Florida Gators: tracy howard

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- There's no consolation prize when you lose a recruiting battle, just an empty feeling and an empty space on the big board.

It hurts even more to lose a player on signing day, when there is no tomorrow and no other players on the big board to turn to.

Under coach Will Muschamp, Florida has had its share of wins on the recruiting trail. It's also had some impactful losses.

Here's a look at some of the top players the Gators missed on in recent years.

2011
ESPN class rank: No. 12


[+] EnlargeTimmy Jernigan
Melina Vastola/USA TODAY SportsThe Gators were once a frontrunner for Timmy Jernigan, but he ended up at FSU where he became one of the nation's top defensive tackles.
It would hardly be fair to pin most of the Gators' head-to-head recruiting losses in this class on Muschamp, who was hired in mid-December 2010. He inherited a recruiting class ranked in the top 10 from then-retired coach Urban Meyer, and Muschamp was commended for keeping the bulk of the class together. For example, Muschamp had less than a week to make an impression on Nick Waisome before the nation's No. 2-ranked cornerback decommitted from Florida and flipped to FSU. Not Muschamp's fault.

But the head coach and his staff did have several weeks to take the recruiting baton and try to close with a couple of uncommitted gems from the state of Florida. The Gators were considered frontrunners at one time for DT Timmy Jernigan and LB Curt Maggitt, who ended up at Florida State and Tennessee, respectively. In both cases, Muschamp was unable to capitalize on his reputation for defense and lost the two prospects to offensive-minded head coaches.

2012
ESPN class rank: No. 4

The Gators suffered a painful loss in January when DE/LB Jordan Jenkins picked Georgia. He was a top priority and the UF coaching staff had put a lot of time and effort into his recruitment. The bad news foreshadowed what can only be described as a signing day nightmare, as Florida struck out with eight uncommitted recruits and another who made his decision shortly thereafter.

Desperate for help at receiver, Florida was spurned by two of the top prospects in the nation, Nelson Agholor (USC) and Stefon Diggs (Maryland), who have already shown flashes of brilliance on the field. The Trojans were also the beneficiary of defensive tackle Leonard Williams, who said he made up his mind on the morning of signing day. Florida was a painfully close second, and Williams made an instant impact as a freshman starter.

Muschamp also felt good about keeping offensive lineman Avery Young in his home state, but he ended up at Auburn, where he started on last season's national runner-up. Another Floridian, the nation's No. 1 cornerback, Tracy Howard, was considered a lock for the Gators until he took a visit to Miami on the last weekend before signing day and changed his mind.

And who could forget the gripping saga of No. 1 outside linebacker prospect Josh Harvey-Clemons? He announced his decision to go to Georgia in the morning on ESPNU's signing day show. His family was shocked. They wanted him close to home in Valdosta, Ga., and thought he would choose UF. The situation turned surreal when his grandfather and legal guardian refused to sign the letter of intent. It took a full day to sort out, but Harvey-Clemons faxed his letter of intent to attend Georgia the morning after signing day.

2013
ESPN class rank: No. 2


The headline in the local newspaper was "Muschamp set up for stress-free signing day". Indeed, most of the drama took place in January when Florida signed eight early enrollees, including three top-rated players who flipped to Florida late in the process. It was a strong rebound for a coach who took some criticism with the way he closed out his class the year before.

But there were some misses, recruits who could have played a big role for the Gators in what turned out to be a woeful 2013.

Cornerback Jalen Ramsey and defensive lineman DeMarcus Walker, both top-40 prospects in the ESPN 300, picked FSU over Florida. Walker, from Jacksonville, Fla., originally committed to Alabama over UF. When he wavered many thought the Gators would be the beneficiary. Instead he flipped to the Seminoles just before enrolling in January. Ramsey, who had been committed to USC for months, changed his mind when Trojans coach Lane Kiffin came under fire. Instead of choosing the Gators, where his high school teammate QB Max Staver was committed, Ramsey ended up at FSU and made a huge impact as a starter on the Noles' national championship team last season.

Offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil, ranked No. 1 at his position and No. 5 overall, was another tough loss. Like Jernigan two years before, Florida was a frontrunner at one time. Both prospects went to the same high school in Lake City, Fla, just 45 minutes north of Gainesville. Tunsil ended up at Ole Miss, where he started all but four games as a true freshman.

ACC enjoys big wins to start season

September, 7, 2013
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MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- The statement was made, and well, Miami simply could not contain its raw emotions, perhaps because this was all so new.

Al Golden sprinted across the field with 4.4 40 speed to shake Will Muschamp’s hand. His players gathered en mass in one corner of the end zone to celebrate with fans then sprinted across the field to the end zone on the other end of the field to celebrate some more.

In between it all, an inflatable alligator float lay deflating on the field, its snout taped shut.

“We’ve been through so much,” Golden said after his team’s 21-16 win over No. 12 Florida on Saturday afternoon. “It was almost cathartic, to be honest with you. It was just 26 months unleashed there.”

Miami, trying to take baby steps back to the top, had not been able to win a big game like this under Golden. The spotlight shined on the Canes last season in games against nationally ranked Kansas State, then unbeaten Notre Dame, then eventual ACC champ Florida State. Each time, Miami wilted or failed to show up, its defense exposed as a major liability, its toughness questioned.

Everybody inside the program knew it needed this win. But the Hurricanes were not the only ones who needed it badly. So did the ACC.

The league made a statement in Week 1 with Clemson beating Georgia, vaulting the Tigers to No. 4 in the rankings. Another win against a marquee team would send ACC officials dancing from press box tables. Especially a win from Miami -- a program that has underwhelmed despite the expectation it would enhance the league’s reputation when it joined in 2004.

The Gators went in favored and seemingly had the edge up front. Miami players heard all the talk and got more motivated, developing the proverbial and cliché chip on their shoulders. They didn’t need coaches preaching all week that they needed to be the more physical team. They knew.

They also knew this game meant more than suiting up against Florida Atlantic.

As linebacker Tyriq McCord said afterward, he came to Miami to play against a team like the Gators, to have the national stage, the national spotlight, a chance to begin Miami on its road back to a championship.

With a fired-up crowd filling Sun Life Stadium, the two rivals battled gamely in the final scheduled regular-season matchup between them.

Miami matched Florida hit for hit. For once, this team could believe in its defense. Florida racked up yards and first downs and owned time of possession but could not put points on the board. Because Miami was there to make the crucial play, time and again.

Florida turned the ball over four times inside Miami territory -- three times inside the red zone. The Canes had a crucial stand on fourth-and-inches from the Miami 16 in the second quarter. Florida kept driving, and Miami kept caving just a little bit. But the Canes refused to be broken.

Meanwhile, the Miami offense struggled for most of the game against the ferocious Florida front, a group quarterback Stephen Morris called “the best defensive line I’ve ever seen.”

[+] EnlargeMiami coach Al Golden and the Hurricanes beat Florida 21-16 on Saturday in their final scheduled regular-season matchup.
Charles Trainor Jr./Miami Herald via Getty ImagesMiami coach Al Golden and the Hurricanes beat Florida 21-16 on Saturday in their final scheduled regular-season matchup.
Morris and running back Duke Johnson are the two best players on the Miami roster. But improbably, it was the much maligned Miami defense that won the game for the Hurricanes.

“Without trust, you don’t have anything,” Miami cornerback Tracy Howard said. “If you make plays, you can talk. Trust is a big thing. The offense trusts the defense. The defense trusts the offense.”

Perhaps as improbably, the ACC went 2-2 against the SEC to open the season. North Carolina and Virginia Tech, the two teams that lost to SEC competition last week, rebounded with wins Saturday the way everybody expected against far inferior competition. Virginia did not have the same success against No. 2 Oregon on Saturday.

