The countdown is on


Published: Tuesday, January 31, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, February 1, 2006 at 9:57 a.m.

National Signing Day is finally upon us and the Florida Gator coaching staff is now just hours from getting to sit back and appreciate the tremendous success of their first full recruiting season and the many hours of hard work that went into that success.

Despite landing 27 of the most gifted athletes in the country heading into Signing Day, the Gators are suffering from a little negative momentum as the fax machines wait idle for the letters of intent to roll in.

Floridaís class has suffered a couple of wide receiver defections recently when first Virginia Beach 4-star receiver Damon McDaniel opted to reopen his recruitment and then on Monday 4-star receiver Damian Williams of Springdale, AR decided on attending Arkansas with a few of his high school teammates including highly touted QB Mitch Mustain.

While the decommitments sit fresh in the minds of Gator fans, it would be an injustice to the number 1 rated class in the country to harp on them or give them anything more than a fleeting thought.

If youíre not a Gator, then youíre Gator Bait and Williams and McDaniel opted to become Gator Bait.

Gator fans should instead focus on the 27 commitments that prepare to sign their respective letter of intent and officially become Florida Gators.

This class has met the teamís needs and exceeded all expectations. And perhaps the best part is, it is not over yet.

Floridaís coaching staff will not only await the 27 sever faxes from the current commitments, but a number of Signing Day announcements.

An almost certainty to become a Florida Gator is Texas 4-star running back Mon Williams.

Williams would represent the big running back that the coaching staff was hoping to land this recruiting season.

He runs with power and has the speed to break off long runs. After eliminating a number of schools, including in-state power Texas, Williams is down to Florida and Texas A&M.

He has always maintained that Florida is his leader and his childhood favorite, which sets the Gators up as the clear favorite.

It also bodes well that he left Gainesville with his decision made and is just waiting to announce it on NSD.

Perhaps foremost on the minds of the Gator Nation tomorrow will be Lake Butler 5-star running back C.J. Spiller.

Spiller is a homerun hitter with his elusive running style and terrific speed.

His recruitment has been much scrutinized as analysts and gurus tried to get a feel for the thought process of the Nationís top rated all-purpose back.

The conventional wisdom has been that Spiller will head west to Tallahassee to play for his childhood favorite, Florida State.

Spiller himself is saying he is down to 3 schools and the schools are Florida, Florida State and Clemson.

One major factor in the Gators favor will be his close friendship with Tim Tebow, who is enrolled at Florida already.

The two have become close and perhaps a telling sign about what CJ may decide is that they plan to spend time together on Thursday.

Another big announcement that Gator fans, along with everyone else, will keep a close eye on is that of the number one offensive line prospect in the entire country, Andre Smith.

Smith is one of the most physically dominating linemen to come out of high school in a long time.

He could play tackle or guard at the next level. His finalists are Alabama, Florida, Southern Cal and LSU. While Smith himself has not done a lot of talking about his recruitment, most experts have been quick to assert for him that he is a virtual lock to Alabama.

Yet it has to be disconcerting to the Crimson Tide faithful that he has never named them a leader and was uninterested in committing early enough to use his drawing power to bring in other top prospects.

Southern Cal fans cling to the hope that Smithís relatives, in particular his grandmother, living close to their campus will help draw him out west.

After missing on Sam Young and Steve Schilling, the Trojans find them selves needing Andre Smith to surprise people.

Floridaís main hope in the Andre Smith recruiting saga has been pinned to the friendships he has sparked with Gator early enrollees Tim Tebow and Carl Johnson.

The three have become close friends through the recruiting process.

That was enough to get him to visit Gainesville and after a great visit that was highlighted by the Gator faithful chanting his name at the basketball win over Vanderbilt anything is now possible.

Another offensive lineman of interest that is due to make his intentions known is Delray Beachís Orlando Franklin.

Franklin is a raw offensive lineman that has only a year or two of football experience under his belt, but his upside is huge.

He is an athletic with quick feet and all the tools to develop into a quality player at the next level.

His schools of interest are the stateís big three, Florida, Miami and Florida State.

Florida is sort of the dark horse that came in late in Franklinís recruitment but the Gators have made up a lot of ground and stand a legitimate chance to be the winner of this recruiting battle.

Florida State commitment Anthony Leon and Franklinís high school teammate Preston Parker may both be working on Franklin to go to FSU.

Parkerís first choice is Miami, but academically he will have a hard time qualifying for the Hurricanes due to the fact that they donít utilize a sliding scale.

Miami was the early favorite and he seems real familiar with their program.

The beauty of Signing Day is you never know what other unexpected surprises may be in store. The Gator fans should expect an exciting finish to the nationís best class.

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