NCF On The Trail: byron cowart

5-star Cowart set to visit Auburn 

December, 13, 2014
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ORLANDO, Fla. -- Five-star defensive end Byron Cowart has had Florida and Florida State near the top of his list for some time, but now that former Florida coach Will Muschamp is the defensive coordinator at Auburn, the Tigers are starting to make a push for the No. 2-ranked player in the nation.

For the longest time it looked like Alabama was going to run away with the title for the top-ranked class, but here comes Florida State. Plus, why the hype around Josh Sweat?

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David Cutcliffe of Duke said young coaches should turn to Kenny Rogers for advice on how to get ahead on the recruiting trail. Plus, Florida's Jim McElwain has been busy since he was hired.

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SEC season recruiting superlatives 

December, 8, 2014
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Looking back at the just-completed regular season, it has been another wild year in the SEC, both on the field and in recruiting. There have been several huge commitments, some big decommitments and, as always, a few surprises. Here’s a closer look at the the SEC’s recruiting superlatives.


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Since 2006, Oregon's recruiting classes have never finished better than No. 18 in the country. Since 2008, the Oregon's football program has never finished worse than No. 11 in the country, including three straight top-four finishes from 2010-2012.

That discrepancy gave rise to the mantra that the Ducks recruited to their system, rather than recruiting the best available prospect. Their rise to the top of the Pac-12 was done by recruiting under rocks and around corners to find "system" guys that wouldn't work at any other program.

Plenty of that on-field success came via California prospects that weren't recruited by UCLA or USC; players such as Kiko Alonso, Kenjon Barner, John Boyett and Josh Kaddu were all members of Oregon's 2008 class. But since the 2011 group entered the fold in the middle of Oregon's run of Pac-12 championships, the idea that the Ducks only go out to find their own type of recruit slowly started being pushed into the background.


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The Florida Gators officially named Jim McElwain their new head coach on Thursday. The former Alabama offensive coordinator from 2008-11 will replace Will Muschamp, who was a strong recruiter for the Gators.

Florida, however, has only nine commitments in its 2015 class, which is last in the SEC.

With Muschamp’s job in limbo the last half of the season, the Gators found it difficult to land some of the prized recruits who were high on Florida early in the process. Top offensive targets like Ray-Ray McCloud III, Deon Cain and George Campbell committed to other schools, while prospects such as five-stars Byron Cowart, Martez Ivey and CeCe Jefferson waited to see how the coaching situation played out.

Now that McElwain is on board, Florida will turn its attention to hiring a coaching staff and to recruiting. Several key targets are still on the Gators’ recruiting board. Here’s a closer look at Florida’s recruiting priorities moving forward and some recruits' reactions to the coaching change:


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Whether recruits are attending games this holiday weekend or watching on television, all eyes around the recruiting world will be focused on several rivalry games. From the Iron Bowl to the Egg Bowl there will be recruiting implications throughout the conference this weekend. Here’s a closer look at how these game might affect the top remaining recruits.


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Pac-12's top recruiting visits 

November, 21, 2014
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The penultimate weekend of the regular season is upon us, and that means some serious recruiting weekends in store for several Pac-12 programs. A look at the top three recruiting visits in the Pac-12 includes one staff taking advantage of hosting its rivalry game and two others bringing in recruits to witness their final home games of the regular season.

USC at UCLA


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Weekend recruiting wrap: SEC 

November, 18, 2014
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As always there was a ton of recruiting news from around the Southeastern Conference. Florida head coach Will Muschamp announced he will step down from his position at the end of the season, there were key visits and new offers over the weekend. Here's a closer look at the top recruiting news from around the conference.


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Florida head coach Will Muschamp will step down at the end of this season, the school announced Sunday, just one day after Florida fell to 5-4 with a 23-20 overtime loss to South Carolina.

The Gators' struggles on the field over the past two seasons have started to affect their recruiting. Florida has only nine commits in the 2015 class, a number that ranks last in the SEC. Florida also recently lost commitments from two ESPN 300 linebackers, Adonis Thomas and Jerome Baker.

Several recruits weighed in on the Muschamp news shortly after it was reported.


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SEC's top recruiting visits 

November, 14, 2014
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The Mississippi State at Alabama game looks to be loaded with big-time visitors. Georgia is also expecting several ESPN 300 prospects for its game against Auburn and Florida is hoping continue its momentum against South Carolina in front of several recruits. Here’s a closer look at some of the top visitors in the SEC this weekend.


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TAMPA, Fla. -- ESPN300 ATH Ray-Ray McCloud III, was presented with his Under Armour All-America Game jersey Thursday morning in a ceremony sponsored by American Family Insurance. The ceremony took place in front of family, friends and teammates at the Sickles High School gymnasium in Tampa, Florida.

The 12th-ranked athlete and the 151st-ranked player overall in the ESPN 300 said he felt honored to be selected to one of the top All-America games in the country.