But the focus for the first two weeks was on the big headliners against the SEC, a conference that has owned the ACC on the field and the recruiting trail. Every single ACC team went in as the underdog, including the Tigers and Canes at home.

Many believed Clemson and Miami had the best shot at pulling the upsets. In the end, what stood out in both victories was the way they won -- with an aggressiveness and physicality that most folks associate with the SEC.

The ACC essentially out-SEC’d its conference rival in both wins. Some 755 miles to the north in Clemson, coach Dabo Swinney noticed. He ended his postgame comments after Clemson’s 52-13 win over South Carolina State by saying, “How about that ACC? Spunky little old league."

He flashed "The U" sign and walked out of the room.

Swinney has reason to brag. The ACC won only two games over ranked nonconference teams in each of the past three seasons. In just two weeks, the ACC has matched that win total. Miami linebacker Denzel Perryman put it bluntly when asked what the league’s 2-2 mark over the SEC meant:

“We ain’t no cupcake league,” Perryman said.

Two big wins in two weeks does not completely change perception, but it’s a start. The ACC should have three teams ranked in the Top 25 come Sunday. Miami has a shot to start 4-0 before a tough ACC game against Georgia Tech on Oct. 5. Florida State and Clemson also have a shot at being undefeated when they play each other Oct. 19.

As much as Golden wanted to sound a word of caution, saying this was only one game and only one win, a giddy McCord could not hold back.

“We’re back,” McCord said. "That’s all I can say. We’re back."

It appears the ACC is too.
Dalvin CookTom Hauck for Student SportsFlorida went into Miami's backyard to get a commitment from ESPN 300 RB Dalvin Cook, but the Hurricanes aren't exactly ready to concede him to the Gators.
Florida and Miami face off this weekend in what could be the last match up between these two in-state teams for the foreseeable future. The Hurricanes and Gators have had some memorable games on the field, but also some fierce recruiting battles off it. Here's a closer look at 10 recent recruiting battles -- five that Florida won and five that Miami won.

2015 ESPN 300 targets: Florida 

July, 16, 2013
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The Florida Gators might not have any players committed for their 2015 recruiting class, but don't let that fool you. The Gators are in good position to land several players listed on the initial 2015 ESPN 300. Obviously, this list will likely change from now until signing day in February 2015. But as of now, here's a closer look at 10 prospects the Gators have a good shot at landing.

1. ATH George Campbell (Tarpon Springs, Fla./East Lake)
6-4, 185
ESPN 300 rank: 3

This tall and speedy athlete won the fastest man competition at The Opening earlier this month when he posted a 40-yard-dash time of 4.36. Campbell could play receiver or even safety on the next level, but the Gators like him as a wide receiver. He remains open at this time, but he has visited Florida several times and the Gators have always been near the top of his list. He is teammates with wide receiver Artavis Scott, who recently committed to Clemson, and the Tigers are another team he is strongly considering.


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Chomp Confidential: Signing day intel 

February, 2, 2012
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- GatorNation brings you the latest installment of Chomp Confidential, a look inside Florida football recruiting for GatorNation subscribers only. As with anything exclusive, what's reported in the weekly Chomp Confidential must stay here. A few things discussed in this week's update:

• Signing day recap
• How close was Howard to choosing Florida?
• Inside scoop

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Florida's NSD filled with near misses 

February, 1, 2012
2/01/12
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The Florida Gators started off Wednesday hoping to build on what already was considered by most to be a highly ranked class. But as the ink on the letters of intent began to dry and faxes started pouring in, the hopes for a No. 1-ranked class faded.

Florida got off to a hot start with nine signatures from committed players before 9 a.m., ET. Outside linebacker Josh Harvey-Clemons then committed to Georgia, followed by cornerback Tracy Howard, who selected Miami over Florida.

The Gators received good news mid-morning when four-star defensive end Dante Fowler Jr., switched his commitment from Florida State to Florida. Fowler had been committed to FSU for more than a year before flipping to Florida.

