NCF On The Trail: Demarcus Walker

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- There's no consolation prize when you lose a recruiting battle, just an empty feeling and an empty space on the big board.

It hurts even more to lose a player on signing day, when there is no tomorrow and no other players on the big board to turn to.

Under coach Will Muschamp, Florida has had its share of wins on the recruiting trail. It's also had some impactful losses.

Here's a look at some of the top players the Gators missed on in recent years.

2011
ESPN class rank: No. 12


[+] EnlargeTimmy Jernigan
Melina Vastola/USA TODAY SportsThe Gators were once a frontrunner for Timmy Jernigan, but he ended up at FSU where he became one of the nation's top defensive tackles.
It would hardly be fair to pin most of the Gators' head-to-head recruiting losses in this class on Muschamp, who was hired in mid-December 2010. He inherited a recruiting class ranked in the top 10 from then-retired coach Urban Meyer, and Muschamp was commended for keeping the bulk of the class together. For example, Muschamp had less than a week to make an impression on Nick Waisome before the nation's No. 2-ranked cornerback decommitted from Florida and flipped to FSU. Not Muschamp's fault.

But the head coach and his staff did have several weeks to take the recruiting baton and try to close with a couple of uncommitted gems from the state of Florida. The Gators were considered frontrunners at one time for DT Timmy Jernigan and LB Curt Maggitt, who ended up at Florida State and Tennessee, respectively. In both cases, Muschamp was unable to capitalize on his reputation for defense and lost the two prospects to offensive-minded head coaches.

2012
ESPN class rank: No. 4

The Gators suffered a painful loss in January when DE/LB Jordan Jenkins picked Georgia. He was a top priority and the UF coaching staff had put a lot of time and effort into his recruitment. The bad news foreshadowed what can only be described as a signing day nightmare, as Florida struck out with eight uncommitted recruits and another who made his decision shortly thereafter.

Desperate for help at receiver, Florida was spurned by two of the top prospects in the nation, Nelson Agholor (USC) and Stefon Diggs (Maryland), who have already shown flashes of brilliance on the field. The Trojans were also the beneficiary of defensive tackle Leonard Williams, who said he made up his mind on the morning of signing day. Florida was a painfully close second, and Williams made an instant impact as a freshman starter.

Muschamp also felt good about keeping offensive lineman Avery Young in his home state, but he ended up at Auburn, where he started on last season's national runner-up. Another Floridian, the nation's No. 1 cornerback, Tracy Howard, was considered a lock for the Gators until he took a visit to Miami on the last weekend before signing day and changed his mind.

And who could forget the gripping saga of No. 1 outside linebacker prospect Josh Harvey-Clemons? He announced his decision to go to Georgia in the morning on ESPNU's signing day show. His family was shocked. They wanted him close to home in Valdosta, Ga., and thought he would choose UF. The situation turned surreal when his grandfather and legal guardian refused to sign the letter of intent. It took a full day to sort out, but Harvey-Clemons faxed his letter of intent to attend Georgia the morning after signing day.

2013
ESPN class rank: No. 2


The headline in the local newspaper was "Muschamp set up for stress-free signing day". Indeed, most of the drama took place in January when Florida signed eight early enrollees, including three top-rated players who flipped to Florida late in the process. It was a strong rebound for a coach who took some criticism with the way he closed out his class the year before.

But there were some misses, recruits who could have played a big role for the Gators in what turned out to be a woeful 2013.

Cornerback Jalen Ramsey and defensive lineman DeMarcus Walker, both top-40 prospects in the ESPN 300, picked FSU over Florida. Walker, from Jacksonville, Fla., originally committed to Alabama over UF. When he wavered many thought the Gators would be the beneficiary. Instead he flipped to the Seminoles just before enrolling in January. Ramsey, who had been committed to USC for months, changed his mind when Trojans coach Lane Kiffin came under fire. Instead of choosing the Gators, where his high school teammate QB Max Staver was committed, Ramsey ended up at FSU and made a huge impact as a starter on the Noles' national championship team last season.

Offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil, ranked No. 1 at his position and No. 5 overall, was another tough loss. Like Jernigan two years before, Florida was a frontrunner at one time. Both prospects went to the same high school in Lake City, Fla, just 45 minutes north of Gainesville. Tunsil ended up at Ole Miss, where he started all but four games as a true freshman.

FSU DE commit sees big transformation 

March, 6, 2013
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Blake McClain's (Jacksonville, Fla./Sandalwood) physical transformation has come a long way in less than a year's time.

He was always a bigger kid, of course. But not like he is now. Before this season, he showed his athletic prowess with finesse and quickness. Now he has added a power element.

LB Kain Daub has two out in front 

February, 23, 2013
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ESPN Watch List linebacker Kain Daub (Jacksonville, Fla./Sandalwood) is zeroing in on two programs.

A former commitment to LSU, the 6-foot-2, 243-pound linebacker is still looking at the SEC West, but also an ACC program.


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Florida State's recruiting class might have looked a lot different if it weren't for the hire of defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt.

Pruitt's appointment in Tallahassee directly resulted in no fewer than two commitments from top-40 players destined elsewhere that the Seminoles wouldn't have had a shot at otherwise.

Beginning with DeMarcus Walker (Jacksonville, Fla./Sandalwood) on the night of the national championship, Pruitt's move orchestrated one of the headlines of the season. Minutes after Nick Saban and Alabama hoisted another national championship trophy, the Tuscaloosa-bound Walker switched his commitment to Florida State and enrolled at the school the next day.

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Signing day primer: Florida State 

January, 23, 2013
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Who is leaving: Florida State is losing three top-flight defensive ends to the NFL draft this season, led by draft-eligible junior Bjoern Werner. Senior Tank Carradine's stock would have been much higher if not for a late knee injury in the regular season finale against Florida. Brandon Jenkins, who was lost for most of the 2012 season because of a foot injury, will also be heading to the pros.

The offensive line only loses one player, junior Menelik Watson, but it is a big one. He's likely to go in the first couple of rounds and had a major impact for Florida State in just one season.

Xavier Rhodes is the lone corner departing, but it's also a big one. Aside from Rhodes, the secondary will return largely intact.


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Weekly Commitment Update 

January, 11, 2013
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ACC
Clemson
Ebenezer Ogundeko DE Brooklyn, N.Y./Thomas Jefferson
HT: 6-3 WT: 229
Position Rank: #10 DE

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Scouts: DL Walker also fits FSU's 4-3 

January, 8, 2013
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You don’t often see a team win the BCS National Championship and lose a commitment at the same time, but ESPN 150 defensive line prospect DeMarcus Walker (Jacksonville, Fla./Sandalwood) changed his verbal from Alabama to Florida State, where he’ll join former Alabama assistant and new Seminoles defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt.

The loss of Walker can be considered a bit of a blow for Alabama, as he looked to be an ideal fit as a DL in the base 3-4 scheme, but that doesn’t mean he can’t fit well in a base 4-3. While listed as a defensive end, the fairly versatile D-lineman will likely be utilized as more of an interior player for the Seminoles.

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Walker flips from Alabama to FSU 

January, 8, 2013
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ESPN 150 defensive lineman DeMarcus Walker (Jacksonville, Fla./Sandalwood) decided to stay in-state after all...in Tallahassee.

"I prayed," Walker said. "I just had to follow my heart. I am committed to Florida State University."

In a shocking last-minute switch, the 6-foot-4, 255-pound senior flipped from Alabama to Florida State and announced his decision just moments after the Crimson Tide defeated Notre Dame 42-14 to win back-to-back BCS National Championships. He will enroll in school tomorrow according to Sandalwood head coach Adam Geis.

