NCF On The Trail: Recruiting

With a combined six national titles and five Heisman Trophy winners since 1993, Florida State-Florida has been one of the top rivalries in college football during the past 30 years. The intense rivalry extends beyond the field and into the recruiting world.

The two schools, which are located roughly two hours apart from each other, are being considered by many of the top recruits in the talent-rich state of Florida. Florida State signed 14 ESPN 300 recruits from Florida in 2014, two of whom (Dalvin Cook and Ermon Lane) flipped their commitments from Florida. The Gators, meanwhile, where able to flip three prospects (J.C. Jackson, Treon Harris and Ryan Sousa) from FSU.

Flipping commitments from an in-state rival is an inevitable part of the recruiting process. Florida State quarterback commit De'Andre Johnson is stuck right in the middle of this heated rivalry and knows just how intense the process can be.

video Throughout this recruiting cycle, RecruitingNation will profile a number of ESPN 300 prospects in the 2015 class, including an inside look at the prospect, his recruitment, a scouting report and what college program could benefit when he ultimately makes his decision.

BRADENTON, Fla. -- On a team loaded with talented prospects, do-it-all athlete Jeffery Holland takes a back seat to no one. The 6-foot-2, 226-pound outside linebacker plays multiple positions for Jacksonville (Fla.) Trinity Christian, including running back, tight end, wide receiver and, of course, linebacker -- the position most schools recruiting him want him to play. Holland even lined up at cornerback for a game during the IMG 7v7 Southeast Regional championships in Bradenton, Fla., over the weekend.

The No. 8 player in the country, his athleticism is something that comes naturally, but it doesn’t hurt that he has pretty good bloodlines too. Holland’s uncle, Carey Holland, won an SEC basketball title at Auburn in 1985.


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Getting to know Eric Swinney 

March, 26, 2014
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Throughout this recruiting cycle, RecruitingNation will profile a number of ESPN 300 prospects in the 2015 class, including an inside look at the prospect, his recruitment, a scouting report and what college program could benefit when he ultimately makes his decision.

ROSWELL, Ga. — Running back Eric Swinney was one of 13 ESPN Junior 300 prospects to attend the Atlanta Nike Football Training Camp on Sunday. Of those 13, 12 are from Georgia, which regularly churns out elite college football players. For some reason, however, the state doesn’t seem to get the recognition as a top talent-producing state.


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ESPN 300 outside linebacker Rashaan Evans (Auburn, Ala./Auburn) took an official visit to Alabama this weekend.

The No. 52-ranked player in the county came away impressed with what he saw from the Crimson Tide.


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Gators add ESPN 300 RB Brandon Powell

January, 10, 2014
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Florida was able to get its second commitment in as many days as four-star athlete Brandon Powell (Deerfield Beach, Fla./Deerfield Beach) switched his commitment from Miami to Florida on Friday morning.

The news was first reported by Zach Abolverdi of the Gainesville Sun, and Deerfield Beach head coach Allen Jackson later confirmed via text message. The 5-foot-9, 171-pound athlete, who is being recruited by Florida to play running back, is expected to enroll in classes at Florida sometime on Friday.

The Powell addition is important for the Gators. After Dalvin Cook (Miami/Central), the No. 4 running back in the country, flipped his commitment from Florida to Florida State, the Gators were left with a void at running back. Powell has speed and playmaking ability that has been missing from the Florida backfield in the last two seasons.

"Powell is reminiscent of Miami's Duke Johnson, but shorter and leaner,” his Recruiting Nation scouting report reads. "On pure skill-set alone, Powell would be considered one of the elite backs in this class, but he just isn't blessed with the measurables coveted by coaches. High-risk, high-reward player who could be a feature return specialist. Durability is always going to be a concern.”

With Powell on board, the Gators now have 21 verbal commitments including 12 ranked in the ESPN 300.

As for Miami, Powell was the second South Florida prospect to change his commitment in the last two days. The other, cornerback Nigel Bethel II (Miami/Booker T. Washington) flipped his commitment from Miami to Texas Tech on Thursday evening. The Hurricanes still have 26 commits including 11 ranked in the ESPN 300.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Top 2014 signal-caller Will Grier (Davidson, N.C./Davidson Day) played a game on Friday night, then drove in an RV with his family down to Gainesville to watch Florida take on LSU in the Swamp. The 6-foot-3, 185-pound quarterback said he loved what he saw from the Gators on Saturday.

