NCF On The Trail: Demarcus Robinson

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida coach Will Muschamp likes to say that his program sells itself to recruits, but it still doesn't make that part of his job terribly easy.

Sure, UF is the flagship university in the state, plays in the top conference in America and has facilities to rival any elite athletic program. But the Gators constantly have to contend with the likes of Florida State, Miami, Georgia, Alabama, LSU and any number of national programs that come to this talent-rich state for recruits.

Muschamp has demonstrated a gift for recruiting, as his classes have ranked 12th in the nation in 2011, fourth in 2012 and second overall last year. This year's class is ranked No. 7 with a little more than a week until signing day on Feb. 5.

Here are some notable recruiting battles won by the Gators under Muschamp. On Tuesday, we'll look at the other side of the equation.

[+] EnlargeDante Fowler Jr.
Kim Klement/USA TODAY SportsDante Fowler Jr. provided a much-needed presence on the defensive line.
DE/LB Dante Fowler Jr.
Chose Florida over Florida State
One of the biggest recruiting coups in recent years was getting Fowler to flip on signing day after being committed to the archrival Seminoles for more than a year. Fowler, who grew up an FSU fan, played a cat-and-mouse game of flirting with Florida before ultimately deciding he had a better chance to play early for the Gators. A much-needed presence on the defensive line, he played as a true freshman in 2012 and then broke through last season as a key playmaker in UF's front seven.

WR Demarcus Robinson
Chose Florida over Clemson
Robinson's recruitment was a roller coaster right up to the moment he enrolled early at Florida in January 2013. He first committed to Clemson in July 2012 before decommitting and flipping to Florida in December. The pledge to the Gators, however, lasted less than a week before he flipped back to Clemson. Robinson's first year in college was no less confusing, as he made a strong impression and garnered early playing time before missing three games due to suspension.

LB Alex Anzalone
Chose Florida over Notre Dame
Anzalone had a solid connection to UF from the start -- his father graduated from Florida's medical school. But the athletic linebacker from Wyomissing, Penn., seemed determined to play college football in the Midwest. He committed to Ohio State and then Notre Dame, both times over Florida. But after being committed to the Irish for more than six months, Anzalone had one final change of heart before enrolling early. He flipped to Florida the day before enrolling last January. Anzalone struggled with injuries as a true freshman but did play in 10 games.

DT Jay-nard Bostwick
Chose Florida over Miami and Alabama
The Florida coaching staff had to wait until the eve of signing day in 2013 to get the good news that their persistence with Bostwick had payed off. With Sharrif Floyd leaving early for the NFL, Florida had a more appealing depth chart than the Crimson Tide and offered a chance to play in the SEC while staying in-state. Bostwick ended up redshirting last season, but he has a good chance of cracking the rotation at defensive tackle this year.

S Marcell Harris
Chose Florida over Texas
It isn't easy to generate suspense on the recruiting trail when you're a highly touted and coveted Gator legacy. Harris' father, Mike, played safety for the Steve Spurrier-coached Gators in the mid-90s, but following in those footsteps was no sure thing. Marcell gave serious consideration to the Longhorns before committing and signing with UF. He redshirted in 2013.

LB Matt Rolin
Chose Florida over South Carolina
Rolin's flip to Florida on Dec. 9, 2012 was a genuine shocker considering both of his parents graduated from South Carolina, he had family in Columbia, S.C., and had been committed to the Gamecocks since May 2012. He made the announcement on Twitter while still going by the handle @USC_9 and predictably drew the ire of South Carolina fans. He enrolled early at UF last January and redshirted while rehabbing a twice-torn ACL.

DE Jonathan Bullard
Chose Florida over Clemson
The Gators held off a late charge by Clemson, which offered Bullard a chance to stay closer to his home in Shelby, N.C. At the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in January 2012, a smiling Bullard made his announcement by pulling on an orange and blue baseball cap. He quickly found playing time and has missed just one game in his first two seasons, making 10 starts along the defensive line.

Top SEC recruiting rivalries 

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From year-to-year the Southeastern Conference is full of recruiting battles. This year it appears that Alabama and LSU could have some of the best recruiting battles we've seen in a while. Here's a closer look at the five top recruiting rivalries in the SEC.

SEC recruiting mailbag

August, 23, 2013
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It’s time to dip into the SEC recruiting mailbag and answer your questions. Because of the amount of questions we’ve received, we won’t be able to get to all of them today -- but we encourage you to ask again next week by tweeting your questions to @DerekTysonESPN.

