NCF On The Trail: Jalen Tabor

Biggest flips: SEC 

February, 3, 2014
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As expected, with the plethora of commitments followed by decommitments and second and third verbal pledges, it's no surprise that the hotly contested Southeast and SEC feature a number of impactful flips in 2014.

Will Muschamp: They call him Flipper

February, 3, 2014
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They call him Flipper, Flipper, faster than lightning,
No one you see, is smarter than he,
And we know Flipper, lives in a world full of wonder,
Flying there under, under the sea!

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- It may be a 1960s TV show, but try getting the theme song for "Flipper" out of your head once it's stuck there. It's about as easy as getting Florida coach Will Muschamp to stop recruiting a prospect he wants.

In three years as chief recruiter for the Gators, Muschamp has clearly displayed a penchant for getting committed recruits to change their minds.

Dante Fowler
Courtesy Fowler FamilyDante Fowler, right, flipped from Florida State to Florida in 2012.
He's done it so often, some Florida fans call him Flipper.

The first big splash came in 2012 when defensive end Dante Fowler Jr., a prized recruit in Florida State's No. 2-ranked class, made a dramatic switch to Florida on signing day after being committed to the Noles for more than a year.

Muschamp's persistence over that time period and insistence that Fowler would get on the field earlier with UF paid off.

"It was real difficult,” Fowler said on signing day. "Being committed for a year and growing up a Florida State fan all my life -- I always hated Florida, and I always told myself I would never go to Florida, and now I’m about to be playing for them. It’s kind of crazy."

That was just the start of the craziness.

Last year Muschamp upped the ante with six more flips, four just before they signed as early enrollees in January 2013. In fact, three of Florida's four linebackers in that class -- Matt Rolin (from South Carolina), Alex Anzalone (Notre Dame) and Jarrad Davis (Auburn) -- flipped from other schools.

The key to flipping recruits, Muschamp said, is not a secret. It's a simple approach.

"You stay on guys," he said, "and try to make valid points you’ve made throughout the entire recruiting process all the way through."

He's done it again this year, getting three of his nine early enrollees to flip.

Each of the three -- cornerback Jalen Tabor (Arizona), athlete Brandon Powell (Miami) and offensive tackle Kavaris Harkless (Louisville) -- changed their minds as late as the first week of the spring semester.

None was more last minute than Harkless, who was on campus at Louisville the day before his first class when he changed his mind and flew back to Florida. Harkless was swayed by the departure of coach Charlie Strong, who left Louisville for Texas.

When the coaching change news broke that weekend, so did Harkless' commitment to Louisville.

One of Harkless' coaches at Jacksonville (Fla.) Trinity Christian, Gerard Ross, saw firsthand how UF coaches laid the foundation for Harkless' change of heart. Ross says it's a matter of the Gator coaches continuing to build relationships even after their targets have committed elsewhere.

"They do a good job of staying in contact with those guys that they really want who are committed to other places," he said. "That way if something ever changes that kid's mind, then that whole time they've been there with that kid. The [recruit] has something to fall back on."

It used to be taboo in recruiting to go after a committed prospect. Now, the taboo is a relic of a bygone era. It's open season on all commits until the ink has dried on the official letter of intent.

"These days in recruiting it's a little different than when I came out," said Ross, who played cornerback for FSU from 2002-05. "These days you almost can't blame the kids for trying to find a school pretty early and finding themselves a spot, because you can't oversign anymore. At the same time, the coaches almost have to stay on those kids who do commit early. There's a window when that kid might flip.

"Back in the day when a kid committed, that was pretty much it. That's where he was going. But nowadays, college football is becoming a business."

A business in which coaches move frequently for new jobs, often shaking up recruiting classes in the process.

It's something Florida has experienced on both sides -- from losing recruits when former coach Urban Meyer retired (twice) to cherry-picking players like Harkless, who found himself far from home and without a coach.

"That's recruiting, you know?" Harkless said from Louisville in early January, just before he left for Florida. "I still have respect for Coach Strong, because he has to go where it's best for his family. I'm just doing the same."

