NCF On The Trail: Marlon Humphrey

Top overall position classes in 2014 

February, 21, 2014
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With national signing day in the books, RecruitingNation is looking at which programs compiled the nation's best overall position classes in 2014. For the full top position classes series, click here.

Quarterbacks: Florida
The Florida Gators had a major need at quarterback in the Class of 2014, and Will Muschamp and staff more than filled it, signing two of the nation’s top signal-callers. Third-ranked dual-threat prospect Will Grier (Davidson, N.C./Davidson Day School) is already on campus and preparing for spring practice, while No. 7 dual-threat prospect Treon Harris (Miami/Booker T. Washington) was a huge signing-day flip from Florida State. Both prospects are great athletes who are accustomed to operating up-tempo offenses. This should also help newly hired offensive coordinator Kurt Roper, who will install a similar scheme in Gainesville.

Top position classes: DB 

February, 18, 2014
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With national signing day in the books, RecruitingNation is looking at the top position classes. For the full series, click here.

Nationally (and SEC)

The top class of defensive backs goes to Alabama, by a landslide. While the Crimson Tide have provided many recruiting firsts in recent years under coach Nick Saban, the 2014 class is the first to have two five-star cornerbacks in the same cycle in the years ESPN has been assigning star rankings. No. 8 overall Tony Brown (Beaumont, Texas/Ozen) and No. 15 Marlon Humphrey (Hoover, Ala./Hoover) have the size and speed that Saban and his staff made a must in 2014. Add in No. 3 safety and No. 27 overall Laurence Jones (Monroe, La./Neville) and Alabama signed three of the very best at defensive back. Factor in that No. 7 athlete Ronnie Clark (Calera, Ala./Calera) seems destined to begin his career at safety and the Crimson Tide dominate in the secondary despite having missed out on coveted safety target C.J. Hampton (Meridian, Miss./Meridian).

The Crimson Tide had the nation’s best defensive back class; here’s which schools had the best in each of the remaining power conferences:


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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.

It was another successful national signing day for the SEC. After all 14 schools officially announced their 2014 signing classes, the SEC finished the day with 10 schools in the top 25 and 13 schools in the top 40 of the ESPN RecruitingNation class rankings.

Seven schools -- Alabama, LSU, Texas A&M, Tennessee, Florida, Auburn and Georgia -- ranked in the top 10, while Alabama took home the nation's No. 1 class. The Crimson Tide signed 27 players, including 19 ESPN 300 recruits and five five-star prospects: OT Cameron Robinson (West Monroe, La./West Monroe), DE Da'Shawn Hand (Woodbridge, Va./Woodbridge), CB Tony Brown (Beaumont, Texas/Ozen), RB Bo Scarbrough (Northport, Ala./Tuscaloosa County) and CB Marlon Humphrey (Hoover, Ala./Hoover).

LSU ranked second, bringing in 22 signees, including 15 ESPN 300 members and one five-star prospect: No. 1 running back Leonard Fournette (New Orleans/Saint Augustine). The Tigers could add No. 23 and their 16th ESPN 300 member Thursday once defensive end Deondre Clark (Oklahoma City/Douglass) signs his letter of intent. The four-star prospect was unable to sign his LOI after weather canceled his signing ceremony Wednesday.

As a whole, the SEC brought in 120 ESPN 300 prospects (the most of any conference) and 10 of the 15 five-star prospects in the ESPN 300.

You can check out all 14 SEC schools' 2014 recruiting classes in our ESPN RecruitingNation database:

Alabama all but wrapped up the top recruiting class for 2014 with the addition of its fifth five-star recruit, cornerback Marlon Humphrey (Hoover, Ala./Hoover). Read below to see what's expected of coach Nick Saban's latest prized defensive back:


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Want to ask ESPN RecruitingNation senior analyst Tom Luginbill a question about your team? Tweet it to @TomLuginbill using the hashtag #AskLoogs.

The answer to that question depends on what the criteria is for five-star cornerback Marlon Humphrey (Hoover, Ala./Hoover), the No. 15 player in the ESPN 300. What does he value most? Is it the school or the program or the academics or the social environment? Or, is it an individual relationship?

