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NLN Notes: Sunshine State pushing

FREDERICK, Md. – The Next level Nation 5 Star Showcase brought out many of the top prospects in the class of 2014, 2015 and even 2016 from the Mid-Atlantic region during the weekend.

Florida is heavily in the mix for four-star cornerback Jalen Tabor.

Here’s a snapshot of the recruitment of many of the major prospects on hand for the star-studded event.

Tabor talks visits and more

Washington (D.C.) Friendship Academy four-star cornerback Jalen Tabor caused a bit of a stir when he arrived at the Next Level Nation 5-star Elite Showcase Saturday afternoon.

The 6-foot-1, 182-pound prospect walked in wearing Florida Gator shorts, socks and book bag. While the Gators are considered one of the early favorites, they are one of nearly 10 schools still in the running.

“Florida, Florida State, Alabama, Maryland, Clemson, Tennessee, Notre Dame, I’m probably missing one or two, but that’s really it,” Tarbor said.

With that said, Tabor is only sure of two of those schools getting official visits this coming fall.

“I would say definitely two schools I know I’m going to take an official visit to - Florida and Alabama,” he proclaimed. “Florida State is close, if I had to say three, I would say Florida State. Just Florida and Alabama right now.”

A big draw for the Gators in Tabor’s eyes is their head coach - Will Muschamp.

Florida head coach Will Muschamp is a big draw for four-star cornerback Jalen Tabor, who arrived at the Next Level Nation 5-Star Showcase with Gator gear on and says he will definitely make an official visit to Florida.

“He’s a fiery coach I’d like to play for just like my high school head coach,” Tabor said. “He sees you make a play, he’s going to be right there in it jumping up and down doing the Gator chomp. He’s not the type of coach that’s going to walk the sidelines, pace, ‘OK, good job everybody.’ He’s going to be fired up just like the kids are fired up, so that’s a plus.”

Tabor also has a good connection with Alabama assistant Lance Thompson.
“(Thompson) is a real down to earth guy,” Tabor said. “You would think since they won three out of four national championship he would tell you about how great they are, but he’s real down to earth, real humble guy. You always got to like those guys.”

It’s a pair of Florida State assistants that may have the longest relationship with the talented cornerback.

“I love (FSU assistants) Sal Sunseri and Odell Haggins,” he said. “Coach Sal, ever since he’s been at Alabama recruiting me as a freshman, so his word matters a lot to me. That’s one of my favorite coaches right now. Definitely top three coaches for me right now I’d put everything on the line for.

“(Haggins) has been recruiting me since the tenth grade too, so every time he came to get Eddie Goldman, he came for me.”

Tabor said his coach and stepfather will help him with his decision, but his mother will play the biggest role for him.

“It’s mainly my mother,” Tabor said. “Coach is definitely involved. We sit down sometimes, but not as much as my mom. We might talk about it one night for an hour, just random.

“She basically says keep your head on straight, don’t let it overwhelm you or nothing like that. She likes a few schools, she’ll always says ‘Go Gators’ or ‘Roll Tide’ every now and then. She has her favorites too.”

Four-star cornerback D'Andre Payne is high on Florida State and will visit Tennessee this weekend.

At the end of the day, though, the decision will be Tabor’s to make.

“Wherever I can succeed at, she’s going to be happy.”

Tabor is the No. 17 ranked prospect in the Class of 2014 247Composite.

Payne to visit SEC program this weekend

Like his teammate, cornerback D’Andre Payne (Washington, DC/Friendship Academy) made waves upon arriving at the event. The Top247 prospect was sporting a Florida State hoodie, which caught the attention of everyone in attendance.

"I like (Haggins) and (FSU head coach) Jimbo Fisher a lot,” Payne said. “They're both good coaches. (Noles cornerback and Maryland native) Ronald Darby is there too and he tells me a lot about the school. When I took my visit I had a good time and I want to get back down there again.”

While the Seminoles have been in the mix for the 5-foot-9.5, 172-pound cornerback for a while, there is program with a new coaching staff beginning to make waves.

"Tennessee is new in the picture,” Payne said. “I like (Vols assistant) Tommy Thigpen. He's been recruiting me since he was at Auburn. They got a new staff and a good program, I'm looking forward to seeing what they can do. This weekend, I’m taking a visit to Tennessee.”

Payne will take a few visits this spring and more in the summer.

“I haven't planned any others, but I want to go to Clemson, Vanderbilt and I'm going to try to get back to Florida State this summer."

The Seminoles, Volunteers and every other program will have to beat Michigan for Payne’s signature.

