Florida Gators: jordan cunningham

SEC shoes to fill in 2014

January, 21, 2014
Earlier, we took a look at some of the underclassmen leaving the SEC and who could replace them at their respective schools. Now it's time to look at 14 pairs of the biggest shoes to fill in the SEC in 2014.

These are either graduates or guys who decided to take their talents to the NFL early. It's never easy to replace top players, but the SEC has a tendency to just reload. Let's see if SEC teams can replace these 14 studs:


AJ McCarron, QB: He won two national championships and went 36-4 as a starter for Alabama. He was also the first Crimson Tide quarterback to throw for 3,000 yards and was an excellent leader. Alabama must now turn to junior Blake Sims and a host of youngsters to fill his spot as Alabama's starter.


Zach Hocker, K: A kicker? You bet. Hocker finished his career as the SEC's active career leader in extra points made, extra points attempted, field goals made, field goals attempted points. Hocker ranked in the top-five nationally among active players in field goals made, points, extra points made, extra points attempted and field goals attempted. He was also excellent on kickoffs and has no true heir in 2014.

[+] EnlargeTre Mason
Todd Kirkland/Icon SMI Tre Mason's productivity won't be easy to replace for Auburn.

Tre Mason, RB: Replacing the guy who set the single-season school record for rushing yards (1,816) and total offense (2,374) won't be easy at all. Mason carried Auburn's offense for most of the season and led the SEC in rushing and rushing touchdowns (23). The Tigers now turn to Cameron Artis-Payne and Corey Grant, who both rushed for more than 600 yards and six touchdowns last season. Also, keep an eye on incoming freshman Racean Thomas.


Dominique Easley, DT: Though his season was cut short by an ACL injury, Easley was so dominant when he was on the field. He was the type of player who didn't have flashy stats but created so many plays for other people. Losing someone as disruptive as Easley really showed as the season continued, as the Gators failed to get consistent pressure on opposing backfields. Leon Orr and Darious Cummings get first crack at trying to replace Easley.


Aaron Murray, QB: He won a handful of games, went to two SEC championship games and broke a ton of SEC records. Now, Murray is gone, and Hutson Mason has been given the duty of replacing one of the most decorated quarterbacks to ever play in the SEC. Mason got his feet wet early when Murray went down late with an ACL injury, but now this is his team and it's his turn to be a leader.


Avery Williamson, LB: In his last two seasons in Lexington, Williamson totaled 237 tackles, including 116 solo stops. A leader of the defense, Williamson was all over the field, and it might take a committee to fill his shoes both in games and in the locker room. Kentucky was able to do more when Williamson was on the field, and now the Wildcats will need to find a new spark at linebacker.


Zach Mettenberger, QB: We got to really see what Mettenberger was capable of once he got comfortable running Cam Cameron's offense. He was third in the SEC with 3,082 passing yards and threw 22 touchdowns. His big-league arm and awareness will truly be missed, as the Tigers turn to a band of inexperienced quarterbacks, starting with Anthony Jennings.


Gabe Jackson, OG: Quietly, he was one of the country's best guards in 2013. He was the anchor of the Bulldogs' line and was arguably the team's best overall player in 2013. Mississippi State has Justin Malone returning from a season-ending foot injury, while former walk-on Ben Beckwith, who replaced Malone, and Jamaal Clayborn should compete for one of the guard spots.


E.J. Gaines, CB: If not for Gaines' play, Missouri's secondary would have been in a lot of trouble last season. That means the loss of arguably the SEC's best cover corner will hurt that much more in 2014. What will make things even tougher for the Tigers is that two other seniors from the secondary will also be gone, but replacing Gaines is easily the toughest job of all.


Donte Moncrief, WR: He might not have had the same sort of season as he did in 2012, but Moncrief was yet again Ole Miss' top offensive weapon in 2013. He doesn't have elite speed, but he's such a tough player to cover with his size and strength. He could hit the big play deep or make the tough catches in traffic. The loss of Moncrief now puts the pressure on sophomore-to-be Laquon Treadwell, who led the Rebels in receptions.