"I had a great trip to Florida," Grier said. "The game was amazing and the stadium was extremely loud. I wanted to get dressed out and play."

Despite Florida's offensive struggles early on in the game, Grier says he could see himself playing for the Gators.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- ESPN 150 defensive tackle Greg Gilmore (Home Mills, N.C./South View) took an official visit to Florida this past weekend. The 6-foot-4, 285-pound four-star tackle said he enjoyed his trip to Gainesville.

"It was great man," Gilmore said. "I had a great time. It was a good game. The defensive front played well and that's really what I'm looking for is the defensive front. The whole defense, the whole offense, everybody played well.

"I talked to the coaches all the time I was there pretty much. They told me I would be a key essential to putting their defense together. They were saying they need more guys -- more guys that are good coming out of high school and more guys that need less development. I mean everyone needs development, but they are looking for guys that can play early."

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ESPN 300 WR Taj Williams has top three 

September, 12, 2012
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ESPN 300 wide receiver Taj Williams (Tallahassee, Fla./Lincoln) on Wednesday named a top three of Florida State, Alabama and South Carolina. The 6-foot-4, 178-pound four-star athlete will be at Florida State this weekend to watch the Seminoles take on Wake Forest.

"My top three schools right now are South Carolina, Alabama and Florida State," Williams said. "With Florida State, it's right here at home, it's a great place and I'm actually going to visit there this weekend for the game against Wake Forest.

"With Alabama, I've been there a few times, I went to a camp there this summer. I feel comfortable there. I just really like Alabama and what they have to offer. At South Carolina, I really like the coaches. I haven't been there yet, but I definitely plan on taking an official visit there sometime this season. I'll officially visit all three schools, I just don't know the dates yet."

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Quarterback Wade Freebeck, a 2014 prospect, picked up his first and only offer, from Florida, after camping with the Gators this summer. The 6-foot-3, 168-pound signal-caller from Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) Western returned Saturday to watch the Gators take on Bowling Green.

Freebeck said he is impressed with what Florida has to offer.

"I loved it," Freebeck said. "They treat me right, I liked the experience in general. The atmosphere is unmatched wherever you go. The overall experience was great, though."

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UGA commit Shaq Wiggins visits UF 

September, 2, 2012
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- ESPN 150 cornerback and Georgia verbal commit Shaq Wiggins (Tyrone, Ga./Sandy Creek) visited Gainesville on Saturday to watch Florida take on Bowling Green. The 5-foot-11, 165-pound Under Armour All-American said he enjoyed his visit to Florida.

"The trip went well," Wiggins said. "If anything, my favorite part was the crowd."

For Wiggins, he says he didn't pay too much attention to the game itself, but focused more on the cornerback play, specifically on Florida sophomore Marcus Roberson.

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[+] EnlargeJordan Sherit
Tom Hauck for ESPN.comDefensive end Jordan Sherit is a four-star prospect ranked No. 254 in the ESPN 300.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The Gators continued their recruiting hot streak, as ESPN 300 defensive end Jordan Sherit (Tampa, Fla./Hillsborough) verbally committed to Florida on Saturday after visiting for UF's Friday Night Lights camp. The 6-foot-4, 238-pound athlete chose the Gators over offers from Florida State, Notre Dame, Stanford and many more.

Sherit, ranked a four-star player, said it was a difficult decision, but in the end, he chose the school that made him feel the most comfortable.

"First of all I want to say this was a very tough decision for me," Sherit said. "The hardest thing for me is when you build relationships with schools like USF and Miami in the beginning and now you have to go away from that. I liked the academics at Stanford, Notre Dame and Vanderbilt. But when it came down to it, it was the family environment I felt at the University of Florida. I felt 100 percent comfortable with Coach [Will] Muschamp and the whole coaching staff.

"The fact it's in the SEC conference, it's close to home and not to mention the networking at the University of Florida in the state is bar-none. It's the biggest and the greatest in the state. You can be anywhere in a Gators shirt and someone will just walk up to you and give you the Gator chomp. Really, as far as networking goes, it's Gator Nation -- it's not just fans, it's a nation. Just getting to know the other commits and the players, it's become second nature to me. It was a no-brainer."

