NCF On The Trail: College Football

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The SEC already has commitments from 77 prospects in the ESPN 300, but there are still several key targets available. Whether it's a current commit, a position of need or just the best available player, here is a look at the top must-get recruits for each SEC team.

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Five-star athlete George Campbell, a former Michigan recruit, has seen his recruitment skyrocket after backing off his pledge to the Wolverines back in December. Now, the No. 10-ranked prospect has decided to narrow his choices of colleges to 10.


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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Though not as heavy on star-studded talent as in years past, there was still plenty of news at Florida’s Friday Night Lights camp. The day started with the Gators receiving a commitment from three-star offensive tackle George Brown Jr., and ended with some of the top prospects from the Southeast attending the one night camp. Here is a closer look at the top story lines from Friday evening.

ESPN 300 athlete set to decide

The 11th-ranked athlete and the No. 155-ranked player overall in the ESPN 300, Ray Ray McCloud III, will announce his college decision on Monday night.

McCloud didn’t participate at Friday Night Lights but did have a chance to spend some time with current Florida player and pre-season All-SEC selection Vernon Hargreaves III, who like McCloud is also a Tampa native.

"Vernon knows I’m coming from the same place he was a few years ago,” McCloud said. "He just told me to always keep my options open until signing day because you never know what could happen as far as coaching changes. He said to just take my time with the process.”

McCloud will choose between Florida, UCLA, Clemson and Maryland on Monday but his father, Ray McCloud Jr., also added that USF has recently made an impression on his son.

Florida head coach Will Muschamp had one last chance to speak with McCloud before he makes his big decision on Monday and his message was simple.

"He said he wants me to do what I do in my home state,” McCloud said. "He wants me to be a Gator."

Four-star running back remains committed to Miami

Despite Miami signing Joseph Yearby, the No. 4-ranked running back in the country last year, and having three running backs committed this year, ESPN 300 running back Dexter Williams said he remains strong in his commitment to the Hurricanes.

“It would be a good feeling to be in the backfield with them because all of them are great backs and they can do great things,” Williams said. "Wherever you go, there's competition. You've got to beat out your competitor.”

The Florida coaching staff was hoping to changes Williams’ mind on Friday but to no avail.

"They're just saying you can get on the field here," Williams said. "We're only going to take two [running backs]. They're taking four. Just think about it."

Williams admits his own father pushes him to switch his commitment to the Gators.

"He has loved the Gators since he was little, and he wants me to be a Gator a lot," Williams laughed. "So he tells me every morning, 'Be a Gator.' When I told him I was still thinking about it, he said, 'That's the way. That's where I want you to go.'"

Coney has leader, will decide soon

Four-star linebacker Te’Von Coney sent out a tweet recently that said he would be attending the same school as his friend George Brown Jr. On Friday, Brown committed to the Gators and Coney admitted that their packaged deal will likely still happen.

"It was, like, 85 percent true,” Coney said of his tweet. "Florida is my leader right now but I’m still checking out Auburn, Tennessee, Miami and other programs but Florida is still my leader. I’ll probably make my decision soon, like within the next month or so.”

Coney admitted his visit to Gainesville strengthened the Gators chances of landing him.

“I just think Florida’s a great school,” he said. "It’s the Harvard of the South. I can get a great education, they have a great business and engineering school which are two majors I’m thinking about majoring in.

"I think they have a great program and they need linebackers right now to come in and step up and I think Will Muschamp is a great defensive coach and they are always going to have a top defense and that’s what I want to play in."

Prince likes four

ESPN 300 offensive tackle Isaiah Prince was one of the most impressive linemen to attend FNL and received plenty of attention from the Florida coaching staff.

After the event concluded Prince said there are four schools that are standing out right now but he’s likely to add other schools as his recruitment continues.

"Right now, the schools that really stick out to me is Maryland, Alabama, Florida and Ohio State, but I’ll probably have more schools in the mix as I take more visits,” he said.

Though he has no set dates in mind, Prince knows of three schools he would like to visit in the fall.

“This visit helped Florida out a whole lot,” Prince said. "It’s a really nice campus, I want to study sports management and that building is right next to the stadium. I’ll most likely be back for a game in the fall as well as games at Alabama and Ohio State."

Whether a Georgia or Mississippi State fan, it was a great weekend to be a Bulldog. The two schools combined to land 11 verbal commitments over the weekend. With the season quickly approaching, teams are racing to finish the summer strong in recruiting before fall camp opens in just a few short weeks. Here's a look at some of the top headlines from the weekend:


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BRADENTON, Fla. -- There were more than 30 prospects ranked in the ESPN 300 in attendance at the IMG National Championship at IMG Academy over the weekend. With so much talent on hand, it would be easy to overlook some of the underclassmen who stood out over the course of the two-day event. Here is a list of several younger players who did enough with their performances to stand out.