As much as we would all like to believe that there is proper substance to a prospect's decision of where to attend school, the reality is most prospects have married themselves to a particular coach throughout the process. Depending on Marlon Humphrey’s relationship with Jeremy Pruitt himself, in comparison to other established relationships that are still in place at FSU, this could certainly give cause for Humphrey to re-evaluate.

I would not believe at this time that Pruitt’s move has removed FSU from its status as a finalist. I think Humphrey is smarter than that and has liked FSU all along.

Time will tell, but relationships developed over the course of a player's recruitment do play a huge role.

This is part of a series on the nation's top uncommitted recruits leading up to signing day. Click here for the full series.

The Iron Bowl. It’s arguably the greatest rivalry in college football. If there was any doubt about its place before this season, Chris Davis sealed it with his 100-yard field goal return for a touchdown from the back of his own end zone on the game’s final play. The two teams, Alabama and Auburn, played in the last five BCS title games, winning four of them.

It’s no wonder every young football player in the state dreams of playing for one of the two SEC rivals, and it’s why, if offered, the majority of the state’s top prospects end up choosing either the Crimson Tide or the Tigers.

There’s no pipeline out of Alabama. The path leads directly to Auburn or Tuscaloosa.

[+] EnlargeMarlon Humphrey
Miller Safrit/ESPNThe recruitment of five-star cornerback Marlon Humphrey is expected to come down to Alabama or Florida State.
Don’t tell Marlon Humphrey that. The five-star cornerback from Hoover (Ala.) High School is the state’s No. 2 prospect and will decide between Alabama and Florida State on national signing day. Mississippi State and UCLA are also in the mix, but it looks as if the decision ultimately will come down to the Tide and the Seminoles.

If you were a betting man, you’d probably bet on Nick Saban and Alabama. Humphrey just returned from his official visit to Tuscaloosa. He lives less than an hour from UA’s campus, and his father, Bobby, was an All-American running back for the Tide back in the 1980s. It all makes sense for him to stay in state.

That’s not Humphrey, though. He doesn’t care what he "should" do.

“In our society today, he’s kind of a true man,” Hoover coach Josh Niblett said. “He’s a true guy’s guy. He knows what makes him happy. He knows what makes him tick. He knows what makes him go. He knows what makes him want to compete harder. And there’s a lot of people in this world who don’t know that.

“He’s not going to go somewhere where somebody says, ‘Hey, this is where you need to go or this is where your dad went to school or your dad didn’t go to school there.’ He’s going to go where he best feels like he fits what’s going on and where he can best be an asset to the program.”

What makes Humphrey tick is different from most. He has a unique personality, and, when it comes to recruiting, he has his own approach. This past April, he was invited to spring games at Alabama and at Auburn, but he instead chose to stay home and play video games, his own idea of "spring gaming."



This summer, Humphrey missed The Opening, an elite camp featuring the nation’s top recruits, to instead take a trip to Ukraine to compete in the IAAF World Youth Championships. While there, he finished second in the world in the 110-meter hurdles. He nearly skipped his official visit to Florida State earlier this month for a track event in Iceland but decided at the last minute to stay and take the trip.

It’s not that he doesn’t care about recruiting and all that comes with it. He’s just not into it as much as some of the kids in this day and age.

“People see him as being cocky, but he’s more than that,” Humphrey’s teammate and 2015 running back Braderick Shaw said. “He’s a leader. He understands the game, and he just loves that he can compete. He wants to be great.

“At practice, he goes 100 percent every time. We’ll be doing special teams at practice, and he goes all out. He never slows down.”

It’s ultimately what has made Humphrey the player he is today. It’s why he can basically pick the school of his choice and why he’s choosing between the past two BCS national champions.

Humphrey declined to be interviewed for the story, as did his father, as the two are staying away from any interviews until after Humphrey makes his college choice, but that decision came as no surprise to his coach. As outspoken as Humphrey can seem on various social media sites, he has a reserved side, too. A more driven side.

