Florida Gators: Duke Blue Devils

States of strength: Georgia OL 

May, 14, 2014
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The state of Georgia has quickly risen to be considered the fourth most-talented state in the country in terms of producing high school football talent behind Florida, California and Texas. While the state has churned out several big-time defensive linemen and skill players in the last two classes, there were only three Georgia offensive linemen in the ESPN 300 in the 2013 and 2014 combined.

In the Class of 2015, the offensive line has become the position of strength in the Peach State, with 10 big uglies among the top 300 prospects in the country:

No. 7 Mitch Hyatt: The five-star Hyatt was a "must get" for Clemson in the 2015 class with family ties strong in the Tigers' favor, along with proximity to home. Clemson wrapped up its highest-ranked offensive line commit in recent memory on Feb. 5, holding off Ohio State, Auburn and Georgia. While Hyatt has some maturing to do physically, he is blessed with every athletic quality that can’t be coached.

Roper bringing fast-paced offense to UF

December, 26, 2013
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Like his offense, Kurt Roper prefers to go fast.

That's why it's no surprise the Florida Gators and their new offensive coordinator made such quick work of the hiring process. An interview was set up on Sunday, and just after 6 a.m. the next morning, Florida's private jet was in Raleigh-Durham International Airport to whisk Roper off to Gainesville. A few hours later he was back at home discussing everything with his family.

It didn't take much longer for both sides to agree they found the right fit.

"Well, you know, everything happens pretty fast," Roper said on Thursday from Atlanta, where he will coach Duke's offense in the Chick-fil-A Bowl against Texas A&M on Tuesday night.

The Gators and head coach Will Muschamp are banking on Roper turning around an offense that has scuffled for four straight years ... and turning it around fast.

[+] EnlargeKurt Roper
Bob Donnan/USA TODAY SportsKurt Roper has SEC experience -- at Kentucky, Tennessee and Ole Miss.
Roper will enter a high-profile, high-pressure situation, as Muschamp is expected to improve upon last year's 4-8 record, Florida's first losing season since 1979. Many have called Muschamp's third offensive coordinator in four years his most important hire, as the head coach is expected to be on a very hot seat in 2014.

How's that for pressure?

"The expectations are great. I understand that going in," Roper said, "and the challenge is to meet those expectations. We’re at the University of Florida that obviously has a great tradition and has met those expectations a lot in the past. I’m just looking forward to it.

"... They've won a lot of games at Florida and won a lot of championships at Florida. But like I said, it's all going that way. You know, we won 10 here at Duke this year.

How quickly he can breathe life into UF's offense remains to be seen, but Roper's success in running an uptempo offense at Duke speaks loudly.

In his second year at Duke in 2009, the Blue Devils had the nation's ninth-ranked passing offense, averaging 305 yards per game. Since then, Duke has ranked 22nd, 28th, 31st and 63rd in passing offense.

The last two seasons have been particularly strong. And fast.

In 2012, the Blue Devils ran 990 offensive plays (76.2 per game), the most in Roper's six seasons as offensive coordinator. Duke ranked No. 55 in total offense, averaging 409 yards per game. This year, Duke ran 934 plays (71.8 per game), ranking 68th in total offense (408 YPG).

Roper's confidence in himself is obvious. He calmly dispatched a question on Thursday about whether he was ready to step outside the sizable shadow of an SEC warhorse such as David Cutcliffe, who has been Duke's head coach for the last six seasons.

"No, been doing it too long," he said. "I won’t have any nerves."

Cutcliffe understands the move and certainly understands the lure of SEC football. After spending 14 of the last 15 years together, Cutcliffe is just as confident in the continued success of his understudy.

"This is an opportunity for him somewhat to be out on his own, and I think he’s looking forward to that," Cutcliffe said on Thursday. "As far as the pressures go, he’s definitively ready for that.

"He’s been in the Southeastern Conference at two institutions and understands the intensity level that’s involved in that league in football. His work ethic, that’s what that’s ultimately about. They’ll be prepared, and they’ll be prepared well."

What else can Florida expect?

"His style would be intensity, tempo and quality of repetition," Cutcliffe said. "From the minute they hit the field it's gonna be intense. I wouldn't call him a laid-back football coach by any stretch of the imagination."

Roper will find a kindred spirit in the always-intense Muschamp. And there's familiarity on the field. The two squared off in the SEC West from 2001-03 while Roper was the play-caller at Ole Miss and Muschamp was defensive coordinator at LSU.

"He has obviously been a great defensive coach for a long, long time and was hard to battle against," Roper said of Muschamp. "He was always multiple and caused problems and pressures, and his guys always were physical and intense. I'm looking forward to working with Coach Muschamp."

