Florida Gators: Miami Hurricanes

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TAMPA, Fla. — The Florida State Seminoles have been on a tear. The success extends from the field, where the Seminoles have won 24 straight games and a national championship and have the reigning Heisman Trophy winner leading their potent offense, to recruiting, where they continue to stockpile top prospects.

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While recruiting remains a marathon and not a sprint, recent trends have shown that it is never too early to look ahead. With the release of the ESPN Junior 300 it is a perfect time to see which programs are having early success. With roughly 10 percent of the prospects in the ESPN Junior 300 committed well over a year and a half before national signing day for the Class of 2016, plenty is still to be determined. Here are five programs, in alphabetical order, standing out early for the 2016 class:


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Recruiting the right quarterback means a tremendous amount to every college football program.

In the Class of 2015, the race has been on for months for programs in need of signal-callers.

With the calendar having turned to June, there are more than 55 quarterbacks who have given verbal commitments to FBS programs.

Most recently, Florida snagged West Coast prospect Sheriron Jones over the weekend. In all, 39 of 62 programs in the Power Five conferences have QB commitments, and more are on the way.


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Orlando used to be a player in neutral-site college football games, until its stadium turned into a dilapidated mess.

[+] EnlargeFlorida Citrus Bowl
Mike Ehrmann/Getty ImagesThe Citrus Bowl, shown in 2012 game, is in the middle of a $210-million reconstruction.
But now that extensive renovations have gotten underway, Orlando could be the next "en vogue" town in the neutral-site business. Not only has Florida State said it is in talks to play in Orlando, Miami athletic director Blake James also hinted at getting Florida back on the schedule in a neutral-site game in Orlando.

James told The Miami Herald that Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley was receptive about a neutral-site game. "I would have to think Orlando," he told the newspaper. Nothing is imminent, and no substantive talks have been held between Miami, Florida and Florida Citrus Sports on the topic. But Florida Citrus Sports CEO Steve Hogan has not made it a secret that he wants to get back into the neutral-site business beginning in 2015 or 2016.

Florida State, Miami and Florida would be among the most attractive options, for obvious reasons.

The Citrus Bowl is in the middle of a $210-million reconstruction that should make it more attractive as not only a bowl and neutral-site spot but potentially a College Football Playoff venue. Florida State, Notre Dame and Florida all have played neutral-site games at the stadium in the past, but that was years ago. The last marquee regular-season game to be played there was in 2000, when Notre Dame faced Navy.

Miami would love to play Florida more frequently. The two used to be yearly rivals, but the series has been sporadic in recent years because the Gators already play Florida State annually. Miami beat Florida last season in their last scheduled game. In the past, Foley has not had much interest in scheduling the Hurricanes. But neutral-site games are a good draw. Florida, not known for taking nonconference scheduling risks outside Florida State, has a neutral-site game on the docket against Michigan in 2017 in Arlington, Texas.

Plus, Florida State, Miami and Florida all have drawn well when playing bowl games in Orlando, posting some of the highest attendance figures in both Russell Athletic Bowl and Capital One Bowl history. And neutral-site games are lucrative for programs these days, dishing out million-dollar payouts. Just last week at the ACC spring meetings in Amelia Island, Fla., James talked about the general possibility of playing a regular-season game outside South Florida.

"They make sense in certain situations," James said. "You have to look at where is your team at and what does your schedule look like and how do you incorporate those games into years that make sense for your program. That’s the challenge you have. It’s picking the right years to be a part of those games because those games are big games that are going to obviously have an impact on your program for a variety of reasons. There’s big paydays associated with them, there’s wear and tear on your team associated with them, there is travel associated with it and it’s looking at all those factors and picking the ones that are best for your institution and best for your program at that time."


The state of Florida has always been known for producing some of the top athletes in the country. The term "athlete" is sometimes looked at as a negative term, but it really means our scouts believe these talented prospects could play more than one position in college. Here is a closer look at some of the top athletes from the Sunshine State in the 2015 class.

ESPN 300 athletes from Florida

No. 8 Torrance Gibson: Gibson is a skilled athlete who can make plays on offense. The five-star athlete led his high school, Plantation American Heritage, to the state championship game. In the game, he had a touchdown run of 80 yards and also a long touchdown pass that was among the "SportsCenter" Top 10 plays. He wants to play quarterback on the next level, but he’s the most talented wide receiver on his South Florida Express 7-on-7 team. Whatever position he chooses, Gibson has a bright future ahead of him.


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Tale of the tape: FSU, Florida, Miami 

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Year in and year out, the “big three” Florida schools always battle for the top in-state high school prospects. Last year was one of the wildest in recent memory for Florida, Florida State and Miami.

The Gators were able to land commitments from three prospects -- Ryan Sousa, C.J. Worton and J.C. Jackson -- who were previously committed to Florida State. The Noles responded by flipping Florida commitments Ermon Lane and Dalvin Cook. Miami was able to flip former FSU running back commit Joseph Yearby and Florida defensive tackle commit Anthony Moten. The Gators then flipped athlete Brandon Powell the day he was supposed to enroll at Miami.


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South Florida is arguably the most fertile area in the country for recruiting, and college football coaches annually flock to the talent-rich area to try to land a small piece of a very large pie. The large area located south of Lake Okeechobee that includes the football hotbeds of Broward, Palm Beach and Dade counties has produced 45 ESPN 300 members in the last two recruiting cycles and almost half (22) signed with out-of-state schools.


