Penn State Nittany Lions: Clifton Garrett

Four schools land ESPN 300 recruits

December, 17, 2013
12/17/13
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Christmas came early Tuesday for LSU, Ohio State, South Carolina and Penn State, as four of the top 100 football recruits in the country committed in a flurry of activity normally only seen around national signing day.

Coach Bill O’Brien at Penn State was first to unwrap his present when No. 87-ranked Thomas Holley (Brooklyn, N.Y./Lincoln), the nation’s No. 7 defensive tackle, committed to the Nittany Lions early Tuesday morning.

Holley had been leaning for a while toward the Nittany Lions over Ohio State, Florida and around 30 other scholarship offers, and his pickup was important.

O’Brien has talked at length about adding more depth along the defensive line, and Holley is the type of impact player who could help Penn State become instantly better. With Penn State losing defensive tackles DaQuan Jones and Kyle Baublitz, it was important to land Holley. That’s why O’Brien pulled out all the stops to get him, including making an appearance at Yankee Stadium for Lincoln's 28-27 win over Tottenville in the PSAL City Conference Championship on Dec. 10.

Later in the afternoon, it was coach Les Miles’ turn to get a new toy as Clifton Garrett (Plainfield, Ill./South), the nation’s No. 3 inside linebacker, announced he was heading to LSU. Garrett, who is ranked No. 37 in the ESPN 300, also visited Florida, Tennessee and Ole Miss and was offered by virtually every school in the nation. He became enamored with the Bayou Bengals’ vaunted defense.

The addition of Garrett was key for the Tigers because inside linebacker was one of the few areas of need it hadn’t addressed yet with their 2014 class. LSU does have four-star prospect Donnie Alexander (New Orleans/Edna Karr) already on board, but he projects as an outside linebacker on the next level. If you review his scouting report, it reads like Garrett was meant to play in the LSU defense.

Tennessee certainly would have liked to have Garrett in its class as it continues to overhaul its roster. But the Vols already have commitments from eight other prospects projected at the linebacker spot, including No. 10 inside linebacker Gavin Bryant (Jackson, Ala./Jackson). Garrett wasn’t going to make or break Tennessee's class. Ole Miss is also not fretting too much missing out on Garrett, because the Rebels are also deep with commitments at the position and No. 1 junior college linebacker Christian Russell out of East Mississippi Community College should be a star in Oxford.

It wasn’t Santa Claus who delivered Urban Meyer’s present on Tuesday, it was the nation’s No. 4 receiver Johnnie Dixon (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla./Dwyer). Dixon, who is ranked No. 39 in the ESPN 300, was the center of one of the nation’s most intense recruiting battles between Alabama, Ohio State and Miami.

It’s not often you see a prospect turn down Alabama, and there was tremendous pressure on Dixon to stay local and play for the Canes, but in the end, he thought he was the best fit in the Ohio State offense.

Dixon is right. His game -- highlighted by polished route running ability and the strength to out muscle defenders -- complements Buckeyes receivers Devin Smith, Evan Spencer and Michael Thomas, who are coming back in 2014.

For Ohio State, it was the second day in a row it landed an elite player from the South. Raekwon McMillan (Hinesville, Ga./Liberty County), the nation's top linebacker and the No. 12 overall recruit, committed to Ohio State on Monday afternoon.

Alabama put the full-court press on Dixon because he would have been a nice complement to already-committed receivers Cameron Sims (Monroe, La./Ouachita Parish) and Derek Kief (Cincinnati/La Salle). But the cupboard isn’t exactly bare in Tuscaloosa and four-star Travis Rudolph (West Palm Beach, Fla./Cardinal Newman) is still on the target board.

Miami has four receivers committed so far, but none of them are the home run that Dixon is. Yes, Darrell Langham (Lantana, Fla./Santaluces) and Braxton Berrios (Raleigh, N.C./Leesville Road) are quality receivers and will add needed depth at the position, but Dixon is the type of player from South Florida you just can’t let get away.

You can never have too many pass-rushing defensive ends in the SEC, which is why Steve Spurrier surely was elated with the gift of Dante Sawyer (Suwanee, Ga./North Gwinnett), the nation’s No. 9 defensive end. Sawyer committed to the Gamecocks on Tuesday, giving them a much-needed boost from a need that hadn’t been filled yet.