"I talk with Michigan, Florida State, Stanford, Virginia, Tennessee, Clemson, Ohio State, Maryland and Vanderbilt. Michigan is one of the first schools to offer me. I went to the camp and I like what they're doing with the program," Payne said.

When it comes to a decision, Payne has not scheduled a date, but he does know what he's looking for in a school.

"I want a family,” he said. “A coaching staff that I can go to and talk to about anything, not just football. I'll be looking at depth charts and which schools I can go in and play early. I also will be majoring in Sports Management, so I want to find a place that has my major."

Seven offers for Smith

The top prospect on hand Saturday may well have been a member of the class of 2016. Defensive end Rahshaun Smith (Towson, Md./Calvert Hall) made waves on the field in 2012 as a freshman, and is now picking up offers by the week with the spring evaluation period closing in.

“My latest offers have been Tennessee, Rutgers and UConn,” Smith said. “Tennessee offered last month while I was in Texas for the Team USA under 16 game. I was surprised and really don’t know a lot about Tennessee, but I definitely plan on getting down there this summer to check them out.”

The 6-foot-3, 225-pound long-armed prospect has a trio of schools he has always followed.

“Oregon has always been my school,” Davis said. “I just love their style of play. Definitely Ohio State and Penn State too. I have a few relatives at Penn State right now. Trevor Williams, Da’Quan Davis and Adrian Amos are all playing at Penn State.”

The Buckeyes will get the rising sophomore on campus this summer.

“I know for fact I will be going to visit Ohio State this summer. I’m sure there will be plenty more, but all I know for sure is Ohio State.” He said.

Quick Hitters

- Class of 2014 Top247 quarterback William Crest (Baltimore, Md./Dunbar) reports that West Virginia, Vanderbilt and North Carolina are the three programs he speaks with the most. In particular, West Virginia has the 6-foot-2, 190-pounders attention.

“Scheme is big and West Virginia’s offense is amazing,” Crest said. “They don’t go under center as much, but they use all their weapons. They are fast, in the shot gun, fast paced and let it rip.”

In fact, Crest made an unofficial visit to West Virginia last Sunday.

- Class of 2016 wide receiver Cameron Chambers (Philadelphia, Pa./St. Joe’s) is receiving interest from Penn State, Ohio State and Michigan already with Penn State having invited him to junior day. The 6-foot-3, 185-pounder with a very high-ceiling is the son of former Temple wide receiver Chris Chambers. He caught 22 passes for around 350 yards as a freshman, as a varsity starter.

- Class of 2014 linebacker Aaron Glover (Virginia Beach, Va./Princess Anne) has an offer from Hampton with Virginia Tech closing in. “Hopefully Virginia Tech will be next,” he said. “They told my coach they will be the next to offer, and that would mean a lot to me. It would show everyone I can get a big time offer.”

The 6-foot-0, 205-pound outside linebacker is also receiving interest from Clemson, Temple, Pittsburgh, West Virginia. He attended Clemson’s junior day with five-star defensive tackle and good friend Andrew Brown (Chesapeake, Va./Oscar Smith) Feb. 2, and plans to make visits to Pitt, Temple and West Virginia in the coming weeks.

- Class of 2015 defensive end Kareem McDonald (Washington, DC/Wilson) burst onto the scene as a sophomore recording 11 sacks, good enough to lead the D.C. area. The 6-foot-2, 210-pounder with 4.65 speed reports interest from Alabama and Vanderbilt, and hopes to hear from Florida, “The top school for me is Florida. I just like the team, the weather and I’ve been dreaming of going there my whole life.”

- Class of 2014 three-star safety DaeJuan Funderburk (Washington, DC/Friendship Academy) added offers from Kentucky and Wisconsin on Feb. 26 to go with previous offers from Florida State, Tennessee, Rutgers, Maryland, Marshall, Georgia Tech, West Virginia and Ole Dominion.

The 6-foot-1, 185-pound prospect made a visit to Maryland Feb. 23 for junior day, “I went to Maryland two weeks ago. I went to the basketball game and it was live. It was nice. I liked the campus and watched defensive back film.”

Funderburk also said he hopes to make unofficial visits to West Virginia, Marshall and North Carolina soon; and hopefully Florida State.

- Class of 2014 quarterback John Lovett (Hyattsville, Md./DeMatha Catholic) has an offer from Buffalo along with interest from Penn State, Wake Forest and others. The 6-foot-3, 212-pound signal caller with quick feet and a strong arm stays in contact with Penn State assistant Larry Johnson. He plans to camp at Penn State, as well as make an unofficial visit to Wake Forest in a couple of weeks. Along with Penn State, Notre Dame made up his childhood favorites.

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