Stephen Alli doesn’t know it yet, but his actions in the next couple of years could play a huge role in how schools recruit athletes.
Let’s start with the facts. Alli intended to play two years of prep school football, but decided against it once he got Florida’s offer and enrolled early to get a head start on the playbook. Even at 6-foot-6 and 207 pounds, according to Urban Meyer Alli runs a legit 4.4 in the 40. He’s also played just one year of organized football, and UF receivers coach Billy Gonzales said Alli has learned more in two days about football than he has in his entire life.
What in the world were Meyer and his crew thinking? Well, despite the huge red flag that must have gone up when Alli said he had only one year of football experience, it seems that he is progressing better than expected.
Gonzales said Monday that Alli is one of the brightest kids he’s ever coached. I mean come on, the guy turned down Harvard for Gainesville. He’s very raw at the position, but he’s got loads of potential and while he might not be much of a factor this year, Gonzales said he and Meyer are expecting big things from him in the future.
“Normally, when you get a tall, rangy guy like that, he’s not real explosive,” Gonzales said of Alli. “He’s athletic now. He’s got great quicks.
“He’s here because we think he’s good enough. He came to camp and he did a great job.”
Alli looked pretty clunky in his routes on Thursday and then a little smoother Friday. His hands are pretty good, but he needs to improve because he’s never had to deal with a quarterback who can really throw the ball with some zip.
“I don’t know how many high school guys up in Canada have caught a ball from Tebow and Brantley, so he’s going to be behind as far as getting his eyes around,” Gonzales said.
Florida could be revolutionizing the way schools go after young talent. Meyer said when he first arrived in Gainesville he wanted to recruit the fastest players in the country. One obstacle that coaches have to get past when dealing with guys that are known mainly for speed is overall talent. Plenty of 4.3 guys have stumbled in college. But Meyer has made taking track stars and turning them into primo college stars look easy over the years.
If Alli can prove that he wasn’t a recruiting mistake, a lot of coaches could start going the route of taking more unheralded athletes and molding them into players.
The process has been a success so far for Alli. Gonzales said he’s is one of the most attentive players on the field and is soaking everything up.
“He’s like a sponge,” he said. “He takes everything that you say, every word that you say — it’s attention to detail.”