Florida Gators: Ohio State Buckeyes

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.

BRADENTON, Fla. -- On a team loaded with talented prospects, do-it-all athlete Jeffery Holland takes a back seat to no one. The 6-foot-2, 226-pound outside linebacker plays multiple positions for Jacksonville (Fla.) Trinity Christian, including running back, tight end, wide receiver and, of course, linebacker -- the position most schools recruiting him want him to play. Holland even lined up at cornerback for a game during the IMG 7v7 Southeast Regional championships in Bradenton, Fla., over the weekend.

The No. 8 player in the country, his athleticism is something that comes naturally, but it doesn’t hurt that he has pretty good bloodlines too. Holland’s uncle, Carey Holland, won an SEC basketball title at Auburn in 1985.


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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 10 most memorable BCS moments

January, 13, 2014
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With the door closed on the 16-year reign of the BCS, we dove into the 72 BCS bowl games to find the 10 most memorable moments of the BCS era.

10. Utah’s hook-and-ladder: The first team ever dubbed a “BCS Buster” was the Urban Meyer-coached and Alex Smith-led Utah Utes in 2004. In the 2005 Fiesta Bowl, Utah led Pittsburgh 28-7 late in the third quarter and lined up at the Panthers’ 18-yard line. Smith swung it left to Steven Savoy, who lateraled to Paris Warren, who ran it in for the score as the Utes completed a 12-0 season.

9. Peerless Price down the sideline: Tennessee led Florida State 14-9 with 9:29 remaining in the fourth quarter in the 1999 Fiesta Bowl with the first BCS Championship on the line. UT quarterback Tee Martin found Price down the right sideline, and Price took it the distance for a 79-yard score. Price had 199 receiving yards for the winning Vols, the most ever in the BCS title game.

8. Ginn’s costly return: Ohio State received the opening kickoff from Florida in the 2007 BCS Championship game, and Ted Ginn Jr. wasted no time in getting the game’s first score on a 93-yard return. What will always be remembered, however, is that Ginn suffered a foot injury on the ensuing celebration and was out for the rest of the Buckeyes’ 41-14 loss.

7. Warrick's juggling score: Though the championship of the 1999 season was marked by Virginia Tech freshman QB Michael Vick, it was Florida State’s Peter Warrick who was named the most outstanding player. He had a punt return for a touchdown in the second quarter, and his juggling catch on a 43-yard score midway through the fourth served as the dagger.

6. Vince Young, Part I: Facing Michigan in the 2005 Rose Bowl, Young was responsible for all five Texas touchdowns in a 38-37 win. Though he had runs of 60, 23 and 20 yards, the most impressive was a 10-yard run in which Young escaped the tackle of Michigan lineman Pat Massey before scampering to the right pylon.

5. Dyer isn’t down: Tied at 19 with Oregon with just more than two minutes remaining in the 2011 BCS Championship Game, Auburn running back Michael Dyer appeared to be tackled for a short gain at the Auburn 45-yard line. Having rolled over the defender, Dyer was never ruled down, and ended up gaining 37 yards on the play before he was taken down at the Oregon 23-yard line. Auburn would win on a field goal as time expired.

[+] EnlargeBoise
Steve Grayson/WireImageIan Johnson's two-point conversion run in overtime propelled Boise State over heavily-favored Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl.
4. Winston to Benjamin: Trailing Auburn 31-27 in the final BCS Championship Game, Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston drove the Noles 78 yards in less than a minute to the Auburn 2-yard line. Receiving the snap with 17 seconds left in a wild fourth quarter, Winston threw a perfect pass to Kelvin Benjamin, who brought it down for the game-winning score to complete an undefeated season.

3. Was it pass interference? Some will remember Maurice Clarett’s game-saving strip of Sean Taylor, but the lasting legacy of the game is the dubious pass interference call in overtime. Miami led 24-17 and Ohio State faced fourth-and-3 from the 5-yard line. Glenn Sharpe was called for pass interference, giving the Buckeyes new life in a game they would win 31-24.