@Watup_Haun: Who's going to land Clifton Garrett (Plainfield, Ill./Plainfield South)?

Derek Tyson: LSU appears to be the team to beat for the ESPN 300 linebacker and by a wide margin. Garrett will also take official visits to Ole Miss, Tennessee and Florida. LSU is shaping up to have a monster recruiting class, and right now I expect Garrett to be a part of it.

[+] EnlargeAdoree' Jackson
Jeff Barlis/ESPNESPN 300 athlete Adoree' Jackson likes Florida's football and track teams and met with both head coaches during his July visit.
@UltimateLemons: What's your gut tell you about Florida landing Adoree' [Jackson] and [Lorenzo] Carter? Do the Gators even contend realistically for Raekwon [McMillan]?

DT: Though Florida has made a big impression on the five-star prospects, Jackson and Carter, the Gators certainly have their work cut out for them. Florida's track program recently won a national championship, and track will be a key factor in Jackson's decision. USC, Michigan, Tennessee and LSU are a few other schools squarely in the mix for the talented athlete. Carter has Florida in the lead with Alabama and Georgia slightly trailing. At this point, Florida feels good about both prospects, but there is still a long way to go.

As for McMillan, the Gators are in his top five, but Ohio State is clearly the team to beat. Clemson and Georgia are also near the top of his list. He is talented enough for the Gators to continue to pursue him, but at this time, I don't think he will end up in Gainesville.

@UTSportsAction1: Do the SEC school's generally look for three-star athletes and above?

DT: If you ask coaches in college football if they only recruit players ranked three-stars or higher, you would probably get the same overwhelming response. "We don't look at stars," they would likely say, and probably in a stern voice. The truth is, a lot goes in to our recruiting rankings, and we don't just rate someone a four-star prospect for the fun of it. A lot of research goes in to every player we rank. I know for a fact that some college coaches do in fact look at rankings, but they wouldn't be doing their job if they didn't do their own evaluations. So to answer your question, I think college coaches use rankings as a general guide to see if they are missing out on certain prospects or to see which other schools have offered players, but they do their own evaluations and decide who they want to offer based on a number of factors.

Looking back at last year's SEC recruiting classes and excluding kickers, long snappers, punters and junior college, prep school and transfer players, SEC teams only signed seven players who were ranked two-star prospects or below:

2013: Alabama - 0, Auburn - 0, Arkansas - 1 (WR Drew Morgan), Florida - 0, Georgia - 0, LSU - 0, Kentucky - 2 (QB Reese Phillips and OT Justin Day), Mississippi State - 0, Ole Miss - 0, South Carolina - 1 (DE Kendal Vickers), Tennessee - 0, Missouri - 2 (OC Alec Abeln and DT DeQuinton Osborne), Texas A&M - 0, Vanderbilt - 1 (ATH C.J. Duncan)

The numbers speak for themselves. Though it's uncommon, the SEC does generally recruit prospects ranked three-star prospects or higher.

@madveal37: The SEC has widespread talent. What true freshmen are going to have a big impact in 2013?

DT: This is not really a recruiting question, but because I had an opportunity to see a lot of these players in high school and at all-star games over the last few years, I'll give my opinion on a few I think could make an early impact.

DE Robert Nkemdiche (Ole Miss): There is a reason he was the consensus No. 1-ranked player in the country. He will play early and often for the Rebels and should make a big impact.

WR Demarcus Robinson (Florida): Florida needs help at wide receiver, and Robinson has been a star in fall camp.

RB Alex Collins (Arkansas): Collins was a steal for the Razorbacks. His explosiveness will earn him carries early in his career.

DE Carl Lawson and DE Elijah Daniel (Auburn): With Auburn's top defensive lineman, Dee Ford, out for the opener, it should open the door for Lawson and Daniel to make their marks.

LB Reuben Foster (Alabama): It's not easy to get on the field early at Alabama, but head coach Nick Saban has specifically singled out Foster for having a strong camp. Look for him to see the field early.

@miketag98: Will UK lose a lot of recruits if [Mark] Stoops flops on the field? Like if they go 4-8?

DT: I really don't believe so. Obviously Kentucky hasn't had much success on the field over the past few years, and recruits understand that. What Stoops is selling to these recruits is an opportunity to help turn the football program around. The opportunity to play early is another key selling point. As long as Kentucky shows improvement and is at least competitive in most of their games, I don't see recruits bailing on this impressive recruiting class.

