Top-five class for UF
Published: Wednesday, February 1, 2012 at 6:25 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, February 1, 2012 at 6:25 p.m.
Since the day he took the job at Florida, coach Will Muschamp has been stressing that the SEC is a line of scrimmage league. His feelings on the subject are reflected yet again in his second Gator recruiting class.
Florida's consensus top-five recruiting class is heavy on linemen, especially on the defensive side of the ball, where a lack of depth took a heavy toll on the Gators in SEC play this past season.
“We saw very easily in our season this year that we struggled on both lines of scrimmage, consistently being able to run the ball and stop the run,” Muschamp said at is signing day news conference Wednesday. “I certainly feel we've addressed it. Our most pressing need was on both lines of scrimmage … developing playmakers and depth on both lines of scrimmage.
“I'm really excited about the guys we got in that group.”
That group includes three five-star prospects — offensive tackle D.J. Humphries, an early enrollee, and defensive ends Jonathan Bullard and Dante Fowler Jr., a longtime Florida State commitment who flipped to Florida on Wednesday morning to give the Gators a nice signing day surprise.
In all, the Gators signed two offensive linemen and eight defensive linemen (four ends and four tackles.”
The top-heavy line class may not have pleased everyone in Gator Nation, but it apparently impressed the recruiting experts and analysts.
The class is ranked No. 3 nationally by Rivals, No. 4 by ESPNU and No. 5 by Scout. And UF may not be through yet. There's a chance the Gators will add five-star wide receiver Stefon Diggs next Friday, when he is scheduled to announce.
“It's a very good class,” said Mike Farrell, Rivals' national recruiting analyst. “I think finishing with Fowler was very important. It really took the edge off missing on some other guys (Wednesday).
“You look at the class, and it's very balanced. The defensive line with Fowler and Bullard is very impressive. Throw in the defensive tackles and it seems to be very balanced. The only concern is wide receiver.
“If they sign Diggs, I'm assuming it would push Florida's class up to No. 2. It would not be enough to push the Gators past No. 1 Alabama, but it would be a great class.”
Muschamp seems pleased with UF's haul, especially the defensive line group of Fowler, Bullard, Bryan Cox Jr., Damien Jacobs (an early enrollee), JaFar Mann, Alex McCalister, Dante Phillips and Quinteze Williams.
They compose a possible strong future SEC defensive front for the Gators.
“I'm very pleased with this class as far as those guys are concerned,” Muschamp said. “If you watched in our league this year, the two dominant teams (Alabama and LSU) were very good on both lines of scrimmage.”
UF had secured a very good defensive line class heading into signing day. Fowler's decision to back out of his 15-month commitment and sign with UF make it one of the nation's strongest.
“You recruit throughout the process,” Muschamp said. “Sometimes when you get there at signing day you leave it up to the young man and his family to make a decision.
“Deep down, he had a good fit here at Florida as far as his position (Buck linebacker) is concerned and his opportunity is concerned. We're excited to have another good pass-rusher in our program.”
There was one other signing day surprise for the Gators — the late addition of Tallahassee Lincoln wide receiver Raphael Andrades, who received a scholarship offer late Tuesday night after five-star Tampa Berkeley Prep wide receiver Nelson Agholor told the UF coaches he was signing with Southern Cal.
“We had him in camp (last summer) and recruited him all along,” Muschamp said. “He's a guy that we liked.”
Andrades is one of only seven offensive players in the class, and one of only two wide receivers, a position of need.
Muschamp was asked if he was disappointed UF did not sign more offensive skill players.
“We'll be fine,” he said.
Perhaps the biggest potential playmaker in the class is Seffner Armood tailback Matt Jones. He's the only running back in the class, the 6-2, 213-pound Jones seems to be what Muschamp is looking for in the offense.
“Toughness. At the end of the day, his toughness,” Muschamp said. “He runs behind his pads. He's one of those guys in the fourth quarter that you get tired of tackling. That's what we need.
“We need a guy to run up in there on fourth-and-one and know you're going to move the pile by turning around and handing it to someone. That's something I did not always feel comfortable with this year.”
Line play also has something to do with it, and the Gators added two highly rated offensive linemen that could help in that area — Humphries, the No. 2 overall prospect in the nation, according to Rivals, and four-star guard Jessamen Dunker.
Not only are Humphries and Dunker considered excellent prospects, they're both already on campus as early enrollees.
“Them being able to go through 15 days of spring practice is going to be huge,” Muschamp said. “They're two very good big athletes. They move very well, great feet, flexibility, both powerful guys.
“I'm really excited about both players.”
That's sort of what this recruiting class is all about. Excitement over the big guys in a line of scrimmage league.
Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or email@example.com. Also check out Andreu's blog at Gatorsports.com.