With most of the top prospects in the country still holding off on verbal commitments, recruiting as a whole has been pretty laid back and a little boring this year. There’s been little drama so far, which means January and February are going to be very interesting for those who cover this kind of thing. For now, fans are just wondering who’s involved, who’s high on who and when are commitments going to come. Patience is a virtue, my friends.
On to the questions!
Hey Ed, with the commitment of Chris Martin DE/LB and only 10 to 12 spots left in the 2011 recruiting class, what are your thoughts on the top 10 prospect on UF’s board? Any thoughts on Wayne Lyons, the safety from Dillard High School?
— Earnell L
Here’s my top 10 left on Florida’s board in no particular order:
1. Timmy Jernigan, Lake City Columbia, DT
2. Curtis Grant, Richmond, Va., Hermitage, LB
3. Stephone Anthony, Wadesboro, N.C., Anson, LB
4. Kelvin Benjamin, Belle Glade Glades Central, WR
5. Mike Blakely, Bradenton Manatee, RB/Savon Huggins, Jersey City, N.J., St. Peter’s Prep RB/Mike Bellamy Punta Gorda Charlotte, RB (Clemson verbal)
6. George Farmer, Gardena, Calif., Junipero Serr,a WR
7. Marcus Jackson, Vero Beach, OL (Miami)
8. Todd Barr, Lakewood, Calif., DL
9. Tony Steward, St. Augustine Pedro Menendez, LB
10. Wayne Lyons, Ft. Lauderdale Dillard, S
Now, this isn’t a list of the prospects I think Florida will sign this year, it’s just a rundown of the top remaining players I think Florida is going after the hardest. The staff could get three of these guys or all of them. Right now, I feel like Florida is in very good shape for the top four players I mentioned. The rest, well, we will just have to wait and see. But watch out for Marcus Jackson. I’ve been told that Florida is really moving up on his list, even though he’s committed to Miami. If he officially visits, he could be a guy who makes a quick switcheroo over to the Gators.
As for Wayne Lyons, Florida has been near the top of his list for a very long time. His sister goes to UF and he’s been to Gainesville countless times. It works out for him because Florida is thin at safety and will lose Ahmad Black to graduation. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Will Hill left early for the NFL Draft. Lyons says he’s wide open and doesn’t expect to officially visit any in-state schools. He has visited Notre Dame and UCLA and is headed to Nebraska on Oct. 29.
From what I’ve seen on tape, this kid can really fly and has great instincts. He can make plays from anywhere on the field. He just has a tremendous knack for finding the ball.
I’m going down to south Florida in October to check out one of Lyons’ games, so I’ll have much more on him then.
I read one of your posts where the questioner was concerned about losing some of the top in-state recruits. You indicated that possibly the recruits were concerned about the talent and depth at their positions as that would relate to their playing time. That made me think, which is usually dangerous for me, but I decided to examine depth at some of the positions. At nose tackle and defensive tackle, I see 5 scholarship players returning and that assumes a beast like Jaye Howard does not forego his senior campaign. Also, at running back I see 3 scholarship players returning and that assumes a jet like Jeff Demps returns for his senior season. To date I don’t think we have a commitment at any of those positions. Do you think some of these areas will be addressed by February, and if so who do you project the Gators landing to fill these voids?
— Blayne R.
These are two positions where Florida could afford to add a little more depth, but neither will be easy for the Gators. Florida could return four defensive tackles if Jaye Howard doesn’t decide to turn pro. Leon Orr would make five if he stays at tackle. Those are still not great numbers to high school prospects. As silly as it sounds, I think kids are still a little wary of last year’s defensive line class. Timmy Jernigan is the top prospect on Florida’s board at defensive tackle and the Gators are in great shape for him. One guy to look out for is Lakewood, Calif., tackle Todd Barr. He slipped by everyone to visit Gainesville over the summer. It was definitely a surprise to see him in Gainesville. I’ve been told by a source close to his recruitment that the chances of getting Barr away from the West Coast are slim, but if any school could pull him it would be Florida. He’s officially visiting Florida on Oct. 9, for the LSU game.
Fayetteville, N.C., tackle Devonte Brown is expected to officially visit Florida as well this fall, so he’ll be one to monitor as well.