@bigjpl2: Does Georgia have a real shot at Elijah Hood (Charlotte, N.C./Charlotte Catholic)?

DT: Hood, the former Notre Dame commit, was considering North Carolina, Georgia and Virginia Tech before he originally committed to the Fighting Irish. Now that he has backed off his pledge, you would think Georgia might still be in the picture. However, Georgia has two stud running backs in Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley. The Bulldogs signed four-star running back A.J. Turman last year, and they have two ESPN 300 running backs (Sony Michel and Nick Chubb) committed this year. Chubb is very comparable to Hood as far as size, speed and build. At this point, Georgia doesn't have a pressing need at the position and could risk losing one of its other commits if the coaches put the full-court press on Hood. Though Hood might still show interest in Georgia, in my opinion, I don't believe he will end up in Athens.

@BlakeBoswell1: What are the odds [Leonard] Fournette stays in LA?

In my opinion, the odds are in LSU's favor to land Fournette -- but not by much. Alabama is certainly putting up a big fight. In fact, Fournette was in Tuscaloosa last weekend with Cameron Robinson and Laurence Jones to watch the Crimson Tide scrimmage. I think this will be a battle to the end, but Alabama has a lot of depth at running back, and LSU's proximity to home gives the Tigers the slight advantage.

Tales from the road: Florida Gators 

May, 29, 2013
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Each week, Tales From The Road will provide news and updates about where Florida's coaches are recruiting and the prospects making headlines.

This week's targets: With spring practices in Florida winding down, the Florida coaches aren't expected to visit many prospects this week. The two players that are expected to get visits are important though.


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Florida enters big day with holes filled

February, 4, 2013
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Entering National Signing Day, Florida has the top recruiting class in the nation. The Gators have commitments from an FBS-leading 11 ESPN 150 recruits and are in the running for a number of other undecided players.

If Florida remains the top recruiting class after Wednesday, it will be the fourth time in the last eight seasons that Florida has signed a top-two recruiting class.

The previous three times, Florida played in a BCS bowl in the third season after signing its class (when the players were true juniors).

This year, Florida has signed a class with the potential to fill holes.

Florida stocked up on skill position players in its 2013 class with seven ESPN 300 recruits listed as ATH, WR or RB, including the top RB recruit in the nation, Kelvin Taylor.
Last season, the Gators ran on 65 percent of their plays in 2012, the ninth-highest percentage in FBS.


Florida improved its rush offense in 2012 but is losing its top running back, Mike Gillislee, who was Florida’s first 1,000-yard rusher since 2004. The Gators might look immediately to Taylor to replace Gillislee and his hard-nosed style of running.

When the Gators attempted to pass, they rarely looked downfield. The Gators’ average pass traveled 6.6 yards beyond the line of scrimmage, the fewest air yards per pass attempt in the SEC.

Part of Florida’s downfield struggles was a lack of wide receivers to stretch the field. The Gators’ best deep receiver was tight end , who declared for the draft. Reed had just three fewer receptions on passes thrown 15 yards or longer than all of Florida’s wide receivers combined.

To fill this gaping hole, Florida has commitments from three wide receivers ranked in the top 200 of the ESPN 300, including the No. 7 ranked wide receiver, Demarcus Robinson, who has the potential to stretch the field.

In addition to its group of skill position players, Florida has three defensive backs in the ESPN 150, including the No. 3 overall player in the rankings, cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III. The Gators are losing both of their starting safeties from one of the top secondaries in the nation.

Florida allowed its opponents to complete less than 16 percent of their passes thrown 20 yards or longer downfield and was the only defense that did not allow a touchdown on a pass of this distance.

The Gators’ 2013 recruiting class elicits thoughts of their previous top classes that included players such as Tim Tebow, Percy Harvin, Chris Rainey, Brandon Spikes, and Carlos Dunlap. Florida fans hope that the Gators can build upon a strong 2012 season and again translate their influx of talent into championships.

Signing day primer: Florida 

January, 23, 2013
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- There are just a couple of short weeks remaining until national signing day, and the Florida Gators have met a majority of their recruiting needs. With graduation, transfers and players leaving for the NFL draft, there are a few areas Florida head coach Will Muschamp would still like to shore up.

Key holes to fill

The Gators lost key personnel along the offensive line, wide receiver, linebacker, running back and secondary and are hoping to replenish their talent with junior college transfers and incoming freshmen.

