NCF On The Trail: George Brown Jr.

BATON ROUGE, La. -- Based upon his good fortune over the past few weeks, Jeff Grimes should consider buying lottery tickets.

Three weeks after learning that draft-eligible starters Vadal Alexander and Jerald Hawkins would return for another season, LSU’s offensive line coach cleaned up on national signing day -- effectively addressing the Tigers’ biggest area of need for this 25-man recruiting class.

“We signed five offensive linemen and Grimes was a point guy on all of them,” LSU coach Les Miles said. “He just really did a great job.”

LSU’s coaching staff closed out this class of linemen with a flourish. Within the past week, Grimes added a pair of ESPN 300 offensive linemen -- Chidi Valentine-Okeke and Toby Weathersby, a onetime Texas commitment who announced his decision on Wednesday -- to go along with previous commitments from guard Maea Teuhema and tackles Adrian Magee and George Brown Jr.

[+] EnlargeToby Weathersby
Max Olson/ESPNLSU's 10th-ranked recruiting class by ESPN includes standout offensive lineman Toby Weathersby.
Teuhema -- ESPN’s No. 71 overall prospect and No. 2 guard -- is arguably the star of the group. ESPN rated Teuhema as the top offensive line prospect in Texas and Weathersby -- No. 149 overall and No. 9 at guard -- as No. 2.

“The biggest need in this class of course was offensive line, not only because of the guys that graduated in Elliott Porter and La’el Collins and Evan Washington and all those guys, but also because of what we have departing next year,” LSU recruiting coordinator Frank Wilson said. “So we lost several guys and then we have a senior-driven class next year with Jerald Hawkins, with Vadal Alexander and some of those guys who will be draft eligible.

“So we wanted to make sure that we had quality depth in a year where offensive line was heavy, especially from a national perspective. So it was our greatest emphasis in this class.”

Highlighted by their recruiting hauls at offensive line and in the secondary, the Tigers wrapped up national signing day with the nation’s No. 10 class in the ESPN RecruitingNation class rankings.

It was a relatively quiet day at LSU compared to the soap operas that developed at some other programs, but it was not without some drama.

The Tigers landed a signature from Weathersby early Wednesday morning, flipped ESPN 300 athlete Derrick Dillon from Florida, ESPN 300 receiver Brandon Martin from Missouri and closed with Arden Key -- ESPN’s No. 24 overall prospect and No. 6 defensive end -- who committed to LSU late Monday night. They also added late signatures from tight end Foster Moreau and Australian punter Josh Growden while holding on to commitments from running backs Nick Brossette and Derrius Guice.

Conversely, LSU did not sign linebacker Leo Lewis (Mississippi State), receiver Daylon Charlot (Alabama), quarterback Torrance Gibson (Ohio State) and defensive back Justin Reid (Stanford), all of whom had considered the Tigers at some point.

Lewis is probably the most painful miss out of the bunch, as the Tigers failed to sign a single linebacker in this class once former defensive coordinator/linebackers coach John Chavis split for Texas A&M after the season. That will be a key position for LSU’s staff to address in its 2016 class, as the Tigers will also lose several veterans after this fall.

“Certainly we missed on a linebacker that we thought we had as we look into the end of recruiting,” Miles said. “But when you change staff, there’s a point in time where there’s some guys who’ve made relationships with some of our old coaches, and when they left, so did their interest in the school. So we went and made our case the best we could, but what will end up having to happen, certainly, is next year’s class will have to be a very, very heavy linebacker class.”

LSU landed one of the nation’s best groups of defensive back talent, led by five-star cornerback Kevin Toliver -- ESPN’s No. 10 overall prospect and one of four early enrollees along with quarterback Justin McMillan, tight end Hanner Shipley and fullback David Ducre.

Joining Toliver in the secondary will be cornerback Xavier Lewis, junior college safety Jeremy Cutrer and multi-talented athlete Donte Jackson, whom Miles said could get touches on offense and special teams in addition to playing cornerback.

“There’s no finer prospects in America than Toliver and Jackson,” Miles said.

Adding Ducre, Brossette and Guice was also key for a Tigers squad that lost two scholarship fullbacks and two scholarship tailbacks from the 2014 club.

“We didn’t have any scholarship fullbacks, so we needed to address that need at that position group. And then we have two sophomores and bring in two freshmen [at tailback],” Wilson said. “It gives us some leeway some next year where it’s not a position of demand in next year’s class.

