One of the things many people have worried about during this recruiting cycle has been how recruits have reacted to the relatively different looking Florida coaching staff.
Charlie Strong was such a strong recruiter and one of the most well respected defensive coordinators in college football. Now, he’s at Louisville. Billy Gonzales was probably Florida’s most personable recruiter behind Urban Meyer. Gonzales was so good that he could pull any sort of player, and he was just a receivers coach. Now, he’s at LSU. Former running backs coach Kenny Carter wasn’t known for being the greatest recruiter, but he did enough to keep Lithonia, Ga., Martin Luther King running back Mack Brown comfortable with his Gator commitment. Even after Meyer’s health saga began, it was Carter who kept Brown in the fold. It wasn’t until Carter decided to follow Strong to Louisville that things got a little foggy with Brown.
Brown said he was “confused” about what to do. But he had every intention of waiting to see who Florida brought in and how he connected with the new coach before he madea final decision about his college destination.
Well, Florida did a great job easing Brown’s nerves by rehiring Stan Drayton. While at Florida — before Carter’s tenure — Drayton was labeled as one of the top recruiters in the country. He did an excellent job during his first stint in Gainesville, and Brown said after visiting with Drayton during an in-home visit and then seeing him again during his official visit last weekend, he’s “pretty firm” on his Gator commitment and has decided not to entertain any other coaches from different schools or take any other official visits.
“Coach Drayton, he’s been at Florida before, so I trust Coach Drayton,” Brown said. “I’m ready to learn from him.
“He seems like he knows everything at Florida. He knows what he’s doing and he knows a lot about the running back position.”
Replacing Gonzales figured to be quite a chore for Florida’s staff, but shortly after Zach Azzanni was hired, the Gators grabbed West Palm Beach Dwyer receiver Robert Clark’s commitment. He said it was the relationship he developed with Azzanni while at Florida’s summer camps that really helped him earn trust in his future coach.
Then there was the replacement of Strong. The defensive coordinator. The guy that runs the defense. The one you report to last when you miss a tackle, regardless of where you’re playing. Meyer took his time in picking the right replacement, and it worked out.
Former Miami Dolphins linebackers coach George Edwards brings NFL experience and an attractive resume. He also brings the opportunity for Florida to run a 3-4 defense, which could be very attractive to high school defenders.
Miami Booker T. Washington defensive end commit Lynden Trail, who is becoming a fan favorite with his extremely pro-Gator attitude, got to meet Edwards this past weekend and came away impressed.
“Coach Edwards seems like a real cool guy, real down-to-earth guy,” Trail said. “He doesn’t seem as intense as (the other coaches), but I think he’s like that because he’s new to the program and sooner or later, his intensity will show.”
As for playing in the 3-4? Trail said he didn’t care what kind of defense the Gators run. He just wants to get on the field and help however he can.
Like many of the other committed prospects who were on campus over the weekend, Trail said he wanted to take the time to see how the coaches and players were interacting with each other, considering all the change.
Everything wasn’t just good, it was “great,” Trail said.
“It felt really family-oriented and it made me feel even better about my choice,” he said. “With the campus and the people that they have around it, I wanted to see how it really felt after the football season. It feels like people love Florida. It’s a college town. It’s great town.”
Florida is set to only host three official visitors this weekend — Ronald Powell, Michael McFarland and Tyler Murphy.
Here’s a little bit about each …
- Powell — Well, there’s really not much more to say about the best high school football player in the country. The Moreno Valley, Calif., Rancho Verde defensive end will be on campus to finally get the royal treatment. Remember, all of his other three visits to Gainesville were on his own dime. This will just be a chance for him to go out with players and sit and talk to as many coaches as he’d like. It’s more of a vacation for Powell. He’s as solid as they come.
- McFarland — He’s been relatively quiet since he committed. At 6-foot-6, 230 pounds, the Tampa Blake tight end has the right size to be a factor, but he’s very raw. This is a chance for him to get on campus and talk more in-depth about what his role will be in the coming years. He’ll be relaxing, but he’ll probably do more learning than Powell. No worries about his status, Florida is the only school pursuing him.
- Murphy — The most interesting prospect to visit Florida in a while, in my opinion. First, he’s committed to Temple. Just throwing that out there. He’s a quarterback at Wethersfield High in Connecticut, but when you watch his video, he never throws the ball. He’s purely an athlete at this point, but quarterbacks coach Scot Loeffler recently visited him, so there has to be some interest in having him play quarterback at Florida. He doesn’t have an offer, so this will be a chance for him to talk to coaches and see what they think. He’s a tremendous athlete and he was invited to campus … could be a sleeper.
Delray Beach Atlantic receiver James Louis became the talk of Internet message boards over the last week because of his suprise and “secret” visit to Florida last weekend. Apparently, people were trying to keep it from getting out, but in the age of Facebook, Twitter and cell phones, that’s impossible. Secrets can be kept in recruiting, but it’s difficult. Anyway, Louis, an Ohio State commitment, was all about Florida over the summer and even told Scout.com that he would eventually be a Gator. But something happened and he ended up pledging to Ohio State. There are plenty of stories out there about what happened and I’ve mentioned a conflict between he and Pahokee receiver commit Chris Dunkley.
Regardless of the past, Louis appears to still be interested in the Gators and the coaches are interested in him. His high school coach recently said he was solidly committed to Ohio State and would be dropping Florida, but I’m sorry, until he signs the dotted line on his Letter of Intent, I’m still going to give the Gators a chance here. He is in my predicted final three recruits.