Florida Gators: Notre Dame Fighting Irish

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.

Numbers to know from signing day

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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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Smythe talks Stanford, visit plans 

December, 26, 2012
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HOUSTON -- The decision to decommit from Texas wasn't an easy one for Belton (Texas) High School tight end Durham Smythe. But for him, it was the right decision.

Now, as the weeks pass and national signing day approaches, Smythe is weighing all the options in front of him. He has plenty, but he's still in the process of trying to decide where he'll take his remaining official visits. After checking in for the Offense-Defense All-American Bowl -- set for Sunday at Reliant Stadium -- on Wednesday, he discussed all that has been going on since he made his decision.

"The week that I decommitted it was pretty crazy because the dead period was about to start at that point, so toward the end of that week, a lot of coaches and a lot of schools tried to get in contact with me to schedule home visits and stuff like that," Smythe said. "Over the dead period I've been in contact with coaches once a week on Facebook and stuff like that. It's been busy and right now I'm just in a period where I'm evaluating things and I'm trying to pick a couple favorites so I can take official visits there and have a base to compare."

Florida recruiting: The Hot Five 

November, 6, 2012
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- There are three months left until national signing day and the Gators have a majority of their 2013 recruiting class filled. With 20 verbal commitments, Florida has roughly five remaining empty slots to fill. Here's a closer look at how they could potentially be filled.

1. S Marcell Harris (Orlando, Fla./Dr. Phillips) -- The ESPN 150 safety has a top four of Florida, Florida State, Oklahoma and Texas. The Gators and Longhorns appear to be the top two teams he is considering. Harris announced last week he would make his college decision Nov. 16. Florida looks to be in a good position to land the Under Armour All-American. Florida will likely lose Matt Elam to the NFL and Harris would have a chance to compete for early playing time.

2. OT Laremy Tunsil (Lake City, Fla./Columbia) -- Florida might be a long shot for the No. 3-ranked player in the country, but he is well worth the effort. Tunsil continues to have Georgia and Alabama as his top two schools, but he continues to show interest in the Gators. He has visited Gainesville twice this season and Florida will have depth issues at tackle next year. Tunsil will wait until signing day to make his decision, and as long as he is showing some interest in Florida, the Gators will continue to pursue the talented tackle prospect.

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[+] EnlargeJordan Sherit
Tom Hauck for ESPN.comDefensive end Jordan Sherit is a four-star prospect ranked No. 254 in the ESPN 300.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The Gators continued their recruiting hot streak, as ESPN 300 defensive end Jordan Sherit (Tampa, Fla./Hillsborough) verbally committed to Florida on Saturday after visiting for UF's Friday Night Lights camp. The 6-foot-4, 238-pound athlete chose the Gators over offers from Florida State, Notre Dame, Stanford and many more.

Sherit, ranked a four-star player, said it was a difficult decision, but in the end, he chose the school that made him feel the most comfortable.

"First of all I want to say this was a very tough decision for me," Sherit said. "The hardest thing for me is when you build relationships with schools like USF and Miami in the beginning and now you have to go away from that. I liked the academics at Stanford, Notre Dame and Vanderbilt. But when it came down to it, it was the family environment I felt at the University of Florida. I felt 100 percent comfortable with Coach [Will] Muschamp and the whole coaching staff.

"The fact it's in the SEC conference, it's close to home and not to mention the networking at the University of Florida in the state is bar-none. It's the biggest and the greatest in the state. You can be anywhere in a Gators shirt and someone will just walk up to you and give you the Gator chomp. Really, as far as networking goes, it's Gator Nation -- it's not just fans, it's a nation. Just getting to know the other commits and the players, it's become second nature to me. It was a no-brainer."

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5 things we learned from The Opening 

July, 10, 2012
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- With seven verbal commitments and numerous other targets in Beaverton, Ore., for The Opening, the Florida Gators were well represented at the prestigious event. Here's a look at five things we learned:

Florida's DB commits leave impression
The Gators had three defensive back commits at The Opening with safeties Keanu Neal and Nick Washington and cornerback Tre' Bell. Bell, rated a four-star prospect, is not in the ESPN 300, but ESPN national scout Tom Luginbill said Bell turned some heads after his standout performance at The Opening. Neal had several interceptions over the course of the camp. The big safety prospect is known for his physical play, but Neal proved he can more than hold his own in coverage as well.

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Tyson's Take: DE Ebenezer Ogundeko 

June, 20, 2012
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- With 18 verbal commitments and just over seven months until signing day, the Gators have filled about 75 percent of their recruiting class. Over the next two weeks, GatorNation will take a look at some uncommitted prospects who could end up in the Florida Gators' recruiting class. Some of them are highly rated and some may surprise you. First up is defensive end Ebenezer Ogundeko (Brooklyn, N.Y./Thomas Jefferson).

Why he could end up in Florida's class

[+] EnlargeEbenezer Ogundeko
Tom Hauck for ESPN.comESPN 150 defensive end Ebenezer Ogundeko is focused on Florida, Notre Dame and Syracuse.
Ogundeko visited Florida last weekend and came away very impressed with what he saw. The 6-foot-3, 229-pound athlete may seem undersized but Florida loves his athletic ability, and he could be the speed rusher the Gators are looking for in their class. After his trip to Gainesville, Ogundeko listed Florida in his top three along with Syracuse and Notre Dame. He will make his decision on July 20, and right now the Gators seem to be right at the top of his list.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- ESPN 150 defensive end Ebenezer Ogundeko (Brooklyn, N.Y./Thomas Jefferson) camped at Florida on Saturday. The visit for the 6-foot-3, 229-pound Under Armour All-American vaulted the Gators near the top of his list.

