Srong finish possible

Published: Wednesday, January 29, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 29, 2003 at 1:10 a.m.



In one of the recruiting coups of the season for Zook, the Gators gained a pledge from Bushnell South Sumter linebacker Earl Everett, one of the nation's premier outside linebacker prospects.

With National Signing Day now only a week away, the Florida Gators are positioning themselves to close strong in recruiting.
UF gained some big-time momentum Tuesday, picking up oral commitments from two of the state's top defensive players - Bushnell South Sumter linebacker Earl Everett and St. Petersburg Lakewood defensive end Julian Riley. The Gators could secure another highly rated defender today if Miami Braddock defensive end Tranell Morant falls Florida's way as anticipated.
Recruiting analyst Jamie Newberg of Atlanta said Tuesday that UF coach Ron Zook is building what could be the nation's No. 1 recruiting class.
In one of the recruiting coups of the season for Zook, the Gators gained a pledge from Everett, one of the nation's premier outside linebacker prospects. He chose the Gators after visiting Miami this past weekend. It had been a UF-UM battle throughout the recruiting process.
"Earl had strong feelings for Florida all along and I think his visit to Miami just confirmed what he was thinking and feeling," South Sumter coach Inman Sherman said. "He came to me (Monday) night and said he was going to commit to Florida. I told him to think on it overnight and that if he felt the same way (Tuesday) morning, then we'd call the Florida coaches.
"He came in and said he felt the same way, so we called (defensive coordinator) Charlie Strong and he committed to Florida. He's really excited about his decision; he feels great about it. It's close to home and he can't wait to get up there."
The 6-foot-3, 210-pound Everett is one of the state's most versatile prospects. In his senior season, he played quarterback, tight end, middle linebacker, outside linebacker, defensive end, safety and strong safety. He was so effective as an option quarterback that Nebraska made a strong push to sign him, trying to sell him on playing quarterback at the next level.
"He's the best athlete I've ever coached," Sherman said. "He played wherever we needed him to play. He's just a great kid and a great team player. That's what makes him so special. It's all about team with him. He'll do whatever it takes to help your team win games."
Sherman said Everett developed a close relationship with Strong during the recruiting process.
"Coach Strong had a lot to do with Earl's decision," Sherman said. "They talked quite a bit and Earl really got to know him and what he's all about and what they're going to be doing at Florida.
"Earl just felt more comfortable at Florida than anywhere else."
With the Gators having to fill a big need at linebacker, Zook had targeted and recruited Everett since last spring, giving the Gators a little bit of a jump on UM and the other competition.
Given the lack of numbers at both outside linebacker positions, there's a possibility Everett will see playing time next fall.
Riley, a speed rush defensive end, also could see early playing time. Although he just turned 17, Riley is 6-4, 260 pounds and has the frame to possibly grow into a defensive tackle.
"He's strong, but still very lean," Lakewood coach Brian Bruch said. "There's a chance he could end up inside one day. But he runs really well and is an excellent pass rusher. He's an excellent athlete and just a great kid. I think he's going to fit right in at Florida. He's real excited about going up there."
Riley visited UF this past weekend and decided on the Gators after receiving an in-home visit from Pittsburgh coach Walt Harris on Monday night. Riley also was considering Wisconsin.
UF could pick up more defensive line help today with the expected commitment of Morant, who will choose between UF and UM. The 6-4, 270-pound Morant is the cousin of former Florida basketball center Udonis Haslem. Morant didn't start playing football until his junior season and is considered one of the state's top sleeper prospects.
In other recruiting news:
  • Tampa Jefferson wide receiver Andre Caldwell has put off his decision until signing day so he can announce his college destination live on ESPN. UF and Miami appear to be the leaders, but Florida State and Southern Cal are still in the picture.
  • Belle Glade Glades Central offensive lineman James Lee, who visited UF this past weekend, could have an announcement by the end of the week. He's down to UF and Ohio State.
  • Jackson, Miss., safety Quinton Culberson is still considering Florida and is expected to choose between UF and Mississippi State. He likely won't announce until signing day.
  • Melbourne Palm Bay teammates Joe Cohen and Reggie Nelson could have an announcement any day now. Cohen, a running back/defensive end, and Nelson, a defensive back, could end up announcing for different schools. UF appears a slight leader for Nelson, while Cohen may be leaning to FSU.
  • Miami Central defensive lineman Bryan Pata, long thought to be a Miami commitment, still is considering UF along with UM and Rutgers. He says all three schools are even at this time and he could have a decision by early next week.
  • The Gators are making a strong late push for Washington (D.C.) Dunbar tight end Vernon Davis, whom Zook visited Monday night. Davis is expected to choose between UF and Maryland.
  • The Gators are among the final three for Camden, N.J., defensive end Turk McBride, who visited Gainesville two weeks ago. He's also considering Tennessee and Virginia.
  • Quincy Shanks wide receiver DeCody Fagg, who visited UF this past weekend, will announce Monday after visiting FSU, his leader, this weekend.
    You can reach Robbie Andreu by e-mail at andreur@gvillesun.com or by calling (352) 374-5022.
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