by Jeff Barlis
Heeeeeere comes the future!
World famous catchphrase — check. Ready for your questions — check.
OK people, no witty banter this week. I know, I know. You look forward to it every week. But I can’t right now. It’s go-time.
The staff at The Gainesville Sun sports department has been extremely busy putting together our annual Gator football season preview section. Will Muschamp is on the cover. Pat Dooley and Robbie Andreu spout their usual wisdom. It’s a keepsake!
Naturally, I’m all over the thing. I did my share of stories and preview capsules. But for all of you recruiting nuts, there’s a full page you won’t want to miss. I broke down Florida and its nine primary recruiting rivals and how they are all doing this year (hint: all of them are doing very well). I also wrote a story about how the NFL-laden coaching staff at UF is a serious selling point for recruits. I think y’all will be very interested in both articles.
Here’s the catch: It’s only available on newsstands and to subscribers this Sunday.
Time to answer your questions!
Will you have any updates on the “Bullkins” visit and how it went? @Jaymz15Gators
Thanks for following me, Jaymz. Ah yes, Bullkins. I coined the term on Friday before their visit, knowing I would spend my weekend chasing the dynamic duo of five-star defensive end Jonathan Bullard and four-star defensive tackle Carlos Watkins, both of North Carolina. They’re very close friends. They seem to go everywhere together, so I decided to give them the Brangelina/Bennifer treatment (it was also easier for Twitter updates). Speaking of which, if you followed me on Twitter last weekend, you got pretty much all the updates that were available.
Here’s the deal: Bullkins came, they went, they had a “great” time, they aren’t talking about it.
It was the perfect weekend for a visit. Bullard brought his mom. They arrived early enough on Saturday to catch the Gators scrimmage on the final day of training camp. Then there was the annual Letterman’s BBQ, with about 600 people, including scores of former players. I can’t imagine a better scenario for selling a family atmosphere. When it was over, both Bullard and Watkins posted on Facebook that they had a great visit. Bullard posted a couple of photos — one of he and Watkins holding up Florida jerseys and another of Watkins and who I presume are Bullard’s mother and her friend standing around a gator head outside of the UF locker room. These are all great signs for Florida.
So now comes the deafening silence. Neither player is talking. Could there be a reason they’ve gone silent? Even Bullard’s high school teammate/close friend/Gator verbal Rhaheim Ledbetter has his phone off. I actually think I was the last reporter Bullard talked to when he took my call on Friday before his team’s first game of the season. My sources tell me Bullkins are working on a plan to finalize an official visit this fall, together again. If that does happen, I imagine it would bring the two even closer to that package deal scenario. We shall see. I’m still waiting to hear back from Bullard’s high school coach. I’ve gotten a lot of messages asking about this and I did want to blog about it sooner, but there has been a dearth of information and I got bogged down with that special preview section. Hope this satisfies all of you Bullkins chasers.
It appears Miami is in big trouble. This has to be the worst violation in the past 30 years. I think their committed recruits are rethinking their options. Do they have any four- or five-star recruits who were high on the Gators before making their decisions? What do you think are the chances of them committing to UF? — Harry
Thanks for the email, Harry. This was the second most-requested subject in my mailbag this past week. That expensive, pretty yacht that is the good ship Hurricane is sinking fast and Gator fans (like all recruiting fans) want to know if UF can add to UM’s misery by plucking their best recruits, right?
Not gonna happen. Maybe if the ‘Canes had a five-star prospect that Florida coaches had recruited, but all I see are four-stars. And there are some good ones, but at this point in the Class of 2012 recruiting cycle, I think the Gator staff has moved on. Miami has four-star DE Jelani Hamilton, but I honestly think Florida is concentrating on players that are higher on their board to begin with. Miami also has four-str DB Amos Leggett and four-star WR Angelo Jean-Louis, both of whom had an interest in Florida at one point. But again, the Gators are seemingly full in the secondary and are concentrating on a pair of five-star wideouts in Nelson Agholor and Stefon Diggs.
It’s a sad situation in Coral Gables and one that bears watching to see how Al Golden keeps his first real class together. The U has a very highly regarded class so far. They’ve loaded up in-state with 19 Floridians among their 23 verbals. The class was recently ranked as high as No. 5 in the nation by Rivals and Scout. A few pledges have already downgraded their commitment status to soft, but I do expect some kids to stay loyal, mostly the ones from south Florida who grew up as ‘Canes fans. Needless to say, some major penalties could set Miami back several years if not do irreparable harm to the program. There would obviously be a long-term benefit to other schools if the recruiting powerhouse that is UM were to fall back to second- or third-tier status. Top of that list of other schools benefiting would clearly be Florida and Florida State.
