by Jeff Barlis
It hasn’t taken long for UF coach Will Muschamp to flex his considerable recruiting muscles.
Muschamp came to Gainesville with the reputation of one of the nation’s finest collectors of top talent. Some Gator fans may have questioned such a lofty stature after Florida’s Class of 2011 fell short at positions of need like linebacker and the offensive and defensive lines.
Those same fans have to be loving the Gators’ marked and quick turnaround.
JC Shurburtt, national recruiting analyst for 247Sports, wrote on Monday that Florida is putting together one of the top four classes in the country as of now, along with Florida State, Southern Cal and Alabama.
Indeed, Muschamp is displaying an aggressive philosophy he no doubt picked up under the wing of Texas coach Mack Brown — load up on verbal commitments early, hang on to them and finish strong. The Longhorns were famous for filling much of their classes after Junior Day visits, and that’s just what Muschamp here did in February and March.
That he is doing it with a heavy emphasis on covering all bases in his home state and simultaneously raiding neighboring Georgia must tickle Gator fans and tick off those Bulldogs who once called Muschamp one of their own.
Certainly those two traditionally talent-rich states are loaded once again this year, and it will be interesting to see if Muschamp’s momentum will carry into other hotbeds like Texas and California.
ORANGE & BLUE VISITORS
It was quite a day for people-watching at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium last Saturday. Here’s a breakdown of some key visitors …
Former Gators: QB Tim Tebow, QB Danny Wuerffel, LB Brandon Spikes, RB Fred Taylor, LB Mike Peterson, DT Gerard Warren, C Maurkice Pouncey, C Mike Pouncey, WR Ricky Nattiel, WR David Nelson, DL Ray McDonald, WR Riley Cooper, TE Cornelius Ingram, LB Keith Kelsey and LB Mike Nattiel.
Class of 2011 true freshmen this fall: CB Marcus Roberson, S Jabari Gorman, QB Jacoby Brissett and OL Trip Thurman.
Class of 2012 Florida verbal commitments: Seffner, Fla., Armwood RB Matt Jones; Largo, Fla., Pinellas Park LB Jeremi Powell; and Tyrone, Ga., Sandy Creek DT Quinteze Williams.
Class of 2012 top prospects: Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., OT Avery Young; The Villages, Fla., OLB Noor Davis; Melbourne, Fla., Holy Trinity S Marcus Maye; Tampa, Fla., Jefferson DE/LB Tyriq McCord; Palm Beach, Fla., Dwyer OT Patrick Miller; Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., St. Thomas Aquinas DE Jelani Hamilton; Tampa, Fla., Berkley Prep, ATH Nelson Agholor; Lakeland, Fla., OG Evan Goodman; and Groveland, Fla., South Lake WR James Brooks.
Class of 2013 top prospects: Belle Glade, Fla., Glades Day RB Kelvin Taylor; and Seffner, Fla., Armwood S Leon McQuay.
KERWIN AND SON
The feel-good story of what Gator great Kerwin Bell is doing as the head coach of the Jacksonville Dolphins football program felt even better on April 1 when Bell signed son Kade as a quarterback recruit.
The elder Bell has taken a fledgling program to record-setting heights (especially on offense), so much so that some UF fans advocated for Kerwin to be considered for the Gators’ head-coaching and offensive coordinator vacancies late last year.
Now Kerwin will play the dual role of father and coach to his son, who quarterbacked Fleming Island High School last season with more than 2,000 yards and 20 touchdowns.
“I’m looking forward to playing for my dad at JU,” Kade told The Florida Times-Union. “I know some people will say that if I get into a game it will be because he’s my dad. But he’s already told me that I’ll have to work hard and earn my way into the lineup.”
Said Kerwin to the T-U: “As a father, just watching him develop as a player, I feel he has Division-I ability, but he has a Division I-AA body (6-0, 170) I talked to some other coaches around the country, and while they like his ability, it’s his size that is a concern.
“I tried to stay out of the recruiting process and let our staff handle the recruiting of Kade. We talked to some other schools [Elon, Wofford, Appalachian State]. But in the end, he decided he wanted to attend JU.”
GAINESVILLE DB GATHERS THIRD OFFER
Gainesville High School defensive back Chris Bivins picked up an offer from Florida International on April 5.
“I love the city of Miami and FIU just won their conference and their first-ever bowl game,” Bivins told ESPN.com. “It’s an up-and-coming program and I’m happy they have offered.”
Bivins also has offers from South Florida and Utah and told ESPN that Illinois, Louisville and UCF have shown interest.
ANOTHER ALL-STAR GAME
Is there room for another postseason high school football all-star showcase? Sure, why not.
The Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl will play its inaugural game in Phoenix on Jan. 3, 2012 and is sponsored by the U.S. Marine Corps. A national television partner should be announced soon.
The game, which will be played at Chase Field, will feature 100 of the top prospects in the nation split into two teams — east and west. And like the U.S. Army and Under-Armour games, there will also be a junior combine for nearly 300 top prospects the day before (on Jan. 2, 2012).
Sounds like a winning formula.