2. Boise State’s trick plays: In the 2007 Fiesta Bowl, Boise State trailed heavily favored Oklahoma 35-28 with 18 seconds left and facing fourth-and-18 from the 50-yard line. Jared Zabransky completed a pass to Drisan James just short of the first down, but he lateraled it to Jerard Rabb, who took it the rest of the way for the tying touchdown. In overtime, down 42-35 on fourth down, wide receiver Vinny Perretta completed a 3-yard pass to Derek Schouman for a touchdown. Chris Petersen elected to go for two, and Zabransky faked a throw to his right before handing it behind his back to Ian Johnson on the Statue of Liberty play for the winning two-point conversion. Johnson would propose to his girlfriend, a Boise State cheerleader, on the sideline after the game.

1. Vince Young, Part II: After a Longhorns touchdown and key fourth-down stop, undefeated Texas trailed undefeated USC 38-33 with 26 seconds remaining and faced fourth-and-5 from the 9-yard line, with the 2005 BCS championship on the line. Vince Young dropped back to pass but saw nobody open, and immediately sprinted for the right pylon for the title-winning score in the marquee game of the BCS era.

Poll: Dream nonconference matchup

May, 10, 2013
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The team I wanted to see face Alabama last season in the BCS National Championship was Oregon. It's the matchup the entire country wanted to see.

No offense, Notre Dame fans, but seeing that high-octane Oregon offense go up against Alabama's defense would have made for much better theater than what we ended up getting in South Florida in January.

SportsNation

Which nonconference matchup involving an SEC school would be the most attractive?

  •  
    31%
  •  
    18%
  •  
    8%
  •  
    15%
  •  
    28%

Discuss (Total votes: 11,201)

Wouldn't it be great if you could play college football matchmaker and turn some of these dream match-ups into realities during the season?

We've come up with five such matchups and want you to select which one would be the most attractive by voting in our SportsNation poll.

Alabama versus Oregon is one of the choices. Who knows? Maybe we'll finally get to see the Ducks and Tide square off in the final BCS National Championship before we go to a playoff in 2014.

Think Florida versus Ohio State would stir a few emotions with Urban Meyer taking on his old team? It would be the battle of Meyer's two dream jobs. Come to think of it, is it possible to have two dream jobs? In Meyer's world, you can.

I realize that Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds, in all of his arrogance, said recently that Texas gets to decide when Texas and Texas A&M play again. Ask anybody in that state, and it can't be soon enough. Surely we'll see those two old rivals playing again sooner rather than later.

Here's one for you: South Carolina and Steve Spurrier going up against Lane Kiffin and the West Coast version of USC. Spurrier's not the biggest Kiffin fan. Then again, who in the SEC is? Something says the buildup to that game could be as entertaining as the game itself.

Finally, LSU and Notre Dame played 10 times between 1970 and 2006 and are all knotted up, 5-5. It's time to break the tie. Talk about two of the best fight songs in all of college sports and two programs steeped in tradition.

Well, you have the rundown. Tell us which matchup you'd most like to see, and we'll go over results next week.

Numbers to know from signing day

February, 7, 2013
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1 – Alabama’s class rank. Every year that head coach Nick Saban has had a full season to recruit (since 2008), the Crimson Tide have had a top-three class. No other school has even had a top-10 class each of the past six years. Alabama received commitments from three of the top-10 running backs, plus Derrick Henry (No. 9 in ESPN 300, No. 1 Athlete), the leading rusher in high school football history.

3 – Number of Ole Miss’s recruits ranked in the top 20 of the ESPN 300. Since ESPN recruiting rankings were introduced in 2006, Ole Miss had never had a single top-20 recruit. Head coach Hugh Freeze received letters of intent from two of the top five recruits, including the top ranked player in the ESPN 300, DE Robert Nkemdiche.

7 – Number of players since November who have decommitted from USC, and all were in the ESPN 300. USC’s class was ranked No. 1 for more than three months between July and November, but now it's ranked 14th. Two of those decommits, Eldridge Massington (No. 172 in ESPN 300, No. 21 WR) and Kylie Fitts (No. 86 in ESPN 300, No. 8 DE) flipped their commitments to rival UCLA. The Bruins finished the day with the 12th-ranked class, the first time since 2006 they finished ahead of their crosstown rival.

7 – The number of top-10 recruiting classes Urban Meyer has had since 2006, and not one of those classes ranked lower than sixth. The only other coach with seven top-10 classes is Mack Brown. This year, Meyer and Ohio State scored the No. 3 recruiting class, headlined by CB Eli Apple (No. 11 in ESPN 300, No. 3 CB).

