Michigan Wolverines: Florida Gators

Getting to know Jashon Cornell 

April, 18, 2014
Apr 18
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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.

When you attend a school as prestigious as Cretin-Derham Hall, as No. 16-ranked recruit Jashon Cornell does, you are bound to have connections. The Minnesota school has produced its share of college and NFL players over the years, including associate dean of students Marcus Freeman, who played for Notre Dame.


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Getting to know DaMarkus Lodge 

April, 17, 2014
Apr 17
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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.

DESOTO, Texas -- With all the multiple camps, combines and special events happening each spring, DaMarkus Lodge chooses not to be a regular on the circuit.

It’s not that Lodge is against them, or that he thinks he’s above them. The ESPN 300 receiver has simply prioritized his life as a student-athlete. The camp circuit happens to be a middle-of-the-pack priority.


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California has always fed the Pac-12 a majority of its recruits, as Southern California in particular is the recruiting hotbed for the conference. But as the Golden State is arguably the most talent-rich state in the country when it comes to high school football, programs outside the Pac-12 haven't been content to sit back and watch conference teams load up on California recruits.

Television, the internet and social media have all helped out-of-conference programs invade California looking for recruits, but nothing has aided those programs more than good old-fashioned effort, according to Fresno (Calif.) Central East assistant coach Tony Perry.


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The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today’s Early Offering is coming to you from the Under Armour Combine in St. Petersburg, Fla. Here’s a look at who stood out among the 150-plus competitors.

Campbell steals the show
George Campbell (Tarpon Springs, Fla./East Lake) showed why he is ranked as the No. 2 player in the ESPN Junior 300. The 6-foot-4, 185-pound Campbell tested off the charts with a 4.36-second time in the 40-yard dash and a 4.06 shuttle. He then backed it up with a strong performance in the one-on-one and seven-on-seven portion of the combine. Defensive backs lined up to face him and, in most cases, he burned them with either his speed or his ability to go up get the ball at its highest point. “I felt good about what I did today,” Campbell said. “I wanted to test myself against the best-of-the-best.” Consider the test passed. On the recruiting front, Campbell recently backed away from his commitment to Michigan and said at Wednesday’s registration he’s slowing down the process.

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Three days of practice are now in the books and overall execution was sharper as the players begin to move into final preparations for the Under Armour All-America Game on Thursday. The productivity of the players picked up as did the speed of the play, and they’re continuing to think less and display their natural ability more. It was a physical day, with the pads popping and some big hits throughout the practice. Here are some of the highlights.

Top performers


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UA Game notebook: RBs make noise

December, 30, 2013
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The second day of practice at the Under Armour All-America Game is in the books. The players are getting more familiar with the play calls and each other, which means there were some big plays and friendly trash talking between teams.

Options at RB


Team Nitro has three unique weapons at running back with Dalvin Cook (Miami/Central), Isaiah McKenzie (Plantation, Fla./American Heritage) and Jeff Jones (Minneapolis/Washburn), and the coaches plan on using their skill sets in a number of different ways.

Cook, the No. 4 running back in the ESPN 300, likely will get the bulk of carries and is the most well-rounded back on the roster. Cook is committed to Florida but has said he will make a final decision this week between the Gators, Florida State and Miami. He was used in Monday’s practices to run between the tackles and also catch the ball out of the backfield.

[+] EnlargeDalvin Cook
Miller Safrit/ESPNDalvin Cook has impressed on the field and kept fans guessing off of it.
"I think I create some matchup problems because of my speed and the ability to run people over," Cook said. "The coaches said they think I’m the every-down type of back."

Jones, a Minnesota commitment who ranks as the No. 14 running back, came into the game with a résumé that didn’t quite stack up with some of the others, but his stock is quickly rising after two strong practices. He’s played very much like a top-five back so far and schools have noticed.

"Florida called me yesterday on the way to the Orlando Magic game," Jones said. "Their running backs coach, Brian White, called me and said he liked my film and liked what they saw on tape. He wanted me to come take an official visit and I agreed. I know they are a great team, they are a pretty good school and they do well in the SEC every year."

In addition to Florida, Michigan State has also showed interest in the talented back. Jones is planning to take a visit to East Lansing, Mich., but does not have a specific date set up yet.

