NCF On The Trail: Da'Vante Phillips

While the Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual was a forgettable one for Dalvin Cook, his freshman season as a whole will be talked about at Florida State for quite some time.

Without Cook's emergence in the second half of the season and MVP performance in the ACC championship game, the Seminoles likely would not have made the inaugural College Football Playoff in the first place.

One of the elite prospects of the 2014 class, Cook was able to get a jump-start on his college career when he enrolled at Florida State in January of last year rather than the summer, which is when most signees officially step on campus full time. Although Cook suffered a shoulder injury that cost him all of spring practice, Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher said it was pivotal having Cook in team meetings and learning the nuances of a complex offense. It clearly paid dividends in the fall.

Fisher hopes the next crop of early enrollees, which arrived this past weekend, can provide a similar impact. Few programs play more freshmen than Florida State, and it will certainly need a boost from its 2015 class with significant losses coming at nearly every position.

The good news is that once again Fisher's haul is an impressive one, and the Seminoles' top four commitments are all on campus. Five-star defensive end Josh Sweat, five-star and No. 1 athlete George Campbell, No. 1 safety Derwin James and No. 3 running back Jacques Patrick highlight the Seminoles' No. 2-ranked class Insider, and they're all on campus.

Sweat, No. 5 in the ESPN 300, suffered a torn ACL during his senior season, but he'll now be able to rehab with the Florida State staff. While it's unlikely he will participate in spring practice, the weakside defensive end should be ready in the fall and can provide an immediate pass rush on third down. The Seminoles struggled all season to consistently rush the passer.

With the loss of Nick O'Leary and Rashad Greene, FSU's career leader in receptions, the Seminoles have a significant void to fill at receiver. Campbell, ranked No. 10 nationally, was a 6-foot-4, 190-pound athlete rather than a receiver initially, but reviews from his senior season and Under Armour All-America Game practices suggest Campbell's hands have improved significantly.

"There has not been a 6-foot-4 vertical receiving threat in the Under Armour All-America Game who runs as well as George Campbell since A.J. Green in 2008," Tom Luginbill,'s senior national recruiting analyst, wrote last week. "The knock on Campbell has been consistent ball skills, but all he did was pluck the ball nicely and take the top off the defense. Campbell falls out of bed in the morning and runs a sub-4.4 40-second dash, and he will be a nice complement to the more physical, stoutly built Da'Vante Phillips."

The 6-foot-2, 202-pound Phillips, No. 58 in the ESPN 300, is also enrolled early. He comes from Miami Central High School, the alma mater of Cook.

Patrick will provide a bigger complement to Cook and Mario Pender in the backfield. Patrick is 6-foot-3 and 233 pounds, so he could immediately see time in short-yardage and goal-line situations. Although Florida State failed to effectively run the ball at times this season, the Seminoles performed well in short yardage with the senior Karlos Williams. Patrick might fill that role.

Then there is James, the top-ranked safety and a player who has impressed evaluators at every camp, combine, practice and all-star event. The 6-foot-2, 202-pound James has been committed to Florida State for nearly three years, and his loyalty could be rewarded with early playing time. Luginbill labeled James "The Punisher" for his physicality and speed. Luginbill called James a "headhunter," and fellow recruiting analyst Craig Haubert said the NFL coaches at the Under Armour All-America Game practices could see James turning into an elite linebacker. The Seminoles are in need of an upgrade at linebacker.

Eighth-ranked dual-threat quarterback De'Andre Johnson is also on campus as well as four-star safety Calvin Brewton.

Sights, sounds from Under Armour Game

January, 2, 2015
Jan 2
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The 2015 Under Armour All-America Game is in the books, wrapping up a great week of competition among the nation’s top recruits. The action at the game was a lopsided victory for Team Highlight.

Here are some of the top sights and sounds from the game.

