NCF On The Trail: Vernon Hargreaves III

The Opening has become a breeding ground for future SEC players over the years. It started in 2011 as a football camp for the nation’s top recruits and has grown every year since. For those who haven’t heard of it or know little about it, here’s a fan’s guide to the event.

This year is no different in terms of SEC participation as 37 of the 162 invitees have already committed to SEC schools.

[+] EnlargeLandon Collins
Ryan A. Miller/Icon SMILandon Collins starred at The Opening before becoming a star for Alabama at safety.
SEC commitments by school

Alabama: 10
Texas A&M: 7
Georgia: 5
Florida: 4
LSU: 3
Mississippi State: 2
South Carolina: 2
Tennessee: 2
Kentucky: 1
Missouri: 1

The event will be broadcast on ESPN’s family of networks and gives you a chance to see the future of your school. Don’t believe me? Just look at some of the past participants to come through who are now making noise on Saturdays in the SEC.

Vadal Alexander (2011): If there were any doubts about Alexander before The Opening, he answered them with his performance. He rarely got beat in the one-on-one drills and used his strength to overpower opposing defensive linemen. It was that same strength that helped him early at LSU, and he’s expected to start up front for the third straight season. He and left tackle La'El Collins form a menacing tandem on the left side for the Tigers.

Landon Collins (2011): Collins stole the show at the inaugural camp. He won the SPARQ national championship with a high score of 143.76 and was a beast all week in the 7-on-7 competition. He didn’t make the type of impact he was hoping for as a freshman at Alabama, but he emerged last season with 69 tackles, two interceptions and two fumbles forced. He’s one of the top safeties in the country and projected to be a first-round draft pick.

Vernon Hargreaves III (2012): The week didn’t last long for Hargreaves, who injured his ankle on the first day, but he did run a 4.42 40-yard dash and a 4.1 shuttle before bowing out. That speed and athleticism was evident this past season, as the Florida freshman emerged as one of the top cornerbacks in the SEC. He finished with 38 tackles, three interceptions, and was among the league leaders in passes defended with 14.

O.J. Howard (2012): Tight ends don’t typically stand out at The Opening, but Howard isn’t your typical tight end. He measured in at 6-foot-6, 220 pounds, ran a 4.49 40-yard dash and dominated 7-on-7 play with his combination of size and speed. Unlike teammate and fellow Opening alum Derrick Henry, Howard endured a slow start to his Alabama career, but the expectations are high heading into this season.

Laquon Treadwell (2012): Treadwell might not have tested as well as some of his peers, but once he got on the field, he caught everything thrown his way. He showed the ability to make a catch under duress in traffic, and if the ball was in his vicinity, he was coming down with it. That held true at Ole Miss, where he led all SEC freshman with 72 receptions and finished with 608 yards and five touchdowns.

Florida fan's viewing guide to UA Game 

January, 2, 2014
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- A year ago in the Under Armour All-America Game, Florida fans were treated to a satisfying showcase of their top two recruits -- cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III and running back Kelvin Taylor.

Neither disappointed as a freshman this past fall. Hargreaves was named first-team All-SEC and Taylor showed promise after taking over as Florida's primary ball-carrier just before midseason.

After going 4-8 in 2013, Florida needs impact freshmen more than ever. Here's a look at what to watch for in Thursday's UA Game (4 p.m., ESPN, complete roster).

5-star DB Jackson enjoys FNL 

July, 27, 2013

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The nation's No. 5-ranked player, Adoree' Jackson (Gardena, Calif./Junipero Serra), did not work out at Florida's Friday Night Lights camp, but the five-star athlete received more attention than any other player in attendance.

The 5-foot-10, 182-pound prospect, who will be staying in Gainesville until Sunday, said that he enjoyed his first visit to The Swamp.

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Tales From the Road: Florida 

June, 5, 2013
Each week, Tales From The Road will provide news and updates about where Florida's coaches are recruiting and which prospects are making headlines.

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Florida enters big day with holes filled

February, 4, 2013
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
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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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida lost defensive coordinator Dan Quinn to the Seattle Seahawks on Thursday. Quinn helped orchestrate one of the best defensive line units in the SEC last season and was a big reason Florida has landed commitments from nine defensive players that are ranked in the ESPN 300.

Here is how some of those recruits reacted the new of Quinn's departure:

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Hackenberg, Olsen earn UA Game starts

January, 3, 2013

Black Team offense

Quarterback: Christian Hackenberg (Penn State)

Running back: Alvin Kamara

Receiver: Alvin Bailey (Florida), Robert Foster (Alabama), Damore'ea Stringfellow (Washington)

Tight end: O.J. Howard (Alabama)

Offensive tackle: Darius James (Texas), Denver Kirkland

Offensive guard: Grant Hill (Alabama), Joas Aguilar (Texas A&M)

Center: Hunter Bivin (Notre Dame)

Captains: Kelvin Taylor, Hunter Bivin, Robert Nkemdiche, Ben Boulware

Black Team defense

Defensive end: Robert Nkemdiche, Elijah Daniel

Defensive tackle: Greg Gilgmore (LSU), Kennedy Tulimasealii (Hawaii)

