Georgia Bulldogs: Florida State Seminoles

Getting to know Taj Griffin 

March, 27, 2014
Mar 27
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ROSWELL, Ga. -- When listing the most explosive prospects in the Class of 2015, it does not take long to call on Taj Griffin.

The 5-foot-10, 174-pound, versatile running back was one of the standouts at last weekend's Atlanta Nike Nike Football Training Camp and SPARQ combine, earning an invitation to the The Opening in early July.


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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.

MIAMI -- South Florida has always been a recruiting hot bed and this year is no different. Out-of-state schools will flock to the talent-rich area to try and land some of the top prospects in the country. Prospects like ESPN Junior 300 defensive back Tarvarus McFadden and his teammate Torrance Gibson are two of the highly-ranked recruits that are getting that attention in this class.

McFadden, the No. 58-ranked player in the country, is considering the big in-state schools -- Florida, Florida State and Miami -- and handful of out-of-state schools like Ohio State, USC, LSU, Georgia, Auburn and Tennessee.


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ALBANY, Ga. -- The recruitment of defensive tackle Trenton Thompson continues to take shape. The No. 5-ranked prospect in the ESPN Junior 300 has been sitting on offers from nearly every top program in the nation for over a year now, and while once thought to be an early pledge for home-state Georgia, his recruitment has slowed down a bit with the rush of the spring evaluation period around the corner.

While the Bulldogs remain the team to beat at this point, there is stiff competition coming from the region's best. On Wednesday, the 6-foot-3, 311-pound Thompson gave the latest, which includes his top five.


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Signing day winners and losers

February, 5, 2014
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The ceremonies have concluded, the ink has dried and the fax machines have been turned off once again. And with that, the Class of 2014 is mostly in the books. As is the case annually, there were a number of winners but also some losers on national signing day. Here is a look at a few schools that excelled -- and a couple others that didn't.

THE WINNERS

LSU: The Tigers began the day at No. 3 in the RecruitingNation class rankings and ended with 2014's No. 2 class. The reason is simple: Les Miles and staff got the prospect they had to have in the nation's No. 1 wide receiver, Malachi Dupre (River Ridge, La./John Curtis Christian). The Tigers lost both Anthony Johnson and Ego Ferguson to the NFL, making defensive tackle a key position of need, and they inked a pair of talented tackles in ESPN 300 Travonte Valentine (Hialeah, Fla./Champagnant Catholic) and four-star Trey Lealaimatafao (San Antonio, Texas/Earl Warren). Under the radar but significant is three-star defensive end Sione Teuhema (Keller, Texas/Keller), who flipped from Texas to LSU. Teuhema’s younger brother Maea Teuhema (Keller, Texas/Keller) is the No. 38 junior in the ESPN Junior 300 and has pledged to LSU as well. Holding off Auburn and UCLA to keep ESPN 300 defensive end Davon Godchaux (Plaquemine, La./Plaquemine) was another win on Wednesday.

Florida State: The Seminoles entered signing day with the No. 4-ranked class but were poised to close with a vengeance, and Jimbo Fisher and staff did just that. While the Seminoles moved up only one spot to No. 3, the hits on Wednesday are significant. Leading the way was No. 2-ranked wide receiver Ermon Lane (Homestead, Fla./Homestead). The Noles weren’t done at receiver either, as Fisher and staff flipped Virginia Tech commit and No. 117 overall Ja'Von Harrison (Lakeland, Fla./Kathleen). No. 158 Roderick Johnson (Saint Louis, Mo./Hazelwood Central) and No. 253 Derrick Nnadi (Virginia Beach, Va./Ocean Lakes) were key gets at offensive tackle and defensive tackle, respectively. Three-star offensive tackle Derrick Kelly Jr. (Quincy, Fla./East Gadsden) was another key win over rival Florida.