“But we like where we’re at in that, only because it gives you quality depth and it’s not stacked. At times we’ve been as high as six, so four is a good number for us because the rotation becomes realistic.”

LSU signed five of ESPN’s top six prospects in Louisiana and seven of the top nine: No. 1 Tyron Johnson, No. 3 Guice, No. 4 Martin, No. 5 Dillon, No. 6 Brossette, No. 8 Lewis and No. 9 Jackson.

Overall, 15 signees will hail from LSU’s talent-rich home state, which Miles and Wilson both said remains their staff’s first priority in recruiting.

“It feels this way to me that there’s a certain style of man that grows up in Louisiana and says, ‘Are you kidding me? This is the only place I want to live,’” Miles said. “I think the degree that comes from LSU, the experience in that stadium of 102,000 that are wildly rabid and very faithful LSU fans, there are those men that just can’t have it any other way. So we present a tremendous opportunity for those people who want to stay in this state.”

Weekend recruiting wrap: SEC 

December, 9, 2014
With Alabama winning the SEC championship on Saturday and the college football playoff now set, SEC schools can now turn their focus to recruiting. Despite there being only one game this weekend, there was still a bunch of recruiting news from around the SEC. There was a couple of big commitments, a few decommitments, a big decision date was announced and some important in-home visits. Here’s a closer look at the top recruiting news from around the conference.

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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SEC's top recruiting visits 

November, 21, 2014
There aren't a ton of big games on the schedule this week in the SEC but there are still a few key prospects taking visits. Here is a closer look at a few games that are expected to bring in visitors this weekend.

Ole Miss at Arkansas

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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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Best of the visits: SEC

November, 16, 2014
From Alabama's big 25-20 win over Mississippi State on Saturday afternoon to Georgia’s dominating 34-7 win over Auburn, there were some incredible games for recruits to watch this weekend. Some prospects attended the games while others watched on television and used social media as a platform to share their experiences. Here's a look at some of the top social media posts from the weekend:

Five-star defensive end CeCe Jefferson took an official visit to Alabama this weekend. The No. 9-ranked player in the nation has Alabama as one of his top schools and posed for a picture with Alabama head coach Nick Saban before the game on Saturday.
The 18th-ranked prospect in the ESPN Junior 300, Rashard Lawrence, a Monroe, Louisiana, native, also posed for a picture during his trip to Alabama. An Alabama fan posted a photo of himself with five-star quarterback commit Blake Barnett after Alabama's big win. Florida offensive line commit Brandon Sandifer tweeted this photo of himself and two other Florida commits Tyler Jordan and George Brown Jr., who all visited the Gators Saturday. Alabama commit Ronnie Harrison visited Georgia this weekend and found an unusual connection with head coach Mark Richt's wife. The two posed for a picture on Saturday. ESPN Junior 300 cornerback Chad Clay posted a picture from the Georgia sideline at the game on Saturday night. Another junior cornerback, Malek Young, also visited Georgia for the exciting game against Auburn and posed for a photo on the sideline. Arkansas commit C.J. O'Grady posted a photo of fellow Arkansas commit Will Gragg before Arkansas's first SEC win under head coach Brett Beliema. Junior cornerback Ikenna Okeke posted a photo of himself with Tennessee linebacker A.J. Johnson.
Early Offer: 2016 targets come off board
The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today’s offerings: It’s been said recruits are committing sooner than ever before and the recent run of pledges in the 2016 class proves to some that an early signing period is needed now more than ever. Plus, if you want to know how competitive it is to recruit in the Southeast, just check out the up-and-down two weeks the Florida Gators have had on the recruiting trail.

It’s never too early
Signing day for the Class of 2016 isn’t for another 555 days, but that hasn’t stopped a high number of ESPN Junior 300 prospects from making early decisions. In the last eight days alone, seven of the best players in next year’s class committed, and overall 47 of the top 300 prospects have made their decisions.

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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."

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, which is an outreach program that displays wild animals to children for various events.

The USC Trojans appear to have their quarterback of the future -- perhaps even two if they sign both Ricky Town and longtime commit David Sills -- but who will protect them?

