NCF On The Trail: Garrald McDowell

Recruiting hits and misses: SEC West

February, 6, 2014
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Now that the fax machines are quiet, the 2014 signing classes have been announced and before we start looking ahead to 2015, let's take a moment to examine how each of the SEC schools did in filling immediate needs via recruiting.

We're checking out what all 14 teams did to fill holes, and we're looking at which holes still remain. We'll start with the SEC West (click here for the SEC East):

ALABAMA

Needs filled: It was obvious Alabama needed help at cornerback, and the Crimson Tide went out and got two of the best in the country in five-star prospects Tony Brown and Marlon Humphrey. Pass rushers were also a priority, which makes five-star defensive end Da'Shawn Hand and four-star outside linebackers Rashaan Evans and Christian Miller key pickups. Cameron Robinson, yet another five-star prospect, could end up starting at left tackle next season on the offensive line.

Holes remaining: The Crimson Tide could have used another marquee receiver and lost out on No. 1 wideout Malachi Dupre to LSU. With Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Vinnie Sunseri both heading early to the NFL, the Tide also might have come up short at safety.

ARKANSAS

Needs filled: The Hogs’ passing game was in need of a jump-start, and getting an ESPN 300 player out of Miami the caliber of JoJo Robinson adds another playmaker to the equation. Arkansas’ offensive line class is equally impressive with four-star prospects Brian Wallace and Frank Ragnow and three-star prospect Jovan Pruitt joining Denver Kirkland and Dan Skipper from last year’s class.

Holes remaining: The highest-ranked player in the Hogs’ class was defensive tackle Bijhon Jackson of El Dorado, Ark., which was big considering they need help everywhere on defense. But they missed out on a pair of highly ranked defensive ends in Solomon Thomas and Demetrius Jackson.

AUBURN

Needs filled: Gus Malzahn called ESPN 300 prospect Tre' Williams the key to the class, and he should provide an immediate boost at linebacker. With Chris Davis departing, the Tigers also needed to replenish at cornerback, which is where four-star prospects Kalvaraz Bessent and Stephen Roberts come in. Both were ranked in the top 10 nationally at their position. With Greg Robinson leaving early for the NFL draft, it was good to add muscle on the offensive line with ESPN 300 prospect Braden Smith, who could play guard or tackle.

Holes remaining: The sting of losing Evans, who’s from Auburn, to Alabama could be felt for a while. He's the kind of explosive athlete who would fit on any defense, and the Tigers need more of those guys, particularly at linebacker.

LSU

Needs filled: The loss of running back Jeremy Hill early to the NFL draft was lessened by landing Leonard Fournette, the No. 1 overall prospect in this class. It only got better for the Tigers’ offense on signing day when the country’s No. 1 receiver, Dupre, said he would play his college football on the Bayou. Safety was a real sore spot on defense last season, so getting ESPN 300 prospect Jamal Adams was a major pickup. Adams is rated by ESPN RecruitingNation as the No. 2 safety in the 2014 class.

Holes remaining: Robinson would have been a nice centerpiece on that LSU offensive line, but Alabama came into West Monroe, La., and swiped the five-star prospect. The Tigers also lost five-star athlete Speedy Noil of New Orleans to Texas A&M.

MISSISSIPPI STATE

Needs filled: Junior college signee Jocquell Johnson is already on campus and will battle for a starting job next season on an offensive line that’s losing two starters, including All-SEC guard Gabe Jackson. The Bulldogs also added a pair of playmakers at receiver in ESPN 300 prospects Jamoral Graham and Jesse Jackson. Flipping 6-foot-6, 265-pound defensive lineman Cory Thomas from Tennessee on signing day added some more punch to an already deep and talented defensive line in Starkville.

Holes remaining: More secondary help would have been nice, which is why losing cornerback Tee Shepard to Ole Miss on signing day was a downer. A couple of the offensive linemen the Bulldogs wanted, Jordan Sims and Sean Rawlings, also opted for Ole Miss.

OLE MISS

Needs filled: The Rebels wanted to continue to stockpile talent on the offensive line after reeling in Laremy Tunsil and Austin Golson a year ago and did that with four-star prospects Rod Taylor, Tyler Putman and Sims. Upgrading the defense was also a priority, which is why beating Alabama for ESPN 300 safety C.J. Hampton was so important along with getting ESPN 300 defensive end Garrald McDowell out of Louisiana. Flipping junior college cornerback Shepard from Mississippi State was a nice signing day coup.

