NCF On The Trail: SEC

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.

“I’ve decided to narrow it down to Georgia, Ole Miss, Maryland, UCLA, Alabama, Clemson, Florida, Auburn, LSU and Florida State,” Campbell said. “I just like all of those schools, they all have great things to offer and I just want to be able to touch the field my freshmen year and hopefully I’ll be able to get in the mix at one of those schools.”

The 6-foot-4, 187-pound athlete from Tarpon Springs (Fla.) East Lake High School, took a weekend visit to Florida State and came away impressed enough with the Seminoles to include them in his top schools.
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."

ENNIS, Texas -- Texas A&M's red-hot recruiting streak continued Friday with the addition of an ESPN 300 player at an always-needed position.

James Lockhart IV announced in front of family, classmates and educators at Ennis High School that he was going to College Station and joining Kevin Sumlin's growing 2015 class. Lockhart, the top-ranked defensive end in Texas, chose the Texas A&M Aggies over the Alabama Crimson Tide.

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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The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today’s offerings: Georgia fans have had to watch rivals Auburn and Alabama crow after recruiting victory after recruiting victory the past few months, but Bulldog fans got a chance to thump their chest some after landing two of the nation’s best 2016 prospects Saturday after its Dawg Night camp. But will those commitments stay true for the long haul? Plus, Penn State’s James Franklin remains hot on the recruiting trial.


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Alabama recruit's unique pitch

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LAKE OSWEGO, Ore. -- Alabama quarterback commit Blake Barnett is doing his best to bring more blue-chip talent with him to Tuscaloosa. His methods are just a little different than Nick Saban's. (We think.)

 

Manziel meets A&M's future QB

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BEAVERTON, Ore. -- Texas A&M's past and future quarterbacks got together Sunday, as Heisman winner Johnny Manziel stopped by Elite 11 practices and posed for a picture with Kyler Murray, an Aggies commit and the nation's No. 1 signal-caller in the 2015 class.

 
The Opening has become a breeding ground for future SEC players over the years. It started in 2011 as a football camp for the nation’s top recruits and has grown every year since. For those who haven’t heard of it or know little about it, here’s a fan’s guide to the event.

This year is no different in terms of SEC participation as 37 of the 162 invitees have already committed to SEC schools.

[+] EnlargeLandon Collins
Ryan A. Miller/Icon SMILandon Collins starred at The Opening before becoming a star for Alabama at safety.
SEC commitments by school

Alabama: 10
Texas A&M: 7
Georgia: 5
Florida: 4
LSU: 3
Mississippi State: 2
South Carolina: 2
Tennessee: 2
Kentucky: 1
Missouri: 1

The event will be broadcast on ESPN’s family of networks and gives you a chance to see the future of your school. Don’t believe me? Just look at some of the past participants to come through who are now making noise on Saturdays in the SEC.

Vadal Alexander (2011): If there were any doubts about Alexander before The Opening, he answered them with his performance. He rarely got beat in the one-on-one drills and used his strength to overpower opposing defensive linemen. It was that same strength that helped him early at LSU, and he’s expected to start up front for the third straight season. He and left tackle La'El Collins form a menacing tandem on the left side for the Tigers.

Landon Collins (2011): Collins stole the show at the inaugural camp. He won the SPARQ national championship with a high score of 143.76 and was a beast all week in the 7-on-7 competition. He didn’t make the type of impact he was hoping for as a freshman at Alabama, but he emerged last season with 69 tackles, two interceptions and two fumbles forced. He’s one of the top safeties in the country and projected to be a first-round draft pick.

Vernon Hargreaves III (2012): The week didn’t last long for Hargreaves, who injured his ankle on the first day, but he did run a 4.42 40-yard dash and a 4.1 shuttle before bowing out. That speed and athleticism was evident this past season, as the Florida freshman emerged as one of the top cornerbacks in the SEC. He finished with 38 tackles, three interceptions, and was among the league leaders in passes defended with 14.

O.J. Howard (2012): Tight ends don’t typically stand out at The Opening, but Howard isn’t your typical tight end. He measured in at 6-foot-6, 220 pounds, ran a 4.49 40-yard dash and dominated 7-on-7 play with his combination of size and speed. Unlike teammate and fellow Opening alum Derrick Henry, Howard endured a slow start to his Alabama career, but the expectations are high heading into this season.

Laquon Treadwell (2012): Treadwell might not have tested as well as some of his peers, but once he got on the field, he caught everything thrown his way. He showed the ability to make a catch under duress in traffic, and if the ball was in his vicinity, he was coming down with it. That held true at Ole Miss, where he led all SEC freshman with 72 receptions and finished with 608 yards and five touchdowns.
This is beginning to sound like a broken record, but Alabama is in the midst of putting together yet another historic recruiting class. The Crimson Tide's 2015 class already has 19 commitments, 16 ranked in the ESPN 300, and it's only July. What's maybe more impressive is that 10 different states are represented in the class.

There's just one problem. When you recruit on a national level, it allows your in-state rival, in this case Auburn, to take kids out of your own backyard.