Coach Steve Sarkisian and his staff hauled in a stellar 2014 offensive line group in February, led by highly-rated guards Damien Mama, Viane Talamaivao and mid-year enrollee Toa Lobendahn. The Trojans also signed ESPN 300 tackle Chris Brown and promising tackle prospect Jordan Austin, using more than a quarter of their 2014 scholarship allotment to shore up the offensive line.

Still, the presumed weak point would be the lack of depth at the offensive tackle spot. The Trojans addressed their needs, but Brown might need another year to bulk up and Austin admitted he needs some time to develop. On top of that, Nico Falah was the only offensive tackle the Trojans added in the 2013 class, a major effect of the scholarship reductions that could create serious concerns for whoever is standing in the pocket in a couple years.

From the looks of it, USC has made the tackle position one of its top priorities in the 2015 class.

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Notebook: ESPN 300 ATH Smith trims list 

January, 20, 2014
TUSTIN, Calif. -- A decision might still be two weeks away, but the picture is getting clearer for ESPN 300 athlete John “JuJu” Smith (Long Beach, Calif./Poly).

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Weekend recruiting wrap: Big 12 

October, 28, 2013
It was only a matter of time before a big-name program took a chance on 5-foot-6, 148-pound lightning bolt/quarterback Desmon White (DeSoto, Texas/DeSoto). That chance came from a Big 12 program recently, and White wasted little time taking them up on their offer.

Find out which Big 12 program he committed to as well as a big offer from Oklahoma State in this week’s edition of the Big 12 weekend wrap.

Biggest commitment: He might not be big in stature, but 2014 athlete Desmon White will bring some much-needed play-making ability to TCU. White, who plays quarterback for the undefeated DeSoto Eagles, switched his verbal pledge from North Texas to the Horned Frogs on Tuesday. This season he has completed 141 of 204 passes for 2,304 yards, 21 touchdowns and two interceptions. He’s also the team’s leading rusher with 95 carries for 1,009 yards and 13 touchdowns. He’s a football player, plain and simple. Nice pickup for TCU, which could use him in a variety of ways but will likely start him at slot.

Biggest offer: This one goes to Oklahoma State and the offer it extended to ESPN Junior 300 offensive tackle George Brown Jr. (Cincinnati/Winton Woods). If you are going to get into the sweepstakes for Brown, you might as well get in as early as possible. The No. 208 player in the country already has more than 30 offers, including from Big 12 programs Baylor, Kansas State and West Virginia. The only other 2015 offer to an OT that OSU has is to Texas commitment Maea Teuhema (Keller, Texas/Keller).

Best performance by a commit/target: Class of 2015 quarterback Ryan Agnew (Southlake, Texas/Carroll) completed 31 of 35 passes for 307 yards and three touchdowns in a 52-17 victory over Keller. Agnew doesn’t have any offers now but that won’t stay the case with more games like this. Several major programs are well aware of Agnew, including Texas. Tennessee and Texas A&M have also expressed interest.

Most important visit: There were several big names in attendance for Oklahoma’s victory over Texas Tech, but the biggest one was 2015 offensive guard Jalin Barnett (Lawton, Okla./Lawton). This was the fourth trip to Norman for Barnett, the No. 8 player in the country, No. 1 OG and No. 1 player in the Midlands region. That’s especially telling since he has yet to visit any other school.

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It’s called the Big Ten Conference for a reason.

From big offers, to big official visits to big commitments, the Big Ten has been abuzz with activity.

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Weekend recruiting wrap: ACC 

September, 30, 2013

Clemson and Pittsburgh hog most of the headlines this weekend as each was able to get a solid amount of prospects on campus, and the Tigers even got a commitment.

More on the happenings inside the ACC here.

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Junior 300 OT hears from SEC coaches 

September, 5, 2013
This week has a very SEC and Southeastern flavor for 2015 ESPN Junior 300 two-way lineman George Brown Jr. (Cincinnati/Winton Woods).

Brown’s father said he spent Wednesday morning speaking with South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier, who told Brown Sr. that the Gamecocks are close to offering his 6-foot-6, 255-pound son, who is No. 208 in the ESPN Junior 300. The Gamecocks staff got a hold of Brown’s highlights from his season opener, which was the first extensive playing time Brown has seen in his high school career, a surprise considering Brown’s extensive offer sheet.

Brown and Spurrier will be in the same building this weekend as Brown will be visiting Georgia for its game against South Carolina. Georgia has already offered, and Brown is highly interested in both the Bulldogs and Gamecocks.

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