USC: The Trojans stood to have a big signing day, and Steve Sarkisian and staff certainly delivered. Not only did USC win the hotly contested battle for five-star athlete Adoree' Jackson (Gardena, Calif./Junipero Serra), but the Trojans won the race for ESPN 300 No. 24 Juju Smith (Long Beach, Calif./Poly) and signed No. 67 overall Damien Mama (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco) as expected. More than the names and rankings, Wednesday was a huge perception win for the Trojans and Sarkisian. USC jumped to No. 14 from No. 24 in the RecruitingNation class rankings.

Georgia: The Bulldogs didn’t have a big day in terms of number of commits, but quality ruled the day. Mark Richt and staff signed the player they had to have in five-star outside linebacker/defensive end Lorenzo Carter (Norcross, Ga./Norcross). While Carter’s announcement was the big one Wednesday afternoon, the morning started off with a bang for Georgia with the signing of No. 286 overall Isaiah McKenzie (Plantation, Fla./American Heritage), who was first offered on Monday and never even visited Athens. Those two big signings kept the Bulldogs in the top 10 at No. 9.

South Carolina: One of the big movers in the class rankings on Wednesday was the Gamecocks. Not only did South Carolina make a jump from No. 27 to No. 19 throughout the day, but the Gamecocks also addressed major areas of need. Steve Spurrier and staff had key areas of need at cornerback and along the defensive front, and they delivered by picking up a pair of ESPN 300 corners in No. 87 overall Chris Lammons (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./Plantation) and No. 120 Wesley Green (Lithonia, Ga./Martin Luther King), as well as flipping ESPN 300 defensive tackle Dexter Wideman (Saluda, S.C./Saluda) from Florida State and three-star defensive end Blake McClain (Jacksonville, Fla./Sandalwood) from Nebraska. Fighting off the late January runs by Alabama and Georgia for ESPN 300 linebacker commit Bryson Allen-Williams (Ellenwood, Ga./Cedar Grove) has to be included in the huge wins in recent days.

Kentucky: Sure, Kentucky plucked only one key target on Wednesday in three-star former Vanderbilt and Penn State defensive end commit Lloyd Tubman (Louisville, Ky./Seneca), but it was still a huge day at the finish line for the Wildcats. The 2014 class marks the first time in the nine years that ESPN has ranked recruiting classes that the Wildcats have finished with a top 25 class, and that includes a big win over Alabama for in-state four-star defensive tackle Matt Elam (Elizabethtown, Ky./John Hardin). Signing six defensive backs fills a huge need as well.

Michigan State: The Spartans had a near dream season on the field, and followed it up by closing strong in recruiting. Not only did Michigan State jump nine spots in the class rankings from No. 38 to No. 29 on Wednesday, but it did so while filling a big need on the defensive front with big-time talent. ESPN 300 defensive end Malik McDowell (Southfield, Mich./Southfield) was a big win over Ohio State, Florida State and Michigan, while flipping four-star defensive tackle Craig Evans (Sun Prairie, Wis./Sun Prairie) from Wisconsin earlier in the week was another huge win for the Spartans.

Pac-12: The conference as a whole was quite possibly the big winner on signing day. Of the 13 live commitments on ESPNU throughout the morning and afternoon, seven committed and signed with Pac-12 programs. The winner within the Pac-12 was USC, but Stanford also enjoyed a big day with No. 25 overall Solomon Thomas (Coppell, Texas/Coppell) and three-star corner Terrence Alexander (River Ridge, La./John Curtis Christian).

THE LOSERS

UCLA: Along with USC and South Carolina, the UCLA Bruins came into today with the most to gain. While Jim Mora and staff scored with four-star linebacker Kenny Young (River Ridge, La./John Curtis Christian), it was mostly misses throughout the day. Jackson and Smith picked crosstown rival USC, while Dupre opted for home-state LSU. At defensive end, the Bruins missed out twice on Wednesday with Thomas selecting Stanford and Godchaux sticking with LSU. And finally, No. 52 overall Rashaan Evans (Auburn, Ala./Auburn) stayed in state by picking Alabama over Auburn.

