanta NFTC notebook 

March, 23, 2014
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ROSWELL, Ga. -- The Atlanta Nike Football Training Camp is generally one of the most impressive groups of high school football players you will find in the country. This year’s camp didn’t disappoint. Eight invites were handed out to The Opening, a prestigious invite-only camp held in Beaverton, Ore., in July.


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One of the fastest-rising juniors in the Southeast is ESPN Junior 300 outside linebacker Roquan Smith (Montezuma, Ga./Macon County).

The 6-foot-2, 204-pound 2015 Under Armour All-America Game selection has brought coaches from several big-time programs in the region to small town Montezuma in the last couple weeks, including Auburn's Gus Malzahn and Ole Miss' Hugh Freeze.


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The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today’s Early Offering is coming to you from the Under Armour Combine in St. Petersburg, Fla. Here’s a look at who stood out among the 150-plus competitors.

Campbell steals the show
George Campbell (Tarpon Springs, Fla./East Lake) showed why he is ranked as the No. 2 player in the ESPN Junior 300. The 6-foot-4, 185-pound Campbell tested off the charts with a 4.36-second time in the 40-yard dash and a 4.06 shuttle. He then backed it up with a strong performance in the one-on-one and seven-on-seven portion of the combine. Defensive backs lined up to face him and, in most cases, he burned them with either his speed or his ability to go up get the ball at its highest point. “I felt good about what I did today,” Campbell said. “I wanted to test myself against the best-of-the-best.” Consider the test passed. On the recruiting front, Campbell recently backed away from his commitment to Michigan and said at Wednesday’s registration he’s slowing down the process.

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Army Bowl notebook: Dec. 31 

December, 31, 2013
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SAN ANTONIO -- The second day of practice for the U.S. Army All-American Bowl -- on the last day of 2013 -- has come to a conclusion. Here is Tuesday’s notebook featuring some of the nation’s elite athletes:

LB Williams: Law and order equals '98 percent'


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SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- The Carolinas consistently have proved to be one of the top areas in the nation to find gridiron talent. These two states in recent years have produced players like current Cincinnati Bengals WR A.J. Green, South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney, the No. 1 overall player in the 2011 class, and Georgia RB Todd Gurley. For the 2014 class, 22 players from these two states are represented in the ESPN 300, and several of them are taking part in the annual Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas here this week.


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The SEC has come to dominate its annual rivalry showdowns against the ACC, but that may not be the case this year. Florida State is a heavy favorite to blow out downtrodden Florida; No.6 Clemson has a great shot at knocking off inconsistent No. 10 South Carolina; and Georgia Tech could have an edge on injury-depleted Georgia. Indeed, the ACC has a real shot to sweep these three games for the first time since 2000. ACC reporter Andrea Adelson and SEC reporter Chris Low debate whether that will happen.

[+] EnlargeClemson's Tajh Boyd versus Florida State
AP Photo/Don Juan MooreTajh Boyd and Clemson, derailed by Florida State, look to end their losing streak against South Carolina.
AA: Chris, we are on a collision course for an epic SEC-ACC headliner in the BCS national championship game if Florida State and Alabama can win out to get there. But this weekend is extremely important for the ACC, which continues to play in the shadows of its conference rival. The league got off to a great start earlier this year, when Clemson beat Georgia and Miami beat Florida. But these three games have much bigger stakes. I think we can all agree Florida State is almost a guarantee to beat Florida. To me, the spotlight shines brightest on the Clemson-South Carolina game. The Tigers have lost four straight in the series, and this is Tajh Boyd's last chance to beat his team's bitter rival. In July, South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney made headlines when he said he saw fear in Boyd's eyes last year. To be sure, Boyd didn't play his best game against the Gamecocks last season, nor did he play well against Florida State in an embarrassing 51-14 loss earlier this year. Something tells me he is going to be ready in this one. Do you think Clemson and Dabo Swinney have what it takes to beat South Carolina and Steve Spurrier?

