The Outbox 8/10

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Heeeeeere comes the future!

That, of course, is my world-famous catchphrase. I’m sure you’ve all heard it on the street by now. But enough about my burgeoning fame.

This space really belongs to you. I’ve gotten a lot of questions since I took over the recruiting beat from Edward Aschoff, and it’s time for some answers.

It’s also prime time for recruiting season, but the lines have grown blurry in that regard. I used to think recruiting season was from August through mid-February (hence the mailbags). But it has become clear that some sort of manifest destiny is taking place in recruiting. It’s becoming a year-round hustle.

As soon as one National Signing Day is in the books, the heavy lifting for the next class begins. Within weeks, Florida holds a couple of junior days in late Feburary and early March to get players on campus while the Gators spring practice is happening. March and April are good times for these high schoolers to show off at combines. May is a month full of college coaches visiting and evaluating players at their high schools and spring games. Then the summer is chock full o’ camps and unofficial visits. Now, we are shifting into the fall and prospects are setting up their five allotted official visits. We’re still seeing some important unofficials to UF fall practices, too. The important thing, as always, is to get players on campus. That’s where Florida sells itself.

So, with that little lay of the land, how about some questions?

Hey Jeff, are you ever going to have a mailbag for Q&A? — GatorsEverywhere

Yes.

How many will the Gators sign? Who are the early enrollee targets? — Kyle, Hattiesburg, Miss.

This first question is probably the one I get most often. The answer is complicated, so let’s deal with reality to start. Florida has 72 scholarship athletes now that center Dan Wenger has transferred from Notre Dame, and that includes nine seniors (including Wenger). The scholarship limit is 85. Even though my poor math skills are a big reason why I went into journalism, I can do some simple arithmetic and tell you that 72 – 9 = 63 and 85 – 63 = 22. Are you with me so far? The Florida coaching staff is looking at 22 available scholarships for the Class of 2012, which is comfortably below the 25-player limit per class.

There are other factors, however. First, there are defections that always seem to happen between now and signing day. Kids transfer because of playing time, academic or legal issues, homesickness, whatever. This is completely unpredictable (at this time). Another form of defection is when players give up eligibility to enter the NFL Draft. Heading into this fall season of Gator football … well, unless Omarius Hines catches 10 passes a game with 1,000 yards and doubt-digit touchdowns … let’s just say there aren’t any strong candidates, shall we?

The UF coaches are operating as if there will be no defections. So the number is 22. I could certainly see it go up to 25, but there is no definitive answer at this time.

Another huge factor is the ability to count early enrollees as part of the previous class. Florida signed 19 players in its Class of 2010. I’ve spoken with a few 2012 verbal commitments (DL Dante Phillips, OL Jessamen Dunker, DB Willie Bailey and most recently MLB Antonio Morrison and OT D.J. Humphries) and a few more prospects who are planning to enroll in January. So there is room to exceed the 25-player limit this February. However, I do not see the Gators going past 27, which is the most Florida has signed in any one class since Urban Meyer was the head coach.

With the recent reporting of Matt Jones’ knee injury, will the Gators look at any other big backs for 2012 as insurance in case Matt doesn’t return to form later in the year? — GatorBart

Seffner, Fla., Armwood running back Matt Jones (6-foot-3, 220 pounds) reportedly tore the meniscus in his right knee on June 25 during a non-contact drill at a camp his high school team was participating in at UCF. He was to have surgery this week to repair what was called a slight tear and is likely to miss the first month of the season. Unfortunately, that means Gator fans won’t be able to watch a prized recruit on TV, as Armwood is slated to take on Bishop Gorman in Las Vegas Aug. 26 on ESPN.

Jones is a huge key to the Gators’ Class of 2012. He looks like the power back that Florida fans have been dreaming about for a long, long time. He could be the workhorse that makes Charlie Weis’ offense shine. Jones is also an expert recruiter, charming and persuasive in person and diligent with calls and text messages. He’s the leader of this class. But because this is not a significant injury, nothing has changed.

Florida also has a solid verbal from Stone Mountain, Ga., Stephenson RB Mike Davis (5-10, 190), who looks to complement Jones perfectly in a future backfield. I think the Gators are set at the position for this class. However, it is interesting to note that Raleigh, N.C. Milbrook five-star tailback Keith Marshall (5-11, 190) just tweeted on Tuesday that he’s taking an official visit to Florida (for the FSU game).