Ole Miss: It’s difficult to place the Rebels' No. 17 class with the losers on signing day, but that was the case in Oxford, Miss. Not only did Ole Miss drop a spot in the class rankings, but it also came up dry with explosive ESPN 300 receiver and return man Isaiah McKenzie (Plantation, Fla./American Heritage), after Hugh Freeze and staff worked the Under Armour All-America Game standout all the way up until Wednesday morning before McKenzie announced for Georgia. While Dupre was a long shot, he was yet another prospect who went elsewhere. The Rebels also lost out on Alexander, who selected Stanford over Notre Dame. The bright spot for the Rebels on Wednesday was signing former Notre Dame transfer and No. 22 in the ESPN JC 50, Tee Shepard
The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today’s offerings: The Class of 2014 will go down as one of the wildest recruiting rides in recent memory. With so many players switching commitments and some elite prospects still left on the board, here are five things to keep an eye on heading into recruiting’s biggest day.

Does Bama have the best class ever?


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Weekend recruiting wrap: SEC 

January, 27, 2014
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Less than two weeks remain until national signing day, and this was the second-to-last official visit weekend before Feb. 5. There were a couple of big decommitments, a few commitments and several key official visits. Here’s a closer look at all the latest recruiting news around the SEC.


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The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today’s offerings: If USC is going to close strong, landing some of this weekend’s 11 official visitors are key; even though neither are going to land him, Alabama and Oregon earned high praise for their recruiting efforts with offensive lineman Braden Smith’s coach; and Lorenzo Carter has become priority No. 1 for several of the Southeast's top teams.

11 recruits set to visit USC


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video This is part of a series on the nation's top uncommitted recruits leading up to signing day. Click here for the full series.

Five-star defensive end Lorenzo Carter (Norcross, Ga./Norcross) is one of the most heavily recruited football players in the country. But football stardom didn’t always seem like it would be in the 6-foot-5, 234-pound athlete’s future.

"It was basketball for me early,” Carter said. "Me and my family always played basketball. It was kind of weird being recruited for football because I had spent so much time playing basketball and developing for basketball and then football comes and I’m like ‘I guess I have to change my time and effort to football now.’”

[+] EnlargeLorenzo Carter
Miller Safrit/ESPNLorenzo Carter has several factors to weigh before picking among Florida, FSU, Georgia and LSU.
Carter’s mother, Lisa, admits it was her advice that pointed her son in the right direction.

"He could never decide if he wanted to go football or basketball,” Lisa said. "So I always told him ‘Lorenzo, if you grow taller then basketball is the direction you need to go. Because at your current size -- think about the next level, they truly have 7-footers and guys that are 6-11. You’re not quite there. You’ve been playing in the post the whole time, so if you get taller it’s basketball but if you stay at your size, stay with football. You have beautiful size for football.’”

Beyond his imposing football physique, Lisa offered some hard truths.

“[Lorenzo] didn’t get any taller and we’re like ‘your ballhandling skills are not that great -- especially to be a guard,” Lisa said. “Take a look at some of the guards in the NBA and look at their heights and compare them to you. Can you play with LeBron?’ He’s taller than you.’ He’s like yeah you got a point, so football it is.”

Now that her son is an All-American football player, Lisa and her husband, Leo, are helping Lorenzo make the best college decision for his future.

"Look at each school,” said Lisa, describing her advice. “See what it has to offer academically and then see what the coaching staff has to offer for you athletically. Are they producing academically and athletically? If they are then those are the schools that you need to look at on your list. Once you determined who meets your needs, then how do you feel about those schools? Because you have to have a feeling, you have to have a connection with those schools. When you find the strongest connection, that’s where you need to be.”

For Lorenzo, there is one school with which he has made the best connection.

"I’d say Florida. I had the best relationship with the Georgia staff, but yeah, they are gone now,” Lorenzo laughed, "so I’d say Florida. I always spent time with the Florida and Georgia staffs. I went to Georgia all the time, then Florida was one of my favorites early so I just spent so much time with those schools. Florida is always here and every time they come they bring like four coaches to see me.”