Holes remaining: You can never have enough defensive linemen in the SEC, so losing defensive tackle Michael Sawyers to Tennessee was a blow. The same goes for ESPN 300 defensive end Davon Godchaux, who stuck with his commitment and signed with LSU.

TEXAS A&M

Needs filled: With Johnny Manziel taking his show to the NFL, Texas A&M has to find a quarterback. Early enrollee Kyle Allen is an ESPN 300 prospect and ranked as the No. 1 pocket passer in this class. Noil, another early enrollee, should help fill a void with big-play receiver Mike Evans headed to the NFL, and the Aggies also loaded up on offensive linemen, including a pair of junior college signees. Any help on defense was a priority, which makes five-star defensive end Myles Garrett one of the keys to the class.

Holes remaining: The Aggies are still thin at safety after swinging and missing on several of their top targets in this class, including Adams, Steven Parker II and Mattrell McGraw. They also had ESPN 300 safety Dylan Sumner-Gardner committed but lost him to Boise State when Marcel Yates took the defensive coordinator job there.
The practices are in the books and now is the time for the nation’s top prospects to showcase their skills under the bright lights of the Under Armour All-America game (4 p.m. Thursday, ESPN). With an outstanding collection of talent taking the field, it can be easy to feel a football sensory overload. No matter where you look, you will see a promising prospect in action, but to help guide your focus, we put together a few viewing tips. You can’t go wrong wherever your eyes take you on the field, but the following could be a good place to start.

If you want to know where next year's top college freshmen will play …


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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- One thing is for sure for all the 2014 Under Armour All-Americans: This isn’t high school anymore. Day 1 is about gauging the competition. Some guys dive right in and some test the waters with their big toe, but by the end of the first day of practice, all those in attendance have a pretty good idea of where they stand and what they need to do to compete and get better.

Given that it is Day 1, the playbook is introduced (Team Nitro is going no huddle with wrist bands and limited plays), and there can be sloppy moments of indecision and uncertainty. With each rep, most, if not all, prospects began to get a better feel for what is expected. Most importantly, the center-quarterback exchanges were very good for the most part, which is generally the biggest worry. Upon completion of the first practice, here are some observations and things to look for over the week:

Top Performers


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Ole Miss scores big with DT McDowell

December, 20, 2013
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The Ole Miss Rebels continue to show they are here to stay under the direction of head coach Hugh Freeze. Already sitting at No. 15 in the RecruitingNation class rankings, the Rebels added to an impressive haul Friday, picking up a commitment from defensive tackle Garrald McDowell (Covington, La./Covington).

The 6-foot-1, 257-pound, athletic McDowell is the No. 110 prospect in the country, and becomes the fourth ESPN 300 prospect to pledge to Ole Miss following No. 49 Rod Taylor (Jackson, Miss./Callaway), No. 92 Markell Pack (Purvis, Miss./Purvis) and No. 134 C.J Hampton (Meridian, Miss./Meridian).
Defensive tackle is a key position of need for the Ole Miss staff in the 2014 class. McDowell becomes the fourth defensive tackle to commit to the Rebels, a group that includes four-star senior riser Breeland Speaks (Jackson, Miss./Callaway).

Earlier in the week, the Rebels signed three four-star junior college prospects in offensive tackle Fahn Cooper (Crystal Lake, Ill./College of Dupage), defensive lineman Jeremy Liggins (Oxford, Miss./Northwest Mississippi Community College) and inside linebacker Christian Russell (Raeford, N.C./East Mississippi Community College).

Ole Miss now has 26 commitments, including 13 four-star prospects. The Rebels remain in the hunt for No. 65 overall Nyles Morgan (Crete, Ill./Crete-Monee), No. 120 Wesley Green (Lithonia, Ga./Martin Luther King) and four-star offensive guard Jordan Sims (Birmingham, Ala./Homewood), among others.

Ole Miss signed the No. 5 class a year ago, which included 2013 SEC All-Freshman selections Laremy Tunsil (Lake City, Fla./Columbia), Laquon Treadwell (Crete, Ill./Crete-Monee), Robert Nkemdiche (Logansville, Ga./Grayson) and Antonio Conner (Batesville, Miss./South Panola).