ESPN 300 running back Ronald Jones II started off the day's decisions.
Shortly after Ronald Jones, Virginia Tech picked up ESPN 300 DT Tim Settle.
Daylon Mack was a constant presence in Team Highlight's backfield. ESPN 300 running back Damien Harris didn't see this coming.
During the second quarter, ESPN 300 No. 50 Da'Ron Payne added to an already loaded Alabama class.
QB Deondre Francois, a four-star Florida State commit, said this week that Florida is now after him. While there's still a month until signing day, he certainly seems solid to FSU.
By halftime, Team Highlight was thoroughly in control and five-star cornerback Iman Marshall had one word for how the game was going.
LSU added four-star receiver Tyron Johnson, the No. 25 overall player.
Parents came to enjoy the game this week and the most vocal was Texas Tech commit Breiden Fehoko's family.
Then, of course, there's proud papa Snoop Dogg taking a break from watching his son Cordell Broadus.
In the third quarter, Texas added linebacker Anthony Wheeler.
Team Highlight continued to roll in the second half with Alabama quarterback commit Blake Barnett hitting Florida State WR commit Da'Vante Phillips.
And then of course, five-star Byron Cowart just does what he does.
The last commitment of the night was the biggest, and Alabama added to its riches with five-star cornerback Kendall Sheffield.
The practices are in the books and the nation’s top prospects will showcase their skills under the bright lights of the Under Armour All-America Game (4 p.m. ET Friday, ESPN2). With an outstanding collection of talent taking the field, it can be easy to feel a football sensory overload.

Here’s a viewer’s guide to the game:

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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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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Recruiting news from the road trip 

August, 29, 2014
The 10-day road trip is coming to a close with 2,000 miles driven, 20 schools visited and a lot of news from the top players in the Sunshine State.

Miami is Alabama’s threat for No. 1 WR
There has been talk recently of Miami and Florida State’s chances of flipping ESPN 300 No. 21 and Alabama commitment Calvin Ridley. After visiting Ridley, it appears the Hurricanes are the lone true threat to the Crimson Tide. It now appears that Ridley’s recruitment will come down to family and staying close to home vs. the top recruiting power in college football.

Ridley’s teammate and good friend, No. 129 Shawn Burgess-Becker, could be less likely to flip according to a person with knowledge of the situation. While Burgess-Becker’s family very much likes the Alabama staff, expect both Ridley and Burgess-Becker to take in a Hurricanes game or two this season. The duo mentioned Florida and Auburn as Alabama home games they plan to attend this season.

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Orlando/Miami NFTC awards 

March, 17, 2014

Florida prospects had a big opportunity to shine this past weekend with a pair of NFTC events taking place in the state. The packed weekend kicked off on Saturday in the Orlando area with a talented group that included two top-10 ESPN Junior 300 prospects. The action moved south Sunday for the Miami NFTC, which featured a strong group of skilled prospects. There were many good performances throughout the weekend, and here are the Recruiting Nation NFTC Awards highlighting some the top and most notable performers.

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Orlando/Miami NFTC notebook 

March, 16, 2014

The Florida leg of the Nike Football Training Camp series didn’t disappoint. Top prospects from all over the Sunshine State made their way to Orlando (Fla.) and Miami to take part in the ultra-competiive camp. An incredible 11 prospects from the Orlando NFTC were invited to The Opening, an elite camp and 7-on-7 tournament held in early July at the Nike Headquarters in Beaverton, Ore. Here’s a closer look at the top news from over the weekend.

Orlando NFTC/Elite 11

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One of the top high school programs in the country, Miami Booker T. Washington, lost its head coach on Monday as Tim “Ice” Harris resigned to take a position with the Miami Hurricanes. Miami announced the move on its official website.

Harris will join Al Golden’s staff as assistant director of football operations, and with his extensive experience in South Florida he will be the primary liaison with high school coaches.

Miami signed just four prospects from South Florida in 2013, but after an apparent change in recruiting philosophy the Hurricanes signed 14 players from the talent-rich area in 2014. By adding Harris, who has 24 years of coaching experience in the Miami area and compiled a 99-10 record in his two stints at Booker T. Washington, the Hurricanes are looking to increase their stronghold on the fertile recruiting area.

Booker T. Washington had seven players sign with FBS schools this year, but only two, Chad Thomas and Demetrius Jackson, signed with Miami. Harris’ own son, quarterback Treon Harris, signed with Florida, but by adding Tim Harris to their staff, the Hurricanes are hoping to start a pipeline from the nationally recognized high school.

The 2015 Booker T. Washington class is not quite as strong as its 2014 class, but the area surrounding the school is loaded with talent so Golden picked a great time to add Harris to his staff. Ten of the top 100 players in the 2015 ESPN Junior 300 are from South Florida. The No. 11-ranked junior in the country, athlete Torrance Gibson (Plantation, Fla./American Heritage), is the top South Florida prospect and has visited the Hurricanes multiple times.