Inside linebacker: Ben Boulware (Clemson)

Outside linebacker: Alex Anzalone (Notre Dame), Matthew Thomas

Safety: Keanu Neal (Florida), Leon McQuay III

Cornerback: Vernon Hargreaves III (Florida), Tarean Folston (Notre Dame)

Black Team special teams

Long snapper: Tyler Kluver (Iowa)

Kicker/punter: Sean Covington (UCLA)

White Team offense

Quarterback: Kevin Olsen (Miami)

Running back: Keith Ford (Oklahoma)

Receiver: Laquon Treadwell, Ryan Green (Florida State), Jalin Marshall (Ohio State)

Tight end: Hunter Henry (Arkansas)

Offensive tackle: Derwin Gray (Maryland), Dorian Johnson (Pittsburgh)

Offensive guard: Patrick Kugler (Michigan), David Dawson (Michigan)

Center: Scott Quessenberry (UCLA)

White Team defense

Defensive end: Carl Lawson (Auburn), Joey Bosa (Ohio State)

Defensive tackle: Henry Poggi (Michigan), Kelsey Griffin (South Carolina)

Inside linebacker: Reuben Foster, Yannick Ngakoue

Outside linebacker: Trey Johnson

Safety: Max Redfield, Antonio Conner

Cornerback: Gareon Conley (Ohio State), Shaq Wiggins (Georgia)

White Team special teams

Long snapper: Brendan Turelli

Kicker: Ryan Santoso (Minnesota)

Punter: Shane Tripucka

Captains: Ryan Green, Hunter Henry, Patrick Kugler, Reuben Foster

#UAGame practice: Day 4 notebook 

January, 3, 2013

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- With just a player walk-through Thursday, things were relatively easy in Day 4 of practice at Disney's ESPN Wide World of Sports. A four-star defensive tackle gave further explanation about his decision to decommit from an SEC school, several players talked about who impressed them the most, and an ESPN 150 safety changed his decision date.

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Hargreaves ready to get reacquainted 

December, 30, 2012
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- With a strong performance at the Under Armour All-America Game this week, five-star defensive back Vernon Hargreaves III (Tampa, Fla./Wharton) would have an opportunity to earn the top overall ranking in the ESPN 150.

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Florida weekend visitor preview 

December, 6, 2012
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida is hosting its annual football banquet this weekend and as usual it will use this time to bring in several recruits. With Florida having a majority of its class already filled, most of the visitors will be committed players or underclassmen.

Quinton Powell
Tom Hauck/ESPNHSFlorida hopes to reaffirm the commitment of linebacker Quinton Powell on his official visit to the school this weekend.
Linebacker commits Quinton Powell (Daytona Beach, Fla./Mainland) and Daniel McMillian (Jacksonville, Fla./First Coast) have been looking around. Powell wants to take visits to USC and Miami (Fla), while McMillian has visited Ohio State recently. Both players will be officially visiting Florida this weekend. Florida will try and reaffirm McMillian's and Powell's commitments.

Powell said he's excited to be around the other Florida commits.

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UF recruiting shines, bad year or good 

November, 21, 2012
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- During the last 10 years or so, the Florida Gators have consistently ranked among teams with the top recruiting classes in the country -- and won two national championships, two SEC championships and played for another SEC championship.

This begs the question: Is Florida's success in recruiting a product of on-the-field success?

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Trend of top classes in Florida continues 

November, 7, 2012
Three prospects in the top 5? Check.

Four five-star prospects overall? Check.

Fifteen prospects in the top 50? Check.

The Class of 2013 in Florida is quite simply the best the state has ever produced … at least until next year.

What makes this group so impressive isn’t just the numbers but the diversity that continues to develop in a state that was once known for just having speedy, undersized receivers, lockdown cornerbacks and random athletes who would either become receivers or cornerbacks.

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Hargreaves, Taylor jump up in ESPN 150 

November, 7, 2012
With 20 verbal commitments, the Florida Gators continue to have one of the top recruiting classes in the country. In the updated ESPN 150/300 rankings, Florida has an impressive 13 players listed, including nine in the top 150.

Cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida's only five-star commitment, continues to lead the way for Florida's No. 2-ranked class. Hargreaves, now the No. 3-ranked player in the country, jumped offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil in the latest update.

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ESPN 150 CB Ramsey talks UF visit 

September, 26, 2012
ESPN 150 cornerback Jalen Ramsey (Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood Academy) committed to USC in July, but that hasn’t stopped him from taking other visits. He took his first official visit to Florida during the weekend for the Kentucky game.

“It went good,” Ramsey said. “It was a good visit. It was my first official, so it was official-like. I liked the coaching staff. It was just a good environment. I liked the fans. It was fun getting to hang with some of the players and just watching some football.”

Jalen Ramsey
Greg Ostendorf/ESPN.comUSC cornerback commit Jalen Ramsey says he'll be back to visit Gainesville again for the LSU game on Oct. 6.
After his visit to Florida, the USC coaches called to see how the trip went, but Ramsey said it was nothing more than the weekly call he shares with the staff.

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