After announcing Harkless among his nine early enrollees in January, Muschamp talked about the increase in drama and decommitments on the recruiting trail. This rockier road, he said, is here to stay.

"The earlier and earlier recruiting goes, you’re going to continue to see this. That’s not stopping," Muschamp said. "I think the earlier it is, young men are making decisions before maybe they have the information or they’re sure of what they want to do or how they’re going to do it. I think you’re going to continue to probably see this."

Translation: Beware the Flipper.

Like a song stuck in your head, Muschamp isn't going to stop anytime soon.

Weekend recruiting wrap: ACC 

January, 27, 2014
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Signing day is just 10 days away and this past weekend was one of the last times that coaches could get prospective student-athletes on campus. There were a handful of commitments and official visits from some of the nation’s premier prospects.


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Gators lose WR Ermon Lane

January, 10, 2014
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The Florida Gators have lost another member of their 2014 recruiting class.

This time it’s ESPN 300 wide receiver Ermon Lane (Homestead, Fla./Homestead) who announced on Twitter that he was backing off of his pledge to Florida.



Lane’s decision didn’t come as a surprise to many Florida fans. Lane is close friends with running back Dalvin Cook (Miami/Central), who flipped his commitment from Florida to Florida State less than two weeks ago. Lane, the No. 28-ranked player in the country, has set up only one official visit and that is to FSU on Jan. 31, the weekend before national signing day.

In the last two week the Gators have lost three ESPN 300 recruits, Lane, Cook and Chris Lammons (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./Plantation), while adding, Jalen Tabor (Washington, D.C./Friendship Academy), Brandon Powell (Deerfield Beach, Fla/Deerfield Beach), Gerald Willis III (New Orleans/Edna Karr) and Kavaris Harkless (Jacksonville, Fla./Trinity Christian) during that same time period.

It appears the Florida coaching staff suspected this could potentially happen. The Gators recently offered wide receivers De’Andre Thompkins (Swansboro, N.C./Swansboro), a Penn State commit and Florida State commit C.J. Worton (Homestead, Fla/South Dade). Worton is planning to visit Florida this month.

The Gators now have 20 verbal commitments including 11 ranked in the ESPN 300.

ESPN 300 DB decommits from Florida

January, 9, 2014
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Florida received good news Thursday morning when the No. 15-ranked player in the country, cornerback Jalen Tabor (Washington, D.C./Friendship Academy) flipped his commitment from Arizona to Florida. The news wasn't as good on Thursday evening, however, as ESPN 300 cornerback Chris Lammons (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./Plantation) backed off his pledge to Florida.

Lammons announced his decision in a simple text that read: “I decommitted from Florida.”



Wisconsin and South Carolina appear to be in the driver’s seat for the four-star defensive back. Lammons has already visited Wisconsin on Nov. 9 and has a visit planned to South Carolina on Jan. 24.

Florida has 20 verbal commitments including 11 ranked in the ESPN 300.

Even with the loss of Lammons, Florida still has four ESPN 300 defensive backs committed. Tabor joins Quincy Wilson (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./University School), J.C. Jackson (Immokalee, Fla./Immokalee) and Duke Dawson (Cross City, Fla./Dixie Co.) as other Florida defensive back commits.

The Gators are still targeting five-star cornerback Adoree’ Jackson (Gardena, Calif./Junipero Serra).

Scout's take: Gators land elite DB 

January, 9, 2014
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Florida has a new headliner for its 2014 class in Under Armour All-American cornerback Jalen Tabor (Washington, D.C./Friendship Collegiate), the nation's No. 15 overall prospect in the ESPN 300 and No. 5 at his position. Here's how we think Will Muschamp will utilize his newest recruit:


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These cornerbacks remind me of ... 