Landing a prospect like Gibson, who wants to play quarterback in college, will only help with other elite prospects in the area such as defensive back Tarvarus McFadden (Plantation, Fla./American Heritage), wide receiver Da'Vante Phillips (Miami/Central) and wide receiver Calvin Ridley (Coconut Creek, Fla./Monarch).

Harris is easily one of the most recognizable names in South Florida high school football, and his experience and connections in the area should only help the Hurricanes continue to recruit at a very high level.

Weekend recruiting wrap: SEC 

December, 9, 2013

With signing day less than two months away, the SEC regular season is now complete and recruiting will now become a primary focus for each of the conference’s 14 teams. As Feb. 5 quickly approaches there will be official visits, All-American games and different recruiting scenarios unfold. Here’s a closer look at the latest happenings in the SEC:

Biggest weekend performance: The high school season is just about over, but there are still a few SEC recruits in the playoffs. Here’s a look at who had some of the best performances.

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Weekend recruiting wrap: SEC 

November, 11, 2013

Lots of news around the Southeastern Conference over the weekend. There were a few commitments, and Alabama hosted several visitors for its big win over LSU. Here’s a closer look at some of the top storylines in the SEC this weekend.

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Pitt looks to follow Miami's blueprint 

November, 8, 2013
Pittsburgh would like to get to where Miami is. Two programs down on their luck for much of the last decade, Miami has climbed out of ACC mediocrity as a conference contender. Pittsburgh is the newest middling program to leave the Big East for the ACC.

Miami has made its way to the top third of the ACC behind the success of a new coach and his recruiting, and Pitt hopes to do the same under second-year coach Paul Chryst. The Panthers are looking to finish strong in 2014, and this weekend could go a long way toward doing that.

The Hurricanes are still not where they want to be following a second-half shellacking at the hands of rival Florida State last weekend. A win Saturday night, however, and the Hurricanes essentially lock up a rematch with the Seminoles in the ACC title game, which would help regain some power in the three-way recruiting tug-of-war in Florida.

Here are five recruits who will be keeping a close eye on the Notre Dame-Pitt game and five more who will be watching Virginia Tech-Miami.

Notre Dame at Pitt

ATH Dravon Henry (Aliquippa, Pa./Aliquippa): It is not often the Panthers miss out on prospects from nearby Aliquippa, and Henry is related to former Pitt standouts Darrelle Revis and Sean Gilbert. The two-way star is a West Virginia lean, however. The Mountaineers have been out front for Henry for quite some time and the lead is expanding. This could be the type of game that finally brings Pitt a little bit closer to the top spot. Henry, No. 136 in the ESPN 300, will take official visits after the season, and he acknowledges the pressure to go to Pitt will increase as signing day nears. A positive showing by the Panthers on Saturday could go a long way in easing some of that pressure on the state’s top player. One problem: Henry will be at West Virginia.

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Weekend recruiting wrap: ACC 

September, 9, 2013
By a large margin, the most important game with recruiting implications was in Miami over the weekend as the Hurricanes hosted the Florida Gators.

Miami was able to edge out a close, 21-16 victory, but how much will it help?

Best prospect performances

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The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's latest feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting in the mornings.

Zack Darlington
Tom Hauck for Student SportsNebraska coach Bo Pelini has to make a tough decision after 2014 QB commit Zack Darlington got injured.
Today's offerings: With questions about Zack Darlington’s future lingering, Nebraska coach Bo Pelini has to make a tough decision about recruiting another quarterback in the 2014 class. There’s still plenty of meat left on the bone for the 2014 class; and the Miami Central-Miami Booker T. Washington game will showcase seven Cane and Gator recruits.

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SEC recruiting storylines: Sept. 5 

September, 5, 2013
After a sensational weekend to open the college football season, this weekend features a number of marquee games that are sure to have an impact on recruiting. Two games in the Southeast Region, in particular, are expected to bring out a number of big time prospects in the class of 2014 and 2015. Here is a closer look at some of the hot topics throughout the SEC:

The beat goes on for No. 1
Not only is Alabama going for a three-peat on the field this season, but also in recruiting. Already opening up a nice lead in the 2014 class rankings with the commitment of Cameron Sims (Monroe, La./Ouachita High) two weeks ago, the Crimson Tide placed a stranglehold on the competition Wednesday securing a commitment from five-star offensive tackle Cameron Robinson (West Monroe, La./West Monroe). With the pledge from Robinson, Nick Saban and Co. now have 20 commitments, including 14 in the ESPN 300.

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