With South Carolina having few scholarships available for its 2014 class, there’s not a lot of room for swings and misses, so it was vital for the Gamecocks to make sure they got their guy at the position. With Jadeveon Clowney likely bolting for the NFL and Chaz Sutton graduating, there’s gaping holes at both defensive end spots and Sawyer, the No. 91 player overall, has the talent to step in and compete with other younger players like Gerald Dixon, Mason Harris and Darius English to fill the spots.

Missouri finished runner-up for Sawyer, and landing him would have sent a significant message to the rest of the SEC that the Tigers are now major players for the top talent in the region. In reality, they already are, even with the miss. The Tigers have pledges from nine players in Florida and Georgia, and that trend is only going to continue to tick upward after the success of the 2013 season.

Who's left in the Midwest 

August, 13, 2013
8/13/13
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Marshon LattimoreBrad Bournival/ESPNMarshon Lattimore, the No. 51 prospect in the ESPN 300, might go to an Ohio State feeder school, but programs such as Alabama and Michigan are making a push for him.
There are currently 198 committed prospects within the ESPN 300. That means that it’s a dogfight for the remaining 102 uncommitted prospects.

The Big Ten schools are recruiting prospects within the ESPN 300 from across the nation, but as always, the Midwest is a big focus. There are currently 11 prospects from the Midwest in the top list that are uncommitted.

Here is a look at those Midwest prospects and where they’re at in the process.

Lessons Learned: IMG 7v7 

June, 23, 2013
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BRADENTON, Fla. -- The IMG 7v7 National Championships showcased some of the top talent from across the country. For the second consecutive year, Team Tampa won the national championship with a thrilling, one-point victory over a talented South Florida Express team.

The championship game featured at least 10 prospects with multiple scholarship offers. Here's a closer look at lessons learned over the course of the two-day event.

Team Top Recruits loaded in the secondary

Top Recruits, featuring players from Jacksonville and Orlando, had a secondary that could probably give some colleges trouble right now. Their secondary consisted of 2015 LSU cornerback commit Kevin Toliver II (Jacksonville, Fla./Trinity Christian), Florida cornerback commits Duke Dawson (Cross City, Fla./Dixie County) and J.C. Jackson (Immokalee, Fla./Immokalee), uncommitted safety Kendall Gant (Lakeland, Fla./Lake Gibson) and 2015 FSU safety commit Derwin James (Auburndale, Fla./Auburndale).

The Top Recruits offense couldn't match the talent of their defense and found it hard to score points as the tournament wore on. Toliver was quite possibly the best player at the event and will be one of the top players in the country next year.

Northern teams came to play


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The Opening, presented by Nike, will feature 162 of the best high school football players in the country. The event, which will include linemen, 7-on-7 and SPARQ testing competitions, is set to run from June 30 to July 3 at the Nike headquarters in Beaverton, Ore.

The following events from The Opening will be televised on ESPNU:

July 1: SPARQ Rating National Championship, 7 p.m.-8:30 p.m. ET

July 2: 7-on-7 Pool Play, 9 p.m.-11:30 p.m. ET

July 3: Linemen Challenge Finals and 7-on-7 semifinal and championship games, 9 p.m.-midnight ET

The players will be divided in to six teams -- Alpha Pro, Apocalypse, Field Generals, Land Sharks, Super Bad and Vapor Carbon. Here is a closer look at how the teams match up.

Team: Alpha Pro
Coaches: Offensive coordinator Jordan Palmer, defensive coordinator Hardy Nickerson

The Alpha Pro team will have plenty of targets to spread the ball around. Ermon Lane and Tyler Luatua, the No. 1-ranked receiver and tight end in the country respectively, bring size and playmaking ability to the passing game. ESPN 300 athletes Corey Holmes, Jalen Hurd, John "JuJu" Smith, Ja'Von Harrison, and Derrell Scott are all explosive offensive weapons.

Defensively Alpha Pro is led by Andrew Brown, the No. 1-ranked defensive tackle in the country, ESPN 150 cornerback Damon Webb, defensive end Andrew Williams, Ohio State linebacker commit Dante Booker and LSU cornerback commit Chris Hardeman.

