by Jeff Barlis
Heeeeeere comes the future!
While the college football world concerns itself with scandals and realignment, here at the Prospectus we are only concerned with future Gators. Through three games, Florida has an unblemished record and is generating plenty of buzz with recruits. The reviews of Charlie Weis’ offense and Will Muschamp’s defense have all been positive.
So what’s next? Can the good vibes keep on a-flowin?
I think the answer is yes. And that’s what I’m here to do, after all. I answer questions. I asked for more of them last week, and you responded. Bravo!
So, back to the good vibes. There is a growing storm on my calendar. Its date is Oct. 1.
The ground-level bleachers in the south end zone at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium will be jam-packed with some of the nation’s finest prospects to watch the Gators play host to the Crimson Tide of Alabama. It will be quite the spectacle (and you can count on another blog or two before game time even arrives).
Florida will have a chance to be tested and show its progress under Muschamp and Weis against one of the best teams in the country. And here’s the key for you followers of UF recruiting — it’s all good.
Of course, it would be bad if Florida fell on its face in that game. But I don’t see that happening. Instead, look for Florida to be competitive and perhaps have a chance to win a dramatic game. No matter what, the Gator coaching staff will boast a tremendous atmosphere (especially if it’s a night game at The Swamp), exposure (on national TV) and loads of opportunities for playing time (even if Florida loses, the staff can still spin it in their favor).
If Florida manages to win? It’ll be bedlam in the locker room … and maybe some of those prospects will want to commit on the spot.
It’s a big ‘un.
OK, so I’ve answered one question so far. Doesn’t matter that I was the one asking it. Still counts. Now for your queries …
Do you think the UF coaches focus on recruiting outside of the state too much and miss picking up guys like a Sammy Watkins or Chris Black? — @RobLou56 via Twitter
Florida’s top priority in recruiting is the state of Florida, followed by the southeast region. That said, UF coaches have historically done a very good job of going up the Atlantic coast for recruits. The Gators will occasionally dip into the midwest as well as compete for the occasional recruit in Texas and California.
Urban Meyer used to say that he wanted Florida to be a national name in recruiting. That didn’t sit well with some high school coaches in Florida when they noticed a dip in the amount of attention they were used to receiving. However, I’ve been told by several high school coaches that the new staff is “doing things right.”
As for your concern that Florida might miss on some in-state prospects, well, I don’t think so. The Gator staff identifies a ton of state prospects and does a good job of getting a lot of them to campus for Junior Day visits, spring practice visits, summer camps, Friday Night Lights and games during the season.
UF coaches worked very hard to even be a factor in the recruitment of Jacksonville, Fla., four-star wide receiver Chris Black, who ultimately chose Alabama over Florida State. As for Sammy Watkins, the previous staff was certainly disappointed that they didn’t land the brother of current Gator cornerback Jaylen Watkins. But, as Jaylen told me before this season began, Sammy just preferred Clemson. What can ya do? Other than watch Sammy tear it up, that is.
What’s the latest with the “Bullkins”? — Kyle via blog comments
Funny you should ask. Just this morning I got a message from Forest City, N.C., four-star defensive tackle Carlos Watkins, who confirmed that he will attend next weekend’s Florida-Alabama game.
Watkins, you may recall, visited UF late in the summer with good friend and fellow four-star Jonathan Bullard, a defensive end from Shelby, N.C. I chased the two around campus and Gainesville, hence the nickname “Bullkins.” Everyone wanted to know, “Where’s Bullkins? What’s up with Bullkins? How was the Bullkins’ visit?”
Well, Watkins has stated for most of the last few months that Clemson is his leader. I think Florida still has a chance, though. However, I am not as optimistic about the potential for me to use the nickname “Bullkins” at the next level. Watkins told me Bullard is not going to be coming to the UF-Bama game and isn’t sure when his buddy will visit. There’s even a chance Bullard won’t take an official visit to Florida.
Now, that’s not to say Florida is out of the running. Both players have seen and heard plenty from Gator coaches, and they’ve got other friends like Shelby, N.C., safety Rhaheim Ledbetter and Charlotte, N.C., offensive lineman D.J. Humphries constantly in their ears about joining them UF.
We’ll just stay tuned.
Where would you rank the following four defensive ends in order of their likelihood of becoming Gators: Noah Spence, Darius Hamilton, Jordan Jenkins and Jonathan Bullard? — Phil in Ocala via email
Normally I don’t like to make predictions, but somehow ranking players in order of likelihood seems more murky. It’s not that I don’t want to be bold with my statements. It’s just that I’ve already learned in a very short time that recruiting is a game played by teenagers. So with that caveat, here is my list — Jenkins, Spence, Bullard and Hamilton.