"It was great," Ogundeko. "I got to spend time with the players and coaches. I bonded with the players pretty good. It was a great environment to be in. The weather was great. I liked everything about it. I'd say Florida, Notre Dame and Syracuse are my top three right now."

While on his visit, the No. 9-ranked defensive end in the country said he had a chance to spend time with Florida head coach Will Muschamp and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Four-star wide receiver Demarcus Robinson (Fort Valley, Ga./Peach County) visited Florida on Saturday and came away impressed with the Gators. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound athlete said although his trip to Gainesville was short, he learned a lot about what Florida has to offer.

[+] EnlargeDemarcus Robinson
Tom Hauck for ESPN.com2013 WR Demarcus Robinson says Clemson leads but he still likes Florida as well.
"It was pretty good," Robinson said. "It was quick, but it went well. I went in the stadium and walked around the weight room. They showed me around the campus like where the bats come out at night and where the alligators are."

Robinson, who also holds offers from Notre Dame, Clemson, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Georgia and Tennessee, had a chance to meet with Florida offensive coordinator Brent Pease while on his visit.

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The SEC/Big East Challenge may not quite have the longstanding cachet of its ACC/Big Ten brethren, nor should it. The ACC/Big Ten Challenge is 13 going on 14, and as the years piled up and the Atlantic Coasters just kept winning -- the ACC won the first 10 challenges, which seems almost impossible, before the Big Ten rebounded with three straight wins -- the dominance created a weird sort of intrigue all its own.

The SEC/Big East Challenge is just five years old, and probably less well-known than its counterpart, but it's getting there -- and the 2012 matchups should only help.

Said matchups were released by the fine folks over at ESPN programming today, and they are as follows:

Thursday, Nov. 29
Marquette at Florida
Seton Hall at LSU
Kentucky at Notre Dame
South Carolina at St. John’s

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DE Sherit raves about Florida visit 

April, 28, 2012
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Four-star defensive end prospect Jordan Sherit from Tampa (Fla.) Hillsborough visited Florida with his mother and stepfather on Saturday. The 6-foot-4, 238-pound athlete said he was blown away by his experience.

"It was great, it really was," Sherit said. "I've been to Florida before but this was like the pinnacle. I saw everything from the O'Dome to alligators. I got to share this opportunity with my parents and show them what it's all about. I think their opinion is better than what it was before."

Florida offered Sherit in early April. This was the first time his parents had been to Gainesville with their son holding an offer from a school that was one of his childhood favorites.

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Five schools standing out to Sherit 

April, 25, 2012
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Four-star defensive end Jordan Sherit of Tampa (Fla.) Hillsborough was one of the top defensive ends to participate at the Orlando NFTC on Sunday. But the 6-foot-4, 238-pound athlete's day was cut short when he went down with a shoulder injury during one-on-one drills and was not able to return.

The competitive Sherit was disappointed with the injury but said he was able to take in some valuable coaching lessons during the camp.

Jordan Sherit
Tom Hauck/ESPNHSDefensive end Jordan Sherit (on the right) of Hillsborough (Tampa, Fla.) is a top recruit at his position, but saw his Sunday cut short at the Orlando NFTC due to a shoulder injury.
"I felt I did well during these drills," Sherit said, "but the one-on-one's I didn't really get an opportunity to do as much as I would have liked. Overall, I thought I learned some things and I did well. I can go back to my school and build on these things and get better all around."

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Montelus has Gators on top after visit 

April, 18, 2012
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Fresh off his visit Wednesday to Florida, four-star offensive line prospect John Montelus (Everett, Mass./Everett) has named the Gators' as his leader.

"It was really good," Montelus said. "I was looking for the good atmosphere, a good coaching staff and basically what I want academically. I was really excited to come down here and I got exactly what I expected. They are definitely on top, and after this Notre Dame visit I will probably commit soon. I'm going to see how Notre Dame goes tomorrow then probably commit."

While on his visit, the 6-foot-5, 293-pound prospect had a chance to spend some time with Florida offensive line coach Tim Davis and head coach Will Muschamp.

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Anzalone high on Gators after visit 

March, 17, 2012
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- ESPNU 150 Watch List linebacker Alex Anzalone (Wyomissing, Pa./Wyoming Area) visited Florida with his dad this weekend. Anzalone arrived on Thursday and left Saturday after Florida completed its third practice of the spring.

[+] EnlargeAlexander Anzalone
Tom Hauck for ESPN.comAlex Anzalone has offers from Alabama, Florida, Penn State, Ohio State, USC and many more.
Anzalone said his visit was better than expected.

"It went really well. It was awesome," Anzalone said. "We got to see all the facilities and the coaches. We went through schemes to see where I would play. Yeah, it was awesome. The practices were intense. Definitely a lot different than my high school. I know coach [Will] Muschamp was disappointed with the first practice I guess because of the tempo, but I thought it was pretty high-tempo for me."

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Best recruiting programs since 2007

February, 4, 2012
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ESPN The Magazine and RecruitingNation compiled the past five years (2007-11) of ESPNU 150 rankings and then crowned college football's top 10 recruiting programs.

Here's how they did it:

Our methodology was simple: We re-tallied the scores following signing day and ranked the schools based on total number of ESPNU 150 recruits (there have been 900) hauled in over the last six years. Of course, like success on the field, recruiting is cyclical -- and fans of programs both on and off this list might look back on Feb. 1, 2012 as the day their team began its rise (or fall) on the trail.


Here's the top 10:

1. Florida
2. Texas
3. USC 4. Alabama
5. Florida State
6. Notre Dame
T-7. Georgia
t-7: LSU
9. Miami
T-10. Ohio State
T-10. Oklahoma

Here's what it says about Florida:

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