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BRADENTON, Fla. — There were as many as 10 games going on at the same time at the IMG 7v7 National Championship over the weekend, and at times it was difficult to determine just who the top performers were. After all, there were more than 30 prospects in the ESPN 300 who participated. Here's a closer look at several seniors who stood out during the two-day event.

ATH Deon Cain
Committed to Clemson
ESPN 300 rank: 25
Cain helped lead his team, Unsigned Preps from Tampa, to the championship game with several acrobatic catches. The trio of Cain, Ray Ray McCloud III and junior-to-be wide receiver Nate Craig proved to be too much for teams to handle. Cain is solidly committed to Clemson and said he is not considering any other schools at this time.
S Derwin James
Committed to Florida State
ESPN 300 rank: 26
James is known for his physical play, but he showed he is more than just a big hitter. James broke up several passes and just always seemed to be around the ball. Like Cain, he is solid with his commitment, but in this case to the Seminoles.
CB Iman Marshall
Uncommitted
ESPN 300 rank: 20
Marshall played wide receiver and defensive back for his team, B2G, and excelled at both. The four-star prospect teamed with another ESPN 300 receiver, Trent Irwin, to form a dangerous pass-catching combo. Marshall is still narrowing his choices but knows he will take visits in the fall to Florida State and Notre Dame.

Notebook: IMG 7v7 Championship 

June, 23, 2014
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BRADENTON, Fla. -- The IMG 7v7 National Championship held at IMG Academy over the weekend featured some of the top 7-on-7 teams from all over the country and even a few teams from Canada. The event, which included 12 prospects ranked in the top 50 of the ESPN 300, showcased some of the best talent you will find in a single tournament. Led by Alabama verbal commits Calvin Ridley and Shawn Burgess-Becker, the Florida Fire from South Florida defeated Tampa’s Unsigned Preps 20-18 in the championship game to take home the title.

Quarterbacks shine

There were several high-profile quarterbacks in attendance, and they lived up to the hype for the most part. Deondre Francois, who recently transferred to IMG Academy, made numerous impressive throws. The 6-foot-2, 188-pound signal-caller has a top three of Oregon, Auburn and Florida State and is planning to make his decision at the end of July.


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Early signing period FAQ

June, 4, 2014
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College coaches and administrators have debated for years the merits of introducing an early signing period for football. Basketball has long used a system that allows recruits to sign their national letters of intent in the fall and spring, easing the pressure on prospects who wish to end the recruiting process early in their senior years of high school.

Momentum for widespread legislative overhaul -- recruiting rules included -- has again opened serious discussion about an early signing period. In step with the NCAA, the Conference Commissioners Association will consider options for an early date when they meet on June 16.

Many questions remain about how it might work. Here are some of the most frequently asked:

What would an early signing period allow?

Simply, it would provide an option for recruits to sign binding agreements months or weeks in advance of the traditional signing period, which opens on the first Wednesday in February. Prospects who sign early would be subject to the same rules as their peers who sign in February.

When would an early signing period occur?

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Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY SportsCould the NCAA soon adopt an early signing period for football?
Proposals have suggested dates from late spring (at the end of prospects’ junior years) to mid-December (at the outset of the current dead period as bowl season opens). Recently, the Atlantic Coast Conference announced that its schools support an Aug. 1 date. The Southeastern Conference offered a recommendation for the Monday after Thanksgiving. Big Ten schools would likely align more closely with the ACC. If an early signing period passes, the most significant legislative hurdle likely involves its placement on the calendar.

Who can make it happen?

The 32-member panel of Division I conference commissioners. The group, which meets annually in June to discuss various topics, operates the letter-of-intent program. According to Susan Peal, NCAA associate director of operations who serves as liaison between the collegiate governing body and the commissioners, an early signing period was added this spring to the commissioners’ agenda after it had not been discussed in such a forum for several years.

Why now?

Because the recruiting process is not slowing down. Just the opposite, in fact. Many prospects make nonbinding pledges to college programs months, even years, in advance of the February signing period. Schools, in turn, continue to exhaust expenses to recruit on these committed prospects. Decommitments have grown into an epidemic that negatively impact college programs and prospects. Additionally, the NCAA clarified legislation last year that allows early enrolling seniors to sign scholarship papers -- different from a letter of intent in that it obligates the school but not the prospect -- on or after Aug. 1. It is commonly believed that an early signing period could alleviate many of the problems associated with each of these issues and the continued acceleration of recruiting.

What year would it go into effect?

