Two predicted Gator draftees reveals talent dip
Published: Thursday, April 26, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, April 25, 2012 at 5:51 p.m.
Only 28 months ago, Florida and Alabama were football equals, two elite programs preparing to play in the SEC Championship Game with the winner moving on to the national title game for the second consecutive season.
Since then, the Tide has pulled away from the Gators, creating a considerable divide.
How far apart are the two now?
One good indicator could be that mauling in The Swamp this past October — Alabama 38, Florida 10.
Another will be this week's NFL Draft.
Alabama could have as many as five players selected in the first round tonight. Florida is expected to have only two players taken in the entire draft, with the earliest player going, running back Chris Rainey, predicted to go as late as the third or fourth round.
Big difference. Big divide.
“I've always said you find out what kind of football team you have in April,” UF coach Will Muschamp said. “Alabama is going to have five in the first round.”
The Tide's total reflects a national championship season.
Florida's expected total of two — Rainey and defensive tackle Jaye Howard — reflects the Gators' 7-6 season.
“I would say obviously it does,” Muschamp said.
It also reflects a talent gap between what Florida once was (an elite program) and what it is now heading into Muschamp's second season.
“I know where we are,” Muschamp said. “More than likely we'll have only two drafted. I'm not asking for anybody to be patient. I'm asking for everybody to be realistic. We've dipped in talent.
“You look at our upper classes. We've got seven seniors. We've got 14 coming up next year. Our junior class has a bunch of good players. Our sophomore class has got some good players. This class we signed (in February) is a bunch of good players.
“Again, let's be realistic of why we were 15-11 (the last) two years.”
It's been an overall lack of talent.
In the 2010 draft, nine Gators were selected, including three in the first round.
A year later, only four UF players were drafted.
This weekend, only two are projected to be selected — Rainey in the third or fourth round and Howard in the sixth or seventh.
To make the Gators relevant again in the draft, Mushcamp said it's going to take successful recruiting, followed by developing those prospects over the next few years.
“It's about recruiting the right guy, evaluation process, don't always fall in love with the film,” Muschamp said. “Understand that the guy has to have the right character. He has to make good choices and decisions within the program.
“And you've got to develop players. That's not a one-year process, it's a two- or three-year process. You've got to get them in the right strength program and get them developed and coach them in schemes that apply to the NFL.”
Muschamp said UF's program is set up to develop NFL talent.
“That's one thing that's very attractive about our place. Other than our punt team, everything we do is NFL oriented,” he said. “Everything we do in our organization has a background in the NFL.
“Tim Davis, up front, offensive line coach. Myself. Dan Quinn. Bryant Young. It's across the board, the way we want it.”
That may lead to more Gators popping up on draft boards in the coming years. But this weekend, only two are present.
Veteran ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said Rainey and Howard are the only two Gators on his draft board.
“In terms of the other Florida Gators, no, I don't see (any getting drafted),” Kiper said. “I'd say Deonte Thompson, maybe. The wide receiver has got speed. But I think the guys we touched on (Rainey and Howard) are the main guys.”
Kiper said he does not see quarterback John Brantley getting drafted.
“I think he's probably a free agent,” Kiper said. “I'd be surprised if he was drafted. Can he get to a camp? That's the thing, you don't know for sure. There are only so many spots.
“I hope he's able to get to a camp. He's got some ability, but it's going to be a difficult situation in terms of trying to project him in this draft because other quarterbacks that are rated ahead of him probably won't get drafted.”
Brantley said he's just hoping a team gives him an opportunity.
“I just want to get my foot in the door,” Brantley said. “As long as I get a chance, I'll be happy. It would be cool to get drafted, but any chance I can get my foot in the door, I'll be happy with it.”
Brantley may or may not get his chance. Rainey and Howard are expected to get theirs.
Kiper said Rainey and Howard both will be drafted.
“I'd say day mid-day day three (rounds four through seven) for Howard,” Kiper said. “I'd say probably early day three, late day two (rounds two and three) for Rainey.
“When you look at Rainey, there's speed and versatility, and he gives you the ability to do some things with him in this game.
“With Howard, what he's got to do at the pro level is get a little stronger in the weight room and be coached up technique-wise. In the fifth or sixth round you get yourself a kid who can help you as a defensive tackle.”
Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or email@example.com. Also check out Andreu's blog at Gatorsports.com.