High-profile recruits put on a show at Friday Night Lights


High school players run through a drill during Friday Night Lights at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Friday, July 25, 2014 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, July 26, 2014 at 12:17 a.m.

In recent summers, there's been a growing trend of top recruits coming to Friday Night Lights and not participating in the camp itself.

Instead, most elect to spend their time talking with Florida coaches as well as the current players and verbal commitments in attendance.

That wasn't completely the case this year.

More than a half dozen high-profile prospects chose to hit the field for UF's annual showcase.

No one gained more attention than Jeff Holland of Jacksonville Trinity Christian. It what has become his trademark at camps and combines, the 6-foot-1, 225-pound linebacker lined up at receiver and took reps in 1-on-1 drills.

“It was great,” Holland said. “I just went out there to show I got it. I can play any position. I just like to compete. It's in my blood.”

Several Florida players began cheering him on, and he did a front flip in the end zone after a touchdown reception.

“They didn't believe I could play receiver,” he said. “That's why I had to celebrate like that.”

But linebacker will be Holland's position at the next level, and he could be part of a huge 2015 haul for the Gators.

They currently have consensus top-100 prospect Jerome Baker committed, and Adonis Thomas is expected to pick Florida over Alabama on Aug. 1.

The rest of UF's top LB targets — Holland, Te'Von Coney and Roquan Smith — were all on campus Friday and talked to each other about playing together in Gainesville, according to Coney.

Smith hung out with Gators coach Will Muschamp and linebacker Jeremi Powell for the majority of the night, while Coney decided to work out with linebacker coaches D.J. Durkin and Coleman Hutzler.

“That wasn't the plan, but I got kind of excited out there watching. It got me hyped,” said Coney, who plans to choose between Florida and Notre Dame soon.

“Getting coached up by coach Durkin and coach Hutzler was great. They could be my future position coaches. They're aggressive, but they know what they're talking about. They can get you better and ready for the next level.”

UF had a handful of elite offensive linemen on hand for FNL, including Rivals100 member and first-time visitor Isaiah Prince from Greenbelt (Md.) Eleanor Roosevelt.

“It was a really great trip,” he said. “I got to spend some time with the coaches and I got to see the campus. The players are really cool.

“I got some great work in and I got to see how it is in The Swamp. I can't imagine what it would be like on game day.”

His top four schools are Alabama, Florida, Maryland and Ohio State. Prince said the Gators improved their chances with the trip, and he plans to return for an official visit before making his commitment after his senior season.

“It helped them out a whole lot,” he said. “I want to study sports management, and the building is right here (by the stadium).

“Everything is close to the campus. At other schools, you have to walk 20 minutes to get places.”

Perhaps the most important recruit in attendance was Tampa Sickles running back Ray-Ray McCloud III, who announces his decision Monday at 6:30 p.m. on Bright House Sports Network.

His finalists are Clemson, Florida, Maryland and UCLA, and Muschamp gave McCloud one last pitch before he pulls the trigger.

“He told me there's nothing like doing what I do in my home state,” McCloud said of their conversation. “I can have a big impact here. He wants me to be a Gator.”

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