Complete Alpha Pro roster.

Team: Apocalypse
Coaches: Offensive coordinator Adam Tafralis, defensive coordinator Donovin Darius

The first thing that jumps out about team Apocalypse is the talent in the defensive front seven. Team Apocalypse will be led by five-star defensive end Da'Shawn Hand and inside linebacker Raekwon McMillan. Hand, from Woodbridge, Va., is the No. 4-ranked player in the country, while McMillan was recently bumped up to a five-star linebacker. Joining Hand and McMillan along the front seven are ESPN 300 defensive linemen Anthony Moten and Ainuu Taua, and linebackers D.J. Calhoun and Rashaan Evans.

Offensively, team Apocalypse has no shortage of playmakers. ESPN 300 wide receivers Artavis Scott, K.D. Cannon and Michiah Quick will provide explosiveness in the passing game, while athletic running backs Joe Mixon and Royce Freeman will provide athletic and reliable targets out of the backfield.

Complete Apocalypse roster.

Team: Field Generals
Coaches: Offensive coordinator Charlie Frye, defensive coordinator Michael Fletcher

Seven-on-seven events are always geared towards the offense, but with five-star defensive back Adoree' Jackson, No. 3-ranked safety Jamal Adams, and ESPN 300 cornerback Adarius Pickett in the secondary, the Field Generals should more than hold their own. New Ohio State defensive end commit Jalyn Holmes and the No. 6-ranked defensive end in the country, Solomon Thomas, will be two to watch along the defensive line.

Offensively, the Field Generals are led by ESPN 300 offensive guard Damien Mama, ESPN 300 wide receivers Austin Roberts and Thaddeus Snodgrass and explosive Notre Dame running back commit Elijah Hood.

Complete Field Generals roster.

Team: Landsharks
Coaches: Offensive coordinator Craig Nall, defensive coordinator Keith Bulluck

The Landsharks have some big-time talent along each line of scrimmage. Led by five-star offensive tackle Cameron Robinson, the Landsharks also feature ESPN 300 offensive guard Corey Martinez. ESPN 300 defensive linemen Gerald Willis III and Thomas Holley, as well as ESPN 300 defensive end Chad Thomas, will form a very physical and athletic defensive line.

In the secondary, the Landsharks will have three defensive backs -- Arrion Springs, Chris Lammons and Tony Brown -- that are ranked among the top 85 players in the country. The defense also features ESPN 150 linebacker Nyles Morgan.

Offensively, explosive running backs Dalvin Cook, a Florida commit, and Racean Thomas form a dangerous tandem out of the backfield, and wide receivers Travis Rudolph and Jalen Harvey are solid receiving threats.

Complete Landsharks roster.

Team: Superbad
Coaches: Offensive coordinator Dennis Gile, defensive coordinator Harold Nash Jr.

The Superbad defense line is led by five-star defensive end Lorenzo Carter and ESPN 150 defensive tackle Bijhon Jackson. The linebacking corp is stacked with three ESPN 300 members, including Clifton Garrett, Christian Miller and Edwin Freeman. Cornerback Jalen Tabor is the No. 19-ranked player in the country.

Offensively, Superbad has a huge advantage with the No. 1-ranked prospect in the country, running back Leonard Fournette. This team is loaded on offense, with wide receivers Drake Harris, Josh Malone and Speedy Noil all in the mix.

Complete Superbad roster.

Team: Vapor Carbon
Coaches: Offensive coordinator George Whitfield, defensive coordinator Chris Gizzi.

Vapor Carbon will be tough to throw against with defensive backs Quin Blanding, Naijiel Hale and Ed Paris roaming the field. The linebacker group is just as impressive, with Ohio State commit Kyle Berger, Kain Daub and Dillon Bates all leading the way.

The offense for Vapor Carbon could be lethal with running back Joseph Yearby and Nick Chubb in the backfield. Spreading out wide receivers T.V. Williams, Justin Brent and tight end Ian Bunting on the outside could prove to be an awesome combination for this squad.

Team Vapor Carbon has a lot of pieces to make a long run in the 7-on-7 tournament, but then again, every team is stacked in this competition.

Complete Vapor Carbon roster.

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