It’s been a roller-coaster recruiting week for Florida, but there were far more highs than lows.
Six UF commitments came out winners in Thursday’s Under Armour All-American Game and made the future look bright, especially in the secondary with the play of Brian Poole and Marcus Maye. On Saturday, head coach Will Muschamp landed five-star defensive end Jonathan Bullard following his dominant performance in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
Six of Florida’s seven early enrollees started their classes this week and are now officially Gators. Defensive end Quinteze Williams did not make it in because some of the credits he earned through an early graduation program were not accepted by the NCAA Clearinghouse. He has to retake three of his classes and plans to enroll at UF in the summer.
Muschamp received more bad news Monday night when four-star JUCO lineman Visesio “Junior” Salt decommitted from Florida and four-star defensive end Jordan Jenkins surprisingly picked Georgia (more on that later).
According to a source close to the situation, the Salt defection has been expected by the coaching staff for the last two weeks. Salt still has to take another semester before he can transfer. To get into UF, he had to complete them at Mt. San Antonio C.C in Walnut, Calif.
To get into Utah, however, he’s able to finish up at a local junior college back home. Florida would not have accepted the credits from that school, so that’s how his decision came about.
But things quickly turned around in Gator Nation with the hire of Boise State’s offensive coordinator Brent Pease. The reaction from recruits couldn’t have been better and UF got a ringing endorsement from five-star wide receiver Stefon Diggs.
As I’ve said before, Diggs would be Muschamp’s to lose as long as he didn’t mess up the OC hire — and he knocked it out of the park. Based on his “we” statement and initial thoughts on Pease, the Gators are in great shape.
On to the questions!
What’s the fallout of Jordan Jenkins committing to UGA? — Rolando and others
The University of Florida has plenty of money.
But its football team still needs another buck.
Muschamp missed out on his top target Monday and it caught many off guard. I was one of many UF recruiting reporters that thought Jenkins would pick the Gators and it turns out they were a distant third.
Now its back to the drawing board for Muschamp, who has few options and little time left to find someone for the buck position.
Here are the top three remaining target:
Dante Fowler Jr. (St. Petersburg, Fla.)
The FSU commitment has flirted with Flordia throughout his recruitment and he’s hard to get a read on. There are some that swear up and down he will be a Gator in the end, while others think he’s just playing the game and will stick with the Seminoles.
I’m with the latter group and I honestly have no idea what Fowler will do. I’ve interviewed him on about 10 occasions and each time he gives me a different impression of where he’s leaning.
He will take official visits to FSU (1/13), UF (1/20) and USC (1/27) this month and make his final decision on National Signing Day.
Jamal Marcus (Durham, N.C.)
The three-star prospect is being recruiting as an outside linebacker, but he has the size (6-foot-2, 230 pounds) and speed (4.6) to play the buck position. His finalists are Florida, East Carolina, North Carolina and Ohio State, but lately he’s been linked to the Gators a lot. He plans to commit on NSD after official visits to ECU (1/13), UF (1/20) and possibly OSU.
Tyriq McCord (Tampa, Fla.)
McCord has liked Florida all along and at one point I had commitments tell me he was a silent. But with better options on the board, the coaches slow played him down the stretch and I think he eventually decided to move on. When he committed to Miami on Saturday, UF wasn’t even a hat on the table.
The staff must feel confident on where they stand with Fowler and/or Marcus (who are better prospects in their eyes) to not be pursuing McCord. I’ve also been told that he has some issues with grades, character and work ethic. But if the Gators miss on the guys above, maybe they’ll make a last-minute run at McCord and hope for the best.
At this time, I would replace Jenkins with Marcus in my 2012 mock class.
What about UF’s prospects with Darius Hamilton? It seems like he could be an important part of developing a pass rush for the Gators next year. — Martin
Hamilton surprised a lot of folks last week when he revealed that he’s making a return trip to UF this month. This time he will be accompanied by his mother and they will be traveling on their own dime. The five-star defensive end took an official visit Dec. 9.
His finalists are Cal, Florida, Miami and Rutgers, but this is a two-team race between the Gators and Scarlet Knights. He is scheduled to be in Gainesville this weekend before taking his last two officials to Rutgers (1/20) and UM (1/27).
The fact that he’s coming back to UF again shows his interest level, but I still see him heading to Rutgers. It’s the hometown team and I think the Gators getting Bullard (who plays the same position as Hamilton) hurts their chances.
Yo Zach, I really like Leonard Williams. What is his status with UF and when can we expect him to decide? — Kreg
Williams will be a NSD decision and things were looking positive for UF during Under Armour week. He was having fun with the Florida commits and he finally rescheduled his official visit for Jan. 13.
However, he has decided to visit FSU this weekend instead. With trips already planned to USC (1/20) and Miami (1/27), Williams probably won’t check out Gainesville anytime soon.
Doesn’t make much sense for someone who grew up a Gator fan and claims UF as his co-leader with Auburn, but maybe the Bullard commitment turned him off. Williams spoke highly of the Tigers’ new defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder and right now I think he’s favoring AU.
Obviously LSU’s performance Monday night was less than ideal, and we’ve picked up a great OC. Is there any chance there are verbal commits to LSU that might be changing their plans? Is there anybody from their list of commitments that we could really use? — Matt
Two words — Avery Johnson.
The four-star wide receiver has been committed to LSU since October of 2010, but he’s now wavering with three weeks left until NSD.
Muschamp has always been after Johnson, but the developments this week have really worked to Florida’s advantage.
Billy Gonzalez leaving LSU to be the offensive coordinator at Illinois was a big blow to Johnson. They had a tight bond and Gonzalez was one of the main reasons he chose the Tigers. Culminate that with the hiring of Brent Pease, who Johnson is very impressed by, and UF is a real player now.
He was supposed to visit this weekend but decided to postpone it until after Muschamp and wide receivers coach Aubrey Hill see him next Friday. The Gators will then get his last official on Jan. 27 and he’s making the trip with his father.
Robbie Andreu alluded that UF may be after Duke Johnson, who is currently committed to Miami. Is that really a possibility? He looks good and would seem to be a great addition to this class. — Alex
Florida has indeed reached out to Johnson, but he is not a possibility at this time. He’s very solid with Miami and it’s too little too late for the Gators. With Wes Brown’s commitment to Maryland last Thursday, it doesn’t look like they will land another running back in this class.
That’s all for this week! Be sure to leave your questions in the comment section below for the next mailbag.