After such a successful National Signing Day experience for Florida’s coaching staff, it’s time to give them even more praise as I present my 2010 recruiting superlatives. The 2011 recruiting season has just begun, so this will gracefully take everyone out of the 2010 mode.
Most Valuable Commitment
Ronald Powell: The Moreno Valley, Calif., Rancho Verde defensive end is one of the best high school athletes I’ve seen. He dominated at Florida’s football camps last summer and dominated at defensive end, linebacker and tight end. He showed just how athletic he is in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl by catching a touchdown as a tight end, getting two sacks at defensive end and returning a blocked extra point for two points. That earned him MVP honors, but not before he verbally committed to the Gators on national television. Powell is the most suited of the 28 commitments to play early. I’ll bet he sees the most action of any of the freshmen this fall.
Most Outstanding Offensive Player
Chris Dunkley: The Pahokee receiver was one of the biggest gets of the year for the Gators. With all the issues the Gators had at receiver this season — plus the guys they lost — getting a top-flight wideout was a must for Urban Meyer and his staff. Dunkley was always headed to Florida but did what most kids SHOULD do and took his visits before actually committing to the Gators. Like Powell, Dunkley figures to have one of the best chances of seeing the field early and often for the Gators. He’s one of the most athletic receivers in the country and with all his intangibles, he should be a huge threat in Florida’s offense.
Next Best Defensive Player
Sharrif Floyd: I mean, if I really wanted to, I could just copy and paste everything I wrote about Powell and put it here because of how good I think he is, but I figured I’d give someone else a shot. Floyd is that guy. Another member of one of the best defensive line recruiting classes ever, the Philadelphia, George Washington defensive tackle was a monster during the season and an absolute force in San Antonio. Meyer gushed about him during his signing day news conference, and soon Gator fans — and the rest of the SEC — will know why. Barring injury, he will definitely push for immediate playing time this season.
Most Valuable Mouth
Lynden Trail: This one is so easy. Every time I spoke with him, he was always either cracking me up or delivering the best quotes. The Miami Booker T. Washington defensive end also was key in orchestrating a team of recruits who made phone calls to commits following Meyer’s one-day resignation. He also was the one who said kids should commit to the school, not the coach. Meyer raved about his recruiting efforts as well and Trail will definitely become a media favorite when he gets on campus. Anytime you need a valuable quote, just give Trail a call.
Most Stressful Recruitment
Matt Elam: OK, do I really need to type anything besides his name? I mean the guy was committed in 2008 and talked all along about how great a relationship he and Meyer had since Meyer recruited his brother Abram to Notre Dame in the mid-’90s. But once Florida started getting more interested in other safeties, oh boy. The West Palm Beach Dwyer safety was not happy with that. He then talked about going to West Virginia and Tennessee while still committed to Florida. Then after reaffirming his commitment to Florida in December, he decommitted and chose Florida State after Meyer’s resignation. It didn’t help when Meyer decided to take a leave of absence. He finally switched back to the Gators after having an emotional conversation with Meyer over the phone. Now, Elam’s on campus and living the good life in Gainesville.
Most Needed Commitment
Mack Brown: Brown was a must-get for Florida. Meyer has always wanted a big running back in his classes, but had yet to find the superstar tailback to cement any of his classes. TheLithonia , Ga., Martin Luther King running back was always very upfront and honest about recruiting, but he’s the type of kid that is just too nice for his own good. When coaches came calling, he’d listen. He was always very committed to Florida, but schools like Georgia, Tennessee and especially Florida State were banging down his door for his commitment. It didn’t help Florida when former running backs coach Kenny Carter followed Charlie Strong to Louisville. Stan Drayton replaced Carter and made a tremendous impression on Brown, cementing his commitment. However, FSU coaches were constantly after him until the final days. It had to be a relief for Meyer when Brown faxed his letter of intent at 10 a.m. Wednesday.
Most Underrated Commitment(s)
Solomon Patton & Jonathan Dowling: I felt like neither of these guys truly got the respect they deserved. Patton, a receiver from Mobile, Ala., Murphy, is undersized at 5-foot-10, but man, is he fast. Word is that he’s already the top guy in the freshman 40-yard dash on campus. He tore it up in the Mississippi-Alabama all-star game and then showed again in the Under Armour All-America Game. He was never dubbed a top receiver because of his height, but should be a solid threat in the slot for Florida.
Dowling should have been one of the top prospects on every recruiting Web site regardless of position. The Bradenton Southeast safety was one of the top athletes on Florida’s campus over the summer and excelled at both receiver and safety. ESPN gave him respect, but Rivals.com and Scout.com kept his ego down. Dowling could be a freak with the right training staff. Anyone look at Florida’s track record lately?
Most Overrated Commitment
Cody Riggs: It’s not that I think Riggs is a bad player by any means. At 5-8, 156 pounds, Riggs is closer to my size than a Division I cornerback. He’s a tremendous athlete, but he’s still a bit small. Going against SEC receivers will certainly be a challenge for him if he doesn’t grow. He’ll gain weight, but how will that affect him if he stays on the short side?
Joshua Shaw: Getting two kids out of California is a big step for Florida. Going up against the powerhouse that is USC is never easy, especially in its own backyard. Powell left and so did the Palmdale corner. Shaw is one of the top corner prospects in the country and Florida was able to travel across the country to nab him. Shaw has a chance to come in and take that open spot next to Janoris Jenkins.
Andrew Hendrix: His decision to stay committed to Notre Dame caused Florida to go after Tyler Murphy to finish up its recruitment at quarterback. Hendrix, the Cincinnati, Moeller gunslinger, visited Florida but decided that South Bend, Ind., was the place for him. With Jordan Reed moving to tight end, Florida enters the spring with just John Brantley and frosh Trey Burton at quarterback. Murphy will compete in the fall, but neither he nor Burton have Hendrix’s passing ability. Hendrix isn’t as mobile, but he’s a solid passer and would have been a good second option for the Gators if Brantley were to go down.
Best Moment for Recruiting Season
Jan. 2-9: This was arguably one of the greatest weeks in recruiting history. Fresh off the Meyer health drama, the king of recruiting somehow pulled five of the top players at their positions in the country. During the Under Armour Game, Dunkley and Mr. Surprise Dominique Easley (defensive lineman) committed on ESPN. A week later, Floyd, Powell and Elam all committed at the Army Game on NBC, solidifying the best class in the country.