Whoa. Did I put Spence ahead of Bullard? You bet your sweet bippy!
My stance on Spence all along has been “I’ll believe it when I see it” as far as his interest in Florida. Well, he is reportedly planning an official visit to UF after his high school season. His Harrisburg, Pa., Bishop McDevitt team plays its games on Saturdays, which makes visiting on game days nearly impossible. Spence is a five-star, pass-rushing monster who could play either the buck or defensive end position at 6-foot-3 and 245 pounds.
I think Florida would take Jenkins and Spence in a heartbeat. It’s hard to read Bullard at the moment, and I’ve said for quite awhile that I think Hamilton will stay at home and end up at Rutgers.
Who do you think will make an immediate impact or be the biggest diference-maker out of our current or most likely to commit recruits next year? — @pitbullG8tor64 via Twitter
Not an easy question to answer. Of Florida’s 17 current verbal commitments, I see a lot of player who I do NOT think will make an immediate impact. That’s not to say they aren’t great prospects. It’s more about Florida’s depth chart. Everywhere I turn this season, as the games are now being played, I see Florida developing more depth. And there are very few seniors who will leave.
So here are some quick answers. Of the current pledges, I would say power running back Matt Jones could find a role in the offense next season. Of the prospects out there who I think could end up in orange and blue, I’d predict that one of the five-star wide receivers — either Stefon Diggs or Nelson Agholor — could come in and play right away. Of all the positions of concern on UF’s roster, I still think the biggest need is for a play-making wideout.
What was the feedback from the recruits (both committed and uncommitted) that attended the Tennessee game? — FAMUGator via the GSMB recruiting forum
As I said above, the reviews of UF’s new offense and defense have been resoundingly positive. I’ve talked to UF pledges on both sides of the ball like wide receiver Latroy Pittman and safety Marcus Maye, who can’t wait to play.
After last week’s game, Florida got some good news on a couple of big-time players from the 2012 and 2013 classes. Daytona Beach, Fla., four-star defensive end Leonard Williams loved his visit, loved The Swamp and loved the attention he received from the UF coaches. He now says Florida is his leader. At 6-4, 250, he has a good frame to be a versatile defensive lineman in UF’s multiple defensive formations. I don’t see him committing soon, but he could be in the mix in January. Also, one of the top safeties in the country for the 2013 class, Leon McQuay III, reaffirmed that Florida is his top school. He’s been a fan of the Gators for a long time. I should also note that 2013 running back Greg Bryant, who has been dazzling this season, recently told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel that Florida is his No. 1 team.
There was just one official visitor for the UF-UT game last weekend. Pittsburgh, Pa., four-star offensive lineman Adam Bisnowaty reportedly had a good time and is expected to make a decision soon. He will visit Pittsburgh, his other finalist, this weekend.
I assume we have seven scholarships left to give out. I know you cannot predict who, but could you predict what positions they will go to? — Julian Hertzog via comments
I still get a lot of questions about how many players will end up in this class. It’s something I answered in my first Outbox mailbag blog, so check it out here. I still go by the class limit of 25 scholarships, because it’s impossible to predict any offseason defections from the current roster at this time. So, actually, Julian, eight is the magic number (for now).
Answering your question, however, is much tougher. It may be impossible to be correct because of how much flexibility the Gator coaching staff has, but I’ll take a stab. I say Florida gets two more wide receivers, two more offensive linemen, one more defensive lineman, one more linebacker, one more cornerback and one more tight end.
Clip n’ save this to check back with me on Feb. 1, 2012.
How high is UF on Kelvin Taylor’s list? — @dexufl via Twitter
You do know who Kelvin’s father is, right? If you don’t, he’s Gator great Fred Taylor. Like father, like son, Kelvin (5-11, 205) is a tremendous running back. He grew up a Gator fan (duh) and has visited too many times to count. Heck, Kelvin has been coming to Friday Night Lights ever year since he was an eighth-grader.
Lately, I’ve heard Kelvin is only considering two schools — Florida and Alabama. I think he could be UF’s first 2013 commitment, when Florida opens the floodgates on that class next year. But don’t take it from me. Thanks to Fred, you can download the official Kelvin Taylor app for free (only on Android phones now, iPhones later). It delivers the latest stories, photos, videos and tweets. As far as I know, he’s the first and only recruit with his own app. Snazzy!
With Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps in their final year of eligibility it doesn’t seem like we have anyone waiting in the wings to fill the role they are playing in Weis’ offense. Nor does it seem we are recruiting a tailback/receiver with the kind of speed and ability possessed by these guys. Is there a guy on our board that I’m overlooking? — Peter Dellapina via email
Mike Davis doesn’t like your question very much, Peter. He’s a four-star running back who is one of the most committed Gator recruits. At 5-10, 190, he has the quickness, vision, moves and toughness to be called a complete back. He doesn’t have elite speed like Demps and Rainey, but really, who does?
I think your question points more to the concern that Florida is going to lose a whole lot of speed when Rainey and Demps leave. And that’s true. As much as Weis has enjoyed coaching both of these burners, his offense does not depend upon them the way Meyer’s spread-option did. I guess I’m trying to say that I don’t think you’ll notice it so much in the future because the elite speed will be on the outside with wide receivers where it belongs in a more conventional, pro-style attack.
If Florida is able to land the aforementioned wideout Stefon Diggs, you’ll see what I’m talking about. Enjoy Demps and Rainey for now. Charlie sure is.
What 5-stars do you think we have a chance at? And where do you think this class will end up after signing day? — Austin via comments
Florida has a chance at the two receivers who are all over this mailbag — Diggs and Agholor. The Gators are in a fight with Alabama for hybrid DE/LB Jordan Jenkins. Offensive lineman Avery Young is rated a five-star by Scout.com, and cornerback Tracy Howard just picked up a fifth star recently from Rivals.com. Both have Florida high on their lists of favorite schools. Two more five-star hybrid DE/LBs who could don the orange and blue are Spence and FSU commit Dante Fowler.
That’s a pretty extensive list at this point in the recruiting cycle. Obviously all seven won’t end up in the Gators’ class, but three or four more five-stars in this class would solidify Florida as one of the top five classes in the nation, perhaps even top three. I’ll take the safe route and predict the Gators’ Class of 2012 ends up in the top five.
Do you see Muschamp beginning to recruit larger linebackers in the future due to the influence of Nick Saban on his defensive mind or do you think he is content to keep them around the 200-225 pounds that he has? — Zack via comments
I do see this happening. You might not be able to tell right away, because Florida has verbal pledges from three tall, skinny linebackers at the moment in Jeremi Powell (6-2, 200), Lorenzo Phillips (6-2, 200) and Antonio Morrison (6-3, 215). But they’ve all got the frames to add 20-30 pounds.
Florida’s previous coaching staff preferred speed all over the field, which is why you see so many undersized linebackers on the roster. But Muschamp is always preaching about how the Southeastern Conference is a line-of-scrimmage league. And the proof is in the pudding. Last season, observers noted a distinct size advantage whenever SEC West teams played the SEC East. That won’t be the case in a year or two, when Muschamp has more of his recruits in place.
Florida commit and 5-star prospect D.J. Humphries recently announced his three official visits to Auburn, Cal and UF. Should Gator Nation be concerned? — Eric via email
Humphries will see Auburn host Florida Atlantic this Saturday, which should be riveting. Then he’ll be here for that huge Florida-Alabama game on Oct. 1, and finally it’s off to Cal-Berkeley on Oct. 22 to see the Golden Bears take on the Utah Utes.
I really don’t think there’s anything to worry about for Gator fans. Players are allowed to take five official, expenses-paid trips, and Humphries is simply taking advantage of the opportunity to visit a couple of schools. He is not flirting with any other football programs as far as I can see. And besides, we are talking about one of the more high-character kids in the Class of 2012.
Why hasn’t Will Muschamp recruited either a) a robot or b) a live alligator yet? Thanks in advance! — @AlligatorArmy via Twitter
This has to be the greatest question I’ve ever received. Thank YOU in retrospect! It’s about time someone asked me this, so I could reveal the truth about the University of Florida’s football program.
Actually, a robot has already been recruited. The credit goes to Athletic Director Jeremy Foley, who worked tirelessly with IBM’s DeepQA project in the 1990s, to install a human/cyborg interface inside of one Will Muschamp. Now every year he treks to Armonk, N.Y., to spend time with his computer counterpart, Watson, and receive a fresh software upgrade.
I have no idea when we’ll see a live alligator wearing a Florida uniform, but it’s safe to say that Muschamp’s live-animal algorithm has at least considered the possibility a few times.
Th-th-th-that’s all, folks! I have no further revelations to reveal. I’ll keep trying to answer more questions with every passing week, as long as you hold up your end of the bargain and keep sending me more of ‘em.
Here’s how you can submit yours for next week …