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Nation's No. 1 CB Tracy Howard picks UM

February, 1, 2012
2/01/12
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Tracy Howard (Miramar, Fla./Miramar), the top-rated cornerback in the ESPNU 150, announces his commitment to Miami. ESPN's Corey Long reports it was one of the more tight-lipped decisions in recruiting, as Howard expressed much interest through the year in Florida and Florida State.
Four-star ESPNU 150 cornerback Tracy Howard (Miramar, Fla.) declared for Miami (Fla.) at 9:50 a.m. ET on ESPN. The No. 1 CB in the country selected the Canes over Florida State and Florida.

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What to expect on signing day 

January, 31, 2012
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Will it be boom or bust for the Gators on signing day?

The hoopla actually gets started early, as defensive end Darius Hamilton will make his decision on Tuesday at 8 p.m., ET. He's down to Rutgers, Florida and Miami.

On Wednesday, several top prospects who have the Gators near the top of their lists will announce. Wish so many unknowns heading into signing day, here's a chronological look at announcement details for some of the top prospects.

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Florida recruiting: Hot Five trending 

January, 30, 2012
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. --Two weeks ago GatorNation released its Hot Five list of Florida's top targets remaining on the board. With only a short time remaining until signing day we will revisit that list. Here is the Hot Five prospects and where they are trending.

1. Stefon Diggs (Olney Md./Our Lady of Good Counsel) -- Trending:
Diggs visited Ohio State this past weekend and by all accounts enjoyed his visit to Columbus. He will make his announcement on Feb. 10. Diggs' mother did not make the trip with him, as she did on his Florida visit. The Gators still stand a great chance with him, but Ohio State has certainly closed the gap.We have him as trending down, not because of anything Florida has done, but more based on what Ohio State has done recently.

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ESPNU Signing Day Times

January, 30, 2012
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ESPNU's national signing day coverage kicks off at 9 a.m. ET. Here's the list of the announcements and time for some of the top prospects.

NOTE: Bold names are announcements, all others are interviews.

Chomp Confidential: Recruiting notes 

January, 26, 2012
1/26/12
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- GatorNation brings you the latest installment of Chomp Confidential, a look inside Florida football recruiting for GatorNation subscribers only. As with anything exclusive, what's reported in the weekly Chomp Confidential must stay here. A few things discussed in this week's update:

• The latest on the quarterback situation
• Will a commit qualify?
• Derek's mock class

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Where UF recruiting stands on defense 

January, 25, 2012
1/25/12
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[+] EnlargeMarcus Maye
David De PasMarcus Maye could see early playing time with his ability to play the run and the pass.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida's recruiting board is taking its final shape, as detailed in Tuesday's look at the offense. Here is a position-by-position look at where the Gators currently stand on defense:

SAFETY
Commits: Marcus Maye and Rhaheim Ledbetter
Prospects: none

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Notebook: Leonard Williams visiting UF 

January, 24, 2012
1/24/12
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[+] EnlargeLeonard Williams
Davide De PasMost of the SEC has offered ESPNU 150 DE Leonard Williams, but he could be down to Florida and Auburn.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The Gators' biggest recruiting weekend of the year has apparently gone into overtime.

After several failed attempts to visit the Gators this year, Florida defensive end prospect Leonard Williams finally made it on campus for an official visit. He arrived on Monday and is planning on returning to his home in Daytona Beach (Fla.) on Wednesday.

Williams visits Florida fresh off another official visit, this one to Southern Cal this past weekend. Most believe Williams will decide between Florida, Auburn, FSU and USC on national signing day.

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Video: Recruiting Nation 411

January, 23, 2012
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In this edition of Recruiting Nation 411, ESPN’s recruiting experts take a look at all of the top news from the weekend including some good news for Penn State, more success for Vanderbilt, and some heated battles in the state of Florida.

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