7 – The number of top-five recruiting classes Florida has had since 2006, most among all schools. Entering National Signing Day, the Gators had the top-ranked class before finishing the day second. Florida is one of three schools with multiple five-star recruits this year (Ole Miss and Notre Dame).

12 – The number of four-star recruits Vanderbilt has received letters of intent from. The past two seasons, James Franklin has recruited 15 players with a grade of 80 or better. In the previous four seasons, Vanderbilt didn’t recruit a single such player.

14 - The number of SEC schools with top-40 recruiting classes. All 14 schools have top-40 classes, with none lower than 36th (Kentucky). Six of those schools are ranked in the top 10, the most any conference has had since 2006.

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2014 OT Denzel Ward looking around 

January, 4, 2013
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Offensive tackle Denzel Ward (Chicago/Hales Franciscan), a 2014 Michigan commitment, has made quite an impression at the Under Armour 2013 Combine.

The 6-foot-9, 295-pound prospect now has other schools in hot pursuit, and he is considering jumping back into the process.

"I am committed to Michigan, but I don't know what is going to happen," Ward said. "Our family might be opening the recruiting process soon. Some other schools may be coming in real hard.

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Johnson flirts with perfection, slices list 

December, 20, 2012
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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Chaminade-esque run of Bishop Verot (Fort Myers, Fla.) at the City of Palms Classic ended on Wednesday courtesy of national No. 1 Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.) and a big fella named Dakari Johnson (New York, N.Y./Montverde).

To say the Vikings couldn’t stop Johnson, the No. 1-ranked center in the ESPN 100, isn’t accurate because that would imply they did at least on occasion. Instead, Johnson carve up a depleted Verot frontline for 23 points and 10 rebounds as he went 11-for-11 from the field. Only a 2-for-4 performance from the line cost him offensive efficiency perfection.

Afterward, Johnson still couldn’t miss when he talked recruiting.

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UF commit Hearns sets Ohio State visit 

December, 15, 2012
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ORLANDO, Fla. -- With Florida coaches on hand to watch, Gators linebacker commit James Hearns (Tallahassee, Fla./Lincoln) did the Gator chomp as he was introduced before the FHSAA class 7A state championship game on Friday evening. Despite the gesture, Hearns said after the game he still plans to visit Ohio State on Jan. 11.

Hearns, who totaled five tackles in the 41-25 loss to Ft. Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas, said he was impressed that Florida sent coaches to watch him play.

"It felt good that they get a chance to come out to see me," Hearns said. "Especially being in bowl week. They actually moved up their bowl practice today just so they could get on the road and get here on time."

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Florida commits looking elsewhere? 

November, 27, 2012
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Despite Florida's impressive 11-1 record this season and likely BCS bowl berth, there are a few committed recruits who are still looking at other options.

Florida linebacker commit Quinton Powell (Daytona Beach, Fla./Mainland) has been committed to the Gators since Feb. 18, but is now considering Miami and Southern Cal.

Quinton Powell
Tom Hauck for ESPN.comFour-star Florida linebacker commit Quinton Powell is ranked No. 80 overall in the ESPN 150. He is the No. 8 OLB in the class of 2013.
"I haven't set any dates or talked to any coaches yet," Powell said, "but I plan on going to USC and Miami."

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Watch List RB James talks recruiting 

October, 13, 2012
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- ESPN Watch List running back Tony James (Gainesville, Fla./Gainesville) missed Gainesville's game against cross-town rival Buchholz High School on Friday with a mild concussion. Despite missing the game, the 2014 prospect did talk about the latest in his recruitment.

The 5-foot-11, 165-pound running back, who has offers from Florida, Miami, Ohio State, UCLA, Georgia Tech and most recently Florida State, visited Florida for its game against LSU last weekend. James said he was impressed with what he saw from the Gators.

"It was a very intense game, it was a close game," James said. "The second half, Florida came out and got their swag going on and got two touchdowns back-to-back with Mike Gillislee and the defense shut them down."