CL: Andrea, you know I love you, but the ACC sweeping the SEC? In football? There's a better chance of soccer supplanting football as the sport of choice in the SEC. Let me start, though, by saying Florida State is legit, perhaps the most talented roster I've seen from top to bottom this season in college football. So you'll get no argument from me about the Seminoles. But since you asked about Clemson and South Carolina, that's a tough one to call. The Gamecocks have been tough to figure this season. Here they are with nine wins and a chance to win 10 in the regular season for a third straight year, and it's true they have some quality wins. But they've also sort of played just well enough to win at times. That's not going to cut it against Clemson. The Gamecocks should be healthy, including Clowney and Mike Davis. Backup running back Brandon Wilds also looks like he's ready to go, which will give even more punch to South Carolina's running game. At the end of the day, I'm not sure Clemson will be able to block South Carolina's front or stop the Gamecocks' running game. And there's just something about the Head Ball Coach in these kind of rivalry games. Gotta see it to believe it before I pick Clemson again in this game. I've learned my lesson after picking the Tigers the last few years.

[+] EnlargeAaron Murray
Dale Zanine/USA TODAY SportsGeorgia will play rival Georgia Tech in its first outing without starting QB Aaron Murray.
AA: It is easy to understand the trepidation. It is true Clemson has not done much to inspire confidence in this series, especially when you consider the Tigers have not scored more than 17 points in any of the last four losses. But I was at the South Carolina-UCF game earlier this year. I watched much of the Florida game a few weeks ago. South Carolina lost to a 4-7 Tennessee team, right? And Spurrier NEVER loses to Tennessee. Nor does he EVER lose to Georgia. He did both this year. This could be the year he hits the losing trifecta against some of his bitter rivals. Now let's shift over to the other rivalry game that could go the ACC's way: Georgia Tech at Georgia. The Bulldogs are so banged up right now, I have to think the Jackets have a really great opportunity to steal this one. Losing Aaron Murray has got to be such a tremendous blow not just from an on-the-field standpoint but from a leadership standpoint. The one constant over the last four seasons has been Murray. How on earth does Georgia respond without the heart of the team?

CL: More than anything, there's a profound sadness around that Georgia program that Murray won't be able to finish his senior season. He has meant so much to the Bulldogs both on and off the field and has been a rock this season through all the adversity. It just doesn't seem fair. You're right, though. Murray is one of those players you can't just all of a sudden replace. But the good news for Georgia is that Todd Gurley appears to be healthier, and I think the whole team will be eager to go out and get this done for Murray. A bigger question for me is how Georgia will fare defensively against Georgia Tech's option offense, although the Bulldogs have been better against the run than the pass this season. They're third in the SEC in rushing defense.

AA: Another great point. As for the actual picks in the game, our colleague, Heather Dinich, predicted an ACC sweep. I did not go that far, but I did pick two close games in the Clemson-South Carolina and Georgia-Georgia Tech games. So did you. If the games are indeed as close as anticipated, well, anything can happen.

ACC has chance to sweep SEC rivals

November, 25, 2013
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The ACC has a great chance this week to make history, to do something it hasn’t done in over a decade -- sweep its big three SEC rivals.

Georgia is down. Florida is out. And South Carolina is beatable.

[+] EnlargeJameis Winston
Don Juan Moore/Getty ImagesQB Jameis Winston and the Seminoles are a win over Florida away from heading to the ACC title game.
Not since 2000 has the ACC gone 3-0 in those games, and the conference hasn’t had a winning record against the SEC since 2003, when it finished 5-4. The ACC started the season with gusto, as Clemson beat Georgia in a matchup of two top-10 teams, and Miami beat Florida, giving coach Al Golden his first true marquee win with the Canes. The perception of those wins -- and those opponents -- has since been tarnished, thanks to the decline of both SEC teams this fall, but the value of wins over those programs still far outweighs the negativity that would surround the ACC should it lose those games this week.

Every season, pressure is on the ACC -- and every other BCS conference -- to close the gap with the SEC. The difference between the ACC and the rest of the college football world, though, is that the SEC’s shadow overlaps with ACC country like no other, and nobody lines up against the nation’s best conference more than the ACC. The comparisons are inevitable not only because of the close proximity and the shared recruiting turf, but also because of the built-in rivalries that highlight every November.

The difference this year is that not only can the ACC win these games, but it should be expected to.