“He just wants to go about his business, do what he’s got to do and be great at what he does,” Niblett said.

That’s why, when it comes time to make a decision, Humphrey won’t do it on television. He reluctantly agreed to do a ceremony at his high school with the rest of his teammates who are signing that day.

“We are trying to make this as normal as it has always been,” Hoover athletic director Myra Miles said in a report from AL.com. “He wants this day to be about everybody here at Hoover and not just himself.”

That’s Humphrey.

Will he continue the family legacy, follow in his dad’s footsteps and play for the Tide? Or will he buck the trend, leave the state of Alabama and sign with Florida State?

Only Humphrey knows.

Recruit breakdown: Marlon Humphrey 

January, 28, 2014
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This is part of a series on the nation's top uncommitted recruits leading up to signing day. Click here for the full series.


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Most important targets: SEC 

January, 28, 2014
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The Southeastern Conference already has commitments from six of the top 10 players in the country and has a real possibility of landing two more before signing day. With several key targets still remaining, here’s a look at the top remaining targets in the SEC.

Alabama
CB Marlon Humphrey (Hoover, Ala./Hoover)
6-foot-0, 180 pounds
ESPN 300 rank: 15


Humphrey is a big, athletic cornerback with great size and would be a natural fit in Nick Saban's system. FSU is also very much in the picture for the five-star defensive back, but with the Seminoles losing defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt to Georgia, the Crimson Tide might have a slight advantage. Alabama will have to fight to keep this dynamic defensive back from leaving the state. With his skill set, Humphrey has a chance to play early in his college career.


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Key recruiting visits -- SEC 

January, 24, 2014
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The Class of 2014 is down to two official visit weekends remaining. As expected, there are several official visits that potentially impact the SEC this weekend, including visits by some of the top national prospects on the board.


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SEC class rankings analysis 

January, 22, 2014
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The SEC continues to dominate the Recruiting Nation class rankings nationally, with 13 of the 14 programs in the conference ranked in the top 40. That includes four of the top five, seven of the top 10 and 10 of the top 30. As expected, Alabama continues to lead the pack, and the Crimson Tide has a large lead coming down the stretch.


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5 to watch: SEC signing day preview 

January, 21, 2014
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With signing day quickly approaching, there are several storylines developing throughout the SEC. Here’s a closer look at five things to watch for on national signing day:


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Key recruiting visits -- ACC 

January, 17, 2014
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The dead period has finally come to an end, and coaches are itching to get back on the road. The NCAA extended the dead period an additional week this January, so coaches have been quarantined in their football offices longer than they have ever been before with signing day just three weeks away.

With signing day quickly approaching, each official visit weekend becomes exponentially more important. This is the first of three official visit weekends in January. Here are this weekend’s 10 biggest visits in the ACC:

1. CB Marlon Humphrey (Hoover, Ala./Hoover): Florida State
The five-star cornerback was down to Alabama and Florida State, but there is some talk that Georgia could get in late with defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt now with the Bulldogs. Although most project Humphrey to Alabama, the Seminoles were keeping it very close when Pruitt was their defensive coordinator and recruiting the No. 15 player in the ESPN 300. Maybe the Noles will impress Humphrey enough this weekend to remain a finalist, but, without Pruitt, it seems unlikely FSU will land him.


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SEC class rankings analysis 

January, 15, 2014
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Another week of the RecruitingNation class rankings, another week with SEC schools dominating the rankings. Thirteen of 14 SEC programs claim spots in the top 40, with only Vanderbilt having slipped out this week following James Franklin leaving the Commodores for Penn State. As has been the case most of this cycle, Alabama is holding down the No. 1 spot nationally. The SEC also has four of the top five classes nationally and seven in the top 10.

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By hiring defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt away from Florida State, Georgia made a move that is sending shockwaves through the Southeast recruiting landscape.

One of those prospects who is certainly affected by the move is five-star defensive end Lorenzo Carter (Norcross, Ga./Norcross). The nation’s No. 13 prospect has both Florida State and Georgia in his final group.


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