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James HearnsDerek Tyson/ESPN.comLong-time Gator commit James Hearns said Friday night after his high school game that he's considering taking an official visit to Ohio State.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Judging by his game on Friday night you would never know that four-star linebacker James Hearns (Tallahassee, Fla./Lincoln) is coming off a severe ACL injury from last season.

The 6-foot-3, 226-pound inside linebacker accounted for two interceptions, including one he returned for a 48-yard touchdown in Lincoln's 45-7 victory over Gainesville (Fla.) Buchholz. Hearns actually had a third interception negated by a penalty early in the game.

Though he appeared to be the most dominant player on the field Friday night, Hearns said there are parts of his game he still needs to improve on.

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BRADENTON, Fla. -- Five-star cornerback prospect Vernon Hargreaves III (Tampa, Fla./Wharton) won defensive MVP of the IMG Madden 7-on-7 National Championship tournament on Sunday after Team Tampa beat Max Ex Blue 28-17 to win the tournament.

[+] EnlargeCornerback prospect Vernon Hargreaves III
Derek Tyson/ESPN.comVernon Hargreaves is the No. 1 cornerback in the nation and the No. 4 overall player in the ESPN 150.
The 5-foot-11, 185-pound athlete had several interceptions over the course of the two-day tournament, including one against Michigan quarterback commit Shane Morris in the championship game.

As for recruiting, the talented corner who has more than 50 scholarship offers said three schools are starting to stand out to him.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Under Armour All-American safety Marcell Harris (Orlando, Fla./Dr. Phillips) has offers from the who's who of college football programs, but the talented 6-foot-1, 209-pound athlete decided to participate at Florida's camp on Tuesday afternoon.

Harris said getting familiar with Florida's coaching style, in particular defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson and head coach Will Muschamp, was a reason he decided to participate.

"It was cool being out there with them and seeing their style of how they coach," Harris said. "They were putting me in a position to play where I would be playing if I went there -- playing safety but also covering the slot."

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Four-star linebacker prospect Alex Anzalone (Wyomissing, Pa./Wyomissing HS) decommitted from Ohio State on Friday and has eliminated the Buckeyes from contention. The 6-foot-3, 223-pound athlete confirmed his decision to reopen his recruitment via text message.

"After discussing it with my family, it was truly a decision based on my best interest," Anzalone wrote.

Ranked as the No. 5 outside linebacker and the No. 61 player overall in the ESPN 150, Anzalone said he is still considering Florida, Stanford, USC, Penn State and Notre Dame.

Anzalone, who has already committed to play in the Under Armour All-America game, said he has no new timetable for making a decision.

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Urban Meyer is long gone from Florida, but he’s sure not forgotten.

We were reminded of that earlier this month thanks to Matt Hayes’ piece in The Sporting News, a piece that painted the end of Meyer’s otherwise ultra-successful tenure at Florida as pure bedlam with select players doing pretty much as they pleased and the program spiraling downward as a result.

Meyer has since defended his time at Florida, which in fairness, included a pair of BCS national championships.

[+] EnlargeUrban Meyer
Robert Mayer/US PresswireThe state of Florida will have a hard time forgetting Urban Meyer and his checkered legacy.
But it’s the mess he left for Will Muschamp to clean up that hasn’t won him a lot of fans in the Sunshine State, be it fans, some former players, media members or Florida administrators.

In short, most people simply didn’t realize how “broken” that program really was when Meyer stepped aside following the 2010 season. Remember, too, that the term “broken” was the term Meyer himself used.

Here’s the other thing: There hasn’t been an outpouring of Florida administrators coming forward and disputing the things alleged in Hayes’ piece.

Even former running back Chris Rainey wasn’t exactly going to bat for Meyer in a recent interview, and it was Meyer who gave Rainey a second chance in 2010 following Rainey’s infamous “time to die” text to a woman he’d been dating.

The columnists in the state of Florida haven’t held back, either.

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Scene and Heard: Top 10 Predictions
In a conversation with ESPN's Antonietta Collins, national recruiting reporter Gerry Hamilton breaks down the recruiting momentum building at Auburn and offers predictions for where the top 10 recruits will commit.Tags: Trenton Thompson, Kerryon Johnson, Jeffery Holland, Martez Ivey, Torrance Gibson, Cece Jefferson, ESPN 300, RecruitingNation, high school football recruiting, Gerry Hamilton
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