Zook gets 2 verbals


Published: Monday, January 13, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 12, 2003 at 11:01 p.m.

Florida picked up two oral commitments and one key recommitment Sunday night to end a busy recruiting weekend for the Gators.

The latest prospects to pledge for UF are Skyler Thornton, a highly rated running back from LaGrange, Ga., and D.J. Norris, an all-state tight end/defensive end from Pace.

The recommitment comes from Punta Gorda Charlotte quarterback Justin Midgett, who committed to UF this past summer but began wavering on that commitment after All-American quarterback Chris Leak orally committed to the Gators on national television last Sunday night at halftime of the Army All-American Game in San Antonio, Texas.

Midgett had been considering taking a recruiting visit to Tennessee, but now will not be going to Knoxville after reaffirming his pledge to Florida at the end of a weekend visit to Gainesville. He said he will not be making any more visits.

"I'm a Gator. I've always been a Gator," Midgett said Sunday night. "I had a fantastic visit and I had a great time talking to the coaches and the other players. This is where I belong and my visit just confirmed it for me. The recruiting process is over.

"I'm definitely not afraid of the competition at quarterback. Coach (Ron) Zook said the competition is going to be wide open and no one is going to be handed anything. I can't wait to get there and start competing. I've got a lot of confidence in my ability."

With junior Rex Grossman leaving early for the NFL, the quarterback position will be wide open in the spring and still could be that way going into the fall, when Midgett and Leak may have a chance to work their way into the mix.

UF is the only school Midgett made an official visit to.

Thornton and Norris also visited UF over the weekend and announced Sunday they'll be signing with Florida in February.

The 6-foot, 201-pound Thornton rushed for 1,594 yards and 34 touchdowns this past season and is considered one of the top prospects in the state of Georgia. He also was considering South Carolina and Arkansas.

"I was leaning to Florida coming into the weekend and I had a great visit. It was everything I was hoping it would be," Thornton said. "Florida just feels like the perfect fit to me. I like the offense and I felt comfortable around the coaches and players."

Thornton likely will be the only tailback the Gators sign this recruiting season.

Norris, a 6-3, 240-pound two-way standout for Pace, picked the Gators over Florida State, Tennessee and LSU. He's expected to start out on defense at UF, where the Gators lack depth on the line.

"I really enjoyed spending some time with Coach Zook," Norris said. "He's got a lot of energy and he's going to win a lot of games at Florida in the next few years.

"They need tight ends and defensive ends and they want me to start out at defensive end, which is certainly fine with me."

Also, Sunday, rumors that Miami Central defensive lineman Bryan Pata committed to UF at the end of his visit proved to be false. Pata said he did not commit and plans to visit Rutgers and Miami in the next two weeks. He said he still strongly favors the hometown Hurricanes, whom he committed to early in the recruiting process.

Another standout on the UF campus over the weekend appears close to committing to the Gators. After getting home from his UF visit Sunday, Hoover, Ala., wide receiver Chad Jackson said he would not be taking any more visits and will decide later this week between UF and Georgia, where he has not visited.

Jackson has been a Gator fan for several years and has listed UF as his leader for the past month or so.

In other news, Melbourne Palm Bay running back/defensive end Joe Cohen said he now favors Florida State after his weekend trip to Tallahassee. Cohen wants to play running back in college and the Seminoles are offering him that opportunity. UF is recruiting him as a defensive player. Cohen also will visit Florida and Miami before making his decision.

You can reach Robbie Andreu by e-mail at andreur@gvillesun.com or by calling 374-5022.

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