McDowell will play in the 2014 Under Armour All-America Game on Jan. 2 at 4 p.m. EST on ESPN.
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Under Armour All-American Garrald McDowell (Covington, La./Covington) committed to Ole Miss on Friday, becoming the Rebels' top defensive pledge. Read below to see our scouts' take on the news:

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Recruits reaction: LSU vs Texas A&M 

November, 24, 2013
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LSU enjoyed a dominant 34-10 victory over Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel and his Texas A&M teammates on Saturday afternoon. The Tigers had several visitors on hand to watch the game. Here’s a closer look at some of the recruits reaction to the big LSU victory.

ESPN 300 linebacker Clifton Garrett (Plainfield, Ill./Plainfield South) was on his official visit to LSU this weekend. The No. 37-ranked player in the country has already taken official visits to Ole Miss, Florida and Tennessee and said he was impressed with the LSU coaching.


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SEC recruiting storylines: Nov. 14 

November, 14, 2013
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A week after LSU-Alabama took center stage in the recruiting universe, the Auburn Tigers will take the spotlight this weekend with a number of big-time prospects expected on the Plains.

Stellar visitor list expected on the Plains


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SEC recruiting mailbag

October, 18, 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 or @HamiltonESPN and use the hashtag #SECRecruiting.

@lawag97: How will A&M finish out on the recruiting front?

[+] EnlargeMyles Garrett
Courtesy of IntersportMyles Garrett could pick Texas A&M this weekend, putting the Aggies on an upward trajectory.
Gerry Hamilton: I like the Aggies' chances to finish with a top-seven class nationally. Obviously, the last part of the Aggies' class began with the decision of five-star defensive end Myles Garrett (Arlington, Texas/James Martin) to commit to Texas A&M on Friday. For Kevin Sumlin and staff, getting the No. 7 prospect overall, fills a huge need at defensive end -- not only with a big body at end, but a very athletic player with the frame to carry 275 pounds down the line.

Looking at needs, offensive line is a big one coming down the stretch for the Aggies. There are two offensive linemen currently committed in 2014, after three in 2013. It’s imperative the Aggies sign four offensive linemen in the class, and the staff is looking at both the high school and junior college level, with the most recent offer being Fahn Cooper (Glen Ellyn, Il./College of DuPage). Obviously, juco tackle Avery Gennesy (Southhaven, Miss./East Mississippi Community College) is at the top of the remaining list. Gennesy is to make an official visit to Tennessee this weekend after traveling to Ole Miss last weekend and Texas A&M in September.

Under Armour All-America selection Casey Tucker (Chandler, Ariz./Hamilton High) is another lineman whom the Aggies covet.

The key player in the class has become senior riser Frank Iheanacho (Houston/Westside). Even taller than current star wide receiver Mike Evans, the 6-foot-7, 215-pound Iheanacho has taken a similar path as a senior riser that who has skyrocketed up the boards of college programs in the region. At defensive tackle, Josh Frazier (Springdale, Ark./Har-Ber) is the top target and it is a battle between the Aggies, Arkansas and possibly Alabama. While the Aggies already have a standout class of defensive backs with four very talented prospects committed, winning out for five-star cornerback Tony Brown (Beaumont, Texas/Ozen) or safety Jamal Adams (Lewisville, Texas/Hebron) would be a huge bonus.




@COLEWORLD0: Do you think LSU will make a clean sweep within the state?

Derek Tyson: Considering the No. 3 prospect in the country, Cameron Robinson (Monroe, La./West Monroe), is committed to Alabama, I would say no. As for the remaining ESPN 300 Louisiana targets, even though the odds aren't very good that they will land every player, they certainly have a chance to make a sweep. The top three of Speedy Noil (New Orleans/Edna Karr) includes Florida, Texas A&M and USC, but I still believe LSU will be a major player for Noil in the end. His teammate Gerald Willis III and other top prospects -- including the No. 1-ranked prospect in the country, running back Leonard Fournette (New Orleans/St. Augustine), wide receiver Malachi Dupre (River Ridge, La./John Curtis), safety Laurence "Hootie" Jones (Monroe, La./Neville) and Garrald McDowell (Covington, La./Covington) -- all have a legitimate chance of ending up in LSU's class.




@hunter_ulrich55: Do you think Dalvin Cook (Miami/Central) will keep his commitment to Florida?