Roper also will reunite with Florida wide receivers coach Joker Phillips, who was offensive coordinator at Kentucky when Roper spent one season there in 2005. That year has turned out to be pivotal in Roper's coaching journey.

“That was a great year working with Joker and Coach [Rich] Brooks and that whole staff," Roper said. "I learned a lot of football and created a lot of good relationships there. But Joker, when he was offensive coordinator, wanted to install a no-huddle system so we could go in and out of huddle or no-huddle or whatnot. So really that was my first experience with it.

“Yeah, Joker and I get along great. I think he’s a heck of a football coach first, but we’re really good friends. I think he’s a good man, a great recruiter. I think he’s a guy that I’ll enjoy being around every day. And so I’m looking forward to getting back with him."

With his thoughts split between Duke and Florida, Roper has one last game to coach in Blue Devil blue -- "and be my best for these guys one last time " -- before heading down to Gainesville.

He'll dive right into film study, player evaluations and the early stages of teaching his fast-paced offense. But first Roper plans to hit the recruiting trail "as soon as I can."

What other speed would you expect?

ACC predictions: Week 2

September, 5, 2013
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Not a bad start to the season for the ACC or us bloggers. Heather Dinich and I each went 11-1 with our picks. Hopefully another strong week awaits.

FRIDAY

Wake Forest (1-0) at Boston College (1-0), 8 p.m. ET, ESPN2. The Eagles opened as an early favorite, which is somewhat surprising considering the Deacons have the better team. Both squads had some ups and downs in their openers against FCS competition last week, but from my seat, the Wake defense looked much better than BC's. The Deacs produced six turnovers, including an interception return for a touchdown. That is why I give Wake the advantage in this game.

AA picks: Wake Forest 20, Boston College 17

HD picks: Wake Forest 24, Boston College 20

SATURDAY

No. 12 Florida (1-0) at Miami (1-0), noon, ESPN. The Hurricanes have an excellent opportunity to make a statement against their former archrivals in the final scheduled regular-season meeting between the programs. Miami has the best offensive player on the field in Duke Johnson, but he will be playing against a formidable defense -- perhaps the best he will see all season. I do not think Miami can physically match up on the offensive and defensive lines and will get worn down as the game goes on. Florida might not have as many explosive players on offense, but its defense will rise to the occasion.

AA picks: Florida 23, Miami 17

HD picks: Florida 31, Miami 24

Middle Tennessee (1-0) at North Carolina (0-1), 12:30 p.m., ESPN3. The Tar Heels had a disappointing performance in a loss to South Carolina, especially from their defense. UNC's defensive front got no pressure on the quarterback and could not stop the run. The secondary got beat on several long passes downfield. Middle Tennessee upset Georgia Tech last season, but I don't see a similar outcome in this one. North Carolina will get a much better game out of Bryn Renner and its defense.

AA picks: North Carolina 44, Middle Tennessee 20

HD picks: North Carolina 42, Middle Tennessee 21

South Carolina State (0-1) at No. 4 Clemson (1-0), 12:30 p.m., ESPN3. The Tigers have to guard against the letdown factor after such an emotional win over Georgia last week. They now have their highest ranking since 1988, and the nation will be expecting a blowout against an FCS team. Offensive coordinator Chad Morris wants the offense to play faster, so that is one key to watch.

AA picks: Clemson 63, South Carolina State 7

HD picks: Clemson 55, South Carolina State 0

Western Carolina (0-1) at Virginia Tech (0-1), 1:30 p.m., ESPN3. The Hokies have all sorts of issues to work out on offense and special teams. Coach Frank Beamer promises changes to correct the mistakes that allowed Alabama to score twice on kick returns last week. Receivers have got to do more to help out Logan Thomas. One injury note: Virginia Tech hopes to have running back J.C. Coleman available. This is a team the Hokies should dominate. Now, they have to do it.

AA picks: Virginia Tech 41, Western Carolina 3

HD picks: Virginia Tech 35, Western Carolina 3

No. 2 Oregon (1-0) at Virginia (1-0), 3:30 p.m., ABC. Oregon makes its first trip to ACC country on Saturday, becoming just the third top-three nonconference team to play in Charlottesville. The UVa defense looked strong in its Week 1 win over BYU, but the Ducks present quite a different challenge given the pace and production they get out of their offense. Oregon rolled up 772 yards last week in a win over Nicholls State. Gulp. Simply put, the Hoos just do not have the personnel on offense and defense to keep up.

