Football season is only a couple weeks away and Florida’s staff has been putting almost all of its time into fall camp. That doesn’t mean that recruiting is on the back burner. Florida recently got a commitment from offensive line prospect Chase Hounshell out of Ohio and just received a verbal pledge from 2012 wide receiver Latroy Pittman out of Citra North Marion. This year’s class should start failing more into place as the season progresses, but there are tons of top prospects who won’t be making final decisions until later this year and early next year. Some of those prospects are talked about in this week’s edition of Ask Aschoff.
On to the questions!
Ed, can you please get updates on Timmy Jernigan, Kasen Williams and Curtis Grant. Also, for what I’ve seen in film study, Mike Blakely is a much better back for our system than James Wilder. If we got Wilder would Blakely go elsewhere? Also, will the UF coaches take 2 running backs in this class? Finally, is Coach Gran at FSU that strong a recruiter or is he selling false hope to 18-year-olds?
Bunch of questions Chris, but I can handle it.
Timmy Jernigan (Lake City Columbia, DT): He’s been pretty quiet when it comes to recruiting. It must be really getting to him because he’s changed his phone number a few times this year. The thing with him is that he isn’t in any sort of hurry as far as a decision is concerned. Last year, he told me his goal was to become a better leader and person so that his teammates could lean on him and look up to him. He’s putting his team first this year. Jernigan recently came out with a top-five that consists of Florida, Florida State, Alabama, LSU and Michigan. He’ll take all five official visits as well. Florida has been called the favorite since day one and nothing has really happened to change that. Jernigan grew up a Gator fan, but that doesn’t mean he’s a Gator lock. He’s being smart and really studying each school. I still think Florida has the advantage because it’s basically in his backyard and he’s developed strong relationships with Florida’s coaches. Alabama and FSU appear to be Florida’s biggest threats.
Kasen Williams (Sammamish, Wash., Skyline, WR): When I spoke to him last month he told me how he was very interested in Florida and wanted to take an official visit to Gainesville this fall. That might not happen anymore. Talking to him recently, he said he still considers Florida one of his top schools, but he’s not sure if he’ll make it to town. If he doesn’t come, Florida has little to no chance, plus he’s lives in the state of Washington and his parents went to the University of Washington. If Williams makes to campus, Florida will have a shot. If not, don’t expect to hear much from him this fall.
Curtis Grant (Richmond, Va., Hermitage, LB): At Gridiron Kings, he said that he is really calming the whole recruiting process down. He was taking it a little too fast this summer, he said, and now he’s completely focused on the season ahead. Florida was reported to be his top school at one point this summer, but he told me all of his schools are even at this point. He’s going to take his time with recruiting and won’t make official visits until after his senior season, so expect a very late announcement for him. Florida is expected to get an official visit.
Mike Blakely (Bradenton Manatee, RB): If Florida were to pull Wilder it would have an affect on Blakely. Blakely might be better suited to play running back during his entire college career, but Wilder has made it clear that he wants to be a running back in college and no coach will try to step in his way, right now. Will he end up a linebacker before he graduates? I think so. He’s just going to gain too much weight and I haven’t seen him make the moves to be an elite running back. Linebacker is in his future. But back to Blakely, he has had Florida at the top of his list for the longest, but I’m not sure how long he will wait. Getting Wilder out of the way will help the situation, but if Florida’s going to make Blakely wait, he’s got to start looking at other options. Blakely was Florida’s to lose, but now, I’m not so sure. With the depth that Florida currently has at running back, I don’t think the staff would take two at the position and probably won’t have the room or opportunity to bring in two backs.
Eddie Gran (FSU running backs coach): I think Gran’s NFL track record is huge for recruiting. While at Auburn for 10 years he coached future NFL guys like Carnell Williams, Ronnie Brown, Rudi Johnson, Brandon Jacobs, Heath Evans and Kenny Irons. While an assistant at Mississippi, he was in charge of Deuce McCallister and John Avery. He’s done a great job developing running backs and sending them off to the NFL. He knows what he’s doing as a coach and recruits like and respect that.
Hey Ed, do you know the processes and/or qualities that Urban and Co. use to grade players? It seems that every year we end up with a couple of obscure two- or three-star players (per Rivals or Scout) and I’m confused as to why a powerhouse program such as Florida would take someone “lowly” ranked by the outside sources unless we were evaluating them on a different scale. Given your proximity to the program I was wondering if you knew the methods they employ.
I’ve seen one of Florida’s recruiting boards just once in my life when I first toured the football facilities. That was overwhelming to say the least. There is a lot of work and effort that is put into recruiting by Florida’s staff, and it goes well beyond who is a five-star or four-star prospect. They look at the Internet rankings — Meyer admitted it a couple years ago — but that isn’t where the coaches start.
The coaches set up a list of players they are interested in and the chances of landing them. The best players in the country make the list, but they decide how much they’ll recruit them based on realistic chances of landing them. No coaching staff wants to waste its time. There are always going to be players who fly under the radar and still interest a staff like Florida’s. They look at the overall athletic ability along with personal conduct and how well that player could fit into Florida’s schemes. Even if a guy has two stars next to his name, if the staff hears good things about him or sees him in person, there’s a chance Florida will be interested. The staff loves to watch guys live, and all the coaches talk to high school coaches about prospect before making a decision to recruit him.
Look at wide receiver Stephen Alli and quarterback Tyler Murphy. No one knew about them when they were first recruited, but Florida’s staff got word of their talent and checked them out. Alli was asked to come down and work out last summer and Murphy got a visit from Florida’s coaches last fall. They obviously made an impression. Alli has been clocked at 4.4 in the 40 and is 6-foot-5, 220 pounds. Murphy is a guy who could play both quarterback or receiver, and he’s got some ankle-breaking moves on tape.
The list goes on. Wondy Pierre-Louis was unheralded, and while he didn’t have the greatest career at Florida, he made significant contributions. Offensive linemen Sam Robey and David Young weren’t high school stars nationally, but they have gotten rave reviews from Florida’s coaches since they’ve been on campus. Moses Jenkins was a three-star cornerback in high school and he could start this year.
Florida’s recruiting strategy goes well beyond rankings and publicity. They want to recruit players who fit the scheme, the team personality and have the skill level to compete at Florida and in the SEC. There are plenty of prospects out there like that who don’t have 10 stars attached to their names.
Ed, do you know when Tony Steward plans on announcing? Is he an “after the season” announcement?
The St. Augustine Pedro Menendez linebacker is a guy who told me he’ll take his time with recruiting, and it appears that it’s a three-team race for his services. Florida State, Florida and Clemson are the main schools he talked about when I asked him about recruiting. FSU and Clemson were leading for a while, but recently it was reported that Florida has made significant moves. I think the idea is for him to take all of his official visits before he makes a decision. He told me he’s planning to commit on Feb. 2. However, he grew up an FSU fan and I think that if he were to commit early it would be to FSU. The longer it takes, the better it will look for Florida and Clemson. I’ll give FSU the advantage, but I still say he takes it down to the very end.