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#UAGame practice: Day 4 notebook 

January, 3, 2013
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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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4-star DE Walker torn between Bama, UF 

January, 1, 2013
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Four-star defensive end commit DeMarcus Walker (Jacksonville, Fla./Sandalwood) is torn between Florida and Alabama. The 6-foot-4, 271-pound four-star athlete has been committed to Alabama since August but will visit Florida this upcoming weekend.

Walker, the No. 4-ranked defensive end in the country, said the loss of Alabama secondary coach Jeremy Pruitt to Florida State was a big loss to him.

"For me it was a real big loss," Walker said. "Because that's the coach who I trusted the most out of their whole staff. Seeing that he left it was kind of hard."

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DeMarcus Walker wavering? 

December, 30, 2012
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Four-star defensive end DeMarcus Walker (Jacksonville, Fla./Sandalwood) will take an unofficial visit to Florida this upcoming weekend.

The 6-foot-4, 271-pound ESPN 150 member has been committed to Alabama since Aug. 24, but Walker said taking a trip to Florida has been on his mind for a while.

"It's just been on my mind for a long time," Walker said. "Even though I've already taken a 1,000 visits, I'll just take another one."

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Tide's haul started at Saban's hiring 

November, 21, 2012
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- For Nick Saban, his success started on the recruiting trail, not the football field.

In his first season, the University of Alabama head football coach went 6-6 and guided the Crimson Tide to a berth in the Independence Bowl, the lowly Independence Bowl, where they hung on to defeat Colorado.


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Henry tops Bama commits in ESPN 150 

November, 7, 2012
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Alabama’s newest commitment, four-star athlete Derrick Henry, just so happens to be the Crimson Tide’s top-ranked recruit in the latest ESPN 150.


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DeMarcus Walker: 'It's not over' 

August, 24, 2012
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Four-star DeMarcus Walker (Jacksonville, Fla./Sandalwood) announced his commitment to Alabama Friday afternoon on ESPNU, but the nation's No. 3-ranked defensive end said later in the day that his recruitment is far from over.

DeMarcus Walker
Derek Tyson/ESPN.comTide commit DeMarcus Walker shows off his Alabama gear on the night of his big announcement.
Walker said in an interview with TideNation's Greg Ostendorf despite his commitment to the Tide, he plans to take all five official visits to LSU, Auburn, Alabama, Tennessee and USC. Noticeably absent was Florida, a school that had been considered one of his leaders for the last several months.

Walker said on Friday after Sandalwood's preseason 29-27 victory over Orlando Evans that he still plans to unnofficially visit Florida this fall.

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Scouts: Jack or 5-tech for Walker? 

August, 24, 2012
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Alabama added a big commitment Friday to their top five 2013 class as they gained a verbal from ESPN 150 defender DeMarcus Walker (Jacksonville, Fla./Sandalwood). The No. 3 rated defensive end is a versatile D-lineman with very good physical tools. Walker, who has slimmed down to 265 pounds for his senior season, said he is going to Tuscaloosa to play the Jack linebacker, but we feel he will likely fit better in the 5-technique role in Alabama’s scheme.

Walker is a good athlete for his size and could potentially play Jack, but has the tools to develop into a player who can be more like a Marcell Dareus than a Courtney Upshaw in the Crimson Tide's defense. Additionally, the Tide have a verbal from Jonathan Allen (Ashburn, Va./Stone Bridge) the No. 5 rated D-end who better fits that Jack LB position.

With Walker, Alabama is getting a player who possesses very good short space quickness and with his size, continued size potential, and raw strength he can develop into a stout run defender who can not only occupy blocks, but also makes plays as well. He needs more polish, but is capable of being consistently disruptive as a pass rusher.

Walker's initial contribution could be limited some because he needs to keep developing his game and be more consistent in technique to maximize his abilities. However, he is a very good prospect with a lot of natural ability who can grow into a highly productive defensive lineman for the Crimson Tide's defense.

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