Florida Gators: Alabama Crimson Tide

Getting to know: CeCe Jefferson 

June, 2, 2014
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — CeCe Jefferson is one of the top defensive ends in the country, ranked No. 9 in the ESPN 300. Yet the 6-foot-3, 248-pound, five-star prospect found himself playing middle linebacker, defensive end and even fullback in his team's spring football game.

That’s exactly how Jefferson likes it.

"I like moving around because it shows the coaches at the next level that I’m versatile enough to do it,” Jefferson said. "I don’t mind playing multiple positions in college. Linebacker is probably what I’m going to be because I’m not really that big to play defensive end against 300-pounders all night. So moving around is definitely not a problem to me. I feel like I’m versatile enough to do it, so if a coach asks me to do it, I’m going to do it.”

It’s Jefferson’s versatility and ability to cause so much disruption for opposing offenses that has college coaches from across the country flocking to Glen St. Mary, Florida, to try to land the talented defender from Baker County High School.

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.

Best SEC classes by position 

September, 10, 2013
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Top to bottom, the Southeastern Conference is recruiting better than any conference in the country. Thirteen of 14 SEC schools are ranked in the top 40 of the recruiting rankings, including six schools ranked in the top 10. Here's a closer look at which SEC school has the top recruiting classes at each position.

Quarterback
Strongest class: Alabama
This is the hardest position to determine who has the strongest class. Four of the top-five quarterbacks in the final Elite 11 rankings -- Sean White (Auburn), Kyle Allen (Texas A&M), Will Grier (Florida) and Jacob Park (Georgia) -- are committed to SEC schools. Alabama, however has the top-ranked quarterback, David Cornwell (Norman, Okla./Norman North) in the ESPN 300. The Under Armour All-American is the 32nd-ranked player in the nation. At 6-foot-5, 241-pounds, Cornwell has a big-time arm and ideal size for the position.

Running back

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LSU coach Les Miles doesn't have a problem playing eight SEC opponents every season.

Miles also realizes the Tigers could play nine SEC games in the very near future.

Miles just doesn't think it's fair that LSU has to play Florida every season, while other teams in the SEC West don't.

[+] EnlargeLes Miles
Derick E. Hingle/US PresswireUnder the current SEC scheduling format, Les Miles and LSU play Florida every season.
As SEC presidents, athletics directors and coaches convene this week for the league's annual spring meetings in Destin, Fla., long-term scheduling has become the hot-button issue.

The league is expected to vote whether to change its current 6-1-1 format, in which teams play each opponent from their respective division, along with one rotating foe and one permanent opponent from the opposite division. SEC officials could vote this week to add a ninth conference game or at least eliminate permanent crossover opponents.

The SEC adopted its current scheduling format to ensure that longstanding rivalries like Alabama-Tennessee and Georgia-Auburn would survive expansion.

By drawing the Gators as a permanent crossover opponent, Miles believes the Tigers drew the short end of the stick.

Miles won't complain about the scheduling format publicly, but he knows LSU is at a disadvantage.

And Miles is probably right.

"When they give us our schedule, I'm looking forward to having a great competition," Miles said.

Since 2000, LSU has played Florida and Georgia -- two of the SEC East's best programs -- a total of 17 times. Auburn is the only SEC West team which has faced those teams more often, playing them 19 times. Arkansas, Mississippi State and Ole Miss have faced them a total of 10 times each, while Alabama has played them only eight times.

While it's not fair that LSU has faced the Bulldogs and Gators nearly twice as often as Alabama has played them since 2000, Miles' argument might fall on deaf ears. Auburn and Georgia aren't going to surrender the longtime series -- the Deep South's Oldest Rivalry has been played 116 times since 1892. Likewise, Alabama and Tennessee have played 95 times since 1901, a game so revered it's named for its traditional place on the calendar, the Third Saturday in October.

And Ole Miss would probably rather play Vanderbilt every season instead of Florida, Georgia or South Carolina, and Mississippi State isn't going pass up a chance to play Kentucky every year.

"There's never going to be a fair way," said Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin, whose Aggies drew Missouri as a permanent crossover opponent. "If you look back seven or eight years ago, you would have said the SEC East was the strongest division. You can't say what's fair, because things change in this league. You can't look at tradition. Ten years ago, you might have wanted to play South Carolina. Now you don't want anything to do with them. You don't know what Tennessee is going to do with a new coach. I know Butch Jones is going to do a great job."