"I like the University of Minnesota," Jones said. "I can see myself there, but I’m just making sure I’m not missing out on any other opportunities that could be good for my future. I mean the distance matters some, but at the same time, if you have to travel some for your future to be set, then so be it."

McKenzie is the X factor for Nitro. Originally listed as a receiver, McKenzie has been given opportunities to touch the ball on traditional runs, reverses, screen passes, passes while lined up in the slot, and he even took snaps while lined up in the Wildcat.

"I think we complement each other really well," said McKenzie, who will likely end up at Notre Dame if he can qualify academically. (("Jeff Jones is our power back. He gets up the field and gets us those tough yards we need. He's always pushing the pile forward. And then Dalvin has blazing speed. With the way I complement Dalvin, it's kind of like him in high school with his teammate [four-star running back] Joseph Yearby. I'm his Joseph Yearby in this game with how they’re using me all over the place."

Peppers stands out

[+] EnlargeJabrill Peppers
Miller Safrit/ESPNJabrill Peppers took flight during Monday's practice at the Under Armour All-America Game.
Former NFL coach Herm Edwards, who has been a head coach for the Under Armour All-America Game the past three years, said he hasn’t had a better defensive back in this game than Michigan commit Jabrill Peppers (Paramus, N.J./Paramus Catholic). That is high praise for the No. 2-ranked prospect in the country, but Edwards, a former defensive back himself, believes Peppers will be a star. "It’s not even close. He’s the best one I’ve coached. I called Deion [Sanders] over and said look at that guy, and Deion saw the same thing," Edwards said. "[Robert] Nkemdiche was really good last year, he was a big guy who could run and [Peppers] is comparable to that as far as skill level at the position he’s playing. I played that position and coached that position for a long time and he’s a special talent." Edwards noted that Peppers loves to practice, which can be rare for such a highly ranked prospect. Peppers knows he’s going to be a good player, but still has humility about himself and his game. There is potential for Peppers to contribute on offense and defense at Michigan. "He’s going to play on offense here. We have some plays for him here; he’s going to touch the ball," Edwards said. "One thing smart coaches do is get the players that make plays and get them the ball. I promise you, the first big hit, No. 5 will be involved in it. I’d be shocked if he’s not."

Conference allies


With so many players committed to different conferences, it’s only natural for players committed to the same conference to show some solidarity during practice. With 35 prospects committed to the SEC, the players have a reason to stick together.

"You know in the SEC, we are pretty much the most dominant right now and we are trying to stay like that," Florida commit Quincy Wilson (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./University School of Nova South) said. "If I go against someone in the ACC or Big Ten, I’m just trying to kill ‘em. We keep that going. The SEC is the place to be at."

The Big Ten has far fewer with 16 commitments, and those prospects feel they have something to prove. Since the SEC gets most of the attention, Michigan quarterback commit Wilton Speight (Richmond, Va./Collegiate School) said he wants to make sure his future conference is represented well.

"As far as the SEC versus the Big Ten, I think they do have the right to come in here and think they’re the top dog. Looking at the past 10 years they have dominated," Speight said. "I think the guys coming into my recruiting class are annoyed with that and ready to do something about that. We’re going to go in and do our best to make our team and conference the top dog."

Bates impresses

[+] EnlargeDillon Bates
Miller Safrit/ESPNDillon Bates impressed with his ability to shed blocks and find the ball carrier.
After an up-and-down first day, Monday was a different story for the Team Nitro linebackers, especially Tennessee commit Dillon Bates (Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla./Ponte Vedra Beach). Bates, the No. 4 outside linebacker in the ESPN 300, made would-be blockers look silly with his ability to shed blocks and find the ball carrier. And when he found the running backs, he made sure they were aware he was there. ((

"The first day was all install, and we were just trying to get everything set for the week and just trying to get our mind ready for the week," Bates said. "We really were more in reaction mode versus attack mode. This morning we had a really great meeting, ran through some things we weren't getting yesterday, made some changes to things and it just really clicked for everybody. It just felt kind of natural for me."

Ohio State linebacker commit Raekwon McMillan (Hinesville, Ga./Liberty County) was a force again, but Bates believes all of his team's linebackers are capable of big things and will get even better as the week moves on.((

"All of us are definitely very fast, and you have a bunch of guys like McMillan who can plug holes," Bates said. "We are all-around sound. With the great coaches we have, we'll definitely be making plays."

