Top Florida pass-catcher considering Gators

Published: Wednesday, January 19, 2005 at 1:47 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 19, 2005 at 1:47 p.m.

A strong Gator wide receiving class could get much stronger with the addition of one of the top players in Florida.

The Gators may be grabbing a third top wide receiver in as many years, with Middleton (Fla.) High School in Tampa standout, O.J. Murdock, looking highly at the University of Florida.

In the last two years, the Gators have signed highly ranked receivers including Andre Caldwell (2003) and Michael McIntosh (2004).

This year, the University of Florida has already received verbal commitments from Louis Murphy (Lakewood High School in St. Petersburg) and Nyan Boateng (Abraham Lincoln High School in New York), who started for the East team in the U.S. Army All-Star Game on Satuday. ranks both among the 40 best wide receivers in the country.

Murdock is ranked as the 8th overall wide receiver by and the 9th overall receiver by In addition to Florida, he is also considering Miami (Fla), Tennessee and Florida State.

Murdock, who caught 45 passes for 750 yards and seven touchdowns during his senior season, is a 6-foot, 185-pound receiver who reportedly runs a 4.4 40-yard dash.

"He is an exceptional athlete with God-given talent," said Harry Hubbard, Murdock's football coach at Middleton. "What makes him great is his speed."

Deciding where to go to play in college can be a difficult process, but Hubbard has given Murdock some helpful advice.

"I told him that if I was a receiver, I would go where they throw the ball," Hubbard said.

If Murdock is looking for a school that throws the ball, the Gators could be a perfect fit.

Quarterback Chris Leak, who will be a junior next season, was one of the nations top passers in 2004, throwing for 3197 yards and 29 touchdowns. Five different Gators caught more than 25 passes, while eight different players caught at least two touchdowns.

A very talented and very young group of wide receivers would be awaiting Murdock if he signs with the Gators. Last season's top pass-catcher, senior O.J. Small, will be gone, but soon to be juniors, Caldwell, Chad Jackson and Jemalle Cornelius and soon to be senior Dallas Baker, were all among team leaders in catches, yards and touchdowns in 2004.

Murdock has drawn comparisons to former Gators, such as Reche Caldwell, who currently plays for the San Diego Chargers.

"I coached Reche in high school, and O.J.'s athleticism, speed and catching ability remind me of Reche," Hubbard said. "Some people look at him as a track star playing football, but he is a football player."

With the abundance of receiving talent on the Gator team, there would be a possibility that Murdock could be redshirted his first year at UF.

This is sometimes a problem for players who want to play immediately in college.

"He could make an impact his first year, if forced to," Hubbard said. "But I suggest to my players to take advantage of redshirting, give themselves time to learn the system, learn from older players without having to be thrown out there."

Hubbard said that Murdock is already a very polished receiver, but could always use time to improve.

"I told him that everyone at that level can run, you just have to pick it up and run faster so you can stand out above everyone else," Hubbard said. "His hands are good, but could also use work."

If the Gators could sign both Murdock and Boateng, the 2005 class could be one of the fastest and most athletic receiving classes in recent memory.

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