January, 9, 2014
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If a program runs a high-concept scheme on defense, cornerback can be the most difficult position to make the leap from high school to college, aside from quarterback of course. Rarely do prospects face a player across from him who is bigger, faster or quicker in high school and they just don’t get challenged very often, which is why it can be very difficult to project the success of cornerbacks in college. Also, many players are not devoted to playing corner fulltime and must become acclimated through reps and experience to maximize their ceiling for production. Here are our top five cornerbacks and a comparable productive player for each at the collegiate level.


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Pac-12 class rankings analysis 

January, 8, 2014
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Half of the Pac-12 remains among the top 40 recruiting classes in the newly-released ESPN recruiting rankings. In order, Arizona, Arizona State, Oregon, USC, Stanford and UCLA represent the conference after a big week on the recruiting trail for virtually all of those programs.

Trending up: Just about the entire Pac-12 gets a mention here, as Arizona State, Oregon, USC and UCLA all moved up in the team rankings. While Arizona still sits at No. 15, the Wildcats added two very important pieces in No. 15 overall prospect Jalen Tabor (Washington, D.C./Friendship Collegiate Academy) and ESPN offensive tackle Jordan Poland (La Jolla, Calif./La Jolla Country Day). Arizona State moved from No. 18 to No. 17, while Oregon jumped from No. 27 to No. 25 and USC moved from No. 31 to No. 27. Stanford held at No. 28, while UCLA used several commitments to climb one spot from No. 34 to No. 33 overall. Other Pac-12 programs, including Cal, Washington and Washington State, added recent commitments as well.

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Weekend recruiting wrap: Pac-12 

January, 6, 2014
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It was a very busy weekend in the Pac-12, as several programs picked up recruits during the various All-American games across the country.

Biggest commitment: Five conference teams added commitments since last Thursday, and all will likely play a big role in shaping classes on signing day.

Arizona got an early start on the weekend, as the Wildcats grabbed two huge commitments this past Thursday with ESPN 300 cornerback Jalen Tabor (Washington, D.C./Friendship Collegiate Academy) -- the No. 15 overall prospect in the nation -- and former USC commit and ESPN 300 offensive tackle Jordan Poland (La Jolla, Calif./La Jolla Country Day).

Arizona State landed a commitment from two-way lineman Kammy Delp (Pomona, Calif./Diamond Ranch) during the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl on Sunday. Delp will still visit other programs, but if he sticks with Arizona State, he'll provide a boost at defensive tackle.


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Scout's take: Zona adds elite DB 

January, 2, 2014
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Jalen Tabor (Washington, D.C./Friendship Collegiate) surprised many when he chose Arizona over Alabama. What will the No. 15 prospect in the ESPN 300 bring to the Wildcats? Let’s break it down:


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Three days of practice are now in the books and overall execution was sharper as the players begin to move into final preparations for the Under Armour All-America Game on Thursday. The productivity of the players picked up as did the speed of the play, and they’re continuing to think less and display their natural ability more. It was a physical day, with the pads popping and some big hits throughout the practice. Here are some of the highlights.

Top performers


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UA Game notebook: Talking a good game

December, 31, 2013
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The third day of practices for the 2014 Under Armour All-America Game, which will air live Thursday at 4 p.m. ET on ESPN, was full of entertainment. Players engaged in some back-and-forth trash talk, coach Deion Sanders gave some dance lessons, there was a special guest in attendance and a linebacker hit Racean "Roc" Thomas so hard he nearly broke his face mask. Here’s a closer look at the latest news and notes from the third day of practice.

Talking the talk

[+] EnlargeJamal Adams
Miller Safrit/ESPNJamal Adams has drawn attention for his stellar play and unmatched trash-talking ability.
The top prospects in the country aren’t just skilled on the field but also in the art of trash-talking. Many of the players took part in verbal intimidation during practice, but there were a few who seemed to excel at it.

Defensive back Jamal Adams' (Lewisville, Texas/Hebron) name has been brought up the most as one of the best trash-talkers so far. His persistence is what most, including receiver Malachi Dupre (River Ridge, La./John Curtis Christian), have noticed.