Top social media posts



Alabama wide receiver commit Cameron Sims (Monroe, La./Ouachita Parish) has been one of the top receivers in practice so far. He has a big body with long arms, and has been able to make some big catches.

Offensive lineman Braden Smith (Olathe, Kan./Olathe South) doesn’t say much to the media, but he made a big statement on the field Monday.

 

An SEC battle took place between Texas A&M commit Myles Garrett (Arlington, Texas/James Martin) and Alabama offensive line commit Cameron Robinson (West Monroe, La./West Monroe) in practice.
Offensive lineman Garrett Brumfield (Baton Rouge, La./University Laboratory) was practicing at left tackle despite being recruited as an interior lineman. The four-star prospect held his own on the outside, though, and showed off his talent.

 

Leonard Fournette (New Orleans/St. Augustine), the No. 1-ranked prospect in the country, has received plenty of attention so far during practice. All eyes have been on Fournette and fellow Louisiana native Speedy Noil (New Orleans/Edna Karr) as two top uncommitted prospects in the game.

 

Jeremy Crabtree and Derek Tyson contributed to this report.
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As expected, Day 2 at the Under Armour All-America practices were smoother, more concise and much more productive. The players are now starting to think less and play more. Natural ability is starting to come to the forefront, which allows for them to be more productive. There have been fewer dropped passes, fewer misses by the QBs and the offensive lines are starting to jell quicker than expected. Perhaps the most impressive thing about this group is there have not been any true letdowns. They have stepped up and been as advertised almost top to bottom for both squads. Let’s hit the highlights of the day:

Top performers

WR Cameron Sims (Monroe, La./Ouachita Parish): Sims might not wow anyone with his 40-yard dash time, but it may not matter. Sims is so similar to Mike Evans at Texas A&M. He just makes plays. He has extremely long arms and is outstanding when in contested matchups. The ball will look like it is uncatchable and then next thing you know he jumps out of nowhere, extends and makes a play and the defender is left scratching his head. When it comes down to it, the QBs for Team Highlight can trust that if they need to throw it up, Sims will make a play. The most basic thing about the position is catching the football and Sims has no problem doing that.


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Kickoff Live

November, 27, 2013
11/27/13
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SEC reporter Edward Aschoff, Big Ten reporter Austin Ward and Pac-12 reporter Kevin Gemmell join host Chantel Jennings to discuss the biggest and most storied rivalries taking place this weekend.


The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today's offerings: A five-star Michigan commit said Tuesday the equivalent of "I think we should start seeing other people,” and Miami could be in position to flip one of the nation’s top running backs.


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Some losses on the recruiting trail sting just as badly as a gut-wrenching defeat on the field.

Just ask the Michigan coaching staff after five-star defensive end Da'Shawn Hand (Woodbridge, Va./Woodbridge) selected Alabama over Michigan and Florida on Thursday.

Hand’s decision to head to the SEC won’t cause the Wolverines’ class to be labeled a failure; it is ranked as the nation’s seventh best. But with Michigan projected to be in the driver’s seat for almost all of Hand’s recruitment and with a significant need at the strongside defensive end spot, his decision to commit to the Tide is a crushing blow.


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UA Game jersey tour: Da’Shawn Hand

November, 14, 2013
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Five-star defensive end Da’Shawn Hand (Woodbridge, Va./Woodbridge High) was presented his honorary game jersey during the American Family Insurance Selection Tour for the 2014 Under Armour All-America High School Game on Wednesday.

Da'Shawn Hand
Courtesy of IntersportDa'Shawn Hand is the sixth-ranked prospect overall and the No. 2 defensive end in the class.
The event was part of the three-month tour.

Hand, who is one of three five-star prospects in Virginia in the 2014 class, is one of 90 players selected to compete in the seventh-annual game, a nationally-televised competition spotlighting the country’s top high-school seniors. The 2014 game is set for 4 p.m. ET on Jan. 2 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., and will be televised on ESPN.