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Getting to know Torrance Gibson 

March, 20, 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.

MIAMI -- Athlete Torrance Gibson, the No. 11-ranked player in the ESPN Junior 300, is a jack of all trades. The 6-foot-4, 195-pound prospect threw for 1,864 yards as a junior with 19 TDs and only three interceptions. Gibson also rushed for 1,032 yards with 10 more scores. In addition to his impressive numbers, he’s arguably the best wide receiver on his 7-on-7 team, the South Florida Express, which features other top receivers such as Da'Vante Phillips and Calvin Ridley.

Though Gibson has many talents, there is only one position in which he feels like he can fully utilize his abilities.


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Orlando/Miami NFTC notebook 

March, 16, 2014
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The Florida leg of the Nike Football Training Camp series didn’t disappoint. Top prospects from all over the Sunshine State made their way to Orlando (Fla.) and Miami to take part in the ultra-competiive camp. An incredible 11 prospects from the Orlando NFTC were invited to The Opening, an elite camp and 7-on-7 tournament held in early July at the Nike Headquarters in Beaverton, Ore. Here’s a closer look at the top news from over the weekend.

Orlando NFTC/Elite 11


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Biggest flips: SEC 

February, 3, 2014
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As expected, with the plethora of commitments followed by decommitments and second and third verbal pledges, it's no surprise that the hotly contested Southeast and SEC feature a number of impactful flips in 2014.


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Shifting power: Florida 

January, 23, 2014
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College football is cyclical. So is recruiting, which is priority No. 1 for coaches and often referred to as the lifeblood of a program.

No state offers more credence to that claim than Florida. Seemingly every few seasons, one of the Big Three from the Sunshine State -- Florida, Florida State and Miami -- asserts dominance in the state. The same goes for recruiting.


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Gators add ESPN 300 RB Brandon Powell

January, 10, 2014
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Florida was able to get its second commitment in as many days as four-star athlete Brandon Powell (Deerfield Beach, Fla./Deerfield Beach) switched his commitment from Miami to Florida on Friday morning.

The news was first reported by Zach Abolverdi of the Gainesville Sun, and Deerfield Beach head coach Allen Jackson later confirmed via text message. The 5-foot-9, 171-pound athlete, who is being recruited by Florida to play running back, is expected to enroll in classes at Florida sometime on Friday.

The Powell addition is important for the Gators. After Dalvin Cook (Miami/Central), the No. 4 running back in the country, flipped his commitment from Florida to Florida State, the Gators were left with a void at running back. Powell has speed and playmaking ability that has been missing from the Florida backfield in the last two seasons.

"Powell is reminiscent of Miami's Duke Johnson, but shorter and leaner,” his Recruiting Nation scouting report reads. "On pure skill-set alone, Powell would be considered one of the elite backs in this class, but he just isn't blessed with the measurables coveted by coaches. High-risk, high-reward player who could be a feature return specialist. Durability is always going to be a concern.”

With Powell on board, the Gators now have 21 verbal commitments including 12 ranked in the ESPN 300.

As for Miami, Powell was the second South Florida prospect to change his commitment in the last two days. The other, cornerback Nigel Bethel II (Miami/Booker T. Washington) flipped his commitment from Miami to Texas Tech on Thursday evening. The Hurricanes still have 26 commits including 11 ranked in the ESPN 300.
National signing day is approaching quickly. With three official visit weekends remaining before Feb. 5, here is a look at a number of prospects who could flip to and/or from SEC schools in the coming weeks.

Florida commit Ermon Lane (Homestead, Fla./Homestead): Lane, No. 28 in the ESPN 300, is scheduled to officially visit national champion Florida State with the Gators fighting hard to keep the uber-talented wide receiver. The flip from Florida to the Seminoles by Dalvin Cook (Miami/Central High), the nation’s No. 20 prospect, makes the chore even tougher for the Gators


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As expected, Day 2 at the Under Armour All-America practices were smoother, more concise and much more productive. The players are now starting to think less and play more. Natural ability is starting to come to the forefront, which allows for them to be more productive. There have been fewer dropped passes, fewer misses by the QBs and the offensive lines are starting to jell quicker than expected. Perhaps the most impressive thing about this group is there have not been any true letdowns. They have stepped up and been as advertised almost top to bottom for both squads. Let’s hit the highlights of the day:

Top performers

WR Cameron Sims (Monroe, La./Ouachita Parish): Sims might not wow anyone with his 40-yard dash time, but it may not matter. Sims is so similar to Mike Evans at Texas A&M. He just makes plays. He has extremely long arms and is outstanding when in contested matchups. The ball will look like it is uncatchable and then next thing you know he jumps out of nowhere, extends and makes a play and the defender is left scratching his head. When it comes down to it, the QBs for Team Highlight can trust that if they need to throw it up, Sims will make a play. The most basic thing about the position is catching the football and Sims has no problem doing that.


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Lane rethinking final decision 

December, 28, 2013
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ORLANDO -- Four-star wide receiver Ermon Lane (Homestead, Fla./Homestead) has been committed to Florida since August but the No. 28-ranked player in the country could be wavering on his pledge to the Gators.

And some of Florida’s rivals could be in a position to make a move for the nation’s No. 2 receiver prospect.


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Florida Athletics Director Jeremy Foley called into The Paul Finebaum Show to discuss the Florida football program, including their new coach.
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