This is open for discussion between the NCAA and the conference commissioners. From a logistical standpoint, though, it’s unlikely to affect the Class of 2015. If the conference commissioners reach a decision on change this summer, it’s reasonable to expect it could go into effect next year for the 2016 class.

How would it impact the timing of official visits and other aspects of the recruiting calendar?

Expect significant changes. If the commissioners institute an early signing period, the NCAA-organized recruiting calendar would adjust accordingly. Most importantly, official visits (paid by college programs) would begin earlier -- a development, alone, that would serve as a source of celebration on many campuses. Current rules allow prospects to take official visits no earlier than the start of their senior years of high school. Depending on the date of an early signing period, it’s expected that the NCAA would allow official visits in the previous spring or summer. In turn, the spring evaluation period, which runs April 15 to May 31 of a prospect’s junior year, may also require an adjustment.

What happens at schools that endure postseason coaching changes?

Likely, nothing. A great strength of the letter of intent is its binding power. Though an appeal process exists to nullify the document, such waivers are rarely granted based on a coaching change. Of course, coaching changes would come into play much more often for early signees. Regardless, recruits, as usual, would be advised to pick a college program for reasons other than its coaches. And despite the convenience of signing early, the long list of coaching moves in December and January might serve as a reminder for prospects of the benefit to bypass the early period.

Why do some programs oppose an early signing period?

For a variety of reasons. At Stanford, where coach David Shaw is an outspoken opponent, stringent entrance requirements limit the school’s ability to identify academic-worthy prospects until much later than many of its recruiting rivals. Many schools, primarily in the SEC, have feasted under the current recruiting structure; no need to change it, they figure. Despite the resistance, a majority of college programs favor a refined system. That’s the easy part. We'll soon learn if they can agree on how and when to implement change.
When looking at the top recruiting jobs in college football, it’s not always about looking at final poll rankings or teams that have recently won the most games.

Yes, winning matters, but there are other factors. Location, region and in-state talent are major contributors. Revenues build facilities and pay for the modern-day arms race. National appeal, identifiable former players and recent NFL draft success also have a hand in making an impression on high school athletes.

Here’s a look at the top five recruiting jobs in the country:

SportsNation

Which is the best recruiting job in college football?

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    27%
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    17%
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    23%
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    13%

Discuss (Total votes: 4,677)

1. Florida Gators

Proximity to out-of-state talent: The state of Florida probably has the most talent in the country, and the Gators also sit five hours from the Atlanta area, with talent bases from South Georgia into Atlanta. The states of Florida and Georgia combined to produce 60 NFL draft picks in the 2014 draft, one more than the states of California and Texas combined (while having less than half the combined population). Gainesville is also relatively close to three other out-of-state hotbeds: Charlotte, North Carolina; Mobile, Alabama; and New Orleans.

Dollars and cents: Florida reported total football expenses of $23,045,846 and total football revenue of $74,117,435 in 2011-12. Florida will benefit greatly from the launch of the SEC Network in August, which is a 20-year agreement between the SEC and ESPN.


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Pac-12 recruiting roundup

May, 15, 2014
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With spring football done and the Pac-12 coaches hitting the recruiting trail, we figured it was time to check in on how each team is faring with its recruits.

Here's a look at where each school stands:


Arizona

2015 commits: 6
Players: Keenan Walker, OT, Scottsdale, Ariz.; Taren Morrison, RB, Mesa, Ariz.; Darick Holmes Jr., RB, Westlake Village, Calif.; Finton Connolly, DT, Gilbert, Ariz.; Alex Kosinski, OG, Larkspur, Calif.; Ricky McCoy, TE, Fresno, Calif.

2016 commits: 2
Players: Trevor Speights, RB, McAllen, Texas; Shea Patterson, QB, Shreveport, La.



Arizona State

2015 commits: 6
Players: Brady White, QB, Newhall, Calif.; Morie Evans, ATH, Huntsville, Texas; Bryce Perkins, QB, Chandler, Ariz.; Nick Ralston, RB, Argyle, Texas; Tony Nicholson, ATH, Grand Prairie, Texas; Raymond Epps, TE (JC), Yuma, Ariz.

2017 commit: 1
Player: Loren Mondy, DE, Mansfield, Texas


Cal

2015 commits: 4
Players: Austin Aaron, WR, Napa, Calif.; Greyson Bankhead, WR, Corona, Calif.; Malik Psalms, CB, Chino Hills, Calif.; Lonny Powell, RB, Sacramento, Calif.


Colorado


2015 commits: 3
Players: T.J. Fehoko, DE, Salt Lake City; N.J. Falo, OLB, Sacramento; Dillon Middlemiss, OG, Arvada, Colo.