Florida-LSU has become one of the league's most anticipated games every season. They've been two of the league's most dominant teams over the past decade. They've combined to appear in seven SEC championship games since 2003, and they've combined to play in nine BCS bowl games, including five BCS national championship games. In their past 10 meetings, LSU and Florida were both ranked in the top 25 of the coaches' poll nine times. Conversely, Alabama and Tennessee were both ranked only once in their past 10 meetings.

The loser of the Florida-LSU regular-season game has paid dearly over the past 10 seasons. LSU's 23-10 loss at Florida in 2006 knocked the Tigers out of the SEC championship game (the Gators defeated Arkansas 38-28 and then blasted Ohio State 41-14 to win the BCS title). Last year, LSU's 14-6 loss at Florida probably cost it a spot in the AT&T Cotton Bowl, if not another trip to a BCS bowl game.

Florida's losses to LSU in 2002, '05 and '07 kept them out of the SEC championship game and potentially BCS bowl games.

DBs from SEC blanket combine

February, 22, 2013
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Several of RecruitingNation's SEC sites took a look this week at the players headed to the NFL combine, which begins today in Indianapolis, and other predraft camps. Click here to read the entire predraft series. Today: Defensive backs and special teams.

Florida Gators


The Gators might have another first-round pick in today’s group and two other players who might not get drafted. S Matt Elam has been projected to go late in the first round -- most often to New England with the 29th pick -- after a junior season in which he was named an All-American. S Josh Evans and K Caleb Sturgis might very well not get drafted in April. Sturgis is one of the nation’s top kickers, but some teams are reluctant to draft kickers even in the later rounds if they have other needs. Then again, there are the Jacksonville Jaguars, who drafted a punter in the third round.

(Read full post)

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.

(Read full post)

Defensive tackle Jay-nard Bostwick (Port Saint Lucie, Fla./Centennial) joined Florida's No. 1-ranked recruiting class on Wednesday morning, making the announcement in a ceremony at his high school. Bostwick picked the Gators over Alabama and Miami.

He is the 27th-ranked player nationally at his position and 286th in the ESPN 300.

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DeMarcus Walker wavering? 

December, 30, 2012
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Four-star defensive end DeMarcus Walker (Jacksonville, Fla./Sandalwood) will take an unofficial visit to Florida this upcoming weekend.

The 6-foot-4, 271-pound ESPN 150 member has been committed to Alabama since Aug. 24, but Walker said taking a trip to Florida has been on his mind for a while.

"It's just been on my mind for a long time," Walker said. "Even though I've already taken a 1,000 visits, I'll just take another one."

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2015 ATH Hayward receiving interest 

December, 14, 2012
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ORLANDO, Fla. -- Class of 2015 athlete Jaylin Hayward (Tallahassee, Fla./Godby) might be just a sophomore, but the talented prospect is already receiving heavy interest from the in-state programs.

The 5-foot-9, 165-pound athlete, who totaled three receptions for 35 yards in Godby's 21-20 state championship victory over Immokalee (Fla.) Immokalee on Friday, said he is receiving heavy interest from several top programs.

"I'm hearing a lot from Alabama, Florida State, Florida, Miami and hopefully Oregon soon, but I'm not sure," Hayward said. "I have offers from Kentucky, FSU, Miami and Florida already."

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Dawgs, Tide out in front for Laremy Tunsil 

October, 19, 2012
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MIDDLEBURG, Fla. -- Five-star offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil (Lake City, Fla./Columbia) will take an unofficial visit to Florida for its game against South Carolina on Saturday. For the 6-foot-6, 295-pound No. 1-ranked offensive lineman in the country, this will be his second visit to Gainesville in the last three weeks.

Tunsil, who visited Florida for its game against LSU, said he enjoyed his trip to the Swamp.

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2014 LB Kain Daub opening things up? 

October, 10, 2012
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- ESPN Watch List inside linebacker Kain Daub (Jacksonville, Fla./Sandalwood) will likely be one of the top linebackers in the country next year. After the 6-foot-3, 227-pound athlete committed to LSU on July 14, he shut down his recruitment. But now he is thinking about opening things back up.