“Jamal is the best at it,” Dupre said. “It doesn’t get in my head anymore because I know him really well. He knows I got him a lot earlier. He’s a good friend of mine and I know he’s probably the best at it because he’s nonstop. The more you do it, the more you get under people’s skin.”

Receiver Braxton Berrios (Raleigh, N.C./Leesville Road) agreed and added that he can’t help but laugh when Adams starts talking.

Jabrill Peppers (Paramus, N.J./Paramus Catholic) was often opposite Adams on the field and was brought up as another excellent trash-talker. He isn’t as constant as Adams, but he let receivers know when they made a mistake.

“One particularly play, [Peppers] batted down a pass on Ermon Lane, and Jabrill and I were ready to get at it,” Dupre said. “I never went up against him, though. Jabrill was just screaming, 'It’s not going to happen' and 'Shutdown.'”

So you think you can dance?


Former NFL great Deion Sanders was known for his celebration dances, and on Tuesday, his team got a firsthand look at how to execute the patented high step and touchdown dance from Sanders’ playing days.
Sanders showed the players how to do both dances, then let them take a test run in case they score a touchdown in Thursday's game.

 

Decisions ahead


Seven of the nation's top prospects, including three five-star players, are set to make their decisions during the game. Here’s a look at who will be making their decisions:

[+] EnlargeJalen Tabor
Miller Safrit/ESPNJalen Tabor is one of seven top prospects who will announce his college decision during the Under Armour All-America Game.
RB Leonard Fournette (New Orleans/St. Augustine): The nation's No. 1-ranked player will decide among LSU, Alabama and Texas.

WR Travis Rudolph (West Palm Beach, Fla./Cardinal Newman): A standout during practices this week, Rudolph will be choosing among Alabama, Florida, Miami, Tennessee, Auburn and Ohio State.

DT Gerald Willis III (New Orleans/Edna Karr): Ranked the No. 3 defensive tackle in the country, he will likely choose between LSU and Florida.

DB Tony Brown (Beaumont, Texas/Ozen): The five-star defensive back will choose between Alabama and LSU despite a shoulder injury that will could keep him out of the game.

DB Jalen Tabor (Washington, D.C./Friendship): The nation's No. 15 recruit Will choose between Arizona and Alabama.

S Jamal Adams (Lewisville, Texas/Hebron): The No. 23 player in the country will choose among Florida, LSU and Ole Miss.

ATH Speedy Noil (New Orleans/Edna Karr): Noil, the No. 8 player in the country, will choose between LSU and Texas A&M.

Top players


It’s one thing for scouts and evaluators to give their opinions on the top performers, but it’s always interesting to hear who the players themselves think are excelling on the field.

Here are a few of the Under Armour All-Americans talking about the best prospects they faced throughout the week:

RB Bo Scarbrough (Bradenton, Fla./IMG Academy): “Marlon Humphrey (Hoover, Ala./Hoover), I just think that he has great defense and you have to be really physical when you going against Marlon Humphrey. JuJu Smith (Long Beach, Calif./Long Beach Poly), you really have to come with it with JuJu because if you don’t come with it, he’s going to come with it.”

[+] EnlargeMarlon Humphrey
Miller Safrit/ESPNMarlon Humphrey has impressed his fellow All-Americans with his performance this week.
DB Adoree' Jackson (Gardena, Calif./Junipero Serra): “My best matchup, well all those guys are high caliber. From Speedy Noil to [Chris] Godwin, [Cameron] Sims, Travis Rudolph, everyone was good. I just like competition, and they’re going to bring the best out of me and I’m going to bring the best out of them.”

WR Malachi Dupre (River Ridge, La./John Curtis): “My whole defensive back corps was good. Jamal Adams, Tony Brown and Jabrill Peppers. All those guys were really good.”

OL Sam Mustipher (Olney, Md./Our Lady of Good Counsel): “I went up against a lot of good guys. All those defensive linemen are good, but Da’Shawn Hand was one that stood out. He is quick off the ball and you can’t fall for his hand fakes, the way he uses his hands.”

