With the departure of Emmanuel Moody next season and Chris Rainey moving to the slot, running back is a critical position for Florida in the 2011 recruiting cycle.
There have been some setbacks for the coaching staff thus far. Mike Bellamy and Marlin Lane, two of the top tailbacks in the state, have already committed to Clemson, and many other prospects are leaning toward other schools.
But the Gators appear to have found their guy in Bradenton’s Mike Blakely.
The 5-foot-9, 195 pounder is rated 22nd overall nationally and sixth at the running back position by Rivals.com. Blakely led his Manatee team to an undefeated season and a state championship appearance in 2009, finishing the season with over 1,400 yards and 19 total touchdowns.
Early in his recruitment, it appeared that Auburn would land Blakely’s verbal.
After Monday’s trip to Gainesville and a chat with head coach Urban Meyer, things have changed.
“Florida is my leader,” Blakely said. “I got to have a one-on-one talk with Urban. He was just talking to me about my play-making ability, because he wants the ball in the best players’ hands. I’ve been talking to the coach a lot lately and just really thinking about all the schools and what I like, and I like Florida.”
Although he has great speed (4.45 in the 40-yard dash), it’s the other areas of his game that have earned Blakely 35 scholarship offers.
He is a very versatile player who can catch the ball out of the backfield and possesses exceptional vision to break through the line of scrimmage. Blakely’s quickness and acceleration in the open field make it difficult for defenders to bring him down, and his cutback ability only adds to his repertoire.
Blakely’s combination of elusiveness and durability is the main reason for his attraction to Florida. Manatee runs an offense similar to the Gators, and Blakely feels that his skills will translate well under Meyer’s spread-option attack.
“I’ll already know what I’m doing going into the offense if I was to go there, so it will be easier for me,” Blakely said. “It works out a lot because their system really fits me.”
In fact, there are a number of things about UF that fit nicely with Blakely.
For starters, he has a family full of Florida fans. They sport Gator gear all the time and tune in to every football game. Distance is another major factor for Blakely, so UF definitely has a leg up being the in-state school.
The Rivals100 member plans on visiting Gainesville again this summer, and will also participate in Friday Night Lights.
With all the things in Florida’s favor, is there a chance he could commit at the July 23 event?
“Man that’s a good question,” Blakely said. “It’s like a 50-50 (chance). I would want to, but then again I really want to stay open.”