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Weekly Commitment Update 

January, 11, 2013
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ACC
Clemson
Ebenezer Ogundeko DE Brooklyn, N.Y./Thomas Jefferson
HT: 6-3 WT: 229
Position Rank: #10 DE

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WR Jenkins drops Clemson for Vols 

January, 7, 2013
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With just under a month to go until signing day, commitments and decommitments are popping up all over the place. On Monday morning it was Clemson’s turn to lose a top prospect as ESPN 300 wide receiver Ryan Jenkins (Marietta, Ga./Lassiter) dropped the Tigers in favor of another orange-themed program.

“I decommitted from Clemson and I will be going to the University of Tennessee,” Jenkins said in a text to RecruitingNation.

Jenkins is a legacy commitment for Tennessee. His father, Lee Jenkins, was a standout cornerback for the Volunteers. Jenkins went through most of his recruitment without an offer from Tennessee but new head coach Butch Jones reached out to the four-star receiver shortly after Jones was settled in Knoxville. The offer to play for the Vols came just three days after Jones was announced as the new coach.

Jenkins is the second Peach State wide receiver to recently decommit from the Tigers. Demarcus Robinson (Fort Valley, Ga./Peach County) told Derek Tyson on Monday morning that he planned to enroll at Florida after having flipped to Florida once, then back to Clemson and then finally decommitting all together. Clemson also suffered the decommitments of No. 1 prospect Robert Nkemdiche (Loganville, Ga./Grayson) and David Kamara (Loganville, Ga./Grayson) in November. The Tigers failed to sign any prospect from the Peach State last year.

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Robinson can boost UF immediately 

January, 7, 2013
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The commitment of Demarcus Robinson (Fort Valley, Ga./Peach County) on Monday is huge for the Gators. At 6-foot-2, 200-pounds, Robinson has the size and athleticism that will allow him to compete for playing time early.

Robinson is the only one of Florida's five WR commits slated to enroll early. If he follows through with his plan, the U.S. Army All-American has a chance to earn a starting spot early in his career.

Quinton Dunbar led all Florida receivers with just 306 receiving yards. After Dunbar, Andre Debose stands second among returning receivers with two receptions for 11 yards. Florida needs production from its wideouts and needs it now.

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4-star WR D. Robinson enrolling at UF 

January, 7, 2013
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The Demarcus Robinson (Fort Valley, Ga./Peach Co.) saga appears to coming to an end. The four-star wide receiver Tweeted on Monday morning that he is on his way to Florida. Robinson then confirmed his decision to ESPN.com via text message.

SAN ANTONIO -- Wednesday was a day off for the U.S. Army All-American Bowl teams. Instead of working out and participating in drills, the players took in visits around the city -- including a stop at the Alamodome for photo opportunities and to see their game apparel -- and used the day to recover from two days of practice.

The teams will return to the fields on Thursday in arguably the most important practice of the week. Here are five things to keep an eye on for Thursday’s practice:

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SAN ANTONIO - - It looks like the curious case of ESPN 300 wide receiver Demarcus Robinson (Fort Valley, Ga./Peach County) will conclude with an announcement at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl on Saturday.

Whether that decision ends up being the school he enrolls in remains to be seen. After all, Robinson has a history of changing his mind.


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Weekly Commitment Roundup 

December, 21, 2012
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ACC
Clemson
Demarcus Robinson WR Fort Valley, Ga./Peach County
HT: 6-2 WT: 200
Position Rank: #14 WR

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4-star WR Robinson flips back to Clemson 

December, 17, 2012
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One day removed from his official visit to Florida, ESPN 300 wide receiver Demarcus Robinson (Fort Valley, Ga./Peach County) switched his commitment back to Clemson after being committed to the Gators for five days.

Peach County head coach Chad Campbell confirmed Robinson's decision via text message: "He is going to Clemson!!"

With Robinson now back in the fold, Clemson, which has the No. 15-ranked recruiting class in the country, now has 16 verbal commitments including three in the ESPN 150.

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Weekend Rewind: Florida 

December, 17, 2012
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida didn't bring many visitors this weekend -- only four prospects made official visits, but it was once again a very productive recruiting weekend for the Gators.

Three-star linebacker Jarrad Davis (Kingsland, Ga./Camden Co.), who was one of Florida's official visitors, switched his commitment from Auburn to Florida on Saturday.

Camden County head coach Jeff Herron said Davis wasn't even sure if Florida would offer.

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