FLORIDA FOOTBALL

Gators pull off upset


Published: Wednesday, January 22, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 22, 2003 at 1:17 a.m.
Ron Zook has secured perhaps one of the most important commitments of his short tenure at Florida, winning a head-to-head recruiting battle against Miami for the top defensive back in the state.
Jacksonville Ed White cornerback Dee Webb's pledge to UF has to be viewed as somewhat of an upset because Webb is a life-long UM fan who had listed the Hurricanes as his favorite for much of the recruiting process.
But Zook sold Webb on Florida and sold him on possible early playing time at UF, where the Gators are losing two key members of the secondary (cornerback Robert Cromartie and safety Todd Johnson).
Webb announced his commitment to UF late Monday, but Zook actually had won Webb over even before the standout visited Coral Gables this past weekend.
"I made up my mind last Wednesday that I was going to go to Florida," Webb said Tuesday. "I made the trip to Miami just to see if that might change how I felt. But it didn't. It only showed me that Florida is the right place, the right situation, for me. That's where I feel the most comfortable.
"I've been a Miami fan for as long as I can remember and I've always dreamed about playing for them, but I'll have a much better chance to play early at Florida. Miami's got a lot of good young defensive backs who already have experience and Florida has two positions in the secondary that are wide open. I'll have a chance to go in and compete right away at Florida."
UF also has picked up a commitment from one of the nation's top wide receiver prospects - Chad Jackson from Hoover, Ala. Jackson, who has favored the Gators for the past several weeks, gave his commitment to UF during an in-home visit with Zook last Wednesday night.
Jackson, however, told the Birmingham News that his UF commitment is "soft" because he still may take visits to Georgia and Alabama over the next two weeks. He is rated the No. 3 wide receiver in the nation by Rivals.
Hoover coach Rush Probst said he expects Jackson to sign with Florida on Feb. 5.
"He's favored Florida for quite some time now and Coach Zook has done an unbelievable job recruiting him," Probst said. "He's made a decision and I'm going to stand behind him 100 percent on it. I wouldn't be surprised if he doesn't visit Georgia. But there's a chance he'll go ahead and check out Alabama. He hasn't really decided yet."
While Jackson ponders other possible visits, the recruiting process is over for Webb, whose final visit was to Miami over the weekend.
Webb is the consensus No. 1 defensive back prospect in Florida and a first-team USA Today All-American. Although he played safety at Ed White, the 6-foot, 185-pound Webb projects as a cornerback at the next level.
In his senior season, Webb intercepted eight passes and set a school record with eight defensive touchdowns. He also was White's starting quarterback.
"He's a great athlete and a great competitor," White coach Dan Disch said. "Florida's getting a good one, an athlete who is ready to play. He's as ready to play right away as any player I've ever had."
In other news, Tallahassee Lincoln wide receiver/defensive back Antonio Cromartie, who will decide between UF and FSU, has decided not to make an announcement today, something he considered earlier in the week. He now will announce his decision on signing day live on ESPN.
Another highly rated defensive back on UF's board - Dodge City Community College cornerback Reynaldo Hill - is expected to go public with his decision in the next day or two. After visiting Gainesville this past weekend, he's listing the Gators as a slight leader over Tennessee.
Also, the Gators remain in the running for Clermont South Lake offensive lineman Carlton Medder, who has backed out of an earlier commitment he made to Georgia and now also is considering UF, Tennessee and Florida State. Medder visited UF two weeks ago and UT this past weekend and plans to go to Tallahassee this weekend. He said he has no favorite at this time and likely won't announce until signing day.
You can reach Robbie Andreu by e-mail at andreur@gvillesun.com or by calling (352) 374-5022.

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