DT: Everything Cook says publicly makes it appear he will remain committed to the Gators, but his actions don't indicate the same thing. Cook took an official visit to Texas back in September and will take an official visit to Florida State next weekend and then to Arkansas on Nov. 2. The good news for Florida is that Cook will visit Florida for the FSU game, which is the last game of the regular season. The Gators certainly need a back with his kind of explosiveness, but it won't be an easy task with these other schools coming on strong.




@Mizzoufans4life: Do you think Missouri's on-field success will translate into better recruiting?

DT: It certainly should. Missouri is the only school in the SEC not ranked among the top 40 of the team rankings. That's a little misleading, however. Of Missouri's 24 commitments, 23 of them are ranked three-star prospects or higher. According to our grading scale, a three-star prospect has the chance to be all-conference with development. The Tigers have an explosive offense and an attacking defense that will appeal to recruits. Missouri used to primarily recruit in Big 12 territory, but the Tigers are placing a bigger emphasis in the Southeast, as evident by this year's class, which has nine committed players from Georgia and Florida. With a chance to play on national television almost every week, the Tigers are sure to gain popularity among recruits from all over the South. If they can continue the success they are currently having, it should have a big impact on recruiting as well.

SEC 2014 recruiting scenarios 

October, 8, 2013
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With signing day still several months away, schools will add and in some cases lose committed prospects. Here is a look at the best and worst case scenario for each SEC school.


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Top Big 12 recruiting rivalries 

October, 1, 2013
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Recruiting rivalries. No matter if two teams are pushing for a national title or in a rebuilding stage, recruiting gets the people going. Nothing ruffles the feathers of recruiting fans more than monitoring the process of a player considering one school and its big rival.

Here are five of the better recruiting rivalries going right now in the Big 12.


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SEC recruiting mailbag

September, 27, 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 or @HamiltonESPN and use the hashtag #SECRecruiting.

@UTSportsAction: Are the #SEC schools recruiting in states that are not known for football... #DiamondInTheRough

Derek Tyson: There is no question that several SEC schools are willing to go anywhere to get top recruits, but for the most part, SEC schools stick within the usual southern states to fill out a majority of their recruiting class. Alabama signed quarterback Cooper Bateman from Utah last year, but Bateman was one of the most highly rated quarterbacks in the country and would have been highly recruited no matter where he lived. This year, however, Florida has a commitment from four-star defensive end Taven Bryan from Wyoming. He's the first person the Gators have ever landed from the state. Ole Miss has a commitment from kicker Will Gleeson, who is from Australia. As for a diamond in the rough, I believe Bryan could be that player. He's a physical defensive end that has a lot of upside.


@SportsNewsTN: Who in ESPN's Top 300 is #TENN's Butch Jones going after to help finish out their 30 total recruits?

DT: Tennessee still has a shot a few different ESPN 300 members. Defensive tackle Garrald McDowell (Covington, La./Covington) named the Vols in his top four along with Arkansas, LSU and Ole Miss on Thursday. Wide receiver Josh Malone (Gallatin, Tenn./Station Camp), wide receivers Travis Rudolph (West Palm Beach, Fla./Cardinal Newman) and Braxton Berrios (Raleigh, N.C./Leesville), running back Derrell Scott (Havelock, N.C./Havelock) and linebacker Clifton Garrett (Plainfield, Ill./Plainfield South) are all planning to visit Tennessee next weekend. There is still a long way to go until signing day, and some recruits might wait to see how Tennessee's season plays out, but in the end I think the Vols will end up with at least two of these players, if not more.


@will_hartley21: Who do you think will turn out to be Florida's top DB recruit? Also what other top DB's will possibly be the next UF commit?

DT: Based on their current defensive back commitments J.C. Jackson (Immokalee, Fla./Immokalee), Duke Dawson (Cross City, Fla./Dixie County), Quincy Wilson (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./University School) and Chris Lammons (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./Plantation), I believe Lammons could be the best prospect, but not by much. They all have their own unique skill sets and are all solid additions to Florida's class, but Lammons has that big-play ability that you are looking for in a defensive back. Come signing day, my answer could be very different. The Gators have a great shot at landing safety Jamal Adams (Lewisville, Texas/Hebron) and are in the mix for Adoree' Jackson (Gardena, Calif./Junipero Serra). As far as who could be the next DB to commit. I'd say Adams would be most likely.