What are our chances of getting Tracy Howard? It seemed like he was high on Florida, but now not so much. If so what happened? Also, do we really have a chance to get Keith Marshall at running back? — Jimmy
Thanks for posting your question in last week’s comment section, Jimmy. I read every comment, just so y’all know. Tracy Howard is a 6-foot, 175-pound, four-star cornerback from Miramar, Fla. He’s rated the No. 5 corner in the nation by Scout, and I’ve had a lot of analysts and observers tell me he’s the best cover corner in the state. Although he’s still an uncommitted prospect, his path has already taken some twists and turns. Howard was believed to be a strong Florida lean for a long time. Then when fellow in-state cornerback Brian Poole committed to UF, Howard began to look elsewhere. He stopped calling Florida his leader almost immediately. For a time, he was considering Miami, where he could play early and perhaps go to school with high school teammate, four-star receiver Malcolm Lewis. Now, with the drama surrounding UM, it seems Howard has turned his attention to Florida State. The depth charts at UF and FSU are similarly loaded at the cornerback position. My gut tells me this will be a battle through the end of the year between old arch-rivals Florida and Florida State. I believe Florida is keeping a spot for Howard. Less clear is whether they are keeping a spot for one more cornerback, like, say, Gainesville’s Chris Bivins (currently a USF commit who still has his heart set on staying in Gainesville). Look for the cornerback drama to play out on National Signing Day.
As for Keith Marshall, he is set to officially visit Florida for the Alabama game. That most likely means his interest in the Gators is serious. But everyone I talk to thinks Marshall is likely to end up at Georgia, which has true freshman Isiah Crowell and little else at the RB position. Of course, Marshall will keep a close eye on how Crowell and UGA coach Mark Richt do this season. But I still think the potential depth chart at Florida could be a factor in pushing Marshall elsewhere. Having two four-star RBs in Matt Jones and Mike Davis almost certainly means UF is all set for the Class of 2012.
I am interested in knowing about the RBs in the 2013 recruiting cycle. Obviously Derrick Henry’s commitment to UGA is not a done deal, and it’s a long way until Feb. 2013, but why do many of my fellow Gator fans argue that Henry is not as good as Kelvin Taylor? Obviously he is a legacy and a great back, but what about his or Adam Lane’s game do many people see as supreme to Henry’s? They are all great players, and I would love to see any of them be part of the Gator Nation, but is it just the orange and blue glasses that are judging the players? Your thoughts? — Gator in the ‘burg
Great question. The Class of 2013 is already setting up to be epic, and two positions that really stand out are running back and receiver — and that’s just in the state of Florida. The UF coaching staff has worked very hard already to create solid relationships with a tremendous crop of skill-position players. Man, I’m already excited about covering recruiting next year!
So here’s the deal with running backs in the state of Florida. The question mentions Yulee’s Derrick Henry, Belle Glades Glades Day’s Kelvin Taylor and Winter Haven’s Adam Lane. They’re all Gator possibilities. Also in-state are Delray Beach American Heritage’s Greg Bryant, Cocoa’s Tarean Folston and Orlando Boone’s Aaron Turman. But let’s just talk about the those first three, who I think are the best of the best. Henry gets slapped with some question marks about his size because he’s already 6-3, 230. He’s a tremendous force at running back in high school, but many think he will inevitably move to tight end or defense in college. I can’t fully disagree with that, but I still think there’s a chance he’s done growing and could be a devastating battering ram of a power runner. It’s just too early to write down his college position, and I think it would be a mistake to recruit him otherwise. The last I heard, the Gators were recruiting him (hard) as a running back. He committed to Georgia as a running back. There is a long way to go, and he may end up a running back in UF’s Class of 2013.
As for Taylor, he has been on Gator fans’ minds for years already. He started coming to Friday Night Lights as an eighth-grader. With his dad, Fred Taylor, a Gator great at the same position, everyone assumes Kelvin is a big-time Gator fan. And they assume correctly. What I wonder is if Kelvin still has some room to grow to his dad’s size. Right now Kelvin is about 5-10, 190. His dad played at about 6-1, 228. And while his dad could use his size to run over defenders, Kelvin likes to show his dance moves more often. The Gators could very well take two more running backs in the Class of 2013, and appear to have their choice of some really good ones. Lane has a great relationship with Florida RB coach Brian White. Just last weekend the two spoke mere hours after Lane suffered a broken ankle. Lane texted me earlier this week to say that his fibula, which is broken right near the ankle, is expected to need 6-12 weeks to heal. He will have surgery on Thursday. It will be interesting to see if he is able to get back to the gridiron this season and resume his prolific yardage-gobbling ways. Lane, at 5-9, 205, is an exciting back who dominated the competition as a sophomore. Speaking to him last week, he indicated that White promised Florida will stand by him. That’s got to help in his recruitment. Unless something goes wrong in his rehab, I’d still consider Lane a strong possibility in orange and blue. But as always, with 2013 kids, there is the disclaimer that it’s a loooong ways away.
Thank you all for a fine crop of questions. Let’s do it again in one week. Here are the picks to click …