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Tuesday, May 20, 2014
ACC, SEC fight for Florida prospects

By Gerry Hamilton

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The state of Florida has become center of the recruiting universe in recent years. Whether it’s because it’s arguably the most talented state for prospects or the fact that teams go head-to-head in spring matchups, the Sunshine State has become the go-to state for college coaches in the spring evaluation period.

In the Jacksonville area, there is an abundance of talent in not only the Class of 2015 but in the 2016 and 2017 classes as well. Here is the latest news and notes from that talented part of the state.

Prediction time
Jeffery Holland
OLB Jeffery Holland, No. 24 in the ESPN 300, says Auburn is a slight favorite, but Florida, UCLA, USC, Bama, Tennessee and Ohio State are still in the mix.
Jeffery Holland, No. 24 in the ESPN 300, continues to list Auburn as a “slight” favorite over Florida, with UCLA, USC, Alabama, Tennessee and Ohio State on the periphery. The 6-foot-3, 232-pound edge-rushing specialist had the Gators on top of his list from the start of his recruitment, but the Tigers have pulled in front in recent weeks. Holland is expected at Auburn’s “Big Cat Weekend” on May 31 with a decision possible in early July, or closer to the Under Armour All-America Game. Auburn and Florida are scheduled to be at the Trinity Christian spring game Thursday, with Florida recruiting him the hardest. Holland is working to be a mid-term graduate in December.

The decision: Auburn or Florida.
Prediction: Florida.

Florida State commit Kendrick Holland said on Monday he is likely to attend “Big Cat Weekend” in two weeks, which would be a third unofficial visit to Auburn. The Under Armour All-American No. 68 overall prospect is also strongly considering Florida. Norton says the Seminoles aren’t “too fond” of him making unofficial visits, but he intends to continue going through the recruiting process with official visits a possibility.

The decision: Florida State or Florida.
Prediction: The program that best sells Norton on the chances of playing defensive tackle at the next level.

Edwards solid with Auburn?
Former Ohio State and current Auburn safety commit Ben Edwards continues to receive heavy interest from the Buckeyes, UCLA, Stanford, Georgia and North Carolina. According to a source close to Edwards, he is less than 100 percent with his pledge to the Tigers, but his family would prefer he not take visits to other schools. Edwards remains in contact with Ohio State, UCLA and Stanford the most of the pursuers.

A sleeper no more
Michael Howard
OT Michael Howard doesn't get the headlines of other prospects, but judging by his offer list, college coaches are well aware of him.
Class of 2015 offensive tackle prospect Michael Howard is not a name who is talked about in recruiting circles like many others in the Sunshine State. At 6-5 and 245 pounds he has the frame to add significant bulk and college coaches are heading to Green Cove Springs by the dozens to get a closer look at the talented prospect who plays with a non-stop motor and physicality.

“All the looks I have been getting, it’s amazing,” Howard said.

Howard reports offers from Florida, Missouri, Tennessee, Oregon, Colorado, California, Cincinnati, Virginia, West Virginia, Rutgers, FAU, FIU, USF and Oregon State. Trips to Oregon and California are possible this summer, with Florida likely to get multiple unofficial visits. Should Howard schedule the trips out West, it would be the first time he has traveled outside the state and Southeast region.

While the Gators’ May 13 offer from Will Muschamp was an “emotional one” for Howard and his mom, an offer from Georgia would provide Florida strong competition. The Bulldogs have been by Clay High in May with a return trip likely this week.

Howard could make a trip to the West Coast to see Oregon, but going far from home isn’t a likely scenario at the end of the day.

The kids are alright
Class of 2017 cornerback Shaun Wade, 6-1 and 170 pounds, reports offers from Utah, North Carolina, USF and Ohio State. Kevin Toliver II, who is No. 3 in the ESPN 300, predicted, “Wade will be better than me” before Trinity Christian’s spring practice on Monday afternoon.

Class of 2018 defensive back Tyreke Johnson has offers from FSU, LSU, UCLA, Ohio State and “many more”. The 6-2, 180-pound eighth grader who saw action as a seventh grader on varsity is the younger brother of ESPN 300 quarterback and Florida State commitment De'Andre Johnson, who plays at First Coast High in Jacksonville.

More news and notes
William Sweet
Despite Florida, Florida State and Georgia, among others, still chasing after him, OT William Sweet is solid with North Carolina.
" When going down the list of most impressive prospects “on the hoof” in the Class of 2015, North Carolina commit William Sweet is near the top of the list. The 6-6, 285-pound offensive tackle prospect committed to Larry Fedora on April 12 and has remained solid despite offers from Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Miami, Virginia, Missouri and South Carolina. Sweet said he plans to be in Chapel Hill for the “Freak Show” in June, and talked at length Monday about how much he loved the environment and comfort level at North Carolina.

" Not as solid with his commitment as Sweet is Sherrod Pittman, who is No. 173 in the ESPN 300. The South Carolina pledge reiterated Monday afternoon that he intends to go through the entire official visit process with UCF, Michigan State, LSU, Auburn, Florida State and USC as possibilities. He lists UCF as recruiting him the hardest among the pursuers. The Gamecocks message is simple: He has the ability to come in see the field early.

" Florida commit Tristan Payton said Monday that he is solid with his pledge, but is planning to go to Ohio State in late July for Friday Night Lights. Payton, No. 132 in the ESPN 300, has talked to assistant coach Tim Hinton twice, and the message is simple, “He said they need playmakers like me at Ohio State,” Payton said. Payton’s mother is a big influence in his recruitment with the academics at Florida being big in the decision-making process.

" Class of 2017 wide receiver D.J. Matthews reports offers from Florida State, Clemson, Louisville, North Carolina, Ole Miss, LSU, South Carolina and Miami. Matthews lists Florida State as his dream school with LSU second. The 5-11, 165-pound prospect hopes to visit Clemson and Miami this summer. A coach in the area that has seen the budding First Coast High star said on Monday that Matthews “will be one of the top receivers in the nation in his class.”