Last week, Gus Malzahn and the Tigers landed commitments from ESPN 300 offensive lineman Tyler Carr and three-star tight end Jalen Harris, two in-state prospects who had offers from Alabama but chose to go to Auburn instead.

"It was really just a gut instinct," Carr told ESPN.com after he committed. "I felt a little bit more at home at Auburn. I just had to go with what I felt was right."

In April, ESPN 300 athlete Kerryon Johnson, the state's top prospect, committed to Auburn over the likes of both Alabama and Florida State. It was a huge recruiting victory for the Tigers, and if it holds it will be the first time they have landed the No. 1 player in the state since 2011 and only the second time in the last eight years.

So what's the reason for balance of power shifting in the state of Alabama?

"I just think when Gus came back that people saw a new Auburn," Johnson said. "He brings a lot of energy to that place. They're fired up to play football now, and that's enticing to [anybody]. There's a lot of people at Bama, there's a lot of people who still choose Bama, but it's just that new fire there that's hard to pull away from."

The ‘kick six' in last year's Iron Bowl also gave the Tigers a boost.

"That's how easy momentum can shift," Johnson said. "One game, an in-state game like that, and it's just over."

Still, it's not as if Auburn is dominating the state. In fact, the Tide had the same number of in-state commitments in the 2014 class, and they have the same number of in-state commitments so far in 2015. If anything, the two are on a level playing field ... both on the field and in recruiting their home state.

But it wasn't long ago when Alabama was dominating the state, taking all of the best players. Those days have since passed.

Auburn already has five in-state commitments for 2015, and the Tigers are in good position with at least three others in the top 10 including outside linebacker Richard McBryde and offensive lineman Brandon Kennedy.

"I think it's a great thing," Carr said. "It's definitely going to help us out later on. It's something to have people from in state because it means a little bit more to them I think, but it will be really interesting to see how it goes."

Come signing day, both schools will have their fair share of in-state commitments. More importantly, both schools will have elite recruiting classes. It's the reason why they have combined to play in the last five national championship games, and it's the reason why they will be be a part of the CFB Playoff conversation for the foreseeable future.

The balance of power in Alabama might be shifting, but it's only making both sides stronger.
The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today's offerings: While many people will be enjoying a little time off this week, college coaches chasing five-star linebacker Justin Hilliard and five-star defensive end Jashon Cornell are putting in overtime to convince them to come to their school before both prospects make decisions at 10 a.m. ET Wednesday on ESPN.com. Both players say they want to play together in college, so what are the chances one school ends up 10 stars better Wednesday?


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An early signing period can’t get here soon enough.

In fact, a number of SEC teams are recruiting as if it already exists.

On Tuesday, Auburn played catch-up with its league brethren by gaining its 16th and 17th total commitments of the 2015 class in four-star offensive lineman Tyler Carr and three-star tight end Jalen Harris. Still, Gus Malzahn’s group trails Alabama (19), South Carolina (19), Mississippi State (18), Tennessee (18) and Texas A&M (18) in terms of its total verbal pledges.

And to think, SEC rules permit only 25 signees per class, per year.

So what’s the rush then? It’s hard to say. In recent years we’ve seen the recruiting calendar steadily accelerated by both the coaches and the players. More and more prospects are committing early, in part to get the process over with but also to secure a spot at their desired school. If you’re a middle-of-the-pack recruit, Alabama offers you a scholarship and you see there are only six spots left in the class, you better act fast.

It’s important to note, however, that without an early signing period in effect, we’re still talking tentative numbers. A verbal commitment is still nonbinding -- on both ends. Players will continue to look elsewhere and other programs will keep trying to poach other schools’ recruits. Coaches will make the scholarship numbers fit, one way or another.

South Carolina’s 19 current commitments may not be the same 19 recruits in a few months time. Ole Miss, on the other hand, has only eight commitments to date and could see that number double by the start of the season. Just look at Auburn, which has gone on a tear since mid-April by nagging 11 total commitments.

Compared to the other big five conferences, the SEC is wasting no time recruiting. The ACC, Big Ten and Big 12 each have only one school in their respective conferences with 16 or more commitments. The Pac-12, meanwhile, has none and is led by Arizona’s 14 commitments.

Other conferences might be clinging to a recruiting era gone by, one where prospects waited until signing day to put pen to paper and decide. An early signing period might change that in the future, but for now the SEC is living in the present, getting while the getting is good.

By last count, 152 of ESPN’s top 300 prospects have already committed. There’s no time to waste.
The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today's offerings: Make no mistake about it, Oregon's bread and butter is the West Coast, but the Ducks' brand is so strong on the national level that they can go into virtually anybody's backyard and secure top talent. And No. 42 Alex Ofodile is the latest example of that. Plus, Auburn is putting together one of the nation's best offensive line classes.

Oregon a true national recruiting program


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Georgia is in the hunt for another top-10 class in the RecruitingNation class rankings.

Currently No. 9 and off to a solid start, where the Bulldogs finish in terms of filling needs will be decided solely on how Mark Richt and staff finish on the defensive side of the ball and on the offensive line.

Here is a look at five questions that must be answered by Georgia in the next seven months.


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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.

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