List of recruits beefs up


Published: Monday, January 12, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 12, 2004 at 12:00 a.m.
The Florida Gators picked up some power and speed - and maybe some pitching help - on the recruiting front Sunday, gaining oral commitments from two of the state's top offensive linemen, one of the fastest prospects in Florida and one of the nation's best tight ends, who also happens to be a pro baseball prospect.
The latest high school football standouts to pledge to Ron Zook are Sarasota Riverview offensive guard Drew Miller, Crawfordville Wakulla offensive lineman Jim Tartt, Immokalee defensive back McIntosh Nicolas and Longview, Texas, tight end/pitcher Tate Casey. The four were among 14 prospects visiting the UF campus over the weekend.
Miller is close friends with UF freshman offensive guard and former Riverview teammate Steve Rissler and picked the Gators over Miami. Riverview coach John Sprague said Miller will now cancel his upcoming trips to Florida State and Tennessee. He already visited UM and Georgia.
"Drew is real excited about going to Florida," Sprague said. "He's very good friends with Steve . . . they played on the same offensive line, so they know each other real well. And (UF offensive line coach) Joe Wickline and coach Zook are the best. They're real good people, the kind of coaches you feel good about sending your players to play for if you're a high school coach.
"He doesn't want to make any more trips. He had a great trip to Miami and a great trip to Georgia, but Florida is where he felt the most comfortable, so he made his decision and he's happy about it."
Sprague said the Gators are getting a powerful offensive line prospect and a quality kid in Miller.
"He's an All-American football player, but he's also an All-American kid," Sprague said. "To me, that's a big deal. He's just a great kid with a lot of character."
Miller visited UF with his parents. He said he's relieved the recruiting process is over.
"I'm done and I feel good about it. I feel great about my decision," Miller said. "Florida definitely was the best fit for me. I felt very comfortable around the players and the coaching staff."
The 6-foot-5, 295-pound Miller played in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio on Jan. 3 and is an avid weight lifter.
Tartt, the other offensive linemen to commit Sunday, also excels in the weight room, with a bench press of more than 450 pounds. UF was his first and only visit, said his father, Leonard Tartt.
"Jim had a great visit and he knows where he wants to go," Leonard Tartt said.
The 6-3, 315-pound Tartt also was being recruited by Florida State, Clemson, Iowa State and Central Florida, but will not make any more visits.
Perhaps the most intriguing commitment over the weekend comes from Casey, a top tight end prospect who also throws a 90-plus mph fastball. Although he's committed to the Gators, it's conceivable he may never end up at Florida. A pro baseball prospect, if he's drafted high in the Major League Draft, he might bypass college football for baseball. Casey, however, has told the UF coaches there's a chance he'll play both football and baseball at Florida.
While Tartt and Miller will bring some future muscle to the UF offensive line, Nicolas brings speed. The standout defensive back/wide receiver is the state 100- and 200-meter champion and regarded as one of the fastest prospects in the Southeast.
"I had a wonderful visit to Florida, and I decided that's where I want to go and I told the coaches," Nicolas said. "The players are like one big family and I really like coach Zook and all the coaches on the staff. I probably won't make anymore visits. I can really see myself fitting in at Florida."
Nicolas already has visited LSU and Michigan State and also has visits scheduled to Florida State and Pittsburgh.
In other news:
  • All-American linebacker Keith Rivers from Lake Mary visited UF over the weekend and could choose between Florida and Southern Cal as soon as today. Although Rivers' father told the recruiting services his son had an excellent time in Gainesville over the weekend, Rivers has strongly favored the Trojans since early in the recruiting process and likely will announce his decision to commit to USC.
  • Another top offensive lineman from the state of Florida could be joining Miller and Tartt in Gainesville. Giant (6-7, 290) tackle prospect Jason Watkins from Lakeland Lake Gibson said his UF visit was far better than earlier visits he made to Oklahoma, Michigan State and Auburn and that he'll choose between Florida and LSU sometime in the next two weeks. He will visit Baton Rouge this weekend. "Those other visits I've made don't even compare to Florida," Watkins told TheInsiders. "I feel so at home at Florida and I like the coaches. Florida is at the top right now."
  • Jacksonville Ed White defensive back Dawayne Grace visited UF over the weekend and likely will choose between the Gators and Miami after visiting FSU this weekend.
  • Orlando Evans linebacker Brandon Siler, who appeared close to committing to UF two weeks ago, still isn't quite ready to make a pledge to the Gators. After visiting Gainesville over the weekend, Siler said he will not make a decision until his visits Tennessee this weekend, along with Orlando Oak Ridge defensive tackle Joe Joseph, who also was in Gainesville this past weekend.
    You can reach Robbie Andreu by calling 374-5022 or by e-mail at andreur@gvillesun.com.
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