Obstacles stand in way of wish list


Published: Friday, January 14, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 14, 2005 at 1:12 a.m.
The "Bare Cupboard Theory" has been vigorously debated since Steve Spurrier departed after the 2001 season, leaving Ron Zook with what many perceived to be less than a full complement of players, especially for a former top 10 program.
Three years and three strong recruiting classes later, the cupboard certainly isn't bare at Florida. But despite Zook's tireless work ethic and positive results on the recruiting trail, he didn't exactly leave a stocked cupboard for new UF coach Urban Meyer, either. In fact, there are some serious holes on the shelf.
With national signing day (Feb. 2) fast approaching, the Gators are scurrying to secure talent at linebacker and cornerback - two positions where Florida has an almost scary lack of numbers on the current roster.
With the early departure by Channing Crowder to the NFL, the Gators have only four scholarship linebackers.
At cornerback, the Gators have six scholarship players, but only two with any significant experience at the position - sophomore Dee Webb and undersized senior Vernell Brown, who started his UF career as a wide receiver.
From a recruiting perspective, the good news is the lack of numbers means the Gators can offer some top prospects the possibility of immediate playing time at linebacker and cornerback.
The bad news is the Gators are trying to recover from a coaching change, the loss of recruiting coordinator Mike Locksley earlier this week and the fact many of the prime prospects at those positions have already committed elsewhere or are not showing UF a great deal of interest.
One of the top priorities is to secure the prospects who had earlier committed to UF, including Daytona Beach Mainland defensive back Avery Atkins and linebackers Gerald Williams (Fort Lauderdale Boyd Anderson) and Kalvin Baker (Columbus, Ga.).
UF's No. 1 recruiting priority is linebacker, where much of the depth will be coming from walk-ons in the spring. The departure of Locksley to Illinois likely will have an impact here. One of the top prospects on UF's board - Bayonne, N.J., linebacker Jerome Hayes - said earlier this week he will drop the Gators if Locksley leaves. Now that it's happened. Hayes likely is heading to the University of Miami.
The top linebacker on the board now is probably another Hayes - Eugene Hayes from Madison County High School. UF was not considered a contender early in the process, but with the arrival of Meyer and the early departure of Crowder, Hayes has moved the Gators to the top of his list.
UF also remains in the running for Darryl Gresham (Roanoke, Va.), Brian Cushing (Oradell, N.J.), Jarvis Hicks (Deerfield Beach) and Fred Bussey (Thomasville, Ga.). The Gators still may have an outside shot at Pensacola Washington's Jon Demps, who has recently shown some interest.
The Gators are hoping to sign at least three or four linebackers.
UF also would like to add that many cornerbacks as well, although the board isn't exactly stocked for the Gators.
The top cornerbacks still considering Florida are Bryan Evans (Jacksonville Ed White), Carlos Thomas (College Park, Ga.), Chris Chancellor (Miami Edison) and Walter McFadden (Pompano Beach Ely).
Evans, perhaps the top corner on the Gators board, favored UF back in the fall (when former Ed White head coach Dan Disch was the UF secondary coach), but dropped UF completely when Zook was fired. Meyer has recently moved back in on Evans and he's showing a serious interest.
The cupboard isn't bare at linebacker and cornerback, but it certainly has some gaps Meyer has to address with his first UF recruiting class.
You can reach Robbie Andreu by calling 374-5022 or by e-mail at andreur@gvillesun.com.

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