RB Dalvin Cook (Miami/Miami Central): “Linebacker Ronnie Clark.”

QB Sean White (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./University School of Nova South): “Oh man, I’d say Adoree' Jackson was probably the best. Him and Tre' Williams.”

Smashmouth football


Lavar Arrington did everything he could to pump up his linebackers during Tuesday’s practices with some not-so-gentle persuasion.

During inside run drills, Auburn linebacker commit Tre' Williams (Mobile, Ala./St. Paul’s Episcopal School) flung his entire body at running back Leonard Fournette (New Orleans/St. Augustine) in a tackle attempt that drew a round of hoots and hollers from Arrington.

A few plays later, Florida State linebacker commit Kain Daub (Jacksonville, Fla./Sandalwood) got Auburn running back commit Racean Thomas (Oxford, Ala./Oxford) with a clean hit so hard he broke one of several clips on Thomas’ face mask, causing it to hang from the helmet.

“That’s the way to hit, Kain,” Arrington said. “You broke his freaking face mask. Oh wow.”

Special guest


There has been a special guest in attendance during the Under Armor All-America week of practices. John Shulby, a friend of 2012 Under Armour All-America tight end Colin Thompson, has Down syndrome and has been invited back as a special guest every year since Thompson participated in the game.

Shulby has been welcomed by the coaches, players and everyone else involved in the game. In fact, Shulby was asked by linebackers coach LaVar Arrington to assist in some individual drills.

 

Bill Shulby, John's father, said he and his son never expected to receive this much attention.

“From our perspective, we’ve never imagined John having this type of experience,” Shulby said. “It’s been wonderful and unbelievable. The players and coaches have included him in every day. The way LaVar Arrington included him this morning -- you could just see the joy in his face.”

Jeremy Crabtree and Tom VanHaaren contributed to this report.

ESPN 300 corner Tabor down to two 

December, 28, 2013
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ORLANDO, Fla. -- With less than a week before he is scheduled to announce his college choice, cornerback Jalen Tabor (Washington, D.C./Friendship Collegiate Academy), the 15th-ranked prospect in the nation, said he is closing in on his final decision.

Holding a laundry list of offers and having considered many of the top programs in the country, the 6-foot-1, 188-pound prospect said only two remain. He will announce his commitment during the 2014 Under Armour All-American Game (Jan. 2, 4 p.m. ET, ESPN).


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Under Armour Game predictions 

December, 27, 2013
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- If past Under Armour All-America Games have taught us anything, it's that we should expect the unexpected. Yes, there are some announcements where there’s not a lot of drama and it’s just a case of a player going public with a decision that everybody has already known about for months. There will be others where there is plenty of suspense throughout the week of practices and the pick will cause controversy in the end. Heck, this is the same game that we saw Landon Collins’ mom become a YouTube sensation when she disagreed with her son’s decision to commit to Alabama and spurn LSU. It’s what makes the Under Armour Game special, and ESPN RecruitingNation’s Jeremy Crabtree has some predictions on what we’ll see over the next seven days.

Fournette won’t be bothered by attention
When you’re the nation’s No. 1 player, you’re already used to the spotlight and never-ending attention from fans and media. But at the UA Game, No. 1-ranked Leonard Fournette (New Orleans/St. Augustine) is going to be in a fishbowl even more than before. Everything he does this week will be documented for the whole world to see. Every rep in practice. Every interview after. Even when he’s hanging out in the hotel, there will likely be somebody there to tweet or discuss it. That will put a tremendous amount of pressure on Fournette, but those expecting him to fall at some point this week will be sorely disappointed. Fournette will prove once again on and off the field why he’s the best in the country and serve as an example of how other elite prospects should handle the recruiting process for years to come.


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Top ACC UA game targets 

December, 26, 2013
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The Under Armour All-America Game boasts a majority of the country's premier high school talent, so there is no surprise several ACC teams are fighting to land the few remaining uncommitted All-Americans.

Here are the top five Under Amour All-Americans that ACC schools are heavily pursuing.


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