Luckily for Georgia, new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt knows Carter from his time at Florida State. Carter said Pruitt has made him a priority since taking the new job.

"I think it was a good pickup for Georgia,” Lorenzo said. "I really didn’t talk to him much when he was at Florida State but I feel like I’ll have a better relationship now that he’s at Georgia. He’s been working hard to get a better relationship with me. He came to the house probably the day after he got hired.”

Carter has a top four of Georgia, Florida, Florida State and LSU and this week will be hectic for the No. 14-ranked player in the country.

All four of Carter's top schools have visited or are scheduled to visit this week. In fact, Florida and FSU had coaches at his basketball game on Tuesday night and LSU coach Les Miles met with Carter’s mother on Wednesday. Pruitt will visit Carter on Thursday while head coach Mark Richt will do his in-home visit on Monday.

In addition, Carter is still planning to take an official visit to FSU this weekend followed by his last official visit, to Georgia, the weekend of the Jan. 31.

With less than two weeks until signing day things are coming down to the wire. Factors like academics, distance and program stability will all factor in to Carter’s decision. Lisa, however, said there is one particular school she would like for her son to attend.

"I have a daughter, Larrisa, who plays basketball at Coppin State in Baltimore, Md. With Larrisa playing basketball in Maryland and Lorenzo here doing sports, we hardly ever had an opportunity to see Larissa play,” Lisa said. "That was very difficult. On holidays she couldn’t come home, she would have to spend Thanksgiving at a coach’s house and Christmas here for only two days. So distance was an issue for our family.

"Of course I would love for him to go to Georgia -- it’s an hour away. It’s close enough to get to him but not close enough to where I’m just going to drive up there every day. But, I have great respect for all of the coaches and, like I told Lorenzo, it’s his decision, wherever he goes -- we’ll be there. I favor Georgia, but only because of distance, not because of pressure or anything else. It’s only the distance for me. I’d be OK if he went to the University of Hawaii, if that’s what he wanted to do.”

And that sentiment is shared throughout the Carter family. The family will help guide and give their opinions, but at the end of the day, it will be Lorenzo making the final decision.

"I can’t let it play that big of a factor because I’m going to have to grow up and leave the house eventually anyway,” Lorenzo said. "They are going to have influence but it’s going to be my decision. We know that as a family."
video This is part of a series on the nation's top uncommitted recruits leading up to signing day. Click here for the full series.

[+] EnlargeLorenzo Carter
Courtesy of IntersportFive-star defensive end Lorenzo Carter is planning to make his decision on signing day.
Lorenzo Carter (Norcross, Ga./Norcross), the top uncommitted front-seven defender, is a promising DE/OLB hybrid type prospect. For Carter, scheme and physical development will determine how he can best fit at the college level. Carter is a long, lean prospect who will need to work to further fill out his frame and improve strength. His strength at this stage is as a pass-rusher, with his length and initial quickness he can present problems coming off the edge. He needs to learn to better use his hands and reach to his advantage, but flashes ability to turn the corner as well as redirect inside after working upfield. He also possesses very good speed for his size and can be a factor in pursuit while offenses will always have to account for him on the backside of plays. Carter flashes upside as an edge run defender, but here is where the talented prospect needs the most development, as running at him, rather than away from, is a better way to try and neutralize him. He needs to watch his pad level, and when he stays low, he flashes ability to hold ground, but at this stage lacks a prototypical anchor to set the edge against bigger linemen. Early in his college career, Carter will be more of a situational player, but he possesses some very good natural tools to contribute well in those areas with the upside to grow into a more complete defender once he fills out further and finds his fit.


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1. As of last Monday, Florida State had closed the gap between itself and the SEC. As of Tuesday, the gap opened again, with defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt leaving the Seminoles for the same job at Georgia. The reason why? S-E-C (Serious Extraordinary Cash): a three-year, $2.55 million deal, about half again as much as Pruitt made in Tallahassee. As they say down there, it’s just bidness, and that’s a huge illustration of the catch-up that Florida State has to play at that level.