@guru1039: What are the chances Bo Scarbrough decommits from Bama? Is it true he wants to be an RB in college?

DT: I spoke with Scarbrough a few weeks ago and he claims he doesn't care where he plays, but from everything I've heard and seen with my own eyes, it does appear that he wants to play running back in college. Though committed to Alabama, he is planning to take all five official visits, including trips to Florida, UCLA, Notre Dame and Georgia. Alabama likes Scarbrough's size and athletic ability to play linebacker, and that could be something that Scarbrough is considering, but it does appear he is keeping his options open. His recruitment will continue on for some time.

UA jersey tour: Garrald McDowell

September, 27, 2013
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Senior defensive tackle Garrald McDowell (Covington, La./Covington) was presented his honorary game jersey Thursday at Covington High School during the American Family Insurance Selection Tour for the 2014 Under Armour All-America High School Football Game. The event was part of the three-month selection tour.

[+] EnlargeGarrald McDowell
Tom Hauck for Student SportsGarrald McDowell is looking at an SEC future. He's considering Ole Miss, LSU, Tennessee and Arkansas.
McDowell is one of 90 players selected to compete in the seventh annual Under Armour All-America Game, a nationally televised all-star game spotlighting the country’s top high school seniors. The game is set for 4 p.m. ET Jan. 2 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., and will be televised on ESPN.

“First of all, I want to thank my family and friends for coming to support me on this special event,” McDowell said. “I want to thank my teachers and my coaches that keep pushing me hard everyday. That’s it.”

For McDowell, being selected to the Under Armour All-America Game is quite an honor, along with the chance to play against the best of the best.

“To be selected as an Under Armour All-American ... it’s a great honor and I feel like all my hard work is paying off. I think I was selected because I work hard on and off the field. I do a great job, I play hard and I’m always looking to do better. I’m looking forward to playing against Leonard Fournette in the game, and everybody else from the Gulf Shore. I want to play against the best of the best,” McDowell said.

The 6-foot-1, 257-pound McDowell is the No. 109 prospect in the ESPN 300 and the No. 9 defensive tackle in the class. McDowell is considering Ole Miss, LSU, Tennessee and Arkansas.
BATON ROUGE, La. -- Louisiana and LSU targets were well represented at the Opening. Speedy Noil won the Nike SPARQ competition. Plenty of others performed admirably.

Who did the most to help themselves? Here's a quick look:

1. DT Garrald McDowell (Covington, La./Covington)
6-foot-1, 257 pounds
ESPN 300 Rank: 108


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BEAVERTON, Ore. -- Even with dynamic two-way athletes Michiah Quick (Fresno, Calif./Central) and John “JuJu” Smith (Long Beach, Calif./Poly) lining up with the offense Monday in the first day of The Opening, the defensive backs were a standout group as it relates to USC recruiting.

Roommates Adoree’ Jackson (Gardena, Calif./Serra) and Adarius Pickett (El Cerrito, Calif./El Cerrito), as well as 2015 defensive back Iman Marshall (Long Beach, Calif./Poly), four-star cornerback Tony Brown (Beaumont, Texas/Ozen) and four-star safety Quincy Wilson (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./University School of Nova South) all turned in good showings during one-on-one drills. Brown, the nation’s No. 5-rated cornerback and No. 3-rated prospect in the state of Texas, also reached the SPARQ championship finals after posting some impressive numbers in preliminary testing, including a pair of 4.35 times in the 40-yard dash.

Tony Brown
Blair Angulo/ESPNNo. 5 cornerback Tony Brown is still very interested in USC.
“On a daily basis, I try to contact coaches that recruit me,” said Brown, a world-class sprinter ranked No. 27 in the ESPN 300. “I try to contact every coach. I’m still open. My month of June was all track and field, so I haven’t had time to chill and go through everything. Whenever I get the chance, I’ll definitely start narrowing everything down.”

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BEAVERTON, Ore. -- One of the first things that stands out at an event such as The Opening is how guys pass the eye test. While we have seen most of the prospects in attendance, some on multiple occasions, there are a few we haven't seen yet. The ability to confirm or assess, in person, a prospect's height, weight, flexibility and body composition is an important factor in the evaluation process.

Monday morning's SPARQ session gave us the opportunity to do just that, and here are a few players who caught our eye.


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