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SEC Recruiting Notebook: Holley Lifts Florida’s Class

sec-recruiting-notebook-gfxFlorida’s 2014 class received some sizable momentum this week.

Defensive tackle Thomas Holley from Lincoln High School in Brooklyn, N.Y., switched his commitment from Penn State to Florida.

Holley, who’s ranked the nation’s No. 3 defensive tackle by Rivals, decided to go with a coaching staff he knew at Florida over a staff he would have to get to know at Penn State.

“I think it was just kind of hard for me to build a relationship with a coaching staff in two weeks, when I had spent 10 months building a relationship with the previous coaching staff,” Holley told ESPN. “It really came down to the why between Penn State and Florida. At Florida, I already had a great relationship with the coaching staff, so it made it an easier decision.”

Holley’s decision to choose Florida adds to an already impressive defensive haul in the 2014 class. Defensive backs Duke Dawson and Jalen Tabor have already enrolled at Florida and defensive end Gerald Willis III has committed.

Willis, who chose Florida over LSU at the Under Armour All-American game in St. Petersburg, Fla., earlier this month, appears solid in his commitment to Florida. His mother, April Justin, told 247Sports that Willis “will not flip at all” from his commitment.

Holley maintains his commitment to Florida is solid as well.

“I’m not trying to be a person that is constantly changing up what they want to do,” he said. “When I make a decision, I want to make sure it’s the right decision, and that’s why I’ve been taking my time with the process.

“Even after the coaching staff change, I took my time, I sat down with my family and weighed out all my options, and that’s what it came down to. This is my last hoorah, as far as schools. I don’t plan on changing up anytime soon. I don’t plan on decommitting from Florida and going somewhere else. This is it for me.”

Florida still has plenty of work to do on the offensive side of the ball. The Gators landed athlete Brandon Powell, who could play running back or wide receiver. But the Gators are still trying to recover from the losses of running back Dalvin Cook, who has enrolled at Florida State, and receiver Ermon Lane, who decommitted last week and appears to be leaning toward the Seminoles.

Florida is pursuing running backs Jeff Jones, who’s committed to Minnesota, and Derrell Scott, who’s also considering South Carolina and Tennessee. Receivers Eric Lauderdale, Isaiah McKenzie and C.J. Worton, a Florida State commit, are strongly considering Florida as well.

Gators coach Will Muschamp is selling playing time to prospects. He said this week every position is “open” following Florida’s 4-8 season.

“I think it’s a great opportunity to walk into a great situation to improve, play in an exciting offense,” Muschamp said. “This is still the University of Florida. We’ll compete and play for championships. That hasn’t changed. Not in one year, that hasn’t.”


Vandy’s class takes huge hit

Vanderbilt’s 2014 class is predictably in big trouble as the Commodores search for a replacement for coach James Franklin.

Vanderbilt had a class ranked inside the Rivals top 25 a week ago. Now, the Commodores have only 11 commitments and the No. 64 class in the nation.

Prospects who have decommitted include quarterbacks K.J. Carta-Samuels, defensive linemen Jay Robertson and Michael Sawyers and running back Mikale Wilbon.

Three former Vanderbilt commitments – offensive linemen Brendan Brosnan and Chance Sorrell and defensive end Lloyd Tubman – have committed to Penn State since Franklin joined the Nittany Lions. That’s led to criticism of Franklin for recruiting prospects he once helped Vanderbilt land.

Franklin defended his decision to recruit former Vanderbilt commits while he was on The Dan Patrick Show.

“I think a lot of people say kids should commit to a school, not a coach,” Franklin said. “But the reality is they do. Families and kids, they want to make sure their son is going to be taken care of, and it’s about the relationship aspect.”

Franklin’s right. There’s no better example of prospects considering a school solely because of a coach than Franklin at Vanderbilt. Why wouldn’t those prospects look at Penn State now that he has a new job?

Franklin has a job to do. He was once paid to recruit prospects to Vanderbilt. Now, his job is to put together the best roster he can at Penn State.

The three players who switched their commitment to Penn State decided to look around as soon as Franklin left Vanderbilt. He wasn’t the only coach that would have called them.

Vanderbilt can still survive the hit of losing Franklin. Highly-touted defensive back prospects Kyle Gibson, Trent Sherfield and Emmanuel Smith all remain very interested in the Commodores, and other former commitments will at least monitor the school’s coaching search.

Meanwhile, Vanderbilt will continue its coaching search. And the Commodores will continue to fall back on the recruiting trail until they find a replacement.


Evans top three includes Alabama, Auburn

Linebacker Rashaan Evans from Auburn (Ala.) High School is down to Alabama, Auburn and UCLA.

Evans will take official visits to Alabama this weekend and Auburn next weekend before he makes a final decision.

“The visits will be the deciding factor on which school I commit to,” Evans told Rivals. ”With the official visits coming up I would say I am really probably just looking forward to the one-on-one time with the coaches. Actually seeing the game plan and seeing how they would use me. That’s going to play a big role to me on the school I want to commit to.”

Evans said he’s heard from players committed to both Alabama and Auburn. It’s interesting that running back Bo Scarbrough was the most vocal Alabama commitment at Under Armour All-American practices. Scarbrough has continued to look at other schools since he committed to Alabama in Sept. 2012.

“Bo would probably be the leading guy over there on Alabama’s side,” Evans said.

Scarbrough will join Evans during his official visit to Alabama this weekend. Other highly-touted prospects scheduled to visit Tuscaloosa this weekend include defensive tackle Matt Elam from Elizabethtown, Ky., and receiver Malachi Dupre from River Ridge, La.

Alabama linebacker commit Christian Miller, who has entertained interest from Georgia, will also be on campus.


Auburn hopes to make an impression

Auburn is preparing for a busy weekend.

As many as 12 Auburn commitments are expected to take their official visits this weekend. They will likely be asked to turn into recruiters during their stay.

Defensive ends Devon Godchaux and Andrew Williams and offensive lineman Braden Smith will be at Auburn on official visits. Godchaux is committed to LSU but is still considering other offers. Smith and Williams are undecided.


Williams is down to four schools: Auburn, Clemson, Ole Miss and South Carolina. He told 247Sports he is “90 percent” likely to choose Auburn, Ole Miss or Clemson.

Auburn has sold Williams on the idea of playing with the Tigers’ young defensive linemen. Montravious Adams, Carl Lawson and Elijah Daniel all played key roles as freshmen last season.

“I’ll ask the players, Carl mostly, how it is,” Williams said. “How many people are on the roster, just all the facts.

“They tell me, ‘Don’t get caught up in the hype of the officials. Look at the facts. The opportunity is there. In two years, nine defensive players are leaving. On the d-line, five are leaving this year.’”

Auburn has 21 commitments for the 2014 class, which is ranked No. 10 in the nation by Rivals.



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