2. Two other points re the Pruitt hire: One, the fact that Georgia gave him a three-year deal is a good indication that head coach Mark Richt plans to stay at least that long, a good sign for the Dawgs; two, if Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher wants to continue playing the Alabama-style defense, then I don’t know where else he turns other than his defensive ends coach, Sal Sunseri, who has worked for Nick Saban for four seasons, most recently from 2009-11.

3. Given that Oregon has had success promoting from within, it’s no surprise that the Ducks’ longtime linebackers coach, Don Pellum, succeeds Nick Aliotti as defensive coordinator. Pellum has spent 25 years of his 29-year career on the Oregon staff. He is a good teacher, a good communicator, and surely will be the best-dressed defensive coordinator on the West Coast (if not the East). Pellum’s promotion will minimize the disruption at Oregon, which promoted Mark Helfrich to head coach a year ago.
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By hiring defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt away from Florida State, Georgia made a move that is sending shockwaves through the Southeast recruiting landscape.

One of those prospects who is certainly affected by the move is five-star defensive end Lorenzo Carter (Norcross, Ga./Norcross). The nation’s No. 13 prospect has both Florida State and Georgia in his final group.


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Army Bowl notebook: Dec. 31 

December, 31, 2013
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SAN ANTONIO -- The second day of practice for the U.S. Army All-American Bowl -- on the last day of 2013 -- has come to a conclusion. Here is Tuesday’s notebook featuring some of the nation’s elite athletes:

LB Williams: Law and order equals '98 percent'


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Five-star DE Carter has top four 

December, 28, 2013
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ORLANDO, Fla. — Five-star defensive end Lorenzo Carter (Norcross, Ga./Norcross) had Alabama out in front at one point during his commitment but now the Crimson Tide have fallen behind four other schools.


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SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- The Carolinas consistently have proved to be one of the top areas in the nation to find gridiron talent. These two states in recent years have produced players like current Cincinnati Bengals WR A.J. Green, South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney, the No. 1 overall player in the 2011 class, and Georgia RB Todd Gurley. For the 2014 class, 22 players from these two states are represented in the ESPN 300, and several of them are taking part in the annual Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas here this week.


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When ESPN 300 wide receiver Josh Malone (Gallatin, Tenn./Station Camp) verbally committed to Tennessee on Wednesday afternoon, it didn’t come as a surprise to many. After all, Malone is the top-ranked prospect in Tennessee and the Vols have placed a heavy emphasis on landing the talented pass-catcher.

Clemson, however, has been known to go out-of-state and land top receiver prospects such as Sammy Watkins. The Tigers might have lost out on Malone, but it’s not like they were left empty-handed.

Clemson already has commitments from ESPN 300 wide receivers Artavis Scott (Tarpon Springs, Fla./East Lake) and Demarre Kitt (Tyrone, Ga./Sandy Creek), as well as Kyrin Priester (Snellville, Ga/Fork Union Military Academy).

The Tigers are also targeting another ESPN 300 prospect Trevion Thompson (Durham, N.C./Hillside) and they are considered, by many, to be the favorite for the talented pass-catcher.

In addition to Clemson, Malone was also heavily considering Georgia and Florida State before narrowing down his choices to Clemson and Tennessee late in the process.

For Georgia, the Bulldogs already have commitments from Shakenneth Williams (Macon, Ga./Rutland) and Gilbert Johnson (Homestead, Fla./Homestead) and they are limited on scholarships. Unless something changes on its recruiting board, Georgia might not take another receiver in this class.

Florida State, meanwhile, is still in heavy contention for ESPN 300 wide receiver Travis Rudolph (West Palm Beach, Fla./Cardinal Newman) and Florida commit Ermon Lane (Homestead, Fla./Homestead). If FSU continues to have success on the field and happens to win the national championship, the Seminoles will likely see new names appear on their board.

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