Georgia, which dropped out of the rankings in Week 9, has lost starting quarterback Aaron Murray for the rest of the season with a torn ACL -- a devastating blow to a team already riddled with injuries. The senior injured his left knee in Saturday’s 59-17 win against Kentucky. For the first time since 2009, the Bulldogs will line up with a different quarterback under center. Hutson Mason, who redshirted last year, will face a much-improved Georgia Tech defense. The Jackets have won four of their past five games, the lone loss coming to Clemson. The bigger issue in Atlanta, though, has been the lopsided results in the series. Last season's 42-10 drubbing in Athens was the 11th time in 12 years that Georgia had won. The exception was in 2008, Paul Johnson’s first season, when Georgia Tech pulled off a stunning 45-42 upset of No. 11-ranked Georgia.

This season, it wouldn’t be so stunning. And it wouldn’t exactly be an upset. In fact, of the ranked teams playing this week, the ACC has the upper hand.

For both No. 6 Clemson and No. 2 Florida State, BCS bowls are at stake, though many would agree that Clemson could actually afford to lose to South Carolina and still be a top pick for the Discover Orange Bowl. Those within the program, though, would obviously prefer not to lose to the Gamecocks for a fifth straight time. That losing streak, coupled with the fact that it is senior quarterback Tajh Boyd’s final shot at beating his rival, are distinct motivating factors. For the Seminoles, a win against the Gators would get them one step closer to playing for the national title.

Florida, though, is a mere formality.

The Gators were just embarrassed royally at home in a 26-20 loss to Georgia Southern, Florida’s first loss to an FCS program. It was the worst loss in school history, and a new low for coach Will Muschamp, whose job security is hanging by a thread. Florida, which is in the midst of its first losing season since 1979, will face a Florida State team that has outscored its past three opponents 198-20.

The tables have turned for those rivals.

They could turn for the entire ACC this weekend, too.

UA Game jersey tour: Raekwon McMillan

November, 16, 2013
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Five-star inside linebacker Raekwon McMillan (Hinesville, Ga./Liberty County) was presented his honorary game jersey Friday at his school during the American Family Insurance Selection Tour for the 2014 Under Armour All-America High School Football Game. The event was part of a three-month selection tour.

Raekwon McMillan
Courtesy of IntersportRaekwon McMillan is ranked No. 12 in the ESPN 300.
McMillan, who has made official visits to Georgia, Ohio State and Alabama, is one of 90 players selected to compete in the seventh annual Under Armour All-America Game, a nationally televised game featuring the country’s top high school seniors. The 2014 game is set for 4 p.m. ET Jan. 2 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., and will be televised on ESPN.

“I just want to say thank you to everybody who came out today,” McMillan said. “Thank you to my mom, my parents, my coaching staff, the staff at this school, every one of my classmates, everyone at Liberty County high school for supporting me; and I would also like to thank God.”

Liberty County coach Kirk Warner says his star linebacker is a great player and a great person.

“I just can’t say enough about what it’s meant to me to coach this young man. Whoever gets him on that dotted line is going to not only get a great football player, but a great person.”

On Jan. 2, McMillan says he will be living out a dream he has had since junior high.

“Ever since I was a freshman, even in middle school, I’ve dreamed about playing in the Under Armour All-America Game. I was offered by both [major all-star games], but it was hands down that I was going to take the Under Armour All-America Game. I am looking forward to competing against some of the best guys in the nation that I've been going to camps with over the last three or four years, and being coached by some of the best coaches in America. It's a great honor to be invited to the Under Armour All-America Game. Some of the best football players in the nation played in the Under Armour All-America Game, and it's just a blessing and an honor to be able to play in it, too."

The 6-foot-2, 242-pound McMillan is the No. 12 prospect in the ESPN 300 and the No. 1 inside linebacker in the class. He is considering Ohio State, Alabama, Clemson, Georgia and Florida.

20 Questions: Raekwon McMillan 

November, 12, 2013
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One of the top uncommitted prospects in the Class of 2014 is No. 12 overall Raekwon McMillan (Hinesville, Ga./Liberty County High). The five-star inside linebacker is considering five schools with official visits to Georgia, Ohio State and Alabama already in the books and Clemson and Florida scheduled for the last two weekends in November.