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DE Lewis Neal picks LSU 

July, 4, 2012
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Lewis Neal picked a unique setting to announce his college choice.

The Wilson, N.C./Hunt High school defensive end picked a Coastal Plains League baseball game to declare that he will attend LSU. Neal made his announcement over the ballpark's public address system between the fourth and fifth innings of a game between his hometown Wilson Tobs and the Edenton Steamers, a most unusual spot for a college choice announcement.

Neal, a 4-star prospect ranked No. 38 among the nation's defensive ends by ESPN, picked LSU over SEC rivals Tennessee, South Carolina, Vanderbilt and Kentucky and also had offers from Ohio State, Clemson, North Carolina State and East Carolina.

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Gators get their quarterback

June, 18, 2012
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- After missing missing out on several quarterbacks, the Florida Gators finally landed one on Monday. Four-star prospect Max Staver (Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood) camped at Florida last Saturday, and after patiently waiting more than a week, was offered a scholarship on Monday. Staver quickly jumped on it and committed to head coach Will Muschamp.

Max Staver
Tom Hauck for ESPN.comFour-star quarterback Max Staver chose Florida over Mississippi State, Louisville and Memphis.
"They have been in contact with me for a while now," Staver said. "They kept telling me be patient. I actually called coach [Brent] Pease. He said I have coach Muschamp right next to me. Muschamp said, 'Are you ready to be a Gator?' I said, 'Yes sir.' I told him, 'I'm the guy, I'm going to lead the program. I'm ready to get it rolling. I'm ready to serve the school, the football team and the community. It's a blessing.' "

The 6-foot-6, 238-pound quarterback chose Florida over offers from Louisville, Mississippi State and Memphis. Ranked the No. 251 player in the country and the No. 15 pocket passer, the strong-armed signal-caller says he wants to be the leader of the Gators over the next four years.

"[I'm] a guy that's going to prepare well. I have a great work ethic. I've been working out twice a day," Staver said. "I'm a guy that is real mentally tough. I'm a guy that's been pushed my entire life. I've had to fight through injuries. I've been put in positions where I've had to stay the course. I've kept God with me. I think my preparation and work ethic are what sets me apart."

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[+] EnlargeLaremy Tunsil
Derek Tyson/ESPN.comFive-star offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil now has a top three of Florida, Georgia and Alabama.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Five-star offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil (Lake City, Fla./Columbia) visited Alabama, Georgia and Florida over the last week. The 6-foot-6, 295-pound tackle named a top three after his visit to Florida on Sunday.

"I would say they are my top three," Tunsil said of the three schools he visited. "It's a tie right now with all of them."

Tunsil, who camped at Alabama last weekend, visited Georgia on Friday and Saturday before heading to Gainesville on Sunday. The No. 3-ranked player in the country said he was impressed by what Georgia had to offer.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida landed its 17th verbal commitment on Saturday as three-star defensive tackle Joey Ivie (Dade City, Fla./Pasco) made his pledge to the Gators.

Ivie, who had offers from FSU, Tennessee, Ole Miss, Miami and Mississippi State, said his familiarity with the Florida program is what ultimately persuaded him to commit to the Gators.

[+] EnlargeJoey Ivie
Derek Tyson of ESPN.comDefensive lineman Joey Ivie is 6-foot-4, 271 pounds and brings a high motor to UF's class of 2013.
"I grew up a Florida fan," Ivie said. "My grandparents went to Florida. I feel like Florida still has another [title] shot. Their future is looking very bright."

Ivie made his decision after participating at Florida's summer football camp on Saturday. He was joined by another Florida defensive tackle commit, Caleb Brantley (Crescent City, Fla./Crescent City). Ivie said Brantley also played a role in his decision to pull the trigger.

"I was talking to the other defensive line commit, Caleb Brantley. I was talking to him for a while," Ivie said. "He was telling me he needs someone else on the D-line next to him and some people to step it up. I'm just feeling orange and blue."

The 6-foot-4, 271-pound tackle said the experience of the Florida coaching staff will hopefully help him achieve his ultimate goal of playing in the NFL.

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