"My LSU commit is still pretty solid, but I think I'm going to open up the doors up again," Daub said. "Anything could happen, there could be a coaching change and I just want something to fall back on and not just close all doors just because I committed to LSU."

[+] EnlargeKain Daub
Courtesy of Jeff Barlis, GatorNationLinebacker Kain Daub could be one of the top defensive prospects in the class of 2014.
Daub recently transferred from Ponte Vedra (Fla.) Nease to Sandalwood High School and is now playing alongside Alabama defensive end commit DeMarcus Walker. Daub, who has more than 15 offers, said Walker continually tries to get him to switch to Alabama.

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Taylor still firmly committed to UF 

October, 1, 2012
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YULEE, Fla. -- The state of Florida's top two all-time leading rushers, Kelvin Taylor (Belle Glades, Fla./Glades Day) and Derrick Henry (Yulee, Fla./Yulee) squared off Friday night on ESPNU. The two four-star running backs didn't disappoint with their performance. Henry, an Alabama commit and Taylor, a Florida commit, accounted for 585 rushing yards and seven touchdowns on the night.

Taylor, who finished with 223 rushing yards and a touchdown on 35 carries, says he hopes he will have more opportunities to face off against Henry on the next level.

"It was a great game out there and a crazy atmosphere," Taylor said. "It was great and humbling to play in front of that crowd and we just came up short but we will fix that in practice on Monday. Derrick is a hell of a running back, hats off to him. We're both going to D-1 colleges and hopefully will have a few more games like we did tonight."

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New Bama commit Henry has big night 

September, 29, 2012
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YULEE, Fla. -- After committing to the Alabama Crimson Tide earlier in the day, four-star running back Derrick Henry capped off his exciting day by helping his Yulee (Fla.) team defeat Kelvin Taylor and his Belle Glade (Fla.) Glades Day team 42-6 on Friday night. The 6-foot-3, 243-pound Henry rushed for 362 yards and six touchdowns on 35 carries.

Henry has amassed 864 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns over the last two weeks and now has 1,753 yards and 24 rushing touchdowns in only five games this season. He has totaled 9,617 rushing yards in his career and is on pace to break Ken Hall's (Sugarland, Texas) national career rushing record of 11,232 yards. If he continues his current pace, Henry will finish the regular season wih 3,506 rushing yards and 48 touchdowns.

In addition to the career rushing record, Henry has his sights set on yet another rushing record. Former NFL player Travis Henry (Frostproof, Fla./Frostproof) holds the single-season rushing record in Florida with 4,087 yards in 14 games. If Yulee (4-1) makes a playoff run, Derrick Henry has a good chance at breaking Travis Henry's record.

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2014 DE Bryson Allen-Williams visits UF 

September, 2, 2012
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- With early offers from Penn State, South Carolina, N.C. State and Florida, 2014 defensive line prospect Bryson Allen-Williams (Ellenwood, Ga./Cedar Grove) is sure to be one of the top defensive ends in the southeast next year.

The 6-foot-3, 233-pound athlete visited Florida for their home game against Bowling Green on Saturday and came away impressed with what he saw from the Gators.

"I loved it," Allen-Williams said. "Great atmosphere, great fan base and the defense played very well. Just overall it was a great visit."

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Derrick Henry sets decision date 

August, 31, 2012
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- On a record-breaking night, ESPN 150 athlete Derrick Henry (Yulee, Fla./Yulee) has set his announcement date to choose between Alabama, Tennessee and Georgia.

Derrick Henry
Derek Tyson/ESPN.comDerrick Henry will announce his college decision on Sept. 28 and one team still remains out in front.
In a 51-28 loss to Gainesville High School Thursday night, Henry rushed for 336 yards and three touchdowns on 31 carries. Henry broke former Jacksonville (Fla.) University Christian star Willie McClendon's streak of 33 consecutive 100-yard rushing games from 1985-87. Henry has still never rushed for under the century mark in his high school career.

At 8,200 career rushing yards, Henry moves in to third place on the state of Florida's all-time career rushing list, trailing only Emmitt Smith and Florida running back commit Kelvin Taylor (Belle Glades, Fla./Glades Day).

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