NCF On The Trail: Recruiting

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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."

The Florida Gators received a commitment from three-star offensive tackle George Brown Jr. on Friday afternoon -- but it was how he made that commitment that has made waves nationally.

Brown announced his decision by pulling out what everyone -- including almost all of Twitter -- thought was a baby gator.



Only one small problem: It is illegal to possess a gator in Brown's home state of Ohio. So what was thought to have been a baby gator was actually a dwarf caiman.

The small caiman is possessed by a company called Coolcrittersoutreach.com, which is an outreach program that displays wild animals to children for various events.

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.

Atlanta NFTC notebook 

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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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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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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.

ORLANDO, Fla. -- For most highly-rated defensive line prospects coming out of high school, the word "technique" is rarely used. Not because the prospects don’t want to learn, but because proper technique is something that is seldom taught or even required at the high school level. Top defensive line prospects generally rely on brute strength or superior speed to beat the offensive linemen they face. But for ESPN Junior 300 defensive end Byron Cowart, who is the No. 68-ranked prospect in the country, technique has been his sole focus during the offseason.


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Top 2015 targets: SEC 

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Now that the 2014 recruiting period has come to a close it's time to turn our attention to next year’s class. A few top targets such as LSU commit Kevin Toliver II (Jacksonville, Fla./Trinity Christian), Texas A&M commit Daylon Mack (Gladewater, Texas/Gladewater) and Georgia commit Terry Godwin (Hogansville, Ga./Callaway) have already made their commitments, but other key targets remain. Here's an early look at the top five SEC targets for next season.


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STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- James Franklin likes to tell recruits that he leaps out of bed at 4 a.m. and performs a back handspring.

That's an exaggeration, of course, a joke to give recruits an idea of his high-energy personality. But that also seems appropriate now, especially given how many flips he has produced from Vanderbilt's class to Penn State's.

He has flipped five pledges from his old school -- six, if defensive end Lloyd Tubman (Louisville, Ky./Seneca) sticks with PSU -- which is the second-most of this college football offseason. Only Washington's Chris Petersen possesses more (six), but he was hired in early December and boasted more than a month's head start.

Franklin has averaged more than a flip per week. And he also has reeled in eight hard verbals from eight different states in less than a month on the job. So his success has a lot of fans and fellow recruits shaking their heads and wondering just how he managed to achieve this so quickly.

[+] EnlargeJames Franklin
AP Photo/ John BealeJames Franklin's enthusiasm is a key to his recruiting success.
"It's kind of surprising how many of us really did follow, but it's not surprising," said three-star quarterback Trace McSorley (Ashburn, Va./Briar Woods), who initially committed to Vanderbilt in July. "It's just the kind of guy Coach Franklin is. He's energetic; that's the reason everyone wanted to go play for him at Vanderbilt."

In separate interviews, four of those flips told ESPN.com that energy is exactly what sold them on Franklin. He's the kind of coach who awoke on a recent Sunday morning and high-fived and hugged visiting recruits at breakfast. He speaks quickly and loudly, as if he perpetually just polished off a six-pack of Red Bull.

Three-star offensive tackle Chance Sorrell (Middletown, Ohio/Middletown) said that energy is a big reason for his relationship with Franklin. He recalled with a laugh the time an assistant told him how Franklin pulled alongside a Tennessee car sporting a Georgia Bulldogs flag. Franklin stepped out of his vehicle, knocked on the window -- and asked the driver what it would take for him to attend a Commodores game.

"The way he's involved, you can just tell he genuinely cares about all of his players and everyone he meets," said Sorrell, who flipped to Penn State five hours after Franklin was introduced as the head coach. "He's very persuasive. It doesn't matter where you're from; he'll make you want to play for him."

Sorrell's future teammate McSorley said he spoke to about 10 head coaches over the course of his recruitment, and none came close to matching Franklin's energy. That's Franklin's trademark, his signature, and it's what's helped fuel Franklin as the pied piper of Vanderbilt commits.

McSorley watched part of Franklin's introductory news conference, when he loudly proclaimed -- several times -- that he intended to "dominate the state" and "dominate the region" in recruiting. Franklin's hour-long talk impacted the fan base so much that it led to the instant creation of at least three T-shirts with his adopted slogans.

One of the few people who wasn't surprised? McSorley. He knew Penn State's new head coach wasn't in a good mood or wasn't "on" that day. "That's just how he is. That's exactly the person he is. All the time."

Added three-star offensive tackle Brendan Brosnan (Park Ridge, Ill./Maine Township South): "It's the way he carries himself, with all that energy. That energy shows he wants to be there, that he's giving it his all every day. It's contagious; his energy is contagious."

This isn't to say Franklin's energy, or even Franklin himself, is the sole reason for all these commitments, but it certainly seemed to play the largest role. A lot of these commits believe in Franklin's vision of Penn State reclaiming its spot as a national powerhouse.

Seven assistant coaches followed Franklin to Penn State because they believe that as well, and recruits also believe in the theory that because Franklin brought success to Vanderbilt, he certainly can do it at Penn State. Penn State has a bigger fan base and better facilities -- Vanderbilt doesn't even have a players' lounge -- and plays in a less competitive conference. It's a program that offensive line coach Herb Hand deemed as one of the 15 "haves" in a college football world of "have-nots."

"The biggest piece of advice people gave me during the recruiting process is don't commit to a coach, commit to a school," Brosnan said. "And I agree with that a little bit.

"But I think a coach, especially in Franklin's case, plays a large part. He played a large part in Vanderbilt's success and, the way I see it, the ceiling for success is higher at Penn State. It really is."

Weekend recruiting wrap: SEC 

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This was the final weekend before national signing day, and of course, there was a ton of news around the SEC. Vanderbilt added a slew of commitments, as did Alabama and Texas A&M. There were also some key visits and a decommitment from an SEC West school. Here’s a closer look at the latest recruiting news around the SEC.

Biggest commitments: After suffering 11 decommitments after coach James Franklin left for Penn State, Vanderbilt was in desperate need of a big recruiting weekend, and it finally got it.


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Ultimate 300: SEC's top classes 

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The SEC has dominated the recruiting world over the past several years. Since 2008, the SEC has had at least three schools finish in the top 10 of the ESPN recruiting class rankings each year. Last year, the conference had an impressive six schools ranked among the top 10 recruiting classes in the country. This year is much of the same, as seven SEC schools are ranked in the top 10.

Here’s a closer look at the five best recruiting SEC schools in the Ultimate ESPN 300.


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Most important targets: SEC 

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The Southeastern Conference already has commitments from six of the top 10 players in the country and has a real possibility of landing two more before signing day. With several key targets still remaining, here’s a look at the top remaining targets in the SEC.

Alabama
CB Marlon Humphrey (Hoover, Ala./Hoover)
6-foot-0, 180 pounds
ESPN 300 rank: 15


Humphrey is a big, athletic cornerback with great size and would be a natural fit in Nick Saban's system. FSU is also very much in the picture for the five-star defensive back, but with the Seminoles losing defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt to Georgia, the Crimson Tide might have a slight advantage. Alabama will have to fight to keep this dynamic defensive back from leaving the state. With his skill set, Humphrey has a chance to play early in his college career.


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