“I feel honored and blessed. Just growing up and watching this game and wishing and dreaming of playing in this game and now dreams are coming to reality,” McCloud said. "I feel blessed to be presented with my jersey today. It’s a dream come true."

McCloud has been committed to Clemson since July. The four-star athlete has never wavered in his pledged to the Tigers despite still being pursued by several other schools.

“With Clemson, I’m 100 percent. That’s where my heart is right now,” the four-star athlete said. "But other schools like Bama, Ole Miss, UCLA, Florida and USF are recruiting me hard but I’m solid to Clemson.

“I just like the character they build at the schools. The football players, coaches and even the rest of campus is a caring culture and everybody is all about Clemson. They put God first. Coach Dabo [Swinney], his character is just off the charts. He loves the kids."

Six questions with Ray-Ray McCloud III

Who was the best player you ever saw play in the Under Armour game?

McCloud: I’d say Vernon Hargreaves III. Him coming from Florida and representing the area like he has. He’s lived up to the hype and done his thing.

If you could start a team with any other player in your class who would it be?

McCloud: Derwin James. Just with his leadership and the way he carries a defense. He can pick up the defense and just change the whole defense.

If you could go one-on-one with any other player in this class who would it be?

McCloud: Probably Byron Cowart. They beat us my sophomore year, and I’d love to go against him again.

What's your earliest football memory?

McCloud: When I was playing little league football I had a 60-yard touchdown called back, then a 70-yard touchdown called back, then finally an 80-yard touchdown that counted. I was done after that.

If you could take on a professional athlete in their sport, who would it be and why?

McCloud: A.I. — Allen Iverson. He’s my favorite basketball player and I’d like to go against the best.

What kind of player can Clemson expect to get when you get on campus?

McCloud: A leader, ready to work. I’m mature and a guy that’s dedicated in everything he does.

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TAMPA, Fla. — The Florida State Seminoles have been on a tear. The success extends from the field, where the Seminoles have won 24 straight games and a national championship and have the reigning Heisman Trophy winner leading their potent offense, to recruiting, where they continue to stockpile top prospects.


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UA jersey tour: Derwin James

November, 5, 2014
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HAINES CITY, Fla. -- ESPN 300 safety Derwin James Jr. was presented with his Under Armour All-America Game jersey Wednesday morning in a ceremony sponsored by American Family Insurance. The ceremony took place in front of family, friends and teammates at the Haines City auditorium.

The No. 1-ranked safety and the No. 19-ranked player overall in the ESPN 300 said he felt honored to be selected to one of the top All-American games in the country.

“First of all, I think it’s a blessing to be selected to the Under Armour All-America Game,” James said. “Not too many people get to be named an All-American, so it’s an honor."

James has been committed to Florida State since February 2012. The four-star recruit has never wavered in his pledge to the Seminoles despite still being pursued by several other schools.

"Oh yeah, teams are still coming after me, like Florida, Alabama, South Carolina, Louisville,” James said. “They tell me that until I sign the papers there's still a chance, but I’m Florida State all the way -- even have an FSU tattoo.”

The 6-foot-2, 202-pound hard-hitting safety believes FSU will continue to have success both on the field and in recruiting.

"I think Florida State is on the rise,” James said. "When I first committed to FSU we weren’t on the top yet, but I feel like with all the recruits coming in that we are going to be on the top for a couple years.”

Seven questions with Derwin James

Who was the best player you ever saw play in the Under Armour game?

James: I remember Karlos Williams had a key interception and he had a few big hits. He’s from this area, so I really remember him playing in the game.

If you could start a team with any other player in your class, who would it be?

James: It would be Byron Cowart. He’s just a man. He could be the heart of a defense.

What's your earliest football memory?

James: My first first football memory was winning the Super Bowl in Pop Warner. I scored the game-winning touchdown.

What number do you wear and why?

James: I wear 6. That’s been my lucky number. Ever since I was little, 6 was always a number I wanted to wear.

If you could take on a professional athlete in their sport, who would it be and why?

James: LeBron James. He’s the king. He’s the best in the NBA.

What's something most people don't know about you?

James: I’m humble and laid back and I just live life and like doing what I do -- play football.

What kind of player can Florida State expect when you get on campus?

James: They can expect to get a leader and someone that is about winning and just coming in and being dedicated and laying it all on the line.

SEFFNER, Fla. -- Five-star defensive end Byron Cowart has made some changes to his visit plans. The No. 2-ranked player in the country was scheduled to go to Florida for its game against South Carolina on Nov. 15, but Cowart will instead visit Alabama for its SEC West showdown against Mississippi State.

Cowart, who was presented with his Under Armour All-America replica jersey on Tuesday, has not rescheduled a visit to Florida.

"I go to Florida all the time," Cowart said. "I don't know. I know they want to treat me and all that stuff but I've been there a bunch, they really don't have to do all that."

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