Florida’s recent recruiting mojo could go into overdrive this weekend. Only weeks ago, it appeared that Urban Meyer and his program were about to hit a major pothole in recruiting. First, Meyer resigned, then immediately took that back and decided an indefinite leave of absence was more appropriate. With that — and some much-need phone calls by Meyer — the Gators got right back on track.
With 21 verbal commitments, Florida has the potential to walk away from this weekend with 24. Saturday’s U.S. Army All-American Bowl (1 p.m. ET, NBC) could be monumental. Here are my predictions for the three biggest recruiting prizes on Florida’s board this weekend.
West Palm Beach Dwyer safety Matt Elam
Elam has had one of the wildest recruiting seasons of any prospect that I can remember. He was committed to Florida and Florida State and backed out on both. Now Georgia is in the running, and he’s set to make everything official and enroll at his future school Monday.
- Florida: Elam has a longstanding relationship with Meyer because Meyer recruited his older brother, Abram, back when Meyer was on staff at Notre Dame in the mid-90s. Elam committed to Florida in the fall of 2008 and only began to waver this fall when he looked at Florida’s future depth chart and the number of defensive backs committed to the Gators. After an emotional phone conversation with Meyer, Elam made it clear that it would be hard to see himself with any other college coach.
- Georgia: The thing that makes Georgia so attractive to Elam is playing time. He’s said time and time again that he wants to get on the field early in college. He thinks he can be a key contributor wherever he goes. Georgia returns six safeties, which Elam has said makes Georgia very much a factor in his final decision.
- Florida State: It was rumored in early December that if Elam were going to decommit from the Gators it would be so he could spend his college days in Tallahassee. Well, that happened, but only for a short amount of time. Elam recently told Rivals.com that he favors UF and UGA over FSU. Call me naive, but how can FSU still be in the running if he went from committed to not really considering them. Then again, this is Elam we are talking about and he could do anything on Saturday.
- Prediction: Florida — His relationship with Meyer will win him over in the end.
Moreno Valley, Calif., Rancho Verde defensive end Ronald Powell
It’s been UF and USC for the entire recruiting season, and that won’t be any different when he finally decides. Florida has had a substantial lead for Powell and that only increased after he was reassured by Meyer of his intention to coach the Gators this fall.
- Florida: Meyer is the key and it looks like Powell is comfortable with Meyer’s situation. Powell could come in and immediately contend for a starting spot if junior Carlos Dunlap follows Jermaine Cunningham to the NFL Draft. Powell was on campus three times in 2009 — all on his own dime.
- USC: It’s just too hard for Cali kids to leave the biggest program that side of the Mississippi. He’d be close enough to home that he wouldn’t have to worry about missing home-cooked meals. He’s stated in the past that he’s always been impressed by USC’s knack for getting their defensive guys to go high in the draft.
- Prediction: Florida — He’s been a Florida lean for too long for the staff not to reel him in. If he truly is comfortable with Meyer’s plan, he’ll be doing the Gator chomp Saturday.
Philadelphia, Georgia Washington defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd
He has reportedly been a beast at the Army practices and is one of the top players in the country. Floyd has been courted by pretty much every top school in the nation, but he’s narrowed his finalists to Florida, Ohio State and North Carolina. The consensus is that it’s down to OSU and UF. The early money was on OSU, but it seems that Vegas is favoring the Gators at the moment. He’s told reporters his decision will be a “shocker,” but it really won’t be unless he chooses UNC …
- Florida: The Gators entertained him for the Tennessee game and he came away very impressed with what he saw, giving UF the early lead. But the loss of defensive coordinator Charlie Strong and the Meyer situation seemed to hurt the Gators’ chances. The addition of DL Dominique Easley during the Under Armour game last weekend apparently has helped the Gators tremendously. Also, if Powell were to commit that would also help UF because Floyd says he wants to play around good talent.
- Ohio State: They are the hometown favorite. Yes, he lives in Philly, but OSU owns the Northeast in recruiting. He’s been rumored to have the Buckeyes at the top of his list for most of the year and that didn’t change when he arrived in San Antonio. The campus is much closer to his home and it’s very hard to pull a kid this late in the season away from a school that close and that good.
- North Carolina: Seems like an odd choice, but Floyd said he’s developed a great relationship with UNC’s coaching staff. The Tar Heels have had a solid defense since Butch Davis arrived and pulled an even bigger DT prospect in Marvin Austin a couple of years ago. If Floyd truly wants to make his choice a shocker, UNC is the way to go.
- Prediction: Florida — This one took me a while. I had OSU pegged here the entire year, but after talking to a couple of people in San Antonio and out of San Antonio, I think Florida’s latest push to get him — plus the addition of a couple top prospects — will lead Floyd to the orange and blue. It certainly helps that Florida named former Miami Dolphins assistant George Edwards defensive coordinator on the eve on his decision.
If Florida completes the Holy Trinity of commitments this weekend, it will be hard for Florida not end the year with the consensus No. 1 recruiting class in the country.