[+] EnlargeConnor Shaw
Streeter Lecka/Getty ImagesDylan Thompson will get the first crack at replacing Connor Shaw as South Carolina's QB.

Connor Shaw, QB: With all due respect to future top-five pick Jadeveon Clowney, Shaw's play, toughness and leadership will be tougher to replace in Columbia. He was the heart of this team and played through all sorts of pain to help lead the Gamecocks to their third straight 11-win season. Dylan Thompson backed him up for the past two seasons and now has to job of following Shaw's impressive career.


Antonio Richardson, OT: One of the best offensive linemen in the league, Richardson will be very tough for the Vols to replace in 2014, especially with young quarterbacks littering the backfield. Making matters worse is that the rest of the entire starting offensive line will be gone too. But not having that anchor at left tackle hurts the most.


Johnny Manziel, QB: Yeah, like replacing all the on-field theatrics from someone who won the Heisman Trophy and produced 9,989 career yards of offense and 93 touchdowns will be easy. Manziel could hurt a defense with his arm and legs and was only contained a few times during his two seasons as the Aggies' starter. No one will be able to produce the entertainment Manziel provided.


Jordan Matthews, WR: One of the SEC's best all-time receivers is leaving the league. More importantly, he's leaving a Vanderbilt team that now has to find a consistent go-to receiver for its new quarterback. Sophomore-to-be Jordan Cunningham could be the next in line.

Florida playoffs will provide big stage 

November, 16, 2012
The Florida high school football playoffs have officially started.

The five-week stretch of games has proven to be a great opportunity for some under-the-radar prospects to make a final push in their recruitment. The playoffs have also provided a platform for several known prospects to establish themselves as elite talents.

In this year’s ESPN 150, there are several players who have made their biggest impact during playoff time.

The nation’s top-rated running back, Kelvin Taylor (Belle Glade, Fla./Glades Day), has saved some of his best performances for the playoffs. He rushed for 213 yards and four touchdowns as a freshman in the Class 1B state championship game against South Daytona (Fla.) Warner Christian.

A year later, Taylor faced the same Warner Christian team and rushed for 248 yards and five touchdowns before being ejected for excessive celebration (he went to his knee after scoring his fourth and fifth touchdowns and was flagged for both).

Four-star running back Greg Bryant (Delray Beach, Fla./American Heritage), rated 27th nationally, had his breakout performance in last year’s Class 3A state title game against Madison (Fla.) County, rushing 39 times for 243 yards (both career highs).

Wide receiver Jordan Cunningham (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./University School), ranked 51st nationally, caught three touchdowns as a sophomore in the Class 2B state championship game against Ocala (Fla.) Trinity Catholic.

There’s a good chance Taylor, Bryant or Cunningham will return to the finals in 2012 (of course, Bryant and Cunningham could see each other in a week for the highly anticipated game between American Heritage and University School if their team’s advance), but there will be other class of 2012 prospects that could really see their stock rise with a strong playoff run.


Juwan Brown, QB, Largo (Fla.) -- The two-star prospect has been on a tear this season and is likely the Player of the Year for the Tampa Bay area. He’s accounted for nearly 2,000 yards and 20 touchdowns and hasn’t thrown an interception all season. Brown’s biggest challenge could come in Week 1 when Largo hosts a talented but underachieving Seffner (Fla.) Armwood squad.

Alton Meeks, QB, Orlando (Fla.) Dr. Phillips -- If Meeks, a soft Cincinnati commit, is fully recovered from a broken leg suffered in September, the 6-foot-2, 225-pound senior will be a difference-maker in the playoffs. He’s become a more accurate passer this season and provides a power-running element that Dr. Phillips hasn’t had.

Lorenzo Woodley, RB, Miami Christopher Columbus -- If Daryl Chestnut’s injury keeps him sidelined, the 5-11, 200-pound Woodley will be asked to carry a full load. On Thursday, he rushed for more than 100 yards and three touchdowns in a 49-9 victory over Miami Dr. Krop.