At running back, I honestly could see Florida missing out on getting anyone in this class. Florida for sure will return Mack Brown and Mike Gillislee, but Jeff Demps is a question mark in my eyes. If he keeps putting up the numbers he is he could declare for the NFL Draft. I’m not saying he will, but don’t rule it out. Florida needs to get a running back in this class, but I think the efforts have been squandered a bit. Savon Huggins was the top guy along with Mike Bellamy. Bellamy committed to Clemson because the depth chart was much more appealing, and Rutgers has a strong lead for Huggins. Mike Blakely is the guy Gator fans are raving over since his showing against James Wilder Jr., but while he had Florida on top for so long, things have shifted in favor of Auburn. If Florida really wants him, I still think he’ll become a Gator, but at this point, Auburn has the edge. This one could come down to the wire, but I feel Florida is slipping more and more with him after he didn’t commit early this summer.
After those three, it’s hard to find that elite back Florida wants. There’s Orlando Dr. Phillips’ Dee Hart, who is starting to gain interest, but it looks like Florida has too much ground to make up with him. Michigan and Auburn are his top schools, and Auburn could have the edge at this point. Lake Worth Park Vista running back Tre Mason has gotten some attention this year, but he has yet to get a Florida offer. If he does, Florida could shoot to the top of his list.
I know recruits like to show up for the big games and watch, but I’m not sure how much those games influence decisions. This year in particular. What do you think recruits are looking at? Does our low offensive production turn off elite offensive players or do they think they have an opportunity to play sooner? Also, I don’t hear much about Jeff Driskel like we did when Tebow committed (I know there will never be another Tebow). But I’ve heard he’s the real deal and can run multiple offenses. Tebow helped grab recruits because they wanted to play with him/for him. Does Driskel not have enough hype to help sway other recruits and pull them to UF?
Big games can go a long way in influencing commitments. More than you think. Public commitments directly after games happened a lot more earlier in Meyer’s tenure, but prospects don’t forget big-game atmospheres. Jeff Demps mentioned how when he visited Florida for the Tennessee game years back he was sold when the stadium erupted as the Gators ran out on the field and the intensity didn’t die down throughout the game. The Florida-Florida State game always has a great impact on in-state kids. The game day atmosphere is certainly a factor for kids. While there might not be a ton of public commitments, recruits a lot of the time commit behind closed doors. It’s also a huge heat-of-the-moment situation. Kids get amped up by watching at how juiced up the fans, players and coaches are. It happens at every school.
I don’t think Florida’s offensive struggles are having much of an affect on recruits this year. It’s not a yearly problem at UF and the Gators are still winning. I think recruits see it as an opportunity to come in and play earlier. I think recruits are more interested in looking at the 16 true freshmen who have played this season.
On to Jeff Driskel. He’s not going to be Tim Tebow. He doesn’t have the back story or grit. They are two different quarterbacks. Driskel can run well, but he’s not the bruiser Tebow was. He throws a much better ball than Tebow, but he doesn’t have the national appeal Tebow had. Unless he sparks his young high school team and makes them a feel-good story or really gets in the ears of other recruits, he won’t be a guy who puts this class together. That’s not a knock on him at all. He’s a tremendous athlete, he just doesn’t have enough national recognition to help sway recruits. Things could change as the season progresses, but don’t expect him to be the ringleader of this class.
Hey Ed! Any thoughts on who are the Gators top QB 2012 prospects, and how many we may try to sign? Thanks.
Personally, I think Florida needs to sign two in the 2011 class before thinking about 2012. At this rate, there’s no way John Brantley leaves for the NFL, but I have my doubts about Trey Burton or Tyler Murphy taking over the reins once he leaves. That means this will be Driskel’s team after his first year. That means depth is a major issue there. But that is for a later blog …
As for 2012, one guy I thought was very impressive at one of Florida’s summer camps was Ft. Mitchell, Kent., Dixie Heights’ Zeke Pike. He had a tremendous arm and showed great accuracy during drills. Florida’s coaches were all over him and he earned a verbal offer after leaving camp. Hueytown, Ala., quarterback Jameis Winston also has a verbal offer from Florida’s staff and might be more of a dual-threat guy than Pike. It’s still early and I think the 2012 quarterback board will depend on how much Florida’s current backups improve from here until the end of the season and if the staff decides to go after another guy in the 2011 class.