With a mid-December decision a strong possibility, the Under Armour All-American sat down to talk about his recruitment from start to finish.

20. Is there a coach or school you aren’t considering that really impressed you during the process?

You know, Auburn. Coach [Gus] Malzahn and Coach Ellis Johnson, Auburn has a great staff. I visited them one time with some of my teammates, but it wasn’t the school for me. They are an awesome staff. When my teammates went with me for the visit, they showed my teammates as much love as me, and I liked that.

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ESPN 300 OT Sharpe set to trim list 

September, 8, 2013
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David Sharpe (Jacksonville, Fla./Providence), one of the top offensive tackles in the country, took an unofficial visit to Georgia on Saturday. The 6-foot-6, 290-pound tackle prospect said he enjoyed his experience in Athens.


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SEC recruiting mailbag

September, 6, 2013
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It’s time to dip into the SEC recruiting mailbag and answer your questions. Because of the amount of questions we’ve received, we won’t be able to get to all of them today -- but we encourage you to ask again next week by tweeting your questions to @DerekTysonESPN or @HamiltonESPN and use the hashtag #SECRecruiting.

@LisaHorne: If UGA loses again this week, will it affect their recruiting?

Derek Tyson: If history is any indication, then no, it should not make much of a difference in recruiting. Remember, Georgia started off 0-2 in the 2011 yet finished with the No. 5-ranked recruiting class including stud running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall. Head coach Mark Richt has recruited at a very high level and has Georgia in a place to compete for conference and national championships just about every year. His job is not in jeopardy and recruits believe in what he and his staff are trying to accomplish. Starting the season off with two top-10 opponents is no easy task for any team, and I would be shocked if Georgia isn't in the hunt for the SEC East title come November. Georgia will be just fine in recruiting.

@Time2Strive: No LSU in Gerald Willis III & Speedy Noil top 3. Is UF the team to beat?

DT: I'll admit, I was just as shocked as everyone else to see LSU not in the top three for New Orleans Edna Karr teammates Speedy Noil and Gerald Willis III. Though I wouldn't completely count out the Tigers, it looks as if Florida, Texas A&M and USC are the teams to beat. Florida will have the first crack to impress the two Under Armour All-Americans, as they are both set to officially visit the Gators when UF hosts Tennessee on Sept. 21. At this point, I believe this will be a Florida-Texas A&M battle. Rarely do "package deals" work out, but in this case, the two seem set on playing together in college.

@kylelambsports: How much do Alabama's chances increase for Leonard Fournette and Hootie Jones with the commitment from Cameron Robinson?

Gerry Hamilton: I’m not sure Robinson picking Alabama helps with Leonard Fournette (New Orleans, La./St. Augustine). Their decisions will be separate, and Fournette has a long way to go in the process with his recruitment having even more importance now for LSU after Robinson picked the Crimson Tide. When looking at Laurence Jones (Monroe, La./Neville High), he’s on I-20, where Alabama has made its run in the Pelican State in this class. Obviously, Jones knows Robinson and Cameron Sims (Monroe, La./Ouachita High), but he’s not as close as Robinson and Sims. It certainly doesn’t hurt Alabama’s chances with Jones, but I don’t believe it will sway his decision one way or another. Both players will very likely come down to LSU and Alabama, as has been expected.

@AshevilleLaw: What effect does Clemson's win have on recruits balancing CU-GA decision?

GH: I believe the Clemson win and showcasing of an electric atmosphere will resonate more with the 2015 class than 2014. When looking at the 2015 class, and especially in the Atlanta area, the Clemson staff being able to walk into high schools having beaten LSU and Georgia is suddenly a different and stronger message than a year ago. It will also be even easier to get top prospects to make unofficial visits -- not that the Tigers have struggled in that area. That’s not to take away from the positive reviews by David Sharpe (Jacksonville, Fla./Providence School) and Raekwon McMillan (Hinesville, Ga./Liberty County High), but the win will almost certainly have a lasting impact on 2015 if the Tigers go on to have a BCS bowl game-type of season. Beating SEC powers changes the message of the staff on the trail, and that is very key when battling SEC programs in Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Florida for top prospects.

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