Shykeem Pitts, QB/ATH, Davenport (Fla.) Ridge Community -- Pitts is back at quarterback after flirting with other positions on the offense. In three weeks, Pitts led Ridge to from obscurity to a district championship. The speedy athlete is most dangerous with the ball in his hands and will take every snap for as long as Ridge is alive in the postseason.

Janarion Grant, ATH, Dade City (Fla.) Pasco -- Grant missed the first six games with a hand injury and scored five touchdowns in his return game. In the last two weeks, the 5-11, 185-pound senior has scored eight touchdowns four different ways (rushing, receiving, special teams, defensive). A strong playoff run could lift Grant to top-tier status in the state.

Antwan Lee, RB/DB, Cocoa (Fla.) -- Although most of the attention goes to ESPN 150 athlete Tarean Folston it’s been a shared backfield with the 5-8, 165-pound Lee, who has rushed for 1,035 yards and seven touchdowns this season. Lee also has two interceptions on defense.

Shaquille Johnson, TE, Lake City (Fla.) Columbia -- Columbia has been a popular pick to make it to the Class 6A finals. And if the Tigers can get to Orlando, it will give the 6-4, 225-pound Johnson several more opportunities to have that breakout game that observers have been waiting to see for the past two years.


Did you miss last night’s playoff games? Here’s a quick set of links for them:

Recruiting capsule: University School 

August, 22, 2012
Program: University School (Davie, Fla.)
Head coach: Roger Harriott
2011 record: 11-1 (loss to Delray American Heritage in Class 3A quarterfinals)

ESPN 150/300 prospects: Maquedius Bain (No. 6 DT, No. 41 overall), Jordan Cunningham (No. 6 WR, No. 46 overall)

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Defending Class 7A state champion Manatee (Bradenton, Fla.) was forced to adjust its schedule after a proposed game with Skyline (Sammamish, Wash.) fell through.

Unfortunately, the Hurricanes will not have the opportunity to take a cross-country trip to Seattle and take on a team that features ESPN 150 quarterback Max Browne.

However, Manatee head coach Joe Kinnan didn’t want to replace Skyline with just any opponent and was able to get in contact with Class 6A state runner-up Miami Central for a game on Sept. 15.

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Corey LongTaj Williams is the next big-time WR to come through Tallahassee (Fla.) Lincoln HS.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- With a talented group of receivers hailing from the state of Florida, the Gators should be able to sign their fair share of top playmakers in 2013.

Florida was only able to sign two wide receivers -- Latroy Pittman and Raphael Andrades -- from the state of Florida for the 2012 recruiting class. Pittman is a four-star prospect, and the three-star Andrades was a late addition to the class when Nelson Agholor chose USC over Florida.

Moving forward to the 2013 class, the Gators would like to land four top receivers. The list is led by five-star prospects Stacy Coley, Jordan Cunningham and Ahmad Fulwood from ESPNU's early top 100. Here's a look at some of the top wideouts in the state:

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Recruiting Nation 411: 2013 offense

February, 7, 2012
In this episode of RecruitingNation 411, we focus on the offensive side of the ball in the 2013 recruiting class. Our experts tell you which prospects are primed to be the stars of the 2013 class, and which ones have already given a verbal commitment.

Gators' junior day is up next 

February, 7, 2012
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- After the Florida coaches get some much-needed time off, Florida will host its second junior day this year on Feb. 18. Some of the top prospects, not only in the state but the country, are expected to attend.

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Florida prospects talk about Urban Meyer 

November, 29, 2011
We asked several of Florida's top prospects and underclassmen -- including ESPNU Watch List players, plus other highly regarded prospects from the Classes of 2013 and 2014 -- their thoughts on Urban Meyer’s return to coaching and if any of them would consider Ohio State if the Buckeyes reached out to them now.

ESPNU 150 WR Latroy Pittman, Citra North Marion (Florida commit): “I am not sure how I feel about [this situation] or what I would do if they contacted me.”

Four-star DB T.J. Davis, Tallahassee Godby (Auburn commit): “I think it’s a great move for Coach Meyer, but I’m AU all the way!”

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McElwain discusses new Florida football
SEC Network's Greg McElory and Booger McFarland sit down to discuss the future of Florida football with head coach Jim McElwain.