NCF On The Trail: leonard williams

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.

Tales From The Road: USC 

May, 22, 2013
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Every Wednesday, the WeAreSC staff will take a quick-hit look at some of the top recruits and storylines facing USC recruiting for the week.

This week’s targets: Assistant coach Ed Orgeron dropped by River Ridge (La.) John Curtis Christian over the weekend to see safety Mattrell McGraw, No. 2-rated receiver Malachi Dupre and four-star linebacker Kenny Young in their spring scrimmage. Assistant coach Mike Ekeler checked in with ESPN 150 linebackers Clifton Garrett (Plainfield, Ill./Plainfield South) and Nyles Morgan (Crete, Ill./Crete-Monee) at their respective schools on Monday, while three-star outside linebacker Michael Smith (Miami, Fla./Northwestern) said he also received a visit from USC. On Monday night, local receiver Brandon Burton (Gardena, Calif./Serra) became the first Class of 2016 prospect to land a Trojans scholarship offer.

Prospect performance: Last weekend’s Nike Football Training Camp in Oakland had a USC flavor to it. Five-star cornerback Adoree' Jackson (Gardena, Calif./Serra) shined in one-on-one drills, just a day after winning his section’s track and field title with a record-setting long jump of 25 feet. Jackson received an invitation to The Opening, as did fellow USC targets Joe Mixon, Michiah Quick and Adarius Pickett. Trojans defensive tackle commit Tashon Smallwood (Fresno, Calif./Central) also turned in an impressive performance in pass rushing drills. Fast-rising cornerback John Plattenburg (Corona, Calif./Centennial) and guard Kammy Delp (Pomona, Calif./Diamond Ranch), whom have garnered interest from USC assistant James Cregg, took home DB and OL MVP honors, respectively.

Signing day primer: USC 

January, 23, 2013
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Team needs: With all-conference cornerback Nickell Robey declaring for the NFL draft and the graduation of safeties T.J. McDonald, Jawanza Starling and Drew McAllister, adding depth in the secondary is a pressing need for the Trojans. Given Matt Barkley’s departure, it was imperative that USC sign another quarterback to pair with Max Wittek and Cody Kessler.

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USC pledge Hutchings makes new stand 

January, 20, 2013
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There wasn’t much doubt surrounding the commitment of four-star linebacker Michael Hutchings (Concord, Calif./De La Salle) before USC’s big recruiting weekend. Hutchings had remained firm to his commitment since deciding on the Trojans in July and even canceled a trip to Washington following the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.


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Weekend rewind: USC 

December, 17, 2012
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LOS ANGELES -- The first member of USC’s current class officially visited campus this weekend and could not have been happier.

“Best experience ever,” defensive tackle commit Kenny Bigelow said. “My host Leonard Williams was great.”

Bigelow, the No. 2-rated defensive tackle who committed to the Trojans last November, is scheduled to enroll shortly after the Jan. 5 U.S. Army All-American Game.

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Leonard Williams to USC 

February, 1, 2012
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Under Armour All-American defensive tackle Leonard Williams (Daytona Beach, Fla./Mainlaind) signed with USC on Wednesday. The 6-foot-5, 265-pound four-star also considered Auburn, Florida and Florida State.

He took official visits to The Plains (Oct. 14), Tallahassee (Jan. 13), Southern Cal (Jan. 20) and Gainesville (Jan. 23).

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ESPNU 150 DE Williams to delay announcement 

December, 21, 2011
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ESPNU 150 defensive end Leonard Williams (Daytona Beach, Fla./Mainland) will likely delay his decision until signing day.

Originally he had planned to announce at the Jan. 5 Under Armour All-America Game.

"I think I'm going to do the announcement with my team instead," Williams said.

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