Now that the spring semester has officially started at Florida, the Gators will be saying hello to seven early enrollees. Having commits graduate from high school earlier has become very popular in college football and for good reason. It never hurts to get the talent on campus early and put these kids through the rigors of college football training early.
Sure, proms are missed, but players are getting a leg up on the competition and are getting into those playbooks much earlier. Plus, they can start the college workout plan months in advance.
For Florida’s early enrollees, they’ll have a chance to join a team starting over with new coach Will Muschamp. These guys probably won’t be in line to be major starters, but the first impression is always the most important.
Here are Florida’s seven early enrollees for the 2011 recruiting class. Ridgefield, Conn., offensive lineman Tommy Jordan was on campus for a few days last week, but decided to return home. He still could enroll at UF this summer.
QB Jeff Driskel — He is probably the most important recruit Florida needed to get on campus. With the quarterback situation in Gainesville, the more he studies the better for him and the program. He’s the quarterback of the future and could be the QB of the present if John Brantley decides to skip town. Fortunately for Driskel, it looks as if Brantley will stick around for his senior year, but Driskel should definitely see playing time this fall. He’ll need to work more on his decision-making, so these next few months will be very beneficial. However, getting on campus early will only build more hype in Gators fans, who will get to see their first real glimpse of him in April’s spring game.
RB Mike Blakely — Blakely’s arrival is also crucial for Florida’s depth. It’s unknown if Chris Rainey will stay at running back. We haven’t seen that much from Mike Gillislee, and we know very little about Mack Brown. Jeff Demps will be running track — if his injured foot allows. Blakely is a guy who can play running back, but has the hands to play in the slot. He might be a little undersized, but he’s a strong runner. He also has a pretty good arm (he played quarterback as a freshman at Bradenton Manatee) and could be a wildcat guy. Getting to Gainesville early means he can get on an eating and lifting plan that should pack on some much-needed muscle.
WR Javares McRoy — He might have been more of a slot receiver in high school, but he has the speed to be a deep threat at the next level. He’ll need to gain some size, and that’s what the spring will be for. He’s still going to need some time to adjust to the college game, so getting a head start certainly benefits him. Even with the extra time, I don’t expect McRoy to contribute too much early, but he’s got the potential to be a play-maker once he gets a little bigger.
TE A.C. Leonard — Florida needs help at tight end, and Leonard looks to be physically ready to contribute. With Florida moving to a more pro-style offense, he could be a guy who plays early if the Gators run more of the two tight end formations. Watching him at Under Armour practices last week, he’s got the tools to be a big-time player at Florida, but he’ll need to go through the development process, as well. He’s got good speed for a tight end and didn’t drop many passes last week. I think he’ll be a factor early for Florida.
DE/LB Clay Burton — Burton said Muschamp is interested in using him at defensive end, where Florida will need a couple more bodies at this fall. Burton is certainly an athlete, and if he’s anything like his brother, Trey, he’ll be an absolute workhorse. He’ll need some time to develop, so his early arrival is a good thing. Plus, I’m sure he’s glad to be reuniting with his brother.
CB De’Ante “Pop” Saunders — With Janoris Jenkins returning for this senior year (didn’t someone report he was definitely declaring for the NFL Draft last week?), getting a corner in this spring wasn’t a huge deal, but Saunders’ arrival will still help. He’s a great athlete and showed during Under Armour practices that he could be an asset in the return game. He might not be as natural a corner as some of Florida’s current players, but he’ll learn this spring. It never hurts to get these “athletes” on campus during the spring and have them start the development process at their position early.
K Kyle Christy — There’s no Chas Henry, so there’s no scholarship punter at Florida outside of Christy. Finding a punter in the spring isn’t the biggest priority, but if Christy is as good as he was in high school, he’ll have the job the moment he gets fitted for his practice jersey. Besides improving his cannon for a leg, Christy’s time will be used to learn about the tremendous speed on special teams at the next level. The first day of punt block drills should cause his eyes to grow to saucer size.