AA picks: Oregon 45, Virginia 17

HD picks: Oregon 45, Virginia 17

Old Dominion (0-1) at Maryland (1-0), 4 p.m., ESPNews. The Terps hope to build off an impressive performance in Week 1. C.J. Brown was terrific in his return to the field, and we all saw what this offense is capable of with Stefon Diggs and Deon Long. Taking a peek ahead, the schedule sets up for Maryland to go 4-0 in nonconference play.

AA picks: Maryland 48, Old Dominion 10

HD picks: Maryland 42, Old Dominion 7

Duke (1-0) at Memphis (0-0), 4:30 p.m., ESPN3. This is not going to be a walk-over for the Blue Devils. Memphis is a much improved team than it was several seasons ago. And much improved over the team Duke beat at the start of last season. The Tigers have a new quarterback but return a majority of their starters, including two standouts on the defensive line in Johnnie Farms and Martin Ifedi. This will be a good early road test for the Blue Devils.

AA picks: Duke 35, Memphis 20

HD picks: Duke 38, Memphis 24

Syracuse (0-1) at No. 19 Northwestern (1-0), 6 p.m., Big Ten Network. The Orange dropped a heartbreaker to Northwestern to open last season. Now they hit the road to face them again after a disappointing loss to Penn State. Syracuse has some problems to fix on offense, and it needs a better effort out of quarterback Drew Allen in this game. The Orange also have to do a better job of establishing the run if they are going to have any chance to win.

AA picks: Northwestern 28, Syracuse 21

HD picks: Northwestern 35, Syracuse 17

Richmond (1-0) at NC State (1-0), 6 p.m. ESPN3. The Spiders are one of the best teams in FCS and have notched wins over Duke in the past, so this is not a team that should be taken lightly -- especially after the FCS upsets in Week 1. Quarterback Pete Thomas gets his shot to start, but keep an eye on the running back rotation now that Shadrach Thornton returns to the lineup. Freshman Matt Dayes had a big game last week against Louisiana Tech, so coach Dave Doeren says he will use a three-man rotation with Tony Creecy, Thornton and Dayes.

AA picks: NC State 38, Richmond 13

HD picks: NC State 41, Richmond 10

The Early Offer: Florida’s best meet 

September, 4, 2013
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The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's latest feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today's offerings: Plenty of elite talent will be on hand for Saturday’s Florida-Miami game, but Will Muschamp knows it’ll take more than one Saturday to make a difference; Virginia, Virginia Tech and Ohio State recruits showcased on national broadcast, and 2016 running back target Robert Washington taking a national tour this fall.

Sunshine State showdown
Everybody who is anybody in the Florida recruiting world will be at Saturday’s Florida-Miami game. Miami is going to have a large group of visitors, including ESPN 300 prospects Dalvin Cook, Joe Yearby, Travis Rudolph, KC McDermott and Anthony Moten. The Canes will also be hosting four-star receiver Braxton Berrios on an official visit. Berrios was at Oregon this past weekend, and UM is right in the thick of things with him. Miami will also host Torrance Gibson, Jordan Scarlett, Devante Peete, Devonarie Clarington and CeCe Jefferson, who all rank in the top 10 of Florida for the 2015 class. While the game and atmosphere certainly will make an impression, Florida coach Will Muschamp knows it will take more than that to reel in the elite players. “I would hope that a recruit isn’t making a decision about where they go to school on who wins a specific game,” Muschamp said. “While a recruit might have an emotional swing, based on the outcome of any game, they should consider what the best fit is for them academically, athletically, socially and for their future. We feel strongly that what we have to offer there is bigger than just one Saturday.”

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ESPN 100 forward Kevon Looney (Milwaukee/Hamilton) confirmed to ESPN.com on Thursday that he has narrowed his choices to six schools.

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No. 4 Trey Lyles down to four

July, 12, 2013
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ESPN 100 power forward Trey Lyles (Indianapolis/Arsenal Tech) has narrowed his choices to four schools, according to a post on his Twitter account.

The 6-foot-8 Lyles tweeted a picture of the four remaining schools on Instagram on Thursday night. Florida, Butler, Kentucky and Louisville will vie for his services after he eliminated Duke and UCLA.

Lyles is currently in North Augusta, S.C. playing for Spiece Indy Heat in the Nike EYBL finals at the Peach Jam.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- While bigger-name prospects come and go on unofficial visits to Florida's summer camp, 2014 defensive end Justus Reed (Clearwater, Fla./Central Catholic) stood out on Thursday by actually participating.

Reed showed up for the afternoon session, warmed up with a couple hundred other campers and did position drills under the watchful eyes of Florida head coach Will Muschamp and defensive line coach Brad Lawing.