Oregon

2015 commits: 4
Players: Taj Griffin, RB, Powder Springs, Ga.; Zach Okun, OG, Newbury Park, Calif.; Jake Breeland, WR, Mission Viejo, Calif.; Shane Lemieux, OT, Yakima, Wash.


Oregon State

2015 commits: 3
Players: Tyrin Ferguson, OLB, New Orleans; Kyle Haley, OLB, Anaheim, Calif.; Treshon Broughton, CB (JC), Tustin, Calif.


Stanford

2015 commits: 3
Players: Arrington Farrar, S, College Park, Ga.; Christian Folau, ILB, Salt Lake City; Rex Manu, DT, Mililani, Hawaii


UCLA

2015 commits: 7
Players: Josh Rosen, QB, Bellflower, Calif.; Alize Jones, TE, Las Vegas; Tevita Halalilo, OG, Moreno Valley, Calif.; L.J. Reed, WR, Elk Grove, Calif.; Jaason Lewis, ATH, Virginia Beach, Va.; Bolu Olorunfunmi, RB, Clovis, Calif.; Victor Alexander, ILB, Jacksonville, Fla.


USC

2015 commits: 5
Players: Chuma Edoga, OT, Powder Springs, Ga.; Ricky Town, QB, Ventura, Calif.; David Sills, QB, Elkton, Md.; Taeon Mason, CB, Pasadena, Calif.; Roy Hemsley, OT, Los Angeles


Utah

2015 commits: 7
Players: Jake Grant, OT, Scottsdale, Ariz.; Tuli Wily-Matagi, ATH, Kahuku, Hawaii; Donzale Roddie, WR, Paramount, Calif.; Chayden Johnson, K, South Jordan, Utah; Brandon Snell, WR (JC), Miami; Corey Butler, WR (JC), Wilmington, Calif.; Zach Lindsay, OT (JC), Kaysville, Utah


Washington

2015 commits: 3
Players: Jake Browning, QB, Folsom, Calif.; Trey Adams, OT, Wenatchee, Wash.; Myles Gaskin, RB, Seattle

2017 commit: 1
Player: Tathan Martell, QB, Poway, Calif.


Washington State

2015 commits: 5
Players: Thomas Toki, DT, Mountain View, Calif.; Austin Joyner, RB, Marysville, Wash.; Tyler Hilinski, QB, Upland, Calif.; Kameron Powell, S, Upland, Calif.; James Williams, RB, Burbank, Calif.
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The state of Florida has always been known for producing some of the top athletes in the country. The term "athlete" is sometimes looked at as a negative term, but it really means our scouts believe these talented prospects could play more than one position in college. Here is a closer look at some of the top athletes from the Sunshine State in the 2015 class.

ESPN 300 athletes from Florida

No. 8 Torrance Gibson: Gibson is a skilled athlete who can make plays on offense. The five-star athlete led his high school, Plantation American Heritage, to the state championship game. In the game, he had a touchdown run of 80 yards and also a long touchdown pass that was among the "SportsCenter" Top 10 plays. He wants to play quarterback on the next level, but he’s the most talented wide receiver on his South Florida Express 7-on-7 team. Whatever position he chooses, Gibson has a bright future ahead of him.


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IMG Southeast Regional notebook 

March, 31, 2014
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BRADENTON, Fla. -- South Florida has always been known for producing top talent and elite seven-on-seven teams but it was two teams from Jacksonville (Fla.) that battled in the finals of the IMG 7v7 Southeast Regional Championships on Sunday.

The Pro Impact team, led by LSU commit and the No. 3-ranked player in the ESPN Junior 300 Kevin Toliver II and defensive back Derwin James Jr., a Florida State commit, upset River City, which featured FSU quarterback commit De’Andre Johnson and South Carolina commit Sherrod Pittman, 23-14.


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South Florida is arguably the most fertile area in the country for recruiting, and college football coaches annually flock to the talent-rich area to try to land a small piece of a very large pie. The large area located south of Lake Okeechobee that includes the football hotbeds of Broward, Palm Beach and Dade counties has produced 45 ESPN 300 members in the last two recruiting cycles and almost half (22) signed with out-of-state schools.


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video Throughout this recruiting cycle, Recruiting Nation will profile several 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.

ROSWELL, Ga. -- One of the top juniors in the nation, Kevin Toliver II, made the trip from his hometown of Jacksonville, Fla., to Atlanta to compete against some of the best athletes in the country at the Atlanta Nike Football Training Camp this past Sunday.


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Atlanta NFTC notebook 

March, 23, 2014
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ROSWELL, Ga. -- The Atlanta Nike Football Training Camp is generally one of the most impressive groups of high school football players you will find in the country. This year’s camp didn’t disappoint. Eight invites were handed out to The Opening, a prestigious invite-only camp held in Beaverton, Ore., in July.


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