“I just want to thank God and my teammates for being here,” Hand said. “My friends, my dad, the principal, the faculty back there, thanks for coming out and supporting. ... I mean, this is an honor for me. I really don’t know what else to say, but I just can’t wait to show out in this game. Being down in Florida with all these guys with talent, I’ve just got to prepare for college.”

Woodbridge head coach Karibi Dede says he is excited that his star player gets to play against the nation's best.

“It’s been a pleasure to coach you. We are very thankful to the people at Under Armour as well as American Family Insurance for providing this great opportunity for a young man like himself. I’m really excited. The Under Armour All-America Game is the premier game in the country. To see him have the opportunity to go down where guys like A.J. Green, Julio Jones, …Jadeveon Clowney ... to go down and have that type of game against those type of players is phenomenal.”

For Hand, the chance to go against the best and prove doubters wrong is something he is looking forward to.

"The thing that excites me the most about the Under Armour All-America Game is going against some of the top players in the country -- in pads in an actual game. You don't really get to do that every day. Julio [Jones] and Jadeveon [Clowney], I want to be like the next person. I just want to leave my mark. The doubters out there are what motivate me. There are people that say that I’m just getting by or that I’m getting great stats because certain players aren’t as good as you, or the conference up here isn’t as good. You are in Virginia. You’re not in Florida or Georgia, Alabama or Louisiana. Those things fuel my engine and motivate me. I want to prove them wrong.”

The 6-foot-4, 262-pound Hand is the sixth-ranked prospect overall and the No. 2 defensive end in the class. He is considering Michigan, Alabama and Florida.
Defensive end Da'Shawn Hand (Woodbridge, Va./Woodbridge), the No. 6-ranked prospect in the country, is announcing his decision at noon on Thursday. The ESPN 300 prospect will be deciding between Alabama, Florida and Michigan during a press conference at his school.

Hand has kept everything very close to the vest and done a great job of keeping the fans in suspense. His mentor and former coach, John Harris, has been there the entire way of his recruitment, though, so he has some knowledge about Hand's process. Harris offers up some insight into each program and why these three schools are on Hand’s final list.


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Early Offer: Handicapping Hand 

November, 14, 2013
11/14/13
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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: Thursday is decision day for Da'Shawn Hand, the nation’s No. 6 player and five-star defensive end from Woodbridge (Va.) High. With his announcement coming at noon ET today, we turned to Big Ten recruiting writer Tom VanHaaren and SEC recruiting writer Derek Tyson to answer why they think the Crimson Tide, Gators or Wolverines will win the recruiting battle for Hand.


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Want to ask ESPN RecruitingNation senior analyst Tom Luginbill a question about your team? Tweet it to @TomLuginbill using the hashtag #AskLoogs.



Hmm. This is a tough question to answer without the finality of the 2014 class signing day to give me some concrete options to choose from. I’ll take a stab at a few teams that might fit the bill.

I’d argue that Auburn’s true freshmen have been as impactful as Ole Miss. RB Racean Thomas could continue this trend. Michigan could get significant production from WR Drake Harris, ATH Jabrill Peppers and DT Bryan Mone, and if they get Da'Shawn Hand, that could be big for them. All guys are need positions. Texas A&M, with DE Myles Garrett, QB Kyle Allen, ATH Nick Harvey -- and they could also end up with ATH Speedy Noil, too. If they stay committed, Florida could see a lot of offensive impact with the likes of RB Dalvin Cook (huge need) and WR Ermon Lane, too. Miami could be another on both sides of the ball.

However, if we were sitting here in February and assuming LSU closed like some are expecting with in-state talent, including RB Leonard Fournette, then I think you could see a lot of freshmen making an impact for the Tigers.

Da'Shawn Hand discusses Bama visit 

October, 29, 2013
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Da'Shawn Hand has his list narrowed down to Alabama, Florida and Michigan. That’s about all the No. 6 ranked prospect will give anyone when asked which team ranks where and what he’s thinking about each program.

Food is a big part of his recruitment and he won’t even say which school had the best food on his visits.

He has already been out to Michigan and took a trip to Alabama this past weekend. True to form, Hand was tight-lipped about who leads or what he truly though after the visit.

“It was a great visit. We got there, you saw the game for yourself, they crushed Tennessee,” he said. “After that we went to Chuck’s Fish and the food was amazing. We hung out with the players for a while and then back to the hotel.”


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