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Elite 2014 PF is in high demand 

May, 9, 2013
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Spend enough time on the high school basketball circuit and you’ll find there are certain players you gravitate toward because you know exactly what you’re getting when you go watch them. ESPN 60 forward Kevon Looney (Milwaukee/Hamilton) is one of those guys.

Duke, Michigan State, Michigan, Florida, Wisconsin, Tennessee and Kansas are among a big pack of programs that will vie for his signature.

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Telep's Top 10: Sweet 16 recruiting stories 

March, 27, 2013
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This year’s NCAA tournament has been full of great stories, from Florida Gulf Coast’s Cinderella run to La Salle going from First Four to Sweet 16 to the Big Ten placing four teams in the final 16.

But what about the stories behind the stories -- the tales of how some of this year’s March Madness stars ended up at their eventual schools and helped shape this year’s tourney? To delve into those, this week’s top 10 looks at the 10 best recruiting stories from players and teams in the Sweet 16.

Top 10 Recruiting Stories From the Sweet 16

1. Trey Burke, Michigan
Mick Cronin is not going to want to hear this again, but it’s true. Burke was going to Cincinnati. It was nearly a done deal. But one last call to Michigan’s staff changed the fate of two programs. According to recruiting lore, Burke’s father called a final time asking Michigan if it was interested in Burke. If the answer was no, then Burke was going to Cincinnati. This was in late July of Burke’s pre-senior summer. Remember, it wasn’t like the now All-American was hot stuff then. He was good -- a late top-100 player -- but he wasn’t the player then that he has become. Ultimately, Michigan said it wanted Burke and the Wolverines landed him a few days later.

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Finding the Future: Charlotte NFTC 

March, 25, 2013
3/25/13
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Editor's note: Finding the Future is a RecruitingNation feature that will appear throughout camps and combine season, ranking prospects strictly on their on-field performance at the particular event. It does not reflect where each will land when the class is ranked by ESPN.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- There might have been as many BCS conference-caliber recruits in the 2015 and 2016 classes present at the NFTC Sunday than there were in the 2014 class. It looks like the next couple of classes in the Carolinas will be stocked with top-tier talent, and a few of them stood out on Sunday in the rain.

1. 2015 DT Albert Huggins

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ATHENS, Ga. -- For most high school players, the end of practice means they get a break from the incessant nagging and ceaseless instruction of their coaches. They go home, eat dinner, study and enjoy the respite until the whistles start blowing next time. For ESPN Watch List safety Quincy Wilson (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./University School), that is not the case.

Wilson’s father is the defensive coordinator and the defensive backs coach at the University School, so Wilson jokes that he gets no respite.

“Oh no, there’s no break, there’s no break,” Wilson said. “Monday through Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Yeah, I get it at practice, before practice, after practice, in the car, at the dinner table ...”

The talented junior laughed about the nonstop instruction but he also credited his father with making him the player he is today -- one of the most coveted safeties in Florida.


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ESPN 60 SG primed for big spring 

March, 7, 2013
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In the coming months, you’re likely to hear the name Grayson Allen (Jacksonville, Fla./Providence School) quite a bit. By now, you know 2014 prospects Theo Pinson, Justise Winslow and Rashad Vaughn. Those guys sit at the head of the table in terms of available junior wings, and that’s cool -- they deserve it.

Grayson Allen
Courtesy of mylineagofchampions2014 SG Grayson Allen is the No. 36 player in the ESPN 60.
Then there’s Allen, a 6-foot-4 junior shooting guard who enters the spring armed with ammunition. He has himself a state championship and his team went 31-1. The only loss was to Arlington Country Day (Fla.) and Allen didn’t play in that game due to an ankle sprain. This kid can pass, drive and shoot it enough to be in contention to squeeze himself into a seat at the head of the table.

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Junior offensive tackle David Sharpe has not been thinking about football lately. Leading up to Thursday night’s Florida Class AAA basketball championship between his Providence High School Stallions and the Coral Springs Christian Crusaders, the talented two-sport athlete has let his coach field all of his football recruiting calls. And there have been a lot of them.


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Todd Kelly Jr. talks about latest visit 

February, 13, 2013
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Todd Kelly Jr. made his latest college visit a family affair.


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Georgia offers ESPN Watch List DE 

January, 25, 2013
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When Georgia lost defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator Rodney Garner to Auburn, the worry amongst the Georgia fans was more focused on how his departure would impact recruiting so close to signing day rather than what would happen on the defensive front. But according to one ESPN Watch List standout, Garner’s replacement will do just fine.


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Suspensions Over For Florida Players After Halted Opener
Jeff Barlis discusses Coach Will Muschamp announcing on Monday that Darious Cummings, Demarcus Robinson and Jay-nard Bostwick will play this Saturday against Eastern Michigan.
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