It seems we are heavy leans for Jonathan Bullard, Jordan Jenkins, Tyriq McCord, a possible switch from Dante Fowler and having talks with Darius Hamilton and Noah Spence. That’s a lot of DE’s. How many do we take in this class and which ones do you personally feel we’ll end up having? — GatorsEverywhere

I just had to get back and answer a legit question by GatorsEverywhere, seeing as how I had some fun with his first one.

Yes, the Gators are in play for a TON of defensive linemen. This has to be one of the deepest and most talent-rich position boards in the country. Obviously there isn’t room for too many, which in some ways helps Florida coaches create competition for the remaining spots. The Gators have commitments from three D-linemen at this time (although I think there’s a chance Dante Phillips could still be looked at down the road as an offensive lineman). I think Florida takes three or four more linemen if you include the hybrid Buck DE/LB position.

The recruitnik who sent in this question has done his homework to know that UF is in good shape with Jenkins and McCord. That would be a terrific haul if you add them to what is already looking like an excellent defensive class. Bullard and his good friend Carlos Watkins (a 6-4, 275-pound four-star defensive tackle from Forest City, N.C.) have said they will visit UF on Aug. 20 with their parents and another good friend, UF safety commit Rhaheim Ledbetter. You couldn’t ask for a better set up for commitments to happen.

As for the rest, there is a chance for each to end up in this class but I don’t think it’s as likely. Fowler is an FSU commit and seems to only be flirting with Florida. Hamilton says he’s a Gator fan but also says nearby Rutgers is his leader. And I will hold my breath on Spence until he sets an official visit to Gainesville.

Any chance the Gators land Dorial Green-Beckham? @Dylan_Murphy

Thanks for following me on Twitter! Many think this Springfield, Mo., wide receiver is the top player in the nation. DGB has coaches drooling with his size (6-6, 220), speed and hands. Getting a read on his recruitment has been difficult, however, since he doesn’t talk to the media at all. His father does the talking, and he doesn’t say much, either. I’ve heard that Florida coaches are working hard to stay in the hunt, but again, it would seemingly hinge on whether or not UF lands one of his five coveted official visits. The consensus is that his home-state school, Missouri, leads for DGB with Oklahoma in second place. We’ll stay tuned.

OK, that’s it for Week 1. Thanks for all the questions. Please keep ’em coming!

Here’s how you can reach me …

* Post a comment on my latest blog. I read them all.

* Follow me — Twitter.com/JeffBarlis

* Email me — barlisj@gvillesun.com

16 COMMENTS

  1. Wow, first time I’ve ever had a question directly answered, let alone two of’em! Thanks for the info and the name is John. Most definitely do my homework on recruits. If we can get 3 of these DE’s then that would be one solid haul of DE’s. I think Bullard is the can’t miss out of these guys (just by a bit), but that’s just my opinion. Don’t think we’ll have a chance with DGB, but I think Stefon Diggs and Nelson Agholor should see that we have Driskell and Brisset as our future QB’s and look at this class of OL we will be bringing in.

  2. by Gator…..

    Maybe Fowler will be this year’s Tim Jernigan (who leaned hard to Florida early and played with FSU and then signed with them). The Gators certainly could use Mr. Fowler more than FSU….and he may realize that next February.

    He is not a Nolehead yet.

  3. Best bit of information this column has seen since the old days. Great piece, keep it up!

    My question: UF has been getting lots of love from defensive players and offensive lineman. Who are the offensive “playmakers” left on UF’s board or, should I say, which “playmakers” do YOU think will sign with UF?

  4. My fear is not that recruits like Agholor and these DE’s dont like Florida. I just feel that we need to have more wins than last year. You guys have to think like an 18 year old. THEY WANT TO WIN!!! They dont care about Driskel or anybody else on the roster if they dont feel the team is capable of winning big (see FSU in the last decade). Coach Weis tanked at Notre Dame and we are already making him the second coming of Steve Spurrier. All I am saying is we need to prove on the field that we are worthy of top recruits.

  5. Fera not GatorGeorge Florida recruits itself all Boom has to do is get these studs on campus.our line on both sides of the ball is thin these D Ends,tackle etc, can come get a chance in front of the biggest stage in college football almost every week!!!! As a recruit what more do you want.

  6. GatorGeorge…..

    FSU signed all those recruits the last couple of years without winning anything….getting blown out by Oklahoma last year….etc.

    Winning is not all recruits care about. They care about who recruits them, the head coach relationship, the relationship they build with the coaches and the current players, academics (well, at least some do), location, conference, etc. etc. etc. It is the whole picture….and not just winning. If it was based just on winning….every 5 star in the country would have signed with the Gator from 2006 to 2010…..and none with FSU.